A lot of discussion around US Presidential elections concerns what types of justices a candidate might appoint to the Supreme Court. This is of course particularly an issue when, as is the case now, some of the justices are quite old. It occurred to me that although it’s not exactly the same thing, a related Mormon question is how many new Q15 members future Church Presidents are expected to call.
To look at this question, I ran a simulation similar to others I’ve run in the past couple of years to see how likely it is that each current Q15 member will become President. I used the same method, including the same mortality table, that I’ve used for the previous simulations. One difference this time, though, is that I had to account for mortality rates of new Q15 members. When I’ve done simulations before just looking at who will become President, it hasn’t mattered how long the new members will live, because they’re all junior to all the existing members. But now, when I want to look at how many new members each President calls, how long new Q15 members live is crucial to the simulation, so I had to include it.
To add simulated new members to the quorum, whenever one member died in a simulation, I picked a new member who was between 51 and 69 years old (covering the entering ages of new members since Elder Oaks). I made the distribution uniform, meaning that a simulated new member had equal probability of falling at any point in the range, as this appears to match the actual distribution of age at entry fairly well.
Other than this addition, though, the simulations look very much like the ones I’ve run before. In each simulation, if a Q15 member outlives all members senior to him, he becomes President. If he becomes President, he always gets to call at least one new member (as he has to replace the Church President whose place he is taking), and then he is also counted as calling new Q15 members to replace any who die during his tenure. All calculations of ages and life expectancies are rounded to the nearest year. This ignores complicated situations that might occasionally arise, like a Q15 member dying, and then the Church President himself dying before he can replace the other Q15 member, leaving a new Church President to call two new members right off the bat. I think the rounding probably averages out okay across these types of results, and works fine for the more typical situations where members die and are replaced in an orderly fashion.
I ran one million simulations. Here are the results. Note that President Monson’s count doesn’t include the five Q15 members he has already called (Elders Christofferson, Andersen, Rasband, Stevenson, and Renlund), but only future Q15 members he might call.
|Member||Age (end 2016)||Prob president||If president . . .|
|Avg yrs||Avg new Q15 called|
The probabilities of becoming President are similar to what we’ve seen before. Elders Oaks, Holland, and (especially) Bednar have a good shot at becoming President. At the other end, Elder Cook is quite unlikely to make it.
The number of new members each man might call as President is strongly correlated with his expected length of service as President. For example, Elder Bednar is expected to serve about a decade if he becomes President, and to call more than five new members. Elder Ballard, on the other hand, is expected to serve four years if he reaches the Presidency, and call fewer than three new members. This correlation is expected: length of service as President is a function of being young relative to members senior to you, and number of new members called is a function of being young relative to members junior to you. Both boil down to being young relative to the rest of the quorum.
For comparison, here are the numbers of Q15 members called by each past Church President:
|Joseph F. Smith||11|
|Heber J. Grant||12|
|George Albert Smith||3|
|David O. McKay||11|
|Joseph Fielding Smith||2|
|Harold B. Lee||1|
|Spencer W. Kimball||7|
|Ezra Taft Benson||3|
|Howard W. Hunter||1|
|Gordon B. Hinckley||4|
|Thomas S. Monson||5|
It’s not surprising that Joseph Smith holds the record, given that he called the entire original quorum, plus he was always quick to rearrange things, using excommunication if necessary, in ways that none of his successors have been. I think it’s also interesting how varied the numbers are. President Kimball and President Hinckley ran the Church for similar lengths of time, but Kimball called seven new members while Hinckley only called four, because Hinckley presided during a time when very few quorum members died. It’s also interesting just how many new members some Church Presidents have called. Both Heber J. Grant and David O. McKay presided over quorums made up almost entirely of men they had called, by the time they died. Although of course, particularly when a President is unwell in his final years, others close to him are likely affecting the process too.
In any case, even with an estimated three new members to call ahead of him, President Monson wouldn’t even come close to the record since Joseph Smith, or even the record since the turn of the 20th century. None of the other Q15 members are expected to either, although of course there were some simulations in which Elder Bednar calls 12 new members or something. Stranger things have happened.