At the beginning of the year, I decided to read all of the prophet’s biographies starting from the most recent and ending with Joseph Smith. I knew this was going to take me a very long time. There are currently 17 prophets and each have their own biography written. I will learn so much from each prophet, and I want to write down my thoughts and takeaways from each to recall when I am in need of inspiration. As big as a task this will be, I know it is so worth it just from reading the first biography — President Nelson’s book published after he was sustained prophet called Insights from a Prophet’s Life.
I learned many lessons categorized into the ways I identify: a spouse, a mother, a teacher, and a disciple of Christ.
As a Spouse
Funny favorite quote: “When people have asked her how she managed with ten children with so little time available from her husband, she has responded with a twinkle in her eye, saying, ‘When I married him, I didn’t expect much, so I was never disappointed’”
Dantzel responded after her husband received a large calling, “I know of no one more worthy than you!” Nelson reflects, “Of all the people who knew my imperfections, she knew them better than anybody. So for her to respond as she did meant everything to me. As she had done so many times before, she calmed my heart that day.” I want to be that calming, confident force for Ryan.
When you love the Lord more than you love your spouse, your capacity to love will increase and you will increasingly love your spouse even more.
President Nelson mentions that on the day he and Dantzel were married, the decision was made to fully commit to God — over their relationship, over their family. God came first. “We made a commitment then to ‘seek . . . first the kingdom of God.’”
As a Mother
“When Dantzel or the children would be asked about their relationship with their busy husband or father, each would predictably respond, “When he’s home, he’s home.”” I liked this point a lot not because it shows how great the prophet was at being a good dad, but the fact that what Dantzel said became what the children said. I think if Dantzel complained about her husband not being home often and too busy, then that is what her children would think and say as well. It was a solid reminder to me that what I say about my spouse is so important as a mother to our children.
“I think my father’s secret was that when he’s at work, he’s 100 percent at work. When he’s home, he’s 100 percent at home. When he’s at church, he’s 100 percent there.” I want to be more like this as a mother. When I am with my children, I want to be 100 percent with them and not trying to split my attention as much as possible, trying to get my checklist of things done.
“He is never, ever late. He’d be out in the car waiting for us to go to church. If we weren’t there when he had to go, we’d have to walk. We only needed to learn that lesson one time.” I wrote this one down because I think it’s a great parenting technique — to take church attendance seriously, and also show your children that you mean business and they will have to learn whatever way they may need to in order to understand that obeying parents loving commands is important.
As a Teacher
President Nelson was a teacher in many ways during his life. I really enjoyed learning about his life as a doctor and I found a lot of lessons as he mentored other young doctors throughout his life.
As you may guess, the atmosphere of operating rooms tends to be full of tension and anger, especially when a team member makes a mistake that could be fatal to the patient. I loved the story told in the beginning of the book about Doctor Nelson’s approach to this kind of situation. What I highlighted: “With the clamp replaced, he said to the operating team member responsible for the mistake, “I still love you.” Moments later he added, “Sometimes I love you more than other times.” Despite the error, the atmosphere remained positive.”
“A doctor is really functioning at his highest level when he is teaching his patient what is wrong and what can be done about it.”
As a Christian
He also said he would never turn down a call from the Lord. “Of course I have time,” he told them. “I’ll make time. If I have to change professions, I’ll do it. If I am called, I will serve.”
“My [belief is that we should] stop putting question marks behind the prophet’s statements and put exclamation points instead”
“Those words, ‘My life is ready for inspection,’ have stayed with me ever since,” Russell said years later. “He meant it most sincerely, and I have often contemplated the power of being able to face the next world with that kind of spiritual confidence.”
Loving and Helping people People
“Everyone has pain somewhere, and our challenge is to find out where the pain is. Usually it’s not physical pain but comes in the stress of living. The patient is always the expert. This is what we try to teach the missionaries. When you meet someone, find out how we can help them. The Church literally has the capacity to help people no matter what their problem is. The gospel exists to help people.”
I’ve tried to be more like him when I am meeting with people. Even with my family. Don’t be so overridingly concerned with what time it is; just make sure that you are blessing the people while you are there, that they go away from that interchange better than they would have been.”
There is always a test. Are you willing to do really hard things? Once you’ve shown you’re willing to do your part, He will help you.”
“Verily my Sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you” (Exodus 31:13). “I no longer needed lists of dos and dont’s. When I had to make a decision whether or not an activity was appropriate for the Sabbath, I simply asked myself, ‘What sign do I want to give to God?’
Absolute Obedience to God’s Law
“I was reminded yet again that blessings are predicated on obedience to law. The patient can pray, the families can pray, I can pray, but if I make a mistake, all the prayers in the world won’t compensate for an error. Because the law has to be fulfilled. You have to have a perfect repair, otherwise you’ll have a poor outcome. So I learned absolute obedience to the laws of God. My students and those army surgical teams used to wonder why I was so particular about every step of the operation, but I learned that every step has to be perfect if the result is going to be perfect. There is a best way of doing every little maneuver in a complicated operation.”
“The same truth applies to what the Son of God had to go through in order to fulfill the law that would give us the privilege of eternal life and exaltation,” Russell added. “The Savior had to fulfill the Atonement. He had to go through it, because that was the law upon which the blessings that would follow were predicated. A blessing comes through obedience to the law that governs that blessing.”
“The Lord Likes Effort”
“The Lord likes effort. He could have said to Moses, ‘I’ll meet you halfway.’ But Moses had to go all the way to the top of Mount Sinai.
Trials & Death of a Loved One
“The message was, ‘I took her because of my love for her, and I thought you could take it, my boy.’”
“No righteous man is ever taken before his time”
“When the Lord said He is able to do His own work, believe it. He wants us to grow. He wants us to learn. And testimonies don’t come easily, either. You have to work for your testimony. My testimony is a lot stronger than it was a year ago—because I keep seeing how He guides us and leads us.”