Editor's note: Deseret News and Church News writers are chronicling the ministry of LDS Church President Russell M. Nelson as he and other church officials travel to Europe, Africa and Asia during the next two weeks. Tad Walch reports today from London.
LONDON — In his first statements on his global tour, LDS Church President Russell M. Nelson told the Deseret News on Thursday why he chose to begin in London and then travel to Jerusalem.
"Everybody comes to London," he said of the diverse city, "so we might as well come, too. It's a melting pot, and ours is a global ministry, so at least we can get a sample. Most of the nations of the world are here in London."
Jerusalem is next because of its significance to his message.
"We want to focus on the Lord Jesus Christ," he said. "That's where his mortal ministry was. That’s where he was born. That’s where he was killed. (Sister Nelson and I) have been to the Holy Land many times, not together but independently. We felt that was where we wanted to be rooted. Then we’ll go from there to parts of Africa and Asia."
President Nelson's delegation will visit eight countries in 11 days during a trip that will last two weeks, also stopping in Kenya, Zimbabwe, India, Thailand, Hong Kong and Hawaii. He hinted at a future trip during a short interview after he arrived at the Hyde Park Chapel in central London in the early afternoon.
"No matter where we would go, we would neglect more than we'd serve," he said, "but we’ll do all we can do in two weeks, and we'll go home and rest for a while, then tackle another journey."
He said he felt compelled to minister.
"The Lord’s message is for everyone," he said. "This is a global work. Whenever I'm comfortably situated in my home, I'm in the wrong place. I need to be where the people are. We need to bring them the message of the Savior.
"The message is to invite all of God's children on both sides of the veil to come unto their Savior and enjoy the blessings of the temple, have enduring joy and qualify for eternal life. And that will bring hope, help and lift to all people."
President Nelson briefly met four families representative of London's diversity then presided at a mission conference for six missions of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
On Thursday night, the Hyde Park Chapel filled to overflowing as he spoke to a meeting that was broadcast to tens of thousands in 47 stakes and districts in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Sister Patricia Holland joined President and Sister Nelson in speaking to the England London Mission Conference and at the evening meeting.
The 170 missionaries greeted them by singing "We Thank Thee O God for a Prophet."
One missionary was absent. Sister Anne Nicole Balgue of the Philippines had the chicken pox, so Elder Holland mentioned her by name and blew her a kiss.
Five other missions joined the conference via broadcast — the England Manchester, England Leeds, England London South, England Birmingham and Scotland/Ireland missions.
Elder Paul V. Johnson, the Europe Area President and a General Authority Seventy, joined the delegation on the stand with Don Staheli, President Nelson's personal secretary.
President and Sister Nelson and Elder and Sister Holland shook hands with every missionary before the meeting. Sister Megan Bain of Sandy, Utah, said she'd been advised to look into their eyes for the brief moment when she shook hands and told them her name and hometown.
"I made sure to do that," she said. "I saw light and love, in both Elder Holland’s and President Nelson’s eyes. Warm smiles, as well."
Sister Holland said it was a wonderful honor the Nelsons gave them to join the trip. Elder Holland said he hoped people all over the world hear about President Nelson's global tour.
"He really wants to reach out to the whole world," Elder Holland said. "There would hardly be a ward or a stake more international than the Hyde Park Ward or the Hyde Park Stake."7 comments on this story
"We're hoping to do what the Nelsons want us to do," he added. "That’s our job. Their hope and their dream, literally and figuratively, is to reach out to the world to show the internationalization of the church and the growth of the church and reach out to the world. Our role is to sustain them in that."
Sister Nelson said she looked forward to seeing people throughout the trip.
"I love to see them, from brand-new converts to people who have been in the church from the start," she said.