Yesterday in Church, someone asked, “So, who will be called as the next Apostle?” I responded with great certitude, “Merrill Bateman.” Of course, I have no idea whether Elder Bateman will become the next Apostle, but former BYU Presidents have a good track record in that regard. Actually, I didn’t find the question all that interesting because I know so few people who are legitimate candidates that the likelihood of my guessing correctly is close to zero. Only when another member of the ward suggested the name of someone I knew — someone not currently a General Authority, but who has reputedly “positioned himself” for such a calling — did I begin to contemplate the selection process.
Let me make a few things clear. First, I believe that Apostles are called of God. Second, the fact that new Apostles tend to be well known to the current Apostles does not diminish my faith in God’s hand. And third, I have no doubt that some people attempt to position themselves for such callings, though I have only limited notions of how one would accomplish that.
One of my earliest experiences with the calling of Apostles in 1984, when Russell M. Nelson and Dallin H. Oaks were called. At the time, I was on a mission in Austria, so my memory of this may be hazy, but I recall this being something of a surprise, given that both were then outside of the upper echelons of the Church hierarchy. And I have heard more than one person opine that these callings were intended as a (subtle?) rebuke to the then-members of the Seventy, who were allegedly busy speculating amongst themselves about succession to the apostleship.
Such behavior, of course, is a big no-no in the Church. Since my first days at a member, I have heard people say that we should not aspire to leadership positions, a topic explored in an entirely original manner by Nate below. Although I have embraced this idea, sometimes with too much enthusiasm, I wonder why this should be the case. In government and industry, leaders are developed and honed through competition. Why not in Church leadership? Does the refusal of the Church to encourage competition according to Gospel standards mean that Church leaders tend to develop ideas about leadership from the world’s standards, perhaps emphasizing efficiency in administration over spirituality?