PHILADELPHIA — The passing this week of his former mission president and colleague in the LDS Church's Quorum of the Twelve Apostles is "a sacred moment" for Elder D. Todd Christofferson.
Elder Richard G. Scott, who died Tuesday at age 86, became the president of the Argentina North Mission in 1965, where Elder Christofferson was serving at the time.
"It's always tender to see someone at the end of their ministry," Elder Christofferson said, "whatever the circumstances, and reflect on what it has meant over the years, the difference they've made.
"It becomes kind of a sacred moment, a reflective time," Elder Christofferson added Thursday during an interview with the Deseret News and KSL in Philadelphia, where he is participating in the Catholic Church's World Meeting of Families.
Elder Scott is the third member of the Twelve to die in the past six months, since the last general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which was conducted in early April.
Generally, new apostles are called at the following conference; the next general sessions will be held Oct. 3 and 4.
Elder Christofferson provided tender and joyful insights into his relationship with Elder Scott and a window to some of the process LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson uses to select new apostles. He also talked about the increased responsibilities borne by the remaining nine members of the Twelve over the last several months.
To Elder Christofferson, Elder Scott became a mentor, and he and his wife, Jeanene, became lifelong supporters.
"She was an active participant in leading the mission," said Elder Christofferson, adding that the Scotts were role models of marriage and family life.
"It was unique, to say the least, to sit in that circle with him (in the Twelve)," Elder Christofferson said of his former mission president.
"I never saw myself on that same plane, that same level as (Elder Scott)," he said. "I joked that it was not fair; a mission president knows all the faults and flaws and weaknesses of his missionaries, and missionaries don't know any of the president's. It was a little daunting in a way, but mission presidents feel a love and responsibility for their missionaries.
"I surely felt that from him and Jeanene. I couldn't have asked for a greater love and encouragement and support than he always reflected to me. I've joked with them that I was still iffy enough that my mission president had to still keep an eye on me, so we were in the quorum together."
He reflected in depth on Elder Scott's contributions.
"In Elder Scott's case, I look back over what his time in Latin America, for example, has meant. I hardly go anywhere there, if anywhere, that I don't find someone, many, who have been tutored by him, who remembers something he said, a moment he had to teach them.
"I don't know how he reached so many individuals in such a few years' time, relatively few years' time, but he's had an effect that will bless the church for generations, a very, very deep impact that will be felt through these individuals and the people they touch. That's how the Lord worked; he didn't have a lot of times when he was with big groups. It was mostly through individuals he brought to conversion, who then acted and had their influence through the next generation and so on. That's the pattern of Elder Scott's ministry, and I see it in others. It's just a privilege, frankly, to take a little time to sit back and sense what the Lord has accomplished through one individual and what a difference one good man or a good woman can make."
Elder Christofferson said the selection and calling of new apostles to the Quorum of the Twelve is the prerogative of the president of the church.
"President Monson, I don't know if this always has been the case, but his practice has been to ask each of his counselors and the members of the Quorum of the Twelve to give him names they would recommend for his consideration, not to discuss with each other but just individually, to give him whatever name or names they feel impressed he ought to look at," he said.
"What process he goes through exactly, I'm not sure. That's, again, something private he pursues. He then brings back, when he's reached his decision and had the inspiration he needs, the name or names to the council that we have of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to sustain it. That goes forward to general conference."
In April 2009, President Monson selected Elder Neil L. Andersen as a new apostle after the December 2008 death of Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin.
"I recall this last time around when Elder Neil L. Andersen was called," Elder Christofferson said. "Before that happened, we were just discussing casually before one of our meetings of the Twelve about the vacancy, and I remember President (Boyd K.) Packer saying, 'We don't have to worry, President Monson knows how to get revelation.'
"That's what it is, a revelatory process in the end. Different prophets may approach it in different ways, but in the end, it's finding out from the Lord who he wants."
Elder Christofferson talked about the increased responsibilities that fell on the remaining members of the Twelve with the deaths of their colleagues. Elder L. Tom Perry died May 30, and President Packer, who was president of the quorum, died July 3. Elder Scott had been unable to function in the quorum for months due to health issues.6 comments on this story
"This is unusual," Elder Christofferson said. "We found the last time there were three vacancies at one time was 1906, so it's not something that comes very often, and I hope it always remains rare. But I see the wisdom in the Lord organizing a Quorum of the Twelve. Sometimes people think that's a lot, but I can see that's barely enough.
"It may add a little bit to the load or the responsibility or the assignments of those who are actively functioning for a time, but it's a brotherhood, and we all pull together, and maybe some things don't get done or are delayed until later that have lesser priority, but the things that really matter happen and, in the end, we all understand that it's the Lord's work, and he really is the one who does it and he lets us help. Happily we get to be a part of it."