All God’s Critters: Some Thoughts on the Priesthood Restriction and Differing Opinions, Part II

PART II

As I state in the poem quoted in Part I of this series, I do believe that what we call “race” is a gift, but certainly not one which must include extra pain for those with extra melanin. Because humans will always find excuses for division, race offers a ready pretext and also a challenge. One of the most profound lessons of the Book of Mormon is that we as a community of Saints, with Christ as our center, can become one; that there need be no “ites” among us; that (as in IV Nephi) we can care so deeply about one another that we will not suffer any to go hungry or unsheltered.

The priesthood restriction was so solidly founded in the idea of a lineage-based curse that I personally cannot separate the policy itself from the philosophies which supported it. For me, it is an impossible paradox to have a God who is no respecter of persons, who told Peter “What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common” (Acts 11:9) but who—in what we call “the fullness of times”—would withhold the richest blessings of His Church from one group. (It is completely different to exclude one group from full gospel blessings than it is to assign one group—such as the Levites—to function as priests to the others.) We claim to have the “same organization as existed in the primitive church.” We claim to be the restored Church of Jesus Christ, as His Church was described in the New Testament. Thus, though missionaries in New Testament times did not initially preach to the Gentiles, that was changed as Christianity spread beyond its first center and the mandate was given: “Go ye into all the world” (Mark 16:15). There is, in fact, a rich history of early Christianity in Africa.

But why should the origin of the ban matter at all, given that the LDS Church was part of a racist nation and that most religions in the 19th Century had some racialist policies? Isn’t all that history merely a sad footnote in the LDS story which was resolved in 1978?

I would say that it is a mere footnote. The central tenet of our faith is the atonement, and nothing else compares in significance. But that footnote does matter because it still affects us, our missionary efforts, and the retention of converts. The folklore which undergirded the philosophy has lingered. As recently as 2009, an African missionary in the Congo had his Anglo companion ask Elder Holland, who was dedicating the country of Cameroon, if it was true that blacks had been “less valiant” than others in the pre-existence. Elder Holland denounced the idea with characteristic boldness, and said that everyone on Earth was valiant in the pre-mortal world—or they wouldn’t be here. Other families of African lineage, or parents of adopted black children, have also felt the sting of the folklore, and continue to deal with a view which casts them as cursed. There are still Mormons who believe such things, which leads them to unthinkingly denigrate people of color (many colors), and to behave in a way which President Hinckley called antithetical to being “a true disciple of Christ” (April Conference 2006). That’s why it matters.

As to the idea that the priesthood restriction was part of God’s way of following a particular schedule for spreading the gospel—I can’t see it. Not the God whose gospel is founded on charity. It is hard for me to imagine that “Go ye into all the world” included a proviso of exclusivity or restriction. Was the gospel restored in its fullness and then divvied out to the various nations, giving some only slivers and others the whole, glorious shebang? That is a mind-boggling concept. If indeed God has a timetable for when certain of His children will hear His word, we mortals are very capable of conducting wars and erecting bamboo or iron curtains to assist in the schedule. There is no need to deny gospel blessings to righteous people in order to accommodate an agenda of who comes first and who finishes last. (Apparently, the Chinese will run the last leg of the race anyway.) I believe that the repercussions of such a denial—the possibility for false doctrine to flourish and for generations to not only be denied but defamed—is inconsistent with godliness, especially when we consider that Joseph Smith restored not the Church of Moses, but of Jesus Christ. In fact, such a scenario sounds like the divisions described in IV Nephi, when the people who had been of one mind and one heart returned to their old traditions, polished their pride, and began to be divided once again into classes. These are the symptoms of forgetting Christ. As I interpret the scriptures, this is not the kind of program God would implement to prevent the gospel from reaching Africa until the perfect time in the latter days—and such a thought becomes ironic when we realize that Africa was first proselytized in the 1st Century A.D., the missionary effort led by Mark the Evangelist (author of the Book of Mark in the New Testament).

Perhaps even more instructive and relevant to this theme is the Book of Moses, which has provided some stumbling blocks to many concerned with race issues in the Church.

In Moses 7:8, God curses the LAND of Canaan with much heat, and consequently “a blackness” comes upon the people there—which makes perfect sense. We have tanning booths which accomplish the same thing as the “curse” of heat. In verse twelve, the prophet Enoch excludes the Canaanites from his missionary labors. Why would he not preach to them? Because of their blackness? Their pigment seems only incidental. However, they have just wiped out an entire people (vs. 7). Is it possible that Enoch, aware of their bloodlust, is simply being cautious? There is no verse suggesting that God forbade him from going there. It seems to have been Enoch’s choice. In fact, the Book of Mormon (Nephi 26:28) suggests that God likely would not have forbidden it:

“Behold, hath the Lord commanded any that they should not partake of his goodness? Behold I say unto you, Nay; but all men are privileged the one like unto the other, and none are forbidden.”

Next, we get an account of Enoch’s preaching, and the miraculous conversion of multitudes, who ultimately live in such harmony that they become a Zion society and are lifted up to Heaven. Others remain on earth—though one group is excluded because they are black (vs. 22). Again, this is phrased simply as a statement. God does not command their exclusion—which is what makes the next verses so important.

In verse 28, we encounter what Gene England called “the weeping God of Mormonism.” God weeps. Why? Because the residue of the people are “without affection, and they hate their own blood” (33). But only one group has been mentioned as being cast aside and excluded: the black group. Could it be that their treatment is the reason for Heaven’s tears?

This is just one interpretation of the scriptures, and again Darius Gray introduced me to it. I find it compelling.

If God weeps when some of His children exclude others for whatever reason, what do we learn about His expectations for us? If the sign of a Zion society is that there are “no poor among them” (vs. 18), how strongly are we being invited to help the poorest among us, many of whom live in sweltering heat and poverty, and happen to be black?

If we feel justified in diminishing our affection for anyone, in labeling them as less valiant than we; if we feel that God said it was okay to leave one group out while we enjoy our particular blessings, we are cursing ourselves. We are refusing the gifts we all gain as we nurture and care for one another and worship together in the holiest of places. We saying no to Zion, and Heaven weeps.

Comments

  1. Thank you, Margaret. I love your interpretations. I have a grandson who is of color and I can’t imagine loving him less than the others with lighter skin. Honestly, unless someone else says something, I never even thing about it. It boggles my mind to think that God would withhold blessings from one group of His children for something so inconsequential.

  2. To add to interpreting scriptures that are problematic and used to let the lingering racists beliefs remain we have to deal with the very straightforward “skin of blackness” for the Lamanites in the BoM. I have heard that it was done simply to “separate the people” so there wouldn’t be intermarriage” (hello interracial marriage problems) and that God could just have easily made the bad ones white and good ones black and other such justifications.

    I am partial to the interpretation of the BoM that says as a whole it provides a compelling narrative for how racism (and classism) destroy Zion. In this reading, Samuel the Lamanite becomes the key iconic and ironic figure. A man from the “cursed” people is the John the Baptist of the Americas. Later the whole thing ends in catastrophe when a genocidal war takes place. The only way that happens if through racist dehumanization of the enemy. Genocide can happen in no other way. I like to think that Mormon comes to this conclusion and edits and tells the whole history to show that two very hard to kill ideas are responsible for the destruction of the people – one is the racism “the curse of blackness” and the other is justification for high levels of wealth inequality. The tricky thing is that to tell this story he lets the “curse of blackness authored by God” idea be declared by a prophet -Nephi. The question is then is whether Nephi’s declaration is true or like BY and others in the modern era this was a mistake taught and accepted by people as true. Is Nephi an infallible narrator? I like to believe that Mormon represents this belief the way people came to understand it as declared by a prophet of God exactly to prove the point that when you believe something so wrong is prophetic truth its logical conclusion is genocide. This then explains why contradicting scriptures exist in the narrative: “let all come unto him black and white…”. It is the competing idea. The correct one. It requires rejecting Nephi’s other declaration. Maybe we as people have to really learn the lesson of the BoM – that we have to repudiate even some beliefs spoken in error by prophets. Like the people in the BoM, even when this teaching is “corrected” the ideas associated with it linger waiting to rear their ugly head again to cause pain, conflict, and help impede Zion. If I am comfortable saying that modern day prophets and apostles were wrong in believing and teaching such a fundamental belief I have decided it isn’t that much of a leap to say Nephi is subject to the same possibility. As someone here said, “I much rather believe in fallible prophet than an bigotted God.” Maybe that is one thing Mormon wanted to teach us.

  3. Fascinating approach, rah! I’ve long considered Nephi’s interpretation of the Lamanites’ “curse” (or rather, its mark) as being culturally based. And I think Marvin Perkins and John Tvedness (see blacklds.org) are often right in the interpretation that “black” as used in the BoM often refers to a spiritual state, not a physical one. I don’t agree with that interpretation 100%, but I do agree with much of it. I find it significant that it was Joseph Smith who made the revision changing “white and delightsome” to “pure and delightsome.” That wasn’t done after the priesthood revelation to make the BoM more politically correct.

  4. Kevin Barney says:

    Just a quick footnote on Mormon readings of scripture. Mormons historically have related the word Canaan to Cain, and have seen Canaanites as black. That frankly is absurd. The similar sound to the words is a linguistic coincidence. A more precise transliteration would be Kena’an (accent on second syllable), meaning “Westland,” and Qayin, meaning “smith.” The two words are completely unrelated. The Canaanites were not blacks, but the pre-Israelite inhabitants of what we call Palestine. The Hebrew language is actually a Canaanite dialect. When we read Canaanites as “Cainanites,” we make a really egregious error in understanding the scriptures and biblical history.

  5. I am a member of the Mormon church and find these types of discussions always intriguing. I think blacks and the Priesthood will always be something hard for us all to reconcile — just like any seeming injustice in our lives — we wonder WHY and sometimes can’t let it go and move forward.

    One point I want to make is that as a woman in the church, I do not have the authority of the Priesthood (I should clarify that I’m also single). While I could espouse that I have been denied some privileges and rights, I think if that’s the conclusion I’m coming to, I might not be asking the right questions.

    Why do I go to Church or maintain my religious beliefs? It’s to build a relationship with God and His son Jesus Christ. I have never felt constrained to build that relationship because I don’t have the Priesthood — as I’m sure was the case with blacks prior to 1978. God, as you said, is no respector of persons and that is really the most beautiful doctrine and promise — He will draw closer to us as we draw closer to Him.

  6. Kevin–thanks! We still have Moses 7:22, though, where the “seed of Cain” gets associated with blackness.
    Emiliewis–I agree that we need to move forward, and I absolutely agree with your celebration of the beauty of gospel promises. Sadly, during the years of the restriction we lost hundreds of African American members, including ALL descendants of the faithful African American LDS pioneers. It wasn’t just that they didn’t hold the priesthood, but that they were regarded as cursed. When I helped with a project interviewing elderly Black Utahns for a documentary titled _The Wisdom of Our Years_, one remarkable Baptist woman who had taken in many, many foster children spoke about instructing a foster son that the LDS Church regarded him as of less value than the whites. That was her perception, and she wanted him aware of it so he wouldn’t be hurt by his Mormon associations. So sad.

    A single woman once told Darius that she understood his concerns because she was as marginalized as blacks had been. Darius countered, “Has anyone ever told you that you are cursed for being single? That you are being punished for decisions you made before this life?” He felt there was a huge gap in their life experiences and didn’t like her equating them.

    He did indeed maintain his relationship with God, and continues to do it. But he, beyond anyone else I know, understands the enormous loss we as a Church experienced during those restrictive years. I’m afraid Darius was one of only a few Blacks who held on to the faith during that time. The sense of feeling unwelcome led to many, many finding other churches which would open their doors and arms in loving acceptance.

  7. This is fantastic Margaret – I love your last paragraph, as I am coming to understand the centrality of unity with regards to exaltation. How can we be united with God if we reject each other?

    Wish this could be read over the pulpit in every ward / branch this Sunday.

  8. Great thoughts! I’m eagerly awaiting the next section :)

  9. My son who’s now serving a mission asked me about the ban a few years ago I told him it was due to the racism of early church leaders. We shouldn’t judge them against our standards but that’s what it amounts to in today’s terms. It’s a shame the ban happened. I’m pretty sure God did not author it. It’s too bad church leaders like Harold B. Lee prevented overturning the ban earlier. Bottom line: The reason I’m a pudgy, pasty colored guy who loads up on carbs each Fall is because my ancestors evolved in Northern Europe. The reason some folks have more pigment to their skin is because their ancestors evolved in climes where they needed protection from the sun. Hopefully we’ve learned that it can be dangerous to blindly follow precedent.

  10. Neal–you are so lucky to have a son on a mission.

  11. #2 – I see the comments on race in the Book of Mormon in much the same way you do, rah – as cultural statements reflecting the racism of the time. I believe, based on the population statements in the Book of Mormon, that the Lamanites mixed with a much more populous, darker-skinned, indigenous people (it’s the only conclusion that makes sense to me, given what the book actually says), and that the teachings were the only way for Nephites to teach their children to stay away from “those wicked Lamanites”.

    I wrote a post about that almost four years ago entitled, “Reflections from a Mixed-Race Family” (http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com/2007/09/reflections-from-mixed-race-family.html). The following are my final paragraphs:
    —————————–
    “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?”

  12. I admit I haven’t read all the blogs and comments about this subject. But, of the things I have read, I haven’t come across the “what if.” Everyone seems to approach the subject from our “enlightened” 21st century perspectives on racism and the gospel of inclusion. But, face it, as bad as it was/is, racism was prominent everywhere even just 30 years ago. “What if” blacks had been given the opportunity to receive the priesthood from the beginning? Would the church have grown in the same way? Would the early members have struggled with it? Would they have accepted it? It seems they were already so busy dealing with oppression just for being Mormon, how would they have dealt with the added ‘burden’ of blacks in the priesthood? And while there have been plenty of very faithful and worthy blacks in the history of the church, maybe God was just waiting for the Church as a whole (and the world) to be in a place where allowing blacks to have the priesthood wouldn’t hinder the spiritual and numerical growth of the Church. I have to believe He has a much better view of the whole picture….

    My daughters are black. I don’t pretend to have any answers – these are only questions I’ve had.

  13. I’m beginning to think maybe the Priesthood Restriction had nothing to do with the blacks at all, but with the rest of us.

  14. @Mel: IMO, your idea does not deal with Blacks as people. But they are only around for a lesson from which Whites could learn. Other churches managed to have Black learders__why didn’t the Mormons?

  15. Mark Brown says:

    Mel, those are certainly common concerns, and while I also don’t have any certain answers, I’d like to offer the following observations.

    1. The policy on priesthood restriction didn’t come about until after the church had moved to Utah. During the worst of our persecutions in Kirtland, Missouri, and Nauvoo, we ordained black men and it was not an issue. This fact argues against the assumption that the ban was put in place to reduce oppression and persecution of Mormons.

    2. After the church was in Utah, a significant number of converts came from England and Scandinavia. These people did not have the same intensely retrograde attitudes about race that many Americans held during the 1850s and later. It is difficult to imagine the church’s growth being hindered if we had black men among our clergy.

    3. There are churches which never restricted people of African descent from full participation, and others which did away with restrictive policies a full 50 years before we did.

  16. Let me see if I can give my own summary:

    Q: Why didn’t God cause the ban to end well before 1978 (or prevent it from starting at all)?

    A: Don’t know.

    Q: How about a speculative motive to help me sleep at night? Something about God’s mysterious missionary timetables, or the reluctance of church leaders to listen and God’s desire to avoid seeming too pushy about it, or Brigham Young being a racist and God needing him but being unable to find an appropriate way to set him straight, or the political needs of the early church, or the need to create tension between the church and 1960’s liberals, or…?

    A: No. These sorts of speculations are simplistic, they offend a whole lot of people, and they will probably make you feel worse in the end.

    Question 3: Then how can we understand the history, reconcile ourselves with the individuals involved, heal as a church, deal with the doctrinal discrepancies, make everyone feel welcome, put this thing behind us?

    Answer 3: Can’t… yet… but there are smart, compassionate people devoting their lives to this. And time heals a lot of wounds. Hang in there.

  17. The big problem for me with this issue is if the leaders were wrong on such a huge issue, how can I follow the prophet now? How can I feel that I can follow his counsel when it could just as well prove to be wrong in 50 years. Why not just follow my own feelings?

  18. Margaret (or others):

    In your research, have you found people who are put off by the lack of non-white leaders in the church (non local leaders)? For a church that boasts more members outside the us, and a particularly strong presence in south America, I’m surprised that the head leaders of the church are all white – and always have been – with only uchtdorf as the token non-american.

  19. Rayray, I have found that the question come up consistently. I have loved attending the Atlanta ward which has a marvelous African American bishopric (and a black stake president, too) and fills the seats with faithful black Latter-day Saints. I’ve also loved the Anacostia ward in DC, which is similarly pigmented and inspiring.
    We are GETTING THERE. The gospel train is moving, just hasn’t yet arrived.

  20. re: Sally#17,

    You’ve hit on a fundamental dilemma. It’s the kind of dilemma that you’re going to have to work out for yourself. Keep in mind that it’s not always an either/or proposition. Also, it’s impossible to know what the church leaders know that you don’t know, but… that being said, your feelings are there for a reason. They are *you* sending yourself messages, and whether you’re right or wrong, you have to at least acknowledge what you feel and figure out what you want to do about it. Words from anyone else — even from church leaders — are filtered through their understanding and limitations, and even church leaders have been known to mistakenly think something is revelation when it is not. That doesn’t make them bad people, it just makes them human. So, when presented with a conflict between the church’s stance and your gut feelings, even if you don’t go with your gut feelings on a given issue, you have to acknowledge your feelings and figure out why the conflict is there. If, after examination, you decide the church’s stance isn’t so bad, or that the consequences aren’t particularly important, it won’t hurt to go with the church’s stance. If you conclude the opposite, your personal integrity will demand that you go with what you feel, and you won’t be happy any other way. You may be able to suppress your feelings, but that’s a sure road to future angst. Acting against your own promptings or convictions will tear you apart. It doesn’t mean that your feelings are always right, but because your feelings are *you*, it means that you’re going to have to work with them and act on them, even if in the end you decide that you were wrong. It’s ok to reverse course if that happens. Besides, if your feelings are strong, and you are humble about the process, and you’re really seeking guidance, a lot of the time you’ll be right.

  21. Craig M. says:

    Margaret, maybe this would be better for a “church hacker” post, but I’d be interested to hear your ideas (and those of others) on things local leaders can do to make our wards more racially inclusive and inviting. When I was a teenager I remember a stake youth fireside about pioneers where different youth talked about their family’s pioneers; one speaker was black and talked in part about some racism his family had experienced. A few years later at a stake priesthood meeting a black brother spoke on blacks in the church (though I can’t remember exactly what he said) and the stake president then made a few follow-up remarks on the same topic. I hope that simple efforts like these are being made in stakes across the country, especially in areas with diverse populations that generally aren’t reflected in church membership.

  22. Yes, there are all sorts of efforts being made for greater inclusion. I know only about the ones I’ve been involved in personally, but those have been beautifully supported by the Church, and they have gone very well. Perhaps our best tools for inclusion of Blacks–whether Mormon or not–are the various family history conferences/seminars. They tend to be spectacular, and provide a non-threatening context. Missionaries help African Americans learn how to trace their roots. When Darius and I participate in these conferences, we talk about these tools and also about Black pioneers–LDS and non-LDS. Darius talks about the Freedman Bank Project–a church-owned data base which will help millions of African Americans trace their families at least a few generations back–which he and Marie Taylor spearheaded. I often teach a little course about writing personal histories. The bits which my one-day students have produced have really moved me. I remember one who talked about his past, which included abject poverty (evocatively described) and drugs, and then talked about his future. He was in college, sustaining a 3.5 GPA. He knew where he had been and had a full vision of where he was going.
    There are huge challenges in retaining converts, and special difficulties in holding on to Black converts because (among other things) our worship style is different than what they’re generally used to. But there are so many with unshakable testimonies and complete devotion not only to the faith, but to their call to support others just entering the community. I heard once that it is more important for a person to feel they BELONG than it is that they BELIEVE. Belief will come as it’s nurtured. The sense of welcome and love provide the fertile ground for belief to become faith and then to grow from there.

  23. # 21: Craig,
    …”make our wards more racially inclusive and inviting”.
    This sounds so distant to me. A day hardly goes by I don’t have Black people in my house. Yesterday, while reading this post, there was a five year old Black boy sitting on my floor to get his shoe tied by me. I didn’t even know his name. Just a friend of my granddaughter out of school for the summer. It’s funny for me to hear my totally White/Swede granddaughter singing these old jump-rope songs.

  24. Craig M. says:

    The family history tools are great – not just for outreach but as an end in themselves.

    Bob, I’m not sure I understand exactly what you mean by your comment. I don’t doubt that many members of the church have great relationships with people of every race, but my experience is that the membership of our congregations don’t reflect that. For example, I went to a high school that was split about 60/40 white/black, but my ward was 95%+ white. I’m sure there are a lot of reasons for that, but there must be much more that can be done to ensure that everyone feels welcome and comfortable at church.

  25. Have to agree that Bob’s comment, while surely well-meaning, sounds a little odd. What are you really saying, Bob? That black people whose experiences include not feeling that their wards are inclusive and inviting are just making that up? I know that’s not what you meant to say at all, but that’s the function of your comment.

    Whether it be women’s issues, or race issues, if a majority’s first reaction to any criticism from the minority is to go on in effusive defensiveness about how “I am not [sexist/racist/etc]!!” that doesn’t help the minority at all. (of course, women aren’t actually a minority, numbers-wise, but you know what I mean) What would help the minority group is less self-absorbtion from the majority. Being absorbed in self-defense–however true or well-intentioned–is the opposite of that.

  26. Tim #16 Sorry. You and I will have to agree to disagree. I’m simple minded. When an organization that has previously allowed all groups to participate fully suddenly prohibits some people from full participation based on race, I call that racist. When my 15 year old asks me about it, that’s my answer. Teenagers are pretty good at seeing a line of BS but if given the short, honest answer they are happy and move on. I understand the most current semi official church response to the ban is Elder Holland’s “we don’t know” from the PBS interview. That’s good and should be the position taught in church. The main thing we can all do as parents and grandparents is forcefully correct anyone parroting the old wives tales whenever we hear them.

    Sally #17 Your point is well taken and most of us have to reconcile this sometime. I believe church leaders are not infallible and while they are good, well meaning people they can and do make mistakes. They are going through this mortal experience just like we are. The best thing we can do is cut them some slack. Our church is still young and as someone said, “births are messy.” Our doctrine and practices are becoming more settled. The good news is that our current leaders seem to be much more circumspect in what they teach. They are not speculating about the age of the earth or the premortal order of things.

    I wish you God’s blessing in your journey. This is the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

  27. #24-25:
    Boy__Cynthia, talk about ” effusive defensiveness”.
    All I am saying is you do not have to wait for your Ward to be the place to interact with Blacks. You can have Black friends in your home anytime. I’ve had Black friends, my kids had Black friends, and my grandkids have Black friends__all outside the Church.
    I have nothing to prove in how I relate to Black people. But yes, I think a lot of Mormons do.

  28. Bob–you might be missing the point. I know of at least one black person (a returned missionary) who became so troubled by always being “the black one” in her ward (and she was sometimes literally THE BLACK ONE, that it became painful to attend. I don’t know everything which was happening in her life, but when a high councilman told a racist joke as part of his talk, she quit attending. I don’t want to hold accuse her of having too little faith to hold on. She has her own story and I won’t judge it.
    I would guess that just about everyone who reads or contributes to this blog has black friends. It’s an old cliche. “Some of my best friends are black.” The issue isn’t that our only social outlet is our ward, but that we want our wards to have more diversity. My oldst daughter left Utah because of the lack of diversity in her ward and neighborhood. She did not want to raise her family in an all-white area. She now lives in Indiana and loves it.

  29. #28: Magaret,
    I hope I am not missing the point, only may have a different one(?)
    We do agree, history has not been kind to the Blacks. We can do better__we should do better.

  30. ByTheRules says:

    Neal,

    You have endorsed a repetitive thread in these comments and I wonder if you, or others, could clarify for me somewhat.

    “The main thing we can all do as parents and grandparents is forcefully correct anyone parroting the old wives tales whenever we hear them.”

    Do you mean that we should forcefully correct them from the position that ‘we don’t know”; or rather forcefully correct them from the position that they are wrong.

    I am more persuaded by the former position, and doing so in a loving, rather than forceful, manner. Until we “know”, I also hesitate speaking ill of current, former, or ancient servants of the Lord.

    Also, in addition to the issue of women / priesthood; can you apply your reasoning to the active prohibition on missionary work in Israel? There is a whole “race” of Jews who are being actively prohibited from hearing the entire gospel message, not just a prohibition on priesthood. (Yes, I know that we allow Jews to convert, but that is outside the ongoing missionary prohibition I refer to.)

  31. BTR, at the absolute least, we need to forcefully repudiate the justifications that were used. That, I believe, is crystal clear from everything said by all the apostles and Prophets since 1978. That much I think we can say we know, even if we are doing our best to understand exactly how God viewed the ban itself. In those situations (or when a member refers to ANY black person using a disgusting racial term), I believe it absolutely is our duty to be as forceful as necessary – which can be done lovingly and meekly, as well. President Hinckley didn’t beat around the bush, and neither did Elder McConkie. Neither should we.

    For example, I heard a few years ago someone say that the Australian aborigines had been less valiant in the pre-mortal life than others. I corrected that person immediately, directly and forcefully – but I didn’t raise my voice, and I didn’t condemn in any way. I summarized Elder McConkie’s and Elder Holland’s words and said we have an obligation to accept those prophetic words and let go of the incorrect reasons that used to be accepted.

    As to the the prohibition on missionary work in Israel, there is a huge difference between a church-initiated ban and government-initiated restrictions. The same can be said of China and other countries, so it really is a completely different discussion than the ban.

  32. Hi ByTheRules, I certainly mean no offense. However I am very comfortable with the idea of “forceful correction.” I am also comfortable saying I know that Blacks were not less noble in the pre-existence and that I know being black is not the result of a curse. President McKay said that the priesthood ban was an administrative practice not doctrine. There was no “thus saith the Lord.” I am also perfectly comfortable saying church leaders are human and make mistakes. Most of them are happy to admit this. I also have no problem being a card carrying, stand sitting member (hopefully back in the Primary soon) as a result of these beliefs.

    I don’t believe the church’s agreement not to proselytize in Israel in return for permission to send students to the BYU Jerusalem Center is a valid comparison to the preisthood ban. If a Jew wants to join the church and hold the priesthood, they are welcome to.

  33. Joseph Smith supposedly ordained a black man to the priesthood in his lifetime (Elijiah Abel) and a bad experience between Brigham Young and another black person caused him to revoke the priesthood from the african americans. Personal opinion of the Prophet or General Authorities can sometimes prevail over God’s personal will. Correct me if I’m wrong.

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