The longest-living president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is now a full year older.
Russell M. Nelson turned 98 on Friday.
He spent his birthday working at the Church Administration Building in downtown Salt Lake City, according to a news release, and expressed gratitude for the many cards and well wishes he received.
“He is an inspired and wise leader, and the gentlest and sweetest person you could ever hope to associate with,” said Dallin H. Oaks, his first counselor in the governing First Presidency who turned 90 last month and is the man next in line to succeed Nelson.
“Every time we walk out of the office, President Oaks and I say, ‘It happened again,” 89-year-old second counselor Henry B. Eyring said in the release. “You’ll just see revelation come. You’ll see him ask for counsel, and then the decision will come and everybody in the room knows it is right and from God. He just quietly says, ‘I think this is what the Lord would want us to do.’”
The year Nelson was born, 1924, the first Winter Olympics took place in France, the debut Macy’s Parade snaked through the streets of New York, Soviet revolutionary Vladimir Lenin died, and Queen Elizabeth II, who died Thursday, was two years from her birth.
Nelson, a former heart surgeon, has shown no public signs of slowing down since taking the helm of the 16.8 million-member global faith in January 2018. He was the second oldest apostle, then at age 93, ever to rise to the presidency (after Joseph Fielding Smith).
During his nearly five-year tenure, the church’s 17th prophet-president has launched a number of reforms, severed ties with the Boy Scouts of America, led members through a worldwide pandemic, announced plans for 100 new temples, and visited every continent, save for Antarctica.
Here are some of the significant changes or developments under his leadership:
• In spring 2018, his first General Conference as president, he appointed the first Asian American and Latin American apostles, Gerrit W. Gong and Ulisses Soares, and announced temples to be built in Russia and India.
• The next month, Nelson met with NAACP leaders and created an ongoing partnership with the nation’s oldest civil rights organization.
• In October, Nelson scaled back the three-hour Sunday meeting block to two hours.
• In December 2018, the church announced that female missionaries now could wear dress slacks when proselytizing.
• Nelson met with Pope Francis at the Vatican in March 2019, the first-ever audience between a Catholic pontiff and a Latter-day Saint prophet.
• In April 2019, the church reversed its controversial LGBTQ policy, which labeled same-sex married couples “apostates” and generally barred their children from baby blessings and baptisms.
• The church unveiled another step toward gender equity in October 2019, allowing women to be witnesses at baptisms and temple sealings.
• The Utah-based faith closed temples and suspended weekly church services in March 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold.
• In April 2022, he officially became the church’s oldest ever president, surpassing Gordon B. Hinckley.
More changes, especially with another General Conference a mere weeks away, may be in the offing.