Jeffrey R. Holland made acting president of the LDS Church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

The popular 82-year-old apostle, second in line to lead the global church, takes the helm of the faith’s second-highest governing body, replacing M. Russell Ballard, who died earlier this week.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Apostle Jeffrey R. Holland speaks at General Conference in October 2022. He has been named the new acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Jeffrey R. Holland has been promoted to acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the highest position of authority within the faith’s second highest governing body.

In doing so, he replaces M. Russell Ballard, who died Sunday at age 95. Ballard’s funeral is Friday.

Holland was set apart to his new post Wednesday by church President Russell M. Nelson, according to a Thursday news release. He serves as “acting” president of the quorum while the more senior Dallin H. Oaks serves in the governing First Presidency. Holland is second in line after the 91-year-old Oaks to take the helm of the worldwide church — a position currently held by the 99-year-old Nelson.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Jeffrey R. Holland, left, with M. Russell Ballard and Dallin H. Oaks, during a session of General Conference in 2017.

Holland, who turns 83 next month, has been beset with ongoing health issues dating as far back as June 2020, when he was hospitalized for testing related to an undisclosed illness. The following spring, the popular apostle appeared in a video using a walker and, in April 2023, he was excused from his duties as an apostle temporarily as he underwent kidney dialysis and suffered from the effects of COVID-19.

In September, he was released from the hospital after a five-week stay. Illness prevented him from attending the most recent April and October General Conferences.

[Watch this video to learn more about how a new Latter-day Saint apostle is chosen.]

According to Matthew Harris, a historian of 20th-century Mormonism, the president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles answers to the First Presidency, the highest governing body of the Utah-based church, and is responsible for handing out travel and administrative assignments to his fellow apostles.

“Essentially,” he said, “he works with the First Presidency to oversee the affairs of the church,” including helping to select which apostles will oversee which departments, including the history and communication departments.

Among the quorum, Holland is followed in seniority by the 83-year-old Dieter F. Uchtdorf because, like Oaks, Henry B. Eyring, 90, third in line to lead the global faith of 17 million members, is serving in the First Presidency.

When asked what he expected from Holland’s tenure, Latter-day Saint anti-racism activist and theologian James Jones said “more of the same.”

“I don’t expect anything revolutionary, anything radical or any great changes,” he said, noting that he couldn’t think of a previous instance in which a great shake-up resulted from a change in quorum president.

Latter-day Saint historian and professor at Utah State University Patrick Mason also said he had doubts about a highly impactful presidency, largely due to Holland’s poor health.

“He’s been as dynamic of a public leader as we’ve had in the recent church,” he said, “but I think there are just a lot of question marks around his health right now.”

In the past, however, Holland has often demonstrated “deep concern” for young members, Mason said. If his health allows, the scholar said he imagines this concern, as well as Holland’s ability and obvious interest in developing deep relationships with non-Latter-day Saint faith and political leaders, could be defining characteristics of his tenure.

“He definitely wants the church to make a mark on the world,” Mason said. “There’s no doubt about that.”

Ballard’s death leaves a vacancy in the Quorum of the Twelve. Nelson is likely to fill that void before next April’s General Conference. In 2018, the former heart surgeon made history when he appointed the faith’s first Asian American and Latin American apostles, Gerrit W. Gong and Ulisses Soares, respectively.