Early Thursday morning, a link began circulating on social media which led to a realistic-looking Mormon Newsroom page, “President Nelson Meets With NAACP: Offers Apology for History of Racism.” For a Church that supposedly offers no apologies, the admission was shocking, and the link spread like wildfire.
The link is ostensibly from a site called Mormon-Newsroom.org, a close copy of the real MormonNewsroom.org URL. It proclaims itself in the footer as “the official pasquinade newsroom of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints” (sharp-eyed folks noted the misspelling of Latter-day Saints). For those unfamiliar with the word, pasquinade means “a satire or lampoon, especially on posted in a public place.”
The 2400+ word statement includes scriptures and quotes from previous Church leaders. A link is provided to an associated false First Presidency letter, complete with letterhead and signatures. The “official statement” goes beyond the disavowals of racist teachings that we find in the “Race and the Priesthood” Gospel Topics essay. The wording attributed to President Nelson is emphatic,
We have previously acknowledged that the false and racist explanations for the Priesthood and Temple restriction were wrong and disavowed them. Today, I am declaring that the ban itself was wrong. It was not of God but of fallible men, born of ignorance, pride and sin….
On behalf of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, its current and past leaders and members, I offer this humble apology and plead for forgiveness in the merciful name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
An additional announcement in the release is the establishment of a “Scriptural Review Committee on Race” to review existing LDS scriptural canon and “identify those faults of men around racism which have been left uncorrected.” The committee would then make recommendations on how to resolve these embedded philosophies, and Church leaders would decide what adjustments should be made and later present them to the membership for a sustaining vote in the April 2019 general conference.
The “official” statement includes a reminder of the upcoming “Be One” conference in a few weeks. Links to the previously mentioned false First Presidency letter and the “Race and the Priesthood” Gospel Topics essay are at the bottom of the page. As a bonus, the hoaxer includes as the “next” post a legitimate newsroom piece from last March on a million-dollar donation by LDS Charities towards the “mega-crisis” in the Democratic Republic in Congo where “[n]early 8 million people in the DRC struggle to find food amidst warring factions.”
The posting was timed perfectly. It was widely known that Church leaders would meet with the national leaders of the NAACP on Thursday morning. The Church itself was publicizing a joint statement to be made by the First Presidency and the NAACP at 9:15am MDT. But when the broadcast aired, anyone who still hadn’t picked up that the statement and letter were hoaxes would’ve recognized that the ideas expressed in the fake press release were not matching President Nelson’s statements.
Church members are becoming accustomed to ground-breaking changes from this new president. In the few months of Nelson’s presidency, priesthood quorums have been restructured, the decades-old home teaching and visiting teachings programs have been replaced, and the Church announced a planned withdrawal from their century-old relationship with Scouting in association with a worldwide initiative to overhaul programs for older Primary children and youth. Perhaps this increased tolerance for what Elder Jeffrey R. Holland termed the “rush of revelation” made the wildly ambitious claims more believable to some.
For those individuals who were momentarily duped, they can count themselves in good company. Even a Salt Lake-based television station was fooled and published an article on the fake announcement (it was quickly pulled).
Given the tumultuous history with the LDS Church and race, especially against black members (men and women) affected by the temple and priesthood ban, this hoax seems particularly cruel. However, the fact that many Mormons all across the faith spectrum jumped on believing these ambitious claims seems important and worthy of discussion.
- Did you see this link shared in your social media circles? Did you fall for it? (I did.)
- What did you think about the content of the statement?
- Why do you think members were willing to believe it?
- Did you listen to the real statements by President Nelson and Derrick Johnson (president and CEO of the NAACP) in the brief broadcast? Thoughts?