Church Denounces Racism – What is it they reject?
A few week ago a Mormon friend admitted something to me – until recently they had considered themselves better than dark skinned people due to church teachings. I was proud of my friend. It takes courage to admit such a thing, especially to someone with brown skin. Though it saddened me it was still amazing to hear someone speak about it from that point of view, to know they were wrong. To know someone who opens their world to acceptance and love instead of superiority is to know a good person.
In response to the terrible racism in current events, the Mormon church released a statement against racism and white supremacy. They stated, “White supremacist attitudes are morally wrong and sinful, and we condemn them. Church members who promote or pursue a ‘white culture’ or white supremacy agenda are not in harmony with the teachings of the church.”
Honestly I was truly relieved they made a stand. It was a statement to people of all colors within the church. A statement many needed to hear – one of support and love. One that might help correct the painful experiences those within the church have, and make a better future. I have many friends and family in the church, and I am hopeful for them.
However I had also experienced racism inside the church first hand. I had been taught racist teachings. I knew that one statement against racism did not erase racism within the church. I knew it did not erase doctrine, beliefs, or talks given by leaders.
There are many truly good and wonderful Mormons. Even my friend who had thought himself better is an incredibly good man. It takes courage to change paths, to admit wrong. I believe there are many Mormons with that very courage. But is this path possible for those with the courage? Will they take a stand against their own racist teachings? To clarify I am not asking if it is possible to take a stand against racism outside of the church, but is it possible to take a stand against racism inside the church?
Book of Mormon – Alma chapter 3
- Verse 5 – “Now the heads of the Lamanites were shorn; and they were naked, save it were skin which was girded about their loins, and also their armor, which was girded about them, and their bows, and their arrows, and their stones, and their slings, and so forth.”
- Verse 6 – “And 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 and their rebellion against their brethren…”
- Verse 7 – “… therefore they were cursed; and the Lord God set a mark upon them,”
- Verse 8 – “And this was done that their seed might be distinguished from the seed of their brethren, that thereby the Lord God might preserve his people, that they might not mix and believe in incorrect traditions which would prove their destruction.”
- Verse 9 – “And it came to pass whosoever did mingle his seed with that of the Lamanites did bring the same curse upon his seed.”
This chapter continues on, repeating more than once the warning that anyone who joins the dark skinned Lamanites would receive the same cursing of dark skin and pass it on to their babies. How do these teachings influence a religion, influence an entire people? Do they result in racism or Christlike love?
Book of Mormon – 2 Nephi 30:6 (pre 1981 Version)
- “And then shall they rejoice; for they shall know that it is a blessing unto them from the hand of God; and their scales of darkness shall begin to fall from their eyes; and many generations shall not pass away among them, save they shall be a white and a delightsome people.”
That verse is basically teaching that once Lamanites receive God they shall have the curse lifted, and lose the dark skin.
Brigham Young – Journal of Discourses (Volume 7, page 336)
- “You may inquire of the intelligent of the world whether they can tell why the aborigines of this country are dark, loathsome, ignorant, and sunken into the depths of degradation …When the Lord has a people, he makes covenants with them and gives unto them promises: then, if they transgress his law, change his ordinances, and break his covenants he has made with them, he will put a mark upon them, as in the case of the Lamanites and other portions of the house of Israel; but by-and-by they will become a white and delightsome people”
The Day of the Lamanites – Elder Spencer W. Kimball –Of the Council of the Twelve Apostles – Conference Report October 1960
- “I saw a striking contrast in the progress of the Indian people today as against that of only fifteen years ago. Truly the scales of darkness are falling from their eyes, and they are fast becoming a white and delightsome people.”
- “We called for a picture of the Indian elders. Twenty of them came—five full-blood Navajo boys, and fifteen who were part Navajo and Apache and Ute and Sioux.”
- “The day of the Lamanites is nigh. For years they have been growing delightsome, and they are now becoming white and delightsome, as they were promised. In this picture of the twenty Lamanite missionaries, fifteen of the twenty were as light as Anglos; five were darker but equally delightsome. The children in the home placement program in Utah are often lighter than their brothers and sisters in the hogans on the reservation.”
- “At one meeting a father and mother and their sixteen-year-old daughter were present, the little member girl—sixteen—sitting between the dark father and mother, and it was evident she was several shades lighter than her parents—on the same reservation, in the same hogan, subject to the same sun and wind and weather.”
- “There was the doctor in a Utah city who for two years had had an Indian boy in his home who stated that he was some shades lighter than the younger brother just coming into the program from the reservation.”
- “These young members of the Church are changing to whiteness and to delightsomeness. One white elder jokingly said that he and his companion were donating blood regularly to the hospital in the hope that the process might be accelerated.”
- “They are beginning to recognize the similarity between their distorted tradition stories and the truth which has been recorded.”
- “About 420 Indian children are receiving the superior training in Utah homes under the educational placement program.” (Children removed from their families to live with Mormon families. They had to be baptized first to participate.)
- “”I think you have a very commendable program and one which is probably the only positive approach to the Indian problem in the United States.”
Do the leaders of the church have the courage to turn their back on the belief of whiteness being superior? Do they have the courage to fully stand against racism and adjust the doctrine to reflect what they believe? I hope they do. I do not envy them, for it would be quite an undertaking. These are only a few quotes, there are many. Still, I hope they choose courage. Otherwise they don’t fully reject racism.
- Taylor, Scott, LDS Church issues statement condemning ‘white supremacist attitudes’, Deseret News, 15 August, 2017. Web. 19 August, 2017.
- Smith, Joseph, Book of Mormon,. Salt Lake City, UT: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Web. 19 August, 2017.
- Young, Brigham, Journal of Discourses, Volume 7, Records from October 8, 1859, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter – Day Saints, jod.mrm.org, Web 19 August, 2017.
- Kimball, Spencer W., The Day of the Lamanites, Conference Report October 1960, BYU.edu, Web 19 August, 2017.
I’m Mormon. I’m an active Mormon. I’m a believing Mormon. However, I no longer believe the racist doctrines I was taught and embraced my entire life. The church now condemns our past racism towards black people. But my church hasn’t condemned our racism towards Native Americans. I do. I was taught that the skin color of these people was a curse from God. It’s not. That is a racist belief. I was taught that when they accepted the gospel and became righteous their skin would turn white. It turns my stomach that I believed this until I was 62 years old. It’s a revolting and racist doctrine.
Thank you for your comment. It is interesting that no official essay has addressed racism towards Native Americans and other cultures titled “Lamanite.” That would be difficult though since the beliefs are still active and current. Many amazing members out there like you though. Perhaps there is a chance for change, however slowly it comes.
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I no longer believe the racist Book of Mormon teaching. Neither do most of my kids. Although the believe in the church.