Category Archives: Succession

A sweet look from outside [OOPS!]

EGG ON MY FACE: Kathleen Flake is LDS. My fault for leaping to the assumption that a professor of religious history at Vanderbilt was not LDS. Thanks for the comments that corrected me. Sigh….

As Latter-day Saints, we (well, I, but I suspect most of you as well) reflexively brace for misunderstandings and misrepresentations in non-LDS coverage of our doctrines, society, and practices. So it was refreshing — and moving [but mistaken on my part!] — to read this insightful piece by Kathleen Flake from the On Religion website about President Hinckley’s funeral:

The Latter-day Saints buried their prophet on Saturday. Thousands attended the service in person and millions more faithful watched in chapels around the globe, as well as on the internet. What they saw was an unusually personal ceremony for a very public man who led and to large degree defined the contemporary Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Notwithstanding the numbers and titles of participants, Gordon Hinckley’s funeral was a family affair both in word and sacrament. It was an extraordinary display of what makes Mormonism tick.

Be sure to read the whole thing. Hat tip to the Deseret News LDS Newsline. ..bruce..

Succession in LDS Leadership (part IV)

As expected, President Thomas S. Monson has been set apart as the 16th President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He has retained President Henry B. Eyring as First Counselor, also no surprise. Most interestingly, he selected Elder Dieter L. Uchtdorf as Second Counselor, making him (I believe) the first non-American to serve in the First Presidency in modern times, underscoring the global nature of the Church (President Monson: “He knows every airport in the entire world…He’s an international man.”).

In the meantime, Pres. Boyd K. Packer goes from being Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve to be President of the Quorum of the Twelve, and thus next in line for succession to the LDS Presidency. Our prayers go with all these men. ..bruce..

[UPDATE: I’ve added the “in modern times” comment, because one counselor in the First Presidency in the early 1900s — Anthon H. Lund — was born over in Denmark, though I’m less clear whether or not he was an American citizen at the time of his calling into the First Presidency in 1901. Interestingly enough, Lund was President of the Quorum of the Twelve and thus next in line in succession to the LDS Church Presidency (behind LDS Church President Heber J. Grant) at the time of his (Lund’s) death in 1921.]

The Hinckley challenge

A group of Latter-day Saints have decided to honor the late President Hinckley by reading the Book of Mormon in 97 days (to commemorate his 97 years of life). They are issuing the same challenge to Latter-day Saints everywhere and have set up a web site where you can register and log your progress.

It’s a great challenge and a fitting honor. I’ve signed up; have you? ..bruce..

UPDATE: Below is my current progress chart.

Succession in LDS Leadership (part III)

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..

Gordon B. Hinckley (1910 – 2008)

Gordon B. Hinckley

[For details on succession in LDS leadership, see this post.]

Gordon B. Hinckley, 15th President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon), passed away earlier today, at age 97.

No man ever came to office of LDS President more prepared than Pres. Hinckley. Long before he was called to the Quorum of the Twelve in 1961, he traveled the world for the LDS Church, helping to establish missionary efforts in countries where the Church had little presence. In 1981, he was called as a counselor to the First Presidency and within a short time found himself as the only fully functional member of that Presidency, as old age and illness limited the activity and capacity of both Pres. Spencer W. Kimball and 1st Counselor Marion G. Romney. He encountered a similar situation as a counselor to Pres. Ezra Taft Benson. Through both periods, he showed the greatest respect, restraint, and deference to the President of the Church. Finally, upon the death of President Howard W. Hunter, he became the 15th President of the LDS Church — and unleashed an era of change and worldwide expansion that had not been seen since the administration of Pres. Kimball 20 years earlier.

There are many things for which Pres. Hinckley will be remembered, including his quick wit, his frank talks at General Priesthood Meeting, and his amazing global travels over the past 50 years. But a century from now, I believe he will most be remembered for the incredible expansion of LDS temples worldwide. When he came into office in March of 1995, the LDS Church had just 47 temples in operation worldwide. Today, just 13 years later, there are over 124 temples in operation, with another 12 announced or under construction.

If you’ve read Pres. Hinckley’s biography, you know that during the years his family was growing and growing up, he would constantly remodel and expand their family home as required, doing all the work himself. However, in his later years, he and his (late) wife Marjorie moved into an apartment in downtown Salt Lake City next to the Church Office Building. While Sandra and I lived back in Washington DC, we got to know a sister in our ward, Marion Hardy, whose late husband had been missionary companies with Pres. Hinckley in England many decades earlier. She told me about visiting Pres. and Sister Hinckley in Salt Lake City a few years earlier. Pres. Hinckley (or “Gordie” as she called him) was showing her around the apartment when he led her over to a closet. Smiling, he opened the door — and there, neatly organized, were the myriad of tools that he had used over the decades to remodel their old house and perform his other construction and repair chores. He had little need or use for them, but he could not bear to leave them behind when he and his wife moved downtown.

Another true story, for I was there. Either 20 or 30 years ago, while I was at BYU — I honestly don’t remember if it was when I was an undergraduate or when I was teaching there — Pres. Hinckley came down from Salt Lake City to speak at the BYU multi-stake fireside held ever Fast Sunday evening in the Marriott Center on the BYU campus. When he got up to speak, he noted that he had encountered some reckless and inconsiderate drivers on the freeway on the way down to Provo. He said that it reminded him of a story he had once heard:

A Quaker farmer went out one morning to milk his cow. After he had been milking for a few minutes, the cow pulled up its hind leg and kicked the farmer, sending him sprawling. The Quaker quietly got up, brushed the straw off, and continued to milk. A few minutes later, the cow again jerked its hind leg and knocked the farmer off his stool. Again, the Quaker got up, brushed off straw and dirt, sat down, and continued to milk. A few minutes later, the cow let loose with both feet, knocking over not just the farmer but the almost-full bucket of milk, which emptied out all over the floor. The Quaker slowly got up, brushed himself off, and walked around to the front of the cow. He looked the cow in the face and said, “I cannot curse thee, and I cannot strike thee — but I can sell thee to the Methodist down the road who will beat hell out of thee.”

There was a collective gasp as 23,000 BYU students and faculty members took in the fact that an Apostle of the Lord had just said that in a Church fireside on a Sunday evening — and then a roar of laughter that lasted for quite some time.

I will miss President Hinckley, but I cannot grieve too much for his passing. He served the Lord and His Church unfailingly and with great effort and sacrifice for over 70 years, and I’m sure he has missed his wife Marjorie since her death back in 2004. He deserves the rest and the sweet company of his beloved wife. May the Lord bless his children, friends, and colleagues and help all of us to live up to his example and goals.

Our prayers and thoughts are also with Pres. Thomas S. Monson, who as the senior living Apostle, will serve as the 16th President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. ..bruce..

NOTE: Peggy Fletcher Stack (at the Salt Lake Tribune) has a well-written, detailed and thoughtful obituary for Pres. Hinckley.

NOTE: This appears to be the origin (or, at least, an earlier version) of the joke that Pres. Hinckley told at the fireside.

Succession in LDS Leadership (part II)

The 177th Semi-Annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has started, and it began with Pres. Gordon B. Hinckley presenting the general authorities and officers for sustaining. The two biggest changes:

  • Elder Henry B. Eyring was presented and sustained as 2nd Counselor in the First Presidency, replacing Pres. James E. Faust, who died earlier this year.
  • Elder Quentin L. Cook was presented and sustained as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; he had previously been serving as a member of the First Presidency of the Seventy.

Even as I type this, Pres. Boyd K. Packer is talking about how LDS ministry and leadership differs from other churches. ..bruce..

Succession in LDS Leadership

[UPDATED 01/27/08 2125 MST]

This entry is suddenly getting a lot of hits, due undoubtedly to the death earlier today of Pres. Gordon B. Hinckley. With the death of Pres. Hinckley, the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been dissolved; Pres. Thomas S. Monson and Pres. Henry B. Eyring return to the Council of the Twelve Apostles (which now actually has 14 apostles in it); and Pres. Monson resumes his role as President of the Quorum of the Twelve, taking over from Pres. Boyd K. Packer, who has been serving as Acting President of the Twelve.

The Quorum of the Twelve, under the leadership of Pres. Monson, now leads the LDS Church. At some point, most likely within the next week or two, the Quorum of the Twelve will move to reorganize the First Presidency, with Pres. Thomas S. Monson as President of the Church, along with two counselors of his choosing. There’s a good chance (based on tradition) that Pres. Monson will retain Elder Eyring as one of his counselors, but that’s Pres. Monson’s choice, not a requirement.

Also note that this means that a new member of the Quorum of the Twelve will be called, though possibly not until the LDS General Conference in April.

[UPDATED 10/06/07 1034 MDT – Elder Henry B. Eyring has been called and sustained as 2nd Counselor in the First Presidency, while Elder Quentin L. Cook has been called to the Quorum of the Twelve. See here.]

==================== [ORIGINAL POST] ==============================

Peggy Fletcher Stack over in the Salt Lake Tribune writes about the “wild speculation” (her phrase, not mine) regarding whom Pres. Hinckley will call to replace Pres. Faust as 2nd Counselor in the First Presidency. First, in my own experience, the speculation tends to be tame rather than wild, though (in fairness) it’s probably a bit more of a topic of discussion within Utah than outside of it. Second, Stack gives no substantive basis for the specific candidates she mentions; one could as easily list all of the members of the Quorum of the Twelve instead of the few she picks out. Stack does correctly note that counselors have on occasion been chosen from outside of the Quorum of the Twelve, though it’s been roughly half a century since that happened. However, she incorrectly states that the calling as a counselor in the First Presidency is a “lifetime calling”; when the President of the Church dies, his counselors are automatically released and revert back to their positions in (or outside of) the Quorum of the Twelve, and the new President of the Church is free to select whomever he wants as counselors. (I sent Peggy a note on this, and she replied that she inadvertently left out a conditional phrase; easy enough to do with deadlines.)

Those minor quibbles aside, Stack’s article clearly lays out the principles underlying succession at the highest level of the LDS Church. Once you are called to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, you are on a very slow-moving track toward being President of the Church — but only if you live long enough (i.e., longer than those called before you). This has always struck me as a very elegant and corruption-free process. There is no voting, no jockeying for position, no way to leapfrog ahead of those called to the Quorum before you. It is, quite literally, in God’s hands.

Continue reading Succession in LDS Leadership