Black Lives Matter – Apology Overdue

A couple of days ago, I drove through an intersection where I saw a young protester standing on the corner with a sign. His sign only read “BLM”, but I still felt quite impressed. He was a pasty white kid that looked to be around 18 years old, showing his support for the black community and the “Black Lives Matter” movement. Seeing him there gave me some small hope for the future. There are a lot of young people in my area that really get it and are doing what they can to promote positive change in our communities and in the world.

From other corners, I’ve seen people posting things like “White Lives Matter” or “Every Life Matters.” Although these statements are certainly true, they show a complete lack of empathy for the people that are suffering most right now. When someone is in pain and in need of support and understanding, it is incredibly callous to shout out distracting messages in support of people that don’t need it right now. All lives do matter, so let’s give our love and support to those who need it most right now.

The very next day after seeing the boy on the corner, I saw another couple of white protesters in support of Black Lives Matter. I absolutely love the fact that I live in a predominantly white community that still feels the need to show their support in any way they can. I love the way that the people who drive past wave or honk their horns to show that they also support the movement. In case I haven’t made it clear yet, I am also in complete support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

As a former member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I want to apologize for the historic institutionalized racism of the church and the extremely racist comments and teachings of its leaders, especially by Brigham Young and other early presidents of the church. I doubt the church will ever apologize for its racism, so I hope that its members will make it clear that they fully reject the racist teachings of these prophets. 

The church has been the direct and indirect cause of incredible pain and suffering over the years, and it has apologized for none of it. I, for one, am sorry. I’m especially sorry that I even believed some of these statements growing up. I was taught racism in my youth, and it took me too long to realize that these teachings were completely false. At least now I can say that I categorically reject all of Brigham Young’s and other church leader’s racist teachings.

In recent weeks, months, and even years, current church leaders have spoken out against racism, but they have neglected to offer the apology that is warranted. For me, it is the same as if a man were abusive to his spouse. At some point, he realizes that maltreating his wife is having negative effects on his goals and direction in life, so he stops. Later, he sees another person abusing their spouse, and he tells the other person that they are despicable and should repent. He preaches that spousal abuse is a terrible sin, never mentioning his own infractions. When confronted about it, he blames his parents. They told me to act that way, he says. I was only following orders. I don’t know why they told me to do it, but I had to obey. Never an apology. Not ever.

When I saw that young man on the street corner the other day, I felt my eyes become teary. I felt mixed emotions as I felt great admiration for what the boy was doing to make the world a better place but also sad for what I was not doing. Over the past few months, I have written at least a dozen blog posts that I have not published. I just keep thinking that nobody really cares. What I write doesn’t matter to anyone. I’m not making any kind of positive impact. 

And maybe all of that is true, but is it really an excuse to say nothing, to stop trying? I wish to apologize yet again for giving up. Maybe, dear reader, you are among those that would prefer that I just stay quiet. However, my personal integrity compels me to speak the truth, even when it hurts or isn’t popular. You can expect more from me moving forward.

Rambling on Religious Blogs – A Wasted but Possibly Therapeutic Day

I won’t say today was a bad day, but I didn’t get as much done as I would have liked despite spending far too much time in front of my work computer. As I got to school this morning, I opened up Facebook for what was meant to be just a minute or less. Instead, I saw that a Facebook friend had shared a blog with a title that really resonated – How to Stay Mormon When You’re Tired of Mormons. Sometimes, I’m so tired of Mormons I just can’t stand it anymore, and yet I still somehow find myself in church every Sunday. Curiosity piqued, I clicked on the link. You can read it here.

I know I should have just stayed away. Most of the time, I do stay away from all of my friend’s Mormon links. But there’s still a part of me that can’t quite leave it alone. Anyway, it was a good article aimed at helping members stay active that might otherwise choose to leave. The writer seemed to be fairly open-minded and accepting of differences and someone that I wouldn’t mind having as a friend. If it weren’t for the comments at the end though, that would have been it for today’s blog reading.

With 148 comments at the time I read it, and some of them quite lengthy, this blog was clearly quite popular. The comments were written by a variety of people, mostly sympathetic Mormons, but many ex-Mormons and non-Mormons also. For the most part, the comments were positive, but there were some that seemed quite judgmental, even to the point of telling the author that she was doing the work of Satan and that she should repent. At least one commenter referenced Ezra Taft Benson’s Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet. If you haven’t read that yet, it can be helpful in understanding why some commenters feel so strongly about this issue. Anyway, there were so many comments that the author chose to write a followup blog. You can find it here.

There were fewer comments after the follow-up blog, but there was one that seemed particularly interesting. You can read her long comment here. The commenter shows with direct quotations from Brigham Young, Joseph Smith, and other early church leaders how they taught against accepting the words of church leaders at face value. There should be a place for reason and a spiritual witness even above the words of prophets and apostles. If you know my history, you can see how these words might have resonated with me. I have chosen to allow the voice in my heart to trump the words of the prophet, and that has made me an apostate. At the end of that comment, she references another interesting blog worth reading… and I couldn’t help myself.

The blog post, The Lion, The Old Prophet and The Man of God is a retelling of 1 King 13. The author of the blog is most certainly apostate, so members may find some interesting ideas if they click around, but nothing too faith damaging. If that bothers you, you can just read the story directly from the scriptures. Anyway, I really liked this story because it supports the idea that the word of God is more important than the voice of a prophet. I think the moral of the Bible story is that when you have a choice to listen to the voice of God or to listen to a prophet, listen to the voice of God. Many members of the church can’t believe that there will ever be a difference between the two, but the scriptures, and other stories and personal stories that I have shared and will still share in the future attest to the fact that such a situation can and does happen.

In the Bible story, the purpose of the difference between the word of the prophet and the word of God was meant as a test, which unfortunately was failed by that man of God in the story who listened to the prophet’s voice rather than God’s. Besides testing, I think the same thing can occur for other reasons as well. Perhaps we just have different things to learn or different directions to take in order to live the life that is meant for us. I think for this reason more than many others, it is important to not judge others. We just don’t know which path is right for anyone else. It’s hard enough to stay on the path that’s right for us alone, let alone others we meet along the way. Let go of judgment. Let go of pride. Remember the commandments that really matter – Here if you’ve forgotten or don’t know.

Anyway, I don’t really have a point to make today. I wasted a lot of time reading things I already knew, but enjoying the greater understanding that I was not alone in my thoughts. Through all of the blogs and comments, I saw that there were many who have gone the same way and have learned some of the same things. I had been feeling a little lonely these past few days, and this day, even though I didn’t get much work done, was therapeutic. It reminded me of those months after I came home from Hungary.

During those days, I spent a lot of time in the library, trying to get back into the habit of reading again. I came upon a section of the library that had coming out stories. As I read some of those stories, I felt a sense of relief, similar to what I have felt today. I was gay, but I was not alone. I am not alone now either. Even if nobody is coming out and saying that they have had a similar experience as me with the church or that they understand what I am going through, I know that I am not alone and that there are others out there that do understand. It would be great to have someone to talk to one of these days, but for now, I’ll just take comfort in the thought that I have companions out there.