Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Next Mormon up

Updated version:
In sports there is a known phrase 'next man up'.  The 49ers will be implementing this strategy this season as new and younger players are taking the place of older stalwarts who left in the off season due to various reasons.  In the LDS church we are seeing a similar time of change.  Two members of the quorum of the 12 apostles have recently passed away and their replacements will be called in October's general conference (the last time when two members were called at the same conference was 10 years ago).  This is a great time to implement at least some level of change.  The idea of emeritus status is one that has been discussed, including in a post that I wrote for real clear religion some time back. President Monson's health is failing and the next in line is the soon to be 91 year old President Nelson.

Another area of change that could happen is the calling of non white/American members.  Currently President Uchtdorf is the only non American in the top leadership ranks.  That number grows to two if we include the presidency of the seventy.  Peggy Stack wrote a great piece on this topic yesterday.  While acknowledging the role of revelation in selecting new apostles I thought I would add some speculation on who I think will be picked and who I would want to be picked.  First off kudo's to Peggy Stack for even mentioning the possibility of non traditional candidates like Steve Young or Gifford Nielson.  I was almost named after Gifford and I love Steve Young.  I've heard his talk on how he likened faith to throwing to a WR even when he couldn't see him because his OL members were too tall, I would love to hear it again in general conference.  And if a former NFL quarterback was called that would mean church would only be an hour on Super Bowl Sunday right?  In another funny post in the Tribune, Kirby suggested himself to provide more diversity. 

That said there are two points to make.  First, diversification is the key.  We all know that apostles represent the Lord to the people and not the other way around, but having a diverse group of brethren betters enable them to do that and helps in running a global church.  Second, diversity in the quorum of the twelve is going to be minimal given the nature of Church leadership.  The new apostles are going to be called from the body of church general authorities and therefore will be the English speaking members who according to Mauss, as quoted in the Tribune article, "No one is likely to be called into the Quorum of the Twelve who has not become thoroughly Americanized and correlated through years of service at lower echelons".  Also, what is ultimately important is not just the color of someone's skin or their citizenship but whether they can provide a diversity of ideas, skills, and talents that will better enable them to connect with more members from different places.  This includes one's vocation.  When listening to President Uchtdorf, we can see how big of an impact his career has now on his ministry.  So with that said here are my picks for who I would like to see, noting that there are other candidates who would do a better job if the only criteria were skin color and citizenship.

My top two picks who I would like to see:
1. Larry Eco Hawk.  first off, Larry Eco Hawk is very American, but he is a different kind of American from the traditional white/Utah/Republican brand.  Being a Native American and a Democrat would be beneficial for a number of reasons.  It would provide a balance to the emphasis that the Church has placed on the Republican party's political agenda in recent years (Iraq war, gay marriage, religious freedom).  It would also increase representation and remind people of differing historical narratives which are equally valid to the mainstream narratives taught in the Church (US exceptionalism and LDS pioneer migration to be specific).  He would be able to relate to minority and native peoples in many countries.  He is also from Idaho which is an added bonus.

2. Gerald Causse.  He is currently in the presiding bishopric and from France.  This would also help in adding diversity and youth to Church leadership (only 52 years old).  He also has a style similar to President Uchtdorf, often emphasizing nonjudgmental charity.  In today's world of conflict and hate where everyone claims to be a victim of everyone who is different, this message is needed more than ever.  I was especially touched by a talk he shared in Tallinn a year ago about how we have a responsibility to make things right with our brothers and sisters in the gospel.

Honorable mention goes to Donald Hallstrom.  He was raised in Hawaii, so he has a multicultural background and gave a great talk in 2012 about the relationship between the Church and the gospel which I really appreciate.  He is also a very likely candidate given his status in the presidency of the seventy.  I also would be thrilled to see Edward Dube.  I loved his talk on faith and think he would be great to encourage and uplift members in this time when transparency and openness can cause doubt for members.
Another honorable mention goes to Gerrit Gong, who has a PhD in International Relations from Oxford! My opinion is certainly biased, but an IR background is very valuable when leading a global church.  His work on Asia is impressive both in academia and foreign policy institutes. 

Larry Eco Hawk is already a bit old (67) and has only been a general authority for three years, so I don't think he will get the call.  Geral Causse has a stronger chance of getting picked, but also it is a small chance as he has never served in the presidency of the seventy.  The last three apostles have all come from the presidency of the seventy. 

My predictions of who it will be:

1. Whitney Clayton.  As a member of the presidency of the seventy, he has a good chance.  He has served there since 2008 already.  As mentioned in the Tribune article, Clayton organized the prop 8 campaign.  It appears that the Church is going all in on the religious freedom topic and this might increase his chances.  For example Von Keetch , the Church's top lawyer on religious freedom issues was recently called as a general authority.

2. Claudio Costa.  He is the president of the Brazil area and has been a general authority since 1994, including time in the presidency of the seventy.

I think the choice will come down to the following logic.  Elder Clayton or Elder Rasband will be chosen (my favorite of the two is Rasband, Clayton is rumored to have played an active role in the quasi purge that has gone on recently among outspoken members.  This is the opposite strategy I have advocated for). Rasband has a very good chance, he is the senior member of the presidency of the seventy and we should remember that it is President Monson who will have the final say (with help of revelation).  Given President Monson's emphasis on kind charity, Rasband might better fit that bill than Clayton. 

For the second spot, I think that someone else will be chosen who represents a more diverse background.  I think it will be Costa, but it could be Soares as well. The Church has made several small but noticeable efforts at internationalizing the Church.  Having general conference speakers speak in their native language, announcing three temple locations all outside of the US are the more recent examples.  This makes me think that at least one member will not be a white American.  Because there are two spots it increases the chances of a surprise candidate which opens the doors for many candidates, although it won't be a big surprise like Mitt Romney, Harry Reid, or Steve Young, it will still be a general authority or another high status member.  

My dark horse candidate is Kim Clark, the former BYU-Idaho president.  BYU presidents have been popular in the past (Oaks, Holland, Bednar).  He is extremely capable and that makes him a tempting choice.

I'm sure whoever is chosen will do well, it will be an exciting conference in October!

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