Saturday, April 5, 2008

LDS Church Announces Selection Of Todd Christofferson To Fill Vacancy On The Quorum Of The Twelve At 178th General Conference

During the 10 A.M. opening session of their 178th Annual General Conference in progress in Salt Lake City on April 5th, 2008, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced the selection of Elder D. Todd Christofferson (pictured above left) to fill the vacancy on the Church's Quorum of the Twelve. Full stories on KSL Channel 5 and KTVX Channel 4 and the Deseret Morning News, and the Salt Lake Tribune.

The announcement came during the solemn assembly in which the leadership of the Church was approved by a sustaining vote. A solemn assembly is a unique ritual incorporated into the first General Conference after the accession of a new President of the Church. Instead of all persons present being asked to raise their hands in the affirmative to sustain the leadership, each separate quorum and auxiliary group of the Church is asked to stand and give sustaining votes in succession. After this is done, then the entire membership present is asked to deliver their sustaining votes. The full list of officials sustained is presented in the Deseret News article.

Elder Christofferson is a 63-year-old native of American Fork, Utah. He has served in various positions of leadership in the church, as a former regional representative, stake president, stake president's counselor and bishop. As executive director of the Family and Church History Department, Elder Christofferson was involved in the high-profile negotiations with Jewish watchdog groups to block the names of Holocaust victims from submission for temple work. This issue first surfaced in 1995 when Ernest Michel, chairman of the New York-based World Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, along with other Jewish watchdogs, disputed the continued appearance of Jewish names on the genealogical index the LDS Church uses to perform proxy baptisms of the dead. The Church ultimately agreed to discontinue vicarious baptisms for Jewish victims and to remove their names from the index unless they are direct ancestors of current Latter-day Saints. The agreement stands to this day. [Ed. Note: The Mormoncurtain website presents a series of articles describing this orchestrated Jewish harassment of the LDS Church, although they present it from an anti-Mormon prespective.]

In 2001, Elder Christofferson was also involved in the Church's efforts to compile and release a new database, the Freedman Bank Records, to aid African-American family history research. He also served as an Area President of the Mexico South Area of the Church.

Most recently, Elder Christofferson served as a member of the Presidency of the Seventy with supervisory responsibility for the North America Northwest and North America West Areas. He was originally ordained to the First Quorum of the Seventy in 1993 and has served in that quorum's presidency since 1998. The LDS Church has not yet posted an official biography of Elder Christofferson, but when they do so, it will be posted HERE. In the interim, a Wikipedia biography is HERE.

Elder Christofferson graduated from high school in New Jersey, earned his bachelor's degree from Brigham Young University (where he was named a Edwin S. Hinckley Scholar), and his juris doctorate (law degree) from Duke University. Before serving the church in a full-time capacity, Elder Christofferson worked as a lawyer. His legal career began rather auspiciously when he clerked for none other than Judge John J. Sirica during the Watergate hearings. This high-pressure early assignment prepared him for the greater responsibilities of an associate general counsel for NationsBank Corp. (now Bank of America) in Charlotte. N.C. In all, he practiced law in Washington D.C., Tennessee and North Carolina. While in Tennessee, Elder Christofferson also served as volunteer chairman of Affordable Housing of Nashville. He is married to Katherine Jacob Christofferson; they have produced five children.

Elder Christofferson told a news conference Saturday afternoon that President Monson called him to the new position last Thursday (April 3rd). He said his first reaction was "a degree of incredulity." He also expressed humility and gratitude for this opportunity.

Analysis: The selection of Elder Christofferson was not exactly unexpected. The Salt Lake Tribune had him on their "short list" of possible selections. In an article published on April 4th, the Tribune compiled a list of possible selections and grouped them into several categories. Several names appeared in the "education" category, as examples of a selection which would signify an emphasis on education. The other category was "business and legal", and it was in this category that the Tribune presented Christofferson. So the selection of Elder Christofferson would indicate that the Church will place more emphasis on running their financial "empire" more efficiently, which is wise, being that tithing and offering revenues are likely to stagnate as a result of the recession slowly engulfing the United States.

But what type of stewardship can we expect from Elder Christofferson? An interview published by Reuters back in June 2007 offers some insight. In this interview, Christofferson, discussing LDS member in elective office, stated that an elected official's first loyalty is to be to the constituency rather than the Church, and that the Church would not discipline a Mormon elected official for taking a political position different than that espoused by the Church (U.S. Senator Harry Reid, D-NV, is proof of that statement).

However, a talk given at a Fireside back in 2004 indicates Christofferson has a markedly conservative social agenda. During this talk, he strongly decried the sexualization of our society and the media's role in promoting this syndrome. He even took issue with tattoos, characterizing them as "graffitti on the body". Undoubtedly, this latter concern is driven by the fact that tattoos have gone far beyond being merely the province of sailors and longshoreman and are now almost universal in society. Not only do gangbangers quite literally vandalize their bodies with tattoos, but now we see otherwise delightful young women vandalizing themselves with tattoos as well. Christofferson also takes issue with casual dress at Sunday services; he believes we should dress up when worshipping the Lord to show our respect for Him. However, a post on DemocraticUnderground implies that although Christofferson may rigorously condemn the sin, he believes in being tolerant and understanding of the sinner.

So in Todd Christofferson, we see the accession of someone who will continue to keep the Church focused on fundamental pro-family social values while attempting to maximize the efficiency of its financial operations.

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