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Mormon Racism
Read yesterday in a Vanity Fair piece by Hitchens about "the official racism" of the Mormon Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: "a policy of exclusion" of blacks "that persisted until 1978." This led me to look up what Mormonism says about blacks, and I found some very ugly stuff at Rethinking Mormonism:

Mormon Racism as doctrine, not merely folklore or tradition

Mormon scripture: God curses bad races with black skin

2 Nephi 5:21
21 And the Lord had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, that they had become like unto a flint; wherefore, 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.

Alma 3: 6 "And the 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 against their brethren, who consisted of Nephi, Jacob, and Joseph, and Sam, who were just and holy men."

3 Nephi 2:14-15
14 And it came to pass that those Lamanites who had united with the Nephites were numbered among the Nephites;
15 And their curse was taken from them, and their skin became white like unto the Nephites;

...Official LDS Church Publications Explain Racist LDS Scriptures

"We will first inquire into the results of the approbation or displeasure of God upon a people, starting with the belief that a black skin is a mark of the curse of heaven placed upon some portions of mankind. Some, however, will argue that a black skin is not a curse, nor a white skin a blessing. In fact, some have been so foolish as to believe and say that a black skin is a blessing, and that the negro is the finest type of a perfect man that exists on the earth; but to us such teachings are foolishness. We understand that when God made man in his own image and pronounced him very good, that he made him white. We have no record of any of God's favored servants being of a black race....every angel who ever brought a message of God's mercy to man was beautiful to look upon, clad in the purest white and with a countenance bright as the noonday sun.”
- The Juvenile Instructor, Vol. 3, page 1

...Some church members make the mistake of dismissing the racist statements of 19th-century Mormon leaders as "their own opinion," "not official doctrine," "products of their times," etc.

Those same church members assert that the only "official doctrine" is the Standard Works and official statements of the First Presidency, and that if some leaders said something that didn't come from those sources, it isn't "binding on the membership," and it isn't "canon" or "official doctrine."

However, an official statement of the LDS Church First Presidency issued on August 17, 1951, reads:

"The position of the Church regarding the Negro may be understood when another doctrine of the church is kept in mind, namely, that the conduct of spirits in the pre-mortal existence has some determining effect upon the conditions and circumstances under which these spirits take on mortality, and that while the details of this principle have not been made known, the principle itself indicates that the coming to this earth and taking on mortality is a privilege that is given to those who maintained their first estate; and that the worth of the privilege is so great that spirits are willing to come to earth and take on bodies no matter what the handicap may be as to the kind of bodies they are to secure; and that among the
handicaps, failure of the right to enjoy in mortality the blessings of the priesthood is a handicap which spirits are willing to assume in order that they might come to earth. Under this principle there is no injustice whatsoever involved in this deprivation as to the holding of the priesthood by the Negroes....."

"Man will be punished for his own sins and not for Adam's transgression. If this is carried further, it would imply that the Negro is punished or alloted to a certain position on this earth, not because of Cain's transgression, but came to earth through the loins of Cain because of his failure to achieve other stature in the spirit world."
- William E. Berrett's "The Church and the Negroid People," pp. 16-1

More here, in the Jamaica Observer, by Mark Wignall, from 2005:

My telephone call two weeks ago to the local arm of the church was quite specific in its request. Backed up by an e-mail to the organisation, I wanted to know the date of arrival in Jamaica, the membership and details of any outreach programme in force. Most importantly, I wanted to know why an organisation grounded in white supremacy would want Jamaica as one of its permanent postings considering that 95 per cent of Jamaicans are black-skinned.

Well, the alarm bells went off immediately. District president Kevin Brown, (a young black Jamaican) adopted a defensive stance on the telephone. After informing me that the president of the Jamaica branch, Leroy Turner (a white American), was off the island, he followed up with, "You people are always writing about us, saying we are racist and practise polygamy. Ian Boyne and you have written all sorts of things about us which are untrue." I stopped him.

"Mr Brown, I have never written anything about the Mormons," I said. He apologised. The next day I met with president Turner and district president Mr Brown at the church's headquarters. Our meeting lasted only 30 minutes. My main focus in the short interview was the church's stance on racism.

At the end of it, I left with a copy of the Book of Mormon and nothing to convince me that the anti-racist positions of Turner and Brown, men who I believe are fairly decent human beings, if not the sharpest tools in the box, could counter the very racist words written in the very book they had presented to me.

...On June 13, 1978 The Salt Lake Tribune reported the following: "President Kimball refused to discuss the revelation that changed the Church's 148 year-old policy against ordination of Blacks, saying it was a personal thing. Kimball said the revelation came at this time because conditions and people have changed. It's a different world than it was 20 or 25 years ago. The world is ready for it, he said."

...When the church received the priesthood 'revelation' in 1978, were the past statements of these important 'apostles' and 'prophets' made redundant? Was there ever a wholesale condemnation by the church of these virulently racist attacks on black people? No, there was not, and the only conclusion that can be drawn is that the doctrine of the curse of a black skin is still very much a part of the church's position in the 21st century.

It seems to me that not only was the church forged in infamy, but in a world far removed from the racism of 19th century America, the Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has made only patronising concessions on the issue of skin colour.

Too much of the origins of the church and the doctrines in the Book of Mormon are steeped in 'the curse.' It cannot be reversed as that would make Joseph Smith's 1830 'revelations' a bigger curse to the present church leaders. And that would negate everything else that the church stands for.

I'm guessing Mormons (like those running for president) will tell you they pick and choose what they believe and live by in their texts -- same as Christians aren't stoning their neighbors for adultery. How do these religious types manage to justify believing in one thing as "the word" while rejecting so many other words in their text?

Highly recommend picking up Vanity Fair, by the way, for the Hitchens piece, about his often-hilarious experiences on his book tour through the states of the faithful.

Posted by aalkon at August 6, 2007 3:04 PM


This is great, Amy! I wonder if anyone knows anything about jehovah's witnesses and racist doctrine? I know these two cults are not one and the same, but there are a lot of similarities. Actually, though, I like their idea of creating your own bible so that everyone throws money your way. The word according to kg. I like it. Make checks payable to me and send them...hold on, let me get a p.o box number first.

Posted by: kg at August 6, 2007 9:22 AM

I've subscribed to Vanity Fair for ten-plus years now. Nearly every year I've nearly given up on it and decided to cancel my subscription because they've done yet another long article on Jackie O. or Princess Diana. Boring! But just as soon as I make up my mind the next issue has another great piece by Christopher Hitchens. Dammit.

And I was going to say something to the effect that you'd think the whole ruling your own planet thing in the afterlife would make people look askance at Mormonism, but considering that half of Hollywood is running around with Dianetics in their hand and Xenu in their heart...well, the details of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints seem almost quaint.

Posted by: Rebecca at August 6, 2007 9:27 AM

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I had a former manager who was a Mormon. This man was blatantly racist, denying accepting credit applications from black customers. Not just denying the applications, REFUSAL to even accept them or process them into the system! I only worked at the establishment for 3 months because of his deplorable actions.

As for the Jehovah's Witnesses...I'm not sure of the exact wording of their doctrine, but I know more black, hispanic and mixed race married couples that are Jehovah's Witnesses, moreso than just white ones. I never found them to be a racially motivated organization. Matter of fact, at my local Kingdom Hall about 5 years ago they replaced the sign out front with a big bi-lingual sign to lure in the hispanics.

Posted by: Cathleen at August 6, 2007 9:33 AM

How do these religious types manage to justify believing in one thing as "the word" while rejecting so many other words in their text?

This is rhetorical, right?

If not:

It's because different rules apply to religious texts vs. scientific tests. The religious don't just follow the literal words of their texts, but also the traditions of interpretation handed down from their clergy. Joe and Jane Sunday Service don't care about those details - what they care about is what they were raised to believe, how they feel when they go to church, and what they get out of the experience: a sense that the world is ordered and that they are loved, a community of people who support them, and a person (minister/priest/rabbi/imam/etc) to talk to about the really hard shit. Critical thinking skills aren't brought to bear on this experience - why would they want to fuck it up? Which is why the rational critiques are irrelevant for most religious people.

Posted by: justin case at August 6, 2007 9:48 AM

This is rhetorical, right?

What do you think?!

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 6, 2007 9:55 AM

What do you think?!

Hmmm.... I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say rhetorical.

Posted by: justin case at August 6, 2007 10:17 AM

"Amy! I wonder if anyone knows anything about jehovah's witnesses and racist doctrine"

KG, I know the Watchtower like the back of my hand. JW's are really popular among hispanics, and from my knowledge have no recorded racist policies. JW's are nothing to be afraid of, politically speaking, because their religion strictly forbids adherence to any goverment. They believe saying the pledge of alliegance is a pagan ritual that offends YWH. It goes back to give Caesar what you owe him, but nothing more. Unlike traditional Christians, they dont believe in the Trinity and they have made actual recorded changes in their bible to suit their beliefs. Also they dont believe in hell, or the afterlife for the bad. They believe the same thing atheists believe about death (but again, death applies only to non-believers). Alot of times atheists dont know the diffrence between Christian sects, or why some believe what they believe and ignore the rest of the bible. For example Amy said in a previous post that arguing what god did or didnt do is like arguing about the shoes of the toothfairy. But I believe it's very important in combating this bullshit on the internet (in person it's impossible). I'm not saying go out and study the bible (dont waste your time), but if you are an atheist and have a background in it why not use it? You cant question a JW's belief the same way you can a Mormons. And to asnwer why most Christians dont stone their neighbors for adultery is simple. They would just talk about the compassion of Jesus, and how he saved a woman from being stoned to death for adultery and that's why they dont it. Of course we know why it's not done, because secular society forbids it.

Posted by: PurplePen at August 6, 2007 10:23 AM

I wonder if you could make a list, showing for each religion or subreligion, the group of people they most demonise. So:

Muslims - Jews

Mormons - blacks

or whatever.

Posted by: Norman at August 6, 2007 10:35 AM

Howdy PurplePen, I am very familiar with the doctrines of the JW's also, and I agree they are not racist. Hell, they will take anybody as long as that person obeys the rules.

I have never heard them say that the pledge of allegiance was pagan, but I think they view it more in terms of idolatry. You can't pledge yourself to a government and also pledge yourself to God, because then you are serving two masters, etc. They aren't allowed to enlist in the military, either, because then you might be asked to kill, and killing is wrong.

You are right that JW's don't believe people go to heaven or hell after they die. They think that after Armageddon comes and all the bad people die, people from the past will be resurrected and given the opportunity to become one of the faithful, and then they will live immortal lives on earth in paradise. It actually sounds even more crackers than the heaven and hell beliefs, but they are all silly. I agree that debating that kind of thing amounts to arguing about the tooth fairy's shoes.

Posted by: Pirate Jo at August 6, 2007 10:51 AM

Norman you are being silly. Everyone hates the Jews.

Posted by: PurplePen at August 6, 2007 10:57 AM


Thanks for your in-depth response. I have read a bit on JW because I am fucking a guy who likes to say he is one. He used to try and argue with me about that doctrine, but now (thanks in part to Amy {long story}), he has stopped speaking so much in between fuckings. The thing I have learned the most is that you CANNOT rationalize with a JW. It is almost as if they are brain-dead sometimes, which works out well if you just want to fuck one. Anyway, so here's the best part. He used to go into these tirades about why marriage is the morally superior way to live, and I would say, "man, i'd never marry a JW." Talk about joyful taunting. It was fun just to watch him respond. But as I said, he is speaking much less these days.

Posted by: kg at August 6, 2007 11:02 AM

KG, very funny stuff!!!

At this point in time I'm in a very happy relationship with a fellow non believer. He comes from a family of former Catholics that have been non believers for about 30 years or so. I feel SO much more comfortable around his family than I do my own because I feel like I can be myself and not be on the defensive for every stupid misinterpreted god related thing. In my family, the most inane things are attributed to god and (gasp in embarrassment) angels. They don't believe in leprechauns, but expect me to believe in lil flying fairies that protect me when I drive!!

Posted by: Cathleen at August 6, 2007 11:22 AM

"How do these religious types manage to justify believing in one thing as "the word" while rejecting so many other words in their text?"

It also invalidates the omniscience of the Almighty, because the various faiths have to bow down to current social trends. In essence, God is the Vatican's bitch or any other earthly organized religious structure like the LDS.

Posted by: Joe at August 6, 2007 11:27 AM

"lil flying fairies that protect me when I drive" - HA!

The religious fundie preoccupation with what they call "the occult" cracks me up to no end. They don't discourage it because it's stupid, bogus crap that doesn't work. They discourage it because they actually think it DOES work, and they are terrified of what the demons might do to them!

I was always getting in trouble as a kid for reading books by Stephen King, or other horror novels, or fantasy novels, and for wanting to watch scary movies or play Dungeons & Dragons.

Reveling in my newfound independence as a college student, I bought a book called the Encyclopedia of Witchcraft & Demonology. Instead of being fun and scary, the book de-bunked decades' worth of supposed experiences with the supernatural, ghost sightings, or contact with the dead through seances or use of the ouija board. My mother saw the book and nearly fainted dead away. I explained to her what the book was about, and I think the idea of my not believing in demons was even more offensive to her than the idea that I might want to get in contact with them.

Posted by: Pirate Jo at August 6, 2007 11:59 AM

KG, that is funny stuff! I haven't been involved with the JW's for many, many years, but as I remember their views on marriage are pretty much the standard fundie "submissive wife" fare. Not ALL of their views about marriage are bad - they talk about marriage being a partnership and tell men to treat their wives lovingly. I mean hey, at least they're not like those nutty Islamofascists, providing guidelines for men to beat their wives.

On the other hand, men and women weren't regarded as equals, either. Wise older women in the congregation are respected, but women can never be elders or ministerial servants. It is certainly laid out in their teachings that wives are to be submissive to their husbands - sure, men should treat their wives well, but the man is always the head of the house. He is the leader, and the wife is supposed to look up to him. Not really an arrangement between equals.

So I always thought that if you were a smart JW woman who didn't want to be "submitting" to some guy's "leadership" as an inferior, the obvious loophole was simply to not get married! If you are in a household of one, then you are the head of the house by default! I doubt that any JW woman with an independent streak would remain in the JWs for long, though. They either get married at 16 (before they have sex) to a nice JW boy or they get the hell out.

Posted by: Pirate Jo at August 6, 2007 12:12 PM

> Norman you are being silly.
> Everyone hates the Jews.

Purp, are you a Tom Lehrer fan?

Posted by: Crid at August 6, 2007 12:30 PM

As with pretty much all religious nutwads, the hypocritical nature is what I like to focus on. For example, this guy I speak of will talk all day long on how smart and great JW's are and feel all superior spouting out that doctrine, but he'll accept a birthday gift in a hot minute. He had this big speech on the woman is the weaker vessel misinterpetated bullshit and all I could do was laugh. (I pay for everything we do in return for the nine inches of Jehovah sin and even let him spend the night upon occasion) Then one night over margaritas, he wouldn't shut up about the 144,000, and I told him I was glad I wasn't going and since he thought he was, I wouldn't even shoot for it. Then he shut up, so I took him home and fucked him real real good and when I told him to go on home, he looked sad. So, I cheered him up by telling him he wouldn't be going either since he keeps fucking me. Poor bastard. I think it cheered him up a little, though.

Posted by: kg at August 6, 2007 12:39 PM

OMG, he thinks he's going to be one of the 144,000? For those of you who are unfamiliar with this particular looniness, the JW's, as I stated in a previous post, do not believe people go to heaven or hell after they die. Instead they think people can live an immortal life on earth. However, they do believe that a selected number of 144,000 WILL go to heaven to live with God and be turned into something like angels.

This is a special, select sub-group. A lot of them are people who lived during Bible times, but a few of them are people who live in modern times, too. When the JWs have their "memorial" service to celebrate the sacrifice of Jesus, they pass around wine and unleavened bread, and you only drink the wine or eat the bread if you are one of the 144,000 "anointed ones."

How you know if someone is really an "anointed one" is beyond me. When I asked that question as a kid, the answer I got was that the people are visited by the holy spirit and they "just know." If someone says they have been visited by the holy spirit, I suppose they go to the congregation elders and get it "approved" for public acceptance. (*snicker*)

KG, I'm guessing your boy hasn't been baptized yet. You should ask him what's taking him so long. And yes, the hypocrisy is funny - I saw it all the time, even in my own family. The cake on your birthday that wasn't REALLY a birthday cake. (No candles.) Or the presents at Christmas that weren't REALLY Christmas presents, because they were wrapped in plain brown paper and there wasn't a Christmas tree, plus you had to listen to fifteen different monologues about the evils of Christmas. They try pretty hard to find those loopholes.

Posted by: Pirate Jo at August 6, 2007 1:13 PM

Yeah Crid. I like New Math. One time I had a simple math problem to do, I think I had to calculate the area of a square. I used integral calculus since I had forgotten how to do it the normal way. My boss freaked out when he saw what I had done.

Posted by: PurplePen at August 6, 2007 1:23 PM

Check it out for a picture of the "funny Mormon underwear" mentioned the other day.

Posted by: meshaliu at August 6, 2007 2:21 PM

Say, isn't this the Joseph Smith gang? That guy was an actual charlatan, and people went for it pell-mell. The gimmick was an "Egyptian alphabet".

Unfortunately, the Rosetta Stone made it obvious that he fabricated everything.

I don't like liars very much at all, even if they claim it's for "good".

Posted by: Radwaste at August 6, 2007 2:50 PM

They don't believe in leprechauns, but expect me to believe in lil flying fairies that protect me when I drive!!

I find a much better protective measure for driving is the belief that anyone behind the wheel could be text-messaging.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at August 6, 2007 10:24 PM

PurplePen I used integral calculus since I had forgotten how to do it the normal way.

So how did you calculate the area of the little dx-by-dy square?

(Reminds me of another maths story about some famous mathematician solving a puzzle at a party. Two trains are facing each other 20 miles apart on a straight track. At the same instant, train A starts forward at 10mph, and train B at 20mph. A fly zooms back and forth between the trains until it is eventually crushed when the trains collide. How far does it fly? Assuming you care.)

Posted by: Norman at August 7, 2007 9:04 AM

Rebecca writes: "but considering that half of Hollywood is running around with Dianetics in their hand and Xenu in their heart...

Half? Hardly. I can think of one cast member of The Simpsons who's a Scientolgist: Nancy Cartwright (voice of Bart Simpson). The rest aren't. One member of the cast of Cheers who's a Scientologist: Kristey Alley. The rest aren't.

You'd probably get a longer list of Catholics. A religion that makes a lot of noise doesn't mean that they have members in "half of Hollywood."

Posted by: Patrick at August 7, 2007 12:26 PM

Well Norman without being given the rate of speed of the fly or its inital starting point you can not solve that equasion

Posted by: lujlp at August 7, 2007 3:24 PM

Not all answers appear as simple numbers. The collision occurs in 40 minutes, assuming the trains instantly achieve their speeds. The minimum distance the fly moves is 20/3rds miles + iota, having started on the slow train and reaching the fast train immediately before the collision, turning around just in time to get smeared. This satisfies the minimum definition for "zooming back and forth". There is no upper limit to the number of times the fly can cycle between the trains, since there is no speed limit on him.

Of course, since he ends up on the same spot he started from, he doesn't go anywhere.

Posted by: Radwaste at August 7, 2007 3:52 PM

Re the fly: let's say it starts on the front of one train, and flies at 30mph. Perhaps it was a bee.

I'm still curious about PurplePen's integration!

Posted by: Norman at August 8, 2007 12:04 AM

TO: Amy Alkon
RE: Please....

"....same as Christians aren't stoning their neighbors for adultery." -- Amy Alkon me in the new part of that old Book where Christ called for the stoning of adulterers.

Old part, yeah. That's in there. However, I recall a particular report of how Christ refused to stone an adulterer. Instead, He asked of those in the 'howling' mob ready to kill the girl, for those without sin to cast the first stone. All the murderous lot left the scene.

So, if you know of a part that contradicts that, me where it is, in writing....Book/Chapter/Verse.


[Contrary to popular opinion, Ignorance is NOT 'bliss'.]

Posted by: Chuck Pelto at August 10, 2007 2:06 PM

TO: Amy Alkon
RE: Indeed

"How do these religious types manage to justify believing in one thing as "the word" while rejecting so many other words in their text?" -- Amy Alkon

I ask that of a LOT of people who call themselves 'christian'. Especially those of certain allegedly 'liberal' groups.

I think one of the biggest problem is that we don't fully grasp what is in there. Heck. I've been studying it for over 20 years now and I STILL don't 'get it' all. Every night when I read another chapter, there's something new I perceive that I had not grasped before. Most times it's something minor, a nuance. Other times it's something that turns my world.

So, every day is a new day to learn something anew.

I think the biggest problem is overcoming ones personal prejudices or, perhaps, pride.


[The greatest challenge in life is not to be better than other people. Rather, it is to be better than yourself.]

P.S. As Pogo might put it, "We haz met the enemy and it iz us."

Posted by: Chuck Pelto at August 10, 2007 2:11 PM

TO: All
RE: Interesting Silence

I'm still waiting for Amy to show me where christians are called to stone adulterers.



Posted by: Chuck Pelto at August 15, 2007 11:15 AM

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