Wednesday, October 08, 2014

#377, in which succession is considered to excess

Listening to General Conference this last weekend (which was fantastic, and available in full online, and you should go back and read or re-read it all) got me thinking about the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. The most recent addition to the quorum was Neal L. Andersen, who replaced Joseph B. Wirthlin upon his death. That made me stop and wonder: who did Elder Wirthlin replace? I did a little digging and found that he replaced President Spencer W. Kimball.

I started to imagine the quorum as a table surrounded by fifteen chairs (twelve members of the quorum plus the three members of the First Presidency, who are also Apostles). When one member of the quorum leaves, his chair is moved to the back of the line of seniority, and someone takes his place. It's the same chair, though, in this scenario. You could imagine that Elder Andersen moved into Elder Wirthlin's office after it was vacated. So what if each man who sat in that chair, or worked out of that office, carved his name in it? What would those lists look like of who sat in each chair over the years?

It's a little trickier than you'd think, as it turns out. The quorum began with twelve members, but the practice of replacing members was much more fluid in the early days of the Church, and the practice of having three members of the quorum (again, for a total of fifteen) serve in the First Presidency didn't really gain steam until the early 1900s, so getting an exact sense of who is taking which seat and which seats are empty for the first sixty years or so was challenging. But that's no reason to back down, right?

We start with the original twelve members of the quorum, in order of seniority. Let's number each of their chairs around the table (or offices at Church HQ, if you'd prefer):

1. Thomas B. Marsh
2. David W. Patten
3. Brigham Young
4. Heber C. Kimball
5. Orson Hyde
6. William E. McLellin
7. Parley P. Pratt
8. Luke S. Johnson
9. William Smith
10. Orson Pratt
11. John F. Boynton
12. Lyman E. Johnson

Those are the twelve chairs we'll be carving names into. (The remaining three chairs come up a few years later, shortly after the death of Joseph Smith.) (You'll notice Joseph Smith's name doesn't appear on any of these chairs; he was never properly a member of the Quorum of the Twelve.) I'll spare you the chronology of men moving in and out of these seats, but just list below each seat's history. To me, at least, it's really interesting to see which seats had many occupants and which had few, as well as the relative prominence of each seat's occupants. Take a look:

Seat 1
Thomas B. Marsh
Lyman Wight
Charles C. Rich
John W. Taylor
Orson F. Whitney
Charles A. Calliss
Delbert L. Stapley
James E. Faust
Quentin L. Cook

Seat 2
David W. Patten
Willard Richards
Jedediah M. Grant
Daniel H. Wells
John Henry Smith
James E. Talmadge
Alonzo A. Hinckley
Sylvester Q. Cannon
Ezra Taft Benson
Jeffrey R. Holland

Seat 3
Brigham Young
Frances M. Lyman
Stephen L. Richards
Gordon B. Hinckley
D. Todd Christofferson

Seat 4
Heber C. Kimball
Brigham Young, Jr.
Charles W. Penrose
Joseph F. Merrill
Adam S. Bennion
Howard W. Hunter
Henry B. Eyring

Seat 5
Orson Hyde
George Teasdale
Joseph Fielding Smith
Bruce R. McConkie
M. Russell Ballard

Seat 6
William E. McLellin
George A. Smith
Moses Thatcher
Matthias F. Cowley
David O. McKay
Boyd K. Packer

Seat 7
Parley P. Pratt
George Q. Cannon
Hyrum M. Smith
Richard R. Lyman
Matthew Cowley
Hugh B. Brown
David B. Haight
David A. Bednar

Seat 8
Luke S. Johnson
John Taylor
Anthon H. Lund
John A. Widtsoe
Richard L. Evans
Marvin J. Ashton
Robert D. Hales

Seat 9
William Smith
Amasa M. Lyman
Joseph F. Smith
Melvin J. Ballard
Harold B. Lee
L. Tom Perry

Seat 10
Orson Pratt
Heber J. Grant
Henry D. Moyle
Thomas S. Monson

Seat 11
John F. Boynton
John E. Page
Ezra T. Benson
Albert Carrington
Marriner W. Merrill
Anthony W. Ivins
Albert W. Bowen
George Q. Morris
N. Eldon Tanner
Neal A. Maxwell
Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Seat 12
Lyman E. Johnson
Wilford Woodruff
Rudger Clawson
Mark E. Petersen
Dallin H. Oaks

Seat 13
Lorenzo Snow
George Albert Smith
LeGrand Richards
Russell M. Nelson

Seat 14
Erastus Snow
Abraham H. Cannon
Abraham O. Woodruff
George F. Richards
Marion G. Romney
Richard G. Scott

Seat 15
Franklin D. Richards
Reed Smoot
Spencer W. Kimball
Joseph B. Wirthlin
Neil L. Andersen

Whole lotta interesting in there, if you care to dig.