My name is MollyBennion and I am looking forward to posting occasionally with other Dialoguers. New to blogging, I am enjoying your world. By Common Consent drove home its advantages of immediacy, honesty and insight in this last week’s discussion of the Seattle sex abuse judgment. Thanks J. Stapley for starting an enlightening and important exchange.
Another equally painful social issue is on my mind of late. I have a good friend, a black Mormon man in his early thirties, impressive on every front, a man of deep testimony who is questioning continuing in activity in the Church because of persistent racism. Even a recent bishop told my friend he bore the mark of Cain and its inherent inadequacies. Testimony is not an issue for him; the issue is can he bear and should he be asked to bear the weight of Mormon folklore?
Arguably Dialogue’s proudest moment came in publishing Lester Bush’s seminal article on the history of blacks and the priesthood in 1973. We have also published many other articles on that and related subjects. One of our board members, Armand Mauss, has been a leader in research and argument. I have long loaned Lester and Armand’s book, Neither Black Nor White to members who express an interest in our history. (The black teenagers I have taught (way too few, of course) seem always to reach a point where they must know and they can find no one to help them.) Stirling Adams, who joins our merry band of bloggers recently published an excellent book review/essay dealing directly with the contrived and unconvincing arguments based on Ham and Cain in BYU Studies. We don’t lack for information. Yet the folklore persists.
I remember exactly where I was when the revelation hit the airwaves in 1978. I also remember dissecting the Church’s public statement in the New York Times and grieving as much over what was not said as I rejoiced over what was. I almost did not join the Church over this issue. Ultimately I was so convinced the so-called Negro doctrine was just a misguided practice, hundreds of years old and widely believed without revelation or rational righteous argument, and so convinced the God of Mormon theology could not be a respecter of persons, that I believed the priesthood would be extended to all. The truths of the gospel compelled me over my cultural objections. Those truths remain compelling, but most of my cultural objections remain as well. What I didn’t anticipate was the Church’s continued silence over the folklore which lives on to reassure racists and torture our black brothers and sisters.
My questions to you are 1) What do you think most Mormons believe about racial differences and doctrine? 2) What can we do to educate and sensitize Church members who hold to racism? 3) Would you join me and many others in reassuring any black members among you that you do not think them innately cursed or inferior in any way and in speaking up whenever and wherever we hear the folklore presented as fact or doctrine?