Romney’s Path to the Mormon Presidency

Thinking about editor Albert R. Hunt’s silly post-primary prediction where he sees Romney, “becoming president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints,” I decided to do a little math experiment on the probability that Mitt Romney could someday become the LDS Prophet. He will be 65 in 2012 during the election year. I will be using the most realistic “fast track” path.

He loses the bid for U.S. President, either in the primary or the general. This frees him up for a Church calling/assignment. The LDS Church leadership asks him to become a mission president. That lasts for 3 years. When finished he returns and is called to the First Quorum of the Seventy for another 3 years. He is now officially a General Authority with real “inner circle” leadership status, although limited by whatever duties given.

An Assignment to any of the other Quorum of the Seventies, second on up, would at his age make him technically ineligible to go higher in leadership. see the age note below. On the last year when he can be a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy, as they become emeritus at age 70 unless granted yearly extensions, he is granted stay in the position for another year. On this fourth year a member of the Quorum of the Twelve dies and he is picked among 70 peers as the most junior member to fill in the vacancy. He is given the keys of a prophet, seer, and revelator as an Apostle.

He will remain a member of the Quorum of the Twelve for the rest of his life, with rare exceptions mostly broken by past ex-communications. Although common during the first half of the 19th Century LDS Church history, it has only happened a handful of notable times in the late 19th and full 20th Century. None, not even close, in the current 21st Century. Assuming that one member of the Quorum of the Twelve dies a year, skipping two for realism, then it will take 14 years for Romney to become the President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. That is not, of course, the same thing as the Prophet and President of the LDS Church. For perspective, however, Brigham Young held this position for 3 years after Joseph Smith’s death before reorganizing the First Presidency. It took his predecessor John Taylor some time as well. Romney can also be called as a First or Second Councilor to the LDS Prophet-President before reaching the senior position.

When the LDS Prophet-President dies, the Quorum of the Twelve waits a month, hypothetically, before announcing the senior member Romney is called by revelation of the full body of the Twelve as his replacement. He reorganizes the First Presidency that includes Elder Jon Huntsman (I figure he has just as much of a shot in this far fetched scenario) as second councilor and another person as first councilor. Sorry, but Harry Reid is too old even now for a “fast track” General Authority assignment.

Do the math. That is at least 21 years if this path was taken. All told, Romney would be at least 86 when called as the leading Prophet, Seer, Revelator, and President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The age is actually typical and gives him possible five to ten years as the world wide authority over the whole LDS Church. Still, its hardly the next in line after current President Thomas S. Monson. This is, again, assuming he is called in the right positions and quickly. Romney will soon be the average age when a person is called/appointed to the Apostleship of the Quorum of the Twelve.

For more information on the Seventy, go here. More information about the Twelve can be found here. More insight on the First Presidency can be read here. A good overview of how the LDS Church is administered was given here for more context.

13 thoughts on “Romney’s Path to the Mormon Presidency

  1. If he were somehow to make it to the 12, I think he’d skip the whole mission president thing. It’s feasible for him to be a member of the 12 in a much shorter time. However, to be president he’d have to outlive all 15 of the 12 and the First Presidency, which would be an especially difficult task as two of the 12 are younger than him.

    In any case, I don’t think the church is in any hurry to call such a prominent politician to such a high leadership position. It’s possible (although unlikely) he’ll get called to the 70, but I think his political history will prevent him from getting even that far.

  2. This highlights that for a released stake president, in almost all cases that’s the end of the road as far as church leadership goes. I was thinking about that in Sunday School as our teacher, a healthy, active man in his early 50s who was the ward’s bishop a dozen years ago and a counselor to the last stake president, taught us. The next step for this faithful high priest was the same sort of grassroots service that is needed from all of us. It warms my heart to think of it.

  3. Your math only works if you assume the Twelve will do what they have done historically, that is choose the senior apostle. That, in the church’s own words, is a “sacred custom,” not something that is carved in stone. Remember, J. Reuben Clark was plucked from nowhere to be a counselor in the First Presidency and had never been a bishop or a stake president. But I agree with you that the idea of Mitt Romney becoming president of the church at any time in the future is impossible to imagine. At the moment, it’s pretty hard to imagine him becoming president of anything.

  4. Don, I agree that I have made some assumptions. There is always a direct call as a Twelve Apostle or counselor to the First Presidency like J. Reuben Clark who seems to be a one off from history. It would be completely out of the ordinary and even creepy for Mormons if they directly called him as President of the Church like Hunt envisions.

    There are circumstance that I think different with Romney. The main one is that Romney is running for U.S. President. To call him so soon after is, from all the current actions to try and distance themselves from looking like they endorse him, would go against that image conscious work. That is why I think they would make him a mission president to cool things off first. After that he could be called directly to the Twelve, but recently it has been from the Seventy that they have been picked. This post was the most reasonable path I could see, not the only one for sure.

  5. Ronald Reagan, was, among other things, a successful two term governor of California, chair of the Republican Governors Association during one of those years, and one of the most prominent conservatives in the country from about 1964 onward.

    Romney, one term governor, small state, Gingrich, never governor of anything, tenure as Speaker of the House extremely uneven, Paul, never governor of anything, Huntsman, one and a half terms as governor of a small state.

    The only candidate with more gubernatorial experience than Reagan when he was elected is Rick Perry, who has been governor of Texas for just over two terms, although the governorship in Texas is relatively weak compared to most states.

    Executive experience aside, the only candidate who can compare with Reagan’s track record as a thought leader is Ron Paul. Gingrich can only dream of that kind of influence, and the others running are hardly worth mentioning.

    I don’t have to mention the current president’s qualifications before he was elected.

  6. Here’s another scenario: During next April’s General Conference, there is a freak accident, wherein all the Twelve, and Presidents Eyring and Uchtdorf are wiped out. Mitt is called as President of the Twelve to replace the many lost. Then, it is just a waiting game, as Pres Monson is now well into his 80s….

  7. Romney would make a fine Walmart greeter. Seriously, wouldn’t that smile make you feel good when entering the store? On the eclesiastical side, he could serve as an usher. Hand out ward bulletins, open the door when the deacons are passing sacrament in the foyer, that sort of thing.

  8. Three of the current apostles (Monson, Nelson, and Oaks) were called to the 12 with no previous GA experience.

  9. He was a seventy for five years between BYU and the 12.

    Some others that come to mind that were called directly into the 12 without prior GA experience include Kimball, Benson, Lee, and Hunter. It’s not particularly uncommon.

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