Things To Act
Thursday, July 22, 2004
 
Succession in the Twelve
It's been nearly 10 years since there's been a change in the Quorum of the Twelve.  In other words, the Quorum has been largely the same for my entire life, or at least the entire time in which I was conscious of such changes.  Meanwhile, elsewhere in the Bloggernacle people are asking questions and spreading rumors about the succession process.  I therefore figure that taking a closer look at the issue might help.

The Deseret News provides some helpful bios of current General Authorities which I'll be using as sources.  First PresidencyQuorum of the Twelve.  Presidents of the Seventy.  Presiding Bishopric.

The last time a vacancy in the Twelve was filled was following the death of President Hunter (on 3 March 1995).  Elder Eyring was "sustained to the Quorum of the Twelve April 1, 1995, and ordained an apostle April 6, 1995, at age 61."  Elder Eyring had previously held callings in the Presiding Bishopric, the First Quorum of the Seventy, and was serving as Commissioner of CES when called to the Twelve.

The previous vacancy had occurred with the death of President Benson (on 30 May 1994).  Elder Holland was "ordained an apostle June 23, 1994, at age 53; sustained to the Quorum of the Twelve Oct. 1, 1994."  A press conference was held the day of the ordination, according to a subsequent Ensign report.  Elder Holland had previously held callings as a commissioner of education, in the First Quorum of the Seventy, and president of BYU.

The previous vacancy had occurred with the death of Elder Ashton (on 24 February 1994).  Elder Hales was "sustained to the Quorum of the Twelve April 2, 1994, and ordained an apostle April 7, 1994, at age 61."  He had previously served in the First Quorum of the Seventy and was Presiding Bishop at the time of his call to the Twelve.

The previous vacancy had occurred with the death of President Romney (on 20 May 1988).  Elder Scott was "sustained to the Quorum of the Twelve on Oct. 1, 1988, and ordained an apostle Oct. 6, 1988, at age 59."  He had previously served in the First Quorum of the Seventy, and as a President of the Seventy at the time of his call to the Twelve.

The previous vacancy had occurred (I believe) with the death of President Kimball (on 5 November 1985).  Elder Wirthlin, however, was not sustained until nearly a year later; "sustained to the Quorum of the Twelve Oct. 4, 1986, and ordained an apostle Oct. 9, 1986, at age 69."  I believe this delay may have been because of health problems among some Church leaders, but am well before my period of conscious recollection.  Elder Wirthlin was serving as a President of the Seventy when he was called to the Twelve.

By now, a few patterns seem to be apparent.  A vacancy is usually filled by the next conference, though it can be filled before (as in Elder Holland's case).  With conference nearly three months off, it seems like it could go either way at this point.  While no hard-and-fast pattern emerges, service as a President of the Seventy or in the Presiding Bishopric seems a common theme, and being a former BYU president could mean something [Elders Oaks and Holland are BYU's only two living former presidents besides Elder Bateman].  Links to short bios of those serving in the P70 and PB are above (though Desnews doesn't seem to have updated them to take last Conference's sustainings and releasings into account, including releasing Elder Bateman from the SS general presidency, and replacing Elder Neuenschwander with Elder Groberg in the Presidents of the Seventy).

Also of possible bearing is the evident recent decision to have the Presidents of the Seventy meet with the Twelve in their weekly meeting (one report here).  When I first heard about this, I thought it might be a logical way to ensure continuity in the Quorum--if Presidents of the Seventy had already been working closely with the Twelve, they would be available to fill vacancies fairly seamlessly (and given how smoothly the Twelve have been working together in recent years, it seems smart to build mechanisms to keep the momentum in that direction).

Those who obsess about symbolic representation among GAs will doubtless be interested to note that of the current Presidents of the Seventy, four were born in Utah, one in Idaho, and two in Europe.  Of course, if we look beyond the current Presidents, several other international GAs are available to serve.  [Personally, I think the symbolic representation arguments are sort of silly, as the Church has only just begun to be established long enough in most countries to give rise to a pool of native Church leaders with lifelong experience.  I expect that over the next few decades, the trend of increasing internationalization of Church leadership will continue, but that it ultimately isn't that big a deal.]

In the end, of course, the new member of the Twelve will be picked by the Lord through the Prophet.  Any number of well qualified individuals seem prepared, and while we'll miss Elder Maxwell, getting to know a new member of the Twelve should be interesting.  The succession process will work smoothly, and the Church will continue to be led by inspiration.


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