Why naming a new apostle is a big deal for Latter-day Saints

For starters, this man is now in line, literally, to become president of the global church.

With the naming of British convert Patrick Kearon as the newest apostle in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, here’s why his appointment is big news in the global faith of 17 million members.

Kearon becomes the lowest-ranking member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, which is the church’s second-highest governing body after the First Presidency, a trio consisting of the president of the church (right now that’s 99-year-old Russell M. Nelson) and two counselors, normally selected from among the apostles.

[Read more about Patrick Kearon’s ascension to the Latter-day Saint apostleship.]

The church president, in consultation with his counselors and the quorum, chooses new apostles, who serve for life or until becoming the faith’s president. All members of the church’s priestly leadership are male.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles posed for a photo outside of the Rome Italy Temple Visitors’ Center in 2019.

Collectively, the top 15 men decide the church’s policies and practices. They supervise its various departments and operations, ranging from the production of churchwide curriculum to decisions guiding the missionary-minded faith’s proselytizing efforts.

The faith’s founder, Joseph Smith, established the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1835. Its members are considered “prophets, seers and revelators” tasked with traveling around the world extensively, visiting local congregations and serving as “special witnesses of Jesus Christ.”

As part of this emphasis on pastoral leadership, they speak in the Utah-based faith’s biannual General Conferences, two-day events in which the church’s highest leaders address worldwide membership, sharing messages of faith, offering doctrinal instruction and announcing new policy.

Apostles’ seniority is tracked by their length of service in the quorum, with the most senior apostle becoming the church president upon the passing of the faith’s top leader.

(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. Patrick Kearon has been named an apostle, filling the vacancy left by Ballard's death in November 2023.

Next in line to lead the faith after Nelson are his first counselor, Dallin H. Oaks, 91, and Jeffrey R. Holland, who turned 83 this week and serves as acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Then-member of the Seventy Patrick Kearon, left, with apostle Dieter Uchtdorf in Germany in 2017. Kearon is now a fellow apostle with Uchtdorf.

Kearon, 62 years old and a British and Irish national, will be the second currently serving European apostle, along with the 83-year-old Dieter F. Uchtdorf, a German who joined the quorum in 2004.

If Kearon, the youngest apostle by two years, outlives all the previously called apostles, he will ascend to the role of church president.