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Mormon President Gordon Hinckley Dies

Mormon President Gordon Hinckley Dies Gordon B. Hinckley, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, died Sunday of complications arising from old age, according to a church spokesman. He was 97.

By tradition, at a church president’s death, the church’s most senior apostle is ordained within days on a unanimous vote of the Council of the Twelve Apostles. The most long-serving apostle now is Thomas S. Monson, 80. The vote is not likely to occur until after Hinckley is laid to rest. At least twice in the past the naming of a new president has lagged for several years, but in modern times the announcement has come within a week.

Hinckley, a grandson of Mormon pioneers, was president for nearly 13 years. He took over as president and prophet on March 12, 1995, and oversaw one of the greatest periods of expansion in church history. The number of temples worldwide more than doubled, from 49 to more than 120 and church membership grew from about 9 million to about 13 million.

Republican Mitt Romney, who is trying to become the first Mormon elected president, said Monday he would miss the humility and wisdom of Hinckley and plans to attend his funeral.

Video coverage from the AP:

Hinckley lived to a ripe old age; one can hardly complain about 97 years, mostly in superb health.

Thoughts naturally turn to the succession process and the rituals of the church and what impact, if any, it’ll have on Romney’s candidacy.

Thomas S. Monson, 80, who has been Gordon B. Hinckley’s first counselor since 1995 is in line for the presidency following Hinckley’s death on Sunday. Monson became a member of the Quorum in 1963, five years after Hinckley.

There’s similarity, of course, to the Roman Catholic Church, where the pope is elected by and from the College of Cardinals. It would be highly unusual, though, to reach that status at the age of 35, as Monson did, or to be elected to the papacy in one’s 80s.

My guess is that this will be a relative non-factor in the election contest. The next two days of the news cycle, barring an exceptionally interesting breaking story, will be devoted to speculating about the results of tomorrow’s Florida primary and then we’re likely to have a day or two of analysis of what the Florida results mean, followed by a frenzy over Super Tuesday. It’s unlikely that the Hinckley story will get much coverage amongst all that.

Photo credit: AP/NYT

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Triumph says:

    It would be highly unusual, though, to reach that status at the age of 35, as Monson did, or to be elected to the papacy in one’s 80s.

    Well, the current pope was 78 when elected, as was Clement XII. Clement X was elected at 79. I think Leo XIII was the oldest pope–he died when he was 93. The geezer held the post for 25 years.

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  2. FireWolf says:

    My guess is that this will be a relative non-factor in the election contest.

    As it should be a non-factor. As Mitt himself declared he is a man of faith, his faith doesn’t run him (paraphrasing of course).

    On a side note, President Hinckley was a good man. Despite what you believe of the Mormon faith, here was someone who was very approachable, and I never heard him utter a curse word. He had one woman in his life for 60+ years, and when she dies a few short years ago, he carried on with his work despite a wide gap missing from his life.

    Speaking of Romney however, did you read Ed Morrissey’s endorsement of him? The reactions from his readership was interesting as well.

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  3. The broadcast media has gone dark on the story, probably because they didn’t want to be accused of bringing up “the Mormon issue” on the eve of the Florida primary.

    The LDS church’s leadership succession is based on seniority within its second-highest leadership body, the Quorum of the Twelve. The church eliminates internal politics rather successfully with their model, doctrinally attributing the divine call to the imponderables of when people die. It was generally thought among Mormons, that Monson would become church president by the simple virtue of his youth when he was ordained an apostle, yet his own ill-health (he is a diabetic) and The great age attained by his predecessors made it touch and go.

    In spite of this, Monson’s presence within the First Presidency for a couple of decades at this point, has made him a very dynamic and influential force in the church. As with Hinckley, who effectively ran the church for years because of Ezra Benson’s ill-health, Monson steps into the drivers seat with the full confidence of the church’s membership and the rest of the hierarchy, while maintaining a smooth trajectory of policy which he in fact was instrumental in deploying.

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  4. Tlaloc says:

    I honestly mean no disrespect by this but I have to ask-
    Is he related to the John Hinckley that took a shot at Reagan?

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  5. FireWolf says:

    I honestly mean no disrespect by this but I have to ask-
    Is he related to the John Hinckley that took a shot at Reagan?

    No tlaloc he isn’t. There isn’t even a distant cousin relation.

    How do I know? I’ve researched that very question myself

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  6. Triumph says:

    The broadcast media has gone dark on the story, probably because they didn’t want to be accused of bringing up “the Mormon issue” on the eve of the Florida primary.

    The broadcast media has gone dark because nobody cares about leadership succession in a fringe cult–except perhaps when Janet Reno and the ATF are involved in forcing the succession.

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