Latter-day Saint President Russell Nelson recalls close call on plane and why he ‘remained calm’

(Photo courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) President Russell M. Nelson speaks to Latter-day Saints at Tecnópolis Arena in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Aug. 28, 2019.

President Russell M. Nelson was on a small plane several years ago when an engine caught fire, sending the aircraft into a perilous plunge toward earth.

During the frightening nosedive, Nelson said Wednesday, he was at peace.

“Part of the tranquility I felt as death approached came from my knowledge of the gospel,” the leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints told thousands of Argentine members gathered at Tecnópolis Arena in Buenos Aires.

“I was falling to my death. I was surprised that I was not afraid to die. I remained calm. Why? Because I knew that my wife [Dantzel, who died in 2005] and I had married in the temple,” he said in Castilian Spanish, according to a church news release. “We had been eternally sealed to each other and our 10 precious children. I realized that our marriage in the temple was more important than any other achievement of my life. Temple clothes were more important than any other uniform I had worn. The temple covenants were more important than any other commitments we had made.”

The plane, he said, made an emergency landing in a field.

Nelson is nearing the end of a five-nation Latin American tour. He previously visited Guatemala, Colombia and Ecuador. He is traveling with his second wife, Wendy, whom he married in 2006, along with apostle Quentin L. Cook and his wife, Mary.

(Photo courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) President Russel M. Nelson visits with Silva Carranza, president of CILSA in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Aug. 28, 2019. CILSA has partnered with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for 13 years helping deliver wheelchairs to children, youths and adults with disabilities who do not have the resources to obtain them.

The 94-year-old Nelson urged the assembled Argentine Saints to use their time in mortality wisely.

“My life and your lives have been preserved for a short season,” he said. “With that time, we have the privilege of working, living, loving and choosing. Part of that choosing is making the decision to participate in the sacred ordinances [or rites] of the temple. These opportunities have eternal consequences.”

Latter-day Saints believe marriage and family relationships through so-called temple sealings can extend into the eternities.

“Never wonder if being sealed to your spouse in the temple is important,” Wendy Nelson said.

Argentina is home to more than 460,000 Latter-day Saints, the release noted, along with a pair of temples and plans for two more.

Brazil, the final destination for the delegation, has nearly 1.4 million members, the most of any country after the U.S. and Mexico.