I admire Pope Benedict XVI for resigning his office due to his ill health. This decision put the well-being of his church above personal desire for power and influence. I hope his example will inspire other elderly people in responsible positions to recognize that their organization may be better served by a younger, healthier, more energetic person.
Sure, a small percentage of elderly people are free from disabilities. And jobs do exist which people with decreased levels of energy and some physical and cognitive disabilities can perform—but not at leadership levels. I suspect the reason for the flat, possibly negative Mormon Church growth in recent years is connected to the longevity of leaders.
Life in the 21st century is fast paced. Changes in technology, available information, world governments, and the global economy are almost constant. Even people not slowed by limitations of age have trouble keeping up. Trying to solve current problems with yesterday’s wisdom no longer works.
I think Church leaders recognize that even lesser disabilities than total dementia limit a person’s ability to fully carry out the responsibilities of their office. For many years now, general authorities below the rank of apostle have been given an emeritus position.
Unfortunately, a similar policy has not been instituted for apostles or for the prophet. Currently, seven members of the quorum are over 80. Only three are younger than 70. I don’t know how many of these men have age-related disabilities, but it’s fair to assume that most do.
My hope is that the Pope’s example will motivate apostles and members of the first presidency to honestly assess their own state of health. When they recognize they can no longer perform adequately, I hope they will put personal feelings aside and resign for the benefit of the Church. And I hope Church culture will allow them to do so.