Following up with the conversation on whether the timing of the 1978 revelation was correct, Brad Kramer and Marguerite Driessen disagreed on the necessity of whether the LDS Church should repent for the previous restrictions on black church members. Â You might be surprised at their stances. Â Here’s more of their conversation on whether an institution needs to repent, and whether an apology would undermine members’ faith in the LDS prophet. Â If you’re interested in previous conversations, see what they said about Misunderstanding Racism.) Â Here’s the transcript; let me know what you think.
Dan Wotherspoon, â€œGina, again from your list, you asked the question that I think a lot of us talk about, but letâ€™s give it voice here again.Â Is the reluctance of the Church to respond in a more robust way, this worry that itâ€™s going to undermine the membersâ€™ faith in prophetic revelation? Â Do you want to start us on that conversation?Â Do you guys kind of agree that this isâ€”letâ€™s at least air this one out for a couple of minutes.â€
Brad, â€œWell, itâ€™s something that Iâ€™ve encountered already in an interesting form which is that Iâ€™ve encountered a number of people who have responded to my call for contrition and disavowal.Â By saying like basically like well I can see why thatâ€™s needed here, but it just feels to me like youâ€™re trying to set the stage for calling for the same thing on gay rights and womenâ€™s issues.Â Â In other wordsâ€”â€œ
Marguerite, â€œSlippery slope argument?â€
Brad, â€œWell, they see the underminingâ€”and theyâ€™re not entirely wrong you know.Â Weâ€™re not going to beâ€”if something changes with regards to these questions that are sort of very salient at this very moment, something that is going to happen before that change is that people are going to re-evaluate, not necessarily lose faith, but they are going to re-evaluate what they think about the role of prophets, the role of church leaders, and thatâ€™s part of what is at stake in this question is are we willing to accept the possibility that on this one particular question, presidents of the church did lead us astray?Â They didnâ€™t lead us astray in that they led the Church into capital A apostasy, but they led us astray from truth, and God corrected it and brought us back.
But we have to I think come to terms with that and come to terms within that newly created space with just a slightly scaled back sense of sort of absolute prophetic almost infallibility.Â I mean we constantly say that we donâ€™t believe in that, but we kind of do.Â But when that gets scaled back and just tempered down just a little bit, then that opens up the space, it does raise the question, it does open up the possibility that the things that we feel really strongly about and that we use as sort of boundary markers for Mormons today are subject to change in the future.â€
Dan, â€œGina do you have anything to add on to that?Â Thanks Brad.â€
Gina, â€œYeah, I agree, and I think itâ€™s kind of going down that rabbit hole.Â Itâ€™s kind of shoving/pushing dominos over.Â If you say ok in this respect perhaps prophets got that wrong or presidents of the church got that wrong, then what other aspects can we say that perhaps presidents got that wrong?Â We need to kind ofâ€”I suppose it comes back to the question what is the role of the prophet and once weâ€™ve kind of determined thatâ€”is the prophetâ€™s role just kind of to tell us where to put our potatoes like Brigham Young did, ya know, by the back door next to the brooms, or is a prophetâ€™s responsibility, and I think kind of theologically weâ€™d have to agree that a prophetâ€™s responsibility is pointing to Christ, and that everything else can kind of go by the wayside.Â â€˜Well, thatâ€™s his opinion.â€™ I speak as somebody from New Zealand, it would have been nice if someoneâ€”this is an American problem, this whole race issue, and rather than it being sort of washed up onto the tide, weâ€™re having to deal with it. In Brazil for instance, the issue of race is not the same as it is in the United States.Â And so they look like, we want to build a temple, how can we do that because we canâ€™t find any person in Brazil that doesnâ€™t have at least some bit of black heritage, what do we do about that?
So, yeah, I just kind of come back to that notion that we have to clarify, as part of our maturing that we recognize that prophets have a particular role in telling us how to become more like Christ and pointing the way to become a Zion people.Â Now if they said everything that was the mind and will of God, theyâ€™d be God.â€
Dan, â€œHmmm, interesting.â€
Gina continues, â€œSo you know they have to filter this kind of, you know, speaking theologically they have to kind of filter all of these kind of promptings and thinking from kind of this omnipotent being through their kind of mortal framework and cultural locatedness.Â I think we need to own it, unless it is helpful for us to understand the mind and will of Christ, and backed up with scriptural canon.Â Some things can be disregarded just as kind of opinion.â€
Marguerite, â€œI would add that thereâ€™s always the trouble, and this is where you are when youâ€™re LDS you are supposed whatâ€”follow the prophet.Â Did you learn the song?Â [Sings] Follow the prophet.Â Follow the prophetâ€¦â€™ [Gina interrupts.]
Marguerite continues, â€œWe learned it out whole life so thatâ€™s one of the reasons that thereâ€™s an issue here because there are times whenâ€”I actually might disagree here a bit with Brad in that there are things a prophet has said and done before they were prophets or while wearing other hats.Â It is rare, we do not have a spoken revelation on this race issue, or some prophet speaking at General Conference.Â Weâ€™ve never had it, and weâ€™re going to need one probably to fix it all but there is several little sub-issues here.Â One, there are people in the Church who do not believe that any prophet ever in any aspect of their life could ever be infallible which then imbues anything theyâ€™ve ever said or done, including some paper they wrote when they were 21 for a sociology class with spiritual significance if they later become prophet of the church.Â There is that issue that exists among people.
There are some of us willing to accept that prophets are human beings and when they are speaking as the mouthpiece of the Lord we have been promised that they wonâ€™t lead us astray, but we still have something to do here which is we need to rely on our own instructions, and our own gift of the Holy Ghost and spirit of revelation to know when something is coming from this person as the prophet from the mouth of God, and when it is something else.Â Then you have to reconcile to yourself what to do with it. I mean I donâ€™t want people to listen to this podcast and say that Dan and his panel of crazies are saying â€˜donâ€™t ever listen to the prophet because itâ€™s really just his opinion.â€™ Thatâ€™s not my opinion.
Iâ€™m telling you there are times when people who are prophets speak but when they are not speaking prophetically, and usually they give you some kind of clue.Â Like if theyâ€™re speaking from the pulpit at General Conference, maybe you should listen.Â But when theyâ€™re sitting there talking to the legislature as the governor of the state, take that with a huge grain of salt if you take it at all.Â You could shovel it out in the dust bin and it wouldnâ€™t make a difference to your immortal status, you know, your obedience or lack thereof, your willfulness or lack thereof.Â I think that is something we need to come to grips with.
I think there are people whoâ€”I have a problem with people who wonâ€™t move forward unless thereâ€™s an apology for what happened in the past.Â Maybe thatâ€™s because I understand repentance, or I understand the idea of forgiveness and these things as related only to yourself. If youâ€™ve wronged me, youâ€™ve wronged me, and thatâ€™s on you.Â If I refuse to forgive you and move forward, thatâ€™s on me. So I want to be sure to tell people that look, you need to develop a relationship with Jesus Christ.Â You need to develop a relationship with God.Â You need to learn the doctrine, and the doctrine is inclusive.Â It is loving, and the end of 2 Nephi 26 absolutely says that God denies noneâ€”whatâ€™s the exact quote? It says he denieth none.â€
Dan, â€œHe inviteth all.â€
Marguerite continues, â€œHe denieth none!Â He denieth none that come unto him black and white, bond and free, male and female, and he, it says here specifically, remembereth the heathen and all are alike unto God, both Jew and gentile.Â Thereâ€™s nothing more clear than that, and yet we havenâ€™t gotten it right yet.Â We havenâ€™t gotten it right yet.Â Weâ€™re working towards it, now we get to keep working towards it and having these conversations to tell us guys, if itâ€™s not one of those all are alike things, if youâ€™re treating people differently, thatâ€™s contradictory to what weâ€™ve already been told.Â Donâ€™t ask for a prophet to give you new revelation.Â Youâ€™ve already got revelation.Â How about you read it, and understand it, and then we donâ€™t have to worry about making God tell us something else when heâ€™s already told us, â€˜hello. Why arenâ€™t you listening?â€™â€
Dan, â€œRight.Â I thought of that verse too, and itâ€™s sort of speaking to what you were talking about Gina.Â This is the role of a prophet.Â That verse kind of has that ideal, that calling you to Christâ€™s deep teaching stuff, a lot different than whatever it was that stuff that started the ban.Â Â You know what I mean?Â I think thereâ€™s a way to do that. We need to be careful, and we need to watch what you guys are all warning about, this rabbit hole, the dominos and all that stuff, but I can see it being done and it would lead towardsâ€”
Brad interrupts, â€œDan can I say something in response?â€
Dan, â€œYeah, sure.â€
Brad, â€œI think that when the conversation focuses on apology on the need or lack of need for an apology, I think itâ€™s actually a real distraction,
Marguerite, â€œYes it is.â€
Brad continues, â€œbecause thereâ€™s something more important than apologizing.Â Because you can apologize for the effects of something.Â You can apologize that something hurt somebody without actually acknowledging that it was wrong.Â An apology isnâ€™t an essential step in the repentance process.
It may be, but it may not be, but what is absolutely essential is that you acknowledge the need of repentance in the first place.Â You acknowledge that it was wrong, and if the Randy Bott debacle and all of its aftermath has taught us anything, it is that we are not past this issue in the church.â€
Dan, â€œFor sure.â€
Brad, â€œThis is a source of pain, this is a source of problems, this is still a millstone around our neck, an Achilles heel or whatever metaphor you want to use.Â It seems obvious to me, you cannot get past this while at the same time refusingâ€”weâ€™re making it worse for ourselves because now weâ€™re saying racism is bad, all racism, past and present, inside and outside the church is bad, is wrong we condemn it, but no comment on the ban.
That bespeaks a state of denial, an unwillingness to really come to terms with what the ban was, and the great evil that it entailed in the lives of millions and millions of children of God. If we are going to feel and experience and take in the full power of the atonement as a church, the power of the atonement to transform, to bring you back to a path of righteousness when youâ€™ve gone astray, to lift you out of the mire of sin, we have to acknowledge it.Â We have to at least be willing to say, regardless of whether thereâ€™s an apology to somebody, we have to be willing to say, you know what, it was racist and it was wrong.â€
Dan, â€œAnd then youâ€™ve added in some language, we need to repudiate it, disavow it, you know, thatâ€™s a lot different than apologize for how itâ€™s harmed.Â Yeah, and thatâ€™s clearly what your blog post points to.â€
Brad, â€œApology, no apology, itâ€™s about contrition.Â You cannot have the full power of Christ in your life without a broken heart and a contrite spirit.â€
Marguerite, â€œI would ask though, I donâ€™t disagree with the idea that you have to acknowledge the sin in order to repent of it and open you heart and make sure the stain is gone, but the church is millions of individuals.Â How does an institution?Â An institution has no soul.Â It is merely the collection of everybody in it.Â I think that we donâ€™t want to set up on a path whereâ€”I mean I want to acknowledge all the individuals to that introspection that Dan was talking about to that kind of individual repentance.Â If you get there, youâ€™re done.Â You can be done.Â Does the institution itself have to say something?Â Can an institution repent the way that youâ€™re talking about?â€
Brad, â€œI think it can I think it has to.â€
Dan, â€œI do too, yeah.â€
Gina, â€œYeah me too.â€
Brad continues, â€œI think on the one hand weâ€™re called to repent.â€
Marguerite interrupts, â€œYes, but thatâ€™s individuals, thatâ€™s people. Thatâ€™s the individuals in the Church.â€
Brad continues, â€œChurches and nations and people, entire peoples are called to repentance.â€
Marguerite, â€œBut thatâ€™s the individuals, thatâ€™s individuals who are called to repentance.â€
Dan, â€œNo, I, Iâ€¦.â€
Marguerite, â€œHow can an institution be condemned or saved?Â Itâ€™s the people.Â The church exists to save the individuals, and thatâ€™s why it exists.â€
Brad, â€œThe Church doesnâ€™t exist for individuals, it exists to build Zion.Â It exists to achieve potential asâ€”â€œ
Marguerite, â€œYeah but what Zion?â€
Brad continues, â€œAs an institution.â€
Marguerite, â€œWhat Zion?Â But thatâ€™s just it.Â The Church like the Sabbathâ€”man was not invented for the Sabbath, Sabbath was invented for man.Â And thatâ€™s the same thing as the Church.Â Man was not invented for the church.Â The church was instituted for man that we may learn and grow and get back to Heavenly Father.Â So as an institutionâ€”â€
Brad interrupts, â€œWe donâ€™t just do it as individuals, we do it as a society.Â We depend on each other.Â We are sealed together as a community. Zion.Â The end result is not an individual association with God, itâ€™s a kingdom.â€
Marguerite, â€œNo but its each individual has to be the part of that.â€
Brad, â€œRight, Iâ€™m not sayingâ€”â€œ
Dan, â€œItâ€™s a both Marguerite.Â I think youâ€™re playing up the individual piece of it.Â But I do think thereâ€™s a precedent for calling nations and things, especially this at this repudiation level, we have to absolutely not just explain it, we have to reject it.Â Reject those structures.â€
Marguerite, â€œI agree that this stuff is necessary. The Church has to take the lead in eradicating erroneous teachings wherever it finds them. And this is a whole bunch of erroneous stuff out there, and they need to absolutely correct that. But the reason is because peopleâ€™s belief in those erroneous teachings then cuts them off from God.Â It allows hatred and racism/discrimination to infect all of the individuals when the teaching is there. I think the Church has to get rid of that, but you know, sitting here as a black person, I donâ€™t need anybody here to come and apologize to me.â€
Brad, â€œIâ€™m not asking anybody to apologize.â€
Gina, â€œI want an apology.â€
Dan, â€œAll right!Â Go Gina.â€
Marguerite, â€Iâ€™m sorry Gina!â€
Brad, â€œWhat I want though is I want us to acknowledge if weâ€™re going to say that we need to eradicate false teachings, and the false teaching that we need to eradicate most is the false teaching that there was nothing wrong with the ban, that the ban wasnâ€™t racist.â€
Marguerite, â€œI agree, although I have not yet, I havenâ€™t heard the Churchâ€™s statements are not saying there was nothing wrong with it, they just say we canâ€™t explain where it came from.â€
Brad, â€œTheyâ€™re refusing to say that there was something wrong with it though.â€
Marguerite, â€œUmmm, I guess I have to look at that. The current press release doesnâ€™t really address that one way or another.Â They acknowledge the existence of the ban, they say for a time it existed and they canâ€™t explain why it existed.Â It ended in â€™78 and then they goâ€”â€œ
Brad, â€œCompletely passing on the question of there being anything wrong with it.â€
Dan, â€œItâ€™s missing for sure.â€
Marguerite, â€œYeah, thatâ€™s what it is. Â Theyâ€™re passing on that.Â They have not actually affirmative stated there was nothing wrong with it, they also have not affirmatively stated that it was something terribly wrong with it.â€
Brad, â€œPresident Hinckley stated there was nothing wrong with it several years ago.Â So it is something that does needâ€”â€œ
Marguerite, â€œWhat raised that?Â What were his exact words?Â Do you have that in front of you, because I actually read that just yesterday.Â He didnâ€™t say, â€˜Oh, there was nothing wrong with it, what he did wasâ€”â€œ
Brad, â€œHe said it wasnâ€™t wrong.â€
Marguerite, â€œIs that was the quote was?Â Because I donâ€™t remember the â€˜it was not wrong.â€™Â I remember him deftly avoiding a couple of those questions that led directly to that and what he really said was itâ€™s now over with and the revelation came and there was some language about, what was it?Â I donâ€™t have it in front of me anymore but I just read it the other day.Â He did not say, â€˜it was not wrongâ€™, what he said was â€˜this is over.Â We donâ€™t have the source of that policy was, but it is now gone, and why canâ€™t we move past this?â€™Â He left with the same kind of language he did in the Larry King interview.Â You know why are we focusing on this when thatâ€™s past history.Â Letâ€™s focus and move forward.â€
Brad, â€œYeah, Iâ€™m just assuming weâ€™re reading different things.â€
Dan, â€œCould be, yeah, yeah.â€
Brad, â€œHe probably got asked about it quite often.â€
Marguerite, â€œOh Iâ€™m sure he did, but by the time he was on Larry King, you saw it.Â He was expert at, he didnâ€™t defend it, he didnâ€™t condemn it.Â He said it was, it existed, we donâ€™t know what the source was.Â It ended in â€™78 and letâ€™s talk about something else.Â Thatâ€™s kind of been the script for several years for ya know…â€
Dan, â€œNew script coming, please.Â Letâ€™s hope.â€
Marguerite, â€œI donâ€™t disagree that the conversation needs to happen, I just wanted to make sure thatâ€”I donâ€™t want anybodyâ€™s focus, I donâ€™t want any individuals, personal relationships or their testimonies with say the truths that are in the Book of Mormon and the truths that are in the gospel to be hindered by them waiting for a, you know an â€œIâ€™m sorryâ€.Â There are black people who joined the church when the ban existed and that kind of faith I donâ€™t want to trivialize or minimize the amazing steps, the path that these people walked that quite frankly I have no idea if I would be able to walk at that time with that kind of faith, and with that kind of grace in the face of all that difficulty, extant, not just past, not just lingering, not just the artifacts, but in their faces every single day.Â And that to me is tremendous faith in truths of the doctrine that isnâ€™t tied to what other people think, what other people say.Â I donâ€™t want to ever deny someone the ability to walk that path.â€
Brad, â€œNo, I agree, and I donâ€™t think that-thatâ€™s why I began that conversations about apology are sidestepping the main issue, which is that our unwillingness to acknowledge that it was wrong is still a stumbling block.â€
Marguerite, â€œWell, and I would just add too that thereâ€™s a lot of other stumbling blocks to that conversation that people donâ€™t have a good understanding of discrimination, they donâ€™t have a good understanding of racism, and as long as they believe that they are not racist unless they possess animosity, hatred based on race, then this question can never be asked.Â Because they will say there was no racism because there was no animosity.Â â€œ
Marguerite , â€œWhat we have to do first is let people know that discrimination based on race is racism no matter what your motives, no matter what your understanding.Â If they have that, then people can start to do the light bulb will go off.Â Oh my gosh!Â That was discrimination, then that was racist.Â We need to have that other conversation first.Â We need to educate people as to â€˜look guys this is discrimination.â€™ If somebody can be a religion professor at BYU for umpteen years and go into Washington Post saying that discrimination is merely denying people something that will be a benefit to them, weâ€™ve got a lot of educating to do on that issue there before we can even get to the loftier issues that are the goal here.â€
Dan, â€œVery good, thank you.Â Hey guys we got to wrap this up.
What are your thoughts? Â Do you agree with Marguerite or Brad on the appropriateness of an apology? Â Can/Should an institution repent?
And if there is an apology, what exactly is gained? Will those who are critical of its existence suddenly accept the apology and get baptized or something? Considering that this issue is only one of so many other issues that the critics have when discussions of the LDS Church and its history come up, I think there is no positive for an apology. The negatives of an apology, however, as brought up by a few comments of the interviewed is great within the active membership. Sure, there will be a few liberal members that would get some kind of a “spiritual high” for about one day. The majority will ignore it at best or wonder if the leadership has apostatized for criticizing the past leadership if they do think of the repercussions.
For the majority of the membership of the LDS Church, the revelation of President Kimball and the subsequent acknowledgement of it by Bruce R. McConkie is and should always be the last word on the subject. They are, after all, the very words of the Lord through his servants. Anything more will be seen as a bad faith PR stunt to look good in the eyes of the evil world.
Will those who are critical of its existence suddenly accept the apology and get baptized or something?
Perhaps some will. Certainly following the 1978 revelation, black members joined in droves. Is this not a positive?
as for a “bad faith PR stunt”, I disagree. I think an apology would be helpful, though I thought the arguments against an apology were pretty interesting. I was especially surprised at Marguerite’s position.
Before criticizing anyone, we should be sure that we are right. It is not good enough to think that we are right, to believe, but we need to know that we are right. The two very seldom are synonymous.
When it comes to matters of doctrine and church policy, this is trebly true. Even though I may have disagreed with one or more church policies during my lifetime, I could never find myself in a position where I knew I was right, and thus have kept my peace.
I am curious if either of you think the church should apologize for the Mountain Meadows Massacre, or would nothing good come of it?
Did the church, as an institution, initiate the Mountain Meadows massacre?
Well, that’s subject to debate, but church members absolutely participated in it. Rather than sidetrack the issue to MMM, but my real question is if you can think of any situation in which the church should apologize.
For example, even if the institution didn’t initiate the ban, or the massacre, wouldn’t there be some goodwill generated for apologizing for the wrong actions of John D. Lee, or for the hurt feelings of a century of black members not being able to participate in blessings associated with the temple?
I doubt that it would cause that much good will. Walking backwards is an unnatural and ineffective way to go through life.
As individuals, should we never apologize because it is walking backwards and is an “unnatural and ineffective way to go through life”? Do you never apologize for anything?
MH, Aren’t you making this a little personal?
But to answer your question, yes, I do apologize when I find that I have been wrong about something and it has hurt someone. Then I move on.
Those who are still trying to find something to prove or establish factually that the Church, as an institution, was responsible for the Mountain Meadows Massacre are walking backwards on that point. The most direct evidence shows that the leadership of the church, in the person of Brigham Young, specifically said to leave the members of that train alone, although valiant efforts have been made to implicate Brigham.
We are forty-four years past the 1978 revelation. Those who are trying to find some factual evidence to support their theory that the ban was completely man made are walking backwards on that issue, although it is their right and privilege to do so.
For someone to call for the church to apologize for something, they need to be right. Not just think they are right. As I noted, there often is a great discrepancy between the two. You, yourself, have admitted that we may never know the truth about the matter until the next life. Any calls for an apology are premature until that full truth be known. The reasons for the ban were not made known by the revelation that lifted it. The reasons for the ban are still not known. All we have is speculation about possible motives. Making an apology for something that is not known to be true is as bad as not making one when a wrong is absolutely known to have been perpetrated. It would be demeaning and unrighteous judgement on Brigham Young and the other eight presidents who were the Lord’s chosen prophets here on this earth who preceded Spencer W. Kimball.
Glenn, the church is made of people. If you were a black man in 1960, hearing President Benson claim that Martin Luther and the Civil Rights movement was a tool of the Communists, and that blacks were supposed to serve as a result of what Cain or Ham did, or that blacks were less valiant in the pre-existence as Elder McConkie asserted, you see nothing wrong with those statements?
Your measuring stick that “they need to be right. Not just think they are right” I suspect doesn’t fly with your wife. Even if I am right with my wife, I apologize for hurt feelings. I don’t need to be 100% right to apologize, or 100% wrong. It takes two to tango, and I find your rationalizations a bit more stringent on the church than in your personal life.
It’s a shame that Ezra Taft Benson didn’t apologize for calling Luther a communist tool, and for allowing assertions that President Eisenhower was a tool of the communists to go unchallenged. (See my previous post on Benson if you want more info.) However, it is pretty cool that Benson called Helvicio Martins to the Quorum of 70. Certainly there were a lot of hurtful things said about blacks in the runup to the 1978 revelation that the church could acknowledge as racist and wrong. Benson is just one of many that made disparaging remarks about black people in general that we would no longer tolerate today. I see nothing wrong with repudiating such remarks, rather than pretending they never happened. Otherwise, they just fester until people like Randy Bott don’t realize the offensiveness of such racist comments. The church could do more to educate the members that racist comments have no place in the church, and an apology would be an incredibly wonderful teaching moment. A lot of good could come from an apology–it isn’t a one-way ticket to bad PR.
MH, You are conflating two things. The priesthood ban and racist comments made by some past leaders of the church. You are also conflating criticism of Martin Luther King with racism. Ezra Taft Benson may have been racist. I don’t know. But his belief that Martin Luther king was a tool of the Communists or that he was actually a Communist probably came from the fact that MLK had two people closely associated with him that had ties to the Communist Party, Stanley David Levison and Jack O’Dell. When King was advised by President Kennedy to sever ties with the two so that it would not cause trouble for the Civil Rights bill he was trying to get passed, MLK agreed and publicly severed his relationships with the two, but kept up a correspondence with them that was uncovered and fueled further suspicions about MLK’s possible leftist leanings. Again, before we make any type of judgement, we need to know that we are correct. But whatever shortcomings Ezra Taft Benson had in that area, we are powerless to make an apology for him.
I think many of the past apostles and prophets have made rather embarrassed statements about their former viewpoints, such as Bruce R. McKonkie. Maybe they did not go far enough to suit you or some others. Whatever those former leaders felt inside, any flaws or erroneous viewpoints is something that each of them individually have to answer for to God.
The Church does take stands against racism and erroneous ideas on the priesthood ban. But it also is leaving the judgements of past members to God, who does know the hearts of men.
That is where we have to leave the judgements on the origination of the priesthood ban until we receive more light and knowledge.
Glenn, with all due respect, the fact that you call this “conflating” shows incredible insensitivity to people of color. I am saddened at your apparent callous attitude, and I think your black friends would raise eyebrows that you feel the church continues to bear no responsibility or culpability for apostles spouting racism from the pulpit.
[…] previously posted excerpts from this panel discussion when I asked if 1978 was the right year, and whether the Church should apologize. Â The transcript below continues after Part 1. Dan Wotherspoon, Host of Mormon […]
MH, You are getting personal again. My black friends and I can have such discussions without getting personal. But this is your blog, and you have the right to do so. I do not agree with your logic nor viewpoints and have tried to highlight the differences in our logic.
You have not really addressed my points but have only responded with what what you believe, what you feel.
How is it being callous to leave judgement of people long dead to God?
How is it being callous to reserve judgement on the priesthood ban until we have further light and knowledge, when, as I pointed out, even you have admitted that we do not know the answer and will probably not know it in this life?
Here’s what I find ironic. You keep complaining that I’m “getting personal”, yet you ignore/deny that the ban impacted any black Mormons personally. Black feelings do not matter or are of secondary importance on this issue because the people who said racist things are all dead now (conveniently ignoring Randy Bott).
Yes I am trying to “get personal” because this is a personal issue to many black people. You fail to understand that point, or are at least GREATLY minimizing it’s importance. It IS PERSONAL. I’m using personal examples to try to get you to understand–I’m not trying to be offensive for argument’s sake or for shock value. When we fail to recognize the personal pain that has been caused, and continues to go on (via the future Randy Botts of the world), we just can’t be empathetic. (It’s like handing the keys of the car to a child not ready to drive….that’s what Bott said, but you don’t think the Church needs to apologize for it-simply denounce Bott into a forced retirement.)
I freely admit that I’m not always empathetic, but this is certainly one issue I feel very strongly about it. I’m sorry if I come across too strongly to you, but I feel strongly about the issue. (See that was an apology, but I guess I should not have apologized according to your line of thinking because I’m not 100% right or wrong on the issue.)
With all due respect, you are not responding to any of my questions either. I feel like we are talking past each other, and you fail to recognize hurt feelings as in any way legitimate. I just don’t know how this can be a fruitful discussion–I obviously will not change your mind, and you are not being persuasive with changing mine.
In one last effort Glenn, let me illustrate one more example of an apology. I wish I could link to the original article that caused Mormon Matters to implode, but that’s a bit of a side issue. Let me quote the pertinent parts to our discussion.
Now, did Jensen damage the church “as a bad faith PR stunt to look good in the eyes of the evil world” by apologizing for all the hurt feelings? This is all I’m asking for. (I know those are Jettboy’s words, not yours, but you seem to align yourself with him. If you disagree with the characterization, then feel free to correct me.)
Now to answer your questions.
How is it being callous to leave judgement of people long dead to God?
How is it being callous to reserve judgement on the priesthood ban until we have further light and knowledge, when, as I pointed out, even you have admitted that we do not know the answer and will probably not know it in this life?
I think it’s great to have God judge people. He will do it better than me. But I didn’t characterize your callousness that way. Your callousness was the result of “you feel the church continues to bear no responsibility or culpability for apostles spouting racism from the pulpit.” So you have mis-characterized my comment about what was callous. I have said nothing about God judging them. You and I are on the same page there, but I feel strongly that evil triumphs when good men do nothing. Failure to see a need to apologize is tantamount to doing nothing, and it certainly doesn’t answer the question “Did I do any good in the world today? Have I helped anyone in need? Did I cheer up the sad, or make someone feel glad. If not I have failed indeed.”
An apology, like Elder Jensen’s would do a lot to cheering up the sad, and making someone feel glad. Without it, the church has failed indeed, and needs to “wake up and doing something more than dream of your mansion above. Doing good is a pleasure, a joy beyond measure, a blessing of duty and love.”
MH, Thank you for your responses. In a way, we are talking past each other. You seem to be focusing on the emotional aspects of the situation. You also seem to be treating the church as a living entity. The leadership of the church disavowed racist attitudes prior to the 1978 revelation.
“Intolerance by Church members is despicable. A special problem exists with respect to blacks because they may not now  receive the priesthood. Some members of the Church would justify their own un-Christian discrimination against blacks because of that rule with respect to the priesthood, but while this restriction has been imposed by the Lord, it is not for us to add burdens upon the shoulders of our black brethren. They who have received Christ in faith through authoritative baptism are heirs to the celestial kingdom along with men of all other races. And those who remain faithful to the end may expect that God may finally grant them all blessings they have merited through their righteousness. Such matters are in the Lord’s hands. It is for us to extend our love to all.” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p.237)
The leadership of the church was quick to publicly disavow the statements by Professor Bott.
On the priesthood ban itself, I still take the position that we have to know that the ban was not implemented by God before any apology can be made. All of the statements from the First Presidency of the Church throughout the decades have reaffirmed that message, including President Kimball as late as 1972. The 1978 revelation did not contradict any of those former announcements. As I have stated before, a revelation would be needed to contradict all of those other pronouncements by the various First Presidencies. That is the rational basis upon which I stand. That it not ignoring the feelings of anyone who feels differently. But no one of us is in the position to tell the President of the Church that he needs to issue an apology for something that by all official reports, came from God. it doesn’t matter how much anyone wishes that it were different, no matter how much anyone wishes that it were not so, that is where the matter stands. I am afraid that your responses to my stand have been emotional rather than rational.
After my first wife died, I became an emotional wreck. I already had some problems, but her death sort of broke the dam, so to speak. I spent almost five years in therapy, sorting myself out. The very most important thing I learned was to think rationally, to examine each situation in my life rationally and not emotionally. That was also the most difficult hing I had to learn, because humans are wont to lead with their emotions, and I was no exception. I do not say that I am now perfectly rational, but I did achieve a pretty good rational state, according to the psychologist that worked with me. It is notable that it took almost five years to go from train wreck to functioning rationally.
One of the things that I learned was that most of the emotional pain that human beings experience is from irrational thinking. People are offended so easily because of irrational thinking. When a person slaps you in the face, it hurts. You know what caused the pain. It is a physiological reaction. When a person tells you that they don’t like the way you dress and you react negatively, both are acting irrationally. I don’t have the time to go into all facets of this subject right now. I’m just trying to make the barest of points.
Let me give you an example. Funerals. They are irrational exercises of human emotionalism. The funeral is not for the dead but for the living. Take the case of the young man in Luke, chapter 9:
“59 And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.
60 Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.”
This seems to be a very callous attitude by Jesus. Yet it is ultimately rational. The man’s father was dead. Someone would bury him, but as far as the father himself, it made no difference. He was dead and gone. There would be members of the family that would wail and moan uselessly for maybe days, but that would accomplish nothing. Instead, the man (or woman) could be actively helping the cause of the living to hear the saving message of the gospel.
I think that Marguerite Driessen has the most rational outlook of all those on the panel. The ban was a fact. It’s over. Let’s go forward. You seemed surprised at her outlook, but maybe it’s because you are not looking at it as rationally as she is.
I’ve read a lot of commentary on the priesthood ban and about the research that has gone into it. Joseph Smith’s role is nebulous but not unproven. Brigham Young’s teachings have been pretty well established by research and some people have reached conclusions from that research that Brigham acted on his own. But Brigham himself said that it came from the Lord. Until the Lord contradicts President Young through a current prophet, that is where we are logically and rationally, no matter how you or anyone else feels about it. And that is the point that you have failed to address.
MH, I’ll check back to see if you have any last words. I do believe that we’ve both pretty much said all we can say without repeating ourselves ad nauseum, and I get dizzy going around in circles.
I just want to say, on a last note, that I did emphasize with those who could not hold the priesthood prior to 1978. I was a very happy man when that revelation came about.
What disturbs me now is the vestiges of racism I see and hear all about me in the church. And it is not just about blacks now. I would like to see some panel discussions of how to deal with that in a way that will not cause more friction but will help us to learn how to live and learn together in a more Christlike manner.
On a related note, I live in a southern state, North Carolina, which has its share of bigotry. So it was a welcome change to hear a young black man who in an interracial marriage get up and bear his testimony a few weeks ago. In it he made it a point to let the members know how much he loved them (us) and how good they all were to him. So maybe there is some hope for the South after all.
Thanks for all of your input. Although you may not have seen any perceptible change in my responses, I have indeed thought deeply about your comments.
Glenn, Busy day, sorry I didn’t respond sooner. I’m ready to let this rest. I still feel like we are talking past each other. You didn’t even attempt to address the Marlin Jensen apology, which was the crux of my main point.
I’m sorry to hear about the loss of your wife, and I’m sure that your therapy was good for you, but I think most people would take offense to the idea that emotional=irrational. If you told your wife to quit being irrational, I doubt she would take that as a compliment.
You sound like Mr. Spock on Star Trek. One of the things I loved about that show was that both Spock and Kirk showed their strengths. Sometimes logical, no emotion is good, sometimes illogical, emotional responses are good. I don’t think that we should deny that emotional responses can be healthy. Calling them irrational not only angers the person it is directed at, but can be counter-productive at times.
I lost a brother 6 years ago (car wreck), and a sister 16 years ago (cancer). The loss of these two siblings has improved my capacity to feel empathy for others. I don’t view that as a bad thing, though I miss them terribly and still think about them daily. (I’m sure you can relate.)
A well-qualified doctor with no feelings for his patient will not have as many patients as a less qualified doctor who understands what his patient is going through. There is such a thing as emotional intelligence, and your continual emphasis on emotions as irrational once again misses the point.
If the gospel is to be taught universally to all nations, kindreds, tongues, and peoples, I don’t think it is a wise course of action to keep blaming racism on God. It hinders God’s message of love, and I just don’t believe God is a racist. I am much more comfortable placing the blame on man’s incomplete understanding of God. I think we can agree that man’s ways are not God’s ways, and we really don’t understand God very well. Yes these prophets were well-meaning, but as the apostle Paul said, “we see through a glass darkly.” Prophets don’t see everything, and I think falsely attribute certain things to God. That makes prophets as human as you and me, though I still hold them up as prophets much greater than me.
MH, Thanks for your response. I do not view all emotionalism as bad. Take for instance missing or forgetting my our anniversary. If I did so, my wife would be emotionally hurt. And that is not irrational. We have such a close, emotionally entangled and loving relationship, that such a lapse would cause some emotional distress. I have not forgotten that date during our twenty plus years of marriage.
My wife and I went through a lot of therapy together. She had some bad treatment during her childhood years, continuing on through her first two marriages. We both came into our relationship carrying a lot of emotional baggage. This caused a lot of misunderstandings between us and often each of us felt that the other was jerking us around. Often I felt that it would be better logically just to tell her that it would not work out and to walk away. I am sure that she felt the same way a couple of times. But the problem is that we had fallen head over heels in love and walking away was something that neither of us could do.
The therapy was our saving grace. That was really the beginning of my rational awakening. I learned not to react to her own emotional outbursts and just to wait them out. I learned not to view her behavior as “bad” or “truly awful” etc. I learned that all of her outbursts were not really about me, but problems from her past poking themselves into the present.
After I leaned that, I was able to begin helping her with her problems rather than becoming a part of them. It took about two years after we were married for us to really settle down, but the fruits have been joyous.
When she does have a problem, when she does become emotional about something that happened in the past, I do not tell her that she is being irrational. When she wishes, I will discuss the problem with her, and lead her to the things we were taught while in therapy and eventually she will work herself out of the blues.
That is something that our therapist taught us, i.e. that he could not heal us, nor could any other human. He told us that he would give us the tools and we could heal ourselves. And we have done so, but not without the help of our Lord.
When I am interacting with people, I try to use a balance between emotionalism and rational logic. When I engage in a discussion such as this, I try to keep my discussions based upon the issues and not on emotions. I try never to become personal or question the motives of any poster with whom I am debating.
I am going to tell you something that I am sure will shock you. I am not always right. I have modified my positions on several issues during the course of my internet discussions. I have been “nailed” a couple of times by posters that some would call anti-mormons. I admitted it cheerfully, which always seems to catch people off guard.
I am willing to modify my viewpoints when I receive further light and knowledge.
I do get some amusement from posters on the different discussion boards I frequent more or less frequently. There are some critics and some apologists who always seem to get personal during a discussion, and it always derails the thread.
So, to get to the last, if I have come across to you as attacking you personally, I apologize. The remarks about the rational thinking may have seemed so. It was not meant to be personal, but you and I are different people and obviously will not always see things in the same light. (Boy, did I ever learn that with my wife!)
No biggie Glenn, but you still didn’t respond to anything about Jensen.
MH, I really am not sure what the point is with Jensen. He made what is apparently a personal apology, and I am not sure what he apologized for.
I am not sure what your stance is on homosexual marriages either. Would you care to enlighten me a little further?
[…] previously posted excerpts from this panel discussion when I asked if 1978 was the right year, and whether the Church should apologize. Â The transcript below continues after Part […]