Pride, Gross Iniquity, And Suffering For One’s Sins

So, apparently it’s rather difficult to offer a rationalization or defense of a racist practice without sounding like a daft racist. The reason for this is closely related to a more general rule (the bane of unselfconscious racists everywhere): when some idea or practice is racist, claiming it isn’t racist is racist. It just is. It’s one of the unbreakable laws of the universe. Calling something racist not racist is, like, one of the most racist moves you can do. Seriously.

There’s a reason why all of the theological or doctrinal rationalizations for the priesthood ban sound racist. They are. And they must necessarily be, because the policy/practice/doctrine they are defending was profoundly, irreducibly, and irredeemably racist. Whether you locate a group’s putative spiritual inferiority or immaturity or shared curse in their genetic makeup, their blood, or their preexistent choices, when you use race as a basis for inferring the spiritual deficiency and, further, if you enact, uphold, and defend an exclusionary policy (for example, a policy which denies the group access to essential saving ordinances), that is just racist. It doesn’t matter if you believe the rationalization in question reflects reality. All racists believe that their ideas about racial differences, superiority, and inferiority reflect reality. It’s still racist.

But here’s the real problem. If, after 1978, we refuse to acknowledge the wrongness of past racism, we are implicitly (or possibly even explicitly) upholding racism. It’s not just enough to acknowledge that the explanations were racist. The racism of the doctrinal rationalizations of the policy was only symptomatic of the fact that the policy itself was racist. Full stop. To construct for ourselves a narrative in which it was right to exclude persons with black African ancestry prior to the revelation, and then right to include them after the revelation only because of the revelation is to posit a universe in which such an exclusion on the basis of racial heritage is still, at least in theory, totally fine, but just doesn’t happen to be fine at the present moment (because currently, it doesn’t happen to be our policy). Even if we express gratitude that the practice changed, if we are unwilling to admit that it changed precisely because it was wrong, that it was an evil made good, an error corrected, a wrong righted, then our gratitude itself still subtly accepts and upholds a fundamentally racist view of the world. It says “it’s totally okay to withhold temple covenants and sealings on the basis of race, but thank goodness we aren’t doing that right now.”

So, yes, I’m saying that an unwillingness to call the former policy racist and, therefore, wrong, unjustified, harmful, un-Christian, and indefensibly regrettable is, however subtly, still fundamentally racist. The priesthood/temple ban is, at present, not just a symptom of a racist past. It is a thorn in the side, an unhealed open wound on the body of a still racist present. And the sooner we can collectively realize that our unwillingness to fully condemn the racism of our past preserves a deep nucleus of that past racism in our present, the sooner we can actually experience the full power of repentance.

I’ll return to the question of repentance in a moment, but I’d like to make a point that I think will provide some needed perspective for us as we face this problem together. I believe that part of the reason that we’re unable or unwilling to appropriately condemn our racist past is that for a (demographically and hierarchically) significant portion of Church membership, race is still a highly salient social and cultural category, in no small part because we believe it to be a biologically salient category.

What if the ban had applied not to persons with dark skin and demonstrable African genealogical heritage but instead to persons of a particular blood type? It’s not a ridiculous question, for at least a couple of reasons. First, at the time when the ban originated, “race” or racial type was very much understood to be basically isomorphic with blood type. In an era before the discovery of genes as the mechanisms for carrying and transmitting relatedness and trait similarity, blood was believed to be the vehicle and locus where racial differences and similarities were played out. Whites had white blood. Irish (then believed to be almost prototypically non-white) had Irish blood. Negroes had Negro blood. Germans had German (or Aryan) blood. Slavs had Slavic blood. (Blood, at least as a metaphor for heritage, is still somewhat integrated into our consciousness). Blood was an important analogical key to our understanding of race as a discrete biological category. Anxiety over “one drop” bespoke an conception of race not only as a self-contained, discrete category of persons but as something that could exist in pure (and, therefore, impure) form.

It was an understanding of human heritage and human relatedness born in a time when we didn’t know anything at all about genes, or chromosomes, or meiosis, or gametes, or population genetics, or the human genome, or trait transmission, or actual patterns of human variability. We conceived of races as closed circles, whose members all typified a racial ideal, and whose integrity was threatened by miscegenation. We believed that there was such a thing as a pure white person (in contrast to a pure Irish person or pure African person), and a pure (but potentially contaminable) white race. This is the understanding of human nature into which the priesthood ban was born, and all of our longstanding folk anthropologies and attempts to theologically rationalize it drew from its logic. The notion that racial heritage (i.e. demonstrably belonging to a particular well-defined, discrete racial group) was a reliable marker of some other discretely defined category (i.e. persons who were disloyal to God during the preexistence), depends upon the folklore of clearly defined racial categories, on the notion that this person is something called black African while these other people aren’t. Even if you can discretely divide preexistent humanity into two clear-cut categories (loyalists and fence-sitters, or somesuch), you simply cannot divide mortal humanity into two similarly discrete, mutually exclusive categories (persons with and without black African heritage). And, ironically, a ban based on blood type would at least have the virtue of applying itself to actual, mutually exclusive, discrete human-biological categories.

Population genetics only makes things worse, not just for the notion of self-contained, clear-cut, bounded racial categories, but for the notion that racial categories are reliable markers for ancient (biblical) heritage. I’ve written about this at some length on this blog before, but the long and short of it is that you only actually inherit genes from your ancestors going back about sixteen generations. Because people reproduce with people who live close to them, and because unrestrained global mobility isn’t exactly a given in human history, we do tend to be very genetically similar to our ancestors going even further back than that, but genetic similarity is not the same a genetic relatedness. And large, sprawling genealogical trees going back centuries and millennia overlap in such a way that being the actual genetic descendant of somebody who lived thousands of years ago is functionally meaningless. If a person who lived at the time that Cain is believed to have lived has any direct descendants living today, the entire population of the world are his direct descendants. If Cain lived ~6,000 years ago, there are only two options: either a) he has no surviving direct descendants or b) the entire human race (including Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Mark E. Peterson, Bruce R. McConkie, and Randy Bott) are his descendants.

The implications for the priesthood/temple ban should be obvious. Present day ethnoancestry, no matter how nuanced and grounded in proper understanding of genetics, epigenetics, and population genetics, is not and absolutely, inescapably cannot be a marker of descent from a “cursed” ancient lineage. Even if there once did exist the fabled cursed lineage of Cain or Ham, it either does not exist today, or else we all belong to it. There is no in between, not mathematically possible scenario in which people from one part of the world belong to the cursed race and people from another do not. Like so much else in this horrifying debacle, the cursed lineage is a fiction, a fantasy born long before science (and extremely non-controversial science at that) could demonstrate its fictitious character.

I know the priesthood/temple ban was wrong, not just because I know that it is ethically wrong and un-Christian, but because it was grounded in unreality. I know it was wrong because it is absurd. And I know it is absurd in the same way that I would know it is absurd to discriminate in salvific matters on the basis of blood type, of phrenological categories, of astrological sign, of having a red-headed paternal grandmother, or of tongue-rolling ability.

The question we should be asking ourselves is not why the ban was right until 1978, but rather why God permitted us to persist in doing something so obviously wrong until 1978. Part of the answer is that we insisted on it. We demanded it and refused to consider otherwise. We were defensive and obstinate and self-assured and prideful and utterly unwilling to consider that we were wrong, that what we were doing was wrong. Some of us were willing, but their very marginalization only marks them as exceptions that prove the general rule of our being very and prolongedly guilty of the above forms of unrepentance. Part of the answer, too, I think can be demonstrated by considering the likelihood that if we had lifted the ban, say, 50 years earlier, in 1978 black priesthood holders would have been presiding over all-black units and black temple workers officiating in all-black temples within a profoundly segregated church. We could have preserved all the racial prejudice and racist attitudes and still allowed that the inferior races could have their own priesthood. I’m not surprised at all that President McKay didn’t get the answer he wanted, because by all accounts the answer he wanted was that members of an inherently inferior race could now hold the priesthood. If a racist church president asked me if it was okay to give the blacks the priesthood, I think my answer would be deafening silence as well.

But because the ban persisted so embarrassingly long, well beyond the time when flagrant racism was considered at all socially acceptable, ending it had deeper consequences. All of the racist ideas that existed in Mormonism had been riveted to the ban, pressed into the service of justifying not just its existence but its necessity. Racist beliefs and doctrines became so intrinsically tied to racist practice that opening the heavens to end the practice also functioned as a repudiation of all the racist false doctrine. Scholars and sociologists like Armand Mauss have chronicled a massive intergenerational shift in racial attitudes within Mormonism around the 1978 revelation. I suspect that some false doctrines can become so entrenched within our consciousness and discourse and our inherently conservative leadership structure so unquestioningly committed to the false doctrines that the only thing God can do to purge the problem is permit us to pridefully and stubbornly use the false doctrines to rationalize and defend indefensible practices long enough that when God finally says “enough!” we really get the message.

God is no more responsible for forcibly eliminating the sins of a Church guided by revelation than He is for forcibly eliminating the sins of individual lives guided by revelation. All must repent. All must acknowledge our sins. We must grieve over the harm they have caused, in full awareness of the terrible evil of it all. The power of the atonement is not limited to individual lives. It is the power that makes it possible for God to work His great work through the imperfect, flawed, often prideful, and always sinful individuals that make up the body of Christ. If yesterday’s embarrassment and its horrible aftermath show us anything, it is that our lack of repentance as a people and as a Church is still a major obstacle to our achieving our full divine potential. The Kingdom’s growth and, by extension, the people of the world are paying a price for our unwillingness to publicly confess our sin, which we instead hide under a cloak of un-Christian folklore and false-doctrine and proud insistence that it wasn’t our fault, it was really God’s. When you have committed a great evil, and when you persisted in committing it for an extended period and at incalculable human cost, anything short of fully acknowledging it for what it truly is, and of anguished, broken-hearted contrition for having done it is not full repentance. And without full repentance, full redemption is not possible, but instead one must continue to suffer for one’s iniquities.

Comments

  1. As a side note, Bott’s blog has been taken down, which means that I rerouted my second hyperlink to a pdf capture of (just a few of the many, many) offensive blogposts in question.

    Also, it’s a little bit disingenuous to say “we condemn racism in all its forms” when you manifestly refuse to condemn the past forms of racism most relevant to the issue you’re attempting to address.

  2. You say, “no comment” on the racism of the ban, but then say we condemn the past racism of individuals in the church. If you’re going to condemn all racism then you should go ahead and condemn all racism, rather than saying some racism may or may not be racism and well we don’t really know about that, but racism is still bad.

  3. saying “we don’t know how or why” isn’t good enough for me. The LDS church leaders hold themselves out to be the one and only people authorized to speak directly for god. my bar is just higher than that, to say that god chooses to run one and only church and he doesn’t require financial transparency, and he is silent when his church leaders endorse racism.

  4. One of the top five posts to ever grace the pages of BCC. Thank you.

  5. At least they’re not saying “We don’t know why God did it”. Isn’t that even a smidgen of progress? To not offer justification or claim that it was definitely divine? Not the ultimate repudiation I’d like to see eventually, but I can applaud progress, even if it’s just a little.

  6. It’s progress. But it is not progress that strikes me as conducive to the kind of repentance entailed by the nature and scope of the sin. “It’s possible that our actions weren’t God’s fault” is only a small, micro-step closer to true repentance than “our actions were God’s fault.”

  7. Thank you, Matthew.

  8. Researcher says:

    Thank you for the explanation about blood types. I’d been puzzling over a story about Venus Cupid, a midwife the John and Elizabeth Redd family took into Utah as a slave. Kate Carter told the story in her Daughters of Utah Pioneers book The Negro Pioneer:

    Some of the Spanish Fork people remember Venus as being tall, very polite and quiet and always immaculate in her dress. She had a great desire to go to the temple, and when she found that the temple was closed to Negroes, she scratched her arm until it bled and said: “See, my blood is as white as anyone’s.”

  9. I like this post. Also, I cannot read it without substituting “sexist” and “sexism.” When my husband and I were getting to know each other, we talked abt what bothered us most abt the church. For him (he joined at 15) it was the ban. For me, it was (still is) polygamy–only bec I see it as the most egregious example of sexism. And why didn’t the ban bother me? Bec it had been lifted and no one ever imagined it carried on in the ideal celestial world (maybe some did?). But we are by and large comfortable with eternal sexism.

  10. (I apologize if that seems a thread jack, but the arguments against Blacks having the priesthood make about as much such as those against women having it.)

  11. Christian J says:

    Brad, I agree – there’s a lot left to say and do for full restitution. However, I read “all forms” as meaning just that.

  12. “And why didn’t the ban bother me? Bec it had been lifted and no one ever imagined it carried on in the ideal celestial world (maybe some did?). But we are by and large comfortable with eternal sexism.”

    That’s a good point. But there’s a flip side too, that I think constitutes an important difference between the race-based ban and the sex-based ban: the racial ban withheld exalting ordinances from both black men and women. Eternal and exaltation-related differences between men and women in Mormonism are still significant, but withholding the priesthood from women does not categorically disqualify them from exaltation, as currently understood within Mormonism, the way the racial priesthood/temple ban did to those it applied to.

    I’m not trying to minimize the sentiment of your comment, and I find it deeply disturbing that the paternalistic rationalizations put forward by Bott, et al, for (mercifully) withholding the priesthood from less spiritually qualified races seems non-problematic in our discourse when applied to withholding priesthood from the fairer sex.

  13. Rachel Cope cites a Spencer W. Kimball quote that I think is relevant here: “I know the Lord could change his policy and release the ban and forgive the possible error which brought about the deprivation,” (http://www.juvenileinstructor.org/teaching-official-declaration-2/) I think most people assume that being okay with the pre-1978 ban is the orthodox position when it appears that the idea that it was a priori wrong has been suggested by some of the church leadership since early on.

  14. “However, I read “all forms” as meaning just that.”

    It’s possible that you’re right. But I think the far more likely reading is that by “all forms” they mean the racism of the explanations and the folk (read: false) doctrine, and not the racism of the actual ban.

  15. In OT Samuel, we have what I think is a somewhat analogous story about Israel demanding of God a king. After all that Samuel told the people, they disregarded the warnings and demanded a king anyway (see 1 Samuel 8). The Lord then allowed Israel to suffer through good and bad kings, most of whom exhibited both traits. It’s not perfect, but it does seem to fit the circumstances. If we wanted something wrong, even based on bad information, sometimes the best lesson we can have is to have to live with that choice. Where I admit my analogy breaks down, is that both the existing and potential African-American converts suffered the most at that time. Now, 34 years later, I’m not so sure that us older white members of the church are the ones continuing to suffer over guilt and shame..

    Part of the reason why I think it has been so hard for the Church as an institution to apologize or officially repudiate the policy is that the top leadership continues to be men who personally knew some of those who were instrumental in perpetuating this policy, based on folklore and dubious authorship, without appearing to be unfaithful to the legacy and memory of those same leaders who also were responsible for much good, and who are probably at this point in spirit paradise, lamenting the part they played. We would all love to see a profound, unequivocal statement, but based on long standing Church leadership practices of unanimity and fidelity to the legacy of earlier prophets and apostles, that perhaps will be difficult until another generation or two passes on.

    I was taught these things in my home as a child. I was 26 when the ban ended, and I remember those things taught to me my parents who I loved, and by teachers and leaders who I respected. I had nothing but euphoric feelings when the revelation was announced. It would be dishonest of me, however, to say that prior to 1978 I was totally in favor of a reversal. I hoped for it, I thought it would eventually come, but I also had that residual memory of what I had been taught, that created doubts and questions that were not easily answered until the events of that summer. I too had to have a change of heart to fully accept it. It was not hard, nor did it take but a few moments of reflection to do that, but for those of us who lived through it, we all I think share in some of the blame, and bear some burden of repentance as well.

  16. That is a simply outstanding comment, Kevin. Thank you.

  17. Jeremiah Stoddard says:

    Heh, I finally understand the theological underpinnings behind the assertion (by some) that women can’t become daughters of perdition. I first heard that from a ward mission leader when I was a missionary in Alabama, and I was taken aback by it. I thought it was sexist: women were just as entitled to a testimony as men, in my believe, and to exaltation, so God would require of them the same risk and offer the same rewards… I was surprised that other missionaries wholeheartedly embraced the views of woman’s incapacity to commit the unpardonable sin. I had somehow missed such a prevalent view despite having been raised from childhood in Church membership.

    I guess it makes sense if you believe no priesthood implies no capacity for perdition. It’s still sexist, though. Especially since no priesthood for women — God’s will or not, right or wrong, “agitation” for it or not — is in itself a sexist policy.

  18. Agree with Matthew. Brad, thank you for your time in articulating so well why the Church’s current position is unacceptable. I hope very much that yesterday’s events and the resulting discussion prompts us to acknowledge our error and permanently put it behind us.

  19. One word: sexism. Women should be at the governance table, for all the same reasons- the length of your genital tubercle or sex chromosome should have no bearing on whether you’re a candidate for LDS governance boards such as FP, Qof12, High Councils, Bishoprics, High Councils, Quorums of 70, etc. Governance equality is a tide that will eventually carry Mormon feminism over the floodgate. I hope. ;-)

  20. Kevin Barney says:

    This post was simply outstanding, Brad. A very clear articulation of the problem.

  21. Nice job, Brad. I think the steps of repentance that we constantly teach the children in primary (recognize the sin, confess and apologize, make restitution, and resolve to never do it again) should apply to the institutional church as much as it does to the individual members. And I think your post would make an excellent drinking game: racist!

  22. I have been physically sick over this for the past 30 hours. This post nearly makes it worth it. Thanks, Brad.

  23. Its amazing how freer one feels once they’ve fully repented. Thanks Brad for helping me take the final step.

  24. StillConfused says:

    It may be because I am bedridden with severe bronchitis or because I am suffering honorary pregnancy emotions on behalf of my daughter; or maybe it is because I just watched the Glee episode where one of the boys tried to kill himself because of teasing on his sexual orientation, but I am so heartbroken not just over past “isms” (race, gender, orientation etc) but that they still persist today. Think of how many of God’s beautiful children have suffered needlessly because of man’s isms.

    I personally apologize to God and all humanity for any hurtful, bigoted or wrong things that any past or present Mormon or Southerner (I am one of those too) have ever done or said… whether or not they have come to accept their sins. Not sure what else I can do but I will spend my life trying.

  25. This is an important post. No matter why you think the ban came about, its important that we recognize the ban itself is racist.

  26. Yes, yes, yes! Thank you Brad.

  27. “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.” – Max Planck

    I agree with both your conclusions as well as your approach, but somehow I think you’ve replaced one thorny issue with another one that’s even more problematic. The scientific investigation of blood type, DNA, ancestry, what is mathematically possible, etc. is much more likely to lead to excavations in
    Ethiopia rather than in Missouri. Instead of fighting folklore with science, it’s now theology against science which will be a struggle long after the race issue is resolved.

    What keeps me optimistic about the future of Mormonism is the spirit of B.H. Roberts, Widtsoe, Talmadge, and others which unfortunately is tempered with how their ideas have fared over time. Planck was right, and based on the 1978 date we can probably expect 20 to 30 more years of the occasional Randy Bott.

    In the mean time take solace in the fact that there are plenty of us cheering you on from the outside hoping you will change things from the inside.

  28. You are correct Jeff. And your point drives another nail into the racist false doctrines: turns out, we’re all African.

  29. “President McKay didn’t get the answer he wanted, because by all accounts the answer he wanted was that members of an inherently inferior race could now hold the priesthood.”

    I’m not aware of him having framed the question this way (that seems to be a reasonable assumption on your part given the culture, but an assumption nonetheless), nor that the answer was silence. IIRC from the Prince bio, the answer was “not now, and don’t ask me again.” I don’t have it here, so I can’t check it.

    In our earnestness to condemn racism, I think we need to be careful not to overreach or ignore data that undermines or runs against our own (cultural?) biases. God sometimes *is* irrational to the human mind, and isn’t that somewhat the point as well as the problem? I’m thinking here of the scandal of the virgin birth, or deliberately minimizing your troops to a much smaller number than the opposing force (Jdg 7), to pick two. Beyond those, there are a

    host of scriptural and historical incidents that illustrate how unwavering obedience [accepting the nonrational] is sometimes more flexible than deciding our own limits [rationality]. The hazard of inflexible obedience is that we accept directives that are not from God; the risk of deciding our own limits is that we reject commandments that are of God. From Abraham to Heber C. Kimball and up through today, the Lord has had the unnerving habit of wrenching heartstrings and asking the preposterous. It seems that counting the cost is something the Lord expects from generals and architects, but dislikes in his disciples. The Abrahamic tests go beyond the bounds of rational theology, at least in the moment when decisions are made. To say “this cannot be of God,” “beyond here I will not go,” or “God would never ask this” is to run the risk of being too narrow, and almost certainly the demands of discipleship will press us until we shatter like glass.”

    “What Sunstone Means to People Like Me.” Sunstone, July 1981.”

    A purely rational theology has no need of the divine, and the impulse to put rational reasons to everything is what gave rise to the folklore in the first place;

    Please note, none of this is defense of the ban, but thoughts about Brad’s broad condemnation. I myself have undermined the traditional misreadings in the scripture classes I’ve taught and done my best to quash the folklore wherever I’ve found it.

    Good post.

  30. I suspect the ban on blacks was racist but I don’t think you can absolutely rule out it was not from God because His ways are not our ways. God refined and coalesced the early saints by making them a peculiar people and through suffering He weaved and coalesced a tight knit religious community in which the restored gospel could be safely incubated. If this is true God apparently used social exclusion to protect the relaunch of the gospel. At times the early saints experienced “like us” vs. “not like us” thinking in extremes. Racism is a subset of prejudice the concept of “like us” vs. “not like us” is the core of both so exclusion is strongly at play here too. In contradiction to “like us” vs. “not like us” thinking He commanded us to love one another. Can this be accomplished in a separate but “equal” world particularly by racist saints? Not likely. So is it possible that God waited for non-black humankind’s enlightenment to demand equality for all? Is it possible that He is still waiting for the demand to rise to that level with regard to women and gays? Is it possible that He directed the brethren to support Prop. 8 precisely so that it could be struck down?

    Is this comment racist?

  31. One of my favorite counter-points to the scripture fundamentalist misreaders on Egypt, Africa and the priesthood ban was to point out that Joseph Smith was a descendent of Joseph of Egypt, who married an Egyptian; ergo, Joseph Smith himself was African :)

  32. Great post. I also don’t see why the ban becomes less offensive just because it ended.

    I might add that there are many beliefs that are usually considered racist, such as believing that some racial groups have (on average) greater abilities than others due to genetics. But even if you believed that it wouldn’t mean you shouldn’t treat people as individuals. So the ban was even more racist than that.

  33. Or at least a descendent of Egyptus who therefore couldn’t hold the priesthood, as the reasoning went.

  34. “Is this comment racist?”

    Yes.

  35. The point that racial categorizations are not discrete and mutually exclusive is a actually a very important one. The doctrine given by Brigham and others that anyone with any tiny bit of black ancestry could not hold the priesthood is incoherent, since obviously we all have some non-zero number of black ancestors somewhere back in time. The fact that the policy makes absolutely no sense even on its own terms should be enough evidence to conclude that it is was not from God.

  36. Chris H please logically support you yes.

  37. Howard

    so let me get this straight. Before God can countenance black individuals with priesthood and exaltation he has got to wait to make sure its ok with white church goers?

  38. Stephen M (Ethesis) says:

    Howard: well said. I really thought this post would be a slightly different comment on pride.

  39. J. Madson,
    I don’t speak for God I’m just asking some questions. Like; why did God pick white church goers to restore the gospel?

  40. Excellent points, that have further implications. The Church has had a difficult time addressing a number of past “stands” (doctrinal or folkloric, take your pick) that evolve (I use that word deliberately) socially as the light of scientific discovery sheds new understanding (e.g., homosexuality, biological evolution, cosmology, etc.). Your example here, tying “race” to the perspective that modern genetics and microbiology yields, is yet another.

  41. Brad, I think there’s a typo in your first paragraph. You wrote:

    When some idea or practice is racist, claiming it isn’t racist is racist. It just is. It’s one of the unbreakable laws of the universe. Calling something racist not racist is, like, one of the most racist moves you can do. Seriously.

    Here’s what I think you meant to say:

    When I label some idea or practice racist, claiming it isn’t racist is racist. It just is. It’s one of the unbreakable laws of the universe. Calling something I label racist not racist is, like, one of the most racist moves you can do. Seriously.

    I disagree with the approach in both paragraphs, it’s just easier to see the problem in the amended version. How do you respond to someone who comes up to you and declares that simply being LDS, a member of the Church, is racist? You start to object, but he cuts you off and says: Hey, when something is racist, it just is. Being LDS is racist. You trying to explain that it is not racist is itself racist, you racist.

    You could even turn it around as sort of a universal defense of your own beliefs (assuming you are talking with someone who will accept a really dumb argument). You bear your testimony, or just say something nice about the Church, maybe Helping Hands or something. The other person replies that convictions and good deeds are nice, but good intentions aren’t enough, he wants Bible truth. Then you make your Anti-mormon move: Hey, closing your heart to my sincere testimony and marginalizing our good works, that’s Anti-Mormon! It just is! He starts to object, then you chime in: And claiming you’re not being Anti-Mormon is itself one of the most Anti-Mormon things you can say! Seriously!

    I’m not defending the policy, doctrine, or practice, just saying this approach to critique it doesn’t work as an reasoned argument.

  42. ::DEAFENING APPLAUSE::

    Well done, Brad.

    A few months ago when we had the lesson in Gospel Doctrine about OD2 (or whatever the lesson was supposed to be on, but the one that included discussion of OD2), several older members of the ward spoke about how relieved they were when the ban was lifted in 1978; one man said that the policy had been the last thing standing between him and baptism, and several others spoke about how much it had bothered them that the church discriminated in that way. No one even dared say the word “racism” but one younger member of the class–who may have been a toddler in 1978 but certainly no older–was bothered by the word “discrimination” and said something to the effect that discrimination wasn’t necessarily always bad or that this wasn’t really “discrimination” as we usually think of it and God must have had some reason for that being the policy at the time. So what we have here is not just a problem of some Mormons of a previous generation holding on to racist folklore, but younger Mormons who have had little (if any) exposure to the racist folklore must conclude that a racist policy must have been God’s will (and therefore not racist…or racism is not necessarily wrong…or something) because absent a full repudiation of the prior policy, it is the only way for them to make sense of it. It is heartbreaking and depressing.

  43. I’m trying to figure out how saying that God waited until there was less prejudice and racism in Mormonism to formally demand that a racist practice end is inconsistent with anything in the original post.

  44. Beautiful Brad— really superb.

  45. So God is a racist? To what end?

    Also God did not demand an end to this practice, He was petitioned to end it.

  46. That’s a pretty stretched misreading of my argument, Dave. I’m not saying that claiming that _anything_ isn’t racist makes your claim racist. I’m arguing that claiming that X, which is demonstrably and self-evidently racist according to any possible meaningful definition of the word, is not racist, is racist. The ban was racist. Regardless of where it came from (and my argument that it was not divine in origin is entirely separate from this argument), it was racist. It formally restricted access to participation, places, opportunities, privileges, and valuables on the basis of race. If that’s not racist, the word has no meaning. And pretending it isn’t racist, that it’s possible to condemn racism in all its forms but refuse to condemn the ban, is racist. It might be daftly, unselfconsciously racist, but it’s still racist, no matter how much you want to equivocate about imagined circular definitions of racism.

  47. Howard, where on earth are you getting “God is a racist”?

  48. “If that’s not racist, the word has no meaning.”
    It’s certainly racial. Whether it’s racist is what I think Dave is getting at.

  49. Brad,
    If the priesthood ban was from God does that make God racist? If not, is it possible that the ban was not racist? If so when God discriminates it is the same as Bubba discriminating? They have similar motives? Or is it possible that God understands humankind’s low level of enlightenment and lack of love for one another and uses his superior intelligence to manipulate humankind through the use of exclusion or race if you prefer? Are they the same?

  50. Well, one person’s “demonstrably and self-evidently X” claim may, from someone else’s perspective, simply be a subjective opinion that X, dressed up in rhetorical form that conveys a claim that is not really demonstrated, just asserted loudly. You still have to respond to the guy who comes up and says: “Being a Mormon is demonstrably and self-evidently racist. The ban was racist. The LDS Church instituted and perpetuated the racist ban. And you affiliate with and support the Church. You identify with its racist doctrines, policies, and practices. If that’s not racist, the word has no meaning.” If your argument works, so does his.

  51. Dave…I would argue that association with the LDS Church qualifies you as a racist. Period. Just as affiliation with the LDS Church most definitely qualifies you as sexist. Period. Full stop.

    The shorthand of my argument is this: if you affiliate yourself with an authoritarian organization whom you allow to make broad pronouncements on your behalf or in your name, wherein you have no meaningful way to change or to resist or to communicate your difference, then you simply inherit the positions of that organization.

    To give contrast: The United States has a history of sexist and racist policies, but association with the U.S. doesn’t automatically brand one racist or sexist. The difference is in the structure of the organization. The U.S. is a pluralistic democracy, built to equip its members with the tools to express their views and to directly petition for change. A person in that system only accrues the beliefs of that system to the degree in which they share those views and/or do not work to change them.

    Brad, this was the most hopeful piece I’ve read from a mormon in years. Thanks. I’ve been down this rabbit hole and couldn’t continue to associate myself with such an organization. Sexism is still so ingrained as to be decades away from change. Homophobia is an ugly sin. But I was happy reading your piece in a way that I haven’ felt in a long, long time reading active mormon apologetics.

    The ban is simply racist. Imagine the growth of the Church and its membership if it were to take on full recognition and repentance for this. A press release with a generic refutation of past racism comes nowhere close to that.

  52. heh, how much of what man does ACTUALLY comes from God? Or how much of what man does he uses God as justification to cover his own prejudice? When will man finally stop blaming God for his own prejudices?

  53. Yeah, I suppose that logic holds up, if by “you identify with its racist doctrines, policies, and practices” you mean “you publicly condemn its racist doctrines, policies, and practices and call for their church-wide repudiation and repentance from them.” Still, if what your suggesting is that members of a church with racist policies, doctrines, and practices bear some shared responsibility for the racism in question, that’s hardly a refutation of anything I’ve argued her.

    The ban was racist. If you’re claiming it wasn’t, or that there even exists a general definition of the term “racist” that would not apply to a racially based exclusion from full fellowship in the church and participation in worship and essential ordinances, then you are a part of the problem and your claim, to the extent that it is taken seriously by church members and leaders, is an obstacle to repentance.

  54. So what we have here is not just a problem of some Mormons of a previous generation holding on to racist folklore, but younger Mormons who have had little (if any) exposure to the racist folklore must conclude that a racist policy must have been God’s will

    Rebecca, This has everything to do with the contemp. Mormon understanding of prophetic direction and counsel. If the ban was a mistake, well what else was? That’s how many Mormon’s think atleast. Screw up on something like this? Something this big? Scrap the whole thing. What’s the point of a prophet if he can blow THIS – of all things?

    You have to understand that the mental gymnastics people perform to make the ban within the will of God is in many cases a genuine attempt to make Mormonism work.

  55. Timothy, you adopted the argument that was intended to discredit the approach because it “proves” too much. It’s like you don’t quite get the joke. We could, with the same approach, assert that all Americans are racist. To properly assert the ban is racist requires a definition everyone can agree on and then some facts. We would consider whether only a person can be racist, or whether the definition can apply to policies, to institutions, or to nations. Can a book be racist? A blog post?

  56. Dave, I’ve dealt with the “all Americans are racist” charge. It doesn’t apply because my relationship with the United States is not of the same type as a mormon’s relationship with the LDS Church. The two organizations are not analogous relative to their empowerment of difference afforded each member.

    Policies and blog posts being “racist” are merely shorthand for the racism of their authors and supporters.

  57. Quit being lazy, Dave.

  58. Brad,

    You said:

    There’s a reason why all of the theological or doctrinal rationalizations for the priesthood ban sound racist. They are. And they must necessarily be, because the policy/practice/doctrine they are defending was profoundly, irreducibly, and irredeemably racist. Whether you locate a group’s putative spiritual inferiority or immaturity or shared curse in their genetic makeup, their blood, or their preexistent choices, when you use race as a basis for inferring the spiritual deficiency and, further, if you enact, uphold, and defend an exclusionary policy (for example, a policy which denies the group access to essential saving ordinances), that is just racist. It doesn’t matter if you believe the rationalization in question reflects reality. All racists believe that their ideas about racial differences, superiority, and inferiority reflect reality. It’s still racist.

    My first question: is it only bad if another group is deemed to be “spiritually inferior” or “spiritually immature”? If blacks were just deemed “spiritually different,” would that still be racist? In other words, what is the racism: “using race as a basis” or using said basis to infer “spiritual deficiency”?

    Next: is it only bad if you can get people to openly admit to believing in said inferiority? (In other words, is all the stuff related to race bad only because people openly admitted/admit that they believed/believe that it was because blacks were/are spiritually immature/inferior/deficient?) Would it matter what the individuals affected felt? (In other words, suppose that the justification was that “blacks are spiritually different. Not better, not worse. Just spiritually different in a way that means they don’t get x.”) Would it matter if certain black individuals thought that that difference implied inferiority?

  59. Getting into a technical debate over whether or not the alleged spiritual differences (typically described in terms of a curse or of eyes-wide-open disloyalty to God) were perceived or understood as inferiority/superiority, the practical effect was to marginalize black church members (and potential converts) in the most profound way imaginable by denying them full participation in the kingdom, in the very essence of the Restored gospel, and to deny them the privilege of making saving covenants and being sealed to their families for time and eternity.

  60. Cynthia L. says:

    Brad, this is simply outstanding.

  61. re 59,

    Brad,

    So the racism is in the practical effects: the extent of the exclusion is the ill (e.g., “denying them fully participation in the kingdom, in the very essence of the Restored gospel, and to deny them the privilege of making saving covenants and being sealed to their families for time and eternity.”)

    Without said exclusion, or a limited level of exclusion, would it have been less bad (or perhaps not even bad at all)?

    Forgive me if I sound simple; I’m just trying to figure out what it is that everyone (or rather, MOST people here) recognizes as the egregious error of racism in this case.

  62. Well, the exclusion was the essence of the ban. It was the ban. If there were no exclusion, there would be no ban. That the false doctrines perpetuated to defend the ban were racist is beyond dispute (unless Dave is about to claim that I’m unfairly labeling them as racist by fiat). So yes, it is the exclusion (in other words, the ban) that is racist. Also everything any church leader ever said in defense of the ban is racist. Also saying the ban or its rationalizations weren’t racist _is racist_.

  63. “I’m just trying to figure out what it is that everyone (or rather, MOST people here) recognizes as the egregious error of racism in this case.”

    The whole thing. Top to bottom.

  64. Brad, let me plainly say that I agree completely with your post and coming to grips with the ban as a racist policy has been good for my ultimate view of the Divine. But, it also has given me a very low view of Mormonism and in the value of “modern revelation” in general. The big question is not – is the ban racist?. The big question is – If the ban is racist – how can you possibly have any faith in the Mormon underpinnings? A very nuanced BCC approach – doesn’t really work with most people.

  65. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 54
    CTJ nails it. Other churches with racism in their past (and there are many!) have moved on by saying “We were wrong and we apologize.” But in Mormonism, an acknowledgment that the Church was wrong on a core doctrine raises profound questions of authority in the here-and-now. The Church makes a de facto claim to ecclesiastical infallibility, which Mormon culture amplifies. Think of all the testimonies along the lines of “I know this is the only perfect church….”

    It’s a bit of a dilemma.

  66. re 62,

    Brad,

    I think that I’ll have to wait to hear where Dave is going with this, but I think I can maybe see where he’s trying to go. I’m not trying to necessarily go in the same place, but I think there’s something to it.

    Racism means a lot of things to a lot of different people. It is a very socially situated idea. So, even though I don’t think I take the same position as Dave, it seems to me that saying, “This is self-evidently racist” hides the “I believe” that is probably lurking in front of that statement, in an implied way.

    Anyway, the point is: It’s very possible that in trying to repent of this kind of racism, we still don’t “satisfy” an external society’s ideas of racism or other unjust practices. So what is the end goal here? Are we just going to become satisfied with what we (Mormons) now consider to be proper distancing and rejection of racism, even if others think we haven’t gone far enough? And will we say that our definition is “self-evident”?

    I know you said you didn’t want to get into this (but you also didn’t want to “minimize” it), but the whole women/sexism thing is also important, if only to show that to be consistent, there are potentially going to be more problems down the road for Mormons and Mormonism. You have also somewhat addressed that: In 12 you say that women’s exclusion from the priesthood does not ultimately exclude them from exaltation. So in a way, I guess that makes it different?

    And yet, there are going to be a lot of people, both outsiders and insiders to the church, who might say that sexism is something of which the church must repent as well. They’ll have a different consideration of what is “self-evidently” sexist, what is the practical exclusion, etc.,

    I find the most interesting from the first selection that I quoted of you, IMO, was this line:

    It doesn’t matter if you believe the rationalization in question reflects reality.

    Because basically, most defenses of *anything* that *other* people call sexist/racist/whatever is that it reflects reality.

  67. I’ve lied here on a respirator for 40 yrs and member for 41 yrs, and I’ve been perusing your very intellectual replies, extensive exegesis Brad, thoroughly enthralled by your “valid” points but nonetheless, the underlying feel is Intellectual… and there is a thorn in my side with anyone that can’t seem to give God His honor due– Does He not say “my ways are not your ways…my thoughts are higher than yours?’ Do we believe God is ‘no respector of people,’ and we are not to counsel God? I hear nothing about trusting God’s timing, ways and reasons for His acts which we cannot wisely judge. There was a ban for reasons only God saw needed in order to prepare US and bring about His perfect work as He is doing in my life even now when to many I look, seem, appear as cursed, limited etc. However, I believe all these wonderfully written arguments are full of info based on pride, and pride destroys all that is good. Where is our faith to God’s mouthpiece?
    Blood, blood, blood… We are saved by Jesus Christ’s blood, by His name, His suffering and His merit. I apologize but, this topic seems a retraction to honest faith, pure trust and love for God’s many blessings according to His due time.

  68. #67, your comment presumes that the ban was divine in origin and consistent with God’s purposes. It does not, however, demonstrate that this is the case. There is no evidence that the ban was instituted by God, and there is considerable evidence that it wasn’t. If the ban were applied on the basis of phrenological categories or astrological signs, it would be easier for us to see the problem in ascribing its origins to divinity.

  69. Kevin Barney says:

    I personally think the Church could apologize for the ban and acknowledge it was a mistake without too much difficulty. (Certainly GBH could have done it effectively with his folksy touch.) There are some factors that would make it easier: (i) it wasn’t initiated by JS; (ii) it wasn’t native to the faith, but was imported from Protestantism; (iii) there was no revelation supporting it; (iv) the Church has within itself the resources to absorb prophetic fallibility, even if we like to give it a veneer of infallibility; and (v) black Mormons would generously accept such an apology.

  70. Brad, in your first paragraph you refer to a “racist practice” and “when some idea or practice is racist.” The Church’s statement on race issued just today, it “unequivocally condemns racism, including any and all past racism by individuals both inside and outside the Church.” There’s no discussion in the Church’s statement that institutions (like the Church), or policies or practices (like the pre-1978 exclusion), might be racist, only individuals. Which suggests that statement doesn’t really address what some feel is the problem. But comparing your discussion and theirs it is also apparent the terms racist and racism are defined differently.

    So yes, defining the term and what it might apply to seems like a helpful starting point. Certainly better than simply declaring one’s belief, then declaring it louder if anyone objects. That was really the only point I was trying to make. To me, the point seems self-evident.

    Timothy: Right, everyone is a racist but you.

  71. Brad, this is a really important and well-stated piece. Thank you for taking the time and effort to write this.

  72. I would like someone to address more specifics about churchwide repentence. If it turns out that, in the end, banning the blacks from the priesthood was not from God, then that’s going to be tough beans for a lot of people to swallow. I know a lot of people yearn for the brethren to admit the church was wrong on this one (assuming it was), but one thing most members love about this church is the guidance from living prophets who speak the will of God. If the church admits that the first presidency statements and official church policy that span over 100 years was all a mistake, what next? What else was a mistake? What good are prophets if they have been wrong about something so long about something so important and so basic as this? So everything after Joseph Smith has been a sham? I think you can see the potential domino effect.

    Most members understand prophets are people and can screw up, but I think we are taught pretty clearly that when the brethren release official messages stamped from approval by the first presidency and Quorum of the 12 that it must be from God. Prophets speaking on their own may or may not be inspired, but official declarations and statements are scripture. At least that’s what I’ve been taught.

    How can asking the church to repent be any different than speaking ill of the prophets and apostles? They set the doctrine. They are in charge. Yes it’s a big church, but what they say goes. I am a member of the church, but they rule it. They are special witnesses of Christ, doctrine is their deal. If we think they are stupid for not telling the world they were wrong about the priesthood ban, aren’t we going to Hell for speaking ill of the Lord’s annointed? Isn’t this something we’ve been commanded and covenanted not to do?

    I loved this post when I read it 4 hours ago, but now the more I think about it the more it seems to go sour.

  73. @medstudent
    Amen! Questioning/the Church is in turn questioning Heavenly Father and many other mysteries we have yet to understand because we aren’t prepared.
    I’m grateful I am in this physical condition for a blip in my eternal purposes because I can Wait [hope] on the Lord and know that whatever needs to be made right and understood will be given.

  74. If God is a racist…does that make Howard God.

  75. …does that make Howard God?

  76. wreddyornot says:

    The person who doesn’t believe is told to ask God, to question, right? Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, etc. If it’s legit to question God, it certainly must be legit to question His servants, isn’t it? I think the question simply is: shouldn’t wrongs be repented, both individually and institutionally?

  77. What is that supposed to mean Chris H?

  78. Brad – Bravo. Beautiful post. So glad to hear the truth spoken boldly.

  79. Pride, Gross Iniquity, And Suffering For One’s Sins … If a racist church president asked me if it was okay to give the blacks the priesthood, I think my answer would be deafening silence as well.

    Well, interesting that what McKay got back from God was not silence, deafening or not.

    Though I do admit that the way you freely stand in judgment on McKay does seem to reflect some pride and gross iniquity.

    BTW. Getting into a technical debate over whether or not of whether it was a blessing rather than a curse? Or are you rejecting that analysis put forth by others?

    I know you said you didn’t want to get into this (but you also didn’t want to “minimize” it), but the whole women/sexism thing is also important, if only to show that to be consistent, there are potentially going to be more problems down the road for Mormons and Mormonism. You have also somewhat addressed that: In 12 you say that women’s exclusion from the priesthood does not ultimately exclude them from exaltation. So in a way, I guess that makes it different?

    And yet, there are going to be a lot of people, both outsiders and insiders to the church, who might say that sexism is something of which the church must repent as well. They’ll have a different consideration of what is “self-evidently” sexist, what is the practical exclusion, etc.,

    Indeed. The first solid analysis I saw of this post used it to state that the Church was irredeemably sexist until it ordained and supported all within LGBTG issues.

    I hear nothing about trusting God’s timing, ways and reasons for His acts which we cannot wisely judge. — that is why the OP must reject David O McKay’s experience of praying about it continually until God told him (a) the policy would change but (b) not under his stewardship so please to quit bothering God about it. The OP treats that as “deafening silence” and implies that David O McKay was such an intrenched racist that God just refused to talk to him or enlighten him further.

    The OP is certain that he is ready, able and appropriate to render judgment on McKay and others, with there being no excuse for them, no place to hide and no justification — much like many of the founding fathers were felt not to be fit to have their temple ordinances done (after all, Benjamin Franklin was a member of the hellfire club and was thrown out of France for immoral behavior while serving as an ambassador).

    Timothy: Right, everyone is a racist but you. Ah, I understand Dave. ;)

  80. I know, this is the subject of a different thread, but it belongs here too: http://www.blacklds.org/mauss

  81. Great post, Brad.

    I have linked to this post previously when this topic has arisen, and I will do so again. Based on the quotes in it, it would be hard for anyone who believes in following the modern prophets over past ones to assert that any of the justifications for the ban were correct in any way:

    “Repudiating Racist Justifications Once and For All” (http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com/2009/04/repudiating-racist-justifications-once.html)

    With that foundation, the only possible answer that doesn’t condemn the ban itself as racist is, “We don’t know why it was allowed by God.” Note that this answer does NOT exclude the belief that it was racist. Someone can say the former and still believe the latter. I think I know why the ban was instituted (because Brigham Young and some early church leaders were racist, as a result of their Protestant upbringing), and I think I understand why God allowed it (because we collectively as a church wouldn’t insist on begging for it to be lifted and accepted / constructed racist justifications), but I can’t say I “know” the latter. It is, however, a very strong belief.

  82. Questioning/the Church is in turn questioning Heavenly Father and many other mysteries we have yet to understand because we aren’t prepared.

    Do you see what we’re dealing with Brad? Since this is a minor threadjack, can you point to a reasonable argument for accepting the fullness of your post AND essential Mormon truth claims at the same time?

  83. #73 – Your first paragraph is the problem in a nutshell. As for your second paragraph, read the quotes in the link I provided in #81. You don’t have to wait; the justifications have been labeled wrong by multiple modern leaders, and the ban as called a policy based on an understanding of scripture – NOT revelation of any kind – by a President of the Church. There really isn’t any question about whether or not it was racist, so admitting it was racist isn’t questioning God or the Church; it just is admitting it as racist.

    Here is another link – this time to a post from Ardis’ Keepapitchinin’ (“Mormon Teachings on Race Relations, 1935″) – that quotes from a lesson in the adult Sunday School manual from 1935. Admitting the ban was racist isn’t a new thing for many members:

    http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com/2009/04/amazing-lesson-on-race-oh-that-we-had.html

  84. I think an important function of theology is to distinquish between “essential Mormon truth claims” and idiotic absolutism.

  85. Ray, I realize that the answer you propose is one which allows for the assumption of goodwill and faithful obedience to God on the part of all the prophets who sustained this practice over the years, but there is another answer to the question of “Why did God allow this practice to continue?” and it would be, “Because the leadership who had the ability to listen to God all along and change the practice hardened their hearts and refused to hear what God was saying about this mistreatment of God’s children. Racism was the cause, not God.” To say that God “allowed” this in any way, shape or form suggests that the responsibility for this hateful, racist practice was God’s, not humans’. I believe in placing responsibility squarely where it belongs, and when it comes to stubbornness and bad behavior on the part of human beings, that responsibility is never God’s.

  86. CTJ, sure, it’s easy:

    God works with fallible people and always has. Our own Articles of Faith say that we don’t have all truth and that many great and important things were and are yet to be restored; our scriptures all describe incorrect understandings and apostate aspects within “God’s people” collectively throughout history; “The Church” has never said everything that has been preached from within it, even by its top leaders, is infallible and perfect.

    See how easy that was?

  87. #85, Lorian, I agree and didn’t mean to imply otherwise. I thought I said what you said directly, and I’m sorry it didn’t come out that way for you.

  88. Sorry, Ray. My bad. I’m frustrated by the amount of defensiveness I am still seeing for this policy. I misunderstood your comment.

  89. And let us give Ardis credit, where it is due http://www.keepapitchinin.org/2009/04/24/mormon-teachings-on-race-relations-1935/ (as Ray notes).

  90. Thank you, Brad, for a well-reasoned and impassioned piece. I’ve never thought that the priesthood ban could have been divinely inspired, in the same way that reading about how the Lamanites were “cursed with a skin of blackness” makes me cringe. God is supposed to be just and merciful. But how can God be just when He makes people as He sees fit, and then creates an institution that purports to bring about His purposes (namely, the immortality and eternal life of man), when that institution punishes people (in withholding the opportunity to receive the blessings deemed essential for eternal life) for being as God made them? It is not just. It cannot be from God. A God who would do such a thing is not a God I can worship. I still don’t know how to make this jive with the fact that I love the church, and even love the Book of Mormon (aside from the ‘skin of blackness’ stuff).

  91. Brilliant Brad. Three cheers on the post. Hip Hip Hooray.

  92. Stephen, was that “I understand, Dave.” Or “I understand Dave.” If the first, thank you. If the second, please explain me to me.

  93. If I still believed in God, I would have to say that this is the most perfect thing that has ever been written and ever will be written about the racist priesthood ban. But since I don’t believe in God and haven’t read everything ever written, I am left saying that it’s probably the most almost-perfect thing ever written.

  94. Brad, this was a great post. Thanks for writing it.

  95. “I understand, Dave.” leads to “I understand Dave.” ;)

  96. “…that is why the OP must reject David O McKay’s experience of praying about it continually until God told him (a) the policy would change but (b) not under his stewardship so please to quit bothering God about it. The OP treats that as “deafening silence” and implies that David O McKay was such an intrenched racist that God just refused to talk to him or enlighten him further.

    The OP is certain that he is ready, able and appropriate to render judgment on McKay and others, with there being no excuse for them, no place to hide and no justification — much like many of the founding fathers were felt not to be fit to have their temple ordinances done (after all, Benjamin Franklin was a member of the hellfire club and was thrown out of France for immoral behavior while serving as an ambassador).”

    I gotta say, I’m totally comfortable letting what I actually wrote in the original post stand publicly against your description of it.

  97. #90 – Anselma, fwiw, the “skin of blackness” issue is easy to explain – if we are willing to admit that prophets and their people aren’t perfect, have their own blind spots and can be racist, even in the Book of Mormon. As simply as I can put this:

    The population numbers in the Book of Mormon only make sense if the Lamanites intermingled with a fairly large indigenous people. After all, even when the Nephites intermingled with the Mulekites (who were more numerous than the Nephites), the Lamanites still out-numbered that newly formed people significantly. If the population with which the Lamanites intermingled was a darker-skinned people, it would be “natural” for the Nephites (“purebloods” in their own view) to cite the darker skin of that population as a curse – just as the Israelites had done for centuries previously. It was their cultural history, just as it has been for pretty much every civilization throughout history.

    Thus, it’s easy to believe that God didn’t do any cursing; people (including prophets) did the cursing – and constructed justifications based on other people’s previous racist justifications. It’s a vicious cycle, but it’s as “natural” as anything in the history of the world. (and remember, that is saying it is in opposition to God, based on that same Book of Mormon)

    Please read the lesson in Ardis’ post (linked in #89) and the comments in my post about her post (linked in #83) if you want to read more about that general topic. It takes a paradigm shift for many members, but I believe strongly that it’s much more consistent with our actual scriptures and actually explains the ban quite well from a historical perspective.

  98. I have no problem believing that the elite, aristocratic, literate, priestly Nephite caste that kept the records held ethnocentric (“racist” would probably be anachronistic here) prejudices and attitudes toward outsiders (particularly descendants of what they considered to be an illegitimate Lehite genealogical line). Given how often color dichotomies figure as metaphors for Nephite descriptions of themselves against their Lamanite rivals, it’s entirely possible that “skin of blackness” is a figure of speech, an idiom (like “thick-skinned,” which none of us would mistake for a dermatological description), in the same way that “works of darkness” was.

  99. Absolutely, Brad – especially since the Old Testament is riddled with that same terminology.

    It also is interesting to note that those descriptions are completely non-existent in 3rd Nephi and beyond – when we are told that all the people intermingled with each other and “-ites” became a religious qualifier only, not heritage-based. Iow, once skin color stopped being a distinguishing marker of “race”, mention of the “curse” disappeared from the record – even in relation to the future wicked population.

  100. Sorry, I meant to say that skin color stopped being a distinguishing maker of “righteousness”, mention of the (skin-color-related) “curse” disappeared from the record.

  101. re 86
    Ray, Can we get real? Infallibility is not taught – for sure. But neither is fallibility. Sure, you can pull up the Faust quote or a few others here and there. The overarching tone of the manuals, GC, the Ensign and every ward I’ve ever been in, is a suggested infallibility – at least when speaking for the Church as the Lord’s mouthpiece. How many times have you heard the Woodruff quote taken out of context? To boot, most Mormons I know throughout the world would very certainly consider Brad’s post “evil speaking”.

    I’m willing to adjust my expectations of what the role of a prophet is, but I don’t hear anyone in the leadership asking me to do it.

    http://institute.lds.org/manuals/teachings-of-the-livings-prophets/tlp-3-7.asp

  102. Brad: Good stuff. Thanks for writing this post.

    If only a “prophet, seer, and revelator” had said these same things 40 (or more) years ago. But that’s only wishful thinking. If only there were more prophesying, seeing, and revealing, rather than retrenchment, short-sightedness, and concealing. But that would be to hope too much.

    To those who make the intellectual jump from the racial priesthood ban to the gender priesthood ban: Spot on.

    I agree that there is no substantive difference, and the fallacies in the justifications for the two categorical exclusions are essentially the same, with a few minor variations rooted in unnecessary gender essentialism. Unfortunately, gender essentialism is still alive and well.

    Lester Bush’s main points about the racial ban carry over to the question of gender.

    Was there ever a revelation specifying the priesthood as a male-only privilege? No. As with the racial ban, no one knows when the gender ban began, or why (though supposed justifications are abundant).

    If there was no revelation in the first place, would a revelation be necessary to end the gender ban? No. But the current church would never make such a change without such a revelation.

    Does the possibility exist that God has a purpose for instituting the gender ban? That question presupposes that he instituted it to begin with, and we have no record of that. We only have the result of that supposition. Religious teachings are saturated with this assumption, but they do not give an origin for it. They simply treat it as if there is no other way. If we ask God if the ban is his will, he might say yes, I suppose, but we have no record of anyone in a position of authority asking that question or receiving any answer.

  103. Absolutely brilliant. Thank you, Brad.

  104. Neal Kramer says:

    Lifting the ban had incredible consequences. Because it When the ban was lifted and temple doors were opened to everyone and their ancestors, the act brought into speech and culture a clear rejection of all the racist explanations for a racist practice. It condemned the practice as racist, exclusionist, and inconsistent with the teaching that all are alike unto God. It separated the practice from God, implying the ban was never His idea. For many Mormons it was a moment in which we witnessed our leaders don figurative sack cloth and ashes in public in acts of individual and intsitutional repentance. The Church as an insitution was transformed as we learned that taking the gospel into all the world meant what it literally said. All our efforts to keep from having to do it were suddenly futile. It gave us new direction and in the case of this matter left the pre-Kimball church in the dust.

  105. CTJ, Your exact words were:

    “can you point to a reasonable argument for accepting the fullness of your post AND essential Mormon truth claims at the same time?”

    I answered what you actually asked in the comment I cited, not what you addressed in #101. They are two very different things.

    “Let’s get real” is fine and dandy as a generic insult, but it doesn’t fit my response in the slightest.

  106. Mommie Dearest says:

    It’s taken me a while to do justice to this post, the links, and many of the comments. Thank you for a great deal of progress in my own learning. Ray, I really appreciated your simplicity in #86.

  107. When Elder McConkie’s statement about the 1978 revelation is read in context, it appears racist. http://speeches.byu.edu/reader/reader.php?id=11017 His talk, entitled, “All Are Alike Unto God” enumerates ways that non-white members historically did not deserve access to priesthood blessings.

    Thanks for the post, Brad. Many of us are longing for an apology from the brethren’s regarding the Church past policies on race and on polygamy. Both were policies that excluded, demeaned, and abused some members. Today the Church’s treatment of women reveals that Church leadership has not fully understand how all truly are alike unto God. As a female, I have been subjected to abuse and intolerance by male lay leadership for years while I served in auxiliary leadership positions. Often women in the Church are treated as slaves to carry out the marching orders of micro-managing bishops and stake presidents. I pray for the day when leaders of our Church will understand the sigficance and relevance of that scripture and then implement it wholeheartedly in all policies and procedures.

  108. Peter LLC says:

    Preach on, Brad.

  109. Simply, thank you. Thank you.

  110. 97 — Ray, that is the model that has appeared to make sense to me as well.

    It should be noted, btw, that the doctrine has always been that Blacks would at some point receive the priesthood. Once you go to that point, you get to some interesting questions of why a ban at all, if it is going to change.

    Brad — glad you acknowledge how your “deafening silence” comports with the actual record. It appears to be essential for you to deny some of the historical record to reach your conclusions, which you remain comfortable with. I would say that speaks for itself then.

  111. My conclusions in no way depend on the answer having been silence (which it often was, and which my own answer would have been) as opposed to it having been “no, stop asking, it’s not going to happen while you’re running things.” Deafening silence did have a certain dramatic flair to it, I suppose, and didn’t tell the full story, but it’s hardly a distortion that I pressed into the service of a stretched conclusion. Its not as if a fuller account remotely weakens my broader point. You’re straining at a gnat to find enough rope to hang me, Stephen.

    The claim that “the doctrine has always been that Blacks would at some point receive the priesthood” doesn’t remotely comport with the actual historical record, fwiw.

  112. Ray, no insult intended, I just think you’re being dismissive. This is not a rhetorical game for me – its a real problem for myself and many in the Church. How can you agree with Brad’s post AND also agree with the very clear institutional line of the Lord not allowing the Church to be led astray? (that’s essentially what I was asking in 82) I guess that comes down to your def. of the word “astray” – but this is exactly why so many LDS would find Brad’s post offensive. I actually agree that your nuanced approach is the only way to reasonably proceed. But, the institution is not with you.

  113. Brad, let me know when you’re permitted to read this post over the pulpit. Then we can rejoice.

  114. Brad, if all you are trying to express is the poverty of one-drop theories, your argument is sound, but if you are trying to tell us there is no such thing as distinguishable inheritance over millennia, you might want to read more on population genetics. As Sewall Wright wrote nine decades ago, “It has also become clear, however, that most cases of inheritance are far from exhibiting the simplicity which Mendel was fortunate enough to find in certain variations of the pea.” (Going back to the beginning can be fun for those who like that sort of thing to whom I recommend reading Sewall Wright.) I bring this up so that no one’s lack of racism will be resting on naive Intelligent Design-style statistical arguments. (“Look at this enormous number I just calculated. Evolution? No way.”) In 2010, a paper by Harry Ostrer in the American Journal of Human Genetics received a fair bit of mainstream attention: “Abraham’s Children in the Genome Era: Major Jewish Diaspora Populations Comprise Distinct Genetic Clusters with Shared Middle Eastern Ancestry.” Some interesting bits from the abstract and discussion sections:

    Here, genome-wide analysis of seven Jewish groups (Iranian, Iraqi, Syrian, Italian, Turkish, Greek, and Ashkenazi) and comparison with non-Jewish groups demonstrated distinctive Jewish population clusters, each with shared Middle Eastern ancestry, proximity to contemporary Middle Eastern populations, and variable degrees of European and North African admixture.

    Two major differences among the populations in this study were the high degree of European admixture (30%–60%) among the Ashkenazi, Sephardic, Italian, and Syrian Jews and the genetic proximity of these populations to each other compared to their proximity to Iranian and Iraqi Jews. This time of a split between Middle Eastern Iraqi and Iranian Jews and European/Syrian Jews, calculated by simulation and comparison of length distributions of IBD segments, is 100–150 generations, compatible with a historical divide that is reported to have occurred more than 2500 years ago.

    Four founder mitochondrial haplogroups of Middle Eastern origins comprise approximately 40% of the Ashkenazi Jewish genetic pool, whereas the remainder is comprised of other haplogroups, many of European origin and supporting the degree of admixture observed in the current study. Evidence for founder females of Middle Eastern origin has been observed in other Jewish populations based on non-overlapping mitochondrial haplotypes with coalescence times >2000 years.

  115. “…if you are trying to tell us there is no such thing as distinguishable inheritance over millennia…”

    I’m not. I’m well aware that most human phenotypic traits and trait complexes are not mendelian. Nothing I have argued here presumes otherwise. It still remains a fact that direct descent from a particular individual living several millennia ago is functionally meaningless, and there is no such thing as a modern-day, demographically limited population that uniquely trace their heritage, cursed or privileged, to a particular individual 6,000 years ago.

  116. What form should an apology take? Is an over the pulpit statement enough? A press release?

    What is required of repentance? Restitution?

    I’d like to see the church have a contrite spirit. And not just the current leaders, the entirety of the church.

    Perhaps there should be something like affirmative action; an immediate replacement of some measure of church leadership with black members.

    But, also, there should be a multi-year curriculum about the issue that is both reflective of the errors made & honest about black culture & history.

    A start?

  117. Mark Brown says:

    114, John M.,

    But the “one drop” theory was what we applied, pre-1978, so this post helps us understand how mistaken it was.

    Mauss has documented cases where people whose outward appearance would cause you to think they came from Stockholm were denied the priesthood and access to the temple because a 3rd or 4th great-grandparent was of African descent.

  118. And not just the current leaders, the entirety of the church.

    Timothy, some have pointed to Protestant racism as contributing to the birth of the ban. Therefore – society influenced the Church and its leaders into error – right? What’s usually left out, however, is the Church’s contribution to the membership’s views on race. If the average Mormon holds some blame for the ban, its not speaking out against the leadership. Its following their counsel in regards to race. You’re incredibly optimistic if you think that kind of message will ever show up in a manual. It was said half a century ago, but this quote is an essential teaching in the contemp. Mormon understanding of the role of a prophet.

    ‘My boy, you always keep your eye on the President of the Church, and if he ever tells you to do anything, and it is wrong, and you do it, the Lord will bless you for it.’ Then with a twinkle in his eye, he said, ‘But you don’t need to worry. The Lord will never let his mouthpiece lead the people astray.’” (Marion G. Romney, in Conference Report, Oct. 1960, p. 78.)

  119. Mark Brown says:

    79, Stephen M.,

    The OP is certain that he is ready, able and appropriate to render judgment on McKay and others, with there being no excuse for them, no place to hide and no justification

    Brad isn’t out of line at all on this. Here is what the Newsroom said yesterday:

    “The Church unequivocally condemns racism, including ANY and ALL past racism by individuals both INSIDE and outside the Church.” (emphasis mine)

    I suggest we all follow the brethren on this, and get on the ball. Let’s start condemning ALL racism from ANY individual inside the church. High priesthood office is no excuse.

  120. My trouble with this is it seems like a child saying “I won’t forgive him until he says sorry”, then holding onto that grudge. No matter what overtures are made, no matter how many times it is reiterated that it was wrong, no matter how long a time has passed, nothing will be enough to dispel that grudge. Even if an explicit apology is made, the attitude will convert to, “he should have said sorry sooner”, or “he shouldn’t have done it in the first place”, and the grudge remains.

    How does the Church not explicitly saying the Church was wrong and apologizing affect the Church? Aren’t we told that we should forgive, no matter what the attitude of the person we think needs our forgiveness?

  121. Re: “The Lord will never let his mouthpiece lead the people astray.”

    This is where the true, and most difficult, repentance for the church will eventually need to happen. The priesthood ban is the best place to start, because it is more cut-and-dried than some of the other issues.

  122. Fwiw:

    “Racism and Repentance: Change Is Better than an Apology” (http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com/2010/03/change-is-better-than-apology.html)

  123. @120 Frank…

    What’s clear from your statement is that you feel no shame in the issue, no sense of yourself having committed a sin, and certainly, no recognition of the Church having been in error.

    This is not primarily about receiving forgiveness, it’s about repentance.

  124. “My trouble with this is it seems like a child saying….”

    No…you…didn’t.

  125. @123 – Timothy . . .
    omg! You’re right! I can’t believe that wasn’t clear to me when I wrote it! I -so- need to repent!

    I’m sorry if that is what you read into it, but that is not what I said. What happened to “he that is without offense, cast the first stone”?

  126. @124 – Chris H
    Does it help if I said it seems like an “adult” saying it? I know plenty of adults who hold grudges.

  127. @125 Frank…I am with offense.

  128. Frank, have you seen the comments that Bott made?

  129. Chris, yes, I did. I also saw the Church condemn his words, he apologize and not speak of it (or even try to defend his words) any more. I also saw the church say explicitly that any such racist remarks from anyone, in or out of the Church, past or present, is wrong.

    This post seems to just say that despite all that has been done and said, it is not enough. It just seems to me that even if the Church puts out a statement saying “We’re sorry”, it won’t be enough.

  130. #123 – Wow, Timothy, that’s about as twisted a reading of a comment as I’ve ever seen – anywhere. Seriously, how in the world did you get from what Frank wrote to what you wrote? There is no logical connection, whatsoever.

    This issue is deeply personal to me, largely because I helped raise a couple of black teenagers in a predominantly white suburb and because I served in a Stake Missionary Presidency in the Deep South. I’ve written almost a dozen posts on my own blog about this general issue, because it is so deeply personal. I believe, as Pres. Hinckley stated and as the newest Church press release implies, that this one issue is as big a condemnation of individuals (and, by extension, collectively, a group) as exists today – and I believe there are implications that go beyond race. However, focusing on race, I believe strongly that we need to reject totally the racist justifications of the past – but I believe just as strongly that we need to do more than that. I believe:

    “We Must Eradicate Even Subtly Racist Messages” (http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com/2012/02/some-random-thoughts-on-racism-in-lds.html)

  131. Paul Bohman #102 – FTW!

  132. Frank, I was noticing a similarity between your reference to certain people as children and that of Bott.

  133. Neal Kramer #104 –

    it was a moment in which we witnessed our leaders don figurative sack cloth and ashes in public in acts of individual and intsitutional repentance. The Church as an insitution was transformed

    Except for the fact that the church *has* continued to defend the ban, to blame it on revelation and to attribute its being lifted to yet more revelation, the purposes of which are inscrutable to humans and can only be speculated upon, since they were God’s will to start with. It would be far preferable if the church *did* take responsibility for the ban and attribute it to stupid human prejudice, and then take credit for its being lifted by announcing how stupid the prejudice had been and how much the leadership apologized for and wished to make amends for the past mistreatment of black persons.

  134. @129 Frank…

    Yes, just putting out a statement that says “We’re sorry” won’t be enough. See my post @116.

  135. #72:
    “…So everything after Joseph Smith has been a sham? I think you can see the potential domino effect….

    “Prophets speaking on their own may or may not be inspired, but official declarations and statements are scripture. At least that’s what I’ve been taught.”

    #73:
    “Amen! Questioning/the Church is in turn questioning Heavenly Father and many other mysteries we have yet to understand because we aren’t prepared.”

    This is exactly the kind of black and white, all-or-nothing thinking that can lead to a complete collapse of faith in the face of more detailed historical knowledge. I would hope that, if anything, difficulties like racism within Mormonism would lead us to, yes, question the church, question Heavenly Father, receive our own answers and revelation, and ultimately lead us to a fuller understanding of the limits of mortality, the limits of mortal leaders, and the imperfections of mortal organizations like the church. I would hope that we would learn to take responsibility and work out our own salvation. Question what you’ve been taught. Prepare yourself for greater truth. If anything, The Church, especially its history, teaches us not to blindly accept morsels from authority figures, but to find truth for ourselves.

  136. Chris, everyone can be childish. Bott comparing blacks to children does not relate. I’ve no idea, nor do I really care, about the color of any of the posters. Attributes are immeterial to attitudes.

  137. Brad–beautifully done.
    Frank Pellett–of course it’s not enough. The specifics are missing. The two pillars of the policy, the belief in a “cursed” lineage and the belief in a mortal judgment (in the form of extra melanin) for “neutral” spirits must be specifically repudited or they will continue, regarded as simply the way things are, but not really racist, because we quit being racist in 1978.
    On the brighter side, note this fine (though general) sentence: “It is not known precisely why, how, or when this restriction began in the Church but what is clear is that it ended decades ago.” Note what it does NOT do which previous statements (1852, 1949, 1969) did. It does NOT say that the Church has had this policy from its beginnings. It does not say that it God was involved in any way, it does not posit any kind of rationale/justification for it.
    That is a huge step in the right direction.
    Apology? I doubt it. Feel free to play Pastor Murray’s account of Pres. Hinckley’s personal apology to him in _Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons_, but I believe that’s all we’ll get.
    Repudiation? Yes. I absolutely believe it will come.

  138. Doug Hudson says:

    Anyone who wants to know what racism looks like, just read Frank at 121. Comparing Blacks to “a child” who won’t “forgive” an adult (i.e. Whites)? Wow.

    Perhaps the Mormons who refuse to acknowledge the need for repentance are the real children, jealous that they are being made to share their toys.

  139. @138 – Doug
    I’m sorry, when did I compare blacks to children? I said the post sounds childish. How do blacks come into my statement? Is Brad black? Why should that make any difference?

  140. I just joined, and haven’t read all the comments yet.

    It appears that Brad is calling the church membership, the general authorities of the church, and President Monson to repentance, and asking that they make a public confession and then judge and publicly condemn the previous prophets of the church. Am I reading that right?

  141. No, Clair, you aren’t.

  142. I wonder if the Church will ever publicly cop to the ban being a mistake and man-made error, simply because of the potential PR nightmare. The entity claiming to have the highest amout of received divine knowledge persisting in error for so long is a hard thing to explain away.

    I imagine that the leadership also fears the ripple effects WITHIN the Church by admitting to error, it opens a door to scrutiny of all past policies of the Church and even some of the doctrine (to say nothing of current policies and practices). While I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing, I can see why the Church (bleeding members in some places over issues of historicity and policy issues) wants to avoid it at all costs.

    However, I think the Church’s quick response and condemnation of Bott’s words is a step in the right direction. Not as big as I’d like, but progress is progress!

  143. Wonderful post Brad. If we want to do away completely with racist attitudes in the church, we’re going to have to simply say “We were wrong.”

  144. I thought that I responsible for my own sins and not Adams transgressions. I have never been racist so what do I need to repent of? Given Brads logic I should repent for Mountain Meadows incident and every other sin committed by men not sanctioned by but committed in the name of the church? Give me a break!

  145. @137 Margaret…

    I’ve followed your work for a while now and am familiar with your general stance on the issue.

    However, your approach seems still to want to protect the Church more than to correct the wrong. Am I right about that? You seem to be saying in 137 that this is as much as we should expect, and more, you seem generally thrilled by it, as though this accomplishes your goals. Please clarify if I’ve misunderstood you.

  146. Paul, following the prophet was only a sin pre-1978.

  147. Timothy, that’s the second time in these threads, at least, that you’ve extrapolated ridiculous conclusions from the comments of others. Seriously, how could you read Margaret’s comment and come to that conclusion? It simply isn’t there in any shape or form.

  148. Paul, Mormonism should repent. Your attitude seems to indicate that you should too. Though thinking that past racism does not convern you pretty much just makes you an American.

  149. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 142 Potential PR nightmare??? The status quo IS a PR nightmare. All the Church needs to do is take the next step: A statement that “The Church was wrong and apologizes…” etc. I think Kevin Barney is right; it could be done rather easily. Then the media gurus in SLC remind everyone how many other churches have the same kind of past, and in a short time this whole issue goes away forever.

    It can be done:

    http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2010/summer/rooting-out-racism/a-denomination-con

  150. @149

    You’re absolutely right! I meant to imply more and future PR nightmares that would likely come if the precedent was set for publicly admitting to faults in teachings. Once you open the door to admitting you were wrong, there are an awful lot of people (like me) who are going to press you to admit other errors. Which (was what my point was meant to be) further weakens your claims to divine guidance and prophetic leadership to potential converts and current members.

  151. MikeInWeHo says:

    One could argue that the ability of the Church to acknowledge and correct its errors is proof of divine guidance and prophetic leadership, not the opposite.

  152. #150 – only if we believe in prophetic infallibility and deny our actual scriptural precedents

  153. @ 151
    One could, I like to think it does. But I also know people who think it means the opposite.

    @152
    Lots of people do. One of my coworkers tried to get me reprimanded because I stated that I didn’t believe prophets were infallible. She told our boss (also LDS) I was preaching apostasy. That was a long day at the office.

    I’m obviously not stating my ideas well so I’ll back off.

  154. Stephen M (Ethesis) says:

    Brad, I see it as different on the McKay issue.

    I do see the most likely reasons as a condemnation of the Church membership at the time.

    Switching gears, I am mostly familiar with Bruce R’s writing that Blacks would not receive the priesthood until after the millinium. I missed that there was a more restrictive group out there.

    Do you have some citations? I really was unfamiliar with more.

    I still remember being surprised to learn in 1974 or 75 that the practice would change in my lifetime and have given it thought on and off since.

  155. @150 and 142 – C.

    I agree completely. The ripple affect is what I was elaborating in #72 when I said domino effect. It seems like the church is in a damned if you do and damned if you don’t position.

    #135: “This is exactly the kind of black and white, all-or-nothing thinking that can lead to a complete collapse of faith in the face of more detailed historical knowledge”

    You are correct. And I know a LOT of people who have this kind of faith. I think it would be catastrophic. And, since many people who have left the church had this kind of faith, why wouldn’t admitting the prophets were wrong just exacerbate the problem? Do we think they will come back to church when their hunch was confirmed that the church is very fallible? I suspect many would smirk to themselves “I told you so!” and then proceed to more vehement anti-Mormon activities. There has been no precedent for this type of “churchwide repentence”, so what I or anyone else says would happen is just speculation.

    But where is our faith and our sustaining vote?

  156. I’m still waiting for Frank to point out where, exactly, in my rather childish post I so much as used the word apology (or any of its derivative forms), much less demanded an apology from anyone.

  157. Stephen M (Ethesis) says:

    The most likely explanation I have for what God told McKay is that the membership of the church was too weak to accept the change. That does no one much in the way of favors in providing them an excuse.

    It is like the explanation we have on delays in the change of the WOW from advice to a commandment — that they were just too weak to abide it as a body.

    Or tithing vs consecration.

    Or, of course, Christ talking about divorce and higher and lower laws. I would not say the explanation covers anyone in glory.

  158. Stephen M (Ethesis) says:

    Mark, I do not see the newsroom statement as critical of McKay.

    I do agree with it though.

  159. @medstudent #155 “You are correct. And I know a LOT of people who have this kind of [black and white, all-or-nothing] faith. I think it would be catastrophic. And, since many people who have left the church had this kind of faith, why wouldn’t admitting the prophets were wrong just exacerbate the problem? ”

    The leaders of the church created the problem in the first place. They teach things like this in General Conference:
    – Either the Book of Mormon is true, or it is a fraud
    – Either Joseph Smith is a prophet or he was a fraud
    – Either the church is what it claims to be or it is not, and it deserves to be exposed
    – The leaders of the church will not lead the members astray

    With very little effort, you can find instances of all of those teachings among modern church authorities. With this in mind, the first people who would need to change their understanding of the relationship between church authority and truth are the church authorities themselves! (Or at least they would need to change the way they talk about such things publicly, even if they have more nuanced views privately.)

    Changing things at the top? Now THAT would be catastrophic… in the best way possible!

    As for the fallout at the local level: some will “take the truth to be hard,” to quote a quintessentially Mormon phrase. But I thought Mormonism was all about truth. Or… not?

    Maybe it’s all about simple ideas that sell well to current believers instead of the actual truth?

    In other words, I prefer to think that “the truth shall set you free,” rather than “the truth will ruin the church.”

  160. Brad, the third and fourth paragraphs appear to require contrition, or an admission of guilt, which, to me, would be an apology. Your additional comment #2 reinforces this. Even the clear statement that the racist remarks and attitudes inside the church were unacceptable isnt enough. It doesn’t appear that anything would be enough for you.

  161. @159

    What if Brad and everyone who wants the church to repent are simply taking the truth to be hard?

  162. @161 What truth are you suggesting that they are taking to be hard?

  163. No, Frank. It’s not an apology I’m seeking. It’s repentance. It is contrition, an admission of past wrongs and the harm they caused. Obviously we’re willing to do that by repudiating the racist explanations and false-doctrines taught to defend the ban. My point is that it’s not enough to condemn racism when you’re unwilling to admit that the ban itself was racist, and therefore as worthy of condemnation as the theological nonsense used to justify it. It’s incredibly problematic to condemn racism while going out of your way to not condemn the most racist part of your past. It’s a form of denial not at all conducive to repentance. It keeps the pain and the harm of the past wrongs alive, and keeps the kinds of racism implicit in comment #161 or Randy Bott’s non-apology apology alive and sustained by a sense of embattled self-righteousness.

  164. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 159 They could start by just eliminating the all-or-nothing preaching that you so correctly identify. I listen General Conference and hear stuff like that. It surprises me that the leadership doesn’t see the connection between that rhetoric and the retention problems.

  165. Re my own comment: In other words, I prefer to think that “the truth shall set you free,” rather than “the truth will ruin the church.”

    If it really does come down to the truth on one hand and ruining the church on the other hand, what honest person of integrity would choose to sacrifice truth in order to save the church? If one or the other has to go, I’m not going to sacrifice truth.

    (I’m not going to go so far as to insist that this stark choice is the only option. In fact, I’m arguing against such radical dichotomies. I’m just saying that if it *were* the only option, I’ve stated my loyalty.)

  166. #162 Paul

    It’s actually the same truth that has just barely been discussed, the truth that the truth may not be as black and white as we think. In other words, the idea that it might not be as black and white as saying the church was or wasn’t racist and needs or doesn’t need to repent. That’s pretty much official church policy right now, and a lot of people sure take it to be hard. But it could be true.

  167. The policy was racist. If you don’t think it’s racist to formally and openly and systematically discriminate on the basis of racial heritage, then you have a racism problem. Full stop.

    To express contrition for past racism (“in all forms”) without expressing contrition for the ban is either racist (because it denies the racism of the ban) or else a disingenuous attempt to have your cake and eat it too (to claim the moral high ground entailed by your blanket condemnations of racism without accepting responsibility for your own past complicity in the sin of racism). You either think all forms of racism are worthy of contrition and condemnation, or else you say you think all forms are but actually persistently refuse to condemn its most obvious form in yourself. Condemning racism without condemning the ban is the antithesis of the kind of critical self-honesty, humility, and repentant spirit that is the core of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

  168. @167: Amen. You’ve really only restated your initial post in your latest response, but sometimes that’s what it takes.

    @166: There are almost always additional non-racist reasons thrown into the mix for every policy that could be considered racist, and yes, it’s possible that those other reasons might actually have some moral legitimacy. But even if there are multiple reasons for a given policy — some racist and some not — the non-racist reasons don’t change the nature of the racist reasons. The co-existence of racist and non-racist reasons may complicate our ability to pass judgment on the people perpetrating the policies, and may add nuance to the story, but they do not change the nature of racism itself.

  169. You can bracket the question of reasons/motivations altogether. It doesn’t matter if it was motivated by racial prejudice. It was racist on its face. It was racist by definition. It discriminated on the basis of race. It was racist in its effects. There is no way around this fact, no mental or logical gymnastics with which the policy can be described as not racist. And now that we’ve committed ourselves to condemning and expressing contrition for racism in all its forms, we have morally obligated ourselves to condemn the racism of the ban.

  170. 163 – Brad,
    Your re-explanation helped me better understand your position on this. Thanks. While I do not agree that institutional contrition is possible or necessary, I do better understand where you are coming from, and your reasoned response also speaks volumes.

  171. Fwiw, I think people are missing the most important part of the current statement on lds.org – one that I am very happy to see stated so directly, since it opens the door for lots of future discussion about the Priesthood at the most general level. It says:

    “The origins of priesthood availability are not entirely clear.”

    That’s true (in more ways than one, with regard to more situations than one); it’s not tied to issues of the modern ban (since it doesn’t state a limitation of time or place and actually **doesn’t** apply to the modern ban -since we know Joseph made the Priesthood available to black men in his time); it’s profound and fundamental. Saying it openly, without limiting qualifications, is a very good step.

  172. Thank you for the measured response, Frank. Apologies for my brash defensiveness.

  173. Here are a few definitions of “racism,” provided here without any commentary from me:

    1. a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to rule others.
    2. a policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such a doctrine; discrimination.
    3. hatred or intolerance of another race or other races.
    Dictionary.com Unabridged
    Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2012.

    1: a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race
    2: racial prejudice or discrimination
    Merriam-Webster (online)

    1. the belief that races have distinctive cultural characteristics determined by hereditary factors and that this endows some races with an intrinsic superiority over others
    2. abusive or aggressive behaviour towards members of another race on the basis of such a belief
    Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition

    Cultural Dictionary
    racism definition
    The belief that some races are inherently superior (physically, intellectually, or culturally) to others and therefore have a right to dominate them. In the United States, racism, particularly by whites against blacks, has created profound racial tension and conflict in virtually all aspects of American society. Until the breakthroughs achieved by the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s, white domination over blacks was institutionalized and supported in all branches and levels of government, by denying blacks their civil rights and opportunities to participate in political, economic, and social communities.
    The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition

    1 The belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, esp. so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races
    2 Prejudice or discrimination directed against someone of a different race based on such a belief.
    Google dictionary (search for “define:racism”)

  174. clayton says:

    Here is a link to an interview Elder Holland gave back in 1996 to PBS:

    http://www.pbs.org/mormons/interviews/holland.html

    Elder Holland stated:

    One clear-cut position is that the folklore must never be perpetuated. … I have to concede to my earlier colleagues. … They, I’m sure, in their own way, were doing the best they knew to give shape to [the policy], to give context for it, to give even history to it. All I can say is however well intended the explanations were, I think almost all of them were inadequate and/or wrong. …

    It probably would have been advantageous to say nothing, to say we just don’t know, and, [as] with many religious matters, whatever was being done was done on the basis of faith at that time. But some explanations were given and had been given for a lot of years. … At the very least, there should be no effort to perpetuate those efforts to explain why that doctrine existed. I think, to the extent that I know anything about it, as one of the newer and younger ones to come along, … we simply do not know why that practice, that policy, that doctrine was in place.

    Brad,
    From this statement by Elder Holland, are you saying he lacks “critical self-honesty, humility, and a repentant spirit, which is the core of the gospel of Jesus Christ?” If so, will you be able to raise your arm to the square and sustain him as a prophet, seer, and revelator at the upcoming April conference?

  175. Aged Observer says:

    Brad,
    I’m slow to the conversation, but thank you. Your post is right on target. Individually and collectively, we have need of continuous repentance, thank God for the Savior and his infinite atonement.

    I’m reminded of a phrase from the D&C: “…the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased, speaking unto the church collectively and not individually…”

    I suspect that the Lord is often not “well pleased” with the church (perhaps continuously) because of collective sins of omission as well as commission. As I re-read Ed Kimball’s account of the process by which the 1978 decision was confirmed, I am certain that each of those in the temple who were present when Pres. Kimball announced his decision felt the Lord’s pleasure at the action then being taken. Tears came to my eyes, again.

    I believe that the Lord prepared many who were brought up during the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s for this change, in part by the courageous actions of individuals like MLK and others in the SCLC. I remember asking my parents about this injustice and receiving “book” answers that never felt right. It didn’t feel right because it wasn’t right, and the Lord inspired these brave people so that we (members of the church) would pray for the change. I remember jumping for joy through the parking lot of our apartment building when I heard from my wife about the change, knowing that a great wrong had been corrected.

    Now we find that we and our posterity have the opportunity to continue to pray that our hearts will be prepared so that the additional changes the Lord would have happen will be acceptable to us more quickly than this example. If we believe in continuous revelation, our hearts, minds and souls need to be ready to accept it when it comes. Perhaps then, the Lord will be more often “well pleased” with us both individually and collectively.

  176. “From this statement by Elder Holland, are you saying he lacks “critical self-honesty, humility, and a repentant spirit, which is the core of the gospel of Jesus Christ?” If so, will you be able to raise your arm to the square and sustain him as a prophet, seer, and revelator at the upcoming April conference?”

    Get over your self-righteous self, Clayton. My criticism is that Church leaders refuse to train the critical self-honestly, humility, and repentant spirit Elder Holland applies to the racist explanations of the ban to the ban itself. I stand by exactly what I said, not some imagined statement that you wish to entrap me in. I sustain the Church leaders, and I hold them, as witnesses of Christ, to especially high standards. They, like most of us in the Church, have a keen sense of the wrongness of the racial folklore and false doctrines used to justify the ban, but, also like us, appear totally unwilling to condemn the racism of the ban itself. I expect better from them precisely because I genuinely believe they are God’s chosen servants.

  177. I’ve been waiting for something like this article for a long time. Thank you, Brad. Standing ovation.

  178. Mark Brown says:

    I raise my arm to the square and condemn comment 174.

  179. Stephen M (Ethesis) says:

    176 clarifies a great deal. My apologies for taking a different reading of earlier parts of the thread.

  180. Brad, I’m just now seeing this post, but it’s brilliant. A virtual standing ovation and an AMEN.

    To those commenters still struggling to grasp how the Church could possibly have been wrong on this (and coming to grips with the idea that God didn’t institute the ban in the first place), welcome to reality. Unrealistic expectations need adjusting:

    http://latterdayspence.blogspot.com/2011/09/prophetic-expectations.html

  181. clayton says:

    Brad,

    @176 I appreciate your reply and the clarification it provided. My questions were neither self-righteous nor some way to trap you. There are many issues in the church both current and historical that require members to take leaps of faith. As I continue to learn about church history, some things have given me pause. Many of the issues (some more than others) are very challenging to me. I am glad that you are able to sustain the leaders of the church given the cognitive dissonance that is sometimes required. I too am working on that.

  182. To those commenters still struggling to grasp how the Church could possibly have been wrong on this (and coming to grips with the idea that God didn’t institute the ban in the first place), welcome to reality.

    But CC, the Church itself is struggling to grasp how the Church could possibly have been wrong on this (and coming to grips with the idea that God didn’t institute the ban in the first place). Internet Mormons can scream it from the roof tops – until I hear it in GC, the Ensign or in an official letter read over the pulpit – it means nothing (unfortunately).

    I totally agree – expectations must be adjusted. Let’s start at the top.

  183. Thanks for the reply, clayton. Forgive the jerky tone of my above comment to you.

  184. Mike H. says:

    I haven’t sift through *all* the posts here yet, but;

    As far as Randy Bott’s comments that the Priesthood was withheld from Black Africans & their descendants to prevent their them from becoming Perdition, or otherwise condemned for not being righteous while holding the Priesthood, I cite D&C 84:42:

    And wo unto all those who come not unto this priesthood which ye have received, which I now confirm upon you who are present this day, by mine own voice out of the heavens; and even I have given the heavenly hosts and mine angels charge concerning you.

    You can’t read that, and reasonably say it’s no big deal to the Lord to NOT to have the Priesthood!

    Also, there *was* a space on the individual accordance forms for submitting ancestor’s name for Temple work before 1978 that *did* ask for the stated race from the record. Note that I’m not talking about Family Group Sheets, but the forms used from around 1964 to 1978. If you wrote in “Black” (or, “Negro”? The term used then), they would clean names ONLY for Baptism for the dead.

    One major problem became that some records did not mention the race of the person.

    Note that there were questions about if dark skinned Pacific Islanders were part of the “curse of Cain & Ham”, and if they could have the Priesthood.

    #69-Kevin: I was there at an FMH Snacker at Carol Lynn Pearson’s place, and early on she said she felt that the Priesthood would be one of sins the Church would have to answer for, along with the Mountain Meadows Massacre. That last one took how long for GA’s to admit severe blunders were made there, and it wasn’t just the local Native Americans?

    The Black Priesthood Ban is a reason I have trouble pointing fingers at Feminists & Gays.

  185. I see a parallel to some degree in the days of the primitive church and the question of circumcision (a topic by the way that I could write a lengthy post on, suffice it to say for now that I think cutting baby boy’s genitals is just as wrong as cutting baby girl’s genitals). Some of the apostles had been requiring converts to be circumcised, possibly teaching this for years, and it wasn’t until they got together and openly discussed the theological pros and cons that they felt moved upon by the Holy Ghost to stop this requirement. Still, I have to wonder why some things are only clarified after humans ask, and some things are commanded by flaming sword. That, and as you stated, why so long, for something that affects so many people.
    It also brings up the question of what other misconceptions and falsehoods are still being taught as heavenly doctrines.

  186. Mike H. says:

    #184: Oops, I meant to say CLP said she felt the Black Priesthood Ban would be one of the sins the Church would have to answer for…

    Come to think of it, the Church was also not ready for the United Order, or build the New Jerusalem in the 1830’s in Missouri, right? The Children of Israel were not ready for a Higher Law, so then came the “Law of Moses”.

    Imperfect people sometimes have trouble accomplishing a Perfect work…

  187. Brad,

    I have a question–how did this racist policy first come into play or where did it originate? Did Joseph Smith teach that blacks were not to hold the Priesthood? Did he teach it because of what he learned from (or how he interpreted) the Book of Abraham and the story of Noah and Ham? Or is it a product of the culture/society in America at the time? Was the Church going to be condemned by the government if they fully welcomed people of African descent into the Church? I understand what you’re saying about the Church’s hesitancy in undoing the practice–but why did it even begin? If Joseph was taught these things from on High, whether through visions, visitations, revelations, or interpretations, was it not the Lord’s will? Surely he was not perfect and made many mistakes…but considering all that he saw and learned, all that he endured and suffered for the Kingdom, I think most believers of the Book of Mormon would be slow to believe that he made such a big error. The same question can be asked about polygamy…

    I appreciate the insightful post and am interested in how you would answer the questions above.

  188. James, I would refer you to the large body of scholarship available on the subject, beginning with Lester Bush’s seminal article here:

    https://www.dialoguejournal.com/2012/mormonisms-negro-doctrine-an-historical-overview/

    There are also a number of excellent resources at blacklds.org.

    The short answer is that Joseph Smith ordained black men to the priesthood, there is no evidence that any church president ever claimed to have received a revelation instituting the ban (it appears to have begun under Brigham Young), and all the early explanations and rationalizations for it were imported whole-cloth from pro-slavery protestant sources. Hope this helps.

  189. “So, yes, I’m saying that an unwillingness to call the former policy racist and, therefore, wrong, unjustified, harmful, un-Christian, and indefensibly regrettable is, however subtly, still fundamentally racist.”

    Can you show me how this reasoning works elsewhere with other examples? It’s as if you just decided to invent some qualifiers to support your preferred view and then declared in favor of your preferred view. It’s very circular logic.

    Can I try your logic with other examples? If you are unwilling to call a murder a murder, it is the equivalent of committing murder. — Nope that doesn’t work. To more accurately reflect the parallel to your logic, we must also include the idea that it would actually be something like: If you are unwilling to call someone’s death a murder, that is the equivalent of murder. To say otherwise is to claim that all things involving death must be murder.

    Let’s try again with something less harsh and definite.

    If you are unwilling to call a (suspected, accused, or actual) hateful people a hateful people then your are subtly and fundamentally a hateful person.

    Still doesn’t work… One there is the question if the people actually are hateful or just being labeled as such. So there must be debate over that point. The other is that it should be obvious that simply not going out and calling truly hateful people hateful in return does not make one hateful themselves.

    Perhaps hateful is too incendiary… But I think the concept of racism is no less so.

    If we are honest, we all have to acknowledge that we have some tendencies that are not charitable, and certainly bound in our perceptions of race, weight, beauty, person habits, etc. etc.

    But labeling something “fundamentally racist” carries a whole lot of baggage with it, that to do so in the sense of just wishing to make progress on an issue could actually be fundamentally dishonest.

    That’s to say, one group hears fundamentally racist as implying one thing (harsh, rotten to the core, bad, insidious, etc.), while another acknowledges it as an accurate description as traits that certainly existed in the past, and are prevalent now even in many of us to various degrees — to suggest otherwise may actually be proving the leading quote true, that you are fundamentally racist for refusing to acknowledge some latent racism.

    I’m not offering up an apology for any race-motivated policies of the church, but I am trying to avoid blanket terms over past activities and policies, because those terms so easily malign and misrepresent the true character of the historical people involved. And a simple, and technically accurate use of a word like racism paints an unfair caricature that potentially up-ends the balancing scales of charity. ie. labeling a wonderful person a “racist” who was on the balance a tremendous force for love, hope, faith, service, etc. is in itself an unjust and polarizing portrayal of an individual’s life.

    In a way, the “racist” commentary almost reminds me of the Evangelical zeal to technically apply “cult” to the LDS church and all the factual, emotional and connotational backlash against it.

    I understand the desire to call a spade a spade. But perhaps there are no spades…

  190. Mark Brown says:

    chris,

    When a policy is applied solely on the basis of race, what other word can be used to describe it than _racist_?

  191. Chris, serious question:

    What would you call an unwillingness to call something racist when it clearly was racist, in all ways that fit every accepted definition?

    “labeling a wonderful person a “racist” who was on the balance a tremendous force for love, hope, faith, service, etc. is in itself an unjust and polarizing portrayal of an individual’s life.”

    Someone can be “racist”, to varying degrees, and still be everything else you just listed. What’s wrong with admitting someone who did great things otherwise also was racist? It’s called reality.

  192. James, I totally second Brad’s suggested readings. But since I copied them onto my own blog, I also recall Papa D has some cogent thoughts on the origin of the ban. For lack of an easier reference:

    http://latterdayspence.blogspot.com/2009/06/why-i-dont-believe-that-god-insitituted.html

  193. Chris,

    Please define “racist” for us. I don’t see how you can do it such that a policy that discriminates solely on the basis of racial heritage could fail to qualify under any widely accepted definition of “racist”.

    If you don’t accept that, perhaps you accept my assertion that Brigham Young, who originated this racially based ban, was a racist, and made racist statements during his lifetime. What do you think?

    As an anecdote during my mission in Brazil, longtime members always referred to the period prior to 1978 as the “epoca do racismo” or “era of racism”. It was simply taken as a fact.

  194. #192 – Thanks, CC, for reminding me of that post and comment thread. it was good to read it again.

  195. I’m teaching Ch. 6 from the GAS manual in EQ in 3 weeks. Sharing this as food for thought only:

    “The Presidency of the Church … are the representatives of our Heavenly Father, not only to this people, but they represent him to all the people of the earth. We would do well if we would magnify and honor these men he has placed at our head. They are men with human frailties, they will make mistakes, but if we will be as charitable to the mistakes that they make as we are to our own failures and mistakes, we will see their virtues as we see our own.

    I stand here to plead with you, my brethren and sisters, not to permit words of criticism or of unkindness to pass your lips about those whom the Lord has called to lead us. Do not be found in the companionship of those who would belittle them or weaken their influence among the children of men. If you do, I can say to you that you will find yourselves in the power of the adversary. You will be influenced by him to go as far as possible from the pathway of truth, and if you do not repent you may find when it is too late that you have lost the “pearl of great price.” Because of your selfishness and your blindness you will have been led away, and your loved ones … will be sorrowing on the other side of the veil because of your weakness and your folly”

  196. Kristine says:

    Oh, please. Don’t make me pull out the “I am more afraid that this people will settle down into blind obedience…” quote.

  197. #195 – Fwiw, there is criticism and unkindness, and there is telling the simple, plain truth in a critical way that is neither kind nor unkind.

    Critical has two very, very different meanings:

    1. inclined to find fault or to judge with severity, often too readily.
    2. involving skillful judgment as to truth, merit, etc.; judicial: a critical analysis.

    I believe what Pres. GA Smith addressed was the former definition, while what the authors of the current posts about racism and Prof. Bott are doing involves the second definition. I don’t think any of these authors is “inclined” to find severe fault – and certainly not too readily. I think all of them are attempting to use skillful judgment to determine truth – that they are preforming critical analyses.

    That’s a very important difference, imo.

  198. Actually, Kristine, that would be great. I’m seriously just trying to ponder how I’m going to teach this lesson. Who said that?

  199. medstudent, that’s a great quote, but it can be used to silence anyone who says anything that is not 100% praise and support of the leaders of the Church. I don’t think that is the intent of that quote. I think, rather, that it is focused primarily on preventing “unkindness” or “belittling.” Simple criticism that seeks after truth and is done out of love for the leaders and the institution of the Church need not “weaken the influence” of the leaders of the Church or put anyone into “the power of the adversary.” I don’t agree with using quotes like this to stifle honest inquiry or thoughtful criticism of our leaders. Their influence is not so fragile that it can’t stand up to friendly challenge from well-meaning members. Or if it is, we are all in a lot of trouble.

  200. #198 – It was Brigham Young. There were additional interpretations and modifications from subsequent prophets that changed the original statement’s message, imo – but the original quote was from Pres. Young.

  201. I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self security. Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not.”
    ― Brigham Young

  202. medstudent:

    “I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self security. Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not.
    ( Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe [1954], 135.)

    (see, we have to pull that out so often that some of us keep it on speed dial)

  203. Brad, or anyone, can a policy be judged apart from those who adopt it? That is, would a statement by the church that the priesthood policy was racist mean anything other than that those who imposed it were racist? I ask because you call several times above for the church to confess that the priesthood policy was racist, but not that the church leaders were racist. Why that careful wording? That prompted my question in #140.

  204. Ray, between us, and based on your balanced explanation in #191, I could agree that Brigham Young was, among his admirable qualities, and at times, racist. That is based on his public statements about race, aside from the priesthood policy. However, if President Monson stood in conference and said, “Brigham Young’s policy was racist and we condemn it,” it would be viewed very differently from the modulated #191 inside and outside of the church. I can see why the church has avoided making that public judgment and pronouncement.

  205. Brad – I agree that we as a church need to go through the repentance process on this issue, but I do not think an apology should, or will, come via a media blurb or press release. To offer such a landmark apology right now would only bring more attention to Bott’s original statements. If and when we do announce our recognition of racist practices, it should be done with the utmost humility, and for the world to clearly see. I’m thinking general conference or a letter over the pulpit or something.

    The whole church needs to repent. We as a worldwide congregation need to see our leaders lead the way (hence my idea of general conference). It is not so much that we have individually done anything explicitly wrong. I personally have only ever lived in a time and in places where race wasn’t much of an issue. But I think if we each personally felt (through sincere repentance) some part of the deprivation and frustration of members who could not partake of sacred ordinances, we would feel so much more compassion and charity for our fellow men. Which is entirely the point in the commandment to “Love One Another”. I’m reminded of Enos, Nephi, Alma, and many other BOM prophets who cried out in anguish for the suffering of those around them. Were we to care for one another in this way, a public apology would be nice but our personal efforts would make it felt.

    And yes, I know many people do embody this kind of charity. But having specific direction from our ordained leaders would hopefully inspire those who are not so charitable to repent themselves and then we as a whole will have “washed our garments” of the issue.

    Thanks for your post.

  206. People who say and do and defend and advocate and rationalize flagrantly racist ideas and practices are racists. Even if they’re otherwise genuinely good people. Most of us have older relatives whom we love and who have treated us with kindness who are still at least mildly racist. What rubs me is that some current church leaders (and their newsrooms) appear at least willing to call the defenses and false doctrines preached by past leaders racist and to condemn the statements (not the people) as racist, but not the actual systematically and persistently racist practices (the ban) they were meant to have justified. I’m not asking that the past church be judged as irredeemably racist. I’m asking that racist policies, teachings, ideas, and practices—and particularly and especially the ban itself—be judged as racist. It is our willingness, individually and collectively, to acknowledge the evils of our past behavior and show contrition for it and its consequences that make us, as people and as a people and a church, redeemable.

    The grace of God and power of the Atonement are real and transformative and miraculous, but nowhere within the Gospel is there even the faintest suggestion that we can avail ourselves of that great redemptive power if we refuse to acknowledge why we need it.

  207. In some ways, I am grateful for this incident because it has prompted me to read and consider many resources I had not previously discovered. I think there are many, many Church members in the same boat.

    So for those of you forward-thinkers who already know the history and understand the human underpinnings of the ban, I beg for a bit of charity towards those many individuals who are still saying “I don’t know.”

    In many (most?) cases, that is the truth: they DON’T know. For whatever reasons good or bad, many members have not been exposed to information that will allow them to understand the history of the ban. These members represent a great educational opportunity for us. And this education will certainly be more readily received if they don’t feel attacked.

    (Now of course, this plea for charity towards the uninformed in no way excuses church leaders for saying “We don’t know” if they in fact do.)

  208. Mommie Dearest says:

    “The grace of God and power of the Atonement are real and transformative and miraculous, but nowhere within the Gospel is there even the faintest suggestion that we can avail ourselves of that great redemptive power if we refuse to acknowledge why we need it.”

    Just wanted you to know that this rang every bell in my psyche.

  209. @200, 201, 202

    Thanks for you all having that on speed dial. That quote, however, seems more about praying to know the leaders are led by God and not if they are led by God. Is there a quote from any sort of general authority anywhere that explains what you should do if you take Brigham Young’s advice and get the unanticipated result (i.e. feeling that a leader is actually not being led by God in a particular instance). Is there any precedent for what one is supposed to do in this situation besides fake it til you make it, lay low, or leave the church?

  210. >I’m asking that racist policies, teachings, ideas, and practices—and particularly and especially the ban itself—be judged as racist.

    Brad,
    Would it be enough for you if the church were to say, “the ban was racist but we honestly believed at the time that it was the will of God”?

  211. Kristine says:

    Uh, no, medstudent. It says “walking in the path the Lord dictates.” Note the gerund verb form, which in English connotes ongoing action.

  212. Here’s what I want, Ronan.

    Reporter: President Monson, President Hinckley recently strongly denounced racism from the pulpit, and the LDS Newsroom just issued a statement condemning racism in all its forms, past and present. Can that statement of condemnation be taken as representing the official position of the LDS Church and its leadership?

    President Monson: Yes, absolutely.

    Reporter: A follow up—does the Church condemn the racism of the ban itself, of officially and systematically discriminating against people with black African heritage by excluding them from full participation in the Church and access to temple covenants and sealings solely on the basis of race?

    President Monson: Yes, absolutely. It was a practice rejected by the Lord more than 3 decades ago, because it was wrong, and we stand with God in condemning the racism of the ban along with racist sentiments and practices in all their forms.

  213. And, to more directly answer your question, if it came from an official and authoritative source (preferably the Church president or a FP member) “the ban was racist but we honestly believed at the time that it was the will of God” would be a positively sublime answer.

    The worst part is, such an answer would be easy to give, with nobody losing their faith or the Church leadership relinquishing all of its moral authority or credibility. It deeply grieves me that exactly those words have not been said.

  214. Uh, no, Kristine. I don’t feel like you answered my question.

  215. Kristine says:

    Well, if you’re looking for a general authority asking for public criticism, you’re unlikely to find it–in fact, it’s pretty rare for any human being to ask for that.

  216. medstudent,
    Kristine is pointing out that the language of the quote is unambiguous in presuming that it is possible for Church leaders not to be walking in the path the Lord dictates. And that we have a responsible to learn for ourselves, not “_that_ they are walking” in such a path, but “whether…or not” they are. There’s a night and day difference between asking the question under the assumption that two answers are possible and asking it under the assumption that only one is possible. To suggest that the quote merely counsels that individual church members seek confirmation for what couldn’t possibly not be true is to radically alter the meaning of the quote by totally disregarding the very plain meaning of its language.

  217. Kristine says:

    Thanks, Brad–but I actually did totally miss the second part of medstudent’s question, which was about how to behave when we believe leaders are wrong. I don’t think we’ve got much there–leaders, understandably, are far more likely to tell people NOT to point out their mistakes. But since they also, in the contemporary church, foreclose the option of offering criticism or dissent in private, we’re all kind of stuck. This is a chronic bloggernacle topic, medstudent–if you haven’t been around for any of the gazillion-comments threads, I’m sure someone with a better memory than mine can point you to them.

  218. “how to behave when we believe leaders are wrong”

    I don’t think there’s one right formula, medstudent. I think we’re always learning and relearning how we should be–sometimes through sad experience. I’ve behaved at times in a prideful way and said things I shouldn’t have said publicly, and at other times I’ve been much more humble and had a charitable and more understanding heart–all when I’ve believed certain leaders (local and general) were wrong. I’m settling on the fact that I can personally believe they’re wrong (and therefore personally disregard whatever it was I believed was wrong) but still be civil about it, and accept that as just the way life is sometimes. The trick is to not let it rob me of my inner peace by becoming so critical (in the harsh and cynical sense) that it causes me (or others) more harm than good.

    Blair Hodges has a great post on “the old dilemma about following imperfect prophets” here:

    http://www.lifeongoldplates.com/2009/11/i-see-through-glass-darkly-and-i-kinda.html

  219. Just found time to read this Brad. Incredible piece of writing. Bravo, bravo, bravo!

  220. Concerned says:

    He also perpetuates harmful ideas about women, men and chastity. Sorry about formatting…not quite sure how to do it.

    http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:http://ldskyr.blogspot.com/2010/03/men-and-women.html

    “I keep asking myself why we focus on the immorality of young men knowing that if the young women were not participating or willing, the young men would not be immoral. In Jacob 2:27-29 the Lord states that He “delights in the chastity of women”—that always made me wonder why He didn’t say He delighted in the “chastity of men” until it dawned on me that if all women were chaste, men would be also. So I don’t think God is favoring the chastity of one sex over the other, He just chose to mention the gender who is really in control.”

  221. Yes, Bott’s teaching on all manner of topics are an embarrassment and an abomination.

  222. Thankyou for the link, cleancut.

    Brad, I’m not going to pretend double negatives don’t confuse me (“seek confirmation for what couldn’t possibly not be true”). Nonetheless, I feel like you and Blair Hodges miss an important point about the BY quote. If BY and all other prophets and apostles have never said what to do when you reach a moral conclusion that a prophet is wrong, it seems to clearly imply they are assuming you will eventually come to the conclusion they are right. I don’t see how that’s a manipulation of the quote.

    I asked if anyone has ever heard a GA tell us what to do when we believe leaders are wrong, and no one has come up with anything besides the usual keep praying, fake it until you make it, etc.

  223. #223 – I’d have to start digging for quotes to answer your exact question in lots of detail, but the simplest way for me to address it is to quote the following from Joseph Smith:

    “We claim the privilege of worshiping almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where or what they may.”

    “All” means “all” to me, not just those who are not members of the LDS Church. It means me and you and every other Mormon.

    Also from Joseph Smith, in History of the Church:

    “I did not like the old man being called up for erring in doctrine . . . Methodists have creeds which a man must believe or be asked out of their Church. I want the liberty of thinking and believing as I please. It feels so good not to be trammelled. It does not prove a man is not a good man because he errs in doctrine.”

  224. I have written multiple comments in the threads here at BCC about Prof. Bott and racism in the Church, and I have expressed my feelings about his words and how I view the nature of the ban. I fully intended to write on my own blog tonight about those feelings – but I found myself overwhelmed, surprisingly, by another thought. The topic of my Saturday New Year’s Resolution posts this month is “The Atonement of Jesus Christ” – and so I found myself writing about that topic in relation to Prof. Bott, his words and racism in general.

    Since I wrote so much here in these threads, I want to share the link to the post I just finished for my personal blog – and I want to say clearly that what I wrote tonight, for me, is more important than the more narrowly focused things I have written here – all of which are honest commentaries on my feelings but which are not reflective of the bigger picture that struck me tonight as I sat to write my New Year’s Resolution post:

    “The Atonement of Jesus Christ: Powerful Enough to Cover All, Even Those Who Believe(d) Racist Falsehoods” (http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com/2012/03/atonement-of-jesus-christ-powerful.html)

  225. Stephen M (Ethesis) says:

    Ray, I love that quote, which is the lead in to a section of the D&C.

    Brad, on. it having been a continuing teaching that Blacks would eventually receive the priesthood see the quotes at http://www.wheatandtares.org/2012/03/02/if-i-were-in-charge-reopen-the-lds-canon/.

    I am curious where you found similar statements to the contrary. Thought I would just ask again, since I am curious.

  226. Like post #29, I agree that we should be very careful when saying something like “God would never do that”. This isn’t to say that I’m bearing testimony that God wanted the priesthood ban, but just think about this for a second. Would God ever ask someone to take their son’s life? Would God ever keep Gentiles from holding the priesthood? Would God ever keep all but one tribe of Israel from holding the Priesthood? The answer to all of these is yes, if you believe in the Bible, and so I do agree with the sentiment that we cannot decide what God wants or what he would do based on our own rationale and set of morals derived from the time we live in.

    This article was an interestering read, but something about it strikes me a bit wrong, perhaps it’s just the sheer sense of outrage I receive when reading; I have this sense that it’s sort of pandering to the politically correct. I believe in the scriptures, and I’ve seen stranger things there, so I really don’t think I or anyone else is qualified to call the whole Church and its members to repentance because of a policy that now seems irrational, unfair, and has become completely distasteful to society at large.

  227. Capozaino says:

    #227, The answer to all of those does not *have* to be “yes” to maintain belief in the Bible. For example, the Bible was written by people who had already reached their own conclusions about what God wanted (for example, to have them commit genocide and otherwise obliterate outside influences, to strictly divide roles based on lineage from one of twelve people, to kill your own son). I don’t think we’re compelled to believe that they were always right about what God wanted.

    Similarly, the priesthood ban and the ban on exalting temple ordinances were put in place by people who had already reached their own conclusions about what God wanted. I don’t think we’re compelled to believe God wanted those bans, even if they did and you apparently do. I also reject the idea that “we cannot decide what God wants” using our best thinking because it flies in the face of D&C 9:7-8. And I think there’s a big difference between encouraging the church to apologize for harm it caused and for racist explanations originally propounded by its leaders and presuming that one is qualified to “call” the church to repentance. The reason that the policy “now seems irrational, unfair, and has become completely distasteful to society at large” is because it was wrong.

  228. Yeah, this is also true of polygamy. But if you have “prophets” preaching such vile doctrines along with whatever good policies they can come up with, what is the point of having “prophets” at all? Why not choose your own perspectives rather than having racism and polygamy, homophobia, and sexism preached as The One Truth and trying to get it to make sense? If a Mormon doesn’t accept the current bad policies as being correct, then he or she is told they are just succumbing to the political correctness of the day (Satan’s objective). Sure, I am bound to make my own mistakes, but at least they are my mistakes; I am not adopting Brigham Young’s, McKay’s or anyone else’s. The Mormon prophets don’t seem to be any more enlightened than the average Joe, and in many cases, they are more debased. Why follow them?

  229. I am baffled at how one can equate polygamy with sexism, racism, and homophobia. Not even a little bit of research would tell a person that there is such a thing as a consenting (between adults) polyamorous relationship. Is it merely the practice of marrying more than one person that has people up in arms? The same people who would otherwise not bat an eye when people sleep around and make multiple children with multiple people anyway? Polygamy existed in ancient times, it exists in other countries, polyamory exists almost everywhere in nature, and consenting adults practicing it is not wrong in any way whatsoever. I agree that at least here in the United States it most likely cannot be practiced effectively, and on a holy plane, but calling polygamy evil because of the errant actions of others is a complete baby-bathwater sentiment. What exactly is evil about polygamy?

  230. Is it merely the practice of marrying more than one person that has people up in arms? … What exactly is evil about polygamy?
    Not merely the practice of marrying more than one person, rather the actual coersion, spiritual blackmailing and false doctrines used to promote and perpetuate it and force good people trying to live their lifes in accordance to God’s commandments into it. Polygamy in the Church was pretty much used to “sell” salvation. People who otherwise would have never practiced it, were coerced into entering this type of marriage, because otherwise, their salvation was at stake.

    “Polyamorous” relationships don’t claim you have to live the lifestyle in order to be saved in a spiritual level. It isn’t part of an institutionalized practice with a specific structure and foundation (of the truths mixed with falsehoods combined with extreme manipulation) to force people into practicing it. And if it is, I doubt very much people won’t “bat an eye” about it.

    I am baffled you cannot see the ovbious differences. Little research uncovers the evils at lightning speed.

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