Nov 5, 2008

Mr. President

Well, today I feel like I have jet lag after pulling an all-nighter, but it was all worth it.

Just as "Where were you when Kennedy got shot?" is the question of my parents' generation, hopefully for my own generation, the question will be, "Where were you when Obama was elected?" I wonder if we can really fathom right now just how huge this is -- not just for America, but for the world. If a black man can get elected in America, then he can get elected anywhere. I think that one of the most impressive things about the night was seeing the reaction, not just of blacks and other minorities, but of whites. The fact that they got emotional and jumped for joy over the election of a black president spoke volumes.

Just as the election of Obama will hopefully be the catalyst to truly healing the wounds caused by racism in America, I can't help but wonder whether we, as a Church, will ever be able to fully recover from the wounds of our own racist past.

So, when will we see the first black Mormon prophet?

I can't help but wonder if I will ever see that in my lifetime.

30 comments:

Lisa said...

I hadn't even thought of that.

I was just surprised (and not necessarily in a "shock!" way) when Elder Uchtdorf was called to not only the Twelve, but the First Presidency.

But hadn't even thought about having a black Prophet - or for that matter one in the Twelve...

I hate talking about it like that, like it's a political office because it's not. But I wonder what the reaction of the general membership would be, at least here in America.

Maybe I should steer clear of hypothetical situations, though :)

The Faithful Dissident said...

Over half of the membership of the Church now lives outside of the US. Most of those people are probably non-white. Utah has also become very multi-ethnic. I've sometimes wondered why this isn't more reflected in the leadership of the Church. I'm not making any accusations here, and I know that there are minority general authorities. I've just wondered sometimes why there aren't more of them.

I remember a story from a brother from my home ward, who was from the southern US. He was white and he said that when the blacks got the priesthood, some of the white members there stood up and left. Luckily, I think we've come a long way since then. But I do wonder whether how some members (even if they weren't vocal about it), would feel if they had to uphold a black man -- or a Mexican! -- as prophet of the Lord.

Anonymous said...

I would say that you probably won't see a black prophet in your lifetime. I only say this because there are 11 people in line ahead of a black apostle, when he is called. Since people tend to live a long time, it is likely not to occur in your or my lifetime.

Nate

Chuck said...

Unlike the presidency of the United States, the presidency of the church is not a popularity contest. It has nothing to do with race or ethnicity. Elder Uchtdorf was not called to the twelve because they were desperate to have a European in the quorum. He was called by divine revelation to fill that spot.

There are many things the church does in an effort to break down the "Utah Church" mentality, as well as the "American Church" mentality. But I don't believe that a prophet will be called in an effort to prove that. To quote Elder Uchtdorf, this is not a global church, this is a Universal church, it's the Lord's church, and he calls those who are worthy and able to accept the calling.

And I think it's a shame that so many people have focused on the fact that Obama is Black, and very charismatic, and have been swayed to vote for him because of that. He promises change, and I'm sure we'll get it. But I don't want change, I want improvement. And that is something he doesn't offer.

The Faithful Dissident said...

Chuck, I think it depends on how you look at things. For the people who voted for him, change = improvement. For some people, life can't get much worse, so why not vote for change? It's got to be an improvement, right?

And as for people voting him because he's black, don't you think that Mormons would have voted overwhelmingly for Romney, if he was the presidential candidate, because he's Mormon?

The Faithful Dissident said...

I do agree with you though, Chuck, that minority prophets aren't going to be called simply to follow a popular trend. We Mormons have never been too concerned about doing what's popular, so I can't imagine them starting to do so now.

Chuck said...

Things can always get worse. I believe there are only a handful of people in this country who are at a point where life can't get any worse. And I believe we'll see that in the next 4 years. The truth is we have a very high standard of living, we've just become spoiled. Even the "poor" in this country live better than much of the world. But there is a feeling of entitlement that "I deserve better". But they've done nothing to merit that. So to say that change = improvement is a gross overstatement.

And there's a difference in voting for Romney because he's mormon and voting for Obama because he's black. I'd vote for Romney because I know he holds the same values that I do. Religion is a common bond of beliefs. Race is not. It's like voting for McCain just because you're from Arizona, like him. Does that mean you share values? With that said, I didn't vote for Romney! :)

Chuck

The Faithful Dissident said...

Do we not often share values as a race of people, though? I think that if they voted for Obama because he's black, then at least some of them were voting for one of the values that they believe in most: racial equality. And even though most of the black population voted for him, it wouldn't have been enough without a good chunk of that white vote.

Until you're a minority in the country in which you live, I don't think you can ever really quite know what it's like.

And there's a difference in voting for Romney because he's mormon and voting for Obama because he's black.

I don't think so. In both cases, we would vote for that person, whether they're black or Mormon, because we hope/believe that he would further our personal values and agendas, and would implement laws and policies that we agree with. All of those things are influenced by our race, culture, and religion. It's what we all do, we may as well just admit it. I doubt that most whites would vote for someone because he's going to make things better for blacks, just as Mormons aren't going to vote for people who make things better for atheists. It's just common sense.

The Faithful Dissident said...

Even the "poor" in this country live better than much of the world. But there is a feeling of entitlement that "I deserve better". But they've done nothing to merit that.

Chuck, if you can walk through the Philly projects, say that out loud, and get the residents to agree with you, then I'll agree with you too.

The Faithful Dissident said...
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The Faithful Dissident said...

I need to clarify that I don't think race should be the deciding factor in voting. And hopefully this will be the turning point, where from now on, race won't need to be a relevant factor in anyone's vote. However, I think that last night was such a historic event that we would all be fooling ourselves to think that the desire for racial equality was not perhaps a factor.

Fifthgen said...
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Fifthgen said...

Faithful: You know I love you, and I am as happy as anyone that Obama was elected. But this idea that, if the US can elect a black president then, well, ANYONE, can is really not fair. I don't see a lot of minority representation amongst the heads of state of Europe or Canada (with sizeable Asian, Middle Eastern, indigenous, and even African populations). I mean, when will Canada elect an indigenous person as Prime Minister? I am not minimizing racial issues in the US - - we have them for sure. It’s just that, though I am no sociologist, the US is a very heterogeneous society, and using elective politics as a measuring stick, I am not sure we are lagging behind other countries in integrating and assimilating racial minorities.

On another note, BCC did a calculation that we cannot anticipate a “Prophet of Color” for at least 40 years - - the average length of time in the modern era that a man serves as an apostle before becoming President of the Church. An individual of African or Hispanic descent could be fast-tracked into the First Presidency, though. It has happened in the General Relief Society Presidency!

The Faithful Dissident said...

Hmmm... I think my comment , if a black man can get elected in America, then he can get elected anywhere perhaps came across the wrong way. The way I meant it was that if the US, a nation legally enslaved black people for so many years and even afterwards has had a major struggle against racism, can now elect a black president, then the rest of the world really has something to learn from such a historic event. In other words, the US is setting a precedent. You're right, we haven't really seen any minority leaders in Canada or Europe. I am sure that if a black person ran for PM in Canada or Norway, some people would definitely have a problem with it (a couple of those people live next door to my parents, actually :). We tend to accuse Americans of racism, but there's plenty of it in these other countries. We perhaps fool ourselves that it's not a problem because we didn't have slaves or riots in our streets. It's perhaps more subdued, but it's definitely there. And when it's not as blatant, maybe it's even more dangerous.

So I hope that the rest of the world will look to what has happened in the US now and let it be an example to us that race needs to become irrelevant in politics. So hopefully you now know what I meant, Fifthgen. Reading it again, I can understand why you interpreted it the way you did.

Fifthgen said...

No problem. Last night truly was an amazing experience. Watching several African-American commentators remark emotionally on the significance of the election for them personally was very, very moving. It really was a great day for the USA.

Gay LDS Actor said...

Just for the record, I voted for Obama because he reflects my values, not at all because he was black. And I also believe (hope at least) that the change he offers will bring improvement as well. And I am soooooooooooooo happy!

Mormon Heretic said...

I'd love to see some more color in the General Authorities of the church. White faces and white shirts can be a little dull. I'd like to put Gladys Knight in charge of a new church hymn book.

RAP08 said...

Chuck said -
Even the "poor" in this country live better than much of the world.

Faithful responded -
"if you can walk through the Philly projects, say that out loud, and get the residents to agree with you, then I'll agree with you too."

There is no doubt that some people in this country live in challenging circumstaces. But to say that the projects in any US city is the same as the shanty towns of much of the third world is a bit of a stretch. I think that people who believe they are poor are then truly poor. I think that this reflects a state of mind more than any thing else. I have met people who live in truly humble circumstances and they would not agree if you said they were poor. They look at all they have and are thankful to have so much.

my 2 cents.

The Faithful Dissident said...

Rap08, I agree with you completely. "Poor" in the western world is not like "poor" in the third world. The third world's poorest would generally gladly trade places with the poorest of the western world. We don't know how good we have it and we take a whole lot for granted.

Yes, being poor can be a state of mind, but sometimes it's more than that. My mom grew up in Mexico City, 1 of 10 kids, no father around. At one point, the family was homeless until a neighbour took them in. But they were generally happy and a close-knit family despite the hardships. They survived and their struggles made them stronger, working hard to make a better life for themselves. That being said, we do have poverty among us, in varying degrees, and I think that we can do more about it. That's all I'm getting at. I just believe that a compassionate society that truly believes in equality will agree that some things should be available to all, regardless of whether we feel that they've "earned" it or not. But I don't want to hijack this thread into yet another discussion about socialism. We've done that one before. :)

MH, I bet that's a job that Gladys Knight would enjoy. I think I remember reading somewhere how she sort of lamented about how our hymns were great but needed a little more rhythm. :)

Fifthgen, your comment made me think last night after I went to bed about what it would be like in Europe if, for example, we saw a German Chancellor of Jewish or Turkish decent (thousands of Turks went to Germany in the 70's as "guest workers" but never left, so Germany now has a sizable Turkish population, which has caused a few problems for race relations there). Or if the descendants of one of France's many north-African immigrants became PM. Or an Indian PM in Britain. It would be enormous. Even just to see someone of the Muslim faith attain high office in virtually any European country is, at the moment, hard to foresee in the near future. I think that religion is, for many, more of a problem than race -- even for myself. I'd like to think that I'd be open-minded enough to accept a Muslim politician just as any other, but when some of them perhaps have Shari'a law as their ultimate political goal, it's a problem.

RAP08 said...

Faithful - Thank you for sharing more of your story, background always helps in understanding where some one is coming from. My fathers family were on a farm when the depression hit and the bank closed with all their money. They could not pay their mortgage and had to move. My grand father never really revcovered financially but worked hard and his children reaped the benifits. Most of the children recieved college education, or married successful professionals.

To get back to your post and the question about the first black prophet. I remember back in the 90's there was a brother from Brazil who was a member of the 70s and I thought at the time it would be really cool to have a black apostle. As was posted earlier the apostles are not selected because of how the public perception will be influenced. I personnally have been very impressed with President Uchtdorf conference addresses. I have also taken note of late of the increase in brethren and sisters with accented english who have opportunies to address us. I am waiting for the first address in another language with translation for us english only members. Now I don't know if they would do that due to the time restrictions but again I think that would be cool.

The Faithful Dissident said...

Yes, it's always interesting to know the backgrounds of people. It helps us understand where we're coming from. I found it especially interesting on Policalds (which I know you like to comment on as well) to know the stories of some of the people there. Back in August, we were having some pretty heated political discussions and things were starting to get a bit ugly. I suggested that we all write a short bio telling how we came to our political views, since we were, after all, all Mormons. I think that reading each other's stories helped us tone it down a bit and to understand where we were coming from and what had shaped our views. If you're interested you can read them here.

We still have some pretty heated discussions, though. :)

Clint said...

You know...one of the reasons I voted for Obama was because he was black.

There, I said it.

Sure, it was absolutely not the only reason, but I saw him as a candidate whose race (among other qualities) would help to smooth over years of racial tension and, living in the American South, it was something that I wanted in my President. I believe Obama can do that.

So, yeah. I voted for Obama because he was black.

The Faithful Dissident said...

That's a very honest comment, Clint. Of course, I wasn't eligible to vote, but I think it's very honest to say that Obama's unique position/opportunity (in which, let's be honest, race does play a role because he's an historical first) it would have been like an extra "incentive" to me. Now, if Obama had campaigned under the McCain-Palin platform, then there's no way I would have voted for him, I don't care how historical it is to have a black president. :) I think that McCain and Palin are good, decent people. I think that McCain's speech was excellent and I thought that he displayed graciousness and unity at what must have been a difficult time for him. I think that he did honestly have the best intentions for America. I just simply disagreed with his approach. And that's politics.

Frank over at Politicalds posted this poignant cartoon that I thought I'd share.

Anonymous said...

They'll kick him out as soon as the learn he wasn't born in the states.

Fifthgen said...

Since Clint broached the topic, I will add that Obama's unique ethnic and cultural background places him in an equally unique position to speak about and address racial issues. That is one reason, among many, that I voted for him.

Lisa said...

Aw, Chuck. I wasn't suggesting anything of the sort.

Listen, it's fairly well understood that those who are called into the Twelve or like positions live in or near Utah.

At least that's how I understand it.

And I absolutely did not vote for Obama because he is black. I'm really rather tired of that diatribe, and wish people would afford me better intelligence and discretion than that. Really.

I didn't mean for this to turn into a discussion about Elder Uchtdorf's worthiness to be a member of the First Presidency, either. It was cool, though. Like I said, I was surprised, but *not* in a "shock!" way. A lot of people noticed. There was a thick accent in there. Different.

Eh, I tire quickly of having to repeat things I've already said.

Apparently you hit a cord, FD! :)

Tim said...

Faithful--
I'd like to see Canada elect a black Prime Minster--or France--or Germany a black (heck a Turk) Chancellor. The world seems so in "awe" of the US black President--but they don't want to elect an ethnic minority to the head of their State.
I wonder what the world will think in 2 - 4 years of their "President."

The Faithful Dissident said...

Yes, that's what I said a few comments up. America has now set a precedent for the rest of the world.

I guess only time will tell what the world thinks of Obama. The honeymoon will eventually end and it's inevitable that he's going to tick off somebody. I am, however, optimistic about how he will govern. Let's hope he does a good job. He certainly is under pressure from the entire world.

Natasha said...

If blacks were not denied the priesthood out of hate, it was not racist. We have no reason to believe that it was for anything more than uncertainty, confusion or a lack of revelation. Joseph Smith supported equal rights between whites and blacks, from what I've read.

Obama's night-- I still haven't recovered. I still cry. When he walked out on that stage with his family, his face was something remarkable. He just looked so beautiful. His face was quite still and yet it was somehow full of this strong, confident, grounded emotion. It took my breath away, no exaggeration. I'm very excited and very pleased. It's not even my country and I feel like I've been holding my breath for eight years.

DeweyOlsen said...
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