Kristine Hansen: Latter-day Saints should vote against racism

(Courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Dallin H. Oaks of the First Presidency talked to Brigham Young University students about racism on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020.

Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints don’t tell members how to vote, but it seems to me, they are certainly telling them how not to vote.

In the October 2020 General Conference, President Russell M. Nelson taught, “Your standing before God is not determined by the color of your skin,” adding, “I grieve that our Black brothers and sisters the world over are enduring the pains of racism and prejudice. Today I call upon our members everywhere to lead out in abandoning attitudes and actions of prejudice.”

President Dallin H. Oaks also spoke of racism, specifically to American members of the international church: “This nation’s history of racism is not a happy one, and we must do better.” Oaks added, “The hostilities and illegalities felt among different ethnicities in other nations should not be felt in the United States. This country should be better in eliminating racism not only against Black Americans, who were most visible in the recent protests, but also against Latinos, Asians, and other groups.”

Oaks didn’t condone violence or destruction of property that sometimes accompanied recent protests, but he affirmed the First Amendment right to protest as “the authorized way to raise public awareness and to focus on injustices in the content or administration of the laws.” He asserted, “There have been injustices. In public actions and in our personal attitudes, we have had racism and related grievances.”

Perhaps some Latter-day Saints listening felt they do not support racism. They may know people of color among their friends and colleagues. Their children go to schools and play sports with children of all races. Perhaps some thought racism didn’t concern them because there are few or no non-White minorities where they live.

But maybe they should ask themselves whether they can take the perspective of minorities. How many white Latter-day Saints have needed to talk with their teenagers about what to do if stopped by police even while obeying the law? About not making unexpected moves if they are stopped because an officer might shoot them? Have White members put themselves in the shoes of their minority brothers and sisters and thought deeply about how lack of adequate employment, housing, education and health care affect them?

If we vote for officials who are racists, who condone racist ideologies and pursue racist policies, are we following Nelson and Oaks? I think not. This is an important reason I cannot vote for Donald Trump. He is a racist. I don’t have space to give the most compelling reasons for this conclusion, but you can see a partial list here.

Quoting the Rev. Theresa Dear of the NAACP, Oaks stated, “Racism thrives on hatred, oppression, collusion, passivity, indifference and silence.” He charged us, “As citizens and as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we must do better to help root out racism.” We cannot sit passively by, indifferent and silent, as others engage in racist speech and actions. We must speak up. We must act. If we don’t, we allow racism to thrive; we cooperate with it.

We can root out racism by voting out racists, starting with Donald Trump. Yet polls indicate Utah, home to over two million members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is poised to hand Trump a victory.

Consider how a win for Trump in Utah will impact your Black brothers and sisters who are members of the Church. What will it say to them if their White brothers and sisters are not alarmed by Trump’s racism? What will it say to our Latino brothers and sisters, with family members in Mexico, Central America, Puerto Rico, and other Caribbean nations, which Trump derided as “s---hole countries”? What will it say to our Muslim brothers and sisters, who have been the target of his contempt?

Do Latter-day Saints want to support a racist president who favors the ideology of White supremacy? Or do they want to follow correct principles to govern our nation in a way that, as President Howard W. Hunter said, “encourages diverse people to live together in Christian love regardless of religious belief, race, nationality, financial standing, education, or culture”?

Kristine Hansen

Kristine Hansen, Spring City, is a retired English professor who taught rhetoric, writing and history of civilization at Brigham Young University for more than 30 years.
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