I went to the Asian Ward today with my roommate Ezra, who’d slept in. I’d asked about joining the ward last semester, having had that intention for a long time since being a visitor years ago, knowing several members there, and learning several of the languages there. Last semester, some goofy-looking kid told me I couldn’t join if I weren’t Asian. He seemed like the type to be saying nonsense as a joke, so I only halfly believed him.
Today I went to ask the bishop directly. A Chinese kid who apparently didn’t speak Chinese and who was the executive secretary told me that the rule was being at least 1/8 Asian. Then the bishop appeared, and he confirmed the rule. (The same bishop had cited low English functionality as a reason for the ward in a testimony meeting at the start of last semester, which is easily debunked by the 95% of members who speak fluent English.)
He referred to an anonymous "they" who made the decisions; I assumed he wasn’t merely deflecting responsibility but actually meant the stake leaders. I went home thinking that I ought to go meet with the stake president and ask him what exactly the motivation was for trying to segregate all the Asians from normal church society, based on race alone and not even language, which would be more easily justifiable. The only blatant motive I can really see is the hope of preventing Asians and whites from mingling and intermarrying.
Another reason was brought up by the bishop today: that such a rule kept the ward membership number low. That is to say, if whites were allowed in, they would overrun the place. Returned missionaries, attracted by the same language diversity as I’ve been, and perhaps other things too, would join en masse and probably sink the ward.
Well, that’s a questionable prediction, but I have to guess that it comes from experience. (The bishop had mentioned that the 1/8 rule predated him.)
At home, I started thinking about my own motivations. Sure, racism is "wrong" according to the Church; sure, I could argue against this 1/8 rule that has no better possible description than "racial discrimination". Maybe I could even get it removed, since a lot of people would naturally oppose it once shown that it existed.
But why would I? Actually, I value the Asian Ward too, and would not like to see it dismantled; neither would I like to see it overrun by white guys, even if they’re all in my same position. And if the segregation of BYU Asians is really some out-dated protective barrier against interracial courtship and marriage… then… what of it? Do I really demand that the Asian students here marry off to whites? I have nothing against racial purity, for those who require that; I have no compelling urge to mongrelize the world back to the Adamic race. I don’t think the genetic variances leading to different races are a lamentable thing at all, and those who wish for a colourless world in the name of equality are more probably only acting from an unconscious sense of shame of being different.
So, if it is discrimination… then maybe there’s still a reason for it. For all I know, BYU has received complaints from Asian parents about too many of their children coming here and getting forced into local wards and marrying themselves off to local people.
Well, that’s unlikely. But maybe the Church itself has some interest in preserving race and whatever cultural value it carries. At any rate, public policy, beyond simple "right" and "wrong", should have no bearing on Church administration.
My only motivation, really, is that there is no other resource like the Asian Ward that gathers together so many of my languages in a social setting. I can still attend the classes here without being a member.
Yes, I would like to be a part of the ward so it would be easier for me to pay tithing and get my bishop’s endorsement signed, and so on… and all the other perks of ward membership… but those are kind of selfish reasons. If inconvenience, exclusion, and mild ostracization are the costs of keeping the Asian Ward going, then, like Batman in The Dark Knight, I should be able to endure them.
If, however, the stake leaders simply have not seen the illogic in trying to help Asian students by boxing them off in this corral, this exclusive racial club, and are just kind of blindly following the example of other language wards and reacting to the unwanted effects (human souls) that come from them without considering the morality of their reactionism, then maybe I should raise the discussion with them.
I guess it won’t hurt to ask.
For the sake of others like me, I wouldn’t want to leave the issue unapproached; but if I could get a simple exception to the 1/8 rule, I’d probably take it anyway. I don’t think it’s wrong to view myself as an exceptional case, given the situation. The Chinese kid and the bishop both asked where I’d served a mission, as if they could easily peg me as an "Asian returned missionary". It goes so much deeper than that.