There is an End to Race

Race and racism have been hot topics of late. I began thinking in earnest about it last week, not Thursday when Kaimi posted his thread, nor Tuesday when President Obama was sworn in, nor Monday when we celebrated Dr. King, but Sunday in the well stocked library of my ward here in Ann Arbor. When I walked it, I found an open copy of Mormon Doctrine, face down on the counter. I picked it up and the entry on the open page was “Race.”

I have no idea why the book was open to that entry. It might have been someone mining for a quote for a GD lesson. It might have been an intellectual curiosity on the part of someone who rejects Elder McConkie’s teachings on race. It might have been happenstance. But it did get me thinking.

Racism is a problem in the Church. Whether it is a greater problem for Mormons than for anybody else is an open question (though not the subject of this thread), though I think we can all agree that, despite the fact that we are clearly better than we were in previous generations, it is still a problem. I think that it vexes us Mormons in unique ways, and I’d like to explore some of those in this discussion, paying particular attention to what light contemporary biology, anthropology, and epidemiology can shed on the question. You see, the real problem is race.

Racism — the idea that certain races are inherently superior or inferior to others — depends for its existence on a deeper assumption: that there does, in fact, exist something called race. Clearly, race as a social, political, and even economic phenomenon is real in the sense that it is, in varying ways and degrees, part of the lived reality of virtually every person. But is race a valid biological concept in the way that, say “species” or even “sub-species” is? If not, is it still a useful proxy for other valid biological notions like ancestry, genetic variation/relatedness, or geographical origin? What about disease susceptibility and/or treatment response? Despite the current very vibrant scientific debates on some of these points, there is also widespread agreement on certain answers, and I’d like to explore the implications of those answers for our (LDS) shifting ideas about the social and theological significance of race, relatedness, and lineage.

Modern lay ideas and categories of race developed early and have undergone substantial change over the centuries. Significantly, the idea that humankind was comprised of clearly identifiable, separate races predates the advent of virtually all modern biological theory that might be relevant to such questions. People tended to believe that race comprised a set of discrete, identifiable, natural, and enduring traits that reflected a basic essence. Because these ideas preceded Mendelian genetics, molecular genetics, epigenetics, or the mapping of the Human Genome, it was generally believed that the “essence” of race was carried and transmitted in the blood. Also, within this conceptual framework, race could be viewed as something that not only existed but could exist in purity, with the concomitant belief that its purity could be compromised.

Even when Darwin put forth his theory of evolution by natural selection (nearly a decade before Mendel’s work on pea plants revealed that traits were transmitted in particulate fashion), he did not understand what kind of mechanism could account for how naturally selected traits passed from one fit generation to the next. (It is not a coincidence that Social Darwinism emerged as a popular account of human historical progress at precisely a time when Darwin’s ideas about reproductive success and fitness mixed with errant ideas about the nature of human variation and the actual biological mechanisms by which phenotypic traits were actually transmitted in the process of sexual reproduction.)

Enter modern science. Genetics, Molecular Biology, and Statistics (to name a few of the heavy hitters). As relevant scientific data poured in, the theoretical side of biology changed in dramatic ways. Genetic theory, chromosomal theory, the discovery of how reproductive cells divide, and other important advances fulfilled many of the predictions advanced by Darwin’s theory and filled in many of the holes that he lacked the data to account for, culminating in what biologists today call the Modern Synthesis. In light of the wealth of new data and new understanding, biologists and anthropologists began to dramatically rethink their approach to patterns of human variation. Today, they tend to use terms like “intra-species group” or “ethnoancestral group” to describe phylogenetically distinguishable but reproductively compatible human individuals and groups.

The fact is that humans do vary, both within and between groups. Genes and the environment and the interaction thereof produce the variation, but because we are a comparatively mobile and young species (we can trace a common genetic origin to roughly 200,000 years ago whereas chimps, our closest genetic relatives, go back more than twice as far), and because we interact with our environment differently from other species, parsing our genetic differences is difficult. Lay concepts of race — uniform, discrete, naturally occurring, enduring groups identifiable via externally visible traits (skin complexion, facial bone structure, body hair patterns, etc.) — fail as biological concepts because they so poorly account for how human genetic variation is actually manifested. Human genetic difference, distance, proximity, and relatedness are questions of degree and not kind. “Cline” is a far more useful heuristic tool for dealing with genetic variation than “race” because it doesn’t connote something distinct and confined, something that exist in purity (or impurity). Clinal variation describes a smooth gradient of overall, general patterns of genetic similarity between individuals and groups based upon historiogeographic proximity. There are no discrete lines, no hybrids. As the late anthropologist Frank Livingstone once put it, “there are no races, only clines.” Or, to quote Geneticist Aravinda Chakravarti (just last week), “we are all multiracial, related to each other only to a greater or lesser extent.”

All this means that, while human genetic variation does exist and does produce important consequences, traditional notions of race as a kind of discrete, enduring, essential set of heritable traits that can be preserved (or even exist at all) in purity, simply does not correspond with biological reality. Certain phenotypic traits can be useful for approximating one’s relatedness to other individuals or geographically defined groups, but even genes themselves — even the correspondence of multiple genetic patterns — can only disclose relative relatedness, comparative genetic distance.

So what are we, as LDS, to make of all this? Race has, in the past, been taken seriously because we have associated it with other socially and theologically significant concepts, particularly lineage. We taught, with many other Bible believers, that race was not just a proxy but a literal marker of lineage, with some lineages privileged above others. Current scientific knowledge about human genetic variation militates against such a view. It is further problematized by one of the most significant findings of the Human Genome Project: that human beings have only (approximately) 20,000 genes.

Let’s do some math. You share exactly 1/2 of your genetic material with either of your parents. Move to an individual a generation back, and that person shares only 1/4 of your genetic material with you. You see what’s coming? How many generations back do you think you have to go before you pass the 1/20,000 threshold? The answer is that you share virtually no genetic material with your ancestors who were contemporaries of Christopher Columbus. Let me repeat that in more general terms: you are no more genetically related to your distant ancestors than you are to any randomly selected individual from anywhere on the planet. On the other hand, you do share an astonishingly high (compared to other species) percentage of your genetic material with virtually every person now living or who has ever lived.

Let’s make matters murkier still. One thing most of you have noticed (even if you didn’t take note of it or think anything of it) while dutifully doing your genealogy, is that family trees spread out as you move back by generations. That means that they also gradually converge with the trees of others, and that, depending on your genetic distance, if you go far back enough they all converge and look exactly the same. The magic figure for the entire existing population of the planet is 3000 BCE. If you go back 5000 years and randomly select an individual, if that individual has any surviving descendants today (and there will be many from that period who do not) then all living persons today are that person’s descendants. (In fact, for most people the magic number is more like the time of Jesus, but the 3000 BCE figure takes into account historically isolated populations like aboriginal Australians).

Yippee, shouts the Bible-a-Bible crowd. We are all descendants of Adam. That’s true. If we can assume that Adam really lived when we think he lived and that he has any now-living descendants, then yes — we are all his descendants. But the exact same would be true of any of his contemporaries (or near contemporaries). Take, as a random example, Cain. The mathematic imperatives of genes and genealogy assert that if Cain has any surviving progeny, then every person reading this blog and every other person in the world, regardless of skin complexion, location, or recent ancestral heritage — every one of us is the seed of Cain. That also includes figures from our recent history.

That’s right — Elder McConkie is a descendant of Cain.

This means that being the literal, biological descendants of Abraham, or Noah, or Ham, or Seth, or Cain, or Adam is meaningless. Meaningless in the sense that, well so what — everyone else is too; and meaningless in the sense that you are not any more genetically related to any of them any more than you are to anyone else.

Now it could be argued that these revelations raise serious concerns and problems for LDS ideas about lineage, intergenerational bonds, and family salvation. I think it actually helps us. It does so by demonstrating the insignificance of biological lineage, which foregrounds in the process the significance of Priesthood. And Priesthood transcends and trumps biology. Biological relatedness is meaningless in the grand scheme of things. Even Joseph Smith, with his errant understanding of the actual mechanisms of human relatedness, taught that “the effect of the Holy Ghost upon a Gentile, is to purge out the old blood, and make him actually of the seed of Abraham.” (just one more piece of evidence, incidentally, that the Priesthood Ban and ideas of irredeemably cursed lineages and races constituted departures from rather than continuities with Joseph’s thought). The point of the power of the Priesthood is that it binds us together in ways and to degrees for which biology is simply not adequate. Being the seed of Ephraim or of Israel or of Abraham or of Adam is meaningless in biological or genealogical terms; the power of the Priesthood to bind us together as families and across generations, through time and eternity gives it a meaning and significance that genes could never impart, worlds without end.

Comments

  1. As an aside, I came this close to entitling this post “Bruce R. McConkie is a Descendant of Cain.”

  2. Awesome.

  3. Wonderful title.

  4. That’s right — Elder McConkie is a descendant of Cain

    This reminds me of that great scene in True Romance when Dennis Hopper tells Christopher Walkin that Italians are really black.

  5. lolz dug.

  6. My dream film (a short):
    Since BRM suggests that “spiritual degeneration” has resulted in changes in skin, and we can tell how far we’ve degenerated by comparing ourselves with Adam and Eve, and since we all descend from Africa, as our DNA documents, I want a film that shows someone who looks like Gladys Knight “degenerating” into someone who looks like me (red hair, white skin). I’ll bet some computer whiz could do it easily.

    Good post, Brad. Btw, we’ll be showing the documentary on black Mormons in Washington DC at the NE Sunstone Symposium this Saturday, Jan. 31st at 6:30 p.m. (You can find more info online.) We also plan to make our first sales of the DVD there.
    We do get into _MoDoc_ a bit.

  7. Everybody seems so bitter towards Elder McConkie about Mormon Doctrine. I don’t think he ever said he or his book was perfect. In fact, he was the first one to put a disclaimer that he alone was responsible for the doctrine in it. And didn’t he issue a public apology about his position on blacks and the priesthood? What else does he have to do?

    I only hope to be right about as many things as he was…

  8. Mark Brown says:

    This is terrific work, Brad. Thank you.

    I continue to advocate for a very robust understanding of the principle of adoption, and your conclusions here provide me with a lot of support.

  9. StillConfused says:

    A bit of a thread jack here. In patriarchial blessings it says what tribe we are descended from. I don’t have my blessing handy but I remember that I was descended from the standard anglo one. My best friend is Jewish and we were discussing patriarchial blessings and the lineage stuff. And I was wondering what tribe they typically give to Israelis.

  10. m,
    This was not a post primarily about Elder McConkie. And it was not meant to disparage him personally either. There were undoubtedly numerous reasons why he said and wrote the things he did, and those include: a commitment to defending what he understood as the truth, regardless of the consequences; a literalist approach to scripture; a conviction that the intellect was an important part of life in the gospel; and a passion for teaching. I do not begrudge him these things. Indeed, his willingness to publish and republish MD in the face of quiet but persistent opposition from the FP is in some ways very admirable. My problem isn’t so much with what he had to say about race then, as it is with my deep concern that many of us continue to take seriously such stuff today. The Church is comfortable saying unequivocally that Brigham Young was wrong about Adam/God — why can’t we dispense with antiquarian, and very harmful ideas about race once and for all?

  11. @Brad: Good point. Inasmuch as people have those harmful ideas, I cannot see how they reconcile them with the overarching message of the Gospel. It truly doesn’t make sense.

    Also, McConkie himself repudiated his teachings (on behalf of the Church, in my opinion), which I take comfort in:

    “It doesn’t make a particle of difference what anybody ever said about the Negro matter before the first day of June 1978. It is a new day and a new arrangement, and the Lord has now given the revelation that sheds light out into the world on this subject. As to any slivers of light or any particles of darkness of the past, we forget about them. We now do what meridian Israel did when the Lord said the gospel should go to the Gentiles. We forget all the statements that limited the gospel to the house of Israel, and we start going to the Gentiles.”

  12. For the record, the version of MD I saw last week was the revised edition he did in 1979. The language linked in the post is from the same edition. The language is somewhat softened compared to earlier editions, but still speaks for itself. Which is to say, he certainly did not take his own advice to “forget about” past statements or teachings regarding the “Negro matter.”

  13. Brad,

    Great post. I enjoyed it. Just a couple of questions/comments. First, the Aboriginal people of Australia are calculated to have first reached Australia somewhere around 40,000 years ago. THerefore how could an Aboriginee be a descendant of anyone outside of Australia less than 40,000 years ago?
    Also our Y chromosomes (for males) are inherited in a direct paternal line and our mitochondrial DNA is a direct maternal line so we have to share at least that much of our DNA with our ancestors.

  14. Eric Russell says:

    The Church is comfortable saying unequivocally that Brigham Young was wrong about Adam/God

    Is it? Has the church said anything to the effect in the last 30 years?

  15. Brad,

    Very nice post. I love thinking that I have fairly recent ancestors from all over the planet. Modern genetics has really shaken things up. There is no more us and them. There is just us.

  16. Terry Foraker says:

    Does anybody even quote from Mormon Doctrine anymore? I haven’t heard it cited in any classes or lessons for years, nor have I seen references to it in the General Conference reports. (One of our neighbors told us that she quoted from MD in a Sacrament talk and was later rebuked by her bishop for doing so.) It seems that either the book is seen as being rather troublesome, or else Church leaders and members realize that real Mormon Doctrine is found in the scriptures and the words of our leaders in an authoritative (i.e. General Conference) setting. I suspect that it’s a bit of both.

  17. The constant harping on Bruce R. McConkie gets to me too. No doubt he got some things wrong, but harping on him is simply not good. Probably a fair amount of it is mindless groupthink, but there is also a surprising amount amount of bitterness in various people’s denunciation of him. What gives?

    How much of this is inspired of the Adversary? He was an apostle. That doesn’t means he was always right, but he was far from evil. Is this the Adversary’s way of encouraging folks to ignore his very real and powerful testimony and the true doctrines that he taught? I suspect so. He died before my mission, so I can’t say I’m an expert on him, but I have certainly enjoyed listening to many of his talks.

    On the other hand I must admit that BRM wrote and spoke very boldly, seemingly about everything. He is a big target. He never equivocated and he never seemed unsure. I haven’t read very much of what he published (except for Mormon Doctrine :-) ), but I appreciate his testimony.

  18. Tom, I like to think that *all* of Brad’s posts are inspired by The Adversary. It’s a high standard, yes. But I think that Mr. Kramer achieves it. And with hard work, the rest of us can, too.

  19. @7, 17:

    Elder McConkie is also proof that the the GAs can err individually (and, arguably, collectively).

    That’s a very, very comforting notion to Mormons whose worldview to some extent conflicts with that of our current leadership.

  20. Tom D,
    You’re tilting at windmills here. No one here has called Elder McConkie evil or advocating ignoring his testimony of the Savior. Settle down.

  21. Getting back to the subject of the post, I think there has had to have been a multi-generational change in how people think about race. I think we are still in the middle of it. I’d rather we ignored race altogether as a society, but we don’t. I was rather surprised in the late 80s by how vehement my dad was that so-called mixed-race marriages were unwise. He never said they were wrong, though. Just unwise.

    I think there will always be physical differences between people. I am curious as to why there are such seemingly big differences between how people look when we are all so closely related. Does this mean that physical differences are the result of very tiny genetic differences? Have people tended to marry fairly closely related spouses? Why haven’t differences averaged out over the years? Will they ever “average out”? I guess you can tell I’m not a biologist.

  22. “How much of this is inspired of the Adversary?”

    None of it here. Moving on . . .

    This is a fabulous post, Brad. It lays out the issue in a very straightforward manner, and it shows how silly it is to argue about race – as opposed to culture and self-identification. I view what you have explained here as science showing the core Gospel concept that we all are equal children of God, while the whole race-based interpretations were the natural man relying on the philosophies of man and the arm of flesh to explain what really is a simple, eternal truth.

    Sometimes, we simply think too hard.

  23. Lee, keep in mind that DNA evidence is not necessarily capturing all the ancestors (Brad’s main point here about that is right on the money). The DNA of Austrian Aboriginal is fairly unique but there are anomalies and given the mobility of humans (in particular Polynesian populations) some light gene flow is very likely and if there was any at all their ancestors become ours). They were isolated, yes, but humans seem to find their way around. Best guess is there would likely be some gene flow, but direct evidence going to take much more sequencing and might never be found if it were a small population that made contact. It’s hard to imagine that there was no contact in 40,000 years given human mobility and some of the simulations on human ancestry show it doesn’t take much to link into real ancestors that don’t leave much DNA trace.

  24. Very cool post, Brad.

    What Ray said sums up my thoughts very well, or rather, better than I would have put it. (Sometimes, I like to comment after Ray just so I can say, “What Ray said.” A big time-saver. :) )

  25. Also Lee, mitochondrial DNA has no influence on heritable phenotypic traits. So while we may share a direct line of mtDNA with even distant ancestors, that is not really genetic relatedness in the way we typically think about it — i.e. as underlying phenotypic similarities within or across ethnoancestral groups.

  26. Brad, JimD, and Kaimi,

    I’m just trying to follow the bold-speaking example of my hero ;-). I think it is undoubtedly a good thing that GAs are far more cautious about what they say these days. There are a lot of questions that the Lord does not seem to feel the need to answer yet. I think we have to be cautious about picking and choosing what we accept though so that we don’t through out the baby with the bathwater.

    When I was on my mission I was often told as a compliment that I was like BRM (yes I was a know-it-all even then :-) ). I still take it a bit personally when people put down BRM. On the other hand, it also annoyed me to see people teaching from the Doctrinal New Testament Commentary or Mormon Doctrine rather than the scriptures. Fortunately, that doesn’t seem to happen as much anymore, but it is annoying to have BRM held up for heckling so often. I think a good post about the continuing controversy swirling around BRM might be fun.

    I personally find modern genetics fascinating. Everything I hear seems to indicate that everyone is much more closely related than what was believed a century or even a few decades ago. Still, that may be simplifying things too much. I look forward to learning more.

    Take care.

  27. No worries, Tom. These topics can raise temperatures. I do hope you’ll continue to comment here.

  28. Awesome post, Brad. Lots to think and chew on.

  29. I am hoping that, since we all share the same ancestors, I can slack on my genealogy and someone else will get it done? That sounds great.

    I would guess that anyone who gets up close and personal with a mixed-race family will have these ideas, although perhaps less eloquently. Could I really be placed in an entirely different race than my biological children? If so, race is a flimsy category to divide families.

  30. Steve P and Brad,

    Makes sense. Thank you. Im always fascinated by DNA and our human evolution.

  31. Ever since I read about the scientific nonexistence of races, I’ve just been checking “multiracial” or “other” on anything that asks me my race. Maybe if we all self-identify that way for long enough they’ll quit asking. My aunt brought a picture of my ggggrandfather from Mississippi who looked in the photo to be black. The only thing we know about him is he was a minor government official after the civil war. It’s my thought that he probably was one of the African-Americans who held public office shortly after the Civil War, (or the War of Northern Aggression, as it’s known here), and married a white lady, my ggggrandmother. I should research this more, obviously. But of course I’m proud of my recent African ancestry.

    I talked to a UAB geneticist who studies local populations and she said most white people in the South have about 10% African genes, and most black southerners have about 30% European genes. The idea that anyone is pure white or pure black in the U.S. at least is simply untenable according to her. Even the palest white person or the blackest African have some mixed blood. Of course, since the human species arose in Africa to begin with, with the dark skin that’s adaptive there, then we’re all descended 100% from dark-skinned Africans anyway. The only question is how long ago.

    The reason our youngest common ancestor is so recent, according to my reading, is that even if the Chinese, say, were virtually isolated from Europe for thousands of years, there was always one Marco Polo type person who shared all the genes of the Europeans, and who left descendants in China whose genes in time became thoroughly mixed with the Chinese population. Substitute any two groups for Europe and China and it still is true.

    Great post! I’ll be so glad when race dies as a social construct as completely as it has as a scientific concept.

  32. Brad, I agree on most of what you said on Race. I think it is a good up dating on scientific thinking.
    But I am having problems on: “Priesthood transcends and trumps biology.”. I have some idea what you mean by that in Mormonism. But do you think Science will accept what sounds like a new “Taxonomy”? Females have a big role in Biology. Isn’t this a step back into “Male’s count more”?
    Should I stop working on my Family History, and start tracing my Priesthood History? :)

  33. Wonderful post Brad. Thank you.

    #31 Tatiana Let me help you out on our search for your ancestors. Google Melungeon. Check out the core Melungeon names. See if any of these fit. This may be the answer to your mixed ancestor.

  34. I’d like to comment on ‘why the bitterness?’ None of this arises from his opinions or teachings, as far as I can tell. I think it rooted in the way he very publicly accused, tried and judged one or two people at BYU who didn’t deserve the public lashing. The lasting effects of those chastisements on the people involved, as well as family members, left a bad taste in the mouth. No need to pull all of that stuff from the slime pit again, and I’m just speaking for myself, but like Brigham Young, the man was capable of being mean and petty. Some may see humility when he says to forget and never mind the stuff he once said, but I see the scorched earth he often left behind him without apology. (Notice, there was no apology to black people themselves in his recantation, those he defamed in his explanations of policy.) I still admire his powerful declaratives and his careful reading of scripture, but that memory of Elder McConkie is tainted by his dismissive approach to people who mwere equally scholarly and sincere.

  35. Thanks, Brad. This is great stuff.

  36. What #34 Doug said. I was there in the Marriott Center when BRM went after George Pace. There was a bad feeling in the air that day. It confused the heck out of me for years.

  37. Bob, I’m not conflating priesthood with male hierarchy — i.e. the power with its mode of exercise (though that is an understandable conflation given the current and historical state of affairs). I’m not suggesting that you trace your Priesthood history. Rather that we focus on the ways that Priesthood power makes something real and meaningful and of eternal significance of our human relationships, in time and in eternity, in ways that biology and genes cannot.

  38. Let’s do some math. You share exactly 1/2 of your genetic material with either of your parents. Move to an individual a generation back, and that person shares only 1/4 of your genetic material with you. You see what’s coming? How many generations back do you think you have to go before you pass the 1/20,000 threshold? The answer is that you share virtually no genetic material with your ancestors who were contemporaries of Christopher Columbus. Let me repeat that in more general terms: you are no more genetically related to your distant ancestors than you are to any randomly selected individual from anywhere on the planet.

    This is a statistically invalid argument, especially for the time period you have given. A contemporary Japanese person (for example) has much less genetically in common with a contemporary Caucasian than he or she has with the vast majority of his or her own ancestors, going back three or four thousand years.

    The reason is due to migratory stability. The genetic contribution of nth generation ancestors is not statistically independent. Suppose, as was once common, someone marries his or her first cousin. The consequence of such a marriage is that the genetic contribution of each of their common grandparents and all their ancestors is statistically doubled, often adversely so.

    Each such ancestor now occupies a minimum of two places in that persons genetic pedigree. As other intermarriages occur even between relatively distant cousins, the number of places occupied by common ancestors multiply. So in any location with relatively low (if episodic) in and out migration (such as Japan) the relative natives are indeed closely related to each other multiple times over, but much more distantly and to a much lesser degree to the relatively rare immigrants, especially from the other side of the world.

  39. I might add that the idea of a 1/20000 threshold based on 20000 genes is bad arithmetic. Granting only one single nucleotide polymorphism or copy number variation for any given gene, the number of unique genetic combinations for 20000 genes is at least two to the twenty thousandth power, or roughly 1 followed by six thousand zeroes.

    Of course there has only been the tiniest fraction of that number of available ancestors on the earth at any given time, such that the most recent possible year for ancestor / worldwide contemporary genetic similarity equivalence is roughly 30 years times log2 of the minimal world population over the period.

    In AD 1 it is estimated that there were two hundred million people alive on the earth, and the population is estimated to have grown from there. So if people were as statistically likely to marry a person on the other side of the planet as their neighbor next door, it would take approximately 840 years (30 x log2(2×10^8)) to achieve such intermixing. Regrettably, marrying a person from the other side of the planet has historically been a practical impossibility, making a realistic estimate a considerably higher number.

  40. interested says:

    Marc is right.

    There are two separate issues that we shouldn’t confuse.

    First, it is true that we are all interrelated in the way that Brad describes. Assuming Abraham was a real person, then we are all descended from Abraham, at least all of us with any Eurasian or African ancestry at all. So the idea that being descended from Abraham/Cain makes you somehow special/cursed is nonsensical. (As an aside, this type of calculation would also imply that all native Americans are literal descendants of Lehi and Nephi, for whatever that’s worth.)

    But it’s *also* true that there are real genetic differences between population groups that have inbred over time. This should be obvious, since just by looking at someone we can usually make a pretty good guess where their recent ancestors came from. Sometimes we call these groups “races,” although it is impossible to define them sharply (just as it is impossible to define sharply what is a desert or a mountain.) But that doesn’t mean that racial differences don’t exist or that “race” is a meaningless concept.

    The reason both of these things are possible is that most of our distant ancestors are descended from us through multiple lines. I “white” person, with all of my recent ancestry coming from western Europe. If you wrote our my pedigree chart going 150 generations back, there’d be over 2000 trillion slots. Plenty of those slots would be filled with people from all over the place, including Sub-Saharan Africans, Chinese, etc. Indeed, every person alive anywhere in the eastern hemisphere in 2000 BC who had any descendants at all would likely appear at least once. But the majority of the slots would be filled with people from Europe, with many, many individuals appearing in literally millions of different slots. Thus I am more genetically similar to these European ancestors than to my ancestors from China or Africa.

  41. interested says:

    Oops, I miscalculated in my last post…a pedigree chart over 150 generations would actually have more like 2 billion-trillion-trillion-trillion slots.

  42. John Mansfield says:

    For those interested in such things, “Father’s Day Special: Relatedness of Abraham and the Children of Israel“:

    In all that we hear about fathers, one of their most fundamental, axiomatic even, contributions to our lives is seldom mentioned on Father’s Day: Fathers are they who gave us half or more of our genetic composition. “Or more?” the reader may ask. I shall elaborate with special consideration of the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the children of Israel.

  43. John Mansfield says:

    And for those not all that interested, here’s the punchline:

    Bethuel, father of Rebekah, had a pattern of ancestry symmetric to Isaac’s and was a double first cousin to Isaac; their fathers were brothers and their mothers were sisters. Isaac and Bethuel’s relatedness was 10/17 = 59%, closer than brothers. Consequently, calculation of relatedness between Isaac and Rebekah involves six lines of ancestry: from Haran (1) and from Mrs. Haran (2) by Sarah and by Milcah and Bethuel; from Terah (3) and from Mrs. Terah (4) by Abraham and by Nahor and Bethuel; and from Terah alone by Abraham and by Haran, Milcah and Bethuel (5) and also by Haran and Sarah and by Nahor and Bethuel (6). This makes the relatedness of Isaac and Rebekah (1/16 + 1/16 + 1/16 + 1/16 + 1/32 + 1/32)/?(17/16) = 5/(4?17) = 30%, intermediate to the relatedness of half-siblings and full-siblings. Their sons Jacob and Esau had an inbrededness of 5/64 = 7.8% and a relatedness to each other of 71/138 = 51%. Their relatedness to their father Isaac was 57% and to their mother Rebekah it was 56%. The relatedness of Jacob and Esau to Abraham, and also to Sarah, was 34.6%, compared to 25% for a standard grandparent-grandchild relationship.

  44. John Mansfield says:

    The question marks in the above comment should be square root symbols (√).

  45. Rameumptom says:

    I like Elder McConkie. His General Conference talks were stirring. However, I think the problem comes in his writing style, which was very to the point and uber-direct. Instead of writing a book of his opinions, he labelled it “Mormon Doctrine” and then wrote it in authoritative language. THAT is where people have a problem with his writings. His language allowed for no dissent from his beliefs, without one feeling he/she was an apostate.
    I’m glad to see that we believe in continuing revelation and truth coming down from the heavens. While MoDoc was useful in its day, it has for the most part served its purpose, and the Church needs to move forward with greater enlightenment and focus.
    As for race, I agree that to Joseph Smith, race was meaningless. Same with the Book of Mormon. Who was a Nephite, and who was a Lamanite? Initially they might have been divisions of skin color, but that quickly changed as people migrated, moved, rebelled, repented, or were absorbed in one fashion or another. The term “Lamanite” is no longer a term for the DNA descendants of Laman and Lemuel, but is a term used for a cultural group that includes all Native Americans in both American continents and the islands.

    Do the promises made to the Lamanites apply to all these peoples, or just the direct descendants of Laman? I believe the cultural adoption is of greater import than any genetic material.

    And so it is in the Church. When one gets a patriarchal blessing and is told they are a descendant of Ephraim – what does that mean? To me it means they’ve been adopted into that line of Israel, since the chances of having any truly determinable DNA from Ephraim remaining among so many millions of people is resoundingly small. My PB states I am his descendant. Personally, it doesn’t matter to me that it likely means via adoption, as long as I am a spiritual member of the House of Israel.

    I am glad we are moving beyond the old stereotypical beliefs handed down by Protestants and Brigham Young to decades of saints. Hopefully, the next generation will be that much further away from reading any such literature, whether in the Journal of Discourses or Mormon Doctrine.

  46. MarkD, You are correct that there were never enough people to fill up all the slots for ancestors so they tend to overlap. In genetics this has developed an entire discipline within population genetics called Coalescent Theory. This is where the observation of our relatedness gets strengthened because when you tie into another line their ancestors come to yours.

    Of course, our actual genetic component is dominated by more recent ancestors which will carry the traits that we most often visually identify as race, but we carry with us scores of real ancestors from all over the world. Brad point still holds.

    “I might add that the idea of a 1/20000 threshold based on 20000 genes is bad arithmetic. Granting only one single nucleotide polymorphism or copy number variation for any given gene, the number of unique genetic combinations for 20000 genes is at least two to the twenty thousandth power, or roughly 1 followed by six thousand zeroes.”

    We each have two copies of the typical gene but one each came from our father or mother. (And there are vast complexities here), but we don’t inherit it like you are proposing. You don’t inherit all the possible combinations, in actually you get only one (barring mutation) from each parent. For example, your mother gave you a specific copy, she got that copy from her mother, say, her mother got it from her father, etc. You are jumping from attributes of populations to attributes of individuals. Polymorphisms are population attributes. Brad’s pointing out that you have ancestors who provide no genetic combination still holds. More so with coalescent considerations.

  47. Can I just say that besides my fantasy about us white-skinned folks revealing our “spiritual degeneration,” I also have a nightmare that SteveP will post a genetics/evolution/biology test on BCC REQUIRED of all permabloggers, and if we don’t pass, we’re out. (But I love SteveP and I would take the test.)

    Now, about _Mormon Doctrine_: it is NOT sanctioned as a missionary tool anywhere. I got the news that it had been pulled from the “approved missionary reading list” from a very excited African American father whose son was awaiting his mission call. That was probably five years ago.

    Why do we harp? BECAUSE IT’S STILL FOR SALE. That 1979 version, with dangerous, insulting falsehoods is still offered–with a weak disclaimer–wherever LDS books are sold. I feel some moral obligation to our community to continue reminding those who might have some power that _MD_ needs to go into the archives and off the racks. It wouldn’t matter if 98% of the book were true. Those sections on race taint everything else and actually contradict the words which Elder McConkie wanted us to remember him for: His testimony of the Savior.

  48. Thomas Parkin says:

    I agree, no more MD. I wonder how we could petition DB. ?? ~

  49. Thomas, I’ve tried. Repeatedly. I sense no budging.

  50. Brad says:”Biological relatedness is meaningless in the grand scheme of things.”. I just don’t think Church members see it this way. “Eternal Family” is everything. Biological terms like “Father”, “Son”, will not be meaningless in the hereafter. I think there will be many kinds of “groupings”(?)

  51. Our chapel is currently undergoing a stem-to-stern renovation and we cannot use it for the next 6 months. Consequently everything has been boxed up and stored, including library materials. This summer when we move everything back into the chapel, I may search out the library box that contains our ward copy of MD and place it with the trash pile, or the dustbin of history.

    Fascinating post, btw.

  52. Margaret,

    Oh, don’t worry, he test isn’t that hard. As long as you have memorized the major linages of Trilobite Families, and can explain Fisher’s Fundamental Theorem on the effect of additive genetic variation on the rate of evolutionary change, you will do fine. I wish I could grade on the curve but with grade inflation and all . . .

  53. Why does “Mormon Doctrine” continue to sell? Because the writing is as powerful and the topics as easy to find as it was when first written. In a word – it sells because people still buy it. There have been attempts to develop similar books of reference, but none of them have the undefinable advantages of the late B.R.M. writings. The day the book no longer sells is the day a book is published that replaces it for convenience, readability, use of scriptural and source material, and breadth of coverage, and frankly sense of authority.

  54. SteveP–please send me a study sheet. Can I just say, “God created us from dust; the rest is commentary”? Fisher’s Fundamental Theorem–you mean we have to play chess too? I don’t know how, though I’m a killer checker player.
    And please don’t comment on my curves publicly.

  55. You are jumping from attributes of populations to attributes of individuals. Polymorphisms are population attributes. Brad’s pointing out that you have ancestors who provide no genetic combination still holds.

    I do not dispute the proposition that everyone has ancestors from whom they inherit no genetic information. I dispute the statistical proposition that a random sample of an ancestor from five hundred to several thousand years ago has no greater probability weighted similarity to one’s current genetic profile than a random individual selected from the contemporary world population. That is absurd.

    Migratory stability among other things entails a high degree of genetic similarity to the preponderance of those ancestors who provide no causal genetic inheritance at all.

  56. Why does “Mormon Doctrine” continue to sell?… In a word – it sells because people still buy it.

    Right. The fact that people still buy it disturbs me much more so than the fact that Elder McConkie wrote it.

    The day the book no longer sells is the day a book is published that replaces it for convenience, readability, use of scriptural and source material, and breadth of coverage, and frankly sense of authority.

    It won’t happen because nobody in the potential position to have their writings taken as seriously as Elder McConkie’s would be brash or reckless enough to actually do it (and correlation and the FP would never countenance it).

  57. interested and Mark D.,
    I never argued that human genetic variation isn’t real or doesn’t produce real consequences. (And Mark, point taken on the distinction between genetic similarity and causal genetic inheritance of phenotypic traits [I used the term "relatedness" to imply the former as opposed to the latter]). The point is that lay notions of race fail as proxies for biologically, anthropologically, and even epidemiologically relevant patterns of human genetic variation. The point about genetic (non)relatedness (as opposed to similarity) to distant ancestors was to underscore the fact that contemporary lay notions of race are even more inadequate as proxies (much less definitive markers) for lineage through a single individual.

    Brad says:”Biological relatedness is meaningless in the grand scheme of things.”. I just don’t think Church members see it this way. “Eternal Family” is everything. Biological terms like “Father”, “Son”, will not be meaningless in the hereafter. I think there will be many kinds of “groupings”(?)

    What I mean is that terms like father and son are accorded real, big-picture significance as a product of enacted Priesthood power as opposed to biological or genetic happenstance. Whether you are genetically related to Ephraim or Abraham or Adam is insignificant; whether you are sealed and bound to them through the power of the Priesthood is infinitely more significant.

  58. anonymousforthis says:

    Re: Mormon Doctrine.

    I think the Encyclopedia of Mormonism and True to the Faith are intended to be replacements for Mormon Doctrine.

    Regarding use by missionaries–when my parents entered the senior missionary training center more than 10 years ago, they were specifically instructed to use or even take with them Mormon Doctrine.

  59. I think Mark’s point is even stronger than he’s made it. It is not only a matter of stable migration on a wide scale, but pretty stable migration within specific areas. My father’s family moved, pretty much en bloc, from rural Roscommon County, Ireland to rural west virginia in the 1850′s. There was a great deal of ‘intermarrying’ within the community in WV…as one might imagine. But I’m also pretty sure that there was a great deal of intermarrying in the couple thousand years before that. Marriage, after all, tends to be a local activity–especially for the poor. In many parts of the world, people just didn’t move that much. (My grandmother, born in 1909, didn’t leave WV until she was in her 70′s; all but 5 years of that was spent in a 2 county area; the 5 years was when she was in the state tuberculosis sanitarium.) A good example of this was the ‘Cheddar Man,’ who was found (by DNA) to be related to a great many locals who lived 1000 years after him.

  60. Brad, this is a fantastic post! If you’re ever in Ontario Canada let me know, I’d love for you to do a fireside for us!!

    Thanks for the post!

  61. Coincidentally, in our family scripture study last night (we’re in PoGP), I ran across this doozy from Moses 7:22–

    22 And Enoch also beheld the residue of the people which were the sons of Adam; and they were a mixture of all the seed of Adam save it was the seed of Cain, for the seed of Cain were black, and had not place among them.

    I actually skipped this verse since it really took me off guard. I seem to remember a commentary on this verse, does anyone recall it? This verse seems to imply that the seed of Cain did not have place among them because they were black, rather than the fact that they were descendants of Cain. Any thoughts?

  62. Latter-day Guy says:

    Love this post. And can anyone honestly make the claim that it was insulting toward Elder McConkie without also trying to say that being a descendant of Cain is somehow shameful? Wasn’t the point of the post (in part) to contradict such a notion?

  63. Brad,

    I would be curious of you take on the following scriptures.

    D&C 86 vs 8-10

    & AOF # 10

    BY’s “believing blood”

  64. Aaron Brown says:

    Really good post, and one that I see myself sharing with others.

    AB

  65. bbell, I know you didn’t ask me, but I think Believing Blood is one of BY’s ideas that belongs in the dust bin, along with Adam/God and the Priesthood Ban.

  66. I think lineage was important to the peoples of the OT, NT, BofM, and D&C. And it is important today, in the sense that all of us are to be tied to our own ancestors through the sealing ordinances, and they to their descendents. But I think the importance of being a descendent of a particular lineage was implicitly diminished when Wilford Woodruff directed the ceasing of high official adoption/sealings–a practice that implied that particular lineage was so important that it was better to be sealed to a high Church leader than to one’s own progenitors.

    Some of the implications of past understandings of lineage cannot be defended with a straight face–e.g., the teachings of BY and others that anyone with a “drop” of black African “blood” (i.e., who had any such ancestor, no matter how distant) could not hold the priesthood. The odds are overwhelmingly against the existence of any Church member who did not have such ancestors.

  67. #47, Oh, Margaret, come on. Its a book published privately and the history of the text is not hidden. If you get to ban that one, which one do I get to ban? And so on…

    As far as the main point of the post, Brad, isnt the only thing here “Geneticists are surprised that there are fewer genes than they would have guessed controlling superficially observable differences between different populations that have been historically classified as ‘races’?” How is this even relevant to theology? Tangential in my estimation, as cultural baggage affects theology. OK, so the real title of this post should be “There is an end to bad pre-conceived notions in the face of hard evidence.” No surprises there.

    The fact is there are superficially observable differences between human populations, and those superficially observable differences are genetically controlled, and the Scriptures indicate the Lord intentionally uses those differences as a social engineer, cf. 2 Ne. 5:21-25. Now what people do with that is the problem, they jump to all sorts of conclusions that are not merited by the Scriptures to justify their pre-conceived notions and cultural baggage, which isnt cool.

    Race isnt a unique LDS problem, this is a problem for all religions. I dont see anything to suggest the LDS population in general is any more or less bigoted than any other population they are part of, and the LDS Church certainly doesnt encourage racism or bigotry.

    Brad, I dont know you well enough to guess at whether your inclusion of BRM in your original post was intended to be tongue-in-cheek or inflammatory. I will assume the former, and then rhetorically ask, “Was it worth it?”

    Your last paragraph is the one that interests me most, because that is where you see an overlap between genetics and theology. And your conclusions are just wishful thinking. Any anti-mormon familiar with OT covenant theology and the full set of Smith’s comments on race and lineage could tear your last paragraph to shreds.

    Brad, the fact is the Scriptures say things about race and lineage that are hard for us today to understand and live and deal with without being red-faced. Trying to gloss things over with the latest genetic finds and grandiose statements about the transcendency of the Priesthood doesnt change the unpleasantly difficult passages of Scripture that says God does treat people differently based upon lineage. And He still does. Sorry.

  68. FYI: If anyone wants to attend the screening of _Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons_ at the Sunstone Symposium in Washington DC, you can do so without registering for the rest of the symposium.
    We screen at 6:30 on SATURDAY, 31 JANUARY
    MARYMOUNT UNIVERSITY BALLSTON CENTER
    1000 N. GLEBE ROAD, ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA
    22207

    I think the cost is $8.00 .

    We are taking 100 copies of the DVD (which includes 100 minutes of special features) with us to sell.

  69. Margaret, I’ll buy one…but only if you autograph it!!! Hope to see you there.

  70. Regarding use by missionaries–when my parents entered the senior missionary training center more than 10 years ago, they were specifically instructed to use or even take with them Mormon Doctrine.

    I find that hard to believe. I went into the MTC almost twenty years ago, and the instructions were very clear that we were to bring a copy of the scriptures and four other books: Jesus the Christ, Articles of Faith, Gospel Principles, and A Marvelous Work and a Wonder. We were specifically instructed to leave all other books home.

  71. Anonymousfornow says:

    MarkD,

    I made a typo in my post, dropping a “not”–they were specifically instructed NOT to use or take with them Mormon Doctrine.

    My bad. Sorry about that.

  72. Maybe I am not looking in the right place, but I cannot find Mormon Doctrine on Deseret Book’s website, and on Amazon, all I see are 6 used copies (no new ones).

  73. #72 – David, maybe you’re looking in the right places. :)

  74. DavidH–you might be right. I just checked it out. (And I do know the website, and know I was on the right one, and know what I’ve seen there previously.) Is it possible that something quietly happened with the advent of 2009? WOW! This is rather wonderful.

    Extreme Dorito–maybe I don’t have to worry about banning _MoDoc_ anymore. Nonetheless, I would like you to ban all insipid LDS romances. And I’ll be happy to autograph your DVD. Do introduce yourself. I’d love to meet you.

  75. If, indeed, Mormon Doctrine has quietly been discontinued, I think it might be better to avoid making a big deal about it (e.g., SLTrib headlines). As much as I dislike the book, and as much as I agree that BRM had his faults, he was still a very good man, devoted to his family, his church, and his God. And, as I recall from Arrington’s adventures book, BRM was one of those who supported a candid, professional history of the Church. In addition, his son has pointed out that, when asked about the changing the policy, BRM wrote a lengthy memorandum explaining how the scriptures required that the priesthood be extended without regard to race. That is, publicly he fiercely supported the policy, but internally, when asked, he strongly supported a change. Personally, I would hope that reporters would not press the Church into a statement whether or not the discontinuance represents an official disavowal–it would be enough for me that the incorrect ideas are no longer being published.

  76. The book is still available at Seagull, and one source reports that, though DB is out of stock, the book will be reprinted in May. We shall see. Certainly, news coverage would be premature. But would it be wrong? I don’t agree with you, DavidH, though I still like you. I think this provides a wonderful opportunity to say that the LDS Church really does believe in continuing revelation, and that we learn “line upon line, precept upon precept.” I would love to see Elder McConkie’s memorandum. Many people “fiercely supported the policy” (including pretty much all of us Mormons who were old enough to realize it existed), because we believed our leaders wouldn’t uphold an unrighteous practice. In many ways, our support was a litmus test. But Elder McConkie’s book goes beyond supporting the policy. It perpetuates terrible myths. In other words, it continues traditions which would prevent us from being one in Christ. A read of 4th Nephi should remind us of the consequences of such a thing.

  77. molly bennion says:

    Margaret, How can we on the wrong side of the country Sat night get DVDs?

  78. Margaret: Can you sell copies online? I’d love to order one.

    Great post Brad. This is one I will refer to in an EQ lesson for sure.

  79. Any anti-mormon familiar with OT covenant theology and the full set of Smith’s comments on race and lineage could tear your last paragraph to shreds.

    So could a white supremacist. That doesn’t mean that I would need to take said tearing to shreds even remotely seriously, though, rooted as they would be in all manner of false doctrine.

    Brad, I dont know you well enough to guess at whether your inclusion of BRM in your original post was intended to be tongue-in-cheek or inflammatory. I will assume the former, and then rhetorically ask, “Was it worth it?”

    The inclusion of the original story was due to the fact of its actually having happened. The second is inflammatory only insofar as one takes the assigning of Cainite lineage to be an insult.

    Trying to gloss things over with the latest genetic finds and grandiose statements about the transcendency of the Priesthood doesnt change the unpleasantly difficult passages of Scripture that says God does treat people differently based upon lineage. And He still does. Sorry.

    Well golly, now I feel just plain sheepish for having waisted my time writing this silly thing to begin with. I guess what you’re saying is that “genetic finds and Grandiose statements” notwithstanding, not only do discrete categories like the seed of Cain from the seed of Seth actually exist, but treating them differently is a Godly behavior.

    I think I can speak for all present when I say, thank you for the enlightenment.

  80. I would love to see Elder McConkie’s memo too. This is the only summary of it that I have seen:

    According to Joseph F. McConkie, “President Kimball did not act in isolation on the matter. He freely sought the feelings of his counselors and the Quorum of the Twelve. In March of 1978 he invited any of the Twelve who desired to do so to make any expressions they desired to him in writing so that he could carefully consider them. Three members of that Quorum responded to this invitation, Elders Monson, Packer, and McConkie. Elder McConkie’s memo centered on the doctrinal basis for conferring the Melchizedek Priesthood on the Blacks. After the revelation was received he freely shared with his family the scriptural chain of thought that he had suggested to President Kimball. The power of it was in its simplicity. He simply saw things in passages of scriptures that the rest of us had conditioned ourselves not to see.

    “Dad reasoned that inherent in any passage of scripture that promised that the gospel would go to all mankind was the promise that it-–with all its blessings—must go to the Blacks,” records Joseph Fielding McConkie of his father. “The Third Article of Faith, for instance, states that we believe that through the atonement of Christ ‘all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel’ (italics added.) The word saved as used in this text, he said, meant to be exalted or obtain all the blessings of the celestial kingdom. To illustrate this point he quoted D&C 6:13, ‘If thou wilt do good, yea, and hold out faithful to the end, thou shalt be saved in the kingdom of God, which is the greatest of all the gifts of God; for there is no gift greater than the gift of salvation,’ and Joseph Smith’s statement that ‘Salvation consists in the glory, authority, majesty power and dominion which Jehovah possesses and in nothing else.’ (Lectures on Faith, 7:9; Italics added.)

    “He also reminded us that all those who accept the gospel become the seed of the family of Abraham and are entitled to all of the blessings of the gospel. Jehovah told Abraham that his seed would take the gospel and the ‘Priesthood unto all nations,’ and that ‘as many as receive this Gospel shall be called after thy name, and shall be accounted thy seed, and shall rise up and bless thee, as their father.’ This, of course, is the matter of being adopted into the house of Israel.

    “Jehovah also promised Abraham that when his literal seed took the message of salvation to ‘all nations,’ that then ‘shall all the families of the earth be blessed, even with the blessings of the Gospel, which are the blessings of salvation, even of life eternal.’ (Abraham. 2:9-11.)

    “In his funeral address for Elder McConkie, Elder Packer observed that ‘President Kimball has spoken in public of his gratitude to Elder McConkie for some special support he received in the days leading up to the revelation on the Priesthood.’ It would be hard to suppose that that ‘special help’ did not include the assurance of his gospel understanding as found in the doctrinal analysis just reviewed.”

    http://www.meridianmagazine.com/articles/030606hallelujahprint.html

  81. Thanks, the post made me smile.

  82. Molly, for now, I think I’ll just mail copies to people who want them. (Most will have to give me some money first. We’ll set a price tomorrow after we’ve viewed the entire thing on the plane to be sure it has no editorial glitches.) We will need to get set up to take paypal and credit cards; we haven’t done that yet. So if anyone wants to order, just to to the website (www.untoldstoryofblackmormons.com) and put the order on “more information.” That link goes directly to me. Or people can e-mail me personally. I’m at BYU–not hard to find.

  83. Eric Boysen says:

    I would welcome an edition of Mormon Doctrine that added some of Elder McConkie’s insights supporting the extension of the priesthood, etc. as described herin, “An Annotated Bruce” that went forward from the existing edition with material from his journals and post-1979 talks.

  84. Here is my view regarding the whole MD/BRM and priesthood ban explanations:
    I am far more concerned with how people BEHAVE than by how people THINK. How you TREAT people with a darker pigmentation is more important than what you BELIEVE about their pigmentation.
    ORTHOPRAXY is far more important than ORTHODOXY.

    Here are two extreme hypothetical examples:

    Meet Rulon. Rulon believes that BRM was right on about blacks and the priesthood. He believes that, if he is worthy, he will marry many wives during the Millenium. Rulon’s best friend is a Haitian kid named Petersen. Randy invited Petersen to Church, sat with him during the discussions, baptised him and ordained him to the priesthood. Randy is married to Megan and has never been married before marrying her. Randy treats Megan like gold and all the sisters in the ward’s Relief Society tell their husbands that they should be more like Randy because he spares no expense at making his wife comfortable.

    Meet Claude. Claude believes every President of the Church from Joseph to Thomas were Prophets of God but that the priesthood ban was the product of racism and God had nothing to do with it. Claude also believes that plural marriage was a superfluity at best and that not even Brigham Young will have more than one wife in the Celstial Kingdom. Claude’s sister Marlene is dating a black guy named Reggie and they are getting pretty serious. Claude thinks Marlene shouldn’t get involved with Reggie because Claude suspects that Reggie only likes Marlene because white women are a status symbols, or that Reggie might be trying to get “revenge on the whiteman” by taking a white woman. He also belives that having children with a black person will give their future children a social handicapp because of remaining white racism.
    He learned all about this at the UC. Claude is married to Angie. Last night, Angie finally had to find out why Claude never goes to bed until 12am. She cought him watching internet porn.

    Who do you want you your sister’s husband to be like? Obviously, these are two very extreme examples. Like I said, I care far more about ACTIONS than BELIEFS.

  85. I’m not a fan of MD.
    As for BRM,I never knew the man,and I don’t know much about him. But I suspect that Elder McConkie’s life mirrored his special witness of the Savior.
    How he treated the black people he may have known is far more important than how/why he felt that extra melanine got into their skin cells.

  86. Those are very important points, Pedro. Thanks.

  87. You know, a lot of people seem to think OD-2 was an apology statement or that the Church said they had done something wrong. As I read it, the Church never said they made a mistake, only that the Lord had revealed that the time had come to allow all worthy males to have the priesthood. The only apology came from BRM and that only in response to the idea that blacks would NEVER have the priesthood.

    I’d be interested to hear people’s perspectives on this. It may be that before 1978, race had some sort of meaning to the Lord that we aren’t privy to. It’s uncomfortable to think about but we don’t see the full picture as the Lord does.

    To be clear, whatever the reason, I don’t think it means we should consider people of another race any differently than we do somebody of our own race. As the Lord said, “I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.” I think the same is true of love.

  88. M,the following is my personal opinion. It is not the official teaching of the Church. Why the preisthood ban? I don’t know. But here is my uninspired translation of scripture.

    John 9:1-3
    1) And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was black and denied the priesthood.
    2) And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born black and denied priesthood?
    3) Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.

    We should never forget that life is a test(Abraham 3:24-26).
    I kinda stole this use of John 9 from something Bro. Gray once said at a presentation he gave at a FAIR conference.

  89. #84; Pedro, don’t you feel all of our ACTIONS come from our BELIEFS? The “Ban” was more of an Action than a Belief(?)

  90. Brad,

    So could a white supremacist. That doesn’t mean that I would need to take said tearing to shreds even remotely seriously, though, rooted as they would be in all manner of false doctrine.

    How about straw men? Being ignorant of the full body of Smith’s statements on, or perhaps deliberately misrepresenting him on, race and lineage and related matters in order to promote your personal theology is what makes your position weak. That is the point here, not whether anti-mormons or white supremacists teach false doctrine.

    The inclusion of the original story was due to the fact of its actually having happened. The second is inflammatory only insofar as one takes the assigning of Cainite lineage to be an insult.

    I take it then from your reply that I was wrong, and your intention was to be inflammatory.

    Well golly, now I feel just plain sheepish for having waisted my time writing this silly thing to begin with. I guess what you’re saying is that “genetic finds and Grandiose statements” notwithstanding, not only do discrete categories like the seed of Cain from the seed of Seth actually exist, but treating them differently is a Godly behavior.

    The Scriptures speak very, very clearly to matters of lineage, in both the ancient canon and modern. You want to pretend they dont? You want to take The Magic Eraser of Human Genome to them and apply some post-modernist emending to make it more palatable to the modern reader? Good luck with that.

    I think I can speak for all present when I say, thank you for the enlightenment.

    When sticking your head in the sand and using the latest genetic discoveries is the way you develop theology, then hats off to one so enlightened and so much at the vanguard of BCC popularity.

    For your next post here on BCC, Brad, why dont you collect all relevant statements by Smith on lineage, race and all that related stuff, and compile them and try to explain away all the bits that dont support your “just one more piece of evidence, incidentally, that the Priesthood Ban and ideas of irredeemably cursed lineages and races constituted departures from rather than continuities with Joseph’s thought.” Start with Abr. 1:26-27 and please do address HofC Vol 4 pages 446 and 502. If you need some additional help pulling together the relevant bits, do let me know, I’ll be happy to oblige.

  91. ED,
    Sigh…

    Inclined as I am to unceremoniously thrash your argument here, it occurs to me that I have no ungodly idea what it is you’re arguing. That I’m a jerk for lumping Elder McConkie in with the blacks? That I have a less fundamentalist approach to scriptural or prophetic infallibility than anti-Mormons do?

    One thing seems comparatively clear: you appear to be arguing that my assertion — that JSJ’s teaching that the effect of the reception of the Holy Ghost literally alters a person’s lineage by producing changes in the blood is inconsistent with a subsequent policy that states that people believed to come from certain lineages are irredeemably disqualified, notwithstanding their having received the HG, from access to the temple ordinances — is invalidated by Abr 1:26-27 and HC 4:446, 502.

    And that this assertion, along with my interest in exploring the relevance of scientific discovery for traditionally held paradigms and beliefs, constitute post-modernist emending, misrepresenting Joseph Smith, promoting personal theology, and offending your sensibilities.

    Mea Culpa. I promise that, notwithstanding my own errant ways, if you feel compelled to cling to more scripturally defensible ideas about the significance of race and lineage, in the tradition of Elder McConkie, no one here will pull that from your cold dead hands.

    Note to BCC readers: I hereby retract all arguments made here relevant to race and lineage, and as a representative of the head-in-the-sand vanguard of BCC popularity, encourage you all to heed the teachings and wisdom of Brother Dorito. Because, in case reading his comments here hasn’t made it obvious, he clearly understands these questions better than I or anyone else here.

  92. On a semi-related note, I thought the Doritos commercials during the Super Bowl were really funny. I’m pretty sure BRM loved Doritos, too, but that may just be pure Mormon folklore (or would that be personal theology?)

  93. James,
    Was that intended to be tongue-in-cheek or inflammatory. I will assume the former, and then rhetorically ask, “Was it worth it?”

  94. It was inflammatory only insofar as one finds those new Fiery Habenero Doritos to be too hot to handle.

  95. Brad,

    If you could stay on topic and not resort to personal attacks, perhaps you would find it easier to communicate with others.

    I am not a BRM apologist. Never have been, never will be. So, you are once again barking up the wrong tree. I have no interest in him. I do however have a strong interest in the Blacks and the Priesthood issue.

    The point I have been clearly making, is that your attempt to sanitize Smith’s role in the Priesthood Ban via your modern genetics argument is based on either a deliberately selective representation or clear ignorance on your part. Either way, your appeal to modern genetics does little, or nothing, to promote your position. And, you are invoking BRM in order to create controversy. Your position is weak, as is your argumentation style.

  96. Saying that my appeal to modern genetics does little or nothing for my position demonstrates either a deliberately selective representation or clear ignorance of my position on your part. This was not a post about Joseph Smith per se. The comment about his HG quote was an aside (quite literally parenthetical). Obviously there is historical and textual evidence both for and against his direct role in initiating the priesthood ban. My own personal view is that, while he definitely had more sophisticated and complex ideas about race, lineage, and priesthood than, say, BRM or even BY, it is still quite reasonable to posit that the close connection in Nauvoo between Masonry (a rigidly white-only institution) and the temple ordinances, along with the increasing association of the High Priesthood of the Temple with priesthood more generally created a kind of de-facto priesthood exclusion for blacks that was later more systematically codified and theologically rationalized. Which is to say, that despite the difficulty in making any clear cut, definitive arguments about the precise nature of Smith’s involvement in the inception of the ban, he clearly did play some role.

    I did not attempt to sanitize Smith’s role in the ban. I simply stated (though obviously not clearly enough) that among all the pieces of evidence for or against his responsibility for it, the teachings about the effect of the HG on gentile blood constitute a piece of evidence against the ban being continuous with Smith’s thinking.

    When you foreground parenthetical, tangential arguments as a tactic for ambushing and dismissing the totality of the post and all the actual arguments therein (none of which, btw, you actually engaged directly), then taking umbrage at my unwillingness to stay on topic or steer clear of personal attacks seems a bit like sour grapes.

  97. Brad,

    You do attempt to sanitize Smith’s role when you selectively present evidence forwarding a particular view, which are in sharp contrast to the view that you are actively attacking. It seems pretty clear you were deliberately drawing a sharp contrast between BRM and JS in your original post and using your genetic argument to support and forward your personal version of Smith’s view. You also repeatedly ignore requests to respond to relevant textual passages that were hostile to your position. Now, that is genuine ignore-ance. Ignoring what contradicts you.

    Sour grapes? Brad, in my original comment (#67) I directly address the central thesis, and then explicitly state the last paragraph as the thing that is of greatest interest to me. There is nothing of an ambush here. I make my opening position explicitly clear. How does that make it OK for you to run off topic and resort to personal attacks? Sorry, it doesnt.

  98. ED and Brad,
    You guys are talking past each other, not to.

    ED,
    It is well proven in scholarly studies that race is essentially social. Why it is often marked by some visible feature which can be passed on genetically to a following generation, the calculus that determines which features are significant tend to be chosen by the group making the racial distinction. For that matter, it is often the case that visible features that are not genetic make up racial difference (difference in clothing, language, or ritual have been cited as racial markers). To take the Book of Mormon example, we don’t know what actually happened when the skin of the Lamanites was darkened, we only know that some feature was identified as significant and the Nephites and Lamanites went with it (as they both had reasons to remain separate).

    Regarding Joseph Smith’s statements on race (in the Book of Abraham and elsewhere), they don’t always flow well into the priesthood ban. We don’t know original intent or extent. They were used as a justification for the ban, but ascribing that as their original intent is not necessary.

    Even with that in mind, what is obvious is that the 19th century discourse on race was different than the modern discourse. Race was a blanket term for all ethnic differences. The Irish were considered a different race by the British, for example. While Joseph Smith obviously understood race as significant, we have no way of discerning what lineages (aside from his own) he would have considered worthy or unworthy nor can we say with confidence that race meant the same thing to him that it does to us.

    Brad,
    The genetic denial of distinct races is nice and all, but so long as societies find race significant, it seems irrelevant. I think that this is fundamentally ED’s point and it isn’t a bad one.

  99. Bruce R. McConkie is a Descendant of Cain

    I’m so sad you didn’t:)

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