Pope Retires; How about Apostles?

By: Mormon Heretic
February 18, 2013

Pope Benedict 16th

Pope Benedict 16th stunned the world last week when he announced his resignation due to “lack of strength of mind and body.”  Geoff over at RationalFaiths modified the pope’s statement, writing if as if President Monson made a similar announcement, and then discussed the history of emeritus status in the LDS Church.  Geoff writes,

In 1968 Hugh B. Brown was the one to propose that ALL general authorities become emeritus at a certain age, and had it been accepted he would have been one of the first to go emeritus. (see An Abundant Life: The Memoirs of Hugh B. Brown)…this idea was implemented ten years later, but did not include the First Presidency or Quorum of the 12. In 1979 the church Patriarch, Eldred Smith, went emeritus and that position in the Church (which Joseph F. Smith placed in higher authority than the Quorum of the 12) has remained vacant ever since.

Presidents Hinckley and Monson have been quite healthy, though Monson is beginning to show signs of age.  Prior to that, Presidents Hunter, Benson, and Kimball were not so healthy.  Geoff quotes Michael Quinn concerning Benson’s incapacitation.

Hugh B. Brown, apostle and former Counselor to Pres McKay

counselors [Hinckley and Monson] felt it necessary to execute legal documents giving them Ezra Taft Benson’s ‘power of attorney [which] shall not be affected by his “disability” or “incompetence.” However, Benson was already affected by that ‘disability’… Despite a notarized statement by the First Presidency’s secretary, President Benson did not sign those documents himself. A signature machine produced Benson’s identical signatures on these legal documents. Without public acknowledgement, this machine-signed document formally ended an official provision for dissolving the First Presidency that had been in print for ninety years… However, this 1989 document specified that the counselors would not dissolve the First Presidency or surrender their powers despite the fact of the church president’s ‘disability’ or ‘incompetence.’

(see D. Michael Quinn, “The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power” [Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books], pp. 58-59,; fn. 243-245, p. 432)

In reading Spencer W. Kimball’s biography, Length Your Stride: Working Draft, Pres Kimball wondered why God didn’t take him.  His son Ed writes on page 597 (extra info from the longer version of the book is in blue.)

Before his two surgeries in 1979, President Kimball seemed vigorous for his age.  He recovered well from the operations; but over the next two years, the downward trend became more and more pronounced.  In retrospect, the summer of 1981 was a turning point that led slowly and inexorably toward death, despite Spencer’s heroic efforts to get well and his never-failing concern about responsibilities that he feared he was neglecting.  The body that had for so long responded to his will defied him now.  Between the summer of 1981 and November 1985 he experienced increasing pain, discouragement, and disorientation. The whole family, especially Camilla, suffered with him. As his circle of activity steadily shrank, however, it never excluded his family.1

There were a few warning signs in the early summer of 1981.  When he was interviewed for a documentary on the Dallas Temple, the producer decided not to use the footage because “the film of the interview made him look very feeble and absentminded.”2 More and more often he felt discouraged with his growing disabilities and prayed for the Lord to take him.  Though frail, he still shouldered heavy responsibilities he dared not let go.3 Ironically, Spencer’s unremitting zeal for work–undeniably one of his greatest strengths–became a kind of curse to him during his final years as his ability to work was taken from him.

On July 13, Ed noted about his parents.  ”[He] is sometimes confused and has difficulty speaking….  He is discouraged and so is she.  I begin to wonder whether he can last–but then I thought that seven years ago.”4 Early the next morning, Spencer implemented one of the most significant decisions of his administration.  On July 14, Spencer called D. Arthur Haycock, his personal secretary, into his office.  As Haycock described it, “the fog lifted….He was clear in his decision.”  He acted in a definite and controlled manner, as if the clock had turned back years.5

Spencer told Arthur that after prayerful consideration he felt impressed to call a third counselor in the First Presidency.  He asked Arthur to locate Gordon B. Hinckley. Haycock spontaneously lifted both hands high and exclaimed:  ”I can vote for him with both hands.  I don’t think you could ever make a better selection.”  President Kimball had already discussed this proposed change with his two counselors, N. Eldon Tanner and Marion G. Romney, and they too supported it.

Considering the poor health afflicting all three members of the First Presidency, this decision had a tremendous effect on subsequent events.  Elder Hinckley, age seventy-one, brought renewed vigor to the First Presidency.

Ed Kimball goes on to discuss the calling of Neal A. Maxwell as an apostle, as well as some public events that his father attended.  From page 599,

On Thursday, September 3, Spencer arrived at his office about 7:15 AM but went home two hours later.  He needed help to get to his car.  While eating lunch he fell asleep in his chair and seemed disoriented.  Friday, after needing help to eat his breakfast, he checked into the hospital for tests.  A brain scan disclosed that the growing weakness resulted from still another subdural hematoma, with pressure on the right frontal lobe of the brain from new bleeding inside the skull.16 To avoid news leaks about his condition, his name appeared on the hospital computers as William W. Spencer.17

Camilla and Spencer’s counselors discussed with the doctor whether to operate again or just let him slip away.  He had often said, plaintively “Why doesn’t the Lord release me?”  But it appeared that he might recover well again, as he had before, and Dr. Bruce Sorensen agreed to operate for the third time on Saturday, September 5.

…[page 600]  Because of this operation’s extensiveness and Spencer’s increased weakness, hospital recovery took longer–six weeks of intense struggle to get well again.19 Ten days passed before his sense of humor reasserted itself.  Every half hour a nurse came to check on his consciousness and coherence by asking questions and getting him to do simple tasks.  When one asked, “Scratch your nose,” he rejoined, “It doesn’t itch.”

“Cough for me.”

“Cough, cough,” he said.

“President Kimball, can you tell me when the Second Coming will be?”

“Why?  Are you ready?”

Despite the improvement, rumors spread.  One friend told Ed that he had been assured that Spencer was “a blob.”  In a nephew’s sacrament meeting, it had been announced that the president was in a coma.

…[page 601]  When October general conference began, President Kimball was absent for the first time since his ordination as an apostle thirty-eight years earlier.24 That day he again had dangerously heavy internal bleeding in his stomach.  He had to be forcibly restrained to undergo an endoscopy to locate and cauterize the bleeding.  Afterward he said, “I never had anything make me so mad!”

His mental acuity was something like a radio signal, fading in and out.  He managed small talk but had trouble calling up names, even of family members.  Then a new blow fell.  On October 12, Kimball required another operation, this time to clear a blocked urethra.25 The pain from a spinal block was so excruciating that Spencer, ordinarily so stoic, screamed when he was moved.26

Edward notes that the Kimballs moved out of their home to Hotel Utah so others could more readily assist him, though Camilla missed her home.  Church leaders decided to limit visitors for fear “that his weakness and difficulties communicating might make some people who saw him infrequently wonder about whether he was still competent.”  From page 603,

During 1982 President Kimball had no choice but to accept a passive role, dealing only with issues brought to him.  He was too weak to appear much in public, attend meetings, or go to his office more than sporadically.  He was frustrated  with his limitations and was unhappy to be unable to give the vigorous effort that had characterized his forty years as a General Authority.

…[page 604]  As early as January 1982 Spencer mustered the courage to ask Eldon Tanner about the possibility of being “relieved” as president, but he got no encouragement.44 [The footnote reads:  Edward L. Kimball, Journal, January 23, 1982.  In one temple meeting President Hinckley asked Spencer whether had had anything he wanted to say.  "I'd like to be released," was his poignant answer.  James P. Bell, "In the Strength of the Lord:  The Life and Teachings of Jame E. Faust (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1999), 148]

I will stop here, but Ed discusses further public appearances, surgeries, hospitalizations, and health scares for the last 3 years of his life.  My question is why didn’t Kimball just resign like Pope Benedict has done? Emeritus status had been granted for Seventies by then.

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45 Responses to Pope Retires; How about Apostles?

  1. Howard on February 18, 2013 at 7:33 AM

    I think the church would be better served by a mandatory retirement age bringing more vitality and better representing the generations of it’s membership. Jesus and Joseph were both in their 30s during their ministries.

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  2. Stu on February 18, 2013 at 7:57 AM

    I think that all church leaders can serve the church in different ways. Some serve it well by holding on until the very end. Others may serve it well by stepping aside and letting someone else fill their positions. I don’t think there should be a mandatory retirement age, but it should also be clear that there is no shame in retiring either.

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  3. Brian on February 18, 2013 at 9:15 AM

    It would be viewed as a sign of weakness in the church. It would be viewed as god not being in charge. Plus, nobody wants to be the first. Taken at face value, the pope is to be admired for stepping down.

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  4. Mormon Heretic on February 18, 2013 at 10:27 AM

    Brian, why wouldn’t Kimball have been admired for stepping down? (Or Benson, or Hunter?)

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  5. Will on February 18, 2013 at 2:52 PM

    I see no need for them to retire until God calls them home; they have the wisdom and maturity that only comes through time and experience. Most importantly, they have the Apostolic priesthood, which is the most significant part of their calling. I can see retirement with a pope since he really doesn’t have any authority; he is just a figure head. The pope retiring is tantamount to a business or civic person retiring.

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  6. dba.brotherp on February 18, 2013 at 3:20 PM

    I think they don’t step down because they think people will see it as a weakness. Another reason may be that they don’t want the next guy in line to get to the presidency.

    “I see no need for them to retire until God calls them home”

    Was the subdural hematoma and the internal bleeding in his stomach God’s way of calling President Kimball home or did we interfere with modern medicine?

    “they have the wisdom and maturity that only comes through time and experience”

    But when you have dementia, you lose your wisdom and maturity.

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  7. Mike S on February 18, 2013 at 3:20 PM

    #5 Will: I can see retirement with a pope since he really doesn’t have any authority; he is just a figure head. The pope retiring is tantamount to a business or civic person retiring.

    This comment is very offensive to me. I’m sure it is also offensive to a billion people around the world who consider the Pope much closer to God than President Monson.

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  8. Will on February 18, 2013 at 3:57 PM

    Mike,

    The Billion (the lion’s share anyway) Catholics see President Monson as just another man and this is not offensive to me, who recognizes him as a Prophet, so why should my thinking the pope is just another man be offensive to them? That’s religion.

    Not everyone “Imagine’s” John Lennon’s versus as good or true. Mike, I see it as the one true church and you see it as a church with a lot of truth. If you are offended by my proclamation, then so be it, waste your time being offended.

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  9. Jeff Spector on February 18, 2013 at 4:14 PM

    MIke S.,

    I am going to have to side with Will on this one given what is typically said about our Church and its leaders, especially Joseph Smith. Considering the Pope not having Divine or Priesthood Authority IS in fact LDS Church Doctrine. There is no scriptural basis for “pope” and a reading of Early Christian History calls into question the whole notion of the “Seat of St. Peter and the succession of the Apostleship from Peter.

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  10. Brian on February 18, 2013 at 4:28 PM

    “why wouldn’t Kimball have been admired for stepping down? (Or Benson, or Hunter?)”

    There seems to be something in the culture that makes this taboo. Otherwise, why didn’t they resign? I think it would have been great for any of them to be the first to break tradition and just say (or write) my body is done and let the next in command take over. It makes so much sense and it clears the way for the next person in need to do the same. I would feel the same for a retiring LDS church president as the pope. They gave their life to service and if they say they are done, they are done.

    The pope’s resignation has caused faith issues for some Catholics. Should it? I don’t see why. But then, I don’t think god is watching over either group.

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  11. MH on February 18, 2013 at 4:48 PM

    This is one of the things I actually admire about the RLDS Church–the ability to retire. Wallace B. Smith retired (and is still alive.) Grant MacMurray then retired, (still alive), and Stephen Veazey is the current president.

    I think Brown’s suggestion was a sound one. Let the leadership retire when their body won’t cooperate any more. While Hinckley was vigorous to the end, many others (McKay, Joseph Fielding Smith, to name some others) were more figureheads (to use Will’s term.) It just makes sense that some of these men should retire. Nobody really believes that at the end of Kimball or Benson’s presidency that they did anything productive. Let the church go forth “boldly, nobly, and independent…” This didn’t happen with Kimball and Benson, who were suffering from severe mental, as well as physical disabilities. I’m amazed that someone like Kimball, who brought forth OD 2, didn’t take more of an active role in retiring when his body refused to cooperate anymore. Why didn’t Hinckley and Tanner more fully cooperate on Kimball’s request to be released? From an outsider, it seems like a no-brainer. In light of President Benson’s mental decline, it just makes him an uninspired figurehead, as Will alluded to.

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  12. hawkgrrrl on February 18, 2013 at 4:48 PM

    It’s the old adage: “Catholics say the pope is infallible, but none of them believe it. Mormons say the prophet is fallible, but none of them believe it.”

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  13. Jeff Spector on February 18, 2013 at 4:51 PM

    Well, there is no scriptural reference to Prophets or Apostles retiring or quitting, only dying off. So I suppose the tradition stems from that.

    On the other hand, if the Lord wanted them to retire, he could simply kill them off.

    But then again, why is it good for 70s to retire and not anyone else?

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  14. Geoff - A on February 18, 2013 at 4:56 PM

    Will is there an Apostolic P’hood? Is Apostle not a calling in the Melchizedek P’hood?

    I think requiring someone who is no longer capable of standing, or is suffering from dementia speak in conference (do they do anything else) is called elder abuse, and should be stopped immediately.

    Surely it makes sense to have the most capable person as the prophet, not the oldest?

    Is there another leadership position in the world where we would accept this. How about you choose the President of the USA on this basis. The oldest person in the house or senate. Makes sense?

    It’s time this was changed. Uchtdorf should be President. Pride could be a problem for those hoping to get their name in the books.

    If you want to argue that the Lord chooses by allowing his choice to live – how about if major medical intervention required (the lord is trying to choose) you then step down.

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  15. MH on February 18, 2013 at 4:59 PM

    Jeff, it does appear that Peter was at least demoted (if not resigned), and James (the brother of Jesus) became leader of the ancient Church. I blogged about it previously.

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  16. MH on February 18, 2013 at 5:19 PM

    Jeff, I should also reference what Geoff at RationalFaiths said,

    God could decide via the decision of the Prophet and Quorum of the 12 to make such a change. The idea that the President of the Church can’t step down also seems to ignore that in our cannon we have a procedure in place for disciplining the President of the High Priesthood and his removal “none shall be exempted from the justice and the laws of God, that all things may be done in order and in solemnity before him, according to truth and righteousness.” If our canon has the procedure for disciplining and removing the President of the Church, then surely the idea of the President going emeritus is possible.

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  17. will on February 18, 2013 at 5:47 PM

    I like the way it is, it has a sense of loyalty and respect for those that have spent their lives in the service of others. The last thing you want to do is appeal to a bunch of progressives, because they will never be happy. They wouldn’t be happy if the church president were a peg-legged, one-eyed, Eskimo lesbian. They would complain she isn’t gay enough or colored enough. They won’t be happy with anything because they are generally not happy with themselves. Ignore them.

    As for it being like the President of the US, that is the last thing we need because we will get what we have now a President selected for political and racial reasons with a total disregard for competency. The last thing we need is low information voters selecting our Church President. I will stick with the ‘called of God’ procedure.

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  18. Howard on February 18, 2013 at 6:30 PM

    Retirement and succession are both major issues. If you’re a conservative TBM I suppose you believe the Lord is maneuvering the precise order of succession and the precise date of death of each of it’s presidents and love everything just the way it is but if you take a good look you might notice the church is very busy marching in place and has been for a long time. What is the purpose of no spiritual progress?

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  19. hawkgrrrl on February 18, 2013 at 6:43 PM

    “with a total disregard for competency” Since when is competency what gets POTUS elected?? Are you implying GWB was more competent than BHO? It seems to me it’s mostly the media and populism that gets a president elected.

    I kind of have a problem with the idea that God chooses church presidents by killing off the one he doesn’t want at the helm, not because I think God cares about mortality, but because it would be incredibly impractical to ever have a leader who wasn’t extremely advanced in age in this scenario.

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  20. Mormon Heretic on February 18, 2013 at 7:16 PM

    Will, I know you’re not known for thoughtful comments, but really you should sit this conversation out. If we’re going with a competency argument, then Kimball and Benson should have made the way for a more competent president. As Edward Kimball said, his father’s “mental acuity was something like a radio signal, fading in and out.” If this is the case, how can we honestly make the case that we are led by a living prophet??? The pope’s words, if spoken by Kimball would have been received well by the membership of the Church. Here’s how Geoff modified the pope’s statement.

    “After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths due to an advanced age are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the office of President of the Church. I am well aware that this calling, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only by words and deeds but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary — strengths which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.”

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  21. Mike S on February 18, 2013 at 7:49 PM

    Will / Jeff:

    I understand your point, but still think it is disrespectful. I try to have respect for any religious leader – whether the Dalai Lama, the Pope, a rabbi of a local synagogue, a military chaplain, whoever. I see them all as important people who devote their lives to trying to help their fellowman in this journey of life. Many of them have sacrificed far more than me in promoting the cause of good.

    So I still think that saying they are nothing more a figurehead is offensive. And the argument that they look at President Monson in the same way is meaningless. It’s a poor argument.

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  22. Will on February 18, 2013 at 8:13 PM

    Mike,

    Thanks for the insight on what you were saying, I clearly could have said what I said in a more respectful way.

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  23. Will on February 18, 2013 at 8:22 PM

    Mh,

    Blah, blah, blah….

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  24. Mormon Heretic on February 18, 2013 at 9:05 PM

    Will, I see nothing substantively different between comment 23 and any of your other comments. But seriously, I am looking for your response to this question: “As Edward Kimball said, his father’s “mental acuity was something like a radio signal, fading in and out.” If this is the case, how can we honestly make the case that we are led by a living prophet???”

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  25. ji on February 18, 2013 at 9:19 PM

    MH (no. 24) — I think we over-do the living prophet notion — in my mind, we’re led by a First Presidency and so forth. I remember President Hinckley saying soon after he became the President of the Church that he hoped members would refer to him more as President of the Church and less as Prophet, because he really functions far more in the President of the Church capacity.

    I the question of retirement should be left solely to the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. In some countries (the Netherlands and Luxembourg, for example), there is a custom of monarchs abdicating as they get older — in other countries (the United Kingdom, for example), there is no such custom and the monarch serves until death. Neither model is “right” or “wrong”.

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  26. Howard on February 18, 2013 at 9:34 PM

    Ji,
    I would love to see Pres. Hinckley’s more President than Prophet quote. Tried Google but didn’t see it. Would love a link!

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  27. Douglas on February 18, 2013 at 10:48 PM

    #25 – the late GBH probably wanted to be remembered more for his President role than his Prophet, Seer, and Revelator role (not necessarily denigrating the latter) because with today’s inter-connected world, the man could hardly burp w/o someone commenting on it. On top of that, with a rabid press and a slew of folks just waiting for a verbal faux pas, and it would have been understandable for him to take Skipper the Penguin’s advice: “Smile and wave, boys, smile and wave…”
    GA’s can and often are “put out to pasture” by being given “Emeritus” status. Some DO take on a significant calling, like being a Temple President. Others get to enjoy a few rounds of golf, even if they need a cart. As for “Los Apostoles”…since it’s a Priesthood office, they’d still be an Apostle even if they were retired-in-place. Then it’s a question of would an additional Apostle be needed? My observation is that the workload gets shifted around to those that can handle it, and on downward to the First and Second Quorums of Seventy.
    It was well before I became a member, but I recall that President McKay had more than two counselors at some point. One was not even an Apostle (any High Priest could do it, I guess). There was also an Apostle, Alvin Dyer, that was never a member of the Twelve. Can’t figure out how exactly that was worked out, but the Lord’s house is a house of order. At times, the additions seem a bit funny.

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  28. Paul 2 on February 18, 2013 at 11:19 PM

    We have a scriptural precedent. King Benjamin’s retirement was voluntary and he was head of state and also head of the state religion. An angel came to help him with his goodbye speech, so one could say that God was on board with his decision. So there should not be any question about whether retirements are acceptable or not.

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  29. Hedgehog on February 19, 2013 at 3:32 AM

    Geoff A #14:
    “is there an Apostolic P’hood? Is Apostle not a calling in the Melchizedek P’hood?”
    I asked this question over on a different post on another site, didn’t get an answer though. I’d love to know.

    “I think requiring someone who is no longer capable of standing, or is suffering from dementia speak in conference … is called elder abuse”
    This sentiment I can go along with, for the most part, in so far as mental capacity goes, and even general health and fitness. As far capacity to stand (in and if itself) goes, I think I’d want to look at that in the wider context of overall mental and physical health. One can be incapable of standing but otherwise fit and capable.

    Hawkgrrrl #19: “I kind of have a problem with the idea that God chooses church presidents by killing off the one he doesn’t want at the helm”
    This is a problem for me too, though perhaps not for the same reason. Maybe I’m just squeamish at the idea that he’d kill someone just because someone else would be a better president… I find it hard to swallow that he’d be participating (still not the word I want, but better than interfering) at that small scale, as opposed to expecting us to use our faculties and accept that dementia, or very poor health are good reasons to allow someone to retire. Seems to me with the system we have at the moment, we ought to be much more interested in how Apostles are selected from the get go, than we seem to be.

    MH #24: “can we honestly make the case that we are led by a living prophet?”
    Well, by living prophets (plural) certainly, since we sustain both the 1st Presidency, and Q12 as such annually.

    ji #25: “In some countries (the Netherlands and Luxembourg, for example), there is a custom of monarchs abdicating as they get older — in other countries (the United Kingdom, for example), there is no such custom and the monarch serves until death. Neither model is “right” or “wrong”.”
    As you might imagine, this topic is discussed regularly in the British media. Our monarch these days is pretty elderly, though would appear to have all her faculties, and has no wish to abdicate when last asked. She works pretty hard in fact, meets regularly with the PM and is the signatory for our legislation. A British monarch has abdicated in the past (Edward VIII – who didn’t get so far as a coronation), and on other occasions there has been a Regent in place, when the monarch was incapable or otherwise not fulfilling their duties (George III comes to mind, but also John stood in for Richard the Lion Heart off on his crusades). Victoria had a long period of mourning, where she pretty much withdrew, and that certainly contributed to a lot of unrest and dissatisfaction nationally.

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  30. Will on February 19, 2013 at 4:38 AM

    MH,

    Who cares what their kids think or say, I mean look at Lee Benson he would trash his dad any chance he could.

    I realize some of these men were in a weakened state prior to thier death. Again, I love the respect and loyalty shown to them by the vast majority of the faithful members. More importantly, i love thier examples of enduring to the end. This along with faith, repentance, baptism and receiving the Holy Ghost are all that really matter.

    Hedge,

    When I was set apart as a high priest many years ago, I had my father in law do the ordination who was a patriarch. He did so under the authority of the patriarchal priesthood. It is an office of the priesthood, as is an Apostle.

    Off to the gym…

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  31. Howard on February 19, 2013 at 6:09 AM

    More importantly, i love thier examples of enduring to the end. This along with faith, repentance, baptism and receiving the Holy Ghost are all that really matter. This sounds very nice but it ignores what a Prophet actually is, a mouth piece for God, a spiritual to mortal transducer. When the body fails the transducer fails and the Prophet ceases to be!

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  32. Geoff - A on February 19, 2013 at 6:17 AM

    The pope was born in 1927
    Monson 1927
    Eyring 1933
    Packer 1924
    Perry 1922
    Nelson 1924
    Oaks 1932
    Ballard 1928
    Scott 1928
    Hales 1932
    Uchtdorf 1940
    Holland 1940
    Cook 1940
    Christophersen 1945

    13 of the 15 are past retirement age. 4 are older than the pope and having the same difficulties he is. My father is in his late 80s and can only manage sacrament meeting, I can not comprehend why these older bretheren are not allowed to retire gracefully, as the pope has corageously, and humbly chosen (and he probably doesn’t have any children and grandchildren to share his last years with)

    I can envisage a time when the 14 meet after the death of a prophet and ask in prayer if it would be OK for a younger prophet to be called, and others retired; and the Lord saying I’ve been wondering how long it would take you to figure that out. Of corse!

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  33. DB on February 19, 2013 at 7:01 AM

    “is there an Apostolic P’hood? Is Apostle not a calling in the Melchizedek P’hood?”

    Yes, Apostle is an office of the Melchizedek Priesthood. As are Patriarch, High Priest, Seventy, and Elder. There is no apostolic priesthood; neither is there a patriarchal priesthood. Also, there is no office of Prophet, as some believe. The office of President of the Church is an organizational office, not a priesthood office, as are the offices of 1st and 2nd Counselor and the President of the Quorum of the Twelve. All members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve have the same priesthood office though they hold different organizational offices.

    All members of the quorums of the Seventy hold the office of High Priest rather than the office of Seventy just as Bishops hold the office of High Priest rather than the office of Bishop. Bishop is both an Aaronic Priesthood office and an organizational office.

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  34. Jeff Spector on February 19, 2013 at 7:13 AM

    Certainly God could change the rule and I think the Church could change the rule. I really have no problem with a retirement at age or a retirement when incapacitated.

    Change always affects the Church initially and then we get over it and move on, most of the time.

    I suspect we have some progressive leaders that might consider it. Especially after some of the less progressives die off.

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  35. Hedgehog on February 19, 2013 at 7:14 AM

    #33 Thanks for the clarification DB.

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  36. Will on February 19, 2013 at 9:06 AM

    Look at the results of this geriatric group, as you see them. They have organized one of the most financially sound organizations in the world, which is a far cry from the hodge-podge group of elected misfits in D.C. As of the last report, we own all of our real property, with the exception of some holdings where the seller wanted an annuity, and otherwise they would have cashed out. We have little or no general obligation debt – for heaven’s sake we just spent 3 Billion dollars cash creating wealth and jobs in Salt Lake City. In contrast, the nitwitted elected officials in D.C. have over 16 Trillion in general obligation debt, 110 Trillion in unfunded retirement benefits and have spent over 1 Trillion in ‘stimulus’ and have nothing to show for their expenses.

    They have effectively motivated by word and deed, and have taught the following principles: honesty in our business and personal affairs; moral cleanliness in thought, word, and deed; service to others in our home and community; and love. Above all, they have testified of Christ in every circumstance I have ever heard from them. In large part, except the further you move from the Book of Mormon belt where they have little to choose from, they have selected good and righteous men to serve in leadership positions.
    I would judge their service to be exceptional and see no need to fire them just because they are old.

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  37. Howard on February 19, 2013 at 9:47 AM

    They have organized one of the most financially sound organizations in the world, which is a far cry from the hodge-podge group of elected misfits in D.C. Very poor comparison the LDS church is an exclusive club that accepts donations of money and time and builds buildings. Financial management skills amounts to; don’t build faster than donations come in. Duh! They are not the world’s policeman and they only make a token contribution to the world’s poor. They may testify of Christ but they run a largely pharisaical Mosaic church.

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  38. Mormon Heretic on February 19, 2013 at 10:09 AM

    Will, quit talking politics. You like to turn everything to politics, even if it doesn’t belong. Many of the same things you say such as “honesty in our business and personal affairs; moral cleanliness in thought, word, and deed; service to others in our home and community; and love” apply to Catholics, Southern Baptists, Muslims, Buddhists, etc. So you get no points for spouting that.

    Now, I want to reference what you said about Patriarchal and Apostolic Priesthood. You were both right and wrong with what you said. DB was right to say that an Apostle is just an office of the Melchizedek Priesthood. There is no Apostolic Priesthood. We’re often told in the Priesthood session of conference that our priesthood is no different than an apostles. The difference is merely that they hold more keys than we do. Our priesthood is the same as an apostle’s priesthood.

    Regarding Patriarchal priesthood, yes there is a patriarchal priesthood as you said, but your stake patriarch does not have it. If he did, he sons would automatically become patriarchs following his death. Patriarchal priesthood is based on lineal succession. In our church the Presiding Patriarch has always been a Smith (Father Smith, Hyrum Smith, William Smith, Eldred Smith, etc.) As Geoff stated in the OP, Eldred Smith was the last one to hold this Patriarchal Priesthood, and he was retired with no one to replace him in 1979. The office has been left vacant before, but I wonder if this is the death knell of the office.

    The RLDS Church operated on lineal succession, and this is perhaps the best example of lineal succession. Michael Quinn has discussed this in his book Origins of Power pages 33-34.

    Lineal Priesthood as described in the December 1832 revelations was not of church but of family. According to that revelation, Smith had lineal authority before his first vision, before visits of angels, before the restorations of the Aaronic priesthood, of apostolic authority or of high priesthood. Smith was never ordained to this lineal priesthood by the laying on of hands. Later called Patriarchal priesthood, this authority existed in him from birth.

    According to the 1835 revelation, “The order of this Priesthood was confirmed to be handed down from father to son, and rightly belongs to the literal descendants of the chosen seeds, to whom the promises were made (D&C 107:40).

    In August 1843 the prophet preached: “There are three grand orders of priesthood…[first] the Melchizedek…. The second priesthood is Patriarchal authority…. The 3rd is what is called the Levitical Priesthood.”

    Because the 1835 revelation did not mention that there was a Patriarchal priesthood separate from the “Order of Melchizedek Priesthood” (D&C 107:1, 10), Smith’s brother William interpreted them as identical. The only difference, he argued, was that very few men have a lineal right to this priesthood by birth.

    Although Utah Mormons dismiss William Smith’s priesthood interpretations as self-serving and apostate, an official church historian (later church president) expressed similar views. “Down through time there has been a gradual development in the offices in the priesthood. Adam held the Melchizedek Priesthood,” wrote Apostle Joseph Fielding Smith. “Yet from Adam to Moses the order of the priesthood was that of the Patriarchal order. These men were high priests and patriarchs.”166 (emphasis in original)

    There have been several power struggles between the Q12 and the Presiding Patriarch, and that is partially why the office was discontinued in 1979. Patriarchal priesthood is separate from Melchizedek priesthood.

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  39. Mormon Heretic on February 19, 2013 at 10:17 AM

    “I realize some of these men were in a weakened state prior to thier death. Again, I love the respect and loyalty shown to them by the vast majority of the faithful members.”

    Strawman Will. Are you saying that if Kimball or Benson had resigned due to “lack of strength of mind and body”, members would have quit respecting them?

    God can’t effectively communicate with someone whose “mental acuity was something like a radio signal, fading in and out.” It’s time to step down when that happens. And the prophet or apostle who recognizes that deserves more respect than someone who hangs on. The church is not being led by God when the mental acuity of Benson or Kimball was gone. Face facts Will.

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  40. Jeff Spector on February 19, 2013 at 10:28 AM

    One of the most fascinating things about Elder Eldred G. Smith is that he has outlived most of those who were there when he “retired in 1979.” He just turned 106.

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  41. Howard on February 19, 2013 at 10:44 AM

    If all the church has to do to to bring up a new prophet is ordain and sustain, retirement of old prophets should pose no functional problem. If prophets must gain experience beyond being ordained and sustained to actually become prophets they should show signs of become more prophetic with time in grade. But we see no trend like this in our modern Presidents. Ordaining and sustaining prophets seems no different in practice than ordaining and sustaining any other calling. Great Prophets are personally selected and trained by God. Should a Great Prophet again find himself at the helm of the church I say let God retire him.

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  42. Rigel Hawthorne on February 19, 2013 at 6:39 PM

    I think it was a good test of faith for the membership to be patient in waiting for counsel over the pulpit from a prophet when living prophets were ill. I wouldn’t mind seeing a prophet take a page from the BoM and say I’m getting old, so I’m going to start turning over everything to you as my successor. If President Monson were to do that, however, the customary successors may be in greater need of taking an emeritus status that he is. From what I have read, none of the Apostles want to assume the prophet/president calling until it is absolutely time for them to do so.

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  43. hawkgrrrl on February 19, 2013 at 7:27 PM

    I was reading an interesting article today in Time. It talked about the fact that people get happier as they age. But one of the things it pointed out is that those born before 1940 (being raised during the Great Depression) have a much lower base for happiness than those born after 1940 because of the privations and hardships they faced. Are they happier now than ever? Yes. But are they anywhere near as happy as people of the Baby Boomer or Gen X generation? Not even close. The generation gap is in full force. Since church is ostensibly advising us how to fulfill “the plan of happiness” this gap creates a disconnect with the membership at large. Look at all the Uchtdorf-love. He speaks to people in accepting and positive language in a way the older apostles just don’t. And he’s no spring chicken either.

    My parents are Monson’s age. They are definitely happier than they have ever been, despite their “disgustingly good health” as my mom calls it. But you can definitely tell they lived through the depression, and they have a very judgmental streak that sounds familiar at General Conference. They don’t have a very high opinion of humanity, at least compared to the hopefulness (they might say naivete) of people from my generation.

    It’s just a theory, but I thought the parallel was interesting.

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  44. ji on February 19, 2013 at 9:39 PM

    Howard (no. 26) — No citation or source to quote — I heard it with my own ears at a 4-hour meeting in Atlanta many years ago.

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  45. Howard on February 19, 2013 at 10:11 PM

    hawkgrrrl,
    Excellent point! …they have a very judgmental streak that sounds familiar at General Conference. They don’t have a very high opinion of humanity, at least compared to the hopefulness (they might say naivete) of people from my generation. You just described my mother and step father!

    Ji,
    Thanks for the reference. It is hopeful for Pres. Hinckley to refer to himself as more president than prophet. I hope the brethren feel similarly.

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