This year has not been an easy one. I was recently told that my voice on this blog has changed some. I didn’t deny it. I have been hurt, so incredibly hurt, by the words of others this year. I desperately want to speak about things that I was never able to as a member. Yet I also want to give believers space for their beliefs, though I am on another side of things now. So what changed in me? Well, I cannot seem to let go of the pain I experienced as a result of speaking with two young sets of missionaries this year. I cannot let go of the shock that missionaries are still teaching that Native Americans are Lamanites, and that their skin was darkened due to being a sign of a curse. These are the very teachings that are still in the current seminary manual for the Book of Mormon. I should not be surprised by the missionaries still believing it all, but I am. (See archives for missionary conversations and current seminary manual teachings.)
When I first began this website it was an attempt to simply speak truth. To show what has happened in history. Perhaps to a good degree it was also to help me process and heal. I wanted to validate those who had been told they came from a cursed people, I wanted to validate the pain. There are a number of things I didn’t expect as I began this journey. One, I had not anticipated that I would find a history between Mormons and Native Americans to be much worse than I realized. Second, I did not anticipate the emotional triggers I would face with each and every discovery. Many times I simply had to walk away from it all for weeks. The thing is I no longer see a church built on beliefs, I see a business built on money and power. I’ve come to realize that this is why the actions and beliefs are often in contradiction to each other. Because in the end the church is business.
This has made me have to step back and take a look at what I am doing. What do I want to accomplish? What is my intent? I still want to bring awareness and validation, but I realize now it is so much bigger than something as simple as beliefs. I spent hours upon hours reading about the Indian Placement Program over the past year. Recently it made the news that the Navajo Judge will not dismiss the case. I was so impressed and excited to see this judge taking a stand. I immediately thought of all the families and children that had been impacted and hoped they would find some healing through saying their truth. It was impossible though to not think about what happened to all those children. If just reading about it was hard for me, what is it like for the Navajo community to have that in their history? Nothing should be more important than children. It was also impossible to not be upset that the church continues to worry more about image than honesty, and to watch more refusals to apologize for wrongdoing. Which comes right back to my point, it is business as usual. These actions are not ones I would say that are based upon faithful beliefs.
So how does one stay supportive of friends and family who are believers while seeing this hidden side of the church? How do I stay neutral while still bringing light to this incredibly difficult history? How do I talk about things I know nothing about? I did not grow up Navajo or experience the Indian Placement Program. The only experience I have had is my own. How do I give a voice to the many varieties of what it means to be a “Lamanite”? I don’t know. Crazy overwhelming to think about if I am honest. For now I just want to acknowledge that these things happened. For now I just want to tell those who were harmed by the Indian Placement Program that I stand with them, though I do not fully understand.
The truth is the church treats the past of the Indian Placement Program like business. Even though for the people it was not. They were taught the Book of Mormon was their literal heritage and history. They were taught the skin would lighten as they accepted the gospel and they would become “white and delightsome”. They required baptism of the children to even be able to enter the program. So we have a history of not only sexual abuse cases, but pervasive spiritual abuse. But to the modern church, it is business. I cannot even express how disappointing that is.
I suppose that is one thing that stands out to me about the Navajo case. Beliefs are difficult to combat. One of the most unfortunate things that happened to a number of children in the Indian Placement Program was they were sexually abused which is not about beliefs. However I hope that as this case continues that there will be healing on a number of levels for the people who were hurt by it all. If there are any people who were in the program I fully welcome you contacting me and sharing your story or giving insight and a voice.