How a new Mormon apostle is chosen

(Al Hartmann | The Salt Lake Tribune) President Henry Eyring, first counselor to the First Presidency, fourth from right,, and President Dieter Uchtdorf, second counselor to the First Presidency, just behind, shake hands with the members of Qurom of the Twelve Apostles at concusion of the Sunday morning session of the LDS Church’s 187th Semiannual General Conference in Salt Lake City on Sunday, Oct. 1.

Mormon apostle Robert D. Hales’ death Sunday leaves an opening in high-level LDS Church leadership that must be filled.

After all, it’s implicit in the name of the body in which the 85-year-old Hales served: the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. His passing leaves only 11 in that elite group.

However, exactly when a new apostle will be selected is “undetermined,” the Utah-based faith said Sunday.

The three members of the governing First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve make up the top councils in the nearly 16 million-member Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

When a new apostle is chosen, he (only males are permitted) will take his seat at the bottom of the seniority-ranked quorum, no matter his age, right after Dale G. Renlund, who was the last of three apostles named in the October General Conference two years ago after a trio of older apostles had died earlier in 2015.

Twice-yearly General Conferences, either in April or October, are when most LDS apostles are announced, though some have been called at other times.

A complicating factor at this moment could be the declining health of LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson. The 90-year-old leader no longer oversees daily operations of the worldwide faith — leaving that to his two counselors — and, for the first time in his nearly decadelong tenure as church president, he was unable to attend any of this fall’s conference sessions.

However, apostles — including 93-year-old Russell M. Nelson, the current president of the quorum and next in line to take over the church’s reins — have been appointed during times when Mormon presidents were in fading health.

“Apostles are chosen through inspiration by the president of the church, sustained by the general membership of the church, and ordained by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles by the laying on of hands,” the church’s website explains. “In addition to serving as witnesses of Jesus Christ to all the world, as Jesus’ apostles did, members of the current Quorum of the Twelve Apostles hold the keys of the priesthood — that is, the rights of presidency [for the church].”

All Mormon apostles are seen by the faithful as “prophets, seers and revelators,” and they serve for life.

Reporter Peggy Fletcher Stack contributed to this story.