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The Ugliest Post Keepa Has Ever Published

By: Ardis E. Parshall - June 02, 2009

I advertised a post for this morning billed as “the ugliest post Keepa has ever published,” a title that I hope will draw regular visitors from the two aggregators listing Keepa, but deliberately ambiguous so as not, I hope, to draw undue attention from casual trolls or to stand out from more obviously inflammatory titles in a list of Google results.  I may be naive in hoping that I don’t provide ammunition to troublemakers; this post is directed only to regular readers who have been exploring our heritage along with me, who recognize that the way things are isn’t necessarily the way they used to be or should have been, but who value the struggles and efforts (and occasional failures) of our ancestors to live as God directed them to live.

And I’m stalling.

This post contains material that is the flip side of the 1935 Sunday School lesson posted recently which offered hope and a Christian solution to the difficulties between peoples, chiefly between races. That lesson did not address Mormonism in particular, including the priesthood restriction and associated explanatory teachings, but it was a hopeful and helpful guide to “getting along” – or it would have been, had it been followed.

The teachings of that lesson were not always those that were explicitly taught by the Church, nor did that lesson reflect the attitudes and assumptions of chiefly Caucasian Latter-day Saints toward men and women of other races, particularly toward blacks, and particularly toward the black body (in contrast to religious theory about race).

Sometimes our expressions were intended to be benign and sweet, but in fact were patronizing and have become entirely offensive with the passage of time, as with this poem appearing in the Juvenile Instructor in 1920:

Little Nigger Baby
By Frank Steele

Little nigger baby with your curly, kinky hair,
And a pair of eyes alookin’ sad and deep;
Two tiny hands aclunchin’ at your mammy’s lovin’ breast,
And she rocks her little sugar babe to sleep.

Little nigger baby, just arrived from heaven above,
My heart is full of tenderness for you;
Beneath that dusky skin a guileless heart I see
Alovin’ just like white folks’ babies do.

Little nigger baby, rest on your mammy’s breast,
And angels will watch over while you sleep;
The smallest sparrow never falls unseen by Jesus kind,
And his spirit ever hovers near His sheep.

Little nigger baby, you’re asleep now, and I see
That lovin’ mammy fix you snug and warm;
And a kiss she gives her honey and a prayer she breathes to God
And her baby sleeps on sweetly till the morn.

I have here on my desk accounts of missionary activities and ward entertainments, some as recent as the ‘50s, illustrated with photographs of white members made up in blackface to participate in minstrel shows (I do not have scans ready or I would insert them here). No doubt intended to be humorous and even cultural rather than deliberately hurtful, such entertainments mocking the bodies of blacks, and the casual way in which such pictures were printed in Church publications, betray at the very least a careless, callous attitude toward race among Church members – an attitude so pervasive that artist Arnold Friberg – a child who may never even have seen a black man in real life – could draw this cartoon and have it published in an issue of the 1926 Juvenile Instructor.

Cartoons like this can be matched with numerous “Funny Bones” jokes from the same era. We’ve discussed the prevalence of ethnic humor in Keepa’s regular Saturday posts reprinting jokes from old Church magazines – but the ethnic humor we’ve seen has been generally limited to Europeans (chiefly Italians, Scots, and Irish). I have either excluded, or rewritten (with a notice of such rewriting) the very frequent jokes at the expense of blacks. Such jokes are usually written in supposedly black dialect, and always, always, always depend for their humor on the stereotype that black men were lazy thieves, raiding the watermelon patches and chicken coops of their more law-abiding neighbors.

That stereotype, you may remember, was the basis for a Beneficial Insurance ad previously featured on Keepa, where a black man who has stolen two watermelons encounters a chicken ripe for the stealing. He’ll regret either of his choices (abandoning the chicken to keep both melons, or dropping a melon to catch the chicken), but you will never regret your decision to go with Beneficial.

Some Mormon references to the black body were, of course, not intended to be comical but were rather deliberately intended to shock and disgust. One of the most egregious examples of this to have come to my notice was an article in the Young Woman’s Journal in 1912, explaining the hygienic need for “The Individual Sacrament Cup” over the previously used “common cup” shared by all members of the congregation. You can read the entire article here (p. 216), but the relevant portion is quoted below.

The Individual Sacrament Cup
By Dr. David L. McDonald

Entering the city of Washington, D.C. a few years ago, we hastened to a public fountain to quench our thirst – it was one where the cup is chained to the post. Just as we reached it we saw a negro place his thick lips over one side of the cup, and as we waited we looked at the cup and then at him and wondered if we wanted a drink out of that cup. We were reminded that there were one hundred thousand negroes in the city of Washington. We thought it probable that dozens of negroes had drunk from that cup. We concluded that to drink from it would mean to take material undesired and not bargained for.

On continuing our journey to Baltimore, we realized that some two hundred thousand negroes share the public fountain cup with their white brethren. This took away our desire of quenching our thirst from those public cups. We learned later that the negro per se is harmless, but the tubercle germs in a large percentage of their mouths are deadly to the one who drinks after them. These germs are far too small to be seen by the naked eye, unless grouped into colonies of millions. It is this tiny world of deadly germ life that is to be dreaded and avoided, and these germs find green pasture in the mouths of the sick, be they black or white – the time and nature of the illness depending on the variety of the invading term.

The article goes on to discuss germ theory and how the common sacrament cup can pass along germs, and how much better it will be for all Latter-day Saints to adopt the system of individual sacrament cups recently invented by the author, which can be easily sterilized for reuse. The article never again refers to blacks or suggests that black men were members of any Mormon congregation and may have drunk from the common sacrament cup before it reached you. The article would have been just as effective, just as accurate in its explanation of how bacteria may be passed from person to person, without its opening paragraphs. Those paragraphs have no purpose other than arousing a sense of horror and disgust beyond distaste for germs themselves.

And finally, Church publications have, from time to time, included lessons on the presumed genealogy of the various races, justifying the pre-1978 exclusion of blacks from the ranks of the priesthood, and the consequences to the descendants of a Latter-day Saint who might marry a black man or woman. I am presenting only one such lesson here – one by no less a scholar than B.H. Roberts, whose purpose was to provide material to prospective missionaries who would be called on to teach the principles of the Mormon gospel and to debate with ministers and others in the mission field. In some ways, this lesson is atypical of related lessons in outdated manuals: Roberts cites the verses from Moses and Abraham most commonly used as justification for old Mormon ideas regarding black genealogy, in connection with his lesson outline on “The Law of the Lord as Affecting the Negro Race Problem.” He does not, however, address a single word to that issue, but merely directs his readers “From All the Foregoing Deduce the Law of God in the Question.”

Rather than explicating Mormon thought, Roberts’ sole purpose, as evidenced from the “special text” and the explanatory notes (chiefly no. 4), is to condemn interracial marriage. The entire racial lesson is presented here so that you don’t assume that missing issues are covered. (I have omitted two irrelevant sections from the end of the lesson on writing missionary speeches and “the singularity of Joseph Smith’s Vision of God,” but  every word regarding race is presented here.)

The Seventy’s Course in Theology

First Year.
Outline History of the Seventy
and
A Survey of the Books of Holy Scripture

Compiled and Edited by
Elder B.H. Roberts
Of the First Council of the Seventy

The Deseret News
Salt Lake City
1907

LESSON VIII.

Scripture Reading Exercise.
(Special Lesson.)

THE LAW OF THE LORD IN ANCIENT AND MODERN REVELATION
APPLIED TO THE AMERICAN NEGRO RACE PROBLEM

I. The American Negro Race Problem.

1. Advent of the Negro Race in America.

2. Slavery and the Abolition of It.

3. Political Enfranchisement of the Black Race – Its Wisdom or Unwisdom.

4. Present Status of the Negro Race Problem.

REFERENCES. History of the United States by Alexander Stephens, pp. 36, 88, 366. Same Author’s “War Between the States. Old Virginia and her Neighbors (John Fiske). Vol. I, p. 18, 19, Vol. II. pp. 7, 29, 41, 172-222, 228-234, 235-6.

Emancipation Proclamation (Abraham Lincoln). War Between the States Vol. II, Appendix to Papers and Messages of the Presidents’ Vol.

For Present Status of the Question see “The Color Line.” With Benjamin Smith. McClure Phillips & Co., N.Y.

II. The Law of the Lord as Affecting the Negro Race Problem.

1. The Progenitor of the Race.

2. The Manner of Its Preservation through the Flood.

3. The Curse Put Upon It by Noah.

4. In What Respects a Forbidden Race.

5. From All the Foregoing Deduce the Law of God in the Question.

REFERENCES. Book of Moses – Pearl of Great Price, Chap. v, verses 5-8, 22; Chap. viii, verses -8, 2 [sic]; Chap. viii, 12-15. Gen. ix: 18-27.

Book of Abraham. Chap 1: 9-11, 21-28. Compare Gen. ix: 18-27; also “The book of Abraham – A Divine and Ancient Record.” (Reynolds), p. 6, 7. Smith’s Old Testament History, Chap. iii.

SPECIAL TEXT: “Let not man join together what God hath put asunder.” – “The Color Line,” chap. 1.

NOTES.

1. Introduction of African Slavery into America: “Some time anterior to this period (i.e., 1620 A.D.) the Spaniards and Portuguese had bought from the chiefs on the coast of Africa negro captives, and had carried them to other parts of the world, especially to South America and the West Indies, and had sold them as slaves. This traffic they had continued without intermission, and in the year 1620 a Dutch vessel brought to Jamestown twenty of these unfortunate beings and sold them to the colonists of Virginia. This was the introduction of African slavery in the British American colonies, which has been the source of so much subsequent trouble, as we shall see. By the close of the year 1620 the population of the colony amounted to nearly two thousand. Upon the subject of the introduction of African slavery in Virginia, and afterwards in all the other British colonies, out of which so much trouble and strife subsequently arose, it is quite proper here to state that a majority of the colonists at Jamestown were very much opposed to this introduction in their community of these supposed descendants of Ham as “bondsmen and bondswomen” for life. Their opposition arose, however, perhaps more from considerations looking to the best interests and future welfare of the colony, in its progress in moral and material development, than from any feelings of humanity towards the unfortunate victims of this species of commerce. The African slave trade was at that time not only tolerated by all civilized nations, but actively engaged in for profit by many of the most distinguished Christian monarchs.” (Stephens’ History of the United States, p. 36.)

2. The First American Slave Ship: “In 1636 was built at Marblehead, in Massachusetts, the first American slave-ship; it was called the Desire, and was intended for the African slave-trade, in which most of the European nations were then engaged directly or indirectly. The first cargo of African slaves brought into Massachusetts was by the Desire, on the 20th of May, 1638. Many of the most prominent men purchased slaves out of this cargo; so that Massachusetts was a few years only behind Virginia in the introduction within the English settlements on this continent of this unfortunate race of slaves.” (History of the United States, Stephens, p. 88.)

3. The Beginning of Abolition: “On the 12th of February 7, 1790, a petition, invoking the Federal authorities to adopt measures with a view to the ultimate abolition of African slavery, as it then existed in the respective States, was sent to Congress, headed by Dr. Franklin, who had been a very distinguished, though not a very active leader, owing to his age, in the ranks of the “Nationals,” in the Philadelphia convention. There were then in the United States 697,897 negro slaves. They had been introduced into all the States, as we have seen, but most of them were at this time in the southern States. This movement was looked upon with alarm everywhere by the true friends of the federal system, as it invoked the exercise of powers not delegated by the States to Congress. After a thorough discussion on the 23rd of March, 1790, in the house of Representatives, the question was quieted for the time by the passage of a resolution “That Congress have no authority to interfere in the emancipation of slaves, or in the treatment of them within any of the States; it remaining with the several States alone to provide any regulations therein, which humanity and true policy may require.” (History of the United States, Stephens, p. 367.) The act of emancipation did not come until 1863, in the midst of the Civil war, and then it was regarded merely as a war measure.

4. The Race Question as Affecting the Southern States Perhaps the most convincing book in justification of the South in denying to the negro race social equality with the white race is the one written by William Benjamin Smith, entitled “The Color Line, A Brief in Behalf of the Unborn,” from which the following is a quotation:

Here, then, is laid bare the nerve of the whole matter: is the south justified in this absolute denial of social equality to the negro, no matter what his virtues or abilities or accomplishments?

We affirm, then, that the south is entirely right in thus keeping open at all times, at all hazards, and at all sacrifices an impassible social chasm between black and white. This she must do in behalf of her blood, her essence, of the stock of her Caucasian race. To the writer the correctness of this thesis seems as clear as the sun – so evident as almost to forestall argument; nor can he quite comprehend the frame of mind that can seriously dispute it. But let us look at it closely. Is there any doubt whatever as to the alternative? If we sit with negroes at our tables, if we entertain them as our guests and social equals, if we disregard the color line in all other relations, is it possible to maintain it fixedly in the sexual relation, in the marriage of our sons and daughters, in the propagation of our species? Unquestionably, No! it is certain as the rising of tomorrow’s sun, that, once the middle wall of social partition is broken down, the mingling of the tides of life would begin instantly and proceed steadily. Of course, it would be gradual, but none the less sure, none the less irresistible. It would make itself felt at first most strongly in the lower strata of the white population; but it would soon invade the middle and menace insidiously the very uppermost. Many bright mulattoes would ambitiously woo, and not a few would win, well-bred women disappointed in love or goaded by impulse or weary of the stern struggle for existence. As a race, the Southern Caucasian would be irrevocably doomed. For no possible check could be given to this process once established. Remove the barrier between two streams flowing side by side – immediately they begin to mingle their molecules; in vain you attempt to replace it. * * * * The moment the bar of absolute separation is thrown down in the South, that moment the bloom of her spirit is blighted forever, the promise of her destiny is annulled, the proud fabric of her future slips into dust and ashes. No other conceivable disaster that might befall the South could, for an instant, compare with such miscegenation within her borders. Flood and fire, fever and famine and the sword – even ignorance, indolence, and carpet-baggery – she may endure and conquer while her blood remains pure; but once taint the well-spring of her life, and all is lost – even honor itself. It is this immediate jewel of her soul that the South watches with such a dragon eye, that she guards with more than vestal vigilance, with a circle of perpetual fire. The blood thereof is the life thereof; he who would defile it would stab her in her heart of hearts, and she springs to repulse him with the fiercest instinct of self-preservation. It may not be that she is distinctly conscious of the immeasurable interests at stake or of the real grounds of her roused antagonism; but the instinct itself is none the less just and true and the natural bulwark of her life.

At this point we hear some one exclaim, “Not so fast! To sit at table, to mingle freely in society with certain persons, does not imply you would marry them.” Certainly not, in every case. We may recognize socially those whom we personally abhor. This matters not, however; for wherever social commingling is admitted, there the possibility of intermarriage must be also admitted. It becomes a mere question of personal preference, of like and dislike. Now, there is no accounting for tastes. It is ridiculous to suppose that no negroes would prove attractive to any white. The possible would become actual – as certainly as you will throw double-double sixes [in dice], if only you keep on throwing. To be sure, where the number of negroes is almost vanishingly small, as in the north and in Europe, there the chances of such mesalliances are proportionally divided; some may even count them negligible. But in the South, where in many districts the black outnumbers the white, they would be multiplied immensely, and crosses would follow with increasing frequency. * * * But some may deny that the mongrelization of the Southern people would offend the race notion – would corrupt or degrade the southern stock of humanity. if so, then such a one has yet to learn the largest-writ lessons of history and the most impressive doctrines of biological science. That the negro is markedly inferior to the Caucasian is proved both craniologically and by six thousand years of planet-wide experimentation; and that the commingling of inferior with superior must lower the higher is just as certain as that the half-sum of two and six is only four. 

I’m pretty sure I can trust regular commenters to keep remarks within bounds; if you are not a regular commenter, however, please read our guidelines on the “About” page (see link near the top of the sidebar), and be aware that I may moderate with a heavier hand than usual, if necessary.



96 Comments »

  1. This is, no doubt, the ugliest thing you’ve ever posted here, Ardis. It literally makes my stomach turn reading it. I have to admit that I’m a little surprised that the Juvenile Instructor would use the N-word in that poem. I am not familiar with the details of the word’s history, but it seems that it was at least recognized as a derogatory label by the late 19th century and certainly by 1920 (though I recognize it remained in popular usage in public circles until much, much later). Have you come across any other references from the era in Mormon publications that use the n-word?

    Re: “The Individual Sacrament Cup”: Do we know anything at all about this Dr. David McDonald? I’d be interested in who he was/where he was from, etc. I’d also be interested in more info. on Frank Steele. Is he LDS, or did the JI pick this up from elsewhere?

    The first two stories certainly are valuable from a historical perspective in that they offer a glimpse into the worldview of rank-and-file Mormons (or at least non-leaders who were published in church periodicals).

    Finally, re: the B.H. Roberts excerpt. It’s fascinating to me how often the fear of interracial marriage pops up in historical defenses of the priesthood ban/LDS discussions of racial civil rights/”doctrinal” discussions of race throughout the world. I know David G. and Steve F. at the JI blog have uncovered some evidence that might suggest that such fears were directly connected with the origins of the priesthood ban.

    Comment by Christopher — June 2, 2009 @ 9:50 am

  2. That is nauseous. I’m really not sure whether the poem or the word “mongrelization” bothers me more. I wish these attitudes were entirely history, not a part of the present.

    Thanks for the post, Ardis. Sometimes we need to know that which pains us.

    Comment by Jami — June 2, 2009 @ 10:05 am

  3. Just re-read what I wrote. I hope my comment #1 didn’t give the impression that the only thing I was offended by in the poem was the use of the n-word. It certainly was not.

    Comment by Christopher — June 2, 2009 @ 10:18 am

  4. Yes, this post makes me ache inside. I think of our visit to the temple last weekend with a couple that are our best friends. He’s white; she’s black. I ached a little as we did a session of sealings, and looked at her beautiful black hand across the temple altar and thought how not too long ago, that wouldn’t have been allowed. Not to mention the eyebrows that would have been raised at their “mixed marriage.”

    I ache, though, also for those of a by-gone era who believed racialist theories, but probably only believed the awful theories to the extent that they were a product of their time. My own white grandparents (still living) were born and raised in Salt Lake during the teens and into the 1920s, and through the years, have said a couple of offensive racialist comments. These same faithful Church member grandparents, whom I love, have been summarily and derogatorily labeled (behind their backs) as “racists” by another family member.

    Perhaps this post reminds us to absolutely reject and abhor racialist ideas that run contrary to the Gospel. But at the same time, recognize that demonizing some of these historical figures who bought into the disgusting theories is, well, not spiritually satisfying, either. Hate the sin.

    Comment by Hunter — June 2, 2009 @ 10:36 am

  5. Christopher, I don’t know anything about the authors, although I intend to do a little hunting when I can have access to the church history library again — although I deliberately collected what I needed for posts during this time of closure, I hadn’t planned on posting any of this — ever — and so did not do the necessary research ahead of time.

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen the n-word used in a church publication other than in this single place. I think it would be so startling that I would remember.

    I admit to having, on occasion, been irritated by the number of words devoted to race and the church in the Bloggernacle; much of it has seemed sensationalized to me, adding nothing to my understanding, rehashed for the sake of exaggerating our modern superiority. Enough, already. Get over it. But the more I ran across materials like those presented here, the easier it was to imagine to some degree what it might have felt like not just to be despised and threatened, as Mormons have been from time to time, but to have your person — you, your body, your individual self — be treated with revulsion as if you were filthy in every way, I’ve begun to get a sense, however imperfect, of how bad conditions were (and maybe still are, to whatever degree). Maybe I’m a slow learner, but I learn.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 2, 2009 @ 10:48 am

  6. Thanks for the post.

    Comment by Edje Jeter — June 2, 2009 @ 10:52 am

  7. I’ve come across the n-word in the Improvement Era a small number of times. It appears in a joke or two (including a melon joke) and in some short stories.

    Comment by Justin — June 2, 2009 @ 11:56 am

  8. Ardis, this is painful on so many levels. The offensive language, the casual contempt, and duplicity shown in statements like “We may recognize socially those whom we personally abhor”, just hurts.

    It is interesting to note the concerns over intermarriage, but the authors totally ignore the reality of many mixed race children born during the slavery years that were never acknowledged by their fathers, and subjected to slavery themselves. What hypocrites we have been in the past.

    I appreciate the courage that it takes for you to publish this post, but I think it is sorely needed. If we can confront ourselves on our past constructively, we have hopes for a better future.

    Comment by kevinf — June 2, 2009 @ 12:17 pm

  9. I should also note that in my home as a small child in the 50′s, this would not have been considered outrageous. To their credit, my parents got over what they had been taught, and had pretty much reversed their views by the time of the 1978 revelation.

    Comment by kevinf — June 2, 2009 @ 12:20 pm

  10. Ardis, thank you for sharing this ugly post with us. Perhaps it is the most profound and poignant one you’ve ever done.

    As I look back on my life: growing up in western Montana where we did not have black people around, meant not really understanding the race issues going on in the South and elsewhere in the 1960s and 70s.

    Then, to spend almost 17 years in Montgomery Alabama in the Air Force, with callings that had me working most of that time with black people, really was an eye opener.
    It changed me, as I was involved in beginning the missionary work to the blacks in our stake. It changed me, as I was assigned as group leader over the small congregation in Tuskegee, as we prepared it to be a branch. It changed me as I worked with members who fought to keep new converts from being Primary teachers over their white children.

    I do not agree with those who say, “Get over it.” Should we “get over” the holocaust? Should we “get over” Governor Bogg’s Extermination Order? Should we “get over” terrorists blowing up our planes?

    Before we can get over anything, we have to arrive at a place of true closure. For the victims, we are just not there yet. Many white LDS wish to point at June 1978 as some kind of do over, and forget all that preceded it. It isn’t fun to mess with history, when it has been presented so pasty white pure for so long.

    The gospel is true. But we humans, by sad experience, embrace wrong ideas and mingle those wrong philosophies with scripture. June 1978 was not a do over. Nor is it a pass to forget the past. It is a starting place for us to understand the mistakes of the past, and to begin building a bridge of understanding and faith for all members regardless of color.

    Comment by Rameumptom — June 2, 2009 @ 12:30 pm

  11. I am not familiar with the details of the word’s history, but it seems that it was at least recognized as a derogatory label by the late 19th century and certainly by 1920 (though I recognize it remained in popular usage in public circles until much, much later). Have you come across any other references from the era in Mormon publications that use the n-word?

    Christopher,I did some quick searching at Dictionary.com, and indications are that it was used as a derogatory term since at least the Revolutionary War. I recall a reference, I thought in Team of Rivals but I couldn’t find it, to someone of the Civil War era indicating displeasure at its use, indicating a cultural understanding that it was offensive. It is not clear to me how someone at the JI in 1920 could have felt otherwise, or just didn’t care? (BY used it in a letter to territorial delegate Hooper after the Civil War).

    Thanks for this post Ardis. I think you did the right thing.

    Comment by Paul Reeve — June 2, 2009 @ 12:41 pm

  12. Thanks for this post Ardis. I think you did the right thing.

    Exactly. You are a good soul, Ardis.

    Comment by J. Stapley — June 2, 2009 @ 12:53 pm

  13. I’m sorry, Justin. I just discovered you had been caught in the spam filter for no obvious reason.

    You remind me that I’ve run into a set phrase, “n– in the woodpile,” in a few early (19th century) magazines, as well as multiple times in private correspondence.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 2, 2009 @ 1:08 pm

  14. Thanks to all commenters thus far for understanding my reason for posting these items. I expect that understanding from regular readers. When the 1935 lesson was posted, I wrote to virtually every commenter, asking for opinions on the value of posting this stuff. One was hesitant, one advised against it, but several asked to see it, knowing that it would not be virtuous nor lovely nor praiseworthy, because they wanted to see for themselves what had been written and taught. Better to face it as it happened than to wonder and speculate and imagine demons that might be even worse than reality.

    Or maybe I’m still trying to reassure myself that there is value in this, despite knowing that it will inevitably be used by somebody sometime to smear us all. Thanks for your reassurance.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 2, 2009 @ 1:15 pm

  15. Oh my, this post made me sick also. It hurts to be confronted with poems and teachings such as these. Today we have structures in place to prevent bullying in schools, but how much more serious was the “bullying” to people not of our race, especially by LDS people who are supposed to be Saints.

    I really don’t believe, though, that any of our ancestors thought of black people as the problem with drinking from the common cup in Sacrament Meeting. My grandparents told stories of fearing the tobacco juice from men with sloppy beards and mustaches who had tobacco juice dripping down their beards.

    This issue of intermarriage was not limited to the black race. As has been mentioned before, it was against the law for whites to marry other races. In 1860, one of my high school friends planned to marry an Asian man. When they went to get their blood tests and license, they were informed that Utah had, and enforced, antmiscegenation laws. They contacted a priest in Wyoming, who told them that Wyoming had the same laws. So, they had a full dress rehearsal at the Cathedral of the Madeline in SLC, their original venue, which was in effect a marriage without being legal. Then the next day, 34 cars drove to Elko where they were married in a little Catholic church.

    Later, after the intermarriage laws were taken away, one of my best friends was engaged to a Hispanic woman. His father refused to go to the wedding.

    I hope that we all have come a long way with our relationships to people of every race.

    Comment by Maurine — June 2, 2009 @ 1:26 pm

  16. Justin, when you have a minute could you provide references, either in a comment here or, if it’s more appropriate, in an email to juvenileinstructor AT gmail DOT com? I’d appreciate it.

    Thanks for the additional info, Paul.

    And let me add my voice to the chorus thanking you for posting this, Ardis. You definitely did the right thing.

    Comment by Christopher — June 2, 2009 @ 1:40 pm

  17. One of my most cherished temple experiences has been going to the temple with my home teaching companion to do baptisms.

    He was 16 at the time, just ordained a priest. Some months earlier he and his mother and brother had been introduced to the Gospel and baptized. His mother was concerned at the time that ward members would vote against welcoming them into the ward because they are black.

    That day in the temple, serving as recorder, I watched him enter the font and be baptized for 10 brethren born in Kentucky and other slave states in the 1840s. Very likely, he was baptized for slave holders and soldiers of the Confederate States. Perhaps there were slaves among them but, my sense was, not.

    The experience was poignant for me in that I have studied much of Church History. I am aware of countless examples of Church members and leaders being human and not quite saints.

    I’m grateful for this post and other evidence of our warts. This kind of information helps us have a better understanding of who we are.

    I also know that the Atonement of Jesus Christ is sufficient to provide for a future day when my friend and the men for whom he was proxy could meet. All will have a bright recollection of sins and all will have deep gratitude for earthly actions that helped them gain forgiveness.

    Comment by Willis Whitlock — June 2, 2009 @ 1:42 pm

  18. Work and family issues have prevented me finding the time to comment on posts in recent weeks. I just wanted to say thank you, Ardis, for having the courage to post these findings. Sometimes when we look back at our cultural and family histories we find particular events which aren’t pleasant; but imho, pretending that these things never happened does no-one any favours. We can’t learn from a past which we fail to acknowledge.

    yes, times and attitudes within the Church have changed- but possibly not at a speed which some of us would like.However, at least we are headed in the right direction now.

    Comment by Anne (UK) — June 2, 2009 @ 1:43 pm

  19. Ardis, I’m glad you posted this. It’s important that we look unflinchingly at what has been, and admit fully how bad things once were. You can’t really heal and move on until you do that. Also, it helps us to see ourselves with new eyes, by these lights. It helps us to see clearly what people are able to so casually do without thinking. I believe it helps us avoid making such mistakes ever again. I certainly hope so. Anyway, though I’ve said only what others before me have said more articulately, I want to thank you for posting this.

    Comment by Tatiana — June 2, 2009 @ 1:58 pm

  20. A search for the n-word on gospelink.com results in a number of 20th century hits.

    Comment by J. Stapley — June 2, 2009 @ 2:02 pm

  21. I should acknowledge that Justin is the one who pointed me toward the Arnold Friberg drawing, right after I posted AF’s drawing of the Hen of God.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 2, 2009 @ 2:17 pm

  22. Thanks for the tip, J. I just performed the search. Yikes.

    Comment by Christopher — June 2, 2009 @ 2:29 pm

  23. Re ##16, 20, and 22: I would guess that a gospelink.com search would include my references (and possibly more). The “joke” is in the June 1933 IE. Elders Grant, Cowley, and Smoot used the term in General Conference addresses in the early 1900s.

    Comment by Justin — June 2, 2009 @ 2:41 pm

  24. Thank you, Ardis. I also believe those who are unaware of just how bad something was can’t grasp fully the need for open and unyielding refutation.

    My most cherished and vivid memory of the temple (even more so than my own living endowment and sealing to my wife, frankly) was the moment in the Atlanta temple years ago when the Lord reached through the veil – and His hand was black. I will NEVER forget that visual image, and I wish with all my heart not just that every member alive now could have that experience but also that it could have happened consistently for well over a hundred years before it did for me.

    Comment by Ray — June 2, 2009 @ 3:18 pm

  25. Thank you, Ardis. This certainly took a lot of courage for you to post this, and I appreciate you doing it despite the difficulties. Yes, these elements from our past are ugly, and yes, talking about these things may provide ammunition for those who would criticize us, but as with any wrong, recognition is necessary before the wrong can be righted. For the sake of the black members of the church, past and present, who feel the pain of marginalization, we need to be willing to confront our past sins and repent of them.

    Comment by David G. — June 2, 2009 @ 3:58 pm

  26. Had too many years in the Southern States Mission turned Bro. Roberts southern? As a simple matter of historiography, it’s odd that his primary sources for U.S. history were works by the man who had been Vice President of the Confederacy. I should have expected Br. Roberts to have access to a better library.

    All of the ugliness of this post is magnified by an experience I’ve had this week–a dear friend, a West Indian, a professional woman, moved to SLC from the East a few years ago, called to ask for help. She has run into attitudes, both at work (mostly with Mormons) and at church, which though veiled in less offensive language, seem little removed from either Mr. Steele’s poem or Brother Roberts’s lesson.

    If I knew Maurine better, I would tease her about her high school friend planning an 1860 wedding. Instead I’ll have to leave that to someone else.

    Comment by Mark B. — June 2, 2009 @ 4:31 pm

  27. It is understandably easy to condemn those who wrote this stuff. They were clearly wrong. They were a reflection of their time. However, before I have to ask myself if there are any accepted attitudes around today that are also incorrect and incompatible with the Lords true teachings? I hope to someday be forgiven of my shortcomings and we are told that the Lord will judge us by the same yard stick as we judge others. . .

    Comment by rk — June 2, 2009 @ 4:41 pm

  28. Ardis–I always appreciate your thorough research. This IS hard stuff, but needs to be seen. Thanks.

    Comment by Margaret Young — June 2, 2009 @ 4:55 pm

  29. Ardis,
    The funny: My web browser has an add-in that filters and replaces certain words seamlessly with sanitized words. Because of this, I didn’t realize what the post was actually saying for quite some time.

    The not-funny: This is the first time I’ve ever noticed that filter on an LDS blog, and the filter was on words written in LDS publications, not the wayward rants of commenters.

    Thank you for posting this, even though it hurts.

    Comment by Scott B. — June 2, 2009 @ 4:56 pm

  30. 26 — The oddest thing I thought about the Roberts lesson, Mark, was that he merely listed the standard scriptures which are the traditional support for the racial policy, without connecting any of the dots. Was he not as convinced of the traditional justification as others were, and this was a subtle way of not writing out something he didn’t believe? Or did he think the logic was so irrefutable that his setting it out was unnecessary, that prospective missionaries could easily arrive at the “right” answer? Or maybe in my ignorance I’m overthinking the whole thing and the omission means nothing.

    Regardless, thank you all for the continued good tone of discussion. It seems to me a decent mix of candid facing of attitudes of the past, repudiation of these ideas for ourselves, and charity toward those who held these ideas more in ignorance than in willful malice. No doubt some outside the Keepa community would disagree, but I think all commenters to this point are sincere.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 2, 2009 @ 5:08 pm

  31. Thanks for this post, Ardis. It’s stark, and a very good reminder. And absolutely necessary.

    I don’t have my notes with me and haven’t looked at them for a while, and I hate to quibble with Justin on the fly, but as I recall the last use of the n-word I found in a General Conference talk was well into the 1940s, in a fishing joke.

    Comment by Kaimi — June 2, 2009 @ 5:29 pm

  32. Thank you for this post. It was sickening to read. However, it gives me hope that the Lord may one day bring us as far from our current wrongs as he has brought the Church from her older evils.

    Comment by Latter-day Guy — June 2, 2009 @ 5:52 pm

  33. Reading this has me left with many thoughts swimming in my head.

    I’m grateful that so much progress has been made in the sense of more respect for different races, although I think we all know that there are still places even in the US where such attitudes are still not rooted out.

    I’m cautious, though, about judging earlier generations too harshly. I agree with rk that it’s all too easy to look back with our understanding and circumstances and culture and think that the wrongness of racial jokes, etc. is so obvious.

    While I think it’s important that no one ever doubt our position in the Church (racism is wrong!), and I know people want to be sure that message is loud and clear, I do think that we need to be careful to not condemn those who may have done the best with what they knew and when they lived. And with rk, I suspect that we, too, will someday see some ignorance and impudence in our own behavior and culture as well. It’s part of living in a fallen world, imo. I really do tremble at the phrase, “Judge not that ye be not judged, for with what measure you judge, ye shall also be judged.”

    I also can’t help but wonder why it is that we condemn racial slurs and jokes (as we should) but that our culture seems to sometimes thrive on sarcasm and jokes at others’ expense in other ways. How often do I get emails forwarded by hundreds of people that thrive on mockery? Why is it that we (rightfully) condemn racial mockery, but somehow political or intellectual or other mockery is deemed ok?

    I wish we as a culture were more respectful all around, rather than just in “politically correct” ways.

    In the end, mockery is usually a thinly veiled attempt to manage discomfort with or lack of understanding of diversity. It seems to me if it’s expected in today’s society to respect people regardless of their skin color, it ought to be expected to respect others whose beliefs or thoughts or political viewpoints (or whatever else) differ as well.

    Comment by m&m — June 2, 2009 @ 6:10 pm

  34. Wow, Ardis, this is some heavy stuff. Anybody with white grandparents or great-grandparents knows that racial attitudes have changed markedly (and obviously for the better) in the last few decades. I still remember my sweet grandfather offering to take me n-fishing in the 1980s. He was a kind old soul with animus for nobody, but he had a 1930s and 1940s vocabulary, and it stuck with him all his life.

    I wonder what things we consider acceptable will seem terribly cruel to our grandchildren 40-50 years from now?

    Comment by Geoff B — June 2, 2009 @ 6:32 pm

  35. I wonder if I would have let the missionaries in if I had known this. I have a testimony of the gospel and the church now and this still turns my stomach.

    Comment by Noray — June 2, 2009 @ 6:34 pm

  36. Ardis and those who have commented: I greatly appreciate your comments and discussion of this uncomfortable topic. I’ve been wanting to comment all day but didn’t know quite what I wanted to say. I have bulled this post over time and time again all day. I’ve discussed it with my wife. I think most of the comments have expressed my feelings as well. I do think that we need to discuss this. 20 years ago when I was at BYU, Eugene England had us write an essay on racism in the church. It was uncomfortable for me to recount the story of an African-American convert I knew who endured LDS racism before the 1978 Revelation.

    On the other hand, I currently live in the South. We have a High Councilman whom we greatly respect, admire and love. Oh, by the way, he is African-American. We have a member of the EQ presidency who is a convert and is one of the most devout members of our branch. Oh, he is also black. It is so refreshing that race is not an issue.

    Comment by Steve C. — June 2, 2009 @ 6:56 pm

  37. Ardis, I can imagine how hard and painful this was to post, but thank you for posting it. It is good to be reminded that this occurred so we can focus on exposing and rooting out such attitudes. And they do exist. There are still remnants of these feelings in members today. I’ve still heard the N-word used by people who I respected–up to that moment. To me it’s worse than any R-rated word out there and I’ve always shocked and horrified when I hear it.

    Comment by SteveP — June 2, 2009 @ 7:36 pm

  38. We recently had over 30 years of family home movies digitized. There is one excerpt of Halloween in the late 50′s. My father took movies of the neighborhood kids as they came to the door. There were several groups of children in black face, portraying the same images as you have described in this post. But this wasn’t Salt Lake City, this was suburban Los Angeles, and not one of our neighbors was LDS.

    The images and depictions are rightfully disturbing to us in 2009 but I think it would be a mistake to call this a Mormon problem and not a cultural problem of our not too distant past.

    Comment by KLC — June 2, 2009 @ 7:38 pm

  39. To the several of you who have commented on this being not solely a Mormon problem, and others calling for restraint in condemning the Church or its members in the past: You’re right, of course. I think nothing in the post or the comments suggests that any of us believe this is peculiar to Mormonism, or that the pain expressed is only a show of political correctness, or that indignance is just a mask for smugness. As many have said, it can be helpful to recognize and acknowledge past shortcomings just as we celebrate and honor past triumphs. That’s all this is.

    Noray’s #35 is the most worrisome; I don’t want anything I ever post here to be a stumbling block to anyone, despite the appreciation of others. (I understand this is not a problem for you, Noray, but you remind me that it could be for others.)

    Thank you again for such a civil discussion.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 2, 2009 @ 7:47 pm

  40. think it would be a mistake to call this a Mormon problem

    YES. That was my other thought that I forgot to mention.

    And I’ve been mulling over our own cultural issues — probably those that are making earlier generations roll in their graves….

    Comment by m&m — June 2, 2009 @ 7:47 pm

  41. Ardis, this is very powerful stuff. Thanks for delivering, yet again, on the raw realities of our history.

    Comment by CJ Douglass — June 2, 2009 @ 7:51 pm

  42. Re this not being exclusive to Mormonism, look at comment #10 on the Beneficial Life ad mentioned in the post — Justin was able to track that very image to an outside source. I don’t know yet that the poem quoted here is by a Mormon author, and the jokes were probably imports, too. All of B.H. Roberts’ lesson notes certainly originated in outside publications.

    You have to admit that sometimes we put our own spin on the problem, though, and that with the obligations to preach the gospel and perfect the Saints, we have a special duty not to perpetuate it.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 2, 2009 @ 8:01 pm

  43. Ardis,
    To be sure, this is strong, stomach turning stuff to madern sensibilities, as you note.

    I’m sure there is plenty of language going on in the movies today our grandparents would every bit as offensive, before we all get on our high horse.

    That sad, sad poem reminds me of a story my father liked to repeat about his older brother who grew up in the heart of the Mormon Corridor. When he was about ten years old, for the first time in his life he saw someone of African descent and, excited by the novelty, yelled out to his parents, “Mom, Dad, look, a n*****”” The woman promptly lashed out at him calling his mother and father and whole family by the same epithet and scaring him half to death. Thus he learned that word is not so innocent. Ignorance is funny that way. A word generally used in hate and venom can become just another word to those not exposed to the cultural conflict personally.

    I am also reminded of how my sweet, sweet 90 year old great grandmother shocked me as a child by telling what the slang she and others used for Brazil nuts (n***** toes) when she was a child. I still wonder, how on Earth does something so malicious become so commonplace that ordinarily thoughtful and kind people don’t even give it a second thought. It makes me wonder if I am equally unknowingly cavalier in my own attitudes. It’s food for thought.

    Comment by Doc — June 2, 2009 @ 8:03 pm

  44. The images and depictions are rightfully disturbing to us in 2009 but I think it would be a mistake to call this a Mormon problem and not a cultural problem of our not too distant past.

    I understand this, but––personally––these things are more upsetting because they come from members of the Church, including leaders at the highest level. Racism is horrible in any circumstances, but it is doubly disappointing when it is found among those who have the gospel, who have every reason to know better. Surely we should have higher aspirations for covenant-bound Latter-day Saints than that they merely represent the culture of their day. It is understandable but disheartening.

    I had similar feelings during the Prop 8 campaign: whatever one’s political perspective, there were many hateful misrepresentations on both sides. One expects this in politics, of course. But one hopes for better from the Saints. (I wonder if some of those who remain faithful while struggling with homosexuality might, because of the Prop 8 experience, have some small insight into the plight of black LDS pre-1978.)

    In any case, thanks for this, Ardis.

    Comment by Latter-day Guy — June 2, 2009 @ 8:07 pm

  45. Is it okay for me to still like BH Roberts theological efforts? Generally speaking.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — June 2, 2009 @ 8:14 pm

  46. Is it okay??! B.H. Roberts rocks! Keepa’ninnies are great fans of our man B.H. Roberts. B.H. Roberts and his loving care of the men he served as chaplain during WWI are featured in four Keepa posts, so far.

    It’s not such a bad thing that one of the quoted items comes from Roberts, a man we know and love and admire. He puts a face on these statements as surely as Margaret’s portraits of Darius Gray put a face on the people who have borne the brunt of the same statements. It makes it easier for me to have compassion for Saints of the past even while vowing not to repeat their mistakes.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 2, 2009 @ 8:26 pm

  47. Time is an interesting thing. It’s like sunlight in some ways. We experience it everyday but we can’t grasp it in our hands, bring it in doors to light the night. Both light and time were, and are, subjects that have kept the best minds busy for sometime, and we still don’t know all there is to know about them. Really just scratched the surface

    My uncle died of appendicitis in the 1930′s. Today an appendectomy is a routine operation. Does that mean he was backwards and foolish? Women didn’t have the vote in America until the early part of the 20th century. Should we conclude that everyone who lived prior to that time were fools? I could go on with this thought, but I think these few examples make the point.

    What about our day, how will people think about us 50 or 100 years from now? Will they look back at some of the things we assumed in this, our day, and think less of us, calling us fools? Will someone dredge up some post from the Bloggernacle and make some of the same comments about us–that have been made about those who preceded us, and title it The Ugliest Post Ever Published.

    Personally, I’m tried of reading about the ban on the priesthood and related subjects. It’s old news! There are more important things for followers of Christ to be doing like acquiring the gift Holy Ghost. This subject doesn’t contribute to that objective in anyway.

    I think some are using the ban on the priesthood to undermine faith in our church leaders and hijacking it to support those who want to give marriage up to same sex couples. Something the Lord’s prophets are doing everything they can to protect. Intended or unintended this is the net result. If you don’t believe what I just said, then please explain what purpose it fulfills to keep this subject on the table 30 years after the Lord’s prophets received the revelation on the priesthood?

    Least I be misunderstood, I felt uncomfortable when I read this post, just like many of those who commented. But lets be wise enough to put things in perspective, and not be guilty of pointing the finger of scorn across time at those who are not here to explain what was really going on in their hearts.

    Comment by Jared — June 2, 2009 @ 8:39 pm

  48. Jared: you didn’t use any scriptural support in your comment, so I’m not taking it seriously.

    Comment by Emerson — June 2, 2009 @ 9:05 pm

  49. Jared, it may be in part an unfair personal reaction to your usual style of Bloggernacle comment, but this is the first comment on this post which I find way out of line.

    If you’re tired of talking about a subject, don’t join the discussion.

    No one here — and I mean absolutely NO one — has used any part of the topic to “undermine faith in our church leaders” or to “hijack” the discussion in the remotest possible way to “support those who want to give marriage up to same sex couples.” You are the only one “pointing the finger of scorn” at anyone, and you are pointing it at good people who don’t deserve your continual self-righteous condemnation.

    You have your own blog. Attract an audience there — if you can. Do not use Keepa ever again to advance your own perverted ideas of righteousness. No more.

    (Other readers will kindly refrain from picking up this threadjack.)

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 2, 2009 @ 9:09 pm

  50. Jared: I understand where you are coming from, but as someone who spends most of his time working on things in the past I have to strongly disagree with you.

    Reading through this post does not “undermine faith in [my] church leaders”–it does nothing of the sort. The only thing it would undermine faith in is the infallible caricature that some LDS folk hold. The prophets and apostles that I believe in are those presented in the scriptures and true to human history: faithful men who try to do the best they can…but are still men. In fact, if things like this help us move away from the infallible caricature that the scriptures don’t teach and that the brethren don’t want, all the better.

    I don’t see anyone here pointing the finger of scorn here–you are reading unfaithfulness into the text (as you have been prone to do elsewhere) as if you are looking for it. I don’t think BH Roberts et all would have any problem with us learning from their mistakes.

    Ardis: thanks for this post.

    [No problem with this comment, Ben; you were writing while I was. -- Ardis]

    Comment by Ben — June 2, 2009 @ 9:12 pm

  51. Women didn’t have the vote in America until the early part of the 20th century. Should we conclude that everyone who lived prior to that time were fools?

    No. But we can conclude that they were misogynist to some degree.

    What about our day, how will people think about us 50 or 100 years from now? Will they look back at some of the things we assumed in this, our day, and think less of us, calling us fools?

    Fools? Perhaps not. Hopefully though, they will look back on our weaknesses and feel saddened for us, and grateful that they have progressed beyond some of what made us less than we could be.

    Personally, I’m tried of reading about the ban on the priesthood and related subjects. It’s old news! There are more important things for followers of Christ to be doing like acquiring the gift Holy Ghost. This subject doesn’t contribute to that objective in anyway [sic].

    Being reminded of past mistakes and thereby committing oneself to try to do better doesn’t help one acquire the companionship of the Spirit? I thought that it was part of repentance.

    I think some are using the ban on the priesthood to undermine faith in our church leaders and hijacking it to support those who want to give marriage up to same sex couples. Something the Lord’s prophets are doing everything they can to protect. Intended or unintended this is the net result.

    That may be the case––I don’t know––but good luck trying to demonstrate it. I can’t imagine how you might quantify something like that.

    …please explain what purpose it fulfills to keep this subject on the table 30 years after the Lord’s prophets received the revelation on the priesthood?

    Slavery is also old news. Should we skip over that little episode of American history in schools? What about the suffrage movement? After all, all citizens may vote now.

    Least [sic] I be misunderstood, I felt uncomfortable when I read this post, just like many of those who commented.

    Good. That sounds reasonable.

    But lets be wise enough to put things in perspective, and not be guilty of pointing the finger of scorn across time at those who are not here to explain what was really going on in their hearts.

    I don’t think anything in this post qualifies as “pointing the finger of scorn.” It is precisely that these awful comments came from good people that makes this post so valuable. If, with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the gift of continuing revelation, they could still have such incredible blind spots, what might be said about us today? It is hard to learn from past mistakes unless we know what those mistakes looked like. Often, without the benefit of hindsight, our bad decisions may seem totally reasonable. This should encourage us to be more careful and more thoughtful, in which this post succeeds admirably.

    Comment by Latter-day Guy — June 2, 2009 @ 9:21 pm

  52. Apologies, Ardis. Your latest comment hadn’t been posted yet when I wrote #51.

    [You're okay, LDGuy. It helps to be right, you know. :) I'm hoping, though, that there won't be many more comments cross-posting with mine. -- Ardis]

    Comment by Latter-day Guy — June 2, 2009 @ 9:23 pm

  53. We have to remember not to overreact when studying history. We have to know the culture of the time, and the way actions were interpreted during the time period in question, rather than project our own interpretations and culture into the past. There is a difference between an action and the intentions of those doing the action, and I would suggest that intentions are more important than actions, at least in the context of historical studies. To our modern minds things that seems comical, ludicrious, insensitive and callous, might seem more pronounced because of our own cultural orientation and postmodern sensibilities. Does this mean that we justify such actions today? Not in the least, we do the best we can given the light that we have, and interpret other’s actions by the light they had.

    Comment by Mike — June 2, 2009 @ 9:29 pm

  54. Jared, Ben and especially Ardis. Thank you for the kind of summary I have been looking for on this subject. I have stomped this errant earth (shuffling is a better word now) for two months short of fourscore years and it amazes me how many challenges the Church has met and overcome and how many changes have been made that were sorely needed and we accept them as pre-eternal now. The Church is quantum leaps better, as are its members, now than when I was a boy. Our bishop today is loved by the young people in our ward. When I was young, most of my friends were more afraid of the bishop than their dads. People jump at the chance to help one another. Sixty years ago, they jumped at each other. All is not well in Zion, I am sure, but I am also sure that it is better and will be even better tomorrow. God Bless.

    Comment by Curt A. — June 2, 2009 @ 9:31 pm

  55. This is not surprising, knowing the relations between races across the whole nation at the time. It is shocking to see how easily the offensive language flowed out of the mouths of what we would consider fairly righteous people. I’m curious how Mormons of that time compare with other religious groups and their relations with blacks. Were we worse off or better off?

    Comment by Dan — June 2, 2009 @ 9:34 pm

  56. I also want to add that this post moves me to near tears over what Dr. Martin Luther King was able to accomplish in the 50s and 60s. Truly a remarkable individual.

    Comment by Dan — June 2, 2009 @ 9:39 pm

  57. Dan, you might be interested in this old post, Martin Luther King in Deseret. Most of his audience and some of those who conducted the earlier action he mentioned would have been LDS.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 2, 2009 @ 9:45 pm

  58. Thanks for sharing that Ardis. I haven’t lurked around Keepapitchinnin much and missed out, apparently, on some really good blogging.

    Comment by Dan — June 2, 2009 @ 10:04 pm

  59. The comments about placing each of these racial manifestations within their proper historical contexts are appropriate. Those in this thread who made such comments are warning us against “presentism,” a term used in historical scholarship to describe the tendency we sometimes have of superimposing present values, ideas, and understandings upon past peoples and cultures. Instead we should try to understand people of the past on their own terms, something difficult to do, but important.

    When I teach the American history survey course I assign an essay on Thomas Jefferson and slavery. It warns students against presentism and defends Jefferson against his critics who suggest he violated the ideals he articulated in the Dec of Independence, that all men are created equal, in not freeing his slaves. Students grapple with the article and its argument and we generally have a fruitful discussion. I then ask if it is presentism to scrutinize Jefferson for not freeing his slaves if others of his generation responded to revolutionary ideals and freed their slaves? Robert Carter, a neighbor of Jefferson’s freed his, and every northern state adopted some form of emancipation (gradual though some were), making slavery a peculiar institution to the South. It is not presentism, in other words, if some people of a given generation held views and values similar to the present.

    Certainly we can say that Mormons in the examples Ardis gives us were bleakly conventional in their views, but there were Americans in 1920, 1926, 1912, and 1907, the years that these appeared in Mormon print, who would recognize these manifestations for the hurtful stereotyping that they were. In this case, looking back in disgust and regret is not presentism. The examples Ardis gives us were wrong, not just in 2009, but in 1907, 1912, 1920, and 1926. They are wrong in Mormon circles from the publication of the Book of Mormon forward. “All are alike unto God,” after all, black and white, bond and free, male and female.

    Comment by Paul Reeve — June 2, 2009 @ 10:11 pm

  60. Ardis,

    You say that Arnold Friberg was “a child who may never even have seen a black man in real life.” However, based on the address in the cartoon, Friberg lived not only in downtown Phoenix, but south of the infamous race line of Van Buren Street. This means he likely had black neighbors and saw black men every day.

    Comment by Jacob F — June 2, 2009 @ 10:12 pm

  61. I wish I could add more to this discussion, but I really can’t. I like the term “presentism.” We should definitely avoid presentism in our analysis of the past.

    I think that despite the strides that our culture has made, and the strides that we as members of the church have made, there is still a ways to go in this department. It’s truly amazing how many racist jokes and remarks I heard among other missionaries while in the field. This was in the mid to late 90′s. This was against blacks and mexicans.

    I won’t go on about this, but, I still see the racism here in Missouri, only it’s more implied and less explicit these days.

    It goes to show that ignorance still abounds. I think we can look at these people in history and realize that they were a product of their times. We are still a product of our times, but we are in really different times than they were. I think we should be beyond racism.Especially as Christians.

    Comment by Ian Cook — June 2, 2009 @ 10:36 pm

  62. Where I grew up in Maryland was a strange blend of lots of different mindsets. Think small southern town where you can find educated, bleeding heart liberals AND racist townies that still fly rebel flags in front of their trailers to this day. The next town over still harbors the Klan, and the high schools have racial graffiti that pops up in bathrooms from time to time–mostly, in my opinion, because it gets the most attention.

    So, naturally, the administrations of every school in the county always made a big to-do about Black History Month. Every year we had the compulsory rigamaroll they would give us about the I Have a Dream speech, and maybe a few movies they would make us watch. We all either resented it or ignored it–not because we were racist, but because they were in our faces about it in the most forced way possible.

    In the end, they bred more apathy to the subject than any kind of… I don’t know exactly what they wanted from us. Remorse? A sense of obligation to do something? Guilt?

    And I always wondered why. I never burned a cross in anyone’s yard. Why were they trying to make me feel bad about something I never did?

    I look upon this post in much of the same way. It’s good to know the history. But as far as expecting anyone to DO anything is rather irresponsible. There’s no restitution we can make for slavery, nor should we be expected to. And I always wondered if by pushing, adults only fostered racial tension because they expected it from us, even though it didn’t exist before.

    Race, for the younger generation, is a dead issue. So is gender. We just don’t see it the way people before us did. Sure, there are exceptions. But I think it’s safe to say that people that are older notice it more because they aren’t the ones that have let it go.

    Comment by paradox — June 2, 2009 @ 11:47 pm

  63. Interesting that there existed (exists?) so much animosity and racism towards the blacks, yet the early church favored Native Americans (mission to the Lamanites, etc.) Today, it seems the pendulum has swung the other way with Native Americans (primarily Hispanics) getting ostracized. Pres. Hinckley spoke out VERY strongly on this shortly before his death (Apr.’06). Still, in my part of Utah, anti-Mexican attitudes are quite prevalent among Mormons. Maybe this is what our grandchildren will ridicule US for?

    Comment by Clark — June 3, 2009 @ 12:06 am

  64. “till, in my part of Utah, anti-Mexican attitudes are quite prevalent among Mormons.”

    I’ve been shocked (really) at the anti-Hispanic feeling I encounter since coming to Utah. (not only or even mainly from Mormons.) I’ve several times been wanting to vent on this – but have never come up with anything to say that I didn’t think would do more harm than good.

    “Maybe this is what our grandchildren will ridicule US for?”

    I don’t know about grandchildren, and I don’t know about ridicule … but I think eventually our (general) _feelings_ about polygamy will someday seem narrow. ~

    Comment by Thomas Parkin — June 3, 2009 @ 1:19 am

  65. Ardis, re your #39:

    “I think nothing in the post or the comments suggests that any of us believe this is peculiar to Mormonism, or that the pain expressed is only a show of political correctness, or that indignance is just a mask for smugness.”

    I hope my comment didn’t come across as an apologetic attempt to reduce our guilt by noting that “everyone was doing it”.

    Probably too briefly I was trying to say that if we want to go beyond indignation and pain into understanding about our racial attitudes we have to also go beyond a purely LDS focus. This comment is not aimed at you and your post but rather directed at the larger discussion of race. If we want to understand racial attitudes in the quintessential American religion we have to understand both the religious and the American.

    Comment by KLC — June 3, 2009 @ 2:15 am

  66. Paradox, race and gender are not dead issues in the world you will join after the artificial cocoon of school. Your own comment shows starkly that race and age and class are still divisive factors in your own life, although you don’t have the self-awareness yet to recognize that.

    It’s not like young African Americans are flocking by the thousands to the restored gospel, joyfully beyond the pains of the past and embraced by their white peers, with only their elders kept from a knowledge of the truth by the blindness of racism.

    KLC, I understood and agree with the thrust of both of your comments. The timing of my statement was coincidental — there had been several angsty worries that we were being too harsh on the Church itself and members from past generations, and I hoped to reassure such readers that I was bringing specific instances of past insensitivities to light so that we would better understand the past. So many polarizing things have been said about race issues that we almost can’t say anything at all without people being afraid we’re incorporating by reference all the unjust judgments of other debates — hence the value, I think, of concrete illustrations from our own culture so that we all know what we’re talking about.

    60: Jacob, I don’t know Phoenix history and didn’t realize that there were so many blacks in town in 1912 for there to be an “infamous race line.” My remark was an uninformed generalization from awareness that relatively few blacks had moved west that early — in Salt Lake, for instance, there a few hundred blacks outnumbered by about 100,000 whites; even in the 1960s, I was a sixth-grader before I had a black classmate.

    Thank you again for an unexpectedly broad discussion. While I haven’t responded directly to everything, many comments have added a valuable variety of detail, with others helping to identify a consensus.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 3, 2009 @ 6:27 am

  67. I think the thing that strikes me most is that the people you quote, the writers and editors, were completely oblivious to how offensive and wrong their writing was. These were good people. That makes me aware that I could be doing something similar that I don’t realize today. It makes me want to look deeper for the things that nobody questions that are equally horrible, if we only realized it, in the present.

    Comment by Tatiana — June 3, 2009 @ 6:36 am

  68. race and gender are not dead issues in the world you will join after the artificial cocoon of school.

    Just wanted to offer my two cents that race and gender are not dead issues ever in the classroom and school setting. They certainly weren’t in my Dallas area elementary school, middle school, and high school, and they’re certainly not here at BYU, where racism (however inadvertently) and sexism show their ugly heads on a regular basis.

    I would personally hope that race and gender never become dead issues, but that instead we can work to transform ugly myths, stereotypes, and discriminatory attitudes into celebrations of diversity, recognizing that all of God’s children are beautiful and worthwhile.

    Comment by Christopher — June 3, 2009 @ 8:43 am

  69. Ignore the “ever” in my first sentence. I’m not sure how that got there.

    Comment by Christopher — June 3, 2009 @ 8:44 am

  70. Thanks for this post, Ardis. #67 raises an interesting point: by and large people (at least LDS leaders) spouting this type of racist rhetoric weren’t directly trying to be hateful–it was just part of everyday discourse for them. Identifying it as offensive to others was one step; identifying it as offense in an of itself was another; and outright calls to repentance (as from President Hinckley, or the Book of Mormon) is perhaps the final step in shaping our behavior for the better.

    Comment by Bro. Jones — June 3, 2009 @ 8:46 am

  71. As we contemplate the quotes provided here, we should remember that there were some, at least, who felt and acted otherwise. Ardis has previously provided one example. Another was recounted by Pres. Hinckley, who reported that his mother reproved him for making a racially insensitive comment in his youth (which was in this same time period).

    Comment by Ugly Mahana — June 3, 2009 @ 9:05 am

  72. A lot of us have commented on the tendency of otherwise decent, good folks to parrot the racially-insensitive thought of their day. This is good.

    However, what I can’t justify is the the lack of logical cohesion apparent in some of these materials promoting a particular racist worldview. I mean, looking at the scholarship alone, Roberts’ lesson FAILS. He recounts the history of race relations in the United States and then jumps to an illogical conclusion about inter-racial marriage. Huh? Similarly, reading Alvin Dyer’s or Bruce McConkie’s sermons and writings about pre-mortal justification for priesthood denial leaves me shaking my head if for not other reason than they have to make a HYUGE leap to get from the then-current situation to a scriptural justification for it.

    So, temper our anger towards the average Joe who repeated bad racial sentiments, yes. But call a spade a spade as to those who actually took the time to do a little intellectual “work” on these issues and came down on the side of racism. From what I’ve seen, it’s always been, well, poor scholarship.

    Comment by Hunter — June 3, 2009 @ 9:30 am

  73. RE: Tatiana’s eloquent comment (#67).

    The following reflection by Whittier secured my attention many years ago . . .

    In the midst of self-congratulations upon our age of light and progress, is it not well to consider that they, who a century from this time shall look back upon our records, may possibly find as much to condemn and sorrow over, as we do in scanning the history of our ancestors?

    [(John Greenleaf Whittier), The Supernaturalism of New England. By the Author of "The Stranger in Lowell." (New York & London: Wiley & Putnam, 1847), p. viii]

    As an historian, I have been sobered by reading many of the comments following Ardis’ valuable post here. What startled me was to see how many people expressed genuine surprise at some of the “ugly” attitudes in our past. While I naturally welcome the indignation and the resolve to do better, the surprise alarms me in a spirit of “How soon we forget!” Without a thorough and mature sense of history, we are doomed to repeat it. (“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” –George Santayana)

    Comment by Rick Grunder — June 3, 2009 @ 9:41 am

  74. On a separate note, I have often felt that we too easily accept the charge that, as mormons, we belong to a “racist church.” (Ardis, feel free to delete this if it goes too far afield from the intent of the post.)

    As someone born after the promulgation of the revelation on the priesthood, I have never heard the racist explanations for the priesthood ban taught or defended in a Church setting. On the contrary, I have always heard strong condemnation of prejudice and a call to love and invite all to come unto Christ, without respect to race. I have read stories of generosity between early latter-day saints who were white and African-Americans of other religions. I have read that one of the reasons why mormons faced such persecution in Missouri was mormon support for abolition. Finally, the recent Church film on Joseph Smith emphasized Joseph’s care for individual African-Americans.

    I have also read and understand the reasons given for the priesthood ban. I am not blind. Prior to reading the documents presented here, however, all of the statements I read emphasized the right of the Church to govern itself, and did not purport to provide a religious support for the denial of civil rights on the basis of race. In a later period, I am aware of Church leaders who opposed the civil rights movement, but I also know that some supported it. Why cannot these persons, and the generous actions of those who came before them, be the history we remember and honor?

    Ardis previously provided a powerful example of forward-thinking teachings presented in the same manner as these ugly things. Thus we see that there was a competition of ideas. I claim as my heritage those things that are virtuous, lovely, and of good report. If, with respect to race, both wonderful and ugly things are found, and if inclusiveness is the teaching of the Church today, then I reject the claim that I belong to a racist church, no matter what was said in the past. As Elder McConkie said, those who taught bigotry “spoke without light.”

    Comment by Ugly Mahana — June 3, 2009 @ 9:49 am

  75. I recently looked thru some older papers, books of my wife’s ancestral line. I found a old song book. Several of the songs contained references to watermelons, N’s, pickaninnies etc.

    I am not surprised. Prior to about 1965-70 where I live now Black children attended segregated schools. In order for this to be enforced and complied with there had to be mass racism in society at large. Its no surprise to me that this culture of racism was present in the church.

    The era of 1900-1925 was a very racist period in american history. race riots, mass membership in the KKK, The Birth of a nation etc. It is long suspected by historians that US Presidents Coolidge, Harding, Wilson, McKinley, and Truman were KKK members. It is estimated that the KKK had 4-5MM members in 1924. SC justice Hugo Black was once a member as was current Senator Byrd from W Virginia

    Comment by bbell — June 3, 2009 @ 10:17 am

  76. A positive about all of this is that we do seem to be changing for the better. Yes, our kids and grandkids may look back at us and wonder “what were they thinking”, but I hope our biases and shortsightedness is less than that of our preceding generations. I am glad to see that we can have a pretty calm and rational discussion about topics like this.

    bbell, along the same lines, I read in Pres. Obama’s book, “The Audacity of Hope” about meeting with Senator Byrd for the first time after Obama was elected to the Senate. They had many differences, but also found much in common; Pres. Obama taught constitutional law, and Sen. Byrd is the recognized leader in the Senate on the constitution. Pres. Obama writes that at the end of the meeting, they had both come to respect the other more, and in parting, Sen. Byrd made a sort of apology for his own views and actions about race in his younger years, the regret obvious to the new Senator.

    I have great hope for us a church and a nation gradually overcoming our current cultural issues with Hispanics, Islam, and gender. If nothing else, the last 50 years should give us some tools and a path for dealing with conflicting opinions and maintaining meaningful dialogue.

    Comment by kevinf — June 3, 2009 @ 10:30 am

  77. Rick, I’ve long wished I had a pithy way to express exactly that thought! Thank you, and thank Whittier.

    Every time I think we’ve reached the limit of possible contributions to the discussion, in comes another batch just as good. Thanks, all.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 3, 2009 @ 10:40 am

  78. Ardis,

    I really appreciate you as a faithful LDS historian. Its a real pleasure for me to read your posts.

    Its hard to really describe how racist America was prior to the Civil Rights era. 4-5MM KK members in the 1920′s represented 15% or so of the adult male population of the US. A similar number today would be 15-20MM. The only organization with this many adult male members in its ranks that I can think of is the RC Church.

    Another Note. Racial eugenics was quite popular in this era and also manifested itself in the church with lessons devoted to topics like “race suicide”.

    Comment by bbell — June 3, 2009 @ 10:51 am

  79. A brief venture into women’s suffrage–which you may delete or send off to some more appropriate setting (FMH?) if you wish, Ardis:

    The 19th amendment, ratified in 1920, came more than 50 years after women first voted (legally) in the U.S. Before the 15th amendment, which said that the right to vote could not be denied based upon race or previous condition of servitude, the only thing that the constitution said about suffrage was that “the electors [for members of the house of representatives--and those were the only federal officials elected directly by the people] in each state shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the state legislature.”

    That’s why women in Wyoming, Utah Territory (at least until the Edmunds-Tucker Act) and elsewhere in the country (the west, mainly) were voting long before 1920–because their state or territorial legislaturs had extended the franchise to include them.

    And, I think “misogyny” is an awfully harsh starting point for a discussion of why the franchise wasn’t extended earlier to women. (But, maybe Warren G. Harding is a good enough reason for suggesting that a one-year delay in ratification of the 19th Amendment might not have been a bad thing.)

    Comment by Mark B. — June 3, 2009 @ 11:26 am

  80. I think this illustrates how church members and even leaders can be influenced by the culture in which they live. Both for good and bad. We see this in this post on the race issue in the US. I’ve also read accounts of priesthood lessons turning into anti-Semitic diatribes in 1930s Germany even though the Church itself was very supportive of the Jews. I think this post and discussions also indicate how complex an issue this was for the Church. We read the poem and BH Roberts lesson that are not nice. We also read the 1935 lesson on race relations and see an enlightened point of view. You get a sense of the issue as well in the DO McKay bio (Prince and Wright) and DOM’s desire to lift the ban.

    Again, I found this a very thought-provoking post.

    Comment by Steve C. — June 3, 2009 @ 11:37 am

  81. Back to the present, The Volokh Conspiracy has some recent posts on attitudes about intermarriage. The most recent post is here, and previous posts are linked at the end of the most recent.

    Comment by Mark B. — June 3, 2009 @ 1:20 pm

  82. This is like a boil that must be lanced, even repeatedly, and exposed to the sunshine in order to eventually be healed. I prefer learning about these revolting things from people I love and respect rather than at the hands of those who wish my faith ill.

    Thank you Ardis, for your bravery and your hard work.

    Comment by Tracy M — June 3, 2009 @ 3:15 pm

  83. I agree, Tracy M. I think it’s better we discuss these issues openly among ourselves rather than learning about it from people who want to damage the Church.

    Comment by Steve C. — June 3, 2009 @ 3:18 pm

  84. It’s been an intense couple of days, but it’s been worth it for a comment like Tracy’s.

    Again, thanks for the good words that keep rolling in.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 3, 2009 @ 4:24 pm

  85. I was born in 1950 and grew up on the East Bench of Salt Lake City. Before I was fifteen I had never spoken to a black person nor heard one speak to me. I had seen black people only five or six times by the time I was 12, always at a distance, and always in downtown Salt Lake.

    One of my father’s favorite phrases to use with his children was, “Last one in bed is a [edited] baby.” It never occurred to us that the phrase had reference to any class of people that existed in real life. Certainly we never connected the phrase in any manner with the real life black persons we had occasionally seen from a distance. It was merely a phrase, something one was accustomed to say at bedtime without thinking, out of habit; akin to, “NiNight, Sleep Tight”. The few black people I had seen were Negroes. I had no idea “[edited]” could be a word with an attitude, meaning “Negro”.

    I do not recall ever hearing my father swear. In early adolescence I became aware of that some people used certain racial epithets in a perjorative manner. When they used these words it was obvious they intended them negatively. This shocked me because in my home I had certainly never heard this sort of thing go on. Certainly my father never used any of these terms in this manner; I cannot imagine my father saying anything about a person or race, meaning to demean them.

    Certainly the word “[edited]” is demeaning. But in certain contexts in certain places in 1950s America it would have taken a person of super-human sensitivity to have realized this. And this was 20 years after the publication of the poem. It seems to me that a little bit of a judgmental attitude regarding the editors of the Juvenile Instructor has crept into some of the comments — just a little bit of the same sort of insensitivity that is objectionable in the attitude of people who knowingly use perjoritive racial epithets.

    Comment by CRAIG CLAYTON — June 4, 2009 @ 1:16 pm

  86. It seems to me that a little bit of a judgmental attitude regarding the editors of the Juvenile Instructor has crept into some of the comments

    It seems to me we have addressed this repeatedly in this discussion: The point of this post is not to call out our ancestors for having consciously decided to be hurtful, hateful, or act counter to the wishes of God. It is, rather, more of an educational experience for those of us who were unaware that such materials had ever appeared in Church publications, and, maybe, by seeing how pervasive the negative attitudes were, to understand why it is so difficult for some to “get over it.” It is probably the first time that most of us become aware ourselves — in 2009 — of the presence in our past of these materials and attitudes, however benignly you wish to characterize them for the sake of argument.

    little bit of the same sort of insensitivity that is objectionable in the attitude of people who knowingly use perjoritive racial epithets

    I agree that it is insensitive — at the very least, and quite possibly something more — to continue to use pejorative racial terms when one is very well aware of their objectionable nature, as all of us are by now. Therefore, please refrain from using such objectionable racial epithets in comments.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 4, 2009 @ 1:33 pm

  87. I think Ardis has made an excellent parallel to Mormon self-conceptions as persecuted. Imagine if there were a derogatory word for Mormon that was deeply offensive. Now imagine that someone where there were not a lot of Mormons used it in such a way to describe food, habits and the last one to bed in ways that did not consciously reference Mormons generally. I think we could easily imagine how hurtful that would be and our share of persecution (speaking of Mormons generally) is only a small fraction of that leveled against those of African ancestry.

    Comment by J. Stapley — June 4, 2009 @ 1:40 pm

  88. #85, and a discussion sparked by this post on an anti-Mormon board, have made me realize that many readers might not recognize what is most disturbing about the 1920 poem: The racial epithet is the least of it.

    Imagine if this poem had been written about a Mormon baby: Wow! Even Mormon babies are capable of love! Even Mormon mothers take care of their babies! Even Mormons are free of guile as long as they’re fresh from God! God is so good, and Jesus is so loving, that they can love even little Mormon babies!

    Writing as if you have made the startling discovery that members of another race or another culture are actually human beings is not at all uncommon in world literature, and literature students should have no trouble recognizing the paternalistic, patronizing point of view which is that poem’s worst trait. The sting of surprise at the recognition of one’s humanity would have been felt by any black person who might have read the poem in 1920 — the objects of such a sting feel it immediately; it takes time and changing attitudes for the authors of the sting to recognize it for what it is.

    Again, this does not mean that the poet or the magazine editor or our grandparents reading the poem in 1920 recognized the paternalism, or that any slur was deliberately intended. To the contrary, the poem is so positive — on the surface — that I have no doubt it was meant as a complimentary, favorable, delightful piece of sentimental writing.

    It’s that irony — the difference between what was intended and what was actually being said — that makes it so hard to read today, with or without the racial epithet.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 4, 2009 @ 2:08 pm

  89. Another way to understand the patronizing going on in that poem, and how irritating or painful it can be, is to remember the last time you read or heard an Evangelical preacher go on at length about how much God loves Mormons despite our delusions, and how even Mormons can be saved if the Evangelicals just preach at us loud enough and long enough.

    Or think of your favorite ex-Mormon who brushes aside your defense of some facet of church doctrine with the smug assertion that when you grow up and the scales of blind obedience fall from your eyes, you’ll abandon your faith just like he did.

    On the surface, both instances are complimentary to you — but could they possibly be any nastier at heart?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 4, 2009 @ 2:18 pm

  90. Ardis, your last two comments (#88 & #89) are brilliant. It is exactly that “benign paternalism” that is so deeply offensive.

    Just to illustarte a tiny bit:

    I am engaged currently on my blog with someone who keeps telling me “you need to understand” about the things we are discussing. I told him in the very first response that I have studied the topic at a well-known divinity school, surrounded by Catholics, Protestants and those of every imaginable major religion in the world – and yet he still adds those disclaimers, in his own words in his third response, because I am Mormon. (“It is my sad experience when speaking to Mormons that when they say they know they usually don’t and the level of ignorance of these things among Mormons is depressing so I cannot and do not assume anything even when it is insisted upon.”) This is someone who isn’t addressing my points directly but relying on arguing other issues and making statements that simply aren’t accurate about the topic we are discussing – yet I am ignorant, becasue I am Mormon. It is frustrating and infuriating.

    I know this is a very minor example commpared to this post, but it illustrates your point, I hope.

    Comment by Ray — June 4, 2009 @ 4:13 pm

  91. It does, Ray. Surface ugliness is one thing; underlying assumptions can be just as harsh. It’s easier to recognize the harshness when it’s aimed at us, evidently, than otherwise.

    To relate it back to another part of the original post, some version of the Beneficial Life ad could have been funny without being racist: what if it had shown a child surrounded by more toys than he could possibly hold, and he was having to decide whether to drop this one in order to pick up that one? Even a white guy at a buffet, having to choose among more kinds of food than he could pile on his plate, would have supported the same punchline.

    But the ad, because it used watermelons and a chicken in connection with a black man, was built on the stereotypes that black men are shiftless and up to no good. It’s the underlying assumption more than the literal surface image that is the problem.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 4, 2009 @ 5:07 pm

  92. For me, such ugly words a century ago would not still be such an issue, if they had stopped back then. Or even 50 years ago. Or even in 1978, with the priesthood revelation.

    But racism continues. It is alive and well in the Church, among the members.

    As I’ve mentioned, I struggled for almost 17 years in Montgomery, Alabama, trying to get the members in that stake to accept blacks as members. Progress is being made, thankfully. But there’s still a long way to go. I hear anti-Latino and anti-Black statements from members more often than I’d care to think.

    I still hear the “N” word used in jokes by members. They look at me funny, when I tell them that I find that word and those jokes offensive. I’ve heard such jokes from PEC members. This is in Indianapolis in 2009.

    This will continue to be an issue, until we all come to a unity of love and faith. How can we ever become a Zion people, while denigrating any of God’s children? While I understand the term “presentism”, I also understand the term, “Zion.” B.H. Roberts and other General Authorities should also have understood that term. While cultural issues may make some things seem okay, we need to be talking about Zion culture. Such a culture would be unchangeable in its attitudes, language, and actions towards others, regardless of the period.

    In 100 years, I hope Saints will be considering our flaws of 2009, so as to learn to be better Saints in building Zion. But I would truly hate to have them think we had not progressed any further in our language and attitudes concerning the children of God.

    Comment by Rameumptom — June 5, 2009 @ 7:41 am

  93. We’ve had the conversation around the ‘nacle — numerous times — about whether or to what extent living Mormons or the Church as an institution is or is not racist, and who has heard and has not heard racist remarks in how recent a period, in which parts of the country and against which ethnic groups.

    Let’s let Rameumptom’s eloquent comment represent that entire conversation on this thread, please, and not repeat arguments that are available elsewhere.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 5, 2009 @ 8:00 am

  94. I hope I am not straying too far from the original intent of the post, from reading the comments and from other posts in the past, I think we really need as members of the Church to be aware of bigotry in all forms, whether if be directed against other races, peoples, religions, gender, etc. I agree with Rameumptom–we can’t build Zion if we demean others.

    Comment by Steve C. — June 5, 2009 @ 8:13 am

  95. You and Rameumptom are both right, of course, Steve, and I didn’t mean to cut off expressions of that.

    What is different about this post is that we have specific examples of the problem that we can all see and discuss, even if there is disagreement on exactly what it means. We don’t have the same common ground when people generalize their unverifiable personal experiences as representative of all Mormonism, and that’s where the fights really start.

    By all means, talk about what we ought to learn from the past and where we ought to go in the future. I just hope to avoid generalized and unverifiable remarks about present Latter-day Saints that would tend to put other readers on the defensive.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 5, 2009 @ 9:02 am

  96. [...] am both intrigued and appalled (though not necessarily surprised given this sort of stuff) at the missionary’s apologetic tactic. I have never encountered a defense of polygamy by [...]

    Pingback by Juvenile Instructor » “A situation worse than polygamy”: Mormon Missionaries, “Mulattos”, and Defending the Faith in North Carolina, 1900 — July 16, 2009 @ 2:22 pm

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