Groundbreaking scriptural heading changes: Official Declaration 2

2013-02-28_20-48-47_158Not since 1981 (and maybe even before, I’ll let the textual/scriptural scholars determine the amount of change versus other scriptural compilations) have this many changes been made to our modern Mormon quad.

So needless to say (but I guess I need to say it anyway) it’s incredibly exciting.

The Joseph Smith Papers lists many of the heading adjustments here. And here is the scripture comparison (warning, at least for me it was a long download.)

And while there is a lot of new scriptural commentary to peruse, compare, and explore, I’m going to jump right to Official Declaration–2 as it still is Black History Month for a few more hours here.

The new version now begins: “Book of Mormon teaches that ‘all are alike unto God,’ including ‘black and white, bond and free, male and female’ (2 Nephi 26:33). Throughout the history of the Church, people of every race and ethnicity in many countries have been baptized and have lived as faithful members of the Church. During Joseph Smith’s lifetime, a few black male members of the Church were ordained to the priesthood. Early in its history, Church leaders stopped conferring the priesthood on black males of African descent. Church records offer no clear insights into the origins of this practice. Church leaders believed that a revelation from God was needed to alter this practice and prayerfully sought guidance. The revelation came to Church President Spencer W. Kimball and was affirmed to other Church leaders in the Salt Lake Temple on June 1, 1978. The revelation removed all restrictions with regards to race that once applied to the priesthood.”

And for comparison, here is the text from the old introduction to OD 2 version…

Ok, there wasn’t one. It went right to the letters.

So what do you think of these changes?

What does this mean for future scripture study and commentary?

What kind of changes did you find fascinating?

And go!

Comments

  1. Wowzers. It really is the 21st century.

  2. woa!!

  3. Huzzah! I find (just from skimming the side-by-side comparison) that most of the changes are just making D&C dates more specific, and this huge and amazing introduction to OD2 as well as the half-page addition to the intro to D&C talking about making changes to revelations…

    This. This is cool.

  4. Whoa!! That’s huge!

  5. Hope it puts some things to rest– or at least makes some folks think twice.

  6. Amazing! And it’s so nice that they’ve published the side-by-side comparison, obviating the task of chasing them down one-by-one. They must have known hundreds would want to do just that, and they were kind enough to do it for us. That would have saved me the task of doing the same thing for the Book of Mormon chapter headings:

    http://nathanrichardson.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/Nathan-Richardson-BoM-chapter-heading-changes.pdf

    It’s interesting that they haven’t changed the heading for D&C 119, regarding “withdrawing” the law of consecration.

  7. I see that the introduction to the Pearl of Great Price no longer directly states that the Book of Abraham was translated from the papyri.

  8. “Church leaders believed that a revelation from God was needed to alter this practice…”

    Wow. No insistence that the practice had its origin in revelation, even though we don’t understand God’s reasons. Church leaders easily could have said this, but they didn’t. Perhaps I’m overreacting, but this strikes me as a very significant omission.

    That DB would publish Harper’s D&C volume and allow him to float the idea that the origin of the priesthood ban was NOT revelatory (even though he didn’t explicitly endorse that view) always struck me as significant, as a possible harbinger of things to come. This new OD-2 intro adds to my conviction.

    Folks, the notion that the priesthood ban had its origin in divine revelation hasn’t yet OFFiCIALLY left the building. But it is being handed its hat.

  9. 7. Wow. Intriguing observation.

  10. This is historic! I can’t even put into words how excited I was to just see this…I am speechless at how grateful I am for such a beautiful new heading to OD2, and how thankful I am to be led by a group of Brethren humble enough to publish it.

  11. In thinking a little more, it occurs to me– after the big scuffle last year over certain things being taught over certain pulpits… There were no big announcements in General Conference, and not much said. But, with this– well, it seems like we have it IN WRITING.

  12. Good point, KerBearRN!

  13. @ #11

    KerBearRN, for those of us in the nether-regions of Zion, would you like to elaborate on what things you might be eluding to in your comment?

  14. Yes, that is significant, KerBearRN. An implied statement against divine origin in the canon may be more valuable than a direct statement distancing us from the “folklore” in the LDS Newsroom. Still, an official, specific repudiation would be nicer.

  15. Bye, bye, History of the Church. We hardly knew (who wrote) thee.

  16. It’s not a repudiation by a long shot and it will go unnoticed by most . . . However, what it does do is provide a shield for those who want to reject the ban’s divinity by offering official, if nuanced support for that idea.

  17. wow…!
    welcome to the future folks. i believe we are beginning to see what Elder Jensen meant when he said; that the Brethren are aware. (church history is beginning to come out of obscurity…lol)

  18. Page 21 of the link below was fascinating in terms of the whole “principal ancestors” vs “among the principal ancestors”.

    http://www.lds.org/bc/content/shared/content/english/pdf/scriptures/detailed-summary-of-approved-adjustments.pdf

  19. ^^^^Check out the section about the new intro to the BOM.

    Also- I’m curious why in the updates to OD 1— “The vote to sustain the foregoing motion was unanimous.” was deleted.

  20. J. Madson says:

    RJH it wont go unnoticed if we dont let it. I just emailed it to my ward.

  21. It’s important to explicitly contrast the claim of divine origin in the OD-1 intro with the utter absence of such a claim in the OD-2 intro. Otherwise, people won’t see or understand the significance of the wording in the OD-2 intro.

  22. I answered my own question about why the sentence about “the foregoing motion was unanimous” being deleted. FLDS.

  23. “Church records offer no clear insights into the origins of this practice.”
    I am shocked to learn that Church records don’t include public statements made by the First Presidency of the Church. You’d think someone would’ve hung onto at least one copy of those.

    The First Presidency Statement on the Negro Question
    August 17, 1949
    The attitude of the Church with reference to Negroes remains as it has always stood. It is not a matter of the declaration of a policy but of direct commandment from the Lord, on which is founded the doctrine of the Church from the days of its organization, to the effect that Negroes may become members of the Church but that they are not entitled to the priesthood at the present time. The prophets of the Lord have made several statements as to the operation of the principle. President Brigham Young said: “Why are so many of the inhabitants of the earth cursed with a skin of blackness? It comes in consequence of their fathers rejecting the power of the holy priesthood, and the law of God. They will go down to death. And when all the rest of the children have received their blessings in the holy priesthood, then that curse will be removed from the seed of Cain, and they will then come up and possess the priesthood, and receive all the blessings which we now are entitled to.”

    President Wilford Woodruff made the following statement: “The day will come when all that race will be redeemed and possess all the blessings which we now have.”

    The position of the Church regarding the Negro may be understood when another doctrine of the Church is kept in mind, namely, that the conduct of spirits in the premortal existence has some determining effect upon the conditions and circumstances under which these spirits take on mortality and that while the details of this principle have not been made known, the mortality is a privilege that is given to those who maintain their first estate; and that the worth of the privilege is so great that spirits are willing to come to earth and take on bodies no matter what the handicap may be as to the kind of bodies they are to secure; and that among the handicaps, failure of the right to enjoy in mortality the blessings of the priesthood is a handicap which spirits are willing to assume in order that they might come to earth. Under this principle there is no injustice whatsoever involved in this deprivation as to the holding of the priesthood by the Negroes.”

  24. Sorry, I’m going to be grumpy all the way and spoil everyone’s day (see my comment for OD1): I do not find this heading of any good. It is vague enough to warrant the speculation that it was Joseph Smith who initiated “the ban”, making it therefore a “restoration of all things” doctrine rather than a cultural one. It put a “seal of approval” on something that current History contradicts. This particular heading is actually “a non-change” for me. It would have been better for the Church not to publish something like that at all. I agree with, we know EXACTLY when it all started and whose “ruling” made it a doctrine.

  25. Reading this to a group of BYU students on a tour of civil rights sites in Alabama and Georgia. So excited!

  26. Kristine says:

    If I were driving, I would pull over and cry. This is really great.

    Carter, I think an explicit repudiation of BY just isn’t in the cards–this is enough to shut down ugly Sunday School discussions. That’s a lot.

  27. I wish it could have said “Church leaders could not agree as to whether a revelation from God was needed to alter this practice and prayerfully sought guidance. A revelation came to Church President Spencer W. Kimball and was affirmed to other Church leaders in the Salt Lake Temple on June 1, 1978.” However, given that such a small minority of brethren believed this (I love you Hugh B. Brown!) the new heading is probably more accurate.

    I am glad that some change was made and it does provide a “shield” against ignorance and bigotry in GD classes. The 1949 First Presidency Statement is still an issue, however I think it can now be encompassed in the “leaders believed” nuance. It opens up a nice discussion about what leaders believe and what they know – something treated as way to synonymous by many members.

  28. Also, one think interesting about all these changes is that by changing the chapter headings and introductions it is in this gray area where these are in some sense being treated as quasi-scripture but allows an end run around the need for members to sustain changes to cannon. Just something interesting to consider.

  29. Wow. Awesome.

  30. Paul Reeve says:

    “Church records offer no clear insights into the origins of this practice.”
    The change is welcomed. This line gives me pause. Church records do offer clear insights into the origins of this practice. I would prefer to NOT have that set in stone.

  31. This is amazing. Frankly, I have no issue whatsoever with the complaints in a few of these comments. Straining at gnats comes to mind.

    #25 – Carter, if you can misread the “led to” part of the the new addition to OD1, it’s no surprise you would nitpick this one. That sounds sarcastic, but it’s not meant to be. Sometimes, responses say more about the glasses used to read something as they do about the text being read.

  32. Donna S says:

    Shame on them for trying to cover it up for so many years and proclaiming people as anti mormon when they pointed out those facts. Now because they can no longer hide and trick the public on this subject they try to come clean in part. But the reality is the church refused the blacks the priesthood because it taught they were less valiant in the pre existence as alluded to in their official statement in 1949. They know exactly why the did not let the blacks have the priesthood….because they were racist

    Now members think it is “awesome” for them to put it in print but many have been saying the same things for years and accused of it being anti mormon when they said it.

  33. Researcher says:

    Donna, sometimes it’s the manner of saying something as well as the content of what is being said.

  34. “No clear insights” means what it says. Or perhaps a better phrase would be “no insights clear enough to persuade some members of the Church (including some leaders) that Joseph Smith did not originate the practice and that the practice was not explicitly directed by God”

  35. The line ‘This led to the end of the practice of plural marriage in the Church’ at the end of the intro to OD1 seems like the Church’s way of saying ‘we know it didn’t end for good in 1890, but this declaration led to the end’.

  36. This important distinction is 33 years late, kind of like the declaration itself being decades (if not a century and a half too late). If this is progress, we’re going to need more than a millennial period just to get our story straight.

  37. Kevin Barney says:

    I agree with Paul no. 31. In general the change is helpful, and Kristine is right that the church just wasn’t going to throw BY under the bus on this. But I’ve considered “we don’t know” to be an interim PR tact; I hate to see it now semi-canonized like this, which means it will become the standard talking point for generations to come.

  38. I find it interesting that somebody can get castigated for not doing something and then castigated for doing it.

    Kevin, I respect that very much, but, even as I believe I understand why the Priesthood ban happened, I’m not convinced there is “clear” insight into a practice that kind of morphed into being without any obvious, definitive start date and only quasi-scriptural justifications over time. I know people who have studied this for years, and even they disagree often about certain aspects of how and why it came to be. It’s because it was so muddy in many ways that it was so hard for people to reach a consensus to repeal it. I think there absolutely are insights, and I think the broad outlines and some details are fairly obvious and clear, but I do agree that there are no “clear” insights that make a simple answer obvious in such a way that it can be explained in a scriptural heading.

    In other words, in the context of repealing the ban, I agree that it wasn’t a clear picture, especially at the time.

  39. Just to be “clear”, the two paragraphs in my last comment are not related to each other.

  40. Just realised that my OD1 comment is in the wrong place! My OD2 comment is that I don’t feel as excited about this as many others seem to be. Fine if the Church doesn’t want to come out and say “we know why this happened”, but the “no clear insights” line seems wrong to me.

  41. Ray: actually, I would argue most responsible scholars today can pinpoint the time and reason for the origin of the ban in a real clear manner: 1847, between the confrontation with William McCarey (spring) and becoming aware of the mixed marriage of Walker Lewis’s son (fall).

  42. Dave K. says:

    Kevin (#38), I had the same reaction. But I am also somewhat hopeful. Even if the church itself is now more entrenched in a “we don’t know” mentality, individual church members have more freedom to openly express a personal view that the ban was not God’s will. I would have no problem telling my bishop that today. I can imagine future LDS political candidates will express that view. As more and more saints adopt a personal view that the ban was not inspired, the view will become the default church view, even if not the official one.

    On a bigger level, though, I am very concerned that the “we don’t know” position is becoming so common for all kinds of things. Look at the new introduction to the BOA. Did Joseph translate from the papyrii? Our new position is, surprise, “we don’t know”. As this trend increases, any claim we have to modern revelation necessarily diminishes. Is this the beginning of the end of the restoration?

  43. Researcher says:

    “Is this the beginning of the end of the restoration?”

    No.

  44. Also agree with Paul and Kevin. The canonization of this is a double-edged sword. The “we don’t know” squanders a teaching moment. The rise of the priesthood ban is essentially a case study in what happens when you mingle the philosophies of men with scripture. Time hardens a secular perspective into a theology, complete with divine explanations and scriptural justification. Still, such a welcome change, it’s hard not to be impressed.

  45. Connell O'Donovan says:

    I love that the intro now admits that some black men held priesthood during Joseph Smith’s tenure. What I found disappointing was the sexist omission of black women’s ban from the temple. The language is all about how the ban affected men.

  46. Connell: agreed, though they are in company with many scholars and historians in the past who have framed it the same (sexist) way :).

    Luckily, we are starting to see that change, thanks in large part to historians like you.

  47. Then color me irresponsible, Ben (42), but I think your claim is simplistic and ignores too much later history. The moment and reason you point to may well have been the first identifiable moment and reason, but the restriction was hardly fixed and final then, or for another 60-some-odd years. The question for some of those who wrestled with the question later in the 19th century, for example, was not “but if we give them the priesthood, won’t they then marry our women?” but rather “what did Joseph say and do?”

    I worry about the too often evidenced trend in online discussions to settle on a brief, handy answer to a question or summary of a debate, which is then codified as THE adequate answer to a complex question — it misleads people who aren’t aware of the fuller discussion, and stops many people from thinking beyond the established answer. I think we’re seeing that bad habit here, and I think *that* is irresponsible.

  48. The trouble, as it seems to me, is that for such a long time the discussion among mainstream pious Mormons has been ordered to a simplistic single narrative. Human religious performance is never simplistic or singular in its dimensions. The latest revisions begin to acknowledge a more complex state of affairs. But our dialogue is still torn as progressives and conservatives are both insisting on a singular narrative. It will take some time before Mormon culture matures enough to allow multiple narratives to be respected concurrently.

  49. Ardis: I think we mostly agree and are splitting hairs. I fully agree that elements and issues remained fluid and ambiguous for years, and wasn’t established until 1908 (when the First Presidence and Q12 finally ruled on it). But I feel confident in pointing to 1847 as the start of the ban.

  50. Robyn Barnes says:

    The new OD2 heading appears to be revisionist whitewashing of racism and stupidity. Instead of coming clean, they’re digging the hole deeper.

  51. Paul Reeve says:

    Ben, #50, BY doesn’t mention the priesthood in 1847, other than in a favorable nod to Q. Walker Lewis as an elder. PPP is the only one who mentions priesthood in 1847. There is no evidence of which I’m aware that Pratt’s statement was somehow establishing policy. No one refers back to it as a precedent. The bulk of the 12 were on their way to the Great Basin at the time. I’m skeptical about 1847.

  52. I’ll defer to the expertise of Paul, though I’d love to dialogue more about it later. In the meantime, I retract my “responsible historian” quip that came off more accusative than I meant, and is perhaps not as accurate as I thought. My sincere apologies.

  53. Interesting change to the Introduction of the Book of Mormon regarding the relationship between the Lamanites and the American Indians.

  54. Paul Reeve says:

    Ben, #54, no need to apologize. Reasonable people can disagree about these things. I think the events of 47 are crucial, I just don’t see priesthood restriction as an immediate outcome. Love to discuss it more in the future.

  55. Now if it just said: “The Church leaders did not know what the he** they were doing when they began to deny the priesthood to black male members.”

  56. Paul Reeve, William Appleby saw priesthood as central to all this in 1847-48. That was his takeaway.

  57. #43, you end with a provocative question. Are you suggesting that secular research is backing Mormon revelation into a corner?
    #46, thank you for bringing up the question of women’s access to the temple and how our current language still reflects a great deal of sexism.

  58. Steve beat me to it, but clearly for Appleby and others, the intermarriage thing was a vital issue and J. Stapley has noted the broader context here.

  59. #51 – only to those who want to read it that way

  60. Point taken that inserting “We Don’t Know” into the canon is a less than ideal development. But I’m still pleased because I’ve always assumed “We Don’t Know” is an inevitable rest stop on the way to a more accurate, honest portrayal of our doctrinal history. I can’t imagine going from A to B without a “We Don’t Know” step in the process.

  61. Ardis said what I was going to say about the issue of clarity, but she did so much more eloquently than I could have.

    #63 – Amen, Aaron. I’d rather have “We don’t know” than more silence reinforcing previous assumptions and justifications until “we” can say, “We now know clearly” – especially since that day might never come. I also think it’s brutally hard to treat this subject in a very short heading summary, and I like this summary.

  62. Chris Kimball says:

    I read “we don’t know” as “we don’t agree”. It is likely that certain individuals “know” or think they know. It is also very likely that they don’t agree. The comments here do nothing to make that any easier. Imagine writing an introduction to OD2 by consensus on BCC!

  63. Paul Reeve says:

    #58, sure Appleby asks the question about priesthood and amalgamation in a letter, but the surviving minutes of the meeting regarding that letter do not address priesthood. There was a discussion, in other words, and only 13 hand written lines of a 4 hour meeting survive. Those 13 lines do not mention priesthood. Did the people involved in that meeting believe they were beginning a priesthood ban? Was it announced and generally understood as such? It reads like a discussion to me, with BY and OH offering their opinions on amalgamation. Did their discussion, even on that issue, then become binding upon the Church membership?

  64. Connell O'Donovan says:

    Post-1847, the earliest case I’m aware of is the March 1856 excommunication of William Knopp in Centerville, Maryland for polygamously marrying a “yellow girl”. Apparently apostle John Taylor ordered Samuel Woolley to have him excommunicated, after Woolley reported to the branch that Knopp “had forfeited his right to the priesthood [by] marrying the seed of Cain.” There were also two black men active in that branch in the 1850s, Henry Cook and William Carpenter, who never received the priesthood, unlike their white brethren.

  65. Also, Appleby then wrote in his journal (he recopied his journal in 1848, which makes things confusing) with regards to Walker Lewis that the seed of Ham did not have rights to the priesthood (the entry is in 1847, but again, Appleby recopied his journal in 1848). Appleby said that William Smith had ordained Lewis contrary to policy. So Appleby believed that the priesthood ban was the policy in 1848. So that was Appleby’s takeaway after the went to Winter Quarters where he reported to Young about the marriage of Enoch Lewis.

  66. In a world where a man who heard the voice of the Lord on the road to Damascus nonetheless spoke of seeing only through a glass darkly, I have a hard time understanding why we have so much difficulty accepting that the glass is still dark and that the vision, however extraordinary, still allows us mortals to know only in part.

  67. Chris @ # 64, whether it is “We don’t know” or “we don’t agree,” it still is huge that the 12 and the First Presidency could come together in unanimity to put these changes in place. It becomes obvious that this is all a consequence of the JSPP and a new openness about our history. To be fair without being critical, it is not too big of a stretch to realize that even at the highest levels of church leadership, they are learning new things about our history along with the rest of us.

  68. Chris Kimball hit in on the head. “We don’t know” will be the church position until the 1P/Q12 agrees (and rightly so). For issues such as the racial priesthood ban, a consensus will take some more years but I believe it will come. For issues such as the translation of the BOA, there may likely never be an agreement.

    Sean (59), I’m not suggesting the church is backed into a corner. Rather, I’m expressing frustration that I may never hear “thus saith the Lord” in my lifetime. I very much appreciate the new OD-2 introduction, as I believe it provides cover for members to begin saying out loud “the ban was not inspired”. That is the real issue. I doubt we will ever reach a consensus as to whether the ban stemmed from fears of racial mixing, adoption of protestant explanations for slavery, a belief that blacks were cursed, or any other reason. I really don’t expect church leadership to answer that question. But I do expect church leadership to provide guidance on whether God was involved. That can’t be left to historians. And it can’t be avoided forever.

    Gratefully, OD-2 now includes the statement: “Church records offer no clear insights into the origins of this practice.” This is an improvement over prior statements blaming blacks for their predicament. But frankly, it is a step back from the newsroom statement made one year ago in response to Bott-gate: “It is not known precisely why, how, or when this restriction began.” Even better would be a statement that expressly discontinued any notion that blacks were to blame. I would love to see this: “Church records offer no clear insights into why, how, or when the restriction began. However, church doctrine rejects all explanations for the restriction that place blame on the victims, including notions that blacks bear a curse or that they were less valiant in the pre-existence.”

  69. I am very pleased with the direction of the changes, but I can’t help but see the irony in citing 2 Nephi in reference to priesthood ordination. If “black and white” are equal in the sight of God in terms of their eligibility for the priesthood, why aren’t “male and female”?

  70. #62 Aaron said, “But I’m still pleased because I’ve always assumed “We Don’t Know” is an inevitable rest stop on the way to a more accurate, honest portrayal of our doctrinal history. I can’t imagine going from A to B without a “We Don’t Know” step in the process.”

    I think that, as with other matters, replacing previous wording is an inevitable rest stop to, ‘we never said that.’

    And more importantly, why are people so quick to give the Church a free pass on this, as if any tiny success should be applauded and praised? Are we encouraging a toddler clumsily feeding themselves for the first time? This is the Church that tells its members that they are accountable for their choices; that they must confess their sins and then make open and honest efforts to make recompense (which these changes hardly do, because they are a further, even if lesser lie). WHY can’t you imagine them going straight from lying to honesty, as would be expected of any person sitting in their bishop’s office? Why, when the expectations on the members are so very high, are the expectations on the Church so very low?

  71. Also, Connell, I don’t think Taylor ordered Knopp excommunicated. There was a real hair trigger for excommunication back then, people were excommunicated for not showing up at church. I think the excommunication was more for Knopp not showing up at the trial. Also I don’t think that Cook was till involved in the branch in the 50s. He joined in the 40s when, as I recall, the branch record didn’t say much about ordination.

  72. #46 “What I found disappointing was the sexist omission of black women’s ban from the temple. The language is all about how the ban affected men.”
    An excellent point. I also think the temple aspect for men and women has always been brushed over. If they couldn’t receive the ordinances of the temple, they were being denied exaltation and eternal family relationships.

  73. Almost thou persuadest me to blog.
    Maybe sometime during the weekend.

  74. I liked the change to the intro for section 13. A subtle move towards acknowledging the evolutionary nature of the priesthood restoration, and perhaps recognizing that at the time there was no title for the ‘higher priesthood.’

  75. Now they just need to acknowledge that women have a right to & possess the Priesthood too, for ‘all are alike unto God, both male and female”, but I don’t think they will ever become humble & admit such truth in this life.

    Sad they couldn’t be ‘honest in their doings’ and admit that Brigham Young changed things because he was not only a false prophet but a racist, like the Presidents who followed him and upheld the same abusive & evil doctrines, including polygamy.

  76. I also wish that they had changed the intro to section 27 to acknowledge that all of the parts about deceased prophets and the priesthood wasn’t added until years later.

  77. I am surprised that no one has addressed Debbie’s #24 comment, which shows a (purportedly) official quote from the First Presidency. Assuming it is not apocryphal, we have evidence of a clear doctrinal claim for why priesthood was denied to blacks. It seems to me that we have two choices:
    (1) That official explanation was correct: God was unfair and racist, but changed his mind some time in the 1970′s.
    (2a) The ban was God mandated, but the official (racist) explanation was made up and false.
    (2b) The ban was made up entirely by the Presidency; God had no part in the entire process.

    It seems to me that neither of these choices bodes well for the church. The first claims that God is fickle and unfair. The second (2a and 2b) claims that prophets are fallible, even when they are explicitly making official statements about doctrine, and that they partly construct church policy based on their own prejudices. It seems to me that this hugely undermines the authority of the church.

    Perhaps there is a more favorable possibility that I am missing.

    (Full disclosure: I am an “ex-Mormon” atheist, but I am not anti-Mormon or anti-religious. I don’t mean these remarks to be inflammatory.)

  78. @ Ray, comment #32: I have posted an apology under OD1 for having misread the quote. I wouldn’t speculate on the glasses you’ve used to read my erroneous comment to feel that you have a right to judge my intent and the lens I use to read them. One little comment is just not enough to do that. Sorry for having left out the part of the quote that actually said what I was uselessly arguing.
    P.S: I don’t wear glasses in real life, and I try not to wear the intellectual ones that would make me pass judgments I wouldn’t want others to pass on me unfairly.

  79. “The second (2a and 2b) claims that prophets are fallible, even when they are explicitly making official statements about doctrine, and that they partly construct church policy based on their own prejudices.”

    Sounds about right to me.

    “It seems to me that this hugely undermines the authority of the church.”

    I don’t think it does. It undermines a particularly simplistic and shallow view of church authority, a kind of fundamentalist approach shared by some especially zealous Mormons and ex-Mormons alike, but it doesn’t really undermine any kind of more nuanced, grown-up approach to church authority.

  80. @Ryan, comment 79: I don’t think that if a prophet fails to understand something or turn his views into a policy or doctrine makes all that he stands for necessarily false. Either you believe in it or in him, or you don’t. That Moses struck the rock at Horeb instead of commanding it as the Lord had told him to do (Numbers 20:8-12) did not retroactively negate his previous good acts or that the Lord should continue to trust him for other purposes. Christ prophesied that Peter would disown him thrice, and he did. Yet, the Savior did not “release” him. The way I see it is that prophets and whatever religious leader we choose to follow are fallible. Not God, as I believe. And the prophets’ fallibility may have something to do with God asking us to double-check with him what they preach to us.

    (OK: this is my fourth comment today. I’ve completed my annual commenting day.)

  81. #72 is right on. Why expect so much of members’ honesty and transparency and yet so little from the Church?
    And going off of #77 (and others addressing equality of the sexes), why do members of the church readily accept the explanation of priesthood:men::motherhood:women? Where did fatherhood go and why would we be so ready to divorce the priesthood from parenthood? Why would God’s plan shut women out from blessing their children?
    Moving even farther out there, does Heavenly Mother operate her priest(ess)hood under Heavenly Father or Jesus Christ? Does she have any autonomy in using her priest(ess)hood?
    (I wouldn’t be surprised if these questions have already been raised elsewhere on this sight.)

  82. “Why expect so much of members’ honesty and transparency and yet so little from the Church?”

    I’m a little confused about this question. I don’t think the statement is dishonest at all. They’re not saying “we don’t know what doctrinal/historical origins church leaders at any given point in time might have ascribed to the ban;” they’re saying “we don’t have any evidence for where it actually came from.” That’s a very true statement. And I say this as someone who has taken a very strong position on the non-divine origin of the ban and the need for us as a church to formally and unambiguously repudiate it.

  83. Jacob S. says:

    I think one can both agree with the statement that the church officially doesn’t know exactly when and how the ban began and agree that given our vantage point now we have enough information to judge that even with this lack of perfect clarity it was wrong and racist. So I stand with those disappointed that the official statement erred on the side of “we don’t know” rather than on the side of “we don’t know exactly but we know enough to officially disclaim it.”

  84. #84 “That’s a very true statement.”
    Is it, Brad? How do you know? This thread has involved a fair amount of discussion about what is known and what isn’t but I don’t recall anyone making the kind of claim you seem to be making (i.e. that you have an excellent knowledge of what the authors of the section heading know and an inside scoop about how the wording of the section heading were negotiated). My comment was an echo of a more general concern as stated in #72, which states:
    “why are people so quick to give the Church a free pass on this, as if any tiny success should be applauded and praised? Are we encouraging a toddler clumsily feeding themselves for the first time? This is the Church that tells its members that they are accountable for their choices; that they must confess their sins and then make open and honest efforts to make recompense (which these changes hardly do, because they are a further, even if lesser lie). WHY can’t you imagine them going straight from lying to honesty, as would be expected of any person sitting in their bishop’s office? Why, when the expectations on the members are so very high, are the expectations on the Church so very low?”
    I think Debbie here makes a great point, namely that we hold low-ranking members to higher standards than our prophets and apostles.

  85. But we aren’t holding them to different standards. The charge of dishonesty presumes that there is a clear answer in Church records as to where the ban originated. The conversation here among some of the most prominent experts on the question in the world demonstrates that we do not have a clear answer to that question. So for them to say that there church records don’t give a clear answer to that question is not remotely dishonest. You and Debbie are straining awfully hard to see a cover-up here…

  86. To be clear, I am in no way indemnifying the Church against the charge that the ban was racist or wrong (read my link in #84, yo, seriously). But I am saying that the statement about there not being evidence in Church records of where it came from is not fundamentally dishonest.

  87. Connell O'Donovan says:

    Steve (#73), I completely disagree with you. As you know, Samuel A. Woolley wrote to John Taylor asking for his advice about Knopp marrying “a yellow girl”, stating that he would only “take his priesthood from him and let him remain in the church.” Although no answer is reported in Woolley’s journal or the Centerville DE branch records (FHL film #1941156 item 1), days after Woolley met with Taylor, discussing other church trials as well, Woolley himself moved that Knopp “be cut off” (seconded by Elder Lloyd). Why had Woolley, a former Chester Co. PA Quaker, changed his mind? It was likely upon apostle John Taylor’s insistence. I do not believe for one minute that a man born and raised a Quaker would come up with such racist ideas and policies. I’ve been a Quaker for almost 30 years and studied their history quite in depth. By the 1820s in Pennsylvania, the Quaker “testimony of equality” (there is that of God in every person) was firmly entrenched in their lives. Yes, there was some sexism, and some racism, but in comparison to other religions around them, they were extremely progressive. In fact, when Isaac Sheen (who would later become LDS, then Williamite LDS, then RLDS) lived in Chester Co. PA in the early 1830s he advertised in William Lloyd Garrison’s newspaper, The Liberator, for a black wife. Many so-called Christians were outraged by Sheen’s audacity. But Sheen, who lived but some ten miles from the Woolleys, was defended by the local Quaker community. That’s the environment Woolley grew up in, and he likely held similar views. I don’t believe Woolley came up with racist policies on his own nor would have had any problem with Knopp marrying a mixed-race woman at all, if he had not been told, from the top down, that such a marriage was against church policy. If it wasn’t Taylor, then someone else at that level or higher told him.

    As for the reason for Knopp’s excommunication, the branch minutes say it was “contempt of council and mingling with the Seed of Cain.” That could mean that part of the reason was Knopp’s failure to appear (thus “contempt of council”) but as you again know, the minutes clarify that Knopp had “reflected [sic - rejected] the council given him by the council.” What that was exactly can only be surmised. It was likely to not marry the African American woman to begin with, or to leave her. Whatever it was, he failed to follow it.

  88. I think this change is a marvelous step forward, but the claim that there is no “evidence in Church records of where it came from” raises other issues. The implication is that the ban was not necessarily divinely inspired. This acknowledgement is all well and good and church leaders can certainly be fallible. However, when the entire premise of the religion rests on following a prophet, appointed by God, to reveal God’s will with the promise that he will never allow the Church to be lead astray there are some sticky issues. Remember it wasn’t just holding priesthood office that was denied, but also access to temple ceremonies. Jane Manning (a black member of the church and close confidant of Emma Smith) was told directly by three successive prophets that the Lord was not ready to reveal the blessings of the temple to her race. She was told that she could be posthumously sealed to Joseph Smith, but only as a servant not as a plural wife. So if the ban was not divinely inspired, and yet prophets promulgate the ban and promote it as doctrine “in the name of the Lord”, doesn’t that mean a prophet is teaching false doctrine, denying required ordinances to those who are worthy, in short “leading the church astray?” The change is very welcome and a very positive reflection on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints as an organization, but I have to agree with some of the previous comments that it does cause issues for the Church’s claim of unbroken inspiration and authority since its founding.

  89. @ Brad #81
    I appreciate that there may be a more nuanced, “grown-up” view of church authority than the one I suggested. But, to me, once we allow that some “doctrine” or interpretations of it may be false and man-made, where do we draw the line? Are we left only to pick and choose the doctrines we like best? That seems to be happening here: these days, we don’t like racist claims from old church Presidencies, so we choose to ignore or repudiate them (even though they were claimed as doctrine). Our guide for heeding prophecies is then based on our own prejudices, which undermines the whole point of having a prophet in the first place (which, to me, is to provide an authoritative account for God’s word, so that we receive revelation instead having to rely on human interpretation of scripture). The role of “prophet” seems then to be relegated to “wise, knowledgeable clergyman whose opinion is valuable but not necessarily correct.” That’s not so bad – most other protestant religions are like this – but it does undermine the church’s claim to being a uniquely restored one, I think.

    I don’t want to start any fights. I only took the time to share my opinion because the commenters all seemed civil and reasonable.

  90. Orwell #71:

    I am very pleased with the direction of the changes, but I can’t help but see the irony in citing 2 Nephi in reference to priesthood ordination. If “black and white” are equal in the sight of God in terms of their eligibility for the priesthood, why aren’t “male and female”?

    I think this is an excellent question. Dare I hope that someone who used it was trying to lay groundwork for some hoped-for future change?

  91. “The role of “prophet” seems then to be relegated to “wise, knowledgeable clergyman whose opinion is valuable but not necessarily correct.” That’s not so bad – most other protestant religions are like this – but it does undermine the church’s claim to being a uniquely restored one, I think.”

    I don’t think it does. I just think it means that revelation has to compete with cultural and individual inclinations and presumptions and prejudices in the same way that the scriptures (as a source of truth) do.

  92. Agreed: revelation, if it exists, must compete with cultural inclinations. The problem is that, if we claim that a prophet sometimes espouses a personal view even when he claims to be professing doctrine, how can we ever distinguish the two? Isn’t it the purpose of the prophet to do this? Perhaps I’m missing something.
    How do I know that Family: A Proclamation to the World isn’t just the prejudices of the First Presidency at the time, to be ignored in 100 years?

  93. Yo, Brad, bro, dude! Thanks for the link to your other blog entry. I think you hit a lot of nails on the head in it. Nice work, seriously. If you feel like the new section heading has sufficiently clarified that because clarifying the matter is not entirely possible there’s clearly no need to offer up any more information, then that’s fine (besides, it’s not like the Church leaders have kept anything else seal behind lips or locked in vaults before). I think the possibility of new heading should helping to squelch some damaging voices in the Mormon world is encouraging. It might be more effective, however, if the Church elaborated a bit for everyone’s sake.

  94. Thanks, Sean. And I pretty much agree with that comment.

  95. “Are we left only to pick and choose the doctrines we like best?”

    Are you under the impression that we do otherwise?

    “How do I know that Family: A Proclamation to the World isn’t just the prejudices of the First Presidency at the time, to be ignored in 100 years?”

    You don’t, and neither do they (for the most part), which is part of the reason why that Proclamation is not part of the scriptural canon.

    I know that it’s horribly awkward to suggest that someone sustained as a prophet does, in fact, espouse a personal view even when claiming to profess doctrine, but it happens all the time. For the most part the overlap between personal views and doctrine are nice and easy, but every so often it is not.

  96. Darin Stewart says:

    If that is the case, how is the LDS faith at its core any different from other protestant denominations?

  97. “If that is the case, how is the LDS faith at its core any different from other protestant denominations?”

    Honestly, and I’m trying to be civil here, but that strikes me as an especially daft question.

  98. Ziff (92)

    Dare I hope that someone who used it was trying to lay groundwork for some hoped-for future change?

    That would be awesome, yea, verily. I wish I could be that optimistic, but I’m not. (Still, if it were true, hypothetical kudos to whoever snuck that in.)

  99. Hmm. Yes, I was under the impression that we are NOT allowed to simply pick the doctrine we like best. E.g. Is it okay to disregard the word of wisdom? The articles of faith? The ten commandments? I think most members would say no (maybe they are wrong?). Where do we draw the line?
    I’m perfectly fine with the idea that a prophet is entitled to his own personal opinion. The problem, as I see it, is that we have no way of distinguishing a prophet’s opinion from true revelation. This implies that we can’t know how much of the currently espoused doctrine is actually just personal opinion and cultural circumstance. Where does that leave us?

  100. Synnove says:

    I refer to Marvin Perkins and Darius Grays work on the DVD Blacks in the Scriptures, explains I think quite a lot of how things worked and work, and one can understand it a little bit more given the history of LDS. From Utah today..:)

  101. Synnove says:

    ALL art in church is cultural circumstance, all that is needed is more insight, less lazy researchers keeping info to themselves and less lazy members in general..Cannot blame the leaders for not getting substantial input, they always ask for it in any book….the leaders do say fairly clearly what is an opinion and what is the best they can do and what is a clear revelation and what is a process towards such, but maybe not always clear enough, and without informed input, they do not get any wiser.

  102. unknown says:

    I’m deeply interested in one particular aspect of this discussion.

    The Doctrine and Covenants has rightly been termed a book of answers. Quite literally, the questions which prompted the revelations were not committed to paper, nor included with the revelations when they were printed and/or presented to the church. This seems to have done something to the psyche of Mormons through the ages. I’ve seen words today such as “precisely” or “exactly” or “no question”. I share some of the reservations of treating the origin of the ban as completely unknown, or the difficulties of leaving “we don’t know” as the final answer. But at this time, I’m interested in one particular question observation:

    What are the dangers of canonizing certitude?

  103. It’s interesting to see people arguing that the new materials say things they don’t say. Seriously, that is happening in some of the critical comments, and it’s both frustrating and amusing.

    If we can’t agree unanimously on something that is less than two days old and readily available in original print, is it any wonder there isn’t “clear insight” (the actual words in the new heading) into something that occured sometime over 150 years ago?

  104. Joshua B. says:
  105. I think that we learn best when we first distinguish between what we actually know, and what we think we know. I’m very glad that we are shedding bad traditions and I look forward to us as a church learning more.

  106. Anyone who still thinks that Prophets, Apostles or Presidents of the Church can’t fall or lead the Church astray, has not studied Church history or the scriptures well enough. Many prophets & apostles have fallen through the ages, especially in Joseph Smith’s day. I don’t believe Joseph fell, even though he was easily deceived to call evil men into apostleship.

    After Joseph’s death, Brigham Young took over & taught completely contrary to the teachings of Joseph Smith or the teachings of Christ. To say or think that this is Christ’s Church, when it preaches & practices so contrary to his doctrines, is a serious insult to Christ.

    Either Joseph or Brigham Young taught complete falsehoods & led the Church completely astray in so many ways & vital doctrines, for they couldn’t have both been right.

  107. #108 – I wish, sometimes, life was that easy to understand – but then I’m glad those moments pass quickly and I get back to reality.

  108. Mark B., (#68) I really appreciate your comment, and such beautiful language, too.

  109. The side-by-side comparison is invaluable! Does the Church have a Book of Mormon one in addition to a D&C one?

  110. In Sunday School today something about the new OD-2 heading jumped out at me that I can’t believe I didn’t see before:

    “Book of Mormon teaches that ‘all are alike unto God,’ including ‘black and white, bond and free, male and female’ (2 Nephi 26:33)”

    So……yeah.

  111. Oh nevermind, apparently Orwell (71) is a quicker study than I am.

  112. David R Hall says:

    It is pretty clear that Brigham Young instituted the Ban without consulting the rest of the quorums. Section 107 is clear that no decision will have validity and power unless the leading quorums are unanimous. So we should expect that all of the policies that did not achieve that status will fade away and be changed.

    The status of the women in the church that Brigham Young held back will yet again come to pass.

  113. Oh nevermind, apparently Orwell (71) is a quicker study than I am.

    Oh, Cynthia, but you get to be more spiritual. ;) (I abhor emoticons, so this just goes to show how little I wanted anyone to take that seriously.)

  114. Lolz. Good to see you get in touch with your feminine/emotional side. Don’t let that lead to any gender confusion or cross-dressing though.

  115. Quoting Oliver Twist: “Please, Sir. I want more.”

  116. More of my feminine side? Margaret, I’m flattered.

    (Yeah, yeah, I know you were referring to the new introduction, not to Cynthia’s comment. Just allow a narcissist his little fantasies, okay?)

  117. Jamie S says:

    #81 Brad:

    “I don’t think it does. It undermines a particularly simplistic and shallow view of church authority, a kind of fundamentalist approach shared by some especially zealous Mormons and ex-Mormons alike, but it doesn’t really undermine any kind of more nuanced, grown-up approach to church authority.”

    The problem for me is that it’s the church itself that teaches this simplistic and shallow view of church authority. I don’t think the people criticizing this change are simplistic children, I think they are just viewing the church through the lens the church itself demands we use. And if you don’t believe the church requires this unambiguous fealty, read the heartbreaking comments of the “Now is the Time” post on fMh: http://www.feministmormonhousewives.org/2013/03/now-is-the-time/

    I would love approach the church leadership with a nuanced, grown-up approach, but when I try to apply that to real world interactions with my local leaders, or with the prophets, I’m considered an anti-Mormon apostate.

  118. #108 Joshua B, I love you man.

  119. #112. The implication is that women must be next in line for the Priesthood.

  120. I looked through the entire side-by-side comparison to see if there were any changes to the actual revelations. I don’t recall seeing any. The only changes it shows are the changes to the headings. One major silent change is the removal of all History of the Church (HC) references. I suspect this may be an effort to keep members in the scriptures and away from the dark and scary world of deep research (i.e. verifying extra-canonical references).

    Thankfully they did release an exhaustive list of changes from the 1981 version to the 2013:

    http://www.lds.org/bc/content/shared/content/english/pdf/scriptures/detailed-summary-of-approved-adjustments.pdf

    I have yet to finish combing over the changes, but I did found one rather noteworthy change.

    In the 1981 version D&C 134:6 reads: “We believe every man should be honored in his station… and that to the laws all men show respect and deference …” The word “show” was changed to “owe”. I guess they figured as long as the words rhymed, those with an older version wouldn’t notice when someone with a newer version read it out loud. Really?! Are we to be bamboozled by such subterfuge?

  121. #122 – “I suspect this may be an effort to keep members in the scriptures and away from the dark and scary world of deep research (i.e. verifying extra-canonical references).”

    Nope. It’s just the opposite, actually. It’s an acknowledgment of the iffy nature of the HC accuracy and its unreliability as the type of objective source many members viewed it as being.

    “bamboozled by such subterfuge” – Publishing a change like that and putting it side-by-side with the former version is about as poor an example of subterfuge and bamboozling as is imaginable. Did it ever cross your mind that the new wording is simply corrective in nature and nothing more?

  122. If the Documentary History of the Church compiled by apostle B. H. Roberts is such an unreliable source why is 95% of the Doctrine and Covenants pulled from it? And why did it seem so reliable in days passed that nearly every section heading had a reference to it?

    You also obviously didn’t read everything that I wrote. The change of the word “show” to the word “owe” in the actual scripture passage was not in the easy to read side-by-side version. The side-by-side version only shows changes to the headings. And no, the word “show” does not mean “owe”. Look it up sometime.

    The side-by-side document gives you the pretense of openness. Yes, they also did publish a complete list of changes (I can assume), but they buried a change like this in a sea of insignificant, minor changes. THIS is what I am calling subterfuge.

  123. I just walked through all the chapter headings to my 1981 edition. Every section in the D&C had a reference to the Documentary History of the Church except sections 99, 136, 138. So I was wrong, 98% of the sections of the D&C reference the DHC!

  124. “If the Documentary History of the Church compiled by apostle B. H. Roberts is such an unreliable source why is 95% of the Doctrine and Covenants pulled from it?”

    It’s not.

    “And why did it seem so reliable in days passed that nearly every section heading had a reference to it?”

    Thanks for making my point for me.

    “You also obviously didn’t read everything that I wrote.”

    Wrong.

    “And no, the word “show” does not mean “owe”. Look it up sometime.”

    Never said they do, and don’t need to.

    “THIS is what I am calling subterfuge.”

    It’s not. Look it up sometime.

    Good night.

  125. My statements stand for the honest of heart.

  126. it's a series of tubes says:

    My statements stand for the honest of heart.

    As a southern friend of mine was apt to say, when nothing else seemed to fit… “Damn, son.”

  127. #127 – The baby Jesus is crying now, and I don’t have the wine it would take to get him to stop. Not that our back-and-forth was much of a discussion in the first place, but I guess it’s over now.

  128. I hate to wade into this, but it took me maybe five minutes to discover that the August 1835 “Declarations of Belief,” which is now D&C 134, had “owe” instead of “show” in verse 6, and that the Joseph Smith Papers website has a photographic facsimile of that page from the Articles and Covenants. I don’t have access where I am to any but the 1981 scriptures, so I don’t know where that typo crept in, but this change is, quite obviously, a correction of a typo, nothing more. And it’s a correction engendered by JSP scholarship.
    Not to mention that “show” in that verse is somewhat ungrammatical–there’s a missing or assumed “should,” if “show” were correct (but it’s not). And yes, there is a difference between “show” and “owe,” and “owe” is a much stronger statement about the deference one gives to law.

  129. I stand corrected. Thanks for the insight Bob! Sorry for the rumblings. For those interested here is the facsimile the Bob refers to.

    http://josephsmithpapers.org/paperSummary/declaration-of-belief-circa-august-1835-dc-134

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