Mormon leader Russell Nelson labels Jacinda Ardern 'courageous consensus-builder'

The president of the Mormon Church has praised Jacinda Ardern's leadership despite her stepping away from the faith more than a decade ago. 

The Prime Minister was labelled "courageous" and a "young mother leading a great nation, a peacemaker, policymaker, [and] a consensus-builder". 

Russell Nelson, president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormonism) made the comments following a meeting with Ardern in Wellington this week. 

"I think the world will discover a real leader here," Nelson's quoted saying in an article posted on the church's official website about his meeting with Ardern. 

"It's an unlikely scenario - a young mother leading a great nation, a peacemaker, a policymaker, consensus giver. We're very impressed with her. She'll have a great future."

Ardern, 38, was raised as Mormon growing up in Morrinsville in the Waikato. But she left the church in 2005 describing it as conflicting with her personal views, particularly around her support for gay rights. 

The church has opened up a bit to the LGBTQI+ community. It announced last month it would no longer consider same-sex couples "apostates" and would allow their children to be baptized into the church.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern shaking hands with Russell Nelson, president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern shaking hands with Russell Nelson, president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Photo credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

In a statement at the time, the church said it wanted to "reduce the hate and contention so common today", by getting rid of the former policy, announced in 2015, that had angered liberal and LGBTQI+ Mormons. 

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister said she had a productive meeting with Mormon Church representatives, but would not disclose what was discussed. 

She said the Prime Minister strongly believes that people must be free to choose and follow their own beliefs and religion, free form persecution and threats of violence. 

Nelson said the pair discussed the diverse population in New Zealand, and the struggles that nations face around the world in finding ways for people with different points of view to learn to live with one another. 

The global faith leader said the church would be making contributions to the mosques targeted in the March 15 Christchurch terror attack "to help them repair from their damages". 

"We're clearly sensitive to what happened there, and our hearts were broken when we heard about the tragedy that took place and the loss of life, and so the Church is reaching out."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Russell Nelson, president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Russell Nelson, president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Photo credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The Prime Minister's Christchurch Call agreement was discussed in the meeting, in which 16 nations and eight technology companies signed a pledge in Paris to try and eliminate terrorist content from the internet. 

Facebook announced last week it would block users who violate rules from livestreaming, a Facebook feature the alleged gunman used during his attack, in which 51 people died. 

Mormon Church member Elder Gerrit Gong, who attended the meeting, said: "There needs to be a balance between religious freedom and the ability to speak out."

He said the Prime Minister raised concern about the need for social media to be used responsibly, "particularly when it involves what children might see". 

"That's something the Prime Minister was concerned about. She and President Nelson had a very important dialogue on that."

Mormons believe in the Bible, as well as other books of scripture, such as the Book of Mormon. They believe that all people are spirit-children of God. 

Newshub.

Contact Newshub with your story tips:
news@newshub.co.nz