This article was originally published June 10, 2015
With a vacancy open in the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, the governing body of the Church, many are asking who will be called to fill the position.
Replacements are called by revelation to the President of the Church, so it is impossible to predict who the Lord will choose. The only requirement to be called as an Apostle is a testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The apostleship is an important and complex role. As we look at those the Lord has called in the past, it’s clear that those individuals have been prepared throughout their lives for the opportunity to serve.
By looking at those life experiences, we can see who may have been prepared in similar ways. Remember, being called as an apostle is not a matter of politics. The individuals listed below are highlighted simply because their distinguished lifetimes of service have followed patterns similar to apostles called in the recent past.
Here are 13 potential replacements organized by their backgrounds.
Kim B. Clark
Age: 66 Birthplace: Salt Lake City, Utah Career: Educational Administration Education: B.A., M.A., PhD in Economics at Harvard University Current Calling: Member of First Quorum of the Seventy Previous Assignments: President of BYU-Idaho
In the last 30 years, only Elder David Bednar has not served as a member of the seventy before being called as an apostle. So that Elder Kim B. Clark is currently serving in the seventy is a positie indication.
But it’s his similarity with Elder Bednar that makes him a likely candidate. Elder Bednar was called as an apostle directly from being the president of BYU-Idaho, where Elder Clark would replace him. In fact, three other current apostles have also served as college or university presidents.
And five of the apostles called in the last twenty years have degrees from Ivy League colleges, a distinction Elder Clark shares.
Gerrit W. Gong
Age: 61 Birthplace: Redwood City, California Career: Educational Policy/International Diplomacy Education: B.A. Asian Studies BYU, Masters of Philosophy PhD International Relations Oxford University Current Calling: Member of First Quorum of the Seventy, Asia Area Presidency Previous Assignments: Assistant for Planning and Assesment to BYU President, Area Authority Seventy
Elder Gerrit W. Gong has previously worked with the US Department of Education and the US Embassy in China. While his background in education is similar to apostles previously called, his work in international relations–which he studied as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University–could prove helpful to an increasingly worldwide church.
Walter F. González
Age: 62 Birthplace: Montevideo, Uruguay Career: Church Educational System Education: Law degree University of the Republic (Uruguay), Business Administration degree Instituto CEMLAD (Ecuador) Current Calling: Member of First Quorum of the Seventy, President South American South Area Previous Assignments: Presidency of the Seventy, President South American Southeast Area, and Brazil North Area
If there is any current seventy who seems to have experience everywhere it’s Elder Walter F. González. He has degrees in law and business and made a career in education. Elder González joined the Church when he was eighteen.
He also served as a member of the Presidency of the Seventy, a calling the three most recently called apostles have all held. Despite his wealth of experience, Elder Gonzalez is only 62, which would put him at about the median age of apostles when called over the last thirty years.
Age: 53 Birthplace: Chirumanzu, Zimbabwe Career: Church Educational System Education: Diploma Education Zimbabwe D.E. College Current Calling: Member of First Quorum of the Seventy, Africa West Area Presidency Previous Assignments: Area Seventy
Over the last fifty years or so, a pattern has developed that every third or fourth apostle called is much younger than those previously called. Dallin H. Oaks, Jeffrey R. Holland, and David Bednar all fit this model. Were this pattern to continue a much younger apostle could be called to replace Elder Perry.
Elder Edward Dube is about the same age as these other younger apostles when they were called, and among the youngest seventies. He made a strong impression on the Church’s membership in his first general conference remarks “Look Ahead and Believe.”
Steven E. Snow
Age: 65 Birthplace: St. George, Utah Career: Senior Partner Snow Nuffer Law firm Education: Accounting Utah State University, J.D BYU Current Calling: Member of First Quorum of the Seventy, Church Historian Previous Assignments: Presidency of the Seventy, Executive Director of the Priesthood Department, President Africa Southeast Area
Elder Steven E. Snow’s work in the History department sets him apart. He has presided well over the sensitive release of the Church’s topic pages on controversial subjects.
Prior to working in the Church’s History department, Elder Snow served in the presidency of the seventy. During his career, he worked as a lawyer, served on local school boards, and chaired the Western States Commission on Higher Education.
If called, however, Elder Snow would be 66 years old, older at the time of his call than any of the current apostles except Quentin L. Cook.
L. Whitney Clayton
Age: 65 Birthplace: Salt Lake City, Utah Career: Business litigation attorney Education: B.A. in finance from University of Utah, law degree University of the Pacific Current Calling: Presidency of the Seventy Previous Assignments: President South America South area, Executive Director of the family and family history departments
Elder L. Whitney Clayton is the second longest serving member of the Presidency of the Seventy. He currently works closely with Elder David A. Bednar supervising the Church in Africa.
He has been active in helping the Church avoid potential legal and political threats.
David F. Evans
Age: 63 Birthplace: Salt Lake City, Utah Career: Educational Administration Education: B.S. Community Health Education University of Utah, J.D. BYU Current Calling: Member of First Quorum of the Seventy, Executive Director of the Missionary Department Previous Assignments: President of BYU-Idaho
Elder David F. Evans currently serves as the Executive Director of the Church’s Missionary Department. He has supervised the change in the missionary age and the ensuing boom in missionaries.
Apostles are often called after leading major changes in the Church such as Elder Anderson managing the construction of the broadcast facilities at the Conference center, or Elder Bednar transitioning Rick’s College to BYU-Idaho. Elder Evans may fit into a similar mold.
Age: 56 Birthplace: São Paulo, Brazil Career: Pirelli Tire Company, Senior Auditor for the Church Education: B.A. Accounting and Economics PPontificia Catholic University (Brazil), MBA National Institute of Postgraduate Study Current Calling: Presidency of the Seventy Previous Assignments: President Brazil South area
While Elder Ulisses Soares would be among the younger apostles called, he already has more than ten years experience as a general authority. His position in the Presidency of the Seventy is similar to other recently called apostles.
The Church has grown exceptionally well in Brazil, where Elder Soares is from, where there are 8 temples announced or in operation, and more than a million members. He has spoken twice in general conference in the last three years alone.
Age: 63 Birthplace: Los Angeles, California Career: CEO Huntsman Gay Global Capital Education: B.A. economics University of Utah, Ph.D business economics Harvard University Current Calling: Member of First Quorum of the Seventy Previous Assignments: Area Authority Seventy
There are few business minds as acute as Elder Robert C. Gay’s. And there is a pattern of Apostles being called with the background necessary to help preserve the Church’s financial assets.
In addition, Elder Gay speaks often of the “gospel of deliverance” and has focused much of his recent work on humanitarian aid, including starting a successful micro-lending organization.
Kevin W. Pearson
Age: 57 Birthplace: Salt Lake City, Utah Career: CEO Ingenix Education: B.A. finance University of Utah, MBA Harvard Business School Current Calling: Member of First Quorum of the Seventy, Pacific Area President Previous Assignments: Assistant Executive Director of the Missionary Department
Many current apostles followed a pattern of getting an undergraduate degree near their homes, and following it up with an advanced degree at a prestigious university. In particular three current apostles have Harvard MBAs, Elder Kevin Pearson follows this pattern.
S. Gifford Nielsen
Age: 60 Birthplace: Provo, Utah Career: Sports broadcasting, professional quarterback Education: B.A. BYU Current Calling: Member of First Quorum of the Seventy Previous Assignments: Area Presidency
While a professional athlete has never been an apostle before, Elder Nielsen’s affable nature demonstrated in his General Conference remarks two years ago appealed to the Church membership.
Clayton M. Christensen
Age: 63 Birthplace: Salt Lake City, Utah Career: Educational Administration Education: B.A. economics BYU, M.phil econometrics Oxford University, MBA and DBA in Economics at Harvard Business School Current Calling: Member of First Quorum of the Seventy Previous Assignments: Area authority seventy, Boston Mission presidency
It is very rare in recent years for an apostle to be called who had not previously been called as a seventy or, prior to that, an assistant to the Twelve. But it’s also not unheard of. Elder Russell M. Nelson, Dallin H. Oaks, and David A. Bednar were called to serve directly from their careers.
If an apostle were to be called from outside the ranks of the seventy, Clayton M. Christensen is a likely candidate. He has published often in the Church’s magazines and served as an area authority seventy. He has impeccable experience both in education and business, which are both common backgrounds for general authorities, and he’s in just the right age range.
Don M. Sleight
Career: Educational Administration Education: B.S. Agronomy BYU, M.S Agronomy University of Nebraska, MBA BYU Current Position: Director of AgReserves Previous Assignments: General Manager Deseret Farms
Another out of the box possibility is Don M. Sleight the director of AgReserves, which operates the Church’s for-profit farms. The Church has long operated for-profit farms in order to wisely invest its funds, and to protect itself in times of emergency.
AgReserves has been very successful in recent years, even purchasing a major plot of timberland in the Florida panhandle.