How Mormons Became White

March 16, 2004 | 79 comments
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As we all know, in 1978 the President Kimball and the Quorum of the Twelve (sans two members) recieved a revelation proclaiming that all worthy males — regardless of race — could now recieve the priesthood. Following the long and torturous course of the “Negro Doctrine” as it was called would, of course, require a great deal of careful discussion and research. No one in his right mind would attempt to do so in a blog post. Here goes.

The story is fairly simple and goes like this. Joseph Smith didn’t much care for slavery. He no doubt had bits and pieces of nineteenth century notions of racial inferiority, but he didn’t translate those feelings into concrete policies. Blacks got the priesthood, etc. Brigham Young was a bit different. He didn’t believe that blacks could hold the priesthood, based on reading the Cain and Abel stories, the Hamitic myth, etc. Blacks and the priesthood issues came up in an ad hoc fashion, and Brigham carved away at black access to priesthood ordinances. This was the basic modus operendi for the 19th century. Joseph F. Smith, who was in the first presidency during much of this period, initially strongly felt that blacks were entitled to priesthood blessings, etc., and opposed the efforts of Brigham and others to hack away at black priesthood. Sometime after the turn of the century, Joseph F. Smith changed his mind, adopting the Brigham Young position. The ad hoc restrictions gave way to a formalized, across the board policy.

My theory is that the shift from debate and ad hoc results to relative uniformity and a formal policy had to do with Mormons becoming white. During the anti-polygamy crusades, Mormons were repeatedly defined in anti-Mormon rhetoric as non-white. They got compared to Asians (polygamists), Turks and Arabs (polygamists), Blacks (generally thought to be sexually immoral), and Catholics (in the thrall of their priesthood). We tend to forget that Catholicisms was to a certain extent thought of in racial terms. Irish and southern Europeans were not thought to be “white” in the full WASP-ish sense of the word. Some historians have gone so far to argue that an important part of the New Deal was that it took Catholics — who had previously been thought of as belonging to a seperate “race” — and “made them white.”

Nineteenth-century Mormons intensely resented the racial slurs cast upon them. They were by and large coverts from American WASP-dom, England, Germany, or Scandanavia. They (except perhaps the Scandanavians) had an excellent pedigree as “whites.” They didn’t want to be grouped in with “uncivilized races.” After the Manifesto, and especially after the Smoot Hearings, Mormons begin to aggressively push their way into the WASP mainstream, redefining themselves in an attempt to shed the legally dangerous polygamist baggage of the nineteenth century.

As part of this retrenchment with the American mainstream, Mormons had to assert and defend their whiteness. They had to distances themselves rhetorically from all of the “uncivilized races” with which they had been grouped. Thus, it was important to repudiate any potentially missegenating tendencies within Mormonism. Establishing the racial purity of Mormon priesthood thus makes sense in this context. It is part of a broader strategy to demonstrate the “whiteness” of Mormonism, something that we tend to forget used to be violently denied.

What is interesting is that now the church is — I think — trying to shed its image. Mormonism once again needs to redefine its racial identity, but this time we are trying to prove to the world that Mormonism is not white. Given the demographics of church growth, I think that this is a transition that we can only expect to accellerate in the years to come.

So there is Nathan-Oman’s-Patented-Semi-Unified-Theory-of-Blacks-in-the-Priesthood. You won’t find it in Lester Bush, but I don’t think it is inconsistent with his research. It is also, in my humble opinion, more illuminating than the Michael Quinn position, which amounts to something like, “Mormon leaders used to be really racist but then they got over it, more or less. You still ought to keep your eyes on them. Oh! And I have a lot of footnotes to racists statements by the brethren.”

Thoughts? Objections? Heckling?

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79 Responses to How Mormons Became White

  1. Ben on March 16, 2004 at 5:32 pm

    I give you points for creativity:)
    Do you have anything to back up a PR push for whiteness? I’m just curious as to your sources, since I’m guessing I have most of them.

  2. Nate Oman on March 16, 2004 at 5:41 pm

    I have no smoking gun in which Joseph F. Smith writes a memo explaining his change of mind in the terms that I outline above. I take it as fairly well established in the basic texts on this — Lester Bush — that Joseph F. Smith’s change of mind was decisive. For the racial edge to anti-polygamy rhetoric, see Sarah Barringer Gordon, _The Mormon Question_. For the general attitude of retrenchment, check out _Mormonism in Transition_.

    You will notice that the characters in my story are kept vague. “Mormonism” is imputed with some set of “broader strategies.” I leave the actual mechanisms of choice and influence to subconscious axiety, etc. ;->

    After all, I am “doing” history not “social science.” I am allowed to posit isms and vague social functionalities as causal elements. ;->

    NOTE TO THE UNIRONIC: I am in part poking fun at the epistemology of historical explanation. This is all VERY humorous stuff.

  3. brayden on March 16, 2004 at 5:55 pm

    Nate – This is a pretty good theory (and a very sociological one at that). I know much less about Mormon history than I would like, but since you seem to know more than most of us and because it sounds intuitively plausible, I’ll give the explanation a thumbs up.

  4. Nate Oman on March 16, 2004 at 6:17 pm

    I am a lawyer, which means that I get to skip across the surface of social science, but I have to confess that I have always found something a bit fishy about the kind of functionalist explanation that I offer above. On the other hand, I find rational actor models fishy. I find critical theory fishy. I find…

    You get the picture.

  5. Kristine on March 16, 2004 at 6:21 pm

    Nate, I’m with you right up until the part where the church now wants to be non-white. While we want worldwide appeal, it seems to me that we are also still extremely concerned with respectability, which looks (at least some of the time) very much like “whiteness.” What am I missing?

  6. Melissa on March 16, 2004 at 6:25 pm

    Nate,

    If you are doing history then you’ll need a lot of sources to back you up. Can you give us some of yours? (not for the JS vs. BY stuff, but for the “Mormons needed to defend their whiteness” bit)

  7. Aaron Brown on March 16, 2004 at 6:28 pm

    Kristine,

    You’re missing the fact that there is an indisputable law of the universe that goes something like this:

    “If you are a non-white ethnic minority, and you loiter around outside of General Conference, you WILL have your picture taken by an official LDS photographer and featured prominently in a Church periodical.”

    :)

    Aaron B

  8. Kristine on March 16, 2004 at 6:33 pm

    Yeah, we had a black missionary in our ward in California who told everybody when he was leaving, “Look for me at October conference–they always show all the black people on TV!!”

  9. Nate Oman on March 16, 2004 at 6:34 pm

    I look at where the church spends its money — third world countries, and expensive inner-city buildings — and I look at the very nearly complete disappearance of racial rhetoric from Mormon sermons.

    I grant that the church still wants an image of wholesomeness, so that will preclude Home Front Ads set to rap music in the near future. On the other hand, I think that we are unduly parochial in our use of understanding of racial politics — we tend to focus on some polarity between suburban whiteness and uban blackness. A more interesting dynamic is to look at — for example — the proliferation of third-world folk art in the Ensign and the aggressive church sponsorship of international art through the Church Museum.

    No rap music, but lots of baticks, hopi pottery, molas, etc. We are certainly a very long way from this stuff drowning out the Dale Parson’s tripe (a glorius day to be looked forward to), but it is definitely on the rise.

    Another move is the regionalization of art in Mormon temples. There is a push for the decor and art in temples to be more closely tied to the surrounding cultures.

  10. Nate Oman on March 16, 2004 at 6:42 pm

    Melissa: If you want Mormon defense of whiteness, look at the rhetoric of Mormon polygamy defenders. If you read the speeches that Cannon made of the floor of the House as territorial delegate, for example, you will see that Mormons were very eager to associate polygamy with the values of fidelity, respect for home, hostility to sexual promiscuity, etc. In other words, Mormons were eager to differentiate themselves from the “Asiatics” to whom they were constantly compared. Furthermore, I think that you will notice a trend in this rhetoric. In the 1850s and the 1860s, Mormon leaders are willing to entertain the idea that maybe they are kind of like the Muslims. (There is a great George A. Smith sermon in the JD on this). Even as late as 1879, Cannon makes arguments in the constitutional context in favor of Mormon polygamy based on supposed Founder-generation tolerance of “Muhammadeism.” However, even in his 1879 pamphlet, Cannon has a couple of arias distinguishing Mormon polygamy from the barbarous practices of suttee and the depravities of the Indians. (I actually gave a paper at MHA — my only appearance there — that discussed, inter alia, the jurisprudential arguments surrounding polygamy, suttee, and non-Western legal systems. I can send you a draft of that if you are interested in that particular issue.)

    All the talk of Mormon harems, clearly stung and folks wanted to distance themselves from it.

  11. Kristine on March 16, 2004 at 6:48 pm

    Nate, is that really an embrace of other cultures, a move toward “brownness,” or is it a way of demonstrating that other cultures can be assimilated into the still “white” (maybe we should say “pure and delightsome) American church? Also, all of the signals you mention are largely for internal consumption–how might those signal non-whiteness to external observers?

  12. Nate Oman on March 16, 2004 at 6:55 pm

    “Nate, is that really an embrace of other cultures, a move toward “brownness,” or is it a way of demonstrating that other cultures can be assimilated into the still “white” (maybe we should say “pure and delightsome) American church?”

    You’ve gone all lit-theory on me. I am not sure how to answer this question. I am not sure how to even acess the truth value of this statement. Maybe you are right. I think that the browning of Mormonism is inevitable and that we are witnessing its beginning now. What the church tells its members about themselves is ultimately, I think, what the world hears in the end. (Admittedly, in some garbled form.)

  13. Nate Oman on March 16, 2004 at 6:59 pm

    Melissa: Maybe I am just doing intutive sociology. I mean, a lot of Weber wasn’t horribly well documented, but he’s still in print.

    Sorry is the historian jokes hurt. ;->

  14. lyle on March 16, 2004 at 7:02 pm

    Nate…hm. Vary interesting.
    Yet…it seems to hang alot on polygamy, defended as a sacred doctrine by LDS, and also on a ‘white’ Priesthood, also defended at some/one point as doctrine.

    I like the modified Quinn position: The Restoration was true, and didnt’ include racism. Latter, the membership of the LDS church was unwilling, for various reasons (such as the one Nate suggests), to disregard race and instituted it as a quasi-doctrine.

    ?
    :)
    lyle

  15. Kristine on March 16, 2004 at 7:02 pm

    It’s not lit-theory at all (though that’s an awfully polite way of calling my question dumb, thanks :) ); I’m just wondering about the direction of the assimilation arrow. Is the church really actively trying to adopt brownness, or is it trying to show what sorts of multiculturalism it will accept around the edges?

    I agree with you that “browning” is inevitable, and that self-conscious attempts at controlling it (in either direction) are likely to be futile.

  16. Nate Oman on March 16, 2004 at 7:06 pm

    Lyle: Careful about the extent to which you what to say that the prohibition on blacks having the priesthood was required by revelation or doctrine. There are a fair number of Apostles and members of the First Presidency who rejected that position.

  17. Karen on March 16, 2004 at 7:19 pm

    Nate, my favorite history rumor deals with the comparison of polygamy to “brown” cultures. I’ve never been able to find a source for this though, so I turn to our resident guru to comment.

    Stephen Douglas helped out the Saints as they came from Missouri to Nauvoo, (as part of the Democratic party taking the church under their wings initially). Joseph Smith prophesied that as long as Stephen Douglas would be a friend to the Saints, he’d be blessed in his political career. During the 1850′s as he was gearing up for a Presidential run, he attacked the twin relic of Barbarism…polygamy, and proposed that “Deseret” be changed to “Utah” because the Mormons were just like the “naked” Ute Indians–they were too busy going from wife to wife to put their pants on. He lost the 1860 election to Lincoln, and then died shortly thereafter.

    Okay, anyone want to tackle that one!?!

  18. Nate Oman on March 16, 2004 at 7:31 pm

    Kristine: I didn’t mean to say that your question was dumb. Some of my best and smartest friends are into literary theory. (I frequently don’t understand what they say either, of course, but they are getting Ph.Ds, while I have a lowly JD, so I am willing to plea ignorance, which — alas — is seldom a defense.) All of the imagery packed into one sentence made my poor lawyerly head spin. Sometimes a guy just needs a three part test and a citation to the federal rules of civil procedure, if you know what I mean.

    Part of the answer to your question, I suppose, is whether you view the church hierarchy as being very powerful or very weak. If you live in SLC or even in the United States, they look very powerful, so what you see may look like homogenized “whiteness” with some trimmings of “multiculturalism.” (I love using words like “whiteness” — I feel all hip and critical-race theorish.) On the other hand, I think that in lots of areas of the church, the hierarchy is quite weak. For example, in Korea the problem in many branches wasn’t a loss of Korean identity before the juggarnaut of Mormon “whiteness,” but the complete submurgence of any kind of hierarchy brand Mormonism in a sea of wonderfully bizaar syncrenism. The question may well not be whether or not the “white” hierarchy will “allow” some “brown” elements. (I am feeling SOOO hip and crit right now.) Rather, the question may be whether the hierarchy has ANY influence in places like Chile, the Phillipines, Brazil, Sub-Saharan Africa, etc. For example, I take the movement of Oaks to the Phillipines and Holland to South American as at least in part evidence of the weakness of central control within the church.

    Of course, at this point I am engaged in a counter-hegmonic subversion of canonicty within Mormon studies by transgressing all sorts of established rhetorical boundaries and constructions of the bourgeois intelligensia’s cultural (re-)definition of Mormon identity(s).

    (Now THAT was fun…)

  19. Greg Call on March 16, 2004 at 7:48 pm

    Help! The spirit of Judith Butler has possessed Nate Oman! We do have a exorcism ordinance, right?

  20. Gary Cooper on March 16, 2004 at 7:52 pm

    Nate,

    I’m not sure that I can completely agree either with all the facts or all the hypotheses in your post. For example, you give the impression that the move to deny priesthood (and its blessings) pretty much was all Brigham Young’s “fault”. I think the current historical evidence shows that as early as the Nauvoo period the church was beginning to place some restrictions, and that if anything Brigham thought he was just filling out the details of an existing policy, not creating a new one. In any case, I wonder (and I’m not alone, as I read an article on this at another LDS blog last year, though I cannot remember where) if the gradual shift to denying priesthood had anything to do with missionary work in the Southern States. The experiences of LDS converts and missionaries living in the South, both Ante- and Post-Bellum, were every bit as intense as anywhere else in the country, and given this fact, I have often thought that a tactical decision, initiated by Joseph, may have been made to put limitations on black priesthood, similar to the restrictions on preaching to slaves without their master’s permission. It is important to remember that a great deal of the persecution we suffered in Missouri was directly linked to our abhorrence of slavery, and our permitting free blacks to sit in the same religious services with whites.

    My own take is that it may very well be that what started as a temporary expedient, perhaps not fully explained by Joseph, may have metastasized under later leaders into a full-fledged “doctrine” with a life of its own (perhaps like the “Adam-God theory?). There’s no question that Joseph F. Smith and David O. McKay tried to tackle this issue, but one of the obstacles they would have faced (still a real problem today, but not as bad) would have been the genuine lack of documentary information as where/how/why this all got started.

    But, this has always raised a serious problem for me: Why would the Lord, if the whole denial of priesthood was a mistake, allow such a mistake to take place and go on so long? Is it possible that Bruce R. McConkie’s interpretation of the New Testamant verse “There must needs be heresies among you, that they who are approved of God may be manifest” correct? In other words, did Heavenly Father not only permit an error to take place, and refuse to correct it, even when leaders like President McKay were asking the right questions, because he simply wanted to test our faith? I’ve always felt this was the real ultimate purpose of polygamy, and maybe this issue too.

    If we grant that God really did tell Abraham to sacrifice Isaac (murder), and really did tell Moses to hold up the brazen serpent (idolatry, and of all things a snake, the very image and name of Satan!), then is God’s permitting confusion to reign for generations on blacks and the priesthood really all that different? This probably takes us beyond the scope of the post, but I am increasingly struck (and not without dread) that God is serious when He demands of us the sacrifice of all things, and that this includes not only our time, talents, resources, wealth, etc., but also OUR RELIANCE ON OUR OWN UNDERSTANDING OF HIM. In the end, does the ultimate sacrifice require us to say, “I will follow Christ, and His Church, even when it makes no sense at all”? Is God saying to us, “I want you to follow Me, not because you agree with Me, not because you’ll get blessings, not because the Gospel ‘makes sense’, but solely because I AM WHAT I AM, and I will be worshiped for that reason and for no other”???

    No doubt about it, the Gospel ultimately escapes a lot of “rational analysis”–and it appears God has planned it that way. Puts a whole new perspective on “enduring to the end”, doesn’t it?

  21. Aaron Brown on March 16, 2004 at 8:00 pm

    Nate,

    Could you expound upon your claim that a “fair number” of apostles and members of the 1st Presidency rejected the revelatory origin of the restrictive priesthood policy?

    I am familiar with Sterling McMurrin’s claims about David O. McKay. (I also recall your very interesting post at LDS-Law about how your wife’s family has interpreted the origin, history and eventual overturning of the priesthood ban.) And Lester Bush has claimed that while doing his original research in the late 60′s – early 70′s, he couldn’t find any General Authorities that could point defintively to a specific historical revelation that justified the policy.

    However, if memory serves, Bush also made it clear that the Hierarchy’s conviction as to the revelatory/doctrinal soundness of the ban was quite strong, the lack of evidence notwithstanding. What additional light can you shed on this? What do you know that I don’t?

    Aaron B

  22. Nate Oman on March 16, 2004 at 8:06 pm

    “What do you know that I don’t?”

    Virtually nothing, I am sure. Hugh B. Brown did not think that the ban had a “doctrinal” pedigree. My understanding is that Spencer W. Kimball didn’t think that there was a “doctrinal” reason either, but felt that a revelation was necessary to lay to rest the good-faith scrupples of those who did believe that there was such a basis. (I cannot, however, remember the source of my Kimball story. Sorry. It has been a long time since I looked at any of this.)

    And, of course, for much of his life Joseph F. Smith didn’t think that there was a “doctrinal” basis for the ban.

    Cooper: I am willing to admit that there may have been some kinds of disabilities in Nauvoo, etc. (The interesting issue is what instructions — if any — Joseph gave on this issue with regard to temple ordinances to the quorum of the annointed in Nauvoo. Anyone know?) However, I don’t think that this is inconsistent with my basic chronology, which is that you had a period of ad hoc restrictions followed by a period of a formalized policy.

  23. Gordon Smith on March 16, 2004 at 8:17 pm

    Nate, Thanks for posting this and for being so active in the comments section. This is an issue on which I have virtually no learning, but would like to know a lot more. From my now-exposed vantage point, I see a huge elephant in the room that no one else is discussing, and I am wondering whether this is just my personal apparition. Here goes: Nate’s short account emphasizes the feelings of Mormons upon being compared with various minority groups, but mentions only obliquely the strident and divisive debate about slavery that consumed the United States during the entire tenure of Brigham Young and beyond. How did this debate influence the development of the policy? I wonder not only about the effect of events on the attitudes of the early Mormons, but also about possible repercussions of going one way or the other on the policy. Would granting the priesthood (and concomitant ordinances) invite runaway slaves or freedmen to settle in Utah? If so, how would that be perceived by those outside of Utah? Were there other policies (statehood?) that took preeminence? Or perhaps the Church had enough problems dealing with polygamy that Brigham Young did not want to invite further attention/persecution?

  24. Gary Cooper on March 16, 2004 at 8:18 pm

    Nate,

    Right. I guess I was more interested in everybody’s response to the deeper issue (and again, maybe it should be in another post) of “why would God let such confusion, or seeming confusion, go on for so long?” Surely He was capable of straightening it all out, but He didn’t until 1978 (and I am a firm believer in the genuine revelatory nature of the events that year, especially after hearing the testimony of Elder David B. Haight on the subject when speaking to my mission in 1985, which had a profound spiritual impact on me to this day).

  25. Gordon Smith on March 16, 2004 at 8:23 pm

    It took me so long to write that comment that Gary Cooper raised some of my concerns. Good comments by all.

  26. Gary Cooper on March 16, 2004 at 8:26 pm

    Gordon,

    Thanks, but you helped expand them, as I hadn’t even thought about the impact of this in the Utah Territory period.

    Still, the issue keeps coming up for me, as to why God would permit the policy to continue, long after its utility had ended. Unless of course it served a much larger purpose, which I hinted at in my first thread…

  27. Melissa on March 16, 2004 at 8:48 pm

    Nate,

    Okay, I’ll take intuitive sociology as an interesting and legitimate genre for discussion—especially since you brought up Weber (whom I incidentially spent most of last semester criticizing for his historical atrocities in _Ancient Judaism_).

    I actually don’t think that your claim about “Mormons feeling the need to defend their whiteness” is necessarily off-base. I just wondered if you had some cold hard facts on this. If memory serves, Terryl Givens makes some similar claims in his book _Viper on the Hearth_.

    Do send me your MHA paper. I’d love to read it.

    Greg, Judith Butler is now at Brown. Have you ever heard her speak? WOW!

  28. Aaron Brown on March 16, 2004 at 8:51 pm

    A few quick thoughts:

    Gary — You’ve asked a great question, and if I have time later, I want to respond to it.

    Nate — When you referenced Quinn earlier, what specific writing of his did you have in mind? I’ve read much of Quinn’s stuff, but I don’t recall him theorizing anywhere about the priesthood ban specifically.

    Gordon — Lester Bush’s research on the history of the priesthood denial — widely considered the standard — was initially motivated by what he saw as the deficiencies of Stephen Taggart’s Missouri/slavery thesis in the 1960s. I’m not familiar enough with Taggert to know if the issues you’re raising are a resurrection of his views. Does anyone here know the specifics of Taggert’s thesis, and in what ways Bush claimed to refute them? I’m afraid I don’t remember the details.

    Nate again — Your jibe at Quinn suggests you pooh-pooh the idea that 19th Century Mormon racism would have much explanatory value in a developmental theory of the priesthood ban. But why? It seems to me that early American/Christian views of race — from which Church leaders and members were hardly immune –would be a natural place to look for causal explanations as to how the Church … treated race. I’m not advocating any particular causal theory, but it seems appropriate to look at the racial context. Mauss’_All Abraham’s Children_ has a chapter (well, actually, his earlier JMHA article is better, IMO) that talks about this context in some detail.

    Aaron B

  29. Karen on March 16, 2004 at 9:32 pm

    Gary–I certainly agree with your underlying theory that we learn as much from God’s inaction as his action, and that the traits of obedience and submissiveness are of great worth to Him and to our own salvation.

    However, I think that one could take different lessons away from the ban depending on which “justification” or “explanation” one subscribes to. If you go with Aaron’s explanation that it was a reflection of 19th century race views, then perhaps the lesson was the danger and the serious century long consequences in allowing the philosophies of men to blind us to greater truths that God wants us to learn–namely, in this case, tolerance and courage. Or perhaps, leaning towards Nate’s argument that there was a consistent dissenting voice among the church leadership, culminating in President Kimball’s revelation of 1978, (not to mention the dissenting minority in the church at large) then the lesson could be the importance of using your intellect and personal talents to push for positive change in the kingdom.

    I suppose that while I agree with your view that there is a lesson to be learned, I’m not sure that we can say, with certainty, what that lesson should be. It becomes more complicated when we attempt to apply that lesson to current circumstances.

  30. lyle on March 16, 2004 at 9:38 pm

    nate…no worries; that is why i said ‘quasi-’.
    i’ve never read anything that suggests it was doctrine, rather than aberrant, practice.

    someone mentioned the Stephen Douglas deal. I did some research for Dr. Woodger at BYU on the subject, and there is good evidence for its historicity. her published stuff on the subject would have the quotes (MHA i believe)

  31. brayden on March 16, 2004 at 9:44 pm

    I’m laughing as I read the comments section because Nate is getting hounded on all sides. This is what you get Nate for going out on a limb; I hope you do it again. This is great stuff.

    About the “brownness” issue – I’m not sure that the Church is purposefully trying to be perceived as a “brown” church. Perhaps the Church is just trying to achieve the identity of a “colorless” church. We want a church where there is so much diversity of color, culture, language, etc. that standard definitions of race and nationality no longer apply. Of course, others have pointed out, rightly so I think, that our hierarchy is still dominated by white people (men), but I believe everyone has hopes that there will be more heterogeneity among those in leadership positions over time as our church becomes more of a global entity.

    Why dissing poor Weber? Sure, he didn’t get his history right, but for a social scientist of his day he was remarkably well-informed. The mistakes he made were caused by his reliance on sources that were historically inaccurate. Criticizing his methodology is a little unfair I think. All of the historians of the colonialist era erred.

  32. Kim Siever on March 16, 2004 at 10:05 pm

    One thing I’ve always wondered is that since the Church has more than half of its population outside of the United States, less members speak English than not, and a ¼ of the population speaks Spanish (compared with half that speak English), I wonder if the Church will ever not be an English-speaking Church.

  33. Steve Evans on March 16, 2004 at 10:28 pm

    Brayden, I agree with you that the Church is probably trying to achieve identity as a colorless entity. At least, that’s what a Church spokesperson would say. The problem I have with that declaration is that while there is more heterogeneity in leadership, and our church demographics are becoming more and more diverse, at the same time I think our Church is applying a kind of ‘brand identity’ to maintain a common front to the world as we develop. And that brand identity seems white.

    By that I mean that Church leadership displays modes of communication and culture that are really, really white. White shirts & ties; white anglo music; white presidential hierarchies. There’s a reason all church buildings have identical artwork, similar paint tones and marriott-style furniture.

    I’m not saying that the church’s steps toward colorlessness are disingenuous. But ‘colorlessness’ as currently perceived by church leaders is, I think, pretty much white. I could be mistaken — those more familiar with the Church’s efforts to multiculturalize may correct me. But that’s what I’ve seen.

  34. Nate Oman on March 17, 2004 at 12:04 am

    Steve: What do you make of shifting attitudes toward art in official church publications and temple decoration?

  35. cooper on March 17, 2004 at 12:08 am

    This may or may not be relevant to this discussion…

    A favorite scripture of mine is in 4 Nephi. Chapter 1:17:

    There were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God.

    No manner of “ites” that would include us – whites.

  36. Bob Caswell on March 17, 2004 at 2:11 am

    This reminds me of an experience on my mission… I served in Bulgaria, which has a fairly large gypsy minority. We were instructed NOT to teach the gypsies at all. The word on the street was that this came from the Quorum of the Twelve. Whatever the reason and wherever it came from, the fact is that, at least in Bulgaria, there is almost no browning. If anyone is interested, I’ll give more details as to the why. But just the idea that the Church wants to purposely withhold teaching from certain minorities merits discussion…

  37. Chris Goble on March 17, 2004 at 2:24 am

    An interesting point Bob. We had a similar rule in our mission in Portugal. I tended to think of it existing for rather practical reasons. There was a limit to the “browning” that could exist before things became too difficult to hold together. It is hard to do too many revolutionary things at once and still keep structure. Perhaps that is why guidelines got changed into rules. You can only defend against so many lobyists, or the equivalent at once.

  38. Jeremy on March 17, 2004 at 2:47 am

    Going back to your original post, Nate–I think your proposition is more illuminating than Quinn’s, if I’m right in assuming you’re referring (at least in part) to his Dialogue article from a couple of years ago. If that’s the case, though, then Quinn might want to leverage your argument in another direction. As I recall (and as I mentioned over on my little blog a couple of days ago, not to self-promote–okay, precisely to self promote), Quinn’s whole point in presenting his view of early Mormon racism was to basically say “See: same thing 100 years later with homophobia.” So if Quinn had used your argument, he perhaps might compare early Mormon racism and the saints’ desire to be perceived as “white,” to current opposition to gay marriage, etc.and the contemporary Mormon desire to be perceived as “Christian.”

    As far as the white “brand” of the worldwide church, I think that has very much to do with the sheer invisibility of a particular culture to the people that live in it; I think the church as an institution is slow (like any large group) to assess its own culture, and church members (esp. those who live most of their lives in areas with large Mormon populations) are slow to differentiate between culture and doctrine. Thus the quasi-doctrinal status of the white shirt and tie, even in units in other cultures where other forms of dress might convey an equal or greater sense of personal reverence. And thus the ignorance of one of my mission companions, who entered the field thinking that every religion had the same organizations and terminology as ours–Lutheran women went to Lutheran Relief Society, Pentacostal kids went to Pentacostal Primary, etc.

    Incidentally, Mike Hick’s book Mormonism and Music includes a very intriguing discussion of this kind of thing with regards to church leaders’ reactions to enthusiastic African converts playing drums in church.

  39. brayden on March 17, 2004 at 10:45 am

    Jeremy and Steve,

    I think you’re right on to recognize that while the face we like to paint on ourselves is one lacking color, we clearly have a white culture, even if it is invisible to most of us. I’d be interested in hearing what converts to the church from foreign countries thought of our practices and culture when they first joined? Certainly they must have noticed the distinct style of dress and church decoration, yet this is something I rarely hear discussed in any church forum. I served a mission in Chile and I never heard my Chilean companions comment on this.

  40. Steve Evans on March 17, 2004 at 10:50 am

    What do I make of shifting attitudes toward art in official church publications and temple decoration?

    Not much. Personally, I think that mainstream mormon art/temple decoration hit its peak with Minerva Teichert (nothing beats her Manti murals, IMHO). Have you look at the Ensign lately? The magazine has gone downhill for the sake of uniformity. The art is usually the same old Nordic Jesus with a ruddy complexion. They don’t even showcase the LDS Art Competition contestants the way they used to.

    As for temple decoration, it’s much more uniform as well. There are lots of subtle distinctions between temples, but I’m hard-pressed to find any “wow”-level differences between Boston/Birmingham/Houston etc. of the new temples. Try the comparisons with temples consecrated before the 80s, and they’re striking: Cardston – Manti – St. George – Salt Lake – Oakland – Washington. You see what I mean; both architecturally and in terms of inner distinctiveness, modern temples are much more generic and bland.

    I disagree with Jeremy that this cultural mediocrity/whiteness is becuse the institution and its members are slow to change. I think it’s a conscious branding effort. White shirts & ties aren’t some accidental cultural holdover; they are purposeful forms of presenting the church. That’s why they have such a powerful presence (and that’s why I think the church won’t let them go).

  41. Bob Caswell on March 17, 2004 at 11:35 am

    “White shirts & ties aren’t some accidental cultural holdover; they are purposeful forms of presenting the church. That’s why they have such a powerful presence (and that’s why I think the church won’t let them go).”

    I disagree with you, Steve. It can’t just be coincidence that whatever the Church promotes as far as dress, is very close to what corporate America is doing at the same time. If like Jerry Seinfeld says, we’re all wearing reflective silver in the future, don’t be surprised if that’s what everyone is wearing to Church. Did Joseph Smith wear the white shirt and tie like they do today? No, he dressed just like they did back then. Same goes for any Church leader in his/her respective time period. The Church has no uniqueness in its implied dress code.

  42. Steve Evans on March 17, 2004 at 11:43 am

    Bob, you’re right. I didn’t mean to say that white shirts and ties will be part of the year 3000 LDS wardrobe (but who knows!). You hit the nail on the head when you said that what the Church promotes is what Corporate America is doing at the same time. That link will last a long, long time in my opinion, and I don’t think I’m going out on a limb when I say that it don’t get much whiter than Corporate America.

    Yes, the Church has no ‘uniqueness’ in its dress code — in comparison to what Corporate America wears — but internally speaking, the Church doesn’t tolerate a lot of wardrobe diversity, either. Corporate American conventions dictate global church standards, and somehow that rubs me the wrong way.

    p.s. whatever you do, don’t think my agreeing with your post is an apology…. [insert smiley]

  43. Paul on March 17, 2004 at 12:11 pm

    I know we’re way off the topic now, but I always just assumed that white shirts (not so much the ties) we worn, especialy to administer the sacrament, as a symbol of purity…like in the temple. But that’s probably way to simple of an explanation…

  44. Paul on March 17, 2004 at 12:11 pm

    I know we’re way off the topic now, but I always just assumed that white shirts (not so much the ties) were worn, especialy to administer the sacrament, as a symbol of purity…like in the temple. But that’s probably way to simple of an explanation…

  45. Nate Oman on March 17, 2004 at 12:15 pm

    Steve: I agree with you on the exterior architecutre of the temples, although I think that there has been a huge improvement since Provo and Ogden. I think that you are simply wrong about interior decorations. For example, the Church has been calling art missionaries for the first time since Hafen et al went to Paris. For example, there are murals in the Ghana temple showing the Ghanan country side. (Photos at the link below). This is a HUGE shift in temple design.

    http://www.lds.org/newsroom/extra/0,15505,3881-1—1-802,00.html

  46. lyle on March 17, 2004 at 12:26 pm

    One said: “At least, that’s what a Church spokesperson would say.”

    So…Church spokesmen lie? deceive? are spin doctors? misinterpret?

    oddly comforting…maybe they should start a blog? ;)

  47. Bob Caswell on March 17, 2004 at 12:32 pm

    Lyle,

    Church spokesPEOPLE are politically correct unlike some people I know. :-) Also, I think we can all agree that they have the uncanny ability to say things in a very ambiguous way while still appeasing the masses. IMO, that’s generally the goal of any spokesperson.

  48. Karen on March 17, 2004 at 12:51 pm

    I now take on the mantle of apologist…dismiss me if you must–but I want to disagree with Steve. I really don’t think that the church architects have the nefarious anti-cultural motives you ascribe to them. They are building temples and meeting houses at a dizzying rate compared to when the buildings you mentioned were built. Ever notice that you can walk into the same floorplan of a church across the country from where you saw it last. I think they’re cost cutting. It’s more efficient to reuse architectural plans.

    Oh, and by the way, did ya’ll know that the Stockholm temple is built on a Viking Graveyard and designed as an inverted viking ship? Fairly recent temple I think….late /80s?

  49. Steve Evans on March 17, 2004 at 12:57 pm

    Lyle, of course church spokespeople are spin doctors. That’s what ALL spokespeople are! They don’t necessarily lie/deceive, but they are there to put out a point of view — the Church’s. They are paid to put the Church’s position out there in the best possible light. That means interpreting facts and making statements to support the Church’s position. What I said is that the Church likely perceives itself as colorless, and its spokesperson would likely say such a thing, even if others disagree with that perception.

    Nate: couldn’t see the mural you’re talking about, but I’ve got to stick with Teichert being the best temple muralist EVER. I personally found Boston/Houston and the other new U.S. temples (church historical temples excluded) to be pretty bland in and out. But in terms of church art a little more generally: church meetinghouses still have the AWFUL art they’ve had for 50 years.

  50. Steve Evans on March 17, 2004 at 1:04 pm

    Karen: “I really don’t think that the church architects have the nefarious anti-cultural motives you ascribe to them…I think they’re cost cutting. It’s more efficient to reuse architectural plans.”

    Karen, I wasn’t attributing any anti-cultural motives (at least I wasn’t trying to!). Once they got a temple design that looked harmless, somewhat elegant and practical enough, they stuck with it out of the cost-cutting reasons you describe.

    I don’t think the church has anti-cultural motives — though we sure used to! Like its dress code, magazines, movies and everything else, the Church is simply trying to put out a unified face, which just happens to follow mainstream Corporate America.

  51. lyle on March 17, 2004 at 1:14 pm

    I’m not dissing anyone’s definition of spokespeople. I’m just pointing out that perhaps if they are “paid” by the Church, and speak in the name of the Church…that sounds an awful lot like what God asks the Prophet & Apostles to do. And if they then delegate some of their stewardship to a spokesperson…then perhaps they are due some of the same respect. Just a thought. Then again, maybe not…it sounds alot like they are just PR “missionaries” as their job MO sounds alot like what most of us did as missionaries. So…19-21 year olds spouting off about the Church probably aren’t due much credence, right?

  52. Richard on March 18, 2004 at 3:34 pm

    I’m an outsider who has been enjoying this particular thread. Some thoughts:
    About photographs of “blacks and browns” at General Conference… These are published in Church publications which are primarily aimed at members. Since the majority of L.D.S. live outside the U.S.A. and also tend to be fairly poor, so that they can’t travel to General Conference, could it be that the Church publishes these photos not to impress “the World”, but rather to help the “white” members better understand the multi racial aspect of the the Church? And could it be possible that the Church also publishes these photos to reach out in an inclusive way to “black and brown” members in 3rd World nations so that members in those lands will have a sense of identiy with the universality of the messages that come from General Conference?
    Sorry for the poor sentence structure. I’m in a big rush.

  53. Richard on March 18, 2004 at 3:35 pm

    I’m an outsider who has been enjoying this particular thread. Some thoughts:
    About photographs of “blacks and browns” at General Conference… These are published in Church publications which are primarily aimed at members. Since the majority of L.D.S. live outside the U.S.A. and also tend to be fairly poor, so that they can’t travel to General Conference, could it be that the Church publishes these photos not to impress “the World”, but rather to help the “white” members better understand the multi racial aspect of the the Church? And could it be possible that the Church also publishes these photos to reach out in an inclusive way to “black and brown” members in 3rd World nations so that members in those lands will have a sense of identiy with the universality of the messages that come from General Conference?
    Sorry for the poor sentence structure. I’m in a big rush.

  54. Thom on March 19, 2004 at 11:11 am

    Richard,

    Judging by your email address, am I correct in assuming you to be Richard G. Oman, prolific LDS author and offical church employee? Have our rantings caught the eye of the church hierarchy who have sent a ringer in to clean us up? Or are you visting us in an inofficial capacity? No worries, I’m sure you are welcome in either case. I’m just fascinated by the possibilities.

  55. Nate Oman on March 19, 2004 at 11:35 am

    Thom: I suspect that Richard G. Oman is mainly visiting this site because he is my dad.

  56. Steve Evans on March 19, 2004 at 11:53 am

    Nate,

    Am I correct in assuming you to be Nathan Oman, prolific T&S poster and official Elder’s Quorum instructor?

    Sorry Thom, couldn’t resist.

    As for Nate’s dad’s questions: the answer to both is well, sure, those are possible reasons to publish the photos of minorities in the Ensign. Is that really why the Church does it, though? I dunno. Those more closely involved with the thought process – Nate’s dad, perhaps – could tell us.

    Who reads these church publications? Members, of course, but mostly rich, literate and white members of the church in North America. If the Ensign REALLY wanted to get across to those members the current multi-cultural and multi-ethnic demographics of the church, why aren’t we seeing more photos of the poor, “brown” members watching, perhaps, taped general conference in relative squalor?

    I’m overstating things here, I think.

  57. Thom on March 19, 2004 at 12:02 pm

    Thanks Nate,

    I thought the “Oman” link was unlikely to be sheer coincidence. I was just poking a little fun at a poster who had an “ldschurch.org” email address. I hope no offense was taken.

  58. Nate Oman on March 19, 2004 at 2:02 pm

    Steve: Many of the “brown” members are not reading the Ensign. They are reading their own language publications. Can’t claim to have much knowledge here, but I do recall that the Sugdo Ae Bok (Korean language magazine) had lots of pictures of Koreans in it.

  59. whiskas on March 20, 2004 at 9:08 am

    Hmmm very interseting reading all round, can I just say.
    1. thats disgusting the church told missionaries not to teach some ethnic minority groups
    2. The temple design and decor is kitch cheap and tacky in its taste.
    3.White shirts and black ties are a symbolism of white middle class conservative dictatorship.
    4.Didnt hitler insist on people folowing him regardless of whether or not they believed or agreed?

  60. Gee on March 20, 2004 at 10:23 pm

    The truth is that American LDS members (along with the rest of America) wether “black” or “white” are well versed in white hegemony and are only begining to think about “whiteness.” I think that as church members we would like to see ourselves as ecumenical, but we have a long hard road ahed before we can call ourselves all-embracing. I think it is vital that we shead our “whiteness” in a different sense–not for recognition as a world wide church (oh, that is such a white thing to do!), not to further be entreated to defend such historical baggage, but to place more effort in equality (for lack of a better word). The way we worship in church is altogether Western Protestant. It works for me because I have been raised that way, but there are those who feel the spirit in other ways. Thirty years ago it was common in Honolulu for natives to stand in testimony meeting and sing their testimony–so real and powerful. How precious, and now, how lost a tradition.

  61. whiskas on March 21, 2004 at 2:57 pm

    Nicely put sir, how lost a tradition indeed…but there i guess lies my problem, if infact it is a problem at all, I was not raised in a western protestant way, infact if anything the total opposite, mine was more of a total holistic new age thing, which taught love tolerance understanding and above all respect and appreciation for all cultures… I love the world and all its cultures and differences, your church however seems to want to squash and control those differences, i’m afraid I can not understand how anyone can stand up hand on heart and say any church that has a long way to go in that department can be the only true church on earth at this time…I find it very hard to believe an organisation that proposes to originate directly from the supreme intelligent being which created the universe in all its complexities but then puts more emphasis on what colour piece of fabric you wrap around your throat on a sunday morning than sorting out problems of love tolerence and racism in a troubled and dying world.

  62. Clark Goble on March 21, 2004 at 3:20 pm

    Why do you think the church puts more emphasis on a tie than issues of love, tolerance and racism?

    I haven’t followed this thread, but I looked through it and don’t see what led to that outburst.

  63. whiskas on March 22, 2004 at 1:50 pm

    I was referring to other comments on this page about 2/3rds down, there are a few comments about how your churches dress code reflects the style adopted by corporate america, again I reiterate my background is that of (and I hate the tag) new age…the reason i dislike the tag is because as sson as the word is used people imediately put you into a catogory…i guess a bit like people saying to you…mormons…aha the ones with lots of wives…well we get…aha, drug taking hippies, however for me nothing could be further from the truth…but i ramble…to the point…in my background we actively encourage and embrace everyones difference, everyones individual identity, any group who tries to get people to dress the same, who has a ban on certain types of music, films, books etc is very very scary and reminds me greatly of dictatorship and opression…no individual can flourish, bloom, grow and learn in an environment of dictatorship, I really dont wish to upset or annoy anyone with ny comments, but I do feel I have to speak out against any wrong, and I do feel like your church creates wrong.peace.x.

  64. lyle on March 22, 2004 at 2:08 pm

    Gee, a singing testimony sounds great. I hope to experience such someday; yet…not everyone might be able to accept such. I’m unsure it matters what “single standard” is adopted; whether from Hawaii or New England, but I find it comforting that there is a standard format for testimony bearing that focuses on the bearer’s testimony…and not how they communicate it. I care more about the Spirit, not the style, of the delivery.

    Whiskas, glad to have your comments. Note, failure to capitalize, use full sentences and follow proper American (I don’t think Brits pass here) grammer will result in you being castigated and ignored.

    [Sorry Steve, I couldn't ignore the friendly jab and helpful advice to a new poster.]

    Seriously Whiskas, you have some fabulous points. Oddly enough, re: dictatorship and oppression, I think you will find your comments very very welcome here and in complete harmony with T&S posters. Unless you are trying to upset or annoy someone with your comments…I’m sure you are MORE than welcome. :)

    Note, Personally, I wore blue jeans, a silk button up, a Federalist Society blue tie, a Hickey Freeman sports coat, black leather open toed sandals (no sox), and a tinkling bell ankle bracelet to church on Sunday.

  65. Clark Goble on March 22, 2004 at 2:32 pm

    Wiskas, I think most of this thread has been good natured humor poking fun at ourselves. While those in corporate America wear suits and Mormons wear suits, I don’t think Mormon suit wearing arises from corporate America.

    There is a tradition that one should dress nicely (i.e. not in your regular clothes) for Sunday, but not dress extravagantly. That happens to parallel what corporate America does, but I believe the connection is fairly coincidentally. Missionaries do tend to adopt more of a “corporate look.” But I think that is because they want elders to look professional so people will listen to them. But this varies from area to area. One of my MTC teachers was told to wear camoflage gear and carry a machete and backpack. Of course he was mainly teaching in the jungle. I also don’t think corporate America tends to wear bulky bike helmets. (grin)

    My personal view is that Mormons both embrace differences as well as try to seek common ground. The problem is that the vast majority of Mormons come from suburbian culture. What makes this funny to so many of us is that frequently Mormons in their ignorance have a hard time distinguishing American suburban culture from what’s normal in church. But the fact we poke fun at this so much and so many of us recognize it as a problem as we go around the world suggests its not quite the mammoth conformity some think. (Wow – run on sentence)

    That’s not to deny a problem. But I think it is just the problem of people raised in relative wealth, homogenity and prosperity reaching out to help others. As they reach out their naivete sometimes gets in the way.

  66. whiskas on March 22, 2004 at 2:47 pm

    Yes I have to admit my grammer and spelling aern’t my stronger points, but hang on a minute did you say use proper American…English you mean you cad and bounder, by the way what is a hicky freeman sports coat, sorry english you know, well done all for not being offended in any way, its good to be able to discuss spiritual differences without angst or anger,
    peace and love to all.x.
    p.s. your still wrong.x.

  67. lyle on March 22, 2004 at 3:01 pm

    Whiskas:
    1. yup, i meant that as a joke thrown into your corner re: english vs. american. cad & bounder indeed! lol! :)
    2. hicky freeman is an all-too expensive brand of suits known for their sinfully large thread count and use of mohair. ask clark…he probably owns several! ;)
    3. thanks for letting me be rong. :)
    Seriously, given that my focus is on “being” loving & accepting, i’m not really bothered by “holding” rong opinions or “doing” rong politics, etc.

  68. Gee on March 22, 2004 at 5:25 pm

    lyle, yes, the Spirit, not the delivery, is what is important. I just think we limit ourselves when we try to fit a world wide church into a mold of how it has been done since the 1830′s (and prior if we’re talking Protestantism).

    wiskas, just as ‘new age’ has a tag suggesting drug taking hippies, the clothes we wear, the music we listen too, movies, books, etc… seem as mormon ‘tags’ to you, which may not be a bad thing. But, most church members choose to live a certain standard, consuming media how they will, and are only compelled to do so by their own relationship to God. If any are compelled by anything else, they do not understand the gospel. I agree, “no individual can flourish, bloom, grow and learn in an environment of dictatorship.” And it is not true that church members succumb to dictatorship. Our leaders are not dictators. You can only go for so long abstaining from suggested actions before you begin to question the source of council. I don’t abstain from coffee to please anyone, except maybe God and myself.

  69. Adam Greenwood on March 22, 2004 at 6:14 pm

    I am the only one a little taken aback that the apostle of loving and embracing different cultures is calling us Hitlerite dictator-followers because we have an informal dress code for our church services?

    The thing with embracing different cultures is that sometimes the cultures are, ah, different.

  70. whiskas on March 22, 2004 at 8:54 pm

    Ah.. thats the thing Adam you see, by having a dress code that makes everyone look the same, you are excluding different cultures and not embracing them at all.
    And Gee…you say you abstain from coffee to please yourself and not because of any church directive but do you know why? coffe has also been proven to help in the reduction of diabeties and colon cancer, a glass of red wine has been proven to help in the digestine of food and the thinning of red blood cells so reducing heart disease due to clotting and aertery thinning, you see if I was to set up the only true church on the planet at this time I would say, dont spray crops with pesticide, dont produce drinks with e numbers and sugar free additives that cause hyper activity and heart disease../coffee and tea…hmmm pretty lame help in being healthy I would say. if I was you I would start to question the source of council.
    you see its also been proven that drinking to much water can lead to seizures, deleirium, coma and then death. should your word of wisdom also include water?
    OK let me end with one question, and I ask this in total sincerity. Gee..
    do you really abstain from all those things for youself and god..or because you have been told to?
    ouch…I feel an onslaught coming on. OK look at it this way. this is good for your testimony right. lets put the new age hippy right…hmm a challenge. peace and love to all. I mean that.x.

  71. Logan on March 22, 2004 at 9:03 pm

    Whiskas, if you want a ready-made onslaught on this very subject, we’ve just beaten the Word of Wisdom way past dead at Sons of Mosiah:

    http://www.bobandlogan.com/archives/000063.html

  72. whiskas on March 22, 2004 at 9:12 pm

    Sorry dude, please explain to an uneducated Englishman, what is the Sons of Mosiah?…you see I am willing to learn and be open to all.

  73. Logan on March 22, 2004 at 10:02 pm

    It’s another blog that I host. The link will take you there.

  74. Gee on March 22, 2004 at 10:15 pm

    Thanks whiskas, this excites me way too much. Sorry to everyone else that this post is so off topic.

    “do you really abstain from all those things for yourself and god..or because you have been told to?” That is a great question; I thought I had answered.

    I love the flavor of coffee. Though my parents were/are active members, growing up I was given coffee nips and coffee flavored ice-creem and told it was okay because it wasn’t really ‘coffee.’ In junior high I gave in to temptation and drank coffee at a friends house and afterward felt very guilty and ashamed. Was it because I went against what my parents, teachers and leaders expected of me, was I experiencing fear-of-getting-caught, or was I truly remorseful for being what I felt was disobedient to God? The answer is all of thee above. Now, I am a grown adult who doesn’t answer to parents. What would it mean for me to drink coffee now? a revoked temple recommend? That could lead to my feeling shunned by my peers and family. Maybe that’s why I don’t drink coffee. You will never know my intentions.

    All I can offer you, my new hippie friend, is my word that obedience to these principles (far beyong coffee drinking issues) is so wonderfully demanding that anyone who lives them without a knowledge or conviction that God has appointed modern prophets who receive revelation in our behalf, who have made statements concerning God’s commandment concerning a paltry thing such as coffee, will not last as a pacificator for the selfish cause of approval by family or peers.

    Then you ask if I know why I am commanded not to. No, I really don’t know the reason why. Coffee may prove to offer physical health benefits–as you have pointed out–and also health risks. I do know that God is very protective of my freedom to choose. Coffee has habit forming agents. Addiction obstructs our ability to choose. That is some reasoning I appease myself with, but I never really know.

    That is one thing that intrigues me about such a church. It acknowledges that there IS a higher knowledge, and doesn’t claim nor attempt to spell out all the answers. It compels us to ask God himself. Questioning the source of council is something I do frequently.

    There’s my onslaught. Now, go and watch the edited version of the Matrix and then, pray about it. ;)
    peace

  75. Steve Evans on March 22, 2004 at 11:21 pm

    Adam: “I am the only one a little taken aback that the apostle of loving and embracing different cultures is calling us Hitlerite dictator-followers because we have an informal dress code for our church services?”

    Adam, if you’re trying to get YET ANOTHER apology out of me, you should know better!!

  76. whiskas on March 23, 2004 at 6:27 pm

    Whiskas, if you want a ready-made onslaught on this very subject, we’ve just beaten the Word of Wisdom way past dead at Sons of Mosiah:

    Thanx for that link I enjoyed very much reading everyones comments, interesting though that everyone had different thoughts on the subject, even it seems, as commented on the thread, do your church leaders, yet no one has any hard and fast answers, so at the end of the day it all boils down to your own individual testimony that it is there for a reason, Gee thanx for your comments I enjoyed it greatly, again…no answers just a very good testimony of why you adhere to your word of wisdom, even though you youself can find no reason for abstaining from tea and coffee. So I guess its time for me to move on, as I have learned what I needed to know, and the posts on the Sons of Mosiah board gave me that message very strongly…you adhere to your beliefs because of faith that your leaders are right..cool…thats good enough…not for me as I said earlier on, there are so many things we could be directed on…fossil fueless cars so we dont destroy the ozone…which by the way is alreadt screwed…e numbers…additives…pesticedes, oh the list goes on, big macs, fast foods of all description. the biggest threat to our health at the moment is obesity brought on by all the fast food stuff, but hey, I stop now. you have your faith and I have mine, thanx for the ride. peace to you all.
    whiskas.x.

  77. Mike on April 5, 2004 at 1:59 am

    Well, I’m not even sure how I stumbled onto this blog-

    Wait- I do.
    I think it was a google search for lds artists.
    I also checked out Nate’s blog, but didn’t look too far into it. Nate, do you have a faq there or a basic background section?

    Any how, I do find the discussion interesting and may come around more often.
    I was going to post some coments but realize they aren’t really needed. Just wanted to say thanks for the discussion.

  78. Richard B. on April 8, 2004 at 5:12 am

    While Nate has created quite a convoluted theory here, I have found that Occam’s Razor provides a much easier approach to this question and reveals a far simpler and more accurate explanation.

    The Mormon Church believes that it is led by direct and current revelation (“… whether by (God’s) own voice or by the voice of [His] servants, it is the same” [D&C 1:38]). Young, the highest of those “servants” (ie, prophet) at the time repeatedly declared, as did many other GAs thereafter, that the “Blacks” would never hold the priesthood until after the resurrection, period, and then not until after all of Adam’s posterity had first received their blessing in the Priesthood. The Blacks were to be the very last to receive it.

    And thus… God had spoken; “…the thinking’s been done” and everyone thanked God they had a prophet “…to guide them in these Latter Days.”

    However as sensibilities regarding race did an almost complete about-face during the next 100+ years, each successive prophet faced more and more pressure to change this doctrine that was being perceived more and more to be racist… though knowing that if this “God-given” doctrine were reversed it would prove false the prophecies of former prophets and call into serious question the Church’s own credibility.

    What to do… what to do?!

    Thankfully for Kimball, the decision was most likely helped by the timely disavowals by GAs of other Young-”revealed” doctrines (eg, “Adam-God”, “Blood Atonement”). Thus as it became obvious that more damage would be done to the Church in not permitting full racial equality than would be caused by contradicting yet another of Young’s prophecies, why not toss out the “Blacks and the Priesthood” doctrine, too? I mean as long as they were already filling the disavowed-doctrine dumpster anyway…?

    And so… they did.

    _________________________________________________________

    The funny PR damage control concocted for this was the tacit introduction of a quirky yet convenient little doctrine commonly referred to as “progressive revelation” that does for such pesky situations what the doctrine of “Limbo” did for the gaping hole in Catholic dogma.

    Contrary to the earlier pronouncements by “God” to JS that “though the heavens and the earth pass away yet my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled” as revealed to his “servants”, the prophets (ibid.), “Progressive Revelation” today has only the pronouncements of the current prophet regarded as God’s Will… even when such pronouncements fly in direct conflict and contradiction with prophetic pronouncements of earlier prophets.

    Of course any thinking person can see that this better describes the longevity of policies made by a CEO, a King, or even a Pope, than it does the prophecies and revelations of a Prophet.

    And then there is Hinckley’s strange round of late-80′s television and newspaper interviews wherein he inexplicably acted as though he had never heard of or felt were either not taught or “…not doctrinal” many of the most basic “eternal” doctrines pronounced by JS and former prophets upon which the Mormon view of the Plan of Salvation itself depends. Specifically, he declared that polygamy was “not doctrinal”, that the foundational Mormon doctrine of God having once been as we are and that we can become as He is as being only “…a couplet” that he believes “…isn’t even taught anymore”, and that revelation could come as easily to the world through the Pope as it could through him.

    Kinda reminds me of the sad situation of a woman who must choose between dying of starvation or selling her body… either way she loses, but she does what she must to survive. So also the Church in proclaiming itself led by Prophets, only to then have those Prophets declare as revelations completely false doctrine, was eventually forced into choosing between dying from political starvation for being increasingly viewed as a racist, blood-thirsty, cultish organization, or selling off the virtue of its claims to divine revelation through a prophet of God so as to survive.

    Of course being forced to give up virtue for some degree of survival is one thing. But doing on camera what Hinckley did in publicly treating as trivial and unimportant the very foundations of what the Mormon Church stands for is shockingly akin to the woman in the former example later taking up public streetwalking as a career choice.

  79. wgh on April 21, 2004 at 1:22 am

    I am supposed to be studying for a PHD final exam and ran across this site looking for a health link with Mormons and obesity (one of my comp questions). Although I am a bit behind since the last post was dated April 8, I can’t help but interject a few comments. A few years ago, I worked at a University department with a well-versed professor who happened to be black. He was very impressed with our converstations until he learned that I was Mormon. His opinion of me changed due to the Priesthood issue being discussed in this posting. I was quite taken back at this situation and meditated upon it for days to try to reach some form of understanding and resolution. At the time I suppose I should have done some more historical investigating, however what seemed to work for me in my mind was that the Lord opens doors to fulfill His purpose. Events such as the civil war, abolishing slavery, and most importantly the civil right movements (with key players such as Rosa, and MLK and then the segregation of the 70′s (Remeber the Titans) all paved the way for society to be able to accept the Priesthood for all males. So that’s my take on it.
    Similarly, I spent many years in Germany as a military brat and saw the Berlin wall (it’s left quite a traumatic impression upon my 10 year old mind), but at events have transpired there are now temples and missionaries serving in a unified Germany.
    Perhaps the events now transpiring throughout the Middle East are preparing the way and opening doors for religious events that are yet to transpire. After all these are the last days, aren’t they?
    Sorry, I got a bit carried away here, but we must not forget to consider the Lord’s hand in all these things?
    Also, I’ve been working on this theory that ties in with the cultural side of Mormons. Anthropologically speaking, (sort of) a culture develops when people coexist. Since many Mormons live in the Utah area a “Mormon culture” has developed as a result, that may or may not directly reflect the actual doctrine of the Church It would be difficult then to determine sometimes which is the culture and which is the doctrine? But of course that is a whole different train of thought and I have gone on enough so back to studying, but this has been a pleasant and inspiring diversion.
    Thanks