The Mormon Church has installed a new grand poobah. In their language, he is the “President” of the church (Jesus put presidents in charge of His church, right?). He is also seen as “the prophet” set aside by God to lead the restoration of the Melchizedekian priesthood. You can find a full list of their prophet-presidents here. In the mean time, you can read more closely about the new Mormon Head Cheese at The Cripplegate.
How will this prophet-president lead the “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints?” At least one writer for the Salt Lake Tribune wants him to be more like Pope Francis. He writes:
What The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints needs right now is a Pope Francis.
That’s my conclusion, at least, after my Salt Lake Tribune colleague Peggy Fletcher Stack took a thorough inventory of the challenges and opportunities facing the faith in the coming years — retaining members, incorporating women, welcoming gay and lesbian members, and spreading its message to new parts of the world.
It needs a forward-thinking, public-facing leader who takes the fundamental tenets of Mormonism and applies them to modern times, who can make the teachings relevant for a new generation of followers and converts, and who can appeal to a broad and increasingly diverse audience.
Yes. Yes, that’s it. Another Pope Francis is all the world needs. On the other hand, if the Catholics can have a Pope who’s not really Catholic, then maybe the Mormon Church having a prophet-president who’s not really a Mormon isn’t all that far-fetched (and might not be all bad).
The church’s doctrine is its doctrine and that will take time to change. Remember, it wasn’t until 1978 that LDS leaders lifted the ban on black males getting the priesthood and on black females entering Mormon temples. But how the faith and its new leader publicly address these issues does matter.
Again, Mormons can look to Pope Francis on this issue: Francis has not sold out Catholic opposition to gay marriage, but he has publicly called for Catholics to embrace LGBTQ people, to welcome nontraditional families and to accept civil unions.
One more area in which the LDS Church can draw on Francis’ example is by emphasizing the fundamental teachings of Jesus Christ in the modern landscape. It has done this, from time to time, on issues like immigration and by pushing back against President Donald Trump’s attacks on Muslims. Last year, it publicly rebuked white supremacy as sinful and contrary to church teachings.
That doesn’t mean the church needs to pick fights with a president or engage in political squabbles. But it can make its moral voice heard in the context of our current coarsened debate. It is disappointing, for example, that the church has chosen not to speak up about Trump’s attacks last week on immigrants from “s—hole countries.”
These are dynamic times and the church needs a dynamic leader. If Hinckley was the LDS equivalent of the affable, accessible Pope John Paul II, what the church needs now is its Francis. We’ll have to see if Nelson is equal to the task.
You can read the post at Salt Lake Tribune here.