This article, hot off the press at the Salt Lake Tribune: “LDS apostle vows support for social-justice groups — as long as they’re not undercutting the Constitution.” The article summarizes remarks by Elder Quentin L. Cook to faculty at BYU-Provo on Monday, August 24, 2020. Here is a quote from the article:
“We all support peaceful efforts to overcome racial and social injustice. This needs to be accomplished,” Elder Quentin L. Cook told faculty at the church-owned Brigham Young University in Provo. And he urged his listeners to “be on the forefront of righteously repenting and following the counsel of [LDS Church] President Russell M. Nelson, who asked us to ‘build bridges of cooperation rather than walls of segregation.'”
Sounds good. Now for the sort of. Again, quoting from the article:
“Some, intentionally or not, are trying to undermine our country’s founding history and the United States Constitution,” Cook said. “Whether by intention or by myopia, both effects are regrettable. … My concern is that some are also trying to undermine the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights that has blessed this country and protected people of all faiths.”
Of course, he added “We need to protect religious freedom.” He also defended Brigham Young from the charge of racism and claimed that, in responding to criticism, “We are certainly among the least aggressive in defending ourselves against obviously untrue and/or unfair criticism.” You might think he is suggesting all criticism of the Church or BYU is either untrue or unfair, but the article adds, paraphrasing Elder Cook: “When church or BYU administrators do not respond, it does not mean the criticism is justified.” He is not really addressing the question of what criticism might be justified and how the Church should respond when criticism is justified. Most likely by labeling the justified criticism as unfair and unjustified.
Elder Cook threw in one more encouragement to take social justice issues seriously:
Knowing the faith’s history of being marginalized and persecuted, he said, should give members courage to stand with the marginalized today, ‘to bear one another’s burdens,’ to ‘mourn with those that mourn,’ and ‘comfort those that stand in need of comfort.’
The LDS Newsroom also posted a summary of Elder Cook’s remarks. From the Newsroom article:
“A principal purpose for me today is to encourage you in your efforts to bless and guide the rising generation, to correct falsehood and matters taken out of context in a loving and kind way,” Elder Cook told faculty in a prerecorded message streamed during the first day of BYU’s annual university conference.
And here’s a fuller quotation for the qualification to the support for social justice. Religion is apparently never part of the problem.
“Some, intentionally or not, are trying to undermine our country’s founding history and the United States Constitution,” Elder Cook said. “Whether by intention or by myopia, both effects are regrettable. … We all support peaceful efforts to overcome racial and social injustice. This needs to be accomplished. My concern is that some are also trying to undermine the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights that has blessed this country and protected people of all faiths. We need to protect religious freedom. Far too many have turned from the worship of and accountability to God.”
So here’s the question: Does the Church support civil rights and social justice? Or do various qualifications amount to the opposite? Think, for example, of the claim that it is okay to have questions or doubts in the Church … as long as you don’t share your doubts in Sunday School or with others at church on Sunday. So it’s not really okay to have questions or doubts unless you convincingly pretend you don’t have them. Maybe the Church supports civil rights and social justice in theory … as long as you don’t put it into practice by doing anything like marching and shouting about current problems, or pointing out ways that former LDS leaders or current LDS policy falls short of the ideal or even the reasonably achievable.