- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day SaintsQuorum of the Twelve Apostles, 1984 - present
Elder Russell M. Nelson was called as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on April 7, 1984.
An internationally renowned surgeon and medical researcher, Dr. Nelson received his B.A. and M.D. degrees from the University of Utah (1945, 47). Honorary scholastic societies include Phi Beta Kappa and Alpha Omega Alpha. He served his residency in surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and at the University of Minnesota, where he was awarded his Ph.D. degree in 1954. He also received honorary degrees of Doctor of Science from Brigham Young University in 1970, Doctor of Medical Science from Utah State University in 1989, and Doctor of Humane Letters from Snow College in 1994.
His professional work included the positions of research professor of surgery and director of the Thoracic Surgery Residency at the University of Utah and chairman of the Division of Thoracic Surgery at LDS Hospital in Salt Lake City.
Author of numerous publications and chapters in medical textbooks, Elder Nelson lectured and visited professionally throughout the United States and in many other nations prior to his call as a General Authority. A host of awards and honors have come to him, including the Distinguished Alumni Award, University of Utah; the Heart of Gold Award from the American Heart Association; a citation for International Service from the American Heart Association; and the Golden Plate Award, presented by the American Academy of Achievement. He has been awarded honorary professorships from three universities in the People’s Republic of China.
Dr. Nelson has served as president of the Society for Vascular Surgery, a director of the American Board of Thoracic Surgery, chairman of the Council on Cardiovascular Surgery for the American Heart Association, and president of the Utah State Medical Association.
He is listed in Who’s Who in the World, Who’s Who in America, and Who’s Who in Religion.
Elder Nelson has held numerous positions of responsibility in the Church. He served as stake president of the Bonneville Stake from 1964 to June 1971, when he was called as general president of the Sunday School. Prior to his call to the Quorum of the Twelve, he was serving as a regional representative assigned to the Kearns Utah Region. He had previously served as regional representative for Brigham Young University.
Born September 9, 1924, Elder Nelson is the son of Marion C. and Edna Anderson Nelson. He and his wife, the former Dantzel White, have ten children. Sister Nelson passed away in February 2005. In April 2006, he married Wendy L. Watson.
- University of UtahM.D., 1947
- University of MinnesotaPh.D., 1954
Later as stake president I was questioned by many young people about their own educational pursuits. Some asked me how long it took to become a doctor of medicine.
“The general pattern would be four years at a university, followed by four years in medical school,” I replied. “And if you choose to become a specialist, that could take another five years or more, depending upon your desire.”
That occasionally evoked a reaction: “That adds up to thirteen years—and maybe more? That’s too long for me!”
“It all depends,” I would respond. “Preparation for your career is not too long if you know what you want to do with your life. How old will you be thirteen years from now if you don’t pursue your education? Just as old, whether or not you become what you want to be!”
So my counsel then—and now—is to continue your education wherever you are, whatever your interest and opportunity, however you determine you can best serve your family and society.
So great was my enthusiasm for our success, I allowed myself to rationalize aloud with the girls. (Rationalization is one of the real obstacles to obedience.) Knowing that the next day was Sunday, I jokingly said, “If we get up tomorrow two hours earlier than normal, we could catch some more fish and then quit promptly at our usual wake-up hour.”
Silence followed. My companion and our daughters all glared at me. Icy stillness was broken when our seven-year-old said, “Daddy, would you eat those fish you caught on Sunday?”
Then she added, “Would you ask Heavenly Father to bless fish you caught on the Sabbath?”
Needless to say, we did no fishing the next morning.
Their commitment to the Sabbath became my commitment, too.
Do you want to get rid of a bad habit? Do you want to improve relationships in your family? Do you want to increase your spiritual capacity? Read the Book of Mormon! It will bring you closer to the Lord and His loving power.
He who fed a multitude with five loaves and two fishes—He who helped the blind to see and the lame to walk—can also bless you! He has promised that those who live by the precepts of this book “shall receive a crown of eternal life."
With that understanding, I no longer needed lists of dos and don’ts. When I had to make a decision whether or not an activity was appropriate for the Sabbath, I simply asked myself, “What sign do I want to give to God?” That question made my choices about the Sabbath day crystal clear.
Thanks to the Atonement of the Lord, eventual resurrection is a reality and eternal life is a possibility for all humankind. That possibility becomes a reality as we obey God’s law. He said, “Except ye shall keep my commandments, … ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” One day we will be judged by the Lord and go to our own mansion prepared in our Father’s heavenly house. Celestial glory awaits those who have been faithful to God’s gentle commands.
Brothers and sisters, we live to die and we die to live—in another realm. If we are well prepared, death brings no terror. From an eternal perspective, death is premature only for those who are not prepared to meet God.
O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the works thy hands have made,
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy pow’r thru-out the universe displayed;
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee,
How great thou art! How great thou art!
On one occasion I was in a mission conference when a missionary with great compassion, with tears in his eyes, asked me, “Why did the Savior have to suffer so much?” I reached for our hymnbook, turned to this song, and answered his question with this verse:
And when I think that God, his Son not sparing,
Sent him to die, I scarce can take it in,
That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.
Jesus suffered so much because of His love for you and me. What a message! Worthy music is powerful. It has power to make us humble, prayerful, and grateful.
When our imperfections appear, we can keep trying to correct them. We can be more forgiving of flaws in ourselves and among those we love. We can be comforted and forbearing.
The Lord taught, “Ye are not able to abide the presence of God now … ; wherefore, continue in patience until ye are perfected.”
As grateful partners look for the good in each other and sincerely pay compliments to one another, wives and husbands will strive to become the persons described in those compliments.
The Lord has reminded you, your children, and your grandchildren that you are lawful heirs, that you have been reserved in heaven for your specific time and place to be born, to grow and become His standard bearers and covenant people.
As you walk in the Lord’s path of righteousness, you will be blessed to continue in His goodness and be a light and a savior unto His people.