Written by Jason Julian | December 27, 2018
I will never forget this day! Jason is my husband. He was so excited to have been chosen as one of the security team members to escort President Nelson and those accompanying him to Hamilton, where thousands of people were anxiously awaiting his arrival. At this time, I was already at the venue doing my part in preparation for the Prophet’s arrival.
When the day was over, I couldn’t wait to return home to exchange notes with Jason. As he told us of his beautiful experiences, tears formed in his eyes. This is his story…a day he will forever remember in his heart as the day he saw the Saviour in the eyes of President Nelson. ~Emilia
August 19, 2018. It was sunny and hot, and a day that is forever seared into my heart and mind. Words are not even close to describing the joy I felt…but I will try…so here we go!
My day began as I attended church to partake of the sacrament with my family. At the conclusion of the service, I headed to First Ontario Centre Arena to make sure all was in good order for our security and driving assignment to pick up the General Authorities from the airport for the big devotional that was the talk of the Ontario Saints for months.
Afterward, I went to my brother’s house to assist in preparing the snack baskets and drink coolers for the cars. Darren is my brother, and he was also chosen to be part of the team. I was driving his Acura RDX, and arrived at the Jetport area of the John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport. We waited there one hour before President Nelson had arrived with the others. I felt a bundle of emotions as I waited. The great responsibility I felt being the lead driver of the three cars who would be transferring the Prophet, his wife, and other General Authorities was nothing like I’ve ever experienced before. Everything had to go smoothly as they had to arrive in perfect time, and safely, for the devotional.
When the plane touched down and taxied in, we drove the cars in a planned formation through the gate and lined up to receive them. It was hair-raising, to say the least, to see the private jet taxi in and watch them exit the plane. Sister Wendy Nelson came out first and immediately greeted my brother and I. I felt that her smile alone could lift anyone’s spirits. She was so friendly!
After Sister Nelson, President Nelson came out and he too greeted both Darren and me. He noticed that we both had the same last name and I told him that we were twins. WOW! If that were the only moment I had with him, a man I had a testimony of being the true modern-day Prophet of God, it would have been sufficient. But it only got better from there.
Elder and Sister Andersen were next to exit the plane. It was such a delight meeting them and felt so blessed getting to personally know them a little more as I was driving them as their assigned security person. Brother Mark Woodruff (great- great grandson of Wilford Woodruff) was in the lead car to the venue, which was about 30 minutes or so away.
As a registered security guard, I know and understand the importance of following proper protocol when working with celebrities, or in this case, General Authorities. Our full attention must be on those we are protecting, our surroundings, and generally, we can only speak to them when spoken to. I felt so honoured and excited about having Elder Neil L Andersen and his wonderful wife, Sister Kathy Andersen in the car with me, and I could have asked them thousands of questions. But I kept my composure and did my job as best as I can.
“WOW! If that were the only moment I had with him, a man I had a testimony of being the true modern-day Prophet of God, it would have been sufficient. But it only got better from there.”
I was playing a CD of hymns by Paul Cardall hoping to fill the quiet with some spiritual music, but Elder Andersen immediately and softly asked if I could turn it down, and then asked me to turn it completely off. He explained that although he loves listening to the music of Paul Cardall, he would rather learn more about me instead. Needless to say, I was clearly shocked and so happy about that. I know the security drill on these assignments. You do your job and keep relatively quiet. And here he is…Elder Andersen, an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, wants to talk to me and learn more about me during the drive to First Ontario Centre. I felt so special, and he was so very kind and gentle.
I told Elder and Sister Andersen about my conversion, and how Darren and I served missions in England in 1989. I served in the England London mission, and Darren in the Coventry mission. I also expressed my excitement about the recent miracle we had experienced with my Dad’s conversion. I explained that this very day was the one-year anniversary of his baptism…a day we never thought we would witness in our lifetime. Elder Andersen was very interested in his story and loved hearing about it, and truthfully, it is one of those stories that I will never get tired of repeating.
I also gave some history about Hamilton, Ontario, and how it got its nickname “the Hammer”, and as we drove along chatting away on different topics, they loved the stories and the scenery they were passing by along the highway.
The drive seemed to go too quickly. When we got to the arena garage door, Elder Andersen exited the car and standing there were some of the choir members near us. I hinted to Elder Andersen that it would be great if he could shake some hands, especially the younger members of the choir, whose smiles were from ear to ear! He kindly obliged to the delight of all who now have a forever memory of meeting an apostle.
We later escorted them into the dressing room lounge. It was there that we met up with the rest of the group and Sister Nelson wanted me to explain more about Hamilton to President Nelson. So there I was doing my best as a historian while he sat on the couch listening intently as I told him more about our beautiful city for a little bit until it was time for me to go and prepare the final touches on the stage for the devotional.
I couldn’t believe the crowd of people in the arena all waiting for our beloved Prophet of God to speak. Around 8,000 to be exact. In the crowd, near the front, I could see my beautiful wife, Emilia, and my son, Matthew, who had recently returned home from serving in the California Anaheim Mission. They were sitting with my father. I was so thrilled he was there. What a way to celebrate his first year as a member of the Church! My heart pounded with excitement and I couldn’t have felt happier that day.
Then the moment all were so eager for. It was now time to escort President and Sister Nelson and the others on stage as the choir so beautifully sang “We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet”. The choir sounded like a chorus of angels. So impressive that I noticed President Nelson stop to turn his head to look at the choir and sing the words of the hymn along with them. The Spirit was undeniably strong.
During this time, my brother and I were still “on duty”. We were in the back corridor near the stage and preparing for the exit plan for when the devotional would be over. In the meantime, I was able to listen to most of the talks. Sister Nelson’s address was incredibly amazing. It was so inspiring to listen to her talk about how President Nelson receives revelation. I was so touched by her words and they really hit home that this man, President Russell M. Nelson, is our Prophet.
Finally, after all the speakers were finished, all very inspiring talks, it was time for President Nelson to address us at the podium…the same podium that the primary children from our ward would speak from on Sunday’s. I thought that was so cool. I was so impressed with the fact that President Nelson had no notes prepared to speak from. A few weeks away from becoming 94 years old, and he spoke so eloquently and confidently, never once repeating himself as he addressed us for the next 45 minutes. Everything he said was said from his heart and through the Spirit, with the audience of 8,000 people riveted on him and his divinely-delivered message. When I later commented on this to President Nelson, he said, “Well, these people have come from a long way. They came prayerfully. The last thing they want me to do is come to the pulpit and read them a talk.” I’m sure everyone in the room that day felt that the words he was speaking came through revelation. He spoke mainly about the sacred responsibility we all have to teach our children the gospel and what it means to be children of God. I took mental notes and have taken what he had said to heart.
“Well, these people have come from a long way. They came prayerfully. The last thing they want me to do is come to the pulpit and read them a talk.” ~President Russell M Nelson
One of the things that impressed me about Elder Andersen later was that while President Nelson was speaking, he had written notes about the details of President Nelson’s talk and posted his feelings on his personal Facebook account about all the great points that President Nelson spoke about on this day and how it also sincerely inspired him that President Nelson approached the pulpit without any notes. You can learn more about the details of his post, President Nelson’s address, and his visit to Hamilton, Ontario here.
I learned so much this day from all those that spoke before President Nelson did, and that is that they all have a sure testimony that Jesus Christ is the Lord and Saviour of the world and that President Russell M Nelson is absolutely and most definitely the Lord’s mouthpiece to all of us. No one is exempt from the guidance he gives us. Not even Sister Nelson, or Elder Andersen, who had written notes like many of us did on the important points that President Nelson expressed through revelation.
When the devotional had ended, President Nelson expressed how much he had wished he could greet everyone individually. His kindness and love were felt when he put up his hands as if to give us all a hug. He then approached the chorister with open arms and invited the children of the choir to come forward to meet him. Just as quickly as they entered the building, they all exited and entered their cars as I drove them out again in the lead car with Elder and Sister Andersen moving toward the airport.
On the way to the airport, Elder Andersen professed his great love for his dear wife, and I found common ground with him as I shared my feelings towards my wife, about how we are high school sweethearts and converted to the Church at the age of 19. We spoke about her Facebook site I Am LDS Too, which has since been changed to ToGather Saints to reflect the changes which President Nelson admonished the Saints to make, and Elder Andersen encouraged the changes. He was so pleased with her efforts and wanted me to convey his thanks to her for her missionary work online. Remembering our earlier conversation about my father’s conversion, he said to me, [Your father’s story] “would have tied right into my talk on the Priesthood, don’t you think?” How amazing was that?!. Although he never weaved it into his address today, the mere suggestion was so heartwarming.
I certainly took note the fun love that Elder and Sister Andersen has for one another, which was on full display on the way up the hill on Highway 403. Sister Andersen saw a beautiful orange sunset and wanted Elder Andersen to take a photo to capture the moment. I tried to slow down the vehicle significantly as he was twisting and turning to try to get that picture for his sweetheart, but soon enough, the trees had blocked it, and he patiently waited for the next moment it would appear again. Witnessing this, I said to Sister Andersen about her husband, “Now that is what I call love.” I will not forget that moment…so funny but yet shows his gentle and loving nature.
Then, just as I thought he would be tired of hearing about my family, he asked, “Brother Julian, did I ask you yet about your children?” I was amazed at his genuine interest. An apostle of the Lord, busy with so much in his life, was asking me personal questions about my wife and my children. A man whose life is probably far more exciting wanted to hear more about my life than to talk about his own. I felt his honest interest and respect for me and for my family, and as I was revealing to him my love and devotion to my family, I realized that our journey together was sadly coming to an end for now as I was soon approaching the airport. He enjoyed the discussion we were having and so did I. I realized he must have been so tired from his travels, but yet he was full of life and energy.
I stopped the car near the plane that was awaiting them, and I was sad to let go of that precious moment. I wanted time to stand still. My heart and mind took a picture. I shook Sister Andersen’s hand and wished her well and then gave Elder Andersen a hug and thanked him. As he wished me well I heard him say to me, “You have a wonderful family”.
This is where the moment climaxed for me. After all that had happened today, beginning with expecting nothing more than to feel honoured to be part of the security team for President Nelson and his travel companions, and receiving more than I ever could have dreamed or imagined, this was the moment I will never forget…the moment that will forever be etched in my mind and heart. After I shook Sister Nelson’s hand and thanked her for her being so enjoyable and remarkable, President Nelson approached me. All I could think about from the moment we arrived at the airport was what I would say to him in parting, and all I could think of as he approached me with an extended hand was to say thank you and “I love you, President Nelson.” As I did this I looked into the Prophet’s eyes and I will never forget those eyes at that moment as long as I shall walk this earth. They smiled at me. They were illuminated and the colour was brilliant. I can’t explain it more than to say that I could see the Lord Jesus Christ in his eyes. They pierced my very soul.
I watched them enter the plane and then as it took off. I raced back to my vehicle to record the sacred experience I had just had, and couldn’t wait to return back home to my family to share it with them. When I got into the house, there was my wife and my son, anxiously waiting for me. I hadn’t even made it up the stairs, and right there, on the landing of the second floor, I shared with them my thoughts and experiences about my day, in particular about what I had seen through the eyes of the Prophet. I couldn’t finish without shedding so many tears as the Spirit of the Lord testified to me once again that President Nelson is indeed a Prophet of God.
I can say this for sure…I do not know any more now than I did at the start of this day that this man, President Russell M. Nelson, is the Lord’s chosen Prophet. I do not know why I was granted such a choice experience. It is one that will feed my spirit for years to come. I knew who this man was as I raised my arm to the square to sustain him as a prophet, seer and revelator, and President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Unbeknownst to me, one of the security managers caught the very moment I looked into President Nelson’s eyes on his cell phone and was kind enough to send it to me a few days later. You can imagine my excitement.
My heart was and still is so full.