Things are starting to fall apart, it seems. After several days of silence, the Church has issued a statement. At the Newsroom (formerly the Mormon Newsroom): “President Nelson Shares Social Post and Calls for Respect for Human Dignity.” Unlike the usual Official Statement format that has been used in the past, there is no attachment with a formal letter over the signature of the First Presidency. Instead, there is a link to a long post at Pres. Nelson’s Facebook page. How Trumpian. That’s why it is sort of a Church statement. It is certainly a statement by Pres. Nelson. I wonder if Pres. Oaks and Pres. Eyring will issue their own statements on Facebook?
So you can go to the Facebook post to read the text. Here are a few selections. First sentence:
We join with many throughout this nation and around the world who are deeply saddened at recent evidences of racism and a blatant disregard for human life.
Deeply saddened? I’m deeply saddened when my football team loses. I’ll bet the bishop is deeply saddened when a nice family moves out of the ward. How about “very upset”? Or maybe “righteously angry”?
We abhor the reality that some would deny others respect and the most basic of freedoms because of the color of his or her skin.
I know what you’re thinking. I imagine those who draft these statements labor long and hard on the wording so people like you and me don’t immediately respond, “yeah, even though that’s more or less what they Church did for 150 years.”
We are also saddened when these assaults on human dignity lead to escalating violence and unrest.
Assaults on human dignity? Evidences of racism (from the first sentence)? Referring to specific shocking acts using broad, general language serves to soften the acts. Bad things happen. Okay, but what exactly? How about: “We are appalled when black Americans continue to die while in police custody, most recently when three police officers in Minnesota pinned a handcuffed black man to the ground with a knee across his neck for eight minutes, until he died.”
There is a stronger denunciation of property damage later in the statement. My take is that LDS leaders love cops almost as much as they love farmers, so they are certainly not going to issue a sharp rebuke of any police action. But destroying property is “evil.”
Illegal acts such as looting, defacing, or destroying public or private property cannot be tolerated. Never has one wrong been corrected by a second wrong. Evil has never been resolved by more evil.
Some nicely phrased thoughts appear near the end of the text. Almost Uchtdorfian.
We need to foster a fundamental respect for the human dignity of every human soul, regardless of their color, creed, or cause.
And we need to work tirelessly to build bridges of understanding rather than creating walls of segregation.
For a more detailed review of the statement, along with some quotations from other religious leaders in the Salt Lake area, read Peggy Fletcher Stack’s article at the Salt Lake Tribune, “Racists need to repent, says LDS Church as Utah faith leaders call for end to prejudice, violence.” It’s a very nice article. I’m glad Utah faith leaders know how to speak directly and forcefully about these troubling acts, civil injustice, peaceful protest, and opportunistic looting and rioting.
And for comparison here are a couple of quotations from statements posted at the websites of other denominations. From the Vatican News, “US bishops condemn killing of George Floyd, deplore violence and destruction.” The article quotes from a statement released by the the President of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. You can read the full statement at the USCCB website. It’s a powerful statement. Here are the first three paragraphs.
The killing of George Floyd was senseless and brutal, a sin that cries out to heaven for justice. How is it possible that in America, a black man’s life can be taken from him while calls for help are not answered, and his killing is recorded as it happens?
I am praying for George Floyd and his loved ones, and on behalf of my brother bishops, I share the outrage of the black community and those who stand with them in Minneapolis, Los Angeles, and across the country. The cruelty and violence he suffered does not reflect on the majority of good men and women in law enforcement, who carry out their duties with honor. We know that. And we trust that civil authorities will investigate his killing carefully and make sure those responsible are held accountable.
We should all understand that the protests we are seeing in our cities reflect the justified frustration and anger of millions of our brothers and sisters who even today experience humiliation, indignity, and unequal opportunity only because of their race or the color of their skin. It should not be this way in America. Racism has been tolerated for far too long in our way of life.
On the front page of the United Methodist Church website is an article, “Deconstructing White Privilege,” along with this directive:
The General Commission on Religion and Race invites United Methodist Christians to engage in conversations about race, racial identity and the challenges that come when racial prejudices and bias are combined with institutional power and privilege, typically defined as racism.
They provide a discussion guide and a video to assist those hoped-for conversations about race and the challenges of racial prejudice and institutional power. If I forwarded the link to the COB, I wonder if a similar article might appear at LDS.org, deconstructing white privilege and calling for a discussion among Mormon Christians about race, racial identity, racial prejudice, and institutional power?
Conclusion. It’s an ugly time in America. First the novel coronavirus and the direct suffering of those afflicted, then the civil and economic hardship suffered by millions as many agencies and businesses shut down and millions of jobs went away, and now civil unrest across the country. This could be a very long summer. We all need an extra dose of patience, kindness, and fortitude in coming months.