I watch the world around me spinning. Quietly I withdraw, exhausted from the conversations that seem to only make noise instead of change. I put on my running shoes, headphones, and grab the dog leash. The beat of our feet in unison sends squirrels darting and my dog running. I breath slowly, purposefully drawing oxygen in to balance my mind. My head clears and I begin to consider the events of the past few weeks. Once I return from my run I find myself wanting to share the following thoughts.
Definition of Disavow – “to deny any responsibility or support for”. (Oxford Dictionary Web. 3 February, 2020. )
One win for the church leaders. Everyone is under the impression that disavow means a removal of a belief, but would that hold up in court? There will be no apology, no change in beliefs, no correction to missionaries teaching the Book of Mormon.
The church “disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects unrighteous actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else,” spokeswoman Irene Caso wrote. “Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form.” (Stack, Peggy Fletcher. The Salt Lake Tribune. Latter-day Saints urge church to spread the word about manual’s mistake on race. 1 February, 2020. Web. 3 February, 2020)
Read the above quote with the meaning of disavow. The church denies any responsibility or support for the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse…”
My mind wanders to the seminary manual I have been pointing at for years. Will all manuals be changed? Will the Book of Mormon be reworded? Will Indigenous people stop having their ancestry appropriated and no longer be incorrectly labeled as Lamanite? Will the church apologize for the Indian Placement Program, Indian Seminaries, and lessons which shamed Indigenous children through racism and cultural genocide? Will the church apologize to the Native American children who are now adults who were in those programs and were told that if they participated in their Native American cultural traditions during the summer that they risked being kicked out of the academic programs? Will they apologize to Indigenous people in North America, South America, and the Pacific Islands for telling them the reason for their dark skin was found in the Book of Mormon which was supposedly about their direct ancestors?
Last year I wrote a blog post about Christopher Columbus and Manifest Destiny being taught at BYU Education week in 2019. After that incident Native Americans who are active members of the church spoke out against the teachings. Were they heard? Invisibility has long been the racist experience of Native Americans. Instead of hearing their active member’s voices the church also included Christopher Columbus and doctrine of discovery beliefs in the brand new Come Follow Me manual. This also needs to be included in the current conversations.
Racism is alive and well with many leading members of the church. Though admittedly I am very hopeful things will change, I still feel the slowness and frustration of the subtleties which we are all missing. They say they are against racism, but is it possible it is because they do not view the actions of their God as racism. It is not racism if God did it. To them this was simply God’s actions, so they can say publicly they are against all forms of racism and mean it, while still believing in the words written in the Book of Mormon as literal, and that God physically darkened the skins of Indigenous ancestors.
Are the modern day leaders still simply a product of their time? Here are some quotes from 1954 in a talk titled Race Problems – As They Affect the Church. The talk was given by Marion G. Romney who was an apostle and would eventually serve in the First Presidency of the church. The current prophet, Russel M. Nelson, was 29 years old at the time of this talk.
“Is there any reason then why the type of birth we receive in this life is not a reflection of our worthiness or lack of it in the pre-existent life? We must accept the justice of God. He is fair to all. He is not a respecter of persons. He will meet us according to what we deserve.”
“We cannot escape the conclusion that because of performance in our pre-existence some of us are born as Chinese, some as Japanese, some as Indians, some as Negroes, some as Americans, some as Latter-Day Saints. There are rewards and punishments fully in harmony with His established policy in dealing with sinners and saints, regarding all according to their deeds.”
“The Lord segregated the people both as to blood and place of residence, at least in the bases of the Lamanties and the Negroes we have the definite word of the Lord himself that He placed a dark skin upon them as a curse – as a sign to all others. He forbade intermarriage with them under threat of extension of the curse.”
When the church corrected it’s policies towards Black people, and stated that they disavowed those theories about the Priesthood ban, did any of those corrections also apply to Lamanites? In 2018 I was taught the following from an official representative/ missionary of the church:
“A curse was put upon people. The curse was that they were withdrawn from the spirit of God because they were wicked. The others needed a sign to help them know who didn’t have the spirit with them. So their skin was darkened so they could see who was who. Dark skin is not the curse itself.”
“Not all the people of the world, we only know of the Lamanites. We need to recognize that this was one situation, under these circumstances 2000 years ago. It is not saying all black people are wicked or cursed at all.”
I want to know exactly what the church is saying. Are they saying they are truly against all forms of racism INCLUDING the beliefs in their own manuals and scriptures? Or are they saying they aren’t racist, because how could these things be racism if it is God who did it? They deny responsibility so it is hard to tell if there is any real forward motion.
Part of me wonders if they are changing, but moving slow for those having a hard time with changing beliefs. All I know is that if Indigenous children and families were really a top concern they would not use the term “disavow”, there would be definite changes to all in print material, and there would be an apology.
In closing I would like to disavow this blog post and all prior blog posts which only came to fruition as a result of those previously mentioned disavowed canonized writings which were translated from the most correct historical record but accidentally supposedly misunderstood by all church leaders since the beginning of the church to present but are still current beliefs and acceptable as there is no responsibility or support for either increasing or decreasing the spreading of such theories as all things spiritual are mysterious and unknown which requires no apology. Follow the prophet and back to church.
Relevant Previous Blog Posts for extra reading fun.
Conversation with Mormon Missionaries click here
The Racist God click here
BYU Education Week and Manifest Destiny click here
My Response in December 2019 to the Come Follow Me manual click here