Ayala Peters is a McNair Scholar at U. C. Berkeley and has pledged to put her shoulder to the wheel. She provides this beautiful reflection on how the Spirit moves us at times not only as a comforter but as a discomforter that urges us to reflect and do better.
In the Church, we are taught that the Spirit is a feeling of warmth and peace and comfort, and we are taught that when we are facing a situation that is wrong or something that does not support our faith, then that Spirit is driven away. Although I do believe that the Spirit cautions us from harmful situations, I also believe that expecting the Spirit to always be comfortable and pleasant is very damaging for discussions about treatment of marginalized communities in Church culture.
Discussions on representation of minorities in the Church, the Church’s history with African American communities, the way the Gospel portrays people of color–all of those topics are incredibly hard, uncomfortable, and challenging. They will hit a nerve. However, I believe that this means that we need to think of the Spirit and the way it works in our lives in a more nuanced way. The Spirit is something that prompts us to do what is right, and what is just for others, especially those who have been historically marginalized.
I believe that our calling as modern-day Saints is to listen to the needs and concerns of black and brown Saints in the Church, and work together to make the LDS Church experience as welcoming and relevant to them as it has been to white members. And, to do that, we need to fundamentally change our view of the Holy Spirit, from one that brings us comfort and peace to one that drives us to do what is right.