For a number of weeks I have been wanting to write a new blog post. So far I have written 6 and have been unable to post any of them. Everything falls short… To put it simply, black lives matter. I’ve spent weeks educating myself about politics and religious systems and how they impact racism. I know our country has long needed change. I love our country and have so much hope for it. I’ve seen the disagreements and pain, but I’ve also seen people come together. It is beautiful, the entire world coming together to speak out against racism. Yet even as I acknowledge that beauty I know it came at a cost. I’m left wondering how many more will suffer as we struggle to improve as a whole?
There is also a movement called Native Lives Matter, as often the rates of police violence are the highest among the Indigenous of this land. At other times it drops just below the rates of police violence against Black people – depends on state and location, so similar an experience, so closely tied together. There is another movement for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, as Native American women consistently experience more violence (not just police violence) than any other demographic in the country, though they are one of the smallest demographics.
So much of the same traumas, so closely tied together. I look beyond our two communities and see many other communities in pain and in need of change. And I can’t help but wonder, does George Floyd stand for more than we understand? Immigrant babies and children locked in cages away from parents, experiencing illness, trauma, sexual abuse, injuries, death, and thousands just missing. Human trafficking. Me too. Attacks on LGBTQ communities. Violence and trauma among many other backgrounds I’m not listing. Racism and sexism closely tied. I have no answers, just frustration. I carry generational trauma myself, as well as my own experiences, yet when George Floyd cried out for his mama it was like a flood gate broke open. Enough. How many have called for their mom’s? How many more need to cry out? This was the worlds breaking point, and we all need to listen. Of all the heartbreak and pain we have all felt, it it this which made the world finally say enough.
Recently I read about how President Russel M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints came out harshly against racism and told people to repent. I’m not going to lie, I have hope. Sure it isn’t enough, not near enough, but it is real and it is something. Here is the thing, I am not anti-Mormon. I 100% support the people I love who find peace within the church, even if I don’t personally find peace there. I am however actively anti-racism, this is why I write and speak out on current racist teachings. ESPECIALLY as those teachings impact growing children who are developing their identity and understanding of their place in this world. I have first hand experience being raised in that and understand what it does. Racist teachings are currently continuing to do harm to children, families, and communities.
The racist teachings come with heavy consequences in this racial discussion. Much like police violence, the Mormon experience for Black people and Native Americans is similar and closely tied. In Mormonism Black people were told they were from the lineage of Cain and that their skin was a direct result of Cain being punished. Furthermore they were taught that they were less valiant in the pre-existence, and as a result were born Black, but if they were valiant and faithful they would be resurrected white. Black people also experienced slavery in Utah and having children taken. Uniquely, they could not be sealed in marriage or in families, as Black males could not hold the priesthood until 1978. Remember that year.
Native Americans were told their lineage was the Lamanites of the Book of Mormon, and told that the Book of Mormon was their literal history. In the Book of Mormon they are taught their ancestors became evil, God cursed their ancestors by completely abandoning them, they lost the right to their land of promise (America) because or their choices, and as a consequence were eventually “swept from the land” (Native American genocide). As a sign to righteous people Lamanites were also marked with dark skin so the righteous white people wouldn’t marry/ mix with them. They too were told they were less righteous in the pre-existence. Unlike Black people, Native Americans were allowed to hold the priesthood, but religious subjugation came with trauma. Native Americans did not have religious freedom until 1978 (remember that year?) with the American Indian Religious Freedom Act. Even this didn’t protect our people. Read about the extreme traumas which happened to our children in the Indian Placement Program, in boarding schools, and in day schools. Active erasure because we were considered less.
These teachings about Lamanites and also teachings about the lineage of Cain were incorrectly placed on real living groups of people and had real life impacts on the environment our children were raised in. This is in many ways the most toxic racism, as it is claimed as being from God. Consider for a moment how the teachings about the dark mark’s purpose on Native Americans was to make people “undesirable” to righteous people, and how those teachings impacted all people with high melanin content. This is not just Black or Native American, it is far reaching. See the link at the end of this article for more on this.
The church is still actively teaching racism about and to Indigenous peoples. Missionaries are still teaching that the Book of Mormon is about Indigenous peoples’ ancestors. Christopher Columbus teachings are in the current lesson manuals. Lesson manuals this year with dark skin teachings were sent out and kept, instead of being thrown in the trash. Are President Nelson’s statements and photo ops with the NAACP a step forward? Or are the bodies of people of color being used as a prop for public relations? How do you tell the Black community that you are moving away from the racist past while still actively maintaining belief in racist teachings towards the ancestry of Native Americans and not undeniably correcting teachings about the ancestry of Blacks? In addition, the church tells Black people they “disavow” the teachings about dark skin. Disavowed means to deny responsibility or support for. This is not the same as saying the teachings were incorrect or wrong. It is a side step, a legal one. This is not the same, and they owe Black people more. They need to say the teachings were incorrect. Repentance requires restitution.
What the church seems to be saying is similar to animal sacrifice in the Old Testament vs New Testament. It was correct in its time, but is no longer necessary or correct in our time. To me this is not enough to say dark skin is no longer considered a sign of a curse in 2020, it continues to harm. It is not enough to say my ancestors’ skins were a sign of a curse, but it is no longer relevant. To stop racist ideology it must be clearly rejected as having always been wrong.
To correct this problem and do it correctly the following must be done:
- Remove “American Indian” from the introduction of the Book of Mormon. Stop ancestral appropriation.
- Officially state that Black people are not of the lineage of Cain and that the church does not know who the people of Cain are. That in fact Black people have a unique and beautiful heritage. Saying “some believed” is not the same as rejecting that belief. Do not allow any belief – stop ancestral appropriation.
- Officially state that Native Americans/ American Indians are not Lamanites – that Indigenous people who have been labeled in the Americas and Pacific Islands are not, and never were, Lamanites or the people from the Book of Mormon. That in fact, we have a beautiful and unique heritage, and that the church does not know who the Lamanites are. Stop ancestral appropriation.
- Officially and publicly state that all darkened skin theology was incorrect and wrong.
- All “dark skin” curses and signs of curses must be removed from canonized material and lesson manuals.
- Remove the current and active teachings about Christopher Columbus and manifest destiny.
- Cease all use of the term “disavow.” Communities that have endured generations of racism and trauma deserve direct language, not evasive language.
Having said all that, I grew up Mormon and also want to speak for that side of the community. Though Mormonism has a racist past and continues racist teachings in the present, it does not represent all the many good and amazing people. Many members are actively against racism and are working on ceasing the racist teachings and Christopher Columbus teachings, while also trying to maintain their membership within a community they believe in. Honestly, I have hope that some of the leadership is among those working towards a healthier church, and are simply having to move slow due to push back. I am the only member of my family that left the church, my parents and siblings are all actively attending. I want a healthier environment for all people of color, and I want to support religious freedom. It is a difficult balance as much of what I have to say about racism weighs heavily against the church and appears as an attack. It is anything but. I want the church as a community to continue to rise and improve. For now I can only sit back, hope, and wait for the sun to rise.
Click this link to read My Conversation With Missionaries.
Click this link to read Response to Manifest Destiny – Taught at Brigham Young University Week.
Click this link to read Come Follow Me 2020 Manual
Dear Newcomb, I know and feel exactly as you do. I feel frustrated, 😤 I feel angry about institutionalized racism. I think sometime the only thing we can do is to teach our younger generations so that they don’t fall into accepting what we’ve been experiencing as American Indians in this country. They have to be taught what is right and just in the eyes of our great Creator. Churches don’t do that. They are a huge part of the institutions that teaches inequality and racism. This has been going on since 1492!
Churches have divided families. They don’t teach K’é. People are not looking for Truth, their own research and investigation. They are following the blind, like a sheep going to the slaughter. That’s what religion teaches and wants us to believe. We have lost touch with our own souls. We are blind following blind teachings from blind religious leaders. We don’t ask questions, instead we just follow along. What did we do with our brains, why aren’t we thinking, questioning and investigating spiritual truths?
I used to be Mormon too. I still have some good friends but thank God, I am NOT a member anymore!
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You wrote, “I think sometime the only thing we can do it to teach our younger generations.” Yes, so much this. 💕 Honoring the next generation is exactly how we show honor to all those who went before us. But the focus must be on the next generation. Thank you so much for your words.
Sarah, thank you so much for this article! It’s important! Everything you said is important to hear! Great writing! BLM and NLM are the same thing!
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Hi Jared! Thank you so much. Hope you are well.
This is a very thoughtful piece. It is so difficult to be anti-racist without being anti-Mormon (because … well … you know why) but you do an excellent job of walking that line. It is also difficult to advocate for NLM in a time of BLM because we don’t want to flatten the important differences in the types of oppression that threaten both Native lives and Black lives and we certainly don’t want to evoke the white supremacist nonsense of “all lives matter,” but at the same time a victory for BLM is a victory for NLM, so you also do an excellent job of walking that line. There are so many important overlaps between blackness and indigeneity. May you continue to honor the differences while fighting for a common freedom. The joint forces of indigeneity and blackness resulted in the creation of Haiti, the first free nation state in Abya Yala (a pre-Incan word for the Americas). Maybe that is how Turtle Island can be freed.
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Thank you so much Jason. Yes, both distinctly different experiences in the same systems, also with many similarities. Any discussion about The Book of Mormon skin curse theology obviously is a massive link to the Book of Abraham curse of Cain theology. I’ve been hesitant to speak out on my blog about the Black experience, even with the similarities. I have never felt it was my place and wanted to be respectful. Respecting different experiences is something I constant worry about, so thank you for your words. And yes a win for BLM is a win, not just for NLM but for everyone. Going to read up on Haiti now, thanks for sharing that.
Thanks again for sharing your thoughts in this forum. This is definitely thorny and difficult territory and I echo Jason’s comments about how effectively you have navigated these turbulent waters. I agree that the racist ideologies in the Books of Abraham and Mormon undercut the LDS Church’s efforts to “disavow” racism. Do they disavow those books too? Truly rejecting racism, or better yet undoing racism, will require dealing more forthrightly with those texts. Changing the passages on skin color and curses is even insufficient and would facilitate denial rather than a forthright reckoning. Keep at this work!
Yes, and though Book of Mormon theology is attributed to “American Indians,” we have to acknowledge the pain the Book of Mormon and Come Follow Me manual for 2020 genuinely caused Black members also. That is why in this article I wanted to show a stand of unity to some degree, though even this isn’t enough. BLM needs center stage, even with similar experiences. I can only hope to educate people on the theology. We need to stand in solidarity and BLM. Especially with the church telling the NAACP in January it was no longer racist, then the church taking a stronger stance recently with the BLM movement. Good steps they made, I can’t deny that, but not enough. Thanks so much Thomas.
I have this saying, “Many voices.” We do not all need to see the world the same as we heal and improve, but we need to speak. I love different view points, because somewhere someone needs that viewpoint. We all hold different forms of wisdom. I love your bravery and raw honesty. You poured so much of your heart into your post, thank you so much for sharing it, I felt it. I admit, as a Star Wars geek I also loved the bit you said, “Which is fine! It doesn’t prove the Book of Mormon isn’t true. But it DOES prove that “these are not the droids you are looking for”. This very point you make would make space for those who want to stay and believe in everything without the racism. Stop labeling etc. I loved that you pointed it out. That’s what I want and am going to keep naively hoping it goes that direction eventually. Write on. 🙂