We here in the USA just had our president give his State of the Union Address. It was attended by everybody who is anybody in politics. That list includes all the people in the line of succession to be president. So if a terrorist where to take out the Capitol building that night, the US Government could be left without a leader. Starting at the height of the cold war in the 1950’s, the US has appointed a “designated survivor” that is usually somebody low on the line of succession, to leave the Washington DC area and hunker down in an undisclosed location in case the unthinkable were to happen. There is even a TV show called “Designated Survivor” that had a Secretary of Housing and Urban Development become the president after a terrorist attack on the Capitol during the State of the Union Address.

Does the Mormon Church have a “designated survivor”? The Church has a very well-known line of succession, going by uninterrupted [1] length of service in the Q12 Apostles. But there is no known succession after the latest called Apostle. What would happen if all the Q15 were killed?

As a teenager in the 1970’s, I remember conference in the old tabernacle, with overflow in the assembly hall next door. They would always have an Apostle sit on the stand in the assembly hall, and I remember hearing that this was to preserve the line of authority if something were to happen to all the Apostles and Prophet in the Tabernacle. It sounded cool at the time to my teenage mind, but was probably not true.

So back to today. During General Conference all the Q15 are in the same build at the same time. They are probably together lots of times for meetings. I wonder if they all flew in the same airplane to Italy for the dedication for the Rome Temple. Do you think there is any rule that prohibits them all being on the same airplane?

Let’s get back to the unthinkable. All 15 are killed. Maybe an airplane crash, an explosion in the Q15 office building, accidental or deliberate. What happens next? Would the Church have another succession crisis as various members of the Quorum of 70 vied for the job?

Let’s dig a little further. Does a member of the 70 have the keys of this dispensation? Do they have the keys that have been handed down from Peter, James and John, directly to Joseph Smith, on an unbroken chain through the Apostles to the current Prophet, Russel Nelson? I don’t think so.

For a 70 to become prophet, would it require another visit by Peter, James and John?  If so, how would this go over in today’s modern world? Would the members believe a 70 that got up at General Conference and said last week Pete, James and John visited him in his garage, and placed their hands on his head and gave him the keys to run the church? What would the headline in the New York Times look like? It’s one thing to believe something happened almost 200 years ago to Joseph Smith, and quite another to believe it happened to Elder James W. McConkie III last week.

(I’ve obviously spent way too much time thinking about something like this. In fact, I have a couple of pages already written down on a fictional story about what happens to a ward far removed from SLC when word arrives that the Q15 are gone. Its got a long way to go, and maybe when I finish it one day I’ll post it in a serialized form here on W&T.)

What do you think would happen if all of the Q15 met an untimely demise? How would the Church move forward? Is the TBM answer that the Lord would never allow this to happen? Do you think that the Church has contingency plans for something like this, at least legally in its incorporation documents?

Image by Myriams-Fotos from Pixabay

[1] the rule was originally the most senior member, but in 1875 Brigham Young changed the rule of seniority in the Quorum: the senior member was to be the person with the longest uninterrupted service in the Quorum, as opposed to the person who entered the Quorum at the earliest date. This was to keep Orson Hyde from becoming the senor Apostle.