How does the prophet choose new apostles?

With three vacancies in the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, this is a rare and interesting time for the Church. How are new apostles chosen? Elder Christofferson offers some guidance.

Elder Christofferson said the selection and calling of new apostles to the Quorum of the Twelve is the prerogative of the president of the church.

“President Monson, I don’t know if this always has been the case, but his practice has been to ask each of his counselors and the members of the Quorum of the Twelve to give him names they would recommend for his consideration, not to discuss with each other but just individually, to give him whatever name or names they feel impressed he ought to look at,” he said.

“What process he goes through exactly, I’m not sure. That’s, again, something private he pursues. He then brings back, when he’s reached his decision and had the inspiration he needs, the name or names to the council that we have of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to sustain it. That goes forward to general conference.”

In April 2009, President Monson selected Elder Neil L. Andersen as a new apostle after the December 2008 death of Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin.

“I recall this last time around when Elder Neil L. Andersen was called,” Elder Christofferson said. “Before that happened, we were just discussing casually before one of our meetings of the Twelve about the vacancy, and I remember President (Boyd K.) Packer saying, ‘We don’t have to worry, President Monson knows how to get revelation.’

“That’s what it is, a revelatory process in the end. Different prophets may approach it in different ways, but in the end, it’s finding out from the Lord who he wants.”

Elder Christofferson talked about the increased responsibilities that fell on the remaining members of the Twelve with the deaths of their colleagues. Elder L. Tom Perry died May 30, and President Packer, who was president of the quorum, died July 3. Elder Scott had been unable to function in the quorum for months due to health issues.

“This is unusual,” Elder Christofferson said. “We found the last time there were three vacancies at one time was 1906, so it’s not something that comes very often, and I hope it always remains rare. But I see the wisdom in the Lord organizing a Quorum of the Twelve. Sometimes people think that’s a lot, but I can see that’s barely enough.

“It may add a little bit to the load or the responsibility or the assignments of those who are actively functioning for a time, but it’s a brotherhood, and we all pull together, and maybe some things don’t get done or are delayed until later that have lesser priority, but the things that really matter happen and, in the end, we all understand that it’s the Lord’s work, and he really is the one who does it and he lets us help. … Happily we get to be a part of it.”

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

26 thoughts on “How does the prophet choose new apostles?

  1. It is awesome how it works in our Church. There is no political juggling for position, as seen in the RCC or other religions. There is no pushing a prophet out of power to get someone else in the position.

    That said, I hope the Lord sees fit to call apostles from Latin America, Asia, and Africa, to fill these vacancies. It will greatly expand the Church’s reach throughout the world in a church that is now global.

  2. “President (Boyd K.) Packer saying, ‘We don’t have to worry, President Monson knows how to get revelation.’”

    One of the most vocal and powerful members of the 12 basically saying he trusts the Lord’s prophet to decide for himself. I can’t help pondering there is a lesson to be learned.

  3. Thanks for sharing this statement. I look forward to next week to see what the Lord has in store for us. It’s big, I’m sure if He called home three in the last six months. I hope that everyone will be happy to accept these new brothers in their callings and will be willing to follow their council.

  4. From calling to be a ward librarian to apostleship, the Church calls for us in a way unknown to the world. Some speculate that the calling to be an apostle depends on someone currently in authority meeting someone in a certain situation that displays them to good advantage, such as allegedly happened with Elder Bednar. However I would say that even if that is true, it is part of the revelatory process. One of the great comforts having a Prophet lead the Church is being able to trust that his choice is guided by revelation.

  5. In the other thread that talked about Elder Scott’s passing I mused about some of my favorites who aren’t currently apostles. I trust God. And I trust President Monson. So I look forward to the announcement of the new apostles, whenever that might occur.

  6. If all three vacancies are filled next week (which isn’t guaranteed), they will placed in their respective positions in the Twelve according to age. The last time we had three apostles called at once was April 1906. We had four added in 1849. So this occasion is definitely historic.

    I’m rather excited. I don’t really care where they come from. But based on current climate and future prospects, it is imperative they have hearts of courage to help lead the church forward during the next thirty or forty years of opposition and persecution.

  7. Oh no, another historic conference coming up. I think I’ve taken in too many for one lifetime.

  8. Yes, we shouldn’t have anything to worry about with Monson at the helm. I think it is worth noting that, as the oldest living apostle, he has 21 years on Pres. Nelson. 21 years!! I don’t know that such a gap in years of experience between the prophet and the president of the Q12 has ever been so large.

    That said, I hear people expressing hopes for apostles of ethnicity/color, and/or not such a hardliner, who is more open-minded, sensitive, etc. etc. (Read progressive and/or subscribe to a certain ideology…) Having hopes are fine, but I think some go about it the wrong way. Our last three called apostles were all white males, and what if that trend continues…? The Lord’s thoughts and ways are higher than our thoughts and ways. We ought to pray to be able to accept the Lord’s will, as Pres. Monson reveals it to us.

  9. Hi Tiger,

    I would just say that the bench is super-deep. Even though President Monson has a large number of years over the next most-senior apostle, I think we will never see such a gap between prophet and his quorum as we saw with Joseph Smith. It wasn’t really until the missions to Europe that the Quorum of the Twelve began to gain extensive experience with being led by the spirit in administration of the gospel. That was a gap that extended beyond measures of time to quality of experience.

    The fine individuals who may be considered as candidates for the apostolic vacancies have decades of experience over that possessed by Brigham Young at the time he was thrust into the leadership of the LDS Church. They know one another and trust one another. While there will no doubt be times of opposition, I dare say none of today’s opposition is more upsetting that what occurred in Nauvoo in the 1840s or Utah during the remainder of the 1800s.

    As a body, the current leadership if the Church is full of individuals with extensive professional and ecclesiastical experience.

    I look forward to the sessions of Conference next weekend.

  10. Great post and comments. The title could have been, “How Does the Savior Reveal the Names of New Apostles?” but Geoff did a great job as usual. Whether the Quorum has more foreign-born Apostles whose native language is not English is… up to the Lord. The work of the Restoration goes on. Exciting time.

  11. Laurent hits an important point. Apostleship is a calling somewhat different in kind, not just degree or scope of authority, than other callings in the church. The key descriptor of the calling seems to be “special witness of Christ”. That leads me to think it is not a calling were the person doing the calling (the prophet) goes to the Lord and asks if the selection “meets with his approval”. It’s not a mere ratification that the prophet seeks. It’s more (or “even more”) of a calling where the prophet asks “Who do _you_ want as _your_ special witness?” (Or “Who dost thou want as thy special witness?” To use more reverent language.)

    The procedural mechanics of that revelation are, of course, unknown to me. How much, or if, the prophet has to “study it out”, and present a name or list of names, and go through the binary divine answer process of confirmation-versus-stupor-of-thought (which I assume is the procedure for most callings in the church below apostles) ; or whether the Lord just flat out names the person to be called, I don’t know.

    Like someone said above, quoting Elder Packer, the prophet knows how to receive revelation.

    I’ve received personal revelation concerning what I’m supposed to do in my life (I don’t always follow it, much to my later regret), so I can fully support the idea that those in authority in the Lord’s church can and do receive revelation regarding their official duties.

    If I may tie this in to other recent posts, critics or non-believers (specifically those in church ranks) who state that the FP/Q12 can’t or don’t receive revelation (in general or on a specific subject), are in essence admitting that they themselves don’t receive revelation.

    That’s because if _you_ receive revelation, then you _know_ others can too.

    And you can’t _know_ that the church is true unless you have received revelation.

    Therefore, those who dismiss the prophet/FP/Q12 as not receiving revelation, don’t have a testimony of the truthfulness of the church.

  12. Joseph Fielding Smith was called as an apostle in 1910. He became the presiding apostle and prophet in 1970, a span of sixty years which is incredible. His successor, Harold B. Lee, was called as an apostle in 1941. So President Smith had thirty one years over Harold B. Lee, who was the president of the Twelve while serving as Pres. Smith’s first counselor.

    So we’ve had some pretty incredible gaps in the past. I really like this stuff. And I fully endorse Tiger’s comments. I grow weary of folks’ totemic focus on mere skin color.

  13. Tiger,
    I think that JFS II had 30 years of experience more than Harold B. Lee.
    There is still a large seniority gap, but Presidents Lee and Kimball both had less tenure as apostles than Elders Nelson and Oaks do now when they became church president. I think that Meg makes a good point about the experience gap in the early days of the church.

    What I find more interesting is the number of apostles who have been called by either President Hinckley or President Monson. Next week, it looks like they will have called and ordained 12 or 13 of the current Q15. They served together in the FP for 22 years and have really had an incredible amount of influence on the church.

  14. Whenever an apostle dies, depend upon it, the Salt Lake Tribune will be ready to speculate upon the likelihood of the next chosen apostle being one of a different ethnicity–or, better yet, more “modern”. (As if the SLT has ever had any clout where these matters are concerned.) It reminds me of when Gordon B. Hinckley became president of the Church in 1995. The first words out of my very inactive aunt’s mouth were “Is this one progressive?” (Meaning, of course, “Will he let women have the priesthood?”)

  15. An older friend once served as president of our stake. When it came time to nominate a new patriarch for the First Presidency’s consideration, he sat down with pencil and paper, thinking he would do what he usually does with callings, which is to write down the names that come to his mind as he ponders the calling, then go over them again while seeking inspiration on which is the right one at that time.

    But in this case he got a very strong and definite impression that could be verbalized as “Look, this is too important for you to muck around with it like this. You are to nominate Brother ——“. He says that, in retrospect, the choice was obvious.

    I wonder if the calling of an apostle isn’t often as simple as that.

  16. @Tiger
    You wrote: “That said, I hear people expressing hopes for apostles of ethnicity/color, and/or not such a hardliner, who is more open-minded, sensitive, etc. etc. (Read progressive and/or subscribe to a certain ideology…) ”

    It strikes me as interesting that a lot of these people will express such desires in the same breath; as if having an apostle of ethnic/colored/non-american origins would be the same as having an apostle of a progressive ideology. Its as if they forget that most ethnic/colored/non-american cultures are more socially conservative than the U.S.A. and Western Europe. If they were thinking about this logically they would want the new apostles to be white americans or western europeans, as that would make it more statistically likely that the new apostles agree with their worldview.

    So these people are not only showing an ignorance of how the Lord runs his church, but how the wider world works as well.

  17. El Oso, I don’t really see it that way, as though an US president leaves behind his influence by having hand chosen (and then approved by Congress) at least 5 liberal/conservative Supreme Court justices. Both Hinckley and Monson have always stressed that it is HIS work and will they have implemented. They would never take that type of credit, but it’s true they’ve had an undeniable amount of influence on the church membership. Good to know about JFS and HBL, with 31 years between them. That’s just further indication that the Lord is actively involved in who will assume the president/prophet mantle, as well as when certain men are called to the apostleship.

    S.A.M.S. Good point that ethnicity doesn’t necessarily equal more diversity in terms of ideology or worldview…(although our current American president has proven otherwise). People also forget that the Lord requires all his Q15 to be united and unified. Thus, regardless of an apostle’s skin color, background, or ideology, his social/political views will have little impact, since his purpose is to bear witness of Christ–nothing more, nothing less.

  18. All politics aside, what did you think of the apostolic callings? In relation to the OP, I don’t think we learned anything about Pres. Monson’s process/inspiration in learning who to call, although I think Elders Stevenson and Renlund stated something to the effect that their calls were issued last week. (I frequently watch TV with captions, and they apparently had time to prepare their remarks for transcription, otherwise the captions would have been live with some lag time.) Elder Rasband’s call was presumably some time before that.

  19. I seem to think that this excerpt from Teachings of the Presidents: Heber J. Grant, chapter 20, really sums it up, or at least, the process is no more or less dramatic than this:

    “In addition to receiving guidance in his personal life, President Grant received revelations as President of the Church to guide the Church as a whole. One such revelation came just after he was set apart as President of the Church, when he sought the will of the Lord in appointing a new member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. As he pondered this responsibility, his thoughts turned repeatedly to his lifelong friend Richard W. Young, a faithful Latter-day Saint and a proven leader. President Grant discussed this possibility with his counselors, who supported his decision. When he finally felt confident with this course of action, he wrote his friend’s name on a piece of paper and took the paper with him to the weekly temple meeting with the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve. However, when he was about to present the name for the approval of his Brethren, he was unable to do so. Instead of presenting the name of Richard W. Young, he presented the name of Melvin J. Ballard, a man whom he hardly knew.3 President Grant later told of the impact this experience had on him:

    “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.””

    Now, here the Lord prevented him from calling a man that the Lord had not called. But I think the mechanics of the process, from what I have read recently and in various other places, are not much different from prophet-president to prophet-president. As Pres. Packer said, “We needn’t worry. President Monson knows how to get revelation.”

    I’m just grateful that I get to be a member of this church and watch the Lord move his work.

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