Some LDS Church members have internalized their victimhood so much that they cannot see how others have been oppressed.

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Why do so many people think that we Mormons are racist? Turns out it’s not because of Brigham Young.

Brad Wilcox, a professor of religion at Brigham Young University and one of Mormonism’s most unfortunate pseudo-celebrities, recently had a dismal performance on the fireside circuit. In attempting to clarify why the all-male priesthood of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was not granted to black men until 1978, Wilcox asked some rhetorical questions: “Was Brigham Young a fool? Church members were biased?

Well, maybe. But as if answering those questions mattered, he went on to suggest, “Maybe we’re asking the wrong question. Maybe instead of saying, “Why did black people have to wait until 1978”, maybe we should ask, “Why did white people and other races have to wait until 1829? “- one thousand eight hundred and twenty-nine years they waited.

Apparently, in the long history of race relations, the extended delay for people of African descent is not so bad. The real parody, according to Wilcox, is the eighteen centuries that white people had to wait. He could have pointed out that these long oppressed whites were never excluded from the priesthood while others enjoyed it.

Wilcox has since apologized for his misstep, though his apology rings hollow as additional videos have surfaced in which he made nearly identical comments. It wasn’t a careless or inadvertent mistake, but a repeated talking point in his stump speech.

Ironically, in his haste to defend Brigham Young and the church’s 19th century race, Wilcox inadvertently revealed that he (and we) have a much bigger problem. Color blindness and sound deafness have conspired to produce an almost inexplicable racial ignorance within the 21st century church. And yes, professor, asking why some black people were ordained to the priesthood when the United States was still a slave-holding society and why the practice was abandoned long after the civil rights movement is an appropriate question.

If this “error” were limited to Wilcox, it could easily be dismissed. But this error, although coming from someone who hijacks the very history he claims to master, does not make Wilcox unique. Racial ignorance among Mormons stems not from our history, but from our failure to learn from that history. Despite all the resources the church has invested in preserving and teaching history, unfortunately we don’t seem to be getting it. We cling to the theology of persecution as a central tenet of our historical heritage and current reality.

In the face of growing anti-Semitism, racial redistricting and voter suppression laws, prominent church members in both government and BYU would have the world believe they represent a victim class.

For example, before becoming one of Donald Trump’s most dedicated followers, Senator Mike Lee criticized his party’s presidential candidate in 2016, saying that Trump had “made statements that some have correctly identified as religiously intolerant “. He said Trump was “extremely unpopular in my state, in part because my state consists of people who are members of a religious minority church – a people who were exterminated by the governor of Missouri in 1838.”

Kathleen Flake, professor of Mormon studies at the University of Virginia, told me that Mormons were “remarkably oppressed by state and federal governments.” But she says that by focusing only on the oppression suffered by Mormons and other Protestants, we can easily overlook the ongoing oppression that other religious groups face.

Most religious communities have been threatened or abused, she said, but Lee uses “a little bit of Protestant history to tell the story of all of America” ​​and then suggests that “any other story isn’t is not American”. It’s not a story “that real historians recognize,” she said.

For Lee, Trump’s heroism as an opponent of “woke extremism” outweighs any concerns the senator might have had about the president’s intolerance of Muslims or anyone else. Thus, the historical context of Mormon persecution shifted from why Lee opposed Trump to why he supported him.

Like Wilcox, Lee didn’t misspoke. On the contrary, he betrayed an insensitivity to the suffering of others. Racism and religious bigotry are two sides of the same ugly coin. By refusing to acknowledge these twin forces, people like Wilcox and Lee belie true Christian empathy. They have internalized the story of the persecution so much that they are unable to see that the oppressed have become the oppressors. Thus, they refuse to let the dialogue concern anyone but themselves.

These lightweights posing as scholars and statesmen distort and belittle a belief system that, for some of us, is more than a system. On the tapestry of faith they have left a stain which the rising generation will remove in due time. In the meantime, the damage and disappointment are real, and the stakes couldn’t be higher.

Addison Graham is a sophomore at Brigham Young University majoring in American Studies and Spanish. He is currently studying abroad in Spain.

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