First, for my friends who are not happy that other people are not happy that these men are white Utahns: I hope you can see beyond the criticism to the underlying concern. I’m hearing a lot of pain and it seems to stem from this question: “Are people with my background unable/unworthy/unwanted to represent the Lord to the church?” In other words, this is not about filling quotas; it is about existential dread. It is deeply personal and painful. (And given the church’s past history, it is not like this question comes out of nowhere.) I understand the visceral response that can come when you hear someone criticizing the church and its leadership, but I’m asking you to try to get behind that and hear that root issue and the pain it can cause and then mourn with those who mourn. Also, please realize that there is a long scriptural track record of inspired leaders who have a hard time seeing beyond cultural biases (see John 4:27, Acts 10, and 3 Nephi 23); one wonders on what basis one would conclude that this could not happen in our day.
Next, for my friends who are not happy that these men are white Utahns: I understand that this is disappointing. Can I ask you for two things? First, please try to avoid either-or thinking. As in: either God is racist or the church isn’t led by God. Or: either God is racist or these are not the apostles God wanted chosen. Please consider that it is possible (not provable, mind you, but possible) that God would have been just fine with any one of twenty or thirty people who might have been chosen for these slots, and so the fact that three white men were chosen does not necessarily imply that God only wants white men called or that God wasn’t approving of the calls. Consider that these calls can be inspired and can reflect some cultural biases. Also be open to the possibility that God is testing us here. The story of President McKay asking to lift the priesthood ban and being told “no”–and not being happy about it–should give us all some pause about second-guessing other people’s decisions. Second, please consider that the men who were called might bring some new viewpoints to the Quorum and that we might be happy about this possibility: Elder Renlund, for example, has a wife who had a professional career while raising their young child. (As far as I can tell, this is a first for the quorum.)
Next, if reports are correct, it sounds like these apostles were called and accepted their calls without their wife’s knowledge or input. If this is indeed the case, then I don’t think that process models very well what President Nelson talked about regarding women as full and contributing co-leaders in their families.
Now, I don’t really have a sense of Elder Rasband or Stevenson yet. But Renlund intrigues already. His April conference talk and yesterday’s talk were both gems. (He was, at last check, a registered Democrat.) He seems to have a sense of humor. His wife has an interesting story.
If you haven’t watched the news conference where they were introduced to the media, you should.
I feel so sorry for these men. (Is that a weird reaction?) As a friend put it on Facebook, they’ve basically been given a life sentence ending in death by church meetings. Every syllable they utter for the rest of their lives will be micro-analyzed. People will take pictures of them pushing their cart out of Trader Joe’s and then post them on social media, where they will go viral (my only question: How the heck did Elder Holland manage to get out of there with just one bag?). At least three were called at once, giving them, I hope, a kind of camaraderie in shared suffering and initiation.
I’m rooting for them.