OD2–How’d it go?

So, as usual (since the manual hasn’t been revised), the GD lesson on revelation talks about the lifting of the priesthood restriction.  I teach Sunday school (youth), so I didn’t hear how it went in our ward.  I did hear this from someone in another ward: “[We learned that] the blacks getting the priesthood couldn’t happen [until 1978] because of Jim Crow because the church could not afford separate temples for blacks and whites and separate chapels, etc.”

What did you learn about the timing of OD2?


  1. the narrator says:

    We didn’t get to the priesthood revelation in my GD class. I only learned that the Church is led by Correlation.

  2. Someone brought up “wasn’t it because of Noah somehow?” and the teacher kindly steered her to the fact that we don’t know.

  3. The teacher also said that it was his opinion (stressed that a few times) that it was because the “Whites weren’t ready. So what other revelations are we perhaps holding back?” I don’t see that as quite the same as the “If Blacks had had the priesthood earlier, they would have taken over the church because of their extra spirituality, known as ‘soul'” but maybe a better variation?

  4. Sorry, i have a lot to say about this. After our class had talked about it for at least 10 minutes, with multiple comments, my husband poked me and rhetorically asked “I wonder what this says about our culture that we feel the need to talk about this so much.”

  5. We talked more about Correlation than the ban. It was a more thorough treatment of the topic of Correlation than I’ve heard before in church. Usually Correlation seems like it is the force that controls everything, but invisibly in that we don’t talk about it. An interesting discussion.

    For the ban, the teacher quoted the newsroom piece saying we don’t know why the ban happened and that there was no known revelation about it. Then the teacher quoted Uchtdorf’s latest conference talk saying that leaders have made mistakes.

  6. I taught this lesson in my singles ward, focusing entirely on OD2. I gave historical background based on the resources Paul Reeve provided a couple weeks back (thanks!) and directed most of the discussion towards what we can learn about the process of institutional and personal revelation from the priesthood ban. As for the reasons for the ban, I tried to emphasize the diversity of opinions even among the 12 and remind my students that there is room for multiple interpretations of the past. I had a small class, but they had a range of opinions. There were some who were more comfortable with the idea that Brigham Young instituted the ban by revelation, and others who were more comfortable with the idea that the ban was never necessarily God’s will and was an influence that crept in from the world. I tried to leave room for both interpretations, but gave them all the reference to Kimball’s BYU Studies article so they could study it further on their own. They seemed very interested and only once did the conversation need to be reigned in from comparison to contemporary issues. Overall, a success!

  7. Our lesson was a lot like the narrator’s. A whole hour In Praise of Correlation. Except that was last week, so our schedule must be off.

  8. I substituted today in our small youth class. 7 kids, largely African American (with the exception of a brother-sister with bi-racial parents.) Some converts, some born-and-raised, ages 12-17.

    The topic, surprisingly well covered in the new manual, was how to pursue answers to your own gospel questions. In what I thought was a toss-off comment, I discovered that no one knew anything significant about President Kimball and June 1978. Turns out none of them had heard of the priesthood ban. I was so surprised that my mind blanked for a bit, and I fumbled, but gave them a little bit of history. Given that we were starting from zero, I really didn’t want to get into Protestants and Cain and the power of tradition and such, but I did tell them Joseph Smith ordained black men to the priesthood, and it began with Brigham Young.

    It was a real surprise, but I suppose it’s generational.

  9. We covered the recent introduction to OD2, how blacks had been ordained in the early days of the church, and how the church makes mistakes (including being racist). I was pleasantly surprised the teacher had that perspective.

  10. If I was the GD teacher in your ward, I would have done just about anything to trade classes so that Margaret Blair Young could teach the “continuing revelation” lesson, focusing on the priesthood/temple ban and OD2. (Ardis Parshall is my Sunday school teacher, so I’m biased towards good historians teaching good history instead of repeating Mormon myths — we learned a lot when we had this lesson last week.)

  11. Our teacher didn’t spend a lot of time on it nor offer any folklore to explain the ban, but he suggested that the ban was according to God’s will and that the lifting of the ban didn’t happen earlier because God didn’t want it to happen earlier. If I hadn’t have already made too many comments during the class, I would have brought up the new heading for OD-2, especially as it’s just one more example of what the teacher had been emphasizing during the lesson: that continual change is a key principle of the restoration and is crucial in getting the church where it needs to go. Also an example of scripture revision, another topic he’d touched on during the lesson.

  12. Most of these comments are making me jealous.

    I’m in small-town Mormon Corridor, and the discussion was pretty much what you’d expect in that setting. References to Old Testament limitations of who could have the priesthood, along with comments about how “non-priesthood holders didn’t protest the ban in Old Testament days.” And the first time I’ve ever heard the term “Negro” said by an actual, live person.

    To our credit, one person mentioned briefly how the ban was policy and not doctrine, and I mentioned that blacks held the priesthood in Joseph Smith’s time–but unfortunately, I don’t think the Gospel Doctrine teacher or the class members believed me, and I don’t think anyone picked up on the importance of the policy/doctrine difference.

    We’d benefit immensely from a carefully crafted course on the history of race and the priesthood–excepting the 1978 revelation, the only thing most members know about it is what they learned from Mormon Doctrine. Given that, it’s no wonder so many of us are so ignorant.

  13. I taught the lesson in my ward. As to the timing of the revelation, I said, “We don’t know why the ban was instituted and we don’t know why it wasn’t removed earlier. We can guess or conjecture or suggest what some GA somewhere said, but in the end there’s no official explanation. What we do know a little about is the process President Kimball undertook before the revelation.” Then I pretty much read from Edward Kimball’s fantastic piece in BYU Studies.”

    Also, I voted for “Roots” (and a high five to Margaret).

  14. Additionally: I opened the lesson by saying, “The manual discusses two examples of modern-day revelation: correlation and the ending of the priesthood restriction. We will not be discussing correlation today.”

  15. I’m still baffled by the “we don’t know” explanation. I think you can say, maybe, that we don’t know now. But they certainly knew then. One only needs to read the 1949 First Presidency statement. I think most members think explanations came from “rogue” GA’s.

  16. My wife teaches a gospel doctrine class for a number of Asian members in our ward, which includes sisters from Cambodia, Vietnam, Japan, and Mongolia, all for whom English is not their native language. Usually she has to spend a lot of time with helping to explain terms and answer questions about concepts that are not as familiar for these converts. One recent convert of about three years had not heard of the PH/Temple ban, and was a little upset that the church had followed such a practice. My wife used exclusively the “We don’t know” explanation for how the ban got started, but emphasized the revelation that led to OD2 as a sign of continuing revelation. The recent convert felt a little better at the end of the lesson, but was still a bit perplexed about why such a thing had transpired.

  17. Steve Smith says:

    For those who are saying “I don’t know,” please read: http://www.utlm.org/onlineresources/sermons_talks_interviews/brigham1852feb5_priesthoodandblacks.htm

    I think it is pretty clear that Brigham Young, and perhaps Joseph Smith (but to a much lesser extent), saw blacks as inferiors and did not want them mingling with whites. Of course, we could console ourselves by saying that the vast majority of white Americans during the 19th century saw blacks as inferiors, but let’s stand up and face the inconvenient truths of our past: the policy of denying priesthood to black people of African ancestry is rooted in racist attitudes of early church leaders who frequently justified the policy by citing the curse of Cain. “We don’t know,” is a dodgy, if not disingenuous, answer. We do know, we do.

  18. After reading all the comments, so far. I have two questions:
    1. What is “OD2” referring to?
    2. Am I the only one that has read about the increasing pressure (in the late 70s) on the Church, primarily due to owning a university that received government grants, to end its institutional racism or face a loss of its tax-free status–to name one threat?

  19. 1) OD2= Official Declaration 2
    2) No, you’re not. And?

  20. Ben:
    1. I guess I am really out of this particular Mormon cultural loop. ‘-) I wasn’t even aware that the “Manifesto” (of 1890, updated in 1907?) was (now) labeled an “Official Declaration.” But, then, he did use the word “declare” … “I hereby declare my intention to submit to those laws, and to use my influence with the members of the Church over which I preside to have them do likewise.”
    2. I was just surprised that in all the cultural “pressure” comments no one brought that one up. Personally I am of the mind that the ban was begun due to culture and finally ended due to culture. What that says about God leading his church and inspiration is for another discussion.

  21. I was in a GD class yesterday in which Correlation was the only example of continuing revelation discussed, and the conversation was surprisingly interesting and informative. I spoke with the teacher afterwards, and she told me that the reason she didn’t bring up the priesthood ban/OD2 was that she felt that every time we talk about it in church, it reinforces an ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ mentality and leads to self-congratulatory nodding heads saying “See? We have a prophet who can receive guidance from God, and wasn’t this a great thing that happened in 1978?” In other words, she avoided it because she felt like that would aid the process of normalization and substantive cultural change, and to bring it up would be to open a scab to see how it’s doing.

    Any thoughts on the tension between knowing and discussing our history on an introspective level and promoting substantive cultural change? It contrasts with the experience of Ben S above – I’m shocked none of those youth had even heard of the priesthood ban, and surely that goes too far, but maybe my GD teacher’s mindset helps contribute to ignorance.

  22. Well, it’s labeled as such now. I don’t know when that labeling took place, although Margaret probably does.

    As for pressure, I don’t think its incompatible with revelation. Indeed, it seems to me that revelation is more likely when there is a catalyst for asking the Lord hard questions, instead of ex nihilo or in a vacuum.
    Certainly there had been cultural pressure before. Any argument that pressure was at a high right before revelation came is akin to saying that you always find something the last place you look ;)

    Elder Holland has a good BYU Devotional about revelation.

    Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation; behold, this is the spirit by which Moses brought the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground. [D&C 8:2–3; emphasis added]

    Question: Why would the Lord use the example of crossing the Red Sea as the classic example of “the spirit of revelation”? Why didn’t he use the First Vision? Or the example from the book of Moses we just used? Or the vision of the brother of Jared? Well, he could have used any of these, but he didn’t. Here he had another purpose in mind.

    Usually we think of revelation as information. Just open the books to us, Lord, like: What was the political significance of the Louisiana Purchase or the essence of the second law of thermodynamics? It is obvious that when you see those kinds of questions on a test paper, you need revelation. Someone said prayer will never be eliminated from the schools so long as there are final examinations. But aside from the fact that you probably aren’t going to get that kind of revelation—because in this Church we do not believe in ex nihilo creation, especially in exams—this is too narrow a concept of revelation. May I suggest how section 8 broadens our understanding of section 9, particularly in light of these “fights of affliction” that Paul spoke of and that I have been discussing.

    First of all, revelation almost always comes in response to a question, usually an urgent question—not always, but usually. In that sense it does provide information, but it is urgently needed information, special information. Moses’ challenge was how to get himself and the children of Israel out of this horrible predicament they were in. There were chariots behind them, sand dunes on every side, and just a lot of water immediately ahead. He needed information all right—what to do—but it wasn’t a casual thing he was asking. In this case it was literally a matter of life and death.


  23. Harold B. Lee died…

  24. Lucienne Jeanne says:

    I am an Afro-Caribbean woman, a French citizen and a Latter-Day-Saint. The question of cultural pressure is different for me since I did not grow up in an American background.

    I do not understand why Heavenly Father would not choose to use the evolution of any given society to help his own people’s progression.
    After all, if His people – I mean the members of the church- had been intoxicated by the cultural biases that crippled American society, it would be quite normal for the Lord to push for changes.
    We do know that the Book of Mormon has been around for more than 150 years. Every one in the Church could read 2 Nephi 26:33.
    … he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he a inviteth them b all to c come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he d denieth none that come unto him, black and white, e bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the f heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.

    If the members of the Church and most GA’s were not able to understand those verses that were available to all, it is because everybody suffered from cultural blindness.

    We have all read about false traditions. And because human people are prone to seeing spiritual matters through the deceiving lenses of human traditions, we, as a church really need continuous revelation.
    Without continuous revelation, we are in great danger.
    The Lord jesus-Christ said to scribes and Pharisees : Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. Matthew 15: 6
    But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. Matthew15:9

    So a good discussion in church about continuous revelation is certainly a good wake-up call.
    Lucienne Jeanne

  25. Mercifully, I work in the Primary.

  26. I taught this lesson yesterday in GD. I read selections from “All are alike unto God” by McConkie focusing on what happened when the revelation was revealed. But as I felt that the goal of the lesson was to point out that modern-day prophets receive revelation just like the prophets in the scriptures, I didn’t get into a discussion of this revelation. I just didn’t see this lesson as needing to focus on the priesthood ban. (I’ve covered it in previous classes this year, however.)

  27. Ben S:”As for pressure…”
    Well put, and I agree. My complaint is with how the nature and ubiquity of inspiration and revelation have been taught to me my whole life:
    -God talks to His latter-day prophets as He did to their predecessors.
    -God leads and guides this Church, the one-and-only True Church.
    -Continuing (meaning: continual) Revelation, etc.

    I was once excoriated (yelled at) in HP class because I made a comment that not all the actions and decisions made by local (or General) leaders are inspired by God. I prefaced that statement with something like: “Most of us have sat in bishopric and other leadership meetings, so we know…”

    A culture (as contrasted with “doctrine”) that fosters such moronic and vapid beliefs (probably all religion-driven cultures, but I only know mine) and then does nothing in any direct way to correct such beliefs is highly problematic for me. President Uchtdorf’s recent comment/admission that leaders have made mistakes is a paltry dose of truth and woefully unprecedented in its (not really) clarity.

    But that is the chip on MY shoulder

  28. Thank you, Steve Smith. It was a racist, uninspired policy. Good riddance.

  29. Meldrum the Less says:

    Does God have a physical body? Does His body have physical characteristics like height and weight and circumferences of head, chest, waist and extremities? Do these features include gender? Race?

    One night many years ago a racially diverse group of Aaronic Priesthood young men from the American South sitting around a campfire late at night considered the question; What race is God?

    One bright young man pointed out that a pretty good correlation between skin color and skeletal features of the skull can be made. Scientists can look the bones of a murder victim found in a clandestine grave and usually tell which race it belongs to. Anthropologists using these same principles on skulls of antiquity believe the white race emerged relatively recently although exactly when and where is a matter of dispute. But it is clear to anthropologists that the skeletal features that distinguish black Africans have been on the earth at least 10 times as long as those of white Europeans. Africans are the prototype human form and the features of Europeans are more recent derivations.

    If one takes the statement in Genesis literally, that the earliest man was created in the image of God; we around that campfire concluded that God might be black. Of course this we really don’t know (in contrast to pretending we don’t know why the 1978 ban was lifted).

    Personally, considering the probability, even the mere plausibility, that the God enthroned in heaven we worship and obey is black, has drastically corrected the way I think about black people and made it much easier to treat them decently and respectfully. (This is similar to the admiration we were taught to feel towards those who were believed to be descendants of the Book of Mormon people.) Why a black God would ban the Priesthood from a set of His offspring who physically are more ancient in outward form and resemble Himself more is a mind twist requiring mental gymnastics far beyond my level of cognition. It had to be wrong and the sooner we fully accept it the better we can apologize and move on.

    Ben, the teacher of a class of young black members naive of our LDS history: in my experience African-American youth who first find out about the pre-1978 ban often are quietly in need of some significant support and reassurance; usually from older more experienced black members. This can eat slowly away at their testimony until they leave. When they start digging it gets ugly, I have watched this happen to most of the black youth I have known including those around that campfire. I pray that you will have better luck with your youth as they almost inevitably will face this challenge.

    I might also point out that the numerous wonderful black people I work with each day are well aware of which side of the civil rights movement Mormons fought for, but they are much less aware of the 1978 revelation. When informed it seems to them to be too little and much too late. This is a legacy that may never pass and for which we can thank our leaders of that time.

  30. Meldrum: While I agree with your comment, and have no problem with God being black (assuming race is not purely mortal and evolutionary–though God had to be derived from evolution Himself). However, to my point: Your comment: “If one takes the statement in Genesis literally,,,” is not a logical precedent for your campfire conclusion. That is because (though Genesis is almost/or completely figurative anyway) our (official) LDS interpretation of such scripture is that the man God put on the earth (Adam) was in his “image.” This, of course–in the minds of many, allows for other men to have evolved prior to Adam being “placed” here–as contrasted with “made from the dust of the earth.”

    But one could see your logical argument as good enough/true enough for who it’s for–like much of the “gospel” we are taught.


  31. Kevin Barney says:

    I just came back from teaching it. It went pretty well. It wasn’t perfect, mainly because I misjudged how much time it would take, so I had to trim some of the things I wanted to get across.

    I started with the new intro to OD2 (I counted on someone being able to come up with it on a tablet, which was a mistake, as it took too long for someone to actually find it at lds.org). Then I made sure they understood what the intro was saying, that Joseph didn’t initiate the ban and that perhaps a dozen black men were ordained during his presidency, including Elijah Abel under his own hand. So where did the ban come from? From BY, somewhere between 1847 and 1852 (we read the key statements from those years). Talked about John Taylor trying to figure out what Joseph taught and practiced on this topic, and how Zebedee Coltrin basically lied to him about it, thus cementing the ban for the next century. (A class member said she was going to play devil’s advocate, and asked why John Taylor didn’t just ask God directly what he wanted. I said that was a good question, and he could have done that [although we have no record that he did], but I talked a bit about the special place JS had as the prophet of the restoration in the minds of the early Saints [and indeed, even us today]).

    Then talked about the Curse of Cain idea, how it was a Protestant rationalization for slavery and not natively Mormon (and inconsistent with Mormon theology, EG AoF 2). Someone mentioned the mark on the Lamanites in the BoM, so that it wasn’t a completely un-Mormon concept, which I wasn’t prepared for. I referred people to Stirling Adams’ review in BYU Studies of those two recent books that study this curse idea from a completely non-LDS perspective.

    I had a long list of reasons why the Curse of Cain was a crock, but I was running short on time, so I truncated this portion of the lesson. I pointed out that Cain (HEB Qayin) and Canaanite (HEB Kena’ani) are completely unrelated words; that Canaanite sort of sounds like a gentilic of Cain is just an accident of English. Also, Canaanites weren’t black Africans, but rather Semitic peoples living in the Levant, and the Israelites were a subset of the Canaanites (Hebrew is a Canaanite dialect). But I had to deep-six the rest of the reasons.

    I originally intended to do a sort of reader’s theater of extracts from the Ed Kimball BYU Studies article. The article is 70 pages long, so I went through it and marked up some extracts that I thought would give the class sort of the gist of it, and I was going to have different people read the extracts. But by this point we were almost out of time, so I just read a few of them myself.

    During the course of the lesson I read the JRH 2005 statement on not repeating the folklore and the Elder Uchtdorf statement from the last conference on leaders making mistakes. Oh, and Randy Bott and the Church’s response also come up.

    I thought the class took it all very well. I just wish I had had a better sense of how long it would take to go over all this material so I wouldn’t have had to edit so much out on the fly.

  32. Kevin Barney says:

    Oops, dozen in the previous comment was supposed to be half-dozen.

  33. I had to miss GD today (subbed in Primary). Husband reports it was a last-minute substitute teacher and focused 100% on correlation. Not sure OD2 was ever brought up. I’ll probably share the Kimball article on my ward FB page; I found it fascinating.

  34. Meldrum the Less says:


    I think I understand your point. Semitic Adam is created in the image of a white God and placed on the earth rather late consistent with Biblical chronology so that any of his kindred whose skulls end up in modern museums are consistent with what is observed and all the creatures in the hominoid line before this Adam have the spirits of animals even if they are physically indistinguishable from modern humans.

    One problem I have with this idea is interbreeding. Did any of Adam’s descendants mate with their contemporary hominoid animals? With the recent evidence that human ancestors mated with Neanderthals and possibly others, this seems likely. Also, at what point did all of the animal pre-Adamites get replaced with human spirits? We are not far from the idea that maybe not all of them yet and certain races are basically animals deserving of slavery and assorted other abuse.

    The other problem is once I start taking much of the story figuratively then why not make it all entirely figurative and like my bear stories the story changes fluidly depending on the age of the audience, the setting , etc.

  35. The most telling statement from a General Authority on this issue was the apology issued to local black church leaders issued by then Apostle Hinkley. And having served a mission in a part of the South [Northern Virginia] I know first hand how inherently prejudice were some local members. One even criticized the fact that a Brother with Polynesian heritage and employed by the CIA held the priesthood! “He’s black, isn’t he!” As a membership, we just were not ready for this any earlier.

  36. Recently while visiting Nashville, I was thrilled to have the Sacrament blessed and past to me by Black Aaronic Priesthood holders. And I am always thrilled to attend the Temple with my fellow Black members. The question I have is simple. How will we receive other changes, changes we need to embrace? Are we really practicing Christ like charity, or just feigning it? Would you have reacted to that “homeless man” like other members of that Taylorsville ward did? This is a question we all need to ask of ourselves. Would we be sheep or goats? Matt 25:31 & forward.

  37. This past summer I attended an LDS sacrament meeting in a ward in Haiti. Out of 150+ in attendance, I was one of 4 whites present. Everything was handled by the native Haitians. I’ve been “inactive” for about 40 years. In the last elders’ quorum meetings that I regularly attended I was the target of fierce denunciations because of my advocacy of eliminating the ban. And now, the LDS Church’s PR department says it was a mistake. I’m experiencing some sort of theological whiplash.

  38. I didn’t submit an answer to the poll, since my answer was not represented there.

    I think the whole priesthood ban could have been avoided if Emma had given Jane Manning to Joseph as a wife, instead of trying to weasel out of things by suggesting she be their adopted daughter instead. But since Jane Manning came after the Jane Young, I’m not sure Emma’s reluctance was even based on race.

    I believe in a merciful God who asks us to forgive one another. Also, I believe the best practice for reproof is to mix it one part in ten with love and honor, if the reproof is to both benefit the one being reprimanded and avoid cankering the soul of the one offering correction.

  39. Er -- anon for this one -- says:

    I have been reading the Bloggernacle for about six (?) years now and thought I had heard it all. (Much of it multiple times.) But in a stunning pre-Christmas development, this is the very first time I’ve ever seen the priesthood ban blamed on Emma Hale Smith Bidamon.

    It is a curious thought, and since your point is fairly brief, Meg, I wonder how you would incorporate into your theory the fact that the restriction was enacted despite Joseph Smith having ordained a number of black brethren to the priesthood during his lifetime. How would having Jane Manning James sealed to him have changed things?

    (By the way, I am reading your series and commentary at M* with some interest.)

%d bloggers like this: