The real genesis of a church’s stand on race

This version takes a little more work than the stinking pile of worn-out racist speculations a popular BYU professor has been peddling. Do the work.

Mormonism’s Negro Doctrine
by Lester Bush

There once was a time, albeit brief, when a “Negro problem” did not exist for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. During those early months in New York and Ohio no mention was even made of Church attitudes towards blacks. The gospel was for “all nations, kindreds, tongues and peoples,” [1. The injunction was found in many places in the then-recently published Book of Mormon (e.g., I Ne. 19:17; 22:28; 2 Ne. 30:8; Mosiah 27:25; Alma 29:8; 3 Ne. 28:29; similarly, I Ne. 17:35; 2 Ne. 26:26-28, 33; Mosiah 23:7; Alma 26:37), and was reaffirmed in a revelation to Joseph Smith, 9 Feb. 1831, published the following July: “And I give unto you a commandment that ye shall teach them unto all men; for they shall be taught unto all nations, kindreds, tongues and peoples”; Evening and Morning Star, July 1832; presently Doctrine & Covenants 42:58.] and no exceptions were made. A Negro, “Black Pete,” was among the first converts in Ohio, and his story was prominently reported in the local press.[2. Ashtabula Journal, 5 Feb. 1831, and Albany Journal, 16 Feb. 1831. These papers attribute the account to the Painesville Gazette, and Geauga Gazette, respectively.] W. W. Phelps opened a mission to Missouri in July 1831 and preached to “all the families of the earth,” specifically mentioning Negroes among his first audience.[3. Manuscript History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, entry undated. Last preceding dated entry was from June 1831, though an intervening reprint from July suggests that the account originated in the latter month.] The following year another black, Elijah Abel, was baptized in Maryland.

Read the whole thing. Really. If you only ever read one Mormon history paper in your life, this should be it.


  1. Amen.

  2. I read it again last week and remembered how great it is. It had a profound effect on me in its first printing. (We include an interview with Bob Rees on the controversial publication of the article in special features of _Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons_.) I have never met Lester, but he changed my life. I could not have guessed back in 1973 (?) that my life’s trajectory would be profoundly affected by the article I was reading in my bedroom. I was already troubled by the issue, and Bush somehow gave me hope.

  3. Amen.

    Another must-read is “Spencer W. Kimball & the Revelation on Priesthood”, by his son Ed Kimball for BYU Studies:

    And “Noah’s Curse: The Biblical Justification of American Slavery” by Stephen R. Haynes gives some much-needed context for the antebellum rationalizations for slavery — the underpinnings of a culture which would inform much of the hurtful speculation of the Saints.

    Between these three papers, there is simply no excuse anymore for the appalling speculations of that professor. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to spread these links as far and wide as possible. Go!

  4. Whoops, didn’t add the link to the second paper:

  5. I was always curious what happened to Lester Bush. Can someone point me in the right direction?

  6. Bush is no longer active, not sure if his name remains on the records. I don’t believe he’s unfriendly to the Church (he’s a good friend of Greg Prince), but he was deeply hurt by threats of church courts and false accusations at the time he published this article in Dialogue. Only he could tell you the reasons for his disaffection. He lives in the DC area.

  7. I have been observing Mormon internet discussion since 1997 and fully participating since 2003. It is fair to say that the overwhelming consensus among Mormons who frequent places such as this is that the racial folklore is an abomination and needs to go. Less overwhelming, but still popular, is the view that the priesthood ban was a sacralized relic of American racism and not the will of God. Neither view seems to be disturbing to a core Mormon faith.

    However, this is all spit and wind given the painfully obvious fact that the situation in our Sunday classes and church universities is at times very different. Thus it is clear that the church, unless it wants to be eternally saddled with the stigma of racism, needs to publicly do something about this. What it says and how it says it is, of course, the Brethren’s prerogative. For all I know, the church may want to own this stuff. But it is clear that the “we don’t know…it’s in the past” strategy has failed if the intention is to prevent the portrayal of the church we love as a racist organisation.

  8. What remains offensive about the ban is that we claimed, and continue to claim as far as I can tell, that it was the will of God. This claim is as offensive today as it was in 1977. The ban is no longer in force, but we continue to claim it was legitimate.

    If church leaders want to really put this behind us, they need to repudiate the claim and explain that the policy was a mistake and a travesty. Instead we get church leaders claiming that the ban ended “at the right time.”

  9. Antonio Parr says:

    Comment No. 7: Amen.

  10. Great comment, Ronan.

    Kristine, thanks for linking the article. On the Dialogue website, it would be helpful if the footnotes were hyperlinked in the text enabling a reader to click between the text and the note. Would that be possible?

  11. John, I’ll work on the links in my copious spare time :)

  12. i agree with wondering’s #8 comment. The worst thing, aside from the ban itself and its effects upon people, is that supporters of the ban blamed God for it.

  13. I’ve never understood why some folks feel that it can be damaging to faith to accept the possibility that the brethren screwed up on this issue. Sure, the notion of racist prophets can be frightening, but much less so than the notion of a racist God. I’ll take the former any day.

  14. I agree with RJH (#7). It is particularly striking that the church is deadset on telling “our story” instead of letting the media and others offer erroneous portrayals, and yet on the critical issue of the racial priesthood ban the only story the church provides is “we don’t know.” That may be sufficient for many members with existing strong testimonies, but it is not enough for all members, and it certainly is not enough for non-members. Would we find it acceptable if an FLDS member explained their practice of forced underage marriages by saying “we don’t know why, it’s is simply God’s will” ?? Of course not. So we should not expect the world to accept such an answer from us either.

    The need for a better statement is especially great at this moment because the racial ban will certainly become a larger issue as the Romney campaign continues. If we don’t tell our story now, others will do it for us and it will be another generation or two before we can correct the story.

  15. I’m worried that the “stinking pile of worn-out racist speculations” is widespread in BYU’s religion department. Then again, if any professor there reminds me of an easy release time seminary teacher, it’s this guy. Easy A’s, no critical thinking required (by either him or the class)–and I had that all figured out several years ago when I made the mistake of taking his class.

    I think most of the rest of the Religion Department would either disagree, or at least have the intelligence to refrain from speaking about, what this professor ran his mouth on about. I hope he’s reprimanded for his cringeworthy interview. Popularity shouldn’t be a shield for racism and stupidity.

  16. A Mormon president would challenge the first black president? Really? What about the Texan presidents? Texas, who still loves to fly the Confederate flag?

    There is nothing wrong with “we don’t know.” It’s the truth. And if it doesn’t satisfy people, than they want a “stinking pile of worn-out racist speculations,” or a flat-out hypothesis peddled as truth.

  17. Or Santorum born in Virginia, where there are pockets of people still more likely to shoot first at the sign of less than lily-white skin? Or Newt Gingrich from Georgia? Anyone who has been to Georgia doesn’t need me to tell them that unapologetic, real, in-your-face racism is alive and well.

    Seriously, if attacking someone on these grounds is the biggest mud pie they have to throw, I may have to consider supporting Romney after all.

  18. The church is sort of stuck here. If they admit that the past teachings regarding racism were flat out wrong, and a product of the cultural biases of the leaders at the time, then they open themselves up to speculation about how the current biases of current leaders are responsible for teachings with regard to gay marriage.

  19. Kevin Barney says:

    I also highly recommend Lester E. Bush, Jr., “Writing ‘Mormonism’s Negro Doctrine: An Historical Overview’ (1973): Context and Reflections,” Journal of Mormon History 25/1 (Spring 1999): 229-71.

    (Unfortunately I’ve tried repeatedly to download it from the USU archive and it’s not working right now.)

  20. Thanks, Kristine. I can’t help wondering what it means that Lester’s article is still just as important and relevant today as it was when Dialogue first published it almost forty years ago.

  21. Sue M–to say nothing of the teachings on women and priesthood…

  22. SilverRain, I’m not sure what you are getting at. Can you explain it in more detail? I am not endorsing Romney. I’m an Obama guy. And certainly racial issues could be raised with the other GOP candidates. In fact, they were raised with Perry. But regardless of how much distance the church keeps from Romney (and it’s doing a good job IMO), the racial ban will become more and more of an issue as the election gets closer. That’s just reality.

    So we have a choice to make. We can either step up and confront the racist underpinnings of the ban (or whatever is the “real” reason is). Or we can let others paint us in a much harsher light than is true. But we cannot remain silent. “We don’t know” just does not cut it for a church whose principle claim is that the heavens are open again and that God speaks to man.

  23. Clark Goble says:

    The racial ban definitely will take center stage along with our issues with gays once Romney moves from the nomination process into being the candidate liberals and progressives have to defeat. I agree we should put out our explanations. Look at what has happened with the baptism for the dead issue and that one is pretty innocuous compared to these others.

  24. Dave, really the only thing I’m saying is that I hate politics. Especially media politics.

    No matter how hard I try to find evidence to the contrary, things like this point in one direction.

    People are idiots.

    And, actually, “we don’t know” is a great response for a Church who claims to be led by God. It acknowledges that they don’t always understand God and His ways.

    And it’s a heck of a lot more honest than 99% of historians who like to make it sound like they understand what went on when they weren’t even there.

  25. Thanks SilverRain. I can agree regarding media politics. I live in Ohio, where our TV is now turned off until the November election (except for Netflix !) because 90%+ of the commercials are political mudslinging. I also agree that the “I don’t know” response is honest. I just don’t think it is enough.

  26. If people are up in arms about an “I don’t know” answer how about the answer be what we actually do know from the fact that the ban began with Brigham, there was no revelation for a ban, and that the racist language was common at the time tying blacks to Cain in order to justify slavery.

  27. “We don’t know”, all by itself, is dishonest. We first need to enumerate the facts that we already know, without question.

    When we first acknowledge all those facts, discrepancies, and ideas which have since been repudiated by someone in authority, I’m OK with somebody saying, ultimately, “I don’t know”. But when we lead with that, as our first, glib response, we are letting ourselves off the hook too easily.

  28. There is a trick about historical “facts,” though. They often deceive.

    And I don’t think it is a “first, glib response.” The thing is that we’re condemning church leadership for speculation, and then turning around and asking them to speculate. The difference is which speculation we happen to agree with.

    I have read quite a bit of discourse labeling Brigham Young as racist, etc. And maybe he really was (though there is evidence to the contrary.) But, through modern eyes and with modern interpretation and sensibilities we lack context. We don’t KNOW that Brigham was racist, only that he worded things in ways that would come from racism were it said today. The truth is that we didn’t grow up in a culture where slavery was accepted. Our culture is vastly different from what it was then, and it is easy to make interpretive mistakes when reading text from a culture not our own.

    Perhaps this is clear to me because I was raised in foreign cultures. But “we don’t know” sums it up very well. There is so much contrary evidence, it is really difficult to know what Brigham Young’s motivations actually were, given we can’t ask him. I know that I would hate to be judged solely on what I’ve written in my journal or typed on my blog, let alone on what others have written down about what I have said. And I think the leadership of the Church have a great many better things to do than try to advance Romney’s political campaign by combing through the past.

    What matters is that there are no racist policies now. And that Mitt Romney is not the Church. Unless you’re willing to judge all presidential candidates because of the horrible things in their religious history (and all religions have them,) it has no place on the political table, and is a patent attempt to divert attention from the things that really do matter to a president or Congressional leader that no one wants to address.

    Realistic, it may not be. But I find common sense is often tragically unrealistic. Which is why I hate politics. And media. And trying to decide anything as a group.

  29. Yes, Gary–kind of disheartening.

  30. @ #28 I’m not sure that the only thing that matters is that there are currently no racist policies, especially when it is clear that there remain racists within the church who are not institutionally corrected when they express their racism and attempt to cloak it in some form of doctrinal sanction. In other words, what matters more than merely lacking racist policies is whether the policies in the church discourage people from racism, and it seems clear that they don’t.

  31. The answer to LDS Racism is not found in a review of the historical minutiae of details. Armand Mauss condemns Prof. Bott for not being current with historical research. But, LDS members have been taught explicitly to ignore scholarship and to follow the leaders.

    Need I trot out the many statements by LDS Authorities on the inherent flaw of relying on scholarship when it come to their view of the things of God?

    Whether the ban began with Joseph or Brigham is irrelevant in the context of a religion which teaches that the living prophet trumps the past. The publication of a revelation is not the yardstick by which a doctrine is established in the LDS Church.

    In short, the LDS Church taught explicitly that the ban was from God, and continues to do so. Official statements by the First Presidency have claimed this, and even Official Declaration 2 lays the source of the ban with God.

    The fact is that this issue will not be dismissed by apologia, even if Armand Mauss is a nice guy. He’s essentially lying when he claims there’s no evidence that God had anything to do with the ban. In the culture and teachings of the LDS Church, there’s a ton of evidence that God instituted the ban.

    Nothing short of a full apology by the Church and a specific refutation of the racism of the LDS Church will fix this problem.

  32. “But, LDS members have been taught explicitly to ignore scholarship and to follow the leaders.”

    If it is so explicit…Show citation


    You clearly have no idea what historians do and have not read any of their work. I agree that you making decisions as part of a group is a bad idea. Please, do not vote.

    Slavery apologetics…really? Please go back to your rock.

  33. Ladders? Rungs? Greatest blessing God could give them? Astonished that a BYU religion professor would spout such a thing. But sadly not surprised. Sigh.

  34. @15:

    That may be the reason why, in a private conversation among a few professors (I was a TA) a few years ago one of them referred to the Joseph Smith Building (home of the religion department) as the Sanhedrin.

  35. Kristine, after reading that Washington Post piece, I think “stinking pile of worn out racist speculation” is an incredibly charitable description of what Prof. Bott said. I had to read it twice to make sure that I hadn’t misread it. Thanks for linking the article, as now I can get an electronic copy to load on my Nook.

    I remember reading Bush’s article in about 1976 for the first time. I had questions, and while Bush’s article answered a lot of them, I have to admit that the 1978 revelation still took me by surprise. The BYU/NCAA thing had quieted down somewhat at the time, and external pressures had lessened. I reread the article again in 1978, answered some more questions, and then have reread it several times since then. Truly a pioneering work. I believe it was reprinted in the collection “Neither White Nor Black” from about 1980.

    That book, by the way, is selling on Amazon as a used paperback for almost $300. My copy needs to go on a higher shelf so the grandkids can’t get to it until they get a little older, and don’t just eat the pages.

  36. Given the following statement of Elder McConkie at the CES symposium in 1978, it has been my opinion that anyone who teaches any possible justification for the prior restriction is on the high road to apostasy. Is anyone out there going to make a principled argument that what Elder McConkie said below is wrong? Far from being wrong, the following statement ought to be canonized.

    Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or President George Q. Cannon or whomsoever 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.

    We get our truth and our light line upon line and precept upon precept. We have now had added a new flood of intelligence and light on this particular subject, and it erases all the darkness and all the views and all the thoughts of the past. They don’t matter any more.

    It doesn’t make a particle of difference what anybody ever said about the Negro matter before the first day of June of this year, 1978. It is a new day and a new arrangement, and the Lord has now given the revelation that sheds light out into the world on this subject. As to any slivers of light or any particles of darkness of the past, we forget about them. We now do what meridian Israel did when the Lord said the gospel should go to the Gentiles. We forget all the statements that limited the gospel to the house of Israel, and we start going to the Gentiles. (Elder Bruce R. McConkie, CES Religious Educators Symposium, 18 August 1978)

  37. WOW! Fantastic post! This is such a fascinating historical look and well researched. Unfortunately, as you state at the end, it almost seems to raise more (and potentially more serious/damaging) questions. I appreciate your sentiment that we shouldn’t try and evaluate this doctrine through our 21st century eyes and try and make a judgement as to racism.

    It also kind of makes one wonder about the popular sentiment in the church that “…a living prophet is more important than a dead prophet”, especially since it appears that the living prophets simply defer to previous judgement from dead ones, much as a judge in the judiciary bases decisions of precedent. This is where some of my personal heartburn is with the revelation claims of the church. It sometimes appears that prophets, seers, and revelators…don’t.

  38. Chris H. “But, LDS members have been taught explicitly to ignore scholarship and to follow the leaders.”

    I think this is one reasonable interpretation of then-Elder Benson’s 14 Fundamentals speech at BYU.

  39. Last Lemming says:

    #15 if any professor there reminds me of an easy release time seminary teacher, it’s this guy.

    Which he was at Logan High during my time there in the early 70s. I was never in his class, and regretted it at the time. I’ve been trying to discern some cosmic message in my near-miss, but have failed.

    #24 Or we can let others paint us in a much harsher light than is true.

    Keeping in mind that “others” encompasses our own loose-cannon members.

  40. I now know less about ethics than I should because I spent 2 hours in class reading that article. Thanks! Very interesting and enlightening. I’m not sure what to think anymore.

  41. If we’re going to quote that McConkie statement, can we all agree to put a [sic] after that awful “whomsoever”?

  42. I sent Randy Bott an email, asking him (nicely) to issue a public apology for his statements and to repudiate what he said. He responded with a short email referencing the church’s official response ( which reprimands him, and he said that he endorsed the church’s response.

    I sent a follow-up email saying that it was nice for him to endorse the reprimand, but it would be much better if he issued a public apology, and not just a private email to me saying that he accepts the church’s position.

    He responded by saying that the church had asked him to not speak any more about the Washington Post article, and he said he would comply with the church’s request. So… no public apology from him.

    He said “I wish I could do that and explain more fully what I really said but in compliance with the Church’s request it doesn’t look like that is going to be possible. Perhaps someday I will have a chance to explain what I really said.”

    I’m doubtful that he “really said” anything different than what was quoted, but I’m sure that he feels that his comments misrepresent his intention, and I’m certain that he would do things differently now, given the fallout he has experienced.

  43. “He responded by saying that the church had asked him to not speak any more about the Washington Post article, and he said he would comply with the church’s request. So… no public apology from him.”

    So…The Church silences dissent once again? ;-)

  44. “So…The Church silences dissent once again? ;-)”

    Pretty much, yes. In this case it isn’t exactly dissent, but they’ve muzzled him nonetheless, as a damage control measure from a PR perspective.

  45. “Sure, the notion of racist prophets can be frightening, but much less so than the notion of a racist God.”

    JKC, what an exquisite line.

  46. A few quick thoughts:

    1. I have to agree with SilverRain that it’s ok to say “I don’t know.” Frankly, I think they really don’t know, and further speculation would only compound the problem.

    2. Chris H. (32) – Methinks you were a bit harsh in your response to SR. “Please go back to your rock.” Really?

    3. Paul Bohman (43) – “I’m doubtful that he ‘really said’ anything different than what was quoted . . . .” I’m not sure if anyone here has been interviewed for an article that later appeared in print (e.g., for published academic work), but journalists get things wrong _all the time_, even those affiliated with venerable publications like the NY Times or Washington Post. I would not be surprised if they got this at least partially wrong, or (as I suspect) Bott was simply responding to a question about what the “folklore” or rationale was that was given at the time.

    I never took a class from Randy Bott, but everyone who took his mission prep class seemed to love it. I found it hard to believe that he actually said what was attributed to him; I certainly hope that it wasn’t an accurate representation of the interview. Given that he is honoring the church’s request not to respond (including explaining what he meant), I think we should refrain from crucifying him or his colleagues online, and instead focus on the words attributed to him in the article.

  47. JT, thank you for your support. Chris H. responds that way frequently when he doesn’t like what someone says, but can only respond with bully tactics instead of actual conversation. You get used to it. :) It’s part of the price of trying to participate in any blog he frequents when you don’t bow to his obviously superior opinion.

  48. JT, thanks for that response. Well put.

    And what SR said is true. For example, if someone uses the n-word in reference to a black person today, they are probably racist. However, just because Mark Twain used that word doesn’t mean he is a racist. It doesn’t mean that he has any racist attitudes. (Now, I have no idea if Mark Twain was racist… I’m just saying that you can’t conclude that he was one simply because he used the n-word to refer to blacks.) Speech that today would almost always imply a feeling of white superiority and racist attitudes towards blacks may not have always implied the same thing back then.

  49. JT,
    Everything Bott was reported as saying in the Post article (and a number of other highly offensive things) was available on his blog until a few hours ago when, undoubtedly as a result of all the aftermath, it went offline. Here is a pdf capture of a couple of the offending blogposts:

    Click to access know-your-religion_-blacks-and-the-priesthood.pdf

  50. “especially since it appears that the living prophets simply defer to previous judgement from dead ones, much as a judge in the judiciary bases decisions of precedent.”

    #37 – Paolo, that absolutely isn’t true in this case – not at all. In this case, the Church’s stand on race is radically different now than it was previously. (and, frankly, it also isn’t true about many other things)

  51. #31 – Calling Armand Mauss a liar is nonsensical. I understand you are bitter toward the LDS Church, but that attack on Bro. Mauss was about as weak as anything I’ve ever read here.

  52. Yes, I think all racists should go back under rocks. SilverRain has proven herself to one over and over through the years on the Bloggernacle. My views are superior to all racists. I am okay with that. SR, nobody else addresses you because they think you are sad and pathetic. “Oh, no. Don’t hurt the fragile feeling of poor SilverRain.”

    Well, I say those that defend slavery and racism should be marginalized. Tolerating the vile likes of SilverRain is why we are talking about Randy Bott in FREAKING 2012!

  53. Oh, Chris. You are hilarious. You have no idea what you are talking about. But it is so charming how that never seems to stop you. Anyways, thanks for the chuckle.

  54. There is a trick about historical “facts,” though. They often deceive.

    Well said.

  55. I’m reminded of Titus 1:15 whenever I run across Chris H. The things he reads into comments by SR and Ray and others strikes me as reflective more of his own internal issues and turmoils than anything else.

    Ray — I’d comment more, but you said the things I’d otherwise say so well I don’t feel a need to comment further.

  56. I have not said anything about Ray. I am pretty sure that I agree with Ray on this issue.

  57. Lord,
    we thank you that we are not as other men, full of racism, ignorance, and prejudice; and that you have not led us away after the traditions of our brethren. We thank thee that we are a holy and a chosen faction.

  58. I think it’s sad that kind of hatred that Chris H. spews out is completely accepted here, rather than immediately condemned.

  59. All you haughty, prideful jerks who arrogantly claim that not being racist is morally superior to being racist—Adam (who derives no personal satisfaction from his own moral superiority or that of his faction) is so on to you…

  60. Also, Christ H., if you think think that SR is a racist, well, then you simply are wrong. Ignorance speaks loudly, though.

  61. Mark Brown says:

    I love it! Jeff and SR and Adam come trolling at BCC!

    At their own blog, they simply ban people outright for making snotty remarks. Maybe it’s because they have superior righteousness. Or maybe it’s because they just prefer their own brand of snotty, and dress it up as righteousness.

    To the topic at hand, I see no appreciable difference between defending or excusing or making rationalizations for racists and actually being one.

  62. Mark Brown says:

    61, “Christ H.”

    Wow. Freudian sip if I ever saw one.

    Jeff, what would that guy who pretends to teach psychology BYU, but who doesn’t believe in clinical depression, say about this?

  63. Mark Brown says:

    Also, there is no difference between a Freudian sip and a typo. Welcome to the dark side, everyone.

  64. Mark Brown says:

    47, JT,

    On your point 3, you are simply wrong on the facts[1]. As comforting as it might be to blame this all on an anti-Mormon librul mainstream media, the things that Bott said in the interview are actually rather mild compared to what he has been publishing on his blog for at least 5 years. As Brad notes, as of yesterday afternoon it is offline, but it was a veritable wonderland of KKKrazy, not only on the issue of the priesthood ban, but every other issue he could think of.

    [1]Yes, I know, those darn “facts” are pesky things, and we ought to discount them every chance we get.

  65. Mark, I love you.

  66. Mark (65) – I think you have misunderstood me. If Bott has been publishing old explanations of the ban as doctrine, then that certainly changes things. All I was saying is that journalists, who do a great job of writing and informing, can sometimes get things wrong as a result of not being an expert in whatever the subject at hand may be. In most cases where I have been interviewed for an article, I felt that the final product was not an accurate representation of our interview. I just felt that since Bott was asked not to respond, we should give him the benefit of the doubt.

    I’m not sure why you thought that I was blaming this on “anti-Mormon librul mainstream media” (which I certainly don’t believe).

  67. Also, while Brad’s pdf bears some resemblance to what was in the article, he didn’t mention anything about curses, preexistent valiance, etc. While I don’t agree with his explanation from the pdf’d blog post, I think it was rather tame compared to what ended up in the WaPo article. Mark or Brad, had you seen other blog posts of his that were “KKKrazy”? Or was this it?

  68. Clarification – “his explanation” in my previous post refers to Bott’s explanation of the ban.

  69. “tame”

    JT, thanks for proving the point.

  70. I really appreciate the link to Lester Bush’s article. I had never read it and found it very thorough and enlightening. I appreciated the blunt approach..though I found it very difficult to read.

    I have said “I don’t know”. I found the assumption the the priesthood ban was doctrinal…and then a look backwards as to guess why… frightening. So few verses in the scripture that are vague at the very best and offer NO indication of relating to the posterity at all–becoming the basis of such an vastly discriminatory practice. All of those guesses and assumptions and speculation became the foundation of a policy that really appears to have not a shred of actual doctrinal basis. I can kind of understand not giving the priesthood to someone who is currently a slave-I can see how you might need to be free to keep covenants–but if you can keep a baptismal covenant…ugh see I really just don’t get it.

    The problem with “I don’t know” for me is that it implies for me that the ban was Godly and that we just don’t know the mind of God. It also doesn’t seem very honest when clearly Brigham Young’s culturally normal but obviously racist attitudes seem to be the genesis of the practice. I don’t know why it continued. I don’t understand why it appears a few prophets were praying to end it and could not . The last time I discussed this topic with a nonmember I said it had cultural beginnings, but I didn’t know why it didn’t end sooner.

    It is vastly easier and more scriptural to have a racist prophet than a racist God…but even when the blame falls squarely on the prophet, the ban still leaves glaring problems…what is meant by “The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as a President of this church to lead you astray” ?

  71. LessonNumberOne, one might say that in a living Church erroneous views are corrected. Thus the Church as a whole wasn’t led astray.

    Certainly I wish Joseph Smith had spoken up earlier and made blacks a much bigger part of the Church. Or, barring that, an vision came to Brigham akin to what happened to Peter. After all everyone already hated us in Utah – especially in the south. What harm would there have been including African-Americans with full integration? And baring that, why not get the revelation back in the 40’s rather than the 70’s after the civil rights movement?

    I don’t know. None of the apologetics on the matter are terribly satisfying.

  72. Stephen M (Ethesis) says:

    I owe Chris H an apology in that my comment overstates the point, I wanted to make, which was the folly of over reading into others. I apologize to Chris if anyone took my post to mean a claim that he is defiled or that he has real issues rather than rhetorical ones.

    I am only apologizing because what I wrote readily lends itself to the reading that I am apologizing for. If it were a strained or unfair reading, I would not be apologizing, but it appears to be the easiest and most direct reading, so I am apologizing publicly.

    Otherwise, only wish my comments were as good as Ray’s.

  73. Stephen M (Ethesis) says:

    In other words, I was wrong and my comment was excessive and offensive. I apologize and will try to do better.

    Though I still do not think SR deserves criticism.

  74. So, this Mr. Bott has been vocal and an activist in publishing old LDS uninspired racist propaganda through his blog (sorry, I refuse to call it folklore, it seems to sugar coat the true essence of the false teachings at hand) for years at the same time that he holds a position as a religion professor at BYU?

    That means, tithing money (which pays for his salary and the venue where he pollutes the minds of religion students) has been used to propagate old LDS unispired racist propaganda through this “professor” as recent as of this year?

    What does President Samuelson have to say about this?

    And to add my two cents about the comfy “we don’t know” answer; given the things we DO know, I think the answer is highly misleading and deceptive, and as someone mentioned above, it safeguards the position that somehow it was the right thing to do at the right time, and that is simply RACIST. Yes, TODAY insisting or implying we cannot recognise anything amiss with the priesthood ban when it was in place is RACIST.

    We may not know 100% of why it was placed, but by using an umbrella “we don’t know” statement, they are conveniently dismissing the things we DO know, which are not exactly praise worthy, but which respectable scholars have worked hard to bring to light.

    Officials insisting on a “we don’t know” answer should be ashamed of themselves, because there are quite many things regarding the issue that we do actually know and that have been documented. I cannot possibly see their dismissal of these things as done in good faith. It is deception.

    Spokespeople for the Church may keep on paying lip service for ever saying “we don’t know – the ban is over” never bothering to do anything further to prevent people like Mr. Bott to continue their anti-Christian agendas; but deep inside, we all know it is not a truly honest answer, and that coming from Church officials, it is extremely sad and extremely disgraceful and extremely dissappointing.

    None of us members of the Church should tolerate this.

  75. #72 – “I wish Joseph Smith had spoken up earlier and made blacks a much bigger part of the Church.”

    The thing is, Clark, Joseph didn’t have to “speak up”. **There wasn’t a ban, of any kind, during his lifetime.** He made black people as big a part of the Church as he was able to make them. He baptized them; he ordained them to the Melchizedek Priesthood; he placed no restrictions whatsoever on them; he treated black members just like he treated any other people of any other race or ethnicity who joined the Church.

    Placing ANY blame on Joseph for the ban just doesn’t make sense. He did everything he could do in his lifetime, since there was no ban and no incorrect justifications for it while he was alive.

  76. What bothers me the most about the entire issue is how smug we 21st century humans are when we gaze haughtily into the 20th and 19th century past. We view people back then as so unenlightened and cretin-like in their understandings. We view them as the apotheosis of ignorance itself. We moderns are wise in our own conceits. We Visigoths passing judgment on our 19th/20th century brethren is laughable.

    How are 22nd and 23rd century humans going to look at us? They will cringe at our unsophisticated and uncouth manners and intellectual barbarism.

  77. #77 – I agree with your second paragraph (and I think, personally, that Kristine does, as well), but your first paragraph doesn’t describe accurately what this post says – or even come close.

  78. “your first paragraph doesn’t describe accurately what this post says”

    Ray, I agree with you. My first paragraph doesn’t describe accurately what this post says. It does, however, elucidate the underlying assumptions of what this post means. Cheers.

  79. After reading the Bush piece, one thing I can say is that George Q. Cannon probably has a lot to answer for.

  80. #79 – You’re wrong, imho, about that, as well. Cheers. *grin*

  81. what proof is there of racial equality? is there any worse sin in contemporary america then much despised racism? is it not the case that the church opposed slavery? i think the truth is that the church was right when they prohibited blacks from being in the priesthood and is wrong now. and i think the leaders know it. i think they just changed for social reasons in the 70s, but were generally right beforehand. unfortunately these days, everyone believes morality is synonymous w/ democracy , equality etc …

  82. is it possible that blacks simply were not fit to be priests in the 19th century? are they even fit today? i think most of you know the answers to these questions, but in truth are afraid of the reality.

  83. and the trolls are out… (sigh)

  84. Kristine says:

    “Troll” is far too kind, Julie. “Troglodyte” could work, except that it would be disrespectful to our hominid ancestors.

  85. Mark B. says:

    The answer to your appalling question, greg, is another: is it possible that no man is, but for the grace of God, fit to be a priest in the 19th or 20th or 21st century?

    If His grace is sufficient for any, it surely is sufficient for all. And without it, we’re all condemned.

  86. Here’s an even better answer: greg, unless President Hinckley is a liar, _you_ are wholly unfit to hold the priesthood.

  87. “I remind you that no man who makes disparaging remarks concerning those of another race can consider himself a true disciple of Christ. Nor can he consider himself to be in harmony with the teachings of the Church of Christ. 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?” —Gordon B. Hinckley

  88. Whichever BCC blogger created the “Greg” sockpuppet, kudos. The restraint with which he lobbed y’all a softball without *explicitly* saying something racist was a nice touch.

  89. #90 & #91 – and now we’ve reached about the lowest point imaginable. As MikeinWeHo said in another thread, where’s Steve Evans when you need him?

  90. greg,
    Not to put too fine a point on it, but you are an idiot. Why on earth you would prefer to believe that the prophet is lying for publicity’s sake, rather than accept that the ban was a bad idea that didn’t originate with God, I’ve no idea. But your approach, no matter what you think, isn’t loyal to the church and is anathema to the Gospel. So, good luck with that, you great big dummyhead.

  91. Jacob H. says:

    Oy, the conversation seems to have slipped below the greatness of the post itself. So I guess I’ll just say thank you for the link and now my favorite quote from it:

    One cannot help but wonder why, in view of the hundreds of millions of men who have been denied the priesthood either because it had not been restored or because of their inaccessibility to the gospel, a relatively insignificant additional handful should be singled out for the same restriction based on the elaborate rationales that have accompanied the Negro policy. Though Church leaders have frequently spoken of the millions who have been denied the priesthood because of the curse on Cain, Negroes were really no less likely to receive the priesthood prior to the Restoration than anyone else, nor are they presently any less likely to receive the priesthood than the majority of mankind.200 Ironically, the few men who have been denied the priesthood only because they were Negroes are the rare blacks who have accepted the gospel; yet acceptance of the gospel is frequently cited as a sign of “good standing” in the preexistence when the individual is not a Negro.

    That kind of logic appeals to me ^_^. Also, the First Presidency quote, it is a moral evil for any person or group of persons to deny any human being the right to gainful employment, to full education opportunity, and to every privilege of citizenship — including willful marriage to the one you love… that’s where I hope a renewed discussion of our “racial issues” will meaningfully lead.. is gay marriage today all that different from miscegenation 50+ years ago?

  92. it's a series of tubes says:

    is gay marriage today all that different from miscegenation 50+ years ago?

    Not in the least, provided you are willing to entertain the possibility of eternal homosexual relationships and/or that God is a homosexual.

  93. Jacob H. says:

    As a Mormon, I can see the need to fit social functions into our pre- and post-mortal theology, similar to how the custom of denying blacks the Priesthood developed pre- and post-mortal explanations and implications. I couldn’t care less, however, about finding theological justification for doing what is right. Shouldn’t our history of justifying our stance on race give us caution about the role of theological justification in practical matters? Justification can be found, for pretty much any practice we wish to espouse. I don’t think the heavens have so clearly been defined to us as to rule out theological drift into avenues we might not even imagine today.

    Such justification is not the work that I wish to deliberate about. Theological justification was not the vehicle through which the 1978 revelation was given. God does not need to justify His actions, nor provide for us the eternal mechanics by which earthly policies have a heavenly counterpart. I entertain no new thoughts about God and sexuality in the eternities. My concern is our involvement in the social punishment of a minority group by a majority. I hope this doesn’t offend others; it’s just my take on the subject, for what it’s worth.

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