President Russell M. Nelson is now the oldest President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Russell Marion Nelson was born September 9, 1924, in Salt Lake City, the son of Marion C. and Edna Anderson Nelson. On Thursday, April 14, 2022, President Nelson was 97 years, seven months and six days old — surpassing President Gordon B. Hinckley, who died on January 27, 2008, at the age of 97 years, seven months and five days.
President Nelson was set apart as the 17th President of the Church on January 14, 2018, after serving 34 years in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. In addition to his service as an Apostle, President Nelson is known for his long and esteemed medical career.
President Nelson is only the second prophet — the first being Joseph Fielding Smith — to be called as President of the Church while over the age of 90.
Sustained and ordained an Apostle in April 1984, President Nelson visited 133 countries — dedicating 31 of those countries — during his 34 years as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. He was president of that quorum from July 2015 until becoming Church President, and he served as chairman of each of the Church’s three governing committees — the Missionary Executive Council, the Temple and Family History Executive Council and the Priesthood and Family Executive Council.
He married Dantzel White in 1945; they are the parents of 10 children. She passed away in 2005, just shy of their 60th wedding anniversary. In 2006, he married Wendy L. Watson, who has been at his side since in his ministries as Apostle and then Church President.
Graduating first in his class from medical school at age 22, he received doctoral degrees from the University of Utah and University of Minnesota. A cardiothoracic surgeon, he helped pioneer the development of the artificial heart-lung machine, a means of supporting a patient’s circulation during open-heart surgery.
During a 2019 event marking President Nelson’s 95th birthday, he shared his testimony of Jesus Christ and his restored Church.
“If I have learned anything certain in [my life], it’s that Jesus the Christ is the Son of God. His Church has been restored in these latter-days to prepare the world for His Second Coming,” President Nelson said. “He is the light and life of the world. Only through Him can we reach our divine destiny and eventual exaltation.”
Also during the event, others shared insights into his life, ministry and service.
“One of the things that I admire about President Nelson is the way he unifies people of different points of view and different levels of experience and maturity,” said President Dallin H. Oaks of the First Presidency. “He just brings differing points of view and different individuals into harmony and does so in a gentle and loving and effective manner.”
“He has more love for people, I think, than almost anybody I’ve ever been around in my life,” reflected President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency. “He not only loves us; he sees the best in us. … He sees good in people to a degree that’s really quite remarkable.”
“He loves people. He likes little people, and he likes old people, and that makes it possible for him to be a prophet to all the people,” said President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
“As I lock arms with President Nelson, not as black and white, not as Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or Baptist, but as children of God who are about loving everybody whom we have the occasion to minister to,” said Rev. Amos Brown, a Baptist pastor and NAACP leader.
“The word ‘father,’ to my dad … is his highest calling. He oftentimes has said ‘there are 12 apostles, but you only have one daddy,’ and he takes that responsibility very seriously. He has never made us feel like he was too busy to be our father,” said President Nelson’s daughter, Rosalie Ringwood.
“One of my favorite things about being President Nelson’s grandson is that I get to see him in constant motion, he is always moving, he has endless energy, but he always has time to pull us aside individually and see how we are doing,” said Matthew Maxfield.