End Racism

Darron Smith teaches “Introduction to Sociology” at Westminster College in Salt Lake City and is working towards the completion of his PhD in the Education, Culture and Society department at the University of Utah. His has recently co-edited the book “Black and Mormon.” Catch his interview with Mormon Stories here.

The announcement made by President Hinckley at Saturday night’s priesthood session was very welcome. I was encouraged by his denouncement of the LDS racism that continues unabated in many parts of North America, Utah in particular. The extent of the racist practices by well-meaning and not so well-meaning members of the church is widespread. Many of my white brothers and sisters do not see this reality in their personal lives in the church, and therefore exclaim that Black folks are being too sensitive or that racism does not exist simply because such behavior does not happen to them. White people are not in the best position to understand the many manifestations of racism, despite the disgruntled white folks who cry reverse discrimination. The data does not reveal that whites are experiencing systematic discrimination to the extent that their financial well-being, health status and other markers are deleteriously harmed.

But Black members in the LDS Church sometimes hear the notion of “blackness” as cursed. I have found in my own experience that many members, especially white, make it a point to remind me and other Blacks that we were at one time under a divine curse from deity. These individuals then recite the common latter-day folklore about Black folks as “fence sitters” or as sharing a “common ancestry” with Cain, the first murderer. Remember the second article of faith. The scriptures simply do not explain “blackness,” therefore many church members take enormous liberties at interpretation, and they have former church leaders to validate this point regardless of how wrongheaded their ideas may be.

When I first joined the church in Nashville, Tennesse back in the early eighties, I would hear these pernicious concepts surface from time to time but thought nothing of it. I wondered why more Blacks did not participate in the church, and figured it had to at least be related to the church position. We have made some significant strides toward reconciliation but, despite the Prophet’s call to repentance, there is much work that is still needed. In fact, had President Hinckley gone just one step further and explicitly called on all members to no longer teach or believe in antiquated folklore about Blacks as spiritually inferior to whites, this would truly be cause for celebration — not just a small victory. As such, the need continues to push for a public announcement in hopes that a final resolution is forthcoming, and my wish is that you good people will send letters to church headquarters with the specific request that the church make a declarative statement about the need to abort all racist teachings in the past about people of African descent.

The Prophet’s call to end racism was in effect a plea to end individual acts of meanness and aggression directly at people based on phenotype. This is something slightly different from institutional racism. What the church needs, in my opinion, is to root out the vestiges of institutional racism in tolerating members who teach hatred about Black people as anything other than brothers and sisters in Christ, and who then blame Black folks for being concerned and disinterested in the faith. We can do better!

Comments

  1. Darron, welcome! I’m glad that you’ve written this post and hope that you will engage us in the comments (rather than what happened on Julie’s thread on T&S about your book, saying that because we’re white we don’t understand and then not engage the substance of her post).

    I just listened to the podcast today so this is very fresh in my mind. I enjoyed listening to what you had to say and agree with some of it. I think you’re right that we all have a responsibility to get out the word that those folk doctrines are false. It’s also important that we do everything in our power to avoid racist comments or actions.

    I’m not so sure that President Hinckley has the responsibility to apologize. Perhaps individuals that have taught that doctrine have the responsibility, but not him. He’s trying to move forward and you seem to want to continue to talk about past prophets and what individual members are doing wrong.

    Additionally, I certainly don’t think that this folk doctrine or the pre-1978 ban is the reason there aren’t more African American converts or we’d automatically have more if there was some kind of apology. Maybe a reason for some African Americans, but I find your speculation off base. We don’t get many converts in Germany either, does that have to do with race as well?

    Overall, I appreciate what you’re doing and I’m sorry you were let go at BYU because of your stance. I don’t agree with everything that you say but I don’t think it’s grounds for dismissal. Thanks again for engaging us in the Bloggernacle.

  2. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Darron. We like to discuss race in the bloggernacle, but mostly from the viewpoint of white people. No shame in that, but I’m glad you can offer your own experience.

    I have one question for you. Priesthood ban and racist folklore aside (and that’s a big aside, I grant you), how does the Mormon Church rate, do you feel, among other mostly white churches in terms of race relations? My own anecdotal sense is that by and large we do OK. At least, I have not found Mormons to be any more racist than other folk.

  3. Steve Evans says:

    Darron, here’s a question for you: I agree that the Church needs to “root out the vestiges of institutional racism.” How should it do so? Can affirmative action take place in a church where callings are made on personal revelation? Isn’t this forcing God’s hand?

  4. Ronan,

    I do not think the LDS Church is anymore racist than other white churches. We Latter-day Saints have our own demons to struggle with, for sure, but by in large the does okay in comparison to say, for example, the Southern Baptist and Methodists. Both faith traditions have had at one time in their history teachings regarding blacks as dscendants from the lions of Ham. The LDS Church is not unique in constructing Blacks as “Other” many white Christian denominations had similar ideas to justify slavery and a number of issues relating to Black potential. Black Americans simply had enough of trying to build amicable communities of worship with whites and started their own churches with varying degrees of doctrine. The most radical of Black religious thought being the nation of Islam. Currently less than 5% of blacks and whites worship together according to (Roof & McKinney, 1987). I believe this has to do with more than just folklore in the LDS Church. Black and white worship styles are so very different with is a later discussion. Thanks Ronan for allowing me the chance to put this information out there. http://www.darronsmith.com

  5. Well, Darron, if you’re proposing we bring Negro spirituals into sacrament meeting, then you have my unabashed support!

  6. Chris Williams says:

    Rusty:

    I’m not so sure that President Hinckley has the responsibility to apologize. Perhaps individuals that have taught that doctrine have the responsibility, but not him.

    He’s the president of the church. He may not have a personal responsibility, but he has institutional responsibility. He speaks for the church. And since many of the church leaders who taught racist doctrine are dead, they can’t very well offer the apology themselves.

    If there is an apology and official repudiation from the Church, it should come from the mouth of the prophet, be it President Hinckley or his successor. In fact, I think the LDS Church could learn a lot from the leadership example of Pope John Paul II who repudiated and apologized for anti-Semitic Catholic teachings and practice even though he personally had never engaged in it. He understood the need for Atonement with Jews and did more to improve Catholic-Jewish relations through his actions than if he had simply acted as though the Catholic Church had moved past that.

  7. Mark IV says:

    Darron,

    Before the discussion goes too far without me, I’d like to nail down what you mean when you use the word *racism* in the context of the church.

    In your first paragraph you appear to be using the word to describe a condition that has a negative consequences for a person’s financial well-being or health. Is it your position that the church has that effect on its African-American members?

    In your last paragraph, you seem to be saying that racism means acts of meanness and aggression.

    Could you please clarify for me how I should understand the term *racism* in the context of our discussion here?

  8. i agree that an official refutation of any racist doctrines is more or less necessary. i know that many members still believe that the mark of cain is black skin and other similar doctrines, and will continue to do so until the prophet comes out and says in plain speech that it is not so.

  9. Steve, I do not think affirmative action is relevant and this concept is politically loaded. I believe that “personal relevation” is contingent upon one’s experiences, vision and relationships. In other words, if I am a bishop of a ward and thinking about calling counselors I might very call someone who I feel most comfortable who looks like me and has a similiar backqround like me. I have heard numerous members of the church in predominately diverse settings raise concerns about local leadership calling white people when their are capable individuals within the rank-in-file membership. What effectively ends up happening in the above example is a reproduction in a the status quo of the very condition that we aim to change in our church. I default to people who look like me and have a similar experience as me and assume that such an event is not racially motivated? Remember that race is largely unconscious acts that slips by our conscious mind and is only made visible through inquiry. If change is to occur within the church we need proactive leadership! Men and women of vision who will take to the Lord names of individuals of color who may not otherwise have the opportunity to serve in prominent positions. We need to be thinking about difference in the process of selecting leaders and not always mystifying callings as being purely driven by inspiration. Yes inspiration in the final analysis but facilitated by a willingness to call people who may or may not be overlooked. In addition, I do not see this as a question of forcing God’s’ hand as much as I see it as an “act in relation to service” realizing that we need to cultivate leaders of color in a growing diverse world.

    Darron

  10. Steve Evans says:

    Darron, a good reply to a tough (and indeed loaded) question. Thanks.

  11. Let me explain myself when I use the terms race and racism. I am not referring to “individual acts of meanness one race against another.” The common assumptions are racism is akin to crossburning, hate crimes, and name calling and although this has some element of racism it reduces the phenomena to the individual and fails to acknowlege the workings of institutions (e.g., churches, education, law and medicine) and how they have created wealth and power imbalances at the expense of peoplel of color. The process of systemic racism is seductive because we assume that racist look like them, skin heads, etc… The operation of systemic racism involves the recurring exercise of coercive power by white Americans over black Americans. Systemic racism at its core involves separating, distancing, and alienating social relationships. This discussion is too complicated for this site I can refer you to some materials if you are interested.

    D

  12. Mark IV says:

    Darron,

    OK, and thank you for your response. I wish it weren’t such a complicated mess.

  13. Rusty:

    as the prophet is the mouth piece for the church he has every right to atone for the past. His example might very well make the difference for our black brothers and sisters who struggle with the evils of racist practices within the church. The proactive-ness of church leadership would certainly silence all those who continue to spew the cursed folklore so common in our church. Try to put yourself in the shoes of black members Rusty who are made to bear the burdens of white racist thought?

    D

  14. Casual Observer says:

    I think the notion to bring forth those names of a diverse group to the Lord in prayer when filling callings is a great idea.

    As for racism, I admit it is difficult for me as a white woman to always recognize racism in things when it is decried by blacks. Case in point, Representative Cynthia McKinney this week. I have a real problem with the fact that she was asked to stop several times by security and did not, then accused security of racial profiling. I don’t see it as a racial issue by anyone except her. Maybe I’m wrong but it looks to me like she’s on an ego trip, not a victim of harrassment. When people cry wolf, it is hard to ascertain when the wolf is really lurking around.

  15. Kristine says:

    One question that I have about an official apology is that, while we can (and should!) apologize for the historical practice of the church and the folk doctrines we’ve allowed to go unrepudiated, the church *can’t* readily apologize for the racism of the Book of Mormon. It’s one thing to distance ourselves from poor interpretations of the Bible (mark of Cain, etc.), but we are by and large committed to a literalist reading of the Book of Mormon, which asserts in multiple passages that darkened skin was divine punishment for wickedness. Maybe, maybe we could look at the change from “white and delightsome” to “pure and delightsome” as the basis for a changed understanding, but we’d have to go much farther–allow, for instance, the possibility that the prophets writing about dark skin were mired in a racist culture and mistaken about the divine involvement with pigmentation. Otherwise, we have a foundational text that is profoundly racist, and I’m not sure how much traction we can get out of a purely historical apology.

  16. Julie M. Smith says:

    “my wish is that you good people will send letters to church headquarters with the specific request that the church make a declarative statement about the need to abort all racist teachings in the past about people of African descent”

    This seems like such a reasonable idea, but the problem that I have with it is this: the assumption in the trenches then becomes “If SLC hasn’t officially denounced it, it must be true!” I worry how this will affect all the other folk doctrine out there . . . So, despite my sympathy for this position, I think we have to stick with the current modes for establishing what is and is not doctrine and leave SLC out of the folklore debunking business.

    Yet I do think that as the issue comes up among the Saints, we as individuals have the opportunity and obligation to debunk folk doctrine, and I will admit that I took great pleasure in doing this when I taught OD-2 in SS last year.

    Rusty writes, “I’m sorry you were let go at BYU because of your stance.”

    Can you substantiate this assertion, Rusty?

    “Well, Darron, if you’re proposing we bring Negro spirituals into sacrament meeting, then you have my unabashed support!”

    Me too!

  17. Well, as Grant Palmer’s analysis demonstrated a literalist reading of the Book of Mormon is vulnerable to falsification. Hence we might be better off reading the Book of Mormon as a spiritual rather than a historical, literally true text.

  18. Puxa! Rusty, your welcoming skills are a bit, shall we say, rusty.
    Darron, bem vindo. Thanks for your post. I think it’s extremely important for non-black Saints, particularly those in Utah or other locations where they have little contact with blacks, to listen to the experience of black Mormons.
    I welcome your call for repudiation of our past (current? see Mconkie’s Mormon Doctrine ugly race-based teachings).

  19. Darron, in #11 you write:
    The operation of systemic racism involves the recurring exercise of coercive power by white Americans over black Americans. Systemic racism at its core involves separating, distancing, and alienating social relationships. This discussion is too complicated for this site I can refer you to some materials if you are interested.

    i am interested, could you please include some references? also, could you give some examples of “systemic racism” within mormonism?

    One example seems to me our continued allowance of the racial folklore. As long as we allow a sizeable portion of our membership to spout racial dogma such as blacks are spiritually inferior to whites, black skin is a curse, etc., it has the affect of “alienating social relationships.”

  20. Jared E. says:

    Although I do think it appropriate for the church as an institution to apologize, and unambiguously state the official church position on these racial topics, I am not hopeful that it will happen. As quoted in Michael Quinns article in Fall 2000 Dialogue, President Hinckley “has dismissed Mormonism’s earlier race-based policies as ‘those little tricks of history’ which are irrelevant now” (pg.43).

    In any case, publicly repudiating those doctrines would cast doubt on the authority of past presidents of the church. These presidents openly and unequivocally endorsed and preached such doctrines stating that they were the doctrines of God, not their personal opinions. The church is not in the habit of making such declarations.

  21. Kevin Barney says:

    I think that there is a pragmatic, political (small “p”) side to this. If we really want anything to happen, we have to take into account how the Church actually works in practical terms.

    First, the Church generally does not react well to public pressure. A quiet, sustained backdoor, grassroots approach is much more likely to achieve positive results than an open and public campaign (especially in the media!). The Church is defensive and sensitive to appearing to act in response to pressure and political expediency. The Manifesto was such a traumatic paradigm shift in the history of the Church, and so many Saints felt that the Church had caved to pressure (which indeed it did), that the Church is extremely sensitive to being perceived in that light. Going public with something like this is a recipe for ensuring it doesn’t happen. The Church has an institutional need for being perceived as acting on its own motion, even if the case has actually been pressed by individuals not of the leadership.

    Second, an apology is too ambitious an agenda. I personally think that the priesthood ban was a culturally conditioned mistake, which was cured 20 years later than it might otherwise have been because of unique issues of Mormon governance. So for me an apology might make sense. But mine is by not means a universal view in the Church; many believe God indeed was either behind the ban or at least allowed it to continue, for reasons we don’t fully understand. I seriously doubt an apology is in the offing.

    I think a more achievable goal would be to get a public disavowal and rejection of the racist folk doctrines, particularly descent from Cain/Ham and preexistent fence sitting. Rather than demand that this come from President Hinckley, I think a more realistic scenario would be for Elder Oaks to repudiate these old notions in a General Conference talk. The approach would be to say that *of course* these ideas are wrong, yet some people continue to repeat them, and they need to stop. This is a very sensitive issue, and it would take someone of Elder Oaks’ care with language to convey the point adequately.

  22. Steve Evans says:

    “In any case, publicly repudiating those doctrines would cast doubt on the authority of past presidents of the church. These presidents openly and unequivocally endorsed and preached such doctrines stating that they were the doctrines of God, not their personal opinions. The church is not in the habit of making such declarations.”

    Jared E., I don’t agree with your statements. The racial priesthood ban is not directly based on a doctrine of unrighteousness in the pre-existence. Such concepts are NOT doctrines, they’re explanations and folklore, and have never been presented as official doctrine of the Church, Bruce R. McConkie’s book notwithstanding. Presidents have NOT “openly and unequivocally” endorsed these things as you claim they have. You are not citing church history correctly.

  23. I would like to share a personal experience with a man who I home taught for a couple of years and over time became a good friend with.
    It sums up some of the experiences that race misunderstandings in the gospel can cause. Over the course of several months I began to develop a trusting relationship with this brother. He was a convert of about three years and by his perception had been dealt with harshly in obtaining a temple recomend and attriuted it to race. In reality he could not obtain a temple recomend due to not paying a full tithe. In my attempts to build trust and explain why some white members of the church had difficulties in associating openly with him was because of the teachings of the bretheren pre OD-2.
    Because of my open discussion of these issues and the fact that “I would councel my daughter to marry within her race” (in order to prevent many of the predudices and biases that accompany mixed racial marages and offspring within those marrages, just as much as I would council her to not marry within her race if the young man was not a worthy priesthood holder) he labled me as being a racist. I was hurt and felt it was extreamly ironic that I was labeled as one because of my love for this man and his family and that I was trying to be as honest with him as I could.
    Our friendship went through a very rough couple of years, but in the end he actually saw that I did love him and wanted him to know that I looked on him as a brother. He affirmed this in the temple on the day he was sealed to his family and said that without my efforts to explain some of the perceptions that many of the members had, he would have been unable to progress toward the temple and overcome his initial anger. He passed away a year later.

    I guess my point is that bias and predudice is overcome by honesty and love. It is also overcomee by experinece and lots of gospel study. Sometimes it takes months and years for someone who feels that they have been wronged to understand that some of the words and actions that are percieved “racist” are intended to provide understanding and are an attempt to reach out in love.

  24. Jared(#20): “These presidents openly and unequivocally endorsed and preached such doctrines stating that they were the doctrines of God, not their personal opinions.”

    Jared, except for Brigham Young in the mid 1800s, I can’t think of many statements by presidents that support your statement. If you can, I’m interested to see them as part of thinking how to best address an objective of repudication. There is Joseph Fielding Smith’s 1931 The Way to Perfection, which contains a collection of most of the worst of our racial teachings, but that was written 40 years before he was president, AND he openly acknowledged as speculative most of the racial folklore he passed on (that was a nuance that BRM wasn’t able to digest).
    There was the 1947 letter exchange between Mormon sociologist Lowry Nelson and the George Albert First presidency. This is described in Prince’s Mckay biography, as discussed here on the ByCC Race and the Church thread in comments 84 and 94-97. In the letter (and a couple similar ones I’m aware of) the First Presidency writes a private letter that justifies the priesthood ban, but even that letter only “vaguely rationalized the policy as part of the ‘doctrines that our birth into this life and the advantages under which we may be born have a relationship in the life heretofore.” (74-75).
    There just isn’t much in the way of presidents “preaching” the racial folklore as official doctrine or even mentioning it at all to the church membership (though in the late 19th century First Presidency minutes you can find these issues being debated among church leaders many times). You even have Lorenzo Snow at the turn of the 20th century and Pres. Mckay in the 1950s and 1960s questioning the policy.

    So, my point isn’t that the racial folklore hasn’t been taught as doctrine in the church. It has, and still is, most prominently in BRM’s Mormon Doctrine.
    But, I think the church membership is on-board with the “follow the prophet” refrain enough that we would quite easily absorb a communication from President Hinckley explaining that specific racial teachings are officially not church doctrine.

  25. I like your idea about the grassroots effort, Kevin.

    As for your argument about insisting on change, that’s a common view among Mormons. Thanks for articulating it so well, Kevin.

    In light of what happened on Saturday, however, it’s not a view that can be easily maintained.

    Notice, Darron’s selfless and unrelenting efforts put race on the agenda. To his credit, Gordon Hinckley exercised leadership. We should acknowledge that instead of clinging to the myth that it could not have possibly happened.

    Members voice their needs, shepherds respond. That’s how it ought to be.

    Mormon leaders have accomodated pressure many times. The priesthood revelation is a case in point. So are the Safe Space Campaign and efforts to defend freedom of scholarship. Of course, it’s always better to cooperate. But that’s ultimately beyond our control. We can only choose our own actions, not the response of LDS leaders.

    Observing Rocky Mountain Mormons as a foreigner, it is clear to me, that they value nothing more than social standing (I am considering observables only, not testimonies and the like). Unlike Mormons abroad, they are very touchy about being accepted. If someone tells them that their behavior is out of bounds, they listen because they care about being accepted like no other group that I have encountered. That’s why pressure and media exposure work.

    With respect to racism, we need change today because children continue to absorb racist dogma in our culture. That troubles me as a parent. Worse, children who happen to have African ancestors will continue to be told that they are defective or second class.

    If we settled for a minimalist strategy then we would have to compromise the moral health of our children. I am sure, no parent is willing to do that.

    Clear language will protect our children. Waffling leaves their hearts and minds vulnerable.

    Fortunately, Gordon Hinckley said on Saturday that he agrees with me and others about the evil of racism. That’s wonderful because it’s one less item where Mormonism remains a bad influence in the life of my children. Hinckley’s words create space for a win win approach whenever I need to correct damaging “doctrine.” The renunciation of the fence sitter doctrine would be even better.

  26. Kevin’s pragmatism is dishearteningly correct. 10 years ago work on an official statement disavowing the folklore was seriously set back when the LA Times published a report on the effort. Press and pressure don’t work. Call me crazy but that just seems prideful to me. Oh, I get the politics, but protecting the view the Lord directs every move of every GA is as nutty as the black folklore. Do what is right regardless of the actions of the press or the protestors. Perpetrate wrongs so as not to appear influenced by men, even if the men are right? Fail to correct misunderstandings because the correction would embarrass a leader or his heirs? Apparently some think we are supposed to believe our leaders are always directly guided by the Lord and, hence, never in error. I don’t and I don’t think any student of history can support such a view. So let’s just admit some leaders have made erroneous and harmful statements about our black brothers and sisters, ackowledge all the good those same leaders have done and move on with a more correct view of revelation, leadership and the human condition.

    And, Kevin, as creative as is your idea of giving the job to Elder Oaks, I think only the President can set us right. But it’s an intriguing second choice.

    Thank you, Darron. This issue can’t come to the fore too often.

  27. Eric Russell says:

    Kristine (#15), I think that when we take it upon ourselves to tell God how he can and cannot act in regards to race and skin color, we indeed have a ways to go in our attitudes towards race.

  28. Kristine (#15), see the ByCC “BoM & the 10% Solution” thread, comment 15 for a discussion of why the BoM verses you refer to should not be interpreted as meaning that God issued a curse that darkened a person’s skin color.

  29. Julie,
    I was only re-stating what Darron had claimed in the podcast (that BYU fired him because of the book/things he was saying). I trust that he was honest in his portrayal of the events of his dismissal.

    Chris,
    When I say “I’m not so sure” it means that I’m not so sure. And I’m okay with that because I’m still trying to figure out what I think. I’m not comfortable with the idea of demanding God’s prophet to atone for the sins of others. Frankly, I don’t like the idea of demanding anything of the prophet. In fact, it makes me uncomfortable knowing how comfortable everyone else is in issuing this demand. The scenerio that Kevin Barney outlined seems that it would have the desired impact without the mess or the ark-steadying (that I hope most of us want to avoid).

    Darron,
    I apologize for the harsh nature of my opening comment, I was in a rush to get out the door but there were a couple things I wanted to say and didn’t say them how I wanted.

    A few (non-rushed) questions:

    1) On the podcast you said ALL white people are racists because they enjoy the benefits of being white. In other words, according to you there’s nothing I can do to escape my racism. Could you please explain this to me because I’m having a hard time understanding what I’m supposed to do: should I try to avoid any advantage I get in life because it was born through the racism of my fathers? Can I talk to you about dancing or basketball without you thinking that I’m talking to you about it because you’re black? (this is in reference to what you said on the podcast) I truly want to understand the real-world application to what you’re saying, how can I avoid being a racist (if possible at all)?

    2) Do you think it’s possible for a white person to get to a point where they don’t see a person’s color but just see the person? I ask this because I live in Brooklyn and I truly feel that I’ve gotten to that point or at least close to it.

    3) You mentioned in the podcast that racism is about the distribution of power and that (it seemed like you were saying) black people can’t be racist because they don’t have the power. Could you please either correct me or help me to better understand what you meant because the take-home message of that idea is that it’s okay for black people to spew forth all sorts of white-slander without being considered racists… because they don’t have the power?

    4) Lastly, (sorry I have so many questions, this is just a very interesting topic for me and the podcast has really got me thinking today) In my ward I’m in a position that has influence over the callings made in the ward… a ward with a substantial black membership (Brooklyn). I just started writing that “our decisions are based on the Spirit, worthiness, willingness, abilities and available resources… skin color has nothing to do with our decisions…” but I realized you might be suggesting that skin color SHOULD have something to do with our decisions. Is that what you’re saying? I don’t know if I agree with that but I’m open to your thoughts.

    Again, thanks for coming here and engaging us.

  30. Daron and anybody else who is interested in discussing matters related to black folks and Mormonism are welcome to join the “black-lds” mail list via yahoogroups.

  31. Chris Williams says:

    Rusty,

    I’m not demanding anything of the prophet. But I think Darron is correct when he asserts that the lack of any kind of official repudiation of all of the nonsense used to justify the ban damages the church and its members, white and black. I think an apology and repudiation could be a powerful way to end the proliferation of the nonsense and lift up black saints. All I’m trying to do is voice my support for that point of view.

    I again point to John Paul II, who humbly asked the Jewish community to forgive Catholics their sins of anti-Semitism, even though he himself was personally guiltless. He atoned. He reconciled. Of course, one must believe there is something that need be atoned for for this to have any meaning, so perhaps that’s where we disagree.

    Just an aside — You and I know that ward in Brooklyn well. I lived there for six years. It always troubled me that we had such a difficult time retaining black converts. And I never had a good answer when black converts came to me and essentially asked, “Why didn’t the church/missionaries/you tell me about this?” The history and the lingering unrepudiated justicifications used to explain the ban are real obstacles for many black investigators and converts, even in a progressive ward like Park Slope.

  32. Darron Smith: White people are not in the best position to understand the many manifestations of racism

    Perhaps. But it doesn’t follow that black people are in the best position to understand the many manifestations of racism either. There is a conflict of interests on both counts: For whites, denying racism allows them to exonerate themselves and thereby ignore the problem; For blacks, exaggerating racism allows them to construct an identity of victimhood. In short, there is no good reason to suppose that either blacks or whites have a corner on the market to understand racism.

    My guess is that Asians are in a better position to assess the dynamics of intercourse between whites and blacks–they don’t have nearly so many vested interests.

  33. Chris, I agree with you that some kind of repudiation is in order–the more official the better. McConkie repudiated his own statements, but many of them continue to be published without comment. And, of course, the vast majority of the statements stand there on the record along side all of the opinions to the contrary as though there on equal footing.

    To be sure, Mormon leaders have said a lot of screwball things over the years, and most of them don’t warrant an official repudiation. But the statements about blacks reflected (and were therefore endorsed by, in some sense) highly visible church policies.

  34. Steve Evans says:

    DKL, you’ve clearly been watching CRASH. I commend you for your racial clarity. Are you asian, by any chance? That would explain much.

  35. Kristine says:

    Eric (#27), I certainly am not trying to tell God how s/he can or cannot act with regards to skin color. I am trying to figure out how we deal with the potentially troublesome notions about race that we end up with if we accept the Book of Mormon contention that God uses dark skin as punishment. Since there are MANY other scriptures that say “God is no respecter of persons,” “in Christ there is neither black nor white,” etc., I think it’s likely that scriptural passages which equate dark skin with wickedness may not represent a full understanding of God’s intention. That’s all.

    By the way, do I know you, or did I offend you at some point in the past? Because you seem pretty determined to read my comments in the worst possible light, and I can’t figure out why you’re so personally antagonistic.

  36. Kristine says:

    Stirling, I largely agree with those arguments (except for #1, which I think is a little weak–the text as it stands seems to be intended quite literally). However, I don’t think you’d get very far in your average Gospel Doctrine class with them. While the broad swath of Mormons are (reluctantly) willing to consider arguments about textual problems in the Bible, we are generally not able to apply much critical thinking to the Book of Mormon at all–suggesting that a prophet-author of the Book of Mormon made mistakes because he didn’t understand Mendelian genetics would call forth a chorus of “the prophet knows everything, and doesn’t need to understand puny human science,” and “when they are learned they think they are wise!” in most Sunday School classrooms, I think.

  37. Mark IV says:

    Rusty, comment # 29 understands Darron to be saying:

    black people can’t be racist because they don’t have the power.

    I’ll let Darron respond and confirm whether that is his position. But I will point out that probably the most overt racism in the U.S. right now is that being committed against hispanic construction workers in New Orleans by the black power structure of that city. It is truly appalling in its virulence. Google around a little bit if you have the stomach for it.

    Having noted that, this thread is about racism in the church, and I want help in understanding how we can do better.

  38. Steve, I haven’t seen Crash, but I’ve heard that it’s a good movie. And rather than perpetuate nasty racial stereotypes, I’ll just keep my ethnicity under wraps.

  39. Last Lemming says:

    Several things, only loosely related to one another.

    First, a question for Darron. How would you feel if a black counselor in the bishopric were released and called to be Young Men’s president instead? Would you view that as a humiliating demotion or an opportunity for him to actually be in charge of something instead of sitting second (or third) chair?

    Second, there is a precedent for the president of the Church denouncing doctrine taught by previous prophets–President Kimball’s 1976 denunciation of the “Adam-God theory.” That denunciation did not contain any kind of apology, nor did it acknowledge that the doctrine had even been taught by previous prophets. Did it work? Well, I haven’t heard anybody teach about Adam-God in a church setting since. But, of course, I had never even heard of it prior to the denunciation either, so who knows. Personally, I think the doctrine being denounced should have been spelled out more explicitly.

    Third, Darron’s definition of racism is one I am familiar with. When I was at Penn, the (white) university president bought into it, bringing all manner of condemnation down on his head. While I understand that there is a sense in which racism taints all white people, I nevertheless think that it is unhelpful to claim that “all white people are racist.” This is a collective sin that is being imputed to all members of the collective individually. But no individual white person can fix it, and there is no mechanism by which white people collectively can fix it (unlike Americans collectively, or Mormons collectively, both of which have governing structures through which collective mistakes can, in theory, be corrected). It is more helpful to focus on individual racial prejudice and institutional racism practiced by institutions that can actually be held responsible.

  40. Eric Russell says:

    Kristine, I hadn’t noticed(!) In fact, I don’t recall having responded to your comments that much at all, but then, I don’t always pay that close of attention. I suppose it’s possible that all the times I’ve responded to your comments it happened to be in strong disagreement. Apologies if that’s the case.

    Anyways, I disagree that there are “potentially troublesome notions about race” that necessarily follow if we “if we accept the Book of Mormon contention that God use[d] dark skin as punishment” among one group of people in history, but uh, I think I’ll just leave it at that.

  41. I think, at a minimum, Deseret Book could stop reprinting Mormon Doctrine, the Way to Perfection, and similar books (or continue reprinting them only if the curse of Cain and related discussions are removed). There is precedent for stopping the republishing of controversial books by the Church’s publishing arm (e.g., the first edition of Mormon Doctrine itself, the Story of the Latter-day Saints, and perhaps others).

    If there is a huge demand for the books, perhaps Deseret Book could convey the copyrights to a publisher not owned by the Church, who could republish them as historical works, rather than as containing beliefs that are (or might be perceived to be) within the mainstream of current, correlated doctrine.

    My understanding of the current position of the Church when responding to queries by letter about the curse of Cain theory is that it, and any other speculation about the basis or origin of the priesthood denial practice, constituted only opinions of the Church leaders who stated them. Perhaps that could be stated forcefully from the pulpit as well.

    In our gospel doctrine class this year, although no mention is made in the manual of the denial of priesthood and the curse of Cain, our teacher continually refers to it as official doctrine, for example, asserting that the reason Abraham sent his servant to find a relative for Isaac to marry is because the people among whom Abraham then dwelt could not hold the priesthood as descendents of Ham and Cain.

  42. Amri Brown says:

    I like how we are all observers. Like none of us have folk beliefs or have cultural biases. Or, (shhh!) relate to other races differently than we do our own. We’re the cool, smart Mormons that aren’t fooled by dumbness. Yeah!

    Appalling story #1: Hopefully this doesn’t reveal anything my friend doesn’t want known but she is white woman married in the temple to a black man. She’s fully active in her ward and continues to hold a temple recommend as does her husband. She,with a PhD from a very prestigious university, got turned down by BYU for a full-time teaching position because she wouldn’t be a good example for the kiddies. (Kiddies prolly not a direct quote)When she asked what it was that was a bad example they just stuck to the “we don’t think you’re the kind of faculty example we want” thing.

    Appalling story #2: One time in Provo I was walking to BYU and I happened to be walking several strides behind a black man. (I am a white woman) People continued to pass and they would smile as they passed him and then immediately lose it as they passed me. It happened with 12 different people.

    I do believe that all of us are racists to some degree and rather than try to eradicate it (I think that is impossible and therefore a fruitless endeavor) we need to recognize that it exists and then it becomes like a handicap. One that we learn to work with, to solve problems around and be able to function with. So rather than having the goal of being color blind, I recognize that I have biases so I try to get more education, get to know more people, make comments in Sunday School blasting beliefs about Cain etc, extend callings, make connections in order to exist in a more integrated, loving church.

    I live in Boston and have discovered that Mormon congregations are divided racially because of socioeconomics. I’m poor and get to go to a diverse ward but most wards are all white bread. Just an observation, don’t know what to do about it.

  43. Darren,
    I am glad you at least refer to data with respect to unfounded beliefs about who bears the brunt of discrimination. I think that those who refer to “reverse discrimination”, (though not always without good points) fail to see the problem accurately.

    What you have completely failed to do is refer to any evidence that “LDS racism… continues unabated in many parts of North America, [and] Utah in particular.” My question for you is this: is your assertion simply a perception you have picked up from anecdotes or is it something you have data to support (such as survey results).

    My experiences in North America and Utah lead me to believe that racism in many areas has abated in varying degrees over the past few decades. My experience with the Saints in Utah has not led me to believe that they have a greater propensity toward racist attitudes (as opposed to those who aren’t Mormon or Mormons elsewhere in the country). Also, my experiences outside of North America are limited, so you would need to show me evidence that North American racism on the part of Latter-day Saints is quantifiably different than that of Mormons outside of North America.

    Of course, my experiences (and lack thereof) are my own and therefore would be classified as anecdotal themselves. If you or other visitors here have answers I would love to see them. I am not looking for what people have heard in Elder’s Quorum or over the neighbors’ fence because that would only be as valid as the positive things I have heard and the lack of negative things I have experienced.

    What I am looking for is proof for your assertions.

  44. You might be aware, Doug, that surveys are not suited to pick up racism. People know that it will hurt them if they admit being racists. They will lie if they can identify questions about race.

    Participant observation is an accepted method in the social sciences. We cannot discount Darron’s or anyone else’s experience in Utah out of hand.

    One thing is for sure, there remain very few places in the United States where somebody might preach that people of African descent have less valiant spirits.

  45. a random John says:

    Amri Brown,

    Note: The following is merely my observation. I had no part in the deliberations prior to any boundary changes and I don’t know what the intention behind them was.

    The two Boston wards were until recently about equally diverse. When the Spanish speaking branch was disbanded this led to a realignment between the 1st and 2nd wards that attempted to capture all the spanish speaking members into the 1st ward. This had the effect of also taking all the other minorities out of the 2nd ward. I thought that was unfortunate for a number of reasons, though probably not nearly as unfortunate as the fact that Boston neighborhoods are such that you can draw a line through the city and easily have mostly white members on one side and everybody else on the other.

  46. Fantastic podcast, guys. Thank you.

    Before this podcast came out, I had a discussion on racism with my Elders Quorum President. Both of us are white.

    My position was that at a minimum, the church should set the record straight regarding the racist teachings given by past church leaders. An apology would also be nice. My non-authoritative opinion is that the ban was a racially motivated mistake. But I don’t expect church leaders to be beyond the biases of their generations.

    My EQ president’s position was that people of all races are treated fairly in the church today. That’s all that matters. He expressed that apologizing or clarifying racist doctrine could just add salt to the wound. He went on to give quotes from Thurl Bailey and others on http://www.blacklds.org supporting his position that there are no problems today. He believes that most African Americans have moved beyond this issue and that it is not a serious deterrent to African American converts joining the church. He served a mission in a predominantly African American area and didn’t feel that racism factored into his investigator’s thinking significantly.

    In the end, I agreed to disagree with my EQ president.

    In the podcast, Darron explained that change can not occur until those in power decide to make the change. Based on my conversation with my EQ President, I wonder whether those in power are really able to see a need for change. I wonder whether we can expect to see a clarification on past racist teachings until there are more voices like Darron’s taking a stand. There does seem to be a large number of African American LDS members that are taking the position that racism is behind us as a church.

    Darron, what is your take on this?

  47. Jared E. says:

    In post #20 I state “These presidents openly and unequivocally endorsed and preached such doctrines stating that they were the doctrines of God, not their personal opinions”, a comment a few of you have taken exception with.

    Obviously Brigham Young believed and openly taught these doctrines, I don’t think anyone will argue with that.

    John Taylor believed and taught similar things. John Taylor stated, “after the flood we are told that the curse that had been pronounced upon Cain was continued through Ham’s wife, as he had married a wife of that seed. And why did it pass through the flood? Because it was necessary that the devil should have a representation upon the earth as well as God” (Journal of Discourses 22:304) and also “When he destroyed the inhabitants of the antediluvian worlds, he suffered a descendant of Cain to come through the flood in order that he might be properly represented upon the earth” (ibid. 23:336). The ‘he’ spoken of in the second quote is obviously referring to Satan.

    Wilford Woodruff stated something similar, “What was that mark? It was a mark of blackness. That mark rested upon Cain, and descended upon his posterity from that time until the present. To day there are millions of the descendants of Cain, through the lineage of Ham, in the world, and that mark of darkness still rest upon them” (Millennial Star, 51:339).

    John Taylor equates black people as the representatives of Satan upon the earth. Wilford Woodruff doesn’t go quite that far as John Taylor, but he obviously believed that Africans were descendants of Cain. I think to say that these comments are unrelated to the policy of priesthood ordination is wishful thinking.

    These are a few early examples of things church presidents stated, but in my opinion it is the actions of the church leadership which is most telling. I think the fact that the first presidency endorsed such things as segregating “colored blood” “to protect the purity of the blood streams of the people of this Church” (as quoted in Quinn, Extensions of Power, 839) and that no blacks were permitted to stay in the Hotel Utah, while the President of the Church was also the president of the hotel, and his two councilors were senior vice presidents, speaks volumes about their perceptions of blacks. These are just two among a myriad of examples which demonstrate that church presidents saw their view of blacks as more than just “racial folklore”.

    True few church presidents have stated that priesthood ordination is directly linked to disobedience in the preexistence, but if you will reference my original post #20, I never state such a think. What I do think (and feel I am justified in) is that many of the presidents of the Church believed (and at least of few taught) that blacks were the seed of Cain, and as such were not worthy of the priesthood, and they acted according to this belief. Dismissing such things (as Steve Evens does in post #22) as “explanations and folklore” and that they have “never been presented as official doctrine of the Church”, I think, is too simple a reading of history. Are we to never trust what the First Presidency says, unless it is contained in an official letter? Is it ok to just pass things off as “folklore”, because it is convenient?

  48. I don’t see it as a problem that there are equality minded individuals who don’t understand the plight of blacks. It should be enough that they treat people of different races fairly. If the goal is to have everyone understand how difficult it is to be black, then failure is guaranteed. Plus, there are always those who are going to be blissfully unaware of the problems (“All is well in Zion,” right?).

    The real problem is that there are people in the church who are racist. Not in the bullsh*t sense in which Darron Smith says that someone is a racist based on the color of their skin, but in the real sense in which some people actually do mistreat people who are of different races. This includes everything from berating them with the quotes of past prophets to passing over them for callings.

    For all of us who understand that racism exists, the best way increase awareness is to diligently work to counter and correct the actual instances of palpable racism that we encounter instead of just writing them down and complaining about them.

  49. Jared, I see you know how to Google (those antis sure have great resources!). But quoting racist statements by past presidents isn’t the same thing as establishing the official doctrine of the Church. The principle of the canon is something you’re missing. Perhaps Reuben J. Clark’s “When are the Writings or Sermons of Church Leaders Entitled to the Claim of Scripture?” would be instructive.

    In other words, I’m not arguing that those people didn’t say the things you’re ascribing to them. I am not disputing the fact that black men and women couldn’t stay at the Hotel Utah. But I don’t believe that the Cain/Ham/preexistence theories are established Church doctrines, nor have they ever been canonical.

  50. Hiram Page says:

    The most recent president of the LDS Church to be a racist was Ezra Taft Benson. He did not teach this racism as the doctrine of the Church, but this does show how close we are in time to being led by men who thought that blacks were inferior.

    Also interesting–I had never heard the argument that Martin Luther King supposedly had communist sympathies until I attended BYU. There I heard the accusation repeatedly.

    I was also personally present when a BYU professor complained in class that “we would still have our slaves if it weren’t for the blankety-blank Yankees!”

    Some professors at BYU also organized a “seminar” to criticize Martin Bernal’s book, “Black Athena,” a book which attempted to document the racist history of Classical scholarship and to claim that the Greeks owed the Egyptians much in the development of a uniquely Greek culture.

    A small number of African Americans showed up because they thought they might learn something edifying about the contribution of blacks to ancient Greek culture. What they got instead was an inept hatchet job of Bernal’s work, with little or nothing of learning value presented. When Darius Gray asked why nothing positive had been presented, one BYU Classics professor shamefully said, “I wish there were anything to say.”

    The truth is that there is plently to say. The professor who claimed that he “wished” there were something, is the same fellow who later lamented losing our black slaves on account of the bleeping Yankees.

    All of this occurred in the in the latter half of the 1990s.

    My personal experience is that our LDS culture is still quite racist. Our BY University employs racist jerks who promote hatred in the classroom and this using the university facilities I pay tithing to support.

  51. Paul (46), your friend does not realize that Latter-day Saints with African ancestors will never be treated fairly as long as there are Latter-day Saints who believe that the fence sitter doctrine is the word of God.

    Believers have an obligation to act against the word of God as they understand it. The people who are corrupting our children’s minds at Church, do so with the best intentions.

    That’s why equity and love require the official repeal of the fence sitter doctrine.

  52. Kevin Barney says:

    I think that if there is truly a desire to get actual traction with the top leadership of the Church on this issue, someone (or a small group, preferably including some stripe of leaders in the church, or well known persons, or political leaders or affluent members, IE someone that will get their attention) needs to make an appointment and sit down with one or more of the Twelve (I’ve recommended Elder Oaks, simply because he has served in public life and clearly has the intellect to process these issues and, should he agree that something needs to be done, the power of suasion to bring others to agree with him.) The highest I would attempt this is at the Twelve level; it is just a matter of access. You’re not going to be given a sit down with GBH. You need to convert one or more apostles to your point of view, and then let them fight the political battle in the leading quorums; that is something a lay member is simply not going to be able to accomplish on his own.

    You would have to make it absolutely clear that your loyalty lies with the Church, and that this isn’t in the nature of some sort of a protest. You are raising this issue because to your perception it is damaging to the Church and you want to explore what can be done to stop the bleeding.

    I think you would need to frame it in a way that motivates the institutional church to action. I would suggest you use as a framework the recent success in missionary work in big eastern cities, such as Philadelphia and the Bronx, where the Church has been getting a lot of postiive press and new converts. You have to frame this as something that is extremely damaging to the church’s missiological efforts–which it is, in my view.

    I think for this sit down, it is imperative to have at least one faithful black person in the room. And this black person needs to convey what it is like to try to convert other blacks in the face of the continued spouting of these silly old folk notions. Do it by telling stories. It will be very uncomfortable to hear from a black person what the old Mormon folklore sounds like in the ears of a black investigator. But that’s what you want; you want it to be embarrassing and painful, to bring the leader to an awareness of the nature of the problem. As someone said above, you have to make them understand that a problem exists, and that just ignoring it per current policy won’t make it go away.

    I think it is helpful that two excellent books have been published by academic presses demonstrating that this old curse of Cain or Canaan stuff is not something native to Mormon thought, but a Protestant import. (These books received a very positive review in BYU Studies.) Given that these ideas are not grounded in revealed knowledge and are ultimately Protestant in source, it should be that much easier to cut them loose completely.

    It will be an uphill battle, but I sincerely believe it is possible to attain a public disavowal and repudiation of the old folk notions over the pulpit in GC. But it is going to require educating one or more GAs who are in a position to carry the flag and actually do something about it.

  53. Kevin Barney says:

    BTW, for those of you who may not be aware, FAIR has been very active on this issue and other issues relating to black Latter-day Saints. It sponsors the Black LDS website, here:

    http://www.blacklds.org/

    Most of its annual conferences have featured at least one black speaker. And it was at one of our FAIR conferences that Armand Mauss delivered his excellent overview lecture (in Q&A format), “The LDS Church and the Race Issue: A Study in Misplaced Apologetics,” which was later published in Sunstone. The original FAIR version is here:

    http://www.fairlds.org/pubs/conf/2003MauA.html

  54. Kirke (Kiskilili) says:

    My meta-issue with the issue of race in the church is that we seemingly lack a paradigm for change. There’s no forum in which concerns can be raised and discussed and passed on to our leaders for prayerful consideration. By the same token, when change does occur, we can’t forget quickly enough. (“What previous church leaders said has no bearing today; we’re past all that; etc. etc.”) The church as an institution simply does not acknowledge change (and certainly does not solicit ideas for future change).

    That said, I’m intrigued by Kevin’s suggestion (#52).

    Re #48: I would argue that treating people fairly is essential, but it is not enough. It’s true that failure is guaranteed if our goal is to make everyone understand how difficult it is to be black, considering in the first place that blacks are not a homogeneous group, and struggle with very individual concerns (like everyone). But furthermore, even if failure IS guaranteed, we’re obligated to bear one another’s burdens. I like to think that includes a) making some effort to understand how painful lingering racist doctrines and policies might be to others (regardless of our own race), b) acknowledging that racism to a degree that we give other people the benefit of the doubt when they claim they’ve been negatively impacted, and c) examining how even the privileged race is negatively impacted by certain church teachings.

    Writing things down and complaining can be valuable; at the very least one can hope it raises awareness of the issues.

    And I actually believe “blacks” are in the best possible position to assess racism toward “blacks,” specifically BECAUSE they aren’t neutral. Our own privilege tends to be invisible to us; we just naturally notice doors that close in our faces more than doors that are open.

    On the issue of “canon”: the term is both nebulous and porous; what I construe as the pureness of the gospel might be your space doctrine. We have no catechism, and the fact is that a range of beliefs are embraced under the banner of Mormonism. For this reason, I think it’s irresponsible to assume that dismissing earlier leaders’ offensively racist statements as “folk doctrine” is sufficient. I personally would love to see the church take the issue head on and repudiate such ideas explicitly and officially.

    As long as _Mormon Doctrine_ is in print, the problem remains. And even if it goes out of print, we have not adequately dealt with our history. We’ve largely assuaged our discomfort by sweeping it under the rug. We seem to value our claims to absolute transcendence (fueling our distaste for change) above our commitment to what’s right.

  55. Steve Evans says:

    “I think it’s irresponsible to assume that dismissing earlier leaders’ offensively racist statements as “folk doctrine” is sufficient.”

    I agree with you that such statements should be publicly repudiated. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are or ever were official church doctrine, does it? But yeah, there is a whole range of looking at what constitutes doctrine in our religion, and for purposes of this thread I’ve been deliberately towing a strict line. Perhaps I shouldn’t be so inconsistent in doing so, b/c when it’s my pet doctrines under discussion, I’m much more willing to think of them as “official.”

  56. Brandon says:

    Darron,

    I am interested to know what your thoughts are about the website: BlackLDS.org

    What are the pros & cons associated with this website. I’m not sure quite sure if the site is an official site from the LDS Church or if it is an unoffical site from somebody else.

  57. Brandon, Darron can speak as to his own thoughts, but I can tell you that blacklds.org is not an official site of the LDS Church.

  58. Kevin Barney says:

    Brandon, as I expressed earlier in the thread, blacklds.org is a site sponsored by FAIR, a group I am involved with. As Steve says, it is by no means an official LDS site.

  59. anothernonymous says:

    We live in a society saturated with visual imagery. 100 years ago, iconography was extremely limited vs. those familiary with the written Word.

    With respect to how this relates to this post, consider Pres. Hinckley’s words from the Priesthood session last week: “Throughout my service as a member of the First Presidency, I have recognized and spoken a number of times on the diversity we see in our society. It is all about us, and we must make an effort to accommodate that diversity.”

    I wonder if efforts to accommodate that diversity from an institutional perspective would be to commission artwork representative of the ministry of Christ that de-Anglicises Him. Right now I’m looking at a pass-along card featuring the Resurrected Christ by (I think) Del Parson. I wonder if there will ever be a point where a missionary serving in China would carry flip charts of a Christ with more distinctly Asian features? Or would that create more confusion due to the need for “brand uniformity” of a religious institution?

  60. Darron,
    I enjoyed your podcast. I must say, I have a very very dificult time understanding how any person of color could belong in such a racist church as the Mormon Church.

    At any rate, I hope that your outspoken comments will help the hierarchy of the LDS church make much needed changes.

  61. Steve Evans says:

    Bonnie and gang, please keep your remarks civil. If you’re new to BCC, you should know that we’re not an anti-mormon site and we’re not interested in badmouthing the Church in non-constructive ways.

  62. Bonnie,
    I have a very difficult time understanding how any person of color could belong in such a racist country as the United States.

    Btw, outspoken comments won’t ever “help” the hierarchy of the LDS church make any changes (in fact, how often do outspoken comments ever “help” anyone/anything?) The Church simply can’t be an organization that makes decisions based on outspoken comments. Kevin Barney has outlined a much more sensible and Christ-like way of communicating the problem.

    But go ahead, keep yelling, that will “help”.

  63. Kevin (58), I was unaware that blacklds.org was sponsored by FAIR. I didn’t notice the disclaimers at the bottom of the pages until I looked for them after you mentioned its affliation here.

    Can you comment on blacklds.org came to be?

    Are there African Americans on the board of FAIR?

  64. Jared E. says:

    “I see you know how to Google (those antis sure have great resources!)”

    Steve,
    You begin your reply by making assumptions about me, and then attacking me based on those assumptions. Let me state for your benefit, that I am a faithful Later-Day Saint who attends church weekly (not weakly), has served a full time mission, and reads the Book of Mormon with his family every night before family prayer (we are currently in Helaman). And if your suggesting I got my reference on the first presidencies endorsement of Utah blood bank segregation, you are very much mistaken (the one point I made in my last reply that you failed to acknowledge).

    My only point is that in my view, a very strong case can be made that for over a century the prophets of the church believed and some openly taught that blacks were, in fact, the seed of Cain and that based upon their lineage they were not able to hold the priesthood. Maybe it is easy for you to dismiss this, but I think to any dispassionate observer the above is clear. To argue about what exactly is ‘official doctrine’ is missing the point. I think we are on dangerous footing when we start discounting the words of the past presidents of the church, simply because those words do not fit into our current world view. And it is not only the words of the past presidents, but their actions which tell us what they believed. After all, THEY WERE PROPHETS!

    All too often mormon apologetics seek to dismiss problems such as these by engaging in complicated semantics and hair splitting, while missing the writing which can clearly be seen on the wall. The world does not miss the writing on the wall, and if we are to justify ourselves to those we are trying to convert, we must do so in an honest and logical manner. I am not an anti, I am only a mormon who is trying to be intellectually honest with himself, I would rather see the truth for what it is. As Jesus said “and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free”. He did not say “and you shall know the faith inspiring version of the truth, and the faith inspiring version of the truth shall set you free”. (I know what your going to say, that he was referencing himself, as in “the way, the truth and the light”, but I still think my point holds.)

  65. Steve Evans says:

    Jared, I have no idea whether or not you attend church each week — and frankly I don’t care to know. I wasn’t trying to imply that you were an antimormon, just that you’d clearly gone out and googled some nice quotes to support your point.

    “And if your [sic] suggesting I got my reference on the first presidencies endorsement of Utah blood bank segregation…”

    I have no idea what you’re talking about there, but it sounds weird.

    “My only point is….”

    If that were your only point, I’d agree with you. And, in fact, I do agree with you and don’t debate what past Church leaders privately believed or even occasionally taught. However, that’s not your only point. Your real point is something else — that because past mormon leaders taught some principles, occasionally from the pulpit, that we should not “discount” what they’ve said, that we should accept what you believe the truth to be: we live in a racist church that has deeply seeded racist doctrines.

    Unfortunately, you’re missing something in your analysis. The difference between canon and folklore belief is a crucial one, one that all mormons need to understand and appreciate if they are to follow their leaders (past and present) with any meaningful level of faith. Perhaps you also believe that we should not discount Brigham Young’s teachings regarding moon-men just because of our current world view? Perhaps Zelph figures strongly in your heirarchy of beliefs?

    Jared, you’ve engaged me personally, because you mistakenly thought I was attacking you personally. I had no intention of doing so in my comment, I assure you. However, let me tell you something: I’m not engaging in “complicated semantics and hair splitting, while missing the writing which can clearly be seen on the wall.” Quite to the contrary, it is you who is missing what’s on the wall, missing the real value of the modern gospel by ascribing doctrinal value to statements that have none in the pursuit of a self-constructed concept of intellectual honesty. Look, I don’t really have much to say to attack you. As a practical matter, I’m much more on your side than I’m coming across for purposes of this thread. But in all honesty, I think that you are holding on too much to the words of past leaders, especially given the current views of our living prophets. Why do you want to hold on to what was said in the past, when our church clearly does not espouse these views?

    Perhaps your point is that our current church leadership should apologize for the teachings of past leaders. I can probably get behind that view. But in terms of acknowledging what is canon and doctrine, versus what is not (a crucial issue here), I think you are mistaken. If you’re truly interested in intellectual honesty, then perhaps you should approach the church at face value for what it is, rather than skewing the past to make it what it isn’t.

  66. Josh Kim says:

    Darron,

    A few months ago in Sunday School the topic of the Church Ban on the Priesthood for Blacks came up. I said that I believed that the 1978 revelation corrected decades of Church policy and the racism and the attitude of the time of Brigham Young and others upto 1978. Soon after I spoke a guy in my BYU ward also spoke and he basically swatted down my well meaning commment by saying that he believed in the supremacy of the Prophets and that the Priesthood ban was in effect for a reason. I just gritted my teeth and held my tongue for I didn’t want to cause contention but I was sick to my stomach over the fact that there are people in Church who refuse to tackle tough questions and instead say that since the Prophets have said it and have basically condoned the ban the Lord must have instituted for a reason (please excuse my run-on, it’s a bit early in the morning for me).

    I really can’t stand people who can’t argue for themselves and instead rely on phrases like “I believe that President So and So was a Prophet and so he must have been right.” Well wow! So I guess then that Brigham Young was right in saying that Adam is our God, you know?

    I do believe that the Priesthood ban was an unfortunate saga in our Church. Darron, I’m sorry for that. It’s a sad chapter. I am a Korean so of course the Church gave the Priesthood to us early on but for the Church to ban the ordination of African Americans/blacks for decades is excusable in my opinion. It’s the institution and the use of doctrine to justify racism that I find offensive. I too, believed in the theory that the Priesthood was denied due to a lineage from Cain or that blacks were less valiant in Heaven. I am sorry for this view I held. I was ignorant. But thanks to people like you, Darron, I have seen a whole new light. Thank you for your Academic courage. I just wish I could say the same for the Leadership here at BYU.

  67. Steve, blood bank segregation (to which Jared E refers) was the practice of keeping the blood of white people separate from the blood of black people (e.g., the US military maintained a segregated blood bank until 1949). The idea was that you don’t want a white person getting black blood and vice versa. Nowadays, that sounds like the plot of a second-rate, one joke comedy movie, but back then people actually believed that this was harmful for “racial purity” in some sense. Naturally, since are more white people than black people, this policy was more harmful to blacks than to whites, resulting in inadequate supplies and delays for treating blacks.

    For my part, I take the endorsement of segregated blood banks the same way I take Kimball’s statement on the undesirability of nuclear weapons in his (proverbial) back yard.

  68. In my preceding comment, I meant to say “…there are more white people than black people in the United States…” (I really have no idea what the ethnic makeup of the globe is.)

  69. Kevin Barney says:

    As I understand it, the blacklds.org website was the brainchild of Scott Gordon (president of FAIR), Juiann Reynolds (a board member) and Renee Olson (secretary of FAIR). Scott and Juliann are white; Renee is black. Its purpose is basically to provide a resource for everyday black Latter-day Saints to understand and deal with the kinds of things that Darron expresses concerns about, such as the old folk notions we’ve been discussing here.

    It provides important resources, such as these:

    http://www.blacklds.org/mormon/priesthood.html

    for understanding these issues. (For instance, you can read Renee’s FAIR presentation “Dispelling the Black Myth” at a link at the above site.)

    Participants in the bloggernacle are the type of people who are familiar with such things as Lester Bush’s seminal article on the history of the ban from Dialogue. But most lay members, including black lay members, do not know about this literature or where or how to get their hands on it. It is to be hoped that this website will make these resources more readily available to the broader LDS community.

  70. Steve Evans says:

    DKL (no 67) — ohhhhhhh, THAT blood bank separation. For some reason it had conjured something completely different in my mind. But yeah, I remember that utter foolishness now that you mention it.

  71. RE (69)

    Taking another look at the site, I can now see how blacklds.org is intended to be a resource for members trying to deal with the race issue. I think it’s a good idea and that the site has some good information on it.

    FAIR might want to consider making the purpose of the site as well as its relationship to the site more explicit. I think the average person would get the impression that the site was established by grass-roots African American groups. For example, when I first saw the site, I got the impression that Gladys Knight was personally involved since her testimony is topmost on the home page.

    The subtitle of the site reads “A Web Site Dedicated to Black Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint” This is a little misleading since I think the site is equally interested in addressing the concerns of non-blacks. I also think that a site dedicated to black members of the church would reference multiple points of view within the black LDS community, including views like Darron’s.

    In fact, I think blacklds.org could be more effective if it ran completely independently from FAIR. Having an apologetic organization sponsor a site dedicated to resolving racial concerns by posting the testimonies of black converts is treading on thin ice. Some people will see this as using the testimonies of black converts to serve the purposes of FAIR. That could be construed as exploitive or even racist.

  72. Jared E. says:

    Steve,

    I am not trying to hold on to the past, or skewer past presidents of the church based upon comment they made. In fact, I don’t think our church is any more racist than any other church, generally speaking.

    In my original comment (#20), what I said was “publicly repudiating those doctrines would cast doubt on the authority of past presidents’ of the church” and that “the church is not in the habit of making such declarations”. I think the President of the Church should apologize, I think it would go a long way toward extending a friendly hand to those we’ve offended. I’m just not going to hold my breathe, waiting for such a statement. The Church has almost always chosen to just ignore problems, hoping they’ll just fizzle out, instead of acknowledging and dealing with them.

    The reason why I got off the subject in my last two posts is because Sterling asked me to justify my view. I think much of moronisms strange old doctrines can be chalked up to “folk beliefs”. But the old beliefs pertaining to blacks, were so wide spread and believed to be true for so long, that I think dismissing it as “folk belief” is just too simplistic an approach. If so many people of influence can be so wrong for so long, what does that say about many of our deeply rooted beliefs now days? Will we be one day passing off the Proclamation on the Family as “folk beliefs”, because our conception of gender and homosexuality might change in the future?

    And just for the record, I in fact do believe in moon men.

  73. Helmut (#44),
    Ironically, I agree with your post and do not think it is mutually exclusive to mine. I do not discount Darron’s experiences, but I do not think his or mine are “representative” (in the truest sense of that term). You make good points about surveys and a respondent’s fears that his/her hidden racism will be publicly revealed. This is a problem with the methodology, but anonymous surveys can still be revealing. For instance, the recent survey that showed nearly one third of French citizens admit being racist (http://www.nysun.com/article/29596). That one shocked me, and using your point we may be able to infer that the problem in France is worse than it is. At any rate, the data gives us a benchmark. Certainly scientific methodologies have their problems, but I believe that anecdotal wisdom (though it should not be discounted) has more.

    For example, one comment on this thread has pointed out an experience at BYU: “we would still have our slaves if it weren’t for the blankety-blank Yankees!” I would argue that this statement reveals much more about post-bellum American Society and the person who uttered it than it does about BYU, Mormons or LDS doctrine/folklore etc, and yet it is still told in the LDS context. This is not to say it does not belong in the LDS context at all, but that anecdotes can be very misleading and can construct an erroneous conventional wisdom about Mormonism. Particularly where Mormons and Mormonism as a group left the United States 13 years prior to the Civil War and effectually took no side in the matter. I could also recount the anecdote my father gave about always wanting to play the “Yank” in childhood mock battles at school. I could also recount the vocal, anti-racist views of my Mormon friend’s parents’ who lived in Utah Valley a decade and a half ago. But these anecdotes don’t point to a prevalent Mormon progressivism any more than Darron’s and other comments point to a prevalent racism from a “scientific” standpoint.

    At any rate, I believe the tapestry of Mormon society to be much more complicated than any one critique can reveal.

  74. Aaron Brown says:

    Jared E. said:
    “If so many people of influence can be so wrong for so long, what does that say about many of our deeply rooted beliefs now days?”

    This is the $64,000 question. The question that so many don’t want to ask. And it doesn’t have a comforting answer. And as long as we don’t have an answer that provides us with the certitude and comfort that we have come to expect in the LDS Church, we are unlikely to confront directly the problem of racial “folklore” (I, too, hate that word), as well as various other issues.

    Aaron B

  75. Aaron Brown says:

    Steve,

    For the record, I find your interaction with Jared E. to be rather odd. I take it Jared is frustrated with the labeling of commonplace LDS racial theologies as “folk doctrine” and the like because this sort of labeling serves to downplay and avoid the issue of how we grapple with the widespread racial teachings that so many high-ranking LDS authorities believed, and sometimes taught, as authoritative. I share Jared’s view, very strongly. It is certainly possible to posit a narrow definition of the word “doctrine” such that historical racial theologies fall outside the scope of the word, and indeed, I am the last person who would want LDS racial theologies to be seen as normative or authoritative. But there is a sense in which Jared is right to say that your line-drawing with respect to what is and is not “doctrine” is beside the point. It is undeniable that large numbers of LDS people do not subscribe to careful, narrow definitions of “doctrine” (at least not consistently), and in the real world, the fact that you can technically exclude racist teachings from some formal category of “doctrine” you have invoked doesn’t amount to much when so many people don’t jettison their fealty to past prophets’ beliefs and declarations upon understanding the distinction you’re drawing.

    Aaron B

  76. Steve,

    Personally, I’d love for you, or someone else, to list for me exactly what the canonical church doctrine is. I used to think I knew, but it seems to be whittled away more and more each year.

    Polygamy is no longer “doctrinal.” Native Americans are not necessarily Lamanites. “We don’t know much about” whether or not God was once a man. Blacks no longer were fence-sitters (though I was taught this as doctrine growing up, from a book called Mormon Doctrine written by an Apostle). Translation doesn’t quite mean what we thought it did. Not much speaking in tongues is happening these days. Etc., etc.

    Increasingly, other than proxy work for the dead and eternal families….I see little doctrinally to distinguish us from other mainstream Christian churches. Yes we have modern prophets, but how much prophesying are we really getting? Yes we have “living scripture”, but other than things being changed and/or removed, the scriptural canon has remained quite static over the past 150 years…except when societal pressures became unbearbable. I won’t go into the temple ceremony changes here.

    It’s easy to say “the scriptures” are the canon, but the scriptures themselves quite often contradict themselves. Same with GA statements (all but the most basic, doctrinally).

    I feel for what you are saying, but you seem to speak of “canon” and “doctrine” as if you understand it much more clearly, and much more simply than I do these days.

    I wish I had your clarity. I really, sincerely do.

  77. Actually John, it was written by a Seventy. And the Church has changed less in our lifetime than it did in Joseph’s or in the presidencies of Brigham or Willford.

  78. Aaron, Jared,
    I think you are overstating the case for describing the racial folklore as official “doctrine.” Let’s remember that part of the context is that as early as the 1950s and 1960s, President David O. McKay (while he was the prophet) and Hugh B. Brown (while he was in the First Presidency), and other senior apostles did not. Yes, at the same time, in 1958, BRM’s Mormon Doctrine was published with our most extreme version of the folklore (and forced out of print), but he was just a Seventy.

    Yes, a hundred years before that Brigham taught some (not all) of the folklore, and so did a handful of other general authorities. And in our century Joseph Fielding Smith included them in a book of geneaology lessons written while a junior apostle, though he never taught them while Church president.
    Yes, you can find other examples of general authorities and (less often) church presidents who privately believed some of the folklore or included one of the teachings in a private letter as a justification for the racial ban.
    But, on balance, I think it would be fairly easy for current church leadership to repudiate the folklore– because it has not been authoritatively taught in a hundred years by anyone other than BRM in Mormon Doctrine (when JFS Smith taught it in the Way to Perfection he expressly identified the teachings as speculative), and because it’s quite straightforward to show how and why some Mormons accepted the protestant racial folklore when we did, and how and why we reject it now as inconsistent with scripture and church teachings.
    [On the other hand...
    I understand the point that in the minds of some members, the racial folklore has more brand recognition because (due in part, likely, to the prominence of BRM's MD) they've heard it more often than they've heard of the general authorities that reject the folklore.
    I also understand that there are many members who feel the Cain/Canaan folklore is supported/verified by a few PoGP verses. But again, I don't think it would hard at all to move them off the dime with a single direct conference talk.]

  79. Steve Evans says:

    AB, for the record I find it all rather odd as well. As I said before, the views I actually espouse for my personal beliefs aren’t quite as black-and-white as I’ve laid them out to be for purposes of this thread. I agree that we should not let the doctrine/folklore distinction be a shield from criticism or an excuse for racist practices. I wasn’t trying to downplay racism in the Church; on the contrary, I feel that by firmly placing racist practices within the ‘folklore’ camp, they become completely inexcusable and all the more abhorrent.

    Of most personal import here for me is the notion of consistent methodology. I don’t have a consistent approach in determining what’s doctrinal and what’s not — further, I don’t believe anyone in this Church really does. I think we all grasp the notion of relying on the Spirit to teach us right from wrong. Perhaps it can serve as a mechanism for canonical purposes.

  80. Leslie W. says:

    It was interesting reading all of your comments about racism in the church. It was also interesting to find that Pres. Hinckley mentioned the racist ideas that are so prevalent in the minds of some members of the church. I was very glad that he mentioned this problem, because for the past year or so I have been trying to understand why this is happening and how I can look upon those who believe these racist ideas and vocalise them in a loving manner. Let me give you some backstory so you can get an idea of where I am coming from. I am a white woman who is a convert to the church, I live in the South, I went to a majority Black high school, I have had many Black friends and my Best friend who I have known for 20 years is a Black member of the church. Anyway for the past year she has been dealing with open racism in her ward. I mean these people don’t care who is around when they say stuff. For example, My friend’s husband(who is Black) went to Gulfport, Mississippi to help clean up after Katrina. He went with his priesthood quarum(sp) and a brother who was standing right next to him blantantly said that the reason the people in neworleans didn’t leave was because they were waiting for their welfare checks! Her husband didn’t say anything because he didn’t want to be precieved as an angery Black man. This stuff happens frenquently in her ward. A few years back I got into a few verbal confrontations with church members about some racist ideas that they had. Where am I going with this you ask? Well, these instances and others have had a negative effect on my preception of White members of the church and my personal standing among them. I am in a YSA ward right now and I am past the “legal” age to be there (31) but I am staying because of the attitudes of the people in her ward of which I am zoned for. I spent a majority of my free time with her family and consider myself apart of it, so because of this association with them and their close friends who are too Black members I am concerned that I will be treated in a not so nice manner. So if a white woman is concerned about attending her “home” ward because of her close association with Blacks inside and outside of the church How much more concerned will a new convert who is black be about continued activity in the church. An I know this ward is not unique because I served my mission in Utah and I heard the same things. Sorry for the round about way I took to get to this point.

  81. Kevin Barney says:

    Paul #71, Scott Gordon tells me that

    We had permission from Gladys Knight [actually her manager/granddaughter who checked with her and got back to us] to put up her testimony and everything on there has been reviewed by Renee, Marvin Perkins, Armand Mauss, and Margaret Young [these folks made various suggestions that have been incorporated].

    [Kevin again]

    I personally had very little to do with this website. But I think it is terrific, and exactly the kind of thing that is needed to lessen misunderstandings and popular repetition of the old folk notions over time. The people who have put this together have taken the initiative to actually do something about this, and I applaud them for it.

  82. I wonder what the significance, if any, is of this statement of President Hinckley from priesthood conference, powerfully condemning the idea of restricting priesthood based on race, with respect to prior theoretical bases of the priesthood/temple limitation practice:

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

  83. Aaron B says:

    Stirling — I am not interested in arguing that LDS racial theologies ARE “doctrine.” I agree with all your arguments concerning why a repudiation should be relatively pull off. I support such a public repudiation. I just think that the “it’s not doctrinal, because to be a doctrine, a teaching must meet criteria X, and this teaching doesn’t meet criteria X” line is less persuasive with most members than we would like to believe. And this is due, in large measure, to the fact that we don’t have a widely-agreed upon rule of recognition in the Church as to what is and is not definitively authoritative.

    Aaron B

  84. cj douglass says:

    David H,
    You make a point that has been on my mind since the priesthood session. Another interesting statement is

    “I remind you 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 of Christ.”

    I’m a bit confused on this one. Although, past leaders of the church may not have used “slurs” to describe africans in general(atleast publicly), many have certainly said things that were offensive if not downright reprehensible – atleast to me. Were these men in harmony with the teachings of the Church of Christ? This kind of quagmire has puzzled me as long as i’ve been a memeber(20 years) and now more than ever. My testimony is based on the undenying impressions of the spirit and those impressions have led me to this church. But I want to be able to respect and even revear the past presidents of the church. Opinions they had and comments they made make it hard for me to have those feelings. And finally I wonder what the Lord thinks of all this. He leads this church right? Would He really allow so many of His brothers and sisters to suffer because of “opinion” or “folk doctrine”? Was there a greater reason? I don’t know.

  85. Kevin (81)

    Thanks. I have no doubt that those quoted on the site gave their consent. I’m glad that experts like Mauss were consulted as well.

    Again, I agree it’s a good site that provides a valuable service. I personally don’t find the site to be racist or exploitive although I now see it as an apologetic site as opposed to a community site.

    My point was simply that by sponsoring the site, FAIR is potentially giving ammunition to their critics for no apparent gain.

  86. #50; #73:

    I am disturbed by the venom of Hiram’s comments. Does he have a grudge against BYU Classics? What are *your* motives, Hiram? I was a Classics student at BYU, and I can tell you that the views Hiram has shared are not representative of the department. I was present at the “Black Athena” event to which he refers. I too was disappointed by it, but mostly because insufficient background was offered to help us understand the debate. I have since read Lefkowitz’s writing against Bernal, and in my opinion she is the one who should be ashamed. It doesn’t seem like she ever read the book before she sought to debunk it. Perhaps the professors who participated relied to heavily on Bernal. We all make mistakes.

    Having defended my former department, I will concede that I heard more racist and homophobic sentiments aired openly in the classroom environment at BYU than I had ever heard before. I suppose it is not so bad to have such views aired (although I disagree with them), if everyone is free to voice their views and opposing opinions can be shared too. Maybe this is better than leaving different positions unexamined entirely.

  87. Kevin Barney says:

    T, I was in BYU classics in the early 80s. I loved it, and I would characterize the dept. at that time as liberal by BYU standards. Indeed, it was probably a factor in my own liberality today. But I can’t speak for the later generation.

  88. J #77,

    I was 3 when Bruce R was called as an apostle, so for me, the book was written by an Apostle (in any relevant sense…in the context of it being taught to me as a teen). Also, not everyone bothered to update their versions in 1978, as I’m sure you’re aware.

    What points were you making? I think they escaped me.

    John

  89. Elisabeth says:

    John – I’m looking at the 1991 version of Mormon Doctrine, and, right there on page 108, it says, under the definition of “Cain”, See Devil, Ham, Master Mahan, Negroes, Perdition, Sons of Perdition, Unpardonable Sin.

    And then he goes on to say on page 109:

    Cain was cursed and told that “the earth” would not thereafter yield him its abundance as previously. In addition, he became the first mortal to be cursed as a son of perdition…The Lord placed on Cain a mark of a dark skin, and he became the ancestor of the black race.

    However, BRM does explain the 1978 revelation on the priesthood on page 527:

    This means that worthy males of all races can now receive the Melchizedek Priesthood, perform ordinances, and hold positions of presidency and responsibility.  It means that members of all races may now be married in the temple, although interracial marriages are discouraged by the Bretheren, and that the full blessings of the gospel may be made available to their ancestors through vicarious temple ordinances.

  90. Jared E. says:

    Steve, Stirling and Aaron,

    I think we all pretty much agree on the present state of racism in the Church, I don’t think any of us are trying to excuse those old teachings. A lot has be batted around about what is ‘doctrine’ and what isn’t. What is missing from this discussion is a definition of what exactly the word ‘doctrine’ means, it is a very ambiguous term, especially in mormonism. If we were to sit down, and actually spell out what the ‘official’ doctrines of the Church are, I think the list would be quite short. I have tried many times to hammer out exactly what the Church’s position on a certain point of doctrine is, only to find that a persons conclusions usually end up being based upon who’s writings that person reveres the most. This works to the Church’s advantage, and as the trend seems to be now days, declarations of ‘doctrine’ are becoming much more rare. I think this is lamentable.

    Ultimately, what I wanted to say when I first commented on this thread is this: In my opinion the Church will never apologize for their treatment of Blacks, because doing so would cast doubt on the authority of the Church’s past Presidents. Regardless whether you agree or disagree with me, only time will tell who is right. I think that one thing is clear, (and I ‘think’ you will all agree, although I am probably wrong), it is sad they have not already made such an apology.

    (I was also surprised to find that no one commented upon my statement in post #72, regarding the possibility of our conception of homosexuality changing…I thought at least one person would try to skewer me for that one).

  91. Jared, it’s because we’re all gay here. I thought you knew.

  92. LOL! Funny, Steve.

  93. Kevin,

    I agree with you. When I said I heard certain negative comments, I wasn’t saying that I heard them in Classics. One of the nice things about the discipline at BYU was that it attracted serious, intelligent, and usually more open-minded students.

    Thanks for sharing your experience there too.

    T

  94. DougEvans says:

    For a clarifying of the ‘Mormon Doctine” issue and problems it has raised of a racial nature, you all might want to read the book “David O. Mackay … the rise of modern Mormonism” published by University of Utah press. You will find that there is more to the story that is generally broadly known. It was a book I did not enjoy reading, but I did finish it.

  95. Since April 1st, when President Hinckley made his bold statements on discriminaton, I’ve been blog-surfing, trying to measure the reaction. This is an interesting blog. Btw, _Mormon Doctrine_ IS scheduled to go out of print. However, I believe President Hinckley’s mandate implies that it should be immediately removed from the shelves–not just at Deseret Book but from every ward library. It DOES use racial slurs and hence is out of step with what the Prophet has requested. I enjoy what Darron Smith says when he speaks as himself. When he gets into the sociological jargon, his actual message gets obfuscated by theory. Too bad, because he has important things to say. We are always more effective communicators when our goal is simple communication. It makes me sad to see bright people get tangled in the pre-packaged skeins of someone else’s philosophical threads.

  96. There has been much discussion over Elder McConkie’s book “Mormon Doctrine”. A recently published book “David O. McKay – The Rise of
    Modern Mormonism” provides many more insights into actually what happened at the time he wrote it and then published it, much
    to the chagrin of DOM and to several of the Twelve. The McKay book was published by University of Utah Press. It was not a happy for Church leaders.

  97. Sorry for not silence I was in transition from Alabama back to Utah. When I said that all whites are racist what I mean is that racism is about institutional benefits that all whites recieve because of skin privilege. Being white means that one never has to worry about driving while black or brown, having the curriculum in public schools testify to the existence of white people with a couple of chapters dedicated to the “Other.” All the while calling these process American history while dismissing the contributions of Americans of color. Being white means that I you can speak to a powerful group with putting your “race” on trial. For example, I am articulating a position that is somewhat “black” and at the same time I am speaking for all black Mormons. White folks, from my vantage point, are never asked to speak for other white people in this way because whiteness is the taken for granted norm. Being and doing white just is. Racism from the larger benefits angle is about structural and systemic benefits that all white enjoy albeit there are distinct differences in the range of benefits that intersect with social class. Whites are not racist because they hate blacks but because they do not know how to be white without blacks. The long duration of racism within American society is perpetuated by this dichotomy of white vs. black. Sadly, whites then are trapped in a system of privilege no matter how hard they recognize and try to change it. I believe there is so much that we do not know about our unconscious acts that guide that allows systemic racism to continue unabated while at the same time using code words for race and then saying we are not doing that. Blacks are racist but in a different way. Many blacks believe the construction of themselves that whites have created for centuries and, again, black folks may not be aware of this tension.

  98. Darren’s comment, ““I would councel my daughter to marry within her race” (in order to prevent many of the predudices and biases that accompany mixed racial marages and offspring within those marrages, just as much as I would council her to not marry within her race if the young man was not a worthy priesthood holder) he labled me as being a racist” is an excellent example of the perpetuation of systemic racism because race and marriage is the ultimate barometer to how well society is handling the race question. Many American marry within their race and this is racist event because differences in skin color are driving decisions to marry. Darren’s concerns over his daughter are not unique but normal, just gaze at the mixed race data and it becomes apparent that people marry within their race despite the modest increase in bicultural unions. I cannot underscore the importance of recognizing that race becomes the prism through which meaning making occurs in represent to marriage. White folks in terms of the group tend to marry other whites but if mixed marriage is an option white males tend to marry lighter skinned Asians and Latinos with blacks coming in dead last.

    Darron

  99. I was recently at an evening program sponsored by my daughter’s school district about black culture (national and international). The audience (including me) clapped in response to the portion of one speaker’s presentation when she talked in powerful terms about the human drive for freedom. I must admit that it seemed novel to me that the examples being used were the Nat Turner rebellion and the Haitian revolution.

  100. Marc Bohn says:

    Thank you for your comments Darron. The debate in this comment string has, at points, gotten a little animated, but as I understand it, your purpose in raising the notion of whites being “racist” was not to condemn anyone or even “blame” anyone… but rather to help both blacks and whites (including yourself), to understand what is really at issue here. I think that only by recognizing patterns of behavior and thinking that we may not be aware of will we be able to address the underlying problem and, hopefully, one day move on from it. The legacy of racism in America is no longer, in my mind, the type of overt racism of yesteryear. I think we’ve largely moved beyond that and are now struggling with a more subtle, but ultimately more pervasive, form of implicit racism that stems from unfamiliarity, discomfort, and a lack of understanding.

  101. Scott S. says:

    If the oracle of God can confuse revelation with “folk doctrines” or cultural bias what does that actually say about their ability to receive revelation? What else would you currently catagorize as “folk doctrine”?

    I understand that Prophets aren’t perfect but is hindsight the only way to tell the difference between a Prophet speaking as a man or a Prophet? Is there really a mechanism within Mormonism to tell when a Prophet is speaking as a man or a Prophet besides when the next guy in line says so?

    If perpetuating the myth that blacks were an inferior race for over 140 years wouldn’t constitute leading the Church astray, what actually would, and how would you know?

  102. Scott,
    That is one heck of a question.

  103. Aaron Brown says:

    Great questions, Scott. Here’s my take:

    “If the oracle of God can confuse revelation with “folk doctrines” or cultural bias what does that actually say about their ability to receive revelation?”

    It says that their ability may not be as airtight and accurate as we would like to believe. And I think you’ve correctly hit upon the troubling implications of this.

    “I understand that Prophets aren’t perfect but is hindsight the only way to tell the difference between a Prophet speaking as a man or a Prophet?”

    The answer seems to be “yes,” much of the time. That is a troubling answer, for reasons I think you see, and I think everyone would recognize it as troubling. Thus, we spend countless hours trying to come up with rules that help us recognize the difference. For a variety of reasons, the most popular and oft-cited rules don’t really work. So, in my opinion, we are left with your cynical, but accurate, answer…

    Unless…

    you want to say that the Spirit can be our guide, and can help us navigate what is really “doctrinal” and what is not. (Many Church leaders, including JFSmith, have taught this explicitly). Problem is, of course, that our ability to properly access and interpret the Spirit is not too trustworthy (do I really need to defend this statement?), so this “answer” doesn’t seem like a very satisfactory “answer” at the end of the day.

    “Is there really a mechanism within Mormonism to tell when a Prophet is speaking as a man or a Prophet besides when the next guy in line says so?”

    No, I think. Depressing, huh? I’m about to post on this very topic. Stay tuned.

    “If perpetuating the myth that blacks were an inferior race for over 140 years wouldn’t constitute leading the Church astray, what actually would, and how would you know?”

    The notion of “leading the Church astray” has never been adequately defined. This ambiguity allows those who want to subscribe to overly-robust notions of Prophetic ability to defend their notions by insisting “The Lord will never let the Prophet lead the Church astray!” and to make this statement authoritatively. This ambiguity also allows those of us who see the problem with this statement historically to define “leading the Church astray” more narrowly.
    For example, one would say “to “lead the Church astray” means to lead the Church into a general, Church-wide apostasy, rather than to utter this or that doctrinally-incorrect comment.” You get the idea.

    And yes, this can all be very maddening at times.

    Aaron B

  104. Why can’t a prophet be simultaneously a man and a prophet? Meaning that in the same speech he could say truths and “folk beliefs”? or that even those beliefs could be intermingled in with the truth? That seems to be the way we have access to truth anyway. I get personal revelation that comes through my own cultural experiences and biases. I think it’s impossible to transcend those but if we want revelation completely separate from that then we cut ourselves off from God. And ourselves.

    This process requires me to be active analytically and spiritually to decide what is best for me personally when I hear the prophets’ words. Note that it is not in my power always to discern Truth in this situation. I don’t feel like I get into trouble with God in this regard but I do get into trouble with my fellow members.

    But a faulty man and an inspired prophet? That’s the only way I like ‘em.

  105. It seems like a major conflation here is between revelation and doctrine. I know of no revelation regarding the Priesthood ban besides Kimball’s. Doctrine = Belief and there seems to be plenty of plurality on this front throughout our history.

  106. Scott S. says:

    Merriam Webster defines “doctine” as follows:

    1 archaic : TEACHING, INSTRUCTION
    2 a : something that is taught b : a principle or position or the body of principles in a branch of knowledge or system of belief : DOGMA c : a principle of law established through past decisions d : a statement of fundamental government policy especially in international relation

    If the practice of banning blacks from the priesthood for over 140 wasn’t doctrine then what is?

    Is it just cultural bias and “folk doctrine” that women don’t have the Priesthood, and how would you know?

  107. Scott,

    When Mormons use the word “doctrine,” it isn’t always clear what they are saying. They often mean different things in different contexts, sometimes without even realizing it. With respect to your dictionary definition, to the extent “doctrine” means “something that is taught,” in LDS parlance you probably need to modify this a bit to read: “something that is taught in such a way as to be definitively authoritative.” Of course, the trick is figuring out how to determine what is “definitively authoritatively.” When people say that Teaching So-and-So regarding Blacks and the Priesthood is “not doctrine,” they usually mean that it was not taught in a setting such that it really constitutes a “doctrine,” or was never canonized, or was never universally accepted by the membership or leadership, or some other similar argument.

    I agree that the claim that historical LDS teachings on race and priesthood were “not doctrine” is a somewhat problematic claim (as you do).

    Aaron B

    P.S. See my post, entitled “Having our Doctrinal Cake and Eating it Too.”

  108. Stapley said:
    “Doctrine = Belief…”

    That’s one way to define it, but I suspect virtually no one would accept that the term should be defined this broadly.

    Aaron B

  109. okay. How about Doctrine = institution belief

  110. Not sure what that means. The “institution” doesn’t have beliefs; the leaders and members who comprise it do. Perhaps you mean “belief that is officially authoritative because it meets some set of “doctrine”-bestowing criteria.” In which case you are just agreeing with me. The trick is figuring out what the criteria are. And nobody seems to agree on this, or at least nobody has come up with a method that sufficient people are willing to agree upon. Thus, we’re all stuck playing word games.

    Sometimes I feel like I’m talking in circles when I broach this topic. Which I am.

    Aaron B

  111. hm…nope. If everybody in the church believes something, it is doctrinal, no? It may be false, but it is doctrine. It may not even be “official doctrine,” in which case it may be a “folk belief” or if alot of people believe it, a “folk doctrine.”

  112. ‘It means that members of all races may now be married in the temple, although interracial marriages are discouraged by the Bretheren’

    Gee…thanks masser for giving us this privilege!!

    if this is the case..what really has changed but semantics to make everyone feel warm and fuzzy and not address a real issue that destroys credibility.

    In 1978, after decades of political wrangling and social turmoil, the Mormon church finally changed their policy barring people of African descent from being “ordained” with the priesthood. The church never admitted they were wrong to discriminate. Instead, they claimed that “God” had changed his mind on the topic, and that the church as a whole would now follow the latest decree from”God” himself, as revealed to his prophet and mouthpeice on Earth, Spencer W. Kimball.

    My question for discussion – how can intelligent godfearing, faithupoholding people defend such a stance, and if so, why? Why are conversions to LDS so high according to statistics, not within the middle to upperclass white population of the world but rather the poorer, disadvantaged black, coloured or mixed parts of the world. As ‘intelligent’ people, I challenge you to address these issues amongst yourselves so that your good actions as people are not overshadowed by this issue which still has not been credibly addressed by the LDS you choose to promote and belong to and which you claim to be the one true road to salvation.

    A recent survey revealed the majority of mormons in UTAH are still in their daily lives racist – for those academics who choose to hide behind words and debate to avoid confronting serious simple issues or allude to an air of superiority – either treat black people as lesser human beings compared to white or belive different rules should apply because of the colour of ones skin or that they are not ‘entitled’ to the same rights or are not as ‘blessed’….should not more time be invested in good non racist mormons working to change that view in the way they carry out their day to day lives rather than debating the definition of ‘doctrine’ – unles you are still of course trying to justify racism.

    Darrons summary in his first statement is 100% correct..how can you actually believe God condones racism in any form unless you are a misguided white supremist who actually believes black people represent evil..if u do believe that…then any discourse to the contrary will fall on deaf ears….so its not even worth debating..white skins can have black hearts…and God can thankfully see that

    Just a thought…

  113. Hello friends I am happy to see that the discussion continues on this terribly important topic. I have to comments to make abou (1) what I think about the Black-LDS blog. To tell you the truth I have not been to the site yet so I cannot comment on way or the other, (2) I believe that church leadership at the local level can do quite a bit to assuage the white power structure so firmly entrenched in the church. Progressively minded white people must take the lead in educating other whites about the history of oppression at the hands of whites especially within the church. In addition, white folks need not be afraid of the ugly history of white supremacy and spend too much time denying and allowing themselves to get defensive. Recognize that not any one in particular cracked the whip but nevertheless whites still benefit from the structures that their white forbearers created. When this reality is acknowledged it can be very liberating toward the process of social change and reconciliation. It is abusive to rely on people of color to shoulder the burden of educating whites about racism. You all are not an easy bunch to convince because you do not see mistreatment in racial terms or the systemic process that mantain inequality. I have learned over the years the appealing to my white brothers and sisters moral fabric may be one way to get them to see the things that are not so obvious and I must be patient. This is very hard because sometimes I want to slap these individuals into an alternative reality.

    On another matter, I have been contemplating a press conference that will urge general church leaders to take another positive step forward by repudiating the “curse of Cain” doctrine that is so prevalent in our church. I have met a gentlemen, Darrick Evenson, who has, unbeknownst to me, posted on the internet that I have essentially planned this event. I want to set the record straight that I did not authorize Mr. Evenson to put that information in cyperspace. In addition, I have recieved several emails from concerned supporters about Mr. Evenson’s antimormon position. I want this blog to know that I have indeed thought about doing a press conference but need to know your thoughts on the matter? If such an event where to happen I want it to be done in the spirit intended and I do not want to get constructed as antimormon. I have worked very hard to push that negative image from my person. Please get with me off line on this matter and contact at darron@prism.net

    thanks,

    Darron

  114. Darron, at first I found your comment #97 challenging. The more I think about it, the more it strikes me as a bland camouflage for ordinary racism. In fact, it reminds me of the lengthy reasoning often offered by anti-semites about Jews. They’ll never simply say, “Jews are the root of our problems.” They just say one thing after another about Jews (some of which could even be considered benign on some level) until they accumulate enough to tag them with some thoroughly negative label.

    Such is what you’ve done with white people, and I see nothing of value worth salvaging from your “racism from the larger benefits angle.” It’s like saying that someone exhibits class-based bigotry because they benefit from the class system. Moreover, it does more to preserve the white vs black dichotomy that you decry than the more naive approach of simply papering over differences and pretending that we’re starting on equal ground.

    I am curious about your notion of a black self-construction that “whites have created.” Does this refer to the use of terms like “uncle tom” to describe prominent blacks figures like Colin Powell or Clarence Thomas, or to statements like those of Donna Brizile’s to the effect that Clarence Thomas is the black lawn jockey for the white conservative establishment? Or does it refer to the point of view that is being criticized using these harsh terms?

    I’m not convinced that intermarriage is a gauge for racial equality. I was at a Toys R Us in Dorchester, near Andrew Square, that is just off the highway on my way home from work. This is a part of Boston that is predominantly black. I went there to purchase dolls for my daughters’ doll house (they’re more like action figures, really, but you know what I mean). As might be expected, the majority of the dolls stocked were black dolls. And though I could find white children dolls, I could not find white parent dolls. This put me in the somewhat awkward (and perhaps humorous) position of asking a black employee about where I could find white dolls. I simply explained my intent to buy the dolls, presented the children dolls that I had found, and asked “where might I find parent dolls that match?” The employee cheerfully lead me to another display with additional dolls, and I purchased them. Am I racist? Should I have been happy to by the black parent dolls for the white children dolls? Do you think that many of the black people that you know would have been fine having white parent dolls and black children dolls? Do you think that things like this matter?

  115. A recent survey revealed the majority of mormons in UTAH are still in their daily lives racist

    Source?

    This is not in accordance with the polls I’ve seen.

  116. Ben S, my experience with BYU students in Provo in the early 90s was that they were the most judgmentally anti-racist of any demographic I’ve met. For example, when Marion Barry got busted for smoking crack with a prostitute, I cheered. Having grown up in the DC area, the corruption that permeated the Barry administration was nightly news, and just like other corrupt administrations it was just a matter of time before they tagged the man at the top.

    Every BYU student I discussed it with believed that the Barry sting was a racist attempt by the FBI to discredit a highly visible black politician. When I tried to argue to that Barry was as corrupt as the day was long, this was chalked up as evidence of my own racism.

    On a side note, there used to be a brew pub in Arlington called Bardos (perhaps it’s still there). They had a killer nachos, and one of their beers was called “Marion Berry Lambic.” Great name for a flavored beer, but lambics and lambic style beers don’t suit my taste.

  117. Chris Rock had a great line about Marion Berry. He was on Oprah or something, and he said something like, “what can a poor black ghetto kid from DC who uses drugs and is into porn ever expect to grow up to be?. . .He could be mayor!”

  118. DKL,

    I do believe in the concept of self destructive actions and attitudes. This is something different from “blaming the victim” in other words, blaming blacks for their own situations. Black folks are capable of making highly effective decisions and being productive citizens however a great majority of black Americans have limited options and come from circumstances in which life choices are not very good. Whereas middle/upper middle class blacks, like myself, have a more options and choices because we were fortunate enough to be educated and present ourselves to the white majority as more or less safe. My middle class black brothers and sisters in many situations do not pose a threat to the white majority. You mentioned Oprah, Colin, Condie and many other highly visible black people. These individuals have more appeal among the white majority than blacks in general. White folks like blacks who speak well and have similar political, religious, fiscal ideology. In the social sciences we call this assimilation. Look at this principle from this perspective, white folks are not ask to “assimilate” because whiteness is the norm. Everything about American society bespeaks a white reality with a few “other” cultures sprinkled in. Assimilation is problematic for many reasons one being that people have to where a mask in order to survive in white America. I guess this is one reason why I have had some difficulty in speaking out against the white power structure that governs the church. My concern is that blacks are required to shoulder the burden of white racist sentiment in terms of the priesthood debacle. Think about it, despite a host of reasons why the church does not issue an apology or clarification for its racist past, blacks then are ask to defend the church and put on a happy face even when non-members cannot fiqure out why someone of African descent could belong to a racist church in the first place. For whites all you have to do is say, “we don’t understand why blacks could not hold the priesthood.” The thought of asking a certain population within the church to become spokepersons and apologist for racism to a price that is too much. If the situation were reversed history has shown us that white folks would not stand for having their dignity and freedom limited yet many whites in the church except that blacks should wait for a predominately white male leadership to finally “get it” and give an apology of some sort. We must do better than this and hold people accountable for their compromising ways.

    D

  119. Darron, thanks for the thoughtful response. The crux of it seems to me to be that:

    white folks are not ask to “assimilate” because whiteness is the norm. Everything about American society bespeaks a white reality with a few “other” cultures sprinkled in.

    I do not agree with this. This isn’t a white thing or a black thing. People of all kinds of backgrounds expect things to be predictable and reliable, and they easily relate to a range of characteristics and expectations. A polished businessman is no more able to get along among coal miners than a coal minor is in the board room. I hire people in the tech industry, and I can tell you that if anyone came to an interview who was missing teeth, covered in confederate tattoos, wearing overalls, and having long greasy hair, he is going to be at a profound disadvantage. This has nothing to do with black vs. white.

    A senior vice president at Fidelity told me that young men from Boston with severe accents need to get voice training in order to succeed in his field. The same is true of people with severe southern accents or New York City accents. There are schools that teach manners and comportment and how to dress (and their business is booming) to adults so that they can better get-ahead in business (e.g., it helps not to eat like a horse during business lunches).

    Poor whites (sometimes called “white trash”) from Appalachia or Brooklyn face many of the same obstacles as poor inner city black youth. An unassimilated white hillbilly is no more likely to succeed on American television than an unassimilated black hillbilly. This often means that getting ahead requires them to learn to behave differently from those who share their background but who made different career choices. You seem to want to claim that this is unique to blacks, and that blacks must do this to be “safe” to white people. But this strikes me as just an attempt to privilege the traits that are “assimilated out” of black inner city youth.

    Everything that I hear you say bespeaks an exaggerated sense of white hegemony and homogeneity.

  120. DKL, I get your points about the gap in opportunities based on class. It is certainly easy to see class distinction today and the disadvantage it gives the poor. It is also clear that the gap between rich and poor is widening.

    But do you really think it is fair to lay all lost opportunity on class? Are you sure that race doesn’t play into it? I’m reacting to your comment that this “isn’t a black thing or a white thing.”

    Here’s an example. The entire senate is white. One might explain this by observing that it takes a lot of education, connection and resource to become a Senator. Since whites are more likely to be born into the socio-economic class required to become a Senator, it follows that the senate will be white.

    But if our society consistently affords a lower average socio-economic class to one particular race, can that really be something different from racism?

    Now in the church, we believe that God is not a respector of persons. In theory, He will call a person to a position independent of race or socio-economic background. Whom He calls, He qualifies.

    Yet, what is the ethnicity of the entire First Presidency, Quorum of the Twelve as well as every Quorum of 70? White.

    How can this be if the majority of LDS members live outside of the U.S. including a very sizeable portion in South America?

    Is it really possible that racism does not have anything to do with that?

  121. WEB DuBois thought that the greatest problem in the US was one of the color line, but I agree with DKL, if I understand right, I think it’s class. I think it’s money.

  122. Class may well be the bigger problem but it’s difficult seperate class from race given the demographic breakdown of the classes.

    In any case, neither class nor race should factor into the selection of church leaders.

  123. Paul: But if our society consistently affords a lower average socio-economic class to one particular race, can that really be something different from racism?

    Absolutely, it could be. Some current disparities can probably be attributed to current racism. Exactly how much is a very difficult question to answer (or impossible–I, for one, don’t have much faith in social science). But disparity does not necessarily denote racism or racial discrimination. I believe that colorblind socioeconomic factors would be enough to cause disparity among the races to persist, even in a society free of all racism and racial discrimination.

    Imagine if from this moment on all racism and all racial discrimination in the U.S. stopped. Wouldn’t disparities persist? What if all racism and racial discrimination had stopped 30 years ago? Would our current society look very much different from the way it does today? (It’s possible that there would be even be greater disparity today–no racial discrimination would mean no affirmative action, so gains that can be attributed to affirmative action would disappear).

    My basic point is that racial disparity is not necessarily indicative of racism or racial discrimination, just like gender disparity is not necessarily indicative of sexism (nobody minds that men are underrepresented in the nursing profession). Therefore, our insistence on counting the numbers of people of certain races or genders in certain positions and pointing to disparities as proof of current institutional or individual racism is not productive.

    Paul: Is it really possible that racism does not have anything to do with [the fact that all of the Apostles are white]?

    Yes, it’s possible. It could result entirely from socioeconomic and geographic factors.

  124. Paul, my point is that the experience is a shared one. I think that we have a reasonably equitable society, one where people working in partnership to overcome racist attitudes are very likely to succeed, and where most people are committed to treating all ethnicities equitably.

    This is why I think that there are not more black senaters, besides Senator Obama from Illinois: The unified voting patterns of blacks for democrats tend to marginalize them as candidates. When there is a more even distribution of black votes between parties, there will be more blacks elected to statewide office. The same thing is happening to Christian conservatives (sometimes called the Christian right), even though they don’t vote with anything approaching the unity of black voters. But candidates who are perceived as Christian conservatives don’t win many statewide elections either. Jews (as a voting demographic) do vote disproportionately democratic, but not nearly so much as blacks, and Republican Jews like Norm Coleman of Minnesota and Arlen Specter aren’t attacked by mainstream Jewish leaders for their political affiliations.

  125. I think our church leaders are chosen somewhat on class lines. Not maybe the local ones, but a lot of the rich guys in town are bishops and stake presidents. I don’t see too many poor guys serving.

    The general authorities are pretty loaded. Although it bothers me that some of them might be getting loaded writing books which saints feel honor bound to buy because they’re by general authorities.

    I think class is a bigger problem in the church than some of realize. Maybe than some of us experience, I guess, also.

    I think that’s why missionaries like Guatemala better than Austria. The Austrians are fairly well to do and stuck up people. I’ve heard. No offense to anybody personally.

  126. Tom: Yes, it’s possible. It could result entirely from socioeconomic and geographic factors.

    I don’t see how geographic factors could matter. The scriptures and our own church history are full of examples of the poorest of the poor being called to all corners of the earth to minister.

    Socioeconomic factors could only be relevant if the responsibilities of a general authority required a high degree of education and professional experience. If the church is so wealthy and complicated that God will only call professionals into the general leadership, then either God is more limited than we think or the church’s wealth is getting in the way of its mission. I suspect it’s more the latter given the corporate feel to the LDS experience these days.

    If socioeconomic factors are relevant, it might be a good time to seek revelation on whether that is God’s will.

    IMO, neither geographic nor socioeconomic factors should matter. Professionals can be hired to do the administration. God can and will call the meek of the earth to handle the ministry.

  127. Paul, the issue with GA’s is not racism. Nearly all of the twelve and the 1st presidency are descended from the Nauvoo church leadership. Of course, racism played some role in the fact that they were all white people, but the continued reliance upon that bloodline (if you will) is not motivated primarily by racial factors.

  128. Paul,
    I’m not saying that geographic and socioeconomic factors should matter. I’m just saying those factors alone could account for the whiteness. Your question was whether it was possible that racism (I take that to mean current racism) has nothing to do with it. It’s entirely possible. DKL’s suggestion of genaeological factors presents another plausible alternative to racism.

    I don’t know why things are done they way they are. I feel like the Church is in good hands, though.

    If I were to have discontent with the makeup of the FP and Qof12 it would be as much because of the lack of poor people as it would be the lack of non-whites.

  129. Eric Russell says:

    “it might be a good time to seek revelation on whether that is God’s will.”

    Good Idea, Paul. In fact, in regards to the selection of Apostles, I would suggest that’s where one ought to have started in the first place.

  130. I really thought I could leave the subject of racism outside the door of the church and treat each other with love and support. Personally, I am sick of hearing about the oppression, which by the way I have, nor had anything to do with. If you want to be treated the same as others,no matter thier race, or yours, then get in step with whats important and dig yourself out of self pity. If there are those who dont like you because you are black then they will answer to the Lord in due time. Get on with the building of the kingdom Darron, the Lord will do the rest.

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