President Russell M. Nelson is now the oldest President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, having lived 97 years, seven months and six days.
Born Sept. 9, 1924, in Salt Lake City, Russell Marion Nelson is the son of Marion C. and Edna Anderson Nelson. On Thursday, April 14, 2022, President Nelson turned 97 years, seven months and six days old — surpassing in age President Gordon B. Hinckley, who died on Jan. 27, 2008, at the age of 97 years, seven months and five days.
President Nelson was ordained and set apart as the Church’s 17th president on Jan. 14, 2018, becoming the second prophet — the first being Joseph Fielding Smith — to be called as President of the Church while over the age of 90.
At the time of his call, President Nelson was 93 years, five months and six days old. President Joseph Fielding Smith, the 10th president, was a month older — 93 years, six months and five days — when set apart on Jan. 23, 1970. Starting their years as President of the Church at age 93 makes them older than 12 of the other 15 Church presidents at the time of their death.
In his four years and three months as President of the Church, President Nelson has traveled 115,000 miles to 35 nations on six continents — meeting with government and religious leaders and Latter-day Saints in large and small settings — and has led the Church through the COVID-19 pandemic, ministering instead through videoconferences and online broadcasts. Asking Latter-day Saints to gather Israel on both sides of the veil, President Nelson has also announced 100 new temples, including 17 at the recent April 2022 general conference.
President Nelson’s four-plus year tenure is the 13th longest of the 17 Church presidents. The three longest-serving are Brigham Young, 29 years; Heber J. Grant, 26 years; and David O. McKay, 18 years.
During a Church News interview just before his 96th birthday, President Nelson took a few minutes to reflect on the past and then looked forward. “This work is moving forward at an accelerated pace,” he said. “I can hardly wait to bounce out of bed each morning and see what the day will bring.”
President Nelson’s wife, Sister Wendy Nelson, said that the older President Nelson gets, the more enchanted he is with the future. “There is an urgency,” she said. “Yes, there’s an urgency.”
Each birthday, he said then, is “just another day for me.”
He added: “I really don’t spend any time looking back. I did the best I could in each one of those phases, and I’m just looking forward to the many challenges that lie ahead.”
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.
Prior to his call to the apostleship, he served as a regional representative, the Church’s Sunday School general president, stake president, high councilor and bishopric counselor.
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.
Church News podcast, episode 67: Sister Nelson on being an eyewitness to President Nelson’s four years as Prophet
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 celebration 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,” he said. “His Church has been restored in these latter-days to prepare the world for His Second Coming. He is the light and life of the world. Only through Him can we reach our divine destiny and eventual exaltation.”
President Nelson said that everyday he thanks his Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus Christ for the gift of life and the privilege of serving His children.
“Jesus the Christ is literally my Savior, my Redeemer, my exemplar and friend,” he said.
Then, characteristic of his prophetic global ministry, President Nelson extended a powerful invitation: “I invite all of God’s children on both sides of the veil to come unto their Savior.”
Note: An earlier version of the above graphic had a wrong age for John Taylor at the start of his presidency.