Church leader Russell Nelson’s visit excites faith
SNOHOMISH COUNTY — The head of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is expected to lead more than 45,000 of its members, who follow the Book of Mormon, in a Sept. 15 devotional at Safeco Field.
The visit by Church President Russell Nelson, 94, and his wife, Sister Wendy Watson Nelson, will mark the first Puget Sound area visit by the church’s president since 1995.
Several thousand Snohomish County church members are anticipating the rare opportunity to see the man whom Sultan bishop Brad Catlin says is a modern day prophet called on by the Lord just like Moses or Abraham.
When two local missionaries heard of the visit, “we were ecstatic, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Sister Sophia Khaphus.
For Khaphus, 20, and her fellow missionary Sister Makayla Smith, who are serving in the Maltby and Monroe areas, Nelson is “the mouthpiece of our heavenly father.”
The sisters are two of an estimated 288,515 Washington Church members of more than 16 million worldwide, according to the church.
She and her fellow followers have been preparing for the visit mindfully.
For Khaphus that means, in part, preparing questions she hopes to find the answers to during the Safeco Field service.
“So I am thinking about, at 20 years old, what I want to do after my mission, what kind of things I should pursue, where should I go?”
Other questions “could be how to strengthen my family or how can I withstand the temptations and challenges of our day, work on addictions, or how can we just grow spiritually, how we can be kinder people,” Khaphus said.
For Catlin, preparation is also important. He likens finding the proper frame of mind to receive the president’s message to the Old Testament Bible passages where the Israelites prepared to travel in the wilderness, “cleansing and repenting” before receiving the Ten Commandments from Moses.
It’s difficult to overstate the significance of the visit. Adherents typically only see the president via twice yearly broadcasts from April and October General Conferences, or read his messages in church magazines, said Brad Catlin’s wife Aimee Catlin.
The venue is likely to be full to capacity, with an estimated 46,000 tickets distributed.
In a nod to young Church of Jesus Christ members, teenagers aged 16 to 18 will receive special field seating nearest to Nelson.
“It’s very special that youth get that opportunity to sit on the field, to kind of be up close and personal.” For “future leaders” to see Nelson in person, there’s “a special power and feeling you can feel around a chosen representative of God,” Khaphus said.
The president has already reached out to youth, including issuing a challenge in June for them to take a seven-day fast from all social media.
While many teens were called upon to focus on sharing the gospel and other good works in person, Smith and Khaphus were charged with the opposite task to extend their mission online.
Russell, the church’s 17th president and a former heart surgeon, will visit Seattle with other senior church leaders, extending a recent worldwide tour. He became president just this January. The Safeco Field stop will be followed on Sept. 16 by an appearance in Vancouver, British Columbia.
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