Could President Uchtdorf Become *President* Uchtdorf?

After I wrote last week about the probability of each of the members of the Q15 becoming President of theChurch, a few people asked specifically about President Uchtdorf’s chances. And I share their interest. I have found him to be a big breath of fresh air, and I would love it if he did become President.

So what would it take for President Uchtdorf to become President Uchtdorf? Here’s a chart showing a little information for him and all the Q15 members senior to him.

Quorum member Rank Birth year/mo Age Prob Uchtdorf outlives
 Monson  1  1927 Aug  87  84%
 Packer  2  1924 Sep  90  88%
 Perry  3  1922 Aug  92  91%
 Nelson  4  1924 Sep  90  86%
 Oaks  5  1932 Aug  82  71%
 Ballard  6  1928 Oct  86  80%
 Scott  7  1928 Nov  86  82%
 Hales  8  1932 Aug  82  74%
 Holland  9  1940 Dec  74  48%
 Eyring  10  1933 May  81  69%
 Uchtdorf  11  1940 Nov  74  N/A

The probabilities in the last column come from the same analysis I did for last week’s post. For each of the 1000 simulations, I just looked up to see if President Uchtdorf outlived the other Q15 member in question. For example, he outlived President Monson in 843 of the 1000, so that’s 84% (rounded).

One obstacle that might be easy to overlook because he’s been in the Q15 for over a decade, but that the chart makes clear, is that President Uchtdorf is way down the list in seniority. This has happened, of course, because we’re in the middle of a really long period during which no Q15 members have died, so he’s had no opportunity to move up. He would have to outlive the ten men ahead of him to get to the top spot. The age difference between him and most of them is large enough that he’s quite likely to outlive them. But then there’s Elder Holland, who’s two steps ahead of him in seniority and a month younger. The simulation gives President Uchtdorf a 48% probability of outliving Elder Holland, which makes sense given how close they are in age. What this means is that even if all the other nine men on the chart had died, and Elder Holland and President Uchtdorf were one-two in seniority, President Uchtdorf will still have only a 50-50 chance of becoming Church President.

In other words, President Uchtdorf has two hurdles to clear, and for each he has slightly less than a 50% probability. He has a 46% probability of outliving all the other nine men (again, just from looking up and counting scenarios in the simulation). He has a 48% probability of outliving Elder Holland alone. Put them together, and he only has a 32% probability of becoming Church President. (Note that because outliving the other nine and outliving Elder Holland are not independent events, there isn’t a simple calculation that can be done to combine 46% and 48% to arrive at 32%.)

I’ll continue to hope for an Uchtdorf presidency, but I think perhaps a more realistic hope is that whoever becomes Church President next sticks with tradition and retains President Monson’s counselors. I think President Uchtdorf has used the extra influence he has as a member of the First Presidency to address important issues (and to pointedly ignore irrelevant ones), and I’ll hope he gets to continue doing so. And if it turns out that one day he becomes Church President, then I’ll really celebrate!



  1. Whatever benefit would come of having him as president of the church is at least 50% realized with him in the first presidency, even though the Primary children of 2040 and beyond won’t know his name.

  2. Do you factor in such things as current health, weight, and genetics (age parents died)? If not, then, barring an accident, Pres. Uchtdorf has just one hurdle to leap: Elder Nelson, who looks like he might live to be 150. 🙂

  3. Great idea. I know many people worry about Pres. Monson’s mental health, but there is no guarantee that Uchtdorf would be retained in a new Presidency. Hinckley was the only one who kept the same counselor (Pres. Monson). Others always changed things around. So for me I wish Pres. Monson many more years so that Uchtdorf can keep his place for now.

  4. Keeping the same counselors as in the previous presidency isn’t required, but it’s rare for a first or second counselor to not be retained. Brigham Young and John Taylor called new counselors. Since then the only first or second counselors to not be retained have been Rudger Clawson (not retained by Joseph F. Smith), Hugh B. Brown (not retained by Joseph Fielding Smith), and Marion G. Romney (not retained by Ezra Taft Benson). President Romney was so ill that although he became president of the twelve after leaving the First Presidency, an acting president was called (the only time anyone has acted for a president who was not in the First Presidency).

  5. I was talking to my husband and I concluded this period with Uchtdorf in essence acting as pres of church may be the best we’re going to get from the silver fox. Low chance he’ll actually be pres, low chance he’ll be in this same position again. Long live tommy?

  6. Hmmm. Condemned to endure Elder Holland as President instead of Elder Uchtdorf? I think I could live with that. 🙂

  7. I avoided reading this post for days so as to not have my hopes and dreams crushed by statistics. Even if the improbable happens and Uchtdorf becomes president someday, we have a lot of doozies between now and then. For now, I will bury my head in the sand and enjoy Pres. Monson.

  8. Dave, along the lines of doubting my doubts, I think el oso made a great point along those lines on the other thread, pointing out that at one point, then-Elder Hinckley looked like a long shot to become President, and Harold B. Lee looked like he would serve for a long time. Whatever ends up happening, the most likely scenarios (e.g., Oaks-Holland-Bednar) are less likely than the combined probability of all other scenarios. Which is I guess a long-winded way of saying that we’ll probably get some surprises one way or the other, like someone in the Q15 will live to be 106 and change everything, or someone who looks like a lock for the presidency will die early. I don’t know by what, but I’m expecting to be surprised.

  9. The column about the age at which each might expect to become president from the last post is very telling, and should prompt a re think on the succession. It should be widely published that we are unlikely to have a leader under 90 for the forseeable future.

    There needs to be a feeling for this change in the 15, so that the next pres is chosen on ability (Uchtdorf), and a retirement age of 80 at the same time, though if the president was younger there would be no point in staying.

  10. I’ve been thinking about this post and the comments since last month, and I’ve concluded that one of the best things Bro. Monson has ever done for the church is to elevate two of the most liberal apostles. If Bro. Eyring and Bro. Uchtdorf weren’t in the first presidency, they’d still be very junior apostles whom we hear from only twice each year, but otherwise go unnoticed. By raising their status to “the top three,” Bro. Monson ensured that we’d hear their teachings more often. And surely he knew they’d be idolized even more than they already were as regular apostles. (I also hope they’re having a bit of influence within the quorum, but I couldn’t guess at the dynamics there.)

    I can’t believe that someone who takes the job of President For Life wouldn’t consider who would run the church when he got too old to do it. Yes, you’d want to choose people who would outlive you and who you could reasonably hope would keep their faculties about them. But really, could he have chosen any other two apostles who speak more about compassion, love, tolerance, and concern for others? These two combined with Bro. Monson’s regular (and now recycled) talks on service and sympathy make for a solid emphasis within the presidency on something that is NOT anti-gay marriage or bashing uppity women, and on something that is actually part of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    The liberalism of Bro. Uchtdorf is obvious, but even Bro. Eyring, who seems fairly traditional in some things, has told multiple stories in conference about his daughters as well as his sons. He said he and his wife had become more like each other in their marriage (which is a quiet argument against gender roles to my mind). He even told a story last October about his mother essentially giving him a blessing that was as important to him as his patriarchal blessing.

    These three as the presidency are (I hope!) leaving a legacy through their teachings of the expectation for tolerance, love, and kindness among church members. So count me in the long-live-Bro.-Monson camp.

  11. I love your comment, Anarene. I completely agree that President Monson chose great counselors. Using the handy rule of thumb that GAs who quote the FamProc a lot are GAs I tend to not like, I think he chose the two I would like most out of the quorum. Because, as you said, Uchtdorf and Eyring are not big on gender roles or on attacking gay people. I only hope that President Monson’s good choice of counselors will continue to bless us even after he dies!

  12. Supposedly about some 40 years ago, with Harold B. Lee becoming President at a relatively ‘young’ age of 73, and being in apparent robust health and of vigorous mind, there was an expectation that he’d lead the Church well into the 1980’s and possibly the 1990’s. Then, BAM! Down he goes to a fatal pulmonary hemorrhage at age 74, which was at least with the medical state-of-the-art, unforeseeable.

    And then, being succeeded by Spencer Kimball, who though only four years older (age 78 upon becoming LDS President), had suffered a relapse of his throat cancer (he spoke quite well in spite of the throat trouble making his voice rather gravelly) and had significant heart troubles. Yet the man lived until 1985, though the last four his health declined precipitously, along with similar troubles for President Tanner and Romney, hence why Gordon B. Hinckley was called as an additional counselor (until Tanner’s passing in 1982) and then, while Second Counselor in the FP, was in effect running the Church on a daily basis, only calling upon Kimball for matters that couldn’t be delegated. No doubt THIS prepared Hinckley well for his own tenure as President, and he was blessed to be the eldest man to hold the position.

    It boils down to the Lord knowing what He’s doing, Alzheimer’s and current medical technology able to maintain a old man’s heartbeat and breathing for extended periods when the mental faculties are all but gone.

  13. Came here via a link on T & S, so excuse me for dropping in and making a comment on my first visit, but this is such a fascinating subject that I could not resist it.

    Lew Scannon #2 made a very good comment. If “looks” are important at determining health and aging, one would think that Uchtdorf would way outlive Holland. I hear from friends in SLC (I am in Australia) that Uchtdorf is a regular exerciser. He mentioned in a talk once about skiing with his grandkids. By the look of JRH, I would guess his most vigorous current exercise form is turning the pages of a book.

    I am fascinated by the comments that HBE and DFU are the more liberal apostles. From a distance we assume that all GAs are most likely on the right side of politics. But the comment about HBE mentioning his mother blessing him is an interesting one that I had not noticed. Thank you – do you have a reference for that talk?

  14. Hey Ziff…now that Uchtdorf HAS outlived three of these people,have the odds changed materially?

  15. It hasn’t moved much at all. The issue is that Uchtdorf was so much younger than the men he outlived that he was already very likely to outlive him, so their deaths barely moved his probabilities.


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