The problem of God’s whiteness

Here’s a form of white supremacy: the belief that God is white. Holding that belief does not necessarily make you a supporter of neo-Nazism and white terrorism but you should know that it does make you a white supremacist. Sorry if that offends.

This is a blog post, not an academic paper so I will not wade into definitions of “whiteness.” Needless to say, it’s tricky at the edges. Also, ideas of “white supremacy” can be difficult but importantly need not have conscious political motives.

In response to Fox News’s assertion that “Jesus was white,” black author Leonce Gaiter followed the trail to its conclusion:

Megyn Kelly said that Jesus was white. The son of God, she said, was a white man. It logically follows … that God his father was white as well.

That’s it in a nutshell — the mother lode of the white supremacy that governed this nation for most of its history, the mother lode of the white supremacy that still keeps the steeled toe of its jackboot on our throats. A white God is the poison pill buried in the creamy cannoli of Christianity. God is white. Man is made in God’s image; and thus white men are Godly. The rest of us are those over whom God’s reflections (white men) rightly hold dominion.

It won’t do in response to this to lecture Gaiter on the complex theology of the Incarnation, the conception of Christ, or the relationship between Father and Son, because most Christians don’t really think that deeply. He is right that European Christian folk belief, certainly in how it has been expressed in art, has almost always depicted “God” — as Father or in Trinity — as having the same white race as Jesus. This may all be culturally contingent and benign or merely symbolic (although symbols do matter), but for Mormons, there is a particular problem: God the Father is believed to be a physical being and the literal physical father of Jesus. Thus, if Jesus is “white” then Gaiter is right: God must necessarily be also. None of this is symbolic.

Just to be clear: I know many Mormons who don’t believe this and I know of at least one independent Mormon artist who is doing great work in expanding the boundaries of race, sex, and divinity in art. I also know that Mormon doctrine is frustratingly difficult to pin down and could be pulled in any direction to suit any belief. Nevertheless, there is an assumption about whiteness that is undeniable in Mormonism and I think the proof of it is in official Mormon art.

Here’s how it goes. If you believe that:

God the Father is an embodied, divine man, that Jesus was literally his son in the flesh and retains an ontologically separate body to the Father, that human spirits were created in the image of God, that Adam and Eve were literal people whose physical bodies were literally created in the physical image of God, that angels are pre- or post-mortal humans similarly made in the physical image of God, then look at art depicting God the Father, Jesus, the Council in Heaven, the Celestial Kingdom, Adam and Eve, angels, etc. and notice what race they are.

White. This is white supremacy, this absolutely culturally embedded idea that God et al are white, white, white. Official Mormon art — hyper-realist as it tends to be — is a clear window into this belief. Seriously, try searching for the images above at the LDS Media Library. (And also think of the temple films if you know them.)

The Grand Council

White

I first wrote about this eleven years ago, and so I will anticipate some of the comments.

  1. I was told that at the very least we know that Adam and Eve (in correlated Mormon discourse, literally the first humans) were not black as blackness came later as a curse. Yes, the Book of Moses does indeed imply that. It’s horrible. Scientifically it’s obviously massively problematic and historically it’s lifted from the rhetoric of pro-slavery apologetics. There are other interpretations of the passage if you prefer them or take it all literally and embrace its white supremacism. Your choice.
  2. I was told that Mormon art sucks and I shouldn’t take it literally. It does and I don’t. Many do, however, and it’s culturally and theologically important.
  3. I was given some sickening quotes from prominent Mormon leaders about racial degeneration from the norm of whiteness. They were racist and ignorant. It’s time to directly refute them.
  4. It was suggested that a white skin was the only way to symbolise God’s purity. Oh the circularity!
  5. I was asked how I knew that God was not in fact white. He could be brown but how could I know he wasn’t actually white? I will be honest: I believe that ascribing a single human colour to the Supreme Being is a ridiculous bit of anthropomorphizing. But let’s say we don’t know: then why have every single depiction make him white? That kind of implies we do know.

All churches have had and continue to have problems with racism. Mormonism’s unique doctrine of divine embodiment brings opportunities (for the elevation of humans) and pitfalls (for the elevation of a certain type of human). The priesthood ban, ignorant and mistaken beliefs about race, the dominance of white male Americans in church leadership, the intertwining of a certain form of American culture and the gospel — these are all symptoms of a deeper problem:

Overwhelmingly ascribing whiteness to supreme beings (God) and supreme states (original/exalted humanity) is a form of white supremacy.

It needs to stop. Diversity of race in the depictions of the celestial or edenic in correlated Mormon art would have a huge effect in rooting out racist assumptions in the LDS Church.

Comments

  1. A superb post, Ronan. Thank you.

    There are other interpretations of the passage if you prefer them or take it all literally and embrace its white supremacism.

    There’s also simply rejecting the Book of Moses (and the Book of Abraham, please!) as inspired scripture. That’s an option too.

  2. So …in our last ward…we were having a round table discussion about racism in our ward. The Bishop was asked why there wasn’t a person of color in any leadership position. He paused. So did the polynesian count? the indian? the korean? the japanese? the hispanic? no. none of those counted. there wasn’t a black person…so no person of color. All the leaders were deemed white. I’ve heard this before.

    I’m guessing saying Jesus had skin pigment…probably quite dark skin…isn’t black.

    I’m not saying we shouldn’t be clear that pigmentation isn’t connected with holiness…in the way that on my mission lighter skinned indians were “Better than” darker skinned indians.

  3. I was over at some Ethiopian neighbors’ house a couple weeks back. Unsurprisingly, every single depiction of Jesus is dark brown. If you do some Googling, Ethiopian depictions of divine figures always look like… Ethiopians. Now, it happens that Jesus of Nazareth almost certainly looked more like an Ethiopian than like an Englishman, but was He that dark? Probably not. He was a Jew when He came to Earth, which means he probably looked like what Sephardic or Mizrahi Jews look like today.

    Man makes God in his own image. Yes, the depiction of God and Jesus as Northern European is seriously problematic, but it’s understandable.

  4. Thanks for this, Ronan.

    It reminds me of a half-remembered Brazilian play I read during my undergrad days. In the play, Jesus appears to the main character and, when Jesus does, he appears as a black man, much to the shock of the main character. And, it turns out, he does it in order to shock the racist sensibilities of the main character, saying something to the effect of, “Did you not think I could be black?”

    That’s stuck with me. The idea that Jesus (and thus God) is stuck in a racial category that we’ve constructed for Him demonstrates a real lack of imagination and faith in Him.

  5. 1. The Ethiopian Church represents the Ethiopians, and so a certain ethnocentrism is understandable. Who does the Mormon Church represent? White Americans, I guess.
    2. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church is solidly creedal. Thus, any cultural glosses as to Jesus’s physicality will not extend to beliefs about the race of God or divine/exalted beings. It’s a totally different view of heaven.

  6. Thanks, Ronan. If I read you correctly, you’re arguing that Mormonism’s ontological understanding of the Godhead is going to be very difficult (and perhaps impossible) to separate from the idea that “race” as a category necessarily applies to God. That is a deeply challenging idea, but it tastes good to me.

  7. JK, yes. I imagine that if one believes God is a man, then one probably believes God has what we would call racial features.* This needs openly discussing without taking anything for granted.

    *And given any opportunity to depict those features or their closest image, the Mormon Church consistently chooses to make those features northern European.

  8. Not a Cougar says:

    RJH, first and foremost, I’m on board with much of what you have written. I welcome depictions of God as non-white, as well as depictions of Christ as the Semitic man he was (and presumably still is). I also pray for the day that temple films use non-white actors. We need to own up to and reject racism in the Church, both today and in the past, and it’s also far past time for a non-white apostle (I’ll leave off speculation as to whether the two are connected).

    However, when you assert that the way in which I picture God’s skin color makes me a supremacist of any sort, I must ask you to defend your position, and a quote from Mr. Gaiter “ain’t gonna cut it.” Borrowing from Google’s dictionary function, I found the following definition: “An advocate of the supremacy of a particular group, especially one determined by race or sex.” I fail to see how anyone’s personal view of deity therefore makes him or her an advocate of racial supremacy. “I think God’s skin is probably white, so I’m going to work to ensure it’s ok to deny black people (or any other racial group) the right to vote, segregate them from white people, use unjustified deadly force against them, execute black men in far larger numbers, prevent them from obtaining education, and discriminate against them in the workplace.” I’m sorry, but that just doesn’t compute.

    You write further that picturing God as white is “… a ridiculous bit of anthropomorphizing.” We may agree that God may look nothing like how LDS Church art depicts Him, but you seem to intimate that you reject the Mormon concept of God as a tangible person. If so, then your problem with Mormonism appears to run deeper than just racism. If not, then, per your definition, are you a multiracial supremacist? And just for the record, applying your definition, taking Christ at his word, I guess I’m a Semitic supremacist.

  9. I’ve always liked JS’/Revelations/Daniel’s description of God/Jesus–it’s clear that it’s a-racial (if I can invent a term), since no ethnicity or race that I’m aware of has eyes like a flame of fire.

    “His eyes were as a flame of fire; the hair of his head was white like the pure snow; his countenance shone above the brightness of the sun; and his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters, even the voice of Jehovah, saying”​

  10. Michael H says:

    True, but diversity in another regard would arguably be more effective in helping to “root out racist assumptions in the LDS Church.” See lds.org page titled “General Authorities and General Officers.”

  11. Really great post, Ronan.

    Jason, that’s a deeply thoughtful comment that’s going to make me think for a long time. Two initial reactions:

    1. Race is largely a social/political distinction rather than one based in any real idea of lineage.
    2. Jesus teaches in the New Testament that lineage itself, at least to God, is mutable.

  12. Now, about God also being male . . .

  13. Not a Cougar,
    You deserve a thoughtful reply and I thank you for your comment.
    1. As I said in my post, white supremacy may not have conscious political goals. The academic use of the term rightly broadens the concept from the more obvious and active KKK-type of white supremacy to any world view that inculcates ideas of white superiority. I can’t think of a more powerful way of asserting white superiority than making God white. And remember, for most Mormons, he will be literally white (because he has a literal body). You are obviously not a cross-burner nor someone who believes white *people* are inherently superior, but in making God white, whether you think so or not, you are indeed giving whiteness a powerful kind of supremacy.
    2. Along with that, if anyone says “I think God’s skin is probably white” I want to know why they probably think that. Let’s question our assumptions. What do you mean by skin? What do you mean by white? What, indeed, do you mean by God? And why do you think he’s white?
    3. Honesty time: I am no longer active in the church and I have freely admitted here at BCC that my theology tends to be more of the Anglican variety than otherwise, but that’s not to say that I reject necessarily Mormon beliefs about deity. Indeed, there is much about Mormonism’s “heavenly flesh Christology” that I retain. I just don’t think divine embodiment and race are linked in the way they are in Mormon art. That’s all I’m saying.

  14. your food allergy is fake says:

    I am definitely a semitic supremacist. Face it, they own the rest of us when it comes to things that matter, like science and music.

  15. James Durham says:

    The academic use of the term rightly broadens the concept from the more obvious and active KKK-type of white supremacy to any world view that inculcates ideas of white superiority.

    Ah, the old bait and switch via academics technique. Take a highly charged term and redefine it so you can use it against those who disagree with you. That way you still get to label dissenters with a horrible name while claiming “That’s not what I meant”.

  16. “I just don’t think divine embodiment and race are linked in the way they are in Mormon art.”

    FWIW, Ronan, I don’t think there’s anything inconsistent with LDS scripture or teachings in this statement.

  17. Larry the Cable Guy says:

    https://www.mormontabernaclechoir.org/videos/some-children-see-him-santino-fontana.html

    Some children see him lily white
    The baby Jesus born this night
    Some children see him lily white
    With tresses soft and fair

    Some children see him bronzed and brown
    The Lord of heav’n to Earth come down
    Some children see him bronzed and brown
    With dark and heavy hair

    Some children see him almond-eyed
    This savior whom we kneel beside
    Some children see him almond-eyed
    With skin of yellow hue

    Some children see him dark as they
    Sweet mary’s son to whom we pray
    Some children see him dark as they
    And, ah, they love him, too

    The children in each diff’rent place
    Will see the baby Jesus’ face
    Like theirs but bright with heav’nly grace
    and filled with holy light

    O lay aside each earthly thing
    And with thy heart as offering
    Come worship now the infant king
    ‘Tis love that’s born tonight

    lyrics by Alfred Burt

    note: there are other arrangements that I prefer, but the above performance is on one of the biggest stages we have in the church, and in the spirit of the OP, that counts for something.

  18. >That way you still get to label dissenters with a horrible name while claiming “That’s not what I meant”.

    Actually, that is what I meant. It is indeed white supremacism.

  19. JKC,
    I agree but you need a little imagination beyond correlation.

  20. Agreed.

  21. When I was maybe sixteen, we read a short story in my English class about a boy who painted Jesus as black. As a teenager growing up in overwhelmingly white and Mormon Utah County, I was deeply shaken to realize it had never even occurred to me that God might not be white, and noticing my discomfort with the possibility of a black Jesus was a beginning point for me in becoming aware of the extent to which I’d internalized some racist ways of thinking. Before then, I’d learned about stuff like the Nazis and slavery and unthinkingly I assumed I was one of the “good” people who would of course have opposed racist ideologies had I lived in those eras. The idea of a black Jesus was an absolutely needed jolt to my complacency.

    I honestly don’t see how our depiction of the race (and for that matter gender) of God could ever be entirely separate from the way we view the world and one another. Once you’ve attributed particular characteristics to the divine, how can you not on some level see those characteristics as privileged? To say that it’s just a coincidence that God happens to be a white male, oh and also white males happen to be the most powerful group in our culture–that strains credulity.

    Given the Christian teaching that God has a particular concern for the marginalized, and taking the theology of the Incarnation seriously, I think there is good reason to stretch the boundaries of the ways we’ve traditionally portrayed Jesus. To depict Christ as a person of color, or female, or queer, might be unsettling for those of us raised on images of Scandinavian Jesus, but I think it does useful theological work in pushing us to re-think our ideas about who God is and what God values.

  22. Let me be clear to James and anyone else:

    How one imagines God in one’s mind’s eye is very likely culturally contingent, and that is fine.

    But when your art consistently claims the following as representing in some approximate way the literally true nature of things:

    God the Father: white;
    Jesus: white;
    Pre-mortal spirits: white;
    Angels: white;
    Those in heaven: white;
    Adam and Eve: white;

    then you are a white supremacist.

  23. And to repeat an earlier point:

    Even if, say, an Ethiopian Christian depicts Jesus as black, being a believer in the creeds, he wouldn’t think that God, being unembodied, is *actually* black. I think that a lot of Mormons think God, being embodied, is actually white and the art reflects it. This is a form of white supremacy.

  24. Not a Cougar says:

    RJH, thank you for the reply. As others have stated above, if your god is going to have a human body (and I believe its non-negotiable for mainstream Mormons that He does), he or she is necessarily going to have a skin tone. I take it from your third point that you, at least in some ways, reject that conclusion. Fair enough, and I don’t have any pictures of God on my iPhone to contradict you. However, we simply disagree as to whether that belief then drives one’s actions, conscious or unconscious, towards people with differing skin tones.

    As to your second point, I’m fairly certain you’ll agree that it’s safe to assume an American white person in the 19th century who believed God is a person could hardly conceive of, let alone believe in, a non-white God. Throw in some racist references in the Book of Mormon and Pearl of Great Price, a long line of prophets to provide justifications for denying the priesthood and temple to those of African descent, and a lack of leadership’s desire to own up to that racism, and it’s a wonder sometimes we’ve come as far as we have (but it’s not far enough).

  25. I completely agree with the notion that we should discuss how Europeans viewed Jesus. But almost all of THE OPPONENTS of slavery, of extreme racism, of the Nazis depicted or viewed Jesus as white. I think we strain credulity to call William Wilberforce, William Lloyd Garrison, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Niemöller, and many, many others “White supremacists.”

  26. Bryan D. H. says:

    They are not so much white as the color lightning (you know, “His countenance shown like lightening, etc etc). So call me a the-color-lightening supremacist if you really need feel more wise and virtuous than the rest of us.

  27. Old Man,

    You are totally missing the point. Forget Jesus. That is a total red herring.

    What’s unique about Mormonism is the depiction of the WHOLE RACE OF HEAVEN AND THOSE CREATED IN THEIR IMAGE as white. This is not about Wilberforce’s culturally contingent view of the image of the incarnate Jesus, which was unavoidably English, this is about a claim about the eternal, celestial, and physical nature of God Almighty.

  28. But what if I believe God is black? Under your logic, wouldn’t that make me a black supremacist? Or how about a Filipino who thinks God looks like her? A Filipino supremacist? Isn’t anyone who think God looks like them a supremacist of some sort according to what you’re saying?

    Or is the point that we should all be agnostic on this issue? Or is the point that there something uniquely pernicious in white supremacy versus, say, Chinese supremacy or some sort of other cultural supremacy?

    Finally, can we at least agree Jesus probably looked like a Roman-era Semite?

  29. Bryan D. H. says:

    Just FYI, the new temple videos do have ethnic characters. Shown in heaven, even. Before they came out, a character in one of the old videos who left the church was digitally replaced with a hispanic man. If you ever go to the Nativity displays at the visitor’s center in Washington D.C. or Kirtland at Christmas time, you will see nativity scenes from all over the world depicting Jesus and angels as people of color. But my guess is you have some horsesh*t reason why none of that counts too.

  30. “if your god is going to have a human body (and I believe its non-negotiable for mainstream Mormons that He does), he or she is necessarily going to have a skin tone”

    I wouldn’t be too sure about this conclusion. It’s basic, mainstream Mormon doctrine that a resurrected body, while it may be as “tangible” as our mortal bodies, and while it shares the same “image” as our mortal bodies, is something every different from our mortal bodies. LDS scripture depicts the resurrected Jesus materializing out of nowhere, flying, and changing his appearance. John describes the glorified Jesus as having skin like bronze, but he also describes him as shooting a sword out of his mouth. I don’t think we know enough about resurrected, glorified, celestial bodies, to say that they have a skin tone like our bodies do.

  31. jimbob,

    If you believed that God literally has a physical body and that body is black in a way akin to the “black” features of humans of African descent, and if you believed that therefore the human son he sired was and remains eternally black, that all angels are black, that all pre-existing spirits are black, that all exalted humans will be black, that Adam and Eve and all the patriarchs were black, and if you believed that these things really are so and are not in some way symbolic …

    … then yes, I would suspect you of being a black supremacist. I’d be shocked if anyone thought otherwise, actually.

    (And it wouldn’t help if your international church was led overwhelmingly by black people who also promoted black cultural norms.)

  32. Bryan,
    >But my guess is you have some horsesh*t reason why none of that counts too.

    You bet I do but I won’t bother you with it. P.S. Is your email handle really “whitechocolate”?

  33. Maybe God is a chameleon.

  34. If I were a betting man, I’d wager that Jesus was not white but swarthy. What shade? Your guess is as good as mine. But, folks, he wasn’t a European.

  35. Amen Ronan. This is a very important and timely post.

  36. Bryan D. H. says:

    It is indeed. I look white but I’m of mixed race. Tell me again how I’m a white supremacist.

  37. jimbob,
    Two other things:
    1. A Filipino non-Mormon Christian would not believe that God literally looked like her because she would not believe God literally has a body. Must I keep repeating this obvious theological point? Mormons are unique in believing God is literally a man.
    2. A Filipino Mormon would probably not believe God looked like her because all of the approved images of God she knows show God as a European.

  38. Bryan,
    Do you believe God, Jesus, angels, pre-mortal spirits, resurrected beings, and Adam and Eve are white in a way akin to the way Europeans are white?

  39. FWIW, when I imagine God the Father, I imagine him basically as an ancient Native American shaman living on a high plateau above the desert. But there’s no reason for that image beyond pure fancy.

  40. For me, Tom Bombadil.

    N.B. I don’t literally believe God the Father is Tom Bombadil.

  41. Tom Bombadil is our father and our god and the only god with whom we have to do, right?

  42. “A Filipino non-Mormon Christian would not believe that God literally looked like her because she would not believe God literally has a body. Must I keep repeating this obvious theological point? Mormons are unique in believing God is literally a man.”

    That seems a like an unnecessary barb, Ronan. But more to the point, I think you’re presenting a distinction without a difference–at least to those of us rubes who don’t teach religion and philosophy for a living. The fact that most Catholics (and other assorted Trinitarians) believe that God is non-corporeal doesn’t mean that the vast majority don’t have some conception that he looks like…something. My experience is that most of them think God looks like them, whoever the them may be. Perhaps my mileage varies on this “lived religion” aspect, but I suspect not.

  43. No, I don’t think you’re wrong but that’s not what I’m saying. Folk beliefs are one thing, correlated Mormon art is another.

  44. Not a cougar and others: in making hard assertions rooted in supposed Mormon “theology” about God’s skin color, you’re being too clever by half. Remember another point of “doctrine” (I use quotation marks because an objective observer realizes there is no “doctrine” in Mormonism, at least not anymore, but only “teachings” of current General Authorities): the concept of “apotheosis” or “deification” or “divinization” Joseph Smith seems to have taught and then definitely taught by later Church leaders (e.g. the Lorenzo Snow couplet). This is the teaching that the end result of the Plan of Salvation for each individual human being is the possibility of also becoming a God. (I believe stating it this way — “become a God” — is problematic and that it is more scripturally and doctrinally sound for Christians to speak of our eternal potential of “becoming like God,” i.e. acquiring more and more of his perfected characteristics in our own eternal development as we become joint heirs with Christ of all that the Father has.)

    Well, if you’re a black person and the doctrine says your eternal potential is to become a God, then you will presumably be a black God. (If you now argue that your skin color will be changed to “white” as part of this process, then the proof is in the pudding about your white supremacy.) Under the more scripturally sound phrasing, you will be an exalted person with black skin who has become like God as a joint heir with Christ. Either way, you have to be willing to depict black skin in those heavenly concourses.

    I really applaud Kirk Richards for his cultural independence in being willing to do so in such inspiring and mind-opening depictions.

  45. Kevin Barney says:

    Really interesting post. I have to admit, I can’t recall ever really even thinking about this; it’s just a background assumption that I’ve always taken for granted without giving it a second thought.

    In the realm of Christian theology we are at a serious disadvantage when it comes to trying to finesse this issue. While it’s true that average Christians might conceptualize divine sonship much the way Mormons do, that is not actually their theology and they have the potential to learn their theology better and come to a different view. But Mormons take the language of begetting literally in the sense of siring an offspring, and the creedal understanding of that language is not really available to us. So to the extent we conceive of the mortal Jesus as having been white (although presumably historical Nazis would not have conceded the whiteness of Jesus since he was a Jew in mortality), we in general similarly conceive of the Father as being white, and as you point out church art certainly supports that assumption.

    So this is a pretty heavy theological issue that your average Mormon has simply never even thought about.

  46. Cody Hatch says:

    I wrote a post for Wheat & Tares called, “Jesus, Labels, and Gender” where I argued that an infinite atonement renders labels meaningless from God’s perspective. I focused on gender but the same could be said for race. If Jesus or God understands all that it means to be white, black, or whatever, then he is, in effect, that race, and the barriers of race disappear in God.
    https://wheatandtares.org/2017/08/03/jesus-labels-and-gender/

  47. Kev,

    And we really have to think about it, don’t we?

    Imagine a church headquartered in Africa. Imagine it claims to be the only true church on earth, led directly by God. Imagine its founding stories and heroes were all African. Now, imagine it believed that God literally had a human-like body. Now imagine that in every single depiction of God, Jesus, angels, pre-mortal spirits, post-mortal spirits, Adam and Eve etc. black African features were the norm and were believed to represent some literal state of things.

    What would I conclude? That these beliefs were rather obviously African supremacist.

    (I would not even need to know that this church was also led overwhelmingly by Africans, that its culture was African, that it barred white people from its priesthood until 1978, or that it once taught (and books containing these ideas were still on the shelves of many of its members) that white people were under an ancient biblical curse to come to that conclusion.)

    If this church claimed to represent God to the entire world I would say that it had a racism problem at worse or a shocking lack of self-awareness at best and that it therefore needed to change. It could put out press releases generically criticising racism but I wouldn’t be all that convinced. This is all so obvious to me but you don’t see it when it’s under your nose.

  48. Heraclitus says:

    WWAFD? (What would Arnold Friberg Do)- add more muscles everyone’s happy.

    I was just hoping that definitions of family and similarity change in the next life, but maybe hope isn’t a good strategy?

  49. Kevin Barney says:

    John Turner in his Mormon Jesus book has a chapter on artistic representations of Jesus (but given the focus of the book, not HF). There has been some movement to non-white representations, as slow and late as it has been, but much more is needed. Submissions to international art competitions that hardly anyone will ever actually see are one thing; correlated art used in Church curriculum and posted on lds.org is something else entirely.

  50. Bryan D. H. says:

    RJH,

    No, I don’t. If you go by Joseph Smith’s description, their skin tone is lightning. Never met a Caucasian who looked like that. I believe that they can also change the configuration of their bodies so that Jesus withhold that brightness and glory, like He did with Moses, or appear with nail prints in His perfected, resurrected hands, or change His facial features to disguise Himself from Mary Magdalene or the disciples on the road to Emmaus. He or His angels change the configuration of their bodies appear as a different race just as He speaks to men according to their language and understanding. When I am resurrected I imagine I would want to keep some semblance of my physical features because it feels like part of my identity, and I will be able to do it just as Jesus is able to show the nail prints in His hands, as will people of any race.

    The theology of siring and being begotten doesn’t hold sway, because the physical features of resurrected bodies does not appear to be fixed.

  51. Bryan,
    Then you must agree with me that correlated church art is problematic as it most definitely does suggest they are white. So why are we arguing?!

  52. your food allergy is fake says:

    “correlated art”
    If it is correlated it is by definition not art.

  53. Bryan D. H. says:

    Because I disagree that it suggests they are white. It’s not a fricking photograph. And I disagree that depicting them as white makes it a white supremacist church. You would never suggest to the ethiopian church that they need more white pictures of Jesus in their chapels to prove they are not black supremacists, because their theology doesn’t require it so you give them a pass. Well our theology doesn’t require it as I and others have demonstrated, so why are we white supremacists again?

  54. Not a Cougar says:

    john f, I’ve been called many things, but clever is not one of them. The concept of theosis doesn’t conflict with anything I’ve said. I merely stated that if God has a human or at least human like body, the logical conclusion is that He has some sort of skin tone; however, I personally doubt that His skin color is significant to salvation or exaltation in any way (and Brigham Young would punch me in the face for saying so).

  55. Is it homophobic
    To picture god as cis?

  56. Bryan,
    Step away, friend. You’re just not getting it. This Ethiopian thing is a red herring and I can’t be bothered to explain it again. As for it not being a photograph, its hyper-realist form is attempting to depict things as literally as possible. Anyway, peace be with you.

  57. Mormons base the belief of a white god
    On josephs vision.
    Joseph said. “They are the whitest people ive ever seen”
    Also, what is your take on quetzelquatle?

  58. RJH, apologies if my analogy about the Ethiopian Christ (and all of the original Twelve, BTW) being depicted as Ethiopian led some folks off the beaten path. Having said that, you’re right that 1) the Ethiopian Orthodox Church does not claim universalism, and 2) Eastern Orthodox representations of God in particular are nothing more than placeholders.

    Since Mormons believe in the physical incarnation of God and not merely of Christ (who should be depicted as Middle Eastern and definitely not as one of the people who, at the time of His ministry, were busy painting themselves blue and howling at the moon), depicting God as a pink-skinned, small-nosed Northern European obviously is Problematic™.

  59. I’ve been fortunate enough to live where I can easily attend live temple sessions. My favorite representations of God have been in Salt Lake, where I saw two Polynesian men come down to create Adam and Eve, and in Manti, where Jehovah had a sun-weathered face (complete with farmer-tan at the hat line) and an anchor tattooed on his hand. The creation is still overly male, but that’s a post for another time. Mainly I like the sense that it’s a live drama, being acted out by faithful saints — possibly your neighbors — of whatever race they may be, and that it’s no more or less realistic to depict God as Polynesian, or Hispanic, or black, or white.

    I suppose the temple films are probably a necessity for smooth functioning of temples around the world in multiple languages, but I wish everyone could have that experience. A handful of films just don’t have the scope for diverse representation that you have when trying to get people to act out all the parts, all day, every day. Plus, film contributes to the hyper-realism problem — it feels more like a documentary, even when the plants are clearly fake and Satan is played by an opera singer overacting to be seen from the highest balcony at the Met. The suggestion that God really resembles a small handful of actors is an inevitable, and unfortunate consequence of the move toward movie-style realism.

  60. Corbin, can you link to where JS said they were the whitest? Googling came up with non-related items. Thanks.

  61. good answer Not a Cougar but still sort of avoids idea of theosis meaning there’s definitely black skin in the heavenly concourses and possibly on the throne (or thrones) if a starting premise for you is that a resurrected physical body has a “skin tone” (which you’ve stated you find is a logical premise) that is presumably the same as in life.

    But, again, I do like your answer, both in substance and tone. It made me chuckle.

  62. Bryan D.H., it would be one thing if the LDS church was only a Utah church, or even an American church (although still problematic–we’re not all white here.) But the LDS church has a global focus. We have Ethiopian members. What images do they see in their LDS chapels?

  63. To be precise, JS described Moroni, not the Father and the Son, as having a countenance “truly like lightning.” Maybe you can generalize a description of Moroni as a resurrected person to apply to all resurrected people, and assume from there that it applies also to the Father and the Son. Maybe not.

    But if we’re being precise, Joseph Smith’s canonized account of the first vision does not describe the skin color of the Father and the Son. He says only that their “brightness and glory defy all description.” You can infer white skin from that if you want to, but it does not necessarily follow.

  64. Mike R. wrote, “Mainly I like the sense that it’s a live drama, being acted out by faithful saints — possibly your neighbors — of whatever race they may be, and that it’s no more or less realistic to depict God as Polynesian, or Hispanic, or black, or white.

    That really is how the endowment drama was meant to be depicted — it is meant to be pedagogical, live “drama” to teach something allegorical about each one of us. One of the downfalls of our culture is that so many seem to believe it is meant to depict actual history, i.e. events that actually took place in a set physical time and space, dialogue and all. I know many Mormons who believe this and would call anything else heresy, i.e. believing the drama allegorically refers to each person in the audience in an abstract way, depicting stylized interactions with God and covenant making.

  65. Tiberius had a good comment far upthread (@7:17 am). A black man or woman can just as easily have “eyes as a flame of fire”, “hair white like the pure snow”, a “countenance above the brightness of the sun” and a “voice as the sound of the rushing of great waters”. It doesn’t say anything about skin color. Some other scriptures refer to a bronze skin color — evoking a metallic statue. No scriptures define God or Jesus as caucasian or even “white” or “black”. Yet we know Jesus Christ incarnated was a Jew in Palestine 2,000 years ago. In other words, he almost certainly did not look like the Scandinavian or Northern European Jesus depictions that have permeated European and now especially Mormon art.

  66. John Jacob says:

    So think about this with respect to the Temple. If we had not gone to film, we would still have had temple workers representing God the Father and all the rest. And in Africa and elsewhere people of color would no doubt have played the divine roles, as well as Adam and Eve and Peter, James and John. The movies messed it up for us!

  67. It’s obviously metaphorical, but if anything, John’s description of Jesus (skin like bronze, hair like wool) sounds more like a mixed-race person than a white person.

  68. John F., I remember late night discussions in missionary apartments, where some sophomoric creative theology was proposed to explain how Peter, James, and John could have bodies in a timeline where Adam and Eve were still new to mortality. Somehow the obvious non-theological explanation — that it’s no more historical than the masonic Hiram Abiff drama, but is similarly a way to instruct initiates by placing them in the starring role of a dramatic, allegorical presentation — never came up. I imagine that early saints, who were more accustomed to seeing the presentation as a whole instead of as a film with breaks (and who were possibly more familiar with masonry) were less prone to envision Peter, James, and John as resurrected time-travelers.

  69. I think the obvious non-historical nature of the endowment drama may have been even more obvious in previous versions, but I won’t say anything more detailed than that, out of respect for our tradition of not generally discussing it outside of the temple.

  70. No. A belief that God is white is absolutely not automatic “white supremacy.” To support this conclusion I offer the following points:
    1. Imagine white parents who have adopted children of several races. A lighter skinned child is speaking with his darker skinned brother. He says that lighter skin is superior to dark because his parents have light skin. This conclusion is invalid, even though the fact that the parents may have light skin is true. This article makes the same ridiculous argument.
    2. If we were able to determine that God had blue eyes, would that make a “blue-eyed supremacy?”
    3. If God isn’t white, then he must have some other skin color. Would we have to conclude that color “supremacy?”

    I don’t know God’s exact skin tone and I don’t care. We need to focus on the true doctrine of Christ and pure religion instead of dividing ourselves over minor issues.
    James 1:27
    27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

  71. If you’re a Mormon who thinks that God looks like a Scandinavian white person, I suppose that’s okay with me. But if that’s what you believe, then you’d better be doing your part to undo the racist effects of pervasively portraying God in that way. You don’t get to say, “But I’m not a white supremacist,” and then just walk away.

  72. MikeInWeHo says:

    It’s interesting that this post and over 50 comments only mention the BoM once. Here’s my take on that: Most contemporary Mormons are in denial about how profoundly racist the church used to be. The belief that skin color signified righteousness (or lack thereof) was a core feature of Mormonism going right back to its founding scripture. Saying that racism wasn’t a central feature is like saying racism wasn’t central to South Africa before Mandela became president.

    The leadership has never acknowledged this, let alone apologized. The only messages I’ve heard are “racism is wrong” and basically “never mind!” about the past. Yet 2 Nephi 5:21 is still right there for all the world to read. So is it any surprise that the church is a comfortable home to some in the alt-right crowd?

  73. Not a surprise at all, Mike. The supremacy of whiteness is everywhere to see. Folk are in total denial.

  74. I’ll admit that I don’t understand why people are so desperate to argue with RJH about something he didn’t say.

    But let’s go with those commenters who can’t get their head’s around a God who isn’t white. So assume He looks just like a standard Northern European. That doesn’t change to OP’s point at all.

    We’re not talking about the race of God incarnate. The post is specifically about how He (and His heavenly concourses) is represented in the art officially embraced by the church.

    Unless you want to argue that the artists have seen God, and are painting Him photo realistically (and they haven’t and they’re not), they’re making interpretive leaps in their representations. And when those interpretive leaps all go one direction—a white God—it says something about how we view whiteness, as something inherently superior and Godlike.

    It wouldn’t do any damage to the church to swap out some of our traditional Gospel Art Kit pictures of God for a black or Asian or Native American or Middle Eastern God. In fact, that would underscore to the membership that (a) we don’t know what He looks like and (b) God is the literal—not adoptive—parent of all of us, and we are all created in His image.

  75. it's a series of tubes says:

    It wouldn’t do any damage to the church to swap out some of our traditional Gospel Art Kit pictures of God for a black or Asian or Native American or Middle Eastern God. In fact, that would underscore to the membership that (a) we don’t know what He looks like and (b) God is the literal—not adoptive—parent of all of us, and we are all created in His image.

    Here is the signal rising above the noise. 11/10, would repost.

  76. When it comes to a “countenance like lightning,” Joseph Smith’s description of the angel Moroni echos the description in Matthew 28 of the angel at the empty tomb, which in turn echos the description in Daniel 10 of a “certain man” seen by Daniel in a vision (identified in the LDS chapter headings as “the Lord” but without a clear basis for doing so): “His body also was like the beryl, and his face as the appearance of lightning, and his eyes as lamps of fire, and his arms and his feet like in colour to polished brass, and the voice of his words like the voice of a multitude.” All that beryl, and fire, and polished brass suggest a certain brightness, but not in colorless white. And of course, none of those necessarily suggest that God is similar to the angels in appearance.

    Joseph Smith’s description of the Father and the Son was as two personages “whose brightness and glory defy all description.” Ezekiel attempted a description of the “likeness of the glory of the LORD” anyway (Ezek. 1: 26-28) — like enclosed fire from the waist up, appearing like fire from the waist down, and surrounded by brilliant rainbow light. The rainbow light suggests to me the “voice of a multitude” or the “voice of rushing water” — maybe the glory of God is indescribable because our creator looks and sounds like every one of us at once.

  77. From “If You Could Hie to Kolob”:
    There is no end to matter;
    There is no end to space;
    There is no end to spirit;
    There is no end to race.

    Would early Mormons have been as appalled by the Charlotte protests and the alt-right as we are today? I guarantee they would not, even though they should be. The body of Christ being represented by white bread in our church is symbolic indeed.

    Thank you for this thought-provoking post.

  78. Not a Cougar says:

    Sam, it’s not that anyone on here can’t wrap his or her mind around the idea of a non-white God. I don’t think any of the serious posters said anything like that. It’s the accusation that Church-sanctioned artwork makes them, through their membership in the Church, white supremacists.

  79. One aspect I didn’t see addressed is that Mormons are also pretty unique in believing that man may one day become like God himself (planets notwithstanding). In other words, the actual after-death (re)incarnation (however perfected) of all bodies, divine and human-now-divine. If one literally expects to be a god in the next life, how does one picture himself there? Has he been changed to look like god? Limbs and hair are restored — what about skin? I am grateful to this post — because I’m a damned atheist now and I STILL unthinkingly picture god and heaven as white. When a believer, I had worked and worked to see myself represented in heaven, to imagine what being like god would look like for a woman. Now I can begin to wrap my brain around this as well.

  80. Britain Morris says:

    I agree with the notion that the Father is BLINDINGLY BRIGHT. I’d suspect a resurrected man from African decent to have black skin, but still be BLINDINGLY BRIGHTER than myself.

  81. You’re not to blame if you’ve never thought about this problem before. I don’t think anyone is saying that you have hateful intentions or that you would have been at the rally in Charlottesville if only you could have got the time off.

    But now that you’ve read Ronan’s post, you are aware of the problem. Now you are accountable.

  82. Michael H says:

    Loursat, with many now being accountable, as you say, can you elaborate on what you envision to be next steps (besides Blogging or activism outside the Church context) to avoid being implicated into the Church’s institutionalized racism?

  83. I think it’s helpful to look at the source on some of this because who we’re talking about here is really the artist who portrayed deity, let’s start with Jesus, and how they approached this idea of what He looks like.

    http://mormonartist.net/interviews/del-parson/

    I read through Del Parson’s interview concerning his portrayals and particularly THOSE portrayals (the red robed Jesus and Joseph’s first vision) and much of what comes out is a cultural expectation. I am certain inspiration played a part but the question comes back to how is the Church changing the art in frequent use within buildings, publications, movies and websites in order to provide a more authentic perspective to a global audience? Is that even something the Church leadership truly believes is important? And to what extent do the personal cultural experiences of the leaders responsible for approving this art play to how diety is presented?

  84. Michael, I think that’s a good—and an important—question. One thing we can do is push back on ideas of the superiority of whiteness and degeneracy of blackness when it comes up (and it almost inevitably will in discussing the BoM). Contra many people, I don’t see the racism of the BoM as establishing God’s view that there is a racial hierarchy, because I don’t see every statement in the BoM as a normative one. But that needs to be publicly stated and explicated.

    We need to show children in Primary—and adults in Sunday School—pictures of Jesus other than the ones we’ve always used. And that’s not hard—even if you want to stick solely to official publications, the Ensign periodically has international art issues where you can find representations of Asian and Latin American and African God. (So they exist in the church, but we need to use them in the church.)

    Plenty more we could do, too.

  85. Michael H says:

    Sam, fair enough. With all respect, you approach is not what feels right for me. Maybe I make it sound too much like an either/or, but I grew accustomed to my sacrament talks and Sunday School comments/lessons being so consistently undercut by comments (on gays) or practices (diversity of leaders) by Church leadership that I resolved to stop trying to mitigate negative institutional currents and instead elect to leave the institution. It was the most calming choice for my conscience and probably the most effective form of solidarity, but again, “different strokes.”

  86. Honestly, I feel like if Jesus looked conspicuously different from anyone else living in Judea around that time, it would have been noted by one of the writers of the Gospels, or would have been mentioned by the Pharisees, which would have been written by the Gospel writers. So I choose to believe that Jesus looked like a physically fit Judean of that time period. Does he look like that in eternity? I dunno. Does God the Father look like that? I dunno.

    As for the almost entirely white LDS art, I do think that’s an issue and that we should encourage local Latter-Day Saints to depict Jesus as looking as they do. It would go a long way to dispelling the idea that we are a “white man’s church”. I especially like the Cambodian Jesus art a Cambodian Latter-Day Saint made a few years ago, I feel like its inspired.

  87. I wonder if you think about the Mormon Channel video “The Music of the Gospel.” This video seems to be pretty popular on youtube.

  88. The whole Jesus depiction thing has been something everybody has struggled with. It least we’re not portraying him as some beardless 12-year-old like the earliest Christian art did. It’s not surprising that when it’s renaissance artists, he’s dressed in Northern European renaissance garb, or that when it’s Mormon depictions that largely inherited their visual representations from Northern European artistic traditions, that he continued to be represented as a Northern European.

    FWIW the Church’s new videos are trying to change the Scandinavian depictions.

    “We’re trying to be as authentic to the time and location as possible,” said Hillary Straga, casting specialist for the church. “So we’re looking for people that look Middle Eastern or Mediterranean — darker hair, olive complexion, brown eyes.” http://news.hjnews.com/features/locals-screened-for-lds-church-s-new-testament-films/article_7cb6f6e2-e1ab-11e1-aca7-0019bb2963f4.html.

    However, just because he wasn’t Scandinavian doesn’t mean that he was Sub-Saharan African (hence I think the whole “Black Jesus” thing is a bit of a stretch). I see Joshua (another deeply ingrained, inaccurate assumption–the Savior very well could have gone his whole life without hearing the word “Jesus”) as looking something like Osama Bin Laden.

    The Wikipedia article on the subject is informative: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Race_and_appearance_of_Jesus

  89. Michael H, I agree with Sam’s comment. In general, it’s good for us to talk about problems like this. We don’t have to be afraid that by bringing up this problem we’re being contentious or rocking the boat. We have friends, and a friend listens to what you think about things.

    Ronan’s post is direct and provocative. His use of the term “white supremacy” is entirely fair; it’s also calculated to get our attention. I think he’s doing us a favor by being provocative. We need a strong push to make institutional changes.

    On the other hand, we shouldn’t typically talk about this kind of thing in our personal conversations in a way that provokes our friends. In fact, most members of the church are people of goodwill whose common sense will show them the merit of what Ronan is saying. We can make a difference simply by letting our friends know what we think.

  90. For what it’s worth, I agree with the gravamen of the post–that we don’t really know for sure what God the Father looks like and we can do palpable damage by insisting that we do.

    But that point gets lost when it starts out as “if you hold this belief, you’re a white supremacist.” That’s an extremely loaded term, and if we’re going to use it to both describe, say, the Hitlers of the world *and* some supermarket clerk who doesn’t hold a degree in Divinity and so doesn’t understand that Mormon theology might not require a white God, then I think it’s going to lose its potency. And this is especially true where, as we all seem to agree above, just about every homogeneous culture would probably do the same thing.

  91. The supermarket clerk totally gets a pass. I am taking aim here at the people who commission and promulgate the devotional art of an ostensibly international church.

  92. *whose unique theology demands that they tread with care here.

  93. I’m in charge of sacrament meeting programs and I’m supposed to put a picture on the cover each week. I know nobody really looks at the picture, but it has been hard for me to find images that I feel good about putting on the program. Most of the images available on lds.org are either very white, very male, very gender-stereotypical, very cheesy, or some combination of those things. I don’t mind putting these on the program some of the time, but it makes me uncomfortable that blacks, Hispanics, Asians, etc. only get a token representation in approved church art. It definitely gives a sense that Mormons imagine a religious history and an eternity that are mostly populated by white people. I don’t want to feed into that narrative, even in such a small way.

    There is some LDS religious art that I like, but I don’t think it’s worth my time to request permissions to reprint. Also, I’m a little worried people might get upset by a program with, say, a non-white Jesus on it. I’m open to suggestions.

  94. If there are ward members that would be upset by seeing a non-white Jesus, they are the ones that most need to see pictures of a non-white Jesus. IMO.

  95. MikeInWeHo says:

    From “If You Could Hie to Kolob”:
    There is no end to matter;
    There is no end to space;
    There is no end to spirit;
    There is no end to race.

    My gosh, I had completely forgotten about that old hymn. So there it is, in the current hymnal. How have the apologists tried to interpret that away? Maybe nobody has tried. I know more than a bit about compartmentalization and denial when it comes to dealing with uncomfortable truths, but I think Mormons are the most adept people on the planet at doing this.

  96. Mike, one way to come to terms with “Hie to Kolob” is to view “race” as “human race.” Another is that it was the best word WW Phelps could think of that rhymes with “space.” The real thrust of the song is infinite space. The reference to “race” is sort of a throw-away IMO.

  97. I once told a friend of mine (who happened to be a bishop at the time) that if we are created in God’s image the God must definitely be Asian – since the overwhelming majority of people on earth are. He freaked out. He told me it was the most ridiculous thing he had ever heard. Maybe you guessed…he was white.

    Also, my husband (black) loves that verse in If You Could Hie to Kolob. He doesn’t want his race to disappear in the eternities.

  98. MikeInWeHo says:

    Dave K: Another way is to say that early Mormons held deeply racist notions which were expressed in their writings and perpetuated by generations of leaders, until being rejected in recent decades. It’s actually refreshing when I get out of my denial!

  99. Great comment, Erika!

  100. I think you make a valid point about the problems emphasizing a white God. However, calling it white supremacy makes the conversation somewhat combative. I prefer the “you attract more bees with honey” approach but have to admit, I’m not sure what exactly that would be. However, I will cite our area’s annual Creche Display a prime example of representing different physical perceptions of God. A meeting house is re-purposed with hundreds of nativity sets from all over the world and it’s fascinating to see the variation in how the nativity is portrayed and represented. The scene is often done with the respective culture’s traditional clothing, artistic style, skin color, etc. To be honest, that event challenges me more than anything else to rethink my perceptions of who is God physically, because I get to see first hand how others perceive him. To your point, anything that reminds us that we are a global church, is good and having artwork that reflects our global nature is a good way of doing that.

  101. Left Field says:

    Mike, if you go to Mormon Archipelago and search for “there is no end to race”, you’ll find that over the years, there has been considerable discussion about that. I don’t think I’d call it interpreting it away, but there is a general consensus that the early to mid 19th century use of the term “race” did not primarily focus on black/white skin color, and that contemporary usage and the context of the song suggest that Phelps was more thinking about the “human race,” or the House of Israel, and similar concepts, rather than the ideas that tend to come to the mind of modern singers and listeners. Some people also mentioned that Phelps’ poem predates the priesthood ban, and so is probably not a reflection of later Mormon theology.

    But whatever Phelps meant by it, the line is extremely problematic to modern ears, particularly in view of current racial issues in the church, and needs to go for that reason alone.

  102. Angela, MikeinWeHo,

    fwiw (not much, really, in the larger problem we’re discussing), “race” in that hymn almost certainly would have meant simply descendants, as in “the race of Adam.” From Webster’s 1828:

    “1. The lineage of a family, or continued series of descendants from a parent who is called the stock. A race is the series of descendants indefinitely. Thus all mankind are called the race of Adam; the Israelites are of the race of Abraham and Jacob. Thus we speak of a race of kings, the race of Clovis or Charlemagne; a race of nobles, etc.

    Hence the long race of Alban fathers come.

    2. A generation; a family of descendants. A race of youthful and unhandled colts.

    3. A particular breed; as a race of mules; a race of horses; a race of sheep.

    Of such a race no matter who is king.

    4. A root; as race-ginger, ginger in the root or not pulverized.

    5. A particular strength or taste of wine; a kind of tartness.”

    We should change it in the current hymnal, obviously, but it’s not a slam-dunk indictment of early Mormons, I don’t think.

  103. Uh, what Left Field Said. Great minds…?

  104. This is the most ridiculous thing I’ve read. Who cares what “color” Christ is? It’s NOT about the color! It’s about believing and His example for us and about trying to be loving and serving others as He did! It’s about NOT trying to divide but to unify our nation despite these stupid articles! Once again this is ridiculous!

  105. I will admit I do not have an endless well of knowledge on the Mormon religion. I will not argue what color/gender/political party supporter God is. However, ponder this – people picture the deity they worship as someone who looks like them, because they have an easier time associating with them. It’s more of a psychological/ subconscious choice, rather than a racist/ supremacist one.

  106. Last time today says:

    You guys are all silly.

  107. I’m going to go out on a limb and wager that the people who don’t find this important are . . . white.

  108. “Hie to Kolob” — the first definition in Webster’s 1828 dictionary has nothing to do with “race” as the word is commonly understood in contemporary American English: “The lineage of a family, or continued series of descendants from a parent who is called the stock. A race is the series of descendants indefinitely. Thus all mankind are called the race of Adam…” Still, it would be appropriate because of that language shift to substitute the word “grace” (which, I understand, has been done by at least one general conference choir.

    Em, re: pictures for ward bulletins. You might stop looking for LDS art and look instead to the internet for general Christian art of which there is quite a lot showing Jesus as black, oriental, native american, etc. Some of it shows no copyright notices. I have done this in teaching Gospel Doctrine New Testament lessons, Old Testament lessons, and could occasionally use such art for Book of Mormon lessons. I had no objections from my quite varied class of both liberal and conservative Mormons of various hues from Caucasion to Hispanic to Native American to Black. Of course, I don’t know that my experience would apply elsewhere. It might depend upon how it is presented. On a ward bulletin one could consider including a quotation from the Alfred Burt carol quoted by another commenter. Because of its use by the Tabernacle Choir that should make it possible to deflect any criticism. Good luck.

  109. Kristine, JR, etc: If you say so, but isn’t racial purity also a feature of the original race ban? Not one drop of African blood or you are barred? No intermarriage between Africans and whites? That’s partly about one’s own race, but it’s also about eternal progeny and descendants of one race. BY’s theology is all about eternal increase, and this song is also about continuing on through one’s lineage.

    I’m not saying that it’s a slam dunk of racism in and of itself, but I wouldn’t fully exonerate its usage either given the context under BY’s leadership. “If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so.” While it’s possible that he meant it was wrong for male slave owners to rape their female slaves, it was also pretty clear that wasn’t the only interpretation of his comments. There are many statement against miscegenation from this era that have carried into more recent time. Anti-intermarriage statements were in the youth manuals 5 years ago.

  110. And, Whereas, the people who do find it important are often not white. Jesus came from a part of the world where he wasn’t likely to have been white.

  111. People are saying I am being rhetorically provocative. I am not. I mean this plainly and soberly: if you are OK with official Mormon art of the race of heaven and understand its clearest theological import, you are a white supremacist.

  112. Phelps’s hymn predates the ban. I don’t want to make a full-throated defense, because I absolutely think you’re right on the larger point, but I think it’s a mistake to adduce the hymn text as supporting the argument. I think we understand it differently now (which is a good reason to change it).

  113. I don’t think His color matters, but His love does

  114. FWIW, when I sing that verse of “If you could hie to Kolob,” I sing “there is no end to grace.”

  115. Bingo, JKC. That is my preferred solution as well. A perfect fix, really. And doctrinally sound.

  116. In the Philippines, and perhaps in other countries as well, there is a “Black Nazarene”. statue of a black Jesus carrying a cross.

  117. JKC, so does the MoTab.

  118. People need to be able to relate to God. He is a being of flesh and bone but his skin tone is secondary. Blacks can have a darker God and White can believe in someone that looks more like them. Arguments about God’s skin tone are race bait someone looking to get into an argument

  119. RJH-

    Apologies if I derail this thread, but I just came across your previous article, “Four Queer Mormons.” I would have commented there but the thread was closed. I wanted to tell you how lovely and heartbreaking the post was. I don’t share your same experiences in the church but I have certainly witnessed the same homophobic ideas from some leaders. I’ve made a decision to stay, but your decision to leave was an honorable and intellectually honest one. I only hope the church makes progress on this issue. If for no other reason, so we can get the RJH’s of the world back.

    All the best to you and your family.