I remember when Elder Neal A. Maxwell died followed closely by the death of Elder David B. Haight. I thought at the time that the church had enjoyed what seemed to be an unusually long period of stability among the highest leadership of the church (The First Presidency and the Quorum of the twelve Apostles). That thought returned to me after the recent passing of President Hinckley – making the fourth death among those councils in under 4 years. That, in turn, brought my thoughts to sister Ruth Faust whose husband, President James E. Faust, was the third of those four to die (6 months ago). Today I learned that Sister Faust passed away this morning – 6 months to the day after her sweetheart.
As all my thoughts coalesced upon learning of her passing I began to feel as if the Lord is turning over the highest leadership of the church to a new generation. Returning to my previous thought, I looked at a chronology of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and found that the more than 9 years without a change that ended with the death of Elder Maxwell was truly unusual. Going all the way back to the beginning of that quorum there has rarely been more than two years without some change in the quorum. Among those rare periods that exceeded two years, none were even as long as 6 years.
What a marvelous thing for the church to have those years. During those 9 years the membership of the church grew by 30% (from 9 to 12 million) and the full term of President Hinckley’s presidency it grew by nearly 50%. (Membership actually almost tripled during the full 26 years that President Hinckley was in the First Presidency – starting from under 5 million and ending above 13 million.) It’s no wonder that his death was felt so strongly by so many in the church.