When people talk about “privilege” — as in “white privilege” or “male privilege” or “straight privilege” — it can be easy for some people to tune out. Here’s another social justice warrior telling me I should feel bad for something I have no control over, or telling me I didn’t earn my place in the world through hard work and smarts.
The thing is, Mormon doctrine talks about privilege all the time. We just call it “blessings.” As in, count your blessings:
Count your blessings;
Name them one by one.
Count your blessings;
See what God hath done.

When we think of “blessings” as “privilege,” it can be easier to listen to what those bleeding hearts are trying to tell us. While one might say “be aware of your privilege,” a Mormon might say “count your many blessings.” Where one might say “acknowledge and oppose systems of oppression,” a Mormon might say “I cannot see another’s lack and I not share.” We’re saying the same thing, or at least we should be.

Because I have been given much, I too must give.
Because of thy great bounty, Lord each day I live.
I shall divide my gifts from thee with every brother that I see,
who has the need of help from me.
Because I have been sheltered, fed by thy good care…
I cannot see another’s lack and I not share-
my glowing fire, my loaf of bread-my roof’s safe shelter over head,
that he too may be comforted.
Because I have been blessed by thy great love dear Lord,
I’ll share thy love again according to thy word.
I shall give love to those in need. I’ll show that love by word and deed,
thus shall my thanks be thanks indeed.
Whether we’re counting our blessings or acknowledging inequalities, Mormon doctrine teaches us to be aware of our privilege and then work to serve others by leveling the playing field. As one author puts it, this need can be compared to biking:

So let’s say both you and your friend decide to go cycling. You decide to cycle for the same distance, but you take different routes. You take a route that is a bit bumpy. More often than not, you go down roads that are at a slight decline. It’s very hot, but the wind is at usually at your back. You eventually get to your destination, but you’re sunburnt, your legs are aching, you’re out of breath, and you have a cramp.

When you eventually meet up with your friend, she says that the ride was awful for her. It was also bumpy. The road she took was at an incline the entire time. She was even more sunburnt than you because she had no sunscreen. At one point, a strong gust of wind blew her over and she hurt her foot. She ran out of water halfway through. When she hears about your route, she remarks that your experience seemed easier than hers.

Does that mean that you didn’t cycle to the best of your ability? Does it mean that you didn’t face obstacles? Does it mean that you didn’t work hard? No. What it means is that you didn’t face the obstacles she faced.

Privilege doesn’t mean your life is easy or that you didn’t work hard. It simply means that you don’t have to face the obstacles others have to endure. It means that life is more difficult for those who don’t have the systemic privilege you have.

Being aware of our blessings and privilege is not always easy. There are all kinds of privilege quizzes throughout the interwebs designed to help us acknowledge the blessings that we can easily take for granted. The quiz linked to below is a start for us Mormons–it’s nowhere near perfect, but it’s a start.

Click here to view a Count Your Blessings (aka Check your Privilege) worksheet

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