SALT LAKE CITY – The two newest members of a top Mormon governing panel said Thursday that they hope to bring a new perspective as the first Latin-American and the first person of Asian descent to a previously white top leading group which helps in making of the policy of the municipality.
Ulisses Soares of Brazil and Gerrit W. Gong, a Chinese-American, made the remarks during the first interviews with the media since chosen for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ leadership panel is called the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles earlier this year.
They are also weighed on how the religion deals with sexual abuse reporting and political utrecht:
“WE BRING IN NEW EXPERIENCE’
The selections of Soares and Gong as new members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles during the conference of the church on March 30, triggered excitement among the many Mormons who years are the hope for the faith of the highest leadership to be more representative of a religion has more than half of the 16 million members outside the United States.
Soares, 59, said the religion which the direction does not change because that is always guided by Jesus Christ, but he said that he and Gong to improve the church’s capacity to meet the needs of an increasingly global religion that it now has more than half of the 16 million members outside the United States.
“We bring a number of experiences from other areas of the world,” said Soares, a bookkeeper and an accountant for multinational companies in Brazil before joining the leadership of the church. “The lord makes use of different abilities, different talents to accomplish his great work. Coming from different cultures can help us to understand the specific needs, or specific behaviors that we can address. We may be more sensitive. We feel more empathy for the ways in which people feel things.”
Gong, 64, was born in Redwood City, California, but his grandparents immigrated to the United States from China.
“The more we go, the more people we understand, and meet, the more we see that love, that universal love,” Gong said.
The religion has come under scrutiny recently for how it handles sexual abuse reported to the local lay leaders, including a number of lawsuits that claim that the church officials do not properly pass on reports to the police. A new lawsuit was filed this week by a woman who says her father sexually abused her as a child and that Mormon leaders of the church allowed the abuse to continue by not reporting to the police.
Gong and Soares both echoed the recent comments of the highest leaders of the religion “zero tolerance” for abuse and said that they were offering training and support for local leaders on best practices. The religion recently issued updated guidelines for how the male bishops should deal with sexual assault reports. The guidelines direct them to never ignore a report of abuse — a more direct statement than the previous guidelines — and to call a church hotline that will help them figure out how to help victims and report the crime.
Soares said that the church tries to support the victim of the abuse, but also as the person who is accused of abuse.
“Abuse is not something we tolerate,” Soares said. “When it comes to the light, the church acts and try to help and support the person who is being abused and the person who has abused … to help the person who followed this type of behavior to repent, to change.”
Gong said that most of the leaders of the church for children, women and people who are vulnerable and said Mormon parents can be confident that their children are safe.
“We care for each other,” Gong said. “If there are errors, we catch them when we can take direct action.”
Gong, who worked for the US State Department and the Washington, D. C.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, before it is chosen for a decentralized church leadership panel in 2010, spoke about the current climate of political tension in the United States.
“There has never been a time where we were more civilized, more bipartisanship, a bigger vision for the future,” Gong said. “I think it’s in a shared vision, that we sometimes find the ability to make the kinds of accommodations and compromises that are part of the politics. Politics is the art of the possible, where we give up things in order to get things for the greater good. If there was ever a time we needed it is now.”