Sarah Jane Weaver: What I learned from President Nelson about color — and love

Sitting on the piano bench surrounded by sparkling Christmas decorations, President Russell M. Nelson played Silent Night without the aid of music. Video cameras rolled as President Nelson — accompanying Claire Crosby — became the first leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to make a music video.

Between takes, the 7-year-old YouTube star asked President Nelson a question: “What is your favorite color?”

“What is my favorite color?” President Nelson responded. “You know, I love them all….

President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and his wife Sister Wendy Nelson hug Claire Crosby in Salt Lake City on Dec 6, 2019.
President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and his wife Sister Wendy Nelson hug Claire Crosby in Salt Lake City on Dec 6, 2019. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

“It is just like children,” continued President Nelson. “Do I have a favorite child? Oh no. Everyone is special. Blue is special. Yellow is special. Orange and red, I love them all.”

The exchange was sweet and innocent. It was also profound.

Sharing just a few words in a casual setting, President Nelson taught us all something about race, inclusion and culture. He taught us how God feels about His children and the world where we all live and learn and grow.

His words were also reflective of his own life and ministry.

Since becoming president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, President Nelson has logged well over 115,000 miles to six continents, 32 nations and territories and 49 cities. He has met with members in large and small settings — often addressing them in their own language — and with world leaders. He has also reached out to victims of crime, comforted those grieving and acknowledged dozens of children.

For example: Before addressing a crowd of more than 15,500 Church members in Orlando, Florida, on June 9, President Nelson quietly greeted Barbara Poma, the owner of PULSE nightclub where 49 people lost their lives in a mass shooting in 2016. In addition to acknowledging her loss, he and his wife, Sister Wendy Nelson, asked her about her brother, who had died years earlier of AIDS.

President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and his wife, Sister Wendy Nelson, stand with wheelchair recipients after Latter-day Saint Charities donated the wheelchairs in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019.
President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and his wife, Sister Wendy Nelson, stand with wheelchair recipients after Latter-day Saint Charities donated the wheelchairs in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred

Weeks later, after announcing a $100,000 donation from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to rebuild and renovate mosques damaged in a deadly attack in Christchurch, New Zealand, on May 20,  President Nelson stood arm-in-arm with Dr. Mustafa Farouk, the president of the Islamic Associations of New Zealand. Visiting with leaders of New Zealand’s Muslim community in the Relief Society room of the Redoubt Auckland Stake Center, President Nelson’s sentiment was clear. “We are brothers. We are brothers,” he said.

And hours before addressing 12,000 Church members in Tecnópolis Arena in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Aug. 28, President Nelson personally greeted individual children receiving new wheelchairs at a local Latter-day Saint meetinghouse. Silvia Carranza, who uses a wheelchair herself and directs the organization that distributes the wheelchairs in Argentina, said of President Nelson: “Giving to others means seeing Jesus Christ in the other person.”

Last year, President Nelson met with President Martín Vizcarra at the presidential palace in Lima, Peru, on Oct. 20, 2018. But it was a greeting a few hours later that truly touched many hearts.  

President Martín Vizcarra accepts a copy of "Teachings of President Russell M. Nelson" from President Nelson at the presidential palace in Lima, Peru, on Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018.
President Martín Vizcarra accepts a copy of “Teachings of President Russell M. Nelson” from President Nelson at the presidential palace in Lima, Peru, on Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018. Credit: Courtesy President of Peru, Courtesy President of Peru

Underneath the stadium prior to the devotional in Peru, a small group of teenagers gathered to meet President Nelson. One young girl asked a question to President Nelson with such emotion that it stilled the room. “What do I do if my parents are no longer active in the Church?”

President Nelson turned to her, looked her in the eyes and said, “You and I are just alike.” He spoke of his own youth. He promised her that her parents would notice the Savior’s influence in her life. He told her the Lord was aware of her and her family.

Just week’s after the Peru visit, fire destroyed the home of Jeremy and Brynn Chatfield — and 18,804 other homes in Paradise, California. President Nelson flew to California to minister to the grieving Saints. After he addressed the congregation on Jan. 13, McKell Chatfield, 12, waited to shake President Nelson’s hand — but was jostled out of the way by other eager members. Then as President Nelson got into his car to leave, he singled McKell out of the crowd and called her to him, where he greeted her and gave her a hug. It was “pretty special,” her mother said.

President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints looks over a destroyed chapel with his wife, Sister Wendy Nelson, in Paradise, California, on Sunday, Jan. 13, 2019, two months after the Camp Fire destroyed more than 18,000 homes and businesses.
President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints looks over a destroyed chapel with his wife, Sister Wendy Nelson, in Paradise, California, on Sunday, Jan. 13, 2019, two months after the Camp Fire destroyed more than 18,000 homes and businesses. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Deseret News

When President Nelson spoke to members at the BYU Jerusalem Center on April 14, 2018, Ella Bautuista — a 7-year-old Filipino Latter-day Saints living in Tel Aviv, Israel, where her father finds employment as house help — insisted President Nelson would personally greet her.

As he was exiting the meeting, President Nelson caught Ella’s eye. He stopped, tenderly placed both hands on the back of Ella’s head, and looked her in the eyes. “We will never forget this moment and this day,” said Ella’s father, John Rey Bautuista.

Thinking of Ella and McKell and so many others with whom President Nelson has come in contact, it is not surprising that when asked his favorite color, President Nelson did not choose, saying instead that he loves them all.

Others feel that sentiment in their interactions with the prophet.

In a passionate introduction, the Rev. Amos Brown, a legendary civil rights activist and pastor of San Francisco’s historic Third Baptist Church enthusiastically and energetically welcomed President Nelson, who spoke at the NAACP national convention in Detroit on July 21.

“This has been a fateful evening, and I have been given the task to introduce and present a brother of another mother, a different faith tradition, and of a different race,” he said.

In response to the introduction, President Nelson embraced Reverend Brown. The simple act of love teaches all of us the same message President Nelson shared with Claire — and with the owner of a gay night club, the president of a humanitarian organization and a mosque shooting victim.

“Everyone is special,” President Nelson explained to Claire.  “Blue is special. Yellow is special. Orange and red, I love them all.”