On Tuesday, January 2nd, 2018, at 10:21pm, President Thomas S. Monson, the president of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, passed away peacefully in his home surrounded by family.

During his nearly 10 year tenure as the leader of the LDS church, he was known for his devotion to service and reaching out to the needy. Called to be a bishop (the leader of a local congregation) at the young age of 22, President Monson spent his life serving all those he could.

With an astounding number of 84 widows in his ward, he made the decision to personally visit all 84 during the Christmas season. That’s only one example of his well-known policy of helping those around him.

Looking back on one particular instance of selfless service, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, a fellow church leader and long-time friend of Monson, recounted the following:

“The image of him I will cherish until I die is of him flying home from then– economically devastated East Germany in his house slippers because he had given away not only his second suit and his extra shirts but the very shoes from off his feet. More than any man I know, President Monson has ‘done all he could’ for the widow and the fatherless, the poor and the oppressed.”

He was also known for his wit and humor, once telling the story of a time he witnessed a young boy copying his every move during a meeting at church. Deciding to test the young boy’s skills and determination to copy him, the then Bishop Monson wiggled his ears, much to the disappointment of the young child who quickly discovered that he could not wiggle his ears.

What Happens to the Church Leadership Now?

One of the most common questions members of the LDS church hear after the passing of a prophet is: What happens now? Who becomes the next prophet? How is it decided?

The leadership of the LDS church has long been organized in such a way that the passing on of leadership roles goes rather smoothly.

At the head of the church stands the First Presidency, which consists of the Prophet and his two counselors. They supervise the organization, administration, and policies of the church.

The next highest presiding group under the First Presidency is the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles serve directly under the First Presidency and have many administrative duties, as well as overseeing the progress and development of the church worldwide.

The quorum has an appointed head, or president, of the group, the one who has the most seniority as an Apostle. After a prophet passes away, the following events take place within these two groups to prepare for the sustaining of the new prophet.

After a prophet passes away, the First Presidency is dissolved, and the two counselors from the First Presidency return to their former places within the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Seniority within the Quorum is determined by how many years one has served as an apostle, not by age.

The Quorum of now 14 Apostles takes the place of leadership of the church.

The Senior Apostle, the one with the most seniority, calls a meeting of the Quorum to vote on the following two questions: 1. Should the First Presidency be reorganized at this time? and 2. Should the Church continue to function with the Quorum of the Twelve presiding?

After the vote, if the motion to reorganize the First Presidency passes, the quorum then unanimously selects the next president of the Church. Historically in the LDS church, the longest-serving Apostle has always become the next president of the Church.

Once the new president is selected, the newly appointed prophet prays and selects his two counselors from the Quorum, and the next longest-serving Apostle becomes the head of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

In the case the next longest serving Apostle is called to be a counselor in the First Presidency, the third longest-serving member becomes the head of the Quorum, and so forth.

The new President of the church is then *set apart by the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles through the formal laying on of hands.

*after a church member is called to a new position, they are “set apart”. It follows an old Biblical tradition of a worthy priesthood holder laying their hands on the head of the person being called and offering a prayer, giving the person the authority and capacity to perform the duties required of them, as well as providing a personal blessing. 

President Monson is survived by his three children, eight grandchildren, and many great-grandchildren.