Yesterday, Andrew mentioned a Mormon stay-at-home-mom involved with last weekend’s race-fueled conflict at Charlottesville. Ayla Stewart, who tweets at @apurposefulwife and blogs at Wife With a Purpose, was scheduled to speak with a handful of other alt right activists, white nationalists, and white supremacists at a “Unite the Right” rally. Due to violence, Stewart was not able to participate in that event as planned, though she took ample opportunity to make some controversial tweets on the matter. (See Andrew’s post for those.)
Stewart claimed that the church’s original statement on Sunday condemning racism supported her pro-white position in condemning anti-white sentiment. Today the church updated their Charlottesville statement to say that it was never their intent to suggest they were in support of pro-white activism or white supremacy.
It has been called to our attention that there are some among the various pro-white and white supremacy communities who assert that the Church is neutral toward or in support of their views. Nothing could be further from the truth. In the New Testament, Jesus said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:37-39). The Book of Mormon teaches “all are alike unto God” (2 Nephi 26:33).
White supremacist attitudes are morally wrong and sinful, and we condemn them. Church members who promote or pursue a “white culture” or white supremacy agenda are not in harmony with the teachings of the Church.
So who is Ayla Stewart, what is her mission, and does the Mormon Alt Right have a future in light of today’s events?
Ayla Stewart’s history is something I couldn’t make up. For autobiographical overviews see here, here, and here. She was born in Tennessee but grew up in Southern Nevada (Las Vegas) and Southern Utah (Beaver). While in Vegas, she got a bachelor’s degree in German and a minor in Anthropology. She then moved to San Francisco and got a Masters in Women’s Spirituality (combining theology, anthropology, and women’s studies). Her master’s thesis was on home births in the Mormon and Amish communities. Although she’d been a pagan since her teens, her graduate studies led her to investigate Mormonism and she was baptized in 2008. Shortly afterwards she presented her thesis and participated in panel discussions at the Sunstone Symposium.
Prior to her Mormon conversion, Stewart was quite active in the pagan community, and wrote for SageWoman magazine, among others. She had her own (now-defunct) blog, Mother Lover Goddess, and upon conversion to Mormonism reportedly considered her pagan beliefs “consistent with Joseph Smith, Jr.’s interest and teachings in ritual and magic.” At the By Common Consent blog, one commenter affectionately called her the Bloggernacle’s blue-haired witch.
Stewart became inactive in the Mormon religion for about a year, attending the Episcopal church, and attributed that time to development of a much closer relationship with Christ via the bible. She returned to Mormonism and has been active ever since.
She describes her original political leanings as “Leftist Progressive.” She went to liberal colleges, and considered herself a feminist. When Stewart first joined the church in 2008, she struggled with the church’s conservative position on women’s ordination and gay marriage. Later her views changed radically. In 2009 she “learned the truth about homosexuality.” She was always very family-oriented and anti-abortion, even as a progressive, but upon reading books like Helen Andelin’s Fascinating Womanhood, she became anti-feminist and fully converted to the “trad life” (the restoration and preservation of traditional values, according to her current storefront.) It wasn’t until 2015 that the growing refugee crisis drove her to the Alt Right movement and white advocacy.
Wife With a Purpose Ministry
Ayla Stewart’s blog was originally called Nordic Sunrise, but at some point it changed to the Wife With a Purpose moniker. The online magazine, as she calls it, is to “support the revolution of radical traditionalism.” In explaining her purpose, Stewart says:
We have an epidemic in the Western world right now. In America and Europe citizens have become self obsessed, lazy, fat, demanding, spoiled, loud, controlling, egotistical and mentally ill. Feminism, homosexuality, atheism, hedonism, and transgender-ism are being promoted while the hard work and priorities of family and faith have all but died away and this pattern is killing us, physically and spiritually….
Whether found in protestant gatherings, Catholic traditions, the tea-party, Trump supporters, Mormon families, Amish barn raisings, Old Order or Conservative Mennonites, the purity movement, the stay-at-home daughter movement, homesteading, quiver-full, patriarchy movement, the fight against Islam, traditional homemaking, the hopeful repeal of the 19th amendment, or the quest to keep our countries from being over run with migrants and illegal aliens, etc, we will explore how peoples everywhere are saying yes to hard work, yes to big families, yes to the Lord and His plan for our families and our future. (emphasis in original)
Yeah, I know. The “hopeful” repeal of the 19th amendment. Emmeline B. Wells is rolling over in her grave.
This description covers well Ayla Stewart’s feelings about traditional gender roles. The stay-at-home daughter movement, quiverfull movement (advocating procreation), and traditional homemaking all relate to the domestic sphere of motherhood. The patriarchy movement and repeal of the 19th amendment relate to the dominant role of men in both public and private spheres. In blog posts, Stewart advises women to act appropriately: dressing for the weekend (spoiler: blouse and skirt), and top ten points of lady-like behavior (eat slow, don’t stomp, and always smile, among others). And remember, “it’s the duty of every woman to watch her figure closely.”
In a recent address at a so-called #TrueBlueMormon Conference, Stewart argued that anti-feminist beliefs in the Alt Right movement are consistent with the Family Proclamation, the church’s historic position against the Equal Rights Amendment, and New Testament scriptural commands in Ephesians for wives to submit to their husbands. As she pointed out, things are dire if children are oppressing and women are ruling (Isaiah 3:12).
What is less obvious in the ministry description, however, is Stewart’s strong support of white advocacy and nationalism.
In her blog, Stewart promotes celebration of European cultures, specifically white Christian European cultures. If your little girl is taking a dance class, make sure it fits with a white cultural perspective. Try to eat more traditional European foods. Is it Halloween? Show off European cultural pride! Don’t want to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr., in January? Celebrate Robert E. Lee! Or how about celebrating the European heroes who liberated our ancestors from the slavery of Arab rule! (Yeah, so funny thing, Robert E. Lee also had a connection to slavery…) Yoga isn’t Hindu, it’s Scandinavian gymnastics! Jesus and Egyptian pharoahs had fair skin and red hair, didn’t you know? White privilege doesn’t exist. If anything, current popular culture has not respect for white European culture and doesn’t even “consider Caucasian to be an ethnicity.” Whites are the victims of racism. She even wrote a pro-white children’s book to help kids become more proud of their white heritage.
In her recent speech at the #TrueBlueMormon Conference, Stewart pointed to the Book of Mormon as proof that God doesn’t consider one race superior to another, God “loves his fair-skinned children and sees them as valuable.” With our belief of resurrected bodies of flesh and bone, we’d expect resurrected beings to display racial characteristics, including Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. And, by the way, Mary, the mother of Jesus, was noted as white, so there. The Priesthood Ban proves that God agrees there is a distinction between races, even if they are technically equal in his sight. If race exists (and God seems to think it does), then it’s okay to celebrate one’s racial “tribe.” It’s about heritage, not hate. The whole Spirit of Elijah thing. So we truly need to stop racism as the church recently said, the anti-white racism.
Stewart hints at the nationalism with the goal of keeping “our countries from being over run with migrants and illegal aliens” in the description of her ministry. There are two aspects to this argument. The first is the concept of a homeland, and the second is defense.
At the recent conference, Stewart used a statement by then-Elder Russell M. Nelson to prove that God intended for different peoples to have their own homelands.
People can be “brought to the knowledge of the Lord”39 without leaving their homelands. True, in the early days of the Church, conversion often meant emigration as well. But now the gathering takes place in each nation. The Lord has decreed the establishment of Zion40 in each realm where He has given His Saints their birth and nationality. Scripture foretells that the people “shall be gathered home to the lands of their inheritance, and shall be established in all their lands of promise.”41 “Every nation is the gathering place for its own people.”42 The place of gathering for Brazilian Saints is in Brazil; the place of gathering for Nigerian Saints is in Nigeria; the place of gathering for Korean Saints is in Korea; and so forth. Zion is “the pure in heart.”43 Zion is wherever righteous Saints are. Publications, communications, and congregations are now such that nearly all members have access to the doctrines, keys, ordinances, and blessings of the gospel, regardless of their location.
For her, the Alt Right movement fully supports this Mormon view of Zion in each homeland:
[12:17] The positions of the alt right–which are sovereignty for all peoples, homelands for all peoples, we want all people to thrive in their native lands. We’re against massive illegal immigration, we’re against these refugee programs, these migrant programs that are bringing people into Europe, America, and Australia and so forth–that that lines up very well not only with the gospel, but is something we’re supposed to be doing. We’re supposed to be encouraging people to stay in their own countries and build Zion there in order to make the world a place where the Second Coming can happen.
But with a homeland, Stewart sees an obligation to forebearers. In a biting April 2017 post, she suggests that members of the church are dishonoring the sacrifices of their pioneer ancestors by giving away their hard-won land to undeserving and dangerous migrants and outsiders. But dishonoring our ancestors also happens when declining birthrates threatens our cultures to extinction. Stewart uses Elder L. Tom Perry‘s 2005 warning,
I asked, “What will happen in your country with the changes that are occurring? The declining population and the influx of an increasing number of immigrants will eventually make you a minority in your own land.”
With great national pride, he replied, “This will never happen.”
I countered, “How can you support such a position with immigration exceeding your country’s birthrate?”
It’s this very real fear of white extinction that prompted Stewart to issue a tongue-in-cheek “white baby challenge” earlier this year. The Alt Right has as a founding principle, “we must secure the existence of white people and a future for white children.” But, as she informed Dr. Darron Smith in a podcast earlier this year, she’s not necessarily saying the United States (or Canada, or Australia, or Europe) should be totally white, just a white majority as the founders intended. After all, D&C 38:20 says this land is the inheritance of churchmembers, so that proves God intended for this land to be white majority because they were all white(?). The scripture is noted in her Twitter description, so I assume it matters.
Anyway, Stewart also uses the Book of Mormon to justify the defense of the white homelands against threats to their wives and children. Are you keeping your wife safe, she asks, “if you allow hordes of violent third world immigrants into your nation?” and often points out the crimes of refugees against white people in Europe and the United States in her blog posts. Although she recognizes the Christian virtue of loving your neighbor, she asks people to think of their neighbors at home:
But are you so fixated on the neighbor half way around the world that you have forgotten your actual neighbor living right next door? Have you forgotten that a demand to change the country’s demographics will affect him and his family too? Have you forgotten that he also has a wife and daughters he doesn’t want assaulted? He has property he doesn’t want stolen or vandalized. He has a job he wants to keep and a wage he doesn’t want driven down by migrant workers. He has children and grandchildren and he wants them to have a safe future in our country.
The Book of Mormon pleads for husbands to protect their wives and children (Alma 43), so it is our gospel duty to think of their safety first.
The Future of the Mormon Alt Right
Those in the Mormon Alt Right were emboldened by Elder D. Todd Christofferson’s recent general conference address, where he said those who claim tolerance can often be the most judgmental:
Sometimes those who raise a warning voice are dismissed as judgmental. Paradoxically, however, those who claim truth is relative and moral standards are a matter of personal preference are often the same ones who most harshly criticize people who don’t accept the current norm of “correct thinking.”
Yet today’s statement condemning the pro-white movement is hitting those like Ayla Stewart hard:
Honestly, prior to today’s statement, I felt the future of the Mormon Alt Right was pretty bright. Ayla’s statements were similar to those I’ve seen on comments at the Deseret News and by my own associates on Facebook. I was born after the Priesthood Ban, but it was not unusual to hear growing up that white people were God’s elect, and ethnic Europeans held more literal blood of the House of Israel than any other group. You don’t just eliminate that thinking overnight. I didn’t think the church would risk giving up an ally in defending traditional roles in the family, but I was clearly wrong.
- What do you think about the future of the Mormon Alt Right?
- Now that pro-white sentiment and white supremacy have been declared “not in harmony with the teachings of the church,” do you think discipline is likely for outspoken Mormon members of the Alt Right?
 Dr. Darron Smith and Ayla Stewart argued quite a bit in a recent podcast when she pulled out physical anthropology to support some of her racial views. It’s painful, yet entertaining.
 And, based on her previous statements, she’s gonna go with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ as white. By Common Consent just had a post on this stuff, btw.
 One point in this section didn’t make sense to me. She noted Kimball’s statement on the skin of those in the Indian Placement Program becoming lighter – wouldn’t that argue against a permanent race designation that carries with someone into the resurrection?
 I’ve been doing family history for a decade. It’s appropriate to celebrate your heritage and ethnicity, but if you’re giving people the heebie jeebies (like, I don’t know, carrying a Nazi flag), you might want to reexamine your method of celebration.
 Ironically, the ethnicities Stewart identifies as “white” weren’t always identified as such.
 So her whole idea of the United States, Canada, and Australia deserving to be white majority “homelands” for ethnic Europeans is based on where European immigrants settled, yet the Alt Right movement says ancestry trumps geography.There’s a hole in that logic.