A quick flip through the May issue of the Liahona will show what a wealth of insights lay waiting to be discovered in the footnotes of general conference messages. But, for me, the footnotes for President Russell M. Nelson’s recent devotional for young adults might just take the footnote cake.
As I studied the devotional a week or so after listening to it live, I was smiling ear to ear each time I found what felt like another gem. President Nelson carefully prepared 25 footnotes to accompany his talk, 17 of which are scripture references. In addition to those scriptures, however, are beautiful elaboration from the prophet on the important points of his devotional.
Finding these carefully crafted footnotes is a testament to me of how much our prophet loves the young adults of the Church and how seriously he accepts the opportunity to teach us.
So, without further ado, here are my five favorite footnotes from President Nelson’s 2022 devotional for young adults that I think every Latter-day Saint should know about.
1. Who We Are
After a beautiful introduction, in which President Nelson welcomingly says, “Let us talk about life,” he explains he will elaborate on three “fundamental truths that will help you prepare your future course.” The first fundamental truth is “Know the truth about who you are.”
To begin this section, President Nelson says something powerful that only gets even more profound when you read the footnote. In his address he says, “I believe that if the Lord were speaking to you directly tonight, the first thing He would make sure you understand is your true identity.” That sentence will lead you to this footnote:
“This is what the Lord taught the people of ancient America when He spoke to them. After identifying who He was, He told His listeners who they were: ‘And behold, ye are the children of the prophets; and ye are of the house of Israel; and ye are of the covenant’ (3 Nephi 20:25; emphasis added). These exact truths were also declared to people in biblical times (see Acts 3:25).”
In my reading of 3 Nephi, I had never caught the significance of the Savior deliberately teaching the people who they are. That alone tells you how important that truth is. I was touched and even more encouraged to internalize the prophet’s counsel after recognizing that the Savior taught the same thing when He was on the earth. This footnote also testifies to me how well President Nelson knows the scriptures and knows the power of teaching from them.
2. A Nostalgic Theme
In that same paragraph, President Nelson reminds us of the truth that we are all children of God and then asks this question, “Has this truth rescued you when confronted with temptation?” At the end of that sentence, a footnote reads:
“As young women and young men, you quote themes that begin ‘I am a beloved daughter of heavenly parents, with a divine nature and eternal destiny’ and ‘I am a beloved son of God, and He has a work for me to do.’”
As a young adult in my mid-20s, it has been a while since I quoted those words. In fact, they have been changed slightly since my time in Young Women. Reading them as they are now brought not only a sense of nostalgia, but gratitude for the mindset that theme helped me adopt. Those words feel more important now than they ever did to me in my teenage years. I think wherever we are in life, everyone can use a reminder that their life does have a purpose in God’s plan and that an eternal, beautiful future awaits their righteous choices.
3. The Premortal World
Later in this same section about who we are comes perhaps my favorite footnote of all. In the devotional, President Nelson says, “Because there is a grand plan of salvation authored by Heavenly Father, does it not stand to reason that you also have a divine destiny?”
The note on that sentence will take you to this stunning thought:
“President Orson Hyde (1805–78), President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said that ‘we understood things better [in the premortal world] than we do in this lower world.’ He continued, surmising about promises we likely made there: ‘It is not impossible that we signed the articles thereof with our own hands, which articles may be retained in the archives above, to be presented to us when we rise from the dead, and be judged out of our own mouths, according to that which is written in the books.’”
If you’re like me, you may need to read that quote a few times to understand what is being said. But I always get chills when I think about the premortal life and what might have happened there. I love the thought that my life is a mission to fulfill promises I made even before coming here. That gives the challenges and opportunities of my mortal life even deeper meaning.
▶ You may also like: What I learned from being shut out of President Nelson’s worldwide devotional on Sunday
In the next section of his talk is called, ‘Know the truth about what God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, have offered you.’ And here President Nelson gives us a footnote that almost seems to tease you into studying further.
In the devotional he says, “God has a special love for each person who makes a covenant with Him in the waters of baptism.” Then the note on that sentence says, “In the Hebrew language of the Old Testament, the word for God’s covenant love is hesed.”
Well, I couldn’t stop there without knowing more about what hesed. So, I turned to someone who knows a thing or to about Hebrew: Tammy Uzelac-Hall, host of the Come, Follow Me podcast, Sunday on Monday. Tammy was a seminary and institute teacher and has spent years studying Hebrew. She has a talent for explaining words in a way that feels personable, applicable, and just beautiful.
And she did not disappoint when it comes to hesed. In a podcast episode earlier this year, Tammy was discussing Exodus 20:6 which reads: “And showing mercy unto of them that love me and keep my commandments.”
Now read what she says about mercy and hesed and tell me you don’t get chills:
“I want you to highlight the word ‘mercy.’ This is a really incredible Hebrew word; it’s hesed. And this word hesed, it’s more than mercy. In Hebrew it is this deep-seated love that the Lord has for us. It combines all these feelings of mercy, grace, kindness, love. It’s a Godly love; how God feels towards His children. It’s a kinship love. It’s the love where He says, “Come into my tent and let me take care of you. And let me provide for you and let me help you out of all of the stuff that’s making life difficult.” …
“And it’s kind of cool too, because the word mercy actually stems from the Hebrew root word for a woman’s womb. [It’s] like that love between a mother and a child, and then the nurturing experience that the baby’s receiving all of its nourishment, all of its protection from the mother. Think about that. Isn’t that incredible? [God] is like, ‘I’ll do the same for you. I’ll give you everything you need. Let me show that to you if you love me.’”
5. A Precious Reunion
This last favorite footnote of mine is simply a scripture reference. But it’s for a scripture I must have glossed over in the past and reading it now made my heart lurch. President Nelson says, “At the end of mortal life, precious is the reunion of each covenant child with our Heavenly Father.” And then the footnote directs you to Psalm 116:15:
“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.”
In my book, that verse is now one of the most tender scriptures ever. For us here on the mortal side of things, death is a painful separation. But for God it is a precious reunion. Knowing that those I love who die, and those that I hear about on the news who are dying, are welcomed into a sweet reunion through death is immensely comforting. Heavenly Father is happy to see them. In the same way He will be happy to see all of us one day. I am grateful to have a living prophet on the earth who is so dedicated to helping us prepare for that day, right down to his carefully crafted footnotes.
▶ You may also like: 17 fascinating footnotes from general conference talks you don’t want to gloss over