Mormonism and the Moral Imagination

Robert Bennett is Professor of English at Montana State University. He is the author of Pill (Bloomsbury Object Lessons) and the co-editor of Deconstructing Brad Pitt (Bloomsbury).

“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”—1 Corinthians 13:11

Our country is undergoing a long overdue moral reckoning with its ongoing history of racism. Not since the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s has race so dramatically occupied the center stage of our national discourse, and the nation’s collective cry for racial equality is rapidly approaching another “I Have a Dream” moment. Only this time we have a more somber national refrain: “I can’t breathe.” These tragic last words of George Floyd have galvanized our nation to demand greater racial justice and accountability.

What defines this historic moment of awakening, however, is not simply the senseless murder of another innocent black person. After all, we have had no shortage of Treyvon Martins, Breonna Taylors, and Eric Garners. Rather, what makes this moment exceptional is the way in which the American public is beginning en masse to collectively engage race, racism, and racial justice at a deeper level than ever before, and this is producing a profound reconfiguration of the American moral imagination. When it comes to race, Americans are finally beginning to put away childish things and act more like mature adults.

It has not gone unnoticed that this moment has also produced a groundswell of support even among prominent Mormons. In recent days, both President Russell M. Nelson himself and the president of BYU, Kevin Worthen, have taken a stand against racism, while Mitt Romney has proudly marched in the streets. Even the BYU football team has made a fierce and moving public statement that Black Lives Matter. Certainly, there were no comparable statements of solidarity from the BYU football team, let alone the prophet, in 1992 during the Rodney King riots when church members served home-cooked meals—to the National Guard.

And yet, despite these changes, we as Mormons have much more work to do. We, like our prophet, may be “deeply saddened by recent examples of racism,” but this alone is not enough for the gravitas of this moment. The church’s own 2013 Gospel Topics essay, “Race and the Priesthood,” sets a much higher bar, emphatically declaring that the church “today unequivocally condemn[s] all racism, past and present, in any form.” This is a solemn check that we have written with our mouths; now is the time for Mormons everywhere to cash it with our actions.

But are we, as a collective church, doing enough? Not according to the NAACP, our own partner, who recently described the church’s efforts as not “seeing very much” progress and merely “minor efforts” which “do not befit the stature of what the LDS Church can and should do.” More specifically, they have seen “no willingness on the part of the church to do anything material,” and they look forward to the church’s future “deeds matching their words.” Ouch! And if this is what our friends think of us, I’m not sure that we are ready to hear from our critics.

So, what are we to do?

To begin with, every Mormon of conscience should start by reading Joanna Brooks’s recently published Mormonism and White Supremacy: American Religion and the Problem of Racial Innocence. The timely publication of this insightful tome at this precise historical juncture stands as a sacred witness that Mormons—like many other white Christians, Brooks reminds us—need to take greater stock of our own moral culpability and responsibility with respect to matters of race. As Brooks exhaustively demonstrates, the roots of Mormon racism, even Mormon white supremacy, are deep and profound just as its effects are pervasive and ongoing. Like Macbeth’s damned spot, our collective racial guilt has not simply been erased because God changed his mind about black people in 1978. Much, much more still remains to be both done and undone.

But why is Brooks calling out the Mormon church for its white supremacy at the very moment when the church has seemingly never been more anti-racist? Here is where we need to not only read, but also critically understand, Brooks’s work at a deeper level. Brooks’s analysis is not simply a long horror story recounting Mormonism’s deeply problematic history with race: a past that we are all at least partly aware of, and which we certainly all now repudiate. In a more profound sense, Brooks argues that Mormonism’s race problem is the direct result of its stunted moral imagination. As Brooks puts it, Mormonism shares with much of white Christianity a deep tendency to “simplify morality” by associating it with the “unknowing blamelessness of children rather than the hard-worn wisdom of adults who make difficult choices.” The true brilliance of Brooks’s analysis, therefore, lies in its full-throated attempt to encourage Mormons to develop a “more robust form of morality” grounded in a more mature understanding of uncertainty, complexity, carefulness, self-reflection, nuance, accountability, humility, and empathy. We need to stop congratulating ourselves for taking baby steps; we need to grow up and put away our childish understanding of race.

But what exactly might a serious adult Mormon do in our current situation?

The first thing that any mature adult might do would be to immediately apologize for more than a century of institutional racism. In no respect has the church’s attitude toward race been more juvenile than in its stubborn refusal to unambiguously and officially apologize for our clearly divisive and destructive racist past. President Dallin H. Oaks has infamously stated that “I know that the history of the church is not to seek apologies or to give them,” and he is right on both accounts. When the saints were persecuted in Missouri, they did not seek an apology; they demanded immediate redress, sending hundreds of pleas to Congress, repeatedly clamoring for specific monetary remuneration. That is not seeking an apology; it is demanding reparations. And yet, the church still, in 2020, continues to throw a toddler’s temper tantrum, adamantly refusing to even offer an official formal apology for more than a century of explicit racism, let alone to generously make the kind of serious reparations that it once so stridently demanded of others. President Oaks may not share Brigham Young’s odious white supremacy, but it is hard to think of a statement more indicative of a limited moral imagination than “I never apologize.”

The next thing that a serious advocate might do would be to immediately remove from all future editions of the Book of Mormon and the Pearl of Great Price every reference that describes God’s curse as a “skin of blackness” (2 Nephi 5:21) or a “blackness” (Moses 7:8; cf. Moses 7:22) which disqualifies entire races “as pertaining to the priesthood” (Abraham 1:26) together with the corollary passages which describe “white skin” (3 Nephi 2:15) as the sign of the removal of God’s curse. Certainly, a critically minded anti-racist would remove Alma 3:6 which describes how “the skins of the Lamanites were dark, according to the mark which was set upon their fathers, which was a curse upon them because of their transgression.” These scriptures were a primary reason why Mormons both invented and upheld the priesthood and temple bans for so long, and their continued existence only further promulgates explicit racism. Today’s apologists busy themselves doing hermeneutic backflips trying to explain away these passages’ plain literal intent, but their damaging impact persists nonetheless. Not everybody has the apologist’s credulity to believe that “skin of blackness” refers to animal skins or dark tans. The time has come to simply excise these racist tumors from our Holy Scriptures once and for all.

These verses may be the mistakes of men, but are they mistakes that we need to continue to read and reread generation after generation? As a faithful member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I have had to read these painfully and blatantly racist scriptures my whole life, but I never want to read them again. My children have already had to read them, too, but is there any reason why my grandchildren should? Or their children and grandchildren? Why?

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sustain fifteen men as prophets, seers, and revelators, and they have proven themselves capable of revealing new temple ceremonies, letting women and children witness ordinances, shortening our meeting time, and now even permitting missionaries to wear blue shirts. So, are we really to believe that they are completely incapable of correcting a handful of deeply offensive racist scriptures? In President Nelson’s own words: “Any of us who has prejudice toward another race needs to repent.” It is high time that the Mormon scriptures themselves repent. Otherwise, talk is cheap, even if it purports to be anti-racist. This could be done tomorrow. Even today. And nobody would have to break any windows to do it.

Comments

  1. Stephen Hardy says:

    Thank you for this. I personally see the embracing of all things white in the temple to be racist. That particular symbolism helps us imagine God as white. I would love to see the robes of the priesthood in any numbers of colors including black. It’s a great color.

  2. Here’s the obvious dilemma: If the Church was to repudiate or change the BOM verses that contain references to dark skin, it would essentially be questioning the “translation” abilities of Joseph Smith. Can it really afford to do that? We already see a subtle shift within the Church with respect to how the BOM was brought about. We admit there was a seer stone and a hat (long denied). But can we alter the text this late in the game?

  3. I agreed with this post up until the “So, what are we to do?” I don’t think that changing scriptures is going to do any good – trying to hide the fact that people were racist is white washing is it not? – and an apology would likely do so little it would more likely give the feeling that everything has been accomplished and that the church need not do more. Yes, those actions might change the church, but they wouldn’t change church members.
    I would rather that the church explicitly come out with an anti-Confederacy policy. I get that that’s US centric, but could be used as a guideline for other countries where needed. Have a General Conference talk about not romanticizing the Confederacy. How church members shouldn’t display the Confederate flag, or own Confederate memorabilia (inheriting something from family history is fine, going out and buying a t-shirt with the Confederate flag is not). Call out organizations which romanticize the Confederacy as being in violation of the temple recommend question about not being a member of an organization which teaches against church policy. Make people chose between a temple recommend and being a member or contributor to the United Daughters of the Confederacy (as one example). I think that would drive some meaningful change where meaningful change is needed.

  4. Nate GT says:

    Brigham Young on slavery: “You must not think, from what I say, that I am opposed to slavery. No! The negro is damned, and is to serve his master till God chooses to remove the curse of Ham.”

    Rename the university.

  5. “This is a solemn check that we have written with our mouths; now is the time for Mormons everywhere to cash it with our actions.”

    How will BCC be cashing this check? Where are the black writers?

  6. Sheepshearer says:

    The difficulty in this day and age is that there is never an end. One beauty of repentance is that at some point God says, “That is enough. You are forgiven.” You move on, continuing to repent but of new sins. The second beautiful thing is that I only have to repent of my own sins. Not only am I not responsible for Adam’s transgressions, I’m not responsible for my father’s or even of Brigham Young’s. Neither one of these benefits is present in today’s world. Someone will always be able to think of one more thing that needs to be done to make it better; they are limited only by their imagination. Similarly, the past will never change and someone new will discover it and demand fresh repentance since any actions taken previously to atone could not take their personal knowledge into account.
    Certainly, the Church could have done a better job. Certainly, it can do a better job. The difficulties suggest that few, if any, will be completely happy with the result.
    On an unrelated note, I believe the “dark skins” was a cultural rather than physical change. Otherwise, people couldn’t have switched back and forth between the two groups so readily. Something in their lifestyles, I don’t know what, caused one group to appear different from the other. It certainly would have been handy if the writers would have fleshed out these details.

  7. I do hope you are still repenting and making reparations for your collective racial and religious guilt for the Holocaust, perpetrated by European Christians. I hope you are crippled with the collective racial guilt you should be feeling. I hope you are monthly sending money to Israel to make your reparations and atone for your guilt. For you are guilty. You are European and therefore must make atonement for the Nazis.
    Maybe we can hand out scarves printed with the Star of Dvid so our Congressmen and women can kneel. Perhaps we can get them to kneel and wear Angel Moroni pins for their collective religious guilt for raping and pillaging the Mormons. Reparations are due me for the assets stolen from my LDS ancestors. And I demand to be paid.
    Jonathan Turley was correct. This is beginning to resemble the French Revolution. And here on this blog we find our LDS fanatics, ready to cast blame on anyone who ever made a mistake. Unless that person was Martin Luther King cheating on his wife. His adultery does not disqualify him from statues, a national holiday or public acclaim. I wonder how you would feel if I decided to push his statues into a river. Shouldn’t my feelings about his adultery be the deciding factor as to whether or not my actions are right? Isn’t that exactly what is being paraded today as the right side if history?
    And as the Book of Mormon footnotes has made clear for almost 40 years, black skin is a Hebrew idiom showing separation from God and spiritual darkness. You should know that if you are going to even pretend to be qualified to teach others. Thank God I gave finished my degrees and do not need to be forced to listen to this crap in a university setting.

  8. Dr. Rieux says:

    Thank you for this post. The only part I disagree with is the removal of the racist verses in the Book of Mormon; I’m fine removing the verses in Moses and Abraham. I believe the racism of the Nephites was one of several sins that directly led to their destruction. I believe that, like the US, racism was one of the founding sins of the Nephite nation and that racism is one of the “imperfections” included in the book so that we “may learn to be more wise” than they were (Morm. 9:31). Moroni wasn’t just talking about generic Nephite imperfections; he was also including the imperfections and faults of Nephite prophets like Nephi and Alma. Instead of erasing this racist history or performing mental gymnastics to excuse it (referring to animal skins, for example) we should confront this history head on and learn from it. We should adopt some of Moroni’s humility when it comes to prophetic infallibility by forcefully and repeatedly disavowing the myriad interpretations of these verses that we have repeated for generations and instead teach that these verses illustrate a grave sin and a deeply flawed worldview that ultimately led to the Nephite’s destruction. If we are to avoid the same fate, we need to repent.

  9. There are also many elements of our missionary program that are patronizing.

  10. There are also many elements of our missionary program that are patronizing.

  11. Aussie Mormon says:

    “our collective racial guilt”
    I’m younger than 42. As far as the church is concerned I, should not feel any guilt for things it was impossible for me to have anything to do with.
    Along with this, an apology has in it, implications of fault or wrongful behaviour. So it is impossible for me to give a true apology for something I could not have been involved in.

    I also agree with others above in regards to removing parts from the BoM and PoGP.
    There are no calls that I’ve seen to remove the racist, pro-slavery, or otherwise morally dodgy parts of the OT and NT. We keep them around because they are relevant to the history of how teachings change.

    *I’d also argue that the age where you should not have to feel guilt is above 42, as children could not have been involved etc.

  12. Once again we have a white academic with a bit of ‘white savior’ complex calling out the Church to radically change to meet his ‘woke’ consciousness. Everyone is guilty in this cancel culture world, especially folks from 170 years ago viewed through your 2020 lens.

    After all, if you can write an academic tome about “Deconstructing Brad Pitt”, you should be quite the expert on race relations. This descendant of slavery sees you and Brooks as activists acting under the guise of academia.

    Are you looking for the Church to apologize to you, or just me and others of African descent, as you appear to be of European descent? If so, on what standing do you have the right to require the Church apologize to others?

    Of course people both in and out of the Church were racist back in the day, my family certainly bore the brunt of racism in slavery and in post slavery Utah.

    I would hope your next target of outrage is Abraham Lincoln, who said in debate with Frederick Douglas:

    “I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races … I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races from living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be a position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.”

    Tear down that Lincoln Memorial! It offends you “woke” white activist sensibilities (as would the sentiments of almost anyone from the distant past). For myself, I see Lincoln as a man with flaws who nonetheless did great things for my people and I require no apology from him or his descendants.

    As for me and my family, we will continue to participate in an organization with flaws, but which we still believe to be true, despite the difficulties our families faced from now dead and imperfect Church leaders.

    jb

  13. Kim, I’m glad you’re so well educated, but even if black skin is just an idiom, it’s in no way helpful. Like racist jokes are just jokes, right? No harm in them.

  14. Geoff - Aus says:

    Kim/Hannah, Your racism, and your ignorance are showing! You didn’t study modern history? It was the nazis in Germany who perpetrated the holocaust, they also invaded most of the rest of Europe. The present chancellor of Germany, and those before her, have apologised not only to the jews, but the other countries they invaded, and reparation made.
    “Germany concluded a variety of treaties with Western and Eastern countries as well as the Jewish Claims Conference and the World Jewish Congress to compensate the victims of the Holocaust. Until 2005 about 63 billion euros have been paid to individuals. Additional payments by German companies which exploited forced workers have been made.”

    You are comparing this to the Church’s racism for 130 years, and then refusing to even apologise, let alone make reparations? The church is way behind. Germany is now greatly respected.

    “And here on this blog we find our LDS fanatics, ready to cast blame on anyone who ever made a mistake.” Got a bit carried away there and let your feelings show. Not factual either. Was racism merely a mistake? Is homophobia and sexism a mistake?

    Not sure why this got in except he is a famous black leader, and needs to be brought down. You tell us you think MLK should be remembered for adultry, not his leadership on anti racism. Sounds like “LDS fanatics, ready to cast blame on anyone who ever made a mistake.” might apply. He is remembered as a great leader, if you want to add, who made mistakes in his personal life. You might sound a bit racist and unpleasant but perhaps thats you?

    No, none of those wanting to remove statues is doing it because they committed adultry, but because they fought to defend, or perpetrate racism.

    As for those who don’t believe you need to apologise because you didn’t do the deed; is this not a very similar to the atonement? Christ didn’t commit the sin but is willing to pay for it.

    Also, a group has been systematically hurt by another group, surely the first step toward justice/peace, is for those who are in the powerfull group to acknowledge the hurt caused, and work to solve the problem. The church is a small part of a large problem, but if we are to overcome racism, an apology would be a small first step that costs very little. There is a mood for change if we are not for it, we are against it.

    Do we want a world/country without racism?

    Billy Brant (chancellor of Germany) in 1970 knelt at the “memorial to the victims of nazi opperession” and it was described as; “Then he knelt, he who had no need so to do, for all those who should have knelt but failed to.”
    Is this why we should apologise, the perpetrators won’t, and we can? It is the moral thing to do.

    I am not sure how to handle the racism in the scriptures, perhaps a warning and note about new light, something must be done though. If we are going to ask people to read the BOM and see if it is Gods word, it has to have the racism removed or explained. Explaining won’t work, it has to be removed. It grates, it cannot be the word of God with that in there.

    Statues I think should stay but have an explanation attached.

     

  15. Rachel, the ancient scriptures or modern translations of them use Hebrew idioms. We do not change them because the meaning is misunderstood. We educate people as to the correct meaning. Just like we do not rewrite Shakespeare; we footnote it so the meaning of the vocabulary that we do not understand today is clear. We do not rewrite Isaiah anew for each new generation. We teach people how the ancient poetry was structured and how to interpret it. I am so sorry your sensibilities are offended by a demand that you educate yourself.

  16. Violet Kerr says:

    Good grief Geoff. Of course it was the Nazis in Germany who perpetrated the Holocaust. You obviously missed the point of the use of them as an example. The Nazis were guilty. Not you. Not me. And some Americans owned slaves over 170 years ago. Not you. Not me.
    I should no more need to feel some collective racial guilt for their action because I am Caucasian than you should need to feel collective racial guilt for the actions of the Nazis because you are Christian.
    This post is trying to make me accept guilt for something I did not do.
    The trouble I am having with the whole way this is playing out is that while racism is still with us and needs to be examined and changed, a post like this is turning this into a farce. The piece written by Jonathan Turley on The Hill is correct; it is now the French Revolution. The loonies are out in force. People like the author of this post and Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats are making a serious matter ridiculous.

  17. I personally would like to see Martin Luther King Day abolished. Because he cheated on his wife. To me that matters more than anything else he accomplished. It always will.
    But is mine the only voice to consider? I think not. So I guess I will need to wait until more of my sisters are woke and together we can strip his name from schools and topple his statues across America. Because once enough of us decide, why should we wait to act legally. Why should the opinions of the unwoke men among us be counted as valid. We’ll just label him with a capital ‘A’ and then we are justified in burning down any school carrying his name

  18. Aussie Mormon says:

    >As for those who don’t believe you need to apologise because you didn’t do the deed; is this not a very similar to the atonement? Christ didn’t commit the sin but is willing to pay for it.

    I don’t recall Christ ever expressing guilt or giving an apology for the sins of others.

    Now if it’s just about financial actions then people should be up front about it, and there can be a discussion about it. Trying to guilt members into doing a raft of things* that won’t actually change anything is just going to turn people against the cause.

    *Renaming buildings, pulling down statues, editing scriptures

  19. Geoff-Aus says:

    It is not about guilt it is about initiating reconcilliation. It seems to becoming political, where some want to address racism, and others who want to make it about themselves, about guilt.
    How does that help with racism, or is that not your problem?

  20. Aussie Mormon says:

    >It is not about guilt

    The original post *explicitly* talks about guilt.
    “Like Macbeth’s damned spot, our collective racial guilt has not simply been erased because God changed his mind about black people in 1978. Much, much more still remains to be both done and undone.”

  21. Pada tanggal Jum, 19 Jun 2020 19.44, By Common Consent, a Mormon Blog menulis:

    > Guest posted: ” Robert Bennett is Professor of English at Montana State > University. He is the author of Pill (Bloomsbury Object Lessons) and the > co-editor of Deconstructing Brad Pitt (Bloomsbury). “When I was a child, I > spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I th” >

  22. Jesus in fact did teach collective judgment in Matthew 25. Nations are judged! When did we see you naked, hungry, lonely, imprisoned? Maybe we can add shot, lynched, enslaved, judicially bullied.
    I see our nation being judged and since I am part of this nation, I don’t want to stand in front of Jesus and say “when did I do this unto you ?” I don’t want to argue with my Savior. I want yes you are correct and we as a nation need to repent.

  23. Jesus in fact did teach collective judgment in Matthew 25. Nations are judged! When did we see you naked, hungry, lonely, imprisoned? Maybe we can add shot, lynched, enslaved, judicially bullied.
    I see our nation being judged and since I am part of this nation, I don’t want to stand in front of Jesus and say “when did I do this unto you ?” I don’t want to argue with my Savior. I want yes you are correct and we as a nation need to repent.

  24. Harry B. says:

    Gina said >I personally would like to see Martin Luther King Day abolished. Because he cheated on his wife. To me that matters more than anything else he accomplished. It always will.

    Though I strongly disagree with the content of this sentence, I appreciate the moral clarity with which Gina speaks.

    The study of ethics and moral reasoning is making logical or rational decisions about things we prioritize or value when they involve decisions or people where the morality of the action is not entirely clear. We do not often discuss moral reasoning in the church, but it is there in the scriptures. Jesus prioritized saving the ox, feeding the apostles, and healing the sick over honoring the Sabbath. These are all ethical dilemmas, where doing a morally good action comes at the cost of doing a conflicting morally bad action. His choices showed that he valued the Sabbath (since he observed the Sabbath most of the time), but it was subordinate to promoting the welfare of others (since he chose to do that, even if it “broke” the Sabbath).

    What do we value in the church? Since moral reasoning is typically unspoken at church, reasonable people can come to different conclusions about what values the church prioritizes, but these are the conclusions that I have drawn.

    1) We often place personal purity and righteousness over other good actions. At least up until 2016, personal righteousness/purity was often discussed and promoted in church as a characteristic that we should seek to uphold among those in public office. In this regard, Gina’s statement above–while shockingly frank–reflects a common value judgement espoused in the church where a person’s fidelity to marriage commitments overrides any other action they may perform.

    2) Loyalty to other members of the church will often trump other good actions. Serving other members in need is often more highly valued that serving others who are needy. We are also encouraged to overlook personal sins (like sexual infidelity) when the sinner has shown a commitment to repenting and staying in the church community–and so I would argue that loyalty to the group often overrides other moral failures in the church (though clearly, Gina would disagree).

    3) Respecting the authority of the prophet and other church leaders often trumps all. How many times have we had lessons on the value of a living prophet versus the scriptures? Common sayings in the church like “follow the prophet [or substitute other leaders], and you’ll be blessed for obedience even if the thing they ask is not right” and “when the prophet speaks, the thinking is done” suggest to me that upholding and honoring the prophet is often the highest moral action that we can perform in the church. I would argue that following the prophet takes precedence over loyalty to other church members, since those who voice views that conflict with the prophet are typically tossed out of the group of members pretty quickly for being disloyal. [As an aside, it is only this value of honoring the prophet that could make early church polygamy acceptable to the membership, who otherwise highly valued personal purity just as Gina does–though I cannot say whether Gina views polygamy as morally acceptable or not].

    It is clear the OP, however, is promoting a very different morality–one that promotes the equality of all human beings. The author’s argument is prioritizing equality (both in the church and outside of it) to such a high degree that he is willing to eliminate a narrative strand of the Book of Mormon (which is a disloyal suggestion) and say that past and current leaders are not committed enough to equality (which disrespects their authority).

    Here’s my personal take–if we accept the author’s view of morality, we can no longer stay Mormon (at least in the typical sense–since Mormon values will conflict to some degree). But is the current Mormon sense of morality worth defending?

    Advocating for the prophet to change and fix this is the only way one can accept the author’s morality and stay Mormon–because once the prophet changes, that becomes the new Mormon morality. But this is a catch-22, since agitating for change in the church also gets you ousted from the church.

  25. Kevin Christensen says:

    In the wake of the current Black Lives Matter sea change, it is appropriate for LDS to do some self reflection, and self-examination, the point of which is to see clearly so that we can act morally. However, the recommendations about the LDS scriptures do not show evidence of seeing clearly. For instance, Bennet refers to Alma 3:6 on “the skins of the Lamanites were dark” and dismisses “apologist’s credulity to believe that “skin of blackness” refers to animal skins” without bothering to mention Alma 3:5 which explicitly refers to “skin which was girded about their loins.” In an important but too neglected article in the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies in 2015, “Skins as Garments in the Book of Mormon: A Textual Exegesis” Ethan Sproat makes a careful and detailed argument that this is the case. One of his initial observations involves how all commenters on Alma 3:6 ignore the implications of Alma 3:5. In a recent Interpreter essay, I made further observations on how the many white/ pure and filthy garments passages in the Book of Mormon all have the same context and meaning.

    Bennet refers to the 2 Nephi 2:5 “skin of blackness” passage. Nibley, Sorenson and others have for decades noted that this is exactly Hebrew and Egyptian idiomatic language that refers to moral behavior. I lately realized that this is the single occurance of the phrase in the LDS scriptures, and that none of the subsequent authors and editors in the Book of Mormon have the same Ancient Near Eastern background as Nephi, and that is likely why no one repeats the phrase. There are similar passages in the Bible, such as Lamantations 4:7-8, and these are discussed at length at the Blacks in Scriptures website. And there is 2 Nephi 26:33 on “all are alike unto God.”

    Hugh Nibley argued pursuasively in Abraham in Egypt almost 40 years ago that there is nothing in our Book of Abraham about race. There Pharaoh is attempting to claim a patriarchal priesthood through a matrilinial line. There is nothing about skin or race. He also observes that Joseph of Egypt married Aseneth, the daughter of the Priest of On.

    Our Book of Moses 7 has the two references in verse 8 and 22, but these say nothing about priesthood, and should be read in terms of ancient Near Eastern conventions, rather than anachronistic modern conventions. Stirling Adams wrote an essential essay in BYU Studies on The Curse of Noah that shows the origins and purpose of the misreading of the curse of Canaan and the misapplication of that verse to blacks. The tradition he describes in detail is the source of the LDS problem. It was in inheritance from outside, not inherent and defining LDS belief. And Andre Orlov has suggested comparing our Enoch passages with the uses in 1 Enoch 85:3-9, 89:9.

    2 Nephi 25:1-5 argues that we cannot understand the things of the Jews save we are taught after the manner of the things of the Jews. In Fiddler on the Roof, Tvye refers to their practice of always keeping their heads covered and wearing prayers shawls, reporting that “Because of our traditions, each of us knows who he is and who God expects him to be.” In 4 Nephi, the change from being one, “the children of Christ” to class and tribal divisions starts with “pride, such as the wearing of costly apparel” 4 Nephi 24, and escalates to rebellion against the Gospel, and teaching children to hate. But notice, that there is not a word about skin in 4 Nephi. Why not?

    If I came across Othello strangling Desdemona, he might prefer in that moment that I emphathize with his understandable feelings of shame and betrayal and anger. But what he really needs is someone to tell him that Desdemona is innocent. It is one thing to label and dismiss LDS apologists as “credulous” and quite another to carefully examine and discuss their best readings. It’s rather like the difference between peaceful protestors and rioters. Both have understandable grievances, who is making the most persuasive case? And who truely represents the larger community and present moment?

  26. Just here to thank jb the comment. Apparently others are too woke to acknowledge, consider, learn from etc… the important perspective of a descendant of slavery.

  27. @Gina Everyone has an issue that is most important to them. For some it’s abortion, others it is racial equality, for some it might be tax rates. These “hot button” topics will decide how someone votes and typically will override any other out policy issue. It looks like you are equating adultery with racism and you’re the first voter I’ve met who has adultery as their “hot button”. So one question – who did you vote for in 2016? You don’t have to answer….

    I think I see your point that you are trying to make – that we shouldn’t remove statues of people just because they were racist. When it comes to the confederacy though, they were traitors who betrayed their country in order to continue a practice that had already been outlawed in most of the world. The confederacy, like the Nazis, belong in a museum where we can remember them – not celebrate them. They are a stain on history just like the Nazis. Not sure why Germans understand the difference and Americans can’t. Yes, we’ve reached the point where Germans can teach us lessons on racial morality – wow. Guess it isn’t surprising when we have to rely on free social media platforms to stop our president from sharing hate-filled racist propaganda.

  28. @JustMe – JB like other black republicans represent approximately 2% of the voices from “descendants of slavery”. Somehow to you the 98% is “woke” and dumb and the 2% is certainly right? That’s only because they agree with you. The minute that JB disagrees with your ideology he’ll be back in the 98% for you.

    As a black (“descendant of slavery” to you) member of the church I find JB’s viewpoint myopic and it glosses over many of the statements made by church leaders well into the 20th century. I’ll address him in a different post though. Will my comments hold equal weight with you since I’m a descendant of slavery? Will it hold 8X the weight since that’s how many more descendants of slavery would typically agree with me on issues of racial equality?

  29. Chase, this week in San Francisco statues of Junipero Serra and Francis Scott Key were pulled down. I do not remember them being considered traitors to their nations.
    Are we going to change our national anthem because the man who wrote it was a slave owner? The sign that marked George Washington’s church pew in Virginia was removed years ago because he was a slave owner. Are we going to pull down the Washington Monument or rename the city? When will this end? This is mob rule.

  30. Chase, this week in San Francisco statues of Junipero Serra and Francis Scott Key were pulled down. I do not remember them being considered traitors to their nations.
    Are we going to change our national anthem because the man who wrote it was a slave owner? The sign that marked George Washington’s church pew in Virginia was removed years ago because he was a slave owner. Are we going to pull down the Washington Monument or rename the city? When will this end? This is mob rule.

  31. @Wendy While I was in SF earlier this week, it wasn’t me pulling down the statues I promise. While I personally believe that we should not remove statues or rename streets simply because someone owned slaves during that time period – I believe there is more context involved than that when making these decisions. I wouldn’t vote to remove or rename GW or change our national anthem. These examples are different than the confederacy though. Confederates are traitors who took to arms to uphold their perceived right to murder black people without consequence. IMO since we can’t even get people to remove symbols the confederacy, we get to this point you describe of “mob rule” where the pendulum will swing the other way. This will continue until we can have open detailed discussion about what we need to accept and acknowledge, what we need to reconcile, and how we want to treat each other moving forward.

    I’m not excusing it in any way – but I believe the statues being pulled down this week in SF is in part an act of rage from the result from inaction. Just like the riots this month are rage as a result of inaction of the peaceful protests that happened 4 years ago. Not only was there inaction 4yrs ago, we sat by while the president and his cronies actually told peaceful protestors to leave the country if they don’t like it. This is not to excuse it at all – but it is fair to assess how our actions may contribute to it.

  32. Katie Keller says:

    Chase
    I see nowhere in jb’s post that she says she is Republican. Or is that just another label like racist that is used to dismiss opinions that differ from yours.

  33. Lucy B. says:

    I am a little confused here. Why should a leader in the NAACP get to decide when the LDS Church has done enough? Does President Nelson get to pronounce to the NAACP that they have not yet done enough for the LDS Church?
    The two organizations have different missions. Our Church needs to focus on the mission of the Church and allow the NAACP to fulfill the mission it was formed to fulfill. We are under no obligation to change our behavior to meet their needs. And besides, I think the leader is making bad judgements. We have donated a couple of million dollars to fund part of a Black museum and rewritten our self-reliance program to meet the needs of inner city Blacks who are bj or LDS. I have yet to read of the NAACP sponsoring LDS missionaries.

  34. @Katie
    I did think it was clear by his statements like cancel culture – which is a nice buzzphrase that conservatives use when they want to shame people for holding others accountable. If “conservative” is less offensive to you than republican then we can use that. I don’t believe he was hiding or ashamed of his republican affiliation – there’s no need to. I do believe that all these labels need to die and it’s very clear this country needs more than two viable political parties, but I would never dismiss someone’s opinion simply because of their political affiliation – it’s ridiculous and a major part of the problem in the US today that we would dismiss someone’s views because of political party. So you are correct about one thing – who JB votes for doesn’t change any of my statements about his views!

  35. @Lucy I don’t think anyone is saying the leader or the naacp should run our church. So let me understand, when asked is he allowed to have an opinion on how the LDS church is doing with race relations or should he just keep his mouth shut if he doesn’t have something nice to say?

    I thought one of the missions of this church was to be Christ-like including:
    1. To treat others how we expect to be treated – especially those who are in need of help or are being unfairly treated. 2. To repent and seek forgiveness for any transgressions. It seems like when people ask for just these two things from the LDS church so many members feel attacked.

  36. Chas, I merely thanked jb for sharing a perspective, as I am able, also, to thank you for yours.
    It was simply interesting to me that in all the woke chatter around this post, an African American voice was seemingly ignored and I pointed it out.
    More African American voices are claimed to be welcome at BCC but it’s evident that only means certain voices.
    Those who preach the loudest tolerance sermons sometimes struggle to lead out.

  37. Gina:

    I would kindly ask you stop repeating 50 year old allegations by the FBI about Dr. King. He is my hero.

    Giving voice to allegations against an imperfect man made by the FBI over 50 years ago have no value to me. What has value is the huge difference Dr. King made in the lives of many millions of people. His vision and teachings of nonviolent resistance should be embraced by all in these troubled times.

    Unfortunately such comments have been been made to demean Dr. King by a small group of right wing LDS folks for decades, hurting themselves and the Church in the process. I’m not saying that was your intent, but your comments reopen those wounds to my heart.

    Thanks
    jb

  38. Olde Skool says:

    Gina, so, um, how do you feel about Joseph Smith?

  39. @Justme — Obviously you didn’t “just thank jb for his/her perspective”. If you just did that why on earth would anyone reply to you the way I did??  You thanked JB and then for some reason you took a jab at other commenters “that are too woke to acknowledge/learn from his or her post”.  Some of the “woke” people you were intending to insult were probably responding to the racist comments about curses in the premortal life.

    Like I said I appreciate you acknowledging his comments – and mine.   As an old black man in America I also appreciate you mentioning tolerance. Tolerance, acceptance, and understanding is what will bring us all together. But when tolerance and celebration of hateful and racist ideals begins to cause some among us to lose their basic human rights what do you do next? (asking for a friend)

  40. Chas:

    Based on your seemingly oblique endorsement of mob action against property, I assume your must be a Marxist or member of antifa? Right? Probably not, but you used similarly sparse word evidence to brand me as a right-wing, MAGA republican who is basically an Uncle Tom.

    I do want to thank you for giving us a great example of the core source of racism. Humans want to shove everyone into categories and then point out how superior their category is vs others groups. The Book of Mormon is full of such examples and points out their folly.

    Love how you hurry to shove me into an apparently irrelevant 2% group of black folks while you are in the righteous and awesome 98% group when you have NO IDEA of my political predilections or even my gender. Your self righteousness is showing.

    Tribalism is killing us as a nation and as a world. We even see it in the Church, with the old Utah Mormon vs the obviously superior and wiser non-Utah Mormon meme. We should be embracing the vision of unity while recognizing our differences as taught by Dr. King.

    Using words matter to me. I don’t avoid using words because someone might think I am not giving the right signal about my political preferences.. Instead I use them to convey my thoughts to others so they may understand them. In this particular case, I was making my point to an overwhelmingly white LDS audience who understand these terms.

    As with them, I don’t need anyone to tell me how I should feel about racism within or without the Church 150 years ago or now. My black friends and I have been talking this week about how so many white folks are telling us how we should feel and how we should be demanding apologies from anyone who ever said anything racist at any point in time over the last 200 years.

    White folks don’t speak for me. And neither do you.

    The ultimate solution is the one taught by the Savior and which is captured in the statement by Dr. King in 1957:
    “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. ”

    With love.

    jb

  41. Kristine says:

    jb–thanks for refuting Gina’s comments kindly. Dropping in as an admin. here to say that any further such comments about Dr. King will be deleted.

  42. Suburbs of SLC says:

    Re: An apology.

    I’m curious, for those opposed to any kind of apology, what do you feel an apology costs you? It seems the opposition to an apology is based on some sense that you have wronged no one, it all happened long ago, it’s not your fault, they don’t deserve an apology, etc. But at the end of the day, honestly, what would an apology cost you? What would it cost the Church?

    I was deeply touched by the article, “Dear white people, please read ‘White Fragility,'” in the Washington Post (it’s behind a paywall). The Black journalist Jonathan Capehart interviewed Robin DiAngelo, author of the book “White Fragility.” And at the end of the interview, she apologized, on behalf of herself and other white people, for the racism that Mr. Capehart had experienced in his life. He movingly describes crying while listening to her apology and all that it meant to him to hear those words from her. By all accounts, Ms. DiAngelo is innocent, in some individual, moral sense, of racism. In fact, she has actively dedicated her career to combating racism. If anyone should be exempt from apology, it should be her. But she was not too proud to apologize and by doing so, she had a profound effect on the recipient.

    An apology is not a magic, get-out-of-jail-free card that fixes everything. Not every Black person is looking for an apology, and I can imagine a lot of ways in which an apology from the Church could end up as insincere or tone deaf. But done right, it costs us *nothing* to apologize, while the potential benefits could be very real and very significant. For some, it could be the start of some long-overdue healing. “I don’t wanna” or “it wasn’t me” just isn’t a good enough reason to reject any kind of apology out of hand.

    Re: BOM

    I’m sympathetic to those who don’t want to delete phrases or verses from the scriptures. And I appreciate the apologist theories out there, about animal skins or cultural differences or (my personal favorite), the idea that racism–including among the prophets themselves–was one of the things that destroyed Nephite society, and that Moroni was trying to warn us of that.

    But if any of those is the right answer, then the Church, loudly and as an institution, needs to announce that as the answer and spread the news far and wide. Only a tiny percentage of members read apologist literature and are aware of these alternative interpretations. And virtually no members are coming across this information until adulthood. That means years and years of being taught as children that black skin is a curse. I attended seminary in high school in Utah a little over a decade ago, and even then, it was widely and consistently taught by multiple teachers that in the resurrection, all people would have white skin because God would eventually remove the curse of dark skin.

    So if you think you have some way to explain away the apparent racism in the Book of Mormon, great. Glad to hear it. But for that to be an appropriate response to the concerns in the OP, these explanations need to be proclaimed to every single member, beginning in primary; not buried in journals that reach a few hundred members while the rest of us go on repeating and repeating racist teachings.

  43. Aussie Mormon says:

    Suburbs:
    Can someone give a real apology if they don’t feel guilt? (Whether because they are genuinely not guilty, or just don’t feel guilty).
    They can express sympathy — they might even use the word sorry — but that’s not actually an apology.
    Is an insincere apology better than no apology?

  44. Geoff - Aus says:

    Suppose your wife is hurt by something you have done, you may not even know what you did, you have no guilt over it. Would it make her feel better if you apologise, might it improve your relationship, does it cost you anything? Do you only apologise if you feel guilt? Or do you explain to her that you feel no guilt, so you will not aplogise, so she can just deal with it? Which will lead to peace?

    apology

    /əˈpɒlədʒi/

    noun

    1.

    a regretful acknowledgement of an offence or failure.

    No mention of guilt. By apologising you are acknowledging that there is a problem, which you can then cooperate to resolve.

    I am not responsible for the conditions a large proportion of african americans ĺive under, with poverty, lack of affordable healthcare and an unfair legal system, and I do not personally feel guilty, but I can see that a system has been set up by white americans that disadvantages black, and other coloured americans. Whether they feel guilt or not, an apology is a first step toward reconcilliation. In the case of the church too. Taking the position that you do not feel guilt so no apology, does not open a path toward reconcilliation.

    Yes the church leaders can apologise for the past actions of the church, without feeling guilt. But in this case Pres Nelson/ Oaks were in positions of some influence when racism was practiced by the church.

    When Kevin Rudd apologised on behalf of the Australian Government, to the aboriginal people for the stolen generation were you not moved? The aboriginal people certainly appreciated it. Sadly closing the gap has not yet succeeded.

  45. @Chas: only you can answer your question of why you responded to me the way you did. Until this comment, I had submitted six sentences but your assumptions of me are illustrative.
    To note, I referred to jb as a descendant of slavery as that is how jb referred to him or herself. Your parenthetical implication towards an implied slight by me is misguided.

    Tolerance (the act of enduring) is critical to live peacefully but tolerance is neither agreement nor respect. We must choose for ourselves how to live our lives and what our cores beliefs will be but none of us is guaranteed agreement with our perspectives. The advocacy we should seek is that offered to us by the Savior. Graciously Truth isn’t measured by feelings or emotions. Things can feel unfair but in cold measurably facts they may not be. We are learning to serve and comfort each other, but that may or may not ever come with agreement.

    While one must question nearly every thing in the media nowadays, two hopeful examples of this are a recent photograph from the UK showing a black BLM protestor carrying a white far- right protestor (that’s the caption description, not mine) to safety after he was injured. The second example happened in KY, where a police officer found himself separated and alone. Protestors realized the situation and circled to protect him until his unit came.

    I wish you all the best.

  46. A reader says:

    I’m sorry but not surprised to see how the discussion has unfolded here–yet another demonstration of the emotional intensity with which everything apparently has to be debated these days with everyone hastening to their corners. The OP raises some important issues, whether one agrees with the recommendations or not. Personally, I am not actually sure where I stand on the questions of apologies, revision to scripture, etc. I think what would be most helpful from the church, speaking as an institution and therefore coming through the top leaders, would be a full, honest, grown-up discussion of the matter that acknowledges the complexities, the pain, and the difficulty of moving forward on this subject, along with strong affirmation of the bedrock principles of equality and unity. If we could see that our leaders are wrestling with these questions like the rest of us, it might not matter as much whether the word “apology” was there.

  47. Benjamin says:

    Thanks Christine. Your refusal to allow comments that conflict with your narrow views has accomplished something nothing else could have done. I have been a never Trumper since the day he announced his candidacy. But you have convinced me that the Democrats want no open debate. So I will vote for Trump this fall.
    May God forgive you for your failure to honor freedom of the press.

  48. One name David Garrow

  49. After years of reading and posting here I am still amazed at how fragile the administrators here are to open debate. I can only surmise that Kristine was trained in a Communist reeducation camp.
    Commenting on why the frailties of one side’s icons mirror those of the other side of the debate is obviously not allowed.
    I suppose if we admit to tarnish we can no longer pretend our leaders are golden. They must be constructed of some baser metal.
    Thank you Gina for pointing out exactly where this path is leading.

  50. The other chad says:

    During a 35-year career in PR and crisis communication, our company’s first response when it was discovered we had hurt someone (by their definition) was to apologize and, if appropriate, offer recompense. I never had a problem with this because those steps match those required for repentance, which Pres. Nelson says is required of racist people (but not institutions?).

    As for apologists explanations for “dark:” that is what is chasing my children from the church. Not the explanations themselves, but the fact that it takes so many words/paragraphs/pages to try to explain away what is plain in print.

  51. Kristine says:

    Oh, good grief. Gina is not some brave truthteller. She’s rehearsing extraordinarily tired allegations against MLK, which have an unfortunate history in our church. They’re irrelevant to the discussion here and boring. I’m not afraid of hearing them, but life is short and there are urgent matters at hand.

  52. Wallace K says:

    You will have to excuse me but I find the writings of Johanna Brooks to be self-important and pretentious. I chose not to be directed by her prescriptions of what I need to do at this juncture in time. So you lost the argument with me the minute you included her.
    I do not believe the scriptures should be modified. I do not believe statues should be torn down. I do not believe new apologies are needed. And I totally reject any notion of collective racial guilt. And when the NAACP cares to donate 2 million dollars to a Mormon museum in Salt Lake City, I will give some weight to their opinion as to who is doing enough for the other.
    And Kristine, please take your schoolmarm attempts at controlling the debate by deleting comments somewhere else. We are adults. We can handle tough things. Including ideas and opinions that disagree with our most closely cherished dreams. If you wish to hear from one side of the debate, schedule a fireside and appoint yourself speaker. I want to hear examples such as Gina’s that point out that the logic used by one side can also be used by another to demand actions the other side would not appreciate.
    Where have our campus safe spaces led us? To people unable to defend their ideas.

  53. Kristine says:

    And yet, all of these comments are still here…

  54. Deidre Johnson says:

    Kristine, you need to update your knowledge. In 2019, David Garrow, who won a Pulitzer prize for his biography of Martin Luther King Jr., examined FBI documents that confirmed Dr. King’s many adulteries. He wrote about his findings. He included an interview with one of the women who had become a state legislator.
    Gina had as much right to use that example of why we should not let him be lionized as the current protesters do in their arguments as to why they are justified in tearing down statues and defacing public property. The original post asks us to develop our moral reasoning. Why are you trying to stifle examples that require just that of us?

  55. Kristine says:

    I didn’t say he didn’t. I just said it was irrelevant to the current discussion. No one needs MLK to be perfect to justify tearing down statues that were erected to terrorize and intimidate African Americans.

  56. Wallace K says:

    Kristine, you are the one who stated you would be deleting any new comments that referred to MLK. We thank you for your maturity in not doing so. But the threatening comment you made to stop people who disagreed with you is also still here.

  57. Jeannette says:

    Unfortunately, the FBI transcripts also state MLK both witnessed and encouraged a rape. I would like to wait for the actual recordings, but they will not be released for another 7 years. For now. I want his statues uprooted and removed. MLK may not have needed to be perfect to do good work, but encouraging a rapist?
    So I guess Gina doesn’t need to be perfect either to advocate tearing down statues of MLK. Perhaps she sees those statues as meant to silence abuse victims. Perhaps she sees them as public celebrations of powerful men lying to women, cheating on women, and silencing those who call them out. And perhaps she believes that if we are in the process of reexamine our heroes, this is the time to reexamine MLK. Perhaps she is calling on progressives to apply to themselves the same logic they demand of others.

  58. Jeremiah Stone says:

    I think it DOES make sense for institutions to issue apologies. Obviously, apologies need to be followed by attempts to make restitution—to even the playing field so that everyone has the same chance to succeed when putting in the same amount of effort. The Church DID withhold the Priesthood and essential ordinances from anyone who had “even a drop” of African blood. The scriptures that teach that darker skin is a curse that must be borne WERE used as a justification for this policy. There is no way to undo the damage that was done by this, and it WAS damage.
    I think the appropriate action moving forward is NOT making sure that members with European ancestry feel guilt about it. It is to acknowledge the offense that was done, and the damage it caused, to fix any structural issues that might be perpetuating it, and for the institutional Church to issue a frank apology. This problem is a wicked “tradition of our fathers” that we are trying to root out.

    Perhaps the scriptures that teach about dark skin being a spiritual curse really are the racism of the writers showing. Scripture is given by God THROUGH the writer, and shows the assumptions and biases of the writer. Much like the Confederate statues, I don’t know that removing them is the best thing to do. Maybe they should be kept around as a sign of the weakness of men, and a reminder that we can wound one another and think we are somehow spiritually justified in doing so. They have to be put into context and carefully discussed.

    To summarize: 1. Guilt isn’t the point, 2. It’s important to acknowledge wrongs that are done (not bury or ignore them), 3. Restitution is a crucial piece (restoring lost opportunities that dominant groups take for granted), 4. Apologies are an important step (institutions can harm people and therefore the Church CAN apologize for its mistakes), and 5. Learn from the past by discussing past wrongs—not to make anyone feel guilty, but to point out the dangers inherent in the human condition.

    Are we angered and annoyed by the need to acknowledge the sins of our fathers, to apologize, and to fix things? It’s not about us personally having done anything wrong–but a way for us to bear one another’s burdens that they may be light.

  59. Bill Parker says:

    Rather than hear from white academics, whose logic always seems out of touch, I would like to hear from Black church members. Can we have a few blog posts from them?
    I know they will not all agree. I would find it strange if they did. I want to hear them speak about their experiences in society, in our church, in schools and work settings.
    We cannot repair everything that makes us feel separate. As a divorced woman, I have felt an outsider ever since I aged out of my singles ward and joined a family ward. As another single friend explained it, the only time she has been allowed to feel like a contributing acceptable church member is in the singles ward. But maybe just being aware of what separates us can help us reach for common ground and learn to appreciate and celebrate our different backgrounds and experiences. To truly include all, we could perhaps include some Black voices as authors on this blog.

  60. Isn’t jb white with a little African ancestry, from prior comments the last couple of years, or is that someone else? Having African ancestry doesn’t make you Black.

    The OP recommends “every Mormon of conscience should start by reading Joanna Brooks’s recently published” book. Strongly disagree. Every member of conscience should, however, actively seek out and listen to the experiences of Black, Indigenous, and Latinx members.

  61. Geoff-Aus says:

    I am amazed and disturbed at the push back to this post. Are those pushing back saying racism should stay, or are they objecting on a technical level?

    There has been a technique of diversion in many discussions recently, where someone who does not agree, rather than arguing the point seeks to divert, is this whats happening here?

    Does everyone agree that there is racism, and we should unite to remove it? Then the discussion is about how we can each, individually and collectively do that.

  62. @JB
    Tyvm for your comments and posts! Yes, I assume you’re republican if you’re using the catch phrase coined by the president’s daughter.  I don’t think I’ve heard anyone else use that term and I’m really not sure what I did is a “classic example of racism” but ok, I do apologize for making that assumption – especially if I was incorrect in your support of Trump. But let’s be clear – all I did is assume that you support and voted for the sitting president. It’s funny that you jumped to marxism and antifa to find an equivalent. Also, I did make it very clear in my post that I do not support mob rule. What I said about mob rule would be the equivalent of you starting your sentence with “I am in no way a Trump supporter, but I do think in this era of cancel culture…..”

    I did also quote the actual statistics from 2016 regarding African American votes for Trump. Why? Because a commenter posted that the rest of us are all too “woke” to hear your view of a “descendant of slaves”. I was challenging her to see if she cared as much about the opinions of other descendants of slaves that don’t agree with her. I was also making the obvious point that most descendants of slaves won’t agree with her – but certainly all of our individual opinions should be considered equally.

    But let’s get to the heart of the matter. I went back to re-read this post that we’re commenting on here to make sure I didn’t miss anything. Your attacks on the author are confusing, especially this – “Once again we have a white academic with a bit of ‘white savior’ complex calling out the Church to radically change to meet his ‘woke’ consciousness”.

    As someone who’s been fighting racial equality on the “front lines” since the 80s, in my lifetime I have never felt so much support for racial equality in this country and around the world. People I know personally who were against Kapernick kneeling 4yrs ago are now attending multiple rallies and asking me why I’m not out there and more pissed off.  I think this is a very very amazingly good thing!! Yet, it seems that similar actions by this author have prompted you to attack him as “woke and having white savior complex” or “an activist under the guise of academia”. To chastise someone in the way you did for being “too angry” about an issue that we’ve been trying to bring awareness about for decades seems like overkill. Unlike you, I LOVE that my white friends are calling me and telling me that I should be more upset, that I/we should be doing more. While, like I said in an earlier post, I do not agree with all of the calls for removing statues, I am humbly grateful that for the first time in my life I feel like the majority of Americans (and the world) want to have these discussions and talk about ways to address racial equality issues. Why would you choose this moment to ridicule someone who is genuinely trying to advance the discussion on racial inequality and injustice? Why would you get defensive about this? Please know that I am asking you questions, I am not telling you how to think or belittling your comments or position in any way. When people ask or even “tell” me how I should feel, it’s an opportunity to express my opinions directly to someone who is interested in having a conversation about this topic. This is not an opportunity I have had many times in my lifetime.

    For me, while I was anxious to march this month to mark my 5th decade of peaceful protest, I am in a high risk category and I’ve decided to stay home. But I’ve lived in the south and in the deep south, have lived on the east and west coasts and have spent a lot of time with my large family in Utah and Nevada. I have tolerated racist words and actions in my presence and directed towards me since the day I realized what racism was after an incident that happened to me when I was 6 that I still remember like it was yesterday. It sounds like you and your family have had similar experiences. Only mentioning this because it is against this backdrop that your words to the author are confusing to me.

    I think your post about Lincoln was very thought provoking and is an example of the type of discussions we need to be having in the open right now. This is a very hot topic now for obvious reasons and there is a lot of commentary out there on the issue. There was a great opinion piece recently about the difference between statues of Lincoln and statues of confederate generals. IMO it shouldn’t be beneath the church to discuss where on this spectrum some of our founders and leaders sit. And I certainly don’t think someone should not be accused of being “a self-righteous woke white savior” for initiating the discussion.

    And one thing no one mentioned on this – shouldn’t we hold our prophets of the church who are receiving revelations directly from God to a higher standard than US civil servants – elected or appointed?

  63. Thank you Kristine, Geoff, and others for all of your comments on equality.

  64. @JustMe
    Thank you for your response and your words about serving and comforting each other. I also agree that even if people don’t have agreement – tolerance and respect is an absolutely amazing starting point! If we could all make an effort to get there we would live in a better world. I’m not sure I understand your reference about “things seeming unfair but not really being unfair” – is this a reference to racism? I know there are many people who don’t think that racism is actually a problem in America, which is why I’m asking.

    Again, I responded to your initial comment because you seemed to claim that the other commenters were too “woke” to acknowledge or learn from JB and he was being ignored. If that’s not the case then I guess I still don’t understand what you were saying there and I apologize.

  65. @Chas: This post has run it’s course but I owe you answers to your questions.

    My reference to fairness was not specific to racism but generally to all those things in life which we as mortals deem to be “unfair” but may in fact be perfectly fair- for example a lousy consequence to a lousy choice. We may want to whine it is unfair but in truth it was simply a natural result of our own choice or error.

    My original statement in reference to the “woke” was my sheer exhaustion of the “Woke Meter” which I felt was in action for the first bit of this post. Who is the wokest? Who’s perspective is deemed worthy of time and effort to consider? Etc…

    I hear tolerance preached…but can’t find it in the many different levels of woke. It’s not a competition. I’m tired of watching people trying to “out-woke” each other. If we are truly tolerant, we must acknowledge, and try to learn from, those whom we don’t agree. Not for convincing or converting, but for living in peace.

    Thank you for your conversation.
    I am a first time blog commenter and am very nervous. I am conscious of trying to submit an opinion respectfully and choosing my words carefully. I appreciate your patience. If I failed in your estimation, I too, apologize.

  66. When the Buddha started to wander around India shortly after his enlightenment, he encountered several men who recognized him to be a very extraordinary being.

    They asked him, “Are you a god?”

    “No,” he replied.

    “Are you a reincarnation of god?”

    “No,” he replied.

    “Are you a wizard, then?”

    “No.”

    “Well, are you a man?”

    “No.”

    “So what are you?” they asked, being very perplexed.

    “I am awake.”

  67. At the very least, the church needs to do more to unambiguously repudiate the teachings of the past. Their own curriculum writers are unaware of their current efforts so we shouldn’t be surprised to hear regular members repeating outdated, racist interpretations. I’m in a few Come Follow Me facebook groups and there are regular arguments about the “skins” in the Book of Mormon with the bulk of members defending outdated racist readings because these have not been clearly and forcefully repudiated.

  68. Kristine N says:

    @JustMe Glad you’re engaging in the conversation. I have a tendency to wait until posts have almost entirely fizzled to comment, so I don’t know if you’ll see this :)

    There are a lot of lousy consequences that fall disproportionately on BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, if you’re unfamiliar with the acronym). For an example of this, here’s an article in Slate about how punitive fines trap whole families when they’re levied against juveniles:

    https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2020/06/juvenile-debt-families.html

    Is this the kind of natural result you’re referencing? The people who make these rules are mostly White and male and affluent, and they and their loved ones are unlikely to either be caught with drugs because the sort of policing depicted in the article doesn’t happen in White, middle-class or upper-class neighborhoods, or seriously inconvenienced by a $2000 fine if one is even levied in the first place. While we as a society need to have rules and affix consequences to breaking those rules, we also need to be conscious of who those consequences impact and how, and if those impacts are *really* the ones we want.

    I, for one, don’t think it’s a great thing we have a criminal justice system that feeds Black, Indigenous, and POC boys into the prison system for things I saw plenty of White boys do and get away with. When White boys do drugs as teens or in college that behavior gets ignored, and for the most part, in the absence of punitive consequences, the boys grow out of taking drugs and eventually become valued members of society. I have no doubt the same would be true of BIPOC boys if they were given the same leniency.

    We White folk enjoy lives of peace and plenty, but at the same time accept policies that deprive others of that same peace and plenty. BIPOC have put up with so much, and continue to do so, and continue to respond with grace to situations and statements that would make my blood boil if I, an entitled White woman, had to put up with them. You ask for tolerance so you can ‘live in peace.’ I want to live in peace, too, but not at the cost of someone else’s peace. That, for me, is what this request for institutional repentance is about. Make no mistake about it, the church apologizing for past racism will do nothing to materially change the lives of anyone affected by racism, but would signal a willingness to address actually racist policies.

  69. epachamo says:

    While we are at it, we should definitely stop having images of a white Jesus. It is not historically accurate. Why do we make Jesus in our image? Shouldn’t we be trying to make ourselves in his?

  70. I have mixed feelings on the issue of the Church apologizing for the past. On the one hand, I understand the desire of some for that apology. On the other hand, the mob will never be satisfied with anything the Church does: it can say enough, do enough, donate enough, etc., to satisfy the woke and enlightened.

  71. Geoff - Aus says:

    Those who don’t seem to want to help their fellows, call those who do woke. Is there an equally pejorative term for the not woke?
    Mike you say you have mixed feelings about the church apologising, but use term like mob and woke to describe those who have decided. Presumably you are not woke. So not concerned about racial or social injustice. Which in the present time and discussion has you self identifying as racist. Is that offensive? Perhaps you too should become woke?
    Why should the right be the only ones allowed to use offensive terms?
    Are those pushing back against the article, saying I prefer to be racist to being woke?

  72. @Kristine N-
    I am not unfamiliar with BIPOC.
    I clearly stated what “lousy choices and lousy consequences” referred to, and it wasn’t race.
    I’m not sure who “We White folk” is referring to.
    I didn’t ask for tolerance so I can live in peace.
    I said – “If we are truly tolerant, we must acknowledge, and try to learn from, those whom we don’t agree. Not for convincing or converting, but for living in peace.”

    ”If” being a choice of action and “we” being the people who must be tolerant if “we” want peace.

  73. Kristine N says:

    @JustMe For me, “lousy choices and lousy consequences” is pretty vague. Sorry, I’m pretty dense sometimes. Are you thinking of something different to my suggestion? If so, can you give something more specific so I can understand what you’re saying?

    As for tolerance and peace, what are we tolerating? Just differences of opinion? What does that look like to you?

  74. @KristineN-
    I am new to commenting but not to comment boards.
    My comments are not complicated nor hard to understand. It will be up to you to make of them what you will.

    Let’s continue on our separate ways.