President of the Church

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(This is an excerpt from the book Howard W. Hunter: Man of Thought and Independence, Prophet of God.)

On June 5, 1994, the day following the funeral, the fourteen Apostles gathered in the Upper Room of the Salt Lake Temple for a council meeting. They sat in upholstered chairs arranged in a semicircle facing the three empty chairs near the west wall which are normally occupied by the members of the First Presidency. On the wall behind the three chairs were paintings depicting the Savior and on other walls of the room were portraits of the first thirteen presidents of the restored Church. The first order of business was to consider the reorganization of the First Presidency. This conformed with the long-established practice of promptly reorganizing the First Presidency following the death of the prophet. The worldwide interests and demands of the Church made this a vital necessity. Following discussion it was the unanimous sense that the reorganization not be delayed, whereupon Elder Gordon B. Hinckley, the second apostle in terms of seniority, nominated Howard William Hunter as the President of the Church. There being a second, Howard W. Hunter was unanimously sustained as the fourteenth President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. After President Hunter sat in a chair in the center of the room, all the Apostles placed their hands upon his head and, with Elder Hinckley acting as voice, he was ordained and set apart as the President of the Church, the fourteenth in a direct and unbroken line extending from the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Church’s first president. By this action the suspended authority to lead the Church which had been conferred upon President Hunter at the time he was inducted into the Quorum of the Twelve was ratified. At this same meeting President Hunter called Gordon B. Hinckley as the First Counselor and Thomas S. Monson as the Second Counselor in the First Presidency. They were duly confirmed by the Apostles and set apart. President Hinckley was also confirmed and set apart as the President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and Boyd K. Packer as Acting President of that quorum. Following these important and historic actions, several procedural matters that were necessary for the efficient transfer of authority to the new administration were addressed. All the brethren—indeed the entire Church—were impressed and inspired by this simple yet majestic procedure in the transfer of such vast worldwide authority without any semblance of bickering or discord, accompanied by expressions and demonstrations of love and amity.

Soon after the ceremony in the Upper Room, President Hunter and his counselors held a press conference where the newly anointed prophet made public expression about his feelings at this significant moment in Church history and, through the members of the media present, sent a significant prophetic message to members of the Church around the globe: “I have shed many tears,” he began, “and have sought my Father in Heaven in earnest prayer with a desire to be equal to the high and holy calling which is now mine. My greatest strength through these past hours and recent days has been my abiding testimony that this is the work of God and not men, that Jesus Christ is the authorized and living head of this church and He leads it in word and deed. I pledge my life, my strength, and the full measure of my soul to serving Him fully.” Having thus borne his personal witness of the reality of Jesus Christ as the living head of the Church, President Hunter then delivered a message to the members of the Church living around the world and to all people. Said he, “To the membership of the Church in every country of the world and to people everywhere I extend my love. . . . I pray that we might treat each other with more kindness, more courtesy, more humility and patience and forgiveness. . . . I invite the members of the Church to establish the temple of the Lord as the great symbol of their membership and the supernal setting for their most sacred covenants. It would be the deepest desire of my heart to have every member of the Church be temple worthy. I would hope that every adult member would be worthy of—and carry—a current temple recommend, even if proximity to a temple does not allow immediate or frequent use of it.”

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