In my living room I keep a current picture of the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. When Thomas S. Monson died a few weeks ago, I remember just staring at his picture on my bookshelf. His candid smile and loving countenance is a light in my home. I didn’t even want to think about changing the picture in lieu of a soon-to-be-called prophet even though I sustain them as I know they are called of God.
This morning I watched the local press-conference and message President Nelson gave. They shared an in-depth biography of his professional and personal life, as well as his leadership in the Church. I knew the basics of his history, but was drawn to the details I was learning. Here’s what you should know about the new president of the LDS church, Russell M. Nelson:
President Nelson was born in 1924 in Salt Lake City. His parents were not members of the church, but when Russell was about 4 years old, he wandered into a Deseret Book store and wanted a book to learn more about the church. He was baptized at 16 years old.
Nelson attended the University of Utah and received his MD and went on to study joint surgical training at the University of Minnesota. His wife, Dantzel White supported him throughout his career, even working two jobs and selling her own blood to support their family. They had 10 children – 9 daughters and 1 son. Dantzel passed away in 2005. Russell married Wendy Watson in 2006.
When Spencer W. Kimball was the prophet, he addressed the world in our semi-annual General Conference and encouraged members to learn a new language, as the gospel was quickly growing throughout the world. Russell M. Nelson took this to heart (pun intended) and hired a tutor to learn Mandarin. He currently speaks many different languages (German, French, Portuguese, Spanish, to name a few), being able to communicate with people in almost every country he visits.
President Nelson became a world renowned heart surgeon, building his own heart-lung bypass machine and was the first doctor to perform open heart surgery in Utah. Before he became an apostle, Russell M. Nelson replaced an aortic valve on then prophet, Spencer W. Kimball. After he retired and was serving as a new member of the twelve apostles, he was asked to come to China to perform heart surgery on a famous Chinese opera singer. He essentially told them no, but they persisted. He asked President Benson, who was serving as president of the church what his thoughts were. President Benson encouraged him to go.
Nelson has served as a member of the 12 apostles since 1984, and was called as President of the Twelve in 2015. He is now the seventeenth president of the church. At 93 years young, he still skis with his grandchildren and races down the stairwell of the temple passing his brethren. He has perfect pitch and a variety of musical talent. One word that was said to describe him that I found really interesting was “precision.” His had precision as a heart surgeon and also in balancing his career, family, church, hobbies, etc. His numerous posterity say that they all feel like they are his favorite. When he was home, he was home. He spent quality time with his wife and each of his children and knew that family should come first.
I am truly overcome with a new love and adoration for our new Prophet and president of the church. I look forward to him leading the world with his precision, as well as his spirit and testimony of the gospel. He will do great things. And I am excited to display his sweet, genuine, wrinkly smile on my bookshelf.