Beliefs Jana Riess: Flunking Sainthood Opinion

Will Mormon missionaries lead the way out of racism?

Margaret Young, center, surrounded by friends in the DRC
Margaret Young, center, surrounded by friends in the DRC

Margaret Young, center, surrounded by friends in the DRC

BYU writing instructor, novelist, and playwright Margaret Blair Young has turned her talented hand to a new venture: a feature film that’s inspired by a true story of Mormon missionaries in the Congo. You can check out the Kickstarter campaign here, watch a short video about the movie, and make a donation.

Today Margaret shares the inspiration for this story and her hope that LDS missionary service will pave the way from a racist past toward a more just future. – JKR

 

A guest post by Margaret Blair Young

When my husband and I served in the LDS Missionary Training Center from 2007 to 2009, we had a group of young men headed to the Democratic Republic of Congo. I adopted the Congo group and became a second mother to all of them, so I have emails spanning the whole missions of fifteen LDS missionaries. The emails support sociologist Armand Mauss’s belief that through missionary service, where young men and young women are sent into other cultures and often paired with missionaries from those cultures, the Mormon Church will move past racism.

A Mormon mission in the DRC

A Mormon mission in the DRC

“My” missionaries were part of an experiment. Previously, Anglo missionaries had been paired with Anglos. Now, they were paired with Congolese and other Africans. How would they all fare?

There were inevitable cultural clashes. Among the emails I have are some details of these clashes. Not all were successfully resolved, but there were impressive strides. One Anglo missionary reported this:

My [Congolese] companion started saying how all us white missionaries were failures, did things wrong, didn’t baptize, and how the African missionaries were real missionaries. He just kept attacking and attacking, and I just kept defending until I was so angry that I wanted to attack back. And this thought started in my head: “African missionaries are bad because” . . . etc., etc. As I considered what I was about to say, my mind froze. I realized that something had gone HORRIBLY WRONG. I was starting to think like a racist. It terrified me. I went silent. We got to the next rendezvous, and I told my companion to teach it because I COULDN’T. My mind couldn’t focus. I was absorbed in thinking of everything that I did which led to this, and what I could do to FIX it.

The rest of the day was a struggle. Halfway through our last lesson, all that poor, weak effort I had put forth for patience and love paid off. My prayers were answered, and everything just clicked. And all my frustration was gone, and I loved him again.

A Mormon mission in the DRC

A Mormon mission in the DRC

I remain fascinated by the growth I saw in these young men. Later, when I began communicating with one of the Congolese missionaries, Aime Mbuyi—whose reputation for goodness was impeccable—I recognized a great story unfolding. Aime had been a revolutionary before joining the LDS Church. He described it:

Before I joined the Church, I was in a revolutionary group. We had a camp which was like a boarding school. One of the purposes of this camp was to teach us to abandon the religious system brought by white men . .. All of this was initiated by an African ex-Catholic priest who was the leader of the camp. . . He was building hate in us.

I saw a story, which would become the seed of a film: two men who carry deep prejudice against the other must learn to get along. The Mormon context was perfect, given the Church’s troubled past with race. “My” missionaries also discovered Joseph Fielding Smith’s Doctrines of Salvation in their apartment, which included the now-disavowed idea that blacks had been less valiant in the premortal life than whites. When LDS apostle Jeffrey R. Holland was meeting with them in 2009, an African missionary asked him about the eternal status of blacks. Had he been bad in the premortal existence?

I got similar reports from a variety of missionaries who witnessed Elder Holland’s response. Jared Wigginton said he “put to shame with Apostolic authority [the idea] that Africans were ‘fence sitters’ in the pre-existence.”

The conflict was so organic in this story that I merely tweaked it as I wrote the screenplay.

For me, the young men who form the basis of the film Heart of Africa represent hope. Indeed, Elder Holland told them, “If I could choose a symbol for the Church, it would be two missionaries.”

I’ll tweak that a bit: two missionaries, one white and one black, working under an almost invisible hand from Heaven, posed in benediction.

About the author

Jana Riess

Senior columnist Jana Riess is the author of many books, including "The Prayer Wheel" (Random House/Convergent, 2018) and "The Next Mormons: How Millennials Are Changing the LDS Church" (Oxford University Press, 2019). She has a PhD in American religious history from Columbia University.

21 Comments

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  • We have already shot b-roll and will return to the Congo in August for principal photography. Since we will release first in the Congo, we will be watching how the elections go and release when things are calm. 2016.

  • The missionary described as “One Anglo missionary” clearly demonstrates to all of us that when we are verbally attacked we must follow the instruction from Sermon on the Mount, “Agree with thy advisory quickly, while thou art in the way with him…”
    Dr. David Burns, the psychiatrist and author / teacher, suggests we do this by admitting, immediately, all that is true. Then, after calming takes place and clear heads prevail, gently, assertively and with full respect, explain “the rest of the story” or go right to problem solving and work on solutions.
    This procedure puts you on the same side with the one-time advisory. You both are now attacking the problem, not each other.
    In this case, one could easily say, “yes, I have done some things incorrectly (if you haven’t, you haven’t been doing anything), I have only baptized x people in the last y months and you are much more bold as a missionary than I am (if he is). (All statements must be true)
    This response takes the fight right out of a person. Whereas defending parts of nebulous statements fuels the anger.
    Great story, thanks for sharing.

  • this is timely. ever since the book of mormon musical shot off the charts, i’ve been hoping and praying for a real glimpse of what happens when n. american missionaries go to africa. thank you for your work on this.

  • How can Mormonism, with a good conscience, continue to adjust and change doctrine? Before I make my statement, I don’t believe the doctrine that blacks were lazy in the life before this one (in fact, we had no life before this one), and Scripture doesn’t tell us to discriminate toward anyone.
    But Bringham Young said that when blacks were let into the Mormon priesthood that it would be the end of Mormonism. He also claimed that anything he said should be regarded as scripture.
    But now Mormonism changes this doctrine. It sounds very shifty to me.

  • Margaret Young:
    While your movie on racism and Congo seems well intended, it actually reflects the impediment in Mormonism. Not to belittle your work…please! But, to be honest with you. In the future, your movie will portray how backward the Mormon sect was, at the time that the world progressively moved forward. To illustrate what I mean, refer to the August 1996 Ensign Article “The Temple Marriage I Waited For” by Patricia E. McInnis. (See: https://www.lds.org/ensign/print/1996/08/mormon-journal/the-temple-marriage-i-waited-for?lang=eng&clang=eng).
    This poor young black woman narrates that:

    “I had spent four years at Brigham Young University, where thousands of young Saints find their eternal mates, without being blessed with any marriage opportunities. As an African American at a predominantly Caucasian university, I did not find many dating partners who were seriously interested in marriage.”

    I think the publishers of this Ensign article at that time might have intended to highlight the importance of Mormon faithfuls waiting for and yearning for a temple marriage. However, if you look at the same article through modern lenses, the above sentences scream out the horrible racism that this black Mormon faithful girl encountered from the white racist community of Brigham Young University, on the dating scene. This is just an article that even the Mormon church may be embarrassed that it exists in its set of publications.

    I think your movie might be headed to the same fate in the future (even if it is popular by modern standards). The intent of your movie seems to teach Mormon faithfuls about morals against racism. However, some years from now, this movie may actually simply serve as an exhibit of how backward and lagging behind in time your Mormon sect was in embracing racial acceptance, while the rest of the society had progressively moved ahead. Many movies like yours have already been made by the secular society, which is way ahead of Mormonism. As a result, the secular society has fairly moved ahead of Mormonism. America having a biracial president (whose Black and White parents married in 1961) is already a testament of the diversity in the secular world. Making a movie in 2015 to portray this same already existing Obama parents’ racial tolerance story that was already made and acted out by Obama’s parents in 1961 (by you simply only using Mormon missionaries as characters) portrays how backwards the Mormon faith is, in getting rid of its historical racism and bigotry. I don’t think this outcome is your intention, but it is actually the outcome that is being portrayed.
    As the Lord’s “only true” church on the face of the earth as it claims, Mormonism should be way ahead of the general society in abandoning its racism and bigotry and embracing racial tolerance. It should be way ahead of other religions.
    Anyway, good luck on this project.
    D.T.S.

  • As Margaret’s husband, I’m obviously biased. But having acknowledged that, I’d like to point out what I think are some flaws in DTS’s comments.
    (1) DTS argues that “the world” and “secular society” are way ahead of Mormonism (meaning Mormon culture, I assume). That comment takes a very selective view of what’s going on in “the world.” Besides problems of many kinds to which the gospel offers powerful answers, “the world” also includes horrific violence and hatred based on religion, race, and nationality. Even in Europe and America, known for their relatively progressive stance, racism and other kinds of intolerance are alive and well. Hearts and behavior still need to be changed.
    (2) President Obama’s story is indeed an inspiring one and shows that attitudes have changed–though still not as much as they need to. But his parents’ marriage in 1961 is hardly strong evidence that America was racially tolerant at the time. That marriage would probably have been condemned by most Americans at the time and would have been illegal in some states. Jim Crow was still practiced through parts of the country. The Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts had not yet passed. And even after their passage, there was turmoil for at least another decade or two as many Americans resisted changes.
    (3) I haven’t looked up the Ensign article DTS quotes–but it seems to me that publishing personal accounts that include the kind of difficulties the young woman faced can be healthy and healing. We need to face the kinds of things she and others experienced–that can be part of our collective repentance process. Studies have shown that, even before the priesthood restriction was lifted in 1978, Mormons were no more racially intolerant than Americans generally. But given the high standard to which we are called, that is certainly no excuse. Yes, what the young woman describes could easily have been true at other predominantly Caucasian universities at the time (and at some even now)–but it should be especially painful for us as we consider how it clashes with gospel values.
    (4) I think Margaret’s general point is well taken. Despite the progress Americans have made in racial matters, churches in general still tend to be divided along racial lines. Martin Luther King III has said the Sunday is the most segregated day in America–because for the most part, blacks and whites don’t worship together. The Church (meaning The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) has the potential to offer a much different model, not only because it embraces members of all races and nationalities, but because its members do more than just sit in the same meetinghouses and then go home. We work together in callings; we visit each other; we have the opportunity to create vibrant, loving communities. And, as Margaret points out, Mormon missionary work puts people who are very different together in companionships and districts and invites them to work together as followers of Christ. These are the kinds of experiences that can genuinely change hearts.
    And just to repeat my first point–the “progress” of “the world” and of secular society is in many ways superficial. It hasn’t gone all the way to the heart. Hearts still need to change.

  • Hello Bruce:
    Thanks for your response. Since I believe that your response is not driven by any form of bigotry but rather, a sincere effort to defend the Mormon sect as the Lord’s “only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth” (D&C 1:30), it feel compelled to respond to your statement.
    MY AFFILIATION WITH MORMONISM:
    To begin with, I know Margaret Young, Darius Gray, and Marvin Perkins very well. I have worked with them before, and I consider them true friends. I have met you personally. I’m assuming that you are still a Bishop (last time I checked, you were a Bishop). I commend you for your faithfulness in furthering the cause of Mormonism. I wrote the above post, not as an outsider to Mormonism or not as its critic who wants to find fault with the Mormon sect. Rather, I wrote the above post as a true friend of Mormonism who would like to see true and meaningful changes with regards to racism and bigotry happen within the Mormon organization. I have always been a defender of Mormonism. My defense for Mormonism can make a very expansive and exhaustive list. For example, I have dedicated two years of my life as a full-time missionary for the Mormon sect. I hold a current temple recommend and strive to live up to its requirements.

    I have been a staunch promoter and defender of Margaret and Darius’ publications, and efforts through the Genesis Group until I was recently forced to conclude that their work, no matter how well intended, actually stood in the right way of the Mormonism sect embracing true and meaningful changes that would eradicate its currently rampant and mostly covert racism and bigotry within the organization. I arrived at this sad conclusion after years of lengthy soul-searching and efforts, including having one-on-one meetings and conversations with Jeffery R. Holland, Quentin L. Cook, Robert D. Hales, and many other high ranking members of the Mormon hierarchy.

    In fact, I have reached a conclusion that John Dehlin (with Mormon Stories Podcast) and Kate Kelly (with Ordain Women) have made way more achievements for women and LGBT members, in Mormonism in a relatively short period of time, than what the likes of Margaret Young, Darius Gray, Marvin Perkins, Tamu Smith, etc. may ever achieve for blacks in their lifetime. The excommunication of John and Kate actually immortalized them and transformed them into saints who “were counted worthy to suffer shame for [Christ’s] name” (Acts 5: 41). The real looser in this whole ordeal is the Mormon church. History will repeat itself. When Juanita Brooks published her book “The Mountain Meadows Massacre” in 1950, she was shunned by Mormon authorities and community of the time. Also, when Douglas Wallace baptized Larry Lester (a black man) in April 1976, and gave him the priesthood, he was excommunicated by the Mormon church. The Mormon church’s recent official admission of its complicit in the Mountain Meadow’s massacre and official admission that its historical racism were a man’s doing rather than God’s doing, literally exalted Juanita Brooks and Douglas Wallace into saints.

    As an insider of Mormonism, it saddens me to observe that the Mormon sect has utilized its Public Relations machinery to eradicate its overt racism. However, it has done almost nothing to eradicate its horrifying covert racism that is rampant within the organization. This propaganda has reduced Mormonism to a hypocritical organization. To give you an example of this practice, when Brigham Young University (BYU) Prof. Randy Bott gave his racist bigoted interview in the Washington Post on February 28, 2012, he was vehemently condemned by the Mormon church and its public relations machinery, mostly because this interview publicly embarrassed the Mormon sect. Interestingly, Randy Bott (and many other BYU professors whom I closely worked with when I was a student at BYU) had been publishing and teaching this same racist Mormon folklore on BYU campus for decades, with the blessing, support, and full awareness of the Mormon church and its top leaders. I have a response letter that I once received from Gordon B. Hinckley! It is really sad that a full “prophet of God” chose to deliberately turn a blind eye to such horrifying evil, that that racism is.

    YOUR APOLOGETIC RESPONSE:
    With that introduction, let me briefly address your response.
    Bruce, as you yourself, I used to be a staunch apologetic for Mormonism, until I recently concluded that Mormonism was not worth defending. If Mormonism is what it claims to be, it should be self-defending. In this regard, your seemingly apologetic response is rather too archaic. In fact, it is startling that this response could come from someone like yourself, who having served in the Mormon bishopric should know Mormon doctrines of repentance better. In fact your response seems to attack the letter of my message while completely ignoring the spirit of my message. This kind of apologetic approach has actually proven to be a debacle for the Mormon sect, by doing it more harm than good. Whenever, Mormon apologetics are confronted with someone who points out their sect’s racist horrors and atrocities against humanity, their impulsive response tends to sound like “So what, everyone else was racist during that time period. We need to do better.” This is the tone that your response seems to take, since your response primarily compares Mormonism and its happenings to the regular society and its happenings. Surely! Is this the response that should be associated with an organization that claims to be the Lord’s “only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth” (D&C 1:30)? Such an organization and its staunch adherents like yourself should know better and abandon these kinds of rather prideful, justifying, arrogant, self-serving, and secular responses. Rather, the Mormon sect and yourself should adopt a “broken heart and a contrite spirit” (3 Nephi 9:20) of repentance in “sackcloth and ashes” (Matthew 11:21). Defensive responses such as yours will actually do more damage than good, and prevent Mormonism from becoming what it claims to be.

    It is time that the apologetics of Mormonism like yourself abandoned these kinds of prideful and arrogant responses, and resorted to responding, “Yes, we committed racism and bigotry against an entire race of God’s children. This act and practice was a contravention of God’s commandments. It was a heinous crime against humanity. We have repented since repented for this evil by going through the five steps of repentance that are prescribed by our Mormon doctrine in Gospel Principles (2011, pages 107–13). These steps of repentance have included us issuing an apology to our brothers and sisters of African descent.” As someone who has served in the bishopric of Mormonism, you may be aware that this approach may be difficult, painful, and humbling. However, these steps are necessary for “true repentance” to take place. Mormonism will never become what it claims to be, unless it goes through “true repentance” for its heinous crimes against humanity with regards to people of African descent. In September 2007, the Mormon sect issued an official apology in for its complicit in the infamous Mountain Meadows Massacre of mostly innocent women and children in 1857. What precludes the Mormon sect from issuing the same apology for its institutionalized racism, and its associated horrors and atrocities, against people of African descent? No humanitarian aid in Africa, the Caribbean, and Brazil, or the Bishop’s Storehouse food handouts for African Americans in North America will ever compensate for Mormon sect following “true and sincere repentance” the heinous crime against humanity that the sect committed against people of African descent for more than a century and a half.

    I guess I need to conclude. I will close with the words of a great 20th century prophet named Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. While confined in Birmingham Jail in 1963, Dr. King came across a statement written by eight clergymen who were strongly opposed to his agitation for the rights of blacks in America. In his April 16, 1963 response letter to these clergymen, popularly known as a “Letter from Birmingham Jail”, he invites his fellow clergymen to revive the Christian church by raising it above the contemporary secular society, so it could regain its meaning and role as Christ’s church of the Biblical New Testament.

    In my Feb 18, 2015 at 2:31 am, post, the spirit of my message was that the Mormon sect rise up by being way above the secular society. This request is fair, given that the Mormon church claims to be the Lord’s “only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth” (D&C 1:30). Also, it claims to be the restored church that is the continuation of the Lord’s church that Christ established in Jerusalem. However, your Feb 19, 2015 at 5:44 pm response seems to reduce the Mormon church below what it claims to be, by comparing it to the secular society. For example, you stun me by explicitly stating that:
    “Studies have shown that, even before the priesthood restriction was lifted in 1978, Mormons were no more racially intolerant than Americans generally.” In light of your statement, here are Dr. King’s words:

    ———————-
    There was a time when the church was very powerful. It was during that period that the early Christians rejoiced when they were deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was the thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Wherever the early Christians entered a town the power structure got disturbed and immediately sought to convict them for being “disturbers of the peace” and “outside agitators.” But they went on with the conviction that they were “a colony of heaven” and had to obey God rather than man. They were small in number but big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be “astronomically intimidated.” They brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contest.

    Things are different now. The contemporary church is so often a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. It is so often the arch supporter of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s often vocal sanction of things as they are.

    But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If the church of today does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authentic ring, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. I meet young people every day whose disappointment with the church has risen to outright disgust.
    ———————–

    With regards to the subject of in Mormonism,
    Unless the Mormon church lives up to the above prophetic words of Dr. King with regards to the question of racism and bigotry, it will forfeit its claim to the title of the Lord’s “only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth” (D&C 1:30), and be reduced to a social club of white supremacists.

    Fare the well, my dear brother Bruce Young. May the God’s love shine upon you.
    D.T.S.

  • Right on DTS! It is the seemingly well-intended, but rather “prideful, justifying, arrogant, self-serving” apologetics such as Bruce Young that are actually doing more damage to our Mormon Church than they really think. They make some of us white Mormons develop self-justification for our pride by continuing our racism rather than developing a “broken heart and a contrite spirit” (3 Nephi 9:20) that is necessary for true repentance.

    In fact the Lord has warned us that “…when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride … behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved” (D&C 121: 37).
    It is sad that apologetics such as Bruce Young, while well-intending to defend the church, actually make us many white saints shelve/postpone our repentance agenda, rather than work on it as a matter of urgency.

    As a former stake president, I painfully witnessed many of my white brothers and sisters perpetuate racism and its ugly horrors against my fellow black brothers and sisters. I did my best to address the problem in at my stake level. Sadly, the problem extended way beyond the boundaries of my stake. My appeals to the brethren in Salt Lake City to invite our white brothers and sisters in the Church, to repentance and correct their evil behaviors were only met with indifference.

    I commend you DTS for pointing out the steps of repentance as taught by our LDS Church. In fact, step 3 of repentance, referred to as “We Must Confess Our Sins” as provided in the Gospel Principles manual (2011), pages 107-13, we are clearly reminded that “If we have sinned against another person, we should confess to the person we have injured.” The LDS Church as an institution has at least attempted to follow this step of repentance by publicly apologizing, albeit too late, to the victims of the Mountain Meadows Massacre of 1857. However, we have failed as an institution to follow suit with regards to apologizing to the people of African descent for our racist evil against them. With this continuous pride, we it may take us long to develop the moral courage and undergo “true repentance.”

    President J. Lynn S.
    (Former Stake President).

  • Having put myself on the line by sharing my thoughts, I would have to say it’s no fun being attacked. It’s good practice, though, as Joseph Smith suggested to try to see the grain of truth in criticism and not attack in return.

    I agree that each of us needs to repent and that repentance includes being aware of our sins (very, very hard for any of us to do perfectly) and confessing them to God and others as appropriate. But I take comfort in knowing that ultimately our loving Heavenly Father is my judge, not any human being. “Behold what the scripture says–man shall not smite, neither shall he judge; for judgment is mine, saith the Lord, and vengeance is mine also, and I will repay” (Mormon 8:20), which I think helps explain why God tells us: “I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men” (D&C 64:10). I don’t see any loopholes in that statement. In the verses that precede that one, God emphasizes confession but also condemns the refusal to forgive.

    I believe we’re called to teach repentance as a principle, but not to make a public list naming those who need to repent and what they haven’t done yet. Above all, each of us obviously needs to repent. I think C. S. Lewis’s advice is good: Instead of taking “morbid pleasure” in thinking of other people’s faults, why not “shove . . . away” such thoughts. “And think of one’s own faults instead? For there, with God’s help one can do something. Of all the awkward people in your house or job there is only one whom you can improve very much. That is the practical end at which to begin. And really, we’d better.” Each of us, individually.

  • Bruce,
    As a scholar and you should know better that before engaging in flawed lines of logic and reasoning, you should examine the facts that you adopt and their ramifications to your arguments. Anyway, you are entitled to your personal opinions, just as any other blogger on this site. Your response of today Mar 3, 2015 at 1:32 pm brings into light yet another problem that is inherent in Mormonism – the problem of selectively adopting and perpetuating scriptural verses that only achieve the evil purposes of the Mormon sect. Remember, even the devil selectively and cunningly utilized scriptures to achieve the evil purposes – of tempting Jesus and trying to get him to submit to the devil’s will (Matthew 4:1-11).

    The Mormon sect has been very good at perfecting this devils’ cunning practice ever since its establishment. For example, when Joseph smith wanted to satisfy his lustful sexual appetites for other people’s wives, he introduced the practice that he dubbed “Plural Marriage” (https://www.lds.org/topics/plural-marriage-in-kirtland-and-nauvoo?lang=eng) by selectively invoking the Old Testament Polygyny practices by Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. While there may be justification for Polygyny as practiced by Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, there is no justification whatsoever for the evil and bizarre practice of Polyandry that Joseph smith engaged in, by engaging in illicit sexual behaviors with married men’s wives. Polyandry is even strange by God’s Biblical order of Monogamy (e.g. Genesis 2:24) and Polyginy (Genesis 35: 23-26).

    Also, when the Mormon sect introduced within itself and systematically practiced its horrifying institutionalized racism against people of African descent, it invoked Joseph Smith’s Book of Abraham (Abraham 1:20-27), which has since been established to be a fraud (http://cesletter.com/Letter-to-a-CES-Director.pdf, pages 24-30). This evil practice of racism selectively ignored the Mormon sect’s own Book of Mormon that teaches that the Lord “inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white… and all are alike unto God” (2 Nephi 26:33). This list of the Mormon sect’s flawed and cunning practices is exhaustive.

    Your today’s Mar 3, 2015 at 1:32 pm argument basically falls in the same order, in an attempt to satisfy your pride and vain ambition. For example, you quote “Behold what the scripture says–man shall not smite, neither shall he judge; for judgment is mine, saith the Lord, and vengeance is mine also, and I will repay” (Mormon 8:20). You use this scripture to buffer your so-called “attackers” from questioning your seemingly flawed logic of reasoning about Mormonism. However, this very scripture that you are quoting runs contrary to other Mormon sect’s teachings that men should judge other men e.g. “And if any man or woman shall commit adultery, he or she shall be tried before two elders of the church” (D&C 42:80). If we are to go by your quoted scripture, then how do you justify for the Mormon sect’s men recently “judging” and punishing John Dehlin and Kate Kelly (http://mormonstories.org/)? I thought these two individuals should have been left alone for the Lord himself to “smite”, “judge” and “repay” them for their wrongdoings?
    Good luck as you continue to defend an already discredited and dwindling sect that Mormonism is.
    D.T.S.

  • Oh dear. The irony of that last comment was almost too perfect. I had to chuckle. But it was a sad chuckle.
    Darron, print your comments out and we will discuss them in a decade. For now, go in peace and do some good.

  • Thanks Margaret!
    Don’t worry. I do concede, as per your viewpoint, that my comment is ironical! However, what else could be more ironical than the very establishment and existence of Mormonism? In the public relations eyes, the Mormon sect hides behind the mask of this ‘Christ-like image.’ However, behind closed doors, the sect adopts this ‘devil-like image.’ This inconsistency is on the extreme end of the “Irony Scale.” Perhaps my comment may fit at the moderate continuum of this “Irony Scale.”
    By the way, I am not Darron. Perhaps you are confusing me with Professor Darron T. Smith (at the University of Tennessee), who was kicked out of Brigham Young University (BYU) for speaking out against the rampant racism at BYU and in the Mormon sect. We just happen to have the same initials.
    Have a great evening Margaret, and take care of Bruce. I hope he doesn’t interpret my opinions as my “personal attack” towards him. I simply view and respect him as a scholar and I hope he will accord me the same view and respect. As scholars, we should be able to freely engage in frank and honest exchanges of opinions and ideas, without either party getting offended. Keep up your work with Darius, Marvin, and the likes. Hopefully something good will come out of it.
    Peace,
    D.T.S.

  • From the get-go, I’m not a big fan of the headline, “Will Mormon missionaries lead the way out of racism?”

    The word “racism” is interpreted very differently depending upon context, ranging from the most benign individual cultural preferences to extreme and violent foaming-at-the-mouth hatred. As it is commonly applied in everyday conversation, the term at the very least invokes imagery of people who run amok using the N-word and otherwise harbor personal animosity and bitterness toward those of different ethnicities.

    As such, insofar as the LDS church is concerned, I do not see a culture of “racism” in the present day from which people need to be led out of. Even during the years of discriminatory practices of decades ago, despite any number of speculative nonsense which are eagerly attributed to racism by folks seeking to point fingers, the default position in the church was still to treat others with kindness. True manifestations of racial hatred would never have been condoned during that period.

    My preferred headline would have been more along the lines of “Will Mormon missionaries lead the way toward greater interracial harmony?”

    In her opening paragraph, Sister Young writes, “The emails support sociologist Armand Mauss’s belief that through missionary service, where young men and young women are sent into other cultures and often paired with missionaries from those cultures, the Mormon Church will move past racism.”

    This statement included a link to Amazon.com where one could purchase Armand Mauss’s book. From the single paragraph summary of the book, we read, “Mauss contends that Mormon constructions of racial identity have not necessarily affected actual behavior negatively and that in some cases Mormons have shown greater tolerance than other groups in the American mainstream.”

    Perhaps the book itself contains language of a different tone, but in the summary provided at Amazon.com, it appears that any past speculations regarding “racial identity” didn’t actually result in bad behavior, and that Latter-day Saints have seemingly behaved much better than other Americans. So when Sister Young writes about how “the Mormon Church will move past racism,” is that necessarily citing Mauss at all, or is that a spin beyond the author’s position?

    One missionary, after a particularly charged exchange with his companion, wrote: “As I considered what I was about to say, my mind froze. I realized that something had gone HORRIBLY WRONG. I was starting to think like a racist. It terrified me. I went silent.”

    I seriously wonder if the missionary himself knew what he was saying when he said he “was starting to think like a racist.” Did he truly have thoughts about being ethnically superior? Did he have thoughts of hatred toward Africans? Or was he upset based on cultural or nationalistic grounds based on his argument with his companion?

    During my own mission in Europe, I encountered domestic missionaries and members who had their issues with the way North American missionaries performed their missionary work. I know of arguments between missionaries over cultural differences and perceptions of how missionary work should be. Heck, I argued with a fellow Californian over it! Could it be that this Elder was misinterpreting an ordinary companionship clash with racism just because his companion was a black African? I’d seriously love to know. I DO like how he handled the situation and regained his calm.

    Sister Young introduces an interesting personality to the fray, a Congolese missionary named Aime Mbuyi, “whose reputation for goodness was impeccable,” despite formerly belonging to a group with real-life, modern-day racial issues. Sister Young “saw a story, which would become the seed of a film: two men who carry deep prejudice against the other must learn to get along.”

    I’m curious about two things from that statement. 1) Didn’t Elder Mbuyi already overcome his prejudices prior to joining the church and serving a mission, where he had an impeccable reputation for goodness? 2) Did his anglo companion enter the mission field carrying “deep prejudice against the other”? I’m seriously confused about that, considering no statement was made that the anglo companion had previously belonged to any kind of racist organization himself prior to a conversion and missionary experience.

    My view is that there are absolutely cultural differences between Wasatch Front whites and African Blacks. Hell, there are cultural differences between Wasatch Front whites and American blacks! But hopefully neither, as Latter-day Saints, would enter the mission field pre-disposed to harbor racist views of the other. These cultural elements may add a dimension to the challenge of getting along with a companion one didn’t choose, but they should be far from epic or insurmountable in missionary life.

    As part of a thoughtful post, Dean Bender writes, “In this case, one could easily say, ‘yes, I have done some things incorrectly (if you haven’t, you haven’t been doing anything), I have only baptized x people in the last y months and you are much more bold as a missionary than I am (if he is).’ ”

    I would be cautious about attributing baptismal statistics to any given missionary’s performance. Some of the best, most faithful missionaries I knew never entered the waters of baptism. Some missionaries, despite lesser degrees of obedience or performance, got wet more frequently. At the end of the day, people’s individual agency ultimately determines whether or not they are baptized. I never liked setting goals for baptisms, because it is a statistic completely out of a missionary’s hands. Goals for the number of lessons you will teach are more achievable. Same for the quantity of Books of Mormon one might place. One has complete control over one’s study time, hours spent effectively working outside one’s apartment, etc. Baptisms not so much.

    DTS writes, “The Mormon church’s recent official admission of its complicit in the Mountain Meadow’s massacre and official admission that its historical racism were a man’s doing rather than God’s doing, literally exalted Juanita Brooks and Douglas Wallace into saints.”

    You are fabricating an interpretation of the church’s statement on blacks and the priesthood. At no point does the church concede that the ban itself was racist or man’s doing. As close as one can get to an official position is “we don’t know the precise details.” What the church rightfully DOES state is that it “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. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form.” (See: https://www.lds.org/topics/race-and-the-priesthood?lang=eng)

    That’s an important distinction.

    DTS writes, “Whenever, Mormon apologetics are confronted with someone who points out their sect’s racist horrors and atrocities against humanity, …” and “Mormonism will never become what it claims to be, unless it goes through “true repentance” for its heinous crimes against humanity with regards to people of African descent.”

    Do you have a list of these “racist horrors and atrocities against humanity?” For whatever pain the priesthood ban may have brought to bear upon black Latter-day Saints, how do you get from there to “racist horrors and atrocities against humanity?” “Heinous crimes against humanity” even?

    Following a lengthy screed from DTS, Margaret Blair Young writes, “Oh dear. The irony of that last comment was almost too perfect. I had to chuckle. But it was a sad chuckle. Darron, print your comments out and we will discuss them in a decade. For now, go in peace and do some good.”

    Absolutely brilliant response. Both Brother and Sister Young have handled the criticism well.

    At the very beginning of the comments, DTS declared, “I wrote the above post, not as an outsider to Mormonism or not as its critic who wants to find fault with the Mormon sect. Rather, I wrote the above post as a true friend of Mormonism who would like to see true and meaningful changes with regards to racism and bigotry happen within the Mormon organization. I have always been a defender of Mormonism. My defense for Mormonism can make a very expansive and exhaustive list. For example, I have dedicated two years of my life as a full-time missionary for the Mormon sect. I hold a current temple recommend and strive to live up to its requirements.”

    Considering DTS’s views of how evil the church is, I’m bewildered how he can consider himself a true friend of the church and a defender of the church. I’m not his stake president, but if these views of his existed prior to his last temple recommend interview, I’m at a loss for 1) why he sought it, and 2) how he survived it.

    BTW, Marvin is also a friend of mine. And yes, he can sing a song, his heart in every line…

  • TomW:
    You are definitely entitled to your personal opinion. By the way, I have probably read all the books out there on Mormon racism than you may think. I am surprised that you can even rely on soft-core books such as those by Armand Mauss. If you are truly informed about racism in Mormonism, then let me ask you: Go to the original sources/texts/manuals of the quotes at the web link below and read them in context. Then, write for me a similarly long articulated essay either defending them or arguing against them. Here is the link: http://www.mormonquotes.com/Racism

    My only fear is that you come across as a privileged white person in your writing. You are completely oblivious about how covert racism deeply hurts. In fact, many black people that I have extensively interviewed (including Darius Gray) would rather live in the Jim Crow society where the racist white man clearly let you know you know that you were never wanted in his territory by positing “Whites Only”/ “Blacks Only”, than live in hypocritical societies like the Mormon territory. The racist Mormon white man will smile at you, have you over for dinner, and appear “friend” to you, for the sole purpose of boasting to the world that he has “black friends.” However, in reality, he does not want you. Try experimenting this phenomenon at BYU. There are fewer than 200 black students there. Ask them about the hypocrisies that they endure on the dating scene at BYU. The white man will usually invite them over for dinner when they are dating the white man’s son/daughter. However, after the poor black BYU student leaves, the white man will feed his son/daughter with all the racism and do everything possible to discourage him/her from marrying the poor black BYU student.

    Your quote below gives away the fact that you are a white-person:
    “As such, insofar as the LDS church is concerned, I do not see a culture of “racism” in the present day from which people need to be led out of. Even during the years of discriminatory practices of decades ago, despite any number of speculative nonsense which are eagerly attributed to racism by folks seeking to point fingers, the default position in the church was still to treat others with kindness. True manifestations of racial hatred would never have been condoned during that period.”

    Let me remind you again that the Mormon sect is a public relations-based organization. It does a good job of presenting a false positive image to the public in order to win converts. However, it is completely rotten within itself. Thus, you are right that “True manifestations of racial hatred would never have been condoned during that period.” However, it is sad that you only focus on “true manifestations” of racism rather than “elimination of racism.” Remember, the Mormon church is curb both sins that truly “truly manifest” such as smoking, immodest dressing, etc. and those that do not truly manifest such as pornography, lust, etc. Sadly it only confronts “racism that manifests” and does nothing about the racism that “does not manifest. The sect should be openly and honestly curbing both forms of racism.

    To illustrate this point further, let me ask this way: Two Mormon teenagers become pregnant out of wedlock. They both fear that their pregnancies and ensuing babies will soon “manifest” and make them shunned or stigmatized by the Mormon community/society. As a result, one of them hides this “manifestation” by performing an abortion. The other carries the pregnancy, delivers the baby, and raises the baby. Which of these teens is better – the one that hides the “manifestation” of her sins or the ones who let the manifestations of her sins become common knowledge? In my opinion, both are sinners and need to repent. Thus, the Mormon church needs to curb both its “true manifestations” of racism and covert racism. Curbing only one and ignoring the other is absolute hypocricy.
    Anyway, you need to complete the quotes project.
    Good luck!
    DTS

  • Mormon racism does hurt, still blatant. The Mormon DWTS judge was visibly shocked (apparently by the hotness of the routine) and gave an unfairly low score to the mixed race couple last week, then followed up with an unwarranted high score to the gay black football player in an apparent attempt to forestall another

    Wrote a lot more, now gone?

    public flogging for “being moronically
    racist in public”. Everything we believe in
    our gut we learned before we got out of
    kindergarten. She probably doesn’t even realize that seeing a hot, mixed race couple makes her physically ill, but there out very obviously was. Ps. Is the origin of

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