We are living during what might be called the Great Pause. In our globalized world of the 21st century, we have never seen anything quite like it. Businesses are still. Transportation is less. People wait in their homes, apartments, and places of work, wondering and struggling and praying. The COVID-19 pandemic has placed our world into a different era—and we nervously peer ahead and anxiously wonder about the transitions, struggles—about the future.
It is not easy. It is not pleasant. It is not the way we are used to living and being.
In the midst of all this, it is easy to feel paralyzed or panicked. I have had those feelings. So many have had them. I wonder about the future. About the present. About each day.
And then, a few days ago I was invited to pause and consider and reflect—and listen.
President Russell M. Nelson, the prophet-leader and President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, communicated that he has prepared a spiritual message to share – a Special Message of Hope and Healing – with the world. A link to the invitation for listening to that upcoming special message is here:
I must admit to being curious, and hopefully, something even more. Perhaps I can prepare my mind and heart to listen, and invite others to do the same.
Why am I curious and, well, hopefully, prepared to listen and respond? Because in my lived years of experience there have not been that many “Special Message” invitations from a spiritual leader that I regard as a living prophet shared by video with the world. And on Friday, November 20, 2020, at 11:00 a.m. (Mountain Standard Time), he will share this message in a live video launch on Facebook and YouTube with an audience across the globe.
Earlier this year, I listened to another spiritual message that encouraged me to #HearHim and listen to the voice of Jesus Christ. It quietly counseled us to pay attention to what we hear “when noise gets muted” and “distractions get ignored,” when we by circumstance must “power down” and “calm down” and “slow down” – and Listen.
To listen not with our ears – but with our hearts. And then, we may hear, the sound of “a still, small voice.” A gentle reminder from the heavens. An invitation to a mighty change of heart. And an invitation to ponder again and hear again the message – the message of a silent night in Bethlehem and an empty tomb outside the walls of ancient Jerusalem. The message given in words from our loving Father in Heaven: “This is my Beloved Son: Hear Him.”
Come, Listen to a Prophet’s Voice
I appreciate the wise words and gentle wisdom offered by spiritual leaders of many differing faith traditions. Men and women of diverse backgrounds and faith traditions have been inspired to teach and blessed to share spiritual truths of great richness with God’s children on the earth.
Among such spiritual leaders, one that I appreciate greatly is President Russell M. Nelson, ordained prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He is not a renowned orator, but a grandfatherly figure who speaks with gentleness but directness.
I have asked myself a couple of questions. If I knew that the ancient prophet, Abraham, was going to share a message for 15 minutes and I could listen—what would I do? If I was invited to sit at the feet of Moses for 15 minutes and hear a message he felt inspired by God to share—what would I do? If I could tune in to the spiritual guidance shared by the Apostle Peter, follower of Christ, for 15 minutes of my life—what would I do? I hope, that I would choose, to “come, listen to a prophet’s voice.”
Latter-day Saints believe that the invitation to ponder and follow heavenly instruction is always of importance. But this particular invitation, at this particular and unique time, from this particular prophet—it is a quiet but powerful reminder what has been this time of panic and pandemic—that perhaps it can also be a time of purpose.
Preparation for a Time of Purpose
Although I use the phrase, I hope instead that this pandemic period will not only have been a “time of panic.” Of breathless frustration, stress, pacing to and fro, reckless worry. I get it. I feel it too. But, we will not truly be able to pause, to listen, to turn and look heavenward, and then turn and calm each other if we hold on to panic.
Is it possible to find purpose in our times of difficulty? It is not our preference, not my preference, but if we are open to heavenly wisdom perhaps there can be a better way. Perhaps this can also be preparation for a time of purpose. Have you felt any desires to reflect on and make adjustments in your life during this pandemic time? I find myself trying to think more of slowing down and sincerely connecting with others, caring for others. We all say that we want 2020 to end—can it offer us purpose and a different beginning?
Christ offers a better way. A more peaceful way. He promises that though there may be tumult around us, in our inner lives and between one another we can have peace. His peace.
President Russell M. Nelson, as a prophet, arrives at this moment in history in a unique time. For many months, the world has been in commotion and the Church which he is asked to guide under heaven’s direction has needed to make rapid and challenging adjustments. The world in which we all live has been shaken by the tumult of the pandemic and other difficulties.
I have noticed and thought about the online social media posts which highlight the uniqueness of having a trained physician as the current Latter-day Saint prophet during a health pandemic. I have a couple more thoughts on that. But even more, I am prompted to remember that the Master Healer, the Eternal Physician, is the Savior Jesus Christ. He is our beacon in these challenging hours and days if we, indeed, seek to Hear Him.
Now, as I think of the burdens placed upon the shoulders of President Russell M. Nelson at this time, it does seem unique to me that here unfolds a time when the man meets the moment. I don’t think that he sought the moment. Yet it is here. And I think of the preparation.
In addition to his many years as an Apostle of Jesus Christ, yes, President Nelson is a trained heart and lung specialist. He is a physician of renown in his field. So, he understands health and its vast implications. But a few other elements of his preparation stand out to me.
President Nelson did not only complete a medical degree in his training. He completed advanced graduate training, a doctorate, and spent many years as a medical researcher in addition to his surgical and patient care responsibilities. He has a scientist’s training and mind, and therefore an ability to understand the underlying complexities and difficulties of a global health concern that is new. He understands the difficulty of breaking new ground in diagnosis and treatment for emergent medical issues, as he himself participated as a pioneer across decades in heart surgery and related medical breakthroughs.
President Nelson performed heart surgery during the years that it was developing and new procedures and hard-won knowledge had to pave the way for the future. Putting such knowledge to work in the medical field required effort, teamwork, and courage—lives were at stake. He chose to do the difficult work of learning to stand in an operating theater, with a life in the hands of himself and the team of professionals working with him, and master the ability to be calm in the midst of a storm.
President Nelson did not perform one operation. He did not perform a dozen. He did not perform a hundred. He performed thousands. Thousands of times, he has been in the operating theater and learned the process of making critical decisions in challenging circumstances. Of gathering and sifting and understanding needed information at a rapid pace, making decisions about which resources and strategies to deploy, and adjusting in the process as circumstances required it.
He learned to work with a team, to make precise and careful judgments, and to balance the strain of the circumstances with the wisdom of experience and the competence that accrues from the crucible of repeated experience. I have not quoted here from the accounts of his colleagues or others who witnessed his development and effort in the medical arena over the years. They are available to read. But it is instructive to learn that he developed the capacity for maintaining a calm, intense, but controlled and peaceful demeanor during times of great difficulty and strain in the medical operating theater.
Today, he operates in a different setting, the setting of spiritual decisions and counsel and direction for a global faith community, set today against the backdrop of a global health pandemic known as COVID-19. As I reflect on the preparation that has brought him to this moment, I am grateful that there seems to have been a divine convergence in his training across a lifetime in medicine and the moment that we face in the world today.
Perspective and Purpose in a Pandemic Moment
All of us likely know more about viruses, and COVID-19, and pandemic issues, by far than we did a few months ago. We need to learn something because it seems to threaten to consume everything. At least, it feels that way. Our time, our workspaces, our financial stability, our health, our peace of mind—it is worrisome and difficult. Peace of mind is elusive.
I am grateful for the wisdom of public health officials, medical professionals, and even just commonsense parents and leaders and others who are helping us all in this moment. It helps. Our health matters. The health of all around us matters.
In addition, I am grateful for the invitation of a prophet of the Lord to pause, to avoid panic, to let ourselves listen for the divine voice of Jesus in our minds and hearts. I am additionally grateful that he is willing to share, from the perspective of a spiritual mind and heart, those lessons of purpose that heaven’s inspiration has given him to offer in this upcoming Special Message of Hope and Healing. I could use some hope. We all could use some healing.
When my mind is troubled, and my spirit is restless and worried, I am grateful that there is direction about where I might turn for peace. Although he is a physician by training, for more than thirty years now President Russell M. Nelson has been trained in another capacity—Apostle of Jesus Christ. He points us in that direction, the direction of the Master Healer, who can assist us to gain perspective and spiritual peace in this pandemic moment. May we, indeed, Hear Him. May we, with sincerity, listen to a prophet’s voice and respond to the message that invites us to consider the future, our hope, and our healing.