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