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.