When Natalie Palmer-Taylor’s son was the target of a racial epithet hurled by another Mormon youth, she went to the church’s headquarters to complain. Ezra Taft Benson received her complaint and retorted with this dismissive challenge: ‘If you allow the people of the church to turn you against the church, then you were not worthy to be in the church in the first place’.
How is this helpful? He certainly did nothing to address the racism among the members and placed the onus on the mother to stay valiant despite the members. He even tells her that if she can’t deal with it, she’s not worthy of the church in the first place. Woah woah woah! And this is the same church that has reportedly been standing against racism since the beginning?
The church is perfect, the people are not… or in other words: Mormons may be racist, but if you leave it’s still your fault.
This is from a Provo newspaper article in 1988. This was a full decade after the priesthood ban was lifted by the church.
Blacks Talk About Membership in the LDS Church
EDITOR’S NOTE Blacks who have joined the Mormon Church have had varied experiences and harbor contrasting views about the church which once excluded them from full participation. Here is a sampling, based on Associated Press interviews and material taken from the LDS Afro-American Oral History Project of the Charles Redd Center at Brigham Young University:
WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah – Natalie Palmer-Taylor had never experienced racism among Mormons until she moved to Utah.
When her son was the target of a racial epithet hurled by another Mormon youth, she went to the church’s headquarters to complain. She was met by Ezra Taft Benson, the president of the church who then was leader of the faith’s Council of the Twelve Apostles.
“I was full of hate; I was really, really angry,” Ms. Palmer-Taylor said. “Ezra Taft Benson said, ‘If you allow the people of the church to turn you against the church, then you were not worthy to be in the church in the first place'”Provo Daily Herald | 1988-06-05 | Page 22
The same article mentions another story detailing the struggle facing a black Mormon. A former pro football player converted to the church and eventually got to the point where he no longer worries about the “twinge” or “shock” he sees in the white membership when he is around. It shows a true depth to this individual, but also a lack of depth of the church membership as a whole. While yes, as Burgess Owens states, “If they don’t love me, that is not my problem,” it’s a shame that so many black members have had to learn this lesson in this way. What a pity that they had to be the bigger person than the church they believed to be the one true church of God.
MELVILLE, N.Y. – Burgess Owens is an example of middle-classs, professional blacks moving successfully into the mainstream of the Mormon faith.
A former wide receiver with the New York Jets and the Oakland Raiders of the National Football League, Owens was converted through his association with Raiders tight end Todd Christensen, a former Brigham Young University halfback.
“Now I am at the point where I am not going to worry about whether people twinge, whether they are shocked or whether they disagree. It makes no difference,” Owens said. “If they don’t love me, that is not my problem. I am still going to love them and I am still going to be an example.”Provo Daily Herald | 1988-06-05 | Page 22
The history of racist doctrine has made the Mormon people inclined to racist attitudes. This is improving with every generation, but there is still a long way to go. Perhaps with Russell Nelson’s NAACP friendships and awards this change will accelerate. The huge missing step however is the church formally apologizing for how it treated blacks for the majority of its existence and over 125 years. They have reversed their racist policy, but have never once said that it was wrong or that past leaders could have been wrong. They continue to prefer defensive and misleading apologetics to actual apologies and change. They hide behind God and state that the church does not make apologies! Because of this, it’s no wonder that many church members and the church doctrine is still considered racist to an extent. Despite the dubious claims that the church has always been against racism, reality shows a completely different story.