The latest Mormon controversy is here, scuttling everyone’s pre-written blog plans with something that is on the tip of every progressive and ex-Mo tongue: Brad Wilcox’s arrogant tirade that got filmed and re-shared to the chagrin / outrage / shock of every rational person who has ever been associated with the Church, followed by the anti-woke Twitter crowd thoughtlessly and instantaneously leaping to his defense while asking “How high? Is this high enough?” So, first, what was so wrong in this talk that he seems to have written to try to convince young people to quit leaving the Church for all the reasons so many young people are leaving the Church? Here’s a quick, but perhaps not comprehensive, starter list of those people his talk insulted and as Kristine A so eloquently put yesterday “sneered” at:
- Black people. This is the aspect of his talk that is getting the most public backlash, and the only aspect of his talk that he apologized for. He said that in asking why it took until 1978 for blacks to be allowed to be ordained or enter the temple, that we missed the bigger question, why did it take until 1830 for “whites and other races” to have these privileges. I audibly gasped, friends. It was as stunningly bad as people in the wake of George Floyd’s murder trying to turn the conversation to the persecution of early Church pioneers, in some bizarre tone-deaf oppression brinksmanship. It sounds just like “Why are these black people whining when we white people aren’t? We waiting even longer than they did!” (Uhm, no because you have to add their waiting time to ours, and also, not to put an obvious point on it, but what about women? But we’ll get to that in a minute.) Pivoting from the oppression of black people to the limits placed on white people is just breathtaking in its bad taste.
- Other Faiths. He says that non-LDS religions are “playing pretend” at Church, basically completely illegitimate, which is not only hurtful and dismissive; it’s not doctrinally sound, and there is plenty of precedent against this line of thought. It’s also designed to create divisiveness toward people of other faiths who are earnestly striving to follow Christ. What does this attitude say about him being elevated to a counselor in the Young Men’s General Presidency or a CES-chosen BYU professor of religion (despite having zero academic qualifications and seemingly no life experience with other religions)? You know, I have met a lot of religious people, some whom I like, others I don’t, but I don’t see them as “playing pretend” in their Church services. They are trying to follow Jesus, as are all other Christians. This one would make Bruce R. McConkie, who said the Catholic Church was the whore of Babylon, blush.
- Women. He is incredibly dismissive of women’s concerns at our second class status in the Church, instead pivoting to how women’s lack of ordination affects men (of all things!), that rather than wondering why women aren’t ordained, we should wonder why men need to be ordained to access the temple, but women don’t. Riiiight, buddy. Because that’s what women are concerned about, not the fact that every single decision made in the Church is made without women. He also shares a story chuckling condescendingly about a young girl for “pretend” administering the sacrament during play time with friends. What’s next, malpractice suits for playing doctor? Also, this is our second reference (oddly) to “playing pretend” at Church. In this case, it’s that girls are so silly. Frankly, though, the substance of his comments wasn’t too different from E. Oaks mocking women concerned about eternal polygamy, and that was done in General Conference with no apology afterward, for obvious reasons. He played women’s pain for laffs.
- Young People. His tone throughout the talk is mocking of those who have raised these concerns, including mimicking people’s voices and attempting to make their concerns sound ridiculous rather than thoughtful–a grave miscalculation on his part as it is has been proven time and time again that this is a huge turnoff with young people who can easily tell that these concerns are reasonable; some of them share these concerns, and others have friends or relatives with these concerns. Who goes to a devotional to hear people being mocked? Nobody who is a decent person, and I for one have more confidence in the youth and their desire to be good people than Bro. Wilcox does.
What’s different this time? The talk was very quickly taken down, and Brad Wilcox apologized publicly. Having said that, as with all apologies, this one’s far from perfect (but I will absolutely say, please, continue apologizing, everyone, even if you botch it because the alternative is much worse!)
My dear friends, I made a serious mistake last night, and I am truly sorry. The illustration I attempted to use about the timing of the revelation on the priesthood for Black members was wrong. I’ve reviewed what I said and I recognize that what I hoped to express about trusting God’s timing did NOT come through as I intended. To those I offended, especially my dear Black friends, I offer my sincere apologies, and ask for your forgiveness. I am committed to do better.Brad Wilcox’s apology on Facebook
In response to Bro. Wilcox’s apology:
“We are deeply concerned with the words recently used by Dr. Brad Wilcox,” BYU leaders said. “We appreciate his sincere apology and believe he is committed to learn from this experience. BYU remains committed to upholding President Nelson’s charge to root out racism in our institutions.”BYU on Twitter as reported in the Deseret News
I hope BYU is right, and that Bro. Wilcox learns from this mistake. I am skeptical that he will learn from this, though, because there are so many people senior to him who haven’t learned from it, and these attitudes exist–mostly unchecked–at all levels in the Church. Wilcox just made the mistake of shouting the quiet part out loud. When you defend your intentions and point out that others were offended, that’s always a bit of a red flag in Mormonism where we are told constantly that those who are offended are choosing to be offended (classic victim blaming).
I took a minute to brainstorm other apologies that would be consistent with this peek at the Church’s underlying racism:
- I’m sorry God’s so racist. He’s committed to doing better.
- I’m sorry we got caught being racist again.
- I’m sorry dead leaders were racist, but they baked this cake, and now we all have to eat it.
- I’m sorry black people are offended and overly sensitive which takes away from the Spirit.
- We don’t see color, and we wish marginalized minorities would also stop seeing it.
- We had the best intentions, specifically the intention of not examining our assumptions and biases.
How did we get here? The more we focus on “spiritual” (and more importantly charismatic) white men as the ones CES hires and promotes, the more we will get arrogant, ambitious Brad Wilcoxes with these same attitudes that anyone who has reasonable questions (particularly those barred from power: women, LGBTQ, and non-whites) is fair game to be mocked and dismissed. People from other faiths? Same. Their religion isn’t even real and doesn’t have to be treated with respect. The CES way is to elevate people who live in a bubble into jobs that they have zero academic qualifications for, then tell them how great they are with “the youths” and send them out on the circuit. Feed them with flattery and promises of further promotion in the patriarchy. Add an environment of unquestioned conservative assumptions regarding women, homosexuals, and non-whites–all of which are giant blind spots in our Church. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Wilcox simply got caught being what he’s been rewarded repeatedly for being: a racist, misogynist, arrogant Mormon white man. He must be baffled about why he’s the only one getting cancelled here. After all, isn’t everything he said “true,” even if he stated it inelegantly? Isn’t that what he’s supposed to aspire to be? He’s of course not apologizing for being racist (and has not acknowledged his misogyny either, naturally, or his uncalled-for swipes at other religions); he’s apologizing for the hurt his “black friends” felt. Anyone else get a “I’ve got a black friend” vibe from that word choice? Just me?
It didn’t take long, though, for Bro. Wilcox’s wife to chime in, defending her husband in usual Mormon women “stand by your man” fashion, which is clearly her solemn duty. I can just imagine them talking over this matter at home, her soothing his wounded ego (yes, no doubt she’s convinced him that he’s the victim here, nobody is giving him a fair shake, and he doesn’t need to do anything differently because he did nothing wrong, ad nauseum). If you doubt it, here’s what she says:
Reading these comments makes me realize how truly unchristian people have become. I KNOW Brad well. I have lived with him for almost 40 years and I KNOW his heart. He has nothing but love and respect for Blacks, whites, females, LGBTQ, and any other labels you want to throw in there. He has a great regard and tolerance and love for all people but that does not equate with condoning.Facebook comment from Bro. Wilcox’s wife, supporting him
Like Sis. Wilcox, I love some people who are racists and misogynists, too. Her specific statement mixing three incongruous things is rather telling: great regard, tolerance (and love), and “not condoning.” If you love someone, you don’t “tolerate” them. If you “don’t condone” someone, that means you judge who they are to be unacceptable, not that you hold them in “great regard.” It’s this kind of double-speak that reveals the true feelings toward these groups, along with her use of “any other labels you want to throw in there,” as if these groups aren’t marginalized and don’t have legitimate concerns, they’re just using “labels” to get sympathy, and we should quit noticing diversity and just pretend nobody has it harder than anyone else.
Just to clarify, part of this problem is one of definitions. What is a racist? For some, you have to be willing to commit hate crimes to qualify. What is a sexist? For some, you have to beat your wife to qualify. These bars are way too high. If we apply the Riddle Scale (which was created to understand levels of homophobia), we can see that while the Church as a whole is not the actual worst of the worst, it’s still very negative toward these marginalized groups, just like Sis. Wilcox’s statement reveals (and her husband’s insulting talk). The Riddle Scale, as applied here:
- Repulsion: Racists who don’t want a black person to touch them or share a space with them. Sexists who shudder at the thought of women being in a male space or having any authority over a man.
- Pity: Feeling sorry for black people that they have to be black. Feeling sorry for women for not being “real women,” or not being able to attract a man to take care of them.
- Tolerance: Viewing other races as needing white men’s protection because they aren’t as talented or capable. Likewise with women. They are great! They just aren’t ready to be leaders. That would be silly. What’s next? Children in charge? LOL!
- Acceptance: Wanting everyone to be seen as people, ignoring minority status such as race, sex, sexual orientation or gender identity, which reinforces the status quo an keeps the privileged from having to examine their feelings and assumptions. People who claim that “labels” or races are “divisive” are in this group at best.
- Support: Finding personal discomfort and realizing that marginalized groups need some protection (e.g. affirmative action) within a racist / sexist / homophobic society.
- Admiration: Recognizing that those in marginalized groups have put up with a lot of crap and are stronger in many ways than those whose lives were privileged. Admiring those individuals as having greater capability as a result.
- Appreciation: Valuing diversity and specifically seeking to add diverse perspectives to every space to improve people and society. Willingness to combat the blind spots of others.
- Nurturance: Finding marginalized groups indispensible in society, being genuinely delighted by their company, their input. Having genuine affection for them, and treating them accordingly.
Comments like Bro. Wilcox’s reveal something around Tolerance or even Acceptance possibly, wanting to be “race blind” by drawing a comparison to the plight of white people (!), and his wife’s comments are similar. These are the same attitudes that were revealed in the recent BYU study on racism that showed that admissions employees believed that being “race-blind” was desirable (an attitude which actually resulted in a higher percentage of white students, as the study revealed). Will Bro. Wilcox be the one to lead BYU into a new era of anti-racism while he’s swimming in it? I will not hold my breath, but I wish him well as he tries to “do better.” I would also recommend a quick review of the rest of his horrible talk. Even the red chairs didn’t like this one, apparently. Hence, the apology and the take-down of the talk. Brad Wilcox exposed what many of them agree with but try to state more diplomatically so they don’t get called out. That’s the problem with charismatic preachers with bad beliefs: they blow everyone’s cover. Rookie mistake.
There’s just so much here to unbox, so I’ll leave you with a few quick questions:
- Do you think BYU / the Church / Bro. Wilcox will do better on race as a result of this incident?
- Does finding flaws with apologies cause retrenchment?
- Do you personally view these attitudes as unique to Bro. Wilcox or pretty standard Mormon fare?
- Where would you place the Church on the Riddle scale? What about Bro. Wilcox? BYU? Sis. Wilcox?
I will say it….the LDS church is racist.
Generally speaking, as the older generations have more racial tendencies, compared to the younger ones due to being products of our times. However LDS members of every generation are more racist compared to their cohorts due to hurch doctrine and culture. How can you not if you frequently read the book of mormon. All the undertones of racism reaching your subconscious can not be denied
If the past prophets are honored as men of God, but their racist views are not clearly denounced, then racist views are at minimum tolerated. If current leaders like Wilcox clearly state racist thoughts, what more can be said.
The lds church can give lip service and pretend it is not racist but just like polygamy, racism runs in the DNA of the lds church.
Giving the NAACP $$MM and shaking their hand does not forgo the sins of the past or the present
This is where God weaps…..wears….. about the sad heaven , but sad Utah/ LDS culture.
I have extensive first hand experience of racism in LDS church. My wife is a “racial minority”. When we got married I never thought we would be treated any differently than other members. How how wrong I was. We have seen through the decades how many sisters will ignore her. We can always find the few members in each ward that we live who are kind and open, but many will not give her the time of day.
My wife had her first mild faith awakening when seeing how church members are in the USA compared to the international church.
We have seen how the ” racial minority” sisters are always called to nursery to watch the kids and be the babysitter for the supposed elite.
I was called to be EQP in a ward and I asked to have another “racial minority” brother be the first councilors EQ, after he was stuck in primary for 10+ years. The stake was hesitant but accepted my recommendation. He was shocked because no one ever gave him an opportunity to serve outside of primary.
I could go on and on, as I am sure this blog will fill of stories.
For a church whose only numerical growth is within the racial minority communities and international church, it’s a shame and shocking that this legacy persists.
Hopefully this will be another wakeup call for the LDS to change. But I believe it is part of its DNA and once you take out ALL racism…gone is the nepotism, gone is the Book of Mormon, gone is the legitimacy of prophets, gone is priesthood revelation, gone is their power and control.
If we are all treated as equals, be it race, social standing, economic class, education, martial status, attractive/non-attractive, non/ex mormon…….who do they control? There needs to be some type of discrimination or their power and control is lost.
I’d say Brad Wilcox being “nervous” when his daughter was playing church and might pretend to bless the sacrament, his grimacing at the thought that a female might even “play pray” with any authority puts him in the repulsed category in terms of his misogyny.
I just cannot get over the fact that he semi-apologizes for his racism, which was disgusting, but his gross treatment of people of other faiths- not limited to just Christians- and deeply offensive misogyny is all fair game. After all, they’re only women and “non-members.”
I guess what I’m going to say is kind of obvious, but among other things, this episode is a demonstration of the problem of parochialism in church leadership. Apparently Br. Wilcox has been giving versions of this talk for years, and it has gone unchallenged and uncorrected by his white male colleagues who are almost all born and raised in SLC/Utah Valley. If we aspire to be a global church, our leaders absolutely have to be from all over the globe and of all races, cultures, and genders. This is why you need diversity! And this happened even with Ahmad Corbitt serving alongside him in the YM presidency, so one person of color in a sea of Utahns isn’t going to cut the mustard.
That is a really helpful framework (for the discussion) – great post. Who’d have thought there would be more to say? But this is really valuable in considering what happened with Wilcox.
1 – no I don’t think leadership will do better. This is PR embarrassment and damage control.
2 – Wilcox is a grown man. This is a low bar. I know some folks are like “we should be grateful he apologized”. I’m a little like, meh. That’s kinda infantilizing don’t you think? Can we expect more of people?
3 – I’ve commented on this before but I think Wilcox is worse than many members *I* know who are younger than him, actually get anti-racism training in the workplace, actually work with women and people of other faiths, etc. Wilcox is blinded by his insularity and disadvantaged some by his vintage.
4 – Leadership is firmly camp repulsion when it comes to LGBTQ folks. For women and black people, I think it varies a lot but I would say *no* higher than acceptance and often lower. I agree that the sacrament and “angry woman” issue are instances of revulsion, and acting so put out about being caught being racist is revulsion about blacks.
As for sister Wilcox that comment doesn’t make sense. “Condoning” does wrt LGBTQ but how do you condone a race or gender?!?!? At least in that one she didn’t accuse detractors of nailing nails in Jesus’s cross (because apparently Wilcox is Jesus?). She took that comment down but it’s the Internet so it got screenshotted first.
One more thing that’s been on my mind. I’m not at all convinced that Wilcox is “good with the youth.” One piece of context people may not be aware of remember is that Alpine UT is the home of a big suicide epidemic. Has been for years – there may have been some improvement but I know of two in the last few months in friends/families’ wards. There are probably many reasons for it – it’s a very competitive area where kids face a lot of pressure to be perfect. It’s very homophobic, so I’m sure some suicides are queer kids.
So seems to me like the *last* thing these kids need to be told is that if they leave the Church they will “lose everything.” While Wilcox thankfully didn’t expressly address LGBTQ issues, what does that tell a queer kid? Stay in this anti-gay church or lose everything. Your gay marriage will be meaningless. Come dance with cute members (of the opposite sex) at FSY. What does it tell a kid facing tremendous pressure because he or she is having doubts?
Our kids, our girls, our BIPOC members – literally no one is safe with this guy.
They say insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. I still don’t understand why the Church’s response to engaging the youth to stay is to just throw another meeting. But to the actual OP:
As we learn more facts about the situation, it appears that this talk has been given multiple times throughout the country for years, and we are only now beginning to stand up and call it out. I think this illustrates two massive problems we as a faith-based community have to face:
1. Most people were not bothered by this talk. That’s a problem. Because we should be bothered by it. We should be bothered by its tone, by its dismissal of hard questions, by its disregard for people of other faith traditions, and by its callous treatment of multiple marginalized communities. We have to address this head on. We have to challenge those who think this is just whiners who gotta whine. We cannot stop until they understand that this message is not ok. Given how hell-bent Utah currently is to keep what they call critical race theory (but what is really just telling history correctly for the first time) out of the public school system, we have an uphill battle ahead of us.
2. Perhaps many in the congregations were bothered by this talk, but had no recourse to correct it. This is perhaps an even bigger problem. The patriarchy is the #1 feature of the organization. We’ve asked the members to disregard their inner voice for too long. Many members, initially feeling uncomfortable with this talk, perhaps blamed themselves because this message came from authority. We need to break down the barriers that don’t allow us to question that authority. Yesterday.
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I’m just devastated. The frequency of these harmful messages is too much. If the church chooses to ignore this, it may finally be time I have the courage to take my time and talents and put them to use elsewhere.
Faith: I’m so sorry for your family’s experience. You deserve better, and I’m sorry.
Being charitable towards Wilcox in the wake of his apology, I had assumed that he made a gaffe. Maybe a Freudian slip if that’s the way you want to interpret it. Now I hear reports that this talk is almost word for word the same talk he’s given to multiple YSA groups year after year. There’s even a recording of him saying the same things in a talk delivered two years ago in Georgia. The troubling comments in the talk were less careless comments or misdelivered points and more the exact message he wanted to put forward.
Do you think BYU / the Church / Bro. Wilcox will do better on race as a result of this incident?
The church is still in that mode where they sacrifice their conceptualization of who or what God is in order to protect the image/ego/authority of past and present leaders. We continue to look for ways to justify the priesthood ban, throwing God under the bus in the process.
If we continue to believe the priesthood ban was issued by God, we’ll remain stuck in a model where racism is a Godlike attribute. We won’t ever progress beyond racist attitudes because we’re still looking towards God to justify us in our racist attitudes.
We need to own up to the problem and not shy away from tackling the issue head on. WE have a problem with racism, the priesthood ban is on US. That would allows us to elevate what we believe God to be and give us a better pinnacle to aspire to. We could say, “This fallible man had racist attitudes but it is okay, he was just an imperfect man. God is better. Let us strive to become more like God.”
God represents an ideal. If we set the ideal too low, that’s entirely on us.
A great post and comments so far. I think it’s hard for the church to “do better” than this because while I do agree with Elisa that at least Mormons who are substantially younger than Wilcox don’t think this way so much, it’s clear both that older members (and leadership) still do and it’s also very clear that a lot of what Wilcox said, offensive as it is to any kind of enlightened sensibility, is hard wired into the church’s belief structure. I’ve seen a lot of posts on Wilcox’s talk the last 24 hours, and a lot of people are saying stuff like “how can we change this?”. The answer, of course, is that we can’t because so much of Wilcox’s main points are part of the church’s belief structure. So to change these fundamental prejudices would be to alter the church’s doctrine/belief system so significantly that the Mormon Church would no longer be the Mormon Church as it is currently constituted, And as has been made clear by the numerous retrenchments over the years, church leadership has made the cynical and unethical calculation that it’s better to not offend older (wealthier and more entrenched) church members by condemning such language than to condemn such language and repudiate all previous teachings, thereby appealing more to the younger and more enlightened members. So leadership will make a few noises, make Wilcox apologize, etc., but in this, as with many other things, the church somehow doesn’t seem to realize that the internet is forever and all of the years of Wilcox’s talks where he said essentially the same thing are available for anyone to view, thus giving the lie to the assumption or assertion that Wilcox just slipped up and got some of his wording wrong. And that will be one more thing that will drive more people out of the church and will further erode leadership’s credibility.
In its initial response to the Wilcox mess, BYU mentioned favorably its Office of Student Success and Inclusion. Good for BYU, but I’m sure there are plenty of BYU students and more than a few LDS leaders who are rubbed the wrong way by even the name of that office, much less its purpose (to make all students, even *those* students, feel welcome).
So — since we know they are not going to fire a religion prof for teaching more or less what LDS leaders have taught for decades — perhaps they will take this opportunity to even the score by forming a BYU Office of Student Regression and Exclusion and make Wilcox the Director for Student Regression and Exclusion. He could hire a couple of Exclusion Advisors. Any BYU student who hears, say, a progressive professor preaching the threatening idea of the equality of the races or who is troubled by a non-priesthood holding woman teaching a course or who spots a rainbow symbol on some kid’s backpack can go to the Exclusion Office and get a regressive pep talk. In a serious case, the student might even get a full one-on-one rant from Wilcox himself. They can host monthly DezNat lunches and invite various Republican politicians (I don’t have to name names) to give sponsored lectures. I’m sure there are thousands of eager LDS donors who would fund the whole project — the Church wouldn’t have to spend a penny to launch the I’m A Jerk Like Brigham initiative. T-shirt sales alone would pay the Director’s salary.
Do I think the Church will do better? Let me answer it this way : I think the Church will be more careful. The words may change but not the underlying assumptions behind them. And good luck trying to videotape future fireside’s.
Maybe I’m sick but I want Wilcox to speak to more and more youth. Just like I want Oaks and Bednar to do so. I want the inevitable decline of the Church to accelerate and no Church critic is nearly as effective as these three. And You can’t exactly call them anti-Mormon.
See, it doesn’t matter what I or the rest of W&T thinks about this talk. My adult kids have no idea that W&T even exists. But all four of them
are talking about the BW talk. He’s hanging by his own words, not my analysis of his content.
I didn’t mean to suggest that we here at W&T shouldn’t critically analyze BW’s talk. I love what I read here and it’s very useful to me. Just trying to point out that BW’s words are his worse enemy, not our analysis of said words. Please continue!
By not formally apologizing for past racism, the LDS church has created a problem. The Southern Baptist Convention has formally apologized for past racism. It is high time the LDS church do the same.
It is interesting that for many leaders it is easier to blame God as the racist one or the sexist one than blame other church leaders. The ironic thing is that I hear so many church leaders talk about how we need to give Brother Joseph a break, earlier leaders were men of their time, sometimes speak as men, and how we are all imperfect. OK, then give me specifics of what foibles we should give Brother Joseph a break on and where you think past leaders are wrong. These are simply empty words if you can’t bring yourself to actually criticize past mistakes. You may acknowledge in theory that the leaders are fallible, put you treat them as infallible and expect others to do the same. Brad Wilcox did exactly. His institutional groveling is just pathetic. I met Brad back in the 90s as a teenager. This was evident from when I met him. And now he’s finally paying a price from the very institution that hired him.
I’m hearing through the ex-Mormon grapevine how academics at BYU treat the religion department with quiet disdain and as laughably and sadly very unacademic. And with BYU’s decision to give preferential treatment to people already in CES over PhDs, that is only going to get worse. Rest assured, Brad Wilcox is not the only one. I keep waiting for when John Bytheway’s moment is going to happen. These folks are just out-of-touch, and it is painfully obvious to a good number of the youth (I was on to these guys as a fully faithful believing teen in the 90s) and I can’t imagine today’s youth are just eating this up. I was celebrated for being homophobic and casually racist at Provo High in the 90s. Today’s youth are celebrated for being accepting of LGBTQs even in the most conservative nooks of the US and looked down upon at best and attacked/shunned at worst for homophobia and casual racism.
@Josh H, agree. What I appreciate about speeches like Wilcox and Holland is that they make is hard for progressive Mormons to feel comfortable in Church – and I don’t think they are entitled to feel comfortable in Church. “Reality asserts itself.” People who wouldn’t touch a progressive or “anti” site don’t have to – they can read for themselves the blatantly gross content from the speaker.
Of course I don’t celebrate the harm that they do. But the Church already does harm. As @Angela said on another thread, Wilcox and Holland are just saying loudly what we already whisper.
Angela–Thank you for pointing out the numerous other offensive comments and ideas Wilcox put forward in his talk. It was more than just the abhorrent racism, though that was disgusting enough to warrant all of the attention and criticism that has followed. A few of my thoughts:
1. Wilcox has two problems, one that is entirely his fault, and one that is less so. First, he is part of an organization that has approved and bolstered his offensive comments across all topics, given him employment and income, retirement, status, sold his books, and lifted him up to Mormon circuit super-speaker. It is obvious it has worked for so long that he was unaware of the harm his words. And that is the fault of the organization, someone long ago should have trained these folks better (particularly BYU employees and auxiliary leaders).
2. Second, Wilcox has ceded over his critical thinking skills and basic moral compass to the LDS organization, and that is on him. He was in direct conflict with the Gospel Topic essay’s main point that the Church’s temple/priesthood ban was a policy, and that is on him for not being honest. And he stood there for a long time speaking to youth in a manner that clearly put them at odds with other friends/family by stating “you lose everything” and are “stupid” if you leave the Church. He doesn’t seem to realize the harm that comes from indoctrinating people that way.
3. I have some pity for him because I can see a version of myself from about 10 years ago agreeing with some (not all) of his intended points about the goodness of the Church. Thank God I have broken free from that system and thought patterns. I told my father I was glad my kids weren’t in attendance at that fireside, and I genuinely meant it in a way I have never before considered. Like I had truly spared my children and family exposure to real harm.
4. The two most important things to the Church are the tithing contributions and attendance at Sunday services and temples. When enough people decide that the institution is more harmful than good, change their level of participation/contribution on moral grounds, the leadership will have to respond differently than they have in the past. Whether that can happen or not is uncertain.
Personal accounts of racism like @Faith’s and talk about perfectionism and suicide among the youth by @Elisa are very painful and hi-light how truly awful the rhetoric in this type of presentation is. I can assume Mr Wilcox will be having some very difficult days – hopefully with a lot of self examination. But as others have said – perhaps they feel like the victim – the rest of us unchristian? The fact that this address has been recycled for several years with no pushback would have bolstered his feelings of being on sound footing? I’m still so upset and appalled by the whole thing but mostly I’m concerned for those in his audience over the past how ever many years have been directly harmed by his words. He doesn’t get to have a pass.
I do think Josh h is correct in that the the world has changed and the old, white leaders of the church have no idea what’s going on. (Certainly Mr. Wilcox has no clue.) The quickest way to rapidly readjusting the church’s stance and maybe, just maybe, open some eyes is to let the leaders speak. Every six months, conference is an opportunity to hemorrhage more young people, which I think they must get since conference talks have deteriorated to Pablum. Oh, and good luck trying to keep these kinds of events from being recorded; the eyes and ears are everywhere.
In his *apology* he said that his message “about trusting God’s timing” was misunderstood. THAT, for me, is also very egregious. He evidently believes that the 1978 reversal was also “God’s timing.”
The Church, via its relatively hidden, “Gospel Topics Essays,” has essentially admitted that withholding the priesthood/temple from blacks until 1978 was not God’s decision. Seems that God was away on vacation and couldn’t be bothered to inspire his racist “prophets, seers, and revelators.”
This episode reminds me of the Randy Bott controversy from several years ago. Like Wilcox, Bott was a CES teacher who got caught saying the quiet part too loudly in public. As I recall, Bott was quietly shown the door and has since faded into obscurity. While what Bott said was despicable and racially tone-deaf, and he needed to be held accountable, he was also thrown under the bus by the Church for simply repeating what Church leaders have taught for generations. Same with Wilcox–he should get whatever he’s got coming to him, for sure, but he and people like him are products of a vast and complex system of racism. That’s an even bigger problem in a place like Utah, where anti-CRT advocates are gaining a lot of traction by trying convince the public that systemic racism doesn’t exist.
And while we’re piling on Bro. Wilcox here, let me just add that while I agree with the above sentiments, I particularly find his fear-based approach (“you lose everything”) to be very manipulative and off-putting, even worse than Pres. Nelson’s “sad heaven” rhetoric. I specifically teach my kids to automatically distrust anyone who uses language like this. Any religious leader who relies on fear-based teaching to connect with their audience (especially youth) is deeply insecure about the efficacy of their own belief system, and their days of relevancy are numbered.
This reminds me of the painful question familiar to so many families these days: What are we going to do about Grandpa? It could just as easily be Grandma or weird Uncle Dick, but it’s the same issue. Grandpa’s entire worldview has been shaped by a lifetime in a closed, self-reinforcing loop. He may be familiar with terms like racism, homophobia, misogyny, and bigotry but he sees no reason to connect them with him. And he doesn’t want to see or, especially, to have others point it out to him. He’s waited, perhaps patiently, for his turn to be the revered family patriarch. He has the power now. Plus he may be sitting on a pile of cash or the deed to a condo in Park City.. So, what to do? All too often families collectively bite their tongues and wait for him to pass. As the years go on that option becomes less and less attractive. Another option is to either wait for or create a crisis. Even those who’ve refused to see the problem in the past now are forced to confront whatever the painful truth is. For churches, being the businesses that they’ve become in North America, the crisis comes with fewer customers (butts in the pews, so to speak) and declining revenues.
This is Brad Wilcox’s stump speech he has been giving for 2 years at firesides. It also is basically the same kind of speech is given to the youth all the time. Brad is not saying anything different – the church is true, follow the prophet, don’t question the church history, scriptures, priesthood authority, polygamy, racism, etc. . My kids that have left the church are better off without trying to figure out all of the apologetic mess to justify in their minds.
There was a black church member in one of my wards not that long ago, and while there were several who befriended the family, who offered rides for their son and who talked to them every week, as soon as I saw them I thought, “How long is this going to last?” I’ve said before that if try to make white supremacists and BIPOC people welcome, eventually the BIPOC people will go elsewhere, taking their talents and insights and contributions with them. And you’ll be left with a crusty group of like minded bigots. It doesn’t even matter that many in that ward were welcoming and genuinely befriending this family. The way the Book of Mormon talks about race, and then goes completely unexamined among the membership as to whether that is an indictment of the BOM people or if whiteness is a reward, makes it eventually obvious to anyone attuned to race that they are seen as inferior. Why stay?
It’s high time we all take the findings of the BYU racism study to heart and actually start teaching Church members and leaders that their attitudes of “tolerance” and “acceptance” are still racist. They are seeing others as inferior.
Hey, ya know, maybe Brad Wilcox and his wife, who bristled on social media blaming people reacting negatively to her husband’s remarks and claiming him to be the real victim, are right. I’ve read on Twitter some airtight arguments using Wilcox’s logic to reframe the civil rights movement. A very convincing comment was something to the effect of how blacks shouldn’t be complaining about not being able to ride on the front of buses until 1956, when a Montgomery federal court ruled that racially segregated seating violated the 14th Amendment. We’re asking the wrong question here. The real question is how come whites and people of other races had to wait until 1895 to ride a motorized bus. They waited one thousand eight hundred and ninety-five years. We should be grateful down to our socks to have buses to ride at all. We shouldn’t be divisively trying to blame one side or another over when someone could ride on the front of a bus or not. Much like blacks should be grateful just to have the priesthood, they should also be grateful just to ride a bus.
The church and its leaders need to own up to what the priesthood ban was: disgusting, disgraceful, and racist racial segregation that continued until 14 years (14 years!) after the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
@hawkgrrrl, Thank you for expanding the dialogue on Brad Wilcox’s train wreck of a talk. This is a moment of truth for the church and his talk and its implications need an in-depth treatment.
So many great comments so far. Here are a few of mine.
*I’m glad Wilcox is apologetic, but the apology doesn’t go far enough and I’m guessing he was compelled. His false narratives and abhorrent rhetoric belie his bad thinking and deeply rooted prejudice, let alone a massive problem I see with him being self-unaware. I haven’t read any of his books. I have never heard him lecture. However, based on this talk, if he is representative of the logos and ethos of BYU’s religious department, I am deeply concerned about its direction. Even within the cheap, EFY youth motivational speaker circuit, Wilcox’s talk is just so horrible and repulsive. I had the pleasure of learning from faculty who were NOT products of CES. Roger Keller, Dong Sull Choi, Stephen E. Robinson–these were all serious scholars. I’m devastated to think that people like Hank Smith and Brad Wilcox are the future of BYU’s religion department. Why is the church moving in this direction? And Hawkgrrrl, I’m afraid the church and Wilcox rank poorly on the Riddle scale.
*How serious is the church about rooting out racism within the church? Sadly I don’t see evidence it is doing anything material to address the problem. When Elder Holland’s bruised ego comes before James Jones’ excellent anti-racism master class, I think that sums up the urgency the church feels to attack the problem of its institutional racism. (I’m referencing the SLTrib article about Deseret Book having to drop the content because Jones rightfully and publicly criticized Holland’s Musket Fire talk.)
*I lived in Alpine for nearly a decade and a half. I too was shocked by what Wilcox said about life outside the church. Wilcox comes off as someone who lacks self-awareness. It’s unfortunate he is also unaware of his audience. Alpine is an amazing place loaded with talent, but it also suffers from a highly toxic social environment–its why I moved my family out. Wilcox’s talk helped none and likely did considerable harm to the youth in attendance. In that regard, his motives seem selfish and he seems to speak to hear himself.
*The lack of holding CES employees accountable also sticks in my craw. I’ve always believed President Worthen should have been fired as BYU’s president for the 2016 Title IX debacle. The breach of trust that represented was so cataclysmic… None were really held accountable for the egregious actions of the Title IX office, the honor code office and BYU’s police department. I juxtapose that with the horror stories BYU students have told about their own experiences with the honor code office and it is hard for me to be anything but cynical when it comes to thinking BYU will do the right thing and hold Wilcox accountable, or that the church will do the right thing and release him. I hope I’m wrong.
*LDS Church: Your move. All eyes are on you.
Sadly, Wilcox follows in the footsteps of a long line of LDS apologist fireside speakers. While serving as a YSA bishop in a university stake, I was required to promote the regular visits of Wilcox and his apologetic ilk. We followed a familiar script: Brother X will be teaching important truths and refreshments will be served. The wards were required to reimburse the stake for allocated travel and what I can only surmise were “honorariums”.
Thankfully, not all speeches sank to the Wilcox level. President Uchtdorf once gave a marvelous presentation on the pure love of Christ. Contrast that with a Daniel Peterson rant replete with personal animus towards any who even thoughtfully questioned LDS historical anachronisms. Our EQP left the church as a direct result of Peterson’s boorish behavior.
This is why the congregation should demand access to all talks being given. The policy of asking the congregation to refrain from recording the nonsense being communicated from the pulpit is a liability. Officially. The institution has been selling this rhetoric in closed settings for years, and we wonder why more than 1/2 of our youth have been leaving the church. Brothers and Sisters, record everything, share everything. Don’t let the authoritarian regime that has infiltrated the institution, compartmentalize and manipulate the congregation.
The fact that Brad has been publicly saying similar things for years is evidence that the institution, until a day or so ago, approved his words. So let’s NOT allow the institution to make Brad a scapegoat.
At the same time, consider that the institution has punished Latter-Day Saints for saying much less, and excommunicated Latter-Day Saints for doing far less damage to “the good name of the church.” Firing, disfellowship, excommunication–these are the ways the LDS institution handles unwanted speech. If a BYU Professor made the same comments, would he retain his job? Will there be a double-standard for GAs? Will the institution make a scapegoat of Brad? Does policy retain him as a GA and fire him from the CES, or remove him as a GA and retain him as a CES employee? Disfellowship? Or do we collectively forgive and take responsibility for LDS dogma and belief systems that have come to overshadow and obscure truth and doctrine?
Hypocrisy abound–the LDS Establishment, Utah-centric culture, and the authoritarianism of the institution that puts itself between the congregation and the Lord’s ordinances–are unanimously exposed: when “keys” equivocated as “power” arbitrarily identify “office and authority,” instead of “wisdom and knowledge,” it is any wonder that leadership babbles like a drunk, or stumbles like a blind man?
The same degree of intolerance the institution has exercised over speech among those belonging to the Restored Church, is now being poured out in judgment upon the institution itself.
I’m curious as to why he got caught given that he gave essentially the same talk in 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&t=1807&v=pLqwY0PYHuw&feature=youtu.be Maybe adding the word “white” caused it to be flagged. Maybe it’s time for someone to do a little research on CES “stars” as they go forth preaching the good news.
Angela-The title of this post is, How Do You Solve a Problem Like Brad Wilcox?
You wrote based on how you feel. I respect that.
I feel differently than you do about how to deal with a problem like Brad Wilcox.
I didn’t see anyone suggest praying for Brad Wilcox, asking Heavenly Father to help him learn from his mistakes and comfort him. This is going to be difficult for Brad and his family. They could use your prayers.
The Saviors counsel about how to deal with Brad Wilcox should be presented, after all, the title of the website comes from the Biblical teachings.
This verse about errors that we make based on the teachings of men. There is also a difference between a mistake and a sin. Brad didn’t sin, he made an error a mistake.
“They have all gone astray save it be a few, who are the humble followers of Christ; nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men” (2 Ne. 28:14).
And ye shall also forgive one another your trespasses; for verily I say unto you, he that forgiveth not his neighbor’s trespasses when he says that he repents, the same hath brought himself under condemnation. Mosiah 26:31
Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin. D&C 64:9
There is a lot more that can be said about this topic, I’ll keep this short.
If you have the sympathy and moral or financial support of the media, the mainline churches, the entertainment world, the corporate CEOs, the universities, and much of the political class, you are not a “marginalized group.
I celebrated the courage of church leaders standing for truth and righteousness.
Mark I: Who has the financial support of the media, and the other groups you listed? What an absolutely bizarre comment. Also, BYU does not see this as you do. They agreed that an apology was necessary.
As Second Counselor in the YM Presidency, Wilcox is a General Officer and not a General Authority. He can be released at any time.
Wilcox should be released from his calling and his teaching position. The Church must give his statements it’s strongest possible condemnation.
The Church must take a hard stand because this is too prevalent and current measures have not stamped it out. My good friend, who is Black, has a daughter who attends a local seminary. Another student made a racist statement in class and the teacher did nothing. The teacher did not rebuke the comment or the student who made it. When my friend contacted the seminary, the principal soft-peddled the incident. That will continue to happen as long as top leaders such as Wilcox are given immunity for racist comments.
Ugh. It’s almost like the church is actively trying to get it wrong.
All you have to do is read his wife’s defense. The bigotry, it runs deep in them, although niceness is a good mask.
I have heard many bad talks over the years. I can’t think of a worse thing one could do than make a teenager sit through that thing. Wilcox is a walking, talking reason for a faith crisis. I guess I gotta admit, no one can call Wilcox’s talk just half-way bad. The boy went big and knocked it outta the park.
When are people going to realize that CES is one of the major reasons young adults are leaving the church? Seminary and Institute teachers parrot talks like this. Any thinking adult who sends their kids to a Wilcox or John Bytheway fireside is pretty much signing the death warrant for their children’s future in the Church. They’ll either stay (and transform into something you can’t stand) or leave the church at a dead run.
Leadership is calculating:
Will Brad’s comments affect aggregate Deseret Book sales?
Will we have to donate another lump sum to the NAACP?
How fast can we scrub the internet to remove evidence?
Should we apply our secret-Snowden internet tracking application inside LDS Tools to query and identify members who may have accessed Brad’s talk?
Apparently, there are 2 other videos where Wilcox says the exact same thing as the Alpine talk or phrases very similar to it. This was not a one-off but likely a long-standing part of his usual schtick.
Here is Debi Wilcox’s response for all those who haven’t read it: https://www.reddit.com/r/exmormon/comments/snuzko/maybe_brads_wife_shouldnt_be_commenting/
“Reading these comments makes me realize how truly unchristian people have become. I KNOW Brad well. I have lived with him for almost 40 years and I KNOW his heart. He has nothing but love and respect for Blacks, whites, females, LGBTQ, and any other labels you want to throw in there. He has a great regard and tolerance and love for all people but that does not equate with condoning. He tries very hard explain things to people in a way they can relate and understand and give reasons. I believe that God is all-knowing and directs his work from beginning to end and there is such a thing as eternal truth that no matter how much criticism and denial can change. Could Brad have phrased things a little differently? Of course. But come on people, try having a little understanding and compassion instead of jumping on the band wagon (sic) to crucify. Brad has one of the most pure, sincere, loving, Christlike hearts that I know. He truly wants to make a difference and serves and gives and leads with pure motivation and a 150% of his heart (sic).”
“how truly unchristian people have become”
Projection. Her husband’s comments during his many talks, sometimes verbatim across years, are a reflection of just how un-Christian Brad Wilcox has become.
“Any other labels you want to throw in there”
Wow, the condescension. To quote one of my favorite Stone Sour songs, Absolute Zero: “the hate isn’t fake, it’s just inferred.”
“love for all but that does not equate with condoning”
Another wow. So he doesn’t condone black people? Now, I suspect she probably meant that Brad Wilcox loves LGBTQ people, but doesn’t condone their behavior. Sorry, no he doesn’t. If you don’t support same-sex marriage as normal, you’re a homophobe. There’s no other way around that.
“He tries very hard explain things to people in a way they can relate and understand”
Uh, no he doesn’t. This recent tirade of his is first-hand proof that he does NOT know how to explain things to youth in ways they can “understand.” Although, he certainly knows how to talk down to and insult the very people he’s trying to convince.
“such a thing as eternal truth that no matter how much criticism and denial can change”
Hmm. There is truth alright. Not everything is relative. But it is Brad and you who are in denial about the actual historical facts surrounding the ban on blacks and the priesthood and on the normalcy of same-sex relationships. You folks, in the snarkiest most self-righteous way imaginable, criticize what is common knowledge among experts and mainstream culture and can be backed up with very robust evidence.
“try having a little understanding and compassion”
How about you direct that criticism at your husband. He could use a little more compassion for LGBTQs, blacks, women, youth, and others.
“jumping on the band wagon to crucify”
Wow, the exaggeration. Fake victimhood complex.
There was this response too, which she deleted. (Unless someone is saying it’s not real? I haven’t heard that).
My kiddo doesn’t want to sign up for seminary. I was mostly OK with that but perhaps a little torn / wistful. Now I’m feeling pretty good at keeping him away from CES.
Wilcox gave a presentation at an EFY in Brisbane Australia a few years ago, and he also gave firesides on the grace of Christ which my wife and I thought was good. We see very few GA, or Apostles, and he was really hyped up. He has a pretty good gig touring the world with his wife, giving these 2 talks, and being idolized. None of my grandchildren were at the EFY and I heard no reports.
It is good that his presentation to the youth has been recorded, and exposed. So many lies and half truths, and such bigotry. It is no wonder 80% of members over 40 voted for trump, they have been groomed by the church.
Yes I saw that response as well. In it she said he wasn’t being demeaning to other Christians. Uh, did you hear the part where he scoffed in disbelief at the preacher saying “time and all eternity” and called that just wrong in a very loud and obnoxious voice? That wasn’t demeaning? As if other religions can’t believe in and preach about relationships lasting beyond death (goodness, the idea that you’ll see and be reunited with loved ones on the other side is extremely common among people who believe in the afterlife and heaven, let’s stop pretending that this belief is somehow uniquely Mormon). He also slighted the preacher for agreeing to change the wording for a fee. Yeah, about that, Brad. I’m quite certain you’ve paid well over $100,000 throughout your lifetime for the “privilege” of having a temple recommend. I’m pretty sure that the fee for the word change was pretty small. And yeah, in spite of you not being a member of that church or partying it exorbitant amounts of money and passing its worthiness and belief interviews with two different authorities, you were able to go and witness the wedding yourself.
How to solve the problem? We’re an unusual church because we grow up giving and listening to talks in church given by all members. It gives rise to popular speakers who become better known, LDS celebrities if you will, simply because they speak well publicly. Has nothing to do with being a real professor of religion with a degree from a university. Just put on a show and voila! Instant invites to speak everywhere.
I find young people lining up to hear the latest generation of the cream of the crop speakers who have climbed their way up to headline the EFY circuit a form of idolatry. These are just people who get a rush performing before an audience. And hearing themselves introduced as someone special we’re so fortunate to have them here with us tonight. Really??
LDS culture needs to stop feeding these type of speakers. And CES does not equal a college professor with a bonafide degree. BYU is an academic institution with full professor scholars expected in every department.
A real professor should lead the discussion, for instance on the fact that Levites were the only ones given the PH initially and others not until later. I want to hear an educated person with the background to credibly talk about it.
Culture played a big role historically.
p.s. And obviously, just a skilled speaker with a degree is not enough.
Thank you Old Man-EXACTLY !
“Old Man says:
February 9, 2022 at 12:56 pm
One other thing: How in the world does a person with a PhD in curriculum and instruction from the University of Wyoming wind up employed as a “professor of ancient scripture” at BYU? Does not the “ancient” part of the job title suggest formal training in ancient languages (Hebrew, Aramaic) and considerable academic experience dealing with difficult theological and historical issues? The PhD Wilcox holds does qualify a person for working in a public school district or in a college’s education department at a college. It does NOT qualify one as a professor to research and deal with the difficult issues within that discipline.
I understand the strengths and weakness of the concept of lay clergy as practiced within the LDS Church. But unqualified professors at a major university is a whole different problem. We will face greater struggles with historical, scriptural and theological issues if BYU can’t employ trained academicians in their department of religion able to deal with the issues we currently face or will face in the future.” on By Common Consent.
A couple of people have mentioned John Bytheway. I saw some screen shots of one of his books and the whole “we’re asking the wrong question” about Blacks and the priesthood paragraph was there. I don’t know who the borrower was, but I imagine it will be Bro. Wilcox taking the blame. (As he should! The rest of the talk was outrageous, too.)
I think the best solution to the Wilcox problem is to first solve the Brigham Young problem.
The church would do well to just throw BY categorically under the bus. What of his pronouncements or accomplishments is even worth keeping? He got the Mormons west and built cities, sure, but he did it the same way all the other white settlers did—by stealing land from the indigenous peoples already living there and murdering them when they complained about it. The “battle” at Fort Utah (really a massacre, complete with a signed extermination order from BY) happened a quick jog from where BYU now sits. And let’s not forget the native children assimilated into Mormon families. His legacy is steeped in blood. And we proud descendants of Mormon pioneers, even those of us woke enough to denounce Wilcox’s racist commentary, are still living on stolen land. We arguably care more about how much BY may have been involved in the massacre of white settlers than we do about the unspeakable evils done in broad daylight against the Timpanogos and the Utes. How are we ever going to acknowledge genocide when we can’t even get past whether the priesthood ban was of God?
Also, BY sucked at the whole prophet, seer, and revelator thing. He had big shoes to fill and he tried to fill them with such terrible ideas as the Adam God theory, blood atonement, and of course, all the bullsh*T about why black people didn’t deserve the priesthood. Let’s take down his statues and let’s rename the universities.
The problem with disavowing BY, of course, is that it undermines the supremacy of the current Q15. As well it should! DHO isn’t any more right about LGBTQ people than BY was about black people or native people. The only way out of this mess is for them to take their hand off the throat of the members, let them believe according to the dictates of their conscience, and stop pretending they’re right about everything.
PR Bonus – BW is over-shadowing this week’s news that the BYU health plan will no long be providing care for transgender students receiving voice therapy at its speech clinic because such gender-affirming care conflicts with Handbook guidelines against “social transitioning”.
Imagine the brain pain of those working in the church PR department. They know this kind of crap is unacceptable to the general population and probably many many members – but they have to come up with the spin to make non-apologies that are acceptable to top leadership.
@BeenThere yes you are raising a very important issue, and the timing is unfortunate for us (though perhaps fortunate for BYU).
Does anyone on this blog have children attending BYU? If so, how are people successfully navigating the never-ending land mines there? My oldest is now in high school but I cannot imagine any of my kids going there. But if they choose to, I’m going to need a stiff drink and a lot of good advice.
This comes out as my stake is begging us to sign our kids up for FSY in Logan this year. There is no way in hell I’m sending my kids. Brad spoke at an EFY I attended in 1998 in Provo. He told some long winded story about driving down the canyon after making out with his girlfriend and how they came upon a crash. The woman noticed he had garments on and begged him to give her dying husband a priesthood blessing. In between his sobs and huffing he said he was so disgusted with himself because he was unworthy and vowed to never be unworthy again. It was a highly rehearsed and highly emotionally manipulative talk. People in my group were crying and then they split us up to have individual testimony meetings after Brad had everyone riled up. I sat there in awe as everyone claimed the spirit was so strong. I’m glad to see the fall of this man. The only fear I have is that the church will have him speak in the next conference just to flip the bird to everyone who has a problem with him. They tend to stand up for their own.
BigSky, yes- “history has it’s eyes on you, ’President Nelson”. Your move!
The church has removed popular GAs/officers before…we all remember the fall of Paul H. Dunn. They can do it again.
The “vitamin pill” response would be to release him and remove him from his post at the Y. Otherwise, in less than 8 weeks, they’re going to be asking YM of color all over the globe to sustain him. And the wound is still gushing.
Lastly, we have to be consistent in our ethics when we advocate for serious consequences vs forgiveness. For example, I called for mercy when Kate K. and Natasha H. were on the chopping block, but I’m advocating for Wilcox’s release and removing him from his academic position. Am I just biased or is there a difference?
Three things. 1) Church-bestowed power, position and official endorsement vs individual opinions. 2) Sincerity to help others vs being an uncharitable bully who is victimizing others. 3) The privilege to serve in a leadership positions vs membership rights.
It’s not just a binary “forgiveness for one means forgiveness for all”. There’s a difference between forgiveness and empowerment/privilege. We can forgive Wilcox for saying hurtful things, but that doesn’t mean that we keep giving him the mic, especially when he’s repetitively hurting people and misrepresenting the church. Even if he says he won’t say that again, it doesn’t mean he deserves to get the mic back.
At the same time, the church claimed that part of the reason Kate K and Natasha H were excommunicated was because they had drawn negative national attention to the church. Well, so has Wilcox. Every bit as much. While they all have carried the conversation outside “correlated” boundaries, Wilcox is devolving (going back to an erroneous path from the past), whereas the sisters were evolving (pushing to new places). I have a feeling our conservative church will feel much less discomfort dealing w Wilcox reverting vs the sisters who were ahead of pace, but technically Wilcox is out of bounds too. And no, Kate and Natasha weren’t given warnings or second chances. They were found guilty because repetitive evidence of actions existed.. Well, there is repetitive evidence of Wilcox’s uncorrelated teachings too. He should be in as much hot water as they were. If he escapes with his membership intact, that would really smell of a sexist/biased system, but to escape w a General calling and a prominent teaching appointment at the Y? Wow. That would be galling.
I thought of how to deal with Wilcox. Call him on a mission. But not one where he presides young adults. He has worked at BYU long enough to have his retirement in place.
* presides OVER young adults.
I don’t have a child attending BYU–I am attending BYU. More info available upon request.
@Chadwick. Here are my thoughts on the BYU experience. It will be useful to keep in mind that I am a straight, white, male, RM.
I am a current BYU student. I also happened to be at a Brad Wilcox fireside about two weeks ago where he said essentially the same things. I remember cringing a lot. What hurt me more than the fireside was hearing a lot of my friends say they liked it. I stayed quiet. Others later talked to me about the problems they had with it and I was relieved to know they had issues with it too.
BYU is weird because everyone seems like the same perfect Mormon kid. I worked as a wildland firefighter over the summer near tooele and would drive back to provo on sundays to see my girlfriend. It was a shock on sundays to go from an environment of tough, bearded, swearing, nonmember firefighters and back into the world of clean shaven Mormon boys. Fun fact, Between BYU and the mission, this summer was also the first time I had ever in my life been able to grow out a beard! Anyways, what I am trying to get to is that BYU students suffer from a lack of diverse perspectives. My friends weren’t racist, they just weren’t able to see how those comments are harmful. “That’s absurd!” You say. “ That was so obviously racist!” Yes it was, but it is hard to think about that when you never interact with anyone besides good white Mormon students.
That said, I have absolutely loved my BYU experience. I took my 4 required religion classes and actually enjoyed my pearl of great price class. We talked about how the Papyri characters do not match the book of Abraham and talked about what that means for us and what scripture really is.
I am also studying engineering so professors generally stick to teaching engineering and not preaching. I have gotten opportunities to work for pay in 2 research labs. The professors in these labs have mentored me as I plan my education and career. I have an academic scholarship that lets me attend for free. I have been able to party with friends without alcohol and date girls without worrying about how me living the law of chastity would affect our relationship.
BYU has its advantages and disadvantages, but I have enjoyed it. Also one thing I have learned is that even though we might all look like tall skinny white Mormon boys, once you get to know people, we are all different.
Don’t discount BYU just because you’ll have to put up with some annoying church drama and social pressure and so so soooo much cringe. Just realize that it will be something you’ll have to learn to live with. If you can’t, don’t come here. There really isn’t any way of fighting it.
Brad Wilcox is a good man. I’m close to his age–and he’s done ten times more good during his lifetime of service than I have. He made a mistake–and he sincerely apologized for it. Let’s not crucify him for not framing the gospel message in a way that is completely inoffensive to the world. That’s simply not possible. If he changed his rhetoric to something that would be less offensive to the left then the right would be offended–and vice-a-verse. There’s no question that he has learned something from this painful experience–and that he will try to do better. I hope that all of us who have had something to say about his talk can learn from his willingness to do better–and try to do a little better ourselves.
Jack, you’ve entirely missed the crux of the problem. What he said was NOT the gospel message. That others are “playing church” is not the gospel message. That the denial of the priesthood and temple blessings to black men and women was “God’s timing” is not the gospel message.
I watched the entire thing, three times, before drawing any conclusions. And it was, unfortunately, a sneering, condescending, often doctrinally incorrect, clownish train wreck of a presentation.
@jack, Wilcox isn’t Jesus and isn’t being crucified by anybody.
The internets are full of responses to every one of your incorrect points so it seems you like Wilcox should educate yourself more before opining on the issue. You can read both blog posts and the comments here, three blog posts on By Common Consent and the comments, and three posts on The Exponent II and the comments.
Wilcox wasn’t teaching the gospel.
Brad Wilcox may be a ‘good man’ because he doesn’t cheat on his wife or stomp on kittens, but that’s a pretty low bar to clear. Aside from that, he travels around the world on the church’s dime dispensing uniquely Mormon scary stories about how young people better toe the line or they’ll spend eternity alone in a dark place with nothing to watch but Love Boat reruns. Wilcox is the simulacrum of a good man, and there are thousands more just like him who want to feel like their career choices enable them to meaningfully change the lives of young people but who actually just get to stay safe in the cozy womb of the church, retain their rightful place at the top of the Mormon food chain, and regularly get their egos stroked by impressionable kids telling them how inspiring and spiritual was their most recently dispensed ahistorical and theologically questionable drivel. Many have said it already in previous posts; CES is the problem.
It’s been a bit of a raw week. I shouldn’t respond to Jack, but here goes.
THIS is my main concern. That the vast majority of the church members support Brad Wilcox’s message, just as the majority of members supported Elder Holland’s message at BYU.
I don’t support any single portion of his message. I don’t support a fear-based approach to religion. I don’t support making fun of other religions. I don’t support telling kids that they can’t take God with them if they leave. I don’t support calling students stupid. I don’t support making fun of women. I don’t support white men of privilege making light of people of color. I don’t support the condescending tone. This really has nothing to do with Brad. This has to do with a system that supports people like him giving a fireside like this multiple times in multiple locations. This latest tri-state Alpine fireside would have had three bishops, three stake presidents, three young women’s presidents, up to 36 high councilmen, etc in attendance. Not a single one of them stopped the message, or thought better of posting it online. I simply do not belong here, and Jack’s message makes that very clear. I’m the problem, as he says. That hurts.
I’ve wondered about the phrase, “he’s a good man”, for many years now. Years ago a counselor in our stake presidency was caught in an act of voyeurism at a health club. He was subsequently released and excommunicated. Everyone was shocked. My wife and I were discussing it, and I said something like, “But he is such a good man.” She called me out on that, and since then I have been careful with the use of that phrase. Can anyone be called a “good man”? I mean I know what people mean when they say it, but then if that person makes what we might consider a “serious mistake”, do we then not call them a “good man”? Or do we just stick with Jesus’s recommendation to call no man good, only God?
I think BW made a pretty serious mistake (several times apparently). I’m a TBM and I don’t agree with him regarding race, women or other churches. Being in a position of influence and authority in the church, I would hope that the consequences are just, though I don’t claim to know what that might be. I have been glad to see that the majority of the comments here and elsewhere have not been personal attacks on him, but more toward solving underlying problems related to the content of his talks.
Chadwick, you seem sincere. I like you in spite of our differences. But here’s the problem I have:
You say: “That the vast majority of the church members support Brad Wilcox’s message, just as the majority of members supported Elder Holland’s message at BYU.”
Yes, I’m one of those who support these two good men. Yes, I think Brad Wilcox could’ve phrased his statement about the ban in a more sensitive way–and he’s apologized for that. And, no, I don’t believe that Elder Holland said anything wrong at BYU. So here’s what troubles me: I know I’m not the smartest guy on the block. I’m a regular blue collar type; I’m a social conservative and I love the church. And there are millions of people like me in the church. Are we all wrong whilst a tiny handful of progressives are right? (No pun intended) Isn’t it possible that the progressive worldview might be just as wrong as they believe ours to be?
That said, the greatest irony (to me personally) about the whole thing is: I’m fairly confident that I’ve been down in the trenches with a lot more people of color, women superiors, and LGBT folks than most of the progressive Latter-day Saints who are offended by Elder Wilcox’s talk.
And so, while there’s no question that we can do better in our efforts to be sensitive to social minorities in the church, isn’t it possible that progressives are overreacting because of their worldview? That because of a thick fearful amber-colored lens they’re not able to truly discern the gospel forest for the trees that appear–to them–to be an array of social concerns about to erupt in flames?
Calm down, my friend(s). The church isn’t perfect–but neither is it the bastion of racism, misogyny, homophobia, and whatever other misapplied labels the world attaches to it.
Jack – You support Brad Wilcox or you support his position that God was responsible for the Priesthood and temple ban? If you support his position then, yes, you and the other millions of members who think like you are also wrong. The number game bugs me too. Is there a chance that the 2 billion Christians who worship God (play church) are wrong while the tiny handful of Mormons are right? How about the 1.5 billion Muslims that play church every week?
Your attitudes towards progressives is interesting beings as both Jesus and Joseph Smith were fairly progressive dudes. Give it a rest. This is a playground of progressives so don’t get your garments in a wad if you come here and get some pushback.
@Jack – I am not sure you’re the arbiter of whether Wilcox or Holland’s comments are harmful to the populations they disparage. But since you have so many black, female, and gay friends from the trenches, why don’t you see what they think and then you can let us know if we liberals are making a big deal out of nothing or if you are perhaps ignoring the impact those words have on people?
Generally I try to defer to the experiences of a marginalized group when it claims comments are harmful. So when a gay person tells me the musket comments are harmful, I believe them. When a black person tells me the priesthood comments are harmful, I believe them. And as a women I can tell you that yes, the women comments (including the impersonation of the angry, stupid woman who doesn’t know the difference between the priesthood and malaria) are harmful.
Re: Ignoring the impact their words have on people: That depends–are we talking about the way they express their concerns? Or the substance of their concerns? I agree that we need to be sensitive in our expressions. But on the other hand, when we’re overly concerned with *how* people express themselves it’s that much easier to make them an offender for a word–even when the substance of what they’re trying to convey might be good. The charge to support the Lord’s anointed in all patience and faith was given to members of the church because of the kinds of difficulties we’ve been discussing here.
“If you support his position then, yes, you and the other millions of members who think like you are also wrong.”
My response may be a bit curt. But the fact is that there’s no way to know that the Lord did *not* inspire Brigham Young to implement the ban. I’m OK with people being of the opinion that it wasn’t inspired–so long as they understand that it’s exactly that: an opinion. But as for my own opinion–I don’t know. Even so, I’m sure that we’re both grateful for the lifting of the ban. And that was Wilcox’s final point on the matter–that we should be grateful “right down to our socks” that our dear black brothers and sisters have access to all the blessings of the priesthood.
Hi Jack: Thank you for trusting in my sincerity. It can sometimes be hard to detect sincerity online and I appreciate it. I have no doubt we have more in common than not.
I guess when it comes down to it, I finally had to make a choice on a few matters: support “the lord’s annointed” to coin your phrase, or follow my own mind and heart. I ultimately decided that, to the extent my mind and heart felt strongly about something, I would follow them, as I believe God gave me these faculties for a reason. If I don’t feel strongly, then I’m happy to follow the prophet. I’m sure my method is flawed, but I feel confident that God will respect and understand me. Many people feel this makes me a bad Mormon. Oh well.
With regards to the priesthood ban, I feel very strong that this is not from God. People make mistakes. God has given me personally no reason to believe that he uses skin color to segregate his children. The scriptures say that we are all alike unto God, and that no one should be punished for the transgressions of their ancestors. I could be right, I could be wrong. I’m doing the best I can.
Otherwise I appreciate Zach and Elisa and their comments and and 100% agree with them. When other people tell me something harmed them, I believe them. I’ve found it’s just easier to empathize than to judge. It’s certainly less time consuming, as I don’t have to expound all the mental energy you describe above trying to read someone else’s mind and heart.
One more comment heading into the weekend:
We are taking our kids to see “Wicked” tomorrow (Broadway’s back and I’m so happy). BW talk reminds me of the opening song:
No one mourns the wicked
No one cries they won’t return
No one lays a lily on their grave
The good man scorns the wicked
Through their lives our children learn
What they miss, when they misbehave
And goodness knows, the wicked’s lives are lonely
Goodness knows, the wicked die alone
Nothing grows for the wicked, they grow only what they sow
BW talk seemed to share this same sentiment. I won’t spoil the play for those who haven’t seen it, but these opening lines are proven incorrect in the end.
@ Jack: “But the fact is that there’s no way to know that the Lord did *not* inspire Brigham Young to implement the ban.”
Sure there is, the same way we *know* anything else in this church.
“Are we all wrong whilst a tiny handful of progressives are right?”
I was merely answering your petty, condescending question with a short petty answer. Shouldn’t the burden of proof be on those claiming it WAS from God. They are the ones that are causing the harm. I simply don’t believe that millions of members in the year 2022 believe that doctrine came from God. More likely is that many have not wrestled with the question.
I am certain BY thought he was being inspired. I am certain that the prophets that followed him also thought he was inspired. How can we tell if a man is inspired by God? Jesus told us pretty clearly that the fruits will show the nature of the tree. You and I were not there when God appeared to BY and told him that Blacks were the seed of Cain, were not allowed to participate in exalting ordinances, and were not to be sealed to their families or allowed to marry white people, so there is no way to prove anything. I will have to defer to the ultimate “by their fruits” argument, my own common sense, and the confirmation of the spirit that there never was a revelation that came from God instituting the ban. You are trying to defend the indefensible here Jack. It leads to bad apologetics and leads to a superiority complex. I’m not trying to be rude, but the way people are repulsed with BW that started this whole conversation should be evidence enough for you that you are wrong and so are the people who agree with you. As far as being grateful that Blacks have access to the priesthood, if it is true that millions of members hold your viewpoints, I hope they stay as a far away as possible from this organization.
@Zach – fruits! Yes! We ignore this so much. IMO it’s the only concrete “proof” there is when it comes to spiritual stuff.
Also if people don’t think there is good evidence re the origins of the ban they just haven’t done enough reading. We are entitled to make inferences based on statements BY made contemporaneously with the ban and the historical record is replete with them. It’s willfully ignorant to say we can’t possibly know what was in his head when he spoke his thoughts on race on public record.
Chadwick, I believe that living the gospel–in a functional sense–boils down to doing what we believe is right for the best reason we can come up with. And so, based upon that idea–and while I’m certainly not the Judge–my guess is that you’re good with God.
Re: The ban being inspired or not: I respect your opinion–or at least your right to have that opinion. My own sense is that the ban was more of a practical measure than anything else. IMO, the entire world–not just the church–was not ready to fully integrate our black brothers and sisters into its society. Sad, but that’s how the world was in those days–segregation persisted until the 1960s. I was born in the early sixties–and it still astonishes me to think that my life is connected with that era.
Re: Broadway: Not trying to one-up you, but I’ve written scores for eleven musicals. You’ve never heard of them–I’m a nobody. But we–my entire family–are a bunch of hams. We love Broadway too.
Zach, I’m not saying that we can know for a fact that the ban was inspired. As I said above: I don’t know. Here’s a link to an article that reflects my own feelings on the ban:
I take your meaning. Even so, I think it would be bad form for me to go around telling everyone that I had received a revelation (which I haven’t) that Brigham Young was indeed inspired to implement the ban. Personal revelation (for the most part) should remain with the person who receives it–especially when it differs from general counsel.
“Playing church” can be defined, for many reasons, as sitting through a rehash of “The Temple and Your Spiritual Foundation” by RMN tomorrow in EQ. No thanks, it’s Super Bowl Sunday !!
Oh the irony – tomorrow’s Relief Society lesson in my Ward in Minnesota will be a discussion on the talk by Bradley Wilcox entitled “Worthiness is NOT Flawlessness”. The cynic in me wonders if the Bishop or Stake President requested all units to use the Wilcox talk. So we won’t be speaking evil of the Lord’s annointed. This is one lesson that I will gladly miss!
One thing that can done about J Bytheway, B Wilcox, and their ilk (any position requiring CES certification) is to move them off campus. Have an Institute like at other universities. Don’t require their classes and don’t give university credits. And send the dress code and most of the honor code with them off campus.
I would love to see this mocking and offensive tone die out amongst those who speak publicly for the church. How can anybody regard it as appropriate for those who claim to speak in the name of Jesus? And that is without considering the content.
This tone is shocking to civilised and educated people, and belongs on a talk show. It demeans the gospel of Jesus Christ, and our children can feel that. They now know better. It shames them and us to be associated with it.
Hi Jack: Wow! I’m a long-time season-ticket holding patron of the arts, but you’ve created art. That’s incredible! I would love to hear more sometime.
Euler: Thank you for sharing your experience, and apologies for the late response. Your experience with some of the students is similar to mine with a family member. I’m an 80’s child and therefore was born post-priesthood ban. This family member was born and raised in small town UT in the 50’s-70’s. When I asked them what they thought of the ban they thought a moment said “I didn’t really give it much thought.” Which makes sense. They didn’t know anyone personally affected, so why would they give it a second thought?
I’m glad to hear you are enjoying your experience, notwithstanding some of the cringe. I was in the accounting program in the aughts and actually LOVED the interplay between education and religion. Mostly because the message was all about relevance and ethics and not about history or culture. I suppose it can be done. But since then, it seems it’s one thing after another. Maybe reading about these things from a distance isn’t the same as living through the Honor Code extravaganza, Elder Holland’s talk, lighting up the Y, etc. Perhaps for me reading about it made it feel like it was permeating every corner of Provo but most students were just busy studying.
Dylan: Would love to hear your thoughts as well.
Jack: ” My own sense is that the ban was more of a practical measure than anything else. IMO, the entire world–not just the church–was not ready to fully integrate our black brothers and sisters into its society.” I used to believe that as well; however, there’s also plenty of counter-factual evidence the more I’ve looked into actual history. For one thing, another branch of the Mormon church (the Bickertonites) never had a race-based priesthood ban whatsoever, integrating all races into the Church much more seamlessly than Brigham Young did, and this sect began at the same time as the Brighamite branch we are referencing. Another contemporary counter-factual is that attitudes about other races had shifted pretty dramatically in the UK at this time, under the leadership of William Wilberforce, and many many early Church members migrated from that more racially enlightened country. And the last bit of logic that kills that argument for me is the idea that God would have to favor white people over other races (in this case, very specifically discarding the needs of black people) for this to have originated with God. God would have to say “I love my bigoted white children more than my worthy yet marginalized black children.” The lack of readiness of one race doesn’t trump the needs of other races.
Thanks for your thoughtful reply Angel C. I think we’ll have to agree to disagree. The more I learn about the past the more it seems clear to me that history truly is a foreign country–even another planet in some cases. While it’s possible that Europe was ahead of us vis-a-vis the morality involved with slavery and servitude and so forth–I don’t think they were that much further ahead with regard to actually embracing blacks as equals in society. But even if they were, the fact remains that here in the U. S. we weren’t. A fully integrated society simply would not have survived in those days–IMHO.
That said, while I believe that a racist culture was the biggest obstacle to blacks receiving the priesthood, I can’t say that I know for certain that that’s the only reason for the ban. I just don’t know. But even so, it seems evident to me–as I look back–that one hundred years of segregation following the Civil War is proof positive that we–not just the church but the entire culture–were not ready to mingle with blacks until after WWII. And even then the Civil Rights Movement would barely succeed. And so, that’s why I’m convinced that the cultural shift in the country–as a whole–had something to do with the timing of the revelation in 1978.
Jack: The only other thing I will add is that the Church was on the wrong side of civil rights, actively fighting against it. Is that God saying “Oh, society is not ready yet” or is that the Church being inspired by bigotry rather than God?
“I realize that every solution is a ticket to a new problem. It is the help, power, and strength He offers as we choose to engage. I see talks like this and think “man, the church really needs to fix it’s racism problem.
Angela C, there may have been individuals who voiced their concerns about the Civil Rights Movement–but the church itself did nothing to prevent it. Here’s a link to a letter issued in 1969 by the First Presidency that (I think) sums up where the church stood on the matter:
Jack, it doesn’t matter what the culture was like in the US. There were people and groups throughout all this time advocating for radical acceptance of all people regardless of race. The sad fact remains that these voices were coming from outside the self-proclaimed Church of Jesus Christ. There are prophets among us. They just aren’t in the LDS Church.
Apples and oranges, John. Independent voices calling for equality is one thing. The church establishing an actual community where that kind of equality is expressed in the lives of its adherents is quite another. It would not have survived, IMO.
Having said that, I can’t say that I know for certain that that was the primary reason for the ban–I don’t know. Even so, as I look back on the history of this country–and the West in general–it just seems impossible for that kind of integration to have arisen. Otherwise it would have happened–IMO.
Not to downplay the racism present in other denominations, Jack, but let’s look at some interesting milestones:
First Black Roman Catholic Priest in the US: 1886.
First Black Priest in the Episcopal Church of the US: 1802.
First ordained Black Lutheran missionary in the US: 1832.
John, I agree that’s awesome. But the question that comes to mind is: were there any integrated communities that resulted from those ordinations? I could be wrong, but it seems to me that lifting the ban at an earlier time in history might’ve led to an earlier attempt to fully integrate our black brothers and sisters–and I don’t see how that would’ve been possible. It would be like Joseph Smith attempting to restore the gospel 100 years before the Constitution was ratified. Certainly both scenarios might have been possible had the Lord chosen to intervene at those times. But in practical terms it just wasn’t doable.
Jack – I don’t want this to be a dog pile, but you keep coming back, so you must want some engagement. I am going to put aside the Dan Peterson article you linked above because it would take me a long time to respond. Long story short, I think his apologetics suck. They simply don’t work. If the saints fought as hard for racial equality as they fought for polygamy, you honestly think they couldn’t have found a way to integrate Black people in their religious community? They were a couple thousand miles away and who would have come to fight the battle? If I remember my history correctly the other states of the union were fighting a civil war to free black people. Nothing is as discouraging to me as seeing pictures of the religious folks fighting against the civil rights movements and doing it in the name of God. The fact that LDS people had a prophet made it HARDER to recognize that are viewpoints and doctrines were not only wrong, but offensive to any reasonable thinking spiritual person.
On another note, I love music and think it is awesome that you compose. I play the piano, organ, guitar and sing. I think you are more progressive than you are willing to admit.
Zach, that’s cool! I envy your ability to play multiple instruments and sing. I wish I could do all of that.
Yeah–sometimes I have a hard time getting out of conversations because — as a social conservative on a progressive blog — I can get a lot of responses–and I don’t always know when to stop.
“I think you are more progressive than you are willing to admit.”
I’ll take that as a compliment! I’m softer in my political views than my social views–though there’s certainly a lot of overlap between the two. And as far as the church and apologetics (and all of that) goes–well I happen to think that Dan Peterson is one of the most brilliant minds in the church. But I’ll forgive you for not agreeing with me on that point 😀
Re: The topic at hand: I think the saints were in real jeopardy until Utah became a bona fide state. And while I agree that the saints could theoretically have pulled it off–I really do believe that they would’ve met with too much resistance from the outside to have maintained an integrated society.
Of course, both you and I could be wrong on that score. I don’t think we’re wrong–but it’s certainly possible that integration might’ve been a bridge too far for them at that time. Even so, it just seems to me that if building an integrated community had been possible in those days that somebody would have succeeded in doing it. But it didn’t happen anywhere in the country–not until after WWII.
Jack, that’s absolutely not the case. The Episcopal church in the Northeast where I’m in the choir has been an integrated parish since the 1850s. I know that a nearby Black parish closed, and its members joined the other parish, and somehow Black and White people worshipped together just fine, even before the Civil War.
Sticking to the musical theme:
Imagine if the church had stuck with Joseph’s progressive ideas of racial integration and empowering women.
Imagine the kind of empathetic, forward thinking, charitable people the movement would have attracted.
Imagine the story we would have to share in the year 2022 of our prophets and their foresight.
Imagine the west being a place where property rights, voting rights, legal rights were granted to women and people of color.
Imagine, Imagine, Imagine. This is what true prophets do my friend. It was the frontier. It would have attracted less people I imagine and the church would not be as wealthy and powerful as it is today, but is that how we measure success and truth? We will never know what that church would look like today. We can, and must, stop defending past mistakes.