Elder Carlson was born in Minnesota and is a convert to the Church. He spent most of his youth in northern Minnesota in what was, at the time, a part-member family where opportunities to attend Church were non-existent for most of that period of his life. As a result of his mother’s influence, he joined the Church his senior
year in High School when his family moved to the central part of the state where a branch of the Church was organized. He met, dated, and baptized his future wife, Vicki, when he was in college and she was a senior in high school. They were married between Bruce's junior and senior year in college and were sealed two years later in the Salt Lake Temple. He was in the Air Force prior to being called as a Seventy. Elder Carlson and his wife are the parents of three children. They have 11 grandchildren.