SERENA: Bro. Wilcox, I’m a temple recommend-holding Latter-day Saint woman who attends Church every week. I have teenagers. I also have something to say after watching your recent Alpine, Utah youth fireside. G O S P E L—what a clever use of acronym. Here’s my acronym for your talk: C R I N G E. Let me spell it out for you.
C is for cruel. I know. You didn’t mean to be cruel. But you were—cruel to LDS women, to black members, to people of other faiths, to God, and to those kids in front of you.
How were you cruel? Here’s some examples, and this first felt very personal. You told a story (for laughs?) about a woman asking you why LDS women don’t have the priesthood. I have that question. When you mocked her voice as loud and meritless and then marveled at her ignorance, all while presenting yourself as an angelic fountain of understanding, you mocked me. You dismissed the many LDS women and girls who are frustrated that, in our Church leadership roles, we must always petition men for approval of our decisions. Have you ever lived that life?
You were cruel when you dragged out the same old pedestal and put women on it. You taught the myth that men are made our equal by having priesthood because women come from the pre-mortal existence superior to men. That old, hollow ploy has been used to placate and silence women for too long. Women are becoming louder. I’ll be loud in defense of myself and my daughters until priesthood leaders finally hear how vapid you sound, spouting myth as truth and expecting us not to notice it’s a bandaid on a stab wound.
Then, in Black history month, you cruelly denigrated people who recognize Brigham Young’s racism, who ask the “wrong question” about the race ban as if the act of asking this (and other questions) is foolishness. You offered the right question: why did whites have to wait until 1829 for the priesthood? But your “right question” was a misdirection to delegitimize the complaints of LDS BPOC. You perpetuated the lie that black members were denied priesthood because God didn’t want them to have it. The truth is, Joseph Smith ordained black men, and Brigham Young—not God—took that priesthood away.
R is for Really, Bro. Wilcox? I have to ask, really Bro. Wilcox, did you allege that anyone who attends a church other than our own is just “playing church”? That imagery looks like religious bigotry to me and surely would to non-LDS. All my life, I’ve been taught in Church that there’s truth in every religion. Our Thirteenth Article of Faith states in part, “If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.” We should be seeking the good in all religions, not belittling them. So I have to ask, really Bro. Wilcox, did you mean to deny this tenet of our faith? Because that’s what it sounded like you did. Is this arrogance the kind of missionary service we’re to model for the youth of Zion?
I is for insensitive. You were insensitive when you joked about your daughter blessing the sacrament while playing church at home, demonstrating insensitivity to LDS girls and women who hope for this ability. You were insensitive when you compared women asking for priesthood to someone asking for malaria, as if women with priesthood would be a deadly infection for…whom? Us? Men? The Church? You made this comparison, knowing that LDS women once blessed and healed people with malaria in Nauvoo. The Church says women have access to all priesthood blessings. Then came Covid. The priesthood isn’t restored until women have, at a minimum, what history tells us Joseph Smith bestowed on women.
N is for naïve. You issued a partial apology. For your racism. Not for sexism. Not for religious elitism. You don’t seem to realize you also alienated women, spoke ill of all other faiths, blamed God for the errors of men, and exhibited an arrogance that astounds me. It’s naïve of you to think that your apology means much without change. Most importantly, though, you owe every youth to whom you have given this address an apology for each cringeworthy thing you said. Going forward, repentence demands you change this talk, end its manipulation and mockery, and model love. A true leader will lead by showing complete repentance.
G is for Good Grief. Good grief, did you really tell the youth if they leave the church, they’ll lose everything? Was that a threat? You must realize many LDS youth live with identities the LDS Church won’t accept. Many of them wind up leaving for their own mental health. They leave to stay alive, but you tell them leaving will destroy everything good in their lives. Good grief, that’s heartless.
My own siblings have left the church. They most certainly have not lost everything. They haven’t lost me. They haven’t lost my parents. They haven’t lost God. A loving God wouldn’t scare children into thinking they will lose everything for leaving an organization (run by imperfect men) just because it bears the Savior’s name. Good grief, get it together, Bro. Wilcox!
E is for exclusion. How I wish you’d encouraged the youth to love as Jesus loved. Instead, you alienated, you excluded. LDS youth are smart. When you fashion an enemy out of their friends and family who aren’t active LDS, they know you’ve got it wrong. This generation will not exclude or marginalize others the way previous generations of LDS have. This is why they leave. It’s time to exclude bigotry from Church.
Remember, remember, mockery is just another way to separate people. Remember that our black youth are often isolated in a sea of white faces; remember that our LGBTQ teens are at high risk for self-harm; and remember the value of women—not because we are mothers, wives, and daughters, but because we are individual daughters of God. Our pain is not invalidated because someone else doesn’t experience it. And remember, all of us are sinners, and God still includes us. Our Heavenly Parents know our worth, in or out of a chapel, whether we are white or black, male, female or non-binary, and no matter who we are drawn to love.
E should be for encouragement, empathy, and everything good in the human spirit. Remember this at your next fireside and no one will CRINGE.
~Serena (with a little help from a friend)~
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