Last Saturday, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gathered in meetinghouses, living rooms, around computers and across continents to have a solemn assembly and sustain President Russell M. Nelson as the new church prophet.
The last time this happened was a decade ago, which means a whole new generation was ushering in a prophet.
For our family, it was a Saturday with many things happening at once. Most of our children were with cousins, but our high school-aged son, Jackson, was at a robotics competition in the Portland area. Not wanting him to miss this sacred occasion, my husband and I drove across town, picked him up and found the nearest chapel.
Jackson, almost 16, was a bit grumbly about having to leave his tournament in the middle of the action. We kept telling him, “Trust us. You aren’t going to want to miss this.”
We had expected the nearby stake center to broadcast the conference, but when we arrived, the chapel was dark. We quickly set up our own laptop in one of the classrooms just as the conference began. As President Henry B. Eyring, second counselor in the First Presidency, called the individual quorums and groups to stand, my husband, my son and I each took turns standing to sustain the new prophet.
I knew it would be a special occasion, but I had not expected to be so moved, in that small room, with just the three of us. We were alone, but we felt the power of standing as a group.
Afterward, Jackson, who had come in jeans because he forgot his church pants, said, “That was really, really neat. I’m glad I got to participate.”
There is no shortage of solemn occasions for which we gather as a church. We gather weekly for the sacrament. We gather as families to study scripture and participate in family home evening. We gather in temples to participate in saving ordinances. We gather for stake conference and general conference.
This coming together as a united voice is something completely foreign in today’s divisive world. We are a society split down the middle, a world of sanctions and boundaries and war zones.
With that in mind, it’s an incredible thing to see people of all nationalities and backgrounds raise their right arm in unison, united by a belief in Jesus Christ and a living prophet.
Two things struck me over conference weekend, and both had to do with Russia. Russia has been in the news a lot lately for trying to stir up divisiveness in America. They were successful during the presidential election, and they continue to troll and hack into our systems, sowing discord wherever they can. They have realized that the most powerful thing they can do to break down our democracy is to splinter us, one issue at a time.
Second, earlier this week, the U.S., along with several of its allies, delivered strict sanctions against Russia for the poisoning of a former spy in the U.K. The rift between the Kremlin and the West continues to widen.
And yet, during the Sunday afternoon session of general conference, President Nelson announced a temple to be built in Russia.10 comments on this story
I was a Russian minor in college and spent time studying in Russia. While I don’t claim to be any sort of expert on the language or the country, Russia and its church members have a special place in my heart. They stay faithful against incredible odds.
When President Nelson made the announcement, it brought tears to my eyes. Sanctions, while extremely important on the political stage, need not apply to spiritual matters. The gospel of Jesus Christ rolls forward, across lines and boundaries. What a message of hope. This is the good news. United, we can all raise our hand and agree on that.