From Armand Mauss

We’re delighted to have a brief response to the Washington Post article from Dr. Armand Mauss, whose work on race in the Mormon church must be considered definitive. His book on the subject, All Abraham’s Children, is the most thorough treatment of the topic we have, and, “an important work on Mormon race relations and a significant statement of Mormon intellectual and cultural history.” (Ron Walker)

Professor Bott seems to be a little behind in his reading on the history and doctrine regarding black members of the Church. He seems unaware of any of the scholarship on this topic during the past 45 years or more. Otherwise he would know that (1) the references that he cites from the Pearl of Great Price and other scriptures have the meaning he attributes to them ONLY if the reader already believes the folklore that Bott is proposing and elaborating – that is, only if one reads them through the lens of that folklore; (2) numerous spokesmen from LDS Public Affairs, plus many other official statements in recent decades, have denied that such folklore was ever official doctrine: (3) despite such folklore (in versions common to American history more generally), Joseph Smith ordained at least a few African Americans to the priesthood; (4) there is no record of any revelation to any prophet denying the priesthood to people of black African ancestry; and last, but not least (5) this kind of armchair theologizing done by well-meaning, but ill-informed LDS religion teachers like Bott, does enormous damage to the public image of the Church in a time when the Church is trying hard to overcome its historic association with that very kind of folklore. That Brother Bott has a reputation as a skillful and inspiring teacher is not very reassuring if his teaching includes the kind of racist nonsense he was purveying in the Washington Post on Tuesday.

See also Mauss’ excellent article from blacklds.org.

Comments

  1. amen

  2. Thank goodness for saints like Armand Mauss.

  3. >Thank goodness for saints like Armand Mauss.

    Agree, of course, but as I said on the other thread, only action from the top will stop this.

  4. This seems like a case where BYU’s relative freedom in dealing with unwanted professors might come in handy. That sword can cut both ways.

  5. I took a class from Bott, and would like to state for the record that his lack of critical thinking skills (made obvious during that class) is not typical of the BYU Religion Department. He’s wildly popular because he acts as a counselor to troubled students, because he hands out A’s like candy, and because he tells good stories. It’s unfortunate that he was the one interviewed for this article.

  6. Bro. Jones says:

    #4 One would hope the sword cuts both ways, but I’m pretty skeptical it will here.

  7. Sharee Hughes says:

    Randy Bott does not deserve to be teaching at BYU. What he said was totally out of line. I heard on the news last night that some BYU students have planned a protest for today. Let’s hope the administraton take the hint and fires Bott. His remarks showed a bigotry that should not be a part of any decent person, let alone an LDS religon professor.

  8. Hooray for Armand Mauss!

  9. Yes, I think Bott’s view is a fringe view among the devout. Yes it is not the mainstream, but it is not a rare view, either, if my experience in the LDS church is an predictor. Yes it was often spoken of obliquely and in hushes, but I also heard it aired in church settings like Elders Quorum and Sunday School. Yes it was more often by people of an older generation than me (X), but I heard it in EQ, too, from people of my generation much more devout than me.

    Wouldn’t it be tidy to just attribute this view to (albeit sincere) fanatics of folklore as Mauss does. It cuts much deeper than that. It’s a subject this still deserves high profile public scrutiny, regardless of the so-called doctrinal vetting the view has had in the last 30 years.

  10. I’m impressed by how people like Armand Mauss, and Mike Parker on his post last night, and a few others, have been as tactful toward the man as possible while still saying what is necessary to refute his harmful statements and point to the gulf between them and what the Church actually teaches. My instinct is to be more like other commenters here and elsewhere, or worse — but I do admire those who can keep personalities to a minimum and put the focus where it belongs, on correcting the false teachings.

  11. Kevin Barney says:

    Thanks for this, Armand.

  12. Didn’t Mike Parker at the FAIR blog quote or paraphrase large portions of Armand Mauss’s piece from blacklds.org? It seems there should have been some attribution there, even if it’s just a blog.

    As to Randy Bott, I agree with Ardis that tact and gentleness are good, but the University and the Church need to make it clear that he does not speak for them. And the clearest way to make that statement is to end his association with the University. He’s in his 67th year, so let him retire if he will–but have him retire this week, not at the end of the semester. And make it clear that he’s retiring to avoid being terminated–the usual “early retirement” dance that employers and employees use to end troubled relationships.

  13. It is more than a little awkward that the forum speaker at BYU on Tuesday is African-American. And not LDS. And his message was about believing in God and acting in fairness. Yowzers. Terrible timing indeed.

  14. I think Bott’s claims show a few things:

    1. Despite the desires of many who want to dismiss these claims as racist folklore, Bott shows that these beliefs are still very prevalent in Mormon culture–enough so that I am sure Bott felt his answers were representative of most Mormons.

    2. The Church has utterly failed in adequately responding to present racism in the Church. (I think this was pretty clear when Hinckley was surprised when claims of racism were brought to his attention a decade ago.)

    3. Despite attempts by Holland and a few others, as long as a racist practice is defended as divinely inspired the vacuum of justifications for the practice will inevitably be filled with racist speculation.

  15. Kevin Barney says:

    Mark B. Mike’s piece was based on a handout he’s used in his adult continuing education (IE sort of Institute) classes for years. I’m sure it was influenced by Armand’s thinking (as most of us are), since the blacklds article originated as a conference address Armand gave at FAIR (and blacklds is a FAIR sister-site). I’m confident he was not intentionally plagiarizing Armand.

  16. I love starting my day by reading wise words from Armand Mauss. I link his blacklds article frequently as one of the best and most succinct answers to hard questions I’ve read.

  17. Thanks Kevin.

  18. Katie Blakesley says:

    Thank you for posting this, and thanks to Armand Mauss for writing it. I think he should send it to the Washington Post if he hasn’t already. I thought the comments were appalling. My sister (in Provo) called last week to tell me about a religion professor who recently taught that interracial marriage was against church teachings. She was appalled and plans to talk to administration about it. It is terrible that a few who teach nonsense are allowed to continue teaching.

  19. Katie Blakesley says:

    Or at least to continue teaching things that are not in line with church doctrine.

  20. Finally went ahead and picked up Mauss’ All Abraham’s Children from Amazon. I’m woefully unread in my Mauss. Looking forward to rectifying that.

  21. Thanks for this response. It’s just the right level of reaction.

    I was appalled when I read Prof. Bott’s statements to the WaPo yesterday. My first thought was he had somehow been misquoted. Apparently not. All of this racist folklore has been debunked a long time ago. The fact that a BYU professor of religion would publicly re-bunk it is very disheartening.

    I’d like to see Professor Bott publicly reprimanded and fired. I think that would send the right message about not only the Church’s stance on race, but about lack of academic rigor in professional educators at a Church university. I don’t complain about my tithing money supporting BYU, but if the Church fails to act, I just might start.

  22. This has got to be causing a poopstorm at church headquarters. I hope anyway. Please, if anyone there or in the ASB reads this blog, fire this guy right now. Much better BYU employees have been let go for less. If a bright new teacher can be canned for not publishing enough before the third or seventh year reviews, certainly you can give a pink slip for dragging the good name of the church and everyone affiliated with it through the mud.

  23. 19: things that are not in line with church doctrine.

    21: All of this racist folklore has been debunked a long time ago.

    I guess it would be easier to dismiss Bott’s views as apostate folklore than to own up to the church’s institutional history.

  24. Thanks to great scholars like Armand Mauss, who can help us move away from the racism of the past. If I had my wish, every LDS member’s personal library would be emptied out of most LDS books written before 1978. Sadly, I cringe to think how many still have Alvin R Dyer or Mormon Doctrine still sitting on those shelves.

  25. What Ardis said. I appreciate the kindness, yet firm correction Dr Mauss (and others) exhibit. I’m grateful to see this being addressed directly, and hope (perhaps futilely) to hear something from the CoB as well.

  26. Thank you, Armand!

  27. I have a difficult time understanding why you do not consider the priesthood ban to be doctrine. There are hundreds of references by apostles, church presidents, and other general authorities that affirm Bott’s interpretation of the Pearl of Great Price.

    Would you consider the church’s current stand against homosexuality simply a policy, or a statement of doctrine. If a doctrine, then I would be interested to hear how one could create a definition for “doctrine” that would not also include the priesthood ban, and why a revelation was required to change folklore. Wouldn’t a talk in conference and a letter to the pulpit suffice? Other changes in policies have not been afforded a spot in the D&C. Is that not evidence that the teaching was in fact doctrine? The teaching is deplorable, but Bott didn’t say anything that hasn’t been repeated in general conference and given the stamp of approval by the First Presidency.

  28. I hope I made it clear enough in a post on my own new little blog, last night, that I strongly disapprove of the remarks attributed to Professor Bott by the Washington Post:

    http://dcpsicetnon.blogspot.com/

    That may allow me to suggest that perhaps we shouldn’t be so hasty in calling for his head. There’s no sign of malice or hate in what he’s quoted as saying. Moreover, there’s no guarantee that what he said has been accurately represented.

    He’s apparently now claiming that the Post reporter distorted his comments. Whether that’s true or not, I can’t judge. But, based on my own experiences with reporters over the past quarter of a century, I think it’s entirely plausible, even probable, that he’s telling the truth. (And I said so in my blog entry last night.)

    Let’s please not forget that charity is particularly important and relevant — and perhaps only meaningful — in situations where we’re inclined to feel that it’s strictly undeserved

  29. Rameumptom (#24) I assume you don’t mean to empty our shelves of the Book of Mormon – first published 1830. I for one am happy to have Mormon Doctrine, Journal of Discourses, the Communist Manifesto, Jonathon Livingston Seagull, and many other books I do not entirely agree with sitting on my shelf.

  30. Oliver, read the linked article

  31. @Dan Peterson

    If you look at Bott’s own Q&A blog, you’ll see the same position there as well. The WaPo didn’t distort his views, unfortunately.

  32. #28: “That may allow me to suggest that perhaps we shouldn’t be so hasty in calling for his head. There’s no sign of malice or hate in what he’s quoted as saying.”

    To clarify my stance, I’d be completely satisfied if the Church stops short of decapitation and merely fires Prof. Bott.

    (Assuming that the WaPo article quoted his remarks somewhat accurately–a fair point, although with how extensive the quotation was, it’s hard to imagine they could have got it that wrong.)

  33. Trevor, my comment was in response to the editorial above and to the linked article, which I read. I asked because neither writer provided an answer to my questions.

  34. Addressing Daniel C. Peterson re his blog post…

    Mr. Peterson, I appreciate your candor, especially when you concede that this whole issue *IS* discriminatory.

    The priesthood ban was racist, and the LDS Church was and continues to be racist. It denies equal treatment of races.

    Take all the folklore combined, and I think none are as racist as the explicit teaching that a loving, universal God commanded or permitted “his one true church” to act in this way. The LDS Church continues to teach, as you affirm here, that the buck stops with God, not with the leaders of the Church.

    I’m pleased to see that you at least acknowledge the racism therein.

  35. 28, Dan Peterson,

    I appreciate your call for charity and cool heads. However, as Tervor pointed out in comment 31, Br. Bott’s attempt to frame this an a hackjob by a reporter is a transparent lie. He’s been writing this on an public blog for years, we can’t now start feigning surprise. Instead, we need to ask ourselves a difficult and unpleasant question: How is it possible for a man whose views are this egregious to be under our radar for so long?

    He has done a lot of harm, not so much with this recent event, but in the decades he has been transmitting his views to another generation of students and missionaries. I don’t think it is a stretch at all to say that his damage far exceeds whatever might have been done by Cecelia Konchar Farr. And look how we treated her.

  36. Mark Brown…

    Prof. Bott *hasn’t* been flying under the radar for so long. What he said is commonly said in LDS Circles, Sunday School Classes, and all over the web on a daily basis. These racist rationales for the ban are extremely common.

    To hoist Prof. Bott onto a petard now is to make him a scapegoat for the LDS Church, which more racist than anything Bott said, claims that the ban has its source in God. That’s pure racist theology. You can skewer Bott, but the real ire should be directed to the Church.

    Nothing less than sincere repentance on the part of the Church suffices here. Prof. Bott merely shows that trying to sweep this quietly under the rug without facing it directly hasn’t worked. The attempt itself is racist.

  37. Katie, #18 – that is not surprising considering that according to the current Aaronic Preisthood #3 manual, “Choosing an Eternal Companion” lesson, we still teach that interracial marriage is not desirable:

    “Compare the results of the vote with the following statement by President Spencer W. Kimball. Have a young man read it.

    ‘We recommend that people marry those who are of the same racial background generally, and of somewhat the same economic and social and educational background (some of those are not an absolute necessity, but preferred), and above all, the same religious background, without question’ (“Marriage and Divorce,” in 1976 Devotional Speeches of the Year [Provo: Brigham Young University Press, 1977], p. 144).”

  38. Timothy, that was my point, and why I said we need to ask ourselves some unpleasant questions.

    As I have already said elsewhere, if Bott is made the whipping boy and he alone is made to carry the weight for this disaster, it would be an undersirable outcome. We all bear some collective responsibility for this mess, both as individual members and as an institution.

  39. Timothy,

    What he said is commonly said in LDS Circles, Sunday School Classes

    The thing is, it’s not. At least, not in my experience. I admit that I was really young in 1978, and perhaps it was common pre-78 (although my parents say it wasn’t). As I’ve said elsewhere, this is the first time in my lifetime I’ve heard such assertions made as assertions of fact, as opposed to relating discredited ideas.

    Which is not to say it isn’t horrible, and not to say that it doesn’t happen, and not to say it shouldn’t be repudiated. But I’m not convinced that it’s common which, unless I’m radically misreading you, you seem to believe it is.

  40. Sam Brunson…

    Here’s one recent example, posted by goldengirl on your own Times And Seasons blog post, comment 35:

    “There is certainly Biblical precedence for God having timetables, keeping certain groups of people from some of the privileges of the gospel, i.e. first Jews, then Gentiles, Levites only to administer the priesthood. While channel surfing on TV, I heard a minister of another Christian faith make this statement (paraphrased), “God is entitled to His secrets and mysteries. He is God and He can do that, but once He reveals his word to us, we are responsible to act upon it”, and then he turned to the Bible. I was happy to know that he felt this way. When reading this post and comments, this minister’s remarks came back to me. Maybe this (African americans banned from the priesthood) is one of those occasions where God was keeping silent secrets because of knowledge that we didn’t have at the time, and the only honest response we could give would be, “I don’t know”. Professor Bott might have been better off to say he didn’t know. What seems important to me is how we know act on what we know now.”

  41. Of course we cannot say right away whether the WP quoted him correctly or not, but since his own blog espouses the exact same ideas, it’s hard to say that his words were distorted:

    Know Your Religion: Blacks and the Priesthood

  42. The church needs to publicly, unequivocally state that withholding the priesthood of God from black males was not doctrinal and acknowledge that it was not of God. This is the first important step in the repentance process that we collectively, desperately need to undertake. Firing Bott is a good solution if you want a head for PR purposes. We don’t need a head, we collectively need a broken heart and a contrite spirit. So very many disciples of Christ have been and are broken hearted over the issue of race. The church has been prepared to follow its leaders in breaking with the traditions of our fathers as they pertain to withholding the blessings of the restoration from blacks. Without our leaders’ vision we perish.

  43. Mathew: Amen, amen. Beautifully said. This needs to come from higher up.

  44. Although Prof. Bott’s comments are woefully racist, he should bot be made the scapegoat for ideas which are more common than to himself alone. The institutional church should confront this and call on members to examine their own false beliefs.

    An inquiry should be made, however, into how Prof. Bott stays abreast in his field of study. His apparent lack of critical thinking is disturbing. But, if it is also accompanied by a lack of familiarity with scholarly uncorrelated work on the church, he is clearly not doing his job as a professor.

    I stand up my engineering education from BYU against any other in the country (and I work with a diverse set), and I hope this sort of thing is limited to the Religion Department.

  45. But firing Bott isn’t a mutually exclusive alternative with the Church taking a strong, unequivocal stance. It’s not even inconsistent. In fact, it’s a step in the right direction.

    Look, even if this sort of thing has been festering within the ranks of the Church for a while, I’m still dumbfounded that a Professor of Religion would feel it is appropriate to discuss these theories with a member of the national news media. One, he has to know that he doesn’t speak for the Church, or for BYU, and moderate his comments appropriately. Two, surely someone who has spent his academic career teaching religion would at least be aware of the fact that his views are controversial and not universally accepted.

    Yes, I’m in favor of the Church as a whole addressing this issue more responsibly. I’m also in favor of firing Professor Bott.

    Unless it turns out that the Church doesn’t ever fire BYU professors who take views that are controversial or inconsistent with official Church doctrine. Oh, wait, it does? Well, okay then.

  46. Folklore? What. The. Heck.?

    The only the thing the “scholarship during the past 45 years or more” has done is to reveal just what racists church leaders were. They held their views as doctrine. If it’s not the current doctrine, fine. Just say, “Hey, this is what we believe now.” But let’s not call past doctrine “folklore.”

    If all that was “folklore” why was a “revelation” from the Lord needed to change folklorish beliefs?

    This truly boggles the mind.

  47. I’m shouting an amen to Mathew’s comment as well. Our collective repentance is long overdue.

  48. So, we expect a Religion Professor at BYU to be current on historical scholarship in order to teach LDS religion?

    Should that scholarship include a thorough understanding of the many instances in which leaders of the LDS Church have condemned historical scholarship?

  49. Christian J says:

    I think this was Bott’s Colonel Jessup moment. Tired of playing PC to the liberal media, he couldn’t pass up the chance to set the world straight on this issue. His indiscretion in doing so suggests that he very likely thinks that Church leadership secretly agrees with him.

  50. Quickmere Graham says:

    I don’t think he needs to be fired. Why make him the scapegoat for a more pervasive and deeper problem? That is, I suspect he felt he was representing a legitimate LDS position that has been discussed in the past despite the better scholarship to the contrary. Moreover, I doubt there has been much encouragement (and perhaps discouragement) by his past administrators (not to indict the present ones) regarding keeping in touch with outside research. He holds a degree, not in any religious field, but in education. There must be minimal to no interaction with broader religious studies or theology of any kind based largely on the way BYU handles the religion department, which isn’t really a religious department (certainly not in the broader academic sense) but more of a glorified CES Institute type model. Firing him wouldn’t solve the problem, and it would be blaming him for basically doing much of what others have done.

  51. I’m confused why people think that holding the Church accountable somehow means we should stop short of holding Professor Bott accountable.

    Is this just a function of Professor Bott’s apparent popularity. I’m not a BYU alum, so I’m just asking.

    I know my friends who went to BYU all used to tell me that the Religion classes there were some of the most difficult classes they took and that they were just as academic as the rest of their coursework. I believed them, so I assumed that the professors must be held to some standard of rigor, just as you would expect at the university level. That was part of why I was so shocked to read Professor Bott’s comments.

  52. Timothy 48 – wonderful, amen & still laughing in New Mexico -

  53. #50: “Firing him wouldn’t solve the problem, and it would be blaming him for basically doing much of what others have done.”

    Well, you have to start somewhere. And this is as good an opportunity as any, and better than most.

    I think the consequences of not firing him are much worse that the consequences of firing.

  54. Most of the claims here regarding doctrine vs. folklore are confusing the fact of the ban with the explanations given for it. I don’t think that Bruce McConkie was claiming that the ban was not of God in his famous “whomsoever [sic]” statement–but he made it pretty clear that all the explanations were simply inventions of men operating in the dark–in other words, folklore.

    But I agree that firing Bott isn’t the end. And, to paraphrase Churchill after El Alamein, it’s not even the beginning of the end–but it may well be the end of the beginning.

    And there are other reasons for firing him–he knew, or should have known, that his words would carry more weight because of his position than the words of the third assistant to the HP Group Leader in the Payson 27th Ward. And, more important still, he should have some critical thinking skills, and he should use those skills–even if he is a BYU-tenured professor. Isn’t incompetence a basis for firing even in their case?

  55. Bott’s 2008 blog post with the same ideas as the article has been removed (actually, the whole blog is down).

    Here is the cached page of the relevant post.

  56. In regards to the question of firing, the church’s statement in regards to Bott’s remarks includes this nugget:

    “We do not tolerate racism in any form.”

    We’ll see.

  57. Christian J says:
  58. In our stake God prohibited women from opening sacrament meetings with prayer until the ban was lifted with the issuance of the latest handbooks. Since the lifting of the ban our EQP who once taught that sisters were cursed with larger mammary glands as a result of premortal offenses said we should forget everything he said because he spoke with limited understanding. However, our ward’s HP Group Leader still teaches that the prayer ban was in place for the benefit of sisters who, although generally good, obviously were cursed of God and therefore were not allowed to open meetings so they wouldn’t be held accountable for an improperly opened sacrament meeting.

  59. OK, so the newsroom statement is not a panacea, but holy smokes! I never thought that I would see a BYU Rel. Ed. prof get shot down like that. This is serious stuff.

  60. BTD Greg-
    From my experience, the rigor of religion courses at BYU varies to an extraordinary degree. Some professors with PhDs from Divinity Schools at elite universities seemed to be out to prove how hard-core (academically speaking) religion classes could be. Others merely offered feel-good story-telling sessions with no real teaching or learning involved. Bott certainly falls in the latter group. Too bad he was chosen for the interview.

  61. I’m suspicious enough to wonder if the reporter for the WaPo story didn’t specifically choose Bott because he thought he might get some interesting quotes for his article. If Professor Bott’s writing was on the interwebs already, it seems possible, if not likely.

  62. If Bott misrepresented LDS teachings, then they (teachings) should be publicly stated, and he should be reprimanded for his error. But if BYU has any hope of claiming academic freedom, it should not fire Bott. BYU can make clear what the LDS Church holds as doctrine, and it can show exactly how that contrasts with Bott’s statements, but firing him for his comments will only add more evidence that academic freedom does not exist at the university.

  63. “We condemn racism, including any and all past racism by individuals both inside and outside the Church.”

    Where or when has the Church ever condemned its own racism?

    It hasn’t, and this is why Brother Bott, who is a direct product of his Church, holds the beliefs he holds.

  64. “We condemn racism, including any and all past racism by individuals both inside and outside the Church.”

    This may be the most powerful official statement that we have yet seen, right up there with Pres. Hinckley’s General Priesthood comments.

  65. Many have probably already seen this already, an official Church response:

    http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/racial-remarks-in-washington-post-article

  66. There’s a companion piece to the response to the WaPo article, The Church and Race: All Are Alike Unto God

  67. Wondering if the university had posted anything on its website yet, I searched for “Bott” and came up with this nugget:

    Randy Bott, a Religious Education professor, will be speaking at the Power of Teaching Lecture Series at 11 a.m. in 115 McKay Building. His remarks will be titled, “Me, A Teacher? Hard to Believe!”

    Yeah, Randy, I know what you mean.

  68. Professor Bott doesn’t need to look back very far to find semi-official support of his position. I recall watching one of the Joseph Smith Papers TV episodes where they had a panel discusssion that outlined reasons for the priesthood ban in a very similar approach to Prof. Bott. I recall that there were BYU professors and church historians on the disscussion panel. Does anyone recall which episode it was? I tried to find it on the mormon channel, but was unsuccessful. Was it deleted or is my recollection wrong?

  69. Whoa there, Seldom, don’t sully the JSPP with that. You’re thinking of a roundtable show for BYUTV that was a panel of folks reading scriptures and discussing them. If I understand correctly the episode is no longer in circulation.

  70. Researcher says:

    Yes, that was definitely BYU-TV. Didn’t Juvenile Instructor discuss that show at great length a few years ago, and even organized some sort of an effort to try to get that removed from circulation?

  71. Seldom, it was Bob Millet, iirc

  72. Armand Mauss says:

    I agree with Dan Peterson (#28) about the need for charity in cases like these, and I look forward to seeing the same charitable spirit obtain in the reviews appearing in the Mormon Studies Review (formerly FARMS Review), of which Dan is the capable editor. Such charity has not, alas, always obtained in reviews there (and elsewhere in LDS apologetics) whenever the authors under review have been found to be dabbling in heterodoxy or questioning the received wisdom. As distressed as we might be over Bott’s comments, calls to throw him under the bus in this instance would ill behoove any of us who can remember the treatment (official and otherwise) of those who got into trouble during the 1960s and 1970s for saying exactly the same things that now represent Church policy. “Institutional correctness” for Mormons is something like political correctness in the culture at large — that is, it depends a lot on timing!

  73. The Other Brother Jones says:

    I read the Church and race statement. I didn’t see a date on it. the other release specifically about Bott did have a date. Were they both really released today?

  74. The key in this episode is to denounce, humiliate and fire Bott. Anything less will be seen as the Church turning a blind eye to this kind of racism.

    The denouncing has occurred.

    The online discussion is doing the humiliating.

    Now, there is one thing left . . .

  75. I certainly don’t want to derail this thread from, among other things, calls to denounce, publicly humiliate, and fire Randy Bott, but, in response to Armand Mauss (#73, above), whose work I’ve appreciated since I read my first piece from him when I was a high school student in California . . .

    The FARMS Review (now the Mormon Studies Review) has long been known for its spirited, often ironic, frequently humorous, and sometimes quite . . . umm, frank style. Some really like it; some really hate it. In my view, it has rarely if ever crossed the line into genuine mean-spiritedness. (Some will disagree,, which is their prerogative.) Brutality’s not my style, and, on the rare occasions when anything has been submitted that I thought crossed the line, I’ve either edited the offending passage out or rejected the submission altogether.

    That’s my story, and I’m sticking with it.

  76. Armand Mauss says:

    By all means stick with your story, Dan. Good intentions frequently bring good deeds. I guess I actually owe an apology to BCC readers for my own earlier comment (#73), which risked starting a derailing of this thread. Yet it is also true, as you say, that the calls for Bott’s head have been somewhat aside from the main point of my original comment at the top of the thread.

  77. Holy the Ghost says:

    I wrote a response to Mauss, but it was too long to post here. Please see my note on facebook

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002489455882&sk=notes#!/note.php?note_id=237936852965961

  78. I want the credit I deserve for not jumping into this. That is all.

  79. LOL.

  80. Armand Mauss says:

    Sorry, HtheG, but I don’t do Facebook. I’d be pleased, however, to read your response, even a long one, if you will send it to me directly at maussal@cox.net.

  81. I was just coming by to post the Church’s official statement Re: Randy Bott but saw it was already referenced. (perhaps a link could be added to the bottom of this post? I think it would help ease several people’s minds)

    I have heard racist comments justifying the ban on blacks holding the priesthood for a looong time, but never in such a public forum (“the internet” is not as public as one of the most widely read newspapers in the country).

    From the Church: “The origins of priesthood availability are not entirely clear. Some explanations with respect to this matter were made in the absence of direct revelation and references to these explanations are sometimes cited in publications. These previous personal statements do not represent Church doctrine.”

    Thank goodness they finally came out and said it.

    And I loved Brother Mauss’ article, by the way. Wonderful. Thanks for sharing.

  82. Ah, I like to start my day with a comment by Margaret Blair Young ;)

    As distressed as we might be over Bott’s comments, calls to throw him under the bus in this instance would ill behoove any of us who can remember the treatment (official and otherwise) of those who got into trouble during the 1960s and 1970s Amen.

    I want the credit I deserve for not jumping into this. That is all. “gives credit” (even though it is not his to give).

    I love this quote from the original Mauss article:

    Q: Well, maybe so, but racism is such an obvious evil that I would think authentic prophets would have been more sensitive to it.

    A: Why? It seems obvious to all of us now, but not to people who believed in Manifest Destiny, the White Man’s Burden, and “the only good Indian is a dead Indian.” Even the original apostles of Jesus assumed that non-Jews could not become Christians unless they first accepted Judaism and circumcision. The apostle Paul disputed that, but the idea persisted.16

    Q: Did all the early Mormon leaders hold racist ideas?

    A: Pretty much–like all other Americans. But there was a range of opinion. Not all of them embraced all of the racist ideas in the culture. For example, Joseph Smith, the founding prophet of the LDS Church, saw no reason to keep black people from holding the priesthood, even though he shared the conventional idea that they were descendants of Cain and Ham. We have no record that he ever sought a special revelation on the question; he just accepted blacks into the priesthood.17 He also believed that the innate inferiority of blacks so widely assumed at that time was as much a result of inferior environment and opportunity as of lineage.18

    Q: So why didn’t Joseph Smith’s views on such matters prevail in the Mormon Church?

    A: Joseph Smith was assassinated while still a young man, and well before the race question led to the Civil War. We can’t be sure whether his ideas would have changed later or how. We do know that his successor, Brigham Young, had somewhat different ideas, though not necessarily based on revelation; and he headed the Church for more than thirty years.

    Nicely said. Thank you.

  83. Bott is now claiming he was misquoted: http://www.deseretnews.com/article/765555339/LDS-Church-condemns-past-racism-inside-and-outside-the-church.html

    But, his blog has had posting for years that closely mirror what the Washington Post reported.

  84. What (almost) all of you said. To the n. Forever and ever Amen. Can we put a “like” button on BCC???

    #59 Neal– omgosh, Is that actually true?? Or are you being sarcastic??? (sorry, it’s hard to read your body language from here.) If it’s true, mindboggling. Just absolutely, freaking mindboggling. Gobsmacking. If sarcasm… SCORE!! Thank you for a seriously therapeutic and aerobic dose of eye-rolling.

    Ardis– as if. ;) <3

  85. @Michael #63 “If Bott misrepresented LDS teachings, then they (teachings) should be publicly stated, and he should be reprimanded for his error. But if BYU has any hope of claiming academic freedom, it should not fire Bott.”

    I agree with this. Ensuring the freedom of expression of BYU faculty is a *very important strategy* in the long term battle for the minds and hearts of thinking members of the church everywhere, including the top leadership.

    (As to the substance of what he said, I’m 100% against it; I sent Bott an email asking him to please apologize publicly for his comments, and his response was that he endorsed the church’s official response, including the reprimand of him; and he feels the Post misrepresented him http://bycommonconsent.com/2012/02/28/the-real-genesis-of-a-churchs-stand-on-race/#comment-249263)

  86. Neal Kramer says:

    As a brief footnote I add this little anecdote. I freely admit that I own and keep a copy of Elder McConkie’s Mormon Doctrine. On a bright summer day in 1978 I opened the book to its entry about priesthood and people of African descent. I conveniently had a black pen and a ruler with me which allowed me to carefully cross out every single line. What a relief it was. Whenever I get a little too crazy about things, I open the book to remind me that the Lord seems to let us get away with just about anything–for awhile. Then I calm down and thank the Lord that I am not like the misbegotten who were never as enlightened as I am. A bit of irony there!

  87. Firing Bott would be done because of academic incompetence and those genuinely worried about academic freedom would probably understand.

  88. Random thoughts I’ve had about the “academic freedom” argument against firing Bott, in no particular order:

    “If BYU were to suddenly take an unprecedented stand in favor of academic freedom, this would be an odd time to do so.”

    “Since when did academic freedom mean the freedom to say any old assinine thing one wants? I’m pretty sure if a non-tenured professor at any university suddenly started spouting off about how the Holocaust is just an illusion caused by mind-altering Venusians, he’d be crap-canned immediately. A tenured professor would be fired only after a peer review hearing.”

    “Lending token support to a very misguided, anachronistic and (yes) racist BYU professor is exactly nothing like the ACLU supporting the KKK’s First Amendment right to publicly protest.”

    “Academic freedom shouldn’t encourage lazy and poor academics. Should it?”

    I’m not 100% I’m right here, mind you. But let’s just say I’m not yet convinced that upholding an ideal of academic freedom is a better goal than taking an unequivocal stance against racism.

  89. In his classes, Bott also says remarkably insensitive things about gay people.

  90. I think the saddest part of this is that we had an AMAZING forum speaker, Dr. Benjamin Carson come on Tuesday for Black History month, and he was so well received by the student body, it was ridiculous. It’s sad because the same day these comments were made public by Dr. Bott, and what does everyone (the press, the media, the public at large) remember? The things that the rising generation of the church has no interest or belief in, the racist past, while they are trying to move forward with so much love for ALL people.
    For Dr. Bott, in a way I feel sympathetic, because in the time he grew up in, and came to his views and understanding of the world, this was an acceptable way to look at things. Many people of his generation, inside and outside the Church, still harbor at least a little racism, even unconsciously, because it saturated our culture. The misfortune comes when Dr. Bott hasn’t updated his views with the changing society and Church revelation, and then shares publicly speculations that should be left at home with his wife.

  91. Michael says:

    @#89: You make good points, BTD Greg. Perhaps this speaks more to the poor way that ‘doctrine’ is established in the church? After all, if a religion professor is not able to figure out what is or is not doctrine, what does that say about the enterprise?

    Or, maybe this is informative of what goes on in the religious education college. But this can’t help but lead back to the question of how doctrine is developed and promulgated. Yes, there have been GC talks recently decrying prejudice, but relying on GC talks and Ensign articles can result in contradictions.

  92. “But let’s just say I’m not yet convinced that upholding an ideal of academic freedom is a better goal than taking an unequivocal stance against racism.”

    Amen and Amen.

  93. I’m really not convinced that what might be called “benign” or “ingenuous” racism ought to be viewed with the same severity of judgment as malignant, truly hateful racism.

    For what it’s worth, I reflect along those lines at

    http://dcpsicetnon.blogspot.com/2012/02/further-thoughts-on-that-byu-professor.html

  94. And yet, Dan, the church says “We do not tolerate racism in any form.” That bespeaks “same severity of judgement.”

  95. The social psychology literature speaks of symbolic racism. It is sneaky and equally evil. It is just passive aggressive hate. But it is still vile. It just allows for people to claim that they are not racist in the way that passive aggression allows for people to pretend they are not aggressive.

  96. Kristine says:

    I don’t even think it has to be passively aggressive to not be “benign”–actions and ideas can be benevolent and yet have malignant effects, as in the case of the kinds of “soft” racism we’re trying to (partially) exempt from judgment here (or, one trembles to suggest, in the “respect” often offered to Mormon women, if only they’ll stay up on their pedestals and behave demurely).

  97. Passively aggresive is just an example. Racism is not and never is benign.

  98. Well, I’m sorry, but I simply can’t regard my parents as “haters.” I’ll doubt the social psychology literature before I reject my personal knowledge of their character and their behavior over decades.

    For EmJen: I’m not advocating that Randy Bott’s public comments go without reprimand or correction. I’ve condemned them myself, at

    http://dcpsicetnon.blogspot.com/2012/02/unfortunate-attempt-to-explain-pre-1978.html

    And I was quick about it. I began writing that little statement within approximately sixty seconds of encountering his remarks. I posted it within thirty seconds of finishing it.

    But the kind of moral judgment that would equate, say, a comment made to me by a Mormon girl from Mobile, Alabama, on a date when I was a BYU undergraduate (“But Dan, they really do all just love watermelon an’ fried chicken an’ dancin'”) with a Klansman’s cold racial hatred, or an anti-Semitic joke with, say, enthusiastic support for Hitler’s “Final Solution,” seems to me pretty useless and of dubious morality.

  99. But Kristine, that isn’t racism. That’s misogyny. Let’s keep the distinctions clear.

    That said, for a member to publicly print what Bott said would be a bad thing. For a BYU professor of religion to do it is a very bad thing. It gives it the imprimatur of approval. Otherwise, it shows that the Church is conveniently teaching two different things.

    This event is no different than Prof Jones claiming 9/11 was an inside job. If that was sufficient to get him canned, then perhaps they should hold that level of review over Prof Bott. After all, a professor of religion should be competent enough to know the whole story and express it correctly. It would be a different issue if he were a computer science professor at BYU talking about the curse of Cain.

  100. Daniel,

    I read your blog post. It’s very well-written and empathetic. I agree with most of it. But it brings me back to my already-well-beaten-dead-horse issue. BYU (and by extension, the Church) needs to fire Bott not because of the severity of his crime (which is subjective), but because anything short of that would be seen as tolerating racism, something that the Church has made clear that it won’t do.

    To me, Bott’s statements went beyond “benign” racism and truly seem truly hateful, even though Professor Bott may not have recognized them as such. At most, they are only a short step removed from hate. But I recognize that this is subjective; each person views racism differently. I can certainly understand and relate to the concept that ideas on racism have evolved over the years, and that there is a generational element at work. (It’s my understanding that Bott is well past retirement age.) That’s not enough to excuse his comments, for two reasons. First, this is someone who has (presumably) studied Church history and understands the full implications of the 1978 Declaration. He should have known there is no doctrinal support for the speculations he made. Second, when he spoke to the Washington Post, he should have known he would be viewed as speaking for the university and for the Church. If the Church doesn’t take some action now–at a minimum, giving Bott administrative leave and a gag order, at best, terminating his employment–a fair criticism would be, “But you let this person continue teaching Religion at a Church university?” Doing so would be rightly seen as tolerating racism.

  101. The overall effects of Aunt Christine’s peach cobbler are probably harmful, too, but it would be folly to pretend that there’s no moral difference between her kindly cookery and the injuries inflicted by a knife-wielding thug.

    I pray that, when I’m ultimately judged, it won’t be by anybody who refuses to permit benevolent intentions to mitigate judgment when negative results accrue.

  102. Kristine says:

    Those kinds of ideas may not be as morally culpable as systematic discrimination or physical violence, but they are necessary precursors, and therefore not even a little bit “benign.” (See, for instance, http://www.amazon.com/Hitlers-Willing-Executioners-Ordinary-Holocaust/dp/0679772685 or http://www.amazon.com/Massacre-Mountain-Meadows-Ronald-Walker/dp/0199747563/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1330622630&sr=1-2).

  103. I’m inclined to side with DP on this point. Racism runs a huge spectrum and the degrees matter. My family tree does not include any prophets or apostles, but it does include a lot of slave owners. The difference between their actions and those of some historical church members are significant. That difference should be part of the debate.

    That is also why I find the church’s “we don’t know” policy so confusing. The story of our racism is fairly mild to that of other amercians. But instead of telling our story, we prefer to sit silent and allow others to erroneously paint our history as something much worse than it was.

  104. “But Kristine, that isn’t racism. That’s misogyny. Let’s keep the distinctions clear.”

    The thread that keeps on giving.

    Dan, I am glad you love your parents.

    Of course, there is a distinction. But the girl from Mobile, your parents and the anti-semitic joke are part of a social environment which allow for segregation to exist into the 1960s.

  105. Kristine, Daniel Goldhagen is what I had in mind. Was not sure if I wanted to go there.

  106. it's a series of tubes says:

    Those kinds of ideas may not be as morally culpable as systematic discrimination or physical violence, but they are necessary precursors, and therefore not even a little bit “benign.” (See, for instance)

    Kristine, I found Goldhagen’s book to be an informative counterpoint and complementary to Browning’s Ordinary Men. I realize this is OT, but if you have not read them both, I’d highly recommend it.

  107. Kristine says:

    Thanks, iasot. Meet me, MA in German Studies–I can give you a reading list longer than my arm :)

    Goldhagen is certainly not unproblematic, and I wouldn’t have gone there (probably), had not someone else already satisfied the conditions of Godwin’s Law :)

  108. Mark Brown says:

    Daniel,

    This year on church-owned campuses, a few dozen decent people who are doing their level best will learn that their employment contracts are not renewed, for reasons ranging from too much heterodoxy to failure to publish sufficiently. They will also suffer pain, embarrassment, and disruption of their lives, and they most emphatically have not damaged the church to the extent Br. Bott has done. I admire your impulse to charity, but I suggest that it is misplaced in this instance.

    Yes, there are worse things that racism. But there are also worse things that taking your lumps for being a racist.

    I will also note that we Mormons have absolutely zero room for error on this issue. We need to be extra, extra careful that our calls for charity do not come off sounding like mealy-mouthed rationalizations.

  109. Of COURSE they’re part of that social environment, and I don’t endorse those attitudes.

    But if we can’t grant the plain distinctions, I’m not sure that we’re in a position to be calling others “haters.”

    My father wasn’t always positive about some of the encounters he had had with Jews, in the army during World War II or in business. He was pretty mild about it, but it still made me uncomfortable when he spoke that way. (Only a few occasions, in my experience. A handful over many years.)

    But he was also a sergeant among the soldiers who liberated the Nazi concentration camp at Mauthausen, Austria, and that experience affected him very powerfully for his entire life. He was assigned to document what they found there for posterity, in photographs (his own duties as a photo reconnaissance interpreter with the Eleventh Armored Division in Patton’s Third Army were winding down by that point, but he had not yet taken up his new duties as a German-language interrogator of prisoners). Soon thereafter, on his own initiative, he put up a display of his photographs in front of the city hall in Linz, Austria, under the title of “Nazi Kulture.” I still have the photos. They’re unspeakable.

    I simply can’t accept any attempt to blur the manifest moral distinction between a man like my father and the men who ran Mauthausen and its satellite camp, KZ-Gusen.

  110. Ooops. I meant “Nazi Kultur,” of course. Without the final “e.”

    I’m wholly innocent of the vast majority of world languages, aber ich kann schon Deutsch sprechen.

  111. The distinction has already been granted.

  112. I took a mission prep course from Bott back over a decade ago. I heard from his very mouth his curse of Cain explanation and the just God not allowing black folks to fall too far by denying them the heights. And I was surrounded by about 200 fellow students (mostly freshman men and fresh/soph women). I don’t know how many left that class that day and thought, “dude is crazy, and racist, and I will just forget what I just heard,” and how many left treasuring up this knowledge for future usage (most likely as missionaries since it was a missionary prep class).

    Now that was just one section and Bott teaches and has taught a lot of sections of missionary prep classes. How many missionaries went out to their assignments and returned home trusting that what they heard on race and priesthood from such a well-known prof as Bott? It has got to be in the thousands and probably tens of thousands in the last decade alone. This is not just “benign” racism creeping into conversation when your grandpa or dad calls a Brazil nut a n****r toe or refers to a Korean American who lives down the street as the Chinaman. This is large-scale, dishonest indoctrination by a personality famous at BYU.

    I had a class from him, my wife had classes from him, if I took a quick poll in my ward I would guess that at least 20 more members had classes from him.

    Muzzling him now is not enough because he has taught so many.

  113. and please give due weight to my irony quotes around “benign”

  114. I think there’s a big difference between someone who privately holds mildly racist thoughts and holds them mostly to himself, and someone who’s incredibly influential and broadcasts his racist thoughts to the masses as though they were church doctrine.

    No one would have cared had Randy Bott kept his thoughts to himself.

  115. it's a series of tubes says:

    Thanks, iasot. Meet me, MA in German Studies–I can give you a reading list longer than my arm :)

    Thanks, Kristine. I was unaware of your expertise in this area.

    I once had aspirations along those lines, aber seit achtzehn Jahren habe ich nicht Deutsches gesprochen (eh, bet I mangled the grammar there). Thanks, primarily, to the enlightened state of California telling me that as a high school transfer student from out of state, despite being a varsity athlete I needed to drop AP German and take PE instead in order to meet the CA state requirements for graduation. Took the wind out of my sails on that topic.

  116. Kristine says:

    The reason you were unaware of this expertise is that it’s not really very useful, so don’t worry that the state of California saved you from a similar fate :)

  117. it's a series of tubes says:

    I wonder how many bloggernacle commentators have taken a class from professor Bott? I had two semesters of D&C with him. His sections were always booked full and the hardest to get into – they were highly sought after due to his reputation as an engaging instructor.

  118. it's a series of tubes says:

    it’s not really very useful,

    A fair point – but at the time, the Berlin wall had just come down, reunification had occurred, and German appeared to be on the rise. Living where I do now, I’m kicking myself that I didn’t learn to speak Spanish instead.

  119. Quickmere Graham says:

    Suppose Bott were to repeatedly teach that women should hold the priesthood. Suppose he wrote about it on his blog, and also said it to several missionary prep classes. I suspect his administrators would have dealt with him much more directly than they evidently have based on his continued racist teachings, however “benign.”

  120. Here is a quick and dirty summation of how many students Bott is currently teaching according to BYU’s Class Timetable website for current Winter Semester registration:

    Missionary Prep: 4 sections, 819 total students

    D&C: 2 section, 496 total students

    Winter Semester 2012 total: 1,315 students.

    Who knows how often he has taught his now banned explanations for the ban, but his influence in terms of numbers of students is staggering.

  121. Here is a link to the registration site:

    http://saas.byu.edu/classSchedule/schedule.php?yearTerm=20121&dept=REL_C

    It is also evident even from a quick scan (of all the religion classes) that no other Rel. Ed. teacher at BYU remotely approaches these sorts of numbers.

  122. It’s Bott-ulism, and it’s poisoning the minds of 2,500 BYU students a year!

    Maybe a committee should be appointed to investigate and report in a year what an appropriate response might be.

  123. “We condemn racism, including any and all past racism by individuals both inside and outside the Church.”

    Where or when has the Church ever condemned its own racism?

    Didn’t they condemn it just there? But I think the comments by Pres. Hinkley in April 2006 were pretty explicit too.

    Racial strife still lifts its ugly head. I am advised that even right here among us there is some of this. I cannot understand how it can be. It seemed to me that we all rejoiced in the 1978 revelation given President Kimball. I was there in the temple at the time that that happened. There was no doubt in my mind or in the minds of my associates that what was revealed was the mind and the will of the Lord.

    Now I am told that racial slurs and denigrating remarks are sometimes heard among us. I remind you that no man who makes disparaging remarks concerning those of another race can consider himself a true disciple of Christ. Nor can he consider himself to be in harmony with the teachings of the Church of Christ. How can any man holding the Melchizedek Priesthood arrogantly assume that he is eligible for the priesthood whereas another who lives a righteous life but whose skin is of a different color is ineligible?

  124. Clark, I agree that Pres. Hinckley’s statement is very strongly worded – but he obviously was not applying it to people pre-1978. He obviously wasn’t applying it to those who taught the justifications prior to OD2. He applied it to those who continue to teach those things **after** the “further light and knowledge” Elder McConkie mentioned in his statement repudiating the justifications.

    Yes, the justifications have been condemned – forcefully, but the ban itself hasn’t been condemned explicitly. Personally, I can read the current statement and apply it to the ban itself as part of “any and all past racism by individuals both inside and outside the Church” – but I also would like an explicit acknowledgment that the ban itself was racist and the product of the racism of its originators. I would like that for multiple reasons, not the least of which would be to put to bed the idea that our leaders are infallible in practical terms, even if not in theory.

  125. Iow, he applied it to Brother Bott – and he said very clearly that Bro. Bott shouldn’t consider himself “a true disciple of Christ” or “to be in harmony with the teachings of the Church of Christ”.

    At the individual level, I absolutely agree that Pres. Hinckley’s statement is enough for the current situation with Bro. Bott – as far as verbal condemnation goes.

  126. Bryan Buchanan says:

    Ah, oudenos, that’s where you’re wrong–Susan Easton Black has the highest single class size of any of the teachers listed. Bott, in an article written after he was the highest rated professor, said that she was really the one who should get the credit. If I were in the religion department and had gotten a real degree and was attempting to teach a university-level class, I’d look at these # and perhaps say a swear.

  127. “Didn’t they condemn it just there?”

    No, it condemns individuals, not the Church, as does Pres. Hinkley’s statement.

  128. #128 – Talon, “including” doesn’t give specific limits; rather, it just gives illustrative types with the whole set of things that constitute “racism”. I think the statement as worded condemns the ban, since I think the ban fits perfectly within the term “racism” and the statement says, “We condemn racism” – but I understand completely why others don’t see it that way, and I don’t know for sure if the ban was meant to be included.

    It’s not explicit, but it’s there within the words themselves.

  129. Ray,

    Then why not make it explicit? Why leave any wiggle room? They has never been a clearly worded denunciation of the ban itself. There have only been statements where you can find a denunciation if you really want to and are willing to make some logical leaps. But even yesterday’s statement explicitly avoided denouncing the ban.

  130. arJ, I know – and I said in #125 that I would like an explicit statement. You probably missed that comment.

  131. If the church offers explicit denials to, oh say,:
    polygamy, the temple ceremony changes, Blood atonement, Adam/God Theory, The united order, priesthood ban, True Celestrial marriage as taught in the Doctrine and Covenants, Kinderhook plates, the modern translation of the Pearl of Great price, it will open itself up to a prophetic spotlight. If these doctrines and prophetic statements, as they have been taught by the prophets, including Joseph Smith are NOT true then what is. What statements did Pres. Hinckley make that are not true today. Who had a prophetic epiphany to change 24 month missions to 18 only to have them changed back after a couple of years.
    Do you see the can of worms explicit denial will open…

  132. Suleiman says:

    I never had Randy Bott as an instructor, but I did have other instructors. That was over 20 years ago. We (history majors) continually had to correct one instructor on the basics of church history in her class. She had been teaching the course for a decade. There were jokes about her in the History dept. I also had Reed Benson, who managed to turn The Book of Mormon into an essay on right-wing ideology. I love BYU, but I am heartsick over how crazy the Religion Department was and apparently still is.

  133. Jim Wright says:

    Much of what I have read in this thread seems to presuppose the existence of the perfect man, one who is not influenced in any way by the society in which he exists. While several observed that attitudes can change, an unfortunate number refuse to allow for the reality of repentence. I was raised in a home where the “n” word was taken as fact. In college in the 50’s i was threatened with loss of club membership when I sought to sponsor a black friend into the club. In the military, my black roommate and I were denied seating in restaurants in the south. I felt revulsion in the early 70’s when an Education Week speaker made insensitive jokes about persons of color, and joy with President Kimball’s announcement of change. As a judge in California, I struggled with my own questions of prejudice when dealing with violent crimes committed by people of color. But I feel comfortable with the idea that it is ok to struggle with issues, and it is even ok to make mistakes, as long as one can try to rectify them once they are recognized.
    One of the most helpful things I ever read was from a dairy of Spencer Kimball. He had just commented on an action by the quorum of 12 of which he was then a member. His next line read: “I hope we have done the right thing.”
    Can we not allow that man is imperfect, that willingness to change is commendable, and that future conduct should be more important as a subject of concern than past errors?

  134. Eric Player says:

    I like Jim.

  135. #134 – “that willingness to change is commendable”

    I think that’s one of the main points of pretty much every post about this general topic that has been written here – and in the case of Prof. Bott, specifically, it’s the main criticism.

  136. Philip Bradford says:

    I was taught and thought that Professor Bott’s teachings were doctrine. Growing up in the 40s and 50s and than to witness the civil right struggles was very difficult for me. For us older members, it was assumed doctrine and you were out of step if you espoused other ideas.

    IMHO the Church needs to step up and say this old policy was wrong and have that read in Sacrament Meetings. That would be a radical approach but a necessary one to once and for all put all this to rest. There is so much goodness in the Church that I enjoy, but we need to correct this “folklore.”

    I wouldn’t fire Professor Bott.

  137. I don’t believe that I EVER heard Professor Bott’s theory growing up in the Church (50s and, more so, the 60s for me).

    I heard things about the seed of Cain, of course, and speculations about the pre-mortal existence, but never what Professor Bott said, which struck me immediately, when I encountered it, as a rather obviously post-1978 “happy face” attempt to account for the priesthood ban in a more sympathetic and gentle way.

  138. Dan, I get the impression that his “car keys” and “ladder” analogies were most likely post-1978 rationalizations concocted to deal with the view that God apparently condoned a discriminatory (by definition) policy based on African descent.

  139. Dan,

    I was a teenager growing up in central California in 1978, and I heard over and over from various local church leaders as well as family the same things that Professor Bott taught. Because of that, I *believed* it was doctrine through my mission and even beyond, even though I was never comfortable with it and it just did not seem right to me.

  140. Look at Hugh Nibley’s response to Lester Bush’s seminal article in Dialogue. He talks about the priesthood as “an onerous responsibility” and suggests that it’s a mercy to not have it. I see that as in the same corpus of thought as Bott’s comments.

  141. Dan Peterson, I agree with Sonny. I have heard Bott’s sentiments in wards I grew up in in the 1980’s (I was in high school then), though I can’t remember hearing any such thing in the 1990s and beyond.

  142. This is going to bring out the poison darts, but what the heck. I’ve heard all kinds of things with which I don’t agree all my life and I’ve not called for someone’s resignation over what I’ve viewed as bad judgment or shallow insight. I wasn’t an undergrad at BYU and never took Bott’s class but I did considerable graduate work at Marriott, and there’s an instructor there who is immensely popular because he connects well with incoming students and is a writing mentor (something so very desperately needed.) They like him because he helps them, and that seems like a good, if novel, thing for a professor to do. The amount of good he does is significant (though, to his credit I’ve never heard him say anything I would call controversial.) Yet, if he did speak out of turn, I would tend to look at the bulk of his contributions and make a judgment call in *that* larger context. Certainly, Bott has done harm to the Church’s public image, but are we more concerned with image or substance? This seems like a lot of politically correct righteous indignation. We’ve all found ourselves out of step once or twice with political correctness. I would hope that we’re a little more thick-skinned than worrying so much about image, because times are bound to be rocky ahead. Seems like we could be a little tougher. I couldn’t point to any issue that has caused me more personal angst than race-based priesthood restriction as far as my relationship with the church and God, but I can’t hold Bott responsible for that. It’s a gospel of repentance. How many people did Bott help in genuinely meaningful ways? Is there something he can offer at this point to moderate the damage? I’m a fan of moving in that direction.

  143. “Yet, if he did speak out of turn, I would tend to look at the bulk of his contributions and make a judgment call in *that* larger context.”

    Bonnie, that’s the main point of the outrage – that there is SO much of this crap in his teaching and his writing. It’s not just one isolated incident. I wrote explicitly that I don’t condemn the man, but I absolutely condemn what he said and wrote.

    Also, “poison darts” probably is the wrong wording for a thread about racism. Just saying.

  144. I admit my ignorance about Bott’s history. Has he been corrected by his immediate authorities? Has he had the opportunity to rectify? Are we moving in that direction? Have we been? Or is this going to be one of those cases of “see no evil, hear no evil, suddenly decide to kick the crap out of the fool”? I am in 100% agreement with everything Jim Wright said in #134. And I stand by my wording, this being a diverse little anthropological melee.

  145. In reply to 138, Dan, let me state again, that theory was taught and understood to be doctrine while I was growing up in Southern California during the 50s. I never heard anyone deny or question it. I became aware of its perniciousness after subscribing to Dialogue in the late 60s.

    I attended USC School of Dentistry during 1963-1967 and worked at nights cleaning the institute building. One night I read a communique from the Church strongly advocating that black athletes were to be discouraged from going to BYU because of the potential of intermingling of the races. Paul Dunn was the director at that time. It was directed to the director from Church headquarters. It wasn’t meant for my eyes and I regret I read it. I struggled with my faith partly because of that document.

    I also served a Brazilian mission beginning 1960 where we were instructed not to teach Blacks unless they approached us. We were told we needed to check photographs of their families and look to see if they had “half moon cuticles” in their thumbs to verify they were not of Black genealogy. The reason we were told to avoid them was because there wouldn’t be enough people holding the priesthood to run the branches! Unfortunately, all true.

  146. Margaret #141, although to be fair to Nibley he argues that almost no one has the priesthood anyways and that it has zero authority over other human beings, only over spiritual matters, and that its a relationship with God not something controlled by men. Following his thought, anyone of any race, sex, creed who exhibited the signs would have the priesthood whether or not the LDS church or others recognized it as such because ultimately its a relationship each person has with the divine.

  147. Many times emotion gets in the way of understanding truth. It is only in this final dispensation that the gospel and the priesthood are given to all. The priesthood was withheld from many peoples/nations for a long time, not just “blacks”. Some day we/I will understand why it seemingly took the Church/Lord until 1978 to pronounce this privilege to all. It does no good to name call and to say leaders must have been racists – like I have heard and read in many sites and conversations.

  148. Color is not a curse it is a calling. Racial/cultural diversity is beautiful. Yes, the Lord has preserved his people by changing the color of skin (Lamanites) so that the obedient would more likely remain obedient. Try raising your kids in the gospel when one spouse practices militant atheism. No matter what socioeconomic status we have in life we have to learn from our parents, our ancestors and our society. Some have made grievous mistakes which affect us. We are responsible for the change this world needs so we can create Zion (of one heart and mind).
    I believe the Saints received a lot of persecution during Joseph Smith’s time because of his contempt for slavery. Perhaps, although condemning slavery personally, Brigham Young as governor allowed slavery for a time in Utah to ease migration, for those who were still blinded by the philosophies of the world, into the state.
    Couldn’t the church have saved millions of souls by creating and welcoming a society without slavery. Couldn’t the church have flourished at a greater speed. Would not the world look back at us now and say “what true examples of true Christlike love and charity?” had we fully and completely opened our arms to all of God’s children? For the church to progress the Lord’s way it had to happen like this, I suppose. But there must be more it seems. Why did these people have to endure such hardship. Bill Cosby has said he is dissatisfied with how, as a whole, the black community has not moved on and grown from the experience but continues to be inhibited. Could we not have prevented a lot of these consequences and traditions passed down from generation to generation?
    Many questions, many what ifs

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