Apostles make Mormon history
SALT LAKE CITY
The Mormon church made history and injected a bit of diversity into a previously all-white top leadership panel Saturday by selecting the first Latin-American apostle and the first apostle of Asian ancestry.
The selections of Ulisses Soares of Brazil and Gerrit W. Gong, a Chinese-American, were announced during a twice-annual conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City. The choices triggered excitement among a contingent of Mormons who for years have been hoping for the faith’s top leadership to be more representative of a religion that has more than half of the its 16 million members outside the United States.
“It’s a sign that the church is for everyone,” said Guilherme De Castro, a 37-year-old Mormon from Brazil who was in attendance for the announcement. “It doesn’t matter where you are from or the way you look.”
The selections came during a two-day conference happening as the faith grapples with heightened scrutiny about its handling of sexual-abuse reports and one-on-one interviews between local lay leaders and youths.
Mormon leaders hadn’t spoken about the topic as of Saturday afternoon, but a person in attendance yelled several times, “Stop protecting sexual predators,” as new people were announced to second-tier leadership posts.