Music and the Spoken Word: Takeaways from President Nelson’s life on how to make decisions

Editor’s note: “The Spoken Word” is shared by Lloyd Newell each Sunday during the weekly Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square broadcast. This will be given Sept. 8, 2019.

Every once in a while, a series of choices, experiences, and circumstances combine to create a person who seems to stand out, someone we naturally look to as a role model. Russell M. Nelson is one of those uncommon men. 

He recently celebrated his 95th birthday, which for most of us would be an accomplishment by itself. But it’s the content of his life, not just its length, that makes Russell M. Nelson a remarkable person. He has spent much of those 95 years helping others — as a husband and father, as a renowned heart surgeon, and as President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, traveling the world giving counsel and encouragement to thousands. 

It might be tempting to think that people like this are simply destined for greatness. But as President Nelson once said, “Each day is a day of decision, and our decisions determine our destiny” (“Decisions for Eternity,” Ensign or Liahona, November 2013, p. 108). His life has been one decision after another leading him to his destiny of excellence, service, and devotion. 

Take, for example, his decision in his mid-40s to learn Mandarin Chinese, a decision that led to multiple opportunities to serve the people of China. Speaking to young adults, he has said: “Don’t be afraid to pursue your goals — even your dreams! But know that there is no shortcut to excellence and competence. Education is the difference between wishing you could help other people and being able to help them” (“What Will You Choose?” Ensign, January 2015, p. 32).

Or consider another pivotal decision he made as a young intern assisting a surgeon. During a difficult operation, the surgeon became furious and insulted another member of the surgical team who had made a mistake. Dr. Nelson resolved then and there to master his emotions. He became known for his calm demeanor and self-discipline in the operating room — and his life. (See “Insights from a Prophet’s Life,” Sheri Dew, 2019, pp. 64–65).

To many people, Russell M. Nelson is a world-renowned heart surgeon, but to even more he is a kindhearted man of God. He brings light to a darkening world. He lifts and inspires others to seek everlasting things. He is that way because he chose to be that way — his decisions determined his destiny and made him into a most uncommon man. 

Tuning in …

The “Music and the Spoken Word” broadcast is available on KSL-TV, KSL Radio 1160 AM/102.7 FM,, KSL X-stream, BYU-TV, BYU Radio, BYU-TV International, CBS Radio Network, Dish Network, DirecTV, SiriusXM Radio (Channel 143) and on the Tabernacle Choir’s website and YouTube channel. The program is aired live on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. on many of these outlets. Look up broadcast information by state and city at