Yesterday, I wrote about how the Church continues to function when the Prophet and President of the Church passes away. Today’s article explains what will happen to select a new Prophet and President of the Church and organize a new First Presidency.

It’s a very simple process:

1. The moment President Thomas S. Monson passed away Tuesday night, The First Presidency was automatically dissolved and the counselors (President Henry B. Eyring and President Dieter F. Uchtdorf) returned to their places of seniority in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. (Seniority is determined by the date they were ordained to the Twelve, not by age.)

2. The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, headed by the senior Apostle, immediately assumed Church leadership.

The chart below, compliments of Threestory Studio, shows the current seniority in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, including the vacancy of Thomas S. Monson and the vacancy created by the death of Robert D. Hales last October. You will note that the most senior Apostle is Russell M. Nelson and that the former counselors in the First Presidency (Elders Eyring and Uchtdorf) have taken their places in seniority in the quorum—Elder Eyring immediately after Elder Holland and Elder Uchtdorf immediately after Elder Eyring.

Visualization created by Threestory Studio. Go to the chart at to experience a more interactive version.

3. The senior apostle (in this case, Russell M. Nelson) will preside at a meeting of the Quorum of the Twelve to consider two alternative propositions:

  • Should the First Presidency be reorganized at this time?
  • Should the Church continue to function with the Quorum of the Twelve presiding

4. After discussion, a formal motion will be made and accepted by the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

5. If a motion to reorganize the First Presidency is passed, the Quorum of the Twelve unanimously selects the new President of the Church. Throughout the history of the Church, the most senior Apostle has always become the President of the Church when the First Presidency has been reorganized. In this case, it would be Russell M. Nelson. The new President then chooses two counselors and the three of them become the new First Presidency.

6. Following the reorganization of the First Presidency, the next-most senior Apostle is sustained as the President of the Quorum of the Twelve. In this case, it would be Dallin H. Oaks. If Elder Oaks’ were also to be called as a counselor in the First Presidency, then the third-most senior Apostle would become the Acting President of the Twelve while Elder Oaks served as a counselor in the First Presidency.

7. The president of the Quorum of the Twelve, along with the rest of the Apostles, would then set apart the new President of the Church through a formal laying on of hands. This is done in accordance with the Biblical practice of laying on of hands. A priesthood leader places his hands upon the head of the person being set apart and offers a prayer, granting the individual the authority and capacity to perform the duties of the office and providing a personal blessing.

Note: Since the Church was formally organized on 6 April 1830, there have been 16 presidents, including President Thomas S. Monson.

The President would also name two new Apostles to fill the two vacancies created by the deaths of President Monson and Elder Hales.

The new Apostles and newly-selected Brethren would be sustained by the membership of the Church at a General Conference.

About Russell M. Nelson

Russell M. Nelson, 93, a retired world-renowned heart surgeon and an LDS apostle for 32 years. President Monson set apart Elder Nelson as President of the Twelve in July 2015.

Elder Nelson joined the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles on April 7, 1984. He earned two degrees at the University of Utah in the 1940s and worked as a research professor of surgery and director of the Thoracic Surgery Residency at the University of Utah and chairman of the Division of Thoracic Surgery at LDS Hospital in Salt Lake City.

He served as president of the Society for Vascular Surgery, a director of the American Board of Thoracic Surgery, chairman of the Council on Cardiovascular Surgery for the American Heart Association, and president of the Utah State Medical Association.

Born September 9, 1924, President Nelson is the son of Marion C. and Edna Anderson Nelson. He and his wife, the former Dantzel White, have 10 children. Sister Nelson passed away in February 2005. In April 2006, he married Wendy L. Watson.

Read a biography of Russel M. Nelson. Watch his video Special Witness of Christ.

About President Dallin H. Oaks


Dallin H. Oaks, 85, was born in Provo, Utah. He and his late wife, June Dixon Oaks, are the parents of six children. She died in 1998 and in 2000, he married Kristen M. McMain in the Salt Lake Temple.

Elder Oaks practiced law and taught law in Chicago. He was president of Brigham Young University from 1971 to 1980, and a justice of the Utah Supreme Court from 1980 until his resignation in 1984 to accept his calling to the apostleship.

Read a biography of Dallin H. Oaks. Watch his video Special Witness of Christ.


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