#JusticeForGeorgeFloyd Revisited

A little more than a week ago, I posted some religious leaders’ reactions to the murder of George Floyd. While the church hadn’t responded when I posted, it responded shortly thereafter, and I update the post to include the church’s response.

Today, Pres. Nelson released a joint statement with the NAACP. The original post has dropped far enough below the fold that I decided it’s worth a new post. As with the other statements, I’m only going to excerpt it. It’s absolutely worth reading the whole thing.

President Russell M. Nelson, president, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Derrick Johnson, president and CEO, NAACP; Leon Russell, Chairman, NAACP; and The Reverend Amos C. Brown, Chairman Emeritus of Religious Affairs, NAACP wrote:

We share deep sorrow for the senseless, heinous act of violence that needlessly took the life of George Floyd. We mourn with his family, friends and community. We likewise look on with sadness at the anger, hate, contempt and violence spilling onto America’s streets, devastating cities across the nation, and creating fear and anxiety in citizens across this great land.

The wheels of justice should move fairly for all. Jesus of Nazareth came that we might have life, and have it “more abundantly.” We should follow His example and seek for an abundant life for all God’s children. This includes protecting our brothers and sisters who have been wronged and bringing to justice those who have taken life or broken the law, thus robbing others of an abundant life.

What is the solution? Whether you are a believer or not, Jesus Christ taught an inspired model that leads to peace and harmony — to love God first, and then to love our neighbor as ourselves. We don’t pretend that either of these pursuits is easy, but we do declare that they yield the fruits the Lord promised.

We agree with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s statement, that “hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.”

***

Prejudice, hate and discrimination are learned. Thus, we call on parents, family members, and teachers to be the first line of defense. Teaching children to love all, and find the good in others, is more crucial than ever. Oneness is not sameness in America. We must all learn to value the differences.

We likewise call on government, business, and educational leaders at every level to review processes, laws, and organizational attitudes regarding racism and root them out once and for all. It is past time for every one of us to elevate our conversations above divisive and polarizing rhetoric. Treating others with respect matters. Treating each other as sons and daughters of God matters.

(But seriously, read the whole thing. I didn’t want to copy and paste the whole thing, so I made some arbitrary copy-and-paste decisions.)

Comments

  1. I am glad the message contains a line about how walls are bad.

  2. 100% agree with everything said in the above. I think I have been having some severe cognitive dissonance with all of the intensity I am seeing online. I have zero issues with anything in the above statement but have come to have some serious issues with solutions and attitudes/ideas that have been posted by far left social media activists.
    This was very helpful for my soul today as I have been starting to have doubts that I could be a partner with the BLM movement, but I can do all the things that President Nelson has suggested and have been, long before this current news cycle.

    Thank you Sam for highlighting this. This is the kind of thing that I wish my Church leaders would highlight via email messages etc. I would love to get together in RS to discuss children’s books and object lessons to help promote unity etc, but sadly I don’t see that happening in my area, as “we don’t have that problem”. But now I have a leg to stand on when I try to make positive changes!
    Feeling very grateful for an inspired Prophet today.

  3. wayfarer says:

    This hasn’t appeared in my e mails, and until it has, it may as well not have been said for all the good it will do us. This needs to go into every home in the church.

  4. Loursat says:

    The statement is another step forward for the church’s leaders. For that reason, I’m glad to see it. I’m also heartened that Ally N finds genuine practical value in the statement. I hope that many of us are able to use it and follow it in the ways that Ally N suggests.

    At the same time, I’m surprised today to feel as pained as I do about this statement. There is a continuing awkwardness in the tone of the Church’s communications about this issue. It’s very strange. I can’t escape the sense that Church leaders are hedging by using vague phrasing and by sending different pieces of their message to different audiences.

    I received the email from the Church this morning notifying Church members about the joint statement with the NAACP. There was a link to the full statement, and the email highlighted four of the statement’s points by paraphrasing in this way: “To be part of the solution, they invite all to: 1. Pray that we will all abandon attitudes of prejudice. 2. Look for ways to reach out and serve someone of a different background or race. 3. Teach children in the home to love all and to find the good in others. 4. Learn to value the differences in others.” The email also directly quoted the statement: “Arm in arm and shoulder to shoulder, may we strive to lift our brothers and sisters everywhere, in every way we can.” These ideas, of course, should be praised without reservation or qualification. It’s wonderful that the Church has said these things.

    What troubles me is what the email leaves out. I’m pretty confident that a huge number, probably most of the Church members who look at that email, will not click through to the full statement. What they read in the email is what they’ll conclude the statement says. Consider parts of the joint statement that the Church’s communication to its members fails to highlight: –The need to root out systemic racism. –The need to establish equal justice for all. –Specific mention of George Floyd or other victims of racist violence.

    By choosing not to highlight these elements of the joint statement, the Church’s email permits people to think that the Church’s position is focused entirely on the need for personal improvement, giving no attention to collective responsibility for systemic change. I could overlook that–in fact I’ve tried really hard to overlook that–except that this focus only on personal improvement is entirely consistent with the way we’ve mishandled the problem of racism within the Church since 1978. The joint statement talks about the need to “root out” systemic racism, but that is what we have so far failed to do within the Church. When we choose not to speak specifically about how Church members’ attitudes must change on issues of race, we allow our deep, traditional prejudices within the Church to continue festering. Latter-day Saint racism will not change unless we specify the ways that our particular traditions and beliefs are racist. Because that is a problem that only leadership can address, it is a systemic problem, not just something we can solve with personal improvement.

    I pray that in this church that I love we will recognize the need for systemic change, both in the larger society and among our own people.

  5. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    Loursat – I received the email, and read the bullet points, and will confess that I didn’t click through to read the full statement. After reading the summary points and seeing the link I thought to myself “nothing to see here”, and moved on. I’ll be going back to read the full statement. Thanks.

  6. lastlemming says:

    If you don’t like the bullet points (and they are underwhelming), now would be the time to cherry-pick the meatier parts and post them to Facebook and Twitter, with a link to the full statement.

  7. The Dude says:

    Yeah, but no apology for past statements and policies by Church leaders. As President Oaks has said, The Church doesn’t seek apologies and doesn’t give them.

    And as for President Nelson…

    “The probabilities of a successful marriage are known to be much greater if both the husband and wife are united in their religion, language, culture, and ethnic background. Thus, in choosing your eternal companion, please be wise. It’s better not to fly in the face of constant head winds. Occasional squalls provide challenge enough.”

  8. Wondering says:

    I realize the Church consistently confused teachings of the presidents in its former PH/RS manuals that should have been titled “teachings of men who sometime often later became presidents,” so it’s excusable, to The Dude’s quote is not from “President Nelson” but instead from Apostle Nelson in January 1995. Of course, that doesn’t mean he would have changed his mind in 25 years. :)

  9. The new statement is better than the first. Nevertheless, it’s bland as are almost all statements emanating from LDS leaders. If one listens to their speeches at Conference, the content is generally as smooth as pablum and about as nourishing, with the few kernels of truth often coming from unattributed sources. It’s impossible to hide the fact that, despite their titles, they were chosen for business acumen; they are company men. I actually felt sorry for them when they waved those handkerchiefs. This is issue isn’t really their issue, nor something they’ve spent very much time pondering. They are men of goodwill and want to do and say sincere and helpful things because their minds tell them this is the right thing to do. It doesn’t seem their hearts are in it. “For where thy treasure is, there is thy heart also.”

  10. The Dude, fwiw, this wasn’t really the context for an apology—it was a joint statement between Pres. Nelson and the NAACP. So while an apology is critical, and should happen, the NAACP doesn’t have anything to apologize for.

  11. lastlemming says:

    When President Nelson addressed the NAACP last year, he was introduced by the Reverend Amos Brown (one of the signatories of today’s statement), who characterized the Church as having apologized. The Church has not contradicted his characterization. Here is my transcription of the key paragraph of Brown’s remarks:

    “However, we should applaud President Johnson, Cameron Russell, who responded to this brother [Nelson] and his faith community when they had the courage to say ‘We have unfortunately been complicit in that evil of racism in this nation. But unlike certain persons in America we are humble enough to say that we are sorry, we’re going to change our ways, and we’re going to do a new thing, we’re going to sing a new song, talk a new talk, walk a new walk.’ And the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, under the leadership of President Russell Nelson, are here tonight to say to the NAACP, ‘We’re going to join and lock arms with you as we fight racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, xenophobia, and all those [unintelligible] and isms that separate and divide the human family that we might be one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.’”

    I don’t know whether there was an apology in private or whether Rev. Brown is creating alternative facts. But the next reporter who gets an interview with President Nelson should simply ask him if he agrees with Rev. Brown’s characterization of the Church’s new stance. He almost has to say yes.

  12. Geoff - Aus says:

    I got the first statement emailed, but not this one. Perhaps its only for Americans?

    “Unitedly we declare that the answers to racism, prejudice, discrimination and hate will not come from government or law enforcement alone,”

    How many conservative members will read this as, I can vote for a racist, and still claim not to be a racist? I can vote republican, and law and order with a clear concience. There is a picture of the Minneapolis police chief thanking Trump for rolling back the limits Obama introduced to reduce police violence. He has enabled this, with this removal, white supremacy, and law and order. If he is reelected in November, racism will not improve.

    Will arrest, and even higher imprisonment rates really be fixed by teaching your children, or the other suggestions? Individuals can change their understanding on racism, but if it doesn’t cause them to vote for someone who will change the system, systemic racism will continue. If you vote for law and order, you get more minorities in prison. America already has more of its citizens in prison than any other country.

    If some members were less racist than previously, how would that have helped George Floyd? If members become less racist how, but vote for Trump, will that help the next black victim?

    I am getting frustrated by Pres Nelsons inability to tell Trump voters that that is a moral problem.

  13. Geoff – Aus – both you and sadly too many others think this falls on Trump’s feet. If Obama was in office, the same thing would happen. Indeed similar things happen. Maybe we can same Obama would have soothed the wounds. But the reality is, 8 years of his soothing didn’t change much. I think Trump is immoral and agree it’s a mistake to vote for him as a leader. Although I understand why some do it. I think Biden is immoral and it’s a mistake to vote for him as well.

    Trump has very little to do with Floyd. Indeed, the Democrat backing police union, and Democratic party machine in the cities across America share more responsibility than Trump.

    Trump could have been and should have been a figurehead calling for reform and justice. You can honestly try to pin all these problems on him. They were here before him, they will be here after him, and they all continue to happen under the administration of Democratic funded and supported metropolitan areas.

  14. Aussie Mormon says:

    Geoff,
    I expect we’ll get a summary in the weekly church news update.
    A joint press relief with an American* organisation, targeting Americans* about fixing the mess in America* (even though the same principles apply everywhere), written as a response to recent events in America*, isn’t something that is going to be a priority mail-put in Australia.

    *for America read-as USA

  15. Does this mean we can rename BYU now?

  16. Geoff - Aus says:

    Dkjr, Not impressed that Obama,s police reforms, were rolled back? Don’t think that Trumps racism/white supremacy, contribute to the culture?
    You make a series of unsubstantiated assertions, defending Trump, when you also say he is immoral and a vote for him would be mistake. Not sure what your purpose is?
    You assert that there is no evidence that having a compassionate black leader who bought in changes to encourage police to be less violent, v a leader who is racist, white supremacist, and removes restrictions on police, has no effect. You end by saying Biden is also immoral. The inference that his immorality is comparable to Trump. So you have now compared 2 democrats as no better than Trump, without any evidence, just your judgement.

    This seems to be a conservative strategy, to claim your person is bad but so are the others, and then compare things that are not comparable. Is Biden seeking to undermine the press ( a necessity for democracy), is he racist, does he seek to divide the country, does he attack anyone who disagrees with him? What is his comparable immorality?

    I might point out that recently Colin Powell, and James Mattis, and a number of other conservatives, say they will be voting Biden to rid the country of Trump. They appearently don’t see this Biden immorality you assert.

    They have known Trump, and see him as a big problem, and will vote Biden. They have more credibility than you unsubstantiated assertions.

  17. While the statement is laudable in certain respects, it should be footnoted by Will Colom’s (special counsel to the NAACP President, who is “authorized to speak for the organization”) response. He said so far the church’s efforts have been “minor” and “do not befit the stature and magnitude of what the LDS Church can do and should do,” and that the NAACP is “looking forward to the church doing more to undo the 150 years of damage they did by how they treated African Americans.”

    More here: https://www.sltrib.com/religion/2020/06/09/despite-joining-president/

  18. The Dude says:

    Sure, I get that it technically wasn’t “President” Nelson, but the fact that it was “Apostle” Nelson still means that he is a prophet, seer, and revelator, so he either was inspired then and not now, or he is now and wasn’t then. God doesn’t vary. Men do.

    I also get that the NAACP doesn’t need to apologize, and that it was a collaborative article. What I’m getting at is that there have been numerous opportunities for apology, even from President Nelson’s personal social media statement, but there will never be one.

  19. Dkjr, you say that the same thing would happen under Obama – which may be true – but would it have happened as often? As great as it would be to eliminate all evil in the world, that’s just not going to happen. So what can we do? We can encourage policies which discourages evil, and minimizes it’s frequency.
    Why were the police unions so adamant about Trump? It was because under Obama they felt oppressed. Why oppressed? Because of oversight from the Justice Department which was resulting in fewer instances of police brutality and excessive force. When Trump was elected and Jeff Sessions was made attorney general, the first thing that happened was removing all of the Consent Decrees. Some police chiefs requested that the Consent Decrees not be removed, and so some were put back into place. But how many have gone out under the Trump administration? Zero.
    So you are correct that there were instances of police brutality and use of force while Obama was in office, but those numbers were trending down vs. now where they are spiraling out of control.

  20. I think that Donald Trump is a repugnant human being whose presidency has done more to divide the country socially than any other president, far surpassing “Elections Have Consequences” Obama. Having said that, on this particular issue, I see a lot of scapegoating for failures by state and local governments. Yes, the federal Justice Department has a role in this in the form of civil rights prosecutions, and Trump has failed miserably at taking on that task, but all of these problems originate and can largely be solved at the state and local level, and so when Democratic mayors and governors fail to solve the problem, it’s naive at best and deceptive at worst to blame Republicans.

    More to the point of this blog, I think the responses from the Church, more than anything else, reflect the fact that the Church is not well equipped to offer solutions to this problem at a policy level. Every policy proposal has unintended consequences, and the Church does not have the mix of people and experience necessary to make suggestions that are better informed than any other organization. I think, in this particular case, focusing on the areas where the Church does have experience and influence (calling others to feel the love of Christ and recognize others as children of God) is the right move.

  21. Geoff - Aus says:

    Dsc, They could say that the present circumstances have shown pres Trump to be so morally bankrupt, that we recomend members not vote for him.

  22. Geoff,

    You can’t be serious.

  23. Geoff, what Obama police reforms were rolled back? I’m a criminal defense lawyer and I saw things get steadily worse during his time in office, for reasons almost completely unrelated to him. There have been no meaningful police reforms in America for decades. I’m not a fan of Trump, but it’s important, I think, to condemn him for things that he has actually done.

  24. GeoFF - AUS says:

    I am serious, this is a moral issue, thousands of citizens are killed by police, and million unjustly imprisoned, because of poverty and racism. America already has the highest rate of police killings and imprisonment by degrees of magnitude. Law and order policies has produced this. The president says he is for more law and order (Which is code for more poor people in prison), the other side want to reform the system. One in three black men have been to prison mostly because of poverty. This is the most pressing moral problem for the American/ member, when voting. Moral leaders should say so.
    Also the PR aspect. If the church showed moral leadership, and Utah did not vote Trump in November, that would be a boost for the church’s moral leadership, throughout the world.

    Tern, This describes one of the policies of Obamas rolled back by Trump. I do not understand it, perhaps you may
    https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/pie2020.html

  25. Jon Miranda says:

    Geoff AUS
    What moral issue? Where exactly has liberalism gotten us? look at the blue states with all their decaying cities and decaying governments.

  26. Jon Miranda. Where exactly has conservatism gotten us? Look at all the red states and their poverty and systemic sexism, racism, poor education, and high abortion rates. What a fun game! What other completely lazy and poor arguments can we make instead of actually engaging?

  27. Jon Miranda says:

    Brian
    News flash blue states are losing control of their cities

  28. Jon Miranda, great comeback!

  29. Geoff,

    Do you really want the Church wading into endorsement of candidates? First of all, that would do nothing to help unify the country. Second, it would cause the Church to lose its tax-exempt status. Third, it would not solve the actual issue, which, as has been pointed out, long predates Trump. Finally, it would set a precedent that the Church endorses candidates. Do you really think that if the Church did so regularly, it would always or even usually endorse your preferred candidate?

    Your suggestion is frankly laughable.

  30. Geoff-Aus, I take it you were a bigger fan of Obama’s far greater number of executions by drone than the previous or subsequent president?