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Mormonism LIVE: 033: President Nelson’s Flight of Death

Today We explore a story President Nelson has told for years about a flight he was on in the 1970’s. He reports the plane’s engine exploding, the wing catching fire, a death spiral by the plane, the chaos aboard, and the plane’s landing in a farmer’s field. This story had many questioning the truthfulness of his account but there was never a smoking gun to get to the truth of the matter………. until now.


Russell M. Nelson, From Heart to Heart: An Autobiography (Salt Lake City: Nelson, 1979)

Russell M. Nelson: Father, Surgeon, Apostle – Spencer J Condie: Author Russell M. Nelson, The Gateway We Call Death (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1995)


1.) One Engine on a small Two Engine plane Exploded.
2.) Said Engine caught fire.
3.) In the Explosion flammable material was spread to the plane and the plane itself was on fire.
4.) The plane did a “Death Spiral” which extinguished the fire
5.) The Pilot “turned on the Other Engine”
6.) The plane landed in a “Farmer’s Field”


 1.) The Date of the flight was reported as November 12, 1976
2.) He was flying from SLC to St. George to attend the inauguration of W. Rolfe Kerr as the president of Dixie College.
3.) Anytime a plane incurs a malfunction or there is a mechanical flight issue or pilot error the Law requires such to be recorded. The Explosion would necessitate a publicly available recorded log report. The plane on fire would necessitate a publicly available recorded log report. The Death Spiral would necessitate a publicly available recorded log report. The landing in a Farmer’s Field
would necessitate a publicly available recorded log report.



1.) Engine never exploded and continued to run though rough
2.) There was no Engine Fire.
3.) The Plane itself was never on fire
4.) The Other Engine was never off
4.) The plane made a “Precautionary landing at the airport in Delta Utah and not a farmer’s field
5.) There are other smaller issues with number of passengers, length of flight, cutting fuel line to both engines, and the date of the flight but we grant some benefit of the doubt for distorted memory.

If the Church or its defenders want to claim the conclusion that this flight one day earlier is NOT the flight President Nelson is speaking about, then the burden of proof is on them to provide the evidence. To claim there was another “SKY WEST” flight also going from SLC TO SAINT GEORGE” that had “WORSE ISSUES” “ONE DAY LATER”, then provide the “MANDATORY PUBLICLY AVAILABLE FLIGHT REPORT” of said flight. Without such, said conclusion by the defenders would require more conjecture and allowances.

The Plane believed to be the One Nelson rode that day


27 thoughts on “Mormonism LIVE: 033: President Nelson’s Flight of Death”

  1. One time in Elders’ Quorum about five years ago, a man told a story about a commercial flight that he was on that was in great danger. He gave several details (approximate year, time of year, the origin and destination of the flight, etc.) that allowed me to look for the incident in the NTSB’s database ( I was never able to find anything in the database that met the description he gave (he said, among other things, that the plane had to make an emergency landing, and that a lady died from a heart attack as a result, etc.). I decided that he was probably greatly exaggerating the magnitude of the incident. To his credit, that Elders’ Quorum lessen was more interesting than some others I have attended.

    My guess is that President Nelson has been doing the same: greatly exaggerating the incident.

    1. It is amazing how some speculation as to the time and event and details has been assumed by all the persons on this page to be correct and accurate and that Russell Nelson was on the plane. This has the makings for a great National Enguirer article.

  2. RFM…the is by far my favorite thing you do!

    I’d love a marathon of these scum bags getting exposed! God said, ‘vengeance is mine’, but Ive heard it added, ‘and if you’re good , I’ll let you watch’

    Don’t know if I’m good, but can’t get enough. It’s scratching a very deep itch.

  3. Feathering refers to adjusting the angle of the propeller blades by rotating them along their shaft. This is something you would do after you shut down an engine to reduce the drag it would cause on the aircraft in motion. If you looked at the prop head on, you would want to see the edges of the blades and very little of the blade faces, thus allowing it to move through air more easily. Not sure that this was clear to all.

    Also, an engine fire would not require a radical change in elevation or flight speed to extinguish – shutting off the fuel does the trick.

  4. As a professional pilot with over 10,000 hours and having even worked for the airline in the story I think your analysis of the embellishments by Ole Russ are correct. Sadly it’s a classic big fish story where a minnow becomes a whale. I suppose I have performed many “miracles” over the course of my career responding to various malfunctions. The biggest miracle I see is that so many leaders can continue to get away with BS stories used to promote faith.

  5. Prophet Nelson:
    I just told a lie.
    No, wait, I didn’t LIE…
    I just used my imagination…
    And it worked!

    Nelson’s father:
    You’re making things up again, Nelson.

    Prophet Nelson:
    But it worked, dad!

    Prophet Nelson:
    You’re stretching the truth again,
    And you know it-

    Don’t be a Fibbing Fran, Nelson.

    Prophet Nelson:
    Joseph Smith…?

    Because a lie is a lie.

    Prophet Nelson:
    It’s not a lie!

    You’re making things up again, Nelson.

    Prophet Nelson:
    Oh, conscience!

    You’re taking the holy word
    And adding fiction!
    Be careful how you proceed, Nelson.
    When you fib, there’s a price.

  6. “Shall we tell the truth about this flight?” “No, that’s just what they’ll be expecting us to to!”

    A nod to Airplane!

  7. I invite you to spend an hour and listen to the commentary to Rocky’s latest recounting of his Paul Bunyon tall tale in General Conference of his brave encounter with death in 1976. It can now be shown to be an apparent complete and total lie. Paul Dunn would be proud of how Rocky spins this apparent false tale to demonstrate how he is a man of faith just as Paul Dunn used to do years ago when I was a teenager.
    The NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board is charged with investigating each time an airliner (Sky West Airlines) has an engine explode. It must investigate each time that there is an engine fire. It was investigate each time there is a dual engine failure in the air. It must investigate each time a airline spirals down out of the sky and nearly crashes due to a dual engine failure. It must investigate each time that an airline performs an emergency landing and especially if that landing was “off airport” (in a farmer’s field). I personally want to know the truth and will personally pay $100 to any person that can produce an NTSB investigation to substantiate this supposed “near death experience” of Russel Nelson (Rusty). Personally, I think that the evidence demonstrates that Rusty is lying AGAIN.
    The $100 challenge is open to any or all takers. Listen to the podcast which lasts one hour, provide me with an NTSB report substantiating this horrible experience of the “so called” prophet seer and revelator Russel Nelson, and I will give you $100.

    1. Paul Dunn stated that Tommy Monson was a much bigger story teller than he ever was. Looking back on all of the miracles that happened when Monson was bishop, they were are elderly people in his ward that had conveniently passed long before the story ever came to light.

      1. I can verify at least one story that President Monson told because I was there, and he told it exactly as I remembered it. I was amazed at the detail with which he recounted it. I also remember telling a story at my mother’s funeral 2015 about forty years after the fact. I was later corrected by my sister who was there and knew the story as well, and I realized that she was right and I was wrong. I had rewritten the events in my mind over the years and honestly remembered them wrongly. It is an actual thing called memory error, and it is well documented. Again, just fact checking. President Nelson is 98 years old. I would expect he to have perfect recall. Assuming you are all right, and your assumption about the W. Rolfe Kerr inauguration was the event, and “years ago” was actually 1976, and you have searched all the flights he ever took in the US, then you nailed it. But, if the university president wasn’t Rolfe, what then? President Nelson never claimed to be perfect, but I respect him and his amazing life. You may have noticed I didn’t refer to him as Rusty as one of your buddies did, but I’m guessing that it wouldn’t matter what he did, that would not please the people here on this forum.

  8. My $100 will be paid to the FIRST of the providers of the NTSB report. I am on Social Security and can only pay ONE PERSON, but I doubt very much that any report can be found. If I win the lottery, I will increase the reward, but I doubt that will happen either.

  9. Loved this episode. I was raised in Delta, Utah, so when I heard Pres. Nelson speak of this event in the past I always was curious what farm he landed at. I never heard of this story when I was growing up and certainly there was never any talk of a G.A.s plane landing in the area.

    In High School I took journalism. We were able to submit articles to the local newspaper, The Millard County Chronicle Progress, which was published weekly, even though we were only students. They were willing to get any article submitted to fill the pages.

    There was a certain quota that we had to meet in order to pass the journalism class. Oh how I would’ve loved for an event like this to have happened during my time. Such an easy way to help fulfill my quota. I was usually searching for about anything to write on instead.

    As a side note, I am still an active member of the Church, but absolutely love your podcasts and listen faithfully.

    Though I no longer live in Delta, I hold it dear to my heart, and am so surprised that two Mormon related stories come from Delta. This one, and also Joseph Bishop is a Delta High grad.

    1. There is an interesting discussion on Mormon reddit about Nelson’s contribution to the heart-lung machine. Seems he probably engaged significantly in embellishing that, too. This is, I think, an area where RFM could do some cool sleuthing!

    2. Well you would have certainly heard all about an emergency landing in Delta. Does Nelson think that you are all a bunch of brain dead morons???? …only one letter off from mormons

  10. I want to claim the award. I found this in the Nov. 13, 1976 issue of the Millard County Chronical Progress:

    (Delta, UT): A small aircraft touched down in a farmer’s field just outside of town yesterday afternoon. Witnesses on the scene report seeing what appeared to be angels guiding the flaming vehicle to a safe landing. The presence of heavenly assistance was later confirmed by one of the passengers, Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Mormon Church. “WOW! That was a close one!” Elder Nelson said, “Some of the other passengers were sh*tting their pants, but I was as calm as a summer’s morning.” Elder Nelson was not available for further comment as he was whisked from the scene by three men of large stature wearing nothing but loin cloths and sandals. Later inspection revealed that the accident was likely caused by four Lamanite arrow strikes to the left engine.

    Forgive the Millard County press for the use of the term “Mormon”, this was 1976.

  11. It’s amazing how much easier it was to bullshit people pre-internet. Nelson never imagined people could one day check flight data reports from the comfort of their home office. What a shitty prophet.

  12. This tall tale is an attack on Sky West Airlines as well as Western Airlines. I am a solid Western Airlines/Sky West Airlines supporter. Looking back brings back old memories of when Jerry Atkin worked to forge a relationship between Sky West Airlines and Western Airlines to become Western Express. It’s now Delta Express and United Express.

  13. Clearly a lot of embellishment going on here in order to make the story more “faith-promoting” – this seems to be the pattern of the church from the very beginning, so I’m not surprised.

    Although, looking at this from an apologist’s perspective, maybe the actual events of that day served as a ‘catalyst’ which caused Nelson to experience a much scarier flight with his second sight.

  14. Jerry C. Atkin is the man that can clear this airpkane on fire nonsense up. He was the CEO of SkyWest in 1976,and they had maybe 5 Piper Navajo aircraft in 1976. They didnt turn a profit till 1977, 17,000 was their profit. Jerry lives in St. GEORGE,UT, just down the road from Bill Reel, ALL BILL has to do us attend Jerry Atkins elders quorum and ask Jerry. He will remember if one of his new Navajos had caught fire. I bet president Nelson thinks everyone involved is dead, but Jerry Atkin is s alive and sharp as ever.

    1. You are still assuming that you have the event right. There is not real proof that the date and flight are correct in the first place or that Russell Nelson was on the flight you are all talking about.

  15. Just to pile on a little more, the article describes the plane as in a “death spiral.” A death spiral or graveyard spiral is caused by pilot error, not mechanical malfunction. A death spiral happens in low light conditions where the pilot becomes disoriented in respect to the horizon and the plane enters a banked turn. I linked a video below that shows how easily this happens. The pilot sees the altimeter dropping, and believing the plane to be in level flight, pulls back on the yoke–which normally would raise the nose. Instead, this will cause the plane turn and descend more rapidly. The pilot sees the altimeter continue to drop, pulls back harder on the yoke, and the plane loses altitude even faster.

    A death spiral killed JFK Jr, btw. But bottom line is that commercial pilots are fully instrument rated and know to look out for that kind of problem. RMN’s plane was never in a death spiral.

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