My Apology for Racism–F&T Meeting June 3, 2018

Black and White

Last weekend I was in Portland for a Protect Every Child event.  It was marvelous.  About 50 child protection advocates climbed to Multnomah Falls and unfurled many banners.

While I was there, the topic of past racist policies of the Mormon Church came up.  It reminded me of a fast & testimony meeting from just a year ago.  I stood and read the words below.  Obviously, I thought it was a pretty good testimony.

However, a few tattle-tales in the congregation disagreed.  They ran to the local leaders to report me.  The stake president called me in and told me not to bring up any more issues in future testimonies.  He instructed me to only bear testimony of the Church, Joseph Smith, the current prophet, the Book of Mormon, etc.

Some context.  At the Fast & Testimony meeting one month before, I had born witness of my love for the teachings and example of Jesus Christ.  As soon as the meeting was over a prominent member of the congregation rushed over to me.  In a patronizing tone he scolded, “Without a full-throated witness of the restoration, your testimony was like tinkling brass.”

June 3, 2018 Testimony:

Last month I shared my testimony of the teachings and example of Jesus Christ. I took some flak for not having mentioned the restoration or the prophets.

Today, I’m going to correct that.

I want to give our current crop of apostles and prophets a strong shout out of support. Last Friday, the church held an event to officially celebrate the 40 year anniversary of the reversal of our church doctrine that forbid black men from receiving the priesthood and prohibited both black men and black women from entering the temple.

This ban on church privileges was lifted in 1978. I had the honor of sitting in a Houston chapel during general conference when Elder N. Eldon Tanner presented the lifting of the ban for a sustaining vote. My hand was proudly raised in support of changing our policy. This is a great example of the Law of Common Consent in action. All policies and major decisions are supposed to be presented to the membership for approval or disapproval. I love this empowering element of the restored gospel. So, there’s my full-throated endorsement of a glorious principle that came directly as a part of the restoration.

Now, I want to express my appreciation and respect for our current apostles and prophets. 4 years ago, the apostles did something very gutsy that no top leadership has ever done before. They published an essay on LDS.org entitled Race and the Priesthood. It condemns our past racism. It disavows our past racist doctrine, teachings and practices. That’s a disavowal and condemnation of what all the past prophets and apostles from Brigham Young on have taught regarding black people being cursed with a dark skin. Hallelujah!!!

Unfortunately, until 4 years ago when this essay was published, I completely believed our racist teachings that are now officially condemned.  I’m glad that the church celebrated the lifting of the ban.  However, I wish that there had also been an official full-throated apology for our past racism.

Today, I offer my apology and the apology of many, many of my friends.  We are sorry that we were gullible enough to believe that our white skin was a reflection of our righteousness in the pre-mortal life.  And that a black skin was a reflection of the opposite.

I’m sorry that these disavowed practices, which I fully supported, marginalized an entire race for 150 years within the church of Jesus Christ.

I offer this apology in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Three months later, I was excommunicated.

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Adam & the Bishop

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For the sake of anonymity, I’ll call this boy ‘Adam.’

His story is #4 on ProtectEveryChild.com  and #1054 on ProtectLDSChildren.org.  During my correspondence with Adam, he gave me his permission to publish it here.

First, I want to thank the 1,067 victims who have shared their stories of abuse.  You made it safe for this man to write and share his story.

When I first read Adam’s narrative, my shock quickly turned to anger and sadness.  It’s a mixture of emotions that I have become very familiar with.  The anger drives me to fight my damnedest to eradicate all practices that facilitate this horror.  The sadness draws my empathy to the surface.

I asked myself this question, ‘How much grooming did it take before the bishop felt safe enough to do what he did to this child?”

Tears come as I write this. I am going to climb mountain after mountain after mountain, literally and figuratively, to stop more stories like Adam’s from being written in the heart of a child again.  Please, please join me.

**Strong Trigger Warning**

**Disturbingly graphic sexual story below.

**DO NOT READ if you could be re-victimized

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**I read the story because I wanted to understand what our children can face all alone with a Mormon bishop.

When I was age 11-15, I had different experiences with different bishops. I have never had the courage to say anything, and I also have never had a place where I can feel safe to talk about it. These men are part of my family’s community still to this day, and the encounters were so long ago (I am now 24) that is just doesn’t seem like it will even help to approach them.

My first bishop was a very jovial and traditional Mormon bishop (he told pioneer tales and frequently called up youth to recognize them for their valiant examples of faith in sacrament meeting).

I had an instance where I had confided in my bishop about seeing a pornographic picture and how it was hard to get it out of my head. He kept asking me how the picture made me feel, even though I told him it made me feel yucky and scared. When he obsessed over this I assumed that he was trying to fish out of me some secret evil thought that I thought in order for him to help me repent.

Even though we had an opening prayer, he stopped the meeting and said that we needed to pray. He asked me to pray and to ask God to make me feel the same feelings I felt when I looked at the photo so that I could remember them and repent. When I opened my eyes mid prayer, I he apparently had scooted his office chair in front of me, and he had his legs spread with an obvious erection just a foot away from me. Most terrifying, his eyes were open while mine were closed, and he was smiling. After the meeting concluded we both stood up, and he shook my hand.  Now that he was standing his pants were loose enough for the erect penis to be literally pointed right at me. I kept repenting for even noticing it and it made me feel even more perverted, like it was a test

The second encounter has brought me immeasurable sorrow and still as I am typing this makes my stomach feel like its in ropes. I was 15. This time it was a different bishop. He later on became a member of my stake presidency and was known for his strong connection to the youth and his tenor voice as he sang in the choir. I was entering his office because I had “heavy petted” a girl in my high school consensually, but I felt grief stricken by it.

He told me that I could not fully repent unless I saw him and told him the details of the petting. Instead of asking how long and things he started asking me details that at the time I thought were part of the process (I thought I was supposed to feel humiliated, and conflated that with godly sorrow). His first humiliating question was “Did your hands smell differently?” I told him that I din’t know. He assured me “I know its embarrassing but I want you to know that as a judge in Israel the Lord knows your thoughts, and withholding details will disqualify you for the atonement.”

I didn’t know what to say because I didn’t smell my hands. He then asked me if “they smelled like tuna, and asked me if I sucked it off of my fingers, or asked her to suck it off of my fingers.” I told him neither. He seemed irritated but went on to ask me to describe the girl’s anus. I had never went near that area. He told me that I needed to tell him everything.

After about 20 awkward minutes of him projecting his fantasies, he asked me to read in the scriptures. We read about the people looking at the snake on the stick and how it healed them. I don’t remember what part of the bible it was. But he told me that I must never tell anybody but that the lord was going to give me a special opportunity because “He loved me and that I was favored among my peers, and destined for great trust.” He then gave me a blessing with the chair in the center of the room.

As he was giving it, and his hands were on my head, I remember feeling on of his hands leave my head, and then return. On the back of my head I could feel something warm poking me. I didn’t realize, but he had pulled his penis out, and it was touching my head. I remember my hairs all standing on end as in the blessing he said “The Lord now commands you, Brother _______ to look and be healed, as the faithful in ancient times,.” And that “this opportunity was sacred, and that others had not the faith as I did, and would not receive this opportunity.” When he said amen, I quickly got up and turned around to quickly shake his hand, but he swiveled around fast enough to slap me in the face with his erect penis. It didn’t hurt, but I remembered that I didn’t know how to react and said “oh woah I’m sorry!”

I wanted to weep or to just leave the bishops office, but he started bombarding me with compliments and “revelation that the lord gave him of my valiance.” He told me that if I look at “what the Lord has provided” that his priesthood keys would “discharge a blessing of forgiveness.” (Looking back I feel as though he must have planned to ejaculate, but it never happened.) After looking at his erect penis (I can still fully visualize it in my memory) I remember he told me that the Lord was lifting my burdens. He then situated a bag of starburst over his penis, and asked me if I would like one. He had pulled open a hole to insert his penis and was wanting me to reach inside. I declined and said that I am “not hungry” an he protested that I love starburst (He had given them to all of the youth before and I loved the pink ones.) I remembered he stood up, and let go of the bag of candy, and it spilled out on the floor but the bag was still on his erect penis. He then sat down, and we had a closing prayer. I DISTINCTLY remember him asking me to pray, and to include asking BOTH of us for forgiveness for the “many sins” that “the Lord showed unto us” that day.

I have gone to therapy and have declined giving them incriminating details. However, the process has helped me to feel like I am not guilty even though I still feel like its my fault to this day.

My friend Adam, it was never your fault.  Your story will help fuel the drive to protect children of the future.  For that, I am grateful.

Take Action

+Please sign the new PETITION.

+Share the PETITION with friends and family.

+Climb a mountain, hill or driveway.  Unfurl a banner, take a picture and share.

+Register for the Children’s March on Oct 5th in Salt Lake City.

Together, we are going to save future children from the horrors of child sex abuse.

Pennies

Three Pennies

Yesterday, I took a long walk.

Came across a penny on the roadside.

Almost unnoticeable.

Nearly unrecognizable.

It was marred and scarred.

Run-over and stepped on.

Smashed flush with the surrounding debris.

Later, I came across another.

Further on, one more.

At some point, each had been cast aside.

Maybe long, long ago.

How many travelers had passed them by?

I stopped.

Bent down.

Picked each up and examined.

Then a tear.

Though marred and scarred,

Their worth was undimmed.

Their value as bright as any other.

 

“Silent and Immobile.” -Elder Dallin H. Oaks

 

Flag Lisa Ensign PeakAt the men’s session of the April 2019 General Conference, apostle Dallin H. Oaks presented a parable that perfectly describes our course over the past 2 years.  You can watch the entire address HERE.

Some decisions are choices between doing something and doing nothing.   I heard an example of this kind of choice at a stake conference in the United States many years ago.  The setting was a beautiful college campus.  A crowd of young students were seated on the grass.  The speaker who described the circumstance said they were watching a handsome tree squirrel with a large bushy tail playing around the base of a beautiful hardwood tree.  Sometimes it was on the ground.  Sometimes up and down and around the trunk. 

But why would that familiar sight attract a crowd of students? 

Stretched out prone on the grass nearby was an Irish Setter.  He was the object of the students’ interest and the squirrel was the object of his.  Each time the squirrel was momentarily out of sight circling the tree, the Setter would quietly creep forward a few inches and then resume his apparently indifferent posture.  This is what held the student’s interest.  Silent and immobile, their eyes were riveted on the event whose outcome was increasingly obvious. 

Finally, the Setter was close enough to bound at the squirrel and catch it in his mouth.  A gasp of horror arose and the crowd of students surged forward and wrested the little animal away from the dog.  But it was too late.  The squirrel was dead. (Audience laughs???) 

Anyone in that crowd could have warned the squirrel at any time by waving arms or by crying out, but none did.  They just watched while the inevitable outcome got closer and closer.  No one asked, where will this lead?  When the predictable occurred, all rushed to prevent the outcome.  But it was too late.   Tearful regret was all they could offer. 

That true story is a parable of sorts.  It applies to things we see in our own lives and in lives and circumstances around us.  As we see threats creeping up on things or persons we love, we have the choice of speaking or acting or remaining silent.  It is well to ask ourselves, where will this lead?  Where the consequences are immediate and serious, we cannot afford to do nothing.  We must sound the appropriate warnings or support appropriate preventative efforts while there is still time.

Thank you Elder Oaks for your validation.

Almost everyday we are witnessing the predictable consequences of leaving children unprotected.  “We must sound the appropriate warnings.”

Don’t sit silent and immobile.  Children are crying out for our voices to be lifted up.

Take Action

+Please sign the new PETITION.

+Share the PETITION with friends and family.

+Climb a mountain, hill or driveway.  Unfurl a banner, take a picture and share.

+Register for the Children’s March on Oct 5 in Salt Lake City.

Together, we are going to save those precious squirrels.