Ill-Gotten Gains & Illegal Immigration

I hope that Kevin Barney will forgive me for slicing the lunch meat deli-thin by using his post on tithing practices as a springboard for this related post. In my defense, I’ve been meaning to write something like this for months, but just haven’t gotten around to it until I saw a comment from reader Martin in Kevin’s thread and feared my window was closing quickly.

According to Scott Trotter, a spokesman for the Church, the LDS Church has “a long-standing policy of not profiting from alleged ill-gotten gains.” In general, this means that the Church does not knowingly accept tithing or other donations which come through unclean hands. What exactly “unclean hands” means in this context is a subject we could probably spend days talking about, but there is (likely) at least some level of common agreement about what would constitute ill-gotten gains among Latter-day Saints. For example, I doubt that many would dispute the ill-gotten nature of funds received through a bank robbery or street-mugging, and most of us would certainly be uncomfortable with the idea of building a temple, distributing welfare care, or sending humanitarian aid to disaster areas with funds that were obtained through such channels. However, those examples aren’t particularly useful to the average Mormon in the pews, since most of us are a) not bank robbers/thugs and b) most of us don’t really even know anyone who is. Thus, our chances for glaring judgmentally and wagging our fingers in disapproval at our neighbors are horribly diminished unless we expand our definition of ill-gotten gains. [Read more…]

Reflections on Another Anniversary

Armand Mauss, author of The Angel and the Beehive, All Abraham’s Children, Neither White nor Black, (with Lester Bush) and scores of important articles on many aspects of Mormonism, has graciously agreed to guest post his reflections on the anniversary of OD2.

I appreciated Greg Prince’s post (8 June) reflecting briefly on his association with Lester Bush and on the issue of LDS racial history for which Lester will always be remembered with admiration. Lester certainly did the hard and meticulous work that uncovered that history and revealed the utter lack of a revelatory basis for the long-standing Church restrictions on people of black African ancestry. My own association with the same issue has been more sociological than historical, although I always benefited enormously by Lester’s pioneering work. [Read more…]

The Long-Awaited Day

In 1973, Dialogue published an article by Lester Bush which traced the history of the LDS church policy banning members of African descent from holding the priesthood. That article itself became an important part of that history, as guest blogger Gregory Prince recounts below. If you’ve never read the article, it would be a great way to commemorate this important day in church history.

Update: In this post, I mentioned that a grandson of President Kimball was said to have seen a copy of the Bush article heavily marked up, apparently by the president. Since then I have tried but been unable to confirm that statement. Ed Kimball, who was close to the situation, indicates to me that he doubts the accuracy of the report. –GP

Thoughts on the 32nd Anniversary

My first contact with Lester Bush was indirect. I was in graduate school at UCLA in 1972 and was dating the Dialogue secretary, whose office was across the street from the campus. I noticed a 2-inch-thick book above her desk with the title Compilation on Blacks. Having completed a mission to Brazil three years earlier, I was well aware of the effects of the policy prohibiting ordination of blacks, but I was fuzzy on the cause. [Read more…]

Mormon Migration Database: Black people and Mormonism

Dr. Fred E. Woods at BYU has recently made available an online database of migration primary sources. This project compliments work done by the LDS church on overland trail sources. Work like this allows for extremely precise surveys of lived Mormonism by groups that often fall beneath the radar of history. As an example of the excellent material now available, I present some of the sources relating to immigrating Mormons and people with black-African ancestry. Coming from Northern Europe, many of these immigrants had never seen black people before.

[Read more…]

Missionary Racism

From BCC Guest mmiles

The following is the weekly email update that arrived today from my brother serving a mission in Idaho. [Read more…]

David O. McKay and the Priesthood Ban

In 2005,  David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism was published.  It is a great book, filled with details and insights into the way our church became what it is today.  We learn that during his tenure, President McKay prayed on several occasions for enlightenment concerning the policy which denied the priesthood to black men and temple ordinances to all black people.  His prayers apparently went unanswered.  We often take that to mean that it was God’s will for the ban to remain in place.  [Read more…]

Teaching OD-2

Last Sunday was a personal milestone for me as a Gospel Doctrine teacher. It was the first time I’ve ever taught a class on Blacks and the Priesthood. Come to think of it, it may be the first time I’ve ever been present in a class on Blacks and the Priesthood, whether as teacher or student (though maybe I’ve just forgotten). As someone who has ridden the priesthood ban hobby horse over the years, and who has suffered lots of angst over it, I’ve long wanted to teach this topic, but never before had the right opportunity. Sunday was the first time I felt I had such an opportunity, so I took it.

The assigned chapter from the D&C manual was “Lesson 42: Continuing Revelation to Latter-day Prophets.” When Steve Evans pointed this out to me at Molly Bennion’s post-Sunstone NW party the night before, I started brainstorming various ideas for the lesson, with the help of a few other Sunstone folks, assuming I’d talk about the “nature” of revelation or something. But not until the next morning, when I actually opened the manual, did I realize how mislead I’d been by the lesson title. For this was really the Correlation–KJV Bible–Additional Quorums of the 70–OD-2 lesson, all rolled into one week. One can’t possibly cover all these juicy topics in one lesson (indeed, I found myself wondering if the manual-writers didn’t intentionally put all this material in one chapter for precisely this reason), so I just chose OD-2. I started off by inviting a couple people to read the full declaration. Then we dived right in.
[Read more…]

“White on the outside; white on the inside”

There is a baptism card sold at the BYU bookstore which shows a white girl (cartoon) apparently preparing for baptism.  The upper part of her body is viewable, and she is dressed in white.  The front of the card says, “White on the outside…”  The inside says “And on the inside.  Congratulations on your baptism.” [Read more…]

“The Race Issue:” Thoughts on the State of the Field

Armand Mauss has graciously agreed to post his thoughts on the study of race and the church. Mauss continues to be one of the leading scholars on the race issue over the past four decades and much of what’s been discussed this week can be found in Mauss’s scholarship, notably All Abraham’s Children: Changing Mormon Conceptions of Race and Lineage (U of Illinois Press, 2003).

The only new developments with regard to the race issue, it seems to me, are the recurrent discoveries of that historical issue for the first time by incredulous new members (black or white) and/or by Mormon youth who have grown up without knowing that the Church ever had any racial restrictions. It seems that each generation (or convert) in the Church has to discover anew that skeleton in our historical closet. Having lived with the issue for more than 50 years, I find myself somewhat surprised whenever I encounter the wide-eyed “How-could-this-ever-have-happened?!” demands by younger church members — or at least by the better educated ones. There has long been a substantial and readily accessible scholarly literature on the topic, and a little study of that literature (plus a little ordinary American history) will cover most of the questions people have about when, how, and why we got burdened with the “race issue” until 1978. [Read more…]

The Priesthood Ban and Infallibility

Is it heretical to claim that the ban on blacks holding the Priesthood was a mistake? [Read more…]