Racism

(also see “Prophets”)

 

Pros of from the perspective of the
Believer
Nonbeliever
While most believing members are likely aware of the racist policies that existed prior to 1978, there is much to be celebrated in how Mormonism promotes equality. The church teaches that we are all God’s children, that all are alike unto God, and that God looketh on the heart and not the outward appearance. These teachings of the church help us to avoid racism and treat all people equally.
Ignoring previous racist statements from church leaders, previous racist policies / doctrines, and current racist teachings in The Book of Mormon, the nonbeliever probably acknowledges some teachings of the church that promote equality: The church teaches that we are all God’s children, that all are alike unto God, and that God looketh on the heart and not the outward appearance. These teachings of the church help us to avoid racism and treat all people equally.
 
Cons of Mormonism from the perspective of the
Believer
Nonbeliever
Many believing members have a hard time dealing with the racist policies in church history, some of the racist teachings in the Book of Mormon, the absence of non-white leadership, and the portrayal of God and Jesus as white. Truly, even while the gospel is perfect, the people in it are not. Present day prophets, and prophets in the Book of Mormon, are no exception to the imperfections of humanity.
Many non-believing members refuse to be part of the church on moral grounds due to racist policies in church history, some of the racist teachings in the Book of Mormon, the absence of non-white leadership, and the portrayal of God and Jesus as white. These racist policies and ideas created and create real harm and have fostered racism in otherwise good people.
 
Even though the church is distancing itself from its previous, overtly racist policies such as banning blacks from the priesthood and temple ordinances necessary for salvation, the church is still racist. The Book of Mormon still directly says that God cursed people with a skin of blackness, and that one of the reasons he did this was to make them unattractive to white people: “that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them.” Regardless of how one tries to justify this, the fact is that verse like this create harm. Millions of people have read this verse, and out of those millions of people there are undoubtedly many take it at face value that white people should not like black people. The implied inferiority and racism of this verse is disgusting.
 
There are many other examples of harmful racism in the Book of Mormon. In discussing the Lamanites, the ancestors of the Native Americans, the Book of Mormon frankly calls them lazy, filthy, and wild.
 
Many modern day prophets have also espoused racist views, frequently in an effort to explain the priesthood ban. For example, some have taught that blacks being were less valiant in the pre existence, or that blacks were not ready for the priesthood. It was only in 2015 that the church finally distanced itself from these teachings with a somewhat-hidden gospel topics essay: “Over time, Church leaders and members advanced many theories to explain the priesthood and temple restrictions. None of these explanations is accepted today as the official doctrine of the Church.” That’s one step forward, but it seems like too little too late.
 
In 2015 the church had 3 new spots to fill in the quorum of the 12 apostles. It is telling that, as has been the case since the church started 185 years ago,
all the newly called apostles were white. Are there really no worthy and qualified black members to serve as an apostle? Is it just a coincidence? Are the members not ready for a black apostle? Does God just not want any blacks to be apostles? Or, is God just not able to communicate with the current prophets and apostles that they should look beyond the color of a man’s skin?
 
Regardless, I don’t imagine it’s very healthy for non-white people in the church to look at the top leadership of the church and see 15 white men. I also don’t imagine it’s healthy for non-white people to see the Mormon God and Jesus depicted with white skin.

 

Comments relating to your lived experience with Mormonism are welcome. Although it can be difficult to distinguish at times, please focus on how the church helps and harms rather than it being true vs untrue.

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