With General Conference in sight, I am reminded of the recent group of newly called Apostles. With the last four, I enjoyed watching the related introductory press conferences on byu.tv. One question that came up with the most recent two was related to their relative Utah –ness or American – ness. In fact, with Elder Cook, I found Elder Eyring defending his non -Utah-ness by pointing to his many adult years in California. So, apparently it’s a fair question. Indeed it seems that more than one member of the church is pining for some International flavor in the FP and Q12. And while I fully sustain whoever is called with listening ears and an open heart – I admit having thoughts similar to these.
I suppose these thoughts come from a desire to see the members of the Church represented in the leadership. But my own observation is still that the Church is not as international as we think. A little over half the membership does not live in the U.S. but that statistic has always been misleading. I guess you could look at it this way –
I was making a smoothie this morning and a little over half the ingredients were a mixture of peaches, oranges, kale and milk. The remaining 40% consisted of ripe strawberries. The flavor was overwhelmingly strawberry in spite of the great texture and consistency that the other ingredients provided. I think the Church has the same kind of dynamic.
It’s true that a number of Seventies and Auxiliary Leaders are from outside the U.S. – as it should be. But I think when you’re talking about a group of 15 individuals, the probability of them coming from that 40-45% group is pretty good. (somebody else wanna do the math?) Of course this is based on an assumption that calls in the Church are from God – but that they also come from a pool of individuals. So I suppose what I’m essentially talking about here is baptisms and growth. The more international members – the more probability of the FP and Q12 becoming diverse.
So I’ve asked myself, how can we speed up the process? How do we create an international reality in the Church without waiting for the converts? In my line of work, the process starts with the crazy, pie-in-the-sky ideas. Sometimes they’re superficial and sometimes they’re completely unrealistic. But by spitting the outrageous out now, we can potentially find some hidden gems and worry about cost and feasibility later. Here is a list of some similar ideas, though I wouldn’t call any of them gems. Feel free to add your own.
1. A Mormon Constantinople
A big reason for Constantine’s relocation of the Roman capital to Byzantium in the 4th century was consolidation and unity. The results were tremendous for him and the growth of the empire. So while I’m not advocating a Mormon relocation, I do think it would be helpful to see one or two sub-capitals somewhere else in the world. There are already temples dotting the earth with a few international MTC’s here and there. I suppose you could add to that by building a distribution center or even holding a General Conference. The most important purpose would be to better connect members in other lands while solidifying the Church’s influence.
Here are some suggestions based mainly on Mormon population or location in the world:
Mexico City, Mexico
Seoul, South Korea
Sao Palo, Brazil
2. Hymns for all
Full disclosure – I’ve never been out of the U.S., let alone attended church internationally. But I have known Mormons from a number of locations throughout the world and it seems apparent – they sing many of the same protestant/restoration hymns that we do. I could be wrong about this and would love to hear from anyone who knows different. But while international members being able to sing more of their own sacred music is a step in the right direction, I am thinking of an even bolder move – give the American/English hymnbook an overhaul. Keep all the hymns we love (about 80%) and replace the ones we never EVER hear with a sacred hymn from another country. I recently saw the MoTab sing some ancient Chinese music with a Chinese choir (during the Olympics). This is the kind of thing I have in mind. We don’t really believe that all the sacred music the world has to offer is found in a little green book – do we?
3. We should all be wearing head phones
From now on, all General Conference speakers will address the church in their native tongue. I know – it’s a logistical nightmare but the pros would far out-weigh the cons.
There it is – fire away.