Rejecting Racism in Any Form : Latter-day Saint Rhetoric, Religion, and Repatriation
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued an online statement in February 2012 rejecting all racism, in any form. The statement followed nearly two centuries of tortured struggles with racism promulgated by church leaders, instituted in everyday practices, and integrated into Latter-day Saint scriptures. While rhetoric renouncing racism from the LDS Church is a welcome step, religions need to compliment language undoing racism with concrete actions. This article examines ways that the LDS Church may work towards actually ending various forms of racism. It focuses attention on the role of settler colonial grave robbery, the loot from which was used in the production of Mormon scriptures advocating white privilege. These acts of violence against Native people continue into the present, as illustrated by the recent occupation of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge by Mormon militiamen, extensive trade networks in antiquities in Mormon communities, unethical uses of Native American DNA, and ongoing efforts by Utah legislators to undermine tribal sovereignty. Current rhetoric condemning racism appears to serve as a mask for the continued imbalance of power in a land-rich institution in which the highest positions of authority remain exclusively in the hands of white men. Reciprocal acts of repatriation, initiated but never finished by early LDS Church leaders, need to be re-activated if Mormons are to effectively repudiate racism in its many forms.