Responses to Gospel Inquiries

I think this is a pretty big deal.

For over a year there has been an entry for “Polygamy” in the Gospel Topics section of lds.org that briefly mentions post-manifesto polygamy. Of the same vintage is the “Spaulding Manuscript” entry. I guess I can see the wisdom in not describing the people who believe the Spaulding-theory of Book of Mormon composition as being cuckoo for cocoa puffs.

Recently several new pages have been published, which perhaps signal a new trend in approaching certain Gospel, or church-related topics. They are prepared with the “contribution of historians and scholars.” What I have read so far is very encouraging. I haven’t checked to see if these are available in other languages. I imagine that if not, they eventually will be. Perhaps I presume too much, but I hope that knowledge and intelligence will flow down from this time. This is the beginning of better days.

Race and the Priesthood
The Priesthood and Temple restriction that endured after Joseph Smith’s death to 1978 is a topic that is deeply troubling to many, appropriately so. That the Church has published a descriptive account of the rise of the restriction and chose to contextualize it by situating it within broader American racial cultures is important. Moreover, nowhere in this article is it indicated that the restriction was the will of the Lord. All teachings relating to the reasons for the restriction which were disseminated by Church leaders publicly and privately are to be viewed as wrong.

Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form.

Amen.

First Vision Accounts
Some antagonists of Mormonism have locked-on pitbull-like to the various accounts Joseph Smith made of the First Vision. The article correctly states that since their discoveries, “these documents have been discussed repeatedly in Church magazines, in works printed by Church-owned and Church-affiliated presses, and by Latter-day Saint scholars in other venues.” I am also aware that on the ground in many places, discussing the non-canonized versions in church settings has been met with shock, disgust and fear.

This article points out some of the differences between the various documents and provides links to read them all (major props to the JSPP crew). It also offers methods to digest and incorporate the differences between the accounts (some are more interesting than others) into our historical narratives. As I think the 1832 account is the most easily adapted to devotional readings, I hope that the imprimatur of the official website will make these documents more accessible to the church membership.

Are Mormons Christian?
This is an interesting one. The reliance on non-Mormon scholarship to establish the diversity of early Christian belief is a remarkable precedent. Imagine if we saw some of these same authors’ work on the Bible being cited in church materials. I do think that perhaps in an effort to deflect accusations of polytheism this article tapped a decades-old rhetorical vein, which suggests that we don’t worship Jesus (hint: this is a big reason why some Christians say we aren’t). I think that is sort of dumb. Beyond my personal beliefs, the Book of Mormon commands us to worship him (2 Nephi 25:29, among others). Also remember when Elder Ballard answered the question about whether Mormons worship Jesus at church? And who did the Israelites worship again (okay, there I was just being snarky)? I also know some friends who also might be sad there was no explicit mention of Social Trinitarianism, or even process theology, but I think that this is supposed to be easily digestible.

There is also the anti-creedalism, which made a ton of sense in Joseph Smith’s age [n1]. Inasmuch as people use them as a club to beat us up, I guess we have to address the creeds. However, Ronan once told me: “the creeds established a Christian orthodoxy to which we are all heirs. It is hard enough imagining an embodied God even with an embodied Son; by banishing such heresies as Docetism, the creeds mean that Joseph Smith didn’t have to preach an embodied God against the orthodoxy of a phantom Incarnation. The creeds in history are praiseworthy.” Inasmuch as they keep the church from living—increasing in knowledge and empathy—they are to be mourned. But again, if we look at ourselves, I think it is not too difficult to find our own similar barriers.

_____________________

  1. Hatch’s The Democratization of American Christianity is still really great on this.

Comments

  1. Wait, so does this mean I should stop moaning and groaning about how Church leaders won’t formally repudiate the racist rationales behind the priesthood ban in official venues? Am I going to have to find something new to complain about?

  2. Aaron,

    I have one thing for you. The rationales have been disavowed (remarkable, given their authoritative source = the death of prophetic infallibility), and there is no claim of inspiration for the ban, a tacit admission that it wasn’t inspired.

    One thing remains: we are sorry that we played our own small part in the white oppression of the African. Please forgive us. We should have known better.

    But that can wait for now. The first two are so welcome, I am just happy.

  3. Thomas Parkin says:

    “the creeds established a Christian orthodoxy to which we are all heirs. ”

    No.

  4. Thomas Parkin says:

    Or, rather, nay, nay.

  5. I’ve been waiting for the new Race and the Priesthood text, wondering when the church would replace it. The old text sounded like something out of the Old Testament Student Manual–horribly outdated and inaccurate. The new page is pretty awesome. The only excuse for the ban in Brigham Young’s time seems to be “everyone was racist back then.” Absolutely no mention of revelation starting the ban, or of the tribe of Levi, etc. And they actually discuss Elijah Abel. Just awesome.

  6. To clarify, I can find no other record of the church admitting that Elijah Abel held the priesthood–all other mentions on the church website mention he was a faithful member, but not that he was actually a priesthood holder. And that now has changed.

  7. Kevin Barney says:

    What great timing. I gave the blacks and the priesthood lesson just last Sunday. People took it well, but I could tell it was more than what they are used to. Now I can point them to an official church source that covers the same ground we did in class. So now it’s not just me hanging out there on an island by myself. I really appreciate the church (finally) having my back on this.

  8. Tim, not sure if this is what you are looking for, but this article appeared in the LDS church news in 2002, and mentions EA’s ordination by Joseph Smith:

    http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/42537/Early-African-American-Church-member-honored.html

  9. I taught a HP lesson once about the different versions of the first vision. There may have been some discomfort but nothing was said during the lesson and several people told me they thought it was a interesting. I think that had much to do with the fact that I used as my text the Deseret Book title written by Richard Lloyd Anderson. If I had used Sunstone the reaction might have been different.

  10. Talon–thanks for that. Guess I should do a more extensive search than just typing “Elijah Abel” into the search box at lds.org (where a similar article doesn’t mention his priesthood).

  11. You know, I applaud the Church for this. But, is it just me or does it seem a little clever or cute for them to say that the Church disavows “theories” advanced in the past . . . Shouldn’t statements of prophets and apostles in General Conference and statements in the Book or Mormon or Pearl of Great Price be considered more than theories? How would the Church feel now if I commented on a General Conference talk by a prophet or apostle and said it was a nice theory they were advancing.

    If I am being too critical here, I would appreciate being set straight.

  12. Peter Yates says:

    J, Kevin and Ronan, what is your advice going forward with this repudiation of the biggest names in Mormondom’s past by those who now hold those same successive offices? When we say we’re the only true Church, is it really too much to ask that those professing daily inspiration from God Himself could have been so uninspired about easily one of the top five most important gospel subjects? What else were they wrong about? What are those there today right or wrong about? Is there really a need at this point to have General Conference be any more than 98% music and one 5 minute talk that reminds us to treat others the way Christ would? I spent my mission (about the same time Kevin was out) extolling the virtues of having living inspired oracles as an incentive to read the Book of Mormon and put Moroni’s promise to the test. Either God and Christ are and always have been at the head of this Church or they are not.
    Trying to admit now that decades of Church Leaders were somehow just not paying attention to God without admitting that the current crew may need to check their hearing as well is hollow to me. Remember Christ telling the Pharisees that they would have stoned the prophets? As the Son of God, He had that right certainly. There is IMO, ample room under this bus for dead AND living. Sorry for the grief and possible TJ. It’s just sometimes over the top exasperating!

  13. Doug, the statements in the Book of Mormon and the Pearl of Great Price are consistent with pretty much every ancient record that deals with multiple ethnicities and/or races. If, in fact, they are scriptural and/or inspired , it would be shocking if they weren’t there. That doesn’t mean we have to see them as infallible, eternal truth or the pure word of God, just as we don’t see Paul’s injunctions about women and slaves as infallible, eternal truth or the pure will of God.

    Also, I think it is wonderful that, in addition to Pres. Uchtdorf’s recent General Conference talk, we now have two very clear repudiations of apostolic / prophetic infallibility – that we can point to official church statements that say loudly and clearly that some things said from the pulpit, even in General Conference, are mortal theories, not divine proclamations. That doesn’t invalidate everything said in that forum, but it destroys the hammer some members use to dismiss those who have said all of us can be and are wrong sometimes.

    In other words, I don’t think it was either clever or cute. I think it was accurate and liberating, and I celebrate it enthusiastically.

  14. “this repudiation of the biggest names in Mormondom’s past by those who now hold those same successive offices?”

    That’s not what happened with this statement. It’s not even close. It’s a terrible interpretation of this statement, frankly.

    That’s exactly the sort of black-and-white, all-or-nothing extremism that this statement repudiates. It says, officially, what has been stated over and over and over again – that our leaders are mortal and can make mistakes – that not every word they utter is dictation from God. This is not a repudiation of people; it is a repudiation of an apostate view of those people – held by some at all levels of the organization but not by many, many others at all levels.

  15. Thanks, J. These articles are incredible.

  16. Christian Cardall says:

    “Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse…” Because this theory is advanced in the Book of Mormon, this statement would seem to imply error in the Book of Mormon. Believers can come to accept this—by, for instance, applying the same “cultural influences” arguments to the ancient prophets that this article does for the 19th century ones; or for that matter, by reading the title page, which explicitly allows for its “faults” and “mistakes of men.” Many members are willing to see the Bible as rather fallible, but most members are probably not yet used to thinking of the Book of Mormon in this way as well.

  17. Christian,

    I think there is a plausible argument to be made that the BoM itself is structured in such a way that you can read it as a repudiation of the black skin curse. The one big jump you have to make, which would be consistent with this new statement about the modern priesthood ban, is that Nephi was simply dead wrong when he first made the dark skin curse pronouncement. Nephi absolutely believed it and taught it. Interestingly in Jacob 2 and 3 – Jacob’s sermon as the new leader of the church – corrects the church on 3 points – concubines/sexual sin, wealth (the two we always talk about) and seemingly forgot in chapter 3 telling the people that they should no longer revile the Lamanites for their skin. Given the deep-seeded acrimony between Nephi and his brothers (and Nephi always seems a little bit to self righteous in his narrative don’t you think?) it is that hard to believe that he inferred/made up the whole skin thing – maybe in his mind as a way to “separate” his people out.

    In any, case if you take this view and then ask what Mormon who edits the whole story seems to be driving at you could draw two conclusions:

    1) Racism/tribalism is shown to lead to the ultimate destruction of the the Nephites
    2) The prophet who announced Christ is a (dark skinned) Lamanite – subverting the whole black is bad/white is good thing (a theme that is specifically called out in a number instances in the text).

    My take away is that the whole book shows what happens not only when you hold racist views but when you *theologize* them. They become sticky and hard to remove from the people. They keep coming back again and again. Wow how well does that parallel what happened to us with BY and all the theologic work to justify racism that went on for generations in the modern church. We just repeated the Book of Mormon cycle! The lesson was sitting right there in our text. Mormon saying – “Look what happens when racism enters your religion. Look how bad it is when you think it comes through God through prophets!” And there we go using the book itself to justify it. Irony.

    This is just one reinterpretation and it takes a couple of assumptive leaps, but no the biggest one is one the church admits happened in the modern day. BY was wrong about blacks. Nephi was wrong about blacks.

  18. Left Field says:

    Doug and Peter, I think what it means is that it’s high time that both devout critics and devout believers get over the idea that the only effectual and authentic prophet is an infallible one.

    Fallible people are called as prophets because (1) they are the only people available to do the job; and (2) in the end, it’s up to the listener to accept or reject the message.

  19. Kevin Barney says:

    Peter, it might help a little to parse this some more. JS comes out looking pretty good here. Sure, pretty much everyone back then, Abraham Lincoln included, was a racist by today’s standards, and that would include Joseph. But by the standards of his time he was pretty progressive on matters of race. (This should not be too surprising, as he was a Yankee.)

    The difficult case is BY, who did initiate the ban, and actually flip flopped to do it. We don’t know for sure why he flip flopped, but to me a plausible theory is that he got freaked about by the prospect of miscegenation (what he called “amalgamation”), which concern would have been par for the course in his day. He latched on to a Protestant apologia for the practice of slavery (“curse of Cain”), which to me was the original mistake. To me this is pure culture, which he understood as doctrine. I think it’s a useful reminder to us that even prophets are human and therefore fallible.

    John Taylor I believe was prepared to cease the practice if he could learn it did not come from Joseph. Zebedee Coltrin misrepresented the historical facts, and so that cessation didn’t happen, but I give Taylor props for being prepared to do it. He knew Brigham could be a blowhard on this or that topic (see Adam God), so to me whether the provenance were from Joseph or not was a reasonable standard for him to apply; he was just given bad intelligence on the matter, and the capacity to due diligence this rather than relying on limited oral reports didn’t really exist at that time.

    After John Taylor until you get to DOM, this really wasn’t an active issue. Once you get past the petitions of Elijah Abel and Jane Manning James, you have a very small population of black Saints, and Church practice matches that of the surrounding culture, so there just wasn’t much motivation to revisit the policy.

    DOM didn’t reverse the policy, but he did a lot of good things in that sphere (including identifying this as a “policy”) and helped to lay the foundation for the revelation that SWK would get in 1978.

    We tend to view that inaction by all those prophets as an intentional, affirmative ratification of the policy. But I don’t; I see it as an issue that was perceived as marginal, to the extent leaders thought of it at all, which simply didn’t come up in a meaningful way in those years. It wasn’t until the civil rights movement brought the issue front and center that the Church began to confront it meaningfully, and we were handicapped by our assumptions that long time inaction on the issue equaled specific, affirmative prophetic approbation.

  20. J. Stapley says:

    Doug, there is perhaps a precedent in the in references to the “Adam-God theory.” And while it might be accurate, I think it is clearer to say “teachings.”

    Peter Yates, that is a sort of fundamentalism that isn’t healthy for the church, I think. I think approaches that incorporate empathy both for our spiritual progenitors and kin along with those who currently comprise the body of Christ is a better approach. Kevin’s comments about framing this are, I think, useful.

    Christian, it is good to see you around.

  21. annegb5298 says:

    I give my honest opinion and say “your church sucks in some ways, too.”

  22. Peter Yates says:

    Thank you Kevin and J. Your responses were as I expected: Thoughtful, Informative, and. Respectful.

  23. Kevin: “I really appreciate the church (finally) having my back on this.” Well put. So many of us who have been teachers have been left hung out to dry in the past, and there have been real consequences to us. It’s great that the church is finally backing us up with accuracy.

  24. Awesome step forward for the church. Still much more to be done. Thanks for pointing out the change in thinking, Jonathan .

  25. Abu Casey says:

    I really want to read this as a repudiation of the ban as God’s will, but I’m having a hard time feeling like I could make the case. I feel like it’s saying that the church repudiates the racism of the past, while leaving the “why” on the table. The “why” is clearly not any of the previously promulgated (racist) theories. Whle the article doesn’t say it was God’s will (which is notable, but may come across as too much reading-between-lines to someone who isn’t inclined to see the ban as uninspired), it doesn’t say it wasn’t God’s will either.

    Like I said, I want to see a statement that says “God wasn’t in this.” But is this just confirmation bias? It seems that conservative Mormons are seeing what they want to see here too (http://www.millennialstar.org/a-must-read-statement-from-the-church-on-race-and-the-priesthood/#comments)

  26. “…nowhere in this article is it indicated that the restriction was the will of the Lord.”

    And nowhere is it indicated that the BY to SWK restriction was NOT the will of the Lord. The article plainly states that racist theories connected with or justifying the ban are in error. Members will read into this statement their own perspectives on reasons for the priesthood ban.

  27. Steve Evans says:

    “nowhere is it indicated that the BY to SWK restriction was NOT the will of the Lord”

    It’s the obvious implication to draw, in any event. Let’s not be cute here – the Church has come out and said that the theories justifying the ban were wrong, but you want to pretend that even though what every church leader said about the ban was wrong, somehow the ban itself was still right? Reason stares. If you need to hold on to logic that tortured in order to maintain a testimony of past leaders, go ahead I guess, but it doesn’t pass the sniff test by any measure. It smacks of cultism to insist that leaders’ actions were still God’s will when everything they articulated about those actions was wrong.

  28. Interested says:

    There is a void in the conversations here about what triggered BY to flip the inclusive practice begun by JS. Russell Stevenson explains, in his recently published book “Black Mormon: The Story of Elijah Ables”, that latent racism in BY and other church members finally crystallized into policy when a newly baptized black member, William McCary, began marrying multiple women in a secret ceremony. I won’t go into the details here, but that incident seems to have been the trigger. It is discouraging that the church gave into prejudiced ideas when JS had set the church on a relatively positive trajectory on the issue. For a great review of the aforementioned book and more discussion of this trigger incident, see Melissa Prince’s review on rationalfaiths.

  29. J. I really liked your thoughts here and in your other post about “race and the priesthood”. Thought you might like this quote from Maya Angelou on Face The Nation.

    “I think you can’t really forgive unless you are really kind. And so you forgive a person or persons or systems, you forgive them and then you don’t have to drag them around with you every day, and all day and all night long. It is a gift to yourself to forgive and I would say that Nelson Mandela’s gift to the world was his ability to forgive.”

  30. Old Man,

    The statement had the opportunity to claim inspiration for the ban, but didn’t, instead choosing to disavow all the folklore AND making a great effort to disassociate Joseph Smith from it and to situate the ban in Utah Territory’s adoption of slavery. So, if the church still believes the ban to have been divine, despite all of this, one can only conclude that their failure to say so is a sop to public relations. There is no other explanation for their silence according to your logic. You are therefore making the modern church into an inherently cowardly and deceptive organisation. How on earth is this a good thing?

    Of course, the alternative is better, and speaks well of the church in 2013: the ban has been thrown under the bus. Good riddance.

  31. We are in for a slow burn of admissions. How will they tackle polygamy if at all? Will they admit finally that it simply was a justification for JS’s womanizing and BY used it to consolidate his power during and after the succession crisis? Will they talk at all about the editing of “god’s” revelations to increase JS’s authority? Will they ever open up the books?

    It all depends on the members. If the member’s reaction is severe as in continuing to leave or withhold tithing, then the answers and gymnastics will follow to a greater extent.

  32. That’s one perspective, James – one of the simplest, easiest ones, frankly.

  33. J. Stapley says:

    I don’t have much tolerance for fundamentalisms right now, James et al.

  34. correlated says:

    Can we fix this now too?

    At certain times and for His specific purposes, God, through His prophets, has directed the practice of plural marriage (sometimes called polygamy), which means one man having more than one living wife at the same time [there were several cases of polyandry too]. In obedience to direction from God, Latter-day Saints followed this practice for about 50 years [closer to 75 years] during the 1800s [and the first part of the 1900s] but officially ceased the [publically ordained] practice of such marriages after the Manifesto was issued by President Woodruff in 1890 [Not really so. See Second Manifesto, Mormon colonies in Mexico, and Mormon colonies in Canada]. Since that time [really around 1907], plural marriage has not been approved by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and any member adopting this practice is subject to losing his or her membership in the Church.

  35. J., how did you find out about these updated statements? How can someone out of the loop stay up on these changes?

  36. rah, while I agree that it is possible to read the Book of Mormon as a repudiation of the black skin curse your citations leave out the most problematic verses for claiming that Mormon as the editor is immune to the racism that you claim afflicts Nephi. In his closing commentary as he transitions the reader from the era in Helaman to the preparations for Christ’s coming in 3 Nephi, Mormon writes the following:

    14 And it came to pass that those Lamanites who had united with the Nephites were numbered among the Nephites;

    15 And their curse was taken from them, and their skin became white like unto the Nephites;

    16 And their young men and their daughters became exceedingly fair, and they were numbered among the Nephites, and were called Nephites. And thus ended the thirteenth year.

    Now I guess one could separate the two concepts outline in verse fifteen. That the curse removed was an ignorance of the truths of the gospel that Lehi tried to teach all of his sons. These false traditions were rejected by the righteous descendants of Laman and Lemuel and this is what is caused them to unite with the Nephites leading to a political / theological differentiation of the name Nephite rather than a racial / bloodlines based differentiation that seemed to exist previously.

    But is Mormon then simply describing the genetic impact of interracial marriage? Or is he using fair to describe their countenances?

    I think there is a great deal more mental gymnastics required to claim this is the message Mormon is trying to teach if you add in his additional editorial comments in Alma 3:6-19. As a result, it is not clear where Mormon stands concerning the question of dark skin and how it relates to curses. I agree that the charitable read is to pursue the position that our opportunity is to, as Moroni called out in Mormon 9:31:

    Condemn me not because of mine imperfection, neither my father, because of his imperfection, neither them who have written before him; but rather give thanks unto God that he hath made manifest unto you our imperfections, that ye may learn to be more wise than we have been.

  37. I don’t know how many of the people commenting on this topic live outside the Utah-Idaho bubble. I was born and raised in the church in Michigan, where I still live. I have always lived in a community that is racially and economically diverse. I was a young child when the ban was lifted, but old enough to recall it. Unlike many wards and branches in the US, the membership in my ward membership is diverse. Our bishop is African-American. While I have seen racial tensions in my lifetime, I never really understood the us vs. them mentality until I entered the MTC in 1991. It was then that I discovered many fellow missionaries who were amazed and in awe of the fact that my friends back home were Black. They said, “I’ve never met a Black person before.” I was floored. I didn’t even know how to begin to answer a question like what it was like to have a best friend who was Black. I’m reminded of that whenever I read statements from prophets, politicians, and others from as late as the 1970’s referring to African-Americans in the plural sense as “the Negro” or similar terms. It’s not so much the labels they assigned as much as HOW they use them. There is clearly an underlying current here that evidences ignorance, if not a lack of acceptance of other races as being on equal footing.

    I have come to believe that the ban resulted from several factors, including leaders being susceptible to cultural and political views that were pervasive at the time. We know that God allows us as commoners to stumble and (hopefully) learn from mistakes that sometimes take years to correct. We also know of well-documented scriptural and historical texts in which God did not intervene to prevent prophets from making some big mistakes. I see the priesthood ban as one such example. But it may not be fair to say that the beliefs of BY and others that spawned the ban were ill-intended. Rather, what made them susceptible to such beliefs and compounded the problem was that church leaders and members lacked the experience and vocabulary to even ask the right questions when seeking inspiration. They were perhaps as naive in 1850 and in 1950 as the fellow missionaries I encountered in 1990. There were “lines” and “precepts” not yet established in their hearts and minds, meaning there was an insufficient foundation upon which to add meatier lines and precepts. They did not see this as a significant or pressing concern, and had little to draw on even if they had been inclined to study the issue out in their mind and ponder it as a necessary precursor to seeking revelation. There was no lamp into which oil could be poured.

    Let me illustrate. If one speaks to his peers in terms that treat others as objects rather than fellow human beings (e.g., referring to an entire race as “the Negro”), is it not fair to assume that he speaks in similar terms when praying to God? And don’t we commonly teach that how we phrase our thoughts/words in prayers can impact the answer, if any, we receive? After all, our ability to receive and understand the answers to prayers depends on the level of foundational understanding and the mindset we have at that point in time.

    So when BY was caught up by mistaken and misguided beliefs, he was leaning on his own ideas (with all the zeal of a scrappy, self-reliant, stubborn frontiersman) and likely not bothering to ask God for divine confirmation. And not being one who was particularly quick to question his own decision-making or admit a mistake, I doubt BY spent much time on his knees agonizing over this issue. Once the course was set, BY’s successors were not eager to change direction or admit mistake either. Indeed, they probably were not even thinking about the question with any urgency prior to the main thrust of the Civil Rights movement in the mid-1900’s. By then, divergent racial beliefs had become so deep-seated in American society and among Church members who were raised on decades of folklore-as-doctrine that reversing them would not be easy. As racial tensions grew and riots ensued, it is not hard to imagine conservative church leaders and their followers who had been on the wrong side of the issue for 100 years would suddenly take a different side.

    So let’s assume that by the time of DOM’s presidency there was pondering, debate, and pleading with the Lord about what to do. Is it inconceivable that God would say something like, “you dug a deep hole for yourselves, and it’s going to take some time to dig out of it”? Or that the decision-by-committee would be to proceed slowly, with caution? Perhaps they realized, maybe even with divine guidance, that some of the civil unrest needed to settle before the church could make a move. Even by 1978, there were members who left the church when the ban was lifted. Others stayed but held on to their ignorant and racist views. Still others celebrated but remain confused to this day about what they were raised to believe and how it reconciles with the evolving statements from SLC. But it’s safe to say that many pockets of the world were not ready to embrace the 1978 declaration, and fewer would have been ready earlier in the century.

  38. John Harrison says:

    mwolv,

    Here’s my issue with the idea that the Church wasn’t ready for the ban to end, so it had to wait.

    Be ye therefore perfect…

    God sets a pretty high standard for us. One that we all fail to attain, but the standard is still there despite our weakness and sinfulness. On top of that the early saints followed some pretty radical teachings in the form of consecration and polygamy. If the Church had decided to take a radical stand on the issue of racial equality early on instead of polygamy would that have destroyed the Church? I doubt it, and it would have put us in a better position today in a number of regards.

  39. it's a series of tubes says:

    Be ye therefore perfect…

    John, that scripture is a blunt instrument and generally inaccurately applied, particularly in light of the original Greek teleioi / teleios in Matthew 5:48.

  40. iasot,

    I don’t see how adding a sense of “completion” or “fully accomplished” makes the passage less applicable than a less refined reading would. The point is that the Gospel often requires difficult things of us. One of those things is renouncing racism, or so it seems now. I don’t see how such a requirement would have harmed the restoration as some have argued.

  41. mwolv, I like your perspective.

  42. it's a series of tubes says:

    The point is that the Gospel often requires difficult things of us. One of those things is renouncing racism, or so it seems now.

    John, I don’t disagree one bit with what you posted here. What I do disagree with is the use of “perfect” to imply that there is a clear, unchanging, and ideal institutional position / structure / doctrine, both at a particular time in the past as well as now. Seems to conflict with the stone cut out of the mountain without hands / line upon line / the growth and progression inherent in “development” or “fully ripened”, like the way a fruit becomes teleios.

    We learn and grow, individually and as an institution. I don’t think the Church “wasn’t ready”, but I also don’t think we haven’t progressed.

  43. J. Stapley says:

    Beth, there is no feed, so you have to keep an eye out for them. There has been a bit of chatter in social media for the earlier ones, nothing like the discussion for the entry on race though.

  44. John,

    You are discounting the many examples from the scriptures where God did withhold and nurture people who weren’t ready to live at the highest plane. There are the Israelites, who lived a lower law in preparation for the higher law, for example. There was priesthood which was restricted to one tribe. Then there was Jesus himself who declared that he was not sent to the Gentiles, but to the house of Israel, who later told Peter in a vision that HE was to now begin preaching to the gentiles. It’s not that God doesn’t want us to be better than we are. That is his message. But He is wise enough to do it in a way that we will come to an understanding of things ourselves and make those choices ourselves, But I also like to think He is patiently pulling the strings to make it happen. God is going to accomplish His work in the most effective way possible, not in the most obstinate way possible.

    The only real explanation for the ban being repealed is that people in the church were ready and wanted it to be repealed. Why else do you think that SWK was seeking an answer to begin with?

  45. Pierce, you appear to be discounting the fact that every, single scriptural example of restriction, whatsoever, occurred prior to the death of Jesus – or, in other words, in times dominated by the Law of Moses and the mentality that accompanied it. “Philosophies of men, mingled with scripture” fits exactly what the Church’s explanation describes – meaning we are not immune from the tendency to misapply scripture to fit our natural views.

    Interestingly, the first impetus for the eventual ban was scholarly research from within the Church that showed there was no revelatory foundation for the ban – prompting Pres. McKay, correctly, to state that the ban was “policy” only. The “only real explanation for the ban being repealed” certainly includes that recognition – and the accompanying implication that God might not have commanded the ban in the first place. Notice the Church’s explanation does not say it was commanded – and it doesn’t even imply that. Rather, everything about it is disavowed and/or condemned.

    Since that is the Church’s current position, we ought to accept it and not insist on justifying it still.

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