On Sunday night The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued an official statement in response to the recent violence in Charlottesville – decrying racism. I blogged about it here.
Beginning that same night, and spanning through Tuesday morning a very unanticipated thing happened.
I’m depressed to learn there are a bunch of alt-right white supremacist Mormons in our midst who felt emboldened by the Church’s generic statement on Sunday, choosing to twist the meaning to condone their own white supremacist ideals. You can read the blow by blow gritty details, including a sampling of the racist tweets here.
Watching all of this go down Monday on Twitter left me feeling shock and dismay. I was following tweets from our dear Sistas in Zion and my friend BCC among others who were noticing the uprising in our ranks, and sounding the alarm!
The Church noticed, too.
And the Church responded. In a VERY BIG way – with their second statement in less than 48 hours.
UPDATE: Tuesday, August 15, 2017
The Church has released the following statement:
It has been called to our attention that there are some among the various pro-white and white supremacy communities who assert that the Church is neutral toward or in support of their views.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
In the New Testament, Jesus said: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:37–39).
The Book of Mormon teaches “all are alike unto God” (2 Nephi 26:33).
White supremacist attitudes are morally wrong and sinful, and we condemn them. Church members who promote or pursue a “white culture” or white supremacy agenda are not in harmony with the teachings of the Church.
There’s a saying in the church – “reproving betimes with sharpness.” (D&C 121:43)
Yesterday was definitely one of those “betimes”.
The Church’s statement is arguably the strongest anti-racism message ever released to date. Because they’re not just saying that racism is bad, and we need to be kinder and gentler to each other. They’re saying that if you are a Latter-day Saint who promotes a White-is-better philosophy, then your membership is on the line.
Racism does NOT belong in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Being White is not special, nor does it make a person “celestial”. There are some very pervasive, antiquated beliefs that persist among Latter-day Saints. We have false ideas that need to be eradicated – particularly among our white North American Mormon culture enclave.
- The idea that dark skin is “a curse.” = False.
- The belief that when everyone is resurrected we will all be white. = False.
- The belief that the priesthood was withheld for a good reason. = False.
In the mid 2000s the Church released several detailed research papers in a spirit of transparency addressing the more controversial topics surrounding Mormon history. In 2013 a paper was published about the racial inequality issues that existed in the church until June 8, 1978 – published at its own Race and The Priesthood webpage. I wager that the majority of Church members have not read nor internalized the significance of this paper. In summary, our founding prophet Joseph Smith was against slavery (in an age of American history that was very pro-slavery), and he spoke out against racism. The temple endowment and priesthood ordination was issued to blacks in Nauvoo. It was only later with his successor Brigham Young that restrictions began to be imposed – first, with the denying of priesthood ordination to black men, and then subsequent prophets denying temple blessings to both male and female blacks. The church now freely admits that these restrictions were based on culture, not doctrine.
“Over time, Church leaders and members advanced many theories to explain the priesthood and temple restrictions. None of these explanations is accepted today as the official doctrine of the Church.”
– excerpt from Race and The Priesthood
It’s time to rethink our history, debunk old ideas, and tear down the walls we’ve built to define ourselves. We must accept that as individuals and as a church, we have been wrong about race.
And this doesn’t suddenly mean that the Church “isn’t true” – it simply means The Lord is helping all of His imperfect children inhabiting His Church to grow up.
In 1978 we made a big leap up when the Priesthood was made available to all worthy males regardless of color, and temple blessings were given to all worthy male and female members.
And now, the time has come for us to collectively stretch ourselves to a much higher, better place. That means we need to be prepared to leave all our old mores, comfort zones, traditions and thinking errors behind.
“Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects unrighteous actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form.”
– excerpt from Race and The Priesthood
I am sad to say that as the proverbial white middle class Utah Mormon I was conditioned from a young age with a ‘white superiority complex’. It is something that I now recognize, and I work hard to REJECT the way my brain was programmed.
- The color of my skin means nothing.
- I am not better, nor blessed, nor “more chosen” to have white skin.
- The color of someone else’s skin means nothing.
- They are not worse, nor less blessed, nor “less chosen” because they have [fill in the blank] skin.
I suspect that the church is going to be hitting this subject VERY HARD in the coming weeks and months. At least I really hope they will! Perhaps a letter from the First Presidency will be read over the pulpits of our congregations. Perhaps the issue will be discussed in our upcoming General Conference sessions (September 23, 30, Oct 1). It is time to change our minds about who we are as individuals, and as a collective. It’s time to open our understanding about the world – what it means to be a human being / Child of God, and what the Gospel of Jesus Christ really means.
LDS Church members attending a meeting [courtesy MormonNewsroom]
I think it can actually become a good thing that all the ugly darkness lurking in the hearts of our fellow citizens and Saints have been so dramatically exposed and brought into the light over the past 72 hours. Because, you cannot start working on a treatment until you have the diagnoses. And you cannot eliminate a cancer until you find the tumor.
We have to face racism now – and deal with it head on. As Americans, we are not doing well dealing with racism. In fact, it seems we are sliding backward fast. However, as members of Christ’s Church, the Lord is asking us to stand up, and to be examples to the world in how to overcome racism. We have received a call to serve as leaders regarding racism for a nation in crises and a world spiraling out of control consumed with hate.
Each of us must ask ourselves how we will answer the call.
Church members and friends in Havana, Cuba, pose for a photograph with Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles on June 15, 2014 [MormonNewsroom]
P.S. Jesus Wasn’t White
In December 2002 Popular Mechanics did a cover story called “The Real Face of Jesus.” It was a sensational title designed to grab attention, but nevertheless, a very interesting article. Using forensic anthropology, scientists and archaeologists joined forces to investigate what a first-century Galilean Semite might have looked like. Then they commissioned a medical artist named Richard Neave to do a 3D rendering. A lot of detailed research went into the project which you can read about in the article. But, in the end, here is the final rendition.
This image pretty much debunks every Western European Christian & Mormon artist’s rendition I’ve ever seen – not to mention all the classic Hollywood and Church movie depictions that we’ve grown up with. So, now that we’ve been offered an image that is much more scientifically and culturally accurate, can we look at this image with peace in our hearts and allow our mind to consider the possibilities? Can we allow ourselves to realize that we have been completely wrong about who our Savior really was?
- Jesus did not have blue eyes.
- Jesus did not have white skin.
- Jesus did not have long flowing locks with blonde highlights.
- Jesus did not speak English.
Jesus was a poor refugee child growing up in a foreign land [Egypt] – surrounded by people with a different culture, language, religion and skin color from his own. As a child, he would have played with and made friendships with those children. Later, he was a poor migrant worker, immigrating across the border with his family. Once again, adjusting to a new life and culture.
“He was rejected. Despised. A man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.” (Isaiah)
I find it incredibly ironic – baffling even – that the White Supremacists, the KKK, the alt-right American racists dare profess to be Christians when they obviously don’t know anything about Jesus Christ – who he really was, the life he lived, or the doctrine that he preached.
I pause and search my own soul. Am I representing Jesus Christ in my daily walk? Do my words and actions bring me closer or farther away from Him?
We have much to ponder, to learn, and to change! It may seem like an overwhelming calling to dissolve generations of racism. But, we can start where we are, take a stand, and trust that with God, nothing is impossible. – MoSop
Bravo! What a great post. When I was in the 11th grade, they started intergrating the schools. There was a little protesting in the southwest area of the county, but none where I lived in the east end of Louisville, KY. We are usually considered to be a semi southern state. My mother was from New Orleans, enough said, but nothing really had been said about color in our house. I went to a school of about 2,000 students, and when the black students came, nothing bad happened. There were black athletes who played football and basketball, and were generally accepted by the other players. The officials at the school decided that we should have a black cheerleader, so they put this one girl on the squad. My sister was on the squad, and she said everyone liked her. That was back in 1958, and it seemed that people got along better then, than now. I know that the KKK was around then, but not active as far north. It seems that now, they’re everywhere.
That rendering of Jesus reminds me of an episode of All in the Family. Archie Bunker gets locked in someones basement and thinks he is dying or already dead, when someone knocks on the outside door. When the door opens, it’s Sammy Davis, Jr. and Archie is shocked, because he thinks it’s God. I have a feeling a lot of people will be shocked when they get to Heaven, if they get to Heaven. There’s a line from an old gospel hymn that says everybody talkin’ bout Heaven ain’t goin’ there. I’m afraid that’s the way it will be. Not everyone who professes to be a Christian is. Sad but true. I went to a class at a church I was interested in joining, won’t name the denomination, and in the lesson that week was the scripture John 14:6, Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. The woman who was leading the class asked me what I thought it meant. I said it means what it says. You only go to Heaven through faith in Jesus Christ and what he did on the cross. She looked shocked and said well, that’s not necessarily true. I said, that’s what the Bible says, and she informed me that you can’t always believe the Bible. Needless to say, I moved on. Your skin color or race or anything else, doesn’t determine your worth to God. God so loved THE WORLD that He gave His only begotten Son. I believe that includes everyone.
Sorry this is so long. I just get stirred up discussing this subject.
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I always enjoy your comments Lynne! 🙂 Thanks for sharing.
I haven’t read your blog in a VERY long time. I am so thankful, though, that I did read this one. Some of those So-called Mormon white supremacist bloggers have been n my mind for the past few weeks, and I have been appalled that they have continued their racist rants without notice from Church leadership. Well, they’ve been noticed now. Thank you for standing on the side of truth! BTW, I love this rendition of Jesus. I need to blow it up and frame it for my home.
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Thanks for reading, and for standing with me! 👍
P.S. I’m reblogging this.
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Beautiful post! Thank you! Totally sharing.
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Thank you, Holly. You are a blessing to all of us.
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White supremacist attitudes are just an extreme expression of tribalism and tribalism affects us all. We could invent the word familyism to represent the family as a small tribe to whom we hold very fierce allegiance. Then we might talk about churchylism representing the bigger tribe to which we belong and of course Americanism as separate from globalism. We would do well to read the parable of The Good Samaritan and think again about just what tribe we are members of.
In today’s world we live amongst the whole of living creation and many are concerned with the animal tribes that share our planet . What does the Bible have to say about this modern dilemma?
Kertsen, Thanks for your comment. These are interesting thoughts to ponder.
In God’s plan, there is no allowance for “Supreme-ism” (or any other kind of “elite-ism”).
The scriptures record our Savior Jesus Christ teaching that the two greatest commandments are to
1. Love God and
2. Love our Neighbor as ourselves.
As you have pointed out, the parable of the Good Samaritan was given to illustrate “who” our neighbor is (anyone & everyone) and what it means to love our neighbor “as ourselves” (caring for others as we would want others to care for us). No matter who we meet along our path in life, how different they are from us, or how we have been taught to “hate” – we must humble ourselves, and remember that all are children of God. All are our brothers and sisters. All are worthy of kindness and acceptance in our “earth family”.
As for the animal kingdom, they are part of God’s mighty creations. The Bible teaches that God gave mankind “stewardship [not ownership] over all the earth”. We are accountable for how we use these gifts, and we must not abuse them. We have a sacred duty to protect and conserve (not destroy and consume), and to “till and take care of [the earth]” using its resources wisely. God’s kindness extends to all of His creations. If He knows the “fall of a tiny sparrow”, then He certainly knows each of our needs – and as the scriptures teach: “In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.”
With this in mind, we would do well to feel tremendous reverence for all life. Knowing that every breath we take is a gift – and those breaths come with an expiration date – encourages us to walk humbly and peaceably during the time we have here.
A great reply and one that is almost impossible to fulfil but which must be attempted. It seems to me that our western civilisation is based on the old testament ‘ an eye for an eye ‘ which in terms of justice makes much more sense . I believe Jesus Christ was a Jew by birth but a Universalist by nature.
Human nature is such that we always tend to put ourselves first and perhaps it is good for our survival , it could be that in our tribal past such behaviour was essential and is now hard-wired into us.