Seeing the Forest and the Trees: The Hickman Diversity and Inclusion Lecture

Dr. Ignacio Garcia, the Lemuel Hardison Redd Jr. Professor of Western and Latino History, will present the first annual Hickman Diversity Lecture titled “A Vision to be Whole: Unlearning Ephraim and Re-engaging 2 Nephi 26:33” on Thursday, February 20, 2020 at 11 AM in 250 KMBL.

The title of Garcia’s lecture focuses on how the doctrine of Ephraim has limited our view as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He will discuss the Church’s past doctrine that the members of the tribe of Ephraim were the “chosen people” and those of other genealogical heritages were perceived to be less obedient and worthy. Garcia states that although the Church has rejected this view for many years, it has still appeared in manuals as recently as four years ago. He says while members of the Church reject this thinking “whole-heartedly,” we don’t often realize that it has “seeped into everything we do.” He says this kind of sub-conscious bias is like how “we may reject our parents, but eventually we start turning into them because it is how we were raised.” 

Garcia will talk about how we can move past our mistaken thinking about the genealogical concept of Ephraim by realizing “it’s contrary to what Nephi was preaching in 2 Nephi 26:33, which is ‘the Body of Christ includes everyone, bond or free, male or female,’” regardless of our differences.

When asked to share more details about the lecture, Garcia says that he hopes to “look at differences and diversity as part of creating a whole for all of us as Latter-Day Saints, Americans, and human beings.” To do this, Dr. Garcia says we need to see that all things are integrated, but often our view is too narrow. He compares how we view diversity to how we often view a forest. He says that if we look at a forest but don’t see “the animals, the bushes, and the soil, we’re not really seeing a forest, but just trees.” He says this limited view impacts how we each deal with the issue of diversity, and it keeps us from integrating each person’s experience into our view of God’s kingdom.

During the lecture Garcia says he will “share some personal stories that point out how we often don’t know how to deal with people of color and people who are different.” He goes on to say, “Not only do we not know how to deal with them, we don’t know how to integrate their experiences, wants, and needs into our experience to make it about all of us.”

Garcia will also share some ideas of how we can each improve our vision when it comes to diversity and difference. First, he says that instead of asking people of color about their experiences, “we need to engage in conversations” to avoid asymmetric relationships. He goes on to talk about how we need to examine our relationship with the doctrine of Ephraim, and realize that although we may reject it, its ideas may still cloud our view when interacting with people of color. Finally, Garcia says that “We need to stretch ourselves to break down the forest into all its valuable parts and ask ‘How can we create God’s forest and who belongs in it?’” and also “look around ourselves and ask ‘Am I really creating a forest?’” in our church, academic, professional, and personal circles. Garcia says it is only once we have asked ourselves these questions that we can see the parts of our personal forests that are missing so we can see more than just the trees.        

The Hickman Diversity Lecture is given annually by a faculty member who has been awarded the Hickman Diversity, Collaboration, and Inclusion Award based on their research, teaching, and citizenship in the area of diversity and inclusion. Dr. Ignacio Garcia is the winner of the first award given in 2020.  

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