98 facts about President Nelson for his 98th birthday


As we celebrate the 98th birthday of our beloved prophet, here are 98 fast facts about him, from the beginning of his life to today!

Growing Up

1. He was 9 pounds and 11 ounces when he was born.

Russell M. Nelson as a young child.

2. His family was not active in the Church while he was growing up. 

3. Growing up, he didn’t like liver and would hide it in his pockets and throw it into a vacant lot on his way to school.

4. He learned about the Church by taking a streetcar to Deseret Book.

5. He once broke every bottle of his parent’s alcohol and poured it down the drain in the basement floor as a young boy.

6. He has two sisters and a brother.


Russell (front row, center) with his family.

7. He played the bugle in his elementary school bugle corps.

8. He was student body vice president in his junior high school.

9. He received a black Iver Johnson bicycle for Christmas one year during the Depression, which he saved and let his grandchildren ride at their getaway home in Midway.

10. He was baptized when he was 16.


11. He skipped the fifth grade.

12. He worked on his bachelor’s and master’s degrees simultaneously and received both in 1947 at age 22.


13. It took 12 ½ years from the time he received his doctoral degree to the time he started being paid for his services as a surgeon.

14. He worked as an assistant resident in surgery at Harvard.

15. He was only paid $15 a month as a medical intern.

Dating and Marriage

16. He met his first wife, Dantzel White, during a play he was recruited to act in at the University of Utah.

17. He proposed to Dantzel in a pea patch in the White family’s backyard. They were married in the Salt Lake Temple.


18. He and Dantzel learned Mandarin after President Kimball talked about preparing to teach the gospel message to the Chinese people.

19. He lost Dantzel on February 12, 2005, after almost 60 years of marriage.

20. He married Wendy Watson on April 6, 2006.


21. He and Wendy were robbed at gunpoint while visiting Church leaders in Mozambique. A gun pointed at President Nelson’s head misfired and everyone’s life was spared.

►You'll also like: When Angels Saved President Russell M. Nelson's Life (+What We Know About Heavenly Messengers) 

Medical Career

22. He performed surgery on multiple dogs while helping develop a heart-lung machine.


23. He helped train at least 75 residents in open-heart surgery from around the world.

24. He has written more than 70 peer-reviewed papers for medical publications.

25. He operated on nearly 7,000 people during his career as a surgeon.

26. He enlisted in the army during the Korean War and served in the Army Medical Corps. 


27. He was a captain while in the Army.

28. He performed the first open-heart surgery in Utah on November 9, 1955, at age 31.

29. He once almost got botulism as an intern when a surgeon lost control of his scalpel and jabbed the infected tool through Dr. Nelson’s forearm.

►You'll also like: How a Dangerous Encounter with Botulism Taught President Nelson Spiritual Self-Mastery

30. He once saved the life of a mother carrying twins by closing an artery with his finger during a surgery to remove a tumor and her right lung.

31. He was a surgeon for 35 years.

Work in China

32. He was a visiting professor of surgery in China for several years.

33. He performed his final open-heart surgery while as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve on a famous Chinese opera singer.


34. He was given the title “Old Friend of China” by a delegation in Jinan—the highest compliment you can receive from the Chinese.

35. He has been awarded honorary professorships from three universities in the People’s Republic of China.

Guided by Inspiration

36. He received revelation on how to fix a valve in the heart of a stake patriarch who had come to him for help. 

37. He witnessed miracles as he performed a successful, complex operation on Elder Spencer W. Kimball, who would one day become the president of the Church.

38. He was in the operating room during the heart surgeries of four fellow Church leaders: Elder M. Russell Ballard, President Howard W. Hunter, Elder Robert D. Hales, and Elder David B. Haight.


39. He saved Elder Paul H. Dunn’s life after following a prompting to leave a vacation early. Elder Nelson arrived home in time to perform heart surgery on Elder Dunn, who was able to be stabilized after having a heart attack as the surgery began.

40. He turned down a lucrative and prestigious career offer from the University of Chicago after seeking the advice of President David O. McKay, who told President Nelson that it didn’t feel right.

Life as a Father

41. His 10th child and only son was born two months after his first grandson.


42. He once nearly drowned on a family rafting trip down the Colorado River. 

43. He used to take a daughter with him when traveling to medical conventions and other professional assignments.

44. He would curl his daughters’ hair and get them ready for church while Dantzel sang in the Tabernacle Choir.


45. He wrote The Gateway We Call Death after his daughter died of cancer, leaving behind a husband and five children.

46. He sends a personalized card to all of his family members for birthdays and wedding anniversaries.

47. He still attends blessings, baptisms, ordinations, sealings, and endowments of all of his family members.

Personal Hobbies and Habits

48. He has perfect pitch and used to be asked to give the pitch for his University of Utah a cappella choir.

49. He sings baritone.

50. He plays the organ for the Brethren during their Thursday morning meetings in the temple

51. He was a Temple Square missionary for nearly 10 years.

52. He would use medical terms to refer to everyday objects. (His children thought a traffic jam was called a thrombosis!)

53. He uses Exodus 31:13 as his guideline for Sabbath observance.

54. He is never late.

55. He is a master of self-discipline, according to his colleagues.


56. He has studied at least 12 languages (French, Latin, Greek, Russian, Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Hebrew, Bulgarian, Czech, and Romanian).

57. He is a good listener.

58. He has great respect for women.

59. He has a gift for and a great love of revelation.

60. He likes to garden and go fishing.


61. He was one of the first general authorities to get a computer and adopt new technologies.

62. He is a talented writer and editor.

63. He collects stamps and coins. 

64. He loves putting together jigsaw puzzles. 

65. He enjoys finding unusual figurines of doctors in other countries.

66. He started his photography hobby at a very young age. 


67. He loves the outdoors.

68. He is listed in Who’s Who in the World, Who’s Who in America, and Who’s Who in Religion. 

69. He has received three honorary degrees (doctor of Science from Brigham Young University, doctor of medical science from Utah State University, and doctor of humane letters from Snow College).

70. He has kept meticulous notes on different subjects from medicine to religion throughout his life, including the scores of the college basketball games he attended.

Church Service

71. He did not serve a full-time mission due to the outbreak of war.

72. He has met all but six prophets of this dispensation (Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, Lorenzo Snow, and Joseph F. Smith).

73. He was called as the Bonneville Stake President in August 1945.

74. He was called as the general Sunday School president in June 1971 and served for eight years.

75. He ordained his father an elder in the Melchizedek Priesthood in 1977, while he was general Sunday School president.

76. He was called to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in April 1984.


77. He was one of the first apostles in 21 years to be called to the Quorum of the Twelve without first acting as a general authority. 

78. He was instrumental in helping the Church gain recognition in Russia.

79. He shared a gospel message with Mikhail Gorbchev.

80. He represented the Church in front of the IRS to determine if money spent to sustain missionaries could be eligible for a tax exemption.

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81. He was the first member of the Quorum of the Twelve to visit Kazakhstan, which he did in 2003.

82. He became President of the Quorum of the Twelve in 2015.


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83. His signature is on “The Living Christ” and he had a role in the creation of “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.”

84. During his years as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, he visited 134 countries and dedicated or participated in the dedication of 31 of those countries.

A Prophet of God

85. He was ordained as the prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in January 2018, after the passing of President Monson.

86. He is very tech-savvy and, after becoming the prophet, he was the first to have Wi-Fi and a computer installed in the President’s Office.

87. Unlike the two prophets before him, President Nelson never served in the First Presidency.

88. He went skiing as often as he could in the winter, up until he became the President of the Church and was discouraged from it.


89. He always takes the stairs instead of the elevator when leaving the temple.

90. He gave what is believed to be the first address by a President of the Church in a language other than his own.

91. He went on a historic world tour to meet with and talk to Saints in many places, including London, Jerusalem, Nairobi, Harare, Bengalaru, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Hawaii, and Africa.

92. In 2018, he spoke to a crowd of over 49,000 people at a baseball stadium in Seattle.


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93. In his years as the prophet, there have already been over a dozen major changes, including the introduction of ministering, Come, Follow Me, the combining of the elder’s quorum, the shortening of Sunday meetings, a re-emphasis on the entire name of the Church, and temple-related changes.

94. South America was dedicated for the preaching of the gospel when he was only 15 months old. When he returned as a prophet, the continent had over 4 million members.

95. He was the first Latter-day Saint prophet to meet with a pope.

96. As of April 2022, President Nelson has announced 100 new temples to be built—more than any other

97. In April 2022, President Nelson became the oldest president of the Church, passing President Gordon B. Hinckley who died at the age of 97.

98. In August 2022, President Nelson became the Church’s longest-living latter-day Apostle.


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All images from Insights from a Prophet's Life: Russell M. Nelson unless otherwise indicated

Editor's note: This article was originally published on in 2019 and has been updated with new facts.

Insights from a Prophet's Life

Insights from a Prophet's Life offers a candid view of President Russell M. Nelson, the seventeenth President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, from childhood to the current day. More than a biography, this landmark volume invites readers to experience President Nelson's life through dozens of brief vignettes and hundreds of photographs. Each episode highlights an important lesson; taken together, they weave a captivating story of a man prepared in a unique way to lead the Church in our day.

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