Why the hoax isn’t courageous, and isn’t allyship

Last week, on the day the church met with the NAACP, someone created a detailed replica of the church’s newsroom website and posted a fake statement of apology from the church for the priesthood and temple ban and racist teachings. Many people were tricked into believing the apology was real, and many tears of joy were shed, especially by black LDS. The whiplash of discovering it was fake was crushing for many. Unfortunately, I have witnessed many in the “progressive Mormon,” post-Mormon, and ex-Mormon communities hailing the hoax’s creator as a hero or even a good ally to people of color, for “calling attention” to the need for a (real) apology. I can’t understand thinking that, and I certainly can’t understand persisting in that view even after learning of the pain it caused, or after watching this raw, required viewing from Tamu Smith or Zandra Vranes, or reading these incisive critiques by LaShawn Williams. So although, in a just world, Tamu, Zandra, and LaShawn would be the last word on this, I’m going to try to reach out to some of my fellow white people who seem unmoved and explain step-by-step exactly why the hoax was so abhorrent. 

An Analogy

Sometimes analogies help us see a situation where we have huge built-in biases or blind spots more clearly. It must be emphasized that there are no truly adequate analogies on race issues, but here is one attempt:

Setting: height of the mortgage crisis in 2009, when millions of Americans were evicted or facing foreclosure. Everyone was saying the banks needed to modify loans (reduce monthly payments and reduce debt so it’s not greater than current home value), but the banks were just not doing it. Homeowners were living in terror day and night about eviction and being ripped from friends and community, kids pulled out of their familiar schools, facing credit ruin and in many cases homelessness. (This part is all real so far!)

Summary: Banks unambiguously in the wrong and needing pressure to do the right thing.

The Hypothetical: What if somebody faked some letters from banks saying, “We feel your pain, we hear your pleas, we are pleased to tell you that we are modifying your loan,” and sent them to tens of thousands of distressed homeowners. They texted friends and family in celebration, sobbing with joy and relief. Then the hoax is revealed and they’re sobbing again. And angry.

Can we possibly imagine that people in this scenario would be saying, “The hoaxer did nothing wrong! He was brilliant and brave! You should be directing your anger at the banks, they’re the real villains here! In fact, the hoaxer has started a useful conversation, and all these videos of families sobbing with joy and then with betrayal that are blanketing the local TV news this week are drawing attention to what the banks should be doing, so it’s great!” The banks were unambiguously in the wrong, but the hoaxer in this scenario is still a complete monster for using homeowners’ pain–and inflicting new pain–without their consent.

And this recession scenario doesn’t even match the scale of a legacy of centuries of racial oppression borne by black people in America, or the inter-generational harms to black Mormons from the Priesthood and temple ban and ongoing racism in our communities and in the church. The harms suffered by black Americans and black LDS are actually much worse, meaning the analogy understates problem.

Personhood and Autonomy

Nobody is saying that it is wrong to bring attention to the problem of racist teachings and community culture in the church. If white people want to demand the church issue an apology, fantastic. Please do it. (Seriously. You could start by going to Shoulder to the Wheel, a website for white Mormons to learn to be advocates for anti-racism and better understand issues people of color face.) But you don’t get to intentionally hurt black people as a way of drawing attention to your voice when you make that demand. It’s incredible that this even needs saying. White men already have an enormous advantage in getting their voices heard, especially in the church. So for the hoaxer to presume to induce black pain to increase the volume advantage on his own megaphone relative to that of black people, and especially black women, is astounding.

Here’s the bottom line: White people don’t get to unilaterally decide how much black people suffering is “worth it” to further a cause we care about. Black people are already all too aware of the racism in the LDS church. They’ve also been leading the effort to get the church to address it. They sometimes leave the church over it. They sometimes stay to try to change it from within. They often suffer for it (either way). But the choice of when and how to engage is their choice. Not the hoaxer’s choice. He doesn’t get to unilaterally decide that hurting them is a good idea, that his ends justify the means. Even if his ends are good! That’s not the point. The point is that it was wrong of him as a white person to force that suffering on them. The hoax showed appalling levels of indifference not only to black suffering, but to their basic right of autonomy. Indifference to their right to decide for themselves what the best way to fight this fight is.

Two More Quick Analogies

Not to put too fine a point on it, but you don’t get in your car and go run over a bunch of pedestrians to show the city that they need erect a safety barrier between traffic and the sidewalk, no matter how important raising that issue with the city might be. “Oh boy oh boy, I bet THIS will get the city’s attention!!” Who does that? And yet I’ve seen so many white people in this thread trying to defend this saying exactly that–look it got people’s attention, ends justify the means.

There is nothing courageous or honorable in this. The creator of the hoax didn’t bravely storm the castle, risking attack to depose an evil king. He sent an unwillingly-conscripted army of black people to absorb harm for him, and they (predictably) took heavy casualties in the process. That’s not heroism, that’s cowardly and cruel.

 

 

 

[Acknowledgements: this post is based on some comments I made in discussions on Facebook, which I decided to gather and organize into a more comprehensive argument.]

[Update: I’ve updated the post to add links to LaShawn Williams’ writing on this.]

Comments

  1. Well said.

  2. Angela C says:

    Hear, hear.

  3. Happy Hubby says:

    I almost wonder if there are going to be some that see this one way and others that see it another and no analogies or discussions will change the overall framing of everyone. It almost feels like there is an argument of, “is the medicine worse than the illness?” And yes I am being a hypocrite for saying analogies won’t help and then making an analogy.

    In all of this I am trying to move on past if the hoax was good or bad and focusing more on how I can help make things better. I don’t even think my comments above will really make a difference in much of anybody’s mind.

  4. The medicine analogy also perfectly illustrates why the hoax was horrible: some people might choose to undergo chemo, others might say the side effects are not worth it. But a doctor performing medical experiments on people without consent is never the right thing to do no matter how beneficial he thinks it might be, and that’s why we have very strong prohibitions on anything like that. See also long history of white doctors NOT following those ethical constraints and experimenting on people of color and/or enslaved people (Tuskegee experiment where black men were infected with syphilis, James “Father of Gynecology” Sims performing obstectric and gynecologic surgeries on enslaved women not only without their consent but without anesthesia, pharma companies performing human trials on impoverished Guatemalans, ….)

  5. I have two comments/objections to this post.

    First, I’m tired of people classifying members as black, white, green, or red. We are all members of one Church. The problem with original racial ban is that it divided members between black and everyone else. This post perpetuates that division. Because I’m a white member, I can’t understand racism when I see it? We are all members of the same Church. I’m white so what?

    Second, the analogy doesn’t work period. The two pains are nowhere near the same. But I don’t want to discuss analogies, that misses the point. In a top-down patriarchy, there are no reasonable ways to effectuate change. This is highlighted by the fact that it took the Church until 1978 to lift the ban. Now it going to take at least 40 years to issue an apology for the racism. If the hoax brings about a faster apology great.

    I lived through the 1960’s and the Civil Rights Movement. It wasn’t a lot of fun being a white member of a racist church.

    The hoaxster isn’t a hero, but at least he, either intentionally or unintentionally, raised the issue to a new level. Which is important. The heavy here is not the hoaxster it’s the Church leadership for the callous way they are treating members. “We make mistakes but we don’t apologize.”

    At least the hoaxster did something. The rest of us are sitting on our hands.

  6. There are many differences between this banking analogy and what happened with the hoax. The biggest, for me, in your analogy, the hoaxer actually sent the text to struggling homeowners. This makes it seem, in your analogy, the primary target of the hoax was the struggling homeowners. In the race apology hoax, was not sent directly to black members of the church. I don’t think the intent of the hoax was to cause hurt among black members; I think the exmormon author’s intended target was Church leadership. (Note: I’m not saying members weren’t hurt; I’m just saying that unlike the bank analogy, in the race hoax, members were likely not the intended target.)

    For my part, I hope the race hoaxer apologizes for any hurt he has caused even if by accident. That would be a perfect way to end the hoax AND show church leaders that apologizing is a sign of strength, not weakness.

  7. J. Stapley says:

    …at least he, either intentionally or unintentionally, raised the issue to a new level.

    Reread the post.

    The rest of us are sitting on our hands.

    Speak for yourself.

    I think the exmormon author’s intended target was Church leadership.

    If church leaders were the intended target, and not members, then he wouldn’t have done what he did.

  8. Jacob H. says:

    The ends never justify the means, because we only have access to and control over the means. Leave to God the ends..

  9. I just have no time for streeter apologists. It was a racist move.

  10. Michael E says:

    Can one lobby for change even if not a member of the group? How does one determine what lobbying is acceptable in such a situation? In this context, if I am LDS the “pledge” section of Shoulder the Wheel lists viable options. If I am not LDS but am interested in being involved, how do I determine what help is acceptable or desired? How do I weigh the expected costs and benefits at the institutional level against those at an individual level? These are sincere questions, and seem difficult to me in the present context.

  11. Rogerdhansen:

    First, I’m tired of people classifying members as black, white, green, or red. We are all members of one Church.

    I know this is probably well-intentioned, but it is not appropriate to list imaginary color(s) when discussing race. Racism is a serious issue, and, regardless of what you intend, doing so will come across as being flippant about a serious issue. It is also belittling to the experience of people of color to compare their very real experience of racism to something that is imaginary.

    The problem with original racial ban is that it divided members between black and everyone else.

    No. The problem with the original ban is that it (among other things) withheld saving and exalting ordinances from black members, dooming their families to an earth life without the power of the endowment and an eternity without the togetherness provided by the sealing ordinance.

    This post perpetuates that division.

    This post addresses a harm that was inflicted on people.

    Because I’m a white member, I can’t understand racism when I see it? We are all members of the same Church. I’m white so what?

    There’s nothing wrong with being white. But there is something wrong with anyone of any race or ethnicity not recognizing that people of color in the US and elsewhere experience structural disadvantages. Because people of color often have those disadvantages rubbed in their faces on a regular basis, it’s usually white people who would be more likely to not recognize that.

    Second, the analogy doesn’t work period. The two pains are nowhere near the same. But I don’t want to discuss analogies, that misses the point.

    Counterpoint: the analogy does work.

    In a top-down patriarchy, there are no reasonable ways to effectuate change. This is highlighted by the fact that it took the Church until 1978 to lift the ban. Now it going to take at least 40 years to issue an apology for the racism. If the hoax brings about a faster apology great.

    I dispute that it will bring about a faster apology. But even if we grant for the sake argument that it would, no white person gets to decide that hurting black people for the sake of effective PR is “great.”

    I lived through the 1960’s and the Civil Rights Movement. It wasn’t a lot of fun being a white member of a racist church.

    It is spectacularly bad form to make this about how racism against blacks is hard for white people.

    The hoaxster isn’t a hero, but at least he, either intentionally or unintentionally, raised the issue to a new level. Which is important. The heavy here is not the hoaxster it’s the Church leadership for the callous way they are treating members. “We make mistakes but we don’t apologize.”

    It’s not his right or your right to decide that hurting people to “raise the issue” is a good idea.

    At least the hoaxster did something. The rest of us are sitting on our hands.

    Speak for yourself. Many of us are doing something.

  12. I believe the church needs to apologize. And I also believe this hoax just pushed that possibility even farther into the future, which is awful to contemplate. Surely I’m not the only one to have read Armand Mauss’ “Shifting Borders and a Tattered Passport?” You want to have the COB dig in their heels? This is how you do it.

    This man is no ally, and no hero.

  13. Your loyalty to Tamu Smith and Zandra Vranes is good. As a personal nod to them, this is excellent.

    ————————————
    In general though, this does not stand.

    The perpetrator: Men in Jacob’s time
    The person doing the calling it out: Jacob
    The unintended but known consequence: “enlarge the wounds of those who are already wounded”

    Speak out against the hoax, but its hard to take this seriously without some acknowledgement that the Church should be held to the same standard.

    1978) The revelation was pitched and positioned to be “God now is OK with Black Men having the priesthood”
    2013) In a somewhat hidden essay: All past reasons for the ban are disavowed.
    2018) Let’s celebrate. Pitched and positioned in the same tone of “In 1978, God now is OK with Black Men having the priesthood”

    We are bending over backwards for the Church on this one. Clearly lacking is a disavow of the Ban itself. Something like: “It was wrong, they should have been given the priesthood and allowed in the temple the whole time”. The let’s celebrate tone feels like a big step backwards.

  14. Can one lobby for change even if not a member of the group?

    Michael E, if you read the post, it addresses this exact point. “Nobody is saying that it is wrong to bring attention to the problem of racist teachings and community culture in the church. If white people want to demand the church issue an apology, fantastic. Please do it.” Creating a hoax to hurt black people is not “lobbying.” Nobody would fault someone for doing various protests outside of banks, or creating petitions to bank executives, or any number of other ways to lobby for the banks to modify loans. But inflicting a hoax on homeowners who are already hurting is not the way to “lobby.” Get as involved as you want.

    How does one determine what lobbying is acceptable in such a situation?

    I dunno, start with “don’t go out of your way to painfully crush the hopes and dreams of many many people”? Just as a baseline?

    how do I determine what help is acceptable or desired

    Why are you making this sound like rocket science? Any help that is focused on helping and not hurting the people in question is helpful. Any help that elevates their voices and not your own (and especially avoid “help” that elevates your voice at their EXPENSE). Any help that listens to what kind of help they’ve said they want.

  15. Incog, what are you talking about there not being “some acknowledgement” that the church was wrong about the ban?! What part of (exact words from the post) “unambiguously in the wrong” do you not understand? What part of (exact words from the post) “the inter-generational harms to black Mormons from the Priesthood and temple ban and ongoing racism in our communities and in the church” do you not understand? What part of (exact words from the post) “The harms suffered by black Americans and black LDS are actually much worse, meaning the analogy understates problem” do you not understand? What part of (exact words from the post) “If white people want to demand the church issue an apology, fantastic. Please do it. Seriously” do you not understand? I’m only halfway through the post and there’s more.

  16. Cynthia,

    You most certainly have acknowledged the wrongs of the Church in regards to its racism.

    I understand your main idea to be: The hoaxer should have foreseen the intense hurt of black LDS members and should not have done it. Now that it has happened, the intense hurt is sufficient that the hoax should only be viewed as garbage and abhorrent.

    My mention of Jacob shows a similar situation where Jacob does foresee the intense hurt of the victims and still goes ahead and causes the hurt in an effort to call out wrong doing. This act of ignoring the hurt to victims is widespread in the Church. From your local Bishop all the way to the First Presidency. I can’t tell you how many times I hear the “Do we fear to offend God or man?”, almost always to justify hurtful behavior.

  17. MTodd:

    I share your hope that he apologizes.

    There are a few problems with an argument that it wasn’t intended to harm. First, he went to extraordinary effort to make it seem real:
    –Website realism: graphics and all links actually working (back to the original site)
    –Timing the release of the website to the time that everyone who pays attention to church actions on race knew the church was releasing a statement (because of their NAACP meeting that morning) and so was anticipating it
    –He also posted the link in public on Facebook with a note telling everyone to go check out the apology, presenting it as real (“…This apology is one of the boldest statements ever made by any denomination who has had to grapple with this troubling issue and the realities of human frailty. An unqualified apology made publicly by the Prophet of the church….”)

    Second, he must have known that the precise people who would know that the church was meeting with the NAACP, who would be anticipating a statement and so be primed to believe this one, who would be the quickest to send the fake viral through their networks, would be the people most impacted by race and the church, i.e., black people and those who care about them the most. I.e., the people who would most suffer from the hoaxing.

    So sure he didn’t literally mail it to their houses, but he had to know that this would go most viral in the affected community, right?! And if he didn’t, then he’s still a terrible ally for not even giving 5 seconds of thought to how black people would receive this.

  18. “I can’t tell you how many times I hear the “Do we fear to offend God or man?”, almost always to justify hurtful behavior.”

    So you’re endorsing that? Eh….

  19. I’m my opinion, anybody who thinks the hoax started a new conversation or raised the conversation to a new level has simply not been paying attention.

  20. I disagree vehemently that this did any good, but even if it did, there is a big difference between “I’m going to tell truths about offensive behavior that are hard to hear” and “I’m going to emotionally manipulate the victims of the offensive behavior to make a point.”

  21. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    Not holding my breath for this, but if the Church does, at some point, issue a formal apology for the ban, we will all remember this hoax and hesitate with muted hope for confirmation. Another harmful effect of the hoax is that it will rob many who are suffering of the immediate joy/relief that might have accompanied an authentic apology.

  22. Truckers Atlas says:

    It is in these situations that I would find an entire volume of “Why I Stay” essays written by black Mormons super insightful.

  23. Thank you Cynthia L!

  24. Thank you, Cynthia. This whole horrible episode has made me consider what I can do in my (mostly white) sphere to effect change on this issue. The clearest thing I felt is “make sure that black voices don’t get dismissed or erased.” There was an awful lot of that from Streeter apologists, all supposedly incensed about racism in the Church, but brushing aside protestations from black Mormons that the hoax was hurtful, not “brilliant satire.”

  25. Happy Hubby says:

    Cynthia L – My views were not changed by your original post. But I did finally get one aspect when just reading through the comments and I have actually gained a bit of appreciation for those that are very offended. I can see where some are attributing the motivation much differently than I do. I agree the effects are the effects no matter what the original motives where. I am fully in the camp that the author should listen to those that have been hurt, think about it, and give a SINCERE apology. I would expect this, just as I expect this same apology from the church for the pain it has inflicted over the decades on this (and other) issues.

    In trying to dig in and think about why I attributed much different motivations than others, I do think it is that this was TOO GOOD. Don’t get me wrong, the hoax was just what I would want the church to say. But I was shocked at the humility and vulnerability expressed and after about the second paragraph my spidey sense told me this wasn’t real. It was just so uncharacteristic of top church leaders that I knew it was a hoax and (an attempt at) satire. My reaction is probably because I am a cynical, balding, old, white, male that has had issues with church leaders for quite a few years. I didn’t swallow the hook. So I don’t attribute the “making it look real” as an attempt to inflict pain.

    Once again – As much as I many are outraged, I don’t think everyone is going to see eye to eye on this topic. I personally would rather focus on what do we do from here. At this moment my plans are to make sure the (few) black members I am friends with are assured once again that I love having them at church. I am not sure I can turn the big ship of racism in the country or the church, but I can make sure on 1-on-1 that I make sure they know that Happy Hubby loves them.

  26. Bro. Jones says:

    Happy Hubby: I see where you’re coming from, and I honestly wish the hoax author had pushed this into the realm of blatant satire/comedy instead of aiming for authenticity. If the content had been completely obvious (“Church apologizes for racism, jell-o, and 3-hour meeting block”) I would’ve been ok with the styling mirroring an “official” release. Conversely, if they’d presented the text in a “What if” sort of format, I would’ve been okay with that. The combination that was presented was in bad taste and hurtful.

  27. What Bro. Jones said.

  28. Well done, Cynthia. You get to the heart of the problem.

    Also, word, JCK: I’m my opinion, anybody who thinks the hoax started a new conversation or raised the conversation to a new level has simply not been paying attention.

    As LaShawn and Zandra and Tamu and Melodie and Janan and Darius and many others have pointed out, the work is *work*. That doesn’t mean it’s public or visible to every member of the church. We work, watch, fight, and pray on our own levels and do what we can when we can.

    Streeter’s actions display a fundamental lack of awareness of Black Mormons but also of how the Church responds to public criticism. The lack of awareness is inexcusable.

  29. Scott Roskelley says:

    Streeter’s tactics were the style of a Mark Hoffman style forgery sold for the purpose of laughing at god and embarassing leaders. If more leave the church over this, Streeter would be thrilled. Each member of the church experiencing trauma over his sniper-style tactic is collateral damage and he steps over the bodies like dylan klebold – no kenosis, empathic neurons firing not likely, mindfulness exercised before crafting the phishy writing – nope.

  30. Lisa Goddard says:

    I grew up in Metro Detroit and currently live in Dearborn. Back when we had them, my dad was the Stake Mission president for a time. The black Mormons I know aren’t offended by the hoax. Most wearily accept that racism is still firmly embedded in Mormon culture, so much so that an apology from the Brethren is unlikely anytime in the near future. It hurts deeply that they love and serve with the same zeal, and still feel like they constantly have to justify themselves – both to white Mormons and to their non-Mormon families. While the hoax was certainly hurtful and insensitive and directed a hot spotlight on all of this, it didn’t create any of it. And not to put too fine a point on it, with all due respect to Sistas In Zion et al, black Mormons might be a small group, but they aren’t a monolith.

  31. Edward Bailey says:

    This time in history brings to mind the efforts of the ad-hoc committee which worked on a real apology proposal to present to the the twelve and first presidency 20years ago with Marlin Jensen. It was the real deal. However as Armand mauss wrote in Black and Mormon as the June 1998 deadline approached progress was slow and tedious. Then the leak went to press (Los Angeles Times, May 18, 1998) – leadership doubled down and denied any such disavowal was forthcoming. Here we are another 20 years later, and the June 2018 ensign has serious problems. Not sure the editors were aware of the great resources compiled in support of the shoulder to the wheel project?

  32. Lisa, who are the black Mormons who weren’t offended by the hoax? Would genuinely like to hear from the black Mormons you know.

  33. Rosalynde says:

    Tarik LaCour, another black Mormon, shared his response to this event, definitely worth reading: https://www.logicalpointofview.com/thoughts-on-streetergate

  34. rosalyndewelch says:

    Steve, the black Mormons in my ward and circle were unaffected because they were unaware and uninvolved in online Mormon discussion.

  35. “When we believe or say we have been offended, we usually mean we feel insulted, mistreated, snubbed, or disrespected. And certainly clumsy, embarrassing, unprincipled, and mean-spirited things do occur in our interactions with other people that would allow us to take offense. However, it ultimately is impossible for another person to offend you or to offend me. Indeed, believing that another person offended us is fundamentally false. To be offended is a choice we make; it is not a condition inflicted or imposed upon us by someone or something else.”

    -Elder David A. Bednar

  36. Just because Elder Bednar said something, doesn’t make it true. It kind of sounds like something someone who has frequently offended people would say.

  37. If there was ever a statement that needed a gif of someone holding their head in their hands, it’s that one by Elder Bednar.

    I sincerely hope that Elder Bednar has since learned the error of his statement. when you step on someone’s foot and they say they are hurt, you don’t walk away saying it was their fault for having their foot under yours; you apologize, repent, and try not to do it again.

  38. This kind of hoax spreads fastest through and most hurts the people who have the most hope of it’s truth. No, it’s not going to get to or bother everyone, not even in a specific group. I’d bet most LDS won’t have heard about it, and it wouldn’t be surprising if a fair portion of black LDS won’t ever hear of it. That’s not the point. It’s pointing at the people who survived a bombing to show that no one was hurt by the bomb.

    This hurt people. Not all people, but still some people. It added to the hurt they were already feeling.

  39. Streeter consulting with Darron Smith clearly shows his heart was in the right place.

    To those personally affected, its terrible, but from an observer we can’t get around the fact that the hurt Streeter caused is nothing compared to the hurt/injustice of the Ban itself.

  40. Loursat says:

    Regardless of what one might believe about whether there is fault in taking offense, there is no excuse for giving offense. There are few things more obnoxious than pretending that there is no such thing as offensive behavior.

  41. It’s ok if he kicked someone with a gunshot wound, the hurt caused is nothing compared by the hurt caused by the gunshot wound itself.

  42. Rosalynde, it stands to reason that someone who never heard of the hoax would feel relatively unaffected.

  43. Kevin Barney says:

    I just wanted to add a comment to this statement: “First, I’m tired of people classifying members as black, white, green, or red. We are all members of one Church.” This is an example of so-called colorblind ideology. By effecting not to see race, it seems to transcend racial categories. In fact, however, effecting not to see race is itself racist and is not the answer. It allows us to deny uncomfortable cultural differences. It allows people to ignore manifestations of racism. If you can’t see a problem or discuss a problem, how can you ever solve it?

    This is fresh on my mind because last week I sat in on a report of attorneys from my firm who attended a corporate diversity conference, and one of the topics they addressed was the problems with colorblind ideology. If you want to be an ally, be anti-racist, don’t pretend you don’t see color and racism doesn’t exist.

  44. Not a Cougar says:

    In case anyone else was curious about the referenced 1998 LA Times article:

    http://articles.latimes.com/1998/may/18/news/mn-51047

  45. Not a Cougar, thanks for the article. Amazing how it could be written now and not lose anything.

  46. From the 1998 article linked by Not a Cougar:

    “”In the absence of any official corrections, these speculative and pejorative ideas will continue to be perpetuated in the church indefinitely,” Mormon scholar Armand L. Mauss wrote in one internal paper prepared for church officials.”

    The hoax is exhibit A in why we still need to address and repudiate past practice and policy, or we will still be talking about this at the 50th, 75th, and other anniversaries of the end of the temple/priesthood ban. One of those “speculative and pejorative” ideas popped up in a recent gospel doctrine comment by a visitor to our ward. ~sigh~

  47. Frank,

    A better analogy is: A person is shot. A bystander makes fun of the person who was shot in an effort to kick the shooter.

    I takes a special evil to murder.

  48. Frank,

    A better analogy is: A person is shot. A bystander makes fun of the person who was shot in an effort to position himself to kick the shooter.

    It takes a special evil to murder.

  49. Rigel Hawthorne says:

    I appreciate this post. I had read about the hoax and had a basic ‘oh brother’ response and didn’t think about it any further. Not that I was unconcerned about the pain it caused others, just that I was busy with Priesthood and Temple Preview, Camporee, work, and getting kids to where they needed to go–you know, life in my own little bubble. Reading the post helped me know that there was more to this news item that I should be considering. I appreciate the time Cynthia L spent going over the comments and offering further insights.

  50. Incog, lots of nopes. Your analogy is basically telling the victim “what I did didn’t really hurt you”

  51. Elder Bednar is not the most skilled at putting words together, but he has a valid point in that even though we don’t initially choose to be hurt or offended, we do choose how deeply and how long we are going to be offended.

  52. Can we please not waste time debating Bednar’s quote. Loursat already said the only thing that ever ever needs to be said on that topic. “Regardless of what one might believe about whether there is fault in taking offense, there is no excuse for giving offense.”

  53. Lisa C Goddard says:

    Steve, I’m happy to share your contact info with friends.

  54. Cynthia L., I don’t see how making the fake website look as real as possible indicates he is trying to direct his hoax towards African Americans. Could it not have been he just wanted it to look as realistic as possible? Perhaps he wanted it to look realistic, knowing this would make the satire better.

    Same with his timing. I don’t see how his timing the release to coincide with the NCAAP press conference is evidence that he wanted to direct it to African Americans. Perhaps he just thought, “Timing it with the NCAAP meeting is the best way to make sure this is seen by the most number of people in order to start a discussion.”

    Regardless, he has apologized for any unintended pain he caused. May the Church learn from his example.

  55. “…who would be the quickest to send the fake viral through their networks, would be the people most impacted by race and the church, i.e., black people and those who care about them the most. I.e., the people who would most suffer from the hoaxing.”

    I kind of wonder if Streeter didn’t truly think about who it would affect beyond white Mormons and his own exmo tribe (which I’m guessing is predominately white). The satire was to embarrass the church (white) with his tribe (white) as the primary audience to enjoy the show. It’s a blindness kind of like the lady in GD who can’t wait until the CK because there will be no race distinctions there. Which makes it that much sadder for me, as it paints him as fighting against racism without giving thought to the victims of racism. Of course this is all conjecture on my end and I accept that.

  56. Right, ReTx, that’s certainly a possibility, but writing a whole thing specifically about the topic of black people in the church experiencing harm and not thinking for one second about the existence of people in the church maybe experiencing harm is hardly a defense of his character. The whole point is that either way he shows shocking levels of indifference to black people’s feelings and personhood/autonomy. That’s the same in either case.

  57. Note to other commenters: I wasn’t kidding when I said no more discussion of Bednar.

  58. jaxjensen says:

    Hey… why did mine end up in moderation? I didn’t even mention Bednar!?!

  59. Black people have a right to be angry.
    Even I am angry.
    Do you think Streeter understood his actions?
    No. No he didn’t.
    All should take a moment to introspect on this issue.
    Right now.

  60. Geoff - Aus says:

    Is there an acceptable way to say to the leadership that an apology for the ban is needed? Is it needed? I am not aware of a way for me as a member to communucate with the 15. I thought the hoaks gave a comparison of what might have been with what was, and might motivate a real apology.
    Until this post, the people I read saying it was hurtfull to black members were those who are defending the Prophet, and I thought were more interested in defending the church than caring about the black people who might be hurt. ie. Crocadile tears. Someone on my facebook bearing testimony of how wonderfull the prophet was to make the apology, then bearing testimony of how wonderfull the prophet was, when pointed out it was a hoax.
    In your case Cynthia, obviously real concern.
    We are still left with no way to convey our concerns to the leadership, and the concern that they may be childish enough to do the opposite of what is asked, if we could.
    Will the planned celebration of 1978, be any less hurtfull, if it does not include an apology? Already concern of claims in Ensigh that they don’t know where the ban came from.

  61. Mark B. says:

    “Is there an acceptable way . . . ?”

    Actually, I think your suggestion that the brethren are motivated by childishness is a sure way to let them know that you’re here to help. Stay close to your phone, because you don’t want to miss their call when it comes.

  62. Just to clarify, I wasn’t trying to defend his character in any way. If it is a choice between (which it may not be, conjecture again), he didn’t care about the reactions of black members vs. he never even thought about black members because he doesn’t ‘see’ them in his tribe, both are awful.

  63. Geoff, all the things on the Shoulder to the Wheel site are designed to be things even the most orthodox, believing member could do, and actually be helpful. (I helped create that site.)

    This fake apology could have been written but with a note at the top saying, “This is fake, this is what I wish they would do.”

    You could write an op-ed for the Salt Lake Tribune, as I have done (co authored with a group concerned about this issue).

    You could write a letter to the twelve (they mah not read it but somebody will and if they get hundreds that will get through.

    You could support black people and people of color in your congregation, perhaps including seeing if they want to have a 5th sunday lesson in your ward on this topic and then speaking to the bishop to support their requests to the bishop to do this. (I’ve done this too. And it worked we had the meeting.)

    Basically, a lot of us are busting our butts out here, so feel free to do something.

  64. What seems really clear to me is the following:

    One of the very first rule of being an ally is to consult (and defer) to those you are trying to support. I would have a lot more sympathy for Streeter if he had taken the simple action of having had a number of black members of the church read his attempt at satire and consult with them. Heck, any POC at all. I think it is pretty clear that had he consulted with almost any black members or ex-members at all they would have immediately recognized how destructive this attempt was. As much as he was supposedly point out racism within the church leadership, what his entire process demonstrates is the continued racist underpinnings of the Mormon (and post-Mo) community. The very fact it didn’t even occur to him to talk to a POC or that there were no natural POC in his social orbit speaks volumes to huge racial problem in the church. His initial reaction to defend his actions as soon as the first POC responded to the hoax just amplifies how racially isolated his entire existence as a Mormon and ex-Mormon has likely been.

  65. Roy Ainsworth says:

    Steve, what is it exactly that you’d like to hear from black Mormons not too bothered about this? Do you have a specific question for them?

    By the way I’m not criticising Zandra et al. for speaking out. As white male I was deeply troubled by her visible pain. In discussions since the “stunt”, my black friends have offered a spectrum of responses including “not bothered”, “the guy is a $%&*”, “wish I’d thought of something like that”. Some people are just able to put the priesthood ban on their proverbial shelf and it stays there. And there is nothing wrong with that if it helps people cope and live in harmony in the LDS system. Please don’t marginalize people with these views just because they aren’t activists and don’t want to speak out on every topic.

  66. Happy Hubby says:

    Rah – I will point out that Streeter DID run this by Dr. Darron Smith – a very prominent black author that has written on LDS black culture. Dr. Smith gave him the thumbs up.

  67. Has anyone mentioned scriptural correlations, notably Rebecca’s hoax to get her priesthood leader to ordain her favourite son? Isaac had the authority to correct Rebecca’s fraud, but he chose to just go with it. Rebecca had no authority, but she wasn’t about to just lie down and let her priesthood leader get away with making foolish decisions. She found a creative way get around the situation, and in the end, the Lord honoured it.

    The similarities between this hoax, and Rebecca’s deceit is striking. They are both about priesthood authority. They are about trying to coerce old priesthood men to do something right, rather than just blindly follow the correlated rules like “never apologise.” The powerless and disenfranchised must do what they can to try and make their voice heard. That includes sincere progressive members like this hoaxter. The church can chose to go along with the fraud, by doing something similar, but official, or they can choose to dig in their heels because they are defensive of their authority. It is their choice. Hopefully, like Isaac, they will choose to do the right thing, and honour the righteous will of wise, but disenfranchised members.

  68. I call BS on that comparison, Nate. Rebecca tricked Jacob into doing blessing Isaac unknowingly. She didn’t pretend to be Jacob and give Isaac a fake blessing to shame Jacob for not giving Isaac a blessing. Streeter never believed that his hoax would “coerce” the leadership of the church to actually offer an apology. If he did, he’s an idiot.

  69. Ryan Mullen says:

    re: “Rebecca’s … priesthood leader” and “Rebecca had no authority”. IIRC Genesis nowhere depicts Isaac as a priest. He was a patriarch (i.e. a father). Rebecca, for her part, is a matriarch. You’ll be hard-pressed to support a claim that Isaac had any divine authority, rather than cultural or tribal authority, over Rebecca.

    Jacob, for his part, was the “supplanter.” Genesis connects his early deceits to his later being deceived by his own sons and the strife that nearly destroys his family. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for emulating that type of behavior.

  70. Re: Nate: I’ll just add “unusual adeptness at wild overstretch in interpreting scripture in particular in a ‘likening scriptures to ourselves’ kind of way” to the long list of ways that the worst aspects of the ex-Mormon community are eerily similar to the worst aspects of orthodox Mormons. (along with unhealthy leader worship, inability to hear criticism, extreme suspicion even hatred of anyone outside the ‘tribe,’ black-and-white thinking, …)

  71. Rah, as Happy Hubby pointed out, I don’t think the situation with Streeter’s consultation or lack of consultation with the black community is quite as straightforward as you’re suggesting. But he definitely didn’t think things through enough when it comes to appreciating there would be a variety of reactions.

  72. Roy and Steve, look, in a group of people whether it’s 5 or 5 million, you’re always going to have a variety of reactions. Black people are not a monolith. But it also doesn’t make sense to pretend that the existence of every possible reaction to a thing means that now we’re in some post-modernist lalaland where we can’t say anything about the prevailing reaction of the community, or that we can’t make pretty clear-cut judgments about whether a particular action did right by a community or not. Roy, given the very evident strength and depth of the prevailing reaction I have described, and it just going without saying that no reaction is ever universal, I’m frankly uninterested in anecdotal counterexamples, especially not ones trotted out by white people to try to derail important and needed discussions about what is or isn’t doing right by a community. Steve, I don’t think it makes sense to question Roy’s examples, why wouldn’t there be a variety of examples. The problem with him trotting them out isn’t that it’s impossible that they exist, it’s that it’s not really good form to do that in a discussion in the way that he’s doing it.

  73. You’re identifying the wrong culprit and attacking the messenger. The LDS leaders need to apologize for past racism, and a sincere apology likely be greeted with a warm welcome by most LDS faithfuls, particularly black members. The hoax was brilliant in that it put LDS leaders in an interesting position of having to deny that they apologized for past racism. In the event that the leaders did apologize, then it would look like the tail was wagging the dog and that the leaders were only apologizing because they were giving into pressure. The leaders of course should have apologized long ago, but in the wake of the hoax, the latter option would have been more respectable. However, as usual, the LDS leaders took the lower road, called out the hoax and didn’t offer fearing that apologies would make them look weak and fallible.

    Even worse, the faithfuls, with their ridiculous persecution complex, attack the hoaxer because he is making the LDS church leaders look bad, who to them are near infallibles (yes, I know many a faithful will insist that the LDS church leaders are fallible, but do not dare point out any time they have done or said anything wrong thus treating them as infallible).

    The LDS leaders need to take some tips from Pope Francis who has recently announced that it is not a sin to criticize the pope and that gays were born that way. The LDS faithfuls need to grow some thicker skin and quit the relentless hero worship of their leaders.

  74. east of the mississippi says:

    I’m with Mark L. on this.

  75. Loursat says:

    Thanks to Cynthia and others at BCC for writing forcefully on this incident.

    The meanness of the hoax was perfectly clear to me as soon as we saw its true effects. If you want to sacrifice someone’s happiness for the sake of a cause, then feel free to sacrifice your own, but you have no to right to sit laughing while you toss other people onto the pyre. I’m willing to accept a hoax as a stupid mistake if there’s a quick and thorough apology. What astounds me, though, is the persistence of those who continue to defend this hoax. That point is where this incident gives an X-ray image of certain differences on the Mormon left. From my perspective, it’s the difference between people who care mostly about people and, on the other hand, people who care mostly about politics.

    I’m grateful for BCC because it occupies a crucial space in the Mormon spectrum. I suppose it seems like an especially important space to me because it’s the space that I’m in, so I’m biased here. Be that as it may, this hoax shows how challenging it can be to preserve that space. It is the space where we can be deeply committed to the church both as a people and as an institution, and we can also be committed to criticism and change. It can be a lonely space because change always seems to come too slowly, and because it’s so easy to feel invisible when you’re in that space, surrounded by more extreme voices on either side. But it’s also a space where people can grow, and it can be a place where people thrive if we hang together.

  76. Corrado Misseri says:

    What this fake apology made clear to me is how much black members wanted and craved for an apology from Church leaders. This unsavory episode might contain a modicum of good.

  77. Thanks for the OP, Cynthia. I came into this matter at about the time “fake” was making the circuit. So no whiplash for me, and nothing new to say.

    Until people started picking sides. So now, inspired by Loursat above and contrary to a few other recent comments, I want to subscribe to the OP (and Loursat’s meta comment about this kind of discussion and BCC).

    I guess I do have one point of emphasis. In a “medium is the message” sense, presenting a commentary on the Church’s failure to apologize as a pretend announcement is a problem. Maybe *the* problem. If one were to play it over again, criticizing the Church would be widely recognized as fair game, but doing it in a way that sucks people into believing for a moment and disappointed and angry and hurt the next is causing harm. I can hold room for the criticism. I can’t hold room for the method.

  78. Mark L, I’m curious if you actually even read the post. Can you respond to ANY aspect of the argument it makes, which is that it’s fine, even good, to criticize the brethren, but that pulling pranks designed to hurt the very people you’re claiming to care about in order to draw attention to oneself and one’s message is not the way to do it? Do you have ANY response to that?

    Your exposition of the purported “brilliance” of the strategy conveniently leaves out any discussion of precisely where the problem lies—it talks about the hoaxer (“brilliant”!) and it takes about his nemesis (“put LDS leaders in an interesting position”), but it doesn’t say anything about the collateral damage in the middle. It is precisely this deeply misanthropic total erasure of the people that were collateral damage that is the problem.

  79. See above response to Mark L then. His analysis of the situation doesn’t even mention the people who were the collateral damage. That kind of erasure is the only way an analysis could be done without coming to the glaringly obvious conclusion of how bad an idea the hoax was. But if total erasure of the very people you’re purporting to help (black LDS) is necessary for your analysis, that’s probably a clue your analysis is flawed and your plan for the hoax sucks, right?

  80. Corrado, let me see if I understand you:

    (1) You were previously so oblivious to the feelings of black people in your community that you somehow managed to not know how much black members have very clearly and openly wanted and craved an apology, until now.

    (2) The episode contains some “good,” which is that the pain of many people, especially of many black people, woke you up from your egregiously somnambulant state.

    I mean, thanks for at least granting that this was “unsavory,” but this comment comes across as a bit callous to those who were hurt.

  81. Loursat, 1,000,000 times this. “What astounds me, though, is the persistence of those who continue to defend this hoax. That point is where this incident gives an X-ray image of certain differences on the Mormon left. From my perspective, it’s the difference between people who care mostly about people and, on the other hand, people who care mostly about politics.” Caring about people–gay people, trans people, single people, black people, all kinds of people–is precisely what led me to forcefully stand up to the church, when necessary. To see people hate on the church for its treatment of LGBT or PoC, etc, but then evidence no real empathy or concern for other human beings themselves, is, as you said, astounding. And disappointing.

  82. Mark L – “However, as usual, the LDS leaders took the lower road, called out the hoax and didn’t offer fearing that apologies would make them look weak and fallible.”

    Was there a press release I missed? The Church didn’t call out the hoax; the general populace who were part of its spread discovered its inauthenticity. It’s likely a good portion of the hierarchy is not even aware this whole thing has happened. That in no way negates the pain done by this hoax, but the amount of effect this has had on the Church it, at best, negligible. Any similar statement by the Church will have been months, if not years in the works, evidenced by the months of discussion about this subject before the 20th anniversary.

    Even if the hoax brought to the attention of the entire world that the Church needed to make an apology statement, the price is much, much too high.

  83. Happy Hubby says:

    I was kind of feeling that none of the analogies helped me deeply understand the extent of the outcry. I certainly was blind to how this could hurt some, but once that was pointed out I certainly recognized that it could be harmful. But I struggled with the “if it helps in the end to move the church to do the right thing, is it worth the hurt?”

    Well Bill Reel this morning released a podcast that finally has a analogy that made it sink in different than any other. https://mormondiscussionpodcast.org/2018/05/mormon-discussion-302-racism-parodies-and-botched-opportunities/ He drew analogy if a “hoax” for the church reversing its stand on LGBQ issues and really apologized and an LGBQ person read it, was elated, and then found out it was a hoax and took their life. I then I tried to reframe this considering it was my own child. It sunk in a bit deeper. Now I fully realized that this exposed in me a blind spot that I value LGBQ over and above people of color. That is bad. I own that and I own that I have work to do. But even then I come back to the struggle of “if it moved the church to change”, would the death of my son be worth it? That is a hard question. I would assume some of you will write of as me still not “getting it” by still not coming to the same conclusion as you. If so, please go read Jonathan Haidt’s “The Righteous Mind.” It has helped me with dealing with people that see the world different and have different values than I do. I will get off my soapbox now.

  84. Thanks, Hubby.

  85. Corrado Misseri says:

    Cynthia L.- Yes, I was unaware of the DEPTH of their feelings and yes, it did ME some good in realizing that depth of feelings. I am now better informed.

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