President Gordon B. Hinckley who is 96 years old is about to become the Church’s oldest serving Prophet in Church history.
This morning’s Deseret News has a great story on the Church’s oldest serving prophets:
President Gordon B. Hinckley of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints marks a major milestone today. He has now equaled President David O. McKay in age.
President McKay and President Hinckley are now tied as the oldest prophets in the history of the church. As of today, Nov. 2, 2006, President Hinckley is 96 years old, plus 132 days — the same age that President McKay was when he died on Jan. 18, 1970. President Hinckley is thus poised to become the oldest-ever church president Friday.
Born in Salt Lake City on June 23, 1910, he has served as the 15th president of the church since March 12, 1995, and has been a general authority for more than 48 years.
President Joseph Fielding Smith lived to be 95 and 8 months old, the third-oldest church president. President Ezra Taft Benson was fourth at age 94 and President Wilford Woodruff fifth at age 91.
While President Hinckley is approaching age 97, no other church president has displayed as much vigor and energy as he has.
“I think it is significant for any church to have an extended administration that is not chopped up,” said Jan Shipps, professor emeritus of history and religious studies at Indiana University-Purdue University. She is considered among the foremost non-LDS scholars of LDS history and said she has not only been impressed with President Hinckley’s vigor and vitality — despite his advancing age — but also with his openness among church members. “President Hinckley has been strong and consistent,” she said.
Other than the Prophet Joseph Smith, most subsequent Church presidents have lived to be over 83 years old:
The average longevity for all 15 LDS Church presidents is 83.4 years. Not counting Joseph Smith, who was martyred at age 38, the remaining 14 presidents have had an average life span of 86.6 years.
President Hinckley currently ranks sixth in his length of tenure as church president, with 11 years and almost eight months of service. Fifth place is held by President Spencer W. Kimball, who was prophet for 11 years and 10 months.
Brigham Young had the longest tenure as church president, with 29 years, followed by President Heber J. Grant with 27 years. President McKay was prophet for 19 years and President Joseph F. Smith for 17 years.
The oldest-ever LDS general authority was Elder Joseph Anderson of the Quorums of the Seventy. He served as a general authority for more than eight years and had an additional 13 years of emeritus status. He died on March 13, 1992, at age 102.
I think Professor Shipps points out an important fact: This First Presidency has marked over a decade of continuous service. President Hinckley has also mentioned this in the past. I think it has benefited the Church’s greatest expansion of Temples the world has ever known. It is also remarkable how healthy President Hinckley remains. He is much more healthy at this stage of this Presidency than any of the other previous Church Presidents that served to similar ages–at least as far as I can remember. Congratulations to President Hinckley. He remains an inspiration at 96 of what one can accomplish in their personal lives.
The Salt Lake Tribune also has a good story here.