In the Old Testament there is a very well known story about the prophet Elijah being taken to heaven on a chariot of fire. Here is the passage: 2 Kings 2: 8-14
8 And Elijah took his mantle, and wrapped it together, and smote the waters, and they were divided hither and thither, so that they two went over on dry ground.
9 ¶ And it came to pass, when they were gone over, that Elijah said unto Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee. And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me.
10 And he said, Thou hast asked a hard thing: nevertheless, if thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee; but if not, it shall not be so.
11 And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.
12 ¶ And Elisha saw it, and he cried, My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof. And he saw him no more: and he took hold of his own clothes, and rent them in two pieces.
13 He took up also the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and went back, and stood by the bank of Jordan;
14 And he took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and smote the waters, and said, Where is the Lord God of Elijah? and when he also had smitten the waters, they parted hither and thither: and Elisha went over.
15 And when the sons of the prophets which were to view at Jericho saw him, they said, The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha. And they came to meet him, and bowed themselves to the ground before him.
One thing that is very commonly accepted in the Judeo-Christian tradition is that Elijah’s mantle (or cloak) falling upon Elisha signified that he was chosen by God to be the next Israeli prophet. Further reading of Second Kings shows that Elisha went on to be come a great prophet. Among his miracles were the parting of the river Jordan, healing the waters in Jericho, the cruses of oil and meal that didn’t cease, bringing the Shunammite’s son back to life, healing Naaman, floating the axe head, and blinding the Syrian army then restoring their sight.
This last weekend the 178th Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints took place in Salt Lake City. The link is for those who want to read/listen to/watch the talks. The Church has a membership of just over 13 million world wide, and the conference was broadcast to ninety plus countries in ninety plus languages. The two day conference is held on the first weekend of April each year, with a semi-annual conference held the first weekend in October of each year.
General Conference is a time for church members to gather and listen to the words and teachings of our leaders. Talks (or sermons) are prepared around a theme chosen by the speaker, and teachings are based on church doctrine as found in the Scriptures: The Holy Bible, The Book of Mormon, The Doctrine & Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price.
So, what does any of this have to do with Elijah’s mantle falling on Elisha? The LDS Church is led by a First Presidency, comprising of the President of the Church and his two councilors, and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. The President of the Church is a prophet of God and the only man living who is able to receive revelation from God on behalf of the entire Church.
In February, 2008, President Gordon B. Hinckley died. As the most senior apostle, Thomas S. Monson became the next President of the Church. The mantle of Prophet and President fell onto the shoulders of President Monson.
As this can be confusing, let me explain. After the death of the President of the Church, the First Presidency is dissolved and the councilors are placed back into the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in their respective order (not at the front but in the order in which they were called to the Apostleship). When the Quorum meets to reorganize the First Presidency, the president of the quorum, the most senior apostle by tenure, not age, is sustained and set apart as President of the Church. He then selects two councilors from among the Quorum of the Twelve. He also calls, through revelation from God, a new apostle to fill the void that has been left.
President Monson has served as an apostle for 44 years. He is 80 years old. He is known and loved by millions of Latter-Day Saints around the world. He is known as the great story teller, as he always has the most charming stories which he uses as parables in his teaching. As I watched General Conference this last weekend, it was very apparent that the mantle of a prophet has fallen squarely on the shoulders of Thomas S. Monson. His speaking was the same, yet somewhat different – more bold, more powerful, more humble. He has been ordained and set apart under the hands of the Twelve through the Holy Priesthood of God and holds the keys of the kingdom, just as Peter did in the days of Christ. I am proud to honor and sustain him as the Lord’s Prophet at this time.