If they see this column, leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are going to be ticked off by it. I can envision Dallin Oaks or David Bednar blowing a gasket over a discussion like this — to the point of them wanting to dismiss it straightaway.
And, in their line of work, I don’t blame them.
It centers on popularity. Their popularity. The way the church masses view not gospel principles and practices, but, ahem, them, personally.
These folks, at the most basic of levels, are charged with guiding their churchwide flock through the land mines of earthly existence to the glory of whatever comes next. In Latter-day Saint doctrine, that pursuit is to find favor with and a spot alongside God in heaven.
That’s serious business, if it’s interpreted literally, and that’s exactly how these leaders interpret it. Thinking about getting a large share of the popular vote en route from the faithful is secondary — if it places anywhere at all. But that doesn’t mean such a thought never bangs around somewhere in their brains.
Here’s the question, then, for today: If you are a follower of the church, a believer, either fully committed or just kind of hanging on, which general authority would get your nod as the most favored? Let’s take it a step further. If you could elect a current G.A. as the church’s next prophet, who would get your vote?
I know what you’re thinking: This idiot’s going to burn in hell for even asking the question, but … too late.
There’s an easy answer here, you already know, so we’ll get right to it.
It’s Dieter Uchtdorf.
Nobody else comes close to the Silver Fox.
He has the look. I mean, just give the guy one glance. He’s the prophet straight out of central casting. Physically, he’s got it all — the chiseled-out-of-granite-and-yet-empathetic face, the perfectly coiffed, aerodynamic hair, the commanding stature, the tailored suits, the pose, the presence, the whole deal.
I swear, he looks like he just came down off of Mount Sinai, tablets in hand.
Quick aside here. I once came face to face with Uchtdorf in an awkward meeting at a Utah Jazz game at Vivint Arena. We ran into each other in a small restroom on the arena’s floor level, me walking from the sink area, him coming in the door. There we were, in each other’s way, me taking a moment to recognize him, him peering at me as though I was a stranger he should be avoiding.
His Dietership looked like a movie star at a ballgame, far above the average Joe Sixpack, decked out in what appeared to be a Seidensticker shirt and a leather jacket shipped from Milan, no tie, no hint of ecclesiastical responsibility. Just a cool, stylish fan. Should have been wearing sunglasses.
I’m told by many Latter-day Saint women — my own wife included — that they would drop their slacker husbands in a second for church leadership’s version of George Clooney.
In this discussion, that’s neither here nor there. Well, it is there.
But the real vote-in-the-prophet treasure trove for Uchtdorf, not just for women, but for men, too, is the way he speaks, the words he chooses, the acceptance he exudes, the encouragement he dishes, the positive vibe he presents. That’s not common enough coming from the big pulpit. When was the last time you heard Uchtdorf speak when you didn’t feel uplifted, didn’t feel inspired, didn’t feel like you were worth the effort to be a better person?
Everybody loves that, whether he’s telling folks that they are precious blossoms ready to bloom or stars glistening in the distance, viewed from the seat in the cockpit from 35,000 feet.
Aviation is the man’s jam, and who doesn’t respect a left-seat pilot who has flown passengers around the world in a large Lufthansa jet?
Uchtdorf’s the dignified, confident, uniformed captain you would want to see climbing aboard your trans-Atlantic flight to put you at ease and calm your nerves.
But his gift for expressing the balms of the gospel, the atoning warmth of Christ’s love, is what stands out the most. And everybody wants to be healed.
The ever-improving English out of his soft German accent makes what he says even better. Meine Gute!
Prophet Uchtdorf would win in a landslide. His overwhelming popularity resonates through the entire church. Makes you wonder if that’s the reason he was “demoted” out of the First Presidency when Russell Nelson took over. Was he too popular?
Other candidates in the pool might include Gerrit Gong, Patrick Kearon, Peter Johnson, Dale Renlund, Jeffrey Holland and one more.
Gong, the faith’s first Asian American apostle and an expert in international relations, seems mild-mannered and soothing, the one, of all the others, whom you would want, if it were necessary, to tell you that you have an incurable disease.
Kearon is the British senior president of the Seventy who wowed General Conference listeners in 2016 with his impassioned plea to help refugees and hasn’t stopped impressing ever since.
Johnson, the first African American general authority and a former Muslim, turned heads when he gave his first conference speech, and his ascendancy would gain some welcome headlines, especially for a faith still scarred by a past racist policy.
The membership could go from Nelson, a renowned heart surgeon, to Renlund, a retired cardiologist who, appropriately enough, gives nice tender talks, spoken from the heart. His Heavenly Mother conference address in April may have turned off some female voters, but other women were just thrilled to see an apostle tackle the topic of Her Celestial Highness.
Holland is a fantastic speaker, a leader who can weave a meaningful message into a captivating anecdote wrapped in a gospel truth. But the “I coulda been a contender” apostle lost some of the vote by way of his uncharacteristic and now-infamous metaphorical muskets speech at BYU.
Since we’ve already tripped into fantasyland, why not go all-out and vote in Sharon Eubank?
To quote John and Paul — the Beatles, not the New Testament apostles — you say you want a revolution? Here it is. A prophetess. She’s a woman, she’s single, and the former No. 2 in the Relief Society. She is a world traveler, a world-class diplomat and a worldwide humanitarian (overseeing the church’s widely respected and globally connected Latter-day Saint Charities). And she’s a much-anticipated speaker, to boot.
In reality, I have no idea who would make the best prophet, the most effective one in these tumultuous times. No idea who is the most faithful, open-minded, clear thinking, dialed in and closest to God.
What I do know is that Dieter U. is the man, a man of the people. The people’s choice. The people’s prophet.
Will he ever be the chosen one?
Beats me. All in favor … manifest it.
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