A 93-year-old former heart surgeon with three decades of experience with the Mormon church's top leadership panel has been officially named the faith's president.

High-ranking Mormon D. Todd Christofferson announced the selection of Russell M. Nelson as president Tuesday in an address from Salt Lake City that broadcast to Mormons around the world.

Nelson's selection follows a longstanding succession plan that makes the longest-tenured member of the faith's Quorum the next church's president.

Nelson becomes the 17th president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Utah-based faith counts nearly 16 million members worldwide.

He succeeds Thomas S. Monson, who died Jan. 2.

The faith's presidents are considered prophets who lead the church through revelations from God in collaboration with two top counselors and members of the Quorum.

The new president of the Mormon church says there's room in the religion for everyone no matter what challenges they face and regardless if they've never joined or strayed from the faith.

Russell M. Nelson spoke Tuesday morning during a news conference in Salt Lake City following the widely anticipated announcement that he had been chosen to become the 17th president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Nelson succeeds Thomas S. Monson, who died Jan. 2.

Asked about his approach to LGBT issues, Nelson said that God loves his children regardless of "their challenges."

Dallin H. Oaks, one of two men chosen by Nelson to be his counselors, added that leaders have the responsibility to teach love but also commandments from God.

Oaks said: "We've got the love of the Lord and the law of the Lord," Oaks said.

Nelson called doing so a "balance."

The faith has opposed gay marriage and homosexual activity amid widespread social acceptance while trying to foster an empathetic stance toward LGBT people.

Oaks and fellow counselor Henry B. Eyring will help Nelson guide the Utah-based faith counts 16 million members worldwide.

They are both members of a governing body called the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.