The Book of Mormon case for Black Exodus

This guest post is written by James Jones. James is the producer and co-host of Beyond The Block, a podcast centering the marginalized in Mormonism. He’s a musician and voice over artist based in Boston, MA where he serves as his ward’s interfaith specialist, liturgical arts specialist, and an ordinance worker.

This week, we in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will be studying Mosiah 18-24. It is a curious case study on how the Lord helps the oppressed deal with their oppression. We have two stories highlighting the oppression of two groups of people. Both groups were in bondage and facing physical and emotional abuse. They couldn’t do much about it as they were outnumbered and outgunned. Both groups, unable to fight back or reason with their abusers, submitted to their subjugation and prayed to the Lord for help. This led to their deliverance in the form of exodus.

I reread these stories in the middle of yet more black death, this time, the young man Ahmaud Arbery. Just in the last five years, we’ve seen literally hundreds of headlines about unarmed black men being gunned down by police officers and white vigilantes under questionable circumstances. There have been few arrests, even fewer convictions – I can count the latter on one hand – and no significant reform as a result of any of the killings. Each one hurts, but this one hit different. As an incident on video where the victim is an unarmed black man posing no threat to anyone and the killers are armed civilians, it might be the most glaring example of the intoxicating power of whiteness in recent memory.

Somehow, those white men who killed Ahmaud felt justified in chasing him down while he was in the middle of a jog, commanding him to stop while brandishing firearms, and subsequently killing him when he ignored them, despite having no evidence of him committing any crime, no threat posed by Ahmaud, and no authority to do any of those things. What power other than whiteness made these men feel comfortable with any of the decisions they made that day? What power other than whiteness allowed the authorities to not just lie to Ahmaud’s family about the circumstances surrounding his death, but also implicate him in a crime that he didn’t commit? And what power other than whiteness led the man who leaked the video to genuinely believe, reportedly, that it would clear Ahmaud’s killers? These men wielded their whiteness like a badge for whiteness is premised on the idea that they deserve their power, that black life is expendable, and that black life is theirs to control. This is the same force that powered slavery, Jim Crow, etc. In short, Ahmaud’s death was an especially rude reminder that our transition from slavery to Jim Crow to the present day wasn’t so much progress as it was white supremacy shifting into a more comfortable position.

Returning to the two liberation narratives from this week’s Book of Mormon reading, there a few things worth noting: The first is that neither population was oppressed all that long before God delivered them, relatively speaking – three generations at most. Black America has been dealing with it for sixteen. Though I suspect time wasn’t the primary variable at play in their deliverance, I find it somewhat comforting to know that we at least meet the time requirement for deliverance and then some, assuming there is one.

The second thing is that the Lamanites, the oppressors in Limhi’s narrative, made an oath that they would not kill Limhi’s people, yet they took liberty to harm them in other ways if they felt like it. Many days after starting a physical confrontation with Limhi’s people that did not go in their favor, the Lamanites got mad at the Nephites for whatever reason and decided to come into their city and physically abuse them (Mosiah 21:3). This kind of interaction (operating within established parameters to oppress) is very familiar to Black America. For example, at the abolition of slavery, America couldn’t legally enslave black people anymore, so it wrote the black codes. With them, America could restrict the freedom of blacks, get them to work for low wages, and arrest them for vagrancy, which would inevitably lead to convict leasing i.e. slave labor. That is just one of many examples that demonstrate simply changing the name or methods of an oppressive system does not necessarily mean progress, particularly if the engine behind that system remains the same.

The third thing is that the Lord’s solution to the problem was not to continue to try to reason with their captors or try to fight them. The solution in both cases was a non-violent escape to a place free of oppression. Limhi’s people were dwelling in a land that his ancestors had built, but one that the Lord told his ancestors to leave. I don’t imagine it would be easy to leave a land built with the labor and sweat of your ancestors for your enemies to take, but after failing to reason with them and defend themselves, what other options remained?

The fourth thing that I noticed is the lack of apparent divine involvement in the people of Limhi’s exodus after Ammon arrived. Limhi’s people had been praying for deliverance. What they got was a group of scouts led by Ammon and sent by Mosiah to find Limhi and his people. At that point, Limhi’s people had the necessary tools for escape. They organized, developed a plan that exploited the weaknesses of their captors, and followed Ammon to freedom. We’re accustomed to lots of divine intervention in The Exodus narrative, but in Limhi’s story we find the least. There isn’t even an apparent warning/invitation from the Lord to get out. Even still, the people had prayed for deliverance and upon Ammon’s arrival, they had everything they needed to get it. The rest was up to them.

And yet another thing I noticed is that the place both groups were led to, the land of Zarahemla, was the same place their stubborn ancestors had come from. It was their intended home. The idea of home – a place where we can dwell and operate in peace without fearing for our health and safety – has rich symbology in the Black American tradition. Probably the most common and significant theme in the invocation of that symbol is that “home” is not here. And further, before “home” meant heaven/glory/paradise/et al., it meant the literal land from whence we came.

Pondering this in the midst of the mess happening in America, I asked what I feel are the obvious questions: Is it really worth fighting for equality and liberation within the parameters of a system that was built on denying us these very things? Or do black people need to get the hell up out of here?

I am aware of how the Book of Mormon narrative progresses, specifically the integrated utopia in 4th Nephi. And I know that one of the most explicit principles of Christ’s New Testament church is not just an end to otherization, but a full diversification and integration. Christ’s people are intended to function as a community where no one is privileged above another due to earthly constructs.

That said, the exodus narratives in both the Bible and the Book of Mormon indicate that there is a time for separation and oppression is the reason behind all of them: The Israelites from the Egyptians, these two stories in Mosiah, and two more exodus narratives earlier in the Book of Mormon – one of God telling Nephi to separate from his brothers (2nd Nephi 5) and another of God telling Mosiah to flee out of the Land of Nephi (The Book of Omni). In every exodus, the ability to live in peace according to their will and pleasure was threatened, much like black folks. In fact, as I explored social media this week, I saw several post a list of all the simple activities (riding a bike, going to a bachelor party, sitting on their own porch, walking through a park, etc.) that black people can no longer do because of their skin color. There was a name etched next to every single activity of someone killed by law enforcement officials or vigilantes for doing that very activity. Needless to say, it’s a long list and I have too much confidence that it will get longer.

If that wasn’t enough, in every American institution, 400 years later, Black Americans still suffer from massive discrimination. White supremacy never went anywhere. It persists in spite of our best efforts. It has been intellectually debunked by our best and brightest, we’ve mobilized against it, and have drawn attention to it our entire existence in this country and yet here we are. If history is any indicator, so long as we’re in a country that was built on and maintained by white supremacy, it will continue to find its way into our lives.

It is in that spirit that I propose we consider the Israelites and the Nephites.

It is in that spirit that I propose a Black Exodus: a physical withdrawal of black souls from the United States and into a new space where we can establish a new and open institution rooted in active anti-racism rather than the othering, subjugation, pretense, racism, and racial capitalism of white supremacy.

I have far more confidence in our ability to build this new society than to work within one built on our dehumanization. Though I don’t want to give racists the satisfaction of doing exactly what they always tell us to do every time we protest injustice, I find myself in a position where I’m out of better ideas and, frankly, tired of defending my right to simply exist.

But, I also find something brilliant, poetic, and almost humorous about such a suggestion. The cruelest irony of whiteness is how much it needs us; it depends on us by devaluing and dehumanizing us; without blackness, whiteness has no power, no meaning, no identity, and no life. Whiteness is a parasite. Our presence has been so fundamental to American life that America as we know it would eventually cease to exist. And in the most prophetic and poetic of ironies, black folks would at last recover what white supremacy has stolen from us – our dignity, our freedom, and our peace – while anyone clinging to whiteness loses the same. So shall the scripture be fulfilled that “many that are first shall be last; and the last first.”

The Black Exodus will mean the death of American white supremacy and the birth of Black liberation and that liberation shall free others as well, especially white folks from their dependence on us for their power and sense of self. Dr. Martin Luther King once said “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied to a single garment of destiny. What affects one directly, affects all indirectly. As long as there is poverty in this world, [no one] can be totally healthy. … Strangely enough, I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. You can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be.” The Black Exodus will mean a better world and eventually, with white supremacy dead and white people no longer dependent on our subjugation for their sense of worth and sense of self, true integration will at last be possible. A society comparable to that spoken of in 4th Nephi will at last be possible.

What this exodus will look like and how it will be accomplished will be a conversation for another day, but the short version is that we construct the Black nation-state of New Wakanda in the American South-Atlantic upon securing reparations. I am not tied to the name. New Stankonia, Beyoncéland, and Rhythm Nation are also being considered. Levity aside, I can also say that it will be a process. Based on our history, it is not likely that the full realization of such a project will happen in our lifetime or our children’s. Special care will need to be taken to ensure that the mistakes of the American Colonization Society and more are not repeated.

Overall, there are many implications to consider, not the least of which will be what such an exodus will mean for the Saints. How would the church respond? Would they view it as a step forward or backward? Would they be sympathetic to our cause considering the Saints’ own exodus narrative due to the oppression they faced? Would the black exodus encourage the church, which has its own issues with white supremacy, to engage racism in a way they hadn’t before? Would the MTC finally prepare missionaries to be in black spaces now that Black America is officially a new country? How will the worship and ministry experience change among the Black Saints now that they no longer go to church with a bunch of people who support political policies that oppress people that look like them? How would it change among the saints remaining in America, if at all? Could American saints, having become demonstrably complicit in white supremacy by their choice to remain there, justifiably call themselves followers of the same Christ who worked actively to tear down oppressive institutions? Questions that need answers.

I know that the Lord has delivered His people before and that He takes the side of the oppressed. Why wouldn’t He deliver us if we did our part? The path to civil rights has been too exhausting and too violent and I want my people to live in a world where the recognition of basic human rights are principle rather than our highest aspiration.

#NewWakandaForever

Comments

  1. Wondering says:

    What is a ward liturgical arts specialist? What does James actually do in that calling?

  2. What a racist and unchristian blog post. No where in the author’s writing is there any sense of basic Christian ideals: kindness, forgiveness, patience, and charity. Instead the author sees his fellowmen through a racist and hate-filled lens. He is surely in the gall of bitterness, and I feel sorry for him. Fortunately, his hateful and divisive perspective is not shared by the leadership of the restored Church.

  3. Junia, perhaps you don’t know the history of racism. The concept of race is socially constructed. If James writes, “whiteness is a parasite” and you are offended by this, perhaps you don’t understand that what he’s saying is that racism is evil and that we have constructed a white race that exists as a parasite to other races.

    That’s not racist to say. It’s a historical fact.

  4. Hi Brian,

    So what if race is a social construct? That doesn’t change the divisiveness and hate contained in the blog post. His worldview and ideas expressed are inconsistent with the Christian values I mentioned: kindness, forgiveness, patience, and charity. Do you believe that calling another race a parasite (whether its socially constructed or not), and calling for the separation of races is consistent with the pure love of Christ (i.e. charity)? Read the BoM’s definition of charity, and then tell us how this consistent with the hateful views expressed in the blog post.

  5. To the commenters calling this post racist, hateful, etc: go look in the mirror.

    James is lamenting the racist state of this country and of our community, and uttering a prayer for deliverance. Your reaction proves his point.

  6. Junia, if you understood the concept of “socially constructed,” you would understand that he’s calling a set of ‘ideas’ parasitic. And yes, calling those ‘ideas’ parasitic, is indeed, a kind, forgiving, patient, and charitable way of describing them. Perhaps not even strong enough.

    Also, what Steve Evans said.

  7. Kristine says:

    Junia,
    it’s bad form to ask for charity from the oppressed without seeking to redress the wrongs done to them. I disagree with several of the ideas in the post, but I don’t think a lack of charity is the problem we should be most concerned with.

  8. Nate GT says:

    Great post. Unfortunately, some are too fragile in their whiteness and react instead of reflect when someone brings up the past of racism and its continued instances and iterations in our society. By writing “whiteness is a parasite,” the author clearly isn’t condemning whites for their skin color. He is saying that a sort of ideology of whiteness that regards whites to be collective victims, superior to other races, and uses the language of all sorts of crypto-racism is a parasite, and that is absolutely true. For whites are not inherently unified around this concept of whiteness based on skin color, nor have they ever been, nor should they be. A select few clowns and parasites, found in the alt-right movement, are under an extreme delusion that there is some sort of cultural whiteness and perpetuate hate, discrimination, and real racism against racial minorities.

    The accusations against this post as being racist are disingenuous and fake. If there is any racism in this post, it is the soft, indirect crypto-racism of denial, which refuses to acknowledge the clear historical plight of blacks in the US, which has gotten better, but continues to be felt, and only cares to appeal to a fake cry of racism, not out of any sincere concern about actual racism, but as a mockery of it. This is nothing but IDW-infatuated, SJW-obsessed, alt-right sympathist, crypto-racist speak and it has no place here. The idea that the OP is racist and that bringing up racism and asking us to reflect deeply about it is the real racism is absolutely ludicrous and offensive. Get over your white fragility, think more deeply about the OP and come back and tell us your thoughts when you have something of actual value to say, and not a kneejerk IDW-influenced reaction. Phonies.

  9. Steve, Brian, Kristine, Nate GT et al,

    Interesting that none of you can defend the views in the blog post as being consistent with the basic Christian principles of kindness, forgiveness, patience, and charity (especially charity!) Instead you imagine the race of any critic to be white, and then attack that person based on your assumption that their “socially constructed” race (and based on your assumption of them being white, you automatically label them as racist and hateful).

    Notice that I describe blog post’s views as such, and not the author himself, and certainly not an entire race. And I describe his views as such because they are inconsistent with the basic Christian ideals I listed (and none of you have even tried to argue otherwise).

    You don’t know my race and I won’t reveal it to you (and I won’t let you bait me into revealing it). But is it telling to my family and me that white liberals would rather that blacks wallow in self-pity and victim hood (even to the point of separating from whites!), than to focus on developing Christlike attributes (yes Kristine, that’s what you’re saying). This is the definition of the bigotry of low expectations.

  10. Loursat says:

    When the Pilgrims migrate to America or the Mormons move west seeking freedom from religious persecution, they’re heroes. But when a black person proposes the same thing to escape racial persecution, he’s full of hate? I don’t think so.

    The difference, of course, is largely that Brother Jones is black, and the white heroes of yesteryear were white. But offended commenters’ dainty feelings are hurt for another reason, too. If you open your mind and your heart to what Brother Jones is saying here, you have to acknowledge that white America’s image of itself as a beacon of racial progress is false, and always has been. We have some pretty high ideals, but we’ve always fallen woefully short of making those ideals a reality. For some people, it’s more painful to work on the problem than it is to blame the bearer of the message.

    Brother Jones’s essay is useful for these two things, among many other reasons: First, he shows us that the Book of Mormon has plenty to say about race in ways that are not readily apparent to those of us who see the world through the white person’s filter. Second, he forces us to think in radical directions about what’s really necessary to right the wrongs he points to. You think it’s not practical to create New Wakanda in the American South? Maybe it isn’t. But I don’t think Brother Jones is just spinning fantasies here. It will do all of us a lot of good to start thinking much bigger, deeper thoughts about this problem.

  11. “I describe his views as such because they are inconsistent with the basic Christian ideals I listed (and none of you have even tried to argue otherwise)”

    That’s because your argument is ridiculous and a waste of everyone’s time

  12. Nate GT says:

    “You don’t know my race”

    You’re white. You’re playing a silly little game. If you weren’t, you would have let us know. I’ve never heard a non-white speak like you, mostly because they’ve experienced racism first hand and denying the reality of racism would cause massive cognitive dissonance.

    “Notice that I describe blog post’s views as such, and not the author himself,”

    Haha, please.

    Talking about racism against non-whites (the real racism) isn’t what is divisive. Getting offended over someone bringing up the harsh realities of racism and then going as far as to claim that that is the real racism and all of the implicit denial and disregard of actual racism built into that argumentation is what is divisive, if not, well, racist..

  13. Gilgamesh says:

    Thank you, Brother Jones.

    I found this very thought provoking and challenging, which I think is the point. I appreciated the application of Liberation Theology through the Book of Mormon. It is a powerful approach to the scriptures. As a white man who lives in a white suburban world, this most recent example of racist violence struck a nerve in me that hadn’t been struck before. Your essay opened up an additional view of black suffering and injustice, particularly as a fellow saint in the Lord’s church.

  14. Setting aside for the moment the massive logistical and geopolitical challenges that have faced the modern state of Israel, it seems like what’s being suggested here is not all that different from the establishment of modern Israel as a Jewish homeland for the purpose of an exodus by those within a globally-disbursed and persecuted ethnic/religious minority who wish to become part of that exodus. I wonder if those who view this proposal as racist and un-Christian view establishment of the modern state of Israel as similarly racist and similarly antithetical to Christian values.

  15. (Not to turn this into a discussion of Israel/Palestine issues – That’s not my intent, so let’s not do that.)

  16. Kristine says:

    Junia–I’m sorry. You don’t get to tell me what I’m saying. I said what I meant. In this post, black anger against white people is not the problem we (I’m presuming, alas, that the majority readership of BCC is white, because the majority of American Mormons are white) get to focus on, because it’s unseemly for the oppressors to call the oppressed to repentance. Any person of color who can sit through more than a couple of LDS meetings, who is willing to actually be baptized and commit to somehow love our racist asses, is so far ahead of me in charity and forbearance that getting over a few harsh words in a blog post is the very least I can do.

    Further comments about supposed racism against white people will be deleted.

  17. Scobie Boot says:

    So, Liberia?

  18. Nate GT says:

    SGNM, not to turn this into an Israel-Palestine discussion (and you’re on the same side as me), but bear in mind that the US was a savior for Jews just as much as Israel, and a better one at that, since it accommodated Jews without a massive displacement of other pre-existing populations as was the case with the displacement of 700,000 Arabs. Waves of Jewish migration from Europe happened just as much to the US as they did to Israel. Of course what happened happened and we should fully accept Israel now.

  19. Thanks for extending the Overton window for our Book of Mormon curriculum, James.

  20. Fact Police says:

    I learned a lot from the comments of this post about white people…there are those who are so determined to be woke that they attack and censor others for making statements that may or may not be ignorant and erroneous, but certainly appear to be genuine.

    I didn’t finish the post. I didn’t even realize the author is black. I guess I completely missed the point of the post, because in my white ignorance it felt like it was fighting racism with racism. Now that all you woke people have told me my ignorant feeling was wrong, fake, disingenuous, etc, maybe I’ll go back and look for the deeper meaning in it.

    Or maybe I’ll just be censored.

  21. C. Keen says:

    This is a thought-provoking post, Brother Jones, and I found myself nodding in agreement more often than not. I hope some other solution is possible, but I can’t say that you’re wrong.

  22. Kristine says:

    Fact Police–it’s usually a good idea to finish reading the post before commenting.

    And yes, maybe you’ll be censored if you keep ignoring the point of the OP.

  23. I am reminded of a contrary example in the slave bible.
    (Credit Wikipedia) “The slave bible is a Bible specifically edited for slaves. Its actual title was: Parts of the Holy Bible, selected for the use of the Negro Slaves, in the British West-India Islands. They were produced in England in the early 19th century for use in the British West Indies when they were colonies of the British Empire. Such bibles had all “references to freedom and escape from slavery” excised, while passages encouraging obedience and submission were emphasized.”

    I appreciate that James reads and reminds us of the exodus stories, and tests whether and how they apply to our present circumstances. I suspect there are readers thinking, like the slave bible, “don’t pay attention to that stuff, it’s not about you anyway.”

    For myself, I quickly get hung up on the political and practical complexities of reparations and a place to exodus to (pragmatist, I guess) but I resonate with the need, the desire. These examples—not of settling or peacemaking but of leaving—are telling. I hadn’t put that together before. Thank you.

  24. Aussie Mormon says:

    “And what power other than whiteness led the man who leaked the video to genuinely believe, reportedly, that it would clear Ahmaud’s killers?”

    Where is this reported claim made? All the articles I can find just have him saying he leaked it to try and stop riots or the community being torn apart or tensions etc. I’m not saying the claim wasn’t made, I just can’t find it.

  25. Nate GT says:

    Fact police, sounds like you need to take some skin-thickening pills. Easily offended by discussions about race. Such a special snowflake you are. What fascinates me is how the woke critics never like to talk about the alt-right or racism against non-whites, yet they adopt the language of the woke crowd to talk about this so-called “racism” against whites. And they talk all whiny and pathetic and emotional. It is like they are trying to out-SJW the SJWs. They take the term snowflake to a whole new level. I’ll take the woke crowd over the alt-right any day. The former at worst is causing an unlucky few to lose their jobs (most of these folks actually deserving it). The latter are physically violent and involved in terrorism.

    Oh and your hero Jordan Peterson is a complete clown who has no idea what he’s talking about. He is an expert psychologist who is good at writing self-help books. But as he gained popularity by lashing out at transgenders, he then started thinking that he knew the answer to everything and could just start talking about history and politics without consulting actual expert historians and political scientists. He is absolutely clueless about the research on race. He hasn’t published any peer-reviewed research on race or gender. All he has are a bunch of recorded rants and childish gotcha-isms on YouTube. His 15 minutes of fame are coming to an end. And the alt-right sympathist Trump apologists’ time is about up as well. The narrative against these stooges is better developed. Fewer people are taking them seriously.

  26. Old Man says:

    An Exodus takes a group home. But Wakanda is unavailable (not mocking, it is a reference to the hashtag at the end of the article). It sounds to me like what Brother Jones is proposing is not an Exodus, but a partition. Like the partition of Pakistan and India. Not exactly a joyful event in world history.

  27. Pedro Antonio Olavarria says:

    Is this where the “Progressive Mormon” crowd is going, so far to the left that you come out the AltRight? Ethno-States? Really? #hotep

  28. chalepos says:

    “The path to civil rights has been too exhausting and too violent and I want my people to live in a world where the recognition of basic human rights are [sic] principle rather than our highest aspiration.”

    Is the underlying viewpoint here that “black folks” and “white folks,” to borrow the author’s terms, cannot coexist? Do others agree with this?

  29. Nate GT says:

    In all seriousness, though, racism against blacks isn’t as bad as it used to be. It’s still there, but by many metrics, things have gotten better. I think creating a black ethnic state would be highly undesirable. If past experiences are any indication, social engineering on that scale has been horrific. Poland was made almost entirely Polish by forcing the migration of hundreds of thousands of Germans post-WWII. Turkey made almost entirely Muslim and Turkish by forcing the migration of Armenians and Greeks in WWI and in the early 1920s. Greece made almost entirely Greek by forcing the migration of Turks and Muslims. A Jewish state came through forcing the migration of 700,000 Palestinians. And of course, there is no guarantee that a black state would have any lasting peace or that its governments wouldn’t be corrupt, etc. People wouldn’t necessarily be united by any means. Jews in Israel are extremely divided politically and even ethnically. Pakistanis are extremely divided along all sorts of lines in spite of the fact that it is almost entirely Muslim. Muslim extremism and Muslim moderation are at war with each other there and have been since 9/11. Blacks and whites are better off together in the US than living as separate states.

  30. chalepos–I don’t think Bro. Jones is saying that people *should have to* live in separate places based on skin color. But as much as we might like to think that race doesn’t or shouldn’t matter, the US is a racist country where Black people are undeniably treated so much worse. Black people do experience awful racism (like…150 years post-slavery, they are still murdered for the color of their skin), and what reason do they have to think that it’s just going to go away anytime soon? Why wouldn’t they want to live away from a world where whiteness means power? So in a perfect world, no, skin color wouldn’t matter. But that’s not the experience that Black Americans have, and this blog post is highlighting that reality.

  31. Nate–speaking as someone who used to whitesplain to my friends who were people of color that racism isn’t as bad as it used to be…let’s not use that argument. We may not actually enslave people or have separate water fountains anymore, but the end of slavery and segregation doesn’t mean that it’s okay for black people to still be discriminated against as long as it’s “not that bad.”

    Obviously, no government is perfect, and the exodus proposed here wouldn’t create a perfect one. I don’t think Bro. Jones made that claim.

  32. Beautifully written. I love how the author writes as if this exodus were happening now, as if it were possible. The idea of physical escape from oppression is so liberating. Using these scriptural exoduses as a model for a new black American exodus is brilliant. Thanks to the author for reminding us again about the sick, dysfunctional, evil connection between white supremacy (with its insatiable need to oppress and abuse) and the physical presence of our brown brothers and sisters. Wonderful insights and perspectives.

  33. @chalepos, I think the position is that we should consider the possibility that white hegemony may be too deeply entrenched for true equality to happen in the US, not definitively stating it’s true. The comparison between two generations of oppression and sixteen is a key one.

    I think, to the larger discussion about whether Brother Jones is being hateful or unchristian, that black folks in the church consistently and overwhelmingly deal with mild/accidental/casual bigotry in a patient, Christlike way, turning the other cheek. Given that, I think it’s unfair for us to ask them to tone down their anger or keep their discomforting ideas to themselves until we have also turned the other cheek and allowed ourselves to feel some pain and discomfort. We can honor our baptismal covenants by listening to black folks brainstorm and complain when they’re grieving. Before we take action to change society, there needs to be a time of critical examination of ideas, but no one is creating New Wakanda here–criticizing Brother Jones doesn’t do anything to stop his hypothetical from happening, because it’s NOT happening. All this reactionary vitriol does is validate his underlying assumption that we white Americans, including and specifically we white latter-day saints, are unwilling to do the work of establishing Zion with God’s black children.

  34. Nate GT says:

    Emily, how did you arrive at the idea that I’m saying that it’s ok to discriminate against people on the basis of race? Read my comment more closely. The OP is trying to make the case for a black Exodus to form a separate black state on the basis of a Book of Mormon story (which probably never actually happened). What I’m saying is that if we in the US made progress from slavery to Jim Crow to de jure equal rights why not further. Let’s keep going with progression rather than pushing for separate race states. Some have mentioned cases (Liberia, Pakistan, and others) which haven’t worked out that great. We’re better off together in spite of a few bad apples. Trumpism won’t last forever. Forces of anti-racism will rekindle, retool a stronger narrative against IDWism and other crypto-racist speak.

  35. Nate–this sentence sounds flippant when I type it out, but I don’t mean it to: I’m glad we agree that discrimination is wrong. And it is true that the US has made progress. I was about to say that I hope it continues, but then I realized that statement needs a caveat, which is that, yes, it should continue, but not at the current pace. It needs to be much faster and much more radical than, “Trumpism sucks, but let’s wait it out and meanwhile people will still be killed for their skin color.” I’m not saying we shouldn’t acknowledge what is probably more realistic, as you are. But that doesn’t mean that the current situation is right and incremental progress is what we should accept.

    Like I said, I have definitely voiced the idea myself, in the past, that things are better now than they were and we should feel good about that. But I regret having said and felt that way now, because it’s just not good enough.

    It’s no wonder people are imagining solutions like the one in this post. I really love the way Melody just described it, actually.

  36. What role would New Wakanda’s immigration and naturalization policies play in restricting the importation of whiteness? Would my former mission companion, a white man with a half-black wife and quarter-black kids, be allowed entry/citizenship? Would the citizenship test require an understanding and appreciation of critical race theory?

  37. I’m struggling to find a way to validate the OP’s frustration and anger at the current state of affairs while pointing out the very flawed reasoning and scriptural analysis. The Book of Mormon is clear that escaping oppression is good, but eliminating oppression is much better. The only time when peace truly reigned was the time when the people quit identifying as parts of a tribe and started identifying as disciples of Jesus Christ. Working together brings harmony and peace. Separation only continues the cycle of violence and oppression.

  38. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    I think I see your point Dsc, just having a hard time not seeing the inherent validity in the points raised in the OP. Eliminating oppression is, obviously, much better. But God has explicitly advised those being oppressed to not just wait around for things to get better, but to flee when they had the chance. And, it’s nice to want people to quit identifying as parts of a tribe and to work together. But white people (not all, of course!) seem to want black people to stop identifying as black, and think that would fix things. White people often don’t think they identify as white, at all. They just think they are without race, and that it doesn’t apply to them. It’s harder to see oppression when you’re part of the group that benefits from it.

  39. I agree with Mack–those who listen to Brother Jones on Beyond the Block know that while his anger and frustration are not new, the degree to which he’s entertaining black exodus is new in his gospel discourse. He specifically says, both in this post and in the most recent BtB episode, that a zion-type unification is the ultimate goal of the gospel. However, the status quo of systemic racism is so integral to America and American ideals that perhaps only a major shock to the system like a black exodus would create enough turbulence to jolt society into making the requisite changes to make America fair for people of color, especially black folks.

  40. Old Man says:

    Josh H,
    But is giving up on white Latter-day Saints (or giving up on any racial designation within the Church for whatever reason) really a part of establishing a Zion society? I doubt it.

    Turtle,
    I am pretty sure you will at least partly agree with my sentiment, but I don’t think that racism benefits anyone in the long run. Any benefits are illusory at worst and temporary and fleeting at best. Racism hurts us all. It is the alienation from each other. It denies the fullness of the atonement. We cannot be “at-one” as disciples if we create artificial divides.

  41. Ryan Mullen says:

    This is a fantastic example of how the Book of Mormon can speak to the needs of new demographics, if only we will let go of our treasured traditions of what the book has meant to previous generations of saints. The OP made me as uncomfortable as the gospel narratives in which Jesus instructs his disciples to help others instead of saving or investing their money. I return often to those gospel passages because I yearn to be like Christ, I know that am not, and this discomfort is a clue that this is what I lack. James Jones has transformed these BoM chapters for me. What a rare gift.

  42. @Old Man–I agree in the short term that conscious, significant division does not unify in the short term, but nothing about the last 160 years suggests to me that true unity is coming on our current trajectory. Making a clean break from a dangerous and toxic society invites change. And the multi-national society of the Church would continue to unite latter-day saints even if the USA were not intact–we’re already connected by our faith to saints of many ethnicities, backgrounds, and cultures. Black saints separating from the Church would be a totally different proposal, and one I’d be much more hesitant to endorse.

  43. your food allergy is real says:

    Ryan Mullen: Underrated comment, thanks

  44. As a black woman raised in the deep south among the blackest of Americans, I find this post highly racist and full of hate. I feel sorry for this author as I feel he sees only color and cannot see beyond it. This post does not reflect the gospel of Jesus Christ and I find his thinking highly flawed. I feel so bad that he lives this way, with so much discontent in his heart.

    This is not how black Americans think. I hope others do not adopt his way of thinking or believe that most black Americans have a twisted view of people like this.

  45. This is a fascinating read, and the sentiments are obviously heartfelt. No one seriously contemplates leaving a society unless they feel unwelcome and unsafe there. I think it would be a terrible tragedy for America to lose its black citizens. Their contributions to art, literature, culture, thought, etc. would be sorely missed. Eventually we reached the point where the Latter-day Saints felt welcome, or at least not unsafe, in the USA. How can we reach that point for black America?

  46. Because the leadership of the leadership church is racist too?

  47. tuzmano says:

    The comments here are a textbook exercise in identity politics, and demonstrate why it’s such a dead end: a white person descries the post as racist and unchristian and is immediately pounced upon and condemned by others (also likely white) as being the true racist, based entirely on her perceived skin color. A black person makes the same comment, and we hear crickets.

    The OP is baring his/her soul here, and that should be respected. But respected doesn’t mean agreed with.

    PS – Someone’s obsession is showing. Nowhere is Jordan Peterson’s name mentioned except for in Nate GT’s borderline unhinged rant, aimed at apparitions only he can see.

  48. Nate GT says:

    tuzmano, I don’t agree with the OP. There shouldn’t be a separate black nation-state, for the simple reason that the cost of the pathway to get there would be astronomically higher than any benefit that may be derived from it. Plus, if the Book of Mormon were historically true (I highly doubt that it is, but let’s assume that for the sake of argument), we’re talking a small group of a few hundred people (Zeniff gathers dozens of people to find the land of Nephi and three generations later, it couldn’t have multiplied to be more than a few hundred). By comparison a Black Exodus would entail the uprooting of millions of people. But the OP, I doubt, is super serious about undertaking a Black Exodus project. Nor should the OP be interpreted as a call for black nationalist separatism. It is really just a cry for greater integration, recognition of the plight of blacks, and better treatment.

    However, so-called “identity politics” in reference to liberal politics in the US is a laughable term and always has been. It is nothing more than a snarl word used to attack people who bring up racism and sexism (because people get triggered due to white and male fragility). Some progressives have adopted the term critically of other liberals, not out of disagreement with them per se (although they call out overreactions and rightly so), but because it may not be a winning strategy politically (which is true, we still have to tiptoe delicately around easily offended whites in swing states). Identity politics, or identitarianism, more appropriately refers to the political narrative of 1) ethnonationalist separatist movements (i.e., Baluchistan for Baluchis) or 2) ethnosupremicist movements seeking to root out and dominate ethnic minorities (i.e. Turkish nationalists actively suppressing the Kurdish language, Jobbik attacking the Roma in Hungary). American liberals’ focus on minorities and women is nothing more than a call for better integration and expansion of opportunity for the historically oppressed. It isn’t a call to oppress white people or elevate minorities and women at the collective expense of whites and males. In fact, hints of identity politics/white supremacy are embedded in Trump’s narrative and politics.

    Even without the mention of Jordan Peterson, his spirit is most certainly found in the comments of the fragiles. I’m 100% confident that the fragiles have been informed by him.

  49. tuzmano says:

    @Nate GT: Your digression is unnecessary. The term identity politics has a particular meaning in the common parlance.

    Regardless, the point is that in this discussion, people’s comments are being interpreted almost entirely based on their (perceived) race. Two nearly identical comments are received completely differently because one author is (assumed) white, while the other identifies as black. That’s a problem, not only because people’s ideas matter more than their skin color, but because online its all too easy to claim an identity that is impossible to verify: if I want more weight in the argument I can simply claim the requisite identity.

    You’re “100% confident that the fragiles have been informed by [Jordan Peterson].” This is what obsession looks like. You are superimposing your worldview on everything. You call out someone who disagrees with the OP as being a white JP fanatic, but have nothing to say to the same comment from a black person.

    Only with this frame of mind can you label someone as a racist for pointing out that a call for black separatism is inherently problematic from the perspective of peaceful race relations.

  50. tuzmano,

    This is another option: Perhaps the comments and commenters have simply run their course and there’s not use in repeating the rebuttals and comments made earlier. Timing may have more to do with it than anything. Almost all the comments happened the first two days the post went up. And then one comment the following day and then the comment in question the following day. Two more comments followed, both by people who hadn’t comment yet.

    Until you necro’d the thread, it had clearly already run its course and people felt the conversation had already happened. For these reasons, it’s difficult to argue this is a “textbook” exercise in identity politics.

    But, hey, as you imply, people do have their hobby horse. Feel free to ride your own!

  51. chalepos says:

    Nate GT: “Nor should the OP be interpreted as a call for black nationalist separatism. It is really just a cry for greater integration, recognition of the plight of blacks, and better treatment.”

    Also Nate GT: “I don’t agree with the OP. There shouldn’t be a separate black nation-state….”

    Odd.

  52. Nate GT says:

    tuzmano,

    Identity politics doesn’t have a common meaning. Most people don’t even know what that is. In political science, the broad-minded kind that studies the whole world not the target insular kind that looks only at the US, identitarianism is mostly used to refer to ethnically divisive politics of Europe and a few other areas of the world. Politics in the US mostly isn’t identitarian nowadays. It used to be identitarian with white supremacists pushing and supporting segregation policies. But that has faded. The strongest elements of identitarianism remain on the right with xenophobically motivated anti-immigration policies and dalliance with underground white supremacist movements (dog-whistling). Liberals are not supporting the elevation of minorities above whites and cannot convincingly be said to be practicing identity politics. It is said mostly as a conservative mockery of liberal concern with persistent racism. And so much of conservatism in the US is propped up by a strawman conception of liberalism.

    The comments crying racism against the OP are nothing more than a conservative attempt to attack the liberal strawman. They use the term racism as a mockery of the term, not out of sincere concern with real racism.

    Jordan Peterson can influence a narrative without people even reading. Denial of white privilege, his mainstay, has been more finely articulated by him and pervades the collective conservative narrative.

    Chalepos, to clarify/correct what I wrote. The OP can be interpreted as not seriously talking about a separate black nation-state, but in the event that it is, then I disagree with that.

  53. Nate GT – it’s interesting how quickly you jump from identity politics to the politics of personal destruction. Slam the group identity, then slam the most visibible vocal proponent of that group for infecting others with their thoughts.

    It’s extraordinarily uncharitable. Engage with the idea or say that you think your ideas are beyond reproach and you don’t need to engage with other ideas.

    In either case, people can judge for themselves, just like it’s easy to see no matter how many grains of truth you hold on to, you still have the wisdom of a rock.