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Race, Religion & Social Justice

Russell M. Nelson Shakes Up Mormon First Presidency

Intellectual Reserve, Inc
The new First Presidency of the LDS Church, first counselor Dallin H. Oaks (left), President Russel M. Nelson (center), and second counselor Henry B. Eyring (right).

Russell M. Nelson announced his call as the new president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during a live broadcast from the Salt Lake Temple Tuesday. The expected appointment came along with news that Nelson chose Dallin H. Oaks and Henry B. Eyring to join him the First Presidency.

President Nelson’s call to lead the church follows a longstanding tradition. The most senior apostle, in this case Nelson, steps up after the death of a church president. This announcement follows last week’s funeral services for Thomas Monson who died earlier this month.

“Though our world is filled with serious challenges, I’m optimistic about the future and feel confident about the fundamental goodness of humankind," Nelson said, speaking to reporters Tuesday.

Nelson says he wants a continued focus on providing humanitarian aid around the world and missionary work.

When asked about diversity among top church leadership, a group of mostly white American men, Nelson said, “We’ll live to see the day when there are other flavors in the mix.”

Regarding LGBT Mormons, Nelson was less clear. He expressed God’s love for all people but shied away from details about how he plans to approach LGBT needs or issues.

Newly appointed first counselor Dallin Oaks was also vocal during the press conference. He said that he and Nelson have served together for almost 34 years.

Oaks spoke to Nelson's health as a 93 year old church leader.

“Don’t underestimate [his] vitality and capacity to relate to youth," Oaks said. He also mentioned, as other church officials have, that Nelson still skis.

Oaks is a former president of Brigham Young University and Utah Supreme Court Justice. He’s known for being a conservative voice and during his most recent General Conference address he reiterated the church’s stance against same-sex marriage.

Nelson chose not to keep Dieter Uchtdorf. The former second counselor now resumes his role is a lower leadership role. Uchtdorf was popular among church members for his attitude of inclusion.


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