not in Primary anymore

five things you shouldn’t say to a brown pasifika mormon

Guest post by BROWN MORMON GIRL.

1. “I see you brought the whole tribe to church today!”

No. We may have brown skin and long flowing Pocohantas-type locks, but we are not Native Americans. (Actually, I’m not sure a Native American Mormon would appreciate their family of eight being jovially addressed as a ‘tribe’ either.) We have strong connections to our extended families, and to a village or island (or several), but we don’t have tribes in Pasifika. Oh…you were cracking a joke? I’m sorry I didn’t get it. I should choose not to be offended?…Let me crack a polygamous Mormon joke about YOUR large family – I see you brought all your wives to church today! Ooops, all these lovely young women are your daughters, not sister wives? My bad…

Was that funny? No, I didn’t think so.

'A tribe? We are not amused.'
‘A tribe? We are not amused.’

2. “I just love your people. Tongans are such friendly, happy people!”

Really? I’m not feeling very friendly right now listening to this happy-simple-native drivel. And I’m Samoan, not Tongan. Newsflash: the Pacific Ocean, otherwise known as the Blue Continent, has many different island countries and cultures. Some of us call it, ‘Pasifika.’ We speak different languages and have unique customs. We’re not one amalgamated brown mass. And sometimes, mistaking a Samoan for a Tongan (and vice versa) can get you in trouble. Just ask the Rock…

rockTongan

3. “As Lamanites, you are chosen people of the Lord. I’m here to tell you that God loves you and will never forget his children on the isles of the sea…”

You came all the way from Utah to tell us that? Because you were worried we didn’t know that we’re children of God? Or maybe we were having doubts, being brown and stuck on a rock in the ocean and all?  Your condescending concern is touching but from where I’m standing – on a beautiful tropical island with a vibrant culture that values strong extended families, where the whole country shuts down on a Sunday so people can go to church, where fa’aaloalo, respect for family, our elders and tradition is a core value, an island where I can see and feel God’s hand everywhere I look – yeah, I’m pretty sure I don’t need a visitor from the Mormon Promised Land to reassure me that my Heavenly Father loves me. I already know that. And its not because I’m brown and (supposedly) a Lamanite. Just like God doesn’t love you BECAUSE you’re white and (supposedly) a Nephite. It’s because I’m a child of my Heavenly Parents. Just like you.

Sunday in Samoa.
Sunday in Samoa.

4. “Oh you’re from Samoa? In the South Pacific right? Like Johnny Lingo!”

No. Nothing like Johnny Lingo. We don’t have cows and if anyone ever tried offering my father any kind of animals in exchange for my hand in marriage- my mother would run that potential suitor over with her truck.

Even when we dressed like this - we weren't 8 Cow Women.
Even when we dressed like this – we weren’t 8 Cow Women.

5. “Some of your traditional costumes are shockingly immodest. You must be so grateful for the church’s dress standard that helps us all better live the Law of Chastity.”

Yes because wearing a suit and tie…or a long dress…AND an additional layer of temple garments underneath – in sweltering tropical humidity where you sweat WHILE having a shower – is something we give thanks for everyday. Thanks Utah Mormon men for inventing a dress code thats great for temperate climates and the wintry months – and then making it a celestial necessity for the rest of the world’s Mormons too. So what if they live in the desert. Or on an island in the Pacific Ocean.

And just so you know, before Christianity saved us savages – the men and women in Samoa were often topless. So breasts were no big deal. Now, thanks to “modesty” they’re a sexualized thing and we have to cover up from shoulder to knee if we want to be “good girls” while bootilicious boobs of “bad but sexual girls” bust out at us from billboards and TV shows everywhere.

So…no. While I don’t have a secret desire to go topless, I’m not grateful for the Mormon dress code. I’d be much happier if we could wear clothing that’s better suited for our climate – and still NOT be condemned as ‘immodest’ and ‘slutty.’

A Samoan family dressed in their best, in the 1890's.
A Samoan family dressed in their best, in the 1890’s.

Photographs courtesy of the National Archives Online. From a series of ‘Colonial Samoa’ postcards.

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17 Responses to “five things you shouldn’t say to a brown pasifika mormon”

  1. doc

    “We decry attempts to demean our faith based on our quest for greater understanding and equality.” I don’t see how this post contributes to the quest for greater understanding and equality. I do see how it is an outlet for the author to vent about comments significantly lacking in sensitivity while simaltanesouly demeaning church doctrines and leaders. My first few times on this site I read very interesting articles about feminism and concerns regarding gender related LDS doctrinal teachings. Sadly, several recent posts seem to have missed that mark and are simply mean spirited and aimed at mocking or ridiculing the church and its doctrine. For example, “Thanks Utah Mormon men for inventing a dress code thats great for temperate climates and the wintry months – and then making it a celestial necessity for the rest of the world’s Mormons too.” I would like to point out for those who may read these posts in an honest attempt to learn and understand that the wearing of the temple garments was received by revelation, not invented, and was received by men who had never been to Utah (because it did not exist at the time) and who lived in place that was sweltering hot (at least in the summer). YMF bloggers, please don’t waste your influence. Posts like these will only serve to drive away those readers whose minds are ripe for change and attarct those who ant to pile on to mock and ridicule.

    Reply
    • Nouner

      Wow! You really know better than the author what she should say. Maybe you could draw up a list of what she should say, and in what order? Perhaps you could just write stuff up and she could, like, put her own little twist on it. I mean after you approved it of course.

      But just to point this out, you sure seem to have some strange ideas on what should be talked about and why, considering you rejected the article out of hand because you didn’t like what she said. Maybe if you listened you might learn something. Or you could tell other people what they believe instead of listening to them when they tell you. Let’s be honest, it’s pretty clear which one you came here to do.

      Reply
      • doc

        If you could be more specific and point to a comment I made that you did not agree with and why that would be helpful. You seem to have made several assumptions about me and my motives that I feel are unwarranted and after re-reading my own comment I don’t understand how you came to your conclusions. You could certainly disagree with my reaction or feelings after reading this article, but at least tell me why and provide some evidence. I come to this site to learn, and I make comments with the goal of particpating in interesting dialogue.

    • curtispenfold

      The original garments were a one piece that went from ankles to wrists. They worked with the fashion of the time. They don’t now. So the men in Utah changed them.

      Reply
      • doc

        So I guess we agree then. From what you have written you seem to agree that the garment was not “invented by Utah Mormon Men”. And by authorizing garments that don’t go to the ankles or wrists does not really mean that the garment was changed. To say that it was to fit some fashionable need of the day seems a little simplistic but if that is the motive you would ilke to attribute to the church leaders decision you certainly are entitiled to your opinion. You can still get and wear garments like the old ones, there are just more options today. The standards of modesty are still the same. Perhaps what we can learn from this “change” is that the standard of modesty never was to have you covered from the ankle to wrist. Perhaps that was the cultural standard of the time which went beyond what the Lord’s standard of modesty is. Today you can wear V-neck garments, crew neck garments, scoop cut garments, military color garments, etc. As long as they meet the standard of modesty its all good. Additionally, not sure if your link is the most legitimate website to learn about the garments of the LDS church. Especially since the articel associated with the drawing does not even mention the scriptural references to garments from the old testament. It seems more intent to discuss the prophet of the restoration’s libido and polygammy than to search for historical or scriptural support for the wearing of garments.

    • Chris

      Wow, that’s all you got out of that entire post?

      I for one, am glad to have the writing of a Samoan sister on YMF and I look forward to reading more viewpoints from a diverse range of women. This is a global church after all and it would be good to have that reflected here more.

      doc, you offer as an example of what offends you about this piece – the writer’s critique of temple garments and how they relate to her environment and culture. You chose not to pay attention to her key point about Mormon modesty and how it differs with the traditional Samoan approach to clothing and the body. Instead, garments ” were not invented…but received by men who had never been to Utah (because it did not exist at the time) and who lived in place that was sweltering hot (at least in the summer).” I’d like to know – have you ever been to the South Pacific? To Samoa? And not just for a holiday in an air conditioned hotel? Have you ever LIVED and worked in the islands? Do you know what its like to work/play/worship in suffocating humidity all year round? In often dirty conditions? Do you know what its like to live in a village, on a meagre income, and try to grow taro on a plantation in the rainforest? If you’re male, have you ever been the ONLY one who’s not bare chested while working on a plantation OR fishing from your tiny canoe – because you’re wearing garments? And you don’t have enough of an income to afford several sets of garments…no…you only own two pairs. One for Sunday and temple day, and another for every other day of the week. And its so hot and your work is so dirty that everyone showers at least twice a day – in their outside tap, or in the river – but you only have your one set of garments to keep wearing and washing. And some people laugh and ridicule you about your need to keep wearing that decidedly dirty-looking and much worn item of clothing. But you do it anyway. Because you’re a believer, and according to the powers that be – who all live in a temperate and (usually rather affluent) Utah environment – believers show their belief by wearing the temple garment night and day.

      Do you know what that’s like? No. You don’t. Because Im going to take a wild guess here and say – you’re probably NOT a Pacific Islander. Or not one who’s lived in Samoa. An extreme scenario and question perhaps – but one to make a point. This writer is writing from the experience and viewpoint of what it’s like to BE Samoan in the LDS church. And more specifically, what its like to BE Samoan and LDS while living in Samoa.

      We may not be able to relate to her experience or her views but I would hope we can at least read about them with a sincere interest/desire to try and understand where she’s coming from. And maybe then, we can be a bit more “patient” about her impatience with comments that “lack sensitivity”. And see them for what they are…racist and ignorant.

      Reply
  2. doc

    If you could be more specific and point to a comment I made that you did not agree with and why that would be helpful. You seem to have made several assumptions about me and my motives that I feel are unwarranted and after re-reading my own comment I don’t understand how you came to your conclusions. You could certainly disagree with my reaction or feelings after reading this article, but at least tell me why and provide some evidence. I come to this site to learn, and I make comments with the goal of particpating in interesting dialogue.

    Reply
    • Nouner

      ” I don’t see how this post contributes to the quest for greater understanding and equality.”

      Was that the author’s stated intention? You said that, not her.

      “Sadly, several recent posts seem to have missed that mark and are simply mean spirited and aimed at mocking or ridiculing the church and its doctrine.”

      Oh no! Her article isn’t up to your standards! Call the mean spirited-ness police! Maybe some aspects of the church (and/or it’s doctrine) are worthy of ridicule. Has that thought crossed your mind?

      Reply
      • doc

        Actually the YMF blog creators on their about page stated that the quest for greater understanding and equality was one of the reasons the blog was started and I think that the posts should support those goals. Those were there words that I quoted. As I stated previously, in my opinion, this article does not forward that noble goal because it seems content to mock and ridicule. And I must disagree that aspects of the church or its doctrine are worthy of ridicule. I would ask which other church or belief systems (or aspects of them) do you think are “worthy” of ridicule. The idea that something could be worthy of ridicule is what this blog is trying to comabt. No one and no ones beliefs are “worthy” of ridicule. I would say that many doctrines and topics are worthy of discussion and debate and that people can disagree respectfully. But when you mock and ridicule it becomes difficult to have fruitful discussion, and that is what this blog is about which is why I replied to share my opinion.

  3. miss

    Hilarious! A cute”tongue in cheek” piece that’s humorous and showing a Polynesian’s jovial spirit. Awesome article!!! I love it, my mom/dad may not but my sibs and I get it!

    Reply
  4. Nouner

    Doc-

    “And by authorizing garments that don’t go to the ankles or wrists does not really mean that the garment was changed.”

    So what you’re saying is that even though the garments were dramatically changed (by making them far shorter, in jersey knits, etc) in a way that would have been totally impermissible before, that’s not a change. um ok.

    ” The standards of modesty are still the same. Perhaps what we can learn from this “change” is that the standard of modesty never was to have you covered from the ankle to wrist.”

    Yes, the standard garment revealed by god wasn’t actually the standard of modesty, it was a totally different thing available 150+ years later. ok

    I kind of envy how you are able to see something as eternal and unchanging, even while clearly acknowledging the dramatic changes that the thing has undergone. It’s a rare gift to wholeheartedly believe something when you’re totally aware it’s false. You have an uncommon ability to believe what you’re told to believe. You’d go far in any authoritarian regime.

    “We’ve always been at war with Eastasia”

    Reply
    • doc

      So what you’re saying is that even though the garments were dramatically changed (by making them far shorter, in jersey knits, etc) in a way that would have been totally impermissible before, that’s not a change. um ok.

      Who said that those changes would have been impermissible before? Culturally impermissible or impermissible because the early leaders taught that everyone should always be covered from ankle to wrist? Are you assuming that based on a drawing from an anti-mormon article on an anti-religion website that the only authorized length of fabric was ankle to wrists and therefore the Lord’s standard of modesty was originally to be covered from ankle to wrist at all times? And since the picture did not specify what the material was then I guess changing material is ok? I don’t know what your source is for stating what was authorized in those days. Unless you can offer some evidence then making that statement is an assumption on your part. Equal in validity then is my assumption that if long sleeve garments existed then and now (which they do) along with the different styles and fabric that exist today then perhaps it was more a matter of simplicity to modify existing underwear to serve as the garment in the early days. Now that we have the capacity to use new fabrics and we are not impoverished as many of the saints were in the early days we can have different fabrics and even knee length and short sleeve garments because they still meet the standard of modesty . I don’t blindly assume that since some website says the original garments were long-sleeved that they are correct and that any other garment fabric or length represents a fundamental change in the standards of modesty.

      Reply
  5. sabfranks

    Great piece, so true! We need to be more culturally aware and less demeaning in our trying to be nice way!

    Also yes, stop calling people Lamanites! It is weird and puts ethnicity into a box!

    Reply
  6. pinkrose89

    In my stake it is easy to tell who is Tongan and who is Samoan; one just asks what ward they are from. We can have up to three choirs sing at Stake Conference.

    Reply
  7. Emily the Stranger

    My anthropology side perked up as soon as the “tribe” thing came up at the beginning. I wish that tribe didn’t have negative meanings connected to it. Everyone has ancestors who lived in a tribal community, and one of the first things I learned when we went over the evolution of societies was that evolution does not mean progress, but simply change. There are good and bad aspects to every type of society. Connecting “tribe” to “savage” is factually incorrect.

    Reply
  8. Anonymous

    lol Brown Mormon Girl… do people actually say those things to you? Man I’ve lived here in NZ all my life and never heard anyone say those things to us Polys at church… other than maybe the tribe one but I don’t find that one offensive anyway. The whole garment one is a bit over the top though don’t you think? I go to Samoa every year and thank goodness for technology… It’s called Air conditioning people! It’s not like Samoa is some backwards place where you have to sit in the hot sun with no protection suffering like some idiot!lol You have to think smarter and not look for ways to play the “poor us” card. Other than that… yea the other statements are pretty offensive 🙂

    Reply

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