Given deafening Republican silence during the national period of anxious disquiet regarding police and state response to the murder of Trayvon Martin, an unease due in part to Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law signed by Romney supporter former Florida Governor Jeb Bush (and an equal silence from the presumptive Republican presidential nominee Willard “Mitt” Romney), a surveyed reflection of the Republicans and their presumptive standard bearer in regard to race, more specifically the politics of race, in America seems in order.
For fear of insulting the reader, I won’t even attempt to cite the numerous times Republican candidates and operatives sought to inject “Reverend Jeremiah Wright ” into a conversation or how many times Fox “News” played videos of his “damning” of America (never noting his meritorious service record in the US Marines and Navy) as any casual observer of “news” is well aware of such media. It would have been nice, respectful, and most importantly intellectually and spiritually honest to acknowledge such service; to revere it and then to go the extra mile no matter how “repugnant” to one’s sensibilities the rhetoric of Rev. Wright: to try and empathize how a decorated African-American veteran might feel in seeing “his” people subjected to state sponsored terrorism before, during, and after his service to the same country. Yes, when one is subjected to the terror often perpetrated by, with the approval of, or general disinterest by operatives of the state it is state sponsored terrorism.
It is funny that, once again, a glaring double standard exists in Republican circles now that the proverbial shoe is on the other foot and a Republican brings forth suspicious and dubious credentials vis-a-vis his faith of choice. Republicans are habitually duplicitous and we should all accept double standards as simply “modus operandi“.
Repudiate is a powerful word, a decisive action — to separate from and disown. Then candidate Obama was demanded to “repudiate” Rev. Wright and the long time spiritual home that brought comfort to the Obamas by Republicans and their operatives. Will they now make such demands of their standard bearer; his theological doctrine and his “prophets”? One of the most outspoken of Rev. Wright was (then) Fox “News” personality Glenn Beck. Beck is being singled out for this essay in as much as many speculate on his vested interest in the presidency of America’s first non-White President. This “interest” comes by the way in which Glenn Beck [seemingly] envisions himself the “rider of the white horse” as found in Mormon theology, a character called upon to save the US Constitution as Mormons are called upon to step up and help to introduce an American theocracy. Glenn Beck is a Mormon — as is Romney.
In a genuinely fair society, anyone’s religious beliefs would be an intimate and personal expression of life and life’s aspirations; aspirations realized and those denied. As was noted in regard to Rev. Wright (and as can been seen with President Kennedy before), the United States is not that society with the Republicans proving in abundance during the 2008 election cycle that one’s belief system is of worthy consideration. Mr. Romney has noted that his faith is important to him, animating his very being. Given this animation, I felt it equally important to look at some of the theology he taught as a Mormon Bishop; doctrine he apparently believes in and follows.
Having spent a number of years in Utah, I came to learn quite a bit about the dominant culture currently inhabiting the land of the Ute native tribes. They are small in number as a state. Many exhibit “prototypical” western ruggedness, fancying themselves “cowboys” and “pioneers”. The state is currently overwhelmingly Mormon, though these numbers are projected to fall below 50% as the state follows the demographic shift being felt nationwide. The Mormon Church has amassed an enormous fortune with holdings as varied as land, to securities, to retail establishments — and then there is Brigham Young University. Lastly, Utah could be construed a theocracy with most legislators (“lawgivers”) deeply immersed in the religion. In as much as this is generally a blog based on personal, and often but not always anecdotal observation, much of my essay this point forward will be opinion but with many citations to accurately support assertions in an effort to leave the reader feeling like my opinions have been well thought out and most importantly . . . fair.
The population of African-Americans in Utah is indeed very small as is the “observable” number of African-American Mormons. Mormons will often point to their growth in developing countries including Africa. This glee is belied when one conjectures what a hungry, homeless family might do when given the opportunity for blankets and dress clothes — even a home — as opposed to rags and a dusty hut. My focus in the remainder of this essay will be more on what Mormonism teaches Mormons about those descending from African heritage — and those born of admixture thereof.
Beyond the jokes that BYU started admitting African-Americans to better enable their competitiveness in athletics is the very anxiety of the Mormon Church’s history with and treatment of Americans of African decent. I have zero interest in surveying the entire history of Mormonism. What I will offer are a number of quotations and examples of oratory which put into context the general theological perspective of the Mormon Church. What should not be lost in these quotes is that while the Mormon Church started to allow African-American men to hold their “priesthood,” these African-Americans none-the-less entered an order unrepentant of its past (of corollary interest might be the assertion that a number of African-Americans have even found membership in the Ku Klux Klan or Jews as Nazi collaborators). When asked of an ex-Mormon, now popular Utah “Mormon debunker,” I learned,
“The Mormons have never disavowed nor apologized for their historical stand on racism. They rationalize it and make all kinds of excuses for it, but have never renounced it. I do not understand how a person of “color” could with a clear mind ever become and embrace Mormonism.”
. . . or as I often asked: “what ‘White man‘s religion’ befits you (them, African-Americans) that only in the 1970’s were you righteous and worthy enough that a single White man finally saw fit to allow entré into “God’s kingdom” as he/they saw it? “Is this this really something worthy of your [spiritual] life”? Perhaps the following will offer insight into my curiosity and overall query. I will simply present quotes and let the reader judge for themselves, offering a general summation before closing the essay.
** Required teminological reference: Lamanite(s) and Nephite(s) — a mythical race of Peoples found in the Book of Mormon for which zero evidence exists in anthropology. Mythical as are the Women of Amazon and the People of Atlantis.
Quotes (with citations) from Mormon leaders’ personal interpretation or direct quotes from Mormon doctrine:
Brigham Young, the leader who led many of the Mormons to Salt Lake City, UT wrote:
Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African Race? If the White man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so.
Cain slew his brother. . . and the Lord put a mark upon him, which is the flat nose and black skin.
You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild, and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind. The first man that committed the odious crime of killing one of his brethren will be cursed the longest of any one of the children of Adam. Cain slew his brother. Cain might have been killed, and that would have put a termination to that line of human beings. This was not to be, and the Lord put a mark upon him, which is the flat nose and black skin. Trace mankind down to after the flood, and then another curse is pronounced upon the same race–that they should be the ‘servant of servants;’ and they will be, until that curse is removed.”
Brigham Young, “Journal of Discourses,” Vol. 7, Pages 290 & 291
Joseph Fielding Smith — not to be confused with Joseph Smith, the founder of the church — was the sixth President of the Mormon Church. He wrote:
“There is a reason why one man is born black and with other disadvantages, while another is born white with great advantages. The reason is that we once had an estate before we came here, and were obedient, more or less, to the laws that were given us there. Those who were faithful in all things there received greater blessings here, and those who were not faithful received less.”
Joseph Fielding Smith, “Doctrines of Salvation,” Page 61.
Book of Mormon
1 Nephi 11:13 (Mary) “. . . she was exceedingly fair and white.”
1 Nephi 12:23 (Prophecy of Lamanites after Christ) “. . . became a dark, and loathsome, and a filthy people, full of idleness and all manner of abominations.”
1 Nephi 13:15 (Gentiles) “. . . they were white, and exceedingly fair and beautiful, like unto my people [Nephites] before they were slain.”
2 Nephi 5:21 “. . . a sore cursing . . . as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them.”
2 Nephi 30:6 (Prophecy to Lamanites) “. . . scales of darkness shall begin to fall . . . they shall be a white and delightsome people.” (Changed to pure and delightsome in 1981)
Jacob 3:5 (Lamanites cursed) “. . .whom ye hate because of their filthiness and the cursing which hath come upon their skins. . .”
Jacob 3:8-9 “. . .their skins will be whiter than yours . . . revile no more against them because of the darkness of their skins . . .”
Alma 3:6 “. . . skins of the Lamanites were dark, according to the mark which was set upon their fathers, which was a curse upon them because of their transgression and their rebellion. . .”
Alma 3:8 (Cursed) “. . .that their seed might be distinguished from the seed of their brethren . . .that they might not mix . . .”
Alma 3:9 “. . . whosoever did mingle his seed with that of the Lamanites did bring the same curse upon his seed.”
Alma 3:14 (Lamanites cursed) “. . . set a mark on them that they and their seed may be separated from thee and thy seed. . .”
Alma 3:19 (Amlicites cursed) “. . . brought upon themselves the curse …”
Alma 23:18 “. . . [Lamanites] did open a correspondence with them [Nephites] and the curse of God did no more follow them.”
3 Nephi 2:14-16 “. . . Lamanites who had united with the Nephites were numbered among the Nephites; And their curse was taken from them, and their skin became white like unto the Nephites . . . became exceedingly fair . . .”
3 Nephi 19:25, 30 (Disciples) “. . . they were as white as the countenance and also the garments of Jesus; and behold the whiteness thereof did exceed all the whiteness . . . nothing upon earth so white as the whiteness thereof . . . they were white, even as Jesus.”
Mormon 5:15 (Prophecy about Lamanites) “. . .shall become a dark, a filthy, and a loathsome people, beyond the description of that which ever hath been amongst us . . .”
Mormon 5:17 “They were once a delightsome people . . .”
Interesting theological manifesto; proclamtions seemingly more interested in one’s apparent appearance (“what they are” or “whom they seem to resemble“) as opposed to their unknown spiritual self (“what might be in their hearts” or “whom they are“). A “book’s cover” and the content of that book is a parable that immediately comes to my mind as well as the value of the story printed upon the book’s pages.
A more important thought that enters my consciousness is that anyone with an ounce of sense should clearly be able to differentiate, I would hope, between a patriotic American fighting for the dignity and security of “his” historically oppressed people as opposed to one who subscribes to dubious doctrine that seeks to further marginalize an already marginalized segment of society. Equally, there is a spiritual, practical, and real difference between the “Black Liberation Theology” purportedly espoused by the Rev. Wright (and vilified by the likes of Beck et al.) and the perpetuation of a fraudulent type of spiritual subjugation based on race as historically articulated by the Mormon Church and embraced by the likes of Beck and apparently Romney.
One could correctly ask, “but by offering these quotes and citations from a small and marginal sect aren’t you simply giving succour to those who seek a spiritual home in which to place their racist beliefs and ideologies; subterfuge to their agenda(s)?” Indeed that is a fair critique and precisely what I endeavored to unearth in this essay. Additionally, it kind of makes the point then doesn’t it in regard to the racist tenor of foundational Mormon doctrine and its home for “marginal” and racially biased beliefs? . . . and there is much more to be unearthed for those who believe in continued (modern) women’s suffrage, same-sex equality, converting the deceased including Holocaust survivors, and the like — actually, there is probably something for many historically aggrieved persons to discover; for mainstream Christians as well.
Despite what Mormon theology as noted above clearly observes, and as a bi-“racial,” multi-ethnic American (“mixed seed”), I must note that I have not been “cursed” nor has my ancestry or I “dropped dead on the spot” thank you very much for your false prophecy. So, in the face of such theological dogma, I for one will hold to the highest scrutiny any person seeking the nation’s highest political and symbolic office in our country. Any “leader” bold enough to seek this office must understand that s/he does so as the person who begins to usher the American nation into a new demographic era as projected by all statistical and empirical data: a majority nation of constituent minorities.
Such a “melting pot president” must be able to present to the nation a “spiritual self” devoid of any “animation” contrary to the nation the United States is becoming, to be able to help America shed the sad cloak of a racially biased and all too often “terrorized” manifestation of history. If Romney is to be this man, he must repudiate, renounce, and denounce not simply the likes of his fellow Mormon Glenn Beck but more importantly: denounce the very foundations on which his Church was founded and the “leadership” that has led to its “growth”. More plainly, Mr. Romney needs to repudiate much of his Church’s doctrine and the foundational oratory espoused by its many racist leaders.
Mr. Romney should personally offer this out of conscience and in homage to the office in which he seeks and to the time, place, and nation in which he seeks it. If he can not or will not make such an offering, then the very same Republican hierarchy and its set of operatives should place upon Romney the same scorn they sought to place upon President Obama — anything less is patently hypocritical and exposes as fraudulent not only the Republican Party and its “modus operandi” as noted in this essay’s introduction, but makes divisive and I will add un-American any potential presidency of Willard “Mitt” Romney.
If we as a nation truly aspire to live up to Dr. King’s “Dream Speech,” and if the preamble to the Constitution is more than this set of words:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America,
then we need to ensure that there is honorable leadership worthy of making the concept of “American exceptionalism” more than bumper-sticker jargon. Most importantly, we need leadership that can ensure that no more American citizens, indeed American heroes, will be betrayed by those who [fraudulently] lay claim to these American ideals.
Republicans, Mr. Romney . . . what say you?
***** NOTES, CREDITS, and THANK YOUS *****
A very special thanks to Doris Hanson and the Shield and Refuge Ministry, Salt Lake City, UT
Utah Lighthouse Ministry, Salt Lake City, UT
Post-Mormon.org, Logan, UT
**UPDATE (2 April 2012)**
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