“We are living in the most crucial era in the history of the world,” said President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “As a Church we need to be doing what the Savior wishes us to do. And as a people we need to be looking and acting like true followers of Jesus Christ.”
The prophet of the worldwide Church addressed more than 49,000 people at a devotional at Safeco Field in Seattle, Washington, Saturday, September 15, 2018.
President Nelson was accompanied by his wife, Sister Wendy Nelson, and President Henry B. Eyring, second counselor in the First Presidency.
“We have never spoken at a baseball field before,” said President Nelson, who celebrated his 94th birthday last Sunday. “We are grateful to each of you for coming to this devotional. We express deep gratitude to all who have helped to make this historic event possible.”
There are more than 288,000 Latter-day Saints in the state of Washington.
“Our privilege to hear the word of God from a living prophet is one of the great joys of being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” said President Eyring. “As the Church moves to every nation and people, and in the last days, we can expect and take joy in new messages coming from God through the prophet.”
President Nelson focused on five lessons he has learned throughout his life as a heart surgeon, general authority and father. “I have been reflecting on other things I have learned during these many decades on this earth.”
The senior leader of the more than 16 million member global Church shared a story of a rafting experience that he had with his family on the Colorado River. He was thrown out of the raft when he wasn’t hanging on.
President Nelson said, “If I have learned anything in my life, it is that our ultimate security and our only enduring happiness lies in holding on to the iron rod of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, complete with its covenants and ordinances. When we do so, we can safely navigate through rough waters because we have access to God’s power.”
The second lesson he said he has learned is that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. “I renew a promise I made in general conference nearly a year ago, that if you will prayerfully read from the Book of Mormon each day, you will be immunized against the evils of the day and be drawn closer to the Lord.”
Third, President Nelson encouraged Latter-day Saints to focus on eternal life and less on “the honors of men” that “fade into oblivion compared to what the Lord has in store for His covenant-keeping children.”
“I realized that there are actually very few things in this world that have eternal significance. Having received and honored essential ordinances and sacred temple covenants meant everything,” he said.
President Nelson continued, “I plead with you not to let the temptations of the world — including the time-consuming allurements of your employment — distract you from the real reason you are here on earth.”
Fourth, he taught that the “Lord often uses the unlikely to accomplish the impossible.”
President Nelson recalled an assignment he received from President Ezra Taft Benson in 1985 to open the countries of Eastern Europe for missionary work. “I set out to do what seemed utterly impossible. … In the year 1992, I was able to report to President Benson that the Church was now established in every country in Eastern Europe.”
“The Lord likes effort. Then He blesses our best efforts,” he said.
Finally, President Nelson spoke to the audience about service. “We are happiest when we are thinking about someone other than ourselves.”
He explained, “This is why at the last general conference we emphasized ministering as a higher, holier way of taking care of each other. This is also why the Church actively engages in humanitarian service around the globe.”
President Nelson said the Church partners with agencies such as the Red Cross, Catholic Charities and Islamic Relief for much of its humanitarian work.
“Whether we are digging wells in Africa, providing wheelchairs to those in need in Peru, or among the first to respond after natural disasters anywhere in the world, our efforts are designed to help all mankind. No shipments are labeled ‘For Latter-day Saints only,’” he said.
This was the first time Angelica and George Pioquinto of Auburn and their four children were able to see a prophet in person. “It’s a great opportunity to see the prophet personally,” said George, who joined the Church in 1986 while constructing a chapel in the Philippines. Angelica was baptized in 2013.
“I never been to any conference like this,” said Angelica. “And being member of the Church and watching them over the TV and listening, you know, it’s really … a big day for me.”
“Being able to see him personally definitely has an emotional connection,” said their 16-year-old daughter, Jasmin. “It’s not every day you get to see the prophet. And being here, once in a lifetime opportunity makes this really special.”
“There’s some people in this world that aren’t going to see the prophet,” said their 13-year-old daughter, Sharlene. “I feel very lucky.”
The children say it has been a blessing to have their mother attend church with their family. “It helped her raising us because it set guidelines for us, for her to follow,” said Sharlene.
“I can just say it’s been a blessing that I have this family here with me and that the Lord is watching over me,” added Justin, who is 15.
On Sunday, a little farther North, in British Columbia, Mike and Monica Towns prepared for a rare visit that included two members of the First Presidency of the Church.
“I love that we get the opportunity to have a prophet in our area and to give us a message for the people in our area, so that we know what we need to do, said Monica Towns, a retired heart/lung surgical nurse. “I love that … the man who has been a surgeon and has saved so many lives and has affected so many people physically, now is encouraging us to save [ourselves] spiritually.”
More than 4,600 members and their friends attended the devotional held at the Langley Events Centre just outside Vancouver, which was also broadcast to chapels across the province.
“We’ve had the privilege of seeing this arena, which is sometimes used for hockey games, turned into a chapel,” President Nelson told the congregation. “I’m glad you didn’t bring a penalty box with you,” he joked.
“We just really feel loved and appreciated by the prophet, that he’s willing to take his time, his precious time, and especially at this point in his life to bless the lives of the saints in this area,” said Mike Towns.