Looking Back: Former Church Presidents, Apostles Reflect on Calls as Apostles
Contributed By Gerry Avant, Church News senior contributing editor
“As he invited me into a room to tell me that I was being called to fill the vacancy in the Quorum of the Twelve, and as I held this great man’s hand and looked into his face, I knew in my heart and soul that I was in the presence of the Lord’s anointed. His eyes were piercing but loving.” —Elder David B. Haight
I’ve talked with many General Authorities, including Church presidents and members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. This article focuses on a few of their comments about their callings from interviews conducted in 1985 and 1986.
President Ezra Taft Benson
On two occasions, President Benson mentioned his calls, first to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1943 and then to the office of President of that quorum in 1973.
As I interviewed him for an article for the April 24, 1985, issue of the Church News, President Benson, then-President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, reflected on a day in October 1943, when President Heber J. Grant called him to serve as a member of the Council of the Twelve Apostles. (Later, this office became known as the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; during our interviews, the Brethren frequently used both terminologies.)
“I don’t think I’ll ever get over the shock of that call,” President Benson said.
He spoke of becoming President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: “This is the greatest honor that’s ever come to me, and one that I had never anticipated. I have a deep love for this work, for the work of the Lord, the most important in all the world” (Church News, Apr. 24, 1985).
I interviewed President Benson after he was ordained and set apart as Church president on November 10, 1985. He said his years in the Council of the Twelve Apostles permitted him “fellowship with some of the greatest souls who have walked this earth.”
“I think there is no group of men in this world who are closer to each other than the Council of the Twelve,” he said. “We just have the most wonderful spirit in our council; we’re grateful for it. I don’t believe there is a man in that council who would not lay down his life for any of the others. I love them with all my heart” (Church News, Nov. 17, 1985).
President Benson died on March 30, 1994, at age 94.
President James E. Faust
President Faust was serving as an Assistant to the Council of the Twelve Apostles when he was called as a member of that quorum in 1978.
During an interview, President Faust told me that the responsibility of an apostle was overwhelming, “but it’s a shared responsibility. Individually, I don’t think we count for much, but working together in council, there is great strength. I also think much of the strength of the Brethren is in their unity. And while there is unity among the Brethren, there is a diversity also, which adds another kind of strength” (Church News, Dec. 15, 1985).
He served as Second Counselor in the First Presidency from 1995 until his death on August 10, 2007, at age 87.
President Boyd K. Packer
President Packer was sustained as an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve October 1, 1961, and as a member of that quorum on April 9, 1970. He became Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve in 1994 and President of that quorum from 2008 until his death on July 3, 2015, at age 90.
During an interview, then-Elder Packer said when he was first called he felt overwhelmed to be among the Brethren. At the time of our interview, in 1985, he had been a General Authority 24 years. He said he still had that feeling.
“You settle in somewhat, but that overwhelming feeling is always there,” he said. “I think the other Brethren will tell you that, too. It never gets old; it’s always new. To attend a meeting with the missionaries somewhere in the world today is as new and as interesting and exciting as it was 15 or 20 years ago. It doesn’t wear or become commonplace or easy.
“There is a very close bond, a deep love among the Brethren. There has to be. While we’re each very independent in our opinions and expressions, there is a unity that most people cannot understand.
“Ever present is the sure conviction that the call to this sacred circle of Brethren comes from the Lord. At the center of it all is that sacred, personal relationship with Him whose work this is and Whose servants we are” (Church News, Jul. 21, 1985).
Elder L. Tom Perry
Elder Perry was sustained as an Assistant to the Council of the Twelve on October 6, 1972, and was ordained an apostle April 11, 1974. He died May 30, 2015, at age 92.
In an interview, Elder Perry spoke of his calling as an Apostle: “I think people try to make too much out of our individual lives. We’re common people who have been given a great calling. We can’t understand the reason why. It’s not the individual contribution that makes the difference, but the Twelve together. … We’re all pulling together and shouldn’t be made more than we are individually” (Church News, Sept. 22, 1985).
Elder David B. Haight
Elder Haight was sustained as an Assistant to the Council of the Twelve Apostles on April, 6, 1970, and was called as a member of that quorum on January 8, 1976. He died July 31, 2004, at age 97.
Elder Haight told me that he vividly remembered his call to the Council of the Twelve: “President Kimball called me to the Salt Lake Temple. Of course, I did not have any idea what he wanted to talk to me about. I assumed I had done something wrong, but after I arrived at the temple and he shook me by the hand, I felt of that unusually warm personality. As he invited me into a room to tell me that I was being called to fill the vacancy in the Quorum of the Twelve, and as I held this great man’s hand and looked into his face, I knew in my heart and soul that I was in the presence of the Lord’s anointed. His eyes were piercing but loving.
“I do not have the words to relate the deep spiritual impressions that filled my heart and soul as President Kimball spoke to me” (Church News, Nov. 24, 1985).