Every time that a President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints dies, numerous people wonder who will be his successor. With the death of Thomas S. Monson, the question of his successor is being asked. I thought that it might be interesting to contrast the calling of a new President of the Church with the election of a new Pope in the Catholic Church.
According to this site, a new Pope is elected at what is known as a Papal election or Conclave. Upon the death of the Pope, all the Cardinals are summoned to a meeting at the Vatican in Rome. Cardinals are the Church’s most senior officials, and they govern the Church between the death of one Pope and the election of his successor. Cardinals are usually ordained as bishops and are appointed by the Pope and ordained as bishops. When all the Cardinals arrive at the Vatican, they collectively make up the College of Cardinals, the group that selects the new Pope.
During the Conclave the Cardinals reside in the Vatican and are not permitted any contact with anyone outside the Vatican. They secretly discuss the merits of likely candidates for Pope. They do not have to choose a Cardinal to be the next Pope because any baptized male Catholic could be elected as Pope. Traditionally, the position has always gone to a Cardinal.
The Papal election is a “highly political process” even though the Vatican says the Cardinals are guided by the Holy Spirit. Over a period of time – about two weeks – alliances are forged and influence is exerted by senior cardinals.
The Cardinals meet in an area of the Vatican where they are literally locked up until they reach an agreement. The election of a new Pope can take several days or even weeks. There is much secrecy about the process and no one really knows what is taking place. A person could be excommunicated for leaking any of the process to the public. The entire Sistine Chapel area is checked before the Conclave by security experts to make sure that there are no hidden microphones or cameras.
Once the Conclave has begun, the Cardinals eat, sleep, and vote within the closed-off area until the new Pope is selected. Two-thirds of the Cardinals voting must agree on a candidate before he is elected as Pope. There may be a vote taken on the first afternoon of the Conclave; thereafter, there are two votes each morning and two votes each afternoon. The ballots are counted and burned, giving off a darker smoke. When the new Pope has been selected, the smoke is white, telling the world that there is a new Pope.
When the President of The Church ofJesus Christ of Latter-day Saints dies, there is a period of mourning for him. For example, President Monson died on January 2, and his funeral is scheduled for January 12, 2018. Immediately upon the death of the President, the Quorum of the First Presidency is dissolved, and the leadership of the Church falls upon the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Since there is no longer a First Presidency, the two counselors return to their places of seniority in the Quorum of the Twelve. The President of the Quorum of the Twelve becomes the leader of the Church until the new President is ordained.
The President of the Church has historically been the senior Apostle, and the President of the Quorum of Twelve has always been the second-most senior Apostle. Since 93-year-old Elder Russell M. Nelson is the President of the Quorum of the Twelve and the senior Apostle, he is expected to become the next Prophet and President of the Church. Elder Dallin H. Oaks, age 85, is now the second-most senior Apostle and is expected to become the President of the Twelve.
The current Apostles will meet together in an attitude of fasting and prayer to determine the will of the Lord as to who He wants to be the next Prophet. When they receive confirmation from the Lord, the remaining twelve Apostles will ordain the next President. The new President will name at least two Apostles to serve as his counselors. After the ordinations of the new First Presidency, they will hold their first joint press conference.
One of their first responsibilities will be to call two new Apostles to fill the vacancies made by the deaths of President Monson and Elder Robert D. Hales, who passed away in October. The two new Apostles will most likely be sustained in the next General Conference of the Church in April 2018. That conference will also be a solemn assembly where the quorums and members of the Church will have the opportunity to sustain the new President.
In both the LDS Church and the Catholic Church, when the leader dies, the leadership of the church falls upon a council of senior leaders. Both churches claim to select the new leader under the direction of the Lord. There is a political process in choosing the new Pope, and no one knows who the new Pope will be until an announcement is made. However, there is a set pattern for selecting the new President of the LDS Church, and there have been no surprises in the history of the Church.