Bill Maher’s HBO show stirred-up some nice Mormon bashing this week. Maher’s position is that all religions are crazy and the notion that only a “person of faith” should inhabit the White House is something to be raged against. But for Maher (whom I generally like, btw), Mormonism is especially “crazy.”

Speaking about Romney’s Mormonism:

“43% [of Americans] said they would not vote for a Mormon under any circumstances. We are not ready for a President who wears magic underwear.”

“In the 50’s the Mormons preached that the only way a black man could get into heaven was as a slave.”

“People don’t know about Mormonism. When they find out they will be amazed at how weird it really is…They believe in some stuff that is demonstrably…you can prove that it’s not true. I mean you can’t prove about Jesus, it was 2000 years ago, but Joseph Smith, the prophet of Mormonism lived less than two centuries ago, and he was, excuse me, a con man, and he did preach some really weird stuff that you can prove is not true, like…the Mormons believe that the Indians, the American Indians are a lost tribe of Israel. DNA testing shows that is not true.”

“Brigham Young said that race-mixing should be punishable by death.”

Fun times.


  1. As for his specific points:

    – The church does not teach that garments are “magic,” although Marriott’s boat-fire story on 60 minutes is emblematic of such belief, I suppose. And is it really 43% of Americans? I thought it was a high proportion, but not that high.

    – I don’t know about the slave thing. I’m not aware of a teaching that late. This may be something to do with the law of adoption and the sealing of Jane Manning James to the Smith family as a servant.

    – Regrettably, Brigham Young said something akin to that. Mormonism has come a million miles since then, though.

    – FARMS and the Book of Mormon itself espouse a limited geography model and so there is no reason to believe that the Lamanites are the “principal ancestors of the American Indians.” Of course the modern BoM introduction says exactly that and it is a belief that has been widely held and sacralized in the past. I don’t know about now.

    Expect more of this all year.

  2. I hadn’t heard this yet but I could see it coming. I like Bill Maher too, though I think this is going too far to get a laugh. But I wonder if, in the end, all of this could turn out to be a good thing (call me a crazy optimist).

    I think that the effect could be twofold: (1) a more thorough examination of their beliefs and their church by LDS people in an attempt to defend their faith (which may result in some who do not have a firm testimony leaving); and (2) a more widespead examination of the church by those who are honest truth seekers and who had never considered it before, because the caricatures by people like Maher seem so out of whack.

    Both of these things will be generally positive, though painful. It is going to be harder than ever to be a “cultural mormon” or remain on the fence. People are going to have to choose, and the choice is going to be better defined. I see that as a positive, though it makes me fear for some. None of this is going to happen just because Bill Maher spouted off–I think watching HBO is actually equated with apostacy in most LDS households, but it is definitely a sign of things to come.

  3. In recent polls, something like one-third of all voters have said they would be less likely to vote for a Mormon candidate — and the figure is a bit higher (39 percent) among Republicans. Iowa, where conservative Christians comprise about 37 percent of the GOP electorate, could be trouble.

    The above is from Cohen’s column in the Washington Post. As you can see, Maher has never bothered to get his facts straight. But really, does anyone think that the accuracy of the information reported about the church is going to be the bottom-line issue?

  4. “Brigham Young said that race-mixing should be punishable by death.”

    Along with pretty much every other white male of the 19th century.

  5. Left Field says:

    The comment about slavery may have some basis if he’s talking about the 1850s. But 100% of his listeners will think he’s talking about the 1950s.

    I don’t necessarily have a problem with stretching the truth for comedic effect as is done here and on South Park. But I do have a problem with those who criticize the church for “not telling the truth” and then promulgate a version of Mormonism and Mormon history that is a corresponding misrepresentation in the opposite direction.

    It’s ironic that Maher also preaches “some really weird stuff that you can prove is not true.”

  6. Ronan,

    – I don’t know about the slave thing. I’m not aware of a teaching that late. This may be something to do with the law of adoption and the sealing of Jane Manning James to the Smith family as a servant.

    Yeah, if you do read some of the writings of men like Harold B. Lee, they were quite racist. He had said this once:

    “If a granddaughter of mine should ever go the BYU and become engaged to a colored boy,” Apostle Harold B. Lee fumes, “I would hold you responsible!”

    of course, someone like Bill Maher is going to take things out of context and embellish the real record. The burden of proof of the truth then suddenly falls upon us to correct.

  7. “- The church does not teach that garments are “magic,” although Marriott’s boat-fire story on 60 minutes is emblematic of such belief, I suppose.”

    I agree. I did a fairly quick search in the lesson materials and GC addresses on LDS.com and could not come up with a reference to any physical protective powers of garments.

    However, at least some level of belief that garments will protect worthy members from injury is almost universal in the Church. Who hasn’t heard of stories of garments saving someone from horrible injury? I think that the belief continues because there has been no official effort to state that garments provide a spiritual barrier, not a physical one.

  8. It’s hard to understand why anyone would think that race-mixing should be a capital offense. I’d like to see the actual quote, if anyone can find it.

  9. Danithew,


    “Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God is death on the spot. This will always be so” (Journal of Discourses, 10: 110).

    But the pertinent point is this: Mormon Sundays are some of the least segregated in America in 2007. Vile comments like this from Brigham Young are so far beyond any reality I know in the church today.

  10. Some of the polls do show up to the mid-40%s of Americans as being unwilling in principle to vote for a Mormon. The specific numbers partly reflect the question asked and the polling company used. Regardless of the specific level of intolerance, it’s surely enough to doom Mitt Romney, since the intolerance is highest among exactly the voters he’s trying to use as a core constituency. I don’t think we need to worry too much about the coming Romney storm, however; the gossip from his inner circles is starting to suggest that he won’t be in the race in six months.

    Ronan, you say that, “FARMS and the Book of Mormon itself espouse a limited geography model…” I agree that FARMS espouses a limited geography model, but I think the Book of Mormon itself is best described as incredibly vague on geography. A lot of what we get out of it in terms of geography involves our hermeneutics. In any case, the book certainly can be read as espousing a continental model, and some revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants support a definition of the American Indians as Lamanites, pure and simple. A messy, messy question, no matter how we parse it.

  11. RT,
    I think it’s a solid hermeneutic. But yeah, Lamanites = Indians cannot easily be shunted aside.

  12. RT,

    Since you study these processes professionally, I’m interested to learn what you think of the argument that suggests that a Romney candidacy is good for Mormonism to some extent, regardless of one’s politics. (I’m going way out on a limb here and taking a wild guess that Mitt is not your guy. :-) ) In my opinion, the argument has some merit. Here’s my thinking: There are many assumptions about Mormons that are generally accepted but which are unfounded. Other assumptions are true, but ultimately meaningless. Mitt might be the first Mormon many people seriously listen to, and he does a decent job of projecting a sense of competence and normalcy. His presence on TV every night for a few months can help remove some of the barriers that prevent people from taking a serious look at the gospel, especially among the evangelicals. Do you think this argument holds water?

  13. I’m still amazed at the shoddy (you can replace -odd- with -itt- and not be far from the truth here) logic that is employed in maligning Mormonism for being a recent religion. If you think that magic underwear is hard to deal with, what about a God-man raised from the dead? What about transubstantiation or even consubstantiation? What about New Testament miracles? While you can easily maintain that Jesus did not claim any of those things (as various secular revisionists have done), you can NOT maintain that Christians didn’t believe them to be true.

    This sounds difficult to distinguish from anti-Catholicism to me, except by its respectability. “We would never vote for someone who wore a magic necklace [rosary].” “We would never vote for someone who believed in a con-man who claimed to speak for God [the Pope].”

    As far as the race card, this seems to be scapegoating. I wonder what Maher’s grandparents thought about race relations. While we should regret Young’s statements and be sure to eliminate any echoes of them from our own minds, nineteenth-century (and early to mid twentieth-century) racist ramblings should not be relevant to our current religious discourse.

    “We would never vote for someone whose leaders were racists [almost everyone in America through the 1950s but the abolitionists, and even some of them were racist].”

    And as far as the Indian origins bit, I agree with JNS that this is a thorny issue, and the current FARMS view requires that the early Mormons misinterpreted their eponymous book, but this seems to me a minor issue, and frankly Indian Israelitism can be laid at the feet of many different religious and secular figures.

    Finally, though, I get the sense that with Mormonism, the anti-religious secular believe they have found a way to attack religion in general without being castigated for being anti-religious. If religious people go along with the Mormon bashing because Mormonism is weird, they are going to find themselves in deep trouble because they will have sanctioned the arguments that undercut their own philosophical viability. The only ones left standing would be the Unitarians.

    Why can’t we just reject Romney for his politics and stop trying to use Mormonism as a cause? I’m far more worried about the lack of “pure religion and undefiled” in his public political platform than I am about his personal religious affiliation (NB: I am not indicting his personal devotion or moral purity in any way, only his politics).

  14. Antonio Parr says:

    re: Comment No. 4:

    Sorry, Peter — I don’t think that we get an “out” for Brigham’s racism by pointing to the fact that there were lots of other racists during his day. A church that professes to be the ~only~ true Church on the face of the earth, with a prophet who is the ~only~ person on the planet who is authorized to receive universal revelation from God, must be held to a standard higher than society’s lowest common denominator. (I thought the whole idead of following a prophet was the notion that he had more inspiration than the rank and file.)

    Let’s face it — it is an embarrassing/shameful/tragic thing that while plenty of “non-members” of Brigham’s day had figured out the universal dignity and worth of all humanity, Brigham was still a slave to the prejudices of the unenlightened masses. One would expect that a man appointed to be prophet to the world (of which Blacks are a part) would have at least as much respect for his fellow humans of a different race as, say, all of those non-LDS abolitionists running around north of the Mason Dixon line who valued their Black brothers and sisters as much as their White brothers and sisters.

    I predict that the Romney campaign is going to be a difficult time for the Church. As it stands now, very few educated Americans are joining the Church. When our oddities and foibles and sins of the past are raised for all the world to see, we will begin to fail miserably the Ronan “what would Tom Cruise do/believe” test, and, I fear, we will see an even greater decline in convert baptisms.

    Somehow, the Church needs to find a way to recant the bad of our past in order to ensure that the bad does not become a stumbling block for those who could truly benefit from the unique good found in Mormonism.

    Buckle your seatbelts — this ride has only begun.

  15. Antonio,
    I think this is potentially a wonderful opportunity for the church to sweep some cobwebs. Handled honestly and wisely, that is. Veritas vos liberabit.

  16. Gavin Guillaume says:

    Maybe we can call Romney to be a mission president and go back to the relative anonymity we enjoyed before… He’s not going to win, maybe doesn’t deserve to win, and we’re going to all look bad in the process…

  17. re: Comment # 10

    I would never want to match wits w/ RT on Poly Sci, but my sources within the Republican party leadership say that the Republican primary is actually Mitt’s to lose.

    They say Rudy is too liberal to make it out of the primaries, and McCain too old and crazy. Plus, apparently Mitt is heads and shoulders above the rest in fundraising?

    But who really knows I guess. 1 year is an eternity in politics.

  18. Antonio, while I agree strongly with your desire for us to move beyond a racist past, I think you overstate the case for double standards for Mormons. Not even the abolitionists and Northerners were non-racist (though they were clearly anti-slavery), and there is no requirement for infallibility in the canon of Mormonism. If the Mormon past can help the broader American public also confront our shared racist past, that would be wonderful, but I believe seeing historic racism as a binding indictment of Mormonism is an oversimplification with significant repercussions.

    Personally, again, I am more interested in our capacity to address issues of justice in the here and now. Is the Mormon church of today racist? Is America today racist? What are we doing about it? Is the Mormon church grinding the face of the poor? Is America? What are we doing about it?

    And the Mormons went through this before (Reed Smoot hearings) at a time when they were clearly much more fringe. Though it contributed to significant changes, the Mormons seem to have weather 1904 fairly well.

  19. And what exactly does 16 mean? Maher seems to have done little research. The morsels he has plucked are the low-hanging fruit that one of his assistants could have located in about 10 minutes online.

  20. It’s been a long time (about six or seven years, I think) since I’ve enjoyed Maher’s shtick. I have no problem calling him Bill Maher (who I generally loathe, btw). He’s smug, arrogant, simplistic and usually wrong.

  21. Greg, I beg to differ (!) He’s an entertainer, but usually I agree with his politics. And the point of this (excessive) rant is his anger that atheists cannot run for President. I understand why that would make him want to needle the religious right, using Mormons as an unfortunate scapegoat.

  22. Antonio Parr says:

    SMB — there is not official doctrine of infallibility, although I have heard plenty of GA’s say that when “the prophet speaks the debate is over” and “the Lord will never allow his prophet to lead his people astray”.

    Moving beyond infallibility, the Blacks of Brigham’s day certainly had a right to expect from the only prophet on the earth a message of love and encouragement, instead of the dismissive contempt shown by Brother Brigham.

    As for the Church today, I agree wholeheartedly that we, as a people, are inclusive and reach out to all of humanity. With the exception of a very small minority, racism is a thing of the past. In that respect, we have repented sincerely (although we never really have taken care of the “confession” part of the repentance process).

  23. Re: Comment 20

    I mean that he (and/or his staff) have done more research than what I’m used to seeing in the mainstream media, and even more research than the average active Mormon has likely done — to date.

    He’s not just doing the normal media shtick — polygamy and denial of priesthood. He’s talking about Lamanite DNA (which is relatively new, and probably still unknown to the majority of active LDS worldwide), and more specific comments by Brigham Young and others in the Journal of Discourses.

    To me, this is an order of magnitude more specific than what we’ve heard from the media in the past 10-20 years (think the 60 minutes interviews). To me, it’s somewhat hard-hitting stuff…because it’s backed up by prophetic and/or apostolic quotes from our own published literature.

    Not insurmountable, mind you. Just hard hitting and more specific than we’ve seen to date (in my opinion).

    Not a huge deal either way. But to me, interesting.

  24. I would be careful not too over-estimate both Maher’s appeal as well as his audience size. Not too many people are watching him and those who do aren’t exactly the type of people who will be shocked by this.

    We’ll have to see what happens as the primaries grow closer.

  25. Dan, where is the HBL quote from?

    And RT– can you elaborate about Romney not lasting more than 6 months? Why? Lack of money? Polls not good? Or do they think he’s not going to be able to get past the mormon issue? I think his, um, evolving, political stances are his biggest problem. Paula

  26. I’d actually give Romney a fair chance at this point. All the buzz is that he has a lot of financial backing lined up already from the types of Republicans who supported the first President Bush. Obviously, he doesn’t have the poll numbers yet, but I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that he has nowhere near the name recognition of John McCain and Rudi Giuliani. I think there’s about a 50% chance that McCain has a meltdown at some point during the campaign and at least that chance (probably more) that Republicans start to lose their enthusiasm for Giuliani when they realize how many personal skeletons he has in his closet. At this point, that leaves Romney. I still think it’s something of a longshot, but it’s not hard to see how it could happen (assuming that the Mormon issue doesn’t derail his campaign early–say, in South Carolina, for example).

  27. Ronan, thanks for providing the quote.

    Brigham Young’s racism seems to be a stark contrast to what I know about Joseph Smith’s views on blacks and his interactions with blacks. I heard Bro. Bushman speak on the subject (of Joseph Smith’s views) and except for a political campaign statement, Joseph Smith seemed to be quite advanced and positive in his views on the subject.

    I’ts really too bad Brigham Young maintained his prejudices. Considering his strong allegiance to the Prophet Joseph, if they had a single conversation on the subject, it would have helped to change a lot of past problems/biases in the Church.

  28. I didn’t think Romney had a chance either, but am now rethinking that. He is everywhere–newspapers, websites, talk shows. I would even argue he’s getting more publicity than Obama. I can’t remember another candidate getting this much pub this early in the game since maybe Perot.

  29. I have to wonder where Brigham Young got his prejudices and his idea that intermarriage with blacks should lead to capital punishment. Is this based on something Ezra or Nehemiah said in relation to Israelite/Jewish intermarriage? Where would he have picked this up?

    That perspective seems so out-and-out bizarre.

    I also wonder what stories we might have of early LDS black/white intermarriage (or racial intermarriage in general and how those involved were treated by church officials or church courts. I’m fairly certain no one was ever killed – so I can’t understand what Brigham Young actually thought would be done, in a practical sense, since he spoke so strongly on the subject. I wonder if anyone was ever excommunicated for this cause.

  30. Am I wrong to say that a prophet is a product of his times and that he is influenced by both society AND the fact that he is the mouthpiece of God? And isn’t that why we believe we are blessed to have a LIVING prophet who is a product of his times and can talk to the mores of our generation? And isn’t it wonderful that the light of Christ is in the world and as a society we have the opportunity to advance the cause of human dignity?

  31. You know, one result of all this attention…

    An awful lot of rank and file Mormons are going to have to come to grips with some uncomfortable facts that they had no idea existed before now.

    “Brigham Young had racial predjudices? Say what?!”

    Mormon leadership better start thinking fast about how to innoculate the membership against this kind of stuff, or we’re going to be seeing a sudden surge in the numbers of DAMU and ex-Mormon communities. People who’ve been sheltered from uncomfortable truths their entire lives often don’t take kindly to having the rug pulled out from under them.

  32. I dunno, Seth. Consider how many Mormons watched 60 minutes and saw how Brigham’s racism was knocked aside by President Hinckley

  33. Seth, I think you’re right. Due to this election we (the general membership of the Church) are likely to see into at least some corners we haven’t previously investigated.

    I always had the idea that it was Brigham Young who instituted the ban on blacks getting the priesthood. I thought this was done somewhat tacitly – without a real explanation for it. What I didn’t know (until I read this post) is that Brigham Young elucidated his prejudices so bluntly and that we had them recorded as such in Journal of Discourses.

    Again, I’m not sure what scriptural or spiritual basis he is basing his views on as I know of nothing in Joseph Smith’s teachings that justifies this sort of perspective. He must have gotten this particularly severe and rigid interpretation on the subject from sources that are somewhat alien to scripture. I’ll be interested though to read whatever people come up with.

  34. Jon in Austin says:


    The HBL quote is in Prince’s book about David O. McKay. I don’t have it with me at the moment so I can’t give an exact page number…

  35. Meh. I’m actually a bit surprised that you like him, Ronan. I mean someone that thinks all religion is idiocy isn’t particularly enlightened. And I agree with smb, this is low hanging fruit, with little time spent on research.

  36. Danithew,

    Brigham was hopelessly wedded to a popular notion at the time that Africans were subject to the biblical curse of Ham, something which made slavery much more palatable. After all, if God cursed them then slavery must be okay.

    That Brigham shared this view is disappointing.

    Anyway, read Lester Bush’s seminal spring 1973 Dialogue article.

  37. C’mon J — what’s not to like? Bill Mayer has some pretty decent songs like that new one “Waiting on the World to Change”. Plus I hear he’s dating Jessica Simpson now…

  38. Stapley,
    Real Time is one of the few shows I have brought across the Atlantic. Obviously I don’t share the extremity of his views on religion, but I do understand his frustration that confessional atheists seem to be excluded right now from high office. Also, religious fanatics and fools are to be raged against at all times and places.

  39. Steve Evans says:

    Newsflash: Bill Maher is an idiot a@@hole. I fail to see why this loser ever appears on anyone’s radar screen. The fact that he now makes fun of mormons does nothing to make him newsworthy (let alone of good report or praiseworthy).

    Next topic please.

  40. Bill Maher and John Mayer. Two very different personalities.

    Maybe this is just some kind of joke and I missed it.

  41. It still amazes me that people are surprised by Young’s racism. I reject it, but I understand that our society’s stated ideology is much different now than it was then, and where our dogma (I believe a good one, mind you) is that racism is evil, their dogma was that racism was God’s method of organizing human society. The Bible was the key text to justify slavery, after all.

    By focusing on those of a prior epoch rather than ourselves, we distract ourselves from the real issues that affect race, issues of economic justice, selfishness, and anti-Christian social policy. We would never own a slave, but will we work to reverse the ghettoization of large portions of America’s non-White population? We find Young’s racial pronouncements ugly and disturbing, but will we vote against school vouchers and other attempts to further degrade the level of education offered to the children of the economically marginalized? Will we stop whining about affirmative action educational practices? Will Whites stop moving out of neighborhoods that minorities move into or withdrawing their children from schools where they are educated?

    I think it’s time to move beyond a muddled presentist queasiness with antebellum American Christian racism (including its twentieth-century projections) and face the issues of race now. Sure we’ve made great progress, but we are far far from a good society, and I see little evidence on the basis of stated platforms that indicate Romney would help rather than hurt. Reject his candidacy for those reasons, not because his ancestors were racist.

  42. Steve, I might not disagree with what you are saying about Maher, overall. He had a talk show, that to my knowledge, failed and went off the air. He’s not really as funny or as smart as he projects himself to be.

    But since the guy went on television and said these things, it doesn’t hurt that we’re addressing/analyzing the content. For some folks, this stuff is old news.

    I’ve been aware of the Ham scriptural interpretation. I’ve been aware of things said about certain groups being spiritual fence-sitters. I just didn’t know about this one Brigham Young quote.

    I’m actually glad I learned about this.

  43. In the context of Maher’s remarks, I’m reminded of how reticent we tend to be about sharing our experiences and beliefs. We brand our reticence a virtue: preserving the sacred. But this morning, it seems to me more a function of preserving our own egos’ grasp onto some things that simply don’t hold up under scrutiny.

    Brigham Young racist? Undeniably; even while, as Antonio Parr accurately points out, he professed to represent God to those people whom he despicably despised.

    Native Americans lacking Semitic DNA while the Book of Mormon the Church publishes explicitly proclaims them descendants of Lehi’s family? Undeniably.

    Mormons hold superstitious and magicky beliefs about garments that the Church could, but chooses not to, correct? Undeniably.

    For some, I may be a rotten example of the faith, given how much I don’t believe, so take these thoughts for what they’re worth, but I’m glad to have the flashlight of attention shone onto our society, even if the light only strikes bits and pieces, and even if those who look from the outside may not be interested in seeing the integrity and value of what they illuminate. The light and perspective enables us to see more clearly where we engage in sloppy or self-indulgent thinking.

    Does Maher have our best interests at heart? No way. So what? We should value above any degree of wealth, political success, or public esteem a person or circumstance that makes us aware of our own errors, weaknesses, and wrongs.

  44. Don’t oversimplify the supposed “enlightened minds” of the 19th century either.

    I’m willing to bet real money that a LOT of abolitionists would still have been repulsed by the idea of an interracial marriage. Just because they were tirelessly opposing slavery doesn’t mean they’d fit-in at a modern college campus.

    Even Abraham Lincoln, widely regarded as America’s preeminent champion for racial equality had views on race that, if aired publicly, would get him thrown out of any modern college administration and earn him several death threats on the side.

  45. Bill Maher and John Mayer. Two very different personalities.


  46. Heh.

  47. John, there’s nothing new about the evidence for an Asian origin for Native Americans. The DNA evidence was pretty solid more than a quarter century ago, and the anthropological evidence probably goes back a half century before that. Murphy and Sutherton act like they’re telling us something new, but we have general authorities talking about it in general conference back in the 1930s.

    I have to agree with #30. There’s nothing there that Maher couldn’t have gotten in ten minutes reading the summary talking points from some web page. No matter how new the DNA thing is perceived to be, every critical web site is going to mention it. Maher’s comments all seem pretty superficial to me. As soon as you start talking about human population genetics, he won’t have a clue. And the 1950s thing is just plain wrong. But nuance and fact-checking is probably not generally done for a comedy shtick.

    Danithew, I don’t think there’s anything in the BY quote that indicates that BY thinks the alleged penalty is to be executed by mortals rather than by God.

  48. HBO’s programming is redeemed by the wonderful Rome. And Extras doesn’t hurt either.

  49. I have to say that it kills me (not in a ha ha way) that when you have a war going on and serious problems with poverty and health care, the American media are asking Romney about the Second Coming. What a circus.

  50. What if Romney had told Stephanopolous that when Jesus came again (to this continent) that the U.S. would have ceased to exist as a political entity, so why would Muslims care?

  51. When Maher refers to the slave quotes from the 50’s, he is not refering to Brigham Young and the 1850s, but probably Apostle Mark E. Peterson (among others?) in the 1950s.

    For example:

    “Is there reason then why the type of birth we receive in this life is not a reflection of our worthiness or lack of it in the pre-existent life? …[C]an we account in any other way for the birth of some of the children of God in darkest Africa, or in flood-ridden china, or among the starving hordes of India, while some of the rest of us are born here in the United States? We cannot escape the conclusion that because of performance in our pre-existence some of us are born as Chinese, some as Japanese, some as Latter-day Saints. …

    “A Chinese, born in China with a dark skin, and with all the handicaps of that race, seems to have little opportunity. But think of the mercy of God to Chinese people who are willing to accept the gospel. In spite of whatever they might have done in the pre-existence to justify being forn over there as Chinamen, if they now, in this life accept the gospel and live it the rest of their lives they can have the Priesthood, go to the temple and receive endowments and sealings, and that means they can have exaltation. Isn’t the mercy of God marvelous?

    “Think of the Negro, cursed as to the priesthood…. this negro, who, in the pre-existence lived the type of life which justified the Lord in sending him to earth in the lineage of Cain with a black skin, and possibly being born in darkest Africa… in spite of all he did in the pre-existent life, the Lord is willing, if the Negro accepts the gospel with real, sincere faith, and is really converted, to give him the blessings of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost. If that Negro is faithful in all his days, he can and will enter the celestial kingdom. he will go there as a servant, but he will get celestial glory.”

    – LDS “Apostle” Mark E. Petersen, “Race Problems – As They Affect the Church,” Address delivered at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, August 27, 1954.

    The above quote is offensive and obtuse on so many levels its hard not to see why Maher or anyone else would jump all over it. But it is just as obtuse to paint an entire religion and people with a broad brush by hand-picking and flashing a spotlight on only the skeletons in said religion/cultures closet.

  52. I wonder if Maher would be talking about the foils of Mormonism if Harry Reid were running for president.

  53. foibles not foils

  54. “In the 50’s the Mormons preached that the only way a black man could get into heaven was as a slave.”

    I’m guessing that this is probably from Mormon Doctrine, which was published around that timeframe. The original version goes on and on quite extensively about this topic.

    “As for the Church today, I agree wholeheartedly that we, as a people, are inclusive and reach out to all of humanity. With the exception of a very small minority, racism is a thing of the past.”

    I wouldn’t be so quick to pat ourselves on the collective shoulder… The prophet apparently thinks it is still a problem within the church, judging by his recent general conference remarks last April about this very topic.

  55. And uh, what Matt said.

  56. I was unaware of this quote by Brigham Young. But let’s consider the other interpretations beside that it was about racial hatefulness. The bible tells of God prohibiting marriage of His people to heathen unbelievers. So the idea of prohibiting marriage to certain types of people was instituted by God, long before Brigham held the keys.

    In Brigham’s day, the black branch of our family was denied the priesthood, being still under an old curse. The quote says, “If a white man being of the chosen seed . . . ” Which white men are of the chosen seed? Jewish men? By mixing their blood with that of a prohibited clan, they would violate the ages old prohibition instituted by God, wouldn’t they? I’m not aware that the bible contains the punishment by immediate death part, but the rest of Brigham’s comment sounds like he’s quoting the old testament. I think we’d spend our time better in searching for the source of the idea in the scriptures, than in trying to explain away that Brigham was racist. God is racist, and Brigham was His prophet. God loves all His children, but His punishments have sometimes been harsh and lasting upon many generations.

    My guess is that Brigham loved men of all races, but was aware of the full extent of God’s decree against intermarriage of believers (the chosen seed) with people who were non-believers (the tribe of Cain). I’d like to know more about this old curse, even though it hardly matters anymore, since it has recently been released/withdrawn.

    Many people will choose to see this policy of the Church of following the declarations of God, as signs of Church racism and hatefullness. We can’t make them see it as faithfulness to God, as we do. My understanding is that neither Joseph nor Brigham had a hateful racist cell in their bodies, but they were aware of God’s curse, and were responsible to God for the administration of it.

  57. In the same 1954 address at BYU, Peterson also offered the following little nuggets of wisdom:

    “…the Negro seeks absorption with the white race. He will not be satisfied until he achieves it by intermarriage. This is his objective and we must face it. We must not …feel so sorry for negroes that we will open our arms and embrace them with everything we have.”


    “Now we are generous with the Negro. We are willing that the Negro have the highest kind of education. I would be willing to Let every Negro drive a Cadillac if they could afford it. I would be willing that they have all the advantages they can get out of life in the world. But let them enjoy these things among themselves.”

    Bruce R. McConkie and Joseph Fielding Smith also use similar rhetoric during the 1950s.

    It’s amazing to me that I listened to addresses from apostles at BYU only 30 years after these quote. Only 30 years? One generation removed from this? I wonder how this went over with BYU students in the 50s?

  58. Thanks, Matt. I stand corrected. I was aware that Mark E. Petersen had some unplesant views (though I would have omitted the sneer quotes around “Apostle”), but was not familiar with the comment about servants. That’s almost certainly the quote that led to Maher’s remark, though I’m sure Maher didn’t research it himself.

  59. My understanding is that neither Joseph nor Brigham had a hateful racist cell in their bodies

    You’re going to have a hard time selling that idea around here.

  60. pssst. Trueheart, people of African decent are not descended from Cain, and there was no curse.

    Brigham was a complex man. An interesting exchange was recorded in his office journal:

    Dec. 26, 1860 (pg. 184)
    Mr. Creighton called in and had Some Conversation with him upon the Government and remarked [that] the South had not learned to govern by whipping &c. riding Niggers. Slavery is the ruin of the South observed the President. The South has a beautiful climate and rich soil, but slavery ruins any soil. To these remarks Mr. Creighton acquiesced.

  61. Re: Comments 30 & 48

    “I have to agree with #30. There’s nothing there that Maher couldn’t have gotten in ten minutes reading the summary talking points from some web page.”

    Yes. But relative to the depth of past media interviews (or lack thereof)…I think that between Southpark, the “This Week” interview and now Maher, we’re starting to see a whole new level of depth (be it still somewhat shallow). It’s clearly much deeper than the same old “polygamy and blacks” superficial treatment of the past — like in the 60 minutes interview.

    They’re now coming closer to striking at the core of the issues behind the issues (at least in my estimation).

    Maybe it’s low hanging fruit — but before now we weren’t even getting fruit.

  62. Reading these past comments by prominent LDS leaders, I’m even more relieved that Spencer W. Kimball helped the church to turn the corner.

    Just recent weeks ago I observed a sustaining of an African-American brother to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood. I have also heard him bear his testimony at least twice – both times he has expressed his gratitude for the friendship and warmth and love that he has encountered in the church. He also said that his family was grateful that he found the church.

    I also attended a Gladys Knight concert where she bore fervent testimony and talked about her initial experiences where she asked the missionaries: “Do you even like black people?” Thankfully, they could say yes.

    Not to mention the chapel that was dedicated just last year, in Harlem. I heard it was an amazing event, though sadly I wasn’t able to attend myself.

    While it’s hard to deal with such past comments that have been made by church leaders, it is comforting to know from experience that things have changed quite a bit in the last 30 to 40 years. Some of the more dramatic steps have been very recent. I hope there will be more such changes to come.

  63. Steve Evans says:

    John Dehlin, don’t confuse “sensationalistic” with “deeper.” There’s nothing deep to Maher. Depth is a tricky term; it implies analyzing underlying causes and getting at the root of an issue. Maher has no interest in such things, nor did the creators of South Park.

    You seem to welcome such dust-stirring, as if it helps to resolve prickly points of church history for you. If it does so on a personal level, kudos. But there is an absolutely fundamental difference between being controversial and being deep, and I believe that you do not make such a distinction.

  64. Steve,

    I don’t believe in controversy for its own sake. But I do strongly believe that sometimes controversy and/or publicity can help force us to deal with the deeper issues that we otherwise would hesitate to confront.

    Many, for example, argue that MLK would never have been able to be as successful as he was, without Malcolm X and the Black Panthers doing their thing.

    I do think that a widespread awareness by the members of these tougher issues will act (and is acting) as a forcing function for the church to once and for all get this stuff out on the table, and to deal with it more directly.

    In other words: controversy (which drives awareness) can act as a forcing function for dealing with the deeper issues.

    But your point is well taken.

  65. Trueheart, we cannot give Brigham Young, or any man, a free pass just because he was a prophet. Of course, we can’t condemn them out of proportion either. We need to analyze their comments based on their understanding and the prevailing attitudes of their day. But a racist comment is still a racist comment, even if their intentions were usually good. If you take away their humanity and deify them, or make them perfect, fairy tale heroes, you are doing just as much a disservice to truth as anti-Mormons who turn them into cartoon villians. Bushman is on the right path when he tries to humanize Joseph Smith. And if Joseph Smith is a “rough stone rolling,” then Brigham Young is a “much rougher stone rolling.”

    Also, your comments in #57 seem to make some of the same kind of scriptural justifications for racism that got Young, McConkie, etc in trouble in the first place. Is it not possible that many of these scriptures were racist to begin with? After all, these scriptures are not the inerrent word of God, but were also written by prophets/men subject to certain attitudes of their day.

    As for the Brigham Young quote that you were unaware of, you should probably spend a little time working your way through the archives of the skeletons in the LDS closet. Anti-Mormons do a wonderful job of collecting and making such skeletons available. :) The various quotes you find need not convince you Young, etc. were not prophets, but at least they’ll convince you they were/are also men. I’m sure you already agree, but saying Young didn’t have a racist cell in his body doesn’t sound like it.

    If you want to know more about the “curse” doctrine, The Black Mormon Homepage is an excellent resource: http://www.angelfire.com/mo2/blackmormon/homepage2.html

  66. Left Field (#59), I didn’t put those sneer quotes around the word “Apostle,” but copied the entrie quote from another website. Had I seen or noticed them I would have removed them.

  67. Antonio Parr says:

    I find it distressing that anyone could attempt to justify Brigham’s or Mark E. Pederson’s or whoever’s racism by pointing to the general climate of the times. For crying out loud, we are supposed to be ~inspired~ — at least as inspired as the “gentiles” and “unbelievers” around us, many of whom had already figured out that you don’t judge a person by race, but by the content of their characters.

    We are supposed to be a Church/gathering place for all of God’s children (which, by the way, includes Blacks), and we failed in this regard for decades. We have since turned the corner, and my personal experience has been that the Church as a whole has become/is becoming a color-blind institution. (But then, again, I live east of the Mississippi, in a community that is largely integrated. Perhaps the experience in Utah and Idaho are different.)

    Again — we are supposed to be leading the charge on being loving and inspired and a light to the world and the salt of the earth. Getting something wrong as basic to the human condition as racism is no small matter. We were simply wrong on this one, and would do well to repent for many years to come.

  68. P.S. Bushman, in my interviews with him, seemed to agree with this sentiment. We (as a church) have avoided dealing openly with many of the harder issues — and this is now coming back to bite us in very tangible ways. In a sense we mortgaged the tougher conversations for a future day — and it appears as though that day is upon us.

    And why are we having these conversations now? BECAUSE of the controversy.

    So controversy helps act as a forcing function to finally deal openly with the tougher issues. In the end, I do believe that the impact will be deep — and that folks like Maher, Southpark and others are doing us all a big favor (though that is clearly not their intent). Some day, all of these issues will be “yesterday’s news” for the average Mormon. Today, however, it’s still headline news for the majority.

    P.S.S. Just for the record, I don’t believe that there’s anything I’ve covered on my blog/podcast that hasn’t been covered AD NAUSEUM in the bloggernacle, and here on BCC. Some might argue that the bloggernacle feeds on controversy — so I’m not sure if you see yourself and BCC as part of the controversy equation.

    I certainly do — but again — only in a positive light.

  69. 1950s?? How about 2007.
    Today, anyone can walk into church-owned Deseret Book and find these “Mormon doctrines” in McConkie’s Mormon Doctrine:

    – Blacks are inferior (physically and spiritually) to whites.
    Marriage between blacks and persons of any other group is condemned by God.
    – Race-based castes and racial segregation are of divine origin.
    – Cain and Ham were cursed with black skin; the curses were passed to their posterity, and all black Africans are descended from Cain and Ham.

    Hate speech it is, part of our past it is, and thanks to Deseret Book management, part of our present it still is.

  70. Steve Evans says:


    First, the Black Panthers didn’t really come into their own until after Martin Luther King’s assassination. And I wouldn’t lump them in with Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam….

    Anyhow, you say that you want the Church “to once and for all get this stuff out on the table, and to deal with it more directly.” I have no idea what you mean by this. It is my experience that when people talk about “this stuff” that they want the Church to deal with, it’s chiefly a way of complaining about their own pet historical issues. It is unlikely that such people have any realistic idea of a) what the issues are or b) what needs to be done to “deal with it.”

    Be that as it may, I think you are mistaken if you believe that Bill Maher’s spouting of oft-quoted antimormon factoids will be some sort of catalyst for change within the Church. Enemies of the Church have been throwing out weird BY quotes and anachronisms since time immemorial. The only difference is that now some church members are acting in the same way as our enemies.

  71. John,
    Your Bushman interview was superb.

    Amen. We should be ahead of the curve. On matters of race, I believe Joseph was.

    Reading Petersen’s comments, and realising how far we have come since then, leads me to believe that no-one in our generation should be surprised if, in the future, the church departs from other deeply held social views.

  72. Steve Evans says:

    P.S. I would think twice before speaking for Richard Bushman.

  73. Antonio, prejudice and bias are very difficult things to work out of any group of people. Most people on the earth are carrying around some kind of bias, even if they know how to talk the talk, so to speak.

    It’s interesting to me that Brigham Young had such an issue with intermarriage, particularly with intermarriage with blacks. Quite frankly, I’ll bet it would be a MAJOR reality check for many so-called enlightened people (LDS or not) if a son/daughter showed up on the doorstep with a black fiance or a black date. I wish that weren’t the case. There are some levels of prejudice/bias that are very easy to hide. But if you want to really test for these a person for bias or prejudice, interracial dating/courtship/marriage can bring them out pretty quickly.

  74. Anonymous, it is my understanding that Deseret Book will not be continuing their publication of MoDoc and consequently not be caring it.

  75. Was there really much opportunity for intermarriage in 19th century Utah?

  76. This gets to my original concern about Romney’s candidacy, which is that these things would get drug out for public display. The Evangelical’s dislike for us will probably be a real dividing influence. This is all typical of the Karl Rove school of politics, which is to define your opponents in unflattering terms before they can define themselves. I’ve read some of Maher’s published work (one step up from a coloring book, if I recall), and he has nothing kind to say about any religion, and is very demeaning to religious people in general who allow themselves to be deceived by their leaders.

    It has been mostly overlooked, although I believe one earlier post did mention it, but our congregation by geography makes us one of the least segrated Christian churches in America today. MLK described the Southern Baptists of the 60’s as the taillights of the civil rights movement, rather than the headlights. We’ve come pretty far over the last fifty years. The “policy” statements of Mark E. Peterson, Bruce McKonkie, and others were common fixtures of my childhood.

    I don’t think that Romney has much of a chance, mostly because of the mormon issue, but also becuase of his public policy changes on abortion and other social issues. Unfortunately, anything he says about the church will be seen through a lens of saying what he needs to say to be elected. We’re still mostly defined by others, and perhaps Romney’s candidacy will force us to deal with some of these issues. Meanwhile, we are in for a rough ride.

  77. Hey Steve,

    You make fair points. We’ll see.

    Also, the Black Panthers were founded in 1966, and MLK was assassinated in 1968. I do think that the Black Panthers had an important influence on bringing more attention/pressure to the civil rights struggle. Not exactly sure the point you are making there.

    Finally, I’m not speaking for Bushman, as much as I am trying to paraphrase what he, himself, said on my podcast. To me, he was clear on this point: our inability as a church to effectively and openly deal with many of these issues has caused many people in the church unnecessary pain. You can attack me for this position — but I’m certainly not alone in this perspective, and I do think that Bushman and I agree on this point.

    Finally, if you think Bushman was not saying this, I’d love to learn what you think he was saying.

  78. “Was there really much opportunity for intermarriage in 19th century Utah?”

    Actually, yes. Intermarriage between fourth generation Americans and Scandinavian immigrants. They called it “prairie fever.”

  79. 14:

    Sorry, Peter — I don’t think that we get an “out” for Brigham’s racism by pointing to the fact that there were lots of other racists during his day. A church that professes to be the ~only~ true Church on the face of the earth, with a prophet who is the ~only~ person on the planet who is authorized to receive universal revelation from God, must be held to a standard higher than society’s lowest common denominator. (I thought the whole idead of following a prophet was the notion that he had more inspiration than the rank and file.)


    I find it distressing that anyone could attempt to justify Brigham’s or Mark E. Pederson’s or whoever’s racism by pointing to the general climate of the times. For crying out loud, we are supposed to be ~inspired~ — at least as inspired as the “gentiles” and “unbelievers” around us, many of whom had already figured out that you don’t judge a person by race, but by the content of their characters.


    You misunderstand. I’m not defending Brother Young’s comments, merely pointing out the obivous–Mayer’s selective criticism is disingenuous.

    That aside, I’m not sure what is to be gained by removing Young and his ideas from their context and passing anachronistic judgment. It certainly doesn’t make Brigham any more or less of a prophet.

  80. cj douglass says:

    I think an issue people have with declaring BY a racist(not that I have a problem with it) is that they equate racism with sin. In fact, I equate it as a grevious sin. It’s difficult for some to see how the church could be Christ’s church with such men leading it. Not that they have to be infallible but shouldn’t they have possessed a little understanding of how God views His children? Could they not understand the most basic principle of the gospel: that all are equal and Gods children. In addition, we hear and learn of these men in our Sunday meetings and apparently most of them were racists. It’s this dychotomy that is so hard for people to wrap their faith around. So, they just say, “The prophets can’t be racists and be led by Christ at the same time, so their attitudes must be somehow ok.” It’s one thing to read about polygamy or Joseph Smith looking through magic glass. It’s another thing to hear that revered Prophets couldn’t even see beyond someones skin color. The feelings of the spirit can be so strong confirming that this is Christ’s church and yet the facts are the facts. It’s this dychotomy that has caused so many so much pain. Sometimes I wonder if I can endure it.

  81. “P.S. I would think twice before speaking for Richard Bushman.”

    What are you trying to say? Do you think twice before speaking for Bushman, or Pres Hinckley, or Joseph Smith, or Nephi?

    Can John not interpret Bushman based on several hours of conversations with him without being told that he needs to think twice?

    By the way, I thought not twice, but thrice, before speaking for John Dehlin.

  82. doug fabrizio says:


    are you or were you down in UT county?

  83. 72:

    We should be ahead of the curve. On matters of race, I believe Joseph was.

    Thus spake Bushman:

    Joseph advocated taking the gospel to “both bond and free,” ignoring race. An essay against abolitionsim published over his name in 1836 (a year when fear of abolitionism was at its peak) exhibited the conventional prejudices of his day in asserting that blacks were cursed with servitude by a “decree of Jehovah,” but there was no follow-up. That spring, the house rules for the Kirtland Temple, the Saint’s most sacred building, allowed for the presence of “male or femal bond or free black or white.” The same policy was followed at Nauvoo…. Nothing was done during Joseph’s lifetime to withhold priesthood from black members. Joseph knew Elijah Able, a black man who was ordained at seventy…he came out strongly against slavery…. He favored a policy of “national Equalization,” though he retained the common prejudices against intermarriage and blending of the races. When he ran for U.S. president in 1844, he made compensated emancipation a plank in his platform. He urged the nation to “ameliorate the condition of all: black or white, bond or free; for the best of books says, ‘God hath made of one blood all nations of men, for to dwell on all the face of the earth.'”

    Those Mormons–damned if they do, damned if they don’t. Too progressive for the 19th century, too conservative for the 21st. Maybe that’s why the church did so well in the 20th.

  84. Ronan said: “Reading Petersen’s comments, and realising how far we have come since then, leads me to believe that no-one in our generation should be surprised if, in the future, the church departs from other deeply held social views.”


    Do not think for a minute that the good citizens of the Bloggernacle of Yesteryear did not passionately defend the views of Elders Peterson or McConkie on this issue, or Young and Taylor on Polygamy, with the same degree of earnestness and good will that the citizens of the Bloggernacle of Today defend the views of Elders Oaks, Wickman, Packer, etc.

  85. 76: Was there really much opportunity for intermarriage in 19th century Utah?

    Connell ODonovan has a recent article in The John Whitmer Historical Association Journal (Vol 26, 2006) called “The Mormon priesthood ban and Elder Q. Walker Lewis: ‘an example for his more whiter brethren and to follow” (pp48-100).

    It has some fascinating new information about Walker Lews, an early black member of the church and priesthood holder. This paragraph provides a good summary of the article and gives one example of early Mormon miscegenation:

    From pages 48-49:
    “Further genealogical research into Lewis and his relatives was even more exciting — his large and extremely influential family is perhaps the best documented African-American family, partly due to their critical role in Massachusetts’ abolitionist politics. Walker Lewis himself was literate, educated, upper–middle class (at least by African American standards of the day), and well-connected socially and politically. Laboring his whole life as a very successful barber, Lewis was a radical abolitionist, a prominent organizer of and participant in the Underground Railroad, a Most Worshipful Grand Master of Freemasonry, one of two — or possibly three — free black man known to hold a higher Mormon priesthood in the 1840s, and he almost became a Mormonism’s first and only black polygamist. Despite his abiding faith in Mormonism and acquaintance with and influence among the highest rank of LDS leaders, racism ultimately prevailed in the LDS Church. The inter-racial marriage of his Mormon son to a white Mormon woman so infuriated Brigham Young when he learned of it at the end of 1847 that he wished to have the newlywed couple murdered, and soon thereafter young instigated a complete priesthood ban against all men with any African ancestry at all (and a temple ordinance bans against both black men and women). In February 1852, under pressure from young, Utah’s first governor, the very first territorial Legislature passed a law prohibiting all sexual relations between consenting Africans and white people (whether married or not), accompanied by severe criminal punishment. Pointedly, Young stumped for — and the Legislature passed — this racist law during the half-year that Elder Lewis happened to be in Utah.”

    A weakness of the article is its lack of support (even in footnotes) for the claim that BY “wished to have the newlywed couple murdered.” I’d like to be able to evaluate the data he used to support the conclusion.
    The author has posted the article online at: http://people.ucsc.edu/~odonovan/elder_walker_lewis.html

  86. Steve Evans says:

    John, I haven’t listened to your podcasts, which I understand are superb.

    A central problem with applauding Maher and his ilk is that we then enter an arena where the topics of discussion and the parameters for debate are set by enemies of the church. I believe that engaging Maher’s topics is a no-win scenario, similar to many discussions with antagonistic non-members about the tricky points of mormon history. Believing members have little chance for success (however defined) and much opportunity to be ridiculed, and that’s not something I particularly enjoy.

    Maher’s heckling can raise important issues, which I think Ronan has quite excellently brought to light. It’s vital that we come to an understanding about them and move forward in our faith. But I am extremely reluctant to give more publicity and attention to such attention-seeking hacks.

  87. Steve Evans says:

    Matt Thurston: “Do you think twice before speaking for Bushman, or Pres Hinckley, or Joseph Smith, or Nephi?”


  88. My apologies. Bruce R, McConkie. I get to thinking faster than I can type.

    RE # 81. It’s not as difficult for me to see how the church could be Christ’s church with men leading it who hold ideas that turn out to be wrong. Part of having a lay ministry pretty much guarantees that you will have somebody saying something they regret later on.

    Even McConkie had the courage to admit that he and others had been wrong about the policy on blacks and the priesthood. Eugene England’s essay, “Why the Church is as True as the Gospel” highlights the good that comes our of this. All of us have chances both to potentially be offended or take issue with our leaders, and probably also have the opportunity to be the leader that offends someone else with our own stupid comments. I know that I have been on both sides of that particular divide myself. I could kick myself both for statements and actions that I have made in various callings, and I think it makes me more tolerant of those things in others.

    I really don’t like seeing this dirty laundry aired in public, but perhaps, as one of the commentators said after Stephanopoulis’ comments about Romney, maybe we are going through this because Romney is the first Mormon candidate, just as JFK was the first Catholic candidate, Joe Lieberman and Judaism, etc. Interesting to note, though, that when Romney’s father ran for the presidency, the Church’s policies did not seem to gather that much interest. His downfall came from other comments, most notably that he was “brainwashed” on a fact finding tour of Vietnam. I don’t recall the church’s policy on race, or the specter of polygamy, being that much of an issue then, but then I was only a young teenager.

  89. “Bloggernacle of Yesteryear”

    Someone needs to take this idea and build a t-shirt around it.

  90. Steve (#88),

    Good. I’m sure John does too.

  91. A weakness of the article is its lack of support (even in footnotes) for the claim that BY “wished to have the newlywed couple murdered.”

    An understatement, Stirling!

  92. [HP, It needs a big pic of Lyle on the front.]

  93. Steve Evans says:

    Matt (#91),

    Why does this thread feel like something out of Junior High?

  94. Steve (#88),
    But in our secret BCC meetings, you are never shy to talk on behalf of God.

  95. Ronan, you and me. Boanerges.

  96. Stirling, I might have found a footnote in that article that provides a source for that information about Brigham Young. It’s footnote #114, which leads to this:

    Minutes of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, December 3, 1847, 6, Miscellaneous Minutes, Brigham Young papers, LDS archives, as quoted in Quinn, Origins of Power, p. 478 and Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power, p. 247 and 532, note 145.

    I need to go back, get the actual quote that has the footnote and see if that is helpful or not. Maybe someone has this source and can tell us if it says anything relevant to the topic?

  97. Steve: Why does this thread feel like something out of Junior High?

    Matt (looking up at the Junior High Principal and pointing at Steve): But he started it.

  98. (89)”Even McConkie had the courage to admit that he and others had been wrong about the policy on blacks and the priesthood.”

    Kevin, McConkie’s August 18, 1978 “All Are Alike Unto God Speech” was important: “Forget everything that I have said…or whosoever has said in days past that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world.”
    But, oddly, when he revised Mormon Doctrine the following year, he removed the book’s claim that blacks could not hold the priesthood, but he retained the rest of book’s negative teachings about blacks (some of which are referred to in 70 above, others in this BCC post)
    I wonder what explains the inconsistency.

  99. Here’s the paragraph with that footnote #114 in it:

    The enraged Brigham Young, having read Appleby’s letter concerning the Lewis family with his questions about conformity to doctrine and practice and hearing Appleby’s personal report, must have rued the fact that just nine months earlier, he had praised Walker Lewis as one of the best Elders in the entire church and had told McCary that it wasn’t ancestral blood that prohibited priesthood ordination. Confronted with the knowledge that Walker’s son had legally mixed his black blood with that of a white Mormon, just as McCary had done polygamously, Young then met privately with the apostles present (Heber C. Kimball, Willard Richards, Orson Pratt, Wilford Woodruff, George A. Smith, Ezra T. Benson, Amasa Lyman, and Erastus Snow). There, Young confided to them that he would have both Enoch Lovejoy Lewis and his wife Matilda killed if they were far away from the Gentiles, instead of in Massachusetts.[114] Certainly the Danites might have been successful in covertly carrying out this execution in Missouri, Illinois, or Nebraska, but not in Boston or Lowell, under a public magnifying glass in a hotbed of abolitionist activism.

    By the way, this is the first time I’ve ever read a specific explanation of events that would lead to Brigham Young banning blacks from receiving the priesthood. Whether this account is true or not, I don’t know for sure. But it sounds plausible so far.

  100. Re: Comment 87


    I totally understand and empathize with your concerns. I share many of them (my brother has really helped me on this count as well). This is indeed a painful problem. Very complex.

    As an example, for every 100 emails I receive for my podcast, thanking me for helping folks work through their longstanding issues with Mormonism, there is always a handful that emails me to let me know that I actually introduced them to the problems. I get sick to my stomach whenever this happens — because, as you state, there are real risks. I imagine that BCC does the same thing from time to time.

    I once had a BYU professor (Vandergraff, I believe) tell us that our testimonies needed to become more like jackhammers (dividing challenges asunder) than like soap bubbles (to be protected in the palms of our hands).

    Perhaps we’re all doing our part in this regard. BCC does introduce thousands and thousands of LDS folk each year to issues that they otherwise might never have heard of, as does my podcast. To some degree, we’re doing something similar to that of Maher or Southpark — though hopefully in a more safe/secure environment.

    In my mind, the more that we can demonstrate to the struggling that folks like us EXIST (who know all the issues, and remain active/faithful) — perhaps the more that we can help move people from the soap bubble to the jackhammer state.

    This post is a fine example of that — and I applaud you and all the others for it. I don’t mean to applaud Maher or Southpark as heroes for their disrespect. But I do feel like the sooner we can cut out the tumor (and publicity forces this issues), the less pain we will have to deal with (hopefully) in the long run.

    Thanks for allowing the conversation. I share your ambivalence. I was not trying to hold Maher up as a hero or anything. I’m just trying to see the silver lining in the cloud.

  101. cj douglas (#81): It’s one thing to read about polygamy or Joseph Smith looking through magic glass. It’s another thing to hear that revered Prophets couldn’t even see beyond someones skin color.

    Ummm… you do know that the original 12 apostles would be considered racists by today’s standards right? They could not stand the idea of preaching to gentiles. It took a powerful revelation to knock some sense into them.

    I wonder how you’re going to be able to endure that.

  102. Um, yeah, this is why I hate Mormon Doctrine and the Journal of Discourses. Those books have been quoted as ‘doctrine’ for WAY too long, I hope they die a horrible death soon. Interestingly, my husbands mission prez (an institute director at Idaho State – ? – I believe) always railed against those books and would tell his missionaries not to read them, quote from them, or ever consider them as reliable sources of doctrine (title notwithstanding).

    I have to say, in past wards (deep in the heart of texas) that are COMPLETLY white (in towns that are 100 percent white) these crazy ideas are still believed. I think, in general, the actual church is doing a good job of moving away from it (Pres. Hinckleys recent talk was a start to actually addressing these attitudes ‘out in the open’), and I believe, mostly, younger generations (like myself) who didn’t grow up with McConkie and Peterson etc definitly don’t believe such craziness.

  103. cj douglass says:

    I feel what you’re saying. It’s just that racism is no small mistake. That Peterson quote makes my skin crawl. The prophets being wrong about this issue, to me begs the question, did they ever read the scriptures? Like I said, there are mistakes and then there are MISTAKES. Transplant me back to pre 1978 and I’m not a member of this church. I couldn’t handle it. Thanks God for the very powerful Holy Ghost. Sorry, just blowing off some steam.

  104. I once had a BYU professor (Vandergraff, I believe) tell us that our testimonies needed to become more like jackhammers (dividing challenges asunder) than like soap bubbles (to be protected in the palms of our hands).

    Nice analogy. Really. I like that.

  105. cj douglass says:

    The Jews not associating with the Gentiles, I beleive, was the will of God for hundreds of years. This apparently was a mistake, unless you believe otherwise.

  106. Danithew, 97, 100. Thanks, I see I missed that in the fourth reference to that marriage, there is a footnote. This does appear to have data supporting the statement. I may have notes on the minutes of that Quorum of the 12 meeting, and I’ll try to find them. In the meantime, I apologize for my criticism at the end of 86.

  107. cj douglass says:

    This apparently was a mistake, unless you believe otherwise.

    This – meaning the attitudes about race.

  108. MikeInWeHo says:

    The issues raised in this post remind me of some of the historical problems the Catholics have needed to address: the Inquisition, treatment of Galileo, behavior in Europe during WWII, etc. Given how long it took them to come clean with their history (and how much worse it all is), the LDS are doing great by comparison. There sure is a long way to go, though.

    Revising the intro page to the BoM would be a good start. How problematic that it contains a clear factual inaccuracy (“…PRINCIPLE ancestors…”). I just don’t see how you can get around that. Make that change and ditch the PoGP facimiles somehow: voila, you’ve taken a lot of steam out of the DAMU.

  109. Stirling, no worries at all. I’m very interested to see what the minutes actually say on the matter, assuming they are available in the cited sources.

  110. RE # 99

    Stirling, Yeah, I was aware of that. I am not a big fan of any edition of MD for that very reason. I prefer to give BRM the benefit of the doubt. Trying to delve into whatever process was involved in the changes in MD just is going to make me angry or sad. I haven’t opened that book for years, just because of that paradox.

    One could still read certain passages in the PGP and think that there was something there. However, I prefer the very non-ambiguous “thus saith the Lord” stature of the 1978 revelation. To that extent, I believe BRM really meant what he said in his statement. Maybe some lesser luminary did the editing. I’d like to verify that Deseret Book is really not carrying MD anymore.

  111. cj douglas (#106, 108): The Jews not associating with the Gentiles, I beleive, was the will of God for hundreds of years. This apparently was a mistake, unless you believe otherwise.

    Ok, I’m confused by your comment and the clarification in #108 didn’t help. Do you think the Jewish attitude toward non-Jews was the will of God or not? (I get the feeling you are saying the attitude they had was a man-made mistake but I can’t tell for sure.)

  112. the Inquisition

    um, yeah, I am currently reading through the Malleus Maleficarum, and yeah. Dark stuff.

  113. I just checked the Deseret Book website, and they still sell paperback copies of McConkie’s Doctrine there.

  114. …But I like bubbles they are soo pretty…

  115. cj douglass says:

    Sorry for the confusion. I was saying that the Jews attitudes toward gentiles were more legit considering God played a part in seperating them in the first place. In fact Christ told them not to teach the Gentiles and then later that they should. I can understand better their confusion. Though you are right that they still might be considered racists by todays standards, in my mind they have a better excuse for their views and actions.

  116. Well, You can still buy MD at Deseret book

  117. … But I prefer the sledgehammer…

    reminds me of a song I once heard. (Sorry about the double i hit the enter button prematurely!)

  118. DB will carry _Mormon Doctrine_ until they are out of stock, as I understand it. Then it will be replaced by a multi-authored volume. Still, that means every copy on the shelves will be sold before the book gets replaced. I KNOW that Helen Whitney (maker of the upcoming PBS documentary on Mormons) has a copy.
    I’m skipping a lot of comments because I teach momentarily, but we should note that this morning on the Today show, a Black woman brought up the LDS past again when Romney’s name was raised. (She talked about the fact that peior to 1978, she was considered “cursed” by the LDS Church.) I’ve been hearing replays of the soundbite on the radio, and Darius Gray has been invited to KSL studio to respond.
    The issue is not going away. Romney’s run for president actually gives us an opportunity to really confront it.

  119. I suspect that there are those who comment here who would rail against one who generations ago restricted his teaching and ministry to just one tribe, saying that he was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

    It’s awfully easy to export our 21st century notions of right and wrong to an earlier day, and condemn those who don’t measure up. If any of us has a clear understanding of the mind of God in 1850, or 1954 for that matter, I’d be anxious to hear from him or her. Frankly, though, I’m not convinced by the argument: “Surely God couldn’t have . . . .” The unspoken parenthetical in that sentence–it goes right before “couldn’t” is “(Who surely is at least as enlightened as I am)”.

  120. Are there issues that need to be dealt with? YES.

    Is Maher likely to make an impact? Probably not.

    Will Romney get the GOP nod? Who knows.

    Are politics dirty? You betcha. (That is a sad unfortunate fact that needs to be changed in the future.)

  121. I include Quinn’s notes on the Dec. 3 1847 meeting below. ODonovan did support the text I called out.

    These are the quotes from O’Donovan’s article:

    “The inter-racial marriage of his Mormon son to a white Mormon woman so infuriated Brigham Young when he learned of it at the end of 1847 that he wished to have the newlywed couple murdered, and soon thereafter Young instigated a complete priesthood ban against all men with any African ancestry at all (and a temple ordinance ban against both black men and women).” [no footnote, but this is in the intro, and is discussed later]

    “Elizabeth Lovejoy Lewis gave birth to their first child, a son, Enoch Lovejoy Lewis, on May 20, 1826. This son would also join the LDS Church in the 1840s and enrage Brigham Young for his inter-racial marriage to a white Mormon.” [no footnote here, either, so it would have been helpful to have a pointer to the later discussion, in case someone doesn’t re-read the whole article prior to posting and then ends up embarrassed for missing a later footnote and discussion]

    “…Young confided to them that he would have both Enoch Lovejoy Lewis and his wife Matilda killed “if they were far away from the Gentiles,” instead of in Massachusetts. FN 114.”

    Then, FN 114 refers to the “Minutes of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, December 3, 1847, 6, Miscellaneous Minutes, Brigham Young papers, LDS archives, as quoted in Quinn, Origins of Power, p. 478 and Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power, p. 247 and 532, note 145.”

    Quinn’s files are in the Yale Beinecke Manuscript library. This is what Quinn typed regarding those minutes (the “sics” and other comments are his):

    “Minutes of Public & Private Meetings (Dec 2-Dec 7, 1847)” Meeting of Apostles

    –MS, 16 pages handwritten, in d 1234, Misc. Miutes, Brigham Young Paers, HDC

    6-7 (Dec 3, 1847): “Part of minutes of an evening meeting of the Apostles.
    “bro Appleby relates bro Waldo’s charge agst. Bro Bates. He considered both parties in the wrong, but rectified it & made peace
    “Wm. Smith ordained a black man Elder at Lowell & he has married a white girl & they have a child
    “Prest. Young If they were far away from the Gentiles they wod. all on [sic] to be killed – when they mingle seed it is death to all. If a black man & white woman come to you & demand baptism can you deny them? the law is their seed shall not be amalgamated. Mulattoes r/sic/like mules they can’t have children, but if they will be Eunuch for the Kingdom of God’s [“God’s has a line through it] Heaven’s sake they may have a place in the Temple.
    “B.Y. The Lamanites r[sic] purely of the house of Israel & it is a curse that is to be removed when the fulness of the Gospel comes.
    “O.H. Has taught that if girls marry the half breeds they r [sic] throwing themselves away & becoming as one of them
    “B.Y. it is wrong for them to do so. [p. 7]
    “B.Y. The Pottawatamies will not own a man who has the negro blood in him–that is the reason why the Indians disown the negro Prophet.”

  122. “The unspoken parenthetical in that sentence–it goes right before “couldn’t” is “(Who surely is at least as enlightened as I am)”.”

    Oh, don’t worry, Mark–none of us around here thinks God is as enlightened as you are!


  123. Stirling, I’m not reading Brigham to be saying they should be murdered. But I am a bit confused by the structure of the phrase. Do you have a reading?

  124. “Reading these past comments by prominent LDS leaders, I’m even more relieved that Spencer W. Kimball helped the church to turn the corner.”

    I wouldn’t exactly hold up Spencer W. Kimball as a model of racial understanding. His heart was probably in the right place, but he had some extremely strange ideas about race.

  125. This is really some strange reading and some strange ideas. It’s the first part of what Brigham Young seems to be saying that concerns me.

    “If they were far away from the Gentiles they wod. all on [sic] to be killed – when they mingle seed it is death to all.:

  126. cj (#116): Though you are right that they still might be considered racists by todays standards, in my mind they have a better excuse for their views and actions.

    So then you get into all sorts of problems. Is racism ok if God allows over even supports it? You said in #81 “I equate [racism] as a grevious sin.” Yet by today’s standards Jesus himself would be called a racist. Are you willing to hold BY and others to a higher standard than Jesus adhered to during his ministry?

    Here is what you said about BY and other former church leaders in that comment:

    Not that they have to be infallible but shouldn’t they have possessed a little understanding of how God views His children? Could they not understand the most basic principle of the gospel: that all are equal and Gods children.

    Are you including Jesus and the original apostles in this indictment? If not then you are apparently applying a double standard.

    Look, I’m not defending the wrongheaded ideas that Brigham or Elder Peterson held. I’m just pointing out that your sweeping logic also indicts Jesus himself.

  127. Re: 127

    “I’m just pointing out that your sweeping logic also indicts Jesus himself.”

    Either that, or it indicts the prejudices of those who produced and translated the Bible.

    When what I feel or know to be true is contradicted by scripture — I tend to question the scripture. Given the 8th article of faith, I feel like Mormonism allows for this — even with the Book of Mormon (given the many changes made there, along with all that was left out).

    I still hold the scriptures to be sacred and inspired, mind you — just that they are also flawed (to some degree).

    I like to keep Jesus and God pure in my mind…vs. blaming them for the prejudices and mistakes of man.

  128. Whatever floats yer boat John. But there is plenty of evidence that Jesus did not live up to the 21st century moral code we like to project upon him. For instance, Ronan posted on the fact that Jesus and his disciples never condemned slavery in the records either. I’m not saying that is a good thing — I am simply saying that we ought to be careful with our sweeping judgments.

  129. cj douglass says:

    I think you’re right. Though I don’t look at “don’t preach to the gentiles” and “don’t give blacks the priesthood” as the the same thing, I am being a little sweeping with my comments.

  130. J Stapley (124), of pages 6-7 of the original manuscript, Quinn only typed up a portion of the text in his notes (he appears to have typed out all of some of the subsequent pages). It appears he transcribed all the text related to the Lewis matter. I’d still like to see the copy of the original manuscript. Anyone know if it is available in the DVD set of early church documents?

    What to make of this text, “Prest. Young If they were far away from the Gentiles they wod. all on [sic] to be killed – when they mingle seed it is death to all…”

    I hesitate to draw any conclusions given my lack of the ful context, the ambiguous nature of the quote, it’s third-hand nature, etc.
    However, I think it’s reasonable for ODonovan to interpret the statement as an indication of a deadly animus towards miscegenation.
    Note that about 10 years later George Q. Cannon was writing that “illicit intercourse” should be “punished with death.”

  131. I just watched the Today Show segment, with former Secretary of Defense William Cohen, and his wife. They were on mostly to discuss their interracial marriage, but talk turned to the 2008 election, and Matt Lauer said that it was interesting to see that both a woman and a black were serious candidates for president. Cohen added :and a mormon”, to which his wife brought up the comment about blacks being cursed until 1978, that God didn’t listen to her prayers. Her husband then said, “but we’re talking about before 1978”. Lauer then turned the discussion elsewhere.

    It’s not going away.

  132. Thanks for your perspective, Stirling. I think you are right that it could be interpreted that way, but I think it is far from unequivocal.

    Selected Collections has no minutes of the Twelve and USU gave back to the family, Arrington’s notes and transcripts. They are obviously verbotten at the LDS Archives.

  133. Geoff,

    Yeah. Sweeping judgments are bad. I agree.

    I just hate to see God and scripture used to justify evil. It happens so often. If the scriptures seem to support evil — then we shouldn’t be afraid to discount them as fallible. Otherwise we continue the evil — in God’s name, nonetheless.

    And believe me — 16th through 21st century folk have used all sorts of scriptures to justify all sorts of evil. Better to question the scripture. This is where modern-day prophets (can) really come in handy.

    That’s all I was saying.

  134. Re: Comment 132


    Do you have a link?

  135. 127-130, plus or minus a few:

    Jesus was a Jew, raised as a Jew with exposure to the tribe-focussed writings of the time (presumably, as he appears to be learned). I don’t have a problem with the idea that he needed to grow into his calling and had to learn certain principles as he went along.

    Let’s remember though, that Jesus was a radical force for wiping away barriers (ethnic, gender, disease, etc.) between people. Many of his miracles were performed for gentiles, his recorded preachings were sometimes to gentiles (the Samaritan woman at the well, for example), and his followers would soon take to heart the radical new concept that “God is no respecter of persons.”

  136. Sue (#125) said: “I wouldn’t exactly hold up Spencer W. Kimball as a model of racial understanding. His heart was probably in the right place, but he had some extremely strange ideas about race.”

    Agreed. Read Miracle of Forgiveness for Pres Kimball’s insights into interracial marriage.

    Speaking of the 1978 revelation, was it Elder Petersen (or someone else?) who insisted that an Ensign article (or was it a news bulletin?) include some kind of statement that discouraged interracial marriage to accompany the statement or announcement of the reversal of the Priesthood ban? Does anyone have that story or source?

  137. Link to Today Show broadcast:


    Click on the “Launch” button in the insert to the print excerpt.

  138. From my understanding, and this is just from a reliale source, Bruce R. McConkie was told specifically not to write Mormon Doctrine, and that the church leadership at the time disavowed any (and, I beleive, still does) relationship to the book. A little research may uncover more on that.

  139. Angus, the wikipedia entry for Bruce R. McConkie sheds a little light on the Mormon Doctrine kerfuffle…


    I’m sure there is probably more to the story…

  140. I wonder how far we’re willing to take this business about how the Church’s supposed responsibility to be “ahead of the curve.”

    Apparently, church leaders are supposed to immediately embrace any new light or truth that comes forth, regardless of the consequences of embracing that theory or the degree to which the theory bucks the conventional wisdom. So, if President Hinckley takes a trip in a sport utility vehicle, does that mean that he is rejecting Global Warming and, therefore, is not a true prophet?

    If some scientist figures out how to grow new human hearts from stem cells, but cardiologist/Apostle Russell M. Nelson advises against using this technology until it can be further tested and evaluated–can we then go through our Ensigns and cross out any articles he’s written that we don’t happen to agree with without giving them any additional thought?

    As someone with unique access to the light, truth, and knowledge of God, shouldn’t the prophet/apostles be coming out with all sorts of new inventions that will eliminate the problems facing humanity? Should I leave the church because M. Russell Ballard doesn’t hold a patent on a commercially viable hydrogen vehicle?

  141. Angus, you can also see Prince’s David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism.

    It’s not as easy as saying the Church did or did not avow any relationship to the book. There are examples of both avowal and disavowal, depending on time, edition, and point of view of the Church representative. DOM and JFS obviously had different opinions of the book, and both represented the Church at its highest office at one time or another.

  142. Interesting ideas, but the main thing I take from Maher’s words is this rather simple message: Mormons are not well-perceived by most people. The main reason is NOT our funny underwear (Jews have ritual clothing as well, of course, as do Muslims); it’s the race issue. (Given Romney’s age, I would suspect that he taught the “extra” missionary discussion about why Blacks could not hold the priesthood, which was full of speculation and folklore–and that might well come up in some political interview.) But my main response is not to argue the points and compare 2007 with 33 AD, but to ask what we can to do heal the wounds in our past which still infect our particular role in the body of Christ.

  143. I think maybe the paradox is usefully illustrated in #125. President Kimball did indeed have some odd notions about race, but he nonetheless was the instrument of God working His will for the church at a time when we were ready. Throughout the scriptures we have deeply flawed prophets who manage to do important work for the Lord–think Moses (killed a man in a fight), David (adulterer, murderer), Paul, Alma (persecutors of Christians), etc. It shouldn’t be surprising that racist men can do good, even great things. The notion that some sort of supernatural purity and goodness is a prerequisite for being a prophet or president of the church is (in part, anyway) an unfortunate side effect of the sanitized biographies and history lessons we get from correlation and Deseret Book. It is neither scripturally founded nor doctrinally correct. It is also exceedingly unhelpful in building faith and testimony, as it results in anguish like that cj describes, which is completely unnecessary. (not to say that we shouldn’t feel some anguish over our church’s racial history–we should!! But it needn’t be an anguished belief that “real” prophets would have known better)

  144. Kristine, I couldn’t agree more. That’s what is great about the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible … it has plenty of muck there to show us that real people do and think great and terrible things.

  145. FYI, relative media visibility of different presidential candidates, ascertained by Google news searches of their last names and the word “presidential”:

    Hillary Clinton (possibly a modest undercount, since I used both names to filter out her husband) = 21,522
    Edwards = 12,555
    Giuliani = 7,291
    McCain = 12,551
    Obama = 22,017
    Romney = 7,241

    Romney’s media visibility is really relatively low, as these numbers show. This fits nicely with the polls, which show him as having very low name recognition. So far, most Americans simply aren’t aware of him at all; they certainly haven’t been following the debates at the margins of the media about whether a Mormon could or should be president.

    The real reason I’ve been told to expect Romney to be gone soon is that his elite backers have started to weaken on him. Some at the far right of the Republican party are wary of Giuliani and McCain, but the mainline of the party leadership is much less committed to a hardline conservative candidate, especially at this point in the Bush presidency. So Romney’s bad visibility, poor name recognition, and serious political liabilities (particularly his spectacularly public and contradictory record on the culture-war issues he’s now trying to run on, but also to a lesser degree his Mormonness) add up to sufficient reason for a professional to think about backing a more winning horse.

  146. Interesting comment, Jim (#141). We can certainly take this “ahead of the curve” thing too far. Still, I’m sensitive to some of the feelings expressed here that as the “true church,” with the only true prophet of God on earth, we should be a little “ahead of the curve” on something as important as discrimination against a whole race of people. I do want to cut them some slack as Kristine suggests in #144 and not worry that “they should have known better.”

    But when I hear them express such strong, unequivocal views on things like Gay Marriage, an area they ostensibly “do know better” or are “ahead of the curve,” it makes me a little less tolerant of the times when they didn’t know better or were behind the curve. (Or wonder if they really are ahead of the curve?) Sometimes I feel we want it both ways. When they “know better” it proves the Church is true; when the don’t know better, it just proves they are men, but the Church is still true.

    A few years ago I expressed similar wonder and bewilderment as Antonio in #68 (and others here have expressed) when I was responding to someone on an e-mail group who suggested the reason it took so long for the Priesthood Ban to be reversed was because the Saints (the Whites) weren’t ready for it. I said:

    “I have a tough time finding solace in this “the whites weren’t ready for it” argument/excuse. Please. Why should we have to wait for the whites to be ready for it? Why must we follow the “white” timetable? Heaven forbid the whites feel a little uncomfortable having to rub shoulders with blacks ahead of schedule. What would have happened if the ban had been reversed in 1968? Or 1958? Riots in the streets? Mass exodus of members? The members couldn’t humble themselves and accept blacks into the Priesthood in the 1960s, but they could humble themselves and accept plural marriage in the Puritanical and Victorian 1840s? Plural marriage was a WAY bigger leap of faith.

    “(And this argument that the blacks weren’t ready for it is just nonsense… not ready how? Not spiritual enough? Too much responsibility? It reminds me of same argument some whites used about not freeing the slaves, ‘they’re not ready to be free; they wouldn’t know how to take care of themselves.’)

    “The fact of the matter is the Church was *behind* the great and spacious building (secular society) on this issue. By 1978, the major Civil Rights battles had been more or less fought and decided. 1978 embarrasses me. As the Lord’s “true” Church, I’d expect it to be *ahead* of the curve. I’d expect the Church to set the example for the rest of the World, not follow it. For example, every time the Word of Wisdom comes up in class, someone always says, “see, this proves the Church is true… look how far ahead of the curve we were on recognizing the dangers of coffee, tea, tobacco, alcohol…” Who cares about coffee, tea, tobacco, and alcohol when a whole race of people are being discriminated against?

    “1978? Thanks for showing up.”

  147. Of interest, it looks like Romneys stock is increasing. Here is a presidential futures market link on Romney odds:

  148. Matt,

    I agree that comment 141 is interesting. There is no doubt many layers to this onion. Just an aside on the WoW. With research it actually proved to be a product of the times as well and many of the fad diets of the day. See the articles from Dialogue here and here

  149. My point is perception is often viewed to assimilate ones needs. Things are not always as they seem. We need to be sensitive to that fact.

  150. ryan #148, thanks for the link. The futures market is giving a marginal upgrade to Romney — but the bigger story is that the odds on him are pretty low, about 18%.

  151. Thanks Ben. I’ve read An Historical Analysis of the Word of Wisdom by Paul H. Peterson so I’m familiar with and accept the idea that the WoW is largely a product of Joseph’s 19th Century environment.

    I used the oft-repeated notion (one I hear in Sunday School and heard in Seminary) that the 20th Century findings re the negative aspects of tobacco and alcohol somehow proves our prophets are inspired and ahead of the times as a rhetorical device to frame the issue of the church’s discrimination against blacks. It was probably a bad example, but I meant to provoke some thinking on the matter.

    I think your comment in #150 is sage advice that can basically be applied to everything.

    Thanks for providing the links for people who are not familiar with the origins of the WoW.

  152. Romney has a tough road – he is a one term governor with his successor a democrat. Where is his electoral base? Utah? Idaho? Montana? Wyoming?Nevada? Certainly not MA given he is now posing as a more conservative candidate. Southern CA has more electoral weight than all of the intermountain states put together. Will he have the ballast ($$$) to compete in a republican primary where more large states will be holding their primaries earlier in the cycle? Can he raise the expected $100 million entry fee in the next 10 months? In a general election, which states can be ‘reasonably’ considered Romney states?

    The Romney campaign is more than a long shot for 2008 though it is a good innoculation exercise for 2012 or 2016.

  153. Eric Russell says:

    It seems the problem is partly just that we have distinct leaders whose words have been carefully recorded. Who was leading the Southern Baptist churches in the 1850’s? Didn’t they all own slaves? And when did churches in the deep south actually stop segregating? I’m not sure when, but it couldn’t have been too long ago. Just because other churches were a few decades ahead doesn’t mean they didn’t also have their race issues. The attention given to LDS history seems somewhat disingenuous.

  154. Regarding Mormon Doctrine being sold at DB — they also sell the Mormon equivalent of romance novels at DB. Doesn’t mean I should buy either one.

  155. Eric: Amen to that! There is no question that the holier than thou comments by evagelical christians on this issue are completely shot through with rank hipocrisy or just plain ignorance of their own history. The problem is that they can so easily disavow any history they choose because there is no “there” there, nothing to grasp. We bear the blessing and the curse of having a well- defined and documented leadership, so that any faults they had can be be put on display and used to define us.

    I also agree with Matt completely. We were late-comers to this issue. I suspect that all the arguments about not being ready are true in one respect: We (our leaders, the membership) just didn’t have the faith.

    BTW: speaking of the introduction to the BoM, the “real” introduction on the title page ends with this famous statement: “And now, if there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment seat of Christ.” I wonder why Moroni felt it necessary to end with that statement. Think he “saw our day?”

  156. Someone earlier wondered whether there would be so much anti-Mormon rhetoric if Mitt Romney were a Democrat. I would say unequivocally yes. The same tired material has been trotted out against Harry Reid–see, for example, this column.

  157. The futures market is giving a marginal upgrade to Romney — but the bigger story is that the odds on him are pretty low, about 18%.
    RT, 18% isn’t low at all for political futures 20 months out. Romney’s in third place among a list of 40 potential GOP nominees, and the two candidates ahead of him are trading at 34% and 27%.

    It’s ridiculous to argue that someone with very little name recognition being *only* the third most likely GOP nominee for president is a “big story” 20 months before the election. Give me a break.

    Obama is trading at 22% and was 17% just a week
    ago, for comparison, and he’s sitting number two.

    The BIG story is that Romney’s futures are trading at two and half times his polling numbers, showing that those who follow the election closely think Romney has the most upside. He’s the only candidate trading even close to that multiple.

    Multiples for major candidates (Tradesports futures divided by RealClearPolitics polling average):

    Romney —- 2.69 — (18.0 / 06.7)
    McCain —- 1.36 — (32.6 / 24.0)
    Clinton — 1.31 — (50.5 / 38.5)
    Obama —– 1.26 — (22.7 / 18.0)
    Edwards — 0.97 — (12.0 / 11.6)
    Giuliani — 0.81 — (32.3 / 26.1)
    Gore —— 0.69 — (10.4 / 07.2)
    Gingrich — 0.53 — (11.0 / 05.8)

  158. cj douglass says:

    I don’t think that not being a racist is that extraordinary even if that person lived in 19th century America. But I suppose it is healthier to subscribe to your kind of optimism. Thanks for your words.

  159. Kristine, I’m watching the skies for lightning because this will make it twice in one week that I’ve publicly agreed with you, but your comment 144 is one of the best I’ve read in a long time.

  160. The issue is not going away. Romney’s run for president actually gives us an opportunity to really confront it.

    Maher may not have the most tactful way of broaching the subject, but it will only get worse. If the race gets close, his opponents (probably through side channels) will make sure every voter knows about magic underwear, BY’s view on race, polygamy and sacrificing virgins in the SL Temple.

    I look forward to the national discussions this kind of talk brings out, we shouldn’t try to hide out past, instead we should be talking about it openly.

  161. PR and the Church

    Some of the poll numbers are disturbing that suggests that perhaps as many as 1/3 of Americans would refuse to vote for a Mormon.

    Yes JFK faced similiar issues nearly 50 years ago, and African-Americans have overcome similiar prejudices, but if anything our polling and anti-numbers seem to be getting worse with time. We barely beat out Muslims in terms of anti ratings which is hard to fathom given the religious-political wars and clash of civilizations going on today.

    I recognize the religious right despises us on many levels, but primarily based on our doctrine and our self-proclaimed exclusivity as the standard bearer for Truth. but I’m disturbed that walking down the street at least 1 out of 3 people hates me (my faith) and feel I (or all 12 million people of my faith) are incapable, untrustworthy, or otherwise ineligible to lead this country. Romney is an exceptional leader, proven business genius, and othewise incredible candidate for president.

    The high “anti-mormon” polling is a sad commentary of how prejudiced, biased, and misinformed our country is not just towards “Mormons” but also towards many other groups that are still disparaged, misunderstood and mistreated.

  162. This blog has had my mind whirling all day. I love having the truth and this was like being slpped in the face with it. It was almost painful at time. Thank you all for this test of fire.

    I posted a comment on A Motley Vision today which follows. I feel it also applies here on this blog. There are positives happening as well as the negatives around the subject of Mormonism right now.

    “I just picked up a copy of U.S. News & World Report’s special issue the “Mysteries of Faith, The Prophets”. Listing some of the prophets included inside on the front cover was Abraham, Moses, Elijah, Jesus, Paul, Muhammad and Joseph Smith. The section on Joseph was written by Robert V. Remini a emeritus professor of history from the University of Illinois. I have seen Professor Remini speak on Joseph before and he has a lot of respect for him. Even though the professor is not a Mormon, I have always wondered why not.

    It was refreshing to see Joseph mentioned prominently in the context of being a prophet and not as a sidebar. Also it was encouraging that the article was factual and to the point with very little editorial comment. The side bar for the article was on the Book of Mormon and had some interesting insights by Professor Remini.

    With Mitt Romany’s campaign putting the spot light on Mormonism, I feel optimistic about the Church taking its proper place among world religions. We need to praise the correct things said about the Church and counter the attacks with patience, long suffering, love and positive rebuttals.”

    I would like to add that we need to face our past with courage and be held accountable. Having said that, we also need to shine our bright future of bringing the fullness of the Gospel to a struggling world. We have made covenants to bear witness of God at all times and in all places.

  163. cj douglass says:

    Someone earlier wondered whether there would be so much anti-Mormon rhetoric if Mitt Romney were a Democrat. I would say unequivocally yes. The same tired material has been trotted out against Harry Reid–see, for example, this column.

    Actually Jim, I asked if Harry Reid would specifically recieve the same treatment from Bill Maher. Although he wouldn’t call himself a democrat, certainly Maher favors democrats over republicans and would not be attacking Reid the same way he attacks Mitt.

  164. I’ve been on both sides of the fence politically, usually switching for the Primary elections, but tend to lean Democrat.

    Of course, I would vote for a brother if, and only if, they uphold D&C 134.

  165. Would a lot of this go away if the Church just flat-out apologized for the racism in its past? Saying “We were wrong” is a lot more powerful than saying “That’s behind us.”

    Of course, that would raise serious questions. Could the Lord’s true Church have erred so profoundly? If it erred, does that prove it’s not really true (as the anti’s argue so effectively)? What does it mean to say “the Church is true” anyway?

    If Romney’s candidacy really takes off, the Church will face unparalleled media scrutiny. The extreme Christian right loves attention (more than it loves Christ, imo) and will leverage this quite effectively. It’s starting to happen already. I don’t know how to copy the link on cnn.com right now, but maybe somebody here can direct us to the video of the Christian heckler who confronted Romney in Florida just this week.

  166. Mike – I think you’re absolutely right. It seems to me, that for us to be the ‘one true church’, people equate that with perfection. I think it highly unrealistic to think that in the history of any church that there aren’t going to be mistakes. As far as I’m aware, we don’t subscribe to infallible leader doctrine, yet it seems to be often perpetuated.

  167. Thomas Parkin says:

    re: #144.

    This seems perfect, to me. I find my thoughts taking off and extending further: we are not ourselves unqualified for profound spiritual gifts and growth even though our own views may be, in a way conscious or unconscious, really wrong, or our character rather deeply flawed. We talk about sanctification by the Spirit – how can we be sanctified by the Spirit if we can’t receive the Spirit until after we are sanctified? As Paul says, where sin more abounds there grace also more abounds – which turns something in our usual way of thinking on its head. But I only think it means that there is help for our troubles, and the more profound our troubles the greater the help available if we can find it. (And we find it through living the gospel – that is, by making and trying with all our heart to keep our covenants with the Lord. The more our hearts want to turn to God, the more grace can be afforded us, the more the Spirit can work with us to transform us to some degree. When we harden our hearts, for any cause, they become unfertile soil, then we begin to fail the test as we lose grace. Err we are aware, we are left to oursleves … )

    And why would this not apply to the church as well as to individuals? (For the same reasons: that we collectively place our own will above God’s will?)We might be presented spotless as a church at some future date – but that time isn’t now. For now, we have to live with the fact of our flaws, some of which might be quite profound and deeply deeply difficult.

    A couple days back I was reading an account of years, weeks and days that Pres. Kimball went through prior to the revelation on the Priesthood. What struck me most was his fear of being wrong – and of wanting only to do the right thing. That fear my have itself had a blinding ray – but he had to not only deal with his own fears, but those of the other leaders of the church, of the membership of the church, and of the ramifications of those decisions in the world. I have to say I haven’t really every felt a great deal of appreciation or love for Pres. Kimball – he said a lot of things that at times I’ve found very inconvinient – but I’m starting to love him now. It now seems a fine things to me that it was through him that the Lord removed that awful canker from the church.

    And because I can see this in my own life – that God has worked with me and through me in spite of serious flaws in my view of things, and that He continues to work with me in spite of the fact that some of my views – however diffficult this is for me to conceive *cough* – now must be wrong, even seriously wrong, that I find it very easy to forgive prophets and apostles, past and present, the same. As James has it, they are subject to like passions as we ourselves are (lusts of the flesh, temptations to ego, etc.) – only they have in addition this office which must at times be a terrible burden. Doesn’t this view put us on a ground of brotherhood? (We might even find ourselves thinking of them as the Brethren.)

    And, in fact, why stop there. Let’s extend this forgiveness and amnesty in our feelings to everyone. Even Republicans. Or whoever. In or out of the chruch, we are in the same boat. Whatever our position in the church or the world, we are in the same boat. This life isn’t easy. None of this is easy, and wasn’t meant to be.

    Sorry for the length of this.


  168. Even republicans? That’s crazy talk.

  169. Thomas Parkin says:


    I’m clearly out of my mind. I have it on good authority that all religious people are out of their minds.

    *wink* *smirk*


  170. From Wiki:

    “Larry King calls Real Time one of the best shows on television, and Maher has been a regular guest on Larry King Live.”

  171. Matt Evans #158, the futures market almost certainly overstates Romney’s chances, even while simultaneously giving him the lowest ranking of any major candidate. The polling numbers are one factor; his lack of media visibility is another. But the thing that the futures market has almost certainly reacted to is the perception that Romney has the Bush machine cornered. Yet the current trend in that direction is negative — some of Romney’s early backers are starting to distance themselves so that they can reposition themselves behind an actually viable candidate.

    At the end of the day, the big problem for Romney is one of experience: what has he actually done in politics? He won one big race. But he’s also lost one. He was, in political terms (substantively, it’s a lot harder to judge) a moderately unsuccessful governor, as he left with popularity figures that would have made reelection impossible and helped make his successor be from the other party. It’s a hard sell to make that limited political life into a reason to elect someone president. Romney’s already gotten further on his record than it would seem reasonable to have predicted; good for him.

  172. JNS,

    I think his inexperience may be ultimatley viewed as a plus. I think him playing the “outsider” card may give him an advantage.

    Obama has served in the senate for all of two years and Clinton not much longer. I don’t foresee anyone complaining about lack of experience in this election.

  173. Tim,

    Clinton’s experience is extensive, as we all know, whether she’s held office or not. Obama’s lack of experience, by contrast, is a major reason he’s WAY behind Clinton in the race. People on the political outside always want to claim that being an outsider is an advantage. If it is, then my building super is a better candidate than Romney or anyone else in the race. Any takers?

    The “outsider” card is similar to the white flag of surrender. You only use it when you have nothing else.

  174. cj douglass says:

    I think John Edwards used the outsider card all the way to the end of the democratic primaries. Sure, he lost to Kerry in the end but he used it throughout the campaign. Outsider being a relative term.

  175. Rebecca @ #167 says:

    “Mike – I think you’re absolutely right. It seems to me, that for us to be the ‘one true church’, people equate that with perfection. I think it highly unrealistic to think that in the history of any church that there aren’t going to be mistakes.”

    Church = people? I’d think that even BY had/has things to work out in relation to perfection. There is a veil even for a prophet.

  176. Sterling, thanks for the info on the Odonovan article (86,97,100,122). I’m interested in mid 19th century NE abolitionists, I happen to be studying in Massachusetts, and to find that Walker Lewis, in my own religion and my own back yard was a prominent example is a welcome surprise. I’m going to look Odonovan up.

  177. Did Brigham Young even consider himself a prophet?

  178. Ronan, good point. Brigham’s self-definition was as “an apostle of Jesus Christ and of Joseph Smith.” During his administration, the term “prophet, seer, and revelator” was only used during sustainings in the period just before the Utah War. So there’s some good reason to believe that Brigham saw himself as a divinely-authorized and authoritative administrator but not as a prophet.

  179. the futures market almost certainly overstates Romney’s chances

    JNS, come on, by definition, EVERYONE who buys political futures thinks they know more than the market does. Your belief that you know more than the market is a non-starter.

    even while simultaneously giving him the lowest ranking of any major candidate

    Really, JNS, you should stop before you further embarrass the Berkeley PoliSci dept. In the first place, political futures rankings are the best definition of “major candidate.” Second, if you look at those the media consider “major candidates” for their surveys, the futures market gives Romney a better ranking than three of the their eight “major candidates.”

    the big problem for Romney is one of experience

    No one complains about Romney’s experience. His early press last summer (National Review cover story) even touted him as possibly the most qualified presidential candidate ever. Harvard law and business degrees, saved businesses with budgets larger than many states, private and public turn arounds, governor of a big Democratic state. Nor have I heard a single Republican complain that Romney’s Mass poll numbers were too low. They know only grandstanding bloats poll highly there.

  180. Matt, personal abuse is not called for in this context.

  181. On the substance, the major candidates are probably McCain, Giuliani, Obama, Clinton, and Romney. Romney’s the lowest of the lot in the futures market. So if we take the market seriously, Romney’s not in good shape. The limit on a market, of course, is public versus private information. My claim to know a little more is based on some private information, which any good economist will tell you is a rational basis for expecting to outperform the market. That’s why there are laws against insider trading.

    Your point on experience conflates life experience in general with political experience.

  182. J N-S,

    I don’t think polls (or even futures markets) are really very reliable at this point because no one knows who Romney is outside of pundits and politicos. Even futures markets are highly academic at this point.

    This Gallup poll is interesting, though I think ultimately useless:

    Would you vote for someone who is:


    Catholic 95/4

    Black 94/5

    Jewish 92/7

    A woman 88/11

    Hispanic 87/12

    Mormon 72/24

    Married for
    the third time 67/30

    72 years
    of age 57/42

    A homosexual 55/43

    An atheist 45/53

    The punchline, for me, is that McCain will be 72 at the time of the election and Giuliani is on his third marriage. Both of these catagories rank lower than “Mormon” on the list. (Although heaven help the homosexual atheist candidate!) Another major presidential candidate, Richardson, is Hispanic.

    But people don’t associate these demographic traits with McCain, Giuliani or Richardson as closely as they associate Romney with Mormonism. That’s because the average voter knows who they are and is voting for the candidate, not the demographic. As people learn more about Romney, I think there’s a possibility that his label as “the Mormon candidate” may become less important.

  183. Greg, I think you’re probably right that the Mormon factor will become less important for Romney over time. What will become more important is his inconsistency over the last decade regarding social policy issues — the central issues for the core constituency he’s wooing. That’s probably the ultimately fatal flaw in Romney’s package as a candidate.

    Where polls, candidate recognition, and so forth do matter right now is as elite signals of credibility. Bush in 1999 showed a strong lead in the polls at this point. That’s part of why he was able to wrap up the Republican establishment as thoroughly as he did. Romney’s marked public-opinion weakness bars him from that kind of elite consolidation. Since elite support is the main advantage Romney has right now, that’s meaningful.

  184. “What will become more important is his inconsistency over the last decade regarding social policy issues — the central issues for the core constituency he’s wooing. That’s probably the ultimately fatal flaw in Romney’s package as a candidate.”

    I hope you’re right. That would be awesome. That would mean that Romney is being treated just like every other major candidate for political office.

    In this regard, I don’t think that Romney has nearly as much ‘splaining to do as Giuliani, who is (as far as I know) the only pro-choice, pro-gay rights, pro-gun control candidate running for the Republican nomination. He’s also got a pretty nasty personal life to explain. As the election gets closer, he’s got to do something to explain to Republicans why they should vote for him, other than he was so brave looking during 9/11.

    Also, McCain’s not nearly the (secular) saint that he’s made out to be.

    All candidates have their issues. If Romney’s issue is explaining his policy choices, he’s on solid ground.

  185. Also, I haven’t seen any numbers yet (possibly because the legal requirements haven’t kicked in), but I’ve heard rumors that Romney is right there in terms of fundraising, and that’s probably the thing that matters most at this point. That was were Bush II destroyed his competition.

  186. Re: 184

    Perhaps the distancing of Romney and Mormonism is already beginning, but not in a good way for Romney. Today’s WAPO has a column by Ruth Marcus criticizing Romney for his changing/evolving position on abortion and his changing/evolving explanantion for voting for Tsongas in 1992 without a word or even hint in the column about Romney’s religion. (I’d post a link, but am incapable of such internet sophistication.)

    Of course, it’s unlikely Ms. Marcus would approve of a Romney candidacy under any circumstances and she may just be saving the religious bigotry, used so effectively by the left and right, for future columns. But, at this moment for Ms. Marcus, Romney’s changing/evolving views on social issues are a bigger weapon to use against him than his religion.

    Still, it may be noteworthy that in the midst of all the chatter this week, and the past year for that matter, about Romney and Mormonism, a column critical of Romney runs in a major media paper, written by one of the more senior columnists, w/o even a passing reference to Romney’s religion.

  187. How are you defining “major candidate” except to keep Romney in last place? Why not Edwards, Richardson, Biden, Huckabee, Hagel, Allan, Pataki or Brownback? Only because they’re not doing as well as Romney.

    You’re arguing the non-sensical position that Romney is doing poorly for how well he’s doing. (Or that he’s doing well for how poorly he’s doing?)

    There are laws against insider trading only for regulated securities; Tradesports political futures reflect insider knowledge. The *only* people I’ve known to buy Tradesports political futures, in fact, are friends who think they have inside knowledge (jobs on K Street and the Hill.)

    National Review perfectly understood Romney’s experience when they said he was perhaps the best qualified presidential candidate we’d ever had. I’ve followed his candidacy closely and have never seen anyone worry about his lack of experience, political or otherwise, except to point out the standard point that, like other governors who’ve won (Carter, Reagan, Clinton, Bush 43), he has little foreign policy experience.

  188. re: 176

    I wasn’t asking whether or not individuals within the Church (even the prophet) can err. That is self-evident and well acknowledged by the leadership. No papal infallibility for the LDS!

    No, my question was: Can the Church as an organization err? Could the Brethen say something along the lines of: “The policy which banned Blacks from the priesthood was wrong and we regret that part of our history….” What would be the theological implications of that?

  189. It seems to me, that if the leaders of the church can err (in their leadership), than, the Church not only can err, but will. Seems like if you look at the process of repentence and apply it to mistakes in church administration, an apology and acknowledgement of that mistake would be exactly what was in order. But then again, what do I know.

  190. Veritas,

    The only precedent we have is the 1978 revelation, which unequivocally changed the practice and procedures of the church, and returned us to the doctrines of 2 NE 26:33. But that was not an apology. BRM’s statement following the 1978 revelation was a personal apology of sorts, big enough to cover himself and a few others, but again not a formal apology by the church.

    It was interesting to note that it took a second manifesto in 1904 to really put the issue of polygamy behind us, at least from a public standpoint. I don’t see the church issuing a second revelation declaring that the policy before 1978 was a mistake, nor do I anticipate a First Presidency statement trying to clarify the 1978 revelation. From a doctrinal standpoint, the 1978 revelation was pretty clear. The church would no longer restrict priesthood or temple ordinances on the basis of race. The fact that it became retroactive, ie temple work for the ancestors of black members who lived during the prohibition years, pretty much implies that it was a mistake. But no, I don’t foresee any new announcements or statements. But then again, that’s my feeble observation.

    It is interesting to note that the 1978 revelation came as somewhat of a surprise to all the rest of us. To some extent the legal challenges to the church and to BYU had started to quiet down, and there was a sense of hunkering down to weather the storm for the long haul. It came, as it were, to the lay members as a bolt from the blue.

    SWK also surprised us with the First Presidency announcement that the MX missile project for the west desert was a moral issue, and the church opposed the project. While not a formal revelation, I suspect that Pres. Kimball went through much the same process as he did on the 1978 revelation. It effectively was a huge blow to the whole program, and support for the mobile missile launcher “shell game” scheme evaporated after that. I wish I could remember the exact details.

    Maybe that’s a long way of saying that I don’t have any special insight into how the First Presidency makes decisions, other than they pray about things, and get answers, just like stake presidencies and bishoprics.

  191. Maybe the church can err as far as it’s leaders make mistakes. But I for one wouldn’t want to judge what the church should or shouldn’t do.

    If the “Church” (as in the Lord’s Church) was racist before 1978, then wasn’t the Lord’s church anti human race from 100 a.d. (or whenever) until 1830? How could the Lord discriminate against people and not let any of us in His church? He should apologize and acknowledge all those people who never had the opportunity.

    Oh, wait. I forgot. He has his own timetable for things.

  192. The real problem is that Bill Mahar is that he’s a pompous ass and an ungracious, bombastic fool. He treats his employees like crap, dressing them down in public. He’s rude to the people that wait on him in hotels and restaurants and tips poorly. If you’re his peer or his boss, he’s a complete peach, but if he esteems you as otherwise, you’re a nothing to him. In my book, these are among the cardinal indicators that a person is a low-file.

    I’ve seen the video excerpt of the show that you’re talking about. The way that Mahar steps up on his soapbox in a forum that precludes any rebuttal by an informed person, pretense that he has his is the only reasonable point of view, this is all so very insufferable. This kind of stuff only goes over well on cable or late-night, because nobody has to watch.

  193. Karl Zanhem says:

    I think that the best thing the church could do would be to openly and publicly repudiate Brigham Young’s racist statements and, more importantly, openly and publicly repudiate polygamy. I can see some potential for good coming from Bill Maher and all the other scrutiny that Mitt Romney is going to bring to the church. Maybe people will realize that getting it all out there is the best thing. Just say it: polygamy was wrong and had nothing to do with God. Racism was wrong. It had nothing to do with God.

    The Catholic Church has come to terms with the wrongs in its past and has survived.

  194. Antonio Parr says:

    The real problem, as I see it, is that our sublimely wonderful Church has some nasty skeletons in its closet that, as a result of the Romney candidacy, are about to be exposed for all the world to see, and we and our children will have to explain to our friends and neighbors things that aren’t easily explained.

    Blacks and the Priesthood? We messed up on that one. Brigham’s racist statements? He really, really messed up on those. (Ditto for later GA’s who committed the same sin.) The notion that Brigham was a prophet for Blacks during his day? Hard to argue.

    Polygamy? Ancient practice, but very little justification post-Christ’s ministry. Paul appears to have spoken against it. So does the Book of Mormon. And which one of us who has a daughter would ever for a moment hope for her to be a part of a celestial harem? Horrifying thought. I hope that we were wrong about this one. I am not particularly interested in trying to defend the practice.

    Joseph Smith’s character? Another hard one. Treasure seeker/glass looker prior to his divine experiences. Was he a con artist then? Or did he have supernatural powers that enabled him to find buried treasure? Or was he making a good faith mistake? And how about receiving revelations for the Nauvoo House that included turning the house over to him and his posterity? And what about telling young women that they needed to marry him (secretly) or risk the eternal damnation of thier families? How to explain these things? Can we say that if God could speak through a donkey he can speak through a charlatan? Or can we say that he had some bad moments, but there is no denying that the man was a prophet when writing from Liberty Jail, or dictating the Book of Mormon? Certainly, our founder was vastly more complex than portrayed in Church videos.

    These three issues: Blacks & Priesthood/polygamy/character of Joseph Smith will become the topic of discussion with our friends and colleagues. These will be interesting times.

  195. Re 188: If you’re looking for the candidate with the best resume, look at Bill Richardson. Romney doesn’t even come close. He has plenty of domestic and foreign-policy experience. And, from what I know, he is one of the very few candidates in the top two tiers who (at this point, at least) doesn’t have a major strike against him in either his personal or political life.

    That said, I think what is hurting Romney now is that it isn’t clear what he stands for. His evolving positions on abortion and gay rights are seen as flip-flops (although I’m not convinced his view on gay issues is as much a change of substance as a change of emphasis and a change in the political climate that has shifted the gay agenda toward marriage as the top issue, which Romney has never supported for gays, and away from equal employment rights and that sort of thing, which Romney apparently still supports). On other issues, he doesn’t seem to have anything unique to offer, as he’s pretty much parroting Bush on the key issue of the day (Iraq) and doesn’t seem to have innovative ideas in other areas. He has made something of an issue of health care because of his gubernatorial record, but he can’t claim unqualified success there by any means.

    In the end, I don’t see Romney’s religious being the defining factor. Once people see him as a normal Republican, whatever that is, his religion will be a secondary issue at most.

    I think the candidate to watch is Brownback. His position on the “social issues” should be satisfying to the religious right, and he appears to be something of an independent thinker on other issues. I could see the conservative wing of the GOP rallying around him once they see that the leading candidates all have serious faults.

  196. DKL: Did you work for Maher or just wait on him in a restaurant? If the latter, how much did he undertip you?

  197. MCQ, the exact same amount that you did.

  198. I like to think of Bill Maher as Jon Stewart minues about 100 IQ points. I don’t like Jon Stewart that much.

  199. Ironically, there is a typo in my comment bashing someone else’s intelligence. It should bu “minus” 100 IQ points.

  200. OK, two typos means I have to officially recuse myself from further comment about anyone’s brain power.

  201. DKL, how well does Jon Stewart tip?

  202. Steve Evans says:

    Costanza — ironically, there is a typo in your comment pointing out the typo in your comment bashing someone else’s intelligence.

  203. Steve Evans says:

    Drat! My withering insults are powerless when pre-empted by self-immolation.

  204. Sorry Steve. But thanks for trying. I am just the very best at identifying my own faults and failings–and it is a full-time job. I should know better than to moonlight at insulting other people.

  205. Steve Evans says:

    Costanza, insulting other people is all I have. The second I turn to self-analysis, the whole house of cards would fall with a crash, like Medicare. It’s in all of our best interests to keep me going, however horrible I am.

  206. Well then, by Jove, carry on!

  207. MCQ: DKL, how well does Jon Stewart tip?

    Why don’t you tell me how well Jon Steward tips.

  208. This is full-on the wierdest BCC thread I have ever seen. We’ve spanned Maher=jerk, BY=potential murderer, WoW=wacky, MoDoc=going out of print, and the potential political future (and fantasy political futures) of Mitt Romney.

    This is a free association exercise gone amuck. Carry on!

  209. Robert Olson says:

    An apology will accomplish nothing. Prophets are human beings not Gods and do make mistakes. Was Brigham Young wrong about the blacks? Probably, but that was the environment that he grew up in. Should we repudiate him as a prophet?
    We no longer practice polygamy, but it is apart of our history. I don’t fully understand it, but Joseph Smith did. After all that is the major factor of what got him killed. He wished polygamy was not a true doctrine, but it was not his church. I don’t see how we can apologize for polygamy, and still me Mormons. We should emphasis are abstanance. From the knowledge I have aquired about Mitt Romeny, is that he would be a great president. I don’t believe he will be though, primarily because of his religion. I do look forward to the focus the LDS church will recieve from his running. Bill Maher, who I can’t believe still has his own show, had some good digs about the church. Apologizing will just add fuel to him and others. The GA’s need to be open and honest(for once) and explain them in their proper context.

  210. cj douglass says:

    An apology, especially with Mitt running, would sound a lot like Kramers apology. But yes, an exlanation would be wonderful. Maybe not at the Press Club but in a more intimate setting, like the Ensign or a WW broadcast.

  211. Robert (#211),

    Please clarify something for me…

    On the one hand you say that prophets are human and they make mistakes. You use Brigham Young and the blacks/priesthood issue as an example of (probably) just such a mistake.

    Then you say that Joseph Smith didn’t make a mistake with polygamy, that he was just following God’s orders.

    Why did Brigham make a mistake and Joseph did not? Maybe both Brigham and Joseph were wrong? Maybe both were right? Or maybe Brigham was right and Joseph was wrong?

    I’m just trying to understand why you give one (Joseph) a free pass and the other (Brigham) you say was influenced by his environment? Could not Joseph have been influenced by his environment (i.e. the Old Testament environment and his desire to restore all things) (or, dare I say, the “environment” in the form of close proximity to nice looking young women like Fanny Alger) as well?

    It makes your final suggestion — “The GA’s need to be open and honest (for once) and explain [these difficult issues] in their proper context” — kind of tough. Whose context? Robert Olson’s? Mine? Hinckley’s?

    HP (#210), I agree. As you can see above, I am attempting to now “free associate” into the tired realm of polygamy.

  212. Jesus never apologized, why should we?

  213. Matt Thurston says:

    Good point, DKL. I’m going to use that one on my wife the next time I screw up.

  214. Who cares if Maher’s a jerk? The same points are going to be brought up by many more people in the future, jerks or not.

    (and a bad tipper, this is what we’re going to have to resort to when talking back against people that hurt our poor wounded feelings?)

  215. Aaron Brown says:

    Stapley and Margaret Young,

    I’d be interested in hearing more about exactly why Mormon Doctrine is being discontinued. Mind you, I know the history, and can think of 101 good reasons to discontinue it. But what do you know of the actual reason it is being discontinued?

    Margaret Young,

    I didn’t know there was ever an “extra” discussion on Blacks and the Priesthood. Was there something written down for missionaries to use? If so, I’d love to see it.

    Regarding the notion that the Church should issue an “apology” regarding its racial history … I think that’s unrealistic (and wouldn’t really be that helpful), but what I would love to see is a formal repudiation of the racial theologies of yesteryear. Not to much to ask, in my opinion.

    Aaron B

  216. Thomas Parkin says:



    Has the Toilet Duck been discussed? I never really feeling like giving up on an online discussion group until someone worships the Toilet Duck.

    Quack. Quack.


  217. Someone asked about BY and intermarriage. Whatever his attitudes toward black/white intermarriage, he was gung ho about Mormons intermarrying with Native Americans. It was almost like a marriage for political alliances type of thing. I’m at school so I can’t give a page number, but its in Arrington’s American Moses.

  218. The Catholic Church has come to terms with the wrongs in its past and has survived.

    Hah! If we follow the pattern of the Catholic Church, an apology will be coming in about 300 years.

  219. I thought I would throw this in for fun…. I think its time to move forward and let the past be the past. We have an active black family in our ward. They live within a short walk of my house He gave a talk a couple of months ago on OD 2 and essentially said its time to move on and look to the future.

    “On June 1, 1978, at a regular temple meeting of the general authorities, Kimball asked the members of the First Presidency and the Twelve to stay for a private conference. In a spirit of fasting and prayer, they formed a prayer circle. Kimball opened by saying he felt impressed to pray to the Lord and asked their permission to be “mouth.” He went to the altar. Those in attendance said that as he began his earnest prayer, they suddenly realized it was not Kimball’s prayer, but the Lord speaking through him. A revelation was being declared. Kimball himself realized that the words were not his but the Lord’s. During that prayer some of the Twelve – at least two have said so publicly – were transported into a celestial atmosphere, saw a divine presence and the figures of former president of the church (portraits of whom were hanging on the walls around them) smiling to indicate their approval and sanction. Others acknowledged the voice of the Lord coming, as with the prophet Elijah, “through the still, small voice.” The voice of the Spirit followed their earnest search for wisdom and understanding.
    At the end of the heavenly manifestation Kimball, weeping for joy, confronted the quorum members, many of them also sobbing, and asked if they sustained this heavenly instruction. Embracing, all nodded vigorously and jubilantly their sanction. There had been a startling and commanding revelation from God-an ineffable experience.
    Two of the apostles present described the experience as a “day of Pentecost” similar to the one in Kirtland Temple on April 6, 1836, the day of its dedication. They saw a heavenly personage and heard heavenly music. To the temple-clothed members, the gathering, incredible and without compare, was the greatest singular event of their lives. Those I talked with wept as they spoke of it. All were certain they had witnessed a revelation from God.”

    (Adventures of a Church Historian. Leonard J Arrington Pages 176-177

  220. I apologize for posting this comment so late and well after the discussion has moved on. The urban legend I heard concerning Mormon Doctrine’s first edition controversy was in regards to the entry for “Catcholic Church” which simply said “See Church of the Devil”.

  221. Thomas Parkin says:

    I came across this Iris Murdoch – former philosophy don at Oxford, sometimes Platonist and one of my favorite novelists – while reading in the bath last night.

    “Those who (again probably most of us) justify some social lying on utilitarian grounds should certainly reflect that habitual lying of any kind can breed a more general indifference to truth. We might compare this case with that of malicious mockery which is tolerated in polite society, and recall the stern remarks made about laughter by Plato in the Republic and the Laws. Malicious merriment, apparently harmless, can foster more general and sinister spiritual ills: cynicism, cruelty, hatred … of course, a vote against malicious laughter is not a vote against laughter … Plato’s remarks seem less tiresomely purticanical if we also recall the amazingly open happy … atmosphere of the dialogues and how they are full of wit and jokes…”

    Note to self: this is a gentle indcitment of South Park, Bill Maher, Jon Stewart, etc. whose general maliciousness and snootiness is now taken as a sign of truthfullness and even wisdom by people who prefer being flattered to the real work of _getting something_.


  222. Thomas, nice plot change. I thought, until your note to self, that your point with the Murdoch quote was going to be that our religious community would be more healthy if we eliminated “social lying on utilitarian grounds.”

  223. GeoffC, if only the anti-Catholic rhetoric sections in the book (there were many, and they were virulent) were it. But not, Mormmon Doctrine merited stiff criticism for many other mischaracterizations of Mormon doctrine. If you haven’t, it’s worth taking the time to read through the changes from the 1958 to 66 versions.

  224. Thomas Parkin says:


    That would be an interesting discussion. Certainly the church has historically, institutionally, been less than completely forthcoming – and we are certainly individually less than perfectly honest -and that probably all has to go before we walk around free men in Zion – though I balance that with the realization that just because a thing is true there is no imperative that you come right out and say it (can there be silence that isn’t an intent to deceive?) – and I also always remember the mother’s rebuke of the brother in Room With a View: ‘You think you’re so righteous and truthful and it’s just abominable conceit …’ So, I try to keep my mouth shut – and almost am always better off when I do.

    My experience with online discussion was Usenet, where there wasn’t really any such thing as a “threadjack.” There was “thread drift”, which meant that you might be discussing burritos, or gun-control, or Hegel, or your grandma’s pear jam in a thread entitled “The Princess and the Pea: Alarming and Jovial Juxtopositions in the Patriarchy.” Because of the structure, a thread could branch and remain coherent, following several people’s slow shifting – whereas a blog is strictly linear, and ‘threadjacking’, plot changes?, quickly creates confusion.


  225. There is a lot of disinformation. Here are some facts:

    The LDS Chuch never taught that blacks could only get into heaven as slaves. In fact, here is a quote from Joseph Fielding Smith in 1958: “if a Negro is baptized and remains true and loyal, he will enter the celestial kingdom.” Note that one who enters the Celestial kingdom has “all” the glory of God, hardly a slave. Maher likely took a quote from an anti-Mormon site which, in turn, likely grabbed some obscure quote and presented it as doctrine, a frequent move…

    On the Brigham Young thing, it is important to note that it’s from the Journal of Discouses which is historically problematic, but let’s look at what he is saying: He is saying that if a white man of the ‘chosen seed’ were to ‘mix his blood’ with the seed of Cain, the penalty is ‘death on the spot’ – now, this is a strange statement, but it’s important to note he is talking about a white man who holds the priesthood – and he mentions no penalty for the black woman. In 1863 there were very few places where blacks could marry whites, so he is likely talkling about a man, holding the priesthood, and either forncating or comitting adultry. Now, again, it is a strange statement, but I don’t think it is strictly racist – this seems more clear when you look at a quote from Brigham Young is the same Journal, on the following page “For their abuse of [the Black African] race, the whites will be cursed, unless they repent.”

    It is very easy to call Brigham Young a racist, the Church policy was technically racist, a policy based on race, however, taking the full measure of him and not one statement, he emerges as much more complex than that.

  226. I believe this whole “black” issue is just a bit more comprehensive that what has been presented here. First of all, skin color has nothing to do with who was/is worthy to receive the priesthood. But, cultural inheritance does. Many cultures down through the ages were not worthy to receive the priesthood until the Lord decided to reveal it to them. At one point, only the Levites held the Aaronic Priesthood, but eventually, all tribes of Israel were given the priesthood and the subsequent Gentiles cultures after. Someone had to be last. And given the nature of Africans destroying each other and selling there own people out to slave traders, a certain accountability may have resulted in the fact that worthiness was not achieved until a certain civility was practiced within their own culture. Whatever the reason, African decent may have been the last to receive the priesthood, but, their skin color precludes any notion of the bestowal of the Priesthood. To even think so would be shallow.

  227. So, the Africans are to be held accountable for the sale of slaves to the white traders but the whites who bought them, transported them, sold them, owned them for generations and abused them are not accountable and can therefore hold the priesthood? A certain civility needed to be practiced within their own culture? Since when are whites or Europeans or Americans superior in civility to their own culture or anyone else’s? You have a lot of explaining to do for this comment.

  228. You only mention the conjecture without the context. Are you a big fat liberal? Nevermind, I retract. Notice I said “Whatever the reason,” and take note of the use of the term “may.” I purport they may not be right, only that what I said as fact is the premise for trying to deduce any given subsequent reason for, let’s say, scooting the native Indians off their land into the little convenient dustbowls of nowhere.

    Nobody seems to dare to even speculate as to why the African people were last in receiving the priesthood. But, I stand by the fact that God is not a racist and skin color has nothing to do with righteous living. Those who cite comments of supposed racism by our leaders can certainly be countered by those acts of defense for freedom of slaves by say, Joseph Smith.

    Lastly, of course there is culpability upon those whites who bought slaves. But, had you left the individual element out of the cultural context in which I presented the ideas, you might have agreed that Africa was, especially at that time, waaay behind the curve of being a civilized society as compared to your European detractors. Regardless, I hold most of the culpability upon those who sold there own people.

    You know MCQ, you remind of all those who love to argue the exception, or the out-of-context, against a general observation. Oh well, I love free speech…go at it odd fellow.

  229. Joseph Smith had nothing to do with the ban, Arrow. And be careful, we don’t tolerate repeated racist comments at BCC.

  230. Ronan, would you care to show me where I have made any racist comment? Can anyone read here? Or, are my thoughts too sophisticated for what appears to be a very young crowd who have much to learn?

    Oh, and Ronan, I never said anything about Joseph Smith banning. I DID say that he defended the rights of blacks.

    So, pray tell, how do you get anything racist from that? For your information, I have more black and polynesian friends than I ever had white. And I am as Irish and English as they come.

    If you idiots had half a brain, you should be able to see that I was defending the notion that blacks were withheld the priesthood NOT BECAUSE OF THE COLOR OF THEIR SKIN as some of YOU have purported in this thread, but because the Africa culture’s time was not yet. You know, it really is that simple!!!

    Instead, you come back with this yellow journalistic bull.

    Nevermind. I will just leave and conclude that nobody here is openminded enough to learn anything from their elders. My goodness!


  231. Steve Evans says:

    Arrow, you’re no longer welcome here.

  232. Arrow,
    Brigham Young’s priesthood ban was directed at 19th century African Americans not 18th century West African slave traders. If you want reasons for the ban, examine Brigham Young. If you insist on concocting apologies for it, at least get your facts straight.

  233. activmo says:

    I don’t think that the issue is whether or not an individual believes that our underwear is magic (some LDS do), or if one believes that polygamy is “celestial” (many do), or if any one of us defends past LDS racist practices. Rather, as a group of people we have and do defend and rationalize many of these historical stances. The public/press is correct to bring all of these issues up. The leaders of the church have not directly addressed many of these historical and current problems from the pulpit. They have not appoligized for the mistreatment of others. There are churches that are addressing these types of issues directly. Closest to home is the Community of Christ. They do not shy away from all of these touchy subjects.


  1. […] Ouch. Looks like Maher has really done some homework. For a good discussion on this, check out By Common Consent. […]

  2. […] is a post and comment thread over at By Common Consent that ended up providing some useful information in regards to the past […]

  3. […] made this comment on a recent BCC thread: Would a lot of this go away if the Church just flat-out apologized for the racism in its past? […]

  4. […] this talk about the fallibility of leaders on big issues of long ago (here at BCC and here at FMH) makes me wonder at how much easier it is for people to admit the big mistakes of […]