In their statement on the horrific events of Charlottesville, Virginia, that left one woman dead and another nineteen injured, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints quoted President Gordon B. Hinckley:
“No man who makes disparaging remarks concerning those of another race can consider himself a true disciple of Christ. Nor can he consider himself to be in harmony with the teachings of the Church of Christ.” For members of the Church, we reaffirm that teaching today and the Savior’s admonition to love our neighbor.
One way we can take this admonition more seriously is to actively combat racism in our wards and branches. These five points are a great starting place for members of the Church who may struggle to understand why we even need to talk about race in the first place. Pick one, open your heart, and determine what course of action is best for you to more fully align yourself with the teachings of the Church.
Educate Yourself on Race Issues in the Church
The Church has a history with members of different races, the most prominent being the ban of black male members holding the priesthood. In recent years, the Church has worked hard to become transparent on such issues. It is important you take the time to study these issues and be prepared to talk about them with members and non-members alike. An educated person in a person more prepared for revelation and inspiration.
Avoid Mormon Myths on Race
In the past, Church members and even Church leaders have interpreted scriptures connected to race. This includes Book of Mormon scriptures about people with darker skin being cursed or the mythology that those with different skin colors were less valiant in the premortal life.
None of these statements are part of official Church doctrine and should not be perpetuated. Even speculation on such topics can be contentious and painful for members of different races to listen to.
Take People of Color in Your Congregation Seriously
Many people of color in our congregations do not feel like other members take them seriously when they try to discuss the racism they face within the Church and in their communities. First and foremost, we need to lend an empathetic ear and validate the concerns. We need to recognize racism is real and does exist in our world, even if we are not exposed to it.
When national or worldwide events occur surrounding the topic of race and racism, reach out to your ward members who may be struggling or feeling alone. Offer to talk with them about what they’re experiencing, even if you can’t fully understand.
Teach About Diversity & Racism
Many members of the Church live in less-diverse populations. That’s ok! However, we need to help promote diversity and acceptance. We need to be welcoming to visitors of color to our congregations. We need to teach children how to react to those who are different than them, such as talking about natural black hairstyles, cultural and religious clothing, and different languages.
We also need to talk about racism. We can discuss why it is so important that we treat everyone equally and with love, because there are many in the world who don’t feel they need to. Just as we teach children not to be racist, we need to teach them how to stand up to racism. They go hand in hand.
Ask a Person of Color to Share Their Thoughts
People of color have a large well of information concerning race and the Church that is likely sacred to them. Talk with them. Ask for their opinions on how your ward or branch can improve. Ask for help in understanding what their world is like. Ask how you can support them when they face racism from others. Help them know their knowledge and experience as a person of color in the gospel is vital to the spiritual growth of all Church members.
We invite members of the Church to share their suggestions below on how we can do a better job as Church communities to combat racism.