Buckle up. It’s a long one.
Since the day of the election, I have been looking for prominent LDS people who are speaking out against what’s happening as Trump puts highly questionable people in his cabinet and violence has erupted around the country in his name. I feel pretty alone in being an LDS member and wanting to speak out about what’s happening. And with the exception of an absolutely beautiful piece by my new friend Jennifer Borget, who is a Mormon and also a Black woman, I can only find very few talking about it.
The church put out its official statement, just like they do every election year, where they remind the members of the church that we believe in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law (AOF #12). The LDS church doesn’t pick sides. I get that, although I’m not comfortable with it in all circumstances.
I’m no John Pavlovitz, but I’ll do my best.
Not everyone has been quiet. Some Mormons, like C. Jane Kendrick, voted for Hillary for the same reasons I liked her better than Trump. Some are speaking up about what they see happening now that’s similar to other regimes that went bad quickly, like this piece by Allison Czarnecki which contains this gem, “Initially when Hitler ran for office, people laughed at him. He was totally unqualified, he was crazy, and he wasn’t even considered to be a viable contender. Sound familiar?” The similarities are something to notice. Take it from this Holocaust survivor.
As I’ve asked those around me WHY don’t we talk about what’s happening right now, the bulk of responses I’ve received from loved ones have been some variations of these: “Focus on the good because what you focus on expands, This is all part of God’s plan so have faith in Him, Article of Faith #12, It’s time to come together and pray for the best, In our church we just go do the work quietly and don’t invite contention or anger (because that invites the devil), Some Mormons feel about Hillary like you do about Trump, and WWJD.”
I don’t really buy it. I know it’s uncomfortable to talk about. I know we aren’t used to it. In theory I agree with some of those things. But in practice, do they hold up?
FOCUS ON THE GOOD BECAUSE WHAT YOU FOCUS ON EXPANDS
From an energy perspective, this is true. If you focus on bringing joy into your life, you will bring more joy in your life. This will be personal joy – for you. That’s wonderful and a natural law of the universe. If you’re a negative person that focuses on the negative aspects of life, you will start to notice more negative things and you’ll feel more negative in general. This will be a personal sadness – for you.
Is pointing out that horrible things are happening, to the tune of an astonishing 400+ *reported* hate crimes since the evening of the election done in Trump’s name, focusing on the negative? I’ve been posting and reposting things from others on my Facebook wall that no one wants to look at and I get that no one wants to look at them, but some people have no choice. How do things change if you don’t shine a light on them? If no one speaks about what’s happening to the minorities, immigrants, and people of color in our country, does that make them just disappear because we aren’t noticing them? I’ll tell you what, I haven’t been talking about them for over 20 years because I didn’t need to because I’m white and it didn’t affect me, and they haven’t gone away, so if that would have worked, maybe I’d agree with you, but the result of millions of people not talking about something has made it worse, not better. There isn’t more joy for everyone, even if there is for us personally, because we focused on our joy.
What I hear when you say this now is – I’m white and this does not affect me. If I don’t look at it, it doesn’t change anything in my life, so why would I care? I’ll focus on the stuff that is joyful because I can. This is white privilege wrapped in a Universal Truth, so it feels ok. If you are a Black person or Muslim person today, you aren’t saying this. Sure, you’re trying to find your joy. Sure, you’re trying to bring light and laughter into your homes. Sure, you’re hoping your children are having some fun and that everything isn’t pressing down on them 24/7 and trying to have the best attitude. But you don’t have the luxury to NOT LOOK. You know what’s happening politically. You know who Trump is putting in his cabinet. You have to look at who is being hurt and where and how. You must look, or you might die. You might be next.
THIS IS ALL PART OF GOD’S PLAN, SO HAVE FAITH
I might have a unique perspective on this, or at least a different one than many members I know, being someone who left the LDS church for many years and then came back. Usually what this means in the church is: just accept what is happening because we don’t have all the answers and we don’t pretend to know better than God. If it’s happening, it’s because He wants it to be.
Here’s the truth – God can turn everything around to be good because He is a mighty and fearsome and awesome Being. Someone rapes me? He can turn it to good years later. You lose someone you love in a horrible death? He can turn it for good. You make mistake after mistake after mistake? He will turn it to good. There is literally nothing God can’t eventually turn to good for you.
This does not mean it is all part of His plan. That’s the “free will” part of the LDS gospel. I don’t for a second think that the guy who molested me when I was a toddler was part of God’s plan for me. I don’t think He and that dude created this little event where I would get traumatized and damaged from being sexually violated. That guy had free will and he used it to hurt me. And then, years later, God turned it for good for me. Same for every insult and injury I’ve sustained to my person and all I have accidentally and intentionally perpetrated on others in this life. That’s the beautiful part of having faith in the gift of the atonement. We make mistakes and we have a way to find Grace.
What I hear when you say this now is – Thinking about how our actions affect each other is harder than just accepting that everything is going how God planned. Having faith that God is taking care of everything means I don’t have to worry too much about what’s happening around me. If you’re an immigrant who is being spit on or roughed up or yelled at to leave, if you’re a Black person who has for YEARS been looked at as less than when they didn’t even want to be here, or if you’re any person in this country who is not white and straight who has had to endure persecution, or if you’re a person of any color that horrible things have happened to, then what you’re telling them is that these things are what God wants to have happen to them. Is that really what you want to say to them? I don’t think you do. I think you simply don’t understand what you’re saying. We’re responsible to do better as we understand better.
ARTICLE OF FAITH #12
AOF #12 states: “We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.” As one of my brothers pointed out, this doesn’t say we’re “obeying, honoring, and sustaining” the kings, presidents, rulers, or magistrates. It says we are subject to them, the same way we are subject to the laws of the land. This one feels like an easy fix to me. You live where there is a king? He’s your king. You live where there’s a president? He’s your president.
As a church, we don’t believe in breaking the law. We believe in living by and upholding the law of the land. We uphold honesty. Somewhere there has to be a line where if the laws are unjust or oppressive or wicked we no longer uphold them. I don’t know where that line is. I imagine we’ll soon get to see it in action, though. If there is a registry for Muslims, which is a religion, and they are forced to register and face possible deportation, detainment, imprisonment, or unfair practices of being watched by police because of that religion, that seems like a pretty unfair and unjust law. You wouldn’t want your religion to be next.
Now is when we need to stand up for our Muslim brothers and sisters. We need to try and make sure laws like this don’t get created. And that might mean stopping white supremacists from being placed in the White House so they can’t help create them. So when you see me posting on Facebook links showing you how awful Steve Bannon is, that’s why. That dude is a racist and is personally giddy that so many terrible things are happening in our country right now. He thinks Satan is a good role model. He likes the darkness. And he’s not the only scary person being put in White House positions.
IT’S TIME TO COME TOGETHER AND PRAY FOR THE BEST
Here’s my short answer: Let’s pray, never ceasing, and let’s back our prayers up with some good works that show where our hearts are.
DO THE WORK QUIETLY, DON’T INVITE THE DEVIL WITH CONTENTION
If your goal is to educate and have a discussion but that makes someone uncomfortable with what you said and then you get in an argument because they got defensive about what you said, did you bring the contention or did they? Who invited the devil in? When we try to work through our disagreements, does that mean we’re bringing in contention and anger?
I agree with what it says here about the difference between disagreeing and contending. Most of the time, people don’t like to hear how they need to change. There is discomfort in change and tempers flare. And some of these conversations have been going on for years because we don’t want to hurt each others feelings and risk contention, so we back on down and say, It’s ok. At least we’re good people.
This is especially true when we start to talk about race. Calling someone a racist is rarely a good beginning, middle, or ending to any discussion. We all feel like we’re good people and good people aren’t racist. I mean, we all know that, right?
If I had to wager a guess, I’d say that it’s the Good People of the world who do the most damage. This is because Good People don’t think they are hurting anyone and they don’t need to see if they are because their internal gauge is always hitting the sweet spot of God-Fearing Good Person.
This is a huge blind spot. Being a Good Person doesn’t mean very much if you hurt people on accident. You have to mean NOT to hurt them. And right now, millions of people in the USA are hurting. They’re telling us they’re hurting and scared. They tell us they don’t understand why we, mostly white people, voted Trump, who with his own mouth has proven to be a racist, misogynist, xenophobe, and sexist person, the president elect of this country that they also call home. And we did that because as Good White People, it didn’t hurt us. We had no reason to worry (unless you’re a woman, like me).
What I hear when you say this now is – Don’t make me think about this. I don’t want to feel bad. I’m a Good Person so stop bringing up anything that makes me have to reevaluate that.
SOME MORMONS FELT ABOUT HILLARY LIKE YOU DO ABOUT TRUMP
Here’s something I’ll admit – I have no idea what’s true about Clinton. The media spin machine has been on overdrive this election and I’ve heard all kinds of things that she was accused of. I’ve read explanations of Benghazi from both sides and I have no idea what’s real. It’s probably somewhere in the middle. I suspect the majority of Mormons wouldn’t vote for Clinton because she supports a woman’s right to choose and they see abortion as murder. So, if you’re a one issue voter, you’d have to vote against her. (But, do you know Trump’s true stance on abortion?)
I get that you’re not going to vote for what you consider murder of innocent babies (but you know that 9-month term abortions aren’t real, right?) but I don’t understand how when you’re so invested in the lives of fetuses, you fail to then be invested in the lives of millions of people that are walking around in our country right now, this minute, in danger. Where is your compassion for them? They were once in someone’s womb. Surely you still care about them after they are born?
At the end of the day, I’m willing to look at both Clinton and Trump against each other because I know that what I stated previously is true for so many, even if I believe in my heart it is a total false equivalency because one of them was a person qualified to run for president, who has spent her life in public service, and the other person has never held public office and has no idea how our government works.
Let’s look over the worst of what they themselves said over this election cycle:
|“I think Donald just criticized me for preparing for this debate. And, yes, I did. You know what else I prepared for? I prepared to be president.” — Hillary Clinton, said during the first presidential debate.||“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you,” Trump gestured toward members of the audience at his June 16 announcement speech from Trump Tower. “They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” Donald Trump, on Mexico, at a June 16, 2015, speech announcing his candidacy. Trump stood by his comments in the weeks that followed, asking CNN’s Don Lemon to explain to him “who is doing the raping?”|
|“To just be grossly generalistic, you can put half of Trump supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables.” — Hillary Clinton, said at a fundraiser.||“He’s not a war hero,” Trump said at the Family Leadership Summit, during a discussion. “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.” Speaking about John McCain.|
|“You may have seen I recently launched a Snapchat account. I love it. I love it,” she told an adoring crowd at Iowa’s annual Wing Ding dinner in August. “Those messages disappear all by themselves.”||“I got him to give the birth certificate,” he said about President Barack Obama, bragging about the birther movement.|
|“Many of you are well enough off that the tax cuts may have helped you. We’re saying that for America to get back on track, we’re probably going to cut that short and not give it to you. We’re going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good.”||“Look at all the cameras. This is like the Academy Awards.” Trump, at an event for veterans on Jan. 28, that he staged to counter the Fox News debate, which he boycotted.|
|“There are rich people everywhere. And yet they do not contribute to the growth of their own countries…..They don’t invest in public schools, in public hospitals, in other kinds of development internally.”||“I alone can fix it.” Trump, in his July 21 acceptance speech at the GOP convention, on how he will reform the system.|
|“If you have guns in your home, tell your parents to keep them away from you and your friends and your little brothers and sisters.” — Hillary Clinton to middle school students.||“You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her wherever.” Trump, about Megyn Kelly, in an interview with CNN’s Don Lemon the night after first GOP debate.|
|“Maybe he’s not as rich as he says he is … There is something he’s hiding … Who does he owe money to?” Clinton speculating on why Trump hasn’t released his tax returns.||“Such a nasty woman.” — Donald Trump, said of Clinton during the third presidential debate.|
|“We’re going to build a wall.” — Donald Trump, said numerous times throughout the election.|
|“But we have some bad hombres here and we’re going to get them out.” — Donald Trump, said during the third presidential debate.|
|“Wrong!” — Donald Trump, said multiple times during the debates.|
|“Look at that face!” Trump said, according to the report. “Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?!” He continued: “I mean, she’s a woman, and I’m not s’posedta say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?”|
|‘I would bomb the sh– out of them’ Trump has made no effort to tone down his fiery rhetoric when it comes to fighting the Islamic State, remarking a day before deadly terrorist attacks in France just how far he would go to defeat the group. “ISIS is making a tremendous amount of money because of the oil that they took away, they have some in Syria, they have some in Iraq, I would bomb the sh– out of them,” Trump told a Fort Dodge, Iowa, rally on Nov. 12.|
|“I would just bomb those suckers, and that’s right, I’d blow up the pipes, I’d blow up the refineries, I’d blow up every single inch, there would be nothing left.”
Trump on taxes.
|“That makes me smart,” Trump said in response to Clinton saying he might not pay federal income taxes. (Which he doesn’t.)|
And then we have what he said to Billy Bush about women. There is no interchangeability with Hillary Clinton in this. You can watch it here. You can read the transcript here. It wasn’t “locker room talk.” It was sexual assault talk and let’s not talk about it like it’s normal, unless that’s the kind of world you want to live in.
All in all, there are about 20 women accusing him of sexual assault and there are over 3,500 lawsuits and legal actions against him or involving him, because he likes to try and eviscerate whoever crosses him.
Let’s talk about their experience to be President of the USA:
No matter how you slice it, one of those people has ample experience in public service and government work and one of them has none.
Here’s what Trump has done since we elected him.
WHAT WOULD JESUS DO
Jesus said Love Everyone.
Jesus was also a protester. “Protesting is the antithesis of being apathetic, complicit, callous, and passive, and Christians should take comfort in the fact that Jesus — the son of God — was very good at it.”
I’m guessing Jesus would be listening to people so they feel heard, and in that, He’d be doing a way better job than I have been. I feel an urgency to help white people understand how their privilege affects our country and our world and I confess to not being as understanding and empathetic as I want to be.
I’m starting to understand the deep frustration people of color have at white people trying to tell them how they should be talking about things. “If you would just say it nicer.” “You’ll get more flies with honey.” “If you’d stop being so angry, I could hear you.” It is not up to the witness/listener to police the tone of the oppressed. I am not a person of color, so I truly don’t understand the depths of this, but based on the responses I’ve received about my “angry tone” on Facebook or in my posts, I’m starting to understand it. I’m hearing that you’d like someone to serve these things to you with more grace than I have, but I’m doing my best to talk about really challenging subjects. Are you listening with empathy in your heart or judgement of the delivery? Some of these things are just ugly and there’s no way to soften them up for you, but they still have to be said.
Here are some places you can learn on your own. Pick anything and read it. You can’t go wrong.
Syllabus for White People to Educate Themselves
Toni Morrison – Mourning for Whiteness
Faiqa Khan – Somewhere In Between
Morgan Parker – How to Stay Sane While Black
George Takei – They interned my family. Don’t let them do it to Muslims.
Rhon Manigault-Bryant – An Open Letter to White Liberal Feminists
Sarah Kendzior – We’re heading into dark times. This is how to be your own light in the Age of Trump
Jonathan Korman – How fascism accumulates power by testing people
Elizabeth Gilbert – I cannot throw you away
John Pavlovitz – Freeing Christians From Americhristianity
N Lamar Soutter – To My Republican Brothers and Sisters: A Thank You
Tobias Rose-Stockwell – How We Broke Democracy
Liel Leibovitz – What to Do About Trump? The Same Thing My Grandfather Did in 1930s Vienna.
John Scalzi – The Cinemax Theory of Racism
Rembert Browne – How Trump Made Hate Intersectional
Leonard Pitts Jr. – Time to take OUR country back
Courtney E. Martin – Questions I’m Asking Myself in Our New Present
Alexis Okeowo – Hate on the Rise After Trump’s Election
Robert W. Wood – Trump Gets $25 Million Tax Write-Off For Trump University Settlement
How Did Hitler Rise To Power?
Andy Borowitz – Many in Nation Tired of Explaining Things to Idiots
Patrick Thornton – I’m a Coastal Elite From the Midwest: The Real Bubble is Rural America
Dan Evon – Make the World Great Again
Charles M. Blow – America Elects a Bigot
David E. Sanger – Harry Reid Cites Evidence of Russian Tampering in U.S. Vote, and Seeks F.B.I. Inquiry
Let me end this epistle by saying that I love my family and friends that voted for Trump or support him now and I love those that are currently asking me to stop talking about the things I’m talking about or to change the way I’m talking about it to make it nicer. I hope by sharing my experiences and thoughts I can help people understand why I’m talking and writing the way that I am. <3 _______ Sources for quotes above: 1, 2, 3, 4.