Nepotism in High Church Offices

Nepotism is the most natural of vices and needs to constantly be proactively guarded against, or else it will almost certainly creep into any large institution. In the early Church there just weren’t a lot of options to choose from because it was so small, but as the Church becomes larger and more diverse it becomes increasingly unlikely that the best suited person for a high status calling happens to be the close relative of somebody else in a high status calling. (As an aside, one silver lining to having apostles with children who are very publicly not in the Church is that it helps ameliorate the otherization of people who aren’t in blue blood families).

In today’s Church, I suspect that family connections, when they do happen, are less a matter of somebody trying to build a dynasty and more a matter of people appointing people that they know, but in these cases stronger efforts to expand the circle of seriously considered candidates might be helpful. 

Michael Quinn goes through the history of Church within-family promotions in the early Church in fine-grained detail (and some of the negative consequences), so we won’t rehash that here, but there is some residue of this today. 

  • President Monson’s daughter was in the Young Women’s General Presidency.
  • President Nelson’s son-in-law is a General Authority 70 (I have heard this second hand and haven’t confirmed, feel free to correct). 
  • Elder Holland’s son was appointed to be President of UVU with no educational administration experience.  
  • President Eyring’s son is President of BYU-Idaho.
  • President Hinckley’s son was called as a General Authority 70.
  • There is a McConkie General Authority 70 now, and one that was in the YW General Presidency recently (I’m not sure about their relations, but I’d put offer pretty good odds that they are related to the McConkie). 

In any individual case of a relation being called I’m open to the idea that that particular calling was the right one. In the case of Elder Holland’s son, for example, I’ve only heard good things about his administration even though his initial appointment clearly had something to do with who is father was (also, as an appointee of a state-run school that wasn’t a case of Church nepotism per se). I also appreciated President Hinckley’s disclaimer when his son was called as a member of the 70. Still, suggesting the boss’ son for a high position is ladder climbing 101, and extremely strong normative guardrails against nepotism should also guard against its more subtle forms. 

Also, people notice, even the orthodox who only speak about this in whispers to certain people. A BYU-Idaho professor (not in my field) quipped to me that “BYU-Idaho takes nepotism very seriously…except at the top.” I don’t know enough about the BYU-Idaho situation to judge that particular case one way or another, but regardless the rank and file do notice, and that has implications. 

I suspect that, since only a fraction of sons of apostles are general authorities, there is an anti-nepotism norm operating at the highest level of the Church, but those guardrails need to be constantly refurbished since violating them is the most natural thing in the world, and within-family appointments, no matter how sincere, start to poke holes in that dam. Again, any individual within-family appointment might be the correct one, but they should be done cautiously and with full awareness of what the costs to naturally tenuous anti-nepotism institutional norms might be. 

47 comments for “Nepotism in High Church Offices

  1. Oh man, this is tangential, but you’re giving me flashbacks to BYUI in the mid-2000s; I was a student working in the men’s locker room, checking out lockers and gym clothes to students and faculty. As I swiped folks’ ID cards, I fell into the mindless habit of asking if they’re related to a GA if I recognized the name. (“Mickelson, huh. Any relation to the 70?” “None that I’m aware of.” “Ok, here’s your locker.”)

    That is, till one day I swiped a card during the lunch rush, saw “Eyering,” began my usual, “Any relation to…” then looked up to behold this tall, lean, bald, middle-aged man in glasses standing before me expectantly. I blinked twice, then said simply, “Here’s your locker.”

  2. In my younger years I knew well the grandchildren of one of our now deceased prophets and I can say that there was certainly a hint of dynasty to their actions and motivations. They seemed to see themselves sometimes as “LDS-Plus”. But as you point out, this is probably only natural and few would not be susceptible to it.

    On the other hand, I had a long career in HR and am well versed in and often the wrote the norms, rules and best practices for making sure hiring is done fairly and objectively. And after seeing how that sausage is made, sometimes I think nepotism isn’t so bad!

  3. Reminds me of the quote attributed to J. Golden Kimball: “There are three great -tion’s in the Church that lead to callings: Revelation, desperation, and relation.”

  4. But even in the current leadership, you can see some “blue-blood” mentality associated with who was chosen – Henry Eyring is President Spencer Kimball’s nephew, Quintin Cook is also Kimball family, M. Russell Ballard is about as blue-blooded as you get with two apostles as grandparents, a Church president (Jospeh F. Smith) and Hyrum Smith as ancestors further back. President Hinckley’s daughter was also called to the young women’s presidency (Virginia Hinckley Pearce).
    That being said, there seems to be less nepotism these days than there was even 30 years ago in the Church.

  5. Yes, Michael T. Ringwood is Pre. Nelson’s son-in-law. Pres. Oaks’ son-in-law is Elder Jack D. Ward, a former Area Seventy and Mission President. Pres. Eyring is Pres. Kimball’s nephew and Pres. Eyring’s son is Matthew Eyring, “BYU-Pathway Worldwide Vice President of Field Operations” and a former Area Seventy. Pres. Hinckley’s two children , Richard and Virginia, were both general Church leaders. Three of Elder Richard G. Scott’s missionaries became General Authorities, D. Todd Christofferson, Spencer V. Jones and Andrew W. Petersen. Mind you one of Elder Scott’s grandson’s got a woman pregnant on his mission and was exed for it.

  6. Stephen, it seems like you’d need a comparison group of some kind and maybe some stricter criteria to say whether the level of in-family leadership callings is higher or lower than expected. For as many potential leadership callings as you’re talking about (somewhere in the hundreds), a half dozen current examples doesn’t seem like all that many. It’s easier to see in a relatively small field with lots of public family relationship information like LDS general leaders, but it seems like there are more, and more prominent, examples in politics and journalism.

    And ultimately you’d want to distinguish between people being good at something because they grew up in that environment and inherited lots of connections, and people being appointed thanks to family ties despite being really bad at whatever it is they’re supposed to do. It’s reasonable to be concerned about both, and it’s possible that both can happen in the church, but there’s a big qualitative difference between the former and the latter.

  7. Let’s not forget preparation. There’s going to be a lot of good folks to choose from coming out of the homes of general authorities because of their righteous upbringing–exceptions notwithstanding. So it’s a good sign (IMO) that there isn’t more “nepotism” in the church than there already is. It’s not only a sign that the worldwide church has specific needs that can only be met by specific people from specific areas. It’s also a sign that righteous preparation is increasing everywhere in the worldwide church.

  8. Holland’s son spoke in general conference when I was a kid, and I remember asking my parents, “Wow, so kids can talk at conference?” That launched a bunch of childhood fantasies, but my parents never answered me because I am a girl from a blue collar family, lol.

    I worked at BYU Idaho under Kim Clark and yes there was a lot of nepotism but it was embraced. The mantra we all learned and preached openly to students is, “If you leave here with just a college degree, we have failed you,” because our stated mission at BYUI was creating disciple learners before professionals. Keeping the university hiring “all in the family” was understood to be a more effective way of preventing worldly scholars from focusing on student careers at the expense of their dedication to the church. We were taught that our mission to create disciples was much more important than prepping students for careers, and it made us feel special to be engaged in such a noble endeavor while the rest of the world’s schools do students a disservice by teaching them to be “learned [so] they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God” (2 Ne 9:28-29)

  9. Chad: Although an interesting thing about Elder Cook and President Ballard is that, while they did come from blue blood families (although I wasn’t aware of Elder Cook’s connection), neither of their immediate families were themselves active while they were growing up, which is an interesting combination.

    James: Thanks for the confirmation and extra data points (thus obviating my nervousness that I was spreading unfounded rumor), although the point about his grandson is kind of a counter-thesis to the OP thesis.

    Jonathan: It could definitely be much worse given human nature, and politics, education, and every other institution has this issue as well (sometimes even when they have fairly stringent anti-nepotism policies; people still find a way through soft influence).

    I actually think both of your points can be true. I don’t think nowadays there are a lot of obviously inept leaders who got their positions because of family ties. I suspect the people with family connections in high Church positions are basically capable and sincerely devoted to the gospel, but there are a lot of people that fit that criteria, so when it comes down to it the connections can sometimes get them over the line. This is a basic principle of organizational behavior that operates in many spheres, not just the Church.

    Jack: That’s a possibility, I discuss that idea more at length in a post on spiritual “special sauce” (https://www.timesandseasons.org/index.php/2022/03/royal-families-in-the-church-and-spiritual-special-sauce/).

    Ali N: From what I heard, as of now in the rank and file level the anti-nepotism rules are quite strict at BYU-Idaho, but maybe back in the day personal and family networks were more heavily drawn on.

  10. Many relations have already been mentioned, but a few have been missed. Here are some of the recent ones who have close family members who have also served as General Authorities, based on those related to ordained apostles, starting with President Hinckley in :1961

    Gordon B. Hinckley–son Richard G. Hinckley, seventy and daughter Virginia H. Pearce, Young Women’s counselor, cousin Joseph B. Wirthlin, apostle, cousin’s daughter’s husband Neal A. Maxwell, apostle
    N. Eldon Tanner–don’t know of any
    Thomas S. Monson–daughter, Ann M. Dibb, Young Women’s counselor
    Boyd K. Packer–son, Allan F. Packer, seventy
    Marvin J. Ashton–father, Marvin O. Ashton, First counselor in the Presiding Bishopric
    Bruce R. McConkie–father-in-law, Joseph Fielding Smith, Church President
    L. Tom Perry–uncle, Alma Sonne, Assistant to the Twelve/Seventy
    David B. Haight–son-in-law, Jon Huntsman, Sr., Area Authority Seventy/significant benefactor (provided private plane to First Presidency)
    James E. Faust–none close, great-great grandfather, Amasa M. Lyman, apostle
    Neal A. Maxwell–not particularly close, but his wife was a daughter of Gordon B. Hinckley’s cousin
    Russell M. Nelson–son-in-law Michael T. Ringwood, seventy
    Dallin H. Oaks–Brother Merrill C. Oaks, seventy and cousin Robert C. Oaks, seventy; great-great grandfather, Emer Harris, was a brother of Martin Harris, one of the Three Witnesses.
    M. Russell Ballard–grandfathers Hyrum M. Smith and Melvin J. Ballard, apostles. Great-grandfather Joseph F. Smith, great-great grandfather Hyrum Smith, brother of Joseph Smith; many other Smith relations. His daughter, Brynn, married Peter Huntsman, a son of Jon Huntsman, and grandson of David B. Haight, so he also has ties there.
    Joseph B. Wirthlin–cousin, Gordon B. Hinckley, Church president; father, Joseph L. Wirthlin, Presiding Bishop
    Richard G. Scott–none directly, but Mission President to D. Todd Christofferson, apostle, Andrew W. Peterson, seventy, and Spencer V. Jones, seventy (and one of my Mission Presidents, Timothy Parker).
    Robert D. Hales–don’t know of any.
    Jeffrey R. Holland–wife, Patricia T. Holland, Young Women’s counselor; son, Matthew S. Holland, seventy, Mission President, Marion D. Hanks, seventy, mission companion, Quentin L. Cook, apostle
    Henry B. Eyring–uncle, Spencer W. Kimball, Church President; son, Henry J. Eyring, BYU-Idaho President
    Dieter F. Uchtdorf–None of which I’m aware
    David A. Bednar–don’t know of any
    Quentin L. Cook–Grandfather, Crozier Kimball, was a cousin of Spencer W. Kimball, Church President; great-great-grandfather, Heber C. Kimball, First Counselor; Mission President, Marion D. Hanks, seventy; mission companion, Jeffrey R. Holland, apostle
    D. Todd Christofferson–Mission President, Richard G. Scott
    Neil L. Andersen–don’t know of any
    Ronald A. Rasband–don’t know of any; employee of Jon Huntsman, but that probably doesn’t count
    Gary E. Stevenson–don’t know of any, but his father, Evan N. Stevenson, was prominent enough at Utah State University that the ballroom in the Taggart Student Center (TSC) was named after him.
    Dale G. Renlund–father-in-law, Merlin R. Lybbert, seventy
    Gerrit W. Gong–father-in-law, Richard P. Lindsay, seventy
    Ulisses Soares–don’t know of any

  11. Also,
    Bruce R. McConkie–one brother’s grandson, James W. McConkie, seventy. Another brother’s daughter-in-law, Carol F. McConkie, Young Women’s counselor. Brother’s brother-in-law, Joseph B. Wirthlin, apostle

    Joseph B. Wirthlin–sister’s brother-in-law, Bruce R. McConkie, apostle. Brother, Richard B. Wirthlin, seventy

    If you really started searching, you could probably come up with a lot of other interesting connections.

  12. You have to consider, though, that many early Church leaders were polygamists, and some had a lot of children. As such, those descendants who are leaders are 1) only a small sample of descendants, and 2) have lots of cousins. Case in point: my namesake ancestor, John R. Winder, was a counselor in the Presiding Bishopric and then first counselor in the First Presidency. He had children by three of his four wives. The only descendants I can think of who were general leaders were his great-granddaughter-in-law, Barbara W. Winder, general president of the Relief Society, and her daughter, Susan Winder Tanner, general president of the Young Women.

  13. In Matt Holland’s defense, he was named as president (2009) shortly after the state legislature promoted UVSC from a smallish state college with little prestige to university status. While his experience was as a traditional academician Holland possessed significant political and academic contacts based upon his own experience and not that of his father’s. He did a fabulous job in the decade he served as president, managing a campus building boom, establishing multiple graduate programs and increasing enrollment to the point that it became the largest university in the state of Utah before he was called as mission president (2019). Also, UVU is a secular institution. How would that count as nepotism within the church?

  14. Matt Holland was not even the best candidate for the UVU job in his own department, let alone the broader BYU faculty or academic community. in fact, there was significant surprise at his appointment, at least among his colleagues at BYU. He had a negligible publication record, was not widely respected as a scholar, and got the position purely on the fact that his last name was Holland–with the hope that it would open doors with the state legislature. His brother David would have been a far more likely and qualified candidate. To be fair, he did a commendable job during his tenure (as Old Man notes above). But if his last name was Jones or Jackson, he does not even get an interview.

    More generally, nepotism is a feature in LDS history, not a bug. As others have suggested, there are issues of trust, familiarity, and networking involved–especially, I would guess, in terms of the non-Q15/Q70 positions like YW presidencies/board and area authorities. There is less of this at the local level, but the motivations–trust, familiarity–come into play with callings all the time. In our stake, there is an established pattern for high council and bishop callings, and spouses of those “trusted” with those callings become RS/YW leaders at the stake and ward levels. In many instances, it is about minimizing concern about whether the callings will be done well (and done according to the perspective of the next higher level of leadership).

  15. Personally, I like a little nepotism in the mix. Family working together is more human than atomization. I think back to a roofing company where I worked when 18; most of the couple dozen men there were a brother, son, father, nephew, or uncle of someone else working there. When I started graduate school at Johns Hopkins University I was the granted the Abel Wolman Fellowship; there was also a Baltimore City building downtown named for Abel Wolman (1892-1989) where I received an on-street parking sticker for my neighborhood. Over the next few years I would now and then see in the halls and at department lectures Wolman’s son, Reds Wolman (1924-2010), a mostly retired civil engineering professor. A measure of connection and continuity coursing through a society is a good thing, and it is inhumanely strange when family relations are not part of that.

  16. This goes beyond higher and paid church callings, of course. One might wonder how the building contracts for all the various temples, chapels, seminary/institute buildings, commercial development, etc. are dealt. More easily established links are faculty positions at the church schools. Many current (and mostly tenured) faculty at BYU in Provo have notable connections or local, church-dependent, non-academic celebrity: Dallin D. Oaks is a full professor of Linguistics, Mary Eyring is an associate professor English, Christopher Oscarson (son of Bonnie L. Oscarson, former general president of the Young Women) is an associate professor of Humanities, Jeff Bednar is an associate professor of Management, John Bytheway is an adjunct professor of Religious Education, Lloyd Newell (former voice of the MoTab) is a full professor of Church History and Doctrine, Brad Wilcox is a full professor of Ancient Scripture, until recently James R. Rasband was full professor of Law and high level administrator. There are plenty more, of course, in Provo, Rexburg, and Laie. We shouldn’t conclude that any of these professors got their job or promotions based upon name and familial connection, but we shouldn’t ignore those links either. I imagine that various, unofficial, innocent, and unpremeditated perks and opportunities are afforded to Prof. Bednar, son of the David A. Bednar. Probably some are also offered with a view toward social, professional, and/or ecclesial climbing. How could it not be the case?

  17. @Reeder: Wow! Thanks for the data dump. I was aware of some of those but not others. In particular, the mission connections are just fascinating from a social network theory perspective.

    @John Taber: Yes, for that reason I don’t take the “great great grandchild of XYZ” , or “2nd-cousin, once removed,” level relations very seriously for these purposes–a good chunk of Utah could say the same thing.

    @John Mansfield: Morally I’m fine with family connections bleeding into the workplace at lower levels (although I’ve seen it go bad enough times, and those connections are too valuable to expose to work conflict risk that I’d advise against it) as long as it doesn’t include promotions to highly prestigious and/or lucrative positions. (Full disclosure, my dad pulled strings to get me a college job on the floor of a bindery–suffice it to say it was not glamorous work). Of course, if you own the company that’s your money so your choice, but when you’re essentially administrating assets that aren’t yours that’s more of an issue.

    @anonbyuprofwithoutconnections:
    “We shouldn’t conclude that any of these professors got their job or promotions based upon name and familial connection, but we shouldn’t ignore those links either.”

    Agree completely. Although a few quibbles with your examples: given his popularity I’m surprised John Bytheway isn’t TT at religion, plus adjunct teaching positions are a dime a dozen (as an occasional adjunct teacher myself I’m allowed to say that); unless I’m mistaken Brad Wilcox went from RelEd to GA, not the other way around. As you state, we shouldn’t dismiss their accomplishments out of hand because of their last name, but at the same time we shouldn’t ignore the effect in the aggregate.

    Of course, so that it’s not all one direction, I should point out that President Monson’s son worked as a low-level instructor in the geography department for years, where apparently he was known as a super nice guy (although I just checked and I guess he’s TT now, but I don’t think he was during his father’s tenure).

  18. To President Hinckley’s credit, I seem to recall when his son was called to the Seventy, he went out of his way to quell any notion of nepotism in the call, then joked his son was the first Seventy called to serve after a disclaimer from the prophet.

    Geez do I miss that man’s candor.

  19. @Reeder that is comprehensive list. It should be noted that Patricia Holland served in a General church office before her husband ever did, though he was President of BYU at the time.

  20. @Wizard of Oz True–but in the list, some of the relatives served before the apostle’s call, some served after. It’s a mix, and I didn’t bother distinguishing.
    I believe the Hollands may be the first husband and wife to each serve in a general Church capacity since Richard R. Lyman (apostle 1918-1944) and Amy Brown Lyman (Relief Society General President 1940-1945), but I can think of a couple of instances after, not involving apostles.
    Bruce D. Porter served as a seventy until his death, 1995-2016; his widow, Susan H. Porter is now the Primary General President (2022-).
    Also, Susan W. Tanner served as Young Women President 2002-2008; her husband John S. Tanner served briefly as a counselor in the General Sunday School Presidency 2014-2015, until he was released to serve as President of BYU-Hawaii.

  21. Also, I wouldn’t pretend to be comprehensive. I already made one edit to include some omissions and I just realized I didn’t include Gordon B. Hinckley’s uncle, Alonzo A. Hinckley, who served as an apostle (1936-1938), and his Mission President, Joseph F. Merrill, who was concurrently serving as an apostle and Mission President.

    I’m sure there are many other connections without even having to get to such tenuous connections as fourth cousins twice removed and sister-in-law’s brother-in-law’s former counselor in a ward Sunday School Presidency. I can think of several such connections that I myself have with these brethren, (such as being in the same ward as my grandparents at one point, or his son or his grandson served in my mission shortly after my time, or I helped someone help his granddaughters move once, or his brother was my junior high counselor, or I served with his niece’s husband in a ward once, or I served with someone else who married his granddaughter, or a roommate once went on a date with his granddaughter, or he was my mission president’s mission president, or we were in the same ward at different times (decades apart), or I once took a class taught by his son, etc.) Such indirect connections are probably not uncommon.

  22. It’s a sword that can cut both ways honestly. I once applied for a position at one of the BYUs where a relative of mine had a somewhat high profile position(we both had the same last name). I heard later through my father that this relative confessed to him that he’d recommended I NOT be interviewed for the job (for reasons that remain unclear to me even now). So I wasn’t. This was many years ago, things have worked out fine for me careerwise and I honestly bear this relative no ill will. But I have a feeling my chances for the position would have been better without that “connection.”

  23. The number of past and present general authorities and general officers must number a thousand or so. Given polygamy, a lot of them must have hundreds or thousands of descendants and cousins. Even more, if we’re including mission companions and mission presidents and the like. I’m wondering what is the probability that anyone with Utah roots would NOT have some connection to a general authority or officer?

  24. Another aspect of this: Is it doing someone a great favor to call him as a general authority or general officer of the church? A few months into my son’s mission, a new mission president was called months ahead of the scheduled change. Then a couple months before the change in presidents, someone else was called instead. There was a mission rumor about why the previous man ultimately turned down the call, but the thing I wondered was: Which apostle’s nephew was this new guy who just got told to pack his bags and take his family to rural Mexico for three years?

    Joseph Wirthlin toward the end of his service as an apostle said every day was like Sunday and every day was wonderful. It would be great to be so spiritually minded, but most of us would prefer not to attend a couple dozen stake conferences each year for years on end and field calls from stake presidents the rest of the week. A broad-based collection of saints as central leaders of the church seems like a good thing to me too, but I find it not surprising that some percentage of the leaders are relatives, capable people who their uncles and fathers-in-law could count on to accept any call, and who having had some view of the nature of the work wouldn’t let go to their heads some notion that now they run the zoo.

  25. Left Field: Yes, that’s why me and others in the thread haven’t put a lot of weight on the far relations, since a lot of people are tangentially related somehow.

    John Mansfield: No, it’s not a great favor. They get relatively little money for a lot of work, and we should appreciate their sacrifice. However, I push back a little against the common refrain we hear that nobody aspires to those callings, or that it doesn’t get to some people’s heads once they have them (D&Cs “almost all men,…” or President Faust’s “do not inhale”). The fact is that ecclesiastical ambition exists, and it’s kind of gaslightey to pretend otherwise.

  26. Stephen,

    I think the vast majority of folks who serve in the upper echelons of the church are spiritually mature enough to know that they should work against the temptation of ecclesiastical ambition. They may not always succeed in conquering those temptations–but my sense is that they (generally speaking) do their best to serve for the right reasons.

  27. Brad Wilcox was in Religious Education before he went GA.

    For my part, nepotism was the primary organizational strategy for a lot of human society for thousands of years. It would surprise me a very great deal if it didn’t have relative advantages…no pun intended.

  28. I would guess that if you look at mission pres, stake pres, and bishops you would find lots of relations higher up the food chain. My guess that has more to do with human nature than string pulling from above. The temptation to call someone that is related to someone “important” in the church on the local ward and stake level must be strong. I see it all the time. Nothing wrong with it. As most know, early church was literally going to be kept in the family until it didn’t work out. Even BY was ordaining sons as Apostles in case they decided to go the “keep it in the family” way like the Smiths were going to do. Nothing wrong with that either as we see that in almost all scripture. Was I the only one growing up that wondered why God only wanted white guys from Utah in the Q12? They pick who they know. Again, nothing wrong with that. Jesus let the early apostles pick the replacements for apostles by vote. I think He could have been better at picking but let the group do it anyway.

  29. I think we’d probably disagree on the “nothing wrong with that.” Brigham Young’s appointment of his very young son to the apostleship without telling anybody almost caused a complete catastrophe for the Church when John Willard found himself arguably next in line for the presidency decades later, and they had the change/clarify the rules of succession at the last minute to make sure he didn’t become the leader of the Church. Unless a priesthood position is explicitly authorized as being passed down along family lines (e.g. the Presiding Patriarch), I think the assumption is that the spirit will direct the calling to the individual regardless of ancestry even if, like David, he wouldn’t be anybody’s natural first choice.

  30. Stephen- From what I have read, apostleship has changed just like everything else in the church. There were many “apostles” that were not part of the official leadership/Q15. BY sons were some of those. The “next in line” for president was not an issue when BY was doing this as there was no clear next in line policy at that time. In my limited research, BY had no clear idea who should succeed him. I dont think we can blame BY for this decades later. The brethren, after BY death, had to figure it out. BY knew that the Smiths were expecting a Smith to lead the church eventually so I think this was part of why he did what he did. All speculation on my part. I have no problem with you or anyone disagreeing with me and on a personal note, I really like your articles! Keep it up!

  31. Thank you for your kind words! Admittedly, my knowledge on when the succession rules became more systematized is a little fuzzy, so you might be right.

  32. You’ve overlooked a rich vein of church leadership interrelationships. Tad and Douglas Callister who recently served as 70s are brothers and grandsons of apostle Legrand Richards, who was the son of apostle George F. Richards, who was the son of apostle Franklin D. Richards, who was the nephew of Willard Richards.

  33. Brigham Young and Willard Richards were first cousins and served in the First Presidency together. Stephen L. Richards, who served in the First Presidency as First Counselor to David O. McKay, was the grandson of Willard Richards

  34. Back in the day the president could pick anyone they wanted to be in the first presidency. Anyone. But I also think the Q12 had to approve them or they didn’t get in.

  35. “Back in the day the president could pick anyone they wanted to be in the first presidency. Anyone.”

    Still can. Just doesn’t.

  36. @REC911, The President of the Church can pick anyone he wants to be the First Presidency, just ask Alvin R. Dyer, Thorpe B. Isaacson, none of whom were in the Q12. They don’t “have” to be in the Q12

  37. It’s my understanding that even the president of the church doesn’t have to come from the Quorum of the Twelve. They could (theoretically) pick someone from Timbuktu if they felt so inspired and were all of one accord. But it so happens (these days) that the best training ground for serving as president or in the First Presidency is the Quorum of the Twelve. Makes sense, IMO.

  38. James – Dyer was a one-off 3rd councilor in the 70’s I believe. Not sure that proves your point. McKay called Isaacson as well, also very unusual. You could say McKay was rouge. But, you are right McKay could do what he wanted since Dyer was not approved by the other 2 councilors in the first pres when he was called.

    Jack- Pres must come from the Q12 and must be the next in line. that person can decline the position and the Q can run the church as a quorum and not have a “pres”. In theory the next one in line after the declining apostle could accept the position I would think? Could the brethren change the rules and pick an outsider? Sure, anything I guess is possible.

  39. @REC911-my point is that the Prophet can call whomever he wants to serve in the First Presidency, the person doesn’t have to be in the Q12 as evidenced by the calls of Alvin R. Dyer and Thorpe B. Isaacson. Dyer was called in 1968 to the First Presidency and served until 1970.

  40. James – From the church’s website.
    Jesus Christ leads His Church through a prophet, who acts as the President of the Church, and two Apostles who are called to be the prophet’s counselors. This group is known as the First Presidency, and it is the highest governing body of the Church.

  41. Jack – from the church’s website.
    The President of the Church is always the senior Apostle—the person who has served as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for the longest time. When a Church President dies, the next senior Apostle becomes the President of the Church.

  42. A said: “More generally, nepotism is a feature in LDS history, not a bug.” No need to stop at LDS history — it’s a long tradition through all of history. The Bible is full of people (and the Lord) favoring relatives of other important people. The story of Joseph in Egypt is ultimately all about nepotism. Saul, David, and Nehemiah all made important appointments from their own family. Jesus was baptized by a relative, His brother (or cousin) became the bishop of Jerusalem, and some of His apostles were likely His cousins and certainly related to each other.

    That’s not to say the Church shouldn’t be careful about nepotism today. It’s just that nepotism is virtually inescapable.

  43. @REC911-Again, Apostles aren’t always Q12 members as in the case of Alvin R. Dyer-He was ordained an Apostle, after his call to the First Presidency but never served in the Q12 before or after his 2 year service in the First Presidency. J. Reuben Clark was also called from oblivion, ordained an Apostle but never served once in the Q12. John R. Winder served in the First Presidency but was never ordained an Apostle and was never a member of the Q12.

  44. “His brother David would have been a far more likely and qualified candidate. ”

    Doesn’t seem to be a strong point for nepotism.

  45. @James I am completely aware of this and just because they did this in the late 60’s does not mean they can/will do this today. I am pretty sure I stated that picking “anyone” in the past was ok and done but not today. The 70’s fall in the “past” category.

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