Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Toward a True International Church

It is no secret that the LDS Church now has more members outside of the United States than inside. For a Church that believes it will cover the whole earth, this is good news. This does not mean that it has reached "World Religion" status by a long shot. Although I disagree with his tone, I do agree with Davis that calling Mormonism a World Religion at this point is dubious. Nor do I believe it ever will be until the Millenium (but that is a topic for later). With, if memory serves, 5 Billion people in the world, 12 million doesn't cut it as anything beyond a deeply humbling statistic.

Despite that, I think the LDS Church is taking strides toward a true International Church. Frankly, too many people are getting confused between the designation of "World Religion" with numbers, power, and influence and "International Church" where a sizeable membership lives in different countries. It is in latter designation that progress has shown such promise that some predictions can be made with reasonable thought.

At another blog it has been noted that a diverse crop of leaders have been called in the lower ranks of higher positions. Not one has been from Utah or the United States, a good sign for the international future. That is because those in lower positions can be called to the highest positions. And it is in South America that the highest number of new leaders are emerging. This will lead to one of my strongest predictions.

However, first there is another related prediction by someone who is/was a leader in the Church. Emeritus general authority Elder John K. Carmack believes that General Conferencecan be held outside Utah and even the United States:

"I'm not a prophet, seer or revelator, but I believe this will happen."
"I can envision general conference being held in Sao Paolo or Mexico City or Manila." . . .

The Perpetual Education Fund was created in 2001 to help church members ages 18-30 in select countries obtain education or skills training they otherwise couldn't afford and thereby get jobs that would help them "rise out of poverty and gain self-reliance," Carmack said.

The goal, he added, was to "raise up a generation of leaders with the time, energy and resources to build the church. They would marry, raise families and support them and in time, their tithing and resources would make these areas of the church self-sufficient."
Now, six years later, Carmack said, "We can see the dim outlines of the benefits that surely will come to the international church. Already, a not insignificant number of our leaders in areas with the program are coming from the ranks of PEF recipients."

My own non-authoritative prediction is that in a few years the General Conference might be outside the United States, but if not the language will change. We will see speakers give talks in their own languages. English and Spanish will be the two main languages over the pulpit, with others included as the leadership desires. Of course, that means that English speakers will have to get used to reading or listening to interpreters as a large portion of LDS membership already does.

This is an exciting development. It is a tremendous opportunity. As Elder Carmack said, we are close to, "where it is time to trim the parts that are peculiar to the United States and not relevant to the international church." That means asking what are the basics of the Church in a world of multicultural and political geography.

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