Racist, Imperialist Christianity?

Randomly, out of the corner of my eye, I caught the word “Mormon” on the page of a book a commuter was reading in the subway train on my way to work. (It must be some kind of Mormon radar — I’ve this kind of experience many times before.) Although I don’t make a habit of reading over other people’s shoulders while commuting, I glanced up from my own book to take a closer look and caught the following sentence, which, likely due to its direct relevance to me and its shocking content, I was able to memorize immediately before he turned the page:

Thus in the US we see the right wing racist, imperialist Christianity of the Moral Majority and the Mormons and the left wing anit-racist, anti-war Christian tradition of Martin Luther King.

My heart dropped and I looked for an indication of the title of the book. In the bottom right hand corner next to the page number it said International Socialism, which I took for the title of the book (I never got to see the cover as I had to exit the train shortly thereafter). The sentence was on page 69. Googling, however, has not helped me turn up the book and I now wonder whether “International Socialism” might have been the title of a subsection of a book by a different name, or even the title of an article in an anthology. The book appeared to be an academic book complete with endnotes on the page following the page that contained the above sentence. The title of the chapter appearing in the header of each page appeared to be Socialism and Religion, or something to that effect.

This was disheartening because it reminded me of the reputation that Mormons have in the eyes of many people. It is not even in the category of assertions that require a footnote with a source establishing the claim; rather, it appears to be considered self-evident in some circles. It raised a number of questions in my mind.

To the extent that Mormons have this reputation in the eyes of the academy, or the Left, or the public at large (or anyone, for that matter), what are we, as a people, and the Church, as the premiere symbol and face of Mormonism, doing about it on a daily basis? Can the Church ever overcome this perception?

Does the Church’s late-twentieth-century policy of teaming up with the religious right, the “Moral Majority”, on a host of policy issues prevent us from ever differentiating ourselves, our beliefs, and our approach to life and being from the reputation of the other loud voices constituting the Moral Majority? Does an assertion like the one in the book arise merely because of the Church’s association with policies of the Moral Majority for the last couple of decades or are the Mormons mentioned as a separate category in addition to the Moral Majority?

Do we as Mormons care that an academic book about international socialism (perhaps a college-level anthology or textbook) characterizes Mormons this way as if it were a given? (I do.) Is it to be celebrated that we are considered part of Christianity if it has to be a “right wing racist, imperialist Christianity”, or would it be better if society at large differentiated between a right wing racist, imperialist Christianity such as the Moral Majority on the one hand and the Mormons on the other? (Leading question, of course.)

Comments

  1. John,

    It’s a quarterly journal called “International Socialism”, and here is a link to the article in question.

    I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but I would rather that the Church be more linked with anti-racist and anti-war elements of Christianity than with the Moral Majority.

  2. I would rather be known for the “content of [my] character”, as Dr. King said, than for any blind stereotype based on others’ perceptions of my faith.

  3. That reference in a International Socialism publication surprises me not one bit. Its like getting a gander at a SBC publication and seeing the LDS church listed as a cult.

  4. Many policies seem “racist” or “imperialist” when they are not viewed in the context of God’s timing and purposes.

  5. Steve Evans says:

    Angie, can you name some examples of racist or imperialist Mormon policies that are not really such when viewed in the context of God’s timing and purposes?

  6. John,

    I think it makes a difference if we assume the author is speaking descriptively intead of pejoratively. For instance, it does not seem controversial to me to say that more that 50% of American Mormons take political positions that are indistinguishable from the positions taken by the Moral Majority. As to the charge of racism, as recently as last month, BYU broadcast an hour-long panel discussion in which professors broadcast their views and interpretations of scripture to the effect that God curses people with dark skin. What can we honestly expect people to think?

  7. I’ve read the article in question now, and so I am not surprised that the author, a prominent Socialist Workers Party member in Great Britain, easily stereotypes the Church as right wing, racist, and imperialist. The author is an avowed Marxist, and is essentially saying that religion in general is a man-made, but ultimately ineffective response to the socialist class struggle.

    His perception is that religion is easily converted to either justifying imperialist and oppressive ideas, as in the social conservatives that currently dominate Republican party politics (hence the lumping of Mormons in with these groups), or to support the aspirations of oppressed minorities, such as in the liberation theologies of Latin America of the 1960’s and 1970’s or current Islamic radical fundamentalism.

    Certainly, we have seen both aspects of this in our own church history. We were radical and disruptive in our early history, and now generally (as this article by Molyneux shows) more conservative and accommodating of mainstream values.

    The danger is that we end up conflating our theology with political philosophies. Even though I am more liberal in my thinking, I have come to the conclusion that I can’t view that position as having any more religious validity than Chris Buttars‘ thoughtless racist comments.

    But we like our labels, usually more in using them to describe others, but we don’t like them being applied to us in return. Perhaps it is best to avoid using them, in hopes that we won’t be falsely or inaccurately labeled ourselves.

  8. The Church institutionally, as well as many of its members, has taken steps to diminish its reputation as racist. I would prefer a specific repudiation of past teachings of some of leaders that were racist, but I do not believe that will happen for another generation. Far be it for me to counsel the Lord, but if He were to ask me, I would humbly suggest that it would be nice if He were to send the spirits some of His foreordained top Church leaders to noncaucasion families.

    Distancing ourselves from US imperialism and triumphalism may present similar issues, because some of the promised land rhetoric in the Book of Mormon as well as millenarian prophecies seem to back a sort of “Zion” triumphalism, which many Latter-day Saint equate to the homeland of the restoration.

  9. BTW, although I am no big fan of the current administration, in my comment # 7, when I use the terms “imperialist” and “oppressive”, I’m using terms that Molyneux used in his article, not applying them myself. I’m not trying to fan the flames in this charged political cycle.

  10. cj douglass says:

    A very good acquaintance of mine recently found out I was Mormon. All he knew of Mormons was that they were racist polygamists. Him being of African descent via Haiti, I was concerned about his possible new view of me. As a true friend, he simply stated

    “My opinion of you hasn’t changed, my opinion of Mormons has.”

    The church could do so much more to dispel these sweeping stereotypes, but the real rubber hits the road when tolerant, loving, intelligent and reasonable Mormons speak up.

  11. Kevinf, thanks for your Google resourcefulness. That journal appeared during my searches as well although I didn’t get any hits with the specific quote, but I didn’t investigate the journal lead further because it looked like a textbook the man was reading. That’s what I get for judging a book by its cover, so to speak, although in this instance it was by its physical appearance.

    Mark, I don’t see how the use was anything but pejorative.

  12. Hey, cj, don’t dislocate your shoulder patting yourself on the back! :-)

    Actually, I know cj personally, and he is tolerant, loving, intelligent and reasonable. Well, mostly.

  13. Mark, after reading the article, I would have to agree that the reference to Mormon’s was meant to be dismissive of us. He goes on at length about Hitchens and Dawkins, the atheists de jour of our culture, and dismisses them as bending towards the imperialist leanings of Western culture, using religious bigotry as a tool of furthering privileged classes. The guy is an unrepentant Marxist, and to him all religions are creations of the minds of man, serving as a foul substitute for the true ideology of Socialism in its purest, Marxist form.

    Not that we don’t sometimes create problems for ourselves, but this guy was basically taking a shot at all religions, especially those that he views as being tools of the ruling power elite. I almost laughed out loud when he actually used the phrase “and their running dogs” to describe religions place in Western culture.

  14. cj douglass says:

    Hey, cj, don’t dislocate your shoulder patting yourself on the back! :-)

    Ouch Mark. I deserved that one. :)

  15. When reading such, I like to understand the inherent bias/viewpoint of the author. After all, all commentary comes from a single persective, even the prophet’s. A quick and simple search yielded several sources, perhaps most easily summarized by this clip:

    From Wikipedia:

    John Molyneux is a British Trotskyist and a leading member of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP). He is a senior lecturer in Historical and Theoretical Studies at the School of Art, Design and Media, University of Portsmouth.

    He has been noted for writing a bulletin headed “Democracy in the SWP”, which argued that, though the SWP is democratic, it needs to be more so, prompting the Communist Party of Great Britain to call him a “loyal rebel”.

    Understanding his background does not necessarily have me wanting to dismiss his commentary out of hand; however, it does help me interpret what is actually going on. As such, it does not concern me too much that he wants to lump us all together. Certainly, if you asked many of the “Moral Majority”, they would argue that they should NEVER be put in the same sentence as Mormons.

    So it’s easier for me to just let this guy have his opinion and move on to meatier issues that have direct personal impact.

  16. There will be some people you will never please. Trying to please them is fruitless. Rather than looking to be acceptable to others we should be looking to do what is right because it is right.

    Wanting to please socialists makes as much sense as wanting to please the Moral Majority.

    I really fear when our politics is criticized not for cause but because others don’t like it. Reminds me of high school where it was about being popular. Religion ought not do that.

    Now there are things that we, as a community, fail at. But I’d lay good odds that a lot of the things a communist or marxist would criticize us for are things we shouldn’t give up.

  17. Taking an alternative look at this, Molyneux’s comments about “imperialist Christianity” sound familiar as many nationalistic countries view our missionaries as an extension of US foreign policy.

    In Bulgaria, many of the problems we had (skinheads, Nationalistic parties) came from being viewed as American imperialists first and LDS second. Giving him the benefit of the doubt and viewing Protestant missionary efforts by the British Empire in the past, the confusion is easily understood.

    I could be wrong that he is mixing us with his views of Bush’s imperialism and marriage to the religious right, but it rings familiar all the same.

  18. As long as our church-owned bookstore sells a book (thinking of “Mormon Doctrine” here) that preaches white supremacy, it seems like we have to acknowledge some justification for getting tagged.

  19. C. Biden says:

    Imperialism can be expressed both geo/politically (e.g. colonialism: the settling of Utah) and culturally (e.g. imposing dress, music, language, or religion). To the extent that Mormonism is coterminous with and supportive of the Republican party (and let us not forget those Bircher saints)it is geo/politically imperialist. One could argue that correlation is culturally imperialist. Beyond that, joining the Church almost inevitably results in acculturation.

  20. I was riding Trax home last night in Salt Lake and noticed a man reading Rough Stone Rolling. As we left the train I said “that’s a good book” and the man looked at me like I had insulted him and said “yeah?” That was all.

  21. kevinf, if you like that bit about “running dogs” try “the Soviet Union, through the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, aimed to preserve the Polish state in case of defeat by Germany” on for size. Written by a professor who seems to spend at least a few hours every week doing nothing but telling (by and large, exceedingly leftist) people interested in the Spanish Civil War that they are dupes of the anti-Stalinist conspiracy. He also likes to talk about just how many articles (all refuting the aforementioned anti-Stalinist lies, of course) he’s written. It’s like having the internet in 1952 or something.

    John Adams had people calling him a monarchist (and a war monger, in the middle of negotiating a peace with France!) Louis XVI was executed for treason, of all things. There’s no guarantee that even the history books will judge any of us righteously, never mind contemporary critics. And frankly, being insulted as too right-wing by a Socialist in 2008 strikes me as about as meaningful as having Benjamin Franklin Bache say that a particular individual was conspiring to bring down the early American Republic.

  22. Johnf–what would you personally like to see happen to change the stereotype? What would your alternate reality look like (besides Utah going for Obama in a landslide)? Given what you’d like to see happen, which I assume you will shortly reveal, do you see the Church as equipped to modify its image? Given the new PR campaign on the internet (LDS.org) and the new focus on using the internet to improve the LDS image and “preach the gospel,” how might even something like BCC become a tool?

  23. Randall says:

    Non Sequitur Warning!

    Margaret, is it possible that I taught your children piano in 1994 at my townhome on 500 North in Provo?

  24. I think I have a defective copy of Mormon Doctrine, because I can’t seem to find all of the juicy controversial nuggets that are often cited in comments here (though I think some can be found in my dad’s first edition copy). I find BCC a much better source for those.

  25. JT, indeed.

  26. Margaret, I like to think that Molyneux is the one in the alternate reality.

    Clark, it’s not about trying to please socialists. It was just a shock to see such an assertion being made in such a matter of fact manner. Now that I know it was such a fringe publication there isn’t much distress. Anyway, “international socialism” as a movement is much more imperialistic than the Church has ever been.

    Still, I would hope that every Latter-day Saint lives in such a way that any reasonable person would recognize the charge that Mormons are racist and imperialist as transparently slanderous and invalid.

  27. #5 Steve – priesthood policy until 1978. Jews being the “chosen people” for hundreds of years. Women & the Priesthood. Polygamy. Just about any issue that people love to find fault with would fall into this category, in my opinion.

  28. Steve Evans says:

    SilverRain, how does the context make any of those things less troubling? Indeed, context makes some of them MORE troubling, no?

  29. Stirling says:

    JT (#24): Yes, you do have a defective copy–we all do.
    On the particular points at issue (ethnocentrism and white supremacy), in each of the 1958, 1966, and 1979 editions of the book (the latter is what is sold today and it is probably what is on your shelf, but it is labeled as a 1966 edition), “Mormon Doctrine” proffered the following teachings:
    1. Marriage between Negroes and any other group is prohibited by God. (see the “Caste Systems” entry: “Cain, Ham, and the whole negro race have been cursed with a black skin, the mark of Cain, so they can be identified as a caste apart, a people with whom the other descendants of Adam should not intermarry.”)
    2. Blacks and other non-white persons are physically and spiritually inferior to the original race of Adam and Eve. (“Races of Man”)
    3. “It is only by a knowledge of pre-existence that it can be known why some persons are born in one race or caste and some in another.” ( “Caste Systems”)
    4. Cain and Ham were cursed with black skin; the curses were passed somehow to their posterity, and all Negroes are descended from both Cain and Ham. ( “Cain,” “Ham,” “Races of Man”)
    5. Caste systems and racial segregation originate in the gospel. (“Caste Systems “)

    These are so ugly that I hesitate to even list them. But, they are there, and IMNSHO, I think we ought recognize that fact and then excise them.

  30. sscenter says:

    davidH you said –
    “I would humbly suggest that it would be nice if He were to send the spirits some of His foreordained top Church leaders to noncaucasion families.”

    I don’t know what you mean. We have dozens of area and general authorities who are noncaucasion. Or do you mean apostles? I get very frustrated that this seems to be a requirement for many in the church for the church to prove it is not racist. It is as though the calling of apostle is something to check off a list that “okay, now the church is okay.” Maybe the next apostle should a black kid in his 20’s so we can be sure he will become the prophet.

    We should not fool ourselves into believing that when we do have a non-anglo apostle that the criticism of racism will diminish at all. Outsiders will simply consider it an appointment of convienance.

  31. sscenter,

    Some of these comments remind me of the last conclave. I remember eveyone watching CNN on a school tv and could over hear people saying, “I hope this pope is more liberal,” or “I hope he is more conservative.” Perhaps others haven’t figured it out, but we don’t work that way. It comes by revelation and that is why members accept whoever, even if it is not balanced by skin, or race or nationality. Then again I guess the US Congress is a perfect example of racial/gender equality.

    I also like how eveyone ignores Pres. Uctdorf and lumps him into the same group. He is of German descent but was born in the Czech Republic and therefore has Slavic roots. I guess we can easily ignore that, even though Slavs are not Anglo based.

  32. #31: “But we don’t work that way. It comes by revelation and that is why members accept whoever, ( or whatever,*my words*), even if it is not balanced by skin, or race or nationality”

    To me, that rings at little pre-1978.(?)

  33. Believing that leaders are inspired and called by God rings pre-1978? My point is that I don’t understand why things are the way they are, but if I sustain the leaders as inspired, then I would be wasting my time as a church member if I put in the effot to follow what they said.

    I can’t speak for anything pre-1978, but it feels very “presentist” to speculate why or why not. I take it to the bank to follow the brethren.

  34. Still, I would hope that every Latter-day Saint lives in such a way that any reasonable person would recognize the charge that Mormons are racist and imperialist as transparently slanderous and invalid.

    It’s not that simple, I think. By virtually any Marxian or critical theoretical definition of Imperialism — definitions, I might add, that cannot be casually dismissed — Mormons are imperialists on a number of levels. We most certainly are according to the definition that underpins the kind of analysis that drives this particular article. And, given our history, the racist charge, while simplistic and needlessly provocative, is not exactly a stretch.

  35. Antonio Parr says:

    As evidenced by the virulent anti-Mormonism that surfaced during the Romney run for the U.S. Presidency, it seems very clear that the best missionary work that the Church can do right now is to have its people go out in the world and simply be a non-verbose light to the world. It will take many years for us to find ourselves in a place where we can help non-Mormons see past the stereotypes and into the beautiful light of the restored Gospel. Until then, we sould simply be about our Father’s business, by delivering the captive and bringing healing and nourishment to the poor.

  36. Stirling (29) – Soon after I posted comment 24, I decided to do a quick review of my copy. I had referenced it so many times over years that I thought I knew like the back of me hand. I figured since entries on “Negroes” and others had been removed, most of the juiciness was out. Apparently, I had never fully read “caste systems” (what a strange entry for a book on doctrine) and “races of man.” I stand corrected. Those are juicy.

    But, with Steve’s approval, I stand by my other assertion: BCC is juicier (even if it isn’t authored by a general authority with a title implying official doctrine… Ok, perhaps this makes MD juicier).

  37. “Angie, can you name some examples of racist or imperialist Mormon policies that are not really such when viewed in the context of God’s timing and purposes?”

    I guess I shouldn’t have taken a day off from reading BCC? :-)

    And, thanks, SilverRain for the examples you offered in #27.

    Steve, how about an example that’s less hot-button than a racial or gender issue? What about missionary work? Mormons send out missionaries to share a message to people who haven’t yet heard it. This message includes a requirement that the new believer change (sometimes radically) his/her lifestyle. This presupposes that the person was doing something wrong and needs to change to meet the behavior of the Gospel.

    Missionary work can be viewed by a non-believer as imperialist, judgmental, and/or condescending.

  38. #33: I too believe the picks are wise and inspired. But they are made from a known and limited pool. Maybe that pool could be enlarged.(?)

  39. Awesome discussion.
    Socialists are throwing rocks in the glass house, of course, and are hardly in a position to blame others for inhumanity.
    However, that does not make socialists automatically wrong. Whether or not the author’s statement is correct is an empirical question.
    This year’s young men’s manual continues to propagate the prohibition of interracial marriages. Since we all belong to the same species, marriage prohibitions are the essence of racism. Just as there would be neither Saint Bernards nor dachshunds if it were not for breeding restrictions, race would become a meaningless category if the concept were not sustained by marriage prohibitions.
    As long as the Church continues to publish racist admonitions, our critics do have a point.
    Despite the efforts of many Mormons to be inclusive, the institutional church and its leaders continue to advocate racism. The good news is that many Mormon members are confronting racism in the church.

  40. “This year’s young men’s manual continues to propagate the prohibition of interracial marriages.”

    No it doesn’t, Hellmut. Read and cite the actual quote. It is not a prohibition – not at all. In essence it says that the more differences that exist in a marriage, the harder it is for it to work. It talks of multiple types of differences, including race. It also makes it crystal clear that it is not a prohibition.

    Just because this is the latest charge being thrown around the Bloggernacle doesn’t make it true.

  41. #39: Hellmut, we Humans now all live in some type of formal Culture. As a specie, it is now hard to tell what our Human default settings are. But marriage and marriage prohibitions seems to show up in all Cultures..so there must be some good reasons(?) That said, I don’t think it rules out Gay Marriage, or ties marriage to racism.

  42. I think the best way to improve the Church’s image is to circle the wagons and make it clear that we Church members are all united, certain and committed in defending the Church’s teachings and history. (I would note that, in the ultimate pattern of heaven, disunity, independent thought, questioning, doubting and disagreement should be encouraged in all faith traditions with one exception; they should not be welcome or acceptable for us because we have the complete truth and are supposed to be united.)

    In other words, if we are completely united in telling ourselves and the world that there is and has never been a pattern of racism or of pro-American triumphalism in the teachings or practices of our Church, then surely the rest of the world will come to agree. But this desirable result can never be achieved if less committed Mormons continue thinking and talking outside the box, and do not get with the program and adhere strictly to the correlated, approved and official positions of the Lord’s Church.

    Q.E.D.

    This announcement will appear in the next issue of the Daily Universe. :)

  43. Ray, I am assuming that the best intentions motivate you but you may not realize that statements like yours contribute not only to the poor reputation of Mormonism but sustain the racial division in our society.
    It is no wonder that outsiders perceive us as racists as long as you and other Mormons are defending racist practices. If you don’t want to be called a racist then don’t defend racist statements.
    We cannot rid ourselves of our racist reputation until we confront racism within our community. It is unfortunate for the Church that you are not yet willing to join that effort.

    Bob, I am not sure what you mean. Incest prohibitions, for example, certainly do not qualify as racism. Telling teenage boys that they shall not marry African American women, that’s racism. Denying Americans jobs in Germany because they might marry a German, that’s racism.
    The concept of race requires the prohibition of intermarriage between human populations. On the other hand, religious intermarriage prohibitions need not be racist as long as conversion removes the obstacle to marriage. Authoritatively discouraging the marriage between Serbs and Croats, on the other hand, would establish two races.
    Lets suppose for the sake of argument that racism were a universal phenomenon, it would neither follow that racism would be good nor necessary.
    Presumably, it’s easier to demonstrate that theft and murder are universal phenomena regardless of culture. It does not follow that theft and murder bestow advantages upon society.
    Therefore, it is a non-sequitur to conclude that marriage prohibitions (and by implication racism) add value to society.
    As an empirical matter, men and women have always procreated across cultural boundaries successfully.
    That’s what it means to be members of the same species. It is so fundamental, it is a tautology.

  44. Kristine says:

    Ray, here’s the quote:

    “We recommend that people marry those who are of the same racial background generally, and of somewhat the same economic and social and educational background (some of those are not an absolute necessity, but preferred), and above all, the same religious background, without question” (“Marriage and Divorce,” in 1976 Devotional Speeches of the Year [Provo: Brigham Young University Press, 1977], p. 144).

    The rest of the lesson is here: http://lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=ba805f74db46c010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=1f4fa41f6cc20110VgnVCM100000176f620a____&hideNav=1&contentLocale=0 but there’s nothing in it to make that line less appalling. Better to admit that we were influenced by and participated in the racist cultural attitudes of the past, repent, and move on than to try to explain away the problems in past leaders’ words.

  45. #43:”As an empirical matter, men and women have always procreated across cultural boundaries successfully” I guess if a Black man hanging from a tree for fathering a White baby, is success, then I guess crossing cultural boundaries is okay.
    “Denying Americans jobs in Germany because they might marry a German, that’s racism.”..No, that’s Nationalism.

  46. sscenter says:

    I think there is a desire among some members to assume the only way they can be intellectually honest is to be critical of all the church does no matter what their intention (see Quinn, M). I read the quote cited and thought it was generally fine. I think the point that was being made in the lesson was that marriage is hard and the more you have in common with your spouse the better. I noticed the only absolute was the religion should be the same. But my larger point is what is the experience we have had with Mormonism in relation to race. Personally, I am too young to remember the ban on the priesthood, so I do not have the reference. The only church I know goes out of their way to welcome of all races and practically strains its shoulder patting itself on the back or how many members and leaders are not anglo. I still think this comes back to there not being any black, hispanic or Asian apostles. I do not believe that people who are critical of the church now the way it currently behaves will find any additional solace when that bridge is crossed. I just think that for some the need to prove their objectivity is so great, they can never look on the church favorably. Or at least they are are unwilling to make statements that make it seem like they look at the church favorably.

  47. Randall says:

    Regarding the insatiable critics of the church. I used to be one of them. Even 2 years ago my attributions for every church action and inaction were always very cynical. Now, I still criticize the church, but do so on a mostly full belly. I doubt I will ever return the innocent testimony of my youth (see today’s survey), but have become satisfied that recent prophets are leading the church in a generally good direction. Unfortunately, they seem to be riding the plodding donkey that took Mary to Bethlehem to arrive at their destination.

    Regarding inter-racial marriage, I find it interesting that the parenthetical statement indicates that “some” of the aforementioned demographic prohibitions to marriage are “not an absolute necessity”. From this I think we can assume that at least 1 of the 4 is more of a bedrock prohibition, and I’m quite confident it’s not economic, social, or educational differences. The scriptures, Ensign, and Mormon lore are full of stories of people who got through class differences, but we have scant examples of dealing with cultural differences (Ruth is one, but why did God take her husband anyway?) Being in my 2nd inter-racial marriage myself, I can attest to the fact that they present their difficulties. However, I find that the biggest difficulties are economic and social.

    Racism by definition entails making decisions and providing privileges based solely on a person’s race–or, allowing race to be a key decision-making criteria. In these terms, the recommendation is inherently high on the racism continuum, but possibly low on the egregiousness continuum. To me, it sounds like advice that a well-meaning uncle would give me. It’s based on one person’s experience, can’t really be generalized to the wider population, and, for that reason, shouldn’t be published in a correlated church manual.

  48. Hellmut,

    I have NEVER defended the past racial statements of our earlier leaders. I have said over and over that I am convinced they were the product of a racist time. All I said in this context is the the current lessons does not propagate a prohibition on inter-racial marriage. I will be back in an hour to quote the entire section – IN CONTEXT – and show you what I mean.

    (Do I wish that quote had not been used? Of course, but the way it was used in that entire section is interesting.)

  49. Peter LLC says:

    I think the point that was being made in the lesson was that marriage is hard and the more you have in common with your spouse the better.

    Fair enough, but why not jettison race entirely and devote more space to real marital problems like friends, hobbies, saving/spending levels, who’s going to make dinner, tolerance levels for dirty dishes and socks on the floor, etc.?

    But I’m someone who violated “the only absolute” by marrying a gentile, so what do I know. At least we’re both caucasian (thank goodness for the insights of craniometry!).

  50. sister blah 2 says:

    “Fair enough, but why not jettison race entirely ”

    I guarantee the next edition of those manuals will not include that quote. Anybody know when these things are due for overhaul?

  51. LLC,
    She’s also (presumably) an Aryan. How blessed a race!

  52. Peter LLC says:

    How blessed a race!

    Indeed, just look at all its accomplishments–the university as Americans know it, the unsurpassed engineering of the likes of BMW and Mercedes, the on-time efficiency of Lufthansa, the home of the only currency that can give the pound sterling a run for its money, etc. What other race has added so much value to the human experience?

  53. Here goes:

    “We recommend that people marry those who are of the same racial background generally, and of somewhat the same economic and social and educational background (some of those are not an absolute necessity, but preferred), and above all, the same religious background, without question” (“Marriage and Divorce,” in 1976 Devotional Speeches of the Year [Provo: Brigham Young University Press, 1977], p. 144).

    This quote is from 1977, and the only “prohibition” is on religious background. (Can we expect the Church to have any other stance than that – the same religious background – in any official statement? Of course, there are great examples of exceptions, but as an official statement can we expect differently when temple sealing is the ideal?)

    The following is the rest of this section. Notice that race is never mentioned – not once, while other factors are repeated.

    • Why is it so important for a couple to be worthy members of the Church? Ensure that the following points are discussed:

    1. Exaltation cannot be attained without celestial marriage.

    2. Religious values are powerful, and conflicting values can cause continual stress.

    3. President Kimball quoted a survey showing that “only about one out of seven non-member spouses would be converted and baptized into the Church” (“Marriage and Divorce,” p. 152).

    4. When one spouse is not converted to the gospel, the children are caught between the differing values of the parents.

    • Why is it important for a couple to have a similar economic, educational, and cultural background?

    In the actual discussion that is suggested, race is dropped entirely from the list – replaced by “cultural background”. Again, I wish the quote had not been included, but the lesson itself removes all reference to race in the suggested discussions that follow. I hope the quote is dropped from the next manuals entirely, but saying the Church is continuing a prohibition on inter-racial marriage is incorrect.

    That’s all I was saying.

  54. Messed up that highlighting attempt. Oh, well.

  55. #53:”…and above all, the same religious background, without question”
    Why then does the Church not openly say ” Marriage is between a man and a woman of the same Faith”?

  56. You may not realize it, Ray, but you are defending a racist statement right now.

  57. #43:”As an empirical matter, men and women have always procreated across cultural boundaries successfully” I guess if a Black man hanging from a tree for fathering a White baby, is success, then I guess crossing cultural boundaries is okay.
    In that case, the problem is lynching, not interracial sex, Bob. If you are concerned about black men getting lynched, go after their murderers rather than blaming the victims of the crime.
    “Denying Americans jobs in Germany because they might marry a German, that’s racism.”..No, that’s Nationalism.
    There are many notions of nationalism, the most common ones do not require interracial mating prohibitions. However, racism and nationalism are not mutually exclusive categories.
    I have said over and over that I am convinced they were the product of a racist time.
    I can see how an old man like Spencer Kimball clings to notions that he has acquired in his youth. However, it is an institutional short coming if we can only generate a leadership that fails keep up with moral progress.
    Kimball uttered this admonition twenty years after the United States Supreme Court ruled to desegregate public schools. Russell Nelson gave a similar speech as late as 1994 at BYU.
    Of course, the Moral Majority would have agreed with Kimball long after the seventies.

    In the actual discussion that is suggested, race is dropped entirely from the list – replaced by “cultural background”.

    Cultural background is code for race, Ray.
    Besides the whole argument for spousal similarity is flawed in the first place. Spouses need to be compatible, not identical. Often times that means that people with very different backgrounds make the best spouses.

  58. Let’s agree to disagree on this one, Hellmut. I already have said I hope the quote is removed from the next version of the manual, and I already have said I only was making a very narrow point. If you want to accuse me of racism for trying to make a very narrow point, go ahead. I won’t fight about this.

  59. I disagree that cultural background is a code for race. The african-american graduates of my daughter’s high school had much more in common with her culturally than the caucasian Croatian she eventually married and subsequently divorced because he was a flaming chauvinist!

  60. That’s of course true, Noray. The sad fact of the matter is, however, that African American sisters have much greater difficulties finding dates at BYU than western Europeans, for example.
    The situation for African American brothers is not great but appears to be somewhat better.
    It is also still common that Mormon parents discourage the interracial relationships of their children by citing the brethren’s statements about “cultural differences.”
    Of course, it is also true that Mormon culture is becoming more inclusive. The number of interracial marriages appears to be rising among Mormons. Nonetheless, resistance against interracial relationships is still relatively high and interracial couples suffer under the self-righteous intolerance of Saints who are determined to follow the prophet.
    In terms of behavior, it is unfortunately all too clear that “cultural differences” means race to many Mormons. The wording “cultural differences” merely substitutes for race because it is no longer socially and legally acceptable to agitate against interracial relationships. Remember, the prohibition of interracial dating resulted in the loss of tax exemption of Bob Jones University in 1976.
    Despite the brethren’s feeble attempts to code racism, outsiders observing the social dynamics in our society recognize recognize what is going on.
    Therefore, denial will get us nowhere.
    Fortunately, there are Mormons whose words and actions support racial inclusion and equality. They are the salt of the Church and recover our reputation at least in part.

  61. #57: I read your “have always procreated across cultural boundaries successfully” to mean without negative consequences. Sorry if I misread you.
    “Racism and Nationalism are not mutually exclusive categories.” They are in my trained Discipline (Anthropology). There is no German race in Anthropology.

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