Russell M. Nelson

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Russell M. Nelson
Russell Marion Nelson
President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
July 3, 2015 (2015-07-03)[1][2]
Predecessor Boyd K. Packer
Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
April 7, 1984 (1984-04-07)
Called by Spencer W. Kimball
Reason Deaths of LeGrand Richards and Mark E. Petersen[3]
LDS Church Apostle
April 12, 1984 (1984-04-12)
Called by Spencer W. Kimball
Military career
Service/branch United States Army
Rank US-O3 insignia.svg Captain
Unit Army Medical Corps
Battles/wars Korean War
Personal details
Born Russell Marion Nelson
(1924-09-09) September 9, 1924 (age 92)
Salt Lake City, Utah, United States
Alma mater University of Utah (B.A., M.D.)
University of Minnesota (Ph.D)
Occupation Surgeon
Spouse(s) Dantzel White (1945–2005; deceased)
Wendy L. Watson (2006–present)
Children 10 (with Dantzel)
Signature of Russell M. Nelson

Russell Marion Nelson Sr. (born September 9, 1924)[4] is an American surgeon and religious leader who is currently the president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). Prior to becoming an LDS Church apostle, he was an internationally renowned cardiothoracic surgeon.[5] He has been an apostle and member of the Quorum of the Twelve since 1984 and is the oldest living[6] and second-most senior apostle in the church.[7]

Medical career[edit]

A native of Salt Lake City, Utah, Nelson studied at LDS Business College while in his mid-teens and then worked as an assistant secretary at a bank.[8] He attended the University of Utah, earning a B.A. in 1945 and an M.D. in 1947.[9] He then pursued joint surgical training and Ph.D. studies at the University of Minnesota.[10] There, he worked on the research team responsible for developing the heart-lung machine that supported the first open-heart operation on a human being in 1951.[11] After a two-year term of medical duty in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, being stationed in Korea, Japan, and at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., he returned for additional surgical training at Harvard Medical School's Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

Nelson returned to Salt Lake City in 1955 and accepted a faculty position at the University of Utah School of Medicine. There he built his own heart-lung bypass machine and employed it to support the first open-heart surgery in the state of Utah.[12] That operation was performed at the Salt Lake General Hospital (SLGH) on an adult with an atrial septal defect.

This would mark the first of many career achievements for Nelson. In March 1956, he performed the first successful pediatric cardiac operation at the SLGH, a total repair of tetralogy of Fallot in a four-year-old girl. He was at the forefront of surgeons focusing attention on coronary artery disease,[13] and contributed to the advance of valvular surgery as well. In 1960, he performed one of the first-ever repairs of tricuspid valve regurgitation.[14] His patient was a Latter-day Saint stake patriarch.[15] In an indication of his surgical skill, a 1968 case series of his aortic valve replacements demonstrated an exceptionally low peri-operative mortality.[16] Later, he performed the same operation on future LDS Church president Spencer W. Kimball, replacing his damaged aortic valve.[17] In 1985, Nelson along with his colleague, Conrad B. Jenson, performed a quadruple bypass surgery on the Chinese opera performer Fang Rongxiang.[12]

Professional leadership acknowledgments[edit]

Nelson became involved with the administrative aspects of medicine and was elected president of the Utah State Medical Association. He was chair of the Division of Thoracic Surgery at LDS Hospital from 1967 to 1974 and director of the University of Utah Affiliated Hospital residency program in thoracic surgery from 1967 to 1984.

Nelson was honored nationally by being elected president of the Society for Vascular Surgery and a director of the American Board of Thoracic Surgery.

Positions and awards[edit]

Honorary degrees[edit]

LDS Church service[edit]

In addition to his medical work, Nelson served frequently as a leader in the LDS Church. Before being appointed an apostle, he spent over six years (December 6, 1964 – July 11, 1971) as a stake president in Salt Lake City, during which time Joseph B. Wirthlin served as his second counselor. Nelson also served for eight years as the church's Sunday School General President, and four years as a regional representative.

Nelson was called to be an apostle by church president Spencer W. Kimball, to whom he had served as a personal physician for many years. Nelson was sustained as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles on April 7, 1984, in an LDS Church general conference. He was ordained an apostle on April 12, 1984, by Gordon B. Hinckley. At the same conference, Dallin H. Oaks was also sustained as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve. Nelson and Oaks filled the vacancies in the Quorum created by the deaths of LeGrand Richards and Mark E. Petersen.

As a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, Nelson is accepted by the church as a prophet, seer, and revelator.

From 2007 to 2015, Nelson was as a member of the Church Boards of Trustees/Education, the governing body of the Church Educational System, and the chairman of its Executive Committee.[24] He was succeeded as chairman of the Executive Committee by Oaks.

Following the July 3, 2015, death of Boyd K. Packer,[25] Nelson became the most senior member of the Quorum of the Twelve and the quorum's president. Nelson was set apart as the quorum president on July 15, 2015, by Thomas S. Monson.[26] Holding this position, Nelson would be the de facto apparent successor to Monson (upon Monson's death or removal from office), if the practice of the quorum president succeeding to the office of church president continues.

Nelson made his first international trip as quorum president to Central America from August 20–31, 2015.[27] The following month, Nelson dedicated the renovated Aaronic Priesthood Restoration Site in Pennsylvania, where LDS Church members believe the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods were restored.[28]

Eastern Europe[edit]

After Monson's call to the First Presidency in 1985, Nelson was assigned as the apostle to oversee the work of church in Eastern Europe. In this assignment, he worked closely with Dennis B. Neuenschwander and Hans B. Ringger.[29][30] Nelson was involved in the first meetings between LDS Church leaders and government officials of Bulgaria,[31] Romania, and the Soviet Union, and worked to continue LDS expansion and recognition efforts in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Poland.

In August 2010, Nelson journeyed to the dedication of the Kiev Ukraine Temple. Afterwards, in September, he traveled to LDS meetings in several European countries. He pronounced blessings upon Croatia, Slovenia, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kosovo while visiting each of those countries; these serve as addendums to Monson's 1985 dedication of Yugoslavia for the preaching of the gospel.[32]

Nelson's only son, Russell M. Nelson Jr., served as an LDS missionary in Russia. In 2011, Nelson returned to Russia to organize the first church stake in that country, headquartered in Moscow.[30]

Central Asia[edit]

In August 2003, Nelson became the first member of the Quorum of the Twelve to visit Kazakhstan.[33] While there, Nelson visited government officials, was interviewed by Yuzhnaya Stalitsa television, and dedicated that country for the preaching of the gospel.[33]


When he was Sunday School General President, Nelson attended a meeting where Kimball urged those present to learn Chinese. Nelson took up this challenge and became fluent in Mandarin.[34] He developed ties with the medical community in China and made several trips there to train surgeons. In 1985, Nelson was the first person ever made an honorary professor of Shandong Medical College.[35] In 1995, Nelson went to Beijing, along with Neal A. Maxwell and other LDS Church leaders, on an official invitation of Li Lanqing, the Vice Premier of China.[36]


Nelson married Dantzel White on August 31, 1945, in the Salt Lake Temple. They have nine daughters and one son.[37] Dantzel died unexpectedly at the Nelson home in Salt Lake City on February 12, 2005. She was preceded in death by one daughter.

On April 6, 2006, Nelson married Wendy L. Watson in the Salt Lake Temple. Watson, originally from Raymond, Alberta, Canada, is the daughter of the late Leonard David Watson and Laura McLean Watson. At the time of the marriage, Watson was a professor of marriage and family therapy in the School of Family Life at Brigham Young University (BYU). Watson retired from her career on May 1, 2006. She received her R.N. in Calgary, Alberta, in 1970 her B.A. from the University of Hawaii at Manoa in 1973, her M.Sc. from BYU in 1975, and her Ph.D. from the University of Calgary in 1984.[38] She served as chair of BYU Women’s Conference for 1999 and 2000,[citation needed] and is the author of several books and addresses recorded on CD, including Rock Solid Relationships and Things Are Not Always as They Appear. Her marriage to Nelson is her first.



See also[edit]


  1. ^ With the death of Boyd K. Packer on July 3, 2015, Nelson became the second most senior apostle among the ranks of the church, resulting in him being the de facto President of the Quorum. He was officially set apart in that capacity July 15, 2015.
  2. ^ The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (July 15, 2015). "Russell M. Nelson: New President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles". 
  3. ^ Nelson and Dallin H. Oaks were ordained to fill the vacancies in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles caused by the deaths of Richards and Petersen.
  4. ^ Leader Biography: President Russell M. Nelson, LDS Church, 
  5. ^ Hemingway, Heather (12 October 2013). Cohen, Jeff, ed. "Mormons Worldwide Tune in to Semiannual General Conference". Jack Sweeney. Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 11 September 2014. Russell M. Nelson, an apostle and internationally renowned cardiothoracic surgeon ...  External link in |work= (help)
  6. ^ President Russell M. Nelson: 5 Fun Facts, Aggieland and Mormons, 4 August 2015.
  7. ^ Apostolic seniority is generally understood to include all 15 ordained apostles (including the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles). Seniority is determined by date of ordination, not by age or other factors. If two apostles are ordained on the same day, the older of the two is typically ordained first. See Succession to the presidency and Heath, Steven H. (Summer 1987). "Notes on Apostolic Succession" (PDF). Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. 20 (2): 44–56. .
  8. ^ Church News, October 17, 2009.[full citation needed]
  9. ^ "Elder Russell M. Nelson",, accessed June 12, 2011.
  10. ^ Condie, Spencer J. (2003). Russell M. Nelson: Father, Surgeon, Apostle. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book. p. 105. ISBN 1570089477. 
  11. ^ Dennis, Clarence; Spreng, Dwight; Nelson, George; Karlson, Karl; Nelson, Russell; Thomas, John; Eder, Walter Phillip; Varco, Richard (October 1951). "Development of a Pump-oxygenator to Replace the Heart and Lungs: An Apparatus Applicable to Human Patients and Application to One Case". Annals of Surgery. 134 (4): 709–721. doi:10.1097/00000658-195110000-00017. PMC 1802968free to read. PMID 14878382. 
  12. ^ a b Condie, Spencer J. (2003). Russell M. Nelson: Father, Surgeon, Apostle. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book. p. 132. ISBN 1570089477. 
  13. ^ Nelson, Russell (1979). From Heart to Heart. Salt Lake City, Utah: Nelson. p. 318. 
  14. ^ Robinson, Austin; Hunter, Curtis. "Discovering a Surgical First: Russell M. Nelson and Tricuspid Valve Annuloplasty". BYU Studies Quarterly. 54 (1). 
  15. ^ Nelson, Russell. "Sweet Power of Prayer". LDS Church. 
  16. ^ Nelson, RM; Jenson, CB; Jones, KW (October 1968). "Aortic valve replacement.". The Annals of thoracic surgery. 6 (4): 343–50. doi:10.1016/s0003-4975(10)66034-1. PMID 5742671. 
  17. ^ Condie, Spencer J. (2003). Russell M. Nelson: Father, Surgeon, Apostle. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book. p. 155. ISBN 1570089477. 
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ All cited in Russell M. Nelson
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^ a b c
  24. ^ Wendy Leonard, "LDS Business College appoints new president", Deseret Morning News, December 9, 2008.
  25. ^ "President Boyd K. Packer Dies At Age 90", Newsroom, LDS Church, 2015-07-03 
  26. ^ "Russell M. Nelson: New President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles", Mormon Newsroom, 15 July 2015.
  27. ^ President Nelson counsels Central American members to claim the blessings of the temple, live the gospel, Church News, 10 September 2015.
  28. ^ LDS Apostle dedicates newly developed Priesthood Restoration Site, Church News, 19 September 2015.
  29. ^ Gary Browning, "Russia and the Restoration", Out of Obscurity: The LDS Church in the 20th Century (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 2000) p. 67
  30. ^ a b "Moscow Russia Stake organized", Church News, June 11, 2011.
  31. ^ "Bulgaria", Church News.
  32. ^ "Elder Nelson pronounces blessings on six Balkan nations", Church News September 23, 2010.
  33. ^ a b "Country information: Kazakhstan". LDS Church. Church News. 29 January 2010. Retrieved 11 September 2014. 
  34. ^ Spencer J. Condie, Biography of Russell M. Nelson.[full citation needed]
  35. ^ "China", Church News.
  36. ^ "Elders Maxwell, Nelson welcomed in China", Church News, April 29, 1995.
  37. ^ Nelson, Russell M. (February 23, 1993). "Integrity of Heart". BYU Speeches. Retrieved 2008-02-18. 
  38. ^ Carrie A. Moore, "Elder Nelson marries BYU Professor", Deseret News, April 7, 2006.


  • "President Russell M. Nelson", Leader Biographies: Official Biographies for leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, LDS Church, 
  • Plenk, Henry P.; McMurrin, Trudy, eds. (1992). Medicine in the Beehive State, 1940-1990. LDS Hospital-Deseret Foundation, University of Utah. Health Sciences Center, Utah Medical Association. Salt Lake City, UT: University of Utah Press and Utah Medical Association. ISBN 0874803969. 
  • Gardner, Marvin K. (June 1984). "Elder Russell M. Nelson: Applying Divine Laws". Ensign: 9. Retrieved 11 September 2014. 
  • "Church News". LDS Church. 17 July 1971. p. 7. [full citation needed]
  • "Church News". LDS Church. 3 July 1971. p. 7. [full citation needed]
  • Nelson, Russell M. (January 1, 1979). From Heart to Heart: An Autobiography Hardcover. Nelson. p. 344. ASIN B0006E28AU. 

External links[edit]

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints titles
Preceded by
Boyd K. Packer
President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
July 3, 2015 –
Preceded by
Neal A. Maxwell
Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
April 12, 1984 –
Succeeded by
Dallin H. Oaks