President Thomas S. Monson’s call to the holy apostleship in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints happened on a quiet Thursday afternoon in late September 1963. He was in the middle of a conversation with an insurance adjuster at the Deseret News press when his secretary informed him he had a phone call. When he picked up the line, Brother Monson found himself speaking with President David O. McKay, who invited the 36-year-old to his office.
It was two days before general conference, and President Henry D. Moyle, first counselor in the First Presidency, had recently passed away. This fact did not cross young Brother Monson’s mind, as recounted in his biography, "To The Rescue," by Heidi S. Swinton.
Upon arrival, Brother Monson was invited to take a seat close to President McKay. The prophet got right to the point.
“Brother Monson,” President McKay said, “the Lord has called you to fill (President Moyle's) place in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Could you accept that calling?”
The moment was sacred, the biography records. Brother Monson was “overwhelmed, shocked and unable to speak.”
“Tears filled my eyes," he said, "and after a pause that seemed like an eternity, I responded by assuring President McKay that any talent with which I might have been blessed would be extended in the service of the Master in putting my very life on the line if necessary.”
Like President Monson, many current and deceased apostles have related similar experiences from when they were called to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. With the possibility that the LDS Church could fill three vacancies in the quorum during the 185th Semiannual General Conference, the Deseret News has compiled several brief accounts of leaders describing the sacred experience of being called to the apostolic ministry.
President Henry B. Eyring
President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the First Presidency, had no premonition of his call to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. It came on Friday, March 31, 1995, about four weeks after the death of President Howard W. Hunter and the day before general conference, according to his biography, “I Will Lead You Along: The Life of Henry B. Eyring,” by Henry J. Eyring and Robert I. Eaton.
President Eyring was invited to the office of President Gordon B. Hinckley, who began by asking him about his service as commissioner of education. This launched a 30-minute conversation about challenges facing the church educational system.
“President Hinckley concluded that Hal could continue to play that role and take on an additional assignment. Making reference to the vacancy to be filled the next day, he said, ‘Well, I think we’ll have you continue as commissioner as you join the Twelve,’” the biography reads.
President Hinckley then read from Doctrine and Covenants 112 and specifically gave President Eyring the task of “learning what it means to feed the Savior’s sheep.”
“The charge to the newest member of the Twelve was brief and to the point, in the style Hal had come to expect from President Hinckley,” the biography records.
President Eyring returned to his office and immediately began working on the general conference talk he would deliver the next day after being sustained as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. He titled it, “Always Remember Him.”
“Over the last hours, I have come to understand other blessings from ‘always remembering him,’” President Eyring said in his conference talk.
President Russell M. Nelson
Brother Russell M. Nelson, future president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, was attending a regional representatives seminar on Friday, April 6, 1984, when he was tapped on the shoulder and told President Hinckley, second counselor in the First Presidency, wanted to meet with him.
Upon entering President Hinckley’s office, President Nelson was asked “if everything in his life was in order,” according to his biography, “Russell M. Nelson: Father, Surgeon, Apostle,” by Spencer J. Condie.
“Yes,” President Nelson said.
“Good!” President Hinckley said. “Tomorrow we will sustain you as a new member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles!”
President Nelson was stunned, but he accepted. After discussing some dilemmas in regards to his professional commitments, President Hinckley suggested he excuse himself from the seminar and go home to share the news with his wife, Dantzel, which he did.
“Their conversation involved tearful expressions of mutual love and support,” President Nelson’s biography reads.
Both President Nelson and Elder Dallin H. Oaks were sustained the next day. They filled vacancies left by Elder LeGrand Richards (died January 1983) and Elder Mark E. Petersen (January 1984).
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland had no particular sense of foreshadowing when he was invited to meet with President Howard W. Hunter on Thursday, June 23, 1994, at 7:30 a.m., according to a 1995 church magazine article.
He described what happened next in his October 1994 general conference address, “Miracles of the Restoration.”
“In a rapid sequence of events that Thursday morning, President Hunter interviewed me at length, extended to me my call, formally introduced me to the First Presidency and the Twelve gathered in their temple meeting, gave me my apostolic charge and outline of duties, ordained me an apostle, set me apart as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, added a magnificent and beautiful personal blessing of considerable length, then went on to conduct the sacred business of that first of my temple meetings, lasting another two or three hours!" Elder Holland said.
“President Hunter did all of that personally. And through it all he was strong and fixed and powerful. Indeed, it seemed to me he got stronger and more powerful as the day progressed. I count it one of the greatest privileges of my life just to have observed the Lord’s anointed in such a manner.”
Elder Neil L. Andersen
On the afternoon of Wednesday, April 1, 2009, Elder Neil L. Andersen was surprised by a call to visit President Thomas S. Monson's office, where he was asked to fill the vacancy left by the death of Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin.
He spoke of that special experience with President Monson in his April 2009 general conference talk, "Come Unto Him."
“There is no man with more love than President Thomas S. Monson. His warmth is as the sunshine at midday. Yet, as he extended to me this sacred call, you can imagine the overwhelming soberness I felt as the eyes of the prophet of God peered deeply into the chambers of my soul. Happily, you can also imagine the love I felt from the Lord and from his prophet as President Monson wrapped his long and loving arms around me," Elder Andersen said.
“My dear brothers and sisters across the world, my knees are weak and my emotions close to the surface. I express my love for you and profoundly thank you for your sustaining vote.”
Elder L. Tom Perry
Elder L. Tom Perry was sustained as an apostle on Saturday, April 6, 1974. He had learned of his calling the previous Thursday evening, according to his biography, "An Uncommon Life: Years of Preparation," by Lee Tom Perry.
That day, he had been involved with the training of regional representatives. He had barely arrived home when the phone rang. He felt exhausted and almost hesitated to answer it, but he did. It was Brother Arthur Haycock, President Kimball's personal secretary, asking him to return and meet with President Kimball.
He arrived to find everyone but Haycock and President Kimball had gone home. As he entered President Kimball's office, the prophet arose and gave him a hug. This was followed by a worthiness interview. Finally, President Kimball issued the call for Elder Perry to fill the vacancy in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, his biography records.
When Elder Perry accepted, President Kimball embraced him a second time and invited him to return home and share the news with his family.
Elder Neal A. Maxwell
In a rare move, President Spencer W. Kimball called Elder Hinckley to be a third counselor in the First Presidency in July 1981, creating a vacancy in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
On July 21, Brother Neal A. Maxwell was in Salt Lake’s Holy Cross Hospital recovering from minor surgery on his nose. That’s where Haycock found him.
Soon, President Kimball entered the room “with an unusual air of urgency,” it reads in “A Disciple’s Life: The Biography of Neal A. Maxwell" by Bruce C. Hafen. Brother Maxwell was still a little dazed when President Kimball leaned over to give him a kiss on the cheek. In the process, he inadvertently nudged his nose, which was wrapped in bandages.
After some pleasantries, President Kimball didn't waste time.
“With loving soberness, he called Elder Maxwell to become a member of the Quorum of the Twelve,” the biography records. “Neal would need to obtain an early release from the hospital to attend the temple meeting two days later, without being able to tell his doctor why he must go.”
Two days later, Elder Maxwell was invited into the historic fourth-floor meeting room in the Salt Lake Temple, where he greeted the new First Presidency and 11 apostles. When he sat down, the newest member of the quorum realized he was still wearing his plastic hospital wristband, the book says.
President Gordon B. Hinckley
Elder Gordon B. Hinckley had been serving as an assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles when his phone rang at 7 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 30, 1961. It was President David O. McKay, and he asked if he had interrupted anything, according to President Hinckley’s biography, "Go Forward with Faith: The Biography of Gordon B. Hinckley," by Sheri Dew.
"Only my morning prayers," Elder Hinckley said.
Within an hour, Elder Hinckley was sitting next to President McKay, where he was asked to fill the vacancy in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles created a few months earlier when President Hugh B. Brown was called as a third counselor in the First Presidency.
"The words took Gordon’s breath away, and he searched without success for a response. How could it be, that such a call would come to him?" Dew wrote. "He had known, of course, of the vacancy in the Quorum. But never for a moment had he — or would he have — thought he would be called to fill it."
President McKay told him his grandfather and father were both worthy of such a call, as was he. It was the greatest compliment he could have received, Dew wrote.
"Tears began to fill my eyes as President McKay looked at me with those piercing eyes of his and spoke to me of my forebears," President Hinckley said in the biography. "My father was a better man than I have ever been, but he didn’t have the opportunities I have had. The Lord has blessed me with tremendous opportunities."
President Spencer W. Kimball
On July 8, 1943, future LDS Church President Spencer W. Kimball had gone home for lunch when his office telephone rang. The operator said, "Salt Lake City calling for Spencer Kimball," according to his biography, "Spencer W. Kimball: Twelfth President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," by Edward L. and Andrew E. Kimball.
It was President J. Reuben Clark, first counselor in the First Presidency. He called his home and found 12-year-old Eddie Kimball, who informed his father that "Salt Lake City is calling."
At that instant, President Kimball said he felt an "overpowering feeling" that he would be called to a high position in the church. Sure enough, President Clark told him he had been called to the Quorum of the Twelve.
"Oh Brother Clark! Not me. You don't mean me. There must be some mistake. I surely couldn't have heard you right," President Kimball said. His biography says he sank past the chair to the floor.
He was stunned by the news. He wanted to accept the calling but was overcome by feelings of self-doubt. Although he was prone to tears, at one point he wept uncontrollably on the kitchen floor as his wife tried to comfort him. A few days later, he flew to Salt Lake City as part of a previously scheduled trip. He met with President David O. McKay, second counselor in the First Presidency, and accepted the call.
Before moving to Salt Lake City, he visited every person he had done business with to settle "any injustice" that had occurred. He also resolved any differences with neighbors or people he felt he had offended.
President Ezra Taft Benson
President Kimball filled one of two vacancies left by the deaths of Elders Sylvester Q. Cannon and Rudger Clawson. The other new apostle was future LDS Church President Ezra Taft Benson.
On July 26, 1943, President Benson had just come to Salt Lake City when he received word that President McKay's office had been frantically trying to reach him. He was to meet President Heber J. Grant at his summer home in a nearby canyon, according to his biography, "Ezra Taft Benson," by Sheri Dew.
He met President Grant in his bedroom, where he was resting. The door was closed and he sat down next to the bed.
"President Grant took Ezra's right hand in both of his and, with tears filling his eyes, said simply, 'Brother Benson, with all my heart I congratulate you and pray God's blessing to attend you. You have been chosen as the youngest member of the Council of the Twelve Apostles,'" Dew wrote.
"The shock registered in Ezra's face. He felt as if the earth were sinking from beneath him. He had had no premonition of the calling."4 comments on this story
Like President Kimball, he was overwhelmed by feelings of doubt and unworthiness. He later recorded: "He held my hand for a long time as we both shed tears. For over an hour we were alone together, much of the time with our hands clasped warmly together. Tho (he was) feeble, his mind was clear and alert, and I was deeply impressed with his sweet, kindly, humble spirit as he seemed to look into my soul. Among other things he stated, 'The Lord has a way of magnifying men who are called to positions of leadership.'
"In my weakness I was able to state that I loved the church. He said, 'We know that, and the Lord wants men who will give everything for his work.'"
His biography states that his wife, Flora, was as surprised as anyone, although she had had premonitions about her husband and his life mission.
"It's been a lot of hard work and sacrifice and encouragement giving him faith in himself," Flora Benson later wrote, as recorded in the biography. "He wasn't all ready-made when I got him."
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