SBC and LDS vs the Alt-Right

Maybe not everyone follows the news around religious conventions, but this year’s meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention had some fascinating turns. After having at first rejected a proposal condemning white nationalism and the alt-right, the SBC faced some major internal chaos, changed course and adopted a reworded proposal. The proposal itself is worth a close read.

The history of the SBC and the context for this scandal are fascinating. I didn’t know much about the SBC until recently, and would recommend this article in the Atlantic regarding the recent convention, as well this article regarding the troubled racial history of the SBC. The gist is that the S in SBC stands for Southern, i.e. established by Southern whites to distinguish their worship from the Northerners, specifically over the issue of slavery. Since those initial divisions, the SBC has wrestled with racial inequities among its body, with lasting effects. Now, I am no expert in the SBC or its history, so this is a lightweight overview to situate some more relevant remarks. I know that the last few decades have seen efforts within the SBC to attract minorities. Its first African-American president was elected in 2012. Then in November 2016, evangelicals (including much of the SBC) turned out for Donald Trump in massive numbers. SBC pastors with anti-Trump agendas lost funding and had their jobs at risk. The election of DJT, that American symptom of rising white nationalism and xenophobia across the West, unleashed a new wave of public racism and hatred under the guise of the “alt-right,” involving Christians of many denominations (including SBC).

To understand how this recent proposal came to be, it’s probably helpful to understand how an SBC annual meeting works. Each cooperating church in the SBC (depending upon size) can send up to ten members as messengers to the meeting, where they vote on policies, budgets and initiatives for the coming year. Proposals are run up through committees and approved before voted upon by the general body of messengers. The draft anti-alt-right proposal was voted down in committee. Ultimately, the proposal was resubmitted from the floor in the general meeting. After much wrangling, the proposal first linked to above was passed. It was a very interesting popcorn moment.

What’s interesting to me is how similar and how impossible this all is in an LDS context.

First, let’s define some terms, specifically what I mean by “white nationalism”. It’s not quite the same thing as white supremacy, that racist belief in the innate ‘superiority’ to people of other races. White nationalism is about maintaining dominance – cultural, economic, political – over other races. It manifests itself via cultural anxiety, a longing for “older times” when the nation was built around white identity, and its tools are anti-immigration policies and limited government services to the poor. Most white nationalists would probably not see themselves as such; rather, they see themselves as wanting to protect the cultural values, traditions, and neighborhoods of their youth (or, more accurately, their parents or grandparents’ youth). When Donald Trump says that he wants to “make America great again,” the expression taps into a fictional nostalgia and feeds anxiety, particularly among older and less educated white voters. The boundaries of what level of racism is “acceptable” are shifting as this anxiety rises and populist politicians take power. When we talk about the “alt-right,” it’s a modern collection of white supremacists, white nationalists, internet trolls, monarchists and others. The SBC proposal decries every form of racism, including the alt-right, as “antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” Could Mormonism issue such a statement? I don’t think so.

The LDS history of racism is a matter of public record. W. Paul Reeve’s book is a good starting point. And while there are schismatic entities within Mormonism, there are none (to my knowledge) based on the issue of slavery. For most of LDS history, this church has been a white church, with black members deprived of full fellowship and rights to ordinances. There is no Southern LDS Convention, but none was ever necessary within Mormonism — insular and homogeneous demographics of culture and race made this church a de facto white church from the beginning. And while there have always been black members of the Church, they have been historically marginalized, unrepresented in leadership until 1978. I say all this not to posit that the LDS Church is as racist as the SBC — that statement would be unprovable and unhelpful — but to situate the LDS Church in a comparative context. The LDS Church was not founded specifically to preserve the slavers, but we waffled on abolition and walked a delicate line regarding free people of color, until Brigham Young established as both policy and doctrine that black people were descendants of Ham and so would never hold the priesthood or receive their endowment. Those teachings persisted in folkloric form after 1978, even after the ban was rescinded. Racism in our generalized discourse also persisted, wrapped in dating & courtship guides, anecdotes of pre-existence fence-sitting and other casual expressions. At the same time, leaders of the church have repeatedly and publicly repudiated racism as a general matter, as recently as Gordon B. Hinckley.

The structural differences between the SBC and LDS churches are worth considering here. The LDS church has immensely centralized authority and superlative respect for leaders. Local congregations have extremely limited decision-making authority and are expected to methodically execute the pre-established program dictated by the central Church committees. The SBC, on the other hand, is governed by elected officials from among the cooperating churches, but each local church is autonomous and self-governed. This means that an SBC who travels from one congregation to another could see a significantly different church service and teaching. These two power structures produce very different results, both in terms of decision-making and rollout of changes. The LDS church makes decisions centrally, through the Quorum of the 12 and the First Presidency. Once that group has made decisions, the Church can quickly and easily institute changes throughout the entire organization with immediate effect, as it did in 1978. The SBC would require a consensus vote for new policies or practices, and even then an individual church would have significant liberty in interpretation and implementation. However, despite its ability to rapidly institute changes, the LDS Church has demonstrated a more conservative approach with respect to course corrections, while the SBC is comparatively more dynamic. This may be a product of the older leadership within the LDS Church, or simply the result of having top-down decision-making as opposed to a structure where proposals can be submitted from the various congregations. There is no formal system within the LDS Church for local proposals to be considered. LDS members are typically proud of this measured, conservative approach; we are not waves of the sea [of popular opinion], driven with the wind and tossed. Of course, detractors are quick to find the octogenarian, conservative leadership to be out of touch with the times and unable to appropriately deal with modern crises — and then when decisions are made, they are unquestionable and not open to public review. When the Prophet speaks, the debate is over. This can be a strength, keeping us on a steady course despite the influence of the world. Unfortunately, this also created a system where white supremacy could become unquestioned and doctrinal (adopting many of the same lines of argument decried by the recent SBC proposal).

Perhaps it is because of this singular system of authority that the LDS Church has not issued an apology or official repudiation of its own racist past. We cannot stomach the idea that the Prophet could ever lead the Church astray — it is “not in the programme.“. And so, to preserve the power of that anecdote, we bring ourselves to the conclusion that if the Prophet directs something, it must therefore be of God. As recently as two weeks ago I witnessed online debate over whether the Ban was inspired. I do not believe it was, because I don’t think God teaches exclusion on the basis of the color of our skin. However, it is so unpalatable, so impossible for our leaders to err that we must attribute some element of this obviously noxious practice to the Almighty. Elder Oaks has said, “we no not seek apologies, and we don’t give them,” and this may be part of the reason. Thus, a statement like that from the SBC seems impossible in a Mormon context.

But we should apologize. We should not be afraid to repudiate past doctrines that were not of God, because attributing evil to the Creator is blasphemy. An apology demonstrates to all that our leadership is fallible, that we are capable of mistakes, but more importantly that we are capable of improving, progressing and becoming better as a people. Now, I love the centralized model of authority within our Church — it has helped us navigate crises that would have destroyed other religions. However, with that central authority we also have an increased responsibility to keep ourselves in check, to recognize that central authority does not mean that our leaders are perfect. General Authorities receive a level of ceremony and deference that in my opinion can border on a form of idolatry. Issuing an apology and formal repudiation of white supremacy would go a long way not just towards healing race relations within the Church, but towards helping the membership and the leadership bridge the chasm between us. We are all baptized into one body. Paul tells us that the head cannot say to the feet, “I have no need of you.” By apologizing and explicitly rejecting those past doctrines, we can reconcile to each other, see eye-to-eye and continue the march toward Zion.


  1. felixfabulous says:

    Interesting comparison, thank you for a thoughtful post. I am still amazed at how far the Gospel Topics Essay on the priesthood ban goes, its logical conclusion (that Brigham Young and subsequent leaders were wrong) and how it has been largely ignored by the general membership of the Church.

    I love this: “General Authorities receive a level of ceremony and deference that in my opinion can border on a form of idolatry. Issuing an apology and formal repudiation of white supremacy would go a long way not just towards healing race relations within the Church, but towards helping the membership and the leadership bridge the chasm between us.”

    I agree that we have made idols out of the GAs and we are stuck in this uncomfortable place where they are reluctant to correct some false notions for fear it will cause people to lose faith, but seem uncomfortable with the demigod status we’ve given them. I wish we could all accept that: 1. They are our leaders, good men who are doing the best they can; 2. They do their best to seek inspiration and get it sometimes and other times let their own ideas and prejudices get in the way, like most of us; 3. Their callings as special witnesses do not mean that they sit down with Jesus every Thursday and take notes on what the Church needs to do.

    It seems like we’ve painted ourselves into a corner with an unsustainable position and accepting that our leaders were wrong with the ban would go a long ways in helping people understand the realities of our leaders and I think would lead to more of a healthy relationship between the leaders and the Church body as a whole.

  2. Yes, I think the Gospel Topics Essay makes it clear that an apology is due. And yes! The leaders are great men, doing their best and with a special witness of Christ.

  3. Not entirely true that the church doesn’t give apologies. They did for Mountain Meadows Massacre including to the Paiutes.

  4. It's Complicated says:

    We need to revisit the narrative that Trump’s message is resonating most with “older and less educated white voters” when he declares he wants to make America great again. That story has perpetuated since early in the Primaries. The reality is the majority of his supporters are and were in the upper half of the income distribution. Additionally, there is nothing different about this coalition of voters when it comes to education. If you look at the numbers historically, while 70% of Trump voters do not have college degrees the same percentage describes voters for any successful Republican candidate in general. My whole point is, this isn’t about Trump voters, it’s about white Conservative Americans, period. And if we look at our fellow Mormons, that reality settles in quite clearly. Mormons are on average more highly educated and more likely to have attended college. And yet we still supported Trump. This thought process actually increases the damning aspect of what you’re describing here because we preach and teach consistently from the pulpit and elsewhere of how the World is going to hell and is a terrible place that is only getting worse and many of our members equate this in part to the change that is happening around them in the changing complexion of their neighborhoods and schools and communities.

  5. Amen. We absolutely should and must apologize institutionally. It is absolutely incredible that so many fight against that concept.

    It is not true, as Elder Oaks says, that “we do not seek apologies” — that is simply false. I suppose Elder Oaks is correct that “we do not give apologies” — but what does that say about us?!?! That’s not a good characteristic.

    All of this highlights a problematic cultural weakness that seems to be getting more pronounced over time. Our moral code as Mormons now seems to be “We do it so it must be what God wants.” That’s what our culture has developed through all these iterations of when Church leaders speak “the debate is over” etc. No more examination of fruits, as commanded by Jesus. No more internal moral compasses or complicated wrestling with individual consciences. No more debate about the ethical or moral problems with any Church policy or opinion of a Church leader. Rather, “if we do it, it must be right because we do it.” And no apologies — how could there be an apology for anything we’ve done? If we did it, it was right, so of course no need for an apology.

    This is not healthy. As a true believer, it appalls me. As a through and through Mormon, I’ve been raised with and have learned from the scriptures the importance of accountability and responsibility. We need to own our missteps and mistakes. We cannot surrender to this idea that something must be right simply because we did it because Church leaders said to do it. We *must* reclaim conscience and independent moral decisionmaking based on individual, conscious-driven examination of the fruits of certain actions, past and present (and future).

  6. Complicated, I agree with the point that this is about more than just old and less educated whites.

  7. Good thoughts. What I have encountered in the Church is what I call “defacto infallibility.” When we treat every decision coming from above as inspired, regardless of how silly it might be, we are granting our leaders a degree of infallibility that does not reflect reality. I long for the day when, instead of just admitting that leaders sometimes make mistakes, one of them will point out some specific instances. This would be extremely healthy for the organization and for the members.

  8. Great post, Steve. You are so awesome and brilliant. I love you.

    Anyway, the Church of England has more moral stains on it than the Mormon Church, having profited from slavery and the slave trade. In 2006, finally, it apologised. The AoC’s words resonated with me then:

    “The Body of Christ is not just a body that exists at any one time; it exists across history and we therefore share the shame and the sinfulness of our predecessors, and part of what we can do, with them and for them in the Body of Christ, is prayerful acknowledgment of the failure that is part of us, not just of some distant ‘them'”.

  9. Amen to that, Ronan.

  10. Jason K. says:

    Yes, Ronan: that’s a great statement, and I think that it holds true of us as LDS, too.

    Thanks, Steve. As an ecclesiology nerd, I appreciate your careful weighing of these two different approaches.

  11. Michael H says:

    “General Authorities receive a level of ceremony and deference that in my opinion can border on a form of idolatry.”

    They also cultivate the ceremony and deference, and until they stop, it’s likely that Oaks’s “no apology” mantra will remain in effect.

  12. The LDS church needs to create some form of institutional repentance – something that goes beyond apology and has more doctrinal weight. The Catholic church among many other traditions have at least some form of this. The basis of the lived gospel in LDS theology is repentance. The fact our institution and central leadership can’t perform repentance in any meaningful way is severely limiting and this is seen acutely in our race and racism issue. Members and many non-members would stand ready to forgive the LDS church for its historical mistakes. Many, of course, already do. However, how much more powerful would it be if the LDS church and leadership went through the steps of repentance as outlined in say the Gospel Principle Manual:

    1) Recognize our sins – We got around to this mostly in the Race and Priesthood essay…kind of.

    2) Feel sorrow for our sins – For an institution it is important for it to show sorrow in some tangible way. In thinking back about the seminal statements from leaders and the institution on this issue I can’t think of one that expresses *sorrow*. Maybe there is one, but if you put 100 Mormons in the room and ask them to point to the statement where the Church expressed *sorrow* for the ban 99 couldn’t find it. Go read the Declaration, the Race and the Priesthood essay and find me even one sentence that expresses public *sorrow* for the ban. I would say this is the predominantly missing emotion in all the Church has ever produced about this, institutionally or spoken by leaders in church-wide official venue.

    3) Forsake our sins – Well we did get rid of the ban, eventually. So lets say we have successfully forsaken that from an institutional policy perspective. We are making some steps on repudiating the remaining “folk doctrines” (though insisting on calling them folk doctrines really violates the spirit of recognizing our sins fully).

    4) Confess our sins – Do we really acknowledge the role of those in power and institution in propagating racist doctrine and policy? The church gets like a C- here at best. The Race and Priesthood document makes one small step toward maybe confessing racist attitudes in BY. It spends the bulk of the essay making excuses for leaders actions during a racist age. It depicts the period between 1852 and the removal of the ban as one with “leaders being moved” by the sacrifice of the saints and contemplating the challenges of converts in Africa. It spends no time on all the resistance and entrenched racist teachers at all. It doesn’t confess in any detail that might hurt the sensibilities of the leaders.

    5) Make Restitution – Maybe by going out of their way to groom leaders from the excluded class? Giving the Genesis group official standing and resources? Repudiating officially from the pulpit racist teachings? I don’t know.

    6) Ask for forgiveness – Wouldn’t that be nice if the leader’s humbly, officially, publically asked for forgiveness on behalf of the institution from those they harmed and from God.

    The point is, that each of these steps could be explicitly and formally planned, carried out and done. It would go along way toward healing. I would suggest it would go a long way to bolstering the moral authority of leaders. It would provide an example for members. It may give hope and a pattern for the church to repent and progress on other things. I don’t know what the right thing to do for each of these steps are. All I do know is that, for me, the church hasn’t repented for its serious moral lapse and this continues to have negative consequences throughout our congregations and church culture. Clearly, when there are constant and still spirited debates by members that the ban was of God, we haven’t done enough.

  13. I think this is implied in the OP, but query whether having a centralized, top-down structure could mean a much more effective response to racism than anything a decentralized SBC could do. It’s one thing for the SBC to decry racism, but if each congregation can choose to follow or not follow that advice, it may not be of much worth. Meanwhile, if we as Mormons really made a serious institutional push on racism, I think we might have a better shot of changing *some* behaviors and thoughts, if for no other reason that we do respect our leaders so much. For example–and I can’t speak for the church as a whole–but it’s amazing to me what the Church’s push on refugees has done in my little corner of the world, which is pretty conservative and somewhat Mormon. Lots of volunteering; lots of engagement; lots of helping hands. I suspect that would be harder to do in the SBC.

    The downside to this centralization, of course, is what Steve said: individual congregations and congregationalists aren’t going to have much of an ability to move the needle on the issue du jour.

  14. I think the “it’s not in the programme” notion is really and truly the fundamental issue, and its context is very important. Negotiating that seems really difficult to do. But good thoughts, Steve.

  15. Jimbob, yes — if we hit racism from the top, we can potentially wipe it out more quickly than other denominations.

  16. John, you’re quite correct that we do seek apologies, or at least we accept them when offered. I was at the Nauvoo Temple dedication, and President Hinckley spoke quite warmly about the “not technically an apology” statement of regret that had been issued by the Illinois legislature. Senator Kit Bond of Missouri was on a Saint Louis radio program several years ago, and he mentioned how there’s not a week that goes by, and often not a day that goes by, when an LDS member doesn’t thank him for his hand in rescinding the Extermination Order in 1976. He went on to say that at the end of his career, he anticipates that no other action he’s even taken will have a more lasting impact.

    There are a lot of things I for which I would love to have an apology. Youth conference handcart treks, involvement in the Boy Scouts, 5:40 AM Sacrament meeting when I lived in Provo, every Blue and Gold Banquet ever held, and for the psycho sister from another ward who laid into me when the tri-ward Memorial Day Picnic ran out of meat before her special little snowflake children were able to have a third burger each.

  17. “The SBC proposal decries every form of racism, including the alt-right, as ‘antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.’ Could Mormonism issue such a statement?”

    How about “Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form”? Issuing a statement decrying every form of racism isn’t the problem — that’s been done. Actually doing the work of unequivocally condemning all forms of past and present racism is what’s hard. The article on Race and the Priesthood where that statement appears doesn’t even explicitly acknowledge that the priesthood/temple ban itself was racist. It just puts the ban in the context of 19th century U.S. racism and lets you connect the dots yourself.

    Of course, unequivocally condemning “all” racism, past and present, in any form, would involve condemning significant portions of Hebrew, Christian, and LDS scripture. I think that’s where we run into trouble, as much as with GA idolatry. We don’t want to say Brigham Young was a racist and created a racist policy, because “it is not in the programmme.” But we also have a million seminary, institute, and Sunday school lessons about where Samuel shows up and tells Saul that God really wanted the Amalekites 100% dead, man, woman, child, infant, and livestock, and that he should have done it, because “obedience is better than sacrifice.” Issuing a statement condemning past racism, in general, is easy. It’s actually condemning specific instances of past racism from people we respect that’s hard.

  18. “attributing evil to the Creator is blasphemy”


    I dream of a more humble church, one that has the ability to stand up and say “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, including our historical leaders, and including me. Let me tell you how. I ask your forgiveness, and pray God will help me and all of us continue to learn how to love.”

  19. This is fantastic, Steve. I especially love that you change the emphasis from “our leaders are fallible” to the emphasis that an apology would show we are a people who can improve and are improving, that we are subject as a church body to the same principles of repentance and blessings of atonement as we are as individual members of the church.

  20. We had a former general authority in our ward who taught gospel doctrine. He gave a lesson in which he discussed the short-lived 18 months missions for male missionaries in 1982, and he straight out said “that was a mistake.” He then went on to discuss more generally that yes, leaders make mistakes. Most members in our ward know that, but coming from him, it was an especially helpful point to make (and I think he knew that).

  21. Steve’s post is great. This is some of the best of BCC, exploring ways for us to progress as a church and a people.

    Ending our idolatry of general authorities is as important as anything we can do to move forward as a church, but it’s a hard problem to solve. Absolute central authority might have been the only way for the church to survive its first century. For several generations, the possibility that they would have to give up their lives for the church was not hypothetical for the Saints. Under those conditions, a people pretty much has to follow its leadership without question–as a practical matter, not as a point of revealed doctrine. Unfortunately, “not the in programme” became, for many Mormons, an article of faith as strong as any doctrinal plank of Christ’s gospel.

    Now our place in the world has changed. We are no longer isolated, but we haven’t yet figured out how to adjust. All of the apostles grew up in a world where a hell of a lot of people thought that Mormons had horns growing from their heads. That’s still the apostles’ first point of reference, and they often tend to act as if we are still barricaded in our mountain home. A psychological state of siege is deeply embedded in our culture—not just among the apostles, but in all of us, right down to the way we run our families.

    I hope that we’re entering a time of transition in which the church will open itself up to the world. What’s frustrating is that the transformation will probably take generations. So we need to act in faith that our devoted, thoughtful efforts will bear good fruit, even if we don’t live to see all of it.

  22. Did you write something similar just a couple of years ago Steve? I do think though that we can’t treat and institution as quite the same as an individual. It is a bit funny that many people who might be critical of “corporations aren’t people” want them to act as such in these instances. Again I’m certainly not opposed to apologies and think it would be quite helpful. Elder Oaks was just factually incorrect when he said we don’t apologize. As I mentioned Mountain Meadows Massacre is a good example. McConkie’s statement to “Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or President George Q. Cannon or whomsoever has said in days past that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world” is now in church manuals as well. So I think the fallibilism issues are more complicated than some present.

  23. Angela C says:

    Mike: “Actually doing the work of unequivocally condemning all forms of past and present racism is what’s hard.” Bingo.

    Just to revisit rah’s list, where we fall short, IMO:
    1) Recognize our sins. D+ We allude to sins of the past, but we never acknowledge the ongoing issues: downstream impacts and attitudes that are a result of these shortcomings. We like to keep sins vague and in the past.
    2) Feel sorrow for our sins. F You can’t feel sorrow for things that you don’t acknowledge a part in, and keeping “sins” firmly in the past and mostly by other people (or implying God willed it) means you don’t feel sorrow for it–you can still claim the moral high ground because you see someone else’s flaws without owning them.
    3) Forsake our sins. C+ It’s easier to just “stop being racist” than it is to deal with the institutional problems directly or own them. Without owning the past, it’s too easy to pretend that the underlying factors aren’t still an issue and not deal with them. I think this OP does a great job of laying out those foundational issues, and they certainly haven’t gone away.
    4) Confess our sins. F No, we haven’t even quite “confessed” the sins of the past, just vaguely alluded to people all being racists back then, and God apparently was OK with it.
    5) Make restitution. D- Does it ever occur to any of our leaders to look at the racial make-up of our congregations and see that as a real problem? If so, why were the last 3 apostles all white guys from SLC area? We are willfully blind to the ongoing, downstream impacts.
    6) Ask for forgiveness. D First of all, today’s church remains completely distant from the problems as if they are a thing of the past done by other people (or God), so they don’t see a need to ask for forgiveness. Secondly, I don’t think they’ve scoped out just whose forgiveness they would seek. Again, things are kept comfortably distant, in the past, as if we no longer have any impacts from these policies and teachings. We do. But we are blind to it.

  24. Progressives should provide an answer why race relations in the U.S. are worse after an eight year President Obama administration?

  25. Mark, probably because y’all are a bunch of racists? Dunno.

  26. “Progressives” are at fault because Trump voters are racists? Doesn’t compute.

  27. Today’s SLTrib article about the church’s plan to demolish the historic Maori church school in New Zealand is another point to show the problems with believing in infallible leaders who they themselves say to the locals who are frustrated with the decision “to follow the counsel of living prophets and apostles.”

  28. Rebecca J says:

    If race relations in the U.S. are worse now (and I don’t know that they are), it’s probably because progressives are quick to attribute things to racism first and foremost, but conservatives are just as quick to claim that race is irrelevant (because sometimes it is), even when it’s clearly relevant (because sometimes it is). I wouldn’t say that both sides share equal blame. Yes, white conservatives get tired of being called racist all the time. For me, personally, the sting went out of the label years ago. But if conservatives had made a serious effort to address problems of systemic racism instead of pretending racism was solved in the ’60s or whatever, if they’d made a serious effort to persuade minority voters that their policies served minority interests instead of writing those votes (and the voters themselves) off, charges of racism would be a lot less credible now.

    You can’t attribute all of Trump’s success to racism, of course. Trump did better with minorities in 2016 than Romney did in 2012 (although it would have been difficult for him to do much worse). But his success has shone daylight on the racism that’s always been there but conservatives have made an art of dismissing.

  29. More to the point of Steve’s point, the LDS church has not taken its race problem seriously enough either. Hoping that people will ignore the implications of past policies has not been a winning strategy. Frankly acknowledging the mistakes of the past and the problems that still exist within the culture will be a big improvement, even if a non-white apostle is not on the horizon.

  30. Bro. B. says:

    rah, you make a great point: “3) Forsake our sins – Well we did get rid of the ban, eventually. So lets say we have successfully forsaken that from an institutional policy perspective. We are making some steps on repudiating the remaining “folk doctrines” (though insisting on calling them folk doctrines really violates the spirit of recognizing our sins fully).
    I love and sustain our leaders, but when they are the ones calling the past teachings on the ban “folk doctrines” it does seem they are implying something about the membership and not the leadership. It would go a long way towards recognizing error if they would collectively own it.

  31. Bro. B: There’ve been plenty of leaders who’ve preached the folk doctrines of their youth as current doctrine. Think of Spencer W. Kimball talking about how LDS baptism lightens the skins of Native Americans.

  32. Impediments to a proper apology. (Not sure I’m part of “we” for this purpose. Certain that I don’t want to be. But unable to completely separate myself.)
    1. Not in the program.
    [But it should be. See the OP.]
    2. We weren’t there. It wasn’t us.
    [But see the Church of England: “The Body of Christ is not just a body that exists at any one time; it exists across history and we therefore share the shame and the sinfulness of our predecessors.”]
    3. We believe that guilt and responsibility is all about intentions. Our hearts were pure, our intentions good, and therefore there is nothing to apologize for.
    [But damage was done and continues.]
    4. We’re nothing special–just part of a larger society that was racist, playing along and even in survival mode–and therefore it’s not important and nobody really cares.
    [Not true. But even if it were true, that which one can do, one ought to do.]
    5. We “know” we’re not going to make any reparations; we don’t plan to take any steps to make up for past harm. Therefore an apology would be hollow.
    [But we should take steps to repair. {Affirmative action into GA ranks, that will otherwise take several generations to achieve? Even at the cost of jumping over otherwise qualified loyal white men?}{Changing lesson manuals to be clear, even off-cycle?}{Amending or footnoting the apparently racist sections of the Book of Mormon so that it is no longer cited, or even used as a reminder of past failings?}{Actively paying attention to intersectional issues?}]
    [And even if we do take no action, an apology by itself would be beneficial. Not all we should do, but something.]
    6. Maybe we really are racist.
    [Maybe we don’t say it about black or African Americans (because most of us know better than to say anything?), but — in the intermountain west United States — open a conversation about Muslims, Mexicans, and Indians, and see what happens?]

  33. Andy H. says:
  34. Thanks.

  35. Bro. B. says:

    APM, I agree with you, that’s what I was trying to say. I think the leadership needs to own it too and not just characterize it as folk doctrines that the members have perpetuated.

  36. Wilhelm says:

    Tibetan nationalism “manifests itself via cultural anxiety, a longing for “older times” when the Tibet was built around Tibetan identity, and its tools are anti-Han Chinese resistance… Most Tibet nationalists would probably not see themselves as such; rather, they see themselves as wanting to protect the cultural values, traditions, and neighborhoods of their youth…”

    As the xenophobic Tibetan nationalist, the 14th Dalai Lama has said, “The unabated influx of Chinese immigrants to Tibet, which has the effect of overwhelming Tibet’s distinct cultural and religious identity and reducing the Tibetans to an insignificant minority in their own country, amount to a policy of cultural genocide. Today, in most of the major towns and cities Tibetans are already marginalized. If this population transfer is allowed to continue, Tibetan civilization will cease to exist in a few decades.”

  37. Robert60 says:


  38. Robert60 says:

    Is a regret an apology?
    Regrets for whose actions?

    “We express profound regret for the massacre carried out in this valley 150 years ago today, and for the undue and untold suffering experienced by the victims then and by their relatives to the present time,” Elder Eyring said.

    “A separate expression of regret is owed the Paiute people who have unjustly borne for too long the principal blame for what occurred during the massacre,” he said. “Although the extent of their involvement is disputed, it is believed they would not have participated without the direction and stimulus provided by local church leaders and members.”

  39. I guess I should have expected a white nationalist to come into this thread, I guess I didn’t expect them to try to use the decimation of Tibet as their primary political tool.

  40. Steve: It’s especially rich when you consider that about half the white population of the US lives in places that were subjected to explicit, intentional ethnic cleansing of their aboriginal inhabitants during the 18th and 19th centuries.

  41. Steve,
    Several of the prime manifestations of “white nationalism” that you list are presented in general conference on a frequent basis. Cultural anxiety is manifest in virtually every session of conference, but I doubt that the root of this is racism or racist feelings on behalf of the church leaders. The church also has frequently preached the evils of mass government handouts to the poor. More recently we hear it as improving self-reliance, but government reliance is always seen as a non-ideal condition.
    Many political leaders who have advocated these same positions for many years seem to be on the enemies list of prominent alt-right agitators. You need a better definition of alt-right. Remember, they attack many traditional conservatives and most church leaders would be categorized as traditional conservatives, and far from the alt-right.

    One note about voting, Utah rejected Trump in the primaries, and only tepidly supported him in the general election when his main opponent was an odious and corrupt career politician.

  42. Wilhelm says:

    @Steve. Just admit you’re fine and dandy with third-world manifestations of nationalism. First-world nationalisms? Bring on the smelling salts.

    @APM I grew up near Navajoland. The Athabascan-speaking Dene people (including their Apache brethren) are hardly indigenous to the area. Just ask the Hopi. Unless of course by indigenous you mean that state of pure and noble innocence in which the Amerindians existed prior to the Anglo advent.

  43. marcella says:

    A couple of weeks ago I went to church. It was high council Sunday. The high councilman speaking began his talk by reading an announcement from our bulletin about a fireside at the Oakland Inter-Stake center titled “Is the Mormon Church Racist” The speaker said it was a terrible announcement, his ward never had announcements like that in their bulletin and our church isn’t racist so there, we didn’t need to attend.

    We have such a long, long, long way to go.

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