Ezra Taft Benson, Chapter 12: Seek the Spirit in All that You Do

Chapter Twelve of the Ezra Taft Benson manual focuses on following the Holy Ghost. The Life section focuses on Ezra Taft Benson’s insistence that the Church be run in accord with the Holy Ghost, with a specific example when he called a stake president. Section one focuses on keeping the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost to deal with living in the world today. Section two focuses on recognizing the Holy Ghost through our feelings. Section three focuses on obtaining the Spirit through prayer and fasting, like Enos in the Book of Mormon. Section four focuses on how reading, studying, and pondering on the scriptures invites the Holy Ghost into our lives and brings us closer to God. Section five deals with the need for obedience and purity in order to have the companionship of the Spirit.

Resources for Lesson/Teaching Helps:

Suggested Hymns

The Spirit of God (#2)

Oh, May My Soul Commune with Thee (#123)

Let the Holy Spirit Guide (#143)

Search, Ponder, and Pray (Children’s Songbook #109)


Henry B. Eyring: Continuing Revelation

Robert D. Hales: The Lord Speaks through the Scriptures

Boyd K. Packer: Enemy Territory

James E. Faust: Voice of the Spirit

David A. Bednar: Patterns of Light: Part one, Part two, Part three

Jesus Teaches Nicodemus About Being Born Again

Object Lessons

Have the class listen to the voices of apostles and prophets and try to guess whose voices they are. Then play some voices of members of their family. Talk about how it is much easier to recognize a voice when you are familiar with it. We need to spend time in the scriptures, in prayer, and practicing listening to the Spirit in order to recognize the voice of the Lord through the Holy Ghost.

Show a laptop computer and explain that it has a special device inside that allows it to pick up an Internet signal. If the computer is in range of the signal it has the ability to receive information from all over the world. As baptized members of the Church, we have also been given a special device: the Holy Ghost. When we are in spiritual range, we can receive information from heaven. Talk about some of the things that help us stay in range, as well as those things that keep us from it.[1]

Wrap yourself with a quilt, and refer to it as a comforter. Explain that people call it a comforter because it is soft and warm and can make us feel very comfortable. State that the Comforter is also another name for the Holy Ghost. Ask why the Holy Ghost would be called a comforter, or indicate that the Holy Ghost can help us feel comfortable when we listen to his promptings and allow his influence to surround our lives.[2]

Further Reading

David A. Bednar: The Spirit of Revelation

Von G. Keetch: Start Moving

Vern G Swanson: The Development of the Concept of a Holy Ghost in Mormon Theology

Joseph Fielding McConkie: Finding Answers


Bruce R. McConkie: Men ought—above all things in this world—to seek for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. There is nothing as important as having the companionship of the Holy Ghost. . . . There is no price too high, no labor too onerous, no struggle too severe, no sacrifice too great, if out of it all we receive and enjoy the gift of the Holy Ghost.[3]

Bruce R. McConkie

Bruce R. McConkie

Joseph Fielding McConkie: We frequently speak of our right to the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. Perhaps an analogy, one my father [Bruce R. McConkie] taught me, will help in distinguishing between receiving a revelation from the Holy Ghost and having the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Imagine yourself traveling in the dark of night through rugged and difficult terrain, seeking a place of safety where you will be reunited with your family. Let us also suppose that a flash of lightning momentarily marks the path of safety before you. This brief flash of light represents a manifestation through the Holy Ghost.

If you then follow the path it marked out, it will lead you to the waters of baptism and to confirmation as a member of the Church. The authority who confirms you will say, “Receive the Holy Ghost,” meaning the gift of the Holy Ghost. The light by which you now walk is the companionship of the Holy Ghost. It is the light of the gospel—or, for some, the gospel in a new light. In either case, it enables you to see that which you could not see before. It now becomes your privilege to walk, as it were, by the light of day. The light is constant, and, in most instances, the path you are called on to travel is clearly marked. When it is not, you are entitled to the visions, impressions, or prodding necessary to assure your arrival at the place of safety.[4]

Joseph Fielding McConkie

Joseph Fielding McConkie

David A. Bednar: These four words—“Receive the Holy Ghost”—are not a passive pronouncement; rather, they constitute a priesthood injunction—an authoritative admonition to act and not simply to be acted upon (see 2 Nephi 2:26). The Holy Ghost does not become operative in our lives merely because hands are placed upon our heads and those four important words are spoken. As we receive this ordinance, each of us accepts a sacred and ongoing responsibility to desire, to seek, to work, and to so live that we indeed “receive the Holy Ghost” and its attendant spiritual gifts.[5]

David A. Bednar

David A. Bednar

Robert D. Hales: When we want to speak to God, we pray. And when we want Him to speak to us, we search the scriptures; for His words are spoken through His prophets. He will then teach us as we listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.[6]

Robert D. Hales

Robert D. Hales

B. H. Roberts: Through water baptism is obtained a remission of past sins; but even after the sins of the past are forgiven, the one so pardoned will doubtless feel the force of sinful habits bearing heavily upon him. He who has been guilty of habitual untruthfulness, will at times find himself inclined, perhaps, to yield to that habit. He who has stolen may be sorely tempted, when opportunity arises, to steal again. While he who has indulged in licentious practices may again find himself disposed to give way to the seductive influence of the siren. So with drunkenness, malice, envy, covetousness, hatred, anger, and, in short, all the evil dispositions that flesh is heir to.

There is an absolute necessity for some additional sanctifying grace that will strengthen poor human nature, not only to enable it to resist temptation, but also to root out from the heart concupiscence—the blind tendency or inclination to evil. The heart must be purified, every passion, every propensity made submissive to the will, and the will of man brought into subjection to the will of God.

Man’s natural powers are unequal to this task; so, I believe, all will testify who have made the experiment. Mankind stand in some need of a strength superior to any they possess of themselves, to accomplish this work of rendering pure our fallen nature. Such strength, such power, such a sanctifying grace is conferred on man in being born of the Spirit—in receiving the Holy Ghost. Such, in the main, is its office, its work.[7]

B. H. Roberts

B. H. Roberts

Come Unto Christ

Bringing Christ into this lesson isn’t too hard. One could reference the conversation of Christ with Nicodemus or the promise of the Holy Ghost that was fulfilled at Pentecost in the book of Acts to get into the New Testament. One could also speak of the Holy Ghost witnessing of Christ and leading us in a Christ-like (Christian) life, the latter of which is referenced in B. H. Roberts’s quote cited above. One could speak of the Atonement purifying us and allowing us to feel the Holy Ghost, since the companionship of the Holy Ghost is contingent upon purity and worthiness. Finally, one could refer to the sacramental prayers and the connection between taking upon ourselves the name of Christ, always remembering Him, and to keep the commandments of Christ has to having the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost.

A Deeper Look

One time in Church, while discussion the nature of the Holy Ghost, a member of my class quoted from D&C 130:22-23, which reads as follows:

The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit. Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us.

A man may receive the Holy Ghost, and it may descend upon him and not tarry with him.

The brother who cited this section stated, as best as I can remember, that the Holy Ghost could not be everywhere if he had a body, and especially could not dwell within us if such was the case. To me, it felt like the brother was describing the Holy Ghost in the mode of thought most prominent in the early Church, when the Holy Ghost was something “spread,” “filled,” “poured,” or “bestowed” upon the righteous—a fluid spiritual essence or ether that filled the immensity of space and carried out the work of God rather than a human being without a body.[8] The 1834 Lectures on Faith discussed the Holy Ghost in this mode, stating that “There are two personages who constitute the great matchless, governing and supreme power over all things . . . The Father and the Son—the Father being a personage of spirit, glory and power, possessing all perfection and fullness, the Son . . . a personage of tabernacle, made or fashioned like unto a man . . . possessing the same mind with the Father, which mind is the Holy Spirit.”[9] In this sense, the Holy Ghost was the “mind” or common essence—the “Spirit of God” and the “Light of Christ”—emanating from the Father and Son. This approach allowed Mormonism to hold onto the traditional concepts of an omniscient, omnipresent, incorporeal deity while also making room for Gods that were embodied, and thus constrained in space and time.

In the Kirtland era of Church History, the Holy Ghost was spoken of as a non-personage

In the Kirtland era of Church History, the Holy Ghost was spoken of as a non-personage

This mode of thought was predominant (though not the only way of thinking) in Mormon theology during the 1800s and early 1900s. For example, President Brigham Young taught, “The Holy Ghost is the Spirit of the Lord, and issues forth from Himself, and may properly be called God’s minister to execute His will in immensity; being called to govern by His influence and power; but He is not a person of tabernacle as we are and as our Father in Heaven and Jesus are.”[10] Likewise, Elder John A. Widtsoe wrote that, “All space is filled with a subtle, though material substance of wonderful properties, by which all natural phenomena are controlled. This substance is known as the Holy Spirit.”[11]  A third example from President Charles W. Penrose: “It is by His Holy Spirit, which permeates all things, and is the life and light of all things, that Deity is everywhere present. . . . By that agency God sees and knows and governs all things.”[12]
Since that time, however, a different idea has become the predominant mode of thought in Mormonism. One of the best expositions of this modern approach is included in Elder LeGrand Richards’s famous work A Marvelous Work and a Wonder: “The Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit in the form of a man (see 1 Nephi 11:11) and hence confined in his personage to a limited space.” Elder Richards continues, comparing the Holy Ghost to the Sun—His influence can be felt, even when he is thousands of miles away, even though His personage is not present in the room itself, like a beam of sunlight through a window.[13] In this mode of thought, the Light or Spirit of Christ is often a separate and distinct spiritual essence that takes up the omnipresent, incorporeal aspect of the Godhead and functions as the medium that the Holy Ghost acts through. For example, President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote that:

President Joseph F. Smith has expressed it thus: “The Holy Ghost as a personage of Spirit can no more be omnipresent in person than can the Father or the Son, but by his intelligence, his knowledge, his power and influence, over and through the laws of nature, he is and can be omnipresent throughout all the works of God.” Thus when it becomes necessary to speak to us, he is able to do so by acting through the other Spirit, that is, through the Light of Christ.[14]

Although Joseph Smith spoke of the Holy Spirit in more traditional terms during the Kirtland era, by the Nauvoo era, he had switched to the Holy Ghost being a person. In early 1841, he discussed the Godhead with a small group of brethren: “Joseph said Concerning the Godhead it was Not as many imagined—three Heads & but one body, he said the three were separate bodys—God the first & Jesus the Mediator the 2d & the Holy Ghost.”[15] Here the Holy Ghost is described as having a body, distinct and separate from the other members of the Godhead. A month later, he taught the same group that, “The Son Had a Tabernicle & so had the father But the Holly Ghost is a personage of spirit without tabernacle.”[16] This latter reference—like the passage quoted from the Doctrine and Covenants—is not entirely clear to modern readers, hinging on the use of the word personage. Is a personage an anthropomorphic being or any sort of being? If the latter, then the Holy Spirit could be a fluid-essence being that fills the immensity of space and yet also dwell in our hearts as the D&C reference suggests. If the former is true, then the Holy Ghost would be confined to a certain portion of space and could not simultaneously dwell, literally, in many people’s hearts. In January 1843, Joseph was more explicit about this nature when he discoursed on the sign of the dove at Christ’s baptism and taught that, “Holy Ghost is a personage in the form of a personage—does not confine itself to form of a dove.”[17]

By the Nauvoo Era, Joseph Smith spoke more clearly as a personage without a physical body

By the Nauvoo Era, Joseph Smith spoke more clearly as a personage without a physical body

Returning to the Doctrine and Covenants reference, it is interesting to note that the current text does not reflect the original manuscript of the record. The April 1843 report of the discourse has it that: “The Father has a body of flesh & bones as tangible as mans the Son also, but the Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit.—and a person cannot have the personage of the H G in his heart he may receive the gift of the holy Ghost. it may descend upon him but not to tarry with him.”[18] Here the Holy Ghost’s ability to dwell in hearts is reversed entirely from the edition of the discourse that was published in the Doctrine and Covenants—rather than “a personage of Spirit. Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us” it states “a personage of spirit.—and a person cannot have the personage of the H G in his heart.” This is more consistent with how we view the Holy Ghost today, but it apparently was not so during the 1850s. Lyndon W. Cook and Andrew Ehat observed that:

Neither the William Clayton Diary, the Joseph Smith Diary here quoted, nor the draft Manuscript History of the Church entry for this date, implies the phrasing of D&C 130:22: “Were it not so [that the Holy Ghost is a spirit], the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us.” Originally the wording in the Manuscript History of the Church entry for this date was the same as in the original draft, but in the 1850s the Church historians reworded it to read the way it appears in the Doctrine and Covenants.[19]

There could be a few reasons for the change—as mentioned above, more most of the 1800s, the Brethren relied on the Kirtland teachings and writings of Joseph Smith, at least as far as the Holy Ghost goes, making the idea of the Holy Spirit dwelling in our hearts more in line to how they understood it at the time. Also, in the manuscript, immediately before the section in question, the report states that Joseph, “again reverted to Elders Hyde mistake. &c.”[20] If not read carefully, the statement about the Holy Ghost as it stood in the original could be seen as a reiteration of what Hyde had said that was wrong. If this was the case, it is conceivable that when George A. Smith and Thomas Bullock were compiling the record and cut out the reference to Elder Hyde, they flipped the meaning to reflect what they though Joseph was trying to get at. Such a reading, however, would be wrong, since Orson Hyde’s mistake was actually that he had taught that, “It is our privilege to have the father & son dwelling in our hearts.” Joseph’s initially addressed that idea by saying that, “the appearing of the father and of the Son in that verse is a personal appearance.—to say that the father and the Son dwell in a mans heart is an old Sectarian notion. and is not correct.”[21] When he spoke on the Godhead later, the Prophet was returning to this same theme. It is interesting to me that even after the mainstream Mormon conception of the Holy Ghost shifted to match Joseph’s Nauvoo era views of the Holy Ghost, and even after the book Words of Joseph Smith was published with the original text and footnote used above that the section of the Doctrine and Covenants was not revised—even in the 2013 edition of the scriptures. It is conceivable that such a change will happen in the future with the standard disclaimer that, “these changes have been made to bring the material into conformity with the most accurate historical information.” Time will tell if such will be, though.[22]

Happy Teaching!

Happy Teaching!

[1] Boice, Trina (2013-11-13). The Ready Resource for Relief Society Teaching: Joseph Fielding Smith (Kindle Locations 1663-1667). Cedar Fort, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

[2] Beth Lefgren, Jennifer Jackson, Power Tools for Teaching: Ideas for Creative Lessons (SLC: Bookcraft, 1988), 34.

[3] Bruce R. McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith (SLC: Deseret Book, 1985), 253

[4] Joseph Fielding McConkie, “Finding Answers,” Ensign February 2011.

[5] David A. Bednar, “Receive the Holy Ghost,” CR, October 2010, https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2010/10/receive-the-holy-ghost?lang=eng.

[6] Robert D. Hales, “Holy Scriptures, The Power of God Unto Our Salvation,” CR, October 2006. https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2006/10/holy-scriptures-the-power-of-god-unto-our-salvation?lang=eng

[7] B. H. Roberts, The Gospel: An Exposition of its first principles; and Man’s Relationship to Deity, 3rd ed. (Salt Lake City: Desert News, 1901), 179-180.

[8] Line Upon Line: Essays on Mormon Doctrine, p.90-p.91

The next stage in Mormon concepts of a Holy Ghost

[9] Joseph Smith, Jr., Lectures on Faith (Springville, UT: Cedar Fort, Inc., 2010), 55-56

[10] JD 1:50.

[11] Widtsoe, John Andreas (2011-03-30). Joseph Smith as Scientist A Contribution to Mormon Philosophy (Kindle Locations 157-159).  . Kindle Edition

[12] Cited in Widtsoe, John Andreas (2011-03-30). Joseph Smith as Scientist A Contribution to Mormon Philosophy (Kindle Locations 262-264).  . Kindle Edition.

[13] LeGrand Richards, A Marvelous Work and a Wonder, Missionary Reference Library edition (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1988), 117.

[14] Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954), 1:40.

[15] Cook, Lyndon W. (2009-09-03). The Words of Joseph Smith (Kindle Locations 1481-1483). Deseret Book Company. Kindle Edition

[16] Cook, Lyndon W. (2009-09-03). The Words of Joseph Smith (Kindle Locations 1512-1513). Deseret Book Company. Kindle Edition

[17] Cook, Lyndon W. (2009-09-03). The Words of Joseph Smith (Kindle Locations 2996-2997). Deseret Book Company. Kindle Edition

[18] Cook, Lyndon W. (2009-09-03). The Words of Joseph Smith (Kindle Locations 3271-3273). Deseret Book Company. Kindle Edition

[19] Cook, Lyndon W. (2009-09-03). The Words of Joseph Smith (Kindle Locations 3281-3284). Deseret Book Company. Kindle Edition

[20] Cook, Lyndon W. (2009-09-03). The Words of Joseph Smith (Kindle Location 3271). Deseret Book Company. Kindle Edition

[21] Cook, Lyndon W. (2009-09-03). The Words of Joseph Smith (Kindle Locations 3215-3222). Deseret Book Company. Kindle Edition

[22] Note that this section was taken from a blog post on this site a year ago, but since it was not widely read, I don’t feel bad about reusing it.


The Calling of an Apostle

On the 26 December 1973, President Harold B. Lee died. This was somewhat unexpected—he had come to the presidency of the Church at the relatively young age of 73 almost eighteen months earlier. It has been though that he would live and lead the Church for at least a decade, but such was not to be. What was more unexpected was that a frail, small man who had been expected to die for a fair amount of time would take his place and serve as one of the most influential presidents of the Church for an extended period of time—a man by the name of Spencer W. Kimball. In the midst of all this, however, there was a vacancy in the Quorum of the Twelve apostles that needed to be filled, and an Assistant to the Twelve, Elder L. Tom Perry, was called to fill in the spot.

L. Tom Perry

L. Tom Perry

Now, over forty years later, Elder L. Tom Perry has passed away. I must admit, this was somewhat unexpected to me. Elder Perry was the oldest member of the Quorum of the Twelve, and the third most senior in service (after President Monson and President Packer), but seemed to be in very good health compared to many of his peers until a recent visit to the hospital for breathing difficulties. I had expected him to outlive many other members of the Quorum of the Twelve. Instead, he was the first to move on since Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin. We will mourn his loss as a good, cheerful, and religious man.

While Latter-day Saints and other friends of Elder Perry mourn his and President Boyd K. Packer’s deaths, consideration will also be given to who may be called to fill the vacancies created by their deaths. I mean no disrespect for them and their memory by looking into that aspect of events rather than at their rich lives and legacies so soon, but as a person with a primary interest in Mormon history and theology, I do feel that it is important to understand how vacancies in the quorum are filled, the people who are called to the Quorum, and what the process of becoming an apostle after being called is like.

In the modern Church, most things are run by councils where a number of individuals have the ability to express their thoughts and often have an opportunity to accept or reject a proposal. That is the administrative genius of the Church that Joseph Smith put in place to insure that things could continue after the death of charismatic leaders, such as himself, and to increase the likelihood that things are being done in accordance with God’s will (more people checking something, the more likely they are to catch errors). This system seems to carry over to the selection of a new apostle. President Hugh B. Brown (1883-1975) recalled that:

In calling a new apostle the president of the church ordinarily says to the Twelve and First Presidency, “There is a vacancy in the quorum. I would like each of you to write three names on a slip of paper and submit them to me. I will look them over and we will decide, possibly on one of those you recommend. Or we may choose none of the ones you recommend. But this will give you all an opportunity to express an opinion.” At the next meeting of the quorum, the president, usually aided by the First Presidency, having looked those names over, says to the brethren, “I wish to nominate XYZ to become the next member of the Council of the Twelve. Are there any remarks? If not, all in favor, raise your right hand.” When the president nominates someone whose name was not submitted by the Twelve, he simply says, “I feel inspired to appoint this man to this job. All in favor raise their hands.” And everybody raises their hands. President Heber J. Grant never submitted a name as far as I know without first talking it over with his counselors and then with members of the quorum.[1]

While this model isn’t always followed, President Brown suggests that it was followed most of the time.

Ideally, inspiration guides the selection of a new quorum member. There is a story from President Heber J. Grant’s administration about how, at the time, Church leaders weren’t shy about nepotism and felt that they should call their sons to serve as apostles. Heber J. Grant had no sons, however, so he wanted a close friend by the name of Richard W. Young to be called instead. As an apostle, he suggested the friend he had in mind a number of times, but he was never selected. When President Grant became president of the Church, he wanted to make sure his friend was called, discussed the possibility of doing so with his counselors and even wrote Richard’s name on a slip of paper to take to the next quorum meeting. When he got there, however, he presented the name of Melvin J. Ballard—whom he hardly knew—instead. President Grant later said:

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.[2]

Heber J. Grant

Heber J. Grant

As for the individuals that are considered to become a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, a brief survey of the thirty men who have been called to be members of the Quorum of the Twelve most recently (1951 to present) gives some indication of general trends. From this sample, all were Caucasian, 97% were men from the United States, and 80% were from Utah or Idaho. Careers before calls as general authorities were mostly in business (33.33%), law (20%), or education (20%) with a smattering of various careers such as Church service, STEM careers, or other occupations. The average age at a call to the Quorum of the Twelve in this group was 58.7 years old with a standard deviation of 8.79.

Men called to the Quorum of the Twelve were predominantly selected from the Presidency of the Seventy, the First Council of the Seventy, or Assistants to the Quorum/Council of the Twelve (all roughly equivalent to the Presidency of the Seventy today in one way or another, together making up 63.33% of the sample), with about 13.33% percent serving in the presiding bishopric, 13.33% serving as Church university presidents, and 10% serving in the Sunday School presidency. There is some overlap between the groups represented.

In addition, having relatives already in the hierarchy (particularly prevalent with the Smith, Kimball, Cannon/Taylor, and Tanner clans) or at least Mormon pioneer ancestry was prevalent, though exact statistics are difficult to calculate on that factor since they don’t always acknowledge such ancestry to the public. Association with a member of the Quorum of the Twelve at the time of their call during youth as a missionary or in a stake increased the likelihood of becoming an apostle as well.

Thus, Caucasian males from the United States—especially Utah and Idaho—in their mid-fifties to early sixties, with careers in business, law, or education and who have served in the Presidency of the Seventy or equivalent callings have been most likely to be selected to serve in the Quorum of the Twelve during the last half a century or so.

Based on these trends, as well as observation of rise to leadership and roles in Church hierarchy, the two most likely candidates to be called to replace Elder L. Tom Perry and President Packer are Tad R. Callister (age 70, quickly rising in Church leadership, grandfather was a third-generation apostle, service in Presidency of the Seventy and Sunday School Presidency, born in California, career in law) and L. Whitney Clayton (age 65, born in Utah, last name indicates Mormon pioneer heritage, service in Presidency of the Seventy, career in business, prominent leader in Church). Other strong candidates are Gary E. Stevenson (age 60, Presiding Bishop, Utah pioneer stock, business career), or any member of the Presidency of the Seventy (virtually all 60-70 years of age, business careers, and from Utah or Idaho).

If the Church chooses to call a member of the Quorum of the Twelve that reflects the international and multi-racial nature of Church membership these days, things could get more interesting. Ulisses Soares fits much of the criteria while being from South America (appears to be Caucasian, 57 years old, Presidency of the Seventy, accountant from Brazil), as does Walter F. Ganzález (63 years old, former Presidency of the Seventy, currently in 1st Quorum of the Seventy, career in education, from Uruguay). There are currently only two black men in the First Presidency of the Seventy—Joseph W. Sitati and Edward Dube—both of which have great potential, and the latter of which is the stronger candidate for a call to the Quorum of the Twelve based on the observations above (career in education, age 53, service in First Presidency of the Seventy). It is unlikely that either of these men will be called directly to the Quorum of the Twelve in the immediate future, however, since neither have served in the Presidency of the Seventy, the Presiding Bishopric, or as Church university presidents and the proportion of black men in high leadership indicates that while racial outreach to individuals with black African ancestry is becoming more important, it is not the highest priority for filling general authority positions at this time. There are six Asian men in the First Quorum of the Seventy, with Michael John U. Teh and Gerrit W. Gong standing out to me as the most likely potential candidates of the six based on age, career, and country of origin. For similar reasons to the African seventies, however, neither are likely candidates at this time.

Tad Calister, L. Whitney Clayton, Ulysses Soares, Walter Gonsalez

Tad R. Calister, L. Whitney Clayton, Ulysses Soares, Walter F. Gonzalez

Based on the above discussion, Tad R. Callister, L. Whitney Clayton, Ulysses Soares, and Walter F. Ganzález seem to me to be the most likely candidates to be called to the Quorum of Twelve in the near future. We never know what will happen, though, as the story from Heber J. Grant mentioned above indicates. The Lord directs through inspiration and it is a living Church, so statistics can be thrown out the window in a single moment. Plus, we’re not really supposed to speculate on such things. Essentially, any worthy male in the Church  could be called, though those who already are well known and impressive to the serving apostles are most likely to be called. We’ll just have to see what the Lord directs when the announcement comes.

As for what happens to an apostle after his call, President Brown related his experience:

President McKay thereupon called those of the Twelve who were present in the room to join him. They surrounded me, laid their hands upon my head, and ordained me an apostle. Later, the president gave me what is known as the “charge to the apostles.” That charge included a commitment to give all that one has, both as to time and means, to the building of the Kingdom of God; to keep himself pure and unspotted from the sins of the world; to be obedient to the authorities of the church; and to exercise the freedom to speak his mind but always be willing to subjugate his own thoughts and accept the majority opinion—not only to vote for it but to act as though it were his own original opinion after it has been approved by the majority of the Council of the Twelve and the First Presidency.

After they set me apart, the matter was submitted to the General Conference of the church.[3]

Generally, an announcement of who are being called to serve as apostles waits until general conference in October or April. The most who apostles have been sustained at one time after the initial organization of the Quorum of the Twelve was four, in 1849, to fill vacancies created by the end of Nauvoo crises and the later reorganization of the First Presidency with Brigham Young and his counselors. Three apostles have been called at a time only twice, due to combinations of deaths and people being dropped from the quorum for one reason or another (1889, 1906). Generally the announcement will wait until conference, even if multiple vacancies are created. The Church is organized to handle some stress caused by poor health or deaths, particularly with the Seventies being able to pick up any slack in carrying out Church duties abroad. After being called, an apostle will serve for an average of about twenty seven years (calculated from most of the apostles who have been called in modern Church history), since it is a lifelong calling.

Hugh B. Brown

Hugh B. Brown

Apostles have generally taken their call very seriously. Thus, often, they have concerns about their worthiness or ability during the early days of their service in the Quorum. Heber J. Grant spent a number of months deeply depressed because he felt unworthy to serve in that calling, largely because he couldn’t say that he had experienced an open vision of the Savior, though that was eventually resolved.[4] Spencer W. Kimball spoke of having “a complete panorama . . . of the little, mean, petty things I had done” and told J. Reuben Clark Jr. that “there must have been some mistake” when he was extended the calling. Afterwards, he went through a week of intense internal turmoil until he slipped out to be alone in the mountains. He spent much of his walk that day “accusing myself and condemning myself and upbraiding myself” and telling the Lord that “I had not asked for this position, that I was incapable of doing the work, that I was imperfect and weak and human, that I was unworthy of so noble a calling,” and had concerns that he had been called by relation rather than by inspiration. He spoke of how he “never before had . . . been tortured as I was now being tortured,” but after a time on that mountain, peace was brought to his soul and he left felling that he “knew my way, now, physically and spiritually, and knew where I was going.”[5]

Such feelings seem to be typical in one way or another. President Henry B. Eyring has spoken of how Satan comes to anyone who receives a calling in the Church to whisper to them that they’re unworthy. He went on to relate that:

After I’d been called to the Quorum of the Twelve, one of the Presidents . . . said to me, “Hal, you’re looking a little sad. Is it come yet?”

I said, “I beg your pardon?”

He’d been watching me and he said “come see me,” and I went to his office. He said, “Well, you’ve been an apostle now a little while. Has it come? You look sad.”

And I said, “Yeah. I just don’t feel that I’m worthy of what I have to be, that I am not what I need to be to have the spiritual blessings that I need in this work.”

And he said, “Well, what’s the trouble?”

And I said, “Well, I’m thinking of some things that I’ve done in my life.”

And he, “Well, yes, I understand that.”

Then I said, “Could I tell you about them?”

He said, “No.” He said, “Don’t come to me. Go to Him.”[6]

The fact that the president asked “has it come yet?” seems to indicate that feelings of unworthiness are typical of the early period of apostolic ministry.

President Henry B. Eyring

President Henry B. Eyring

After the call, apostles enter a period of training and apprenticeship in the ministry. Prophets and apostles are not so different from us: they are mastering the same methods of communicating with the heavens that we are, and they are given tutors, trainers, and teachers to help them learn to do so. In the same speech cited above, President Eyring went on to say: “I have the best presidents you can imagine. … I will simply tell you the little I’ve learned from how I’ve been trained. Would you believe that they train prophet, seers, and revelators? Oh you bet—Elder Uchtdorf is learning.”[7] Prophets, seers, and revelators need training, and that training comes from other prophet, seers, and revelators.

The late President Boyd K. Packer recalled in a newspaper interview that when he was first called as an assistant to the Twelve:

“I had quite a schooling as I learned from the senior Brethren,” President Packer said. “I learned to be taught.

“It’s one thing to study the gospel and another to study men who have given their lives to it,” he said of the Brethren with whom he served in the early years as a General Authority and who since have passed away. “President McKay had a great influence on me. Elder Marion G. Romney, Elder N. Eldon Tanner and Elder Kimball were my mentors.

“Elder Marion G. Romney, Elder N. Eldon Tanner and Elder Kimball were my mentors.”

“Elder LeGrand Richards (born in 1886) was my history book. I learned in those early days to associate with the older Brethren. I would walk back from meetings in the temple with Elder Richards. He walked very slowly because he had a crippled leg. The other Brethren would say, ‘Oh, you’re so kind.’ I thought, ‘You don’t know how selfish I am.’ I would ask Elder Richards questions. He knew everything.”

President Packer spoke of his associations with Elder Joseph Fielding Smith, who on Jan. 23, 1970, became the 10th president of the Church. “He was a wonderful man. I liked to be around him and just listen to him and study him.” Elder Packer worked closely with Elder Harold B. Lee, who became the 11th Church president on July 7, 1972, and Elder Mark E. Petersen.

He spoke with admiration of Elder Bruce R. McConkie, who “was regarded as very rigid and staid, but he had more humor than many of the others. He was very pleasant to be around.”

President Packer said, “If we look at the past, we can know where we’re going. The footprints are there, marching in a line. We need to take a thought for where we’ve been and where we’re heading.”[8]

One can see the influence and training from other members of the Quorum of the Twelve has had on President Packer—influence he passed on to other members called to that same body of priesthood, just as President Eyring spoke of. Harold B. Lee likewise had J. Reuben Clark, Jr. as a mentor, who affectionately called young Elder Lee “the kid.”[9]

Gradually the apostles move up from being junior members of the Quorum to being more senior members while they administer the worldwide Church. In time, they will move on from this life, as Elder Perry did recently and the process of calling and training will start all over again for a new apostle. At that time, we mourn the loss of those who have moved on, but the Church is able to roll on as it moves to carry on its work in the earth.

First Bump

Further Reading:

LDS.org: Calling an Apostle of God


LDS Living

[1] Hugh B. Brown and Edwin B. Firmage (ed.), An Abundant Life, 2nd ed. (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1999),127.

[2] Heber J. Grant, Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant (SLC, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2002), 181-182.

[3] Edwin B. Firmage, An Abundant Life, p.126-127

[4] Truman G. Madsen, The Presidents of the Church: Insights into Their Lives and Teachings (SLC: Deseret Book, 2004), 184-186.

[5] Edward L. Kimball and Andrew E. Kimball, Jr. Spencer W. Kimball: Twelfth President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (SLC: Bookcraft, 1977), 189-195.

[6] Henry B. Eyring, Mission Presidents’ Seminar. Transcribed from Audio CD in author’s possession.

[7] Eyring, Mission Presidents’ seminar

[8] Gerry Avant, “President Packer is at half-century milestone of service,” Church News October 1, 2011.http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/61499/President-Packer-is-at-half-century-milestone-of-service.html

[9] Truman G. Madsen, The Presidents of the Church (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 2004), 306.