Boyd Matheson: For President Nelson, next is now

Three years into his service as the 17th Prophet and President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint, President Russell M. Nelson has little time for looking back. His focus is forever forward, his thoughts are inspiringly upward, and his call to members of the Church and the world is “onward!

In a recent interview for a Church News podcast, Sister Wendy W. Nelson commented that, “Since becoming President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, President Nelson has become more future-oriented than ever — focused on what is the next thing.”

She continued, “He is always ready to hear the next thing, feel the next thing, be guided to the next thing. … This is a man on a mission for the Lord. He is single minded. … He is undaunted, he is optimistic. He truly believes the best is yet to come.”

Prophets have always been tasked with the burden of being watchmen on the tower and carrying the weighty responsibility born of their prophetic ability to see ahead. The challenge for every prophet is transforming what they see as next and making it a reality now.

Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt, in paying tribute to the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, described the role of a prophet. Rabbi Holtzblatt reflected, “To be able to see beyond the world you are in, to imagine that something can be different: that is the job of a prophet. And it is the rare prophet who not only imagines a new world, but also makes that world a reality.”

By that definition, and by every measure, President Nelson is indeed a prophet. At age 96, he is driven to make next now.  

As Church News editor Sarah Jane Weaver noted, “In a historic interview in Rome in March 2019, President Nelson called the dedication of the Rome Italy Temple ‘a hinge point in the history of the Church.’”

In the same interview, President Nelson said: “Things are going to move forward at an accelerated pace. The Church is going to have an unprecedented future, unparalleled. We’re just building up to what’s ahead now.”

Sarah Jane Weaver further reported on the Prophet’s laser-focus on making next now during a press interview with Sister Nelson in Brasilia, Brazil, on Aug. 30, 2019. Sister Nelson said that the older her husband gets, the more President Nelson is “enchanted with the future.” He has a continual urgency about everything he is doing.

The enchantment with the future, imagining what could or should be, gazing on the horizon of possibilities and seeing what is coming from the Lord’s watchtower have nothing to do with lazy daydreaming or hopeful musing. It is about the hard work of making next, now.

Making next now can be best understood by the made-up word, “tangibilitate.” The definition of this quasi-word is: to make something real, perceptible, understandable, touchable, obtainable. The word has actually been used to describe President Nelson. The Rev. Amos Brown has said, “Amid ‘tragic, troubling times,’ President Nelson has helped ‘tangibilitate’ the gospel.”

Deuteronomy 34:7 states, “And Moses was an hundred and twenty years old when he died: his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated.” At 96 years of age, and three years into his ministry as the Lord’s Prophet to the world, President Nelson’s eye for what is next has not dimmed, and clearly his natural force has not abated. Rather, the Prophet’s eye for what is next has expanded and his energy, force and power to tangibilitate the vision he sees has increased.

Three years of relentless tangibilitating what is next by a Prophet has led members of the Church of Jesus Christ to a most amazing now.

At the start of a new calendar year and the beginning of his fourth year as Prophet to world, President Nelson continues to keep his focus forever forward, his thoughts inspiringly upward, and his call to members of the Church and the world remains “onward!”

For President Nelson, next is now.

Boyd Matheson is the opinion editor of the Deseret News.