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11 Things You Didn’t Know about President Nelson

Jenny Poffenbarger

How well do you know President Nelson?

Russell M. Nelson was just called as the new President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, succeeding the late President Boyd K. Packer.

Because we usually only see Apostles at general conference, it’s easy to forget that they are real people who have lived real lives. Here are some interesting things that might surprise you about President Nelson.

Elder Nelson as a young boy

1. He hates liver.

Whenever his mother served it, he waited until she looked away and then stuffed the liver into his pocket. “This maneuver was a little hard on pockets, but it was, nevertheless, very successful,” he says (Russell M. Nelson: Father, Surgeon, Apostle [2003]).

2. He played football … sort of.

In high school, President Nelson was on the football team, but he didn’t want his hands to get stepped on. So his coach, who was probably a little annoyed with him, kept him on the bench. Later on, President Nelson used those hands he protected to perform surgery on his former coach.

3. He is a convert.

Russell’s parents weren’t active members, but they still sent him to Sunday School. He often ditched his class to go play football. But his home teacher patiently taught him the gospel and the importance of church and the Sabbath. When he was 16, President Nelson and his siblings were baptized. His parents eventually became active in the Church again.

Elder Nelson with his wfie and 10 children

4. He has 10 kids.

Nine daughters and one son.

5. He has perfect pitch.

It’s pretty much a musical superpower. If you ask him to sing an A on the musical scale, he can do it without needing to hear it first. In high school and college, President Nelson sang in choirs and musicals. He also plays the piano and the organ.

6. He served in the Korean War.

President Nelson was a medic for two years for the U.S. Army during the Korean War. He served in Korea and Japan and at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

7. He studied at a Harvard hospital.

Russell went to LDS Business College and the University of Utah and then got his PhD from the University of Minnesota. After he served in the military, he went to get more surgical training at Harvard Medical School’s Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

Elder Nelson performing surgery

8. He literally touches hearts.

A world-renowned heart surgeon, President Nelson helped develop the first artificial heart-lung machine. (It basically takes over the jobs of the heart and lungs during heart surgery.) He then used it to perform the first open-heart surgery in Utah! He went on to perform open-heart surgeries on many more people, including President Spencer W. Kimball.

9. He helped bring the gospel to eastern Europe.

Talk about a world traveler! President Nelson visited 31 countries in five years to start building the Church in Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Russia, Ukraine, and Estonia.

10. He is fluent in Mandarin.

President Spencer W. Kimball once had a meeting in which he challenged everyone present to learn Chinese. President Nelson took on the challenge and became fluent in Mandarin—no big deal.

11. He’s in three Marquis Who’s Who lists.

President Nelson is in the Who’s Who in the World, Who’s Who in America, and Who’s Who in Religion—meaning he was important enough to be listed as one of the most influential people in the world. Pretty cool!

Learn more about President Nelson, follow him on Facebook, or find his recent conference talks.

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