What Happens When A Mormon Prophet Dies?

On Tuesday January 2, 2018 at 10:01 PM Mountain Time President Thomas S. Monson, 16th prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints passed away. I shared some of my personal memories of this good man, and beloved prophet here.

Today, many of my concerned non-LDS friends and co-workers have been sincerely asking me about the “Mormon Succession” process.

“What happens when your prophet dies?”

This is such a great question, and it is very deserving of a proper answer, which I hope to provide in this blog post.

First, I am linking a nice info-graphic of the current church apostleship in order of their seniority [note that “seniority” in church leadership is not determined by someone’s age, but rather by the date and order they were ordained as an apostle].

Access Interactive Chart Here.

Here is a simple summary of how the succession process works. We must begin with an overview of apostleship.

About LDS Apostles

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, just as in ancient times, apostles and prophets are called for life. In other words, we believe they are called by the Lord Jesus Christ to serve as His special witnesses on the earth until the Lord sees fit to either:

  • Leave them on earth long enough for succession to serve as the senior-most apostle; becoming prophet and President of the Church. or…
  • Receiving their “call home” (death)
  • When a prophet dies, the succession follows a very seamless and orderly process. There is no lobbying, campaigning, infighting or bartering. There is also no smoke signals alerting us to the process – although I admit it would look pretty cool rising from the SLC temple spires – (no disrespect intended).

    salt lake city temple
    The Salt Lake City LDS Temple

    The prophet transition process typically takes place within 1-2 weeks after the deceased prophet’s funeral. Here is my personal “5 step” outline, to simplify:

    STEP #1. Fourteen Apostles

    At the time of death of a prophet, the two counselors currently serving the Prophet fall back into line in the Quorum of Twelve Apostles [this temporarily creates 14 apostles in the Quorum].

    STEP #2. Ordaining The Prophet

    A prayer meeting of all apostles takes place in the Salt Lake Temple’s Holy of Holies room – (an upper room reserved for sacred meetings of the Quorum) where the apostles offer their “sustaining vote” of the next member in line by seniority – which serves as President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles [currently, this is President Russell M. Nelson].

    Elder Nelson
    Russell M. Nelson

    The Senior apostle officially becomes prophet after receiving a blessing given by the laying on of hands of all Quorum Apostle members, ordaining him as Prophet.

    Step # 3. Counselors To The Prophet

    The new prophet will choose 2 counselors from the Quorum of Apostles to serve with him in what we call The First Presidency.

    The First Presidency in October 2016: Henry B. Eyring (First Counselor), Thomas S. Monson (President), Dieter F. Utchdorf (Second Counselor)

    Step #4. A New Apostle

    With the prophet and his 2 counselors ordained  into The First Presidency, this now leaves a vacancy in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to fill. The new apostle is chosen through a process of prayer and revelation to the prophet, and sustained by his counselors and apostles.

    Fun Fact: With the death of apostle Elder Robert D. Hales on October 1, 2017, and President Monson’s death on January 2, 2018, there are currently only Thirteen Apostles in the entire quorum prior to a new First Presidency. Once Elder Nelson is formally sustained as prophet, and calls two counselors there will only be 10 apostles in the quorum, thus two apostle vacancies will be filled and announced at General Conference in April 2018.

    [traditionally, new apostles are not announced and ordained until the following General Conference of the Church – which are held each April and October]

    Dnews confapostles.cit
    In October 2015 three new apostles were announced and sustained due to three deaths in the quorum during the previous 6 months. The new apostles pictured from left to right: Ronald A. Rasband, Gary E. Stevenson, Dale G. Renlund

    Step #5. President of The Quorum

    The second most senior apostle becomes President of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles. [which presently will be Elder Dallin H. Oaks]

    And that’s it.
    Now you know the Mormon “Succession Process”. 🙂
    In conclusion, I leave you with a lovely video regarding the importance of having living prophets and apostles on the earth today. – MoSop 



  1. J.Rueben Clark was a sunday school teacher in Mexico, when |President Heber J. Grant called him to be his councilor where served several years before being ordained and Apostle


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