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Nine Moons » Blog Archive : No Respecter of Persons » No Respecter of Persons

No Respecter of Persons

Lamonte - July 2, 2007

One of the most comforting aspects of the gospel for me, or at least the aspect that I most identify with, is the idea that all area equal in the eyes of God.  In other words, “God is no respecter of persons.” Acts 10:34    Here in our mortal lives, we each come from a different station.  Some are wealthy; some are poor and some are in between.  And, of course, wealth is a relative thing for all of us.  Some have acquired education and some have been educated in the school of hard knocks and so our individual lives are unique according to our circumstances, our choices and our efforts.


But we are taught that in the life to come, the trappings of this life will be left behind and we will establish our place in the kingdom based on who we have become, or to what extent we have accepted the Lord’s invitation to follow Him and act accordingly.

  This concept of equality is perhaps illustrated no better in this mortal life than in the temple where we all gather in similar white clothing as we serve as proxies for the deceased.  I live close to the Washington DC Temple and I attend there as a patron and serve as an ordinance worker.  My uniform as a worker, which includes a suit jacket, hard soled shoes and a named tag, in addition to the standard white shirt, pants, socks and tie that others wear, would seem to make me appear more important than the temple patron.  But, in fact, just last Thursday night I was reminded in prayer meeting that our main function as ordinance workers is to enhance the experience of the patrons and to make them comfortable.  Living in this community we occasionally see well known church members from the political or business world at the temple.  I also find it comforting that regardless of their respective positions in the world, once they enter the ordinance room they are the same as everyone else.


Likewise, our experience at the local ward and stake level is much the same.  We do not have a paid clergy and so we don’t have a life long leader.  Of course the bishop and the stake president are the leaders of the congregations and they hold a special position for a time in their lives but their tenure is temporary and the day will come when they will be amongst the general membership.  Having served as bishop in the past I can tell you that most of the ward members relate to the bishop with love, support and sometimes empathy but not adoration.  And as the demographics of a ward continue to change the position of “former bishop” holds no prestige – which is just the way I think it should be.


There are those who we are told were foreordained to positions of leadership and prophecy in this life, but we know from history that those individuals were not without flaws as well and so while we may revere those historical figures, or even those who lead our church in the modern day, we are told that we have as much access to the blessings of the Father as anyone from any station in life, if we live accordingly.  In his book “Jesus the Christ” James E. Talmage reminds us that anyone can obtain the pearl of great price because “the cost of … the pearl, is not a fixed amount, alike for all; it is all one has. Even the poorest may come into enduring possession.”  I find great comfort in that statement even though it asks for a great sacrifice on our part.


Having said all that I wonder about a concern I have had in recent years.  I’m sure my social beliefs are patterned after (or tainted by) my political beliefs.  I was raised by a couple of new-dealers who grew up in the midst of the Great Depression.  My father has always said, “The New Deal was a Fair Deal” and that is the whole basis of his life.  I believe the Gospel to be completely in line with that philosophy – The Gospel is fair to us all.  It requires the same – no more and no less – from each of us.  And yet I am concerned that there seems to be some sort of Mormon Pedigree that makes some people want to feel superior to others in the church.  Whether one is a direct relation to a current church leader or a descendent of a leader from the early days of the church; whether one has a family name that is synonymous with a legendary family who crossed the plains under adverse and terrible conditions; or whether one grew up on the east bench of Salt Lake City with General Authority neighbors, it seems to me that the Mormon Pedigree issue exists.


A friend of mine is a first generation Mormon – the only one of her immediate family in the church.  In her former ward lived a direct blood relation to one of the modern day prophets.  The first meeting of these two women came at a Relief Society luncheon when they ended up sitting next to each other.  The “blue blood” (sorry of the sarcasm) Mormon introduced herself and then asked my friend, “What is your family history in the church?” to which my friend answered, “I’m the first member of family to join the church.”  The first women then turned to the woman sitting on her opposite side and never spoke another word to my friend for the rest of the day.  Their relationship in the ward remained on those same terms until the first woman finally moved away. 


There are other such stories I could relate but I fear I might be getting too petty.  I guess the real reason for this post is my feeling that this impression is perpetuated by something that happens each April.  In April Conference, Michael Watson, the Secretary to the First Presidency, stands to give the statistical report of the church and before he sits down he says, “Prominent Church members who have passed away…” and then begins to read a list of names that include some General Authorities but also includes the wives of those same GAs as well as other members holding church wide callings.  My family can tell you that as we are watching conference on cable TV, I usually stand up and leave the room at this point because I am incensed but what is happening.  Now, I am certain that each one of these “prominent members” are wonderful, caring and dedicated people who devoted their lives to living as disciples of Christ but don’t we all know people of the same caliber who have served their whole lives in the anonymity of the ward structure without having a “prominent” calling?   What is it that qualifies one’s name to be read in General conference before millions of watchers?


And so I would ask your response to a couple of questions.


  1. Do I have a legitimate beef here or is this just the insecurities of a farm boy from rural Idaho coming to the forefront?  (By the way, my ancestors crossed the plains as well.)
  2. If I am wrong, can anyone describe what a “prominent church member” is and how they are differentiated amongst the general population of the church.  What qualifies them for special recognition?


  1. I agree with your legitimate complaint. It turns that section of the meeting into more of a parochial conference than a general conference.

    Comment by Bill — July 2, 2007 @ 10:00 am

  2. The “prominent members” thing doesn’t bother me as much as it does you, but I understand your beef. I just figure it’s something that people want to know. If a former stake president passed away I would be glad for it to be announced in sacrament meetings in the stake because that’s something that people who were served by him would like to know, not because he’s more special than the rest of the guys who never served as SP.

    What does bother me is when people sometimes offer congratulations for certain callings because that indicates that some callings are better or more special than others. When I was called as third counsellor (yeah, third) in an EQ presidency somebody congratulated me and I was annoyed.

    I would have accepted congratulations for being released from my ward ride coordinator calling, though.

    Comment by Tom — July 2, 2007 @ 10:11 am

  3. What is it that qualifies one’s name to be read in General conference before millions of watchers?

    Well they held callings as General Authorities or general officers of the church so the whole church sustained them individually. That is reason enough to make mention of their death to the whole church I think.

    Entire stakes get to give a vote of thanks to stake leaders who are released, right? And the same thing in the wards. But if an EQ counselor is released only the EQ thanks him because they were the only one who sustained him.

    So I guess I am saying the current practice makes perfect sense to me and is not creating some kind of aristocracy or something.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 2, 2007 @ 10:30 am

  4. A friend of mine is married to a congressman and she gave us some VIP passes to general conference. My husband sat on the second row during Priesthood session. Harry Reid was sitting a few seats away. Although it was a wonderful experience, I was frustrated by the fact that VIP seats were available, as we are all equal before the Lord. If there is VIP seating at all, it should go to the bishops and the nursery leaders, not the senator.

    Comment by Sally — July 2, 2007 @ 11:17 am

  5. Geoff J – Your point about being suatained by the entire church population is well founded and frankly I hadn’t thought about that. But the wife of the general authority was not suatained and while the GA was living we might not have even seen nor heard of her. This sounds like I’m being negative about wives or women or people in general, but I’m not trying to be. I’m just expressing concern that we have elevated some specific members of the church above others for no other reason than who they were married to. Bill says he is not bothered by this practice and he has the right attitude. I’m sure I’m making way too much of it. But I just think it is unnecessary and gives the impression to some (maybe just me) that some folks have a higher station than others. And I don’t believe that to be true.

    Comment by Lamonte — July 2, 2007 @ 11:23 am

  6. I’d agree with the above comments. My complaints are with how we treat General Authorities like celebrities.

    Comment by Bret — July 2, 2007 @ 11:33 am

  7. Well historically there has been a substantial difference between the assignments of most general authorities and the assignments of everyone else in the church — namely that they take on the assignment full time. They often leave their careers and go on essentially a permanent mission as a couple. That sacrifice is shared between the husband and wife.

    Having said that, I can see this practice making a lot less sense for people who keep their day jobs like the rest of us. I suspect the growth of the church will make this practice of announcing the passing of “prominent members” in GC less and less practical over time anyway (since there hundreds of GA’s now and many of the 70s still keep their day jobs now as well).

    Comment by Geoff J — July 2, 2007 @ 11:35 am

  8. My complaints are with how we treat General Authorities like celebrities.

    Ummm, they are celebrities. As a point of fact. I feel a post about celebrity coming on; I am totally bewildered by this post. Not only have I never seen anything remotely like the “blue blood” story, I think the idea that we announce the deaths of prominent members is totally unrelated to the main concern voiced in the post.

    Comment by Jacob J — July 2, 2007 @ 11:53 am

  9. Sally – As wierd as this may sound, I don’t have a problem with having VIP seating at General Conference. Senators and Congressman and dignitaries not of our faith that attend conference probably need to have special access in and out of the facilities – for security reasons or for other reasons. I know that sounds inconsistant with my earlier thoughts but I think in this day and age the VIP seating arrangement has some merit.

    Jacob J – I hope you don’t think I made up the “blue blood” story. Your final sentence would seem to acknowledge your belief that their ARE prominent members and I’m just trying to understand what makes them prominent.

    Comment by Lamonte — July 2, 2007 @ 12:09 pm

  10. Lamonte,

    Definitely not calling you a liar. The story is simply outside my experience so it seems like it is coming out of left field. I would be very disturbed if I ever saw something like that happen. I am with you on that.

    Comment by Jacob J — July 2, 2007 @ 1:28 pm

  11. The alternative has its problems as well. Suppose the death of an apostle’s wife weren’t announced. The general membership wouldn’t know of it while some inner social circle would. It can be a tricky balancing act between calling attention to church leaders’ families or alternatively keeping information about them away from ordinary members.

    Also, it is very pleasing that Nine Moons has Lamonte writing for all of us.

    Comment by John Mansfield — July 2, 2007 @ 1:35 pm

  12. Jacob J – It’s outside my typical experience level as well and that’s why it is bothersome to me. I am glad that you haven’t had such an experience and I’ve only had a few.

    John Mansfield – I think you make a good point and the more feedback I get the more I think I’ve probably made too much of the situation.

    But I still wish we lived in the perfect world. Oh yea! That’s what we’re looking forward to…in the next life!

    Comment by Lamonte — July 2, 2007 @ 2:41 pm

  13. In the last decade, I’ve noticed that the church has become more restrictive in what it considers “prominent members.”

    Since the late 1990s, those named have included GAs, their wives, members of auxiliary presidencies, a Tabernacle organist, a church historian (Leonard J. Arrington’s death was mentioned in 1999), and a church general counsel (Wilford W. Kirton Jr. was mentioned in 2001).

    Before 1998, those named included stake presidents, temple presidents, mission presidents, regional representatives, members of general church committees (e.g., Church Audit Committee), a secretary to a church president (Claire Middlemiss), university presidents (e.g., Rex E. Lee and former U of U president Albert Ray Olpin), government leaders (Terrel Bell was named in 1997), scholars (Sidney Sperry was named in 1978), athletes, and scientists (both Henry Eyring and Harvey Fletcher were named in 1982).

    Comment by Justin — July 2, 2007 @ 3:28 pm

  14. Lamonte, Rusty’s aunt and uncle are on a temple mission at the DC temple. George and Nancy Nelson…tell them “hi” next time you see them.

    I home teach a sister who is a g,g,g,…granddaughter of Orson Pratt and I hear about it almost everytime we go home teaching there. So What!!!

    We have a new convert couple in our ward, we had dinner at their home a few weeks ago. Now there are some people to admire…wow, to me they are the one’s we should admire, not the “blue bloods”.

    Comment by Don Clifton — July 2, 2007 @ 3:39 pm

  15. Joseph Smith, Jr. was a convert, along with his whole family. I try to consider the church as belonging to me, since my invitation came from the very top. =) We’re all blue-bloods, heirs to the kingdom, or none of us are.

    Comment by Tatiana — July 3, 2007 @ 12:06 am

  16. Tatiana – Right on!

    Don – There are about 1700 temple ordinance workers at the DC Temple that serve each month and so I only a know or interact with a small number as we serve two times a month on Thursday nights. But I’ll keep my eyes open for them and say hello from their family. Thanks for writing.

    Justin – Thanks for doing the research and illustrating the point. I guess my feelings of the whole matter did not let me notice the gradual change in procedure. As stated above, I am beginning to realize this issue is not as important as I am making it…but I’m still a little bothered by it.

    Comment by Lamonte — July 3, 2007 @ 3:02 am

  17. Lamonte:
    And, it could be that you’re were sensitized to the “passing of prominent members” by the “blue blood” experience you mentioined.

    Wives of GAs serve as much as their husbands, travel with them, speak with them. On the few occassions they have been in the homes in the Stake, I realized that the GA had his calling in part (and sometimes in large part) because of his spouse. They are often loved as much as their husbands. Sister Hinckley, Sister Kimball, Sister Nelson, etc. are not exceptions.

    When I served my mission in Korea, they were a little more animated in Sacrament and Conference talks than in the usual Utah meeting. Some of the Elders from the states were noticeably put off by it – at first. And, having grown up and lived in the “mission field,” I’ve seen many times the “move-ins” who were willing to get us apostates back on track. Provincialistic blue has many hues. The gospel invites us to be pure white.

    Comment by Mondo Cool — July 3, 2007 @ 8:38 am

  18. While serving a mission in Southern Utah, we had a dinner appointment in an up-scale part of St. George Utah. After we knocked, a woman opened the door and the first thing she said to us was, “I want you to know that my husband is ______ ______, former assistant to the 12 and member of the 2nd Quorum of Seventy. What she said saddened me – that she thought we cared. I definitely didn’t. In the next life, the only callings we have are husband and father, Wife and Mother, sons and daughters of God

    Comment by cj dougalss — July 3, 2007 @ 12:35 pm

  19. Jacob J,

    Thanks for the ridiculously literal reading of what I wrote concerning GA’s as celebrities.

    Obviously they’re famous, but I don’t find it right the way many treat them. All the camera flashes at commencement ceremonies (never mind that camera flashes are only effective at about 15 feet anyway) and the need to tell each congregation they attend that they cannot shake everyone’s hand. I was most disappointed after Elder Bednar became an Apostle and Tuesday devotional that week was packed, only to see over half the people leave halfway through because he wasn’t in attendance that day.

    Comment by Bret — July 3, 2007 @ 12:43 pm

  20. Bret,

    Since the GAs are literally celebrities in our culture (as Jacob pointed out) is your question really “why do people clamor over celebrities/famous people” in general?

    Comment by Geoff J — July 3, 2007 @ 1:07 pm

  21. Question/threadjack????
    My son is going into the MTC next week. On the list of required documnets is a 4 generation pedigree chart. I am curious as why this is necessary?

    Comment by JA Benson — July 3, 2007 @ 2:38 pm

  22. JA-
    I have no answer for you, but if I were you, I’d just ask your Bishop. He’d know…(or should know)

    Comment by Cheryl — July 3, 2007 @ 3:51 pm

  23. Bret,

    You gave three examples of things that bother you and I can’t for the life of me figure out what is wrong with any one of them (even after reading them through all sort of lenses besides my ridiculously literal one).

    The fact that someone wants to remember their commencement, perhaps especially so if a GA gave the address, seems totally normal and healthy to me. That is why they are taking pictures.

    The fact that people walked out of a devotional half way through might be rude, but that is not really related to your beef with celebrity (I wasn’t there so I don’t know how boring the speaker was; I’m withholding judgment.). If we ignore the potential rudeness of leaving early (since it is a separate issue), it seems the only problem is that they were more interested in hearing from Elder Bednar than in hearing from whoever the replacement speaker was. Are you saying it bothers you that people are especially interested in hearing what the Apostles have to say? I would think we’d want to encourage that.

    Is Geoff on the right track in #20 and you’re just bothered that people care about famous people at all, even if they are famous and known to you by virtue of being called by God to lead the Church?

    Comment by Jacob J — July 3, 2007 @ 4:46 pm

  24. Before things get too personal between you bloggers let me just say thanks for your comments. I am admittedly too easily offended at times – sometimes because of my own insecurities and sometimes because there is a legitimate offense. This discussion has helped me understand that while I might desire for everything to be perfect, at least as I see it, in the world, it probably never will be in this life and so I need to be selective about the things I make a case for. This one probably should be let go because, as many of you have pointed out, there are legitimate reasons for the practice to continue. Happy holiday to everyone – even those who aren’t U.S. citizens.

    Comment by Lamonte — July 3, 2007 @ 7:09 pm

  25. 1) God is no respecter of persons
    2) We should try to be like God.
    3) Why is the Sacramental bread/water delivered to the Presiding authority first?

    Comment by Daylan — July 3, 2007 @ 9:07 pm

  26. Because he is the presiding authority.

    Comment by Lamonte — July 4, 2007 @ 10:29 am

  27. Huh. How close to the DC temple? We might even be in the same ward.

    Comment by Kullervo — July 5, 2007 @ 11:38 am

  28. Let’s start with Northern Virginia

    Comment by Lamonte — July 5, 2007 @ 2:23 pm

  29. Ah, no then. I mean, I live right by the DC temple. As in Kensington-Ward-right-by. I have relatives in Burke, though, and friends in Arlington. You might be in the same stake as they are, at least, if not the same ward.

    Comment by Kullervo — July 6, 2007 @ 6:01 am

  30. Kullervo – I live in the Burke Ward.

    Comment by Lamonte — July 6, 2007 @ 6:53 pm

  31. 3) Why is the Sacramental bread/water delivered to the Presiding authority first?

    I know of no doctrinal or scriptural justification for this practice which in my experience is my no means universal in the congregations of the church. The only responsibility the presiding authority has is to ensure that the prayer is said correctly, and that all have had the opportunity to partake. Certainly not to make sure he is the first one to do so.

    Comment by Bill — July 6, 2007 @ 10:55 pm

  32. From “Basic Manual for Priesthood Holders, Part B” it says “After the prayer, deacons or other priesthood holders pass the bread to the congregation in a reverent and orderly manner. The presiding officer receives the sacrament first.”

    I don’t know if this qualifies as doctrine or just policy but there you have it.

    Comment by Lamonte — July 7, 2007 @ 6:26 am

  33. Thank you, Lamonte.

    I guess that’s one of the unwritten order of things that at some point became written.

    Comment by Bill — July 7, 2007 @ 10:24 am

  34. If you’re in the Burke ward then you certainly know some of my family. My uncle used to be in the bishopric, until last year sometime.

    My wife and I actually visited the Burke ward last year to take care of my cousins while my aunt and uncle were in Hawaii.

    Comment by Kullervo — July 7, 2007 @ 8:43 pm

  35. Kullervo – So what is your uncle’s name? Is it Green?

    Comment by Lamonte — July 8, 2007 @ 6:09 am

  36. My wish, though impractical, goes in the opposite direction as Lamonte’s. I wish we could get more information about the lives of our apostles and prophets. If you don’t live in Utah, or read Utah newspapers online, you aren’t very likely to know why President Faust is sitting down during his talk or why Elder so-and-so isn’t up on the stand.

    Better than a rumor network would be straightforward announcements of what is going on. That would treat us all equally in terms of receiving information.

    But what do I know? I’m President Hinckley’s 9th cousin, twice removed.

    Comment by Bradley Ross — July 8, 2007 @ 6:30 pm

  37. Bradley Ross – I think you have a great idea there and I actually don’t think it is the polar opposite of my comments. Knowing specifics about the condition of our leaders is a great way to feel closer to them. But I believe that would actually make them seem less like celebrities rather than adding to the celebrity status.

    I’m sorry for anyone that I might have offended by suggesting that being related to a GA or the prophet was not something to take note of or even take pride in. That was not my intention. I wonder if being the 9th cousin, twice removed of the prophet will get you a mention at General Conference when you pass from this life! ;-)

    Comment by Lamonte — July 9, 2007 @ 4:51 am

  38. Lamonte- Indeed! Kim is my mother’s younger sister.

    Comment by Kullervo — July 9, 2007 @ 8:01 am

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