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Monday, September 9, 2019

Church President Russell M. Nelson Officially Marks His 95th Birthday Today

Hello again, everyone! I am back once again, this time to share a post which will serve as a tribute to our beloved prophet, President Russell M. Nelson, who, following the recent worldwide celebration for his 95th birthday, is officially marking that milestone today (September 9, 2019). So let's talk about this wonderful man whom we sustain as the President of the Church and as a prophet, seer and revelator. Russell Marion Nelson was born in Salt Lake City Utah to Marion C. and Edna Anderson Nelson on this day in 1924 (just a day before the birth of Boyd K. Packer, his future immediate predecessor to the Presidency of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles) . Though he grew up in a loving family, his parents were not active in the Church.


As a teenager, he went looking for books about the Church at Deseret Book. His parents allowed him and his siblings to be baptized when he was 16. In terms of his amily, President Nelson married his first wife, Dantzel, in the Salt Lake Temple. They have nine daughters and one son. When his wife unexpectedly died in 2005, he described having "inconsolable grief" for a time. He married Wendy Watson, a BYU professor, the following April. He studied at LDS Business College and went on to obtain his BA and MD at the University of Utah. He simultaneously trained as a surgeon and did doctoral studies at the University of Utah. He was part of the research team that developed the heart-lung machine that was used in 1951 on the first open-heart operation on a human being. He spent two years on medical duty for the US Army during the Korean War, then underwent another training period in Boston at the prestigious Harvard Medical School's Massachusetts General Hospital.

At some point in his medical career, the University of Chicago was anxious to get him to come and teach at their school of medicine, so the president of that university asked Dallin H., Oaks, a professor at the law school, to try and persuade him to come. Then-Brother Oaks did his best to convince then-Brother Nelson to accept the offer. But Church President David O. McKay advised Brother Nelson not to go, so he rejected the offer. In 1955, he accepted a teaching opportunity at the University of Utah School of Medicine. where he built his own heart-and-lung machine. Around a year later, he was on duty to perform the first pediatric cardiac operation. In 1960, he performed the first successful operative repair of a tricuspid heart valve. Being worried that a surgical procedure he had been asked to perform was too risky for anyone, he requested and received a blessing from then-Elder Spencer W. Kimball, who was one of his patients.

That surgery was a success, and he later w used the same technique to operate on Elder Kimball himself, a risky procedure, which only moved forward following a pointed directive from President Harold B. Lee, who at that time was serving as First Counselor in the First Presidency. While performing that operation, Brother Nelson had the overwhelming feeling that President Kimball would one day be President of the Church. As a result of that operation's success, Church members were blessed to enjoy the counsel and ministry of President Kimball for almost another decade and a half. The doctor-patient relationship he experienced with President Kimball enabled Brother Nelson to write a letter of assurance about President Kimball's health when the latter was called as Church President.

He has served in many positions on different hospital boards and has received several awards for his pioneering work. He likewise had many service opportunities in the Church. He served as a stake president for over six years, during which time he served alongside another future apostle, Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin. In mid-1970, Ernest L. Wilkinson, then president of BYU, submitted his resignation, which went into effect early the following year. As Neal A. Maxwell, Commissioner of Church Education, searched for a replacement, Brother Nelson was one of the candidates considered for the position, which was in due course filled by Brother Nelson's future apostolic seatement, Dallin H. Oaks.

In the meantime, Brother Nelson was called in June of 1971 as the Sunday School General President (during which time, Brother Wirthlin would again serve alongside him.) Brother Nelson would go on to also serve in the now-defunct calling of regional representative, during which time, having been present when President Kimball suggested that some of them should learn Mandarin Chinese, took on that task in obedience to the prophet's counsel. In April 1984, with the advice and consent of President Spencer W. Kimball, President Gordon B. Hinckley, then Second Counselor in the First Presidency, called Brother Nelson to fill one of two vacancies in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Then-Brother Oaks was called to fill the other vacancy, and the two have sat side-by-side in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles since that time.

Over the next 31.25 years, each one of the living apostles junior to President Monson but senior to Elder Nelson would pass away. When President Boyd K. Packer died on July 3, 2015, Elder Nelson became the de facto President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. He was officially set apart in that capacity 12 days later, on Wednesday July 15, 2015, by Church President Thomas S. Monson, who had by that time begun to decrease his involvement in the day-to-day administration of the Church. When the Church released an official statement in mid-May 2017 noting that President Monson would no longer be taking an active role in leading the Church, as President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, President Nelson filled a vital role in assisting President Monson's counselors, President Henry B. Eyring and then-President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, in taking care of the day-to-day administration of the Church.

When President Monson passed away on January 2. 2018, President Nelson directed the affairs of the Church as the senior apostle (and the de facto Acting President of the Church) for 12 days before his ordination as Church President. After meeting individually with each of the other 12 apostles, he selected his seatmate, Elder Oaks, and Elder Eyring, who had served as a counselor to both Presidents Monson and Gordon B. Hinckley, as his First and Second Counselors, respectively, in the First Presidency.

As a result of that reorganization, Elder Uchtdorf again took his place in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. During the broadcast and subsequent press conference when the new First Presidency was introduced to the world on Tuesday January 16, President Nelson paid tribute to his predecessor's counselors and mentioned that both were willing to now serve where they were most needed. And the responsibilities assigned to Elder Uchtdorf were those previously held by Presidents Nelson and Oaks, and the new Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, M. Russell Ballard. Even prior to serving as President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, or subsequently as President of the Church, President Nelson took great care of his fellow Brethren in the apostleship.

Many of you will recall how, in the midst of an address about charity, the pure love of Christ, Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin began shaking uncontrollably, In a silent demonstration of what his colleague was teaching, Elder Nelson stood by and supported Elder Wirthlin until he closed his address, then gently helped him back to his seat. Not long after Elder Richard G. Scott underwent a needed surgical procedure, he was surprised to learn that President Nelson had stood inside the operating room observing the procedure in its' entirety. And, of course, as recounted during the funeral of Elder Robert D. Hales, following the Sunday Morning Session of the October 2017 General Conference, President Nelson felt impressed skip his lunch break and go immediately to the hospital to visit Elder Robert D. Hales, who passed away within a few minutes after President Nelson arrived.

President Nelson has demonstrated a keen intellect, a willingness to seek for and follow revelation from the Lord, and an undeviating loyalty and full commitment to his family, his Church, and his apostolic colleagues. We have seen him respond swiftly to such revelation, and perhaps the greatest details of the revelation he continues to receive regularly are yet-to-be revealed in the upcoming General Conference. I have always been impressed and touched by President Nelson's remarks. He has given 82 addresses thus far in General Conference, 5 of which were given while he served as President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and 12 so far which he has given since becoming President of the Church. I am grateful for the chance to have paid this birthday tribute to President Nelson.  He and all of the other apostles have my unequivocal and everlasting support and sustaining vote.

I know for myself that President Russell M. Nelson is a prophet of God, that he will not lead us astray, that he speaks for and in behalf of the Lord and that we will be blessed by the Lord as we follow the counsel given by His chosen mouthpiece. That does it for now. Any and all comments are, as always, welcome and appreciated, on any post at any time, as long as such comments are made in accordance with the established guidelines. Thank you for the privilege of your time. If you enjoyed what you read here and would like to stay informed of newly added content, please feel free to subscribe. Until my next post, I wish each one of you all the best and pray that the Lord will bless you all in everything you do.