.
.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Church always has a Prophet President

A Deseret Morning News article published Sunday said:

"Sometime soon, following President Hinckley's funeral, quorum members will sustain a new church president.  If historical precedent holds, the quorum's senior apostle and president, President Monson, will succeed President Hinckley." (Full article here.)

There is no ' if '  about it.  President Monson has already succeeded President Hinckley:

"As the last heartbeat of President [Hinckley] ceased, the mantle of leadership passed to President [Monson], whose next heartbeat was that of the living oracle and presiding authority of God on earth.  From that moment the Church continued under the direction of President [Monson].

"It was not required, nor was it requisite or needed, that the Lord give any revelation, that any special direction be given.  The law was already ordained and established.  God does not look down each morning and say, ' The sun shall rise.'  He has already established the law, he has set the sun in the firmament, and the sun operates in harmony with established law in its rising.  And so it was with the transfer of leadership from President [Hinckley] to President [Monson]."

(Adapted from Bruce R. McConkie, "Succession in the Presidency," BYU Speeches, January 1974.)

24 Comments:

Blogger Hedgee said...

Yes, President Monson has the mantle of leadership passed to him as soon as President Hinckley passed away, but that does not automatically make him prophet. I think the next paragraph from the part you quoted says it best.

When the President of the Church passes on, the First Presidency is disorganized, and the mantle of leadership--the reins of presidency--go to the senior man left and to the Council of the Twelve as a body; in effect the Council of the Twelve then becomes the First Presidency of the Church and so continues unless and until a formal reorganization takes place.

Yes, President Monson is most likely to become the next Prophet, but if it happened to be someone else it wouldn't shake my faith.

1/28/2008 02:24:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Teachings of the Living Prophets, Student Manual, Religion 333, correctly states that "Succession in the prophetic office is automatic and proceeds according to apostolic seniority in the Quorum of the Twelve."  The manual further quotes from President Harold B. Lee as follows:

-------------- quote --------------
"Occasionally the question is asked as to whether or not one other than the senior member of the Twelve could become President.  Some thought on this matter would suggest that any other than the senior member could become President of the Church only if the Lord reveals to that President of the Twelve that someone other than himself could be selected....

"With reference to this subject, the fourth President of the Church, Wilford Woodruff, made a few observations in a letter to President Heber J. Grant, then a member of the Twelve, under date of March 28, 1887.  I quote from that letter:  '...when the President of the Church dies, who then is the Presiding Authority of the Church?  It is the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (ordained and organized by the revelations of God and none else).  Then while these Twelve Apostles preside over the Church, who is the President of the Church[?]  It is the President of the Twelve Apostles.  And he is virtually as much the President of the Church while presiding over Twelve men as he is when organized as the Presidency of the Church, and presiding over two men.' "  (Harold B. Lee, in Conference Report, Apr. 1970, pp.123–24.)
-------------- end quote --------------

1/28/2008 06:10:00 AM  
Anonymous SmallAxe said...

r gary,

If it is automatic, then why has the church waited in the past (and will most likely wait again) to name the next president?

1/28/2008 06:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Tom D. said...

Yes, but for the next few days we are experiencing an apostolic interregnum as much as the Saints did between the death of the Prophet Joseph and the eventual sustaining of President Brigham Young as President of the Church.

1/28/2008 07:34:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

SmallAxe, you may say it is a subtle point, but they don't announce the next President.  They announce the reorganization of the First Presidency:

-------------- quote --------------
"On Monday, March 13, at 9:00 A.M., the day following the reorganization of the First Presidency, the new First Presidency, joined by members of the Quorum of the Twelve, held a media conference in the lobby of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building to announce the previous day's action."  (Ensign, Apr. 1995, p.5.)
-------------- end quote --------------

Tom D., the Church is now under the leadership of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles with Thomas S. Monson as President and Prophet.  It is today as President Kimball said it was in 1972:

-------------- quote --------------
"The second that the spirit left the body of President Joseph Fielding Smith on July 2, President Harold B. Lee in that same second as president of the twelve apostles rightfully assumed command and was the true and recognized leader."  (Ensign, Jan. 1973, p.34.)
-------------- end quote --------------

1/28/2008 07:44:00 AM  
Anonymous SmallAxe said...

R Gary,

You're selectively quoting from the Ensign (Apr. 1995). Here's what you leave out:

"At the death of the President of the Church, the First Presidency is dissolved and priesthood leadership in the Church at that moment reverts to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Order within the Quorum of the Twelve is by rank of seniority from the time members are called to the Quorum, the members of which are sustained as prophets, seers, and revelators to the Church. At the death of the President of the Church, counselors in the former First Presidency who are Apostles and numbered within the Quorum of the Twelve return to their order within the Twelve.

Consequently, on Sunday, March 12, President Gordon B. Hinckley, as President of the Twelve, called a meeting of Quorum members, each of whom individually holds in trust all of the keys of the priesthood of God on earth. They met to reorganize the First Presidency. They then ordained and set apart President Gordon B. Hinckley as President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, President Thomas S. Monson acting as voice."

President Hunter died March 3. President Hinckley on March 12 organized a meeting as PRESIDENT OF THE TWELVE (not the church) in which he was then ordained and set apart as president of the church.

If president Hinckley was president of the church the moment president Hunter passed away, then why does the article explicitly state that the meeting was held with him as president of the twelve? And why would he then need to be set apart and ordained to president of the church?

Perhaps a more appropriate way to view it is that since leadership reverts to the quorum of the twelve with the senior apostle presiding then the senior apostle is the "acting" president of the church until one is formally set apart and ordained. Anyhow, point being it's not as cut and dry as you make it out to be.

1/28/2008 08:13:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

SmallAxe, according to your selective quote, "They met to reorganize the First Presidency"  (NOT to name the next President).

1/28/2008 12:46:00 PM  
Anonymous SmallAxe said...

R Gary,

You're ignoring my last post and trying to sidestep the issue.

Reorganizing the the first presidency entails calling a new president. Please answer these two questions:

If president Hinckley was president of the church the moment president Hunter passed away, then why does the article explicitly state that the meeting was held with him as president of the twelve? And why would he then need to be set apart and ordained to president of the church?

1/28/2008 12:51:00 PM  
Blogger Jared* said...

Gary,

I mostly agree with you, and I don't have much patience for those who multiply the mystery of who comes next.

Yet there is a curious statement in that same chapter of Teachings of the Living Prophets (section 7-5). After the quorum agreed that the First Presidency should be organized:

----quote----
"Then Elder Ezra Taft Benson nominated Spencer W. Kimball to be the President of the Church. This was seconded by Elder Mark E. Petersen and unanimously approved."
----end quote----

A vestigial formality perhaps?

My reading of the history is that, although presidential succession has always followed the same pattern, it has not always been quite as automatic as you argue. For an interesting read, see "Notes on Apostolic Succession."

(Interestingly, upon the death of Joseph F. Smith, the First Presidency apparently was not automatically dissolved, which I noted here. See the first notice and my footnote.)

1/28/2008 08:28:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Jared*,

The Reed Durham and Steven Heath 1970 book Succession in the Church is a classic. I have a well worn copy of my own which I've used for about 35 years.

SmallAxe,

"Several offices in the priesthood have been identified in the revelations of this dispensation.  In the Aaronic Priesthood are the offices of deacon, teacher, priest, and bishop; the first two of these comprised the Levitical Priesthood in ancient times.  In the Melchizedek Priesthood are the offices of elder, seventy, high priest, patriarch, apostle, and president of the Church."  (Daniel H. Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Doctrine and Covenants, 2:211-212.)

In this dispensation, there have been fifteen men set apart and ordained to the office of president of the Church.  President Monson will be number sixteen.  When that happens, he will join a very small but important quorum.  In the meantime (and in addition to the statements quoted above), here are three examples of our leaders stating clearly that the Church always has a Prophet President.


1.    N. Eldon Tanner (Ensign, May 1974, p.84):

"It is significant to note just what took place at the time of the passing of President Harold B. Lee.  President Romney had been called to the hospital and as they talked, President Lee, realizing that he might be incapacitated for some time, said to President Romney:  ' President Tanner is away, and I want you to take over and carry on the affairs of the Church.'  President Kimball, who came in later, offered his services to President Romney.  However, immediately upon the announcement of President Lee’s passing, President Romney turned to President Kimball and said:  ' You, as the president of the Quorum of the Twelve, are now in charge.  I am at your disposal and prepared to do anything I can to help.'

"This was entirely in keeping with the order of the Church and is a great example of how the Church is never left without a presidency and how smoothly it passes from one to another.  Immediately President Kimball, as president of the Twelve, became the presiding authority of the Church."

2.    N. Eldon Tanner (Ensign, Jan. 1973, p.100):

"On the death of the President of the Church the First Presidency is disorganized, and the counselors take their places in the Quorum of the Twelve, which, according to revelation, assumes the responsibility of the presidency of the Church, because they hold the Holy Melchizedek Priesthood and are the next quorum in authority according to the Doctrine and Covenants.  (See D&C 107:23–24.)  The Church, therefore, is never left without a presidency.  The President of the Quorum naturally is the chief or executive officer, and the Twelve continue as the presidency of the Church until such time as the First Presidency is reorganized."

3.    Joseph Fielding Smith (Ensign, July 1972, p.87):

"This priesthood and these keys were conferred upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery by Peter, James, and John, and by Moses and Elijah and others of the ancient prophets.  They have been given to each man who has been set apart as a member of the Council of the Twelve.  But since they are the right of presidency, they can only be exercised in full by the senior apostle of God on earth, who _is_ the president of the Church."

1/28/2008 09:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Tom D. said...

Goodness! I meant no harm nor did I mean to "multiply mystery" - I just wanted to point out that this is all just a temporary game of semantics and power diagrams. In a few days, after President Hinckley's funeral, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles will formally call and sustain President Thomas S. Monson as President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints - that's not in question and should not be by anyone: this point has been decided with finality since the sustaining of President John Taylor.

However, it seems quite clear that from the scriptures and historical precedent that the Church is being led by the unified voice of the Council of Twelve Apostles, headed by their President (who, thus, has no actual difference in his position and authority in relation to the Church from a Church President). I know that some GAs may see things in a more automatic fashion, but history and the Doctrine and Covenants suggest things are subtly different.

Of course, as I said, in a few days after the formal sustaining of President Monson by the Council he will be President of the Church. The only "out of the ordinary" thing that could happen is that President Monson could call two non-Twelve-Apostle counselors to serve with him in the First Presidency, and few prophets have done that since Joseph Smith, Jr.

1/28/2008 10:41:00 PM  
Anonymous SmallAxe said...

R. Gary,

Your original post stated that there is "no 'if' about it" (i.e., whether Monson will succeed President Hinckley). I don't take this to mean Monson, as president of the twelve, has the authority/keys necessary to lead the Church and so therefore succeeds President Hinkely in terms of leading at his death (which incidentally I agree with); but rather that Monson has "already" succeeded President Hinckley as the next president of the Church. Is this not what you are saying?

My questions were specifically about the Apr. 1995 Ensign article, which post date every quote you alluded to. Please answer my questions. President Hunter died March 3. President Hinckley on March 12 organized a meeting as PRESIDENT OF THE TWELVE (not the church) in which he was then ordained and set apart as president of the church.

If president Hinckley was president of the church the moment president Hunter passed away, then why does the article explicitly state that the meeting was held with him as president of the twelve? And why would he then need to be set apart and ordained to president of the church?

1/29/2008 07:01:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

SmallAxe,

Right now there is no quorum of the First Presidency.  Right now, the Quorum of the Twelve are the Church's presidency and Thomas S. Monson, as President of the Twelve, is therefore the Church's President.  In a few days, a new First Presidency will be organized.  Unless President Monson himself receives a revelation instructing him otherwise, he will reorganize the First Presidency and be ordained and set apart as the sixteenth President in the quorum of the First Presidency.

1/29/2008 07:36:00 AM  
Anonymous SmallAxe said...

Well, that makes sense; but doesn't seem entirely inline with your original post.

1/29/2008 11:56:00 AM  
Blogger David Balkcom said...

If anyone would like to know how the transfer of authority is made from one prophet to the next, see the following link:

http://newsroom.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/news-releases-stories/succession-in-the-presidency-of-the-church-of-jesus-christ-of-latter-day-saints

2/06/2008 06:20:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

David Balkcom,

Thanks for the link.  The last paragraph, dated eight days before the First Presidency was reorganized, sums it up quite well:

-------------- quote --------------
Since the Church was formally organized on 6 April 1830, there have been 16 presidents, including President Thomas S. Monson.
-------------- end quote --------------

2/06/2008 07:20:00 AM  
Blogger The Sin City Conservative said...

Thanks for the link. The last paragraph, dated eight days before the First Presidency was reorganized, sums it up quite well:

-------------- quote --------------
Since the Church was formally organized on 6 April 1830, there have been 16 presidents, including President Thomas S. Monson.
-------------- end quote --------------


That last line was changed after President Monson was announced as President of the Church on 4 February 2008. The original posting of this said "Since the Church was formally organized on 6 April 1830, there have been 15 presidents, including President Gordon B. Hinckley."

2/17/2008 11:27:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

TSCC,

The last line as you quote it was true before the death of Gordon B. Hinckley.  Since then, the current line is correct.

The pattern is not new.

When the first Latter-day Prophet was martyred on June 27, 1844, Brigham Young succeeded him.  And Brigham Young was just as much the President and Prophet of the Church while presiding over the Quorum of the Twelve for 3.5 years as he was after the First Presidency was reorganized on December 27, 1947.

In fact during those 3.5 years, President Young called Ezra T. Benson (1811-1869), great-grandfather of President Ezra Taft Benson (1899-1994), to be a member of the Quorum of the Twelve and ordained him to the holy apostleship.  During those 3.5 years, President Young received the revelation now canonized as Section 136 in the Doctrine and Covenants and known as "The Word and Will of the Lord" (D&C 136:1).  And let us not forget that during those 3.5 hears, President Young relocated the body of the Saints to the Salt Lake Valley where, on July 26, 1847, he identified the exact location of the Salt Lake Temple.

The senior apostle always immediately takes charge and functions as the Lord's Prophet and mouthpiece on earth.  The Church always has a Prophet President.

2/18/2008 12:38:00 PM  
Blogger Michael, The Sin City Conservative said...

from April 2008 Ensign (bolding added by me)

"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is led by 15 men in two bodies: the First Presidency, consisting of the President of the Church and his two counselors, and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who are called by and serve under the direction of the First Presidency. The members of the Church sustain each of these men as prophets, seers, and revelators.

When a prophet dies, a new prophet and President of the Church is chosen in an orderly manner by a process put in place through revelation and used throughout the history of the Church.

• Upon the death of the President, the First Presidency is dissolved, and the counselors revert to their places of seniority in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, determined by the date they were ordained to the Quorum.

• The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles becomes the leading body of the Church with the senior Apostle, or President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, at its head.

• The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles meets to decide whether the First Presidency should be reorganized or whether the Quorum should preside over the Church.

If a motion to reorganize the First Presidency is passed, the members of the Quorum unanimously select the new President of the Church. The senior Apostle has always become the new President. The President then chooses two counselors to form the new First Presidency.

• Following the reorganization of the First Presidency, the Apostle who has served the second longest is sustained as the President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. If he has been called as a counselor in the First Presidency, the Apostle next to him in seniority serves as the Acting President of the Quorum.

• The new President of the Quorum of the Twelve and the other Apostles set apart the new President of the Church.


President Thomas S. Monson, center, became the 16th President of the Church on February 3, 2008. His counselors in the new First Presidency are President Henry B. Eyring, left, and President Dieter F. Uchtdorf."


http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=2354fccf2b7db010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=fa777e6832ce8110VgnVCM100000176f620a____&hideNav=1

3/30/2008 08:44:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Michael, if it makes you feel better to suppose that the Church did not have a Prophet President between January 27th and February 3rd, that's fine.  But I believe you misunderstand the very article you quote.

3/30/2008 09:14:00 PM  
Blogger Michael, The Sin City Conservative said...

Gary,

I don't believe I am misunderstanding it. If I am, please explain how I am. But in any case, President Monson, as President of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles, was leading the Church. We believe that all the members of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles are Prophets, Seers, and Revelators. As such, the Church was never without leadership. But, President Monson did not become the President of the Church until he was set apart as such on Feb 3rd.

3/31/2008 10:54:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

-------------- quote --------------
Following the principles taught by the Prophet Joseph Smith, when the President of the Church dies, the quorum of the First Presidency is automatically dissolved and the counselors, if they previously had been in the Quorum of the Twelve, return to their respective places of seniority in that quorum.  The senior Apostle, as President of the Twelve, automatically, by virtue of that seniority, becomes the "Presiding High Priest" of the Church and, as such, actively holds and exercises all the keys of the kingdom and "preside[s] over the whole church" (see D&C 107:65-66, 91).  "Equal in authority" to the First Presidency, this presiding quorum of Twelve Apostles is as much a Presidency of the Church as the First Presidency is when it is fully organized and operative (see D&C 107:23-24).  Likewise, the President of the Twelve at that time is as much the President of the Church in function and authority as when he becomes sustained as such in a newly organized First Presidency.  (Brent L. Top and Lawrence R. Flake, "The Kingdom of God Will Roll On: Succession in the Presidency," Ensign, Aug 1996, p.22.)
-------------- end quote --------------

4/01/2008 01:14:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Michael,

There are two leadership groups.  Let's call them FP (the First Presidency) and Q12 (the Quorum of the Twelve).  FP and Q12 both have a President.

FP President is the apostle who has served longest and, until FP President dies, Q12 President is the apostle who has served second longest.

Q12 serves under the direction of FP.  But when FP President dies, three things happen instantaneously:

        a.  Q12 President is now the apostle who has served longest,

        b.  FP is dissolved leaving Q12 in charge of the Church, and

        c.  Q12 President is now Q12 President of the Church, both by virtue of being President of the Church's presiding quorum, and by virtue of being the senior apostle.

At that moment, Q12 President takes over as Prophet President.  But—and I believe this is where you and I have not been communicating—Q12 President does not instantaneously or automatically become FP President.  In fact, at that moment there is no FP President because there is no FP.

At some point, the Q12 President calls the Q12 together to decide whether FP should be reorganized or whether Q12 should preside over the Church.

Upon decision to reorganize FP, Q12 President chooses FP counselors and the Q12 set apart new FP President, always the apostle who has served longest.

From Jan 27th to Feb 3rd, Thomas S. Monson was Q12 President of the Church because Q12 was running the Church and he was Q12 President.  He did not become FP President of the Church until he was set apart as such on Feb 3rd.  Now let's look at one paragraph from the article:

"If a motion to reorganize the First Presidency is passed, the members of the [Q12] Quorum unanimously select the new [FP] President of the Church.  The senior Apostle has always become the new [FP] President.  The [new FP] President then chooses two counselors to form the new First Presidency."

Look at the magazine cover, lower right hand corner.  It says, "New First Presidency Announced."  The article announces the new FP President of the Church and his new FP counselors.

4/01/2008 01:23:00 AM  
Blogger Michael, The Sin City Conservative said...

Yes, I agree with that. President Monson was the President of the Quorum of the 12 since 1995 and, with the passing of President Hinckley, the Quorum of the 12 Apostles becomes the presiding authority of the Church, and as its President, President Monson was the presiding authority of the Church. Members of the Church are sustained as Prophets, Seers, and Revelators. As the Senior Apostle, President Monson would be authorized to use all the keys of the Kingdom, whereas before the death of President Hinckley, he (President Monson) had the keys, but was not authorized to use them, but under the direction of President Hinckley.

4/06/2008 11:39:00 AM  

<< Home