Day of Remembrance

I went to a dinner party last night at the house of some Haitian friends. It was a wonderful (if chaotic) time. Over the past few years, I’ve become acquainted with many Haitians and Haitian culture, and I am usually blown away by how kind, how wise, and how filled with enthusiasm for life, for friendships and family they are, even in the face of recurring tragedy. Visiting their country was an experience I’ll never forget.

Haitian Creole is a rich, expressive language, and Haitians are fond of expressing their collective wisdom in pithy proverbs. I’m always on the lookout to catch a new proverb, which invariably make me smile and chuckle with glee.

Some of my favorites are:

“That which doesn’t kill you makes you fat.”

“A little dog is very brave in front of his master’s house.”

“What happens to the turkey can happen to the rooster, too.”

“A leaky house can fool the sun, but it can’t fool the rain.”

“If it is God who sends you, he’ll pay your expenses.”

Last night, on the way home from spending the evening with our Haitian friends, I was suddenly struck by the thought that not long ago, our friends would have been taught in school and in Church that they did not deserve the same happiness and success that we did.

And, although those circumstances are almost incomprehensible to me now, today, on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, I am reminded of another Haitian proverb: “Sonje lapli ki leve mayi ou.”

Remember the rain that made your corn grow.

Comments

  1. Thank you, Elisabeth. I mourn that certain circles are slow to forget the hateful myths of the past. God bless Martin Luther King Jr.

  2. Amen.

    “A leaky house can fool the sun, but it can’t fool the rain.”

    This made me think about Birmingham, and how some people accused MLKJr of taking away their peaceful community, and his rejoinder that it really wasn’t as idyllic as they thought.

    I’m wearing my “Justice cannot prevail where prejudice exists” button today.

  3. Beautiful thoughts as always, Elisabeth.

    I consider myself very blessed to have been born at a time when I did not have to try to make sense of an existing anti-Black church policy. I really don’t know how I would have handled that trial.

  4. Elisabeth

    I am both intrigued and confused by your comments having considered many of your blogs as a fellow christian BUT not a morman. How is it you rationalise ascribing to a religion that has had at one point in time in its history, a strong anti black policy – where other christian religions – although far from having perfect practices, have always taught acceptance and tolerance and equality (as jesus did) which are key ‘christian’ values. Given that the first and foremost issue for us should be one of faith and christian values and it is our choice as to which religion or church we are a member of to share and practice such – what justification do you have for such anti christian teachings? Do you not question your ‘religion’ as opposed to your faith rather than simply look at the moment in your religions history, sigh and superficially brush it off with a poetic proverb or phrase? Having considered in detailed a previous blog on this site ‘Questions for Catholics’ I fear both Catholics and Mormans may at times fall victim to the same curse..placing more emphasis on a religion and its prescriptions, codes and rules rather than concentrating on the very foundations of their religions and what Jesus taught us without a defined religion – faith, christianity, love and goodwill to all, regardless of creed, colour, sins OR choice of religion!

  5. Sultan of Squirrels says:

    Clare, I know the question wasn’t aimed at me, but let me share my opinions. first off there is a good discussion on this a few weeks back. race and the church or something. second, I really struggled with this issue my whole life. I could deal with Polygamy and all other “issues” but this one made me really doubt. I almost decided to leave the church. I looked into other churches (and realized they all practiced hatred of blacks, it was unfortunately [understatement] very prevalent back then) then I realized I didn’t have to accept it as from God, I believe it was a mistake, a HUGE mistake. I love the doctrines that this church was started on. Continued revelation, Eternal Progression, Familys being together forever. they “speak peace to my soul” I agree with your final statement. If everyone lived by those rules this Earth would be perfect. anyway, I can understand your confusion, but those are my thoughts in a nutshell.

  6. Sultan of Squirrels says:

    oh yeah, God bless Martin Luther King Jr. that man did more for this country and even this world than most men ever have or will have.

  7. Elisabeth says:

    Clare – I completely agree with your last sentence.

    Additionally, I’ve been thinking today how unfortunate it is that Mormons, once a persecuted minority themselves, have been slow to come to the aid of blacks, and other similarly persecuted minorities. I’m not sure how to explain this, but as the Mormon church grows into a true worldwide church, racial and cultural diversity will, I hope, be celebrated rather than scorned.

  8. Kaimi, me too.

  9. Thanks Elisabeth, for reminding us to be thankful for those who dream dreams and have visions.

  10. Clare – I’m a little late coming to the table (it being Tuesday already) but I wanted to comment on your comments. Your assertion that other Christian religions “have always taught acceptance and tolerance and equality (as jesus did)” is not necessarily true. I could cite hundreds of examples but I will relate a story that I am personally familiar with that showed the hypocricy of other religions. In 1976, Morris Udall, an inactive Mormon – but a Mormon nevertheless, was running for President. Coleman Young, the black mayor of Detroit, was introducing Jimmy Carter to a group of supporters and he was contrasting Mr. Carter to other Democratic candidates. When he came to Morris Udall’s name he said he was “a man whose church won’t let you in the back door.” I was stunned by this comment because while it is true that the church at that time barred blacks from holding the priesthood it was also just as true that Jimmy Carter’s specific Baptist Congregation in Plains, GA prohibited black members as well. The Mormon Church has never blocked membership in the church but “other Christian religions” have done that very thing. I will NEVER try to defend the church’s position on blacks and the priesthood but I will always defend their reputation when it is being unfairly compared to other religions. That day in June, 1978, was the greatest day of my life in the church and I know that as we continue to expand worldwide, age old prejudices will eventually disappear and we will see all of God’s children as our brothers and sisters. Martin Luther King sacrificed his life that we might all learn from his teachings. May we all continue to honor his sacrifice by the lives we live.

  11. These responses to me I think say it all and I will make one final (albeit lenghty) response – hopefully food for thought – before leaving this discussion

    Sultan of squirrels – Unfortunately, as a pure matter of history you are incorrect. Not all churche’s actual doctrines promoted and practiced hatred of blacks – people of these religions may have but there are religions whose doctrines and principles of faith NEVER have promoted such as the Morman doctrine has.

    Kris please remember…Dreams and visions are wonderful and they are hope we must always have – but they are nothing if all people do is talk about them and never do anything to make those dreams even somewhat of a reality. It is a luxury afforded to the privileged, fortunate and NON disadvantaged in our society to talk about dreams and visions in such a way – if all the privileged in our society do is merely sit and talk about dreams in an aim to promote a religion (whichever denomination)and make themselves feel better, but continue to support a religion that has and does promote doctrines that are non christian, are faithless and succeed in crushing those dreams and visions…it is but mere rhetoric to make one feel better about their lack of action.

    Elisabeth, your response further concerns me if you strongly believe in the religion you promote. How can you brush off these comments with a mere ‘it is unfortunate and i cant explain’ and then ask people not to scorn. I was genuinely hoping for a more encouaging explanation from you or reason not to scorn! With the utmost respect, it concerns me that someone who appears so well regarded by her fellow Mormans (given your volume of blog contributions and apparent involvement in the church) feels it satisfactory to simply state that and in the next breathe promote the spread of your religion and a reduction in slander – without giving a basis for it – What message is this sending to people who read your blogs..that this sort of doctrine doesnt need explanation and because people have now rejected it that it is ok. I am currently non denminational but if i was considering becoming a morman as a way to manifest my faith, your response would have provided me no encouragement. If one practices a religion only for the benefit of others who are of that religion, how does it serve the purpose of your religions doctrines?

    The question I am left asking is: are these blogs useful for those interested in learning about your religion and having very worthwhile discussions about faith! Are they a real attempt to promote ‘Christ’ianity, love, faith and God among ALL people OR are they merely self promoting platforms for individuals and a type of religion and a mutual admiration society.

    The one lesson i feel everyone should learn, regardless of their religion is that it is PEOPLE not a faith that makes mistakes and acts unchristian like. Maybe then in choice of religion, people will cast aside the human error of implementation by those in positions of authority (who are only human) and focus on the actual original doctrines and faith a religion espouses, before promoting it. And, if they choose to ascribe to a religion where humans have created faithless doctrines or been responsible for non christian acts in the past,(which in the context of christian forgiveness is plausible) that they do not raise themselves on a platform to harshly and hypocritically critisise other religions for human error (rather than doctrine or faith error) in an attempt to promote their own religion (eg the morman v catholic blog which appalled me from both sides)

    Christianity as a true faith (rather than a religious denomination) is so simple and should be the priority. I despair however in the fact that so many blindly follow and promote a ‘religion’ and its doctrines even where such doctrines contradict the very foundations and Gods simple rule for eternal life ‘love one another as i have loved you’…

  12. Lamonte

    In a true christian religion, its expansion worldwide should not be the cuase of the dissapearance of its age old prejudices …they should never exist and should not be accepted, defended or excused by those who practice and promote that religion. There should never be a time that you dont see all of God’s children as our brothers and sisters….EVER You will note that i have not promoted any other particular denomination but merely promoted true faith and christianity and asked all..of any denomination..to properly question the absense of such in a religion rather than points score as a comparator with other religions.

  13. Clare – I’m not sure that you’re still checking in on this thread, but I’d like to respond to your statements anyway. First, you say that it is a “PEOPLE not a faith that makes mistakes and acts unchristian like”. Amen. This is why I said that I found it unfortunate that many Mormons did not fully rise to the occasion and act to help others who were being persecuted. Mormon doctrine in fact states very clearly that we have an obligation to help others. Unfortunately, many individual Mormons decided to ignore this, or interpreted the doctrine differently. This was, as you say, “unchristian like”.

    Second, you say that I “promote the spread of your religion and a reduction in slander – without giving a basis for it”. The basis for this hope is that, with the spread of Mormonism to other countries (which I was stating as a fact, rather than as a promotion), Mormons will be forced to reconcile their abstract discomfort with people of different races and backgrounds through positive interactions with our brothers and sisters in the Church from all over the world. People, in their very human failings (as you noted), enjoy categorizing and stereotyping people of certain races and backgrounds as inferior. I’m not sure why, but this seems to be a universal human trait. I think perhaps because Mormons have historically been isolated and comprised of one particular race, that it is more difficult for Mormons to appreciate racial and cultural diversity (I’m speculating here).

    Third, you ask whether the blogs are “useful for those interested in learning about your religion and having very worthwhile discussions about faith” or “self promoting platforms for individuals and a type of religion and a mutual admiration society”. While I hope blogs fall into the former rather than the latter category, I would urge you not to take what you read here as doctrine or representative of the Church in general. Some of the discussions here are productive and worthwhile, but many discussions are simply personal observations made off the cuff. However, if you’d like to talk more about a particular issue or concept, I’d be happy to talk with you (or point you in the direction to someone who could answer your questions).

  14. Clare – I started to write a response to your comment as adefense of my religion but decided that would be the wrong approach. Of course you are correct to state that a true Christian relgion should not have to rid itself of prejudice … “they should never exist and should not be accepted, defended or excused by those who practice and promote that religion.” I pray that we can all live by that standard and failing that I hope we can all be tolerant of those who still need the tutelage of God’s spirit and the experience of life to help them reach that goal.

  15. I find it interesting that today in the South (especially) the one area of life that remains most segregated is the churches. Even today it is the norm that there are “black churches” and “white churches.” When I attended the funeral of the wife of a good friend of mine (who is black), the only white faces in the congregation (mine included) were his co-workers.

    And yet, the most completely integrated LDS congregation I have ever attended was the ward in Mongomery, Alabama in 1988. There were whites attending of every social class, and one of the most faithful of the black families was headed by a matriarch who wore a nightgown to church because that was the closest to a dress that she owned. It was a bit disorienting at first to hear “amen” and “halleluja” during the prayers and talks, but my wife and I grew to love the feeling of brotherhood that was there. Maybe I didn’t notice any differences in the congregation because we only lived there for a couple of months, but the short time we attended the Montgomery Ward remains one of the spiritual highlights of our married life.

    One of the reasons the early members were driven out of Missouri was the perception that they were abolitionists, and the locals feared that the Church would vote as a block to abolish slavery. In fact, one of Joseph Smith’s points in his run for the presidency was the abolition of slavery.

    There are fewer blacks in the ward we attend now, but one of the members of our High Priests’ Group is black. I take pride that the first black man ordained an Elder after the 1978 revelation lived only a few blocks from my home. Were there some bigots among the Church leadership over the years? Should the Church have been more proactive in the promotion of civil rights? Yes, but all together, I’ll take the history of the LDS church against any others.

  16. Elisabeth

    Humility or hypocrisy?

    I do not need to discuss as I am aware for the purposes of this discussion, of all i need to know.

    All i ask of you all is this – that your focus is genuinely on promoting worlwide essential christian beliefs and values and way of life rather than trying to establish a morman empire and that if you believe the morman religion is the way to do that..to ensure your religions doctrines are based only in these things and that you dont defend or excuse those that are not.

    You cannot excuse or defend those actions which deny christianity on the basis of a religion being one race…Jesus and God dont..why should mormans be allowed to.

    I am more concerned about the promotion of christian values and faith from a non denominational basis then per a particular religion.

    Afterall..it should be in the promotion and expansion of the religion that people are taught and embrace christian faiths and values (and cultural differences) and NOT the inclusion of other races by its expansion that teaches a religion about christianity. If you believe the latter, then it appears to be the wrong way round and your priority is to justify a man made religion rather than promote christian faith and value.

    This is not addressed only at Mormans but at all christian religions that allegedly promote christianity when their priority is actually to promote an imperialistic style of religion rather than faith.

  17. Lamonte thank you from the bottom of my heart.

    I do not defend the religion into which i was born (even though i think it has its good points) but i will to my death defend the faith and christian values that it taught me!! And i will continue to try to influence other peoples lives – who still need the tuelage about christianty..not on the platform of that religion but on the platform of the universal christian faith – humility, love and forgiveness rather than a..my religion is better than yours!!

  18. Hi Clare,

    Can I suggest a few thoughts?

    First, it’s MormOn. Two O’s.

    Second, I don’t know whether you’re aware that the church discontinued its priesthood ban in 1978. That doesn’t excuse the attitudes prior to that time. However, it’s misleading to suggest that the church currently has in place any kind of ban on the priesthood based on any racial lines.

    And third, it is absolutely clear that religious leaders of many different Christian sects have defended racism and slavery over the years. There are a number of sources one can turn to for this. Just to pull a few books out of my office bookcase, there is historian Paul Finkelman’s book Defending Slavery, which collects essays and works that were used to defend slavery. He cites an essay from Baptist minister A.T. Holmes, a piece from the southern journal De Bow’s Review, an essay from Baptist minister Thornton Stringfellow, and a report from the Episcopal convention. Or you can turn to the Dictionary of African-American Slavery (Miller & Smith) which sets out quite clearly that slavery (and attendant racist attitudes) were in many instances condoned by the major Christian religions. (See, e.g., entry on Catholicism; Baptist Church; and so on).

    This is not to condone the LDS church’s attitudes. I think that the attitudes were wrong and unfortunate. However, it is misleading to suggest that they were unusual. Similar attitudes have been widespread among the major Christian denominations until recent years.

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