Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Succession in the Presidency of the Church

Today in seminary I taught about the church's procedure of succession in the presidency of the church. I thought this information might be of interest to some of my readers.

Whenever the President of the Church passes away, those who are not members of our church are surprised at how quickly and easily a new president is chosen. This is not by chance, but follows a simple and perfect pattern for reorganization.

The first step in choosing which person will be a future prophet is when a man is called to be one of the twelve apostles of the church. God knows who He wants for His prophets, and inspires the current presidency to call certain men to be apostles, among which are those He wishes to be a future president of the church and prophet. When a man is called to join the quorum of the twelve apostles, he takes his place in order of ranking of seniority. The apostle who has served the longest is the senior apostle.

When a man is ordained to the office of an apostle, he is given all of the Priesthood "keys", or authority to carry out the will of God in the church. Only the President of the church is allowed to exercise all of the keys, but all 12 apostles hold that authority.

The President of the church chooses two of the apostles to act as his counselors. They counsel with him in making decisions, and support the president in every way they can. At the death of the President of the church, that presidency is dissolved, and the counselors take their former position in the ranking of the quorum of the apostles. The quorum of the twelve apostles continues to govern the church until a new president is sustained by the quorum, and by the membership of the church.

The Senior apostle is then set apart as the new president of the church. Pres. Joseph Fielding Smith taught, 
“There is no mystery about the choosing of the successor to the President of the Church. The Lord settled this a long time ago, and the senior apostle automatically becomes the presiding officer of the Church, and he is so sustained by the Council of the Twelve which becomes the presiding body of the Church when there is no First Presidency. The president is not elected, but he has to be sustained both by his brethren of the Council and by the members of the Church” ( Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 3:156). 

Pres. Gordon B. Hinckley said, “This transition of authority . . . is beautiful in its simplicity. It is indicative of the way the Lord does things. Under His procedure a man is selected by the prophet to become a member of the Council of the Twelve Apostles. He does not choose this as a career. He is called, as were the Apostles in Jesus’ time, to whom the Lord said, ‘Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you’ ( John 15:16 ). The years pass. He is schooled and disciplined in the duties of his office. He travels over the earth in fulfilling his apostolic calling. It is a long course of preparation, in which he comes to know the Latter-day Saints wherever they may be, and they come to know him. The Lord tests his heart and his substance. In the natural course of events, vacancies occur in that council and new appointments are made. Under this process a particular man becomes the senior Apostle. Residing latent in him, and in his associate Brethren, given to each at the time of ordination, are all of the keys of the priesthood. But authority to exercise those keys is restricted to the President of the Church. At his passing, that authority becomes operative in the senior Apostle, who is then named, set apart, and ordained a prophet and President by his associates of the Council of the Twelve.

“There is no electioneering. There is no campaigning. There is only the quiet and simple operation of a divine plan which provides inspired and tested leadership” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1986, 61–62; or Ensign, May 1986, 46–47 ).

Spencer W. Kimball taught, “‘It is reassuring to know that [a new President is] . . . not elected through committees and conventions with all their conflicts, criticisms, and by the vote of men, but [is] called of God and then sustained by the people. . . .The pattern divine allows for no errors, no conflicts, no ambitions, no ulterior motives. The Lord has reserved for himself the calling of his leaders over his church’ ( Ensign, Jan. 1973, p. 33 )” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1986, 8; or Ensign, May 1986, 8 ).

I am thankful for the organization of the church, and for the Priesthood authority that resides therein. I am thankful that we have a living prophet and president of the church today, namely Thomas S. Monson. I testify that Jesus Christ is leading the church today through living apostles and prophets.

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