The LDS leadership’s commitment to its global membership was recently brought into question by the selection of three elderly white Utahns to the Church’s Quorum of the 12 Apostles. To make matters even more bizarre, two were businessmen and one was a cardiologist. No scientists, no historians, no theologians, no academicians, no feminists. Which causes me to wonder if the LDS Church is a business or a religion.
Some writers were willing to give the church a pass. According to Wilfried Decoo on timesandseasons.com:
I understand their caution and I trust their thorough acquaintance with potential nominees, [including those] from abroad. It took the Catholic Church 1500 years before a non-Italian pope came to the helm, and then another four centuries before the second. I expect it will go faster in the Mormon Church, but in historical perspective Mormonism is still in its infancy.
There is so much to say in response to Decoo. First, we are not in the Middle Ages. Any comparison between medieval Catholicism and the situation in contemporary Mormonism is seriously flawed. Second, I don’t buy that the LDS Church can procrastinate with leadership decisions for a seriously long time (decades). Third, we are living in a time of rapid change and that change is not unique to the United States. Views from diverse corners of the world are important. A geriatric white leadership during a time of globalization and rapid progress is proving to be a liability.
A defense of one of the new apostles was provided by the Meridian. Their e-mag article alleges that Elder Dale G. Renlund represents global diversity because:
- He was born to Scandinavian immigrants who spoke no English when they came to the USA and at home Elder Renlund spoke Swedish as his first language.
- He lived, with his family, in Finland and Sweden from age 10 to 13.
- He served 5 years in the Africa Southeast Area presidency for 5 years.
I don’t mean to brag, but I can provide equally good justifications for me being an internationalist, and I’m certainly not one. Elder Renlund is a visitor to the world beyond the USA and not a native. And you need to be a native to totally understand the variety of global perspectives and cultures, and provide much needed new dimension to LDS leadership.
The principal defense of the 3 new apostles is that they were chosen by God, “divinely rather than politically orchestrated.” But Jana Reiss believes that it is not that simple:
I do not believe that apostolic callings happen so very differently and miraculously than other callings occur in the Church. It is a combination of divine inspiration and human agency working together that makes a calling happen. When we issue callings in the Church, we do so under the guidance of prayer and the Spirit’s leading, but our own experiences and inclinations factor in as well.
The LDS Church had a unique opportunity to prove that it is a global church and not just an American invention. Unfortunately, the leadership chose to go a different direction.