The Three Neophytes

3-new-apostes-namedSome thoughts on the new members of the Quorum of the Twelve:

First, for my friends who are not happy that other people are not happy that these men are white Utahns: I hope you can see beyond the criticism to the underlying concern. I’m hearing a lot of pain and it seems to stem from this question: “Are people with my background unable/unworthy/unwanted to represent the Lord to the church?” In other words, this is not about filling quotas; it is about existential dread. It is deeply personal and painful. (And given the church’s past history, it is not like this question comes out of nowhere.) I understand the visceral response that can come when you hear someone criticizing the church and its leadership, but I’m asking you to try to get behind that and hear that root issue and the pain it can cause and then mourn with those who mourn. Also, please realize that there is a long scriptural track record of inspired leaders who have a hard time seeing beyond cultural biases (see John 4:27, Acts 10, and 3 Nephi 23); one wonders on what basis one would conclude that this could not happen in our day.

Next, for my friends who are not happy that these men are white Utahns: I understand that this is disappointing. Can I ask you for two things? First, please try to avoid either-or thinking. As in: either God is racist or the church isn’t led by God. Or: either God is racist or these are not the apostles God wanted chosen. Please consider that it is possible (not provable, mind you, but possible) that God would have been just fine with any one of twenty or thirty people who might have been chosen for these slots, and so the fact that three white men were chosen does not necessarily imply that God only wants white men called or that God wasn’t approving of the calls. Consider that these calls can be inspired and can reflect some cultural biases. Also be open to the possibility that God is testing us here. The story of President McKay asking to lift the priesthood ban and being told “no”–and not being happy about it–should give us all some pause about second-guessing other people’s decisions. Second, please consider that the men who were called might bring some new viewpoints to the Quorum and that we might be happy about this possibility: Elder Renlund, for example, has a wife who had a professional career while raising their young child. (As far as I can tell, this is a first for the quorum.)

Next, if reports are correct, it sounds like these apostles were called and accepted their calls without their wife’s knowledge or input. If this is indeed the case, then I don’t think that process models very well what President Nelson talked about regarding women as full and contributing co-leaders in their families.

Now, I don’t really have a sense of Elder Rasband or Stevenson yet. But Renlund intrigues already. His April conference talk and yesterday’s talk were both gems. (He was, at last check, a registered Democrat.) He seems to have a sense of humor. His wife has an interesting story.

If you haven’t watched the news conference where they were introduced to the media, you should.

I feel so sorry for these men. (Is that a weird reaction?) As a friend put it on Facebook, they’ve basically been given a life sentence ending in death by church meetings. Every syllable they utter for the rest of their lives will be micro-analyzed. People will take pictures of them pushing their cart out of Trader Joe’s and then post them on social media, where they will go viral (my only question: How the heck did Elder Holland manage to get out of there with just one bag?).  At least three were called at once, giving them, I hope, a kind of camaraderie in shared suffering and initiation.

I’m rooting for them.


60 comments for “The Three Neophytes

  1. Not surprisingly, the large majority of calls for diversity in my FB feed came from progressive North Americans, because most of my FB friends are progressive North Americans. Does anybody have the sense that there was a deep, anguished movement among members in Brazil or Zimbabwe, say, to see one of their own represented in the Quorum?

  2. Rosalynde, this is totally anecdotal, but I’ve heard multiple reports of Saints in various countries expressing disappointment–but privately to family members, not on social media. (Then those family members relayed the sentiment on social media, which is how I heard about it.)

  3. Ma’am–
    Bearing in mind that has been disclosed through the Gospel Topics and other documents now in the public domain, do you really believe that God told President McKay “No” as some vehicle for divine testing?? I can remember Bishop Robert L. Simpson sharing this same vignette in a stake conference almost 50 years ago.

    I’m not trying to go down the road of arguing the priesthood ban–still trying to come to grips with the inspiration claimed by the leadership.

  4. Roger, it’s always possible that the story has been mis-reported, but I think the sources here are pretty solid. I think we need to consider the possibility that that was not the right moment for the ban to be lifted, even if the ban was wrong in the first place. We can speculate as to why the answer was no (likely creation of segregated wards, need to test the saints, division in the quorum/church, etc.), but we’d just be making stuff up.

  5. I have been struck by how few speakers in General Conference have availed themselves of the option of speaking in a language other than English, since this option was officially established a conference or two back. We had at least one speaker in a non-English language at that conference, but mostly people have kept speaking in English. This is an interesting data point to think about as we think about cultural unity and diversity in the Church. Having lived half of my childhood outside the U.S., my reflex has been to want to see more speakers speaking in their native languages, to help reinforce the point that one doesn’t have to speak English to be a strong member or leader in the Church. I thought about this particularly during Elder Aoyagi’s talk, which spoke in excellent English truths that all can recognize, while referencing examples that were quite distinctive to his personal and national origins. Could it be that for many members coming from outside North America, what matters most to them is our unity? Could it be that they would rather speak in a language that will allow more of their listeners to hear them in their own voice, rather than put their differences in the foreground and be heard by most through a translator? If that’s what they are thinking, it makes a lot sense, actually.

    In the case of the new apostles, we’re not just talking about language, but I think we need to remember the importance of unity even while we attend to diversity, and not take the unity for granted, as North Americans may easily find themselves doing.

  6. On feeling sorry for them: I agree completely. I once saw people fawning over Uchtdorf at Costco. He looked a little harried (but maybe that’s just me) and people wouldn’t leave him alone and here he and his wife were having a minor disagreement over what freaking groceries to get, like any normal couple. He was gracious and polite, but it definitely seemed forced (again, maybe that’s just me).

    The older I get, the more being famous–even just Utah/Mormon famous–sounds absolutely awful. How anyone navigates it and remains even remotely grounded in reality or normal is beyond me.

  7. We must appear to the world as a WHITE CHURCH that allows black members.

    These choices seem so insensitive to the fact that current trends strongly suggest our future growth will come from people of color. Not even one out of three?!?!?

  8. Q12 members are usually prepared by a decade or two of prior general authority service. They are often called to be Presidents of the 70 or Presiding Bishop (or to lead a University) first. Elder Renlund was the last called, and had there not been three at once I think it is not unreasonable to think he would have been put in the Presidency of the 70 until the next vacancy.

    Given these trends, you don’t need to be surprised by the demographics of who is called. It will follow the demographics of the Presidency of the 70 and the Presiding Bishop and, possibly, the University Presidents. As those change, so will the Q12, with a lag of 20 years or so. Its a long game.

  9. I had looked forward to and actually assumed there would be some diversity in the choice of the new apostles, but, after hearing the humble testimonies of those three men, I am convinced they were the ones the Lord wanted. I sustain them. However, I agree with Julie that there may have been a number of other men the Lord would have been equally pleased to accept.

  10. Pain. Mourning. Call me un-Christian but I don’t feel like mourning with people who mourn because the apostles are almost all white Utahns. This is not surprising and it is not a tragedy.

  11. I wonder if Alma the younger or the apostle Paul would have ever made it to the same positions in 2015 that they obtained in an earlier time.

  12. Yes, it’s a long game. If you call someone to the Q12, you have decided that he is qualified to become the president of the Church. That has huge implications, and it must make the First Presidency very conservative when selecting someone to be an apostle. However much they might want to call someone other than a white Utahn, the First Presidency will never treat the calling as a nod to diversity. One of the implications I draw from that fact is that the Q15 has a responsibility to seek out the best people from all nations and ethnic backgrounds, and to give them lots of senior administrative experience at a relatively young age. That’s the only way to build a significant pool of candidates who have the absolute confidence of the Q15. Of course, it’s always possible that a relative unknown could be called. But if you want to create real diversity in leadership, it’s not wise to sit around waiting for lightning to strike. To be clear, I don’t think the Q15 is being complacent about this, but I’m not sure whether the issue has yet risen high enough among their priorities.

  13. I hadn’t heard that Elder Renlund is registered as a Democrat. I just checked in my own copy of the Utah voter file. In November 2010 he was registered as a Democrat. In 2014, unaffiliated. So there you go.

  14. I agree with Frank and Tom. More than anything, this speaks to the sorry lack of diversity in the pipeline.

    In other words, the reality is that we’re not yet, in fact, the “worldwide church” that we’d like to believe we are.

  15. Count me as one who is disappointed with the all-whitebread outcome (although the more I hear about Renlund, the more intrigued I am–Democrats in the church leadership are even rarer than non-Americans.) Nevertheless, given Julie’s aversion to “making stuff up,” allow me to fill the void.

    This week, the Catholic Church began a synod in which its teachings on divorce may be significantly modified. The strongest opposition is coming from the Southern Hemisphere (especially Africa). The Anglican Communion’s north-south split on ordaining gay priests is also well known. Perhaps progressives in the church are asking for more than can possibly be delivered. Perhaps we can have increasingly progressive attitudes toward women (and even the LGBT community) or we can have southern-hemisphere representation in the Q12, but we can’t have both. Which would you prefer?

  16. Based on my memory of many calling stories, it seems apostleship is the only one where they don’t interview the wife more than the husband or interview them together. I know for mission presidents they interview the wife first, and my ward’s new bishopric was certainly that wy.a

  17. One more comment. I hate to say but I predicted to myself that this would happen. Here are some thoughts for the disappointed to consider:

    1. Many leaders from other lands don’t have as much preparation as those who were called. The quorum just lost about 10 decades of apostolic experience and has a heavy burden to reallocate.

    2. Those who were called will be better able to see their families during their remaining lifetime calling. This is relatively trivial but I believe is probably a consideration.

    I know a lot of people are excited for it to happen, including myself. I’m also very disappointed the language decision wasn’t kept, but I understand the reasons either way. Not understanding a language can make it hard for some to feel the spirit.

    My final advice for the disappointed: reconsider how the Lord approaches diversity.

  18. For those of us who served missions in South and Central America where most of our efforts resulted in kiddie baptisms who frequently never came back to church for the second Sunday, maybe these selections lay bare the reality that the Church’s claims to unfettered global growth is not exactly as advertised.

  19. Also, it may be a sacrifice to a local country to lose an incredibly well qualified member who could be a great apostle or could continue to stay home and build the kingdom there. We were just in a country on the other side of the globe where various people at all levels of leadership recounted problems/challenges and said, “I talked to……” and that key person came up with a bold and inspired approach to solve the dilemma.

    I am not even going to mention the country, because I am sure it is not the only country with someone like that. Who everyone goes to for advice.

    And perhaps the Lord knows this, and wants to leave him in place, being willing to call others who can be more easily spared to serve in the Q12.

  20. I share the concern that these men were called and apparently accepted without any input from their wives. I am excited about Elder Renlund. Loved his testimony. Had also read his wife’s 2010 interview. But that raised wider concerns I’d expressed before about the place of GA wives in our ecclesiastical structures…

    I think last lemming raises a good point with progressive v. global diversity.

  21. When I go home to visit Utah, every HPG has a handful of past Bishops, Stake Presidents, etc. There is an abundance of leadership not being used. But outside the corridor we have men in part member families filling High Council seats, and struggle to have any counselors for an Elder’s Quorum President. We have a lack of leadership.

    There are many people that I’m sure are worthy and capable of filling high level church positions like Apostle, 70, etc, but taking them away will leave a hole that could be hard to fill. Having good local leadership is more important than having diverse general leadership IMO. Would the Lord take a good man from his local community that would possibly leave a leadership void? Perhaps, but He didn’t do it this time.

  22. I’m not really concerned about who is called as an apostle. I’m more concerned about who is going to be my bishop and stake president as I will have much, much more interaction with them.

  23. “As a friend put it on Facebook, they’ve basically been given a life sentence ending in death by church meetings”

    Ever been around someone who just recently retired? Many fall into a depression as they try to find new purpose and meaning in their lives, while the rest of the world seems to continue on without them. I can see becoming a GA as a dream come true – to be heralded as a mouthpiece of God, not to mention the satisfaction of actually changing lives. And they can essentially tone down their commitment whenever their health warrants. Compare that to your typical grandpa who serves as a family history consultant while trying to keep his mind off the fact that his grand kids never come to visit him. He prepares his own ham sandwich in between conference sessions instead of receiving catering from The Garden Restaurant. He shows up early so he can see the Pioneer Parade instead of riding in it. He buys books from Deseret Book instead of collecting royalties from his pseudobiography with a title like “Pathways to Perfection” or “I Will Lead You Along.” He travels the world and name drops his experiences meeting with far off Polynesian saints ala Neal Anderson.

    In short, these guys are living an LDS retirement dream. I don’t feel sorry for them.

  24. Which is more important, for the Q of 12 to portray the global nature of our faith with most of us only having a superficial knowledge of those peoples or for North American Saints to develop a global perspective when they think of church membership? The former is dependent on God and His prophet, the latter is dependent on us. I think we can cover a lot of ground by ourselves.

    We need to work to make sure that Saints across this planet, their hopes, their dreams and their identities are in our thoughts and prayers. Atonement, the ability of members to unite in Christ gives us the power and motivation to do that. Do we know the Saints of the world? We only know of those that appear in the upper echelons of church hierarchy. What does that say about us?

    Elder and Sister Renlund know the Saints of Africa so well that they want to be like them. Perhaps when we North Americans collectively come know the Saints of Africa, Asia and Europe better, we will be blessed with more apostles from those lands. Perhaps God is pausing and waiting for it to dawn on us that we have the tools to get to know these people better. Perhaps he wants us to recognize that he has “special witnesses” in distant lands already.

  25. Wow, what a great comment thread! Does anyone know why they went back to English-only? Maybe because listening to dubbing is so painful? I sure wouldn’t want to be dubbed to most of my audience if I could avoid it. Tons of excellent points about the need to develop more depth in our membership out in the world and not prematurely pull their best leaders away to Salt Lake. Bravo, T&S readers, and bravo, Julie, for such a great, timely and helpful post!

  26. Count me among the mildly disappointed, I guess. Not terminally so: this isn’t the final straw for me to give up and decide that God is racist, or that the decision to call these apostles is not of God. In fact, I have every reason to believe that Pres. Monson sought and obtained guidance from the Holy Spirit in extending these calls. I’m also not one of those who find the decision deeply painful on a personal level. As a Christian, though, my heart belongs with those who do. Just as I expect that the unique experiences of these three men will be a valuable addition to the Quorum, I would have been even more excited by the call of special witnesses “in all the world” who were *from* all the world, and who understood the people they were called to minister to from a different perspective than the white American perspective that now prevails in the Q12.

    Also, I guess I may be hopelessly naive, but if I’m going to believe that this is the work of the same God who called an obscure Galilean fisherman and an undistinguished New York teenager to hold the keys of the kingdom in their times, and qualified them by making something more of them as they followed Jesus, then I don’t think it would be *too* big a miracle to hope that God might have at least one potential apostle who’s a progressive African or South American. In fact, the number of apostles that have been called from the Smith family, or from a fairly small circle of people known and trusted by the person extending the call, suggests that the number of people who could have become apostles now, with God’s approval, is much larger than twenty or thirty. If there are good options in a relatively small circle of the prophet’s acquaintances, then there must be good options all over — the other option is that God’s potential apostles are all concentrated in that small circle to begin with, and I can’t follow that line of reasoning very far without leading to some pretty racist conclusions.

    I also don’t think it would be *too* big a miracle for one such person to be found who wouldn’t totally decimate local leadership. (Plus, keeping them in local leadership is always an option. At least, Elder Oaks and Elder Holland managed to be area presidents and apostles at the same time, and earlier apostles were sent to build up the church in places like England before they could have had very much experience being apostles in places where the church was more established.)

  27. I appreciate Mike R.’s comment. I was a missionary in a Caribbean country in the 1980’s, just a few years after the LDS missionaries were sent there for the first time. I was astonished at the maturity of a few key leaders who had been baptized soon after the work started in that country. In their understanding and commitment, they and their families seemed to me no different from people who had been born and raised in active Mormon families. I was convinced that they had been prepared by God for that time. I’m convinced that the same kind of thing has happened in many other places. I see no reason why it should not happen in the process of preparing apostles too. However, to find those people requires a commitment of faith, prayer, effort, and patience over a long term. Count me as one who believes that having diversity among the general authorities, including the Quorum of the Twelve, is necessary for the growth of the Church.

  28. Julie Smith: Great post. Makes me want to seek out your work. (Seriously.) As for the subject at hand, what little I know and see and hear of these three new apostles (Elder Rasband more than the others, in my case) tells me that they are eminently qualified, good men. With whom I will disagree as much as agree (but my opinion and agreement was never any part of the criteria!) Not knowing the truth of anything, I find the “three out of twenty or thirty” model quite congenial, personally and in making room for a wide range of opinions and reactions.

  29. I was sitting next to the only black member of our High Priest Quorum several years ago during a discussion of our church’s leadership. This man, a very devout member, nevertheless turned to me and said, “All I know is that when I look at the leadership of this church I don’t see anyone who looks like me.” This is a man who was once told he wasn’t good enough to hold the priesthood because of his race. Those of us who are white cannot possibly know how much it would have meant to good members of this church in Africa, South America, Asia and even here in the U.S. to have someone who looked like them, or at least someone who was not just another white male, called to the highest leadership of this church. Who knows how many years will have to go by now for the next possibility to come along? Not to take anything away from the new chosen and sustained, but I feel very sad.

  30. Don, if you look at the health and age of the most senior members of the Quorum we’re probably only 12 months to 3 years from the next opening in the body. Elder Hales and President Monson are both reaching a level of frailty and given his age, President Nelson probably only has 5 years left as well. I’m not declaring a deathwatch mentality, just stating the obvious. I will be sad to see any of these men pass just as it was saddening to see Elders Scott, Perry and Packer “transfer” as one speaker described their departure. But change happens with each new member and I’m trusting that the Lord will bring it all to pass in good time. Sooner hopefully than later.

  31. “Those of us who are white cannot possibly know how much it would have meant to good members of this church in Africa, South America, Asia and even here in the U.S. to have someone who looked like them, or at least someone who was not just another white male, called to the highest leadership of this church.”

    You’re right, I cannot understand what difference it makes at all. To me, it matters nothing that Jesus was not a Utahn of northern European stock. If he had been a Utahn of European ancestry, or otherwise of Northern European Ancestry, this would not work to increase my reverence and worship for him, and would not impact my self-worth. I feel the same about Nephi, King Benjamin, Abinadi, Paul, Peter, Alma, Isaiah, Abraham, and Moses. It means nothing to me, whether from the perspective of my esteem for these servants of the Lord, or whether from the assessment of my own worth before God, that they are not Utahns of European stock and that they are not Europeans. I don’t esteem Spencer Kimball more than I do Moroni or Samuel the Lamanite because I am more ethnically like Spencer Kimball than I am like Moroni or Samuel the Lamanite. I do not feel greater self-worth through consideration of the words and calling of Elder Kim Clark than I do through considering the words and calling of Elder Yoon Choi.

    To me, understanding my worth comes from knowing my relationship with the Lord, and having the Atonement cleanse and empower me, not from considering that those ethnically like me lead this Church at this time. In fact, I believe that if my self-worth were impacted by the latter, I would stand in a precarious situation, similar to that which was rebuked by Jesus when he said “And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.”

    All that said, I would have been so very excited if a new apostle had been from the Phillipines or Japan or Korea or Samoa or Ghana. I don’t think my excitement would have had any lasting impact on my ability to become like Christ.

  32. at (36)

    “…All that said, I would have been so very excited if a new apostle had been from the Phillipines or Japan or Korea or Samoa or Ghana”


  33. at (38)

    Thanks for responding. That’s what I assumed.

    I’m not disappointed because I see any fault or deficiency in these three good men. It’s not about them. Rather, I’m disappointed because–apparently like you–I see the demographics of leadership as a reflection of whether growth outside the I-15 corridor is genuine and permanent.

    This is not encouraging.

  34. #36 “And think not to say within yourselves . . . ”
    This is John the Baptist, not Jesus. And John was hairy with a big beard, which makes me feel better about the gospel as I am also bearded.

  35. Thanks for the correction and humor. Next time I make an effort to quote someone’s words, hopefully I will try to make sure the quote was actually from that actual someone.

  36. Consider that these calls can be inspired and can reflect some cultural biases.

    Julie, this is the money line. I see two extremes:

    (1) The leaders are not inspired and only choosing others like them.

    (2) The leaders are inspired and these three are the same God himself would have chosen.

    Don’t understand either as being rational.

    When choosing someone for the Quorum of the 12—and given that, no, I don’t believe God poofs a name magically into people’s heads—the vetting is incredibly important and they are either going to choose someone they know REALLY well or who can otherwise be EASILY vetted somehow. Those they know are generally people already in leadership somewhere with whom they work regularly. That’s a systemic self-perpetuating bias right there.

    But when people demand that any discussion is unfaithful because they were “called of God” they behave as if there was no actual human involvement or decision making at all. Rather, it was just a straight passthrough from God. No bias, no filtering, no judgement, no thought, no barriers.

    When stake presidents are called, the presiding GA goes to the area and…ahem…interviews all the high council and bishops, etc. They actually (at least in cases my husband has been involved in) ask the interviewees to give names of people they recommend, because they rarely actually know anyone in the stake. Makes sense, right? But not in the context of “I have flown to your area to give you the name that came to me in a vision. Behold your new stake president.”

    Maybe we have to be more clear about what inspiration means and how it works?

  37. Gerrit Gong replaces Elder Rasband in the Presidency of the Seventy. Elder Gong is a Chinese-American, born and raised in California. He’s 61 years old, a general authority for the past five years. A career diplomat and academic. He has spent time overseas, in Washington, and in a senior administrative position at BYU. He would be a prime candidate for the Q12 if a vacancy occurs in the next few years. Exactly the type of person you might expect to be the first non-white member of the Q12.

  38. With the mention of demographics, one thing worth considering is how the demographic makeup of the apostles reflects the demographics of the Church during the time when they were born. From the 1920s through the 1950s, the majority of Church members were centered in Utah and the other western states, with the most sizable non-American proportion of members located in Europe. (Membership reached its first million as late as 1947, remember.) Now we have 15 apostles born from the 1920s through the 1950s, and there’s one European and the rest are American.

    It could be that 30 years from now the apostles will still be mostly white Americans, but maybe there will be some who reflect the demographics of what the Church was like at the times they were born (by then, we’re talking about people born in the 1980s), with some from South America, the Philippines, or Africa.

    I’m only disappointed in three white Utah men getting called because we’ve been there and done that many times already. But as individuals they’re all the right men for the job. The Lord doesn’t care about identity politics, and He also has a tendency to surprise us when we least expect it. He’s at the helm, and that’s good enough for me.

  39. I haven’t read all the comments and I’m sure there are some great ones. Here are my personal thoughts.

    1. Could it be possible that these 3 are exactly who the Lord wants? Sure we may want someone who looks different or is maybe our favorite speaker but “the Lord looketh on the heart.”

    2. I don’t know that there has every been a case where members of the 12 have been called with their wives…unlike typical practice for a bishop or stake president (as far as I know). I’ve wondered about it. They all seem to get to surprise their wives with this type of a call. I’ve read enough biographies to know this.

    3. It seems the Lord needs experience given the challenges facing the Church and the world right now. I can’t speak for him but that’s my theory. Diversity doesn’t have come by birth in a particular place or by skin color. Each of these men have a broad diversity of experience and background.

    4. I was surprised they were all from Utah but I’ll get it over it. I actually thought my own stake president might have been a good choice. Perhaps someday.

    5. I like Elder Gong. I agree with the comment that he may very well be in the 12 someday. He has been an Area President and will now serve in the Presidency of the 70.

    6. I think the answer to Pres. McKay wasn’t just “NO.” It was more of “it’s not the right time.” Don’t know for sure. But, we cannot force the Lord. I sometimes wonder if all the public pressure on the Church during the 60’s regarding blacks and the priesthood cause the revelation to be delayed. Perhaps the same is true with the demographics of the 12.

    That’s my 2 cents if it’s worth that.

  40. “I sometimes wonder if all the public pressure on the Church during the 60’s regarding blacks and the priesthood cause the revelation to be delayed.”

    Isn’t it established that Hugh B. Brown almost succeeded in getting the priesthood ban overturned in 1969 in response to protests from entities such as Stanford University, only to have Harold B. Lee prevent this from occurring? And didn’t LeGrand Richards provide an interview in which he characterized the decision to overturn the ban not as a revelation but as a response to the impending opening of the Sao Paulo Temple?

  41. Brian, I had read that Hugh B. Brown had argued that no revelation was necessary since it was just a “policy” and not doctrine. I have no idea how successful he was with the argument or who might have disagreed. I had not heard anything about Elder Richards in this regard. I am going off of what I have read primarily from biographies of Boyd K. Packer, Bruce R. McConkie, Gordon B. Hinckley, Spencer W. Kimball, and Thomas S. Monson and the Church essay on the topic. I am no expert. After recently finishing the one on Spencer W. Kimball, it appears the topic concerned him for some time….long before he was President of the Church. The fact that there were faithful black members of the Church or those of mixed race in Brazil who donated of their time and means to the building of a temple they had no hope of entering certainly weighed on him but it wasn’t the only consideration.

  42. Wizard of Oz,

    “I sometimes wonder if all the public pressure on the Church during the 60’s regarding blacks and the priesthood cause the revelation to be delayed.”

    Interesting thought. Meaning, ‘we were going to do it anyway, but now we can’t because it might appear that we’re caving to public pressure from radicals’?

    I suppose that’s possible. Even adults can succumb to stubborn, teenage pride.

  43. If nothing else, I will be glad to hear him speak more. His talks are very powerful and cover important topics that aren’t touched on all the time (‘No More Strangers’ and ‘Is it Still Wonderful to You?’)

    And of course, I’m a francophone and shopped at Carrefour on my mission in French Polynesia.

  44. I have a couple of thoughts about this.

    First, I think most people are overlooking the most likely reason three white men from Utah were called: President Thomas Monson’s poor health. As was very apparent in conference, President Thomas is in very poor health physically. Six months ago, he turned down a visit from the President of the United States because of ill health. I don’t think there is any chance he was interviewing a lot of candidates for the three positions. He chose, by inspiration, from among the people he knew. Does he mostly know white men from Utah, and is that a problem? Yes. But it is also endemic to having our church run by old men. Realize that when President Thomas became an apostle in 1963, the church’s official position was still one of explicit doctrinal racism. Thankfully, he is the last apostle for whom this will have been true—Brother Russell Nelson, the next-most senior, was called in 1984, after Official Declaration 2 was given.

    At the age he’s at, President Thomas just doesn’t have the physical strength to be making many new acquaintances. If a person isn’t a General Authority living in Utah, or at least visiting there often, and doesn’t have some other personal association with the prophet, like being a president of a church-run university or family friend, there is very little chance the prophet will know them well enough to select them. And even being a General Authority usually isn’t enough: you usually have to be in the Presidency of the Seventy or the Presiding Bishopric.

    That is actually good news, since for the first time I can remember, there are two non-US-born individuals in those positions: Ulisses Soares is in the Presidency of the Seventy, and Gerald Causse is the new Presiding Bishop.

    And, while the process is slow, there has been improvement. The last time three apostles were called, in 1906, one was the son of a former apostle, born in Utah, one was the grandson of an apostle and the son of a woman who had married the prophet Joseph Smith, born in Utah, and the third, David O. McKay, was also born in Utah. We still have the Utah problem, but at least the apostles aren’t usually related to previous church leaders anymore, although admittedly several still are.

    My second thought is, I’m confused why so many people are focused on race, instead of nationality. If this were a US-exclusive church, it would make a lot of sense, since race relations are a big deal here. However, this is a global church. I feel increased diversity means more nations being represented, without regard to something as superficial as skin tone (and more genders, but that’s a different discussion). Honestly, to me it seems racist to suggest that Gerrit Gong, an American born to two American parents, would somehow increase diversity more than Dale Renlund, the son of two Scandinavian immigrants (who I agree does not increase diversity nearly as much as someone from another nation would).

    Some people might say that they want apostles who look like them, and I can understand that, but I think it is much more important to have apostles who can be understood by members without the use of a translator (especially given how awful the English dubs are to listen to; I assume the ones in other languages are just as bad).

    Plus, in many, many parts of the world, racism just isn’t an issue, or if it is, it is very different than in the United States, with different targets of discrimination. Terms like “person of color” have no meaning in the vast majority of the world, and honestly, that’s a good thing and not something I want to see reversed.

    Again, we’re making progress here. The second-or-third most powerful member of the church speaks German as his native language, and is from that nation. The First Quorum of the Seventy is gaining less and less members from Utah, and more and more from other countries. Change is happening. It is just very slow. And I can understand the frustration over that.

    And again, it would be nice to keep gender part of the conversation too, since women are the least-represented General Authorities of all, there being zero (General Auxiliaries are not considered General Authorities). And sadly, if the trend on nationalities is any indication, even after women receive the priesthood, it will still be at least another century or so until one is called as an apostle.

  45. Apostles come from all shapes and sizes, some are very well educated and some are not. Other then two Presidents of the Church having Master Degrees, and Pres. Hunter having a Law Degree, none of them were well educated. Even today Elder Ballard just has a degree, Elder Cook seemed like a plain jane lawyer, neither are fancy. It just seems to be whom the Lord wants and not what kind of background they have, educational or otherwise

  46. The issue relating to greater cultural diversity (and thereby greater cultural understanding) isn’t just related to the members of Q12. I was a member of a bishopric in a European country one year when December 24th fell on a Sunday. Well, in most of Europe that is the date when we celebrate Christmas, open the presents, travel from afar to be with family etc. We decided ahead of time that this particular year we would only have a sacrament service. I’m guessing many other wards had made similar plans as we received a letter from the area presidency stating that Sunday meetings were to be held as on any other Sunday. Five years later Sunday fell on the 25th, and guess what, we received a letter from the area presidency telling us it would be alright to just have a short sacrament.
    The feeling it left in this particular 4th generation European member is that I’m a member of an American church where the leaders, most likely unthinkingly, view the church exclusively through an American culture lens. Some Times And Seasons posts and several of the comments reinforce that feeling.

  47. Also, issues of diversity aside, Brother Dale gave a moving testimony during the Sunday Morning Session. His story about Chad and his parents, and seeing others as God sees them, touched me to tears. It was my favorite talk of the conference, and I’m really excited to have him as an apostle.

    I want to second what others have said, that my desire for diversity is a cumulative desire, and does not take away from my appreciation for any of the apostles personally. Just because many of us hope for some apostles from different backgrounds does not mean we do not value the ones from the backgrounds currently represented. Nor does it mean we think all of our current apostles are all the same; they clearly are not. Brothers Ronald, Gary, and Dale all will bring different, unique talents and perspective to the apostles, which will, I believe, benefit the quorum and the church.

    In wishing for greater diversity, I think it is wrong for anyone to dismiss the differences and unique value of each of the individuals that were called. Yes, they are all upper-middle-class white men from Utah, but that does not mean they are the same, nor that their individual contribution is any less valuable than that of someone from a different class, gender, or nationality. Maybe I do not think that those three combined were the best choice, but that does not mean they were not a good choice. I personally think they were.

    That’s how I feel, anyway.

  48. Depending on How you count Elder Renlund between 16 and 20% of the top priesthood Counsels (1st Pres, Q12 Pres Bish & Pres 70) are not American Anglos.

    I’m not sure most people realize just how fast the growth of the Church in Africa has been.

    From the Talk Elder Sitati gave Friday at the UU “Black, White and Mormon” conference.

    “In 1978, there were 7,567 Mormons in Africa. At the end of 2014, there were 448,487.”
    that’s an average annual growth rate of 161% the Church in Africa is roughly 60 times as big as it was in 1978.

    Elder Sitati I note is 63 and has at most 29 years experience as a PH holder, Elder Stevensen at 60 has 48.

    I do statistics over at and 30% of new units formed this year are in Africa. For comparison Utah and Idaho, together, account for 16% of new units and the rest of North America (including Mexico and the Caribean is another 27%.

  49. #54 “. . but that does not mean they are the same, nor that their individual contribution is any less valuable than that of someone from a different class, gender, or nationality.”

    If their individual contribution is of equal value to an individual with a different background, why do you want to see more diversity?

  50. Joseph, while we are doing well in Africa, my understanding is we are still far behind Evangelicals. In Asia Evangelicals are making huge gains as well while we are growing very, very slowly.

  51. Who said we’re supposed to be the fastest growing church? I don’t remember anyone saying that and it seems contrary to Jesus’ expectations, as well as scriptural and contemporary examples of declining participation as more commitment is required.

    No one ever said the stone cut out of the mountain would be the fastest rolling or the biggest, only that eventually it would fill the earth, and growth of other faiths is part of that whether they are a preparatory experience or included in that prophecy.

  52. I think the issue is that we probably aren’t speaking in a way Asians can understand/accept quite well. That is we’re doing a one size fits all missionary effort when we shouldn’t be. The statistics just suggest we could be doing much better in Asia than we are. Looking at what evangelicals are doing might be informative.

    That said, I certainly don’t think we have to be the fastest growing church. Part of that period of growth was due to becoming an international church. There were a lot of growth opportunities. By the end of the 80’s those growth opportunities changed. Now we should expect to grow at a much slower rate. The big difference is in Africa.

  53. Not surprisingly, the large majority of calls for diversity in my FB feed came from progressive North Americans, because most of my FB friends are progressive North Americans. Does anybody have the sense that there was a deep, anguished movement among members in Brazil or Zimbabwe, say, to see one of their own represented in the Quorum?

    Rosalynde, instead of soliciting data why not just use your sense of empathy to figure out how members of color feel about their wildly disproportionate representation among the Q12 and P70?

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