An Exception Having Been Made…OR, You May Be a Racist If…

Part I

Early LDS Church historians (Andrew Jensen and Kate Carter, for example), writing after the priesthood restriction was in place, dealt with the known fact of Elijah Abel’s priesthood with the simple phrase, “an exception having been made in his case.”  Some suggested that the priesthood was his reward for working on the Kirtland Temple, where he also received initiatory ordinances.  As a carpenter, he worked on the Nauvoo temple as well, but had moved to Cincinnati before the endowment was given. When he relocated in Salt Lake City around 1853, he asked for his endowment, but was denied.  Nonetheless, he worked on the Salt LakeTemple as well, and finished his life by serving his third mission. 

The phrase  “an exception having been made” is particularly relevant as we see Mormons respond to Public Affairs’ quick statements (two of them) repudiating a BYU professor’s views that blacks were denied the priesthood not only because they were cursed as the lineage of Cain/Canaan, but because the priesthood was simply too powerful for pre-1978 Black Mormons, and they’d probably end up becoming sons of Perdition–just like your daughter would probably crash your powerful car if you gave her the keys.  Calling the professor out by name, the Church distanced itself almost immediately from what some call “Bott-gate.” Most Latter-day Saints were relieved that the Church had officially spoken on the issue, though many requested a stronger statement with greater specificity.

A good many of us recognized that the new statements went several steps beyond where the Church had gone before.  The statements of 1949 and 1969 insisted that the policy (the 1949 statement called it a doctrine) had been in place from the very beginnings of the Church and was instituted by divine revelation through Joseph Smith.  The February 2012 declaration that “We don’t know why, how, or when the restriction began” has no mention of God as the instigator, nor any indication that the restriction was always the policy or begun by Joseph Smith. Nonetheless, in comments after various articles about the Washington Post interviews or the Genesis Group, members still use the “an exception having been made” paradigm.  This time, it applies not to blacks receiving the priesthood prior to 1978, but to the private justifications various Mormons have made to themselves for years, and which they’re not ready to drop quite yet.  The thinking goes something like this: “I support the Church statement, and I agree that ‘we don’t know why, how, or when the restriction began’, but of course we do know that Blacks were cursed as the seed of Cain.”  Or “I absolutely support the Church statement, and have been appalled as ‘some have attempted to explain the reason for this restriction’—because their reasons are dumb and racist.  Yes, as the statement says, ‘these attempts should be viewed as speculation and opinion, not doctrine.’  However, we do know that God has always restricted His priesthood, because only the Levites had it for a time in the Old Testament.” 

In other words, “Nobody should speculate about the reasons for the restriction, but an exception has been made in my case.  Besides, I’m not really speculating, I’m telling the truth.”

Let’s be clear, then and play a little game of “You Might Be A Racist If…”

You might be a racist if…you think of Africa when you hear the word ham, rather than picturing pink meat which Mormons eat at funerals, along with cheesy potatoes.

The “curse” ideas (Cain/Ham/Canaan) trace back to the fourth Century and become particularly strong and troublesome in the 15th, when Portugal and Spain are seeking to justify slavery and latch onto Genesis 9:25, in which Noah curses his grandson, Canaan, to be a “servant of servants.”  In a  philosophical maze where the desiccated brains of master interpolators can still be found, the idea emerges that “servant of servants” refers to a still-applicable lineage curse and hence (please keep track of the reasoning which presents itself as a thunderous burp prolonged through centuries) that God intended Europeans to enslave Africans.  This interpolatory burp resonates far into the 20th Century, is astonishingly well imitated by preachers of most white Christian religions, and manages to get recorded in LDS Church archives long beyond the death gurgles of early Mormon Church presidents. 

Note: The interpolatory burp pretends to be God’s voice and to link a selected scripture to an otherwise deplorable human action, thereby giving unthinkable acts sonorous and seemingly godly sanction.  Other interpolations can simply pass by like someone’s distant sneeze if you’re not aware.  For example, a recent article in Meridian Magazine stated, “We read that ‘a blackness came upon the children of Canaan’ (Moses 7:8), who were denied the blessings of the priesthood.”

Did you catch the interpolation?  The actual scripture says, “For behold, the Lord shall curse the land with much heat, and the barrenness thereof shall go forth forever; and there was a blackness came upon all the children of Canaan, that they were despised among all people.”

What’s cursed?  The people?  No.  The land is cursed.  It gets hot.  What gift does God bestow on His children who live in areas of great heat?  That would be…(wait for it…) ENVIRONMENT-APPROPRIATE MELANIN.  Is there any mention of the priesthood in the preceding scripture?  None.  Note the sharp turn in the maze of interpolation.  We’ve heard the association of black skin with priesthood so often that many will barely notice that they’ve just turned a corner into nowhere land.  And does the scripture say that God instructed the people to “despise” the children of Canaan?  No.  In fact, later on (Moses 7:32), God weeps because his children “are without affection and they hate their own blood.”  Finally, the children of this particular Canaan come several generations before the Canaan cursed by Noah.  Did you feel that quick turn into another corner of the maze?  Did you hear the echo of a long and disturbingly ugly burp?

SO, if you believed in a lineage curse started by Cain, Ham, or Canaan last week, stop.  Your Black brothers and sisters are not cursed.  If any is shackled by poverty or other disadvantages, the responsibility falls on all disciples of Christ to address their needs, physical and spiritual.  We are to feed Jesus’ sheep–black, brown, and white.  No exceptions have been made.

TO BE CONTINUED  

Comments

  1. Excellent, Margaret.

    It’s always a good thing to go to the beginning and explain why belching isn’t appropriate – in public, especially, but often even in private. When the belch causes a particularly bad stench, it really should stop completely – and, in this case, that means not eating the stinky, rotten food.

  2. There are millions of words on this blog. I don’t agree with a lot of them, but Margaret Blair Young is always worth reading.

  3. Thank you for this outstanding post. I truly believe that we are all children of God, equally loved and cherished by him. Hopefully, some day all churches will understand and implement this truth–and will recognize and apologize for past policies that did not implement this truth.

  4. andrew h says:

    “You might be a racist if…you think of Africa when you hear the word ham, rather than picturing pink meat which Mormons eat a funerals, along with cheesy potatoes.”

    My New Favorite Quote

  5. Awesome. It might be appropriate here to also mention that the people of color from new world ancestry aren’t cursed either. They’re not the children of Laman and Lemuel, and they’re not still paying for beating on Nephi.

  6. Okay, I’ll bite: How is “ENVIRONMENT-APPROPRIATE MELANIN” not an interpolation? It’s a good guess, I’ll grant you, but the only meaning? (And no, I’m not making an argument in favor of the ban. I’m just asking a question.)

  7. There is a scientific correlation with increased melanin so that those in very hot climates don’t find themselves constantly sunburned. I, on the other hand, cannot even snorkel in Belize unless I’m fully covered. I had a three-month sunburn teach me that. We have to invoke that scary word here: EVOLUTION. Our skin will normally be just right for our climate. Obviously, we can move to other places. My lineage is Danish/English. I have red hair and pale skin. Btw, Danes are cursed with stubbornness. It’s in the scriptures. I’m sure of it.

  8. The last five paragraphs of this article were far more convincing than the first six. I think patronizing tone cuts both ways, and although I think that Margaret is right, I am unimpressed with the lack of charity in her initial tone. People of Randy Bott’s generation were taught the things they think from babyhood, and it’s deeply ingrained. I think instead of breathing fire on them we might exercise a little Christian charity as we correct them. Something like that is advised in the D&C after all… reproving betimes with sharpness but then showing forth an INCREASE in love… and all that.

  9. Like I said, it’s a good guess, one you supported well in your comment #7; nevertheless, yours is still an interpolation, EVOLUTION or no, right?

  10. Kevin Barney says:

    A footnote:

    I was curious about the word “blackness” in the Moses passage. My feel for Jacobian idiom was that this would probably refer to a temporary state of some form, not necessarily a permanent change in skin color.

    I did a search on “blackness” in the KJV Bible, with six hits, all in the OT. Only two used the word in relation to human beings:

    Joel 2:6: “…all faces shall gather blackness.”

    Nahum 2:10: “..and the faces of them all gather blackness.”

    These two passages reflect the only two occurrences of an obscure Hebrew word, pa’rur, which derives from the root *P’R, which conveys the basic sense of “to beautify, glorify.” Pa’rur appears to be a nominal cognate of that verbal root, meaning “beauty, a glow, brightness of face.” So the thought is that in these passages the word refers to a glow of the face (i.e., a pallor from fright), or “gather” is taken in the sense of “gather in” and thus meaning a “withdrawing” of beauty. The meaning is that the faces turn pale. So the NET has respectively:

    “..all of their faces turn pale with fright”

    “…each face turns pale!”

    So why does the KJV use “blackness”? Because instead of deriving the word from the root for beauty, they compare the word to parur “pot,” and apparently reason that, well, uh, a pot is black, and so… (Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!) The word for pot lacks the aleph and so this is clearly wrong; moreover, to me it’s patently absurd. (My BDB Hebrew Lexicon agrees; they put the KJV reading in parentheses with an astonished exclamation point! Don’t tell me Hebrew scholars don’t have a sense of humor…)

    As tempting as it is to suggest that the Moses passage should read “and there was a beauty/glow/brightness came upon all the children of Canaan,” the context suggests to me that this blackness, whatever it is, is supposed to be taken negatively. (Maybe others envied their beauty? (grin)) But my point remains, my gut sense of the word as a Jacobian idiom remains that it’s talking about something negative in a transitory sense, not a permanent change of skin color that is then passed down to their descendants.

  11. I think that’s a fascinating analysis, Kevin, and using your particular skills. The only problem I see is that most people don’t have the knowledge you have. So I think we need to do some baby steps. I think the Church could have made a much stronger statement, for example, but I find what they said to be a wonderful starter–which I would hope would leave people wondering if they might believe cultural interpretations of scriptures rather than the scriptures themselves.

  12. Kevin Barney says:

    As further support for my contention that this is probably talking about a temporary physical state of some sort, consider the following KJV passages:

    Job 30:30: My skin is black upon me, and my bones are burned with heat.

    Jer. 8:21: For the hurt of the daughter of my people am I hurt; I am black; astonishment hath taken hold of me.

    Lam. 5:10: Our skin was black like an oven because of the terrible famine.

    I would read “blackness” in the Moses passage in a similar Jacobian light.

    (Margaret, I agree with you, I was just personally curious about how the word “blackness” was functioning in that Moses passage, and thought I would share what I found here for people’s interest.)

  13. Last Lemming says:

    I think Gregory Taggart has a point and I would drop the melanin reference. By linking the curse in Moses 7:8 to heat and heat to melanin, the implication is that the “gift of melanin” equates to the blackness mention in the scripture. If the human race started out white and some became black, that might make some sense. But since you later invoked evolution, that curse-heat-melanin linkage becomes untenable. According to most evolutionary biologists, the human race started out black and some became white when they moved to colder climates. Just say the curse was on the land, not the people and leave it at that.

  14. Margaret,
    You know a lot about the history and culture of Racism. But (IMO), you are off on the Evolution of dark skin. I would say it’s has a timeline of many thousands years, not the timeline you are using.
    You must also factor in with Natural Selection, Cultural Selection, and Sexual Selection into why some groups have darker skins.

  15. A very interesting conversation on something which is tangential to my main point. I happen to agree with the evolutionary biologists, and I enjoy Kevin’s knowledgable contributions, but a discussion of melanin was not my goal in writing this. In pointing to the use of that particular scripture, I aimed to demonstrate that the author drew upon an assumption which is not scriptural–that black skin=priesthood restriction. The scripture he cited does not mention priesthood at all. As I read responses to the Church statements, i saw people repeating their old justifications. I wrote this blog post as a reminder that our particular speculations are not the “exceptions” to the statement that we don’t know how, why, or when the restriction came into being. Further commenters–please engage the blog post’s thesis, not its tangents.

  16. What if in this parsing of scripture we find that the prophets or cultures who originally gave us Genesis, Moses, etc., had racial views that worked their way into the records?

  17. That wouldn’t surprise me at all. We know that there was prejudice against Cushites from Numbers 11, wherein Aaron and Miriam were upset with Moses for marrying an Ethiopian (Cushite) woman. The result of their attitude was very white skin for Miriam: white as snow. She was made leprous. A sort of “You want white? I’ll give you white.” We are always working through the cultural lenses of the writers–even writers inspired to compose scriptures. We pray for inspiration to trump tradition. If Nephi had a bias against “black skin” (which actually could refer to several things), the Book of Mormon as a whole trumps that through the appearance of the Savior and the glory of 4 Nephi, when there were no “ites” among the people, and they have all things in common, with no rich nore poor. That is the goal. That is where we hope to be headed as we fend off racism wherever we find it. We want to be a Zion society and care for one another as brothers and sisters should.

  18. Margaret,

    That brings to mind a fascinating perspective or view of the Book of Mormon narrative – beginning with with the narration of an otherwise righteous prophet/leader who happened to teach an incorrect racial/lineage prejudicial tradition formed by and for good intentions, the concept of which was later overcome and corrected by Christ himself, and the establishment of Zion. Wonderful food for thought! Thanks!

  19. Kevin, without the Hebrew background, I’ve looked at those references, and I agree totally with your comments. I will add only one more thing, but I think it is instructive and important:

    There are only 13 references to “blackness” in all our canon – and every one of them occurs in passages that were written in the Old Testament time (or the D&C, where the usage is identical to the OT usage). They all reference a receding or loss of light – or, as you said, the opposite of possessing a “glow”. With that foundation, it isn’t hard to read the references to “black” in the same light (sorry, unintentional pun) – with the very few exceptions (like Song of Solomon) where reference to a literal black skin is obvious.

    My point is that this issue completely, utterly, totally disappears after the birth of Jesus – in the Bible and in the Book of Mormon (and the reference in 2 Nephi refutes a literal reading even before Jesus’ appearance). That should tell us something, I think.

  20. I mean to say that the 2 Nephi reference refutes a literal reading of any “curse” that would lead people to not experience “his blessings” in any way.

  21. Been wonderin’ how my wife could be cursed when she’s one of the biggest blessings in my life.

  22. Straight Talker says:

    I believe redemption from this can only come when present church leaders throw BY under the bus. But they can’t without undermining LDS claims of authority, priesthood etc.

    On a side note, you imply that Africans were only victims in the slave trade. In general, African slave traders enslaved other Africans and then traded them to European slave traders for rum or other goods.

  23. I agree that the Church’s recent statement go well beyond previous statements. However, until it is said across the pulpit at by a prophet and published in the Ensign, my faithful mormon relatives aren’t going to get the message. We’ve had more clarity on acceptable earrings than on these supposed race based curses.

  24. When I hear ham, I think of breakfast burritos. I guess I’m all right.

  25. “But they can’t without undermining LDS claims of authority, priesthood etc. ”

    That’s garbage. Saying Brigham Young was wrong doesn’t undermine anything. He was wrong about a ton of things, and there’s no reason to be shy about it. Prophets are sometimes wrong. So what?

  26. Margaret,
    Of course we can’t know, but I tend to think of the Biblical authors as not being guilty of racism, per se, but rather of ethnocentrism to the point of justifying genocide. Moses’s wife isn’t unacceptable because she’s black, but because she’s Ethiopian (as opposed to Hebrew). Presumably that would lead to syncretism and the introduction of the worship of other gods. Which is incredibly tangential to your point (racism and ethnocentrism have proven to be equally destructive over the years and they certainly parallel one another in their most virulent forms), but my stupid pedantic brain couldn’t not make this comment (many moon ago, I was studying ethnicity in the Bible quite in depth). So sorry. I’ll shut up now. (oh, also, Mariam’s curse is more important for becoming leprous (which renders her ritually unfit for participation in the temple) than white. Note that Aaron doesn’t get the curse, because a priest that gets leprosy can’t go into the tabernacle either and the Aaronid priests likely behind these verses couldn’t bear the shame of such a thing. So toss virulent sexism into the mix, along with general white-washing of history)

  27. On “black” in the ancient Near East:

    The Sumerians referred to themselves as the “black headed people”. Nobody has any clue what this means.

  28. How should we understand Moses 7:22 which states: “And Enoch also beheld the residue of the people which were the sons of Adam; and they were a mixture of all the seed of Adam save it was the seed of Cain, for the seed of Cain were black, and had not place among them.”

    It seems to suggest at least that the seed of Cain were somehow separate and distinct from the rest of Adam’s seed. It makes absolutely no sense based on what we know of the actual history of humanity, but I don’t know how to interpret this verse.

  29. John C–that’s really interesting. I didn’t know any of it.

  30. Straight Talker says:

    #25, Within Mormondom, the LDS church is BY’s church. On how many things and on what scale can BY be wrong before a reasonable person concludes false prophet? I just can’t imagine current LDS authorities closing the book on this w/o harming themselves.

  31. Gary, I just note that “had not place among them” is a description and not attached to any commandment from God. I think John C’s point is good, and assume that much of the ethnocentrism would come from assumptions that any “gentiles” would not be under the same covenants as the rest. I do think it applies to God’s weeping for the lack of affection between His children.

  32. Ronan,
    The Sumerians were famous for their acne. I thought all serious Assyriologists knew that.

  33. JC,
    I thought of making that joke but decided it was too lame.

  34. Regarding: “I wrote this blog post as a reminder that our particular speculations are not the ‘exceptions’ to the statement that we don’t know how, why, or when the restriction came into being.”

    On the topic of Priesthood Ordination before 1978, the Church states:

    “Among the tribes of Israel … only men of the tribe of Levi were given the priesthood and allowed to officiate in certain ordinances.”

    (LDS.org > Menu > Study by Topic > P > Priesthood Ordination before 1978)

    The article doesn’t say how, why, or when the restriction came into being, only that “Ever since biblical times, the Lord has designated through His prophets who could receive the priesthood and other blessings of the gospel.”

    Let’s now pretend that the current First Presidency and Twelve had nothing to do with LDS.org posting this “Study by Topic” article, and in fact, that they are not even aware of its existence. Only if that is true may its content appropriately be viewed as part of Bott-gate.

  35. Stay tuned, R. Gary. We’re going to hit what FAIR recently identified as one of the three myths we must abandon: the false analogy of the Levitical priestly assignment with the exclusion of all of African descent. Not equivalent.

  36. We? Who are “we”? Do the FP/12 figure into this at all? Aren’t they the ones authorized by God to make such decisions on His behalf?

  37. I’m going to trust what Elder Holland specifically said on the topic rather than what some church employees chose to post on the church website.

    In response to this question:

    “I’ve talked to many blacks and many whites as well about the lingering folklore [about why blacks couldn't have the priesthood]. These are faithful Mormons who are delighted about this revelation, and yet who feel something more should be said about the folklore and even possibly about the mysterious reasons for the ban itself, which was not a revelation; it was a practice. So if you could, briefly address the concerns Mormons have about this folklore and what should be done.”

    Elder Holland responded:

    “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.”

    So the explanations given by Elder Holland’s “earlier colleagues” (in other words, former leaders of the church), were “almost all…inadequate and/or wrong.” And we’re instructed by Elder Holland that “there should be no effort to perpetuate those efforts to explain why that doctrine existed.”

    I’ll take Elder Holland’s word on it that those old explanations–including the excuse that it was only given to certain groups in the Old Testament, so it’s okay that it was not given to blacks for over a century in our time–are inadequate and/or flat-out wrong.

  38. Speaking of members of the 12–eat your heart out, R. Gary.

    And I should probably provide a source for the above quote by Elder Holland: http://www.pbs.org/mormons/interviews/holland.html

  39. Tim: The “Study by Topic” article on Priesthood Ordination before 1978 appeared long after those “earlier colleagues” of Elder Holland’s were gone. You can assume if you wish that the article represents only “what some church employees chose to post on the church website” but the only proof you have is the fact that Elder Holland has been powerless for nearly five years in the face of those “church employees” to have it removed.

  40. To what extent has the Church created a modern-day analogue to the priesthood ban by denying temple ordinances–and indeed, baptism itself–for an indefinite period of time to six million Jews whose only known sin was to have been massacred by the wrong dictator at the wrong point in history?

  41. This is excellent, Margaret. I’m looking forward to future parts.

  42. I actually took a couple of classes from Bott, and at one point a student asked him if the Bible Dictionary and Topical Guide were scripture. If I remember correctly, he laughed and basically said, “I helped write those. They’re not even close to being scripture. Don’t take them too seriously, because they were just written by a bunch of church employees in suits.”

    I highly doubt Elder Holland (or any other member of either the First Presidency or the Twelve) have even noticed that that language is in there. I’ll also point out that the talk linked to under “Priesthood Ordination before 1978″ says absolutely nothing about the reason for the ban–so the link provided gives absolutely no justification for the “ever since biblical times” justification for the ban. Even Randy Bott knows not to take the resources created by church employees too seriously…

  43. Tim, “Even Randy Bott knows not to take the resources created by church employees too seriously…”

    I dont disagree, but on that note how serious should we take two news releases written by church employees?

  44. R. Gary makes it all worth it.

  45. One of the very faithful brethren in my ward mentioned in his testimony this month that as he has studied Church History he has had to learn to accept that all of us, including even our prophets, have weakness, make mistakes, sometimes hold on to incorrect beliefs and will be accountable for the things we say and do that hurt others – but that the GOSPEL the prophets teach (and he emphasized and stressed the word “Gospel”) is of God, and the Atonement is powerful enough to save ALL who have sinned and come short of the glory of God. He mentioned how thankful he has been for the chance to study Church History and come to this profound realization.

    I know he was referring to the recent furor over Prof. Bott’s Washington Post interview, and I was moved by the way he phrased his testimony. It was candid, and it was deeply faithful.

  46. so what do we make of this:

    Abraham 1:24 – 26
    24 When this woman discovered the land it was under water, who afterward settled her sons in it; and thus, from Ham, sprang that race which preserved the curse in the land.

    25 Now the first government of Egypt was established by Pharaoh, the eldest son of Egyptus, the daughter of Ham, and it was after the manner of the government of Ham, which was patriarchal.

    26 Pharaoh, being a righteous man, established his kingdom and judged his people wisely and justly all his days, seeking earnestly to imitate that order established by the fathers in the first generations, in the days of the first patriarchal reign, even in the reign of Adam, and also of Noah, his father, who blessed him with the blessings of the earth, and with the blessings of wisdom, but cursed him as pertaining to the Priesthood.

  47. ..and v27:

    27 Now, Pharaoh being of that lineage by which he could not have the right of Priesthood, notwithstanding the Pharaohs would fain claim it from Noah, through Ham, therefore my father was led away by their idolatry;

  48. Thank you Margaret. Your careful attention to these issues has done so much good. I’m looking forward to reading all the parts and hope that we can continue to heal from the racism that seems so doggedly hard to root out of our culture.

  49. R. Gary—so sad, he wants so badly, so desperately for racism to be right, and for the racism of past church leaders to be right. So badly. He bears his testimony of racism so fervently, with so much conviction.

  50. JohnB, try D&C 68:21 and its context. As in those verses, Abraham 1 is talking about a patriarchal priesthood, passed from father to son. Pharaoh, although a righteous man, did not have the right of the priesthood because his connection to the patriarchal priesthood passed through his mother. He did all he could in establishing a wise and righteous nation, but he didn’t have a patriarchal link to the priesthood.

  51. Ardis, what’s the curse, and why did he not have right to the priesthood? And what does this mean:

    “and thus, from Ham, sprang that race which preserved the curse in the land.”

    Is it the land being cursed?

    I’m not arguing for racism. But let’s not pretend that this issue of race is due to some misguided statements from leaders at different periods in church history, or from members misreading some scriptures. It’s easy to see where these ideas come from.

  52. #51 – “It’s easy to see where these ideas come from.”

    Yes, it is easy to see – but that doesn’t make what is seen accurate.

    “let’s not pretend that this issue of race is due to some misguided statements from leaders at different periods in church history, or from members misreading some scriptures.”

    It’s not pretending; it is due to a misreading of scripture. I’ll let Margaret finish what she started and leave it at that for now, since she said there would be more.

  53. Well it’s going to be mighty hard to try to argue that the scriptures don’t indicate that race is a factor in who got the priesthood in history and that there is\was no curse given to a race. Margaret hasn’t been successful yet, and I see you are hopeful that in Part 2 she’ll be able to do it. Unlikely.

    It easy to argue that leaders and members have been wrong, but it’s harder to discount scripture. Things change, including policy, but it’s another effort entirely to argue that things shouldn’t have been the way they were before the change, as if it was always wrong.

  54. JohnB, I answered the question about why he didn’t have the right to the priesthood. I see no reason to dig out scriptures to address other questions if you’re not going to read the answer I did give you. The answers to two of your other questions are in Margaret’s OP.

  55. Ardis, your answer wasn’t convincing. Neither was the OP’s. We have to admit that the Lord has at time restricted the gospel and blessings to people in the past, including by race. At first only the descendants of Abraham could receive the blessings of Abraham, Then the Lord allowed anyone who was worthy to be adopted in and receive the blessings. Was it wrong to have it only restricted to descendants of Abraham?

    At first the gospel was only for Israelites. When the Canaanite woman approached Jesus he said he’s only come to the house of Israel. Was that wrong? Later Peter was told that the gospel should be preached to the Gentiles also. Was it wrong to not preach to them before?

    After the Restoration black weren’t allowed to have the priesthood by in large by policy. Later that was changed. Was it wrong?

    Policies change, but it’s a hard task to try to argue they were wrong before the change. And since it’s likely that things will continue to change, it’s better to just accept the change rather than trying to come up with how it should be and try to cast history in that idea of how it should be, because when it changes again (however that will be) it will be hard to accept it if you are too rigid.

    And like Peter who was told to eat eat that was unclean according to the law of Moses, the Lord said “Don’t call anything unclean that I have made clean.” Things changed, and Peter toed the line and changed. But he didn’t go around arguing that it was a mistake that for hundreds of years they didn’t even certain types food. Things changed.

  56. “because when it changes again (however that will be) it will be hard to accept it if you are too rigid”

    Ironic, no?

  57. JohnB, I apologize for the sarcasm in #56. It’s late, and this is an important issue to me – but you deserve a better answer than that. I am going to write a more detailed response, but it might end up being long enough to be a post in and of itself, so I want to apologize upfront and ask you to be patient while I write a better response.

  58. JohnB, just for the sake of answering your question fully, I will proceed as if you are 100% correct that there were times when the Priesthood was restricted by divine command by lineage and address your concern with that assumption in mind. Understand, that’s not my own belief, but let’s proceed as if it is correct:

    1) EVERY instance in our canonized scripture of such a restriction, if it existed, occurred prior to the ministry of Jesus Christ. Look it up: Every reference is from before he ministered among the Jews. That is critical to understand as the foundation of the discussion. (So, if I posit that there were “bans” based on lineage or race prior to the modern one, I have to admit that they appear to have stopped with Jesus’ ministry – according to our scriptural canon.)

    2) There are NO recorded revelations justifying the modern Priesthood ban. ALL of them used the Old Testament time period justifications that were common within “apostate” Christianity at the time. (Have you ever thought about that aspect of the discussion – that the justifications were borrowed from denominations that we classified as “apostate” at the time? It’s instructive, I think.)

    2) Jesus’ statement in Matthew 15:24 about being sent only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel says absolutely nothing about the Priesthood. It refers only to his ministry – his preaching and healing and blessing. The woman in question wasn’t asking for the Priesthood; she was asking that He perform a miracle on behalf of her daughter. Thus, that passage is completely irrelevant to the modern ban.

    3) The last message Jesus gave his disciples in Matthew before his ascension is recorded in Matthew 28:19-20, which reads (emphasis mine): “Go ye therefore, and teach ALL nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:Teaching them to observe **ALL things whatsoever I have commanded you**: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”

    Notice, they were commanded to teach and baptize ALL nations (which doesn’t address a Priesthood ban, since even under the modern ban, black people could be taught and baptized), but notice that once ALL were baptized they, without exception, were to “observe ALL things whatsoever I have commanded you”. Iow, there is NO restriction of ANY kind on what ANYONE who was baptized was required to observe – and black members at that time couldn’t have followed that commandment without the Priesthood. Thus, by default (not reading into the passage what isn’t there), there was no Priesthood ban in the early Christian Church.

    4) Nephi passed along the idea of a curse in his writings, but the Book of Mormon also has NO mention of it after the visitation of Jesus in 2 Nephi. **It ended, if there was one, with the ministry of Jesus among them.** Furthermore, Nephi undercuts the idea that the curse he mentioned was skin- or lineage-related when he said in 2 Nephi 26:33 (again, emphasis mine):

    “For none of these iniquities come of the Lord; for he doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he inviteth them ALL to come unto him **and partake of his goodness**; and he denieth NONE that come unto him, **black and white**, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; **and ALL are ALIKE unto God**, both Jew AND Gentile.”

    Nephi says in that verse, explicitly, that black and white are “alike unto God” – and that God invites ALL to “come unto him and partake of his goodness”. People who are partaking of the same goodness and who are alike unto God eliminates, obviously and unequivocally, the idea that one group held the Priesthood and could attend the temple while the other group didn’t and couldn’t. The ban makes NO sense whatsoever when read according to that verse – and it was written before Christ’s ministry. If that verse is interpreted literally, and if there actually was a race-based Priesthood ban at some point in history, it had ended by around 600 BC – or, if read to coincide with the ministry of Jesus, it ended at that time, at the very latest.

    5) The issue with the Gentiles in the early Christian Church wasn’t about Priesthood or the temple in any way. (At least, there is NO mention whatsoever of the Priesthood in any passage dealing with the issue.) It’s a non-starter with regard to the ban.

    6) Joseph Smith ordained multiple black men to the Priesthood, so it’s patently absurd to argue that he believed a ban was necessary – regardless of how he felt about any other bans that might have existed.

    Conclusion:

    Based on our actual scriptural canon, **even if some bans actually did occur in the Old Testament times**, there is NO evidence that any continued after the ministry of Jesus Christ – in either the Bible or the Book of Mormon. In fact, there are multiple sources that imply or state explicitly that a ban from that point onward was not the will of God – that ALL people everywhere now were considered “alike unto him”.

    So, if even our modern prophets and apostles say the former justifications were incorrect (“spectacularly wrong”, in one quote) – and if even they say they don’t know exactly why the ban was implemented (with which I can’t argue strongly, since I think it’s obvious but am willing to admit that I can’t see 100% into Pres. Young’s mind and know with total certainty why he did what he did) – and if they are saying forcefully that we should not perpetuate the former justifications – and if even they now have said that the Church condemns ALL racism of any kind, including that of our own LDS members, past and present – and if ALL the written evidence since the time of Jesus’ mortal ministry points to the incorrectness of a Priesthood ban (especially based on one drop of blood from a long-ago ancestor – who, btw, is a common ancestor to ALL of us, if the “one drop” standard is used) — how can someone possibly argue that the modern Priesthood ban was justifiable based on the beliefs of those who lived and recorded their beliefs before Jesus was born and set the new standard, even if previous bans existed and were justifiable back then?

  59. Ray channels Raymond…

  60. #59 – Yeah, I actually had that thought, Cynthia.

  61. :-)

  62. I have been wondering through all this commotion, if the pratice was wrong, (I’m not passing judgment one way or another on the practice), I have just one simple question. Why do we think it took so long for the Lord to straighten out the Prophets and thereby the Church?

  63. “Why do we think it took so long for the Lord to straighten out the Prophets and thereby the Church?”

    He’s been working with us for thousands of years trying to fix our problems. Fortunately, He works with us where we are, not as we will be in some holy state. The wonder is not that it “took so long”, but that anything meaningful gets taken care of, at all, ever. Viewed in the context of our general thuggishness, SWK’s seeking is so much more beautiful, to me. There is so much more to straighten out – we don’t even know what things need to be taken care of, cause we are chest deep making justifications for the very problems needing correcting. What? We are not so good. The church is at no risk of being taken up into heaven tomorrow.

  64. JohnB and Randy Bott are likely the majority view. How freaking depressing.

  65. RE throwing BY under the bus: this is why we have a system of canon. Nothing BY said that isn’t canonized scripture really matters. And besides that, nothing a prophet says needs to be correct in order for him to have been properly ordained and to be able to pass that authority on. Cf. King Noah and Alma. And BY didn’t spout off nearly as much as is being implied here. He certainly got some things wrong, but when you weigh those against the truly amazing and, yes, prophetic things he taught, this discussion seems silly to me. For a good read in this vein, see Nibley’s Brother Brigham.

  66. #65: Owen,
    I don’t know that Mormonism has a “system of canon”? I know they like to refer to 4 Books as the “Canon”. But I am not sure that’s the right use for the term canon?
    Mormons don’t seem to know if they have “Doctrines”, nor can they define “Gospel”.
    This all make conversation hard.

  67. Bob, I think there is a stricter definition of “canon” (the canonization process is laid out in the D&C and we have used it a number of times for both canonization and de-canonization) than there is of “scripture” or teachings/doctrines that are in some sense binding on latter-day saints.

  68. JohnB, I sincerely doubt that you would find anything that challenged your made-up mind to be convincing. Next time, try a little honesty and simply state your opinion, rather than phrasing it as questions to lure gullible fools like me into treating you with misplaced respect. Trolling is never admirable.

  69. I’m still curious as to whether the 1995 LDS policy about not extending the priesthood, temple ordinances, or even baptism to Jews who happen to be dead, constitutes a race-based priesthood ban; and, if so, whether such a ban is justifiable in light of the arguments that have been made here.

  70. IMO, it’s hardly the same thing, JimD — the policy extends only to Holocaust victims, not to all Jews; and the work for even Holocaust victims is authorized if they are family members of the Church member who chooses to do those ordinances. That’s very different from what was available to blacks pre-1978. (And FYI, whether you intend it or not — do you? — your comments are phrased in a rather trollish way. “Extending the priesthood” and “baptisms” are subsumed in “temple ordinances” — breaking them out in a list like this somehow makes a bigger deal of it than it merits. IMO.)

    Nobody has mentioned the similar policy of not performing temple ordinances for the time being for people born in traditionally Muslim countries. Those ordinances are approved only when someone demonstrates a family connection. Permission is readily granted in those cases; I know that from the experience of clearing a client’s family members who were Greeks born on an island that now belongs to Turkey.

    For all the indignation recently expressed by feisty church members who suddenly have become aware of these policies and claim that these policies are either a violation of our religious rights or an abdication of our religious responsibilities: Really? Nothing has changed from the policies in effect for generations: You are responsible for your own family, and you can do the temple work for your own family even if they fall into one of these “protected” classes. If they aren’t members of your family, you really have no business doing them anyway. These policies, even though someone may vehemently disagree with the reasoning behind them, affect members’ responsibilities not one bit.

  71. #67: Brad,
    Are you saying Mormonism has canon outside of scripture, or not all scripture is canon?

  72. Although I don’t necessarily agree with JohnB or know of his sincerity, I think his questions are fair to ask. I think the hostility and attittudes of all-knowingness towards him and this whole issue is ironic and mirrors the attittudes/reactions from ultra-conservatives many of you have criticized throughout your church experiences.

    On another note… I was looking at the pictures of the authors yesterday and found it humorous that so many of the men have beards. Is this some form of latent rebeliousness or SWOB requirement? The number seems totally disproportionate, even if you were looking at a department of professors at a non-church university. I suppose you don’t wear white shirts either :). Thanks for the great blog by the way!!!!! I sincerely appreciate all of the time so many put into this blog. Kudos!!

  73. Thanks, Ardis. I did try to use phrases common to the priesthood-ban discussion to reinforce what I saw as an intriguing analogy; I’ll defer to the mods as to whether such phrasing constitutes trolling.

    I didn’t know about the policy re Muslim countries – thanks for that. I actually don’t mind either that or the Holocaust victim policy, because I accept that the policies probably exist to allow the Church to function more effectively in a fallen world that is not always sympathetic to the Church’s ideals and objectives.

    I guess my thought is that the Muslim/Holocaust victim policies still do have the effect of denying (dead) people the priesthood and other temple blessings based on race, with an exception (living LDS family members) that is probably cold comfort for those who to whom it does not apply.

    If I’m going to continue attacking the idea that God would deny/delay Gospel blessings to a specific group of people in order to allow for the material progress of His church in the short run, then it strikes me I need to do some real soul-searching about what the Muslim/Holocaust victim policy is and what it represents to those affected by it.

  74. Totally personal speculation here, JimD, without even the slightest color of pretended knowledge (how’s that for you, bg? far enough removed from smug all-knowingness, I hope, if not much removed from hostility), but I don’t expect that the policy will continue for very long — long enough, but not very long. To me it’s more like not publishing everything you know about Grandpa until Grandma and anybody else with a painful emotional connection to whatever story there is, has passed on. There will come a time — I can’t guess when — when those who have this emotional response to temple baptisms will have passed on. It’s too soon, now; people have justifiably raw nerves when they know survivors, or when it was their parents and other personally known loved ones involved. Holocaust victims will always rightly be remembered and honored as martyrs, but — I believe — there will come a time when passions will have cooled and there won’t be any barrier to temple work. Again, IMO.

    There is, after all, nothing essential that this person or that person’s work be done today, and not a hundred years from now. I really despise the dismissive “oh, well, it will all be straightened out in the Millennium” excuse for not filling our obligations now, but the cold reality is, a very great many people are going to have to wait temple blessings for an indefinite period, because no record of their lives survives. That will not cause them to lose any eternal blessing, of course. We need to be doing the work for as many as we can, now, because it’s such an enormous job and because we (not our distant descendants) have been given the responsibility. But nobody loses out by having their temple work delayed by a policy like this, any more than they lose out by having a flock of descendants who haven’t cared enough to fulfill their obligations yet.

    I don’t see that the policy calls for soul-searching. I have work enough to do now — and I’m one of those who does the work for my own dead. I wonder what condition the ancestral records are in for those who have complained the loudest about this policy?

  75. Total threadjack here, but I wonder whether passions LDS proxy work for holocaust victims are ever going to die down. People who were born decades after the holocaust still get up in arms about it–largely because it was so thoroughly documented, and the images are so horrifying.

    Joining you in blatant speculation: I suspect that as a Church we’ll get a lot of grief when this policy ends, whether that happens ten, fifty, or a hundred and fifty years from now.

  76. Margaret Blair Young and friends: You may be interested in the following message I received this morning:

    —-

    March 12, 2012

    To: Gary Shapiro

    RE: Priesthood Ordination before 1978

    All Church materials are approved at many levels before anything is ever published, beginning at the department management level, to the auxiliary presidencies, the Correlation Department, and the General Authorities, including the First Presidency of the Church.

    Nothing the Church publishes is done so without going through all these levels of approval. This certainly includes all avenues of publication the Church uses now and will use in the future.

    This will always be the case.

    Sincerely,
    Curriculum Department

    —-

    March 12, 2012

    To: Curriculum Department

    RE: Priesthood Ordination before 1978

    This information you have provided is consistent with what has been taught over and over for many years by members of the First Presidency and Twelve (this general conference talk, for example). Apparently, my friends are under the erroneous belief that something changed.

    Thank you!
    Gary

  77. Gary,
    You may believe whatever your heart desires regarding the Brethren seemingly having infinite amounts of time to give thorough readings to everything put out by the church, but please don’t attempt to force or shame people into subscribing to your beliefs. That said, I’m pleased that someone at Chirch headquarters was obviously kind enough to spend time answering your question.

  78. Mommie Dearest says:

    It always surprises me when I see the careful work some people will put into avoiding an uncomfortable paradigm shift.

  79. John, I think Gary is just one of those stalwarts who knows that all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. It’s the only explanation for why he comes over to these parts so frequently. He’s clearly on a mission to save souls. I mean, c’mon, no one would go to these lengths just to prove the correctness of an opinion!!

    Right?

  80. Sometimes, Mommie Dearest, that’s due less to a spiritual and intellectual inability to accept change, and more to a desperate desire to oppose the people one hates. It’s misplaced effort, of course; some people will always and naturally be on the opposition, even without the work to document their spite.

  81. Margaret and friends: I received an answer to my earlier “Thank you!” (above):

    —-

    March 12, 2012

    To: Gary Shapiro

    RE: Priesthood Ordination before 1978

    You are most welcome and we encourage you to share this information. The Church spends an enormous amount of time and resources to ensure that the doctrine is kept pure and undiluted. Your friends can rest assured that this will always be the case.

    Sincerely,
    Curriculum Department

  82. I hope it is clear by now that the Church’s “Study by Topic” article on “Priesthood Ordination before 1978” represents a lot more than just “what some church employees chose to post on the church website.”

  83. No one is required, and indeed should not, sustain the Curriculum Department, the Newsroom, LDS.org, or any other entity that is not defined as “prophets, seers, and revelators” as prophets, seers, and revelators. The language is not, “Prophets, Seers, and Revelators and Their Subsidiaries.” I don’t care how much time equals “an enormous amount of time;” or how many resources are expended. The meaningful and binding connection between anyone and the Curriculum Department is precisely nil. However, if you want to get at the core of the word “sustain,” meaning to strengthen and support, then work like Margaret’s and so many other faithful and active scholars is precisely what that is, a strengthening and supporting of the work of the Lord through the careful uncovering and revealing of truth and the healing of wounds. Margaret’s work is committed and genuine, based on sound scholarship and faithful devotion to the truth. There is more than one member of the Twelve who is aware of her work and the work of others like her, both aware and encouraging of the work being done, work that does not seek to be an alternate voice or resource but a supplement and help to our understanding of the past.

  84. I guarantee the Curriculum Department’s response to Gary wasn’t approved by the First Presidency. What various dept. employees think about their own work doesn’t equal what their work actually is.

    Gary: what email address did you use to contact them?

  85. R.Gary,

    For someone who has built up an impressive library of statements that are all by prophets, presidents, and apostles as representing the accepted and authoritarian word equal in stature to scripture, you seem awfully quick to accept an email from a nameless church bureaucrat claiming that an unsigned statement on the Church website is indeed the mind and will of the Lord without question. See any irony in that?

  86. What Blair said.

  87. BHodges: The email address is in the George Albert Smith manual.

  88. Kristine says:

    “Nothing the Church publishes is done so without going through all these levels of approval.”

    Apparently, syntax is not evaluated at any of the three levels.

  89. LOL.

  90. Correlationbot 4000 says:

    Beep bop boop. All is approved.

    I am Correlationbot 4000. Beep

    beep. I am not a sentient being.

    I have no face.

    I have no name. Boop beep blip blip.

  91. Correlationbot FTW! Best comment of the week!

  92. I think earth life is not meant to be fair because it is administered by mortals in a constantly changing, reactive culture and we spend our lives struggling to get our view up to a more eternal scope. That our existence extends far before and after birth and death and is evened out by things like the temple should give us greater perspective. I have had a raw deal in some areas, and particularly nice slice in others, and ultimately, what matters most is what I choose in my moment of “the raw deal.” If God can equip Joseph best to save Egypt and his family by sending him through slavery and prison, he obviously has a different executive training plan that we do. This was an excellent piece, Margaret, and for me, it hit on the one issue that has plagued me for my entire faithful life. I’m glad to have recently set it to rest (I also wrote about it recently, though peripherally in a larger context, at http://bonnieblythe.wordpress.com/2012/02/20/ask-and-ye-shall-receive/). I look forward to reading more of your work.

  93. I think earth life is not meant to be fair because it is administered by mortals in a constantly changing, reactive culture and we spend our lives struggling to get our view up to a more eternal scope.

    I think, more importantly, we’re called to do our utmost here on earth, right now, to make things better and not wait for post-mortality. Eternal perspective is nice. Feeding the poor, etc. is nicer. Doing both, perhaps, is nicest.

  94. BHodges: Agreed wholeheartedly. There’s an interesting discussion by Nibley in *Lehi in the Desert* that contributes to the discussion on the Semitic understanding of words like “black” and “white” that doesn’t explain everything but is instructive. It’s in Chapter 7 http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/books/?bookid=59&chapid=557.

  95. The email address is in the George Albert Smith manual.

    When contact info changes, as it almost certainly will at some future point, will R. Gary continue to insist that this address remains valid because it was once printed in an official Church manual?

  96. Ardis FTW

  97. If I were to invent an anti-Mormon persona to make Mormonism look retrograde, intellectually bankrupt, and stupid, I would invent “R. Gary”. I mean that as no slight to Gary as I’m sure he is sincere, only that the divide is so wide on this issue that both sides will continue to see themselves as the saviours of Mormonism whilst simultaneously seen by others at its enemies. I’d say it was ape-like behaviour, but I know Gary doesn’t believe humans are apes.

  98. Ronan, I’d imagine he thinks some humans (read: races) are more ape-like than others.

  99. Yes, the FP approves everything that the church publishes now and in the future, regardless of the venue or medium. These aren’t the droids you’re looking for. Move along.

  100. Thanks for the link, Bonnie.

    R. Gary: A few questions for you to get an idea of how you understand LDS doctrine and Correlation. This is not a litmus test for faith, you could answer these in many ways while still being more than welcome as a Latter-day Saint.

    1) Are there any factual errors in “Mormon doctrine” as you understand it, or does vetting by the Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency ensure an infallible interpretation, and thus infallible manuals?

    1a) If there are any such errors, can you provide any specific examples?

    2) Are there any openly contradictory teachings within Mormon doctrine as contained on LDS.org and in the Church manuals?

    2a) If there are any such contradictions, can you provide any specific examples?

    3) Can Mormon doctrine as you understand it ever change to the point of overturning prior doctrinal teachings as found in older church manuals?

    Thanks.

  101. I, for one, would be very interested in R. Gary’s response to those questions, BHodges.

  102. The FP/12 are assigned by God to oversee what is taught (i.e. the doctrine) in His Church. The FP/12 (not Correlation and certainly not individual members) are responsible to God for the Church’s manuals, magazines, and web site.

    In view of the above, your questions to me are, well, irrelevant. As I see it, my responsibility is to spread the good news of the gospel as it is set forth in official media by God’s authorized representatives, the FP/12.

  103. #102 – I generally try to avoid extreme snarkiness, but . . . seriously?? That’s your answer to those questions – a total and complete ducking of them?? There literally is no response to that in any way that is not snarky.

  104. For someone who exudes absolute confidence and unwavering certitude as often as he does, R. Gary sure is a coward…

  105. R. Gary, I suspected you might not answer the questions. The problem is, these questions are not irrelevant in my view. They go to the heart of the matter concerning church doctrine and truth.

    The FP/12 are assigned by God to oversee what is taught (i.e. the doctrine) in His Church. The FP/12 (not Correlation and certainly not individual members) are responsible to God for the Church’s manuals, magazines, and web site.

    Here’s the rub: I also believe that the FP/12 are assigned by God to oversee what is taught in the Church. But it seems you and I differ on substantive issues aside from this common agreement. That’s why I ask the questions. Let’s take one particular question, since it relates to your “responsibility.”

    Does vetting by the Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency ensure infallible interpretations, and thus infallible manuals and press releases?

  106. “Does vetting by the Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency ensure infallible interpretations, and thus infallible manuals and press releases?”

    No. Approval by the FP/12 does not ensure an infallible result. But here’s the rub: Although the FP/12 are fallible, God is not. And God asks the rest of us to receive the fallible Prophet’s words just as if He, the infallible God, had spoken it: “For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.” (D&C 21:5.)

    Latter-day Saints sustain the Church’s President as “prophet, seer, and revelator.” We also sustain his counselors in the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles as “prophets, seers, and revelators.” God speaks to us in our day by the mouth of his servants the prophets, specifically the FP/12. And of their words, God has said: “Whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.” (D&C 1:38.)

    Therefore, my answer to your question is academic only, ignoring the reality of God’s instructions regarding the FP/12. Let me be very clear about this: Both the question and the answer are irrelevant to me.

  107. Not going to work — he’ll just pull out R. Gary automated response number 6: He will concede that none of the above are infallible (because that’s what the sacred records [manuals] say), but then assert that he has no authority to question them. He will conclude with a condescending, “Do you, BHodges?”

  108. “R. Gary”: stop, your ruse has been rumbled, please tell Bill Maher we get it.

  109. There’s your false equivalence on full display, in my view, R. Gary: God speaks to us in our day by the mouth of his servants the prophets, specifically the FP/12. And of their words, God has said: “Whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.” (D&C 1:38.)

    You read this to mean the voice of God’s servants (which you apparently confine to the President of the Church and the 12 apostles, though it isn’t clear why it should be confined to them in terms of stewardships and even inspired non-LDS) always equals the voice of God. I read it to mean that when prophets are speaking God’s will by the power of the Holy Ghost, and a witness of that fact should also be received by the recipient, they are speaking with the voice of God. Call it the 2 Peter 1:21/2 Nephi 32 rule.

    So the distinguishing characteristic between your view and mine seems to be that mine allows for and even demands active seeking and revelation on the part of the listener, whereas yours seems to make possible the denial of such an act of agency.

  110. Margaret, thanks for this. When I joined the church in 1975, my stake president and Institute professor used to joke, when someone quoted a GA, by asking “has he been dead long enough?” It seems the gospel is designed to move forward with new revelation, but too many are trapped in the old statements made in earlier times. Sad that this even happens with some BYU religion teachers, who should know better.
    Perhaps the prophet should have the LDS Newsroom place on their website a list of previous teachings by GAs that are no longer viewed as correct nor acceptable.
    As for me, I do believe there was a curse. Those who believe in the curse of Cain would be cursed with not receiving any additional revelation nor spiritual growth, until as the children of Israel in the desert, the old ways died out, and the new vision was ready to move forward into the promised land.

  111. Not to get off the whole correlation thing, but…

    In the BOM, it is clear that Nephi gets the birthright (which is likely why Laman, especially, hates him so much. I have a whole theory on this that is extremely entertaining speculation, but not at all relevant). In OT times, birthright = priesthood. Right? Please correct me if I’m wrong, here. So, Nephi gets the priesthood, but Laman and Lemuel and their followers don’t have the priesthood. Even if they could have had the priesthood and it was NOT attached to the birthright, it seems clear they were not worthy of the priesthood. Because they were not worthy and Nephi et. al. separated themselves from the Lamanites, there was no one to give the priesthood to the Lamanite descendants. Therefore, the Lamanites were “cursed” by not having the priesthood, but Laman and Lemuel brought it on themselves and their posterity. Which may be why the Nephites, who had a greater knowledge, were wiped out and the Lamanites were allowed to persist.

    Add this idea to the “do not marry outside the covenant” rules that were very strict in OT times. Because women brought up the children, children were generally raised in the religion of the mother. That’s why Jewishness goes through the mother’s side: OT tradition. Therefore, the Nephites would have been very against mixing with the “heathen” Lamanities. They were not covenant people, because they had chosen not to be.

    How this all relates to the “black” skin, I’m not sure exactly. I tend to lean to the metaphorical, as has been stated in previous comments. Other possibilities include the Lamanites mixing with the other people in America, who may have been darker-skinned (Asian Bering Strait crossers, for example), which would also even further remove the Lamanites from the covenant. Again, though, speculation. I do think, however, that the Nephites were not supposed to mix with the Lamanites because of their religion, not their color. This is supported by converts from the Lamanites being re-adopted into Nephite society.

    And then there’s the “make the Lamanites loathsome in your eyes” thing. Well, it also says they were wearing only loincloths. That would do it for me!

  112. There’s a rather tantalizing ambiguity in that last sentence, Molly. It really leaves me wondering whether I should pack my loincloth the next time I come to visit.

  113. #111: Molly,
    Too much talk about dark skins. Most people who have lived on this earth (God’s Children), have been dark skinned. Light (white) is a minority. They are either blessed, or write the books about race.

  114. BHodges: At the risk of stirring up more childish name calling and mocking, let me say that I think the difference between you and me is more subtle; possibly more like constantly asking, “God, help me to know that your servants speak your words,” versus asking after the fact, “God, was that really you talking?”

    In many cases, results will be similar. But when God’s servant contradicts preconceived and strongly held beliefs, assuming prophetic fallibility may get in the way of receiving God’s answer. That’s the way I look at it, anyway.

  115. R. Gary, So you’re basically telling me you were once a staunch evolutionist until you read the unscientific writings of Joseph Fielding Smith? I defy you to name a single substantive thing a prophet has told you that you would otherwise not believe were it not for the sheer fact that someone you believe is a prophet said it.

  116. “I defy you to name a single substantive thing a prophet has told you that you would otherwise not believe were it not for the sheer fact that someone you believe is a prophet said it.”

    If your interest is genuine, please read carefully this June 2006 blog post.

  117. So basically your example is a procedural thing. You are already opposed to gay marriage, but your view about what precisely the US government ought to do about that circumstance has changed based on statements from Church leaders?

  118. It seems clear that Gary R. and Bott justify their own racisms by hiding behind the skirts of past racism. The old, “Just following Orders” has never been and will never be an excuse for embracing immoral ideas. In the past in can be explained by deep cultural mistakes, and despite whatever the status of manuals as doctrine, the current first presidency has denounced this kind of racism in no uncertain terms, “We condemn racism, including any and all past racism by individuals both inside and outside the Church.” There was no qualification for those in high places of authority. What’s interesting about Gary R. and Bott is unlike Margaret, who has gone to great lengths to dig into the issue and fight against the harms that such mistaken views have wrought, their ilk seek to justify these racisms and establish them as doctrine. Niether spends any time like Margaret reaching out bring Christ’s embrace to those cast aside by bigotry. And Gary, the prophets are not infallible, and need correcting from time to time, as evidenced by Peter slipping into his old ways, once again past racism rearing its ugly head at a gathering of the Saints, forcing Paul to denounce him, ” Galatians 2:11 But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.” Infallibility, is Catholic doctrine, not Mormon. And verily, I suspect that extends even unto the manuals.

  119. Steve, I lost my testimony of the brethren when I found out that they approved you being hired at BYU.

  120. I would be really interested in an exhaustive list of things that RGary believes are directly controlled by the brethren, and/or should be treated as such regardless of whether they are or not (under RGary’s position that: “God asks the rest of us to receive the fallible Prophet’s words just as if He, the infallible God, had spoken it: “For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.” (D&C 21:5.)”).

    For example, is the daily cafeteria menu for all of BYU’s dorm cafeterias approved? Certainly we shouldn’t assume that the six apostles on the Board of Trustees have been powerless for nearly five years in the face of those church employees to have it changed. So we can assume nothing on the menu does need changing, and is as if infallible God has spoken it? What about BYU-I’s cafeterias? What’s served there is kinda dodgy, let me tell you.

  121. I love the BYU-I cafeteria! (okay, the food services director is one of my favorite people)

  122. Left Field says:

    “As I see it, my responsibility is to spread the good news of the gospel as it is set forth in official media by God’s authorized representatives, the FP/12.”

    I for one, look forward to you spreading the good news of of the gospel’s compatibility with organic evolution. as set forth in official media (e.g., The Instructor, July 1965) by God’s authorized representatives, the FP/12 (in this case, being explicitly approved for publication in official media by David O. McKay himself).

  123. And Chris, since every faculty member is FP approved, you can infer, as Gary R. does, that I only speak correct doctrine.

  124. BHodges: Very predictable.

    SteveP: You are no more justified in calling me a racist than I would be in calling you a practicing pedophile. But I’m not and you’re not. And your comment is completely out of line.

    Left Field: “Presented,” said McKay himself, “not as Church doctrine.”

  125. Indeed, SteveP. So RGary also believes Margaret only speaks correct doctrine. He must not have realized she was BYU faculty when he came to this thread to criticize her—oops! That’s awkward.

  126. Left Field says:

    Wait… So some things published in official media by God’s authorized representatives are NOT the good news of the gospel?

  127. “Whether by mine own voice or the voice (singular) of my prophets (plural), it is the same.”

    The “prophets” (plural) have never spoken with one “voice” (singular) regarding the Priesthood ban. Joseph certainly never did, and there were more than a few apostles (who also are sustained as prophets) who did not speak for it (and some who spoke against it privately, according to our actual records).

    We can play quote fights all day long and never reach consensus – which is a huge part of the core of this issue, imo. There has not been consensus in this dispensation regarding the ban, and to assert otherwise simply is ignoring the totality of the written record we do have. What we can say is that the current prophets unanimously have condemned all racism of any kind that has existed and still exists in the Church (and outside it) – and that the ban, by very nature, was, in fact, racist by every reasonable definition of that term (and the former justifications for it were even more blatantly racist).

    Therefore, as I read the most recent statement on lds.org, which apparently was approved directly by the top leadership, the Church condemns the ban and all the justifications for it.

    That’s good enough for me.

  128. I’ll be explicit in how I’m using the word. I believe that any defense of past racist doctrines or racist attitudes is itself racist. You may quibble about the definition but I have strong feelings on this because I’ve seen the extreme harm that has come from them in the lives of others.

  129. So let me be more charitable. Do I believe Gary R. is a racist in the sense that he esteems members of other races as less than himself? No. I really don’t believe that. I do which he shared my perspective that the racist things of the past carries racism forward into attitudes and perspectives held by members of the church because the embrace the mark of Cain, Preexistence valencies. I know Gary has explicitly in his blog said that past priesthood restrictions cannot nor should not be explained with these myths. His view is more nuanced in that he believes the restriction was put in place by God. I do not. I misspoke perhaps calling him a racist. I don’t know him well enough to make that assessment and I’m happy to apologize for that and I coincide I was out of line. I am conflating him with many that do use their defense of the past for racism.

  130. Thanks for #129, SteveP. I’m in the awkward position of coming to R. Gary’s defense — which I’m sure he will find as unpalatable as I do — by saying that I don’t think we really have enough evidence to conclude that R. Gary is more racist than the next guy, or even that he definitely believes in a young earth or no death before the Fall or right-wing extremist politics or any of the other unauthorized accretions to the revealed gospel that he champions. His interest, as long as I’ve been aware of him, is less in promoting those ideas themselves than in defending his bizarre, irrational, and unjustifiable testimony in the sacred status of manuals, pre-correlated magazines, teaching aids, and anything else ever issued by any Church press with only nominal claims to having been reviewed and approved by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve.

    No need to thank me for defending you so graciously, R. Gary. I’m sure you’d do the same for me.

  131. Thanks Ardis. I agree. Racism makes my blood boil and I become irrational and unkind. Thanks for bringing some light to the discussion. Oh and I meant which=wish up there. You know me.

  132. making God the racist isn’t much better

  133. #132 – almost everyone here agrees, and we aren’t making God the racist, so I assume you are pointing your comment at one or a few people. Right?

  134. SteveP, no hard feelings. And frankly, Ardis, the Bloggernacle just wouldn’t be the same without your smooth sarcasm. Whenever you engage one of my comments, directly or indirectly, I know I’ve scored.

  135. You may not be a racist, but your treatment of Ardis makes you a scumbag.

  136. Mommie Dearest says:

    I can think of many descriptors that apply to Ardis; ‘smooth sarcasm’ is not one of them. That one kind of makes my jaw sag. However, the phrase in the next sentence–‘I know I’ve scored’–tells a reader a lot about the motivations here at play.

  137. R. Gary: Very predictable.

    And true!

  138. Here’s another indication of R. Gary’s scorekeeping: He admits failure whenever he retreats to his own sad little blog and makes a lame attempt to draw traffic by making yet another personal attack on some more talented blogger. Nobody has to actually visit that noisome place to know what he’s up to — his attention-getting tactic is to put the name of the blogger who bested him in the title where it appears in the aggregators. Anyone want to wager whether the next one will star SteveP, BHodges, or me? My money is on BHodges.

  139. (Admins: Somebody needs to turn off the bolding somewhere in #137)

  140. >94

    Speaking of Nibley, in 1973 he bore testimony of the divinity of the priesthood ban. (See Dialogue Vol. 8, pp. 73-77, or Temple and Cosmos, pp. 532-540.) Does this make him a racist?

  141. Publius, I am very aware of what Nibley said. I remember reading his statement and his testimony that the restriction was from God when that issue of Dialogue first came out. I was seventeen. I have no idea what he would say today. And it doesn’t really matter, does it, if Nibley felt that God had ordained the ban. He was a well-regarded intellectual in his time, but he had no authority to speak for anyone but himself. Nor do others who have “testified” that God has revealed to them that He ordained the ban. In fact, I am leary of anyone who publicly makes such statements–even if he’s Hugh Nibley. It is simply not their place–especially now after the Church statement which distances itself from any certainty that God ordered the restriction. Btw, Nibley used the same reasoning as Bott did: that the priesthood was an “onerous responsibility” and so it was a mercy to restrict it. I also remember the follow-up letters in Dialogue wherein LDS men and women testified of the joy of the priesthood, of what it added to their families. I was far more struck by the follow-up letters than I was by Nibley’s testimony.

  142. John W. Redelfs says:

    I am so sick of listening to all this race garbage that I am near vomiting. Most of those who moan and groan about racism are the biggest hypocrites on the planet. Many of them are racists themselves. I am not a racist and I can prove it by who I married and the skin color of my children and grandchildren. I believe that those who accuse others of racism are themselves racists, and they are greater racists than those they accuse. A person who is not a racist knows there is only one race and that is the human race. Those who keep racism in the forefront of their thoughts and minds ought to spend that time doing something constructive. Their focus alone proves them to racists.

  143. Glad you have no problem with race issues, John W. Redelfs. Now see if you can work on that anger issue.

  144. Costanza says:

    Well *I* believe that those who claim that those who claim that others are racists are in fact the real racists. The perfect cover.

  145. Quickmere Graham says:

    Let me get this straight. John Redelfs says this:

    I believe that those who accuse others of racism are themselves racists

    Right after he said this:

    Many of them are racists themselves.

    Which makes me wonder why he said this:

    I am not a racist.

    OK.

  146. John W. Redelfs: Those who mock you on this blog are not defending Mormonism.

  147. John W. Redelfs says:

    Bad logic. Racists accuse other individuals of racism. That is very different from calling a category of people racist. As for me, I’m just sick of hearing all this race talk, over and over, and over, and over. It is propaganda from hypocrites who don’t give a flip about people of other races.

  148. Because nothing is more Mormon than defending racism.

  149. JWR: then go away you vile pig.

  150. This isn’t where you should be expressing that rage, JWR. The statements which motivated my posts were made by the Church. There were two statements. Please let Public Affairs know how you feel. It is even possible that the issue will come up in General Conference, and you deserve some warning of that. Contact those who wrote the statements at:
    Public Affairs
    50 East North Temple
    Salt Lake City, UT.

  151. Also, in my third post, I quote the president of FAIR. Not sure if you’re familiar with their work. You can contact them to complain about bringing up race again at http://www.fairlds.org .

  152. John W. Redelfs says:

    Chris wrote:
    Because nothing is more Mormon than defending racism.

    And nothing is more leftist than defending fornication, adultery, abortion, sodomy, and destruction of property rights. People all have an axe to grind. You are no different from me on that score. We just don’t grind the same axe. That is OK by me. But is it OK by you? I doubt it.

  153. John W. Redelfs says:

    Margaret Blair Young Says:
    March 18, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    This isn’t where you should be expressing that rage, JWR. The statements which motivated my posts were made by the Church. There were two statements. Please let Public Affairs know how you feel. It is even possible that the issue will come up in General Conference, and you deserve some warning of that.

    I am not responding to your post alone, I am responding to unchristian people who are participating in this comment thread. And I have no rage. I have disgust. I have nausea. As for material on the Church website, I agree with virtually all of it because it is true. What I don’t agree with is the constant propaganda in the media and on this list about race. I don’t like being called a racist by people who know nothing about it. Most of them would not know a real racist if one bit them on the nose. Those who call the Church and the Savior’s prophets racists are beneath contempt. They are the wicked so often mentioned in scripture, the ones who will be burned at the Second Coming unless they repent.

  154. Whoa, JWR. Speaking of unchristian… You don’t like the prophets being called racist, and I object to being damned by someone who doesn’t know me or anyone else here. If it disgusts you, farewell.

  155. I tire of Redelfs, so I just banned him.

    Since he can’t respond, everyone please refrain from addressing him or discussing him in his absence. Thanks.

  156. There is a lady in my ward who I barely know; however, I just found out she has a huge part in relations between the lds church and the jewish faith and the ban on temple work of holocaust victims. I am going to ask her if she can shed some light on this topic.

  157. #156, I have always been taught that you are only supposed to be submitting names of your own family with permission from the closest living family member. As such, unless someone is related to said Holocaust victim I do not believe it is proper for ordinances to be performed for them. Proxy ordinances are an important part of being LDS, but it is not our job to posthumously baptize the world against their relatives wishes. My grandmother just recently died, and out of respect, and formality I asked my mother if she could have proxy ordinances done in the Temple. Grandmother is a pretty close relative, but since my mother is still alive I felt it appropriate to not only ask her permission, but to be bound by her answer. When the one-year waiting period has expired, my grandmother will be baptized. No fuss, no muss, no hurt feelings–as it should be imo.

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