As one who leans towards the Conservative side of the political spectrum and, in the past, frequently engaged in my fair share of political discourse- it would baffle me that, at times, when a discussion would come about about my disagreements with the policies and principles of the current Commander-in-Chief, I would be labeled a racist. Why was a so stunned at this accusation? Let me give you a bit of my background:
I grew up around my Aunt, who is adopted- she is half-Filipina, half-white. She was adopted by my white grandparents in 1963, at the height of the civil rights debate, and raised in a small town with an almost exclusively white population that was home to many Arkansas transplants. The elementary schools were named Union Ridge and South Ridge and the middle-school mascot was the “Rebels”. If anything my family eschewed the evil that is racism in a very public manner. In the 2nd grade I has a crush on a very ethnic looking Lebanese girl. I mostly played with the black girls on the playground in 3rd grade and lamented the fact that when we moved back to my hometown in 4th grade that there were no black children to play with. I was briefly engaged to a girl from Argentina after my mission and my wife is a proud Native American from the Cherokee and Iroquois tribes. I might also mention my mother remarried a man who is half-Mexican blessing me with a sister who is a 1/4 Mexican- my nieces, her daughters, are part-black in one case or part Puerto Rican (and all that comes with that) in another. The charge of racism is so foreign to me I don’t even know how to respond.
In the same way I am baffled by the label of racist, I am also baffled by the label of “Apostate” when in the course of a religious discussion I share some disagreement over doctrine, history, or church leadership.
After Joseph Smith Jr. and his brother Hyrum were killed on June 27th, 1844 several men came forward advocating for their role as the leader of the church. Among these men were: James Strang, Sidney Rigdon, Brigham Young, Alpheus Cutler, David Whitmer, Granville Hedrick, and Joseph Smith III. Each of these men gave their strong reasons and each gained a following. Over time one would excommunicate another and they would be excommunicated in return- until at some point it’s likely that none would’ve been left in the church. With the casting out of the various leaders and their attendant “loss of authority” all those who followed them were seen as being deceived, darkened in their minds, their ordinances called into question, and their membership in the church denied.
Over the decades these former brothers and sisters became more and more estranged and cut off from one another. Animosity grew and contentions increased- each group convinced that the others were apostate and being led by the devil with his flaxen cords straight down into the pit of hell. High, strong walls were built and each settled in nicely to their own sense of rightness.
I used to believe this. I used to shake my head in disbelief that people could be so deceived. I used to believe that I was in the “only true and living church” and they were not. I would argue endlessly about issues of exaltation, authority, polygamy, etc… I no longer argue and debate and contend about those things. I no longer believe that I am in the “one true church” and they are not. I now embrace members of the various churches of the Restoration as brothers and sisters and accept their ordinances and authority to perform them.