Thursday, January 17, 2013

Representation Among the Leadership

Out of morbid curiosity, I spent some time poking around the church's website, looking through the little bios they have on the general authorities.  I'd been thinking again about how the church was run by old white men, and I wondered how many of these old white men were also from Utah.  I started counting, and counting turned into full-blown research, and before I knew it, I'd embarked on a project whose scope was spiraling wildly out control.

But eventually, I came up with this:
Mormon Info Graphics is better at this stuff

This crudely-created Microsoft Paint graphic depicts the general authorities of the church (in descending order of seniority), color-coded by birthplace.  I managed to confirm my suspicion that there is, mathematically speaking, a buttload of general authorities from Utah and its surrounding areas.  And the Big 15 almost entirely consists of Americans (especially Utahns), with the sole exception of Dieter F. Uchtdorf.  

So then I poked around on the Mormon Newsroom to get some membership statistics.  I was curious about how well the different parts of the world were reflected among the church leadership.  Here's what I found:

So almost thirty-five percent of the church's general authorities hail from a state which only contains thirteen percent of the worldwide membership.  That seems pretty skewed to me.  What's more interesting, however, is that the three regions of the world that are over-represented (Utah, its bordering states and Europe) are all regions that have predominantly caucasian inhabitants.  South America, for example, provides the church with almost a quarter of its total membership yet merits only eleven percent of its leadership.  Asia and Africa also have a lower share of the leadership than of the membership.  

It's weird that a church that is criticized for its racism over-represents Europe and under-represents Africa.  You'd think they'd want to do the exact opposite to support the claim that the church is not racist (especially since only one of the two authorities born in Africa is even black).  It's also strange that worthy Priesthood holders seem to be found in such higher concentration near the church headquarters than anywhere else in the world.  

I suppose, to be fair from a statistical standpoint, some of these parts of the world aren't really under-represented.  Africa's variance between membership share and leadership share is less than half a percent--but that translates to less than one general authority.  If one more African general authority were to be called, the continent would suddenly be over-represented.  When it's close enough to come down to only one individual, it's not really fair to say that Africa doesn't have its share.  But you'd still think the church, which is so focused on outward appearances, would want to appoint a few more leaders of less-white backgrounds to shed its image of racism.  

Joseph Sitati, the lone black general authority, is not the first.  The first was Helvecio Martins, who was called in 1990 and released in 1995--fourteen years before Sitati was called.  It's like the church really isn't even trying to appear racially unbiased.  Or, based on the other information, geographically unbiased.  There's clearly a gender bias, since a full hundred percent of the general authorities are, well, male. Considering only two of the general authorities are under the age of fifty (because nobody's ever heard of a religious leader under the age of forty who ever amounted to anything), there's a pretty obvious age bias. And if I had more information at my fingertips, I might be able to demonstrate that the church is also economically biased.  

After judging prospective leaders based on where they live, what sex they are, what race they are, what age they are and how rich they are, what's left to judge?  Has anybody done a statistical analysis on the apostles' shoe sizes?  Because that seems about as relevant.

Considering the church claims to be the same one established by a penniless Jew from the middle east who died before he hit forty and restored by a poor farm boy from the other side of the globe who also died before he hit forty, you'd think they'd be less selective when they call general authorities.  I guess I don't have a good historical example to counter the sexism thing, but the point is that the church is not only an oligarchy of mostly rich old white Utah men, but it's also separated itself from its own examples of leadership.

And, as a closing thought, I'd like to point out that, due to some mathematical discrepancies I found in the membership statistics provided by the Mormon Newsroom, I can only assume that the church has a burgeoning colony of eighteen thousand five hundred forty-three believers in Antarctica.

No comments:

Post a Comment