A Florida pastor, politically aligned with Rick Santorum, has issued a public call for Mitt Romney to denounce The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, due to what he believes is a racist religion. He posits that if Mitt Romney, a Mormon, were to be elected as President, this country would head backward in its progress toward racial equality.

True story.

I've gone back and forth about how I wanted to respond to this story, or if I even would. It's so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day circus of what's happening in the mainstream media, when it comes to the Mormon faith, and so I try to be selective about what I address. I have different criteria for helping me to determine what, I believe, is important enough to then turn around and write about. 

Perhaps you're thinking to yourself right now, "Why all the pondering? This is ludicrous and that pastor needs to be called out! It's a no brainer." Am I right? For some of you I imagine that I am. And, I'll admit that at first glance this, too, was my initial reaction. That's not to say this pastor's actions should be ignored. Plenty are taking care of that, as we speak. 

MormonVoices.com, a source that encourages members to help provide credible information about the Church, online, in response, issued this press release: 

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (March 13, 2012) – MormonVoices today called on Republican Presidential candidate Rick Santorum to condemn the anti-Mormon comments made by his supporter, and honorary Florida Chairman, Reverend O’Neal Dozier. The New York Daily News and multiple other media outlets have reported that Dozier proclaimed that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly referred to as the Mormon Church, is racist and said that the Church “is prejudiced against Blacks, Jews and the Native American Indians.” He therefore demanded that Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney publicly “renounce his racist Mormon Religion.” He claims that in so doing, he hopes “to foster and maintain good race relations here in America.” 
Scott Gordon, a managing director of MormonVoices, and contributor to the Website Blacklds.org, counters that Dozier’s attacks on the Church do nothing to maintain good race relations and do serious harm to maintaining good religious relations in America. “Dozier’s comments represent a form of religious bigotry that should not be tolerated by any serious candidate for the Presidency of the United States. His comments are either ignorant or are willful misrepresentations for personal or political purposes.” Gordon also pointed out that Dozier’s challenge to Romney seems curiously behind the times, given that the Church’s restriction on priesthood for Blacks ended in 1978 and that today, all men of any race who meet minimum standards of worthiness are ordained. 
MormonVoices also released an article on its website, found at www.MormonVoices.org, clarifying the teachings on race that are found in The Book of Mormon, including the verse,“[The Lord] inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile” (2 Nephi 26:33). The article further quotes the recent Church statement that “unequivocally condemns racism, including any and all past racism by individuals both inside and outside the Church,” and the 2006 comments from the late Mormon Church president Gordon B. Hinckley, who declared that “no man who makes disparaging remarks concerning those of another race can consider himself a true disciple of Christ. Nor can he consider himself to be in harmony with the teachings of the Church.” 
MormonVoices was created to respond to false or misleading information in the media and is not affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Fair enough. I can support this position, and alongside of it appreciate other efforts to do the same -- and hope that more will. However, after some thoughtful consideration, I began thinking about how, on a daily basis, every active member of the Church is called upon to denounce their faith. Brother Romney is no different than you or I. The spiritual cost of shying away from what we profess to believe, through covenant, is relatively just as high, and eternally no different. Worldly position does not impress God -- He expects that our actions, as Latter-day Saints, be equal in all circumstances. In The Book of Mosiah, at the waters of Mormon, Alma boldly defines the initiates commitment in the baptismal covenant:

"Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life"           (Mosiah 18:9)

Regardless of circumstance, or the perceived cost, each member of the Church is equally bound to the same commitment, in order to qualify for the blessing of membership within the gospel of Jesus Christ. Perhaps Mitt could just renounce the Church on this one point, to politically appease his critiques? That way he could remain an active member and advance his political career. After all, we really don't know a lot about the history of Black Mormons in the Church, and seem to be taking a lot of hits lately on this issue. Some might feel that because of this, it is not practical that he should stand 100% by the Church. Besides that, who knows if he really agrees with the Church's position?

But that's not how faithful Latter-day Saints view their relationship with Jesus Christ, and His Church. By the law of common consent, individually, we commit to sustain those called to preside over the Church and collectively this, act of faith, unifies the body of the Saints -- and the work to build the kingdom here on earth. The practice of picking and choosing what commandments and counsel fit within the framework of one's personal worldview, is not a habit that members should subscribe. Instead, we are challenged to pick up the cross and bear it together.

Our vulnerability to deny the faith will come to us individually, most likely dependent upon our specific weakness. A strong testimony of Jesus Christ is what will fortify us even when it is most difficult to remain true -- and if we falter will bring us back.  One can't help but think of the Apostle, Peter, when he denied Jesus Christ and thereafter wept bitterly at the realization of what he had done. The thought of separation from Him, whom he desperately loved, was almost unbearable. Surely when Peter came to understand the power of the atonement, that made reunion with Christ possible, his joy was beyond measure. Once reunited with the Master, Peter became immovable -- one upon whom the Savior could trust.

Our commitment to be immovable is one, like Peter's, that once made will become a sure anchor in our lives and that which will guide us daily as we navigate this constantly changing world. The pressure to shrink in the face of our critics, for what we believe, is now an everyday occurrence. Whether in standing for traditional marriage, sexual abstinence before marriage, the keeping of the word of wisdom, following living prophets, standards of modesty, to name only a few -- as we do so, we are true to the faith and are at one with the body of the Saints.

"Each of us who have made covenants with God face challenges unique to us. But each of us shares some common assurances. Our Heavenly Father knows us and our circumstances and even what faces us in the future. His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior, has suffered and paid for our sins and those of all the people we will ever meet. He has perfect understanding of the feelings, the suffering, the trials, and the needs of every individual. Because of that, a way will be prepared for us to keep our covenants, however difficult that may now appear, if we go forward in faith. 
I share with you the obligation to be a witness for God at all times and in all places that I will be in as long as I live. And I share with you the confidence that God can grant us the power to keep all our covenants." Henry B. Eyring

Kathryn Skaggs

Recent posts WBMW:

Why Do Mormons Trust Men to Speak for God? 
We live during a time when much of what prophets teach and instruct, which runs glaringly in opposition to mainstream society, for some, becomes a bit uncomfortable -- and to a few, unbearable.

Mormons and Racism: Are Mormons Racist?
I'm not here to defend or debate that this was part of LDS history. Nor do I have all of the answers as to why this was considered church policy for so long. However I can tell you that, today, Mormons are happy that such a policy is no longer in effect, and are thrilled to know that all blessings of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ are equally available to God's children -- and rightly so.

The Significant Difference of Truth
I can't stress enough the importance of developing our testimony of the gospel upon the truthfulness of The Book of Mormon. Not just upon the book, but upon its truthfulness. My experience has taught me that there is a significant difference. In fact, it is the differencethat has the power to enable us to withstand the very real and inevitable buffetings of the adversary.

The LDS Newsroom: Race Relations
"It’s been over 30 years since The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints began ordaining its members of African descent to the priesthood.

It was a pivotal moment in Church history, with implications not only for members in the United States but for the Church worldwide."

Deseret News: MormonVoices calls for Santorum to disavow pastor
"MormonVoices, an independent organization associated with the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research (FAIR), issued a press release early Tuesday calling for Santorum to "condemn the anti-Mormon comments made by his supporter, an honorary Florida chairman, the Rev. O'Neal Dozier.""

BYU Studies: Spencer W. Kimball and the Revelation on Priesthood
"Edward L. Kimball discusses the former Mormon policy of restricting Church members of African descent from receiving the priesthood. He examines the traditional and proposed scriptural basis for the policy, its origin and implementation, and the chain of events that led his father, President Spencer W. Kimball, to seek revelation regarding changing the policy. Black Africans’ interest in joining the Church, the Civil Rights movement, Church members’ changing perceptions regarding the priesthood policy, and spiritual manifestations all contributed to President Kimball’s landmark decision. The article describes how President Kimball went about obtaining the revelation allowing all worthy male Church members to receive the priesthood, how the revelation was spiritually confirmed to other leaders, and members’ reactions when the change was announced."

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