Whether the temple and priesthood restriction was mistaken

First, before we go on, let us reiterate that the First Presidency has disavowed all teachings, beliefs, and doctrines promoted by Church leaders in connection with temple and priesthood restriction against Black people, including that “black skin or dark skin is the sign of a curse.” [n1] These ideas are a pernicious cancer upon the Body of Christ.

I recently had a conversation with a friend, where I indicated that the best response to questions about the temple and priesthood restriction that endured from 1852 to 1978 was to admit that it was a mistake. This friend was uncomfortable with this position and suggested that the evidence was indicative that despite teaching false and destructive ideas about the restriction, Church leaders nevertheless were following God’s will to instate the restriction. In this post I am going to respond to the primary arguments for this.

I think that it is worth noting that just twenty years ago, the idea that the ban was mistaken was outside normative belief in the Church. Several things have changed in the intervening years, and now many prominent voices among the Saints express belief in a mistaken restriction. From folks like Terryl Givens, to the next generation of apologists with FAIR, there is a demonstrable shift in popular discourse. Your position on the matter will influence whether you think that is a good thing. And still, there are many in the Church that either don’t know what to think, or who find comfort in the older ways of thinking.

Over the past few decades, scholars have done a tremendous amount of work to clarify the beginnings and features of the temple and priesthood restriction, and the experiences of Black members in our church (including those who received priesthood office in the early church). Paul Reeve provides a nice accessible summary of that work here. I have also written about the origins of the restriction. Whereas some controversial aspects of Latter-day Saint history are anchored in revelation texts, the temple and priesthood restriction, simply, is not. We see precisely what Brigham Young did in erecting a system of exclusion, and when and how he did it. Coincidentally (or not), Young formalized the temple and priesthood restriction the same year he started publicly disseminating his innovative teachings regarding premortality, Adam, Eve, and the Garden, which Church leaders have also formally deprecated.

I have argued against defending the restriction as God’s will, and that those who do so appear to by trying protect the leaders of the Church from criticism. It seems to me that if you are going to assert a belief that the temple and priesthood restriction was the will of the Lord, you must also assert, per recent directives, that Church leaders were simultaneously completely wrong about it and taught false and damaging ideas to the Church for generations. Such a position necessarily undermines the confidence in the Church’s ecclesiastical governance—the reason for a belief that the restriction was God’s will in the first place. Instead of seeing it as a mistake and moving on, those hoping to see it as God’s will have to go through various contortions that, in my opinion, perpetuate damage to the Body of Christ, and contribute to a loss of faith among our people.

But God has historically restricted the priesthood from certain groups. For example: The Levites in the Hebrew Bible had right to the priesthood by lineage, and those from other lineages didn’t.
Some have suggested that despite all of this this, there appears to be historical precedent for excluding an entire race, group, or genealogical lineage from the priesthood, and/or access to the blessings of the covenant. If such precedent existed, I don’t believe that would be strong evidence for a divinely mandated temple and priesthood restriction. But what is more, I emphatically disagree that there is historical precedent for the 1852-1978 restriction.

While it is true that the consecration of temple priests in ancient Israel was determined in part by lineage, at no time was priesthood office as construed by Latter-day Saints restricted from any other people. This is particularly the case outside of the work of biblical authors focusing on religious nationalism. Latter-day saints generally believe that non-Levites regularly received priesthood in the form of prophetic office. Moreover, we have the Book of Mormon, which shows non-Levites administering temple offices in the Holy Land and in the new world. The priesthood of the Book of Mormon was accessible to all. And in the apex of the volume, Jesus appears and declares that there are many other groups who have the gospel and presumably priesthood.

Within the isolated case of the Ancient Temple at Jerusalem, while a handful of priests were chosen and consecrated from a specific family, no believers were restricted from participating in temple worship or receiving the blessings of the temple. Moreover the assignment of these priests did not restrict any other group, lineage, or people of a particular skin color from other priesthoods.

Okay, but there were times when even the Gospel was restricted from going to all people. In ancient Israel, the prophets only told non-Israelites to repent (not to join Israel), and Jesus even said he didn’t come to minister to Gentiles.
Despite the strong theme of religious nationalism that runs through the Hebrew Bible, and the specific covenant with Israel, many biblical authors worked hard to militate against Israelite exclusivity. Perhaps the best example is Jonah, a prophet who can’t overcome his personal biases and consequently does his best to avoid preaching to non-Israelites. He then does the absolute minimum when compelled to do so (and does that unhappily), and yet the Mediterranean sailors, and people of Nineveh are converted to the Lord God of Israel. This all appears to be according to the will of the Lord.

Then you have people like Ruth, a Moabite woman who gets an entire book named after her, and who is a progenitor of Jesus himself. So despite any national covenant, it doesn’t appear that anyone was ever restricted from full participation in the Covenant. Then turning to the Book of Mormon again, we have clear pre-condescension-of-Jesus teachings that all are alike unto God and welcome to partake in the blessings of the Covenant—Black, white, etc.

During his ministry, Jesus goes out of his way to teach the Samaritans for multiple days, and even minsters to a gentile. It appears that he was not constrained by any particular restrictions.

Latter-day Saints also have the canonized books of Moses and Abraham, which appear to indicate that certain genealogical lineages were barred from priesthood and proselytizing.
I agree that Moses 7 and Abraham 1 have often been read through the lens of Atlantic Christian racial theologies that sustained the enslavement of Black people and the slave trade more broadly. I do not believe that reading is necessitated by the text, which proports to antecede such readings by millennia.

Moses 7 recounts the history of Enoch and his holy city. During an exchange with the Lord, Enoch sees the people of “Canaan” in the North by vision. Now first we must clarify that the people of Canaan have no relationship to the biblical character Cain. Their names hold very different linguistic derivations. Enoch prophesies that the Canaanites will battle the people of Shum, and destroy them. He also prophesies that the Lord will “curse the Land with much heat, and the barrenness thereof shall go forth forever” (verse 8). Now in the Hebrew bible the Canaanites are sort of a catchall name for several Israel-contemporary groups, but Canaan first shows up as a Grandson of Noah. It is not clear whether this vision and prophecy is of something that is happening during Enoch’s day, or at some point in the future. It ambiguous.

What we do know from the text is that Enoch then preaches to all people, except the Canaanites. That is the end of the discussion in Moses. There is no reference to priesthood of any sort, and it is unclear why Enoch decided not to go to the people of Canaan. We can speculate on possible reasons. For example, perhaps he didn’t preach to them because of the oncoming war. We bring our missionaries home if a country goes to war. But really, we simply can’t say because the text is silent. This means that we also can’t say that God told him not to preach to them.

Abraham 1 is the story of Abraham and Egypt. Egypt was founded by the unnamed daughter of Ham and a woman named Egyptus (verse 23). The first Pharaoh was also the son of Ham and Egyptus (verse 25). Verse 21 explains that “From this descent sprang all the Egyptians, and thus the blood of the Canaanites was preserved in the land.” Thus, it appears that Egyptus was a Canaanite. But remember, if we take Moses 7 as our guide, the Canaanites weren’t cursed, their land was.

Verse 26 explains that this first Pharaoh was a wise and righteous man, but he tried to “imitate” the order of priesthood that existed from Adam to Noah. For some reason not explained, Noah blessed Pharaoh “with the blessings of the earth, and with the blessings of wisdom” but that he also “cursed him as pertaining to the Priesthood.” There is a traditional association of Noah cursing Ham, so I wonder if there was a scribal error here, but that isn’t really important.

Verse 27 explains that Pharaoh and his descendants who became Pharaohs created a fake priestly narrative that traced back to Noah, and that also resulted in a new idolatrous religion. These Pharaohs were of a lineage that did “not have the right of Priesthood.” To understand what is going on, we need to understand what “the right of Priesthood” is. It seems that it is analogical to the right of primogeniture—a form of inheritance. Per Moses and Abraham, we have a description of the age of the “patriarchs” where there is an inherited right to priesthood. There is a rupture with Ham/Pharaoh and the Pharaohs no longer inherit that right—just like you have no right to inherit land that your parents don’t own.

Now, even though we also have a direct genealogy for Abraham to the lineage of the early patriarchs, at some point his “fathers” (verse 5) turned from righteousness and adopted the Egyptian religion (verse 27). Thus, Abraham also did not have “the right of Priesthood.” Instead, through righteousness he appealed to those who had true priesthood and, as he declared, “I became a rightful heir, a High Priest, holding the right belonging to the fathers” (verse 1).

It appears to me that at no point were Egyptians completely barred from priesthood, or from the blessings of the covenant. Moses married a Cushite woman, who was descended from Ham. Joseph, the son of Jacob/Israel, married an Egyptian woman. Latter-day Saint notions of kinship are centered on these same families as reified in patriarchal blessings and the “Oath and Covenant” of the priesthood.

I recognize that many people in the Church grew up being taught that God directed the temple and priesthood restriction. Changing beliefs can be hard. I believe that in this case it is worth it. I believe that changing here not only prevents damage to faith, it increases faith. Out of one blood God made all the nations, and as John of Patmos declared (with Joseph Smith’s gloss) surrounding the throne of God are priests and priestesses, kings and queens from every nation, kindred, tongue, and people with no exception.

_______________

  1. See the Gospel Topics Essay on Race and the Priesthood, and statements by Elder Gary E. Stevenson and the church spokesman Eric Hawkins last year.

Comments

  1. It may also be worth noting that the idea of lineage disqualified for the priesthood, among those that have been baptized and confirmed is fundamentally irreconcilable with Joseph Smith’s reported teaching that the reception of the holy ghost “purge[s] out the old blood” of a person that is not a member of the house of Israel and literally changes their blood to make them a member of the house of Israel. https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/discourse-between-circa-26-june-and-circa-2-july-1839-as-reported-by-willard-richards/5

    The other reason I find the comparisons to the Levitical priesthood and to initially restricting the preaching of the gospel to the house of Israel totally unpersuasive is that there is a huge difference between singling out one group for a special mission on the one hand and singling out one group for withholding of blessings on the other. (And yes, it was a withholding of blessings, not just of priesthood authority, because it denied not only the right to officiate, but also the right to receive the blessings of the priesthood in the temple.)

    The puzzling thing about this conversation is that the reason for such mental gymnastics is, seemingly, to preserve faith in prophets as, if not infallible, worth of trust. The idea seems to be that if we admit prophets were wrong, then we can no longer trust that they are right about things they say now. But the reality is that virtually nobody in the church today has a difficult time disavowing the Adam-God portion of Brigham Young’s garden teachings, or his and Heber C. Kimball’s blood atonement teachings, and still trusting that President Nelson is trustworthy as a prophet. Ultimately, I have to conclude that we’re more willing to justify racism than these other teachings because we’re just more comfortable with it.

  2. J. Stapley says:

    Those are excellent points. Thanks, Jared.

  3. Thanks for this, J. and Jared. Have you had any success persuading anyone?

    I found myself in a similar conversation with a priesthood leader once and found it impossible to get him to actually pay attention to the part of BY’s 1852 speech that conflicted with his interpretation of another part. He would only refuse to respond and return to ripping his favorite sentence out of context. We had to leave it there.

    Jared, I think some like my recalcitrant priesthood leader may not actually be more comfortable with racism generally than with blood atonement or Adam-God, but only with systemic racism they attribute to God — circular, I know, and impossible to reconcile with 2 Ne 26:33 which preceded both the restriction and its end, but my priesthood leader is comfortable simply ignoring language inconsistent with his thinking. Perhaps instead of being more comfortable with human racism, he is just more comfortable with rejecting old teachings he never heard of (blood atonement) or heard explicitly rejected by the prophet decades ago (SWK and Adam-God) than with rejecting ideas he was actively taught as youth and younger adults and that had persisted as a part of Mormon “doctrine” far longer than the Adam-God or blood atonement teachings.
    While I see the restriction as systemic racism that grew out of BY’s personal racism and persisted out of and contributed to others’ personal racism, I think my untroubled priesthood leader sees it as irrelevant to personal or human systemic racism and as God’s blessing to relieve the restricted from burdens and covenants for which they were not prepared — as if God could only deal with groups and not individuals. That view and approach makes no sense to me, but it is not based on sense or scripture, but on an emotional commitment to notions learned in youth from trusted Church leaders.
    Another friend responded to my frustration with that discussion by saying “I learned decades ago not to have a discussion with _________! Why are you so slow?” I guess I’m just slow.

  4. But that’s exactly my point, JR. We’re more comfortable with racism precisely because it is still very much with us in ways that those older teachings are not. Sure, we’re uncomfortable with the in-your-face racism of the Klan, but we’re very comfortable with the more genteel kind of racism. It doesn’t shock our collective conscience to attribute racism to God because when it comes down it, that kind of racism is familiar and comfortable.

  5. J. Stapley says:

    I think there are probably multiple things going on and different people have different experiences and reasoning. I think there is something to the proximity of the restriction. Younger folks that are decades removed from it don’t seem to have the same concerns as people that lived through our close to it. They are probably less likely to have been taught anything about the restriction. And racism is a real issue in the Church, as Church leaders have recently discussed.

  6. Thanks, J.

  7. I don’t know if the ban was a mistake, it was a political calculation to get Utah to be able to get statehood. The mistake was letting it last for so long.
    I consider it similar to Official Declaration 1 where the church needed to change something in order to be able integrate into the world around us and not end up in a situation similar to the temple in Jerusalem where Federal/Roman troops would be stationed in the temple to ensure that nothing nefarious was happening there.

  8. Jader3rd, the difficulty with that reasoning is BY’s explicitly religious/cosmological basis for the restriction.

  9. jader3rd, It would seem to some that the mistake was in attributing it to God. That attribution is quite clear in BY’s arguments to the 1852 territorial legislature. Utah didn’t become a state until 1896. While there may have been political aspects to BY’s move, purporting that his attribution of the ban to God was merely political seems to make him a liar and not only mistaken. Have I misunderstood your comment?

  10. keepapitchinin says:

    jader3rd, that’s historical nonsense. There was no national clamor for Utah to be more anti-black than it already was after accepting organization as a slave territory; there was no particular national call for the Church to adopt racist doctrine or practice. BY’s 1852 pronouncements had no effect whatsoever on Utah’s bid for statehood in the ’50s, or ’60s, or ’70s, or ’80s, and there’s no evidence that the restriction played any role in any statehood discussion, in or out of Utah. There’s no evidence that national politicians or ministers were even aware of a priesthood restriction. No historian I’m aware of has ever even tried to make a case that had the tiny number of black Mormon men who might have been eligible for the priesthood absent the restriction would have come to the notice of national politicians. There is no historical support for your statement — and, as J. points out, BY’s rhetoric was all religious, not political. Please don’t replace one fantastic excuse for the policy with another equally fantastic one.

  11. anonymous for this says:

    J – How would you respond to the argument that if it was simply a mistake, God could have inspired the leading Brethren to correct it much earlier than 1978. In other words, why would he have waited so long to inspire the Brethren to ask the questions that led to the change? And, why didn’t he just send an angel or other unmistakable revelation to correct the problem? Doesn’t the length of time the ban persisted suggest that there was some Divine approval of it for a period. That could be the case even though the man-made arguments used to explain the ban were completely wrong, couldn’t it?

  12. anonymous for this says: says:

    J – To be clear, I’m not advocating for the position I ask about in my comment above. Nor am I trying to be argumentative. This is an argument I hear from time to time, and I am interested in your response (as well as those of the other well-informed commenters).

  13. Anonymous, I know my response is teleological, but I personally believe that it wasn’t repealed until 1978 because that was when somebody (SWK) did the hard work over years to convince everyone that it needed to be changed. No one had done that before. The same question could be asked of the false teaching related to the ban (in fact, it is the same question in my opinion)–God could have intervened to correct things, but these things persisted despite what I suspect were his efforts. There is a fun Bruce McConkie quote, that I will dig up if I have a free moment, where he says to the effect: for some reason, God allows false teachings to persist in the church.

  14. J. I think you may mean this from McConkie’s February 1981 letter to Eugene England (though I may use “fun” differently than you did above):

    “I do not know all of the providences of the Lord, but I do know that he permits false doctrine to be taught in and out of the Church and that such teaching is part of the sifting process of mortality. We will be judged by what we believe among other things. If we believe false doctrine, we will be condemned. If that belief is on basic and fundamental things, it will lead us astray and we will lose our souls. This is why Nephi said: “And all those who preach false doctrines,…wo, wo, wo be unto them, saith the Lord God Almighty, for they shall be thrust down to hell!” (2 Ne. 28:15.) This clearly means that people who teach false doctrine in the fundamental and basic things will lose their souls. The nature and kind of being that God is, is one of these fundamentals. I repeat: Brigham Young erred in some of his statements on the nature and kind of being that God is and as to the position of Adam in the plan of salvation, but Brigham Young also taught the truth in these fields on other occasions. And I repeat, that in his instance, he was a great prophet and has gone on to eternal reward. What he did is not a pattern for any of us. If we choose to believe and teach the false portions of his doctrines, we are making an election that will damn us.”

  15. This is good. Now please do the much harder case of polygamy.

  16. I think there is something—a lot—to the argument that BY (and most Saints of the day) was racist. The piece of the puzzle that is missing is polygamy. It was not acknowledged publicly when BY made his speech over the Territorial Act in Relation to Service. But it was starting to boil up in Washington. Few people appreciate the freedom enjoyed by US states of the era (shortly to be tamped by war). Statehood was on the mind of Utah politics and its representatives in DC. BY argued that the Act—friendly to still powerful Democratic politics in large part, unfriendly to the opposition, shortly to be Republicans—was reasonable on theological grounds. The revelation on polygamy, regarded by Young and his associates as an essential permanent “necessary” to the salvific order, MAY have been in his mind. The Act was a an attempt to protect polygamy, and its theological dark logic was a sidelight to polygamy in a convoluted way—as an attempt to smooth the way to statehood—maybe—and that statehood perhaps could protect polygamy—and may have even postponed a public acknowledgement of it. I think it’s possible, even likely that this was the case. The DC rumor mill overtook that logic but it didn’t change the racist underpinnings—those were already there and worth more at the time than arguments against it, as Orson Pratt found out. Twin relics in more than one way.

  17. That is, honestly, quite the quote from McConkie. BY could teach false doctrine and claim it in the name of the Lord, and is just fine and is in eternal glory, but if anyone else even as much as believes the false things BY taught in God’s name and claiming His authority, then eternal damnation awaits.

    That’s an amazing double standard.

  18. Very interesting post and comments. I taught several blacks on my mission (1972-1974) some of whom joined the Church. Those experiences changed caused me to question all the “teachings” I had heard growing up.

    While I rejoiced when the Priesthood ban was rescinded, I remember readings all the quotes from Church leaders in the Church News looking forward to the time when everyone would receive the full blessing of the Gospel. It saddened me immensely that no one had every mentioned any of those quotes in the first 26 years of my life. As far as I’m concerned too many members spent too much time inventing reasons and so-called logic to justify the status quo and maybe their own prejudices.

  19. J. Stapley says:

    Adano, if you mean to say, make a faithful argument that polygamy was a mistake, then it isn’t really analogical. While church leaders as early as the early Utah era indicated that various ways in which plural marriage was practiced were mistaken, the basic possibility is hard coded into the scriptural, and revelation texts. Personally, I’m inclined to listen to the voices of the women who participated in plural marriage.

  20. I know I have an easier time calling it a mistake than my grandparents and my parents because I never had to square it in my mind or defend it. I was born in 1981. I think you are spot on when you say the damage done by calling it a mistake and risk throwing prophets under the bus is way less than the damage we will heap on ourselves if we don’t rid it from the Body of Christ.

    It is interesting to me that having prophets and continuing revelation should make us more nimble, but in this case it really has worked against us correcting this.

  21. Matt Harris says:

    A nice post, Jonathan. I am writing a book now on the priesthood/temple ban and have plenty to say on this topic. Having had access to Pres. Kimball’s papers, as well as Q12 and FP meeting minutes, I believe that I’m on strong ground when I note that no one before Kimball wanted to lift the ban (except for Hugh Brown and Marion Hanks). Pres. McKay wanted to lift it in the 1950s but Joseph Fielding Smith and others strongly opposed him. Pres. McKay also worried about the impact that lifting the ban would have on southern members. Now, fast forward to Pres. Kimball’s tenure as church president. He wanted to lift the ban the moment he became the president, but he faced the same issues that Pres. McKay faced: How to convince the hardliners that the ban had to go. One of my chapters goes into great detail about how Pres. Kimball convinced Elder McConkie and others to lift the ban–for the good of the church. In my view, this was Pres. Kimball’s finest hour as church president.

  22. Thank you for this post, J. Stapley.   I love that you wrote, “…..I indicated that the best response to questions about the temple and priesthood restriction that endured from 1852 to 1978 was to admit that it was a mistake.”   Yes!  That is the only path forward.

    My husband is black and a convert.  I am a 4th generation white Mormon.  We teach our kids that the prophets were flat out wrong about the priesthood temple ban.  We teach them that prophets are men who can and do make mistakes.  We teach them that God allows mistakes, even as large and encompassing as the priesthood ban, because He can’t inspire anyone, even a prophet, if they don’t have ears to hear or a heart for change.  We make no excuses for them.  Wrong is wrong….even if it was status quo for the time.

    Just a few weeks ago I had a conversation with a family member.  She was reading a book about the slave trade that was very disturbing to her.  We spoke about racism today and how upsetting it was to her.  I brought up the church and it’s part in institutional racism…and she wouldn’t go there.  She would not even discuss the fact that the church was wrong about this.  Our conversation abruptly ended.  Jared Cook is right.   Many good members of the church are used to this type of racism…or even worse, they see the past as okay because a prophet declared it.  

    Since the church won’t apologize or admit it was a mistake, we have to do better in our homes and in our ward families. I have known too many people who feel like they have to choose between their integrity or the church. It shouldn’t even be a question

  23. “During his ministry, Jesus goes out of his way to teach the Samaritans for multiple days, and even ministers to a gentile.”

    Interesting. By that analogy, teaching and ministering to blacks would be the same as giving them the priesthood. The reality is that, regardless of the amount of teaching and ministering done to gentiles, they were not baptized. So it is difficult to see how referring to those actions refutes any argument that being selective about who got the priesthood is not significantly different than Jesus pointedly not baptizing any gentiles while he was on the earth and not giving instructions for it to happen for a period of time after he left.

    “I personally believe that it wasn’t repealed until 1978 because that was when somebody (SWK) did the hard work over years to convince everyone that it needed to be changed. No one had done that before.”

    Greg Prince in his biography of President McKay cites President McKay’s recounting of the experience he had of going to the Lord a number of times asking about repealing the ban and finally being told by the Lord that was not the time and not to ask him again. This experience would seem to be evidence that others before President Kimball were concerned about the ban and of course President McKay did what he could within the confines of the ban to ameliorate the effects of the ban. Given this it seems difficult to understand why, if the Lord wanted to remove the ban, he wouldn’t have used President McKay to implement it because he was certainly inclined to do it.

    And yes I am aware of your previous post where you stated that you didn’t think President McKay really had that experience so you didn’t see any need to deal with it. However, that is simply dismissing it without actually dealing with it. And of course taking the view that it didn’t happen would be inconsistent with Greg Prince’s view after he reviewed over 100,000 pages of written materials and conducted over 200 interviews.

  24. I was born shortly after OD2 and because I’m white and grew up in Utah, I never had to really think about the priesthood and temple ban at all when I was young. Today, I can only shake my head and wonder how it was ever accepted at all. However, I would be very hesitant to bring up the topic with my parents or grandparents (if they were still here) because I’m afraid of the sorts of answers they might give.

    For me, the priesthood and temple ban is much harder to wrap my head around than polygamy. I am aware that there were ugly abuses of polygamy, but I can at least imagine a system where everyone practicing plural marriage was doing so by their own choice. You can make good arguments as to whether that would ever be possible in the real world, but at least the possibility exists that some people could chose to practice polygamy while others chose not to. The priesthood and temple ban, however, offered no choice to anyone.

    I’m not sure I have anything groundbreaking to add to this discussion, but also wanted to throw in that I really enjoy the articles and appreciate the knowledgeable discussion from all of you offering different view points, and historical context.

  25. Ojiisan shows up right on time to illustrate the difficulty of calling it a mistake. If God is micromanaging His prophets (God told DOM to not ask anymore) then there is no way it can be a mistake. Most members in my ward think this is the way God works through his prophets. I don’t see this changing anytime soon.

  26. J. Stapley says:

    Matt, that is really great to hear. I look forward to your thoughts.

    Ojisan, I’m pretty sure that Jesus didn’t baptize anyone. He did tell a gentile to go wash in the river though. And regarding McKay, Matt’s comments above are extremely relevant. And I stand by my position that second-hand, retrospective anecdotes about this topic are not reliable, no matter what Greg wrote. McKay’s diary is available and it is completely silent.

  27. A way that I have engaged on this topic with some faithful members is to simply ask the question, with this background understood, or at least the current position of the Gospel Topics essay, “is that the Church got it wrong among the possible faithful alternatives?” Why or why not?

    That usually informs the rest of the discussion.

  28. anonymous for this says:

    J. Stapley / Zach – If it is true that DOM was told by God that it was not time to lift the ban, that would support an argument that, if nothing else, God allowed the ban to remain in place for the period of time between when DOM asked and 1978. This would be the case even if BY was initially mistaken in imposing the ban, and the prophets after him before DOM were mistaken in not asking God to remove it.

    Thus, I’m not sure the argument that, whatever the initial mistake, God allowed the ban to remain in place until 1978 is wholly disposed of by simply saying SWK was the first person to ask, and God allowed all prior prophets to perpetuate the mistake. It seems more complicated than that. Among other problems, that approach seems to limit God’s ability to communicate his will to only situations where he is asked a question.

    Could this be a situation where God permitted the mistake to remain in place for other reasons that are now unknown? Could this be analogous to the lost 116 manuscript pages, where God allowed the mistake of losing the manuscript to stand rather than miraculously fixing the problem by having the manuscript pages materialize? Could this be analogous to God requiring the children of Israel to wander in the dessert for 40 years after their mistakes?

    I don’t know. But I do think that the issue is more complex than it first appears. And, I’m not sure simply saying that SWK was the first person to ask the question eliminates the possibility that God chose to allow the mistake to stand for a period of time. There seem to be problems with that answer both theologically and historically speaking. There has to be a better answer.

    J. Stapley / Ojiisan – I was not aware that anyone has claimed that DOM did not ask God if the ban could be removed. I would be interested in someone sharing why some may think Greg Prince’s account is incorrect.

  29. J. Stapley says:

    Anonymous, per the link in the original post: what we have are a couple second hand reminiscences that David O. McKay prayed about lifting the ban, and feeling like he shouldn’t. It would irresponsible history, and poor theology to accept these accounts as being accurate or, more particularly, revelations to McKay. I’m deeply skeptical of late second-hand accounts of anything this emotionally charged and complicated.

  30. It used to be that GA’s didn’t like to be seen as yielding to public pressure. This may be one reason for the delay until 1978. Another is racist GA’s who apparently had to be convinced.

    So what drove the 1978 decision/revelation? Practical reality must have influenced it. In Brazil, it was difficult to tell who had Black blood and who did not. And the Church was growing, somewhat accidentally, in Africa. Both areas were becoming major success regions for finding new converts. The issue had to be resolved.

    I’m not comfortable throwing DOM under the bus. He was clearly uncomfortable when he found out that Steve Taggart had an article coming out in Dialogue arguing that the Church’s Black restrictions were historical and not doctrinal. And for the last few years of his tenure, DOM was in poor health.

    Throwing BY under the bus, works for me. But that still leaves the question of the inaction of subsequent Prophets until 1978. During the 1960’s, it can be blamed on their unwillingness to yield to public pressure.

    But the fact that this issue remains somewhat unresolved, for the last 40+ years, speaks volumes about the Church leadership’s unwillingness to deal with critical issues.

    There is also need to examine how closely Black issues mirror contemporary LGBTQ issues.

  31. Anonymous- I understand what you are saying. It goes something like this. God told BY to ban black people from entering the temple, making covenants and being sealed to their families and BY baked that into our doctrine by talking of curses and preexistence choices. Other churches started to realize treating black people different was wrong and DOM thought we also might be wrong. He looks at the composition of the 12 and who is next in line. JFS and a very young HBL are the next two in line and they fully believe in all the doctrinally justifications that BY taught. So the Lord decides that it is not the right time and verbally instructs DOM to not make the change because he doesn’t want to upset JFS and HBL? Meanwhile He’ll supposedly send down an angel with a flaming sword to institute polygamy? I agree that it is more complicated than it appears. That shouldn’t stop God from correcting it. Two apostles left the church when they finally did away with polygamy. It was a mistake when it was initiated and it was a mistake they delayed fixing it. I don’t think blaming God in the 1950s is any better than blaming God in the 1850s.

  32. Served in a predominantly white US mission 68-70. We were told not to teach blacks. Period. If we came across a black while tracting, we were to invite them to attend the church of their choice.

    So much for every nation, kindred, tongue, and people.

  33. J Stapley

    “Ojiisan, I’m pretty sure that Jesus didn’t baptize anyone’

    I think you know what I meant. It is clear that when Jesus was on the earth gentiles were not being baptized and membership in Christ’s church was limited to Jews and that continued until Peter had his vision.

    Reading a trite response like the one above after reading your equally trite initial argument about Jesus ministering to and teaching gentiles only leads one to conclude that you have no good response to the analogy of excluding Jews from baptism and excluding blacks from the priesthood, which is why you effectively avoided it in your initial post..

    Having said that I would be interested in reading a good response if you have one.

    “what we have are a couple second hand reminiscences that David O. McKay prayed about lifting the ban, and feeling like he shouldn’t. It would irresponsible history, and poor theology to accept these accounts as being accurate or, more particularly, revelations to McKay.”

    Interesting perspective about not credible second hand reminiscences that was not shared by Greg Prince who, unlike you, did read all the written materials and conducted all the interviews.

    Could it be that it is irresponsible history and poor theology to accept these accounts because if you don’t dismiss them out of hand you have no credible response for his experience in making your argument?

  34. I don’t have any disagreement with the post, but the scriptures appear to state that Jesus did, in fact, baptize people. Refer to John 3:22 and JST John 4:1-4. Now, maybe the JST isn’t admissible as evidence, and maybe there’s some missing context (or I’m misreading the scripture horribly), but it appears relatively straightforward to me.

  35. J. Stapley says:

    Ojisan, I don’t know you, or your experience with dealing with these topics. I was quite serious in my response. You said: “It is clear that when Jesus was on the earth gentiles were not being baptized and membership in Christ’s church was limited to Jews and that continued until Peter had his vision.” I don’t think this is accurate. I’d be shocked if the Samaritan believers that converted during Jesus two day ministry in John 4 were any different from Jewish believers. I’m pretty sure that our formal conceptions of “church” don’t map well onto his ministry, but they were genuine converts. As to the gentiles, I suggest reading a little closer. Acts 11 opens: “There was a certain man in Cæsarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band, A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway.” An Angel then tells him to go to Peter, and a couple of days later Peter has his vision, and confesses: “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons.” I don’t know how many other gentile believers were around, but I’m pretty sure he wasn’t alone. And despite Peter’s trouble accepting the consequences of his vision, I’m fairly comfortable with the vision changing Peter, and not the accessibility of Gospel to the Gentiles.

    And regarding you final comments. Seriously. Historiography is a real discipline, and there are best practices. If you are really, really interested in integrating those particular documents into your analysis, there are many ways of doing so that don’t obviate anything in this post. But like I said, I’m not particularly interested.

  36. J. Stapley says:

    Dylan, I stand corrected! Though in John 4:2 you have: “(Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,).”

  37. @Tom no, no, no.

    Polygamy didn’t have some edge cases of abuse. Polygamy itself is an abusive and harmful concept and originated in coercion. And unlike the priesthood ban, it’s still here because we still teach and believe in eternal polygamy. It hurts women and men today.

    I would encourage you to listen to some of the Year of Polygamy podcasts or read Todd Compton’s In Sacred Loneliness (which describe how women in early church days were hurt), and read Carol Lynn Pearson’s Ghost of Eternal Polygamy (which describes how we are still being hurt). Read what Joseph told women in coercing them to marry him, and read D&C 132 very carefully to internalize Joseph’s threats against Emma and the way that concept of marriage treats women as property. If there is a God speaking in D&C 132, it is not a God I want anything to do with.

    Both the priesthood ban and polygamy are huge, devastating mistakes whose consequences live with us today. I’m not trying to compare which is worse. But both were mistakes.

  38. Jared Cook, I don’t think your comparison to Adam God is all that useful, because unlike Brigham’s past racial teachings, Brigham’s Adam God stuff is still seen as an anti-Mormon invention, or as incomprehensible (and thus un-analyzable) by many (most?) church members who’ve heard of it. So I don’t think we can draw meaningful conclusions by comparing church members’ willingness to jettison Adam God with their unwillingness to jettison a divinely-inspired priesthood ban. Apples and oranges.

    Aaron B

  39. Aaron, I’m not sure that’s true. You’d have to do a survey or something, but my impression is that a great many of church members that have heard about Brigham Young’s Adam-God doctrine (really just one small part of his overall cosmology, not an isolated doctrine) know that he actually taught it and don’t believe the fiction that it is an anti-Mormon invention. But I agree with you that many members simply see it as incomprehensible. But regardless of possible widespread ignorance among contemporary church members about Brigham Young’s garden teachings, I’m not talking just about member’s attitudes, I’m talking about the institutional church itself being willing to disavow it. The church itself was and is aware that he taught it and had no trouble officially disavowing it. The idea that saying he was wrong in doctrine would undermine faith was not an obstacle.

    But again, even setting that aside, your point that BY’s garden teachings are a little-understood historical oddity illustrates that the difference them and the racially discriminatory temple and priesthood exclusion is that it stuck around and they did not. But that only raises the question why racism in temple and priesthood stuck around and (most of) Brigham Young’s cosmology did not? Church leaders and members made repeated choices over time to establish, strengthen, and maintain racism as doctrine in ways that they did not do with Brigham Young’s other teachings. Why? I’m sure there are many reasons, but again, when it comes down to it, racism just didn’t trouble them as much.

  40. When you mention Spencer W Kimball, I can’t help but think of his statements that included the phrase “white and delightsome”. He actually believed that white was superior to other races and that all should aspire to be more white. He even spoke of an Indian (aka Native American aka Lamanite) who had spent time with the Saints and whose skin had literally become more white. This is the man I think of when you prop him up as some kind of enlightened servant of the Lord.

  41. Thanks for this post, Jonathan. First, a quibble or question: What do you mean by “the 1852 to 1877 restriction”? Is this a typo, or did something happen in 1877 I am unaware of?

    Second, we have to be especially careful as Latter-day Saints to not impose our current definition of “priesthood” (as the authority of God that can be bestowed or received or held) on the Bible or the Book of Mormon or even very early Church history, because this definition did not exist in any of those contexts. Priesthood, initially in Mormonism, had the same meaning that it had in the Bible and that it still has in all other Christian churches. This definition appears in most dictionaries and is twofold: (1) the condition or fact of being a priest and (2) the body of priests. If you consult the four-inch-thick dictionary I have here in my office, it includes a third definition, but it restricts this definition to only LDS usage, and reflects our current definition of priesthood in the Church. It is important to note that this unique LDS definition does not appear in the Book of Mormon. Indeed, the word “priesthood” appears only about eight times in the whole book, and it always is used as “high priesthood,” and this always means simply that someone is a high priest. Priesthood as authority is not a concept in the BoM or the Bible or LDS history before about 1832. So we have to be careful about how we refer to priesthood restrictions in the Bible, since some of our assumptions would be anachronistic. Regardless, though, what Brigham was doing in 1852 was preventing Black members from “holding” the priesthood and receiving temple ordinances, and this was indeed a mistake. It had no basis in scripture, precedent, or revelation. Church leaders are not perfect. They make mistakes. That does not mean they are not called and approved by God. It just means he is sometimes very tolerant with us and allows us to make mistakes and sometimes bear the consequences of those mistakes for generations.

  42. Well, Josh, you could consider allowing SWK to have changing views over time like most of the rest of us. Perhaps he became more enlightened after having previously made those statements.

  43. R Terry, I have no idea why I wrote 1877, that should be 1978, and I’ve fixed it in the post. Thanks for pointing that out.

    And as you likely know, I’ve written a fair bit about shifting conceptions of priesthood, and I did fret a bit over that while writing the post. It is hard to do all things at all times, so I decided to try speaking within the contemporary tradition. You’ll see how I say things like “Latter-day Saints generally believe…” But you are right note it. If people would like to dig into this more, I recommend my chapters on priesthood in The Power of Godliness, and The Routledge Handbook of Mormonism and Gender.

  44. In the footnote, I think you mean Gary E. Stevenson. Russell Stevenson is not an apostle. :)

  45. I think Pres. Oaks would disagree with this post. See the last section of his talk at BYU from October 2020: https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/dallin-h-oaks/racism-other-challenges/

  46. Thanks for the catch, atari_guy.

  47. Excellent post, J Stapley.
    My two cents? It was a mistake. In our short 200 years, we’ve made essentially the same sin over and over again as we’ve marginalized, discriminated against, denied rights and privileges to, and systematically disadvantaged “others”. If life is a test of the greatest commandment (love God and our neighbors), we keep failing every iteration of the test, whether we’ve been presented with moral choices regarding blacks, women, HIV/AIDS patients, refugees, the poor, or LGBT persons.

    Compared to other 19th century American religious groups, our treatment towards black communities and persons doesn’t stand up.Unlike the Quakers, Congregationalists, Wesleyans, Reformed Presbyterians, etc, we weren’t bastions of the underground railroad. We of all people should have empathized with and reached out to those denied civil rights, but we did essentially nothing. For as much as we love singing about and painting pictures of Jesus with children, Inter-mountain West Mormondom obviously voted AGAINST helping refugee children and families at the border or from Syria. And I won’t even go into the patriarchy and women’s issues in the church or our leaders’ gigantic flubs in handling contemporary LGBT issues.

    As J Stapley said above, we injure the body of Christ in making and denying these mistakes- which results in continuous injury. Tomes could and should be written about the injuries we’ve made as we document the past and repent. But we should also recognize the fact that we also impoverished our own spirits. Martin Sheen narrated the following commercial/ public service announcement about corruption in politics, but I think that the principle applies exponentially if we talk about racism/sexism and “ites” (of all sorts) in Zion:

    The real cost of racism
    The only problem of [racism/sexism/elitism] in the [church] is that it leaves most of us out and it creates a poverty of spirit in the whole church. And unfortunately it takes a long time for that to be recognized, what racism/sexism/elitism really costs us. It costs our spirit, our soul. It damages our culture. I want an egalitarian church where everyone has equal position and respect. It’s not just about black and white, male and female, L, G, B or T, it’s about right and wrong, and it is not ever gonna change until we are resigned and committed to saying- enough- no more discrimination among the saints.

  48. J Stapley

    Interesting.

    If baptism and all of the blessings of the gospel were available to gentiles from day 1 then what was the point of Peter’s vision?

  49. Mortimer, Totally agree, and we wouldn’t have morally bankrupt members, and others who believe lies about abortion etc, voting for trump, and calling helping the poor communism, more lies.

  50. J. Stapley says:

    Ojisan, I think we need to be careful about projecting our modern conceptions of “the church” back on to the NT. I’m not a New Testament scholar, but I tend to follow some of the literature. Folks like Raymond Brown are pretty persuasive (I really enjoyed his Intro to the NT which is a great overview of the scholarship). It appears that the early Christians weren’t creating a new church, but were largely a group of Jewish believers. They still worshipped at the temple, and saw no need to break away from the broader religious culture. Despite his vision, Peter struggled with accepting gentiles into fellowship for decades after this. Look at his conflicts with Paul on the topic. And I’m also hesitant to read the NT as journalism. With all that being said, Acts 10-11 doesn’t appear to be saying that God established that Jews couldn’t eat with gentiles, and that gentiles had no access to the gospel until Peter had his vision, at which point gentiles could now join “the church.” I don’t think that it was ever God’s will that the Jewish believers could not eat or associate with non-Jewish believers. Or that Non-Jewish believers couldn’t repent. The vision works in Acts 10 and 11 to change Peter and other early Jewish Christian’s hearts and minds, which was absolutely necessary for the church to emerge and the Gospel to go to all the world.

  51. Now if the church could realize the same applies to women. There is no justification for keeping the blessings of God from groups of people, including the blessings and privileges of holding the priesthood. Either we are all alike unto God or we are not. Either we all have the same divine potential or the eternities hold limited opportunities for women and not men.

    I’m glad the church is giving some lip service in encouraging anti-racism, but it barely begins the work necessary to reverse the harm past teachings have caused. It would be a fantastic step to own up to the mistake of the priesthood and temple ban and could be a catalyst for further necessary changes.

  52. J Stapley

    I guess if it works for you then it works for you but your view would seem to be inconsistent with the scriptures as written.

    For example, Acts 11:1 says “.. the apostles … heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God”. If Christ had been teaching and treating the Gentiles the same as the Jews when he was on the earth then one would think that the apostles would have been aware of that fact. And if Peter had been aware of that fact then it would hardly seem necessary for him to have to have a vision to convince him to do what he had already seen Christ do and presumably had participated in doing with Christ and therefore knew was part of Christ’s way or to use your words if he was aware of it and knew it was Christ’s way then why would he need to have his heart and mind changed.

    A more reasonable interpretation would seem to be that, because it wasn’t part of their experience in working with Christ or even part of his teachings to them, they needed to have their hearts and minds changed.

  53. J. I completely agree with you.

    FWIW, the position of the Church’s Bible dictionary is that Gentiles in fact could and did join the church before Peter’s vision, but they did so by first becoming a Jewish proselyte/convert. That is, church members regarded Christianity as a subset of Judaism, and to become a Christian meant to also (or first) become a Jew. Thus, the import of Peter’s vision was not so much that a Gentile could join (because that had happened before), but that a Gentile could become a Christian without also or first becoming a Jew.

    Here is what the dictionary says about Cornelius:

    “A centurion at Caesarea, baptized by Peter (Acts 10). The significance of Cornelius’s baptism is that he was probably the first Gentile to come into the Church not having previously become a proselyte to Judaism (see Proselytes). Other Gentiles had joined the Church, but they had been converted to Judaism before becoming Christians, which caused no great commotion among Jewish Christians who thought of Christianity as having some ties with Judaism.

    …..

    “The baptism of Cornelius and his family marked a new dimension in the work of the Church in New Testament times, since it opened the way for the gospel to be preached to the Gentiles directly, without going by way of Judaism.”

    https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/scriptures/bd/cornelius?lang=eng

  54. See my refutation of this at truthwillprevail.xyz

  55. I suspect many do not see a way that one can hold the ban to be uninspired AND hold orthodox beliefs about prophets. They see a gap there, that rejecting the inspiration of the ban is an inherently unorthodox and illegitimate move. There is certainly tension between typical assumptions about the nature of prophets and revelation (especially that revelation inherently means the revealing of timeless and static truths) and a central LDS idea of progressive revelation (which necessitates prophets), line upon line, etc.
    We need more people thinking about revelation, prophets, scripture, and interpretation (i.e. theology) to bridge those gaps, those changes. I took a shot at this here. https://benspackman.com/2021/02/14/what-im-doing-here-and-what-i-hope-others-will-do/

  56. Dennis, your defense, to me, boils down to: God was a racist until 1978. That’s a position I just can’t swallow.

  57. Dennis has compiled a nice list of every theory they disavowed. Your number 7 made my head and heart hurt. That being said, he is on more solid ground than I am. People who think current prophets are wrong and old prophets were right find themselves leaning towards fundamentalism. People like me who think prophets get things right sometimes and wrong sometimes often find themselves only agreeing with the prophets when they are echoing their own thoughts and biases. That is not a good place to be. People like Dennis can believe a revelation in 2015 can come from God and the reversal 3 years later can also come from God. These people will never lose faith. They are also the people willing to dress up like Indians and meet at the stake center at 7:00 in the morning.

    I’m a huge fan of your work Ben S. Keep it up. Any post that calls out Tim Ballard and Deseret Books makes my day.

  58. Zach’s idea that people like Dennis are on firmer ground is interesting, but I’m not sure that’s true.

    I agree with Zach that’s it’s dangerous to be in a place where you have to weigh everything that church leaders say and decide whether it’s persuasive. Many of the most important things can’t be taught persuasively; there will be many times when we have to cast our lot in hope and faith. The danger for thinking people is that we’ll think so much that we wait too long. We’ll miss our chance to do the crucial work when the moment demands it.

    On the other hand, there is an equal danger for those who fail to think independently. It’s true that they won’t feel alienated from the leaders whom they reflexively support, but they will miss their own chances to do crucial work. Take our commenter Dennis as an example. With his blog post, Dennis is signaling that it is better to use his time defending past racism than building a more inclusive and loving present-day church. When you refuse to leave your bunker, the universe passes you by.

    That is the crux of the thing. It is why J. Stapley’s post is worth writing. We must move beyond the things that prevent us from doing what is necessary now. Our preoccupation with the false idea that prophets are infallible is one of those stumbling blocks. It has become a vicious obsession. It is our Precious. Let us put it aside and move forward in faith.

  59. Ray Clayton says:

    Wonderful commentaries, lots of effort. I am focusing on a very small item that is related to the perpetuation of racism in the church. For several years I have contemplated the accepted interpretation of Alma 13:3-5 as a pre-mortal reference, when in fact it could (should) be a mortal reference. I’m sure there has been research on this question, and since there are so many learned persons commenting, possibly one of you could point me to a source that has dealt with this observation?

  60. It is with some degree of amazement that we can awaken one day and realize that we have to have so much discussion over whether human beings can make a mistake. The scriptures themselves are replete with examples of prophets who have made mistakes. Some mistakes, like the priesthood and temple restrictions, were obviously profound in their damage to the body of Christ, how interesting that we even have so much discussion over the proposition. I am a transgender woman, and despite decades of trying to change or suppress it, I eventually found that I could not, and the efforts to do so endangered my life. It was a grief and a surprise to me in 2019 when I was told that my temple access, endowments, sealing were all removed even though I was still trying to live socially as a male, even though I was taking female hormones (which were life saving). I still think my exclusion from the temple was a mistake. I have made my own profound mistakes, but am grateful for the grace that I feel is out there for my mistakes. I believe that there is grace for the mistakes that are also made by the leaders of the church. I have received comfort from the realization that church leaders have made obvious bigoted mistakes in the past that excluded people for NO good reason, as in the temple and priesthood ban, but can still be used to further the kingdom, even if they are also simultaneously holding it back. I can still feel close to the church and the comfort I feel there, with hope that people like me one day may not be excluded as they now are, and that someday people like me may be able to find access to the comfort and worship that occurs in temples. I am doubtful this will ever happen in my lifetime, but I think it may happen someday. Make no mistake, I was excluded for no good reason when my temple access was denied. My life almost ended too many times because of my misguided attempts to suppress my true gender identity for the sake of religious compliance. I would say that exclusions that contribute to people having to make such stark life and death choices could very well be a mistake. I am grateful for the OP, and flabbergasted that it is still such a focal point for so much discussion, I mean, the idea that the temple and priesthood ban were mistakes, should just simply be obvious by now shouldn’t they?

  61. Ray Clayton, that’s an interesting observation. Begs the question, was that scripture part of the basis for the pre-earth life based priesthood exclusion? Personally I’ve always interpreted it to refer to pre-mortal life, but I don’t know why a racial application would in any way be justified.

  62. How about everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY, (and you know what I mean by that) acknowledge it was hurtful, so, so wrong, and apologize. Loudly and publicly, and then move on. White people in general in this country, and white members of this church especially, have good reason to apologize. I wonder where we would be now if we had embraced black people rather than doing whatever may have seemed expedient at the time, though not principled…

  63. Sasha Kwapinski says:

    When I was first investigating the church in 1970-71, I was aware of the priesthood ban, and made it a point to ask about it in my discussions with members and the missionaries. I certainly was not going to let that go by without at least bringing it up. Though we did not discuss it at great length, I was at least given to understand that: (1) black people would in fact one day receive the priesthood; (2) that blacks are children of God and ultimately have the same potential of salvation and exaltation as does anybody else. FWIW, the notion that blacks were somehow collectively “less valiant” or were “fence sitters” in the pre existence has NEVER once been presented to me (by anybody any time anywhere) as constituting actual church doctrine. In the B of M, there are least 20 passages affirming that the gospel is ultimately for all people of the world (this was by my “count” so I probably missed a few passages); The D & C, by one published count, contains 78 such verses, beginning with the first verse. Still more such verses are in the P of GP, not to mention any number of statements by Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and other leaders affirming that the church is destined to be established among ALL nations, kindreds, and people, and to go forth “out of obscurity” and to spread around then world. The OT and B of M both affirm that through the seed of Abraham, ALL families of the earth are to be blessed. We can also add the well-known “missionary verse” in Revelation about “I saw another angel fly,” having the eternal gospel to bring to ALL nations. In short, it looks to me that -sooner or later – between the Priesthood ban versus the actual prophetic destiny of the church, something would have to “give.” Eventually, it did.

  64. Jake zollinger says:

    Our leaders have served with little to no scandals for the better part of their lives. I support them and accept mistakes and weaknesses that are human..what could change without, however, with good outcome would be for our general leaders to solicit the wisdom and expertise of members where they can contribute..I am 77 and a retired psych many of knew by 1980 at least that gay people are genetically motivated yet the rigid generation of leaders from the previous generation only came around fifteen years ago. Elder Packer died without changing his position. why is humility not a quality we deserve in our leaders..? the new ones are more accepting of reality. Thanks My name is ]ake Zollinger

  65. Lanny Landrith says:

    Sasha, great comment.

    Most of the comments about previous prophets fail – FAIL – to observe the following quote from the 1978 Official Declaration 2 in which blacks can receive the priesthood.

    “Aware of the promises made by the prophets and presidents of the Church who have preceded us that at some time, in God’s eternal plan,”

    In other words, “the prophets and presidents of the Church who have preceded” Spencer W. Kimball, had “made promises” that blacks would one day receive the priesthood.

    Sasha made a great comment that ALL worthy blacks – BEFORE or after the 1978 Official Declaration 2 – will receive the priesthood. Those blacks in the Church who died before 1978 will receive the priesthood in the temples.

    Thus, it is NOT, NOT, NOT a question of WHETHER worthy blacks will receive the priesthood. It is only a question of WHEN. We don’t know why some worthy blacks will have to wait until the temple work is done for them. I heard a Sunday school teacher wisely say once, “We often say that we are children of God, and we usually emphasize the words “of God,” and appropriately so. But sometimes we should emphasize the word “children.” No matter what our age is, we all are – compared to the Father – just children and NOT small, all-wise adults. An example is a great dilemma that Joseph Smith resolved as follows: for centuries – CENTURIES – and even today the rest of Christianity has taught correctly that Jesus is the Christ and that we must follow Christ in order to be saved BUT HAS NEVER CORRECTLY ANSWERED THE QUESTION WHAT HAPPENS TO THOSE WHO NEVER HAD THE CHANCE TO KNOW OF JESUS. Founding fathers and former U.S. Presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson had trouble believing in the divinity of Jesus because they knew that God was loving and just, and would never damn someone because that someone never had the chance to know of Jesus. Joseph resolved that dilemma with an answer that can be said in less than 10 seconds: missionary work in the spirit world and temple work for the dead. Wow! How marvelously simple! And there are lots of gospel questions (such as why worthy blacks were delayed in receiving the priesthood) that in the hereafter will have as simple and wonderful an answer as the 10-second answer “missionary work in the spirit world and temple work for the dead.”

    Joseph of Egypt must have wondered why in the world was he placed such that most of his brothers wanted to murder him, but, instead, sold him into slavery. Joseph of Egypt must have wondered why he could be a wonderful servant in Potipher’s house and still be accused of attempted rape and be sent to rot in an Egyptian jail. And Potipher knew that his wife was lying, because if he had believed her accusation, he would have had Joseph executed. Joseph of Egypt had plenty of time in jail to ponder why, oh why, did he have to go through all this. In the end, the answer is simple: he saved all of Egypt – and saved his father and brothers – from a 7-year famine. Oh how simple the answer was!

    What I find particularly frustrating about the comments about previous prophets, is the FAILURE TO EVEN OBSERVE OFFICIAL DECLARATION 2, when it says, “”Aware of the promises made by the prophets and presidents of the Church who have preceded us that at some time, in God’s eternal plan.” There is NO excuse for criticizing the Church when you don’t even bother to read the revelation. PLEASE, PLEASE, JUST READ THE REVELATION.

    As far as alleged quotes of previous prophets (e.g. Brigham Young) in the Journal of Discourses, THERE ARE REASONS WHY WE DO NOT, NOT, NOT CONSIDER THE JOURNAL OF DISCOURSES AS SCRIPTURE. Many of the speakers (e.g. Brigham Young) who are quoted in the Journal of Discourses. were called on to speak extemporaneously. There were at least 2 consequences of the speakers speaking extemporaneously:

    1) we don’t have recordings of what they said; their talks were NOT written. And scribes OFTEN, OFTEN, OFTEN made mistakes when writing down what speakers had said.
    2) And often scribes let their personal biases misinterpret what speakers said.

    So be careful in quoting from the Journal of Discourses because scribes made mistakes and because scribes let their personal biases misinterpret what speakers had said. Thus, the Journal of Discourses is NOT scripture.

    Perhaps, we should stop being smart, all-wise adults, and, instead, be CHILDREN of God as Joseph of Egypt was, as Joseph Smith was. Perhaps, that’s part of what the Savior meant when He said we must become as little children.

  66. Great discussion. I especially loved Lona Gynt’s expressions of faith amid the human/god conversation that is ongoing revelation. It cannot ever be perfect and is often misunderstood. The default should be wariness. The default IS wariness according to scripture admonitions and stories. Why else would we be counseled so carefully in discernment in Moroni 7? And at the end of the day—at the end of that counsel in that chapter of scripture—faith, hope, and charity are what truly reveal the will of God. This is confirmed in a number of early sections of the D&C and especially nailed down with beautiful language in D&C 121. So if a practice, idea, doctrine, or prophetic decree do not line up with Godly expansive/inclusive love, as so well expressed by Paul and Mormon, then I know where I will hope to err in my faith in and adherence to that God—in charity.

  67. Antonio Parr says:

    Years ago, I commented to my then-young-teen-age daughter that I had a pretty simple explanation for the Priesthood ban: “we were wrong.” To which my very faithful and very active daughter replied, “no duh.”

    “No duh” is not an elegant expression, but it sure beats straining at a gnat to swallow a camel.

    In recent years, the Church has been doing a magnificent job in directing its ministry and resources towards a people that we once neglected. In my mind, even a second spent trying to rationalize or justify the ban is a second wasted. It only serves to reopen old wounds and runs the risk of alienating our Black brothers and sisters, which, in turn, delays the experience of full fellowship that is essential to building the Kingdom of God on earth.

    But, then, no duh.

  68. Sometimes I wonder how we will respond when God asks why, when given the gift of the holy ghost, we attributed our own prejudice (either taught or self realized) to him or her or them or whatever pronoun you prefer for God (I’m pretty sure God will be fairly forgiving in that regard). Its quite clear, if you believe in scripture, (i.e. that the revelation was at least received correctly and the correct meaning transcribed) that God is no respecter of persons – see Article of Faith #2. From my perspective the biggest problem that members (myself included) will run into with the idea that the Priesthood ban was wrong is the idea that other more recent pronouncements might also be wrong. Most notably the proclamation on the family. It’s quite clear to me that the proclamation makes some pretty bogus, or at least highly questionable claims. But it is perhaps the most revered document in the church and has set our course for the last 25 years. The proclamation, however, makes it harder for us as a church to “lead out” against prejudices in general as did the Official Declaration on the Priesthood. They both move our own prejudices off of our shoulders and onto God’s. Which Jesus is perfectly willing to do of course being our intermediary with God and himself ascending to godhood. So It really just comes down to us. What kind of a person do you really want to be? What kind of person are you willing to allow yourself to be? If we are willing to allow ourselves to believe that it is God rather than us who punished people, or still does punish people, or will yet punish people because they were born with certain characteristics (which God gave them) and disavow that such punishment really derives from human error, I believe we are opening ourselves up to becoming the worst kind of people.

  69. The Challenge with this whole thing is that it causes people to question everything that comes from our leaders. President Kimball said this was a revelation. And now we are saying he was mistaken? What can we believe anymore

  70. Vc, And whose fault is that? Religion is loosing credibility generally, because of sex abuse, and prejudice. Our leaders are too old for sex abuse, but we insist on prejudice against women and gays, now that we are trying not to be racist.
    The fact that so many members voted trump, causes one to wonder how successful the separation from racism is. The trump vote will be an albatross around the church’s neck, for the same reason the priesthood ban has been, for a good while, unless all prejudice is removed.

    The scripture “all are alike unto God, black and white, bond and free, male and female, gay and straight” has been repeated to support removing racism. Every time I think, and what about the other people you still discriminate against? Can’t they see that?

  71. J. Stapley says:

    I was just reading through President J. Reuben Clark’s book, and this excerpt seemed relevant to the discussion above. On the Way to Immortality and Eternal Life (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1949), p. 154:

    “How blind was Peter that after this lesson [of the Canaanite woman] he must needs have a thrice-repeated vision to convince him that God is no respecter of persons, that his love and mercy are for all, even for those whom the chosen seed despised. But even before this, Peter had been taught the lesson by the incident of Jesus at the well with the woman of Samaria. The converted Samaritans, hearing him, testified:

    ‘We have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.’

    Yet this acceptance of the Samaritans, the race hated by Judah, left Peter untaught. Peter, as well as Paul, ‘kicked against the pricks,’—Peter against the principle of the universal salvation of men,—men of all creeds, races, and colors.”

  72. Here’s the conundrum.

    If one acknowledges that the temple and priesthood restrictions were an earthly mistake, one has to acknowledge that the Church Leaders up to 1978 were either deluded about what God wanted (didn’t a Prophet write a letter in 1949 proclaiming that the restrictions were of divine origin?), or they were blinded to what God wanted by their own racism. If one is prepared to acknowledge that about past leaders, one also has to acknowledge that today’s Church Leaders are no less likely to be deluded about what God wants and are no less likely to be blind to their own preferences. It is easy to look back and critique Leaders who are now long dead, what is less easy but is arguably much more important, is the ability to critique current leaders and be prepared to acknowledge that mistakes are just as likely to be currently being made.

    Do we really want members in 50 years time looking back saying that the membership restrictions for gay people were an earthy mistake? That the hoarding of hundreds of billions of dollars was an earthly mistake? And have those members wonder why the membership of the day didn’t challenge it. Do you want to look back with the same embarrassment on your sustaining of the current Church Policies as we do for the temple and priesthood restrictions?

    If we don’t acknowledge the mistakes of the past AND make changes in the here and now, then it’s a lesson unlearned and no amount of retrospective blog pieces like this one will make up for a lack of fortitude in the here and now. There should be more blog pieces like this one challenging current policies that seem to be the same types of mistakes as have been made in the past.

  73. @D, it’s important for your testimony that the church and church leaders make mistakes. We don’t believe that the President of the church is infallible. I’m fine with future church members being able to look back and think about something today “that was a mistake.”
    Demanding and expecting perfection is how people have faith crisis’s.
    Is the church true? Yes. Is it God’s Kingdom here on earth? Yes. Is it perfect? No.

  74. Sasha Kwapinski says:

    I have to confess that I am rather amused when people complain about the amount of money that the church has (or “hoards” as we sometimes hear). It was prophesied, early on, that the church would come forth “out of obscurity,” and would go forth “boldly, nobly and independent.” It appears to me that the church is pretty much doing exactly what was predicted and prophesied for it in the beginning. Some people apparently think that the only good Latter-day Saints are poor ones, and the only good or virtuous religious body is a cash-strapped one. The idea that there is something suspicious or nefarious about wealthy religious bodies is one of the oldest canards in the book, and has been thrown at the Jewish community for generations. (“Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” anyone?)

  75. I find myself contrasting @D’s comment against what Pres. Oaks said at the Be One celebration a couple of years ago. In that speech, Pres. Oaks talked about not receiving a testimony of the reasons for the priesthood restriction, but determined to be loyal to the leaders of the Church. He did not go into any detail (time frame or what loyalty to the brethren means to him), so I still wonder exactly what that meant to him, but clearly loyalty was important in how Pres. Oaks dealt with this particular issue (interestingly, just the other day, I read a piece at BYU studies about Pres. Kimball and the 1978 revelation that, at one point, emphasized how important loyalty was to Pres. Kimball and then I notice the Pres Oaks was called to the Q12 by Pres. Kimball.)

    Elsewhere, Pres. Oaks has also said there is no such thing in the Church as a “loyal opposition.” Many of the actions I see @D suggesting seem like they would be classified under “loyal opposition”.

    What does loyalty to the Church really look like when you don’t believe something the Church teaches?
    Do [I] want to look back with the same embarrassment on [my] sustaining of the current Church Policies as [I] do for the temple and priesthood restrictions?
    Is it more important to be loyal to the Church and its leaders or loyal to a personal sense of truth and morality?

    Part of me would like to put @D’s questions (and others like it) to Pres. Oaks and ask him what he really believes about when personal sense of truth and right conflicts with the Church’s sense of truth and right.

  76. lannylandrith says:

    SASHA, GREAT COMMENT! Debt is a huge problem in this country. Cities have gone bankrupt. Many companies – even before Covert 19 – have declared bankruptcy. It is astounding that anyone would criticize the Church for being financially responsible.

    Also the state of Utah and the Utah State government can thank the Church that it has a surplus of money (over a billion dollars) because of the Church’s wonderful welfare program. The Church’s wonderful welfare program helps many, many people, who otherwise would deplete government funds.

  77. lannylandrith says:

    At least part of the criticism of the prophets in this blog is due to a GROSS misunderstanding. The criticism FALSELY implies that being denied the priesthood resembles racist actions of organizations like the Klu Klux Klan. Being denied the priesthood denies NO ONE – NO ONE – OF ANY CIVIL RIGHTS OR PERSONAL SAFETY as do the racist activities of other organizations such as the KKK. In fact, if any member of this Church was even a member of the KKK, such membership in the KKK would disqualify that Church member for a temple recommend and for eternal life. If the Church member did any – ANY – of the racist activities of KKK and didn’t repent, the Church member’s highest possible hope is the telestial kingdom, the lowest of the 3 degrees of glory. J. Reuben Clark, a former member of at least 2 First Presidencies, strongly supported the ban of the priesthood to blacks, AND STRONGLY SUPPORTED THE CIVIL RIGHTS OF BLACKS. Any member of the Church who violates the civil rights of blacks AT ANY TIME OF HISTORY and didn’t repent LOST his salvation. THAT’S DOCTRINE.

    Most of the comments about previous prophets fail – FAIL – to observe the following quote from the 1978 Official Declaration 2 in which blacks can receive the priesthood.

    “Aware of the promises made by the prophets and presidents of the Church who have preceded us that at some time, in God’s eternal plan,”

    In other words, “the prophets and presidents of the Church who have preceded” Spencer W. Kimball, had “made promises” that blacks would one day receive the priesthood.

    Sasha made a great comment that ALL worthy blacks – BEFORE or after the 1978 Official Declaration 2 – will receive the priesthood. Those blacks in the Church who died before 1978 will receive the priesthood in the temples.

    Thus, it is NOT, NOT, NOT a question of WHETHER worthy blacks will receive the priesthood. It is only a question of WHEN. We don’t know why some worthy blacks will have to wait until the temple work is done for them.

    Being denied the priesthood for a while AND NOT FOREVER, IS not the same as being denied the number one blessing of the Church: the Gift of the Holy Ghost. Thus, that’s why Joseph Fielding Smith (the 10th Church President) said that the Church has done for more blacks than any other organization because the Church gave blacks the Gift the Holy Ghost. Having the Gift of the Holy Ghost enabled blacks – as it enables all Church members – to be purified and sanctified, and thereby become Christlike AND THUS QUALIFY FOR ALL, ALL, ALL OF GOD’S BLESSINGS.. IF THE CHURCH IN BANNING BLACKS FROM THE PRIESTHOOD, WAS BEING RACIST, THEN THE CHURCH WOULD ALSO HAVE BANNED BLACKS FROM RECEIVING THE GIFT OF THE HOLY GHOST. Anyone in this blog who thinks that being denied the priesthood for a while, is the same as being denied the Gift of the Holy Ghost, is either DISHONEST or TERRIBLY IGNORANT.

  78. It isn’t just about the priesthood, though, black members were also denied temple blessings. Don’t downplay things, it was a serious restriction.

    And as to the quote: “Aware of the promises made by the prophets and presidents of the Church who have preceded us that at some time, in God’s eternal plan…”

    It is easy to say, lets see some of those past promises. Many of them only contemplated black men and women receiving any priesthood or temple blessing AFTER EVERY OTHER person received them first (in life or through the work for the dead).

    Does it also include promises that black skin be turned white if only the person is righteous enough?

    I’m skeptical about a vague reference to “other promises” when so, so many of them were racist in their own right. The ban was wrong.

  79. Lannylandrith, the definition of racism is, to treat someone differently because of their race. The church did that. You don’t have to burn crosses.

  80. “IF THE CHURCH IN BANNING BLACKS FROM THE PRIESTHOOD, WAS BEING RACIST, THEN THE CHURCH WOULD ALSO HAVE BANNED BLACKS FROM RECEIVING THE GIFT OF THE HOLY GHOST.”

    Funny you should mention this, because Joseph Smith taught that if you are a gentile when you are baptized and confirmed, receiving the holy ghost purges your old blood and literally changes you into a member of the house of Israel. Teachings that said that black people were disqualified from the priesthood, because of their bloodline, after they were confirmed, were effectively denying the power of the gift of the holy ghost to back people. There is a reason the church has repudiated such teachings.

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