The Convenient Mourner
When I first joined the church almost four years ago, I entered the baptismal font believing that I was more prepared than the average convert. Before making the decision to be baptized, my investigative stage lasted longer than most who took lessons with the missionaries on my island at the time.
As a former journalism student, I knew the importance of gathering research and leads that would allow me to write an impressive article. I adopted this thinking as I took part in each lesson, asking the questions which I believed would allow me to know what I was setting myself up for.
Still, I knew I couldn’t take the missionaries’ word at surface level. I donned my investigative hat and began searching for unbiased information about the church. During that time, I called off three baptismal dates as I prayed for inspiration which would determine whether I joined the church or not.
After what seemed like an eternity and after researching the church from an unbiased perspective, I eventually joined the church on December 18, 2016. Although my baptism was dramatic by most standards, I never questioned my decision to join the church. Four years into the future, I have second guessed my membership more times than I can count on my hands and toes, yet I know that something is keeping me here in the gospel.
You may be reading this and wondering how the title of this article connects with my baptism. It actually has everything to do with it.
When we are baptized into the church, we are informed that our decision to “enter the fold” means that we take upon ourselves the name of Christ. It’s been a long time since I’ve been baptized so I can’t run down the full list of things that we promise during that sacred moment, but I do know one of the most important things which we aspire to do throughout our lives as members on our covenant path is that we “mourn with those who mourn.”
Ding! Ding! Ding!
In my four years as a member, I’ve heard that phrase repeated more than people quoting 1 Nephi 3:7. In my eyes, it’s been tossed around like a hot potato until it’s lost its true meaning. Afterall, what does it mean to mourn with those who mourn in 2021?
As a saint of color and one of the few LDS influencers sharing gospel messages on Instagram via my account @sassydaysaint, I find that mourning has taken on a new meaning. It has become performative, a tiny black square with no thought or meaning behind it. It has appeared on timelines in an effort to be fake-woke or to be down with the cause for as long as the topic is relevant.
I’ve recognized that “mourning with those who mourn” only applies when it suits the majority and most of the times those who are white, white- passing or higher up on the hierarchy of races are seen as the only mouthpieces that matter. Those who fall outside of those groups are often left screaming to a deaf audience where our words will never be recognized as important unless they come from an LDS celebrity, an apostle or even the prophet.
Since I love social experiments, I put this theory into action during General Conference in October 2020 posting a comment to the church’s official Instagram page in response to a relevant and needed comment from President Nelson talk as it related to race. Immediately, I began to increase in followers who started to trickle in as my comment on the church’s Instagram account seemed most relevant in theory yet seemed impractical once conference had ended. Slowly but surely, those new followers trickled away, their fake-wokeness on full display.
During this, I asked myself several questions. Does wokeness have a time limit? It doesn’t. Does mourning with those that mourn only matter for white voices and leaves marginalized members of the church out in the cold? I am still struggling with this question. I see the polar differences when black voices are involved. We are always portrayed as over-passionate, and, in most eyes, we should be more passive if we want our points to come across. The last question I ask myself deals a lot with how we talk about mourning. In 2021, is the convenient mourning acting with Christ’s love towards marginalized communities, or are they only concerned with their own self-interests?
It’s often hard for saints of color to connect with the gospel where our voices often are “token” and are seen as representing an entire community even if our experiences in the gospel are vastly difference depending on our geographical location and other economic factors. In a gospel which we believe to be the most correct and restored, the voices of persons of color matter just as much especially in this divisive racial climate.
It’s not good enough to be the convenient ally. Allyship is not performative, and neither is it selfish nor only concerned with one’s own self-interest. It exists to champion for all even if it forces us to examine our biases or grey areas where we may be blindly accepting negative societal attitudes simply for the sake of soothing our own egos.
So instead of proudly announcing that we are “mourning with those who mourn” maybe it’s time that we reflect on whether we are prepared to do the work towards understanding the experiences of saints of color existing within predominately white spaces.