What major tasks have you completed so far in 2017? How much of your total strength has that taken? How much good has it produced? Consider just some of what Russell M. Nelson has done in the first two months of this year.
Nelson is the leader of the twelve apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He works full time as a minister, only getting a stipend for living expenses. And he’s 92 years old.
He’s been doing this for over 30 years, since 1984. Before that, he was an accomplished heart surgeon. He has over 50 grandchildren and over 100 great grandchildren.
On January 8, he gave a 40 minute speech to an auditorium of thousands of young adults about leadership and faith. The speech was broadcast online. How much time and effort went into preparing it, do you think? Watch it to see how much passion went into sharing the message. Note that his demeanor is always funny, witty, and pleasant–there is no scolding or negativity coming from him. He loves what he does and whom he serves.
One week later, on January 15, he visited my congregation in North Las Vegas. He spoke for about 45 minutes here, about a variety of spiritual topics. His remarks were prepared, but he worked without notes. Afterwards, he slowly exited the chapel, shaking hands with anyone he could reach on the way out, and even picking up small children to embrace, including my four-year-old daughter.
On January 8, President Russell M. Nelson gave a devotional for young adults at BYU. In that talk, he suggested studying 76 specific items. Here is a checklist for them. Below this is video of the talk (which starts at around 1:11:40), a PDF of the checklist, and then a copy of the list with links to the church web site.
“I urge you to study the lives and teachings of these 16 prophets of God.” (“See LDS.org.”)
1. Joseph Smith
2. Brigham Young
3. John Taylor
4. Wilford Woodruff
5. Lorenzo Snow
6. Joseph F. Smith
7. Heber J. Grant
8. George Albert Smith
9. David O. McKay
10. Joseph Fielding Smith
11. Harold B. Lee
12. Spencer W. Kimball
13. Ezra Taft Benson
14. Howard W. Hunter
15. Gordon B. Hinckley
16. Thomas S. Monson
“Commence tonight to consecrate a portion of your time each week to studying everything Jesus said and did as recorded in the Old Testament, for He is the Jehovah of the Old Testament. Study His laws as recorded in the New Testament, for He is its Christ. Study His doctrine as recorded in the Book of Mormon, for there is no book of scripture in which His mission and His ministry are more clearly revealed. And study His words as recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants, for He continues to teach His people in this dispensation….To assist you, refer to the Topical Guide for references under the topic ‘Jesus Christ.’” (“See the Topical Guide, ‘Jesus Christ.’ In addition to the text under that major heading, there are 57 subtitles about Him. Let this resource become your personal core curriculum.”)
1. Jesus Christ
2. Jesus Christ, Advocate
3. Jesus Christ, Anointed, the
4. Jesus Christ, Antemortal Existence of
5. Jesus Christ, Appearances, Antemortal
6. Jesus Christ, Appearances, Postmortal
7. Jesus Christ, Ascension of
8. Jesus Christ, Atonement through
This is the third book I’ve read this year because I heard my stake president mention it favorably. However, when I just pulled out my notes from a meeting earlier this year to compare what I got out of it with what he’d taught us from it, I found that he’d actually recommended Russel M. Nelson’s biography. Whoops.
That’s OK. I enjoyed getting to know more about Elder Maxwell; in fact, over the summer I read a great line of his–“There is no democracy of facts”–which perfectly encapsulates my own philosophy, and which I’ve since used in my email signature.
But, unfortunately, A Disciple’s Life is only a mediocre biography of a truly great man. Elder Maxwell deserved better.
Bruce C. Hafen of the First Quorum of Seventy wrote this book, at Elder Maxwell’s invitation. Though he explains in a preface that he wanted to focus on the theme of discipleship in Neal Maxwell’s life, the result very unevenly pursues that goal. The first third and last third of the book–which focus on his family and early life, and then on his ministry as a General Authority–are excellent reading; they’re inspiring, lucid, motivational, and informative about everything from modern church history to coping with demanding callings, but the middle third of the book is a dull clunker with very little value.
(Great story from the beginning sections: during his mission in Canada, Elder Maxwell had to serve in a branch leadership position. Subsequently, he baptized two people on his mission…and excommunicated four. Afterwards, he always felt bad that his mission cost the Church a net loss of two people.)