Souls, not Skin: Why I stand with the 3 new Apostles

Souls, not Skin: Why I stand with the 3 new Apostles October 6, 2015
“Unlabeled Renatto Luschan skin color map” by Dark Tichondras via Wikimedia Commons

Yes, I admit the natural woman in me was somewhat dismayed that the ‘white American standard’ within the Quorum of the Twelve was preserved last weekend when three new Apostles were called and sustained. However, I chose then and continue to choose now to trust that it was the right thing to do and that the callings were of God and not of man. Where each of the three new Brethren spoke of how President Monson told them their calls were from Deity, it makes me wonder if those who are criticizing the choices realize that by doing so, they are basically calling the president of the Church a liar. They are saying that he was the one who chose them and not God, because if they believed God made the choices, there would be no such argument or controversy. That is part of the reason I am thinking these calls are a kind of test to the members — will you pout and whine when your wish isn’t granted, your expectation isn’t met? Or, alternatively, will you hush your disappointment and exercise some faith and give these guys a chance?

Let’s be clear: God is not interested in catering to human opinion when it comes to the leadership of His Church. His interest is with the right people in the right positions at the right time. To this end, I had a thought earlier this week that has really solidified my choice: the reality that God sees SOULS and not SKIN. Souls are colorless. The purity of one’s life, the integrity with which they live, their closeness to the Lord, knows no racial or cultural categorization. He’s probably half-amused, half-disgusted that we are quibbling about where the new Apostles are from, about their backgrounds, about any of their externally-identifying characteristics. None of that stuff is relevant to Him. Applying earthly standards to heavenly processes is foolish at best and apostate at worst.

In a February 4, 1979 fireside at BYU, then-Elder Howard W. Hunter stated, “I take as a theme a passage from the Book of Mormon referring to the Lord’s relationship to the children of men throughout the earth in which it is stated:

. . . And he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile. [2 Nephi 26:33]

From this statement it is clear that all men are invited to come unto him and all are alike unto him. Race makes no difference; color makes no difference; nationality makes no difference. The brotherhood of man is literal. We are all of one blood and the literal spirit offspring of our eternal Heavenly Father. Before we came to earth, we belonged to his eternal family. We associated and knew each other there. Our common paternity makes us not only literal sons and daughters of eternal parentage, but literal brothers and sisters as well. This is a fundamental teaching of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” (“All Are Alike Unto God”)

Do we really believe this? Do we really believe that race and color and nationality make no difference, no matter the situation? Or do we figure that, because the Twelve are part of the public face of Church leadership to the world, that their racial, ethnic, professional, etc. background is an exception to this rule because they need to look more like the increasingly non-US-dominated Church?

Have we not yet learned that God is not moved by our whims? We can pray and plead and pitch Him our reasons to have something happen or not happen as much as we want, but we will never get the last word. Spencer W. Kimball wanted the priesthood to be opened to all worthy men, regardless of race. In fact, Official Declaration 2 states:

“Aware of the promises made by the prophets and presidents of the Church who have preceded us that at some time, in God’s eternal plan, all of our brethren who are worthy may receive the priesthood, and witnessing the faithfulness of those from whom the priesthood has been withheld, we have pleaded long and earnestly in behalf of these, our faithful brethren…”

They clearly had wanted the change to come as soon as possible. Had the Church been led by men who cared more about popularity or personal preference…men who were not truly under the Lord’s direct influence…the change probably would have come sooner. However, President Kimball and his brethren were more concerned with waiting on the Lord than anything else. Courage and patience like that, to me, is tremendously encouraging and testimony-strengthening. It gives me something to which to aspire, especially in our day of “want it now” in so many aspects of life. What happened this past weekend is “Thy will, O Lord, be done” in action. It is proof, in my mind, of the rightness of the choices made.

Please remember I dedicated an entire post on this blog 2 weeks ago to my desire to see more diversity among the Twelve. I know that argument and I am not saying it is invalid. What I am saying is that now that the Lord has spoken through His prophet, there is a need to agree with the results. I do not know better than God. As Elder Christofferson said last week in an interview with Sam Penrod on KSL, quoting President Packer, “President Monson knows how to get revelation.” That’s good enough for me, and I believe it needs to be good enough for all those who call themselves Latter-day Saints. I have faith that the Apostle from Brazil or Mexico or the Philippines (the three largest LDS populations outside the US) or heaven only knows where else is coming. Trust in the Lord is also trust in His timing, as Elder Maxwell so eloquently stated (as always), in his April 2001 Conference talk, “Plow in Hope”, and in this case, His timing is saying “not yet,” and His hope is that we will respond, “OK” and mean it.

I believe that God means what He says in that scripture in 2 Nephi that eventually-President Hunter quoted in that fireside I mentioned earlier. As one of my Institute teachers used to say, “All” is a pretty high percentage. However, that’s what the scripture says — ALL are alike unto God. We are the ones who make a person’s more obvious, worldly bona fides more important than the condition of their heart, soul, and conscience. Will we take the lesson I believe the calling of these new Apostles is meant to teach us? Will we ask the Lord to deepen our humility and meekness such that we start learning to see more as He sees and less like pop culture does? That is our challenge and our invitation coming out of this experience and into the ministry of Elders Rasband, Stevenson, and Renlund as members of the Quorum of the Twelve. We’d best get on it.

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