On Tuesday, January 16, 2018, Russell M. Nelson was formally presented as the seventeenth President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, following the death of Thomas S. Monson two weeks prior. President Nelson called as his counselors in the First Presidency Dallin H. Oaks as First Counselor and Henry B. Eyring as Second Counselor.
“The Lord’s will was clearly manifest and all were in accord,” stated Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the process involve in choosing and setting apart a new First Presidency.
The move, of course, means that Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor to President Monson and arguably one of the most beloved leaders of the Church, will return to the Twelve. The last time a counselor in the First Presidency was not retained was when Ezra Taft Benson opted not to keep Marion G. Romney, but that has long been associated with Romney’s health. (Romney was the highest in apostolic seniority, but even upon his return to the Twelve, his health prohibited him from performing his functions as President of the Twelve, resulting in Howard W. Hunter serving as Acting President.)
Outside of health, the last counselor not to be retained was Hugh B. Brown in 1970, whom Joseph Fielding Smith did not keep as a counselor. Historical accounts point to ideological friction between the two men. Therefore, while it is unwise to assume there are schisms among the Brethren, moving Elder Uchtdorf back into the body of the Twelve has only one true precedent, since health is clearly not a concern.
President Oaks had not served in the First Presidency up until this point. He was concurrently set apart as the President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, although day-to-day duties will be given to President M. Russell Ballard, called as Acting President of the Twelve.
President Eyring has now served in the First Presidency under three Church presidents. He was Second Counselor to President Gordon B. Hinckley for a handful of months following the death of James E. Faust until Hinckley’s death in January 2008. He then served as First Counselor to President Thomas S. Monson from 2008 until Monson’s death. The move to Second Counselor also marks the first time since J. Reuben Clark that a counselor has shifted from first to second while being retained.
“As we go forward together, I invite you to think about the majestic manner in which the Lord governs his Church,” stated President Nelson.
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