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LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson is "feeling the effects of advancing age," the Utah-based faith said Friday, but don't expect him or any other top Mormon leader to step aside voluntarily for health reasons.
"Apostles serve for life," The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reaffirmed in a news release.
New questions about Monson's health arose when he bypassed a meeting with a visiting President Barack Obama last month and then cut his speaking load by half at April's General Conference.
On Friday, the LDS Church released the following statement originally reported on KUER's RadioWest:
"President Monson is 87. It's natural that he and others in church leadership are feeling the effects of advancing age. However, he spoke publicly at General Conference [last] month and attended all the meetings. He comes to the office every day, attends all First Presidency and committee meetings, leads the discussion and makes decisions."
The statement, the first to address directly Monson's health, also noted that "the workload of the First Presidency is up to date."
"President Monson has always been private about his health," it added, "but appreciates the prayers and sustaining support of church members, as do all of the First Presidency and the Twelve [apostles]."
During the recent General Conference, Monson, who was called to the LDS apostleship in 1963 at age 36 and has rendered full-time church service for more than 51 years, said "doing all I can, to the very best of my ability, has been my goal in any position I have ever held."
The conversation about the age and health of Mormon leaders continued on Thursday's RadioWest program between host Doug Fabrizio and his two guests, LDS historians Richard Bushman and Gregory Prince.
The aging of top LDS leaders also made headlines recently when senior apostles L. Tom Perry and Richard G. Scott were hospitalized.
Perry who, at 92, is the oldest Mormon apostle and second in line for the Utah-based faith's presidency has begun treatment for thyroid cancer, an LDS Church news release said Tuesday, and is "conducting church business" at home.
The same release said that Scott, 86, also was at home, recuperating after a bout with gastrointestinal bleeding.
The three members of the governing First Presidency along with the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of which Perry is the second-ranking member behind 90-year-old Boyd K. Packer make up the top two ruling LDS councils.
The average age of these 15 men seen as "prophets, seers and revelators" by the Mormon faithful is 80, the oldest it has ever been in the faith's 185-year history.
Some Mormon observers have raised the prospect of granting these leaders emeritus status. The church typically does just that for members of the First Quorum of the Seventy when they reach 70. LDS blogger John English, a technical project manager in Utah, has proposed making apostles emeritus at age 90.
That, apparently, is not going to happen.
"Emeritus status is not a consideration for the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve," the LDS Church said in its Friday statement. They retain their positions until death.
So a Mormon president or apostle, for that matter won't resign as Pope Benedict XVI did two years ago as shepherd of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics.
"The [LDS] church today has been organized by the Lord himself," 90-year-old apostle Russell M. Nelson, third in line for the Mormon presidency, said in an October 2014 conference address. "He has put in place a remarkable system of governance that provides redundancy and backup. That system provides prophetic leadership even when the inevitable illnesses and incapacities may come with advancing age."
Peggy Fletcher Stack contributed to this story.