My Cri de Coeur to Randy Bott [Updated][Update 2]

February 28, 2012 | 121 comments
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[Update 2:] The Church has responded, both with respect to Dr. Bott’s statement and with a statement on the Church and race. I’m adding the text of each to the bottom of the post, but I want to highlight these two excerpts:

We condemn racism, including any and all past racism by individuals both inside and outside the Church.

The origins of priesthood availability are not entirely clear. Some explanations with respect to this matter were made in the absence of direct revelation and references to these explanations are sometimes cited in publications. These previous personal statements do not represent Church doctrine.

(In both, emphasis mine.) The first excerpt is wonderful, not pulling punches against our own. And the second, although it’s phrased in the passive voice, is pretty much as explicit a renunciation of previous thought as I’ve seen in the Church, and I know that I’ll be pulling these statements out when (or, I hope, if) I hear these repeated again.

Aaargh!!!

I thought we were past this. I really did; I’d heard rumors on the internet for years of people teaching offensive racist folklore about the long-repealed priesthood ban. But I had never actually experienced anybody seriously making those arguments—I had only heard them in the context of, This is what some people claim. And I know that anecdote is not evidence, but I’ll put forward my anecdote anyway:

Once, while I was in high school, I asked my dad why black members of the church had been prevented, until 1978, from holding the priesthood. Dad’s answer? “I don’t know.” He didn’t try to make up or come up with an after-the-fact excuse. He confessed that he didn’t know, but that he nonetheless believed that the Church was true.

And then, today happened. A Washington Post article, looking at the history of the priesthood ban in the Church, cites and quotes extensively from Randy Bott, a BYU professor of religion, who repeats a number of the racist folkloric justifications for the priesthood ban, and provides some I hadn’t heard before.

I’m not going to respond to Dr.[fn1] Bott’s arguments. Others have done so far more thoroughly and eloquently than I, and I don’t want yet another written record of the poor thinking of our past. But if you want authoritative refutation of the folklore, you can look to our prophets, seers, and revelators (e.g., President Hinckley,[fn2] Elder Holland,[fn3] Elder McConkie[fn4]). If you want detailed explanations of why these explanations are folklore and how perpetuating the folklore is actually harmful to real people, you can look to FAIR, Edward Kimball, and especially pretty much the entire oeuvre of Margaret Blair Young.[fn5] I realize, of course, that we abhor a doctrinal vacuum, and rush to fill it with whatever justification we can think of. But these individuals and so many others have worked hard to brush this explanatory detritus out of the way. I think it’s fair to say that, if you know why God didn’t allow those of African descent to hold the priesthood, you’re wrong.[fn6]

[Update:] BCC has a must-read response from Armand Mauss and a link to Lester Bush’s “Mormonism’s Negro Doctrine.” Both are must-reads. I’m sure that others have responded and will respond, too.

Rather than a rebuttal, then, this is my cri de coeur. I’ll address the rest to Dr. Bott:

Dr. Bott,

I’ve never met you, nor have I taken any of your classes. (I may, however, have been given one of your books before my mission, or maybe I found one on my mission.) And I know that you aren’t the only member of the Church who espouses these folkloric justifications. Moreover, I assume that you are a faithful member who wants what is best for the Church and its members.

So why am I (and so many others) so outraged at your comments? Because you are immensely influential within the Church; you are a popular teacher at BYU, you are a popular author, and people respect and believe what you say. Which means that, when you repeat these problematic statements, they get taken seriously, and they get new life. And wrong thinking that I (and others) though was behind us rears again its ugly head.

I hope, sincerely hope, that, when my daughters are in high school, they ask me why blacks couldn’t hold the priesthood. And I hope, in answering them, that I don’t have to address these same ideas that have sadly floated through the ether of Mormonism, because I hope that they haven’t been exposed to such horrific statements. But every time they are repeated, they regain new life, and there’s a greater chance that my daughters will hear them.

I know that you’re a teacher, and that you want to provide knowledge to your students. I’m a teacher, too. But when I don’t know the answer—and by “know,” I mean, know exactly where in the tax law it is cited—I tell them I don’t know. And I tell them that I will research and find the answer. And I research and find the answer. I learned as an associate at a law firm that saying, “I don’t know,” is better than giving an incorrect answer, because the incorrect answer could cost my client millions of dollars.

But that’s the thing: should I give my students the wrong answer, it may cost them or their clients money. It may cost them significant money. But my wrong answers have no salvific consequences. Yours, however, do.

Please, please, please repudiate what you said to the Washington Post. Please tell your current and former students that you were wrong. There is no shame in being wrong, as long as we can fix the problem and move ahead. And you can fix the problem and move ahead.

Yours truly,

Sam

[fn1] I’ve agonized over whether to refer to him as “Dr.,” “Professor,” or “Brother” Bott. Ultimately, because the reporter appears to have looked to him in his role as a professor at BYU, I’ve decided to go with “Dr.”

[fn2] “I don’t know what the reason was.”

[fn3] “We don’t pretend that something wasn’t taught or practice wasn’t pursued for whatever reason. But I think we can be unequivocal and we can be declarative in our current literature, in books that we reproduce, in teachings that go forward, whatever, that from this time forward, from 1978 forward, we can make sure that nothing of that is declared. That may be where we still need to make sure that we’re absolutely dutiful, that we put [a] careful eye of scrutiny on anything from earlier writings and teachings, just [to] make sure that that’s not perpetuated in the present. That’s the least, I think, of our current responsibilities on that topic.”

[fn4] “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.”

[fn5] Need more? The Juvenile Instructor also has a whole lot of links. And check out Ardis’s links in comment 4.

[fn6] Note that this isn’t meant to assume that God was behind the ban; my personal view is that fallible leaders incorporated their preexisting beliefs into their structuring of Church policies. But I realize that not everybody agrees with that; even those who denounce the racist folklore of the past can argue that we don’t have enough evidence to pin the blame on past leaders. Which is why, in the end, no matter what our beliefs and suspicions, the only completely true answer seems to be, We don’t know.

Official Church statements:

The Church and Race: “All Are Alike Unto God”

The gospel of Jesus Christ is for everyone. The Book of Mormon states, “black and white, bond and free, male and female; … all are alike unto God” (2 Nephi 26:33). This is the Church’s official teaching.

People of all races have always been welcomed and baptized into the Church since its beginning. In fact, by the end of his life in 1844 Joseph Smith, the founding prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, opposed slavery. During this time some black males were ordained to the priesthood. At some point the Church stopped ordaining male members of African descent, although there were a few exceptions. It is not known precisely why, how or when this restriction began in the Church, but it has ended. Church leaders sought divine guidance regarding the issue and more than three decades ago extended the priesthood to all worthy male members. The Church immediately began ordaining members to priesthood offices wherever they attended throughout the world.

The Church unequivocally condemns racism, including any and all past racism by individuals both inside and outside the Church. In 2006, then Church president Gordon B. Hinckley declared that “no man who makes disparaging remarks concerning those of another race can consider himself a true disciple of Christ. Nor can he consider himself to be in harmony with the teachings of the Church. Let us all recognize that each of us is a son or daughter of our Father in Heaven, who loves all of His children.”

Recently, the Church has also made the following statement on this subject:

“The origins of priesthood availability are not entirely clear. Some explanations with respect to this matter were made in the absence of direct revelation and references to these explanations are sometimes cited in publications. These previous personal statements do not represent Church doctrine.”

Church Statement Regarding ‘Washington Post’ Article on Race and the Church

The Church issued the following statement today in response to news media requests:

The positions attributed to BYU professor Randy Bott in a recent Washington Post article absolutely do not represent the teachings and doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. BYU faculty members do not speak for the Church. It is unfortunate that the Church was not given a chance to respond to what others said.

The Church’s position is clear—we believe all people are God’s children and are equal in His eyes and in the Church. We do not tolerate racism in any form.

For a time in the Church there was a restriction on the priesthood for male members of African descent. It is not known precisely why, how, or when this restriction began in the Church but what is clear is that it ended decades ago. Some have attempted to explain the reason for this restriction but these attempts should be viewed as speculation and opinion, not doctrine. The Church is not bound by speculation or opinions given with limited understanding.

We condemn racism, including any and all past racism by individuals both inside and outside the Church.

121 Responses to My Cri de Coeur to Randy Bott [Updated][Update 2]

  1. Sam Brunson on February 28, 2012 at 10:18 pm

    One more thing: before commenting, please take a look at our Comment Policy, and especially numbers 2 and 3. You can disagree with Dr. Bott (or with me, for that matter), but please don’t attack him personally or call his righteousness into question. I will delete comments if they violate our policy.

  2. Christian J on February 28, 2012 at 10:33 pm

    This is not the sort comment welcome here at T&S, but in light of this post, I can think of nothing else to say. That Dr. Bott is allowed to publicly speak such things is in large part the fault of the institution and its unwillingness to give a *once and for all* statement of refutation. If any good comes out of this, it will be the final realization that staying silent as an organization will not do. BTW, to many non-Mormons, saying “we don’t know” makes us look either a. stupid or b. sinister.

  3. Sam Brunson on February 28, 2012 at 10:42 pm

    Christian, to the extent that outsiders think “I don’t know” makes us look stupid or sinister, I’m not sympathetic. “I don’t know” is a perfectly acceptable answer; in my experience, although it’s less satisfying than a definitive statement, people appreciate the candor of an “I don’t know” rather than a made-up (and likely incorrect) answer. I certainly do.

  4. Christian J on February 28, 2012 at 10:44 pm

    But Dan, all Bott has to do is quote Mark E. Peterson or JFSmith or Brigham Young. Were they “eligible” to hold the priesthood in spite of their remarks? Was Pres. Hinckley speaking of them when he made this statement? I assume not. I guess that’s the tight rope and I sympathize to a degree with the leadership. But I sympathize more with those that were banned.

  5. Christian J on February 28, 2012 at 10:54 pm

    I hear ya Sam. I agree that the “I don’t know” can be an honest answer. However, the ban very closely follows another very obvious arc of American history and that often seems very obvious to anyone not invested in Mormon truth claims.

  6. Orwell on February 28, 2012 at 11:13 pm

    From the article:

    Bott compares blacks with a young child prematurely asking for the keys to her father’s car, and explains that similarly until 1978, the Lord determined that blacks were not yet ready for the priesthood.

    “What is discrimination?” Bott asks. “I think that is keeping something from somebody that would be a benefit for them, right? But what if it wouldn’t have been a benefit to them?” Bott says that the denial of the priesthood to blacks on Earth — although not in the afterlife — protected them from the lowest rungs of hell reserved for people who abuse their priesthood powers. “You couldn’t fall off the top of the ladder, because you weren’t on the top of the ladder. So, in reality the blacks not having the priesthood was the greatest blessing God could give them.”

    I am speechless before such spectacularly embarrassing, clueless, and incompetent remarks.

  7. Sonny on February 28, 2012 at 11:31 pm

    I agree that some good will come of this incident if we hear a final repudiation of the reasons for the ban Brother Bott was repeating. I think, however, there is huge resistance to making such a repudiation. Those reasons had been uttered by too many high ranking and recent Church authorities. I think that too many testimonies would fail if such a repudiation were given, not because of a strong belief in the reasons but because the reasons were uttered by so many. A repudiation to many will cause faith-stumbling cognitive dissonance in my opinion. I suspect the thinking is that it is easier to just stay quiet about the ban, and hope that as many church members as possible will view the quiet as repudiation lite.

  8. Shawn Tucker on February 28, 2012 at 11:36 pm

    Um, I feel like I should say one thing on behalf of my wonderful anthropology friends (field, not store!): I’m not fond of how we are using the word “folklore.” I know that others used this term to mean false cultural ideas, and maybe one should just realize that “folklore” is as problematic as “myth,” depending on the context. But, I know many wonderful LDS and non-LDS “folklorists” who do think of themselves as studying false ideas. Just a little FYI…

  9. Sam Brunson on February 28, 2012 at 11:48 pm

    Shawn, I’m completely sympathetic. FWIW, I think “folklore” is the wrong word, and if this conversation were happening ahistorically, I would have chosen something else. But in bloggernacle discourse, this has been referred to as “folklore” long enough that it would be jarring to call it something else. Plus, I couldn’t think of a better descriptor.

  10. gst on February 28, 2012 at 11:48 pm

    Before I scrolled down to read footnote 1 I really thought it was going to be a dig at the Ed.D. degree.

  11. Mark B. on February 29, 2012 at 12:08 am

    What makes Professor Bot think that he has the right to speak on this subject “for the church.” And, despite his lack of any ecclesiastical authority, he has to know that the rest of the world will read “religion professor at BYU” and think that he somehow knows what he’s talking about.

    My recommendation is that he learn to shut up. And then perhaps he could explain how any person is really worthy of or ready to receive the priesthood. That suggestion of his, as to Blacks, was beyond appalling. He may well be a popular teacher–I have a vague sense that I’ve heard his name somewhere–but he hasn’t given any evidence that he’s deserving either of a tenured position (even in the BYU religion department) or of the responsibilities of the priesthood.

    And, yeah, I dropped the last “t” on purpose.

  12. Cynthia L. on February 29, 2012 at 12:18 am

    I’m still pretty speechless about this. Well, that’s not true. I can think of many things to say, but they all make liberal use of profanity.

  13. Toria on February 29, 2012 at 12:37 am

    I just sent to following message to President Samuelson:

    President Samuelson,

    I write as a BYU graduate and member of the church to urge you to take immediate action regarding Professor Randy Bott’s alleged comments about blacks and the Priesthood (see Washington Post article “The Genesis of a church’s stand on race” dated February 28, 2012). To imply that, because of the color of a man’s skin, he is less able than other men to understand and fulfill the covenants associated with obtaining the Priesthood (and thus is better off being denied the Priesthood) is unthinkably racist.

    It is disheartening to see a BYU religion professor misrepresent the church in such a grievous way. Bott’s comments, if they are indeed attributable to him, should warrant his dismissal.

    On behalf of all members of the church, especially those of African dissent, please denounce these statements immediately and take effective action to dispel the false doctrine that was perpetuated in the Washington Post article.

    If you’d also like to write a letter, here’s the link:
    http://president.byu.edu/site/feedback

  14. Cynthia L. on February 29, 2012 at 12:47 am

    @Toria #13:

    Couple things—

    Generally I’m sad that BYU doesn’t have better tenure/academic freedom for its faculty. So in the spirit of ACLU defending Neo Nazis’ right to burn down ACLU headquarters, I’m reluctant to turn myself hypocrite and call for this guy to be fired over his speech, no matter how repugnant.

    Secondly, I heard he was set for retirement at the end of this semester anyhow.

  15. Margaret Blair Young on February 29, 2012 at 1:05 am

    Thank you, Sam. Sadly, there are some who are quite certain that they can simultaneously say “we don’t know” and then explain the Curse of Cain. For example, see the author of this post who says ernestly, “It is not the purpose of the author to deal with any of these various theories, nor is it in his best interest to further add to the list of theoretical explanations as to why the ban took place.” He then explains: “This curse, according to LDS theology based upon statements by Joseph Smith, Orson Pratt, John Taylor and others, was the beginning of the restriction of the priesthood from descendants of Ham, who were claimed to be descendants, in turn, of Cain through Egyptus, wife of Ham.” http://www.lightplanet.com/mormons/response/general/Blacks_Priesthood_Pyle.htm
    I’m afraid it’s very possible that Randy Bott considers that he’s simply stating what everyone should know. The reality is that the quotes you linked speak to racism in general and to the silly concept of fencesitters in the pre-mortal life, but do NOT mention the curse of Cain/Canaan. I mention it in my little posts, but I have zero authority. In fact, i suspect I’m one of “those who shall not be named” in the Pyle article I linked above, because I am fearless about stating what I know: The restriction did not start with Joseph Smith, but with Brigham Young. It came about in a racist nation at a time when slavery was the number one issue. EVERYONE believed in the Curse of Cain/Canaan. It was the whole justification for slavery. They had to find a way to say God had given them permission to treat other human beings like animals–or worse.

  16. Jeremy Orbe-Smith on February 29, 2012 at 1:13 am

    Another handy link is Noah’s Curse: The Biblical Justification of American Slavery by Stirling Adams for BYU Studies, which shows the racist culture which seeped into the Church: https://byustudies.byu.edu/showtitle.aspx?title=7582

  17. ji on February 29, 2012 at 1:14 am

    I’m glad we don’t let the intellectuals among us determine our doctrines.

  18. Mark Brown on February 29, 2012 at 1:16 am

    I don’t mind if Randy Bott gets some kind of official sanction for this. However, if he alone has to carry all the weight for this colossal snafu, it would be an undesirable outcome. As a church we all bear a collective responsibility for this. These views are not a surprise, he has published them on an open blog, yet he is the most popular professor on campus. He has been called by the hierarchy and sustained by the general membership to serve in stake presidencies and as a mission president. Surely his colleagues cannot profess surprise now. The simple and very unpleasant fact is that a man who openly espouses these retrograde views can have a successful career at BYU and also be a priesthood leader.

    If heads have to roll over this, I hope there is more than one. We all have cause to repent.

  19. meg on February 29, 2012 at 2:58 am

    You should also hear what Prof. Bott says in his classes about those who have same-sex attraction–quite sadly stunning.

  20. Ronan on February 29, 2012 at 3:28 am

    I made the following comment over at the other blog, but I hope my obvious love for T&S will prevent you seeing me as a troll. Here it is:

    I have been observing Mormon internet discussion since 1997 and fully participating since 2003. It is fair to say that the overwhelming consensus among Mormons who frequent places such as this is that the racial folklore is an abomination and needs to go. Less overwhelming, but still popular, is the view that the priesthood ban was a sacralized relic of American racism and not the will of God. Neither view seems to be disturbing to a core Mormon faith.

    However, this is all spit and wind given the painfully obvious fact that the situation in our Sunday classes and church universities is at times very different. Thus it is clear that the church, unless it wants to be eternally saddled with the stigma of racism, needs to publicly do something about this. What it says and how it says it is, of course, the Brethren’s prerogative. For all I know, the church may want to own this stuff. But it is clear that the “we don’t know…it’s in the past” strategy has failed if the intention is to prevent the portrayal of the church we love as a racist organisation.

  21. Dan on February 29, 2012 at 6:57 am

    Christian,

    I totally sympathize with those that were banned, and I think the ban was a racist policy that was blamed on God by those who continued to endorse it right until the end. What I’m trying to get at is this: At what point will we confront the Book of Abraham and consider whether or not we should be including that as canon? Because the Book of Abraham is where people like Professor Bott get the idea that blacks come from Cain and that blacks can’t have the priesthood. When will we, as a church confront that?

  22. Ben S. on February 29, 2012 at 7:39 am

    No Dan, it’s not. It has to be read in, it can’t be read out of the text.

  23. Sam Brunson on February 29, 2012 at 7:47 am

    Margaret,
    Thanks for your comment (and all the work you’ve done on this); I remember seeing your “I Am Jane” performed with the Genesis group back when I was in college.

    I agree: it would be wonderful to have a simple, unambiguous statement saying that all prior explanations were wrong, and I have high hopes that such a statement will be issued. That said, I don’t know of any canon of prophetic construction that requires me to read prophetic statements (especially those that are fixing past results) as narrowly as possible.

    In fact, our reading of scripture explicitly doesn’t restrict itself to the context/meaning that the writer would have. And so, until I get something more specific, imperfect as the rebuttals are, I’m willing to read them expansively to condemn not just some folklores but all of them.

  24. Kevin Christensen on February 29, 2012 at 8:24 am

    Look at the link Jeremy provided on the history of “Noah’s Curse: The Biblical Justification of Slavery,” and compare Nibley’s readings in Abraham in Egypt:

    http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/books/?bookid=48&chapid=295

    “In Abraham 1:21—27 we certainly see something of that confusion that results from the mingling of patriarchal and matriarchal claims that left the pharaohs forever in doubt as to just where they stood on authority.

    Pharaoh, being a righteous man, established his kingdom and judged his people wisely and justly all his days, seeking earnestly to imitate that order established by the fathers in the first generations [the pawt], in the days of the first patriarchal reign, even in the reign of Adam, and also of Noah, his father, who blessed him with the blessings of the earth, and with the blessings of wisdom, but cursed him as pertaining to the Priesthood. Now, Pharaoh being of that lineage by which he could not have the right of Priesthood, notwithstanding the Pharaohs would fain claim it from Noah, through Ham (Abraham 1:26—27).

    Question: Why could they not have it?

    Answer: Because, as noted, it came through a matriarchal succession, the first pharaoh being “the eldest son of Egyptus, the daughter of Ham, and it was after the manner of the government of Ham, which was patriarchal” (Abraham 1:25). Pharaoh was of a more righteous line than the sons of Ham, but daughters do not transmit patriarchal succession. In all of this, please note, there is no word of race or color, though that has been the main point of attack on the Book of Abraham by the enemies of the Prophet.”

    Nibley also comments on the story of Joseph and Asenath:

    “At many points this relates to the classic story of the marriage of Joseph and Asenath,157 which explains the mingling and reconciling of the blood of Ham with the blood of Israel. For Asenath, it will be recalled, was the daughter of the high priest of Heliopolis (Genesis 41:45; 46:20), and hence of the pure line of Ham; she was also the wife of Joseph and the mother of our own vaunted ancestor Ephraim (Genesis 41:50—52; 46:20).”

    “These few observations, kept to a minimum, should be enough to make it clear that there is no exclusive equation between Ham and Pharaoh, or between Ham and the Egyptians, or between the Egyptians and the blacks, or between any of the above and any particular curse. What was denied was recognition of patriarchal right to the priesthood made by a claim of matriarchal succession.”

    http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/books/?bookid=48&chapid=296

    This sort of thing is behind the observation of Ben S., that a racist reading justifying a priesthood ban has to be “read into” our Book of Abraham. Nibley shows what it really says, and the review that Jeremy links shows the conceptual inheritance behind such readings that Mormon’s obtained from the larger culture, a “myth” designed to justify a social order that included slavery.

    Kevin Christensen
    Pittsburgh, PA

  25. Dan on February 29, 2012 at 8:44 am

    of course i wrote my comment before reading Jeremy’s link. And yeah, if you read Abraham carefully, it doesn’t note a connection between subsaharan Africans and Egyptians. Only the reader would add that in.

  26. True Order of Hair on February 29, 2012 at 8:51 am

    Good discussion. The essential problem with the church’s position is that it doesn’t address the question that Jesus posed about John the Baptist at Luke 20:4, i.e., was it God who established the priesthood ban, or was it men?

    If it was God, then the church should simply affirm that and either give the reasons or say that it doesn’t know what they are. If it was men, then the church should say that the ban was wrong, and that everyone who affirmed it was wrong.

    It’s a matter of letting the explanation be either yea or nay. Whatsoever more than these cometh of evil. Or maybe the PR department.

  27. Christian J on February 29, 2012 at 10:37 am

    Those reasons had been uttered by too many high ranking and recent Church authorities. I think that too many testimonies would fail if such a repudiation were given, not because of a strong belief in the reasons but because the reasons were uttered by so many.

    You’re totally right – a lot hinges on this. But, I see no other choice than to publicly and thoroughly reform our teachings about modern revelation. If that challenges some testimonies – good. Its about time we developed a systematic theology that can stand up with the other major religions of the world.

    The real revelation in all this, is that in spite of our claims to bring the clear voice of God through our living prophets, on many topics we’re a silent mess.

  28. Adam on February 29, 2012 at 10:41 am

    The Church needs to formally apologize for the ban. That’s the only way forward. There’s no valid theological reason for it, and no evidence that God ever commanded it. It was Brigham Young’s racist policy that no one could seem to let go of. We screwed up, period.

    As to the issue of Cain and Ham and Canaanites, none of that really makes sense either. We all genetically go back to Africa, we all have African ancestors. And the Canaanites, supposedly bearers of the curse, weren’t black. They were an olive-skinned Semitic people, just like the Hebrews. This was a common belief in the 19th century, and one that was used widely (by people of many faiths) to justify slavery, but it’s a myth.

    The Quakers figured this stuff out a long time ago. It’s time we did the same.

  29. KLC on February 29, 2012 at 10:54 am

    Here is why I’m unsatisfied with “we don’t know” answers from the institutional church regarding this issue. Last conference I learned that God answers prayers from future GAs regarding spare change on the street and laundered currency left in some pants, and just about every Sunday in church I am assured that God can and does answer prayers about the mundane minutiae of everyday life. If that is true why wouldn’t he answer the prayer of a prophet asking for guidance about something that impacts our image, our missionary work and the soul of every concerned member who still wrestles with this issue 30+ years after it was changed?

  30. Timothy on February 29, 2012 at 11:50 am

    The “we don’t know” response is racist.

  31. Dave K. on February 29, 2012 at 11:56 am

    Timothy (#30) – I think the more accurate view is that the “we don’t know” response is a tacit admission that racism is the real answer. I know many good members of the church that hold to the “I don’t know” view. None of them are racist. But, tellingly, while they are quick to shoot down any erroneous “folklore” such as curse of cain, they do not dismiss the racism explanation as wrong. They simply say they don’t know.

  32. Sam Brunson on February 29, 2012 at 11:58 am

    Why, Timothy? Do you know? Because I certainly don’t; as I said in the OP, I have my beliefs and suspicions, but they don’t arise to the level of knowledge. So my best answer has to be, I don’t know, which I can follow up with, but I believe it’s because of X, Y, or Z (where X, Y, and Z acknowledge the fallibility of even divinely-chosen and sustained Church leaders).

  33. Timothy on February 29, 2012 at 12:10 pm

    The “we don’t know” response is racist because we *do* know. The priesthood ban is a racist policy instituted due to racism. Period. Attempting to minimize the racism of the church or to hide that racism by the “we don’t know” lie is to care more to protect the church and fallible men than to sincerely care about the harm caused by the racist policy.

    Worse even than the racist folklore is leaving in place a belief that the policy itself was instituted by God. And that remains the fundamental position of the church.

  34. Adam on February 29, 2012 at 12:11 pm

    Just to clarify my post, the common 19th century myth was that Africans were decedents of the Canaanites, and the Canaanites were cursed, and that’s why slavery was approved of God. But the reality is that the Canaanites were a Semitic people who intermarried with and were closely related to the Hebrews. They were not black.

  35. goldengirl on February 29, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    There is certainly Biblical precedence for God having timetables, keeping certain groups of people from some of the privileges of the gospel, i.e. first Jews, then Gentiles, Levites only to administer the priesthood. While channel surfing on TV, I heard a minister of another Christian faith make this statement (paraphrased), “God is entitled to His secrets and mysteries. He is God and He can do that, but once He reveals his word to us, we are responsible to act upon it”, and then he turned to the Bible. I was happy to know that he felt this way. When reading this post and comments, this minister’s remarks came back to me. Maybe this (African americans banned from the priesthood) is one of those occasions where God was keeping silent secrets because of knowledge that we didn’t have at the time, and the only honest response we could give would be, “I don’t know”. Professor Bott might have been better off to say he didn’t know. What seems important to me is how we know act on what we know now.

  36. Adam on February 29, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    There is quite a large difference between assigning one tribe of a small group of tribes to perform sacrificial rites and excluding a single race from the priesthood while allowing all others to do it. And let’s not forget – before Peter’s revelation, Gentiles could still be Christians – all they had to do was convert to Judaism first. And, Peter’s revelation would have included black gentiles every bit as much as white gentiles.

    Where is the revelation excluding blacks from the priesthood? We don’t have one.

    Let’s also not forget that Judah married a Canaanite (Genesis 38:2). If the Canaanites were blacks and cursed from having the priesthood, then that would also exclude Jesus and all 12 apostles from the priesthood.

  37. goldengirl on February 29, 2012 at 2:55 pm

    @Adam, The Levite situation is certainly an example of God limiting who could perform Priesthood ordinances. The fact that Gentiles had to convert to Judaism seems to be, in my mind, an example of a certain prejudice on the part of the early members of the Christian church that the Lord corrected. While these examples are not on the scale of excluding a race, they could certainly be viewed as having some simliarities.

    You are correct that there is no revelation restricting blacks from the priesthood, and the Book of Mormon is clear that the Lord invites everyone to come unto him, black and white, bond and free. This ban on blacks to the Priesthood has always been considered a policy (maybe like the policy that Gentiles needed to convert to Judaism first) that would some day be reversed according to all that I have been told from my childhood,(I am old), to all that I have read. I know that prophets prior to Spencer Kimball (most notably David O. McKay) have inquired as to when this policy should be changed. None of them received a confirming answer until President Kimball became prophet. During the civil rights era, huge pressure was placed upon the Church to give blacks the priesthood, or at least the policy was severly critized, but no change came. The prophets waited for the Lord to speak to them. They don’t give in to peer pressure. Are you asking them to apologize for the process of revelation? Are you asking them to argue with the Lord’s ability to run his Church in his own way and time?

    Sometimes I think there is a point when it comes to trying to understand the things we don’t understand (polygamy, same-sex marriage, Book of Abraham ), after we have done as much study and seeking for ourselves, trying to receive personal inspiration, we have to say “We just don’t know”.

  38. JKC on February 29, 2012 at 3:04 pm

    Thank you, Adam. That’s a great comment. There truly is a huge difference between “this tribe is responsible for the work of the temple” and saying “everyone (men anyway) gets to participate in the priesthood, except this one race.”

  39. JKC on February 29, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    In other words, singling out the Levites to have the priesthood is not at all comparable to singling out descendants of Africans to not have the priesthood.

  40. Dan on February 29, 2012 at 4:42 pm

    why is my comment #3 awaiting moderation? What was offensive about it?

  41. Adam on February 29, 2012 at 6:09 pm

    @goldengirl

    As I understand it, when they went to decide earlier about reversing the ban, it didn’t go through because some members of the quorum of the 12 or the first presidency were ardently opposed to it. IIRC, what actually happened was they had to wait until enough leadership were on board.

    But they really didn’t need a revelation at all, since it was a policy enacted without revelation. You don’t need a revelation to reverse a policy. Policy is things like white shirts to pass the sacrament. Policy isn’t doctrine.

  42. Adam on February 29, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    Also note that blacks were forbidden from temple marriages or any temple ordinances – that includes black women! A black woman could not take out her endowments before 1978. So it went beyond just priesthood.

    On the other hand, the 11 Hebrew tribes were not deprived of any ordinances. So it’s a terrible comparison.

  43. J. Madson on February 29, 2012 at 6:15 pm

    “We condemn racism, including any and all past racism by individuals both inside and outside the Church.” However, apparently they do not condemn institutional racism such as the ban. Im glad they went this far but the if we are going to condemn past, present, and future racism it must include the ban itself.

  44. Ben S. on February 29, 2012 at 6:15 pm

    “But they really didn’t need a revelation at all, since it was a policy enacted without revelation.”

    Although President McKay referred to it as policy and not doctrine, only Hugh B. Brown understood it as you’ve expressed it. Prince’s Dialogue article, McKay biography, and the BYU Studies article by Kimball on the priesthood ban make this clear.

  45. Adam on February 29, 2012 at 6:17 pm

    @goldengirl

    Actually, we do know. We know the reason for the ban. Brigham Young’s views on blacks (and discomfort with interracial marriage) are well known.

    Brigham was more of an organizer than a revelator. His revelations didn’t tend to hold up over time (Adam-God, blood atonement, eternal progression of God, priesthood ban, etc.), but he established the church in Utah.

  46. Bob on February 29, 2012 at 6:20 pm

    “Church Statement Regarding ‘Washington Post’ Article on Race and the Church”.
    My usual question__”Says who”?
    “The Church’s position is clear…..We do not tolerate racism in any form…..it is not known precisely why, how, or when …..{it happened}”.
    The Church’s position is “We don’t know”.
    How then__can the Church “codemn” it?

  47. Jax on February 29, 2012 at 6:53 pm

    Adam’s #43 strikes a real interesting cord for me. Sure they couldn’t hold the priesthood, but why couldn’t black people recieve certain priesthood ordinances? They could be baptized, recieve blessings of health/comfort, etc. What about other priesthood blessings? Patriarchal blessings for instance?

    Could black youth do baptisms for the dead? That isn’t even receiving an ordinance for yourself like taking out endowments is. It is just reenacting an ordinance for others that you were worthy of yourself. I was born in 1978, the same year the ban was lifted, so I don’t know what was and what wasn’t allowed. Could someone fill me in.

  48. goldengirl on February 29, 2012 at 6:58 pm

    @Adam, What evidence do you have that Brigham Young’s views,though well-known on blacks and interracial marriage, are the reason for the ban?

    Why do you persist in focusing on my comment regarding the Levites, instead of seeing the bigger picture of my comment that God’s hand is involved in the workings of His Church?

    Was banning the blacks from the priesthood a racist decision by the Church leaders , or was it their prayerful inspired response to racist attitudes of the American people at the time, allowing the Church to grow without any more additional persecution than they were already experiencing? What might have been the effect if a different scenario had played out? This theory speaks to me far more than blaming Brigham’s attitudes. And finally, why the unwillingness to get past this?

  49. Dan on February 29, 2012 at 7:02 pm

    Goldengirl,

    Could you point to the actual revelation given to Brigham Young that affirmed the ban on blacks receiving the priesthood? It should be some time after 1849. Before that, blacks HAD received the priesthood.

  50. goldengirl on February 29, 2012 at 7:21 pm

    There is no known revelation given to Brigham Young that affirmed the priesthood ban on the blacks. My words, “prayerful inspired response” do not mean an official revelation and I was simply giving my opinion as to one possible reason for the ban other than Brigham’s bias. Once again, I reiterate, I don’t know the reason, but believe in God’s hand in the direction of His Church in many ways.

  51. Dan on February 29, 2012 at 7:42 pm

    why would God allow the giving of the priesthood to blacks and then not? doesn’t make sense to me.

  52. Ben H on February 29, 2012 at 9:24 pm

    Thank you for putting this so well, Sam!

  53. Brad on February 29, 2012 at 10:13 pm

    Thank you Sam. We need more LDS that are willing to stand up to these old folkloric explanations for why the blacks didn’t receive the priesthood. This is not something that faithful LDS should let slip by. When you hear these types of racist explanations, do not let them stand.

    Of course since this is no longer policy, it is not something that we as LDS should feel obligated to explain. It is OK for people to say they don’t know. But I would hope that those who read and study the issue be willing to accept what is the most likely explanation: early LDS leaders were somewhat racist, as many 19th century white men were, and implemented a policy that was wrong and did not reflect what God probably would have done. LDS leaders aren’t infallible and they are liable to make policy errors. Many in the 60s and 70s gravely feared that a policy change would divide the church. Thank God for SWK having the guts to stand up to a horrible policy.

  54. goldengirl on March 1, 2012 at 10:44 am

    I agree that the folklore needed to be put to rest. I haven’t believed it for years. However, when the brethren say “we don’t know” the reason for the restriction and its continuation for years, I believe them. Even the author of this post admits that one has to say “I don’t know”. Asking them to admit to suppositions and conjecture is asking them to not be faithful to themselves.

    Others before SWK have objected to the restriction and have demonstrated that they considered revelation to be a critical component in making the change. Interestingly, President Kimball, who finally received an answer, was very much opposed to interracial marriages, very much in keeping with his generation. Revelation from the Lord is more powerful than personal opinion.

  55. Adam on March 1, 2012 at 1:16 pm

    @goldengirl

    The ban originated with Brigham. We know it wasn’t Joseph Smith, as Smith had no problem ordaining black men to the priesthood, despite the misconceptions he had about blacks being descendents of Ham/Canaan. It’s apparent that a priesthood-holding black LDS polygamist’s unions with white women caused Brigham a great deal of discomfort, leading to the priesthood ban. That’s my understanding. If anyone wishes to correct me on that, please do so.

    I don’t see any evidence of God’s involvement in this at all. The theology behind the ban doesn’t hold up to scrutiny, and we can’t find the actual revelation for the ban to take place.

    Ask yourself this question – how does blaming God for the ban solve anything? Instead of calling Brigham Young a racist, we in essence call God a racist. To me that’s a far more troubling proposition. We KNOW Brigham was a racist. Let’s not pin it on God. I can’t think of any good achieved by the ban. Much ill came of it. Most of the real persecution of Mormons came from our time in Missouri, and even that was partially brought on by obnoxiousness from the Saints at that time. Do you think Illinois or the Federal Government (once we moved to Utah) would have persecuted us for giving blacks the priesthood? I think not.

    The church doesn’t like to admit to errors, I think because they’re afraid it will harm testimonies. Maybe it will. But it’s time for the church to take responsibility on this one. We screwed up.

  56. goldengirl on March 1, 2012 at 2:18 pm

    @Adam First, “The ban originated with Brigham.” I have your statement and your understanding. Where is the evidence? Quotes, recorded stories, or are you just going on hearsay? There is some evidence that Joseph Smith, himself, brought up the issue. Please see the highlighted reference by Margaret Young in post #15 where statements issued by first presidencies and testimonals are at least recorded. If this information is incorrect, I would just like to see a legitimate source rather than relying on another’s understandings.

    Second, Wouldn’t the previous petitions to the Lord and the revelation of 1978 be evidence of God’s involvement?

    Thirdly, Does the ban necessarily mean that God is racist? Of course not. It means that His reasons go beyond our own understanding (not an uncommon phenomonen in God’s dealings with men) and we have to say “we don’t know” why.. Whether you like it or not, God allowed it to continue in the church for a very long time.

    What is it exactly that you expect the church to say? Blaming anyone, God or man really doesn’t solve anything in my view, but just inhibits the Church and its people to get past this issue and move on. It happened. It’s not happening now.

  57. J. Madson on March 1, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    Goldengirl

    “The ban originated with Brigham. I have your statement and your understanding. Where is the evidence?”

    https://www.dialoguejournal.com/2012/mormonisms-negro-doctrine-an-historical-overview/

    “Wouldn’t the previous petitions to the Lord and the revelation of 1978 be evidence of God’s involvement?”

    as to the ban, no of course not.

    “Does the ban necessarily mean that God is racist? Of course not.”

    No it means the church was since the ban didnt come from God.

  58. Martin on March 1, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    According to Skousen, the Canaanites discussed in very ancient times (Noah, Ham, etc.) Are a different group of people that the Canaanites of the New Testament times. Whether or not the early group was black cannot be determined by the later group.

    I think you are missing the issue. The issue is not that blacks couldn’t hold the Priesthood. The issue making everyone mad is the statement that God supports discrimination. I believe that God loves all His children. However, the thought that God loves one group over another is seen throughout the entire old testament. Remember Moses leading his people into the promised land?

  59. Brad on March 1, 2012 at 3:56 pm

    Goldengirl, according to the expert on race and the LDS church Armand Mauss (see Sam Brunson’s OP, he is cited at BCC), there is no evidence that the policy of denying blacks the priesthood was the result of revelation to begin with. Why are you then claiming that this policy has anything to do with God? Nowhere in LDS Canon is it stated that blacks must be denied the priesthood. Therefore I think that we can safely attribute the origin of the policy to the opinions of early LDS leaders themselves and not revelation.

    You should also note that nowhere do LDS leaders ever claim infallibility. Now I am not suggesting that you are claiming that they are infallible, but you are conveying a strong notion that “they are fallible, they’ve just never said or done anything wrong.”

    You don’t have to talk about this issue. But if you are going to be vocal about it, which you are doing right now, then you need to get educated about (if you aren’t already) and you need to call a spade a spade. This policy is based on old racist notions. You can say that and still keep your TR. To claim that it is not does grave disservice to the name of the LDS church, the past as we know it, and even God.

  60. Bryan Stiles on March 1, 2012 at 4:08 pm

    I don’t like the idea that we can say that the policy was instituted because of racist leaders. Aren’t we just creating another folklore that is consistent with our own time now? How is that any better than the original folklore that we are taking issue with?

  61. Alex on March 1, 2012 at 4:12 pm

    Thanks for the link Toria,

    Send a letter to Pres. Samuelson: http://president.byu.edu/site/feedback

    Just sent mine:

    Dr. Samuelson,

    I write out of respect and concern for BYU as an academic and professional institution of learning. I am a current student at BYU and plan to graduate this April.

    The recent charade surround Professor Bott’s comments in the Washington Post have, admittedly, angered me. While I know I need to curtail my emotions and refrain from any personal attacks on the man, I am comfortable in expressing how troubled I am over the potential implications this has on the university and on my future employment and success as a graduate of BYU. I find myself praying and hoping that this story doesn’t make it past local Utah news. But then I realize how ridiculous it is that I have to be ashamed and “protective” over what my school stands for.

    This year, I have gone on several medical school interviews. In more than half of those interviews, I have spent 90% of the time talking about Mormons and BYU, at the request of the interviewers, because they had an underlying fear that as a student from BYU, I wouldn’t fit in at their non-religious school. On one occasion, an interviewer blatantly admitted to me that their admissions committee does not think very highly of BYU students and that I would be an exception if I were to be admitted. I was rejected less than two weeks later despite having that interviewer tell me that he thought I was remarkable, different than any BYU student he had interviewed before, and that he would take an extra effort to plead my case to the committee. I hope you understand how frustrating these misconceptions can be in my hopes of becoming a physician. I am not blaming BYU for this, but I do believe there are instances and circumstances where BYU can take appropriate action, and in doing so, can greatly enhance their reputation in the secular world as a respectable academic institution. This situation with Brother Bott is one of these instances.

    I have thought intensely about what I would say if Brother Bott’s remarks are brought up in one of my upcoming medical school interviews. I have come to the conclusion that the only respectable answer is this: “I am appauled at what was said by Professor Bott. I spent many hours trying to organize and participate in protests, including expressing my opinions directly to the president of BYU. I will be ashamed of my university if they choose to ignore the incidence and keep Professor Bott in a teaching position.” To me, this is the only answer that I think I can consciously live with. This is the only answer that might give me the slightest chance of being taken seriously at a university that is growing wary of over-zealous BYU applicants (and we both know that every medical school in the country gets a disproportional amount of BYU applicants each year). But President Samuelson, I really don’t want to have to say “I am ashamed of my school.” I really do not want to walk across that graduation stage this April with a bitter end to an otherwise wonderful education because I am now unsure of my ability to get into graduate school due to a tarnished image of BYU.

    I am not going to pretend that I know all the details behind this situation. I am also not assuming that BYU is making mistakes in how they’re handling this (it’s only been a few days). I would just urge you, as a colleague and a student of the institution you represent, to think of the long-term impact this will have on our credibility, as students, in the rest of the world if it is not dealt with professionally. And just because it does not get national attention now does not mean that it won’t come back to haunt us later. I urge you to consider your students in their quest to be respected professionals.

    Thank you for your time.

    Sincerely,
    Alex Miller

  62. dave on March 1, 2012 at 4:36 pm

    @62…did you really use the word “appauled” in a letter to your university president?

  63. Alex on March 1, 2012 at 4:47 pm

    @63 No. I just posted it here before I ran it through spell-check. Sorry, I’m not the best writer or speller when spitting off a quick, fiery letter. But as a scientist, I’ve seen much worse.

  64. Brad on March 1, 2012 at 4:48 pm

    Bryan (61), how else was the policy implemented? Because God told them so? Leaders who supported the policy may have claimed to have been good-willed to black people and may not have thought of themselves as racists. But many segregationists in the south also thought themselves to be doing a benevolent action; that they were helping the blacks develop on their own, without government assistance. They would also use the Bible to justify segregation. Does that make segregation not the product of racism because it was the culture of the time and because people claimed good-will towards blacks?

    Here is the problem. Too many LDS are afraid to say anything that may be perceived as the remotest bit of criticism of their leaders and church policy, past or present. They’ve either grown up or come to accept the widespread notion that the flaws of the church organization and its leaders have been and are extremely minimal. While they don’t specifically claim the leadership and the church to be infallible, they treat it as if it essentially were. Therefore racism couldn’t have possibly existed in denying blacks the priesthood.

    I highly doubt that you would apply these same exceptions to the policies of other religious organizations that ostensibly discriminate against people based only on the color of their skin.

  65. Jacob F on March 1, 2012 at 4:50 pm

    I don’t have a problem attributing it to racism. It’s all contextual anyway. A lot of 19th and 20th century behavior appears very racist in hindsight. So what, this is just one more thing. Is it embarrassing? Of course. But light is a great disinfectant. And we’re all about embracing light and truth right?

  66. anon on March 1, 2012 at 4:53 pm

    @62…and did you really use incidence rather than incident or incidents?

  67. Bryan Stiles on March 1, 2012 at 5:06 pm

    @Brad (65) – What you say makes sense and I don’t think that being racist back in the day forcibly makes you evil. More of a product of your time. But I still can’t see how you can 100% positively say that the only reason we had that policy was because we had racist leaders who implemented the policy. How you can know when the church has explicitly said “We don’t know”?

    I’m willing to say it’s a highly plausible theory, but I would not venture to posit that theory as doctrine in my Sunday School class to the 16-17 year olds I teach. If I brought it up I would make it known that it is my opinion.

    So I think my problem is that to me, it seems like you (and a few other commenters) are trying to pass that off as official truth. That seems a bit presumptuous and close to what got us these bogus theories in the first place. People passing theories off as doctrine.

  68. Alex on March 1, 2012 at 5:41 pm

    Randy Bott starting dating his to-be wife at the age of 21. How old was she at the time? 16. Can you imagine the creepy RM status he would have had?

  69. Tim on March 1, 2012 at 5:45 pm

    Alex,

    I think that letter is awesome.

    That is all.

  70. David on March 1, 2012 at 5:52 pm

    Alex, don’t pretend you are a scientist. Scientists know how to use the grammar check function, and are capable of well-reasoned arguments that are free of hyperbole.
    It is probably the right thing to fire Bott, but you didn’t get turned down for med school because of him. There are plenty of other embarassing faculty past and present, yet BYU applicants still seem to do better than the average in getting advanced degrees.

  71. Adam on March 1, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    @goldengirl

    I believe J. Madson answered your question about evidence of the ban originating with BY. Responding to your other comments one by one:

    One could certainly see it as evidence of God’s displeasure with the racist policy, certainly.

    Whoever instituted the ban is by definition racist. Singling out one race and saying they’re not allowed to do this or that is racist. That’s what the word racist means, doesn’t it? It doesn’t matter if God had some secret motivation for it, it would still be racist. So the question is, who was racist? God or Brigham Young?

    God also allowed the Mountain Meadows Massacre and the great apostasy to occur. Does that mean he approved of those too?

    I expect them to say, “The ban was racist and wrong, and completely unjustified and contrary to the principles of the gospel. We express deep regret that we allowed it to go on for so long.” Repentance is good for the soul. The church will NEVER be able to move on until it accepts responsibility and apologizes.

  72. Adam on March 1, 2012 at 6:03 pm

    Sorry, I had your comments in brackets in between each of my paragraphs, but they disappeared. upon posting.

  73. Alex on March 1, 2012 at 6:22 pm

    @David, don’t pretend you’re not a little bit of an ass. You know nothing about me. I’ve been accepted to other schools and I know I am responsible for my own future. I gave a real-life example to portray some of the bias out there in the academic world. I’m not a great writer. I’m sorry my remarks were so distracting to you.

  74. Martin on March 1, 2012 at 6:44 pm

    All, before you start writing letters to the BYU Pres, check the scriptures to see what is really there.

    Abraham 1:21-27 says that Ham held the Priesthood, but his descendants (because of his wife) could not. This is because they were of the lineage of Canaan (of the days of Peleg not the group from the middle east).

    JST Gen 9:30 says about Canaan & thereby his descendants “…and a veil of darkness shall cover him that he shall be known among all men.”

    This seems pretty specific and has been the official LDS belief. However, the curse of not holding the priesthood is in the past and has been repealed. After it was repealed, we’ve been warned not to discriminate.

    Let’s PLEASE learn from history and not try to rewrite it. Let’s also refrain from crucifying Bott, shall we?

  75. Brad on March 1, 2012 at 6:45 pm

    Bryan,

    “what you say makes sense and I don’t think that being racist back in the day forcibly makes you evil.” Agreed, indeed it was culturally common. But now it seems that you are willing to acknowledge that racism did play a part in the policy.

    I’m not trying to pass off my ideas as doctrine. But doctrine is also a form of theory as well; a sort of institutionalized collective theory. And the notion that the specific reasons are somehow unknowable, or that everything was a result of revelation, is also theory. What matters is how well you can substantiate theory with evidence. And the idea that racism played a significant role in not only the origins of the policy, but also its perpetuation, can be well substantiated.

  76. Brad on March 1, 2012 at 7:02 pm

    Martin, the rationale for the policy may have had some scriptural basis. But bear in mind that people also once justified slavery and segregation based on scriptural passages. Are you willing to also justify those practices historically (not in the present, but in the past) because they involve some interpretation of scripture?

    Look you can believe what you want privately, but please stop trying to justify antiquated explanations for this policy. You may not realize it, but you are only hurting the church by doing this.

  77. goldengirl on March 1, 2012 at 7:02 pm

    I have read the articles referred to in the above post. Here is where I agree with what has been said. The folklore is unacceptable. Many members of the early church, including Brigham Young were racist. Brigham Young taught that blacks could not hold the priesthood as a result of his attitudes. At some time in history, a policy was put in place. The ban was not a directive from God. I think I have said that before and my quarrel is not with historical facts.

    What I have been trying to say is that the Lord allowed the ban to persist so He had role in the whole situation. So what does the Lord’s silence on this matter mean? Is this a form of silent revelation? Why didn’t he remove Brigham Young as prophet or any of the following prophets, if they was leading the church in the wrong direction? He could have.

    The comments seem to want to focus blame. If we are going to do that then, given the Lord’s role in this does he carry blame also, like the observor of a crime who doesn’t interfere? As a church, we claim to be founded on the principle of latter-day revelation. By requiring an “apology” from our leaders, means that we are requiring them to also apologize for the Lord’s silence on the matter, and I don’t think they are in any position to apologize for the Lord. This is a deeper matter than just trying to clear up the facts. Let the brethren prayerfully study the matter, and come to their own conclusions on how to deal with this.

    As for your admonition to educate myself on the matter I consider myself fairly well-informed regarding Church history and doctrine as I have studied it all of my life, more so than most. I was born 65 years ago and have lived through civil rights, I have been challenged on numerous occasions by anti-mormon family on this issue and a host of other issues which I have researched to settle these matters within me. I taught high school at a pre-dominantly African-american high school, and their dignity matters to me. I have only on rare occasion made a response on the “bloggernacle”, but just felt that I couldn’t let this pass. You can’t take on the brethren without taking on the Lord. Think about it.

  78. Rachel Whipple on March 1, 2012 at 7:15 pm

    But goldengirl, God will allow us and the leaders of his church to do the wrong thing if we really, really want to. People have made all sorts of compromises with God, and it doesn’t work out well. In the latter days, we had the lost 116 pages and we flubbed the United Order (not included other examples mentioned earlier in 72). And the Old Testament is one long story of resistance against God, failing to live up to his standards, and being given less rigorous standards as a consequence (and often failing to live up to those).

  79. Brad on March 1, 2012 at 7:21 pm

    Goldengirl, I liked your first paragraph. But why do you insist so much on the promoting the idea that God played a role in this? The policy wasn’t the most evil thing in the world, but it doesn’t seem very godly to me. And it doesn’t help our image as Mormons to try to keep insisting that this policy reflected God’s will. Couldn’t you just be reticent on that matter?
    “You can’t take on the brethren without taking on the Lord. Think about it.” It seems like you are suggesting the brethren are infallible, and that’s just not right.

  80. Martin on March 1, 2012 at 7:25 pm

    We have to acknowledge history and not hide from it. All the quotes are already in print, in the scriptures, and in our *current* lesson manuals. It’s more harmful to pretend the scriptures didn’t happen than it is to help portray correct understandings of them. If we stop teliing the truth, then everything is situational. The truth will set us free – not a lie or coverup.

    God placed the mark on Cain because of his sin, but also as a blessing (Gen 5:14). In Moses 5:40 it says that whoever slays Cain, vengence shall be taken sevenfold. This mark was also meant to be a blessing of safety.

    The real racism is not that God gave this punishment. The real racism is that evil people misused the mark to inflict harm and murder when God warned them not to! Forced slavery, abuse, and murder are the real racist acts!

    I’m explaining this because people need to know what really happened. It is wrong and dangerous to perpetuate racism… not because of whatever is currently “politically correct”, but because hurting people is always wrong — and always has been.

  81. Brad on March 1, 2012 at 7:34 pm

    Martin,

    Would you still applaud the policy if it were in force today simply because the brethren say so and because there is some vague scriptural justification for it?

    There are multiple often conflicting scriptural interpretations promoted by the LDS leadership over time and space. The scriptures aren’t as clear as you like to believe.

    “It is wrong and dangerous to perpetuate racism… not because of whatever is currently “politically correct”, but because hurting people is always wrong — and always has been.”

    You don’t think that it was hurtful for some Brazilian person with African heritage to hear in the 1960s that the missionaries wouldn’t talk with him because he was black?

  82. goldengirl on March 1, 2012 at 7:36 pm

    @Rachel, I couldn’t agree with you more, and I think that’s my point. God has a role in all of this and what do we do with that? How do we explain it?

    @Brad, I am not say the brethern are infallible. I am saying the Lord is infallible and since they (the Lord and the brethren)work together, it needs to figure in the equation.

  83. Martin on March 1, 2012 at 8:08 pm

    @Brad are you saying it’s ok to be against church leaders & formal doctrine?

    Of course it would be sad if the missionaries wouldn’t talk to you. God sometimes does things that make people mad & I don’t always understand them. I don’t have to like them, either, but I don’t choose for God.

    My point is that there is a long standing precident for this repealed policy and contrary to popular opinion it is pretty well documented. People against the church already know that.

    Rather than simply saying that the policy was repealed and leaving it at that, those against the church are succeeding in getting good church members to openly criticize church leaders and call them names like racists.

    IMO, Satan would really like to stir members up against the church and make them feel justified in openly criticizing it.

    Which do think is better: openly being critical of the church on a global level or simply saying we’re glad the policy is repealed?

  84. True Order of Hair on March 1, 2012 at 9:31 pm

    “We condemn racism, including any and all past racism by individuals both inside and outside the Church. … These previous personal statements do not represent Church doctrine.”

    I’m glad the church made these statements. But it seems to me that they don’t really address the issue.

    The issue here is not racism by individuals, but racism as official church doctrine or policy. This especially includes the racist doctrine or policy repeatedly articulated by the First Presidency in the 1940s and 1950s.

    As for any personal statements, these by definition do not represent church doctrine or policy. Again, the issue is not individual or personal racism, which exists within virtually every large group and probably always has and always will.

    If the church wants to repudiate any past doctrine or policy, then let the church say that it was wrong — not wrong on an individual basis or on a personal basis, but simply wrong. On the other hand, if the priesthood ban came from God and therefore wasn’t wrong, then let the church say that.

    As a side note, the First Presidency said that the priesthood ban was doctrinal, though a few years after the last doctrinal pronouncement President McKay referred to it on at least one occasion as a mere policy. But whether it was doctrine or policy is really just hairsplitting.

  85. Brad on March 1, 2012 at 9:58 pm

    Martin, you’re trying to turn me into a straw man by claiming that I’m being critical of the church. I’m not being critical of the church at all. I’m simply trying to persuade you to 1) realize that church leaders sometimes differ over what is doctrinal and what is not and 2) that the most honest representation of the past in relation to church’s policy towards blacks and the priesthood is that it is based on the prevalent racist attitudes of early church leaders and has no revelatory basis. As for your claims that I’m distorting history, I am basing my beliefs on the extensive research published by D. Michael Quinn and Armand Mauss (both believers, mind you). Your claim of what should be our historical interpretation of the past is based on rather thin evidence: a subjective interpretation of some vague scriptural passages. Can you point to some official revelation about the policy? If so, let me know what it is and where to find it.

    Goldengirl, we shouldn’t inform our beliefs about God exclusively based on everything the brethren say and do. They, as humans, are liable to make errors. God allows humans agency and this means that he doesn’t intervene to correct us every time a mistake is made, but allows the latitude to learn through trial and error. The policy on blacks and the priesthood, as even you accept, has its roots in racist attitudes. God doesn’t make us face the consequences of His law immediately, but only in the hereafter. Denying priesthood to the blacks was a human error. I’m glad that the church leadership has repented of the error by changing its policy, but it was a huge mistake, no doubt. Let’s stop trying to justify this as having God’s blessing.

  86. Adam on March 1, 2012 at 11:08 pm

    @Martin

    Skousen is, frankly, full of it. There is no evidence that there were any more than one Canaanite people. And they were never black. The Jews, in fact, were essentially Canaanites.

  87. goldengirl on March 1, 2012 at 11:41 pm

    @Brad, I never said God gave the ban his blessing. He gave it His silence. Racism is not part of His nature, however, patience is and fortunately He is just. For those individuals who were excluded from the blessings while on earth, he has made provision.

  88. Martin on March 2, 2012 at 12:29 am

    I’m not sure why some of you think the church went racist in the 1940’s. That is simply not historically accurate. Joseph Smith is even quoted about the blacks holding the priesthood, because of Ham’s son Canaan. And yes I know there were a couple of blacks ordained by Joseph Smith. Does nobody read?

    Here is a quick read about the Official Declaration 2 (http://tinyurl.com/7utnvdt)

    This shows that the prophets all upheld this as official policy since the restoration. Pay special attention to Pres Kimball’s quotes before & after the revelation. There was both a commitment to the policy and a general longing for the Lord to repeal it.

    Many people & leaders may say many things, but we are told that the Lord won’t let the Prophet lead us astray.

    Either you believe in the prophets or you don’t…

  89. Alison Moore Smith on March 2, 2012 at 4:07 am

    Adam #36:
    Where is the revelation excluding women from the priesthood? We don’t have one.

  90. Adam on March 2, 2012 at 10:56 am

    Good point, Alison. It’s time to extend the priesthood to all worthy members, regardless of race or sex.

  91. Adam on March 2, 2012 at 11:15 am

    @goldengirl

    Perhaps no one was listening because they thought they already knew the answer.

  92. goldengirl on March 2, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    @Adam, Perhaps or perhaps not. We don’t know.

  93. Adam on March 2, 2012 at 1:00 pm

    @goldengirl

    I guess not. But we do know there is no revelation banning blacks from the priesthood.

  94. Brad on March 2, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    Martin, you certainly have read, but you need to read between the lines a little better. You’re only seeing what you want to see and not accepting what are inconvenient likelihoods about church history.

    So to reiterate: sometime in the 19th century during BY’s presidency, the church leadership made it policy to not give blacks the priesthood. It may have been based on some of the things that JS had said written about Ham and Canaan. But JS didn’t put this into practice. As questions about the policy arose, especially after WWII, the rationale of most of the church leaders was that it was better to maintain consistency in policy rather than give in to the pressures of a few. During the 1950s and 1960s it became increasingly apparent that members of the quorum of the 12 and the first presidency were divided about the issue. However, there were not enough votes needed to change policy. The argument against change was that it could make the church look weak (subject to social pressure), potentially divide the membership, and alienate the stalwart members who were in favor of the status quo.

    Statements released to the church membership at large conveyed a strong notion that everything was based on revelation. But revelation is a rather vague word, and I don’t know what it is supposed to mean. But I do know that policy and canonical doctrine in the church aren’t made by a single person. To make decisions and/or changes, the 12 and FP abide by an order that mandates regular mutual consultation a the vote of a large majority of members of the 12 and FP. (The power of the president of the church has gotten continually weaker since BY and especially since JS).

    By the 1970s pressure to change policy had grown significantly. It was probably most pronounced by local leaders in Brazil where the population is much more mixed than in the US and where they were always dealing with the question on whether or not someone had African ancestry. As some of the old guard in the 12 had died off, their replacements were more in favor of changing policy. But in the early 1970s there were still lingering anxieties about change. What SWK kept saying was that revelation had not been received. What he didn’t say was that despite internal pressure from high-ranking authorities, including many from the 12, there was still not enough support to make a change. On the eve of Official Declaration 2, pressure had become overwhelming. Something had to be done. Those in favor of change argued that holding onto the status quo could be detrimental to the church’s ability to gain and maintain members, especially as it was expanding into northern Brazil, where a larger percentage of people have African ancestry. In 1978 SWK made the bold move to proclaim revelation had come and that change had been dictated from God. As to the nature of the process of this revelation, I am not sure what it was. But the reality of internal pressure and anxieties about the future of the church if it didn’t change its policy is undeniable.

    “Many people & leaders may say many things, but we are told that the Lord won’t let the Prophet lead us astray.”

    God allows leaders latitude and agency as He does anyone else. They are liable to make policy errors. Remember, they aren’t infallible, nor do they claim to be.

  95. Martin on March 2, 2012 at 4:28 pm

    Brad. I have some references to Joseph Smith, himself affirming the ban, but also lamenting it. This was definately before Brigham Young. I can send those when I get back to my computer.

    We all know that Joseph Smith translated the Pearl of Great Price and proclaimed it scripture. The books of Moses & Abraham discuss the curse and the priesthood ban. I really don’t understand why the scriptures Joseph Smith gave us aren’t good enough to show what Joseph Smith thought. Even in JST Gen 9:30 JS enumerated on the curse. This is all before Brigham Young.

    The ban has definately ended, but it did happen and it happened before Brigham Young.

  96. Dan on March 2, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    I ask again, why is comment #3 in moderation?

  97. Brad on March 2, 2012 at 5:20 pm

    Martin, these quotes are from Lester E. Bush and Armand Mauss, Neither White Nor Black, Chapter 2 (http://signaturebookslibrary.org/?p=442):

    “Taggart next relates that shortly after the expulsion of the Saints from Jackson County, Joseph Smith, upon obtaining a “clear impression of the explosiveness of the slavery issue” and “in the context of his recent firsthand experience in Missouri,” reached the decision “to exclude Negroes from the priesthood”; however, he “advised only members who approached him on the subject, and who were concerned with the southern Church” (this in 1834). The following year reportedly brought “the first official declaration of policy regarding Negroes made by the Church,” declaring “formally … support of the legal institution of slavery …””

    “By contrast there is no question but that Joseph Smith thought the [p.39] Negro was descended from Ham; however, this belief when initially recorded was by no means in a revelatory context and would appear to have been little more than the contemporary view. As mentioned earlier, the original statement was expressed in 1831 and only parenthetically. At an early meeting, the gospel was preached to “all the families of the earth … several of the Lamanites or Indians-representatives of Shem; quite a respectable number of Negroes-descendants of Ham; and the balance was made up of citizens of the surrounding country (from Japeth).”56 In 1836, as Taggart notes, Joseph Smith extended this belief to a justification of slavery; by 1842, while he still referred to the Negroes as descendants of Ham, he no longer felt this was a justification for slavery.”

    JS initiated the ban, but only in the context of the slavery controversy in the southern states. The ordinations of Elijah Abel, to the office of elder in 1836, Walker Lewis in 1844, and William McCary in 1846, are evidence that no church policy of denying blacks the priesthood was really set in place until after JS. After them, two exceptions were made for Elijah Abel’s son in 1900 and his grandson in 1935, but that’s it. Later presidents of the church attributed the ban to earlier presidents. But it can’t be argued that the policy was set in place really until BY. After their migration West, BY continually talked about the “curse of Cain.” BY was ostensibly racist. He believed that blacks were “seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind.”

    Lastly to repeat Armand Mauss at BCC: “there is no record of any revelation to any prophet denying the priesthood to people of black African ancestry.”

    Bottom line: denying priesthood to the blacks was a racist policy cemented by BY. JS certainly believed that Ham was black, but this isn’t in any revelatory context. The Book of Abraham does not state point blank that the blacks had to be universally denied the priesthood. This has to be read into the text.

  98. Martin on March 2, 2012 at 6:04 pm

    Here’s one reference of what people recorded hearing Joseph Smith say. Apparently, this was a significant debate even pioneer times and Pres Taylor was asking about it. These journal entries use the language of the day and are not my words.

    Before I give the quote that I want to reiterate that I’m only offering this because I’m just trying to refute the notion that BY and all subsequent prophets were racists that departed from JS’ teachings. They were just doing what they were told by JS. If you read carefully (this and other quotes), you’ll see that they very reluctantly upheld the ban, but that it saddened them. That’s also apparent from my other Pres Kimball quotes.

    Above all, it was prophesied that the ban would not last forever and indeed it has been repealed.

    Exerpt:

    President Taylor,”What did he say?”

    Brother Coltrin,”The spring that we went up in Zion’s Camp,in 1834,Brother Joseph sent Brother J. P. Greene and me out south to gather up means to assist in gathering out the Saints from Jackson County,Mo. On our return home,we got into a conversation about the Negro having the right to the Priesthood,and I took the side that he had no right. Brother Greene argued that he had. The subject got so warm between us that he said he would report me to Brother Joseph when we got home,for preaching false doctrine,which doctrine that I advocated was that the Negro could not hold the Priesthood. ‘All right,’ I said,’I hope you will.’ And when we got home to Kirtland,we both went in to Brother Joseph’s office together,to make our returns; and Brother Greene was as good as his word,and reported to Brother Joseph that I had said that the Negro could not hold the Priesthood. Brother Joseph kind of dropped his head and rested it on his hand for a minute,and then said,’Brother Zebedee is right,for the Spirit of God saith the Negro has no right nor cannot hold the Priesthood.’ He made no reference to scripture at all. But such was his decision. I don’t recollect ever having any conversation with him [on the subject] afterwards,but I have heard him say in public,that no person having the least particle of Negro blood can hold the Priesthood.” . . .

    President Abraham O. Smoot said,”D. W. Patten,Warren Parrish,and Thomas B. Marsh were laboring in the Southern States in 1835 and 1836. There were Negroes who made application for baptism,and the question arose with them whether Negroes were entitled to hold the Priesthood; and by those brethren it was decided they would not confer the Priesthood until they had consulted the Prophet Joseph. Subsequently they communicated with him and his decision,as I understood,was they were not entitled to the Priesthood,nor yet to be baptized without the consent of their masters. In after years,when I became acquainted with Joseph myself in Far West,about the year 1838,I received from Joseph substantially the same instructions. It was on my application to him what should be done with the Negro in the South,as I was preaching to them. He said I could baptize them by consent of their masters,but not to confer the Priesthood upon them.” 58

    56. Journal History, August 22, 1895.

    57. According toJoseph Smith,the day will come that Negroes will be permitted to receive the priesthood,either here on earth or in eternity. See Journal History,December 25, 1869.

    58. L. John Nuttal Diary, under date of May 31, 1879.

    As you can see, the policy was a sad & debated one, but it was a real one in Joseph Smith’s time.

    My concern is that good saints are starting to call the prophets ‘racist’ and other epithets without learning about the issue. With polygamy, we don’t speak ill of the leaders, but just say that it was revealed and later revelation discontinued it. I wish we’d just do that here…

  99. Ardis E. Parshall on March 2, 2012 at 6:14 pm

    Martin, please read what Paul Reeve had to say at Juvenile Instructor late yesterday. You’ll learn, if you didn’t know before, that Zebedee Coltrin’s memory, for starters, was dead wrong, that he — Zebedee Coltrin himself — was the one who ordained Elijah Abel long after the date of this supposed Joseph Smith statement. There are questions about Abraham Smoot’s report, too, and whether he was conflating what he had been told about baptizing slaves without their masters’ consent with the notion of not ordaining blacks.

    These statements should not be used to support a claim that Joseph Smith denied the priesthood to black men. You need to update your historical understanding almost as much as Randy Bott needs to update his doctrinal understanding.

  100. Martin on March 2, 2012 at 6:44 pm

    The point is not what we *now* think is more accurate. The point is that’s what the people thought *then*.

    Some on this list are trying to judge the motives of those of the 1800’s & 1900’s through the eyes of today and that’s wrong. Slavery and discrimination have always been wrong, but otherwise good people owned slaves before the emancipation because of the society in which they lived.

    See the point? There’s a world of difference.

    Whether this is what JS told people or this is what they thought he said doesn’t make the prophets racist for continuing the practice. To the contrary, the prophets wanted the prohibition to end, but they were going to wait for the revelation.

    If you believe in the prophets and that they really do receive revelation, then you must believe that the revelation came in the Lord’s time.

    To believe otherwise means that you hold your own opinion higher that theirs and that’s dangerous ground….

  101. Brad on March 2, 2012 at 7:29 pm

    Go Ardis go.

    As for Martin, interesting quotes.

    “As you can see, the policy was a sad & debated one, but it was a real one in Joseph Smith’s time.”

    A sort of foundational doctrine basis seems to have been laid by JS. But then why Elijah Abel? It seems that the early saints were divided about the question of slavery. JS sought to maintain as much unity as possible. His position on these issues doesn’t seem to be consistent. He seemed to support slavery at first, then he came out against it in 1842. He supported the baptism of blacks, but generally was against giving them the priesthood, except in the case of Elijah Abel. At any rate your quotes don’t point to any sort of official declaration on the part of JS. Anyhow I actually don’t care too much about the origins of the policy, but Mauss makes a strong case that it was cemented by BY.

    “My concern is that good saints are starting to call the prophets ‘racist’ and other epithets without learning about the issue. With polygamy, we don’t speak ill of the leaders, but just say that it was revealed and later revelation discontinued it.”

    You’re assuming that the term racist is a slur. It is merely a description of the someone who believes that we can and should make value judgments about people based on skin color; that some races are inferior or superior to others. JS was concerned that allowing blacks into authority positions in the church would be detrimental given the rampant racism of early followers. Coltrin’s passage shows that JS tended to err on the side of supporting the racists, although he himself probably wasn’t as racist as others.

    Now the continuation of denying the blacks the priesthood when the saints moved out West was inexcusable since they no longer had to deal with the slave state issue. But BY was much more racist than JS and thought that the blacks were inferior to whites. Mauss shows ample evidence of this.

    What is racism to you anyway? Does it only mean physically harming people? If that’s the case, do you think that segregation was not racist since it didn’t physically harm blacks?

    The point is Martin, you need to stop whitewashing history and portraying the early church leaders as ‘fallible people who just never happened to say or do anything wrong’ (in other words, infallible); that denying the blacks the priesthood was not racist in any way shape or form. Of course it is racist to deny someone a privilege based only on their skin color. That is the definition of racism. That you keep insisting on these disingenuous explanations that the leaders were merely non-thinking robots simply carrying out God’s commands. I can’t let that stand. It must be shouted down. And with Mitt Romney in almost constant media spotlight and the church and its history coming under increasing media scrutiny, I’ll be damned if I let weaselly little explanations about this sore spot of our history slide. Just accept this for what it is: racism.

  102. Martin on March 2, 2012 at 7:56 pm

    I think that JS’ policy was most certainly solidified by BY. BY tended to make everything polarized.

    In today’s speech, terms like ‘racism’ are not descriptive, but politically charged and hurtful. That’s why opportunistic politicians hurl the every chance they get.

    For better or worse, all of this church history has been documented in the church archives, millions of books, and on the internet. We should be saying, “it was the church policy and now it’s not”. There would be some discussion about it and then it’s back to being a footnote in history.

    The problem is what many are doing, is viewed as revisionist history. People will say that the Mormons have weird beliefs and when people question them, they attempt to ‘whitewash’ history. They’ll say this because things that were accepted doctrines since the 1800’s are now being declined by church members. Members are now calling the prophets racists, saying that previously accepted witnesses are now being called senile, and that others simply misunderstood their instructions.

    It’s the revisionism and the members chastising their prophets that is the most damaging. We need to accept that these inconvenient events actually happened, stop denying it, say things are different now, and move on.

  103. Brad on March 2, 2012 at 8:52 pm

    “We should be saying, “it was the church policy and now it’s not”.”

    OK, no one disagrees with that. What is the next questions people will ask, why and how. Good historians attempt to answer these questions and don’t just skirt around them with wishy-washy responses. Its one thing with GBH in a TV interview trying to maintain good PR, its another thing with detailed explanations.

    Next question: did racism play a role in this? Even your ally Goldengirl acknowledges a history of racism among church leaders. But you don’t want to answer that one straightforwardly do you? Because if you say that racism didn’t play a role, then someone well-read could point to quotes by BY and JS that come off as plainly racist and that strongly support the idea that the policy (with no revelatory basis) had a racist basis like other churches’ racially exclusionary policies. Racism isn’t some complex and abstract concept. It is not just physically harming people, it is also excluding them from privileges based on skin color.

    “It’s the revisionism and the members chastising their prophets that is the most damaging.”

    Some people can be right and good in some ways and bad and wrong in others. MLK was an adulterer, but an inspirational civil rights leader. JS and BY were inspirational leaders who built a strong moral society, but their policy in relation to blacks was wrong and racist. This can partially be overlooked because of the predominant racist culture of time. The ironic thing is that this explanation is probably much better PR for the church than the one you’re promoting. Also trying to hold onto the belief that God was the originator of this policy is just not right. God is no respecter persons, all are equal in God’s eyes. And I would rather attribute racism to fallible church leaders who ideas and policies are largely products of a number of cultural and social factors than an infallible God.

  104. Ardis E. Parshall on March 2, 2012 at 8:59 pm

    I think that JS’ policy was most certainly solidified by BY.

    Then you think wrongly. Those views were mostly definitely NOT solidified during Brigham Young’s tenure — else there would have been no need to investigate the issue during John Taylor’s tenure. If you read Paul’s article at Juvenile Instructor, then you would know that substantial questions remained and conflicts occurred well into the 20th century. If Joseph Smith had had such a policy, and had it been solidified during Brigham Young’s life, then what the heck was happening during Joseph F. Smith’s administration?

    See the point? There’s a world of difference. (See, I can be just as condescending as you, when I work at it.)

  105. Martin on March 2, 2012 at 9:26 pm

    Brad: let me see if I can find some common ground. First though, I’m not going to criticize the prophet, everyone else is fair game.

    Based on what I’ve seen and read, I believe that JS had changes of thought on this policy, but that he eventually settled on the prohibition. I’m *not* saying it was good or bad, just that it was. This is something people will debate for a long time.

    I also think that this policy gave an excuse for those with commonly held 1800’s views on race to be vocal and act on them, but I don’t think those views created the policy. IOW, people thought this policy gave them a right to be racist and descriminatory, which was absolutely wrong. The policy was as SWK said that it was not yet time, but it was coming.

    The reason this view makes sense to me is that it let’s me reconcile how the church could hold this view until the revelation in 1978 & how God didn’t see fit to change it, yet the church is still true and God is still God.

    I think discrimination is very bad, but I’m trying to give God the benefit of the doubt.

  106. Ray on March 2, 2012 at 11:04 pm

    Martin, let me say this as bluntly as possible:

    There was no ban during the life of Joseph Smith. Period. That is as obvious as any aspect of any history ever written. Joseph had NOTHING to say about “the ban” for one simple reason: It didn’t exist during his lifetime. Period.

  107. Ray on March 2, 2012 at 11:07 pm

    “I’m trying to give God the benefit of the doubt.”

    God doesn’t need the benefit of the doubt. Neither does Joseph Smith. They weren’t involved in ANY way with instituting the ban. There literally is NO evidence anywhere of their involvement in any way.

  108. Brad on March 2, 2012 at 11:30 pm

    Martin (and Ardis),

    I just read the piece by Paul Reeve in Juvenile Instructor. It was brilliant: http://www.juvenileinstructor.org/guest-post-professor-bott-elijah-abel-and-a-plea-from-the-past/.

    Some notable quotables:

    “[Elijah Abel’s] obituary writer seems desperately self-aware of the transition then taking place within the faith, hoping beyond hope that the very pages of the newspaper that carried news of Abel’s death to Mormon homes throughout the Great Basin might create a wall, a bulwark against the pressing racism that was then threatening to erase everything that Abel represented.”

    “In 1908, Joseph F. Smith, by then Church President, the same man who defended Abel’s priesthood in 1879 when he cited Abel’s ordination certificates as empirical evidence substantiating the validity of that priesthood, inexplicably reversed himself and falsely reported to Mormon leaders that Abel’s priesthood at some point had been declared “null and void by the Prophet himself.” It was a move that placed a final brick in the wall of a race based priesthood policy and dishonored Abel’s commitment to the gospel in the process. Abel’s obituary noted that he passed of “old age and debility, consequent upon exposure while laboring in the ministry in Ohio” and concluded that “He died in full faith of the Gospel.” In Joseph F. Smith’s moment of historical forgetfulness, however, race trumped righteousness and rendered Abel’s blackness an insurmountable obstacle, a condition that “full faith” could not overcome.”

    “In Elijah Abel all of the hokey rationalizations and false justifications for a race based temple and priesthood ban fall by the wayside. If even one black Mormon was eligible for the priesthood before 1978, then all blacks were.”

  109. Brad on March 2, 2012 at 11:38 pm

    Martin, was this policy racist? You need to own up. And I don’t want to read another snide little post of yours until you answer that question.

    You’re giving God the benefit of the doubt??? Hardly. You’re trying to give early racist leaders who were succumbing to social pressure the benefit of the doubt, and far too much of it. What you are doing is attributing racism to God. And that’s wrong.

    I highly doubt you would afford segregationist churches in the south the same “benefits of the doubt” that you are giving many early LDS leaders (or would you?). And I don’t care if they’re prophets, it doesn’t make them infallible as you repeatedly suggest. You need to inform yourself of what racism is and how it has manifested itself in history.

  110. Sam Brunson on March 3, 2012 at 8:20 am

    Thanks, Ardis, for the Juvenile Instructor suggestion; I wouldn’t have seen it otherwise.

  111. Martin on March 3, 2012 at 11:37 am

    There were contemporary reports of this policy in JS’ lifetime. There was over 100 years of the church claiming that this was doctrine. People claim that it didn’t exist, which is up to them, but the church’s statement says that even they don’t know when it started. Therefore all of you claiming that it didn’t exist in JS’ lifetime (may or may not be correct), but you don’t have any evidence to stand to support our point. “Abscence of evidence is not evidence of absence”.

    The Old Testament Jews (in times of righteousness) did not always allow non-Jews to join their ranks. But then other times they did; such as when Moses married the Etheopian woman. Why were both okay at different times? Why did God allow interracial marriages at sometimes and not others?

    Was God racist or were the prophets going against God? I don’t think God would stand for blatant disobedience, such as with Eli.

    Do I think this is racist? Only in the sense that it is dividing, but not by the modern definition of hate perpetuated. I’m old enough to have witnessed the repeal personally. We had a black man attending our ward before the repeal and everyone liked him. The whole ward wanted him to be able to progress, but we knew that the policy was real. We also knew that God wouldn’t let his church stand for so long preaching a blatant falsehood. We accepted the policy while we wanted it to end.

  112. Ray on March 3, 2012 at 1:49 pm

    “There were contemporary reports of this policy in JS’ lifetime.”

    Cite them or stop making that claim.

  113. Ray on March 3, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    One more thing, Martin:

    Racism isn’t defined by motivation; it’s defined by what it IS and what it DOES. Good, loving, inspired, wonderful, brilliant people still can be racist. I know some of them personally, and my belief that Brigham Young was racist, for example, doesn’t lesson my esteem for him as a good man or as a prophet of God. It just means I see him as fully human, as well.

  114. Brad on March 3, 2012 at 3:43 pm

    “Do I think this is racist? Only in the sense that it is dividing, but not by the modern definition of hate perpetuated.”

    Good modern definitions of racism aren’t restricted to mere slurs, hate-speech, or acts of physical violence based on skin color. And I do acknowledge that charges of racism are greater than actual cases of racism. Racism extends to include exclusionary policies based on skin-color or ethnic background whether these are motivated by hatred or not.

    The best equivalent to the LDS church’s policy is the Jim Crow laws in the south. These laws were based on the idea that blacks and whites were “separate but equal.” They were supposedly written without any intent of hatred towards blacks. But the effect that they had on the prevailing attitudes of white southerners towards blacks was catastrophic. They indirectly perpetuated poverty and low-status life among blacks. Whites would attribute this to the blacks’ laziness and culture. But the policy was exclusionary and racist. And it is unthinkable for any respectable person today to look back at the creators of the Jim Crow laws as having had a fair and just idea, let alone inspired.

    So why are you insisting that God’s inspiration and revelation had anything to do with the church’s policy? Because you’re too attached to your archaic and incorrect paradigm that any policy implemented by LDS prophets could not possibly have been anything but direct revelation from God and they couldn’t have possibly thought up the policy themselves or have been influenced by the surrounding culture. All the historical evidence collected strongly strongly suggests that the culture shaped policy and that church leaders, in relation to the policy, were cowards. They were in a position to make a truly just and godly change and it took them until 1978 to do that. You should be careful to associate a racist policy with God. It is about on the same level as attributing segregation to God.

  115. Ray on March 3, 2012 at 5:15 pm

    Brad, while I agree that the ban was segregationist in nature and practical effect (and I see no way to argue otherwise), and while I have agreed with just about everything you’ve written about the ban in the last few days, I think it’s incorrect to say that the leaders who didn’t lift it sooner were “cowards” in relation to the ban. I don’t think they were scared to lift it; I think most of them simply believed, incorrectly, in its origin and the justifications that were built up around it – and those who didn’t believed it only could be ended by unified voice.

    Yes, they were racist in practice by perpetuating it, at the very least, but I don’t believe in the slightest that they were cowards, as well – not even when narrowly focused on the ban.

  116. Brad on March 3, 2012 at 5:27 pm

    Ray, you are probably right in many cases. I probably should have said racists instead of cowards.

  117. Brad on March 3, 2012 at 5:34 pm

    Actually I remembered why I wrote cowards. It was what I read about Joseph F. Smith posted in comment 109.

    Here it is again:

    “In 1908, Joseph F. Smith, by then Church President, the same man who defended Abel’s priesthood in 1879 when he cited Abel’s ordination certificates as empirical evidence substantiating the validity of that priesthood, inexplicably reversed himself and falsely reported to Mormon leaders that Abel’s priesthood at some point had been declared “null and void by the Prophet himself.” It was a move that placed a final brick in the wall of a race based priesthood policy and dishonored Abel’s commitment to the gospel in the process. Abel’s obituary noted that he passed of “old age and debility, consequent upon exposure while laboring in the ministry in Ohio” and concluded that “He died in full faith of the Gospel.” In Joseph F. Smith’s moment of historical forgetfulness, however, race trumped righteousness and rendered Abel’s blackness an insurmountable obstacle, a condition that “full faith” could not overcome.”

    But that is true that Hugh B. Brown was no coward, he was just in the minority and powerless to overturn the policy. Public expression of disapproval would have ended up hurting the church.

  118. chris on March 3, 2012 at 10:46 pm

    Isn’t saying the origins were motivated in racism, hateful, or wrongly decided based on the philosophies of men just as incorrect according to the logic in this post?

    If we declare that speculation is off limits and shouldn’t be passed on, it’s off limits. When people want a “why” answer we should just say “We don’t know.”

    But here is the issue. Those with a small axe to grind against the church on this issue will read “racism” into the origins and those with defending the church will look for other reasons into the origins. Of course, there could be others without a hatchet to grind against the church who see racism as the issue. But that doesn’t mean their “answers” are of any more weight than the faithful defenders of the church who grasp at any reason that seems to make sense (to them).

    So saying it’s “racist” with the sense that it was a hateful/hurtful thing wrongly implemented is jumping to conclusions all the same… only in a different direction.

    The ultimate question is, were those who “followed the brethren” then making a mistake? Were the brethren (then) making a mistake? Are those who don’t “follow the brethren” now by moving on and no digging up odd ball justifications that none of the current church leadership is giving making a mistake?

    I’d answer No to the first two and Yes to the last.

    I’d be curious to see 3 polls and see how the answers play out.

  119. Ray on March 4, 2012 at 12:54 am

    #119 – “were those who “followed the brethren” then making a mistake? Were the brethren (then) making a mistake?”

    Absolutely, if you believe the words of our modern apostles and prophets since 1978 – at the very least with regard to the justifications that were used to explain the ban, which is what Prof. Bott was addressing at the most fundamental level. Those justifications have been refuted multiple times since OD2 – and the most recent press release uses the word “condemn” to describe how the Church sees them now.

    So, “making a mistake” is an accurate, charitable way to say it.

  120. Sam Brunson on March 4, 2012 at 9:02 am

    Okay, everybody, thanks for the great discussion. It’s now over 100 comments, which seem to have been largely civil, but I’m going to close it down before it degenerates. If you have any additional comments that need to be posted, please email me and I’ll see. Otherwise, enjoy your Sunday!