Naming of 3 new Mormon apostles raises questions about race, international diversity

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Elder Dale G. Renlund (left) and Elder Gary E. Stevenson (center) and Elder Ronald A. Rasband were named as the three newest apostles to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles during the afternoon session of general conference, Saturday, October 3, 2015  © 2015 Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved .

Courtesy of Mormon Newsroom

Elder Dale G. Renlund (left) and Elder Gary E. Stevenson (center) and Elder Ronald A. Rasband were named as the three newest apostles to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles during the afternoon session of general conference, Saturday, October 3, 2015 © 2015 Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved .

“Disappointed but not disaffected.”

That was the Twitter reaction on Saturday from the wonderful, zingy live-tweeting of @SistasinZion, after hearing that all three of the new LDS apostles would once again be white and Utah-born.

Disappointed but not disaffected sums it up for me too. I will sustain these apostles, and all three of them seem perfectly qualified to fill their new posts. I enjoyed hearing them talk over the weekend. Yesterday’s sermon by Elder Dale G. Renlund in particular affected me. It was beautiful and powerful.

But I was also sad for what could have been, for a missed opportunity. I wrote on this blog on Friday that in filling the spots for three apostles, Mormonism had the chance “to demonstrate that this is a global church that happened to begin in America, and not an American church.”

Three days later, we are still an almost entirely American-led Church.

 Elder Dale G. Renlund (left) and Elder Gary E. Stevenson (center) and Elder Ronald A. Rasband were named as the three newest apostles to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles during the afternoon session of general conference, Saturday, October 3, 2015 © 2015 Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved .

Elder Dale G. Renlund (left) and Elder Gary E. Stevenson (center) and Elder Ronald A. Rasband were named as the three newest apostles to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles during the afternoon session of general conference, Saturday, October 3, 2015 © 2015 Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved .

Consider the numbers. The LDS Church had 15,372,337 members as of April 2015.

Nearly 1.3 million of them are in Brazil alone, and more than 1.3 million live in Mexico. Other nations with LDS populations exceeding half a million include Peru, the Philippines, and Chile.

But all of our twelve apostles are white, our nine female auxiliary leaders are white, and most of the members of the Seventy are white.

And while the statistics in this excellent Salt Lake Tribune article demonstrate that more international diversity is now entering the ranks — in 2013, only 66% of all general authorities were born in the United States — that demographic change hasn’t yet trickled up to the Twelve.

One of the blog comments on Friday was that “God chooses the new Apostles and reveals His choice to His living oracles . . .” My expressed desire for racial diversity was “irrelevant” since “God has prepared whom He has prepared and they will be called.”

But it’s not this simple. I do not believe that apostolic callings happen so very differently and miraculously than other callings occur in the Church. It is the 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.

Which is why we need to think very carefully as a people when there is such a growing discrepancy between the beautiful racial and international diversity that characterizes our religion around the planet and the much narrower range that is evidenced among our most visible leaders.

What would it be like to have an apostle like Elder Joseph W. Sitati of Kenya, a nation which has only about 12,000 members of the LDS Church?

What that could mean is having an apostle who is not the product of generations of Mormonism, a proud descendant of pioneer stock. What it would mean is that he would be a pioneer himself.

He would know what it’s like to be a convert, with all the fresh energy and trials that converts experience.

He would know firsthand the challenges of establishing and expanding the Church in places where it is untried.

And he would be a light to all of the people of his heritage who currently cannot look at the Quorum of the Twelve and see a single person whose race and cultural experiences resemble their own.

Currently, the only apostle in the Quorum who was not born into the Church is Dieter F. Uchtdorf, who is also the Quorum’s only non-American.

He is, not coincidentally, one of its most popular apostles. He has been a breath of fresh air precisely because he’s not like everybody else.

I would love to see more apostles who represent the diversity of the broader LDS Church. Some of those will continue to be white, Utah-born, upper-middle-class American professionals.

And I pray that one day the Quroum will also include people who are converts themselves, from every corner of the globe, bringing with them a wider range of experiences, expertise, and concerns.

If we are striving to be the Lord’s church, then our leadership will mirror the diversity of the Lord’s people.

 


FOLLOW-UP POST: Letter to a Doubting Mormon, 10/9/15


 

  • Bonnie Flint

    I couldn’t agree more. Sadly, diversity in 2015 won’t happen and it looks improbable for the near future.

  • Spencer

    … there, I think. But implicit accusations of racism don’t really help, I think. That’s the only reason I can think of for this post. The First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve are involved in the selection process (http://tinyurl.com/njv4ul9):

    “[President Monson’s] practice has been to ask each of his counselors and the members of the Quorum of the Twelve to give him names they would recommend for his consideration, not to discuss with each other but just individually, to give him whatever name or names they feel impressed he ought to look at,” he says.

    “What process he goes through exactly, I’m not sure. That’s, again, something private he pursues. He then brings back, when he’s reached his decision and had the inspiration he needs, the name or names to the council that we have of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to sustain it. That goes forward to general conference”.

    Complaining about the results of that process on purely racial…

  • Spencer

    … seems like an implicit accusation against those humans involved in the process. God, we know, is no respecter of persons. But since three white men were selected, and since men are involved to some extent in that process, and since then racism is the cause of that, and the purveyors of that racism are the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve.

    Disappointing.

  • Spencer

    “Sadly?” Were these men *not* called by inspiration? Are these men being judged by the color of their skin (“sadly” caucasian), rather than by the content of their character?

  • Pingback: The Quorum of the Twelve Is As Much Utahn as Ever! - Nearing Kolob Nearing Kolob()

  • Spencer

    Just a quick skim of the 1st Quorum of Seventy and the Presiding Bishopric yields the following:

    Ulisses Soares (Brazil)
    Marcos A. Aidukaitis (Brazil)
    Jose L. Alonso (Mexico)
    Ian S. Ardern (New Zealand) (“sadly” Caucasian, tho)
    Yoon Hwan Choi (Korea)
    Claudio R. M. Costa (Brazil)
    Benjamin De Hoyos (Mexico)
    Edward Dube (Zimbabwe)
    Larry J. Echo Hawk (Native American)
    Enrique R. Falabella (Guatemala)
    Eduardo Gavarret (Uruguay)
    Carlos A. Godoy (Brazil)
    Christoffel Golden (South Africa) (“sadly” Caucasian, tho)
    Gerrit W. Gong (“sadly” American, but Chinese by ethnicity)
    Walter F. González (Uraguay)
    Jörg Klebingat (Germany) (“sadly” Caucasian, tho)
    Erich W. Kopischke (German) (“sadly” Caucasian, tho)
    Hugo Montoya (“sadly” American, but Hispanic by ethnicity)
    Rafael E. Pino (Venezuela)
    Joseph W. Sitati (Kenya)
    Michael John U. Teh (Philippines)
    José A. Teixeira (Portugal)
    Juan A. Uceda (Peru)
    Arnulfo Valenzuela (Mexico)
    Francisco J. Viñas…

  • Tom Montgomery

    Spencer, me thinks thou protesteth too much. Three comments to get across one point: “Were these men *not* called by inspiration?” Perhaps. In the New Testament, new apostles were voted on by the existing apostles. Today, that process is muddy and unclear. Perhaps they are appointed by the Prophet or voted on by the First Presidency and the Twelve. I can tell you what didn’t happen. Jesus didn’t call a board meeting in the Salt Lake Temple or send memos to the Prophet telling him exactly whom to call. Yet this is the fantasy of many in the Church. God’s influence has to penetrate the ego and fallibility of His servants and this happens at all levels of the Church.

  • Spencer

    > In the New Testament, new apostles were voted on by the existing apostles. Today, that process is muddy and unclear.

    ==Right. So “muddy and unclear” that . . . the Church has an article about the process on its website: http://tinyurl.com/njv4ul9

    > Perhaps they are appointed by the Prophet or voted on by the First Presidency and the Twelve. I can tell you what didn’t happen.

    ==You can? How so?

    > Jesus didn’t call a board meeting in the Salt Lake Temple or send memos to the Prophet telling him exactly whom to call. Yet this is the fantasy of many in the Church. God’s influence has to penetrate the ego and fallibility of His servants and this happens at all levels of the Church.

    ==I respectfully disagree. I believe God is the ultimate arbiter in the selection process.

    ==I could see, though, why readers of Jana’s post could think otherwise.

  • Tina

    No, I think they are being judged by their lack of personal experience with the problems faced by half their followers. And that’s a legitimate concern.

    I’ve been on the receiving end of such judgment, too. I was once asked in an interview if, as a white dorm Resident Assistant, I could really relate to the problems that students of color might experience b/c I did not have similar experiences. The 20-year-old in me bristled at the question and deftly answered the question by relating my experience as a woman in a male-dominated major. However, the 40-year-old in me wouldn’t try to compare stories of marginalization. Instead I would say, “Probably not exactly. But I am willing to listen and to learn.”

    Empathy often means saying, “I can’t fully understand what you’re going through, b/c I haven’t been there,” rather than trying to provide answers. But instead, the Q12 are *supposed* to dispense answers semi-annually. This paradox poses a huge disconnect between the GAs…

  • Tina

    and their flock.

  • Spencer

    Here’s a list of the 10 countries with the most Mormons (http://tinyurl.com/pwvw728):

    Bolivia: 192,339
    Ecuador: 229,294
    Guatemala: 255,505
    Argentina: 432,007
    Peru: 557,328
    Chile: 579,235
    Philippines: 710,764
    Brazil: 1,289,376
    Mexico: 1,368,475
    United States: 6,446,267

  • Spencer


    Countries 10-2 total 5,614,323, which is still less than the United States (6,446,267). And this does not take all sorts of factors into account, like activity rates, etc. And yet more than one in three of the Seventy does not comport with the “the LDS Church is racist because its leaders are all white Americans” trope.

    I am sure the day will come when an apostle with roots in Central or South America, or Africa, or the Philippines, or elsewhere in Asia, will be called. I will be happy when that day comes. Meanwhile, I will not besmirch the calling of Elders Rasband, Stevenson and Renlund because of the color of their skin.

  • Spencer

    > No, I think they are being judged by their lack of personal experience with the problems faced by half their followers. And that’s a legitimate concern.

    ==The sole basis for your claim that they should be judged in this way is . . . the color of their skin.

    ==The sole basis for your “concern” is . . . the color of their skin.

    ==These men are being judged by the color of their skin, not by the content of their character. There’s a word for that…

  • Israel

    When you prayed for confirmation that these were the men God chose what response did you receive?

  • Spencer

    > When you prayed for confirmation that these were the men God chose what response did you receive?

    ==I decline to respond to this question, except to say this: I did not judge these men, or assess their competency/worthiness to serve as apostles, or find fault with their being called to the apostleship, because of the color of their skin.

    Thanks.

  • Gary

    Totally agree with you, Spencer. Either these calls came from God or they didn’t. I believe they did. Actually, that’s the only reason why those three were called. Today’s man would’ve thought, “We have to get some color in the Twelve,” for all the various reasons Jana gives. Apparently, God doesn’t think like Man. Thank goodness.

  • Fred M

    Pretty sure the question was for Jana. Although your posts are now longer than her original article…

  • HARVEY SELF

    You really have no right to point fingers here , IF you were LDS you would understand their belief of the Devine Nature of the Calling it is believed to be directly from God. You might as well as Complain as to who the Canadians elect to be their President. You really think some distorted affirmative action requirement is in play? It would be insulting to any Mormon to Suppose Elder Utdorf was chosen based on being from Germany, rather that then the Lord’s direction. just let it go — and get a life

  • Anne

    If whoever is called to the Q12 is earnestly striving to do God’s will does it really matter what nationality is called? Aren’t they, in the final analysis, doing what Christ would do? Can’t Christ call who he wants without drawing criticism? That is, after all, who is being accused of a failing here with comments like these.

  • HARVEY SELF

    You Are Seriously misguided, LDS callings Like those of Catholics and other religious leaders, are not based on Some modern Soci Political agenda. If that is your cause perhaps you should promote a Aryan from iceland to lead the Sunni Moslems in the middle East. and Say Hi to the Supreme leader just for fun

  • Spencer

    > Pretty sure the question was for Jana. Although your posts are now longer than her original article…

    ==Ah. Thanks for the heads-up.

  • Tom Montgomery

    So, your very clear Church article points out that the apostles nominate people and then President Monson goes through a process that is unknown. Very clear. And nominating people is a very divine process. Also, having read several histories of Presidents of the Church, this “process” has changed since the beginning of the modern Church.

    The level of the Lord’s intervention in the affairs of the Church is a subject all by itself. A lot of it hinges on where we attribute the errors and mistakes that occur in the modern Church. Do we see through a glass darkly, or does Jesus sit in on the apostles board meetings? I do not attribute the errors of Church leaders to God’s mistakes. Our leaders are human. As outlined in scripture, understanding and receiving God’s will is a constant struggle for both members and prophets.

  • Alexis

    As my friend, who happens to be black, said “diversity exists in their minds and hearts, placed only God can see. God does not choose leaders based on their ancestral heritage.”

  • Kāfakafa

    If I may, I do believe that a supremacist society can still be called of God, yes. And that sucks.

    Reason being, is that God and the Holy Ghost collectively work through ones intelligence (education) and what they offer or present to Him for guidance.

    In other words, if one or many are explicitly or implicitly bias in favor of white people, and present a pool of white prospective apostles to fill the seats for the three that have passed, to God; when they call upon God to seek guidance as to the best replacement for the positions, God will indeed inspire them and/or guide them to the best individuals for those leadership positions based on the pool they have offered unto him.

    But if people of color, and blacks in particular, are never getting put into the offering pool to begin with, because of explicit and/or implicit bias, then they (blacks) will indeed never enter into the upper echelons of church leadership.

  • Kāfakafa

    That is why many continue to say that God is still the head of this church. Because he is still calling inspired men. We’re just not providing a greater and more diverse pool of inspired men for Him to guide us towards.

    Remember, the Lord did not appear unto Joseph until he sought for Him to appear. And the priesthood ban was not lifted until Kimball consulted God about the “possible error” of its enactment.

    Therefore, based on this understanding of God’s modus operandi, the church will not call black or brown leaders, until we search for their inclusion in leadership and place them as an offering unto the Lord.

  • Kāfakafa

    What members of the church often forget is that these MEN are called to lead you to God, not replace Him. Saying that this decision not to appoint more POCs to positions of church leadership is a decision that came straight from God, and therefore, cannot be questioned, is blasphemous.

    These men are NOT God, they are prophets and according to the doctrine of this church, the strict definition of prophet is ANYONE with a testimony if Christ. That knowledge, coupled with Numbers 11:29 (would God that all men were prophets) and Exodus 20:18-22 (the modern idea of prophets as a mediator between God and His people was NOT God’s will- He wanted to speak directly to the people) shows us that we are actually EXPECTED and OBLIGED to question these MEN and to ask GOD for the truth. He will answer us, just as He would anyone in leadership. For He is no respecter of persons and would prefer we were all prophets with a testimony of Christ.

  • Janell

    FYI (1) The author of this blog post IS an active member of the LDS church.
    FYI (2) Canadians have a prime minister, not a president.

  • “If whoever is called to the Q12 is earnestly striving to do God’s will does it really matter what nationality is called?”
    Yes. Clearly you believe so too, since you’re defensive of the all-white/mostly-US composition of the Q15.

    “Aren’t they, in the final analysis, doing what Christ would do?”
    No, I don’t think so. At the very least, we have no evidence of that. Do you really think they’re infallible conveyers of God’s will?

    “Can’t Christ call who he wants without drawing criticism? That is, after all, who is being accused of a failing here with comments like these.”
    Even if inspired, these callings have to go through mortal men. The mortal men are not God’s puppets. They have their own ideas and biases. I’d rather believe that the men doing the calling are biased than that God is a Utah-centric racist.

  • Thanks for calling this out, Jana. I for one am supremely disappointed.

  • Your black-and-white approach is not helpful. The calling of new Q15 members could be both inspired *and* subject to human biases.

    Also, your defensiveness about the racism evident in the calls is disappointing. You’re waving your hands to accuse anyone who cares–or even notices–that all the Q15 are white of being racists. You’re clearly overly defensive of your own racism. Calling out continued discrimination isn’t racism. The discrimination is the racism. The calling it out isn’t.

  • Mike

    Jana summed up my thoughts perfectly. I have nothing to add to her words except I agree 100%.

  • Chad

    Thanks for this article.
    Being Hispanic – I too was thinking perhaps a new member of the twelve would be a non-Utahn. This was just a thought that occurred to me as something that could happen, not an expectation or a demand. I’m so happy this didn’t happen though, because it helped me see that the Lord doesn’t care about what’s politically correct or in line with world-pressures; he cares about what’s right. Who cares where they are from? Why should they be from another country? Because it feels right? Because it makes us look more inclusive?
    What matters is whether God called them or not. After hearing them speak, I feel that He did.
    Sounds to me that you feel not enough divinity was infused in the process of selection for this sacred call – that’s a real pity. Sit back and re-read what you are stating.

  • Danny S

    Three new dudes, 2 business-type and 1 doctor, called to be singular witnesses who prophecy see & reveal. I was too busy golfing this weekend to tune in. Did any of the aforementioned activities actually occur? If so that would be a departure from basically every conference since Smith’s reign. What I suspect happened was the same old same old delivered in the general conference cadence to the credulous who sucked it all in. I do understand one of the twelve asked the world to give Joseph Smith break. And to ponderize. Profound, man. Deep.

  • Camie

    May we all please recall who calls these men of God? God himself. God sees no race or ethnicity. And furthermore, he is not obligated to ‘fit the mold’ we think the gospel should follow. If anything, this is evidence that God does not adjust his plan to the hopes and requirements of men. If this church was simply ‘of men’ we would most definitely have a wide span of race and ethnicity in the leadership. Instead, the Lord calls those who are spiritually ready to serve for the entirety of their lives. It’s a remarkable thing – to devote your entire retirement to no rest, complete exhaustion, and to growing old in front of the public eye. God knows best.

  • Luke

    “Yes. Clearly you believe so too, since you’re defensive of the all-white/mostly-US composition of the Q15.”
    I didn’t see any defense towards anything on her comment. It seems to me that she would like everyone to stop putting forward their insignificant opinions, and respect the men who have been called of God to do his work. No matter what colour/nationality.

    Also these mortal men are prophets of God no one on earth will be more intune with the spirit and God. They will put aside everything they think and follow Gods will. In Moses 1:39 God says unto us “For behold this is my work and my glory – to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man”
    Why would he call people to be leaders of his church if they do not have the same goal as him. Weather they be black/white/asian, French, Dutch.
    And who are we to question the ways of the Lord? Who do we think we are???

  • Geoff – Aus

    There seem to be those who think like Jana, and those who believe Apostles were hand chosen by God herself.

    I see it like Jana.

    Why do we have a process where existing Apostles offer their ideas, etc. Why does the Prophet not just ask the Lord for the 3 names?

    If the Lord also chooses the new Prophet, how come we know who it will be if Pres Monson dies tonight. In this case tradition, not the Lord.

    There are those members who understand sustaining to be obedience, and others who believe sustaining includes bringing to the attention concerns so they can be addressed. Synonyms for sustain include help assist, encourage, succour, support, and endure.

    Is one understanding correct or are both acceptable? Ask Elder Uchtdorf and you may get a different answer than if you ask Elder Oaks.

  • LDS_Aussie

    As a high priest I am technically able to be called as an apostle. But apart from shaking Elder Nelsons hand 25 years ago, I have had no contact with anyone in the general leadership of the church. Would I make a good apostle, I don’t know, but I do know that it would be almost impossible for Pres Monson to be inspired to call me. It just wouldn’t happen. God can only work within the bounds of the men he is inspiring.

  • CZ

    General conference is not the only source of revelation within the Church and participating in it allows an individual increased capacity for receiving *personal* revelation. There’s all this talk in the world along the lines of, “I don’t need organized religion because I have a personal relationship with the divine.” General conference isn’t about making us dependent on hearing some profound thing from President Monson but helping us receive our own revelation and guidance.

  • Ann

    thanks Jana i agree with your sentiments. While the newly called apostles are probably wonderful and inspired people, I was really hoping for more diversity….even from the lord if that’s the way people see it;). Even for our missionaries who are trying teaching people all over the globe, it would have been helpful to show the world leadership diversity. Diversity does matter.

  • Rick

    quoting Moses does not support your claim its scripture that was entirely made up

  • That’s the biggest problem with the Church, like it or not the majority of us are still racists. I’m sure these men were worthy enough to have seen Jesus Christ in the flesh (to be clear, one cannot be a true apostle without personally seeing Jesus Christ). However, of the many called the few chosen did not have to be white. I know for a fact that there is a worthy “black” man that was not called so that a “white” man could keep the church leadership “white.” With 15 million members I challenge anyone to start the interviewing process to prove me wrong. There is simply no way that out of 15 million people, the Lord din’t prepare a non-“white” person for this calling. While I do not doubt the religion is true, it is clear that the Church is still sticking to some of the old apostate teachings Brigham Young introduced. We need to, as a people, repent and come back to the Lord on this issue and pray our leaders follow us.

  • Fred M

    I too wish there were more diversity in our top leadership.

    But how cool was it that Elder Holland in his talk told a story about a young man who was gay and said that no one expected his sexual orientation to change? And proudly spoke of how he taught seminary and went back to the mission field as an openly gay man? I have heard so many members express outrage about the BSA allowing gay leaders and the danger that presents to the children–I wonder if they’d also be outraged that an openly gay man was teaching their children in seminary? Maybe not now that an apostle has given that his seal of approval. The times they are a changing.

  • For a Purpose

    I really, really hated this ick. In fact, I hate articles like this. I think this will be my last read on social media. What a waste of time. These thoughts and writings are just to stir the soul into contention. I cant wait until people like this get a taste having people question their abilities. “You’re not what I had in mind to teach these Mormons” mentality is so hilarious I almost split a rib!!! GET OVER YOURSELF! ( I won’t be surprised to see this comment removed – cuz only certain views are allowed to lead in this venue)

  • Spencer

    For those folks prone to judging the three new apostles by the color of their skin (there’s a word for that . . . ), and for those who claim that their skin color means they have a “lack of personal experience with the problems faced by half their followers,” please see the following article (http://tinyurl.com/nq2q2dd) quoting Elder Renlund’s daughter, Lisa Renlund Hyde:

    • Dale was born to full Scandinavian immigrants who spoke no English when they first came to the U.S. in 1948/1950. All of the three oldest children, including Dale, spoke Swedish as their first language. Their father, my grandfather, was a construction worker, and they were very poor.

  • Spencer


    • The entire family moved back to Scandinavia when Dale was about 10 to 13ish, where they spent time in Helsinki, Finland and Gothenburg, Sweden. They were fully immersed in Swedish culture there and went to Swedish speaking public schools. I have heard many stories about the meager resources they were living on there.
    • When the family came back to Utah, the children spoke no English and had little to no understanding of U.S. culture. They went through a great deal of adjustment.
    • When Dale was 19, he went on a full-time [LDS Church] mission to Sweden for 25 months where he was again completely immersed in Swedish culture.
    • In his late 20s, Dale was called to be the bishop of a newly-formed, inner-city, multi-cultural ward in Baltimore. (During this time he was also doing his medical residency and trying to support his wife who was in law school and going through chemotherapy for cancer).

  • Spencer


    • For those who like to see strong women sharing their perspective, Dale’s wife Ruth, is the real deal. In addition to raising an amazing daughter and excelling in her own dedicated church work, she rose to become a highly respected attorney and president of her law firm. In my family, it was understood that if something needed to be done in the world, just put Ruth on it and she will work miracles. She has been and will continue to be an amazing speaker, editor, supporter, and (if I know Ruth) a “not-so-subtle suggester” who will make Dale exponentially better in his work, and he knows it.

  • Spencer


    • Dale and his wife have spent five of their last six years in Africa, where he served in the Africa Southeast Area Church presidency. He traveled extensively throughout his vast territory from Angola to Ethiopia to visit with people in extremely impoverished areas and circumstances. I have heard and read many stories about this time in their lives and the way Dale and Ruth fought to help people and grow the church there. Dale is not afraid to make bold decisions as he advocates for the needs of those he serves. And while most Church authorities in the area operate using only English, he was determined to learn French (the most predominant language in the area) so that he could effectively communicate with the people he served….’

  • Spencer


    ‘So on first appearance, yes, Elder Dale G. Renlund is a white guy born in Utah. But as you can see, he brings with him a very unique international perspective that I hope others will appreciate. From his Swedish background to his service in Southeast Africa, I believe God has been preparing Dale for his entire life for this apostleship and to be an effective advocate for people of all diverse backgrounds and circumstances.”
    ____

    And yet for all Elder Renlund’s personal experience with poverty, cultural adjustments, language barriers, working with and serving in multi-cultural venues, living overseas for years, etc., his calling as an apostle is being smeared as a “a missed opportunity,” as lacking “diversity,” as a “sad” event, as being flawed because he lacks “personal experience with the problems faced by half their followers,” as symptomatic of “racism evident in the calls.”

    All of this because of the color of his skin.

  • “May we all please recall who calls these men of God? God himself. God sees no race or ethnicity.”

    Gimme a break. Every heard of the chosen people? 12 tribes. Don’t even start.

  • “Dale and his wife have spent five of their last six years in Africa” – the ameliorative effect of colonialism. Nice.

  • Spencer

    Here’s a fascinating interview with Ruth Lybbert Rendlund (wife of Elder Renlund): http://www.mormonwomen.com/2010/05/12/just-call-me-ruth/

    She sounds like a fascinating and intelligent and hardworking woman with a lot to contribute to society in general and to the Church in particular. Alas, though, she has the wrong skin color (she is “sadly” caucasian), so I guess we’ll have to chalk up her future experiences and contributions as a “missed opportunity” as well (or “disappointing but not disaffecting,” take your pick).

  • lance

    The family and dynastic relationships that can be seen between the various echelons of the church hierarchy are one of the things that really hurts my testimony of these men’s ability to utilize the difficult spiritual gifts/abilities which exist to allow any man to consistently tune into the powers of heaven.

    Nepotism, dynastic succession and leaders moving up the hierarchy is what you’d expect by an organization led by men leading by their own agency. Seems to me like an organization led actively by the God who sees all men’s hearts would be full of obscure yet amazing individuals. Individuals who the “prophet” didn’t even know beforehand (like Christ to many apostles or David to Samuel).

    That’s not to say that a degree of inspiration and guidance don’t exist for us or these men… but that creating idols of our own thoughts and those of our church leaders occurs all too often on this planet— and especially in our church.

  • Casey

    What’s most disappointing to me about it is that it sends a signal of closing the ranks, as opposed to looking for a fresh perspective on where the church goes next. If any of us were hoping for the church to be just a bit more progressive and move out of the 20th century, we’re going to have to wait a whole lot longer just due to how the seniority system of the twelve works. Will these three new members challenge any of the current thinking at the top? Based on their backgrounds, it’s highly unlikely.

  • Casey

    Spencer, her range of experience and worldview is more than well-represented in leadership, and has been for many decades.

  • Spencer

    > Spencer, her range of experience and worldview is more than well-represented in leadership, and has been for many decades.

    ==And hence she is to be discounted. Her potential contributions are less valued not because of the substantive content of her character, but because of the color of her skin.

  • Spencer

    What “challenge any of the current thinking at the top” do you have in mind?

  • Joel

    Spencer,

    “For those folks prone to judging the three new apostles…”

    You miss the point. It’s not about them. As Jana said expressly, “… all three of them seem perfectly qualified to fill their new posts.”

    Honestly, ask yourself, what would you be saying today if one or two of the new apostles were from south of the US border, or Africa, or Asia? What would the post-conference, giddy internet memes be?

    My guess: ‘Behold, it’s truly a worldwide church! The rock rolls forward.’

    We can’t really say that today, can we? That’s why I’m sad.

  • Danny S

    Spencer, you go man! Hijack this thread all you want. Meanwhile, you’ve fallen prey to the straw man fallacy. I don’t see the point here to be “judging” the 3 white dudes for being white, per se. I don’t doubt they can contribute to this organization. But some believers feel there are perspectives that successful white males don’t have; perspectives that might benefit those who don’t fit the middle-class mold of U.S. mormonism. I have little doubt if there had been people of color in church leadership in the fifties, it would not have been so glaringly silent during the civil rights era, not to mention blocking blacks from the possibility of entering the VIP section of mormon heaven until 1978. So what if one of these guys lived in a bad neighborhood for a few years? I served a mission in South Africa during apartheid. I saw blacks abused, sometimes by church members. But I’m still white, and I can’t claim the experience like a black person can.

  • Casey

    Remember that it’s a top-down organization, and these guys are mostly operating in an echo chamber. This is how you end up with blacks not getting the priesthood until 1978, or women not giving a prayer in conference until just a couple of years ago. Imagine what else they’re missing that’s right under their nose. My parents grew up in Ogden and were well-educated, but they had to learn about the Civil Rights movement in college. Utah offers a nice existence, albeit sheltered.

  • Spencer

    > Remember that it’s a top-down organization, and these guys are mostly operating in an echo chamber.

    ==This is incorrect. Many of the Twelve and the Seventy are traveling around the world constantly (and many are living outside the U.S. during their tenure). They are meeting with local leaders all the time, and with local members.

    ==My brother just returned from spending many years in the South Pacific working for the Church. I have lost count of how many times he has accompanied General Authorities traveling throughout the area. They are focused on education, hygiene, clean water, food, etc., as well as the spiritual welfare of the Saints.

  • Kylie

    For all you know God appeared to President Thomas S. Monson himself and gave him these names. I know that these men will do a fine job. The church is still young. The fact that there are more white men is most likely because the church has been in America longest and they were called a long time ago. Have patience, other races may not have had the time to be prepared just yet. They’re all just starting as Seventies. Maybe you should pray for peace that these men were called from God. Trust that God is in charge of the LDS church. For all you know there were men’s names from other races in the mix, but for whatever reason, God decided not to call them at this time.

  • Casey

    ‘Echo chamber’ is not a reference to their physical location.

  • Mike

    In a move that caught everyone by surprise, the LDS church this past weekend called three older white guys from Utah to be part of the twelve apostles. Who would have thunk!

  • mtman318

    Frankly, most of the comments here are absurd (and much of the article as well). I thank Spencer for putting things in perspective–especially that info about Elder and Sister Renlund.

  • Joel

    What an insightful contribution to the discussion.

  • Steve Petrie

    The Quorum doesn’t choose new apostles.
    The President doesn’t choose new apostles.
    THE LORD CHOOSES NEW APOSTLES!

  • Bernardo

    Mormonism is a great business model i.e. charge your Mormon employees/stock holders (temple people) a fee/t-ithe and invest it in ranches, insurance companies, canneries, ga-udy temples, a great choir and mission-m-atured BYU football and basketball teams.

    And the accounting books are closed to all but the prophet/”profit” and his all-male hierarchy.

    And all going back to one of the great c-ons of all times i.e. the M-oroni
    revelations to Joseph Smith analogous to mythical Gabriel’s revelations to the ha-llucinating Mohammed !!!

    Some words hyphenated to defeat an obvious word/fragment filter.

  • Danny S

    Although juvenile for me to say, and not a contribution to this discussion, it was a great day watching my beloved Michigan Wolverines humiliated the then-ranked BYU Cougars. Bazinga!!!!

  • SKG

    To those that are upset about this, ask yourself: Is this, or is this not, the Lord’s church? If you believe that it is, that He stands at the head of this church, which bears His name, and that He is the one watching over it, guiding it, directing this work… then what more do you need? Put in that perspective, our personal vision or desires of what we feel this church ‘should’ become are inconsequential, don’t you think?

  • Sharee

    Lisa is Elder Renlund’s niece, not his daughter.

  • Tina

    Spencer, you have completely and intentionally mischaracterized everything I wrote. There are many words for people who do that, none of which is flattering.

  • Sharee

    Go to Times and Seasons and read Julie Smith’s post there, especially the comments. Members of the 12 have to move to Salt Lake. Worthy brethren in other parts of the world are often the “go to” people in their areas and are sorely needed where they are. Perhaps in a few years, after more people from these areas have been “seasoned” as members of the 70 (Elder Rasband has been there for 15 years), some of the will be called to the Q12. All in the Lord’s good time. In the meantime, let us sustain those who were called.

    By the way, Jana, I am still not receiving email notices of your blogs.

  • Gavin

    There are many different elements which you need to think of, when President Uchtdorf was called he had to leave Germany since the headquarters ate in Salt Lake, he had the means to move his whole family here, there are many leaders of the church around the world who are working miracles where they reside, the Lord calls who He calls, He works in mysterious ways, I bet there were quite a few members of Christ’s church that questioned when Paul (Saul) became an apostle. So if you all could quit your belly aching and go to work!

  • Sammy

    If you have a problem with the color of their skin take it up with Heavenly Father himself, because these men are called if God. Pres. Monson personally fast and prays for these callings. We are not a church to be deterred by what is trending or make decisions because of political issues. The Gospel is Gods will. If you have a problem with his decisions take it up with him instead of judging and complaining. This my friends is satans first step to apostasy. You’re either all in or your out. You support and sustain the decisions made or you don’t. And if you don’t you may need to question why you are a part of this church to begin with.

  • Eli

    Although I feel the Prophet usually receives revelation much the way everyday members do, I can’t help but feel the Lord plays a more active role in the selection of apostles. I do feel the Lord allows a degree of speculation on His decisions, which if done right, is a form of spiritual pondering.

    Having served a mission in a country in which the Church had been “well-established” for generations, I still felt at times that many members, even leaders, were still fairly young with regards to spiritual growth (luckily I’ve been able to recognize it in myself too). It really didn’t make it difficult to believe the stories of friends who served in third-world countries and their experience with the spiritual immaturity of members.

    The majority of these members a young and inexperienced. Give it a generation or two and they’ll catch up. The Lord has had decades to mold Utah saints (and they aren’t always that malleable), and just a few years for the rest. Their turn is just…

  • Eli

    . . . Their turn is just beginning.

  • LRC

    HER potential contributions aren’t counted because SHE’s not the one who is an apostle. SHE is not even eligible to be considered to be an apostle because SHE is a SHE and has not been ordained.

  • Riley B

    Oh…My…Gosh…

    What does it matter??!!

  • LRC

    There are SO MANY stories in the scriptures of God calling the least-likely-appearing person to lead the family/nation/church. The Bible is replete with stories of younger brothers, outsiders, women, outcasts, fishermen, shepherds, etc. being the first Central Figures ad Witnesses to Great Religious Events.

    Sometimes the corporate nature of finding and vetting new leadership, whether a local bishop/branch president or a mission president or a general YW president or an apostle seems to limit potential candidates for service based on exactly the things the usurpers-as-leaders of Biblical times overthrew.

    Conveniently, these three apostles look exactly like what any American business board might choose: powerful, well-connected, experienced white men. Maybe that’s who the Lord wants. But maybe it’s just who WE think the Lord wants and the Lord lets us live with that, knowing He can make do with any of us broken wretches.

  • Sam

    Yeah, the point of sustaining Apostles is not to pander to the masses about how culturally diverse we are. Those men were chosen by God via modern revelation to be the new Apostles for a reason. And that reason wasn’t to show off how far our reach extends.

  • Mike

    I have it on deep background from deep in church headquarters that the calling of apostles is just like every other calling in the church. One confidential source talking about the latest calling of three apostles said” We just prefer white people from Utah, they get us”

  • SanAntonioRob

    To call non-white Apostles would be “pandering to the masses”??!!! But to call only white, mostly American Apostles for the last 185 years is “by God”? This despite white Americans being the minority in the Church for at least a couple decades?

    I don’t think we should call an Apostle because of their hometown or skin color. But the truth is that an inordinate amount of Apostles still have the same “homestate”, and they all have the same skin color. Either (1) there is something special about white people’s abilities that they are the only ones worthy and prepared for leading the Church – I can only hope this is not a common view among members, or (2) God purposefully designed the white race to exclusively be Apostles – yikes again, or (3) the decision is heavily influenced by those mortals who extend the calling. What other option is there, that it’s all a coincidence. I believe leaders are fallible before I believe God thinks I am special because I’m white

  • SanAntonioRob

    I can believe many missionaries held the view that members from other countries, in general, are “spiritually immature”. But those missionaries were young and inexperienced with other cultures. I know from experience – I was one of them. How disgustingly arrogant we are to think God picks white Americans because, in general, white Americans are more spiritually mature.

    “God, I thank thee that thou hast blessed us white Americans while so many of these, our brethren of other races and from other countries, languish in spiritual immaturity.” – Shall say all white, American members at the top of Rameumptom.

  • EG

    Moralistic fallacy and facist rabid bullying political correctness needs to stop. Many, many people are tired of it. Using political correctness definition, Jesus was a racist.

    Look at “diversity” in other religions. It does not exist in many religions and no one gives a flying leap. There are more important things going on in the world.

    Did anyone stop to think that the church can’t afford to bring in people who are leaders in their native countries because they are needed to develop more leaders, make sure the church is being run properly, and the church can’t afford to take them away from their own people and country at this time? There are countries that lack strong leaders, both male and female.

    I was in that type of a situation on my mission.

    Maybe God really does know what He is doing after all. Imagine that.

  • Dutchie

    Disappointed AND disaffected. Very much so.

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  • Doug

    So… the Lord missed a chance “to demonstrate that this is a global church that happened to begin in America, and not an American church.”(?)

    After all the hubub, I bet He’s re-thinking the whole thing. Ahem.

  • Porter

    Wow, what a wonderful group of men of color, called by god. Surely there is one or two who are eminently qualified to serve in the Quorum of the Twelve. I served my mission in Mexico and know of many wonderful leaders there would would have been great. And I know that it would have meant the world to the millions of faithful saints in Mexico and South America to have a person that represented them in the Quorum. Nobody can ever convince me that these three white men from Utah are the only ones who were qualified for that position.

  • Eli

    I am sorry you misunderstood me. I said nothing of race (I actually served in white country). White Americans are essentially all God has had to work with for over a century. If the conditions were right, and the Church was restored in Africa, then they would likely be blogging today about the spiritual immaturity of Americans. That’s all.

    There are concrete spiritual truths, just like there are in other areas of life. If I know 2 + 2 =4, and someone else thinks 2+2=3, I recognize that they are at a different stage in their learning process. Recognizing that difference doesn’t make me better or arrogant for doing so, it just means I’m aware of the difference.

    I’m sorry you find so many return missionaries arrogant. In my experience, the opposite is true, and they become better citizens of the world because of it.

  • Chilean

    I think the problem is in the eye of the beholder, USA is a very race concern society, it shocks me when I go up there. For us in South America (I’m from Chile) is not an issue! You are hoisting a flag that looks good in front of your own history guys, but we down here do not feel it, dont have the same background, is not an issue.

  • SanAntonioRob

    You have a fundamental misunderstanding of our Church’s diversity in nationality and race if you think God has had “essentially” only white Americans to work with for this last century. If that’s what you meant, it’s so obviously wrong that there should be no discussion. Even if you meant the first century of the Church’s existence, it’s still wrong when you consider the early missions to native Americans, Pacific islands, and all over Europe. Any substance of partial truth your phrase may have is tainted by the abhorrent folk-lore on the spiritual meaning of dark skin previously espoused by Church leaders, which made it less likely people with dark skin would find joy in the Gospel.

    My comment on arrogance appears to have been twisted to be a general slight on RMs. Let me be more direct – your comments very blatantly made a broad generalization on the spiritual immaturity of those in other countries – and even those not in Utah. That is very arrogant of you.

  • Eli

    Yes, I misspoke, it should have said “essentially all God had” instead of “all God has had”.

    I wasn’t even thinking of race in my original post. You brought it up. Efforts to attribute racism where none is warranted presents its own kind of arrogance, in my opinion.

    Do you really think Native Americans and Pacific Islanders were joining with the same abundance as other Americans when the Church was first restored? They were still pretty marginal.

    “Abhorrent folk-lore” wasn’t even on my mind either. Again, if you have an abundance of people who recognize 2+2 is 4 and others with a majority that say it’s 3, acknowledging the fact that one group is right and the other wrong does not make the former arrogant. Would you prefer just to say the “3” group is right in their own way, and therefore mathematically mature?

    Again, if conditions were right, and the church was restored elsewhere, americans would likely be the “3” group today.

  • ParisChick

    ParisChick from Paris France here. I’m sad to read your comments guys, they are so focused on race, the ultimate American obsession. I too was initially disappointed with the calling of the 3 new apostles, not because they are white men, but because they all have a UT background. Whether you like it or not, UT is not a synonym for open-mindedness in the mind of a non-American whether LDS or not. So yes I was disappointed but I know these 3 men were called of God to the holy apostleship. End of my initial disappointment. Beginning of my gratitude for their lives of service all over the world. Oh and by the way I also find it highly irritating when First Presidency and MoTab attend US presidents inaugural ceremonies. Perpetrates the idea that the church is American and not international. See guys, plenty of reasons to get disappointed when you’re not a US LDS, but one good reason to stay : it’s the Lord’s church and nobody else’s.

  • SanAntonioRob

    The article and thread of discussion is about the reasons, disappointments, or justifications of why all modern Apostles have been white, and majority American. It’s a blatant misrepresentation to act like the subject of race was not a part of this until my post. You are justifying the status quo – the status quo is white American exclusivity. How is race not involved??!

    That’s part of the problem. 14-15 of the Apostles are American and white, and people think race is not involved if they just don’t say the words. It’s a “sweep under the rug”/”head in the sand” mentality that many members espouse so they don’t have to face hard facts.

    Pointing out that that 2+2 is not 3 is not arrogant. But your whole use of the 2+2=3 analogy implies most non-American members think that way spiritually. That’s your justification for them – as a group – not being ready for leadership. That is most certainly arrogant, especially when you admittedly have not lived among them.

  • Eli

    Part of my original comment was that I did believe God was part of the process. Anything beyond that was speculation on what God was thinking. That”s really what this is about isn’t it? If and how much God is involved? Overall, I’m satisfied in knowing He’s in charge, but if I need to pray to know why he chose three white Americans, I know I can ask. This comes down to faith. I do not think God is a racist.

    I taught a ton of refugees from the world over. While many may call them the “refuse” of the world, I often felt they were the salt of the earth. Even salt of the earth has a learning curve. When that curve is displayed constantly and consistently and others who have been to the same country of origin report the same thing, that’s what aids me in the conclusion. As hard as it is for you to believe, I believe it’s culturally related, not racial. And while there may be individuals here and there ready, only God knows why they they are not called at this time.

  • SanAntonioRob

    Final thoughts and I am done.

    In Brazil where I served, there were many, many spiritually mature and leadership-capable members. Church videos from other countries leads me to believe it’s true the world over. The Church has been in several countries for decades, some for over a century. Many families are multi-generation members. Your “here and there ready” comment – like it’s a rarity in other countries – is subjective, speculative hogwash. I too believe this is culturally-related… in that many people can’t see spiritual strength and maturity because they are blinded by cultural differences. THAT is spiritually immature.

    I too believe God is not a racist. I also do not believe white Utahns are more spiritually mature or more leadership-capable than the rest of the Church. Which is why the logical conclusion is that men’s cultural – if not racial – biases are more involved in the decision making than many want to believe.

  • Eli

    Thank you for the discussion.

    I’m constantly trying to learn about the world around me and feel I do a better job of it than the average joe, but I suppose there is always some room for improvement. Undeniably, however, following the Gospel takes some cultural changes in any culture. I think some promote changes better than others.

    I find it difficult to believe the Lord can’t call prophets and apostles after preparing them for decades and not be able to ask them to remove any biases he hasn’t already sculpted out of them. It might have been more of an issue in the early church, but I have difficulty seeing it today. I think a lot of it comes down to faith again.

    I may well be wrong about members in other countries– much of it was speculation based on experienced observation– but I do feel the Lord is in charge. I suppose speculating on His reasoning, where His thoughts are not my thoughts, has even more room for error.

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  • Clifton Palmer McLendon

    The naysayers overlook the most important point:
    The Brethren do not decide *on their own* whom to call to a position.
    The Lord Jesus Christ decides whom *He* wants in a calling, then makes His will known.
    If the naysayers are not satisfied with the ethnicity/age/looks/whatever of any called individual, it would be much more to the point for them to address their objections to the One Whose idea it was to call that individual.