The W&T permabloggers have some interesting discussions on the backlist. Sorry you can’t peek over our shoulders, but I’ll share a comment I made to a recent discussion. It’s sort of a follow-up to my post a couple of weeks ago, “How Old Is Too Old.” We were talking about the growing “generation gap” between senior LDS leaders and the younger cohort of Latter-day Saints, teens and twentysomethings. Then I went on sort of a tangent with the following long comment, slightly modified here:
This makes me think of the strange way members view older GAs. Lots of people have experience with older grandparents and parents who, as they move through their 70s, 80s, and 90s, lose some cognition, lose some awareness, become less interested in the world in general and more focused on simple things like seeing the grandkids, getting enough sleep, taking their meds, and not falling down the stairs. That’s all quite natural.
Somehow this is never applied to older GAs, who must, in the natural course of things, undergo the same changes in thinking and cognitive ability. Members steadfastly pretend that doesn’t happen to GAs, as if GAs are somehow impervious to aging. Members believe this against all evidence to the contrary, say when a President of the Church enters a declining dementia stage and is shuffled off to the margins while counselors act as president until the ailing president finally passes away.
The Church leadership, of course, facilitates and supports this belief. A GA who is failing is quietly marginalized: no more assignments or Conference talks, rarely seen in public. It only gets tricky when it’s the President that is in cognitive decline. GAs interact with the membership only in tightly controlled scenarios: a Conference talk or a stake conference or area conference visit. That helps maintain the fiction that they never hit cognitive decline. That God somehow miraculously preserves them. Except when He doesn’t.
As noted, this is no criticism of older General Authorities. Aging is a natural process and there’s nothing wrong with it. And certainly the attitude of most of the membership — to politely not notice some of those effects in senior leaders — is acceptable, even praiseworthy. But when it drifts into magical thinking, that somehow senior leaders are divinely preserved or even that it’s a sign of the True Church that older leaders never show signs of aging, that seems like a problem. Pretending things are better that they are also helps senior leadership avoid the sensitive issue that having senior leaders in their 80s and 90s affects overall leadership of the Church in a negative way. Pretending avoids having to discuss a change in LDS succession and tenure of senior leaders.
What do you think? I don’t really want detailed stories of your experience with a named senior leader who showed this or that lapse of memory or thinking. If you must share such an anecdote, keep it general. It’s the overall system and mindset that is the problem.
- Do you think LDS leaders have a degree of immunity from the mental effects of aging that seem to afflict most other people as they age?
- There is a selection bias that may benefit LDS leaders if one of the requirements to being called, particularly at the apostle stage, is to show surprisingly good health and unusually robust mental faculties. Those most likely to enter decline, however righteous or worthy or capable, are likely not called.
- How “in touch” are senior leaders with that younger generation, teens and twentysomethings? Is the gap growing?
- Have you seen this form of magical thinking among other members, that leaders are somehow preserved from the effects of aging? Maybe it’s more wishful thinking than magical thinking, like the widespread belief that the Word of Wisdom is a very good guide to healthy living or that paying tithing actually makes you richer.
- No reflection here on the amazingly good health and mental acuity of President Nelson. If I’m that spry and mentally sharp at 96, I’ll consider myself terribly lucky.
I’m not a big fan of Russel M Nelson for a variety of reasons that I won’t go into but I have to give him credit. Not only is he the oldest president the Church (COJCOLDS) has ever had, he seems to be as mentally sharp as any of them. He makes 90 seem like the old 70. So any initiative (term limits / auto retirement at age x) that someone might have imagined has been set back by his performance. Like him or not he seems as strong as ever at age 98.
I too will echo the sentiment on RMN. He’s almost 100, but seems to actually be pretty with it mentally. I also think that he is an anomaly, not the norm. And, honestly, if I somehow found myself in the Q15, why in the world would I want to keep grinding and working until I’m 90? I would be pretty ticked if I was in my sixties and suddenly got an assignment telling me that I needed to devote the rest of my life to sitting in meetings and wearing a suit.
I do think that there is a reticence to maybe accept or adapt to newer world views. We have men leading the Church who grew up in a world where jet airplanes did not exist and now they have to somehow navigate the complex realities we have in the modern world.
There is also a massive over reliance on the professional experiences of the senior leaders. Just because DHO practiced law in 1968 does not mean that he is an expert legal scholar today. Maybe his legal analysis on gays or Title IX are not sound and well researched. Under normal conditions, if I told you I had a grandfather who earned an MD in 1947 (!) and he wanted to give someone medical advice in 2023, you would think I was unwise or stupid. RMN was a great pioneer in his field. He also has not practiced medicine in nearly 40 years. I highly doubt that he is staying up to date on the NEJM and Lancet articles.
I remember growing up in the late 80s-early 90s, being taught in Primary about how wonderful it is to have a living prophet (ETB at the time, his portrait prominently hanging from the wall of the Primary room), singing endless refrains of “Follow the Prophet” (which was brand new at the time), building up excitement for new revelation to come forth. And then when General Conference came on, Pres. Benson was a no-show. Again and again, year after year. No one said out loud why he wasn’t there, he just wasn’t. In my 9-year-old brain, I imagined “The Prophet” to be a mysterious, reclusive figure cloaked in secrecy, who maybe was too busy having face-to-face conversations with God to bother showing up to General Conference. It was probably my first Mormon cognitive dissonance moment. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I learned who Steve Benson is, and had a better grasp of what was going on in ETBs final years, which made a lot more logical sense than the mythologized version I was either taught explicitly, or concocted in my own mind in the absence of the truth. Also, by that time in my life, all but one of my grandparents had died, with one in a state of advanced mental and physical decline who would shortly thereafter pass on, so I had a better, more personal understanding of the human aging process and its inevitable results than I did as a child. Nonetheless, I felt betrayed by the leaders of the Church, who went to such great unethical lengths to perpetuate the mythical image of a “living prophet” even as he was barely living. As if we couldn’t be trusted to understand the natural aging process.
Another aspect is that rank-and-file Church members are trained not to see GAs as real people with real problems, but as somewhat superhuman. Most members of the Church will never have a real-life, up close encounter with an apostle. To most of us, they are a rotating cast of characters in the world’s most boring TV show that comes on only twice a year. Their public personas are carefully cultivated, their words edited and correlated. It’s almost a cult of personality, and the Church seems to believe that it can’t afford to break the illusion.
Even toward the ends of their respective lives, none of my grandparents ever spoke in such a dull, monotone cadence, nor did they only speak in simplistic platitudes. Because real people don’t do that.
Many Mormons have a strong need to reconcile these two seemingly conflicting concepts:
1. The sitting prophet is chosen directly by God. He was foreordained in the Spirit World to be a prophet before he was born. This is a supernatural belief, and it is very important to many Mormons. This is one of the primary reasons that TCOJCOLDS is God’s One True Church.
2. The sitting prophet becomes the sitting prophet by waiting for 14 other men called before him to die. For many Mormons, this naturalistic explanation is very disappointing, perhaps even faith challenging.
I’ve heard many Mormons reconcile these seemingly conflicting concepts by claiming that God must be controlling the order in which the Q15 are called and when each of the Q15 dies. In other words, while it may not look like it at first glance, the prophet really is directly called by God (God directly manages the order of calls to the Q15 as well as the death dates of all Q15 members). God’s hand in all of this is just a bit obscured from public view is all.
I don’t recall many Mormons talking about why God would allow mentally/physically incapacitated people remain in the Q15 or as the prophet. (Perhaps this is because the Church tends to cover up the health problems of the Q15.) However, a simple extension of the model above would seem to provide an explanation. Perhaps God allows incapacitated men to sit in the role of Q15/prophet because their work on the earth is essentially done, and it’s not yet time for the next man in line to move up. In the case of the prophet, this is easy to understand–Monson/Benson stayed in office in an incapacitated state since Hunter/Nelson weren’t ready to be prophet yet. Only when the time was right did God kill off Monson/Benson. For other incapacitated Q15 members, the explanation could be that the next new (most junior) member of the Q15 wasn’t ready to be called into the Q15 yet (Gong/Suares weren’t ready to be apostles until Monson/Hales died). On the flip side, God would presumably prevent a prophet/Q15 member from becoming mentally/physically incapacitated/dying before they had completed their work for Him.
I personally think that the Q15 age and die just like the rest of humanity. God likely intervenes in the health of the Q15 as much as he does in the health of a malnourished toddler in Somalia. At least, I don’t see why God would favor a Q15 member over a malnourished toddler in a 3rd world country, nor do I see any evidence that he does. However, many Mormons need to have prophets so closely tied to God that they manufacture complicated supernatural explanations like I’ve provided above to reassure themselves that God really is directly choosing and controlling the health of the Q15/prophets.
I do see the problem, as candidly explained in the OP, and I would readily support term/age limits. The only difficulty is in the details. My first real experience with this was when I became familiar with the long-time librarian in the Cessna Airplane Company (Single-Engine Division) Engineering Department, in Wichita. She was a sweet, single, bookish person, who had apparently devoted her life to creating the best collection of aeronautica that was available on her allotted budget. A few years after I arrived there, Eleanor (“Ellie”) turned 62, the mandatory retirement age which the company had established for female employees. She was forced to take retirement – and she was heartbroken. I have never before or since felt such pain for another, and such resentment at arbitrary regulations.
So, the question would be – do we set an arbitrary age? Or do we have some sort of lucidity index or correlation evaluation tied to the person’s output? Or, how do we do it?
I’ve been reading through the Kimball journals, and he often comments on the failing health of other apostles and how that impacts their ability to serve. He doesn’t follow it up with thoughts of how they should stop serving sooner, more just a wish for them to be healthy enough to serve.
The absence of concrete, publicly announced revelation on the subject of the succession to the presidency of the Church — e.g., after the death of Joseph Smith, &c., which left the Church with a mountain of unfinished theological and organizational business — has left us with the default seniority and survivorship system we have today. It’s as if the leaders have said to themselves over the years: God hasn’t told us what else to do, so we’ll just stick with the least risky “last man standing” system. Perhaps I’m conflating the absence of evidence with an evidence of absence, but this hardly looks like what one would expect of a dynamic, revelation-led system.
Isn’t this how we end up with, for example, a priesthood and temple ban that GAs still defend with “we don’t understand God’s timing in all of this”? Appeals to timing and a lack of revelation are a recipe for stagnation.
This is a timely topic. I agree with @mountainclimber479 that the Q15 are just human and there is scant evidence God spares the lives of 15 older gentlemen while ignoring starving children. There is an argument that Mormonism would emerge as more dynamic and relevant with younger leadership. Who knows, perhaps many of the existing Q15 would welcome a dignified retirement with emeritus status.
The OP references “magical thinking” among members. Certainly, this phenomenon is seen on many levels – from believing God only communicates directly to 15 men in SLC (ignoring the remaining 8 billion of us), to claims of possessing exclusive spiritual truth. TBMs are expected to suspend critical thinking at the expense of recognizing truth based on empirical evidence.
This past week, I participated in a meeting that illustrated how the rest of the world perceives magical thinking tendencies among orthodox Mormons. During a video conference discussing the implications of the SVB failure, the topic of the viability of smaller regional banks was addressed. There is currently a significant (and concerning) outflow of deposits from regional banks to the large money center institutions. For example, Bloomberg reported Bank of America alone has received more than $15 billion in deposits after SVB failed on March 10th.
One of the notable exceptions is Zions Bank which has remained relatively stable. A senior London based economist on the meeting panel attributed this to the “granular religious zealots” who comprise the primary retail customer base at ZB. His point being there would only be a deposit outflow as directed by senior Mormon leadership rather than based on actual economic realities. Since I was the only meeting attendee from SLC (a presumed Mormon), I could only respond by bowing my head and saying yes there is truth in Dr. XX’s comments. So, add me to the granular zealot list.
Side thought: Shouldn’t “COJCOLDS” actually be “COJCOLdS”. Perhaps not, but as a new reader of this blog seem it would better reflect the preferred name.
I think that continuing a rigorous schedule of meetings, speaking engagements, and travel is likely to provide -some- protection against the declines we associate with aging into our 80s and beyond, no matter who you are.
I also think that these schedules come with costs to aging bodies too.
My sense is that most of the men in the Q15 are pleased (to varying degrees) to find themselves there. And that while all of them understand themselves and their families to be making heavy sacrifices so they can serve, the cost-benefit analysis isn’t even close. ‘Sgood to be the king.
This post made me think about King Lear, which takes a really hard look at how awful things get when you’ve got a super senior citizen running the show (or trying to), and how ugly the exit strategy can get. It could be so much worse for us.
But what Lear and experience tell us is the judgments made by old men aren’t always wise. Just as youth has its blind spots so too does advanced old age. I’d struggle to belong to a Church run by teenagers, even though I acknowledge there are unique benefits to their worldview. And I know some truly impressive teens. Diversity of all types matters.
Finally one lesser talked about but common affliction of old age is heightened selfishness and even meanness. We prefer the sweet, saintly, white-haired angel tropes. The meanness is more common in folks with dementia, but I saw it happening with one of my grandparents in their 90s. This, though, was a person who was functionally mostly-there. Didn’t qualify for a dementia diagnosis but was just Over It. And didn’t have the cognitive ability/external motivators/whatever to rein it in. I admit that sometimes as I watch two of our current Q3 speak, I see that same look in their eyes.
How did we get here? I agree that there is significant selection bias going on–the ones with the highest work capacity, best health, and ability to function in the church environment in their 50’s are those that will likely keep going for a long time if picked for an apostle position. Other favorable factors relative to the general population include high educational attainment when young, strong personal commitment, strong community connections, what appear to be stable marriages.
Having old or infirm senior leadership doesn’t bother me. The institution has adapted to the circumstances and runs on autopilot in the absence of leadership. If you compare infirm prophet leadership to the political crisis in Belgium from 2007-2011 where no government could be formed due to divisions. This episode shows that without leadership, a country can carry on for a few years without any political leadership even in a giant global recession. There was even no economic penalty caused by the absence of political leadership. I have my issues with the church, but this is not one of them.
One data point for the senior leaders being out of touch with today’s teens and twentysomethings is this talk on “dating versus hanging out” from Oaks: https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/2006/06/dating-versus-hanging-out?lang=eng. I have a child who is a freshman at BYU and is taking the required “Eternal Families” religion class this semester, and that talk is required reading for the class. My child asked me, “What’s the matter with hanging out? I’ve been hanging out with my girl and guy friends all year long. Isn’t that a great way to get to know people?” I told my child that hanging out with people of the opposite sex is just fine and that, yes, it is a good way to meet and get to know people. I also told them something along the lines of, “Oaks is very old. I think he means well, and he almost certainly believes that he’s giving good advice, but he really isn’t. Just ignore this talk.” (Unfortunately, “just ignore this talk” has been a common response to many of my child’s questions from this religion class. “Eternal Families” is a real stinker of a class!)
I came of age during the era when Benson was alive but not appearing in public. I remember Hinckley giving at least one, maybe two, talks in priesthood session of general conference denouncing the critics who complained that the church was leaderless, assuring the church that Jesus was still leading the church (through him, I guess, but he wouldn’t say it that way). I think if you have to respond to critics in a talk like that, maybe you should consider the possibility that the leadership succession plan needs rethinking.
It once occurred to me that the scenario most likely to force a reckoning with the current succession scheme is a situation where the heir apparent is already incapacitated when the president of the church dies. Imagine if Harold B. Lee, instead of dying unusually young, had lived to the age of 91. He would have died in 1990, leaving Benson in line to take charge, but incapable of doing so much as picking two counselors. Magical thinking members would say God has prevented us from this scenario on purpose, I suppose.
They used to call stake presidents to be apostles, and in the mid 20th century only a minority of apostles had previously served as GAs. Nelson is essentially the last one of that era. There is a pattern in recent decades, dating roughly to the time when the quorums of seventy were significantly expanded in the 1980s, of only calling apostles who had already served as GAs (or president of a church university in a couple of cases). They don’t call anyone who has turned 70 and become emeritus. There appears to be a “sweet spot” age in one’s 60s where they are all getting called nowadays. I have no idea how deliberate any of this is, but it’s possible that this de facto vetting system is being used to deliberately choose not only people who they trust and are experienced in working with already, but people they know are in good health and likely to be able to function at a high level for at least a couple of decades. Maybe the era of the incapacitated president is coming to an end, but you can never really guarantee that, unless you believe in magic.
Retire all GA’S at 70 years of age, no matter status in the pecking order. Too many horrible intentional, deliberate, concealments of major financial accountabilities, totally devoid of moral integrity.
Over the years, I have had multiple interactions on various issues with Q12 members between the age of 75-90 and have seen many of them interact on important matters with others who are not members of the Church in numerous private settings I have found the the Q12 members with whom I have spent time to be intelligent, focused, informed, insightful and strategic in their thinking. The non-Church members (who do not share the belief that these men are prophets or called of God), always came away from the interactions impressed with how “with it” and “relatable” the Q12 members were despite their age. They also almost always commented on how knowledgeable the Q12 were about current affairs, what is going on in the world, and societal trends etc. Perhaps, just as significantly, they almost always mentioned the goodness, sincerity and positive character that they felt the members of the Q12 had. I recognize that some of the Brethren have had issues regarding their capacity in the past. However, my personal experience is that the Q12 members generally perform at an extremely high level despite their age. The notion that they are a bunch of out-of-touch old men sitting in their ivory tower is very far from my personal observations.
I’ve regularly prayed for the Church leaders to have the health and strength to carry out their duties. Every time I heard a Church leader talk about how he felt the sustaining strength of our prayers and faith, I assumed that was part of our faith. Heavenly Father answers our prayers to keep the Church leaders in good enough health, mentally and physically, to do what they need to do. But as pointed out here, sometimes that means sidelining someone in decline and having others step in to make sure things get done.
I think it’s cruel to keep men in office until they die. I don’t think there needs to be a set retirement age, but maybe an age range. Decide to retire some time between 75 and 82. No one would want to go first! Or maybe they would; if a Church leader really thought there wouldn’t be any penalty to retiring, I wonder how many of them would want to retire. Or go part-time. No one should feel pressured to work long hours and travel regularly once they’re elderly.
This Church does do a lot of good for the elderly. On my mission, I would see elderly people just sitting on the bench outside the apartment. Hours later, we’d pass them again on our way home, and the same elderly people would still be there. There wasn’t room for them to be in the apartment all day, and they had nothing else to do. There are things I would criticize about the senior missionary program, but the chance to do something meaningful and social in your retirement is a huge advantage for people.
Janey makes a good point — if we allowed for optional and honorable retirement, some of the apostles might take it — especially those who have no chance of surviving to be president of the church. It would be okay with me if we had two or three apostles outside the Quorum of the Twelve — until 1970, it was not uncommon to have an apostle outside the Twelve. I am not calling for such a change, but I could easily support it.
Thinking of Catholics, I understand there are many in the U.S. who would love to see Pope Francis forced into retirement.
It is good for old people to have some relevance and meaning in our society.
I am 75.
Until I was 65 I could work 14 hours a day. Now if I push myself I can work until 1.00pm.
So there are age related issues of efectiveness. Three 80 year olds are capable of as much work as one 65 year old.
The other issue is whether a frail old man is capable of recieving revelation. A teenage Joeseph Smith was exhausted after recieving revelation. What would it do to a frail old man?
Herbert Hoover is claimed to have said that ‘Older men declare war. But it is youth that must fight and die.’
Well President Hoover had his faults in my mind, but were we to apply this quote to the phenomenon of gerontocracy I’d prob heartily agree.
The church adapts much too slow to humanity’s changing sociopolitical conditions and newly-realized issues of concern. Perhaps there is sometimes wisdom in this, but I’d expect a god-led church to at least anticipate what have become serious (albeit metaphorical) albatrosses upon its members’ (and other scions’) necks.
I would expect a church that led emancipation and civil rights; women’s rights; 2slgbtq+ rights and marriage equality.
It is a strange thing that the church is only now taking (somewhat) seriously the idea that its interests should not attempt to dominate policies that could rightly belong to individuals to decide. Even now I often wonder how sincere these newfound conciliatory ventures truly are.
Our policies often incentivize particular behaviour. The church’s youth and young adults today are leaving at a startling pace in my country. They have no desire to fight alongside the Brethren in the latter’s ‘sociocultural wars’, as the Brethren’s concerns don’t seem to reflect their understood interests.
Perhaps the Brethren know better, but their empirical record on such matters is pretty grim.
The LDS church has created a myth that does a disservice to the church, its members and the world. The myth is that being president of the church – achieved by living longest – equates to being God’s highest ranked prophet on the earth.
This process of prophetic elevation is not documented in scripture, and it is certainly not taught by Jesus. It is a made up construct. On the one hand this policy has the advantage of reducing politicking to be the next church president. The downside is it assumes that God is playing with people’s lives so that God can “call” the right man to be prophet at the right time.
Somewhat ironically as it concerns the question of age, I read that it has become church practice to call young fathers as bishops. This expands the pool of men in the church who can then rise to senior leadership. But note that men are called as bishops and stake presidents and general authorities – a process consistent with scripture.
Furthermore, there are term limits for callings as bishops and stake presidents. Perhaps there should be a term limit for church president and even membership in the quorum of 12 apostles. Perhaps after serving for 10 years, if he lives that long, the church president should be released and another man from the Q12 called to the position. And perhaps members of the Q12 should be retired when diminished health reduces their ability to serve.
And when did we go from 12 apostles to 15? If there can be more than 12 apostles alive at any one time then it seems the title of apostle and membership in the quorum of 12 apostles are separate concerns. Of note, Gordon B Hinckley was first called as an assistant to the Q12 in 1958. In 1961 he was called as an apostle and a member of the quorum.
“The myth is that being president of the church – achieved by living longest – equates to being God’s highest ranked prophet on the earth.”
So far as I can tell, the selection process isn’t based on who lives the longest–but rather who has been an apostle the longest. It’s seniority not age per se that determines who is to be the next president of the church. Remember, David B. Haight was older than Gordon B. Hinckley.
That said, I’m not suggesting that the current pattern of selection is set in stone–at least I don’t think it is. My sense is that it’s theoretically possible — however improbable — for the Quorum of the Twelve to install anyone whom they feel inspired to ordain as President. Even so, I’m of the opinion that the quorum has settled into its current pattern of selection because of divine influence more than anything else. They are always unanimous in their conviction that they have received divine approval to ordain the president of the church before they perform the ordinance.
Disciple is right that the practice of the senior member of the quorum (longevity in the quorum, not age) becoming the president of the church is not scriptural. Accepting it as a rule has benefits, and some disadvantages. What if Benson had died before Kimball? Romney would have been the senior apostle at Kimball’s death, but he was completely bed-ridden and incapacitated (I’m told that Romney was totally non-functioning during this time). Would the 12 have selected Romney to replace Kimball? Would Romney have been president of the church from November 1985 until his death in May 1988? I like to think that there would have been a discussion. I agree with Jack that the current selection process might not be set in stone.
There might be a scriptural parallel, or three. First: Peter was not the first of the 12 that Jesus called. Andrew was called before his brother Simon, but Simon Peter became the senior apostle. Second: the Lord was not bound by primogeniture, and He had no problem skipping a first-born son to go to a younger born. Third: Saul was anointed king by Samuel, and then later Samuel informed Saul that he had lost the throne. Samuel then anointed David to be king in Saul’s place. But David never took any action to depose or kill Saul, even when Saul sought out David to kill him. David let God remove Saul, and that took several years. Put all of these examples together and what do we get? I don’t know. Defaulting to the senior apostle seems like the easy button to get to unanimity, and sometimes the easy button is the best button, except when it isn’t.
The devil’s in the details of prophetic succession. I for one would like to twist the rules to avoid a certain apostle from taking the reins for a good 30 years (as the actuaries predict will happen).
Do I have the patience to accept new, more inspired succession rules if it means that for the rest of my life and the first 1/3 of my child’s life we’re stuck with someone we aren’t thrilled with so that in the future it works out better most of the time?
Heck no. Oh heck no. Flip and fetch no.
If the brethren ever let change see the light of day, I (and many others) would be trying to word-smith the by-laws with “every fiber of my being”.
See the problem? Who is able to agree to long-term solutions? Everyone wants immediate power and their way.
Even a very conservative retirement age for the Q15 of 85 years would still have a dramatic effect on that group. 7 of them are 82 or older right now. You could phase in the policy very slowly by announcing that each year the oldest apostle will be released from the quorum until the oldest is no longer older than 85, and after that they’ll wait for their birthday to be released. That would limit the departures to one per year plus deaths, but there would be a lot fewer of those if they all retired at 85. That 85 year age limit would sound ridiculously soft to most non-LDS people (and to plenty of LDS people, too) but if that plan were enacted, that would guarantee that at least 8 of the 15 would change in the next 8 years.
And for Mortimer, I can only assume it is Bednar that you’re thinking of. He’s going to be 71 this summer. Holland and Uchtdorf are both ahead of him in line and are 82. Assuming that at least one of them makes it to age 92 (not a given, but doesn’t seem impossible looking at Dieter) the odds that Bednar becomes President of the church don’t get real high until he’s about 80 years old. So, under the current system, there are strong odds that he becomes president of the church, but it is much more likely that he would hold that position for 10 to 20 years. For him to reach 30 would require 6 deaths to happen very soon, and he’d still have to make it to 101 years old. So I guess you only need to be half as unexcited as you currently are 😉
I have frequently seen older members of the Q12 interact with prominent non-LDS leaders outside of Utah. I have always found them to be intelligent, articulate, focused, strategic etc. Many of those whom they meet with afterwards comment on how informed as to world conditions, current events and societal trends they are. They have always left a good impression. Certainly age takes its toll on everyone eventually. But, based on my personal experience, I think many members in the Q12 are functioning at a very high level in their 80s and beyond. Perhaps, more so than the average person.
Careful there Sahara Joe, you just made a positive comment about Church leadership. Expect your upvote to downvote ratio to be skewed at least by a factor of ten to the downside
Over at the blog zelophehad’s daughters, an actuary has crunched all the numbers for the lifespan predictions and likelihood of becoming prophet. Interesting read.
I’m fascinated by the collision between the belief that President of the church is foreordained vs the statistical reality of living longer than the other 14 ahead in line. It has something of a monarchal flavor to it…almost like getting promoted to Earl of Wessex; 14th in line for the big chair. It’s even more interesting when noting that a church headquartered in the US has a rigid order of succession…then contrasting it to the more democratic (albeit political) Catholic approach of Cardinals voting for the next pope. It can take all sorts of mental gymnastics to square all of that up. Even so, I think it’s important to try to grapple with the contradictions.
The Q15 being active and vibrant well into their twilight years is largely a function of receiving premium medical care and remaining active (physically and mentally) when many/most of their peers are not. Additionally, the PR team supporting and promoting them also portrays them as vibrant and energetic, which certainly helps cast them in a flattering light.
The current church government is structured to avoid politics (or at least the appearance of politics) at the top of the organization…it does exactly that. Is God carefully coordinating the order of death of church leaders so that only the “preordained” ones make it to the top spot? I doubt it, but there are plenty who believe otherwise. Every person on this planet, regardless of station, cannot escape the realities of mortality – and longevity is a function of genetics, personal habits, and pure statistical chance. Is there sometimes an element of divine intervention? Possibly, but we all get old, we all get sick, we all die.
I believe that it is vital to cast a critical eye on the decisions of ANY person in a position of power, especially when they may seem to have impaired cognition. Otherwise it can quickly become a slippery slope. ALL people are subject to the same frailties, illnesses, and cognitive biases regardless of position.
How many of us cringed at some of the things that came from President Monson towards the end of his life? That said, I also can’t fault someone suffering from dementia for making poor decisions…especially when they’re stuck leading an organization where the only relief from duty is death, even when unfit.
This published today, would seem to be relevant to the discussion albeit a belated addition:
Seems to be a global problem with men in power..