This is part 12 in a series of counsel from members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles during the COVID-19 outbreak. Read counsel from President M. Russell Ballard, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Elder David A. Bednar, Elder Quentin L. Cook, Elder D. Todd Christofferson, Elder Neil L. Andersen, Elder Gary E. Stevenson, Elder Dale G. Renlund, Elder Gerrit W. Gong and Elder Ulisses Soares.
From his office in the Church Administration Building, Elder Ronald A. Rasband reflected on the past six months — defined by the COVID-19 pandemic’s steady march across the globe.
During this half year of fear and uncertainty, many have looked to the Church and its leaders for peace and direction, said the member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
And they have found it.
A most important focus “is the power of the word and how we communicate it,” said Elder Rasband.
In fact, Alma teaches that the word of God is more powerful than the sword, said Elder Rasband, quoting Alma 31:5. “And now, as the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just — yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them — therefore Alma thought it was expedient that they should try the virtue of the word of God.”
Speaking to the Church News as part of a series of articles highlighting the teachings of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles during the COVID-19 pandemic, Elder Rasband — chairman of the Church Communication Committee — said the pandemic has amplified the importance of senior Church leaders being communicators.
Elder Rasband said the scriptures use familiar words that become instructive metaphors to describe the role of an Apostle: witness, teacher, testifier and preacher.
“Our role as the Twelve Apostles is to communicate the word of the Lord — both by the words we use and the spirit that we are able to do that with,” he said.
‘A special witness’
Elder Rasband said this divine charge was powerfully impressed upon his mind as President Thomas S. Monson ordained him to the holy Apostleship. “With his hands and all the hands of the Twelve on my head, he said that I was called to be a special witness of the name of Christ, ‘in all the world, at all times and in every circumstance.’ ”
In the five years since that ordination, he has had many opportunities to do just that. One of those opportunities came as Elder Rasband attended his grandson’s school Christmas program.
Amid the lively crowd, Elder Rasband and his family found a place to sit and were settling in when the school principal approached Elder Rasband and asked if he would say a word or two.
Elder Rasband stood with the intent to welcome the guests and wish them a wonderful night. But as he looked across the restless crowd and school band — all eager for the program to begin — the words of his Apostolic ordination came to mind.
Elder Rasband said at that moment he knew his charge was clear. He said, “Ladies and gentlemen, I cannot miss this opportunity with it being the season of the birth of Christ to bear witness of His name and of His ministry and of His life.”
‘The Lord’s mouthpiece’
This divine charge to communicate the word of God has also been at the forefront of Elder Rasband’s mind as the Church has navigated the COVID-19 pandemic — which resulted in the suspension of Church meetings, the closure of temples and the transportation of tens of thousands of missionaries to their home countries.
During these challenges, no one has been better at communicating the will of the Lord to the world than President Russell M. Nelson, he said.
“It’s so simple,” he said. “The Lord’s in charge. His Prophet is the mouthpiece of the Church.”
Quoting a talk given by President Ezra Taft Benson on Aug. 15, 1975, Elder Rasband said: “The most important prophet, so far as we are concerned, is the one who is living in our day and age. This is the prophet who has today’s instructions from God to us. God’s revelation to Adam did not instruct Noah how to build the ark. Every generation has need of the ancient scripture, plus the current scripture from the living prophet. Therefore, the most crucial reading and pondering that you should do is of the latest inspired words from the Lord’s mouthpiece.”
The lesson is so important to Elder Rasband that when asked for advice, he does not hesitate: Follow the prophet.
“President Nelson is an active user of the media,” he said. “He often uses it through his social media accounts — where he is followed by hundreds of thousands of people.”
Elder Rasband said this was the advice he gave 800 youth on a recent weekend as he addressed them using video conferencing and the Church’s broadcast network. “We are learning great lessons from this,” he said.
At a time when the pandemic has halted travel, Church leaders “are still getting assignments to speak all over the world,” said Elder Rasband. “We can’t go there and it wouldn’t be wise for us to go because of the worldwide pandemic.” However, through technology, “We can assemble our members anywhere in the world. And by video, and at least audio, we can communicate with them. … We are marching forward every weekend.”
With travel restricted, Elder Rasband said he has also had a little more time to prepare for assignments, to ponder and to reflect.
President Joseph F. Smith, the sixth president of the Church, described this blessing in Doctrine and Covenants 138, recalling sitting in his room and pondering the writings of Peter. “Then he says his mind was quickened by the Spirit.”
Elder Rasband said there are always things on his calendar. In times past he felt a little rushed. “I am taking the time now. I am doing the things President Smith said he did — ponder, reflect. And I have also felt my mind quickened. And I have felt a greater power to draw upon the scriptures and the revelations and the living prophets.”
He said he has grown in appreciation for how the Lord prepared him and the Church for the pandemic. With “Come, Follow Me” and a home-centered Church, the First Presidency was able to lead out and be among the first religious groups to suspend Sunday worship services.
Six months later, temples are beginning to reopen and missionaries are returning to their areas of service. “I’ve been inspired personally by how the Lord, who presides at the head of this Church, has guided his Apostle leaders on how to deal with this pandemic. … We are in the Lord’s hands.”
The scriptures are replete with references to the watchman on the towers in the latter days, he said. “That is exactly what is happening.”
Those who look to the watchman on the tower “can notch their fear index down a little, they can drop their anxiety, they can lessen their loneliness to know that this Church is in the hands of the Lord. And He is guiding and directing His Apostles and Prophets.”