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Sunday, July 8, 2018

My Rebuttal Of A Story Shown on NBC Nightly News

Hello again, everyone! As some of you may know, I have always felt a fierce loyalty to the Church and to its' leaders, and I have repeatedly posted on this blog thoughts about common misconceptions presented in the public forums that do not make sense to me. I would request your indulgence as I do so again.

In my time zone, the NBC Nightly News program is winding down. They just ran this video about the Church's 40th anniversary of the Revelation on the Priesthood. While I respect and recognize that many people of color do have a harder time feeling accepted in the Church because of the previous restrictions, the NBC story takes things to an extreme that bugs me a lot.

Among the many complaints cited in that story were that blacks were not welcome in the Church prior to the Priesthood Revelation, and that the restriction policy was driven by racial prejudice. This could not be further from the truth. The Church invites all to participate in the blessings that the gospel affords. While the restrictions were in place for a while, no individual of color who had a testimony of the gospel was denied the opportunity to be baptized.

Additionally, although the reasons behind the restriction were not known, and although many previous apostles and Church presidents felt it would take a revelation from the Lord to reverse the policy, there were a few that may have felt (according to reports) that the timing was not right. I firmly believe that it took the right group of apostles asking the right question at the right time to enable the revelation to come.

But that is only the tip of the iceberg. In that story above, one or two "faithful" Church members were interviewed and stated that they could not feel fully accepted by the Church until someone of color was in its' leading councils.

I put the word "faithful" in quotation marks, because I think the argument is disingenuous at best, and blatantly ignorant of the ways of the Lord at worst. We have repeatedly heard that the apostles are not meant to be a representation or reflection of the Church's global diversity, though we have seen President Nelson fulfill his own promise that there would one day be "more flavors in the mix".

I am convinced that when apostolic vacancies exist, there are literally hundreds of men, both known and unknown to the Church, that could be called to fill those assignments, who would do so equally well. But more than that, if, as some "faithful members" stated in that report, they considered leaving the Church because their racial background was not reflected in the apostleship, that seems to be more of a personal problem.

In the Church, we believe in common consent, but we also believe that each of us can (and should) seek for and obtain our own testimonies about the process by which prophets and apostles are called. For any of us that have that witness, sustaining whomever is called should trump any feelings of resentment that those we would like to see called do not have that occur.

This may seem to be an unkind thing to say, but quite honestly, if the testimony of any Church member is based solely upon whether or not their racial or other backgrounds are represented in the leadership councils of the Church, then they may not have the testimony nor the faith that they claim to have, and the vocalization of their discontent puts them, spiritually, on dangerous ground.

Several current and previous Church presidents and apostles have spoken on this subject to back up these ideas. First, to set the context, due to financial hardship the Church experienced in Kirtland in the mid-1830s (including inability to pay debts and the fact that Church leadership were misled about the prospect of funds that would help the situation), many members of the Church, including some in the highest Church councils, voice disapproval of Joseph Smith. In one particular meeting to which the prophet was not invited, a suggestion was made that he should be replaced.

Brigham Young shared this recollection about that meeting: “I rose up, and in a plain and forcible manner told them that Joseph was a Prophet and I knew it, and that they might rail and slander him as much as they pleased, [but] they could not destroy the appointment of the Prophet of God; they could only destroy their own authority, cut the thread that bound them to the Prophet and to God, and sink themselves to hell. Many were highly enraged at my decided opposition to their measures. …

“This meeting was broken up without the apostates being able to unite on any decided measures of opposition. This was a crisis when earth and hell seemed leagued to overthrow the Prophet and Church of God. The knees of many of the strongest men in the Church faltered. During this siege of darkness I stood close by Joseph, and with all the wisdom and power God bestowed upon me, put forth my utmost energies to sustain the servant of God and unite the quorums of the Church.”

And Joseph Smith the Prophet has been quoted as follows: “I will give you one of the Keys of the mysteries of the Kingdom. It is an eternal principle, that has existed with God from all eternity: That man who rises up to condemn others, finding fault with the Church, saying that they are out of the way, while he himself is righteous, then know assuredly, that that man is in the high road to apostasy; and if he does not repent, will apostatize, as God lives.”

I understand to a point how any group not represented in leading Church councils may feel marginalized, forgotten by the Lord, unimportant, or slighted. But at the same time, every one of the apostles has spoken about the inadequacy they feel regarding their calls to serve. As then-President Uchtdorf reminded us during the April 2008 General Conference, "In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we do not seek, nor do we decline, callings that come from God through inspired priesthood channels."

Three months following his return to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Elder Uchtdorf made this statement to begin his remarks in the Sunday Afternoon Session: "Although I miss my dear friend President Thomas S. Monson, I love, sustain, and support our prophet and President, Russell M. Nelson, and his noble counselors. I am also thankful and honored to once again work more closely with my beloved fellow Brethren of the Quorum of the Twelve."

When the reorganization of the First Presidency originally occurred, many people correctly pointed out that Elder Uchtdorf is popular, and expressed dismay at his "demotion" and over him "not being brought back" into the First Presidency, My response to that is simple: President Nelson did not need to "bring him back" as he was not really gone. The members of the First Presidency have a long-standing tradition of delegating major responsibilities to the senior members of the Twelve.

When Elder Uchtdorf came in to the First Presidency in 2008, there were only 2 apostles junior to him. When he returned to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles earlier this year, he did so as the third most senior member of that Quorum. And the First Presidency and President Ballard have recognized his immense administrative talents, because, as I previously noted, the assignments he now has formerly belonged to President Nelson and then-Elders Oaks and Ballard prior to that reorganization.

If that is not a testament to how much the Brethren value Elder Uchtdorf, I don't know what is. By extension, that also applies to all those called to the apostleship. The lack of someone of a certain background not being called to the apostleship is not meant to slight those of any ethnicity or race, but should rather serve as a testament to the fact that the Lord needs the men who are called to come in to the apostolic circle for very specific reasons.

Some of those reasons may best be demonstrated by what Elder Dale G. Renlund said in the October 2015 General Conference in response to his apostolic call. He talked about being called as a bishop, and being given this timely advice from his brother, who, according to Elder Renlund, is "older and much wiser." His brother said: "You need to know that the Lord hasn’t called you because of anything you have done. In your case, it is probably in spite of what you have done. The Lord has called you for what He needs to do through you, and that will happen only if you do it His way.”

The idea that the call to the leading Church councils is not based on any kind of quota was further reiterated just recently by Elder Ulisses Soares, who acknowledged the honor he felt in being the first Brazilian apostle of the Church, but who rightly reiterated President Nelson's words spoken during the press conference for the new First Presidency, that the important factor is the testimony of Christ and the capacity to witness of Him worldwide.

So the suggestion that the lack of any specific racial background in the top councils of the Church is a slight to Church members of those backgrounds who do not feel represented is something that I feel widely misses the mark.

Anyone who has that witness could be called, but for those that have been called or will yet be, and for those of us who are called upon to sustain them every six months, the testimony of Christ and of the process by which such calls come should rightly be more important than whether or not the Church's diversity is appropriately reflected in its' top ranks of leadership. That said, I fully believe that when the time is right, even more "flavors" will be added to the "mix", including in ways we cannot now expect.

I hope that any readers of this blog will keep all this in mind when they come across news stories like this one. That does it for this post. If you enjoyed what you read and would like to keep informed of new content from this blog, please feel free to subscribe. Any and all comments are, as always, welcome and appreciated. Thank you for the privilege of your time. Until my next post, I wish each one of you all the best and pray that the Lord will bless you all in everything you do.

First Presidency Calls First Presidents for Two New Temples

Hello again, everyone! On this beautiful Sabbath Day, I am pleased to bring you news that the First Presidency has called the first presidents for two new temples, namely, the Kinshasa DR Congo and Concepcion Chile Temples.

A few things stood out to me about this development. First and foremost, if the Brethren have called the first temple president for Kinshasa, then it may be closer to its' completion than many, myself included, may have thought. That said, it is also not uncommon for the Church to call temple presidents in advance. Earlier this year, we saw a new president called for the Asuncion Paraguay Temple, which is currently being renovated.

But above and beyond that, the first presidents of both of these temples actually served as mission presidents in both of those cities, so they would certainly be familiar with the regions in which they will serve, and I would also imagine that they will be welcomed back and embraced by the people of those nations.

With these new presidents announced, the number of new temple presidents called during this year now rises to 59. Additionally, there are 4 other temples that are or could be set for dedication in the near future for which we may also see the first presidents called (namely Barranquilla Colombia and Rome Italy, which have had a dedication announced, in addition to Fortaleza Brazil and Port-au-Prince Haiti, which are anticipated to be dedicated within the first 6-8 months of 2019).

There are also, as I have previously noted, two currently operating temples on my list that may additionally have a new president announced, with those two being Veracruz Mexico and Washington D. C. As I have previously observed, with the D. C. Temple being closed for renovation currently, the Church may opt to wait on calling a new president until its' renovation concludes in mid-to-late 2020.

That said, as I have also noted previously, the First Presidency did announce earlier this year that a new president has been called for the Asuncion Paraguay Temple, which, as most of you are likely aware, is currently stalled in its' renovation process, so I cannot safely rule out the prospect that the D. C. temple may have a new president announced this year.

For any who are interested (including new readers who may not have seen this earlier), I am again posting my complete list of temples that have had or may potentially have a new president announced. If any of you have any questions on that list, please feel free to let me know.

Before I share that list below, I also wanted to briefly mention an item of business in relation to this blog. As some of you may have noticed, I recently added to this blog an option for those who are interested to subscribe to this blog and have new content sent to you as it is published here. While I know many of you regularly check this blog for new content, there will be from now on a standing invitation to anyone who wants to subscribe to do so. And if none of you are interested in doing so, that is perfectly all right as well.

That said, I will paste the list below. So as not to disturb its' narrative flow, I will end here as I always do. That does it for this post. Any and all comments are, as always, welcome and appreciated. Thank you for the privilege of your time. Until my next post, I wish each one of you all the best and pray that the Lord will bless you all in everything you do.

New presidents have been called for the following temples:
1.      Manaus Brazil
2.      Boise Idaho
3.      Denver Colorado
4.      The Hague Netherlands
5.      Oquirrh Mountain Utah
6.      Helsinki Finland
7.      The Gila Valley Arizona
8.      Brigham City Utah
9.      Stockholm Sweden
10.  Palmyra New York
11.  Accra Ghana
12.  Papeete Tahiti
13.  Sao Paulo Brazil
14.  San Jose Costa Rica
15.  Albuquerque New Mexico
16.  Provo City Center
17.  Recife Brazil
18.  Cardston Alberta
19.  Payson Utah
20.  Porto Alegre Brazil
21.  Brisbane Australia
22.  Kansas City Missouri
23.  Oaxaca Mexico
24.  Regina Saskatchewan
25.  Cebu City Philippines
26.  Boston Massachusetts
27.  Colonia Juarez Chihuahua Mexico
28.  Billings Montana
29.  Houston Texas
30.  Sydney Australia
31.  Guatemala City Guatemala
32.  Hermosillo Sonora Mexico
33.  Montevideo Uruguay
34.  Indianapolis Indiana
35.  Laie Hawaii Temple (the new president of this temple is the older brother of General Authority Seventy Elder Donald L. Hallstrom)
36.  Las Vegas Nevada
37.  Atlanta Georgia
38.  Buenos Aires Argentina
39.  Redlands California
40.  Draper Utah
41.  Tijuana Mexico
42.  Sacramento California
43.  Monticello Utah
44.  Bountiful Utah
45.  Freiberg Germany
46.  Oakland California
47.  Villahermosa Mexico
48.  Manti Utah
49.  Suva Fiji
50.  Vancouver British Columbia
51.  Tegucigalpa Honduras
52.  Fukuoka Japan
53.  St. Louis Missouri
54.  Trujillo Peru
55.  Asuncion Paraguay (not anticipated)
56.  Cordoba Argentina
57.  Taipei Taiwan
58.  Kinshasa DR Congo (first president)
59.  Concepcion Chile (first president)

The first presidents will likely be announced for the following new temples:
1.      Barranquilla Colombia
2.      Rome Italy
3.      Fortaleza Brazil
4.      Port-au-Prince Haiti

New presidents may also be announced for the following temples:
1.      Veracruz Mexico
2.      Washington D. C. Temple (Note: The Church may opt to wait on calling a new president for this temple until 2020 when it is rededicated)