Blacks and the Priesthood, a Request to the Media

Generally speaking, when anyone wants an easy quote on the past racist theologies of Mormonism, they quote Bruce R. McConkie. I am one of those people who would like a clearer statement repudiating past theological justifications for the priesthood ban. On the other hand, I think that at times folks understate the extent to which they have already been repudiated explicitly. In August of 1978, two months after the publication of the revelation to President Kimball, Elder McConkie told an audience at BYU:

Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or George Q. Cannon or whomsoever has said in days past that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world. We get our truth and our light line upon line and precept upon precept. We have now had added a new flood of intelligence and light on this particular subject, and it erases all the darkness and all the views and all the thoughts of the past. They don’t matter any more.

Accordingly, I have a request. Anytime anyone in the press quotes Elder McConkie’s theologies of race, I would ask that they also quote this passage from his sermon “All Are Alike Unto God.” Of course, simply lining up the two quotes doesn’t capture the full complexity of the issue for either Mormonism or Elder McConkie. (I am not conviced that he ever fully rejected the notion that black’s were less valiant in the pre-existence.) On the other hand, it would be a whole lot more accurate than simply quoting McConkie as the Mormon position on race and saying that his statements have never been repudiated.

173 comments for “Blacks and the Priesthood, a Request to the Media

  1. Thank you.

    Nate, I love this quote because it shows utter deference to those with authority to change policy. No excuses. No dancing around the issue. Just, “I was dead wrong. I didn’t get it. Ignore me.”

  2. I absolutely LOVE that quote. Never seen it before actually. Going to google note it for use later.

  3. I like the quote a lot. But then it simply gets me thinking about the problem of having modern prophets making blatantly doctrinal and theological claims and screwing it up royally. That’s one of our Church’s biggest hang-ups and I really wish someone would address it definitively sometime. Because my head hurts from thinking about it.

  4. I guess if the King James translators could get it wrong on “Whom do men say that I am?”, Elder McConkie deserves a break on his “whomever” in the second clause. But, it would be nicer without that objective whomever clunking objectionably into the subject.

    So, let’s drop the “m” and push the statement.

  5. They shouldn’t be repudiated. Just because they don’t speak favorably about a group of people, doesn’t mean it isnt true. Of course Elder McConkie still thinks its true. So does JFieldingSmith and most of the older prophets.

    If it is wrong to say that a group of people are cursed for pre-mortal disobedience, then it is wrong to say that a group of people are blessed or favored because of obedience. If there is covenant people, there is also a cursed people. Its hard to swallow, but I doubt that all of those inspired men were so wrong for over a hundred years.

  6. If I quote McConkie, I also include the 1978 talk. However, this is a bit too easy, Nate. The big question is, WHAT RACIST FOLKLORE IS STILL WITH US? The new book from Cedar Fort purporting to be the new _Mormon Doctrine_ gives the new standard answer (“We don’t know why there was a restriction…”) and then casually mentions the descendants of Cain. It’s clear that the author of that piece still believes in the Curse of Cain. And that idea shows up in at least two other books I’m aware of which were published within the last two years. I don’t hear the “blacks weren’t valiant in the pre-existence” much anymore, but the lineage curse thing is still ubiquitous. There are many people who think the “We don’t know, but we’re glad the policy was changed” answer takes care of all questions. It doesn’t. As long as we still have people who pass on racist teachings, those teachings are with us. At least once when I mentioned McConkie, I got a stinging note from somebody at BYU suggesting that McConkie had been referring only to his statements that Blacks would not receive the priesthood until the Millinneum. An understandable interpretation, since the talk Nate quotes says immediately before the passage Nate includes, “There are statements in our literature by the early Brethren which we have interpreted to mean that the Negroes would not receive the priesthood in mortality.” Obviously, those statements were wrong (as Elder McConkie acknowledges). So what did he mean when he said: “There have been these problems, and the Lord has permitted them to arise. There isn’t any question about that. We do not envision the whole reason and purpose behind all of it; we can only suppose and reason that it is on the basis of our premortal devotion and faith”? I’d say that’s dangerous territory, and I’d steer clear.

    Honestly, I’d use President Hinckley much sooner than I’d use Elder McConkie. _Mormon Doctrine_ is still on the shelves and largely unchanged from the pre-1978 versions. But President Hinckley’s April 2006 quote from the priesthood session is powerful: “How can any holder of the Melchizedek priesthood arrogantly assume that he is eligible for the priesthood, whereas another who lives a righteous life but whose skin is of a different color is ineligible?” No time frame there. No “Before 1978.) I also really like what Pres. Hinckley said about the issue when pressed by Mike Wallace: “That’s the way people back then [pioneer times] thought.” To me, there is a strong implication that the policy was based in a historical moment and false traditions of the times.

  7. se7en, To avoid an unproductive discussion of “covenant/chosen”, suffice it to say that, according to EVERY reasonable definition of “covenant/chosen”, any Black member is a part of that “covenant/chosen” status. On its face alone, your comment isn’t internally consistent.

    Also, prophets can be wrong (or influenced by their own culture), even about important things. If you don’t believe that, re-read the Bible – or the D&C. Then re-read the Book of Mormon. They all are perfectly clear on that issue. The apostles were divided on the issue of the ban for YEARS after it was instituted – and even when it was instituted. To even hint that there was unanimity is ludicrous.

    Finally, Elder McConkie is one of the apostles who was most vocal in his acceptance of the justifications. He is the one who made the statement quoted above. If you don’t agree, take it up with him when you see him in the afterlife. It’s more than a little disingenuous to say that prophets can’t be wrong on important things, then claim Elder McConkie is wrong to say he and everyone else was wrong. Either his first view was wrong or his repudiation of that view was wrong. You have to make that choice, but you can’t claim apostolic and prophetic authority for the former when that authority was used to justify the latter.

  8. Thanks, Margaret, for providing those quotes from Pres. Hinckley – especially the second one. I don’t think many members are aware of that one.

  9. Margaret: I basically agree with your reading of McConkie’s speech. Not surprisingly, he is taking back as little as possible of his earlier theology (which I referenced at the end of the post). I am just saying that if we are going to do soundbites on Bruce R., I would like to quotes put as a dyad.

    For myself, I am comfortable saying that the ban was a bit of American racism that got codified in Mormonism and the went around searching for a theological justification for a couple of generations. Much better to say the whole thing was a sad and mistaken chapter of Mormonism. On the other hand, I don’t have a good BRM quote saying that!

  10. Se7en,
    Don’t think so.

    God’s purposes are to “bring to pass the eternal life of man.” Not just folks with blue eyes and blond hair. All. “Black, white, bond and free.”

    I agree it is silly to say that some are blessed or cursed because of pre-mortal behavior.
    From what I know of God, his former servant’s minds have expanded greatly. They are free from the bondage of false doctrine of their fore fathers. The doctrine of Priesthood exclusion is doctrine of the Southern Baptist Convention. They now see the love God has for all His children. These good men know now that God does not discriminate against his children.

    If God thought that people of color should not have the Priesthood/Temple blessings, my people (prior to 1978) would have been stopped/fried a long time ago.

  11. Btw, Nate, we do talk about _Mormon Doctrine_ in THE documentary (which I’ve spoken about too much on the bloggernacle and so won’t mention again), and then follow it up immediately with McConkie’s 1978 talk. But the strongest moments are those where Pres. Hinckley speaks. As of now, we don’t have permission to use Pres. Hinckley’s voice/image (very difficult to get), so I’ve had our narrator quote the talk. However, we do think we’ll get permission to use actual footage of Pres. HInckley.

    And obviously, I posted too soon. While I was posting and saying that I didn’t hear much of the “less valiant” talk anymore, someone else was referring to blacks as being “cursed for pre-mortal disobedience.” Wow! That goes further than anything I’ve heard before. I’ve heard fence-sitters, etc., but not any talk about pre-mortal disobedience. Amazing.

  12. BTW, se7en, what makes Mormons immune from the incorrect traditions of their fathers? Every single early saint was a convert, and converts almost universally struggle to let go fully of the incorrect traditions of their upbringing. So do members BIC, so why would the early Church be immune from it?

    Personally, I believe one of the most important aspects of the first 100-150 years (at least) of the the Church’s existence was its evolution away from its roots in apostate Protestantism. That growth might be mostly complete by now – and it might not. The attendant changes don’t bother me a bit, because I can’t envision any other pattern – and certainly not a scriptural one.

  13. In one of his earliest addresses as President of the Church (April 1995 Conference, Sunday Morning) President Hinckley said the following: “We must not be partisans of any doctrine of ethnic superiority.” I will generally site this when talking about the ban on priesthood, especially when some may want to push a ‘less valiant’ or similar line of thought. Many of the common theological explanations for the ban violate the principle President Hinckley lays out here.

  14. Margaret Young wrote:

    At least once when I mentioned McConkie, I got a stinging note from somebody at BYU suggesting that McConkie had been referring only to his statements that Blacks would not receive the priesthood until the Millinneum.

    I’m at BYU, and when Margaret mentioned Elder McConkie on AML-List in 1999, I sent a message to Margaret suggesting that what he “wanted us to discard were his previous statements that ‘the Negroes would not receive the priesthood in mortality’.” As far as I can tell, there was nothing stinging in my note. Margaret, were you referring to a note sent by someone else?

    No time frame there. No “Before 1978[“]. . . .To me, there is a strong implication that the policy was based in a historical moment and false traditions of the times.

    What would a similarly close reading of OD2 itself ( “. . . the long-promised day has come . . .”) imply?

  15. Re: #18:
    More to the point, how could there even BE a “long-promised day” if apostles like McConkie were still telling people “the Negroes would not receive the priesthood in mortality”? What promises are being referred to here?

  16. Re #19:

    Paragraph 2 of OD2 speaks of “promises . . . that at some time, in God’s eternal plan, all of our brethren who are worthy may receive the priesthood”.

  17. All of this goes right back to Nate’s original point: Why do people insist *still* on quoting Elder McConkie on this issue? If his own words are too ambiguous, Pres. Hinckley’s certainly aren’t. To hold to the former justifications now in the face of what our current prophet has said is more than just a little risky, methinks.

  18. It’s funny that this thread pops up today because just last night I was talking with my in-laws and they were certain beyond a shadow of a doubt that the preisthood ban was either because of the curse of Cain or because of premortal faithlessness. I was flabbergasted that they could simply put all their eggs in those baskets. And, quite frankly, sensed an underlying bigotry that still bothers me today. I told them that I thought the issue was much more complicated than that and that we may not know why until the next life. I also hinted at the notion that the policy was a reflection of the times but didn’t want to go down that path with them. Lastly, I told them that there were, in fact, several black priesthood holders in the early days of the church. I thought I had read that somewhere. Is that true? Does anyone have a reference for me?

    Also, Chris, are you, by chance in the mathematics departments? If so you worked with me on my Master’s Degree about 1997.

  19. But Nate, while I agree that Pres. Hinckley’s statements are very clear, isn’t there the caveat that all of these statements only apply post-1978? In other words, all of what Pres. Hinckley is saying is true after 1978 but not before 1978? I don’t believe that personally, but I can see that as a possible counter argument.

  20. Re #21:

    1997? I’m way, way too young for that to be true! Just kidding, Shane. Hope you’re doing well.

  21. Give it fifty or hundred years, and justification of race based priesthood denial will rank up with the Adam God theory as one of the deadly heresies of the Church.

  22. Can anyone tell me if there were some black priesthood holders in the early days of the church? I just don’t want to be spreading false doctrine (like race-based denial.)

    And, Chris, I am doing well and congrats on you recent awards.

  23. How seldom is it that we see the church treated in an accurate or fair manner in the news? If your hoping for the press or MSM to ever give the Church a fair shake on this issue or anyother good luck.
    True or false: in 1875 a Mexican man, a Hawaiin man and a man from China could have had the priesthood conferred on them in SLC by the then sitting GAs? Would the priesthood ordination of these non anglo men be the act of a “racist” institution. I think not.
    I’ve always thought that if the church was really “racist” as many commentors here are so prone to accept, then the priesthood would have been denied to all sorts of non white people from the beginning, but it wasn’t.
    The priesthood ban for black men was not based on racisim or societies racist traditions worming there way into the church. It’s true, the origins of the ban are mysterious, which is why we have all the speculation on this matter, but I think the charge “racisim” is thrown around way to flippantly when it comes to the early leadership of the church.
    In my opinion the ban was the will of God, but I don’t know why it was so, and neither do you.
    If the priesthood ban was not the will of God it would not have taken the GAs of the church multiple times united in prayer in the temple to finally recieve the revelation lifting the ban.
    The LDS church has nothing to apologize for, so please stop all the self falgellation on this topic, its not productive.

  24. Craig,

    Even President Hinckley hinted (as quoted in #8 above) that early leaders may have had some bits of racism influencing their choices. Personally, I think it is much more complicated than that but racism (even if it is only very mild) may still have contributed.

  25. You can almost see the early Brethren’s mental wheels turning:

    Is there a slightly “karma”-like operation where, from mortal-preexistence, a few most valiant–e/g those “known beforehand” by the Lord and foreordained prophets–are burdened with earthly spiritual knowledge and callings while those entirely nonvaliant (the Son of the Morning and that portion of the heavenly host following him) fall from having been angels of light to ones of darkness? If so, how about those of us so foreordained? Wouldn’t it stand to reason we were, then, less valiant? . . . . . . So, let’s see then: the “good (sorta) karma” of, say, a highly placed Levite would be more than that of a mere Samaritan? . . . . . . But then, let’s see, isn’t there’s something about the first shall be last and the last shall be first? . . . . . . And, hmm… didn’t Bro. Joseph wanted to free the slaves and also didn’t he call men of African descent to offices in the priesthood? Still, doesn’t scripture seems to say the more generally heathen races are marked with darker pigmentations? We know that the scriptures say that all kindreds and peoples are invited to sanctification. But that can ‘t be just yet, can it? . . .

  26. Margeret, in #8 you referred to a Cedar Fort publication that is supposed to be the new MD. What book are you talking about? Would you agree that it is the new MD? Whatever happened to the Encyclopedia of Mormonism? Why didn’t it ever take hold like MD? Was it faulty or what?

  27. Craig, whether the ban was inspired or not is fine to discuss and debate. Whether many of the early leaders of the Church were racist is beyond dispute. It is a given. It is not debatable by ANY reasonable definitions. Pres. Hinckley’s statement quoted by Margaret in #8 says as much without equivocation. It is a fact.

    Now, having said that, why are you so dead set against it? We don’t believe in infallibility; we read *numerous* times throughout scripture that prophets are mistaken about many things; Joseph Smith himself was the most chastised person in the D&C – and it’s not very close; BY never once claimed the ban was based on revelation; Elder McConkie said to ignore everything that he and Joseph F. Smith and Brigham Young said about it; Pres. Hinkcley’s words are not ambiguous at all. We are told that the sins of the fathers will be visited upon their descendants for at least 3-4 generations (almost always until the descendants are able to understand the sins of their fathers and repent of / reject them). Why is it so hard to believe that He waited until the leadership and membership were truly repentant before telling them to lift the ban they had imposed sans revelation? Why is that unacceptable?

  28. The scripture below and the verses surrounding it are of interest to me. I’m still trying to understand them. I wonder if they apply to the discussion at hand?

    Behold, the Lord esteemeth all flesh in one; he that is righteous is favored of God. 1 Nephi 17:35

  29. Ray said: “We are told that the sins of the fathers will be visited upon their descendants for at least 3-4 generations (almost always until the descendants are able to understand the sins of their fathers and repent of / reject them). Why is it so hard to believe that He waited until the leadership and membership were truly repentant before telling them to lift the ban they had imposed sans revelation? Why is that unacceptable?”

    This is an idea that I have never considered – that “the sins of the fathers being visited upon their descendents” applied to church members and not Blacks (as is implied by “the curse”). I will have to think about it but it may have some legs.

  30. There were indeed men of African descent ordained to the priesthood in the early days of the Church. I remember reading an account of former slaves being ordained as Seventies by the Prophet Joseph Smith; I will try to find the exact reference. When they got to Utah, BY banned them from participating in quorum meetings, though they did continue to serve as missionaries. My take on the whole issue is the BY pushed the ban the hardest and is responsible for a number of blatantly racist statements, unfortunately. Remember, he was the main proponent of the Adam-god theory that never really took hold. Like any other institution, once the precedent has been set, it becomes very hard to change.

    Once I track down the reference on the Seventies, I will post it.

  31. “BY never once claimed the ban was based on revelation…”

    I don’t think that’s entirely true. He is on record as saying (in so many words–somewhere in the JD) that “in the name of [the Savior] the blacks shall not have the priesthood.” Now perhaps he doesn’t explicitly say that God revealed such to him, but he does invoke the name of God to make his point–and if that’s not a prophet speaking authoritatively, then I don’t know what is.

    On the other hand, I sure the h*ll am glad that the Journal of Discourses is not canonized scripture.

  32. In 1847 a mulatto named Elijah Abel and his family journeyed to Utah with other Mormons. Abel had been baptized in September of 1832, ordained an elder in the Melchizedek priesthood on March 3, 1836, and made a member of the Nauvoo Seventies Quorum in 1839. His membership certificate was renewed in 1841 in Nauvoo and again in Salt Lake City. The Abels also lived in Ogden for a short time. A carpenter by trade, Abel contributed his work to the building of the Mormon temple in Salt Lake City where he and his wife Mary Ann managed the Farnham Hotel. Almost forty years after arriving in Utah, Abel went on a mission for his church to Canada, proselytizing in the United States on the way. A year later, in 1884, he returned and died shortly afterwards “in full faith of the gospel.”

    This was on the state of Utah website–

  33. There were others, but that is the best that I can come up with at the moment. More to come…

  34. “We are told that the sins of the fathers will be visited upon their descendants for at least 3-4 generations…”

    Food for thought, Ray. But then, I’m left wondering why it was our black brothers who suffered for three our four generations…

  35. One more aspect that is indisputable:

    BY did not push the ban vigorously until a Black man and a White woman wanted to be sealed in the temple. He (and 99% of American Christianity at the time) was dead set against inter-racial marriage.

    I believe it was that prospect (the natural but unconsidered result of Joseph’s ordination of Black men) that prompted Brigham to institute the ban – and, frankly, I think the historical record is pretty clear on that point. Iow, it wasn’t the Priesthood that was the central issue; it was inter-racial celestial marriage. When you consider that issue, it is much more understandable why it took so long for the leadership and membership to accept a lifting of the ban – **and its attendant consequences**.

  36. It would also be nice if in discussions of Mormon racism it would be mentioned that current church leaders, including President Hinckley, have very strongly condemned racism.

  37. Jack, victims and their descendants often suffer for long periods of time. Take a look at some point at research detailing the multi-generational effects of rape and incest. The victims are innocent, but they and their children often suffer for years and years and years.

  38. Craig–There’s a problem with your words,”It’s true, the origins of the ban are mysterious,” because they’re contrary to scripture. Note:
    2 Nephi 26:33: For none of these iniquities come of the Lord; for he doeth that which is good among the children of men; and HE DOETH NOTHING SAVE IT BE PLAIN UNTO THE CHILDREN OF MEN; and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.”

    Brewhaha, the book I was referring to is _Mormon Beliefs and Doctrine_ by David Ridges. Yes, there is record of three men of African descent being ordained to the priesthood. Elijah Abel was, according to at least one record, ordained by Joseph Smith. Abel was likely bi-racial. He was washed and anointed in the Kirtland Temple, but his race did become a controversy when he asked for his endowment in SLC around 1853. Though he was told he still held the priesthood, that ordinance was denied him. Probably even more significant was Walker Lewis, who Brigham Young referred to in 1847, when faced with some regrettable antics of Pete McCary (Black/Native American). Young said, “It has nothing to do with the blood, for of one blood hath God made all flesh. We HAVE ONE OF THE BEST ELDERS, AN AFRICAN, IN LOWELL [Massashusetts].” (Connell O’Donovan is the expert on Walker Lewis.)

    Finally, this gospel is the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, not of Moses. The gospels in the NT conclude with the clear mandate to go unto all nations, to “feed my sheep.” Later books of the NT make it clear that the Lord’s cleansing affects all mankind. “What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common…” We are ALL subjects of grace, without division. The priesthood is evidence of grace, and a means of extending blessings to others. I find it terribly offensive to see the priesthood referred to as a sort of reward (like a shiny star on a primary kid’s forehead) for good behavior.

  39. Ray (45)–where are you getting your data? BY talked about the ban in 1852, in the same speech in which he talked about slavery. I’m not aware of the interracial marriage issue coming up until much later. Are you referring to the exchange about Walker Lewis’s son, Enoch, and the letters between BY and William Appleby?

  40. Just for the record: I have said this on other threads and blogs, but I support Brigham Young as a prophet of God wholeheartedly. Frankly, I think he is perhaps the only person alive at that time (The Lion of the Lord) who could have kept the Church together through those hellish years. I believe the Lord calls whomsoever He needs for whatever faces the Church in that day (much like Pres. Hinckley’s experience with the media), and I am deeply grateful for Brother Brigham. I believe he was deeply racist – when it came to marriage; I believe he was authoritarian and stubborn and abrasive and judgmental and an administrator much more than a visionary (as he freely admitted and worried about); I thank God for him and his dedication and strength and unyielding faith and iron fist. I’m convinced I wouldn’t be a member today without him.

  41. Ray,

    You say “BY did not push the ban vigorously until…” which makes it sound like there was a ban prior to the requested marriage but it wasn’t really adhered to. Is that the case? Or did BY “invent” the ban just to prevent inter-racial marriage? If it existed earlier do we have any documentation describing how or when it really bagan?

  42. One problem is that we too easily extrapolate from the passage in Abraham about the mighty and great ones in the pre-mortal existence to a fully blown ranking of all accidents of birth (wealth, citizenship, church membership, timing), based upon supposed goodness in pre-mortality, and it’s just a short step from there to Saturday’s Warriors and “generals in the war in heaven” and tear-drenched renderings by Mia Maids in Sacrament meeting talks about that dear sister she is supposed to find and teach the gospel to here on earth.

    All that supposes that we know much more of the mind of God than he has bothered to reveal to us. A little humility on that score would probably be helpful.

  43. Ray and Bewhaha, your points are valid and well taken and I concede that I may be wrong or missing the mark in some of what I’m saying regarding the priesthood ban. I think you guys would also admit that you do not have all the answers regarding this subject. Thats the crux.
    That being said, I’m not sure the GBH quote from 2006 is specifically addressing the priesthood ban issue of 1978. I may be wrong, but I believe at that time there were several hurrican Katrina victims that had been settled in the SLC area and a few members of the church had made cruel and ignorant remarks about the new commers. I think GBH was speaking to that local issue rather than shedding more light on the 1978 lifting of the priesthood ban.
    We can all agree that post 1978 any and all worthy male members of the church can hold the priesthood. This is as it should be. The question still remains however as to why there was a ban for black men in the first place. Many here seem to be comfortable with attributing the ban to simple cruel “racism”.
    I don’t.
    I susupect from looking at the evidence, such as the kind treatment towards non white people by the church, the lofty promises in the BofM made to the Lamanites, our respect and admiration for the Jews, rules concerning who and who could not officiate in temple duties in the OT scriptures, the words of O.D. 2 and the fact that men other than only white men could hold the priesthood prior to 1978 as confirmation that there is more at play when it comes to the ban than overt racism.
    It’s true; we don’t believe in the infallibility of our leaders, but to say they groped in provincial racial blindness untill 1978 is hard for me to swallow.

  44. Margaret, I’m speaking from memory, so I might be wrong, but I believe the ban was not “fully enforced” (meaning the denial of existing Priesthood blessings to those already ordained and their posterity – as opposed to converts) until the inter-racial sealing issue reared its head. Are there previous examples?

  45. Margaret Young writes:

    The gospels in the NT conclude with the clear mandate to go unto all nations, to ‘feed my sheep.’

    Prior to that (Matthew 10:5,6) there is the clear mandate not to go unto all nations. Different mandates at different times.

  46. Let’s see if I can close my markup tags properly this time:

    Margaret Young writes:

    The gospels in the NT conclude with the clear mandate to go unto all nations, to ‘feed my sheep.’

    Prior to that (Matthew 10:5,6) there is the clear mandate not to go unto all nations. Different mandates at different times.

  47. Margaret, for every scripture saying God’s dealing with us are plain and easy to understand there are other scriptures that say His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts, His ways are unsearchable. There are mysteries to the kingdom. If was all was so simple and plain as you allude then why all the questions about so many varied topics?

  48. Craig, I understand what you are trying to say, but as a former history teacher I have to point out that “racism” does not have to imply attitudes toward ALL other races. Much of racism depends on previous experience and is very focused.

    For example, I have lived in different parts of America. I know quite a few people from my days in the South (and here in southern Ohio) who are deeply racist toward Black (and, conversely, White) people, who accept Hispanics and Asians without thought. Otoh, I know quite a few people from my days in Utah who accept Black people without reservation but are racist toward Hispanics. From my days in MA, I know a number of people whose racism was directed toward Asians and not the other groups.

    The reason: For many of these people, there was a particular group that was (or had been) the “competition” – for jobs or culture or religion or something else. In many cases, that group was the only other race in the area, so the antipathy was “natural”. Bottom line: Someone can be racist toward one group and completely accepting of others.

  49. Good points Craig and I agree that no-one really knows but we can only make our best guesses. I suppose my biggest difficulties with this issue are when someone says the ban was strictly due to “the curse” or due to “premortal faithlessness”. These common explanations seem to conflict with too many gospel principles for them to be completely valid for me.

  50. Ray,

    “If” the ban was due to some combination of BY’s racism and/or a desire to prevent inter-racial marriages and/or some literal interpretation of the curse of Cain scripture then we may begin to understand its origins. But then, how to we understand it’s continued use up until 1978?

  51. Brewhaha, I wrote the following on another thread:

    I believe that the Priesthood ban was not based on revelation but rather a people’s inability to accept the implications of full racial equality in a racist society (America) and with deeply racist upbringing (mainstream Protestant Christianity, which to this day is one of the last bastions of “separate but equal”). I see the ban in the same general light as the failure of the United Order and the destruction of the original law revealed to Moses – as something the Lord did not want but allowed because that’s what He does throughout history (initiates the ideal, then lets His people accept or reject it).

    As to the length of the ban, consider the following from the allegory of the olive tree in Jacob 5:65-66.

    65 And as they begin to grow ye shall clear away the branches which bring forth bitter fruit, according to the strength of the good and the size thereof; and ye shall not clear away the bad thereof all at once, lest the roots thereof should be too strong for the graft, and the graft thereof shall perish, and I lose the trees of my vineyard.

    66 For it grieveth me that I should lose the trees of my vineyard; wherefore ye shall clear away the bad according as the good shall grow, that the root and the top may be equal in strength, until the good shall overcome the bad, and the bad be hewn down and cast into the fire, that they cumber not the ground of my vineyard; and thus will I sweep away the bad out of my vineyard.

    It is more than an implication that the Church will include “bitter fruit” that will be cleared away only at a pace that will not destroy the tree itself. I don’t accept the ban as God’s will, but I also see the clear fact that the lifting of the ban in 1978 had a *hugely* different affect within the Church leadership and membership than I believe it would have had even one generation earlier. Sometimes, a generation (in this case a full lifetime of exposure to bigotry among men who were born and raised in a deeply racist time) must pass away before a group can enter the Promised Land.

  52. Sorry, I’ve been down this route before and I just don’t want to do it again. As Nate probably knew when he posted, the original post is usually quickly forgotten as the conversation moves towards whether or not the policy of restriction was justified. It ends up going nowhere–and it is all “in-house.” Mormons talking to Mormons (mostly all white) about issues they think unique to us. We are anything but unique when it comes to race issues, though one of our sillier justifications (valiancy in the pre-existence) is distinctive. Otherwise, read the history of Baptists, Catholics, etc., and you see very similar themes. If you haven’t read up on why Jimmy Carter left his particular congregation of Southern Baptists, that might make a good read.

    I shared the link with Darius Gray. With his words, I’ll sign off:
    “The comments of a few have saddened me deeply. However, the comments of the many give me cause for hope. Truth will out.”

  53. One more point: I have little idea of the ages of most bloggers, but I am old enough to have been of “accountable” age in both eras – pre- and post-ban. I know firsthand the difference between the attitudes that were widespread 10-20 years prior to the ban and those that were prevalent by the time of the ban – both inside and outside the Church. I am not all that old, but I am old enough to have firsthand memories of comments made by apostles whom most bloggers merely are able to quote from the records of their words. I also am a former history teacher whose research focused on Manifest Destiny and the role of religion (and, tangentially, race) in American identity. 1958, 1968 and 1978 really were three different eras with regard to race.

    I lament the lateness of the lifting of the ban. I truly do. I also, however, am able to see on an intellectual level why it took so long.

  54. Back to Nate’s original issue (and I apologize for the threadjacking that I contributed to). My feeling on his original issue of why the media doesn’t present a more balanced picture of the ban is simply because it has to do with racism. It seems to me that whenever racism is brought up in any arena (sports, business, politics, etc.) it is ALWAYS presented as a cut-and-dried case and it is never presented in the nuanced context in which it exists. Once you play the racism card you are not allowed to justify, rationalize, or try and explain it. You can only condemn it.

  55. Thanks Ray #62. I like your interpretation of that scripture. It reminds me of my mother who said in regards to this issue, “Sometimes people have to die before things change.”

    I am not bothered so much by the older generation when they adhere to the false doctrines of the past; but it sends me over the edge when I hear it from someone younger than me (mid 40’s).

  56. Enlighten me. Why is the \”valiance in the pre-existence\” theory so silly/racist? How can you acknowledge on the one hand that you have no idea why the ban was instituted, but on the other hand be sure that it had nothing to do with the pre-existence. To think the pre-existence has nothing to do with our individual circumstances on earth makes no sense to me.

  57. Back to the post: If it is this hard for members talking with other members to tackle in an extended conversation like this, it is next to impossible for a reporter to transmit adequately. Just as importantly, the Kimball quotes aren’t as sensational as the earlier ones – which means the earlier ones will generate more attention and revenue.

  58. sg, Because it isn’t scriptural? Because it is borderline Calvinist, just adding the concept of a pre-existence? Are you saying that those who are born and die in abject poverty, or those raped as infants, or those born with AIDS, or those raised as jihadists deserved it based on the pre-existence? Am I better because of my Mormon ancestry than the child sold into prostitution who is beaten to death by her pimp/slaver? Do I “deserve” my blessings while she “deserves” her fate? That simply isn’t scriptural – and it borders (at the very least) on a scary condescension and elitism.

    I would argue that the focus of Jesus’ life (the “Kingdom of Nobodies” all the elitists despised as less important than themselves) mitigates against such a view more forcefully than anything else we have available to us.

    Let me turn that around: Why doesn’t it make sense to you?

  59. That’s an overboard response, Ray. I’m dubious myself but there’s no particular reason in Mormon theology why it couldn’t be true that spirits differentiated themselves in various ways in the pre-existence. We already know that spirits differentiated themselves by “keeping their first estate” or not and I can’t think of any reason why the differentiations couldn’t be more fine-grained. If the popular Mormon idea is correct that children who die young or who are born severely handicapped were too good for the world, then we either have to accept that some people are just inherently better or else we have to say that they made choices in their prior existence that had made them better. Similarly, if the Book of Abraham is correct that there were “noble and great ones” in the pre-existence, and by implication that some of us weren’t so noble and great, then we either have to believe that these folks were inherently better by nature or else that they made choices that differentiated themselves.

    But–and this is where I agree with you–even if pre-mortal differentiation is true (and when it comes to blacks and the priesthood, it isn’t) its a dangerous doctrine. Past laurels get you nothing if you don’t finish this race. Priding yourself on your supposed achievements in the pre-existence is like the Jews who prided themselves on their Abrahamic descent. God could raise up children to Abraham from the stones.

  60. Ray–it would be difficult to up root the doctrine that our pre-mortal faithfulness influences our experience in this life. I don’t think we have the full picture, but reading Alma 13, for example gives ample reason to believe there is some kind of connection. I agree that it can be taken too far, but it nonetheless is there and can not be ignored.

  61. Margaret, is there a possibility of a post (over on MM, maybe, when they’re back up and running) where you could fill us in on how Darius is doing and the progress on the film? I exchanged maybe ten words with Darius at Sunstone, and attended your presentation with him, and I think of him often.

  62. I agree, Jared, that *some* implications are there. I just don’t like to dwell on them. I think our natural man tendencies end up abusing and twisting them in ways I don’t like – *in practical ways*. I think, parsing the scriptures that usually are quoted, they usually are quoted in ways that are extrapolations – that they just as easily could be meant to apply to relatively few people instead of the Mormon masses. I simply favor applying them more narrowly, since the alternative so easily can breed an arrogance (sometimes blatant, sometimes subtle) that I find troubling.

  63. Hm… so many repetitions of so many answers of the same tired subject…

    Here goes my two cents. I like McConkie´s quote, although I have to admit I give it my own interpretation.

    I am referring to the following line:

    \”We have now had added a new flood of intelligence and light on this particular subject, and it erases all the darkness and all the views and all the thoughts of the past.\”

    What I like to make out of all this redundant blah blah is \”We were WRONG,\” as simple as that. Of course many of you and many of our current GAs probably have a problem with the simplicity of my very personal interpretation of McConkie´s wordy \”apology.\”

    I do believe we made different decisions in our pre-mortal life, yet, I think it is bizarre some of you still try to correlate those desicions to our current situation in this life. I think it is bizarre some of you are still trying to find out what those desicions were based on skin color and socio/financial status.

    You probably think that Hitler was a more righteous/valiant spirit than Gandhi; that Timothy McVeigh was a more righteous/valiant spirit than Martin Luther King Jr.; that Paris Hilton was a more righteous/valiant spirit than Nelson Mandela.

    To all of you who think that white skin and material blessings are the results of how valiant or righteous a spirit is… I hope you learn better than that in this mortal life and evolve from this bizarre, and in my judgment, false teaching.

  64. I like Hinckley’s quote to Wallace, but I do think it’s a little problematic to make doctrinal assertions using media interviews and sound bites. That’s not, shall we say, the proper doctrinal channel. Not to mention the edits, loss of context, and misunderstanding that can come from that.

  65. Applying what Mr. Greenwood says about resting on laurels to the parable of the talents: I’m one of this Lord’s stewards, while this other guy is assigned only to hoe his row in the field. So, as I look over my grand position I inquire of the Lord, “What is my measure, Lord, and what is the measure of this other guy’s as Your servants? . . . I mean, I know you hope to maximize Your gains through investing greatly with tried-and-tested cadre such as me, while maybe You’ve only dedicated smaller measures to slowly bring along such up-and-comers who maybe aren’t as advanced as I am yet, right?”

    And the Lord answers, “Look, my friend, what is first now will later be last and vice versa. For example, I’m happy with your management at the moment; but eventually you may become tired or jaded or even spoiled, and in whichever case I’ll be assigning big assignments to up-and-comers. Life’s like that.

    “If you really want to know the answer to your question, here it is: Where much is given much is expected. That is, if you were entrusted with X capital and he, equally important, with A and B and C smaller assignments: What was your rate of return? Did he satisfactorily complete his assignments! . . . “

  66. We need to invoke Godwin’s rule, yes?

    Anyway, in my opinion its possible that Hitler was “more valiant” in the pre-existence than Gandhi. This mortal test is a real test. No one is barred from great evil because of the pre-existence, and no one is barred from sainthood because of the pre-existence.

  67. There was an earlier mention of a common LDS belief that children who die young or who were born with severe handicaps were somehow special and get a “special pass” to exhaultation. The Lord said that “This is my work and my glory to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” So how has this been going for the last hundred and fifty plus years since the Restoration? High death rates of babies/young children (who get “the pass”) in developing countries (mostly people of color). Low death rates for babies/young children in developed countries (mostly white).
    Another fairly common LDS belief is that “the elect” respond positively to hearing about the Gospel. Recent history of the last half century or so? High conversion rates in developing countries. Low conversion rates in wealthy countries.
    Making a positive link between being valiant in the pre-existence, wealth in this world, and white skin, and all this leading to eternal life doesn’t explain the math very well for me. It may work for a more Calvinist theology, but IMHO, not for Mormonism.

  68. Nate,

    When I read Elder McConkie’s words:

    We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world.

    I get very frustrated. Simply because, I have to ask myself, “well, on what other subjects as Elder McConkie spoken with a “limited understanding” while extolling his words with “authority?” How often has someone like Elder McConkie said something that we are to have taken as the final word?

    Why can’t men like Elder McConkie simply say beforehand that the things he is expounding on come from a “limited understanding?” You know, send out the caveat that what he says may not be the whole thing. Is it really that hard?

  69. Isn’t that caveat already made, sir, or do we no longer teach ‘line upon line, precept upon precept,’ etc. What you really seem to want is for the Church to say you can set your judgment against the prophets, but that ain’t gonna happen and shouldn’t.

  70. Not at all, Adam. What I want is for our prophets not to look foolish when new revelation comes out that completely contradicts everything they’ve said to that previous point. It makes a listener of the prophet hedge against what a prophet says because it may not be a completely full account of what is real. When I hear President Hinckley say, as he did in the last conference that basically not giving blacks the priesthood was racism and wrong, well, it sure casts into doubt a lot of things that Apostles like Bruce R. McConkie and Harold B. Lee have said. How many other things that they believed in were wrong? Especially when they’ve spoken all their lives as if their word were final. Clearly their words are not final.

  71. Additionally, you say that we build “line upon line, precept upon precept.” That’s a great philosophy and building tool. But the 1978 revelation was not building line upon line. It dismantled what was previously thought. It tore it down to build something new (or rebuild over the mistakes others previously made).

  72. It built from what was already there about our universal brotherhood and the Father’s desire for the salvation of all his children.

  73. Adam,

    If the principle of “line upon line, precept upon precept” is true and was followed in this case, then what was the building block behind Elder Bruce R. McConkie’s belief that blacks were of subpar substance? You’re trying hard to keep a positive spin on it, but clearly Elder McConkie had a “line” to build upon his “line.”

  74. Once again, we see the problems relating to this particular issue. Nate’s idea of responding is good, and I like President Hinckley’s comment from the 2006 Priesthood session best. It opens far fewer cans of worms than McConkie’s.

    I’m contemporary with Ray. I remember the circumstances before the ban, and was taught some “doctrines” that were racist by loving and kind parents. The important point is that any justification for the ban went out the window in June of 1978 with the announcement of the revelation. It did not mean that the ban was over for folks born after 1978, but allowed temple work for the living and the dead to be done for everyone, pre- or post-1978. I can not take any comfort in any of the possible explanations for the ban that don’t include the statement “It was wrong”. This, and other folk doctrines like the reasons mentioned about children dying before the age of 8 are hugely problematic. Pres. Hinckley’s comment says it best.

    If you subscribe to any theory or thought process that justifies a ban for any reason having to do with the worth of a race, or preexistence behavior, or lineage, you need to take a good, cold, hard look at yourself, and think about getting in line with scripture, modern revelation, and our current prophet. I had to do it in the 70’s, and I’m glad I did.

  75. Nate,

    Thanks for sharing that. I don’t have that kind of problem with Elder McConkie. My problem is not even with Elder McConkie himself, though in this particular case, he is the embodiment of the problem. I actually have been impressed with his efforts at codifying, if you will, Mormon theology. Someone had to make the effort at some point.

    There’s a reason why Jesus Christ taught that the most we should say is “yay yay nay nay.” And that is because we really know so little of our own that we cannot say with authority much of anything.

    Have I met the Savior myself, in person? No. Not yet. What do I base my belief in him on? The testimony of others and of the Holy Ghost. There are only a few things in this world I know of a surety, that will not change. I know that Joseph Smith was God’s prophet to our dispensation. I know this because the Holy Ghost answered my prayer. That answer will not change because I trust the Holy Ghost to be truthful to me. Beyond this and a few other things, I can’t answer definitively one way or another about much else.

    The problem comes from the fact that someone like Elder McConkie states something as if he has a full understanding of it, but (when pressed with a contradictory revelation) admits that he worked on a “limited understanding.” He did not leave open the possibility of this one thing (or anything else) being something different than what he stated. Given his status as Apostle, one to look to for guidance, his words carry great weight. And maybe I have a different standard for my religious leaders than most Mormons (I really don’t consider myself a typical Mormon in so many ways). I think that if you are basing something that you know comes only from a “limited understanding,” then you ought to be clear with the people who listen to you that your views are based on a “limited understanding,” and that they could easily be changed by impending revelation. Maybe I shouldn’t apply this standard to Elder McConkie. But as an Apostle, it is hard not to demand this standard. I generally do not need clarification from the Lord upon receiving his revelations. They are amazingly clear to me, as they are meant to be.

  76. One thing I would like to ask, now that I’ve read a few of the comments. In regards to the account of Cain, outside the writings of Moses, do we have anything else to indicate what exactly that curse entailed? Could Moses have been biased against Cain’s descendants? Could Moses have been wrong?

  77. Dan, just for the record in # 88, I can guarantee that even though I am confident in my thoughts, I definitely speak “with limited understanding”.

    On the other hand, Cain has nothing to do with this. That whole thing came out of other Christian religions in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, and did not originate with the LDS church.

    I suspect also that Moses may have been wrong about some things, but he was right on so many others. But again, not relevant to this discussion in light of Pres. Hinckley’s comments and the 1978 revelation. I don’t find any satisfying answers as to why it happened, and am glad it’s over. We really do need to move on, and quit trying to justify it.

  78. Kevin,

    Thanks for that comment. I’m not familiar with the history of racism against Africans by white Christians. I figured I’d go for the root of it all, Cain’s supposed curse. :)

  79. #74 Ann:
    I don’t know if it’s my computer, but I can’t get to Mormon Mentality. Apparently, there are still problems. I hope DKL can resolve them. So, though I won’t continue the discussion on race, I will mention that Darius’s health is declining. We nearly lost him last week, because his particular cancer thickens his blood so that it isn’t pumped well. His upper heart chambers were merely fluttering for awhile, and his heartrate was so high that it couldn’t be measured.

    So, let me invite those involved in discussing whether or not my brother was cursed or if he was less valient in a pre-mortal life to drop that particular conversation and simply pray for him. He and I chatted briefly about the conversation on this blog. We both find the cavalier mention of racist folklore (and apparent acceptance of it by some) to be deeply troubling–though he is grateful that so many recognize it for what it is and speak to it boldly. Darius Gray will literally fight to the death for his faith –and for the full restoration of dignity to his many ancestors (who include a variety of “races”).

  80. Margaret,

    I wasn’t aware that Darius’s health was that bad. Let him know our thoughts and prayers are with him, as the true pioneer that he is.

  81. I share Dan’s concerns, and I’d love to see a post that expanded on it. The week before Elder McConkie made that statement, he could have been teaching his feelings on the ban like they were the full knowledge and understanding, with no opening for a change. Should a prophet make it clear that he is speaking from limited understanding and anything could change at any moment? Who knows, a prophet in twenty years could come along and proclaim the ban correct, God was just testing us for a time and those of African descent could once again not have the priesthood.

    If the popular Mormon idea is correct that children who die young or who are born severely handicapped were too good for the world, then we either have to accept that some people are just inherently better or else we have to say that they made choices in their prior existence that had made them better.

    A popular Mormon idea has nothing to do with the Gospel and is not doctrine. Some of the posts in this thread make me glad I discuss with my daughter what she talked about in church every Sunday. That way I can easily weed out “popular Mormon ideas” or “Mormon culture” and let her know her teachers are full of crap. I had to deal with the curse of Cain problem once already, an old couple had decided it was the perfect way to complement their lesson on pre-mortal life to the seven-year-olds (including my daughter).

  82. Why doesn\’t anyone bring up that Eldrige Cleaver was Mormon? If the former leader of the Black Pathers could get over this issue- I don\’t see why some white boy reporters can\’t let it rest.

  83. I have read most of the comments on this issue. I have to admit, my understanding of blacks and the priesthood is a little different. Throughout the OId Testament, the blessings of the church of God were extended only to one people–the Israelites. Only they held the priesthood, built temples recognized by God, and enjoyed the blessings of living prophets and scriptures. With these blessings came great responsibility. Throughout the Old Testament we see the children of Israel being punished for disobedience…for not living up to the blessings they had been given. In this sense, I believe the Lord does not provide or withhold blessings because he loves some of his children more or less than others. He knows when his children are prepared to receive his blessings and accept the accompanying responsibility. A few years ago, a man from Africa spoke in our church service about his experience of living in Africa at a time when freedom of religion was forbidden. He spoke of the difficulty of meeting together at church and maintaining faith during those years of darkness and oppression. He then spoke of coming to America where religious freedom is taken so for granted. He understood more fully than many men I have met–the blessings of religious freedom and the blessing of holding the priesthood. He uses his priviledges and blessings to bless the lives of others. I have seen other men who received the priesthood without struggle or sacrifice squander away the blessings they could have enjoyed. In conclusion, I believe the issue of blacks and the priesthood was a matter of the Lord’s timing. Those of us who are parents know that sometimes out of love for our children we withhold certain things our children want for a time realizing that patience and work will usually cause them to appreciate, more fully, what they are given.

  84. I wonder if anybody else thinks that Isaiah 56 is relevant to the priesthood ban and its ultimate reversal:

    3 ¶ Neither let the son of the stranger, that hath joined himself to the LORD, speak, saying, The LORD hath utterly separated me from his people: neither let the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree.
    4 For thus saith the LORD unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant;
    5 Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off.
    6 Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the LORD, to serve him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant;
    7 Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for fall people.”

    I read these verses as a prophesy of the day when all God’s children will be entitled to the full blessings of the gospel, particularly the blessings of the temple. I know that the reference to the “eunuch” is not necessarily limited to blacks, but it could be read that way. I especially love the “better than sons and daughters” line.

    Does anybody else read these verses the same way?

  85. Emily,

    With all due respect, your comment in # 97 only leads me to believe you think that at some point in time, the ban was justified for some unspecified reason. While your statement that some don’t appreciate the priesthood they hold could be true for many brethren, the underlying assumption leads to all sorts of really problematic conclusions. In light of such scriptures as have been mentioned here (2 NE 26:33, among others), it is hard to understand how you can consider a ban “justified”. Your use of the OT is problematic, as Israel was certainly not a classic example of good behavior, ie latent idol worship, ignoring the prophets, and all sorts of moral issues.

    I know that many struggle with the concept of how our modern prophets from BY down to SWK could have had this so wrong. I wish I had the answer, but for me, the revelation in 1978 speaks volumes, and nothing coming from any modern prophet since then has done anything but reinforce the idea that the ban, however it came into being, was wrong, and is not a part of a universal gospel that is timeless in its nature. I wish that I could always say that our prophets have never made mistakes, but we know that is not true. But they get so much more right than wrong, that I have no problem following them in good faith.

    There is the one possibility that I will admit referring to the “Lord’s timing”, as you called it. Pres. Benson referred to this in a talk about other subjects some years ago, but he called it the Samuel principle. Just as the ancient Israelites wanted a King instead of judges, and Samuel outlined all the reasons why they were wrong, the Israelites persisted, and gave them Saul, David, Solomon, and the rest, who were a mix of both the divine and the wicked.

    Pres. Benson’s comment was that the Lord sometimes allows his people to suffer for a time for their bad choices. In ancient Israel’s time, that was hundreds of years. In our time, to apply the same logic, it lasted about 125 years, and truly was and continues to be a learning experience for us as a church.

    I’m not saying that I know this is the reason, but it could lend itself to a partial answer as to why it took until 1978 to set things right.

  86. Jason J, # 96. Nope, not me. It seems we are doomed to continue to try and justify a practice that modern revelation and prophets say was wrong. You can’t get past Pres. Hinckley’s April 2006 statement without creating bigger problems.

    You know, though, I have reconsidered the Samuel principle I referred to above, and decided that it’s not a good explanation either, in that who was being punished by the ban? Maybe some of the white members of the church were inconvenienced somewhat during the 1960’s and 1970’s, but ultimately, the biggest burdens still lay on African Americans, and the populations of Brazil and Africa. So it really doesn’t make sense to me that the Lord was letting *us* suffer during the ban. I take it back.

    I spoke with limited understanding.

  87. Jason-
    I believe these verses would apply. The Lord has often said “the first shall be last and the last shall be first.”

    I use Israel as an example largely because they were not a classic example of good behavior. Israel suffered serious consequences because they did not honor the blessings–one of them being the priesthood–they were given. Wherever a blessing is given there is an accompanying responsibility. “Where much is given much is required.” That is why I believe in the Lord’s timing we are all required at times to wait for certain blessings. At an individual level, some must wait for the gift of faith and testimony, some must wait for marriage or children, some wait for money or the physical necessities of life. Is this because the Lord loves anyone less? Of course not. I do not claim to understand all of the reasons..yet I believe God and his chosen servants do not make mistakes.

  88. Emily,

    I’m sorry, but why were blacks required to wait? I fail to find any sound reasoning that explains it. If it is true, which I doubt, then it truly is unexplained, and I am not sure what we are to learn from that. Usually in scriptural accounts, there are reasons given for a curse, but I just don’t find them here.

  89. Emily,

    With all due respect, what part of President Hinckley’s statement due you not understand?

    “How can any holder of the Melchizedek priesthood arrogantly assume that he is eligible for the priesthood, whereas another who lives a righteous life but whose skin is of a different color is ineligible?”

    Can you get any more clear than that?

  90. Kevinf wrote:

    Emily, . . . you think that at some point in time, the ban was justified for some unspecified reason.

    Which puts her in company with Elder Oaks who, when questioned by a _Provo Daily Herald_ reporter in 1988 about the pre-1978 ban, said: “I decided a long time ago that I had faith in the command and I had no faith in the reasons that had been suggested for it.” It appears to put her in company with the maintainer of the Church’s website, which at this very moment says (under the heading Answers to Questions: Priesthood Ordination before 1978) “Ever since biblical times, the Lord has designated through His prophets who could receive the priesthood and other blessings of the gospel. Among the tribes of Israel, for example, only men of the tribe of Levi were given the priesthood and allowed to officiate in certain ordinances. Likewise, during the Savior’s earthly ministry, gospel blessings were restricted to the Jews. Only after a revelation to the Apostle Peter were the gospel and priesthood extended to others (see Acts 10:1–33; 14:23; 15:6–8).” It similarly appears to put her in company with those who wrote/approved the current CES manuals. (Citations provided this evening upon request.) See page 238 of our just expired PH/RS manual to see President Kimball making the same analogy to the lifting of the ban on preaching to the Gentiles that I made. I’ll accept your interpretation of President Hinckley’s April 2006 statement if you and everyone else for which this is a hot button issue will give up caffeine based on a single sentence President Hinckley said in his 60 Minutes interview. Is it a deal?

  91. Kevinf wrote:

    Usually in scriptural accounts, there are reasons given for a curse

    Elder Oaks said:

    “[I]f you read the scriptures with this question in mind, ‘Why did the Lord command this or why did he command that,’ you find that in less than one in a hundred commands was any reason given. It’s not the pattern of the Lord to give reasons. We can put reason to revelation. We can put reasons to commandments. When we do we’re on our own.”

  92. The Priesthood ban was a bit of American racism that found its way into Mormon theology. Some days that seems about right to me.

    But then there are other days when the Church’s ban seems much worse. When I see images of America’s past racism, it breaks my heart that the Church was a participant in it. The Church wasn’t malicious, but it was on the wrong side of one of America’s most important moral issues. On the days when the Church’s ban strikes me as evil and wrong I want a prophet with a bit more foresight, a bit more justice, a bit more mercy. On those days the ban stings.

  93. I do not claim to understand all of the reasons why black were required to wait to receive the priesthood. There are many things I do not understand. Yet, I know that God is all-knowing. I know that his church is led by modern prophets who act as his mouthpiece. If everything made sense to us, would we have any need for faith? How would history, specifically in the bible, be different if Abraham had not followed the command to sacrifice Isaac? It didn’t make sense. It seemed to contradict one of God’s highest commandments. Yet he accepted and obeyed in faith and was blessed.

    I do not believe President Hinckley’s statement contradicts anything in church history. Consider again the timing of the Lord, the testing of the faith of his people, and the blessings that have always come through faith and obedience. I believe President Hinckley is speaking predominantly to those who would hold onto their views of the past the same way Jewish members of the early Christian church were unwilling to accept uncircumsized Gentiles as equals before the Lord.

  94. Chris, if I recall President Hinckley’s answer about caffeine in the Mike Wallace interview, which I have not revisited recently, the answer was something along these lines: “Yes, many of our members avoid caffeine”, or words to that effect.

    But then, you don’t really know if I drink caffeinated drinks or not, do you? I don’t want to start a threadjack, but having been one who asks those TR questions, I’ll just point out that the Handbook defines the WoW statement “hot drinks” as coffee and tea, so I never inquired about the soft drink habits of my ward members.

    A bigger question, then, looms in my mind. Why do you want to believe the ban was inspired? Why not take every chance we can, as Nate has suggested, to distance ourselves from an uncomfortable, problematic policy of the church that in light of all recent statements by our prophets? Why do you want to say that at one time, persons of different skin color, no matter how worthy, were not as worthy as the worst white person?

  95. Kevinf wrote:

    “A bigger question, then, looms in my mind. Why do you want to believe the ban was inspired?”

    It’s not that easy. If the ban was uninspired then you have to answer questions about why God didn’t direct His prophets correctly. On the other hand, if the ban was inspired then you have to answer questions about why the church (or God) was biased/racist/prejudice/preferential/whatever. Both questions strike at the heart of fundamental doctrines (modern-day revelation and God’s universal love for His children) and are difficult to resolve. I can understand how people struggle with this issue.

    Kevinf wrote:

    “Why not take every chance we can, as Nate has suggested, to distance ourselves from an uncomfortable, problematic policy of the church that in light of all recent statements by our prophets?”

    Again, if you accept the ban as inspired or if you justify it as manmade you have difficult questions to answer that are at the heart of what we believe.

  96. Also, I don’t think that the Hinckley quote about skin-color puts the issue to rest. It can be argued that he was speaking of the policy, as it here and now exists, rather than as it was. Unless he were to say that previous leaders were wrong to believe that I think that we can only apply his statements to the present situation.

    Personally, I believe that the origins of the policy had alot to do with the personal biases of the time rather than “the curse” but until we have a modern day prophet say that specifically then we may always have to deal with the conundrum.

  97. Kevinf: Your recollection of the 60 minutes interview is faulty. In any case, my point was not about caffeine–I just devoured a piece of caffeine-containing Almond Roca myself–but about prooftexting/quotemining. A very reasonable interpretation of President Hinckley’s April 2006 statement is that the assumption in question is arrogant is because it rejects the Lord’s revelation. (It is not, after all, arrogant for, say, a 12-year old boy to assume that he is eligible for the priesthood while a righteous 11.99-year old boy is not.)

    Why do you want to believe the ban was inspired?

    Who said I believe it because I want to? I believe it because, in my judgment, the preponderance of relevant language coming from Church leaders since 1978 is more in harmony with that belief than with belief in its negation.

  98. Kevin,

    “Why do you want to say that at one time, persons of different skin color, no matter how worthy, were not as worthy as the worst white person?”

    This makes no sense unless you are implying that women don’t hold the priesthood today because they are not worthy?

    Whether God explicitly inspired the early church leaders to institute the ban, or whether he just didn’t inspire them *not* to and allowed them to follow in the racist mindset of their era, I don’t think it had anything to do with the worthiness of black males that lived between that time and when the church was finally given the divine direction to change the policy in 1978.

  99. Brewhaha,

    # 109, you wrote: “…you have to answer questions about why God didn’t direct His prophets correctly”. I don’t believe that God directs his prophets incorrectly, but perhaps sometimes, we do misunderstand him.

    And you are right about either answer has problematic implications for us a church. I have to admit that I would be surprised, but it is possible that there is more to this than meets the eye. Even Eugene England in some of his writings post-1978 where he decried the lingering traces of racism in the church, did not rule out the possibility that the ban was inspired in origin.

    But to get back to Nate’s post, when confronted with the kinds of questions that come up in the press or in personal conversation, why not just refer to Pres. Hinckley’s 2007 statement from General Priesthood meeting, and leave it at that?

  100. Aluwid, I was only following the logic behind some of the other comments here. My personal belief is that the ban was most likely an accidental incursion of typical 19th century racism into the church, and had nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with worthiness. I’m sorry if I misrepresented other’s statements. I just find nothing satisfying in trying to justify the ban, no matter how well-intentioned we are.

  101. “I do not claim to understand all of the reasons..yet I believe God and his chosen servants do not make mistakes.”

    Emily, if you believe this, then you are at odds with the prophets themselves:

    “The position is not assumed that the men of the New Dispensation —its prophets, apostles, presidencies, and other leaders—are without faults or infallible, rather they are treated as men of like passions with their fellow men.” (First Presidency Message, Messages of the First Presidency, Vol. 4, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1970)

  102. But what if they made a mistake when they said that they make mistakes? Oh the humanity!!!

  103. We are going in circles. Those who are on each side aren’t going to convince the others. I’m with Margaret. I wish we could all let go of it and just rejoice that the ban has been lifted, believing we will understand it all at some point.

    Having said that, when I have two viable options, I personally believe in erring on the side that hurts the fewest people – on any topic. Even if I thought each option was equally viable, I would come down on the side of “the policy was not God’s will” for that reason alone. I would rather say, “There’s a good chance it was racist and incorrect; I’m sorry it happened,” than “There’s a good chance it was God’s will; get over it.” “Do unto others” seems like good advice here.

    That’s my final comment on this thread.

  104. Chris, # 11

    You concerns about quote-mining and proof-testing are valid, but I was relying on admittedly faulty memory (says he as he sips his diet pepsi).

    I can respect that you can believe that perhaps somewhere, there is a justification, but in my terms, as this particular thread has shown, that trying to run justifications up the flagpole to see who waves is just as chancy as taking the stance that I have, that it was an uninspired error, only corrected after much anguish and a united Qof12. Neither one is satisfying for me, but the latter squares with my personal feelings and the what I perceive as the bulk of the scriptural record, so it is what I look at. But Nate has a good idea, I think, in avoiding as much of that as possible by pulling up President Hinckley’s statement. That will put the majority of the honest questioners at ease, but may not satisfy the hardened politically minded social conservative/evangelical in Iowa. But then, my impression is that many of those folks are really interested only in discrediting the church and/or Romney, not coming to an understanding, so no amount of logic, proof-texting, or heartfelt reasoning will make a difference.

    But then, I speak without full understanding!

  105. Chris,

    The problem is that the priesthood ban for blacks does not originate with Joseph Smith, the Restorer of the Gospel. He did give the Melchizedek Priesthood to blacks. Why would he do that and then Brigham Young do differently? Why would the Lord grant this privilege to some blacks under one prophet and then say to the rest of the black world that they can’t get the priesthood anymore? It doesn’t sound like something the Lord would do.

  106. Howard, Emily, et al.
    Believing that Blacks were a cursed and/or somehow inferior race until 1978 means believing that considering Blacks a cursed/inferior race is legitimate view of the world — albeit one we don’t happen to countenance today.

    Why on earth is “People of African descent were a cursed race until the year 1978” a worldview with which you are more comfortable that “God’s prophets sometimes make mistakes and allow their own prejudices and cultural assumptions prevent them from asking the right questions and receiving the right answers”?

    We cannot, as a people, embrace the notion that this policy was inerrant and simultaneously whine about the rest of the world considering us, to varying degrees, to be knuckle-draggers when it comes to race.

  107. “Today most scholars have abandoned these views and see race as a social construct with no biological basis” (Wikipedia). In the end, DNA will show all of the above is a mistake about a mistake. If there is no Black race, what are we talking about?

  108. Bob,
    You’re right about the social construction of race.

    The difference between believing that Blacks were legitimately, justifiably denied access to saving ordinances and full participation in the life of the LDS and that they were a cursed/inferior race is semantic at best.

    To say that God allowed men — even important, otherwise highly inspired, wholly decent men — to commit and persist in a serious error is by no means an assertion that God countenanced the substance of said error. As long as we persist in defending pre-1978 racist policies and/or doctrines, we can expect outsiders to justifiably assume that latent, institutional racism still lurks in our midst and that statements that claim otherwise are somewhat disingenuous.

  109. Kevin:

    It looks like you’ve given up on the thread, but I want to clarify my interpretation of Isaiah 56 above in case anybody else understood me as you did. I don’t think those verses have as much to say about the priesthood ban as they do about the 1978 revelation. It seems to me that Isaiah foresaw the day when all of God’s children would enjoy the blessings of the temple. The verses are especially meaningful to me, because this race issue does not begin or end with the so-called priesthood ban. It seems that the whole notion of the Tribe of Israel – understood literally – seems at least on the surface to classify God’s children based on race. I think that Isaiah clears it up when he prophesied that even the eunuch and the stranger to Israel would someday enjoy the blessings of the temple and even receive “a name and a place better than sons and daughters.”

    So far from invoking Isaiah to justify the ban, I was merely surmising that Isaiah understood thousands of years ago what Bruce R. and the others apparently didn’t: that all the blessings of the gospel would be available to all God’s children at some time. The verses say nothing about the origin of the ban. I happen to believe it was instituted by men rather than God like many of you, but who knows. What I like most about my reading of Isaiah 56 is that it seems to give “the last” preeminence over “the first.” As people of color continue to join the Church in droves in Latin America and Africa while Europe remains stagnant, I can’t help but see a fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophesy. The Lord may have referred to Israel as “His people” throughout the scriptures, but for the the others He has a name even better.

    I at least find comfort believing that God intended from the beginning to share His blessings with all His children whether the delay was His doing or man’s.

  110. Jason J,

    RE # 127, sorry about misinterpreting your use of Isaiah. Under that interpretation, we certainly are seeing that come to pass, as missionary work and the church reach into more and more lands and cultures. Ultimately, we will probably find that white, northern-European descended saints will truly be a minority in the church, and we all look forward to that day.

    I hadn’t completely given up, I got tired of this threadjack nature of this post, as Nate obviously meant for something else entirely to be taking place here.

    I won’t revisit any of that at this time. I like your statement about a “name even better”.

  111. I have not observed any off-topic posts, I would definitely disagree with you with regards to your statement about the “threadjack nature” of this post. Who made you judge, jury and executioner over what Nate may or may not have “obviously” meant to take place here?

    I have found this topic and subsequent postings to be very informative and I appreciate all of the views that have been expressed thus far.

  112. #125 and 126 I’m not trained in sociology or anthropology or genetics or whatever field would address this, so I’ve always wondered about the no-biological-aspect-to-race thing. How does that take into account things like sickle cell anemia, Tay-Sachs disease, or intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy?

    They are all directly linked to race.

    Sickle cell = Sub-Saharan ancestors. Tay-Sachs = Ashkenazi. ICP = Scandinavian or Chilean.

    It’s probably too complicated to explain here (besides continuing a possible threadjack), so if it is, feel free to ignore my question and I will assume that if I were to read up on sociology, genetics and anthropology it would explain your off-hand remarks on race as a social construct. (But social constructs still don’t explain the medical conditions!)

  113. It is interesting that the “Answer to Questions” on does not explicitly claim that God directed or inspired His leaders that blacks of African descent were to be denied priesthood blessings. Nor does it address when the practice started–i.e., was it part of a “curse of Cain” that existed from then until 1978, did it start with Joseph Smith or Brigham Young, was there a “revelation” (unwritten or written but not found) upon which the practice was based?

    In the main portion of the answer, it merely states “Before that time [1978] only worthy male members who were not of black African descent were ordained to the priesthood.” The sentence that follows in the Additional Information (quoted) hints, or perhaps even implies, that that practice came from God by stating that “[e]ver since biblical times, the Lord has designated through His prophets who could receive the priesthood and other blessings of the gospel.” One can agree that God has Himself restricted priesthood and other blessings on some occasions, without accepting that the pre-1978 withholding was “designated” by God, in the sense of a directive or express revelation. (Perhaps the practice was “designated” by God in the same way the pre-Woodruff practice of sealing people to high Church leaders, rather than to their parents, was “designated” by God. Both of those practices, in my view were incorrect in a divine or eternal sense (and not expressely directed by God, yet both practices began and continued, to use President Hinckley’s priesthood ban explanation to Mike Wallace, “Because the leaders of the church at that time interpreted that doctrine that way.”)

    I would also note that pre-Cornelius, the gospel was, in fact, available to the “Gentiles”. The issue Peter dealt with was not whether Cornelius could become a member of the Church, but whether he must also (and first) become a Jew to become a Christian. Thus, there was a way for Cornelius and other non-Jews to receive the full blessings of the gospel–they could simply join the Church in two steps–first become a Jew and then a Christian. By way of contrast, during the period that priesthood/temple blessings were withheld based upon perceived ancestry, there was no “2-step”, or any “step” way for persons of perceived black African descent to receive the full blessings of the gospel. (I say “perceived” black African descent because I believe virtually all, if not all, people on the earth have black African ancestry.)

  114. #130 – I said I was done, but where did that comment come from? There are multiple comments other than kevinf’s that mention the basic threadjack nature of this discussion (best explained by Margaret in #63). Nate posted a very narrow (and thought-provoking) comment about political answers to the question; very few comments, including most of mine, have addressed that original point.

    I really am done with the overall discussion (as I have made my points and don’t have anything more to contribute), and I am trying to be as gentle as I can be in this comment, but why jump down kevin’s throat for what was *far* from an offensive statement?

  115. Do you even know what “threadjacking” means? If I start talking about theoretical physics or the new dog house that I am building for my dog, then accuse me of threadjacking. Unless the postings are changing the subject of discourse to the topic outside the purview of the original subject, it is not threadjacking.

  116. I’ll let others decide if this thread was jacked or not. But as for me I will say that I really appreciated the opportunity to discuss these issues and I think that I came away from this thread with a broader view of the topic (more than I can say from other threads in the ‘nacle.) I appreciate the input from all.

  117. #131: See #125. There is no black race, there is no tall race, there is no old race, only is only human species. Yes, there are “Black” people; yes, there are tall people ; yes, their are old people; but all in the humans.
    Sickle Cell is an adapted trait in Blacks arising out of their ‘clash and burn’ agriculture in Africa, causing swamps and misquotes It helps fight off Malaria. It was one of the reasons they were brought as slaves to the New World. The Indians died growing tobacco in swamps, the Blacks did not.

  118. Howard,
    Even if the members are to blame, it’s still racism. If the policy is playing to the least common racist denominator, then the policy is racist. If God is allowing a racist policy to persist in the Church, that bespeaks not God’s racism but God’s inability to mess with human agency or force softened hearts upon those uninterested in softening them while still remaining God. It was an enormous mistake. Yes, it was a mistake that, to varying degrees, most others made as well, but that’s hardly a justification, especially for those who have received and are obligated to further seek greater light and knowledge.

    This whole mess carries volumes of lessons about the degree to which our own social and cultural baggage can stifle God’s voice and impede God’s work when we conflate our assumptions about the world with Truth.

    If BY had instituted a ban based on more capricious grounds, like having freckles or the inability to grow thick beards or being shorter than 6 feet, the legitimacy of that policy would have been called into question much earlier on a much more widespread scale.

    East Coast,
    The social construction of race means that the idea that there is some kind of totalizing essence that corresponds to physical markers stereotypically associated with “race” — like skin complexion, skull shape, even medical/epidemiological propensities — is rubbish. There is no black “race” any more than there is a blond “race” or a freckled “race” or a blue-eyed “race.” There are differences, but the differences we associate with the concept of separate “races” are not qualitatively different than differences within “races.” There is simply, biologically speaking, no such thing as “race.” Of course “race” is a lived reality to the degree that it is imbibed by most people and produces real, deeply felt consequences, but that’s an entirely separate question from biology.

  119. Eric, please take a deep breath and dial the rhetoric down a notch. Yes, I understand what a threadjack is – and that there are many levels and degrees thereof.

    I was responding to your tone – the nearly hyper-aggressive and condemning nature of the verbiage – not the content of your comment. kevinf has *never* placed himself as “judge, jury and executioner” of *any* thread in which he has participated, so your venom was badly misplaced. That’s all I said.

    Brewhaha: I also have enjoyed the discussion in many ways. I also have been disturbed by it in many ways. Neither kevinf nor I said it had been pointless or irrelevant or “bad” or anything else like unto it. We participated in it – actively, so it would be completely hypocritical of us to complain. All we said is that the original post made a narrow point that quickly turned into a generic discussion NOT of the political approach we should take when discussing the ban but rather the “rightness” or “wrongness” of the ban itself. kevinf and I bowed out because we had said all we had to say – NOT because it was a threadjack, relatively slight though that jack might have been.

    This is why I both love and hate internet discussion. Things go south way too quickly, way too often, when comments are mis-interpreted and blown completely out of proportion. Now, I really am done – since this discussion constitutes a serious threadjack by any definition.

  120. Interesting quote:

    President David O. McKay, 1954: “There is not now, and there never has been a doctrine in this Church that the Negroes are under a divine curse. There is no doctrine in the Church of any kind pertaining to the Negro. ‘We believe’ that we have a scriptural precedent for withholding the priesthood from the Negro. It is a practice, not a doctrine, and the practice someday will be changed. And that’s all there is to it.”

    I will add my vote to the “sure am glad the Journal of Discourses are not canon” column.

  121. Ray,

    I still believe that this discussion has been perfectly germane to the original topic. Ergo, I will agree to disagree with you.

  122. Great quote, Eric, and directly on point (so I will comment). *grin*

    That is perfect to share with a reporter. What is the source?

  123. I like the quote as well. However, the differences between a practice and a doctrine will still lead to uncomfortable discussions very similar to this entire thread.

  124. #144: Not a good quote. It’s racist. McKay was wrong,( and I Loved the man). There is no such thing as a “Negro”.

  125. Bob,
    As a fellow non-believer (in race), I’m a bit hesitant to equate the mere belief in race with racism. Sure, arguing that all races are equal reinforces the major premise upon which racism is built — the premise that there is, in fact, such a thing biologically as race. But it’s not as thought McKay was familiar with social scientific data and theoretical analysis disputing the existence of race and chose to ignore it. Circa 1954, believing that all races are equal was the closest thing to non-racism imaginable. The problem with McKay was that, in spite of not believing that the “Negro” race was under divine curse, he manifestly did not believe that all races were, in fact, equal.

    Still, it’s enormously refreshing to hear that in 1954 someone had the insight and the sheer guts to call out the doctrine of a divinely cursed race for what it truly was — total rubbish.

  126. Brad,
    Racism is the early byproduct of agency. Were we racist when we were one with God in the pre-existence? Racism comes about when we identify the other as “not me” or “not us”, it is simply a lack of love for one another. We all suffer from identifying others as “not me”.

    God is not allowing a racist policy to persist, He is allowing us to gain experience with agency he is allowing us to grow. The antidote to racism, prejudice or “not me” is at-one-ment.

  127. #151: In general, we agree. We are both limited by “posting shorthand”. For me: racism is a sense there are ‘races’ Racist (for me) is a sense my ‘race’ is better.

    My problem: in 1954 (quote date), would Obama, or Tiger Woods get the Priesthood? Was there a “one drop rule”?

  128. Ray-\”BY never once claimed the ban was based on revelation\”

    Not true.

    \”Why? Because they are the true eternal principals the Lord Almighty has ordained, and who can help it, men cannot. the angels cannot, and all the powers of earth and hell cannot take it off, but thus saith the Eternal I am, what I am, I take it off at my pleasure, and not one particle of power can that posterity of Cain have, until the time comes the says he will have it taken away. That time will come when they will have the privilege of all we have the privilege of and more.” (Discourse 5 February 1852, Brigham Young Papers, Church Archives. )

  129. *sigh* (since it was addressed to me personally)

    #154 – I should have said “personal revelation”.

    The quote above doesn’t claim personal revelation. It claims eternal and ordained principle. Making the statement in the first person does not equate with, “God told *me* it should be;” rather, it simply says, “God has said it.”

    (Also, the “and more” makes it obvious hyperbole. Given the rhetoric, does anyone really believe that BY thought Black people would be *more* blessed than he would be?)

    Again, I should have said direct, personal revelation. It seems obvious that BY didn’t make that claim.

  130. Of course there is a real biological concept known as “ancestry.” Modern humans really do differ in how many of their ancestors from (say) 1000 years ago lived in Sub-Saharan Africa vs. Europe vs. South America vs. East Asia. And these differences in ancestry are strongly correlated with many phenotypical differences including but not limited to skin color, facial features, and susceptibility to some diseases. This is what most people mean by “race,” so saying that race has no biological reality is a bit silly.

    On the other hand, some unrealistically rigid definitions of “race” can be quite silly as well. For example BY’s view that anyone with any sub-saharan ancestry is disqualified from the priesthood is incoherent nonsense, since every modern European surely has many many sub-saharan ancestors. I see this fact alone as strong evidence that the Priesthood ban wasn’t inspired, since it doesn’t even make sense on it’s own terms.

  131. #155: If BY is just ‘quoting’….from where? If not ” thus saith the Eternal ” sounds like personal revelation(?)

  132. Ray-

    Well then-every saint should then follow suit and disregard every matter on which he or she has not received a personal witness.

    Is it not rhetoric to say that BY was saying “more blessed” when what he actually says is that they will have the same privileges “and more”?

    Regardless of personal revelation or lack thereof-he clearly states that the Lord ordained the practice.

  133. “Regardless of personal revelation or lack thereof-he clearly states that the Lord ordained the practice.”

    He clearly stated that he believed the Lord to have ordained the practice. That by no means flows necessarily and straightforwardly into “The Lord ordained the practice via a revelation given to me.”

  134. #104: “I decided a long time ago that I had faith in the command and I had no faith in the reasons that had been suggested for it.”

    I think you are reading only what you unaccountably seem to want to read in that quote. To me, “faith in the command” could mean any number of things, from “Faith that the Lord explicitly gave the command” all the way down to “faith that we should follow our leaders’ commands in this church, whether we personally agree or not.”

  135. Ray-
    Sorry, I addressed it to you personally because you were the one that said it.

    (Official Statement of The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 17 Aug. 1949)-The attitude of the Church with reference to the Negroes remains as it has always stood. It is not a matter of the declaration of a policy but of direct commandment from the Lord, on which is founded the doctrine of the Church from the days of its organization, to the effect that Negroes may become members of the Church but that they are not entitled to the priesthood at the present time.

    Spencer W. Kimball-1973-I am not sure that there will be a change, although there could be. We are under the dictates of our Heavenly Father, and this is not my policy or the Church’s policy. It is the policy of the Lord who has established it, and I know of no change, although we are subject to revelations of the Lord in case he should ever wish to make a change.-

    What I must ask is if you have received a personal revelation that BY, rather than God, is the person behind the ban? Have you implored of God and been blessed with a personal witness that the entire thing was just a completely racist mistake? If you have not prayed and fasted to know of the truth for yourself, then I must assume that you feel perfectly justified in discrediting the men chosen by God to stand at the head of His Church on Earth with nothing more than your own mortal conjecture. How do you reconcile the scriptures regarding that practice?

  136. Brad-159

    Well then, if God didn’t reveal it to Brigham-whom do you think Brigham is saying God revealed it to?

  137. No idea. I don’t think for a moment that Brigham thought that all principles ordained by God were specifically revealed to him. Maybe he thought it was to Joseph Smith; maybe to Moses or Abraham. The idea that Brigham considered divinely ordained only those specific policies or principles about which he had received specific revelations is nonsensical.

    Brigham said “A is divinely ordained” = Brigham said “A was revealed personally to me” is a logical leap that practically defies gravity.

  138. Brad-
    I am not disagreeing with you. But many people will tell you that they know Joseph Smith never taught such a principle-even when they cannot know that.

    There are those who say that what the current/living prophet says trumps everything a dead prophet has said while refusing to apply that directive to Brigham Young (if JS really never did teach the same thing-it really was a mute point after his death).

    It matters not to me WHO the knowledge was initially “revealed” to, but it does to many others. The fact is that Brigham Young believed it to be divinely ordained by God, as did the prophets who came after him. The fact also is that many LDS members state that it was NOT ordained of God. My question is-who “revealed” the opposing information to them?

  139. OK, this really is my last comment, since I now am going to be repeating some of what I already have said in earlier comments. I will not bold the fist paragraph, but I feel like doing so. It will be long, since I will not revisit it here, so please read the entire comment slowly and carefully before you begin to craft a response.

    #161 – You ask if I have implored God and received a personal witness. Yes, I have. I might be wrong, but – yes, I have. One of the strongest spiritual impressions of my life (and I have had some very strong ones), came as I served in a Stake Mission Presidency in the Deep South **after the revelation lifting the ban** – as I struggled with how to reach into the Black community and was allowed to see the continuing effects of racism on the Church where I lived (both within a small minority of members and a much larger percent of non-members, Black and White). I will never forget that impression and the lessons it taught me. I will never forget how that vision changed dramatically how I perceived this issue.

    Next, to answer your hyperbolic charge:

    1) Black men were ordained during the leadership of Joseph Smith. Nobody disputes that. Nobody.

    2) Can we agree that there has not been unanimity among the apostles and prophets on this issue?

    3) No unanimity means that apostles and prophets disagreed on this issue.

    4) Disagreement on this issue means that it is not *obvious* that the ban was God’s will, given by direct revelation. Perhaps it is not obvious that it was not God’s will, but it is not obvious that is was.

    5) Disagreement also means that I am not siding against the apostles and prophets in my belief. It simply means I am disagreeing with some and agreeing with others.

    6) It is extremely easy to read the verses that were used to justify the ban differently than they were interpreted to justify the ban. Iow, the scriptures themselves (which were the foundation for the claim that God had spoken) are *not* conclusive that God had, in fact, spoken. It is extremely easy to read the more modern scriptures (the NT and BofM) as saying that the former practice of distinction by race had ended with the ministry of Jesus.

    7) If you have not done so already, actually read the link that Eric provided. It makes many of the above points very eloquently.

    8) My mother was a secretary in Daivd O. McKay’s office. That has given me a few insights into the workings of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles that are somewhat rare. Most importantly for this comment, it made it clear to me that much of the internal dissent and debate on this topic was not expressed publicly, since there was a deep and abiding belief among the brethren that airing their disagreements publicly simply was not to occur. BRM was a renegade in this regard, as were a few more who shared his view on the ban. Those who were the most vocal tended to be those who supported the ban, since the ban was the policy of the time.

    8) As I said earlier, when I am faced with two viable options, even in the face of a lack of spiritual confirmation, I *always* side with the one that appears to be in line with the preponderance of scriptural evidence and harms the fewest people. Imo, the ban as a result of human weakness and prejudice fits those criteria *far* better than seeing it as God’s will.

    9) I tend to accept the words of current prophets over the words of former prophets. I also have read enough of modern and ancient scripture to understand that God has allowed prophets and apostles to make horrible mistakes all throughout time. He sometimes steps in and announces an ideal in very clear ways, but even then He steps back and lets His prophets and other leaders live it or reject it. Therefore, the ban has no fundamental impact on my testimony – my spiritual witness of BY and JT and WW and all other prophets who upheld the ban – even as I believe is was not God’s will.

    10) My mind leans toward my current understanding, but my heart and soul is WAY beyond leaning. I know Black saints who could not hold the Priesthood and/or attend the temple prior to the lifting of the ban, and to even hint that they were less valiant in the pre-existence is simply abhorrent to my soul. Having seen their dedication, I know firsthand how much deeper and richer and fuller it was than mine and nearly all White members I knew at that same time. Frankly, I believe much of the acceptance of such a theory on a purely intellectual level is a result of not knowing intimately such people and the persecution they endured to remain true to the faith – persecution that was both blatant and subtle and which came from both outside and inside the Church.

    11) This is not an intellectual understanding for me. It is deeply spiritual one – forged over multiple decades of observing and studying the roots and continuing traces of bigotry in this country and, unfortunately, the Church.

    12) I might be wrong, notwithstanding the nature of my spiritual witness, but I would rather be wrong in my current opinion than to be wrong with the alternative. I am intelligent enough to construct a lucid and compelling justification for either view, so I have consciously chosen to follow my deeply personal, spiritual witness, my overarching belief in the messages of the scriptures and what my heart wants to believe – preferring in all ways my current position to its alternative. If I am wrong, I believe I will be better being wrong with this view than being wrong with the other one.

    At the most basic level, I return to my first paragraph. Due to my calling at the time, I believe I was given a perspective that is somewhat unique. It was burned into my soul in a way that I can neither forget nor deny. I cannot say I saw the Father crying for the hardness of the hearts of His children, but I can say that I understand that image in a way that would have been impossible without that experience. It has shaped the way I see many things over the years, and I would not trade it for the world.

  140. #165 Ray,
    That was one of the most amazing comments I have ever read on the subject or on the LDS blogs for that matter. Thank you for taking the time to post it and thank you for your testimony.

  141. Ray-

    14 paragraphs later-what it boils down to is that you have not received a witness that the ban was created by man rather than God.

    1-Yes, black men were ordained. How many? Were they exceptions to the rule? Has God ever in recorded scripture made exceptions? Yes.
    2-Unanimity on the issue itself or on the “reasons” for it? Reasons for it-yes. Unanimity because God has not revealed the reasons. Even to you.
    3-How many PROPHETS exactly have stated it was NOT God’s will?
    5- The brethren didn’t air their differences publicly-but your mother aired them to you? Interesting.
    8 (the second #8) -So, you have no personal witness then. And in the absence you chose the option that makes every prophet who upheld the ban a liar, or an idiot, and every saint who believes those men to be inspired by God to be racist/bigots. How many people does THAT harm Ray? How many people fall under your “inspired” discernment? How many people read your words on boards like this and determine that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is NOT true because God allows it’s Presidents to make horrific “mistakes”? Have you counted to make sure your viewpoint is REALLY harming the fewest people? You want to talk about the preponderance of scripture? HOW many of the host of heaven were banned from even earth life by God? How many did He sweep from the earth with plagues, war, pestilence, disease? He plans to destroy a THIRD part of those LIVING during the final two seals of the last days! God’s will is not always sunshine and roses.
    9- The ban or reasons for it has no affect upon my testimony either, and should Gordon B. Hinckley get up in general conference and state that Brigham Young was a bigoted racist, I’d be in Church the following Sunday. But I cannot wait to see your examples of when God “has allowed prophets” to make “horrible mistakes” that affected the eternal salvation/exaltation of others.
    10-Here’s the thing-one can agree that the ban was inspired and directed by God WITHOUT believing that it was due to levels of valiance or anything else. I don’t HAVE to know why-because the “why” is God’s, not mine. I call it…faith. YOU created your own “why” so that you don’t have to believe it. Then you justify your choice by insinuating that those that accept it must be doing so on a purely “intellectual” level-or that they simply do not know anyone of “black” descent personally. It’s insulting for you to insinuate that NONE of the prophets called by God until Spencer W. Kimball actually “knew” any black members as well as you did, or cared for them as much as you did, or saw their pain as clearly as you did. People of every race, religion, color and gender have suffered for their beliefs-God calls them saints-no matter WHAT color their skin is.
    11-you are not the only one who has studied for decades or who has a spiritual understanding.
    12-If your heart wants to believe that the prophets have been misled, or lazy in obtaining their own witnesses of the things they proclaim or that anyone who believes in their words is somehow “less valiant” than you are-be my guest.

    Maybe you don’t realize that’s what your words look like from the outside. “I might be wrong, but I’d rather be wrong than a non-spiritual, intellect only, under informed racist any day”. The ironic thing is that you are simply choosing to look down on a different group of obedient LDS members. If Brigham were here today he might have a word of warning for you…if the majority of them happen to have white skin-people are going to call you a racist.

  142. Wow. The contrast between #165 and #167 is so striking that it might actually convince a few people, even in this thread.

    The mention of disagreements under President McKay reminds me that, according to the recent McKay bio, no less than Hugh B. Brown, a member of the First Presidency, believed the ban to be a cultural relic that could be repealed without specific revelation on the matter. His view didn’t prevail, but it’s still important. People espousing Ray’s opinion aren’t fringe wackos here, to be sneered at as in #167. They’re voicing an opinion that they share with at least one former member of the First Presidency. The same goes for the other side, of course, but I think history (Elijah Abel, etc.) has been a little kinder to President Brown’s opinion.

  143. doesitmatter wrote

    “HOW many of the host of heaven were banned from even earth life by God? How many did He sweep from the earth with plagues, war, pestilence, disease? He plans to destroy a THIRD part of those LIVING during the final two seals of the last days! God’s will is not always sunshine and roses.”

    How many of the above had or will have these things happen to them because of their physical traits?

  144. doesitmatter wrote; “the option that makes every prophet who upheld the ban a…If your heart wants to believe that the prophets have been misled, or lazy in obtaining their own witness”

    When the Lord wants to communicate he does. The Lord knows our mind and certainly the mind of his Prophets. This is the reason I chose to believe that it was the Lord’s decision and as Emily put it, the Lord’s timing.

    The Lord choose the US to unveil and incubate the restored Gospel. The US was full of whites and part of the country held blacks as slaves. We were divided on this question. A lot of people favored slavery, interestingly, JS was not one of them.

    We are all prejudice, that is, we identify others as “not me”. It is often unconscious, I caught myself in this attitude with a morbidly obese (white) man recently. Most of us cannot go to war and kill the enemy without identifying them as “not us” or “less than us”. Few of us could enslave an individual let alone an entire race without identifying them as “not us” or “less than us”. Skin color is not the issue, skin color simply makes a “not us” group more easily identifiable.

    The problem is simply a lack of love. We are commanded to love one another, but in practice we don’t, we love our family and friends (us) and give little day-to day thought to loving the others (not us). The difference between racism and common prejudice is simply magnitude. By limiting the issue to skin color, we are excusing our own prejudice as we indict the prejudice of others.

    Maybe God waited until a majority the saints and the country grew to the point that they were capable of embracing everyone as “us”.

  145. Howard,

    When the Lord wants to communicate he does. The Lord knows our mind and certainly the mind of his Prophets. This is the reason I chose to believe that it was the Lord’s decision and as Emily put it, the Lord’s timing.

    Joseph Smith gave the priesthood to blacks. Brigham Young did not. Why would the Lord restore His Kingdom, start giving priesthood to blacks and then out of the blue, just suddenly stop giving them the priesthood? It don’t make no sense, yo.

  146. Dan wrote;
    “Joseph Smith gave the priesthood to blacks. Brigham Young did not…It don’t make no sense, yo.”

    Maybe yes, maybe no.

    Elijah Able, a mulatto was baptized in 1832. There is record of a 1843 revelation given to JS in the presence of Zebedee Coltin that Blacks are not to be ordained to the Priesthood. This revelation is often discounted because Zebedee was recalling his memory about 45 years later in 1879 and because Elijah Able ordained an Elder after receiving this revelation in 1836.

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