Bottom Line: No Mormon has any doctrinal basis for racial violence, hate speech, or in any way teaching that one racial group is somehow more beloved of God than any other. As those who love God, we ought to be active in working towards peace and reconciliation between those who are at odds.
Years ago we had a child’s history teacher over for dinner. As we talked, I mentioned that I didn’t know much about Virginia history in the last 100 years.
The teacher looked at me, then started referring to Virginia’s shameful past with respect to race.
It was a high school play in 2014 that helped me to better understand the racial strife associated with Virginia’s refusal to integrate White and Black children in schools.
Virginia is a place where many are proud to fly the Confederate flag. Virginia is the place where I was tormented as a child for being part Asian. Virginia is the state where seven Black men were executed for the 1949 rape of a White woman. 1
This weeked James Alex Fields Jr. drove his car at high speed through a crowd in Charlottesville, VA, hurting 20 people, including killing Heather D. Heyer. Fields likely intended more harm, but his vehicle was stopped when it ran into cars “hidden” in the midst of the crowd. As details trickle in about James Fields, it becomes clear his use of a car to harm those protesting the white supremicist “rally” taking place in Charlottesville. Both James Fields and Heather Heyer were White.
Earlier this month, two racist posters were found on the University of Utah campus. The posters were not approved, and were taken down before police arrived in response to 911 calls. According to something I saw, the person responsible for the racist posters may have been a White housewife.
A man driving is car at top speed through a crowd of civilians is different from a housewife putting up two pieces of paper. Yet both actions have stricken fear in their respective communities.
In Virginia, Governor McAuliffe had declared a state of emergency even before Mr. Fields drove his car through a sea of people protesting against the white supremicists.
In Utah, the poster incident has caused severe distress in the community, particularly amongst Blacks. The language on the posters resonates with the logic proponed by the white supremicists and apparently by Mr. Fields.
As seen from the “Hate Map” produced by the Southern Poverty Law Center, Utah hardly knows how to spell “hate.” 2 Yet the posters and other similar incidents appropriately cause concern.
The Mormon Church, the dominant group responsible for historic settlement of Utah, decries racism, as seen in the statement the LDS Church issued today in response to the Charlottesville tragedy.
As Gordon B. Hinckley said only a few years ago, “No man [or woman] who makes disparaging remarks concerning those of another race can consider himself a true disciple of Christ. Nor can he consider himself to be in harmony with the teachings of the Church of Christ.”
Every person on this earth, of whatever race they may be, is a child of a loving God. If one is a believing Mormon, that is the primary lesson we learn from reading the Book of Mormon or attending Church. Though for many years there was disparate treatment for Black members, even Brigham Young taught Black Church members would eventually “have [all] the privilege and more” enjoyed by other members. 3
No Mormon has any doctrinal basis for racial violence, hate speech, or in any way teaching that one racial group is somehow more beloved of God than any other. As those who love God, we ought to be active in working towards peace and reconciliation between those who are at odds.
- The victim was a comely Jehovah’s Witness and merchant who had attempted to collect a minor debt from a customer in a bad part of town despite the gathering dark. The case of the Martinsville Seven was unusual as the Martinsville courts had adopted procedures to prevent the overt racism identified by the NAACP in prior legal lynchings. In other high profile cases of this nature, the defendants often got off. But the Martinsville case involved men who were guilty of either perpetuating the rape or at least witnessing it without interference, so they weren’t “innocent,” per se. ↩
- The orange fist icon on Utah refers to the state’s American Vanguard group, an organization that sees itself as standing up for White men in the state of Utah. ↩
- Brigham Young, Speeches Before the Utah Territorial Legislature, Jan. 23 and Feb. 5, 1852, George D. Watt Papers, Church History Library, Salt Lake City, transcribed from Pitman shorthand by LaJean Purcell Carruth; “To the Saints,” Deseret News, April 3, 1852, 42.] ↩