I stumbled on a website that invites people to read President Nelson’s talks since his calling as an apostle. (I found this website before hearing of Sister Andersen’s effort to read all of President Nelson’s talks, but was even more energized about engaging in this effort after hearing Elder Andersen’s talk.)

The owner of the site has curated a list of all of those talks, and I thought I’d give reading the talks a try. (I love watching for patterns that happen between different leaders of a current time, across different leaders over decades/centuries of time and within the lifetime of any given individual leader.)

I was excited and humbled at what I found in only the first two talks! President Nelson has been pondering truths (that we saw him address again this weekend) for a long time. This could come as no surprise, but what surprises me is how easy it is to miss the patterns.

Here is a link to his first talk ever given as an apostle. It appears he may have been called from the audience, without prior foreknowledge of his calling. But without hesitation, he said,

“I have implicit faith in the Lord and in His prophets. I have learned not to put question marks but to use exclamation points when calls are issued through inspired channels of priesthood government….Feelings of commitment well up from the depths of my soul. My sweetheart, Dantzel, and I first made those covenants in the temple of the Lord over thirty-eight years ago, to consecrate our lives to the service of the Lord. Today, I reaffirm that promise, to give all I have to the building of the kingdom of God on the earth. In accepting this call, knowing that challenges, charges, and keys will be conferred and that buffetings will likewise come, I commit my effort, my energy, and my all.”

“Now, I understand fully that the call to the Holy Apostleship is one of witness to the world of the divinity of the Lord Jesus the Christ. I know that salvation is centered in Him! … His message is the restored gospel of Jesus Christ; and it is administered by the Church that bears His name. He directs the affairs of His church by the power of the priesthood and by revelation through prophets who proclaim His doctrine to all people of the world.

“The testimony that I bear is but an echo of the resounding testimonies of the eighty-four who previously have received this call to the Twelve since the spring of 1820.”

I’ve started to notice a pattern in the last couple of years that President Nelson talks about the responsibility the Church has to help prepare the world for the Second Coming. Guess what he mentioned in that first talk he ever gave as an apostle?

“[W]e are of the house of Israel…charged with the irrevocable responsibility to prepare the world for the second coming of the Savior.”

The second Conference talk President Nelson ever gave also carries threads that were covered in last weekend’s conference addresses. President Nelson talked to us about the critical nature of prayer, for example. In 1984, he was teaching similar things. On one hand, it should come as no surprise, but on the other hand, to me it’s a reminder to listen carefully to our prophets and apostles.

“It is possible to disregard or even misuse spiritual power. Some have misused the power of prayer by making that sacred communication trivial….But the Lord places the initiative upon us. He expects us to reach for his power, just as we must insert the plug in the outlet for electricity. He said, “If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things—that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal.” (D&C 42:61; italics added.)

And then consider the focus of all the changes that took place, and how they centered on ministering rather than just going through the motions. Here’s what he said in 1984.

“Some well-meaning Saints even do the right things for the wrong reasons, if they narrowly center on the percentages they report rather than on the precious people they serve.”

My husband noted that in his priesthood session talk on Saturday, President Nelson urged priesthood holders to harness the blessings and power of the priesthood more fully — and then he used his own priesthood authority by virtue of his role as our prophet to bless us as he concluded the conference!

“Rewards result from the righteous use of the spiritual power belonging to the priesthood! And they are so great that they are almost beyond human comprehension.”

(I loved his insights around how ultimate promises of the priesthood are inextricably connected to committed partnership between men and women…something that has been talked about by various leaders in recent years … but it clearly was not new to President Nelson.)

And, given some of what was happening in the news along the Wasatch Front and on the internet prior to conference, I wanted to add these words from then-Elder Nelson. He’s long cared about how wrong abuse is.

Like cutting the cord with clippers, it is possible to use spiritual power so carelessly as to destroy one’s very connection to that power. I know a husband who dominates his wife as though she were his possession. He seems to regard her about as he does his automobile or his suitcase, which he uses for his own purposes. And I know a wife who dominates her husband to the point that he has lost all feelings of worth.

Remember, “The rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and … the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.” (D&C 121:36; italics added.)

I look forward to reading and re-reading what we were taught in General Conference. I also plan to continue to read past talks from President Nelson to understand more of how the Lord has prepared his mind, heart, spirit, and body to receive this mantle of being our prophet in these hastening days of the history of the Church and the world. Echoing again the words of Elder Holland: “What a prophet!”