Racism and the Mormon Church

Racism and the Mormon Church

 Before I launch into this I want to convey that this is a lot harder than I thought it was going to be.  When I first started this site I thought I had a lot to say.  It turns out I don’t.  I thought I would easily crank out an article a day.  It turns out I’m more shallow than I previously supposed.  That’s more depressing than you would think.  Seriously, try diving head first into ankle deep water.

I have been kicking this around for the last few weeks.  What really got me thinking about it is the Travon Martin case that is being tried in the media. I’m not a lawyer and, as you know, not the brightest knife in the drawer (whaaaaa?) so I’m not going to throw all my “two cents” in about this situation.  But I did want to comment on the racial aspect of it.  What really got me is when Reuters, which is, apparently, a news organization, called George Zimmerman (the man who shot Travon Martin) a “white Hispanic.”   You read correctly, a “white Hispanic.”  Now, being as how I’m not a racist, it wouldn’t bother me if he was white, or Hispanic, but when they combined them both to make political hay, it kind of bothers me. Using their logic Reuters should call our President a “white black man.”

But none of this is the point of today’s article.

With the Republican convention getting closer, and with it looking like Mitt Romney is going to be the nominee, I thought I would be ahead of the curve and write about what I KNOW is going to rear its ugly head:  Racism and the Mormon church.  Well, dear reader, in what seems to be the theme of my life, I’m so far BEHIND I think I’m ahead. A two second Google search revealed it has already happened.  Soooo….in what may be considered a case book example of what happens when you let stupid people play with computers, I’m going to plow forward.  After all, I have been kicking it around for a few weeks.  I don’t want to waste all my research (and by ‘research’ I mean taking long showers thinking about it).

Apparently on Monday, March 12, 2012, “Black Clergy And Other Concerned Christians Ask Governor Mitt Romney To Renounce His Racist Religion” (eye roll).  Seriously, after all my research I don’t even know where to start.  I could go through and pick this article apart line by line.  And I’m half tempted too.  It is so full of mis-quotes and conjectures.  Sincerely, I feel like I could have eaten a box of “Alpha-bits” and crapped out a better article.  But I’ll just hit the highlights.

First of all, this article cites Brigham Young several times.  Brigham Young, who lived in the 1800’s, was quoted this year, 2012, as the authority of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I’m not a mathematician, but I can do some math in my head and he has been dead for, well, a really long time.  In another two second Google search I found the Church’s official statement on racism.  Among other things it states, “The Church unequivocally condemns racism, including any and all past racism by individuals both inside and outside the Church.” Is it just me, or would that include Brigham Young?  I think it would.

Now, going off on a little tangent here, anyone who knows anything about the church, any church, knows the leaders are flawed.  Even prophets from Adam on down have done questionable things (and by “questionable” I mean “ohmigosh-are-you-kidding-me?”) David, who was knee deep in women, couldn’t resist temptation.  Lot (who was the only man righteous enough to escape Sodom and Gomorrah) gets drunk and has sex with his daughters.  Jacob tricked his dad into giving him the birthright blessing, and now stands at the head of Israel.  The list goes on and on.  So the fact Brigham Young had some opinions that were WAAAAY off base, doesn’t surprise or bother me.  We, who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are taught to not blindly follow our leaders.  We are encouraged to question, and then ask God in prayer.  We are promised that if we ask with real intent, having faith in Christ, we will receive an answer to our prayers (Moroni 10:4-3).

Speaking of the “Book of Mormon” lets go back to the article.

They claim 2 Nephi 5:21-23 as “cursing African people and causing them to have black skin in order for them not to be attractive to white people.”  Well, that’s not true.  There aren’t any Africans at all in the “Book of Mormon.”  2 Nephi 5 describes two groups of Israelites who recently landed in the Americas, a dark skinned group who are known as “Lamanites” and a light skinned group known as “Nephites.”

Several times in the Book of Mormon the Lamanites are the more righteous people.  Before the birth of Christ the prophet Samuel risked his life standing upon a wall of a city calling the unrighteous Nephites to repentance.

PLUS, if you are going to cite 2 Nephi 5 (which, taken out of context, sounds bad) you really should include Jacob 3:9 which states, “Wherefore, a commandment I give unto you, which is the word of God, that ye revile no more against them because of the darkness of their skins.”

Hmmmm….They failed to mention that one (it’s about 30 pages away from 2 Nephi chapter 5).

To add to the racial mix in The Book of Mormon, for 200 (plus) years after the coming of Christ there “were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God.” (Book of Mormon, 4 Nephi 1:17) So marriage between the two groups was surely to happen.

At the end of the Book of Mormon a group of people break away and call themselves Lamanites, but that was not a racial division, it was cultural.  We are never told the color of their skin.

In the article Rev. O’Neal Dozier states, “The Book of Mormon degrade the Lamanites, which are the Native American Indians in the same way they do black African people.”  Well, that’s not true either.  It is true the Church has always considered Lamanites to be the ancestors of Native Americans, and as such they are members of the House of Israel.  The Church has never excluded them.

The article then goes into a tangent about Baptism for Dead (which… is…racist…how?) Citing someone who is “a former Mormon,” again, there is a stellar reference.  As far as I know, baptism for the dead is unique to the LDS faith, but it does have biblical references, “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?” 1 Corinthians 15:29

None of that matters to the article at hand.

The article concludes with, “Romney’s nomination would cause the erroneous view that has long existed in the minds of black people, that the Republican Party is prejudice to become a reality. Also, if Romney gets the nomination, President Obama’s super pacs will educate the American people about his racist religion and he will probably lose to Obama.”

This is crap.

I HATE IT when anyone takes it upon themselves to speak for a group, “erroneous view that has long existed in the minds of black people, that the Republican Party is prejudice.”  I’m not speaking for them, but I’m preeeeeeeety sure: the former head of the Republican Party Michael Steele; Supreme Court Judge Clearance Thomas; Congressman Allen West; and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would all disagree.

Which is worse, being bigoted against someone because of the color of their skin, or their beliefs?  Isn’t bigotry ugly in any form?  In my humble opinion, distorting the facts about someone’s faith, or beliefs to cause a division is ugly and at best intellectually dishonest.

5 responses to “Racism and the Mormon Church

  1. I totally agree with this article.

  2. Love it–especially the last paragraph.

  3. I found your site on technorati and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you down the road!

  4. Danny
    Thanks for all the research. I hope people read this and understand the church’s stand and the scriptural references.

  5. It never ceases to amaze me how short lived some people’s memories are, or how little they know about their own history. Should all Catholics denounce their “racist” religion? I mean after all they only sought to completely eradicate the world of Muslims. What about all those southern baptists and methodists who’s families owned slaves? Should they denounce their “racist” religion? Or what about baptists, lutherans, methodists, and presbyterians who supported segregation, so much so that there are still factions and congregations throughout the south that do not accept people of another color, black, white, or other? Should they denounce their religion? Should we as Americans denounce our Constitution, Declaration of Independence, and the pseudo-religion of American Exceptionalism because our founding fathers were slave owners, or because the right to vote was extended to all races in the 60s, or because we still have racial tension today? In my mind it begs the question: Are we culpable for the sins our fathers and their fathers before them, or are we to be judged by our own acts, words, and character?

    In addition to this point, Mormons should consider their own history. It is a fact that blacks were not ordained to the priesthood until 1978. But they were never excluded from church membership, and baptisms in Africa were happening all the time in the early 20th century. Those people were told the day would come, and believed enough in the gospel to wait patiently. Is the indictment of the wait an indictment of God, or of us as flawed human beings? Consider this, Mormons were so hated by people of their own skin that they were literally forced to leave the country or be exterminated. To my knowledge only Native-Americans suffered the same treatment. They moved again and again and eventually settled in Utah. They were harassed while in Utah for nearly another half-century by the government and others. Racial inequality, segregation, and question of American civil rights were not addressed until a few years before the 1978 priesthood declaration. If the LDS church took on yet more controversy what would have been the impact of its growth. More importantly, did we wait until 1978 because it took us that long to ask with sincerity to answer the question of equality, just like the rest of this nation?

    My son actually came home from school a few weeks ago very very depressed. When I confronted him about it, he told me it was because he was white, and white people do terrible things to others. This of course made me very upset. I carefully explained to him that slavery, inequality, injustice, and racism are not particular to white people, or to American. It IS particular to the human race and has been our biggest downfall since Adam and Eve left the garden of Eden. It is the sin of pride, believing that any one group, people, race, or religion is elevated above their brothers and sisters. If Mitt Romney has to denounce his “racist” religion, than we too, all of us, should have to denounce our humanity…

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