President Russell M. Nelson, 93, was named the 17th president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during a church broadcast this morning from the annex of the Salt Lake Temple.
He named President Dallin H. Oaks, 85, as his first counselor and President Henry B. Eyring, 84, as his second counselor.
President Nelson was sustained and set apart in the Salt Lake Temple on Jan. 14, 2018. He has served under the last five church presidents and was president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles from July 15, 2015, until his call as president of the church. President M. Russell Ballard, 89, now becomes the acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson made the announcement, which marks the first time in 32 years that a counselor in the First Presidency — Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf — has returned to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
It’s also the first time in almost 67 years that a previous first counselor has been sustained as a second counselor in the First Presidency. The last time was on April 9, 1951, when President J. Reuben Clark was sustained as second counselor to President David O. McKay after serving as first counselor to President George Albert Smith.
President Oaks is also the first former BYU president to serve as a member of the First Presidency.
Elder Christofferson described the process of setting apart the new First Presidency as “a sweet, sacred experience.” The announcement was followed by remarks from each member of the new First Presidency.
“How could I choose only two out of 12 apostles, each of whom I love so dearly?” President Nelson said of choosing his counselors.
President Nelson said “words are inadequate” to describe being set apart as president of the church. He also said the last First Presidency was totally capable and inspired, and each apostle is now willing to serve where he has been called.
President Nelson expressed gratitude to church members and spoke of the “majestic manner” in which the Lord governs his church.
“There is no electioneering, no campaigning, only the quiet working of the divine plan of succession, put in place by the Lord himself,” he said. “Each day of an apostle’s service is a day of learning.”
He added they were speaking from the temple in order to “begin with the end in mind,” as temple covenants and ordinances are key to being strengthened and resisting temptation. He also said God wants each of us to return home.
“If you have stepped off the path, may I invite you, with all the hope in my heart, to please come back,” he said. “Whatever your concerns, whatever your challenges, there is a place for you in this, the Lord’s church. You and generations yet unborn will be blessed by your actions now.”
He ended by bearing witness that the apostle’s mission is to go to every nation, kindred, tongue and people to prepare the world for the Second Coming of Christ, and pledging to love and serve the church “with every remaining breath of (his) life.”
President Oaks spoke next of serving beside President Nelson for the last 35 years; he also said he feels privileged to be called to the First Presidency and to work beside President Eyring in declaring the truths of the restored gospel.
President Eyring spoke of this being a great time in the church’s history. Though Joseph Smith could speak to all church members at one time and in one place, he said President Nelson now addresses members across the world, and this growth is a “visible miracle.” He said the bigger miracle, however, is the growth of faith in Jesus Christ.
“The Lord has prepared and chosen President Nelson to lead in that growth,” President Oaks said. “He knows and loves the Lord. The growth will come as we each pray, work and live to have the Holy Ghost as our companion in our lives.”
He added that each association with the First Presidency has increased his ability to remember the Savior, that priesthood keys have been passed to them through a line of true prophets and the apostles are becoming more as one through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“This is a great time in the history of the church, and yes, the best is still to come,” President Eyring said.
Following the announcement, each member of the new First Presidency spoke at a press conference, in which President Nelson again encouraged members to focus on and keep their temple covenants.
Topics addressed at the press conference included LGBTQ issues, diversity in church leadership and retaining church membership among the upcoming generation.
In response to a question about how the church will approach LGBTQ issues, President Nelson emphasized that God loves all his children and wants them to have joy.
“We know that there are challenges the commandments of God,” he said. “Challenges to be worthy to enter his holy presence when we’re through with this mortal experience, and we’re trying to help people find happiness and joy in this life. … God loves his children and we love them, and there’s a place for everyone,” in the church.
Addressing those who have left the church, President Nelson said “every member needs to know the difference between what’s doctrine and what’s human,” and President Oaks encouraged people to not divide themselves through ethnic or other cultural labels. He added that it brings him comfort to know that church members don’t believe their leaders are infallible.
“What we believe in is the organization the church has with multiple prophets, seers and revelators,” he said.
President Nelson, who has nine daughters of his own, said women are vital to the church.
“We need their voices, we need their input and we love their participating with us,” President Nelson said.
He also discussed diversity in church leadership.
“We are white, and we are American,” President Nelson said. “But look at Quorums of the Seventy, and look at our local leaders. Wherever we go, leaders come from the community.”
President Eyring expressed his confidence that President Nelson’s optimism, as well as his confidence in millennials’ faith, will make him a relatable leader to the youth of the church.
“I’m seeing some 18-year-olds and 20-year-olds … that have a rock-solid faith, a love of the Lord and (are) willing to do everything they can to serve him and each other,” he said. “It’s the best of times of the millennials.”
President Nelson emphasized that keeping the commandments isn’t restricting, but rather brings joy.
“All of the commandments are to liberate you from the bondage of sin and error,” he said. “So the way to joy is to keep the commandments. … If you’ve stepped off, find your way back.”
This story will be updated regularly today.
Editor’s note: this story pairs with “Changes to the First Presidency over the years”