If you missed this morning’s announcement about the newly organized First Presidency, you can watch the video below. The First Presidency announcement starts at the 52 minute mark and the press conference, which began at 10am this morning starts at the 1:51 (one hour, fifty-one) minute mark.
President Russell M. Nelson was called and set apart on Sunday as the 17th President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Dallin H. Oaks has been called as the First Councelor and Henry B. Eyring has been called as the Second Councelor. Elder M. Russell Ballard has been called to be the acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve.
Elder Christofferson conducted the meeting and took a few minutes to explain the process of how the new president is chosen and how things are organized, he also bore his testimony of the meeting, “As a participant, it was sweet, sacred experience in which the Lord’s will was clearly manifest and all were in full accord. This experience confirmed once again that Jesus Christ directs His church.”
He also explained that by choosing the senior most apostle to be the president of the church, posturing or campaigning for position is eliminated, that this process provides continuity and that the one who becomes the new president has been prepared for this calling. He also quoted Elder John A. Widtsoe, “This is a wise procedure. It places at the head of the church the apostle who has been the longest in service. He is known well to the people and trusted by them. He himself knows the procedure of church affairs. He is no novice to be trained for the position.”
I think we all knew that Pres. Monson’s days on the earth were drawing to a close as 2017 ended. I was not surprised to hear that Pres. Monson passed away on January 2nd. I knew that his reunion with his wife, Francis, must have been joyous and sweet, and that he was welcomed into heaven with love and anticipation. I have young children (all under 10 years old). They understand about prophets and apostles — Pres. Nelson called that righteous, intentional parenting. The morning I found out about Pres. Monson’s passing my nine year old son, matter of factly said, “He died, right?” “Yes, and that means we get to have a new president of the church. Dad and I are going to teach you kids about how this happens over the next few days.”
I looked forward to this morning with some anticipation but mostly thankfulness that the Lord has outlined a very clear pattern to follow in choosing who leads the church and that if we have eyes to see, ears to hear and hearts to receive we would have a witness of that choice immediately as it was announced. My husband and I watched the announcement “together” (he as his desk at work, me at my desk at home on the phone to each other). He described his feelings as “a mighty rushing wind”. I felt very sincere gratitude and peace for Pres. Nelson and his new councilors.
President Nelson’s first message to members of the church and to the world was very hopeful and joyful (as a side note, the first Conference talk I remember him giving was titled, “Joy Cometh in the Morning“). This was a joyful morning, indeed. He stressed the positive message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, and that the gospel has answers for all of life’s problems. He stated that the gospel can give us knowledge, perspective and hope and asked if we could add these to your life? He gave us a prophetic promise too, that is that making and keeping covenants opens the doors to every spiritual blessing such as, increased personal revelation, peace, and the fortification of our resolve to stay on the covenant path. He invited us to stay on that covenant path and invited those who have left the path to come back. I think the covenant path is going to be a theme of his presidency.
That invitation was particularly meaningful to me. I’m sure many of you have friends and family who have left the church or are at odds with the church in some way — I know I do and I want nothing more than for them to come back into full fellowship with the church. I’m sure you, as I did, had in mind someone that this invitation could benefit.
President Oaks also had good council for us. He encouraged us to avoid labeling ourselves with worldy labels. And that when we do that we impose a quota system on ourselves that the Lord does not recognize. The only label we ever need to wear is that of “Child of God”. Pres. Oaks also spoke to the millennial generation of the church and stated that men and women are stronger when they are married and encouraged young people to marry. Pres. Nelson added that 1+1 is always more than 2.
A member of the press asked about the place of women in the church — and accused the men of being “old, white, and American” and asked how were they going to be more inclusive. I kind of rolled my eyes at this question because it was a typical “social justice” question, which honestly I think has no place in the church, if you really understand that God is no respecter of persons. I’m sure the reporter thought she was throwing out a “gotcha”. But, Presidents. Nelson, Oaks and Eyring answered this reporter with love and kindness. I think we all should re-watch that exchange over and over and apply it to our own social media interactions — they didn’t skip a beat.
Pres. Eyring made a very important distinction between position and influence. He re-emphasized that influence has already been given to women, and that women do sit on and participate in the highest councils of the church, and in their wards and stakes as well. President Nelson encouraged the women to go back and read his talk “A Plea to My Sisters“. Pres. Eyring also emphasized that “the best is yet to come”! I believe that. There is a lot of bad out in the world, but there is also an abundance of good and the Lord is very eager to bless us and to abide with us as we follow the prophets and apostles.
One of the last things that Pres. Nelson said was that, “The way to joy is to stay on the covenant path”. There is that path again … see, it’s a theme!
In April we will hopefully have new new apostles called and we will hear more great counsel from Pres. Nelson and the other leaders of the church. As Joseph Smith taught,
“The Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.”
I know these men are the chosen leaders of our church. I have a testimony of that. I am excited to see where we go as a church in the next months and years.