The Night I Learned that President Nelson Still "Looks on the Heart"

As Church members around the world prepare for the leadership of President Russell M. Nelson, I look forward to the ways his prophetic leadership will help us all strengthen our personal spirituality. The recent challenges President Nelson has issued—for example, to read every passage of scripture about the Savior from the Topical Guide and to list the many ways our lives have been blessed by the Book of Mormon—have brought greater spiritual power into our lives.

This past week, I have reflected on a memorable experience I had with President Nelson during my full-time mission, which taught me the power of his individual care.

It was the day after Thanksgiving 1988, and it was pouring rain in Arlington, Virginia, where I was serving my mission. That evening, the rain began to let up, but we did not want to get too far with no appointments and only our bicycles for transportation, so we decided to tract on the street where we lived. We started down the road and then moved back up it—with only limited success. My mission president had been emphasizing to us to alter our door approaches to be more personal so that we did not sound too memorized, so we were trying that out. We came to a door and were greeted by a very distinguished looking man in a red flannel shirt and jeans. My approach was going to be, "You look just like one of the apostles of our church," but before I could get it out, he said "Come in elders!" It was Elder Russell M. Nelson. He was visiting one of his daughters for Thanksgiving before he would go to preside at a conference in southern Pennsylvania the next morning.

He warmly welcomed us and talked to us for about 20 minutes, sharing where he had been recently. In the 6 weeks previous and in the next two weeks (8 weeks total), he would visit 8 countries on 4 continents. I was amazed at his kindness. We told him we did not want to interrupt his family time, and we kept trying to excuse ourselves; but he wanted to talk more about us, our mission president, our experiences, etc. We never felt like he was trying to rush us out of the house, and there was never any indication that he was annoyed by our interruption. Finally, he offered to pray with us. We knelt in the living room and heard this apostle pray for and bless two missionaries in our labors.

My companion was really struggling during that time. In fact, he did not want to go out at all that night, so when we did, he was not dressed completely in proper missionary attire. After we left Elder Nelson, he felt horrible about that and asked if we could go back to our house so he could change before we resumed knocking the rest of the doors on our street. I said that was fine and we rushed home.

After changing, my companion wanted to call Elder Nelson and apologize for his attire. I told him not to bother. He insisted and looked up Elder Nelson’s daughter's phone number in the ward directory. I am embarrassed to say I was worried about this; but Elder Nelson was not. He was so kind. He listened to my companion apologize and explain that he had changed to look more like a missionary should, to which Elder Nelson offered these simple words, "Elder, the Lord looks on the heart, and so do I. And I like what I saw."

That was a huge turning point for my companion. Someone who had almost given up and gone home two weeks earlier was now energized because an apostle told him that he saw his heart—and he liked what he saw. It touched me that the man who saw more hearts as a surgeon than most will see in a lifetime still looked on a person’s heart. I am thrilled to now be led by a newly sustained prophet whose Christlike example has blessed my life for many years.

Tommy Haws was born and raised in New Mexico and after serving a mission in the Washington DC South mission and graduating from Brigham Young University, he returned to New Mexico with his wife Eileen (from Victoria, Texas) and his young family. He works at a community bank and currently serves as president of the Gallup, New Mexico stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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