God loves racists, too.

This past weekend, we had the apostasy lesson in the Relief Society/Priesthood manual. We came to the general consensus that the key to avoiding personal apostasy was to remember that the Brethren are acting under God’s direction and that, while dissent isn’t horrible, it should be meek and done through appropriate channels. We also came to the conclusion that those who apostatize do so because they have some issue with the church, that they do it out of anger. Then one of our number raised his hand.

This brother is a member from Africa. He served a mission in Africa. On his mission, somebody supplied some missionaries with a copy of the earliest edition of Mormon Doctrine. He talked about how he had subsequently learned of the curse of Cain nonsense. At the time he argued against it, feeling the truth of the church and wanting to think well of it. But over time and, my impression is, after much more experience with the church in America, the injustice of that batch of folklore/doctrine has eaten at him. His point was some people don’t leave the church (an act he was trying to figure out if he wanted to do) because they dislike the church per se, some people leave because the church is just wrong about something.

I thought he made a good point and everyone who spoke after agreed, although I think it was mostly to try and make him feel comfortable. Most of the responses afterword were mini-apologies explaining why they were okay with living in an occasionally flawed church. There was a spirit of bonhomie, a spirit that said, “We’re willing to put up with your idiosyncratic views; don’t stop coming and make your wife feel bad.” Setting aside the cynical, I might add that the members of the quorum genuinely seemed to like this member and hoped to coax him back into full fellowship and activity with us in the ward.

That’s all well and good, but I realized, as this brother spoke, that I no longer feel a need to apologize (feel sorry for) our past racist doctrines. While everyone around us struggled to explain how they resolved bad (or, at least, old) doctrine with their own good will, the following words came to me. Thinking them, I understood the ban. They were “God loves racists, too.”

The source of this brother’s disgust was the length of the ban. If it wasn’t just, why did it take so long to get rid of it? Shouldn’t God’s church be leading the way instead of toeing the line in social issues? If we are inspired, why didn’t we see the flaws in racist thought and theory?

The “God loves racists, too” theory explains it all. God tends to give us what we want, because he loves us. God tends to let us ask for stupid things, because he loves us and recognizes that getting what you want is a good way to learn to not want stupid things. I think that the priesthood ban lapsed because we finally saw the petty stupidity of it. We, as a church, stopped wanting it and God, gratefully I think, let it go.

Think about the intimacy that we imagine we share with God. If he knows you that well, he knows just how petty, selfish, vain, ignorant, mean-spirited, and mocking you are or can be. And he loves you. He loves you sufficiently to allow you to cluelessly (or even intentionally) wander about being those things and incidentally hurting others in the process. When you have finally hurt enough people that you realize that you shouldn’t do that, God is there to guide you through the process of change, but think about the little, tiny injustices that God passively allowed in the meantime. God loves the vain. God loves the selfish. God loves the sinner in his/her sin.

What do we do with a God who loves sinners, racists, pedophiles, jerks, scum, liberals, and paleocons? How are we supposed to use his love to determine the way for us? If he loves all those losers, how are we to know what we are to be? How to become the special people who get a special share of his love?

We are meant to take God’s love as a given (it rains on the just and unjust, ya know). We are also meant to understand the humanity of our leaders. That means that our leaders can be vain, hurtful, prideful, racist and so forth. Because they are in a leadership position, this also means that the leader’s outlook can be forced on other people. This isn’t a difference in type; it is a difference in scale. God lets us hurt each other in order to learn. This isn’t a principle that applies only to those in low places. Eventually, we all grow out of it.

Referencing back to the special share of love, I think the key to good living is there. Not in that God will show you special favors because you are so fine, righteous, and pretty. God doesn’t do that for anybody. But if you want a special share of love, you can get it. You can be a vehicle for God’s love to those who need to experience it. If Abraham’s seed is bless all the world, it is in this: we may be motivated by the revelation we have to love others in Christ’s way. If we see God’s love as a personal catalyst and not as a reward, I think we catch the vision of what God wants for us. That may lead us to stop viewing the world as a system of checks and balances, a series of wrongs to be righted, or a series of events culminating in your particular brand of blessed awesomeness. If we’re looking at the world as a daily opportunity to love and to serve others, then we have God’s love. We will love sinners, prisoners, the poor, the rich, hippies, jokers, slackers, robber barons, the old, the infirm, the needy, the way-too-needy, the simple, the complex, the mournful, the annoying, other people’s children, other people, and racists, too.

Bookmark God loves racists, too.


  1. Mark Brown says:

    And in addition to loving all the sinners, jerks, and scum, we will also love John C.

    This post is blessedly awesome.

  2. Stirling says:

    Interesting post. J.C.

    “Somebody supplied some missionaries with a copy of the earliest edition of Mormon Doctrine…I no longer feel a need to apologize (feel sorry for) our past racist doctrines…The “God loves racists, too” theory explains it all.”

    As a follow-up question, given that the racist teachings are in the latest Mormon Doctrine edition that is available at our local Mormon bookstores today, is your response any different to that?
    It seems easier to explain (not justify, not even to say it was reasonable, just explain) how the white supremacy teachings got there in the 1950s. It seems harder to explaining why they are there today, in 2009.

  3. My mom served as a humanitarian coordinator in Kenya. After coming back, she said she had a different view of the ban – primarily due to the problem of genital mutilation she witnessed still alive in African culture.

    She used to be vehemently opposed to the ban, but after going to Kenya and seeing the remains of the genital mutilation issue, she thinks the ban might have actually been fortunate in a way.

    She thinks that introducing a male-only Priesthood into that culture would have only made the problem worse. I don’t know if I’m on board with that line of reasoning, but I found it interesting.

  4. Stirling?
    Are there racist teachings in the current edition of MD? (Sincere question–I haven’t looked.) Even if there were, though, I don’t consider Deseret Book any indicator of my belief or my church, and haven’t heard MD referred to in an authoritative sense since, I don’t know, my mission maybe (>10 years ago). So I don’t feel any need to apologize for MD, but then, I don’t feel MD has any significant relation to my faith, my church, or my practice of religion.

  5. Yes, John C, agency is the explanation for evil in the world. And yes, God loves everyone, including vile sinners.

    BUT, what about the idea that God chastens those he loves, and that prophets call people to repentance? The Church exists to call us to be better, not to indulge our failings. Are you’re saying God indulged the Church’s racism because God loved loves us in spite of our sins? I know God doesn’t force us to do right or think right. But that’s where prophets come in, right? I understand their role to be that of God’s mouthpiece, to tell us God’s truth and call us to repentance. I have yet to hear a satisfactory explanation for why that didn’t happen until 1978.

    And by the way, can Mormon Doctrine be posthumously revised? If so, is it really still McConkie’s book? Or should the editors attach their names to it?

  6. I have long believed that the Church is merely a vehicle for the establishment of the Kingdom of God, with the final goal being to provide the saving ordinances for all who will accept them. That said, if (and it’s a very big ‘if’) the people were not ready for a higher law, would establishing it have led to a greater level of apostasy among the members? And would that, then, have impeded the progress of growth needed to provide a foundation for the kingdom? In short, did the Lord accept our failings in race relations, allowing us to mature as a people, in order to prevent harm or delay to the ultimate goal? We have seen in history times when the Lord has removed a higher law and substituted a lower law so that His chosen people would not fall under greater condemnation. Is this one of those times?

  7. Mark Brown says:

    Emily, I think John makes the case that leaders, even prophets, learn by experience just like everybody else.

    I can tell you from my own experience that I once had a calling which I knew was inspired. I was set apart and given the right to receive revelation as I worked diligently. As I performed that calling, I inadvertantly damaged several people, and caused great pain. This happened in spite of my best efforts, and maybe even because of my best efforts. As John explained, it is not a difference of type, it is simply a difference of scale.

  8. Just to complicate things, check out this essay in which Russell M. Nelson argues that God’s love is conditional.

  9. Excellent post, John.

    I believe God allows the bitter fruits of apostasy to be pruned from his vineyard gradually, according to the strength of the roots – and I don’t believe He is done pruning yet.

  10. Mark Brown says:

    I should add that the experience I described in # 7 does not apply to only one calling. It is typical of most of my callings, and I think most of everbody else’s, too. If we think we aren’t doing harm even as we try to do good, we are fooling ourselves.

  11. The Other Bro Jones says:

    It seems that your argument pre-supposes that the ban was never correct/required. But didn’t Joseph Smith ordain a black member and get a revelation that this was against the will of God? Wasn’t Pres. Kimball praying and fasting for a long time for the ending of the ban? I have not figured out how your reasoning fits with my understanding of the history.

  12. The Other Bro Jones says:

    It seems that your argument pre-supposes that the ban was never correct/required. But didn’t Joseph Smith ordain a black member and get a revelation that this was against the will of God? Wasn’t Pres. Kimball praying and fasting for a long time for the ending of the ban? I have not figured out how your reasoning fits with my understanding of the history.

  13. The Other Bro Jones says:

    Sorry. I double clicked

  14. OK, I agree that God is Love, but this post doesn’t sit well.

    Two quick notes:

    “God tends to give us what we want, because God loves us.”

    I don’t know what to do with this statement. Look at the suffering and unfulfilled dreams that litter this mortal world; God as wish-dispenser doesn’t compute. Heaven is battered with our wants (love, money, baby, health). Be they right or be they wrong, plenty of our wants go unheard. (The beautiful mystery is that I still trust, deeply, in God’s love.)

    “I think that the priesthood ban lapsed because we finally saw the petty stupidity of it. We, as a church, stopped wanting it and God, gratefully I think, let it go.”

    The first person plural, here, implies that We = White — or the Voice of the Church = White. That, I think, is core to the (continued) problem.

  15. #8 – SC, he isn’t arguing that the feeling of love is conditional. He really is arguing that the results of God’s love (the “higher levels of . . . and certain divine blessings stemming from that love”) are are conditional. It’s important to draw that distinction, although I wish he would have worded it differently.

  16. Other Bro. Jones, you’re going to have to cite a source, since I am aware of no such revelation to Joseph. That idea has been thoroughly refuted, I believe.

  17. Jennifer says:

    Think about the law of tithing vs law of consecration. Right now we are living the lesser law because most people are not ready for the higher law. I think that was true of the main body of the church (or maybe the old-fashioned white male leadership of the church) back then. They weren’t ready for the higher law yet.

  18. Peter LLC says:

    God tends to let us ask for stupid things, because he loves us and recognizes that getting what you want is a good way to learn to not want stupid things.

    A variation on the “Be careful what you ask for–you might get it” theme?

    She thinks that introducing a male-only Priesthood into that culture would have only made the problem worse.

    Well, we saw what happened when a male-only priesthood was introduced into 19th century America: previously monogamous men turned into practically incorrigible polygamists.

  19. Peter LLC says:

    If we think we aren’t doing harm even as we try to do good, we are fooling ourselves.

    Preach on, brother.

  20. Ray, I will let Elder Nelson speak for what he is “really” arguing:

    “While divine love can be called perfect, infinite, enduring, and universal, it cannot correctly be characterized as unconditional. The word does not appear in the scriptures. On the other hand, many verses affirm that the higher levels of love the Father and the Son feel for each of us—and certain divine blessings stemming from that love—are conditional. ”

    You can read that however you want I guess.

  21. Researcher says:

    First, bashing Mormon Doctrine has so totally already been done…

    (Not that I would ever use it myself, but, honestly.)

    Second, let’s do some fact checking on the claims in #2. Due to my location, I can’t walk into a Mormon bookstore, but when I look at Deseret Books online, they are not selling a copy of Mormon Doctrine, new or old.

    Third, there is no “latest” edition of Mormon Doctrine. Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but it looks like the last edition was published in 1990 as a black hardcover. Actually, Worldcat lists the latest edition as a Japanese translation in 1998 (Kobe-shi : Bīhaibu Shuppan), and the only previous edition as 1979.

    Amazon lists some “new” copies, but since at least one is listed at around $90, it’s probably been sitting somewhere for awhile.

  22. Peter LLC says:

    Ray: he isn’t arguing that the feeling of love is conditional


    RMN: “Many verses affirm that the higher levels of love the Father and the Son feel for each of us—and certain divine blessings stemming from that love—are conditional.”

  23. Good post.

    I don’t think anyone has adequately answered emily’s question. So I’ll ask it again in my words: let me get this straight – God loves bad people so much that he lets them hurt his Church until they feel like being good? Something doesn’t add up here. I’m not saying god should stop people from doing bad things, I’m just saying that love as an explanation as to why he doesn’t is not a very convincing argument, at least in the context of the racist history of church policy.

  24. I’m afraid I have problems with some of the reasoning in this post.

    John says: “I think that the priesthood ban lapsed because we finally saw the petty stupidity of it. We, as a church, stopped wanting it and God, gratefully I think, let it go.”

    As one old enough to remember what things were like in 1978, I am quite convinced that “we” as a Church still thought God had put the restriction into place, and “we” were upholding it. We as a Church were not actively seeking to get the restriction undone, though several people (most notabloy Lester Bush) wrote significant articles uncovering the whole history of the ban, not just the institutional memory. After President Lee (who had said some unfortunate things about race) died, President Kimball opened himself to receive revelation, and asked the Twelve to research the issue carefully before that Pentecostal meeting in the temple on June 1, 1978. Most of us (but not all) were relieved AND VERY SURPRISED to have the restriction lifted. The other side of the story, of course, tells of how many of our black brothers and sisters we lost during the years of the restriction, how many blessings were denied, how much damage we allowed ourselves to do to those of African descent–and how that collateral damage affected the body of Christ. The personal stories of black pioneers–from 1832-1978 and even up until today–are heroic and heart-wrenching.

    I also have a problem with the idea that God loves racists and “gives [them] what they] want.” What kind of father would do that? Sometimes, God gives people exactly what they don’t want, because He understands the kind of progress and refinement we must attain to accomplish all the possibilities of His design.

    And genital mutilation as a rationale for the priesthood restriction? Seth R., I like you a lot, and I think you’re just quoting your mother and not actually agreeing with this. Genital mutilation still goes on; wife abuse still goes on in Africa and elsewhere. I have heard people explain why the priesthood restriction was in place by citing things like civil wars in Africa as an indication of who “those people” really are–with the racist implications of such statements completely transparent to anyone sensitized to the issue.

    Once again, I get rather nervous when white Mormons talk about this issue from the balcony, as it were. We carried a weight during the years of the restriction, but we were not denied priesthood or temple blessings. And most significantly, we did not carry the burdens of our black brothers and sisters as the Savior clearly asked us to in his pleas to his disciples. We did not actively feed HIS sheep. God may have allowed this, but he surely did not sanction it, regardless of his love for racists and all the rest of us sinners.

    It sounds from your post, John, that this brother is still struggling, that he is not fully active. Please acquaint him with the resources which might help. Ultimately, the atonement is the answer for all of us, but there is helpful material to assist this man through these particular challenges. “Mourn with those that mourn.”

  25. The Other Bro Jones says:

    Ray #16. I have no source, but I am relying on my own memory and understanding (which not worth much). I’ll have to look into it sometime (when I am not at work)

  26. #25–let me help you out, since you’re at work.
    There is no recorded revelation to Joseph Smith. At least one source tells us that he personally ordained Elijah Abel to the priesthood. Five other black men were ordained to the priesthood prior to 1847 (see special features of _Nobody Knows_). In 1879, Zebedee Coltrin claimed that Joseph Smith had said that Blacks were not entitled to the priesthood, and that Elijah Abel was then dropped from the quorum. That claim was quickly refuted by Joseph F. Smith, who provided documentation that Abel had been re-certified as a Seventy in 1841 and again after he arrived in Salt Lake City (1850s). There is nothing but speculation linking Joseph Smith to the restriction.

  27. Mark Brown says:

    I agree that most of us were very surprised when the ban was lifted. But do you not also agree that almost all of us were also very, very relieved? In other words, even though we were surprised, I think John’s description is still accurate: We were ready for it to go away.

    What kind of father would do that?

    Don’t you think God allows all kinds of ignorance, in addition to racism? Mormons believe in learning by doing, and that is a messy, painful, and often unfair process.

  28. There are new paperback copies of MD available at Barnes and Noble where I live in Indiana. It’s not a new edition but the second edition is still in print as far as I can tell.

  29. Margaret (24) said what I was trying to say (14), but better.

  30. Mark “God allows” and “God gives” – very different theological models.

  31. Stirling says:

    #4 SMB: “Are there racist teachings in the current edition of MD? (Sincere question–I haven’t looked.)”

    Yes, including:
    o Blacks are physically and spiritually inferior due to “departure from gospel truths. ” (See “Races of Man”)
    o Caste systems and racial segregation originate in the gospel. (See “Caste System”)
    o Marriage between Negroes and any other group is condemned by God. (See “Caste System”)
    o Cain and Ham were cursed with black skin; the curses were passed to their posterity, and all Negroes are descended from both Cain and Ham. (See “Cain,” “Ham”)

    I hear your point that you don’t feel a need to apologize for MD, as it doesn’t have a relation to your faith or your practice of religion. But, what if the existence of the racist statements does affect others within your faith community (for example, because distribution of the Mormon Doctrine claims turns others away from the community, or makes it difficult for some to feel fully accepted by the community)?

  32. #6 – “That said, if (and it’s a very big ‘if’) the people were not ready for a higher law, would establishing it have led to a greater level of apostasy among the members?”
    #17 – “Think about the law of tithing vs law of consecration. Right now we are living the lesser law because most people are not ready for the higher law. I think that was true of the main body of the church (or maybe the old-fashioned white male leadership of the church) back then. They weren’t ready for the higher law yet.”

    I’ve heard this argument several times, and sometimes from the same people who make the argument that polygamy was just a test for the church – a winnowing to see who was truly faithful. If the Lord was afraid to reveal things because it might have caused an apostasy, there never would have been polygamy. And if the Lord needed a test to see who would stay with the church against popular opposition, wouldn’t have truly just and equal race relations from the beginning have been a terrific one?

  33. Stirling,
    I’m actually a different Sam B. than SMD.

    The Mormon Doctrine issue is beside the point, I think. I have seriously not heard anyone mention it (except to laugh about the views on evolution) in at least the last decade, maybe more.

    I would be more concerned about people in church today making racist pronouncements (whether or not they turn people away from the Church). There was a guy in a previous ward who raved about Muslims, both in a talk and in Priesthood, and all I could do was counter what he’d said in Priesthood and be glad I hadn’t brought a friend to Church. But if I’d brought someone, I’d have no problem dismissing his views to that person as absolutely crazy (and it would have helped that he presented them in an absolutely crazy way).

    I’d feel uncomfortable apologizing for his views, because that would somehow implicate me in them and because I don’t think they represented almost anyone else’s views. But I’d have no problem disagreeing with them.

  34. Mark B (27)–I think God MUST allow all kinds of ignorance. I also believe, and am even tempted to say I know, that He gives us opportunities to learn new ways of thinking, new paradigms which place Christ at the center. If that weren’t the case, we wouldn’t send missionaries into all the world. In my own life, and I’d guess in pretty much everyone’s, opportunities for improvement, invitations to do better, have met me alongside every temptation to stay stagnant, self-righteous, and hard-headed.

  35. Mark Brown says:


    “God allows” and “God gives” – very different theological models

    Maybe. Can we agree on “God grants”? Ultimately, God allows our choices to stand. Or, more straightforwardly, God gives us what we want, or at least what we think we want.

  36. Stirling says:

    #21 Researcher: “[lLet’s do some fact checking on the claims in #2. Due to my location, I can’t walk into a Mormon bookstore…”
    “…there is no “latest” edition of Mormon Doctrine.”

    Is it really still for sale? Very reasonable question.
    It is currently on the shelves in BYU’s on-campus bookstore. It isn’t available on DB’s web site. It is in some DB stores (the DB computer shows 7 in an Orem DB, for example), but not others. According to DB’s book inventory system, they’re expecting a new printing to hit the shelves in mid May.

    There is a latest edition. In English, that’s the 1979 edition. It was published after the 1978 policy change. Subsequent printings (including the current one) are reprints of that edition.

  37. Stirling says:

    Sam, thanks for the #33 name clarification.
    You observed that “I think I have seriously not heard anyone mention it (except to laugh about the views on evolution) in at least the last decade, maybe more.”

    There has been a reduction of such cites over time, which seems natural for many reasons. But, it still occurs. One that comes to mind is that in lesson 15, “Blessings of the House of Israel,” of last year’s Young Women’s lesson manual, the preface to the instructor advises her to read the Mormon Doctrine entry on “Israel.” (germane to this post, the “Israel” entry references the book’s “Races of Men” entry, which contains express statements regarding racial inferiority).

    There are other examples. The 2004 book “Black and Mormon” is a collection of essays examining the contemporary experience of the church with African Americans. The essays portray an increasingly positive situation where both the institutional church and individual members have improved in their acceptance of African Americans. The essays also highlight the need for continued change, particularly in expurging racial folklore used by some Mormons to explain the former racial ban. In his essay, “How Do Things Look on the Ground?” Ken Driggs writes that African American Mormons in Atlanta are “growing in numbers, in commitment, and in the church leadership roles they fill.” But he reports that the racial folklore used by some white members to explain the past racial ban is “very painful” to black members, and he suggests that church leaders’ “inability to appreciate how offensive some of McConkie’s “Mormon Doctrine” is to African Americans” is evidence that Utah-based leaders may not have had much opportunity for “real-world experience at building race relations.”

  38. #20 – “You can read that however you want I guess.”


    The entire talk, in context, speaks of our ability to receive His love – and speaks explicitly in another section of His love being literally universal. It’s easy to pull anything out of context and analyze it in isolation. I prefer to avoid doing that.

    As I said, I wish he would have worded that section differently, but it’s perfectly clear to me that Elder Nelson is NOT saying that God loves some people and doesn’t love others, as is the implication usually of saying love is conditional. I just think the paragraph you (and I) quoted is badly worded, simply because it provides a great soundbite that can be used to claim what the talk in its entirety doesn’t teach.

    Of course, that opinion is the result of being free to read and parse the entire talk however I want.

  39. Howdy, all. I am, as always, grateful and humbled by your response. Some initial thoughts and then specifics:

    I recognize that a danger of this sort of notion is that everything becomes okay. Some things become better (I think) but at worst everything becomes okay. There’s really no place for moral outrage with this outlook. I haven’t really decided if this is a good or bad thing. It is well and fine for me to decide I shouldn’t be outraged, but I haven’t been damaged (directly) by racism, either. I don’t feel a need or find a good in telling others why their outrage at some genuine harm incurred (or possibly at some perceived harm incurred) isn’t useful or that it is itself harmful. If I did, I’d have less friends, because I would be a jerk, a know-it-all, and terribly self-righteous. While I am actually all of those things, I manage to keep it tamped down most of the time and that’s why people like me. Huzzah!

    Stirling #2,
    I would say that the argument applies no matter what the era of the church. God loves assimilators and polygamists, too. Every age is blessed with its own special brand of cluelessness.

    Emily #5,
    I think that God works with whomever he has available (aren’t there common folk doctrines that if Joseph Smith had failed in some way another would arise to take his place). Therefore, I can live with a prophet who votes Libertarian, even though I personally find Libertarianism distasteful and potentially harmful. The prophets role is to call us to repentance, but the prophets call hasn’t changed much over the years. The majority of prophetic speech in this is every other era is repent and turn to God. In order to repent, you need to recognize you are doing a wrong. Sometimes, I would think, even prophets aren’t prepared for that, which is a very human failing. Peter continued to eat with the Jews after receiving the revelation to extend the church to the Gentiles.

    palad #6,
    Frankly, I’m skeptical that we’ve ever seen a higher law, but I am open to being wrong on that front.

    SC Taysom #8,
    I believe that Elder Nelson conflates to distinct scriptural notions of love in that talk. To love has both a transitive and an intransitive meaning. I would argue that the transitive love is conditional but the intransitive ain’t. FWIW

    Deborah #14,
    You’re right to bring up the existence of unfulfilled desires. I tend to approach the matter in the way I do because of scripture (specifically, Alma 29:5). I tend to think that God allows us to approach certain things because we think that they will make us happy. Sometimes (I think most of the time), we get them. Sometimes we don’t. Either way, I think the point of the exercise is that getting what you want isn’t the path to happiness. But, as in all this, I could be dead wrong.

    The other thing, I’ll hopefully address in talking to Margaret.

    Mark #23,
    All I can say in answer to your version of the question is that if that isn’t the case then I don’t see what the point of agency is at all.

    Margaret #24,
    Like Mark said, I don’t think you are contradicting me regarding the revelation. Sometimes are heart-felt desires go unsaid. I think that the majority of American members were deeply embarrassed by the policy and that it was a great relief to see it go away by the time it did. I freely admit that it is an assumption. As a counterpoint, I would ask you to look to Utah’s vote in Prohibition or the recent Utah reaction to the church’s call to be nicer to illegal immigrants.

    Regarding giving people what they want, that’s apparently the sort of Father that God is. I wouldn’t recommend it as an approach to good parenting myself, but I don’t think we should use God as a role-model just yet anyhoo. It appears to be the approach attached the idea of human agency, so that is what we have to work with.

    Regarding addressing race as a white male of privilege, I guess that I don’t feel like shutting up even though I’ve never dealt with the harsh realities of racial discrimination myself. Racism is, at its heart, a virulent form of lazy thinking and self-aggrandizement. Certainly, we can all identify with other flavors of similar approaches. This is why I think the difference between segregation and high school cliques is generally one of scale, not type. This isn’t to deny that violence is more closely associated with our nation’s racist past, but to acknowledge that the bullying and emotional abuse in high school is its own little level of hell. The truth is that we are all mean to each other on occasion. If we can’t recognize the demon in ourselves, then I don’t think that we are learning what we are supposed to. Torturers go home to a loving family. Republicans work in soup kitchens. Kim Jong-Il was probably nice to a dog.

    Do I believe that this should get some people off the hook for the horrible things that they do? No. Do I think it means that we should follow Christ’s call to visit them in prison? Yes.

    Finally, as I tried to say above, I’m not denying or minimizing anyone’s experience of pain, suffering, discrimination, or awkward pauses. People have as much right to their indignation as they do to their joy. I guess that I am just deeply suspicious of all divisions between us good guys and those bad guys (even the ones that seem to make sense).

    Deborah #30,
    I could be wrong but if God “gave” us our agency, he is to some small degree responsible for what we do with it.

  40. The Other Bro Jones says:

    Margaret#26 Thanks. But if there were blacks being ordained in JS’s lifetime, and there is no revelation condemning it, how did the ban become policy?

  41. Markie #32,
    I think it should have been a message about safe sex and condoms, but what do I know.

    Margaret #34,
    We are in complete agreement here at least. :)

    Ya’ll Mormon Doctrine isn’t really the issue, so why are we talking about it? I wasn’t bashing it, I was citing the source my fellow member cited.

  42. Peter LLC says:

    The entire talk … speaks explicitly in another section of His love being literally universal

    And conditional. Which is important, because “understanding that divine love and blessings are not truly ‘unconditional’ can defend us against common fallacies.”

  43. Stirling says:

    Sorry, JC. My comments were meant to address the assumption that the offending MD statements cited in your class were unique to previous editions of the book.

    On an unrelated note, do you know about what year your friend served a mission in Africa?

  44. Ray is right. Read the whole talk. Later on Elder Nelson says he was just kidding about God’s love being conditional. I totally took it out of context.

  45. “I wish he would have worded that section differently.” I’m sure you do, because as it is worded, it does not support your contention.

  46. Natalie B. says:

    I realize that many Mormons share the idea expressed in your meeting that the Brethern are always acting under God’s direction, but I think that the issue of the priesthood ban shows how problematic it is to believe that what they say is always authorized by God. I just don’t feel the need to try to explain to myself what the Brethern do when what I believe they are doing is simply wrong. I’d rather that we apologize, admit error, and move on.

    God might love racists, but should he love them more than the people being hurt by their racism? Why not give the other side what they want? This approach raises more questions in my mind than it answers. That said, I do think you are right on in saying that we need to learn to love even imperfect people.

  47. “I think that the priesthood ban lapsed because we finally saw the petty stupidity of it. We, as a church, stopped wanting it and God, gratefully I think, let it go.”

    In the immortal words of Tonto, “What do you mean ‘we,’ white man?”

    Because here’s how your theory actually sounds to me:
    I think that the priesthood ban lapsed because we white people finally saw the petty stupidity of it. We white people, as a church, stopped wanting it and God, gratefully I think, let it go.

    I’ve heard dozens of people give these theories of how “we” weren’t ready for blacks to hold the priesthood, and all I can do is wonder:

    Why would God privilege white racists over their victims? What’s so special about white people that they got to run the Church and keep out black people? Why wouldn’t God throw out the white racists — every single white person in the entire Church if need be — and let in innocent black people instead? Why wouldn’t God let the Church be a black Church if the white members couldn’t handle the fact that he loves black people just as much as he loves them?

  48. In all seriousness though, I’m not offering any judgment about the accuracy of Elder Nelson’s claims in his article. I am simply trying to point out what those claims are.

  49. I share Armand Mauss’ perspective that the human component of the Church many or most times predominates over the divine. As he puts it, I have some times been disappointed by decisions of the Church’s leaders, but never disillusioned.

    John C. noted that he no longer felt compelled to apologize for the ban; this may or may not be the same thing, but I have stopped feeling compelled to defend the ban’s existence. I explain it to myself (and others, when I am asked) as a reflection of the humanity in the organization of the Church rather than some sort of divine plan. Of course, I could be wrong.

  50. I can’t believe that no one has responded to Seth R. (#3)’s preposterous comment yet. Your mother’s experience with a limited number of people in one area of a continent cannot and should not be extrapolated into a view of an entire race (or races, it’s probably safe to say that people with “African Ancestry” are members of more than one race) or the people from every inhabited continent on the planet. The mere fact of one or several cultures performing genital mutilation (even some of the more heinous examples of female circumcision) should not be a reason for the Church’s ban on any group of people. The Church could require that such practices be abandoned as a condition to membership or reception of the priesthood.

    Africa has been the most ethnically and culturally diverse planet on the earth for much of history. (I’m not certain I would still label it such, primarily due to the African Diaspora’s widespread dissemination.) Certainly many of those cultures are/were/have been rather patriarchal (on the other hand, some are matriarchal and others still don’t fit either mold). But God has seen fit to grant the priesthood to men in other societies that were plenty patriarchal. As members of a Church which believe that the priesthood was restored among a society primarily of WASPs, it’s inappropriate and/or (willingly?) ignorant of us to claim the Church could be justified in denying the priesthood to a whole race because of the practices of the traditions of some subset of that racial population. The culture of the 18th Century United States’ frontier is about as patriarchal as societies can come. Somehow, God still trusted the priesthood to His faithful within that society. If anything, bestowing the priesthood on the faithful should help advance God’s Patriarchal Order at the expense of the kind of patriarchy that we talk about pejoratively.

    Thus, your argument reflects a poor understanding of African races/ethnicities and/or a weak testimony of the priesthood and the blessings that come from its exercise.

    (That was much more cruel than it was intended. But I hope no one accepted this logic “someone observed X among Y people, ergo, Z people [of which Y people are a tiny portion of the population of Z people] are characteristically A and deserve B.”)

  51. Natalie,

    I’m not really saying that the Brethren always act under God’s direction. I’m saying that God is generally speaking willing to let us screw things up. Even at the highest levels. I think that there might be specific exceptions to that, but I imagine they are fairly rare. As the question of why we should listen to the Brethren if they can be wrong, I think that submission to flawed authority is one of the ways we are to emulate Christ. Just find the way to do it and please God to and you’re good. Also, tell me about it because I am still trying to work it out.

    Natalie and kuri,

    I don’t think god loves racists more than other folk. I think that he loves all of us equally. If this means that he allows bad people to hurt people and good people to not hurt people, he is given both their desires, I guess. Of course human motivation and pain seems more complicated to me than that. In any case, viewing God as a great deus ex machina (irony intended) isn’t the point of life, nor would it lead, I think, to an ultimate state or feeling of justice. I’m pretty sure that if there is to be any justice in life, you have to make it for yourself.

  52. Bro. Jones says:

    #49 Interesting perspective on not feeling compelled to defend the ban’s existence, especially in light of the OP’s reasoning. I find myself doing the same: if people ask me to justify or defend the ban, I won’t. Likewise I won’t automatically apologize for it, but if asked about my own feelings, I will openly express my disdain for the ban and the human failings of those who instituted it.

  53. Bro. Jones says:

    Oh, and I’m the “original” Bro. Jones. Hi, “other” Bro. Jones.

  54. SC Taysom,

    FWIW, I do not feel compelled to defend the specific arguments made in the Ensign article on unconditional love.

    I do think the article was driven by discomfort with the phrase “unconditional love”, for fear people would consture that to mean that God was indifferent to our conduct. I agree God is not indifferent to our conduct; but I believe God continues to love us unconditionally regardless of our choices.

    Similarly, the phrase “free agency” has been dropped from the approved correlation lexicon, I think, for fear people would construe that to mean that choices are free of consequences or that God is somehow pleased when we freely choose to do wrong.

    Personally, I do not have a problem with believing in and using the terms “free agency” and “unconditional love.”

    Although I can understand dropping them from the approved lexicon, I was, frankly, puzzled by the taking of an entire Ensign article to implicitly announce a change in preferred Church phraseology. (Elder Hales, though, did use the term unconditional love in his last conference address.)

  55. I’ll leave my response as a thanks to John for stating it so well in #39.

  56. John C #39.

    Thanks for your response. I think Peter’s choice to eat with the Jews seems like a matter of personal comportment that wouldn’t have much of an effect on the Church as a whole. If he had actually refused to teach the gospel to the gentiles, that would be another matter, and more analagous to the priesthood issue we’re talking about here.

    I know prophets are only human, but I have to believe their calling elevates them to a more substantial connection with God, a refined ability to discern God’s truth, and a higher accountability to following God’s commandments, or else I have no reason to follow them as prophets. True prophets lead with the truth, they don’t follow the path of least resistance. In my judgement, the fact that for so long LDS prophets failed to 1 – recognize the wrong of priesthood/temple denial to blacks, 2 – seek God’s truth concerning the matter, and 3 – change policy, constitutes a sin that the Church should acknowledge and apologize for.

    But I don’t think the Church has ever admitted they were wrong about anything. (Can someone tell me I’m wrong about this? I’d love to hear an example). Why is this? I don’t think their authority would be undermined, but maybe it would in some people’s minds?

  57. MikeInWeHo says:

    Why on earth is Mormon Doctrine (with that problematic content in a couple of sections) still being reprinted and sold in Church-owned stores? It’s bad PR, because the anti’s jump all over that kind of little thing as “proof” of residual racism.

    The continued publication doesn’t make sense to me. You’d think it would just quietly go away. How hard would it be to just delete the Caste System and Races of Man chapters?

  58. Emily,

    When Peter ate with the Jews, he was sitting down to eat with a group who argued that you couldn’t be a Christian unless you were a Jew. He ate with them when he had options. It wasn’t just a matter of comportment and I think Paul was probably correct to rebuke him (though I might prefer less public rebukes).

    I agree that prophets are more capable than the average joe of seeing where God wants the church to go. I also think that they are only capable of seeing things if they ask to be shown them. You have to know where to look and that you need to look in order to see. Even then, sometimes you don’t ask right questions. In the meantime, God seems patiently capable of waiting for us to get there.

    I think that they may have apologized for the culture that resulted in the Mountain Meadoes Massacre, but I could be misremembering.

  59. Cynthia L. says:

    What Natalie said.

    “God might love racists, but should he love them more than the people being hurt by their racism? Why not give the other side what they want? This approach raises more questions in my mind than it answers. That said, I do think you are right on in saying that we need to learn to love even imperfect people.”

  60. While I do not know the meaning of all things, I know that God loveth all of His children.

    Having said that, I think there’s a lot to be said for God’s ability to work through the hands of His imperfect children. I look at the ban on the priesthood and I don’t see a race of people cursed for something they have any control over. I see a loving Heavenly Father protecting His children from each other, and letting His servants believe what they want to about it, to their own consequence.

    The fact that African Americans couldn’t hold the priesthood until 1978 was not a failure of God or His Gospel. Rather, it was a failure of anyone inside or outside of this Church who would not have been able to deal with colored men as bishops, stake presidents, with the power to baptize and participate in temple ordinances. I see that as a test of faith for my white brother and sisters just as much (if not MORE) as a test for my colored brothers and sisters.

    Do we honestly think Heavenly Father could ever be racist? He knows us better than anyone else, and we’ll be held accountable in the last day for ANY unrepented evil. He may love us, but that doesn’t mean He’s going to let us be stupid forever. He expects us to get our act together as best we can as soon as we are capable, and the time on this issue was 1978. That’s all we need to know, and as long as our actions and beliefs are in line with the prophets after that point, we have nothing to be ashamed of or worry about.

    Our responsibility is to help our brothers and sisters learn the ways in which they can learn of Heavenly Father’s love for them and reconcile this issue through prayer. If you want to help this brother, that is the most important thing he needs to understand, because that’s the only thing you’ll be able to teach him about this with ANY certainty, because history isn’t going to help him.

  61. John C, You’ve opened up a line of thought that I have explored in the past, and finally rejected as problematic. Pres. Benson once spoke about what he called the “Samuel Problem”, referencing how God gave Israel Saul as a king, even though he knew it was wrong, but because the the people were clamoring for a King, and we have our agency. He wasn’t referring to the racism or ban issue directly, but I at first thought it had application. The people suffered under Saul’s departure from righteous ruling down the road, and had to live with alternately good or bad kings for some time.

    Where it all broke down for me is realizing who was primarily suffering for our “choice of racism”. While I believe we as a church did suffer some for the ban up until 1978 ( and still do, as this post indicates), the ultimate sufferers were not the ones who were making the choice, our brothers and sisters of african-american lineage that were denied many blessings over those years.

    Yes, God does love racists, but not more than he loves all his children.

  62. MadChemist says:

    The church should censor more. Always more censoring. The Book has no historical value. Or maybe the church should add small little stickers to the front talking about how Bruce R. McConkie’s opinions are just theories and haven’t been proven scientifically.

    Right Margaret and MikeinWeHo?

  63. RE: The Mormon Doctrine problem

    Obviously, the book is still selling, otherwise DB wouldn’t still carry it, and order reprints. If his family still owns the copyright, it would be up to them to either edit it for future reprints, or withdraw it from publication. It is embarrassing, but in a small way. I’m embarrassed by many other things that DB carries, but just shrug my shoulders and soldier on.

  64. I’m also baffled that MD is still being printed and sold in church-owned stores.

  65. Perhaps if Signature Books purchased the copyright for Mormon Doctrine then it could continue to be published and sold for its historical value (avoiding Church “censorship”) and, because it would be a Signature publication, Deseret Books’ policy against Signature would not permit its sale there. Two birds with one stone.

  66. The Other Bro Jones says:

    I hear a lot of conversation about how the bretheren were wrong to institute the ban in the beginning and shame on them for not getting their act together before 1978. But I haven’t seen it explained how the ban got started.

    I have a problem accepting the argument that the prophets were wrong, and were unable to see the error of their ways.

    I accept the story that it was the will of God, and we don’t know why. Perhaps there were erroneous assumptions/explanations about why. But I am not comfortable with the spin that it was never God’s intention, and Joseph Smith got it wrong from the start. That opens the door to other unacceptable possibilities.

  67. 66–Please refer to http://www.blacklds dot org. There is very good material there. I don’t think John wants this bog to become a retelling of how the ban was instituted (which is inevitably followed up with various speculations on why it was still God’s will). Anyway, I definitely don’t want that. I’ve heard enough speculations.

    Madchemist, #62–see if you can be a bit less condescending, okay? BCC is not about picking fights. It is about conversation. Btw, Deseret Book does indeed now have a publisher’s disclaimer in every copy it publishes of _MD_. No stickers yet.

  68. Cynthia L. says:


  69. MikeInWeHo: “Why on earth is Mormon Doctrine (with that problematic content in a couple of sections) still being reprinted and sold in Church-owned stores? It’s bad PR, because the anti’s jump all over that kind of little thing as “proof” of residual racism.”

    Mike, it’s more than a couple of sections. Just with respect to racial supremacy I’d say there’s a dozen or more. (There are problems with other aspects of the book, but that’s another topic).

    Mike, why do you disagree that this is proof of residual racism? It’s published by the church, it’s quoted in church manuals, church members buy it, church members cite it. At what point do we assign some responsibility for content?

  70. If a prophet and leader is just another poor slob like me why should I trust his judgment over my own? Do we not all have equal access to God? I would rather have been an apostate than support racist doctrine.

    About two years ago the priesthood ban came up in Gospel Doctrine (we got way off the lesson some how). The shocking thing was that several members defended the ban with our scriptures using the same old racist ideology we are familiar with. When this was brought to the attention of the Bishop it was ignored. Not one word was said to correct the false doctrine. My point is that people still believe this stuff! God may love racists, but that doesn’t mean we have to follow them.

  71. Here’s the bottom line. Spencer W. Kimball was a prophet, seer, and revelator. Bruce McConkie was not. Consequently, what President Kimball said about the subject in 1978 takes precedence over what ordinary Elder McConkie said about the subject. Therefore, it no longer matters what Elder McConkie said. The Church is not the Soviet Union; we will not quit selling a historical book simply because it contains superseded information.

    Those who suggest that Mormon Doctrine takes precedence over President Kimball’s revelation aren’t merely dissenting, they are promoting apostasy.

    We can debate over why the ban was initiated in the first place. But the revelations of a Living Prophet are beyond debate.

  72. “Spencer W. Kimball was a prophet, seer, and revelator. Bruce McConkie was not. ”

    Bruce R. was indeed sustained by the church as a prophet, seer, and revelator.

  73. “How can any man holding the Melchizedek Priesthood arrogantly assume that he is eligible for the priesthood whereas another, who lives a righteous life but whose skin is of a different color, is ineligible?”

    President Gordon B. Hinckley
    April 2006
    Priesthood Session

  74. Jack, your point holds, but it might be worth clarifying that BRM, at least as of 1972, was *a* prophet, seer, and revelator. SWK, from 1973, was *the* prophet, seer, and revelator.

  75. I’m coming to this conversation late, a while I’ve read all of the comments, I don’t really want to engage the various debates going on.

    But I do want to thank you for a thoughtful post, John. I’m not sure I agree with everything you propose, but it has certainly caused me to think about some of these issues in new ways, and I appreciate that.

  76. Shouldn’t we parse it just a bit more? When the book originally came out–meeting tremendous controversy among the Twelve–Elder McConkie was a Seventy. He did not submit his book to the official “Reading Committee.” Recommended reading: Gregory Prince’s _David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism_.

  77. For anyone who wants to read multiple statements by modern prophets and apostles about the ban, so that this thread doesn’t have to hash them out again, I was asked on another post what has been said. Comments #50 – #56 quote Marlin Jensen, Jeffrey R. Holland, Bruce R. McConkie, Dallin H. Oaks, and David O. McKay.


  78. Jay (no. 70) says: “My point is that people still believe this stuff!”

    Unfortunately, that was my response to this post, too. Yes, it’s good that John C. has gotten past the point of needing an apology because he realizes that God loves racists, too. But the reality is that many, many, many members of the Church still hold to the many (folk) rationalizations out there for the priesthood ban. Thus, John C.’s post is an interesting way to look at the problem, but, to me, largely ignores the elephant in the room: An official explanation for the existence and continuation of the bad is absolutely necessary. THEN, we can get to the second question of recognizing that God loves racists. But first things, first.

  79. Oops. I meant, “an official explanation for the . . . ban” not bad. My ban, I mean bad. ;-)

  80. It is all speculation. We don’t know why God has limited who is ordained to the priesthood during certain times (Gentiles, blacks, women). We can speculate, but that is all we are doing. Does God have just one reason why it is done like that? All I know is that he has a work to do and this is how he chose to do it. As a woman, I do not think he loves me less. As a white, I do not think he loves me more.

  81. “…President Kimball opened himself to receive revelation…”

    You don’t believe President McKay “opened himself to receive revelation?”

  82. Mark Brown says:

    That’s a very good question, Jack. Let me attempt a reply.

    Based on what we learn in sections 8 and 9, we understand that the acquisition of knowledge is an important part of the revelatory process. Pres. Kimball commissioned some of the 12 to study the ban and report on any scriptural, historical, or doctrinal justifications. As far as we know, Pres. McKay prayed about it but didn’t put forth the same effort to “study it out”. Maybe that is the reason.

  83. Jack,

    One of the key components to the 1978 revelation was that SWK was able to get consensus from all the apostles and 70’s. DOM was unable to do that due to resistance from members of the Q12 at that time.

    Pres. Kimball spent months trying to get confirmation that what he felt was right was acceptable. He had implicit agreement from the 12 in the final weeks before the revelation was received that it was a policy, not a doctrine, and could be changed, but only by revelation. Pres. McKay had significant opposition from the 12 on that same question, including the question of whether it was policy or doctrine. Yet I believe McKay opened the door for Pres. Kimball to get the revelation, because he had begun asking the questions, and it was out there in the minds of many of the general authorities. Previous efforts to reverse the policy by administrative action had been rejected.

    Regardless of whether you believe the ban was initiated by revelation (I most assuredly do not!), Pres. Kimball felt that only a revelation could reverse it, even if it was a policy.

    For references on this, see Volume 47, no. 2, © 2008, the lead article by Edward Kimball.

  84. # 83, the reference is to BYU Studies, the next to last volume. Citation FAIL.

  85. A detail on McKay’s efforts, from Leonard Arrington, via Prince:

    “A special committee of the Twelve appointed by President McKay in 1954 to study the issue [of the black priesthood/temple ban] concluded that there was no sound scriptural basis for the policy but that the church membership was not prepared for its reversal…Personally, I knew something about the apostolic study because I head Adam S. Bennion, who was a member of the committee, refer to the work in an informal talk he made to the Mormon Seminar in Salt Lake City on May 13, 1954. Mckay, Bennion said, had pled with the Lord without result and finally concluded the time was not yet ripe.” (p. 80 of Prince’s “David O McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism,” citing p. 183 of Arrington’s “Adventures of a Church Historian.”

  86. This next comment is coming from the pissed off part of me. Please keep that in mind. Thanks, from the emotionally stable part of me.

    For those of you who keep insisting that I said that God loves racists more than other people or that he loves white folk or democrats more than other people, either demonstrate this with my actual words or shut up. Don’t put words in my mouth that were never there.

  87. Hunter,
    Short of the development of time travel or extraordinary revelation, I do not believe that an official explanation for the policy will ever be forthcoming. Dare to dream, though.

  88. If Mitt Romney runs against Obama in 2012, I think that mayprompt, at a minimum, a formal disavowal of some of the racist folklore explanations for the past practice. At the moment, I do not think there is consensus among the FP and 12 regarding how much of past teachings is folklore, and how much is not: e.g., are African blacks really descended from Cain and Ham, was there really a policy excluding their descendents from Priesthood and Temple blessings in earlier dispensations, and the like.

  89. Mark Brown says:


    Once again, Stirling is the indispensible man.

    Thanks for bringing facts into the discussion, I appreciate the correction.

  90. John C., thanks for not including me in your “pissed off” response. And I appreciate you taking my concern seriously. But, alas, methinks you are correct that instead of an official explanation, the matter will continue to float around in the ether. Perhaps your “God loves racists” approach will become the prevailing attitude into the future. I can live with that.

  91. I think a difference between SWK and DOM in that SWK did not just commission a study to reexamine the 1954 work, but he, in effect, personally and privately lobbied each of the individual members of the 12 to consider the issue, and continually pushed the matter until a conclusion was reached. My recollection (and I defer to Stirling and Greg Prince) is that DOM did not engage in such persistent pushing of the issue.

    A difference might be that DOM knew that HBL (and perhaps others) would be adamantly opposed and therefore did not wish to rock the boat in the 1950s and 1960s. I do understand that HBB felt passionately about the issue, and was able to bring the 12 (with one absent) to endorse a recommendation to change the policy in 1969, but upon the return of the missing apostle, HBL, that potential change was reversed, and a negotiated statement was issued by the two members of the FP restating the historical position of the Church.

  92. Comments: 83-85,

    I’m on board with that–pretty much. What I’m not on board with is the notion that God could not have had other reasons for leaving the ban in place for so long.

  93. …er, comments: eighty-TWO though 85…

  94. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 67
    What does the disclaimer say, Margaret?

  95. A very interesting post, my personal experience however is this. God is love. To my studying and through those that taught me, I must say that if “evil” has been ever present since Lucifer fell and took some others with him, then how was it ever justified that on a particular people (those of African descent) evil was that much more abundant? Adam and Eve ate of the tree, if anyone introduced evil into the world it would be them. So then one would assume that their children as a direct result of their actions were already born into sin, and as a result all of us are. Racism exits without question; one would think however that since we are members of the true church, we would do what the good book says, be not conformed to this world and regardless of what was going on in America at the time, be true to His word and just love one another. As members of the true church, yes we are human, but we should know better. To not like someone based off a book written by someone who wasn’t ordained in a time period that wasn’t exactly America’s proudest moments as far as treatment of other races is in my oppinion ridiculous. God loves, and I believe He loves everyone.

  96. Peter LLC says:

    I believe that Elder Nelson conflates to distinct scriptural notions of love in that talk. To love has both a transitive and an intransitive meaning. I would argue that the transitive love is conditional but the intransitive ain’t.

    Intransitive…isn’t that the one with no object? And yet here’s all this talk about loving racists. I don’t get it.

  97. Peter LLC says:

    a particular people (those of African descent)

    They are a particular people indeed.

  98. #97 – ???

  99. Concerned says:

    “We are also meant to understand the humanity of our leaders. That means that our leaders can be vain, hurtful, prideful, racist and so forth. Because they are in a leadership position, this also means that the leader’s outlook can be forced on other people.”

    It is fine to be human …but then to say the leaders cannot lead you astray is a totally different thing.

  100. This is digusting! I am not a mormon and was just interested to see what was on this site when I came upon this post, and as a black woman I must say that this whole conversation is truly and utterly disgusting to me. It is a libel against God to even suggest that he would even countenance let alone command a racist policy to be carried out in his name, and to used the twisted logic of Genital mutilation in parts of Africa as some sort of excuse for this racist policy, as one commentator did, is sickening and disturbing. It is certainly true that you people are entitled to your beliefs but I just had to voice my disgust.

  101. Peter,
    I prefer transitive and intransitive to active and passive (because I think both are active). The transitive notion is roughly synonymous with “to bless.” So if god is demonstrating love by showering you with blessings extraordinary, this is a conditional state (don’t expect it to last). The intransitive notion is roughly synonymous with “to love” in our modern sense (which is to have a particular emotion in regards to someone). Love in the modern sense doesn’t have to mean actually doing something to/for them (although it may be implied). That is why I call it intransitive.

    I’m sorry. My purpose here isn’t to argue that God condones racism, but that he loves people who are racist (along with everyone else). I don’t think that he condones racism either, but that he has allowed people to make their own choices out of love and that this decision has led to people hurting each other in racist and other ways. I assume God was aware of this likelihood and that, therefore, he must be generally patient with the wicked, hoping that they’ll get their act together, slowly coaxing them into it. It’s pretty much that or assume that they’ll all rot in hell, which I’m really not willing to do. Other possibilities will be entertained, of course.

  102. Concerned, the notion is that the majority of the leadership won’t lead you astray, not that any particular leader can’t or won’t. Setting that aside, if God wants, he has very effective means for dealing with straying leaders.

  103. Concerned says:

    John C but where that notion comes from? That’s not what we are taught in Church. I have read numerous times where the Prophet specifically says the leaders will not lead you astray, as a matter of fact even Pres. Hinckley made mention that local leaders cannot lead us astray. As an active LDS member, I do not agree with that at all. Leaders are humans and they ARE capable to lead people astray… to think otherwise is to trust in the arm of the flesh.

  104. As I understand it, the ban was not doctrine, but rather, policy. This means a few things to me. First, policy means temporal and pragmatic, not spiritual and eternal. The ban wasn’t in place because of the nonsense theory about the seed of Cain that McConkie himself retracted. It was in place for some other, non-doctrinal reason.

    The idea that blacks were less valiant is ridiculous considering the unearthly faith demonstrated by early black members, who not only crossed the plains with their white counterparts, but did so amidst racism. Its one thing to endure physical hardships, but at least do so side-by-side with fellow saints who consider you their friend and equal. Its quite another to endure the same hardship *alone*, with people who don’t consider you their friend and certainly not their equal. Thus black pioneers demonstrated faith beyond most of their white counterparts. To insinuate that such were less valiant in the pre-existence is ludicrous.

    My own theory somewhat mimics the original post – but I believe it was more to protect the Church as a whole, that the Church had to mature to a point where the lifting of the ban wouldn’t completely destroy it. Even in 1978, many bishops, stake presidents and others left the Church because of the lift. I believe God will judge justly those black members who left the Church and I believe in the end, they will return, either in this life or the next. And I believe that blacks were specially chosen to carry the burden of the ban to save the Church and they will be rewarded for it.

    I believe the Church today will not be the Church you will see a hundred years, a thousand years from now. I believe the principles of the Gospel will be the same of course, but there are a thousand minutae of operating the Church in today’s society that make those decisions right for the time and place we’re in. I think we’d be surprised how different the Church can be and not only be 100% true, but actually closer to perfection.

  105. Nameless says:

    ” I believe God will judge justly those black members

    I think we have to be careful about judging those of times past with our current moral codes, however, I also think that those white members who promoted these policies will have to answer for their choices. I also wonder if the experience of Alma and Amulek in Alma 14:11 is applicable in this case?

    What I think is important to me right now is what I can do about today. Post #70 and #78 nailed it–some today still believe these ideas. (BTW, I received a copy of Mormon Doctrine as a wedding gift from my Stake Presidency–inscribed even–25 years ago. Not sure how many years that practice continued.) I think of course first and foremost I can effect change by the teaching of my own children but secondly, I think I should speak up outside of my home as well. This is where a discussion like this one is valuable for me. It allows me to put together ideas and information that I may not have had access to previously. (I am thinking specifically of the information on David O. McKay and Margaret’s video.) For that I really appreciate John C. opening up this discussion.

  106. omoplata says:

    Nameless, I meant that judging “justly” in their cases would be judging extremely, extremely leniently. But calling it leniency makes it sounds like giving them a break. It’s not a break, it is just given what they had to endure. Hence my wording. Hope that helps.

  107. Nameless says:

    Omoplata…I was agreeing with you and extending that thought to white members as well.

  108. Concerned,
    I have never been taught that leaders can’t lead people astray. So, there’s some counter evidence. For that matter, the lesson in the Priesthood/Relief Society manual that started all this very explicitly says that sticking with the majority of the membership (and the 12) is the way to avoid apostacy. That would imply that individuals (even in the twelve) could go astray and take others with them.

    happy to oblige.

  109. avisitor says:

    Concerned said-
    “That’s not what we are taught in Church. I have read numerous times where the Prophet specifically says the leaders will not lead you astray, as a matter of fact even Pres. Hinckley made mention that local leaders cannot lead us astray. As an active LDS member, I do not agree with that at all.”

    The principles taught by the Prophets are the principles of the Church, whether we as members agree with them or not. Regarding being led astray by the Brethren:

    “the united voice of the First Presidency and the Twelve will [never] lead the Saints astray or send forth counsel to the world that is contrary to the mind and will of the Lord” (General Conference April 1972)

    In one quick search I located statements made by Presidents Ezra Taft Benson, Harold B. Lee, Joseph Fielding Smith, Heber J. Grant, Joseph F. Smith, Wilford Woodruff and Brigham Young all testifying to the very same thing.

    The Lord also commands in D&C 107 that “Every decision made by either of these quorums [the First Presidency, the Twelve Apostles, and the Seventy] must be by the unanimous voice of the same; that is, every member in each quorum must be agreed to its decisions, in order to make their decisions of the same power or validity one with the other—“

    James E. Faust said of this principle of unanimity “it provides a check on bias and personal idiosyncrasies. It ensures that God rules through the Spirit, not man through majority or compromise. It ensures that the best wisdom and experience is focused on an issue before the deep, unassailable impressions of revealed direction are received. It guards against the foibles of man.” (In Conference Report, October 1989)

    So God has doubly protected His followers from being led astray. First, He will never allow the united consensus of the above mentioned quorums to be contrary to His mind and will, and second, if faithful saints make it a point to know what is being taught by the “united consensus” of the Brethren, they can easily discern when or if particular leaders, local or otherwise, attempt to teach concepts that stand in opposition to them and avoid being led astray.

    Yes, the men who lead the Church are human and humans make mistakes. But we have God’s assurance that all of them will never be permitted to make the same mistake at the same time.

    (Just FYI- the Institute Curriculum “Teachings of the Living Prophets Student Manual” is available on the Church website and provides substantial material on this topic too)

  110. Wedon'tbelieveininfallibility says:

    “Yes, the men who lead the Church are human and humans make mistakes. But we have God’s assurance that all of them will never be permitted to make the same mistake at the same time.”

    Actually, you don’t have to look any further than this post to see one of several issues where it’s pretty clear the church was “led astray” by its leaders. For decades we had a policy that wrongfully restricted women and men from full enjoyment of church blessings (and in our theology, full enjoyment of the plan of salvation). It was wrong. BY started us down the road, the rest of us followed–to the detriment of all.

  111. avisitor,

    Are you aware of a statement issued by the united Brethren that the united Brethren are together effectively infallible?

  112. If Mitt Romney runs against Obama in 2012, I think that may prompt, at a minimum, a formal disavowal of some of the racist folklore explanations for the past practice.

    Why would his candidacy prompt an action that the leadership of the Church generally hasn’t seen fit to do up to this point? You assume that the Church leadership *cares* about Romney’s candidacy…

  113. #109 – “But we have God’s assurance that all of them will never be permitted to make the same mistake at the same time.”

    No, we don’t. From a strictly parsing standpoint, “making the same mistake” is a totally different standard, and it has never been stated that way of which I am aware.

  114. #110

    Your opinion that it was wrong, even coupled with a million others identical to it, does not actually make it so any more than my opinion makes it right. Every human being that has been or will be born into mortality shouted for joy in the same place where they learned that not all would be saved and heard The Father declare that the most pure, holy, and innocent among us was to suffer for all the horrors of humanity. Certain things that seem unfair or unjust when viewed through our human perspective may actually be perfectly just and right from God’s eternal vantage point.

    The revelation given in 1978 marked the first time in recorded history since the murder of Abel that ALL of the blessings of the gospel were made available to ALL people of all nations living on Earth at the same time.

    Who do you blame for the thousands of years in which millions of men and women lived and died, (and do today and will in the future) without the chance to experience ANY of the blessings of the gospel?

    In our theology, we understand that no child of God will be denied even one of the eternal blessings they deserve, especially if they forces beyond their control made it impossible for them to receive them during mortality.


    The word of God is enough for me even if your straw man seems to require more.

  115. avisitor,
    I’m not saying you are wrong, because, “how would I know?”, but I think that it is probably better to blame the priesthood ban on human frailty than divine purpose. Though God works with the material available, I don’t think that should lead us to belief he is happy with the status quo.

  116. Eveningsun says:

    Absolutely amazing–115 comments and not once has anyone referenced The Book of Abraham, which (in 1:21-27) takes the well-known “Hamitic theory” of racial inferiority and elevates it from the level of racist folklore to the level of canonical scripture. Read the scripture: Noah cursed Ham “as pertaining to the Priesthood.” From Ham, in whom “the blood of the Canaanites was preserved,” then sprang “that race” or “lineage” by which one “could not have the right of priesthood.” This is no more and no less than the Hamitic theory applied to the priestly hierarchy of the LDS Church.

    In the Book of Abraham, a “theory” that was never actually expressed in the Bible, that had previously been nothing more than a self-serving racist ideology, thus appeared in the form of divine scripture itself. Not merely as policy or practice or folklore, but as scripture.

    The real problem here is that the Book of Abraham itself is so pathetically racist–and so obviously a product of Joseph Smith’s immediate circumstances amid the explosive racial politics of the 1840s–that one cannot honestly solve the problem of the priesthood ban without questioning the prophetic authority of Smith himself. And that appears to be something no one in this discussion is willing to do.

    Hence all the circumlocution about Bruce McConkie, etc. But the problem isn’t Bruce. The problem is Joseph. The problem isn’t Mormon Doctrine, the work of a man, but the Book of Abraham, the revealed word of God himself.

  117. Stirling says:

    Evening Sun, though I don’t share your interpretation of the BoA verses, your point is relevant: the verses have been interpreted by some (including McConkie) to support the temple restrictions. I have a meeting to catch, but hope to comment on the verses later tonight, or tomorrow.

  118. avisitor says:


    First, until a direct revelation regarding the exact reason for, or origin of, the ban is issued to the Church body according to the order and authority established by God Himself, not a single one of us is justified in assuming OR assigning “blame” anywhere.

    God has never, and will never, ever, reveal His will for the Church (be it past, present, or future) through anyone other than His chosen Prophet, and should that Prophet become unworthy of or unreceptive to His influence, He will remove that man and establish another. The gospel of Jesus Christ is clear that only God has stewardship over His Prophets and that it is impossible for any member to judge them in righteousness because God has never called or given the membership the authority necessary to do so.

    Second, what evidence is there that God is unhappy or displeased with the status quo? Or that He was unhappy with it in the past? No condemnations were issued from heaven. No plagues were pronounced upon the Saints. God has historically and consistently made His people and His prophets painfully aware of His dissatisfaction and wrath when they act in opposition to His will. Yet as far as I know, He has not expressed even a hint of disapproval towards the modern day prophets or Church because of the ban.

    On the other hand, the Lord has expressed his feelings towards those who criticize the Brethren. He said that He will “blind their minds, that they may not understand his marvelous workings; that he may prove them also and take them in their own craftiness”. He said “Cursed are all those that shall lift up the heel against mine anointed, saith the Lord, and cry they have sinned when they have not sinned before me, saith the Lord, but have done that which was meet in mine eyes, and which I commanded them. But those who cry transgression do it because they are the servants of sin, and are the children of disobedience themselves.”

    In short, in this situation the only truth we have the power to accurately expose is the truth about ourselves.

  119. avisitor,

    I see you believe in the infallibility of the Brethren, or at least the united Brethren (being the First Presidency and the 12). Good for you. Really. I hope it serves you well. I know many people for whom it works.

  120. avisitor says:


    I think a better representation of where my faith is grounded would be to say that I believe in the infallibility of God and His promises and His plan. I believe in the infallibility of the witnesses He grants to me when I encounter truth and am willing to accept it.

    Consider these words of truth from Gordon B. Hinckley:
    “Now, in conclusion, do you believe this body of men [the 12 apostles and First Presidency] would ever lead this church astray? Remember whose church this is. It carries the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, who stands as its head. His is the power to remove any found remiss in his duty or in teaching that which is not in harmony with His divine will.”

    His words are true. And I thank you for your wishes. The truth has never failed me.

  121. Stirling says:

    Avisitor, you wonder if there are “hints of disapproval” of a church policy that prevented men and women of black African descent from fully participating in the church’s temple and other blessings.

    We could look at the New Testament, BoM, and D&C textst that teach the gospel is universal, and should be universally carried to all peoples. There are also various quotes from apostles or church presidents that describe race-based religious practices as wrong. Perhaps your point is that there should be more contemporary statements, and they should be more explicit?
    One example is that Elder Hunter dedicated an entire sermon to the topic in his Feb. 1979 speech “All are alike unto God.” This was given shortly after the 1978 revelation, so the policy change is necessarily part of the speech’s context.
    I recommend the entire sermon. Three snippets from it are:
    “Do you imagine our Heavenly Father loving one nationality of his offspring more exclusively than others? As members of the Church, we need to be reminded of Nephi’s challenging question: “Know ye not that there are more nations than one?” (2 Ne. 29:7).”
    [After quoting 2 Ne. 26:33 “…all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.”] “From this statement it is clear that all men are invited to come unto him and all are alike unto him. Race makes no difference; color makes no difference; nationality makes no difference.”
    “As members of the Lord’s church, we need to lift our vision beyond personal prejudices. We need to discover the supreme truth that indeed our Father is no respecter of persons.”

  122. Stirling says:

    EveningSun (#116),
    The Abraham verses don’t suggest anything with respect to the ancestry of black Africans. Some have interpreted them along the lines you suggest. But that’s because they imported into the text their incorrect assumption that black Africans are principally descendants of the (semitic!) Canaanites.
    Also keep in mind that that the BoA wasn’t canonized until 1880, and wasn’t used by Brigham Young or his contemporaries as justification for a race-based temple ban. (Anyone know when the first use of the BoA for this purpose was? It may have been prior to 1880, but I don’t have an example of that).

    As an example of reading an interpretation into the text, some of those verses read:
      21 Now this king of Egypt was a descendant from the aloins of bHam, and was a partaker of the blood of the cCanaanites by birth.
      22 From this descent sprang all the Egyptians, and thus the blood of the aCanaanites was preserved in the land. …
    26 Pharaoh, being a righteous man, established his kingdom and judged his people wisely and justly all his days, seeking earnestly to imitate that aorder established by the fathers in the first generations, in the days of the first patriarchal reign, even in the reign of Adam, and also of Noah, his father, who blessed him with the bblessings of the earth, and with the blessings of wisdom, but cursed him as pertaining to the Priesthood.

    The verses say nothing about black Africans (and nothing about skin color). But they can appear to if one first has the assumption black Africans are descendants of the Canaanites.

    In a previous post on this blog, Kevin Barney pointed out that some Mormons erroneously assumed “a relationship between Cain and Canaan. They are completely unrelated, and the apparent similarity is just an accident of English. More accurate transliterations from the Hebrew would be Qayin (a name having to do with metal smithing) and Kena’an (a name meaning “Westland,” as Canaan was to the west of the great Eastern powers.”
    He wrote that they some also assumed that “…Canaanites were black. Sorry, but no. Canaanites were a Semitic people, who lived in the same land (Palestine) with approximately the same culture as the Israelites themselves. Hebrew is actually a form of Canaanite.”

    What are the verses actually about? I don’t know. Nibley’s interpretation in his book Abraham in Egypt is that “What was denied was recognition of patriarchal right to the priesthood made by a claim of matriarchal succession.” Nibley did not consider any of Cain, Ham, Egyptus, Canaan, or Pharoah to be primary ancestors of blacks.

  123. Thanks, Stirling. I was briefly tempted to respond to the comment which motivated your more excellent response, but just didn’t have the energy to go there again. I get so tired of it–whether it’s coming from a former Mormon or a card-carrying one.

  124. Thanks to everyone for their comments. I’m going to close comments so I don’t have to keep checking to discover what new horrors await. If you have something super awesome to add, please email us and I’ll add it later.