For the Cause of Righteousness: A Global History of Blacks and Mormonism 1830-2013

by Mike Barker Ah, yes. Race. We’ve all heard the aphorism, “Two things you never want to discuss are religion and politics.”  For many whites, we want to add a third thing, “Don’t talk about issues of race.”  But to be honest, we must. Especially those of us born into white privilege. It’s a discussion where us whites need to do a lot more listening to your Black and Latino brothers and sisters and do a lot more talking amongst our white-selves. But it’s hard work. To be honest, it seems most progressive and post-Mormons don’t want to talk about it unless it is to shame the Church. Often the converse is true for traditional believing Mormons –  race is only discussed when trying to defend past racist policies and ongoing institutional racism.  The white American LDS Church just hasn’t figured out how to talk about race and racism as it is reflected in our individual lives; that is just too painful. With that being said, Russell Stevenson’s opening preface to, For the Cause of Righteousness,  is a self-examination of his own white privilege.  In his opening paragraph he states: “One of the tragic luxuries of living a white narrative is the ability to entertain the delusion that non-white populations and their struggles are, at best, irrelevant.” Later in his preface, Stevenson sets up the boundaries of how he is going to approach the global history of Blacks and Mormonism when he states: “Religion is made on the ground as well as it is revealed from Mount Sinai.” That is, Mormonism’s racial attitudes descended from leadership, but also came up from the grass roots.  This is a controversial view for some, as it puts some of the blame on the Mormons that are not in high leadership positions.  Or to be even more explicit, some have called Stevenson’s view, “victim blaming.”  As Stevenson constructs his approach, he presents a complicated and compelling argument of why/how “leadership” doesn’t always lead. CHAPTER ONE In chapter one, Stevenson weaves the well known story...

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If garments don’t feel oppressive, are they?

I recently read the fantastic opinion piece by Mette Harrison via The Huffington Post entitled “If We Don’t Feel Oppressed, Are We?” and it really hit home with me. When discussing matters that bothered me in the church, in particular the inequality of women and men in leadership, the argument I received (and echoed in Mette’s article) was: “Well, I don’t feel that way.” In fact, a PR representative from the church in response to women asking for church leaders to pray about the role of women in the order of the priesthood said, “Women in the church, by a very large majority, do not share your advocacy for priesthood ordination for women and consider that position to be extreme.” To pass it all off as kosher we tell women how wonderful they are. And somehow by saying this the masses are placated. Women, when told how innately motherly they are, suddenly forget how much they rocked their business law class because they now feel like becoming a working professional is a role that is less important. We tell women how righteous and spiritual they are and how special it is that they have all these special divine roles that men don’t. Because women have a uterus. Because babies. I’m not arguing that women don’t or shouldn’t posses these qualities. Many women do. BUT, so do many men. And many women posses strong leadership and spiritual qualities often attributed to men. It’s frustrating to me as a woman in the church to see women reduced to their body and what it produces. That because they can give birth they are somehow equal to men and God. Because they’re so special they don’t need anything other than motherhood. Children are enough. Being a mother is enough. I’ve written a few times about modesty in the church and the problem I feel it holds when we focus on lines. I have talked about how it teaches members to focus on the body of the person and...

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Noah, Same-Sex Marriage, and Citizenship

The church offers materials in 105 languages on its website. At least portions of the website are available to be viewed in at least 73 languages. The Gospel Topics section, which has gotten a lot of attention for its essays on controversial topics, is available in 10 languages. Some of these are recent additions. I wanted to look at the Gospel Topics pages in each of the 10 languages to see if they all have the same pages available across languages. Here is the summary:   Pages which are only available in English Addiction Technically there is an addiction page in the other languages, but it only suggests that they look at “Gambling”, “Pornography” (also only in English), or “Word of Wisdom”. Citizenship While you might think that this should be a universal topic, the Gospel Topics page on Citizenship is very American centric. If you look at the footnotes you’ll see that 3 of the US founding fathers are cited. Daughters in my Kingdom I guess this book hasn’t been translated? I don’t know. The page links to a different page with “faith-promoting principles patterns, and practices contained in the history”. Maybe just that page of resources isn’t translated. Employment This surprisingly isn’t explicitly American centric in content. It basically says that you need to work and that according to the Family Proc, fathers are supposed to preside and provide. Maybe it’s not translated because of the awareness that in many economies internationally both parents have to work. However, if that was actually the reasoning then you’d think that it would easily apply in the US as well (because very few people have jobs capable of providing for a family on one income). Environmental Stewardship and Conservation I’m not sure why this isn’t available in other languages because it is a fantastic page. It even directly addresses likely rebuttals that you would hear from your average member, such as “If the earth will be changed at the Second Coming of Jesus, why does it...

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BYU-I: All Aboard the Crazy Train

Sep 18, 14 BYU-I: All Aboard the Crazy Train

Posted by in Featured, Gospel Topics, Modesty, Obedience

This little gem came across my Facebook feed this afternoon. It has already gotten a lot of buzz so I thought I would throw in my two cents, since I am alumni. President Clark is the president of BYU-Idaho located in Rexburg, Idaho. This is what he wrote on his Facebook page:       Go ahead and read it again, I’ll wait here for you. All ready? So let’s just go through this bit by bit. BYU-Idaho does have a dress and grooming standards that ALL students have agreed upon before entering the school. It is a requirement to sign this agreement or “Honor Code” to attend this school. That being said, this is all wrong – along with this dress and grooming standards. His statement is terrible because it lacks understanding and compassion. He doesn’t know these students and he doesn’t know why they are dressed this way. Was the non-clean shaven man up late the night before taking care of a sick roommate? We don’t know and neither does President Clark. All he knows is that these men are not obedient. Since they can’t be obedient with something so trivial, something so small, who knows what is happening when he goes home! He is probably touching pink parts with his girlfriend!!!!! SINNERS! ALL OF THEM! This is the culture of obedience. This is the culture of the Pharisees. It’s time to revisit the archaic “standards” so we can get rid of this culture and get some hair where God himself put it and also where He wears it very well. If Jesus can’t even obey these “standards” it might be time to reconsider them. It’s time to get off this train! “The worst sinners, according to Jesus, are not the harlots and publicans, but the religious leaders with their insistence on proper dress and grooming, their careful observance of all the rules, their precious concern for status symbols, their strict legality, their pious patriotism. Longhairs, beards, necklaces, LSD and rock, Big...

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Stop it! …No, seriously, stop it right now.

Jesus put it rather simply: “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” To that simple injunction, he added a more specific warning: “With whatsoever measure ye mete, it shall be measured unto you.” Barreling through the King James English, that means, “Your own measuring stick will be used to measure you.” If you judge another person hastily, you will be judged in haste. If you apply an unfair standard of righteousness, you will be held to the same unfair standard. If you are petty and easily offended, your judge will be of the same mind. This should be a sobering thought to a people like us Mormons who looooooove judgement. Well, Peter, you say… All people are judgmental, how do you justify singling out Mormons as particularly given to judgment? The point is well made, that we are not necessarily any more judgmental than any other body of Christians. But I would counter that we are certainly not any less judgmental than others. Consider the recent remarks of President Dieter F. Uchtdorf in General Conference. “This topic of judging others could actually be taught in a two-word sermon. When it comes to hating, gossiping, ignoring, ridiculing, holding grudges, or wanting to cause harm, please apply the following: Stop it! It’s that simple. We simply have to stop judging others and replace judgmental thoughts and feelings with a heart full of love for God and His children. God is our Father. We are His children. We are all brothers and sisters. I don’t know exactly how to articulate this point of not judging others with sufficient eloquence, passion, and persuasion to make it stick. I can quote scripture, I can try to expound doctrine, and I will even quote a bumper sticker I recently saw. It was attached to the back of a car whose driver appeared to be a little rough around the edges, but the words on the sticker taught an insightful lesson. It read, “Don’t judge me because I sin differently than you.” We...

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Unattainable Male Standard of Beauty- A Conversation With My Daughter

I overheard my oldest daughter Sammie the other day say she wanted fake eyelashes. She’s only 15. What follows is my best recollection of the conversation that followed. Some of what I said I wish I could change. There are a few statements I wish were more nuanced and sensitive. I recognize the irony of a man having this discussion with a female but there is no one else in my daughter’s life to do it. Let me say upfront that my purpose in sharing this conversation is to draw attention to certain issues and not to judge those who get caught up in the tyranny of modern beauty standards. —— Sammie talking to my wife-  I think I want to get eyelash extensions. Mine are too short. Me– What the hell are you talking about? Who told you your eyelashes are too short? (I’m angry and frustrated because we’ve discussed male established standards of beauty many times before.) Sammie- My eyelashes are short Dad. Lydia (sister) has long eyelashes but mine are short and ugly and mascara doesn’t help. Me – That wasn’t my question. Who told you long eyelashes are better than short ones? S- I don’t know. Me- What do you mean you don’t know. We’ve talked about this a million times. You’re ignoring the question because you know the answer. S- Men! All right Dad. Men set the standard. Sometimes women reinforce it but it’s mostly men who make it. You’ve told me this before. Me- Exactly. You know what? I think it’s a good idea to go top to bottom and identify some of the insane lengths women go to in chasing this unattainable standard of beauty. Me- Who told women they should color their hair? Some blond women want caramel highlights. Brown haired women want blond highlights. Some women want straight black hair. Women with black hair break their necks trying to die their hair platinum. Why? The issue isn’t dying your hair it’s that no one is ever satisfied. It’s never ending. Me- Men say long eyelashes...

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The Young Women (lessons) are a Changin’

So today I was browsing the ol’ book of Faces, when I saw a link to a Google doc done by Laura Compton comparing the Young Women’s manual from June of 2013 to June of 2014.  The lessons are on the priesthood. The changes are pretty fascinating, especially since church correlations and corrections usually attempt to be subtle enough to barely be noticed (and sometimes accusations of rewriting history are warranted.) However, these changes are, in comparison, HUGE.  There’s no way you can pass off 2013 as a misprint or just not getting it quite right the first time.  Considering how little things get changed in a short amount of time in our church, I’m sincerely impressed and even joyful over some of the changes.  I’ll share a few highlights (though I encourage you to go through it yourself) and some possible long-term implications from what I have read. **Due to technical difficulties, I could not copy and paste the highlights, so you’ll need to follow along on your own.  Page numbers are according to Google Docs.** Page 11 In this we see an interesting shift.  Originally the 2013 manual talks about how men are given the priesthood,  all the things they might do with it, and how the young women should learn about what they do.  In the 2014 manual in the same place, men aren’t specifically mentioned at all.  In fact the question itself is changed from “What are the duties of priesthood holders?” to “What are my responsibilities in the work of the priesthood?” (emphasis added.) In fact, two questions on the “prepare yourself spiritually” section really stood out to me. They are, “How do you participate in the work of the priesthood?” and “Do the YW in your class see themselves as essential participants in the work of the priesthood?”  I mean, do even the adult women see themselves as essential to the priesthood? Do the men see the women as essential to the priesthood? These questions are pretty new...

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Mar 15, 14 #doublestandard

Posted by in Featured, Modesty, Mormon Humor, Mormonism

  BYU recently held it’s Pro Day where NFL scouts come to watch players. It looks like things started out well, but eventually all hell broke loose and we had football players in underwear. I mean sports attire. I’m not sure what they were thinking posting those pictures. They know that women and kids would see these pictures of men in form fitting and almost no clothing.  And these aren’t just any men, but very attractive men. We women didn’t even stand a chance when these images assulted us in our Facebook feeds. These images may stay with us for years and could even lead to bigger problems like pornography addiction. Seeing extremely attractive and fit men leaving nothing to the imagination is a mere stepping stone into that dark and dangerous world. These men need to try harder for us because we just cannot control how we feel when we see them dressed like this. #impurethoughtsabound    #leavingeverythingtotheimagination #mormonpornforthemodest #livingrightonthefield #ryangoslingtomodestmormongirls #allmenaresupposedtobebeautiful #lustingafterhim #womencanthelpit #nomatterwhatyouwear   #wearingashirtisnotunreasonableforparticipation #orshorts #strippingimeanstriplingwarrior #askingforit #hairlust #mormonporn   #wearingashirtIStotallyunreasonable #shortstoo #mengetthewomentheydressfor #makingmesin #noselfrespect #avertthineeyes #hemakesittoohardtostrivetobepure #cannotunsee #entertainingthethought #thoughtsareseedsforactions #notjustaskingforit #demandingit #garmentfriendly #couldtakemetothetemple #leavinglittletotheimaginationthough #formfitting #thebodyismeanttobeattractive #thankyouforhighlightingthatwithyourpants #totallyleavinghimanoteinthelibrary #notestingcenteruntilhechanges #exercisepantsmustbeloosefitting #wanttotouchthehiney #modestishottest #itakethatback #thisishotter #runningporn #toosexyformyshirt #tryingtoseehimasachildofgod #singingassistersinzion #singingmakesthebadthoughtsgoaway #notouchdownsplz #dressingforthekindofwomanhewants #Idontknowwheretolook #bareshoulders #sexualshoulders #havemercy #largeinstature #toeingtheline #byunipples #pleasedontchafeandruinthisforme #Icantcontrolmythoughtsaroundhim #noticingeverythingabouthim #totallynormalforwomentodo #protectingmyvirtue #tacklingmodesty #eldercallistershomeboy #proofthatyoucanreasonablydothisactivitywithmodestclothing #iwouldtackle #imsurehehasbeautifuleyes #andasweetspirit #imagininghisthighsimeaneyes #tryingtokeepmepure #baremidriff #helloabs #whereiseldercallister #byufootballmademegay #thankgoodnesshehasgloveson #priesthoodpower #BYUfootballmakescougarsroar #meow #winkface #riseandshoutthecougarsareout #greatandspaciousbuild #toobeautiful #freegame #bromance #byumendosportsinunderwear #halfwaymodest #soclose #icantbelieveheworethat #noshortsnoproblem #notheyaresportsattire #mayaswellbewearingunderwear All pictures  used were found on BYU’s Football Facebook...

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Tears for the Unordained Women in My Life

Last Saturday my wife tells me that our 13 year old La La (nickname) is going to be set apart on Sunday as a counselor in the Beehive’s Class Presidency and we are invited to attend. I sigh, not because I don’t feel proud of her but because I feel afraid of this moment as it signals one of several uniquely Mormon events aimed at her initiation and socialization into the Mormon male priesthood. I ask my wife whether I should wear a shirt and tie. She says: “I think it would be nice” and I grumble. The following day I press my shirt, throw on some slacks and a tie, and head off to church with my family. We head to the Beehive’s classroom where my wife and I see the familiar faces of La La’s Beehive class along with the Young Women’s Presidency. I am the father of four daughters, two of whom are in Young Women’s, and lately the presidency have been regulars at our home. They have dropped off poster board, markers and glitter; They have dropped off assignments for class; They have picked up my girls for Mutual; They have stopped by to chat while they are out on their walks. Their involvement in the lives of my girls is breathtaking. I disagree with these women on occasion but without a doubt they love my girls, and that alone is worth my respect and loyalty. 

In the Beehive’s classroom I take a seat on my wife’s left. The Bishop enters. He shares a thought or two before he gestures La La to take the seat before him. He then signals for me to join him in the circle. I freeze, unprepared for this invitation. I stand up and move towards the front of the classroom where a space between the other men has opened up for me – a man. A circle of men surround my 13 year old daughter, pressing their hands upon her head while she sits...

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The Modesty Conundrum

I feel like sometimes we are painting ourselves into a corner with all this modesty stuff. We’re at a point where women’s underwear and bathing suit ads are considered pornography by some (because that is apparently where many men’s problems with pornography start? Nevermind that it could actually start because a woman’s body, self abuse masturbation,  and all things sexual are forbidden and secret sacred). Are we really at a point where we have to worry about our husbands and sons seeing women in underwear or a bikini? Where we shame and un-friend teenage girls for not upholding to your standards of dress; for wearing bikinis and towels without a bra? And now we paint clothing on Barbies so that our children don’t ever have to see a naked plastic toy body, let alone actually play with a Barbie while it is naked.   Our primary aged daughters are gossiping about how immodestly dressed their peers are, creating an idea of “we’re good because we make good choices and they aren’t as good because they aren’t making good choices” in their minds which they then reinforce in their peer groups in a classic mean girl scenario. I am so tired of it all. It kills me whenever I see modesty lauded and taught to young girls in the name of “starting early” or ensuring that such “standards” have always been the standard so there is never any question of modest dress standards when they are teenagers. It’s creating hypersexuality and awareness of a child’s body that they should not and do not need to have. It is of my own opinion (of which many others would agree), that we are doing this to ourselves. A few weeks ago a friend told me about her four year old playing Barbies. She decided they all needed to go swimming, but there were not enough swimming suits, or she just didn’t think to look for them, or they were hard to put on. All this four year...

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