Showing posts with label racism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label racism. Show all posts

2 Nephi 5

So y'all now know where I stand on Nephi being an unreliable narrator. In one of my previous posts, I talked about this in reference to his treatment of his family and his leadership. I tackled the racism superficially, so let's go ahead and choke slam it the rest of the way.

20 Wherefore, the word of the Lord was fulfilled which he spake unto me, saying that: Inasmuch as they will not hearken unto thy words they shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord. And behold, they were cut off from his presence. 21 And he had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, that they had become like unto a flint; wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them.
2 Nephi 5:20-21

Has this passage been used historically to enable racism in the Church, including the justification for the racial priesthood restriction? Yes. Absolutely. Curse of Cain. Curse of Ham. Less valiant in the preexistence. Slavery being perpetuated into eternity. The whole shebang. This isn't the origin, as early pro-slavery church leaders pursued biblical justifications for slavery like everyone else. What this verse did was present the opportunity for Saints so inclined to create their own Mormon flavored versions of those justifications.

How does Come Follow Me approach these attitudes and the racism that perpetuated them?

What was the curse that came upon the Lamanites? In Nephi’s day the curse of the Lamanites was that they were “cut off from [the Lord’s] presence … because of their iniquity” (2 Nephi 5:20–21). This meant that the Spirit of the Lord was withdrawn from their lives. When Lamanites later embraced the gospel of Jesus Christ, “the curse of God did no more follow them” (Alma 23:18).
The Book of Mormon also states that a mark of dark skin came upon the Lamanites after the Nephites separated from them. The nature and appearance of this mark are not fully understood. The mark initially distinguished the Lamanites from the Nephites. Later, as the Nephites and Lamanites each went through periods of wickedness and righteousness, the mark became irrelevant.
Prophets affirm in our day that dark skin is not a sign of divine disfavor or cursing. President Russell M. Nelson declared: “I assure you that your standing before God is not determined by the color of your skin. Favor or disfavor with God is dependent upon your devotion to God and His commandments and not the color of your skin” (“Let God Prevail,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2020, 94).
As Nephi taught, the Lord “denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; … all are alike unto God” (2 Nephi 26:33).

I've heard theories that the skins, rather than talking about the complexions of people, refers to the clothing skins they wore, or some kind of mark they would put on their faces such as tattoos or body art. I've also heard people lean into the notion that this was meant to be metaphorical, centering the images in the text of flint or scales in their eyes. What the church is attempting to teach now in Come Follow Me is that we don't know what is meant here, but it's NOT complexion. I don't find any of these compelling and I want to talk about why.

So we don't know what it means? But we know it's not racist? So which is it? You can't have it both ways like that. So let's be honest!

We know it's not intended to be racist because the Church tried that for over a century, and it became obvious it was ungodly, abusive, false. We are willing to admit now that such attitudes contradict Scripture and the nature of God because our community existed in the ridiculous position of maintaining racist policies in the face of those scriptural contradictions that condemned us. THAT'S how we know the Lamanite "curse" is not supposed to signify complexion skin color.

We paid dearly for that lesson in how many people were denied the fullness of God and his blessings, so let's not diminish that history so we don't have to repeat it. Especially since the Church exists in cultures and societies around the world who are currently attempting to conceal this kind of history so they can go on repeating it.

Besides being disingenuous with what our experience as a community has been, my issue here is that these attitudes deserve more complex and sophisticated dismantling than this. Especially because with these justifications of alternate curses being proposed, the crucial lesson here is going unlearned.

It is counter to the nature of God and the order of heaven to punish the innocent. Curses that expand beyond the necessary bounds of punishing the perpetrator(s) are inherently unjust, regardless of the nature of the curse. We don't believe that children are punished for the sins of their parents. Period. That's what the scriptures teach. We have an entire Article of Faith dedicated to that principle. God does not curse anyone for sins they didn't commit. People do that. God does not.

The racial priesthood restriction became our Original Sin, with more steps. It was nothing short of hypocrisy, perpetuated by prophets and apostles who had every reason to know better, but didn't. It was where the leadership of our church, in the attempt to appear smart and clever, copied the homework from the rest of Christianity when they became obsessed with scientific racism and eugenics, and it took us WAY too long to admit the mistake. And in many ways, our community STILL can't openly talk about it or admit to it. Which is how we end up with weak sauce explanations like the one given in Come Follow Me for 2 Nephi 5.

I'm not afraid to say that prophets and apostles are capable of teaching false doctrine. They are imperfect human beings who are susceptible to making these kinds of mistakes and leading people astray. This is a reality we must be prepared to face as believers in community with one another.

If we can't see and condemn these failures in someone like Nephi, how can we hope to see and recognize them in someone like Brigham Young, J. Reuben Clark, or Bruce R. McConkie?

Note that Come Follow Me quotes 2 Nephi 26. These are some of my favorite verses in all of scripture. Let's realize together that Nephi had to grow into this revolutionary vision of a God who embraces all people without prejudice. By the time Nephi reaches the maturity to say that "all are alike unto God," the perpetuation of his prejudice and the attending destruction in the conflicts of his people were already set into motion. He spent his remaining years finally teaching the truth of respect and inclusion his younger self didn't know how to believe in.

At the exact moment he finally envisions the love of God, the curse he describes in 2 Nephi 5 had already taken root into the cultures of two groups who would go on hating each other until the bitter end. The prejudice Nephi taught became the defining obstacle for the Nephites and Lamanites, shaping the beliefs who came afterwards, who continue to appeal to and describe this curse throughout the rest of the narrative. Nephi created this curse, at least in part, and every generation after him found ways to perpetuate and reinforce it.

The Book of Mormon was written for our day. And it's hard to describe this curse and NOT think of racism because it is very much like a curse in our modern day. This prejudicial hatred is a destructive force in our society. It's perpetuated by people in power who seek their own personal gains by feeding into those conflicts. And like any curse, it doesn't have to come from God to have the worst kind of power imaginable. All it takes for such a curse to survive is for the people who are impacted by it to never challenge their relationship to it in any meaningful way. Like cancer, it spreads and worsens by going unacknowledged and untreated.

Nothing Justifies the Racism of Brigham Young

I saw someone on Threads today posing a question about Brigham Young that upturned a trashcan in my head. Since I have frequent run-ins with folks on the racism of Brigham Young, I figure it was worth preserving here for future reference.

Question: What do you think motivated Brigham young's divergent choices on altering teachings regarding blacks and upholding polygamy? How do these decisions reflect the delicate balance between maintaining distinctiveness and fitting in with mainstream society?

I take issue with the question on a couple of fronts, not the least of which is the way people in LDS circles turn "blacks" into a noun, which makes my skin crawl every time I hear it. But also because it presupposes that the way Brigham Young viewed segregation and polygamy in the Church were fundamentally different from one another. They weren't. It also presupposes that social pressure was a significant factor in shaping Brigham Young's personal beliefs in relation to race. It wasn't.

Brigham Young was genuinely racist. The changes he made to race relations within the Church don't reflect the attitudes of others that were imposed upon him. They were his. He didn't cater to the institution of slavery out of convenience, for the sake of keeping the peace with Southern slavers who came to Utah. This is what the "State's rights" argument in Utah looks like, and it's a form of historical revisionism to which we can't give any degree of credibility or moral licensing.

Joseph Smith, for all his faults, didn't share in those prejudices against Black people. He advocated for an end to slavery. He prophesied of the Civil War and the day when "slaves shall rise up against their masters," that slavery would bring about war that would envelope the entire earth, and that the blood of the Saints, including those who were formerly enslaved, would cry out to God and "be avenged of their enemies." (See D&C 87:4-7) Joseph Smith provided ordinances of the Church and ordination in the priesthood to black men. The most accurate way to explain the deviations from this vision is that Brigham Young did not share in it in any way. He failed to continue in the trajectory of Joseph Smith because he didn't want to or have to do so.

Young's descendants try to say he wasn't racist, that he was trying to "save" the Church. I've seen black historians take on "State's rights" apologists simply by contextualizing the argument in the form of a question: the State's rights to do what? Answer: to engage in slavery. Invoking that same logic, I challenge apologists for Brigham Young who state his support of segregation was to "save the Church." To save the Church from what? Answer: from black people and interracial marriage. That was Brigham Young's answer. The idea that black people and their presence in the Church posed a significant enough threat that Church leadership were justified in responding with segregationist policies? Ludicrous. The effort to maintain that Brigham Young's segregationist policies were motivated by something other than sincerely-held racist beliefs? Abhorrent.

Brigham Young supported white supremacy, and slavery by extension, because he believed they were divine institutions. And since he believed polygamy was also a divine institution, that is the common thread shared between them.

Any sacrifice can and must be made for what the prophet has decided, through the filter of his own beliefs, is a divine institution. And and all consequences, social or political, must be accepted in the observance and protection of those institutions. There's no conflict here in Brigham Young's mind. He's treating racism and polygamy exactly the same way: as a sincere believer who is unapologetic about his participation in what he believes are acts of God. To be ashamed of them, to him, is to be ashamed of God. To yield to any kind of pressure to abandon them is to fear man more than God.

Enslaving human beings didn't save the Church from anything. This is a myth that has no place among our people. Everyone likes to speculate about the hypothetical harm that might have been done had the racial restriction never existed. No one wants to own the actual harm that existed to real people because of that restriction. The former is imagined and without substance. The latter is real and has real human lives and pain attached to it.

And I say this as someone who would've been caught in the net of the Church's racial restriction that was developed as an extension of Brigham Young's racism: I don't give a flying fig why he was racist. I care about the impact his racism had/has upon the Church.

By the standards of Brigham Young, which shaped the priesthood restriction as it came to be enforced, mine was an interracial marriage that should've never taken place. I deserved no temple blessings. I could exist among the Saints and look forward to, at best, an eternity of servitude. Every good thing I now recognize as an act of God in my life, the long list of divine blessings that make up and contribute to my personal faith, would never have been extended to me if it had been up to Brigham Young. To understand his motivations, you have to approach him from the perspective of the ones he rejected: a human being of flesh and blood, fully endowed with intelligence and feeling as real as any white person's, but at the same time (in his mind) not fully human. Brigham Young didn't see me, or black and mixed race people like me, as possessing any kind of humanity to which he owed any degree of dignity or respect.

That is his legacy. Those are the fruits by which I know him.

What can explain that?


What justifies it?


Becoming Found Family within the Church

Growing up in an unstable home environment with parents who struggled with a host of issues that included poverty, addiction, alcoholism, domestic violence, and racial violence, one of the skills I learned early on in my life is gathering and assembling found family. I had so many adopted mothers, tied to so many different communities who cared for and about me.

The reason I made it out of poverty and avoided becoming a statistic was because of the support and mentoring I received from people who were my chosen family, rather than being limited to the support my biological family could provide.

While the Church is not the only group capable of forming these kinds of relationships, it's especially important for members of the Church to know how to do this, and know the meaningful distinction between found family and "ward family" or "church family."

Let's start off by talking about that distinction.


Not All Church Family is Found Family

I've been in the Church as a convert for almost seventeen years now. I joined as a teenager, the only member in my family. I've been in enough congregations to know the difference between ward family and found family.

Ward family is conditional. It exists within the shared identity of being members of the Church, and therefore only fully extends to members of the Church. Those who aren't members and are unlikely to ever become members, or who were formerly members and are no longer fully engaged with the Church, are often seen as being unworthy or undeserving of that network of help and loving care. The reason for this is because with church membership comes the expectation of reciprocation. In this line of thinking, the church member will pay it forward at a future time through ongoing service through the Church. The issue is not that people are receiving benefits to which they have not previously contributed. Rather, it's the boundary setting that happens with those who have no intentions of paying it forward through the same network of finite resources.

Church family also often centers around the formal administration overseen by local leadership on the ward council. It may or may not be facilitated through delegated assignments, volunteered service, or shared resources extended through church social networks. Because no one person has total control over this council and the causes it chooses to undertake and how, the help that is given through it is shaped by the personal beliefs and life experiences of many different people. Because of that, mileage and results will vary wildly based on geographic location and the cultures (and politics) of the surrounding areas.

Anyone who is familiar with the concept of found family, or comes into the church with the expectation that church family will function like found family, is going to be confused by what they see happening in many places. And because it's important for church members to understand the difference, to be willing and capable of doing both kinds of giving, this comes with acknowledging those differences honestly.

Found Family is Unconditional

Found family is an ongoing, personal relationship between individuals that isn't bound by shared identity, social networks, or life experiences. It's a much closer relationship than a casual acquaintance at Church. It's a friendship where a person is fully integrated into a family's embrace as one of their own. The exchange of love and gratitude is mutual, flows in both directions, and exists solely within the individual family. There's no expectation for anyone else outside of that relationship to be benefiting from it. So while two different communities may be coming together and sharing in a mutual space with one another, there is no expectation that their communities will directly benefit from that exchange.

For example, if an LDS family decided to sponsor a family of refugees and developed a found family relationship with them, there would be no expectation for the refugee family to join the Church. If an LDS family took in a queer person who was also a former member of the Church, there would be no expectation for them to come back to church because of that association, or in exchange for resources. The relationship itself is the reward, not anything monetary or otherwise valuable that the relationship could be used for.

Found family relationships often materialize spontaneously through already existing friendships. But through my own reflection, I'm realizing they exist when people create space in their families, their homes, and their lives for those relationships to materialize.  It's one where the jump has been made together from acquaintance or casual friendship to actual family. Those relationships are grown, nourished, and are sincerely cherished on both sides.

Not every relationship in the Church should be one of found family. I'm not suggesting it should be. But recognizing the ways that God works through found family is an important one for people of faith to understand and embrace. There is a kind of good that only be accomplished through found family relationships and in no other way, including by the a church or ward family. There are families who have space in their lives at different seasons to create found family relationships, and some who don't. It's important to be able to assess situations impartially and to understand which is needed.

In Psalms 68:6, David taught that "God setteth the solitary in families: he bringeth out those which are bound with chains." I've seen that ministry work through my own life in the Church. The trajectory of my life changed completely because members of the Church facilitated both found family and church family relationships. Knowing how to do both is good discipleship and allows those who belief in Christ to follow his example in moments where it can do the greatest good.

Racism in the Student Body at BYU-Idaho

In 2002, BYU-Hawaii celebrated the second largest graduating class in the school's history. The Church News wrote a story about that day. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland spoke, saying "This should be one of the greatest days of your life. But take time to remember again what so many have sacrificed and done for you in order that you could be here today."

One of the graduates featured was Bernard Balibuno, from the Republic of Congo, with his wife Yaya and their son, Steven. Steven was an infant at the time. They are pictured in the article, which I've included here for a very specific reason. Photos like this are why the Church tries so hard to engage in educational outreach across its global membership. Church leadership wants to be able to point to photos like this as an accomplishment and say to the world, to themselves, and eventually to the Lord, "this is what we did with what we had."

And to be clear: I don't think there's anything wrong with celebrating the inclusion and diversity in education that Brigham Young University campuses, especially when the point is to highlight the excellence of black, indigenous, and other non-white international students. But a necessary part of that is also how these campuses engage in racial justice when these students are made to feel unsafe and unwelcome in these settings. The Church can't have the former without having tangible plans in handling the latter.

Where is Steven Balibuno today?

He's a student at BYU-Idaho. And two days ago, he shared a story with the BYU Idaho Scroll about the racism he is experiencing on that campus.

Steven Balibuno, a BYU-Idaho student studying computer science, was walking down the street toward Broulim’s when he heard monkey noises. He was confused but assumed someone was just joking around with a friend. He didn’t want to believe that those noises were being made at him.

Balibuno continued his journey, but the monkey sounds didn’t stop. Still puzzled, he looked up to find himself face-to-face with a white boy who was in the window of the NorthPoint apartments.

The stranger and Balibuno looked at each other for a moment. He put the pieces together and knew those noises were being directed at him.

Balibuno shouted at the boy in the window to stop it.

The boy in the window continued with the monkey noises while still looking directly at Balibuno.

Balibuno was not happy. He changed his course and went back to his apartment to tell his roommates what had happened to him. He was determined to find this boy.

After Balibuno and his roommates knocked on three doors, they were able to find the boy from the window. Before anything was said to him, the boy began to apologize. Balibuno asked why he chose to make monkey noises at a black man who was passing and did not stop when told to.

The boy in the window had no explanation beyond saying, “I only do it when the sun sets.”

The cached article, written by Candy Zillale, is linked here because the original is currently unavailable. I encourage everyone to read the experiences of Steven and other students on the BYU-Idaho campus who have also been on the receiving end of racial slurs and prejudice in Rexburg, Idaho. This isn't something that should ever be swept under the rug.

I only knew to go looking for this article from the Scroll because of appeals from BYU's Black Menaces page on Instagram. In a video whose intent is to bring attention to issues of racism at BYU-Idaho, there is a clip of two white students brazenly filming themselves saying the N-word racial slur. Sebastian from Black Menaces is asking for help from the student body to identify the students so they can be reported and held accountable by the Honor Code office and university administrators.

BYU-Idaho is a small campus. It won't be difficult to identify the two students in the video if students, faculty, and church members make the effort to identify these individuals. Anyone with information is encouraged to report these, and any other students engaging in racist behavior, to the Student Honor office at 270 Kimball Building, Rexburg, ID 83460-1686. Their phone number is (208) 496-9300, email address at

As Candy Zillale stated in her article for the Scroll, "No one, regardless of their race, deserves to feel unsafe in their own community."

If these are the values we want to uphold, we need to hold accountable any student who introduces animosity to students of color on campus, regardless of whether the intention was to cause harm or not. Nothing that is harmful can ever be funny when an inclusive, diverse community is what we're striving to create.

Marginalizing the Poor, the Widow, the Fatherless, and the Stranger

If you have ever uttered the phrase "welfare queen" or "welfare state" in a derogatory manner about actual human beings, you have reason to repent.

Whoso mocketh the poor reproacheth his Maker: and he that is glad at calamities shall not be unpunished.

Prov. 17:5

Reopen yourself to compassion about whether people have basic safety in their lives.

Set yourself free.

16 And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.

17 Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just—

18 But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.

Mosiah 4:16-18

In fact, let's Mormonize it for a little bit.

And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart.

Zech. 7:10

If you can see the filth and offensiveness in the language of four letter words, but not in dehumanizing the poor, widow, fatherless, and marginalized in this language, your moralizing on "clean" language doesn't amount to much.


Why I thought I stopped going to Church: I had five callings that were robbing me of the will to live. 

Why I actually stopped going to Church: I have never recovered from the realization that pre-1978, I wouldn't have qualified for full ordinance participation because my father was black.

Why I don't go back, despite still being a believing, practicing Mormon: My bishop created an unsafe environment in sacrament meeting for those trying to avoid COVID-19. As a result, I lost all respect for him and his contributions to my spiritual life.

To be clear, I am not separated from the body of Christ. I am the body of Christ, same the members who stay. And I did not remove myself of my own volition. I was amputated. That doesn't mean my identity changes because he still claims me. 

There needs to be room for believing, card-carrying members to say "I left because y'all just suck so much." That's not a profession of apostasy. It's a refusal to be disrespected. I don't owe anyone suffering in a one-sided exchange where all I get in return is stress.

Y'all want people in the pews? Maybe learn how to act in public, without blaming others for staying home to avoid dealing with you.

The Good Shepherd

Let's talk about sheep.

Jesus taught that we are his flock of sheep. And the likes of Greg Olsen have made that sentiment way more endearing than I think it was intended to be. When you actually know something about animal husbandry, his meaning changes from the way we typically understand it.

If you had to describe sheep, here are several words and phrases you could use:
  • helpless 
  • vulnerable 
  • fragile 
  • able to be injured or killed remarkably easily, especially by accident
I'm learning animal husbandry for my certification as a veterinary nurse. Sheep scare the shit out of me. Handle them wrong and you can literally snap their necks. Their skeletons are fragile. They can't regulate their body temperatures much beyond 50°F. If you handle them roughly, you can break their back legs. You can't grab them by the fleece because you can permanently ruin their skin. They can't jump especially well. They have no natural defenses of any kind. If you remove a baby from its mother before she can bond with it, even to save its life, she will abandon it entirely. Touch them wrong and you could do irreparable harm to them.
There's no such thing as a little "oops" with sheep. Every sheep has to be treated like the slightest injury is a big deal. There's no such thing as being too sensitive or too careful with sheep. Their feelings matter because they are incapable of withstanding any kind of violence. There is no place for violence in a sheep herd. 
The shepherd's biggest worry for the sheep isn't just that a predator could come and wipe them all out. It's also that he could literally kill them by accident through bad husbandry.  
If you fancy yourself any kind of shepherd like Jesus Christ was, in any kind of ministering capacity, you need to recognize that one of the greatest threats to its survival isn't wolves. 
It's you. 
Specifically, you assuming you know what you're doing whenever do not. Because in that scenario, it's not a question of if you will do irreparable harm to some of the sheep in your care. It's when and how.
To be a good shepherd is to love sheep in all of their "I'm allergic to tap water" glory. To care enough to know how to handle them with love, meeting all their needs, no matter what they are.
When we talk about Jesus being the Good Shepherd, that's what that means.

The Racism of Brad and Debi Wilcox

Brad Wilcox has been alive long enough to know better than to say the words that (update: repeatedly) came out of his mouth. 

So has his wife, Debi Wilcox, who posted these comments defending the talks on Facebook. To my knowledge, she has not yet apologized.

They aren't doing better because they haven't ever taken the time to confront and dismantle their own racism, and it shows.

I won't say it's impossible to be white and not racist in America. But it's certainly impossible if you've never taken the time to confront, reflect, reject, and dismantle attitudes that we all passively absorb throughout our lives.

If you've never put any effort into not being racist, then it's not for you to decide whether anything you say, think, or do is racist or not. You wouldn't know. You've never taken the time to examine your own soul through that lens.

The problem with that omission is that God will not make that same mistake.

Let Brother and Sister Wilcox be the object lessons for why you don't want to wait until too late in life to start making those efforts.

The Racism of Kristy Glass

Hey y'all. Gonna make you aware of a situation involving a white Latter-day Saint creator and influencer in the knitting, crocheting, and fiber arts community who just got called out on her racism. You know, in case she tries to galvanize white supporters from this community to defend her when it goes down.

Some of y'all might remember Kristy Glass from the I'm a Mormon campaign. Her video made it through the "We Don't Say Mormon Anymore" rebrand and you'll find it here.

She has a popular Youtube channel where she interviews makers all over the yarn crafting industry. Pattern designers, yarn dyers, shop owners, everyone who's anyone in a global, multi-million dollar industry. Those of you who knit likely already know her name.

A couple years back, the entire community had a moment of reckoning for how it treats black, indigenous, and LGBTQ+ consumers and creators. It's an ongoing conversation that white people have tried to silence so they can "get back to knitting. When that didn't work, a new approach emerged. Rather than pretending black makers and crafters don't exist or belong, white creators tried exploiting and make money off of their presence to show how "woke" they are. That's what Kristy Glass has being accused of doing.

In the words of Adella Colvin, who blew up Kristy's spot on Instagram today, there is a brand of white social media influencer in maker communities who collect black and indigenous people "like Pokemon." They don't care about inclusivity or diversity. Just clout.

Here's the link so you can hear what Adella has to say in her own words. I've followed Adella for years. If she says something is a problem, I trust her implicitly. She doesn't say stuff like this to cause trouble. She does it to invite change. Adella shared her own experience of when Kristy tried to do this to her. She also has firsthand experience of watching her do it to other black people. Specifically, she's calling out Kristy's business model of targeting newer BIPOC creators and having them pay her for exposure.

You know what's worse than expecting someone to work for free, because "exposure" doesn't pay anybody's bills? Charging black and brown people to work for you while they supply you with content. Adella called that exploitation and I agree with her.

"That sounds like a Yarn Folks problem. What you want us to do about that?"

As I said in the beginning, do not let her weaponize her whiteness or her connections to the LDS community if she tries. Based on how these conversations have gone down in the past with other creators, that's on the table. It's another opportunity for us, as Mormon and Mormon adjacent folks, to reckon with the community that taught us it's okay to exploit the labor of BIPOC while providing entirely hypothetical value in return.

Our economy runs on money, not "exposure." Exposure doesn't pay bills or buy food. Pay people a fair price for the value they provide for you in money. And if you get caught not doing that with black and brown people, expect it to blow up in your face.

Adella isn't calling for anyone to unfollow Kristy Glass. But I will. Don't follow someone or give support to them when they treat people like this. If she wants to have a brand that is inclusive and genuinely celebrates diversity, her heart needs to be in it. Not just her pockets.

* * *

UPDATE: As predicted, Kristy decided to act brand new about this entire situation. Adella, who is not having it, took her to task in public because Kristy chose not act right in private.

This total disregard for black people and their experiences, their boundaries, and their patience for how openly disrespectful she is to them on a regular basis. It has been going on with Kristy Glass for years.

Do y'all have any idea how wrong you gotta be to get a black woman to publicly cuss you out while wearing her bonnet? 

Viewing Kristy's response to the situation, she seems to think the only thing she has to apologize for are the out of pocket comments she made about Michelle Obama's cover on Vogue Knitting magazine.

By the time a black person in America is publicly calling out a white person for being racist, it's because they've already amassed an entire collection of receipts as evidence and they're exhausted by ongoing behavior they never should've had to tolerate at all.

"Pray to the racist white God you believe in and thank them that I'm not petty. Because if I was, I would post all the messages and screen shots I've received from other people about you" is a paraphrase that is not far off from what Adella said, and is 100% about Kristy being Mormon.

Which is to say, I now have the perfect comeback for the next person who gets uppity about me still calling myself Mormon. "I don't actually know if God is offended when I call myself Mormon. It's never come up. But I know he's offended every time you say Jesus is white."  

You may not think Kristy's religion is relevant to this conversation about her racism. I've been Mormon for fifteen years. I know it's relevant. There is real white supremacy in my church that needs to be rejected and dismantled. These conversations are how we do that.

I respect Adella immensely. I believe her. I trust her. Do not come into my space and disrespect her or any of the BIPOC makers who have been affected by this. I am here to dismantle white supremacy in my religious community. I'm not going to stop just because you don't want to acknowledge it in fiber world. This is what "doing the work" in anti-racism looks like. This is what BIPOC are constantly asking us to do. You can be part of that work, or you can move along. But do not interrupt what is taking place here with white lady tears or confused bird noises. Learn something.

The Case for Not Celebrating Pioneer Day at Church

Something I've noticed, having sat through enough Pioneer Day rigamarole in my time at Church, is that many average Mormon folks go out of their way to paint their ancestors in a good light on that day with respect to native tribes in Utah. 

That's... not accurate.

In case no one has ever told you and y'all just didn't know: there was no such thing as a white settler in the Utah Territory who was good for the survival of native tribes. Every single one of them was highly disruptive to the ecosystem, causing starvation and violence.

Read this. Internalize it. Be different because of it. 

I've had a bishop in Idaho who once brought the peace pipe to sacrament meeting that allegedly belonged to whatever tribesman his ancestors had fed and preserved good dealings with during the colonizer period. The part he left out of the story is that feeding tribes was only necessary because his family was there.

In a very literal, biological sense, white colonizers to the native territories of the Intermountain West were an invasive species. They had a permanent ecological impact that was negative then, continues to be negative now, and isn't anything worth celebrating. Especially not at church.

And just in case it needs to be said to the folks who will show up here when church is over. I thank God every day I was not born and raised in the Church. I have no heritage from the Utah occupation. I have no loyalty to these myths and stories y'all want to tell. This is what happens when you convert and baptize people who don't share the same identities and origins as you. Your traditions, as much as you love them, mean nothing to us.

And I'll just go ahead and say it. If my descendants acted a damn fool the way some Mormons do about their folks who joined the Church in the 1800s, glorifying so much of the suffering that is still part of being a convert, I would haunt every single one of them.

Don't celebrate the hardships, costs, and sacrifices that come with being a convert to the Church. Deal with the cultural baggage and trauma that still makes being a convert so hard.  

The Online Harassment and Violence of Matthew Cicotte


I'm not saying I want Matthias Cicotte kicked out of the Church. 

I don't want anyone to ever have to get kicked out, to be honest. Excommunication is a violence of its own. I don't know if we can correct violence with more violence. 

But clearly, doing nothing about #DezNat isn't working. Not giving any meaningful correction isn't working. Punishing all the wrong people isn't working.

I just want consistency. If what the September Six did was worthy of Church discipline, why isn't racism, sexism, antisemitism, and white supremacy? 

Why isn't actual violence and harassment of anyone, especially other members of the Church, considered apostasy?

Why is saying you love Heavenly Mother enough to pray to her a sin, but instigating actual physical violence and harassment against other church members is... fine?

Prejudice is a sin. So why aren't we treating it like one? 

Why I'm Still Trying

I've talked quite a bit about how I've arrived on the other side of my crisis of certainty and the fuller embrace of my faith. I don't want to call this a "Why do I stay?" because that implies that I'm physically present on some consistent basis.

It's more like "Why am I still trying?"

The answer may not be profoundly feminist or original. But it's the truth. My husband and I have our own weird little corner of Mormonism that we occupy together. Our own private planet where our beliefs and experiences have a life of their own.

Because of his sense of humor, he's allergic to ever taking anything too seriously. He loves an irreverent joke. His favorite thing is when someone pops off with nonsense in sacrament meeting because he finds it endlessly funny. He goes to church, in part, to laugh at people.

As an uptight overachiever in recovery, I can't express to you how unnaturally this came to me. To me, Church was not for laughing. Church was for doing serious things for serious people who are serious because that is correct. 

So much of what bothers me about the Church experience doesn't phase him because he doesn't care at all about what other people think. I can't express to you how little he cares that there are people at Church who are openly ridiculous in what they say and do. He says to me over and over again, "They aren't why I go." What this means is our shared religious life stays largely between us. Other people aren't a part of it. It's just us, discussing thoughts and ideas together in a shared language of belief.

When institutional Church became unbearable for me to sit through, I still had him and our weird little space together. He didn't withdraw that from me. He didn't try to force orthodoxy on me. He just gave me the space to figure out my own inner world and shared in it with me.

I've seen a lot of cases where Mormonism becomes another thing that pulls a couple apart when one of them chooses to distance themselves from the institutional Church. My husband never did that to me. He didn't let that happen to us. He went through it with me. I'm not the same person I was when we got married. I will probably never be that person again. He didn't view that as some violation of some contract we had. I don't owe him that. Change is part of the messy business of being human. He'd be the first person to tell you that.

I don't want the version of Mormonism that doesn't believe in science or vaccination, endorses insurrection, disrespects women, and turns a blind eye to racism and the torture of LGBTQ+ people. I want the version of Mormonism that exists in my home, where none of that is welcome. I want to inhabit the version of Mormonism that lives in my husband's heart, where respect, equality, and good sense are paramount. Where nobody is ever a second-class citizen, least of all me. 

Why do I believe there is a future in the Church I'm willing to try for? Because I see it, fully embodied, in the person my husband already is, and in the person he's becoming. 

In our home, we don't have to wait for some unknowable future to see it. It's already here.

Healing Political Divides within the Church

I'm not saying this post at Segullah on healing political divides withing the Church is wrong. I'm saying it's an incomplete picture of how to achieve what this post author is asking for for failure to acknowledge that there's more to these divisions than a difference of opinion.

"I think LGBTQ people are all going to hell" is not an opinion. "Black people in America are violent thugs who deserve what they get" is not an opinion. They are bigotry, by definition. They are the rejection and devaluing of people for who they are, which inevitably lead to violence.

My inability to get along with people at church because of that bigotry is not a moral failure on my part. My disillusionment and feelings of betrayal at discovering how many people at church feel this way is valid. The problem here is not my refusal to be patient with or accept people who think this way. This isn't a political difference of opinion. Whether or not people deserve respect is not a political difference of opinion. It's a moral failure that requires real institutional action.

A necessary aspect of the unity this post calls for is genuine repentance within the Church, individually and from the institution as a whole. The rejection of old attitudes, the issuance of apologies, and a sincere commitment to changes in behavior. Unity without repentance is unacceptable. Tolerance is not a virtue when there are individuals in our community who are still actively being harmed and we are doing nothing to stop it. 

That's not what being a real Christian looks like.

Also, let's resist the urge—and I would even call it a temptation—to think that these divisions will be easy to heal from.
If we ever start to think that, it's because we're oversimplifying the problem and failing to acknowledge how hard trust is to rebuild once it's lost.

Decolonizing Missionary Service

Part of the issue I have with the idea of all missionaries being colonizers is how it assumes missionary work looks the same from every person who serves, when that certainly isn't the case.

Because missionary work within the Church is gendered, with only men being allowed to perform baptisms, there is a huge difference between what missionary labor looks like between genders.

When I served at Temple Square and in Brazil from 2011 to 2012, the vast majority of my labor was invested in a combination of hospitality and tourism, training local leadership, and ministering to the physical and emotional needs of other church members and my companions. That easily represents 85-90% of my mission pie chart.

A good amount of the conflicts I had between myself and the elders I served with was because finding people for them to baptize was not my number one priority. And that was not entirely a white failure. It was universal to elders in my mission, regardless of their background. 

If we want to decolonize missionary service, it would begin by training all missionaries to serve how, in my experience, many women already serve as missionaries: decentralizing the importance of baptism and increasing emphasis on supporting local leaders and members.

Holy Envy: Valarie Kaur and Revolutionary Love

Seeing a lot of white folks in the zeitgeist talking about people on the right calling for civility and forgiveness now that Trump has lost, and the visceral rejection of any possibility of forgiveness. We need to talk about this, because this is going to be a crucial turning point for us all.

I'm going to be quoting Valarie Kaur's interview with Baratunde Thurston on his podcast, How to Citizen. Valarie Kaur is a Sikh activist who has been in the long fight for racial justice since 9/11. She has a pedigree in activism that is truly remarkable. She knows what she's talking about when she says giving up on people isn't the way to real change. Her book, See No Stranger: a Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love, is all about her work in reclaiming people from the other side of the political divide, and how to labor in a way that preserves her strength, moral clarity, and dignity.

The fact that so many of us just reached the end of four years of being occupied by a hostile administration and we're absolutely exhausted? She knows all about that. She had to recover from that herself. We're doing it wrong and she shares her wisdom in how to do it better.

If we, as white people, give up on collecting and reclaiming our own, that doesn't make the problem go away. It just outsources the problem to black and brown people, who are most in danger from making that attempt. Where we can make that labor, that's our role in this fight.

To be an effective agent of change, she says we all need three kinds of love: 

  1. Love for our opponents
  2. Love for ourselves
  3. Love for others

When we burn out, it's because we haven't achieved a balance between the three in our activism. "Loving just our opponents, that's self-loathing. Loving just ourselves, that's escapism. Loving just others, that's ineffective." That's what she has learned from the long labor of trying to make a difference in this country. This comes from a woman who has labored with white supremacists. I don't need to learn the hard way what she has already figured out.

"I choose to see [my opponent's] humanity in order to preserve my own. Laboring to love my opponents is also how I love myself." Why? Because hate comes at an enormous cost that we shouldn't be willing to pay.

She compares the labor to reclaim the United States as giving birth. The darkness we've been in for the past four years was a tomb. It's also the womb, the place where all new things are born. If we imagine giving birth to new change in this country without labor, we're imagining something that has never existed. The arduous labor of changing minds and hearts is the only place where change has ever come from.

So, in her words, "breathe and push."

From My Own Experience

I know what it is to be in toxic relationships, struggling with the entire act of forgiveness for someone I feel doesn't deserve it. That's has been my cross to bear my entire life. I am an expert on that.

Here's what I know.

Forgiveness doesn't need to be immediate or instantaneous. If you need time, take time. Don't try and accomplish the hardest thing you may ever do from a wounded, exhausted place. That's not Christianity. That's madness.

Also, don't go through this alone! Reach out. Get help. Have a support system as you do this work. Study those who have gone before you down these same roads. Learn from them.

Saving space in your mind and heart for a different future doesn't have to mean pretending everything is fine, or being in denial about where things stand right now. Set whatever boundaries you need. Maintain them and adjust them as things may change.

Hope for change is not a betrayal to what we've been through. Allowing for healing and change is the ultimately way to honor our pain—by valuing our lives, the survival we fought for, sufficiently to not allow hatred and bitterness to destroy it. That's what you deserve.

The most transformative experience I've had in my Christian life was when I read the verse AFTER D&C 64:10. You know, the one that says "of you it is required to forgive all men"? 

Read the next verse:

And ye ought to say in your hearts—let God judge between me and thee, and reward thee according to thy deeds.
If you don't want the corrosive, soul-destroying task of getting revenge and doling out punishment, God has already made you free from it. It's not your problem. If that's the best you can do for right now, that is enough! Refuse to believe in a God who cares more about reclaiming the injurer than rescuing the injured.

We will get through this together. Don't try to go through this alone. And if you're concerned about never being able to forgive out of agony of spirit, believe me. I've been there. It gets better. There is healing ahead for you. You can do this. I know you can.

Violent Backlash to COVID-19 Restrictions

I wasn't listening to general conference yesterday because husband and I have taken up typewriter collection and repair as a COVID-19 hobby. We took a brief trip down to Utah to find new machines and visit with friends, stopping at antique shops in towns and cities between Boise and Salt Lake City. We got in last night.

We are zealots when it comes to masking, hand washing, sanitizer, and taking every precaution we can to be safe and to allow others to be safe in our presence. In several places we stopped in Utah and Idaho, we were alone in that sentiment.

This summer in Idaho has been difficult. Armed counter protestors have made the city I live in feel like there is no refuge here except in my own house. When the mayor of Boise instituted a mask mandate, right wing protesters showed up in person to take the masks our tax dollars have paid for and burned them in the street. We had Ammon Bundy showing up here with unmasked, armed resistance in opposition to COVID-19 restrictions. He and his supporters stormed the capitol building multiple times and he had to be forcibly removed.

The life altering moment for me, however, was when Black Lives Matter tried to have a peaceful protest downtown. Armed groups, intending to commit real violence, made it necessary to cancel the event. As a precaution, the mayor urged BLM protestors not to show up at City Hall where their protest was supposed to take place. But police were mobilized anyway in case violence erupted on site.

My husband was working traffic control remotely for that incident. He received images of police with high caliber rifles, ready to open fire on the public at that protest if things went sideways. 

So, when I heard President Oaks' talk condemning violent protest, I'll be honest. Rioters and looters from BLM were the furthest people from my mind because we never experienced that here. That's not who initiates violence and chaos where I live. Militia groups, Trump supporters, and far right factions in the Idaho Republican party are the ones who engage in violent threats and armed resistance in Idaho. Those are the groups who stand condemned by President Oaks in my city.

Is it understandable to me that other people specifically felt like he was targeting Black Lives Matter with his remarks? Of course. He didn't choose to be explicit in the groups he was condemning. Being vague means he lost control of his message.

But is that the only way to interpret much of what he said? No. 

I wish he would've been more clear to avoid misunderstandings like these. Being vague risks deepening the divisions that are already at a breaking point in so many communities in this country. I am glad that the leaders of the Church are making attempts to confront the polarization and violence spreading across the planet. It's long past due, given that right-wing prejudice is being perpetuated by our own.

I saw a criticism about them not providing us with any kind of concrete actions to eliminate racism in our congregations. I understand the desire for this. Based on some of the people I met in northern Utah on my trip, I can promise you it wouldn't help. The people who most need to be confronted about racism and prejudice aren't going to be in settings where they will receive that correction. The rare few who are will not be ready in this moment to metabolize it.

Confronting racism in yourself begins with uncomfortable, honest self-reflection. It involves an unflinching moral inventory of yourself and your actions. I would argue there have already been calls for this from multiple speakers. I wouldn't call that nothing or insignificant, even if it is ultimately ineffective.

It's easy to want people to be where you are, with the understanding you have of what is needed to confront racism. Right now, we're still working on getting people to even want  to do that. Being honest with ourselves about that is the first step to making lasting change.
We could all be operating from a list of mandated changes to our congregations to eliminate racism. Or we can each be opening ourselves to divine correction, asking in sincere prayer "What can I do?" Then committing to act on the actions we ourselves come up with. I think the people who are most receptive to the former are people who are already doing the latter. 
I trust that if we follow the counsel we've been given to reject racism, more will follow. And it will be the answer to many prayers for change.

Racism and Hypodescent in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

I've spoken before on race and patriarchal blessings on Twitter several times. Every time I share it, it always manages to find someone for whom it is new information. This reality of concealment is in and of itself a form of racism. And believe me, we'll come to that.

In case you're unfamiliar with the custom of patriarchal blessings, they're a ritual that exists to declare and connect Latter-day Saints to the House of Israel through tribal declarations. This is the one distinction between patriarchal blessings and all other priesthood blessings of healing and comfort. A patriarch could declare his authority, give a tribal declaration, and close in the name of Jesus Christ, and it would be a perfectly valid patriarchal blessing.



This practice as we now know and understand it began in earliest days of the Church. It was a privilege extended to all baptized members in good standing, independent of race. Elijah Abel and Jane Manning James both received patriarchal blessings under the priesthood restriction. The difference for them was they were denied the crucial element that defines a patriarchal blessing: a tribal declaration. This began a practice that has been disavowed in theory, but continues in practice for many individuals today.

What is the significance of tribal denial?

Latter-day Saints believe tribal declarations relate to our identity and future responsibilities in the kingdom of God/the Second Coming of Christ. As told in Revelation, we believe they make up our inheritance in the Celestial Kingdom. To deny a black person of African descent a tribe in their patriarchal blessing is akin to saying "You don't have an inheritance in God's kingdom. I'm not interested in a heaven where you are present, and I don't believe God has any use for you."

This practice was policy, and it was deeply entrenched in white supremacy. Church leaders took it upon themselves to declare that black people were unworthy of entering into and living in God's presence. There's no nicer way of putting it and I don't suggest looking for one.

Since the Church existed primarily in the United States at its conception, there wasn't much of a need to be granular in their treatment of black people with this policy. If you were black, the policy applied to you. The absence of black bodies in those congregations is a legacy of racism. You'll hear the line that church congregations are a reflection of the communities that surround them, meaning predominantly white communities produce white congregations. But this is a gross misrepresentation of the Church's history with race in the United States, which could be an entire separate post on its own.

As the Church spread across the planet, this didn't stop the restored gospel of Jesus Christ from reaching people in places far from Salt Lake City. Outside of the administrative reach of the Church, groups would form their own congregations. Areas that had access to the Book of Mormon would use it. Otherwise, the Church would provide basic materials and let these groups govern themselves without access to priesthood or ordinance administration until the groups became more established. The Church wasn't organized formally enough near them for them to know a race restriction even existed. Language and cultural barriers were sufficient to create informal barriers for many years. This allowed the Church and its leadership to continue perpetuating institutional racism in belief, policy, and practice for another decade or so before countries like Brazil finally caught up to them.

Imagine a country with no white people. Well, at least no notion of "purely white" people. Brazil is a country where people who've lived there for generations are all mixed race. There are lighter or darker skin colors, but there's no such thing as "pure" whiteness in Brazil.

How do you spread the Church or build temples in a country like Brazil, where no one is "white enough" to meet the racial standard for participation the Church has set?

Genealogies and Patriarchal Blessings as Racial Identifiers

Until this point, black and mixed race church members were required to submit genealogies before they could fully participate in the Church. If anyone within the last 4 generations of their family was black, the priesthood restriction would be applied to them. These church members could still attend Sunday services, be baptized, receive patriarchal blessings, and pay tithing. But that's where their progression in the Church stopped. They couldn't enter the temples, serve missions, or hold senior leadership positions.

That may work in the United States, but it doesn't work in Brazil. Most people there only knew as much family history as was passed down orally. So their skin color would be inconclusive, they'd have no genealogy to submit, and no way of seeking out that information. What then?

I don't know who came up with this practice. If anyone does, they're not telling. But the solution they came up would be elegantly simple if it wasn't so deeply inhuman. They let the patriarchs declare race as part of people's patriarchal blessings. The mechanism was already in place to give no tribe or nonsense tribes (like Ham or Cain) for black church members. This was a continuation of that practice. If the patriarch felt "inspired" to give you a real tribe, you were white enough. If not, you weren't.

For more information, this article from Dialogue was instrumental in unraveling and piecing together much of this history.

If you're a white member of the Church, think about that for a second. Imagine if, as part of your patriarchal blessing experience, you were going to to have to pass a whiteness test to determine if you were white enough to be an equal in the Church.

What would you do if you didn't pass?

What experiences and opportunities in your life would you never have had?

That was the reality for church members in places like Brazil who lived through the priesthood restriction. They're still alive. They still remember it. I know that because they were still living when I served my mission in Sao Paulo. I had the privilege of hearing some of this history directly from their own mouths while participating in ministry beside them. Part of why I continue to recount this history is so their faith and sacrifices are never forgotten, or perhaps even worse, deliberately erased.

Official Declaration 2, 1978

On 1 June 1978, the priesthood restriction was abolished. Every faithful, worthy man, regardless of race, was to be ordained. Every family, including women and children who had also been excluded, received the ability to worship in temples and serve in leadership positions. Desegregation was officially coming to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

But was that the end of racism in the Church? Of course not. All the justifications that white people used to justify the race restriction—the mark of Cain, the curse of Ham, the idea that black people were neutral in the preexistence, even the idea that white God has to remove blackness from them before they can be exalted—these are all still in circulation today. I've heard these ideas perpetuated by older white members in the United States. The last time was in an all-white Sunday School class in rural Delaware in 2013. I also heard them too many times to count in Brazil in 2011-2012.

I was in Brazil for less than two weeks the first time I had to have this conversation. I could barely speak Portuguese. I was at a lunch appointment with my companion and a member in her late twenties. They started comparing notes on the priesthood restriction during our lunch appointment. Specifically, they were talking about black people being neutral in the war in heaven. They not only believed it, they got angry with me when I tried to contradict them.

"You're telling me that what I was taught by a Seventy was wrong." It wasn't a question. It was a challenge.

So with my broken Portuguese, I told them: "I don't have the vocabulary to respond more. But I've heard an apostle of the Lord say those things are false. And I know that's true."

It was the first coherent sentence I formed on Brazilian soil.

I'll be honest with you: I was angry that I was put into that position by the leaders of my Church. At that time, there were no resources translated into Portuguese that talked about race. I had no training, no preparation, to do any better than I did that day. The statement I was referencing was from Jeffrey R. Holland in an interview he did back when Helen Whitney's The Mormons came out on PBS in 2007.

The only reason I knew this interview existed is because I joined in a part of Maryland where Baptists and Catholics are at war with each other. I'd been attacked by them constantly on everything under the sun, including racism in the Church, since I was a teenager. I internalized a very painful lesson from that period in my life, that I never want anyone outside the Church to think they know what I believe better than I do, or to put words in my mouth. It comes from constantly being put into that position over and over again. 

When I had to utilize that knowledge in a foreign language completely alone—with no help, no resources, no training, and no support—I realized something else.

The burden to do this shouldn't rest squarely on me.

I shouldn't have to point to resources outside of the Church to contradict the racist folklore still being passed around. I shouldn't have to translate it in a language I don't speak fluently. I shouldn't be the one offering apologies for the harm senior church leaders have caused. They should be the ones doing that. They should be using the full power and authority of the priesthood they hold to be actively eradicating racism from the Church. They should be setting the example for how to offer sincere apologies for our racist legacy. They should be creating resources to combat racism for the entire church, in every language.

There are still black people throughout the Church, living and dead, who have never received valid tribal declarations in their patriarchal blessings. There are patriarchs today who know nothing of this history, yet refuse to make corrections and addendums for these individuals.

How do I know?

Because I've spoken to them. I've listened to them talk about their experiences. I've seen the pain and frustration it has caused them. No one deserves to ever feel that way, but especially not at church. Not at our church. Not in any church. Church leadership has much for which they should apologize. But I can think of nothing more pressing, more timely, than to take some accountability for our legacy of institutional racism.

There can be no healing without accountability, and no accountability without acknowledgment. 

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