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.