I always wondered how a General Authority could just show up at a Stake Conference and select a new Stake President (SP) in just 24 hours, most of the time not knowing anybody in the stake prior to his arrival. With a Stake President selecting a new Bishop, he at least knows the people in the ward, attends as often as necessary, and gets input from counselors. But how does a GA (usually a member of the Seventy) do this so quickly?
The answer is that they do their homework. When I was bishop, we had a change of Stake President, so I was asked to “participate” in the selection process. Two weeks before conference weekend, I and all the other bishops, high councilmen, and counselors of the existing stake presidency were asked to complete a short form with information about ourselves. We were asked to put our name, age, how long we had been in our calling, our wife’s name, the number of children and their ages, and our occupation. The last question asked each of us to identify three brothers in the stake that we thought would be a good Stake President.
On the Saturday of Stake Conference, the visiting GA interviewed each of us (the bishops, high council, and SP counselors) for about 5 minutes. (BTW, the CHI specifically bars Stake Presidents from questioning ward members when selecting a new bishop). When I was called in, it was my plan to make a low key entry, and just be as normal as possible. Well, that didn’t last long as the visiting GA knew my father, and from my name deduced that we were related. He asked how my father was doing, and we made small talk about mutual acquaintances. Then he asked me why the three people I had written on my paper could be the new Stake President. He then asked if I could only select one, who would it be. As it turns out, the person I suggested was in fact called that evening as our new Stake President. The other two names I had on the list were called as his new counselors.
So did the visiting GA run a tally of all the names and just call the one with the most votes? He never told me, but I would hope that more spiritual input was used that just an Excel spreadsheet. I’m also sure the outgoing Stake President is consulted and his opinion is weighed heavily. But what stood out to me is that a visiting GA does not just show up and expect the spirit to point out the new President. He takes the input from the people who know the stake and its leaders best, and then uses his own prayerful judgment to select the new Stake President.