There was real weight embedded in a light moment between Presidents Russell M. Nelson and M. Russell Ballard as the Latter-day Saint leaders wrapped up a news conference in March.
As the late Sunday afternoon sun warmed the stained-glass windows in the doors of the Rome Italy Temple, the men dubbed "the two Russells" by President Ballard himself stood in front of a gaggle of reporters and cameras.
President Nelson pointed out that in 1981 the church had a grand total of 19 temples. Left unsaid was the fact that in 2018, his first year as the new prophet-leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he had announced plans for exactly 19 new temples. What he did say out loud was that church leaders would dedicate a dozen temples in 2019.
"It's going to be a busy year," he said.
That drew a wry smile from President Ballard, the 90-year-old acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
"He has to have some things for us to do," he joked. "Stay out of trouble, you know."
President Nelson, 94, instantly added his own witticism.
"Occupational therapy," he said to laughter.
Learn more about the remarkable life of our prophet in Insights from a Prophet's Life: Russell M. Nelson.
Insights from a Prophet's Life offers a candid view of President Russell M. Nelson, the seventeenth President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, from childhood to the current day. More than a biography, this landmark volume invites readers to experience President Nelson's life through dozens of brief vignettes and hundreds of photographs. Each episode highlights an important lesson; taken together, they weave a captivating story of a man prepared in a unique way to lead the Church in our day.
The underlying thread was plain. In an extraordinarily vigorous start to his administration, which began with a vow to serve with every remaining breath of his life, President Nelson has created a staggering amount "to do" both for the church's senior leaders and its members.
Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles picked up the thread two days later while standing in almost the exact same spot in the Rome temple after another session of the building's dedication. He also smiled as he spoke:
"President Nelson has said to us many times, 'Don't you — any of you — get sick and make this not work.'"