Why did President Russell M. Nelson, global leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, deliver his sermons Saturday and Sunday at General Conference while seated at the podium?
The answer may be simple: He’s 98.
“Some noticed that I sat on a chair to deliver my message this morning. What a help that was!” he wrote Saturday on Facebook. “The other day it occurred to me that I have been alive during nearly half of the number of years since The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized in 1830. That is a lot of years — even though I don’t feel old. My wife Wendy insists that she still can’t get me to act my age. But I will admit that sometimes even small adjustments — such as a chair — help those of us who ‘age on stage.’”
Soon after April’s General Conference, Nelson surpassed the late Gordon B. Hinckley to become the oldest ever prophet-president of the Utah-based faith. And last month, Nelson turned 98. He spent his birthday working at his office in the Church Administration Building in downtown Salt Lake City.
“He is an inspired and wise leader, and the gentlest and sweetest person you could ever hope to associate with,” Dallin H. Oaks, his first counselor in the governing First Presidency who himself turned 90 in August and is the man next in line to succeed Nelson, said on the occasion.
The year Nelson was born, 1924, the first Winter Olympics took place in France, the inaugural Macy’s Parade snaked through the streets of New York, Soviet revolutionary Vladimir Lenin died, and Queen Elizabeth II, who died the day before Nelson’s 98th birthday, was two years from her birth.
A renowned heart surgeon during his professional career, Nelson has been known for his incredible vigor and health — even as he grows older.
During his nearly five-year tenure, the church’s 17th president has launched a number of reforms, led the worldwide faith of 16.8 million members through a worldwide pandemic, announced plans for 100 new temples, and visited every continent, save for Antarctica.
But no one can dodge the passage of time, and Saturday’s address marked the first time Nelson has delivered a conference sermon while sitting down. But even a slowed Nelson remains on the job, and he walked out of the Conference Center auditorium after Saturday’s and Sunday’s sessions without assistance.
“I may not ski black diamond runs anymore, but whether standing or seated, I delight in speaking and hearing words of truth,” he wrote. “And this weekend will be filled with them.”