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On President Nelson’s 6th anniversary as Prophet, Church leaders share what they have observed from his leadership

Members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Relief Society, Young Women and Primary general leaders share their observations of President Russell M. Nelson

In an effort to mark the six-year anniversary of President Russell M. Nelson’s prophetic leadership, the Church News invited members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, as well as leaders of the Relief Society, Young Women and Primary, to share the leadership qualities they have observed from the Prophet.

President Nelson was set apart as the 17th President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints six years ago, on Jan. 14, 2018.

The leader of 17 million Latter-day Saints worldwide, President Nelson has traveled to 35 nations, changed Church organization, utilized technology, led the Church through a pandemic, issued historic invitations and built bridges of understanding.

President Russell M. Nelson, center, and his counselors, President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency, and President Henry B. Eyring, second counselor in the First Presidency, attend a First Presidency meeting at the Church Administration Building in Salt Lake City
President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and his counselors, President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency, and President Henry B. Eyring, second counselor in the First Presidency, attend a First Presidency meeting at the Church Administration Building in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, June 16, 2021. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
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Governed by doctrine

“A prominent leadership quality I have observed in President Nelson during my six years serving as his counselor in the First Presidency is that while he is firmly governed by the doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he has been inspired to establish new content for many well-established Church policies or practices. Examples include: 

  1. “He fearlessly corrected the way we have acquiesced in omitting the full, correct name of the Church;
  2. “He boldly substituted ‘ministering’ for the names and objectives of our long-established home teaching and visiting teaching programs; and
  3. “He clearly demonstrated that the direction to ‘stand independent above all other creatures’ (Doctrine and Covenants 78:14) still allows the Church and its members to reach out to lead or cooperate with others in furthering the Lord’s work.”

President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency

Carries the Light of Christ

“I love our Prophet, President Nelson. I have the blessing of serving at his side. When he walks into a room, that room immediately feels brighter. He carries the Light of Christ with him.”

President Henry B. Eyring, second counselor in the First Presidency

President Russell M. Nelson, President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, left, and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, look over the view at the BYU Jerusalem Center in Jerusalem on Saturday, April 14, 2018. Nelson and Holland are on a global tour of eight countries. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Gentle and kind

“President Nelson is, in so many ways, the complete leader, the exemplary guide for those traveling the mortal path. Of his many qualities, let me highlight just two.

“First of all, and most importantly, he is probably the most gentle and kind leader I have ever worked with, realizing that I have worked with among the most gentle and kind men and women on the earth. He truly personifies a Christlike love for and interest in those who try to follow his lead as he follows the Savior.

“The second quality he demonstrates may seem antithetical to the first, but in President Nelson it is not. This complementary attribute is one of confident decisiveness, the determination to follow promptings that come to him as the prophet, seer and revelator for our day. In a recent meeting, a member of the First Presidency, two Apostles, and a member of the Seventy were united on a presentation being made to President Nelson on an important matter. When everything had been said, we waited for his counsel. He thought a moment, thanked us for presenting the issue so clearly, then said we should take an approach to the complex issue exactly opposite to the one we had suggested. The objective was the same but how we should go about it was clarified and improved. And as soon as he spoke, there was a feeling in the room that he was exactly right, even though it meant that the rest of us had been less farsighted, less creative in this particular instance.

“Such confident decisiveness in the midst of differing opinions is a quality we treasure in God’s spokesman.”

President Jeffrey R. Holland, acting president, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

Profound spiritual depth

“In 1984, Elder Nelson came to Germany to teach us as stake and mission presidents. Back then and into the present day, I learned that Russell Marion Nelson has a profound spiritual depth and a deep, loving interest in the lives of others, which is a hallmark of this servant of the Lord, who is now the President of the Church of Jesus Christ and the Prophet of God.”

Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

Focuses on loving God, serving His children

“I believe President Nelson is the embodiment of the spiritual qualities described by King Benjamin in his teachings about faithful servants (see Mosiah 5:13). President Nelson is a reflection of Him whom he serves in all that he does. President Nelson knows our Master, even Jesus Christ, is not a stranger to Him and focuses the thoughts and intents of his heart on loving God and serving all of His children.”

Elder David A. Bednar, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

President Russell M. Nelson is interviewed in the visitors center after the Washington D.C. Temple rededication.
President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is interviewed in the visitors’ center after the Washington D.C. Temple rededication in Kensington, Maryland, on Sunday, Aug. 14, 2022. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Decisive and humble

“It is a joy to have the privilege of working with the Lord’s Prophet, President Nelson. He is a remarkable leader in every way. He may be the most decisive leader I have ever worked with, but he is also very humble. Being both decisive and humble do not always go together, but in President Nelson they are combined in a spiritually powerful manner. These leadership qualities allow him to respond immediately to the inspiration and guidance he receives from the Lord.”

Elder Quentin L. Cook, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

Mastered delegation

“President Nelson has mastered the art of delegation in leadership. He clearly understands that delegation of specific undertakings or assignments is necessary to get everything done that needs to be done and to give others the chance to grow. When he delegates, he acts in a way that creates the greatest likelihood of success. First, he keeps an open door. He is always available to consider questions and give counsel as those who have the delegated responsibility go about their work. Second, when someone comes to report or ask for help, he listens intently. He makes sure he understands the issue and counsels with them freely. Third, he never takes the responsibility back. In asking for direction, a person may unwittingly try to put some of the task back on President Nelson’s shoulders, but President Nelson focuses on building their confidence and sending them out with renewed determination and some helpful guidance or tools. He will do what he can to help a person avoid failure, but he expects each person to do the work. I think that is precisely how our Heavenly Father works with us.”

Elder D. Todd Christofferson, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

Prepared

“In the spring of 2005, I joined President Nelson at the groundbreaking for the temple in Curitiba, Brazil, where I served in the area presidency. President Nelson, prior to offering the dedicatory prayer, offered remarks using a translator. Then, as he bowed his head to pray, all his words were spoken in near perfect Portuguese, not just the grammar but also the native Brazilian accent. The leaders and members there were astonished. The Spirit of the Lord was potent, and many cried with joy.

“Later, I spoke with President Nelson about how remarkable it was to hear the dedicatory prayer in such impeccable Portuguese and the difference it made. He smiled at me and said, ‘Those at the groundbreaking will never know how much time and effort it took me in preparation.’ I thought of his busy schedule and yet how willing he was to prepare himself so fully for something most would never do. In the many years since that day, I have watched his devoted preparation in all he does.”

Elder Neil L. Andersen, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints hugs children after a devotional in Asuncion, Paraguay, on Monday, Oct. 22, 2018. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Receives revelation

“For more than a quarter of a century I have observed President Nelson receive and follow direction from the Lord Jesus Christ.

“One clear example of this discipleship is remarks President Nelson shared on Aug. 27, 2022, during the groundbreaking of the Ephraim Utah Temple.

“President Nelson said: ‘Not long after the April 2021 general conference, I received clear instruction from the Lord that the Manti temple should be preserved and that a new temple should be built in Ephraim, Utah. You need to know that this impression did not come because of my ancestral roots in Ephraim. That instruction came to me from the Lord.’

“President Nelson has prepared himself to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. He knows who presides at the head of this Church. He knows how to receive revelation. He is bold in following the Lord’s direction.”

Elder Ronald A. Rasband, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

Listens

“President Nelson is a remarkable leader. A specific exceptional leadership quality of President Nelson which I have observed is his talent of listening; it is a skill I deeply admire. When I have been privileged to present or discuss matters with President Nelson, he consistently imbues in me a sense of attentive listening to all that is being shared. This is manifest in his body language, eye contact, clarifying questions and comments. Having come to expect this from him, I am motivated to be more thoughtful and prepared for my discussions with him and to strive to emulate this positive trait in my interactions with others as well.”

Elder Gary E. Stevenson, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

Gentleness, meekness and love

“President Nelson exercises his influence in leading the Church by gentleness, meekness and love — all Christlike attributes. At the same time, his leadership is sure and steady because his primary audience is the Lord Jesus Christ. It has been said that the test of leadership and ability in the Church is a willingness to be presided over. President Nelson subsumes his will and desires to those of our Heavenly Father and the Savior. They are the Ones he is most anxious to please. President Nelson is a real gentleman as well. He assiduously follows the advice he gave us in April 2023 general conference: ‘If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy that we can say about another person — whether to his face or behind her back — that should be our standard of communication.’ That is President Nelson’s standard.”

Elder Dale G. Renlund, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

President Russell M. Nelson poses in his office.
President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints poses in his office at the Church Administration Building in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, April 13, 2022. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Lifts, inspires, loves, leads

“President Nelson is a prophet — there is spiritual pattern in the way he leads. Often as we gather, President Nelson greets each person by name. (I once asked how he remembers every name. He said, ‘I love people so I try to remember their names.’) He knows the agenda, proceeds with purpose, with kind heart and keen mind often sees things no one else has. President Nelson’s lifetime experience with spiritual confirmation leads to decisions that bless individuals and the Church. He expresses appreciation as we conclude. In every detail, he lifts, inspires, loves, leads.”

Elder Gerrit W. Gong, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

Compassion

“One of the most remarkable attributes I observe in President Nelson’s leadership is his ability to lead people with compassion. His loving arms are always open, extended, outstretched and encircling to everyone he meets, and he focuses on the goodness in people rather than their shortcomings or weaknesses. He follows the Savior’s pattern as described in 3 Nephi 9:14 — ‘… mine arm of mercy is extended towards you, and whosoever will come, him will I receive; and blessed are those who come unto [me].’ President Nelson holds these leadership attributes because he lives close to the Savior and strives to reflect Him in his life.”

Elder Ulisses Soares, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

Sees the best in people

“A remarkable character trait that I have observed in President Nelson since I first met him is his practice of seeing the best in people. He chooses to focus on the person’s higher qualities. I have personally been the beneficiary of President Nelson’s choice to approach life this way, as I have felt that he sees me better than I am and does not focus on my weaknesses and shortcomings. With love and patience, he has encouraged me in my growth and development. I believe this is how our loving Heavenly Father sees us, His precious children. This is a highly valuable attribute in a leader, because the effect on me has been that I have wanted to live up to his view of me, to be better and become better as a result.”

Elder Patrick Kearon, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints meets with Sister Amy Wright at the Washington D.C. Temple for a tour in South Kensington, Maryland, on Saturday Aug. 13, 2022. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Leads with the love of Jesus Christ

“President Nelson leads as the Savior leads — with love. 

“One of the greatest blessings and privileges of my life has been the opportunity to meet personally with President Nelson. On every occasion, he has looked right into my eyes, and his eyes have expressed love — love and warmth and meekness and genuine interest and confidence. I have felt the love that Jesus Christ has for me, and for my Relief Society sisters throughout the world, through His mouthpiece, our dear Prophet. 

“President Nelson communicates the love of Jesus Christ to those he leads. I hope to emulate him in some small measure.”

President Camille N. Johnson, Relief Society general president

Covenant blessings

“I have learned so much about covenants and covenant blessings from President Nelson’s teachings over the past six years.

He has taught us about the priesthood power women have access to through making and keeping covenants with God in the house of the Lord. What a blessing this and all his teachings have been to the women of the Church.”

Sister J. Anette Dennis, first counselor, Relief Society general presidency

Sees and loves the individual

“President Nelson truly sees and loves the individual. He takes notice of who’s in the room and helps them feel valued, needed and welcomed. When in meetings, he’s not just focused on getting business done; you can see his first business is loving God’s children. I’ve learned from his leadership that if love is present, business will work out in the way it should because the Lord’s Spirit will be with us. Through the Prophet’s genuine love and belief in me, I have come to know more about the character of my Heavenly Father and Savior and Their love for me. I know Them better and love Them better because of President Nelson.”

Sister Kristin M. Yee, second counselor, Relief Society general presidency

President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and President M. Russell Ballard, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, meet with youth in the Rome Temple Visitors’ Center prior to a youth devotional in Rome, Italy, on Saturday, March 9, 2019. | Vatican, Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Focused listening

“I have learned one way that President Nelson leads is by listening. Whenever I am in a meeting with President Nelson he leans forward and focuses intently on whoever is speaking, striving to discern their message. Then, he often pauses and responds with love and Spirit-filled clarity, moving the work of the Lord forward.”

President Susan H. Porter, Primary general president

Intentional ministering

“While on assignment with President Nelson in Washington, D.C., I saw firsthand how he ministers to the one in profound and intentional ways. From the flight attendant, to security, to all those attending the rededication of the house of the Lord, he wanted everyone to have a holy and sacred experience. While riding with him on the elevator to the assembly hall, President Nelson indicated that he first wanted to visit those who were gathered in the endowment rooms knowing they would be watching the proceedings from a monitor. I will forever remember the love of God reflected on the faces of those precious members as they were reminded through the ministering actions of our dear Prophet that they are known and numbered. President Nelson fully embraces the following admonition from our beloved Savior: ‘What manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am’ (3 Nephi 27:27).” 

Sister Amy A. Wright, first counselor, Primary general presidency

Devotion to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ

“On Jan. 16, 2018, in the annex of the Salt Lake Temple, President Nelson pledged his devotion to God the Eternal Father and to His Son Jesus Christ. He continued: ‘I know Them — love Them. And pledge to serve Them and you with every remaining breath of my life.’ And with those declarative words I recall receiving my first personal witness that he was God’s chosen Prophet. I have watched him for many years since exemplify this pledge in subtle and significant ways. From observing him sit on the edge of his seat as a symbol of his willingness and disposition to be ready, to his both tender and certain testimony of love for and commitment to our Savior Jesus Christ. His example has influenced my own preparation for service in God’s kingdom and my desire to strengthen my covenant relationship with God the Father and Jesus Christ.” 

Sister Tracy Y. Browning, second counselor, Primary general presidency

President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints waves to other leaders during the 193rd Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City on Saturday, April 1, 2023. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

By invitation

“What I have learned from President Nelson is that he leads by invitation. As I have accepted his general conference invitations to study gospel topics with friends and family, my testimony has grown and my understanding of the gospel has increased. I have become a little better every day by accepting those invitations.”

President Emily Belle Freeman, Young Women general president

Fully present

“I love that President Nelson looked me in the eyes the whole time he was talking to me. He was fully present and made me feel seen and that our conversation mattered. This is something a great leader does.”

Sister Tamara W. Runia, first counselor, Young Women general presidency

Prays with and for individuals

“One of the things I loved from President Nelson is that he prayed with us and for us. It reminded me of Jesus Christ in John 17 (the Savior’s great Intercessory Prayer). Following his example, I enjoy praying for the people I serve with.”

Sister Andrea Muñoz Spannaus, second counselor, Young Women general presidency

| Church News graphic
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