On December 5th 2014- just last week- the LDS Church released a statement about a principled approach to health care coverage for Utahns. Health care is important; while I think the statement was frustratingly vague and reads like a couple grandpas absentmindedly smiling and nodding at lawmakers, I appreciate the thought.
But since commenting on current issues in the United States is on the table, how about also weighing in on….any other pressing issue? Ever since the Senate Intelligence Committee released a scathing report yesterday about the widespread torture U.S. officials have ordered in recent years, I’ve been absorbed with two main thoughts: 1) Horror at the atrocities my government has committed in my name, and 2) The silence of my religious leaders on this phenomenally disturbing issue.
I don’t expect the church to make a statement on every headline- but I shouldn’t have to spell out the gravity of this situation. And even if the church didn’t comment within 24 hours about such an enormously devastating announcement, it could get involved with groups like the National Religious Coalition Against Torture– a force from which the church is noticably absent. Or is it really so controversial to be against torture?
How about commenting on the murder of black folks at the hands of police, an issue that is finally getting some of the mainstream spotlight it deserves? How about issuing a statement about the epidemic of rape on college campuses, with The Lord’s University’s reported cases being the highest in Utah? How about the fact that it was a Mormon who wrote one of the torture memos?
Or looking globally- how about the repression across so many countries in which individuals’ right to freedom of expression is being quashed by dictatorial governments? Or the impact of climate change on so many communities who are largely ignored by the rest of the world but are arguably suffering the most environmental change? Or the scourge of human trafficking that daily transports slaves from country to country? Or the 43 missing students from Iguala, Mexico and the horrific culture of impunity, state and gang violence, and corruption that their forced disappearances demonstrate?
If you, whatever church leader/PR team combo is behind these official statements, are willing to comment on some specific policies- if you really care about families and individuals and truly pray for the “highest aspirations of success”- I repeat the call of many before me. Where is your commentary on some of these most pressing moral issues of our time? When will you go beyond occasional conference talks and funneling limited sums in humanitarian aid to actually being an unabashed force from top to bottom, with leaders boldly speaking out and church members encouraged to engage locally? Where is that request of local leadership not for us to donate to passing homophobic legislation but for us to donate to anti-poverty organizations or women’s shelters?
I’m tired of being told that the leaders of the church are too busy with pressing international concerns to talk about the feminist issues I try to call attention to when you somehow found the time to publish a press statement about Utah’s healthcare debate and are silent on these devastating global events.
I live and work in Washington D.C. One of my roommates told me the other day that me being Mormon is as absurd to her as if I was an alien sitting there in the living room. I don’t think you realize how much this attitude will only continue to increase among people of my generation and beyond so long as the church’s moral compass is more concerned with coffee and sex than with war, rape, torture, poverty.
I’m angry. I’m tired of straining my ears and refreshing mormonnewsroom.org in the hopes that you’ll say something, anything about any of these issues.
Below I am republishing (with permission) an excellent blog post that makes the case for why we need some serious prophetic leadership on these issues. You can find the original post here on Feminist Mormon Housewives. I want to shout it from the rooftops.
Don’t Talk to Me About Coffee and Sex
“Last week, as I was listening to news headlines on the radio, my heart stopped for a few seconds.
Five Afghan children. Caught in the crossfire between US forces and Taliban militants. Dead.
Ten seconds on a news broadcast on a Tuesday morning.
Not infrequently, I take a fast from the news. This kind of awful, evil, ugly can really start to pile up on you at times.
Thousands killed in an earthquake.
Countless, beautiful young people gunned down in city streets.
It’s big and omni-present, and sometimes it’s too much. A friend of mine captured well how I feel:
The human heart was never built to handle global suffering.
Now, if ever, is a time when we need truly prophetic voices. Global suffering is before our eyes every day. We’re facing the kind of depravity and suffering that calls for a prophet standing on a city wall, withstanding stones and arrows to deliver the message of redemption. We need Isaiah, condemning the powerful for oppressing their workers. We need the warnings of Mormon, who saw that inequality, materialism, and greed would spell doom for the Kingdom of God.
Across the pulpit at General Conference; in the pages of the Ensign; in the SLC-approved Sunday School curriculum–we hear a lot about good and evil, right and wrong. This discourse addresses such weighty matters as:
- sleeve length
- inappropriate entertainment
- and miles upon miles of words about who you can and cannot have sex with
There is no talk of sexual violence. The causes of global poverty. Wage theft. Hate crimes.
The United States, birthplace of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is resorting to torture in its quest to build empire. Torture.
Our prophets’ response?
We are supposed to have God’s true and living prophet to help our human hearts navigate global suffering.
Prophets like Jeremiah, whose song of Lamentations for a fallen city applies just as tragically to Baghdad today as it did to Jerusalem then.
Prophets like Esther, who risked her own life to save her people from obliteration.
Prophets like Abinadi, who warned his people that their love of riches and bloodshed and sexual violence would spell their destruction.
Prophets like the Messiah, who went down into oppression and suffering, so that he could spread light and peace and healing.
Instead we have a mall.
Our leaders obsess over modesty, and gender roles, and doing their utmost to keep those gays from loving each other. They’ll spend millions of dollars keeping the wrong kind of couple from marriage, but never find space in all their preaching about sex to mention the word rape.
It is so hard to find my place in this church when the chief concerns are so empty and insignificant.
What good are prophetic voices that maintain total silence on the most pressing moral matters of our time?
Moses might have told the children of Israel who to sleep with or what to wear.
But first, he led his people out of slavery.
That’s the kind of prophetic leadership our world is dying for today.”