Because Californians live “in a vital crossroads — a place where the world gathers and is influenced,” President Russell M. Nelson said their potential for “influencing the entire world is unusually significant.”
In a devotional speech originating on Sunday afternoon from Temple Square to the Golden State’s approximately 750,000 members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the faith’s prophet and president offered Church members three invitations to help them “gain the elevating influence that God is counting on [them] to have.”
First, President Nelson said, they should seek truth “with more energy and devotion than you ever have.” In addition to focusing on “what you know to be true,” he counseled them to “increase what you know by studying from sources you can trust. Seek for answers to your questions through prayer, searching the scriptures and studying the words of prophets, seers and revelators.”
“The magnificent breadth of what the Lord has revealed and the spiritual knowledge He has already given far outweigh any gaps in our present understanding,” the prophet continued. “In His time, the Lord will reveal all things to His people, for He has promised that in this dispensation ‘nothing shall be withheld.’”
The 97-year-old President Nelson said he came to appreciate the search for truth decades ago during his time as a surgeon and medical researcher. At that time, heart surgery did not exist. He was taught that touching the heart would cause it to stop beating. But a scripture about the universal nature of law prompted him to the frontiers of his field.
“Over time, our research revealed important truths, one of them being that we could touch the heart without harming it,” President Nelson said. “Later, we learned that if we altered the normal sodium/potassium ratio in blood that nourished the heart, the heart would stop beating. Then, when we wanted the heart to start beating again, we simply restored the blood’s sodium/potassium ratio back to normal. It worked! It worked every time!”
This and God’s other laws, the prophet said, are great gifts. “When you and I live in accord with God’s laws, we will be safe as we progress along God’s covenant path toward our heavenly home,” he said.
President Nelson’s second invitation was to make and keep covenants with God to increase one’s power and spiritual discernment. Many of those covenants are made in the Church’s houses of the Lord (of which California has seven, with two more on the way).
“In the temple, we are endowed with God’s power,” he said. “With these new temples, more of you will be able to attend the temple regularly and learn better how to draw upon that power through sacred priesthood covenants. Your increased temple worship and service, along with your corresponding family history research, will enhance your connection with heaven.”
The prophet’s third invitation was that the California Saints help gather Israel. As he did in a broadcast to Europe in January, President Nelson invited youth and young adults to share the light their friends are after.
“Many of your friends are seeking to understand why they are here on earth,” he said. “They want to know if life has any meaning. They want to make a difference in the world but they don’t know who they can trust. Do you realize that you have the answers your friends are seeking? … This gathering is all about giving every human soul the chance to hear and accept the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is all about saving souls.”
Elder Brent H. Nielson
Elder Nielson of the Presidency of the Seventy spoke of the importance of following the counsel of prophets. Elder Nielson, a former executive director of the Church’s Missionary Department, described the inspired process (beginning in 2014) of allowing missionaries to begin using smartphones. This idea, he said, was spearheaded by then-Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
By the time the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020, the Church had logged six years of experience with many missionaries using smartphones. In January of 2020, the Church, under the direction of President Nelson, approved the use of smartphones for every missionary. With the help of those smartphones and social media, missionaries around the globe baptized 125,000 people that year — a time when so much of the world had closed down.
“I consider that to be a modern-day miracle,” Elder Nielson said.
After March 2020, he added, missionaries began finding 25 times more people to teach than they did before the onset of the pandemic.
“Looking back, I have to tell you that in the years 2016, 2017, and 2018, there were many days that I wondered why we were spending so much time trying to share the gospel online when our missionaries could simply walk outside their door and find people to teach,” Elder Nielson said. “Many times, when I see videos posted on social media today, I will see a little statement that says, ‘Wait for it.’ I have learned in my life that when prophets and apostles speak, I need to wait for it because soon I will see why that direction was given.”
Sister Wendy Nelson
Sister Nelson also spoke of the importance of prophets.
“What positive changes would you and I notice in our lives, if we tried an experiment?” she asked, echoing an invitation she extended in January to Latter-day Saints in Europe. “What if, for only 30 days, we put an exclamation point after every statement made by a prophet? What would happen to our level of peace, joy, clarity of thinking and spiritual prosperity? What would happen if, for 30 days, we prayerfully studied, fully embraced and lived by every prophetic teaching we could find?”
Sister Nelson said we can find many traits worth emulating in the life of the current prophet, her husband. She said President Nelson finds joy in helping others grow spiritually. He is energized as he wrestles with difficult decisions and receives instructions from the Lord. He speaks kind and loving words at home. And he is always looking to the future.
“Now, where will following the prophet lead you?” Sister Nelson concluded. “As you follow the prophet, your love for your Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ will grow, as will your desire to keep your covenants with Them. Your ability to discern between what is true and what is not will increase.”
Sister Marcia Nielson
Sister Nielson, wife of Elder Brent H. Nielson, gave a sermon on learning to discern God’s quiet voice in a loud world.
This lesson was reinforced for her, she said, during a visit last October to the food court at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Sister Nielson observed an elderly woman at an empty table 20 feet to her right, signaling to her husband so he could find where she was in the cacophonous and crowded area. The woman first tried waving to him, but that didn’t work. Then she cupped her hand partway over her mouth and quietly whistled to him, almost like a bird call that eventually caught his attention.
Sister Nielson said this experience became a divine revelation for her. It was as if God was telling her, “Marcia, just like this couple, you and I have a whistle. When I call, you can hear me. … My voice is quiet and distinct, like this bird whistle. You and I have practiced this communication since you were young, and you can hear my voice, even amid mighty confusion.”
The same truth applies to Latter-day Saints in California, she said. God “has important things to say to you. He loves you and wants to help you improve your ability to understand how he is communicating with you. He will do this in unique and individual ways that are suited specifically to you as you seek to increase your spiritual capacity.”