Sarah Jane Weaver: How 2 words from the Prophet to his wife touched a missionary — and me

In correspondence home, a missionary from the Oklahoma Oklahoma City Mission detailed his opportunity to watch a Sunday devotional broadcast to Latter-day Saints in Kansas and Oklahoma by President Russell M. Nelson and his wife, Sister Wendy W. Nelson.

The meeting Oct. 17 originated from the Conference Center in Salt Lake City and also included messages from Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Harriet R. Uchtdorf. 

It followed a $2 million donation made earlier in the day to build a family history center at the First Americans Museum in Oklahoma City.  

The missionary recognized the significance of this moment for the Church and for Native Americans, who will be able to search their family roots at the new center.

He also wrote about inviting friends of the Church to hear the Prophet speak. And the missionary wrote about the joy he felt when a young man walked miles to participate in the meeting.

It was, however, another observation by the missionary that struck me. He noticed and wrote home about being touched as he heard President Nelson whisper “good job” to Sister Nelson after she spoke.

The brief, tender exchange — as they passed between their seats and the pulpit — was a sweet acknowledgment of her effort and his gratitude. For one second — the second before he would speak — he directed attention away from himself to her.

For the missionary, the moment was a sermon between the sermons.

We all want to be acknowledged.

Like the missionary, I too was struck by watching the way the Nelsons and the Uchtdorfs interacted during the broadcast. They not only encouraged one another but also those running the equipment and coordinating the devotional.

President Russell M. Nelson addresses Latter-day Saints in Kansas and Oklahoma during a devotional broadcast from the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021.
President Russell M. Nelson addresses Latter-day Saints in Kansas and Oklahoma during a devotional broadcast from the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Their interactions were small things that felt large in the moment.

Maybe that is because I remember a day in 2019 when President Nelson acknowledged a few of us in the media who had traveled to Australia to cover his global ministry. We were unpacking equipment and preparing to document his devotional message to Latter-day Saints in Sydney, when he walked in the room. He called us by name. (Until that moment we didn’t even know he knew our names.) Then he said he had prayed for each of us that morning by name.

It is hard to describe what that meant. It was the sweetest “good job” any one of us could have imagined.

For us, it was the sermon between the sermons.

Acknowledgement is actually the hallmark of President Nelson’s ministry.

In the years I have written about President Nelson and his apostolic calling, I have never heard him speak — not once that I can remember — without acknowledging Jesus Christ and the truths of His Church.

President Nelson’s prophetic ministry always includes directing his followers to Him — the One we all follow.

The exchange that touched a missionary was only one of many acknowledgments Sunday. President Nelson closed his devotional message to Kansas and Oklahoma with two more.

First he acknowledged his audience. In the same way he spoke to the media team in Australia, he directed a personal message to them and their geography.

“My dear brothers and sisters who live in the center of this great country, truths contained in the Book of Mormon will center your lives on Jesus Christ and His gospel,” he said. “Daily immersing yourselves in the Book of Mormon will help you stay in the center of the covenant path. True joy will be yours now and forever. This is my promise to you.”

Then he testified of divinity and acknowledged who each of us is and Whose we are.  

“Dear brothers and sisters, I know God lives. Jesus is the Christ. His Church has been restored. We are His people.”

It was the ultimate sermon, the very reason for all of his sermons.