A Quick Note

This is for all of you out there who feel forced to choose between a racist god and a racist prophet in order to explain the priesthood ban. Even if God was a racist god (which he isn’t), the prophet being racist would still be racist. Doing the will of a racist doesn’t absolve you of responsibility for what you do. So, you’re actually just deciding if you think God is racist. He isn’t. There you go.


  1. Nice.

  2. This doesn’t make any sense. If God were racist then racism wouldn’t be categorically wrong and it wouldn’t be wrong to be racist as such.

    I get how anti-racism is a religion itself these days but this is a bit much.

  3. A-freaking-men! God is not a racist. When we try to pin racist policies on God we are really just trying to justify our own racism or the racism of our prophets.

  4. Arturo,

    Mormons don’t have to buy into divine command ethics. Just cause god said so does not make a thing good. And since we’ve got the rationality and agency that God gave us, our ability to reason out that it is bad can mean that it is actually bad. And since God is good, he wouldn’t do that.

    Anti-racism isn’t a religion. It doesn’t have priests. It doesn’t have a theology. That is a bad hyperbole.

  5. I once watched a pride of lions literally eat a zebra alive, and I thought, “Who made this?” Do you get my drift John C?

  6. Lions, so far as I know, do not possess the agency that humans possess. Some things in life are essentially random, like lightning strikes and cancer. There is cruelty in the world, unfortunately, and, if you want, you can rail against God for allowing it. Or you can say that there is no God, that the world is absurd and cruel, and only people make meaning in it. Or you can say that good and bad must both be in order to know the bitter and the sweet, which always seems fine until something particularly bad happens to you. I can’t speak for God and I don’t speak for zebras. I’m guessing just as much as the next guy.

    That said, if you are are going to worship a god, I think that devotion to a non-racist God is better than devotion to a racist one. It tends to make you less likely to engage in cruelty for its own sake.

  7. Cinco Paul says:

    Arturo–anti-racism IS a religion. It’s called the gospel of Jesus Christ.

  8. Dispassion Please says:

    I’m not following the logic: Plainly God isn’t racist; but, if he was, then it would not be abhorrent to accept a reflection of such racist views from His earthly spokesman.

    I served in Ireland, and I well remember one wet evening, a porch door being mercifully opened to us, only to then be confronted with the question: “If there is a God [long pause with index finger in the air] why did He create a jungle?” The created world is a very odd place, and though its form is magnificent, it is hard to reconcile some of its phenomena with a loving, peaceful, all-powerful and hands on God.

  9. Dispassion,

    It is because we get our notion of the good from a standard of good, rather than from God. Sure, He models it for us, but, at least in recorded scriptural theory, God could cease to be God should he choose a different path. There is a standard out there that is separate from God and by which He can be judged. Who would do the judging? No clue. But it is not for nothing that Brigham Young and others prophets have encouraged us to test the revelations that we are given. In other words, we are probably not Divine Command Theorists.

  10. Good to see you back in the game…

  11. I think the god that designed this world is capable of anything, including racism, or countenancing racism, as in our case. We have become inured to the incomprehensible suffering of this world and don’t wonder enough if there’s a design problem.

  12. Chadwick says:

    If God isn’t racist, isn’t it peculiar he let his Church continue racist policies and doctrines for 100+ years? I mean, God was willing to let an angel with a flaming sword kill Joseph Smith if he wouldn’t practice polygamy, but for racist prophets/policies/doctrines, crickets only. Also, we have accounts of prophets in our parent’s lifetimes earnestly asking God what to do about racist policies, and got no answer.

    All that being said, I agree that my personal version of God is no racist.

  13. Lions eating zebras, maggots breaking down corpses, people doing horrible things…these are not designed or created realities. They are immutable parts of existence, the nature of life in this stage of progression. They are the primordial soup out of which gods evolve. The whole “why would God allow this” line of logic is completely understandable but makes God into a Santa Claus wizard completely at odds with the metaphors he has given us to understand Him. I prepare my children to weather life’s storms and teach them to avoid danger, but I cannot and will not shield them from the risks associated with seeking to reach their potential. I will not be a helicopter parent, and I do not want a helicopter God. The magnitude of the suffering extant in the world is relative to the magnitude of the importance of the work being done. Stubbing one’s toe is not enough to know the difference between good and evil, no matter what Bertrand Russell says.

    Also, better to believe in a false God who is good than a real God who is not. I will not follow Satan even if he wins, and I spend eternity damned for my lack of allegiance.

  14. Chadwick,
    I’m a big believer in the notion that you don’t get revelation that you didn’t ask for. So I’m not surprised that the beneficiaries of the racists policies didn’t ask that they be changed. As for the stories of President McKay praying, I suspect that the revocation was delayed because, at the time, the majority of the Apostles would oppose such a revelation, even coming from the prophet himself. In fact, the shenanigans between Harold B. Lee and Hugh B. Brown at the time of President McKay’s convalescence affirm this suspicion to my mind. God doesn’t reveal what people don’t ask (or want to ask) about.

    But maybe I’m wrong. I’m still more confident laying the blame for racism at the feet of flawed humans, trying to figure out divine will, than I am laying it at the feet of a Supreme Being.

  15. All are alike into God. Black and white. Bond and free.
    God did speak in our scriptures. We misinterpreted them, missing their point. Which God allows, just as He has allowed other evil to exist in this world.
    I believe He sends the Gospel into certain parts of the world in some order, not clear to us because we see only a limited part of the plan. Right now, the Gospel is being preached in Africa. It is not in parts of Russia or China or Saudi Arabia. Does that mean He hates his children living in those countries? I think not. Neither does it mean the church leaders hate Moslems or the Chinese. But check back here in 20 years. I am sure someone will be insisting it did mean exactly that.
    By the way, a few years ago writers on this site proclaimed the rightness of pulling down Confederate statues. A few countered to ask where will it end once mob rule is accepted. So now the mobs have gone after Washington and Jefferson and Churchill and Lincoln and even Robert the Bruce in Scorland. Did the schools really turn out such an uneducated generation?

  16. @Jaime, yes, they did, even if that isn’t all that’s going on. Would you really have the former Eastern Bloc leave up all those Lenins? Stop clutching your pearls. Those Confederates weren’t just people who did great things but also did or said some not great things. They were traitors to their nation and to humanity. They were evil, and the reason they are revered is for their evil. A damaged Lincoln or Washington can be repaired and restored once things have settled down.

  17. Geoff - Aus says:

    While you are at it, what does the ruling that a gay or trans person can’t be sacked for their sexual condition, mean for the church? BYU?
    It brings the US into line with most of the first world, and will make bigotry more obvious and less acceptable. Homophobia is as popular as racism here, and in most of Europe.

  18. Folks. This really isn’t the place to discuss the recent SCOTUS ruling or what to do about Confederate statues. Stay focused, okay?

  19. “Doing the will of a racist doesn’t absolve you of responsibility for what you do.”

    Great words to remember, particularly as we as members consider LGBTQ+ relations and women’s issues.

  20. MrGrabby says:

    It’s not about race, it’s about lineage.
    What might seem “racist” to our finite understanding, is simply the unfolding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ by the most appropriate means in these latter days.
    Sometimes our father in heaven works in gradual means, and by a different pace than we desire, but in time all things will fall into place just as intended by Him.

  21. For me MrGrabby, racism (and let’s not try to call it something else) has nothing to do with “the unfolding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” The priesthood/temple ban was wrong from its initiation. The Church needs to atone for its sin.

  22. “As for the stories of President McKay praying” I think J. Stapley said Greg Prince was just making up crap… or something like that.

  23. MrGrabby,
    I’m curious what you mean with “by the most appropriate means”?

  24. Wondering says:

    jpv, I hope J. will weigh in on whatever he allegedly said. While I value Prince’s work for many reasons, that doesn’t preclude acknowledging its inclusion of some “crap” rhetoric or misstatements or faulty analysis — all common to most humans I know. But I am curious about the record on the stories of DOM praying about the priesthood/temple policy.

  25. “It’s not about race, it’s about lineage.”
    I’m curious where ones race comes from if not from their lineage?
    I guess you are saying “It’s not about race, it’s about lineage, and everyone except black people had the right lineage.”
    Which is bunk…

  26. John C., when you say that God is not a racist, which God do you mean? Setting aside the reality of God, for a moment, would you say that Jehovah as a character in the Torah is not racist? That Jesus as a character in the canonical gospels is not? That the historical Jesus was not? That God as a character in uniquely LDS scripture is not?

  27. While I am not a scriptorian, I am pretty sure that in the Old Testament there are several references to God telling (or was claimed to have told) Joshua and his army of Israelites to kill all the people and domesticated animals in the land of Canaan promised to the wandering tribes having escaped Egypt some 40 years earlier. In fact, didn’t Saul get in trouble with God because he didn’t fully obey?

    Such mendacious discrimination against those He didn’t consider his chosen people qualifies as RACIST.

  28. Brad Barham says:

    You are missing the most fundamental “gospel truth” that explains “how” that policy in the first place: that our prophets are fallible men who will be influenced by their own biases and perceptions. That is actual doctrine that not only Bruce R McKonkie spoke and write about frequently, but Joseph Smith himself. Bit others too a far back as the Saviors own lifetime. I’m 1 Cor 13, Paul state’s that “all prophesy shall fail” … “for now we see through glass darkly.” For n others words, “through tainted and biased eyes.”

    The policies against blacks were racist, and unfortunately in alignment with our cultural racism at that time. But it has NOTHING to do with how God and our Savior “see” us.

  29. Brad Barham says:

    You are missing the most fundamental “gospel truth” that explains “how” that policy was implemented in the first place: that our prophets are fallible men who will be influenced by their own biases and perceptions. That is actual doctrine that not only Bruce R McKonkie spoke and write about frequently, but Joseph Smith himself. And others as far back as in the Savior’s own lifetime. In 1 Cor 13, for instance, Paul state’s that “all prophesy shall fail” … “for now we see through glass darkly.” In others words, “through tainted and biased eyes.” Fortunately, Paul then states “when that which is perfect shall come, then shall we see things face to face.” In other words, when the Savior comes, then shall we see things as they truly are. Without “color,” or bias, or prejudice.

    The policy against blacks was racist, and unfortunately in alignment with cultural racism at that time. But it has NOTHING to do with how God and our Savior “see” us. And is now corrected.

  30. MoPo and fbisti,
    Racism as we know it today wasn’t really a thing in the ancient to classical world. People discriminated, of course, but it wasn’t really by the color of one’s skin. Racism as a motivation and, in particular systemic racism, doesn’t appear to have been a thing. Even when the OT gets genocidal, the differences it notes have more to do with religious devotion than bloodlines or racial markers. And, frankly, you probably couldn’t pick who was an Israelite and who was a Canaanite out of a lineup.

    Also, it’s worth noting, that calls for genocide, or explanations for exclusive divine benevolence, are as likely as modern racist doctrines and policies to be the product of the human and not the divine.

  31. John C., let’s narrow the focus. Would you say that God—not as an actual being, but strictly as a literary character—is not presented as racist in the Book of Moses (e.g., 7:7-8, 22)? To sidestep your concerns about the extent of racial discrimination in the ancient and classical world, let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that the Book of Moses is a literary product of early 19th century America, rather than a miraculously recovered ancient record.

  32. Could we just stop putting the label racist on people .
    Who are you to decide? Who are you to invite people to judge and hate others? I am so sick of this.
    It is as if you believe eternal judgement has been handed to you and if you point a finger others are to cower in shame and fall on their knees begging your forgiveness. Excuse me if I fail to worship you.

  33. Francine says:

    MoPo, the Book of Moses uses what we might consider to be racist terminology if you don’t read the footnotes. When the Pearl of Great Price refers to skin of darkness or blackness it is using a Hebrew idiom. It never refers to actual skin color.

  34. Yes Jaime, the schools really did turn out a silly uneducated generation. You are reading their ridiculous ideas here on this blog.

  35. The scriptures are full of God requiring obedience from his children to practices they cannot understand. Would Abraham have been considered a murderer if he had sacrificed his son? Was Nephi for killing Laban?
    Your arguments are simplistic and show a total lack of life experience.

  36. Old Man says:

    rogerdhansen wrote: “The Church needs to atone for its sin.”

    All human beings commit sins. Some repent and Jesus steps in. He alone makes atonement possible. Institutions commit sin and then what?

    Given that institutions are simply groups of people, I suppose the policy could be categorized as a sin committed by a group of individuals. The members of that group can repent. Individually. As rogerdhansen noted, the policy emerged in the early 20th century. Would all members in positions to consciously sin at that moment please step forward and repent? We can’t do it for them. We are not automatically guilty for their sins, anymore than we are guilty for our ancestors’ actions or Adam’s transgression. I don’t believe that sin is imputed from generation to generation. At least I hope not, there are some real rogues on my family tree! The vast majority of BCC’s readers were children or not even alive when the policy was corrected.

    We can reject the policy or disavow it. We can forgive those who created the policy. Some on here are having real difficulty with that. But we seriously can’t repent of something a group of people did before most of us arrived on the scene.

  37. MoPo,
    I’m not clear on what the point of your exercise is. If you are trying to get me to question the notion that God isn’t racist (he is not), then why discuss a literary construct rather than the real thing. If you are trying to get me to see that the medium of revelation reflects upon the revelator, well yeah. That was the point of the OP. I’m not sure what you expect to come from putting Moses into the mouth of Joseph entirely.

    Whom did I invite people to judge and hate? Where is that line in the OP? FWIW, I don’t consider racism to be the worst sin, but it can definitely motivate the worst sins. So can a bunch of other things, as well. Finally, I am but a man. No need to worship me.

    If you’re going to call my ideas ridiculous, you’ll have to narrow your criticisms. I say a lot of ridiculous things.

    FWIW, I consider God-sanctioned murder to still be murder. Nephi is a murderer and Abraham would have been. Just imagine what that means for the relative moral perfection of any given prophet. And yet God still works through us. Finally, I don’t feel like I need life experience with murder to condemn it. Your mileage may vary.

  38. Old Man,
    “But we seriously can’t repent of something a group of people did before most of us arrived on the scene.”
    But we can repent of how it benefits folks in the church today. And, perhaps more importantly, we can stop using discredited folk doctrine to justify the racist decisions of the past. Because preferring the folk doctrine and the innocence of our forebears means dismissing the real pain felt by our friends and members of color today.

  39. Kristine says:

    Both the Old Testament and the Book of Mormon are full of people needing to repent of the false beliefs they inherited. Of course a group can do it. And there is at least one instance of people joining in repentance for things they did not do with their own hands: not all of the Anti-Nephi Lehies had committed murders, presumably, but they repented as a people. It’s a cop-out to say that just because you didn’t personally enforce the priesthood ban or own enslaved people you couldn’t possibly repent of the racist beliefs that enabled those acts, and it’s probably the sort of cop-out that is, itself, a sin.

  40. Someone not friendly to the cause of justice must have linked to this post. Lots of new posters posting spurious drive-by comments.

  41. John C., I was trying to get a fuller understanding of the views lying behind your brief and somewhat cryptic post. Perhaps this isn’t the best place or manner of getting that. Best to you.

  42. Thank you for this. A reminder I needed.

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