Calls to the Quorum of the Twelve: An Analysis

For something relatively out of the blue, I want to take a moment to consider potential future candidates for the Quorum of the Twelve.  The Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency are the highest in authority in the Church and are important in policy making and in defining the doctrine of the Church, so the people who are chosen to serve in these quorums are important to Church members.  I believe that it’s best to not talk about these types of things in the aftermath of a death in their ranks (or when the possibility of such is likely in the near future), so I figure now is as good of time as any to discuss the issue.

In the modern Church, most things are run by councils where several individuals have the ability to express their thoughts and often have an opportunity to accept or reject a proposal. That is a part of the administrative genius of the Church that Joseph Smith put in place to insure that things could continue after the death of charismatic leaders, such as himself, and to increase the likelihood that things are being done in accordance with God’s will (more people checking something, the more likely they are to catch errors). This system seems to carry over to the selection of a new apostle. President Hugh B. Brown (1883-1975) recalled that:

In calling a new apostle the president of the church ordinarily says to the Twelve and First Presidency, “There is a vacancy in the quorum. I would like each of you to write three names on a slip of paper and submit them to me. I will look them over and we will decide, possibly on one of those you recommend. Or we may choose none of the ones you recommend. But this will give you all an opportunity to express an opinion.” At the next meeting of the quorum, the president, usually aided by the First Presidency, having looked those names over, says to the brethren, “I wish to nominate XYZ to become the next member of the Council of the Twelve. Are there any remarks? If not, all in favor, raise your right hand.” When the president nominates someone whose name was not submitted by the Twelve, he simply says, “I feel inspired to appoint this man to this job. All in favor raise their hands.” And everybody raises their hands. President Heber J. Grant never submitted a name as far as I know without first talking it over with his counselors and then with members of the quorum.[1]

While this model isn’t always followed, President Brown suggests that it was followed most of the time.

Ultimately, inspiration is expected to guide the selection of a new quorum member. There is a story from President Heber J. Grant’s administration about how, at the time, Church leaders weren’t shy about nepotism and felt that they should call their sons to serve as apostles. Heber J. Grant had no sons, however, so he wanted a close friend by the name of Richard W. Young to be called instead. As an apostle, he suggested Young on multiple occasions, but he was never selected. When President Grant became president of the Church, he wanted to make sure his friend was called, discussed the possibility of doing so with his counselors and even wrote Richard’s name on a slip of paper to take to the next quorum meeting. When he got there, however, he presented the name of Melvin J. Ballard—whom he hardly knew—instead. President Grant later said:

I have felt the inspiration of the living God directing me in my labors. From the day that I chose a comparative stranger to be one of the apostles, instead of my lifelong and dearest living friend, I have known as I know that I live, that I am entitled to the light and the inspiration and the guidance of God in directing His work here upon this earth.[2]

Still, there are certain trends that can be seen in who is called to the Quorum of the Twelve that can be used to predict likely members of the Quorum in the future.  A survey of the thirty five men who have been called to be members of the Quorum of the Twelve most recently (1951 to present) gives some indication of general trends. From this sample, almost all were Caucasian, 94% were men from the United States, and 77% were from Utah or Idaho. Careers before calls as general authorities were mostly in business (37%), law (17%), or education (20%), with a smattering of other careers, such as Church service, STEM careers, medicine, etc. The average age at a call to the Quorum of the Twelve in this group was 59 years old with a standard deviation of 8.

Prior service was also an important indicator for callings to the Twelve.  Men called to the Quorum of the Twelve were predominantly selected from the Presidency of the Seventy, the First Council of the Seventy, or Assistants to the Quorum/Council of the Twelve (all roughly equivalent to the Presidency of the Seventy today in authority, together making up 63% of the sample), with about 14% percent serving in the presiding bishopric, 11% serving as Church university presidents, and 9% serving in the Sunday School presidency. There is some overlap between the groups represented.  It could be observed, based on this, that the Presidency of the Seventy and the presiding bishopric are a barometer of the future of the Quorum of the Twelve (with the other General Authority Seventies serving, in turn, as a barometer of the future of these groups).

In addition, having relatives already in the hierarchy (particularly prevalent with the Smith, Kimball, Cannon/Taylor, and Tanner clans) or at least Mormon pioneer ancestry was prevalent, though exact statistics are difficult to calculate on that factor since they rarely disclose ancestry. Association with a member of the Quorum of the Twelve during youth as a missionary or in a stake increased the likelihood of becoming an apostle as well (i.e., Quentin L. Cook and Jeffrey R. Holland were missionary companions with Marion D. Hanks as their president, Gordon B. Hinckley’s mission president was Elder Joseph F. Merrill, Ezra Taft Benson had Elder David O. McKay as a mission president, etc.).

For a more narrow range of analysis, starting with when President Nelson was called as an apostle in 1984, of the 18 men called, 67% were from Utah/Idaho and 89% from the United States. Average age at time of call was 60 (standard deviation of 5 years). As far as careers go, 44% were business, 11% in law, 28% were in education. As to previous callings, 56% served in the Presidency of the Seventy, 22% in the presiding bishopric, and 22% as Church university presidents. This suggests that there have been some shifts in demographics during the more recent past compared to the last 70-ish years overall (less lawyers and men from Utah and Idaho), but there are still some predominant trends.

The trends seem to be that Caucasian males from the United States—especially Utah and Idaho—in their mid-fifties to early sixties; with careers in business, law, or education; and who have served in the Presidency of the Seventy are the demographic most likely to be selected to serve in the Quorum of the Twelve during the last half a century or so.  Based on these trends, strong candidates include Carl B. Cook (age 63, Utah heritage, business career, member of Presidency of Seventy), Gérald Caussé (age 57, business career, Presiding Bishop of the Church with previous service in First Quorum of the Seventy), Matthew S. Holland (age 53, education career, connections to existing hierarchy, Utah heritage), or any member of the Presidency of the Seventy.

If the Church chooses to call a member of the Quorum of the Twelve that reflects the international and multi-racial nature of Church membership these days (purposefully moving beyond the trend of calling men from the United States), things could get more interesting. The calling of Elder Ulisses Soares and Elder Gerrit Gong to the Quorum of the Twelves indicates that there may be more diversity in background among the Quorum of the Twelve moving forward.  I’ve already mentioned Gérald Caussé, but of the current members of the Presidency of the Seventy from outside of the United States, Patrick Kearon was raised and educated in the Middle East and UK (age 59, career in transportation and real estate), Terence M. Vinson is from Australia (age 69, business career), Carlos A. Godoy is from Brazil (age 59, business career), and José A. Teixeira is from Portugal (age 59, career in business/accounting). Considering the Church’s growth in Latin America, Elder Godoy may have a particularly high likelihood of being called.

Along the lines of considerations based on geography and membership growth, General Authority Seventies from Mexico or other Central American countries may receive strong consideration for calls to the Quorum of the Twelve, given the growth of the Church in that region (approximately 13% of the official count of Church members live there, or 9.7% of organized stakes, with no members of the Quorum of the Twelve currently haling from the region).  These include Jose L. Alonso (age 62, career in medicine, Mexico), Valeri V. Cordón (age 51, career in business, Guatamala), Benjamín De Hoyos (age 67, business and CES career, Mexico), Arnulfo Valenzuela (age 61, business career, Mexico), and Moisés Villanueva (age 54, business career, Mexico).  Of these, Jose L. Alonso and Arnulfo Valenzuela match the historic data for calls to the Quorum of the Twelve most strongly.

Another demographic group that may receive special consideration is men of black African ancestry, due to outstanding Church growth in Africa and (potentially) a desire to be more inclusive of a racial group that has faced historical discrimination in the Church.  Currently, members on the African continent makes up about 4% of the official Church membership count and 5.2% of organized stakes in the Church (though this doesn’t take into account the racial makeup of the membership there or elsewhere in the world). There are currently five black men (that I’m aware of) who serve as General Authority Seventies—Joseph W. Sitati (age 68, career in engineering/finance, from Kenya), Edward Dube (age 58, career in education, from Zimbabwe), Peter M. Johnson (age 54, career in accounting/education, from United States), Thierry K. Mutombo (age 44, career in business and in the Church, from Democratic Republic of the Congo), and Adeyinka A. Ojediran (age 52, business/finance career, from Nigeria).  Any of these men may be considered for a call to the Quorum of the Twelve in upcoming years, though Elder Dube stands out, due to longer service in the Seventy while still being below age 60.  It seems unlikely that any of these five men will be called directly to the Quorum of the Twelve in the immediate future, however, since none of them have served in the Presidency of the Seventy, the Presiding Bishopric, or as Church university presidents and the fact that the proportion of black men in general authority positions, while rising, is still relatively low.

Based on the above discussion, it seems to me that Gérald Caussé, Carlos A. Godoy, Carl B. Cook, Patrick Kearon, Jose L. Alonso, and Arnulfo Valenzuela are the most likely candidates to be called to the Quorum of Twelve in the near future. We never know what will happen, though, as the story from Heber J. Grant mentioned above indicates.  Any worthy male in the Church could be called, though those who already are known to the current president of the Church and other apostles are most likely to be called.  In any case, President Russell M. Nelson had the following to say about the Quorum of the Twelve and First Presidency:

I belong to a wonderful priesthood quorum. We enjoy a precious brotherhood. We pray together; we serve together. We teach, love, and sustain one another. The Twelve come from different backgrounds—business, education, law, and science. But not one was called to serve because of that background. In fact, all men called to positions of priesthood responsibility are chosen because of who they are and who they can become.[3]

 

Footnotes:

[1] Hugh B. Brown and Edwin B. Firmage (ed.), An Abundant Life, 2nd ed. (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1999), 127.

[2] Heber J. Grant, Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant (SLC, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2002), 181-182.

[3] Russell M. Nelson, “Personal Priesthood Responsibility,” CR October 2003, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2003/10/personal-priesthood-responsibility?lang=eng.

31 comments for “Calls to the Quorum of the Twelve: An Analysis

  1. I have nothing to contribute at the level of speculation about names. But two observations at a more general level.

    First, this is an interesting and meaningful focus—the calling of an apostle. There have been a few predictable calls in my lifetime, but more surprises than predictions for me. From apostle on we’ve had a lock-step seniority practice for long enough that many consider it a rule. At the other end, I’m better at guessing the new bishop and stake president and even area president (or at least making sense after the fact, with a bit of confirmation bias at play). And most often surprised by the new apostles. From an ecclesiology or organizational behavior point of view, looking at the church as a very big organization over generations of time, the call of an apostle looks like a pivot for variability and change.

    Second, my gut-check is that the OP mixes periods in a way that is not a dependable indicator of how things will be done now and in the future. Hugh B. Brown died in 1975. President Nelson was called as an apostle in 1984. I see a number of indications of significant change in church administration between the time of Hugh B. Brown and the time of Russell M. Nelson. For the same reason, running statistics on callings since 1951 is likely to be misleading. At least I would add some weighting by time. 1951 to present is just too long a time during too much change to rely on a flat or equally weighted analysis.

    In fact, if I were to make predictions, I would focus on two things before all else—who the president is at the time of the call, and who else was called during that presidency. In other words, at the moment I would consider the calls of Elder Gong and Elder Soares as the best information available.

  2. I agree that, given the many changes during that time, 1951-present seems too long for an equally weighted analysis. But it seems to me that considering the calls of Elders Gong and Soares as the best information available doesn’t lead to speculation very significantly different from that of the OP’s final paragraph, though I might have omitted Elders Cook and Kearon as among the most likely, if looking primarily to the callings of Elders Gong and Soares. But then my speculations can be completely wrong. I also do better at guessing new bishops or stake presidents in my own units — never any good at guessing area presidents.

  3. christiankimball and JR, your gut feeling that the analysis covers too wide of a period is probably not wrong–I just wanted to look at a fair amount of data in modern times. I also share your experience of being surprised as often as not with who is called to the Quorum of the Twelve. In fact, you can look at an older analysis post (one that this OP is largely based on) that I wrote five years ago here: https://prophetsseersandrevelators.wordpress.com/2015/06/01/the-calling-of-an-apostle/. In the intervening five years, only two of the six or so individuals I pointed out as being highly likely to be called were actually called (Ulysses Soares and Gary E. Stevenson).

  4. For a more up-to-date analysis, starting with when President Nelson was called as an apostle in 1984, of the 18 men called, 67% were from Utah/Idaho and 89% from the United States. Average age at time of call was 60 (standard deviation of 5 years). As far as careers go, 44% were business, 11% in law, 28% were in education. As to previous callings, 56% served in the Presidency of the Seventy, 22% in the presiding bishopric, 22% as Church university presidents. I’ll likely add this information to the OP because of your suggestions.

  5. christiankimball wrote, “the call of an apostle looks like a pivot for variability and change.”

    I think selections to the Quorum of the Twelve are the best public indicator of how the Q15, and especially the church’s president, are thinking about the church’s long-term prospects, as opposed to short- or medium-term indicators.

    Almost every other ecclesiastical decision I can think of is reversible. The president can change counselors in the First Presidency and members of the Seventy can be released. Points of doctrine or policy can be emphasized or ignored, and thus gradually changed over time. Investments can be divested and real estate can be sold. I suppose that the Q15 could implement emeritus status for its members, effectively releasing them from the calling. But that would be such a big change that no one can assume it will happen. Therefore, when a new apostle is called, the current members of the quorum have to assume that the decision can’t be changed until the person dies thirty, forty or more years in the future. That makes it the ultimate long-range decision for the Q15.

    Elder Gong is the first person not of white, European ancestry to be called to the Quorum of the Twelve, and Elder Soares is the first person from Latin America (although he is of white, European ancestry). Their callings are a significant step toward internationalizing and diversifying the church. It’s a small step, but it’s significant because it’s such a long-range commitment.

    So much has changed in the world since Elder Gong and Elder Soares were called! At least it feels like change and disintegration have been accelerating. In choosing new apostles, the Q15 must, as much as possible, treat these cultural and political disruptions as temporary things. And it’s not only the short-term external forces that have to be discounted. In choosing the next apostles, leaders must also take themselves out of the equation as much as possible. Their own current personal preferences and inclinations are probably not the best indicators of what the church will need in a few decades.

    Like the others who’ve commented here, I’m not much for predicting who the next apostle will be. But I am fascinated by the insight this gives us about current leaders’ orientation toward the future and their ability to filter out short-term noise when making the most consequential long-term decisions.

  6. I am in my 70s and have not had a substantial calling since I was 55 because presumably I am no longer capable, do any of you have bishops over 60? Why are these men starting when the rest of us are retiring?

    I believe it will become untennable to discriminate against women in the next 10 years, that would be the time to send off the 6 oldest men and have the replacements all women from around the world. With an emitus age around 70. So long as this does not result in Bedinar as Prophet. I think the prophet should be chosen on merit. I see no reason we could not vote online, call it common consent.

    Why does a person need to be a professional to be an apostle? Jesus was a carpenter so wouldn’t be eligible. Why any of the other? Could they not stay in their own country so they keep in touch with reality? Mark Peterson lived in England when I was a boy there. The only apostle I have ever met.

    Couldn’t a good bishop be equally up to the job? How about a builder or mechanic, or housewife?

    I see no reason becoming an Apostle should require being a yes person. I would like to see some difference of opinion, so people feel their views are represented/presented. I am disgusted that no church leadership have called out Trump behaviour and talked about the choice America has to make. Perhaps in October? They seem like a bunch of yes men at the moment, all in lock step.

    The statistics above tell me that becoming an apostle is more about who you know, and how well you conform than inspiration or revelation.

    My father was a builder, he was called on a building mission 2 years after he joined the church. He worked for the church for the rest of his life, and ended up as the church offices for the church in Australia for 10 years. All the tithing went to him, and he arrange all the building and maintanence. He was bishop in a number of wards over the years. A bod came from SLC, found out he was a builder, and asked for recommendations for a member who was an office manager. The office manager was employed, and within 5 years there were 50 people doing what my father and a secretary did for 10 years.

    We value strange things that have nothing to do with ability or spirituality, in church leadership.

  7. An age 70 emeritus plan would make Elder Bednar president of the church today. Those senior to him (Nelson, Oaks, Ballard, Holland, Eyeing, and Uchtdorf) are all already past 70

    At 58, and a member since 17, I have never held a substantial calling, if that means bishopric or high councilor or such. Most of my callings have been supporting the young men in my wards — meaningful to me and to them, and hopefully to the Lord, but not substantial in church terms.

    Geoff, your anti-Trump sentence really added nothing of value to your last comment. Indeed, that sentence is irrelevant to everything else you wrote.

  8. I’ve mused on the idea of an age cap for the Quorum of the 12 before. Not that it’s my place to weigh in on the idea, but it’s interesting to consider. I know Hugh B Brown suggested something if the sort back in the day, but it didn’t fly with the other members of the quorum. There would be tradeoffs (good and bad) either way. For example, on the potentially good side, implementing an age cap would make it more likely that members of the quorum would be in good health and capable of fulfilling their duties. On the bad side, you might end up seeing emeritus apostles interfering in the Church in ways that are controversial. This would be particularly problematic if the First Presidency was included in the cap (i.e. an emeritus president of the Church weighing in on topics and policy in ways contrary to the current president–something like what has happened with the Catholic Church in the past few years with a retired pope and a current pope being a bit at odds with each other on some topics).

  9. Chad, Why should an emeritus apostle’s expression of an opinion contrary to then current apostles or presidency members be characterized as “interfering”. For some of us the publicly expressed internal differences of opinion within the Q12 in the 60s were healthy. They helped develop a more mature perspective. Maybe they would be similarly healthy again. For some time there hasn’t been anything approaching the public disagreements of Hugh B. Brown and Ezra Taft Benson or the earlier disagreements among Joseph Fielding Smith and the several apostles who didn’t like his anti-evolution preaching. The church didn’t fail or collapse because of those public disagreements. I learned, e.g., to appreciate some wisdom from ETB (some of it in a private interview) while at the same time rejecting his conspiracy theories and his John Birch-ism. Maybe it’s time to let the Church members grow up. The Catholic Church is not failing because a retired pope and a current pope are a bit at odds with each other on some things.

  10. That’s a fair point, Wondering. I guess I’ve just grown up in an era where that hasn’t really been part of the public operations of the Church, so my default assumption was that it would just cause problems, contentions, and bad optics for the Church because it’s not been something that I’ve really experienced outside of studying the past. I appreciate you disrupting that assumption and pointing out ways that it could actually be healthy.

  11. p,

    You’ve never heard me attack or defend either of the candidates here or elsewhere. I do remember writing four years ago that we’ll have another election in four years. Well, here we are. I care more about our process than the results of any particular election. I will sustain the duly elected president.

    I know cougars are the BYU team, and I know cougars are older women who seek younger men — but I don’t grasp your use of the term with regard to a former vice president (at least, I assume that’s the Cheney you’re referencing).

  12. I don’t understand what p is saying either, but I will say that I’d rather not have every thread on the blog turn into a discussion about the upcoming United States election.

  13. Ji, Very noble to not advocate for either side of politics, and expect the system to work. Are you certain America will still be a democracy next year?
    Read student of history on the previous blog? If there are many more like him, America will not be a democracy next year. Might be time to get yourself dirty defending the system?

    Having different points of view expressed by the 15 would help more people feel that their understanding was being heard by the top leadership.

  14. A few random thoughts, not necessarily well-thought out. They have been on my mind for years.

    Nelson: heart surgeon
    Oaks: educator, lawyer, judge
    Eyring: educator
    Ballard: businessman
    Holland: educator
    Uchtdorf: airline pilot
    Bednar: educator
    Christofferson: lawyer
    Cook:
    Anderson: businessman
    Rasband:
    Stevenson:
    Renlund: heart surgeon
    Gong: educator
    Soares:

    Could someone remind me of the occupations for Cook, Rasband, Stevenson, Soares?

    I believe Ballard is the only one without a college degree.

    Three have highly technical backgrounds (Nelson, Uchtdorf, Renlund).

    Several doctorates.

    I think the trend over the years has been toward an ever-more highly-educated elite, as our leaders. There are good points and bad points to that, I think. But the best Bishop I ever had was a farrier, and worked with his hands.Another outstanding Bishop was a meteorologist:

    I think our Church leaders would benefit from the selection of a few “Joe Everyman” types. Surely there are many righteous, worthy people in that category of normal. quiet, unassuming men. Elites bring needed expertise and firepower, but tend to become remote from the people they lead. Not just in Church, but in government and the private sector. A simple fact of human life.

    The one kind of leader for whom I have a generalized distaste is a MLM entrepreneur.

  15. Cook was an attorney, then a executive officer in healthcare.
    Rasband and Stevenson were businessman
    Soares was a businessman/accountant and auditor

  16. Speakers at alternative BYU commencement wax political
    Speakers at alternative BYU commencement wax political
    COBB CONDIE/Daily Herald Ralph Nader addresses an at audience at UVSC during an alternative commencement organized by BYU students unhappy with the schools decision to have Vice President Dick Cheney speak at graduation Thursday, April 26, 2007. unknown?
    Speakers at alternative BYU commencement wax political
    COBB CONDIE/Daily Herald

    Eric Dalzen, a BYU graduate, chose not to attend the traditional commencement at the Marriott Center because he doesn’t agree with what Vice President Dick Cheney stands for. He decided to attend the alternative commencement put on by protesting BYU students which was held later the same day at the McKay Events Center Thursday, April 26, 2007. unknown?
    ALAN CHOATE – Daily Herald
    Apr 26, 2007
    Several hundred people attended an alternative graduation ceremony for Brigham Young University on Thursday night, an event that offered a raucously political contrast to the more staid official ceremony earlier in the day.

    Two dozen BYU students raised $26,000 in nine days to pay for the ceremony and organized every detail, from reserving the McKay Events Center at Utah Valley State College to arranging the speaker lineup — former Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Pete Ashdown, ex-Amnesty International director Jack Healey and consumer advocate Ralph Nader.

    “I am overwhelmed,” organizer and graduating senior Eric Bybee said as the commencement started. “We are overwhelmed and grateful that so many have showed up.”

    All the speakers offered a sharp critique of the policies — including the Iraq war and the treatment of people detained as “enemy combatants” — pursued by President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, who spoke at BYU’s commencement. But students were also urged to take heart that the alternative event even took place, and to keep that energy alive as they went out into the world.

  17. As for “student”, Geoff, this is a durable American type. I’ve known several – my father, for instance, who wouldn’t have a phone (government might be listening), had me bury trash in back yard so trashman wouldn’t “go through“ our stuff, zip codes as government tracking device, seatbelts tyranny etc. European settlers to this continent included many T-types: intelligent, innovative, unstable. Thus the occasional Nixon Clinton Trump. We’ll survive.

  18. p but have they had a President, who is saying 12 more years, who is telling people to vote postal and then in person too? And is otherwise undermining democracy.

    Hopefully he will get voted out and go quietly. Has there been a president who talked about refusing to go before? And talked about undermining the voting system?

  19. at one time my “dream team” choices for the quorum of the 12 were Paul Dunn and George P.Lee I don’t speculate anymore

  20. Steven: I like your dream team joke. If I put forward names, that might jinx them, too. Nevertheless, Elder Carlos Godoy presided at our stake conference one year ago. I was really impressed.
    As the Church becomes more international, less Anglophone, less Caucasian, it makes sense that the Lord, to whom time is transparent, would put in place apostles who have strong insight to guide His Church’s growth. Much of that insight comes spiritually, but also there is value for both education and experience in managing this growing enterprise. Experience includes one’s cultural background. The Lord has stated that He values learning of all sorts in D&C 88:77-80; 118; 90:15; 93:53.

  21. Geoff, I don’t think a single American expects him to go quietly. We are ready to rumble if it comes to that. Bring it on.

  22. I find it very interesting that since 1953 all new apostles (32) have been serving GA’s except: Hunter, Monson, Nelson, Oaks, Bednar. Interesting that 3 became president of the Church and statistically the other two have a very likely chance. I guess when the Lord wants someone, He knows how to find them!

    How does your “previous callings” analysis account for Elder Renlund, who was never in the presidency of the 70 or the presiding bishopric?

    Since 1976, when the 70 were reorganized, all new apostles who were GA’s (18) have been current members of the Presidency of the 70 except Hales and Stevenson (presiding bishopric), Holland, and Eyring (former university presidents) and Renlund.

  23. ktbnyc, I think that there is also something to be said about pulling people into the Quorum of the Twelve earlier in their lives (without going through a series of GA callings) that makes it more likely for them to become presidents of the Church. But yes, when the Lord wants someone, He knows how to find them!

    As far as “previous callings,” the statistics were all below 100% for bishopric and Presidency of the Seventy, so the analysis indicates that there’s room for people who haven’t served in those callings to be called. A lot of the men I mentioned from Central America or as having black African ancestry are in similar positions to Elder Renlund. In any case, there is a fair amount of room for wild cards that surprise us to be called (and I will say that Elder Renlund was a total surprise to me when he was called).

  24. Interesting point on non-GA’s: could be correlation due to being younger than peers rather than causation. But neither Hunter nor Nelson was statistically likely to become president at the time they were called the Q12, because they were the same age (or older) than more senior apostles.

  25. When an organization is religious,its policies are perceived as a matter of divine commandment and its hierarchy invested in persuading the world that this is the case…because if the organization is wrong about something its credibility as a source for divine commandments is imperiled all the way back to its beginnings.

    The LDS church was founded by young men,but the policies put in place to govern succession resulted in its being led by a 90-year-old in 1897,and men in their 80s and 90s as a rule in recent times.I expect that someone openly proposing that these policies (and the exclusion of women) be discarded would be considered unreliable as a candidate for responsibilities in an organization holding them sacred,regardless of his age.Even when a president is incapacitated provisions are in place for his responsibilities to be discharged,and so far the church has not fallen apart.

    I am not myself a religious person,but I study hierarchies of many kinds,and the absolutely-always-the-longest-serving-apostle system is I think more a defining characteristic of the LDS Church than Geoff-Aus appears willing to grasp.

  26. Louis E. “the absolutely-always-the-longest-serving-apostle system is I think … a defining characteristic of the LDS Church…”

    The practice has been mostly consistent after Brigham Young, but it is changeable by the Q12. The last time I know (from a journalist then employed at Deseret News) of a change being considered was in 1970, I think. As I understand it, consideration was given to skipping over Joseph Fielding Smith in view of his advanced age and because delaying such a change then and skipping over another later could have prompted speculation about reasons other than age and health for a later change. I was told that Deseret News, on instructions from apostle(s), prepared two different front pages indicating two different new Church presidents and held up printing until they were told which to use. The morning paper was late that day.
    Some may think the “absolutely-always-the-longest serving-apostle” system is a rule, but it is instead a practice in the control of the Q12. I think historically that description of the practice is also a misnomer because of some apostles being called to apostleship but not made a part of the Q12 and, long ago, some being out of the Q12 and then back in with a new seniority date. The practice since BY would be better described as “in-practice-always-the-apostle-with-the-longest-seniority-in-the-Q12 (actually, in current practice, the Q14 after the death of a President of the Church).”

  27. I apologize to those whose comments were lost on this thread. We had to restore to an archived version of the site from a few days ago due to a glitch in the system.

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