As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints seek truth, make and keep covenants with God and help gather Israel, they will be an unmistakable force for good, said President Russell M. Nelson during a devotional broadcast to members of the Church in California on Sunday, Feb. 27.
“I have complete faith in you, my dear brothers and sisters…,” he said. “You have access to the power — God’s power — that will literally change the future.”
Speaking to Latter-day Saints in California — where the Church has 15 missions, seven temples, and more than 750,000 members in 153 stakes — President Nelson addressed the topic, “California, Covenants, and the Gathering of Israel.” His wife, Sister Wendy W. Nelson, and Elder Brent H. Nielson of the Presidency of the Seventy and his wife, Sister Marcia Nielson, also spoke during the special broadcast. The meeting was conducted by Elder Mark A. Bragg, a General Authority Seventy and president of the Church’s North America West Area, who attended the broadcast with his wife, Sister Yvonne Bragg.
During his remarks, President Nelson said California has great significance in the history of the Church, and the state and its people continue to be of great importance to the Lord.
Latter-day Saints in California live in a vital crossroads — a place where the world gathers and is influenced, he said. “What kind of influence would the Lord want His people in California to have? The answer: You are here to help make life better — for yourselves and for others.”
President Nelson offered three invitations that will help Church members “gain the elevating influence” that God is counting on them to have.
“First: Seek truth. Second: Make covenants with God and keep them. Third: Help gather Israel.”
President Nelson said that over the years, he has come to understand the strong connection between God’s love and God’s laws. Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son “have established divine laws based on eternal, unchanging truth to guide and protect us through our sojourn here in mortality.”
Faith, he added, is fundamental. “As you well know, there is a feeling among many that faith is dwindling in California. … But, brothers and sisters, never forget: the Restoration of the gospel commenced so that all men and women living in these latter days could have an opportunity to know what is true!”
President Nelson said he came to appreciate the importance of truth in his profession as a surgeon and medical researcher. While reading Doctrine and Covenants 88:38, his mind opened to a powerful truth — that to every kingdom there is a law given. “I reasoned that if every kingdom had a law, there must be laws that govern the beating heart.”
With his colleagues, he learned irrefutable law that greatly facilitates repairs of the human heart.
“God’s laws are gifts to His children,” President Nelson said. “A heart surgeon must learn pertinent, divine law to keep a patient safe on the operating table. Likewise, when you and I live in accord with God’s laws, we will be safe as we progress along God’s covenant path toward our heavenly home. I plead with you to stay focused on what you know to be true.”
President Nelson said “the significant and magnificent breadth of what the Lord has revealed and the spiritual knowledge He has already given far outweigh any gaps in our present understanding….
“When you know for yourself that the gospel of Jesus Christ contains the most important truths available on earth — absolute truths — nothing in your social media feeds will confuse you.”
President Nelson said challenges will inevitably come in the future. There is only one antidote: “A growing and unshakable faith that Jesus Christ lives! He knows you and will help you!”
Questions often provide important opportunities to increase faith, he said. “Ask the Lord your earnest questions ‘with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ.’ Seek and He will respond to you (Moroni 10:4). The Holy Ghost will testify to you — and to every sincere seeker of truth — that the gospel is true. I invite you to seek truth with more energy and devotion than you ever have.”
Make covenants with God and keep them
When Latter-day Saints make covenants and participate in sacred ordinances, they yoke themselves to God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ and to Their power, said President Nelson. “This means that we do not have to face the world’s challenges alone.”
The Lord, he continued, has indicated His optimism for the future of His Church in California by instructing Church leaders to build two new temples in the state — the Feather River California and Yorba Linda California temples.
In the temple, Church members are endowed with God’s power, he said.
“The temple is central to your spiritual foundation. Additional strength will come from your regular immersion in the scriptures and time spent in prayer.
“Brothers and sisters, as covenant children of God, give Him a fair share of your time, every day. As you do, you will learn about His power to comfort, strengthen, renew, and heal you.”
Help gather Israel
The gathering of Israel — etched in scriptures through countless generations — is occurring right now in California, said President Nelson.
“I believe that the Lord, in His wisdom, has reserved each of you to be here at this crucial time,” he said.
The Lord has never needed faithful Saints in California more than right now as He gathers scattered Israel into His fold, said President Nelson.
Then, speaking directly to the youth, President Nelson said young women and young men have a unique opportunity to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. “Many of your friends are seeking to understand why they are here on earth. … Do you realize that you have the answers your friends are seeking?”
President Nelson called on the Latter-day Saints to lead out in the gathering of Israel. “Pray and watch for opportunities to share the joy you have in the gospel.”
Concluding, President Nelson blessed California Latter-day Saints with “increased spiritual strength, with power to gather your families and friends into the gospel net with renewed energy and courage.
“I bless you that the light radiating from you will attract others to your goodness. And I bless you to know that living in accord with the gospel of Jesus Christ is the only way to experience sustained joy — now and forever.”
Sister Nelson dedicated her remarks to the topic of prophets.
“Today it can be difficult to know who speaks the truth,” she said. “It is my testimony that prophets of God always speak the truth. While many in the world’s great and spacious building convincingly profess that evil is good and good is evil, prophets speak the truth. While many tout and even celebrate new approaches to, and rationale for, breaking God’s commandments, prophets speak the truth.
“It’s almost impossible to maneuver through the morass of information, and the war of words, that surround us. I cannot imagine that there has ever been a more important time in the history of the world, or the Church — not a more crucial time than right now — to follow the prophets because prophets speak the truth.”
One of the distinctive features of the Savior’s restored Church is the presence of prophets, she said. “Prophets testify of Jesus Christ. Their sole desire is to help us find and stay on the covenant path that leads back home to our Heavenly Father.
She said that prior to being called as an Apostle, President Nelson stated: “I never ask myself ‘When does the prophet speak as a prophet and when does he not?’ My interest has been, ‘How can I be more like him?’”
She asked the congregation, “Where will following the prophet lead you? As you follow the prophet, your love for your Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ will grow, as will your desire to keep your covenants with Them. Your ability to discern between what is true and what is not will increase. You will long to be in the temple, more than ever before, because you know whose house it is, and who teaches you supernal truths there.”
She shared her testimony that before the foundations of this earth, President Nelson “was foreordained by God to be the Lord’s Prophet to the world, and President of the Lord’s Church, at this precise time.”
Following the prophet is the only way to be safe during these latter-days, she concluded.
“I know that prophets speak the truth, because the Lord speaks to His prophets.”
Elder Nielson said Amos in the Old Testament established a pattern that has blessed his life: “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7).
Elder Nielson shared a personal experience that has reaffirmed his testimony of living prophets and apostles.
In the year 2014, he had the opportunity to serve in the Missionary Department of the Church. At that time, President Nelson, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, was the chairman of the Missionary Executive Council; he was assisted in that assignment by Elder David A. Bednar, also of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
That year President Nelson introduced the concept of missionaries using mobile devices, now smartphones, in their daily missionary work. At that same time, Elder Bednar gave a talk at BYU Education Week and shared with the Church the blessing that social media could be if used appropriately.
“I have to tell you that there were many, including the parents of some missionaries beginning their service, who were not happy with their missionary children receiving smartphones,” recalled Elder Nielson. “I personally received a number of letters over the years from parents who did not want their children to be exposed to smartphones.”
President Nelson made it clear that, with sufficient safeguards, “our youth need to learn to be masters of technology, and not become slaves to it.”
Starting with 20 of the approximately 400 missions, the Missionary Department tried to figure out how to do missionary work using mobile devices and social media. By 2015 they expanded to 80 missions.
“We continued to learn and to grow and to figure out ways that our missionaries could find, teach and baptize using the internet while also becoming masters of technology. Within a few years we were up to 160 missions, and we stayed with those missions for two or three years, learning and growing and determining the best way for missionaries to find people and to teach them using these devices, while remaining spiritually safe from the influence of the world,” he recalled.
In January of 2020, under the direction of President Nelson, then the President of the Church, approval was given for every missionary in the Church to have access to a smartphone.
“Think about January of 2020, but most important of all, think about what happened in March of 2020,” Elder Nielson said. “On March 11, 2020, almost every country in the world closed its borders, closed its airports, and international flights were cancelled. People were either encouraged or mandated to stay in their homes and almost all of our missionaries worldwide were unable to leave their apartments. There were many questions proposed to us in the Missionary Department about how we would continue to do missionary work, but I have to tell you that we were ready.
“Way back in 2014 under the direction of two inspired members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, we had begun the process of figuring out how to do missionary work using these devices. When the world closed down our missionaries stepped forward and performed a miracle.”
Elder Nielson said he quickly learned that the Lord is in charge of His work and that He had prepared the Church for this day. “His work continued in ways that we had not imagined. These young men and young women who were serving missions at the time were certainly prepared for such a time as this. Today our missions continue to use all of the wonderful tools to find, teach and baptize using smartphones.”
Elder Nielson said one of the great blessings of his life has been to follow the direction of President Nelson and watch as he leads and directs this Church.
“I bear my witness to you that there are living prophets and apostles on the earth today.”
Sister Nielson shared her witness that President Nelson has been called to be the Lord’s spokesman on the earth today.
She recalled that in April 2020 general conference, President Nelson gave a talk titled “Hear Him,” in which he reviewed the importance of truly hearing the voice of the Lord. During the talk, he pleaded for Church members “to do whatever it takes to increase your spiritual capacity to receive personal revelation.”
She recalled observing an older couple in the busy Atlanta, Georgia, airport. In spite of the crowds and confusion, the wife was able to communicate her location to her husband by using a special whistle.
She realized that, just as this couple could call out to one another with a whistle in a busy airport, Latter-day Saints can communicate with the Lord in loud and confusing times.
“I testify, brothers and sisters, that your Heavenly Father has important things to say to you. He loves you and wants to help you improve your ability to understand how He is communicating with you. He will do this in unique and individual ways that are suited specifically to you as you seek to increase your spiritual capacity. How blessed we are to have prophets adding additional guidance in this process. May we open our hearts to this guidance.
“I testify that the Holy Ghost can and does reveal to us things we need to know to safely navigate this life. In addition, and most importantly, the Holy Ghost will testify to you, the faithful Saints who live in California, of the Savior Jesus Christ, and the critical part His Atonement plays in your life.”