News Release

Sister Nelson: An Eyewitness to President Nelson’s Four Years as Prophet

In a Church News podcast, she shares her testimony, how to seek truth and what she has learned during President Nelson’s extraordinary ministry

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By Sarah Jane Weaver, Church News

The last four years have been “an abundance of light-filled, love-filled moments” for President Russell M. Nelson and his wife, Sister Wendy W. Nelson.

“The Lord has led us to be able to savor these days, to make the most of these days,” said Sister Nelson.

Speaking to the Church News four years after President Nelson became the 17th President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on January 14, 2018, Sister Nelson shared what she has learned as an eyewitness to her husband’s historic ministry.

President Nelson, a leader of almost 17 million Latter-day Saints worldwide, has traveled extensively, changed Church organization, instructed all to use the correct name fo the Church, issued historic invitations, used technology and built many, many bridges of understanding. The couple visited 35 countries and 17 states in 2018 and 2019 — “getting off the plane in some faraway place and falling immediately in love with each person that you meet, knowing that there’s no possible way this was the first time you’ve met them.”

They have also dealt with the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic, being “hypervigilant about keeping President Nelson COVID-free.” President Nelson, Sister Nelson said, has never been healthier.

“It’s been four years of doing all those things that keep the heavens open for me, and that keep me growing spiritually, and doing those things more intensively than ever before in my life,” said Sister Nelson. “These last four years have been really complicated and also really easy.”

Some things in that time have been confusing — like the choices they have watched loved ones make. Others things have never been clearer — like “how to have joy, how to have peace, how to have love. We have also had some of the most wretched, sleepless nights, and we have also had some of the best Saturday afternoon naps of our lives.”

President and Sister Nelson have also dealt with heightened security beyond anything they could have imagined. “But we’ve been able to get very creative about how to breathe fresh air, take a hike around a lake in the summertime, take a hike in the hills in a really secluded mountain space, even a walk on the top of the Conference Center so my husband can observe the work on Temple Square. It has all worked.”

And despite the restrictions on travel and gatherings brought on by the pandemic, President Nelson’s messages have — through social media and other digital platforms — reached millions more people than ever in the history of the Church. “We stand amazed at that, and we are just so grateful that COVID has not silenced the voice of the Prophet,” said Sister Nelson.

In addition to general conference and Christmas and Thanksgiving messages, President Nelson has also recorded a message that will be part of each new temple dedication. “We are just thrilled about this. Imagine: President Nelson can welcome the Saints to the temple dedication. He can bring them his love, the Lord’s love; he can bring a message, a blessing.”


He has also commenced what he calls “broadcast devotionals” — addressing Latter-day Saints in various areas of the Church via technology.

They have also used technology to stay connected with family — holding family gatherings digitally. “We can ‘visit’ 60 or more households from Peru to Hawaii to Texas” at the same time. “We could never do that in real life,” she added.

Sister Nelson loves to adapt a popular sentiment after the large family of 150 to 200 family members gather digitally. “I say to my husband every time: ‘A good time was had by all. No refreshments were served, and no COVID variants were shared.’ So, we’re grateful for that.”

Both President and Sister Nelson have missed traveling and connecting with Latter-day Saints and being with family members and other loved ones. But, Sister Nelson said, there has been one huge plus for them. “We’ve been able to have more time together, just the two of us. It’s like we’ve been given permission to be alone together, and we’ve loved that. We love just talking together, playing Scrabble, working on a jigsaw puzzle for another great-grandchild or other children we love. I love listening to him play the piano.”

It is also a time for many that seems complex; “it is almost impossible to maneuver through the morass of information that is out there,” said Sister Nelson.

“I can’t imagine that there has been a more important time in the history of the world or the Church, not a more important time to follow the prophets than right now, because prophets speak the truth, and when we follow the prophets, we can be safe.”

President Russell M. Nelson and his wife, Wendy in 2018. His wife Dantzel passed away in 2005. He and Wendy were married in 2006.2018 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Following the prophets is the key to safety — spiritual, physical, emotional safety, she said.

During this age of technology, information seekers face distractions and the overwhelming job to determine what information can be trusted, when the world is filled with half-truths, baldfaced lies, deceptions and silly ideas that are offered as truth.

“The way to have the questions of our hearts, the important questions in our lives, answered is to say, ‘Well, what did the prophets say?’ And then follow what they have declared. One of the most distinctive features of the Savior’s restored Church is the presence of prophets, and today we sustain 15 men in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as prophets, seers and revelators. Each one has been called by God, to testify of Christ and teach the truth.”

Several years ago, while traveling to a stake conference in California, President and Sister Nelson saw a sign that read, “God’s gym.”

“Well, I don’t know what the fines are for false advertising in California,” she quipped, “but that sign about ‘God’s gym’ started me actually to think about God’s bookstore. I started to wonder if God did have a bookstore on earth, how many of the things we love to read and talk about as though they’re true would be shelved in God’s bookstore under fiction?”

Where can God’s children turn for truth? she continued. “To the words of the prophets of God. I thought about this earlier this morning. It’s as though some people are working on a 1,000-piece puzzle, and they have placed 500 of the pieces, and then they go online and profess they know everything about what the picture is, what the full picture is of that 1,000-piece puzzle.”

Sister Nelson said she was intrigued with a statement made by her husband decades ago. He told her that years before he was called to be a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, he said that he stopped putting question marks behind what a prophet would say. Instead, he put exclamation points.

“He said this: ‘I never ask myself, “When does the prophet speak as the prophet, and when does he not?” My interest has been, “How can I be more like him?”’”

President Russell M. Nelson and Sister Wendy Watson Nelson sit down together to give an interview in June, 2020. 2021 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Sister Nelson said during his four years as president of the Church, President Nelson has had to wrestle with many difficult decisions. “Can you imagine what he and the other Brethren have been through to bring forth these over 90 adjustments that the Lord wanted to have made?” she said. “So he’s wrestling with difficult decisions all the time. I never know what the decisions are until after everybody else knows — the wife is indeed the last to know. But I love it when President Nelson says, ‘I’m on call with the Lord 24 hours a day.’”

President Nelson does the necessary work to receive instruction from the Lord, she said, adding that he often reports, “the Lord showed me exactly.”

That phrase caught Sister Nelson’s attention the first time President Nelson used it, because she had just read a similar statement from President Wilford Woodruff. “I never know what the Lord has instructed him to do, but I love to hear him say those words.”

She said President Nelson is quick to respond to the Lord’s instructions. “For example, when people thank President Nelson for an adjustment in policy or procedure that has just blessed their lives immensely, he will turn to me after they walk away and say: ‘I was only following instructions from the Lord. I do know how to follow instructions.’ So there is a Prophet in the land and his name is President Russell Marion Nelson.”

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