Nepotism in the Church

Jeff SpectorGeneral Authorities, General Conference, Leaders, Mormon 59 Comments

As I watched the press conference last week between the Sunday sessions of General Conference, I found out that the new 2nd Counselor of the Young Women General Presidency, Ann Dibbs, is a daughter of President Thomas S Monson. It got me thinking about how many relatives of Church leaders also become leaders themselves. Is nepotism a problem in the Church today?

So I did a survey of available data to compile a short list of those connections. It is by no means an exhaustive list, but it is somewhat representative. I went down to the Mission President level, searching the archives at LDS Church News to the year 2000. I didn’t look at Temple Presidents or Stake Presidents. It is much easier to find the data for older leaders than for the more current ones.

Here are the sources I used.

Early in the Church history, one can imagine that most of the family of Joseph Smith was involved in Church leadership because there were just not that many members. Brigham Young called many of his sons to leadership positions, but not all were successful.

I’ll not make any judgments about the qualifications of these family members, but I assume that growing up in the home of a General Authority or future General Authority is probably good training for assuming a leadership position. Nowadays, it is less common because there are many more men and women in the Church to draw from throughout the world.

So, is it about choosing qualified members for leadership, who happened to be related to GAs or is it just plain nepotism?

You decide?

Name Position Relationship to
Relative Position
Paul Bowen Pieper Miss Pres 2004 Son in Law A Theodore Tuttle 1st Quorum 70
Gordon B. Hinckley President Nephew Alonzo A Hinckley Quorum of 12
Francis M Lyman Quorum of 12 Son Amasa Lyman Quorum of 12
Antoine R Ivins 1st Council 70 Son Anthony W Ivins FP 1st Counselor
Susan W Tanner YW Gen Pres Daughter


Barbara W Winder

John R Winder

RS Gen Pres

FP 1st Counselor

Benjamin Edwin Banks Miss Pres 2003 Son Ben B Banks Pres of 70
Brad B. Banks Miss Pres 2002 Son Ben B Banks Pres of 70
Allan Forrest Packer 1st Quorum of 70 Son Boyd K Packer Quorum of 12
Brigham Young Jr Quorum of 12 Son Brigham Young President
John Willard Young FP 1st Counselor Son Brigham Young President
Joseph A Young Apostle Son Brigham Young President
Joseph Young 1st Council 70 Brother Brigham Young President
Zina D. H. Young RS Gen Pres Wife Brigham Young President
Lorenzo Snow President Brother in Law

Brother in Law

Brigham Young

Joseph Smith



Stephen Lowell McConkie Miss Pres 2008 Son Bruce R McConkie Quorum of 12
Anthony W Middleton Jr Miss Pres 2005 Brother in Law Cecil O Samuelson 1st Quorum 70
Merrill C Oaks 2nd Quorum 70 Brother Dallin H Oaks Quorum of 12
Emmeline B Wells RS Gen Pres Wife Daniel H Wells FP 2nd Counselor
Rulon S Wells 1st Council 70 Son Daniel H Wells FP 2nd Counselor
John Huntsman, Sr. Area Auth 70 Son in Law David B Haight Quorum of 12
Alan Conway Ashton Miss Pres 2004 Grandson David O McKay President
David Lawrence McKay Gen Super SS Son David O McKay President
George Richard Hill III 1st Quorum 70 Nephew David O McKay President
Ezra Taft Benson President G-Grandson Ezra T. Benson Quorum of 12
Richard R Lyman Quorum of 12 Son Francis M Lyman Quorum of 12
Franklin D Richards 1st Quorum 70 Grandson Franklin D Richards Quorum of 12
George F Richards Quorum of 12 Son Franklin D Richards Quorum of 12
Bathsheba W Smith RS Gen Pres Wife George A. Smith FP 1st Counselor
John Henry Smith FP 2nd Counselor Son George A. Smith FP 1st Counselor
LeGrand Richards Quorum of 12 Son George F Richards Quorum of 12
Abraham H Cannon Quorum of 12 Son George Q Cannon FP 1st Counselor
John Q Cannon 2nd Counselor PB Son George Q Cannon FP 1st Counselor
Sylvester Q Cannon Quorum of 12 Son George Q Cannon FP 1st Counselor
May Green Hinckley Pri GP Step-Mother Gordon B Hinckley President
Richard G Hinckley 1st Quorum 70 Son Gordon B Hinckley President
Virginia H. Pearce YW GP 1st C Daughter Gordon B Hinckley President
Dale Edwin Andersen Miss Pres 2005 Son H Verlan Andersen 1st Quorum 70
J Golden Kimball 1st Council 70 Son Heber C Kimball FP 1st Counselor
Quentin L Cook Quorum of 12 GG-Grandson Heber C Kimball FP 1st Counselor
Spencer W Kimball President Grandson Heber C Kimball FP 1st Counselor
Anthony W Ivins Quorum of 12 Cousin Heber J Grant President
George I Cannon 1st Quorum 70 Grandson Heber J Grant President
Lucy Grant Cannon YW Gen Pres Daughter Heber J Grant President
Henry Johnson Eyring Miss Pres 2003 Son Henry B Eyring FP 1st Counselor
Eldred G Smith Patriarch Son Hyrum G Smith Patriarch
Joseph Fielding Smith Patriarch Son Hyrum Mack Smith Quorum of 12
John Smith Patriarch Son Hyrum Smith Asst President
Joseph F. Smith President Son Hyrum Smith Asst President
Heber J Grant President Son Jedidiah M. Grant FP 2nd Counselor
Peter F. Evans Miss Pres 2002 Son in Law Joe J Christensen Pres of 70
Spencer Kohler Christensen Miss P res 2000 Son Joe J Christensen Pres of 70
Joseph Holbrook Groberg MTC Pres Brother John H. Groberg 1st Quorum 70
George Albert Smith President Son John Henry Smith FP 2nd Counselor
Nicholas G Smith Asst to 12 Son John Henry Smith FP 2nd Counselor
Hyrum G Smith Patriarch Grandson John Smith Patriarch
John Whitaker Taylor Quorum of 12 Son John Taylor President
William W Taylor 1st Council 70 Son John Taylor President
Keith A. Anderson Miss Pres 2002 Son Joseph A Anderson 1st Quorum 70
David B. Wirthlin MTC Pres 2000 Brother Joseph B Wirthlin Quorum of 12
Kent Walker Farnsworth Miss Pres 2004 Son in Law Joseph B Wirthlin Quorum of 12
David A Smith 1st Counselor PB Son Joseph F Smith President
Florence Smith Jacobsen YW Gen Pres Granddaughter


Joseph F Smith

Heber J Grant



Hyrum Mack Smith Quorum of 12 Son Joseph F. Smith President
Joseph Fielding Smith President Son Joseph F. Smith President
Bruce R McConkie Quorum of 12 Son in Law Joseph Fielding Smith President
Joseph B Wirthlin Quorum of 12 Son Joseph L Wirthlin Presiding Bishop
Richard B Wirthlin 2nd Quorum 70 Son Joseph L Wirthlin Presiding Bishop
Emma Smith RS Gen Pres Wife Joseph Smith President
George A Smith FP 1st Counselor 1st Cousin Joseph Smith President
Hyrum Smith Asst President Brother Joseph Smith President
John Smith FP Asst Counselor Uncle Joseph Smith President
Joseph Smith Sr Patriarch Father Joseph Smith President
William B Smith Quorum of 12 Brother Joseph Smith President
Lee Tom Perry Miss Pres 2005 Son L. Tom Perry Quorum of 12
LeGrand R. Curtis Jr Area Auth 70 Son LeGrand Curtis 2nd Quorum 70
Robert Karl Merrell Miss Pres 2003 Son in Law LeGrand Curtis 2nd Quorum 70
Eliza Roxcy Snow RS Gen Pres Sister Lorenzo Snow President
Peter Huntsman Area Auth 70 Son in Law M Russell Ballard Quorum of 12
John Knapp Baird Miss Pres 2001 Son in Law Marion D Hanks Pres of 70
Joseph F Merrill Quorum of 12 Son Marriner W Merrill Quorum of 12
Stephen Kent Ashton Miss Pres 2004 Son Marvin J Ashton Quorum of 12
Marvin J Ashton Quorum of 12 Son Marvin O Ashton 1st Counselor PB
Matthew Cowley Quorum of 12 Son Matthias Cowley Quorum of 12
M Russell Ballard Quorum of 12 Grandson Melvin J Ballard Quorum of 12
Elizabeth Ann Whitney RS Gen Pres Wife Newell K Whitney Presiding Bishop
Orson F Whitney Quorum of 12 Grandson


Newell K Whitney

Heber C Kimball

Presiding Bishop

FP 1st Counselor

Kevin Rex Pinegar Miss Pres 2004 Son Rex D Pinegar Pres of 70
Amy Brown Lyman RS Gen Pres Wife Richard R Lyman Quorum of 12
Ralph Joseph Marsh Miss Pres 2004 Son in Law Robert L Backman Pres of 70
H. David Burton Presiding Bishop Grandson Robert T. Burton 1st C PB
David Reed Webster Sr Miss Pres 2004 Son in Law Russell M Nelson Quorum of 12
Michael Tally Ringwood Miss Pres 2004 Son in law Russell M Nelson Quorum of 12
Clifford E Young Asst to 12 Son Seymour B Young 1st Council 70
Levi E Young 1st Council 70 Son Seymour B Young 1st Council 70
S Dilworth Young 1st Quorum 70 Grandson


Seymour B Young

Brigham Young

1st Council 70


Margaret D. Nadauld YW Gen Pres Wife Stephen D Nadauld 2nd Quorum 70
Stayner Richards Asst to 12 Brother


Stephen L Richards

Willard Richards

Quorum of 12
Elaine A. Cannon YW Gen Pres Daughter in Law Sylvester Q Cannon Quorum of 12
Ann Dibb YW GP 1st C Daughter Thomas S Monson President
Abraham O Woodruff Quorum of 12 Son Wilford Woodruff President
Julie B Beck RS Gen Pres Daughter Wm Grant Bangerter Pres of 70

Comments 59

  1. In the immortal words of Elder J. Golden Kimball,

    “Some people say a person receives a position in this church through revelation, and others say they get it through inspiration, but I say they get it through relation. If I hadn’t been related to Heber C. Kimball, I wouldn’t have been a damn thing in this church.”

    1. I’m not at all sure how I came across this website tonight but a big ‘thank you’ to the author and all who have left comments. We have had a wonderful time reading and laughing about this. J. Golden Kimball is one of my personal favorites. On a more serious note, my cousin was called to be a mission president over seas. To my knowledge he had no ties to any of the GA’s. However, he did serve as a bishop then stake president. He does come from an awesome family that gave him a great template to follow.
      My own church calling pedigree is FAR less impressive! Not to worry though, I have a personal relationship with Christ. He is my ONLY foot in the door! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. Amen, KC. From the horse’s mouth, so to speak.

    I think, though, that in the case of, say, Quentin L. Cook, the fact that he was a great-great-grandson of Heber C. Kimball was incidental to his call, whereas in the case of Richard Hinckley and Allan Packer, their fathers being apostles is why they were on the radar screen of selection in the first place.

    We know so little about the process of calling new mission presidents and General Authorities. John Dehlin mentioned a General Authority Candidate Database which he worked on years ago, so there is more formality and structure to these calls than we would be inclined to think.

    The question is, who gets to nominate candidates to this database? I would assume that it is not coincidental that two sons-in-law of Elder Nelson were called as mission presidents in the same year. Those doing the nominating should have a fairly good idea of the candidate’s worthiness and finances, for instance, which family might be able to do.

    I wonder though whether some of these folks who have relatives already serving in the hierarchy struggle with a reduced sense of authority as they exercise their callings, as many will think they know why they were really called.

  3. “So, is it about choosing qualified members for leadership, who happened to be related to GAs or is it just plain nepotism?”

    Probably some of both. But if there is rampant nepotism, it’s a long-established pattern. Just look at the network of related prophets/kings/judges in the Book of Mormon. Of course, there may have been completely different cultural expectations than we have now.

    If nepotism was NOT a problem at all, I don’t think Pres. Hinckley would have gone to such great lenghts to assure us that Richard Hinckley’s name was not submitted by his dear old dad.

  4. Post

    Thanks, KC, I meant to put that quote in there! It kind of sums it up in some instances.

    The process of picking Mission Presidents come first from Stake Presidents. They are asked to submit some names of men in their Stake who, in their opinion, would qualify. In many cases, it is the Stake Presidents themselves, nearing the end of their term that get picked by the AA70s and Apostles they come in contact with.

    They have more contacts with the Apostles than you might think. At least twice a year, if not more.

  5. I think a lot of it is who is known–the radar screen in #2. For instance, I recall that on my mission when one of my friends was made AP, the next transfer a fair number of us were made ZLs. I don’t think that this was the “mission mafia” so much as the practical necessity of relying on people you’ve already come to know and trust.

    In addition, there are dozens if not hundreds of men in the church qualified to fill these positions. So why not pick someone you know? So I guess the question is, is nepotism a problem when qualified men (or men as qualified as would be called otherwise) are being called?

  6. I think everybody should just let the hierarchy do what they will do and not worry too much about it. I’m sure that if you really looked at each situation individually you would see a whole myriad of things influencing decision making and calls, Nepotism being one of them. Where you find human beings, you will find Nepotism and any number of other types of favoritism.

    People should concern themselves with their own callings and their own spheres of influence. When Jesus comes back then things can really get fixed. I don’t really think things are fundamentally broken as much as you have a bunch of people (imagine that! Humans) actually running things. I suppose we could put chimps in there, but then things really would never get done. When the Lord put people in there, he knew what he was doing, and was apparently aware that these kinds of things would happen.

    BTW, love the J Golden remark.

  7. Why is this a problem? How in the world would a prophet, apostle, or other leader be able to have access to the spiritual, economic, and emotional preparedness of the entire church population when choosing a person to fill a position? It doesn’t work that way on the local level as a bishop chooses a young mens president or relief society president, and from a logistics standpoint, it *cannot* work that way on the general level. People work with what and whom they know. I would argue that its how the Lord has asked us to do it: see the Lord’s counsel to Oliver Cowdery in D&C 9:7-9 ([7] Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me. [8] But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right. [9] But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong; therefore, you cannot write that which is sacred save it be given you from me.): you can’t study something out that you don’t know very well. So Pres. Hinckley asks whether it would be right to let his daughter be YW GP 1st counsellor, and the Lord confirms that to his heart and mind. No problem.

    I think the lesson we can all learn from the “nepotism” of the church is that there are many in our congregations that would serve just fine in the general offices of the church, but because of location, circumstance, or whatever, are not called to those offices. The Lord will accomplish his work through his willing servants regardless of whom is called. Does that drive a nail in the coffin of predestination? Certainly. Does that turn us all into mindless cogs in a machine? I don’t think so. Is the church the worse for the fact that many of the general offices have been filled with people related to other general authorities over time? Perhaps so, perhaps not; we can be reasonably sure that the Lord is still in charge, and that his work is indeed rolling forth despite us all.

  8. Post
  9. In fairness, we can’t really examine nepotism in general authority calls without acknowledging a past tradition of special “bloodlines” in Mormonism. Joseph Smith was claimed to be a descendant of Jesus, as well as a “pure Ephraimite.” When Heber J. Grant was called as an apostle, he wondered why, and was allegedly told in a dream that he was given the call specifically to honor his fathers (Jedediah Grant biologically, Joseph Smith in sealing lines), rather than anything he had done personally. When Rex Lee (a descendant of John D. Lee) became president of BYU, a letter to the editor of Sunstone Magazine praised the appointment, pointing out that years earlier, another John D. Lee descendant was refused for hiring as a teacher in the LDS church education system because (a) he was a descendant of John D. Lee, and (b) his mother was a convert. Steve Benson (even considering his personal anger toward the LDS church) pointed out that in the Ezra Taft Benson family, the lineage of a proposed spouse was a factor in whether that person was acceptable to the family. This type of thinking has largely disappeared from the modern LDS church, but traces of it do continue in the form of nepotism in callings.

  10. Yes, John, “believing blood” was one of the phrases used for this practice, though in fairness, Brigham Young applied that same term to all non-gentiles.

    Of interest, the phrase “royal blood” was also used to delineate early “chosen” Mormon lineages, particularly the Smith family. Brigham Young went so far in Nauvoo as to say that by taking the reigns of the LDS church, he was “protecting” the “royal blood,” in the person of Joseph Smith III. Brigham claimed at the time that if “young Joseph” was to become president of the LDS church, “his blood would be sought.”

  11. I’ve always thought that geographical location was a big part of this also. I don’t know that pulling the best and brightest out of the non-Mormon corridor stakes would necessarily be the best way to serve those areas.

  12. Don’t forget: Elder Packer’s son was called to the 1st Quorum of the Seventy, and Pres. Eyring’s as an AA70. On the other hand, I recall hearing that there was controversy during Pres. Benson’s adminstration about calling his son the Quorum of the 12. It did not happen. Maybe the Quorum of the 12 is just too high profile.

    Finally a comment on the chart. Some of the names are from a time when the church was so small that a significant degree of inter-connectednes was (as you point out) to be expected. Others are far removed from their general authority ancestors.

    Nepostism (perceived or real) always rubs me the wrong way. If I were running the Church (a frightening thought), I would need a very, very direct revelation to call a sibling, child or in-law to a promnent position.

  13. Where did you hear this regarding ETB’s son, “Martin Willey?” Are you talking about Reed Benson? If so, he’s such a polarizing political figure, that I can’t imagine the quorum of the twelve agreeing. Not only would he sow dissension in the quorum (as ETB did, at one time), but he’d give a lot of credence to the right-wing nutjobs among the LDS, who seek after the likes of Bo Gritz.

  14. Well, my initial response to this post was “Whew! I’m certainly never going to be called to anything major.”

    I do have a few questions about methodology, though. Presumably, in the early days of the church, almost everyone was related, so it wasn’t really nepotism. As the church grows, the percentage should get lower over time. So understanding the ratio over time might be useful. We would need to know what the denominator is here, probably for each position listed.

    Some of these positions are much more common than others (mission president & patriarch and even 70 and GAs to some extent), so I think it makes the list a lot longer than it would otherwise be. Here’s the breakdown of what comprises your list (you had 101 on your list, making the math pretty easy):
    Patriarchs – 5%
    President – 8%
    Women (lumped all together) – 14%
    Mission Presidents – 21%
    Quorum of the 12 Apostles – 21%
    (As they say on Gilligan’s Island) “And the rest” – 32%

    I’ll have to crack open the Almanac to see how many have held these offices to date and we’ll see what’s what.

  15. Post


    I agree, the older connection, GGF, GGGF, etc are too remote to make a real connection. But, I think, pioneer blood runs very deep and a lot of folks are very proud and very loud about those connections. They do matter somewhat. But, then again, everyone in Utah is related by marriage, aren’t they…. ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. Jeff,

    The recent conference report listed Alan Packer of Sandy, Utah, as a new member of the 1st Quorum of the Seventy. And F. Michael Watson, the secretary to the First Presidency. Is he a relation, I wonder?

  17. Post

    Oh, well, then Martin is right about Packer. F. Michael Watson was also called to 1st Q of 70. And a lot of CES folks are called as GAs and Mission Presidents. Some at a very young (Late 30s) age.

    I fixed the Packer listing

  18. This is impressive.

    I wish my blood was believing. Then I might have a boat (to be used only on Saturdays for the benefit of the youth.)

  19. Interesting post, Jeff. I assume you are bringing up bloodlines because, as a Levite, you are wondering when your blood right to the Bishopric will be recognized in your home ward? ๐Ÿ™‚

    A few thoughts:

    1. Through great research, you’ve found 100 family connections in leadership callings. I wonder what percentage that comes out to when you consider how many hundreds of thousands of callings are in the total pool? For example, do family connections exist in 1% of callings? 10%? 25%? I think that number is the relevant one to determine whether nepotism exists.

    2. I agree there are thousands of people who are qualified and worthy to be general officers of the church, but the Brethren can’t be expected to know them all. So they have to rely on the people they DO know, and that of course includes their family.

    3. I think nepotism is a concern if you’re calling an UNQUALIFIED candidate to an office because of a family connection. But so long as they’re calling QUALIFIED family members, I have no problem with that; there are thousands who are capable and one is as good as any other.

    4. A funny note. People often do family history to discover whether they have a royal bloodline. In my case, I discovered that as of 1880, my pioneer great-great-great grandfather was divorced and living with his mother at age 50, was illiterate, and was working as a janitor in a pool hall in Richfield, UT. How’s that for royal blood, baby?! ๐Ÿ™‚

  20. Nick: I cannot remember where I heard that, but let me do some research. My point is exactly the one you made: he was too controversial, despite his “believing blood,” for the Q of the 12, and they did not go along.

  21. Well… I’ve never thought nepotism was nearly as wrong as people make it out to be…

    Although in religious realms I’d be more concerned about it I guess.

  22. Minor correction. You have to be more than just a Levite to have a right to the office of Bishop. You have to be a literal descendent of Aaron. There would theoretically be plenty of Levites who are not descendents of Aaron.

  23. I second Andrew’s first point in #22 – and Martin’s second paragraph in #14. I think there are way too many Mission Presidents to make those callings a legitimate instance of nepotism, and before the mid-1900’s it was relatively (*grin*) hard to get someone who was objectively qualified through prior service who wasn’t related somehow to a GA – since polygamy tied MANY members to the same root families one way or another, and it takes 3-4 generations to expand those natural circles of influence.

    So, from a purely practical standpoint, I would exclude all MP’s (and Auxiliary Presidency members, since they tend to live in the SLC area to avoid having to relocate) from the list. I would focus on the 12 and the 70 – the true “General Authorities” – who were called after 1900 (at the earliest) and compute the actual percent of those callings that have been filled over the years by family of that same group.

  24. This is interesting, but not shocking. It might be easier to form a list of offices that had no relation. Also it is my understanding the Church Patriarch office does require a direct lineage to the Smiths.

  25. Post


    “Interesting post, Jeff. I assume you are bringing up bloodlines because, as a Levite, you are wondering when your blood right to the Bishopric will be recognized in your home ward? :)”

    Funny, you should say that! My Grandfather was a Levite, but since I am the product of his daughter and my dad, i am not since it is patriarchal.

    Beside, no one I know would want to be Bishop, would they? Especially when they have been. or been a counselor. And certainly not to serve without counselors!

    Luckily, Bookslinger is right on the literal descendant of Aaron business. There was a funny story about that which I need to find.

  26. I know that a Sister Winder was the General RS Pres a few years ago. She is the mother of Sister Tanner who was just released as the General YW Pres.

    I am fully aware that many times callings are made in terms of who is able to best serve, and best known to the person making the call. I’m a bit confused as to how close it is kept “in the family” with as many qualified people there are in the Salt Lake area. Maybe there arn’t very many spiritual people there and so they have to go “back to the well” on a very frequent basis.

  27. “For what itโ€™s worth, Reed Benson was my Book of Mormon instructor at BYU. He had a heart of gold and he never tried to politically indoctrinate us. He was just a sweet old man.”

    I, too, had Reed as an instructor. However, I thought his class was utterly worthless. Lots of rote memorization with absolutely no doctrinal discussion. Hated every minute of it.

  28. I’ve wondered about this before. That’s a lot of research you did. I think a lot of it has to do with knowing the right people. All of us know many, many people who could serve in those capacities, but the way we receive answers is to consider people and then pray about them. It’s easier to have a large group of people to consider who are near to us, so that’s definitely part of it. Also, I think the fact that these people have raised children who are capable of being in these positions is cool.

  29. Post

    It is one thing to choose leaders for callings that need to be a Church HQ, such as the Auxiliary General Presidencies and boards. But for GAs, Mission Presidents, Temple Presidents, etc, those men and their families are going to serve somewhere else other than SLC, so the proximity to SLC is not necessary.

    But, the same condition applies in Church as in business, that you are more likely to call on people you know and trust. The same is true on the local level as well. The dramatic calling of a brother or sister out of the congregation, previously unknown to everyone, is not common, if it ever happens.

    Other the other hand, I would never say that a GA’s family should not be able to serve in a leadership position just because of the connection because, as I stated in my blog, I am sure growing up in the GA family is a wonderful experience. Except for the Dad’s (and sometimes, the Mom’s) time away from home.

  30. Great info. Thanks! Actually, just recently I had been thinking about this, and the great list that was in the back of one of Quinn’s Hierarchy books. It’s be great if someone took that as a starting point, made any corrections/additions, and kept it current.

  31. If there were 21 apostles with relationship connections (ref #16), and Christofferson being apostle #96, then one-fifth of the 12 apostles in this dispensation have family connections. This is probably the highest percentage of the callings listed. Also, given roughly 110 MP called each year and I only saw one MP from 2008 on the list, I would guess that Mission Presidents have the least family connected on the list.

  32. Quinns Appendix in Extensions is facinating. I check it whenever a new apostle is called. It is very thorough.

    Quinn believes that nepotism occurs because it is an additional check on loyalty. I thought that that was interesting.

  33. Jeff,

    How did you discover more distant relationships existed, like Elder Nelson’s sons-in-law both called as mission presidents in 2004? Does the Church almanac really list that? I would suspect that the incidence of relation with mission presidents would be higher than in the Quorum of 12, mainly because of the large number needing to be called each year, and the relatively low visibility when nepotism does occur. Availability interviews are conducted by apostles and other General Authorities with mission president candidates to determine not just worthiness but health conditions, family situation, financial impact of a call, etc. That would be a prohibitive thing to do a lot of–I could see a lot of these relationships precluding the need for additional travel on the part of General Authorities.

  34. Post


    I went year by year through the LDS Church News Archives to see the callings of Mission Presidents. i would have gone all the way (from 1988), but ran out of time. It was quite tedious but it is interesting to see where these mission Presidents come from and their history. What I wasn’t really able to tell is if any GAs from South America had sons who became mission presidents. those GAs tend to be younger so their kids are still young.

    The church news lists the wife and her parents. In some cases, I had to use Family Search to confirm some of the older relationships.

  35. Actually, there’s another confounding variable at work here that may not be considered. The real problem is how hard is it to call someone who isn’t related to someone in the church. Think about that for a moment. The church is relatively small still. While we are still growing, GA’s are going to increasingly come from those who come from convert lineage, but the truth of the matter is that once a convert or their child marries someone whose family has been in the church for a while, it is really hard to keep the apparent nepotism out of the church because at some point there just weren’t all that many families that went west, and once you move down the line far enough with enjoinders to marry inside the faith, you absolutely end up with a situation where everyone called to leadership has a grandfather or greatgrandfather or in-laws at the very least who was a church leader. It’s guaranteed.

    Now this will happen less and less if the church continues to grow, but in our current situation, it can’t be helped. So how do you determine nepotism? First you have to determine qualification (which in the case of spiritual leadership is incredibly difficult–I know, I have a fair bit of training in job analysis, which is all about determining the qualifications for a job). Are the people being called qualified. In other words are people getting called ONLY because they are related to someone else or in LARGE part because of their relation?

    Second, you have to determine the ratios–and we have four boxes–qualified vs. unqualified, people in the position, people not in the position. In a normal job, it’s all about who applied, but in the church, we don’t think of it that way–so we have look at who is considered, but we don’t know that. So for the purposes of this we would have to assume that God is considering every qualified male member of the church for any leadership position that opens and for YW/RS positions, every qualified female member of the church. We could narrow the field quite a bit by tossing out certain groups, but I don’t think we will…

    Let’s say that by ‘qualified’, we mean merely ‘active’, although ‘active temple attenders’ is probably more accurate. I don’t know what the activity rates are in every location, so I’m going to say 50%. So, let’s just say 50% of 13 million= 6.5m, and 50% of that (male)=3.25m and 50% of that (which I’m sure is nowhere near accurate) is melchizedek priesthood)=1.6125m as a figure of the potential number of ‘applicants’ for all leadership positions for all church positions top to bottom, including GA’s.

    There is considerably more fluidity towards the bottom (somewhat like a freezing river) in these callings, so the nepotism, if it exists is not only more severe at the top, its going to be more noticeable and problematic. So we have to see first of these 1.6 million men, what proportion are related to those that are currently serving or have served in the past in the top leadership. I’d say 2 generations as a cap (so grandfathers, but no more). In-laws of the immediate generation are also going to be included, but a grandson-in-law is not. From there, I would further need to know what proportion of the leaders fall in this category and what do not, and then what proportion of those in this category are NOT in leadership positions.

    Now, having done all that hard work (okay, I haven’t really, but I would love to have the time and information to do actually do it), let’s say we find evidence of nepotism as defined by showing a clear pattern of men who are related to current or former presidents or apostles (I think we need to limit it to just the first presidency and quorum of the twelve as they are the ones issuing the calls for the most part…) being called to be GA’s. What then? What does that show? There are so many confounding variables that we have only begun to scratch the surface. Which is why sociology and psychology get a bad rap. Because human sciences are so blasted hard to deal with.

    We are constantly struggling with the fact that 90% of our variables are confounded by other variables, which in turn have confounding variables. I think that of the physical sciences only meteorologists truly understand how that feels…economists, of course, are of the same stripe as us.

    Physicists, having finally nailed down the easy stuff, are finally learning what hard problems really are, but they have the advantage of hundreds of years of practice. They’ve learned that a solid foundation of math is important. Psychologists (blasting my own field a bit, because I can), on the other hand, have still got to learn that. Even the psychologists that are good at math don’t think it’s all that important to make sure that we are all good at it. Oh well.

    Anyway, the important thing is this: nepotism is only going to be a problem if it continues much longer. As the church keeps growing, the need to continually call fresh leaders from outside of Utah to move into that area and serve in the top leadership is essential. I think Elder Uchtdorf is only the beginning of that trend (oh, and by the way, just who is he related to?) I know–it’s because he’s successful and rich–which is true, but think about it like this–he’s obviously deserving of that position. You can’t meet the man and not know that he’s not a spiritual person.

  36. Post


    “Anyway, the important thing is this: nepotism is only going to be a problem if it continues much longer. As the church keeps growing, the need to continually call fresh leaders from outside of Utah to move into that area and serve in the top leadership is essential. I think Elder Uchtdorf is only the beginning of that trend”

    I think you are right. But, what is interesting is that many members of the church have been hoping and praying for a Latino Apostle in recognition of the huge church population in Latin America. It hasn’t happened yet, but I am sure it will in a short time.

    But it is also interesting to me that the some of sons (and son in laws) of most apostles throughout the history of the Church and continuing today seem to get called to high leadership positions.

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  38. Wow, come on guys. Read your old testament. It’s all about patriarchs and lines of authority. Thank you for the great grid. It’s a nice resource. Are you guys going to have a problem when Asian and South American GA’s kids become leaders too? Seems to me it’s the way things work in our church. You get thrown into positions of service and if you are lucky inspiration, perspiration, and memories of someone else doing the job (either from your ward family or your blood family) helps full you through. Nepotism can work as long as people aren’t jerks.

  39. i think this is very interesting. i have been doing a lot of research on bloodlines and world leaders because i’m very interested in this year’s election. anyways, in my readings and the videos i’ve watched many people that have years and years of research have said that Gordon B. Hinckley, Brigham Young, Joseph Smith and maybe more church presidents were a part of the Merovingian bloodline. For those of you that don’t know that is the bloodline in the Da Vinci Code that believes it is a direct decsendant of Jesus Christ. However, that is a falsehood. Researchers believe that the Merovingian bloodline are actually descendants of the tribe of Dan. The tribe of Dan intermarried with Canaanites which were offspring of fallen angels or the “giants” mentioned in Gen: 6, Num 35:22. Gen 19 and Jude also suggests that the people of Sodom and Gomorrah fornicated with these giants or fallen angels. What i’m saying is that the Merovingian bloodline is thought to be descendants of demons and satanists. The Merovingian bloodline is also a huge part in secret society’s such as the Illuminati and the Freemasons, which Joseph Smith and Brigham Young were both said to be members of. In fact if you look at verious photos of Brigham Young you can see a pin on his shirt of the compass and square, which is the international symbol of the Mason’s. Here is one of many links that provides this information and they even list sripture references.

    Now i’m not accusing anything. I myself was a Mormon but have been inactive for a couple of years now. But my mom is a devout Mormon. I just want to know the truth. If many of the church presidents are indeed members of this bloodline and secret societies such as the Freemasons this could be really really bad, and i would want my mother to know about this as well as any other members of the church. The only way to find out for sure is to find the complete family trees of these people which i just haven’t been able to do. and i have never done genealogy before so i don’t really know how to go about doing it. So if anyone has the geneology of any of the prophets that goes way way back i would really like to see it.


  41. Leadership positions in the church are determined by how much money you make, your profession, or how big of a house you live in.

  42. #26

    Aaron and Moses were from the Tribe of Levi. That’s why the sons of Levi could hold the priesthood–they were from the priestly tribe. (I can find the reference from a Jewish rabbi if you like.)

  43. the Levities were the Priestly tribe and performed duties in the Temple, but the High Priests were decedent through the Sons of Aaron, called the Kohanim.

  44. How do you explain Dieter Uchtdorf? I dare you to find his nepotism connection. Reed Benson is married to one of my distant cousins. If I am called as a bishop, is it because I am distantly related to Ezra Taft Benson? I doubt it.

  45. ย And you made sure you put it in all CAPS to make your point, right?ย  If you knew anything about the lineage of Joesph Smith, none of his family came into leadership of the church, as for Brigham Young, some have, but that is because Young is a big name, as is with the name Smith, but none of them where Joesph Smith Jr’s children, grandchildren, etc.ย  If Young’s children were inept in anyway, that would probably be their own fault, but to blame that for someone who had no control over that, you cannot and should not blame them, and yet, you are.

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  47. You might be surprised who you are related to. Check out this website. I am related to all of the latter day prophets except David O Mckay.
    Heber C Kimball is a GG Grandfather as is Robert Taylor Burton. With just those two I am related to a lot of people in the church. So if I were ever made a GA I guess we could call it nepotism. I do have a brother that has been a mission President recently. This list leaves out my Grandfather Kimball who served as a mission president. I’m sure if we dug further we would find hundreds if not thousands that are in similar positions.

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  49. I have no doubt that family members are more likely to be called to those positions, but I don’t think you can call it nepotism. Nepotism is unfairly using one’s power by giving preference to family members for good jobs over more qualified applicants. One could argue that no one is “qualified” to serve in these roles, the Lord qualifies whomever is called. Secondly, the word nepotism implies that those serving in these callings are somehow advantaged in the Church. But all can receive all the blessings that the Lord has to give. I, as the ward librarian, has just as much access to the temple as the general RS president. (And I can go on vacation and to the grocery store whenever I want and no one bothers me.) Like Elder L. Tom Perry said, after we die we are stripped of our titles and callings and all that is left is our relationship with our family and the Lord.

  50. I’m related to almost all the presidents of the Church, past and present, most signers of the Declaration of Independence, and Many Apostles. and I faithfully attend Church have had callings, worked in the Temple, been on missions, and I have not been called to any high position.

  51. โ€œSo, is it about choosing qualified members for leadership, who happened to be related to GAs or is it just plain nepotism?โ€

    It makes all the sense in the world to me that God would put people in families and situations that would help prepare them for their future missions. Growing up in and around general authorities’ families would help some people prepare for Church leadership. Growing up in other situations would help other people. And we get both. Perfect!

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