Eliminating Any Lingering Disapproval Of Interracial Marriage

I have a weirdly vivid memory of the early 1990s moment when I first learned that some people frown on interracial marriages.  I was approximately five years old and living in Florida.  While playing one afternoon, I stumbled upon a wedding invitation for a mixed-race couple in my ward.  The invitation included an engagement photo, and said the wedding would be held in a few weeks at the chapel.

I stared, captivated, at the photo for a long time – mostly admiring how beautiful and happy the couple looked — I think they were wearing bright yellow while standing in front of a palm tree.  But I was a little confused by the invitation.  Mormon weddings could be held in normal chapels?  Mormons were supposed to get married in temples. Even if the closest temple was 12 hours away in Atlanta.  Earlier that summer I had flown to Utah and had waited outside and gotten a vanilla ice cream cone with my grandparents (on my dad’s side) during an Aunt’s (on my mom’s side) temple wedding.  That’s the way Mormon weddings worked.

As I was still staring at the photograph invitation, someone came up behind me and made an offhand comment.  I don’t remember the exact words, but I remember the gist.  The person remarked, in a tone of disapproval, that they didn’t think the couple should be getting married.  They said they expected the couple would have a difficult marriage because one was a convert, and even worse, they were different races.

That comment didn’t make any sense.  All I saw was a happy, beautiful, in love, couple. But the person who said it was an adult, and adults knew more than me.  So the message I took away was that this couple weren’t good Mormons, and weren’t allowed to get married in a Temple, because one of them was black.

Maybe a month or so later, I saw the recently-married couple from the photograph at church. I said something to my mother about how I was very sad they weren’t temple worthy because one of them was black.  My mother quickly corrected me, explaining that the real reason they weren’t getting married in the Temple was because one of them had recently been baptized and they had to wait a year to be sealed.  That answer also didn’t make sense to me as a five-year-old, but at least the race-based part had been corrected.

Any lingering confusion was further corrected the next year, when my first grade teacher did a Black History Month unit and we read children’s books about Martin Luther King, Jr.  That’s when I learned that America, and the State of Florida, had a long history of whites enslaving black people and treating them terribly.  This was very sad and had hurt lots of nice people and had caused lots of fights.  But now we knew that was stupid. Now everyone knew everyone was equal, and everyone should be nice to everyone else, and silly things like skin colors shouldn’t matter.  Some people might still think that black people should be treated differently from white people, but that was very bad.  It was (first grade word of the day) “racist.”

I did the math in my head and connected the dots. The Civil Rights Movement was still recent history!  It wasn’t old history like George Washington; my parents and my teacher had already been grown-ups!  Maybe the older person at church who had said the mean thing about the interracial couple still thought blacks and whites should be separated?  Sometimes adults were wrong.  This must have been an example.

Seven or eight years later, as an adolescent, I started reading copious amounts of Civil Rights Era books.  I learned about Loving v. Virginia, the 1967 Supreme Court decision striking down bans on interracial marriage as unconstitutional.  Around the same time, I learned about the Mormon Church’s own tragic history of banning blacks from receiving the Priesthood or attending the Temple until 1978.  I learned that even following the June 1978 Official Proclamation, although the “ban” on interracial marriage had been lifted, its discouragement continued.

By the time I was 18 or 19 I had added “interracial marriage” to my “benchmark of reliability” checklist.  If a Mormon-related book implied in any way that interracial marriage was inappropriate, no part of the book was worth reading.  I remember on one occasion, in response to a gospel question I had, an Institute Director referred me to an old book in the library.  So I flipped to the index, flipped to the chapter on interracial marriage, found a horrific quote, closed the book, and went back to him to explain why I would not be reading it, and how I thought all such false doctrine should be purged from church libraries.  Instead of agreeing, he looked mildly shocked.  “But that’s still the counsel.  It’s just reality born from the brethren’s wisdom and experience.  The church still discourages interracial marriages, because they are known to be exceptionally difficult…”

As documented by Matthew Harris and Newell Bringhurst in their 2015 book The Mormon Church and Blacks: A Documentary History:  “The church’s position on miscegenation became somewhat fuzzy after the civil rights era ended in the early 1970s. Even today, the church’s position remains ambiguous.  On the one hand, general authorities claims they do not oppose interracial marriages; on the other hand, they still reprint old talks in their current manuals discouraging the practice.”

This ambiguity should not exist.  So let’s be clear: such teachings, whether implicit or explicit, are not of God.  To the extent anyone still harbors any semblance of a belief that interracial marriage is disapproved or disfavored, the Church’s statement yesterday should put that belief to rest.

Out of curiosity, this afternoon I went and searched “interracial” and “miscegenation” on LDS.org.  There were only 7 hits, and upon closer examination only 4 of them deal with the topic directly. [1]  Although still far from perfect, today it appears that the Church’s content acknowledges both that the Church previously disapproved of interracial marriages, and makes clear that such views are unacceptable.

 

 

[1] For the curious, here are the results:

(a) The 2014 Race & the Priesthood gospel topics page and essay, which acknowledges (in a footnote) that Utah outlawed interracial marriage for the better part of a century.  See Patrick Mason, “The Prohibition of Interracial Marriage in Utah, 1888–1963,” Utah Historical Quarterly 76, no. 2 (Spring 2008): 108–131.

(b) A 2016 article which relates the story of Joseph Freeman and Toe Leituala Freeman, an interracial couple who originally broke up in the 1970s because Toe refused to be with Joseph on the grounds that he could not hold the Priesthood or get married in the Temple.  However, after much prayer and spiritual promptings, they chose to ignore the counsel of their bishop and criticism from within the church, and were civilly married in 1974.

(c) A 1992 article which tells the story of Robert Stenson, who converted in 1972 because of his overall testimony of the gospel, despite being furious that the LDS Church still engaged in racial separatism.  In April 1978 he married his wife “after receiving counsel about the challenges of interracial marriage.”  Just two months later the Priesthood and Temple ban for black members was lifted, and his family was sealed the next year.

(d) A 1990 Ensign article by Myrna Braman, where she describes an adventure around 1980 when her interracial family had decided to hike up to the Oakland Temple grounds out of curiosity, despite believing that Mormons hated blacks and would reject their interracial family.  They were warmly welcomed instead, and the family eventually converted.

Comments

  1. Bro. Jones says:

    Thanks for this. I’m both moved by the stories you linked to as well as astounded that they’re posted on lds.org. They (along with your kind and heartfelt thoughts) will make it into a lesson or two of mine along the way.

  2. When I was growing up, I could see in real time a shift from the view that miscegenation was inherently evil (as Mark E. Petersen famously said, “what God hath separated, let no man bring together again”) to a more general view that people should marry other people with as many similarities as possible because, gosh darnit, marriage is hard enough when you are exactly alike, so adding extra layers of different just makes it harder.

    Technically, this latter advice applied to race, economic situation, life experience, geography, favorite sports teams, and anything else that counted as a “difference.” But I heard it offered many times as an argument against interracial marriage and never once as an argument against any other two people getting married, even if they were as different as white people could possibly be to each other.

    The second position is really just the first position dressed up a little bit for public consumption, and I would say that a substantial percentage of Mormons still believe it, though, when I (a rural Oklahoma boy from a family of four boys) married my wife (a sophisticated Orange County socialite from a family of three girls), nobody even once said, “you know, marriage is really hard under any circumstances. Don’t you think it would work out better if you married someone with a background more similar to yours?”

  3. Well there are still a few places that interracial marriage is discouraged that would not have come up in your search using those search terms. For instance, in the Eternal Marriage manual, which is still used today, in the lesson on “Marriage for Eternity” there is this paragraph: “We are grateful that this one survey reveals that about 90 percent of the temple marriages hold fast. Because of this, we recommend that people marry those who are of the same racial background generally, and of somewhat the same economic and social and educational background (some of those are not an absolute necessity, but preferred), and above all, the same religious background, without question. In spite of the most favorable matings, the evil one still takes a monumental toll and is the cause for many broken homes and frustrated lives.”

    Also the Aaronic Priesthood Manual 3, which is not supposed to be used unless one does not have access to “Come Follow Me,” the Lesson on “Choosing an Eternal Companion” says something similar: ““We recommend that people marry those who are of the same racial background generally, and of somewhat the same economic and social and educational background (some of those are not an absolute necessity, but preferred), and above all, the same religious background, without question” (‘Marriage and Divorce,’ in 1976 Devotional Speeches of the Year [Provo: Brigham Young University Press, 1977], p. 144).”

  4. Geoff - Aus says:

    When my wife and I married in 1970, she was advised by her bishop that it was not wise to proceed because of our different cultures. She was from England and I from Australia but had lived in UK for 10 years, both white. Imagine if race had come into it also in1970.

  5. Kevin Barney says:

    Being older than you I remember this well. It was SWK himself who strongly and publicly advocated against interracial marriage, particularly in the wake of the 1978 revelation, as if to say “Hey, let’s not go crazy with this thing.”

    I don’t doubt for a moment that there are still Mormons who frown on it. But in my ward at least interracial marriage is quite common (mostly anglo-latino or -asian, although one ward member’s son visits with his black wife) and no one gives it a second thought. The Church as a whole needs to become more like my ward.

  6. Millenial input here: in 2000, this advice was parroted to me by my father when I dated a girl with some Chinese heritage. Her parents were all US born but I was told the difference would be too great. This hogwash takes a long time to fully remove it seems

  7. @Emjen: ug. I had tried to search the manuals separately for a couple other terms but hadn’t found those. I was hopeful they’d been quietly cut. I was wrong. Now I’m sad.

  8. EmJen’s manual quotes (the same quote, actually) are from President Kimball’s 1976 BYU devotional talk “Marriage and Divorce.” They should have been removed from the manual long ago, of course. There are differences between people that can make marriage more difficult, due to family and societal pressures, etc. Race is one of those things, and we would be dishonest if we didn’t acknowledge that there are places in the US, at any rate, where people might still make life hard on an interracial couple. (I have a white friend in my ward who adopted an African-American child, and he takes spoken and unspoken flak every time they visit back in Utah.)

    However, discouraging such unions should never be Church policy or Church counsel. Seriously, anyone in that position is well aware of the issues they’re going to face. Their racist uncle has already made some comment at the last holiday gathering, etc. They don’t need a Carter-era, pre-OD2 Kimball talk thrown in their faces with the “best” of simpering, patronizing good intentions. Young couples of any kind have enough to worry about without their leaders frowning at them.

  9. Carolyn, this post is great. My experience learning about that old teaching was almost exactly the same as yours.

    When I was younger, though, the apologist in me wanted to explain that teaching as well-intentioned bad advice based on what was really a desire for good strong marriages between culturally compatible people. But as Mike points out, it only really ever came up in the context of interracial marriage, not marriage between people of different cultures. Not to mention that in the early LDS church there was plenty of inter-cultural marriage between white European converts from different countries.

    Now I see it as a lingering vestige of Brigham Young’s racist statements against miscegenation. I’m not an expert on the history, but my hunch is that statements like the ones you refer to in the OP were just the softer version that were invented as apologetics for President Young’s statements, which were part and parcel of the priesthood and temple ban. We’ve rightly rejected that doctrine (at least, we’ve rejected it’s continued application), and we’ve discarded some of the apologetics that went along with it, but we need to add this anti-miscegenation stuff to the pile.

    And let’s be honest, it’s not respect for prophetic authority that has kept us from doing so, but ingrained cultural racism. The church had no problem discarding President Young’s Adam-God doctrine and teachings, but has struggled mightily to discard racism.

  10. Excellent. I’m only surprised that it needs to be said. I wouldn’t have thought that “Even today, the church’s position remains ambiguous.” But I’m listening and learning.

    It is not directly relevant to church teachings, but useful for bigger picture understanding, that a Gallup poll of 2002 persons in November 2003 showed 70 percent of whites approve of black/white marriage, as compared to only 4 percent in 1958.

    With respect to Spencer Kimball (see Kevin Barney and others, above), I think it is a mis-characterization to say “it was SWK himself who strongly and publicly advocated . . . in the wake of the 1978 revelation.” Rather, I am aware of numerous quotes and references in other people’s talks and materials, using SWK as authority but using material from the 1950s and 1960s and the “advise against but not wrong” statement in 1978 that accompanied (coincided with?) the priesthood announcement. There certainly is material opposing interracial marriage and SWK was rather well know for opposition. However, read in context (but it often was not read in context), he was reasonably clear that it was about marriage difficulties not doctrine. “He frankly pointed out the social and psychological risks for the couple and their children but reassured them that the decision was personal and involved no theological issues.” (_Lengthen Your Stride_ at p. 211).

    Post-1978 we have notes from Mary Sturlaugson, the first black woman missionary, from an interview with SWK as she contemplated marriage to John Eyer. By her record “he [SWK] quietly but emphatically whispered, ‘My child, it is not wrong. It is not wrong. The only reason we counsel against it is because of the problems the _children_ could face. As far as its being incompatible with the Lord’s gospel, or with your Father in Heaven, it is not.” (Mary Sturlaugson Eyer, _Reflections of a Soul_ (Salt Lake City; Randall Book Co., 1985)

  11. Interracial marriages are fairly common in my exp in the church.
    Their are at least 9 in my ward. I think that both couples being active lds folks is far far more important than the race of the individuals.

  12. ” I think that both couples being active lds folks is far far more important than the race of the individuals.”

    This smacks just a bit of “it doesn’t matter what they are wearing/if they are smoking, I’m just so glad they are at church” which has that slight tone of “we know what’s the harder right, but we’ll be accepting anyway.”

  13. Thanks for this post — its importance cannot be overstated.

  14. I’ve only heard this idea once in a church-related setting, my freshman year of seminary (which, because I lived in Southern California, was taught by a woman in my ward, so I can’t pin this one on CES).

    We were studying the Book of Mormon, and I have no idea how she got on the topic, but I do remember her saying—couched and cautiously, but saying nonetheless—that it was a bad idea to marry someone who wasn’t your same race.

    I think I challenged her, though that may just be what I hoped I did (I was a troublemaker, but I was also shy); I do know, though, that I basically quit going to seminary after that.

    I’m glad that it’s mostly out of church discourse now, but the idea needs to be forcibly uprooted where it still exists. It’s a stupid idea, one antithetical to the Gospel and to Zion, and one that is immensely harmful to the body of the Saints.

  15. Experiences like Sam’s are why having early-morning seminary taught by ordinary ward members rather than CES employees isn’t necessarily a good idea. The potential for extradoctrinal mischief is quite high (we all have a “scriptorian” in the ward who happens to be an unbelievable crank), and there are no serious repercussions for it.

  16. My favorite doctrinal mischief in early morning seminary was when a teacher insisted that human beings are so divine they don’t actually decompose after they’re buried, to make resurrection easier, and that’s why cremation is bad.

  17. What the everloving crap? How do you become an adult without learning that human bodies do in fact decay?

  18. I had four years of CES seminary plus two religion courses from Professor Bott at BYU (the second one, I’m ashamed to admit, because I had a tough schedule and I needed one class that semester that would give me an easy “A”). Plenty of false doctrine runs rampant through seminary and religion courses taught by professionals. It’s even worse because many of them are under the impression that they are experts and know more about the issues than most other members of the church.

  19. a lingering vestige of Brigham Young’s racist statements … apologetics for President Young’s statements

    (I’m launching off JKC’s words because I think he can take it, and because our views align so often that I think he’ll understand this is not a personal attack.)

    Brigham Young said (and believed) awful things in connection with race. I don’t deny that, and don’t excuse him, and don’t pretend he didn’t say what he said, or that his position in the Church didn’t amplify his message a millionfold. But he was hardly the only one in that generation and in Church leadership and in Church rank and file to teach and/or believe those things. It isn’t fair to put all the blame on Brigham’s shoulders, because that sounds like he was a lone voice preaching racism, that the great majority of other Church members reluctantly adopted his views over their better, truer beliefs and would have abandoned racism much earlier had Brigham kept his mouth shut. Always labeling this as Brigham’s doing is another way of distancing our own selves from the sin of racism — no one of us can say that had we lived in that generation, or the following few, we would have acted or believed any differently.

    It seems to me that eliminating the bigotry toward interracial marriage depends in large measure on each one of us examining our own consciences. Part of that is remembering what we were taught and by whom … and part of it is excavating anything we might have said ourselves to teach prejudice to someone else, and anything we may have done ourselves to model it for someone else. There may have been a time when, young and not quite as enlightened as you are now, you repeated in good faith something you were taught, without understanding its implications. Well, so did your parents, and seminary teachers, and past bishops — a little mercy toward them might serve as mercy toward you, without excusing the bigotry itself.

  20. Ardis, I agree 100% with you. BY was phenomenally bad on race, and I don’t think we can dismiss him as a product of his time, but you’re right that it is not as though he strong-armed the church into his racism, the church largely went along willingly. This is where I think the comparison I drew to Adam-God is useful. It didn’t take long at all after his death for the church to at first distance itself from it, then disavow it expressly. And that’s because, I think, most people just couldn’t make sense of it or completely disagreed with it. Racism was different. Church members were right there with him.

    But I give him credit, FWIW, for repudiating the fence-sitter theory. And there are things about him that I admire, even though he was a hard dude.

    And I also agree 100% that the key to eliminating bigotry (not just with the marriage issue, but in general) lies in examining our own conscience. I’m a firm believer that anyone who really does so cannot continue believing such things.

  21. Mormon attitudes about interracial marriage might be the single best issue to illustrate our ambivalence about racism and our continuing racist sins as a church. Many, many Mormons still maintain two beliefs at once. On one hand, they know that there is nothing wrong with interracial marriage. On the other hand, they harbor dark, unspoken reservations, and they feel justified by these old quotes from general authorities. The secret Mormon racist might even feel confused about what is really right.

    These beliefs can’t coexist in a healthy condition. It’s cancerous to the soul, and it’s a disease in the body of the church.

    So far we have stumbled along as a church without facing this contradiction openly. The official church has acted like the secret, reluctant racist, openly denouncing racism but not decisively breaking with its racist past. We’ve preferred to tolerate our latent racism rather than deal with the pain of lancing the wound. Our willful ignorance has sustained the conscious, committed racists among us. They know that the church has a place for quiet racism as long as we keep up this cancerous charade.

    Now maybe we’re coming to some kind of turning point. Mormon racists are marching, and the official church has responded with a statement that uses the words “white supremacy” and “white culture.” That seems to have unnerved a lot of the racists. I hope the official church seizes the momentum. There is more that needs to be done, and the pain of repentance won’t be nearly as intense or last quite so long as we fear.

  22. In general the events of the past week have been a massively clarifying moment. Heather Heyer’s death will not be in vain.

  23. Kevin Barney says:

    Christian, thanks for the nuance regarding SWK’s role in this post-revelation. My memory was that he personally doubled down on this subject at that time, but it may well be as you suggest that others used his prior teachings and were the ones who did the doubling down in the immediate aftermath of the revelation. All I know for sure is that someone doubled down on it at that time, as if to make it clear that the revelation was not a license to willy nilly enter into inter-racial marriages. (And yes, the rationale behind that guidance was always framed as cultural difficulty.)

  24. A topic for a separate post, but boy oh boy are there some weird things that YSAs get told about finding a spouse by church leaders. Anyway, I’m only 28 and I had a white friend in my stake whose parents were upset about her marrying a black man. About 10 years ago. At the time it was something that I didn’t necessarily agree with, but figured other people must know more about marriage than I did.

  25. Thanks, EmJen for pointing out there are more contemporary sources for those quotes. My son (to his dismay) heard it in Young Men’s in 2012. It was in the YM curriculum. While I, at age 49, can roll my eyes, the youth hear these things and think “The church can’t be true and preach such things.” And on these topics, they are certainly right.

    This anti-miscegenation is insidious given the white supremacy movement in the fringes of the church. Not wanting to “mix the races” is a hall mark of the racial purity views espoused by white supremacists. These need to be rooted out.

  26. I think it is a worthwhile effort to examine the reasons given. Even if we look at the 20th century rationalizations with 21st century eyes and see implicit unspoken racism, bringing those rationalizations into the light is useful for the purpose of eliminating any lingering disapproval.

    Putting Brigham Young and his era (the blatantly racist rationales) aside, the next rationalization I’m aware of is “can’t marry in the temple.” Whatever you think of that reasoning for the pre-1978 period, it is obviously and completely gone, done away with in 1978.

    The other rationalization I know of is the cultural difficulty argument, for the married couple or for their children. That may have been the product of the speaker’s deep prejudice, or the product of society’s deep prejudice. I am open to different readings at different times and for different people. There was probably some pragmatic truth to it, in the post-war civil rights tensions of the 1950s and 1960s. But the point is that shining some light on the argument lets us say “whatever you think of that argument for 1960, it doesn’t apply today.”

    Or can we? In the era of Trump and Charlottesville? In a time when a black mother says she worries about bringing her children to a Mormon church meeting.

  27. @Christiankimball – I don’t CARE whether it “pragmatically” applies or not today. The point is that it shouldn’t apply. The problem here is the people who will give the black family trouble, not the half-black family. I refuse to give a heckler’s veto to racists.

  28. @Carolyn: I’m with you 100% as a political, social, rhetorical statement. But in one-on-one conversation with my child, would I say “there might be trouble”? It’s hypothetical–they’re all married–but yes, I probably would.

  29. I agree with comments above about how important it is for each person to look within to overcome bigotry, so I’m not entirely comfortable putting a lot of burden on someone else. I’ll do it anyway, because I think that in this situation so much depends on what the senior leaders of the church do.

    It is absolutely necessary for our leaders to talk more often, more specifically, and in more detail about racism. It’s especially important to acknowledge specific ways that racism continues in the church. Mormons will follow the example of our leaders in deciding what it’s okay to talk about. I agree with Christian that we need to air out the roots and rationales for our prejudices. That probably won’t happen until Mormon leaders signal that we should.

    Consider our discussions about pornography. The way I remember it, it seemed a little bit shocking the first time someone said the word “pornography” in General Conference. It seemed like the violation of a taboo. But speakers kept bringing it up because they felt the need urgently. Now we are blessed to be able to speak much more openly about that problem not only in General Conference, but in our wards—and in our homes, I hope.

    There is a taboo about racism in the church. That taboo is a curse that we must break.

  30. Thanks for this, Carolyn. I also encountered this teaching while I was growing up, and I’m ashamed to say that I even repeated the usual rationales. As others have said, this will die a slow death unless we speak up when we encounter it.

  31. This is not going away any time soon. Maybe in 30 years the last of that generation that grew up hearing this rot from our prophets, believing it, feeling justified living with racist thoughts, and teaching this rot to their kids will die off. Let’s not kid ourselves either, there are two categories of interracial marriages. There is the one that involves a black person and any other race and there is another one that involves two races and not one of them being black. Mormons who are racists, and there are a ton of them, do not have as much angst with the second category.

    With all due respect Carolyn, this conversation will not end until, like Loursat says, the leadership stands up and “disavows” much more strongly that past prophets were flat out wrong in things they taught and that past prophets were blatant racists. Anyone reading this blog has long ago reconciled that prophets say dumb stuff all the time, but most of your fellow worshippers have not. If they start throwing past prophets under the bus it does not end well for them. They do not want you wondering if current statements made are going to be disavowed one day. They do not want you wondering if the prophet really speaks to God or maybe confuses his own thoughts for God’s will. They know this and that is why they won’t condemn past statements more strongly than they have.

  32. “If they start throwing past prophets under the bus it does not end well for them. They do not want you wondering if current statements made are going to be disavowed one day. They do not want you wondering if the prophet really speaks to God or maybe confuses his own thoughts for God’s will.”

    If only there was some kind of conscience or something that we could listen to for guidance and correction when we mess up. Some kind of gift or something.

  33. [Recognizing that this thread may be done, but still . . . ]
    [Getting into confessional navel gazing, but still . . . ]

    A little soul searching overnight, brought on by my own “what would I tell my children” comment yesterday. Looking inward to begin with, I am a child of the ’60s, and not the intermountain West ’60s but the Madison, Wisconsin ’60s that was the most radical, socialist, long-hair hippie free-loving place between the two coasts. And within Mormonism my parents were (now I understand) members of the radical left orthopraxists. I pretty clearly did not get an interracial ban message, because my circles were consciously thinking about it and reacting against it (including my father against his father). However I did pick up some sort of “like marries like” or “appropriate partner” message. It wasn’t explicitly racial, and it arguably wasn’t even an implicit or hidden racial message (because people were paying attention). If a label is necessary, it was more like a loose class system imported to American soil. (And yes I understand that “class” can be a proxy for race and that “class” even when not a proxy can have the same effect because of systemic racism, and down we go into an endless spiral of doubt and self doubt and doubt of doubts that ends up at race is so deeply embedded in the U.S.-America history and society that there is no cause without an effect and no free-standing belief and the best we can ever hope to do is be awake.)

    With that long preface, I come to the question whether there is anything I or anybody can say about marriage partners?

    At one extreme, at the very least, I want the Church, church leaders, lesson manuals, etc. to expunge the old and awful teachings. And to say “no doctrine, no gospel rule.” Without equivocation.

    But frankly that’s the easy part. There are quotes. The position is clear. I’m surprised it isn’t done already (except for the Church’s obvious allergy to apologies.)

    A next step might be to then say nothing–absolutely nothing–about marriage partners. No “appropriate” or “preferred” or “be smart.” Just nothing. But do I think that will happen? In a church that has made marriage and family the next thing to Christ in centrality (and some would argue about the order)? No, I find the “say nothing” position in-credible, not believable. And yet I shudder to think of the possibilities in the whole range of conversations over the pulpit, in Sunday School classes, in conversations with 14 year old young women and 24 year old young men, in public and in private.

    In essence, a vacuum will not hold and some message will creep in if we don’t actively fill it. The creep may bring us back to explicitly racist messages. Or I understand there is a “love conquers all” and “hard work can make any marriage a success” dangerous fallacy floating around Mormon circles. That’s just dumb. At least, not an acceptable in-fill, in my opinion.

    Maybe it’s just the “in public” that raises difficulties. In private one-on-one conversation, it is possible (and I would argue correct, and would also assert that I’m OK at this myself) to avoid generalities of all kinds. To pay attention to the decision process and the individual, the relationship and the prospects, for this one person, this one relationship. (I recognize that class and race issues come right along with “prospects.” Back to the spiral. A focus on this person, this relationship, this one life together, is the best I can do. And stay awake.)

    For anything more general than “this person, this relationship,” I’m at a loss. I think there needs to be a positive message, and I have no idea what to say.

    Fortunately for me, and probably for everyone else too, at this stage in my life the most “public” I get is commenting at BCC.

  34. Zach, hoping racists will die off is a passive method and won’t work. Racist people teach their kids to be racists. Also, active white nationalist movements are recruiting new young souls. I appreciate the church’s statement denouncing white supremacy this week. Especially their updated statement that really clarified what they were denouncing. That is the only way we are going to have any hope of getting teachers to fix this problem of incorrect doctrine spreading. The first time I heard it (not marrying someone outside your race) was as a freshman in my BYU Book of Mormon religion class. Really great to go to a Mormon college and learn that every. single. eligible bachelor was being told not to date me. The church needs to issue a forceful statement or people will continue in their erronous thoughts. A CLEAR forceful statement.

    As far as “interracial marriage issues” go, that is hogwash. It has never been an issue in our married life.

    Thanks to everyone for this post and the comments. I feel like most people want to change. I think it is important for white mormons to get woke and spread the truth.

  35. Is this more exclusively an American obsession? It’s interesting that here in New Zealand, Maori and whites have been marrying interracially in the Church since the 1880s, and it has never been an issue. There are hundreds if not thousands of such pairings in the Church. Of course, this is likely because Maori were never subjected to the priesthood ban, but there’s never any eyebrow raising of “interracial marriage” when a Maori and a white person marry in the Church in this part of the world.

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