an archive of unsettling histories, mythistories, and mystories
from U.S. & Mormon settler colonialism, white supremacy, and imperialism
from U.S. & Mormon settler colonialism, white supremacy, and imperialism
Yesterday (May 13, 2023) was my mom’s funeral. She asked each of her 9 kids to share a memory.
She was a lifelong member of this church, so her service was held in Mormon chapel, which, as you all may be able to imagine, was complicated for me.
I thought you all would be appreciated this as well on this mother’s day for all those who struggle with their families because of Mormonism.
Sending love to all kinds of moms and families today
I decided to write my talk directly to you, as, you may have guessed, talking from the pulpit of your church is complicated for me as a trans apostate & Mormon historian. And since hard conversations are how we came back together, addressing the challenges and beauty of our relationship feels like the truest way for me to honor you.
I didn’t want to talk about Mormonism today. As I’ve been thinking of our shared memories and looking for something to share about your life and death, I really tried not to include this part of our relationship,
But our relationship is shaped by it. The main stages of our relationship revolve around my proximity to your religion. — My childhood, when I was still Mormon and we were close. — The time after I left Mormonism when we didn’t really talk for over a decade. — And when I started reconnecting with our shared religious history rooted in our ancestors during which time I intentionally sought to reconnect with you.
And now I’m in a Mormon church in a dress and your pearls as you’re maybe settling in to a heaven with a sign that says “transgender freaky people need not apply.”
I’m remembering 4 years ago when we sat watching the forever families videos at the temple visitor’s center. I asked you how you tend to the idea that we can’t be together in our deaths, because of the decisions I’ve made — desicions which have improved my life and the lives of my communities. You answered that beyond all the teachings, what you know is that your God knows best and isn’t separating families who love each other, regardless of the rituals.
I know it was painful for you when some of your children didn’t follow the path you set out for us. I know it was painful to broaden those paths to include the ones that many of us chose for ourselves. But because you did, because you continued to reached out in love even when it was painful, we were able to walk together hand in hand on a shared path. To have hard conversations that brought us closer together, and now today I can let you go knowing we didn’t leave anything unspoken.
I think you knew you didn’t have much time left and you knew that I felt your church made a wedge between us, with their proclamation on the family excluding me from our family. And I felt that because of this you were repeatedly very clear about how much you love me.
I love you mom. I hope you’ve found your home in each of our hearts. That you can finally be, as you always wanted in life, with all of your children at the same time all the time.
This is my testimony of the Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of which my entire family have been followers of since 1884.
I’d like to bear my testimony:
I know this church is an overtly white-settler-Christian-imperial-capitalist-hetero-supremacist corporation which refuses to apologize, acknowledge, or be accountable to the ongoing harms they’ve enacted.
I know Joseph Smith was a pedophile, (attempted) murderer, & con-man who stole millions in contemporary dollars from his members and constantly ran from being held accountable for any of his crimes.
I know Brigham Young was an imperial genocidal terrorist who also controlled his own people (my ancestors) through blood-atonements (divine murder) & other abuses of power.
I know The Book of Mormon, Pearl of Great Price, and D&C were made up by Joseph Smith as part of his financial con in the form of a religious corporation and they are each book teaches that white-supremacy, heteropatriarchy, settler-colonialism, classism, Christian-supremacy, & antisemitism are divine.
I know the Mormon doctrine of eternal families is rooted in anti/philosemitism, misogynistic polygamy, and classist pedophilic eugenics—that Joseph threatened to murder his own wife in the same revelation in Joseph describes the doctrine of eternal families & polygamy.
I know Mormon temples, priesthood, and Israeli-identity are examples of anti/philosemitic, hetero-patriarchal, and white-Christian-settler-supremacist practices.
I know Mormon end-times beliefs are far-right, Christian-Nationalist/supremacist, anti-queer, and contribute to the destruction of the livability of our planet (the only one we’ll ever know).
I know this church sided with & assisted Nazis during & after WWII—that its leaders (using their religious and US gov authority) actively fought against allowing Jewish refugees (even those converted to Mormonism) from emigrating to the U.S.
I know the contemporary church uses their mass fortune (the results of the financial con that their founder started) to defend, enable, and assist child abusers while they abuse survivors of child abuse—and to create deadly anti-queer laws globally.
I know they use their missionary program to colonize Indigenous Peoples across the world spreading this white-Christain-supremacy & nationalism comminting genocide through cultural assimilation.
I know the Mormon God is openly white-supremacist as he uses whiteness as a mark of his Chosen People and uses “a skin of blackness” as a mark of evil. And openly advocates for segregation and anti-miscegenation (in both scripture and the words of his prophets).
I know the current Prophet & other leaders were all grown ass men as this church assisted Nazis, committed genocide through the Lamanite Placement Program, openly practiced anti-Black segregation, fought against civil rights, homosexual marriage rights, and women’s rights. And they do it all with the word love on their lips.
I know this church learned everything it knows from the U.S. settler-colonial project in which it was conceived. That the only thing Mormon leaders and the U.S. government have ever fought over is who will dominate the masses, the land, and it’s Peoples.
I know that it is our responsibility as heirs & products of these projects to, like Jesus, destroy those which seek to hoard and abuse power and wealth through the subjugation and exploitation of people and that which gives us all life.
This essay is also featured in Testimony "Vol. 3" by Related Records
National Sacrifice: Cross as in Crosshairs
Our world was made
(of horrors beyond our comprehension).
Our apocalyptic destiny manifested.
Murder-made innocence thru our mythistoric national divinidentity.
Nephites and Lamanites.
Cowboys and Indians.
Civilization and Wilderness.
Capitalists and Communists.
Pioneering terra nulliparous
farms seeded in Genocide.
Blossom as the rose
under the All-Seeing Eye’s orbit
Nearer my God to thee's End Times
Leaving Mormonism doesn’t make you anti-racist. You can leave a religion and not leave a cult/ure. Being ex-Mormon doesn’t automatically make you more anti-racist than Mormons.
I write these stories not so that you can show them to your Mormon family and say, “See!” If that helps you process your religious trauma and validate your feelings I am grateful that this work is able to support you in that way. But this work is meant to go beyond your individual relations to our collective relations.
But I write so that we can ask:
1) Where is this still living in me? How am I perpetuating this ideology?
2) What can I do to be personally and collectively accountable to these histories and to be sure they don’t continue happening?
3) How can I help others also learn and unlearn to build community accountable so that collectively we can unsettle what our ancestors (ideological or genetic) settled?
Cause I’ve seen participating Mormons take this information and search inward for where this is in them. And I’ve seen exMormons take this information and point it outward at others.
Just because you don’t support this church anymore doesn’t mean you aren’t complicit in these ideologies or that you are exempt from being accountable to them.
I started this project after having been exMormon for half my life. I started it because these ideologies inform my baseline reality. Without conscious and critical awareness of them, they’ll unconsciously inform my choices and actions.
That said, I do want to be clear that paying tithing to a politically-active religious corporation which intentionally perpetuates and benefits from white-supremacy, patriarchy, ableism, eugenics, colonialism, imperialism, and anti-queerness is not anti-racist or anti-imperial. Especially when that tithing is meant to ensure your individual salvation as the cost of so many others’ quality of life.
So, I guess just a reminder that this work’s primary focus isn’t to prove to Mormons that Mormonism is bad, but to counter the white-supremacist educations and half-histories we all grew up learning (Mormon or not) that we might be able to be accountable or to be response-able and collectively work to build a world in which many world’s fit. This is an invitation to deepen that work. (Remembering that “decolonizing the mind is only the first step”
This part 4 of a 7-part series on philosemetism / antisemitism in Mormonism & white supremacy in genealogy.
When I shared some of this info in stories someone reached out to ask how to do anti-racist ancestry work & this person noted "how other cultures honor & respect their family & ancestors as a spiritual practice that connects them to the earth & each other.”
I love this question. It was a big part of the project that started Unsettling Mormonism.
I’ve been told by a professional genealogist that when Euro-settler-Mormons do their genealogy they are seeking connections to famous Mormons, kings, & colonists. I don’t imagine this is what anyone doing ancestry work “as a spiritual practice that connects them to the earth & each other” is looking for. I think a lot of what would make ancestry work anti-racist (or not) is WHY you’re doing it.
In my WHY, is a seeking to understand why my ancestors committed the horrors they did while settling their Zion, building a life for their family. Not so i can justify it. But so that I can understand and reckon with it—be accountable to it.
Lastly I want to acknowledge the gratitude I hold in being able to access all these photos, stories, and histories. Even as they may have been gathered in a spirit of white supremacy, they are a gift.
Many Peoples don’t have this access and often as a direct result of white supremacy such as descendants of enslaved Africans who were intentionally cut off from their past. Or Indigenous Peoples whose histories were destroyed through genocide and assimilation.
My Ancestral History work was about Place, whose main character is Land. I want to know about where I am FROM —- spiritually, ideologically, & materially. I knew my flesh & language did not evolve in the lands I call home & knew that a deep relationship to land is essential to survival. My connection to land is tied to a connection to my ancestors, to settler-colonialism–that which I exist because of.
I wasn’t as interested in my genetics as I was my culture—my baseline reality. I wanted to learn about this baseline reality to eradicate white-settler-supremacy from my intuition. This was especially important to me because I was an artist interested in mending the nature/culture false binary through intuitive interactions with mostly rocks, stones, and concrete.
And my settler relationship to the lands I’ve lived on and call home is a fraught thing to be intuitive about. Especially when my intuitions are founded in the white-settler supremacist baseline realities I’ve inherited.
I access my ancestral records, photos, journals, and bios through FamilySearch.org. Which is owned & operated by this church & its practitioners. These records are kept inside of a highly secure vault built into a granite mountain. This vault is carved into the same canyon from which the Salt Lake temple is made. This is Timpanogos, Shoshone Bannock, and Goshute land.
Because FamilySearch is run by Mormons and the histories I already know were taught to me by Mormons, I compliment my ancestral work by researching settler histories of Mormonism, Utah, and the U.S.––the institutions which most shape my baseline reality. I intentionally seek out histories of Peoples Indigenous to the lands my ancestors settled and lived on. I how and why they went there. What drove my ancestors to move from their homes in Denmark to the high deserts of Nuwu, Diné, Ute, Goshute, Shoshone Bannock, and Timpanogos Peoples? And what did they do once they were there?
I intentionally seek out these histories from the perspectives of Nuwu, Diné, Ute, Goshute, Shoshone Bannock, and Timpanogos persons and organizations.
I also study Mormon history in order to learn what my ancestors were being taught and what they believed. I wanted to know how they justified the genocides they enacted as they settled their Zion. I wanted to know what kinds of ideologies were passed down in families, whether or not they were still current doctrine.
White-supremacy and settler-colonialism doesn’t fade with time. They are passed down from generation to generation, like family heirlooms. These ideologies end as we collectively, actively work to recognize them, reckon with them, and end these cycles of abuse, supremacy, and violence.
White supremacy in genealogy
Part 1 is about how Mormonism foundationally used genealogy to reify its white-supremacist doctrines which teach that Euro-Mormons—as the keepers of the keys of THE “One True Church,” and descendants of Ephraim’s tribe of Israel—are God’s Chosen Race and People.
Part 2 is about how this shows up in Mormon temple work, eternal families, & genealogy.
Part 3 is on the classist, femicidal violences of Mormon doctrine on Eternal Families, Polygyny, and Godhood.
Part 4 shares my personal experience with using genealogy in an anti-racist way.
Part 5 is on the ways antisemitism and anti-Indigeneity overlap in Mormonism
Part 6 builds on part 5 through a critical analysis of the art and history in the Manti temple and it's grounds.
Part 7 addresses the Baptisms for the Dead that Mormons did for Jews killed in the Holocaust along with Hitler and other Nazis.
I am nicholas b jacobsen, an artist, researcher, historian, educator, and organizer. I am a trans-non binary Euro-settler raised in the Nuwu lands of so-called Utah. My family has been Mormon and Utahn for as long as either of those concepts have existed. My ancestors sacrificed everything--their identities, homelands, jobs, health, & safety to become Mormon, Utahn, U.S. American, & white--to settler their Zion. They also sacrificed their humanities as they committed genocide against Kuttuhsippeh (Goshute), Timpanogos Shoshone, Shoshone-Bannock, Eastern Shoshone, Ute, Nuwu (Southern Paiute), and Diné (Navajo). Because my ancestors made my home through Indigenous genocide in their home/lands––I take it as my personal responsibility to unsettle what my ancestors settled, while helping my fellow settlers do the same through reading, writing, art, and community building.