Most of us have now had lesson #30 in Gospel Doctrine: “God is No Respecter of Persons.” The young man I team-teach with taught it three weeks ago, and I watched, mostly in silence. MOSTLY. My students know what I do, so the question came up, directed to me: “Why was there a priesthood restriction?” I was actually shocked when a fifteen-year-old asked, “Was it because of Cain?” I was thinking the kids were learning other things, not the same garbage I learned at their age. It tells me we haven’t cleaned up adequately.
The manual instructs us to list “June 8, 1978″ on the board as our attention-getting activity, and then to talk about revelation. Eventually, we get to the real point of the lesson–the vision given to Peter ending with his new understanding that God is no respecter of persons–and “what God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.”
I do not believe in immediate inoculation, as some of my BCC friends do, but am available for small injections upon request. Therefore, I did not give a history of the issue in my Sunday school class. I did tell the fifteen-year-old that the Curse of Cain was among the many things which must NOT be taught. I said that the official Church position is “We don’t know.” Say anything else, I told my class, and you are speculating.
I have my own beliefs about the restriction, and anyone familiar with my work already knows them. But I respect the tender plants that my students are. When Bruce and I were in the MTC and the missionaries in my branch wanted to see Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons, I said I’d be happy to show it to them–after their missions. And I’ve followed through on that. Many of those I knew in the MTC have now seen the documentary. When the issue came up on their missions (not all that much in Africa), I did send some information, but always within a faithful context, recognizing that these young men and women are called to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, not every footnote of LDS Church history. I sent only what would be useful to them, and always included President Hinckley’s talk from April 2006: “How can any man holding the Melchizedek priesthood arrogantly assume that he is eligible for that priesthood but that another, who lives a righteous life but whose skin is of a different color, is ineligible?”
What I want to know is this: How did the lesson go in your SS class? Sadly, I’ve heard of some disasters. It seems that reminding folks of OD2 also recalls the priesthood restriction to their minds, and they want to offer their own explanations. If Lesson 30 went well in your ward, please report on what made it work.
If you offer some new speculation on why there was a restriction, I authorize Steve to delete your comment immediately. (I say this lovingly and with a smile, but don’t think I’m joking.)