What I Learned from Working with President Russell M. Nelson 

sunday school class

Young Women of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Will Rise Up

During April 1984, general conference, held in the Salt Lake Tabernacle on Temple Square, Elder Russell M. Nelson was sustained as an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. During the same meeting, I was sustained as the new Young Women general president.

Sister Ardeth Kapp

Little did I realize what rich and rewarding connections I would have with Elder Nelson over the next eight years.

When I was called, President Gordon B. Hinckley told me, “This is a time when you will see the Young Women of the Church rise up like a sleeping giant and begin to move across the face of the earth as a mighty force for righteousness.”

Now, 30 years later, we have seen the realization of this powerful prophecy. We have almost as many sister missionaries serving throughout the world as young men. They were prepared to serve and testify as they participated in the Young Women program.

missionary sisters

Developing a New Young Women’s Theme and Values Program

The year 1984 was a time when issues relating to women worldwide were of major concern. The voices of the world were asking, “What is a woman’s role? What is her identity?”

After prayerful study, faith and reflection, the Young Women’s theme and values program was presented to the Priesthood Executive Council. The Young Women general presidency had been fervently praying that the brethren’s ears would be open.

YW emblem
LDS Young Women General President Ardeth G. Kapp poses for a photo with a wood Young Women logo, which represents that Young Women will “Stand For Truth And Righteousness.” Photo taken at her home in Bountiful on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018. Photo: Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

I shall never forget Elder Nelson’s response to the presentation: “We have had the diagnosis, but now we have the prescription.” With Dr. Nelson’s medical background, I sensed his approval was coming from his heart.

The new Young Women’ program was introduced at a worldwide satellite broadcast from the Tabernacle held on Sunday, November 10, 1985. Both President Gordon B. Hinckley, First Counselor in the First Presidency, and Elder Nelson of the Council of the Twelve spoke. In Elder Nelson’s talk, entitled “Daughters of Zion—Maidens of Truth” (not available on official Church websites), he counselled: “Knowing of your divine nature and favor, you as a daughter of Zion are well prepared to make personal decisions. …You have moral courage and integrity to stand for truth and righteousness” (Ensign, January 1986).

When President Kapp spoke, she encouraged young women to “stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in places” (Mosiah 18:9). She introduced the Young Women Values—Faith, Divine Nature, Individual Worth, Knowledge, Choice and Accountability, Good Works, and Integrity. She urged: “We call upon the young women of the Church to awake, arise, and go forth. We call upon you to take your place, as modern prophets and Apostles have forseen, to rise in power and glory and stand as lights and guides to the people in your own nation and especially to your own families” (Ensign, January 1986).

Personal Progress

Immediately following the fireside, a special Young Women issue of the New Era (not available online) was distributed by bishops to young women in their wards throughout the world. Below is the current Young Women’s theme and values, which added the value of “Virtue” on November 28, 2008 (Ensign, February 2008):

Young Women Theme

WE ARE DAUGHTERS of our Heavenly Father, who loves us, and we love Him. WE WILL “STAND as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places” (Mosiah 18:9) as we strive to live the Young Women values, which are:

Faith • Divine Nature • Individual Worth • Knowledge • Choice and Accountability • Good Works • Integrity • and Virtue

WE BELIEVE as we come to accept and act upon these values, WE WILL BE PREPARED to strengthen home and family, make and keep sacred covenants, receive the ordinances of the temple, and enjoy the blessings of exaltation. (Young Women Theme)

Other Insights Learned from Working with a Prophet of the Lord

During the next several years, the Young Women general presidency worked closely with Elder Nelson, our priesthood adviser. I learned from him the value of counseling together. He would ask significant questions and then listen and coach with encouragement.

President Nelson

In 1986, the use of computers was scheduled to make a significant difference in the work. Elder Nelson called me to his office to share this remarkable new resource. He said a few of the brethren were in the process of trying them out. I suggested they ask some sisters to give feedback as well. Two days later a computer was placed in the Young Women general offices.

Ensign cover 1984

On another occasion, Elder Nelson asked me to read a conference talk he was preparing and to make suggestions. I felt overwhelmed that my opinion would be of any importance. I read the talk and returned it with only complimentary comments. He was disappointed. I took the talk again and returned it again with my feedback, suggesting he could reword one section to reach the masses. He thanked me and made the exact changes.

Sister Ardeth Kapp
Former LDS Young Women General President Ardeth G. Kapp poses for a photo at her home in Bountiful on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018. Photo: Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

There are many things I know now that I learned from working with Elder Nelson. I learned to be focused, to set priorities and then to be prayerful and patient. One time he said, “The Lord has heard your prayer. Leave it with Him. When the time is right it will happen.” And it did.