Three new apostles for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were announced during the Saturday Afternoon Session of the 185th Semiannual General Conference. Minutes after that session of conference ended, a press conference was held in the Church Office Building in downtown Salt Lake City.
Michael Otterson from Public Affairs of the LDS Church introduced the new apostles and gave them a few minutes to share their thoughts upon receiving the call to be an apostle. After their brief remarks, members of the news media were invited to ask questions.
Below is the text to the entire news conference:
I have been given the great privilege of introducing to you the three new apostles whose names you heard announced this afternoon. I first acknowledge the presence of our D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve and Sister Christofferson and also our Elder Von D. Keetch and Sister Keetch. Elders Christofferson and Keetch oversee the work of Public Affairs in the church and have asked me to conduct.
And, of course, we welcome Elders Ronald A. Rasband, Elder Gary E. Stevenson and Elder Dale G. Renlund together with their wives.
This afternoon, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints assembled all over the world in dozens of nations raised their hands in a traditional show of support for new leaders. As you all know, three vacancies in the Quorum of the Twelve arose through the passing of three really beloved leaders of the church: Elder Boyd K. Packer, Elder L. Tom Perry and just two weeks ago Elder Richard G. Scott.
Not for more than a century have three new apostles been called at one time. The process of calling new apostles is a profoundly sobering and deeply spiritual one. While all of the apostles are free to suggest names to fill the vacancies, the decision rests solely on the shoulders of the president of the church — in this case, President Thomas S. Monson. There is no lobbying, no advocacy, debates or arguments. Rather there is much thought, much prayer and much pleading to understand the will of the Lord.
Elders Rasband, Stevenson and Renlund become the 98th, 99th and 100th apostles to be called since the organization of the church in 1830. They learned only on Tuesday of this past week that they were being called to the Twelve. I hope that they will share enough with you today about the sacred nature of that experience so you can begin to feel what it means to offer everything to the Lord and to know that you will be fully engaged in his work and witnessing of him every day for the rest of your life.
We’ve asked each of them to take two or three minutes to share their thoughts, and then we will invite your questions. First, Elder Rasband and Elder Stevenson, then Elder Renlund.
Being sustained in this general conference I, first and foremost, want to express my love and appreciation to the First Presidency of the church, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, to the membership of this great church worldwide who just raised their arms to sustain us in this holy and sacred calling. I, of course, know with all my heart — and my wife (Melanie) and I have it confirmed to us — that this calling comes from the Lord, Jesus Christ. Perhaps I could express how that actually happened.
On Tuesday, as Brother Otterson just mentioned, I was invited to come down and meet with the First Presidency and had the great honor and privilege of receiving this call from a very strong and very loving President Thomas S. Monson, who extended the call personally and used the words with me, “Brother Rasband, I want you to know that your call comes from the Lord, Jesus Christ.”
So of all the things that I could say to you in this opening few minutes it would be my great honor and great privilege to serve the Lord, to serve the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve for the rest of my life.
I want you all to know I love the Lord. I love this church. I am a sixth-generation Latter-day Saint. My pioneer ancestors who came from England and Denmark paid a heavy price that someone in their posterity would receive this call. I love those ancestors, the family I have come from and feel it a great honor and privilege to be here with all of you today. Thank you very much.
Well, thank you, Elder Rasband, and it’s a joy to stand before you today. I could describe something that was very similar to what was described by Elder Rasband. I would add that this has been a rather knee-buckling experience really, one that is completely unexpected from me, but one in which I feel a duty to serve.
In the past three and a half years I have been serving as the Presiding Bishop, and in that capacity I have had a particular focus in caring for the poor and the needy, which is one of the divinely appointed responsibilities of Christ’s church. In this capacity it included management of the broad network that would deliver both welfare assistance and emergency response to members of the church around the world as well as humanitarian aid for Heavenly Father’s children who live in some of the most difficult places some of the most impoverished places — some of the most oppressed places around the world.
I’m now humbled to be called to the Quorum of the Twelve, and with it, a greater ecclesiastical role. But yet, a responsibility that is very similar in caring for the poor and needy. There is a scriptural charge that says that we succor the weak, we lift up the hands that hang down and we strengthen the feeble knees.
In that comes the charge that we feel as members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in providing service that would be Christlike service and Christlike behavior. And so I offer my expression as well, deep feelings of my heart in sustaining the First Presidency, President Thomas S. Monson and in the sacred charge as an apostle of the Lord. Thank you very much.
I share the feelings of my brethren. On (Sept. 29) I received a completely unexpected call from the office of the First Presidency, and I was invited to come to the north boardroom of the Church Administration Building. I didn’t even know where the north boardroom was. I didn’t even know there was a north boardroom. I went down and when I arrived I was welcomed warmly by President Thomas S. Monson and his two counselors.
After we were seated, President Monson looked at me and he said, “Brother Renlund, we extend to you the call to serve as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.”
I was stunned and speechless. I think I murmured an acceptance of the calling. I was somewhere between apoplectic and catatonic. And I think President Monson sensed that my bones had dissolved and so he looked at me and he said, “God called you, the Lord made it known to me.”
A few minutes later, I found myself back in my office where I closed the door and fell to my knees. After I could collect myself I called my wife, Ruth, and told her. Her reaction was one of astonishment, but of absolute commitment to the Lord, his church and to me.
Even though I implicitly trusted President Monson, we recognized that we had both the right and an obligation to personally know down to our very bones that this call was of God. Over the ensuing hours, as we have prayed, we have come to receive that assurance by revelation that this call has come from God by prophecy. That assurance helps.
I don’t feel qualified, with the exception that I do know that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world. I can witness of his living reality. That he is my Savior, and your Savior, I know that that’s true. And I trust completely in President Monson’s statement that who he calls, he qualifies. Thank you very much.
Thank you very much. Now let’s take your questions, which you may wish to address to any one or to all three. And again, because time constraints allow only one question from each news organization, please be brief and allow enough time as possible for everyone else. Please use the microphone as we hand it to you, give your name. We will start with The Associated Press.
Brady McCombs, The Associated Press:
Good afternoon, Brady McCombs, Associated Press. What is the biggest challenge or problem facing the church and what needs to be done about it?
Well, Brady, there are many issues in the world today, and one of the great blessings about having prophets, seers and revelators is that word seer. And they’re able to look into the future; they’re able to speak at times like general conference; and for two sessions now, we’ve been hearing a response to your question. As the leaders of the church have addressed the very items that are on the minds of the leaders of this church. And, throughout this weekend, through prophets, seers and revelators and others called, we are going to hear the answer to that question spoken from the pulpit at general conference.
I would just add, thank you that we did hear much today. We heard about the challenge that we face today in holding and maintaining families, in raising children, in keeping children anchored in righteous principles. We just observed the pope who came to the United States and similarly talked about the challenges that are faced around the world for families and marriage. And so, I think these would be, it’s the most fundamental basic unit in society, and it’s the unit that is being challenged, and so that must be one of the great challenges.
Tad Walch, Deseret News
Thinking about the ancient apostles, early apostles in the LDS Church and the modern apostles in the church that you have personally worked with, how would you explain your thoughts and feelings about this apostolic calling in terms of that those less familiar with the church would understand?
Is it Tad? Tad, the Quorum of the Twelve, from the time of Christ to this very day, have been witnesses of his name in all the world. In the time of Christ, it might have been a smaller and more local area that they proclaimed. These days, the Quorum of the Twelve travels the Earth and proclaims the name of Christ. We bear his witness of him everywhere to members and nonmembers and friends and neighbors. To be a special witness of the name of Christ, I think, is our premier and foremost calling that hasn’t changed from the days that Christ said those with him in the Meridian of Time.
I’d just add, it’s also, it is absolutely that. That’s the complete answer. To be a witness of his name in all the world is not just to be a witness of his living reality. It’s to be a witness of his name — Christ, the Anointed One, The Messiah — his mission, his atonement and his work and everything that he did. And we’re witness of that as well — witnesses of his Atonement.
The Prophet Joseph Smith, if I may paraphrase, when asked what the fundamental principles of our religion were, he said, the fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the apostles and prophets concerning Jesus Christ; that he died, was buried and rose the third day and ascended to heaven. And every other thing that pertains to our religion is simply an appendage. I think that’s precisely what Elder Rasband was saying.
Peggy Fletcher Stack, Salt Lake Tribune:
Gordon Hinckley once told me that adulation was a disease he fought every day. He knew that the calling that you three have accepted comes with a fair amount of adulation from the members. What will you do to fight adulation and how will you communicate to the members that you are servants and shepherds and not bosses and CEOs?
Thank you, Peggy. You know, as we think about service and servants, I think that would put in perspective the call that we have. Really, as I think about this sacred call, I think that it is more leading by serving, not serving by leading. Jesus Christ considered himself a servant, and we, too, consider ourselves servants there to really serve others.
Peggy, I think we also remember our roots. In my case, I was born of a Wonder Bread truck driver and a dear mother who tried her very hardest to stay at home and to raise a family as a stay-at-home mother. These days, I have a wife who’s going to keep me well-grounded and help me to not suffer from that malady you just mentioned. Thank you.
I think that the, if I may, the thing that keeps us grounded is seeing people in different circumstances and really seeing them through Heavenly Father’s eyes. And when we see that, it changes us. And we seek to want to help the way the Savior would help. But I really believe that it’s seeing people through Heavenly Father’s eyes and recognizing and feeling the compassion the Savior has for them.
Elder Renlund, we’re doing fine for time. Would you mind elaborating a little bit on that because you served in the Africa Area and you had first-hand experience of what you just referred to.
So, as we, my wife and I, would travel through what the church calls the Africa Southeast Area — it consists of 34 countries — the church has a presence in 25 of them, and we travel and get to various places. And one memorable time was in the Central Congo and going into a congregation and asking what their challenges were.
I asked three times before finally an older gentleman stood up and he said, “Elder Renlund, how can we have challenges? We have the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
I wanted to grab him by his shirt and say, ‘Look around. You have nothing. No running water, no electricity.’ But I realized that they had the gospel of Jesus Christ. And my wife and I felt we would like to grow up and be like those Congolese Saints. Just like them, because they inspired us. They look like they have nothing, but they have everything. And that keeps us grounded.
Daniel Woodruff, KUTV2 News:
I think it’s fair to say that before conference today, there was quite a bit of anticipation and speculation that one of the new apostles would have been called from outside the United States. Each of you comes from this state of Utah. My question would be: What can you or what will you do as an apostle to help the members outside of the Mormon Corridor and United States feel understood and valued as members of the faith?
It’s a good question. None of us knew until we were sustained in conference today who the three apostles were going to be. We’re still taking that in as well. But one thing I certainly do know that our call has come through a prophet from the Lord, Jesus Christ. And I can’t answer your questions specifically other than to say that Jesus Christ loves everyone, and we’re going to be apostles to everyone. We’ve had opportunity to travel through the church. We love the Latter-day Saints everywhere. Brother Renlund just gave a great example of that. We’re not going to be apostles to our local community or to the state we’re from. We’re called to bear the name of Christ throughout the world. And Lord willing, we’ll go do that as he would have us do it, in a manner that would be pleasing to him.
Elder (Dallin H.) Oaks in this last session just spoke about Jesus Christ having paid the price to understand anybody and everybody that’s ever been a human being on this planet and the challenges that they go through. He paid the price. So even though his mortal life was confined to a very narrow geographic area, he paid the price so he could understand how everybody feels.
I think that we believe completely that by the power of the Holy Ghost, one may know the truth of all things. If we pay that price as you’re suggesting, of studying and learning and being with, somehow the Holy Ghost can bless us with the Savior’s compassion, with the Savior’s empathy to try to help. And I think that that is the way, it’s a gift of the Spirit to be able to be with people. And even though we might look differently, to feel and want to be like them.
Paul said to those who were under the law, he was as if under the law. To those that were without law, he wanted to be as if he were without law. To the weak, he wanted to be weak. He wanted to be all things to all men, so that he could by all means he could bring some to Christ. And I think that’s the spiritual gift that we speak.
Sam Penrod, KSL:
Could you each share what you look forward to in your new calling after having years of full-time church service?
One of the great blessings and responsibilities of the Twelve are to be the traveling council and to travel the ends of the Earth. In a way, this would something for me that I can continue to look forward to is being able to connect with the members of the church everywhere in the world. It is a global church and the opportunity to see and feel and associate and testify to the four corners of the world would be one of those things.
I would suggest that the other would be a continued association and now an association with the other members of the Twelve who comprise the Quorum of the Twelve. These are great men, and they’ve been in my life from a very young age as I’ve looked at their service over many, many years. It’s been one of awe, really, and respect and sustaining and to think of sitting in council and being able to learn and be tutored and to feel of their strength and their testimonies of Jesus Christ and his Atonement is something I believe will just be a beautiful experience.
First of all, I could answer the question better if I could at some point get a good night’s sleep. I’ve been afflicted by severe insomnia since Tuesday. I think that the whole purpose of the church is to deliver the Atonement of Jesus Christ to people.
And the greatest joy that comes is helping to bring the Atonement of Christ into the lives of people anywhere. I think this gives the opportunity to do that in a bigger scale, in more places and being a witness of Christ in his name in all the world. I can’t imagine what this is going to be like. I really have no clue and what that will be like but it’s being able to see the Atonement of Christ work on people throughout the world. It, to me, is the most fascinating thing that I look forward to.
What do you have in your experience or background or your professional background that will facilitate you in being able to respond to the needs of an ever-more diverse church?
Well, for my part, I’ve had the great honor and privilege professionally of working for one of the great Utah families — the Huntsman family. I’ve been able to sit at the seat of John M. Huntsman Sr. in my profession where I learned that the life of every human being is more important than the assets that we employ to make our products.
So, I think I learned in my profession the value of every person and that people are more important than anything else we can do. I will always be grateful for the training I had in my professional life before coming into this beautiful experience of my church service, to have learned that it’s people that matter most.
One would be that having an opportunity to travel the world. More specifically, the beginning of my service as a missionary and following a great amount of time in Asia, gaining an appreciation of cultural diversity, having observed countries that move from developing countries to more sophisticated countries, all of those things, I think, lend themselves to what I see here.
I would have to say that a very similar thing to Elder Rasband. An organization really is people. It is no stronger than the people. Seeing the goodness of people everywhere — of a factory worker in China or a sales manager in Europe — the people are really the blessing. That’s what I learned in my professional career and that just has been amplified in the past eight years that I’ve had serving as a general authority in diverse places in the world.
I was a physician. I was a cardiologist. My wife would say, ‘A specialist learns more and more about less and less until they finally know everything about nothing.’ My area was very narrow, just dealing with heart failure and transplantation. She’s also said it’s a bad prognostic sign to become one of my patients because of that patient population.
I think that led me to see the worth of an individual soul. I think from a background point of view, I lived as a teenager in Sweden and Finland for a few years and then served a mission in Sweden. We lived in Baltimore for about five and a half years and then now in Africa for five of the last six. I suspect that the same lesson that these brethren have shared about individual being of great worth as the important one.
You may not appreciate that the children and the grandchildren learned of these calls at the same time you did. And most were either in the Conference Center or at home watching. We have managed to assemble at least some of these over the past couple of hours.