Erasing Race

We’ve had some outstanding Relief Society lessons in my ward this year, owing to the great teachers we have. Recently, we were talking about how to talk with people not of our faith or culture, basically how to get along with everyone without being a jerk. Something like that. I was in and out a little bit. [Read more…]

On Standing against White Supremacy

Tinesha Zandamela is a BYU student double majoring in Sociology and French, with plans to go to law school. She has worked as a director of a nonprofit in Utah. Tinesha published a book about her experiences as a biracial Mormon woman that is available on Amazon KindleThis is an excerpt of a speech she gave at “Stand Against White Supremacy and Racism Candlelight Vigil” in Provo, Utah on August 20th. The speech was not given verbatim, but it was almost identical to the written version below.

Over the last few days, people have asked how they can take action to stop racial injustice. And of course, with any large issue, there’s not one simple thing that anyone can do to end racial intolerance and bigotry in your communities.

It may be easy to look at other communities and easily identify the issues they have. It is much harder to do that in our own community. When I speak of community, I mean more than this city. Your community includes your friends, your family, and your co-workers and anyone else you spend time around and share your life with. Community encompasses a lot.   [Read more…]

30 Years Ago In White Supremacy

Image may contain: 16 people, people smiling, people standing and outdoorThirty years ago I was a sophomore at BYU majoring in English. I lived in a house with 4 other women just two blocks south of BYU campus. 4 of us were LDS, and one was a Methodist film major who came to BYU to be near Robert Redford. I was at that time peripherally connected to some of the students who ran the Student Review, an off-campus paper that riffed on BYU culture and published student opinion pieces and poetry. We were all deeply troubled by a news story that broke in November of 1987, a story a few of our readers may remember.

A white supremacist group called Aryan Nations was coming to Utah. [Read more…]

Eliminating Any Lingering Disapproval Of Interracial Marriage

I have a weirdly vivid memory of the early 1990s moment when I first learned that some people frown on interracial marriages.  I was approximately five years old and living in Florida.  While playing one afternoon, I stumbled upon a wedding invitation for a mixed-race couple in my ward.  The invitation included an engagement photo, and said the wedding would be held in a few weeks at the chapel.

[Read more…]

Lord, Is It I?

This morning, as I read my Twitter feed, I came to Jack Jenkins, a religion reporter for Think Progress, asking for examples of sermons addressing racism.  As of when I’m writing this, he tweeted out eight examples of sermons representing an array of Christian denominations.

Meanwhile, Guthrie Graves-Fitzgerald tweeted a photo of Charlottesville clergy marching, united, against the racism that invaded—and tried to infect—their city. [Read more…]

Peace and Love to Charlottesville

I love Charlottesville.  For nearly a decade, Charlottesville has been my favorite retreat from the chaos of big cities.  I have family who live, just barely outside of cell-signal range, in the breathtaking rolling hills west of town.  My fiancé, Brad, attended – and I seriously considered attending – the University of Virginia Law School.  I love visiting.  I’ve explored its romantic colonial streets; hiked its peaceful mountains; day-dreamed about living there forever.

But this year Charlottesville has become a flashpoint for racial tension.  After years of studied discussion, the City Council voted in February to remove confederate statutes and rename two confederate-honoring parks.  (One of those parks, Stonewall Jackson park, was built after the city in 1914 seized land from private citizens in order to destroy a burgeoning black community.)  The parks have since been renamed, but plans to remove the statute stalled when the City was sued under a state law protecting historic monuments.  A month ago a small KKK rally at Justice Park (formerly Stonewall Jackson park) was overwhelmed by a thousand counter-protestors.  When a “Unite the Right” group applied for a permit to hold a further rally, they had to obtain a federal court order protecting their right to free speech.  Counter-protestors again rallied to flood the streets.

[Read more…]

Columbus and Accountability

“And I looked and beheld a man among the Gentiles,
who was separated from the seed of my brethren by the many waters;
and I beheld the Spirit of God, that it came down and wrought upon the man;
and he went forth upon the many waters, even unto the seed of my brethren,
who were in the promised land.”

1 Nephi 13:12

Posthumous portrait of Christopher Columbus by Sebastiano del Piombo, 1519 (source: http://tinyurl.com/zrkzztj)

Posthumous portrait of Christopher Columbus by Sebastiano del Piombo, 1519 (source: http://tinyurl.com/zrkzztj)

The Wall Street Journal recently ran an opinion piece by David Tucker, a senior fellow at the Ashbrook Center at Ashland University in Ohio, in which Dr. Tucker is willing to go part of the distance in reducing cultural adoration of Christopher Columbus. After acknowledging many of the negative consequences for native peoples of Columbus’s actions — and rehabilitating Columbus by arguing that we only condemn him now because of the European values that he brought to the New World, primarily the notion of Equality (?!) enshrined in the Declaration of Independence — Dr. Tucker states “[t]his Columbus Day we need no triumphalism. Let it be a day instead to ponder the human capability for good and evil and wonder how we might encourage more of the good.”[1]

I don’t think this goes far enough in dealing with Columbus’s legacy — especially for me as a Mormon who has so deeply internalized the Church’s teachings about the importance of the principle of accountability in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But for the past few years, I’ve posted my thoughts about Columbus and Columbus Day on social media and I’ve received substantial push back on my criticism of Columbus, specifically from Mormon friends and family. Again, today, I’m aware that many are claiming that denouncing Columbus is just an example of political correctness run amok. [Read more…]

Empty seats: Black, White, and Mormon Conference

bwmormon“Make sure to get there early and save me a seat.” I texted my husband.

See, I figured that a free conference on the important and sometimes controversial topic of Black Saints in the Mormon fold would have filled the Utah Museum of Fine Art auditorium.

Turns out I needn’t have worried so much. And in a conference full of heartbreaking stories, the fact that there were so many empty seats ranked up there as the saddest thing I witnessed.

But we can change that. We must change that. We can virtually fill those empty seats and sit back and listen and learn from our Black Brothers and Sisters because the Tanner Humanities Center just released the videos to the conference.

Why is this important? Because these men and women are, as they explain “speaking truth” and opening their mouths and hearts in the most vulnerable ways and giving us a glimpse at shared and individual past pain so that we can work together to do what we can to avoid future pain.

And we must do it quickly. Because amidst the spiritual power, the eloquence, the laughter, the anger, the intellect, the creativity, I witnessed something else:

Fatigue. [Read more…]

On Lifting the Priesthood and Temple Ban

The Daily Universe, BYU's Student Newspaper, June 9, 1978 (source: http://tinyurl.com/nwyme3v)

The Daily Universe, BYU’s Student Newspaper, June 9, 1978 (source: http://tinyurl.com/nwyme3v)

What was obvious[1] fell into long desuetude just a little over twenty years after the Church was established:

“And of Zion it shall be said, This and that man was born in her: and the highest himself shall establish her. (Psalm 87:5.)

Those who join God’s people in Zion leave the world and all its distinctions behind. Though a man be born in Rahab or Babylon; Philistia, Tyre, or Ethiopia — that is, heathen, black, white, or of a tribe traditionally hostile to God’s chosen people — it shall be said of him once he has joined himself with the cause of Zion, “this man was born there” (Psalm 87:4). We are assured that “[t]he Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob” (Psalm 87:2). For this very reason, “Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God” (Psalm 87:3). All who join with Zion are of Zion: “this man was born there.” Joseph Smith seems to have understood this intuitively, authorizing the ordination of several black converts, including most famously Elijah Abel, to the priesthood.[2] [Read more…]

A Martin Luther King, Jr. Family Home Evening

I truly hope that Mormons around the United States (and elsewhere!) will make use of the fortuitous confluence of the (U.S.) national holiday commemorating the work and memory of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Monday evening Family Home Evening program that we enjoy in the Church. [Read more…]

Lift Every Voice and Sing

In honor of Martin Luther King, jr., whose birthday we celebrate today, here is the Black National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing”:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ya7Bn7kPkLo]

[Read more…]

A Day of Fasting and Prayer

Nicolas Kristof has done us a great service in bringing to the nation’s (and world’s) attention the depraved and cowardly kidnapping of hundreds of Nigerian girls by the Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram. Boko Haram means “Western education is a sin” in the Hausa language. All that “secular” learning. Boko Haram would rather conflate religion and the state, ensuring that women have no voice in society, confined to whatever influence their husbands allow them in their homes in the forced marriages into which they are sold in their early or mid-teens. [Read more…]

Polygamy, Society, and the Mormons

When I returned to my office after winter break, I found two large brown boxes (with “Joe Christensen” written on the sides) waiting for me in the mailroom. I was pretty sure I knew what they held and, sure enough, upon opening them, I saw copies of Taxing Polygamy, my (finally published!) article dealing with the difficulties that a regime of legally-recognized polygamy would present to the U.S. tax system.

And, in celebration of its finally being published, I thought I’d do a little polygamy-blogging, starting with this broad introductory post.  [Read more…]

Attractive Lies and Boring Truth

A guest post from Mike Austin. Mike is Provost, Vice President for Academic Affairs, and Professor of English at Newman University in Wichita, Kansas, a member of the Dialogue Board of Directors, and a generally all-around great guy.

Trouble, Right Here in Sal Tlay Ka Siti

“I always think there’s a band, kid.” —Professor Harold Hill in The Music Man

By the time that I figured out that I hated The Music Man, it had been my favorite musical for more than 20 years. When I was ten, my mother took me to see Tony Randall as Professor Harold Hill at the Tulsa Little Theatre, and I was hooked. I listened to the LP for hours at a time, and, when the Robert Preston/Shirley Jones movie came to HBO a few years later, I watched it almost every day for two months. I have seen five stage versions and two film versions of the play a total of probably 30 times. I probably have most of the lines by heart. [Read more…]

Latent Racism, Orientalism and “Magic Underwear” in American Society and Mitt Romney’s Presidential Campaign

African Muslim Men in Religious Attire, source http://www.thingsoftheday.com/?p=3285

As I made my way through the crowded local Costco recently, I stepped back a moment and appreciated the diversity surrounding me. Although approximately 92% of the population in the UK is white, about 45% of the remaining 8% of the UK population that are ethnic minorities live in London. And we’ve enjoyed having a high concentration of this 45% in and around the area of London where I currently reside. We have become accustomed to seeing people in their religiously significant daily dress in all circumstances, from the morning school run, to regular visits to the supermarket, to going to movies in the cinema and just about everywhere else. (In fact, it is not unusual for us to see such dress in our LDS ward on Sunday as investigators from all of these ethnic and religious backgrounds politely keep their commitment to the missionaries working in the area to visit us and see what the Church is all about.)
[Read more…]

Pluralism and Persecution in the UK

Despite the Telegraph’s deliberately provocative title (“Christians are more militant than Muslims, says Government’s equalities boss”), which doesn’t accurately reflect the content of the article, the Chairman of the UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission recently raised some interesting points and makes some insightful observations about integration, pluralism and claims of religious persecution in modern society (ht:M*). [Read more…]

A Few Thoughts on the LDS Church’s New Statement on Immigration

The LDS Church issued a new statement today regarding immigration policy in the United States. This is not a new topic, of course. However, the statement from the Newsroom this morning is a little bit different from past missives, I think. The full text of the statement can be found here, but here are a few of the main passages, along with my thoughts on them.

  • “As a matter of policy, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints discourages its members from entering any country without legal documentation, and from deliberately overstaying legal travel visas.”
  • [Read more…]

Immigration Lolz

Imagine, if you would, the phrase ‘neener neener neener,’ sung to the tune of the Hallelujah Chorus…
[Read more…]

Leaping to conclusions or asking rational questions?

So last week, I started listening to a new podcast. Slate’s Hang Up and Listen podcast features three sports reporters and their topic last week was, amongst other things, the Brandon Davies situation (already much discussed elsewhere at BCC). I’d like you to follow the link and listen to the Davis segment before continuing onward; don’t worry, I’m patient. [Read more…]

Thar He

The recent events in Egypt have kept me thinking about our history of non-violent protest in the United States.  Between the observance of Martin Luther King day in January and Black History month, I’ve tried to make a formal study of the speech that King delivered in Washington, D.C. in August, 1963.  You can read the text of the speech or watch it online.  I found that my appreciation grew the more I studied the speech and the events leading up to it.  In particular, I’ve come to appreciate how important it was for King to emphasize “the fierce urgency of now”, because at that time we still lived under a regime of racial segregation.  We see August, 1963 as a watershed moment for civil rights in America.  It is hard for us to now imagine how deeply our country  was divided by racial hatred and ignorance.  King and the others in the SCLC displayed enormous personal courage by their actions — it could not have been an easy thing to stand in the street as mounted policemen rode towards you, swinging lengths of rubber hose wrapped with barbed wire — but it is also important to remember that others before them also exemplified moral courage, sometime at great personal cost.  This post is about one of those men. [Read more…]

Ill-Gotten Gains & Illegal Immigration

I hope that Kevin Barney will forgive me for slicing the lunch meat deli-thin by using his post on tithing practices as a springboard for this related post. In my defense, I’ve been meaning to write something like this for months, but just haven’t gotten around to it until I saw a comment from reader Martin in Kevin’s thread and feared my window was closing quickly.

According to Scott Trotter, a spokesman for the Church, the LDS Church has “a long-standing policy of not profiting from alleged ill-gotten gains.” In general, this means that the Church does not knowingly accept tithing or other donations which come through unclean hands. What exactly “unclean hands” means in this context is a subject we could probably spend days talking about, but there is (likely) at least some level of common agreement about what would constitute ill-gotten gains among Latter-day Saints. For example, I doubt that many would dispute the ill-gotten nature of funds received through a bank robbery or street-mugging, and most of us would certainly be uncomfortable with the idea of building a temple, distributing welfare care, or sending humanitarian aid to disaster areas with funds that were obtained through such channels. However, those examples aren’t particularly useful to the average Mormon in the pews, since most of us are a) not bank robbers/thugs and b) most of us don’t really even know anyone who is. Thus, our chances for glaring judgmentally and wagging our fingers in disapproval at our neighbors are horribly diminished unless we expand our definition of ill-gotten gains. [Read more…]

Reflections on Another Anniversary

Armand Mauss, author of The Angel and the Beehive, All Abraham’s Children, Neither White nor Black, (with Lester Bush) and scores of important articles on many aspects of Mormonism, has graciously agreed to guest post his reflections on the anniversary of OD2.

I appreciated Greg Prince’s post (8 June) reflecting briefly on his association with Lester Bush and on the issue of LDS racial history for which Lester will always be remembered with admiration. Lester certainly did the hard and meticulous work that uncovered that history and revealed the utter lack of a revelatory basis for the long-standing Church restrictions on people of black African ancestry. My own association with the same issue has been more sociological than historical, although I always benefited enormously by Lester’s pioneering work. [Read more…]

The Long-Awaited Day

In 1973, Dialogue published an article by Lester Bush which traced the history of the LDS church policy banning members of African descent from holding the priesthood. That article itself became an important part of that history, as guest blogger Gregory Prince recounts below. If you’ve never read the article, it would be a great way to commemorate this important day in church history.

Update: In this post, I mentioned that a grandson of President Kimball was said to have seen a copy of the Bush article heavily marked up, apparently by the president. Since then I have tried but been unable to confirm that statement. Ed Kimball, who was close to the situation, indicates to me that he doubts the accuracy of the report. –GP

Thoughts on the 32nd Anniversary

My first contact with Lester Bush was indirect. I was in graduate school at UCLA in 1972 and was dating the Dialogue secretary, whose office was across the street from the campus. I noticed a 2-inch-thick book above her desk with the title Compilation on Blacks. Having completed a mission to Brazil three years earlier, I was well aware of the effects of the policy prohibiting ordination of blacks, but I was fuzzy on the cause. [Read more…]

Mormon Migration Database: Blacks and Mormonism

Dr. Fred E. Woods at BYU has recently made available an online database of migration primary sources. This project compliments work done by the LDS church on overland trail sources. Work like this allows for extremely precise surveys of lived Mormonism by groups that often fall beneath the radar of history. As an example of the excellent material now available, I present some of the sources relating to immigrating Mormons and people with black-African ancestry. Coming from Northern Europe, many of these immigrants had never seen black people before.

[Read more…]

Missionary Racism

From BCC Guest mmiles

The following is the weekly email update that arrived today from my brother serving a mission in Idaho. [Read more…]

David O. McKay and the Priesthood Ban

In 2005,  David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism was published.  It is a great book, filled with details and insights into the way our church became what it is today.  We learn that during his tenure, President McKay prayed on several occasions for enlightenment concerning the policy which denied the priesthood to black men and temple ordinances to all black people.  His prayers apparently went unanswered.  We often take that to mean that it was God’s will for the ban to remain in place.  [Read more…]

Teaching OD-2

Last Sunday was a personal milestone for me as a Gospel Doctrine teacher. It was the first time I’ve ever taught a class on Blacks and the Priesthood. Come to think of it, it may be the first time I’ve ever been present in a class on Blacks and the Priesthood, whether as teacher or student (though maybe I’ve just forgotten). As someone who has ridden the priesthood ban hobby horse over the years, and who has suffered lots of angst over it, I’ve long wanted to teach this topic, but never before had the right opportunity. Sunday was the first time I felt I had such an opportunity, so I took it.

The assigned chapter from the D&C manual was “Lesson 42: Continuing Revelation to Latter-day Prophets.” When Steve Evans pointed this out to me at Molly Bennion’s post-Sunstone NW party the night before, I started brainstorming various ideas for the lesson, with the help of a few other Sunstone folks, assuming I’d talk about the “nature” of revelation or something. But not until the next morning, when I actually opened the manual, did I realize how mislead I’d been by the lesson title. For this was really the Correlation–KJV Bible–Additional Quorums of the 70–OD-2 lesson, all rolled into one week. One can’t possibly cover all these juicy topics in one lesson (indeed, I found myself wondering if the manual-writers didn’t intentionally put all this material in one chapter for precisely this reason), so I just chose OD-2. I started off by inviting a couple people to read the full declaration. Then we dived right in.
[Read more…]

“White on the outside; white on the inside”

There is a baptism card sold at the BYU bookstore which shows a white girl (cartoon) apparently preparing for baptism.  The upper part of her body is viewable, and she is dressed in white.  The front of the card says, “White on the outside…”  The inside says “And on the inside.  Congratulations on your baptism.” [Read more…]

“The Race Issue:” Thoughts on the State of the Field

Armand Mauss has graciously agreed to post his thoughts on the study of race and the church. Mauss continues to be one of the leading scholars on the race issue over the past four decades and much of what’s been discussed this week can be found in Mauss’s scholarship, notably All Abraham’s Children: Changing Mormon Conceptions of Race and Lineage (U of Illinois Press, 2003).

The only new developments with regard to the race issue, it seems to me, are the recurrent discoveries of that historical issue for the first time by incredulous new members (black or white) and/or by Mormon youth who have grown up without knowing that the Church ever had any racial restrictions. It seems that each generation (or convert) in the Church has to discover anew that skeleton in our historical closet. Having lived with the issue for more than 50 years, I find myself somewhat surprised whenever I encounter the wide-eyed “How-could-this-ever-have-happened?!” demands by younger church members — or at least by the better educated ones. There has long been a substantial and readily accessible scholarly literature on the topic, and a little study of that literature (plus a little ordinary American history) will cover most of the questions people have about when, how, and why we got burdened with the “race issue” until 1978. [Read more…]

The Priesthood Ban and Infallibility

Is it heretical to claim that the ban on blacks holding the Priesthood was a mistake? [Read more…]