Learning Chinese to Fulfill the Lord's Work
In addition to his travels with the army and as a surgeon, Russell Nelson often traveled with his family. A man with a sharp mind and wonderful curiosity to learn, the connections Nelson formed and knowledge he gained in his early years and Church service helped immensely in spreading the gospel to distant parts of the world.
While serving as regional representative of the Church, a specific charge President Nelson heard from President Kimball changed his life forever:
“He told all of us there that nothing is too hard for the Lord, but that we must do our part—to pray for the people of China, to start learning Mandarin . . . So I started praying that way, and Dantzel and I began to study Mandarin” (“A Study in Obedience”).
President Nelson soon became fluent in Mandarin. President Nelson visited China several times during his career, introducing open-heart surgery to China in 1980 and helping train medical students.
After being called to the Quorum of the Twelve apostles, President Nelson received a request from some of his medical friends in China. A Chinese icon’s heart was failing—an opera singer the people greatly admired. The doctors felt President Nelson was the only one who could perform the operation. Asking permission from the president of the Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency, President Nelson was granted permission to travel to China to perform the operation, making it his final heart operation. It was that same year President Nelson became the first person ever to become an honorary professor of Shandong Medical College. A decade later, President Nelson traveled to Beijing with Neal A. Maxwell at the official invitation of the Vice Premier of China.
Besides his pioneering work in Asia, President Nelson was also the first apostle to visit Kazakhstan when he dedicated the country for missionary work in 2003. He also visited 31 countries in just five years while building up the Church in Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Russia, Ukraine, and Estonia.
His travels around the world have opened doors and transformed entire country’s views about the Church, its message, and missionary work. Because of him, many around the world are blessed to have the gospel in their lives.