The Priesthood Ban and Infallibility

Is it heretical to claim that the ban on blacks holding the Priesthood was a mistake?

This will be a brief post, because I honestly am not sure of the answer. There are clear indicators from scripture leading towards infallibility, if not of our leaders, then of the Church as an institution. For example:

The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty. (Sixty-first Semiannual General Conference of the Church, Monday, October 6, 1890, Salt Lake City, Utah. Reported in Deseret Evening News, October 11, 1890, p. 2.)

It matters not who lives or who dies, or who is called to lead this Church, they have got to lead it by the inspiration of Almighty God. If they do not do it that way, they cannot do it at all. . . .

(quoted in Official Declaration 1)

Assuming that active church leadership was involved as part of the priesthood ban (and I think there’s ample evidence that there was), then do we need to assume that the administration of the priesthood ban was done “by the inspiration of Almighty God?”

I am not convinced that every step and every policy administered by this Church has been and always will be the right step and the right policy. I don’t know that our doctrine requires this belief. This may no doubt strike some as heresy, but somehow I don’t think it is. I can have full belief in the leadership, give my loyalty as I sustain the Brethren, view the Prophet as the only one with all the keys, etc., while at the same time recognizing that we are a community of human beings in a world of human beings.

Or perhaps I am a heretic. I prefer to be a heretic than to walk down the dark paths of theodicy that otherwise await.

Comments

  1. Of course that statement was to keep the fLDS from seceding when President Woodruff reversed President Taylor in ending polygamy. Life is complicated. Perhaps the notion of “infallibility” can be taken to indicate the mode by which changes will take place in the church, rather than any stab at a static church. If that is the case, it would suggest that the way to end the ban is the way it ended, through faith and prayers on the part of the people and the leadership, united in a quest for God’s will (rather than say law suits or defamation of the leaders).

    I don’t have a good answer. I do not embrace the title heretic, but I do not feel convinced that we must embrace the priesthood ban as God’s truth or even God’s desire for the church, ca 1850-1978.

  2. I believe it is only heretical to think that before the change is made. (FWIW, it is probably also an excommunicable offense to say to anyone else that it is a mistake before it is changed.)

    Given that we have no doctrine not subject to change, I don’t think it’s heretical to state that a prior practice that is no longer practiced was wrong before it was changed. In the latter case, you are not (directly, at any rate) leading an individual away from current Church practices. Of course, given the structure and nature of Church disciplinary procedures, anyone’s given experience may vary.

  3. Aaron Brown says:

    Of course no LDS leader is infallible. The trick is coming up with a method for determining when to categorize a leader’s statement as fallible, and when not to, without having the distinction turn on nothing more than our personal preferences. Nate Oman has writen some of the best posts on this subject, in my opinion, and if I wasn’t lazy, I would link to them.

    I find the notion that God was the author of the Priesthood Ban to be repugnant in the extreme, so I have little problem categorizing it as something other than a divinely inspired policy or doctrine. At the same time, I think to take LDS theology seriously, one should not minimize the potentially probematic precedent created in making moves like this.

    Also, many who declare the Priesthood Ban to have been uninspired would also do the same with plural marriage. And while I share the distate of polygamy that motivates this stance, I don’t think I can jump on that bandwagon. Polygamy seems too central to the historical LDS experience (not to mention Mormon theology) to just jettison it as a mistake. The Priesthood Ban seems peripheral and theologically insignificant by comparison, so I think the case is easier there.

    Aaron B

  4. I dont think it is necessarily heretical. I think this particular case is a really difficult situation with a messy history and a lot of raw emotions. Throw in a lot of cultural baggage, and one cannot take it all in without having some rather unpleasant things to sort out.

    Regardless of how it started, I think all members of the Church believe McKay was inspired to end it and the membership of the Church overwhelmingly embraced it eagerly. For this, we should all give thanks. We should also give thanks we do not have a doctrine of papal infalibility.

  5. ED, I agree entirely.

  6. Eric Russell says:

    Steve, the flip side of that question is, “is it racist to think that it was not a mistake?”

    I’m willing to say no to your question if others are willing to say no to mine.

  7. Eric,
    It might not be racist to think that it wasn’t a mistake, but it can certainly be ignorant of the extreme influence a culture can have on a person’s, or even an organization’s, worldview.

  8. Nick Literski says:

    I don’t think there’s anything that “all church members” believe, let alone that David O. McKay was inspired to end the priesthood ban on those with African ancestry. David O. McKay is on record as having had concerns about the ban, but he never felt directed to take action. If you claim that David O. McKay was inspired to end the ban, you also accuse David O. McKay of ignoring that inspiration, since the ban didn’t end until many years, and several presidents, later.

  9. This is a tough call, as many faithful church members can only see something like this in terms of infallibility. Random Guy and I discussed this yesterday, he beleiving it had to be revealed doctrine, and I leaning to an error that took on a life of its own. If I were to suggest and advocate a return to that policy would now be considered heresy. We’ve had a huge paradigm shift, and I don’t think we’ve quite caught up to all the implictions yet, 29 years later.

  10. I am convinced by Gregory Prince’s argument that David O. McKay wanted to lift the ban, but felt that he should not because God told him not to. I am okay with that, although it does open the door to the theodicy that Steve is uncomfortable with. To be frank, I’m uncomfortable about it myself, but it appears to be something we need to deal with.

    Honestly, even it is all human doing, you still have to deal with theodicy.

  11. Nick #8, sorry, mea culpa. Strike “McKay” and insert “Kimball”.

  12. Aaron Brown says:

    Maybe I’m dense this morning, but I’m not understanding HP’s and Steve’s use of the word “theodicy” here. How are you defining that word in the context of this discussion?

    Aaron B

  13. Steve Evans says:

    AB, I simply mean that if the priesthood ban really was the embodiment of God’s will, it brings up certain questions as to God’s behavior (i.e., is God a racist, etc.).

  14. I realize that the implications of the ban being a mistake are troublesome to many. I think that this is understandable. As I mentioned in other threads, however, Brigham Young gives us several opportunities to analyze fallibility of Church leaders. If we take an honest look at Adam-God (especially with its short time incorporation into the Temple ritual) I think we will find ample precedent to acknowledge a potential mistake that was perpetuated to the 20th century. Perhaps if there was the same Christian background for Adam-God as there was for the curse, it would have had a longer life than it otherwise did.

    Fortunately, we have a living Church. One which, I believe, God directs. We are able to grow and hopefully approach Zion.

  15. HP, I think you’re right that we still have to think about theodicy here — either the priesthood ban was God’s will (God is a racist), or it wasn’t (God lets His leaders make mistakes that hurt millions). Neither option is very satisfying, but my views on how free agency and revelation work are much more in line with the latter option.

  16. Hurt millions? Really?

  17. Steve Evans says:

    Tim, absolutely so.

  18. a random John says:

    Please show me the revelation that instituted the priesthood ban in our dispensation. And then tell my why Joseph Smith Jr. acted as if there wasn’t a ban.

    If the ban was inspired, it was as a curse on the membership of the Church for being unable to see their fellow man as spiritual brothers. And what an awful curse it has been.

  19. We don’t have to accept that God is racist, but we also have to deal with the fact that He didn’t appear to BY and others and command that it stop. (He didn’t pull an Alma the Younger on Brigham Young or the other subsequent prophets.) In that light, I personally am compelled to try to understand why He allowed it to happen.

    IMHO, God allowed the ban not because it reflected His own view of Black and White but because He needed Brigham Young as His Prophet – and the ban was a by-product of that need. I have studied that period, and I seriously doubt that any other man in the Church could have kept it together and led it and caused it to flourish as he did. The baggage, as bad as it was, was better than the alternative – extinction of the Church and reversion to world-wide apostasy. (The same reason, ironically, for the Manifesto.)

    I know that such a perspective is easy for someone who was not affected by the ban, but it essentially is the same justification that Nephi gave for killing Laban – one man vs. a nation. (in this case, one people vs. all of God’s children) Does this explanation reflect “justice” for those it excluded? Not at all. From an eternal perspective, does it offer mercy? Most definitely.

    Now to the specific question of this post: “Not leading the Church astray” and infallibility don’t have to equate. I know full well that my mother and father will never insist that I do something that will jeopardize my eternal salvation – but I know just as well that each of them has major flaws and what I perceive to be misconceptions and blatantly incorrect beliefs. While I believe that our prophets have relatively fewer of these blind spots than the average member or non-member, I also know full well that they are human and have the same type of weaknesses as the rest of us. However, I belief that they will never require us to do something that will deprive us of our chance for exaltation – as was the understandable fear of some members when the Manifesto was published.

    Finally, anyone (including “mainstream Christians” who criticize the Church for the ban) who has problems with prophets being wrong and even doing wrong by the standards of a later day has not come to grips with the Bible. Let’s not be in the same camp as those who castigate us; let’s call a spade a spade and accept the historical precedent that we have in ALL of our scriptures.

  20. A curse indeed. I don’t think you have to think the ban was the will of God to believe that God guides the church. Infallibility is a silly word. I don’t think we should use it. Line upon line.

  21. Julie M. Smith says:

    FWIW, somewhere in the new Pres. Kimball bio (I think the CD version, not the print version) there is something about a letter he wrote to his son where he entertained the idea that the ban could have been a mistake.

  22. If the ban was instituted by God, do we have to believe that God is racist? In the Old Testament God favored one race, the Israelites, over all others. Did that make him a racist?

    I’m not trying to say that the ban was instituted by God, I just don’t think that our only options are “It was a mistake by racist men” vs. “God is a racist.”

  23. The Excerpts from President Woodruff’s addresses, following the Official Declaration 1 (the “Manifesto”), were added in the 1981 edition, without notice or a vote of the membership, unlike the Manifesto, which was voted upon by the membership. I would add that Official Declaration 2 and sections 137 and 138 were also voted upon by the membership.

    In my view, the excerpts from President Woodruff’s remarks, therefore, are in the nature of footnotes, and have no more canonical status than the other footnotes, chapter headings, or revised Bible dictionary that were added in the 1981 edition.

    I may be wrong, but I am not aware of any place where the formally canonized scriptures make as close to an infallibility claim for Church leaders as do the excerpts from President Woodruff.

  24. Julie M. Smith says:

    DavidH, good point.

  25. Correction-the revised Bible dictionary was added as part of the 1979 LDS edition of the King James Bible.

  26. Steve, from what I’m reading in the post – the stance you are taking is not heretical. It makes sense to me that we can have faith in the Brethren and still recognize that they are human beings.

    My impression of Church doctrine and what it is saying is that the Lord will not allow the Church leadership to perish and the church membership to dwindle into total apostasy – as has happened in previous historical instances. That doesn’t mean that there won’t ever be any course corrections or things to learn as the Church grows and matures over time.

  27. Good questions, Steve. For me (a heretic) I rarely have to agonise over the fallibility of our prophets, because they are so obviously fallible! But I sustain the Brethren in their callings. I despise with a great despising the culture that suggests that these two things are incompatible.

    The priesthood ban is so blatantly hokey that I have come to the point where I can simply dismiss it, consequences be damned.

  28. I think I’m infallible.

    See, it’s not so silly.

  29. R matey says:

    Are revelation and inspiration synonymous terms in the Church?

  30. Nice, Amri, he says, as he bows in humble submission.

  31. Steve Evans says:

    R Matey, that’s a good question. They are used interchangeably, but are not perfect synonyms. For purposes of my post I’m not distinguishing.

  32. ungewiss says:

    This is all part of the core struggle for many thoughtful members. If past prophets made mistakes–even when speaking as a prophet–what else might be a mistake?

    Take polygamy, a topic that bothers a lot of people, for example. If BY was wrong about Adam-God, isn’t it possible JS was wrong about polygamy?

    When we question individual teachings, which many here would encourage all to do, where to we turn? To scriptures, revelations, and prayer patterns handed down by fallible leaders, of course. So who’s to say even that is infallible?

    The idea of infallibility is appealing to a great many lazy and worn out intellects because it takes a great amount of energy to consider these questions without the safety net promised by past leaders. Frankly I wish I still believed they WERE infallible. Because I’m lazy. :)

  33. Steve,

    Wow, interesting post.

    Brigham Young used to preface his speeches with disclaimers to the effect that he was fallible, wasn’t he? He was never even comfortable directly assuming the title of Prophet. (The introduction to The Essential Brigham Young discusses his clear ambivalence and his frequent statements that his word was fallible – it’s a fun, short read). And he was the one who originated the ban, really. I’ve always assumed that the priesthood ban was the result of his fallibility, and I’m glad he left us room to make such an assumption.

  34. MikeInWeho says:

    Ronan,

    I think the reason many members (and certainly the leadership) feel so uncomfortable with the “it was just wrong; let’s admit it” position is because that clearly opens the door to the possibility that current practices might be equally wrong. THAT opens the door to open dissent, members disregarding that with which they disagree, etc. Central, correlated control would be loosened.

    As the Church continues to grow, this is probably inevitable. Think of the Vatican’s situation; I’m sure SLC looks toward Rome and shudders (for lots of reasons, or course!). So the Church leadership is kind of stuck, imo. In their hearts I suspect most of them know that the priesthood ban was wrong, but openly admitting it presents an insurmountable hurdle right now. Give it 500 more years and you might even see a formal apology.

  35. R matey says:

    I am glad to see an increase in discretion of the declarations by modern-day Prophets, Seers, and Revelators under such mantles.

    On the other hand, I am dissapointed in the Church’s dependency on indepent apologetic sources to dissemate speculation on tough issues.

  36. The following is the definition from wikipedia (careful, your mileage may vary):

    Theodicy (adjectival form “theodicean”) is a specific branch of theology and philosophy that attempts to reconcile the existence of evil or suffering in the world with the assumption of a benevolent God —ie. the problem of evil.

    I disagree with Steve in that I believe that a God that allows free will in a situation where people will definitely screw up and hurt each other is just as problematic as a God who makes people hurt each other. While we clearly have different sources of good and evil in our worldview, the good source allows the evil source to work without visible limits, which would seem to indicate that the good source is not as troubled by some of the bad stuff in the world as we might like him to be. I don’t believe that Job should be dismissed as fantasy (although I may well be wrong).

    Regarding the ban, while I don’t know if God had a direct hand in creating it, if the Prince bio of President McKay is correct, he definitely had a hand in extending it. Are we prepared to live with a God who wanted the ban to keep going, until 1978? I am, personally, but that’s just me.

  37. I should say that theodicy is considered more of a problem for protestants and Catholics who believe in creation ex nihilo, because then the omnibenevolent God created evil. For us, it is unclear how much of a problem it is because we don’t clearly understand the interplay of free will, divine foresight, and worlds within worlds in our own theology. And, frankly, we don’t have enough data to make clear assumptions on any of these matters.

  38. The solution to theodicy would be for all of us to convert to Zoroastrianism, if they’d take us. All hail Spenta and Angra Mainyu!

  39. Mike, you are, of course, absolutely right on that one.

  40. I am, HP. Since the ban was in place already, I have no real problem with it being lifted a few years later. It is very easy for me to see why that delay might not have been a bad thing – in more ways than one. Also, if a consensus had been reached but the answer was “not yet”, then I can understand Pres. Kimball’s agonizing over the delay even better.

  41. Aaron Brown says:

    Serenity,

    Brigham Young also used to say that his words were every bit as accurate, important and definitive as those in the Bible, if not more so. So … does this conflict with your point, or does it just denigrate the Bible?

    Aaron B

  42. Probably the latter, Aaron, knowing Brigham Young. :-)

  43. HP, I think you’re right that we still have to think about theodicy here — either the priesthood ban was God’s will (God is a racist), or it wasn’t (God lets His leaders make mistakes that hurt millions). Neither option is very satisfying, but my views on how free agency and revelation work are much more in line with the latter option.

    Surely those aren’t are only two options. Does a priesthood ban necessarily make God a racist? I certainly hope there’s room for a more nuanced view on this subject, especially from those here who dwell almost exclusively in nuance.

  44. Stirling says:

    Aaron, if I remember correctly, in Barlow’s Mormons and the Bible, he points out that BY was pretty comfortable with the idea that the bible, particularly the OT, contained historical inaccuracies and factual errors. So maybe there is no conflict.

  45. Steve Evans says:

    jimbob, either the ban was God’s will or it wasn’t. Since the ban was by its nature a racist thing, take that to mean what you will.

  46. Random Guy says:

    THEODICY DEFINED

    A theodicy is an argument explaining how a benevolent and all-powerful God can tolerate suffering in the world. Use of the term has expanded over time to include any attempt to reconcile God’s goodness with a variety of problems. Alma 42:1 engages in a theodicy in explaining that it is not unjust “that the sinner should be consigned to a state of misery.”

    Here, Steve uses the word (pejoratively?) to refer to attempts of members to explain how a perfect God could permit or command his Church to enact a ban that appears immoral in our zeitgeist.

    Many faithful Saints say: “the Lord leads his Church through his prophets, especially in matters pertaining to the priesthood. We therefore believe the ban was inspired and the will of God, but we will not try explain or justify the ban.”

    Because they do not attempt to reconcile the ban with God’s justice, they have not “walk[ed] down the dark paths of theodicy,” as Steve so charmingly put it.

    This position–my own position–is equivalent to saying:
    “we believe that God is perfectly Good and all-powerful. Nevertheless, God permits children to be stillborn. We will not attempt to explain, but we believe it is God’s will.”

    –Random Guy, aka “Peter Priesthood”

  47. Steve Evans says:

    RG, I’m not using it pejoratively, not in the least.

  48. God permits children to be stillborn.

    Yes, indeed, RG, but your argument is otherwise [bad British word]. God may have permitted the ban to stand, but that is different to saying that he’s the author of it. God allows me to make mistakes; he does not make me make mistakes, however.

  49. Does a priesthood ban necessarily make God a racist?

    I would hasten to point out that under Moses, the PH was reconstituted/reconfigured to be granted solely to the literal lineage of Aaron and all others were excluded, even the other males in the tribe of Levi. However, as time went on, the Lord sent others who were not in this direct lineage, e.g., Samuel. Is this racist? I would say no.

  50. Kevin Barney says:

    This is a difficult problem in Mormon apologetics, in which I am heavily involved. My own view is that I reject scriptural inerrancy and prophetic infallibility (which I refer to collectively as “fundamentalist assumptions”), and personally I think that this is the semi-official position of the Church itself as an institution. I was heartened when, during the most recent D&C curriculum year, we had not one but two lessons disclsiming infallibility (I recall one lesson used as an illustration that guy who got mad and left the Church because Joseph misspelled his name–an easy example, I’ll grant you).

    The problem is that these assumptions are very common among our people, and we speak over the pulpit and often act as if we believe them. (Insert here the old joke about how Catholics are supposed to believe in infallibility, but none of them really do, and Mormons aren’t supposed to believe in infallibility, but they really do.)

    I find that when someone is troubled by some anti-Mormon argument, often the first order of business is to gently loosen their grip on these iron-clad assumptions that allow for no mistakes whatsoever.

    Because if for the Church to be true there can have been no mistakes committed by prophets, then the Church simply isn’t true, and we should all pack our bags and go home.

  51. jimbob, either the ban was God’s will or it wasn’t. Since the ban was by its nature a racist thing, take that to mean what you will.

    Why does the ban necessarily have to be “a racist thing?” Implicit in that question, I guess, is what do you mean when you say “a racist thing?” Is God being a sexist because he’s not offering the priesthood to women during mortality (Toscano and Co.’s theories notwithstanding)?

    My point here is that there is room for other views on an inspired ban that don’t involve making God a member of the Ku Klux Klan. I personally don’t agree with any of them, but I’m surprised how black and white the issue is for those here who like to normally deal in vagarities of the gospel.

  52. Random Guy says:

    Ronan,

    Comment 42 relates the concept of a theodocy to the “we believe the ban was inspired but won’t attempt to explain it” position. (I dub this the ‘inspired but inexplicable’ position.)

    I haven’t yet attempted to justify this position, though I have said I espouse it.

    I’ll try and defend the ‘inspired but inexplicable’ position when I get another break here at work. A very large percentage of the casserole bearing, white shirt and conservative tie wearing, and ‘absolutely no swearing’ contingent of the Church takes this position. Somebody needs to defend it on this forum. Might as well be me.

  53. Steve Evans says:

    jimbob, it is a racist thing because it made a distinction solely on the basis of race, but further, it made a very negative distinction, barring otherwise worthy males from holding the priesthood because of the color of their skin. That is not necessarily something hate-filled — we mormons have always been full of love towards all men — but the priesthood ban based on race was something hateful nonetheless.

    As to your question about God being a sexist for not giving women the priesthood: yes, that is a distinction made solely on the basis of gender, and is by definition sexist. Whether or not that is a form of sexism that mormons can accept and/or tolerate is an entirely separate question. But it is definitely sexist.

  54. Mondo Cool says:

    Who was wrong: Abraham for instituting the exclusivity of a Chosen People as evidenced by circumcision (along with Jesus was said He was “…not sent _but_ unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel” and Peter) or Peter (eventually, after his vision of eating unclean beasts) and Paul (who said circumcision was of no profit)?

    Is it heretical to believe that circumcision, or no mission to the Gentiles, was a mistake?

    “Line upon line” may turn out to be a very valid position to take without questions of infallibility.

  55. RG,

    If you think it’s inexplicable, then I’d just leave it at that, or you’ll just end up dredging up all kinds of speculation that will do more harm than good.

    It’s rather explicable for me: from its outset, the ban’s instigators tied it to the curse of Cain/Ham, a vile and disgraceful relic of slavery. Given that black Africans were erroneously and ridiculously thought to carry this curse in their blood, the ban can be seen in all its glory: a curse on Mormonism.

    I don’t care if I’m the only one in the church who thinks it, either. I would rather be wrong in assuming that God would not be the author of this nonsense, than wrong in spinning all kinds of racist crapologia.

    And since I believe that the church can make mistakes (and I’m still a believer), there is nothing at stake for me here except my own sense of right.

  56. Line upon line also seems to be the standard because often we can’t accept or even begin to understand something completely contrary to our culture and upbringing. Again, there can be a huge difference between what God “wants” and what God “allows”, just as there is a big difference between what I want my children to do and what I allow them to do – and that difference is manifest throughout our recorded scriptures, not just in our modern examples.

  57. MC,
    In your example (and it’s related to the Levite question too), it’s like God choosing one or two people out of a hundred and saying, “I have a special mission for you to be a light unto the nations.” With the priesthood ban, God is inviting everyone to the party and saying, “I have a gift here that is necessary for your exaltation, except those couple of people down there with dark skin can’t have it.” It’s not comparable at all.

  58. As a a casserole bearing, white shirt wearing, absolutely no swearing member, I’ve already said I pretty much line up with Ronan on this issue. As to the conservative ties, I don’t know where that false doctrine got started, and I’d like to see it end.

  59. Steve (49),

    I think you and I are in agreement, at least as to definitions of racism and sexism in the context of the priesthood.

    Ronan (51),

    “Racist crapologia” is an awfully loaded and unfair term for the average member trying to make sense of this very difficult issue. You’re starting to remind me of the lady behind me in ConLaw who accused me of racism because I voiced the opinion that affirmative action may actually be bad for minorities. She just assumed I must be racist, because in her view only racists would fail to support affirmative action. Similarly, I think you’re trying to pigeon hole everyone who doesn’t agree with on this issue as “racist,” and it’s just not the case.

  60. Random Guy says:

    Take it easy, Ronan. Though I consider the ban inspired for reasons I haven’t yet had the time to articulate, I directly and explicitly stated that I won’t and don’t try to justify or explain the ban.

    My comments don’t call for you to admonish me to “just leave it at that,” nor do they warrant your passionately denouncing “nonsense” and “racist crapologia.”

  61. Random Guy says:

    “Though I consider the ban inspired for reasons I haven’t yet had the time to articulate”

    By this I mean our belief that the prophets are led by God seems to require us to believe the ban was inspired. I won’t try to justify or explain the ban.

  62. jimbob and Random Guy,
    There is plenty of racist crapologia swirling around, and I stand by that observation.

    You are free to believe the ban’s institution was inspired, of course. I would honestly be interested to know how you hold to this position and deal with the discredited Cain/Ham issue.

  63. our belief that the prophets are led by God seems to require us to believe the ban was inspired.

    I do not see how A = B.

  64. My comment about conservative ties actually has some bearing on this. RE the Richard Bushman appearance at the Pew Forum on Religion that has been referenced around the blogosphere, there is an institutionalized informality in our church. More often than not, there is a tendency to model our behavior and actions as we perceive others acting and behaving. Add to that talks like Elder Packer’s “The Unwritten Order of Things”, that to some might seem to encourage blind obedience without understanding.

    We really are pretty informal about many things, and it is easy to pick up and follow our leaders, sometimes in ways that they never intend.

    Let me give a concrete example. A High Councilor is assigned to a specific ward (usually not his own) and is responsible for training new quorum leadership. The formal materials are few and brief, and the need to insert much from your own experience and understanding is significant. Under these circumstances, it is easy to interpret or spin a practice or policy or even doctrine in ways that are not uniform throughout the church, and have it picked up and followed by good intentioned leaders.

    When I was called as a bishop, my formal training took all of 5 minutes (here are the keys to the building, and here’s the handbook of instructions, and BTW, Sis. So and So is not coherent when she doesn’t take her meds).

    I’m not exaggerating much. The follow up training was in the form of Bishopric Training once a month, conducted by my Stake President, and quarterly PPI’s with the SP, and the occasional regional PH training (twice during my 5 years). You do what you see others do, and hope and pray that you are right. And you are, most of the time. But, boy, do I feel bad about a couple of things that I either said or did, and I hope I have learned from that.

    Given that kind of environment, there is a huge cultural and paradigm shift when something like the 1978 revelation comes along. It’s no surprise we are still having these discussions three decades later.

  65. You are free to believe the ban’s institution was inspired, of course. I would honestly be interested to know how you hold to this position and deal with the discredited Cain/Ham issue.

    That’s the thing, Ronan, I don’t believe it was. I’ve said so at least three times. But you seem to have boxed yourself into a corner here that anyone who disagrees with you and does believe the ban was inspired must, by definition, be a racist. Surely you can see the hubris involved on your end in setting up such a standard.

    I’ve been accused of thread-jacking in the past, so I’m bowing out for now.

  66. Aaron Brown says:

    Yeah, what we’re seeing in some of this thread is the unfortunate byproduct of our silly political culture in which “racism” becomes a virtual synonym for “bad” or “repugnant”, and few bother to calmly define the word and analyze whether its usage is appropriate or not.

    Steve is right at comment #49.

    If people want to defend the priesthood ban, that’s fine, but no one should do it by saying the Ban wasn’t “racist.” It WAS racist, by definition. You would be better off saying “the Ban was GOOD racism, and here’s why …”. Seriously.

    Aaron B

  67. Steve Evans says:

    As a follow-up question, I’d ask: can you believe that the lifting of the ban was inspired, but that the ban itself was not? Why?

  68. jimbob,
    Anyone who believes the ban was inspired without showing why the Cain/Ham idea isn’t relevant to it, is implicitly accepting the Cain/Ham idea, which is racist.

  69. Steve,

    Yes, I agree that the lifting of the ban was inspired, even though I have serious doubts about the divine provenance of its institution, and I don’t think the two are incompatible.

  70. the Ban was GOOD racism, and here’s why…

    And into the lacuna we would get all kinds of nonsense.

    Aaron, you were right. It’s just dressing a pig.

  71. I forgot the “why”. We have multiple contemporary accounts of the event by those participating, universally expressing its divine origin. We have none of that for its beginning. And for someone like Bruce McConkie to make the statements he made shows that he had been deeply moved and impacted. Not the normal kind of “warm feeling” that often accompanies our spiritual experiences. He said that he and others had been wrong in all that they had said and written about the subject, and pointed to 2 NE 26:33 as the foundation that was there all along.

  72. Aaron Brown says:

    Steve,

    I find the notion that (a) the lifting of the ban required inspiration; plus (b) the ban itself was not inspired, to be a bit hard to swallow intellectually. But at the same time, it’s where I think I want to end up with this.

    In a long lost comment somewhere, Nate Oman talked about the understanding in his wife’s family (the McKay clan) that, in fact, this is how best to understand things. I don’t recall if he attributed the notion directly to David O. Like I said, it’s a bit of a hard sell to me, but I’m trying to grasp it. (If I recall correctly, there was some notion of “there needed to be unanimity in the highest quorums to reverse even a bad, uninspired policy, and only a revelation could bring that, yadda, yadda, yadda. I’m sure I’m getting some of this wrong).

    Ronan,

    I think your comment #63 is a little strong. It seems to me fairly easy to imagine someone accepting the inspiration of the Ban, while rejecting all the proferred historical explanations and justifications for it. Don’t lots of folks do this all the time? Since I also don’t believe the Ban was inspired for a second, I don’t need to make this argument, but I can imagine any number of people doing it.

    Aaron B

  73. Mondo Cool says:

    Ronan:

    My reading is that the New Testament Church excluded reaching out to the Gentiles before Peter’s vision. So, were they wrong (before the vision)?

    (I realize the deficiencies of the following example, but…) If God has invited everyone to the party, does that mean they all have to be there at the same time? Would it be contrary to God’s plan to have “scheduled times” for the invitees to attend? I would hope that provision had been made for me to attend – now or later – in this life or the next – whenever He saw fit. It seems it has.

  74. Mephibosheth says:

    #62:

    I believe that’s a difficult position to maintain if the McKay bio by Prince is to be believed, because then we have divine sanction of the ban at least from the 1960s to 1978.

  75. Aaron Brown says:

    I should clarify that I DO believe that the ludicrous justifications offered for the Ban by many in the leadership, in addition to the obvious racist views of folks like Brigham Young, DO cast ENORMOUS doubt on the notion that the original priesthood ban was inspired (even if there were evidence to suggest a real revelation back in the day, which there isn’t). But my point is that lots of folks do think they can separate the actual (alleged) inspiration/revelation as real, and yet ignore all the commentary and rationales offered to justify it.

    Again, I can’t justify separating the two so neatly and cleanly in my mind, but many others do.

    Aaron B

  76. Mephibosheth says:

    I once heard some hearsay that something like 40% of the church membership in the South went apostate when the ban was lifted in 1978. Does anyone know if there’s any substance to that?

  77. Aaron Brown says:

    #54:
    ““Line upon line” may turn out to be a very valid position to take”

    The whole problem with pulling “line upon line” out of one’s hat as a justification for priesthood exclusion (or drawing analogies to NT Apostles wanting to limit the Gospel to certain classes of people, or to OT “Levite-only” priesthood restrictions) is that the LINE in question had already been, well, UPON the other line. Yes, we look back at the priesthood restrictions in ancient times, or the NT Apostles reluctance to take the Gospel all over, and think that excluding some of God’s children from this or that has historical precedent.

    But didn’t we already cross those bridges? Doesn’t Mormonism’s being a “restoration” of Christianity mean that we’ve restored it in its fullness, rather than some rudimentary version of it that hadn’t quite gotten around to recognizing the universality of God’s blessings for all his children? Yes, I know that Joseph Smith seemed to bring back as much from the OT as the NT (think polygamy), but still … Line Upon Line doesn’t mean we periodically subtract a line, and then add it again. Does it?

    Aaron B

  78. a random John says:

    People keep comparing the ban to other bans that are laid out clearly in the scriptures. But where is the modern revelation that lays out the ban in our dispensation? You can try to point to Abraham, but Joseph Smith Jr didn’t see it as a ban. Also, that isn’t instruction for our dispensation. There is no revelatory basis for the ban.

    I think the lifting of the ban was inspired, which doesn’t imply that I agree with the timing or even the ban. A curse was lifted not from those denied the priesthood, but from the institution that denied it to them. Before we had less light, now we have more. I am sad that all we have is OD 2, which is a canonized press release. I’d love to see the revelation itself, assuming that such thing was expressible in words and written down.

  79. Kevin Barney says:

    I’ve never seen such a claim (about the 40%), but I suppose it’s possible.

    The only serious pushback I’m aware of was a full-page ad in the SL Tribune, signed by, IIRC, 500 people, objecting to the lifting of the ban.

    I was on my mission in Colorado in 1978. For Mormons who were old enough to understand what was going on at that time, this was a moment like the Kennedy assassination; they all can tell you exactly where they were when they first heard the news. My companion and I were in a car with an investigator (or maybe he had already joined, I don’t recall that part) when the announcement came over the radio. I don’t think I can convey to anyone not old enough to remember this how huge a deal this was. And in my experience, the response was universally ecstatic. I think the vast majority had a reaction similar to that of Elder Holland that Julie describes over at her T&S post.

    If it were simply a question of keeping 100% of the membership within the fold or lifting the ban, to me it’s no contest; SWK did absolutely the right thing.

  80. ed johnson says:

    What about the fact that the ban didn’t really make theological sense, even on is own terms?

    As I understand it, BY repeatedly claimed that having even “one drop” of the “cursed” blood would disqualify a man. I also believe that the church mainly attempted to carry out the policy in this way, disqualifying anyone who could be shown to have any degree of “black” African ancestry.

    But this is of course, impossible. Every modern person with any Eurasian ancestry also certainly has some “black” African ancestry somewhere along the line. So even BY himself was ineligible by this standard.

    Since the ban was logically incoherent, I claim it could not have been a “true” doctrine.

  81. My point is that lots of folks do think they can separate the actual (alleged) inspiration/revelation as real, and yet ignore all the commentary and rationales offered to justify it.

    Aaron,
    The irony of this approach is that it would be explicitly admitting that our leaders (who we believe to be inspired) can say all manner of false (i.e. not inspired) things. Either way, we have fallible policies and/or fallible teachings. You pick your poison.

    And here’s the thing: the justifications are every bit as hurtful as the ban itself. John Taylor’s “agents of Satan” comment is not something we can laugh off. We have here a prophet of God saying something that will cause real hurt and real world consequences in our ministry to African Americans. So, yes, a prophet can make important, influential mistakes.

    (And given that fact, the ban as human racism becomes less problematic.)

    Mormons can take real comfort that the ship righted itself. That’s the important point, isn’t it? Not that our leaders cannot make important mistakes, but that these mistakes can be corrected.

  82. Since the ban was logically incoherent, I claim it could not have been a “true” doctrine.

    Ed, music, sweet music.

  83. Since the ban was logically incoherent, I claim it could not have been a “true” doctrine.

    Ah, Ed. Such an unreasonable standard! Of course, it was certainly doctrine in the sense that the church did teach it as divine truth. But I agree that it was incoherent and unworthy of any sensible concept of God.

    A curse was lifted not from those denied the priesthood, but from the institution that denied it to them.

    Amen, arJ. Very well said.

  84. Mephibosheth says:

    Re #79: I agree. The reason I bring up 40% apostasy is that maybe the church could’ve handled such drain of active membership in 1978, but not 10, 50, or 100 years earlier and would be another case of the church bowing to outside pressures for the survival of the kingdom. But I realize this falls within the realm of unfounded and hurtful speculation.

  85. I am with those who want to ask if God would have to be a racist if the ban was somehow inspired. God takes a big view of things. Life itself was never designed to be ‘fair’ but to serve His purposes, whatever they may be (and what we can’t fully understand simply by reasoning through). I think priesthood being limited to a certain lineage in the OT poses similar problems on the ‘why would God do such a thing’ but He had His reasons and they left a LOT of people out of the priesthood privileges. While I agree with HP that we really can’t make assumptions about the ban, we also can’t shut down possibilities, either, by going straight to “God is a racist if the ban was a supposed-to-be thing.” As has already been said, there must be room for more nuanced discussion and consideration.

  86. Well then, m&m, let’s find nuance in OT priesthood. Levitical/Aaronic priesthood was not a pre-requisite for exaltation. Most of our favourite OT prophets were not Levites. For the hundredth time, the comparison is way off.

  87. Mephibosheth,
    Perhaps. But that would be a searing indictment of the “people of God,” would it not? Why could “less enlightened” groups like the Quakers be so right, and the Mormons be so wrong? Are our fruits that pathetic?

  88. Steve Evans says:

    m&m, as has already been explained, the ban was by definition a racist thing. Don’t confuse the issue of its racism with the issue of whether it is a negative thing. It was 100% racist — that was the point. Nuance has nothing to do with the question.

    As for the rest of your comment, I find those “Life itself was never designed to be ‘fair’” notions in this respect to be repulsive.

  89. Mephibosheth says:

    Ronan, priesthood cannot be considered a prerequisite for salvation to those who were disqualified from it in this life. There are numerous statements made by leaders under the ban that black people would be able to hold the priesthood in the next life. Plus there is D&C 137 where Joseph sees his brother Alvin in the celestial kingdom and is taught that anything you would’ve done if you could’ve done, you will do.

  90. Alvin was dead!! Apple, meet orange.

  91. m&m, it’s fascinating to see a religious conservative like you arguing for moral relativism.

  92. It is one thing to deny priesthood authority to black males, but withholding, on the basis of race, temple endowment and sealing blessings during this lifetime to men, women and children –i.e., the fullness of being a Mormon, is indefensible. Where is the precedent for that?

  93. DavidH, exactly. What was withheld on a racial basis wasn’t just priesthood, but all the mortal tokens of exaltation. With no public claim of a revelatory basis of any kind and no scriptural support.

  94. Antonio Parr says:

    The original question in this topic has to do with “heresy”. By definition, determinations of “heresy” lie in the exclusive domain of the Church. My guess is that if someone openly asserted in a formal Church meeting that the Church was wrong with respect to the Priesthood ban, and persisted in presenting this position in the open, then they may find themselves subject to disciplinary action. I would imagine also that the Church would not touch someone who made these assertions quietly/discreetly.

    As to whether it is immoral or displeasing to God to make such an assertion . . .

  95. Not only was he dead, Ronan, but you could do his work for him in the temple as he was not black.

    I know that I have said this many times, but why does no one try to say that Adam-God was God’s will (at least that are still in the Church)?

  96. Steve Evans says:

    Antonio, really?? My guess would have been the opposite.

  97. Mephibosheth says:

    Church leaders still claimed that black people would have all the blessings of exaltation after this life. There is enough to criticize about the priesthood ban without making stuff up.

  98. Steve Evans says:

    What would be the basis for the disciplinary action?? Sorry, you’ve just blown my mind with that one.

  99. Antonio, I really doubt that church discipline would result from claiming that the ban was wrong. People have basically published just that assertion in various books and articles without losing their membership. And anyway, the church rarely attacks people for questioning the decision-making of Brigham Young. Joseph Smith or the current leader, yes; Brigham gets no respect…

  100. And remember that the ban affected temple work on BOTH sides of the veil. Names of African people (meaning of African descent) were set in a separate pile and NOT done prior to 1978.

    My wonderful husband, after walking through the MTC on Sunday and noticing the beautiful photographs of missionaries in every part of the world had a bit of an epiphany about the ban, summarized simply as, “How could it have been right?”

    I love Aaron B.’s comment #77. I have often thought that the restored gospel surely included the mandate to go to “every nation…” But however we deal with our history, our future will be glorious as we heal the wounds we’ve inflicted on our own souls. I am certain that we will come to full truth and reconciliation–even christogenesis.

  101. holy flame war batman….

  102. Steve Evans says:

    bbell, nobody’s been flamed yet. stick around.

  103. Stapley re: Adam-God, you are correct, brutha. Adam-God was a central plank in a prophet’s theology (BY), and by all mainstream accounts he was DEAD WRONG.

    Antonio,
    I disagree with you too. The PR fallout would be catastrophic. You know I’ve been wondering how Romney would answer the question, “Do you think your church’s ban on blacks not holding the priesthood was divinely inspired?” If he said yes, he would be dead. If he said no, the church would be silently glad.

    Given that though, I think it would be bad manners to consistently thump the pulpit over this.

  104. Steve Evans says:

    Ronan, I would love to ask Mitt Romney that question. Maybe I will.

  105. RE: #51 and 53

    I hardly feel that the fact that women can’t hold the priesthood is “sexist,” or denigrating to our gender. For that to be the case, we would have to be somehow lacking without it. A girl in my home ward always felt so jipped (sp.) that women can’t hold the Priesthood, and it has never particularly bothered me.

    I realize that the nuances of the race and gender issues are not the same, but I think they are somewhat analogous. By following the line of reasoning of many of these posts, is the fact that women can’t hold the Priesthood somehow a mistake that could be reversed in the future? Are our only options that God is sexist (and the revelation is correct) or the populace of the Church is sexist (and the withholding is a mistake)?

  106. Eric Russell says:

    Oh, there are plenty, J. Stapley. They just don’t say it very loudly.

  107. Re: not preaching the gospel to “gentiles” in New Testament times as “precedent” for the priesthood and temple ban.

    There was no ban on converting “gentiles” to Christianity. The mistaken practice was that the gentile must, as the first step, or concurrently, convert to Judaism as well. See the LDS Bible Dictionary entry on Cornelius (page 650).

    Moreover, even if there had been a ban on teaching “gentiles”, it was overridden by Jesus’ counsel: “Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” Matthew 28:19. Greek scholars, like Kevin, should correct me if I am wrong, but I understand the Greek word translated as “nations” in this verse may also be translated as “gentiles.”

    In that respect, Peter’s vision may have been another way that Jesus told him that Jesus “meant it” when He previously assigned them to teach and baptize “all nations/gentiles”.

    And perhaps the 1978 revelatoin was God’s way of confirming to all the prophets, apostles, seventies, other Church leaders, and rank and file members, that God really meant it when He revealed to Peter, in Peter’s words, that “God was no respecter of persons.”

  108. Mephibosheth,
    Church leaders still claimed that black people would have all the blessings of exaltation after this life

    But no temple work was done until 1978 and as LDS genealogy guilt tells us, that Spirit Prison is a lame place to be in.

    And in heaven, I presume the Southern Mormons would not have left paradise over blacks coming in, so what’s the excuse this time?

    You’re picking at threads, mate.

  109. Aaron Brown says:

    “I know that I have said this many times, but why does no one try to say that Adam-God was God’s will”

    First off, where have you been talking about Adam-God so much, Stapley? I must have missed it. And heaven forbid I miss ANY discussion of that topic. Please point me to your writings …

    As to your point, I think it’s much harder to defend the preaching of Adam-God as God’s will in the fashion some defend the provenance of the Priesthood Ban for several reasons:

    1. It is easier to defend a past practice as having been inspired, even if it’s later changed, because there’s obvious precedent for this sort of thing (think the Gathering, plural marriage, etc.), and because one can always say “God had His reasons for demanding we do X, even if we don’t know what they are.” It’s hard to see how one could defend the AGT this way, since it’s a teaching about the NATURE and IDENTITY of GOD (whose nature and identity, presumably, has not undergone radical metamorphosis over the last 100 years).

    2. It’s also hard to justify a false theological claim about God that is clearly incompatible with the Scriptures and with current LDS doctrine on the Godhead, unless you couch it as some sort of intermediary stage preceding some fully revealed truth (“line upon line”, etc.). Problem is, the AGT, on its face, is clearly not a stepping stone to some later doctrinal development. It’s just some weird aberration/tangent that can’t be intellectually or doctrinally fit into some neat theory of LDS doctrinal evolution.

    Thus, better to pretend it never happened, or that it’s impossible to understand, or what have you … :)

    Aaron B

  110. Mephibosheth says:

    I’m picking at threads? You’re the one saying that the salvation of black people was in jeopardy despite very clear statements of church leadership to the contrary, and the principles taught in D&C 137, which you seem to have misunderstood when I brought them up before.

    Since only about 1% of the entire human race has had their temple work done, you have quite a grim outlook on the hereafter indeed.

  111. Thus, better to pretend it never happened, or that it’s impossible to understand

    And that is different than the Priesthood ban, how exactly?

  112. Steve Evans says:

    Portia, the fact is that women can’t hold the priesthood because of a policy that distinguishes based on gender. That is the definition of “sexist.” Like I said before, whether the policy is “denigrating to [y]our gender” is a different matter. And FYI, “jipped” (or “gypped”) is a pretty bad ethnic slur.

    “Is the fact that women can’t hold the Priesthood somehow a mistake that could be reversed in the future?”

    Yes, that is a definite possibility, one which many members believe.

    “Are our only options that God is sexist (and the revelation is correct) or the populace of the Church is sexist (and the withholding is a mistake)?”

    Yes, I believe so. Because we hold to a policy that is sexist, either we created it (and we’re the sexists) or God created it (and He is ultimately responsible).

    Again — the fact that some policy or notion is sexist or racist does NOT equate to that policy having vastly negative consequences. We need to move beyond this and understand that sexism and racism are morally neutral concepts on their own, but ones that have been overburdened in Western society.

  113. Aaron Brown says:

    That last line was meant to be snarky — I’m saying that since there was no way to persuasively defend the teaching of the AGT with the traditional apologetic tools, it became necessary to pretend it didn’t exist, was just make up by anti-Mormons, was being read “out of context”, etc. (Remember that this is what a lot of the apologetic literature used to try to say).

    Obviously this isn’t the case with the Priesthood Ban. The Ban was actually in effect until 1978, so you couldn’t exactly pretend it wasn’t real. It’s also pretty easy to understand what leaders were offering by way of justification or explanation. (Of course, once you reject those explanations as valid, it does seem impossible to make sense of it other than as an unfortunate historical relic of a racist age, but that’s not the sense of “impossible” that I was talking about).

    Are we talking past each other?

    Aaron B

  114. I hardly feel that the fact that women can’t hold the priesthood is “sexist,” or denigrating to our gender.

    I think, Portia, that was the entire point of the exchange: When Steve says sexist or racist, he’s not necessarily implying denigration, just that the qualification was based on sex or race. The terms in those are being used here as descriptive, rather than qualitative. But I’ve spoken for Steve before, and been wrong as to what he meant.

  115. hell jimbob, sometimes I’ve been wrong as to what I’ve meant as well. See my #112.

  116. Mephibosheth,

    I’m simply saying that according to basic principles of Mormon teaching, the exaltation of Mormon blacks was put on hold (I did not say it was in jeopardy). Alvin, given he was dead, didn’t have much choice in the matter. Ditto Marco Polo. Ditto Ug the Caveman. But someone like Jane Manning James was not allowed to go to the temple, nor have her work done until 1978.

    So, is the urgency of temple work somehow not relevant in her case? That’s the thread that you’re picking at. You are undermining the logic of the Gospel to defend a mistake. Because if Jane Janes can sit in that lame old Spirit Prison for 100 years, my pesky ancestors are going to have to wait until I retire!

  117. Oh, sorry for inadvertent slur. Didn’t remember its origins. Definitely not trying to have a Don Imus moment (on this thread no less)!

    I’m just trying to understand the point of view of a lot of these posters. I can see what they’re saying about the ban possibly being a mistake, and that it is racist because it distinguishes by race, but is it the racism that bothers them, or something else? Is it the issue of being excluded from exaltation; i.e., that blacks couldn’t be exalted without the Priesthood (was this true?), but women aren’t? I hope my question makes sense.

  118. Steve,

    Oh yeah.

    Wait till fallible guy comes in again as promised.

    I pretty much stay out of these types of threads these days. I do though check the references that have links attached just for more light and knowledge about controversial topics.

    Like in the thread there are some good links to some good sources on the history of the ban and the controversy surrounding it.

  119. Aaron, I was being a bit snarky myself. But I think that both cases boil down to the exact same fundamental argument. If you want policy, then compare the teaching of Adam-God (at the temple and in the conflict with Orson Pratt) and the denial of the priesthood to people with African heritage. Was the teaching of Adam-God, God’s will?

  120. To sum up, is it that the ban distinguished blacks from non-blacks (what would usually be called “racism,” with a negative connotation, today), or the effects of the ban that bother you? These are separate issues in my mind; maybe they’re not for others.

  121. Kevin Barney says:

    I’ll try to briefly express how I think about this issue when I put my apologist’s cap on. (Apologetics being the rational defense of faith.)

    It seems to me that there are two strains of apologetic thought on this issue. One approach is to try to defend the ban. In some ways, this is the more natural approach for an apologist, because we are accustomed to defending past practices of the Church and statements of Church leaders. In ordinary circumstances, defending Church leaders and defending the Church are one and the same.

    But I have a different view of the matter. I think the ban is sui generis. So I think we can either engage in attempting to defend past leaders of the Church and past statements of its leaders, or we can defend the Church itself as an institution. And while normally those two things are the same thing, in this case they are not; they are two different things.

    So long as we attempt to defend the ban as inspired or good or valuable or whatever, the issue will never go away. This will continue to do ongoing harm to the ministry of the Church. If we allow that is was a culturally conditioned policy, and from our point of view today an unfortunate mistake, then the issue is in the past and it will go away (eventually). Brigham Young, John Taylor, Joseph Fielding Smith, BRM, Mark E. Peterson or whoever, are on their own with their racist statements. In this one case, in my view it is more important to protect the Church as an institution than it is to try to protect the policy itself or the leading brethren who articulated that policy.

  122. Portia, in the case of the priesthood ban for blacks, I think it is the fact of its racism coupled with its impact that is so offensive. It’s all of the above, really; denying temple rites (remember, we’re not just talking about priesthood ordination per se) to any worthy member is troubling, but doing it to someone because of the color of his or her skin seems especially wrong.

    Women (white-skinned ones, anyhow) have not had this problem; that said, I know many women and men who are deeply troubled that women cannot be ordained to the priesthood, so I don’t think we’re out of the woods in that respect yet.

  123. Aaron Brown says:

    Not to parrot Steve, or to imply that his explanation wasn’t clear (it was), but I think the point is important enough that it deserves to be reiterated…

    Steve is using terms like “racism” and “sexism” in a value-neutral, non-pejorative way.

    Portia, and others, are using one or the other or both of these terms in a clearly perjorative way.

    The fact that most people these days think that virtually all manifestations of racism and sexism are “bad” means that it’s going to be easy to confuse the two definitions if one is not careful.

    As I said before, by any dictionary defintion of “racism” or “sexism”, LDS practices have fit the bill … unless the definition of “racism” or “sexism” that you’re using has a built-in, pejorative prong as part of its definition.

    If you want to defend LDS practices in an argument with Steve, you should say,

    “Steve, I agree that the LDS church is technically sexist in its priesthood, in that women are excluded. However, I think that sexual segregation is appropriate in the context of the Church because of God’s will, immutable gender roles, etc.”

    Aaron B

  124. Hey Kevin #79,

    What were you doing listening to the radio on your mission? You are dead to me now. Everything you’ve said is a lie!

  125. One could substitute the word “racist” for “racial” I suppose.

  126. Aaron, right on, though if you really want to defend LDS practices in an argument with me, you should envelop any statement with “Steve, you are the best blogger in the history of the Bloggernacle, and I think you are possibly the sexiest as well. [insert comment] Thank you for this enjoyable and enlightening interaction.”

  127. Tim: okay, that makes more sense, maybe. I think many of you are probably my parents’ generation, and I know for someone my age, you can’t escape the negative connotations of terms like “racist” or “sexist” (for better or worse). And after all, this is what the dictionary has to say on the matter:

    1. The belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others. 2. Discrimination or prejudice based on race. (American Heritage Dictionary)

    So comments that make “racist” to be neutral sound odd to my ears (eyes?) is all.

  128. Mephibosheth says:

    I don’t see the distinction at all. As you say, Alvin had no choice given that he was dead, Jane Manning James had no choice given the ban was in place by racist/inspired/both leaders. Jane’s exaltation was no more on hold than the non-Levites who never held the priesthood in OT times was and whose work still hasn’t been done. Your “logic of the Gospel” just doesn’t square with reality.

    Either you 1) really believe that 99% of humanity is rotting in spirit prison and have the most cynical view of the plan of salvation I have ever heard, or 2) you’re just saying so to score rhetorical points. Either way I don’t have time for it.

  129. Gosh darn Central European Time. Well, have a good day and I wish you all pleasant discussions.

    – Ronan, resident in Austria, where the leader of the far right party recently said that Muslim imams must preach only in German. Asked whether rabbis should only speak German too, Herr Strache was silent.

  130. Portia, discrimination based on race is precisely what we’re using here, and that is actually morally neutral, I think.

  131. Well, just as well I made comment 129 then, Mephibosheth. BTW, I don’t believe 1). And rhetoric, on a blog? Good grief.

  132. If I’m part of your parents’ generation, you must be five.

  133. Kevin Barney says:

    Oh, Tim J., if you only knew!

    Armand Mauss uses the term “racialist” in an attempt to differentiate between the neutral and pejorative meanings of “racist.” (Not sure what the analog to “sexist” would be… “sexualist?” (g))

  134. Aaron Brown says:

    Portia, that’s actually a “neutral” definition that you just quoted. That is, you have to bring to the table the notion that believing a “particular race is superior to others” is a bad thing, for the dictionary definition doesn’t say it is. You follow?

    Of course, you, me, and almost everyone and their dog thinks that believing a “particular race is superior to others” is a bad thing, so there’s no disagreement here. But that’s the thing … there IS disagreement in that the Church held that a “particular race” (blacks) was inferior to all others, with respect to the blessings of the priesthood.

    Thus, the Priesthood Ban was “racist” by the definition you’ve provided above. And so, if one wants to defend the Church, incorporating this definition, one should say something like,

    “Yes, the Priesthood Ban was racist, but the Church’s claim that there was a theologically significant difference between the Black race and other races that warranted a discriminatory priesthood policy was good because _________.”

    Aaron B

  135. I said most, Tim. Someone mentioned hearing the revelation on the radio on his mission, which would make him older than my parents. Also, there are clearly former bishops and parents on this thread.

    Oh wait . . . I mean . . . yes, I am a genius five-year-old. Duh.

  136. Ronan: European Time be danged. I’m up, and I’m in Europe! Weak! (See, Tim: I am young. I don’t turn in before 2 of late. :P )

    So, how does this tie in with prophetic infallibility? Let’s say that distinguishing based on race is morally neutral. Then would it be the administration of the ban that made you question its divine origins?

  137. Portia, it’s the substance and effect of the ban that are the problem. The administration of the ban seems to have been even-handed; as I said earlier, we Mormons are very nice to all. Racism as a raw concept might be morally neutral, but I have yet to see a morally positive racist policy (even affirmative action is problematic in its nuts and bolts).

    In terms of prophetic infallibility, it’s part of the equation because the substance of the ban came from somewhere — either from Church leaders acting on their own, or from God, speaking through them. Whomever came up with the idea of the ban is ultimately the one who thought that discrimination based on race, and keeping black people out of the temple, was somehow necessary or desirable. That’s a big problem, I think.

  138. Kristine says:

    Chiming in belatedly to say that the 40% number for Southern Mormons leaving the church is ridiculous. Church growth in the South really took off in the 80s, though of course there’s no way to know whether there’s a correlation with the lifting of the ban. I’d venture a guess that Southern Mormons were, by 1978, not much more racist than their Northern or Western counterparts. Indeed, the straight-up and honest racism of the South may well have allowed for quicker repentance than the covert, mealy-mouthed Northern variety that hid under the slick veneer of proto-political-correctness.

    Just sayin’.

  139. Kevin Barney says:

    Portia, that was me who heard the lifting of the ban on my mission in 1978. I’m 48 years old, so there is a good chance I am indeed old enough to be your father, but I’m on the old edge of the Bloggernacle; most participants are significantly younger than I am. I’m just really cool for my age, that’s all.

  140. I can attest to Kevin’s #139 — he is really cool. Seen Knocked Up yet, Kev?

  141. Thanks, Steve, that clears things up a lot!

    So, wow, do we not know who started the ban (“the substance of the ban came from somewhere“), or have specific documentation for it? It wasn’t from the higher levels of the Church? (I probably sound really naive right now: oh well). My general impression (but obviously, I should become more educated on this) is that it was a policy instituted by Brigham Young. Am I completely off-base?

  142. I hesitate to do this, so zap it Steve if you want to do so, but I am going to re-post a portion of what I said in #19, since the computer held it up and some of you might have missed it. (What hubris, to think anyone cared if it was missed!)

    We don’t have to accept that God is racist, but I believe we DO have to deal with the fact that He didn’t appear to BY and others and command that it stop. (He didn’t pull an Alma the Younger on Brigham Young or the other subsequent prophets.) In that light, I personally am compelled to try to understand why He allowed it to happen.

    IMHO, God allowed the ban not because it reflected His own view of Black and White but because He needed Brigham Young as His Prophet – and the ban was a by-product of that need. I have studied that period, and I seriously doubt that any other man in the Church could have kept it together and led it and caused it to flourish as he did. God needed the “Lion of the Lord” – baggage and all. The baggage, as bad as it was, was better than the alternative – extinction of the Church and reversion to world-wide apostasy.

    Anyone (including “mainstream Christians” who criticize the Church for the ban) who has problems with prophets being wrong and even doing wrong by the standards of a later day has not come to grips with the Bible. Let’s not be in the same camp as those who castigate us; let’s call a spade a spade and accept the historical precedent that we have in ALL of our scriptures.

  143. Portia, it’s clear that Brigham Young believed in the ban, but there is no clear start date for it. It was not implemented while Joseph was prophet.

  144. Kevin Barney says:

    Yeah, I did, Steve, and enjoyed it (but then I’m a big F&G fan from way back). I appreciated your KB review, which I read before I saw the movie. (Apologies for the off topic chatter.)

  145. The only thing that I have been trying to say is that it appears that God felt it necessary to continue the enforcement of the ban from at least the time of David O McKay and possibly earlier (there is, of course, Joseph F. Smiths wierd turnaround on the issue of Elijah Abel’s priesthood). Whether or not God is the originator of the ban, he permitted and encouraged its continuance, demanded it even when prophets approached him in order to have it removed. This seems to square with the facts. This also makes no statement regarding the inspiredness of the ban or the meaning we should draw from it. God allowed and enforced this.

  146. Good on ya, man. I about busted a gut in that movie — which, for BCC readers — is horribly inappropriate! My favorite bit was the reading of the line from Total Recall: “dammit Cohagen! Give these people air!”

    Anyhoo, back to racism.

  147. Antonio Parr says:

    In response to Steve Evans’ Question No. 98, my guess is that if someone stated repeatedly (i.e., the comment was more than an isolated, passing comment) in open meetings — Gospel Doctrine, Priesthood, etc. — “The Church was wrong for withholding the Priesthood from Blacks — that teaching was uninspired” then the persistent pronouncement that the Bretheren were at one time uninspired/wrong with respect to an official policy of the Church could place the person making this statement in hot water.

    Private, discreet comments would probably not get the attention or the rebuke of Church leaders.

  148. HP, I’d qualify your statement a little, to say that those prophets who prayed pre-1978 to lift the ban did not receive spiritual confirmation that they should do so. That’s all. I would not read any more into that.

  149. Steve,
    It is hard to read of President McKay’s pleading before the Lord and understand it as anything other than a deliberate rejection.

  150. Also, going back to the quotation in the original post (novel concept!): it seems to me that if you take Wilford Woodruff as a prophet of God, that what he says about not leading the Church astray has to be true, especially with a matter as important as this. I’m not trying to argue that prophets are 100% infallible, but that Woodruff has a valid point: hasn’t God assured that this dispensation of the Church will not fall into apostasy from the upper levels?

    Comparisons have been drawn to the Adam-God theory: didn’t that have much, much less of an effect on the Church as a whole (and into the present day)? Some seem to attribute both (the ban and A-G) to Brigham Young’s 19th-century worldviews–mistakes, even–but it seems if the ban was a mistake instead of a revelation, it would have been lifted much sooner (hearkening to comments on McKay’s prayers.)

    So, as far as documentation, is this something that distinguishes this issue from say, polygamy, is that we have D&C 132 clearly there, and we know an origin for the practice, as troubling as it may be?

  151. Portia, I’m not sure I understand the question exactly, but I’ll give it a go.

    If we believe that God does not allow the Church to enter into prophetic apostasy to a degree that will destroy the church, that means that Adam-God, Polygamy, the Priesthood Ban, the Earring Ban, and the R-rated movie ban (oh Knocked Up see-ers) are not to be considered apostasy that will destroy the church. Beyond that, we speculate.

  152. Veritas says:

    Taking into account the fact that Joseph Smith himself ordained black males into the priesthood, I wonder why a revelation was needed to do it again? Brigham Young laid down protocol in disallowing the priesthood to black people. Did he receive a revelation to do so?

    Soul Rebel made this comment over at T&S and I thought it was relevant to this discussion. I have always wondered about that same thing. My husband nearly left the church over it, as he struggles with how a Prophet for the one-true church could be wrong (on something so HUGE). Isn’t it written somewhere that that would never happen?

    I know many would use that as evidence that it MUST have been right, but if you use the scriptures themselves (specifically, Jesus’ own words) to judge the righteousness of this action (witholding the fullness of gospel to a certain race), well, it FAILS the test.

    So, again, how did this happen in the one true church in the dispensation of the fullness of times when apostacy could never again take hold? Did the fullness of times not really happen until 1978? Are we not really quite in the ‘fullness’ still?

    It doesn’t make any sense.

  153. Kevin and Steve,

    Apparently you are unaware of the official revelation given to Ezra Taft Benson in the 80’s banning the watching of rated-r movies. To my knowledge this ban has not been lifted nor has there been any official repudiation of the “revelation”. This in spite of my prayers asking that the ban be lifted and an apology to all movie-goers be given.

  154. Steve Evans says:

    “It doesn’t make any sense.”

    You said it.

    Tim J., was that about the time ETB received the revelation banning the Democratic Party?

  155. Yep. This is THE issue. This is the one we need to take care of. I’ll enjoy reading other comments in a few days. I am headed to an African American film festival tomorrow, and will turn 52 on Thursday (yes, I am older than Kevin, and probably cuter, though we haven’t done a comparison yet). I will celebrate my old age with my dear friends, who don’t mind that I’m white. These friends include Jane James’s great great grandson, who is planning some kind of party for me. On June 8th, I hope to be showing a trailer to _Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons_ to a whole bunch of people who will be very interested.

    If any readers live in LA and want to come to the festival to see the trailer, contact my husband at bruce_young@byu.edu and he’ll tell you how to reach me.

  156. Veritas, the revelation ended a firmly established practice – one so strongly entrenched and defended that it had to be rescinded through revelation, no matter its original source. Whether it was God’s will or not is another matter that we will understand completely only on the other side.

  157. “Did he receive a revelation to do so?” [start the ban]

    Six weeks ago, Elder Oaks told PBS that “[t]he Lord revealed through his prophets that people of African ancestry would not have the right to the priesthood for a time.”

    http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/week1034/cover.html

    This is the only evidence I know of that the practice/teaching was a revelation. I know of no other statement since 1978 by the institutional Church or by an apostle or prophet attesting to the divinity of the origin of the practice/teaching.

  158. Sorry, Veritas, I forgot to add: I view the “fullness” as meaning the condition of the dispensation at its end. I just don’t see any other way to view it, given the evolution of our understanding in the past nearly 180 years.

  159. Kevin Barney, RE # 139

    If 48 puts you on the old edge of the bloggernacle, then I guess that I am, as usual, way over the edge, at 55. But I too, remember receiving a phone call at work from my wife about the revelation, and then listening to the radio to get more information. It was a very powerful event, as well. Someone compared it to the Kennedy assassination, and darn it, I remember that too!

    FWIW, I still play full court basketball 2 to 3 times a week, so that I can sit at my desk at work and not hurt anything.

  160. Sanivossi says:

    “The Lord revealed through his prophets that people of African ancestry would not have the right to the priesthood for a time.”

    Oops, I bet he wishes he worded that different. I don’t think this is meant as a claim that there was a revelation to institute the practice.

  161. Aaron Brown says:

    I haven’t read the Oaks quote in context, but it sounds like he was very clearly stating there WAS a revelation. I understand the obvious perceived need to say this, but I hope we don’t hear more assertions like this. Yuck.

    Aaron B

  162. For what it is worth, Elder Oaks also addresses sexism re priesthood:

    “So now there’s no distinction among men in who has the right to the priesthood. There is a distinction between men and women in that respect, and we don’t know the reason why God has allocated responsibilities in that way. But we’re loyal to it and have a witness that that’s the will of God.”

    First time I have heard “We don’t know” with respect to women and the priesthood.

  163. #155, I did re-read the quote in context, and, while it certainly can be read as stating the the ban was revealed, it is worded in such a way that it can be read as stating that the Lord revealed that it should remain for a time – even if the original ban was not revelation. It doesn’t specify Brigham Young, at all.

    I think it was a very carefully worded statement that leaves interpretation open – and I think in other places on this blog (and in this thread, itself) we have expressed desire that the individual Apostles stop speaking on these issues as individuals. Frankly, from a purely legal and PR standpoint, it was a brilliant statement.

  164. Veritas says:

    Yes, that is a very refreshing statement actually.

  165. Kevin Barney says:

    Margaret, there is not question but that you are the cuter. About that there can be no debate.

  166. John Williams says:

    How about the person claiming the title of youngest participant in the Bloggernacle?

  167. StillConfused says:

    #52 “Is it heretical to believe that circumcision, or no mission to the Gentiles, was a mistake? ” Trust me… circumcision is not a mistake!!

  168. Elder McConkie in August of 1978 said, “Forget everything I have said, or what…Brigham Young…or whomsoever has said…that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world.”

    I interpret this to mean that Brigham Young’s, McConkie’s and other’s racial interpretation of scripture (pre-existence, Ham, Cain, etc) was wrong. However, this quote does not say whether the original policy was inspired or not. We don’t know what came first, the policy or the incorrect interpretation of scripture that may have been adopted to support a policy they believed was inspired but didn’t know why.

    Therefore, I choose to err on giving Pres. Young the benefit of faith that the God inspired a temporary race policy concerning the priesthood. Also, I think this is an important why speculation can be dangerous. Because, I think the racial interpretation of scripture about the pre-existence, Cain, Satan maintaining an influence on this Earth etc, was as much or more damaging than the policy itself.

  169. Kevin-

    I dont think we have to defend Brigham’s, McConkie’s and John Taylor’s racist statements. McConkie told us they were wrong. I think you are creating a false dichotomy with your ban vs institution argument.

  170. BRoz,
    The thing is, though, that when men with such views propagate and defend a policy based on race, alarm bells should be ringing. Big old alarm bells, not weedy LCD alarms. I’m talking about those old fashioned alarm clocks with the bells on the top that cartoon characters always bash with a hammer.

  171. HP,
    I don’t place as much significance on the D.O.M. story as you do, but I don’t have the energy to draw this out, so I’ll chat offline.

  172. This debate keeps bringing me back to the question: If the brethren were wrong on such a big issue, how can we trust that they are correct on any issue that we disagree with?

  173. Sally,

    Would that we had infallible leaders who could do all the thinking about life for us!

    You and I both know there is no easy answer to your question. A mature faith simply has to deal with that ambiguity and move on.

  174. Inspired or not, the ban is a problem for LDS prophetic claims.

    Either a) the ban was inspired and the prophets’ explanations and defenses were false (per BRM), or b) the ban itself was false.

    Either way, LDS prophets taught falsely for more than 100 years, and God allowed it. There is no getting around it.

    And fallibility is a weak argument here. That God would allow his prophets to be wrong, even glaringly wrong, is one thing. That God would allow his prophets to be glaringly, consistently and–most imortantly–repeatedly wrong for more than 100 years on an issue that directly impacts the spritual lives of so many people is another thing entirely.

    It is very disconcerting when people you believe you are commanded to follow tell you to forget everything they’ve said about an issue over the last 100+ years.

  175. Steve, you are the best blogger in the history of the Bloggernacle, and I think you are possibly the sexiest as well. My comment is as follows:

    By this I mean our belief that the prophets are led by God seems to require us to believe the ban was inspired.

    That is so tragically wrong. Repeat after me: Prophets are not perfect. They are going to be wrong sometimes. The ban is a good example of that. They have always told us to use our own right to personal revelation to confirm their teachings. Why would that be necessary if we were supposed to just assume that every one of their pronouncements was straight from God?

    can you believe that the lifting of the ban was inspired, but that the ban itself was not? Why?

    Of course you can. God lets us make mistakes (remember the 116 pages?) He doesn’t clean up after us. He allows us to suffer the consequeces of our actions. Even sometimes until 1978.

    Whether or not God is the originator of the ban, he permitted and encouraged its continuance, demanded it even when prophets approached him in order to have it removed. This seems to square with the facts. This also makes no statement regarding the inspiredness of the ban or the meaning we should draw from it. God allowed and enforced this.

    That’s putting the blame on God for our actions, IMO. Just because God doesn’t bail us out when we screw up does not mean our mistakes are suddenly his mistakes.

    “The Church was wrong for withholding the Priesthood from Blacks — that teaching was uninspired” then the persistent pronouncement that the Bretheren were at one time uninspired/wrong with respect to an official policy of the Church could place the person making this statement in hot water.

    Pure crap. As stated:

    Elder McConkie in August of 1978 said, “Forget everything I have said, or what…Brigham Young…or whomsoever has said…that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world.”

    If McConkie can say that, then so can I. Notice that he did not limit that statement to appologia for the ban. He said forget everything that even BY said which is contrary to the present revelation. The ban was wrong. Shout it from the rooftops.

    Thank you for this enjoyable and enlightening interaction.

  176. Sally and GRW: I agree with what you say and it is disconcerting, I suppose, to not have a guarantee that our leaders will not be terribly wrong sometimes, but I think it would be even more disconcertng if they told us that they were never wrong.

    I don’t think that God ever promised us that his prophets would be error free. Part of our responsibility is to “prove all things.” Notice that scripture doesn’t say: “Trust all things that the prophet says.” We have brains and the right to personal revelation for a reason.

  177. MCQ–“We have brains and the right to personal revelation for a reason.”

    You introduce a whole second layer of trouble, from my perspective.

    How did BY, BRM and the others come to their wrong opinions about the ban? Given who they were/are, I suspect their was a sincere, serious attempt at personal revelation. Their statements suggest strongly that they believed they got it. They were wrong. Fair enough, they’re human.

    But the problem is that I am at least as likely to be wrong about my personal revelation. How many members prayed about the ban or the reasons for it and felt a confirming witness?

    If the system for revealing divine truth is this subjective, how much stock should we put in it?

  178. Comment 88: “as has already been explained, the ban was by definition a racist thing.”

    Steve and Aaron,

    This is incorrect. The neutral term to describe distinctions based on race is “race-based.” “Racist” means “morally repugnant race-based distinction,” requiring an argument. Arguing that affirmative action, or the priesthood ban, is “racist by definition” is polemical.

  179. Comment 134: “you have to bring to the table the notion that believing a ‘particular race is superior to others’ is a bad thing”

    Aaron, this is why proponents of affirmative action, whether for minorities or women, think its polemical to insist that small business loan programs targeting minorities are de facto racist, and that sports leagues excluding men are sexist simply because they make race or sex-based distinctions. Racist and sexist carry baggage.

    Church members would rightly object to assertions that they or the church is sexist on the basis of the priesthood being male-only, just as the WNBA and LPGA would object to claims that they’re sexist on the basis of their ban against male players.

  180. Thomas Parkin says:

    “How many members prayed about the ban or the reasons for it and felt a confirming witness?”

    Three.

    “If the system for revealing divine truth is this subjective, how much stock should we put in it?”

    I guess, it being entirely subjective from an external point of view, that the answer is: it’s all up to you, my friend.

    ~

  181. Kristine says:

    “Church members would rightly object to assertions that they or the church is sexist ”

    Not all Church members, Matt :)

  182. Steve Evans says:

    Matt, we must be using different dictionaries. Feel free to search and replace with “race-based” everywhere if you feel the need for some sort of victory, I guess…

  183. MCQ,
    In that particular case, I was not the one who laid the blame at God’s feet; President McKay was. If you don’t like that interpretation, take it up with him. All I am saying is that if President McKay was correct, then we have some serious theological questions to ask ourselves. I am also saying that I don’t believe that we yet have compelling reasons to assume that President McKay was incorrect.

    Perhaps I should also say that I find the ban personally repulsive and disturbing. Just so you know.

  184. Steve Evans says:

    btw, Matt, you’re wrong. Not all definitions of “racist” lead us to those polemics you fear so much. A quick Google search reveals that one oft-found meaning for the word is simply “discriminating on the basis of race”, which seems fairly neutral. Again, I’ve been clear about how I’m using the term in this post, so saying “racism” or “race-based” or “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” doesn’t matter at all.

  185. Steve,

    I’m not arguing that “racist” has to carry baggage, only that the term does, in fact, carry baggage. Because you’re not trying to be polemical, are are sincere in your attempt to describe the church’s practice neutrally, “race-based” is preferable.

    Kristine,

    I suppose there are some members who think the WNBA, LPGA and the church are “sexist”.

  186. Matt,
    Of course all of those institutions are sexist (as are the NBA and the PGA, for that matter). The question is whether those individual sexisms are malignant or useful.

  187. Steve,

    I’m with Matt — the common usage of the word “racist” carries a connotation of morally improper value judgments made on the basis of race. This is why scholars in the field often use other terms (such as racialist).

    And dude, “not all definitions” is a pretty thin fig leaf to hide behind. Someone as plugged-in to culture as you are knows what the common usage is.

  188. Kristine says:

    Matt, I’m the one whose kid thinks that the non-existence of Boy Scout Cookies is sexist, remember?

  189. I’m the one whose kid thinks that the non-existence of Boy Scout Cookies is sexist, remember?

    It _is_ sexist, Kristine! I’m terribly upset that I never got to sell Tag-Alongs door to door, and instead had to go backpacking and skeet shooting.

    And don’t get me started on the negative messages about body type conveyed by the name “Thin Mints” . . .

  190. Steve Evans says:

    Kaimi, like I said to Matt, I’ve been clear from the get-go as to how I was using the term. I really don’t care what connotations you attach to the term, I don’t attach them. I’m not hiding behind fig leaves at all; part of my use of the term was an effort to use it stripped of the cultural baggage which makes discussion of this topic so problematic from the start. Just because a usage is common, Kaimi, doesn’t mean it’s proper.

  191. Eric Russell says:

    I never got the whole Boy Scout Cookies thing. Both Boy and Girl Scouts sell stuff door to door in order to raise funds which they then use for activities. Where is the sexism?

  192. “Of course all of those institutions are sexist (as are the NBA and the PGA, for that matter).”

    They may be sexist for other reasons, but the NBA and PGA don’t exclude women or make them ineligible because of their sex. The NBA and PGA are open to everyone, and a couple women have tried out for the NBA and multiple women have played PGA events, while the WNBA and LPGA explicitly exclude men.

  193. Ouch. Good point, Matt. Of course the reason that women are not regularly included in those male sports is solely due to differences in anatomy. Women are entirely unable to run the court and dish the ball with men. That must be the explanation. (I’d have more to say on the PGA score, but the women I am aware of have sadly let me down thus far).

  194. HP/JDC (178), we do have some seriously difficult theological questions to ask ourselves. Pretty much everyone here commenting are all assuming there was no original revelation banning Blacks from the Priesthood and we are all assuming Brigham Young made a mistake and Smith did not have it by revelation. There are a lot of assumptions there, all of which conveniently jibe with our contemporary culture’s perceptions of how we ought to perceive race.

    But, there are plenty of instances in the Scriptures where it is plain the Lord is acting as a social engineer and He uses race and culture differences to keep people segregated. The Lord clearly didnt want the Israelites mixing with the Philistines or other local non-Abraham-descended Canaanites, so He imposed a lot of cultural prohibitions designed to prevent cross-contamination (please, lets not get into a discussions of the Hebrew Bible not being what it claims, for the moment) and that same sort of thing appears in the Book of Mormon in 2 Ne. 5:21.

    What sort of discussion would we be having right now if Zebedee Coltrin was right about Smith’s ban? We probably would be calling Steve a heretic.

  195. I don’t know that to be the case, because whether or not Bro. Coltrin was right, he is considered wrong now. Further, no-one called President Brown a heretic, even though he clearly thought the basis of the ban was false in a period when most members accepted it. It is an interesting hypothetical, but not one that leads to clear conclusions.

  196. Thomas Parkin (#175): Perfect!

    HP: You seem to ascribe a lot more to the story of Pres. McKay than I have ever heard. I don’t think he would agree with your statement in #144, especially: “God allowed and enforced this.” That goes way beyond the facts IMO. There are numerous analogies that could argue just as well for laying our numerous screw-ups at God’s feet once you start down that slippery slope.

    I think the most that can be said is that God allows us to experience the consequences of our own actions. Saying that he “enforced” the ban is like saying he “enforced” slavery or the holocaust because he didn’t put a stop to it when thousands or even millions prayed for exactly that. You’re not going to go there are you?

  197. MCQ,
    President McKay did not believe that he could rescind the ban because he did not believe it to be God’s will. That is ultimately what I am saying. If that is an accurate reading of events, then it appears that the Lord wanted it to last longer than President McKay did. If we believe that President McKay was looking to rescind the ban and if we believe that the reason President McKay didn’t was because he was told “not now,” aside from God wanted the ban extended for a time, what other reasonable explanations are there?

    To some degree, thanks to the veil and the plan, our numerous screw ups can be laid at God’s feet. He gave us mortal bodies and mortal understanding. He defined the terms of our mortal tenure. That some of our suffering is the result solely of those terms would seem to indicate that, if blame is necessary, he would be the only one to bear it.

    Regarding the Holocaust, Elie Wiesel isn’t shy about giving God some of the responsibility for it. I don’t know why we should be. Of course, Elie Wiesel spreads the responsibility around, as I try to do.

  198. You went there.

    I suspect there a lot of things that Elie Wiesel would say about God that we might not agree with.

    For myself, I think the fact that God gave us free agency as part of his plan means that God allows us to exercise it even when we make mistakes and those mistakes result in disastrous consequences. He might say “not yet” to Pres. McKay or anyone else who wants to remove the full consequences from that mistake. That doesn’t mean God is to blame for the mistake.

  199. MCQ, in all fairness I think HP went there because you didn’t request that he not do so in the proper manner, viz.: “oh no, don’t you go there, girlfriend.”

    FWIW, I think HP sees a kind of intervening God that is far more involved than what I conceive, but so be it.

  200. About the only times in our scriptural records that God has stepped in, slapped someone upside the head and demanded that they stop something (right or wrong) that they doing were when those actions threatened to destroy the Church or the world at large. (Noah, Alma, the Younger – Saul/Paul – the Manifesto) Otherwise, He pretty much has left it up to use to figure it out on our own. (Kind of emphasizes His view of the importance of agency, don’t you think?)

    IF I believe the ban was not His ideal for His children, then I, personally, must try to understand why He allowed it to happen – and why He might have allowed it to extend a few years past consensus of the FP and 12. I have stated already why I believe He allowed it (needed Brigham Young and it was not life-threatening to the Church at the time); I believe it is easy to see a reasonable explanation why He might have ended it when He did and not earlier. It might have been to burn the conviction into the leadership by forcing them to continue their supplication (“slow to hear after extended wrong doing” is a solid scriptural principle); it might have been to separate the lifting of the ban from the political upheaval in order to emphasize that it was His will; it might have been that the Church had to wait to be ready for the African expansion; it might have been to keep the pruning from destroying the root (Jacob 5).

    There are enough justifiable reasons that I don’t lose sleep over it. I rejoiced when it was announced; I rejoice still; I do my best to play my part in its effect.

  201. Ray, some of your reasons are hard for me to parse. When you say, “it might have been to keep the pruning from destroying the root,” well, pruning metaphorically involves cutting people off — i.e., excommunication or divinely-invoked death for people who are already sinners. So I’m not sure how that applies, other than perhaps to the dubious theory that the church would have lost mass membership had the ban been reversed in, say, 1960.

    Regarding the idea that the church had to be ready somehow for expansion, this is also odd. Why would we see the potential members in predominantly black parts of the world as more of a drag on the church than the potential members the church actively recruited in other areas while the ban was still in place?

    Other of your ideas seem sensible enough, though.

  202. McQ,
    I worry about placing logical or moral restrictions on what God can or cannot authorize. I know that Elie Wiesel goes places that we don’t usually go, but he survived the Holocaust and we didn’t. He has more right to his opinion.

    That said, I place logical and moral restrictions on God all the time. I just think that we should be aware that these restrictions are essentially arbitrary and that we should be prepared to excise them if it becomes necessary.

    “the fact that God gave us free agency as part of his plan means that God allows us to exercise it even when we make mistakes and those mistakes result in disastrous consequences. He might say “not yet” to Pres. McKay or anyone else who wants to remove the full consequences from that mistake. That doesn’t mean God is to blame for the mistake.”

    Sure, but it does seem to mean that he approves, or at least doesn’t really mind, the consequence, right?

  203. JNS,
    Rapid growth in the church always brings problems. Of course, that we should have such problems, right?

  204. HP, of course. But the argument Ray is sketching requires not just that there be problems associated with growth, but specifically that growth in predominantly black areas would somehow have more problems than the growth that the church actually experienced in Europe, North America, and South America. Otherwise, it’s just growth one place versus growth another and the argument collapses.

  205. I think JS’s sending out his major leaders on missions right when the Church is collapsing or in grave danger is illustrative of the principle that growth has historically been the answer to problems, not the cause of it.

  206. JNS, the pruning reference is tied to the timing issue – waiting a bit to get solid and lasting support. Look what the Manifesto did to the Church – including its ability to accept and follow it. All I’m saying is that “perhaps” an earlier lifting of the ban might have had a similar effect. I don’t subscribe to that one, but it is a reasonable possibility, IMO.

    The expansion issue is not as problematic. I know from personal conversations that some of the leaders of the time were concerned about mass conversions that might occur without a foundation of leadership available (much like the Dominican Republic post) – thus raising the possibility of apostate teachings creeping into the congregations in that area (just as I saw that danger in Japan on my mission). Again, just a “perhaps”, but I believe a reasonable one.

    My point: There are enough reasonable explanations that I don’t feel the need to “blame” God for a delay.

  207. I agree, J, in that time, but those new members were being asked to return and replenish the ranks of the Church and learn directly from the Prophet. The difficult ecclesiastical issues of lifting the ban are significant.

  208. Ray, it’s worth remembering that some other Christian churches during the 19th century did have black members — as did ours, including priesthood holders during Joseph Smith’s lifetime — so if the ban had never been imposed, it’s hard to see why it would ever have caused trouble.

    Regarding expansion, again, removing or never imposing the ban wouldn’t necessarily have been relevant. The fixed constraint through most of our pre-ban history was the number of available missionaries, not the number of available people to teach. So not having the ban would simply have meant that a limited supply of missionaries was distributed somewhat differently. Your argument would require that the growth produced in predominantly black regions would somehow have been more problematic than the growth in other areas for which it would have been substituted. That’s the argument that I have a hard time seeing.

  209. 204: “Otherwise, it’s just growth one place versus growth another and the argument collapses.”

    Not when you have the very real possibility of entire congregations converting en masse – like appeared possible in Africa at the time. That brings all sorts of unique ecclesiastical challenges. Again, that’s not my primary conclusion but rather a reasonable possibility. I could have listed about a dozen, but I thought the poor horse was dead with just four.

  210. Ray, I recognize that you have other perspectives; I’m just talking about this one. When we recognize that mass conversions were taking place in some parts of South America even before the end of the ban — not to mention under, for example, Wilford Woodruff in England — it remains difficult for me to see your argument.

  211. JNS, it’s not my argument. However, I still feel it is a reasonable one. Unless I am mistaken, mass conversions in South America happened after some years of foundation building first. If not, it might not be reasonable.

  212. JNS, I just mentioned this on the Dominican thread, but on their temple mission my parents-in-law saw firsthand the ecclesiastical and theological challenges of rapid growth and lack of BIC leadership.

    This is a generalization, I know, but converts face a double whammy when joining the Church. Not only do they have to learn a new theology, interpretation of the Gospel, vocabulary, doctrinal interpretations, etc, but they also have to try to give up the perspectives that shaped their previous views of these things. That is incredibly hard – and incredibly hard for BIC members to understand fully. BIC members struggle enough to separate divine truth from human interpretation (as witnessed by the recent threads); adding previously held ideas to the mix is tough – to say the least.

    Mass conversion that does not include flocking to a central location poses problems in and of itself. Frankly, we haven’t done a great job of handling what we have had, so I’m not willing to dismiss the possibility that even more mass conversion wouldn’t have been even more detrimental. Why limit mass conversion to the rest of the world and exclude African peoples? PERHAPS, we were near critical mass already – and they were excluded already. Is it very palatable? No. It is possible, or even reasonable? I think so.

  213. Ray, the consequence of the priesthood ban was just exactly that no foundations at all were built for the church in predominantly black areas before the period when we had enough missionaries and resources to facilitate mass conversions — isn’t it? In other words, mass growth without a foundation in the post 1978 period seems to be exactly the effect of the ban under consideration.

  214. On that we agree completely. As perhaps I should have said more clearly, the growth justification only addresses a possible delay from Daivd O McKay to Spencer W Kimball – NOT the ban itself.

  215. If the Church architect’s recollection is correct that President McKay told him that God had told President McKay that the ban would not lifted in President McKay’s lifetime, I do not think that meant that God necessarily thought the ban was a good thing or that God was the origin of the ban or the delay in lifting it. I think it was probably a prophecy of how long it would take the leading councils to agree that it was God’s will that the ban should end.

    Had President McKay then announced that he felt, “by revelation,” that the time had come, I wonder whether the other members of the FP and Quorum of 12 would have agreed. The troubled history of the 1890 Manifesto gives an example of the schisms that can result at the highest levels when important changes are made without the complete “buy in” of the leading councils or general membership.

    I think President Kimball was concerned about this, and that is why he did all he could to be sure all members of the FP and Quorum of 12 were consulted and on board before seeking a confirmation from God about the change.

  216. Steve: you are so right, girlfriend.

    Ray: You are still saying that God “allowed” the ban to continue for some reason known only to him, which is not what I am saying. I believe the only reason the ban continued is because of our own action in instituting it in the first place. The fact that it continued was simply, IMO, part of the consequences resulting from that mistake, and possibly the subsequent mistakes we made in justifying the ban. I don’t place any responsibility for this on God. It’s our mistake.

    HP (#202): Absolutely not. I believe God deplores and weeps over the consequences of our sinful actions, but his plan requires that he allow us to fully and completely experience them anyway.

  217. If the plan, which he is the author of, requires that we fully experience the consequences, then we should assume that experiencing the consequences has some desired value.

  218. HP: Of course. An analogy would be another time when a prophet prayed and asked God to remove certain things and God refused. You will recall God’s reason:

    know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.

  219. So, if I understand you correctly, you are saying that God desires the consequences of the consequences, but not the consequences

  220. [heavy sigh] God doesn’t desire them, HP, he just knows we need to experience them. I think you are being intentionally obtuse now.

  221. MCQ, please let’s keep from getting personal. From my vantage point, the difference between your “he knows we need to experience them” and HP’s “God desires the consequences of the consequences” is pretty narrow at most. Could you perhaps spell out where you see the substantive differences?

  222. Steve Evans says:

    MCQ, it’s rare that someone at BCC is intentionally obtuse. Give us the benefit of the doubt!

  223. JNS: Please, That’s not personal! I just think HP is baiting me, which is tiresome, but maybe I misread him. Steve, knowing a little about HP, I just figured he had to be doing it intentionally. But of course, I’ve been wrong before.

  224. 216: MCQ, I don’t want to get into a semantic debate over definitions. I agree completely with you that “it continued because we wouldn’t stop it.” I also stand by my “God allowed it to continue.” He values our agency so much that He lets us screw up horribly – and, as far as I can tell, only steps in to preserve His Priesthood and/or humanity. We are describing both sides of the same coin – and I am NOT “blaming” God for our stupidity. I am not going to split those hairs.

  225. JNS: the difference seems obvious to me, which is why I was frustrated: There is no “desire” in my version. God certainly does not desire sin or error, therefore he cannot desire the consequences of such. He does know, however, that for us to progress, we must learn and to learn we must experience the consequences of our actions, both good and bad. I do not see how that is the same as desiring the consequences or even the consequences of the consequences. It is merely knowing the plan.

    OK, just reading what I wrote above, I think I get it HP. You are saying that he desires us to learn which is the consequence of experiencing the consequences. I agree with that, with the caveat that learning is only a possible desirable consequence. So I guess that God desires that the best consequence, our lerning and progression, results from the bad consequences of our bad actions. Whew!

  226. HP & MCQ: Anyone read Ether 12 lately? :-)

  227. My favorite chapter in all of scripture Ray. Your point?

  228. “But the argument Ray is sketching requires not just that there be problems associated with growth, but specifically that growth in predominantly black areas would somehow have more problems than the growth that the church actually experienced in Europe, North America, and South America.”

    Unfortunately, I think it would have been more problematic to have heavy growth in Africa instead of Europe and North America. In the Phillipines, for example, it requires much more money to run the church than the members there are able to contribute, so the difference is made up by SLC. Without a foundation of members who can contribute more than they take financially, the church could not sustain itself. I think the church needed that foundation before large-scale baptisms could begin in Africa.

  229. If we see it as “line upon line” then the church is really far behind the curve. Society as a whole, including the Supreme Court of the United States, was way out front of the church on this. The same is true now with women’s rights and gay rights. Where is the light that is supposed to be leading us, if it’s following us instead? I think it’s very problematic to say it was just racist (in the ordinary sense of the term) and false. Is the church just another benighted human organization? If my own revelation is more reliable than the prophet’s, then …. yeah …. why be Mormon?

  230. 227: Sorry; I was in a rush. I shouldn’t have posted just the chapter reference.

    To summarize: God gives us weakness. NO qualifier there, so it includes prophets. We have to deal with the consequences of that weakness, including that of a Prophet – often to the 3rd and 4th generation. When we become sufficiently humble, we can learn and change and, hopefully, become strong.

    Seems like a pretty good description of what we have been discussing.

  231. Where was the light that was supposed to be leading all of Europe following the dark ages and into the rennaissance if it didn’t come for 300 years after Europe had left the dark ages behind? How could God suffer civilization for so long not to have the truth?

    That’s a loaded question that assumes your outcome is the preferred one in the grand scheme of things, something we do not know.

    It’s all to easy to look in from an outsider perspective with the “how convienent” that this revelation happened when it did. The fact is, if you want to play the convienent game, there are a lot questions you could ask.

    Convienent that the Church would be restored at a time of religious furvor when there were dozens of sects and people were creating their own religious. Convienet? or were the people being prepared for the re-introduction of the restored Gospel?

    Convienent that the Savior would come at a time when the Jews were in relative disarray with no clear prophet, and under the heel of the Romans, and instead of giving them triumph over their temporal woes, he was sentenced to death on the cross. Convienent?

    People are prepared for things. Sometimes it takes hundreds of years. There was a LOT of preparing going on for the blacks long before any Supreme Court decision. Ultimate the Lord did it in his own time. We earthly people ascribe and reason various possibilities to the whys and hows, but perhaps we should be a little more content with knowing knowing ever aspect of the Lords plan when it gets down to the minute details.

  232. MCQ,
    In general, I prefer to think of myself as naturally obtuse. I don’t think that we vary much in our understanding of the process. I like your explanation. If I was a little more intelligent and a little less enamored of a good line, I would have said that instead of “consequences of the consequences.”

    I don’t think God wants us to commit any individual sin, but I do think that the odds of us committing sin are 1 to “however many other people there have been, are, and will be in the world who aren’t Christ” and I don’t think that this is accidental. There is a need in the plan, I think, for everyone (who isn’t Christ) to repent and nothing gets us to do it better than sinning. Which is, to a great degree, the whole point of Ether 12:27, if I read it correctly. So, there is that.

  233. I came to this discussion late but had, perhaps, the quote that comment #21 referred to.

    President Kimball (Elder Kimball at that time) wrote on 6/15/63, “The doctrine or policy [of the Priesthood ban] has not varied in my memory. I know it could. I know the Lord could change his policy and release the ban and forgive the possible error which brought about the deprivation. If the time comes, that he will do, I am sure.”(from Teachings of…, Chapter 17)

    It is not clear to me whether Elder Kimball was saying that the deprivation itself was an “error” or whether, according to his own understanding at the time, there had been a “possible error” on the part of those who had the ban placed upon them. Either way, there is a very humble acknowledgement of the limit of the Church’s understanding on the issue and that they were proceeding in faith until they had a definitive answer from the Lord.

  234. Given that the Lord is never pleased when any of His children are deprived of the full blessings of the Gospel, perhaps the following may be a part of the reason for allowing the Priesthood ban to continue.

    The Lord recognizes that for Priesthood authority to fully function in the life of the recipient, that the recipient must be in a social or cultural situation in which he can be respected in that authority. Had the Priesthood, with all its attendant leadership responsibilities and authority, been given to individuals who could not really exercise it under the existing conditions of slavery and social discrimination, it may have been a much more divisive thing. The Lord may have patiently guided the Church to be ready and willing to lift the ban, once the external social and cultural barriers had been torn down. In effect, the Lord needed the right conditions to be present for the lifting of the ban just as He needed the right conditions to be present for the restoration of His gospel in a land that was free.

  235. a random John says:

    tycho,

    Nobody outside of the Church cares about Mormon priesthood. So is the real concern whether Mormons would be able to give proper respect to black priesthood holders? If so that is a problem with those Mormons not living their own religion as fully as they might.

    This is all moot since, once again, there is no revelatory basis for the ban.

  236. Random John,

    Your point is well-taken to a certain point.

    Members, as well as non-members, needed to rise above prevelant societal prejudices. However, it is not quite accurate to say that “nobody outside of the Church cares about Mormon priesthood” since non-members, from the beginning, were the very source of the ongoing, growing membership of the Church. The issue of acceptance of Priesthood authority would have been an important one for non-members, proscelytes and members alike.

    Whether or not there was a “revelatory basis” for the ban is something that we are not in a position to really say (hence my comment in #133). However, with that said, even though Church leaders, such as Elder McConkie, post-1978, recognized that they spoke with “limited understanding” and were learning “line upon line”, there is no evidence that the ban was definitely not based on some sort of revelation. It is more likely that post-1978 comments were referring to the lack of understanding of the reasons for the ban rather than the ban itself.

    The First Presidency’s announcement of the 1978 revelation would seem to indicate that there had been, at various points in history, some sort of authorized divine direction recognizing a postponement of priesthood blessings until a future time, stating that they were “aware of the promises made by the prophets and presidents of the Church who have preceded us that at some time, in God’s eternal plan, all of our brethren who are worthy may receive the priesthood…” and that God “has heard our prayers, and by revelation has confirmed that the long promised day has come…”

    These statements, included in the announcement itself, seem to indicate that both the postponement of priesthood blessings and the promised day of their eventual fullfillment were in accordance to the revealed plan of God.

  237. tycho, I think the inclusion of historical promise, is simply an admission that prophets had, since the beginning of the ban, said it would end at some point. I’m not sure that we can tweeze anything else out of it. The inclusion that God “has heard our prayers, and by revelation has confirmed that the long promised day has come…” simply means that the revelation actually came to change things.

  238. Tycho, here’s the formal origin of the priesthood ban, to the best (as far as I know) current historical knowledge: a statement by Brigham Young in 1852 to the Utah legislature.

    The Lord said I will not kill Cane But I will put a mark upon him and it is seen in the [face?] of every Negro on the Earth And it is the decree of God that that mark shall remain upon the seed of Cane & the Curse untill all the seed of Abel should be re[deem?]ed and Cane will not receive the priesthood untill or salvation untill all the seed of Abel are Redeemed. Any man having one drop of the seed of Cane in him Cannot hold the priesthood & if no other Prophet ever spake it Before I will say it now in the name of Jesus Christ. I know it is true & they know it. The Negro cannot hold one particle of Government But the day will Come when all the seed of Cane will be Redeemed & have all the Blessings we have now & a great deal more. But the seed of Abel will be ahead of the seed of Cane to all Eternity. (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 4, p. 97)

    Note that Young specifically allows for the possibility — basically supported by the historical record — that no prophet had ever previously denied priesthood to black people. Young does say that he’s speaking in the name of Jesus Christ to support a priesthood ban. As authority, he offers the somewhat gnomic statement “I know it is true & they know it.”

    If Young had a revelation that served as a basis for this statement, then either it had a great deal of falsehood in it or the church is disobeying God’s will today. After all, in addition to formally announcing the priesthood ban, this statement declares the conditions for the end of the ban: “all the seed of Abel [must be] Redeemed.” Regardless of who we decide the “seed of Abel” might be, this condition has almost certainly not been met. Yet black members of the church may now have the priesthood.

    Note also that the beginning of the ban was deeply linked with ideas that we would now consider horrific, particularly the idea that “the seed of Abel will be ahead of the seed of Cane to all Eternity.” If we would reject this statement, it’s hard to know why we would be sure that we find God’s voice in the statement — embedded in the same discourse — initiating the priesthood denial policy.

  239. Whether or not there was a “revelatory basis” for the ban is something that we are not in a position to really say

    It seems to me that the burden of proof is on those who believe the ban is based on a revelation, not those who don’t. To my knowledge, there has never been a revelation described by anyone that initiated the ban. The above (thanks JNS) is the closest anyone can come to even the inkling of a revelation, and it falls far short, IMO.

  240. I suppose it depends on what we mean by “revelation.” If an authority speaks by inspiration, or if Church leaders reach an inspired consensus, that might be considered “revelation.” Perhaps that is what Elder Oaks means when he explains that the ban was based on “revelation to prophets” (note the “s” in his quote). Perhaps each time the Brethren considered the issue, and decided to start or continue the ban on priesthood and temple blessings based on race, they were acting under inspiration, and therefore their actions were “revelations”.

    Of course, if this were the case, I do not understand why an inspired consensus of the FP and 12 could not have removed the ban. Perhaps when Elder Lee opposed lifting the ban in 1969 because he believed some other type of “revelation” than an inspired consensus was required, he simply meant that he did not feel inspired to join in the consensus to make the change.

  241. DavidH, doesn’t that explanation put us in a situation where we’re pressured to accept the racist collateral ideas that Brigham Young offered as explanation for the ban in his statement setting the policy? If the ban was inspired, doesn’t that suggest that the ideas surrounding it were inspired? Note that, even if we take the narrowest context for Young’s invocation of “the name of Jesus Christ,” we’re still in trouble. That context would consist of the statement, “Any man having one drop of the seed of Cane in him Cannot hold the priesthood.” This statement is nonsensical, since Brigham Young and every other male member of the church in his day had at least some black ancestors (which is Young’s meaning for the “seed of Cane” — everybody does. So this narrowest context means that the policy should have been that no man can hold the priesthood. But that’s clearly incorrect, so a claim of inspiration for any part of this statement whatsoever seems to run into real trouble.

  242. The beauty of saying that inspired declarations are “revelation” or “scriptural” is that when we discover, or are forced to acknowledge, that something we previously thought was “revelation” or “scripture” is incorrect or implausible, we can always back off from that part of the statement, and keep the part of the statement that we like.

    Thus, I suppose the way to rephrase BY’s statement (and the Church’s prior practice) into an administrable “revelatory?” ban is that it applieD to “any man [known] to have a drop” of descent from Cain, and of course any one who looks black and is of African descent is presumed to have more than a drop.

    [Please note, if it is not apparent, I did not and do not defend the ban or practice as inspired or revealed.]

  243. Steve is using terms like “racism” and “sexism” in a value-neutral, non-pejorative way.

    I wish I had come back way back to read that because it changes my thoughts and how I would respond.

    This is basically what I was getting at, quoting HP:

    The only thing that I have been trying to say is that it appears that God felt it necessary to continue the enforcement of the ban from at least the time of David O McKay and possibly earlier … Whether or not God is the originator of the ban, he permitted and encouraged its continuance, demanded it even when prophets approached him in order to have it removed.

    Pres. Hinckley has also talked about how when the ban was finally lifted that they felt the time had come. That implies to me that the time had NOT come before that. It was not my intention to argue for moral relativism (I’m still not quite sure how I allegedly did that; call me dense. (On second hand, please don’t.)). I’m just trying to figure out how to deal with the fact that the ban didn’t happen sooner, even as prophets had wanted it to. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was because of the hardheadedness of people, the culture, etc. (e.g., comment 234), not because God somehow willed it Himself; but speculation at some point becomes rather pointless and potentially harmful. (If we are glad folklore has been recently repudiated to some degree, we ought not add our own, eh?)

    But I respond to people who want to say “Oh, it was unquestionably a mistake all along because what happened isn’t fair” (which unfairness is true and hard to deal with). I think we can recognize that it was racist (neutral) and unfair (not neutral on one spectrum) but I don’t know that we can assume it was necessarily a mistake on the part of the Church. Again, if the timing wasn’t right until 1978 (which is the feeling I get from what I know and what I’ve read), then we have to deal with that reality. Or at least acknowledge it and be willing to hold final judgment on the Church and/or its leaders until we have all the facts someday.

    So, folks, these are the kinds of nuances I was trying to suggest we need to consider. And I come way too late to the party, but wanted to clarify if that helps at all.

  244. I think we can recognize that it was racist (neutral) and unfair (not neutral on one spectrum) but I don’t know that we can assume it was necessarily a mistake on the part of the Church.

    m&m, I can find two ways of reading this. Either you mean “mistake” as inadvertent decision or “mistake” as wrong decision. If you mean that the perpetuation of the ban wasn’t an inadvertent decision, then I agree with you. If you mean that it was a correct decision — or even possibly a correct decision — then your argument has a heavy weight to lift.

    Also, a point. We know there was a revelation to end the ban in 1978. Does it really follow from that evidence that there was revelation to start and perpetuate the ban? There’s really a weakness of evidence to suggest that the ban was originated via revelation — and if it was, it was a revelation of which the church now stands in violation; see the Brigham Young quote above. Moreover, it’s really unclear that there was revelation sustaining it between Young’s day and Kimball’s. The McKay story is second-hand and imprecise, and when Hugh B. Brown was effectively acting church president during McKay’s illness, Brown felt that it was time to end the ban. So there was room for the highest leaders to disagree — surely not the sign of clear and continuous divine communication. In the face of this near-void of even claimed revelation, and confusion and error in the few available statements, it is possible but unlikely that the priesthood ban has any divine origin or support at any point. Certainly, we can believe against the preponderance of the evidence, but we should ask ourselves why we want to. Why are we so eager to push this off on God? Is it just too awful to consider the idea that we as a community discriminated for no reason over the course of more than a century? I can see reasons why it might be, but it’s a possibility I think we should evaluate nonetheless.

  245. JNS,
    A couple of thoughts:
    – If someone considers the possibility that the perpetuation of the ban was for some reason right for a time, I don’t think this is necessarily “pushing this off on God.” I know God is perfect and as such, with the opposition in all thigns thing, He’ll sometimes allow things that aren’t perfect to happen, for reasons that we can’t understand. I actually agree with you that one possibility for the ban was that perhaps the community discriminated. Added to that, perhaps the ban wasn’t lifted until there was enough reception (less discrimation) there to make it not tear the Church completely apart, or pull it down in the sight of the world (still locked in discrimination – not that God WANTED that to happen but that it was happening and He guided the work around that. Again, a though (just another consideration) is that it could have been a ban directed/allowed by God because of the hardness of the hearts of the people, not because He thought the blacks were any less deserving of those blessings during that time. I’m sure it broke His heart, actually, just as any injustices do.

    (A possible loose parallel would be that divorce, while against God’s desires, is allowed “because of the hardness of our hearts” as Elder Oaks recently taught us. Does that make God a marriage-breaker, or is He just recognizing fallibility in human nature and allowing less-than-ideal things to continue until all things are made whole and right?)

    – Your response doesn’t seem to consider the key point of my comment. My point is that there was a lot of prophetic perspective that was AGAINST the ban before 1978 but yet, as President Hinckley said, the “time had come” in 1978. Is timing a factor in this? It seems to me very likely that it is, and not for lack of prophetic desire. Again, if the timing really was a factor, could it be that before then there was still too much discrimination for the Church to move forward in a healthy way? (It’s pathetic to consider, but seems possible to me.)

    There are many possibilities, and frankly, to me they point to putting the “blame” on people, but that doesn’t mean to me that God wouldn’t guide the decision’s timing based on the readiness of the people.

    (Another possible parallel? The apostasy wasn’t lifted for centuries because the timing wasn’t right. That left all people devoid of eternal spiritual blessings for that time. But yet, there was a timing and it wasn’t about God’s readiness per se but about the world’s readiness and His view of the whole everything. Do you see what I’m driving at?)

    and if it was, it was a revelation of which the church now stands in violation

    This doesn’t seem to hold water to me since a revelation came (which we know to be a revelation) that changed whatever happened before. We can’t be in violation of something that was changed by revelation, can we? (I don’t know enough to have an opinion about how the ban started; I’m approaching it from an approach of considering why the “time had come” in 1978 to lift the ban, and not before.)

  246. m&m hit the heart of why I can’t blame God for the ban when she mentioned the apostasy. If we blame God for the ban, we blame God for every single instance of people not receiving a blessing that others receive – including those that relate to physical, mental, emotional, geographic, ecological, financial, etc. aspects of life. We turn everything into Calvinist predestination and destroy the soul of the Gospel – the good news that judgment comes through a righteous consideration of what we are able to control instead of what is out of our control – like race and genealogical descent.

    We have multiple scriptures that describe God weeping as He views the actions of His children. I think He weeps MUCH more often than He steps in, specifically because we must deal with our own weaknesses and stupidity to become what He wants us to become. Thankfully, we believe He has made the ultimate allowance for our weakness and stupidity – again, the heart of the Gospel.

    In summary, if we deny our own culpability and blame God for the result of our choices, we also deny the core of the atonement – an action we believe represents payment by an untainted God for the incorrect actions of His tainted children. Blaming God, as opposed to allowing Him to allow us to suffer proportionately to the suffering we inflict, taints Him in a very real way. I’m not going there.

  247. I wonder if the practice derived from prudent restrictions Joseph may have intended only for slaves. That is, there is some evidence that Joseph Smith taught that, while slaves could be baptized with the consent of their masters, they could not be ordained.

    “The Smoot affidavit, attested to by L. John Nuttall, appears to refer only to a policy concerning slaves, rather than to all Blacks, since it deals with the question of baptism and ordination of Blacks who had ‘masters’. This affidavit says that Smoot, ‘W. W. Patten, Warren Parish and Tomas B. Marsh were laboring in the Southern States in 1835 and 1836. There were Negroes who made application for baptism. And the question arose with them whether Negroes were entitled to hold the Priesthood. And…it was decided they would not confer the Priesthood until they had consulted with the Prophet Joseph; and subsequently they communicated with him. His decision was they were not entitled to the Priesthood, nor yet to be baptized without the consent of their Masters. In after years when I became acquainted with Joseph myself in Far West, about the year 1838, I received from Brother Joseph substantially the same instructions. It was on my application to him, what should be done with the Negro in the South, as I was preaching to them. He said I could baptize them by consent of their masters, but not to confer the Priesthood upon them’ (quoted in Wm. E. Berret, Historian, BYU VP of the CES, The Church and theNegroid People).”

    Zebedee Coltrin’s affidavit, however, states that Joseph taught that the policy applied to all blacks, whether slave or free. (But, as others have noted, there are many problems with Coltrin’s affidavit and recollection).

    Descriptions of the Smoot and Coltrin affidavits are at ttp://cc.usu.edu/~fath6/BlacksPriesthood.htm

    It is plausible to me that Joseph could have, as a policy matter, decided that those in slavery would not hold the priesthood. But this would have been a temporary restriction–until the slaves were freed at some point. Extending this practice to all blacks, or continuing it after the freedom of the slaves then would have been inconsistent with Joseph’s practice and teaching.

  248. Kristine says:

    Ray, you’re right, except that m&m has elsewhere argued for a God who is much more interventionist, and for prophets who are absolutely aligned with His will. I think it’s hard to square the God who lets human beings learn on their own with one who institutes the ban, tells multiple prophets to let it stand, then rescinds it. I think it makes things much less theologically complicated to allow for prophets who don’t always perfectly understand God’s will, but my reading of m&m’s position is that she does not make that allowance.

  249. Kristine,
    I don’t believe m&m has ever said “prophetic infallibility” (although I may be wrong). I believe that her argument is simply “probably better reception,” which I don’t disagree with. m&m?

    Also, although I am a mild “blame God” person in some aspects of life, I am also perfectly happy to blame other people to. For instance, I blame Ray for this comment (but not myself; that is the important thing)

  250. Brother Member says:

    “Apparently you are unaware of the official revelation given to Ezra Taft Benson in the 80’s banning the watching of rated-r movies. To my knowledge this ban has not been lifted nor has there been any official repudiation of the “revelation”. This in spite of my prayers asking that the ban be lifted and an apology to all movie-goers be given.”

    Best. Post. Ever.

    Thank you for making my day

  251. neal peters says:

    2008 is quickly approaching, and with it brings the 30-year anniversary of the Proclamation on the Priesthood. I wonder if the church will make any kind of statement about this somewhat embarrassing historical episode. As time moves forward, the apologetic rhetoric that has historically surrounded the ban on Africans holding the priesthood more and more begins to show itself for what it really was: Standard black/white racism masquerading as half-baked early 20th-century “word of god.” The explicit and implicit racism of B. R. McConkie, President Lee, Boyd K. Packer, and J.R. Clark, among others, is too hard to ignore. It seems that as we enter the contemporary confluence of readily available objective histories, the church should officially recognize the history of the ban for what it was. Such an apology will in no way hurt the church’s reputation. It will begin the healing process that many have been waiting for.

    Church leaders should be respected and revered. As I’m sure many others believe, I believe they are the conduits of God’s word. This is an important truth. But, just as we all are, they are just people, plain ol’ people, fallible people — a beautiful truth. As soon as the principal of universal human infallibility is taught and believed, more members will be brave enough to lay aside the cultural waste that creeps into official counsel from time to time (e.g., Packer’s 1977 BYU address, “…the brethren are against interracial marriage,” the current leaders’ emphasis on certain political ideals, etc.)

    In other words, I find it highly irresponsible to credit the ban on Africans holding the priesthood as anything other than early 20th century racism.

    -neal

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