How Important is Mormon Internationalism?

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.

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Some writers were willing to give the church a pass.  According to Wilfried Decoo on

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.

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13 Responses to How Important is Mormon Internationalism?

  1. shematwater says:

    When there arose a dispute between the Greek and Hebrew saints Peter told the people to select seven brethren who could administer such matters. Of the seven that were chosen six were Hebrew and only one Greek. However, the Greek members didn’t seem to care. All seven were honest men of great faith who were strong in the spirit, the people were content with the selections that were made (see Acts 6: 1-3)

    So, why is it that today people cannot be content to have honest men who have great faith and are strong in the spirit to lead them. Why must they demand of God that we have people like them lead them. As long as the men are lead by the spirit of prophecy does it really matter where they came from? The early saints didn’t seem to think so, so what is the problem with people today?

    • rogerdhansen says:

      I’m not talking about people in a small geographic area. The LDS Church pretends to be global religious organization, yet its hierarchy makes it look like a Utah business cult. In your example, Peter was dealing with a local issue and your doesn’t seem applicable.

      Over half the members of the Church will soon reside in developing countries. Membership growth in developed countries has stalled; the main growth is now mostly in developing countries. Yet these members have no representation in the upper levels of Church leadership.

      Look at the wonderful perspectives that President Uchtdorf brings to upper management. Think of the wonderful possibilities if we had someone representing the disenfranchised.

  2. shematwater says:

    Well, I am not all that well read, but I have yet to see any major complaints from these countries. That is really the point. We have many in the quorums of the Seventies from all over the world, and for most of these developing countries that is just fine.
    The Twelve have to deal with world issues, but the seventy are the ones who deal most directly with local issues.
    The real question is why people in America are so upset when the people they claim to be fighting for don’t seem to care.

    This reminds me of the Middle School Principle who invalidated a student election because she felt the results were diverse enough. It didn’t matter to her that the students were the ones that had votes and chosen those who had been elected. All that mattered to her was that things appear a certain way.

    • rogerdhansen says:

      In your original example you mentioned that there were 6 Hebrews and 1 Greek. At least there was one Greek. With the current 3+12, there is one German and that is all we have in the way of global (outside the USA) representation. And President Uchtdorf adds a unique and important perspective to the 15.

      It has been well documented that diversity is important in governance, particularly with organizations that claim to be global. For example, how can millionaire businessmen possibly relate to the issues of resourceless members living in developing countries? The issues discussed in General Conference all seem directed at members in developed countries. (Dealing with issues related to middle-class angst.) There is little or no discussion of how the “haves” can help the “havenots.”

      While it is admirable that the Seventies are somewhat more diverse, they are not the top level of governance in the LDS Church.

      Blanding City’s (Utah) population, is 25 percent Navajo, yet Navajos have no representation on city council. The non-Indians on the council have a poor understanding of the needs of their Navajo neighbors. So the 25 percent are seriously underrepresented. And all Blanding residents are the poorer for it.

      The LDS Church is poorer for not having high-level representation for the members that live in developing countries.

      • shematwater says:

        You miss my point. God calls whom He chooses. The saints of the early church recognized this and had no problem excepting those that were called.
        I see this same attitude in the developing countries. They accept that it is God calling this men and trust Him.

        Why is it that it is American’s who are the ones up in arms over issues like this. I am waiting for someone in Brazil to complain. Actually, for a large portion of the membership outside the United States to complain. Why should this bother me if it doesn’t bother them.
        It is just like the middle school I mentioned. The principal was offended, but the students weren’t. They had chosen their representatives, and it was an insult to them to try and force a different choice on them.
        You mention that Blanding Utah has no Indians on the city counsel and claim this group to be underrepresented. I would ask, how many Indians ran in the election, and how many Indians voted for them. You can’t say a group in underrepresented if they are actively choosing who represents them. If the Indian want white men to represent them than give them the right to make that choice and lecture the white men for accepting it.

  3. rogerdhansen says:

    I agree with Jana Reiss; selection of GAs is a mixture of inspiration and human input. It is clearly not God alone. For you, the leadership is perfect. For me, they are inspired, but less than perfect.

    Diversity is important. The poor, as well as the rich, need to be represented in the upper echelons of the LDS Church.

    The point with Blanding City is that the deck is stacked against a Navajo winning a seat on the city council. Just like it appears that the deck is stacked against the poor in developing countries when it comes senior LDS leadership.

    How can rich leaders understand the needs of the Church’s poor members? Particularly when it comes to issues like work for the dead or work for the living.

    • shematwater says:

      I have never said these men are perfect. I said the selection process is perfect because God is running that, not men. Do the men have some input? Yes. But the final choice is always God’s. Whether He directly selects them or only approves the selections of the other apostles, it is the same. God has approved these men as His apostles, and who are we to argue with God.

      As to the poor, there is very good reason to not have them selected. The men selected are chosen partly because they are financially stable and capable of supporting their families without having full time employment. Their situation in life allows them to devote everything to the ministry in a way that no poor man ever could.
      However, just because they are not poor does not mean they can’t help people, nor does it mean they don’t understand people’s situation. They were not always well off, as many of them came from poor families and worked their way to their success.
      I have been poor all my life, and I have never had any complaint about how these men have handled the needs I have, nor have I ever once felt that they did not understand my needs. Actually, I think they understand better than any politician I have even seen, and they certainly seem more capable of dealing with the problems than anyone I know that is in similar circumstances as I am.

      Oh, and again your example of Blanding doesn’t prove anything, unless you can prove that the Navajo have been trying to have an Indian elected and have failed. So, rather that simply throw out some demographic statistics, show voting patterns and the history of who has run for election. Then you might have a case.
      Again, until the Indians show some frustration over the situation there is no reason for anyone else to.

      • rogerdhansen says:

        You have a lot more trust in the selection process than I do, particularly given the recent selections. Although, Pres. Uchtdorf was a pleasant surprise.

        How the apostles get paid is more a matter for speculation than known fact. The LDS Church, unwisely, keeps its financial records secret. But I’m sure the apostles are well compensated for their work.

        The financial status of an apostle candidate should not be a major factor in the selection process. The LDS Church could easily financial support anyone that was selected. To say you have to be rich to be a major Church leader is ridiculous. It would be nice to have someone with theological, scientific, etc. experience, instead of just selecting businessmen and lawyers. Something is amiss at Corporate headquarters.

        I’m just suggesting that cultural diversity should be important in the selection process if the Mormon Church wants to claim to be an international church. Particularly since the major growth in the Church is happening in developing countries.

        I’m sure there are capable LDS leaders in Africa, South America, and Southeast Asia that would serve the Lord well in more elevated positions.

  4. shematwater says:

    Personally, I do not dispute that there are great leaders in Asia, Africa, or South America. I never have, nor do I think the Lord does either.
    My main point is simple: Until you can show that the members in these areas are upset with the leadership than it makes no sense for you to be upset over it, or for me to. Can you actually show any evidence that those called have caused any problems for the members in other areas of the world? Can you show that the poor have suffered because these men were called?

    If not than all you have is a philosophical difference of opinion, having no substantive evidence for it.

  5. rogerdhansen says:

    Right is right, why does it matter if there are protests from members in developing countries. Besides many in developing do not have the access to provide input. Many are also busy just trying to stay alive. Church leadership needs their perspective, their input.

    The unfortunate results from the lack of diversity among the top 15 leaders were recently demonstrated when the LDS Church was outed for its bizarre “policy” on the children of gay couples. With more diversity in the decision leaders, particularly from women (both US and international), it is unlikely that this policy would have been instituted.

  6. shematwater says:

    Right is right, but when all we have is your word on the matter than why should we believe that you are right. You have offered to evidence beyond your opinion, which you cannot even support with the opinions of those you claim to be speaking for.

    Simply put, you have given no real reason for anyone in the church to agree with you.

    • rogerdhansen says:

      You are absolutely right.

      But think how proud Africans or South Americans would be if they saw one of their own in the top 15. Just think about how that would boost missionary work in those areas. Since half the membership is now in developing countries, just think how great it would to have their direct input. Oh well, maybe the Church wants to stay a Utah-centric white-man homophobic religion.

  7. shematwater says:

    And just think if all the members actually accepted the leadership of those called by God. Think of what would happen if all the members engaged in the work like the prophets have been admonishing us to. Think of what would happen in all the world if 13 million saints stood united in the work of God.
    We wouldn’t need diversity, because we would have unity. That is what I am hoping for; a church and its members united in the cause of Zion.

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