Looking for people to curse

The missionaries came over for dinner. One of them is from the Antipodes and so I regaled them with useless facts about Australia, including the origin of the Aborigines.

Elder: I wonder what they did to be cursed.

RJH: ?

Elder: Well, to account for their dark skin and all…

Comments

  1. Mormon racism is deep and persistent.

  2. But, but, but…weren’t all God’s children in the pre-mortal existence WHITE? Surely there were no freaky-eyed Asians, or dark-skinned Africans/Aborigines? Right? Right?

  3. Ick. Is it mormon racism, Australian racism or a startling combination of both? (Or was it the non-antipodal proselytizer?)

  4. I was hoping you would tell us this happened thirty years ago when the missionaries came to dinner at your parents house, but I know many Mormons that feel like this. My wife has a cousin that is no longer allowed to come to family functions by the Grandmother because she married someone from “the cursed race”.

  5. Something needs to be changed in our culture. Too much folklore is being taught as if it were scripture.

  6. I think it is changing. However, like all cultural changes it takes a long time. RonanJH. what was your response to the missionary?

  7. You can’t get any farther away from Happy Valley than Australia.

  8. I was listening to RadioWest the other day when they did a show on Fundamentalist Mormons. The guest was asked what doctrines set some of the FLDS apart and she mentioned that the blacks and the priesthood was one such doctrine for some of the fundamentalist sects.

    I thought, oh crap, now all Mormons are put in the same bigoted pot. The radio show is now on XM Public Radio so many folks heard it.

  9. I have committed to reading the Book of Mormon all the way through for the first time. I have just come to the Book of Alma, and I’ve already seen a few instances where the dark skin curse is mentioned. Did it ever occur to anyone that the passages aren’t literal? Perhaps figurative language for something we don’t understand?

    The scientific theory about dark skinned people is that their skin is a result of sun exposure from living on the equator. Africa, South America, Australia… think about it. It makes much more sense. Not that I’m always a proponent of science. But in this case, I might just have to agree.

    My grandmother is half Jamaican. Her skin is dark. My father’s skin is dark, but my uncle’s is not. My skin is not as dark as theirs, but I’m not as pale as my siser or most other caucasian people. And by the logic of “the curse” placed upon “dark-skinned” people, I have the curse upon me.

    So I am all for finding a better answer than dark skin = curse. And if melanin is what explains it, then I’m certainly willing to live with that.

  10. Pull the other one.

  11. I hope you disabused them swiftly and with vigor.

  12. re # 9, The scientific theory about dark skinned people is that their skin is a result of sun exposure from living on the equator. Africa, South America, Australia… think about it. It makes much more sense. Not that I’m always a proponent of science. But in this case, I might just have to agree.

    Isn’t the scientific theory more along the lines that white skin is a genetic mutation from dark skin?

  13. yep. lighter skin is advantageous at higher latitudes because you can produce more vitamin D with less sun exposure.

  14. What do you say to him Ronan?? Thousands around the world are waiting!

  15. The LDS church, its leaders and official doctrines of the Church have not in the past, are not presently and will never be “racist”. Its the inability of the human mind to fully comprehend and understand the purposes and will of God regarding the seldom recorded act of issuing “curses” and “marks” resulting in a change of skin color that cause us to use the intellectually flawed label of “racist” regarding the LDS church. If the LDS chruch did have such “racist” teachings and proclivities it would not have extended the blessing of the priesthood to a multitude of men from nonwhite races from its earliest missionary endeavors. Please do not lay the charge of “racism” wholly at the feet of the LDS church because some members may not be as tolerant and accepting as we would hope.

  16. Craig,

    the seldom recorded act of issuing “curses” and “marks” resulting in a change of skin color

    I think there are more nuanced ways of reading both the Book of Mormon and Book of Moses accounts in this regard, but even if Mormons read them in the traditional way, it is the readiness to ascribe any racial difference to a “curse” which I find so depressing. I wasn’t aware the Aborigines featured in our sacred narrative and yet the presumption is that because they are not white, they must have been cursed, as if whiteness was the pristine state of man. Sorry, but that is utter toilet and needs to be described as such at every opportunity.

    I stand by my observation that there is still a sacralised racism in the Mormon church that goes beyond the ordinary prejudices of middle America.

  17. Moments like that make me humiliated that I am a member of the church. I get so sad when I hear that people think that way. Obviously people are still teaching that. Ouch.

  18. The young elder asked a question. Young people should ask questions. I hope he received a helpful answer.

  19. Ronan, you make some valid points. The traditional LDS interpretations of the verses in question regarding skin color/marks/curses, can, be read or considered in a more “nauanced” fasion, I guess. However the fact remains that God has on a few occasions that we are arware of sought to “mark” and/or “curse” certain individuals with a “skin of blackness” to keep them as an unenticing and seperate people from another group. Ronan, please dont forget, that its another “traditional” LDS teaching that great and wonderful blessing are reserved for many of the “dark” and “laothsome” peoples of the earth. Perhaps the real “curse” and/or “mark” will fall on us depending on how we treat and serve these so called “dark” un”enticing” peoples untill their future blessings are realized. Maybe thats the real test. God have mercy on us all.

  20. The reason I choose to read Elder McConkie’s statement about rejecting what was said in the past as liberally as I do is specifically to avoid the divisiveness of those speculations. We live now in an age when skin color simply doesn’t matter in regard to the Priesthood or any other Gospel / Church blessing. We don’t need to justify a current practice. We desperately need to work toward racial unity – inside *and* outside the Church. I just don’t see the need to hang on to the former justifications – especially given what has been said since it became a moot point.

    I understand the desire for justifications 30 years ago. I don’t agree, but I understand. I don’t like the desire to continue those justifications now.

  21. Ronan, you might suggest he take part in the National Geographic DNA study of human migration to find out just when his ancestors left Africa. The results provide a much more straightforward answer than an attempt to explain Cain the metallurgist, or blackness the metaphor or the nature of curses or the unfortunate human desire to separate from the other or whatever.

  22. Molly,
    Quite. I did mention the 40,000 years B.P. migration of the ancestors of the native Australians. Try fitting that into a literalist biblical paradigm!

    Craig,
    I’m sure you’re a good bloke, but the language you use in your comment makes me wince. I know it’s scriptural language, but sometimes even scriptural language needs to be left behind if we are to improve this tired, divisive world. Jesus is said to have called the Samaritans “dogs” (Matt 12). Should we do the same?

  23. Craig, please allow me to share an alternate interpretation of what you describe – one that I believe is perfectly consistent with how we view scriptures. I will use the Book of Mormon skin color issue to make my point.

    The word “loathsome” is a socially defined word. It means “disgusting; revolting; repulsive” – not exactly how we would describe anyone being viewed by God. Therefore, as you correctly say, any “loathsomeness” is, by definition, subjective – defined by the person or people calling someone else loathsome. Based on everything else (and I mean everything) I read in all of our scriptures, God does not view anyone as loathsome based on skin color. The most that could be asserted reasonably, imo, is that people’s actions can be labeled as loathsome to God.

    Where does that leave me? It leaves me to look at the Nephites in the exact same way that I look at the early saints – people with existing biases who needed a way to teach their children why they despised some people. In the case of the Book of Mormon, there were fairer skinned Nephites (more constant and covering clothing and less exposure to the sun?) and darker skinned Lamanites (less constant and more exposed skin?). They hated each other – or, at the very least, were enemies. They also were family.

    How does one distinguish between the good guys and the bad guys when they are family? How does a father justify the division to his children? The same way people all over the world all throughout history have done so – by the most visible and obvious difference – skin color.

    Father: “Son, stay away from those wicked Lamanites.”
    Son: “Why, Daddy?”
    Father: “They don’t believe in God.”
    Son: “How do I know that – and how do I tell who is who?”
    Father (with loathing): “Just look at them. The Lord cursed them with a darker skin than us.”
    Son: “OK, Daddy.”

    This has happened throughout the history of the world – probably in every society that has existed. I heard it in words just that clear from firmly believing Protestants when I taught in the Deep South – in the 1990’s. Why do we have to attribute it to God?

    We know prophets are not infallible. We know God won’t force stuff on us that we can’t handle. We know he weeps over the actions and attitudes of His children. Just because people in the past (even inspired leaders) couldn’t get past this particular prejudice, why do we need to hold onto it when it no longer is taught in our day – and when the racism it breeds is condemned by our own leaders?

    Am I saying this is the “correct” answer? No. I simply prefer it to any other alternative – and I think it doesn’t violate our big picture view of God and the Plan of Salvation – especially as much as the repudiated speculations do.

  24. Ray’s comment goes with what I’ve always thought about the Lamanites–as it says in the scriptures, they dwelt in the wilderness and didn’t wear very many clothes. The increased sun exposure would surely cause their skin to become darker than that of the Nephites. Especially since it later talks about how when they started living like the Nephites the skin of their children begins to become lighter (there was probably intermarriage there as well). A natural consequence of their lifestyle, which is what skin color usually is. I think God just knew that the natural human tendency is to set ourselves apart by visible differences and let the Nephites (and us) condemn ourselves by our own fallen nature.

  25. Ray, what a great comment and interpretation.

  26. #16-craig–“whiteness was the pristine state of man.” A few years ago, while visiting another ward in his stake, Russell M. Nelson objected to homemade whole wheat bread that a sister brought weekly for the sacrament. He told her son,who dared to argue with him about it, that the bread represents Christ’s body and should be white and pure like Christ. I wonder what kind of bread they used in Joseph and Brigham’s times.

    Also, there are those who insists garments can only come in white (exception made for military and police) because they represent purity. The original garments in Joseph’s day were made of “unbleached’ muslin, which, by definition, not being bleached, was a cream color, not white.

    We attach too much importance to such outward details and infuse the Gospel with our cultural biases.

  27. Ronan, with all due respect, wince away. I’ve always used “scriptual language” when discussing scriptual topics. As for Ray, those are some good ideas, I reckon. but this gem, “and darker skinned Lamanites (less constant and more exposed skin?)”. I’ll never think of Isabel the harlot the same agian. I’ll just resort back to my orginal point; “Its the inability of the human mind to fully comprehend and understand the purposes and will of God regarding the seldom recorded act of issuing “curses” and “marks” resulting in a change of skin color that cause us to use the intellectually flawed label of “racist” regarding the LDS church”.

  28. Craig, so we agree to disagree on this one.

  29. Craig,
    As scriptural language is mediated through the pen of culturally-conditioned humans, I am sad that you do not feel able to moderate the offense sometimes caused by that language. As I said, scripture has Jesus calling Samaritans “dogs.” Do you feel it right to call latter-day “Samaritans” dogs? If not, may I humbly suggest you confine words like “loathsome,” when applied to races, to the Iron Age dustbin.

  30. Thank you, Ronan. This topic is a bit too close to my heart to have said it with the right spirit – hence, my terse response.

  31. And Craig,
    I’m wondering what has caused your righteous indignation in this case? Do you believe the dark skin of native Australians is the result of some divine curse?

  32. Julie M. Smith says:

    Darn it, Ronan, what did you say to them?

    (And, FWIW, the McKay biography–IIRC–took up the issue of the Aborigines and even before 78 they were -not- restricted to holding the PH.)

  33. Julie,
    Not telling. People would not be happy.

  34. Julie M. Smith says:

    We don’t come to BCC to be happy. Out with it.

  35. Julie,
    I made a mess of it, is all…! No need to advertise my failures. (grin)

  36. Ronan, when it comes to “scriptural language that is mediated through the pen of culturally-conditioned humans”, its not up to me “to moderate the offense sometimes caused by that language.” If the Lord wants the allegedly offense languange removed or changed there is a proceedure to do that via revelation. As for Christ calling Samaritans dogs, are you referring to Matt 15: 26-27 or 7:6 ? Im not seeing it in Matt. 12.
    Ray, yes, we can agree to disagree. However can we atleast be honest and admit that neither you nor I know all the factors regarding this topic? We dont know what the Lords eternal purposes are regarding race, skin color and ethnicity. So lets not let our ignorance on the subject automatically be transformed into an accusation of racism towards the LDS chruch.
    MDS, just to be clear, Im not the one that used the phrase –”whiteness was the pristine state of man.” I dont know what the pristine state of man was, it was probally a cross between a Henry Winkler and a Chuck Norris, FWIW. As for the original post, Im not sure how the aboriginal people of Australia came to be what and who they are.

  37. Yes, Craig, we can. I have never claimed to know all the answers about any topic – although I feel more strongly about this one than many others. *Smile*

  38. Ronan, I have absolutly no “righteous indignation” regarding this discussion at all. I may have different opinions or ideas, but no indignation. Although, if I did have any basis for indignation it would not be towards you or fellow posters personally, it would be at the assumption or insinuation that the LDS church is contolled and guided by narrow minded old white men that are hiden away for decads on end never really mixing and becomming familiar with the struggles and injustices of the world. My indignation would stem from the unfounded notion that for years the LDS church would let fester in its midst a poisonous and tragic thoery of white supremacy without the Lord ever revealing to the Prophet the complete and utter spuriousness of this perception. I know the Church is guided be revelation which is why I’ve always been very careful to not attribute the Churches teachings or past practices regarding lineage to a simple one size fits all explination that it all must have been some huge mistake or oversight due to some residual cutural whims of early American yankeedom. I say this without any anger towards you or anyone at all.

  39. I’m not sure how the aboriginal people of Australia came to be what and who they are.

    May I invite you to read a thing or two about it then? You’ll learn all kinds of interesting things about the homo sapiens migration to south Asia, the sea-crossing to Australia, and the reasons why equatorial people have dark skin, and northern hemispheric people developed lighter skin. You’ll quickly realise that one does not need to invoke the racist lore of 18th century African slavers to understand the underpinnings of “race.” And if you read some more (perhaps this article by FARMS’s John Tvednes) you might see the scriptural notion of skin colour as a curse is more contestable than you think. That’s just for starters. There’s more, if you want.

    Or you can carry on believing as you do, in which case, good luck to you.

  40. Speaking as a linguist’s daughter: Can you be certain that the word you read as referring to skin color (white or black) did not have other connotations to ancient writers? We often assume we understand the scriptures with our modern vocabulary–which is like a newly returned missionary thinking he understands all of his mission language because he can proselytize from _Preach My Gospel_.

    An example: In Guatemala, some of the indigenous peoples refer to themselves as “naturales.” So how are they to deal with the scripture, “El hombre natural es el enemigo de Dios!”? (“The natural man is an enemy to God.”)
    Obviously step number one involves explaining that the scriptures do not mean what they appear to mean to these Indians, for surely these “naturales” are not enemiese to God.

    So don’t assume you know the scriptures just because they make some kind of sense to you. I hear the scriptures reduced to such easy pablum sometimes, and I feel bad that people think they fully understand the verses. If God says that He is no respecter of persons, that all are alike unto Him, that’s the guideline. Anything which suggests one degree of exception to those foundational descriptors of the divine nature are simply false. Does God curse lineages? Only if we disregard the 2nd Article of Faith. Sin is the only way anyone can be cursed, and of course false traditions can perpetuate sin through generations.
    If it were not so, we’d need to dispense with Section 93 of the D&C, which reminds us that ALL are born innocent. (There are no footnotes telling us who this does not apply to.)

    I’ve said before that the BOM provides a great example of people realizing their brotherhood through Jesus Christ and giving up their false traditions. I thought England was already there, Ronan. And I didn’t realize that the folklore had reached Australia. Crap. That means we all really have some work before us.

    It’s interesting that right now, so many people are working on projects involving race and Mormonism. I wonder what’s afoot. Besides the documentary which I will not advertise here, there is the recent book by Marcus Martins (reviewed by Julie at http://www.timesandseasons.org/?p=4106#more-4106 ).
    There is also this new product: http://www.blacksinthescriptures.com , and some really good articles for those who want to get a better understanding right now.

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

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

  41. Ronan,
    Why won’t you let us learn from your mistakes? ‘Fess up!

    Craig,
    To be candid, you sound defensive. Wouldn’t it be better to just say “I don’t know why it was that way, but it’s behind us now” (which is basically current Church teaching–that’s a GBH paraphrase) and stop there? Because as you go further in your statements, it becomes very likely that an outsider might misunderstand and conclude that you are defending racism.

    I think that’s what some of the people here are trying to say to you.

  42. Ronan, forgive me but I have not invoked “the racist lore of 18th century African slavers to understand the underpinnings of “race.” In fact I have been quite willing to hear any explination or opinion regarding this topic. I dont believe I have made any concrete pronouncements about race, curses, blessing, marks, skins, aboriginies ect. that could be construed as demeaning or mean spirited. I just seem to a bit more comfortable than you with accepting what the scriptures say and what our current church leaders have said regarding the various diverse appearances of mankind. Its not a secret that at certain times in the scriptures the Lord had commanded his people Israel to not mix with or deal with another group of peoples. At times these others groups of peoples had woes and curses placed upone them either as individuals or collectively. It appears from what latter day revelation tells us that sometimes those “curse” and/or “marks” took the form of a change of temperament, skin color and appearance. If you like, you can attribute skin color to climate, melanine levels, migration patterns or a “nuanced” readings of the scriptures. However in some cases, I suspect there is more to the story than you I both know.

  43. Here’s some good advice from a wonderful Black, LDS female attorney about dealing with false notions of race/curses. This is from an interview for a documentary (whatever the name is–nobody knows…). We’ll put this in “special features.” Though we have other great material from this woman, this particular snippet did not make it into the doc itself:

    “Yeah, but what about those who insist on telling you how you’re cursed and all of those other things. Here are the three things you do. You just ask them:
    1) Where is it in the scriptures? You’ve got this pet theory about something. Ask them kindly. If it isn’t there, that’s usually the end of the argument. Somebody made this stuff up.
    2) Is it currently being taught in General Conference? There are things the Church USED to teach, but they aren’t being taught now. That could mean that that either it isn’t accurate information or information people need to have…
    3) Look at the current materials the Church has provided, current educational materials…missionary discussions…If it’s not in one of those three places, you just tell them they’re blowing smoke.”

    I think she said it pretty well.

  44. MikeinWeho, Im not feeling defensive in the least. I’ve been treated with kindness and civility on this blog and I am gratefull for that. I realize I’m taking an unpopular and politically incorrect stance on this topic. As for your advice to simply repeat what GBH has said, “I don’t know why it was that way, but it’s behind us now.” Do you think that Ronan would be willing to take that advice as well? Do you think thats what he told the Elder he had over for dinner? Am I the one that started this tread?

  45. Craig–that’s a great idea. Rather than speculating on what Aborigines did in the pre-existence, let’s speculate on what Ronan did at his house.

    I think Ronan literally kicked the missionary out and told him not to return until he had read all of _Neither White Nor Black_ (which the missionary couldn’t do, because it’s not on the approved reading list.) I think he then forced the missionary’s companion to watch the newest version of _As You Like It_, which is ultimately about cross-dressing.

    Would you like to know how the issue gets handled (at least by one person) at the Provo MTC? My father plays investigator for the missionaries in several languages. Once, he asked about the race issue during one of these “play investigator” sessions. He allowed the missionary to tell him all about lineage curses etc., and simply went through the discussion focusing on language. But when the playacting was over, Dad said strongly in English, “Elder, you have some false ideas about race, and you need to understand what the truth is or you’ll embarrass the Church. I challenge you to learn that truth. We’ll talk about it later.”

    I hope Ronan did something like that.

  46. There is no indication in the young men’s statement that his attitude is particularly Australian, Norbert. I am sure that Australia, like Germany and the United States, has issues with racism but we should not shift blame to a foreign nation when the fault lies with our own culture.

    As long as false doctrine is not explicitly withdrawn in a public manner, we cannot blame young men for following the teachings of their elders. That young missionary is only trying to be a faithful Mormon to the best of his abilities.

    Of course, we need to correct those notions when we encounter them but ultimately, it is responsibility of the Brethren to eliminate the ambiguities that continue to plague us and our children due to irrational and unethical acts by Mormon leaders in the past.

    Of course, that would require the embarrassment of Brigham Young, Mark Petersen and any number of other apostles but the most important thing is to protect our children from racist theology.

    It’s a nasty contagion that continues to hurt people in very real ways. More importantly, it’s an entirely unnecessary problem that can be rectified if the powerful exercise their responsibility to the members.

  47. Craig,

    what our current church leaders have said regarding the various diverse appearances of mankind.

    I wasn’t aware current church leaders were prone to making such pronouncements.

    what the scriptures say

    If you read the Tvedtnes article, you’ll see there are other ways of interpreting said scriptures.

    Do you think thats what he told the Elder he had over for dinner?

    The elder wondered whether native Australians had been “cursed.” Given that I see no reason (scriptural or otherwise) to suggest that they have been and given that there are good scientific and historical reasons why Anglo and Aboriginal Australians look a little different, to say “I don’t know” would have been dishonest.

    In case you missed it, the point of this post was to show a rather lamentable example of curse-creep. We ought to understand how hurtful and unnecessary this language is.

    At certain times in the scriptures the Lord had commanded his people Israel to not mix with or deal with another group of peoples.

    Even if you believe this, even you must realise that this “language of scripture” needs to be tempered somewhat. After all, this is the same Lord who told the Israelites to commit genocide. Should we rejoice in such a thing and model our lives after it today?

    But note: the Bible itself is rather confused on this topic. I give you one example: Joseph, father of Ephraim, who married an Egyptian. God did not seem too bothered by this event and even made Ephraim, in Mormon parlance, a chosen seed. If your view is correct, most of the church is cursed, given Ephraim’s half-African parentage.

    But enough of this simplistic, fundamentalist, racist clap-trap. We are hamstrung as a people because of it. I do hope God is Morgan Freeman just to see the look on many Mormons’ faces.

  48. Hellmut, here’s what the person I quoted above said to the threat of people losing their testimonies BY or others were embarrassed. (And this also will be in “Special Features” but did not make it into the doc):

    “When people say that information needs to be removed or corrected, they’re told, ‘Look, we don’t want to destroy people’s testimonies.’ And I’m sitting here thinking, if you’ve got all these black people and these policies and procedures haven’t destroyed their testimonies, maybe you shouldn’t worry so much that correct information would destroy anyone else’s.”

    Okay, that was my blogging time.
    Could one of you administrators tell me what the deal is with my computer problems? I can’t even comment from home; all comments are rejected over some computer glitch, not because of anything wrong at BCC. And on my BYU computer, I have to plug in my name and other information every time I comment. The computer saves the info on other blogs, but not at BCC. Any idea why this is happening?

  49. Hellmut,
    To be fair, many white Australians do have a very poor view of the “Abo’s” (their term). So there’s more going on here than just Mormonism.

  50. Margaret, of course I have not the gumption nor the resources available to speculated on what the Aborigines did in the pre-existence. Although the playful yet mysterious sounds of the didgery-do might give us a hint. Margaret, I do appreciate your post. Your father sounds like a wise man with very good advice. Good advice for all of us.

  51. on what the Aborigines did in the pre-existence.

    And what, pray tell, would that have to do with their skin colour?

    Good night, all. Even this missionary-basher must sleep.

  52. re: 50-51, I am still touched by Lowell Bennion’s response to consequences to sins in the preexistence. In my paraphrase, “When we sin, doesn’t God tell us what we’ve done wrong and promise us forgiveness if we repent? Isn’t that what the Atonement means?” Perhaps, Craig, we could understand the movement beyond folklore as deeply spiritual, scriptural, and based in the Gospel doctrine of Atonement.

    Ronan, you should sleep. The aborigines were cursed because they didn’t have domesticable large mammals or easily cultivable grains, of course.

  53. I’m glad RJH went to sleep before he started cursing us colonials.

  54. Craig, you weirdo racist troll, I don’t know where you got the delusions you maintain regarding race, but you are a nut job.

  55. p.s. sometimes civility has to be deserved. In your case, you need to be set straight.

  56. Steve, I have said nothing to deserve such a childishly flailing retort form one such as you. The LORD has a history of blessing and cursing nations and lineages according to how they obey or disobey His laws, and according to how they adhere to or ignore His prophets. These blessings and cursings have absolutely nothing to do with racism! God alternatively blesses and curses all nations according to how they adhere or reject His Laws and Prophets. The Bible records many curses upon various peoples. Please dont let your putrid indolence get in the way of facts.

  57. Craig, if you’re using up my site’s bandwidth to argue that God curses people with dark skin, I don’t care about whether you have a scriptural basis for your belief. Your belief is repugnant. Don’t you dare outline your disgusting and medieval beliefs as “facts.”

    In terms of your comment, I’d rather be childish and indolent than a bigot. Bye-bye, nutter.

  58. Ronan, that may very well be but the conversation that you have reported could have been with a Mormon from any part of the world. The young man could have been from Orem, Cologne or Brighton.

    In fact, John Dehlin reports a similar experience with an American missionary.

    Instead of shifting blame, we ought to take responsibility. Your guest clearly invoked Mormon, not Australian, mythology.

    Lets stick to the evidence instead of trying to minimize our own guilt at somebody’s else’s expense.

  59. One blog commenter state to me:

    If you scoff at the rule that a people do not mix races in marriage all you have to do is note the low success rate of such marriages generally. As Packer noted, there can be exceptions though. This is reasonable. The fact that you did not take that advice when it was given you was your choice. If you are somehow embarrassed who is to blame??

    This was in response to a quote from Elder Packer’s speech titled “Follow the Rule”

    “We’ve always counseled in the Church for our . . .Caucasians to marry Caucasians . . . The counsel has been wise. You may say again, “Well, I know of exceptions.” . . . I say, “Yes–exceptions.” . . .”We’d like to follow the rule first, and then we’ll take care of the exceptions.”

    In a conversation with our Bishop he stated that his is still the Official Counsel.

  60. I have read and reread Craig’s comments, and I don’t find any basis for the grief he is getting here, especially that rant from Steve, whose comments I usually enjoy.

    It’s as if people have saved up their anti-bigot anger and, finding no bigot about, are dumping it on the first person who doesn’t seem as publicly indignant as they.

  61. Ronan,

    But not everyone agrees on the equatorial/further away explanations. Sure, with some limited data sets (Norweigans and Nigerians), it matches great. But as various folks (like Jared Diamond) like to point out, it doesn’t really explain a lot of the skin-tone variation between groups very well.

  62. OK, let’s think about this. Maybe Lehi was married twice – first to an Egyptian woman (who was Laman and Lemuel’s mother) then, after his bankruptcy caused a divorce from that wife, he married Sariah (who was Sam and Nephi’s mother) and rebuilt a second fortune. He was ashamed of his mixed-race sons (whose mother had spent him into bankruptcy) and favored the sons from the woman who had helped him learn to budget. Yeah, then L&L naturally would have been darker skinned than S&N – adding racial animosity to the whole younger-brother-as-ruler issue – since the latent skin tone only became evident once the family was exposed to the climate of the Americas. That’s why Nephi’s line received the Priesthood, since Laman’s line wasn’t eligible.

    I am OK constructing this scenario, since I don’t like to give too much credibility to the biased perspectives of those who lived in that time. Yeah, that’s it.

    See, Steve. The scriptures really can be used to justify a curse. It really is quite easy, as long as you don’t have to deal critically with the multiple possibilities of textual meaning and can focus, instead, on just one of the possibilities.

  63. Hellmut,
    You may be right to some extent, but you’re too quick to accuse his Mormonness. I know racist Mormons; I have relatives, two generations removed, who are seriously racist. Of course, one of my best friends from law school (Chinese-American, and clearly not Mormon) says that her grandmother (born and raised in China) is the most racist person she’s ever met. It could be that the missionary learned racism from the Church. I’d be surprised, but it could be. (I admit that I only know one or two Australians, so I have no way even to stereotype them, other than Crocodile Dundee.)

    Given my experience, though, I’d see it more likely that the racism, at whatever level it is, comes from a broader culture and that, as a missionary, he’s trying to fit it into a Church context. It’s lamentable, it’s horrible, but I’ve met very few racists in the Church (having almost always lived in culturally liberal parts of the country). To believe my second cousin, however, in small-town Georgia, church members can be very racist. I’m not convinced that the difference is the Church.

    Still, I agree that the 19th century claptrap that developed to explain and justify the denial of the priesthood should be repudiated as such; I think, more and more often, it is by the members I know and associate with.

  64. Diamond’s criticism of the geographic theory is in The Third Chimpanzee, as well as other books:

    The association between dark skins and sunny climates is a very imperfect one. Native peoples had very dark skins in some areas receiving relatively little sunlight, like Tasmania, while skin color is only medium in sunny areas of Southeast Asia. No American Indians had black skins, even in the sunniest part of the New World.

    (The Third Chimpanzee, at 115).

    And so on. The correlation is very imprecise. And other supposed explanations (such as time diffusion) run into other serious problems.

  65. Clair and Ray, sorry. I am not ready to tolerate the concept that God curses people with dark skin. I am fully aware, believe me, that the scriptures can be interpreted in such a way to support an inference of that kind, but I utterly reject such a hateful notion of God and will not tolerate it at BCC. I say so unilaterally without talking to my cobloggers about it, but I feel strongly on the issue.

  66. Steve, you didn’t catch the sarcasm in my comment? Sorry, man, I thought it was over-the-top.

    Seriously, everyone, if I butchered that attempt that badly, I apologize sincerely.

  67. ps. Jamie, either you or your bishop is full of crap.

  68. Just to make it perfectly clear, I was trying to show how ridiculous it is to twist the scriptures to such an extent that any conclusion can be choked out of them. My final paragraph was meant to reinforce Steve’s position – not to challenge it.

    I really am sorry, Steve, that the intent wasn’t clear.

  69. Ardis Parshall says:

    Ray, everybody would have understood if you hadn’t left out the crucial part — the curse was because Laman accepted government cheese while he was in grad school.

  70. Thanks a lot, Ardis. I am sitting here drinking water, and now I have to clean off the screen.

  71. Ray, I understood your irony, which was quite clear in your post. I’m not sure why Steve raked you over the coals for it, but I suspect Ardis is onto something. I hear they allowed themselves to be treated under Medicaid as well.

  72. Ray, I admit I missed your irony. Apologies.

  73. No problem, Steve. I’ve certainly done that myself more than once with other commenters.

    Fwiw, those who don’t know I have a Black “foster” son don’t understand how personal this “curse” issue is to me – but I felt this way before his grandmother asked us to help raise him.

  74. Interesting. So where exactly in Australia was he from?

    If there is racism there, it would probably be more to do with how many of the general population view the Aboriginals, rather than just the mormons.

  75. Regarding Craig’s argument that the Lord sometimes curses entire ethnic groups, nations, or whatever with different skin colors, I think that idea deserves further scrutiny. What is our evidence that this is the case? The scriptures say that, although some Mormons in the present day are offering readings of those texts that are less racial (although in my view still almost equally problematic since they involve God engaging in collective punishment). Mormon leaders in the 19th and 20th centuries also said that the Lord has cursed entire ethnic groups with skin changes.

    Those are the facts. Now, do the facts logically imply that the Lord actually engaged in such curses? Only if we believe that the scriptures and our church leaders are infallible conduits of information about God. If, on the other hand, we accept the reality that the scriptures were written by human hands, and that our church leaders are human, this is all open to some question. Even inspired people are not seen as infallible in the Mormon tradition; if Joseph Smith could make substantive changes in some of his Doctrine and Covenants revelations several years after the fact, then it follows that these texts are not to be treated as literally word-perfect in the way that Muslims treat the Koran. But if the scriptures and the statements of our leaders are not word-perfect, then we have to face the consequences of that. We should expect to find traces of the prejudices of the men in their teachings.

    In the case of 19th- and 20th-century Mormon leaders, the existence of strong racial prejudice is well-documented, even beyond statements about God’s supposed curses. I don’t think anyone is ever justified in racism, and there are clear examples of non-racist people at many points in American history, so it was possible to do better. Nonetheless, there’s no point in denying that the vice of racism was one that Mormon leaders shared with a lot of others. Given the extensive evidence of personal animus toward people of color on the part of many of the leaders who have left us this legacy of “racial curses,” there is clear reason to suppose that the curse idea itself is a product of individual racism and not a trustworthy account of God’s actions on Earth.

    The same also holds for the Book of Mormon. Did the Lamanites, as the book’s text claims, really live mostly on the raw flesh of prey they hunted in the wilderness? Either this statement is confused or the demography of the Book of Mormon is demented. People who lived such a profoundly rudimentary hunter-gatherer existence would never have been able to support a society that grew to significantly outnumber a society based on agriculture and stable settlements. Particularly if they ate meat raw; that reduces the effective nourishment in the meat substantially. Furthermore, every actual account of Lamanites in the entire book shows them living a lifestyle that is basically similar to the Nephite lifestyle. The text seems to have sufficient clues to conclude that it’s been narrated from a racist point of view. If that’s the case, why should we conclude that the “curse” thing is an accurate account of God’s deeds, rather than just a your-momma-was-fat-and-ugly slur?

    We just don’t have enough reason to believe that God actually engages in cursing entire nations by changing their skin colors. The only evidence we have is the testimony of racists. That’s just not good enough to persuade a mind that isn’t already made up.

  76. Amen, J.

  77. Eric Russell says:

    Reading ancient scripture in terms of 21st century politics also complicates things.

  78. I have no historic or scriptural evidence to back up this notion, but it has occurred to me recently that perhaps God gave different skin pigments and other distinctive physical features to certain races or ethnic groups, not as a curse to them but rather as a test to others. “Love one another” is such a simple commandmnet and makes no distinction with regard to physical appearance. If my notion about God’s test for all of us is correct, we, as humans, have failed and are failing miserably.

  79. Our real problem is that we don’t recognize that we are the ones cursed, with hearts of darkness (apologies to Jos. Conrad) and lives of luxury and excess and greed. We have spent so long congratulating ourselves on being the greatest generation in the history of the world, of being “Saturday’s Warriors,” reserved to come forth in the last days, the most valiant spirits in pre-mortality, that we don’t realize that wealth and privelege and status are great obstacles, curses in fact, that stand in the way of our becoming what God wants us to become.

    And if having a dark skin and having to endure the kind of crap that so many of our brothers and sisters do (whether because of ignorance or intentional discrimination), then we should remember that in Peter’s litany, patience is followed by godliness, which leads to brotherly kindness and charity.

    Anyone who claims to understand the ties between behavior in pre-mortality and status in this life had better have a much more direct link to the Almighty than most of us.

  80. Thanks for your response, Sam B.

    I am a little bit taken aback, however, that a rational person would be surprised that this young man had learned racism in Church. Sanctified racism is not merely a nineteenth century relic. Until 1978, racism was official practice.

    In light of preaching against interracial marriage, the sanctification of racism really continues to play a role in Mormon culture long after Kimball’s proclamation, to some extent to this day.

    There are still thousands of Mormons who are uncomfortable about interracial marriage. Many parents of interracial children report unkind treatment in church on a regular basis. Apparently, there are still many Mormons that consider it appropriate to socially sanction other people over the racial composition of their family.

    Not only do the aggressors feel righteous about their actions but contradictory messages continue to get excluded from chapel Mormons’ discourse. Even committed anti-racists remain uncomfortable to confront racist aggression because it would require to contradict dead prophets.

    Beyond self-censorship and unawareness, as manifest in your statement, there is also explicit suppression of racial equality messages.

    In my ward, where graduate students dominate, we had a relief society teacher released because she shared her testimony of racial equality and took issue with racism masquerading as doctrine. That happened only two years ago. The Salt Lake Weekly reported a similar incident in an Orem ward recently.

    And apostles continue to teach that you are not supposed to marry outside your own group. As a result, it remains difficult for faithful temple worthy Mormons to have a proper social life at BYU and many other units of the LDS Church.

    You read the young man’s statement, Sam. He didn’t say a word that wasn’t a hundred percent Mormon.

    What evidence do you have that would justify your surprise? I am flabbergasted.

    A responsible response requires an acknowledgment of how bad things really are. Otherwise, our children will have to continue to deal with faithful racism during their life time.

    It is unfortunate that you are undermining that effort and I wish you would change your mind.

    It’s a bad indicator when Mormons on the ‘nacle have trouble owning up to the extent of the problem. Unless, we step up, faithful racism is going to be with our community for a long time.

  81. Wow Hellmut, what a statement. I’m sure it varies widely from region to region in the Church, though (and probably tracks blue state/red state lines in the U.S.). The members are still part of the larger culture in which they live, and you can be sure that a member in Berkeley is living in a heckuva different culture than someone in rural Idaho.

    I had no idea it was still this bad, though. There’s still official teaching against interracial marriage?? Can anyone document that?

  82. Mike Parker says:

    The Wikipedia article on race has something important to say on this subject:

    Many scientists have argued that race definitions are imprecise, arbitrary, derived from custom, have many exceptions, have many gradations, and that the numbers of races delineated vary according to the culture making the racial distinctions; thus they reject the notion that any definition of race pertaining to humans can have taxonomic rigour and validity. *** Many anthropologists contend that while the features on which racial categorizations are made may be based on genetic factors, the idea of race itself, and actual divisions of persons into groups based on selected hereditary features, are social constructs….

    In other words, race is an artificial creation for the purpose of segregating unwanted people from culturally- and politically-designated superior people.

    The cousel to avoid intermarriage is valid in the sense that cultural differences often put strain on a marriage that results in divorce. This is not as much of a problem among people of different ancestry who are 3rd or 4th generation Americans and who share a similar culture.

  83. Hellmut, what’s this “we” talk? The most effective way for mormons to rid our community of such poor thinking is to denounce it immediately as being decidedly NOT of our community — not, as you say, to acknowledge it as somehow deeply mormon. You’ve got it backwards, man. You want our faith to accept and express regret for a teaching that instead should be cut off post-haste. You don’t internalise and accept malignant cells — you excise them, immediately. I refuse to believe that such lines of thinking are mormon, and I won’t allow my community to be defined in such a way as to include it.

  84. Maybe The Ten Commandments may shed a little light on why God would “curse” some peoples and not others:

    3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
    4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:
    5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;

    This is Exodus 20: 3-5. I am particularly interested in verse five. What does the Lord mean when he says he is a “jealous God” who visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the children for four generations?

    I ask this because I really think there is so much we just don’t know about the origins of this or that group that we don’t know WHY they are where they are in the world, beyond suppositions and assumptions.

    Also it is very hard to get past the point that seems ingrained (thanks to Abraham) that some individuals were pre-ordained to their “posts” on this earth. The book of Abraham states:

    19 And the Lord said unto me: These two facts do exist, that there are two spirits, one being more intelligent than the other; there shall be another more intelligent than they; I am the Lord thy God, I am more intelligent than they all.

    Those “pre-ordained” appear to come to this earth in fairly white areas. Are they the “more intelligent?” Are they the “better?” Now, I say “appear” to come to this earth in fairly white areas. We don’t know the full extent of those pre-mortal callings and their worth to God. We do know Joseph Smith’s importance, and several other “Founding Fathers” sort to speak, of our church. But beyond that, who is to say WE, regular members today, are of those Great and Noble Ones? Many assume that because we’re members of the church in the last days, that we’re white like Joseph, and Americans like most of the “Select”, we must be in good shape, and those dirty, dark-skinned Aborigines must somehow not be closer to the top of the “intelligences” and certainly not Noble and Great Ones.

    These are of course not safe assumptions to make, as we know little of how the Lord values His children by placing them where they are, or by letting them go off in the directions they choose to go of their own free will. There are far too many factors to say conclusively that the color of their skin has much, if anything at all, to do with their place in God’s eyes.

    Technically, Aborigines, because they don’t have the “law” are not bound to the law. We just might see more of them proportionally than Americans, or even many Mormons at the last day…

  85. MikeInWeHo says:

    Wow wow wow. The LDS are in big trouble if they can’t definitively, authoritatively, and finally renounce racism….period. Deal with the historical problems later. They’ll be less than what the Evangelicals face (Bob Jones University, anyone??), and we can see how they’re doing.

    Listen to Steve Evans.

  86. Thomas Parkin says:

    I’ve believed for a long time – I may have always beleived this – that the ‘skin of blackness’ is just as figurative as the ‘heart of flint’ that is also part of the curse. I appeal only to my own experience that those who live a good life aquire an aspect, a whiteness even, and that the opposite is true, and that aspect has nothing to so with skin color. Witness at one end of the spectrum James E Faust, and at the other, fellow caucasian Ron Jeremy.

    ~

  87. Mike,

    The LDS are in big trouble if they can’t definitively, authoritatively, and finally renounce racism….period. Deal with the historical problems later.

    How can you deal with the historical problems later? Are they not what define our culture now?

    Besides, this is certainly not the first time that the Lord’s Church has had to deal with discrimination of other peoples based on something that distinguished them from the “Gentiles.” Remember that Peter was quite shocked at the revelation given him that he was to eat the “dirty” food. In Acts 10 we read:

    10 And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance,
    11 And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth:
    12 Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.
    13 And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat.
    14 But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean.
    15 And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.

    Imagine if we called blacks today “common” and “unclean.” If I were black, I’d be quite rankled at the arrogance, the haughtiness of those who called me common and unclean. I’d say, “dude you ever looked in the mirror?”

    It is hard to say that this church (or any Christian religion) should somehow quickly and easily dismiss racism from its culture when it is ingrained in its theology. Now, I am not a well researched scholar of the Old Testament. I know the Old Testament, but not much beyond that of the history and culture of the old Israelites. In my knowledge, I am assuming the Lord separated out His people ethnically and racially from the rest of the world. Is that a correct assumption (from those who are more scholarly knowledgeable) to make? Or did the Israelites misunderstand what the Lord was doing when he told them to wipe out all other life in Canaan so as to not be “tainted” by other cultures?

    I think that that is as far back as the ethnic and racial separation goes.

  88. “Look at the current materials the Church has provided, current educational materials….” (Margaret Young #43)

    The following paragraph is currently provided by the Church in “Doctrines of the Gospel” (Student Manual, Religion 430 and 431, 2004, p.56). It comes from a general conference talk given by Harold B. Lee while he was Church President:

    “All these rewards were seemingly promised, or foreordained, before the world was. Surely these matters must have been determined by the kind of lives we had lived in that premortal spirit world. Some may question these assumptions, but at the same time they will accept without any question the belief that each one of us will be judged when we leave this earth according to his or her deeds during our lives here in mortality. Isn’t it just as reasonable to believe that what we have received here in this earth life was given to each of us according to the merits of our conduct before we came here?” (Ensign, Jan. 1974, p.5.)

  89. Yep, Gary, that little black girl who faces a life of rape in DR Congo earned her lot.

    I find this to be a pernicious doctrine, and I don’t care where it is to be found.

    The level of scientific and historical ignorance, exegetical immaturity, blind acceptance of dead, simplistic dogma, and latent racism this thread has brought out is depressing. I hope curious non-Mormons never read it. If they do, we deserve their suspicion.

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