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The following was written by Jana Riess for the Religious News Service. To read the full article, click here

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This past Sunday, members of the Oakland, California LDS stake got the surprise of a lifetime when the announced lineup of speakers at their stake conference underwent some last-minute changes to accommodate an unscheduled visit from the recently ordained Mormon prophet, Russell M. Nelson.

I was visiting the area to speak about Mormon Millennials last night (in the same building, weirdly), so I had fourth-row seats to hear Pres. Nelson, his wife Wendy, and an array of other speakers.

I appreciated the low-key sensibility of it all. Stake leaders apparently weren’t permitted to put the word out about Pres. Nelson’s visit until that morning, I guess because of security concerns. There was no bag check or security line before entering the building—it felt like any other stake conference in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

I was surprised by how moved I was by the whole morning. I am often concerned at Mormons’ open displays of devotion to the president of our church—the handkerchief-waving hosanna shouts and endless renditions of “We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet.”

But there was very little of that fawning on display on Sunday, and it made me love the experience more. And the first hour was all about the good folks of Oakland.

Here’s something I’ve never seen before in a Mormon stake conference: there were more female than male speakers. One was a Beehive (in Mormon parlance, that’s a 12- or 13-year-old girl) who drew from the example of St. Francis of Assisi in describing how much joy she feels on weekends when she goes with her ward to bring meals to people camped out in tents. She spoke with love and respect about Jews and Hindus who serve others. It was a beautiful talk.

To read the full article, click here