My mom called all the children in my family together one morning. She told us that President Howard W. Hunter had been sick and had died. We were sad because President Hunter was our prophet and we loved him.
“Who will be our new prophet?” Erik, my youngest brother, asked.
“Well, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles will be in charge until another prophet is chosen,” Mom answered. “But remember, Jesus Christ is the head of this Church. We will not be left without a prophet.”
“Really?” I asked. “We’ll have a new one?”
“Absolutely,” Mom said. She explained to me that when a prophet dies, the members of the First Presidency return to their places in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and with the guidance of the Lord, the Apostles reorganize the First Presidency. Mom also explained that the Church follows a pattern established by the Lord. When the Lord calls a new Apostle, that Apostle gradually moves forward in seniority in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. At the death of the President of the Church, the senior Apostle becomes the new President of the Church. But, Mom said, we can pray to know for ourselves that the new Church President has been chosen by the Lord.
A little while after President Hunter died, I got a phone call from my friend Molly, who is not a member of the Church.
“Hey, Angie, that’s too bad about your prophet,” she said. “My dad and I were really worried about you. What’s your church going to do? Is your church over now?” she asked me.
I almost dropped the phone because I was so surprised.
“Of course not,” I said, remembering my mother’s words. “The Lord promised us that we would always have a prophet.”
“You mean, they’ll just choose the new prophet?” Molly asked. “Don’t you need an angel to come down and declare that he’s the prophet?”
“I believe God will choose another prophet. Jesus Christ is the head of the Church,” I said with a smile because I knew it was true.
“But how do you know the new prophet is chosen by God?” she asked.
She didn’t understand that we could pray to Heavenly Father and find out. But I knew exactly what I was going to do. I prayed to know. Right after I finished my prayers that night, I knew that the Lord would take care of His Church.
A few days later an announcement was made that the new President of the Church was President Gordon B. Hinckley.
I raised my hand high a few weeks later during general conference to sustain President Hinckley as the prophet. And in the years that have followed, I have continued to raise my hand to sustain him. I support him in all he says and does. I am thankful that President Hinckley has been called of God to be our prophet. Truly, the Lord does not leave us alone.
In the April 1986 general conference, Elder David B. Haight of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained the process by which a new Church President is called. He said:
“When one Church President passes away, how is a new President selected?
“In 1835 the Lord gave a revelation on this matter that provides for orderly succession. The revelation states that the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles is a body equal in authority to the First Presidency. (See D&C 107:24.) That means that when the President of the Church dies, the First Presidency is dissolved and the Quorum of the Twelve automatically becomes the presiding body of the Church. That pattern was established with the death of the Church’s first President, Joseph Smith.
“Following the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph and his brother Hyrum in 1844, the Quorum of the Twelve, with Brigham Young as quorum president, presided over the Church for the next 3 1/2 years.
“Then, on the banks of the Missouri River in Winter Quarters on December 5, 1847, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles met in council. … Brigham Young, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, was unanimously sustained by members of that body as President of the Church. … This action created a new First Presidency, which was later sustained by the unanimous vote of the Saints. …
“This divinely revealed procedure for installing a new First Presidency of the Church—revelation from the Lord and sustaining by the people—has been followed to our present day. The First Presidency is to be ‘upheld by the confidence, faith, and prayer of the church.’ (D&C 107:22.)” (“A Prophet Chosen of the Lord,” Ensign, May 1986, 8).