The Atlantic: “When Mormons Aspired to Be a ‘White and Delightsome’ People”

Over at the Atlantic, the great Emma Green (who, along with Peggy Fletcher Stack, are the best religion beat writers working today), profiled Race and the Making of the Mormon People

So many recent events in American life have been a call for the country to grapple with its legacy of racism and white supremacy, including the violence in Charlottesville and even the 2016 election. These events have created turmoil among some conservative Christian groups, who have tried—in fits and starts—to confront their own racial divisions.

One group, however, has taken a slightly different path: Mormons. While a majority of Mormons voted for Trump in the 2016 election, he fared far worse than previous Republican presidential candidates among the minority religious group. According to The Salt Lake Tribune, many in Mormon-heavy Utah doubted the president’s moral character and strength as a role model.

Like other religious groups, Mormons have a complicated history around race. Until a few decades ago, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints taught that they “shall be a white and a delightsome people,” a phrase taken from the Book of Mormon. Until the 1970s, the LDS Church also restricted black members’ participation in important rituals, and prohibited black men from becoming priests.

Max Perry Mueller, a historian at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, argues that Mormonism is a quintessentially American religion. The Book of Mormon re-centers the story of Jesus on the Americas, and the faith, which was founded in the 19th century, also tells the story through a very American lens. Yet, while the story of race and the LDS Church is similar to other American experiences of race, it’s also distinctive, leaving Mormons to grapple with the legacy of racism and white supremacy in their own way.

Read the rest here.

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