I joined the Mormon Church when I was a youth growing up in Nashville. At the time, I didn’t know about the racist teachings by the Church that persisted until 1978. Nor did I realize that the Church had never apologized for those teachings. All I knew is that these were kind and giving people who helped me establish my relationship with God and seemed to be putting me on a path toward success. It wasn’t until I was serving a mission in my early 20’s when I met an African American man who challenged me to question the racist ideas and past teachings of the Mormon faith that had once declared that I was cursed.
While most Christian churches relied heavily on racist inclinations about Blacks as an accursed and stigmatized group who fell out of favor with God to justify their enslavement, the Mormon Church took this one step further. They taught that the origins of the curse began with Cain for having committed the world’s first murder against his brother, Abel. Though there is no scripture to support this claim, LDS faithful believed that the curse placed on Cain by God was the skin of blackness. Additional dogma was also created in the LDS Church on why Blacks were banned from Mormondum, but these differing interpretations were nothing more than racist creations to serve as justification of bigotry. Over time, when various Christian-based white churches began to distance themselves from the racist rhetoric and teachings of their faith, the LDS Church remained steadfast in its persistence of racist folklore well beyond the Civil Rights era.
What is even more egregious is that despite ending the ban on Blacks in the priesthood in 1978, the Mormon Church has yet to issue a formal apology on matters of race and their mistreatment of Blacks. While the Catholic Church and other Protestant based faiths—Episcopal Church, United Methodist Church, Southern Baptist, Lutheran—have since made peace with their racist past and issued public apologies for their role in slavery, Jim Crow racism, and their participation in the mistreatment of African Americans at the hands of misguided Christians, the LDS Church remains unshakable, convinced that its policy was divinely sanctioned by God and that no such apology is needed.
Our goal is to get the Mormon Church to apologize for its racist actions and teachings, just as other faith-based traditions have apologized. This is necessary is to disprove the prevailing notion that God “had His reasons” why humans denigrated and discriminated against other human beings based on race. When the Church refuses to give an apology, it leaves its millions of members left to question whether this was really God’s will rather than human racist actions. A recent online survey revealed that the majority of Mormons no longer believe that Blacks were cursed, but most of them still continued to hear these teachings in their church. Black Mormon members in the survey overwhelmingly asked for a public, unambiguous apology.
Like most of us, I’m hoping to leave this world a better place for our children. I am not cursed. And I certainly don’t want my children growing up thinking or even hearing that they were cursed. Please join me in asking the Mormon Church to issue an official, public apology for their role in racism.
I know that the Church no longer believes in such racist ideas as evidenced in the public response opposing former BYU Religion Professor Randy Bott’s interpretation on Blacks. The Church acknowledged the restriction that was placed on Blacks at one time, yet went on to say, “It is not known precisely why, how, or when this restriction began in the Church.”
This is not acceptable. By being silent on this issue, there are members who continue to believe the old racist folklore that not only were Blacks cursed, but it was God’s will to do so. The reality is that the Mormon Church, just like every other Christian-based faith of the time, used a racist frame to interpret scripture. A recent 2012 online survey for Mormons, revealed that the majority still heard the teachings regularly in church. It also revealed that black Mormon members overwhelmingly asked for a public, unambiguous apology.
I am asking that the Mormon Church stand up like other Christian faiths who have declared public apologies (Methodists, Southern Baptist, Lutheran, Catholic, Episcopalian), and take ownership in your past racist teachings. God was not discriminatory or racist. I hope that you join hands with other Christian-based faiths and do the right thing. Declare an official apology for your abhorrent actions based on earlier teachings.