I was listening to John Dehlin’s interview of Kate Kelly this past week, and they brought up an interesting point that I wanted to discuss more openly. In the last 5 minutes of part 2,
John, “Some people are speculating that there’s a power vacuum in the Church right now, that….”
Kate Kelly interrupts, “Some people on NPR are speculating….”
John chuckles, “Yeah. Well early 1990s, my cousin Ezra Taft Benson was incapacitated. His grandson Steve Benson acknowledged this publicly and many say that it was during this vacuum where he was sort of an invalid that Boyd K. Packer asserted himself and began excommunicating people. I’ve probably talked to 50 people who work directly with the church in some significant capacity who all confirm that President Monson has some form of dementia and that unless he’s got handlers around him, and unless he’s reading a speech, he’s unmanageable and incoherent, and you know that doesn’t mean he can’t be friendly to a child and wink to a crowd or wiggle his ears or read a teleprompter, but in terms of really managing the church, he’s over 90. He’s past his capacity given dementia. Do you ever think about that stuff and that might might be why–you know if the prophet’s not speaking, it can’t be Boyd K. Packer that responds to you, but if the prophet’s not able to even think about it, let alone really respond to it, thus we don’t have statements from the Brethren, and thus we get statements from PR, and is it possible that it’s this power vacuum where someone like a Ballard or a Clayton might feel empowered to come after a you or a me, when otherwise a strong leader wouldn’t allow that?”
Kate, “Yeah, I mean I don’t know. I don’t know if that’s true, I don’t know how much it negatively affects him. I know that people over 90, I mean people don’t live forever, so eventually he will lose capacity even if that’s not the case now, that’s just like a fact of biology.”
John agrees, “Yeah.”
Kate, “So no one can argue against that. That’s going to happen if it’s not happening now. So I think the church needs to be able to respond. I mean there are fifteen people who are leading the Church, the prophet is at the head. I would hope that that wouldn’t create, you know, an opportunity for people to do nefarious things, but that the Lord would continue to direct his work. I think You know there maybe should be a way for them to compassionately step down once they’re no longer able to say, you know like the Pope. The Pope stepped down and said I can’t do it. They are human. Every Mormon knows that the prophet is not infallible and not a superhero, and so I think there should be a place for them to cry out if that’s the case. I don’t know if that exists, but I don’t know.
I think again this goes back to my view of the Zion, that it’s not just one person who comes up with an idea totally unattached from anything else that’s happening in the world. I think this criticism comes from some people who say now’s just not the time. Maybe later, maybe when President Monson dies and there’s a younger person in there, there will be more of an opportunity. You really need to pay more attention to the inner machinations of the church, but I’m saying now’s the time because now’s the time for us. Women are suffering. So now’s the time when people say, and whether it’s going to change after President Monson dies, I don’t know, but the person taking over for him is also going to be very old, and so that’s just the way the current structure of the Church is, so I’m not sure. I mean if that’s true, I have a lot of compassion for him and he has a huge responsibility for him, and if he’s really ill, may not feel up to the task, so I would have a lot of compassion for him, but I don’t think that means that we need to do anything differently. I just think that means that time will tell.”
It reminds me of my previous post in which I discussed President Kimball’s failing capacity.
There were a few warning signs in the early summer of 1981. When he was interviewed for a documentary on the Dallas Temple, the producer decided not to use the footage because “the film of the interview made him look very feeble and absentminded.”
Despite the improvement, rumors spread. One friend told Ed that he had been assured that Spencer was “a blob.”
His mental acuity was something like a radio signal, fading in and out. He managed small talk but had trouble calling up names, even of family members.
Michael Quinn also noted that during President Benson’s incapacity, an autopen was used giving his authorization for others to administer affairs of the church. My questions are these.