After only a few months as president, Russell M. Nelson swiftly demonstrated his lifetime leadership skills by making historical changes in the LDS Church.
What? We are going to start loving and caring for our neighbors instead of “getting out this month.”
Really? All the gray hairs are going to meet weekly with those young punks who barely know how to spell fatherhood.
You’re kidding me? A temple in Russia and another one in India.
It’s about time. Friends of Scouting, $45 Scout shirts, and “You better get your Eagle or else …” parental bribes are soon to be part a thing of Mormon lore.
Dallin H. Oaks, who now serves as president of the Quorum of the Twelve, wrote a lengthy article last month offering insight beyond the typical biographical sketch of our energetic 93-year old church leader.
Here are a few “Oh, I didn’t know that” points that Elder Oaks noted about President Nelson’s life:
• As a youth, President Nelson preferred playing football with his friends over attending Sunday School.
• He was baptized at the age of 16, the same age he graduated from high school.
• President Nelson is a Ute, graduating with high honors from the University of Utah.
• In the late 1940s, he was a key member of the team that pioneered open-heart surgery at the University of Minnesota.
• During the Korean War, he served in the military as a physician at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
• His first wife, Dantzel, passed away just before their 60th wedding anniversary. He then married BYU professor Dr. Wendy Watson.
• While in medical school, he eradicated the myth that doctors should never touch a human heart. A few years later, he led a team of fellow researchers who developed the first successful use of an artificial heart-lung machine on a dog.
• At the University of Utah, he built a heart-lung machine and performed the first open-heart surgery west of the Mississippi.
• Since Dr. Nelson strongly felt the primary duty of physician was to teach. He studied French, Portuguese, German, Russian, and Spanish to communicate with doctors throughout the world.
• When he heard President Spencer W. Kimball advise a congregation to learn Chinese, he and his wife immediately began to study Mandarin.
• “His proficiency in that language allowed him to work closely with the medical community in China, where he gave lectures and performed surgery, saving the life of one of China’s national heroes,” President Oaks wrote.
• Between 1955 and 1965, he voluntarily served as a visitors’ guide on Temple Square every Thursday.
• He is a globetrotter. Over the course of five years, he made 27 trips to 31 European nations and helped established the Church in every Eastern Europe country.
• President Nelson dedicated the countries of Bulgaria, Croatia, El Salvador, Ethiopia, French Polynesia, Kazakhstan, and Russia for the preaching of the restored gospel.
Ernest Agyemang Yeboah wrote, “Great leaders live and leave noble and indelible footprints.”
After only a few months at the helm, it is clear President Nelson’s footprints are noble, indelible, and will extend for miles.
Charlie Roberts is a former LDS bishop of the Tooele 6th Ward.