Over Conference weekend I found myself buried under a pile of work that I wanted to catch up on. I’d resolved to store general conference sessions up so that I might make my usual pilgrimage the next day: I’d listen to the sessions as I wandered through art museums, searching for those paintings that depicted the Saviour. But perhaps out of impatience, or maybe just what millenials call FOMO, I wound up tuning into the live first session of conference as I pored through spreadsheets and data.
I’d jumped in on a Solemn Assembly, which is to say, the first regularly scheduled general assembly of the church since the passing of a prophet and president of the Church. In the Solemn Assembly, the Church membership has the privilege and responsibility of sustaining the new prophet of the Church. We were invited to sustain him in quorums and auxiliaries. First, I watched the first presidency sustain President Russell M. Nelson as prophet, seer and revelator for the Church. Then the quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Seventies and other leaders. Priesthood holders in the congregation stood; a sweet sight to me. Then President Eyring, who conducted the assembly, invited members of the Relief Society, wherever they were in the world in that moment, to stand. I considered the casual nature of my “presence” in this broadcasted meeting. In dishevelled sweats, messy hair and bags under my eyes, I considered just plugging away at my formulas and continuing to half-listen. But I paused and reconsidered, and slowly rose to my feet, setting aside my papers and turning my attention to President Eyring’s voice.
I stood alone in my dining room, with not even a nosey London neighbour spying at me through the windows. I felt a sense of unity and gratitude. For a moment I considered the millions of sisters who also stood on their feet like me in this very moment in time. Maybe they were with their loved ones. Maybe they were alone like me. Maybe they were in the middle of their work day, or had been distracted like I was. But for just a few seconds, womanhood stood still, to attention. And together, we approved of Russell M. Nelson.
It was one of those most profoundly spiritual moments of my life. Later in the session, it was President Eyring who shared his feelings about what it was to feel the Holy Ghost in his life- “rarely, I have felt it exactly as the travellers on the road to Emmaus did- as a soft but clear burning in the heart. More often, it is a feeling of light and quiet assurance.” Usually I tend to agree with President Eyring- the spirit is a gentle companion in my life, but on this occasion I felt the unmistakable- and perhaps even alarming burning; pounding of my heart. So profound and “loud” did it feel to me, that it encompassed me, and warmly I knew that the spirit needed me to understand that this was the Lord’s servant, and that He approved of Him. In awe, I sustained my prophet, acknowledging that I trusted the witness of the Holy Ghost. I committed that I’d follow his counsel- and feeling as I did in that moment, I understood that I could live with not knowing the answers to the questions I had.
I know that the spirit testified to me in a very personal way that Russell M. Nelson was called to be the Saviour’s mouthpiece on the earth today. I know that my presence at this Solemn Assembly- remote as it was- was recorded in heaven. I know that the Holy Ghost is a member of the Godhead; and I know that the saviour lives and leads His Church.
And so special to me, finally, was the sweet feeling of standing in sisterhood on this choice occasion.
A couple of months ago a co-worker of mine somewhat innocently huffed and puffed at the idea of the senior leadership in my religion. Thoughtless criticism spilled from their lips, and at once I felt so wounded. I later sat in a bathroom stall crying endlessly, perplexed at how I could have taken the insult so personally. Why had this hurt me so? Why was it so unbearable to me? Why couldn’t I pay the incident little regard; let it roll off my back like it very well ought to?
On my way home that night, I resolved that I was somehow so grateful to have felt that protective investment in the good name of my prophet. President Eyring has said,
Don’t take lightly the feeling of love for the prophet of God. It is a gift from God. With it you will receive more easily the gift of confirming revelation when he speaks in his office as the Lord’s prophet. The love you feel is the love the Lord has for whoever is his spokesman.
I marvel to think of the love the Saviour has for President Nelson. Twice very recently, the spirit has indicated to me that he is a choice servant of the Lord. In a time when “following” and being obedient is not at all in vogue, I pray that I can be better prepared to put my desire to follow the prophet at the centre of my life.