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Russell M. Nelson Called To Lead The Mormon Church

Intellectual Reserve, Inc
Nelson speaking at a press conference in 2012.

Russell M. Nelson announced this morning that he will accept the call to serve as president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He also named Dallin Oaks and Henry Eying to serve with him as counselors in the First Presidency, the highest governing body in the church.

Nelson has been a familiar face for faithful Mormons since he became an apostle in 1984. Before that he had a distinguished career as a heart surgeon. He performed the first open heart surgery in the state of Utah and pioneered advancements for coronary artery disease.

As an apostle, Nelson has been known for his extensive travel. One of his first assignments involved overseeing the church’s presence in the former Soviet Union and he’s had similar assignments in Africa and Central Asia. In a biography about his life published in 2003, the Mormon leader had already visited over 100 countries on church assignment.

Over the years, Nelson has developed close ties with Chinese officials. He traveled there to train surgeons during his career and can speak conversational Mandarin. In 1995, Nelson was invited to china along with other Mormon leaders as guests of the Vice Premier.

In his addresses to church members, Nelson is known to focus on fundamental Mormon principals — including answers to prayer, eternal marriage and support for church leadership.  

“Our sustaining of prophets is a personal commitment that we will do our utmost to uphold their prophetic priorities,” Nelson said in 2014.

Recently, Nelson defended the controversial church policy that forbids the children of gay parents to be baptized without special approval. Speaking to students at the church-owned Brigham Young University-Hawaii, Nelson said the policy was a result of revelation and reflected the will of the Lord.

Nelson has called for more influence from Mormon women in church governance at the local level. Speaking in 2015 he said, “My dear sisters, whatever your calling, whatever your circumstances, we need your impressions, your insights, and your inspiration. We need you to speak up and speak out…”

At 93, Nelson is the second oldest man to begin the assignment of church president. According to a church spokesperson, Nelson is in good health and continues to fulfill his daily responsibilities.


Lee Hale began listening to KUER while he was teaching English at a Middle School in West Jordan (his one hour commute made for plenty of listening time). Inspired by what he heard he applied for the Kroc Fellowship at NPR headquarters in DC and to his surprise, he got it. Since then he has reported on topics ranging from TSA PreCheck to micro apartments in overcrowded cities to the various ways zoo animals stay cool in the summer heat. But, his primary focus has always been education and he returns to Utah to cover the same schools he was teaching in not long ago. Lee is a graduate of Brigham Young University and is also fascinated with the way religion intersects with the culture and communities of the Beehive State. He hopes to tell stories that accurately reflect the beliefs that Utahns hold dear.
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