LDS members today need to be honest about the racist history of the church. But who is responsible?
If it is God who is solely responsible for the prolonged suppression of blacks, and the superiority of whites, only ending when God decided it was time, then the LDS God himself and the LDS church itself is racist at its core. If God is the one responsible, then the teachings and history of how and why black people look the way they do and were inferior to whites, cannot be expunged and must be embraced by all Mormons, Mitt Romney included, like it or lump it.
If the LDS leadership is responsible then there needs to be more discussions on why and what next. Why didn’t they pray and urge God more to end the ban? Why did they merely leave it up to God? Why did they continue to suppress blacks even when they thought or knew it was wrong?
But what about LDS members who were not in the upper echelons of leadership? Are their hands washed clean of their church’s racist history? Of course not. They decided every day whether or not to stand up to the leaders, or even to God himself, and be a voice for their black brothers and sisters. The whites chose to either be superior, or fight for equality. Today Mormons need to decide how they will talk about the racist history. Will they embrace it in honesty and work through it, or will they cast it aside and say, “That was in the past. We are all equal?”
Today, during this last week of the Presidential election push, many Christians around the country will be voting for Gov. Mitt Romney. Obama is a Christian.7 Romney is a Mormon. And one of the biggest farces when it comes to politics is that religion doesn’t matter. Of course it matters. Consider how many people keep calling Obama a Muslim. If it didn’t matter, than why bring up the opinion, as ignorant as it may be? Are you not going to vote for a Muslim? Why not? Is it unconstitutional? If it doesn’t matter, then why was there all the hype about Jeremiah Wright’s church and black liberation theology?
Whether you’re okay with it or not, religion matters. For the most part, focus on Mormonism has been on polygamy. But all the while, and lasting much longer than the practice of polygamy ever did, the core of the religion has embraced racism, has taught racism, and there has been no repentance or repudiation of it. Even if Mitt Romney did not like or directly teach it, he has not stated that the suppression of black Americans in the LDS church was in any way wrong. And from his interview with Tim Russert, it’s obvious he is not willing to call his church wrong, to say a negative word against its history, or to even address the issue directly.
What will he do as President? How will he speak to issues of racism? Will he be a trailblazer and a leader, or another politician? Will he do what’s right for the country, or whatever isn’t negative toward his church? How can he be a champion for civil rights when he supported the suppression of black Americans within his own church? Is it difficult to see the hypocrisy when you say, “The color of your skin doesn’t matter when you’re trying to get a job,” but then say, “The color of your skin proves you are not worthy of blessings in our church?”
And Christians by the millions will go support him to be the face and voice of the country. I hope they do so being informed of the facts, and have come to terms with Romney’s response to the issue. I hope they approach their support with honest questions and expecting honest answers. May none of us ever be so tied to our partisan affiliation that we are able to make our decisions in good conscience.
The history and theology behind the LDS church and black Americans is complex. You read LDS writings on the issue and there is a lot going on. But what is clear is that they have not considered the suppression of blacks within the church as wrong, and likely never will. There is no apology. There is no repentance. And Mitt Romney is towing the line. He had a great chance to clear the air. He had a great opportunity to support all people above the evil of racism. He didn’t. Why not?
He had opportunities before the 1978 declaration to take a real stand for black Americans. He didn’t. Why not?
7Whether you agree with his particular choices of doctrine or practice is irrelevant to that issue. My guess is you don’t agree completely with everyone in your church, even the pastors, yet you still consider them Christians. Many will be even quick to judge the faith of someone based on their partisan political choices, without even knowing them personally, and that’s just sad.