As some of you may know, we got to have lunch with Elder Russell M. Nelson this Tuesday. This is a column I wrote about it that will be published in Scroll this Tuesday. Enjoy. :)
Last Tuesday, Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stood in devotional and said, “If I had my preference, I would hear from each of you. I would like to get to know every one of you. I would like to learn of your faith, of your goals in life, and of your challenges.”
He obviously didn’t get his wish, but he did sit down to lunch with some students — 14, to be exact. I was one of the lucky ones.
My husband and I met with the other 12 students in the Manwaring Center before we were led to the conference room where lunch was served. When we sat, I saw Elder Nelson without a pulpit between us. There were no Teleprompters, no satellite transmissions to make communication possible. He spoke to us face to face, and something about his candidness made me feel at home.
Elder Nelson and his wife spent the hour answering our questions. One student asked him what it was like to work with the other members of the Twelve. He smiled, and responded, “I still have to pinch myself.”
That was funny, because I was doing the same thing. I took the occasion to ask him how we could learn to best balance our time, and as I phrased my question he looked at me directly. I was suddenly uncomfortably aware of my grammar and word choice, but he took my fumbling in stride. I felt that if any BYU-Idaho student had asked him a question just then, he would have listened with that same intensity. (And by the way, his answer was, in essence, “Schedule the important things first and everything else will fall into place.”)
More questions followed. We asked him how we could help make the Apostles’ job easier (“Be part of the solution”) and what kinds of challenges the Church will continue to face in coming years (“Growth”). His answers were thoughtful, and he took time to explain them. It felt more to me like we were having a conversation than a question-and-answer session.
As he answered our questions, I watched him eat. Though I knew members of the Quorum of the Twelve had to eat, something about seeing it made him seem more human to me. Elder Nelson is a prophet, but he’s also a man, and seeing that side of him somehow endeared me to my leaders. The sacredness of his calling was apparent, and he was simultaneously quite personable.
As members of the Church, we sometimes maintain a relatively flat image of the brethren. We see them as well-dressed men standing behind a pulpit and we somehow imagine that’s how they really are. But there’s more to the brethren than we see at General Conference. They are living, breathing men with families and concerns.
When we finished our lunch, Elder Nelson asked if he could take time to shake our hands. His humility and kindness were incredible and his love tangible.
If I could put into simple terms everything I learned from Elder Nelson, it’s that when he said, “We love you!” he really meant it.