Who are the elect?

I recently had an experience  where I’d provided what i felt was an inspired referral to the missionaries. The referral’s meeting with the elders however didn’t quite pan out as i thought it would. This gave me cause to wonder who exactly an ‘elect’ of the Lord is. Particularly after reading the following scripture found in the Doctrine & Covenants:
     “Mine elect hear my voice and harden not their hearts” [1]
Was my friend not an elect?
A reading of this scripture may seem to suggest that there are certain people who are designated as the elect of the Lord. If that’s the case then it would mean there are also ‘non-elect’. What then is the basis of this election and is this election “free and fair”. In trying to figure this out, I was drawn to review the most elect of all people of the Lord, (at least in the bible): the people of Israel. How did they become ‘elect’? and what effect did it have on them?
The origins of the election of the Israelites lies in the father of their nation – Abraham. Abraham was a faithful servant of God, so great was his faith that he was willing to sacrifice his only son in obedience a command from God. This led to the Lord endowing him and his generations to come with great blessings:
     “And I will make of thee a great nation , and I will bless thee above measure, and make thy name great among all nations, and thou shalt be a blessing unto thy seed after thee, that in their hands they shall bear this ministry and Priesthood unto all nations” [2]
     “That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies;” [3]
So it seems in the case of Abraham, the basis for his election and that of his posterity was his righteousness and obedience. It’s interesting what follows in the verses after those quoted above. Soon after electing Abraham and his posterity the Lord indicates actually, that the honor just given was an instrument or pathway for all other people to become elected just as Abraham was, dependent similarly of course on their righteousness:
     “And I will bless them through thy name; for as many as receive this Gospel shall be called after thy name, and shall be accounted thy seed, and shall rise up and bless thee, as their father;” [4]
     “And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice” [5]
Similarly, in the book of Mormon, Nephi and his posterity were the elect of the Lord. Their obedience had brought upon them many great blessings. Conversely, Laman and Lemuel refused to be elected and their posterity continued in the same vein until they chose repentance and abandoned the traditions of their fathers. When the Lamanites did repent, they were grafted in to be the elect and given access to the blessings of the gospel. This process of grafting in to the seed of Abraham when the gospel is accepted, is alluded to in the allegory of the wild and tame olives. It is contained  in chapter 5 of the book of Jacob in the Book of Mormon.
Hence it safe to say that all can be elect and receive great blessings if they choose to accept the gospel of Jesus Christ. This election is a process rather than an event. Else why would the scriptures refer to a making of a calling and election sure as it does in the second book of Peter, where the possessing of several virtues are suggested as a means towards assuring said surety.
     “brethren, give diligence to make your calling and a election sure” [6]
We can conclude then that after one is first elected, there is an onus to continue on that same path until salvation is sure.
Pondering all this my thoughts in summary are that the Lord loves all his children equally. Whether American, European or African, he wants salvation for everyone. He has thus foreordained all people to do good and elect ourselves to be partakers of his gospel. I would thus paraphrase the scripture in D&C 29:7 as follows:
     Those who hearken to my words and harden not their hearts are my elect.
The power to harden or soften the heart lies within the individual, hence we can choose whether or not to become an elect of the Lord by softening our hearts.
References

The place for diversity in the church – African oral tradition and the gospel

As the dust settles on the calling of new apostles that fit the traditional mold, issues around diversity in the church continue to fill not a few LDS forums. I’ve taken the position that diversity in the calling of apostles is a secular doctrine, however I recognize that as a worldwide church, there is a real need to respond to the growing diversity. This response to diversity need not be in the form of leadership representation, rather it needs to be in the manner and form gospel knowledge is delivered.

Like the Nephites of old, most African cultures possess a largely oral tradition [1]. We are powerful in speaking, not so much in words. We are great orators and story tellers, not so much writers [2]. This power in the spoken word has passed on rich knowledge and customs from generation to generation. They’ve spawned cultures and traditions that have survived the test of time and kept traditional African societies orderly and in check. This deeply ingrained oral tradition makes the traditional/ average African more disposed to consuming information in the oral rather than written form.

Now consider the experience of an average African in the church. More often than not, s/he is made to conform to a largely alien manner of receiving instruction and knowledge. The instruction is given to read and consume information from books written in English, western ways of consuming information. It seems unfortunately that not much effort is put into promoting other ways of gospel instruction that speak to the African oral tradition. Granted the book of Mormon and some church material is available in several African languages. It however doesn’t solve the problem as it bears the same burden of being in the written form. Looking at lds.org, audio-books exist only in English and a select few European languages.

In D&C 1:24, the Lord speaks of giving the book of commandments ‘after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding’ [3].  I’m afraid that this same courtesy is yet to be fully extended to hundreds and thousands of African saints. You may wonder well why don’t these Africans just convert to a written tradition. It doesn’t seem to quite work that way. The Lord intimated as much in Ether 12, where he reassures Moroni that their oral traditions were acceptable unto him and should not be mocked by the ‘Gentiles’. He promises that a perceived weakness can be turned to strength.

The diversity conversation needs to be around how the church can help non-western people better access the gospel, how the process of every man hearing the gospel according to their language, unto their understanding be accelerated [4], how all saints can be spoken to and naturally understand [5].  To this end, I would like to see an Elder Sitati give a conference talk in Swahili, or an Elder Choi give a talk in Korean. A far fetched dream most likely. How about a talk delivered in of these ways (video at end of post), unlikely too I know. More likely perhaps is the church putting more effort into widely disseminating and encouraging the use of the translated conference talks. More effort can also be put into making more church material available in audio form in local languages.

With leadership in particular, audio versions of the handbook, or selections of it, may go far in exposing new African leadership to appropriate church administration. The proliferation of technology allows this to happen rather easily than at any other time in the history of man. This may not be the definitive way to go but i hope more thought is put into accounting for this alternate tradition.

The day surely approaches when every man shall hear the fulness of the gospel in his own tongue, and in his own language [6], not just through missionaries but also through other means that are familiar to and comfortable for them.

Notes – My thoughts here stem from my experience interacting with Africans who don’t seem to quite fully understand not just the language, but also the nuances and context of some church material. These don’t always translate so well to a non native speaker or one who isn’t well versed with the American roots of the church. I also see a perennial problem that exists in many African wards with getting saints to consume and understand written church material, thus stunting the spiritual growth of members and limiting the selection pool for priesthood leaders. A step wise introduction of audio/oral versions then graduating on to more written material may aid African saints to gain greater gospel knowledge and grow spiritually.

References

1. African Oral Tradition Then and Now: A Culture in Transition Akintunde Akinyemi. http://www.unilorin.edu.ng/ejournals/index.php/cp/article/view/190

2. 2 Ne 33:1

3. D&C 1:24

4. 2 Ne 31:3

5. D&C 29:33

6. D&C 90:11

Where’s my black Messiah – Thoughts on diversity in the quorum of Apostles

The calling of new apostles in the church occassioned by vacancies left after the passing on of 3 members of the quorum
was an event to look forward to. The day for the vacancies to be filled finally came and 3 new apostles were called,  3 white males in their 60’s. Largely in keeping with the caucasian and geriatric history and tradition of the quorum.
I read with dismay the feelings of disappointment expressed by some over this lack of diversity in the quorum of twelve apostles. Apparently more than a few members were hoping for apostles of a different race, church background or country of origin. The problem with diversity however is that it is a doctrine of man! How? The Lord doesn’t see us as diverse. As far as He is concerned we are all one and the same, His children. He doesn’t care for our colour, country of origin or language, all earthly attributes.
Methinks there is a real danger in introducing this doctrine of man into the lord’s house. Nephi shares my sentiment and warns us accordingly in v20 of 2Ne 28, that in the last days: ‘ the devil shall rage in the hearts of the children of men, and stir them up to anger against that which is good. The calling of apostles regardless of what features they bear is good, and if you feel anything negative about it, I would suggest that this scripture applies.
He goes on to warn in v26 – ‘wo unto those that hearken unto the precepts of men and denieth the power of God and the gift of the holy ghost’. I would think that not many greater processes lend themselves to the manifestation of the spirit than the calling of apostles. Thus If diversity in the callings is a concern for you, I would suggest again that this scripture applies.
The footnote to v26 directs us back to ch 9 v 29 where we are told ‘but to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God’. I would hazard a guess that if you’re concerned about diversity in the quorum, you likely think yourself learned and well informed. Once more to you I say, read the rest of the chapter, it also applies. (PS – all of this applies to me as well)
This seeming tide of seeking for the church to be more like the institutions of the world is one that will lead many to apostasy. The fact that many of us are now learned, have access to vasts amount of information and multiple means to air our opinions is starting to make us feel like we are more informed than the brethren themselves and even God.
You just need to remember that the Lord’s church is just that, the Lord’s. There is no meritocracy as one would expect in a secular institituion. In the same vein, it is not a democracy so don’t necessarily expect a more global flavour or more diversity in representation in church leadership just because the church is becoming more global in its makeup. What the Lord says goes and that’s it.

The Lord choses certain people like he did the Israelites in the bible to bring forth his works. This act of choosing has never precluded the rest of his children access to His ultimate blessings. If anything, this choice has often become a stumbling block to the chosen people. As i understand it, the church as an organization is only a temporary one for the purpose of mortality, to deal with the limitations of being human. The real driver of the church is the gospel which is open to all who will accept it. The only thing that is eternal within the gospel is the family and the sociality that exists between us, not the church heirachy. Hence I doubt there’ll be apostles in heaven, only father, mother, brother, sister.

So i’m content not seeing a more diverse quorum becuase when i look at the brethren, i don’t see white old men, i see servants of God who have been chosen by Him. If I start needing to see diversity in the quorum then i will ultimatley be constrained to start looking for my black Messiah, oh tell me please where will i find my black Messiah. Yes i know where, my traditional African religion.