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Was Priesthood Ban Inspired?

Wow, this is a really long post, and I didn’t cover everything, but what I did cover is quite considerable.I hope to hear some comments.  I decided to update this post on 9/16 with some of Greg Prince’s insights into this topic.  These updates are highlighted in orange.  UPDATE:  Mar 10, 2009.  Black Pete and William McCary were erroneously referred to as the same people.I made revisions to correct this inaccuracy, and this is shown in purple.  I have also added some new information from Connell O’Donovan, who is one of the premier experts on this subject.

We have had an interesting discussion in a previous blog post on Joshua’s Unholy War.  In this discussion, we have discussed the idea as to whether God commanded Joshua (and Moses) to commit genocide in wiping out the Canaanites in various cities, such as Jericho.  I am claiming that the command to extinguish the Canaanites in the Book of Joshua was not inspired.As part of the discussion, we have explored two other topics:the priesthood ban, and Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac.  I would like to focus this post on the priesthood ban, and will devote another post to the subject of Abraham.

Few people know that there were at least 5 black members of the LDS church who received the priesthood as early as 1836.  I will outline these 5 members below, in this short timeline.

  • 1836 – Mar 3. Elijah Abel was ordained an elder by probably by Joseph Smith Jr, or his father Joseph Smith, Sr.Elijah was baptized in 1832. He is referenced on census records as both a negro, and a mulatto.He was bi-racial.In Dec 1836, Elijah is ordained a Seventy by Zebedee Coltrin.
  • 1844 – Walker Lewis was ordained an Elder by William Smith, Joseph’s brother, in Lowell, Massachusetts.
  • 1844 – Joseph Smith is killed.
  • 1846 – Oct. William McCary, was ordained an Elder by Apostle Orson Hyde.  He was known as the “black prophet.”William was later excommunicated in 1847 for seducing a number of Mormon, white women into unauthorized polygamy.
  • 1847 Brigham Young then declares that black people are not eligible for certain temple ordinances.
  • Nov 27, 1900.Enoch Abel, Elijah’s son received the priesthood, and is ordained an elder.
  • 1934Elijah’s grandson, also with the name Elijah Abel, receives the priesthood, and is ordained a priest.In 1935, he is ordained an Elder.

As part of our previous analysis of the Joshua situation, I claimed that personal bias can affect revelation.I would briefly submit here that slavery, William McCary’s actions, and slaveholding apostles greatly affected early church leaders’ opinions regarding priesthood eligibility for black members, and in turn, limited their inspiration on the subjects of slavery, and the priesthood ban.

For those who would like additional information on this topic, there are three podcasts from Mormon Stories which explore the priesthood ban in great detail.An interview with Darius Gray and Margaret Young is the best historical perspective.Secondly, Darron Smith gives great insights into the slavery issue.Finally, an interview with Greg Prince gives some wonderful insights into David O McKay’s struggles with the priesthood ban.I highly recommend all of these resources.

I just listened to the Darius Gray and Margaret Young, most of the Darron Smith interviews, and the Greg Prince interview.I have transcribed many of the quotes from those interviews here, and I would like to go into more detail into the priesthood ban.I will specifically quote from both of them.Before we get started, I would like to give a little background on these “experts.”

Darius joined the church in the 1960’s.He attended BYU, and worked as a reporter for KSL television in Salt Lake City.In 1971, he was asked by junior apostles Gordon B Hinckley, Thomas S Monson, and Boyd K Packer to lead a group to help fellowship black members of the LDS church, called The Genesis Group.He is an active member, and has spoken on this topic at BYU, Salt Lake Community College (which I attended), and various other forums.Along with Margaret Young, he co-wrote a trilogy of historical fiction books called “Standing on the Promises” detailing early black members of the church.He also was involved in the production of a documentary entitled “Nobody Knows:The Untold Story of Black Mormons,” which I previously blogged about.

Margaret Young is a part-time teacher of English at BYU, institute teacher, and Sunday School teacher in her ward.She is an active, life-long member of the church from Utah County.A picture of the two of them can be found here.

Darron Smith is a former teacher at BYU, and has taught at the University of Utah, Utah Valley State College (now UVU).He is active in the LDS church, and has been outspoken about the issue of the priesthood ban, and has called on the LDS church to formally apologize for its racist past.His contract was not renewed at BYU, and he believes it is because of his controversial stance on the race issue within the LDS church.He has gone on to teach at other institutions.

Greg Prince wrote the book “David O McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism” published by University of Utah Press.You can get it at bookstores or internet bookstores.He spent 10 years researching the life of David O McKay, covering about 40,000 documents, including many of McKay’s diares.He is active in the church, and on the board of Dialogue, a publication on LDS issues.

I would like to outline a little more detailed history of early black church members.  There was quite a bit of openness by Joseph Smith to black members of the church.I would also like to show some of the events that influenced early LDS thought into the priesthood ban.Finally, I’d like to talk about how we should handle racist quotes from prophets, and how to be able to reconcile how a prophet can be racist, and still a prophet.I feel this relates well to our previous discussion on Joshua.As we can see from the information to follow, our modern day prophets have had some poor opinions of blacks, and have even referred to them as agents of Satan.

In relation to Joshua, it does not take a great leap of imagination to see that if Joshua held similar beliefs about the Canaanites, these opinions could explain why it was so easy for him to wipe out several sinful nations.These 6 nations were obviously quite depraved, and I can see why he felt it might have been necessary to wipe them out.

Here’s a somewhat longer timeline, though I am certainly not covering all the important issues.  I invite all to listen to the podcasts when you have about 9 hours to get through them all.  Certainly, I am not covering all of the early black church members, so this should not be considered an exhaustive list.

The first date in this longer chronology is 1830 or 1831.  Black Pete joined the church, and was baptizing people.  Joseph T Ball was the second convert in the summer of 1832, and went on to become the Boston Branch president in 1844. See this post for more details on these 2 men, as well as others.

Elijah Abel became the second known black convert to the LDS church in 1832.He received the priesthood in 1836, and served 3 missions to Ohio, NY, and Canada.He helped build the Kirtland, Nauvoo, and Salt Lake Temples, received his washing and anointing in the Kirtland Temple, but was denied the endowment by Brigham Young.He left Nauvoo before the endowment was received in Nauvoo.Margaret Young speculates that Elijah would have received the endowment if he was in Nauvoo while Smith was alive.However, he was on a mission at this time.

In the 1830’s, Jane Manning James joins the church in Buffalo, NY, and then walks the entire distance from there to Nauvoo.She received poor reception by Nauvoo saints (“with much rebuff”), but Joseph was very welcoming and hospitable.He offered to adopt her as a child into the Smith household.She declined because she didn’t understand the implications.If she had accepted, it is likely that she would have received temple ordinances as part of the Smith family.Brigham Young and other church leaders declined to let her receive temple ordinances, but she was sealed posthumously to Joseph as a servant.Her temple work was completed shortly after the revelation in 1978.

In 1839, Elijah is told to limit his preaching to non-white people, due to racial tensions.One of the reasons why there was so much persecution in Missouri was because of the Mormon position on slavery.Darron Smith adds some insights into this time period. “African-Americans, blacks, have always been central to Mormonism since its earliest days, particularly when blacks [did he mean LDS here?] were expelled from Jackson County, Missouri.The whole expulsion from Jackson County, Missouri had to do with a newspaper article written by W.W. Phelps in the Times and Seasons in 1844.Phelps was so excited about all these Mormons congregating in Jackson county, Missouri, that he wrote this article entitled ‘Free People of Color’, where he talked about how the church would grow, and that the Laplander would join, and the hot pot would join, and that all these different nationalities and races and so on, would all come into Jackson County, Missouri.

That newspaper article obviously got into the wrong hands. It got into the hands of Missourians.As you know, Missourians at that time were a slaveholding state.So, the last thing the Missourians wanted to hear was the Mormons trying to incite black folks to come into a slave state, with the understanding that an insurrection might ensue.As a result of that, Mormons were expelled from Jackson County, Missouri.

Nobody knows that.A lot of people don’t even know that story.Leonard Arrington in his book about Mormons has written extensively about that.My very, very good friend and colleague, Newel Bringhurst has written about it.Armaund Mauss has written about it.Several other noted LDS scholars have written about this particular history.”

At this point of the interview, John Dehlin interjected that to be fair, there were other economic, social, and religious issues as well, but the slavery issue was a central issue during this time period.Darron agreed. “I don’t want to say that [slavery] was the only issue, but that was one of the main issues that drove the mobs to be formed in Missouri.In fact, it was so problematic that Phelps wrote an Extra [the next day], to retract what he said.The following day, he got word that Missourians had formed, and were conspiring to expel them.A secret manifesto went around which called on Missourians who were against Mormons to basically take action against Mormons for this particular article.So Phelps, responded by [issuing] this Extra, which was too late by then.A lot of people don’t understand that [slavery] is central to history of Mormonism, is the experience of blacks.”

In 1844, a slave by the name of Green Flake was baptized in Mississippi River by John Brown.(James Madison Flake was owner Green’s owner, and was given Green as a wedding present by James’ father.Green was age 10 at the time.)Brigham Young released Green from slavery in 1854.Green was the person to whom Brigham was speaking when Brigham said his famous quote, “This is the Place”.The actual quote was, “This is the right place.Move on.”

Also in 1844, Walker Lewis was ordained an Elder by William Smith, Joseph’s brother, in Lowell, Massachusetts.

In June 1844 Joseph Smith was killed.At this time, Joseph was running for president, and advocated abolishing slavery by 1850.Such a stance was quite unpopular in slave state Missouri.It is important to remember that Joseph prophesied in 1832 about the Civil War.Slavery and race relations were hot topics during this time period, and Joseph’s abolitionist views were probably just as responsible for his assassination, as his religious views.

Darius Gray said, “Brother Joseph wanted to free the slaves by selling public lands, and taking those proceeds and compensating the slave owners so that they wouldn’t be hurt financially.He was very pragmatic.He realized that there was a great deal of money tied up that supposed property; the lives of beings [known] as slaves.But he was very active in trying to put forth a plan that would be workable.”

In Nov 1844, the apostle (and future church president) Wilford Woodruff visited Lowell, MA.  Darius Gray says that Woodruff, observed that a colored brother [presumably Walker Lewis], who was an elder was present, and there was no remark made about the existence of a black elder being contrary to the doctrines or practices of the church.

1844-45. Lowell, MA was visited by apostles Ezra T Benson, and Brigham Young.Neither mentioned any problem with a black man holding the priesthood.

April 1845. Orson Hyde refers to negroes as the “cursed lineage of Canaan” and speculates that the curse they bore was for their actions in the pre-existence.This is the earliest known reference by a church leader to a curse happening from actions in the pre-existence.

Margaret Young goes into detail here.“The church had imported from all over the world, but all of the protestant sects especially, the whole idea that blacks were the products of Cain, and that the curse of Canaan via Noah came on the blacks. That was something that had been used to justify slavery from the 15th century.So it is just absolutely ubiquitous, all over the place.People were using that.

But in the Articles of Faith we are told that we are not responsible for Adam’s transgression, that each man is responsible for his own, and you have to extrapolate from that, then, is the black man responsible for Cain’s transgression, or Ham’s transgression, for whatever is implied by seeing his father’s nakedness?The answer has to come back that, no, not if we do believe that every man is responsible for his own sins.

So, then, why could there be any cause for priesthood restriction?In this very speculative idea, given by Orson Hyde, and later echoed by other leaders, but always speculatively.Nobody was saying “thus saith the Lord”.Then comes in the institutional memory, and before too long, we had people saying, ‘well the church has always said that.My understanding is because of what they did in the pre-existence.’But in fact, we only have speculation trying to marry that idea, to justify the priesthood restriction based on something that doesn’t fit into our articles of faith— that blacks are being punished for sins that somebody else committed.

Darius Gray added, “But then we also have the issue that if blacks had been less valiant and had rooted for Satan in that battle that took place, then we would not be here, with physical, tangible bodies.We’re told that the great danger of the conflict required that everyone take a stand, therefore there could be no neutrals, and there could be no fence-sitters, and the fact that blacks are here with physical, tangible bodies, is a clear indication that we are on the side of the father and of the Savior.So the fence-sitter argument doesn’t fit, it does not stand the test.”

John Dehlin noted that the curse of Cain, or the curse of Ham is not an original Mormon doctrine, but rather a protestant doctrine brought into the Mormon church by early church converts.However, the curse stemming from the pre-existence, is a uniquely Mormon idea, because the concept of pre-existence is uniquely Mormon.

Darron, “People need to understand this. These ideas didn’t just spring up from Mormonism.Mormonism has its own particular way of looking at it, i.e. the curse of Cain metaphor.But the Curse of Ham myth, wherein Ham saw his father Noah’s nakedness, that’s the prevailing Judeo-Christian belief that was not only incorporated by Mormonism, but went one step further, with the whole invocation of Cain as being cursed with dark skin for murdering his brother Abel, and so on.That particular idea is unique to Mormonism.”

October 1846 William McCary, was ordained by Apostle Orson Hyde.He was known the “black prophet.”William was later excommunicated in 1847 for seducing a number of Mormon, white women into unauthorized polygamy.

In 1847 Brigham Young then declares that black people are not eligible for certain temple ordinances.Darius Gray says, “That might possibly be that Brigham was reacting to the William McCary ‘Black Pete‘ situation.” (Darius incorrectly believed Black Pete and William McCary were the same person.  They are not.)

Darius added, “so while Brigham Young declared there is a restriction on temple ordinances, there is not a restriction on priesthood that year, in 1847.”

On Mar 26,1847, Brigham Young made a statement that he was aware of Walker Lewis, and aware that Walker held the priesthood.  Young claimed on this date that there is no race-based ban. The statement is “its nothing to do with the blood, for of one blood has God made all flesh.  We have to repent [and] regain what we [h]av[e] lost.  We [h]av[e] one of the best Elders–an African in Lowell [i.e. Walker Lewis].” By December 1847, he’s completely changed his mind.  Now he calls for Enoch and Matilda Lewis and their mixed-race child to be killed for breaking “the law of God.”

Margaret Young adds, “Prior to this, when people are talking about ‘curse of Cain, curse of Canaan’, it is not used as justification for this is why we’re not going to allow blacks to hold the priesthood, it is being used to justify why blacks have it so hard, or in some cases,A lot of protestant ministers are trying to keep the Civil War from happening, are saying ‘this is God’s design, and these are the curses that support the way things ought to be.So, it’s not a question of priesthood, it’s a question of social status.”

Greg Prince, “That ban came after Joseph Smith’s death.It was during the administration of Brigham Young, and the reasons for it and the exact timing still remain rather fuzzy.What’s clear is that it was not a discrete revelation.It was a policy that was instituted probably in response, probably in response to something going on in the local environment.I’m not sure on that.

But that became accepted as doctrine, the longer it remained in effect. So, by the time you got into the 20th century, everyone just assumed this was based on revelation, that it was doctrinal, and it wouldn’t change.”

This begs the question “What’s changed, what has happened?”

Darius, “The William McCary episode is probably the main event leading to the priesthood restriction.Darius Gray summarizes, “While talking about this event, Brigham said, ‘it is nothing to do with the blood, for of one blood has God made all flesh.We have one of the finest elder’s, an African in Lowell, MA.’ In all likelihood he was referring to Walker Lewis.So even during this period of time, we have William McCary excommunicated, and there is the sensitivity about McCary’s seducing a number of white sisters, still, Brigham says it has nothing to do with blood, for of one blood hath God made all flesh.”

According to Connell O’Donovan, “The catalyst for the priesthood and temple bans was a culmination of McCary’s marriage in 1846 to the daughter of Nauvoo stake president, Daniel Stanton, and then his sexual “sealings” to several other LDS women at Winter Quarters and other LDS camps in 1847, PLUS Enoch Lewis’ 1846 marriage to a white LDS woman, Mary Matilda Webster in Boston, and their having a mixed-race child in 1847.  Brigham Young threatened to have the Lewis family killed in December 1847 for breaking the “law of God”.  At that point, Young formulated the ban.”

Feb 1849 brings about the first statement about priesthood restriction.Brigham Young said, “Because Cain cut off the lives of Abel, the Lord cursed Canaan’s seed, and prohibited them from the priesthood.”

Darius answers, “As we’re moving closer and closer to the Civil War, tensions are mounting throughout the nation on the topic of slavery, and of course, on the topic of race.Now we have the saints who had been in upper NY state, and then they were in Ohio, and then from Ohio they went to Missouri, and from Missouri, they were run out and into Illinois.From Nauvoo, we came west.But at each of those stages, the saints were spending money moving, they were spending money building new dwellings, they were spending money building new temples:the Kirtland Temple, and then the Nauvoo Temple.By the time the saints got to the Salt Lake Valley, we were poor as could be.We had shot our wad.

But there were seeds that had been planted by early Mormon missionaries, who had gone into the southern states, who had been teaching the gospel there, and in 1850, 12 Mormon slave owners, who possessed between 60 and 70 black slaves, came into the Deseret Territory, and one of those slave owners was the apostle Charles C Rich.We have something else that took place in that time period.The Territorial Legislature passed the law legalizing slavery in Utah, and that’s something that many don’t know.It was called ‘an act in relation to service’, but it gave legal recognition to slaveholding in the territory of Deseret.”

Darron Smith adds to this by saying, “If you want to look at who instigated [the priesthood ban], you will have to look at Brigham Young, because in 1852, or 1854, I can’t remember the date, declared this in Fillmore, Utah, the capital of Utah used to be Fillmore, declared it when speaking to the state legislature.Back then, the separation of church and state was not even a question.He said, and I’ll paraphrase it, ‘no one spake it before me, and I’ll say it now, blacks cannot hold the priesthood.’He goes on to say why, he explains that blacks were cursed, and that they were less than less, and this, that and the other.So he made himself the author of that, which demonstrated beautifully to me, the confusion over it.

I mean if Brigham Young is going to say, ‘if no one has spake it before me, I’ll say it now that blacks can’t hold the priesthood.’To me it is a little bit compelling, that the church didn’t have a policy, and didn’t have any kind of written, expressed dictum, on what to do with their black members of the church.So, with Brigham Young, he made himself the author of that.So certainly, it was Brigham Young.

Also, when the saints came, west, and settled in the Utah Basin, Brigham Young enacted what’s called ‘an act in relationship to service’, which was basically a document that authorized African slavery, and native American slavery in the Utah Territory.One of the things that the federal government was trying to do was to contain slavery to the South.So, the saints came out west, and started slavery— the only territory west of the Mississippi to have slavery.We have a really, really checkered past.

Was this law to have slavery legalized in Utah a pragmatic decision on the part of Mormon leaders?

Margaret, “[this law] was against the advice of John Burnhisle, who was an emissary to Washington, DC, and was part of the California Compromise.”

Darius, “California came into the union as a free state.Utah and New Mexico was given the option of being a free territory, or slave, and New Mexico chose free, and Utah chose slave, and I think it might be because of an accommodation being made to those southern saints— the Mississippi saints who came into the valley.”

1853 Elijah Abel is not allowed to receive his endowment by Brigham Young.

1861-1865. Civil War begins, and ends with the abolition of slavery.It is interesting to note that Abraham Lincoln would have kept slavery if it would have meant keeping the union together.But since the Union was torn apart by war, slavery was outlawed.

1877 Brigham Young died.

1879.A meeting informally ‘canonizes’ the priesthood ban.In the meeting Zebedee Coltrin says that Joseph Smith announces the ban in 1834, but this is contradicted by several items in the above time line.Apostle (and future president) Joseph F Smith challenges Coltrin’s claims, showing 2 certificates showing that Elijah had been re-ordained to the office of the Seventy.Darius, “In those days, you had to be re-certified periodically.Joseph F Smith sought out and found those 2 re-certifications, and presented them to counter what Brother Zebedee Coltrin was saying, so we have conflicting accounts in 1879.”

Margaret, “Let me just contextualize the time also.Brigham Young has died 2 years ago.This is 1879, and Brigham died in 1877.So why is Elijah petitioning again?He’s already been told no.Why are they listening again?Why don’t they say, ‘Well, didn’t Brigham Young already answer that?’It becomes a really important question, and a really important meeting.First of all, Elijah Abel’s wife is dying, and he wants the sealing ordinances, so he understands what is implied by the church doctrine of eternal sealing, and he wants to be sealed to his wife.But secondly, he thinks that with Brigham Young gone, you can approach the new church president, and ask.Indeed, they don’t summarily say, ‘I thought you already got that answer.’

They go back, and revisit, and say ‘What did Joseph Smith say about this?That’s when Zebedee Coltrin provides a pretty old memory, and he gets a couple things wrong in that memory, and then you have Joseph F Smith countering it.That’s when his patriarchal blessing is read.They pull that out of the records, and there are Father Smith’s words, ‘Thou hast been ordained an elder and shall be protected against the powers of the adversary.’So in 1879, there are big questions about this policy.

Darius, “Brother Coltrin’s memory is shown to be unreliable again.His claimed date of 1834 for Joseph Smith announcing the alleged ban, isn’t possible, since Coltrin himself ordained Abel a Seventy two years later than that in 1836.”

Margaret, “This information is taken to Elijah Abel, and he’s also told that Zebedee Coltrin has said, ‘I washed and anointed Elijah Abel in the temple, and never had a worse feeling in my life, and I swore that I would never do so again, unless I were commanded to by a prophet.’Elijah is told that, and he said that Zebedee did not wash and anoint me, but he did ordain me a Seventy.”

In 1880, Elijah is again denied the endowment by the Quorum of the 12.In 1883 Elijah is still on record as a Seventy.In 1895, Joseph F Smith claims Elijah Abel was ordained a High Priest.

1884 Elijah goes on his 3rd mission for the church, returns home, and dies in Dec 25, 1884.Two days later, Jane James asks for her endowment, and is denied.

1900, Nov 27.Enoch Abel, Elijah’s son received the priesthood, and is ordained an elder.

1921.President McKay becomes aware of the priesthood ban for the first time.

Greg Prince, “David O McKay was called to be an apostle in 1906.He recorded that the first time he became aware that a policy even existed, was on a trip around the world which was in 1921.So he’d been an apostle for 15 years, and didn’t even know that there was a policy.If he didn’t know, you can imagine what the level of knowledge was in the general church membership.

Prince continues, “When he was going around the world in 1921 on the request of President Grant, he encountered a couple in Hawaii.I believe the wife was Hawaiian, and the husband was African-American.That’s when he first became aware of the policy.He wrote President Grant, asking if it might be changed, and was told by Grant by return letter that no, there was nothing he could do about it.So, he basically accepted the status quo, and just lived with it until he became church president.”

1934Elijah’s grandson, also with the name Elijah Abel, receives the priesthood, and is ordained a priest.

1935 Elijah Abel (grandson) is ordained an Elder.

1951.David O Mckay becomes president of the church.According to Prince, “Shortly after he became church president, in response to the plea of the president of the South African mission, he became the first general authority to visit that mission.That happened in 1954, and the main reason that he wanted to visit it, was that mission president had just been tied up in knots because of this policy, and because of an addendum of that policy that came in the late 1940’s.The mission president was told that no male [white or black] was to be ordained to the priesthood until all of his ancestral lines could be traced back to Europe.

That was almost an impossible task, so they wound up with a situation that they had very few local men who were able to be ordained to the priesthood.As a result, the church was crippled.He went down there specifically to look at that policy.He changed it on the spot in a conference of the missionaries.He got up and announced that as of that point, that policy would no longer hold.Unless there was firm evidence to the contrary, the male members would be assumed not to have black blood, and could be ordained without further documentation.When he got back from that trip, apparently that was the first time that he began to question the policy himself.There is no indication from any of his records of any questioning prior to then.So it probably was a result of what happened on that trip, and his consciousness being raised by his being on the ground in South Africa, and seeing what the effect of the policy had been.”

1954.President McKay changes the policy regarding South African members of the church.He also has an important conversation with Sterling McMurrin, a University of Utah professor, and former Education Secretary in the John F Kennedy administration.

Margaret talked about a situation regarding a conversation between Sterling McMurrin and David O McKay, which happened in March 1954.Many church members felt the church policy banning priesthood to blacks was church doctrine, but McKay affirmed that it was merely church policy, not doctrine.”In Sunday School, they started talking about the priesthood policy was a doctrine of the church, and I said I don’t believe it’s a doctrine.I believe it’s a policy.Pres McKay replied, ‘I’m glad you said that, because I believe that’s what I believe as well.”Greg Prince details this conversation in much more detail in his book about David O McKay.Prince goes further and quotes President McKay as saying, ‘It is a policy, and there will be a time when the policy will change.’

1950’s or 1960’s.Greg Prince relates the following story.”On at least more than one occasion, he [McKay] more than stretched the rule, because there was a young man, and 11 year old in Cincinnati, who’s mother was from Barbados, and clearly had African ancestry.The bishop, feeling that this was such an outstanding young man, prevailed upon the stake president to write a letter to the First Presidency to see if anything could be done, because he was shortly going to turn 12.

To the stake president’s surprise, the letter that came back from the First Presidency said, ‘Ordain the young man.’Not understanding what this really meant, the stake presidentwrote a 2nd letter and gave him greater detail than he had in the 1st letter, saying ‘I don’t think you understood the first time.’A second letter came back from the First Presidency, and it said, ‘Ordain the young man.’He was ordained.

1963, Oct.NAACP plans to protest the LDS church position on blacks.Greg gives us some more details.“In 1963, the Salt Lake chapter of the NAACP was very upset at the church’s backward stance on Civil Rights, and in an effort to try to get them to change, they threatened to picket General Conference.This came to the attention of Sterling McMurrin, and he brought it to the attention of Hugh Brown of the First Presidency, who brought it to the attention of Pres McKay.Pres McKay was not about to concede anything to the NAACP, but he at least agreed that Hugh Brown could read a statement in General Conference in 1963 to try to defuse the situation.He would not let him make it, however, as an officialFirst Presidency statement.It was just to be a statement that he would read without making it official.

What Pres McKay didn’t know was that Brown went to Sterling McMurrin and asked him to write the statement, which McMurrin did.That at least defused the situation an ironically, that unofficial statement, two years later, was republished by the church and now labeled the official statement.It was progressive because it was written by McMurrin at the request of Brown.Both of those men were progressive on that subject.Because it was written by them, it had a much more moderate tone than it would have had it been written by Pres McKay.”

1968.Sterling McMurrin writes a letter to David O McKay’s four sons, detailing the conversation he had with Pres McKay concerning the priesthood ban being policy, not doctrine.

Greg, “In 1968, in order that this [conversation] be preserved, he [McMurrin] wrote it down and sent it to Llewelyn McKay, one of David’s sons, and sent it also to his other e sons.Llewelyn took the letter to his father and read it to him, and his father said, ‘yes, that’s exactly what I said.’So we don’t just have to take Sterling’s word for it.”

“[The letter] first came to the forefront when Steven Taggart, a graduate student, got wind of this, found out that there was such a letter, went to Sterling and asked for permission to include it in his paper and Sterling referred him to Llewelyn McKay, who allowed him to do it.”

Greg, “In the late months of his life, the McMurrin letter to Llewelyn McKay ignited a firestorm.Up until the time that letter became public, even President McKay’s counselor’s had no idea that Pres McKay had that conversation with McMurrin in 1954.Once that became known, and once Pres McKay affirmed the accuracy of that account— the account saying that ‘it is a policy, and the time will come when the policy will change.’Then you had 2 groups that formed around President McKay, who was in poor health, and was not really in command of the situation.On the one hand, you had Hugh Brown, who felt that if it was indeed a policy, and it was the first time he had been made aware of that nomenclature, that it would just take and administrative action to change it.

On the other hand, you had Alvin Dyer, who was an extra counselor in the First Presidency, and Harold B Lee, who was the Acting President of the Quorum of the 12, and later became church president, both of whom feared that because it was called a policy, that in fact it could be changed administratively.So Brown on the one hand tried to change it.Dyer and Lee on the other hand tried to block him from changing it.Ultimately, they prevailed and were able to neutralize Brown’s initiative.

The tragedy caused a great deal of hurt feelings amongst these men, and it was all for naught because neither side understood, that even though he had called it a policy, Pres McKay would not have changed it unless there had been a revelation to that effect.So you had this enormous flurry of activity and division between these men, going all the way up to the top.It was all superfluous, because it wouldn’t have resolved it and changed it, no matter what they had tried.”

John Dehlin, “There’s a passage or two I read in Michael Quinn’s book ‘Extensions of Power’, where he tells a story that basically gives the impression that Harold B Lee’s out of town, David O McKay’s is ailing, not really actively at the helm of the church.Hugh B Brown leads a discussion of this topic in the late 1960’s, rallies the quorum to agree that the ban on priesthood blacks should be lifted, but then with a black hat, Harold B Lee swoops into town, catches wind of the vote, and kills it before it’s allowed to take effect.Is there anything you’ve read that validates that?Is that just totally pulled out of the sky?”

Greg, “I’m not sure how valid that account is.I think in it’s essence, there may be some validity to it, because in the McKay diaries, there are some journal entries from Alvin Dyer, that he gave to Claire Middlemiss [McKay’s secretary], and she included them in the McKay record, where Dyer says that Brown had tried to change it, but didn’t give any details.So of that much, I’m pretty confident.But since I wasn’t confident of the others, I didn’t put those details into the book.It’s possible that there is more out there, than I was able to gather.”

1969, Hugh B Brown proposed that the church’s policy be reversed.This policy was approved by the First Presidency, and the Quorum of the 12.President McKay was out due to illness, and Harold B. Lee was out travelling on church business when the vote was taken.A re-vote took place, and the measure to extend the priesthood to blacks was defeated.

Greg, “Hugh Brown never really understood where President McKay was on this.He assumed that if he pushed, that it might happen.Whereas, Pres McKay always said that it would take a revelation to do it, even though he called it a policy, he meant that it was only a policy that could be changed if the Lord said ‘Change it.'”

1970, Jan 18.Pres McKay dies.

1971.The Genesis Group is created to specifically fellowship Black members of the church, under the direction of Joseph Fielding Smith.

1973.  Lester Bush wrote an article in a magazine called Dialogue: Journal for Mormon Thought. The article was titled, “Mormonism’s Negro Doctrine: an Historical Overview.”  O’Donovan states that it was “Extremely controversial at the time.  this article proved, without being strident, that there never was a “revelation” to ban the priesthood and it had merely been a policy that leaders had followed for decades without any justification whatsoever.  Many today consider the article THE pivotal academic support for ending the ban.  Bush’s solid, undeniable research could not be refuted by the church and it lay bare the antiquated policy.”

1978.Spencer Kimball announces that the priesthood will be extended to all worthy male members.

Ok, so that’s a rough timeline, and I think it really emphasizes many of the social and political things that were going on in this time period.I think it illustrates well, the many issues the prophets and apostles faced during this time.I just found this website with a chronology on blacks and the priesthood ban at http://www.blacklds.org/history which references LDS and other churches policies regarding blacks. There is another interesting timeline at http://www.xtimeline.com/timeline/Chronology-Pertaining-to-Blacks-and-the-LDS-Priesthood

I’d like to address some of the folklore regarding blacks that happened inside the church, and some of it is still happening today.

Pres John Taylor stated on 2 occasions that blacks were representatives of Satan.Let me quote Darius Gray directly here.“Now you can’t get much worse than that to say that blacks are here so that there can be a balance in all things, and that we are here to represent Satan.Is it doctrinal?No.Will the brethren today support that statement?No.But it was made by the president of the church.So is that doctrine, or is that folklore?That’s folklore.”

Now some church members might be quite uncomfortable with the knowledge that a prophet of God would make such a pronouncement.

Margaret has a great quote on prophetic infallibility.Incidentally, I’ve already blogged on this topic earlier.“We don’t believe in the infallibility of prophets.We think that Brigham Young did some remarkable things in leading the Mormons on that great, historic migration, but he was blind in certain aspects.There is just no question about it.I used the word ‘evolution’ before when talking about Joseph Smith.I see us as a church evolving, consistent with what Joseph Smith talked about in the King Follett discourse, when he talked about, you climb up a ladder in your knowledge.We certainly refer to it in the temple, as we get better.We learn things.We grow from our infancy into our boyhood.We grow from our boyhood (or girlhood) into manhood and womanhood.I’m now 50, and you’d think that I would have figured out a whole lot of stuff, and I still am absolutely flummoxed by situations.

I fully acknowledge that I have a whole lot to learn about many, many areas.This area is one that I have taken a lot of time to find things out about.Other areas, I’m not prepared to talk about.Brigham Young was marvelous in so much of what he did.But the statements that he made, did start a disastrous chain effect.The marvelous thing is that we are a church that believes in continuing revelation.”

She goes on, “I’ve had to pinch my nose, when I read some of the terrible things that have been said by past leaders of the church, understanding the damage that they have done, and the damage that they continue to do, because they are very much with us.We are in the internet age.With the click of a mouse, you can bring up what Brigham Young said on inter-racial marriage.You can bring up what he said about blacks being eternally destined for servitude.They are ugly, ugly statements.

Apostle J.Reuben Clark has said, “They [general authorities] sometimes have spoke out of turn.You will recall, that the prophet Joseph declared that a prophet is not always a prophet….Even the president of the church himself, may not always be moved upon by the Holy Ghost when he addresses the people.This has happened about matters of doctrine, usually of a highly speculative character, where subsequent presidents of the church, and the people themselves, have felt that in declaring the doctrine, the announcer was not moved upon by the Holy Ghost.”

Margaret Young agrees with Clark. “What you see with Joseph Smith is evolution.You see him in the earlier years making statements about the seed of Cain and statements that are reflective of the protestant ideas of the time.But you see him really growing and I personally think that we grow in our acceptance of other nations and peoples as we become acquainted with them.We know for a fact that Joseph Smith had a deep friendship with Elijah Abel, that he had a tender relationship with Jane Manning James, that there were other African-Americans in Nauvoo, and that they knew and loved Joseph Smith, and I suspect that he knew and loved them.

Slavery was repugnant to him. We haven’t gone over all the things that he did.But as mayor, a man was charged with whipping his slave, and Joseph Smith came down very hard on it, [and] the whole idea of anyone being in bondage.When someone asked Joseph Smith, what if this person wants to come to Nauvoo, but he wants to bring 50 slaves with him.The answer was ‘Tell him – Free his slaves, educate them, and then come and join us in Nauvoo.’

So I see a great evolution in Joseph Smith, and that to me is the promising thing for all of us.The more he becomes acquainted with African-Americans within the city, and sees how they embrace the faith, and how they love him, his heart opens up.”

We probably wouldn’t say that he obtained full enlightenment on this because he was very much opposed to inter-racial marriage, and said that they should keep to their own species, and that’s pretty late in his life. Michael Quinn, one of the very knowledgeable church historians talked about Joseph Smith being absolutely radical for his time, in his view, on race.”

Darius, “You can bring up the statements made by, I call them the Orson twins:Orson Hyde and Orson Pratt.This isn’t a question of the glossing over or making pretty, the hideous statements of the past.There were racist statements made.That’s a fact, and I know that.Yet I realize that these were men, and they were fallible, just as you and I are fallible today.Yet, I have a testimony.I am a Latter-Day Saint.I am a religious person here speaking to you.I have a testimony of the truthfulness of this restored gospel.I know that God has to use we, imperfect people to bring about his purposes.So, if imperfect people were called, who had attitudes that were not Christian, it does not demean their calling from God.Brigham Young was a prophet of God. Did he have racial attitudes?Absolutely.

I have to separate the two.Otherwise, I would have been offended by some ward member 30 years ago, 40 years ago, and never had the experiences of being in the gospel these last 41 years. So, I have to make that separation.They were imperfect, not to gloss over it, but recognizing their humanity, and that I too am imperfect.”

It is important that all church members help get rid of racist folklore.Darron Smith related an experience on his mission (in Kalamazoo, MI) regarding racist folklore.“I didn’t know what to believe.I was being to be Mr. Obedient.I was trying to get them an answer that was adequate, and at the time, I thought that was adequate an adequate answer to give.So at that moment, that’s when I began to say, ‘there’s something wrong with this.There’s something really wrong with this’.And I cannot tell you how many missionaries I have spoken to over the years who continually spew this kind of racist folklore. It’s not just missionaries, but well-meaning, and not so well-meaning members of the church, who continue to talk and talk about blacks as if we were cursed, or less than, or inferior, and continually invoke these old racist assumptions by Joseph Fielding Smith, and Brigham Young, and then get pissed off at someone like me, or someone like you, John, when you say, ‘that’s inappropriate.’These men are racist.They have problems.They are products of their time.

[Some will] look at it [and say], ‘no, they’re not racist.They’re men of God,’ as if they are somehow immune from the ills of society.So, that’s been probably one of the most problematic experiences in this endeavor that I have been engaged in, is being absolutely flabbergasted at the blind obedience that many members of the church have, even if it’s racist blind obedience, and failing to think for themselves, and saying ‘what a minute, racism has always been a systemic and persistent, structural anomaly in US society.Why would the church be any different?I know we have such a high regard for our church.I understand that.I’ve been a member long enough to know that.But also, I’ve been a member long enough to know that it’s been always that way, particularly when you are looking as social issues.I think that’s the case for a lot of churches.But for our church, unfortunately, we persisted in this longer than most churches did.”

It is important to remember that there are both good stories, and bad stories of racism within the church.Darron adds, “There’s some schizophrenia with Mormons as well.If you look at the roots of Mormonism, Mormonism started in the Northeast, New York, Palmyra region.So you’ve got primarily an abolitionist spirit in that area during Joseph Smith’s time.You’ve got a lot of Mormons from the Northeast, and from the Midwest, who have very strong abolitionist leanings.So the church was always being constructed in the mid 1800’s to late 1800’s, as an abolitionist movement.That is an adjective that Joseph Smith and others vehemently deny.

But yet, you see some schizophrenia in the way in which the prophet even dealt with the issue.On the one hand, the prophet was very, very sympathetic towards black folks.On the other hand, he believed in the mythology that blacks were cursed.”

Darron gives an example of Joseph’s love and Christianity towards a black man. “There was a slave who had run away to a free state, and he was trying to buy his family’s freedom, and he had a horse.The prophet knew he was breaking the law, if you want to call that breaking the law.Nevertheless, for the story’s sake, the prophet purchased his horse from him, and told him to go back and claim his family.This is not hearsay, by the way.I want your listeners to understand it.This is all documented in church history.This is not like I’m making this up.This is all documented.That particular story can be found in an old journal, called The Woman’s Journal.The Relief Society back then kept notes, wrote, and published things…”

“What [this story] does is it actually complexifies Joseph Smith.Even out of the words of Jane Manning James, Elijah Abel, they had high regard for Joseph Smith.Jane Manning James was considered one of Joseph’s family members, even in her own words.There was a lot of respect and admiration for the prophet, Joseph Smith.Most of that changed during Brigham Young’s administration.”

Regarding racism in general, both white and black people need to help get rid of it.“We’re all complicit in it.We want to excuse these experiences, and erase them, and Pollyanna our past, and not really deal with the things that vex us even today as members of the church.So, rather than address these issues of race, and really confront these issues honestly, and forthrightly, we pretend that they don’t exist, or stonewall, or create verbal gymnastics to get around the issue, which continually make Mormons look suspect in the eyes of those who otherwise, may even consider the church an option as a theological and religious option.So we really do shoot ourselves in the foot.

One of the things that I told one high ranking member of the church about this issues is that not coming clean with this issue really puts black people in a really bad situation, because black people then have to defend a racist policy.Blacks have to bear the burdens of white racist sentiment.It’s just that simple, because white people can walk away and say, the church is still true, and this has nothing to do with the church being true, or anybody being false prophets.

It has to do with integrity.It has to do with the very thing that the church teaches us as members of the church:to reconcile.Ask for forgiveness.Atone for our past.We teach that on any given Sunday, on any given week.We’re teaching our families the importance of forgiveness, the importance of atonement.Then we refuse to atone.That’s a bad example.I think it’s an awful example.”

It is important to acknowledge the past, and not hide from it.Darius said, “We need to heal.We need to be able to acknowledge, as they did in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa.We need to acknowledge the realities of the past.We need to speak openly to the current reality and sensitivity and bigotry, and we need to be able to heal, and move forward as true brothers and sisters.”

John Dehlin, “Once I started reading that there were minutes of these discussions where the brethren were deciding all these issues, it really blew open my conception of how decisions might get made.I naively have always that when an important decision needed to be made from the church, the prophet goes up to the Holy of Holies, he prays, a light comes down from above, and he gets out his pen and pencil, and writes down what the new policy or instruction is.But when I read a little more about the history, I see that they way that things are dealt with are very real, and make a lot more sense to me.If you can, talk a little more about that an LDS person hearing that even this topic was debated, and that there were various issues, what do you come away with how decisions are made and how different parties or personalities play in these types of important decisions for the church?”

Greg, “Different decisions are made differently.That’s not a way of sidestepping the issue, it’s just stating the reality, and that is, you have the personality of the president, and how he may approach a topic, and then you may have the topic.In some cases, it will be a matter of open discussion between the First Presidency and the Quorum of the 12.In other cases, it may be very private.In the case of the Provo and Ogden temples, President McKay made that decision without ever taking it to the Quorum of the 12.They found out about it after the fact.”

He goes on, “There were other cases where such as this where it became a matter of open discussion with divergent opinions, and on that particular one, the sentiment of the Quorum of the 12 carried the day.So, it depends on who it is at the time, and it depends on what the issue is.Now the example that you gave, of the president retiring to the temple, alone, is exactly what happened with Spencer Kimball went over to the temple, and ultimately got the revelation that changed the policy of blacks and priesthood and ordination.So it can go either way, depending on the person, and depending on the issue.”

John, “As a coping mechanism, I agree that a decision can come straight to the prophet.But I hold open the possibility that God sometimes needs the apostles to be on board, not just intellectually, but emotionally and spiritually as well, and that it’s possible that the Lord can even allow things to wait until he feels like the apostles are all of one heart and one mind.”

Some people will ask, Why did it take a revelation to change the policy?Greg answers this question, “The basic policy remained intact, because he felt, as did President Kimball, that it would take a revelation to change it, and in fact, it did take a revelation to change it.The first time that President McKay nibbled at the policy was in 1954 when he went down to South Africa, and changed the rules for genealogical research.

The impact worldwide was not great at all, but it was a major effect on the South African mission.Subsequently, on occasion, he would do other things that though they didn’t change the policy, indicated that he was certainly willing to stretch it.Fro instance on occasion, there would be a proposed marriage and the issue would be raised that one of the couple apparently had African blood.On those occasions, he would err on the side of leniency, and say that he was prepared to defend that decision before the Savior and let the marriage go through.

Greg continues, No, he [McKay] did not change the policy, and it took another 8 years after his death for the policy to change.We have to believe that he was preparing the gournd that later proved fertile for President Kimball, so that revelation could take place.”

John Dehlin, “How do you come out on the issue of revelation, and how revelation works through prophets, and specifically, what revelation looked like and how it worked for Pres McKay?”

Greg, “The over-riding conclusion in this and other areas, when you look at Pres McKay’s administration is that revelation is process, not an event.True, there may be events involved in it, but this is a long haul.There’s a lot of work involved.There’s a lot of questioning, and research, a lot of sweat equity.So you have to take it in over the long haul and say that it really is a process that is punctuated occasionally by events.In the case of blacks and priesthood, for Pres McKay, this was an intensely personal issue.

He didn’t solicit much in the way of input from outsiders, and in fact, he rebuffed repeated attempts from those outside the church, from those outside the hierarchy, and occasionally even from inside the hierarchy, who tried to force his hand on the issue.This is in sharp distinction to other areas such as the development of the international church, where he welcomed, and readily appropriated suggestions from throughout the world to advance internationally.So you can’t just draw a single model that would govern the way revelation occurs in the church.It is like a multi-faceted gemstone.What you see depends on the vantage point that you’re observing it, and the mode of revelation that may come into play on a particular subject is going to a combination of what the subject is, what the timing is, and quite importantly, what the nature of the president of the church is.

The same thing is applicable on an individual level.As you face dilemmas in your own life, and you’re seeking inspiration to try to guide you, it’s not likely that there’s going to be a single discrete event that’s going to give you the answer.Yes, it can happen, but generally it doesn’t.And this is why I think it’s so important to look at the administration of Pres McKay, because we have so much detail that we can look at and understand it, and apply that to the individual’s lives, because I think that the rules are the same.So that’s the take home lesson on this.If you understand what happened in the Mckay years, you can understand what happening in the church today, because the process is the same, and you can apply that to your own life.”

I look forward to your comments.

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92 comments on “Was Priesthood Ban Inspired?

  1. Thanks for a great post, MH. You’ve obviously put a lot of research into this.

    I think this will always be the most troubling aspect of Mormonism for me. In a way, even more so than polygamy.

    Perhaps it wouldn’t be such an issue to me personally if it weren’t for the fact that the priesthood ban involved much more than just a ban on the priesthood. If it were as simple as that, then black women would have been allowed to go to the temple and receive their endowments. As well, there wouldn’t have been so much negativity in regards to interracial marriage. If it was solely based on the priesthood, then blacks wouldn’t have been regarded as agents of Satan, the women included. If it were only about the priesthood, whether or not blacks were given their civil rights in the US would have been irrelevant, but certain leaders were against this because of “the negro doctrine.”

    I never knew about that vote in 1969 where a change in the policy was defeated. It seems strange to me that Church leaders are making such decisions based on a vote. Isn’t it supposed to be by unanimous inspiration? Could this mean that current policies are being implemented not by revelation, but by such votes that took place in 1969, where there are both yays and nays?

    Critics of the Church find it impossible to believe that a prophet could be a racist and still be a prophet. I was recently reading somewhere (perhaps it was on this blog) about the prophet Jonas and how the Lord used him despite his hatred towards a certain group of people. This example seems to clear up the dilemma of a prophet of God having racist views. At the same time, though, we tend to believe that our prophets are “a step ahead the rest” and that they see things that us regular folk don’t. We look to them to set a standard for us, even if it’s not popular. In that regards, the treatment of blacks by LDS leaders is very troubling to me because regular folk (not to mention other churches) showed much greater understanding and acceptance than they did (the example of George Romney and civil rights comes to mind).

    I wish that the Church would apologize. I don’t expect they ever will and in a way it seems a little late now. I’m not sure what good it would do to faith and testimonies, such as my own, which have been damaged by this aspect of Mormonism. I know that a few leaders have stated that they spoke with limited understanding, but you have to search a while before you find such statements. Unfortunately, the topic is rarely discussed in church anymore (which is perhaps wise if we are to attract new members), but nothing is done from an official standpoint to disperse of these old myths that still prevail (such as blacks being fence-sitters or that interracial marriage is a bad thing) and the result is many disillusioned members or people being scared off by Mormonism.

    I guess the problem with an official apology is that it shows the possibility that the prophet, even while acting as prophet, can make mistakes. And that would destroy a fundamental teaching of Mormonism: that the Lord will never allow the prophet to lead us astray.

    I wonder, is there anyone who knows the whole story (really studied the history of the priesthood ban, such as you have dipped into in this post) and can still truly believe that it was inspired by God? Personally, despite all the “reasons” I’ve heard over the years for why it was inspired, I can’t say that I believe it was.

  2. So if the priesthood ban was not doctrinal and was merely church policy, then why was a revelation needed to lift it?

    Also, do we know the reasons why it was voted down in 1969?

  3. FD,

    Thanks for your comments. I think that openness, frankness, and honesty can help us to maintain our testimonies of the church, regardless of our personal feelings on certain issues, such as polygamy, the priesthood ban, or gay rights.

    Isn’t it supposed to be by unanimous inspiration?

    I think John Dehlin has an excellent answer to your question, so let me quote him. “As a coping mechanism, I agree that a decision can come straight to the prophet. But I hold open the possibility that God sometimes needs the apostles to be on board, not just intellectually, but emotionally and spiritually as well, and that it’s possible that the Lord can even allow things to wait until he feels like the apostles are all of one heart and one mind.”

    I added a considerable amount of information above, and it is highlighted in orange to help answer some of you and Tara’s other questions. Also, the orange helps you see what is new, so you can skip through the older stuff you’ve already read.

    I really encourage everyone to listen to all of these interviews. I am leaving out many details that many will find interesting, but with a 10,000 word essay already, I had to leave something out. 🙂

    Thanks for pointing out Jonah. I have talked about him quite a bit, and I see some real similarities between his bad attitudes about the Ninevites, and our church’s bad attitudes about blacks, and even Joshua and Moses’ bad attitudes about the Canaanites.

    As for whether the church should apologize, I’m torn. On the one hand, I completely agree with Darron Smith. On the other hand, John Dehlin interviews LDS scholar Armaund Mauss who is a sociologist. He says that organizations don’t act the same as humans, and shouldn’t be expected to act the same. (That’s another wonderful podcast.) John points out that many Orthodox church members would become disillusioned and fall away from the church. So, the church has a tough balancing act to disavow bad doctrines told by old prophets, while not eroding member’s faith in current prophets. It’s not a very easy tightrope to cross.

    For people like you and me, who are aware of these facts, we would welcome the apology. Darron also says that many blacks would probably join the church as the result of an honest apology. On the other hand, many members with testimonies built on sand might fall away. I do not envy the leaders tough situation.

    “is there anyone who knows the whole story (really studied the history of the priesthood ban, such as you have dipped into in this post) and can still truly believe that it was inspired by God?”

    I don’t know. I’m curious to see how Tara answers that question. I don’t want to speak for others, but I suspect that Margaret, Darius, Darron, Greg, John, don’t believe it was inspired. It would be interesting to hear Bruce McConkie (if he were alive), or other General Authorities responses. I know the GA’s are doing the best they can, and I don’t want to point fingers of derision at any of them, even some of the more outrageous comments by Brigham, John Taylor, and others.

    Tara,

    why was a revelation needed to lift it?

    Greg answers this question, “The basic policy remained intact, because he felt, as did President Kimball, that it would take a revelation to change it, and in fact, it did take a revelation to change it.”

    do we know the reasons why it was voted down in 1969?

    I think the reasons are murky, but I did add some more info above. It seems that Alvin Dyer, Harold B Lee, and David O McKay were not unanimous with the other brethren. Since it was not unanimous, essentially all of these men held a veto. “If ye are not one, ye are not mine.” In that case, it seems to me that without a clear direction, there was no other choice but to follow the status quo.

  4. Holy Moly!

    That’s amazing work!!!

    Keep it up, bro!!!

  5. I often think back to Pres. Hinckley’s interview with Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes. Wallace asked him about the priesthood ban and he replied that it was due to the “interpretation” of scripture. I assume he was referring to the Book of Abraham, “Pharaoh being of that lineage by which he could not have the right of the priesthood” (Abraham 1:26-27). However, as we see now, this was a very complex policy/doctrine that can be summed up in one scripture.

    This is Bruce R. McConkie’s statment from Mormon Doctrine:

    “Of the two-thirds who followed Christ, however, some were more valiant than others ….Those who were less valiant in pre-existence and who thereby had certain spiritual restrictions imposed upon them during mortality are known to us as the negroes. Such spirits are sent to earth through the lineage of Cain, the mark put upon him for his rebellion against God and his murder of Abel being a black skin (Moses 5:16-41; 12:22). Noah’s son Ham married Egyptus, a descendant of Cain, thus preserving the negro lineage through the flood (Abraham 1:20-27). Negroes in this life are denied the priesthood; under no circumstances can they hold this delegation of authority from the Almighty. (Abra. 1:20-27.) The gospel message of salvation is not carried affirmatively to them (Moses 7:8, 12, 22), although sometimes negroes search out the truth, join the Church, and become by righteous living heirs of the celestial kingdom of heaven. President Brigham Young and others have taught that in the future eternity worthy and qualified negroes will receive the priesthood and every gospel blessing available to any man. The present status of the negro rests purely and simply on the foundation of pre-existence. Along with all races and peoples he is receiving here what he merits as a result of the long pre-mortal probation in the presence of the Lord….The negroes are not equal with other races where the receipt of certain spiritual blessings are concerned, particularly the priesthood and the temple blessings that flow therefrom, but this inequality is not of man’s origin. It is the Lord’s doing.”

    I’ve often wondered where the scriptural foundation for these teachings are. If it is “the Lord’s doing,” then when and where did the Lord actually give instruction in regards to the behaviour of blacks in the pre-existence?

    MH said:
    “For people like you and me, who are aware of these facts, we would welcome the apology. Darron also says that many blacks would probably join the church as the result of an honest apology. On the other hand, many members with testimonies built on sand might fall away. I do not envy the leaders tough situation.”

    I agree, it’s a very difficult situation. But at the same time, if it’s true that the priesthood ban was a policy based on mistake — not divine revelation — which much of the evidence seems to indicate, then why not let truth prevail? If people are going to leave the Church over the admission of a mistake in this policy, then they probably didn’t have much to stand on in the first place. On the other hand, if the Church is hoping to escape accountability for past mistakes (if, indeed, it was a mistake) and bury the past, by doing so then they are losing some of the strongest members who base their testimonies on truth and divine revelation, not to mention many potential members of all races who are turned off by something ugly that tends to smell of a cover-up. Personally, I feel caught in the middle. I was born into the Church, I’m active and I have faith in it, but not enough to believe that the policy/doctrine of blacks and the priesthood was divinely inspired. Because of what I know (through personal research on the subject, which the vast majority of Mormons probably haven’t even begun to delve into), I find it very difficult to proclaim or testify that the Church is exactly what it proclaims to be. I love the Church and I have no plans of leaving it, but I no longer believe that it is absolutely everything it claims to be.

    I’m sure you’ve probably already read the Stapley letter to Romney. For those who haven’t, you can read it here:
    http://www.boston.com/news/daily/24/delbert_stapley.pdf

    The contents of the “Mormonism and the Negro” booklet that Stapley was referring to, which is a fairly short and very interesting read, can be found here:
    http://celestial-orb.org/library/mormon_negro.html

    This is such an interesting discussion. I could write for hours, but I have to go make dinner. My stomach is calling. 🙂

  6. I just wrote quite a bit and lost it with an inadvertent keystroke. Spent a lot of time, and I just don’t have time to re-do it today. I’ll try again tomorrow. (Just so you know, I don’t like the design of the comment area on your website. I’ve hit the wrong button on my keyboard several times–not sure which one–but it tries to submit my comment before I’m ready, and before I’ve filled in my name and email address, then I lose everything. I guess I just need to make sure to do the name and email address before I start writing or else do my writing in a document and then copy and paste. Aaarggh. Just a little bit frustrated right now.)

  7. Sorry Tara, I know how frustrating that can be. I didn’t design the comment area–I think it’s a software design for blogs in general.

    I will say that if you choose to use the “autofill”, it will fill in your information automatically, so you don’t have to type in your name and email in every time.

  8. FD,

    if it’s true that the priesthood ban was a policy based on mistake — not divine revelation — which much of the evidence seems to indicate, then why not let truth prevail?

    I don’t think this “policy” is common knowledge in the church. Many members still believe McConkie, and think it’s “doctrine.” I think the church should do a better job announcing the policy, not doctrine, but even still, it puts statements like these from McConkie, in a difficult position since McConkie is referring to it as “the Lord’s doing.”

    It’s understandable for a general church member to mistakenly call something doctrine, but when a GA does it, it can be a tough thing to explain to many sandy, orthodox members.

  9. Very true. I always regarded it as doctrine as well. In fact, until I read your post, I probably would have still regarded it as official “doctrine,” albeit one that I couldn’t agree with/believe in.

    But is there any worth or benefit to letting members continue to believe that it was the Lord’s doctrine if it was in fact just a policy based on their flawed human understanding? Doesn’t this just make it more difficult for members to maintain their testimonies and have new members, particularly black people, baptized into the Church?

  10. FD, I couldn’t agree more, it does make it difficult for orthodox members to maintain testimonies when they learn the facts are different than they were told.

    I think that’s why it’s important for us more liberal mormons to disseminate this information. Margaret Young mentions some examples where she received supplementary material as an institute instructor that contained racist material. She has connections in high places, and the material has been removed.

    John Dehlin mentions that is part of the reason why the church puts an emphasis on “teaching from the manual.” By strictly following the manual, hopefully teachers will not bring in unauthorized teachings. The problem arises when the manual still contains racist teachings, and he and Margaret both mention lessons from the manual which contained inappropriate racist teachings.

    Margaret goes on to say that she thinks that many of the manuals are boring (I concur), and she will continue to make her lessons interesting by bringing in outside material. I previously blogged on how boring church can be. It’s a tough situation.

    I was released for being too liberal in my lessons, and potentially damaging some sandy members testimonies, though I don’t know who I damaged by making lessons interesting. Attendance was better than it is now. (Isn’t that a good thing?)

    I was released as Gospel Doctrine teacher, and replaced with someone who hates to teach. I quit attending Sunday School for two reasons. (1) I’d rather get spiritual nourishment on the internet, and try to clear up some false doctrines that I’m not allowed to at church, and (2) as membership clerk, our ward has so many move ins and outs that I literally spend 2 hours each Sunday just trying to keep track of it all.

    I know I should be more charitable, but when a teacher is that bad, and so open about hating his calling, I’d rather sit and quietly read the scriptures or a good spiritual book than be forced to sit through a bad lesson. (Maybe it’s sour grapes because I LOVED my previous calling. Membership clerk isn’t bad either, but I like it, not love it.) Why doesn’t the bishop get upset when a teacher openly says he doesn’t like to teach? Shouldn’t the teacher be more quiet about that?

    On the other hand, I wonder if an apology would bring in as many people black people as it disillusioned lifelong whites. I think the brethren are not clear as to whether the change will be positive, negative, or neutral in terms of church membership numbers. In some ways, it is easier to concentrate on the inactives you have, than to try to get new members. They already have a belief system in the church, and should be easier to bring to church. Besides, these new members may change the culture that the church has tried to cultivate for nearly 160 years, and bring growing pains that can also be difficult to handle.

    A smaller organization is much more nimble. The church now resembles a battleship or frieght train that isn’t as easy to maneuver as it was in Joseph Smith’s day, when the entire church consisted of just one or two stakes. I recently attended a regional conference, and Elder Marlin Jensen said he was addressing about 135 stakes in Utah and Wasatch counties. In 1940, he said the entire church contained just 135 stakes, so in effect, he was talking to the same size audience as the 1940 church. (I may be getting the exact quote wrong, but it was something to that effect.)

    In this internet and blogging age, any apologies by the church will be quickly examined by all. Remember when they changed one word in the Introduction to the Book of Mormon? An apology would probably make the cover of many magazines like Time, Newsweek, CNN, and every where else, along with unwanted criticism and scrutiny. But the longer they wait, the bigger story it becomes…..

  11. While part of me would be scared of all the media attention in the event of a formal apology, a big part of me would welcome it. I have to admit, even though I want Obama to win, I was really pulling for Romney in the primaries because I could just envision the media scrutiny of a black man running against a Mormon whose religion (of which many are still very skeptical of) used to discriminate against blacks. I was sort of hoping that those who like to dig up dirt in politics would sort of force the issue into the spotlight. And I wondered whether the Church was prepared for it.

    I get what you’re saying about manuals and meetings. I taught Sunday School for a couple of years and I have to admit that I never liked it — because of the manuals. And that’s all I had to go on, besides the scriptures, since there are so few materials translated into Norwegian.

    The problem that I’m struggling with lately is that after discovering so much additional information on the Internet and in books (such as “Rough Stone Rolling”), RS or Sunday School seems so bland. It doesn’t help that there are only about 15 members in my branch and the discussions are always so positive and one-sided. I attend most of my meetings, but I never really participate in the discussions. I don’t mean this in an arrogant way, but I just feel like I’ve moved beyond basic lessons, sugar-coated quotes, and flowery testimonies. I hate to sit there and mentally criticize my fellow members, but I often sit there and think to myself, “OK, you say you KNOW that this and that is true, or that the prophet will NEVER lead us astray, but you haven’t read what I’ve read and you’ve never even heard of what I have.” They think they are getting the entire perspective, but they aren’t. I’m not saying that I am, because I know that I perhaps lack the spiritual depth and testimony that they have, but I probably have more knowledge than them on certain aspects of the LDS faith and I don’t think it’s totally irrelevant. I never get up to bear my testimony because I’ve come to realize that I don’t have one. What I DO have is faith. My faith is what has kept me in the Church my whole life and it’s what I think will sustain me in it for the rest of my life. But I realize that to say I have a testimony — a witness and a knowledge — of the truthfulness of the Gospel, and the prophets in particular — is stretching my personal truth. There is plenty in the Church that I believe is true, but I cannot use the term “testimony” so loosely. And the unresolved issue of the Church’s treatment of blacks is the main reason for my inability (or in some ways, unwillingness) to uphold the prophets as God’s mouthpiece. I took out my endowments before I started to study the Gospel more in-depth and I’ve often really regretted doing so. I’m not doing anything to violate my temple covenants, but I sort of feel like I got them under false pretenses because I knew so little at the time — or rather I believed the myths about why things in the Church have been so. I have since discovered that most of them were wrong.

    If the Church finally set the record straight officially, then I’m sure it would damage some testimonies and some people may end up leaving. At the same time, I think that a lot of members could be made stronger if they start to really examine their own religion, to really and truly gain a testimony of truth for themselves, and not just what someone else is telling you is true while withholding pertinent information. In a way, a formal apology will probably only force members down the same road that we already find ourselves on. We’re open-minded enough to not just simply leave the Church and we’re searching diligently for more light on the issue. I think that most Mormons, if they go into it with an open mind, will come out of it unscathed and stronger — if we’re willing to accept the truth, whatever it is.

    Perhaps Mormons are holding their Church to an impossible standard. Can any church be perfect? We often say, “The Church is perfect, but the people aren’t.” Well, we know the people certainly aren’t perfect, but maybe the Church isn’t either? Maybe we need to be more realistic and less idealistic.

  12. This isn’t quite what I wrote yesterday, but I think it’s more applicable to the discussion at this point.

    Thank you, TFD, for the links you provided. They were very interesting, particularly the booklet.

    Perhaps the reason the church doesn’t issue an apology is because there is nothing to apologize for. If the ban was inspired, as I’m inclined to believe it was, then there is no need to apologize. President Hinckley said in an interview that he did not think that the church was wrong for having that policy. You guys act as though the leadership knows the policy was wrong, and are just biting their nails, not sure what to do for fear that they might offend someone. I just don’t get this. Where is the faith in your leaders?

    It may be true that the priesthood ban was policy, but does that mean that the policy was not inspired? Why should we assume that just because it has the label of “policy” that we can just discount it as being solely influenced by human prejudice? President Faust said in an August 1996 Ensign article titled “Continuing Revelation” that the brethren receive inspiration on all kinds of things that are not doctrinal. Here is a quote:

    “Thus, by revelation in our day the Seventies have been given an expanded role as members of Area Presidencies and in general Church administration, helping the First Presidency and the Twelve “in building up the church and regulating all the affairs of the same in all nations” (D&C 107:34). Many other divine instructions have also been received. Much revelation received, in this time as well as anciently, has been doctrinal. Some of it has been operational and tactical. Much of it is not spectacular….

    I haven’t seen any prophet say that the ban was not inspired or commanded by God. In fact, I’ve seen just the opposite. The only thing that I’ve seen that has been alleged to be uninspired regarding the ban were some of the reasons and the timetable, not the ban itself. Even McKay himself who said that the ban was policy, not doctrine, did not, to my knowledge, say that the ban was anything but inspired. If any of you have ever read such a statement, I would like to see it.

    Now, when we start saying that prophets are mistaken when they say something is inspired or commanded by God, that is a dangerous position. As the booklet TFD linked to says, “If we as members of the Church are going to pick and choose among the Prophets teachings, and say ‘this one is of God, we can accept it, but this one is of man, we will reject that,’ then we are undermining the whole structure of our faith, and for our own personal sake we cannot afford to do that.”

    “I think that’s why it’s important for us more liberal mormons to disseminate this information.”

    I personally think that you liberal Mormons need to be careful about spreading around things that you view as fact that may not be fact at all. It is fine to point out that prophets are mortal and make mistakes, but when you put their revelations into question, then you start undermining faith. You are better off trying to understand and explain the revelation with the premise that it was ispired. When you’re working under the notion that revelation is biased, then how can you trust that any of it is inspired? MH, I understand that you can make that distinction, but that is a very twisted view that most people don’t share. When you start questioning the inspiration behind revelation given by prophets, at what point do you stop? If you don’t like it or don’t understand it, does that mean it isn’t inspired? Do you see how that is dangerous?

    “I’d rather get spiritual nourishment on the internet, and try to clear up some false doctrines that I’m not allowed to at church.”

    Wow! This is an arrogant statement. YOU are going to clear up false doctrines that you aren’t allowed to in church? So who made you prophet? It seems that you know better than the prophets what is right and what is wrong. Do you realize what you are saying and what you are doing here? You want to teach your personal opinion and the opinion of apologists as doctrine rather than the teachings of the prophets that you believe is false doctrine, though you don’t know it is false doctrine. Your attitude concerns me.

    With regard to Darius Gray being offended by President Taylor’s remarks which seemed to imply that blacks are representatives of Satan, LDS scholar W. John Walsh disagrees. He reads the quote as saying the devil must have a representation so that all men, including blacks, may have ability to choose to receive or reject the truth, not that blacks were that representation. Here is President Taylor’s quote with added context:

    “And after the flood we are told that the curse that had been pronounced upon Cain was continued through Ham’s wife, as he had married a wife of that seed. And why did it pass through the flood? Because it was necessary that the devil should have a representation upon the earth as well as God; and that man should be a free agent to act for himself, and that all men might have the opportunity of receiving or rejecting the truth, and be governed by it or not according to their wishes and abide the result; and that those who would be able to maintain correct principles under all circumstances, might be able to associate with the Gods in the eternal worlds. “

    W. John Walsh said, “Almost every human soul perished in the flood, including the daughters of Noah and their families. Only those few who hearkened to the Lord’s prophet were saved. A descendent of Cain, using her agency, chose to listen to the Spirit of Christ and obey God and was therefore saved from the flood.”

    I think if you read this and understand it in the context of the information presented in the booklet that TFD linked to, it makes more sense. Now whether or not these ideas are doctrinal, I cannot say, but I wouldn’t count them as being undoctrinal either.

  13. Tara:

    “Wow! This is an arrogant statement. YOU are going to clear up false doctrines that you aren’t allowed to in church?”

    If you’ve never heard any false doctrines at church, then I applaud your ward and leaders. They’re obviously doing something right. As for the false doctrines I’ve heard at church over the years (and I’ve heard lots), I wish that I had someone like MH in my ward to speak up when something didn’t sound right. Then I wouldn’t have assumed for so many years that vegetarianism was a sin, or that my extended family was jeopardizing their salvation for marrying outside of their race.

    “So who made you prophet? It seems that you know better than the prophets what is right and what is wrong.”

    I haven’t seen any statements by MH to indicate that he thinks he is better than the prophets. He asks questions and presents ideas that seem provocative to conservative Mormons, but the prophets have never told us to go on blind faith.

    “Perhaps the reason the church doesn’t issue an apology is because there is nothing to apologize for.”

    Nothing to apologize for? Did you even read that Stapley letter or the booklet? If nothing in it offends you or raises a desire for an apology, then I’m baffled.

    “Where is the faith in your leaders?”

    I think you’re assuming that people like MH and I are simply out to quash faith and trust in our leaders. I think it’s quite the opposite. Much of the past racial rhetoric from leaders of the Church should raise big, huge, red warning flags to anyone, in my opinion. Anyone who can dismiss it all with a simple “It was an inspired doctrine. The End.” has given it way too little thought, IMO. Both MH and I must have SOME faith in our leaders, otherwise what the heck are we doing in the Church? We probably would have left it long ago. I know I would have. But anyone who accepts all the “reasons” for why the priesthood ban must have the same racial prejudices that guys like Stapley obviously had. I think MH is trying to help people like me, and those who think like us, to restore faith in our leaders by understanding the reasons behind the ban: whether it could have been inspired or whether it was simply the product of racial prejudice of leaders of the Church, beginning with Brigham Young. If it’s the latter, it doesn’t have to mean that they were bad men or not prophets of God. As we discussed before regarding Jonas, God sometimes chooses prophets that we wouldn’t have. I personally believe that prophets can make mistakes, including doctrinal ones. Brigham Young’s Adam-God doctrine was proclaimed to be doctrine by him and false doctrine by later prophets. One of them has to then be mistaken. I don’t know which one, but all of them can still have been prophets of God.

    “I personally think that you liberal Mormons need to be careful about spreading around things that you view as fact that may not be fact at all. It is fine to point out that prophets are mortal and make mistakes, but when you put their revelations into question, then you start undermining faith.”

    How then, do we ever have a serious, rational conversation about anything regarding Church history? I realize that discussing deep doctrine can damage the faith of people who aren’t prepared to receive any more information than what is in official manuals. But to others, it can be faith-building and enlightening. I think “Rough Stone Rolling” is an excellent example of this. Bushman’s biography of Joseph Smith certainly causes the reader to put his revelations into question, but the end result was, at least for me personally, a stronger faith in many of the teachings of Joseph Smith. Questioning doesn’t always have to equal undermining.

    “I think if you read this and understand it in the context of the information presented in the booklet that TFD linked to, it makes more sense.”

    OK, I’m not sure whether I’m understanding this correctly or not, but are you saying that the booklet “Mormonism and the Negro” makes sense? If there were indeed a few tidbits in that booklet that made sense, they were lost in a sea of racist ignorance presented as justification for a doctrine or policy that was, at best, an interpretation of scripture that was twisted into something much more than simply a ban on the priesthood and stretched all the way into civil rights, or at worst, a man-made “doctrine” presented as divine that resulted in the marginalization of black potential and self-worth, both as members of the Church and children of God. If there is truly no need to apologize for this, then I would leave the Church right now because in that case, there would be nothing to stick around for.

  14. TFD,

    Reading your comment, I am just stunned.

    “I think that a lot of members could be made stronger if they start to really examine their own religion, to really and truly gain a testimony of truth for themselves, and not just what someone else is telling you is true while withholding pertinent information.”

    So you believe that most members only have a testimony based off of what others say and have not truly received their own testimony through the holy ghost? It seems that you think that members should gain an in-depth knowledge of church history in order to have a “real” testimony. It appears that, by your own admission, you haven’t come through the course you recommend with your faith unscathed, and yet you recommend that for others? That seems like quite a contradiction.

    “withholding pertinent information”

    What pertinent information has been withheld that is vital to a testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Either it’s true or it isn’t. A clearer understanding of church history will not change the truth of the gospel.

    If your faith is suffering, you need to change your attitude and seek for greater understanding. You need to exercise greater faith and not just expect it to fall in your lap. You don’t exercise greater faith by questioning the inspiration of church leaders.

    In a talk by Ezra Taft Benson titled “Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet,” which I highly recommend reading if you haven’t already, he quotes, “A man said to me after that, ‘You know, there are people in our state who believe in following the Prophet in everything they think is right, but when it is something they think isn’t right, and it doesn’t appeal to them, then that’s different.’ He said, ‘Then they become their own prophet. They decide what the Lord wants and what the Lord doesn’t want.’

    I thought how true, and how serious when we begin to choose which of the covenants, which of the commandments we will keep and follow. When we decide that there are some of them that we will not keep or follow, we are taking the law of the Lord into our own hands and become our own prophets, and believe me, we will be led astray, because we are false prophets to ourselves when we do not to follow the Prophet of God. No, we should never discriminate between these commandments, as to those we should and should not keep.”

  15. Much has been said with respect to doctrine and policy.

    Not sure if I can speak on this clearly, but I would like to chime in anyway. I view two types of doctrine:

    1. Official Church Doctrine: This is doctrine with a capital D, that which is supported by all members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the 12, like the Proclamation on the Family or on the Living Christ. Or most talks in General Confeerence. This comes from revelation, or is endorsed by revelation, as well as an authoritative group.
    2. doctrine with a lower case d: this is doctrine which may be revealed to any member or group of members (or a non-member for that matter), but which may not be able to be clearly communicated to others, or which others may misunderstand.

    Of course, we speculate all the time on doctrine (i.e. scriptural revelations in Ezekiel or the D&C) when we try to reason through its meaning. General Authorities do this also, in my opinion. But we can only completely understand revealed doctrine through more revelation. Not to say that speculation or reasoning is bad or detrimental, but it can be trivial or pointless some of the time when compared to the clear understanding received from revelation. And it can certainly be confusing if we consider an interpretation of doctrine on the same level with revealed doctrine.

    Of course, receiving revelation also requires reasoning and an intellectual investment of some sort, so the two (reasoning and revelation) need not be wholly independent.

    Not sure if the above makes any sense, but I thought I’d weigh in on this important, but peripheral issue to this intriguing post.

  16. Tara,

    Your “arrogant” comment wasn’t exactly tactful, was it? I’ll write more when I have time.

  17. Tara,

    What is it that is so stunning? I am simply being honest about my state of faith and testimony.

    “So you believe that most members only have a testimony based off of what others say and have not truly received their own testimony through the holy ghost?”

    Yes I do. Maybe not “most,” but certainly some. I was one of those people. I used to think I had a strong testimony because I believed everything I heard at church was true. I’m not saying that others at church haven’t received their own testimony through the Holy Ghost. I am only talking about myself here. Who am I to say whether or not the Spirit has spoken to the member I sit next to at church? And who are they to say that I don’t have the same testimony even if I haven’t followed the same exact spiritual path as they have? MH and I took part in a discussion a couple months ago on my blog regarding prayer. Some people receive confirmations/inspiration through prayer and some don’t, for no apparent reason. I’m one of those who generally don’t, except for a few exceptions I’ve experienced in my life. Doesn’t mean I don’t exercise faith anyways. My experience has been that those who do receive spiritual confirmations easily have a really hard time understanding or respecting the views of those who don’t.

    “If your faith is suffering, you need to change your attitude and seek for greater understanding. You need to exercise greater faith and not just expect it to fall in your lap. You don’t exercise greater faith by questioning the inspiration of church leaders.”

    If this is your successful recipe for faith, then that’s great. Keep it up. But, no offense intended, who are you to say what I need/need not do in order to have greater faith? What do you know about my personal spiritual and life experiences? I’m being honest and forthright when I say that I’m working on mine. I certainly don’t expect faith to just “fall into my lap.” I already have a lot of faith, but I don’t have a testimony that everything in the Church is true. Some view it as detrimental to question leaders of the Church, as you seem to. I don’t. I agree it’s not for everyone, but it’s how I learn, how I try and prove my faith. It’s how I grow and it’s how my faith matures.

    “It seems that you think that members should gain an in-depth knowledge of church history in order to have a “real” testimony. It appears that, by your own admission, you haven’t come through the course you recommend with your faith unscathed, and yet you recommend that for others? That seems like quite a contradiction.”

    No, I don’t think that every member needs to gain this in-depth knowledge because many don’t care to know or aren’t prepared to know. Most members in non-English speaking countries have no clue about this stuff. There are no history books or internet sites in their languages and they can live the Gospel to the fullest without it. However, I have already been exposed to it and I know enough that I need to explore it and deal with it. It is what it is, whatever it is. We can avoid the history, but there’s no escaping it, at least not for me. So yes, in order for ME (not EVERYONE, but ME) to have a “real” testimony, I need to study Church history and learn to reconcile the difficult aspects of it with my faith. My testimony may be weaker than yours now, but I believe that I can come through the end of the tunnel unscathed. If I didn’t, why would I even bother? Not all the Church historians have turned into apostates. Take Richard Bushman, for example. I think we need more members like him. I want to be like him. I want to know the history and allow it to co-exist with my faith. I believe that it can be done and I intend on doing it. If that’s not exercising faith, I don’t know what is.

    “No, we should never discriminate between these commandments, as to those we should and should not keep.”

    I agree. But I want to follow the Lord’s commandments and not necessarily those based on the limited understanding of a human being. I’m sorry, but I just don’t believe that the Lord wanted us to deny blacks their civil rights, neither do I believe that He didn’t want my brother to marry his wife because she was black. But if I never question, how do I come to any conclusion as to what is from the Lord and what isn’t?

  18. “What pertinent information has been withheld that is vital to a testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Either it’s true or it isn’t. A clearer understanding of church history will not change the truth of the gospel.”

    A clearer understanding may not change the truthfulness of the Gospel, but it can change the way that we deal with certain aspects of life, which can have significant consequences for us and our fellow man. The treatment and general view of black people by Mormons is an excellent example. Sadly, it resulted in ugly accusations of their spiritual state, or attempted to stand in the way of their civil rights. “Either it’s true or it isn’t” too black and white a statement because it doesn’t allow for any grey areas or mistakes. The Gospel can be true, but certain teachings may not be.

  19. This conversation is getting a little snippy. While nobody has crossed the line, I can tell there are some heated feelings at this point, and I’d like to bring things back to the issue in the title, and whether God’s leaders can be biased. I’d also like to address Tara’s comments that my opinions are dangerous.

    As I mentioned before, I didn’t cover ever little detail of the podcasts, and now that the conversation has turned, I’d like to visit something from the podcast that didn’t really seem relevant to me at the time. Margaret Young mentions that Sterling McMurrin called Pres McKay because Sterling was worried about a possible church court that may be held because of Sterling’s “dangerous” comments in Sunday School class. I detailed the quotes above where Pres McKay affirmed that the priesthood ban was policy, not doctrine.

    The rest of the story has Pres McKay telling Sterling not to worry about the church court, and that if there is a court, Pres McKay would personally attend, and be a witness on behalf of Sterling. I will also add that Margaret tells another story where Pres McKay intervened on behalf of Juanita Brooks, who wrote (at the time) the most comprehensive book on the Mountain Meadows Massacre. A court was set to convene against her as well, but Pres McKay is quoted as saying “Let her alone.” Interestingly, Pres McKay never personally knew Juanita Brooks. Margaret goes on to say that Pres McKay was very inclusive, and cast a very big tent, and felt that the church was big enough to handle these many diverse opinions, and did not think that the “dangerous” ideas presented by these “liberal” mormons warranted church discipline. She went on to say that Pres McKay believed in free agency, and he was not a big fan of censorship. He didn’t even censor Bruce McConkie’s book “Mormon Doctrine” even though he had some major problems. It seems that most wards are full of censors who want to silence anyone who espouses ideas which are not orthodox today, as well as in 1954.

    Now, I’d like to revisit McMurrin again. Here was a good church member, who was at least 24 years ahead of his time. In 1954, he had a conversation telling Pres McKay that the priesthood ban was wrong. He was an active church member, and was not considered threatening to the prophet of God. In hindsight, it seems that McMurrin was actually more in tune on this issue than McKay, since McMurrin’s dangerous ideas were actually adopted by the church in 1978.

    Now, certainly there were many others inside and outside the church who had a problem with this policy. Even Pres McKay asked in 1921 if there was something to be done, and I doubt Pres McKay was the first. We can see that exceptions were made for Elijah Abel’s son and grandson, an un-named member in Cincinnati, and apparently Pres McKay made some other exceptions to policy. A mission president in South Africa had major problems with this policy in 1954. I didn’t mention that there was a mission president called to the Nigeria mission in about 1960 who was going to be faced with thousands of black converts, and no white leaders. (A Civil War in Nigeria ended that mission president’s mission before it began.) McMurrin was just one of many who had a problem with the policy, and we can see that McMurrin had some big influences. Of course, many lay members had an impact on the decision.

    Isn’t it interesting that the lay member, Sterling McMurrin, wrote the First Presidency statement on blacks to defuse the NAACP protest?

    Tara, I know you think I’m out of line for questioning the inspiration for this policy, but can you honestly tell me that McMurrin was not inspired? Can you honestly tell me that McMurrin was wrong? Can you tell me that Alvin Dyer was right and Hugh Brown was wrong on this issue?

    I’ll give you John Dehlin’s comment that he thinks that the Lord needs all of the apostles on board before he will change the policy, but that still tells me that in 1969, 3 of 4 members in the First Presidency, and 1 of 12 apostles voted against changing the policy that year. Of this group of 16 men, the minority opinion of keeping the ban kept the policy. Were they right, and the ones who wanted to lift the ban wrong?

  20. “If you’ve never heard any false doctrines at church, then I applaud your ward and leaders. They’re obviously doing something right.”

    I’m not saying that false doctrine isn’t taught at church, but when it is taught, I don’t believe that the false doctrine is coming from the manuals. That is what I understood MH to be referring to. He was talking specifically about the lesson manuals and how boring they were and that they contained racist material, then he said that he wasn’t allowed to correct false doctrine in church, as though the manuals are full of false doctrine. He also believes that his Bishop, who was so obviously uninspired in removing MH from his teaching position, was squelching his ability to teach true doctrine and root out false doctrine by replacing him with someone unequal to his superior teaching abilities. Who’s to say that people like MH are not the ones introducing false doctrine? All false doctrine is doctrine to us as long as it is false doctrine that we can believe in and accept, right? I just think it is a dangerous thing for members to teach that doctrines are true or false based on their own beliefs and understanding if it conflicts with approved materials or accepted doctrine.

    “Questioning doesn’t always have to equal undermining.”

    I agree. It depends on what kind of questioning you are doing. But it doesn’t seem that you or MH really question whether the policy was inspired. It seems as though you’ve both already come to the conclusion that the policy is not inspired and so you are not really questioning anymore, but are judging, particularly since you believe that the church should apologize for its racist policies. I understand that you may be open to the possibility that the ban was inspired, but there is no mistaking your clear bias towards the idea that it was uninspired. If I am mistaken in this, please help me understand your postion better.

    “How then, do we ever have a serious, rational conversation about anything regarding Church history?”

    I believe that’s what we are doing. But it is possible to have a converstation about church history without picking and choosing which revelations we will believe in and which ones we won’t. I don’t believe that promoting the ban as uninspired is something you promote to others, particularly when many of the church leaders claim that it was. That is something personal and not something you promote to others. I mean who are we to make that judgement on behalf of the church, which is essentially what you are doing in expecting an apology from the church.

    “Much of the past racial rhetoric from leaders of the Church should raise big, huge, red warning flags to anyone, in my opinion.”

    I’ve seen some excellent apologetic writings about some of the “racial rhetoric” from some of the Church leaders which open up the possibility that what they were saying wasn’t what it appears at first glance to mean. I would prefer to give our leaders the benefit of the doubt and not unfairly brand them as unabashed racists, particularly when they are not here to explain or defend themselves. I don’t like the thought that if I judge them unfairly, that I may stand before them one day and look them in the eye only to find that they are not who I thought they were. How sorry would I feel if I didn’t show them more mercy in my judgements of them?

    “But anyone who accepts all the “reasons” for why the priesthood ban must have the same racial prejudices that guys like Stapley obviously had.”

    I will agree that Stapley came across a little too racist for me, but if I accept that there were reasons for the ban and that the ban was inspired, does that mean I am a racist? Do you know me well enough to be comfortable calling me a racist even if I accept the plausibility of the “less valiant” theory? If so, I question your judgement.

    “Brigham Young’s Adam-God doctrine was proclaimed to be doctrine by him and false doctrine by later prophets.”

    Since this keeps coming up, I want to address it a bit. Here is the quote denouncing the false doctrine by President Kimball: “We hope that you who teach in the various organizations, whether on the campuses or in our Chapels, will always teach the orthodox truth. We warn you against the dissemination of doctrines which are not according to the Scriptures and which are alleged to have been taught by some of the General Authorities of past generations. such, for instance, is the Adam-God theory. We denounce that theory and hope that everyone will be cautioned against this and other kinds of false doctrine. ”

    Here is what Elden Watson says about that quote: “At the time this statement was made in the 1976 Priesthood conference, I was serving on a priesthood committee under the direction of Elder Mark E. Petersen. We were at that time working with a number of people who believed the Adam-God theory, and our committee wanted to know more precisely what President Kimball meant by his statement, so through Elder Petersen we made an appointment with him and asked him. In a private interview President Kimball made the following clarifications: He said that he did not say that President Brigham Young did not make the statements which are attributed to him, nor did he claim that they were falsely reported. Neither did he say that Brigham Young taught false doctrine. What he did say and what he meant is that the Adam-God theory is false, and the Adam-God theory is that interpretation which is placed on Brigham Young’s words by present day apostates and fundamentalists – their understanding of what Brigham Yong meant is false.

    Considering both President Kimball’s original statement and his subsequent clarification, what we need is an understanding of what Brigham Young meant by his statements which is in accordance with scripture. This is reasonable even without President Kimball’s statements, because any of President Young’s teachings which are not in harmony with scripture would simply be wrong anyway.”

    In other words, Brigham Young did not teach false doctrine concerning Adam/God. What the false doctrine was is the incorrect interpretation of that teaching. Here again, is the link to the site I linked to previously in one of my comments on Joshua’s unholy war if anyone is interested in actually reading it this time.

    “What is it that is so stunning?”

    I guess what I found so stunning was what seemed like a great deal of contradiction in your ideas. I really don’t have a problem with your own personal faith and testimony, but I do have a problem when you start evaluating and criticizing people’s testimonies as being dependent on someone else’s. Then you said that in order for people’s testimonies to be stronger, they need to really examine their own religion. What else am I to make of this, considering all that you said, than that they should look into church history as you have? This seems to me to be a rather foolish approach to gaining a stronger testimony. Some whose testimonies may not be strong enough, would not benefit in any way to know all the hairy details of church history. Do I think that we should try to hide it? No. But there is so much information that one needs to have in order to be able to properly deal with the information, that it is, in my opinion, a bad idea to recommend such a course as a way to build stronger testimony. Certainly gaining a real, true testimony for themselves, as you’ve suggested, is what is needed for everyone, but your idea, as I see it, as to how that should be done is not the answer. Testimony comes by faith, obedience, prayer, fasting, scripture study, and service in the Lord’s kingdom. The scriptures and the prophets have taught the way to gain a testimony, and none of them ever recommended delving into church history as a requirement.

    “My experience has been that those who do receive spiritual confirmations easily have a really hard time understanding or respecting the views of those who don’t.”

    The spiritual confirmations that I’ve received have not come easily, nor have they come often. And I will tell you that they’ve taken a great deal of work to obtain. I am not trying to disrespect you. I am just giving you advice. I know I came across harshly, and for that I apologize. But I am serious when I say that I believe questioning the inspiration of church leaders will not help your faith. The questioning in and of itself is a lack of faith, not an exercise of it. President Monson said, “Remember that faith and doubt cannot exist in the same mind at the same time, for one will dispel the other. Cast out doubt.”

    “but I just don’t believe that the Lord wanted us to deny blacks their civil rights, neither do I believe that He didn’t want my brother to marry his wife because she was black.”

    I don’t believe that blacks were ever denied any civil rights in the church. Holding the priesthood is not a civil right. It is a privilege bestowed upon those whom the Lord appoints. Certain groups have been disallowed from holding the priesthood from the earliest days, and I don’t buy that it was simply because of racial attitudes. During Moses’ time, of all the tribes of Israel, only the tribe of Levi held the priesthood. That certainly couldn’t have been because of racism since they were all of the same race. The Lord has specific purposes for withholding the priesthood from certain people. Women are not allowed to hold the priesthood. Is this as a result of sexism in the church? Should we question the prophets on this one? In addition, the denying of certain blessings to a certain group by Christ is not unprecedented. The Woman of Canaan asked Christ to cast a devil out of her daughter to which Christ responded, “It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs” (Matt. 15: 26). Christ did cast out the devil according the woman’s faith, but the verse does seem to suggest a preferential attitude towards the Jews. Only after Christ’s resurrection, were his Apostles commanded to “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations,” (Matt. 28: 19). If the gospel was not to be taken to the rest of the nations for a period of time, which would also include a denial of priesthood authority to those people, does that mean that Christ was being a racist?

    I don’t believe that there is anything wrong with your brother marrying a black woman either. Nor is there any policy in the church at this time that would forbid him from doing so. The only reason it was ever “discouraged” (not forbidden) was because of the fact that no children would be able to hold the priesthood and the couple and their children would certainly face difficult social pressures which would only add to the strain of marriage.

    “But if I never question, how do I come to any conclusion as to what is from the Lord and what isn’t?”

    Prayer. You could also just exercise some faith and try to understand difficult teachings, believing that they may have come from God and then try to understand them in that context. It works for me. Regarding the booklet that you linked to, you apparently view it a being full of racist ignorance, but I didn’t view it in that way at all. It made a lot of sense to me. Now whether or not it is true is not for me to say, but I think it presents a very plausible case.

    For example, it is obvious that we had free agency in the pre-existence since we know that one third of the hosts of heaven rebelled and were cast out. If we were able to rebel, then that means that there had to have been varying degrees of righteousness in the pre-existence. Let’s face it, whether we like it or not, some of us were more obedient than others. We might even suggest that the prophets were among the most righteous in the pre-existence, because we know from scriptural evidence that they were foreordained, and I don’t believe that their foreordination was a random thing. I think they exhibited obedience and other characteristics which made them prime choices for that calling. I don’t think that the placement of the rest of us was just random either. I think the Lord knew where to put us and when. But what about those who are born in less than ideal circumstances, say in a third world country ruled by cruel dictatorial regimes? What did they do to deserve that? If they were very obedient in the pre-existent, is that a fair placement if there were others who were much less obedient? I think these questions, which are similar to the ideas posed in the booklet, merit some consideration. But I don’t think that one’s station in mortality makes anyone inferior to another. The Lord is no respector of persons, nor should we be. It is very possible to recognize our differences, yet still realize that we are all of infinite worth and that we all have a divine nature and the potential for exaltation. That is not a call for racist attitudes.

    Here is a link to a blog article that gives an alternate view of the reason for the ban which still maintains that the ban was inspired. The reasons the author gives for why he thinks the ban and other such bans in the Lord’s church at different times deals directly with the issue of racist attitudes. The attitudes are not necessarily those of the prophets who just can’t get past their racism and received revelation based on their own personal biases, but because the prevailing attitudes of the world are racist in nature and the Lord accomodates for those attitudes. The he works to change the hearts and minds of the people in order to bring about his ultimate purpose.

    Either or both of these options I can accept. I just cannot accept that the prophets go around making policy and giving revelations that are not inspired, particularly ones of such importance.

    “If there is truly no need to apologize for this, then I would leave the Church right now because in that case, there would be nothing to stick around for.”

    This (referring to the booklet) is someone’s opinion and I don’t believe it was ever espoused as doctrine. It was an effort to put an explanation to a policy that received no revealed explanation from the Lord. I thought the author did a very good job of showing how, although we may have come into this life with different experiences and demonstrated different levels of obedience in the pre-existence, we are all still equal and we all have the potential to gain exaltation, regardless of race or gender.

    MH,

    Your “arrogant” comment wasn’t exactly tactful, was it?

    I apologize if I was out of line or if I offended you. It wasn’t my intention to be ugly, but rather adding rhetoric to my comment in order to convey the seriousness of what I believe. Perhaps it wasn’t very effective. I am not angry, but I am just speechless at some of the things that have been said.

    “Tara, I know you think I’m out of line for questioning the inspiration for this policy, but can you honestly tell me that McMurrin was not inspired? Can you honestly tell me that McMurrin was wrong? Can you tell me that Alvin Dyer was right and Hugh Brown was wrong on this issue?

    I’ll give you John Dehlin’s comment that he thinks that the Lord needs all of the apostles on board before he will change the policy, but that still tells me that in 1969, 3 of 4 members in the First Presidency, and 1 of 12 apostles voted against changing the policy that year. Of this group of 16 men, the minority opinion of keeping the ban kept the policy. Were they right, and the ones who wanted to lift the ban wrong?”

    I think that while it is possible that racist attitudes prevented a unanimous vote, I also think that it is possible that the division was because the Lord did not reveal it to them. I think that if those who were opposed had received revelation on the matter that they would’ve voted in favor. Do you not see that as a possibility as well? When the policy WAS changed, it was as a result of all the members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve receiving an overwhelming confirmation from the Spirit that it was the right thing to do. It would be interesting to know what all of those involved in the vote in 1969 were feeling and what their reasons were for voting for it or against it.

    Also, the current S.S. teacher in your ward probably hates his calling because he feels like he isn’t a good teacher and hates having to get up in front of people to give a lesson that he knows isn’t good, and all this following the great lessons that you gave which he is probably aware of. Not everyone has a natural talent for teaching. Maybe some help from others with more talent, such as yourself, or insightful comments during the lesson from those attending might help him feel better about himself and his calling. I’m sure that he probably recognizes the poor attendance in his class and that probably doesn’t help him feel any better about himself either.

  21. Here is a link to another related blog post by the same author that I thought was also interesting: Racism and Priesthood

  22. Tara,

    I’m a little disappointed. I tried to calm the rhetoric down when I referred to snippy comments, and you immediately resorted to sarcasm, criticizing both me and Faithful Dissident. I wouldn’t exactly say your comments were “patient, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, or love unfeigned”, especially at the beginning.

    It seems you want me to call you a racist. I feel like you’re egging me on. Why? Will this make you feel better if I resort to name calling? Perhaps I’m mistaken, but I just don’t understand why you keep saying things like “does that mean I am a racist? Do you know me well enough to be comfortable calling me a racist…”

    Would you prefer I call you arrogant because you disagree with me? Should I use some sarcasm about your “uninspired bishop?” Enough with the name calling. You are a friend, and I respect you. Please respect others. It’s sidestepping the real issues here, and isn’t particularly pleasant for anyone.

    Your answer to FD’s dissonance is the typical Sunday School answer: prayer. Let’s see how well that worked for Alvin Dyer and Hugh Brown. Why didn’t they get the same answer? Which one didn’t pray enough? Which one didn’t exercise enough faith?

    (These are not rhetorical questions. I would like your opinion.)

  23. Tara, I went to your links I agree completely with Armaund Mauss.

    Your blog person Jeff says, “God gave the LDS church a racist policy because we were and are racist. The whole nation was. Because of man’s overwelming natural tendancy toward bigotry, Christ’s restored church just narrowly escaped annihilation. ”

    I agree. MAN is racist, not God. God allows racism to exist, but he does not command us to be racist. God does not want racism. I said that already in Joshua’s Unholy War. Where’s the disagreement here?

    Jeff goes on, “Had God’s church started preaching to blacks from the start, preaching equality, and having integrated church meetings; the church would have never survived.”

    If you’re saying God inspired man to be racist, I’ll disagree vehemently. If you say that God allowed us to be racist for the benefit of keeping the church alive, well, I’ll mildly disagree here. There’s some validity to this, but I’ll show you where this logic breaks down.

    Once the Mormons got out of Missouri, the extermination order didn’t exist in Utah, or in NY, or Ohio, or any other of the anti-slavery states. Brigham Young didn’t institute the priesthood ban until safely in Utah of the 1850’s far away from Missouri persecution. Yes, they were persecuted in Utah, but it was polygamy, not slavery now. The Ambassador to Washington counseled Brigham Young against slavery. Brigham Young seems to have completely distanced himself from Joseph Smith’s abolitionist views, precisely when he had the opportunity to start a Zion society far away from the slavery mobs of Missouri. Certainly the northern states were against slavery, because they fought the Civil War because of it. The northern states weren’t annhilated, and would have been quite sympathetic to Joseph’s abolitionist views. That argument just doesn’t hold up, IMO.

    Brigham instituted slavery in the Utah territory to mollify southern converts who were slaveholders, and believed in the protestant doctrines of the Curse of Ham and Cain, and then Orson Hyde added a Mormon angle to the curses by speculating on the pre-existence. When one believes those curses, it sure makes arguments for slavery much more appealing. Racism was not something God commanded, but rather God allowed it to happen. Where is God inspiring or commanding racism?

    His comments,

    “had the missionaries gone to Africa, or to convert slaves here in the US, instead of going to Europe for converts, they would have been astonishingly successful. The faithful, spiritual, and humble US slaves, or people of Africa and other 3rd-world nations would have readily considered and received the true church. However, had that been the case, my ancestors, who were racists because they were taught to be racist, may never have considered the LDS church at all.”

    So, Jeff’s white ancestral converts are loved by God more than these cursed, poor, illiterate blacks in Africa? I don’t think so. Do you think so? If so, God really is a respecter of persons.

    Please remember that the early converts to Christ’s church after his death in Israel, were by far the poorest, most illiterate beings of back-country Galilee. If God can raise up a mighty religion from those poor, illiterate jews, with all his power, he should be able to do it again with poor, illiterate blacks in Africa too. Or is such a thing too hard for God?

  24. All this business about what is false doctrine or not false doctrine confuses me. I sometimes feel like I need to be a rocket scientist to figure it out. Like with the Adam-God theory. Honestly, I still don’t get it. This search for answers sometimes feels like trying to figure out who’s telling the truth in the current election campaigns. Much of it seems to ride on interpretations and uncovering obscure statements by leaders of the Church. I’m not saying they’re wrong, but I have to wonder: did God really intend for it to be so difficult for regular folk to make sense of it all?

    “Then you said that in order for people’s testimonies to be stronger, they need to really examine their own religion. What else am I to make of this, considering all that you said, than that they should look into church history as you have? This seems to me to be a rather foolish approach to gaining a stronger testimony.”

    I don’t like to give people advice about what they should do to gain a testimony. Yes, I admit that I have critical thoughts when I hear testimonies at church and know it’s probably wrong of me to have those thoughts. However, I never voice those thoughts because I think that criticizing someone’s personal testimony is not very Christlike. It’s just my personal belief (for myself) that in order to have a testimony about something, I need to know as much about it as possible – at least if I’m going to have the strongest testimony possible. I’ve had experiences in my life where those who discussed religion with me actually knew more about my Church’s history than I did myself. How embarrassing! Now, with the internet, this is all common knowledge for anyone who wants to know, and I realized that I was very ignorant about much of my own religion that I professed to have a testimony of. I respect your view, but I disagree with you when you say that it’s a foolish approach to gaining a stronger testimony. I agree it’s not the only part of the “recipe,” but it’s a very important element, at least for me personally.

    I think that MH made an important distinction that we tend to forget. Yes, God allows racism to happen, but it doesn’t mean he teaches it or endorses it. In previous conversations I’ve taken part in regarding this issue, I have stated that I am open to the possibility that the ban itself was instituted by God. Although I can’t say I believe this to be true at this time, I have heard all the arguments about the Lord withholding the priesthood or the Gospel from certain groups of people at certain times. So, God MAY have had a reason withholding the priesthood from the black race. We’ve certainly heard many theories as to why it was so, and it’s the theories that I have a problem with, much more than the ban itself. IF the ban itself was inspired by God, then I agree that the Church has nothing to apologize for – regarding the ban itself. I do, however, think that an apology is in order regarding all the myths and false doctrines that were created in trying to justify it.

    “I would prefer to give our leaders the benefit of the doubt and not unfairly brand them as unabashed racists, particularly when they are not here to explain or defend themselves. I don’t like the thought that if I judge them unfairly, that I may stand before them one day and look them in the eye only to find that they are not who I thought they were. How sorry would I feel if I didn’t show them more mercy in my judgements of them?”

    I actually feel I am cutting them plenty of slack. Although I believe that certain leaders were racist, I don’t think that automatically qualifies them to be bad people. I am showing them mercy because I realize that they lived in a different time and much more different political climate than I do today. Take Stapley, for instance. Views like his were simply the result of the ignorance that prevailed among whites of his time. Because he was probably raised with these views, he is simply a product of them. If Stapley were standing in front of me right now, I don’t think I would have any qualms about telling him that I believe he was a racist. He may have done many wonderful things in his life, for which I would commend him, but his views about blacks was not one of them. I have encountered this even in my personal life. I am of mixed race (Hispanic-white) and I have several family members who are black or a mix of black-white or black-hispanic. My maternal grandmother is Mexican, a strong member of the Church and wonderful woman, but is a racist. Maybe not towards blacks or Hispanics, but definitely towards indigenous people of Mexico. It stems from ignorance and probably by being raised to believe that they were a better class than the Indians, even though the truth is that she was dirt poor herself. And then there is my paternal grandmother. Born and raised in England, also a wonderful woman in many ways, she came to Canada and brought her racist views with her. When my dad married my mom, there were of course concerns about marrying a non-white woman. And these concerns escalated when my brother married a black woman. (My grandmother is, by the way, also a member of the Church, but semi-active.) Eventually, I had had enough and I called her on it. Although I was initially extremely upset, I came to understand why she had those views. Once again, it was purely the result of ignorance and lack of exposure. Back in those days, she would never see a black person in England. If she did, no doubt they were a servant. She was raised to believe that she was of a higher class, that the races should never mix, and so when her own family started to do so, you can imagine the shame she felt. After confronting her, she acknowledged her ignorance and I believe that she is truly sorry for it, even though I don’t feel confident that she really feels any differently. Once racism creeps into people’s lives, it’s very, very difficult to eradicate. Sadly, in the Church it is also so.

    “I don’t believe that blacks were ever denied any civil rights in the church. Holding the priesthood is not a civil right.”

    Tara, I wasn’t referring to civil rights in the Church. I was referring to the black civil rights movement of the 1960’s, in which George Romney was taking part (hence Stapley’s reason for sending Romney the letter), and the “justification” for preventing this given by Stapley. I just don’t understand what black civil rights (under the law of the land) had to do with whether or not blacks could get the priesthood in the LDS Church. To me, it’s absolutely irrelevant, but Stapley was not alone in his stance, which is evident in the opening of that letter. Although he doesn’t say so explicitly, I get the feeling that even President McKay had problems with Romney’s involvement in the black civil rights movement.

    “Women are not allowed to hold the priesthood. Is this as a result of sexism in the church?”

    Well, some would say yes. I personally don’t feel so, because I’ve never been made to feel that women did something bad in the pre-existence or second class citizens and therefore shouldn’t receive the priesthood.

    “Do you know me well enough to be comfortable calling me a racist even if I accept the plausibility of the “less valiant” theory? If so, I question your judgement.”

    No, I haven’t yet read anything to indicate to me that you are racist. I don’t think that people who accept the “less valiant” theory automatically become racists for doing so. But I do believe that the theory itself is based on racism, or at best, plain ignorance or misguided speculation.

    “If we were able to rebel, then that means that there had to have been varying degrees of righteousness in the pre-existence. Let’s face it, whether we like it or not, some of us were more obedient than others. We might even suggest that the prophets were among the most righteous in the pre-existence, because we know from scriptural evidence that they were foreordained, and I don’t believe that their foreordination was a random thing.”

    I agree. I don’t think there is very much that is random with God. But automatically labelling an entire race as “less valiant” is not just speculation and theory, but also damaging. Only God knows the reasons for why He puts that person exactly then and there on the earth and to sum it up the way it was summed up in that booklet is, in my opinion, all too dangerously black and white. In order for that theory to hold, we have to accept that AIDS orphans are born into squalour and misery because they didn’t demonstrate the same obedience to God that Paris Hilton did, because she was born white in the USA into a family of privilege and potential. It just seems absurd to me. (OK, maybe Paris was one of God’s most valiant spirits. Who am I to judge? But that’s exactly my point.)

    “But what about those who are born in less than ideal circumstances, say in a third world country ruled by cruel dictatorial regimes? What did they do to deserve that? If they were very obedient in the pre-existent, is that a fair placement if there were others who were much less obedient? I think these questions, which are similar to the ideas posed in the booklet, merit some consideration.”

    I have a personal theory for which I have absolutely no proof or scripture to back it up with. It’s purely the result of thinking about this a lot. I personally believe that those who are born into the worst of circumstances (like that AIDS orphan I mentioned above) were probably the most valiant of spirits that had the least to prove to God in this mortal life and He wants to spare them from the pride and corruption that comes through material wealth. Perhaps some were so special and Christlike that they didn’t need much more than to gain a body. And those of us who have been given so much have much, much more to prove. It’s up to us to reach out to those who have less and we were given everything to see what we would do with it. And one of our greatest tests will be to see whether we will rescue those in need (or assume that they earned their earthly state through pre-existent disobedience). Now, once again, this theory is actually too black and white to be entirely true, since there are good and bad people everywhere. I’m not God, so I can’t look at individual circumstances with the same wisdom, but it’s just a general idea that I’ve had personally.

  25. MH,

    “I’m a little disappointed. I tried to calm the rhetoric down when I referred to snippy comments, and you immediately resorted to sarcasm, criticizing both me and Faithful Dissident.”

    I apologize for the sarcasm. I didn’t mean to be offensive, seriously, and although I can see the sarcasm, I’m not sure where I criticized you or TFD in my most recent comment. I’m also not completely sure where the sarcasm is except for this one sentence which I can understand would come across as sarcastic: “He also believes that his Bishop, who was so obviously uninspired in removing MH from his teaching position, was squelching his ability to teach true doctrine and root out false doctrine by replacing him with someone unequal to his superior teaching abilities.” Is this specifically what you are referring to, or is there more? I realize that I phrased this in a sarcastic manner, though I didn’t intend it to come across that way. I felt that phrasing it any other way would not be as concise. It would’ve ended up something like this: “MH disagrees with his Bishop in replacing him because the things he was teaching were things that, in MH’s mind, enhanced the lesson and corrected false doctrines or false ideas that are prevalent in the church, but the Bishop thought that the things he was teaching may have been damaging to the fragile testimonies of some members because they were not in accord with ‘accepted doctrine.’ This would lead one to believe that MH doesn’t feel that the Bishop was inspired in this decision.”

    “It seems you want me to call you a racist. I feel like you’re egging me on. Why? Will this make you feel better if I resort to name calling? Perhaps I’m mistaken, but I just don’t understand why you keep saying things like “does that mean I am a racist? Do you know me well enough to be comfortable calling me a racist…””

    This comment wasn’t directed at you but was directed at TFD because of the statement she made which said: “But anyone who accepts all the “reasons” for why the priesthood ban must have the same racial prejudices that guys like Stapley obviously had.” And this wasn’t an attempt at egging on either, nor do I keep saying things like this. I am just very uncomfortable with the label of racist that seems so easily leveled, and I wonder if I too will be tagged with it simply because I can understand and accept the possible legitimacy of views that you and TFD consider racist. But I’m not a racist. Since the term racist has many different levels of meaning ranging from hate, intolerance, violence, to discriminatory policies that have no basis in hate or intolerance, I just don’t feel comfortable saying that someone is a racist because he is doing God’s will and has no hate or malice towards blacks, as is the case of some of our past leaders. I just think the term should be used more discriminantly and more appropriately reserved for those who’s views are full of hate. I’m sure past leaders had some racist ideas, but I don’t think that they were truly racist in their hearts. While so many of the things they’ve said sounds harsh, there are also so many things that convey a great deal of compassion towards black people.

    While Brigham Young allowed slave-holding, he said that it should not be a forced servitude. He believed that the slaves should be able to decide for themselves if they would remain in servitude or if they would go free. I see that as very progressive for his time and a very good middle-ground in the whole controversy. It allowed those from the South to have slaves and remain in the church, but at the same time, it was not going to be a matter of forced slavery. If the slavery wasn’t forced, who can argue with that? Today, people hire full-time servants, maids, nanny’s. How is that much different? It was a means of support and employment for people who otherwise might not have any other work to do to support themselves and their families, and they had their needs taken care of–food, shelter, clothing, etc. Consider the racism of the country and tell me if you think that if all the slaves were freed, would they have been able to find any other sort of employment? Perhaps some could, but do you think a majority of them would? By adopting a policy of choice in the matter, and a strong policy of humane treatment of the slaves, they were in a situation where they were among the Saints in a better environment than they might have been elsewhere. I won’t say that conditions were perfect because I know there were still issues, but maybe it was an ideal postition for Brigham to adopt. I just can’t call such a good man a racist when I believe in my heart that that is not who he is.

    “Your answer to FD’s dissonance is the typical Sunday School answer: prayer. Let’s see how well that worked for Alvin Dyer and Hugh Brown. Why didn’t they get the same answer? Which one didn’t pray enough? Which one didn’t exercise enough faith?

    (These are not rhetorical questions. I would like your opinion.)”

    Do you deny that the typical S.S. answer is valid? Should we also put that doctrine into question? The Lord does answer prayers. He just doesn’t always answer them how we want them to or when we want them to. As for Alvin Dyer and Hugh Brown, if it wasn’t in the Lord’s timetable to reveal the change in policy at that time, then their prayers wouldn’t have changed that. I don’t think it’s fair to automatically assume that this was all based on racial prejudices when there is no solid proof that it was. I asked the question in my comment to you concerning the 1969 vote and how all those on both sides of the issue came to the conclusions they did. Was it a matter of prayer, or was it simply a matter of personal conviction? Did those who voted for the proposed change say that they received divine confirmation in their decision? Did those who voted against it make it a matter of prayer or were they just going off of their own feelings or prejudices? Maybe those who voted against the change didn’t think that the matter was being undertaken in the proper manner. It was apparent from what you quoted that some of the members felt it was a policy that could be changed administratively, and then there were others who believed it would need to be changed through revelation. It seems likely to me that those who were in favor of the change were reacting to public pressure. Is this a sufficient reason to make changes in the church. If this is truly the Lord’s church, shouldn’t serious matters be handled through revelation, particularly when so many of the past leaders made it clear that the policy was inspired? In one of the comments from BRoz in one of the blog articles I linked to, he said, ” If you study about the LDS church in Africa and the african saints who wrote letters pleading for baptism, you would know that the church leaders were constantly pleading with God to revoke the policy. Finally the revelation came. If we had just made it up, then why didn’t we cave under the pressure of the civil right’s movement?” I don’t know the source of this information or whether it is true, but if it is, then the fact that the brethren were taking this issue in a prayerful manner would confirm what I said about it not being in the Lord’s timetable. But maybe after time, the brethren felt that because the Lord seemed to be silent on the issue that it was a sign that the policy was strictly administrative in nature and tried to change it that way. Then you have others who felt strongly that it wasn’t simply administrative in nature, but that it was inspired and needed to be changed through revelation. It seems that maybe they were just very eager to make the change and some were more patient than others in waiting for it to happen.

    “Tara, I went to your links I agree completely with Armaund Mauss.”

    Why am I not suprised? :o)

    “I agree. MAN is racist, not God. God allows racism to exist, but he does not command us to be racist. God does not want racism. I said that already in Joshua’s Unholy War. Where’s the disagreement here?”

    I agree as well that man is racist, not God. But I do believe that God may have intended a separation of the races for a purpose, which is technically a form of racism, but not what I really consider true racism. He confounded the languages for a purpose. So why would he create different races of people? Our attitudes towards other races are not of God, but I believe he put distinctions between us for a purpose, otherwise, what is the point? Just to create an ideal environment for racist attitudes to grow and fester? Was it simply just another test of our mortality? I agree that God doesn’t want racism in the form of hate and intolerance, but I do believe that it is possible that he may promote a type of racism in the distinctions that he has created, not for punishment or retribution, but for protection. I will go into this a little more in my response to TFD.

    “If you’re saying God inspired man to be racist, I’ll disagree vehemently. If you say that God allowed us to be racist for the benefit of keeping the church alive, well, I’ll mildly disagree here. There’s some validity to this, but I’ll show you where this logic breaks down….”

    I understand your point here, and I agree that the Saints were safe from the mobs in Utah when it appeared that Brigham backed away from the church’s prior abolitionist stance, but I don’t see how this contradicts BRoz’s (not Jeff’s) idea that the church wouldn’t have survived if it had started preaching equality from the beginning. It wasn’t a matter of mobs, it was a matter of racism within the church itself and from gaining potential converts from among the white poplulation as a result.

    “So, Jeff’s white ancestral converts are loved by God more than these cursed, poor, illiterate blacks in Africa? I don’t think so. Do you think so? If so, God really is a respecter of persons.”

    No. But this accords perfectly with what the scriptures and with what McConkie has said regarding the gospel going forth from one nation to the next. Blacks were not denied entrance into the church, they were just not allowed to hold the priesthood. Until that policy was reversed, there was really no point in going to Africa to preach and baptize because there would be little or no priesthood authority there to support the membership. But I could, and I have, asked the same question about the Gospel going forth to the Gentiles during Christ’s ministry. Weren’t the Gentiles loved by God just as much as the Jews?

    TFD,

    “All this business about what is false doctrine or not false doctrine confuses me. I sometimes feel like I need to be a rocket scientist to figure it out. Like with the Adam-God theory.”

    I agree that determining what is and is not doctrine is a difficult thing. I’m sure it wasn’t intended to be, and we probably make it more difficult than it really is. Anyway, here is a link to an “Encyclopedia of Mormonism” article on doctrine that might help. In all reality, it was Joseph Smith’s desire for there not to be a lot of doctrine in order to prevent contention over points of doctrine within the church. Maybe it does prevent contention, but that’s not stopping us now, is it?

    Anyway, did you read the link about the Adam-God theory? If so, are you still confused, and if so, what is the source of your confusion?

    “Honestly, I still don’t get it. This search for answers sometimes feels like trying to figure out who’s telling the truth in the current election campaigns. Much of it seems to ride on interpretations and uncovering obscure statements by leaders of the Church. I’m not saying they’re wrong, but I have to wonder: did God really intend for it to be so difficult for regular folk to make sense of it all?”

    Maybe you are just unconsciously complicating things. We have been promised that the Lord will not allow the prophet to lead us astray. I personally think that the prophets were and are right on so many more things than people give them credit for. Some of the things they say may not make sense to us because we don’t have all of the context and I think that some of that may be intentional so that the pure seeker of light and knowledge will be able to understand it. For example, some people are or were not ready for the Adam/God doctrine, and God allows for that, with the line upon line and milk before meat approach. That’s why the Adam/God doctrine has become obscured. But not prophet has outright said that it is a false doctrine. That’s why when Joseph tried to openly teach the doctrine of plural marriage, he had to publicly take back everything he said about it, and then continue teaching it only in private and lying about it in order for it and the church to continue.

    “We’ve certainly heard many theories as to why it was so, and it’s the theories that I have a problem with, much more than the ban itself. IF the ban itself was inspired by God, then I agree that the Church has nothing to apologize for – regarding the ban itself. I do, however, think that an apology is in order regarding all the myths and false doctrines that were created in trying to justify it.”

    This is just where I have to say that we have to have faith in our leaders. If we do, we will be blessed, even if they are wrong.

    Are the words of Elder McConkie in denouncing the speculations of the past not, in some ways, an apology? I think the leaders of the church are wonderful and humble men and I have faith that if an apology is the right thing for them to do, then they will. But I don’t think expecting an apology from people who had nothing to do with the speculations is appropriate. That’s like asking me to apologize for the sins of my ancestors. If I am harmed in some way, an apology from someone who had nothing to do with it is not going to help me feel better. I think we can look to the current church policy and the words of our leaders who advocate tolerance and love for all mankind and who shun racism to see that we have moved on from the racist philosophies of the past. That, to me, means more than any apology ever could.

    “I don’t think there is very much that is random with God. But automatically labelling an entire race as “less valiant” is not just speculation and theory, but also damaging.”

    How is that damaging any more than being assigned to different kingdoms in the resurrection based on our level of obedience in this life?

    “Only God knows the reasons for why He puts that person exactly then and there on the earth and to sum it up the way it was summed up in that booklet is, in my opinion, all too dangerously black and white.”

    I tend to believe as well that it isn’t all black and white either. But do you not think that it’s possible that there were spirits who were less obedient in the pre-existence and who, because of their humble circumstances, were able to attain a level of righteousness that they wouldn’t have in more favorable circumstances? Maybe this life of hardship and servitude, though an unpleasant thought, would serve to lift them up in the end, and teach them things that they otherwise might not learn. This type of existence, when viewed in a proper perspective, should not be viewed as a punishment, which is something that the booklet, “Mormonism and the Negro,” points out. It can be viewed as a protection for those, who in more favorable circumstances, might have rejected the Savior and dishonored their priesthood. A quote from the booklet says, “While the Negro and others of Negroid blood cannot hold the Priesthood, in this stage of life,…neither are any of them likely to become Sons of Perdition – as many of the Priesthood bearers might become. Again in this we see the justice and mercy of God; that while in certain stage of existence a man cannot attain the highest blessings, neither is he so subject to the danger of falling to the lowest state.”

    There is a poem that I really like, which I found on LDS.org, though I don’t remember right now who it was written by, although it’s on the site if you want to look it up, but it reflects well the potential spiritual growth that all that the slaves, or any who may suffer heavy burdens can gain:

    “It’s not a curse but a gift t’us,
    The best path we could seek
    A place where God can lift us
    We kneel; our knees is weak
    And when one of us is kneelin’,
    We understand his fears.
    We know what all us is feelin’
    We cry each other’s tears.
    That’s just what Jesus done
    For all us human folk.
    He agreed to come get born
    To feel ever’ pain and poke.
    So’s he could understand us,
    What it is to be a slave.
    So’s he could get beneath us
    And push us outa the grave
    Would you rather be the massa
    Or the Roman with his whip?
    Would you rather nail the Savior–
    Put vinegar to his lip?
    Or learn the lessons of sufferin’–
    How we nothin’ without grace.
    Jesus, He give us a callin’
    He gifted us our race.”

    Now if we accept all this, we might be inclined to believe that it was God who caused this. But the way I see it is that it wasn’t God who caused it, but God who knew the inevitability of the cruelty of man, which he allowed, and he placed those of his spirit children who would benefit most from those kinds of situations. If you look at the pattern of righteousness and wickedness in the Book of Mormon, you see that when the Nephites were righteous, they prospered, but when they fell into wickedness because of the easiness of the way, the Lord allowed them to suffer in such ways as being destroyed by their enemies, or suffering from famine or other natural disasters. It is necessary for the Lord to chasten his people when they forget and reject him, and sometimes it is to bring them back to a state which makes them more open to receiving him.

    Do I think it is all black and white, cut and paste? No. I think that even if we accept the less-valiant theory, I think you could also allow the possibility that there were spirits among the noble and great ones who requested to be born into those conditions because they wanted to be put in a position to help their brothers and sisters. If we can allow for this possibility, then there is no reason that we have to assume that all black people were less-valiant, but that there are among them some or even many who were not less-valiant, but who were so incredibly valiant that they took it upon themselves to come into a miserable existence for a cause that was greater than themselves.

    As far as Paris Hilton, I think that at this point in the history of this country at least (considering the great strides in overcoming racism that have been made) it isn’t as important what race less-obedient spirits are sent to as it is a matter of individual circumstance. I don’t think you could consider the condition that Paris was born to as ideal. Doesn’t it say in the scriptures that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven? Maybe there are all kinds of challenging circumstances to which less-obedient spirits were and are assigned. Maybe there’s some protection or opportunity for growth for Paris, and others like her, here that we may not see.

    There are so many possibilities and who knows which one is right. I do agree however, that it isn’t all black and white. It can’t be. That just wouldn’t make sense. But I believe that there must have been a reason beyond racism that prevented blacks, or the seed of Cain, from holding the priesthood from nearly the beginning of time.

    “I personally believe that those who are born into the worst of circumstances (like that AIDS orphan I mentioned above) were probably the most valiant of spirits that had the least to prove to God in this mortal life and He wants to spare them from the pride and corruption that comes through material wealth. Perhaps some were so special and Christlike that they didn’t need much more than to gain a body.”

    I’ve heard similar theories before, but I’m not sure that theory holds up to scrutiny. If we are to believe such a theory, then if such spirits were truly so valiant, then how would they not be able to resist the pride and corruption that comes through material wealth? It also fails on the point of being damaging in the same way that the less-valiants theory supposedly does, except that the more righteous group is a bunch of cuddly little babies who no one could dare feel resentful towards. But anyway, we have this group of souls who are better than all the rest of us. I think my self-esteem is damaged. 🙂 Just kidding. I have a headache now from having to think so much about all this so at this point, I think I’ll take a break.

    By the way, I may not have much time to comment this weekend and for at least part of next week because I am having back surgery on Tuesday. I will jump back in when I can.

  26. Tara,

    I hope your surgery goes will. I am sure that will not be a fun experience. I have had some minor back problems, and know how painful that can be. I pray for a speedy recovery.

    Let me explain myself on some interpersonal communications, because it relates to the topic at hand. Certainly the comment you referenced was part of the problem, and your rephrasing was better, though I think you are still jumping to a conclusion in your re-phrase which I did not make regarding the inspiration of my bishop. Regarding my teaching, I do not know whether he was inspired or not to release me. Perhaps he was, perhaps he was not. I’m completely undecided. Most likely, it was a combination of factors, and I don’t think it’s quite so simple as your statement implies. Perhaps it was part bias, and part inspiration. At this point, I don’t feel comfortable making a definitive conclusion. Either way, I felt the comment was more of an attack, than a true discussion of inspiration, and certainly wasn’t a core issue of the priesthood ban. As such, it seemed out of line to me, and seemed like a diversion.

    Regarding your criticism of FD, it was very subtle, and probably unconscious on your part. I don’t think it was intentional, but I do think it was thoughtless. I’ve seen orthodox folks do this many times, and they always seem surprised when someone takes offense. When FD mentioned struggles with certain doctrines, your answer was to pray. I have a few problems with this line of reasoning. First, there is an implied assumption that FD has not prayed, or has not prayed of a sufficient quality to merit a “proper” answer. The proper answer is the same answer which you have received. You characterized my criticism of church leaders as “arrogant”, (whether my comments referred to a gospel doctrine teacher, or a prophet such as Joshua or Brigham Young), yet you are equally guilty of arrogance to imply that FD didn’t exercise enough faith, or pray enough, or go to church enough, or talk to her bishop enough, or some other lack of righteousness which is causing her to err by questioning the priesthood ban.

    Yes, your criticism of FD was not as overt as my criticism of church leaders. Does that make it more acceptable? Many people think that it probably is, but I disagree. I do not think you had any malice towards FD, yet the answer was condescending, even if unintentional on your part. To me this brings up the “mote and beam” parable that Christ talks about. Yes, you saw the mote in my eye in the form of criticism, but you failed to see the beam in your own eye in your much more subtle criticism in your “prayer” answer. I think that is what makes that particular parable so interesting, because the beam in our own eyes is almost invisible to us.

    Yes, I certainly have beams in my eyes as well. My “twisted” comment comes to mind. I did not recognize it as offensive until it was pointed out by you. I am sure I have many other beams in my eyes, and I’m sure that you and many others can point them out, though I think that if we concentrate on each others’ beams, we will degenerate into a discussion of pointing out each others’ sins, instead of keeping focused on the topic at hand.

    Your questions about whether she felt comfortable calling you a racist were troubling as well to me. It seemed like attacking questions, as if you were daring anyone to call you a racist. Yet by your “prayer” answer, you seemed pretty comfortable implicitly telling FD that she didn’t pray enough, or exercise enough faith, or else she obviously would have come to the same conclusions on this topic as you have. Once again, the beam and mote parable comes to mind. Many church members implicitly tell people who disagree with them, that the other person lacks faith, and the certain remedy is to fast more, go to the temple more, read scriptures more, or some other practice that the other person must be so obviously lacking. I find this logic extremely judgmental. Do you really feel comfortable making this implied accusation to FD (or myself), based on these few comments on my blog? I’ll bet that if I asked you questions about FD’s faithfulness in this “egging” manner, that you would be troubled by my questions as well.

    Hopefully that is all we need to talk about regarding interpersonal communications, and I’d like to get back to the topic at hand. As a segue, I’d like to compare this overt/covert criticism to the overt/covert racism that we are talking about. I know you take issue with my free use of the word racist to describe church leaders’ comments. In the podcast, Darron Smith talks about overt racism, and covert racism. Brigham’s comments are much more covert. He is not advocating burning crosses on the black man’s yard, or lynching blacks, or anything that is so obviously racist.

    But his invoking the curses of Cain and Ham are much more covert racism, than overt racism. Perhaps you would be more comfortable with the word prejudice than racism. If so, feel free to substitute the word prejudice with the word racist most of the times I have used it. It makes no difference to me, and I will endeavor to use the word “prejudice” instead of “racist” if that is more palatable to you.

    This is really turning into more of a semantic argument (which I will get into later), and is not really a substantive distinction. In reality, John Taylor’s linking of blacks to Satan is racist. Prejudice does not truly capture the essence of how bad Taylor’s logic is— racist is the only applicable word to me because his statement is overt. Some of the other brethren’s comments can be termed prejudiced since they are a more covert form of racism. Even still, it is prejudice on the basis of race, not gender, national origin, sexual orientation, or any of the other ways a person can be prejudiced.

    In my mind, racist is an accurate label, but if you want me to use prejudice, then I will try to make a better distinction from this point forward. Perhaps you can come up with a better word that we can agree on, such as unenlightened. But whether one chooses to call some of these past statements unenlightened, prejudiced, or racist, the label is still going to be critical of these racially insensitive remarks. I doubt that we can use a word that will satisfy all members who refuse to be critical of statements by church leaders. I am open to more palatable words, even if I may not totally agree with their accuracy on this topic.

    Secondly, the other problem with your “prayer” answer is it is overly simplistic. It is as if, “OK, God, I have a question. Give me the answer.” And he immediately answers it. While you’ll say, “no, it’s not that simple, sometimes it takes time.’ Yes I agree. But sometimes, the answer never comes. That is why I asked you to tell me which apostle didn’t get the answer when he prayed. You danced around the issue, and never chose Dyer or Brown, yet you were so quick to judge FD.

    Now, as I’ve mentioned several times, I didn’t include everything from the podcast. In the 1950’s or 60’s (I’d have to go back and listen, but I think it was the 60’s), President McKay specifically directed the Twelve to research this issue, find out everything they could, pray, etc. So, I would be shocked to find out if they did not pray on this issue. There was a unanimous vote by the Quorum of 12 in 1969 (except for Harold B Lee who was not there), lifting the ban. Yet, the First Presidency got a different answer! Studying it out in your mind and prayer (and probably fasting) did not result in the apostles and prophets coming to a unanimous conclusion. It is unfair to imply that if FD or I probably did not pray correctly enough to come to the same conclusions you do.

    I need to correct a mistake that I made earlier. I said 3 of 4 members of the First Presidency, but there was actually 6 people in the First Presidency in 1969. The presidency consisted of Pres McKay, 1st Hugh Brown, 2nd N Eldon Tanner, 3rd Thorpe Isaacson, 4th Joseph Fielding Smith, 5th Alvin Dyer. Isaacson and Dyer hold the distinction of being apostles who were not part of the Quorum of 12, and when Pres McKay died in Jan 1970, they were released as apostles, and returned to their positions as Asst to the 12. Dyer holds another distinction of being the only person to be ordained an apostle first, and then ordained to be a Seventy (which happened in 1976.)

    Prince outlines that all the apostles present unanimously agreed to lift the ban. We know that Apostle Harold B Lee came back and opposed it, as well as Dyer. Most likely, McKay did as well. It is not clear how Thorpe, Tanner, or Smith responded, or whether they were part of the meetings with the Twelve. Thorpe suffered a stroke in 1966, and may not have been part of the discussions. (His stroke is the reason Dyer was added to the First Presidency.) Anyway, this is a clear example of righteous men praying, and coming to different conclusions. Why are you and FD different?

    Certainly blacks such as Darius Gray hoped the ban would be lifted, and Gray says he felt that the lifting of the ban would not occur in his lifetime. A skeptic may say that it seems the NAACP was more in tune on this issue than the First Presidency. McMurrin seemed more in tune. Perhaps the mission president in S Africa was more in tune. Hugh Brown seemed to sense what the Lord wanted more than McKay. This would not be the first time something like this happened.

    It seems that back in the 1850’s, God was busy inspiring Harriet Tubman, Abraham Lincoln, Stephen Douglass, and the northern states that slavery was wrong. Yet Brigham tried to hide slavery with the euphemism “service.” Quoting from above, “When someone asked Joseph Smith, what if this person wants to come to Nauvoo, but he wants to bring 50 slaves with him. The answer was ‘Tell him – Free his slaves, educate them, and then come and join us in Nauvoo.'” Why did Brigham Young call a slaveholding apostle? This is directly contradictory to Joseph’s teachings. According to Joseph, Rich’s slaves should have been freed first. How do you explain this contradiction?

    Tara, your trying to excuse slavery is all semantics. Brigham called it “service”, not “slavery.” That’s semantics. You tried to equate slavery to being just like a housekeeper. Well, there’s some major differences. A housekeeper can quit her job if she doesn’t like it, while a slave can’t. A housekeeper doesn’t have her husband sold to someone else. Her children aren’t given away as wedding presents like Green Flake was. A housekeeper has disposable income, and can choose to live far away from her employer. Perhaps your argument sits well with white, orthodox, Utah Mormons, but I doubt it would work on any other audience. I’ll bet that if you gave that line of reasoning to a black audience, you would probably have tomatoes thrown at you (or worse) for trying to equate slavery to a housekeeper. I find it ironic that you take issue with my free use of the word racist, and then you try to equate slavery to service. That kind of logic was prevalent in the antebellum south, but I don’t think anyone should seriously consider it today.

    I do not know why God created blacks, whites, Asians, Hawaiians. I disagree with you about God intending us to be separated. I must quote Rodney King: “Can’t we all just get along?” I think that’s what God intended, not a separation into races. The Nephites and Lamanites lived for 200 years and there were no –ites. I think that is what God intended. I’m more inclined to think it is a test than that God bred us to be racist.

    Broz says the church wouldn’t have survived if it taught equality from the beginning. First of all, this is pure speculation on his part, and I think it is poor speculation. If he’s allowed to speculate, then I will too. Secondly, Joseph did teach equality from the mid-1830’s onward, which is pretty darn near the beginning. Third, half the nation (and a much larger army) fought in the northern armies of the Civil War. Plenty of churches in the north taught equality and survived. What evidence is there that slavery would have brought down the church?

    I think it is much more plausible to say that the church would have thrived in the north, and had many northern converts because of an anti-slavery stance. Sure, the church would have been unpopular in the South, but with the deaths of Joseph Standing and Parley P Pratt, I can’t say that Mormons were ever real popular down there. I can’t think of any missionaries killed in the North.

    The real threat to the church’s survival was polygamy, which was despised by both the North and the South. I just don’t see slavery as a death knell to the church, except in Missouri. With the saints moving west, mob violence wasn’t a threat to the church any more. As I said before, nobody was putting a gun to Brigham’s head in Utah and telling him to encourage slavery. Certainly slaveholding apostle Charles Rich wanted slavery legalized, but I don’t think he coerced Brigham. Besides, Emma stayed behind in Nauvoo, and her son helped start the Reorganized church, which kept the abolitionist stance. It still survives to this day (now renamed as the Community of Christ.) I find Broz’s speculation highly flawed.

    I don’t understand your point about white converts or black converts. Why does it matter what color people are? As I mentioned above, I think Joseph’s abolitionist ideas were popular in the North. I can’t see that as a hindrance to white converts in the North. I don’t think that blacks would have converted in droves, unless Joseph had made an effort to send missionaries to Africa, which apparently did not cross his mind. Besides, many converts came from England, which was highly abolitionist back then too. (The bigger hindrance to Mormonism was polygamy, not slavery.)

    “this accords perfectly with what the scriptures and with what McConkie has said regarding the gospel going forth from one nation to the next.” Ok you’re preaching folklore here. McConkie spoke with diminished light when he said this. It sure sounds convenient when one believes in the curses, as McConkie did when he said this. Sure there is an element of truth to this, but with Elijah joining the church in 1832, there should have been no prohibition to black converts, and I doubt there would have been if Joseph Smith would have lived longer.

    “Blacks were not denied entrance into the church…” Semantics. Once again, I will disagree with you. The mission president was told not to teach blacks in South Africa, and this was a common practice throughout the church. However, Elijah Abel was told specifically to preach only to “his kind.” Abel’s directions to teach blacks are contradicted by the later policy to avoid teaching blacks. (See South Africa story above.) For all practical purposes, blacks were denied the opportunity to learn about the church ever since Brigham Young, and therefore this is essentially a a covert ban, not an overt ban. Sure, if a black person approached the church, they could have joined, but with instructions not to actively teach them, why would a black person join? For all intents and purposes, this was a ban.

    “Weren’t the Gentiles loved by God just as much as the Jews?” Yes, they were, and it is racism that prevented the spread of the gospel to Gentiles too. Racism dates back to at least Abraham, and if you still believe the Curse of Cain was the black skin (which I don’t) then racism probably dates to Cain. That’s what I’ve been saying all along. Your examples are just reinforcing what I’ve said: racism is as old as man, and never has been commanded by God. (I could get into the Curse of Cain— the scriptures explicitly say it was a mark. It could have been a birth mark, or a scar for all we know. It is a protestant idea that this mark was the black skin. I dare you to find a scripture saying the mark was black skin.)

    “Are the words of Elder McConkie in denouncing the speculations of the past not, in some ways, an apology?” Semantics.

    “That’s like asking me to apologize for the sins of my ancestors.” Ok, but if it made someone feel better that you apologized for your ancestors, are you harmed in any way? It sounds like a win-win to me, or at least a tie-win. Why would you refuse to do something that doesn’t harm you, yet make them feel better? I’ll bet you have apologized for something you didn’t do, because it made the situation better. You have probably apologized because the issue was probably something insignificant to you, and you could tell the other person made a much bigger deal of the issue. I’ll bet the situation involved one of your children. Tell me I’m wrong.

    I have spent a lot of time on this topic, and will probably be posting on less time-consuming topics in the future. I have 2 really tough classes, and a thesis, and the semester is getting tough. So, I definitely will be taking a break as well. But it has been fun batting these ideas around, and I hope I didn’t offend. If so, please let me know of my beams, and I will repent, and resolve to write more respectfully and thoughtfully in the future.

    Tara, please know that I truly respect you and value your friendship, in spite of our theological disagreements. Frankly, I’m pretty sure we agree on most topics, but it can be fun to explore some controversy. Get well soon, and God be with you.

  27. I came across an interesting post at http://mormoninsights.blogspot.com/2008/09/genealogies-and-status-of-jesus.html regarding the genealogy of Jesus. With permission of that website’s author, I would like to take a few excerpts that focus on some topics we are discussing. If this is wrong, I will remove the excerpts, as he has copyrighted his work, and I hope I am not unintentionally breaking his copyright.

    Allen mentions that Jesus was no respector of genealogies. I’ll add that we shouldn’t be either (and when I refer to genealogies, I’m referring to race in this instance.) God could raise up seed from stones if he chose, so why not blacks? He says that Jesus wanted racial prejudices to be gone, and quotes from the Pres Kimball’s book.

    Spencer W. Kimball, Faith Precedes the Miracle, p.294 – p.295
    The Lord would have eliminated bigotry and class distinction. He talked to the Samaritan woman at the well, healed the centurion’s kin, and blessed the child of the Canaanitish woman. And though he personally came to the “lost sheep of the House of Israel” and sent his apostles first to them rather than to the Samaritans and other gentiles, yet he later sent Paul to bring the gospel to the gentiles and revealed to Peter that the gospel was for all. The prejudices were deep rooted in Peter, and it took a vision from heaven to help him cast off his bias. ”

    From Paul, we see that genealogy shouldn’t afford any special privileges. This is contrary to the idea that the curses of Cain and Ham somehow disqualified blacks from the priesthood.

    ” Romans 4:1
    1 ¶ WHAT shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?
    2 For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath [whereof] to glory; but not before God.
    3 For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. ”

    I encourage others to check out the article. It is well written.

  28. Faithful Dissident talks about how the apostle Paul erred when he participated in the persecutions of Christians. this is a great example of how even holy men can be misguided at times.

    Check out http://thefaithfuldissident.blogspot.com/2008/09/murder-as-bad-as-we-think.html

  29. MH, that quote from Pres. Kimball is very interesting. I was curious about what year he said that, but I can’t find it. The book “Faith Precedes the Miracle” is listed as 2001 in Amazon, so that doesn’t help much. I’m guessing that this quote is post-1978, though. I have a hard time imagining him saying it before that. Particularly in reference to “deep-rooted prejudices.”

  30. Tara,

    My apologies for not responding to your last comment sooner. But I do hope that your surgery went well and that you are making a speedy recovery! 🙂

    Just wanted to mention that that Adam-God link that you wanted me to look at didn’t work. That’s why I haven’t responded to it.

    Just a few thoughts in response to some of your comments:

    “This is just where I have to say that we have to have faith in our leaders. If we do, we will be blessed, even if they are wrong. ”

    I agree with you. I believe that the Lord will bless those who are obedient to the prophet, even if he’s wrong. If the Lord didn’t, then it wouldn’t seem quite fair. At the same time, though, the Lord doesn’t expect — or even desire — that we go on blind faith. For most Mormons, the fact that “the prophet said…” is good enough for them. It’s the only litmus test for what’s right and correct. No need to even ask questions. Now, you may ask why anyone would want to disagree with the prophet when we’ll be blessed for agreeing with him, even if he’s wrong. If I follow him in all things, the blessings are a guarantee. So why spoil such a guarantee? I guess I don’t really have much of an answer except that it has something to do with what feels right. Call it “conscience,” “Light of Christ,” if you will. I guess for me it’s a matter of principle. When it comes to something like racism in the Church, I don’t want to just accept certain teachings for the sake of obedience and blessings. I’m more interested in pursuing the truth, whatever it is.

    “Are the words of Elder McConkie in denouncing the speculations of the past not, in some ways, an apology? I think the leaders of the church are wonderful and humble men and I have faith that if an apology is the right thing for them to do, then they will. But I don’t think expecting an apology from people who had nothing to do with the speculations is appropriate. That’s like asking me to apologize for the sins of my ancestors. If I am harmed in some way, an apology from someone who had nothing to do with it is not going to help me feel better.”

    Yes, I know that certain individual GA’s have somewhat apologized and admitted that they were speaking “without light or knowledge.” I think that’s great, but I think that what some people are waiting for is an official apology from the Church as an organization and not from any one individual. We can’t put the priesthood ban on one individual, neither can we say that one person was the only one keeping prejudice alive in the Church. However, the Church as an organization perpetuated many of these teachings via literature, and sadly some myths still persist. I agree that in a way, we can’t apologize for the sins of our ancestors. They weren’t our sins, so we are not responsible for them. In a way, though, I think that we should apologize for the sins of our predecessors, not in the sense of “taking upon ourselves” their sin (because we can’t), but rather apologizing and acknowledging that our ancestors did certain things, denouncing them, and stating our intent to make sure that they don’t happen again. Much like we see in post-WWII Germany. The Germans I got to know were mostly born after the war, but are still deeply affected by the actions of their ancestors. And they should be! Even though they’re not responsible for them as individuals, they now have the responsibility denouncing actions of the past and quashing any attempt to repeat those mistakes. So while the Church has been good at moving forward as a worldwide church open to all, I’ve heard very little to acknowledge mistakes of the past. But I guess the problem is that not everyone thinks they were necessarily mistaken. If it weren’t so, we wouldn’t even be having this blog discussion.

    “But do you not think that it’s possible that there were spirits who were less obedient in the pre-existence and who, because of their humble circumstances, were able to attain a level of righteousness that they wouldn’t have in more favorable circumstances?”

    I admit that this is possible. However, we’ve seen how dangerous it can be when Church leaders speculate and the myths and judging of our fellow man that it can lead to. We can all have our personal theories, but only God knows the individual and why He put them where and when he did. The problem about coming to such conclusions about an entire race is that it becomes inconsistent because each individual’s personality and circumstances are unique.

    “As far as Paris Hilton, I think that at this point in the history of this country at least (considering the great strides in overcoming racism that have been made) it isn’t as important what race less-obedient spirits are sent to as it is a matter of individual circumstance. I don’t think you could consider the condition that Paris was born to as ideal.”

    I agree. But this isn’t what the less-valiant theory was saying. During the time it was taught, then it was pretty clear that a life such as Paris’ was what was desirous and the reward for being a valiant spirit, while being born black into a poor African nation was the result of being less valiant. Remember the blind man that Jesus healed? People asked what sin his parents must have committed for him to be born blind. To them, earthly misfortune had to be the result of sin or disobedience. Jesus cleared up that misconception.

    “If we are to believe such a theory, then if such spirits were truly so valiant, then how would they not be able to resist the pride and corruption that comes through material wealth?”

    Good point. Once again, we see the dangers of lumping an entire group of people into one category, even in my own theory. 🙂

  31. FD,

    I did a google search and found that Pres Kimball’s book was first published in 1972, so it was before the 1978 revelation.

  32. Very interesting indeed! Thanks for finding that, MH. I’m surprised and yet confused. He must have been able to see the similarities between past (Peter’s time and present (1972). Was he alluding to the deep-rooted bigotry of some GA’s towards blacks? I suppose we can only guess.

  33. I don’t have the book. Perhaps someone can enlighten us, but I don’t think he was pointing the finger at GA’s, but rather all humans.

    Kimball was well-known for his support of Native American Indians. He is the one who started the Indian Placement program in the church, and he called (Indian) George P Lee to the Seventy in 1975. I think he was quite familiar with the ugly racism in regards to the Indians, and was quite progressive on the issue of race. Of course, he was one of the unanimous present apostles who voted to lift the ban in 1969, so his views should not be that surprising in hindsight.

  34. I find the following famous scripture quite interesting, especially in light of the topic. It is D&C 121:41, and was dated March 20, 1839.

    “No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;”

    Now, Elijah had been a member for at least 7 years, and had helped build the Kirtland Temple (completed in 1836) when this revelation was received. After Joseph’s death, it seems that Brigham used his “power or influence … to …maintain by virtue of the priesthood” to deny blacks this very priesthood. Isn’t this a major contradiction? It seems Brigham did a 180 in relation to Joseph’s teachings and practices on the subject.

  35. I just found this wonderful link about Elder Helvicio Martins meeting Pres Kimball.

    http://www.gapages.com/martih1.htm

  36. That was really interesting, thanks for sharing!

  37. Thank you for your concern and your prayers. Sorry it’s taken me so long to respond, but sitting at the computer for long is not only difficult right now, but adivsed against by my doctor. But everything went extremely well. I am feeling much better than I did pre-surgery, though I am still a bit tired and a little weak.

    So, since I can’t stay on the computer long, I’m not going to respond to all comments directly. I will choose the ones I find most important to address, and then if there are any others that anyone would specifically like me to address, let me know.

    “Regarding my teaching, I do not know whether he was inspired or not to release me…”

    I realize that it isn’t necessarily right for me to make a judgement as to what you believe or don’t believe. But I think the larger issue that I see is with the whole questioning of our leaders and whether or not they are inspired. I realize that we probably all do that to some extent (and yes, I too am guilty), and maybe there’s nothing wrong with that. However, I can’t help but feel that it isn’t an entirely productive faith promoting/producing endeavor. While I understand that we should not follow blindly, I think that once we have a basic testimony that the church is true, and a confirmation that our prophets and leaders are called of God, I think we owe it to them and to the Lord to trust in them and not approach every questionable decision through skeptical eyes, and that is exactly what this post does, and it’s exactly what the Joshua post does, and that’s what I was picking up on with the comments about your Bishop.

    “Tara, your trying to excuse slavery is all semantics. Brigham called it “service”, not “slavery.” That’s semantics. You tried to equate slavery to being just like a housekeeper. Well, there’s some major differences. A housekeeper can quit her job if she doesn’t like it, while a slave can’t.”

    I was not trying to equate slavery with servitude. I was trying to illustrate the differences between the slavery found in the U.S. at the time and the servitude that Brigham called for. Now, while I agree that it doesn’t exactly parallel what being a housekeeper today means, it was still much better than slavery, and Brigham intended for the slaves to have a choice in the matter. If the slaves chose to remain slaves, what’s wrong with that?

    “I do not know why God created blacks, whites, Asians, Hawaiians. I disagree with you about God intending us to be separated. I must quote Rodney King: “Can’t we all just get along?””

    Don’t you mean Rodney Dangerfield? 🙂

    “this accords perfectly with what the scriptures and with what McConkie has said regarding the gospel going forth from one nation to the next.” You said: “Ok you’re preaching folklore here. McConkie spoke with diminished light when he said this.”

    Uhhhh, this teaching was from his “diminished light” speech after the ban was lifted.

    “Racism dates back to at least Abraham, and if you still believe the Curse of Cain was the black skin (which I don’t) then racism probably dates to Cain. That’s what I’ve been saying all along. Your examples are just reinforcing what I’ve said: racism is as old as man, and never has been commanded by God. (I could get into the Curse of Cain— the scriptures explicitly say it was a mark. It could have been a birth mark, or a scar for all we know. It is a protestant idea that this mark was the black skin. I dare you to find a scripture saying the mark was black skin.)”

    I don’t believe that the curse was black skin either, but rather the “mark” of the curse itself. I don’t know this, of course, but the scriptural evidence points to it. Certainly there is no one scripture that explicitly says the mark was a black skin, but there are scriptures in the PoGP and the BOM which certainly make a good case that it was. See Moses 5:40 (cross-reference footnote to Alma 3:7-22) and 7:8, 22. I’m sure you are familiar with these scriptures, so you likely won’t change your mind, but I’d like to know how you interpret them.

    Since you mentioned Helvecio Martins, I thought I would share a few quotes from his son’s, Marcus H. Martins, Ph.D., book entitled, “Setting the Record Straight: Blacks and the Mormon Priesthood.”
    The first quote seems to very confidently tie the origin of the ban back to Joseph Smith, as opposed to the commonly-held belief that it was Brigham Young who instituted it. Not sure what the source of this information is, but it’s interesting.

    Some might ask: “What about statements made by the Prophet Joseph Smith?” Well, the fact that he did not prevent Elijah Abel from being ordained–and he knew brother Abel–opens all sorts of questions. The Prophet Joseph never elaborated on why Blacks should not be ordained to the priesthood. We don’t know whether his views were somehow influenced by slavery, which was still legal in most of the United States at the time. It was possible, or at least conceivable, that the Prophet was just either trying to uphold the law of the land or trying to avoid potentially dangerous situations.

    I once heard a compelling argument that provided an alternative hypothesis for the Prophet Joseph Smith’s opposition to the ordination of Blacks. Instead of looking to a six-thousand-year-old murder or a five-thousand-year-old family quarrel, the argument asked us to consider the following scenario: What if a Black slave, after being ordained to the priesthood, were approached by the slaveholder and asked: “I have a sick child. I want you to heal my child; otherwise I will kill your child.” Under the brutal conditions of slavery, that would not be a far-fetched scenario at all. Slaveholders had power of life and death over slaves. So what if the Prophet Joseph had slavery in his mind and not some other consideration? Once again, the three-word answer: we don’t know. But because we don’t know, that opens the dorr for significant questions about it.

    Here also is a link to a website that proposes that the origin of the ban probably rests with Joseph Smith, not Brigham Young, although Brigham was left to actually carry it out: http://ndbf.net/011.htm

    Here is another quote:

    As I have analyzed the available information about the priesthood ban, I have concluded that it was never part of the everlasting gospel, and I have found peace in the idea that the Lord allowed the ban to remain in his Church in order to fulfill his inscrutable purposes. That belief leads me to conclude that the ban never jeopardized my eternal salvation.

    I was able to enjoy most of the privileges of membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I was baptized and received the Holy Ghost, I could pay my tithing, read the scriptures, pray, partake of the sacrament, hold many callings, keep the commandments of the Lord, and be blessed for doing so. None of these privileges of membership was denied me.

    On the other hand, there were a few significant privileges of membership in the Church that I could not enjoy before June 1978. I could not officiate in priesthood ordinances as my peers did, nor enter a temple and receive my own endowments, nor be sealed to my parents. Other than that all other privileges of membership were available to me.

    Considering all that I have studied in (so far) thirty-five years of membership and thirteen years as a religion scholar, I would argue that the priesthood ban and its associated rationale constituted educated responses on the part of past Church leaders to the social environment of the late nineteenth century and most of the twentieth century….

    Considering our lack of information about the precise origin of the priesthood ban, I have used my typology to categorize the ban as a mortal law or, in other words, a rule or regulation established as an educated response to the social environment in which The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints existed 100-150 years ago. This would have been what Church leaders in the late nineteenth and most of the twentieth century felt was the best approach at the time, and they used the keys of the priesthood in their possession to enforce it. Because of his unfathomable purposes, the Lord appears to have remained mostly silent about the issue until June 1, 1978.

    TFD,

    Sorry the Adam-God link didn’t work. Here it is again. If it still doesn’t work, I would suggest just googling “Elden Watson; Adam-God.” Then look for the link that contains the authors name.

  38. That last quote was from Marcus H. Martins, just in case it was unclear.

  39. Tara, I’m glad to hear you’re feeling better. I hope you continue to get stronger and pain-free.

    If the slaves chose to remain slaves, what’s wrong with that?

    That position is completely contrary with Joseph’s directions, as well as Abraham Lincoln–that’s what is wrong with it. Was Lincoln more inspired than Young on this topic?

    With McConkie’s obviously false teachings on blacks, I hardly look at him as an expert on the issue. Any statements made by him on the subject of prejudice are bound to be suspect, whether he spoke them before or after 1978. Using your terminology, quoting McConkie as an expert, is dangerous to your arguments, as McConkie admit to his errors. This seems to be another example of his believing folklore to be doctrine, and I hardly view it as supportive of your position.

    Marcus Martins account agrees with me, and does not say that Joseph supported a ban. The Prophet Joseph never elaborated on why Blacks should not be ordained to the priesthood. Correct. Brigham Young did. Joseph seems to have supported blacks holding the priesthood, and we have no recognized statements where Joseph supports the idea of a ban. We have Zebedee Coltrin claiming it, but it has already been shown that Coltrin’s statements could not possibly be true. Coltrin himself ordained Abel a Seventy under the direction of Joseph.

    As I have analyzed the available information about the priesthood ban, I have concluded that it was never part of the everlasting gospel. I agree.

    I have used my typology to categorize the ban as a mortal law or, in other words, a rule or regulation established as an educated response to the social environment in which The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints existed 100-150 years ago. I agree. Where is he saying the ban was inspired?

    I went to your link, and I take great issue with his conclusions. Esplin is trying to say that there is a possiblity that Joseph may have instituted the ban in Nauvoo in 1843 or 44.

    “if priesthood denial to the Blacks were taught in Nauvoo councils during 1843-1844, “ This is pure speculation on Esplin’s part, and I think quite convincingly contradicted by apostle William Smith’s ordination of Walker Lewis in Nov 1844. Apostles Brigham Young and Orson Pratt noted no problem with the policy when they visited Lowell, Mass in 1845, commenting on the fine black elder there. Since Joseph died in June 1844, there was no indication that he taught a ban before his death as evidenced by Elijah Abel’s ordination, and there was no ban as evidenced by Walker Lewis’ ordination. Brigham was aware of both ordinations.

    The best evidence of where a ban begins is when Brigham had to decide what to do with William McCary, who was seducing white Mormon women into unauthorized polygamy. This statement happened in 1847. McCary was ordained in 1846, and was excommunicated in 1847. Blacks were denied from this time forth. Esplin’s “Alternate View” just does not square with the facts that we have. There was no ban prior to June 1844 at Joseph’s death, and in fact, 2 other blacks were ordained after Joseph’s death in Nov 1844 and in 1846.

    Brigham’s “merciful” servitude/slavery is still more barbaric than abolitionist views prior to the Civil War. Do you disagree? Why were the Northern States more inspired than Brigham Young on this issue?

    Regarding Moses 5:40–it says a mark, not black skin. Certainly many have jumped to the conclusion that this mark was black skin.

    Regarding Alma 3:7-22–this is racism in the scriptures, just like Joshua or Jonah were guilty of. As we know there was plenty of animosity between Nephites and Lamanites. It is not surprising at all that they equated Lamanites with evil and were racist (and vice-versa). It is probable that descendants of Laman and Lemuel intermarried with darker indigenous peoples. Even still, I don’t think God commanded the Nephites to be racist, but allowed it to happen. I think God would have preferred both nations would just get along.

    Alma 7:8, 22. Is this the wrong reference? I’m not sure what you are referencing here.

    What if a Black slave, after being ordained to the priesthood, were approached by the slaveholder and asked: “I have a sick child. I want you to heal my child; otherwise I will kill your child.”

    As I already outlined, in 1839, Elijah was only told to teach to “his kind”: ie blacks. So, it appears that this situation was already taken into account. If Brigham had followed Joseph’s advice and prevented slaveholders from converting, then this situation is quite unlikely.

    At any rate, this is a clear case of unrighteous dominion, and if Brigham or Joseph ever became aware of it, I am quite convinced that the church member making such a threat would be severely chastised. Joseph already chastened a member for beating his slave, and as you say, Brigham taught a more merciful form of slavery. Neither man tolerated mistreatment of slaves.

  40. “That position is completely contrary with Joseph’s directions, as well as Abraham Lincoln–that’s what is wrong with it. Was Lincoln more inspired than Young on this topic?”

    Freedom of choice was completely contrary to Joseph’s directions? I don’t believe it was completely contrary to Joseph’s directions. Certainly, the ideal situation was for the slaves to be freed, but the government wasn’t going to do that at the time. Is there any evidence that Joseph opposed church members owning slaves under any circumstance? If so, then you might have a case. I don’t believe Joseph would’ve been opposed to giving the slaves their agency to go free or remain with their slaveholders, if that’s what they wanted.

    There is a letter from Joseph Smith to Oliver Cowdery, published in the Messenger and Advocate, April 1936, which seems to be in agreement with a lot of what Brigham Young taught. Shall we say also that Joseph was not inspired? Here is a link to the full letter. Here are some exerpts:

    …I am aware, that many who profess to preach the gospel, complain against their brethren of the same faith, who reside in the south, and are ready to withdraw the hand of fellowship because they will not renounce the principle of slavery and raise their voice against every thing of the kind. This must be a tender point, and one which should call forth the candid reflection of all men and especially before they advance in an opposition calculated to lay waste the fall States of the South, and set loose, upon the world a community of people who might peradventure, overrun our country and violate the most sacred principles of human society, chastity and virtue. …

    I do not believe that the people of the North have any more right to say that the South shall not hold slaves, than the South have to say the North shall. …

    After having expressed myself so freely upon this subject, I do not doubt but those who have been forward in raising their voice against the South, will cry out against me as being uncharitable, unfeeling and unkind-wholly unacquainted with the gospel of Christ. It is my privilege then, to name certain passages from the bible, and examine the teachings of the ancients upon this nature, as the fact is uncontrovertable [incontrovertible], that the first mention we have of slavery is found in the holy bible, pronounced by a man who was perfect in his generation and walked with God. And so far from that prediction’s being averse from the mind of God it remains as a lasting monument of the decree of Jehovah, to the shame and confusion of all who have cried out against the South, in consequence of their holding the sons of Him in servitude!

    “And he said cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren. And he said, Blessed be the Lord God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem and Canaan shall be his servant.”-Gen. 8:25, 26, 27.

    Trace the history of the world from this notable event down to this day, and you will find the fulfilment [fulfillment] of this singular prophecy. What could have been the design of the Almighty in this wonderful occurrence is not for me to say; but I can say that the curse is not yet taken off the sons of Canaan, neither will be until it is affected by as great power as caused it to come; and the people who interfere the least with the decrees and purposes of God in this matter, will come under the least condemnation before him; and those who are determined to pursue a course which shows an opposition and a feverish restlessness against the designs of the Lord, will learn, when perhaps it is too late for their own good, that God can do his own work without the aid of those who are not dictate by his counsel. (an aside: sounds like pure Brigham Young speak here to me)

    I must not pass over a notice of the history of Abraham of whom so much is spoken in the scriptures. If we can credit the account, God conversed with him from time to time, and directed him in the way he should walk saying, “I am the Almighty God: walk before me and be thou perfect.” Paul says that the gospel was preached to this man. And it is further said, that he had sheep and oxen, men servants and maid-servants, &c. From this I conclude, that if the principle had been an evil one, in the midst of the communications made to this holy man, he would have been instructed differently. And if he was instructed against holding men-servants and maid-servants, he never ceased to do it; consequently must have incurred the displeasures of the Lord and thereby lost his blessings-which was not the fact. …

    Now, before proceeding any farther, I wish to ask one or two questions:-Were the apostles men of God, and did they preach the gospel? I have no doubt but those who believe the bible will admit these facts, and that they also knew the mind and will of God concerning what they wrote to the churches which they were instrumental in building up.

    This being admitted, the matter can be put to rest without much argument, if we look at a few items in the New Testament. Paul says:

    “Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ: Not with eye service, as men pleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart: With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men. Knowing that whatsoever good thing may man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free. And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him.” Eph. 6:5, 6, 7, 8, 9.

    Here is a lesson which might be profitable for all to learn, and the principle upon which the church was anciently governed, is so plainly set forth, that an eye of truth might see and understand. Here, certainly are represented the master and servant; and so far from instructions to the servant to leave his master, he is commanded to be in obedience, as unto the Lord: the master in turn is required to treat them with kindness before God, understanding at the same time that he is to give an account.-The hand of fellowship is not withdrawn from him in consequence of having servants.

    The same writer, in his first epistle to Timothy, the sixth chapter, and the five first verses, says:

    “Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honor, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed. And they that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are brethren: but rather do them service, because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit. These things teach and exhort. If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to Godliness: he [He] is proud, knowing nothing but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is Godliness: from such withdraw thyself.”

    This is so perfectly plain, that I see no need of comment. The scripture stands for itself, and I believe that these men were better qualified to teach the will of God, than all the abolitionists in the world.

    Before closing this communication, I beg leave to drop a word to the travelling [traveling] elders: You know, brethren, that great responsibility rests upon you, and that you are accountable to God for all you teach the world. In my opinion, you will do well to search the book of Covenant, in which you will see the belief of the church concerning masters and servants. All men are to be taught to repent; but we have no right to interfere with slaves contrary to the mind and will of their masters. In fact, it would be much better and more prudent, not to preach at all to slaves, until after their masters are converted: and then, teach the master to use them with kindness, remembering that they are accountable to God, and that servants are bound to serve their master, with singleness of heart, without murmuring I do, most sincerely hope, that no one who is authorized from this church to preach the gospel, will so far depart from the scripture as to be found stirring up strife and sedition against our brethren of the South. Having spoken frankly and freely, I leave all in the hands of God, who will direct all things for his glory and the accomplishments of his work. (Emphasis mine)

    Here is a quote from a website which talks about the difference in servitude and slavery and gives some insight into the movements during Joseph’s time as well as his proposals with regard to slavery:

    “But there is a difference between ‘servitude’ and ‘slavery’; a big difference.

    The Prophet Joseph Smith did condemn “abolitionists” in 1833; soon after the Nat Turner rebellion in Virginia. Nathaniel Turner was a black slave who claimed that a black angel visited him and commanded him to free the Negroes from slavery. Turner ran away from his master and gained a following of run-away and free Negroes. His methods were violent, and his rebellion ended-up with the deaths of many innocent people; both black and white. He was hanged, and his rebellion failed. Not only did it fail, but it inspired the Southern states to cease their liberalizing of the rights of slaves, and it also ended the Southern white colonialist movement which sought to free blacks and repatronize them to Africa. It was, for the Negroes and those whites in the South who wanted blacks free, a total and absolute disaster.

    Joseph Smith did condemn radical Abolitionists who advocated violence, or who sought to free blacks without thought of the impact of the Southern economy or how blacks would fair in the South. To avoid these problems, Joseph Smith recommended that Congress sell federal public lands (at that time the federal government, in the name of the people, owned millions of acres of land) and use the money to purchase the slaves, and then either to send the freed black slaves into Mexico (where classism existed but not racism), or to “educate them and give them equal rights”. The Prophet knew that without these collateral moves the blacks would not be freed without violence, and the freed blacks would not be equal to the whites. History has proven him correct. Although blacks were free, their lives changed very little. They were soon on the bottom-half of a caste system, and apartheid-like laws kept them powerless and most often poor.

    The servitude that existed in the time of Abraham (who had servants) and Israel was much different than the slavery of the South in the United States at the time of Joseph Smith!. Servants in the time of Abraham was considered part of the family; although they did not have equal rights to sons and daughters in regards to inheritance. Southern slavery did contain such patriarchal attitudes on occasion, but stealing people from Africa, bringing them across the ocean in chains and horrible living conditions where up to half would perish, and then treating them like animals was not a noble system of servitude but rather an evil and corrupt institution that the Prophet came out squarely and openly against in the 1840s; when he became more familiar with the Southern system of slavery.” (A HREF=http://www.angelfire.com/mo2/blackmormon/q38.htm>Link to the full article)

    Linclon’s primary agenda had nothing to do with freeing the slaves. His primary agenda was to preserve the Union. He personally wanted to free the slaves, but if his personal desires interfered with keeping the Union intact, then his personal desires were of no consequence. If that meant continuing with slavery, then so be it. Here is an exerpt from a letter from Abraham Lincoln to Horace Greeley:

    If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. …I have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty; and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men everywhere could be free.

    This also sounds a lot like Brigham Young to me.

    “With McConkie’s obviously false teachings on blacks, I hardly look at him as an expert on the issue. Any statements made by him on the subject of prejudice are bound to be suspect, whether he spoke them before or after 1978. Using your terminology, quoting McConkie as an expert, is dangerous to your arguments, as McConkie admit to his errors.”

    So we’re just going to accept the part of his talk where he said to ignore all past statements which tried to explain why the ban was given, but we’re just going to put everything else in that same talk into question, in addition to anything else he ever uttered on the subject? Should we also question every other prophet of God who spoke in ignorance on occasion? If we do that, then we will be questioning nearly every one of them, including Joseph Smith, as the above quotes would indicate.

    And I never said McConkie was an expert, nor did I say whether or not what he spoke was doctrinal, although I do believe he gives some excellent scriptural basis for his teachings in that talk.

    “Marcus Martins account agrees with me, and does not say that Joseph supported a ban.”

    Did you miss this part of the quote: I once heard a compelling argument that provided an alternative hypothesis for the Prophet Joseph Smith’s opposition to the ordination of Blacks.

    “Where is he saying the ban was inspired?”

    It was not my intention to say that he believed the ban was inspired, but to point out that he believed that the leaders of the Church gave educated responses to the issues at the time, as opposed to them just being ignorant racists.

    “This is pure speculation on Esplin’s part,…”

    It’s also pure speculation on your part to say that the ban was uninspired. Most of what we are discussing is pure speculation. If the facts were all in, there would be no need for speculation because we would have all the answers. The lack of sufficient information leads us all to speculate. What’s wrong with that? I think Esplin does an excellent job of making his case, however. I can’t say whether or not it’s true, but he does a good job with what information is available.

    “Regarding Moses 5:40–“it says a mark, not black skin. Certainly many have jumped to the conclusion that this mark was black skin.”

    No, it doesn’t. But there are scriptures in the Book of Mormon which make it pretty clear that the mark (at least for the Lamanites) was a dark skin. I agree that in the case of the Lamanites it was likely as a result of intermingling with indigenous dark-skinned people, but dark-skinned people had to originate somewhere, for some reason. If you go back to the mark of Cain, and you consider that the mark was placed upon Cain in order to distinguish him, so that others would not kill him, we might consider that the mark would be something easily distinguishable as well as genetically passed on so that his children to protect them as well. Wouldn’t they likely also be considered targets? A birthmark wouldn’t be passed on genetically. Maybe the dark skin wasn’t the mark given to Cain, but we see later in Moses 7:8, 22 (not Alma, as you thought I was referencing) that “there was a blackness came upon all the children of Canaan. …for the seed of Cain were black.”

    “As I already outlined, in 1839, Elijah was only told to teach to “his kind”: ie blacks. So, it appears that this situation was already taken into account. If Brigham had followed Joseph’s advice and prevented slaveholders from converting, then this situation is quite unlikely.”

    Where did Joseph say that slaveholders should be prevented from converting? If he said this, then he must have contradicted himself. In any event, Elijah Abel was not a slave. However, most black people were. He would’ve been teaching many who WERE slaves, owned by slave-holders, so I don’t see how you come to the conclusion that having blacks only teach blacks and preventing slaveholders from converting would’ve prevented slaveholders from demanding blessings under threat of death. You don’t have to be a member to request a blessing.

    “I am quite convinced that the church member making such a threat would be severely chastised.”

    Certainly, but what if the threat was carried out before it was heard about by the leaders? What if the person requesting a blessing wasn’t even a member? Suppose that a non-member slave-holder witnessed a black man bless and heal his own child, and then later, when the slave-holder’s child was ill, requested a blessing with the attached threat. Suppose that even if the slave did grant the blessing, the blessing failed to heal the child and then the slave-holder assumed that it was because the slave was insincere in his blessing and decided to take the life of the slave’s child as retribution. What good would chastisement do in such a situation?

  41. Tara,

    I’m getting my master’s degree, and this week I have some major projects due. I just don’t have time to respond, and frankly, I think we’re at an impasse. I don’t see either one of us changing the point of view of the other, so I’m not sure the point of continuing this topic further. This horse has been beaten beyond recognition.

    Care to respond to my tithing or Christ bowl posts?

  42. Best wishes for getting your master’s!

  43. Tara,

    Did I make any valid points here, or are you still of the same opinion as you were before reading this post and comments? Do you feel more informed, or was there nothing new here? Has your opinion evolved in the least degree?

  44. You did make some valid points.

    I didn’t know previously that the ban was considered policy rather than doctrine, though I am undecided as to what this actually means. I believe that even policy can be inspired and that if inspired, would need to be changed through inspiration.

    The idea that God doesn’t inspire racism, while it is something I already believed, has taken on new meaning to me. I can’t really explain it, but nevertheless.

    I’ve never felt that I can say for sure whether the ban was inspired, although I lean heavily (obviously) towards believing that it was, and this discussion hasn’t brought me any closer to changing my opinion. But, I am glad to have learned a few things I didn’t already know.

    How about you? I’m also curious to know what your opinion is of the letter by Joseph Smith that I included portions of in my comment on the 6th. It seems you were pounding pretty hard on the idea that Brigham Young’s teachings and policies were completely contrary to what Joseph Smith taught, but the letter he wrote seems to dispell that notion, at least to some degree.

  45. Tara, from the length of your post, it seems you’re feeling better. I am so glad to see/hear that.

    Ok, I made it through this week! I have a week off from homework, but I doubt that I’ll be able to expend the amount of time on this topic that I have in the past. Perhaps I will visit a controversial topic, such as Abraham in December or January when school is out. In the meantime, I really am curious what you think of my tithing post, and would love to hear your perspectives there.

    Tara, your position seems quite similar to David O Mckay. I think we are getting to more of a consensus on this topic. As Margaret Young, Darius Gray, and Darron Smith mentioned above, Joseph and the church were constantly accused of being abolitionists, which they vehemently denied. So, the letter above seems to show the inherent conficts of the day. It is quite apparent to me that Joseph personally abhorred slavery, yet his letter said he did not want to coerce the South into abandoning slavery, and was advocating a non-violent way to getting rid of slavery.

    Darius Gray said, “Brother Joseph wanted to free the slaves by selling public lands, and taking those proceeds and compensating the slave owners so that they wouldn’t be hurt financially. He was very pragmatic. He realized that there was a great deal of money tied up that supposed property; the lives of beings [known] as slaves. But he was very active in trying to put forth a plan that would be workable.”

    I will add that Confederate General Lee was also opposed to slavery, and held a similar position to Joseph Smith–that slavery should not be destroyed by violent means. General Lee felt it his duty to defend States Rights. What are the States rights General Lee is referring to? The ability of Southern states to legalize and regulate slavery. I will add that Abraham Lincoln also subscribed to this policy. But when violence broke out anyway, he let his conscience be his guide. In an interesting twist of irony, do you know who Lincoln asked to lead the Union armies? General Lee. After a week or so, General Lee declined Lincoln’s request, and went on to clean the clock of every Union general until Lincoln finally found competent generals in Sherman and Grant. While despised in the north, when the war ended, Lee was quite conciliatory, especially when Lincoln was assassinated, and was instrumental in the South of changing attitudes to end the war.

    So, I see Smith, Lincoln, and Lee all pretty much in agreement that violence was not the proper solution to the slavery issue. However, that is what it took to get rid of slavery. Joseph is doing a balancing act here–personally opposing slavery, but defending the Southern states rights to practice slavery. Lee and Lincoln did the same thing.

    Joseph seems also heavily influenced by the protestant doctrine of Curse of Cain, which is against his own article of faith about men begin punished for their own sins, not [Cain]’s transgression. I’ll take the Article of Faith as more authoritative than his citation of the Curse of Cain, since I will need to choose between these contradictory statements. And his reference to the Curse of Cain is not inspirational, but rather an attempted (un?)educated response to the issue. (See definition of inspiration below.)

    As for Brigham opposing Joseph, let me tell the story again, which I’ve already quoted twice above. When someone asked Joseph Smith, what if this person wants to come to Nauvoo, but he wants to bring 50 slaves with him. The answer was ‘Tell him – Free his slaves, educate them, and then come and join us in Nauvoo.’

    Now, let’s fast forward to 1850. Darius Gray tells us above, in 1850, 12 Mormon slave owners, who possessed between 60 and 70 black slaves, came into the Deseret Territory, and one of those slave owners was the apostle Charles C Rich. We have something else that took place in that time period. The Territorial Legislature passed the law legalizing slavery in Utah, and that’s something that many don’t know. It was called ‘an act in relation to service’, but it gave legal recognition to slaveholding in the territory of Deseret.”

    This is completely contrary to Joseph’s command to release the slaves and educate them. Do you disagree?

    Blacks were donated to the church as tithing–this is not servitude, it is slavery. Now I’m confident that Brigham probably did the right thing and freed them, but the fact that he accepted blacks as legitimate tithe offerings should be troubling to you. You seem heavily interested in making a distinction between slavery and servitude, but I feel this is really sidetracking the issue. While there might be some cosmetic (not substantive) differences, the real issue is this: was the priesthood ban inspired?

    Now, let’s talk about what “inspired” means. I think the traditional definition would mean that it came directly from God, or that God specifically commanded it. Using this definition, I think you would agree that God is not a racist, did not command slavery, did not command the priesthood ban, and therefore it was not inspired.

    Now, if you want to change the definition to match Marcus Martins to be “educated responses on the part of past Church leaders to the social environment of the late nineteenth century and most of the twentieth century” well, I guess I can support that, but you are now watering down the definition of inspiration, and I doubt most members would support this definition. Calling inspiration “educated responses” certainly doesn’t inspire confidence in church leaders, does it? Such a definition seems to undermine the communication links between the brethren and God. This puts you into heretical territory, just like me, albeit our views aren’t exactly aligned. Welcome to the club! Your position seems to be just as “dangerous” as mine. 🙂

    Maybe I should ask you what your definition of inspiration is? I know I just put words in your mouth, and I don’t intend to, but that is what you seem to be saying at this point. Please let me know if I am misunderstanding your definitions.

    As for Marcus’ compelling alternative argument, I’m not sure what you’re referring to. I’ve already discredited Esplin and BRoz. Is there another one I’m not aware of? (Really, I don’t intend to debate this topic endlessly, so please don’t treat this as a challenge to find something new. I’m just saying that I don’t find these alternative hypothesis’ very compelling.)

  46. I am feeling better, thanks, but most of my post was copy/paste, so although it was long, it didn’t take as much time as it may appear.

    (MH) “So, I see Smith, Lincoln, and Lee all pretty much in agreement that violence was not the proper solution to the slavery issue. However, that is what it took to get rid of slavery. Joseph is doing a balancing act here–personally opposing slavery, but defending the Southern states rights to practice slavery. Lee and Lincoln did the same thing.”

    I get that, but I believe from all I’ve read of Brigham Young, that he felt the similarly, and my sense is that you don’t share my view of him, but rather have a low opinion of him. Perhaps I am wrong in that. Here are some BY quotes regarding states rights and violence on the issue of slavery:

    “It is not the prerogative of the President of the United States to meddle with this matter, and Congress is not allowed, according to the Constitution, to legislate upon it. If Utah was admitted into the Union as a sovereign State, and we chose to introduce slavery here, it is not their business to meddle with it; and even if we treated our slaves in an oppressive manner, it is still none of their business and they ought not to meddle with it.”

    “According to accounts, in all probability not less than one million men, from twenty to forty years of age, have gone to the silent grave in

    this useless war, in a little over two years, and all to gratify the caprice of a few,-I do not think I have a suitable name for them, shall we call them abolitionists, slaveholders, religious bigots, or political aspirants? Call them what you will, they are wasting away each other, and it seems as though they will not be satisfied until they have brought universal destruction and desolation upon the whole country. It appears as though they would destroy every person; perhaps they will, but I think they will not. God rules. Do you know it? It is the kingdom of God or nothing for the Latter-day Saints.”

    A portion of an interview with Brigham Young by Horace Greeley:

    H.G. — Do your Territorial laws uphold Slavery?

    B.Y. — Those laws are printed — you can read them for yourself. If slaves are brought here by those who owned them in the States, we do not favor their escape from the service of those owners.

    H.G. — Am I to infer that Utah, if admitted as a member of the Federal Union, will be a Slave State?

    B.Y. — No; she will be a Free State. Slavery here would prove useless and unprofitable. I regard it generally as a curse to the masters. I myself hire many laborers and pay them fair wages; I could not afford to own them. I can do better than subject myself to an obligation to feed and clothe their families, to provide and care for them, in sickness and health. Utah is not adapted to Slave Labor.

    Here is a link to an article which gives a brief but interesting history of slavery in Utah as well as outlines some of Brigham’s views with regard to the issue. It also describes the fundamental differences between slavery and indentured servitude. It is not my desire to debate the issue of slavery vs. servitude any further. It just so happens that this article contains such information, but my primary purpose in referencing the article was for the history and the views of Brigham Young.

    (MH) “Joseph seems also heavily influenced by the protestant doctrine of Curse of Cain, which is against his own article of faith about men begin punished for their own sins, not [Cain]’s transgression. I’ll take the Article of Faith as more authoritative than his citation of the Curse of Cain, since I will need to choose between these contradictory statements. And his reference to the Curse of Cain is not inspirational, but rather an attempted (un?)educated response to the issue.”

    So you seem to imply here that Joseph didn’t understand that his own teachings were in conflict? Maybe your understanding of his teachings are misplaced. Perhaps you are looking at the Curse of Cain simply as a punishment and not opening your mind to the possibility that it was something else totally. I’ve offered the possibilities previously that it could’ve been meant as a form of protection or as a means to ellicit greater humility and thus greater receptivity to the Gospel. Certainly there are other possibilities as well.

    (MH) “As for Brigham opposing Joseph, let me tell the story again, which I’ve already quoted twice above. When someone asked Joseph Smith, what if this person wants to come to Nauvoo, but he wants to bring 50 slaves with him. The answer was ‘Tell him – Free his slaves, educate them, and then come and join us in Nauvoo.'”

    I’m sure that this is what was preferred, but did he ever deny membership or fellowship on the basis of slave-ownership? I would say that Brigham probably had a better inside understanding of Joseph’s teachings than we do, and I strongly believe that his only desire was to follow the teachings of Joseph as closely as possible. It was said on the “Joshua post” by narrator (I think) that Brigham didn’t even consider himself the prophet for a many years, so it doesn’t seem consistent to say that on the one hand Brigham didn’t consider himself a prophet and then on the other hand he was bent on exercising unrighteous dominion as a result of his leadership position.

    Here are some quotes from the Esplin article in case they were not fully appreciated the first time: “For example, in 1866 he [Brigham] explained that “on the things of God, on the building up of His Kingdom, or the doctrines Joseph taught, or on anything that pertains to the priesthood,” his memory of what he had learned at Joseph’s feet was of primary importance.

    An angel never watched him closer than I did, and that is what has given me the knowledge I have to day. I treasure it up, and ask the Father, in the name of Jesus, to help my memory when information is wanted and I have never been at a loss to know what to do concerning the kingdom of God.

    Again in 1868:

    No matter how great my poverty— if I had to borrow meal to feed my wife and children, I never let an opportunity pass of hearing what the Prophet had to impart. This is the secret of the success of your humble servant.

    …He reminded the Twelve in February 1849 that he was accountable not only to the Lord, but also to Joseph, adding:

    I av to walk [as if] Joseph is ri[gh]t with me all the time— all I do to build up the K[ingdom] is just as if Jos[ep]h was looking me ri[gh]t in the eye— & our hearts & feelings r one— he wo[ul]d say thats ri[gh]t my boys— & I av not done a thing without knowing that— all I ask is for my Fa[the]r to give me grace that I may go right along.

    (MH) “It was called ‘an act in relation to service’, but it gave legal recognition to slaveholding in the territory of Deseret.” This is completely contrary to Joseph’s command to release the slaves and educate them. Do you disagree?”

    I don’t know. I don’t disagree that it was probably not what he wanted ideally, but so long as the country was not going to ban slavery, I can’t really say what Joseph’s solution would’ve been. I do know, however, that in 1835, the Church issued an official statement indicating that because the United States government allowed slavery, the Church would not “interfere with bond-servants, neither preach the gospel to, nor baptize them contrary to the will and wish of their masters, nor meddle with or influence them in the least to cause them to be dissatisfied with their situations in this life, thereby jeopardizing the lives of men.” This was included in the D&C in section 134:12, which says, “We believe it just to preach the gospel to the nations of the earth, and warn the righteous to save themselves from the corruption of the world; but we do not believe it right to interfere with bond-servants, neither preach the gospel to, nor baptize them contrary to the will and wish of their masters, nor to meddle with or influence them in the least to cause them to be dissatisfied with their situations in this life, thereby jeopardizing the lives of men; such interference we believe to be unlawful and unjust, and dangerous to the peace of every government allowing human beings to be held in servitude.”

    (MH) “Blacks were donated to the church as tithing–this is not servitude, it is slavery. Now I’m confident that Brigham probably did the right thing and freed them, but the fact that he accepted blacks as legitimate tithe offerings should be troubling to you.”

    I can’t say it makes me feel completely comfortable, but I just have faith that, although I don’t understand it, it may have been done in a completely acceptable way. I don’t see any problem with it if they were given their freedom afterward. Those slaves were an investment on the part of the owner. To give them as an offering to the Lord seems almost noble. Such an act could’ve been as much a statement as anything. Perhaps such a person was making strides in improving himself by casting off unrighteousness. Perhaps this was part of his repentance.

    (MH) “Now, if you want to change the definition to match Marcus Martins to be “educated responses on the part of past Church leaders to the social environment of the late nineteenth century and most of the twentieth century” well, I guess I can support that, but you are now watering down the definition of inspiration, and I doubt most members would support this definition.”

    This is not what I consider inspiration to be. I said before that I included that particular quote by Marcus Martins to show that he considered the responses of the church leaders to be educated, rather than just ignorantly racist and simply following the popular views of the day. I do not equate this with inspiration.

    (MH) “Calling inspiration “educated responses” certainly doesn’t inspire confidence in church leaders, does it? Such a definition seems to undermine the communication links between the brethren and God. This puts you into heretical territory, just like me, albeit our views aren’t exactly aligned. Welcome to the club! Your position seems to be just as “dangerous” as mine.”

    You’ve misunderstood my position as I explained above. I consider inspiration to be teachings, policies, or ideas given directly from God. I believe that the policy was given, not because God is racist or that he wasn’t finished punishing the seed of Cain (although this may very well be a possibility–I won’t completely rule out any possibilities), but for other reasons, like for instance, the social and political climate of the day. I don’t believe we have the whole big picture. I think there are many things beyond what has been revealed and I believe that whatever the reason, it was something that we will come to understand came from an all-wise and loving Father who sees beyond our very limited mortal view.

    (MH) “As for Marcus’ compelling alternative argument, I’m not sure what you’re referring to. I’ve already discredited Esplin and BRoz. Is there another one I’m not aware of?”

    All I’m saying here is, very simply, that Marcus, for some reason or another, believed that Joseph supported the priesthood ban. I’m not sure I can make it any clearer than that.

  47. I’m willing to admit that Brigham probably felt slavery was a states rights issue (as did Joseph, Lincoln, and Lee). However, as I mentioned before, Joseph directed members to free slaves and educate them, while Brigham accepted slaveholders and made Utah a slave territory. You never addressed this conflict in these policy differences between Joseph and Brigham.

    H.G. — Am I to infer that Utah, if admitted as a member of the Federal Union, will be a Slave State?

    B.Y. — No; she will be a Free State.

    Evidence proves contrary here. Brigham accepted slaves as tithing. Deseret was a slave territory. If he was going to allow slaves to come, then what was he going to do when Utah became a Free State? He would either have to force the mormon slaveholding apostles to leave, or free the slaves. Either way, he’s got a big problem on his hands, and this stance was just not workable. It’s a good thing the Civil War happened and took the issue off his hands, because I think his policy would have further harmed the church in regards to blacks. I wish he had been more forward thinking like Joseph was, and encouraged slaveholders to free and educate slaves, rather than pass a law upholding the rights of slaveholders in Utah.

    Look, I don’t have a low opinion of Brigham Young. He really was an American Moses. But he was wrong on the slavery/priesthood ban issue. Moses was wrong on the genocide issue. It doesn’t mean they weren’t great men and prophets, but it just means they were wrong on those issues. They were men, and were subject to fallibility, just like you and me. They are not perfect, mythical men, as many church members want to believe. Nevertheless, they are great men, and deserving of admiration and respect. But I don’t think it’s out of line to say they were wrong on these issues, though I am quite certain you disagree with me on this point.

    Perhaps you are looking at the Curse of Cain simply as a punishment and not opening your mind to the possibility that it was something else totally. I’ve offered the possibilities previously that it could’ve been meant as a form of protection or as a means to ellicit greater humility and thus greater receptivity to the Gospel. Certainly there are other possibilities as well.

    I don’t know what the Curse of Cain was. It was obviously used to prove slavery was righteous, as well as the priesthood ban. Perhaps the mark was to protect Cain, but why would the mark be passed to his offspring? Why would God curse Cain’s offspring for something Cain did? It makes no sense, and is completely contrary to the 10th article of Faith.

    The Curse of Cain was upon Cain, not his descendants. Any mention to the contrary is wrong, whether spoken by Joseph, Brigham, McConkie, or anyone else. The Curse of Cain ended with Cain, and God is not punishing blacks because of Cain. I will rule that out as a possibility, even though you won’t. God finished punishing Cain on earth when Cain died, and has no need to punish more people for Cain’s sin. It goes against everything you believe about the Savior and God to support this position. To endorse this idea of Cain’s Curse makes God a respecter of persons. If you disagree, please explain.

    I disagree with your “protection” possibility, and I don’t think blacks are more receptive to the gospel because of slavery or the Cain Curse. I haven’t heard anything to make me change my mind on the Curse of Cain or Ham. Racism was and is wrong, and any attempt to promote racism by invoking Ham or Cain is wrong, regardless of the source. How can there be greater receptivity to the gospel when Joseph, Brigham, and others expressly forbade preaching to slaves? That just doesn’t add up.

    I think I’ve well documented that Marcus Martins and Esplin were wrong to endorse the idea that Joseph supported a priesthood ban. Yes, I will agree that church leaders tried to make “educated responses” to promote the priesthood ban, but I believe our education has improved to see the major flaws in these arguments.

    Your definition of inspiration agrees with mine. “I consider inspiration to be teachings, policies, or ideas given directly from God.” I agree that we don’t have the big picture as God does, but I can’t fathom any scenario where God says, “Yes, I inspired and wanted the ban after the William McCary episode, and I wanted Brigham to encourage slavery in the Utah territory.” Can you imagine this? Since we’re using the same definition, I have to conclude that God didn’t inspire the ban, or slavery. I know you’re more hesitant to make this conclusion.

  48. “Joseph directed members to free slaves and educate them, while Brigham accepted slaveholders and made Utah a slave territory. You never addressed this conflict in these policy differences between Joseph and Brigham.”

    I believe I have addressed this, though maybe I didn’t make my position clear. As I said, it is apparent that Joseph preferred the release of slaves and he recommended it, but it was not a requirement for membership. I then stated basically that Brigham closely followed the teachings of Joseph. Though I didn’t say it specifically, Brigham Young also preferred and recommended the release of slaves, but it was not a requirement with him either.

    I also included a link in my last comment (which didn’t work) which gave a brief history of Utah and the slavery issue, as well as information regarding ‘An Act in Relation to Service’ which you mentioned. Here is the link again and hopefully it will work this time. I discovered just after I posted my last comment that the link didn’t work and I tried to post it twice more, but they wouldn’t post. What’s up? http://www.angelfire.com/mo2/blackmormon/q37.htm

    “H.G. — Am I to infer that Utah, if admitted as a member of the Federal Union, will be a Slave State?

    B.Y. — No; she will be a Free State.

    Evidence proves contrary here.”

    If you will read the article I link to, you may find that Utah was indeed a Free State, meaning that forced slavery was not allowed. Neither was indentured servitude outlawed. This truly is the meaning of a ‘Free State’ according to a true definition of freedom. Slaves were allowed the freedom to choose to be servants and ‘slaveholders’ were allowed to choose if they would have servants. But you are going to have to open your mind and see that there is a distinct difference between slavery and indentured servitude.

    “It’s a good thing the Civil War happened and took the issue off his hands, because I think his policy would have further harmed the church in regards to blacks.”

    This statement is a bit bothersome to me, saying that the Civil War was a good thing for the church. But nevertheless, I don’t see how the issue would’ve done any more harm to the church without the Civil War. If the church and its leaders were so easily influenced by the racist attitudes of the day, they would’ve just followed right along with the majority of the country and been just fine. After all, weren’t they just being influenced by the ignorance of their day? If so, it only stands to reason that as public opinion drifted, so would theirs.

    “Look, I don’t have a low opinion of Brigham Young. He really was an American Moses.”

    Well, when you call a man a racist and believe that his policies and teachings were influenced primarily by racist attitudes rather than through seeking inspiration from God and following the teachings from his ‘enlightened’ predecessor, and saying that he was wrong in his declarations that the policy was instituted by God himself, then I interpret that as having a low opinion of someone. I would certainly have a low opinion of someone, at least in certain aspects, if I held such an opinion. I’m not saying that this is how you feel but that this is how it comes across.

    “They were men, and were subject to fallibility, just like you and me. They are not perfect, mythical men, as many church members want to believe.”

    I agree, but I don’t believe they were guilty of anything to the degree of seriousness which you charge. I’ve stated as much numerous times in our discussions.

    “It makes no sense, and is completely contrary to the 10th article of Faith. The Curse of Cain was upon Cain, not his descendants.”

    Huh? What does the restoration of the 10 tribes and the establishment of the New Jerusalem have to do with the curse of Cain? I’m going to assume you are referring to the 2nd Article of Faith, but please correct me and explain if I’m wrong. I believe you are looking at this incorrectly or at least too broadly, or narrowly, depending on how you look at it. In this instance, you are looking at this in regards to our earthly condition. You are also looking at the curse as nothing more than a punishment. You are assuming that because we are only punished for our own sins that we should not be subject to curses or the effects of curses brought upon our predecessors because of their sins. But are we not indeed suffering the mortal consequences of Adam’s transgression? Are we not subject to death and the hardships and trials of life because of it? Have we not been cut-off from God as a result? Because of Adam’s transgression, you are cursed to till the ground (which was also cursed through no fault of its own) and eat bread by the sweat of your face. I am cursed to have sorrow in my conception and to be ruled over by my husband. It was Adam and Eve who sinned, not you or me, but yet we suffer the effects of that sin, and we knew that to be the case in the pre-existence, yet we accepted it because it would work for our greater good in the end. Clearly what is meant by the punishment of sins is in relation to our final judgement and does not expressly relate to our mortal condition. In addition, the “will be” in the 2nd Article of Faith denotes punishment taking place at some future point, and not presently. In reality, we all suffer the consequences, through no fault of our own, for the poor choices of our parents and grandparents. Little children born to drug addicted mothers did nothing to warrant being born into such conditions and forced to suffer the consequences of their mother’s sins. But they do suffer. Is that fair or just? I hate to say that it isn’t because God is in control and he allows it to happen for a just reason, but I don’t like it one bit and it makes me angry and sad at the same time.

    In Moses 7:22, we learn that the seed of Cain were black. Why were they black? This scripture speaks to the possibility that the mark of Cain was a black skin, and it also to the idea that one’s descendants can suffer from the consequences of the sins of their parents.

    Here is a quote by Joseph Fielding McConkie: “At the time of Moses, the Melchizedek Priesthood was taken from the children of Israel. In its stead they were given the Aaronic, or Lesser, Priesthood. This priesthood was restricted to worthy males of the tribe of Levi. We are told in a revelation on the priesthood that the higher priesthood was taken because the children of Israel failed to sanctify themselves that they might stand in the presence of God (see D&C 84:19-25). This statement, however, leaves unanswered the question about why unborn generations were denied the priesthood because of the failure of their progenitors.”

    I came across another article which I highly recommend found at http://www.lightplanet.com/mormons/response/general/Blacks_Priesthood_Pyle.htm . It was written by D. Charles Pyle and was apparently done at the request of several church leaders. The point of the article is to try to deomonstrate the consistency of the church’s former policy of priesthood denial. The author does a great job of establishing scriptural precedent to make his case. You will have to scroll down a little to get to the article by D. Charles Pyle.

  49. Tara,

    I then stated basically that Brigham closely followed the teachings of Joseph.” When Joseph ran for US President, he advocated the complete elimination of slavery as we have discussed repeatedly. Brigham’s advocacy of slavery in Utah is not following closely the teachings of Joseph. I will disagree with you here. Perhaps you have a different definition of “closely.”

    Your Horace Greeley interview shows how Brigham was trying to walk a tightrope of being a Free State, yet allowing slavery. It is apparent to me that Horace saw through this facade. You want to equate Utah slavery as ok by calling it servitude. I do not. We’ll agree to disagree here.

    What mentally competent person would choose to remain a slave/servant? None. It is only mentally incompetent people who are incapable of taking care of themselves who would choose such an option. For wealthy slaveholders to take advantage of these people is not a Christian thing to do. As Joseph said, these wealthy people should free them, educate them, and help them become productive members of society— not take advantage of their poor intellect and influence them to think they are better off by being slaves. Don’t you agree? Would you or anyone you know choose slavery? Of course not. (Please think of the dumbest person you know— they would not choose slavery.) Joseph gave real jobs to people who were down and out— Brigham should have done the same.

    I’m not sure you appreciate what a delicate line Brigham was trying to navigate. Let me try to illustrate with a more modern-day example. Right now, we have the gay marriage issue. To date, it seems we have California, Massachusetts, and Vermont as so called, “gay-states”, with all the other states as “straight-states.” Now let’s say Brigham Young was in charge, and the church was much newer. Let’s say that some gay members wanted to join, and wanted to have their gay marriages recognized. What Brigham Young was basically allowing was for the church/state government (he controlled both) to recognize gay marriages, while at the same time, saying the church was against gay marriages. So, let me ask you, if the state of Utah suddenly started recognizing the legality of gay marriages, while at the same time refusing to allow marriages to take place here, would Utah be a gay-state, or a straight-state? And when gays suddenly found official recognition in Utah, would that tip the balance to be a gay state? Let’s say the one of Brigham’s apostles, say Charles Rich, had a gay son or daughter legally married in California, and he wanted gay marriages recognized. Is this really a line the church wants to walk? Would you advocate such a position if Brigham Young (or President Monson) proposed it? Would you find such a position contradictory at all?

    The other problem I have with Brigham’s position is this. We have a revelation in the D&C where Joseph prophecies about the Civil War, and correctly notes it was to happen in South Carolina. Joseph could see that slavery was going to be a problem. Now, while I understand that Brigham Young wasn’t as gifted in revelation as Joseph was, shouldn’t he have been inspired enough to realize that his stance on slavery and the priesthood ban was not what God wanted? Shouldn’t he have paid closer attention to Joseph’s revelation about the upcoming Civil War on the slavery issue? Wouldn’t it seem appropriate for the prophet to correctly pick the Union side as victorious, and for Brigham to be well positioned to be a real Free State, not half free and half slave? It seems to me that God was busy inspiring all sorts of people, but not Brigham Young on the slavery issue.

    Yes, I meant the 2nd article of faith— sorry about that. Why do you keep saying that I am looking at the Curse of Cain as a punishment? YOU are the one charging that. I have been the one saying that I don’t really know what it was, but it was directed at Cain, and nobody else. God is not punishing today’s blacks or the 1830 blacks for Cain’s transgression. People invoke that curse as a means to justify racism, and I find that repugnant. Once again, Blacks are not punished by God for Cain’s transgression. (Perhaps they have been punished by men, but God is not the author of racism/ or the priesthood ban.) Please stop attributing this Curse of Cain punishment as my position— it is not my position.

    I have usually considered the Adam and Eve story as literal, but your conclusions of it are making me question how literal we should be taking it. With all your questions about the whole Adam and Eve story, I question many conclusions, such as women being cursed with a painful childbirth. I think that is folklore. For us to attribute God as the author of this makes God sound capricious like Zues, sending curses down on mankind for upsetting God. This seems to be a naïve view of God— I don’t think he gets angry, and throws lightning bolts and curses down at mankind just willy-nilly. However, I do believe that man has interpreted God to do such strange things.

    I know Moses tells us God is a jealous God, but I don’t really believe that either. Moses is talking to human understanding at the time. He is trying to get them to become monotheistic, not polytheistic, so he is using “jealous” to get them to understand monotheism. In modern day we have a better understanding of God, and I just don’t think God is jealous at all. But I see what Moses was trying to convey. The same line of reasoning goes with this childbirth folklore, and many of these other curses. I don’t think God cursed women to have pain in childbirth, but rather it is man’s poor attempt to explain why it is painful. The same reasoning goes with your other Adam/Eve questions.

    I’ll check your other links when I have time.

  50. Tara,

    I checked out your 2 links. Of the 2, I liked the first one better–it kinda takes off a few of the rough edges on Brigham. The angelfire link does seem to ignore some of the other issues, like blacks being offered as tithing. It also doesn’t answer this question: How long were indentured servants to remain indentured? As far as I know, there was no time limit. The link states that they were not completely free, so there was still some considerable discrimination for them.

    It also said professional athletes are indentured servants. Well, sign me up!!! However, I don’t want any part of Brigham’s indentured servants–I only want to be part of today’s professional athlete indentured servant. I’m sure you can see the obvious difference here. While professional athletes are bound by contract to remain with a team, and can be considered not free because of the contract they sign (and all of these professional athletes are literate, I might add, and have legal representation to help them sign the contracts), the early indentured servants of the 1800’s were obviously much more highly restricted–can’t vote, can be offered as tithing, etc, so there is still quite a bit of stuff that ensured they weren’t buying diamonds, or living the high life.

    I have to say that the Mexican-American War is a relatively new interest of mine, since it was so close to the time period of the mormon migration. I will also add that Union General Ulysses Grant called it an immoral war, and felt that it should never have been fought, and that the US took advantage of Mexico.

    Your 2nd link (the lightplanet link) I completely disagree with. They do show biblical precedent, but I do not believe that God is the author of denying an entire ethnic group from salvation. For example, the example of

    the LORD, at one time, had even forbidden certain classes of individuals from entrance into the congregation (or church) of the LORD! These classes of individuals were:

    1. those who had been castrated (Deuteronomy 23:1);

    2. those born illegitimately, including their descendants to the tenth generation (Deuteronomy 23:2); and,

    3. those who were descended through Moab and Ammon (Deuteronomy 23:3). The reason for the ban on Moab and Ammon? Because they refused to give Israel food or drink, and because they had hired a prophet to curse Israel (Deuteronomy 23:4)!

    These examples make God look no different from Zeus. It seems Moses had a much tougher time forgiving the Moabites and Ammonites than God did.

    I’m sure you agree that illegitimate children had nothing to do with their parents promiscuity. Why should a child born out of wedlock be banned from the church up to the 10th generation? A God who does that is capricious like the ancient Greek Gods. I do not believe that my God would institute such a ridiculous ban. If you do, then you and I believe God has different traits.

    These commands given to Moses are Moses’ best attempts to understand God, and they were wrong. God did not institute these bans, man did.

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