Mormon Church appoints former surgeon Russell M. Nelson as new president

The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints, better known as the Mormon Church, recently appointed former heart surgeon Russell M. Nelson as its new president and the successor of their deceased leader Thomas S. Monson.

(REUTERS / George Frey / Files)People stand outside the Salt Lake Mormon temple as they wait in line to attend the fifth session of the 181st Semiannual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City, Utah in this October 2, 2011, file photo.

The Mormon Church announced Nelson's appointment during a worldwide address broadcast from Salt Lake City on Jan. 16. The 93-year-old surgeon also delivered a speech that urged all members of the LDS Church to remain loyal to their faith or return if they had veered away from it, The Associated Press relayed.

"If you have stepped off the path, may I advise you with all the hope in my heart to please come back," said Nelson in his address. "Whatever your concerns, whatever your challenges, there's a place for you in this, the Lord's church."

In the wake of Monson's death at the age of 90 on Jan. 2, the Mormon Church's Quorum of the Twelve Apostles leadership body met to choose a new president. Nelson is currently the 17th president of the religious organization and is now regarded by its members as a "prophet, seer and revelator."

Based on his 30 years of service as a church leader, Nelson is expected to implement a few changes to deal with the slowing down of their growth rate and other challenges. The population has reportedly not grown much despite their mission efforts and moves to increase the number of its missionaries.

Meanwhile, the Universal Society of Hinduism has welcomed Nelson's appointment as the new president of the Mormon Church. The organization is also hoping that the new leadership will continue to promote religious liberty and maintain interfaith relations, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.

Sen. Orrin Hatch spoke of Nelson as a "dear friend" and a positive force in the world. He marveled at the timing of the announcement of the new appointment, which happened to be on Religious Freedom Day, saying the new Mormon president has been instrumental in promoting religious liberty worldwide.