Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Changes in the the LDS Leadership



Even as LDS member Mitt Romney battles John McCain for the nomination of the Republican party, Romney's church (the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints -- or the Mormons) is about to see a change in it's own leadership. With the death of President (and Prophet, Seer, and Revelator) Gordon B. Hinkley on Sunday (January 27, 2008) at the age of 97, a new leader will be anointed.

Unlike the Roman Catholic Church, which keeps us in suspense, the LDS church has a simple method of selecting their next leader. No white smoke necessary, because the senior member of the Quorum of Apostles (not necessarily the oldest -- but the longest serving) is elected President. That next person is 80 year old Thomas Monson, a long standing fixture in the LDS church. The expectation is that Monson will continue Hinkley's policies that have tried to mainstream the LDS church. Whether totally successful, the LDS church has not only grown, it has become much more acceptable. Although some see Romney as a cultist and therefore won't vote for him, he has garnered considerable support among Evangelicals.

In an online Newsweek article we learn that:

The transition to the new prophet is likely to be smooth. Monson has served for the last 43 years in the top tiers of church leadership and is deeply respected. (LDS prophets don't operate unilaterally: the entire First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve work together.) In Monson's years as an apostle and counselor, he has served in roles that span the breadth of church life, including missionary work, welfare services, genealogy, education and leadership training. He is likely to continue many of the same themes of Hinckley's presidency: reaching out to members of other faiths, welcoming new converts, urging church members to reject the temptations of secular culture.

I've always been fascinated by the LDS Church, even from a young age. In 1965, at the age of seven, we stopped in Salt Lake on a trip to Denver. I can still remember touring Temple Square, hearing the organ in the Tabernacle, and taking in the Beehive House. We went back in 1974 and revisited many of these same places. Later I would learn (in my early evangelical days) that Mormon's were cultists, but at least to that point I was fascinated, not by their religion, but by their history and the grand buildings erected on the edge of the desert.
Today, I find much of their theology odd and obviously not mainstream Christian. But as I've said before, every Mormon I've known has been a person of good character and grace. So, I stop today to pay respects to the fallen LDS leader. The future, as the Newsweek article makes clear is likely to bring change -- even if the top echelon leadership remains, elderly, white, and male.

If you're interested, I'd suggest checking out Krista Tippett's interview with LDS scholar Robert Millet at Speaking of Faith. I think you'll find it very informative.

1 comment:

Paul said...

I really appreciated this post! It is without doubt the most respectful evangelical post I have ever read on Mormonism. I completely concur that our faiths are not the same (or that the Jesus both of us worship is not the same person). However, it is rare to find someone who can disagree, but be respectful to what I find sacred, as you have done in this post. I wish their was more of this in the world and in the blogosphere. ~Paul (LDSFriends.com)