How Much Longer Will President Nelson Live?

President Nelson could very well become the first centenarian President of the Church. But what’s the chance of that? What about the chance of reaching 101? 

For him to be the oldest General Authority of all time he would have to live to be over 106, the age that Patriarch Emeritus Eldred G. Smith reached. And of course, there is the chance that he could reach “supercentenarian” status at 110, and be the President of the Church when my grandchildren are born. 

While many public life tables are “right censored” at the high end, e.g. they stop at a certain number and then just say “and above,” there is some data on year-by-year longevity at extreme ages. While the work below is not nearly as complex and sophisticated as, say, the excellent work done over at Zelephohad’s Daughters, it provides more detailed insight into a single individual. 

A disclaimer: I firmly believe that President Nelson will pass on when God decides it is time for him to pass on, and I don’t mean to be macabre. Still, that is not to say that dynamics discussed here are irrelevant. God works through the natural world and natural trends. 

So let’s get into it. The “Risk of dying during age X” column is taken directly from the Social Security Administration numbers linked above. I then chained the probabilities of survival from year to year to get the probability of living until age x + 1 given that he has already reached 99

According to the life table and these estimates, President Nelson has a life expectancy of about two more years, with a one out of three risk of dying before 100 once he turned 99. However, he has a less than even chance of living to 101, a less than a one-in-four chance of living to 102, and a one-in-one hundred chance of making it to Patriarch Smith’s age when he passed away. Finally, he has less than a one-tenth of a 1% chance of making it to supercentenarian status. 

Age Risk of dying during age X assuming they have lived to age X Probability of living until age X+1
99 0.37 0.63
100 0.38 0.39
101 0.40 0.23
102 0.42 0.13
103 0.45 0.07
104 0.47 0.04
105 0.49 0.02
106 0.52 0.01
107 0.54 0.0044
108 0.57 0.0019
109 0.60 0.0008
110 0.63 0.0003


9 comments for “How Much Longer Will President Nelson Live?

  1. I’m pretty confident President Nelson is healthier than the average 99-year-old (though I’m afraid the gap is probably narrowing) and he’s still doing work he finds meaningful, so a personal life table would probably knock a few points off those mortality rates with a corresponding increase in life expectancy. But not a lot.

  2. In April 2018,in the General Conference when President Nelson was sustained as President of the Church, Elder Neil L. Anderson said “The Lord, who controls life and death, selects His prophet. President Nelson, at age 93, is in amazing health. We hope he will be with us for another decade or two, but for now we are trying to persuade him to stay off the ski slopes.” (
    If that was more of a prophecy than a quip, that would suggest that President Nelson will live until 2028-2038. It may have seemed far-fetched once, but it becomes more of a possibility every day.

  3. I couldn’t see either Pres Nelson or Pres Eyring at Elder Ballard’s funeral service. Were they there? I can’t imagine them missing the funeral if they were both well. I think Pres Nelson’s fall really took a big toll on him.

  4. @RLD: I think you’re right. I’ve actually been thinking about that a lot re Henry Kissinger. Even though he’s had heart problems for decades I wonder if his longevity had something to do with the fact that he kept incredibly busy with what I assume he thought was meaningful work up until the end, and I think the same applies to President Nelson.

    @Reeder: Possible, but as we see from those numbers even if somebody lives to be 100 the chance is still pretty small that they’ll live to be, say, 103. We’ll see.

    @Senior Half: I think you’re right, and that’s kind of depressing. If he really wasn’t there he wouldn’t have missed it for a sniffle.

  5. “A disclaimer: I firmly believe that President Nelson will pass on when God decides it is time for him to pass on, and I don’t mean to be macabre. Still, that is not to say that dynamics discussed here are irrelevant. God works through the natural world and natural trends.”

    I find it hard to believe this. It is commonly held. But I can’t believe it because it raises many troubling issues for me. Does God control when each of us dies? Or only the prophet? Or only the prophet and our ward primary president? Since all of the Quorum of Twelve and F\P are sustained as “prophets, seers, and revelators” I believe that any of these men could be the leader of our church at any moment. I believe in old fashioned randomness. I don’t believe in a micro-managing God, even when counting the years of a prophet.

  6. Reeder, I would lean more quip than prophecy; Neil L. Anderson spoke at my YSA stake once upon a time when Monson was president, and cheerfully said that, “President Monson is exactly who you think he is!”—namely, a prophet of God. This would’ve been the same era when Monson’s dementia was actively worsening behind the scenes. That’s not to say Monson didn’t still have the “mantle” or what have you; but Anderson is clearly a company man who cheerleads whoever the current leadership is, irrespective of whoever that may be at the moment, or what their actual health status is. He’ll say the exact same things of Oaks, Holland, Eyering, Utchdorf, Bednar, or whoever else comes next. That’s not necessarily a bad thing to be so supportive and complimentary, but it also means not too much weight should be given to his statements on the subject.

  7. @stephen hardy: I’m generally a “stuff just happens” guy myself. But I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the first global pandemic where modern medicine could really make a difference took place during the ministry of the first doctor-prophet. (I also think the fact that the Lord found a doctor-prophet useful tells us something about both doctors and prophets, but that’s another issue.) I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that we have an outspoken constitutional scholar in the First Presidency during the country’s greatest democratic crisis since the Civil War. (It’s also interesting that they both have counseled against what many members would probably have defaulted to just because of their political allegiance.)

    Putting President Nelson and President Oaks in place when they are needed doesn’t necessarily mean the Lord interferes with the lifespans of the prophets. He could just take advantage of his foreknowledge to make sure they are in the right place at the right time. In fact both their calls were somewhat unusual–if I recall correctly neither had been general authorities, and I think President Oaks had only been a stake president (“only”).

    On the other hand, we know the Lord sometimes intervenes in the natural world–but he does so on his own terms. It’s a totally legit question why he intervenes in some circumstances and not others (“If the Lord helped you find your car keys, why didn’t he prevent the Holocaust?”) but trying to put limits on how the Lord intervenes (“The Lord didn’t prevent the Holocaust, so he must not have actually helped you find your car keys”) risks making the error of Job.

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