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I bugged out yesterday to see a doc at the Texas Black Film Festival, a doc about Black Mormons. (Yes, they, like bi-sexuals, do exist!) I had no idea what the slant would be (every doc has one, there's no such thing as a neutral documentary.)

Started off with some great information, things I had actually forgotten, truth be told. One thing that is positive about Joseph Smith: he was an abolitionist and created the first black "preacher" that preached to a white congregation in US History, and the Mormon church was THE ONLY religion that didn't have segregated congregations. Bet you didn't know that, huh? Guess what: MOST MORMONS DON'T EITHER. (Not the segregated part, that's never changed, but that a black man, Elija Able, was a priesthood holder, in the leadership of the church (the Quorum of the Seventy), and had all this from Joseph himself. But Joe died, Brigham Young got pissed off at a black man in Navoo that "seduced" a woman he was interested in, then the Curse of Cain became official doctrine. (*this* I remembered. Young was an asshole of the highest magnitude.)

The Curse of Cain Doctrine was OFFICIAL church doctrine. It's the old song and dance that continued to keep black people oppressed in the Mormon church (and, let's be fair, most Christian faiths at the time.) But the LDS church kept it going until 1978. And still have yet to retract. They just say that now God says blacks are equal. Allow me to point you to my middle finger.

So the doc goes on, and it's evident that it's pro-Mormon. Which, okay. That's your faith. May I point out that the director was a black woman? And her family were members BEFORE 1978 when the church called out "olly olly oxen-free!" Guess what "race" the Mormon church has a hard time keeping in the rolls? Blacks. So, "descendants of Cain" couldn't have the priesthood, which meant they couldn't get to the Penthouse Suite of Heaven with god, even WHITE people with a black ancestor. "A drop of Negro blood" was the rule. GAH!!!! But Philipinos, Tongans, Hawaiians, Hispanics, Latin Americans... all were allowed. So, they say, the church wasn't racist.

The mind, she reels.

Hey, wanna know what was going on in 1978 to make them "get a revelation from God?" The Sao Paolo temple was being built (completed and opened September, 1978.) Turns out, Brazillians? Not so much with the pure white, in case anyone was sleeping in World History. (Portuguese, local native tribes, black slaves and freed blacks for starters)

So that means that 85% of the LDS males in Brazil had "a drop of Negro blood." Which meant that this multi-million dollar temple was going to sit empty, because you can't go into the temple unless you're yadda yadda. You get the point. (Which means that people aren't going to go to church much, because what's the point? And if people aren't going to church they aren't PAYING TITHING. Bingo!) But the "Prophet" at the time "prayed fervently to Heavenly Father, hoping for this cruel Doctrine to be changed." And gosh, right before the time of the temple dedication, it WAS! A proclamation was issued that Blacks Would Get The Priesthood.

June 6, 1978.

So I'm watching this documentary, and it turns into a "testimony meeting" with various black church members about how they knew they would be a part of this big event. And they're proud to be Mormons. And one woman (turned out to be the director) mentioned how when she was "finally allowed into the temple" that was the first place she was called the "N" word. (She used the word, I will not.) Nice. And just recently, while performing Marriages for the Dead (I've talked about this in other posts) with a white woman from her congregation, the woman told her that in the next life (heaven) the Director would have to come find her, because this woman wouldn't recognize the Director when she was white, she just wasn't able to picture it.

Are you catching what that means? It's something I had COMPLETELY FORGOTTEN ABOUT. In the next life, (this is LDS doctrine) when the righteous are "PERFECTED" and receive their paradisaical glory (the key to the Penthouse Suite of Heaven) they will be made WHITE. (Because race is only on earth, there is no race in Heaven.)


This is a BLACK FILM FESTIVAL. So, this is an audience of intellectual pro-African/black culture people, celebrating their blackness on the first day of Black History Month. And not ONE PERSON brought up the question of that. Did it go by so fast that no one noticed? I mean, how freaking offensive is this concept, right?

After the show there was a Q & A session with the director, and people in the audience were asking about how she knew this was the right church, blah blah blah, how did she get funding (University of Utah), how it is to be a black person in Utah, etc.

(Oh, side story, there was an interview with one man who was a black student at BYU in the 60s. He noticed that he was the only black person in the crowd, and started frantically looking for someone, anyone else of color. He saw a car drive by with a black couple. He ran to their car and tapped on the glass, scaring them. The woman in the passenger seat rolled her window down, and the guy, face splitting in a huge grin, said, "You two are the first black people I've seen since I got here!" and the woman replied, "Honey, we're just passing through." Bwah ha! The whole audience cracked up.)

So here I am, sitting by myself, seething with the treatment that blacks in general are getting BY A BLACK WOMAN, wondering how she can stomach the idea that for her to be PERFECT, she has to be WHITE, how can she reconcile her earlier statement of pride in being a black woman with losing that in heaven.

...and I didn't challenge her. I chickened out. I didn't want to seem confrontational against black Mormons. I wanted to genuinely help her see that she was living a contradiction, that it was just as damaging to the black culture/race as the idea that blacks were "less, because they were descendants of Cain" and that "they fought less valiantly/were fence sitters in the Pre-Existence." (See: Paradise Lost. Mormons believe in that profoundly.)

I chickened out, and left, my stomach in knots, frustrated with my cowardice.

Gah!! I still don't know how to have handled that. I think because I'm so frustrated with that religion, with the lack of knowledge its own members have, with the audacity of blacks losing their color in the next life - the ultimate white washing, that I would have come off as some angry white woman, and I was afraid the audience/she would miss the point I was trying to make. WTF, me?!

Oh! Oh!! Someone in the audience brought up polygamy (of course) and why can't women have the priesthood and the director HANDED THE MICROPHONE to a WHITE MORMON MALE that came with her to the showing so he could answer the question. And he didn't answer, he just rattled off some stuff about how he knows that church is True. *head desk* And I muttered (okay, I said it out loud, I was feeling cantankerous at this point) that "that's a non-answer!" One of the organizers for the event was sitting behind me and kept giving me looks. It wasn't enough to get me to talk into the mic. I AM ASHAMED OF MYSELF, you guys.

I'm still sick to my stomach about it. (I have a lot of thoughts on this topic, but they'll get their own post another time. I mean, there is a lot to talk about with this.)

Oh!! And I had NO IDEA that ELDRIDGE FRAKING CLEAVER became a Mormon before he died. My mouth literally fell open and I gasped when she mentioned that. A Black Panther! BLACK PANTHER, A MORMON!!! Dude. WTF.


( 38 comments — Leave a comment )
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Feb. 2nd, 2008 04:11 pm (UTC)
Don't beat yourself up for not speaking out. I'm a very outspoken person, and I don't think I would've done any different. For one thing, you aren't black, and it was a Black Film Festival. For another, being a recovering Mormon, you could have appeared confrontational and looking for a fight with the Church to prove your agenda rather than commenting on the directors.

I do understand how you feel about the underlying racism that appears to be inherent in the religion. But, you can't bring enlightenment to everyone. I find it most interesting that she had a white male with her to answer questions about religion. Obviously, she is either a true believer, or someone is holding the fact that the University paid for her film over her head.

In the end, religious belief is a funny thing. It's often difficult to understand why one person believes as they do when it's obvious (to the enlightened) that the belief is bullshit.

I think you did the best you could, given the situation. And, I didn't know about Eldridge Cleaver either -- how bizarre.
Feb. 2nd, 2008 04:34 pm (UTC)
Seriously crazy about Cleaver. I mean, calling that a 180 is an understatement.

I really appreciate your comment. It really would have come across as me with a chip on my shoulder, especially with the outrage I was feeling at the time. I didn't know how to temper my furor to ask it in a level-headed way.

And I think the "passing the mic to a white male" bit was simply because that's how it's done in the LDS church. The Men Tackle The Big Questions. Women have babies and raise them to worship their fathers and the church. (Oh, but they're not misogynists. *eye roll*)
... - ljgould - Feb. 2nd, 2008 05:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
... - stoney321 - Feb. 2nd, 2008 05:52 pm (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 2nd, 2008 05:02 pm (UTC)
I understand how you feel-- I'd feel the same way. Console yourself with the fact that you came away with information you didn't have before and that you'll have your chance to respond with your book, in a measured way that isn't overwhelmed by immediate, negative emotion.

Feb. 2nd, 2008 05:51 pm (UTC)
M, it's like some kind of Stockholm Syndrome. How they can know the history and still apologize for it... Shocking.

Awww, hugsies. I love Scrubs. AND YOU, MISSY.
Feb. 2nd, 2008 05:24 pm (UTC)
Oh sweetheart. It sounds like you had very good reasons for trepidation. I love you. Write that woman a letter or something. Or an op-ed piece?
Feb. 2nd, 2008 05:52 pm (UTC)
I've been toying with the idea of writing her. It's going to take a few days for me to not be so aggravated/frustrated about the topic. An op-ed piece is a GREAT idea. Hmmmm.

Feb. 2nd, 2008 06:08 pm (UTC)
Um, did Cleaver have a massive stroke before his conversion? I mean, WTF?

Boy this story is depressing on so many levels I can't even list them all. I probably wouldn't have been able to say anything, either, because I'd know I would get emotional justthatfast.

I'm not Mormon (though we had a cousin who sent missionaries to us with great regularity, my Mom would invite 'em in to wrangle about the Bible, which she loves -- I think she's even had missionaries to dinner), but I had my own fucked up religious upbringing.

Years ago my friends and I were walking around Lincoln Center in NYC and it was just bitter cold, so we decided to go into the Mormon Visitor's Center for the tour just to let our faces thaw. We saw a little film in which there were people wandering around in heaven in their white robes, and I could swear there was a lonely black guy wandering around too. We kind of nudged each other, as in "Hey, the token!" Was that just for the visitors, to show us, "See? We let black people in too!" but not to get into the icky I mean complicated part about how they'll be all improved and de-racified? Huh.

Wow. I am glad you post about this stuff, though, because every time I read about somebody's God issues, it helps me with mine. I'm glad you found your way out!
Feb. 2nd, 2008 07:08 pm (UTC)
I just cannot understand how Cleaver joined. I mean, I can't understand how Gladys Knight could become a Mormon (the music is so BLAH) but I reeeeaaaaally can't understand how someone that was so anti-establishment, so pro-black power could join a group of people that held out on giving blacks equal rights AFTER the civil rights movement.

And I like how the idea is that there's no race in heaven. Just OUR race. Uh-

And there are more Mormons outside the US now than inside, mostly in Africa, South America, the Polynesian countries.... Mind boggling.

And yeah - I think you and I aren't alone in the God Issue arena, and there's a real comfort in that. (And a sadness, because GAH! We've been duped!)
Feb. 2nd, 2008 07:09 pm (UTC)

I just don't even know what to say. Except OMGWTF.

I'd forgotten about the being-perfected-means-being-white thing too. GOD. I just. HOW CAN MEMBERS PRETEND TO BE SO HAPPY, when they are being TAUGHT so much SELF-LOATHING?!
Feb. 2nd, 2008 07:57 pm (UTC)

Self-loathing: that's exactly what they're teaching them. "You weren't worthy before, and you were lazy shits in the Big Heavenly War, but God says... okay now. Come on in!"

WTF WTF WTFx a jillion.
... - floweringjudas - Feb. 2nd, 2008 10:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 2nd, 2008 07:24 pm (UTC)
In the next life, (this is LDS doctrine) when the righteous are "PERFECTED" and receive their paradisaical glory (the key to the Penthouse Suite of Heaven) they will be made WHITE.

*pictures an angel standing just inside the gates with a garden hose, a pile of toweal and a big vat of bleach going "NEXT!"*

...oh, hell no.
Feb. 2nd, 2008 10:06 pm (UTC)
It's just insane. INSANE!!!!!
Feb. 2nd, 2008 07:28 pm (UTC)
It's all so astonishing that my brain is just processing a lot of !?!?!?!?! right now. There is a small part of me that accepts and understands how a person could live within such a strong contradiction because her religion tells her to do so; I think most (all?) religions do the same thing in one way or another and people swallow all the contradictions down without protest as if that's some kind of proof of faith. Yet this seems such an ENORMOUS contradiction that I can't stop with the !?!?!?!?!.

And I've been in your shoes more than once - bursting with the desire the challenge, but not doing so. But I'm just not comfortable doing that kind of thing. My style is to be more quietly confrontational: getting some one-on-one time with the person and asking my questions. Generally I end up walking away shaking my head, but I feel like I at least planted some seeds of doubt because I believe, in the end, we convince ourselves of things. When strongly confronted it's human nature to dig in and decide we'll never give up our position. But if a path is shown, with enticements to lure us closer and give it a try, we're generally more willing to take a few steps on our own and see where the path leads.
Feb. 2nd, 2008 10:07 pm (UTC)
Yeah - believing in a supernatural being requires from faith. But THIS?!

I truly, TRULY cannot understand how a person and suck down this much Koolaid.
Feb. 2nd, 2008 07:46 pm (UTC)
After being Irish white my entire life (skin is pallid, smells of beer) I was really, really hoping I would at least get a slight tan for my new heavenly body, especially since being way up in the clouds like that will mean being even closer to the sun and the risk of sun burn.

I find it ironic that the baseline for being human is to be, well, African, until various people grabbed picnic baskets and decided to wonder off to colder climes and mutated to compensate for not being able to suck up enough Vitamin D (that's my tinpot theory, I'm sticking to it), so basically God created as black but wants us to be white in heaven - I just wish that he'd make up his bloody mind already. Or go for a lovely lavendar shade, or fushia. (Actually if you think about the ozone layer and global warming being white is a mutation that's going to be a bit of a curse - I better stock up on tinned food and ammo for my bunker and have 15 kids before the sun wipes us out. I can teach the kids to shoot at the sun and hate it.)

Indoctrination is a powerful thing and trying to talk sense into the brainwashed is pretty near impossible. Next time yell "Hulk Smash", rip your chair from the floor and throw it - thereby expressing your frustration but not getting tangled up in circular arguements that don't go any where.
Feb. 2nd, 2008 10:09 pm (UTC)
I know! What's funny, if you go google "Joseph Smith's First Vision" and look at the picture of God and Jesus, they're white with blue eyes and soft brown hippie locks. Just like every person from the Euphrates and Mesopetamia, and Israel, and Canaan, and...


I was really shocked that the audience didn't let her have it. They must have been so shocked by everything else that they couldn't process that other thing that was crazy.
Feb. 2nd, 2008 08:20 pm (UTC)
I'm *amazed* by what people believe. WTF indeed!
Feb. 2nd, 2008 10:09 pm (UTC)

What the hell.
Feb. 2nd, 2008 09:54 pm (UTC)
Are they selling that? I would love to see it.
Feb. 2nd, 2008 10:10 pm (UTC)
I think so - untoldstory.com is their homesite, and I think you can only make a donation or buy it. I'll have to double check.
Feb. 2nd, 2008 11:36 pm (UTC)
That is just crazy. I hope that black Mormons don't actually have that level of self hatred this would seem to imply, but you never know. And as several have said, saying anything at that point would have accomplished nothing and would have gotten many people angry at you.

I still can't get over Cleaver. Woah.
Feb. 3rd, 2008 01:03 am (UTC)
Self-hatred is a terrific way to look at it.

I was talking to the BFF (formerly of Utah and mormon) about this, and we think it's like Norman Bates at the end of Psycho, where he'll prove how "kind and gentle" he is by allowing that fly to crawl all over him. "Why, I wouldn't even hurt this fly."

CLEAVER. Next, they'll tell me Malcolm X thought about being LDS before Muslim.
Feb. 2nd, 2008 11:39 pm (UTC)
My thoughts rather mirror all of those here already, so I'll simply second (or third or fourth) the vote for an op/ed piece. It simply wasn't the time or place, and that doesn't make you a coward, it makes you more respectful and circumspect, aware on the whole and I admire that about you.

Edited at 2008-02-02 11:40 pm (UTC)
Feb. 3rd, 2008 01:03 am (UTC)
I'm thinking more about that op/ed piece, truth be told.

Just... frustrating all around.
... - ely_jan - Feb. 3rd, 2008 01:04 am (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 3rd, 2008 12:07 am (UTC)
That's just....sick. So fucking sick. I mean - to be perfect you have to be *white*? What person of color in their *right mind* could believe that? I mean - of course *white* people believe that, the fucktards, but....jayzus.

Can i add my rage and sick loathing to yours? 'Cause i'm feeling it.
Feb. 3rd, 2008 01:01 am (UTC)
Yeah, I cannot FATHOM why a black American (or any black person) would suck that down and say "Amen." HOOOOOOOW?!?!?
... - tabaqui - Feb. 3rd, 2008 01:40 am (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 3rd, 2008 06:51 pm (UTC)
Oh god, what an awful situation for those people! I mean, I think of religion in its best form as promoting community support, comfort, guidance -- not telling people that they're tainted or that they'll be whitewashed in heaven! How does that bring any person of color any peace or happiness in that religion? I completely understand your reluctance to say anything at the Q&A though -- it sounds a very awkward and unhappy set of beliefs to confront.
Feb. 4th, 2008 01:28 pm (UTC)
Right, right: when religion works, it's a wonderful way to bring people of different backgrounds together in unity and peace. Some of the most astonishing acts of charity are performed selflessly by people in religious groups, absolutely.

And then there was this. I think I just become incredibly sad when I see people limiting themselves (and debasing themselves) because they think it's "God's plan."

*hugs you and shares the cup cake*
(Deleted comment)
Feb. 4th, 2008 01:30 pm (UTC)
Anne, I know!* Just... I mean, all of the supernatural stuff makes sense (in a fashion) because it's all faith and the unknown, etc. But THIS?

...the positive thing to come out of this experience is that I'm back writing again. I've also remembered a whole bunch of things from my past (experiences around me, nothing I was a part of.) I'm wielding my pen.
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Are You Actually

Reading this? I'm just curious. Because that's really detail-oriented of you. Feel free to stop reading. But you can see that there's more here, so are you going to keep reading? Really? That's pretty dedicated. I'm impressed. No, really. I'm not being sarcastic, why do you get like that? See, this is the problem I have with your mother - yes. YES. I'm going there. It's time we put all of our cards on the table.

I love you, why are you doing this? After all we've been through? You don't have to be like this. You know, still reading. You could be baking a pie. And then sharing it with me.

Time Wot It Is

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