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Is my focus on knowing Jesus or just following the rules? Recenter with these insights from conference footnotes

Happy senior woman reading book on park bench
We all try to remember the messages the prophet shares with us, but a quick peek at the footnotes from general conference shows that our leaders really do.
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When the text for the October 2023 general conference was made available earlier this month, I started looking through the footnotes for each message. As I did so, I noticed a pattern: I had heard speakers reference President Nelson’s talks during conference, but I was surprised to see just how often his name came up as references for other thoughts the speakers shared.

Though many of us learned the song “Follow the Prophet” as children in Primary, looking at the sources for these leaders’ talks testified to me that they have also taken its message to heart. Here is one talk from conference that referenced President Nelson in the footnotes that was especially insightful for me.

This was one of the first talks of general conference, and its message was incredibly poignant. Do we really know Christ? Or is it hard for us to recognize Him as a person? Am I spiritually face-blind?

It seems clear not only from his talk but also from the talk’s footnotes that Elder Robert M. Daines is not face-blind to our Savior. Using the words of our prophet, Elder Daines reminded us of the importance of coming to know God and wanting to live with Him again, not just to get to heaven again.

Throughout his talk, Elder Daines referenced several President Nelson addresses, including “The Answer Is Always Jesus Christ” (2023), “Christ Is Risen; Faith in Him Will Move Mountains” (2021), and “The Everlasting Covenant” (2022). I especially appreciated the extra reminders from our prophet included after the following statement: “We’re not finished [seeking God’s face] until we see Jesus as the face of our Father’s love and follow Him, not just His rules.” The footnote reads:

“This is an important theme. It’s not just the work of salvation and exaltation but His work of salvation and exaltation (see General Handbook: Serving in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1.2, Gospel Library). I don’t just go to a temple but to the house of the Lord; it’s not the Mormon Church but the Church of Jesus Christ (see Russell M. Nelson, “The Correct Name of the Church,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2018, 87–89). Our leaders point us to Him and even remind us that there “is no amorphous entity called ‘the Atonement’ upon which we may call for succor, healing, forgiveness, or power. Jesus Christ is the source” (Russell M. Nelson, “Drawing the Power of Jesus Christ into Our Lives,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2017, 40).

There is something striking about tying together these two separate thoughts given at separate times by our prophet. The main messages of these talks might seem different—using the correct name of the Church versus the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ—but Elder Daines bridges the two messages, reminding me that President Nelson also knows His Savior Jesus Christ and is constantly pointing our vision and efforts back to Him.

Later in his talk, Elder Daines brings in another important, interconnected theme: getting to know, love, and serve God’s children. Elder Daines shares, “This Church is a work party of people with picks and shovels trying to help clear the channel for the river of God’s love to reach His children at the end of the row. Whoever you are, whatever your past, there is room for you in this Church.” The footnote inserted here contains a reminder from President Nelson about being peacemakers and avoiding labeling others.

What I find most interesting about this particular footnote, however, is that the talk referenced (“Blessed Are the Peacemakers”) was given in 2002—long before President Nelson was the prophet. To me, this illustrates the fact that sometimes the words of a prophet might seem new, but really, we have heard these messages before, and we may need lots of reminders before that message sticks. Knowing that President Nelson has addressed the topic of being a peacemaker for so long tells me that it is an important principle to our beloved prophet and that it is an important principle that I—and we—need to better learn and practice in order to come to know our Savior.

▶ You may also like: How heeding prophets’ counsel changed President Russell M. Nelson’s life

This was not the only talk overflowing with reminders of the teachings of President Nelson. I believe the words of our living prophet are on the minds of all our leaders, and they want to help us learn from and remember them, too. And the best way to do that is to read his words again.

To help you get started, I have compiled a list of both past and recent talks, articles, or books from President Russell M. Nelson that were found in the October 2023 general conference footnotes. I look forward to studying them and hope you will too!

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