Emeritus Apostles: Weekend Poll

By: wheatmeister
November 17, 2012

“Age is a very high price to pay for maturity.”  Tom Stoppard

How old is too old?  Is older always wiser?  We retire GAs, but not apostles or prophets.  Should we?

Has the time come for emeritus apostles? (Choose the answer that fits most closely)

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28 Responses to Emeritus Apostles: Weekend Poll

  1. Left Field on November 17, 2012 at 6:46 PM

    What’s the difference between “Yes, in cases of mental decline or serious health issues” and “No, God will remove anyone who might damage the church from leadership”?

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  2. Mike S on November 17, 2012 at 7:15 PM

    I think many of the issues which concern faithful members of the Church on a practical, day-to-day basis are rooted in the current policy. There are many members who have no problem with the doctrine. They don’t have an issue with Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, or historical issues such as polygamy, etc.

    However, on a daily basis, we have dress and grooming standards, stances on numbers of earrings, the concept of removing 2 more inches from garments tops to make them more like a camisole, tattoos, etc. It seems that none of these are doctrinal issues, but primarily related to the age gap between the highest level of leadership and the average age of the membership. It is interesting that the biggest level of disconnect in the Church happens to be in the young age.

    Setting an “emeritus-age” would help keep some vibrancy in the Church’s leadership. God can still reveal His will to current apostles and prophets, just like He can reveal His will to a current bishop even after the prior one was released.

    It seems that the CofC does this and doesn’t have any problem with this. I would be interested in any input in how this works on a practical basis there?

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  3. Douglas on November 17, 2012 at 8:29 PM

    It’s rather insulting and condescending to suggest that just because many of the apostles are in the throes of old fogeydom that they are subjected to Alzeheimer’s or they can’t relate to the young. They’re grandfathers and great-grandfathers as well and no less subject to whatever involves being the patriarch of a hopefully increasing clan.
    I think wistfully of LeGrand Richards hitting the century mark and still having to be practically dragged off the podium at Conference. There may have been plenty of snow on that roof, but there was still fire in the old boy…we should always be so blessed.

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  4. anita on November 17, 2012 at 9:35 PM

    Who would judge the health/fitness ability if it were arbitrary like that? I want to say yes to a set age retirement, but President Hinckley was still going strong in his 90s.

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  5. Paolo on November 17, 2012 at 10:42 PM

    You forgot to add o They should be able to retire on their own accord.

    I get that it’s a concept that apostles serve to the end of their lives, which in the case of the Lord’s original, was much shorter, and the end more violent. But I feel that after serving in the church for their entire lives, they should be able to say that they are ready to do other things in their lives, or serve in other capacities. How fun would it be to have Dallin Oaks as your Gospel Doctrine teacher, or Elder Hales as a primary teacher.
    And how would they feel about being able to have just a regular job in the ward and not have to sit on the stand?

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  6. Geoff - A on November 17, 2012 at 10:45 PM

    Watching general conference I was struck by how infirm some of the leadership are. My father is 89 and has been retired for many years and although sound of mind is not capable of much physical exertion. I am 64 and finding my body beginning to limit me.

    I though some of the conferenc talks bordered on elder abuse.

    My main reason for voting for 80 as retirement age, is that I believe revelation comes as a result of questioning, and that a requirement for leadership in the church is that one be obedient, rather than questioning. With the possible exception of Uchtdorf our leaders are satisfied, or defensive of, the status quo, without questioning.
    In order to make the changes Mike raises above, and more, the leaders will have to ask the important questions, such as why do women no longer hold the priesthood, why are we offended by gay marriage, why do we insist on outward signs of obedience as an indication of worthiness? Could our geriatric male leadership be part of the problem?
    The institution now leading the church is incapable of meaningful change.
    I am not sure that retiring older apostles will achieve the meaningful change required, or whether it requires some devine intervention to change the culture, but it could be a step in the right direction.
    Pres Monson is still going strong at 85, but when did he last do anything Prophet? Does he have the inclination/ energy/ questioning ability, needed to be a Prophet?
    I think possibly retire Apostles at 75 and Prophets at 80.

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  7. FireTag on November 17, 2012 at 11:02 PM


    Mandatory retirement age for leading officers in the CofChrist has more to do with finances than doctrine, although it may have the doctrinal “advantages” you indicate as a side effect.

    The financial issues are payment of pensions and health care through a private sector funding mechanism just like the typical US businesses or universities. With annuities come mandatory retirement ages.

    However, the more important distinction affecting apostolic age is that in the CofChrist, the First Presidency really is the FIRST Presidency and the Quorum of Twelve really is the SECOND Presidency. The Prophet has the authority to create vacancies in the leading quorums and to fill them as “led by the Spirit” just as your Bishops seem to have with callings at the ward level. The Prophet can step down by precedent and name his/her own successor upon sustaining vote of the World Conference. He can, and does, release all other officers, including his/her counselors, and doesn’t even have to fill the vacancies in a timely manner (although not designating the future officer or double-hatting someone would now be considered odd).

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  8. KT on November 18, 2012 at 12:51 PM

    What is the policy on retiring GAs? Why retire GAs but not Apostles or Prophets? What would be the reasoning behind the one, but not the other. What’s the distinction? That being said, older is NOT always wiser, thogh sometimes it is. However, it seems that if someone is truly inspired and “called of God”, then age wouldn’t really matter, and yet it seems that we always have very senior Prophets. Why should that be if it really is an inspired calling?

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  9. Howard on November 18, 2012 at 12:57 PM

    If older is better why did Jesus and Joseph teach in their 30s?

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  10. alice on November 18, 2012 at 1:09 PM

    #3 Douglas-

    Are you suggesting that there’s an equal possibility that young people will contract Alzheimer’s or that parents are less in touch with or committed to representing the needs of their children than the elderly are to their grandchildren?

    I know it’s a smallish point but since it seems to be the reasoning behind your conclusion I think it needs clarifying.

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  11. Mormon Heretic on November 18, 2012 at 3:51 PM

    I just finished the Kimball biography (finally.) It seems very strange to me that with all of his health problems at the end of his life, Pres. Kimball felt that the only way out of his calling was death. When Elder Oaks and Elder Nelson were called to the Q12, it was initiated by Pres Hinckley, but Pres Kimball agreed. Kimball was so incapacitated that he allowed Hinckley to set them apart, rather than himself. He really wasn’t capable of leading the church effectively, and it was Hinckley who carried the workload. Benson, Joseph Fielding Smith, Howard W. Hunter, and even David O. McKay experienced both physical and mental decline as prophets, and it seems like it just makes sense for these men to have retired rather than cling to presidencies they were ineffectively “leading”. They were really just figureheads. Sure Hinckley was great to the end, but others have been severely incapacitated. We should let these great men convalesce instead of letting them pretend to lead.

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  12. Sherry on November 18, 2012 at 4:34 PM

    Not wanting to start an argument, but I’ve heard/read that Ezra Taft Benson was senile for a while before he passed away. One of his g-sons, the cartoonist, wrote about how horrible this was and it contributed to him eventually leaving the church. Even tho they all have g and gg grandchildren, they still may not be close enough to really know what the younger generation thinks and believes. IMO so much of what happens and is taught at church is cultural and someone’s preference, not truth. So yes, perhaps a mandatory retirement age would be good.

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  13. Steve on November 18, 2012 at 6:07 PM

    I know a bit about Howard W. Hunter’s decline (knew one of his caregivers). He really didn’t want to be President. His health was poor. As it got worst, told many that he was hoping to die — soon.

    Very sad.

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  14. Douglas on November 18, 2012 at 7:12 PM

    #10 – ???. I don’t know how I conveyed the impression that young people were as likely to get Alzheimers. Still, I see no evidence that the affairs of the Church are jeapordized in being led by a gaggle of clueless old coots, as methinks the OP and some of the commentators would insinuate. Rather, like the US Senate was intended, does it not seem right that the Quorum of the Twelve would be a rather August body, staffed with brethren having proved themselves strong with the Lord and full of wisdom? Even so, at times we get a relative “youngster” as our current President was at the time of his calling into the Twelve (aged 36 in 1963); need I mention the benefit of nearly fifty years of experience?
    As it is, with President Utchdorf at 72 making it look like the new “60″, it seems that we need not really concern ourselves about the vigor and abilities of the men piloting the ship.
    I would, however, think it a good idea to allow an Apostle to go “Emeritus” in event of an irreversible condition that severely impedes his ability to carry out his duties. If nothing else, would it not be showing thanks for the often many years of unstinting service that such an infirm brother be allowed to be in the bosom of his family in his final days?

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  15. hawkgrrrl on November 18, 2012 at 7:52 PM

    Howard #9 – ah yes, but JS and Jesus were revolutionaries. Revolutionary prophets usually die as martyrs while still young. Whereas we don’t really have revolutionary leaders any more.

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  16. Howard on November 18, 2012 at 10:46 PM

    Yeah those young radicals, if they had just been less progressive they might have lived long enough to become really good OLD conserative prophets!

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  17. Hedgehog on November 19, 2012 at 1:40 AM

    After reading all the comments I’m feeling rather distressed for the ill, infirm and declining…
    Unfortunately it seems if a change is going to be made they are the ones who will have to make it. Catch 22.

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  18. hawkgrrrl on November 19, 2012 at 2:43 AM

    I do like the idea (on some level) of letting them voluntarily retire from the role. However, I wonder if they don’t want to do that because it gives the rest of us the option to do so!

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  19. Mormon Heretic on November 19, 2012 at 8:12 AM

    KT, I remember reading that there was a proposal to retire all GA’s at a certain age, but the Q12 voted to do that only for Seventies. It seems that the Q12 still wanted the chance to become prophet. I can’t remember the source, but I think it was either the Kimball biography, or perhaps Michael Quinn wrote about it.

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  20. Nick Literski on November 19, 2012 at 11:00 AM

    Setting emeritus status for medical or mental infirmity would have a significant, negative impact on the process of selecting LDS presidents. Would you really want to create a situation where one member of the 12 could “lobby” for the retirement of another? Even if all these men were completely pure of heart and motive, such a change would raise suspicion of “politics” and manipulation.

    As it stands now, the only “manipulation” that could alter succession would be murder, and nobody is going to raise that as a serious suspicion—-not even the crazy right wingers who used to claim Benson was being “silenced” by the others.

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  21. Mormon Heretic on November 19, 2012 at 12:33 PM

    But Nick, given both Kimball and Benson’s mental and physical limitations, shouldn’t they recognize that on their own?

    I think that most people recognize that President Harold B. Lee was the “muscle” behind the presidency of Joseph Fielding Smith. Quinn even makes the claim that Lee supported Smith’s presidency because everyone knew that Lee would run the show anyway. So, I guess practical matters show that it has been manipulated. (Another example might be Hinckley and presidents Kimball, Benson, and Hunter.)

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  22. Geoff - A on November 19, 2012 at 6:28 PM

    Are GAs retired at a certain age, of for non performance? We had a member of our area presidency at a conference to change stake boundaries and Presidencies. He told us he was 55 and from corporate America, he came over as a performer (not sincere or credible) told us our new leaders were called by revelation and inspiration.

    He did not commend anyone except the Stake Presidencies old and new. Didn’t seem to be aware of lesser mortals. He told us to do the usual stuff, like pray, read scriptures etc but separated each out and said to do it today, today, TODAY, TO-DAY.

    Shame we can’t recomment him for retirement.

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  23. Hedgehog on November 20, 2012 at 2:05 AM

    Geoff, I’m coming to the conclusion more and more that the ‘flavour’ we experience at church depends a lot on who the leaders are. Our last area presidency were lovely – the German Elder spent a long time mixing with the congregation and speaking with the general members just prior to our spring Stake Conference, and appeared to be the one with the great attitude. Then the area authorities were reassigned in May. I’m wondering what differences we’ll see as a result.

    As a child in the 70s things seemed very strict, with the likes of Pres. Packer or Elder McConkie (I don’t remember which) issuing edicts about shaving beards off (!) during Stake Conference…

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  24. anonlds on November 21, 2012 at 8:45 AM

    Mike S,

    One of the biggest proponents of the two ear ring ban was Elder Bednar. He is also one of the youngest. Putting in an emeritus age limit would virtually guarantee Elder Bednar will be prophet. As it stands now, their is a slight chance someone else will live to be a 110 and he wouldn’t be prophet.

    One could also say that after decades of seeing the affect of judging people over so petty a thing that softens them and makes them less autocratic/authoritarian.

    Adding the age limit makes the line of succession much more clear. I think a little uncertainty is good for the church. Rather than a hard age limit, I would like to see some other method of emeritizing those who suffer from mental illness as long as it can be done without making it so people get removed for political reasons.

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  25. el oso on November 21, 2012 at 4:10 PM

    Elder Bednar is 12 years younger than both Elder Holland and President Uchtdorf. This is only half the age difference between Elder Harold Lee and Elder JF Smith. I am sure that most members in 1972-1973 thought that President Lee would have an impact upon the church as large and long lasting as Pres. McKay. Looking back now, correlation is about the only thing the general membership remembers about Pres. Lee.

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  26. Geoff - A on December 2, 2012 at 3:49 AM

    Reading the material for SS lesson I came across 3Nephi 28:3 “And He (Christ) said unto them:(the BOM Apostles) Blessed are ye because ye desired this thing of me; therefore, after ye are seventy and two years old ye shall come unto me in my kingdom; and with me ye shall find rest.”

    Seems pretty clear, and from an authoritive source. Apostles retire at 72. This would require a new succession method I think, but perhaps havinf a Prophet from a generation younger would be worth the effort.

    Yes Bedinar would be in lime but perhaps he has matured since the ear ring statements. I really think until we have more overseas Apostles, like Uchtdorf, we are stuch with conservative Utah leadership.

    How do we get Uchtdorf for Prophet. He is credible, seems to have moved the church from obedience to Christlike and gives hope.

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  27. Douglas on December 2, 2012 at 10:53 AM

    #26 – the Apostles senior to him kick the bucket. Actually AFAIK there is nothing that binds the Church to to by seniority but at least the perception of a leadership struggle is avoided.

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  28. Hedgehog on December 2, 2012 at 12:01 PM

    We won’t get Pres. Uchtdorf as head if we also take your retirement age of 72 Geoff. He had his 72nd birthday only last month.

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