In a statement about racism in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, President Gordon B. Hinckley said:
“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 is a person more prepared for revelation and inspiration.
Avoid 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 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
Communicating with a person of color about their experiences can be an important way to let minority communities know they are heard and valued. When appropriate, ask about what they’d like to share. It’s important to remember that it is not the responsibility of a person of color to educate others and may not wish to talk. Respect this decision and do all you can to seek out information elsewhere with the goal of bettering the world and bettering yourself. Speaking with people of color may especially good for ward and auxiliary leaders to better understand how to address any issues the ward may be facing.
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.