On Monday, September 9th, President Russell M. Nelson will be celebrating his 95th birthday. Throughout his many years of service as a surgeon, general authority, and husband and father, he has blessed countless lives. To celebrate his amazing and very interesting life, we have compiled 15 facts and stories you may not know about President Nelson as well as photos to celebrate his special day.
He became a doctor at the age of 22
President Nelson completed his medical degree in three years, graduating with the highest honors at the age of 22. His medical degree was as well used in the Korean War conflict, and his love of serving and helping others was felt throughout his medical career.
He is fluent in Mandarin
While serving as the general president of the Sunday School, President Nelson attended a meeting where then-President Spencer W. Kimball urged those in the meeting to learn Chinese. President Nelson excitedly accepted the challenge and became fluent in Mandarin. He still practices and uses his ability to speak Chinese in a variety of different settings.
He completed his surgical training at Harvard Medical School
President Nelson attended LDS Business College and the University of Utah before receiving his PhD from the University of Minnesota. He additionally went on to receive surgical training at Harvard Medical School at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
He met Dantzel through theater
As told in Sheri Dew’s biography of President Nelson Insights From A Prophet’s Life President Nelson was persuaded to join a production of Hayfoot, Strawfoot by his close friend Gail Plummer. That semester in 1942 was one of President Nelson’s busiest, and at first, he declined. But Plummer persisted, and eventually, President Nelson accepted the invitation. On April 16th, at one of their first rehearsals, President Nelson said he heard the most “hypnotic soprano voice he’d ever heard” and asked his friend Gail, “Who is that beautiful girl singing up there?” It was Dantzel White, and the two would be married 3 years later in the Salt Lake Temple.
He is a convert to the Church
Growing up, President Nelson’s parents were not active members of the Church but felt it was important for a young Russell to attend Sunday School on a weekly basis. They often would send him on his way, only to have him skip Sunday School to play football with his friends instead. However, a patient home teacher and kind sales clerk at Deseret Book helped introduce Russell to the Gospel and he was baptized at the age of 16.
He has performed nearly 7,000 heart surgeries
After President Nelson completed his medical education, he quickly became a renowned heart surgeon. He has saved thousands of lives through his diligent work, including an open-heart surgery on then-President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles Spencer W. Kimball. He stated that he would “never forget the feeling I had as his heart resumed beating, leaping with power and vigor. At that very moment, the Spirit made known to me that this special patient would live to become the prophet of God on earth.”
He and President Oaks opened the doors to missionary work in Eastern Europe
In 1985 until 1990, President Nelson was extended the calling to open the doors to missionary work within the countries of Eastern Europe. Many of which that will still under communist rule. However, alongside President Oaks, they helped establish the church in every country within Eastern Europe.
He is a world traveler
During his medical career, church service, and family life, President Nelson has always had a love of traveling. He often enjoys taking a family member with him on such excursions, and recently it was reported that he has visited 133 different nations.
He served in the Korean War
Soon after graduation, President Nelson served a two-year term of medical duty for the U.S. Army during the Korean War. While stationed in Korea, he visited every M.A.S.H. unit and field hospital for the Army. In November of 2014, he received a medal for his diligent service during the Korean War.
He is a father of 10
President loves his family dearly. And thankfully, there a many to love! He is a father of 10, nine daughters and one son. He now has 57 grandchildren, and 119 great-grandchildren.
He has served as an apostle for 35 years
President Nelson has served as an Apostle for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints for 35 years.
He was on the team that created the first artificial lung and heart
After his graduation from the University of Utah, President Nelson interned at the University of Minnesota. While there, he and his team developed one of the first machines that could perform the functions of a patient’s heart and lungs during open-heart surgery.
He has perfect pitch
President has perfect pitch, meaning he can sing any note without even needing to hear it first.
In the fall of 1957, President Nelson’s beloved late-wife Dantzel woke in the night saying she had a vision. She saw that they would soon be having a beautiful baby boy. At that time Dantzel was pregnant with their sixth child, and they both felt very excited to welcome a boy into their family. They were blessed with another 3 more beautiful daughters but felt so confident that their baby boy was still on his way to help complete their family. Dantzel, who became pregnant once more at the age of 46, and her nighttime experiences of seeing their boy continued. One evening while President Nelson was attending a medical conference, he awoke in the night with a strong feeling that this child would be their baby boy. When their son, Russell Marion Nelson Jr. was born soon after, Dantzel exclaimed “He’s the one! He’s the one I’ve seen and known all these years.”
He loves to walk
On the campus of Church headquarters, many of the iconic locations such as Temple Square, the Conference Center, as well as the Church Office Building are connected through intricate underground tunnels to assist the brethren in moving easily between the locations without respect for weather or crowds. The distance between the Church Administration Building and the Salt Lake Temple is a few hundred yards a usual trek for the brethren as they make their way to the Temple for their weekly meeting. Though the distance is not very far, for men in their eighties and nineties, golf carts have become a great help in transporting the brethren. However, the second week of President Nelson presiding over the meeting of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, as the Church Security Team prepared the golf carts to assist in transporting the brethren, they saw something they had never seen before. President Nelson, followed by his counselors, and all members of the Quorum of the Twelve, walked back from the Temple to the Church Administration Building.
President Nelson continues to serve the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints with kindness and love that can be felt throughout the world. Comment your favorite quote, story, or personal interaction with President Nelson to help wish him a very happy birthday.
Many of the stories mentioned in this article can be found in Sheri Dew’s biography of President Nelson entitled, Insights From a Prophet’s Life. Click on the link here to purchase your copy on LDS Bookstore.
Devin is a graduate of Brigham Young University where he studied English and Business Management. He is a writer, photographer, movie-fanatic, and a lover of street tacos. He served his mission in Tokyo, Japan.