From First to Second Counselor

President Packer, speaking on J. Reuben Clark being called to serve as Second Counselor to David O. McKay (April 9, 1951) after serving as First Counselor to Heber J. Grant for 16 years:

When President J. Reuben Clark was called as second counselor in the First Presidency after having served for many years as first counselor, he responded at the Solemn Assembly where the sustaining of the new First Presidency took place: “In the service of the Lord, it is not where you serve but how. In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, one takes the place to which one is duly called, which place one neither seeks nor declines” (Conference Report, Apr. 1951, p. 154). The Church had been taught a very valuable lesson in the unwritten order of things.

–Boyd K. Packer, “The Unwritten Order of Things”, 15 October 1996.

President Clark had served as Second Counsellor to Heber J. Grant for about 18 months when President Anthony W. Ivins died. President Clark was then called as First Counsellor and David O. McKay as Second Counsellor. Presidents Clark and McKay served together as counsellors from October 6, 1934 to April 9, 1951, when David O. McKay was sustained as President of the Church after the passing of George Albert Smith. President McKay called Stephen L. Richards to serve as his First Counsellor and President Clark as his Second Counsellor, citing Elder Richards’ seniority in the Quorum of the Twelve as the only reason. (Note that President McKay, as Second Counsellor to Heber J. Grant and George Albert Smith while President Clark was First Counsellor, would have been senior to him in the quorum.)

It’s also notable that J. Reuben Clark served as Second Counsellor to Heber J. Grant for 18 months (from April 6, 1933, until October 6, 1934) before being called as an Apostle. He was ordained October 11, 1934. The Lord will call whom He will call.

President McKay’s remarks, shortly after the First Presidency was reorganized:

Before proceeding further with the exercises of this session, I am prompted to say a word in answer to a question which undoubtedly is in every one of your minds. Particularly to those not members of the Church, and to members of the Church as well, may I call attention to the policy of the Church with regard to choosing of counselors.

A President Names His Counselors

When a President is chosen and sustained (that includes the president of the Aaronic Priesthood who is the Bishop of a Ward, also Presidents of quorums or superintendents or presidents of auxiliaries) it is the practice of the Church to let the president name his counselors.

Anticipating that the Council of the Twelve would grant to me that same privilege, I thoughtfully and prayerfully considered what two men would be most helpful and most contributive to the advancement of the Church. The impression came, I am sure, directly from Him whose Church this is, and who presides over it, that the two counselors whom you have this day approved should be the other members of the quorum of the First Presidency. Both are members of the Council of the Twelve, though counselors might have been chosen from High Priests outside that presiding body.

I chose these two members from the Council of the Twelve—two men with whom I have labored closely for many years, whose worth, whose ability I know. I have been associated with Elder Richards directly in Church affairs and in presiding positions for over thirty years. I have been associated with President Clark in two quorums of the First Presidency for over sixteen years. With these and other facts in mind, the question arose as to the order they should occupy in this new quorum.

Each man I love. Each man is capable in his particular lines, and particularly with respect to the welfare and advancement of the Kingdom of God.

Seniority In The Council Of Twelve

I realized that there would be a question in the minds of some as to which one of the two should be chosen as first counselor. That question resolved itself in my mind first as to the order of precedence, seniority in the Council of the Twelve Apostles. That should make no difference according to the practice of the Church, because members of the Council had heretofore been chosen irrespective of the position a member occupied in the Council of the Twelve. And, as I have already said, high Priests have been chosen even as first counselors who were not members of the Council.

I felt that one guiding principle in this choice would be to follow the seniority in the Council. These two men were sitting in their places in that presiding body in the Church, and I felt impressed that it would be advisable to continue that same seniority in the new quorum of the First Presidency. I repeat, not as an established policy, but because it seemed advisable in view of my close relationship to these two choice leaders.

Two Counselors Coordinate

Now I mention this because we do not want any member in this Church, nor any man or woman listening in to harbor the thought for a moment that there has been any rift between the two counselors who sustained President Smith in the Quorum of the First Presidency, and President Grant for the years that we were together with that inspired leader. Neither should you feel that there is any demotion. President Clark is a wonderful servant. You have had demonstrated here this morning his ability in carrying out details, and he is just that efficient in everything pertaining to the work.

You should understand further, that in the counselorship of the Quorum of the First Presidency these two men are coordinate in authority, in love, and confidence, in freedom to make suggestions, and recommendations, and in their responsibility not only to the Quorum but also to the Lord Jesus Christ and to the people generally.

They are two great men. I love them both, and say God bless them, and give you the assurance that there will be harmony and love and confidence in the Quorum of the First Presidency as you have sustained them today.

J. Reuben Clark’s remarks in their entirety:

My brothers and sisters, I begin by bearing again my testimony that this is the work of the Lord, that Joseph Smith is a prophet, that those who have followed afterward have been his prophets, and that the one whom we have sustained is the ninth in regular succession, as a prophet, seer, and revelator to this Church and to the world.

I know that Jesus is the Christ, the Redeemer of the world. I know that he is the first fruits of the resurrection, and that by and through him we are redeemed from the Fall, and thus able to overcome the results of the Fall and get back into the presence of our Heavenly Father.

I thank President McKay for his kindly words about myself. I thank you for your sustaining votes, and I earnestly pray that I may be the beneficiary of your prayers as time shall go on, and that I may be able to do the things which I am supposed to do with an eye single to the glory of our Heavenly Father.

Pledge Of Devoted Service

In the service of the Lord, it is not where you serve but how. In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, one takes the place to which one is duly called, which place one neither seeks nor declines. I pledge to President McKay and to President Richards the full loyal devoted service to the tasks that may come to me to the full measure of my strength and my abilities, and so far as they will enable me to perform them, however inadequate I may be.

May the Lord help me so to serve, to serve President McKay and President Richards and to serve the Lord, all for the advancement of his work. This I humbly pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.


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