(Reuters) - A 90-year-old retired heart surgeon has been appointed head of the powerful board that oversees the finances and evangelical direction of the Mormon Church, officials have said.
Russell Nelson takes over the position as president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, the second-highest governing body of the Utah-based church, from Boyd Packer, who died earlier this month at his home in Salt Lake City.
Nelson was "set apart," the Mormon term for the official appointment, on Wednesday by the faith's president, Thomas Monson, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said in a statement.
He has served as president of the Society for Vascular Surgery, director of the American Board of Thoracic Surgery, and president of the Utah State Medical Association.
The 12 members of the Quorum serve under the direction of the Church's First Presidency, a governing body of three men made up of Monson and two counselors. All 15 leaders are seen by the faithful as prophets, seers and revelators.
"In addition to their primary responsibility to be special witnesses of the name of Christ throughout the world, the apostles have heavy administrative responsibilities as they oversee the orderly progress and development of the global church," the church said in a statement.
(Reporting by Daniel Wallis in Denver)