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Safeco Field expects 40K people to see 94-year-old speak from second base | Op-Ed

(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

By Boyd Matheson

Boyd Matheson is the Opinion editor of the Deseret News in Salt Lake City, Utah. Deseret News is a for-profit company affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. KIRO Radio is owned by Bonneville International, also affiliated with The Church.  

This Saturday, the Seattle Mariners will be 1,000 miles away from Safeco Field playing a weekend series with the Los Angeles Angels. Yet the stadium will be bursting with an expected crowd of 40,000. That is strong attendance for any weekend event at Safeco, but Saturday’s event is of particular note as the crowd will consist primarily of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who will come to hear from their prophet and president Russell M. Nelson.

The stage and podium will appropriately be set up at second base for a nonagenarian who, like long-time Mariner Ichiro Suzuki, appears ageless while gaining speed rounding second in order to stretch a double into a triple, even in the twilight of a long life and career.

At age 94, Nelson is keeping a pace that would exhaust even a millennial having traveled the globe at break-neck speed in his first six months since being introduced as the Faith’s 17th president. His stops to check in on the church’s 16 million members worldwide, commonly known as Mormons, along with its vast humanitarian and educational efforts have him hopscotching the globe from Europe, Africa and Asia to most recently in Puerto Rico.

Washington ranks among the least religious states in the nation. As the Seattle Times noted in April, nearly half of the state’s residents (47 percent) do not identify with any religion and rarely attend church services, according to a 2017 Gallop poll. And yet this stadium will be filled by those eager to hear the strengthening message of Nelson, a former heart surgeon whose words serve as a counterpoint to divisive messages out of Washington, D.C. or elsewhere.

Nelson has challenged members of the church to live better and serve more. He recognizes that solutions to the great challenges facing the world from poverty, homelessness, violence and addiction to education, upward mobility and every form of intolerance, are not likely to come from marbled halls, legislative bodies or government agencies.

Lasting, sustainable solutions come from family, from neighborhood and from community. In facing these significant issues, Dr. Marin Luther King’s question seems to resonate with Nelson, “Where do we go from here, chaos or community?”

Recently, Nelson hosted the leadership of the NAACP at the church’s headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah. The NAACP has been striving to bring social justice and promote civil rights for more than a half a century. The church has done significant work to lift members in the black community in the U.S. and around the world through education, humanitarian efforts and self-reliance programs.

With a shared history of community-driven action the NAACP and the church have announced a partnership to bring self-reliance and entrepreneurial training to people across the country.

Two weeks ago in Puerto Rico, Nelson encouraged the storm-ravaged church members to look inward to help build a brighter future.

“As you individually grow to become more of the person God wants you to be, you can know for yourself that better days are ahead for the people of Puerto Rico,” he said.

In Seattle, Nelson is expected to carry the message that strengthening individuals strengthens communities. He will meet at a reception with local business, religious and community leaders prior to the Safeco Field event.

Ultimately, the best solutions flow when people are not seen as problems to be managed but as people with unlimited, even divine, potential. Finding ways to partner, support and encourage collaboration in the Northwest through volunteer and monetary resources is likely to be on Nelson’s agenda in Seattle.

Indeed, Nelson has challenged church members, including the 300,000 in the Northwest, to minister to individuals in their communities, not just their congregations. While he will deliver his remarks from second base, his eyes will clearly be on home – the place where faith, family and community create a better place for all people who call Washington home.

Boyd Matheson is the Opinion editor of the Deseret News in Salt Lake City, Utah. Deseret News is a for-profit company affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. KIRO Radio is owned by Bonneville International, also affiliated with The Church.  

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