If most people were to brainstorm a word relationship cloud for “Mormons” (members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), the word “diversity” wouldn’t be the first to jump out. Because of unfortunate historical miscommunications and misconceptions, some may still believe that the Church of Jesus Christ is an ethnically whitewashed denomination, so to speak.
What better occasion than the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development (don’t ask us to say that more than once) to set aside that notion? Here are some things about modern Mormons that may surprise you:
Cultural Diversity of Members Throughout the World
That milestone was celebrated on Feb 25, 1996. The ’90s and 2000s saw an explosion in membership foreign to the U.S., especially in South America and Mexico. Both Brazil and Mexico now have over one million members of the Church, and Chile and Uruguay have a greater percentage of members compared to their total population than the United States (just over 3 percent).
As for their representation in Church leadership, there are 16 members of the First Quorum of the Seventy (the regional leaders of the Church) who are of Latin American heritage. Three of the same quorum’s members are Asian, and two are African.
General Conference Reaches 98% of Members Worldwide in Their Native Tongue
This semiannually-held meeting of church membership, featuring sermons by the First Presidency, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and other general authorities of the Church, is translated live into 95 languages and broadcast to 83 countries worldwide. Those areas without satellite or Internet capabilities receive a copy of the broadcast on DVD.
The Book of Mormon, the “keystone” of the doctrine of the Church, believed by members to be the most important piece of spiritual literature on Earth, has also been translated into 82 languages for the benefit of its worldwide membership.
Over 150 Latter-day Saint congregations in the United States speak a total of 20 different languages.The diverse tongues include Polish, Navajo, Russian, Spanish, and German.
Latter-day Saints and Same-Sex Attraction
As the struggle to comprehend and empathize with the experience of same-sex attraction has progressed—not only for members of the Church, but for the world—the perspective of church leadership toward the LGBT community has evolved.
According to a new Church-sponsored website, www.mormonsandgays.org, “the experience of same-sex attraction is a complex reality for many people. The attraction itself is not a sin, but acting on it is. Even though individuals do not choose to have such attractions, they do choose how to respond to them. With love and understanding, the Church reaches out to all God’s children, including our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.”
The trend in regards to diversity, especially for Latter-day Saints, has begun to favor inclusion over exclusion in an attempt to emulate Jesus Christ’s great commandment to “Love one another.”
The site’s homepage reads that “[w]hat is changing—and what needs to change—is to help Church members respond sensitively and thoughtfully when they encounter same-sex attraction in their own families, among other Church members, or elsewhere.”
From the perspective of the general leadership of the Church, diversity is not the ultimate goal—they aim, rather, for unity and tolerance.
“Growing diversity is a condition—not a Church goal,” said Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “We preach unity among the community of Saints and tolerance toward the personal differences that are inevitable in the beliefs and conduct of a diverse population.”