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Latest from Mormon Land: A big what if: Who would run the church if all the apostles were gone?

Evidence seems to point to the faith’s leadership falling upon a popular British convert.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Top church leaders at General Conference on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021.

These are excerpts from The Salt Lake Tribune’s free Mormon Land newsletter, a weekly highlight reel of developments in and about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Want this plus additional newsletter items in your inbox? Subscribe here. You also can support Mormon Land with a donation at Patreon.com/mormonland, where you also can access transcripts from our “Mormon Land” podcasts

What if?

Let’s do some doomsday divining.

Times and Seasons blogger Stephen Cranney poses the question: What if all 15 Latter-day Saint apostles died at once? As unlikely, thankfully, as that is, who would take the church’s reins?

“Institutionally it seems the most likely scenario would be that the [seven] presidents of the Seventies would become the new governing body of the church (assuming they were not affected by the catastrophe),” he writes. “...While the Presiding Bishopric might also be a natural option, I assume that the fact that theirs is an Aaronic Priesthood office removes them from the line of Melchizedek Priesthood succession.”

Cranney, a data scientist who no doubt knows the odds of such a cataclysmic occurrence are long but not nonexistent, points to a Latter-day Saint scripture (D&C 107:25-26) to support this speculation about the Seventies, while a respondent cites a 2005 article by then-church President Gordon B. Hinckley.

“The Seventy, who serve under the direction of the Twelve [apostles],” Hinckley states, “would become equal in authority only in the event that the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve were somehow destroyed.”

So if such a disaster happened today, it appears, the church’s leadership would rest with British convert Patrick Kearon, the 60-year-old senior president of the Seventy and a general authority since 2010 whose impassioned plea for members to help refugees wowed General Conference listeners in 2016.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Elder Patrick Kearon, senior president of the Presidency of the Seventy, speaks at the 2019 First Presidency Christmas Devotional.

Myth busting

Latter-day Saints know that outsiders get plenty wrong about their religion.

The Beliefnet website tries to set some errors right with a recent post debunking a number of myths, including the following, about members:

• They practice polygamy — “Mainstream Mormons do not practice polygamy today, but it remains part of history and theology,” Beliefnet’s Lauren McKeithen writes. “...The LDS Church … has never disputed elements of Mormon theology suggesting that Mormons may practice polygamy in heaven.”

• They aren’t Christian — “On Sundays, millions of members … pray in the name of Jesus Christ,” she explains, “receive a bread-and-water sacrament memorializing the body and blood of Christ and discuss Christ’s teachings in Sunday school.”

• The don’t drink caffeinated beverages • Even some members whiff on this one, but the church has “reiterated that the only prohibited drinks [are] alcohol, coffee and tea.”

• They baptize corpses • It’s baptism for the dead, not baptism of the dead. Members don’t dig up bodies and dunk them in water to make them born-again (though deceased) Latter-day Saints. They do, however, dig up genealogies to find the names of departed ancestors. Living volunteers then perform vicarious baptisms for these souls in temples. “A proxy baptism doesn’t mean that a person is automatically a Mormon in heaven,” McKeithen correctly states. “Latter-day Saints believe those who have passed on can choose to accept or reject the rite done in their names.”

She concludes by saying that “Mormonism may be irregular to most people, but they’re just worshipping God and practicing their religion. … The only judgment that people should care about is what they will get from God in the last days. Until then, people should live their lives and continue to practice their religion of choice.”

This week’s podcast: U.’s Britain Covey on faith, family and football

This season’s University of Utah football team was stocked with stars en route to its historic run to a Pac-12 title and the school’s first-ever Rose Bowl appearance.

But the heart and soul of the squad was found in an unlikely, undersized, overaged Latter-day Saint receiver-return specialist whose affable, gregarious and lighthearted nature seemed to belie the violent sport he so clearly loved.

After a standout freshman season, Britain Covey, all 5 feet 8 inches and 170 pounds of him, served a mission to Chile and then returned to the Salt Lake City campus, where he proceeded to catch passes, juke tacklers and tally touchdowns to chants from fans of “Covey, Covey, Covey.”

But how did this 24-year-old Provo native — who dreamed of playing for Brigham Young University and whose famous grandfather (Stephen R. Covey of “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” fame) though a U. graduate, boasted deep BYU ties — end up at rival Utah, a place Britain once thought only a “bad person” would attend?

On this week’s show, Covey explains why he chose the U. over the Y.; how his mission helps him on and off the field; how his college coach, fellow Latter-day Saint Kyle Whittingham, became a role model; how he remembers his Rose Bowl experience; and how he is preparing for a shot at the NFL.

Listen here.

From The Tribune

• When LGBTQ members date those of the same sex, can they hold hands? Can they kiss? What can — or can’t they do — and remain in good standing in the church?

We know they can’t do those things if they attend BYU, but what about the membership at large?

Short of explicit guidance from the top, those questions and more dog these Latter-day Saints as they navigate their faith and their interpersonal relationships.

Read the story.

• The late Sen. Harry Reid, the highest-ranking elected Latter-day Saint in U.S. history, won praise from President Joe Biden, former President Barack Obama and the acting president of the church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles at a Las Vegas memorial service.

The Nevada Democrat embodied Christ’s command to care for “the least of these,” senior apostle M. Russell Ballard said. “He cared for “those who were less fortunate, hungry, sick, or those who had any number of challenges. … Of Harry Reid’s religious leaders, many have commented that he was the best minister in their congregation.”

Read the story.

• Signature Books, a longtime producer of scholarly works about Mormon teachings and history, made some history of its own: It recently hired its first female director.

Barbara Jones Brown, head of the Mormon History Association, will take the helm of the Salt Lake City publishing house.

Read the story.

• BYU is now prohibiting any protests on Y Mountain, nearly a year after students made headlines for lighting up its iconic “Y” in rainbow colors to call out the Provo school’s ban on LGBTQ relationships.

Read the story.

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