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The Latest: Mormons diversify leadership and make history

March 31, 2018

About 1,000 Mormons and former Mormons march to the church's headquarters in Salt Lake City on Friday, March 30, 2018, to deliver petitions demanding an end to one-on-one interviews between Mormon youth and lay leaders and the sexual questions that sometimes arise during the meetings. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints changed policy this week to allow children to bring a parent or adult with them if they choose. The protesters say that doesn't go far enough. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Latest on Mormon conference in Utah (all times local):

10:35 a.m.

The Mormon church has made history and injected diversity into a top leadership panel by selecting the first-ever Latin American apostle and the first-ever apostle of Asian ancestry.

The selections of Ulisses Soares of Brazil and Gerrit W. Gong, a Chinese-American, were announced Saturday morning at the start of a twice-annual conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

They join a panel called the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles that before Saturday was made up entirely of white men from the U.S. with the exception of one German, Dieter Uchtdorf.

The all-male panel sits below church President Russell M. Nelson and his two counselors and helps set church policy and oversees the faith’s business interests.

The selections of Soares and Gong are likely to trigger applause from a contingent of Mormons who were anxious to see the faith’s global footprint represented in leadership. Soares and Gong were serving in a lower-level leadership panel for the church.

More than half of the religion’s 16 million members live outside the United States.

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1:02 a.m.

A Mormon conference that kicks off Saturday in Utah ushers in a new era of leadership for the church as its new president presides over the gathering for the first time and two men are picked for seats on a top governing body.

The conference also comes amid heightened scrutiny about the faith’s handling of sexual abuse reports and one-on-one interviews between local lay leaders and youth.

Church members and scholars are closely watching to see if the Utah-based religion adds diversity to its top leadership tier that is made up of entirely of white men from the U.S. with the exception of one German.

More than half of the religion’s 16 million members live outside the United States.

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