*My Utah friends who know me, are mostly conservative, and are mostly LDS or former LDS or are at least very familiar with the LDS Church
*My New York friends who know me, are mostly liberal, and are mostly not LDS and don't know the difference between LDS and LSD
*Strangers from who knows what religious and political backgrounds who stumble on me through Twitter or Google and don't know me at all
Each post is like another page in a narrative that started years ago and will continue until death or injury prevents me from writing more, but it may be the only post that a given person sees. If they happen to catch me criticizing liberals, they'll assume I'm a conservative. If they happen to catch me criticizing conservatives, they'll assume I'm a liberal. Because the way politics work in this country is that you're supposed to choose one of two crappy options and then pretend it's perfect while criticizing the other one. I shouldn't have to put in a disclaimer or counterexample every time I criticize one or the other. And how do I write about Mormon topics that roughly half of my audience is familiar with and roughly the other half is clueless about, without patronizing the one or making no sense to the other? Especially when I enjoy diving into apologetics and scholarship and cultural weirdness that goes way beyond the missionary discussions? I think I've failed spectacularly at that. I don't even know when to say "Mormon" and one to say "LDS". They're interchangeable in my mind but not in everyone else's.
So here's yet another bit that Mormons already know and others don't care about. A couple weeks ago Russell M. Nelson became the seventeenth President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with Dallin H. Oaks and Henry B. Eyring as counselors. And in the press conference, Peggy Fletcher Stack of the Salt Lake Tribune asked, "So, under President Monson we saw some real advances towards gender equity the loering of the missionary age especially for sisters and also adding women to some of the executive committees but the Church leadership is still white, male, American. What will you do in your Presidency to bring women, people of color, and international members into decison making for the Church?"
President Nelson responded in part, "We are white, and we are American. But look at our Quorums of the Seventy and look at our leaders locally. Wherever we go, the leadership of the Church is from the local communities and those are the real leaders. The Twelve and the Seventy are not a representative assembly of any kind. That means we don't have representatives - how would you govern the church with a representative from all of the 188 countries? So somebody's gonna be left out, but it doesn't matter because the Lord's in charge and we'll live to see the day when there will be other flavors in the mix. But we respond because we’ve been called by the Lord. Not one of us asked to be here."
The leadership structure of the LDS Church is technically a hierarchy in that people have varying levels of responsibility and authority, but should not be viewed through the same lens as a traditional human hierarchy. Every role is supposed to be seen as equally important. The President of the entire Church is not entitled to any eternal blessing that isn't available to each and every member. Elder Uchtdorf's move from the First Presidency back into the Twelve and President Eyring's move from First to Second Counselor are not "demotions". We are not supposed to aspire to leadership positions, which is fine with me because I don't want any ever. So I fall in the category of those who love and sustain the leadership as presently constituted and also really, really would like to see them more reflect the makeup of modern global membership (even though they aren't a representative body).
And, as President Nelson promises here, that will happen soon. (Perhaps very, very soon - did he choose the word "we" carefully despite being 93 years old?) Because diversity has been trickling up through the General Authority ranks for many years and will continue to do so until it runs all the way through. To demonstrate this, I decided to occupy what little time I have outside of school and work to put together an overview of LDS leadership diversity that will probably be of interest to hardly anybody else in or out of the Church. I have chosen to focus on their states/provinces and countries of origin instead of skin color, which I don't think is the most useful lens to view the world through. There may be a few errors or ommissions with regard to where people were born versus where they grew up that I didn't have time to look into, but it should be accurate enough for most intents and purposes. If you find this terribly dull, go read the Book of Mormon instead and come back next week for hopefully something you'll like more. You think I'm joking but I'm not.
First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve
Recently deceased: Thomas S. Monson - Utah, Robert D. Hales - New York
Over the first few decades these bodies had members from Canada, England, Denmark, and several US states, but after they and the vast majority Mormons emigrated to Utah the diversity of their ranks took a de facto step backward. Diversity takes the longest to reach these upper echelons because the men here have been called after many years of church service and then stay here until they die. I completely understand why some people were angered by the calling of three more white men from Utah in 2015 and would be lying if I said I didn't feel disappointed at first too. But it's only a matter of time. I can't find it now, but I know I once saw a quote from President Spencer W. Kimball that has some relevance, in 1975 I believe, in which he told a gathering of Mormons in Japan that some of them would live to see a Japanese man in the Quorum of the Twelve. I thought it was in "From the East: A History The History of the Latter-day Saints in Asia, 1851-196" by R. Lanier Britsch, but then I couldn't find it in there. If anyone is familiar with this quote please let me know.
Presidency of the Seventy
I once saw an internet commenter complain that ethnically Asian Gerrit W. Gong doesn't count because he's from California and that L. Whitney Clayton sounds like the name of a KKK Grand Dragonmaster. Here's some life advice: if you're that desperate to find similarities between Mormons and the KKK, you're an idiot.
General Authority Seventies (First and Second Quorums)
Recently deceased: Von G. Keetch - Utah
Here we see that diversity can actually fluctuate within such a small group. There is only one Japanese General Authority, but not long ago there were three. Koichi Aoyagi and Yoshihiko Kikuchi aged out and now have emeritus status. In the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve, which typically only have a combined fifteen slots (there have been more First Presidency counselors at times in the past, but this is unlikely to ever happen again because of changes in the distribution of responsibility since then), diversity in future years will certainly fluctuate even more.
Again, diversity fluctuates. Some have assumed that Reyna I. Aburto was the first woman of color in the Relief Society Presidency, but from 1990-97 it had a Japanese-Hawaiian named Chieko Okazaki. The late Sister Okazaki is still remembered and loved for her intimate description of the Atonement and her outreach to those of us who don't fit the cookie cutter of Utah Mormon culture. And I'm almost certain I saw her ghost in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building one time. Anyway...
Third Quorum of the Seventy
I find it interesting that only one of these men is from Norway and therefore of value while several of the others, according to the President of the United States, are from "----hole countries" and therefore worthless. But that's none of my business.
Fourth Quorum of the Seventy
Fifth Quorum of the Seventy
Sixth Quorum of the Seventy
Fred A. Parker is black. I know I'm not supposed to be focusing on skin color but I thought some people would like to know that.
Seventh Quorum of the Seventy
Eighth Quorum of the Seventy
I first assumed from the name "Robert K. William" that he was a white man from Utah living in India, but nope, he's native and brown and I'm a little bit racist.