In the book of Esther, we read of the imminent destruction of the Jews in Persia and Media. One of the princes of Persia, Haman, had been offended by one of the Jews, a Benjaminite named Mordecai. By deceit Haman obtained a decree of death for the Jews from King Ahasuerus. Mordecai appealed to the Queen, Esther, to intervene to save the Jews. Esther, unbeknown to the King, was also a Jew and a cousin of Mordecai. He had raised her as his own daughter after the death of her parents.
In his appeal to Queen Esther to intervene, potentially at the cost of her own life to save her people from destruction, Mordecai uttered these famous words to Esther: “Who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14; emphasis added). Esther intervened, and as a result the people were saved from certain destruction.
A Prophet for Our Uncertain Times
In our day, we, like the Jews of Persia, live in a time of uncertainty and potential destruction, both temporally and spiritually. Consider, as one current example only, the most recent COVID-19 pandemic. In Canada, most of us have now been severely restricted in our activities for over a year. On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) a pandemic. Since that time, our borders in Canada have closed, our meetinghouses have either closed or have been significantly restricted, our homes and social interactions have been limited, and sadly many have lost their lives.
However, we have one like unto Esther who has come for such a time as this. His name is Russell M. Nelson, and he is our prophet, seer, and revelator and President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sent “for such a time as this.”
A review of President Nelson’s teachings, invitations, and urgings since his call as prophet in January 2018, up to and through this pandemic, makes clear that he has received revelation to prepare us and keep us safe both spiritually and temporally. Consider just three of many examples.
Improving our Ability to Receive Personal Revelation
In President Nelson’s very first general conference, he taught the importance of receiving personal revelation: “One of the things the Spirit has repeatedly impressed upon my mind since my new calling as President of the Church is how willing the Lord is to reveal His mind and will. …Imagine the miracle of it!
Whatever our Church calling, we can pray to our Heavenly Father and receive guidance and direction, be warned about dangers and distractions, and be enabled to accomplish things we simply could not do on our own. If we truly receive the Holy Ghost and learn to discern and understand His promptings, we will be guided in matters large and small. …I urge you to stretch beyond your current spiritual ability to receive personal revelation… I plead with you to increase your spiritual capacity to receive revelation” (“Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives,” Ensign, May 2018, 94-96).
With hindsight it is easy to see the importance of this counsel during a time when our ability to attend Church, or to seek counsel in person, from our Church leaders, or even from our own extended families, is limited. As we have followed this prophetic counsel over the past two years, we have been more prepared to withstand the unpredictability, isolation, and sometimes heartache that has accompanied this current pandemic. Well did President Nelson, our present-day seer (one who sees the future), say in that April 2018 Conference: “I am also not naïve about the days ahead. We live in a world that is complex and increasingly contentious. …In the coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost” (“Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives,” 96).
This inspired prophetic counsel just a few years prior to our current pandemic was clearly given “for such a time as this.”
In that same first April 2018 general conference, President Nelson also introduced what he described as: “a newer, holier approach to caring for and ministering to others. We will refer to these efforts simply as ‘ministering’” (“Ministering,” Ensign, May 2018, 100).
In instruction given just prior to this conference President Nelson taught: “But now the world is rapidly changing. …The Church and the family are under attack… These developments have created difficult spiritual and temporal challenges for many of our brothers and sisters. And we know even more difficult days are ahead. … Now we feel to make important adjustments in the way we care for our people… Our decision is simply this: We need a greater, more focused effort in loving and really caring for other individuals” (“Adjustments in Ministering to Members and in Melchizedek Priesthood Quorums,” General Conference Leadership Meeting, Mar. 29, 2018).
In guidelines provided with a First Presidency letter (Apr. 2, 2018) to be read in sacrament meetings immediately after the April 2018 conference, these prophetic words, “for such a time as this,” were given:
“No longer must contacts always be formal visits. They can take place at home, at church or in any setting that is safe, convenient, and reachable. As Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught: ‘[What] matters most is how you have blessed and cared for those within your stewardship, which has virtually nothing to do with a specific calendar or particular location.’
“As members minister, they seek inspiration to know how best to reach out to others and meet their needs. …Would texting someone a hope-filled scripture help lighten his burdens? Would a note or a card or email show helpful concern? What would the Savior have His servants do? Finding inspired answers to such questions and using all available methods for making contact with those they are assigned is central to inspired ministering.
“Given numbers, distances, and safety, and other considerations, a visit to every home every month may not be possible or practical… To serve as the Savior would, ministering brothers and sisters consider every possibility for care and contact with those they are assigned” (“Ministering with Strengthened Melchizedek Priesthood Quorums and Relief Societies,” Apr. 2, 2018, 4, 6).
Can there be any doubt of the inspiration underlying this change in how we care for others during this time when access to homes is limited, and a mere “check the box” visit is not even possible? Introduced two years before the pandemic, and with two years to practice, we have been prepared to minister “for such a time as this” in ways that are led by the Spirit, flexible, and customized.
A Home-centered and Church-supported Plan
A final, powerful example of our preparation “for such a time as this” is the introduction of a new emphasis on a home-centered Church.
In his “Opening Remarks” in the October 2018 general conference, President Nelson said: “It is time for a home-centered Church, supported by what takes place inside our branch, ward and stake buildings. …The long-standing objective of the Church is to assist all members to increase their faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and in His Atonement, to assist them in making and keeping their covenants with God, and to strengthen and seal their families. In this complex world today, this is not easy. The adversary is increasing his attacks on faith and upon us and our families at an exponential rate. To survive spiritually, we need counterstrategies and proactive plans. Accordingly, we now want to put in place organizational adjustments that will further fortify our members and their families” (Ensign, Nov. 2018, 7).
These adjustments included a focus on gospel study at home for all family members through “Come, Follow Me” resources and a coordinated Sunday and seminary curriculum.
Shorter church meetings allowed more time for teaching families at home. Activities and ideas for instructing children, youth, and adults were to be centered in the home and supported by the Church. Who could have known at the time these resources were introduced how critical this home-centered Church would become: when church, seminary, Primary, and activities would be seriously curtailed and even completely restricted for extended periods?
Preparing for Present and Future Challenges
A review of these three prophetic areas of emphasis and adjustments relating to increasing our ability to receive revelation, ministering to others and home-centered worship bears witness and reinforces that President Russell M. Nelson is the prophet who speaks for our all-knowing Savior, Jesus Christ. He is the prophet for our day; he is the prophet of the pandemic! He has been prepared and sent to all who will listen “for such a time as this!”
Critical questions for each of us to ponder include: What is President Russell M. Nelson preparing us for next? What are we learning from him through this current pandemic that is preparing us for what comes next? Are we listening? Will we be prepared “for such a time as” that?