Mor­mon church se­lects three new lead­ers; all from Utah


The Mor­mon church didn’t go far to se­lect three new mem­bers for a top gov­ern­ing body that sets pol­icy and runs the world­wide faith’s busi­ness oper­a­tions — choos­ing two for­mer busi­ness ex­ec­u­tives and a car­di­ol­o­gist from Utah who had al­ready been serv­ing in lower church lead­er­ship po­si­tions.

Ron­ald A. Ras­band, 64, is a for­mer CEO of the Hunts­man Chem­i­cal Cor­po­ra­tion. Gary E. Steven­son, 60, was the co-founder of an ex­er­cise equip­ment man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pany. Dale G. Ren­lund, 62, was a car­di­ol­o­gist and di­rected a car­diac trans­plant pro­gram.

Their ap­point­ments — an­nounced Satur­day at church con­fer­ence in Salt Lake City — sur­prised many out­side re­li­gious scholars who spec­u­lated that the Utah­based faith would choose at least one new mem­ber of the Quo­rum of the Twelve Apos­tles from a coun­try out­side the U.S., per­haps from Latin Amer­ica or Africa.

That would have been a sym­bol and recog­ni­tion of the ex­pand­ing global reach of a re­li­gion that has more than half of its 15 mil­lion mem­bers out­side the United States.

In­stead, The Church of Je­sus Christ of Lat­ter-day Saints made safe, solid and com­fort­able de­ci­sions that fit the tem­plate for choos­ing mod­ern apos­tles in the church, said Pa­trick Ma­son, as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of re­li­gion at Clare­mont Grad­u­ate Univer­sity in Cal­i­for­nia and Howard W. Hunter Chair of Mor­mon Stud­ies.

Although Ras­band, Steven­son and Ren­lund are fine men who will make great lead­ers, the church missed an op­por­tu­nity to make an im­por­tant state­ment to Lat­ter-day Saints of color or those from other coun­tries, said Ig­na­cio Gar­cia, a pro­fes­sor of Western and Latino history at Mor­mon-owned Brigham Young Univer­sity.

“Saints of color al­ways have to re­spond to: ‘Why do be­long to that white church?’” Gar­cia said. “It be­comes harder and harder as we go fur­ther into the 21st Cen­tury: We still can’t point to a more diver­si­fied lead­er­ship.”

Ma­son points out, though, that Ren­lund and Steven­son have held ma­jor lead­er­ship po­si­tions with the church in for­eign coun­tries: Ren­lund in Africa and Steven­son in Ja­pan. That may sug­gest that the church felt they could in­fuse in­ter­na­tional ex­pe­ri­ence with­out hav­ing mem­bers who are from those coun­tries, he said.

The an­nounce­ments marked a rare mo­ment in church history. It had been six years since a new quo­rum mem­ber was cho­sen, and more than a decade since the lead­er­ship coun­cil had two open­ings. The last time there were three open­ings at the same time was in 1906. Quo­rum mem­bers serve un­til they die, and three re­cent deaths cre­ated the un­prece­dented void. Mod­eled af­ter Je­sus Christ’s apos­tles, the group serves un­der the church pres­i­dent and his two coun­selors.

The new mem­bers of the quo­rum are the 98th, 99th and 100th mem­bers of the gov­ern­ing body since the re­li­gion was formed in 1830. The new ap­pointees start as ju­nior mem­bers, but they could some­day be­come church pres­i­dent be­cause the group’s long­est-tenured mem­ber as­cends to pres­i­dent when the cur­rent one dies.

‘Apoplec­tic, cata­tonic’

Ras­band, of Salt Lake City, will en­ter the quo­rum with se­nior­ity over the other two be­cause he was the first to be in­formed of his se­lec­tion ear­lier this week, church of­fi­cials said. All three had pre­vi­ously been mem­bers of a lower-level l lead­er­ship coun­cil called the Quo­rum of the Seventy that has served as a farm sys­tem for the gov­ern­ing body. With their ap­point­ments, the last 12 men se­lected for the Quo­rum of the Twelve Apos­tles dat­ing back to 1985 had pre­vi­ously served in the Quo­rum of the Seventy or a group just be­low it.

Af­ter the names new lead­ers were an­nounced to about 20,000 Mor­mons in at­ten­dance and mil­lions more watch­ing anx­iously on live broad­casts, the three new lead­ers spoke briefly and an­swered a few ques­tions at a news con­fer­ence.

They said they were each in­formed of their “call­ings” sep­a­rately on Tues­day in meet­ings with Church Pres­i­dent Thomas S. Mon­son, con­sid­ered the re­li­gion’s prophet. Mon­son told each that the Lord had cho­sen them to serve.

Steven­son called it a “knee­buck­ling” ex­pe­ri­ence. Ren­lund said he was so shocked, he could only mur­mur an ac­cep­tance as he strug­gled to main­tain his com­po­sure. “I was some­where be­tween apoplec­tic and cata­tonic,” said Ren­lund, a car­di­ol­o­gist. Ras­band fought back tears as talked about the mag­ni­tude of be­ing cho­sen to help lead a re­li­gion his fam­ily has be­long to for six gen­er­a­tions.

None of them were told who the two other choices were, hav­ing to wait like ev­ery­one else un­til Satur- day. Their ex­tended fam­i­lies didn’t know ei­ther. Their chil­dren, their spouses and grand­chil­dren hugged and cried when they saw them for the first time af­ter the news con­fer­ence.

The de­ci­sions were made by Mon­son. Though Mon­son didn’t speak at the news con­fer­ence, church spokesman Michael Ot­ter­son de­scribed the se­lec­tion process as a “pro­foundly sober­ing and deeply spir­i­tual” ex­pe­ri­ence. He said other mem­bers of the quo­rum were in­vited to sug­gest names, but there was no lob­by­ing, ad­vo­cacy, de­bate or ar­gu­ment — with Mon­son set­tling on the right choices af­ter much prayer and con­tem­pla­tion.

The new lead­ers, who will give speeches at the church con­fer­ence Sun­day morn­ing, talked only briefly in the news con­fer­ence about is­sues fac­ing the re­li­gion or doc­trine, spend­ing most of their time dis­cussing in in gen­eral terms about how se­ri­ously they take be­ing cho­sen by the Lord as liv­ing apos­tles to send teach­ings and guid­ance.

Steven­son, though, men­tioned keep­ing chil­dren an­chored in right­eous prin­ci­ples is a key chal­lenge to fo­cus on. They didn’t delve deep into the lack of di­ver­sity on a quo­rum that still only has one per­son from out­side the U.S. — Di­eter F. Ucht­dorf of Ger­many — but they vowed to be, “apos­tles to ev­ery­body.”

“The Quo­rum of the Twelve trav­els through­out Europe and pro­claims the name of Christ, bears wit­ness of Him ev­ery­where to mem­bers and non-mem­bers,” Ras­band said. “To be a spe­cial wit­ness of the name of Christ is our pre­miere and fore­most call­ing.”


Peo­ple sing hymns as at­ten­dees walk to the LDS Con­fer­ence Cen­ter for the af­ter­noon ses­sion of the two-day Mor­mon church con­fer­ence in Salt Lake City on Satur­day, Oct. 3.

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