On Jan. 2, 2018, Thomas S. Monson, the 16th president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints died, at the age of 90. He had served as an apostle from 1963 until 2008 when he succeeded Gordon B. Hinckley as president.
The funeral of President Monson was Friday, Jan. 12, and on Tuesday, Russell M. Nelson was introduced as the new president of the LDS church.
So how did President Nelson become the 17th prophet and president of the LDS church? He was called to be an apostle in 1984, and in that capacity fulfilled a variety of assignments over the subsequent 33 years. He traveled throughout the world, gaining experience and knowledge of many different cultures and people.
During those years he sat in the highest councils of the church, observing, learning and participating in the discussions and decisions that were made. At President Monson’s death, President Nelson was the senior apostle (by length of service) and president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
When the president of the church dies, the first presidency is automatically dissolved. The two counselors resume their positions in the Quorum of the Twelve. Leadership of the church then rests with that body, led by the president of the Quorum, until the First Presidency is reorganized.
In 1995, after the death of President Howard B. Hunter, President Gordon B. Hinckley described the reorganization of the First Presidency as “following a precedent well established through generations of the past. There was no campaigning, no contest, no ambition for office. It was quiet, peaceful, simple and sacred. It was done after the pattern which the Lord Himself had put in place.”
President Hinckley explained, “Under the Lord’s plan, those who have responsibility to select officers are governed by one overriding question: ‘Whom would the Lord have?’ There is quiet and thoughtful deliberation. And there is much prayer to receive the confirmation of the Holy Spirit that the choice is correct.”
On Sunday, Jan. 14, the Quorum of the Twelve met in the Salt Lake Temple to select the new president of the church. After fasting and prayer, Russell M. Nelson was chosen as president. The members of the quorum ordained and set him apart as president of the Church. He then selected two other apostles as counselors, and the First Presidency was reorganized.
Jesus Christ called and ordained 12 apostles, giving them priesthood keys to direct the affairs of his church. Bruce R. McConkie, author of the book Mormon Doctrine, points out the calling of Matthias to replace Judas in the Council of the Twelve, and notes that Paul, Barnabas and James, the Lord’s brother, were also named as apostles.
In like manner, another apostle will be called to fill the vacancy now existing in the Quorum of the Twelve. As he takes his place in the Quorum, he will begin gaining experience and learning how the Quorum functions as he fulfills assignments and participates in church governance.
In his comments to the Church membership, President Nelson spoke of “looking forward to the future with complete faith in Jesus Christ.” He encouraged members to “keep on the covenant path” through making and keeping covenants with the Lord.
Covenants are made at baptism, when entering the temple for the first time, and again in a temple marriage. Members were urged to make those covenants and then to be faithful in keeping them to receive the promised blessings.
President Nelson concluded his comments saying, “I declare my devotion to God, our Eternal Father and to His Son, Jesus Christ. I know Them, love Them, and pledge to serve Them — and you — with every remaining breath of my life.”
Glenna M. Christensen is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The Idaho Statesman’s weekly faith column features a rotation of writers from many different faiths and perspectives.