In the past couple weeks I’ve written about a new Latter-day Saint Twitter militia movement, DezNat, and the recent petition to better emphasize Christ-centered education at BYU. These causes piqued my interest because of their similarities to movements I blogged about a few years ago. As I’ve investigated further, though, I’ve come to realize that the similarities aren’t accidental.
Wife With a Purpose and the “Mormon Alt-Right”
In August 2017, I wrote about then-Latter-day Saint blogger Ayla Stewart, a.k.a. Wife with a Purpose. Ayla gained notoriety as an outspoken proponent of White Nationalism and the TradWife (Traditional Wife) movement. In a recently published book about women in the white nationalist movement, author Seyward Darby explained how the two movements intersect.
Tradwives and white nationalists share core objectives (more babies), myths (America’s moral decline), and iconography (happy heterosexual families). Such close proximity, particularly on social meda, makes the exchange of ideas a straightforward prospect. When a tradwife mentiones threats to “European culture” and “Western civilization,” she’s borrowing euphemistic language from white nationalists. When she talks about protecting her children from multiculturalism and black-on-white crime, she’s all but reading from the hate movement’s proverbial handbook.Seyward Darby, Sisters in Hate: American Women on the Front Lines of White Nationalism (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2020), Kindle edition locations 2323-2331.
It’s important to note that Ayla didn’t see herself as part of a “hate” movement, and she most certainly didn’t see herself as a racist or a white supremacist. She was a “race realist” who wanted to simply preserve and celebrate her “white culture” and European heritage. “All races deserved to be majorities in their homelands,” with the United States as an exception since its founding was based in European heritage. Ayla also discouraged interracial marriage. “She saw unions across races as threats to diversity, by which she meant distinct racial populations.”[fn1]
One of the beliefs that surprised me when I wrote my 2017 blog post was Ayla’s desire to repeal the Nineteenth Amendment, voting rights for women. The argument “was that women drag politics to the left in Western countries; if their suffrage were gone, white people’s problems, including low birth rates, would vanish.”[fn2]
Ayla self-identified as a member of the alt-right, and she wasn’t the only Latter-day Saint to do so. Several members of the Church active in the “Manosphere,” primarily concerned with men’s rights and neomasculinity, also identified as members of the alt-right. These included Jeffrey Johnson of the blog Red Gulls and –REDACTED– of the blog –REDACTED– (he later formed a new blog called –REDACTED–). Besides promoting each other’s blogs on their websites, they often interacted with each other and other alt-right figures on Twitter. They operated under the handles @apurposefulwife, @redgullsjeffrey, and –REDACTED– (later renamed –REDACTED–). A March 2017 Buzzfeed article, “Meet The (Alt-Right) Mormons: Inside The Church’s Vocal White Nationalist Wing,” identifed more alt-right Latter-day Saints by their Twitter handles. They showed tweets by Ayla’s @apurposefulwife, @WilhemBrucher, @solutreandream1, @JReubenCIark, and @Teancums_Spear. In May 2017, Ayla Stewart hosted the frst #TrueBlueMormon Conference of nationalist Latter-day Saints, there were “about a dozen adults as well as a bushel of kids.”[fn3] Ayla’s speech was titled “The Gospel and the Alt Right.” Two other talks included “Sustainable Christian Charity” by @CMHammer732 and “The Consequences of Postmodernism” by @stacydacheat (later renamed @MormonCounterNa).
In March 2017, this last individual (@stacydacheat/@MormonCounterNa) posted a video on YouTube called “The effect of Cultural Marxism in the Mormon Church.” A 2015 news article from The Guardian explains that the idea of Cultural Marxism is rooted in the belief that political correctness was created as a way to “destroy traditional Christian values and overthrow free enterprise” using the vehicles of feminism, multiculturalism, gay rights and atheism. The 2017 YouTube video condemned Social Justice Warriors (SJWs), defined as “Leftist, feminist, and pro-gay agitators.” Even though they represented a small portion of Latter-day Saints, Stacy explained, their influence is magnified by outside news media. These SJWs aim to portray certain groups in the church as “oppressed,” and the oppressors (according to SJWs) are always “whites, males, heterosexuals, and christians.”
“I made this video,” she said, “to show Mormons that no matter how much we bend over backwards trying to appease them and show that we’re tolerant, no matter how much we give in to their demands, even if we were to give women the priesthood and allowed gays to get married in the Church, they would come back the very next day with a new set of grievances and a new set of demands.” This video was received favorably and shared at other Latter-day Saint sites not affiliated with White Nationalism, such as Mormon Chronicle, Third Hour (previously named LDS.net and Mormon Hub), and the LDS Freedom Forum. Even the conservative mainstream blog Millennial Star praised the video.
Ayla and other alt-right Latter-day Saints again came into the spotlight in May 2017 when they responded to the trending hashtag #DearWhiteMormons. Religion News Service reporter and Latter-day Saint Jana Reiss explained that the hashtag gave “Mormons of color an opportunity to share their experiences of being in a mostly-white church.” But the reaction against the hashtag revealed a sinister racism, she said, and illustrated her point with tweets by Ayla Stewart. Over at the Red Gulls blog, Jeffrey Johnson called out Jana Reiss for using “Nazi tactics” to defend racism against white people. He defended the indignant reactions of Ayla and others to the hashtag. “They weren’t just bringing up their identity, Jana. Nobody is outraged when that happens. They were attacking another group of people based on race. This is known as racism.”
On August 13, 2017, Church leaders released an official statement in response to the violence seen at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Ayla Stewart, one of the scheduled speakers, praised the statement, retweeting it with the comment, “The #LDS church teachings are clear, you cannot be anti white and a follower of Christ. We are ALL God’s children!” Our own Andrew S wrote a blog post featuring Ayla’s statement, arguing that the Church’s statements on race tend to have a purposeful ambiguity, making them virtual Rorschach tests. On August 15th, however, Church leaders amended their previous statement. “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.” The statement later went on to state that “Church members who promote or pursue a ‘white culture’ or white supremacy agenda are not in harmony with the teachings of the Church.”
Ayla did not take the amended statement well. “My church just declared that I, as a white person, have no culture. Despite my never claiming supremacy of any kind & advocating for ALL ppl.” Other Latter-day Saints were similarly frustrated. In a later discussion on the statement, Stacy (@MormonCounterNa) indicated she had no problem with the Church condemning white supremacy and racism. “The problem here is they equated our positions with white supremacy.”
Adding insult to injury, in his October 2017 general conference address, Elder M. Russell Ballard seemed to take a swipe at White Nationalism. After cautioning members against being caught up in fringe movements like doomsday prepping and energy healing, he said, “We need to embrace God’s children compassionately and eliminate any prejudice, including racism, sexism, and nationalism.”
Late in December 2017, Ayla’s Twitter account was suspended. In announcing the suspension, Latter-day Saint @JReubenCIark added, “The current sociopolitical system can’t tolerate people who want whites to survive and thrive.”
Complaints about Cultural Marxism at BYU
In November 2017, a video was posted on the Mormon Counter Narrative YouTube channel in response to a photo of Black Lives Matter students at BYU. In the video, Stacy warned Latter-day Saints that even a few BYU students supporting the Black Lives Matter movement was a bad sign.
If you are interested in keeping this postmodern cultural Marxist mind virus from spreading throughout Mormon culture, Mormons need to be aware of what is being taught and what is going on at these church-owned schools, because this has to do with changing Mormon culture. SJWs believe if they can capture Mormon culture, they can change the Mormon Church, and what they want to change Mormon culture to is anti-white, anti-male, and anti-Christian values.Mormon Counter Narrative, “Black Lives Matter on BYU Campus,” YouTube
On Twitter, Stacy lamented, “I’m holding out hope that BYU hasn’t completely succumbed to Cultural Marxism. We’ll see how they react when people on our side start to organize.”
This wasn’t the first time alt-right Latter-day Saints had complained about Cultural Marxism at BYU. In December 2016, Jeffrey Johnson at Red Gulls stated, “Possibly the ugliest truth that we have to face in the Mormon Church is BYU is just another Cultural Marxist university pushing globalism, degeneracy and poz in general.” (Poz is slang for HIV positive.) Around the same time, –REDACTED– over at –REDACTED– observed, “BYU in Provo is massively infiltrated with naive leftists. The school is overrun at this point, just one step below the the typical university SJW factory.”
But, again, the 2017 YouTube video spread to other organizations. Defending Utah, a Utah-based political group, shared the video at their website. The group is a John Birch-esque ultraconservative organization intent on rooting out secret combinations trying to destroy our religion and freedoms. Recently they gained attention for organizing flash mobs at grocery stores to protest government overreach with mask mandates. In the Black Lives Matter post, Defending Utah also shared previous podcasts about “socialist/communist infiltration at BYU” and a “Marxist BYU Professor” attacking the Family Proclamation.
Now we jump forward to the creation of the #DezNat hashtag in August 2018 by Twitter user @JPBellum. As I said in my post a couple weeks ago, Bellum wanted to carve out a safe space on Twitter for “all who were willing to build the kingdom and defend the church and its leaders online.” DezNat stood for Deseret Nation, or, more appropriately, Deseret Nationalism.
Bellum was drawing, whether he knew it or not, from an earlier idea suggested the previous year by Latter-day Saint white nationalists. The hashtag #DeseretNationalist seems to have first appeared on a March 2017 tweet by @_DNA_Mond. It was attached to a meme saying “Deseret: Welcome home, white man.” Other users tagged in that tweet included Ayla Stewart (@apurposeful wife) and the white nationalist group Vanguard Utah (@vanguardutah).
A blog with the URL deseretnationalist.blogspot.com, was also created that year[fn4]. One blog post was shared on Twitter in September 2017 by the same user (@_DNA_Mond) with the comment, “New DNA article out on why homosexuality should be expelled from the West by yours truly #DeseretNationalism.” In October, the same user posted a meme of a man with a gun pointed at the viewer with the Deseret Nationalist hashtag and a phrase written in the Deseret alphabet. Translated, the phrase said “If you cannot read this, get out of Deseret.” Other Latter-day Saint white nationalists, @solutreandream1 and @MaDeGrAg, were also tagged in the tweet.[fn5]
Unsurprisingly, several of the previous white nationalist Latter-day Saints like @_DNA_Mond, –REDACTED–, @JReubenCIark, and @CMHammer732 became early users of Bellum’s DezNat hashtag. In this virtual nationalism, one’s identity was based on religion rather than race. Instead of attacking threats to white culture, it was about attacking those who would pollute the church with apostate (Cultural Marxist) ideas. Instead of fighting against those who talked about “white guilt” (based on the misdeeds of ancestors) it became about fighting those who would critize decisions of past church leaders and members. Instead of promoting neomasculinity and tradwife ideals, it became about defending divine gender roles as espoused in the Family Proclamation. But the enemies remained the same: feminists, LGBT advocates, and other social justice warriors.
Overt alt-right ideas still occasionally poke through in more recent DezNat posts. One example is the DezNat Facebook page sharing a meme created by Identity Dixie, a NeoConfederate propoganda group. The meme shows a nineteenth century photo of a white family on a farm with the phrase “Your Ancestors Weren’t Evil.”
Some DezNat Twitter users still support the idea of repealing the 19th amendment (#Repealthe19th).
And in a particularly unfortunate series of events Saturday, six different DezNat hashtag users appeared to combine their efforts to call Latter-day Saint Kwaku El the N-word.
But what about the BYU petition? Like I pointed out last week, one of the authors of the petition, Tristan Mourier, sees the “Keeping Faith at BYU” effort as “exposing Cultural Marxism infiltrating BYU.”
In interviews at BYU and at Defending Utah, Mourier has identified the “godless” ideologies professors “preach” as successor ideology, Cultural Marxism, deconstructionism, and critical race theory. In a Cwic interview, Hanna added gender theory to the mix. She explained that they all stem from Marxism, and are fundamentally incompatible with the gospel.
As I stated in my post last week, the Keeping Faith at BYU Twitter account, which solicits stories for the BYU petition effort, has critized BYU, BYU Football, and the BYU Law School for their support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Whoever is behind this account views BLM as destructive, violent, anti-family, anti-Mormon, and allied with “Antifa terrorism.” The account also critized BYU’s new committee examining “race and inequality on campus,” suggesting it may have Marxist goals for using the term “equity” instead of “equality.” Finally, the account has denounced the BYU Slavery Project, patterned after the 1619 Project, as “point-scoring against our pioneer ancestors.”
I saw a particularly concerning conversation on the Keeping Faith at BYU Twitter account last week. The account tweeted a pic of a diversity training slide from the BYU law school. The point of the tweet was to show that BYU professors used a meme from a website known to be very critical of the Church. The meme itself displayed an old quote from President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., stating that interracial relationships were “wrong” both physically and spiritually.
In the resulting comments, though, the discussion shifted from the propriety of using an “anti-mormon” meme to the subject matter of the meme itself. At least three different commenters openly expressed questionable statements about race. One (who identifies with DezNat) bluntly stated, “J. Reuben Clark was right,” following it up with “interracial marriage is bad. It makes unhappy, confused children (on average) compared to same race unions.” Another commenter stated, “I legit believe that [African Americans] didn’t pick a side in pre-existence. I don’t think that part was wrong at all.” Finally, a third commenter stated, “The problem isn’t that it was said. It is that we have departed from counsel and use excuses and ‘well that’s not in line with contemporary, worldly beliefs.”
Honestly, this is really bothering me. If an environment has been created, in the name of preserving Christ-centered education, where members of the Church feel comfortable espousing blatantly racist beliefs, what does that say? I get that many members of the Church are disturbed about recent events at BYU, but we can’t allow other dangerous ideologies free reign among our Church community.
Update 08/25/2020: The name of a blogger, his blog, and his Twitter handles have been redacted as a courtesy. This post was meant to document how the DezNat movement seems to have ties to efforts of older known white nationalist Latter-day Saints like Ayla Stewart, and how the current BYU petition efforts seem to be creating a concerning environment where racist attitudes can thrive. It was not meant to target a particular blog. I do not appreciate being accused of publishing false information, and I will be more than happy to devote an entire post towards defending my reasoning for originally including him if it becomes necessary. –Mary Ann
[fn1] Seyward Darby, Sisters in Hate: American Women on the Front Lines of White Nationalism (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2020), Kindle edition location 2542-2550.
[fn2] Darby, Sisters in Hate, Kindle location 2495.
[fn3] Darby, Sisters in Hate, Kindle location 2567.
[fn4] A July 2018 Buzzfeed News article, “The Mormon Church and the Exorcism of the Far Right,” reported that the Deseret Nationalist blog was gone by that point.
[fn5] Apparently the handle @MaDeGrAg was based on the phrase Make Deseret Great Again.