Last August, after the death of Pres. James E. Faust, I wrote about the standard approach to succession for the Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and noted at the time:
The infographic that accompanies Stack’s article refers to this process of succession as a “long-standing tradition”. That’s fair enough, given that there is no canonized scripture or revelation setting forth the manner of succession. This was the reason for the one major split that occurred in LDS Church history, right after the death of Joseph Smith, resulting in several different “Restoration” churches, most of which have dwindled or disappeared, the main exception being the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints [RLDS], which changed its name to the Community of Christ in 2001 (it claims membership of about 200,000 worldwide as of 2006, down from earlier estimates of 250,000, probably as the result of on-going schisms).
However, that “long-standing tradition” has been followed in the LDS Church for over 160 years and for every succession to the Presidency since Joseph Smith was killed. As noted earlier, when the President of the Church dies, his counselors are automatically released, and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles becomes the sole body running the Church, led by the President of the Quorum of the Twelve — the most senior Apostle. After the deaths of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and John Taylor, the Quorum of the Twelve took over and ran the Church for 2-3 years before the First Presidency was reorganized. Since the death of Lorenzo Snow, however, the First Presidency has typically been reorganized in one to two weeks.
Notwithstanding those comments, there is an excellent posting over at Mormon Wasp that discusses why there was a delay in reorganizing the First Presidency after the death of John Taylor — due largely to deep disagreements among the members of the Quorum of the Twelve over (a) whether the First Presidency should be reorganized at all and (b) if so, who should serve in it. The posting is fascinating and has links to additional related documents and articles. Read the whole thing. ..bruce..