Robert Earl Wells was born on 28 December 1927 in Las Vegas, Nevada. As a young man, Elder Wells was a missionary in Argentina for the LDS Church. He then served in the United States Navy. Following this, he earned a degree in accounting from Brigham Young University.
From 1968 to 1971, he was president of the LDS Church's Mexico Monterrey Mission. From 1971 to 1976, he worked for the Church's central purchasing department. Prior to his call as a General Authority, Elder Wells had served as a regional representative in several Latin American countries. In 1976, he became a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy, and held this position until 1997, when he was designated an emeritus general authority. In February 1977, he took up residence in Santiago, Chile, as the Church's area representative for Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay. From 1998 to 2001, Elder Wells was president of the Church's Santiago Chile Temple.
He and his wife, Helen, are the parents of seven children.