Russell Marion Nelson Sr. is an American surgeon and religious leader who is currently the president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). Prior to becoming an LDS Church apostle, he was an internationally renowned cardiothoracic surgeon. He has been an apostle and member of the Quorum of the Twelve since 1984 and is the oldest living and second-most senior apostle in the church.
He first attended school at University of Utah earning a B.A. (1945) and M.D. (1947) before pursuing joint surgical training and Ph.D. studies at the University of Minnesota. After two years in the Korean War as an Army doctor (rank of captain), he returned for additional surgical training at Harvard Medical School's Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
Nelson returned to Salt Lake City in 1955 and accepted a faculty position at the University of Utah School of Medicine. There he built his own heart-lung bypass machine and employed it to support the first open-heart surgery in the state of Utah. That operation was performed at the Salt Lake General Hospital (SLGH) on an adult with an atrial septal defect.
His career included many other advances in cardio-vasculor surgery. He performed surgery on future LDS Church President Spencer Woolley Kimball (1895-1985).
LDS Church Service
In addition to his medical work, Nelson served frequently as a leader in the LDS Church. Before being appointed an apostle, he spent over six years as a stake president in Salt Lake City, during which time Joseph B. Wirthlin served as his second counselor. Nelson also served for eight years as the church's Sunday School General President, and four years as a regional representative.
HE was ordained an apostle and general authority of the church on 12 April 1984. He was assigned as the apostle to oversee the work of church in Eastern Europe. In this assignment, he worked closely with Dennis B. Neuenschwander and Hans B. Ringger. Nelson was involved in the first meetings between LDS Church leaders and government officials of Bulgaria, Romania, and the Soviet Union, and worked to continue LDS expansion and recognition efforts in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Poland.
In August 2010, Nelson journeyed to the dedication of the Kiev Ukraine Temple. Afterwards, in September, he traveled to LDS meetings in several European countries. He pronounced blessings upon Croatia, Slovenia, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kosovo while visiting each of those countries; these serve as addendums to Monson's 1985 dedication of Yugoslavia for the preaching of the gospel.
Marriage and Family
1st Marriage: Dantzel White
Dantzel White (1926-2005) had many musical connections at the university that provided a setting for her courtship with Russell M. Nelson. The pair met as cast members in a Broadway bound musical, "Hayfoot, Strawfoot." They dated for three years, then married 31 August 1945 in the Salt Lake Temple.
The Nelsons had nine daughters, Marsha, Wendy, Gloria, Brenda, Sylvia, Emily, Laurie, Rosalie, Marjorie, and one son, Russell M. They enjoyed their 56 grandchildren and 14 great grandchildren.
The untimely passing of her daughter, Emily, a young mother of five children, counted as one of the most difficult experiences of Dantzel's life. Shared family experiences surrounding Emily's death brought the rest of the Nelson family closer together.
Another daughter, Wendy Nelson Maxfield, died from cancer on 11 Jan 2019. 
Nelson's only son, Russell M. Nelson Jr., served as an LDS missionary in Russia. In 2011, Nelson returned to Russia to organize the first church stake in that country, headquartered in Moscow.
2nd Marriage: Wendy Watson
On April 6, 2006, Nelson married Wendy L. Watson in the Salt Lake Temple. Watson, originally from Raymond, Alberta, Canada, is the daughter of the late Leonard David Watson and Laura McLean Watson. At the time of the marriage, Watson was a professor of marriage and family therapy in the School of Family Life at Brigham Young University (BYU). Watson retired from her career on May 1, 2006. She received her R.N. in Calgary, Alberta, in 1970 her B.A. from the University of Hawaii at Manoa in 1973, her M.Sc. from BYU in 1975, and her Ph.D. from the University of Calgary in 1984. She served as chair of BYU Women’s Conference for 1999 and 2000, and is the author of several books and addresses recorded on CD, including Rock Solid Relationships and Things Are Not Always as They Appear. Her marriage to Nelson is her first.
|Offspring of Marion Clavar Nelson and Edna Floss Anderson (1893-1983)|
|Marjory Edna Nelson (1920-2016)|| |
|Russell Marion Nelson (1924)||9 September 1924 Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Utah, United States|| Dantzel White (1926-2005)|
Wendy L Watson
|Robert Harold Nelson (1931-2014)|
- Biography of Russell M Nelson - LDS Church
- Russell M Nelson - LDS Church
- 11 Interesting Facts about Russell M Nelson - Deseret News
- When Angels Saved Pres Nelson - LDS Living
- Russell M Nelson - MormonHub.com
- 1990 BYU Devotional
- General Conference Talks of Elder Nelson - LDS Audio/Visual