Various news outlets reported this morning that Pope Benedict XVI has chosen to resign from his position in the Catholic Church. As one of the largest religions in the world this is certainly a significant announcement, so it’s no wonder the story has been so widely covered.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormon Church, has a leader who leads the Church world-wide as well. Mormons do not refer to their leader as the Pope, but rather the President or prophet. There have been 16 prophets of the Mormon Church since its founding in April 1830, but Mormons really see today’s modern-day prophets as a continuation of the type of leadership God has always had on the earth with prophets that lead His Church (think Moses or Abraham, or even Peter).
The current prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is Thomas S. Monson. He has been president of the Church for 5 years and succeeded the late Gordon B. Hinckley.
It’s not my place to comment on the Pope’s decision. But I thought I would take a moment to discuss how succession of leadership works in the Mormon Church.
The prophet and president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the leader of the entire Church. He appoints two counselors to assist him in his calling. He serves in that position until he passes away. The next prophet is chosen from the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (a group of 12 men who help govern the church, just like the 12 apostles Jesus called in His time). The current president of that quorum at the time of the prophet’s death becomes the next leader of the Mormon Church. It’s a very simple, straightforward process.
In my lifetime I’ve witnessed this transition of leadership several times. Even though the Church always knows who the next leader will be, it’s inspiring to see the new president take that position. I wish the best to the Catholic Church as they accept a new leader in the coming weeks.