The recent release of 2 essays (and subsequent responses) regarding Heavenly Mother as well as women and the Priesthood revealed differences between the concept of the divine feminine in LDS theology and culture versus concepts of the natural and supernatural rooted in communities of color around the world. Specifically in regards to healing, practices to maintain wellness among the latter vary along the lines of relationships individuals and communities have to the Earth, each other and oneself. These practices were also, at times, performed as an act of resistance against evil. Sometimes, that evil manifested itself in the form of white supremacy. For example, with the racism that permeated in institutional medicine and Eurocentric concepts of the body, African-Americans were led to form various folk healing techniques to address disease and treatment, many of which are still in use today.

As a person of color within the Church, models and histories of healing are often erased or maintained in conjunction with one’s belief in the power of the Priesthood. While the syncretization of these beliefs may strengthen one’s knowledge of a universal God, the erasure of the work of healers, shamans, Curanderas, Taulasea (among many others) can be subsequently dismissed as they are perceived to be witchcraft or evil. However, the techniques used by these healers speak to ways of knowing the world and the self, whether it is a holistic view of disease or extenuation of the same processes that we see in the world around us. It is how some may connect to the divine. This is not a critique of the Priesthood as “the power of God upon the Earth”, however as a cultural marker, it can be argued there’s an aspect that erases the healing traditions of communities of color.

In this, I want to turn this post into a conversation.

In the thread below, I invite persons of color to share healing practices that exist within their respective communities and how they incorporate (or don’t incorporate) them into their faith.

Janan Graham-Russell is a writer based in Evanston, Illinois. In 2016, she graduated from the Howard University School of Divinity with a Master of Arts in Religious Studies. Her writing focuses on culture, history, religion and theology through Black feminist and womanist lenses. Her work has been featured in The Atlantic as well as Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings (2015) and A Book of Mormons (2015). When she's not writing or doing research, she enjoys dancing to Beyonce, watching films, and spending time with her husband and infant son.

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