The median age of the members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve (Q15) is currently about 83. Even for a group that’s often thought of as being old, this is unusual. In fact, the Q15 is older now than it has ever been before.
Here’s a graph showing the age of the Q15 since 1835. The blue line shows the median age. The orange lines show the age of the oldest Q15 member; the green lines show the age of the youngest. The dashed black line shows the age of the Church President. The data come from ldsfacts.net.
If you’ve been reading ZD for a long time and have a very good memory, you might recall that I posted a version of this graph back in 2009. What’s interesting is that when I pulled it out to update it, the process was really easy, because nobody in the Q15 has died since then. That might not sound like a big deal. Surely you can think of lots of groups of 15 people who haven’t had a death among them over a period of five years. But given how old the Q15 members typically are, this is unusual: the current streak is coming up on being the second-longest ever during which no Q15 members entered or exited. (These days, of course, they pretty much only exit by dying, but back in the 19th century, there were also exits because of disagreement and excommunication.)
Below are the ten longest periods that a Q15 served with no members entering or exiting. (If you look at my 2009 post, you’ll see that I claimed that there was a period of a decade in the 1920s when nobody in the Q15 died. I’m not sure how I managed to miss it, but Charles W. Penrose died right smack dab in the middle, in 1925, so that’s not actually true. After I’ve made such an egregious error, I’ll understand if you take my lists with even more grains of salt than usual.)
|Months||Ending month||Ending event|
|109||2004 July||Neal A. Maxwell died|
|76||1896 April||Moses Thatcher released|
|73||1970 January||David O. McKay died|
|72||1931 May||Orson F. Whitney died|
|62||1994 Feb||Marvin J. Ashton died|
|60||1854 Mar||Willard Richards died|
|57||1866 July||Joseph F. Smith ordained|
|57||1916 November||Francis M. Lyman died|
|55||1875 September||George A. Smith died|
The current streak is only the fifth longest, but it’s less than a year from becoming the second longest. Given this, and the fact that we’re only a decade removed from a time when nobody in the Q15 died for almost a decade straight, it’s no surprise that today’s Q15 is the oldest ever.
To make the recent increases easier to see, I’ve made another version of the graph that covers only George Albert Smith’s presidency to the present. The reason all the slopes of the lines look flatter is that there are fewer years represented, but I’ve kept the width of the graph the same. Also, I’ve moved the bottom of the graph up from 20 years to 30, since nobody younger than 30 was called during this time period.
You can see the decade-long period with no deaths in the long straight portion of the median (blue) line that starts shortly after President Hinckley’s presidency began. At the beginning of that period, the median age was below 70; by the end, it was approaching 80. The current run began similarly, just shortly into President Monson’s presidency, and has pushed the median from the late 70s to the early 80s.
So what does the future hold? I was interested to find when looking back at my 2009 post that I had
prophesied guessed in the comments that Q15 age might continue to increase:
the median age isn’t all that high compared to what you might expect if you chose some 50-year olds at random and followed them over time. Given Word of Wisdom considerations alone (and the fact that married men tend to live longer than single men) you might expect members of the Quorum to be able to push the median into the mid-80s or beyond even given current medicine.
And in a recent post at BCC, Kyle M speculated that medical advances might in the near future push lifespans up suddenly, leading to Q15 members living to ages that are at the moment unthinkable:
There will be all kinds of weird societal upheavals if human life spans increase either incrementally or exponentially. But what does it mean for our general authorities? It means there’s a real possibility that one of the next couple prophets will win the science jackpot and lead the church for a LONG time. It’s impossible to say who this will be, obviously.
I’m interested to hear your speculations and predictions, or any other comments on the past pattern of aging in the Q15.