Saturday, April 21, 2018

President Nelson Came to Kenya!

This week, President Nelson, prophet and leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) - who many non-Church members might recognize as an internationally renowned heart surgeon and medical researcher - came to Kenya! Even if you're not Mormon, it's still a big deal when someone who heads a global religion with over 16 million members visits your city. As I described him to my co-workers when explaining I was taking half the day off to go get a good seat, "he's like the Mormon Pope!"

The analogy to the Catholic Pope isn't really a good one because our theologies are so different. (One joke goes: "Catholics say the pope is infallible but don't really believe it; Mormons say the prophet is fallible but don't really believe it.") I only make the comparison to highlight that the LDS Church is a centralized one with a clear hierarchy and single line of authority. President Nelson is our spiritual and administrative leader on Earth, and we believe his authority comes from God.

So what was it like to hear from President Nelson (pictured above), Elder Holland, one of our apostles who accompanied him on this visit, (pictured below) and their wives in person? Amazing. About 2,000 people crammed into Bomas in Nairobi, some of whom travelled days from across East Africa to be there. The spirit of community and fellowship was so strong in the room even as we waited for the speakers to arrive.

Being so close to the speakers, it was easy to notice details like Elder and Sister Holland sweetly holding hands in between their talks or President Nelson's vigor and lack of notes or teleprompter. I was also happy that Sister Holland and Sister Nelson (pictured below) were included in the program, not merely to sit next to their husbands on the podium (which is not a lectern) but to provide their own spiritual insights and wisdom, as well.

Although the talks were not published or broadcast, Deseret News has decent coverage of them here. There were some serious messages I didn't expect, including the spiritual importance of education, peace among ethnic groups, and even a recommendation to do away with the cultural practice of the bride price, or dowry, if it holds back righteous, loving couples from marriage.

At the end of the talks, President Nelson and Elder Holland gave all in attendance a special blessing. I feel so lucky to have been a part of this once-in-a-lifetime experience and to have heard from these inspired leaders.

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