Real Americans, Reality Checks, Kenyan Last Names

During the just-concluded U.S. presidential elections, various Republican candidates drew opprobrium for referring to “the real America,” “the real Virginia,” and so forth. Presumably, the “real” versions of these various geographic and political entities were basically Republican, made up of people with center-right ideology and conservative Christian faith. Such rhetoric is not particularly new; as a former resident of the San Francisco area, I have over the last decade routinely encountered dismissive comments about the Americanness of people like me who live in major metropolitan areas, have worldwide social networks, and occasionally eat spring mix salads in the place of iceberg lettuce.

I am heartened, however, to see this trope receive the condemnation that it deserves. Informally stripping the citizenship of a large proportion of Americans by defining them as “unreal” is not honorable behavior. It turns out that the real America does include a large number of white people from small towns. But it also includes an even larger number of people from cities. Lots of us speak Spanish as a first or second language. Some of us even speak French. That’s the reality, and no hateful ideology can change it. In the just-past election, I feel that we as a country have made substantial progress toward a consensus on this point.

Now it’s time for us as Mormons to learn the same set of lessons. What is a real Mormon? I have routinely heard it suggested that those Mormons who read too many religious volumes not printed by Deseret Book may not be genuinely Mormon. Or perhaps those of us who write about Mormonism online represent a less-than-real “internet” Mormonism to be contrasted with the genuine “chapel” Mormonism. Possibly those who read — or even publish in! — Dialogue are not really real Mormons. Or perhaps those who opposed Proposition 8, taking a political stand against the official church position, are the fake Mormons. Finally, last but not least, “those people” who read Meridian Magazine might be the phony Mormons after all.

None of this is right or Christian. Jesus calls us to be one, but even if we disregard that difficult-to-achieve ideal, it should be clear that none of us has the right or authority to excommunicate (informally or otherwise) large segments of our community. Let us put an end to the belittling use of phrases like “cultural Mormon” or “iron-rod Mormon” as tools of exclusion; these categories may be useful descriptions, but let us be ever aware of the danger that we might be found dismembering the body of Christ.

***

A fascinating aspect of politics in democratic countries is the way that elections provide regular reality checks on interpretations, theories, and ideology. Obviously, the last two years have seen the complete collapse of the set of illusions that the Bush administration had advanced regarding the construction of a permanent Republican majority through a major political realignment on the basis of conservative domestic policy and aggressive nationalism in the foreign arena. While the dreamers and ideologues wrote their manifestos, the American people calmly and inexorably turned away.

More recently, enthusiasts on the Democratic and Republican sides offered their own visions and arguments regarding the popular will. John McCain’s team and informal allies told us vociferously that the election was tightening, that it would be much closer than we expected, and that McCain had a meaningful chance of victory. The so-called red states like Virginia, Indiana, North Carolina, Florida, Nevada, and Colorado would inevitably come back to the Republican party in the end. Voters in such states might flirt with a charismatic new candidate like Obama, but they would never sign the marriage license, so to speak. Pennsylvania was in play, we were told. The public polls were systematically wrong; Republicans don’t speak to pollsters. The GOP would swamp the Democrats with amazing organization and a powerful get-out-the-vote effort.

Democratic fantasies were perhaps somewhat less overhyped, and were less often voiced by mainstream individuals within the party or the campaign. Nonetheless, various individuals cheerfully informed us that Georgia, Arizona, Montana, and North Dakota were going to be close — or even were going for Obama. Obama was going to win the popular vote by double-digit margins. The Democrats would get a 60-seat majority in the Senate. The polls might even understate Obama’s potential margin of victory, because every single person under the age of 30 was going to turn out and vote for him.

It was certainly possible to see these various arguments as unlikely before last night. For better or worse, polling mostly works pretty well to predict elections — especially when polls are averaged together using some sensible statistical technique. Yet it was impossible to be sure that the arguments of enthusiasts were incorrect. As a result, most of the level-headed analysts offered some sort of qualification on their very sensible prediction that Obama would easily win the presidential election. “Unless there is a major Bradley effect,” “unless the new voters fail to turn out for Obama,” and so on.

But the day of reckoning happened. Last night, the results fell almost exactly in line with the most sober quantitative predictions. The dubious theories of the McCain campaign and of some Democratic enthusiasts are now not merely dubious but clearly wrong. The more careful commentators who offered strong but qualified predictions were right. The answer is black and white, no longer subject to debate.

Do we face the prospect of such a reality check in our religious thought? Presumably we do, at the moment of death or perhaps a more broadly shared eschatological event. Should the fact that false aspects of our beliefs may eventually be exposed as such lead us, like mainstream political commentators, to offer caveats and qualifications to our proclamations of faith? Or are we confident that — unlike the Bush dreamers, electoral fantasists of the left and right, the devout in other faith traditions, and indeed the large number of Mormons past and present who do not believe exactly what we believe — we are the special few who have everything just exactly right?

***

In the list of last names of U.S. presidents to date, “Van Buren” stands out as perhaps the most exotic. As everyone agrees, it will be a historic moment in January when the Kenyan surname “Obama” joins a list basically monopolized by the North Atlantic. And it only took 220 years! I wonder how long it will be until a name like Gutierrez, De la Rua, Chavez, or Paniagua is added.

Of course, the list of LDS church presidents is equally North Atlantic in character. We’ve had Smith, Young, Taylor, Woodruff, Snow, Grant, McKay, Lee, Kimball, Benson, Hunter, Hinckley, and Monson. Nary an Obama, Perez, Garcia, or Martinez in the mix. In fact, the current Quorum of the 12 does not have a single non-white member. So we will certainly be waiting a while before we have a non-white church president.

Let us suppose that (for example) a Latin American or African man were called to the Quorum of the 12 early next year. Let us further suppose that he is one of the relatively few such men who survive long enough to become president of the church. How long would we expect to wait between his ordination to the Apostleship and his assumption of the presidency? One way to answer this question is to look at historical data: for those men who did become president of the church, what has been the distribution of time between Apostleship and presidency? Obviously, Joseph Smith does not help us in this regard, as his gap between Apostleship and presidency may even be negative. Likewise, Brigham Young is a clear outlier.

For the remaining 14 men who have been presidents of the church, the mean number of years between Apostleship and presidency has been 40.4. The median is 40.5, suggesting that there is little skewness. Finally, the standard deviation is 8.05. Let us model the number of years as having the normal distribution, an assumption that is probably more or less reasonable in light of the lack of skewness in the data and a few other, more complicated tests not reported here.

The first result, of course, is that if a non-white Apostle were appointed early next year and were eventually to become president of the church, he would on average assume that office no earlier than 2049. That would be 219 years after the founding of the church, a remarkable — if clearly coincidental — parallel to the amount of time before Obama’s election as president of the U.S. A 95% confidence interval for the year such a man would become president of the church runs from 2031 to 2066. And all of this is conditional on a non-white man being appointed to the Apostleship next year (which is probably quite unlikely) and then surviving to become the president of the church (which is also fairly unlikely, even given ordination as an Apostle).

So we as a church will probably be waiting a long time to see the same kind of breakthrough within our institution that the country is currently seeing. In fact, it is not implausible that many of us reading this will not live to see the day.

Comments

  1. Breakthrough within our institution? The breakthrough happened in 1820 in the sacred grove and continues with what the rest of us call “revelation”.

  2. Bro. Jones says:

    #1 I won’t say that the Church necessarily needs more leaders of color (translation: I don’t need it to maintain my faith or membership), but it would be nice. Wouldn’t be unpleasant.

    “Breakthrough” isn’t perhaps the best word choice here, but you have to admit that it would be quite out of the ordinary to see an apostle or prophet of the Church who wouldn’t have been able to hold the Priesthood at a point in time within our memory.

  3. “Of course, the list of LDS church presidents is equally North Atlantic in character. ”

    The head of the Church is from Palestine. That’s hardly North Atlantic :)

    As for Apostles becoming prophets, a fun fact is that about half of the people who were in the Quorum of the 12 when President Hinckley became an Apostle later became prophets.

  4. Thanks for the thoughtful and thought-provoking post.

  5. Steve Evans says:

    Frank, Jesus might have been born in Galilee — but every picture I see of him, he looks like a Viking.

  6. Mike T., come on. Nothing in this post denies the first vision.

    Bro. Jones, why not a breakthrough? A non-white president of the LDS church would probably be a major landmark for millions of non-white Mormons.

    Frank, by my math, about 15% of people who are ordained as Apostles become presidents of the church. You can of course cherry-pick moments when the percentage is higher. There’s variation, etc. Also, I give you a 9 out of 10 on the holier-than-thou; good dismount, as well.

  7. Steve:
    You mean like these?

    As for the post, I do think there are some basic barriers as to what is and is not a real American and what is and is not a real Mormon. (Illegal Immegration, Total unbelief in the prophetic claims of the church) But I agree with the gist of what you are saying, within the caveat that some borders still need to be maintained.

    And for the record: Internet Mormonism is a bit more left leaning than Mormonism in General, but there is a difference between “Mormonism in general” and “real mormonism”.

  8. Matt W., that’s the trick, isn’t it? In determining which borders need to be maintained, we’re in an area without consensus.

  9. Well, we are seeing at least one non-North American as the second counselor in the First Presidency in Dieter Uchtdorf.

  10. True, Kevin. Not quite as historic, though; we’ve had non-North American leaders before (John Taylor, for example). Anthon H. Lund was a First Presidency member who wasn’t even a first-language English-speaker. Non-white folks are the real historical void in our leadership.

  11. I could really care less if the 30th President of the Church is Mexican,Pilipino or Brazilian. All I care about is that he is approved by Jesus Christ and holds all priesthood keys.
    The color of our presidnets says nothing about the Church as an institution. The fact that they are prophets,seers and revelators in the most literal sense of those words says everything.

  12. What gets me, JNS, is the reverse rhetoric of “real America.”
    Specifically, the arrogance, ignorance, and self-centeredness of New Yorkers as if New York were the only place of worth and intelligence in the US, save perhaps Los Angeles, has amazed, amused, and frustrated me and my wife.

  13. To me the heart of this post denies the fact that everyone of our leaders has been called of God. I know we’re not trying to call God a bigot, but it is more than gently suggesting that the process could use a little ‘improving’. God is still the leader of our church right?

  14. Pedro, I almost agree. Of course inspiration and calling are the primary thing. But it also matters whether our community is capable of offering a non-white person as our leader and role model.

    Ben, yeah, too true!

  15. “as if New York were the only place of worth and intelligence in the US”

    ……..but it is.

  16. “Also, I give you a 9 out of 10 on the holier-than-thou; ”

    I’m not particularly holy, but I do like to keep clear in my head who is at the head of the Church. It makes like a lot easier.

  17. “life”, not “like”. I don’t think itmakes “like” any easier or harder.

  18. OK. Who is the president of the church, Frank?

  19. Thomas Parkin says:

    I take a lot of good feeling from hearing so many foreign accents in General Conference – Spanish, mostly, but others as well. Pedro is right, of course. But, I do find it pleasing, personally, to see the leadership of a worldwide church become ethnically diverse as leadership from all parts of the world matures.

    For the record, of all the many places I’ve lived, Seattle has been the most insular, ideologically fixed and fixated, and bigoted. There isn’t even a close second. Not that this has anything to do with the subject at hand. I’ve just been itching to say it somewhere.

    ~

  20. nicely done, JNS

  21. As a ‘convert’ and non-white female, I actually really appreciate this post and what it questions…many of my friends from med school and residency ask me why the most ‘important’ leaders in our church happen to be Caucasian/Anglo/North American.

    OF COURSE the most important thing is to be called of God…AND it would be nice to see faces in the First Presidency that reflect the global membership. Because, afterall, men of God and faithful leaders could come from all ethnic/racial backgrounds. Thank you Relief Society (Chieko Okazaki and Sylvia Allred).

  22. Excellent post. Thanks for this, JNS. Your post (and the subsequent comments) reminded me of Darron Smith’s essay, “Unpacking Whiteness in Zion” (in Black and Mormon, 148-166). Smith observed (correctly, I believe), that

    [F]orms of institutional whiteness are difficult to detect in Mormondom, I believe, because they are masked in authority, because white members faithfully accept that such decisions are inspired without questioning them, let alone opposing them or proposing alternatives. … [B]y identifying the Lord’s will as not only the ultimate source but the only source for callings, [church leaders] den[y] any need to examine [their] own behavior and thoughts for personal bias (pp. 158-60).

    I am a bit more optimistic than you that a non-white apostle will be called in the near future (probably a Latino), but that may be wishful thinking.

  23. In determining which borders need to be maintained, we’re in an area without consensus.

    I think there is enough consensus where it matters, and the CHI has disciplinary councils for a very specific set of reasons to deal with that. It is true that there are anomolies which occur, but in general, I think we have enough data to make atleast a fuzzy ring of gray area as a border.

  24. Matt W., to the extent that the CHI is the basis for consideration, then disbelief in the church’s prophetic claims is not a legitimate boundary condition. Such private belief is not a recognized basis for discipline in the handbook.

  25. Thomas Parkin # 19, re Seattle. Seriously, more than Bellevue? On the other hand, I live in the culturally rich, highly diverse Eastside community of Redmond.

  26. JNS: Those preaching sermons ought not to accuse others of sanctimony. FWIW, I like the sermon…

  27. This is a great post. If it will be another 40+ years before we get a non-white man as prophet, how long until we have a woman?
    (hears birds chirping)
    Yeah, I thought so.

  28. Nate, any accusations of sanctimony on my part in this comment thread are highly tongue-in-cheek. I trust that Frank knows that he shouldn’t take my replies to him any more seriously than I took his initial comment. We’re both having good fun.

    Jessawhy, I’m afraid the historical record can’t really speak to that question.

  29. JNS: Fair enough. The initial post was so earnest, I wasn’t sure…

  30. Thomas Parkin says:

    kevinf,

    Well, I never lived in B-vue, though I did work there for a few years. My impression was that it was much easier to speak my mind in B-vue than in Seattle. The inhabitants of B-vue may be pretty monotone, but the proximity to Seattle makes the expression some views inevitable and accetable. The reverse doesn’t apply.

    ~

  31. I’d like to know why we don’t have more rotation in the quorum of the twelve apostles. If they could be retired or given emeritus status instead of staying in 40 years, dying or outliving everyone else to become the prophet, the leadership could be younger and change more quickly to be representative of the membership in general. After all, it hasn’t always been a called-till-death calling, and it wasn’t always old, old men leading the church.
    (Of course, that I could think this probably proves I’m not a “real Mormon” either. Maybe it’s because it’s been too long since I moved away from “real America”.)

  32. Steve Evans says:

    denebug, while not all apostles have remained such until death, such has always been the policy. Reed Smoot, ETB and Moses Thatcher are pretty much the exceptions, and each had fairly extraordinary circumstances.

  33. Bro. Jones says:

    #6 Well, it truly would be revolutionary and a breakthrough, I just wanted to be cautious about suggesting that the Church is in need of revolution or breakthroughs. I would absolutely welcome it (and probably be a little happier with the institution), but I’ll follow whomever is called of God.

    It’s semantics, on my part, really. I would be lying if I didn’t admit to being disappointed that among our most recently called apostles, only one (hi President Uchtdorf!) is “outside the mold.” I don’t sustain or love any of them any less, but I will rejoice a little extra when my kids someday see apostles that look a little bit more like them.

  34. I guess the question hinges on whether or not God runs the Church. If he does, then talk to him about killing off enough apostles to bring the desired day more quickly. If he doesn’t, then I guess start a letter-writing campaign to Pres. Monson to ask him to encourage the call of the desired candidate as quickly as possible. I don’t foresee Affirmative Action providing racial preferences in promotion within the general leadership of the Church. The reluctance of the Church to respond to external pressure in setting its policy is legendary, so I don’t think pursuing these kinds of questions is going to tend to produce the desired change.

    I recognize that my first question is an open one in this setting. I am unlikely to depart from my position that the Church is run by God through inspired but fallible men.

  35. Steve Evans says:

    Blain, it wouldn’t take God throwing thunderbolts. I see no reason why the Brethren couldn’t thoughtfully and prayerfully take the idea [of emeritizing apostles] to the Lord.

    No idea why you say that your first question is an open one in this setting. Care to elaborate?

  36. The reluctance of the Church to respond to external pressure in setting its policy is legendary

    I find the wording of this interesting, especially given the context of this thread. How would letters from regular members count as external pressure, unless those writing the letters are somehow less mormon than others.

  37. “Frank, by my math, about 15% of people who are ordained as Apostles become presidents of the church. ”

    I hate to ask but you didn’t just divide the total number of Apostles by the number of prophets did you? The 19th century stuff is probably not going to give you a good feel for the 21st century experience. And the last 14 people on the Apostle list are actually still eligible.

    6 out of 40 Apostles called in the 19th century became prophets. There’s your 15%.

    From 1900 down to President Monson’s call there were 36 men called as Apostles (more or less). Of those, nine became the prophet — so 25%. Whether that is the steady state is hard to say, but it is probably a good starting guess.

  38. Blain, I disagree completely that the church is legendarily reluctant to respond to external pressure in setting its policy. One might instead say that, in our history, we have always adopted the preferred policy of external actors whenever sufficient pressure is brought to bear on the church. Indeed, one might read some of Wilford Woodruff’s remarks about the Manifesto as suggesting that such external pressure can be the basis for change in divine policy and can be the efficient cause of revelation bringing the church in line with the demands of the broader society. Nevertheless, this post is clearly not that kind of pressure. Indeed, it is not even lobbying. It’s just a comment.

    More broadly, can it be the case that God is in charge of the church and yet not always in detailed and dictatorial control of every decision made within it? If we imagine that general authorities follow the same pattern the rest of us do in extending callings — think it through and then take a name to the Lord — it seems reasonable to believe that current authorities’ social networks may be decisive in terms of which names are presented to the Lord in prayer. This supposition fits with the observed fact that new general authorities are likely to have significant social ties to existing leaders. This need not imply an absence of inspiration; it may merely suggest that the Lord uses inspiration to accept or reject the initiative of mortal leaders. In other words, God’s leadership is not necessarily a binary consideration. It could easily be the case that God leads the church and also that the foibles and social networks of contemporary leaders constitute an additional and often very human constraint on the body of people considered for leadership. I’m not arguing that this is certainly the case, but simply that it can’t be dismissed out of hand.

  39. Frank, I think the 25% figure is suspect because of the distinctively short tenures of Presidents Fielding Smith, Lee, and Hunter. Only one other church president (Snow) had a comparably short tenure; I think these outliers contaminate the 20th-century sample. If we were to exclude them, we’d be back near 15%. In any case, regardless of our analytic principles here, we can’t get a number above 25%. A large majority of Apostles never live to be presidents of the church.

  40. Steve Evans says:

    “In other words, God’s leadership is not necessarily a binary consideration.”

    I like this formulation a lot. I agree that there is much more to being led by revelation than a light blinking ‘YES’ or ‘NO’.

  41. No J. Nelson-Seawright, nothing here in post this denies the first vision, but the underlying current of the post denies the power and authority that brought about all that we know as true. -

  42. JNS
    “But it also matters whether our community is capable of offering a non-white person as our leader and role model.”

    I understand what your saying. That’s cool; but this is how I see it:

    For example, I’m a Puerto Rican guy. Alot of my theological views are actually more inline with Brigham Young than they are with Robert Millet.
    I try to be a good LDS but I mess up sometimes etc.

    Now, if God wants me to be the President of the Church then I will be the President of the Church.
    If He doesn’t want me to be the President of the Church then there is no way in hell that I will be.

    It doesn’t matter what the “community offers up”. If He wants me to be the President of the Church then some how, some way, President Bednar will find me and ordain me to the Q of 12. And God will make sure that I outlive everyone.

    As for the non-white role model, what have Church leaders been through the ages?

    It doesn’t matter what God chosses to be the Prophet. What matters is what the Prophet is. The 30th President of the Church might be a black brazilian, who drove an icecream truck all his life; or he might be a danish-american millionaire lawyer and descendant of polygamists. It doesnt matter to God, and it shouldnt matter to us. What matters? His keys and the revelation he recieves.

    Some say: “I like Pres. Monson.” With all do respect to that great man. In one sense, I don’t give a rip about Thomas S. Monson or his Danish ancestors.

    What I care about is his authority and the revelations he recieves on our behalf. Take those away form him and all you have is a news paper editor who speaks every 6 months on public access TV.

    Don’t get me wrong. When no one was looking, I wept when I heard Pres. Hinckley died. But the man was no where as important as The One who called him and guided him. That is God. I don’t follow Pres. Monson; I follow God. Pres. Monson is largely a celestial messenger boy.

    So, I typed more than I thought I would. But as a Saint that happens to be Latin, I just had to say something about this.

    It doesn’t bother me that all the Apostles have been Scottish/English/Welsh/Irish/Scandanavians!!

    Now I will get off my soap box.

  43. “In any case, regardless of our analytic principles here, we can’t get a number above 25%.”

    PART WHERE I AGREE WITH YOU:
    I think 25% is probably a reasonable guess.

    PART WHERE I MAKE FUN OF YOU:
    Pointing out that some modern prophets have had short tenures and therefore we should go back to when they had longer tenures is missing the point. We may well find that more prophets in the coming era do have short tenures. What you call “outliers” I call “a fourth of the dataset”.

  44. Steve Evans says:

    Mike T., that’s three trollish comments from you in a row. If you want to participate in the conversation, it’s time for you to start acting like a grownup instead of making moronic statements about how JNS is denying Christ. For now you’re in the mod queue.

  45. Mike T., I’d actually like to engage you on that point. Blain has raised a similar question, and I think a lot of people feel like discussing the Church as a human organization, in the terms in which we usually discuss organizational behavior in governments or corporations, is problematic or somehow denying the special character of the Church’s organization. I’d like to understand how you think about that–if we just add the caveat “if it’s the Lord’s will” or something like that, does that satisfy the need for recognizing the Church’s specialness, or is it inevitably troublesome to have any discussion about the Church as a large, human organization? Do we need to just be silent except to affirm that God is in charge, or is there a way this discussion could happen that wouldn’t seem disrespectful to you?

  46. Frank, I think it really depends what we think counts. Did any of the very short church presidents leave a legacy in office that compares to that of McKay, Kimball, or Hinckley? If not, then they may be substantively less relevant to the discussion. This isn’t a pure math game; the substance can lead to different analytic approaches.

    Pedro, thanks for your comments. I could, of course, offer testimonials of other Latin American Saints who would like to see someone from the region in high church leadership. Their perspectives obviously do not replace yours. I disagree with your point of view, however, when you conclude that we somehow know with certainty that God will definitively act to bring about the call of anyone from the whole world that He thinks would be appropriate as a high church leader. There’s just no solid evidence that this is the case, and if it is it raises hard-to-answer questions about why God so strongly favors certain family lines for leadership, etc. If instead we postulate that humans do contribute at least something to the human-divine interaction resulting in callings, then your line of argument simply becomes uncertain.

  47. JNS:

    to the extent that the CHI is the basis for consideration, then disbelief in the church’s prophetic claims is not a legitimate boundary condition. Such private belief is not a recognized basis for discipline in the handbook.

    Good point. I do apparantly have my own hypocrisies to work on.

  48. And for the record, I’d settle for an african, a philipino, and an african american as 1st Q of 70 as a good starting point.
    Sicne the organization of the 70 is a matter of policy (as has been shown by the way it has changed in the past) I don’t think anyone should find anything heretical in that.

    anecdotally, I met a man who was a convert in DC and worked for Orrin Hatch (which is irrelevant) who once asked Hinckley about the issue of diversity in the leadership at a meeting premiering some film at the LDS temple (I think it was the Joseph Smith PBS special) and Hinckley
    apparantly said it was a goal of his to get more diversity in the leadership ranks. So there you have it, our inspired leadership is for this as well. And yes, I know that is now a second hand anecdote, and from 9 years ago, but hey, it’s wednesday…

  49. Specifically, the arrogance, ignorance, and self-centeredness of New Yorkers as if New York were the only place of worth and intelligence in the US, save perhaps Los Angeles, has amazed, amused, and frustrated me and my wife.

    Actually, it’s just that New York is the coolest place on the face of the earth, and all who live here are very cool.

  50. JNS, you’re not a real mormon.

  51. JNS,
    Well done. I have to say that the short, and rather meteoric run Pres. Uchtdorf has demonstrated how leadership that is informed by experiences outside of the Mountain West Time Zone could vivify the church. Or maybe Dieter is just the man.

  52. The Right Trousers says:

    Well, part of it is just that he’s The Man – one of our most charismatic apostles ever. And he’s got an excellent set of brains and Spirit as well.

    I’m surprised that nobody has brought up that many places in Utah have an excess of leadership (at least half the men in my ward would make fantastic bishops and stake presidents) and many (or most?) places outside have a deficit. The latter is especially strong incentive to leave good leaders where they are.

  53. Neal Kramer says:

    Again a great post by JNS.

    Let me add a little. As I watched the last General Conference I saw the missionary enthusiasm of a woman born in El Salvador, listened to the testimony of a man from Brazil through Scotland and the Balkans, heard from impressively spiritual leaders from Latin America (Peru, Mexico, Brazil, at least). Saw two members of the Presidency of the Seventy who are Latin Americans. Pres. Uchtdorf’s charismatic German accent, his commitment to hope in Christ. Pres. Monson’s unfailing faith in the Church’s future worldwide–a temple in Rome!

    I felt the Savior smile. Past Prophets pleased with what is happening. A worldwide Zion emerging from the wilderness and expelling the darkness as it goes.

    It’s a great time to be LDS.

  54. nasamomdele says:

    “Breakthrough” is the wrong word.

    Zion is the pure in heart. Go anywhere in the world and you are in the Church with people with the same Gospel.

    If you look for equality in the heirarchy for the Church, you will inevitably miss the mark as to where the “real” is.

    Many a wise Church leader has said that the strength of the Church is in its members and their faith. The “real” is those that truly make sacrifices.

    In faith, they pay tithing, go to the temple, etc.

    And mixed green salads? Apostacy!

  55. Steve Evans says:

    “If you look for equality in the heirarchy for the Church, you will inevitably miss the mark as to where the “real” is.”

    Can you explain what you mean by this?

  56. nasamomdele, you say, “Go anywhere in the world and you are in the Church with people with the same Gospel.” I agree with this, with the qualification that it seems that interpretations of the gospel and choices of themes to emphasize actually vary substantially across geography within the church.

    However, this raises the stakes about the overall point. If people throughout the church are equal in spiritual terms, then why is Northern European culture evidently necessary in practice for top leadership callings? It’s a puzzle, and your comments only deepen it.

  57. Mixed green salads are Mormon, so long as you put Ranch dressing on them.

    All Mormons seem pretty real to me.

  58. Rebecca J., I’m afraid I’d sooner have beer mixed with coffee as a salad dressing than Ranch. Sorry.

  59. J. Nelson-Seawright, I tend to see things very black and white (so to speak) when it comes to the church and its leadership and I usually react from the gut. However narrow my own point of view might be, thank you for posting yours. I don’t agree with the bulk of it, but it was obviously something you put some thought behind. -

  60. JNS, I’m afraid you are going to hell. But that doesn’t make you any less real to me.

  61. Steve Evans says:

    What about Cool Ranch Doritos?

  62. Steve:

    1) I haven’t had a Cool Ranch Dorito since I was 12. Are they good?

    2) Powdered whatever is to Ranch dressing as Cheeto orange gunk is to brie.

    3) Ranch can be a great dip for very spicy Buffalo wings.

  63. Steve Evans says:

    Are they good?? Why they are delicious. And they leave you with breath that can knock over a cow at 20 yards. The only snack food able to give the user worse breath is cool ranch Cornnuts.

  64. #49- Mark B., I think I’m in your ward ;)

  65. Steve Evans, you clearly have not experienced “funions”

  66. “I could, of course, offer testimonials of other Latin American Saints who would like to see someone from the region in high church leadership.”

    I guess it’s something I just don’t get. What? Marion G. Romney, Camilla Eyring Kimball and Henry B. Eyring are Mexican enough ; )

    Seriously though, I’m just trying to get back to the CK. With all the stuff mormonism recquires, who has time to contemplate Pres. monson’s lack of melanin? Oh well : )

  67. one of dem moms says:

    Judges 5

    …Arise Barak, and take away your captives…and the land was undisturbed for 40 years…

    Hoping for another long triumph, in this, a holy land.

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