In an exclusive web article, “Into the Future,” Newsweek reporter, Elise Soukup, carefully shares the
Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are mourning the death of their president, Gordon B. Hinckley, while their top leadership begins to assemble to name his successor-which will almost certainly be Thomas S. Monson, 80. Hinckley was the 15th president in the 177-year history of the church . . .
Of the anticipated change, she writes:
The transition to the new prophet is likely to be smooth. Monson has served for the last 43 years in the top tiers of church leadership and is deeply respected. . . . In Monson’s service as an apostle and counselor, he has served in roles that span the breadth of church life, including missionary work, welfare services, genealogy, education, and leadership training.
Describing the procedure for calling a new prophet, Newsweek reports:
Compared with the process of picking a pope, choosing a new Mormon prophet is fairly routine. . . .
After President Hinckley’s funeral, the 14 apostles will meet on the fourth floor of the Salt Lake temple in the room where they regularly conduct church business. The vote to make Monson the next prophet has to be unanimous. Then President Monson will sit in a chair and the remaining 13 apostles will stand in a circle and put their hands on his head. Boyd K. Packer, the next senior leader, will say a prayer “setting him apart” and blessing him in his new role. . . .
While it’s true, as the article purports, that compared with papal coronation, our outward display is simple; it’s spectacular to contemplate that the voice of the Lord directs the process through which a new Prophet of His is called to lead the Church and influence the world.
To those unfamiliar with the nuances of our faith, that divine intervention may be overlooked in its quietude. It may seem that a unanimous sustaining vote is a kind gesture of approval of someone called to be the next leader. A unanimous vote, in the case of the call of a new Prophet, is actually the result of a process that has taken place, rather than the means through which the Prophet is selected.
Through deliberation and prayer, each member of the Quorum of the Twelve receives revelation as to who the next Prophet will be. Once received, each raises their hand in recognition that they personally know of the divinity of the call, and will sustain the new Prophet.
Their vote is not the means of working into an office someone merely nominated, but rather an affirmation of their revelatory receipt of the Lord’s will. The distinction is important. It marks the very miracle of the Order of Succession, or change in mantle, of one Prophet to another.
In that sense, while it’s not as pomp-filled as coronation ceremonies, as Soukup rightly states, it is, in fact, divine and unique in the calling of Church leadership in the world.