N. Eldon Tanner on the “Blessing, Ordaining, and Setting Apart” of Spencer W. Kimball

By February 4, 2008

By Jeffrey G. Cannon 

At an 11 a.m. press conference in the Church Office Building, Bruce Olsen, press secretary to the First Presidency, announced a reorganization of the First Presidency took place the previous day, Sunday, 3 February 2008. This marks the fifteenth such reorganization of the First Presidency in the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A previous reorganization was described by N. Eldon Tanner, then a counselor in the First Presidency, which occurred following the death of Harold B. Lee on 26 December 1973.

I would like to explain to you exactly what took place following the unexpected death of President Harold B. Lee on 26 December 1973. I was in Phoenix, Arizona, to spend Christmas with my daughter and her family, when a call came to me from Arthur Haycock, secretary to President Lee. He said that President Lee was seriously ill, and he thought that I should plan to return home as soon as possible. A half-hour later he called and said: ‘The Lord has spoken. President Lee has been called home.’

President Romney, Second Counselor, in my absence was directing the affairs of the Church, and was at the hospital with Spencer W. Kimball, President of the Council of the Twelve. Immediately upon the death of President Lee, President Romney turned to President Kimball and said, ‘You are in charge.’ Remember, the Prophet Joseph Smith had said that without the President there was no First Presidency over the Twelve.
“Not one minute passed between the time President Lee died and the Twelve took over as the presiding authority of the Church.

Following President Lee’s funeral, President Kimball called a meeting of all the Apostles for Sunday, December 30, at 3 P.M. in the Salt Lake Temple Council Room. President Romney and I had taken our respective places of seniority in the council, so there were fourteen of us present.

Following a song, and prayer by President Romney, President Kimball, in deep humility, expressed his feelings to us. He said that he had spent Friday in the temple talking to the Lord, and had shed many tears as he prayed for guidance in assuming his new responsibilities and in choosing his counselors.

Dressed in the robes of the holy priesthood, we held a prayer circle; President Kimball asked me to conduct it and Elder Thomas S. Monson to offer the prayer. Following this, President Kimball explained the purpose of the meeting and called on each member of the quorum in order of seniority, starting with Elder Ezra Taft Benson, to express his feelings as to whether the First Presidency should be organized that day or whether we should carry on as the Council of the Twelve. Each said, ‘We should organize now,’ and many complimentary things were spoken about President Kimball and his work with the Twelve.

Then Elder Ezra Taft Benson nominated Spencer W. Kimball to be the President of the Church. This was seconded by Elder Mark E. Petersen and unanimously approved. President Kimball then nominated N. Eldon Tanner as First Counselor and Marion G. Romney as Second Counselor, each of whom expressed a willingness to accept the position and devote his whole time and energy in serving in that capacity.

They were unanimously approved. Then Elder Mark E. Petersen, second in seniority in the Twelve, nominated Ezra Taft Benson, the senior member of the Twelve, as President of the Quorum of the Twelve. This was unanimously approved.

At this point all the members present laid their hands upon the head of Spencer W. Kimball, and President Ezra Taft Benson was voice in blessing, ordaining, and setting apart Spencer W. Kimball as the twelfth President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Then, with President Kimball as voice, N. Eldon Tanner was set apart as First Counselor and Marion G. Romney as Second Counselor in the First Presidency of the Church. Following the same procedure, he pronounced the blessing and setting apart of Ezra Taft Benson as President of the Quorum of the Twelve. (N. Eldon Tanner, in Conference Report, October 1979, 62-63)

Article filed under Miscellaneous


Comments

  1. At this point all the members present laid their hands upon the head of Spencer W. Kimball, and President Ezra Taft Benson was voice in blessing, ordaining, and setting apart Spencer W. Kimball as the twelfth President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

    I just got shivers wishing I was a fly on the wall there.

    Comment by David G. — February 4, 2008 @ 5:47 pm

  2. […] For an idea of what probably happened yesterday in the meeting of the Quorum of the Twelve, read this first-hand story of the” ‘Blessing, Ordaining, and Setting Apart’ of Spencer W. Kimball.” […]

    Pingback by Setting Apart of Spencer W. Kimball · A Soft Answer — February 4, 2008 @ 5:53 pm

  3. Thanks for the nice nugget. It sure runs quite smoothly compared to the first three or four president transitions.

    Comment by jose — February 4, 2008 @ 5:53 pm

  4. A wonderful look into a sacred occasion. Thanks for posting this.

    Comment by Ben — February 4, 2008 @ 5:55 pm

  5. This is a beautiful account. I love Elder Tanner.

    This is an interesting use of the word “ordain,” and doesn’t necessarily follow the current correlated usage. I know that Quinn has written on this, but I like the usage. It reminds me of John Taylor “ordaining” Emma Smith and Eliza Snow to preside over the Relief Society.

    Comment by J. Stapley — February 4, 2008 @ 6:34 pm

  6. Bruce Olsen seemed to almost make a point of using the word “ordain” when making the announcement this morning. The same is true of the announcement made when Gordon Hinckley became President of the Church. This seems to be the standard wording for the liturgical installation of the President of the Church.

    Comment by Jeffrey Cannon — February 4, 2008 @ 6:45 pm

  7. Right, but what the word “ordain” means in this context appears doctrinally vague. In current correlated media, ordination is typically reserved for an office in the priesthood. I’m hard pressed to determine what office in the priesthood the new President is being ordained, so I assume that it is an anomalous usage. No?

    Comment by J. Stapley — February 4, 2008 @ 7:07 pm

  8. So I wonder what the order was when Pres. Hinckley became president. I’d guess it went something like this.

    Pres. Hinckley ordained/set apart as Pres. by Pres. Monson.

    Pres. Monson and Pres. Faust set apart as counselors in the 1st Presidency by Pres. Hinckley.

    Pres. Monson set apart as President of the twelve by Pres. Hinckley.

    Would Pres. Packer have been set apart as acting President of the Twelve by Pres. Monson as President of the Twelve or by Pres. Hinckley? I’m guessing Monson.

    Comment by spencer — February 4, 2008 @ 7:07 pm

  9. Spencer
    I don ‘t know about your final question, but GBH would have been set apart by the entire Q of 12, not by TSM alone. Monson was probably “voice” but the entire quorum had to lay on hands because they hold the keys collectively, rather than individually, when the First Presidency is dissolved.

    Comment by SC Taysom — February 4, 2008 @ 7:39 pm

  10. I have read that Joseph F. Smith was set apart by his brother, John Smith. Do we know of any other prophets set apart by someone other than the Quorum of the 12?

    Comment by Ben — February 4, 2008 @ 9:19 pm

  11. Dressed in the robes of the holy priesthood, we held a prayer circle

    Does anyone have info on how common this is–Are prayer circles held weekly, monthly, sporadically, or only in unusual circumstances such as the death of a member of the Presidency or Quorum?

    Comment by Bored in Vernal — February 4, 2008 @ 10:55 pm

  12. It is my understanding, BiV, that it is a weekly affair. Elder Packer wrote:

    If one of the temples might be singled out as being somewhat different from the rest it would be the Salt Lake Temple at the headquarters of the Church. Here are the council rooms of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and of the First Quorum of the Seventy. Here each week the Brethren assemble to sit in council. First the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles meets; later in the morning the First Presidency arrives and the Council of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles is convened. Here the Brethren wrestle with the weighty matters of the kingdom of God upon the earth, for its management is upon their shoulders. Here, dressed in the proper way for temple ordinance work, they approach the altar in the true order of prayer to seek divine guidance and inspiration as they consider these matters. The Presidents of the Seventy meet in their council room as well. (The Holy Temple, 3-4)

    Prayer circles were a regular part of the Mormon liturgy until 1979 when they were relegated to the temple. And then limited to the governing quorums.

    Ben, if I am not mistaken,JFS and I guess Joseph Smith are the only exceptions.

    Comment by J. Stapley — February 4, 2008 @ 11:18 pm

  13. I’ve wondered for the last two decades how this works. Great post!

    Comment by mmiles — February 5, 2008 @ 12:23 am

  14. My wife works at the temple and from time to time has the privilege to clean these council rooms, which they meet in every Thursday. She says that the First Presidency room has an altar (with an armrest), while the Presidency of the 70’s room doesn’t (she can’t remember if the apostle’s room does or not). She says there is also a council room for the Presiding Bishopric. The only other interesting tidbits she can share is that after their meetings they eat lunch together in a private dining room which includes delicious home-made cookies. Then, they each take back a cookie for their secretaries.

    Comment by Ben — February 5, 2008 @ 12:29 am

  15. I’ve eaten in the private dining room of the Jordan River Temple with then President Ezra Taft Benson! (But I’ll leave that story for DH to tell.)

    Comment by Bored in Vernal — February 5, 2008 @ 3:45 am

  16. One description of the events of March 12, 1995:

    “[O]n Sunday, March 12, President Gordon B. Hinckley, as President of the Twelve, called a meeting of Quorum members, each of whom individually holds in trust all of the keys of the priesthood of God on earth. They met to reorganize the First Presidency. They then ordained and set apart President Gordon B. Hinckley as President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, President Thomas S. Monson acting as voice.

    President Gordon B. Hinckley then set apart Thomas S. Monson as First Counselor in the First Presidency, and as President of the Quorum of the Twelve, and he set apart James E. Faust as Second Counselor in the First Presidency. Boyd K. Packer was set apart by President Hinckley as Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve” (Jay M. Todd, “President Gordon B. Hinckley: Fifteenth President of the Church,” Ensign, Apr. 1995).

    Comment by Justin — February 5, 2008 @ 10:02 am

  17. BiV, some people still think your DH is fictitious!

    Comment by SC Taysom — February 5, 2008 @ 10:19 am

  18. […] the formal blessings, ordinations and setting apart of the men to the various offices and callings (see these words by N. Eldon Tanner on the calling of President Kimball). Boyd K. Packer has said that it is the opportunity of the prophet of God to speak with God: […]

    Pingback by President Monson's Calling as a Prophet | Temple Study Blog - Sustaining and Defending the LDS (Mormon) Temple — February 5, 2008 @ 12:02 pm

  19. Thanks SC (#9), that is an important distinction that I hadn’t really considered.

    And thanks Justin for #16 as well.

    Comment by spencer — February 5, 2008 @ 6:58 pm

  20. J.,

    I agree with your observation about the interesting usage of the word “ordain” (#s 5 and 7). The implication is that President of the Church is a separate office of the priesthood–possibly something like bishop, which presides over the Aaronic priesthood. This does not seem to be the case, however, as no similar office exists to preside over the high priesthood in the stakes as bishops do in the wards.

    Comment by Jeffrey Cannon — February 6, 2008 @ 5:33 pm

  21. […] firsthand account of the passing of Keys and Authority from 12 Apostles to 1 […]

    Pingback by surfin around, points of interest 2/11 « Mind, Soul, and Body — February 9, 2008 @ 4:11 pm

  22. President of the Church *is* a separate office of the priesthood, and it requires ordination to that office. In addition, there *is* a president of the high priesthood in stakes–the stake president, analogous to the office of bishop, who presides over the Aaronic priesthood. See Encyclopedia of Mormonism.

    Comment by Jack Lyon — April 30, 2008 @ 10:12 am


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