110: Mormonism, Liberation Theology and Womanism: A conversation with Fatimah Salleh and Janan Graham

One of the most bewildering dilemmas in LDS theology is the lack of attention to social justice.  Yet born out the black experience in the US has been a compelling theology of liberation where Christianity is rooted in the experiences of those who sufferScreen Shot 2015-08-25 at 10.15.19 AM from inequality.  It argues that our Christian discipleship needs to be present in this life in the way we relieve oppression and attend to the wounds and the sufferings of the world.  LDS theology on the other hand makes redemption a matter of eternal lives while in the mean time Mormons are required to expend their spiritual energy on the discipline of the self, and service to the community in order to earn exaltation.


Womanism is a similarly liberatory and asks us to think about the how we wish to transform the world,  arguing that the reach for equality is not enough, rather,  rooted in black women’s experience we seek for the relief of oppression of all suffering;  that privilege of those at the margins; that we reconcile the spiritual with the body;  and that we attend to the Earth as part of our human stewardship.


Screen Shot 2015-08-25 at 10.14.08 AM In this podcast Fatimah, Gina and Janan discuss how to reconcile their Mormonism with their desire for a theology of social justice, transformation and a liberatory praxis rooted in the concerns of women of colour.





  1. I just finished the podcast and I really appreciate this. I love hearing these perspectives. I also really have to agree with Gina that most (>95%) of the mormons I know don’t accept the concept of white privilege – my family has told me it’s racist and couched in white hate. And these are members in local leadership. I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to acknowledge privilege in our culture.

  2. Jewel

    Here is my thoughts as to why the LDS is not more socially active. I think the LDS Church’s view overall is that this life just isn’t as important the one that awaits us in the here after. This became my understanding when I had a discussion (debate) with my LDS husband regarding missionary work. As someone raised Baptist, missionary work to me was about helping those in need, the less fortunate. In the discussion with my husband I compared LDS Missionary work as more marketing. (This did not go over well.) But from this discussion I was able to gather that while most churches see missionary work as I do, Mormons see that they ARE catering to the less fortunate. To them “less fortunate” doesn’t necessarily mean those who have “less than”; I think they feel that people who live outside of the church are “less fortunate” and to help these poor individuals they need to try and bring them into the church so they can help them earn their place in the Celestial Kingdom. Do I think it’s right? Definitely not. But as I have tried to understand my husband more, this was my best explanation as to where he’s coming from.

    Side note . . . I do find it interesting that the Community of Christ (formally RLDS) went in the complete opposite direction, being that some of their Enduring Principals are about: Grace & Generosity, Worth of All Persons, Pursuit of Peace, and over all justice. One of their hymns has the chorus that says, “God will delight when we are creators of justice and joy, compassion and peace: yes, God will delight when we are creators of justice, justice and joy!” I just think that it’s interesting that these two vastly different points of view were born out of the same movement.

  3. amy

    Thank you for this absolutely divinely disruptive conversation, ladies! Overturn the tables! My head is spinning with thoughts, questions and deep emotions. I am struck, again, that social justice is also avoided because of complete self absorption and as an institution how absorbed with itself the LDS church is. I don’t think our self absorption is unique, on an individual or institutional level, but I think what makes ours unique is the culture that was forged by the isolation and persecution the church experienced for so many years (thank you, again, polygamy). We are absorbed with how WE are the minority and how WE are being attacked for our beliefs. We hyperfocus on what our outward appearance is to the world, our image of being the one true church as you talked about, and we do not know how to interact with the rest of the world. We only engage when we feel that our institutional or doctrinal values are being attacked. Yes, it is white privilege to the core that social justice is not one of those values. Yes we serve, but it is with ulterior motives of outward appearances and doing what we are supposed to do (I’m totally generalizing, but I feel this is so often the case). Fatima, you spoke so deeply to this compelling force inside me to connect with, engage and help to heal the world outside of the walls of the church. I feel suffocated at times, impotent, that I have absorbed this culture that does not want me to operate outside of it’s prescribed ways, that it does not want me to engage with all of the good that the rest of the world has to offer. I could go on and on, but I just thank all of you, for giving me one more bit of strength I am gathering to be the woman that God wants me to be!

  4. Tracie

    I really enjoyed this discussion and the perspectives shared. I’m second generation LDS and to all appearances fit the generic mold of a white, northwest US born, BYU-educated mother of five … but now raising my family in Germany. Thank you ladies for breaking my heart open just a bit more. Fatimah’s closing comments were so raw I had to write them down: “I have such a love for the gospel of Jesus Christ as taught in the Mormon faith … I believe in a God who specializes in working in the messiness. Good things still happen and great miracles still happen even though the church is really messy with sexism, homophobia, and racism. My God specializes in working in that messiness. Some of us are just called to work really hard in it — and who God calls he qualifies.” Amen. Thank you ladies for engaging and raising visibility! You are so needed!

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  6. John

    We need to remember that we must not make this about ourselves. When we leave Christ out of the equation we are heading the wrong way. The focus must ALWAYS be Christ. There is a way that seems right to man, but the end brings death…(it’s in the bible).

  7. John

    We need to remember that we must not make this about ourselves. When we leave Christ out of the equation we are heading the wrong way. The focus must ALWAYS be Christ. There is a way that seems right to man, but the end brings death…(it’s in the bible).

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