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Monday, November 17, 2014

Visualizing Apostolic Succession

by Andrew Heiss:

Sam's recent post on church succession, showing which apostle has inherited which of the 15 proverbial apostolic chairs, gives a fascinating look into a version of church genealogy. Some of the seats have seen incredibly high turnover, like Seat 11 and its 11 occupants, or Seat 2 and its 10 occupants. Others haven't held that many people at all - President Monson has dominated Seat 10 for 51 years!

For fun and enjoyment (and because I do this stuff for a living), I took Sam's original seat classification and compiled a dataset of each apostle's seat number, date of apostolic calling, date of release, and reason for release, based on each apostle's Wikipedia entry. I followed Sam's seat classification even when it differs from Wikipedia's timeline - for example, Wikipedia states that George Q. Morris was ordained following the death of Matthew Cowley, while Sam puts the two in different seats.

Visualizing the seat turnover reveals some more interesting insights into the histories of each of the positions. Three of the seats (1, 6, and 11) saw three excommunications, while all ten of the apostles in Seat 2 somehow escaped any church discipline. It's kind of surprising to see how relatively recent the last excommunication was, with Richard R. Lyman in 1943.

Longevity is also readily visible. Not only has President Monson been in Seat 10 for half a century, he's in the same seat previously held by two other marathon apostles: Orson Pratt (46 years), and Heber J. Grant (63(!) years). Elder Oaks occupies a similarly long-tenured seat, and if he follows Ziff's actuarial tables, he'll hold onto that seat for years to come. None of the younger apostles (Elders Anderson, Bednar, Christofferson and Cook) are in long-tenured seats, but given their projected longevity, they each can build their own long legacies.

You can see a high resolution image of my graph below, or you can download the PDF version. You can also play with the data and the code used to generate the graph.

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Andrew Heiss is a doctoral student in public policy and political science at Duke University, where he researches international nongovernmental organizations in working in dictatorships. He also makes pretty books for the Maxwell Institute. He lives in Durham with his wife and three fantastic kids.

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