LDS Church in Damage Control After Troll Fakes Racial Press Release
Hours before the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints made an historic announcement with the NAACP, a troll replicated the Mormon Newsroom to release a fake, damaging press release.
The man who has since been identified caused a stir when media reported the faked letter as truth. So far, the LDS church has refused to comment on the situation in order to keep the troll from spreading further.
Press Release Faked By Former Church Member
A fake website and letter was instigated by a former LDS member named Jonathan Streeter, a man who now runs an anti-LDS blog called ‘Thoughts on Things and Stuff,” writing under the nickname “Thinker of Thoughts.” The website was designed to look like the official Mormon website, and its press release was intentionally released before the official announcement on race relations with the NAACP went live.
Streeter claims that he wrote and released the fake letter, entitled President Nelson Meets with NAACP; Offers Apology for History of Racism, in order to “start a conversation.”
Believing The Hoax Was Real
The letter was initially reported as truth by Fox News, but it was quickly deleted. After the letter was published, Streeter published an almost 20 minute long video on YouTube discussing the hoax.
“I felt confident people would see the headline and just glimpse at the article and the beginning of the article and accept it because it fulfilled their aspirations for the high ideals they have for the church.”
As the story spread, two black women who run pro-black, pro-LDS media called Sistas in Zion were taken in by the fake:
“When I read it I cried. I cried real tears and I prayed a real prayer of gratitude to my Heavenly Father and it turns out it was fake.”
And when they found out that it wasn’t real, and tuned in for the official press conference with the NAACP, they published a Facebook live video with the comment:
“Am I the only one that doesn’t want to go to church tomorrow? Today is really the first day I’ve had to collect my thoughts and really connect with my feelings about the fake apology letter.”
The Sistas in Zion have more than 27,000 Facebook followers, and still, nothing from the Church.
What Was The Real Press Conference About?
On Thursday, leadership of both the NAACP and the LDS Church met to call for “greater civility and racial harmony” in Salt Lake City.
In his remarks, President Russell M. Nelson said:
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints continues to affirm its fundamental doctrine — and our heartfelt conviction — that all people are God’s precious children and therefore our brothers and sisters.”
Derrick Johnson, President of the NAACP said this at the end of his remarks:
“I am proud to stand here today to open up a dialog to seek ways of common interest to work towards a higher purpose. This is a great opportunity. Thank you for this moment.”
In all, it’s more of the official opening of a dialogue and less of the radical apology for the exclusion of blacks from full participation in the LDS church that ended in the 70s.
Ban on Non-White Mormon Priests
This year, the LDS church celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Official Declaration 2, which proclaimed that all worthy men can hold a priesthood in the church regardless of race. As well, it ended a restriction against people of African descent from fully participating in LDS ordinances. Since these ordinances allow familial relationships to continue after death, it prevented black members and those in mixed race marriages from fully enjoying a “temple marriage.”
The original prohibitions placed on black members was due to a claim by Brigham Young that Black Africans, being the “children of Cain” were “cursed.”
Streeter said that he doesn’t know what will happen in the future, but he wants to see “types of discussion” moving forward:
“They can either criticize the leaders of the church for not living up to that aspiration depiction in the parody website, or they can hate me for creating it.”
Streeter’s website has been in operation since February 2013.
Sources: Fox News, Thoughts on Things and Stuff, Daily Herald, Mormon News Room, The Salt Lake Tribune