Guest Post: My Apology for My Complicity

by Monika Crowfoot

First of all, I want to apologize. I want to apologize for my complicity and support of a religious institution that was inherently racist, oppressive, and prejudiced. And to do my part in honoring Juneteenth, not just today but everyday, we are dismantling white supremacist systems in our home.

I grew up Mormon. My culture was Mormon. I did not speak my language because my parents feared I would have an accent. They were beaten in government boarding schools for speaking their language. With every whip and every pounding fist, their culture died.

My mother went on the Indian placement program created by the Mormon Church. She learned to curl and set her straight Navajo hair. She learned to make three course meals. She learned that Mormon Jesus would turn her cursed brown skin white if she was a righteous Mormon.

My dad went on a Mormon mission at the age of 26. He gave up his Navajo name for a Christian one. He spoke of it once, perhaps by accident, how his grandfather was a medicine man and took him through a special naming ceremony. But it was the Mormon name that stuck because it brought salvation and eternal life — not the savagery of the “incorrect traditions of our forefathers.”

My brother died when I was 15, and ever since I’ve discarded anything that would get in the way of not reuniting with him in “celestial” heaven. I cast off my culture long ago, taking only the pretty parts that would allow me to be accepted by my white Mormon peers at BYU. Turquoise necklaces. Long flowing hair for petting. And frybread, because white Utah Mormons love their “scones.”

I stayed, hoping to turn white. But through the years the language changed and it became: “Oops! We’re sorry, did you think it meant literally? No, silly. It was *metaphorical*, duh. Where did you ever get an idea like that?”

So, in my Mormon teacher callings I assimilated for the billionth time, adopting the apologetics, changing what I taught my indigenous friends and black friends. Because for every soul I brought to the “true” gospel of Jesus Christ, to Mormonism, my place in heaven would be solidified and I’d get to see my brother again.

I changed and changed and changed, performing the mental acrobatics needed to force this damn puzzle piece to fit.

I assimilated and followed orders not to ask too many questions, to read and research from the “appropriate” material.

I wore myself down until my son came to me and said his fellow Mormon classmates told him that his faith was weak because he was cursed with dark skin. My son was told he asked too many questions because he was cursed with dark skin.

I stopped assimilating.

It’s one thing to grow up disgusted with MY skin, MY culture, and MY absence of indigenous language. But I’d be damned if my children grew up in that same shame. I would not allow this toxic and white supremacist colonization to destroy my children’s sense of self like it did me.

I tried to reconcile. And the reconciling was over.

We left Mormonism for the health and well being of my children. We left, because once I opened my eyes I could see what a threat my Mormonism was on my black friends and fellow indigenous friends and family, and LGBTQ friends and family.

I want to apologize to my black and indigenous friends and to my LGBTQ friends and family for all the ignorant and racist things I said or believed when I was Mormon. I’m sorry my belief hurt you or threatened you or belittled you and kept you in oppression by my spreading and teaching of these hurtful doctrines. I was wrong.

My children — and children in general — have a way of teaching real truth. Truth that god is love. Truth, that religion is not spirituality. Truth that all humanity deserves equal rights to LIVE and LOVE.

My son came to me and said, “Mom, I can’t believe in this. I love my friends too much. This hurts them. This doesn’t feel right. It’s too racist. It’s too misogynistic. It’s too homophobic.”

He knows what he’s being taught by his Mormon leaders. He hears the awful things they whisper or shout outright. I couldn’t defend it because deep down I knew, too. I knew.

We didn’t leave Mormonism because we wanted to give up our eternal salvation for sips of morning coffee or “porn shoulder” tank tops. We left because all of the racism, oppression, colonization, and injustice finally broke our shelf. We didn’t leave because we had too little faith. We left because our faith was too big and wide and refused to fit in a glass cage. We left because our Creator was just and loving.

I refused to play Simon Says a year ago. I was tired of trying to make it make sense, of jumping through hoops to be accepted, and I wanted to be free.

Despite what Mormon leadership says, leaving everything I knew and everything I was taught was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. I felt betrayed. I felt resentful of the things that had been ingrained in me of never being enough. The scars of words telling me I’d only ever be half as good still speckle my flesh.

Leaving is hard and scary because we risk the punishment of shunning from our friends and family. We are seen as tainted and poisoned by worldly thought. Thankfully, we have some pretty amazing friends who understand us and remain by our sides. There will be some people who will cut off ties, and that will be sad, but it will be okay. It will be okay because standing up and speaking out against oppressive and racist systems means more to me than anything else. I can’t in good conscience be a good friend and ally to my black friends, my indigenous friends, my POC friends, my LGBTQ friends, and all other marginalized groups if I remain in Mormonism.

And I know you mean well when you tell me, “but that’s not what is taught –Jesus and God love everyone.” I know what was taught. I’ve known and learned and researched for the past 38 years. I was dedicated. To deny these things were taught and are still taught, even in secret, is to support the white supremacy system. I lost myself for this religion and I’m ready to reclaim myself. I’m ready to fight for the rights and happiness of others. And if that means dismantling racist religious ideologies and racist language in myself, I’m ready and I’m sorry. The world is changing and I’m ready to do my part. I know better, and I will do better.

My Mormon friends and family already know this, but I’d like to reiterate — just because we left, does not mean we’ve rejected *you*. We love you just the same, if not even more, because our god is love. And love is love is love is love, and that is our religion now. We love you.

Monika Crowfoot is an Indigenous actor and writer, currently writing a memoir and would have finished years ago had she neglected her four very needy children. She enjoys traveling and learning about new cultures and dispelling negative stereotypes. 

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31 Responses

  1. Em says:

    That’s a fantastic post thank you. I was really struck by the part where a church member says “that isn’t what is taught Jesus and God love everyone” and you reiterate the truth.

    We do verbally teach that good and Jesus love everyone. But that is not the only, nor is it the loudest, lesson we teach.

    Thanks for your perspective.

  2. belhepsibah says:

    Wow. Thank you for sharing. So much of this resonates with me and it is so beautifullly expressed.

  3. Linda Gifford says:

    I agree and feel the same way. I am no longer a Mormon pretty much for the same reason. Thank you for putting these thoughts ive had in a meaningful way.

  4. Caroline says:

    Thank you for sharing your journey with us. Your perspective and experience as an Indigenous person are so important, so vital to have documented. It’s painful to think of the ways Mormonism has participating in erasing Indigenous culture and ways of being.

  5. Rachel says:

    Your story is powerful and eye opening. Thank you for sharing.

  6. Juan Ramirez says:

    ✊🏾thank you sister.
    Your words are fire and truth. 🔥

  7. EmilyB says:

    Thank you for this powerful and instructive post. I hope that I can help heal and repair in some way the damages that I inflicted on good people of color by “flooding the earth” with racist books back when I was a missionary still under the spell of adults who exercised unrighteous dominion over me. Now that I am free of that indoctrination, I hope to help remedy the pain caused by the racism that I helped to disseminate. Please, keep showing menand teelaching me how to do this!

  8. Wendy says:

    Monika, thank you for sharing your story and speaking your truth here. Your wisdom and power are infused in every word you wrote. Please let us know when your memoir is available!

  9. mawni says:

    Thank you for this great article and your perspective!

  10. Jaycee says:

    Thank you for your words. I too have felt similar conflicting values and ideals. I could no longer live my life in that very restricted, very strict and unyielding life that I knew most of my life called Mormonism. There is so much more spirituality that I am finally tapping into that isn’t based on how much “better we are* than you are. Everyone should feel free to live how they want to live as long as they are happy and kind and loving to all those around them. I too have left family and friends behind but pass no judgement onto them. I was ready for something else that doesn’t define me by the way the church did. I know I have a Heavenly Father and Savior who still love me the same.❤️

  11. Jan Frion says:

    When my Daughter, Mary told me not to do her Dad’s work because he told me just before he passed “that I should not do anything with our church for him”. I was so surprised and was going to do it anyway, but now I’m not going to do anything. I need to study and pray more. Your writings are so clear, and I thank you for them. I love you and your family, and I love you for taking the time to write this article.

  12. Chiaroscuro says:

    so powerful. sometimes we can do things for our children that we can’t do for ourselves. here is to growth and healing, and reclaiming yourself. thank you for your story!

  13. Gerilyn Goseyun says:

    Gerilyn Goseyun

    • Gerilyn Goseyun says:

      Thank you for putting into words what I’ve felt for years. As a Native American living in a Mormon community I’ve had to deal with racism, hate and ugly comments from the “brothers and sisters” in the church. The last straw was when one of the Seventies spoke at church and made a racist remark about black people. I leaned over to my teenage son and said “I’m leaving, and will never come back to this church. I stood up as did my son and never returned. That was 18 years ago, since then I’ve learned to live freely and loving it!

  14. Risa says:

    Thank you for this thought provoking essay, Monika. It took me a long time to realize that missionary work is just colonization.

  15. Carole says:

    I understand your pain and heartbreak over such a hurtful situation. I remember being looked down on because I was a “convert” and just not good enough. I did have some friends who have stayed friends through 60 plus years and I am grateful for that. No God would require that his children look down upon others or label others just because they were not born snow white. Yes, the Mormon religion preaches “if you follow the teachings faithfully you will become a white and delightsome people”. What’s wrong with being not white? A young man once said “white is the absence of color, black is the combination of all colors”. There are many people who have good hearts and still look down on the converts and un-white members of the LDS church. Pity. I can’t imagine a God that would want his children to do that. Remember, the LDS religion was founded by a white man, and the Bible was written mostly by men. I believe its their translation of God’s word, not God’s word. I saw a native american (I dislike that term because all who are born on USA soil are natives) post on Facebook that showed “Religion is for those who fear hell, Spirituality is for those who have already been there”. I applaud your courage in speaking out what many of us have thought but not been brave enough to voice. May the Great Spirit bless you with peace of mind, happiness and harmony in your lodge.

  16. Amazing story. Thanks for sharing. Our daughter asking questions about racism at Church was the last straw for us. Children have a way of helping us face the truth.

  17. Heather says:

    Thank you for sharing. I hope this is not your last guest post here. Your voice is powerful.

  18. Kimberly says:

    Beautiful and powerful

  19. Di says:

    Thank you – so many harmful messages from folk that may mean well but don’t see their own racism. I’m sorry for the harmful things you and your family have experienced.

  20. Ryan Thomas says:

    Thank you, Monika, for speaking your truth

  21. EmilyCC says:

    Thank you for telling us your story. I, too, hope to read/see more of your work.

  22. I appreciate the author’s humility and truth telling. If you listen to all our Native elders they warned us “not to drink from the metal cup” as they knew and saw all the religions from Europeans had been corrupted and were concerned more with power than morality. Veehe’ ho or spider is what we called White people as they manipulate and tried to capture people in their web. Now, more than ever we are constantly being manipulated with commericalism and individualism that cares little for morality or our responsibility to one another as well as mother earth. Much respect to all of those who strive to “choose the harder right than the easier wrong”.

  23. H.Rebecca Stone says:

    I attended grammar school in California. Our social studies book was “California Yesteryears”. I still remember reading that Native Californians leeched tannin from acorns and dried and ground them to flour for baking. Oh, how my girlish heart wished I were an ‘Indian’.

  24. Lmzbooklvr says:

    Thank you so much for your powerful post. Your perspective is valuable in helping clarify how damaging these teaching have been and gives me courage to speak out more.

  25. Marianne Wardle says:

    This is brutal and beautiful and brave. Thank you.

  26. Jamie Turner says:

    “We left because our faith was too big and wide and refused to fit in a glass cage. We left because our Creator was just and loving.” Amen! No borrowed light, no middle-men. God is good.

  27. Brook says:

    Felt every word.

  28. April says:

    This post is my favorite from 2020. You have beautifully shared a glimpse of what it looks like to do what is right.

  29. mollynoo says:

    I’m Canadian and white and have learned what it’s been like for those non-white in Canada by reading memoirs, autobiography and fiction written by indigenous writers. I posted this last week on Facebook: I recently saw the lyrics and heard sung a song for Canadians written by an octogenarian in Ontario. There is a verse referencing the harmful treatment of Indigenous people by the settler population. “When made aware, we learn to care.” I’m struck by the phrase ‘when made aware’. I would bet that our First Nations friends, our Black friends and all others who are ‘not like us settlers’ must feel that they’ve been trying to make us aware of their heritage and our shameful part in it for a very long time. I have been reading books written by residential school survivors, persons who were interned in Japanese internment camps and others who struggled in becoming Canadian. There are many things that I read that are upsetting – and sometimes almost unbelievable to me. It’s taken me several years and many books, movies, and podcasts to begin to have some idea of what it must be like to be people of colour, but I feel like I have an inkling of it. Keep working with us. When we start to understand your heritage, may we ‘learn to care’.

  1. December 1, 2020

    […] media. We post daily on our blog, which was founded in 2006. In 2020, our most popular posts were “My Apology for My Complicity” by Monika Crowfoot; “At the Crossroads of Being Black and LDS” by Dumdi Baribe Wallentine; and […]

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