Justice for George Floyd [Updated 6-1, 8-20]

I’m sure that you, like me, have seen the shocking murder of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis. That you are aware that this isn’t the first time, the second, or even the third time this type of senseless killing has occurred. You’ve seen the protests demanding justice. Maybe you’ve participated in them.

Religion has things to say about justice, about how we should treat each other, and how we should treat the poor and vulnerable and the stranger. The Book of Mormon is basically 500 pages of God’s chosen people getting it wrong.

So I thought I’d look to see whether religious leaders are speaking out about this moral issue and, if so, what they’re saying. Unsurprisingly, they are speaking out about both our unjust society and the just society that we should aspire to create. The following is a sampling, undoubtedly incomplete but critical nonetheless in this moment of deep sorrow and introspection:

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement that, among other things, says:

We are broken-hearted, sickened, and outraged to watch another video of an African American man being killed before our very eyes. What’s more astounding is that this is happening within mere weeks of several other such occurrences. This is the latest wake-up call that needs to be answered by each of us in a spirit of determined conversion.

Racism is not a thing of the past or simply a throwaway political issue to be bandied about when convenient. It is a real and present danger that must be met head on. As members of the Church, we must stand for the more difficult right and just actions instead of the easy wrongs of indifference. We cannot turn a blind eye to these atrocities and yet still try to profess to respect every human life. We serve a God of love, mercy, and justice.

While it is expected that we will plead for peaceful non-violent protests, and we certainly do, we also stand in passionate support of communities that are understandably outraged. Too many communities around this country feel their voices are not being heard, their complaints about racist treatment are unheeded, and we are not doing enough to point out that this deadly treatment is antithetical to the Gospel of Life.

Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda of the Archdiocese of St. Paul & Minneapolis said this:

The video of George Floyd in police custody Monday evening is gut wrenching and deeply disturbing. The sadness and pain are intense. Let us pray for comfort for his grieving family and friends, peace for a hurting community and prudence while the process moves forward. We need a full investigation that results in rightful accountability and veritable justice.

Particularly at this time when human fragility has been brought into focus by the Covid-19 pandemic, we are called to respect the worth and dignity of each individual, whether they be civilians in need of protection or law enforcement officers charged with providing that protection. All human life is sacred. Please join our Catholic community in praying for George Floyd and his family, and working for that day when “love and truth will meet [and] justice and peace will kiss” (Psalm 85).

The Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area wrote:[fn1]

In a week in which our cities have been wracked with unrest, the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area restates our core belief that all humans are equal in the eyes of God and deserving of dignity and safety. In this understanding, we must say that the murder of George Floyd on Monday by police was unprovoked, brutal, and fundamentally unjust. Those seven minutes, and all that lead to it, were an absolute violation of what God desires for human community and every human being.

The Southern Baptist Convention wrote:

While all must grieve, we understand that in the hearts of our fellow citizens of color, incidents like these connect to a long history of unequal justice in our country, going back to the grievous Jim Crow and slavery eras. The images and information we have available to us in this case are horrific and remind us that there is much more work to be done to ensure that there is not even a hint of racial inequity in the distribution of justice in our country. We grieve to see examples of the misuse of force, and call for these issues to be addressed with speed and justice.

***

Therefore, as a matter of Christian obedience and devotion, followers of Jesus Christ cannot remain silent when our brothers and sisters, friends and/or people we seek to win for Christ are mistreated, abused or killed unnecessarily.

Therefore, we pray for our local, state, and national leaders as they seek justice, and call on them to act quickly and diligently to ensure that these situations are brought to an end. As a people, Southern Baptists stand ready to help towards that end. May God give us His favor, help and strength in this effort.

The Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas released a statement saying:

The Jewish community is outraged by the killing of George Floyd, a subdued and handcuffed African-American man, by Minneapolis police officers. We demand justice for his killing.

Our hearts break for Mr. Floyd’s family and friends. We are also devastated for our friends and neighbors in the African-American community, including Jews of color. Your pain is our pain.

The Muslim Public Affairs Council wrote:

We understand that police brutality has left Black Americans carrying a heavy weight of fear – for themselves, their spouses, children, families, friends and neighborhoods. We know that this terrible incident has triggered emotions from sadness to rage, and that those feelings have resulted in protests, some peaceful and some not, that deserve our compassion and understanding, and not our disbelieving condemnation.

***

Achieving peace requires justice, and we support the letter from Rep. Ilhan Omar and other members of Congress from Minnesota to U.S. Attorney Erica MacDonald and Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, calling for thorough investigations and accountability at the local, state, and federal levels for George Floyd’s death. We will also advocate in the partnerships we are building with law enforcement, because they are built on a fragile foundation if other officers do not condemn these actions.

***

Our commitment to address racial and socioeconomic inequality is stronger than ever. Because none of us is free until all of us are free.

Bishop Bruce R. Ough, Resident Bishop, Dakotas-Minnesota Area, United Methodist Church, wrote:

There is more than one pandemic ravaging Minnesota and our country at this time. In addition to fighting COVID-19, we are besieged by a pandemic of racism, white supremacy, and white on black or brown violence. The tragic, racially charged, and unnecessary death of George Floyd at the hands of four Minneapolis police officers is only the latest flare-up of this pandemic—and Mr. Floyd is only the latest victim. The list of Black lives who have been needlessly killed grows each day. The pervasive culture of racism and white supremacy, increasingly incited by political rhetoric, grows each day. The fear among parents of Black children grows each day. The flaunting of our laws against racial profiling and discrimination grows each day.

***

Let us not turn away or ignore the disease that has been tearing our country apart and destroying lives for centuries. This disease—the sin of racism and white supremacy—denies the teachings of Jesus and our common, created humanity. Let us renew our efforts to eradicate the disease that truly threatens our ideals and the lives, livelihoods, and dignity of so many of our neighbors.

[Update] President Russell M. Nelson, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints wrote:

We join with many throughout this nation and around the world who are deeply saddened at recent evidences of racism and a blatant disregard for human life. We abhor the reality that some would deny others respect and the most basic of freedoms because of the color of his or her skin. We are also saddened when these assaults on human dignity lead to escalating violence and unrest.

The Creator of us all calls on each of us to abandon attitudes of prejudice against any group of God’s children. Any of us who has prejudice toward another race needs to repent!

During the Savior’s earthly mission, He constantly ministered to those who were excluded, marginalized, judged, overlooked, abused, and discounted. As His followers, can we do anything less? The answer is no! We believe in freedom, kindness, and fairness for all of God’s children!

Let us be clear. We are brothers and sisters, each of us the child of a loving Father in Heaven. His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, invites all to come unto Him—“black and white, bond and free, male and female.” It behooves each of us to do whatever we can in our spheres of influence to preserve the dignity and respect every son and daughter of God deserves.

[Update #2] For Pres. Nelson’s 6/8/20 joint statement with the NAACP, see this post.

I’ve only flagged parts of each of these religious statements addressing the sin of racism, the sin of murder and the quest for justice for George Floyd and for our African American brothers and sisters, neighbors and friends. While religious voices aren’t the only voices, they underscore the moral failure that led to—that leads to—the murder of George Floyd. We need to heed their call, repent, and create a just world in which nobody has to fear for their lives and their children’s by virtue of the color of their skin.


[fn1] The PTCA statement is on its homepage. Since I don’t know how long it will stay, it is also available at this perma.cc link.

Comments

  1. Sigh…. Meanwhile on ChurchofJesusChrist.org………. crickets…..

  2. Nate GT says:

    Thanks for this. Where are you President Nelson?

  3. Not Sayin' says:

    Nothing from the Newsroom yet. If you’ve got a newsroom and an entire newspaper and television station at your disposal at a time of great need couldn’t the church come up with something to give people guidance and, perhaps, provide some direction back to justice and peace?

  4. DeAnn S says:

    So sad that President Nelson has apparently forgotten the years he lived in Minnesota. He did his medical residency and earned a Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota. President Nelson was uniquely situated to offer expressions of sorrow, of love to our brothers and sisters of color, and hope for peace and justice.

  5. This church doesn’t have a good track record with other races. But this would sure be a good time to live up to their new image since they celebrated the blacks priesthood revelation in 2018.
    Since I am on the high ground steadying the ark I will also add that Trump just defunded the WHO. I think I saw it’s about 450 million a year. I wonder if the church could head up a group of religious communities to fund this. Like take the lions share of contribution. And since the WHO helps most in under developed countries and since the church has a money bag they are holding back for hard times, what a day it is to do something good in the world. I would let the church blow it’s horn for 7 days around the media world if it so desired.

  6. The Rev. Craig Loya, bishop-elect of the Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota:
    “I am heartbroken and angry by the cold hearted murder of George Floyd, a beloved child of God. America in 2020 is the place where black men are regularly murdered by police while they are handcuffed and begging for their lives. This simply does not happen to people who look like me. Not all of us are guilty of committing racist hate crimes, of course, but all of us are culpable in a society that devalues black and brown lives. While it would be easy for me to point the finger at the cops who have been rightly fired for committing murder, I am privileged in countless ways, known and unknown, by the racist foundation upon which our nation is built. The way of Jesus is never about fearing and devaluing the other. It is always about giving up our selves for love of the other. It is about making space in the center for those we have pushed to the margins. It is about receiving the one another across difference as a pure gift and blessing. My job as a Christian leader is always about making space for voices that have been silenced, and repenting of the injustices which I commit, and which are committed on my behalf. I hope you will join me in praying for the repose of the soul of George Floyd, for his family and friends. I hope you will join me in lamenting the racism we continue to tolerate together. I hope you will join me in repenting of the sin of racism that is alive and well in our church and in our world. And I hope you will call me to account whenever I fail to make space for voices of those who cry “please, please,” which is the work Jesus is always engaged in.”

  7. Brian G says:

    The YouTube video from Trevor Noah about this is thoughtful and painfully insightful. Best use of 18 minutes on the internet.

  8. Geoff-Aus says:

    Leadership, both religious and political?
    Are LDS leaders silent because they are irrelavent?
    As I understand the the officer that has been charged, has had complaints against him every one of his 18 years in the job. He has now been charged with 3rd degree murder, “The exact statutory definition of third-degree murder is “[t]he unlawful killing of a human being, when perpetrated without any design to effect death.” So he is not guilty of that, because he did intend to cause death. And the others are still free?
    No wonder there are riots.
    I had a discussion on another blog about creating a Zion society, and was told governments can’t do that, only local action by individuals. This is an example of the consequences of that thinking.

  9. Aussie Mormon says:

    And the first replies are exactly what I expected.

  10. My heart and many prayers go out to the families affected by these killings. Thank you for sharing these meaningful. It seems only Jehovah God himself will be able to stop these injustices from happening. I pray his Kingdom comes soon so we’ll finally be able to see true peace, equality and justice (Daniel 2;44; Psalms 37:10,11).

  11. What was George Floyd common for?

  12. Where are our watchmen on the tower?

  13. But we do have President Nelson vacuuming on Instagram, so there’s that.

  14. Are comments posted?

  15. Faith, I’ve taken down your comment, not because it isn’t valid and important, but because it’s not what this thread is about. This is specifically about what religious leaders have said about racism and justice. It’s critical that we confront and engage with this deep stain on the American soul, and I want to make sure there are no distractions from it.

    I appreciate your comment. It’s a vital perspective, but it leads in a separate (albeit related) direction.

  16. Aren’t we all leaders, albeit without authority, but leaders by example? While we do have Russell M. Nelson, President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints; are we not called to also be leaders in our communities, as we exercise our faith, to do as Heavenly Father would have us do.

    The video recording shows in real time the weight of oppression and the history of racism for all to consume; leaving a nation and world to feel that weight to cause an exercise of free speech in friendly protest; while others exasperate hurt and pain, acting out in ignorance of an intolerable cruelty done to so many, never being heard, now captured on video; to loot and cause immeasurable damage and destruction, beyond the scope of full comprehension, yet in some regard equal to the very pain endured for so many generations of blacks.

    What has happened in Minnesota requires not merely a response but a change in the consciousness of humanity to cause such a swell of affirmation as to know enough is enough and that the burden of being a catalyst for change, doesn’t rest in what any religious leader says, not even our own President Nelson, but what each individual says, collectively, meriting being heard fully.

    Beyond words, examples of impactful kindness, acts of true engagement towards meaningful and monumental change is the goal. That can only be made possible by the voice of a nation of common folks, leaders within and among us, named Nobody Smith, neighbors, friends, Bishops; else there will be another somebody, named Travon, another George Floyd and another and another.

  17. I know that dissenting views here that don’t square up with current progressive political doctrines are usually met with either icy silence or being labeled a “troll”. At the risk of that happening again I would like to offer my view….

    Maybe some people (including our church leaders?) don’t see any evidence yet that the killing of George Floyd was an act of racism. Despite the ability of the internet, social media and the television to make us think that the entire country is melting down in uncontrolled rage, the vast majority of Americans are not burning down their cities and actually still believe that in order for something to be true their has to be evidence to support it. Most Americans (including our church leaders?) also believe that people who are accused of something should be presumed innocent until facts are presented in a court of law that bear out beyond any reasonable doubt that they are guilty.

    Facts are stubborn and unemotional things and as far as I can tell here are the facts as they are known today:

    1. George Floyd had underlying medical issues (heart disease and high blood pressure).
    2. George Floyd was heavily intoxicated
    3. The officer used a police restraint maneuver that was frequently used in the past but is now seen as outdated and controversial among law enforcement experts…and he used it for too long.
    4. The officer failed to heed Mr Floyd’s genuine and heart wrenching cry’s for help and relief
    5. George Floyd did not die of asphyxiation, he died of heart failure due to the combined effects of his underlying heart disease, the drugs in his system and the severe stress that the police officer was subjecting him to.

    All of that evidence combined, seems to me to be enough probable cause for the officers involved to be arrested and charged with some low level of murder or higher level of manslaughter.

    I’m not aware of any facts that have been presented yet that would indicate that Mr Floyd was inappropriately restrained because of his race.

    So given all that, I think that our church leaders are being wise and showing appropriate restraint in not speaking out at this time.

  18. Fred, I’m not going to call you a troll, and I’m going to (I hope) jump ahead of any piling on that might occur. But I’m also going to take you seriously and respond to you because, as you say, facts are stubborn things. And the fact is, this murder was the direct result of racism. It was likely personal, but it was definitely systemic. How many unarmed black men have been killed by police over the last, say, month? And how many white men have? (Heck, how many armed white men have been shot?)

    Did he have underlying medical issues? Almost certainly. He was in his mid-40s; we all get underlying medical conditions in middle age. But I—as a white man—don’t have to worry about my underlying conditions being used to excuse my death at the hands of police because I’m not going to die at the hands of police.

    Did he try to pass a counterfeit bill? Maybe. But that’s not a capital offense, at least not if I were to do it.

    And that’s the problem: there is both personal and systemic racism in the United States. That personal and systemic racism is a deep stain on our personal and collective souls. And several religious traditions have prophetically called out that stain and that sin. This was a single devastating incident, and it was also the latest of a series of devastating incidents that go back through our entire history.

  19. Thanks for the reply Sam.

    You stated “And the fact is, this murder was the direct result of racism. It was likely personal, but it was definitely systemic”. Are their studies done in peer reviewed journals that are free from political bias that prove that their is systemic racism. Or is it just an assumed fact that we are all supposed to agree to without any scrutiny?

    I’ve been reading BCC long enough to know that most of the regulars around here are highly educated and intelligent people. But when it come to things like “systemic racism” it just seems that you all throw reason and science to the wind and plunge head first into emotional arguments that are devoid of fact.

    Our church leaders are highly educated and well acquainted with the scientific method of determining facts. Maybe their silence is indicative of that.

    I promise I won’t say any more as I know it’s highly unlikely that I will persuade anyone on an issue like this that is so laden with emotion. I also want to be respectful and not pull this thread off topic.

  20. Fred, consider this: what if all these unarmed black Americans being killed in situations where white people are NOT being killed, were not black, but Mormon. So the situation is this: among those being restrained for crimes, only the Mormon ones were constantly being killed, while the others were not. Would that raise some flags for you? Because, you know, that sort of happened in our history. And it was because we were Mormon, nothing else. The incidents are happening because the people in question are black, and because our society treats them as less than human.

  21. Sam, I know you won’t post this and I’m okay with that….
    We could trade emotional anecdotes back and forth all day. I could point out to you that a black officer in Minneapolis recently killed a white woman from Australia for the crime of just sitting in her car behind an apartment building. We could go back and forth for a long time presenting emotional anecdotes like that. You have asserted that Georg Floyd died because of “systemic racism” can you please point me to peer reviewed, unemotional, nonpolitically biased research that bears that assertion out?

  22. Fred, I took the time to watch the YouTube video of Noah Trevor (discussing the events of the past few days) that Brian G recommended earlier in these comments. It was very helpful for me to listening to Mr. Trevor’s perspectives, especially regarding the Amy Cooper incident. I don’t condone looting nor destruction (I abhor it), but something about the way this video broke things down helped me make some sense surrounding this recent chaos.

    Fred, I’m sincerely interested what your thoughts would be if you listened to this video and returned and reported back. Does any of it resonate with you at all?

  23. Dr Cocoa says:

    I for one appreciate Fred’s level-headed questions. It’s always better to think these things through rather than jump to emotion-based conclusions.

    A quick google search indicates that more white people are killed by police than any other race, but there are also more white people. Black people do appear to incur a higher rate of police violence per capita.
    https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.statista.com/chart/amp/21857/people-killed-in-police-shootings-in-the-us/

    Is this disproportional violence based on race caused by racism or some other factor? The easiest and most obvious thing to point to is racism, I think, but that’s not necessarily the truth. There could be other factors causing the statistics.

    But, pragmatically, does that matter? Although it is difficult (and maybe impossible) to definitively assert that racism is the cause of these statistics, we should still fight racism and should still advocate for less violence. If it turns out racism isn’t the cause of these statistics, at least we’ve done our best based on the limited knowledge we do have.

  24. I just finished watching the Trevor Noah video. He is obviously sincere and heartfelt in his assertions, but it is all emotional reasoning. It’s like listening to a member of the church proving the church is true by bearing their testimony. It’s powerful from an emotional stand point but it’s not factual evidence.

    Perhaps racism is so deeply entrenched in our society and so resistant to being rooted out because it is one of those evil things that seems to lie frustratingly beyond the reach of the scientific method. Perhaps the only way to root it out of our society is for it to be rooted out of our individual hearts by a power that is not inside of us and is not devised by us. Perhaps we need a supernatural power to enter our hearts and cleanse them from all racism and related hatreds. Their is One who has been suggested to provide that type of cleansing.

    The individual who I believe has had the greatest impact for good on race relations, Martin Luther King Jr, was so effective because in all that he did, by example and exhortation, he pointed people to that source of supernatural power.

  25. Thanks for watching the video, Fred, and for your thoughts. As for me, I don’t have the data in front of me to know statistically if white Americans experience more crime or hate or police brutality than black Americans. What I do know is that the events that have been captured in video the past few weeks for all of us to see have shown to me terrible injustices to black Americans. I would expect ALL leaders to condemn the things that have happened that are clearly wrong and point society to a better way. That is what leadership is. Yes, we as individuals need to do some soul searching and make sure we are not a part of the problem. But we do depend on leadership in this troubled world. And I couldn’t be more disappointed by the highest civic leader in the land and to some extent the silence of the leaders of my own religious clan.

  26. Fred,

    Since you seem sincere. Here are two of the more relevant cited studies around racial disparities around lethal and non-lethal use of force by police. This area is hampered by a difficult data landscape of disparate databases, lack of a national system and standards for collecting this data (which by the way the GOP in particular and police unions more broadly have fought establishing but should be the first easy thing we should all agree on doing). Social science is hard. But there are peer-reviewed studies.

    I am a PhD trained sociologist so I feel I can competently read the details of these studies, but law enforcement isn’t my area of expertise so I have limitations on knowing the full landscape of the academic literature. If someone that frequents BCC has better expertise in this specific area I would welcome their additions and corrections in the thumbnail I am about to paint. I hope this might be helpful to other BCC readers wanting to gain some familiarity with the studies in this area.

    Study 1: Widely cited NIH-funded study, “Deaths Due to the Use of Lethal Force by Law Enforcement” – DeGue, Fowler and Calkins Am J Prev Med. 2016 Nov; 51(5 Suppl 3): S173–S187 – that uses the data-base of fatal incidents involving LE. So the data is conditioned on the citizen dying. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6080222/. Key relevant conclusion with asterisks added by me :

    “Given racial disparities in victimization identified in the full sample, additional analyses were conducted to examine differences in selected incident characteristics by race for cases involving white, black, and Hispanic victims (Table 8). ***Black victims were significantly more likely to be unarmed than white or Hispanic victims. Black victims were also significantly less likely than whites to have posed an immediate threat to LE.***”

    So evidence that there is racial bias agianst blacks and hispanics in deaths to the unarmed and those to have not posed an immediate threat.

    Study 2: Widely-cited and critiqued study by Roland Fryer – a Harvard Economist. Roland G. Fryer J. An Empirical Analysis of Racial Differences in Police Use of Force. Journal of Political Economy, forthcoming.

    This uses data of both lethal and non-lethal police encounters in 3 different areas, Los Angelas, 3 cities in Texas and 6 counties in Florida with more detailed data from Houston. Key findings again asterisks by me:

    “On non-lethal uses of force, **blacks and Hispanics are more than ***fifty percent more likely** to experience some form of force in interactions with police**. Adding controls that account for important context and civilian behavior reduces, but cannot fully explain, these disparities. On the most extreme use of force –officer-involved shootings – **we find no racial differences in either the raw data or when contextual factors are taken into account.** We argue that the patterns in the data are consistent with a model in which police officers are utility maximizers, a fraction of which have a preference for discrimination, who incur relatively high expected costs of officer-involved shootings.”

    A closer reading of this study and applying it to the current tragedy – George Floyd wasn’t shot – makes it congruent with what I believe is the current social science consensus based on best data and method available. You are far more likely to experience force under all circumstances including escalations from routine encounters if you are black (or hispanic). This is the lived reality of black people, especially black men. Broad-based “peer reviewed, unemotional, nonpolitically biased research that bears that assertion out” exists. Maybe you should listen to the experience of people of color and also realize that for them this is personal and emotional and it should be.

    And I want to obviate the “well, this is contested empirical ground” knee jerk reaction. If you are going to use it come prepared with more than just one article or example of a study that bares out “there is no bias in policing” study. Be prepared to not just throw up your hands and be willing to dig into the details of the studies, methods state of the literature and complexities. The core issue here is that the police themselves as we have ample evidence hide incidents of misbehavior all the time, screw with the data, report selectively. This is known. We as social scientists know we are dealing with non-experimental data here because do you want to be thrown at random into a black body and in front of police to see if you experience unnecessary violence? Even if it were possible probably not. However, there are good people going through rigorous peer-review using our best methods and approaches. And by in large those people are pretty damn sure there is racial bias in the use of force in policing and the judicial system. Now the exact contours and magnitude we may not be able to pin down but the overall pattern is clear. And it happens to line up with George Floyd’s death.

    Finally, while you may consider it “emotional” or “anecdotal” if you haven’t read Ta-Nahesi Coates “Between the World and Me” go read it now. If you can’t go through that much effort to try and empathize and see through the eyes of a person of color, you honestly don’t deserve even the effort in the response any of the responses people put above. You may have read it already. If so awesome and I am glad I could add a bit of the academic color you are looking for.

  27. Old Man says:

    This is a complex problem and public figures who have spoken so far have offered simplistic and naive solutions to this complex problem. The Gospel offers first and foremost one thing: repentance. Only deep ideological and practical change (repentance) for all parties involved can resolve this issue. It can’t be fixed in a soundbite. It will take a generation or more. A soundbite is not even a step forward. Is anyone ready for a call to repentance? Are black communities? The police? Politicians? The protestors? All players are perpetuating a cycle of physical and spiritual violence. We all need to repent. We all need to make covenants and obey God’s and society’s laws.

    Sam, how would a First Presidency call for repentance, which would include black communities and liberal politicians… how would it be accepted here at By Common Consent?

  28. Thanks rah. I truly appreciate your response. It feels good to have my view point respected and given consideration. And it is great to see that legitimate research on racial disparity in law enforcement interactions does exist.

    For the record, on an emotional and even visceral level, I do believe and empathize with those who have felt the bitter and ugly pain of racism. Much like I believe and empathize with people who claim spiritual manifestations and other such things that lie beyond the reach of the scientific method.

  29. The “thugification” of George Floyd is well underway. No matter how heinous the act of brutality inflicted upon an African-American or other POC, the politically dominant group begins to justify the use of force. He was drunk! He smoked dope last year! She had asthma! The fact that the person was beaten to a pulp or strangled or held down with a knee on his neck was their own damn fault. He was selling a single cigarette. He was reaching for a package of skittles and it could have been a gun because only white people can be armed and free. He passed a counterfeit bill. A Black man committed a crime somewhere and since all Black men look exactly alike I can beat this Black man to death.

    The revolution will not be televised.

  30. Old Man, I assume it would be received similarly to the way these other religious leaders’ statements have been accepted. It’s true that this is a complex series of issues. And I firmly believe that it falls squarely in the ambit of religious response: religion is built to address questions of justice and of sin, and each of the religious leaders I cited (and the one Chris cited, and the many, many whose statements I haven’t seen) have spoken powerfully and movingly toward this idea of justice and sin.

  31. Loursat says:

    It would be, at best, vacuous and cowardly to respond to this situation by saying that everyone has to repent. So what? That’s always true in any circumstance. It amounts to a platitude. Saying such a thing is not real leadership. If that’s the best that a religious leader can do, then it’s better to remain silent. At worst, that response expresses the fallacy of false equivalence. It is heartless to respond to an injustice by reminding the victims that they, too, need to repent.

    Yet it is true that we all need to repent. In the long view, that is vitally important. It is a role of religious leaders to remind us of that. Effective leaders know that now is not the moment for that message. Effective leaders know how to speak about such things in both the short term and the long term.

    Latter-day Saint leaders have not figured out how to speak in morally compelling ways about injustice. I find that sad, but it is never too late to learn.

  32. Old Man, I’m trying to reconcile what you are suggesting and what I think Jesus Christ would do. I mean seriously, do you think Jesus is sitting in heaven saying, “I’m really disappointed in the leaders of the Catholics, Baptists, Jews, Muslims and the things they suggested the past few days. But I couldn’t be prouder of my prophets of my Church staying out of this and saying nothing!” I just don’t think Jesus would be on the sidelines and saying nothing.

  33. Stephen Hardy says:

    Old man: my reading of your post comes awfully close to saying that there “are good people on both sides” and thus releasing law enforcement from due examination. They are allowed to carry guns and they have immense respect in society. To keep that esteem they must show that they use force within certain bounds. The video we watched is offensive because we see abuse of that power.

    The “ first and foremost” solution offered by a reading of the gospels is absolutely NOT repentance. It is love. And love is the over-riding theme of all the statements that Sam Brunson compiled. And yes, a statement from the First Presidency calling us to love, and a reminder that racist policies and racist societies fail to live up to this most basic standard would be helpful.

  34. Stephen Hardy says:

    Old man: my reading of your post comes awfully close to saying that there “are good people on both sides” and thus releasing law enforcement from due examination. They are allowed to carry guns and they have immense respect in society. To keep that esteem they must show that they use force within certain bounds. The video we watched is offensive because we see abuse of that power.

    The “ first and foremost” solution offered by a reading of the gospels is absolutely NOT repentance. It is love. And love is the over-riding theme of all the statements that Sam Brunson compiled. And yes, a statement from the First Presidency calling us to love, and a reminder that racist policies and racist societies fail to live up to this most basic standard would be helpful.

  35. I find it interesting that White people often cite Martin Luther King, Jr. as an exemplar of how POC seeking justice should act. The Civil Rights Act had been passed in 1964.

    In 1968 Martin was preparing for another demonstration to CHANGE the racism that is a founding principle of the US.

    In 1968 Martin was assassinated by a white man with a gun.

    “Let’s return to law and order and then we will address the underlying issues that are causing the arrest,” says every politician since Reconstruction (1867).

  36. Nice point Sam: “I believe and empathize with people who claim spiritual manifestations and other such things that lie beyond the reach of the scientific method.”

  37. Each Sunday our stake president sends out an email. Here is his from today, touching on racism and an invitation. I edited out some (it was a bit long) and tried to take out any identifying language. But for what its worth:

    “In his 2006 April conference talk (see The Need For More Kindness), President Gordon B. Hinckley stated “Racial strife still lifts its ugly head.” He went on to say “I remind you that no man who makes disparaging remarks concerning those of another race can consider himself a true disciple of Christ.” And “Let us all recognize that each of us is a son or daughter of our Father in Heaven, who loves all of His children.Brethren, there is no basis for racial hatred among the priesthood of this Church. If any within the sound of my voice is inclined to indulge in this, then let him go before the Lord and ask for forgiveness and be no more involved in such.”

    In 2017, the Church issued a Statement Against Racism which read in part, “Our prayers are with those who are suffering because of this intolerance and hatred [racism]. We pray for peace and for understanding. Above all, we pray that we may treat one another with greater kindness, compassion, and goodness.”

    The last few months we have been dealing with a new pandemic, and the entire nation has gone out if its way to do all we can to care for those around us, in some cases even to our own detriment. During this past week, our national conversation has moved away from the COVID-19 pandemic to the pandemic of racism. As President Hinckley knew in 2006, and what unfortunately is true in 2020, racism is not just a problem of the past and is not new.

    This week in our reading we move from Mosiah into Alma. . . . Why do I share this? Mosiah hoped to establish peace in the land and protect the rights of others, allowing them to worship how they wished. However, as we see in the many tragedies, wars, and other lessons to come in Alma, man-made laws and systems, while important, cannot change the heart. Cannot end hatred. But some things can help us do that. Mourning with those that mourn. Comforting those that stand in need of comfort. And seeing in every other person, regardless of where they are from and what they look like, that they are a son or daughter of God.

    I am not sending this email with the delusion that it will fix all our problems. But after speaking and visiting with many this week, including some of our stake family who personally have suffered from the racism of others, I felt prompted to read President Hinckley’s talk again. And to send this email with an invitation to us all. And I apologize in advance for the inability to write something that would help us all. But while many of us in our stake family and area can go about our daily lives without ever really having to confront some of the evils of today, including racism, we have all been called to be part of the body of Christ. To embody His love, which of course “denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female . . . and all are alike unto God.” 2 Nephi 26:33 What I hope is to see the Church, our Stake, our Wards, and our communities become what Paul described in Galatians 6 (and taught in Mosiah), that we bear one another’s burdens, and in doing “fulfill the law of Christ.”

    So while a poorly written email from a below average stake president cannot solve the world’s problems, my prayer and hope this week (and invitation) is that we can move beyond just not saying racist things, or not thinking racist thoughts, but that we teach our families and children the evils of racism and the worth of all souls, and the divine worth of all people.

    That we ask ourselves what can I actively do to mourn with those that mourn because of this (and other) evils. That we discuss as a family what can we do? How to love one another, even as He loves us.”

  38. Thanks, Matt.

  39. Kristine N says:

    Matt, I love what your stake president shared. It’s a lovely message.

  40. Geoff - Aus says:

    Old man repentance =change. Yes call for change to the systems.
    I see people saying only God can fix America. If you vote for law and order, you are making the problem worse. Vote for compassion, vote to help the poor perhaps call for a living wage, vote for universal health care. Vote for a more caring society. Other countries do.
    Figures
    US population Black 12.6% White72.4 Hispanic 16.3 Others
    Prison population black 37 white 32 hispanic 22
    Poverty 20.8 10.1 17.6 native 25.4 native american are % of their population. Other figures are % of total population.
    Virus deaths 25 30 very high
    There are 40 million Americans living below the poverty line family of 4 living on less than $25,700.
    There are 6,900,000 Americans in prison, highest number, and highest rate in the world.

    If blacks are12.6% of the population, but 37% of the prison population (much poverty related) they are being discriminated against.

    If you get extremes in wealth and vast numbers in poverty, it contributes to disharmony. French revolution for example. America has the most extreme wealth/ income distribution imballance in the first world, these are contributing to the racism, and your culture of individualism v caring as a community, are also contributing.

  41. Freckles says:

    Thanks, Sam, for starting this conversation.

    And thanks, Matt, for sharing your Stake President’s email; I totally agree with him.

  42. I don’t want to take anything away from Matt’s stake president. It is admirable that he felt the need to address the situation to those in his stewardship and his humility in doing so is admirable.

    I do think we as a people need to be introspective. Besides our own obvious past racial sins as a religion that we don’t seem to know how to fully repent of there is one other major barrier I think we as a religion share that make taking on racism difficult, namely that church leadership and I would say the majority of its American members do not seem to be able to wrap their minds around structural inequality. Reading Pres. Hinkley’s talk and I would say most church writings that try to grapple with racism, racism is treated almost exclusively in terms of interpersonal relations. Its about treating people kindly or avoiding disparaging language. This is, of course, important. However you would be hard pressed to find any modern LDS talks that treat racism as structural. Compare this to say the Catholics that have entire theological schools dedicated to thinking in terms of structural inequality. This is a real limitation and it feels starkly limiting in the current situation that begs for acknowledging and grappling with the structural elements of racism in this country.

    Why is there such a dearth of careful thought or ability to articulate moral challenges of structural inequality in our religion? It is somewhat a puzzle given our deep knowledge and experience of perpetuating this form of evil as well as our central scripture in which structural inequality is such a and obvious and central theme with one of the most poignant passages being King Mosiah’s sermon referenced by the stake president. So you think leadership and your average Mormon might have wrestled with these issues at least to the point that we can articulate a strong response. But we won’t. I fully expect the PR department to release a short statement that quickly references Hinkley’s talk and our belief that “racism is bad” and calling on people to be respectful and avoid violence. But I have no expectation that one of the 12 or Nelson will deliver a strong, thoughtful. moving, prophetic sermon on the roots of structural racism and calling us as a people to repent for our place in it.

    So why? First, because of our history and current policies that see structural inequality as part of God’s divine plan. Whether it is blacks, women or our LBGTQ brothers and sisters there is a strong need to uphold structural inequality as righteous. To face it requires awkward questions that leadership does not want to struggle with at any real level because of the immense amount of change it would require in the church itself. Second, this is reinforced by the lack of political diversity in our church and especially leadership. They swim in the waters of American conservative politics and it is the other area in American life that stubbornly refuses to acknowledge structural inequality and casts those that do as political and cultural enemies.

    That’s my theory anyway. I look forward to the fine “theology from the margins” that will spring up organically from our members, especially our members of color. I predict that some of it will feel prophetic. I also would love to be wrong and see something prophetic from our hierarchical leaders.

  43. Geoff - Aus says:

    Thinking about those figures. If you are white in America you have a head start.
    40 million below poverty line of $25,700 for family of 4.
    Imprisonment rate is 655/100,000 compared to Canada 107. Could 550 of these be poverty related and destroying families.? It costs about $50,000 to keep a person in prison.

    If you release the 550, that is 5,880,000 families back together, and $294,000,000, saved.
    If you redistributed that give $7350 to each of the 40,000,000 living on less than $25,700 which is a 25% increase and would likely raise most of them out of poverty.
    It could be that the 40 million means 10million families of 4, in which case you return the father to 5.8 million of those families, and can then double their family income which should get them out of poverty.

    Reallocation of resources could change life greatly for those in poverty, but requires the help of those not in poverty to be caring and compassionate, loving even.
    If you removed the poor from poverty and prison, there would be a great deal less tension.

    If instead of sending in troops, and threating , a solution could be offered. Perhaps RMN could suggest something like this.

  44. Aussie Mormon says:

    Geoff,
    You know as well as I do, that if RMN did anything like that people would be complaining that the church is trying to interfere with politics, or we’d get told to spend our money and do it, not taxpayers money.

    Rah,
    You said yourself, the Catholics have entire schools dedicated to it, and yet you want the church to fit it into a conference talk?

    ——
    It was only three years ago M. Russell Ballard said “We need to embrace God’s children compassionately and eliminate any prejudice, including racism, sexism, and nationalism.”

    People shouldn’t need church (or community) leaders to continually tell them not to be an a-hole to the guy next door because his skin is a different colour.

    The church can’t win in this situation.
    If they don’t get involved they get criticised for not doing enough.
    If they try and do anything remotely political, they get told to stay out of politics.
    If they don’t say anything, they get criticised for not saying enough.
    If they say things they get told they are wrong.

  45. Billy Possum says:

    Where is my religion?! Where the soothing balm of revelation in this, the most turbulent month in decades? Newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org: step up your game, NOW!

    No church can be both true and silent today.

  46. Kristine N says:

    I think Rah makes a good point about our institutional dedication to structural inequality. We preach the necessity of self-reliance and hard work, but are silent on the other half of the equation–the need for people to be fairly compensated for their work. So many of the challenges faced by black Americans directly stem from being underpaid for the work they do, likely including George Floyd’s attempt to pass a bad $20.

  47. Old Man says:

    Stephen Hardy:
    No, I am not saying there are good people on both sides. What I am saying is probably the complete opposite of that. I guess I am expanding on Alexander Solzhenitsyn, that “the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either – but right through every human heart.” We all need to repent, long before we get so self-congratulatory about what little good appears in our hearts. There is something wrong in how each of us approach this issue, in how we feel about other people, etc. And it seems the minute one side fails to acknowledge our own potential for cultural or ideological dysfunctionality, we slip back into conflict. Tricky business!

    Dan:
    No one gets let off the hook for failing to repent. And prophets don’t get revelation as fast as we desire. And it isn’t unheard of for God to let us struggle with issues a bit before revelation comes. Or God expects us all to approach Him personally about these issues. After all, repentance is a deeply personal matter.

    Geoff – Aus: Change to systems? How about the most difficult changes of all… a change to human hearts? I think that is why it took Enoch so long.

  48. Geoff - Aus says:

    Old man, Yes it does require a change of heart/understanding, but if that does not result in a effort to change the system, not much is achieved.
    rah, I think we are saying the same thing in our own way, thanks.

  49. When the church gets involved in this stuff, little happens but more calls for it to get involved.

    The revolution or insurrection will come. I hope Latter-day Saints don’t ever spill their blood on anything save the direct defense of home and neighbor.

    The Savior had little to say about Roman oppression, but he did warn the next generation about the destruction the zealots would ultimately bring on the people. They were warned to flee, and to continue in faith and righteousness.

    Whenever I think about how unjust and unrighteous our society is, from either right or left principles, I have to remember that the Savior was not in the street protesting or giving support in any way to those who were.

    Our nation is not as wicked as the Roman empire. Not by a long shot.

    That sobering reality and the focus of Christ’s ministry should inform us to our duty. I pray if an unjust “public servant” will compel me to walk a mile, I’ll go with him twain. If handcuffed and put into a car for a minor infraction, I hope I have the patience and love of God in me to go that extra mile.

    Jesus didn’t die a martyr for political change, but personal righteousness.

  50. Dkjr, a Jesus who came and died only for personal righteousness and not to demand justice and societal change is an impotent and powerless Jesus, and that kind of assertion ignores significant parts of his ministry.

    And while I hope you’re able to follow Jesus’ teaching on the Sermon on the Mount, I hope you’re also able to mourn with those who mourn. I hope you’re able to have the empathy to understand that maybe you will offer to walk two miles, but that you’re in the fortunate position that once those two miles are walked, you’ll be fine. I hope you recognize that your African American brothers and sisters worry that if they’re stopped for a traffic violation or if they’re jogging down the street in a white neighborhood or if they’re asking someone to leash their dog, they are risking death.

    I’m not writing about the Mormon church in this post. I’m writing about various religions’ responses and calls to justice. But if the church’s involvement would have little impact, that says a lot about the church; unlike you, I believe that churches broadly—and our church particularly—are both called to improve society and have the ability to do so.

  51. Loursat says:

    There is no substantial difference between Dkjr’s position and burying one’s head in the sand.

    There is no way to escape politics. Politics is mostly a painful, brutal mess for all concerned, but if we want certain things–like justice and freedom, including the freedom to worship God–politics is the only way through. Politics is part of the suffering that comes with being human. The ground is cursed for our sake. We can choose to till that ground and eat of it in sorrow, or we can bury our heads in it and starve.

    It can make us feel safe or righteous to try to stay above the fray, but that’s not a principled position. Staying out of the fray actually means abandoning the poor wretches to their fate, no matter how much we tell each other that “personal righteousness” is all that matters. If we are in a position to make a difference, even a small one, in the lives of others who are suffering, that “personal righteousness” posturing won’t wash.

    There was a time when the Latter-day Saints had to run away and hide. That was all we could do. Guess what: it worked out pretty well, and it has changed us. Now, in the United States, we are for the most part very wealthy. We enjoy a privileged economic, racial and social status. We are no longer merely on the margins. so it’s no longer an option to withdraw. We’re in the fray, like or not. And like it or not, the ground will be cursed for our sake wherever we go, just like it is for everyone else. We live in a time when we’re in the thick of things, and we ought to quit wishing we weren’t. It’s time to get to work.

    Being in the fray means something different for everyone. It’s different for the institutional church than it is for individual Latter-day Saints, and it’s different for each individual. I think Sam’s post is good because it shows us a bit about what other religious leaders are doing in this situation without dictating a course of action for our church’s leaders to follow. I’m not interested in determining for anyone in particular what they ought to do about this. One thing I’m very tired of, though, is the self-righteous idea that all of us–both the institution and its members–are somehow more worthy if we wash our hands of the whole thing.

  52. it's s series of tubes says:

    Sam, I see we’ve reached the “my Jesus is better than your Jesus” stage of the debate.

    Jesus.

  53. Tubes,

    Some Jesus’s are better than others. The KKK had their Jesus and Bible (jsome easy background reading https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/retropolis/wp/2018/04/08/the-preacher-who-used-christianity-to-revive-the-ku-klux-klan/ ) MLK and the civil rights movement had their Jesus and Bible. We have our blue-eyed, long-haired, European-featured Jesus. We and religion can’t get away from the fact that religion has been at the heart of both creating/perpetuating racism and the fight against it. So yes, non-racist Jesus is better than racist Jesus. I believe we have a duty to fight for the better Jesus within ourselves, our churches and our societies. That is the point of the OP. Religionists, leaders to members, have to accept the responsibility for what we use our religion to create. Religion means nothing if doesn’t lead us to engage with the problem of the worlds.

  54. it's a series of tubes says:

    rah, thank you for proving my point.

    We have our blue-eyed, long-haired, European-featured Jesus.

    Maybe you do. But not at my house. But then again, I’m the only fair-skinned person in my household of eight, and I don’t have any hair.

  55. Old Man, thank you for reminding me of Alexander Solzhenitsyn. His books were so powerful. This might be an opportune time for me to pull one out of the pile and reread it. The ending of Cancer Ward has stayed with me for many years.

  56. Tubes,

    Maybe I misread your comment. I felt it was being dismissive of overall discussion about how religion and politics interact. I am absolutely glad that there are people working to expand the Mormon Jesus and I recognize that there is variation within Mormonism. Its naive to think that there isn’t a collectively determined and taught Jesus within every religious community, even as we acknowledge that is “contested” in every community. I invoked the modal communal representation of the Mormon Jesus and is symbolic representation of the white, Amerocentrism built into Mormon culture and doctrine, something particularly relevant to these circumstances and this OP. I don’t think any of that is in dispute. No?

  57. it's a series of tubes says:

    rah, those points are valid. My comment was directed solely to Sam’s appeal to authority (“Jesus supports my position and not yours”), which in my view isn’t a productive discussion approach for sensitive topics like the OP. YMMV.

  58. Just got a notification of a statement by President Nelson, expressing deep sadness at recent evidences of racism and blatant disregard for human life. Late, but better than silence. 4:00 pm, June 1.

  59. Thansk, Adam and Wally! I’m updating the post as soon as I post this comment.

  60. Meh on the LDS statement. Spends more time decrying vandalism than racism (and specifically calls out destruction of property while sidestepping any identification of the actual awful racist acts that led to this). Just more of the white privilege mentality of “racism is bad but LEAVE OUR STUFF ALONE”.

    I know I’m just confirming the “damned if they do, damned if they don’t” predictions some comments made about the church speaking out but the church really needs to get a more diverse audience to review their statements.

  61. I’m with Elisa on this one. Unlike the majority of the cited statements from other church groups, the LDS response doesn’t even mention George Floyd. I found it to be generic and uninspiring.

  62. Old Man says:

    Elisa,
    I don’t think you read the same statement I did.

    I thought this statement stood out and went right to the root of the pathology troubling this country today: “The Creator of us all calls on each of us to abandon attitudes of prejudice against any group of God’s children. Any of us who has prejudice toward another race needs to repent!”

    Strong words from the leader of a faith that believes in direct and continuing revelation from God.

  63. Aussie Mormon says:

    Elisa: There were four sentences spent on the rioting and vandalism.
    “We are also saddened when these assaults on human dignity lead to escalating violence and unrest.”
    “Illegal acts such as looting, defacing, or destroying public or private property cannot be tolerated. Never has one wrong been corrected by a second wrong. Evil has never been resolved by more evil.”
    15 were not spend talking about them, I have to agree with Old Man here.

    Mark:
    Are you expecting RMN to make a facebook post every time someone gets killed by someone with a different skin colour specifically naming them? That’ll just lead to people accusing him of pandering to the cause.

  64. President Nelson’s statement is perfectly fine, in line with what I expected (in my opinion). But the OP is not about President Nelson and I don’t propose to evaluate or criticize any more than I just did.

    What I do want to emphasize, because they stir me and feel important, is comments that express:

    1. Outrage: “We are broken-hearted, sickened, and outraged to watch . . .”

    2. Urgency. “The list of Black lives who have been needlessly killed grows each day. The pervasive culture of racism and white supremacy, increasingly incited by political rhetoric, grows each day.”

    3. Responsibility, including especially for being part of and benefiting from a system that hurts people: “My job as a Christian leader is always about making space for voices that have been silenced, and repenting of the injustices which I commit, and which are committed on my behalf.”

  65. Thanks Chris. I agree—I would have done it differently, but it was fine.

    My point, though, as you point out, wasn’t to critique various statements. It was to highlight (some of) the religious voices speaking to justice and to the sin of racism. And none of the statements I’ve highlighted—or any that I’ve since run into—have minced words about the evils of racism.

  66. “There is no substantial difference between Dkjr’s position and burying one’s head in the sand.”

    The zealots thought the same about the Romans. They revolted. Took over. Lived and ruled as they wished for a time. Then the streets and cities were filled with unimaginable horror that the Jewish people arguably never recovered from. 2000 years of desolation for a people.

    The reality is it could get better every day. That’s how repentance works. And societies get better over time. Patience and long suffering has meaning and doesn’t put you in the streets rioting.

    Marches and speeches advocating change is good. But you have to be willing to recognize that while it does get better, you likely won’t see the promised land in your lifetime. And breaking stuff or excusing those who do won’t make that day come any sooner. It likely prolongs the suffering.

    It’s not happy counsel to a social justice warrior. But I’ve made my peace with that realization when thinking about personal responses to the vast overreaching of the right and the left.

    I’m not sticking my head in the sand. I’m engaging with people in this very comment. To the extent people want to strawman me into some political Boogeyman you’re missing the point.

    There’s a reason many on the right see disappointed that the church leaders haven’t continually taken up the banner against communism, big government etc. It’s not that the church finally figured out those things are good or that their priors were hopelessly biased. The same concept applies with those issues that the left wants the church to take leadership roles in.

    Yes, of course, opposed racism and do things to enrich the lives of communities that are struggling. I think the church is doing that.

    But at the end of the day racism and other foul deeds end when more become converted to Christ. So we preach love of all men in that vein.

    But we can’t tear ourselves apart in accusation, defense, retaliation, etc. It only creates more opposition (and I’m not at all arguing that things can’t be improved).

    Does more blood have to flow in the streets to atone for governmental oppression?

  67. Kristine N says:

    We live in the promised land. But it turns out the promised land is really Omelas, only we don’t have the option to walk away.

  68. Dkjr, it’s off topic, but two things: first, the church in fact did advocate, vocally and frequently, against communism and big government. For decades. So that’s not a compelling argument.

    Actually, that’s it. That’s the extent of my response.

  69. Loursat says:

    Dkjr, I think we all agree that riots are not good.

  70. Nate GT says:

    “The Savior was not in the streets protesting…”

    Wasn’t Jesus’s whole ministry one big protest against Pharisees and Saducees, and the Romans? Why else do you think he was crucified? He was a rebel.

  71. Thank you for this. Please check out my recent post regarding racism in america so we can support the movement together ❤️

  72. Kristine says:

    “racism and other foul deeds end when more become converted to Christ”

    There’s a 400-year history of American Christianity (including Mormonism) that says otherwise.

  73. Old Man says:

    Kristine,
    How many Latter-day Saints lynched blacks in the 19th and 20th centuries?

    Eons ago, as a young missionary, we were teaching the Gospel to a vibrant black family. Their white associate from Texas showed up to one discussion and made the mistake of pointing out that until just a few years earlier, we Latter-day Saints had denied the priesthood to black men. We cringed at the statement, but the young mother rose to her feet, looked him straight in the eye and with a beautiful southern accent said “Until a few years ago, Texans were lynching my kind in rather large numbers. Latter-day Saints may have taken their time to fully open the doors, but they never came at my relatives with a rope.”

    I don’t think you can paint American Christianity as a whole with the slavery brush. A range of congregations and sects participated in the creation of abolitionism and assisted with the Underground Railroad. Several of my direct ancestors enlisted in the Union Army because they perceived, before the Emancipation Proclamation, that the Civil War was a war for the soul of America, a war for the abolition of slavery. They did so because they were following their religious consciences.

    So on that point, I think I side with Dkjr. And I still think both sides of this debate need to learn and repent.

  74. Old Man says:

    Nate GT,
    I think Jesus’ whole “protest” was actually against sin. And since sinners were in power, they crucified Him. But that is just my two bits…

  75. Kristine says:

    Old Man,

    Latter-day Saints had slaves. In Utah. And Ku Klux Klan and lynchings: https://apnews.com/4730c24097e5beb3ab7992416c991bd4

    I wish things had been as you seem to believe they were, but it simply isn’t so.

  76. Old Man says:

    Kristine,
    I was fully aware of the slaves and the KKK being active in Utah well over 30 years ago. Several descendants of a slave owner (Abraham Smoot) live in my stake. I know descendants of some of the slaves as well. The KKK attempted to infiltrate my home town in the early 20th century! I have a hilarious story of how the KKK was driven from town. But this is not the time or place.

    The KKK found little support among active Latter-day Saints. So the KKK became intensely anti-Mormon as a result. Your example of Price, Utah deserves historical context. Price was not much of an LDS community. It was an immigrant mining community. The KKK found a temporary foothold there.

    I am just an old public school history teacher, but you are wrong if you believe that strands of Christianity did not have a powerful positive effect on the course of Civil Rights in this country. I know how other religious leaders justified black slavery and vilified blacks. The story is nuanced and needs to be told in its entirety.

  77. snapdragon says:

    My mother, who was born in 1927 in Provo, Utah, remembered a lynching when she was a girl.

  78. Wondering says:

    Kristine, I think Price, Utah was then at least far more racially and religiously diverse and more significantly non-Mormon than the typical Utah town. While it wouldn’t surprise me if some of the participants KKK and in the 1925 lynching were Latter-day Saints, it also wouldn’t surprise me if none were. I wonder if anyone has researched that aspect of the Carbon County KKK or the 1925 lynching. BY’s pro-slavery speech(es) and his publicized views of blacks and the public prominence of LDS slaveholders (Abraham Smoot) would seem to me to have encouraged some to participate in KKK and such lynchings. There are at least several historians researching and writing about lives of black Mormons, but I haven’t yet encountered any research on LDS/KKK overlapping membership or other connections. Is it out there?

  79. Old Man says:

    Professor Gerlach’s “Blazing Crosses in Zion: The Ku Klux Klan in Utah” answers your questions.

  80. Geoff - Aus says:

    A protest becomes a riot when you add agressive policing.
    Black men die when you add agressive policing.
    Looting is opportunism, and theft.
    The presidents solution is to make the policing more agressive.

    The solution has to be political. Are the democrats likely to be more compassionate. I saw an article where the miniapolis police chief was congratulating Trump on removing the shackles Obama had put on them, so perhaps. Even removing the support for white supremacy from the president would be a move in the right direction.

    You can vote against racism.

  81. Some like to pretend that the Price lynching was the only one, and that since it happened in a “diverse” town Mormon skirts are clean. There were at least a dozen lynchings in Utah history, and you can’t reasonably claim that Mormons were entirely innocent. The Klan burned a cross on Ensign Peak — located within my stake! — and held parades on Main Street. Can you really believe there were no Mormons in the parade? No Mormons cheering on the sidelines? No Mormons in sympathy, secretly or otherwise?

    Some try so hard to pretend this ugliness didn’t and doesn’t taint us in any way. It did. It does. The energy to pretend otherwise can be better spent in learning the truth and rooting it out of our midst. You look foolish, ignorant, and bigoted when you try so hard to claim otherwise,

  82. Kristine says:

    “but you are wrong if you believe that strands of Christianity did not have a powerful positive effect on the course of Civil Rights in this country”

    Of course I don’t believe that. I’m just saying that there are plenty of people who are Christians and still racist. People are complicated. Mormons, too.

  83. Wondering says:

    Well, I can’t find anyone here pretending the Price lynching was the only one. Imagining a possibility in the absence of broad knowledge and posing the question is not pretending anything. Neither is pointing out Mormon leaders’ opposition to the Klan. It would be foolish to suppose that all Mormons always followed their leaders’ advice or positions.
    I found a review/partial summary of Gerlach’s book here: https://www.dialoguejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/Dialogue_V17N01_166.pdf (Haven’t read the book yet.) It seems Gerlach’s research was in 1980 when certain apparently relevant files in church archives were closed to him. I suppose an update of that research could be a useful project for an interested historian, both because of files then closed and the lapse of time and generally better opportunities for research.

  84. Kristine says:

    Or you could just listen to Ardis. She knows what she’s talking about. Some of her work is here: https://exhibits.lib.utah.edu/s/century-of-black-mormons/page/welcome

  85. Wondering says:

    Or you could just read what is written without reading your assumptions about others’ attitudes or unstated beliefs into it.
    I do listen to Ardis. She does know her history; I made reference to her work earlier though not by name because there are also others doing such work and I didn’t want to list all those I knew of and leave out those of whom I’m ignorant.
    I’ve found nothing yet in Ardis’ work about whether any of the participants in the Price lynching were Mormons. Maybe I just missed it. Eleven were arrested for it, according to the report Kristine linked. It would not be surprising if some or none of those eleven were Mormons. It would be quite surprising if none of the 1000+ bystanders were Mormons and, at least as a group, that many observers could have done something about it if they’d been inclined to. So, asking questions, about one lynching implies nothing at all about the existence of or participants in others, nor does it imply any claim or idea that Mormons were entirely innocent. Neither does citing one lynching in Price imply anything at all about the existence of or participants in other Utah or Mormon or possibly Mormon lynchings. Ardis’ word on others is valuable, and the existence of other Utah lynchings is not surprising.
    I’m probably hypersensitive and should go back to being silent about my questions on subjects on which many seem to only want to hear outrage aligned with their own and to assume the worst of any other kind of response or question.

  86. Thanks Ardis; I appreciate the knowledge that you bring.

  87. Wondering, my use of “you” (“you look foolish …”) was meant in the general sense of “anyone” — I did not intend to target you personally; several commenters discussed the 1925 lynching in Price. I apologize for making that sound so pointed.

    But the fact remains that the more Utah lynchings we know of, the less likely it is that no Mormons were involved either as active participants or as passive or even enthusiastic onlookers. Lynchings are always community events, meant to control target communities through fear of repeated violence, and to solidify majority agreement that “this is what we do when ‘they’ get out of line.” That’s the difference between lynching and a private murder. When lynchings took place in Mormon communities — and they did — then at the very least there was a sense of community agreement that this was somehow permissible, even when it went against gospel teachings or leader condemnation or our better nature (at least until the last one, after which something shifted to say that it was no longer permissible).

    I just don’t see the point of trying to demonstrate that Mormons were not responsible for a given lynching — responsibility of individuals may vary, but the community as a whole is also responsible. Just as we are today responsible in some degree for not having done whatever it takes to stop murderous behavior by officers we employ. Your and my individual responsibility is infinitesimal compared to the killer cop with his knee on George Floyd’s neck, or the officer who deliberately knocked down the gray-haired man with the cane who was simply standing on the sidewalk during Salt Lake’s protest, but if we as a community let them get away with it we do share some responsibility as part of the community condoning it.

    Sorry to be so longwinded and seeming to scold. There are low-flying helicopters above my neighborhood again tonight, and tapping this out has distracted me for the time being from my anxiety. I need something more than a cat for comfort tonight.

  88. Rah, love your 7:13 pm comment. I commend you for your respectful way of validating one’s beliefs while offering further ideas to be considered. You help me learn and hopefully grow.

  89. Wondering says:

    “I just don’t see the point of trying to demonstrate that Mormons were not responsible for a given lynching — responsibility of individuals may vary, but the community as a whole is also responsible.”

    I agree and didn’t see anyone doing that here, though I now see that one comment could be read that way by a reader predisposed to think so. That one comment also asked: “How many Latter-day Saints lynched blacks in the 19th and 20th centuries?” and quoted one black individual’s hyperbolic answer directed at putting down Texas lynching history as worse than LDS history. I also don’t see the point of someone using a report on a single, given, inconclusive Utah lynching to show that “Latter-day saints had … Ku Klux Klan and lynchings” rather than that Utah had some KKK participation and at least one lynching. Perhaps I misread that short comment.

    I have been appalled and outraged at the individual and group (including LDS and familial) and systemic racism I’ve seen and, to a minor degree experienced, for going on 60 years. (Prior to that time I was too naive a child to have recognized it. I’m not sure I always recognize it now. But I have also seen some claim racism when it was not there and other times when it has not yet been shown to have been there.) Outrage can fuel systemic change. It can also cloud thinking and promote lynchings — judicial or otherwise. For my own emotional health, I will have to step back from the current public outrage and hope that others’ outrage will fuel change to systemic racism rather than making it worse.

    Minneapolis police are among those with a history of over-use of violence, which may or may not be racist in a given instance, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/30/us/minneapolis-police-noor-verdict.html reports one anyway which was not anti-black racism by the policeman in question. That article also reported on the significant, systemic violence problem of the Minneapolis police. Maybe that perspective could be useful in the current context

  90. your food allergy is real says:

    I second the praise for Rah’s comment. Super insightful.

  91. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    It’s not super straightforward to see these as specific instances of racism. Rather, these instances are a reflection of institutional, structural racism. It’s a more insidious form that is not rooted out as easily as simply teaching, in this case, police officers to use different tactics or to adjust individual policies. Even when we think in terms of structural racism there is a tendency to try to replace those racists elements with something more appropriate. It’s not that there are “parts” of the system that are racist, it’s that racism is “baked in” to the system. It’s one thing to bake a cake without sugar, to make it sugar-free. It’s quite another to try to separate out the sugar after you’ve already baked the cake. Obviously, that makes this a much more difficult problem to solve. But it also makes it a much more important and pressing problem to solve.

  92. it's a series of tubes says:

    I was never much of a fan of GWB; rather, I found that I didn’t and couldn’t support his opponents. But I think his statement is very good:

  93. Kristine says:

    ” I also don’t see the point of someone using a report on a single, given, inconclusive Utah lynching to show that “Latter-day saints had … Ku Klux Klan and lynchings” rather than that Utah had some KKK participation and at least one lynching. Perhaps I misread that short comment. ”

    You didn’t misread. It was just a sloppy and underresearched comment.

  94. This was silly. I am African-American, and I’m telling you that you have it all wrong. I break this situation down with actual logic.

    https://mindcritique.com/2020/06/05/what-in-the-george-floyd-are-people-doing/

  95. @TheMindCritique
    I appreciate your point of view and well your written post. I am also African American and I’m telling you that you have it all wrong. Your post and logic, like Candace Owens’, leaves out a lot of other issues such as the criminal justice system, the ability to affect local elections, corrupt police departments (i.e false police reports that lead to fewer stats), and others. Your premise that the MSM caused statues of slave traders to be toppled in Europe over a few bad cops in Minnesota is to completely miss what’s happening on a global scale right now.

    It is difficult for me to understand how anyone black, white, brown, or orange can make the following statements that you made while you are attacking George Floyd’s character:

    “Floyd should not be painted as this angel who had no hand in his own death.” – No one is saying he was an angel but no – George Floyd had no hand in his own death. We watched his murder on national television, this attempt to attack his health and say he was parctically “dead already” is actually sickening.

    “In other words, it seems as if Officer Chauvin’s excessive force acted more like a catalyst which expedited the inevitable.” – Again, how can you even make this quote, much less based simply on an autopsy report?

    “According to the examiner, “No injuries of anterior muscles of neck or laryngeal structures” were found.  The fact that Floyd did not suffer from a neck injury stemming from Chauvin’s knee is an important detail. Especially since many are under the assumption that Floyd suffered some sort of traumatic neck injury which in return affected his breathing.” – You are manipulating data here. This report wasn’t even written by the medical examiner (see link below). Also multiple independent autopsies reported the death as a homicide. You could’ve uncovered this information with less than 2mins of research. Falsified police reports and these types of medical examiner summaries are a part of the problem.
    https://www.redlakenationnews.com/story/2020/06/19/news/george-floyds-autopsy-puts-hennepin-county-medical-examiner-andrew-baker-in-the-hot-seat/89998.html

    “And when students from all over the United States view the video, before going out to protest, they first decide if their school environment mirrors what they saw in the video. Would this not be the sensible thing to do?” – This quote by you is amazing. Yes, this is exactly what’s happening.  People are looking in the mirror of their communities and they can relate to what happened in Minn. It is literally the exact reason there are protests on a global scale. Didn’t you think that people are out protesting because what happened to George Floyd happens in their community too? Again – for you to think that people of African descent marched in France just because of the Minn. police department is to completely miss what’s going on. (which makes me understand the title of your post)

    It’s about the much larger issue of racism that results in things like Bubba Wallace finding a noose in his garage, a black man being hunted down in Texas because of a “gut feeling”, etc. And since some people such as Candace Owens (and you) have chosen to attack Floyd’s character, here is a direct quote from Robert F. Smith, an African American CEO, son of schoolteachers, and a self-made billionaire: “It (racism) affects every black person in America. I still feel it today, and it’s disturbing, This is the whole point of ‘systemic,’ [it’s] embedded into the psyche of Americans and the institutions of America. And those are the things we have to eradicate. It’s important today to take advantage of the awareness around the current social justice movement. It affects every moment of an African American’s life…. And that’s something we have to fix. This affects every person in America … We have to fix this as a country, we need to seize the moral high ground and put activities in place that say we are who we say we are not who we pretend to be.”

    Robert did not come to his conclusions because of the mainstream media. His statements resonate with me on multiple levels and it is the same sentiment being felt around the world. It’s time for us to be who we say we are, not who we pretend to be.

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