My statement.

The church’s PR arm released a statement yesterday condemning the racism and hatred on display in Charlottesville.

I’m not going to lie. I wish the statement were stronger and more specific. I wish that we didn’t have to go back more than ten years to find a statement by a prominent church leader condemning racism as the evil that it is.

But I’m not going to find fault. This is a statement that expressly condemns racism as the evil that it is. And that is a good thing.

Nor does the newsroom statement prevent church members from raising our voices to say on our own behalf what we would have wished the church said on our behalf. Obviously, I have no authority to speak for the church. But can I speak for myself. So here’s my statement:

  1. The ideology of white supremacy is evil. It hatches in the filthiest, slimiest recesses of the human heart. Satan nurtures and feeds it on ignorance, arrogance, laziness, weakness, and fear. It is founded on a lie and it leads only to misery. It doesn’t matter what name it goes by, the Klan, National Socalism, the alt-right, it’s the same  rotting pile of corruption underneath. There is no curse in human language bad enough for it.
  2. The scriptures teach us that all men and women, all boys and girls, are in the image of God. The racist ideology of the alt-right disfigures that image and denies that most basic truth. You cannot subscribe to that evil foolishness and fully worship God the Father in spirit and in truth. Our scriptures teach us that God made us from one blood, and that when we hate our own blood, God weeps for the injustice we do to our brothers and sisters and to ourselves, and for the misery that is the inevitable harvest of such hate, and that he will come out in judgment against those who perpetrate it.
  3. As for race or lineage, our scriptures teach us that God is no respecter of persons, that he can create children of Abraham from stones, that all people who repent become the sons and daughters of Christ, and that those who consider themselves a branch of the chosen tree and do not repent will be cut off and burned. They teach us that he denies none that come to him, regardless of their color, gender, or status. You cannot believe the scriptures and also believe that any person is superior over any other person because of race.
  4. If you can convince yourself that this evil foolishness is compatible with the message of the gospel, then your conscience has been seared by a hot iron, and your eyes have so adjusted to the moral darkness that you cannot bear the light of Christ. You are adrift, without a moral compass, and unable to distinguish between good and evil. But I also believe that you can repent, that if you are willing to repent, God will heal you and restore your moral sight. Our own church has a bad and complicated history with race and we still have a long way to go, but we have changed and we have gotten better. We know better and we are trying to do better. I don’t know how long it will take, but I believe that if we are willing to be humble, God will help us to continue to repent and will continue to heal us.
  5. I pray for God to flood our communities with the light of Christ so we can see clearly to discern between good and evil. I pray for him to strengthen our knees and lift up our hands, to sustain our voices in defense of the truth that all people, regardless of race, are children of God, made in his image and equal before him. I pray for him to open our eyes to our own blindspots and to the ways we can fight this hellish sickness in our selves, our wards and our communities. I pray that he will confound the preachers and architects of this corrupting poison, and reveal to the world their moral and intellectual weakness, laziness, and stupidity, their fear, and their pathetic smallness of heart. I pray that he will open the eyes of those that have been fooled by this insidious, infernal delusion. And I pray that he will help those of us who see this evil foolishness for the stinking pile of excrement that it is to be able to stand against it as forcefully as possible, without letting hate take hold in our own hearts, standing ready to welcome them back into the light whenever they repent.

Nothing I say here is particularly insightful or praiseworthy. This is basic, obvious stuff to anybody who has even the most dented moral compass. But I feel that I must add my voice to the chorus of other more insightful and eloquent voices. We must speak as one, both long and loud, against the evil foolishness of white supremacy that is all around us all the time, but that is expressing itself now most visibly through the whiny, entitled, foolish, destructive, lazy, and evil “alt-right” temper tantrum in Charlottesville.

 

Comments

  1. Thank you. Amen.

  2. I love your statement. Now would also be a good time for the church to present a similar statement decrying the evils of sexism, classicism, and homophobia.

  3. Ditto. It’s a beautiful statement, especially beautiful in its uncompromising and unflinching look at ugliness and evil, and I heartily agree with and endorse everything you say here (even—perhaps especially—the stuff I hadn’t thought of before).

  4. With all due respect, white supremacy is baked into mormonism

    21 And he had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, that they had become like unto a flint; wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them.

    22 And thus saith the Lord God: I will cause that they shall be loathsome unto thy people, save they shall repent of their iniquities.

  5. Francis, with all due respect, no it’s not. Unless we somehow view every verse of scripture as providing an accurate and normative description of the mind of God.

    Fortunately, the Book of Mormon itself explicitly declaims any such view; we are welcome—even invited—to read such things as the racist and wrong statements of fallen individuals. That is, our embrace of prophetic fallibility applies both to modern prophets and to those who wrote in, or were written about in, scripture.

    Of course, this is purely tangential to JKC’s excellent condemnation of racism, which he derives from his Mormonism.

  6. Francis, I disagree that that passage from the Book of Mormon is evidence of white supremacy being baked into the message of the gospel or the restoration, because I don’t believe that the restoration’s message holds up the Nephites as an example to follow. In fact, it’s just the opposite. The revelations call the Book of Mormon a “record of a fallen people,” and warn the saints to “beware of pride lest [they] become as the Nephites of old.”

    That said, we do have a race problem in our history and in our present, and we need to root it out.

  7. Thank you, amen, may we become the church and the nation and the people of God we are supposed to be.

  8. Actually I think arguments can be made on either side: one can read it as baked into Mormonism and one can read it as anathema to Mormonism.

    So what it comes down to, imo, is whether or not Mormonism is us. And if it is, as I believe it is, us, we need to be like JKC here and make sure Mormonism decrys racism as individual people, that we deliberately read the scriptures as anti-racists texts, and that we look at our history and face it and learn from it.

  9. Said as it should be. It’s all encompassed in the two great commandments as prescribed by Christ Himself:

    1. Love God with all your heart, might, mind, and soul.
    2. Love your neighbour AS YOURSELF.

    I see no ambiguity in this statement, or wiggle room to justify a fundamentally flawed position of racial supremacy or discrimination of any kind.

    “Alt-Right”, Facism, Neo-Facism, white supremacy, Nazism, KKK, etc., are all forms of anti-Christ expression. They may as well have the number of the beast tattooed on their forehead or their hand. Their sepulchres are painted white, and that is the extent and end of their glory.

  10. In other words, EmJen, there are enough paradoxes in the scriptures that one purpose they serve is to function as an inkblot to reveal what it is that we truly believe as we decide which interpretations to adopt and which to reject.

  11. JKC, last I checked these were the actions of God not the Nephites. Unless we want to argue that the god of the BOM is fallen? It is that god which used darker skin to signify wickedness and deter the white and delightsome.

  12. Check again.

  13. Sam, I would be very curious what mormonism means to you if it’s just a matter of picking and choosing which verses that support your 2017 world view. For me it is my heritage, my tribe, my people, but it is no moral authority over my life.

  14. Left Field says:

    With all due respect, the vast majority of racially problematic Mormon scriptural passages are found in the Bible.

    With all due respect, baked-in racism needs to be extracted from our understanding of Mormonism, scripture, and every other aspect of human culture, belief, and practice.

  15. lol JKC, I don’t follow how you rework your verbs/nouns? Are we still in English? the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them. I will cause that they shall be loathsome unto thy people

  16. Francis, it’s anything but picking and choosing. Instead, as JKC said, it’s reading scripture well. Sure, there’s a long history of reading poorly, and assuming that anything said in scripture represents the will and the words of God. But that’s just lazy. Like JKC said, the BoM is about a fallen people that make mistakes. And one of the big mistakes they make is treating the Lamanites as inferior and more wicked.

  17. Sorry, that was a little glib. Let me expand a bit. God did not write that passage himself. Nephi did (or some later scribe). Read closely and you see that the parts that are attributed to God do not mention the “skin of blackness.” That is found only in what is presented as Nephi’s interlinear commentary on what are presented as God’s words to Nephi.

    There are a number of other ways to read that passage without reading it as an endorsement of white supremacy. The question is, which reading will you choose to follow.

  18. Thank you for these strong words. I am embarrassed and disgusted by comments I am seeing on LDS sites sympathizing with the alt-right. The movement is evil, pure and simple. You stand up to evil. Period.

  19. Francis, what we’re saying is that just because a writer in the BoM says God punished the Lamanites by darkening their skin doesn’t mean the writer was right. In fact, as I said above, the BoM expressly admits the fact that even its prophetic writers could and did make mistakes.

    If you want to insist that there are no errors in scripture, and that every word accurately represents what God Himself would say, you read scripture in a really, really inaccurate manner.

  20. I mean, if you think the Book of Mormon is fiction, then sure, read every comment in it as expressing the author’s intent (although even that is pretty lazy). But if you accept that the Book is an ancient record (full disclosure: I do) then it is entirely plausible that (1) Nephi was just plain wrong about this or, (2–what I find more plausible) that this wasn’t written by Nephi at all, but by some later historian trying to shore up the Nephites’ claim to political legitimacy, among other possibilities.

  21. No Sam, it means I read the BoM like 99% of Mormons including JS and all of the inspired leaders of the church. If we want to nuance the reading, we’re doing a huge discredit to our faith tradition. At the end of the day, it becomes like I expressed a game of picking and choosing verses we like. We have conclusions about race and then we mold the scriptures to make them fit that conclusion. JKC is doing a very good job of picking and choosing by attributing Nephi’s comments to someone else and saying they were written in error. I don’t blame him/her (sorry JKC don’t know your gender), I’m just saying that as soon as we start liberally reading the most correct book of any, we basically fall into cafeteria mormonism because of our human biases.

  22. “If we want to nuance the reading, we’re doing a huge discredit to our faith tradition.” This makes no sense to me, Francis. It seems to me to be the opposite of true.

  23. JKC, you’re correct. I should say something more like “If we want to alter/dismiss entire ideas or verses from the BoM specifically that represent thinking that inspired leaders repeatedly forwarded as doctrine, we’re not being honest about theological mormonism as it is”

  24. And FTR, it’s not a matter of having conclusions and making the scriptures fit them. It’s a matter of reading the scriptures as a whole, in light of the witness of the Holy Spirit. Even if you think that this BofM passage really is God espousing white supremacy, you’d still have to acknowledge the other passages that forcefully condemn it. You can call my reading picking and choosing, but the reading you’re arguing for is no less picking and choosing, it’s just picking and choosing that passage over other passages. Reading that passage as espousing white supremacy doesn’t make the Book of Mormon a white supremacist text, it would at most make it a multi-vocal text.

    The choice between on the one hand, a racist God and scriptural inerrancy, and on the other hand, a non-racist God and human scriptural authors, seems like an easy choice to me.

  25. I can’t agree with that statement, Francis. If you had said “as it was before the church later expressly disavowed that thinking previously forwarded as doctrine” I’d be closer to agreeing with you. It does not represent Mormonism “as it is.” In fact, to call that Mormonism as it is would be dishonest, IMO.

  26. JKC, which passages if you don’t mind me asking? God can be a white supremacist and absolutely see male/female bond/free as equal. You just have to be righteous so your skin color will change to white like Spencer W Kimball said.

  27. Wait, the church has expressly disavowed the “racism” of earlier prophets? Would you say they were wrong about BY, WW, everyone else?

  28. I think we should acknowledge that there are those who are saying (elsewhere) Mormonism is racist and there isn’t anything we can (and sometimes should) do about it. There are those who are saying Mormonism is not racist (and thus nothing we have to do about it) (see Church’s statement).

    I think we need to get to a point of saying “Where there is racism, we need to do something about it. Mormonism doesn’t have to be racist, in fact there are beautiful doctrines of inclusion (family history work, all are alike unto God, follow Christ in everything) that are anti-racist. How can we focus more on those?”

  29. Which passages? The “all are alike unto God” passage is one. Your reconciliation makes no sense to me. “Black and white” are “alike unto God” but white is better? No. Doesn’t work for me. Jacob’s “commandment” to the Nephites to “revile no more against [the Lamanites] because of the darkness of their skins” is another.

    Has the church disavowed? Yes. Were Brigham Young and his successors wrong? Yes, I think they were wrong about this. But contemporary Mormons judging Brigham Young to be wrong about theological points is a long and glorious tradition.

  30. Well said, EmJen.

  31. There is no scripture that can justify white supremacy at all and any attempt to justify it is entering the philosophies of men into the scriptures. What’s more, the Book of Mormon is the only book of scripture to explicitly state that anti-Semitism is evil:
    “4 But thus saith the Lord God: O fools, they shall have a Bible; and it shall proceed forth from the Jews, mine ancient covenant people. And what thank they the Jews for the Bible which they receive from them? Yea, what do the Gentiles mean? Do they remember the travails, and the labors, and the pains of the Jews, and their diligence unto me, in bringing forth salvation unto the Gentiles?

    5 O ye Gentiles, have ye remembered the Jews, mine ancient covenant people? Nay; but ye have cursed them, and have hated them, and have not sought to recover them. But behold, I will return all these things upon your own heads; for I the Lord have not forgotten my people.”
    (2 Nephi 29:4-5)

  32. I think Francis probably [and if we’re being honest so do a large majority of LDS members who are aware of the Church’s statement on race] doesn’t consider this declaration on Race and the Priesthood as relating to prophets earlier than Joseph Smith:

    Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects unrighteous actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form.

    But there it is in black and white or whatever color your screen uses to present these pixels. Read properly this statement should be recognized as disavowing all statements, even scriptural, that God cursed people by changing the melanin content of their skin.

    On a separate note, and perhaps your statement should tackle this JKC, think about how people like a certain Twitter traditionalist wife discusses white support. Using her own words she wants to preserve her people (meaning those who look like her and come from primarily northern Europe and the British Isles), their culture and their homeland (US in her case). Traditionalists feel unsettled that they are somehow losing their place in this country due to the changing complexion and religious demographics of society around them. They are unsettled by a US that is becoming more secular and less White Anglo Saxon Protestant with all the traditions that went with that embodiment. Politically for those like her this means a number of specific policies should be eliminated or enacted including controlled immigration along the lines of what Pres Trump is pursuing, elimination of racial quotas (this would be their word not mine), restricting government benefits to those who look like her, and legal efforts to eliminate or restrict historical tokens and traditions. I do not espouse any of this necessarily, but this is the attitude that needs to be dealt with. Essentially, she believes that races are equal (though I question if they really believe that) but should be kept separate in their own countries. Yes, we thought the Civil Rights acts dealt with separate but equal but there’s a whole counter culture that still rejects this notion.

  33. It is an interesting line to draw. White is pure, it is delightsome. That isn’t just some small mistake of a BoM author. It’s the basis of the entire BoM narrative. Would you say that there wasn’t actually a curse of skin? If so why did God do that? If not, how did it sink so deeply into the narrative?

    Just because white skin is better, doesn’t mean you should “revile” against people that do not have the pure skin color (Jacob is not in contradiction). Nor does it necessarily mean that God doesn’t see individuals as equal. Does God discriminate between the righteous and wicked? Absolutely according to the BoM. But that doesn’t mean that he discriminates on the individual level. Am I playing gymnastics with group racism vs individual, sure. But isn’t that the game of apologetics ;)

    I am very interested in exploring further your dismissal of the view I think that the BoM presents along with the majority of modern day prophets/apostles, but I’ll leave you in peace here. Do you participate in any forums/boards besides BCC?

  34. JKC: Good statement. I subscribe. Yes.

    However/In addition/But:

    1. (With EmJen, I think, but not to directly ascribe) I think we need to explicitly disavow historic Mormon readings and practices. Whether the Church does or not, as an individual I do disavow, reject and abhor all so-called Mormon readings, practices, and teachings that have a racist source or application. (Even at the cost of being considered ahistorical or an unbeliever, if necessary.)

    2. There is a whole other thread of debate going on that needs to be addressed. It’s the nationalist or “blood and soil” thread, that (closely argued) sidesteps racism in its most common forms and gets to many of the same results by celebrating the relationship of _a people_ (definitions critical here) to _a land_ that they occupy. There are all kinds of problems with the nationalist argument, of course, but they are not adequately addressed by a pure “no respecter of persons” anti-racist speech.

  35. Great points, JKC, Sam, EmJen!

  36. As Christian points out, white nationalist ideology is carefully crafted to make it possible for racists to deny that they are racists. They do not care that this denial is plausible only to their deluded followers. They are conscious and deliberate liars.

    Two things follow for the rest of us. First, we must always recognize the lies for what they are. We must reject the idea that their lies are within the margins of legitimate discourse in the church. Second, we must recognize that clear and specific repudiation of their lies is necessary. The church’s statement over the weekend clarified the church’s position for most people, but it’s not specific enough to refute the lies of those who are working hard to pervert the church’s teachings. Crafting the right strategy for this takes some careful thought, since I don’t think the church wants to get very far down in the weeds. I hope the appropriate authorities are working on it.

  37. N. Bailey says:

    Francis, you might not be interested but- for me asking better questions about the production of the small plates, has lead to more appreciation for the scripture- and perhaps gives some context for what was written in 2 Nephi 5 for example:

    Was Nephi worried about his differences with his father? How would those emotions have influenced how he would make an account of their journey? When they got back with the plates from Jerusalem, where is Lehi’s stated support for everything that happened there? (Nephi did kill a guy) Why leave his dad’s comments about that out of the record and just say- my parents were happy to see us again, specifically my Mom because it helped with her testimony of my Dad, ohh and btw me getting the pates is the only way my dad knew his family history, so he liked that part…. seems like there was a little more to that discussion, I know there would have been with my dad.

    Just before the 2 Nephi 5 stuff… Where is Nephi’s blessing from Lehi? What might have been said that caused Nephi to leave it out completely? Why would he do that? Was Nephi worried about his differences with his brothers, and how his posterity would judge what happened? What was their great sin? Where does he even call them sinners? (btw Nephi killed a guy) How carefully did he phrase what he wrote in 2 Nephi 5, did his emotions influence what he wrote at all? How would that have influenced the next 400 years of segregation of the 2 groups? Even all the way down to the records that Mormon was editing when he included an excerpt in 3 Nephi 2:15.

    Nephi, for sure, nuanced his account, my favorite example “I will go I will do” (1 Nephi 3:7) and just 4 verses later…. uhhh so who wants to draw straws to see who goes in first (1 Nephi 3:11) Are we not supposed to notice that?

    Nephi was a prophet of the Lord, but he can be a person too, with difficulties and hang-ups about family. Just asking better questions about why he wrote what he did has given me a deeper appreciation for anyone in Church leadership local or general, but for real you think that white people are better than other people? and you think that because of the Book of Mormon, yikes…..

  38. Pres. Hinckley’s statement was far better, mostly because it didn’t fuel the fire of polarization with pitched, over the top rhetoric.

  39. Alain: Thanks for the comment. I understand what you’re saying–that people like her claim to not be racist in theory. They base this on the assertion that they don’t actually *hate* non-white people, they just think that their culture is inferior and that they should be confined to their own countries far away from the white people homeland. Here’s my response: Don’t believe it. It’s a lie. When you make common cause with avowed Nazis and the Klan, those fine distinctions are meaningless. The point is, we are equal before God. Count me as a believer in the principle that separate but equal is a contradiction in terms. You can claim all you want that you are a segregationist but not a racist, but it will never convince me. Racism is not just hate of other races, it is the belief that a person’s race has any legitimate impact whatsoever on that person’s value, worthiness, right to be in a given place, or claim on our love and respect. And as for the idea of covering race with a thin plaster of “culture” to make such ideas superficially palatable: bullshit. I know you don’t believe that foolishness, my use use of “you” not directed at you personally.

    Christian & Loursat: Good points. I agree. They do unconvincingly argue that they are not “racist.” And condemning racism in general terms is not enough. I agree, though, that the church is right not to get too far into the weeds. Wrestling with a pig and all that. Rather than a point by point refutation of their lies, I think calling out specific movements (e.g. “alt-right”) as included within the general umbrella of white supremacy and racism, and a simple statement that their attempts to distinguish themselves from white supremacy and racism fools nobody, is probably the way to do it.

  40. “Would you say that there wasn’t actually a curse of skin?”

    Yes. If I’m wrong, I’m confident that God will correct me when I die. In the meantime, what’s the advantage to believing that the curse real, and not imagined by the Nephites?

    “If not, how did it sink so deeply into the narrative?”

    I think you’re overstating its importance to the Book as a whole, but let’s set that aside. The text doesn’t give us the answer, specifically, but the revelations are pretty clear that the Nephites were a “fallen people” because of their pride. The Nephites are emphatically not to be uncritically held up as an example of what to do. And “pride” here, I believe, at least includes racial pride. If I were to speculate about the specifics, I would say that the Nephites’ desire to adopt the fiction that God cursed the Lamanites with a change in skin color was driven by the same forces that caused white Christians in the 18th and 19th centuries to adopt similar doctrines: racial pride, and a desire to claim a theological justification for a claim of political legitimacy for a segregated regime.

  41. Didn’t realize it was a competition, Jeff. Guess I’ll try harder next time to beat Pres. Hinckley.

  42. it's a series of tubes says:

    It amazes me that a disciplinary council has not yet been convened against A. Stewart for apostacy, particularly as her actions meet two of the three possible criteria as defined in Handbook 1: (i) repeatedly act in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its leaders, and (ii) persist in teaching as church doctrine information that is not church doctrine after they have been corrected by their bishop or higher authority.

  43. tubes, do we know that a council has no been convened? and do we know that she has been corrected by her bishop or stake president?

  44. Not a Cougar says:

    JKC, I had the same thought. However, now that she’s on the national stage (though maybe she’s not as widely known as I am assuming?), you’d think the Church leadership might agree that it’s time to refute her statements publicly. I assume it’d be a one paragraph written statement, similar to the George P. Lee announcement.

  45. The idea of “corrected by her bishop or stake president” has lots of problems and can easily lead to abuse. But if we focus on “as a Mormon” I can get more comfortable. In other words, “you can’t say that” is prior restraint that ought to be truly extraordinary. Instead, “when you say that you can’t be claiming Mormon support or doctrine or scripture, you can’t say ‘as a Mormon'” — _that_ I’d like to be said just as broadly and directively as possible.

  46. I agree that it would be appropriate to refute her statements publicly. That’s separate, to me, from the question of whether she has been disciplined, and related, but still separate, from the question on whether she should be disciplined. I can say that from where I stand, she’s damaging the church, and that’s a consideration both in the decision whether to convene a disciplinary council and in the outcome of the council, but I’m not in a position of authority to make those decisions.

    If she does get disciplined, and continues to claim that her ideology is in harmony with the church, then I could see it being appropriate to make some kind of public statement to clarify that she is not a member in good standing, and the church does not accept her interpretations.

    Even if she does not get disciplined, I think it could be appropriate for the church to clarify that the church does not accept her statements. Something like Randy Bott.

    I also think it is entirely possible that she has been corrected/counseled by her bishop, and it is entirely possible that a council has been convened and that she has received some kind of informal discipline. We just don’t know. I think if she were excommunicated she would probably make that known herself, but with something short of excommunication, I don’t know that there’s any way we would even know whether that happened.

    My point is simply that I don’t think we can say one way or the other with any degree of confidence whether any discipline or correction has happened.

  47. I think I understand you, Christian, I was just questioning tubes’ comment that she had satisfied that definition of apostasy–persisting in teaching *as church doctrine* information that is not church doctrine after having been corrected by their bishop or stake president. By my lights, her statements are plainly contrary to church doctrine, and I think you could fairly say that she presents them as though they were church doctrine, but we just don’t know one way or the other whether somebody in a position of authority has corrected her, so I don’t think we can say for sure that she satisfies that definition of apostasy.

    But again, I’m less concerned with whether she merits church discipline than I am with this question: what will we as members do to try to make sure that her audience isn’t fooled into thinking that her statements represent the church?

  48. JKC: I think we keep non-violently agreeing. There are comments crossing and weaving that make it difficult to keep track of the call and response. But if I disagree with you directly, I’m pretty sure you’ll know it.

  49. Who is A. Stewart? Didn’t see her on Twitter.

  50. Consider yourself lucky, Bro. B. I don’t want to give her any traffic, so I won’t identify her twitter handle here.

  51. So what do we do with something like this? https://www.lds.org/scriptures/triple-index/white?lang=eng

  52. Great statement, JKC. Thanks for such a clear response.

    EmJen, great point. That should be changed. On the bright side, it seems like it would be way easier to change the supplemental material to the scriptures than the bad parts of the scriptures themselves. It seems like such a change could even be made quietly, like the “principal ancestors” change in the intro to the BoM.

  53. For those interested, Joanna Brooks is preparing a group statement against anti-white supremacy being taught as a Mormon principle and asking any/all Mormons interested to help write / sign it. It will (apparently) be a SLTrib OpEd later today. If link to Googledoc doesn’t work, you can find it on her FB page: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1AWweX8Fefed4GQK9ks8-InxsS9jXhHSXWv128SsQXXw/edit

  54. Update: The church has updated its statement to specifically call out those who “pursue a ‘white culture’ or white supremacy agenda” as out of harmony with the church’s teachings.

    This is excellent. This doesn’t mean that we don’t still have work to do, but this is excellent. http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/church-statement-charlottesville-virginia?__prclt=tNTTIVsb

  55. BlueRidgeMormon says:

    Terrific OP, and terrific/edifying back-and-forth in the comments, as (nearly) always.

    But I’d like to go back to the JKC/Francis exchange, if any are interested. I tend to identify with JKC’s call for more “nuance” in reading BoM scriptural accounts about white/dark skin, etc. As an early morning seminary teacher I’ve endeavored to help the youth gain greater “nuance” in reading scripture and understanding doctrine – – for example, finding Mike Austin’s BCC comments on the Old Testament massively helpful in helping the kids think of the accounts less as historical, and more as stories included in the OT for a particular purpose. (So I’m just throwing that out there, for starters.) The point is, I find JKC’s perspective on understanding the BoM’s skin color accounts well articulated, and essentially captures how I think about all this.

    That said, I think if we’re going to be fair, we have to acknowledge that Francis has a point. And truthfully, it’s a powerful one. It’s something I struggle with, frankly. Let me illustrate with a practical example: I have a close colleague who is African American. We talk about faith constantly. This colleague and his family have attended church functions with us, and I have attended theirs with them. Obviously, I feel that Mormonism has much to recommend to this colleague and his family. But I’d be lying if I didn’t read certain passages in the BoM relating to skin color as a curse, and wonder “how in the world would/could I explain that?” As I’ve already allowed, JKC has (in my view) articulated perhaps the best possible explanation/commentary, and I’m friendly to it. Nevertheless, trying to attract a nonwhite colleague to the Church and its teachings will eventually run up against some of the scriptural passages that have been quoted in the comments. And despite the fact that I’m friendly to JKC’s articulation, that doesn’t change the fact that the mental gymnastics/nuance required to articulate/believe/espouse such a view are daunting. (For instance, how plausible is it, really, to play out that kind of conversation with my colleague? Furthermore, assuming the colleague would find that nuanced view satisfactory (which is questionable), could such a view be plausibly articulated and understood by that colleague’s 12-year-old child?) The point is: how practical is it, really, to require such a nuanced view – – essentially that God isn’t racist, but his prophet Nephi might have been – – as a way of explaining the troubling passages/narrative? This is where I think the kind of community that is drawn to outlets like BCC (chief example: me) forget how far into the tail of the distribution we are. In other words, what percentage of average primary kids in an average ward would agree with such a “nuanced” view? How about the YM/YW? Or the adults in gospel doctrine class? Or the adults in ward/stake leadership positions? I’d venture to say, statistically close to zero. And I happen to reside in a relatively cosmopolitan, affluent, university-dominated ward, and yet I think very few of my fellow congregants would be comfortable with such a view.

    (In reality, I speculate that most members – even those most uncomfortable with the light/dark skin narrative – likely just avoid thinking about it at all, and for that matter tend to avoid racism in doctrinal terms period, essentially just avoiding or ignoring the conundrum posed by the light/dark/chosen/cursed narrative in the BoM. Maybe we tend to lump it in with other “weird” doctrinal practices, or strange Old Testament-era accounts of concubines or prophets calling down fire to consume people etc… so we just shrug and move on: things were clearly different “back then”. As an aside, perhaps this is a potential answer to BHodges’ question of why we don’t find more “resources” condemning racism in LDS sermons… how would we square them with the blessing/curse accounts? https://bycommonconsent.com/2017/08/13/lessons-on-racism/)

    I realize I’m rambling a bit – – so what’s my point? I guess I’m suggesting that it’s important to recognize that the “nuance” required to adopt/resonate with a JKC-style explanation of the light/dark blessing/curse narrative (e.g. parsing what the Lord said from what Nephi attributes to the Lord, etc.) is, relatively speaking, a tall order. And a view that I suspect would have a statistically small number (percentage wise) of takers, throughout the church’s current membership. And therefore would also (for example) be a whopper of a thing to require of an investigator or new convert: asking them to believe/explain something in a way that I think is complicated/sophisticated, and relatively far outside of the mainstream/typical member’s view on things. Wouldn’t my African-American colleague more plausibly react to JKC’s “Nephi filter” explanation a bit of a stretch? (As in, these are the same kinds of mental gymnastics that climate deniers employ?) Confession: I think he would. I think he’d gently say: “hey, I appreciate your vested interest in wanting to explain away the BoM’s skin color narrative (dark=curse, light=righteous), but I think you’re in denial. You’ve got a book of scripture that starkly lays out a central narrative about covenant breakers being cursed with dark skin, and the best you can do is attribute it to ‘author voice’? That’s a lot of cognitive dissonance, friend.”

    And if that’s true, where does it leave us? What thoughts to any of you have, and JKC and Francis specifically? (And EmJen, and Loursat, and Kristine, and Steve Evans, and Mike&Mike and the rest of you whom I find so articulate..) How to best deal with the problem(s) raised by this? And I don’t mean the epistemological ones, I mean the practical ones…

    At what point does, in fact, over-nuancing things devolve into simple cafeteria Mormonism, as some have suggested? (Believing in one’s own “version” of church doctrine that doesn’t really square with dominant/cultural “church doctrine”?)

    Alternatively, what are the implications of going the other way, viewing the BoM’s skin color narrative as a “mistake”, much the same way many in the community are now comfortable viewing restoration-era polygamy as a “mistake”? (Or perhaps more on point, the view that the modern-era priesthood ban was a “mistake” – – a view essentially endorsed by the gospel topics essay on LDS.org?) How comfortable are we applying Uchtdorf’s “mistakes were made” not only to McConkie, but to Nephi? Thoughts about any of this?

  56. BlueRidgeMormon, here’s a start.

    1. The Book of Mormon is a divine miracle. Part of the miracle is its staggering narrative complexity. It’s just an incredibly rich piece of work. We ought to show investigators that aspect of the book and not shortchange it. People who are really interested won’t be put off by that.

    2. We must develop new readings of the Book of Mormon that respond to the needs of our time. We need to recognize how old readings of the book were determined partly by the biases of earlier readers. The Book of Mormon is a divine miracle; it can withstand that approach.

    3. The people who wrote the Book of Mormon made mistakes. The book itself announces on its title page that it is flawed. But the Book of Mormon is a divine miracle. Its power as a testament of Jesus overcomes its flaws. Our faith in its power to convert will be rewarded; we don’t need to apologize for the book.

    4. It is a fundamental fact that prophets have never been perfect, regardless of when they lived. We should be deeply grateful to understand that fact, because it should lead us to seek the continuing revelation that God has promised.

    5. The gospel is absurd. To the absurdity of the empty tomb, we Mormons add the absurdity of the golden plates and Joseph’s visions. I believe these ridiculous things because that’s where the Spirit has taken me.

    6. I have no method for explaining the racial problems in the Book of Mormon. You might know the arguments pro and con at least as well as I do. Others might have more useful things to say about this. My only thought is to let the Spirit guide.

  57. That’s a long comment, BlueRidge Mormon, and I can’t address all of it, but here are a few points:

    Overall, I don’t think a closer reading of Nephi, rejecting the curse narrative as wrong, is all that hard or requires any mental gymnastics. It sounds strange mostly because it’s unfamiliar. But if we have no problem rejecting, say, Joshua’s genocide and lots of other stuff in the Old Testament, I don’t see why the Nephite curse narrative should be more challenging that that.

    How plausible is it to play out that reading with your colleague? I think it’s pretty easy, actually: “Yes, because it is an authentic ancient record, the Book of Mormon records ancient people believing racist things and attributing them to God, like most ancient people did. We reject those beliefs. This goes back to our rejection of the idea of scriptural inerrancy.” Honestly, if the Book of Mormon conformed 100% to our present understanding of racism, wouldn’t that make you skeptical of it’s claim to be ancient?

    Alternatively, if you’re someone that just can’t see around the curse narrative being God’s word, then another approach is to treat is a bizarre anomaly, not as a general pattern that guides how we live today. Let’s assume for argument’s sake that God really did curse the Lamanites with dark skin. That says *nothing* about all dark-skinned people and *nothing* about how we should treat people based on their skin. So even if you accept the narrative as true, which, again, I think is lazy, I think you still dismiss it as sui generis.

    I am not worried about devolving into “cafeteria Mormonism.” The truth is, we all make choices about what in the scriptures we emphasize and de-emphasize, accept, and reject. I believe that the Holy Spirit can guide us to know how to understand the scriptures and that we don’t need to accept everything we read in them as though we had no extra-scriptural moral compass or guide. I’m not interested in “dominant/cultural ‘church doctrine,'” and I don’t think the church really is either. The list of things that you *must* believe is pretty small, and even within that list, I think there is a great deal of room for personal understanding without somehow going outside the mainstream of the church. In saying this, I’m not talking about so-called “new order” Mormonism, I’m talking about solidly mainstream church membership. I think the mainstream of the church, outside of the basic principles of belief in God, faith in Christ, repentance, a belief in the reality of priesthood authority and the necessity of ordinances, and a belief in the truth of the story of Moroni and the Book of Mormon and the restoration of priesthood authority, there is a lot of room for difference of opinion while still being squarely in the mainstream of the church.

    What are the implications of acknowledging mistakes by those who we accept as prophets? The implications, as I see them, are (1) that we might begin to more fully live up to our belief that no man is infallible, (2) stronger, less brittle testimonies with youth better equipped to live life without having to seemingly face a false choice between their faith in prophets and what appears to be the obvious fact that those prophets sometimes messed things up, and (3) that we might rely more on the gift of the Holy Ghost than on expecting our priesthood leaders to do all our thinking for us. I think the implications are pretty good.

  58. I don’t have any difficulty parsing the Book of Mormon as describing a racist people who were wrong. I don’t think it’s difficult or a stretch. (So agreeing with JKC almost completely, I believe.)

    However, I would acknowledge that a significant number of Mormons and a lot of Mormon teaching (frankly all of my pre-college education in the Church), reads the 8th Article of Faith (“we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God”) and puts the Book of Mormon squarely in the inerrant category, going so far as to say that every word of the English text is exactly what God wants it to be. For me personally, that view of the Book of Mormon disappeared so long ago that I can’t remember if I ever held it. But I believe that inerrancy for the Book of Mormon is the cultural norm. Not so?

    Even a perfect text is subject to the (now normal, I hope) genre and voice and point of view analysis, and more. However, BlueRidge and others claiming that such interpretive nuance is difficult has a lot more heft to it in the context of a “God’s word” text.

  59. I’ve heard people make that argument, Christian, but the idea that the Book of Mormon is inerrant simply can’t be squared with the Book of Mormon itself, which explicitly states that it contains “the mistakes of men.” Inerrancy is a relic of the apostasy, IMO—not just belief in inerrancy as applied to a bible that contains errors of translation, but the doctrine itself.

    I mean, you only need inerrancy if you believe in cessationism, right? If the Spirit of God is accessible and teaches truth, then there’s no need for inerrancy. It also ignores the fact that Joseph Smith himself made revisions, and if I’m not mistaken, made some such revisions after the Wentoworth letter.

    I read the 8th AofF to teach that “as far as it is translated correctly” is necessarily implied in “we believe it to be the word of God,” so when it says that the B of M is believed to be the word of God, that’s shorthand for “the word of God as far as it is translated correctly.”

    But even setting aside translation issues, a belief in a text being “the word of God” does not imply inerrancy.

  60. JKC: We’re talking about two separate things.

    Regarding inerrancy per se, I agree! (Except that I’m easy — I don’t need nearly as much machinery as you’ve pulled out. [Judging by your Linked-In profile] I agreed before you were born!)

    Regarding Mormon cultural norms, I can’t tell. Do you really argue that inerrancy (including “word of God” = inerrancy) is a rare and unimportant characteristic of Mormon culture? And of course, arguing that it’s illogic or mis-informed or unexamined is not the same thing.

    For better or worse, I believe BoM inerrancy to be a majority position in Mormon culture. And therefore argue that it should be taken into account (acknowledged, dealt with, responded to) in a discussion about how to read the Book of Mormon. Finally, for a point of view about argumentation. when responding to someone who is schooled in an inerrant perfect text reading, I’ve found that “just stop thinking that way” is not very effective.

  61. I understand, Christian, I didn’t think you were actually asserting that position, just giving the reasons I would give against it. I think you’re right that most members probably think superficially in terms of Book of Mormon inerrancy, but I would guess that most who have really given the issue more than superficial thought would reject it.

    You argumentation point is well-taken. I see now that my last comment to BlueRidgeMormon comes off as a bit impatient. Sorry for that.

  62. Then Black is not a culture. What if we replaced the statement with the word black instead of white.

    Church members who promote or pursue a “black culture” or black supremacy agenda are not in harmony with the teachings of the Church.

    Everyone would be against it but it is okay to attack the whites. Double standard.

  63. Bryan Donsieders says:

    EW, I get that you’re a troll, but what exactly do you think black supremacy looks like in the Church? Do you actually think that has any traction in the Church (and Sistas in Zion doesn’t count)? A church led by an all-white First Presidency and Quorum of Apostles, and also about 40% of the Quorum of the Seventy? I don’t think a “black supremacy agenda” has any traction there.

    And as for “it is okay to attack the whites”, no, it’s okay to attack those who use the phrase “white culture” to mean white supremacy.

  64. Blueridgemormon says:

    JKC and christiankimball, great thoughtful responses, and the idea of “if the BoM conformed completely to modern conceptions of inclusion, wouldnt that undermine its claim to be ancient?” is especially insightful.

    That said, for the most part the responses essentially avoid (or brush off) the central point of my comment, which is: the nuanced view you articulate is quite unorthodox. That doesn’t change the fact that i completely agree with it, but in the harsh light of current events, it does strike me as salient that squaring the raw scriptural account with current beliefs requires a ‘non-traditional’ understanding/reading of the text that most LDS readers simply wouldn’t glean from the text.

    Not sure where that leaves us, but Loursat’s response also terrific, and perhaps the best we can do.