When there is a vacancy in The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, the President of the Church is the one who ultimately issues the calling to a new apostle. The process of receiving that inspiration includes earnest prayer and discussion with all of the current apostles. President Gordon B. Hinckley shared this after filling a vacancy left by the passing of Elder Marvin J. Ashton in 1994:
“In filling that vacancy, each member of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve was at liberty to make suggestions. I am confident that in every case, there was solemn and earnest prayer. A choice was then made by the First Presidency, again after solemn and serious prayer. This choice was sustained by the Council of the Twelve. Today, the membership of the Church in conference assembled has sustained that choice.
“I give you my testimony, my brethren, that the impression to call Brother Hales to this high and sacred office came by the Holy Spirit, by the spirit of prophecy and revelation. Brother Hales did not suggest his own name. His name was suggested by the Spirit.”
Read more about the process at lds.org
“Daddy, Salt Lake City is Calling”
When an apostle is called to the Twelve, the calling is extended in a very similar way to all the other callings in the Church. They are quite simply asked, by one with authority, if they will accept this calling. They generally have no inkling that a calling of such magnitude is coming, and are quite surprised and disbelieving at first. Given their humble natures, these men have never aspired to be apostles, or thought that they would ever be called to such a position.
Not every apostle has a detailed public account of their experience when they were called to the Twelve, but the President of the Church traditionally includes it in his biography. Here we share the accounts from our current Church President, Thomas S. Monson, and the past 4 Presidents of the Church: Gordon B. Hinckley, Howard W. Hunter, Ezra Taft Benson, and Spencer W. Kimball.
When Spencer W. Kimball was called to the Twelve
from his biography, ‘Spencer W. Kimball’, written by Edward L. Kimball & Andrew E. Kimball, Jr., (pp. 189-195)
“Daddy, Salt Lake City is Calling,” were the words that Spencer W. Kimball heard when he walked through the door on July 8th, 1943. Stake President Spencer W. Kimball had casually come home for lunch, as he usually did.
Brother Kimball had received many calls from Salt Lake City through the years. This time felt a little different to him. As he crossed the room to take the phone, he felt an ‘overwhelming feeling’ that he was about to be called to a high position in the Church. He even had a fleeting thought about the two vacancies in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, but he quickly dismissed the idea. He upbraided himself for even thinking such a thing.
Spencer picked up the phone, and heard the voice of President J. Reuben Clark.
“Spencer, this is Brother Clark. Do you have a chair handy?”
“Yes, Brother Clark,” Spencer answered.
“The Brethren have just chosen you to fill one of the vacancies in the Quorum.”
Spencer W. Kimball, shocked at those words, ‘sank past the chair to the floor’. He protested to President Clark that such a calling couldn’t possibly be right.
“The Brethren feel that you are the man,” reaffirmed President Clark.
Spencer had learned to never turn down a calling, but he felt so unworthy. Every petty thing he had ever done and every misunderstanding he’d ever had with his fellow man came crashing into his mind.
“It seemed that every person that had ever been offended because of me stood before me to say, ‘How could you be an Apostle of the Lord? You are not worthy. You areinsignificant. You shouldn’t accept this calling. You can’t do it.’”
But the calling was real. By now Spencer’s family had gathered around, curious about his tone and exclamations during the call. After he hung up the phone, he turned to his wife and sons.
“They have called me to become an Apostle,” he said.
Spencer’s family stood silent, bewildered for a moment before his wife asked, “Are you sure that you were to be an Apostle?”
Spencer answered that he wasn’t sure. Maybe he had misunderstood. Maybe the calling was to be an Assistant or something else. The family tried to sit down to lunch, which was getting cold. No one had much of an appetite. The boys went outside, and Spencer stretched out on the floor to try to relax for a moment. His mind raced. He thought of the logistics of a move to Salt Lake from their home in Arizona. He would need to give up his business, which was finally becoming prosperous, sell their home, leave friends and the wonderful life they had built through the years.
“But the predominant thought was my own limitations and incapacities and weaknesses and I was overcome. The tears came then, an inexhaustible flood. It had been years since I had shed a tear… But now uncontrollable, I wept and wept. It seemed that all the conflicting thoughts of my mind were trying to wash themselves clear with tears. I was in convulsions of sobbing. My wife was sitting by me on the floor, stroking my hair, trying to quiet me.”
Over the next few days, Spencer and his wife traveled to Colorado on a pre-planned trip to visit their son. After that, they planned to go on to Salt Lake City. Spencer was in anguish, as he berated himself for his shortcomings. He couldn’t sleep, and spent hours in tearful prayer. After six days and nights of constant prayer and no sleep, he was completely exhausted, but still had not received the peace and comfort he needed.
He started a fast, and set out on a hike in the hills of Colorado. He hiked and wept and condemned himself for all of his shortcomings. He pleaded for some peace and assurance that he was acceptable to the Lord. Eventually, that peace came.
“My tears were dry, my soul was at peace. A calm feeling of assurance came over me, doubt and questionings subdued. It was as though a great burden had been lifted. I sat in the tranquil silence surveying the beautiful valley, thanking the Lord for the satisfaction and the reassuring answer to my prayers. Long I meditated here in the peaceful quietude, apart, and I felt nearer my Lord than ever at any time in my life.”
Spencer W. Kimball was sustained to The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles on October 1, 1943. He later became President of the Church on December 30, 1973.