Mormon Church Selects British Man Who Converted To The Faith As An Adult For Top Governing Body

FILE - Elder Patrick Kearon gives the keynote address at the Religious Freedom Annual Review at the BYU Conference Center in Provo, Utah, on Wednesday, June 19, 2019.   The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced Friday, Dec. 8, 2023, Kearon, the newest member of the faith's top governing body to fill a vacancy when a member died last month will be a man raised in England who had been previously serving on a middle tier leadership council. (Scott G Winterton/The Deseret News via AP)
FILE - Elder Patrick Kearon gives the keynote address at the Religious Freedom Annual Review at the BYU Conference Center in Provo, Utah, on Wednesday, June 19, 2019. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced Friday, Dec. 8, 2023, Kearon, the newest member of the faith's top governing body to fill a vacancy when a member died last month will be a man raised in England who had been previously serving on a middle tier leadership council. (Scott G Winterton/The Deseret News via AP)
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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced Friday that a man raised in England who converted to the faith as an adult will be the newest member of its top governing body, filling a vacancy created when a member died last month.

Patrick Kearon, 62, becomes the first new member since 2018 named to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who serve lifetime appointments helping to oversee the business interests and global development of the faith known widely as the Mormon church. Quorum members are under the church president and his two top counselors, and all 15 of those leaders are men in accordance with the all-male priesthood.

“This sacred call is so very daunting and humbling to me,” Kearon said in a statement Friday.

Kearon’s selection was not unexpected, said Mormon scholar Matthew Bowman, who called the new apostle a rising star widely beloved among the faithful. It’s rare, however, for the president to select an apostle who converted rather than someone whose family has been in the church for generations, he said.

Most members of the Quorum have been on a leadership track for most of their lives, “and that means then that people who join the church as adults tend to not get on that conveyor belt,” said Bowman, a religion professor at Claremont Graduate Universities. The church has also historically given preference to senior leaders who served missions — a milestone that Kearon missed due to joining later in life.

Like most new appointees, Kearon served as the senior president of a middle-tier leadership council called the Presidency of the Seventy, often a stepping stone to higher office. He is well known for his 2016 speech urging compassion for refugees fleeing war-torn parts of the Middle East and Africa.

Kearon was born in the city of Carlisle in the Cumbria area of northwest England and was raised in the United Kingdom and the Middle East, according to his church biography.

He said he gained an appreciation for the faith when he lived briefly in California with a Latter-day Saint family and was baptized by missionaries he met a few years later in his mid-20s, in London.

Before climbing the ranks of church leadership, he ran his own communications consultancy and served on the boards of charities, schools and an enterprise agency.

He fills the seat of M. Russell Ballard, who died last month at 95. As the second-longest tenured member of the Quorum, Ballard was second-in-line to become church president. The longest-tenured member becomes the new president in a longstanding tradition meant to ensure a smooth transfer of power.

The church made history with its last two appointees in 2018, when the first Latin American and Asian apostles were selected for the previously all-white Quorum.

With Kearon’s appointment, all three new additions to the Quorum made by President Russell Nelson have been international. More than half the faith’s 17 million members live outside the United States, according to church statistics.

“I think it speaks to the fact that Nelson is very much oriented towards making the church more international and rooting its future and its vitality in the international arena rather than the United States,” Bowman said.