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Top-ranking Mormon leader Richard Scott dies at 86


Richard Scott at the memorial service for Mormon leader Boyd Packer (AP)

Richard Scott at the memorial service for Mormon leader Boyd Packer (AP)

Richard Scott at the memorial service for Mormon leader Boyd Packer (AP)

Top Mormon leader Richard Scott has died, leaving the religion with three openings on its governing body for the first time in more than a century.

Mr Scott, 86, died from natural causes at his home in Salt Lake City surrounded by his family, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said. He had been a member of a church governing body called the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles since 1988.

He is the third top member of the quorum to die this year, leaving three vacancies on the quorum for the first time since 1906.

Quorum president Boyd Packer died in July from natural causes, and member Tom Perry died in May from cancer. Replacements for the trio are expected to be named in the coming months, perhaps at the religion's twice-a-year conference on October 3 and 4.

Six other members among the religion's top 15 leaders are also 80 or older, including church president Thomas Monson. He is 88 and is feeling the effects of his age, according to church officials. Russell Nelson, 91, is next in line to become church president based on being the longest-tenured member of the quorum.

Born in Pocatello, Idaho, Mr Scott had a successful career as a nuclear engineer before being chosen in 1988 as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Modelled after Jesus Christ's apostles, the group serves under the church president and his two counselors in overseeing operations of the church and its business interests.

Mr Scott's health began deteriorating earlier this year and he was admitted to hospital with gastrointestinal bleeding in April. He recovered from that, but church officials announced in May that he was experiencing fading memory that kept him from taking part in quorum meetings.

Mormon scholar Armand Mauss called Mr Scott a "mild-mannered leader promoting self-improvement and compassion as important attributes for Latter-day Saints to acquire".

Utah governor Gary Herbert called Mr Scott a kind and generous leader. "His unwavering faith and pursuit of lifelong learning was an example to each one of us," he said.

Fellow quorum member Todd Christofferson said Mr Scott delivered hope-filled messages that inspired others. He was credited with helping drive global church membership.

"I don't go anywhere, especially in Latin America, where he served for so long and in so many places - I don't go anywhere there that I don't see his footprints, where I don't meet somebody who hasn't been influenced by him in some way," Mr Christofferson said.

Mr Scott was born in Idaho, but moved at the age of five to Washington DC, where his father, Kenneth Leroy, would become assistant secretary of agriculture. Mr Scott graduated from George Washington University with a degree in mechanical engineering.

Throughout his life, he suffered intense personal losses. Two of his seven children died when they were young, and his wife Jeanene died of cancer in 1995. She was the daughter of US senator Arthur Watkins. Mr Scott never remarried.