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)