Russell Nelson passes Gordon Hinckley, becomes oldest ever LDS president

More than four years into his presidency, the 97-year-old church leader shows no signs of slowing down

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) President Russell M. Nelson smiles at his office in the Church Administration Building in Salt Lake City on April 13, 2022.

At 97 years, seven months and six days old, President Russell M. Nelson is now the oldest president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — a distinction previously held by the late President Gordon B. Hinckley.

The latter died Jan. 27, 2008, at age 97 years, seven months and five days.

Nelson served 34 years as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles before becoming the 17th president of the global faith on Jan. 14, 2018. In doing so, he became only the second church president called to the position while in his 90s. He was 93 at the time, the second oldest apostle ever to rise to the presidency (after Joseph Fielding Smith).

By comparison, Pope Francis is 85, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI is 94 (he turns 95 on Saturday), the Dalai Lama is 86, and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, archbishop of Constantinople, is 82.

Nelson, revered by the Latter-day Saint faithful as a “prophet, seer and revelator,” has shown no signs of slowing down. He spoke numerous times at this month’s General Conference. He turns 98 on Sept. 9.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) President Russell M. Nelson at the Church Administration Building in Salt Lake City on Thursday, April 13, 2022.

Since becoming president, Nelson has instituted a number of significant changes felt by the Utah-based faith’s worldwide membership of 16.8 million. These include — but are not limited to — reducing weekly worship services from three to two hours, allowing missionaries greater contact with their families, and ending the church’s centurylong official relationship with the Boy Scouts.

Temple building has also been a focus of Nelson’s tenure. He announced 17 at the latest General Conference, upping his tally to 100, and surpassing the 78 launched by Hinckley.

At the same time, the renowned heart surgeon has demonstrated a willingness to engage in broader and often controversial topics, encouraging members of the faith to get vaccinated for COVID-19 and “lead out in abandoning attitudes and actions of prejudice.”

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) President Russel M. Nelson arrives for the morning session of LDS General Conference on Saturday, April 2, 2022.