In 2020 President Russell M. Nelson, leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, issued many important invitations to Church members and to the world.
As this year comes to a close, Deseret News Opinion Editor Boyd Matheson joins us to discuss these historic invitations in the historic year of 2020. At the heart of each invitation in this turbulent year is President Nelson’s ultimate hope that all of God’s children will focus on the Savior Jesus Christ and draw closer to Him.
Sarah Jane Weaver: President Russell M. Nelson has issued multiple invitations since becoming President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in January 2018. 2020 was no exception. In this historic year defined by the global pandemic, racial tensions and civil unrest, President Nelson invited the Church — and, on occasion, the world — to take proactive steps to be better.
During this Church News podcast, I am joined by Boyd Matheson, opinion editor of the Deseret News. Boyd and I both had the unique opportunity to observe President Nelson’s global ministry and write about his inspired leadership. Boyd has focused particularly on President Nelson’s role as a world religious leader. I am thrilled he is willing to take some time to highlight some of President Nelson’s 2020 invitations and how they offered not only hope, but spiritual strength, to millions.
Thank you so much for joining us today to talk about these important invitations.
Boyd Matheson: It’s great to be with you.
Sarah Jane Weaver: January 1st of this year, President Nelson issued an invitation on his social media accounts. This invitation reiterated an invitation from his May 2019 October general conference address asking all of us to study the Restoration.
President Russell M. Nelson (recording): Now, I would like to turn to another topic plans for the coming year. In the springtime of the year 2020, it will be exactly 200 years since Joseph Smith experienced the theophany that we know as the First Vision. God the Father and His Beloved Son Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph, a 14-year-old youth.
That event marked the onset of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ in its fullness, precisely as foretold in the Holy Bible. Others followed, including Moses, Elias and Elijah. Each brought divine authority to bless God’s children on the earth. Once again. Miraculously, we have also received the Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ, a companion scripture to the Holy Bible.
The keys and offices of the priesthood have been restored, including the offices of apostle, seventy, patriarch, high priest, elder, bishop, priest, teacher and deacon. And women who love the Lord serve valiantly in the Relief Society, Primary, Young Women, Sunday School and other Church callings, all vital parts of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ in its fullness.
Thus, the year 2020 will be designated as a bicentennial year. General conference next April will be different from any previous conference. I hope that every member and every family will prepare for a unique conference that will commemorate the very foundations of the restored gospel. You may wish to begin your preparation by reading afresh Joseph Smith’s account of the First Vision, as recorded in the Pearl of Great Price.
Our course of study for the next year in “Come, Follow Me” is the Book of Mormon. You may wish to ponder important questions such as, “How would my life be different if my knowledge gained from the Book of Mormon were suddenly taken away?” Or “How have the events that followed the First Vision made a difference for me and my loved ones?” Select your own questions, design your own plan, immerse yourself in the glorious light of the Restoration. As you do, general conference next April will not only be memorable, it will be unforgettable.
Boyd Matheson: Yes, I thought that was an interesting thing. It’s part of what I think President Nelson has been doing on so many things — whether his invitation was to the members, it always seems like it’s to the world. Many people think back to when he talked about the name of the Church and the proper use of the name of the Church. And many said, well, that’s very external. That was to the to the media and to members of the international press. But observing that, like this announcement that he did on the first of January, it really was to the members first, and that always seems to be his focus — if we’re ever going to take the message to the world, the members first have to live it and own it and breathe it every day. So whether it’s that proper use of the name of the Church, or whether it’s really studying and understanding the Restoration in a new and exciting way, President Nelson is always more interested in the individual receiving their own revelation than he is having any kind of proclamation coming from him or from any of the other leaders of the Church.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, and during this year when so many people were going to be talking about the 200th anniversary of the First Vision, it seems like the best place to start is with our own members.
Boyd Matheson: Yeah, that’s right. And so, I think we saw that rolling into 2020, that this was going to be a focus and really a grounding, to make sure that the individual members had that opportunity. Because as he looks at it as a world religious leader, again, he’s looking at across all of the different countries and all the different languages. And when you think about the story of the First Vision for someone that’s living in Ethiopia, or someone who’s living in Australia, or someone who’s living in the Philippines, understanding what that really means — that it really had less to do with the geography of occurring in the United States of America as it did about the individual heart of one young boy. And it could have happened in any other place. It did happen in America for a reason in terms of religious liberty. But I think the message that the Prophet was really sharing, again, with members and with the world is, anybody can find out for themselves if they’ll just give it a try.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Which leads us right into his second major invitation of the year, which he asked all of us to learn to “Hear Him” better. So just like a 14-year-old boy went into a grove of trees, issued a prayer and received direction from the Father and Son, each of us can go forward in our lives and be directed from heaven.
President Russell M. Nelson (recording): In the scriptures, there are very few sacred instances in which the voice of God the Father has been heard. So when He says something, we really need to listen. Repeatedly He has personally introduced His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, with this specific charge to “hear Him.” Have you ever stopped to ask why? Why is our Heavenly Father so insistent, and consistent in His plea that we should hear His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ? Jesus answered this question Himself. He said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” Our Father loves us and yearns for each one of us to choose to return to His holy presence. He pleads with us to listen to the voice of Jesus Christ, from the Father anointed and appointed as our Mediator, Savior and Redeemer.
In this special year, as we commemorate the 200th anniversary of the First Vision, I invite you to think deeply and often about this key question: “How do you ‘hear Him’?” I also invite you to take steps to “hear Him” better, and more often.
Throughout this year, we will focus in a special way on this historic event that took place in the Sacred Grove. I invite you to be proactive and look for opportunities to share your feelings about the Lord Jesus Christ with your family and friends, including inviting your friends to join you in worshiping Him on Easter Sunday.
Now, as one of the Lord’s special witnesses, I bless you in your efforts to get on and stay on His covenant path, and strive with all your heart, might, mind and soul to “hear Him.”
Boyd Matheson: I thought it was so fascinating that one of the things that President Nelson — remember, one of his very first addresses to the members after being sustained as prophet, seer and revelator was that you had to rely on your own personal revelation. And so “Hear Him” was really a natural extension of what he had been telling the Church from the beginning. I remember some of the early media accounts about President Nelson when he first became the Prophet and President of the Church — so many of them talked about the hierarchy and the order and the structure and that he was now in control. And I remember just thinking of those press accounts and thinking, “Well, he’s telling people just the opposite. He’s saying, ‘Don’t trust me.’ He’s saying, ‘You’ve got to find out for yourself.’” And the thing that I loved about his invitation to “Hear Him” is that he extended this to every member in a unique way. He shared that message first. And then members of the Twelve. members of the Relief Society, the general young women, the Primary [presidencies]. And so every corner and space of the Churc and the Church membership had an opportunity to hear from someone who they look to as a leader, maybe a little closer to them, and to really work through this idea of “Well, how do I
We had a great young woman in our ward over the weekend, and she shared how she heard Him — and that how it was different than what she thought it might be when she first received the invitation. She, you know, thought one thing. But then when she studied and she prayed, and she listened and she did things differently, it became a very personal thing. And she found out, “Oh, wow, there’s lots of ways that I can hear Him.”
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, and I thought the coolest part of this invitation for each of us personally was the promised blessings that accompany that. He actually said that we would have additional power to deal with temptation, struggles or weakness. And then he promised us all miracles in our lives.
Boyd Matheson: Yeah, yeah. And that is a, I think that’s a formula. One of the things you learn about President Nelson as he interacts with world leaders or with little children, there’s always a formula. [With] his medical and his scientific background, he’s always looking for — remember, when he and Sister Nelson were talking about Scrabble and playing Scrabble together, and how he had a formula, and it worked. And so what he was really telling us is that in this process, there is a formula, and part of that formula is promised blessings, it’s inspiration, it’s revelation, it’s miracles happening in our lives. And and you can see that he’s continued to think about that, in the midst of the pandemic. Even in his Christmas devotional message, he invoked a powerful blessing upon everyone, to everyone. And he promised that people would be able to hear the Lord, and that they would be able to feel the love that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have for them. And I think that’s all part of that blessing.
Sarah Jane Weaver: You’ve referenced that President Nelson and Sister Nelson talked about Scrabble. He did that in an interview in Brasília, Brazil, where he was talking about his upcoming 95th birthday. So it was a little over a year ago, now our 96-year-old Prophet is, is continuing at the same pace. But in that interview, he actually talked about being both a scientist and a man of faith, and that we can apply those formulas in both cases. Moving into our next invitation, he did that again, as the pandemic started accelerating across the world, and the Church shut down meetings, and it brought missionaries home and it closed temples. And President Nelson asked all of us to fast, and he asked us to fast twice, the second time on Good Friday.
President Russell M. Nelson (recording): The doctrine of fasting is ancient. Through Isaiah, his writings, the Lord said, quote, “is not this the fast that I have chosen to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free,” close quote.
As a physician and surgeon, I have tremendous respect for medical professionals, scientists and others who are working around the clock to curb the spread of COVID-19. Now as President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and an apostle of Jesus Christ, I know that God has all power, all wisdom, all understanding. He comprehendeth all things, and he is a merciful being. The most natural thing for us to do is to call upon our Heavenly Father and His Son, the Master here, to show forth in Their marvelous power, to bless the people of the earth.
I am calling for another worldwide fast for all whose health may permit. Let us fast, pray and unite our faith once again. Let us put our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ into action. I invite all, including those not of our faith, to fast and pray on Good Friday, April 10. Good Friday would be the perfect day to have our Heavenly Father and His Son, hear us that the present pandemic may be controlled, caregivers protected, the economy strengthened and life normalized. Let us unite in pleading for healing throughout the world.
Boyd Matheson: Yeah, so again, he was doing those invitations where he gives an invitation to the members. He gives an invitation to the world. And I think that’s very much part of his ministry is to make sure that everyone understands that this is a global faith and that people of any faith, or people who have no faith, can join in doing good things together. And I think it is that combination, he has of faith and reason, of science and spirit, that helps him recognize that we can do all of these things. Again, if you look at the coverage from the national media, it’s easy to say, “Oh, well, you know, prayers aren’t enough, or how is fasting going to impact a pandemic.” And it’s really having both of those things, there’s often a false argument presented, that you either had to be a science person or a faith person, and that those were on opposite ends of the scale. And as many things in the world, it’s a fake fight, and it’s a false choice. And President Nelson is so good at eliminating the false choice. Because he talks about principles, he talks about loving God. And if you love God, you keep the commandments. And you love your neighbor, whether they’re keeping the first law or not.
And so it’s one of the things that I really admire in observing President Nelson is his ability to get rid of conflict, because he recognizes that if you can eliminate that artificial conflict, that you can have completely different discussions with people. You can have creative solutions to deal with pandemics, to deal with significant challenges — and that it isn’t this an “either or.” That’s a good, it’s a good red flag for all of us to be aware of and to observe, the way the Prophet observes it, that if you find yourself polarizing, you’re probably looking at a false choice. And prophets don’t deal with false choices. They deal with invitations to act. And often that’s an act, a physical act like fasting, or a physical act of saying a prayer. And the spiritual component to that of having faith or being patient or looking for the miracle or expecting the miracle, or just patiently waiting for the next thing to happen. And so that’s one of the things I love about all of President Nelson’s invitations, is it’s never just a single facet to it. There’s always multiple facets that bring it all together. \
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, it’s interesting that you talked about internal and external conflict. Because as the year rolled on, we experienced a different and amplified kind of conflict, as everyone in the United States and across the world, in fact, began talking about race. A few days after we had raised protests very close to Church headquarters, President Nelson went on his social media feed and asked us all to root out racism. He said, “I plead with you to do this.”
Boyd Matheson: Yeah. And so, so vital, at a really important time. And I think one of the lessons that I observed watching this play out over the summer, as it related to race relations, is that the Prophet had already been making significant steps to build bridges. We know that’s one of the things he does better than anyone, he is a bridge builder. We often comment that as he travels around the world, he does that very subtle thing where he just slides his arm in and pulls you in close. And again, we’ve seen him do it with world religious leaders, we’ve seen him do it with civic leaders and business leaders. And it’s that linking of arms that pulls people together.
And so as we look at what took place over the summer, President Nelson had already linked arms a year and a half, almost two years prior to that, with key leaders and key members of the NAACP, and later ended up speaking at their national convention in Detroit, a year ahead of that. And so as that unrest began to build, and as calmer voices needed to be present as opportunities to give direction in light, not just to members of the Church, but to people everywhere, President Nelson had already built a bridge and had already locked arms. And so for President Nelson and for great people, like Reverend Amos Brown from the historic Third Baptist Church in San Francisco, a longtime NAACP member, and other leaders, including Chairman Leon Russell, and others joined together in a joint op-ed to the nation and to the world about how we can come together, how we no longer need to focus on driving wedges of division, we can build bridges of unity. But that happened well in advance. And so as you observe the Prophet, you always need to make sure you’re recognizing there’s purpose to that — he understands how important relationships are. You saw that when he worked to help open up Eastern Europe. It was a lot, it was years of relationship building, the patience that President Nelson has to foster relationships, to build bridges so that when opportunity comes, he’s already ready to go.
If he had been starting from scratch this summer, that would have been a very different discussion, I think, in terms of his influence as a world religious leader. But because he was already prepared and had already fostered the relationships and linked arms with those of other faiths and those of different organizations, he was able to have a significant voice and a very important impact, not just locally, not just nationally, but internationally.
Sarah Jane Weaver: And he followed up again in October general conference when he was speaking to the Church. And he actually started his remarks about race by saying, “Brothers and sisters, I plead with you to listen to what I’m going to say.” And then after making such clear and definitive statements about how he feels about all of God’s children,and how we should reflect those feelings in our own lives and actions, he asked us to let God prevail in our life.
President Russell M. Nelson (recording): Each of us has a divine potential, because each is a child of God. Each is equal in His eyes. The implications of this truth are profound.
Brothers and sisters, please listen carefully to what I’m about to say. God does not love one race more than another. His doctrine on this matter is clear. He invites all to come unto Him, black and white, bond and free, male and female. I assure you that you’re standing before God is not determined by the color of your skin. Favor or disfavor with God is dependent upon your devotion to God and His commandments, and not to the color of your skin.
I grieve that our Black brothers and sisters the world over are enduring the pains of racism and prejudice. Today, I call upon our members everywhere to lead out and abandon the attitudes and actions of prejudice. I plead with you to promote respect for all of God’s children.
The question for each of us, regardless of race, is the same: Are you willing to let God prevail in your life? Are you willing to let God be the most important influence in your life? Will you allow His words, His commandments and His covenants to influence what you do each day? Will you allow His voice to take priority over any other? Are you willing to let whatever He needs you to do? take precedence over every other ambition? Are you willing to have your will swallowed up in His?
Boyd Matheson: What a powerful thing that was. Yes, we need to take action; yes, we need to do everything we can — and, again with those interesting contradictions, because he’s always asking us to act. He’s asking members of Church to act, to do things. And then he’s also saying, “But sometimes you need ‘to let.’ Sometimes you need to lead, and sometimes you need to let, and one of the things that he really challenged was we need to let God prevail.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Yes, and we just heard, he included so many questions about how we can let God prevail in our lives. But he ultimately ended it by asking every member of the Church across the globe to have our wills swallowed up in the Lord’s will, to always put the Lord’s will first.
Boyd Matheson: Yeah. And that is the ultimate test of discipleship, I think, it’s that willingness to let your own will be swallowed up in the Lord’s will. And you think about that, again, from a leadership context. Of course, I spent a lot of years dealing with politicians and global leaders in Washington, D.C. And often it is ego and arrogance that get in the way. And part of what President Nelson has been inviting us to do in “letting God” is a humility. I heard one business leader recently talking about a really devastating challenge, a really vital blow to their business, and just how humbling it was. And then there was another organization and they had had a defeat and a big setback in their business. So they had been humbled. And he made this fascinating comment. He said, humility created space for creativity to happen. And I think that’s part of what President Nelson is saying is look, if we’ll be humble, if we’ll let God prevail, we’ll create space — and it may not be space to create some great new business venture, but it might create space for a better relationship with your spouse. It might create spaces for you to minister in a higher and holier way to somebody in your neighborhood. It may give you an opportunity to share the gospel. But you have to be humble. Humility does create space, and I think that’s exactly what the Prophet was asking the members and the world to do.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, in just a few weeks after asking us to let God prevail in our lives, he continued with sort of a companion invitation to us — where in that humbled state. He said, amid this year when we face so much with the coronavirus, when we’ve dealt with racial and political tension, when there’s been a lot of conflict in the world, he said, “I want everyone to give thanks.”
President Russell M. Nelson (recording): Skilled scientists and researchers are laboring diligently to develop and distribute a vaccine against the coronavirus. But there is no medication or operation that can fix the many spiritual woes and maladies that we face.
There is, however, a remedy — one that may seem surprising — because it flies in the face of our natural intuitions. Nevertheless, its effects have been validated by scientists as well as men and women of faith.
I am referring to the healing power of gratitude. …
As a doctor, I know the value of good therapy. So, dear friends, may I prescribe two activities to help us experience the healing power of gratitude.
First, I invite you — just for the next seven days — to turn social media into your own personal gratitude journal. Post every day about what you are grateful for, who you are grateful for and why you are grateful.
At the end of seven days, see if you feel happier and more at peace. Use the hashtag #GiveThanks. Working together, we can flood social media with a wave of gratitude that reaches the four corners of the earth. Perhaps this will fulfill, in part, the promise God gave to Father Abraham, that through his descendants, “all families of the earth [shall] be blessed.” (Genesis 12:3)
Second, let us unite in thanking God through daily prayer. Jesus Christ taught His disciples to pray by first expressing gratitude to God, and then petitioning Him for the things we need. Prayer brings forth miracles.
In that spirit, I would now like to offer a prayer for the world and everyone in it. As I pray, I hope you will feel inspired to do the same, pouring out your heart in gratitude for the countless blessings God has given you, and petitioning Him to heal our hearts, our families, our societies and the world at large.
Boyd Matheson: Yeah, what a powerful thing, and what a powerful reaction that was around the world. It was immediately trending on Twitter and many of the social media platforms — to simply give thanks. And it was so it was fun for me to watch what people did with that members and non members alike. People who hadn’t been to church in years and years and some people who’d never been in a church of any kind were suddenly thinking differently about this power of gratitude. And just a beautiful invitation from President Nelson, to just give this a try. And I love the fact that he said, just do it for seven days, anybody can do anything for seven days. And so the Prophet making that kind of invitation to the world — that changed so many lives in so many ways that nobody will ever be able to measure.
And that is one of the things I really admire in observing President Nelson is he is always so grateful for everything. We’ve seen him again on some of his world ministry tours, where at the end of incredibly long days, he will still take the time before he leaves the room to shake the hand of every reporter. Wherever media representative, he’ll shake the hand of every camera person, the lighting person and whoever’s holding the door. He’s always so grateful for what he receives.
And that idea that there is much to be thankful for, in the midst of a pandemic, I had many people write in to me and say, they had completely changed their view of 2020. And as hard as some of the things have been, I realized there are things I never would have been able to do never would have experienced with my kids or my grandkids or things I never would have volunteered to do in my community or be part of had I not had some of those invitations to just be grateful to serve where you can and to make a difference where you can.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, President Nelson certainly does know how to minister in the moment and teach all of us how to do that, to look at exactly where we are, and be grateful for what we have at that specific time. And then rolling into the Christmas season, he actually went on social media again. I do love that he’s a 96-year-old leader who is inviting everyone to take to Twitter and Facebook and Instagram. But he thanked us for participating in the “give thanks,” again expressing his own gratitude for the for the millions of responses to that invitation, and then said, you know, now as we enter the Christmas season and celebrate the living Christ, we should be following his example. And he asked us to light the world.
Boyd Matheson: Yeah, one by one.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Yeah, he did. He did add that. Let’s do this one service act at a time.
Boyd Matheson: Yeah. Which is so indicative of President Nelson, it’s always about the one to him in his ministry. And while he has been in front of huge crowds in football stadiums and baseball stadiums and soccer stadiums around the world, he still manages to find the one in the crowd, the little boy or the young woman who’s struggling. And that individual ministry to me is the power. And even in places that he would travel around the world, so that he could visit the members in a place like Vietnam or Cambodia. And you could say, well, you know, why in the world would he travel there to meet such a few. And it’s those “one of a city” kind of Saints, just those small groups, and they are every bit as important — and more important in many ways to the Prophet — than the big, large stadiums. And it’s that personal connection, it’s always that individual ministry that I think is what President Nelson is really all about. and what he’s asking everyone to do, again, not just members of the Church, but people around the world.
Sarah Jane Weaver: And then, as we moved into Christmas, and everyone started turning their thoughts to concluding 2020 and reflecting on the challenges and the blessings of the year, President Nelson stood at the First Presidency Christmas Devotional and asked us to rivet our focus on the Savior.
Boyd Matheson: Isn’t that great?
Sarah Jane Weaver: That’s my favorite invitation of the year.
President Russell M. Nelson (recording): This year, Sister Nelson and I got an early start working on our Christmas errands of love for our family. In early November, Wendy announced that we were ready for Christmas. My instant response was all good. Now we can focus on the Savior.
During this unprecedented year, when virtually every person in the world has suffered the effects of a global pandemic. There is nothing more important we can do this Christmas and to rivet our focus on the Savior and on the gift of what his life really means to each of us.
Boyd Matheson: So powerful, such a such a visual image of what we need to do, in terms of putting Christ really in the center of everything we do this season. I think, as you look at each of these invitations that the Prophet made over the course of the year, again, some to the members, some to the whole world and some to combinations of both, he’s always trying to help people come unto Christ, that’s still always the message unapologetically — “This is this is my job. This is my role as President and Prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to bring people to Christ.”
And so creating that space — one of the interesting things I think we’ve learned in all of these invitations this year, is every invitation is an opportunity for people to step in, and have a transformational experience, to have just a moment. And whether it’s going back and rereading the first vision and understanding the history and what took place there, it’s a chance for people to step in, step into that space, and experience that again, for themselves. Whether it’s a chance to fast and to think about things in a different way, it’s a moment to step in, or to step up and to be part of something bigger than themselves, inviting the world to do that.
But again, each of these invitations are all opportunities for growth, they are all opportunities ,to follow to let God they are also opportunities to lead to lead your neighbors, to lead your family, to lead your community into a better space. But ultimately, you know, my observation of President Nelson this year, is that while many people will look at 2020 in that hindsight — of all of the challenges and difficulties — I think this is one where President Nelson is not going to be there saying “I told you so, I told you, I told you, you should have been ready.” I think he’s really saying with all of these invitations, he can now say to the Church and to the world, “I prepared you so. I prepared you to think different. I prepared you to worship different. I prepared you to gather different. I prepared you to preach the gospel different.” And so all of that are ultimately contained in all of those invitation, so that everybody can roll into 2021 with a feeling of, “Oh, I am prepared for next, because I heeded the invitations that came from President Russell M. Nelson.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, the most powerful thing about these invitations during this year, when every person in the world has been affected in some way by this global pandemic, is that they all direct our focus to the Savior.
Boyd Matheson: Yeah, and that’s, like I said, that’s the ultimate for President Nelson is he never — it’s a unique quality of a world religious leader, to be able to get out of the way. Some world religious leaders kind of get in the way. We know some political leaders and business leaders kind of get in the way. But the Prophet is always so careful to make sure that he never gets in between an individual and the Savior Jesus Christ, because he wants each individual to have their own experience with the Savior. He wants each individual to feel it for themselves, to know how much their Heavenly Father loves them, to know that the Savior is mindful of them. even in really difficult days or trying times. And that’s a really rare attribute of that kind of leader, to always be willing and always be focused on getting out of the way — not getting in between an individual and the Savior. That’s a really powerful example for all of us.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, we have a tradition at the Church News Podcast, where we always let our guests have the last word. And we have them answer the same question every time. So, Boyd, after traveling with President Nelson and observing these and other powerful invitations that he’s issued in this year, and in other years as President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and as someone who has viewed President Nelson through the specific lens of him being a world religious leader, tell us what you know, now that you didn’t know before.
Boyd Matheson: The thing that I know now that I didn’t know before, particularly about President Nelson, goes back to some of the things we talked about early in this podcast, Sarah, and that is that he is a man of science, and he is a man of immense faith. Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks once said that science takes things apart to figure out how they work, and religion or faith puts things together to figure out what they mean.
And I think that’s a really great analogy for President Nelson. Because as a man of science, as a pioneer in heart surgery, he took a lot of hearts apart, to figure out how they worked, how they could be made better. But since becoming an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, where he stepped through that door, without looking back, to embrace his ministry as an apostle, and now as the prophet, seer, and revelator for the Church, he’s put a lot of hearts together to help them find meaning. And that meaning is really the essence, I think, of what President Nelson is all about. He reflected recently with a prominent national publication in The Atlantic, that when he stands before God to be judged, he knows he’s not going to be asked about how many surgeries he performed, or even with the membership of the Church, how it grew during his time is prophet. But that he would really be measured on was he kind was he faithful? Did he help the minister in a way the Savior would.
And so it really goes to that old adage that not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted. And it’s that eternal arithmetic, of being a disciple of Jesus Christ, that enables President Nelson to deal with both science and faith in a most extraordinary way that’s a model for all of us. And I have learned in in watching President Nelson and observing him in in all kinds of different situations around the world, is that wherever he is, he is a disciple of Jesus Christ — nothing changes whether he’s with the president of a country or an 8-year-old boy who’s rushing into his arms at a big event. He’s always the same. He steps into every invitation.
This is probably my observation that I really know now — it’s that President Nelson is issuing invitations to the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and to the world because he knows the power of an invitation, because he has responded to invitation after invitation throughout his entire life. And ultimately, his invitation was one from the Savior, to follow Him and to be a fisher of men.