Creator of fake LDS apology does his own apologizing, acknowledges causing ‘tremendous pain for black Mormons’

(Jeremy Harmon | The Salt Lake Tribune) President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints appears with NAACP leaders Leon Russell, center, and Derrick Johnson on May 17, 2018, where the two groups emphasized a need for greater civility and called for an end to prejudice.

After spending four days defending his fake apology for the LDS Church’s past racial ban as “satire” or a discussion starter, former Mormon Jonathan Streeter issued his own mea culpa Tuesday.

“I caused tremendous pain for black Mormons who have patiently waited for so long,” Streeter wrote in a letter to The Salt Lake Tribune. “I am deeply sorry.”

LaShawn Williams, a member of the grass-roots Black LDS Legacy Committee, noted the prankster did not, to her knowledge, offer his contrition personally to black Mormons.

After all, they were the ones — men and boys, women and girls — who were barred from the Utah-based faith’s all-male priesthood and its temples from the mid-1800s until 1978, when the prohibition ended.

Streeter, who lives in Texas, launched his deception May 17, the day LDS Church President Russell M. Nelson and top executives from the NAACP issued historic — and real — statements about working together to promote civility and racial harmony.

The hoaxer posted a document on his website that purported to be from the church’s governing First Presidency, falsely quoting Nelson as saying, “I offer a full unqualified apology for the error of racism which was taught from this office and in the tabernacle and over the pulpits of our churches the world over.”

At the time, Streeter said he initiated the ruse as a way to “start a conversation” about what he sees as the Mormon church’s need to apologize for its past.

About an hour or two before the landmark LDS/NAACP news conference, the fake release went viral. Many in the black Mormon community had been hoping and praying for such an official apology and were devastated when they learned it was a fraud.

They felt “retraumatized” by Streeter’s deceit, Zandra Vranes, co-author of “Diary of Two Mad Black Mormons,” said in a tear-filled Facebook Live video. “We are not pawns in your game of white people fighting the white church.”

The Black LDS Legacy Committee, which includes Vranes and Williams, issued this statement Friday: “This website was created to provoke a response from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its members. ... The most profound response came from many of its black members — many of whom have prayed for such an announcement.”

The dialogue on “racism and white supremacy in the LDS Church is a complex one,” the Legacy Committee wrote. “Allyship demands cooperation and consultation between the group affected and those on the outside who seek to make a positive change. …[but Streeter’s approach] was nothing short of manipulative, self-centered and disingenuous.”

In Tuesday’s concession, Streeter acknowledged that his prank was “very shortsighted, hurtful and ultimately wrong.”

”I am responsible for the unintended consequences of my actions,” he wrote. “.I have listened to many powerful expressions of the pain I caused and have been humbled further by my own ignorance.”

Streeter has removed “the satire apology Web page,” he said. “I understand that I cannot remove the deep wounds that I have reopened. … The [phony] apology reflects my sincere desire for healing and progress in the church.”

The Legacy Committee found little solace in Streeter’s words.

It is “a performance common to many white progressives,” the group wrote in an email, “particularly those affiliated with the LDS Church.”

The group also had harsh words for “media publications that gave Mr. Streeter a platform for his harmful rhetoric,” the statement said. “It exacerbated the harm already experienced by members of the black Mormon community.”

The committee remains committed to “stand with those affected by [his] actions,” it said, “and to those who are doing the work of building Zion.”