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Sarah Jane Weaver: How sustaining the Prophet is like being wrapped in ‘a warm, soothing blanket on a freezing cold day’

Members will have the opportunity to sustain President Nelson as President of the Church during the 192nd Semiannual General Conference

merlin_863173.jpg

Attendees in the Conference Center sustain the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during a solemn assembly in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, March 31, 2018.

Deseret News archives


Sarah Jane Weaver: How sustaining the Prophet is like being wrapped in ‘a warm, soothing blanket on a freezing cold day’

Members will have the opportunity to sustain President Nelson as President of the Church during the 192nd Semiannual General Conference

merlin_863173.jpg

Attendees in the Conference Center sustain the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during a solemn assembly in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, March 31, 2018.

Deseret News archives

In my office, above my desk, hangs one of my favorite photographs.

The photograph, taken on March 31, 2018, shows Church members gathered in the Conference Center — joined by millions worldwide participating virtually — raising their hands to sustain President Russell M. Nelson as the 17th President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in a sacred solemn assembly.

I was sitting in the press room that day but slipped out to stand in the back of the Conference Center auditorium and participate in the sacred sustaining. The Tabernacle Choir sang “We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet.”

I was at a loss of words to describe what I felt, until Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained that sustaining and following a prophet in a world of commotion is like being wrapped in “a warm, soothing blanket on a freezing cold day.”

“A prophet does not stand between you and the Savior. Rather, he stands beside you and points the way to the Savior,” Elder Andersen said. 

Just a few weeks later, President Nelson would embark on a global ministry tour. As President of the Church, he has traveled 115,000 miles to 35 nations and territories on six continents — meeting with government and religious leaders and Latter-day Saints in large and small settings.

I received the assignment to write about it.

People still ask me what it was like to travel with the Prophet.

“We didn’t travel with him,” I always say. “We followed him — or at least we tried to.”

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President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, center, Elder Gary E. Stevenson, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and Elder Enrique Falabella, General Authority Seventy leave the Government Palace after speaking with the president of Peru in Lima, Peru on Oct. 20, 2018.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Along the way we saw things we will never forget.

Outside of the stately Government Palace in the Peruvian capital city of Lima in October 2018, President Nelson paused before meeting Peru President Martín Vizcarra, catching the eye of a local tour guide.

“Who is that man?” she asked.

Then, trusting in what she was sensing from President Nelson — a man she clearly did not know — she yelled to him: “Will you bless Peru?”

That night after addressing almost 6,000 Church members in Lima’s Coliseo Mariscal Cáceres, an indoor arena, President Nelson offered a blessing on the land and people of Peru.

On another day in Australia in May 2019, I was standing with others assigned to cover President Nelson’s ministry, when I looked up to see him in the room. I was surprised and delighted when he called each of us by name and humbled by what followed. “I prayed for each of you by name this morning,” he said.

At that moment I understood what it means to sustain a prophet. What it means to follow him. I understood why the woman in Peru was so quick to call out to him.

The sustaining of a prophet is not only for him — but also to sustain us. The warmth and protection Elder Andersen spoke about were for me. And the Peruvian tour guide. And all of God’s children.

I didn’t ask, even though I wish I had. But I suspect his kind and thoughtful prayer for a few members of the media team was not unique. I believe President Nelson prays for 17 million members of The Church of Jesus Christ— as well as the people and lands of the earth — every day.

On the day President Nelson was sustained as President of the Church, Elder Andersen spoke of his example. In 1982, before President Nelson became an Apostle, President Nelson said that he never asks when the Church president is speaking as a man or a prophet.

“My interest has been,” President Nelson said then, “‘How can I be more like him? … My philosophy is to stop putting question marks behind the prophet’s statements and put exclamation points instead.”

Years before we sustained President Nelson as the leader of the Church, he spoke in the Oct. 5, 2014, general conference about “Sustaining the Prophets.”

“How do we really sustain a prophet?” then-Elder Nelson asked.

“Often we sing, ‘We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet,’” he said. “Do you and I really understand what that means? Imagine the privilege the Lord has given us of sustaining His prophet, whose counsel will be untainted, unvarnished, unmotivated by any personal aspiration and utterly true!”

Prophets, he said, testify of Jesus Christ — of His divinity and of His earthly mission and ministry. Members sustain the prophet through personally committing to do their utmost to uphold the prophetic priorities. They also do it with their prayers.

This weekend during the Church’s 192nd Semiannual General Conference, we will all have the opportunity to sustain President Nelson — and other prophets and apostles — again.

I hope I have the chance to slip out of the media room at the Conference Center — or stand wherever I am — and raise my hand to show my support for our Prophet during that special time.

The sustaining that comes from following a prophet is personal.

In a world filled with conflict and contention, we all need the feeling of being wrapped in “a warm, soothing blanket on a freezing cold day.”

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