Jodie Parkinson: World waits for LDS leaders to speak on racism

(Rick Bowmer | AP file photo) President Russell M. Nelson, right, talks with his counselor, Dallin H. Oaks, left, during The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' twice-annual church conference Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019, in Salt Lake City.

If you’ve ever met a Mormon missionary (or, like me, been one), you may be familiar with their pride in touting their prophet as the singular individual ordained of God to speak for Him in these latter days. With Jesus having died some 2,000 years ago, thank heavens for a modern-day prophet! Right?

Take, for example, “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” a document revered by church members as a revelatory admonition against the legalization of gay marriage, which would occur in the United States two decades later. That kind of foresight could only have been mustered by a man of God, as we are taught.

Yet today, in relation to pressing issues concerning basic human rights, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints remains odiously silent. In fact, authorities of the church — the touted prophets and apostles — continue to behave as if we live in a post-racial society. At his first press conference as president of the church in January of 2018, Russell M. Nelson responded to a question about racial diversity in church leadership with a flippant assurance that some day soon “there will be other flavors in the mix.”

Better yet, President Dallin H. Oaks warned against the danger of “labeling” ourselves according to racial identity “because the most important thing … is that we are all children of God.”

Ask him about gender identity, though, and he’ll be sure to come up with a different answer.

Now, our black brothers and sisters have been brought to the brink in demanding an end to the institutional violence by which they have been plagued for centuries. Consequently, they are being treated as shooting targets by private citizens and criminals by their government. Weren’t we all just waiting at the edge of our seats to find out what God’s mouthpiece would have to say about it?

“The hope of the world is the Prince of Peace — our Creator, Savior, Jehovah, and Judge. He offers us the good life, the abundant life, and eternal life. Peaceful — even prosperous — living can come to those who abide His precepts and follow His pathway to peace,” Nelson tweeted.

Really? There’s nothing else you’d like to relay from a presumably loving, omniscient being?

To draw from Oaks’ words from 2018, it is dangerous to act, “as if God applied His blessings and extended His goodness and His love on the basis of ‘quotas’ that … He does not recognize, so we shouldn’t.”

Surely, though, God is perceptive enough to recognize when select members of society suffer more than others socially, economically and physically. Yet, the leaders of the church find it easier to ignore the kind of issue they are supposedly ordained to address.

In actuality it is no surprise that a group of men, primarily white and raised within a climate of normalized discrimination, lack the vocabulary needed to address racial injustice. If the current leaders are truly interested in expanding the church’s influence to people of all nations, racial identities and backgrounds, I would suggest they truly consider what God means in “calling” so many white septuagenarians that we can hardly tell them apart. There should be no question as to where precisely the church stands on an issue of life or death for minorities.

Perhaps if we as a church are concerned with unequivocally instilling in our membership a Christlike attitude towards racial injustice, we should start incorporating lessons on diversity into curriculum at the local level. May I suggest that they replace the lectures on chastity relating women to “chewed pieces of gum.”

Jodie Parkinson

Jodie Parkinson is an active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in New York City. She currently attends Columbia University, where she studies Russian language and culture.