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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Church News Articles Feature Responses to New First Presidency/Some Thoughts about Elder Uchtdorf

Hello again, everyone! It has been a busy day indeed in terms of my posting content on this blog, I just became aware of two additional articles the Church News has published about the reconstitution of the First Presidency. This article shares reactions to their new assignments from Presidents Oaks and Eyring. It is plain that President Eyring does not see serving as Second Counselor to the successor of President Monson, under whose inspired leadership he served as First Counselor, as any sort of demotion.

The same can be said for Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, who returned to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles because he was not retained in the First Presidency after having served alongside Presidents Monson and Eyring. The Church News also featured his reaction to the change in this article, in addition to some thoughts expressed by his seatmate in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Elder David A. Bednar, who warmly reminisced in a tribute to President Monson in which he went on to share his support for the new First Presidency.

Many people have picked up on President Nelson's statement made earlier today in which he said that Elder Uchtdorf has already been given assignments which his service as an apostle since October 2004 and in the First Presidency for the last decade have been uniquely tailored to him.

While time may be needed to learn more about the nature and specifics of those assignments, it is obvious that President Nelson recognizes his administrative capabilities, and trusts him a great deal. It is also obvious that Elder Uchtdorf is unequivocally supportive of President Nelson's decision to have him return to the membership of that Quorum, and that it will not be a problem for him to do so.

In that regard, I also wanted to note a few things I found interesting, which I hope you will as well: The last time Elder Uchtdorf was listed and sustained among the membership of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (in the October 2007 General Conference), only two other members of that Quorum (Elders Bednar and Cook, who was called during that same conference).

With his return to the membership of that Quorum now, he ranks as the third most senior member of that body . He has come a long way in the apostleship in the last 10 years, and that is reflected by the assignments, whatever they may be, with which President Nelson has entrusted him.

Additionally, while his time as a member of the First Presidency allowed him to give addresses in the Saturday Morning, Priesthood, and Sunday Morning Sessions, and while he led the Sustaining of Church Officers every April between 2008 and 2017 during the Saturday Afternoon Session, the last time he spoke as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (which again was in the October 2007 General Conference), he spoke during the Sunday Afternoon Session. And since that time, his assignments in the First Presidency did not present him another opportunity to speak in that session.

If, as I have theorized, the call of the two new members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles results in two veteran apostles speaking in the final session of the April 2018 General Conference, it would not surprise me if Elder Uchtdorf was one of those two. If you have any thoughts in that regard, please take your turn to "sound off" in the comments below to let me know. Your comments are, as always, welcome and appreciated.

That does it for this post. Thank you for the privilege of your time. Until my next post, I wish each one of you all the best and pray that the Lord will bless you all in everything you do.

The Unique Connection Between President Nelson and President Oaks/Verifying the Truth of Something I Previously Stated

Hello again, everyone! KSL aired a special tonight dedicated to President Nelson. In the course of that special, I learned about the unique personal connection that Presidents Nelson and Oaks have. Back when President Nelson was a practicing heart surgeon, President Oaks, a professor at the University of Chicago in the Law School Department was tasked with trying to convince President Nelson, a well respected surgeon, to relocate to Chicago and join that College's medical faculty. President Nelson was impressed by President Oaks's persuasion on the matter, but ultimately decided not to take that path. Several years later, when both were interviewed for the position of BYU President, President Oaks was appointed.

So by the time the two were both called to the apostleship at the April 1984 General Conference, they had known each other for years. They have been seatmates during the entire time they have served in the Quorum of the Twelve, and that personal affinity and camaraderie is no doubt what led to President Nelson picking President Oaks as his First Counselor.

Additionally, I wanted to confirm something I noted previously in a blog post: President Nelson looked haggard at President Monson's funeral because he had all the weight of being the senior apostle and not the mantle of Church leadership. But in watching the coverage of today, that mantle has clearly settled on him, and if he has anything to say about it, he'll be well enough to lead the Church for the next several years.

He will mark his 94th birthday on September 9 of this year, but I'm sure if the Lord wills it to be so, he could stick around not only to pass President Hinckley as the oldest living prophet and Elder Haight as the oldest living apostle in Church history, but we could even see him become the first centenarian prophet in the Church's history. And as previously mentioned, President Oaks has likely been praying for a while that his apostolic and now First Presidency colleague will outlive him.

Whatever might happen in that regard, you can depend on my ongoing reports here. That does it for this post. Any and all comments are, as always, welcome and appreciated. Thank you for the privilege of your time. Until my next post, I wish each one of you all the best and pray that the Lord will bless you all in everything you do.

Renovation Process Formally Begins For the Raleigh North Carolina Temple

Hello again, everyone! While I don't want to unduly detract from what occurred today with the reorganization of the First Presidency, at the same time, I wanted to note that formal efforts have reportedly begun for the Raleigh North Carolina Temple, where site clearing is underway, construction trailers are on-site, and a construction barrier has been put up before the process of  disassembling it occurs. Other than that, there have been no other developments in temple progress to report, so that does it for this post. Any and all comments are, as always, welcome and appreciated. Thank you for the privilege of your time. Until my next post, I wish each one of you all the best and pray that the Lord will bless you all in everything you do.

First New Stake Creation Reported for 2018

Hello again, everyone! This will be just a quick post to let you know that the Church has reported the creation of the first new stake in 2018, the Queen Creek Arizona Ocotillo Stake (unless I'm mistaken, the name is likely pronounced o-co-tee-o; correct me if I am wrong; I'm assuming it's Spanish). With as careful as I try to be not to step on the expert analysis of others on such subjects, I will not detail the affected units. You can catch analysis in that regard on the LDS Church Growth Blog in the coming days from Church growth expert Matthew Martinich. That does it for this post. Any and all comments are, as always, welcome and appreciated. Thank you for the privilege of your time. Until my next post, I wish each one of you all the best and pray that the Lord will bless you all in everything you do.

More Coverage & Thoughts on Today's Events (Including a Historical Perspective)

Hello again, everyone! Continuing my coverage of today's events, if I have not already shared this (the last 8 hours have been somewhat of a blur, so I'm honestly not sure), the Church News has shared this article which has provided a summary of the questions that were asked and answered during the press conference held earlier today.

I also wanted to put into perspective some data about President Nelson. During the process of researching content I posted today, I was reminded that while President Nelson ranks as the least tenured Church president thus far (it will be interesting to see how long he serves given his announced intention to live for at least the next several years), he is also the 16th in birth chronology (since President Monson was born roughly three years after he was), and his age makes him the second oldest man in Church history to ascend to the presidency (the oldest ever Church President at the time of his ordination was Joseph Fielding Smith, who took the mantle of Church President when he was 93 years, 6 months, and 4 days old (which occurred on January 23, 1970), meaning that President Smith was at that time just 2 months and 1 day older than President Nelson was when he was ordained and set apart as the 17th Church President on Sunday.

This last Sunday, President Nelson's ordination made him the 5th oldest Church President of the 17. It will be interesting to see what occurs in terms of how long he does live. All going well, I could see him at least passing President Hinckley as the oldest president in Church history, and if the Lord wills, I could also see him becoming the first ever centenarian prophet. What will be interesting to see is if he will outlive his current First Counselor, or whether President Oaks will succeed him. There is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that President Oaks would prefer the former over the latter, but time will tell what occurs in that regard.

Whatever the case might be, I will do my level best to bring the latest to you as it occurs. That does it for this post. Any and all comments are, as always, welcome and appreciated. Thank you for the privilege of your time. Until my next post, I wish each one of you all the best and pray that the Lord will bless you all in everything you do.

Some Thoughts About Current and Future Apostles

Hello again, everyone! I am back as promised, with some thoughts about current and future apostles. Let's get right to that.

With Elder Uchtdorf's return to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, he rejoins the other two that, along with him, were born in 1940 (with Elder Cook on September 8, Elder Uchtdorf on November 6, and Elder Holland on December 3). It is also interesting to me that the three apostles born in 1940 were called in the reverse order, with Elder Holland in June 1994, Elder Uchtdorf in October 2004, and Elder Cook in October 2007.

We also, as you may be aware, have two apostles each that were born in 1951 (Elder Rasband on February 6, and his seatmate Elder Andersen roughly six months later on August 9) and 1952 (Elder Bednar on June 15 and Elder Renlund just under five months later on November 13).

The two born in 1951 were called in the opposite order, with Elder Andersen being called in April 2009 and Elder Rasband in October 2015. As for Elders Bednar and Renlund, the former was called in October 2004, and the latter in October 2015.

Now, if I may, I'd like to offer some thoughts about the ages at which our current apostles were called and at which future apostles may be called. As we know, President Monson, prior to his death, was the youngest apostle called of the group, having received his apostolic call at the age of 36. His death means that, of the current apostles, the oldest at the time of his call was Elder Cook at 67.1 years, with the new "youngest" apostle to be called being Elder Oaks, who was 51.7 years old at the time of his call.

In anticipation of the reorganization of the First Presidency that we saw today, I have begun the preliminary process of gathering some thoughts about who might be called to fill the two vacancies in the Quorum, the one resulting from the death of Elder Hales in October, the other from the reorganization process.

In doing so, I am looking at more recent apostles (primarily those called under President Monson's administration) for my guide on a rough target of ages to place my focus. There were five such appointments, which ranged in age from that of Elder Andersen (who was 57.7 years old at the time of his ordination) to his seatmate, Elder Christofferson, who was 63.3 years old when he was so ordained. For that reason, I will be centralizing my focus on those candidates who are in their early 50s-early 60s. There is a possibility that the two new apostles could be older or younger than that range, but it seems a safe assumption for now that that won't be the case.

I should also note that I liked the way the new First Presidency (who were all born in America) responded to the question about international outreach. The response was essentially an echo of what had previously been said by our three newest apostles at the October 2015 press conference held in which they addressed and took questions from the media: the three are called to represent the Lord to the people, not the other way around, and they are also called to minister worldwide, and not just to those within the US where they were all born.

Each has been tested by proven service and a ministry the scope of which has been worldwide. As President Nelson observed, he and his counselors have roughly (rounding up) 91 years of apostolic experience, in which they have traveled round the world quite extensively. With nearly a century's worth of worldwide ministry to Church members in their favor, no one should question their ability to relate to and receive revelation for all members.

By the same token, while it would be wonderful to see one (or both) new apostles being called from a foreign country, if those called are born in the US but have had international experiences either prior to or in conjunction with their calls as general authorities, and their subsequent assignment as apostles, no one can (or should) have reason to accuse those selected of being other American-born men.

Since President Nelson said he sees in the Church's future a day when there will be more diversity in terms of foreign apostles, until that time, it is our duty to gain a testimony that whomever will be called during any prophetic administration (whether born in the US or from a foreign country) are those the Lord would have come to those positions at those times.

Those regular readers of this blog will no doubt be aware that I am fiercely loyal to the leading Brethren of the Church, whomever they may be, and that I will not condone on the part of anyone within the scope of my influence any unjust criticism of such leaders or the process by which they are called. And I hope the same is true for each of you. If you do not have such a witness regarding the wonderful way such calls are issued and accepted (by both those receiving them and by those of us who should sustain them for the duration of that calling), I would implore such individuals to take the time to go through the necessary processes to obtain such a witness.

In my case, the minute I got the news of the new leaders, it felt right to me in that very moment. So I know those changes have been inspired. I leave these thoughts with you, along with my unshakable witness that the Lord guides the process of selecting his leaders, from the President of the Church on down to the newest deacon's quorum president or Young Women's class president, and it is our right and duty to gain a witness of that process and to share it when we have received it, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Interesting Tidbits About Newly Announced Leadership

Hello again, everyone! I thought I would post again now to share some things that I found interesting, and I hope you will as well, in terms of the newly announced leadership. First, the four oldest apostles of the Church now all bear the title of President. We have one nonagenarian (President Nelson) and one that will be a nonagenarian in October of this year (President Ballard). Additionally, the age difference between Presidents Oaks and Eyring (they were born 9 months and 19 days apart) is one of the closest differences between two First Presidency members that we have seen  in a while.

In fact, I was curious, so I looked it up. The last time the Church came anywhere close to having First Presidency members relatively close in age was at the time Presidents Kimball, Tanner, and Romney served together, from December 1973-July 1981 (at which time the considerably younger Elder Hinckley was brought into that presidency).

How close were the first three in age? President Kimball was born March 28, 1895, President Romney on September 19, 1897, and President Tanner on May 9, 1898. With more than two years passing between the births of Presidents Kimball and Romney, the period of time that passed between the births of Presidents Romney and Tanner was 7 months and 20 days.

It is significant to me that we have not had two (or more) First Presidency members as close in age as Presidents Oaks and Eyring are since the death of President Tanner concluded his service on November 27, 1982. Think of that for a minute. That was 35 years, 1 month, and 18 days ago, or 35.12 years ago the Church last had First Presidency members this close in age.

Additionally, it may interest some of you to know that President Eyring is the first man to go back to his previous position as Second Counselor after serving as First Counselor since that was the case for J. Reuben Clark. He and David O. McKay had served as First and Second Counselors respectively to Heber J. Grant and George Albert Smith. Since President McKay was the senior apostle to President Clark, when the First Presidency was reorganized, President McKay became the Church President. He selected Stephen L. Richards, a more senior member of the Quorum of the Twelve, as his First Counselor, and, in like manner to President Nelson and President Eyring, he asked his former senior in the First Presidency to become the junior member.

President Clark's response to that invitation, as recorded in General Conference (which took place around the events of the death of George Albert Smith and the reconstitution of the First Presidency, with the former Church President's funeral services held during the time that would otherwise have been reserved for the Saturday Afternoon Session) was similar in pattern to President Eyring's response to once again becoming the Second Counselor when President Nelson invited President Oaks to replace President Eyring as the First Counselor, and it echoes something that then-President now-Elder Uchtdorf said in General Conference on previous occasions (which KSL reported earlier today was his response to being reassigned to the Quorum), that calls are never sought for or declined, and that lifting where you stand is what all members of the Church, whatever their calling, should do. The more important thing is not where you serve, but how.

But in getting back to my point (sorry about the sidenote), the last time a First Counselor reverted to the Second Counselor position was (in President Clark's case) on April 9, 1951, which makes the difference between that date and the date of President Eyring's own revert (January 14, 2018) a period of 66 years, 9 months, and 5 days, or 66.77 years.

Additionally, the last time a member of the First Presidency under one prophet was not retained in that body by the next was when President Marion G. Romney, who served under President Kimball's administration but was not retained by President Benson, primarily in consideration for his failing health and old age. The date of that change was November 10, 1985, and the difference between that date and the date when President Uchtdorf reverted back to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (January 14, 2018) is 32 years, 2 months, and 4 days, or 32.18 years. That's significant, to be sure.

I was going to write more in this post, but I will save it for the next one, as this one has run a little longer than I intended it to. That does it for now. Any and all comments are, as always, welcome and appreciated. Thank you for the privilege of your time. Until my next post, I wish each one of you all the best and pray that the Lord will bless you all in everything you do.

LDS Church News Reports on Press Conference/Additional Resources from Mormon Newsroom

Hello again, everyone! You can find a summary of responses to the media questions at the press conference today here. That is an excellent article and I recommend it to all of you as well worth the read. In the meantime, you can find the Mormon Newsroom coverage of that press conference (including audio and video archives) here. And the news release about the new leaders (including Elder Ballard), can be found here. They already have a new picture of the First Presidency available on the web, but I need to look more fully into whether or not it is a problem if I post it here. I will be doing so later today, and if I find it is in the public domain under "fair use" regulations, I will be sure to pass that along, That does it for this post. Any and all comments are, as always, welcome and appreciated. Thank you for the privilege of your time. Until my next post, I wish each one of you all the best and pray that the Lord will bless you all in everything you do.

New Averages for First Presidency, Quorum of the Twelve, and All 13 Apostles

Hello again, everyone! I thought some of you might find this interesting. With the changes announced today, the new total life experience of Presidents Nelson, Oaks, and Eyring (as of Sunday, when those changes were effective) is 263.39, with the average age of the three standing at 87.8 years. which are both only slightly more than the numbers I shared in terms of those averages that I cited in my report of those averages less than a month ago (on Christmas Eve, when the totals were 252.04 years for the combined life experience of Presidents Monson, Eyring, and Uchtdorf, with the average of the three on Christmas Eve being 84.01 years.

In the meantime, the way the First Presidency was reconstituted (with Presidents Nelson, Oaks, and Eyring) and the return of Elder Uchtdorf to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles left the 10 members of that Quorum with 720.46 years of combined life experience, which averages to 72.05 years for each of those 10. At the time of my last report, since President Monson was still alive, those totals were 821.42 for the life experience total of the then 11 members, and averaged out at 74.67 years. So that average went up, but only slightly.

The 13 current apostles had a combined total of 983.85 years of life experience at the time the reorganization of the First Presidency occurred on Sunday, which means that each of those 13 had an average 75.68 years of individual experience. In the meantime, on Christmas Eve,  I reported that the 14 apostles living at that time had 1073.46 years of total experience, which at that time averaged out to 76,68 years.

This concludes my explanation of those averages, so that does it for this post. Any and all comments are, as always, welcome and appreciated. Thank you for the privilege of your time. Until my next post, I wish each one of you all the best and pray that the Lord will bless you all in everything you do.

Further Resources Provided on President Nelson

Hello again, everyone! This is the Church News report on what was said by the First Presidency  members in the temple where they were introduced, and this is an article sharing some amazing insights about President Nelson's life from those who know him best (including his apostolic colleagues and his children). I hope you enjoy those. That does it for this post. Any and all comments are, as always, welcome and appreciated. Thank you for the privilege of your time. Until my next post, I wish each one of you all the best and pray that the Lord will bless you all in everything you do.

Resources Relating to the New First Presidency/Personal Reaction to the News

Hello again, everyone! I am back to share some resources relating to the events of the day. Click here for the Mormon Newsroom summary, and here for the LDS Church News article. I also wanted to testify that as soon as the announcement of the new leaders was made, I knew right then that they were called of the Lord, and that their calls have been divinely directed. The Lord is clearly at work in what has taken place.

And I have been especially touched to hear President Nelson say that Elder Uchtdorf, who served so well as a counselor to President Monson, has already been given significant assignments that he is uniquely suited to fill. It is not a demotion of any kind. I think we will hear in General Conference from Elder Uchtdorf that he does not have a problem with what has occurred and the way it has occurred.

Clearly, since the advanced announcement did not involve what many (myself included) had expected, the coming days will demonstrate the priorities that the new leadership will focus on during their tenure. How wonderful it was to hear of this news. I also liked that President Nelson announced his longevity & intention to serve for many years. I expect nothing but great things for the Church going forward, and we will see how things unfold going forward.

In the meantime, I also wanted to note that I was touched to see how this new First Presidency were already supporting each other, finishing each other's thoughts, and sharing their united vision. The way those questions were addressed by the three is something I have not seen in a First Presidency before now.

I again testify that these leaders have been called of God and are uniquely suited for the positions they have assumed, and I do so gratefully as I also share my witness that the Lord is in control, that the Church is on the right track, that the best days are yet to come, and that all is well. I do so in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

BREAKING NEWS: New First Presidency Announced

Hello again, everyone! Elder D. Todd Christofferson, the apostle in charge of the Church Public Affairs Department, acted for President Nelson in announcing that he (President Nelson) had been ordained and set apart as the Church President, that Dallin H. Oaks had been set apart as both President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and First Counselor in the First Presidency. He has also invited President Henry B. Eyring to be his Second Counselor. In view of Elder Oaks' call as a member of the First Presidency, M. Russell Ballard has been called and set apart as Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. President Nelson made it clear that Elder Uchtdorf, not retained in the First Presidency by him, has already been given several assignments that he, as a previously-serving member of the First Presidency, is uniquely suited to take on. No demotion there. And this is a wise move, since President Oaks will succeed President Nelson as Church president at some point. This news was delivered from within the Salt Lake Temple, which was a new development indeed. More to come as it is revealed. Thank you.

The First Presidency Has Been Reorganized

Hello again, everyone! In this late-night hour as (here in Utah), we are around 8.5 hours away from the scheduled time for President Nelson's address and the press conference that will follow, I wanted to note something: When all of that was announced by the Church on the 13th, in the posts I did covering that announcement, a comment queried how likely it is that President Nelson's address is to announce the interregnum will continue for a while.

While that is not entirely out of the question, Tad Walch, a writer for the Deseret News that has particularly covered the news of the Church for that paper at least as long as I have been visiting the Church News website, said in this article that while the opportunity President Nelson is taking to address the Church before the press conference is indeed a first, since a press conference has been scheduled afterwards, it is definitively certain that the First Presidency has been reorganized.

In addition to deferring to Walch's expertise on this (as I said, he has covered such topics for a long time), I did the math, and it has been rough 128.75 years since the Church was last in an extended period of interregnum (as April 6, 1889 was the last day 4th Church President Wilford Woodruff led the Church as President of the Quorum of the Twelve; as his death was approaching around 9 years and 4 or 5 months later, he gave instructions to Lorenzo Snow, the President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, regarding the need to not wait to reorganize the First Presidency following his passing, a procedure that has been followed since that time).

Additionally, I took the math even further, and since the death of David O. McKay on January 18, 1970, no new Church president has chosen counselors outside of the membership of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. So with a 128.75 year precedent of considerably shorter interregnums (with the current one, which, if as anticipated lasted from the death of President Monson on January 2 to the ordination of President Nelson, which likely occurred on Sunday January 14, being the longest such period since the practice of shorter interregnums was instituted), and with the fact that it has not been since mid-January 1970 that we have seen a counselor to a new Church president called from outside the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, I don't see President Nelson breaking with either precedent.

That said, whatever the course of events might be that we learn about within the next 9-12 hours, you can count on my bringing coverage of it all as it occurs. That does it for this post. Any and all comments are, as always, welcome and appreciated. Thank you for the privilege of your time. Until my next post, I wish each one of you all the best and pray that the Lord will bless you all in everything you do.