LDS Church’s newest apostle talks singles, women and LGBTQ members in sit-down interview

In a sit-down interview with The Salt Lake Tribune, apostle Patrick Kearon discusses adjusting to the job and shares his thoughts about singles and caring for marginalized members.

Imagine being unexpectedly summoned by your boss for what you believe is a routine check-in about your work and he asks you to commit immediately to the job — until you die.

That was exactly what happened in December to Patrick Kearon, an adult British convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

On an average Thursday, Kearon, who was serving as a full-time general authority for the faith, got a call to meet church President Russell M. Nelson “within seven to 10 minutes.”

The modest leader had no idea what was coming, so it was “deeply shocking,” Kearon told The Salt Lake Tribune in an interview Tuesday, when the 99-year-old Nelson asked him to join the faith’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, the second top tier — after the three-member First Presidency — in the 17 million-member church.

It is a lifetime position.

And, as the church’s prophet-president, Nelson expected an immediate answer.

“I actually gave him some other names,” Kearon recalled. “You just don’t see yourself in … that role.”

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Newly named Latter-day Saint apostle Patrick Kearon in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024.

But Nelson assured the convert that the “call” didn’t come from him but from God. And so he — gulp — said yes.

There was no time to consider how his future had just been upended or confer with his wife, Jennifer.

By that afternoon, the 62-year-old Kearon was ordained by Nelson and others in the top quorums.

“It’s a humdinger of an adjustment,” Kearon said in the interview. “And I continue to go through that adjustment each day, hoping it will ease a bit and some days it does. But I realized that this isn’t going to be a quick thing. Coming to terms with it is going to take a lot of time.”

Kearon, who had been serving as senior president of the Presidency of the Seventy, filled the vacancy left by the death of M. Russell Ballard on Nov. 12 at age 95. Kearon is the church’s first British apostle since 1911, when James E. Talmage, author of the monumental book “Jesus the Christ,” was ordained to that office.

He also enters the line of succession that eventually could lead to his becoming president of the global faith.

As an apostle, Kearon becomes one of the church’s “special witnesses of Christ,” who will help decide policies, programs and procedures for the faith, travel extensively around the world and address the faithful at every General Conference.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Newly named Latter-day Saint apostle Patrick Kearon in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024.

Here are some of Kearon’s thoughts from the interview about the church, its members and message:

On singles — “When we are most in tune, or most alive to the truth [that God and Jesus have a plan of happiness for everyone], we are at our best selves. Whether you’re a member of a large family, a small family, or an individual, whether you’re in a good place, as we sit at the moment, or are feeling lost, and alone, the message is the same.”

On women leading — “I love to see women leading. We have extraordinary women doing the most profound work. I see things that women are doing under the guidance of the general Relief Society presidency, which at the moment has a focus on education, malnutrition and neonatal initiatives — these are worldwide things. Then you think of the role of women in their congregations and homes. We’re getting a better understanding and description of the contributions and leadership that women provide.”

On caring for marginalized members — “There are lots of margins, and we’ve probably all experienced margins of our own by some degree. But the message to anybody on the margin is: You’re not. You might feel it, and there might be reasons for that. But, again, we turn back to Heavenly Father, who sees none of that and to his son, Jesus Christ, who is infinitely loving and compassionate and wants to see all of us healed. I was thinking this morning about the early astronauts who went up into space and even to the moon and looked back and what did they see? They saw the Earth, but they didn’t see peoples [or] borders, and it changed them. And that’s just from that distance. How does it appear from heaven? He doesn’t want anybody to feel on the margin.”

On LGBTQ members — “We need to treat them like everybody else, treat them as the Savior treated those he ran into. … He blessed them. That’s our model. The invitation to all of us is to get better at being like him. When we treat people the way he would have us treat them, we feel more peace, we feel more joy. And that’s what we want for them.”

On young people leaving the church — “When I joined the church, as you know, I was someone who might fall into that category. It took me two years to come to [a recognition of loving Heavenly Father and his son], but I managed to navigate that moment myself. So I acknowledge that it’s hard. … And yes, people go, but people also come. And they are coming. I saw a source of information last week, particularly around these age groups of seminary [high school] and institutes of religion [college], we are growing enrollment, and it’s surprising. So there are signs of hope, even as we see parts of the world drifting away from organized religion.”

On the church becoming less America-centric — “It’s happening. The church is more global. And we’re fortunate to travel and go and see it. That’s very important because when we sit here, we all look at things through this lens of where we live. So it’s very healthy that we go and travel. There are more members of the church outside North America than in, and that’s a trend that I think is likely to increase rather than decrease, and it’s beautiful and it’s enriching. It’s a reminder that Heavenly Father and the Savior are interested in all of us, wherever we are, whatever circumstances we’re in. I’m sure they yearn most for those who are, again, suffering through some kind of deficit or loss or pain.”

Kearon’s final advice for young Latter-day Saints? — “Stop worrying so much, and know that you are loved. Just try to trust in the core blessing and doctrine and belief that we have for you that you are loved.”

Even, he said, “on your worst day.”