Since our prophet (akin to the pope) just died a week and a day ago, I thought maybe this would be a good time to explain how a new prophet is chosen. It is actually rather simple and orderly.
Our church is led by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. The First Presidency consists of the prophet (president) and his two counselors. I imagine they are called the First Presidency to denote the fact that they are at the head of the church. There are many other presidencies within the church on various levels (I have been a president myself various times), but they are the First Presidency. Serving directly under them is the Quorum of the Twelve.
All members of the First Presidency were members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles before taking their places within the presidency. When a prophet dies, the First Presidency is dissolved and the two counselors again become part of the Quorum of the Twelve. Yes, this does mean that for a time there are 14 apostles in the Quorum of the Twelve.
Once funeral services for the recently deceased prophet have been held and he has been laid to rest, the Quorum of the Twelve meet together and ordain the senior member of the Quorum to be the new prophet. There is no haggling, no voting, no campaigning for the position. The person who has been in the Quorum of the Twelve the longest becomes the new prophet.
Once that is made official, the new prophet calls two counselors from among the ranks of the Twelve. This means that the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles now has only 11 apostles. Sometime after the First Presidency has been reorganized a new member will be called to fill the vacancy in the Quorum of the Twelve. The calling to be an apostle is a calling for life, which means that to become the prophet one has to live a mighty long time. This of course means our prophets are generally pretty old.
Mike Wallace interviewed President Hinckley on 60 Minutes over a decade ago and asked him about this “gerontocracy” within the church. The conversation went like this:
Wallace: There are those who say: “This is a gerontocracy…this is a church run by old men.”
Hinckley: Isn’t it wonderful to have a man of maturity at the head? A man who isn’t blown about by every wind of doctrine?
Wallace: Absolutely, as long as he’s not dotty.
Hinckley: Thank you for the compliment.
There are so many things I love about our church and the gospel of Jesus Christ, but this simple passing of the torch is truly one of my favorite things. There is comfort and security in it. There is order and simplicity in it. There is Godliness in it.
To all of the other LDS bloggers out there who read my blog, I would love to see you do Mormon Monday with me. Please let me know if you do.
And George, as always . . .