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Saturday, January 5, 2013

Mormonism and Race

Ok, I have been meaning to write this for a while. I should have done so before the election. Since I haven't been posting on the other blog I am putting everything here.

I was raised Mormon. (Mitt Romney's sister Jane, in fact, was a friend of our family. I was friends with Mitt's nephews when I was five years old, and knew them even in High School. Both of our families moved from Ann Arbor to the Sacramento area, so we never lost track of them. Jane's husband at the time, Bruce, was a second cousin of my father's. They were, and probably still are, very nice people and we got along well with them.)

Anyway, I would like to claim that I left the church (which I did, upon turning 16) because I didn't like the racism. My own parents told me not to be racists. One of my grandmothers was overtly racist, but we were told "Grandma is prejudiced" but you shouldn't think like that. My mom's parents were staunch Republicans, but taught their children not to be prejudiced. Of course, they belonged to an organization that was openly racist.

I didn't leave the church because it had a policy that the "priesthood" would be denied to black males, and all females. Not because I heard racist explanations of why this had to be the case: the mark of Cain, the idea that blacks had been "neutral" fence sitters in the war between God and Satan, etc... I was disgusted by this, but that was just part of my general dislike for stupid people, a disgust I'm sure is shared by many adolescents.

(Mitt Romney's sister Jane wrote me a letter encouraging me not to leave the church, after I confided to her son that I didn't believe in it any more.)

I left the church because almost nothing in Christianity or Mormonism made the least bit of sense to me, from a very early age (8 or 9). That's the subject for another post or five. The racism was horrible, because when you think about it for more than a split second, a racism with a theological basis is much worse. That cuts down to the fundamental level, to say, not just that I don't like black people, but that their actual souls are inferior. You could even be "non-prejudiced" in every day life, more or less, and like people of other races, but it is worse to think they are spiritually inferior by definition. Fuck. Anyone who sincerely believes this is a cretin. But racism was just more evidence to me that I was right in rejecting other parts of the religion. In other words, if I had been cool with the rest of the church, I would have found a way to rationalize the racism too, I suspect. The same way I'm sure other people did, who didn't necessarily agree with the policy but didn't see it as a major deal either. Probably because they were white.

In The Book of Mormon God turns people darker skinned because of their sinfulness. Reflect a moment on that.

When the policy about the priesthood changed, in 1978, liberal Mormons like my parents were happy. I had been out of the church since 76, and I wasn't going to go back, since that was not the only reason I left.

If this had been an election-year post, I would have mentioned that Mitt Romney belonged to an openly racist organization until he was 29. But then, so did my parents and many other people in my family. People have left the church for many reasons over the years, and I have read ex-Mormon memoirs about that, for obvious motives. In tales of why people left the church, though, I have never heard that its institutionalized racism was the main reason for anyone. I am no different, but at least I'd like to mention that as something that bothered me, giving me a clue that maybe something was rotten in the state of Zion.


Think about this if you still belong to any organization that reserves the "priethood" or salvation, or anything at all, to people of one race, one gender, one sexual orientation. That's more deeply offensive than being "prejudiced."


Clarissa said...

Wow, I had no idea. What a great post.

Professor Zero said...

Ah, but I did. Not about the Romneys but about the raised Mormon part. It is somehow recognizable -- it's a very very very Protestant culture, and to leave this church takes rebellion. So there is a certain background, personality, and experience that all go into having left.

On the inferior souls: if I keep going in this research on race, I am going to hit the Inquisition. I guess this is really different, right??? Even if you are suspect to the Inquisition, it is not as though you could not be OK by them. But inferior souls... is there a church other than the Mormons that says such things?