Here are my notes. I decided to focus on OD-2.
Write on the board: CAUSE(S) EFFECTS
–We are, unsurprisingly, not very good at talking about the history of blacks in the Church.
(1) We arenâ€™t entirely sure why there was a ban. The official position of the Church (regardless of what you have heard from other sources) is that we do not know. Even President Kimball (in a private letter to his son, with some tentativeness) suggested that he didnâ€™t know if the ban was a mistake, or not a mistake, or what the root cause of it was. Hence, when we ask whyâ€”an obvious questionâ€”we can end up with speculation and contention.
(2) We are vaguely embarrassed by the ban.
–Discuss difference between cause(s) and effects. We arenâ€™t going to talk about the former. We are going to talk about some of the effects of the ban, not its causes. I am not conflating the two: I am not suggesting that these results are the reason for the ban, just that they happened, and we can learn from them.
Black Saints showed a faith that I can only aspire to.
Ask: Think about your ethnic background. If tomorrow President Hinckley announced that people of your background could not hold the priesthood or be endowed or married in the temple, would you stay active in the Church? What would it take for you to stay active in the Church? Think about this experience:
In 1974, Helvecio and Ruda Martins [Brazilians with black ancestry] and their son Marcus received extraordinary patriarchal blessings that promised things that seemed impossible. The patriarch . . . promised their son Marcus that he would preach the gospel, and the language the patriarch used suggested to them a full-time mission. Despite their uncertainty the Martinses opened a mission savings account for Marcus. . . .Helvecio Martins was called as public communications director for Northern Brazil. His responsibilities included publicity about the upcoming temple dedication. One day after a committee meeting, Helvecio and Ruda toured the construction site of the temple they expected never to enter, even though they both contributed financially to it (Sister Martins even sold her jewelry and donated the proceeds.). (This is quoted from the new bio of President Kimball.)
Thatâ€™s amazing faith. This from Marcus H. Martins (from the talk on his website, “All Are (Really) Alike Unto God,” which I think is the single best article on the topic of the priesthood ban):
A few individuals have asked me: â€œWas it hard to not hold the priesthood?â€? or â€œHow could you be a member of this Church without the priesthood?â€? I make mine the answer given by Peter, found in the New Testament, at the end of John chapter 6. After some of the disciples left the Savior because they were offended by the â€œBread of Lifeâ€? sermon, the Savior turned to the Twelve and asked: â€œâ€¦ Will ye also go away?â€? And Peter answered: â€œâ€¦ Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.â€? . . . I answer that in my heart and in my mind I had found the words of eternal life taught by true living prophets and apostles. My parents and I had nowhere else to go.
Note how he was focused on essentials. How you are treated at Church is not essential. The truth is essential.
The ban gave everyone a chance to show their true character.
This excerpt from the personal history of Jane Elizabeth Manning James, a black convert, tells of her arrival in Nauvoo. Her group arrived, after walking hundreds of miles, losing their possessions, wearing out their shoes, and being harassed by authorities who thought they were runaway slaves at the home of Joseph and Emma. How do you think they treated these bedraggled souls? Here is Sister James’ description:
When we found [the Smith home], Sister Emma was standing in the door, and she kindly said, “Come in, come in!”
Brother Joseph said to some white sisters that was present, “Sisters, I want you to occupy this room this evening with some brothers and sisters that have just arrived.” Brother Joseph placed the chairs around the room and then he went and brought Sister Emma and Dr. Bernhisel and introduced them to us. Brother Joseph took a chair and sat down by me and said, “You have been the head of this little band, haven’t you!” I answered, “Yes sir!” He then said, “God bless you! Now I would like you to relate your experience in your travels.”
I related to them all I have above stated–and a great deal more minutely, as many incidents has passed from my memory since then. Brother Joseph slapped Dr. Bernhisel on the knee and said, “What do you think of that, Dr.? Isn’t that faith?” The Dr. said, “Well I rather think it is. If it had have been me, I fear I should have backed out and returned to my home!” [Joseph Smith] then said, “God bless you. You are among friends now and you will be protected.”
They sat and talked to us awhile, gave us words of encouragement and good counsel. We all stayed there . . . one week. By that time, all but myself had secured homes. Brother Joseph came in every morning to say good morning and [see] how we were. During our trip I had lost all my clothes–they were all gone. . . . One large trunk full of clothes of all descriptions–mostly new!
On the morning that my folks all left to go to work, I looked at myself–clothed in the only two pieces I possessed– [and] I sat down and wept. Brother Joseph came into the room as usual, and said, “Good morning. Why–not crying, [are you]?” “Yes sir. The folks have all gone and got themselves homes and I have got none.” He said, “Yes you have. You have a home right here, if you want it. You mustn’t cry; we dry up all tears here.”
When you consider that this was the 1830s, you can see the character of the Prophet Joseph Smith from this incident. Note, also, how he set the tone for others to act by inviting the sisters to listen.
Also read Darius Grayâ€™s experience from pg 372 ft 21 of the SWK bio draft.
Think: What situations are tests for you and how are you doing with them?
Our leaders, even the most dogmatic among them, are humble, teachable, and remarkably free of ego.
Elder McConkie was known for his explanations of the ban said, after the revelation was received (from “All Are Alike Unto God”):
I would like to say something about the new revelation relative to our taking the priesthood to those of all nations and races…. 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. I have said the same things, and people write me letters and say, ‘You said such and such, and how is it now that we do such and such?â€™ And all I can say to that is that it is time disbelieving people repented and got in line and believed in a living, modern prophet. Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or President 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. It doesn’t make a particle of difference what anybody ever said about the Negro matter before the first day of June of . It is a new day and a new arrangement, and the Lord has now given the revelation that sheds light into the world on this subject. As to any slivers of light or any particles of darkness of the past, we forget about them.
I am impressed by his humility and his teachableness because I personally have a hard time with those things. Can they be developed? How? I know that I would have wanted to rationalize what I had said in the past instead of just swallowing it.
The prophet knows who the head of the Church is (and he isn’t it).
The priesthood ban received extensive consideration by the prophets going back at least to President McKay in the 1950s (the next two quotes are from the new bio of President McKay):
[President McKayâ€™s daughter-in-law] Mildred Calderwood McKay, who served on the general board of the Primary . . . expressed her anguish that black male children, who commingled with white male children during their Primary years . . . were excluded from the Aaronic Priesthood when they turned twelve. â€œCanâ€™t they be ordained also?â€? she asked. He sadly replied, â€œNo.â€? â€œThen I think it is time for a new revelation.â€? He answered, â€œSo do I.â€? [On another occasion Elder Marion D.] Hanks related an incident from a prior trip to Vietnam, in which he had comforted a wounded black LDS soldier. As he told the story, McKay began to weep. Referring to the priesthood ban, McKay said, â€œI have prayed and prayed and prayed, but there has been no answer.â€?
Church architect Richard Jackson recalled the following:
I remember one day that President McKay came into the office. We could see that he was very much distressed . . . . He said, â€˜Well, Iâ€™ve inquired of the Lord repeatedly. The last time I did it was late last night. I was told, with no discussion, not to bring the subject up with the Lord again; that the time will come, but it will not be my time, and to leave the subject alone.â€™ . . . I can still see him coming in with a bit of a distraught appearance, which was unusual for President McKay.
Ask: What do you learn about prophets from President McKayâ€™s experience?
â€œWhatâ€™s their problem?â€? â€œMaybe Iâ€™m the problem.â€?
This is from the new bio of President Kimball:
During the time Harold B. Lee was President . . . he asked Marion D. Hanks what answer Elder Hanks gave when asked about the policy on race and priesthood. Elder Hanks responded that he believed change would come through inspiration when whites had sufficiently matured spiritually.
Iâ€™m not breaking my rule about â€˜causesâ€™ even though Elder Hanks was looking at causes. I want to make the point that while most people were trying to figure out what was wrong with black men that kept them from the priesthood, Elder Hanks looked at what was wrong with whites.
[Incidentally, it is reported that President Lee also prayed about lifting the ban and was told â€˜not yet.â€™]
Asking â€˜whyâ€™ is useless and probably dangerous
In 1988 Elder Dallin H. Oaks, also of the Quorum of the Twelve, gave an interview to the Associated Press. And this is what he said in the interview:
… Itâ€™s not the pattern of the Lord to give reasons. We can put reasons to commandments. When we do weâ€™re on our own. Some people put reasons to [the ban] and they turned out to be spectacularly wrong. There is a lesson in that. â€¦ â€œThe lesson Iâ€™ve drawn from that, 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’m referring to reasons given by general authorities and reasons elaborated upon [those reasons] by others. The whole set of reasons seemed to me to be unnecessary risk taking. … Letâ€™s [not] make the mistake thatâ€™s been made in the past, here and in other areas, trying to put reasons to revelation. The reasons turn out to be man-made to a great extent. The revelations are what we sustain as the will of the Lord and thatâ€™s where safety lies.
Note: I’m too lazy to write out the proper citations and links to the quotations, but if you really want them, I will.
Bonus: Go to www.soulsaints.com and you can listen to some of the most dirge-like LDS hymns done gospel style.