As we await the funeral of President Thomas S. Monson and the installation of President Russell M. Nelson as the Next President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the issue of age is being discussed once again.
While it is true President Nelson is 93 years of age, he appears healthy and hardy at this point. The issues of age brought up are not specifically related to their physical age, though that is a sub-issue, it is their ability to relate to all members of the Church, particularly young people. Today’s young people, those under 30 for example, live a very different experience than President Nelson did when he was in that same age group (around the 1940’s, early 50’s).
As many remember, President Hinckley stanchly defended the ages of the senior leadership of the Church when he stated to Mike Wallace on the show “60 Minutes,”
“Isn’t it wonderful, a man of maturity at the head. A man of judgement who isn’t blown about by every wind of doctrine.”
I suppose there is some credence in that statement, but on the other side, can they relate to the real problems of today?
My own opinion is that I’ve been surprised at how much the Leaders seem to know and understand the problems being faced by Church members of all ages. Sure, there are decisions, like the exclusion policy that seem a throwback to an earlier time, but yet, addresses a real problem for the Church that is happening today—the issue of Same sex marriage. No matter what side you come down on, it is a modern issue that Church will have to deal with at some point.
But , as I pondered this issue, I wondered where else do we see older people in charge of large organizations.
Here are the ages of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles ( currently 14):
|Russell M. Nelson||4/12/1984||93.3|
|Dallin H. Oaks||5/3/1984||85.3|
|M. Russell Ballard||10/10/1985||89.3|
|Jeffrey R. Holland||6/23/1994||77.1|
|Henry B. Eyring||4/6/1995||84.6|
|Dieter F. Uchtdorf||10/7/2004||77.2|
|David A. Bednar||10/7/2004||65.5|
|Quentin L. Cook||10/11/2007||77.3|
|D. Todd Christofferson||4/10/2008||72.9|
|Neil L. Andersen||4/9/2009||66.4|
|Ronald A. Rasband||10/8/2015||66.9|
|Gary E. Stevenson||10/8/2015||62.4|
|Dale G. Renlund||10/8/2015||65.1|
The average age is 75.64 years. The oldest is President Nelson at 93.3 years, the youngest is Elder Stevenson at 62.4.
I also looked at two US Governmental bodies, The US Congress (House and Senate) and US Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is interesting in that the members are appointed for life, but some resign before death.
|Orrin Hatch (R)||President pro tempore||83|
|Patrick Leahy (D)||President pro tempore emeritus:||77|
|Mitch McConnell||Majority Leader:||75|
|John Cornyn||Majority Whip:||65|
|John Thune||Conference Chairman:||57|
|Roy Blunt||Conference Vice Chair:||67|
|Cory Gardner||Campaign Committee Chair:||43|
|John Barrasso||Policy Committee Chairman:||65|
|Chuck Schumer||Minority Leader||67|
|Dick Durbin||Minority Whip||73|
|Patty Murray||Assistant Minority Leader||67|
|Jeff Merkley||Chief Deputy Whip||61|
|Debbie Stabenow||Policy Committee Chair||67|
|Mark Warner||Caucus Vice Chairs||63|
|Tammy Baldwin||Caucus Secretary||55|
|Chris Van Hollen||Campaign Committee Chair||58|
|Joe Manchin||Policy Committee Vice Chair||70|
|Amy Klobuchar||Steering Committee Chair||57|
|Bernie Sanders||Outreach Chair||76|
|House of Representatives|
|Paul Ryan (R)||Speaker||47|
|Majority (Republican) leadership|
|Kevin McCarthy||Majority Leader||52|
|Steve Scalise||Majority Whip||52|
|Cathy McMorris Rodgers||Conference Chair||48|
|Doug Collins||Conference Vice-Chair||51|
|Jason T. Smith||Conference Secretary||37|
|Steve Stivers||Campaign Committee Chairman||52|
|Luke Messer||Policy Committee Chairman||48|
|Minority (Democratic) leadership|
|Nancy Pelosi||Minority Leader||77|
|Steny Hoyer||Minority Whip||78|
|Jim Clyburn||Assistant Minority Leader||77|
|Joseph Crowley||Caucus Chairman||55|
|Linda Sánchez||Caucus Vice-Chairwoman||48|
|Ben Ray Luján||Campaign Committee Chairman||45|
|Rosa DeLauro||Steering and Policy Committee Co-Chairs||74|
|Cheri Bustos||Policy and Communications Chairmen||56|
If we look at the average age of the entire US Congress, it continues to trend toward older Americans. The average age for the US House of Representatives is 57.0 years, while the US Senate is 62 years. (Congressional Research Service) Even though you are eligible to run for the House at age 25 and the Senate at 30.
The closer parallel to Church Leadership is the US Supreme Court:
US Supreme Court
|John Roberts||Chief Justice||62|
|Anthony Kennedy||Associate Justice||81|
|Clarence Thomas||Associate Justice||69|
|Ruth Bader Ginsburg||Associate Justice||84|
|Stephen Breyer||Associate Justice||79|
|Samuel Alito||Associate Justice||67|
|Sonya Sotomayer||Associate Justice||63|
|Elena Kagen||Associate Justice||57|
|Neil Gorsuch||Associate Justice||50|
This is interesting that we as a country do favor age and experience somewhat even though the median age in the US as of 2015 is 37.8 years. (Wikipedia)
The retirement age in US is nominally around 66,67 years old as far as the Social Security Administration is concerned. However, retirement, as we know it was invented in Germany in the late 1800’s.
“In 1881 Otto von Bismarck, the conservative minister president of Prussia, presented a radical idea to the Reichstag: government-run financial support for older members of society. In other words, retirement. The idea was radical because back then, people simply did not retire. If you were alive, you worked—probably on a farm—or, if you were wealthier, managed a farm or larger estate.
This was a big “if,” at the time. That retirement age just about aligned with life expectancy in Germany then. Even with retirement, most people still worked until they died.” (The Atlantic).
The secondary benefit of retirement was giving younger people the jobs held by those older people.
What’s the Precedent?
In the early Church, it appears the first Apostles of the Church were young men. And they did serve until they died. The problem is they were mostly martyred (killed) and did not die of natural causes at a ripe old age. This was true in the early days of the LDS Church. Joseph Smith was only 38 when he was killed. But after that, the senior leaders tended to serve until they died. Brigham Young was 76, John Taylor was 78, Wilford Woodruff was 91, etc.
In October Conference in September 1978, General Authorities, except for First Presidency and The Quorum Of the Twelve, were granted Emeritus status and retired from full time Church service. (LDS Facts)
In some cases, these men continued to serve in the Church in some capacity, including Elder Jacob De Jager, who became a Ward Bishop a month after his emeritus status was announced. (Deseret News)
As far as lifetime appointments for the 1st Presidency and Q12, I cannot find any scriptural injunction that points to lifetime appointments. Maybe someone can set me straight on that.
But it seems, that if nothing else, compassion would say that we give these men a break in their waning years, especially if they become disabled in some way. Most have served the Church their entire life, leaving the family to travel abroad and meet with Church members. They follow a rigorous schedule for many, many years in most cases. There is no reason, in this information age, to try to hide the fact of whether a Church leader can truly function in their calling. Perhaps, he should be thanked for his longtime service and released from full time service.
What do you think? Should be have a set retirement age for the Senior Church Leadership? Is it compassion, common sense or both?
BTW, I tried to find out the ages of the Auxiliary General Leadership of the Church, the nine women, and was not able because in keeping with a long held tradition, the Church does not publish the ages of the Women Leaders, be they General Leadership, Temple Matrons, of Mission President’s wives. Seems a bit old fashion.