LDS Wrong About People of Color But Don’t Apologize

curse of colorLDS President Spencer Kimball had a revelation back in 1978 that it was Ok to ordain blacks to the priesthood, well at least male blacks. The racism has persisted.

They occasionally hear racist comments from fellow believers, such as “black skin is cursed” or “when you become more righteous, your skin will grow lighter.” Some report being called the “N-word…

“Thirty-five years after the end of a racial restriction that had so burdened the church,” said Armand Mauss, a pre-eminent Mormon sociologist, “the old racist folklore that came with it has still not been formally repudiated” by top church leaders.

To combat this remaining racism, within the church and out, where many still recall that being black meant having been cursed by god–as well as being Native American which no one is talking about–the church has issued yet another disavowal of racism in the church history as racist folklore.

It would be nice if the church just admitted the entire religion is based on historical folklore but they prefer to use modern revelation to change their canon, or just official church statements.

“Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects 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. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form.”

The church contextualizes its racist past as being part of US racism and further that Joseph Smith was really a good guy because he was antislavery.

 The justifications for this restriction echoed the widespread ideas about racial inferiority that had been used to argue for the legalization of black “servitude” in the Territory of Utah.9 According to one view, which had been promulgated in the United States from at least the 1730s, blacks descended from the same lineage as the biblical Cain, who slew his brother Abel.10 Those who accepted this view believed that God’s “curse” on Cain was the mark of a dark skin. Black servitude was sometimes viewed as a second curse placed upon Noah’s grandson Canaan as a result of Ham’s indiscretion toward his father.11 Although slavery was not a significant factor in Utah’s economy and was soon abolished, the restriction on priesthood ordinations remained.

They don’t emphasize they wished to be a separate country to have their own governance aside from the US and as such their entire concept though white protestant in root was to be entirely independent from the US. Which meant that whatever laws, biases, or prejudices the US had they had their own. What is most true about this relationship is when there have been the many controversies of Deseret vs the US, revelations after lawsuits have conveniently allowed change.

The church posts that in 1978 the news was overjoyed that the change had occurred, yielding how loyal members were and how true the revelation really was because it so resonated with its members. Church rhetoric is fantastic at duplicitous messages so it can reach opposing attitudes through the same message. It reveals the highly calculated business marketing aspect of the religion where the real point is not truth but salesmanship.

Reaction worldwide was overwhelmingly positive among Church members of all races. Many Latter-day Saints wept for joy at the news. Some reported feeling a collective weight lifted from their shoulders. The Church began priesthood ordinations for men of African descent immediately, and black men and women entered temples throughout the world. Soon after the revelation, Elder Bruce R. McConkie, an apostle, spoke of new “light and knowledge” that had erased previously “limited understanding.”22

Having lived in Salt Lake City during this time, I can only say this is nonsense as I knew too many well-educated mormons that believed the story that people of color would change when their sins were retracted, redacted, or disavowed however you wish to look at it.

Equally clear when the news is full of blacks as mormons but nearly nothing about the relations of NAs to mormons. NAs are so far removed, where are they? The curse worked all too well against them. Of course, if mormons have to feel bad about Africans imagine what they need to say to Utes, Paiutes, Blackfeet, Shoshone, and more.

It’s easy to do this when the entire religion is synthetic or fabricated, an experiment in alternative societies created during a time when autonomous religious communities were sprouting everywhere in the US and no one really believed the US would get so big or that it was possible to klll all of the buffalo or chop down all of the big tress–further that resource was more important than race or savage ownership of land, especially when those savages were more communistic or communalistic and didn’t believe in land ownership as a property right.

When I moved to SLC in 1973 a mormon neighbor on a conversion spree somehow thought she could bait me with with yet another NA myth that was popular to tell children for whom a curse was too strong but gave credence to the idea that color was a god given plight. When god created man he formed them from clay and baked them. Anglo’s were not cooked enough, blacks were cooked too dark and NAs were cooked light brown, just right. Weren’t those NAs just too cute. Everyone knows they will change when god is ready to forgive them. This gives you some idea of how deeply  some people think of religion philosophically. Just tell me another story before bedtime mama. It’s all in the past what’s your hairstyle.

As Jana Riess aptly notes in her RNS post that is precisely the problem. While they church has often disavowed their racism they have never apologized, nor even forgiven their disposition.

So while it’s hugely important that the Church has drawn a line in the sand to prevent that from ever happening again, it has yet to openly confess its sin. This is the same church that has taught me what to do when I sin—not just own up to what I’ve done but apologize to those I have wronged. As Marlin Jensen put it, humility “carries the transgressor to God in prayer, to the offended party in apology, and where necessary, to his priesthood leader in confession.”

Not surprising considering mormonism has always been an excessively patriarchal, paternal, and condescending group of male rulers where apologizing is considered male weakness. Contrast that to the often emotive outbursts mormons do make when  witnessing to  or confessing their weaknesses, the entire situation is confusing at best. Mormon men do cry but they rage as well and above all they maintain their power, certainty, tightly.

The entire curse of Ham, or more correctly the curse of Noah has long been a difficult passage in the bible to interpret and is often used to condone nationalism, racism, homophobia, genocide, patricide, slavery, and misogyny.

The only thing completely clear from the bible is the structuralism that it is Ok to curse entire groups of people and that you don’t even really need to know why.

Jim Newman, bright and well

About Jim Newman

Jim Newman is a philosopher. When I was young I wondered what was the ultimate truth. How should I behave? What makes it all work? I was intensely curious to know what it all means. It was enlightening to realize there is no ultimate truth, but nevertheless sufficient and necessary turth, and that meaning was a meta analysis of living one’s life. In this sense my work has been living large. Living and experiencing life has made me learn many things. Building boats, motors, houses, electronics. Raising animals. Teaching. Writing. Photography. Drawing. Knitting. Sewing. Cooking. Music. Painting. Hiking. Aboriginal living skills. All material aspects of reality that seem irrelevant until you realize they allow you to experience more. My epiphany came when I read Christopher Hitchen’s “Letters to a Young Contrarian” and I felt vindicated in my many meals of sacred cow.
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One Response to LDS Wrong About People of Color But Don’t Apologize

  1. Kent Randi says:

    I was a Mormon in the 1970’s and remember the new revelation from on high that would “now” allow the dark skinned to join ranks with the “white and delightsome”. I was only 8 when this was changed but remember the conversations.

    “So now we have to allow the niggers in.”
    “This can’t be right.”

    I now wonder how any Mormon can look back and hold credible the edicts, the canonized scripture and divine revelations and not hold suspect all, in it’s entirety. My Mormon siblings and parents declare that even the prophets weren’t perfect and were subject to error.

    They somehow rationalize the good bits or the yet unchanged bits as being divinely inspired and excuse the bigotry as man’s error.

    Will they one day look upon the church’s long held beliefs on homosexuality the same? Eventually humanity’s morals supersede those of religion and the sheep follow unaware or willfully ignorant of the contradictions.

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