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Earlier today in New Zealand, prime minister Jacinda Ardern had a meeting with President Russell M. Nelson of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Judging from the Deseret News coverage, it doesn’t sound that different from previous LDS leaders’ meet-and-greet opportunities with heads of state. Ardern received an embossed leather copy of the Book of Mormon, and a promise that the Church will make donations to the two Christchurch mosques that were the targets of a gunman’s fatal spree two months ago that resulted in the deaths of 51 people. They discussed shared issues, including a mutual concern for the abuse of social media for violent ends.
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What’s different—I think perhaps unprecedented—is that Ardern is a former Mormon herself. She grew up as a member of the Church in New Zealand, and some of her relatives who also attended the meeting are still active believers.
That fact makes the meeting not just a typical photo opportunity but an example of the generational sea change happening in Mormonism in many parts of the world.
Ardern - Age - Kiwi - Experiences - Millennials
Ardern, age 38, is a born-and-bred Kiwi, but her experiences sound eerily similar to the American Millennials I discuss in The Next Mormons: How Millennials Are Changing the LDS Church.
Those similarities include the main reason she has said in prior interviews that she left the Church in her mid-twenties: LGBT issues. As she told the UK Independent in 2017:
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For a lot of years, I put it to the back of my mind. I think it was too unsettling. If something like religion is part of your foundation, and then suddenly you start questioning that—it’s quite a confronting thing to deal with.
Even before the Civil Union Bill came up [in 2004], I lived in a flat with three gay friends and I was still going to church every so often...
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