SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – In the wake of George Floyd’s death, we’re seeing black communities calling for positive change–including the black community within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A group of members are hosting a letter-writing campaign to ask Church leaders to include anti-racism training in church curriculum.
Melodie Jackson is the woman behind the campaign. She’s a Brigham Young University graduate, served a mission for the church in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and will begin a PhD program on the Brazilian black Church member experience in the fall. She said of the past few weeks, “It just feels like the world has come crashing down on black people this month.”
Along with the social climate at the moment, this week is the 42nd anniversary of black members of the Church being allowed to fully participate in their faith. For more than 100 years of Church history, black members were not allowed to hold the priesthood or enter holy temples.
That changed in 1978, but Jackson says, “Black people still feel invisible in this church, black people still feel like outcasts.”
She says white members often can’t see or refuse to see their own racism. Jackson says she’s constantly asked, “Where are you really from? no, where are you really really from? I can’t say how many times I’ve visited a ward and had someone come up to me and say, hey are you an investigator?”
She explained the racism she experiences isn’t only cultural, but built into the faith, “It was in the manual this past year that the priesthood ban was of God and it wasn’t, it wasn’t, and the Church needs to reckon with that.”
Jackson is using the hashtag ‘BlackLivesMattertoChrist’ online to call on black members to write to Church headquarters. They are invited to share their experiences of being black in the Church, they ask that anti-racism training be incorporated into the Church curriculum and manuals.
Jackson asked, “Are we actively seeking to include non-white stories in the lessons that we teach? The pioneers weren’t all white people, are we actively seeking to tell those stories?”
“The idea of a post-racial Church is very false; they cannot say that they did not know.”