Church President Probability Changes with Elder Scott’s Death

Elder Richard G. Scott died yesterday at the age of 86. As I did when Elder Perry and President Packer died, in this post, I’ll show how this changes the probabilities of becoming Church President for the remainder of the members of the Q15.

All the probabilities come from a simulation I did for a post back in April. It’s a straightforward simulation: it uses an actuarial table and each Q15 member’s age and seniority in the quorum as inputs, and it draws a series of random numbers to simulate different possible life expectancies for each member. The life expectancies are then compared to find in what fraction of the simulations each member outlives all other members senior to him to become President. For a more detailed description, see my April post.

Here are the changes with Elder Scott’s death:

change in probabilities of becoming president with elder scott's deathProbabilities move a bit for Elders Hales and Holland, but hardly budge for anyone further down in seniority. This isn’t surprising, as everyone lower than Elder Scott in seniority is at least three years younger. They were therefore already seen by the mortality table as very likely to outlive him.

I can’t find the conversation, but in a discussion after President Packer died, I think someone asked me what it would take to really move probabilities dramatically. What would move probabilities a lot is if a Q15 member died who was senior to at least one man older than he is. Elder Oaks, for example, is senior to Elder Ballard even though Elder Ballard is older. Elder Ballard has a 26% chance of ever being Church President. If Elder Oaks died, Elder Ballard’s probability would go up dramatically, as he is already expected to outlive the other men senior to him (President Monson and President Nelson).

Really what will be interesting to see, of course, is who is called into the Q15 at Conference next week, even if only two of the three vacancies are filled. If someone fairly young is called (in his fifties), he could enter with a pretty high probability already of becoming Church President, given that the youngest current member is Elder Bednar at 63.




  1. How long does it take you to do these tables? I am impressed that you did one right now, when there are likely to be vacancies filled next week. I definitely look forward to seeing the new one in October!

  2. I re-did my analysis as well. These are my results (just name, % of ever becoming president, and avg years as president if they become president):

    Monson 86.1% 4.8
    Bednar 60.9% 9.2
    Oaks 49.3% 5.2
    Holland 48.2% 6.5
    Nelson 37.1% 3.5
    Andersen 31.3% 6.2
    Uchtdorf 30.9% 5.5
    Hales 28.0% 4.4
    Ballard 21.5% 3.8
    Christofferson 19.0% 5.4
    Eyring 14.3% 4.0
    Cook 10.4% 4.5

    Pretty close, again with a couple of flips in our ordering (same as after Pr. Packer died but before Elder Scott died).

    I also did the simulation with 3 imaginary new apostles, called next week at the ages of 64, 59, and 54. But there’s a glitch in it; it gave the 59-year-old a way higher probability of become president than either of the other two new ones, and I traced that to an error I’ll have to fix. 🙂

  3. Robert, thanks for sharing your results!

    Steve, that’s a great question. Unfortunately, I haven’t tracked ages of other GAs other than the Q15. I’m sure the information is out there. It would just take a little digging to find.

    MCS, thanks! It’s actually really quick. I just pulled out the previous analysis, moved the month forward to September, set Elder Perry’s and President Packer’s life expectancies to zero in all simulations, got the results, and then set Elder Scott’s life expectancies to zero in all simulations and got the new results.

  4. I fixed that glitch, so here are my updated results. First, without inserting any imaginary new apostles, just looking at the current 12 survivors:

    Name Pr. of being president ever Years if president My rank ZD’s rank
    Monson 86.2% 4.8 – –
    Bednar 60.5% 9.3 1 1
    Oaks 49.1% 5.2 2 3
    Holland 47.8% 6.6 3 2
    Nelson 36.9% 3.5 4 4
    Andersen 31.2% 6.3 5 5T
    Uchtdorf 31.0% 5.5 6 5T
    Hales 28.4% 4.4 7 7
    Ballard 21.3% 3.7 8 8
    Christofferson 19.1% 5.4 9 9
    Eyring 14.0% 4.0 10 10
    Cook 10.4% 4.5 11 11

    So we still have Oaks and Holland reversed, but everything else lines up.

    Last time, I ran things with two imaginary new apostles, “Elder Doe” who is 65, and “Elder Roe” who is 54. (I looked back at the last couple of dozen apostles called, and then grabbed the ages/birthdates that were the 25th and 75th percentile of the bunch … or possibly the 33rd and 67 percentile, I can’t remember.) This time, I added a third imaginary new apostle, “Elder Brown”, who is 59 and midway between Doe and Roe. And these are the results:

    Monson 86.2% 4.8
    Bednar 60.8% 9.2
    Oaks 49.1% 5.2
    Holland 47.9% 6.5
    Nelson 36.9% 3.6
    Roe 33.7% 5.0
    Brown 32.8% 5.6
    Andersen 31.6% 6.3
    Uchtdorf 31.0% 5.5
    Hales 28.2% 4.4
    Doe 21.4% 5.3
    Ballard 21.3% 3.7
    Christofferson 19.1% 5.3
    Eyring 14.4% 4.0
    Cook 10.6% 4.5

    So the “young pups” Roe and Brown have a pretty decent chance of acceding to the presidency in the future, while “oldster” Doe is farther down the list. No surprise. Especially when you note this correlation between “Who’s got the best chance of becoming church president someday?” and “How old were they when they were ordained?”:

    Name % chance president Age at ordination Rank of age at ordination
    Monson 86.2% 36.1 1
    Bednar 60.5% 52.3 3
    Oaks 49.1% 51.7 2
    Holland 47.8% 53.6 4
    Nelson 36.9% 59.6 7
    Andersen 31.2% 57.7 6
    Uchtdorf 31.0% 63.9 11
    Hales 28.4% 61.6 8
    Ballard 21.3% 57.0 5
    Christofferson 19.1% 63.2 10
    Eyring 14.0% 61.9 9
    Cook 10.4% 67.1 12

    Lines up pretty darn well. The youngest of this new batch has a pretty good chance of becoming church president some day, as does any apostle called before he’s 60.

  5. I took my model, left in the fictitious Elder Doe (born 29 Dec. 1950) and Elder Roe (born 17 Sep. 1961), and then added Elder Klebingat as a hypothetical third new apostle (born 19 Dec. 1967). The new results?

    Monson 86.2% 4.8
    Bednar 61.1% 9.3
    Oaks 49.2% 5.2
    Holland 48.0% 6.5
    Roe 45.0% 6.0
    Nelson 37.0% 3.5
    Klebingat 34.0% 5.0
    Andersen 31.4% 6.3
    Uchtdorf 31.2% 5.5
    Hales 28.1% 4.4
    Ballard 21.5% 3.7
    Doe 21.1% 5.3
    Christofferson 19.1% 5.3
    Eyring 14.0% 4.0
    Cook 10.2% 4.4

    Elder Klebingat’s youth means he ends up having a pretty decent shot at becoming church president someday … but his lack of seniority to the almost-as-young “Elder Roe” means that Roe still has an edge. 🙂

  6. Hello-

    Thanks for the great information! I have a question (and I apologize if you’ve already addressed this somewhere else): have you run this backwards? Meaning, run the historical apostles to see how accurate it was?

  7. Great question, Tyler! It wouldn’t be so much “running this backwards” as much as just running it from the start, and re-running it every time there were any replacements in the Twelve. And then, it wouldn’t be so much a question like “how accurate it was”, more like “Who got to the presidency when the odds were against them?” and questions like that.

    I’m trying to put together a good solid chronological list of all the apostles called since the church began, but it’s a bit of a pain, ’cause some of the dates when early apostles were called or released or called back in again or whatever aren’t always that clear.

  8. Thanks for responding so quickly. I’m going to bookmark your blog and watch for new posts. A few conferences ago I wanted to graph the professions of the brethren and watch over time how that shifted (ie mix of attorneys, business leaders, educators, etc). I found the best way to do it was to take 10 year snapshots and calculate the mix at that time. The problem I ran into is that apostles have long and varied careers. For example, Elder Oaks is an attorney but was also a school administrator so what column do I lump him in. Any suggestions?

    I’ve had this idea for a while (I’m sure I’m not the first) but maybe since you have a statistics background you could run with it. Basically I wanted to see what the church census would be without practicing polygamy. I got the idea when looking at how we gained population during the civil war while the rest of the country decreased. Is there enough data to calculate this?

  9. Well,they stayed conservative on age…Rasband Feb 6 1950 (my first choice as next apostle all along),Stevenson Aug 6 1955,and Renlund Nov 13 1952,ranked in that order rather than in age order.None too high in president-chance I suppose though Stevenson obviously best.

  10. I’ve re-done my analysis with our new apostles Elder Rasband, Elder Stevenson, and Elder Renlund. Obviously, Elder Stevenson being the youngest of the new ones yet not being put at the end of the seniority line means that he’s got the best chance of any of the new three.

    Name – Chance of becoming president ever – Avg. time as president if president
    Monson 86.1% 4.8
    Bednar 60.9% 9.2
    Oaks 49.2% 5.2
    Holland 48.0% 6.5
    Nelson 36.7% 3.6
    Andersen 31.4% 6.3
    Uchtdorf 30.9% 5.5
    Stevenson 29.2% 5.4
    Hales 28.5% 4.4
    Rasband 23.9% 5.5
    Ballard 21.6% 3.8
    Christofferson 19.1% 5.4
    Renlund 15.1% 4.5
    Eyring 14.1% 4.0
    Cook 10.4% 4.4

  11. Sorry, j, I’m not sure exactly what you’re asking. In this update with Elder Scott’s death, his projected number of future years as Church president is unchanged. He was expected to serve 5.7 more years before Elder Scott died, and that number is unchanged. Is that what you’re asking about?

  12. That’s right. The only thing that can/will affect how much longer President Monson is church president is his remaining lifespan. (Unless they come out and surprise us with some kind of “President Emeritus” thing like the Catholics did with Benedict….)

  13. I was a year off on Rasband…he was born February 6th 1951,not 1950.
    Apologies for any statistical errors caused by my talking off the top of my head…will Ziff now do a new auto-updating version as hinted when Elder Perry died?

    Ballard turns 87 today.

  14. Mine doesn’t auto-update, but I’m pretty sure I got Elder Rasband’s birthdate right when I did my update up in reply # 14.


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