I’ve already posted Part 1 of the Mormon Matters episode 80: How Can we Confront Racism within Mormon Thought and Culture? Here is part 2. I have previously posted excerpts from this panel discussion when I asked if 1978 was the right year, and whether the Church should apologize. The transcript below continues after Part 1.
Dan Wotherspoon, â”Oh I love that discussion. Thank you, you guys. I really appreciate that. Oh man, you guys are awesome. This is the right panel to have. Where do we want to go next?”
Brad Kramer, “I wanted to make a quick follow-up point on what Marguerite was saying there at the end. Well, both Marguerite and Gina were talking about the periphery speaking to the core, you know the outside speaking to the center, and the point that I want to make is that sometimes it takes two interventions, you know?
Samuel the Lamanite, the black–”the dark-skinned prophet who stood on the threshold between the comfortable, inside, civilized, white core and the outside other, and called them to repentance. He didn’t ask for an invitation, he didn’t receive an invitation. His call to repentance wasn’t well-received at all and another important factor there is that sometimes speaking by itself isn’t enough. It wasn’t enough that he got up and spoke. Part of what also had to happen was he had to be vindicated. There had to be a God in the machine. Jesus had to come and say, “that guy that came and stood upon your wall that you tried to kill, I sent him. You need to pay attention to him.”
Dan, “And why aren’t his writings right here? Go add them here!”
Brad, “Why aren’t his writings alongside your white prophets. So sometimes that’s what needs to happen, so that’s one possible route that we can choose to take as a church, as a periphery, simply to call on heaven, to call on God to intervene at the center, to step into the building and grab somebody by the shoulders and shake him and say, “pay attention to what’s happening.”
Gina Colvin, “That’s a lofty goal, right there isn’t it?”
Marguerite Driessen laughs. “Yes, let’s go ahead and make an appointment and have God go and do our work for us.”
Gina laughs. “It would be awesome!”
Marguerite, “Boy life would be so much easier. You know, but I do think there are many issues that relate to why this is such a tender issue for some, and such an abrasive issue for others, and yet even a non-issue for some others, and people in those groups probably would surprise you. I’ve known white people much more offended and hurt by the ban–that they’ve come to call the Priesthood ban, but now after talking to Brad, I will call it a Temple Ban, I will just call it “The Ban” or whatever, to make sure that we know it was more than just priesthood–much more hurt and offended by it than say I am, having joined the church in 1981 when it was over. And I didn’t join in Utah, I joined out in Washington, DC.”
Gina interrupts, “Can I just ask a question? If you had known about it, would you have joined the Church?”
Marguerite, “I had known that there was a priesthood restriction until ’78 when I joined the Church. I also knew it wasn’t there anymore. What I never heard before ’81 was the folklore that people had invented to support it. So it actually didn’t affect me at all. I get asked, how can you join a church that is so racist?
And I said, well the policy doesn’t exist anymore, so what are you really asking me? And it turns out, well, they had this policy and they had it longer than other people. And that point, I actually am really comfortable with, and perhaps have a very different perspective than some other people and perhaps it comes from my legal background, but I will tell you–I studied, I studied, the Civil Rights acts of ’54 or ’64. I mean I studied those de-segregation cases and I even met say you know Brown vs Board of Education–famous U.S. case that ended segregation in public education, the girls who were the subject of that lawsuit came to speak at BYU when I was part of the hosting team and spent hours and hours with them over the course of the time that they were here.
You know, it’s a really interesting perspective to talk to really little girls who at the age of 7 had to be escorted to school by the National Guard, or by police because the policy changed from the top down, and the people were angry and resentful and they still had their racist attitudes, and those attitudes had not changed. My perspective on this restriction and the lifting of it and the timing is that, you know, thank goodness God waited until ’78 because what might have been the result had he moved sooner in other contexts?
I want to explain that which is that when I think of an 8-year old girl, a 7-year old, 9-year old, having to have police protection to walk to school, having excrement thrown at them, being sworn at, having people trying to beat them, throwing rocks, throwing food, throwing garbage, the image that came to me immediately was I knew to my soul that that is not the way that God wanted any of his children to have to go to church. If this ban had come from the top down too soon, that is what people like me would have faced when we embraced the gospel. The doctrine that did not contain the racist poison.
You know certainly there are some questionable texts, and that could be the subject of another Mormon Matters podcast, but I also think that part of those questionable texts, part of the reason that they have had the impact is because people look at them through a lens that is already darkened with racial prejudice through histories of institutional racism, and social racism that they have been trained to accept as normal, so that they think of things in racial terms that were not thought of that way at the time people were writing, and certainly not thought of that way say in the time of the Old Testament or New Testament. But I know in my core that there’s no way Heavenly Father wanted his children to have to go to church with the National Guard to protect them because people around them didn’t want them there.
One absolute benefit of this revelation coming as late as it did is that it came at a time when the vast majority of the people in the church wanted it. A vast majority of people in the church were praying for it individually, and scores of them were writing and lobbying their church leadership to change this hurtful damaging policy for racial reasons, and for compassionate reasons, and for doctrinal reasons all of which were well and good, but what it really meant is [that] when that revelation came in ’78, it was greeted with joy. It was greeted with welcome, almost uniformly throughout the church even among people who still clung to some racist ideas, they believed that denying people blessings for any reason other than their own unworthiness was bad, and that is a benefit from this that is the one aspect of the discussion that we’re not talking about. I don’t deny that it was racist, not at all. I don’t deny that it was horrible, and I don’t deny that it was hurtful. Coming into the church after it was over, I was spared all of that hurt, and I was spared that damage, and I was spared that marginalization, and only then had to deal with the residual, “how do you deal with a black person when you’ve been trained all your life to think of them as the cursed seed of Cain with whom you should not mix your blood?” and people trying to work their way around that or through that.
But I see things, coming this way at it, and I don’t know Gina in answer to your question, had I found the gospel or the Book of Mormon before ’78, I don’t know that I would have had the courage or the faith of a Darius Gray to join the church anyway and to trust that it will all work out in the end. I joined at a time when the policy was gone, and all I had to do was be able to have a thick skin about the people around me who had not quite caught up with the policy in terms of total equality of access to God’s love and God’s blessings.”
Gina, “Do you think though that Marguerite, that if the church had been allowed to thrive in black communities as kind of black LDS churches, that that might have been a safe place for people. Can you think of anything historically that might have impeded the possibility of–”
Marguerite interrupts, No, not anything that would have impeded the possibility, but look around you right now. Churches that allowed black congregations to exist and have black ministers, they exist. My dad was Roman Catholic. When we went to his parents home, or went to their church when we had his mom’s funeral, my grandmother’s funeral, there was a whole church full of black Catholic people. But guess what? That is the church where all the black Catholic people went. The white Catholic people to this day don’t go to that building, they go somewhere else. That is the kind of history we could have ended up with had there not been that 10 more years, and that’s really what we’re talking about here.
Ten more years in changing the policy from the top down resulted in a today, a today in which there is not the church on that corner where black Mormons go, and the church on that corner where the white Mormons go, which is the case with Catholics, which is what I have experience with; Methodists as well, which is what my mom was Methodist. I have friends who are Southern Baptist, friends who are Episcopalian, friends who are in religions that did not have a formal priesthood ban or a priesthood restriction for black people until 1978, but to this day have segregated congregations, not by doctrine, not by ecclesiastical fiat, but simply by tradition where people grew apart racially, and now we, as the LDS Church have the opportunity truly to be of one heart and one mind, to be one fold with one shepherd, who is Jesus Christ, and not the pastor on that corner versus the pastor on the other corner.”
Gina, “Well, I mean we have such centralized control though. I wonder if that would be such a bad thing. Like in 2012 the big issue of course would be, how do we bring our two kinds of thriving communities, a black community and a white community into conversation with each other? I’m just kind of throwing that out there.”
Brad, “Segregation is creeping back in because of immigration. There aren’t all-black units in Utah, but there are all Mexican units in Arizona.”
Marguerite, “Well, let me re-phrase, there are units, but they tend to be language units more than anything else. There is no law–the Church has always had a policy of allowing everyone to be taught the gospel in their own language, and so what we have to guard against is the potential for having a Spanish language branch or a Chinese language branch or something like this where people can congregate in their own tongue from becoming a culture apart, like the black Catholic church on one corner in Baltimore, and the white Catholic church across town.”
Brad, “That’s what I’m saying. I know that there are language units everywhere in the church where there’s the need for it. But what I’m hearing about what’s going in some parts of Arizona is that the division is hardening along these more culturally antagonistic lines.”
Gina, “Yes, absolutely.”
Marguerite, “Well, Arizona has some other issues though. Arizona also has the extremely harsh immigration laws. There are other factors contributing to that–
Brad interrupts, “Right, no question.”
Marguerite, –in that location, but they do not yet exist everywhere else. I’m not denying that they exist. I’m not denying that they may be coming into existence, but I guarantee you other issues are playing into that in Arizona that are not playing into it as much in other places, where once people are comfortable in English, they don’t feel the need to only attend the Spanish branch anymore.”
Dan, “Cool. Brad, I want to steer to you for just one second, and then Gina I want to go with you. Brad, what I’m hoping is there was something in your blog post that sort of said similar things to what Marguerite said about perhaps the timing was right if it had happened when David O. McKay was petitioning the Lord. Some of the things she was saying there. Do you have any follow up, or did she articulate basically the point that you were making in your blog post or was there pieces that were left out?”
Brad, “No there’s a follow up that I wanted to make, a kind of perhaps slightly different, but also complimentary read on the sort of question we’re defining. By the time this is becoming a real problem–for a long time the ban exists and it’s not a ”nobody is treating it as a problem. Nobody considers it to be a problem. It’s not until during the 20th century that you get to the point where anybody on the inside, certainly anybody at the center of the church is considering it a problem at all, and it becomes increasingly a problem. So you have people starting to ask questions about it.
So then the issue becomes, from the perspective of God, you’ve got 2 problems. You’ve got a church where this ban exists, it’s already there, regardless of where it came from, it’s already there, but it’s also a church that’s profoundly racist, and where lots of racist sentiment exists. So then you’ve got to deal with the question well ok, if I the Lord end this policy by fiat right now, say it’s 1950, ok? A little ahead of the curve so to speak. I’m going to end this policy right now. Then it’s very easy to imagine that the consequence of that would have been black priesthood holders presiding over black units, black temple workers officiating in black temples.
In other words, racism can still exist in the church and all the really–you can basically approach the question as ok, blacks are still inferior but they can still have the priesthood now. Those two things could have been compatible with each other. So when I look at someone like David O. McKay, vigorously opposed Civil Rights legislation, and not just on the grounds of sort of constitutional technicalities, but opposed Civil Rights legislation because he was uncomfortable with integration, and because he was uncomfortable with what he would have described as race-mixing.
So if somebody like that is asking me, can the blacks have the priesthood? If essentially what he’s asking me is can we finally give this inferior race some priesthood here? My answer is going to be stop asking, it’s not going to happen when you’re in charge–exactly the answer that he got.
Marguerite, “Well, and I would also add to that we’ve been told as LDS people that God has a really interesting way of hiding the mysteries of the universe. He doesn’t tell us anything if we just ask. He will give us everything if we just ask. But it’s not just asking. Oliver Cowdery learned that. What are you supposed to do? You’re supposed to study it out in your own mind, you’re supposed to come up with an answer, and then you ask God if your answer is right. So we know from historical events and conversations and statements that McKay made and others made, that McKay was taking a question to the Lord, but do you know what that question was?”
Dan, “Yeah, he wasn’t framing it right.”
Marguerite continues, “Do you know how it was framed? The fact is, he was bringing a question to the Lord, but it very may not have been, ‘I have decided now is the right time. Do you concur?’ It might have been something else.”
Brad, “Yeah, and it goes to this larger question of the relationship between the ban and the racist teachings. Because what ends up happening, the longer the ban persists, the more it becomes a sort of millstone around our neck. It becomes an embarrassment, something to be boycotted, and a big problem and everyone is trying to deal with it and try to figure out what to do about it. People are digging their heels in to explain it and to rationalize it, and the effect of all of this pressure is that this pressure locks all of this racist sentiment in the Church to the ban. And the longer the ban persists, the more the ban gets tied to the racist sentiment, and the racist teachings, and the racist idea about the differences between people of African descent, and people without African lineage.
And so the effect can then be that when God tells the church, and we don’t know what he said. We don’t have the revelation, right? Official Declaration 2 is the language that church leaders use to announce to the church that a revelation has been received. It’s not the language of any revelation. We don’t know what the revelation was other than that the substance of it was, all worthy male members. And so what happens is that all of this waiting, persistent waiting, this embarrassing sort of how long it’s taking, and all of the racist teachings and rationalizations lead to a moment when God can say, every worthy male member, and that alone can stand as a repudiation of all the racist nonsense.
Marguerite, “And that’s how Bruce R. McConkie interpreted it when he in his ’78 in his devotional address said forget everything that everybody’s ever said cause they didn’t have the light that we now have. Not that He gave us everything they gave him, that the presidency got. As you said, we didn’t get the actual revelation. We got the announcement, but Bruce R. McConkie specifically said, forget anything we’ve ever said about this explaining it. Anything, it all came without the knowledge, with lesser light, lesser knowledge. It was wrong. He acknowledged that. People still kept their pet theories.”
Dan, “Right. But it hasn’t come from a General Conference pulpit yet. I think it needs to come from a First Presidency member in General Conference to really have the true effect, so we’ll hope for that. Gina, you had pre-circulated a few things to share. There was an opening for one of them, a little bit in some of Marguerite’s talk about becoming one fold and stuff, and you kind of posed the question, is color-blindness the next problem we face within the church? In other words, can we go so far in overcoming racism, that I’m assuming what you mean by that is some negative consequences of color-blindness as well, or cultural blindness, or mixing everybody together. Is that what you were getting at?”
Gina, “Yeah, I think what I mean by that is there is a culture. I think Marguerite flags the kind of concern that there is with particular ethnic groups, allowing to flower in the Church. There may have been some kind of conflict. Correct me if I’m wrong, they might have grown up with some peculiarities within a particular culture.
What I’m suggesting is that a white ward has a particular culture, and often we have a situation in New Zealand where there’s been historical tension around the disbanding of Samoan language units, where minority Samoan groups are sort of like asked to attend wards, and kind of the idea, and I think I’ve heard it before, actually I heard it directly from some general authorities in a leadership meeting once was that they were concerned about cultural particularities that seemed to be a pattern in Samoan culture which don’t adhere correctly to good Latter-day Saint behavior. The question is, we’re going to disregard those kind of cultural behaviors, but what about the cultural behaviors that exist in all white wards?”
Gina continues, “There needs to be some kind of conversation, some self-reflexitivity. What do we do? You know the fact that we have to have this conversation about residual kind of racist dispositions in the Church indicates that it’s allowed to kind of flower, it’s allowed to continue and how do you kind of put the brakes on that? That’s where there’s that systemic inequality.
The center of the Church can kind of happily sort of disband non-English speaking wards, kind of ethnic units all over the place, but the same doesn’t apply to white wards where they say actually you’ve got a problem being a white ward, a largely white ward. What we need to do is kind of split you up and you go to Mexican wards, you go to Samoan wards because there’s some kind of problem with the way you’re behaving. That’s the difference. That’s the power inequality. That’s why I think when we talk about racism we need to talk about power relations, and who gets to say what. Who’d conversation is this about racism? Is this a conversation about white folk about racism, their own racism, or is this a conversation that black and brown folk can have and transmit that into white spaces where it rearranges white spaces, where it brings some thoughtfulness and concern about their fundamental Christianity.
I’d like to see systemically that kind of pathways being created so that conversation can take place and those challenges can take place. I don’t think we’re going to move on until it does, until something happens.”
Marguerite, “I would add to that Gina that I actually have seen what you say you’re not seeing in New Zealand. I’ve seen that happen here, maybe not in a systemic way, but certainly in a unit by unit treatment. I am now in Utah County. I moved here from the east coast. I was in a stake in Maryland, and before that I was in my singles’ ward in Virginia, so three different stakes from there to come out to here, and I’ve noticed that the Church is different in Utah. Not that the gospel is different, not that the gospel is different, the scriptures are the same. The Handbook of Instruction is the same. The manuals are the same, but the Church is different. There are people who do things the way that they’ve always been done since pioneer times without even checking to see if that’s actually the way things are supposed to be done.
I’ve noticed in branches in the mission field; my husband is from Hayward, Wisconsin, which is predominantly white, but where the Church is not very strong. His little branch up there that we visit when we’re on vacation has so little leadership that every time we’re there, we’re filling in. I mean I’m there on vacation, and I’m conducting music in Sacrament Meeting because the conductor, the chorister is now playing piano. The chorister is playing the piano because the ward accompanist is conducting Sacrament meeting because all three members of the bishopric are not there that day, and there is no Sunday School because it’s too small. They only meet for two hours, and the Elder’s Quorum president is gone, so he’s the highest ranking priesthood holder in the ward and he plays the piano.
Guess what? In that ward, things are not like they are in Utah County. They are cultural things that are built in that I think as the Church spreads out, they are getting that. They are having that conversation whether they want it or not, because new people are saying, ‘show me where it says in the Handbook of Instruction that it has to be only this way, or you can’t do this. There are some things that are just not addressed.
There are some things that are in the Handbook of Instruction that are not necessarily tied to doctrine. They are not doctrinal mandates. Culture has seeped in, and I’ve seen a few of those things change over the years. One of them that came in was there was an announcement several years ago, maybe one of you guys can help me with memory, I don’t know exactly when, that said, the only music that can be performed in Sacrament Meeting were the hymns in the actual hymnbook.
Now that almost immediately was softened to include the children’s song book, but then that was it. For years, it was just what was in the hymnbook, even though prior to that, there hadn’t been that kind of restriction. It was sort of a cultural response to some people maybe not liking the music that was showing up. Now though, that’s not in there. That’s not in the Handbook of Instruction ‘the only music that you can sing in Sacrament Meeting is in the hymnbook or children’s song book.
Gina, “It shouldn’t be.”
Marguerite , “Right. No, but that was sort of a cultural, new people doing things and the old guard not liking that new-fangled music and putting the brakes on it, but after a few years, people realized that really wasn’t the way to go and you need to just soften. I think some of the softening is happening in the calling of much younger general authorities, and calling of authorities who are not all white males from Utah. Not even all American. It’s not going to be fast, but there will be people having those conversations now who are not part of the crossed the plains with Brigham Young descendants. They will have a different cultural experience and will know that this song is not apostate just because it’s not in the hymnbook. They will have this experience. I’ve seen that on micro-levels outside of Utah. I’ve heard of those discussions in Utah. The Genesis Group, we start that. We start our fireside every month with a rousing, very much, southern black gospel song. Something that is not in the hymnbook, something that is old time gospel music, foot stomping, hand clapping, holler if you want to, and then someone will make a joke. ‘See the roof didn’t cave in.’
Dan, “Yep, I was there a couple of months ago, and it was ‘He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.’ That was a lot of fun.
Marguerite, “There you go. I could have met you. I was there that time!”
Dan chuckles, “Shoot! Yeah, it was the night Darius spoke and then that missionary that had that powerful night. Hey, yeah again, in the interest of time, I want to steer a little bit more. I think this is an important piece. Gina, again from your list, you asked the question that I think a lot of us talk about, but let’s give it voice here again. Is the reluctance of the Church to respond in a more robust way, this worry that it’s going to undermine the membersâ€™ faith in prophetic revelation?Â Do you want to start us on that conversation?Â Do you guys kind of agree that this isâ€”letâ€™s at least air this one out for a couple of minutes.â€
Brad, â€œWell, itâ€™s something that Iâ€™ve encountered already in an interesting form which is that Iâ€™ve encountered a number of people who have responded to my call for contrition and disavowal.Â By saying like basically like well I can see why thatâ€™s needed here, but it just feels to me like youâ€™re trying to set the stage for calling for the same thing on gay rights and womenâ€™s issues.Â Â In other wordsâ€”â€œ
Marguerite, â€œSlippery slope argument?â€
Brad, â€œWell, they see the underminingâ€”and theyâ€™re not entirely wrong you know.Â Weâ€™re not going to beâ€”if something changes with regards to these questions that are sort of very salient at this very moment, something that is going to happen before that change is that people are going to re-evaluate, not necessarily lose faith, but they are going to re-evaluate what they think about the role of prophets, the role of church leaders, and thatâ€™s part of what is at stake in this question is are we willing to accept the possibility that on this one particular question, presidents of the church did lead us astray?Â They didnâ€™t lead us astray in that they led the Church into capital A apostasy, but they led us astray from truth, and God corrected it and brought us back.
But we have to I think come to terms with that and come to terms within that newly created space with just a slightly scaled back sense of sort of absolute prophetic almost infallibility.Â I mean we constantly say that we donâ€™t believe in that, but we kind of do.Â But when that gets scaled back and just tempered down just a little bit, then that opens up the space, it does raise the question, it does open up the possibility that the things that we feel really strongly about and that we use as sort of boundary markers for Mormons today are subject to change in the future.â€
Dan, â€œGina do you have anything to add on to that?Â Thanks Brad.â€
Gina, â€œYeah, I agree, and I think itâ€™s kind of going down that rabbit hole.Â Itâ€™s kind of shoving/pushing dominos over.Â If you say ok in this respect perhaps prophets got that wrong or presidents of the church got that wrong, then what other aspects can we say that perhaps presidents got that wrong?Â We need to kind ofâ€”I suppose it comes back to the question what is the role of the prophet and once weâ€™ve kind of determined thatâ€”is the prophetâ€™s role just kind of to tell us where to put our potatoes like Brigham Young did, ya know, by the back door next to the brooms, or is a prophetâ€™s responsibility, and I think kind of theologically weâ€™d have to agree that a prophetâ€™s responsibility is pointing to Christ, and that everything else can kind of go by the wayside.Â â€˜Well, thatâ€™s his opinion.â€™ I speak as somebody from New Zealand, it would have been nice if someoneâ€”this is an American problem, this whole race issue, and rather than it being sort of washed up onto the tide, weâ€™re having to deal with it. In Brazil for instance, the issue of race is not the same as it is in the United States.Â And so they look like, we want to build a temple, how can we do that because we canâ€™t find any person in Brazil that doesnâ€™t have at least some bit of black heritage, what do we do about that?
So, yeah, I just kind of come back to that notion that we have to clarify, as part of our maturing that we recognize that prophets have a particular role in telling us how to become more like Christ and pointing the way to become a Zion people.Â Now if they said everything that was the mind and will of God, theyâ€™d be God.â€
Dan, â€œHmmm, interesting.â€
Gina continues, â€œSo you know they have to filter this kind of, you know, speaking theologically they have to kind of filter all of these kind of promptings and thinking from kind of this omnipotent being through their kind of mortal framework and cultural locatedness.Â I think we need to own it, unless it is helpful for us to understand the mind and will of Christ, and backed up with scriptural canon.Â Some things can be disregarded just as kind of opinion.â€
Marguerite, â€œI would add that thereâ€™s always the trouble, and this is where you are when youâ€™re LDS you are supposed whatâ€”follow the prophet.Â Did you learn the song?Â [Sings] Follow the prophet.Â Follow the prophetâ€¦â€™ [Gina interrupts.]
Marguerite continues, â€œWe learned it out whole life so thatâ€™s one of the reasons that thereâ€™s an issue here because there are times whenâ€”I actually might disagree here a bit with Brad in that there are things a prophet has said and done before they were prophets or while wearing other hats.Â It is rare, we do not have a spoken revelation on this race issue, or some prophet speaking at General Conference.Â Weâ€™ve never had it, and weâ€™re going to need one probably to fix it all but there is several little sub-issues here.Â One, there are people in the Church who do not believe that any prophet ever in any aspect of their life could ever be infallible which then imbues anything theyâ€™ve ever said or done, including some paper they wrote when they were 21 for a sociology class with spiritual significance if they later become prophet of the church.Â There is that issue that exists among people.
There are some of us willing to accept that prophets are human beings and when they are speaking as the mouthpiece of the Lord we have been promised that they wonâ€™t lead us astray, but we still have something to do here which is we need to rely on our own instructions, and our own gift of the Holy Ghost and spirit of revelation to know when something is coming from this person as the prophet from the mouth of God, and when it is something else.Â Then you have to reconcile to yourself what to do with it. I mean I donâ€™t want people to listen to this podcast and say that Dan and his panel of crazies are saying â€˜donâ€™t ever listen to the prophet because itâ€™s really just his opinion.â€™ Thatâ€™s not my opinion.
Iâ€™m telling you there are times when people who are prophets speak but when they are not speaking prophetically, and usually they give you some kind of clue.Â Like if theyâ€™re speaking from the pulpit at General Conference, maybe you should listen.Â But when theyâ€™re sitting there talking to the legislature as the governor of the state, take that with a huge grain of salt if you take it at all.Â You could shovel it out in the dust bin and it wouldnâ€™t make a difference to your immortal status, you know, your obedience or lack thereof, your willfulness or lack thereof.Â I think that is something we need to come to grips with.
I think there are people whoâ€”I have a problem with people who wonâ€™t move forward unless thereâ€™s an apology for what happened in the past.Â Maybe thatâ€™s because I understand repentance, or I understand the idea of forgiveness and these things as related only to yourself. If youâ€™ve wronged me, youâ€™ve wronged me, and thatâ€™s on you.Â If I refuse to forgive you and move forward, thatâ€™s on me. So I want to be sure to tell people that look, you need to develop a relationship with Jesus Christ.Â You need to develop a relationship with God.Â You need to learn the doctrine, and the doctrine is inclusive.Â It is loving, and the end of 2 Nephi 26 absolutely says that God denies noneâ€”whatâ€™s the exact quote? It says he denieth none.â€
Dan, â€œHe inviteth all.â€
Marguerite continues, â€œHe denieth none!Â He denieth none that come unto him black and white, bond and free, male and female, and he, it says here specifically, remembereth the heathen and all are alike unto God, both Jew and gentile.Â Thereâ€™s nothing more clear than that, and yet we havenâ€™t gotten it right yet.Â We havenâ€™t gotten it right yet.Â Weâ€™re working towards it, now we get to keep working towards it and having these conversations to tell us guys, if itâ€™s not one of those all are alike things, if youâ€™re treating people differently, thatâ€™s contradictory to what weâ€™ve already been told.Â Donâ€™t ask for a prophet to give you new revelation.Â Youâ€™ve already got revelation.Â How about you read it, and understand it, and then we donâ€™t have to worry about making God tell us something else when heâ€™s already told us, â€˜hello. Why arenâ€™t you listening?â€™â€
Dan, â€œRight.Â I thought of that verse too, and itâ€™s sort of speaking to what you were talking about Gina.Â This is the role of a prophet.Â That verse kind of has that ideal, that calling you to Christâ€™s deep teaching stuff, a lot different than whatever it was that stuff that started the ban.Â Â You know what I mean?Â I think thereâ€™s a way to do that. We need to be careful, and we need to watch what you guys are all warning about, this rabbit hole, the dominos and all that stuff, but I can see it being done and it would lead towardsâ€”
Brad interrupts, â€œDan can I say something in response?â€
Dan, â€œYeah, sure.â€
Brad, â€œI think that when the conversation focuses on apology on the need or lack of need for an apology, I think itâ€™s actually a real distraction,
Marguerite, â€œYes it is.â€
Brad continues, â€œbecause thereâ€™s something more important than apologizing.Â Because you can apologize for the effects of something.Â You can apologize that something hurt somebody without actually acknowledging that it was wrong.Â An apology isnâ€™t an essential step in the repentance process.
It may be, but it may not be, but what is absolutely essential is that you acknowledge the need of repentance in the first place.Â You acknowledge that it was wrong, and if the Randy Bott debacle and all of its aftermath has taught us anything, it is that we are not past this issue in the church.â€
Dan, â€œFor sure.â€
Brad, â€œThis is a source of pain, this is a source of problems, this is still a millstone around our neck, an Achilles heel or whatever metaphor you want to use.Â It seems obvious to me, you cannot get past this while at the same time refusingâ€”weâ€™re making it worse for ourselves because now weâ€™re saying racism is bad, all racism, past and present, inside and outside the church is bad, is wrong we condemn it, but no comment on the ban.
That bespeaks a state of denial, an unwillingness to really come to terms with what the ban was, and the great evil that it entailed in the lives of millions and millions of children of God. If we are going to feel and experience and take in the full power of the atonement as a church, the power of the atonement to transform, to bring you back to a path of righteousness when youâ€™ve gone astray, to lift you out of the mire of sin, we have to acknowledge it.Â We have to at least be willing to say, regardless of whether thereâ€™s an apology to somebody, we have to be willing to say, you know what, it was racist and it was wrong.â€
Dan, â€œAnd then youâ€™ve added in some language, we need to repudiate it, disavow it, you know, thatâ€™s a lot different than apologize for how itâ€™s harmed.Â Yeah, and thatâ€™s clearly what your blog post points to.â€
Brad, â€œApology, no apology, itâ€™s about contrition.Â You cannot have the full power of Christ in your life without a broken heart and a contrite spirit.â€
Marguerite, â€œI would ask though, I donâ€™t disagree with the idea that you have to acknowledge the sin in order to repent of it and open you heart and make sure the stain is gone, but the church is millions of individuals.Â How does an institution?Â An institution has no soul.Â It is merely the collection of everybody in it.Â I think that we donâ€™t want to set up on a path whereâ€”I mean I want to acknowledge all the individuals to that introspection that Dan was talking about to that kind of individual repentance.Â If you get there, youâ€™re done.Â You can be done.Â Does the institution itself have to say something?Â Can an institution repent the way that youâ€™re talking about?â€
Brad, â€œI think it can I think it has to.â€
Dan, â€œI do too, yeah.â€
Gina, â€œYeah me too.â€
Brad continues, â€œI think on the one hand weâ€™re called to repent.â€
Marguerite interrupts, â€œYes, but thatâ€™s individuals, thatâ€™s people. Thatâ€™s the individuals in the Church.â€
Brad continues, â€œChurches and nations and people, entire peoples are called to repentance.â€
Marguerite, â€œBut thatâ€™s the individuals, thatâ€™s individuals who are called to repentance.â€
Dan, â€œNo, I, Iâ€¦.â€
Marguerite, â€œHow can an institution be condemned or saved?Â Itâ€™s the people.Â The church exists to save the individuals, and thatâ€™s why it exists.â€
Brad, â€œThe Church doesnâ€™t exist for individuals, it exists to build Zion.Â It exists to achieve potential asâ€”â€œ
Marguerite, â€œYeah but what Zion?â€
Brad continues, â€œAs an institution.â€
Marguerite, â€œWhat Zion?Â But thatâ€™s just it.Â The Church like the Sabbathâ€”man was not invented for the Sabbath, Sabbath was invented for man.Â And thatâ€™s the same thing as the Church.Â Man was not invented for the church.Â The church was instituted for man that we may learn and grow and get back to Heavenly Father.Â So as an institutionâ€”â€
Brad interrupts, â€œWe donâ€™t just do it as individuals, we do it as a society.Â We depend on each other.Â We are sealed together as a community. Zion.Â The end result is not an individual association with God, itâ€™s a kingdom.â€
Marguerite, â€œNo but its each individual has to be the part of that.â€
Brad, â€œRight, Iâ€™m not sayingâ€”â€œ
Dan, â€œItâ€™s a both Marguerite.Â I think youâ€™re playing up the individual piece of it.Â But I do think thereâ€™s a precedent for calling nations and things, especially this at this repudiation level, we have to absolutely not just explain it, we have to reject it.Â Reject those structures.â€
Marguerite, â€œI agree that this stuff is necessary. The Church has to take the lead in eradicating erroneous teachings wherever it finds them. And this is a whole bunch of erroneous stuff out there, and they need to absolutely correct that. But the reason is because peopleâ€™s belief in those erroneous teachings then cuts them off from God.Â It allows hatred and racism/discrimination to infect all of the individuals when the teaching is there. I think the Church has to get rid of that, but you know, sitting here as a black person, I donâ€™t need anybody here to come and apologize to me.â€
Brad, â€œIâ€™m not asking anybody to apologize.â€
Gina, â€œI want an apology.â€
Dan, â€œAll right!Â Go Gina.â€
Marguerite, â€Iâ€™m sorry Gina!â€
Brad, â€œWhat I want though is I want us to acknowledge if weâ€™re going to say that we need to eradicate false teachings, and the false teaching that we need to eradicate most is the false teaching that there was nothing wrong with the ban, that the ban wasnâ€™t racist.â€
Marguerite, â€œI agree, although I have not yet, I havenâ€™t heard the Churchâ€™s statements are not saying there was nothing wrong with it, they just say we canâ€™t explain where it came from.â€
Brad, â€œTheyâ€™re refusing to say that there was something wrong with it though.â€
Marguerite, â€œUmmm, I guess I have to look at that. The current press release doesnâ€™t really address that one way or another.Â They acknowledge the existence of the ban, they say for a time it existed and they canâ€™t explain why it existed.Â It ended in â€™78 and then they goâ€”â€œ
Brad, â€œCompletely passing on the question of there being anything wrong with it.â€
Dan, â€œItâ€™s missing for sure.â€
Marguerite, â€œYeah, thatâ€™s what it is. Â Theyâ€™re passing on that.Â They have not actually affirmative stated there was nothing wrong with it, they also have not affirmatively stated that it was something terribly wrong with it.â€
Brad, â€œPresident Hinckley stated there was nothing wrong with it several years ago.Â So it is something that does needâ€”â€œ
Marguerite, â€œWhat raised that?Â What were his exact words?Â Do you have that in front of you, because I actually read that just yesterday.Â He didnâ€™t say, â€˜Oh, there was nothing wrong with it, what he did wasâ€”â€œ
Brad, â€œHe said it wasnâ€™t wrong.â€
Marguerite, â€œIs that was the quote was?Â Because I donâ€™t remember the â€˜it was not wrong.â€™Â I remember him deftly avoiding a couple of those questions that led directly to that and what he really said was itâ€™s now over with and the revelation came and there was some language about, what was it?Â I donâ€™t have it in front of me anymore but I just read it the other day.Â He did not say, â€˜it was not wrongâ€™, what he said was â€˜this is over.Â We donâ€™t have the source of that policy was, but it is now gone, and why canâ€™t we move past this?â€™Â He left with the same kind of language he did in the Larry King interview.Â You know why are we focusing on this when thatâ€™s past history.Â Letâ€™s focus and move forward.â€
Brad, â€œYeah, Iâ€™m just assuming weâ€™re reading different things.â€
Dan, â€œCould be, yeah, yeah.â€
Brad, â€œHe probably got asked about it quite often.â€
Marguerite, â€œOh Iâ€™m sure he did, but by the time he was on Larry King, you saw it.Â He was expert at, he didnâ€™t defend it, he didnâ€™t condemn it.Â He said it was, it existed, we donâ€™t know what the source was.Â It ended in â€™78 and letâ€™s talk about something else.Â Thatâ€™s kind of been the script for several years for ya know…â€
Dan, â€œNew script coming, please.Â Letâ€™s hope.â€
Marguerite, â€œI donâ€™t disagree that the conversation needs to happen, I just wanted to make sure thatâ€”I donâ€™t want anybodyâ€™s focus, I donâ€™t want any individuals, personal relationships or their testimonies with say the truths that are in the Book of Mormon and the truths that are in the gospel to be hindered by them waiting for a, you know an â€œIâ€™m sorryâ€.Â There are black people who joined the church when the ban existed and that kind of faith I donâ€™t want to trivialize or minimize the amazing steps, the path that these people walked that quite frankly I have no idea if I would be able to walk at that time with that kind of faith, and with that kind of grace in the face of all that difficulty, extant, not just past, not just lingering, not just the artifacts, but in their faces every single day.Â And that to me is tremendous faith in truths of the doctrine that isnâ€™t tied to what other people think, what other people say.Â I donâ€™t want to ever deny someone the ability to walk that path.â€
Brad, â€œNo, I agree, and I donâ€™t think that-thatâ€™s why I began that conversations about apology are sidestepping the main issue, which is that our unwillingness to acknowledge that it was wrong is still a stumbling block.â€
Marguerite, â€œWell, and I would just add too that thereâ€™s a lot of other stumbling blocks to that conversation that people donâ€™t have a good understanding of discrimination, they donâ€™t have a good understanding of racism, and as long as they believe that they are not racist unless they possess animosity, hatred based on race, then this question can never be asked.Â Because they will say there was no racism because there was no animosity.Â â€œ
Marguerite , â€œWhat we have to do first is let people know that discrimination based on race is racism no matter what your motives, no matter what your understanding.Â If they have that, then people can start to do the light bulb will go off.Â Oh my gosh!Â That was discrimination, then that was racist.Â We need to have that other conversation first.Â We need to educate people as to â€˜look guys this is discrimination.â€™ If somebody can be a religion professor at BYU for umpteen years and go into Washington Post saying that discrimination is merely denying people something that will be a benefit to them, weâ€™ve got a lot of educating to do on that issue there before we can even get to the loftier issues that are the goal here.â€
Dan, â€œVery good, thank you.Â Hey guys we got to wrap this up. Brad and Marguerite, I donâ€™t know if those can serve as final statements from you guys, Iâ€™ll get you one more chance to add anything thatâ€™s on your heart, but Gina, Iâ€™d love to send it back your direction for what havenâ€™t you said that you want to say? I know thereâ€™s a lot of things on your list here, weâ€™re obviously not going to get to those.Â If you had a closing monologue or an impassioned plea or just a summation, Iâ€™d love to just throw it to you.â€
Gina, â€œGosh, Iâ€™d like to go back to Bradâ€™s point about the need for an apology.Â If we think about in the Mormon context, in the doctrinal context of what an apology means, an apology is a change of heart.Â Itâ€™s doing something differently, and I think that by all means the institution can do something differently.Â But what it requires is being able to kind of integrate the experience of the margins into the discourse of the center, so that our theology starts actually looking like our church.Â And thatâ€™s the biggest problem, that I think that we face is that on one level we can crack open the scriptures and then on another level weâ€™re dealing with this something that doesnâ€™t actually reflect what we understand about our theology from the scriptures.Â So, I would just like to see more self-reflexiveness in white spaces about the effect that white culture and white privilege and white advantages if not having to think about these issues has on minority folk, black and brown folk.Â Until that happens, we can kind of work on dispositions and ask people to love people more, but until thereâ€™s systemic change and a reorientation and instability in our cultural spaces, Iâ€™m not sure that weâ€™re going to move forward.Â Weâ€™re just going to circle around the same old problem.â€
Dan, â€œTerrific, thank you.Â Anything else?â€
Dan, â€œThank you Gina for being on.Â Weâ€™re going to have you back.â€
Dan, â€œBrad, any last thing you didnâ€™t get out?â€
Brad, â€œI would say that even if on a strictly individual level, racism is a problem in the church, and it is a problem in the church, because If youâ€™re unwilling to accept that the ban was wrong, then what youâ€™re doing is accepting a view of the universe in which it is ok to discriminate on the basis of race, even in these vital, vital things: temple access, temple covenants, sealings, sealing of families together.Â Itâ€™s ok to withhold those blessings, to exclude people on the basis of race.Â So the unwillingness, the inability to view the ban as wrong is a stumbling block to overcoming the sin of racism for the individual and the unwillingness of the leaders of the church to acknowledge the wrongness of the ban, therefore becomes a stumbling block for individual church members, in their own quest to overcome the sin of racism.Â It still exists, the residual racism that still exists as an after-effect, and simply is a byproduct of our own cultural embeddedness.â€
Brad, â€œRacism is a sin, it is a sin that has stained us in the past, it continues to stain us in the present, and full acknowledgement of all the wrongness of all the racism and all of its forms is the only possible path to removing the sin fromâ€”to unstaining our garments.â€
Dan, â€œCool, thank you.Â Powerful.Â Marguerite, anything left?â€
Marguerite, â€œThere is so much more, I donâ€™t know how to add to this except that we started at the beginning by saying what youâ€™re hearing here are the thoughts and feelings of people, all of whom are currently active members of the LDS Church.Â This does not come from a position of trying to tear down, but from a position of reflecting on our own perspectives, from our own places within the church, and certainly offering our own opinions on what currently exists, the pains and problems, and how we can move forward to a day when we truly will be of one fold and one shepherd.Â So I just want to make sure the listeners understand, we are not trying to rip down and tear apart, but to make sure if youâ€™ve got this goal in mind, there are steps that have to be taken, and those steps are not always easy ones.
Theyâ€™re not even always clear ones.Â If we can at least be dedicated to moving in the right direction, this was a step in the right direction.Â We need more steps, but that thatâ€™s the goal.Â The goal is so that we truly can be of one fold and one shepherd with one heart to guide us.â€
Dan, â€œPreach it.â€
Dan, â€œThank you Marguerite.Â Thanks all of you for being on here.Â What did you call yourselves Marguerite?Â Marguerite called you the band of crazies, Dan and the band of crazies.â€Â [chuckling]
Gina laughs, â€œSpeak for yourself!â€
Marguerite, â€œThatâ€™s right!Â No, No, I said I donâ€™t want to be known as a crazy.â€
Dan, â€œI know, I know.â€
Marguerite, â€œDan and his band of crazies are you know trying to tell people, donâ€™t listen to the prophet and thatâ€¦I said donâ€™t.â€
Dan, â€œYeah, I know, I got you.Â I was just playing with it. Iâ€™ll just make it Dan and the people heâ€™s crazy about, so howâ€™s that?Â I like it.â€
Marguerite, â€œThere you go, I like it.Â Now can we have a closing song? Iâ€™m just kidding.â€
Dan sings, â€œThis little land of mineâ€¦. [stops singing]Â Oh, that would be wonderful.Â Thank you you guys for being on, and Brad, itâ€™s 1:25 in the morning where you are so we appreciate that. We got started late because of Joannaâ€™s schedule, and then we ended up not having Joanna on.Â Yep, so anyone, so â€
Marguerite, â€œWell tell her the exciting conversation she missed.â€
Dan, â€œSheâ€™ll be listening to it. Weâ€™ll have her join in with the blog conversation.Â I just really appreciated this, and thereâ€™s just that one little thread that you could kind of tell I was trying to get to, and I really appreciated the open-hearted way we kind of used the word sin, we talked about repentance, and I donâ€™t know, there was somewhere along the line in my journey where getting caught up short in an area of my life just quit being so devastating to me, and it was more like feedback, like God sitting there going, Yup, you screwed up here.Â But I no longer feel condemnation from God.Â Iâ€™m not really that messedâ€”Iâ€™m not really that trouble when Iâ€™ve been wrong, so Iâ€™d just really love us to defang sin from evil, you know what I mean?Â Of the need for repentance as something that is a deficiency in us.Â This is what life was about was to learn and to grow and to own it for ourselves.â€
Marguerite, â€œDonâ€™t you remember, they say in the scriptures specifically God gives unto men weaknesses so that we can use Him to make them strengths.â€
Marguerite, â€œBut I just wanted to add, just relevant to what you just said, living here in Utah County it surprises me, well maybe surprise isnâ€™tâ€™ the right word, but let me just finish the thought first that Utah County is the Prozac capital of the planet, and it is now the plastic surgery capital of the planet.
I think that a lot of the reason for that is exactly this problem that Dan is raising which is an inability to accept wrongness or imperfections in ourselves.Â But I donâ€™t know if itâ€™s necessarily within our relationship to God.Â It might simply be in our relationship to each other.Â I havenâ€™t quite gotten to the bottom of that yet. I donâ€™t know why Iâ€™m looking at all these women.Â I sat in a restaurant listening to three women talk about all the plastic surgery procedures theyâ€™ve had.Â â€˜Oh darling, my doctor could take care of that thing around your eye.â€™Â And you know, I was flummoxed really, but I think that a lot of that might relate to the idea that youâ€™re now raising, or not now raising, but the idea that sometimes people have difficulty looking at themselves in the mirror and spotting the flaws, either because they are trying to hide them from God, or other people or themselves, and they canâ€™t deal with imperfection.Â Iâ€™m quite imperfect, and I donâ€™t mind acknowledging that at all to all of you and everyone listening.â€
Dan, â€œAnd with God, itâ€™s just like, oh man, itâ€™s so normal, and yeah, you need to acknowledge it, you need to repudiate it, disavow those actions, but itâ€™s not us as much as its justâ€”I donâ€™t know itâ€™s feedback. And feedback is loving.Â To have the mirror shown to you is a loving act.Â If we can just defang that, and so thatâ€™s why I kind of was pushing all along, you know a moment, here.Â We donâ€™t love the moment here with Dr. Bottâ€™s comments, we donâ€™t love it, but boy we can sure use it, and I hope we will do those deep self-reflections, all of us, and donâ€™t make it a condemning yourself act.Â Make it a changing yourself act, because thatâ€™s what repentance is all about.Â Youâ€™re already forgiven.Â Thereâ€™s no begging for forgiveness.Â Youâ€™re forgiven before you hit your knees.Â Youâ€™re forgiven that your heart turns towards God, so just make it about turning and opening your eyes and seeing the mirror.Â Anyway thatâ€™s kind of my last bit.â€
Brad, â€œYou know the best part about the Book of Mormon is Dan?â€
Brad, â€œItâ€™s almost counter-intuitive, but itâ€™s like a center piece of Book of Mormon theology.Â Itâ€™s when King Benjamin says, tells his listeners the secret of life, the secret of happiness.Â Remember?Â He says, just remember your nothingness and always retain in remembrance your nothingness before God, and his long-suffering toward you unworthy creatures.Â And if you remember that always, Youâ€™ll always rejoice.â€
Dan, â€œShall we close with that?Â That will be our closing devotional.â€
Marguerite, “Yes, you can go ahead and edit it and take care of everything else on the editing floor, right?”
Dan chuckels, “Oh, wonderful. Thanks you guys. I’ll let you know when this posts, and we invite you guys to come to the blog and interact with people, and folks out there who are listening, please come and tell us what we missed. I mean I know how much we missed cause I’m staring at so many notes that we didn’t get to. So let’s have this conversation and take advantage of this moment even though we didn’t choose this moment to be in front of us. Let’s use it for all the good things that might come out of it. Thank you again. Please visit Mormon Matters.org and goodnight to my great guests. Thank you crazies!”
[group thanks him back.]
Dan, “Good night. Cue the music!”