President Russell M. Nelson now oldest of all presidents of LDS Church
The old saying, “what a difference a day makes,” rang true Thursday for President Russell M. Nelson as he became the oldest president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
He broke the age barrier for service as Nelson is now 97 years, seven months and six days old — surpassing President Gordon B. Hinckley, who died on Jan. 27, 2008, at the age of 97 years, seven months and five days, according to a church press release.
Nelson became the 17th president of the church on Jan. 14, 2018, after serving 34 years in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. In addition to his service as an apostle, 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,” read the church statement.
If all goes well for President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency and president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and Nelson, who appears to be in excellent health, Oaks would be the third president to be called in his 90s.
Nelson history and salutations
Sustained and ordained as an apostle in April 1984, Nelson visited 133 countries — dedicating 31 of them — during his time 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.
Nelson was born Sept. 9, 1924, in Salt Lake City, the son of Marion C. and Edna Anderson Nelson. He married Dantzel White in 1945 and the two of them are parents to 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, according to biographical information supplied by the 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,” Nelson said. “He is the light and life of the world. Only through Him can we reach our divine destiny and eventual exaltation.”
During Nelson’s 95th birthday celebration, President Oaks said, “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. 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.”
President M. Russell Ballard, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, spoke of the president’s love for people.
“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 Ballard.
The Rev. Amos Brown, a Baptist pastor and NAACP leader, has developed a deep friendship with Nelson and shared his feeling about that relationship.
“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,” Brown said.
Nelson’s daughter, Rosalie Ringwood, commented on his work and dedication outside of the church, as a father.
“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,” Ringwood said.
Ages of church leadership
The average age of the top leadership of the church is 77.5 years old. Ages of the First Presidency and members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles is as follows:
The First Presidency
President Dallin H. Oaks, 89
President Henry B. Eyring, 88
The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
Acting President M. Russell Ballard, 93
Jeffrey R. Holland, 81
Quentin L. Cook, 81
Dieter F. Uchtdorf, 81
D. Todd Christofferson, 77
Ronald A. Rasband, 71
Neil L. Anderson, 70
Dale G. Renlund, 69
David A. Bednar, 68
Gerrit W. Gong, 68
Gary E. Stevenson, 66
Ulisses Soares, 63