“Millions Sustain New Church Leaders in Solemn Assembly,” Ensign, May 2008, 130–31
Members of the Church around the world met in meetinghouses and homes by satellite, television, radio, or Internet to sustain in solemn assembly the new President and First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on April 5, 2008.
President Thomas S. Monson and his counselors in the First Presidency, President Henry B. Eyring and President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, were announced on February 4, 2008, following the passing of President Gordon B. Hinckley on January 27. However, the 178th Annual General Conference of the Church held on April 5 and 6, 2008, was the first opportunity that members of the Church as a whole had to sustain their new leaders.
Members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles were also sustained during the solemn assembly originating in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City. Elder D. Todd Christofferson was sustained as the newest member of that quorum. Members also sustained the other General Authorities and general auxiliary leaders of the Church.
Elder L. Whitney Clayton of the First Quorum of the Seventy was called to fill the vacancy left in the Presidency of the Seventy by Elder Christofferson’s call.
Fifteen men were sustained as new members of the First and Second Quorums of the Seventy, along with the sustaining of a new Young Women general presidency. (See accompanying biographical information.) Two members of the Second Quorum of the Seventy, Elders Craig C. Christensen and William R. Walker, were sustained to the First Quorum of the Seventy. Additionally, 38 new Area Seventies were called to serve in their respective areas of the Church. (See pages 4–7 for a complete list of those called and released during general conference.)
President Monson is the first Church President sustained in a solemn assembly held in the Conference Center. According to Elder Marlin K. Jensen of the Seventy, Church Historian and Recorder, the Prophet Joseph Smith and his presidency were sustained in a solemn assembly held in the Kirtland Temple on March 27, 1836. Brigham Young and his presidency were first sustained on December 27, 1847, in the Kanesville Tabernacle at Council Bluffs, Iowa. Beginning with President John Taylor on October 10, 1880, every President until President Monson had been sustained in a solemn assembly held in the Salt Lake Tabernacle.
“While Church members in early solemn assemblies were able to participate only by attendance in the Tabernacle,” Elder Jensen says, “in recent years congregations around the world have participated via satellite broadcast, with stake presidencies observing the vote of the congregations. Beginning in 1945, Church members listening to the proceedings of conference in their homes have been asked to sustain the new President wherever they may be.”
The Old Testament first records the Lord instructing the Israelites to hold solemn assemblies at the Feast of the Passover (see Exodus 23:14–17; Deuteronomy 16:8, 16) and the Feast of Tabernacles, also called the Feast of Booths, the Feast of Ingathering, or Sukkot (see Leviticus 23:33–36; Nehemiah 8:18).
“For members of the Church, sustaining Church officers is not a passive act of casting a vote,” says Elder Jensen. “Sustaining in a solemn assembly indicates a willingness to offer continued faith, prayers, and support for the new Church President.”
Elder Jensen points out that a solemn assembly is not the only time members are asked to sustain Church leaders. A sustaining vote is taken as part of general conferences, stake conferences, and ward or branch conferences.
“As members regularly sustain the leadership of the Church, they will have an opportunity to renew the commitments they made in this solemn assembly,” Elder Jensen says.
More than 100,000 people attended sessions at the Conference Center, with millions more watching or listening by television, radio, satellite, and Internet broadcasts.
Sessions of the April general conference were translated and broadcast in as many as 92 languages, more than any preceding general conference.