A few years ago, Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles visited my area to give a training to local ward and stake leaders. At the end, he held a question-and-answer session in which he allowed the congregation to ask him questions. His responses were insightful and inspiring, but one particular question and answer stood out to me the most:
What did it feel like to ordain President Russell M. Nelson as the new prophet?
Elder Rasband first thanked the man who asked the question and then proceeded to describe his experience. He explained how when he first heard that President Thomas S. Monson (1927–2018) had passed away, he was sad about the passing of a beloved prophet. However, he was also full of hope, because he knew that someone was prepared to take the mantle of prophet. He knew logically that President Nelson would be the next prophet. But he also wanted to know spiritually—for himself—that President Nelson was indeed God’s prophet on the earth.
Elder Rasband spent time praying and pleading with God, asking for any sort of spiritual witness. When it came time to ordain President Nelson, Elder Rasband laid his hands on his head along with the other Apostles, and he immediately received the spiritual confirmation he was hoping for. He said it was almost overwhelming, and he knew with absolute certainty that President Nelson was indeed the prophet.
After relating his experience, Elder Rasband then encouraged and pleaded with us in the congregation to study, pray, and do the work necessary to know spiritually (and not just logically) that President Nelson is the Lord’s mouthpiece.
His invitation stuck with me, and ever since then, I have been seeking to know for myself. I have been trying to know—really know—that President Nelson is God’s prophet here on the earth.
And let me tell you, it has been quite the journey.
Study and prayer have played a big role in this process. For example, I decided to read all of President Nelson’s general conference talks since he became a General Authority (there are a lot of them). I also studied all the devotional addresses he has given to young adults, university students, and other audiences. This helped me know more about President Nelson and what is important to him.
I also searched the scriptures for guidance. One verse that stuck out was Matthew 7:16, where Christ gives us the ultimate way to discern whether someone is His prophet: “Ye shall know them by their fruits.”
When I read this, I realized that the best way to know if President Nelson is a prophet is to follow his teachings and then watch for the fruits. I decided to study each general conference talk President Nelson has given since becoming the prophet and identify at least one thing in each talk that he has asked us to do. Here are just a few examples:
October 2020: “As you study your scriptures during the next six months, I encourage you to make a list of all that the Lord has promised He will do for covenant Israel. … Ponder these promises. Talk about them with your family and friends. Then live and watch for these promises to be fulfilled in your own life.”1
April 2020: “Let us fast, pray, and unite our faith once again. Let us prayerfully plead for relief from this global pandemic.”2
October 2019: “I entreat you to study prayerfully all the truths you can find about priesthood power. … As your understanding increases and as you exercise faith in the Lord and His priesthood power, your ability to draw upon this spiritual treasure that the Lord has made available will increase.”3
April 2019: “Identify what stops you from repenting. And then, change! Repent!”4
October 2018: “I promise you that if we will do our best to restore the correct name of the Lord’s Church, He whose Church this is will pour down His power and blessings upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints, the likes of which we have never seen.”5
April 2018: “I plead with you to increase your spiritual capacity to receive revelation.”6
As I reviewed these invitations from President Nelson, I realized that I didn’t take all of them seriously when I first heard them. In some cases, I had even forgotten the invitation altogether. I resolved to do better and set specific goals for myself to follow President Nelson’s counsel.
As a result, I have experienced many fruits. I feel an extra measure of priesthood power; I feel closer to my family; and I feel closer to my Savior, Jesus Christ. I am definitely not perfect and still have a long way to go in following all of President Nelson’s counsel, but my efforts thus far have only made my life better.
In order to understand the answers I’ve received, it has been useful for me to study teachings about personal revelation from Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. He likens the first pattern of revelation to a light switch, which allows light to flood a room immediately. Similarly, revelation can come suddenly, in one moment. And the second pattern of revelation he likens to a sunrise, in which the light comes more gradually and steadily.7
It seems that Elder Rasband had a “light-switch moment” when he placed his hands on President Nelson’s head and felt an undeniable witness that President Nelson was God’s prophet.
For me, as I’ve been studying President Nelson and his teachings, I have noticed the sun rising gradually.
As I’ve studied, as I’ve prayed, and as I’ve done what President Nelson has asked me to do, my faith has grown “line upon line, precept upon precept” (see 2 Nephi 28:30). I may not have experienced a light-switch moment of revelation, but as a result of my praying and studying, I can truly say that I have faith that President Nelson is the Lord’s prophet here on the earth.
Finding answers to our questions will take work on our part, but I know that all of us can receive a personal witness of President Nelson’s divine calling and answers to any other questions we might have about the gospel.
Throughout this experience, I have learned and gained so much faith. And I am forever grateful that the Lord has blessed us with modern prophets on the earth. I know that if we hearken unto their words, great blessings are in store for both us and our families.