Why are there so many Latter-day Saint ambassadors? (2023)

At the end of Richard Swett's three-year tenure as US Ambassador to Denmark, the Swett family was honored with a farewell reception at the Embassy in Copenhagen, attended by over 1,000 Danish public figures.

Amid formalities and farewells, many of the dignitaries and diplomats who met Richard and his wife Katrina at the ambassador's residence expressed their affection for the couple's children, particularly Swett's youngest daughter, whom he often interrupted on official occasions, and the granddaughter Rushed downstairs her pajamas and goes to the home library to ask her mother to wrap up and pray at night.

"It's become something of a tradition," Katrina said. "I think having a big family, and having a family where family was the most important thing, was a way to just share what was most important to us through example and presence."

The Danish press and diplomatic class immediately took notice and, according to Katrina, reacted positively to the new Ambassador's large family (seven children, aged between 3 and 14) and his affiliation with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day. saints.

Since Swett's return from Denmark in 2001, the number of Latter-day Saints in the foreign service has grown steadily, from low-level officials to US ambassadors, serving in some of the most difficult and strategic positions, even in the Middle East. . , where a trio of Brigham Young University graduates served in ambassadorial roles for several years.

According to former U.S. ambassadors and other foreign policy experts, reasons for the strong representation of Latter-day Saints in the Foreign Service are likely the Church's emphasis on sending young people on missions from around the world, the success of international relations and language programs in the ChurchflagshipBrigham Young University and the civic values ​​fostered by Latter-day Saint faith.

Presentation in the past and present

Church leader and prominent attorney J. Reuben Clark Jr. served as U.S. Ambassador toMexicofrom 1930 to 1933 when it was like thatconsistentas Second Counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In the decades that followed, other Latter-day Saints served in senior positions at the State Department, includingDavid m Kennedywho served as US Ambassador to NATO from 1972 to 1973. But it wasn't until the late 2000s that aTrendthe growing representation of Latter-day Saints has become clearer.

In 2009, former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman Jr. was appointed US Ambassador to China. hunter goneFluidin Mandarin thanks to the two-year mission he served in Taiwan as a young man. A few years later, in 2017, he was appointed ambassador to Russia, becoming the first US ambassador to serve as chief of mission to both countries.

During those same years, veteran diplomats attending BYU became a pillar in the implementation of US policy in the Middle East.

Robert "Steve" Beecroft, a BYU graduate who previously served as Executive Assistant to Secretary of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, was appointed U.S. Ambassador to Jordan in 2008, followed by Embassies in Iraq and Egypt in 2012 and 2017, respectively ...

Beecroft's posts coincided with those of two other BYU graduates: Deborah Jones and Matthew Tueller. Jones served as Ambassador to Kuwait from 2008 to 2011 and Ambassador to Libya from 2013 to 2015. Tueller served successively as ambassador to Kuwait, Yemen and Iraq from 2011 to 2022.

Current U.S. Ambassadors for Latter-day Saints include:Jeff Scale, the former Arizona Senator who was appointed ambassador to Turkey in 2021; Thomas Udall, former Senator from New Mexico, was appointed ambassador to New Zealand in the same year; Jeffrey Hoenier, a professional member of the Foreign Service who was appointed Ambassador to Kosovo in 2022; and Elizabeth Fitzsimmons, who was also named ambassador to the African nation of Togo in 2022.

While the number of senior diplomatic posts held by Latter-day Saints has increased, the total number of Church members in the foreign service is more difficult to pin down. The government agency does not record religious status. But there are many stories about American Latter-day Saints who have returned from missions and wanted to serve their country.

„Id a servir“

Without his posts in France and Belgium, Gregory Newell, US Ambassador to Sweden from 1985 to 1989, might never have set foot in the world of foreign policy.

His mission, Newell said, inspired him to love "the riches of mankind." After receiving a B.A. in Political Science and International Relations from BYUthe youngestAssistant Secretary of State for United States History under President Ronald Reagan. In this role, Newell was responsible for formulating policy for nearly a hundred international organizations and conducted diplomatic missions to over 60 countries around the world.

“As a (church) missionary, you represent a culture, a set of beliefs that are not your own but a higher purpose, in this case the gospel of Jesus Christ. In diplomacy, it's very similar to representing the principles, policies and interests of a national government like the United States to a foreign people around the world who have different views and different histories," he said. new.

This parallel between missionary work and foreign service is also shared by Valerie Hudson, Professor of George H.W. Bush at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M and a Deseret News contributor. He has taught international affairs at BYU for over 20 years.

"There's absolutely a connection there," Hudson said. “Missionary work requires a successful missionary to be open and appreciative of new things, to have a pleasant and kind demeanor, and to be able to find common ground with others from different cultures. This is what missionaries do every day, and these are certainly the basic skills you need to be a successful diplomat, a successful member of the Foreign Service.”

Brigham Young University where more than6 von 10Students are returned missionaries, it has long been one of the best places to study for future diplomats. From 2013 to 2020, BYU ranked10outperforms Harvard, which ranks 11th, among the universities that sent the most students into the foreign service. And last year, BYU was No.1in the country for recipients of the Boren Scholarship, one of America's most prestigious national safety awards.

But BYU's true strength lies in its languages. the university producesmoreForeign language graduates like no other and has one of theto enhance Arabicaprograms in the country. Matthew Tueller, who spent a decade as US ambassador in some of the Middle East's most diplomatically demanding posts, was one of themfirstfour students in BYU's Arabic program and is rumored to speak some Arabic.to enhanceArabs in the Foreign Service.

a lasting effect

While foreign service officials are tasked with implementing Washington policy, their personal values ​​are often reflected in the way they interact with government leaders and local residents.

“Latter-day Saints are good citizens of the lands in which they live. So I believe that public service and civic engagement are truly ingrained values ​​in our lives,” said Cory Leonard, associate director of the David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies at BYU.

For the Newells, welcoming their fifth child so soon after arriving in Sweden was enough to make people question their personal values. That initial excitement was repeated again when Newell was recognized as part of his home teaching efforts in Stockholm's first church for helping local people move and clean carpets.

During their three and a half years in Sweden, the Newell family also used public family concerts to connect with the people there. The children, all under the age of seven, sang, followed by a piano performance by Newell's wife, Candilyn, who had played professionally from a young age. At the end of the event, Newell gave a short presentation on family life.

Just days before leaving Sweden, the Newells attended a diverse gathering of more than 100 members of Sweden's elite, from members of the royal family to ministers and local Church leaders, including stake, temple, and mission presidents and theirs Women. The unlikely group gathered at Villa Åkerlund, the US Ambassador's residence in Stockholm, to hear the family's latest show.

Newell recalls his surprise when Prince Bertil, a member of the Swedish Royal Family and the King's representative, stood up at the end of the event to express his appreciation for the family's example.

"You will always be remembered in our hearts," the prince said, according to Newell. "Not because of what you did in the palace, not because of what you did in Itamaraty across the country, but because of what we have observed about your family. You taught us lessons that we somehow lost long ago.

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