I am a Christian. When I was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I made a promise to take Christ’s name. As far as Christlike character goes, though, I still have a lot of work to do.
I remember the United States presidential election of 1988. I heard the name “Michael Dukakis” in my house often enough to still remember it today, although I don’t think he was mentioned in a positive way. That election is my earliest recollection of learning how the political system in our country works.
This is why, as a 7-year-old, I once asked my mom when we would elect a new president of our church. I assumed that the process was the same, since the leader of our country and the leader of our church were both called “president.” Her response was that we don’t elect presidents in our church. They are chosen by the Lord and hold that position until they die. I have since learned many more details about the succession of prophets, but this simple answer to a 7-year-old’s question was a great beginning.
I was born when Spencer W. Kimball was the prophet. Ezra Taft Benson was the president of the church until I was 13, followed by Howard W. Hunter, Gordon B. Hinckley, and Thomas S. Monson. With each of these men, the Spirit has borne witness to me with a feeling in my heart that these men were called of God. As my husband and I watched the church broadcast on Tuesday morning to announce that Russell M. Nelson is the new president of the church, I once again felt the confirmation from the Spirit that his calling is from the Lord. I actually have that feeling—a swelling in my heart—as I write these words. I saw in his face, in his actions, and in the way he spoke the change that the mantle of prophecy makes in every president of the church.
But over the past couple of weeks, the Spirit has borne witness in my soul of something far more important. The true Leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not a mortal man, but our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I am confident that nothing in the church will change because Jesus Christ never changes. Hebrews 13:8 states: “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever.”
Moroni, a Book of Mormon prophet, further explains: “For do we not read that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and in him there is no variableness neither shadow of changing?” (Mormon 9:9).
As we watched the press conference that followed the announcement of Russell M. Nelson as president of the church, Brett and I realized that there are some in the world who expect a change of president to mean a change in the policies and practices of the church. That way of thinking is understandable, since that’s how it works in politics. But true religion is not politics. Even though the mortal leader of the church has changed, the Eternal Leader has not. We were the Church of Jesus Christ while Thomas S. Monson was our president, and we are still the Church of Jesus Christ today. In 3 Nephi 27:8, Christ Himself taught: “And how be it my church save it be called in my name? For if a church be called in Moses’ name then it be Moses’ church; or if it be called in the name of a man then it be the church of a man; but if it be called in my name then it is my church, if it so be that they are built upon my gospel.”
The apostle Paul understood this when he said: “Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Corinthians 1:12-13).
I know that Jesus Christ leads the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and that He has chosen President Russell M. Nelson as His prophet and mouthpiece on the Earth today. I am grateful for our Heavenly Father, who hasn’t forgotten His children and is active in guiding us through this tumultuous life. I may not be perfect, but I continue to pledge my life to being more and more like Christ every day.