At the June 3, 2018 Worldwide Devotional for Youth, President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints shared a personal example of how his own efforts to follow the admonition of an earlier prophet led to life-changing experiences.
“For almost 40 years now, I have been praying for the people of China,” he said.
In a meeting President Nelson attended in 1979, President Spencer W. Kimball told those in attendance, “We should be of service to the Chinese people. We should learn their language. We should pray for them and help them.”
President Nelson desired to follow the counsel of the prophet, so he immediately began studying Mandarin, in addition to his prayers for the Chinese people.
Shortly after President Kimball’s admonition, one of President Nelson’s morning prayers led him later that day to meeting Professor Wu Ying-Kai from Beijing at a thoracic surgery meeting in Boston, Massachusetts. Their relationship blossomed into an exchange of university visits—Professor Wu to the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and President Nelson to the Shandong School of Medicine in Jinan, China.
President Nelson made two additional visits to Chinese universities and was credited with introducing open-heart surgery to China in 1980. As his last surgical procedure, he performed a life-saving coronary artery bypass graft on one of China’s most famous opera stars, Fang Rongxiang, in 1984.
He told the youth, “[President Kimball] specifically mentioned China and asked that we pray for the people of China.”
Accepting this commitment has led President Nelson on an unimaginable personal and spiritual journey of blessing and serving the people of China.
“I rejoice in my association with medical colleagues and other dear friends in China. What a joy it is for me now to be officially designated as an ‘old friend of China,’” he excitedly shared
The “old friend of the Chinese people” (中国人民的老朋友) recognition is bestowed upon a select few doctors, authors, journalists, statesmen and others who, over an extended period, have established relationships of deep mutual respect with Chinese colleagues. Today the Shandong School of Medicine performs thousands of surgeries of the type President Nelson pioneered there decades ago.
President Nelson said with conviction, “It is my testimony that when we follow through with whatever the prophet of God asks us to do, the way will be opened and lives will be changed.”