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Each prophet-president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints naturally puts a stamp on the church’s language.
President Russell M. Nelson’s reemphasis of the use of the full name of the church rather than nicknames will leave a lasting imprint on the church. So will the sudden ubiquity of the term “ministering.”
There are other examples from his three arresting years of leadership. For example, President Nelson has shaped some of the church’s direction by calling on people to “build bridges of cooperation instead of walls of segregation.” He kindly shared with me the origin of that phrase.
One succinct phrase President Nelson has used during his administration demands attention. He has given fresh, distinctive language to Latter-day Saints to describe the unique mission of their church.
“Our message to the world is simple and sincere,” he declared during his first general conference as church president. “We invite all of God’s children on both sides of the veil to come unto their Savior, receive the blessings of the holy temple, have enduring joy and qualify for eternal life.”
While Latter-day Saints have used the term “both sides of the veil,” this expanded phrase and the way it is centered on the temple is powerful, directed as it was to the living and the departed. (In fact, that initial use of the phrase as prophet was part of President Nelson’s introduction to the announcement of seven new temples, including the first temples for India and Russia.)
That image of people on both sides of the veil striving at once for the same goal has galvanized other church leaders and members. In fact, the phrase has risen sharply in usage during general conference talks, according to the LDS General Conference Corpus.
For example, Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, actually speaking a day before President Nelson in 2018, said, “God will strengthen, help and uphold us; and he will sanctify to us our deepest distress. When we gather our family histories and go to the temple on behalf of our ancestors, God fulfills many of these promised blessings simultaneously on both sides of the veil.”
Perhaps we will learn later the inspiration behind President Nelson’s use of the phrase. He did use a similar idea in a landmark 1994 conference talk on temple work called “The Spirit of Elijah,” when he said, “Many travel the highways of life without a companion. They, too, are needed by their families on both sides of the veil.”
It’s a message he now has repeated as prophet in the lobby of the Hyde Park Chapel at the start of his first global ministry, in sports stadiums in South America and throughout the pandemic.
And now we reach the end of a general conference for which he extended an invitation to church members to make a list of the Lord’s promises as part of the gathering of Israel.
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