Random thoughts on Conference and racial obsessions

Like most people, I celebrated with the naming of two new apostles on Saturday morning. Unlike some people, I would have celebrated no matter who was named an apostle.

Many people seem obsessed with the race of the new apostles. Can I please point out that God is no respecter of persons and that people should be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin?

I have seen commenters call the two new apostles “people of color” and “minorities.” Elder Soares is a white Brazilian of mostly European descent. Most white Brazilians do not consider themselves “people of color” or “minorities.” Brazil is a proud country larger than the continental United States. It has a long and brutal history of racism, just like the United States. It was the last country in the Western Hemisphere to outlaw slavery (in 1888). Europeans conquered and mistreated the indigenous population in Brazil just as they did in the United States.

Elder Soares is, by all accounts, a wonderful, humble man who went on a mission and has served in the Church most of his adult life. He has three children and three grandchildren. I am sure these facts are much more relevant to his life than being designated a “person of color” by virtue signalers in the United States. Important point: Elder Soares is also not “Hispanic.”

Meanwhile, Elder Gong has been a GA for eight years. He also went on a mission and has served in the Church most of his adult life.

Elder Gong was born in Redwood City, on the Peninsula south of San Francisco. He went to BYU and then became a Rhodes Scholar. He is, according to most accounts, extremely smart yet very humble. He is married to Susan Lindsay, and they have had four children and three grandchildren.

Elder Gong, who went on a mission to Taiwan and has served the Church in Asia, is certainly knowledgeable about Asia. But the same virtue signalers who call Elder Soares a “person of color” also seem to be obsessed with Elder Gong’s race. Elder Gong is much more than just an “Asian-American.” He is a man of God, a husband, a father and a faithful servant in the Church.

(Please note: there is nothing wrong, in my opinion, of celebrating the fact that the Church is growing and is being represented by new people who have different perspectives. President Nelson on Sunday morning pointed out that the Sunday morning session had perspectives from a variety of different regions. But there is a difference between noting cultural diversity and obsessing about race).

Next random thought: If you are in the leadership of an Elder’s Quorum or High Priests, and you didn’t watch Conference on Saturday, you may be wondering today if you are the victim of a April Fool’s joke. Yes, you will be released soon. And the High Priests and Elder’s Quorum will be meeting together from now on.

I have long noticed that one disadvantage of having the elders and high priests meet separately is that each group misses something from the other group. The high priests could use the youth and energy of the elders, and the elders could use the wisdom and experience of the high priests. I always enjoy when the elders and high priests meet together, and, yes, we have plenty of high priests who play basketball in our ward.

Next random thought: I really enjoyed Massimo De Feo’s talk on Sunday morning. If you missed it, I would suggest you go back and watch it. He has an unusual presence and ability to turn a phrase in English, even though it is not his first language. His talk about true discipleship and the love of the Savior was excellent.

Next random thought: I also loved the talk by Sister Reyna Aburto. You can read more about it here. Her introductory remarks about monarch butterflies were beautiful.

Next random thought: Elder Oaks has always been one of my favorite speakers at Conference. Some progressive Mormons were probably disappointed with his continued defense of the priesthood as God intended it to be. His talk Sunday morning on the importance of small and simple things was magnificent.

Next random thought: I got goosebumps from the energy and optimism from President Nelson during Priesthood. When he asked each quorum to stand up and then sing “Rise Up, Oh Men of God,” I felt a surge of the Spirit. President Nelson has definitely hit the ground running in his new calling.

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

7 thoughts on “Random thoughts on Conference and racial obsessions

  1. I have very much enjoyed the Sunday AM session so far. And we are particularly enjoying the privilege of seeing the prophet conduct a conference session.

    Today we are very near a small white Church. So we woke up early to participate in their Easter sunrise service. It was a delightful experience. But we were reminded of the great privilege it is to meet with the Saints, with a shared understanding of the Plan of Salvation.

    I quite enjoyed President Nelson’s story of wishing his parents to obey the Word of Wisdom and smashing all the bottles of liquor in the basement. With President Hinckley we had a patient PR man with a passion for gardening and woodworking. With President Monson we had a friend of all, who freely admitted to his childhood of being a boy’s boy. And I am looking forward to our time with President Nelson, someone raised outside the Church who yearned to embrace the Restored Gospel and its blessings for his own family. I hadn’t known he was not able to be sealed to his own parents until they were in their 80s.

  2. It’s been a very good conference. Thanks for these thoughts, I agree with you!

  3. Interesting enough when they were called I was happy for a little diversity, but I also thought they were the whitest minorities (in background and frankly skin color as if that mattered) I had ever seen that weren’t Irish. Another thing I really thought interesting is the National News focused on the “diversity” angle of change but have completely ignored the more practical change of the combined Priesthood meeting. Priorities of politics I guess.

  4. I think it’s appropriate to celebrate and applaud the fact that the church is sufficiently developed in enough places in the world to produce an apostle from Brazil and another with Chinese roots. The obsession with race is tiresome. But we should not go to the opposite extreme and pretend that cultural diversity and representation are irrelevant.

  5. Geoff, good points. I hope the religion writer for the Tribune can learn to stop inventing big news about the Church, as with using the term: people of color.

    Until recently, most of Pres Nelson’s talks have fit in the middle of the pack, surpassed easily by Holland, Uchtdforf, Lakes, Bednar and others.

    However, he started getting into his own a year ago, and is red hot this conference. I hope such power continues.

  6. My daughter, who is 1/4 chinese, was tickled pink to hear from Elder Gong. And it was awesome to hear from Elder Soares because, though “White,” he represents South American Saints. Those who are comfortably in the mainstream racial/cultural pack may not realize how much things like that energize those who aren’t part of the mainstream racial/cultural pack.

    For example, my youngest daughter’s friend really loved The Force Awakens almost entirely based on the fact that the pilot was hispanic.

  7. @ Geoff,
    I had the same reaction to the news articles this morning. It’s super frustrating that these wonderful new apostles will be seen by the media as newsworthy only because of the color of their skin. From the brief bios on lds.org, they are both highly accomplished individuals with great experience in areas that will be valuable to the church as a whole – but that got ignored because ‘diversity’. My family had a lively discussion at the breakfast table about that very subject, and we concluded that their calls are exciting also because there’s enough leadership in other parts of the world to begin contributing to the church as a whole.

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