Courtesy of President Nelson

President Russell M. Nelson was called to be a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles on April 7, 1984. On Sept. 9, President Nelson will celebrate his 92nd birthday. He was born in 1924 in Salt Lake City. President Nelson married Dantzel White in August 1945 and had 10 children, nine girls and one boy. Dantzel Nelson passed away in February 2005. President Nelson married Wendy L. Watson in April 2006. The information in this quiz has been compiled from his biography, "Russell M. Nelson: Father, Surgeon, Apostle," as well as biographical articles written about President Nelson and talks he has given.

Question #1
Courtesy of President Nelson

What is one reason President Nelson mostly sat on the bench while playing football in high school?

a. He was defensive about his hands not getting injured
b. He didn’t want to get a concussion
c. He wasn’t big enough
d. The other players were better

Answer
Deseret News archive/Courtesy of President Nelson

a. He was defensive about his hands getting injured.

According to an Ensign article, President Nelson's coach normally kept him benched during the games. “I think one of the reasons was that I always felt a little bit defensive about my hands,” he said. “I was afraid somebody might step on them with their cleated shoes.” Almost 40 years later, the hands that he was so cautious with performed an operation on his coach.

Question #2
Courtesy of President Nelson

What talent has President Nelson won an award for?

a. Spelling
b. Singing
c. Playing piano
d. Basketball

Answer
Deseret News archive

b. Singing

President Nelson has been noted for his perfect pitch. In high school and college, he participated in choirs and musicals, and sang in prize-winning quartets.

Question #3
Courtesy of President Nelson

When President Nelson was called to be the Sunday School general president, what was the one stipulation he was given?

a. He had to move to Utah
b. He had to keep working as a surgeon
c. He had to spend time with his family

Answer
Courtesy of President Nelson

b. He had to keep working as a surgeon

According to his biography "Russell M. Nelson: Father, Surgeon, Apostle," by Spencer J. Condie, President Nelson received a call on June 4, 1971, from President N. Eldon Tanner, asking him to come to his office. President Nelson left at once and was surprised to find both President Harold B. Lee and President Tanner waiting for him. He was even more shocked when they asked him to serve as the general president of the Sunday School organization of the church if he could continue his work as a cardiovascular-thoracic surgeon.

"Without hesitation I replied that my work didn't matter, that if it were necessary for me to sell furniture or take up some other occupation in order to be obedient to the call they were impressed to give, that I would do," President Nelson is quoted as saying in the biography (page 160).

But both President Lee and President Tanner insisted that he accept the call only if he could serve in addition to his medical profession. President Nelson served for more than eight years as general president of the Sunday School.

Question #4
Courtesy of President Nelson

Who did President Nelson perform open heart surgery on prior to being called as a general authority?

a. President Joseph F. Smith
b. President N. Eldon Tanner
c. President Spencer W. Kimball

Answer
Deseret News archive

c. President Spencer W. Kimball

President Nelson performed the operation on President Kimball on April 12, 1972. According to a 1982 Ensign article on President Nelson, the intricate operation was perfect. Even more special was the overpowering feeling that came upon him at the conclusion of the operation. In the same article, President Nelson said, “The Spirit told me that I had just operated on a man who would become president of the church."

Question #5
Deseret News archive

In which state did President Nelson perform the first successful open-heart surgery using a heart-lung machine?

a. Massachusetts
b. Minnesota
c. Utah
d. California

Answer
Deseret News archive

c. Utah

Utah was the third state in the nation to achieve this feat, thanks to President Nelson.

In a 1984 Ensign article, President Nelson states that this milestone was reached because of the observance to divine laws: “When I started medical school, we were taught that we must not touch the human heart, or it would stop beating. Yet Doctrine and Covenants 88:36 tells us that ‘all kingdoms have a law given.’ Therefore I knew that even the blessing of the heartbeat was predicated upon law. And I reasoned that if those laws could be understood and controlled, perhaps they could be utilized for the blessing of the sick.

“To me this meant that if we would work, study and ask the proper questions in our scientific experiments, we could learn the laws that govern the heartbeat. Now, having learned some of those laws, we know that we can turn the heartbeat off, perform delicate repairs on damaged valves or vessels, and then let the heart beat again.”

Question #6
Courtesy of President Nelson

When his children were young, why did President Nelson arrange his schedule to be home every Thursday night?

a. To take his daughters to piano lessons
b. His wife Dantzel had practice for the Mormon Tabernacle choir
c. To sing in a quartet
d. To take his family out to dinner

Answer
Courtesy of President Nelson

b. His wife Dantzel had practice for the Mormon Tabernacle choir

Sister Dantzel Nelson told the Ensign that President Nelson was very supportive: “He makes me feel that I am most important in his life. He didn’t allow the children to be rude or talk back ever. And he always says, ‘Mother is the queen of the house. Whatever she wants, that’s the way it’s going to be.’ I’ve always had that support.”

Thursdays were always set aside for Sister Nelson to do what she needed. As a member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, she attended choir rehearsals every Thursday night. President Nelson arranged his schedule so he could be home with the children while Sister Nelson attended rehearsal.

Question #7
Deseret News archive/Courtesy of President Nelson

What did President Nelson do every morning before he began the tasks of the day?

a. Ride his bike
b. Play the organ
c. Read with his wife
d. Walk around the neighborhood

Answer
Deseret News archive

b. Play the organ

According to an Ensign article, after several of their daughters had left home, Sister Nelson encouraged President Nelson to convert the empty bedrooms into a study which was filled with photo equipment, a computer, a word processor and a library of church and scientific books.

President Nelson started each day with an hour to himself for personal scripture study, prayer and practicing the hymns and Bach on the organ. "By the time I leave home in the morning, my mind is filled with good things — the scriptures and fine music. This gets my day off to a good start better than any other way I’ve found.”

Question #8
Courtesy of President Nelson

What also happened in President Nelson’s family on the day he was sustained as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles?

a. It was his wife’s birthday
b. His daughter had a baby
c. His daughter got engaged
d. It was the first time his entire family was together in Utah

Answer
Courtesy of President Nelson

b. His daughter had a baby

“Saturday of April conference of 1984 has been circled on our calendar for many years, for that date was targeted as the first time in my life that our only son would be old enough to attend general priesthood meeting with me. Last night, that long awaited goal became a reality. Brothers and sisters, little did we know that on that day my name would be presented as a member of the Council of the Twelve," Elder Nelson said in a general conference talk.

In between sessions, President Nelson received a call from one of his daughters who was pregnant at the time. She said that she was so shocked that she was going into labor.

"So, President Hinckley," said President Nelson, "your announcement from the First Presidency should get credit at least for 'an assist.' Our 22nd grandchild arrived safely last evening!”

Question #9
Courtesy of President Nelson

While President Nelson was serving as a stake president and as the general president of the Sunday School, which future apostle would serve as the first counselor in both presidencies?

a. Elder M. Russell Ballard
b. Elder Dallin H. Oaks
c. Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin

Answer
LDS Church News

c. Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin

According to his biography, "Russell M. Nelson: Father, Surgeon, Apostle," President Nelson was called to be the president of the Bonneville Stake in December 1964. At that time, Elder Wirthlin was asked to serve as the first counselor. Later, in June 1971 when President Nelson was asked to serve as the general president of the Sunday School, he again chose Elder Wirthlin to serve with him as the second counselor. They served together in the Sunday School organization until Elder Wirthlin was called to be an assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1975 (page 208).

Elder Wirthlin described President Nelson's gifts and talents as having "them all. Russell is the most Christlike man I have ever known" (page 209).

Question #10
Courtesy of Elder Nelson

Which European country was one of the many that President Nelson helped the church gain official recognition in?

a. Czechoslovakia
b. Croatia
c. Netherlands

Answer
Courtesy of Elder Nelson

a. Czechoslovakia

President Nelson has had a hand in expanding the gospel to many nations including Poland, East Germany, Hungary, Yugoslavia and many others that were once part of the Soviet Union.

According to his biography, President Nelson started learning Czech in 1986 and, with the help of Elder Hans B. Ringger of the Seventy, helped the church gain official recognition in the country. After four years and meetings with high-level government officials, the church was recognized by the Czech government in February 1990.

When President Nelson received the call that the Church was officially recognized he was overjoyed. "You can understand how welcome that news was when you remember that we had been going there at least once a year for the last four years only to be politely 'put on hold,'" said President Nelson (page 253).

Question #11
Courtesy of Elder Nelson

While serving in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, where was President Nelson originally assigned?

a. Korea
b. Washington, D.C.
c. Maryland

Answer
Courtesy of Elder Nelson

b. Washington, D.C.

According to his biography, President Nelson was originally selected to create a surgical research unit at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. However, after moving from Utah with his wife, who was expecting their second child, and his daughter, President Nelson was reassigned to Korea.

Due to a change in commands, his orders were delayed, which allowed time for President Nelson to help his wife and now two daughters move back to Utah. His orders were then reissued and he shipped out, traveling through Japan to Korea.

In Korea, President Nelson served as part of a four-man surgical team that visited every mobile army surgical hospital in Korea, several battle aid stations, and many American hospitals in Japan.