Confronting Racism-Part 2

I’ve already posted Part 1 of the Mormon Matters episode 80:  How Can we Confront Racism within Mormon Thought and Culture? Here is part 2.  I have previously posted excerpts from this panel discussion when I asked if 1978 was the right year, and whether the Church should apologize.  The transcript below continues after Part 1.

Dan Wotherspoon, Host of Mormon Matters

Dan Wotherspoon, â”Oh I love that discussion.  Thank you, you guys. I really appreciate that. Oh man, you guys are awesome. This is the right panel to have.  Where do we want to go next?”

Brad Kramer – By Common Consent blogger

Brad Kramer, “I wanted to make a quick follow-up point on what Marguerite was saying there at the end.  Well, both Marguerite and Gina were talking about the periphery speaking to the core, you know the outside speaking to the center, and the point that I want to make is that sometimes it takes two interventions, you know?

Samuel the Lamanite, the black–”the dark-skinned prophet who stood on the threshold between the comfortable, inside, civilized, white core and the outside other, and called them to repentance.  He didn’t ask for an invitation, he didn’t receive an invitation.  His call to repentance wasn’t well-received at all and another important factor there is that sometimes speaking by itself isn’t enough.  It wasn’t enough that he got up and spoke.  Part of what also had to happen was he had to be vindicated.  There had to be a God in the machine.  Jesus had to come and say, “that guy that came and stood upon your wall that you tried to kill, I sent him. You need to pay attention to him.”

Dan, “And why aren’t his writings right here?  Go add them here!”

Brad, “Why aren’t his writings alongside your white prophets.  So sometimes that’s what needs to happen, so that’s one possible route that we can choose to take as a church, as a periphery, simply to call on heaven, to call on God to intervene at the center, to step into the building and grab somebody by the shoulders and shake him and say, “pay attention to what’s happening.”

Dr. Gina Colvin, University of Canterbury, New Zealand

Gina Colvin, “That’s a lofty goal, right there isn’t it?”

Marguerite Driessen laughs.  “Yes, let’s go ahead and make an appointment and have God go and do our work for us.”

Gina laughs.  “It would be awesome!”

Marguerite Driessen, Adjunct Professor at BYU in Law and Communications

Marguerite, “Boy life would be so much easier.  You know, but I do think there are many issues that relate to why this is such a tender issue for some, and such an abrasive issue for others, and yet even a non-issue for some others, and people in those groups probably would surprise you. I’ve known white people much more offended and hurt by the ban–that they’ve come to call the Priesthood ban, but now after talking to Brad, I will call it a Temple Ban, I will just call it “The Ban” or whatever, to make sure that we know it was more than just priesthood–much more hurt and offended by it than say I am, having joined the church in 1981 when it was over.  And I didn’t join in Utah, I joined out in Washington, DC.”

Gina interrupts, “Can I just ask a question?  If you had known about it, would you have joined the Church?”

Marguerite, “I had known that there was a priesthood restriction until ’78 when I joined the Church.  I also knew it wasn’t there anymore.  What I never heard before ’81 was the folklore that people had invented to support it.  So it actually didn’t affect me at all.  I get asked, how can you join a church that is so racist?

And I said, well the policy doesn’t exist anymore, so what are you really asking me?  And it turns out, well, they had this policy and they had it longer than other people.  And that point, I actually am really comfortable with, and perhaps have a very different perspective than some other people and perhaps it comes from my legal background, but I will tell you–I studied, I studied, the Civil Rights acts of ’54 or ’64.  I mean I studied those de-segregation cases and I even met say you know Brown vs Board of Education–famous U.S. case that ended segregation in public education, the girls who were the subject of that lawsuit came to speak at BYU when I was part of the hosting team and spent hours and hours with them over the course of the time that they were here.

You know, it’s a really interesting perspective to talk to really little girls who at the age of 7 had to be escorted to school by the National Guard, or by police because the policy changed from the top down, and the people were angry and resentful and they still had their racist attitudes, and those attitudes had not changed.  My perspective on this restriction and the lifting of it and the timing is that, you know, thank goodness God waited until ’78 because what might have been the result had he moved sooner in other contexts?

I want to explain that which is that when I think of an 8-year old girl, a 7-year old, 9-year old, having to have police protection to walk to school, having excrement thrown at them, being sworn at, having people trying to beat them, throwing rocks, throwing food, throwing garbage, the image that came to me immediately was I knew to my soul that that is not the way that God wanted any of his children to have to go to church.  If this ban had come from the top down too soon, that is what people like me would have faced when we embraced the gospel.  The doctrine that did not contain the racist poison.

You know certainly there are some questionable texts, and that could be the subject of another Mormon Matters podcast, but I also think that part of those questionable texts, part of the reason that they have had the impact is because people look at them through a lens that is already darkened with racial prejudice through histories of institutional racism, and social racism that they have been trained to accept as normal, so that they think of things in racial terms that were not thought of that way at the time people were writing, and certainly not thought of that way say in the time of the Old Testament or New Testament.  But I know in my core that there’s no way Heavenly Father wanted his children to have to go to church with the National Guard to protect them because people around them didn’t want them there.

One absolute benefit of this revelation coming as late as it did is that it came at a time when the vast majority of the people in the church wanted it. A vast majority of people in the church were praying for it individually, and scores of them were writing and lobbying their church leadership to change this hurtful damaging policy for racial reasons, and for compassionate reasons, and for doctrinal reasons all of which were well and good, but what it really meant is [that] when that revelation came in ’78, it was greeted with joy. It was greeted with welcome, almost uniformly throughout the church even among people who still clung to some racist ideas, they believed that denying people blessings for any reason other than their own unworthiness was bad, and that is a benefit from this that is the one aspect of the discussion that we’re not talking about. I don’t deny that it was racist, not at all.  I don’t deny that it was horrible, and I don’t deny that it was hurtful. Coming into the church after it was over, I was spared all of that hurt, and I was spared that damage, and I was spared that marginalization, and only then had to deal with the residual, “how do you deal with a black person when you’ve been trained all your life to think of them as the cursed seed of Cain with whom you should not mix your blood?”  and people trying to work their way around that or through that.

But I see things, coming this way at it, and I don’t know Gina in answer to your question, had I found the gospel or the Book of Mormon before ’78, I don’t know that I would have had the courage or the faith of a Darius Gray to join the church anyway and to trust that it will all work out in the end.  I joined at a time when the policy was gone, and all I had to do was be able to have a thick skin about the people around me who had not quite caught up with the policy in terms of total equality of access to God’s love and God’s blessings.”

Gina, “Do you think though that Marguerite, that if the church had been allowed to thrive in black communities as kind of black LDS churches, that that might have been a safe place for people. Can you think of anything historically that might have impeded the possibility of–”

Marguerite interrupts, No, not anything that would have impeded the possibility, but look around you right now.  Churches that allowed black congregations to exist and have black ministers, they exist.  My dad was Roman Catholic.  When we went to his parents home, or went to their church when we had his mom’s funeral, my grandmother’s funeral, there was a whole church full of black Catholic people. But guess what?  That is the church where all the black Catholic people went.  The white Catholic people to this day don’t go to that building, they go somewhere else. That is the kind of history we could have ended up with had there not been that 10 more years, and that’s really what we’re talking about here.

Ten more years in changing the policy from the top down resulted in a today, a today in which there is not the church on that corner where black Mormons go, and the church on that corner where the white Mormons go, which is the case with Catholics, which is what I have experience with; Methodists as well, which is what my mom was Methodist.  I have friends who are Southern Baptist, friends who are Episcopalian, friends who are in religions that did not have a formal priesthood ban or a priesthood restriction for black people until 1978, but to this day have segregated congregations, not by doctrine, not by ecclesiastical fiat, but simply by tradition where people grew apart racially, and now we, as the LDS Church have the opportunity truly to be of one heart and one mind, to be one fold with one shepherd, who is Jesus Christ, and not the pastor on that corner versus the pastor on the other corner.”

Gina, “Well, I mean we have such centralized control though.  I wonder if that would be such a bad thing.  Like in 2012 the big issue of course would be, how do we bring our two kinds of thriving communities, a black community and a white community into conversation with each other?  I’m just kind of throwing that out there.”

Brad, “Segregation is creeping back in because of immigration. There aren’t all-black units in Utah, but there are all Mexican units in Arizona.”

Marguerite, “Well, let me re-phrase, there are units, but they tend to be language units more than anything else. There is no law–the Church has always had a policy of allowing everyone to be taught the gospel in their own language, and so what we have to guard against is the potential for having a Spanish language branch or a Chinese language branch or something like this where people can congregate in their own tongue from becoming a culture apart, like the black Catholic church on one corner in Baltimore, and the white Catholic church across town.”

Brad, “That’s what I’m saying.  I know that there are language units everywhere in the church where there’s the need for it.  But what I’m hearing about what’s going in some parts of Arizona is that the division is hardening along these more culturally antagonistic lines.”

Gina, “Yes, absolutely.”

Marguerite, “Well, Arizona has some other issues though. Arizona also has the extremely harsh immigration laws.  There are other factors contributing to that–

Brad interrupts, “Right, no question.”

Marguerite, –in that location, but they do not yet exist everywhere else.  I’m not denying that they exist.  I’m not denying that they may be coming into existence, but I guarantee you other issues are playing into that in Arizona that are not playing into it as much in other places, where once people are comfortable in English, they don’t feel the need to only attend the Spanish branch anymore.”

Dan, “Cool.  Brad, I want to steer to you for just one second, and then Gina I want to go with you.  Brad, what I’m hoping is there was something in your blog post that sort of said similar things to what Marguerite said about perhaps the timing was right if it had happened when David O. McKay was petitioning the Lord.  Some of the things she was saying there.  Do you have any follow up, or did she articulate basically the point that you were making in your blog post or was there pieces that were left out?”

Brad, “No there’s a follow up that I wanted to make, a kind of perhaps slightly different, but also complimentary read on the sort of question we’re defining.  By the time this is becoming a real problem–for a long time the ban exists and it’s not a ”nobody is treating it as a problem. Nobody considers it to be a problem.  It’s not until during the 20th century that you get to the point where anybody on the inside, certainly anybody at the center of the church is considering it a problem at all, and it becomes increasingly a problem.  So you have people starting to ask questions about it.

So then the issue becomes, from the perspective of God, you’ve got 2 problems.  You’ve got a church where this ban exists, it’s already there, regardless of where it came from, it’s already there, but it’s also a church that’s profoundly racist, and where lots of racist sentiment exists.  So then you’ve got to deal with the question well ok, if I the Lord end this policy by fiat right now, say it’s 1950, ok?  A little ahead of the curve so to speak.  I’m going to end this policy right now. Then it’s very easy to imagine that the consequence of that would have been black priesthood holders presiding over black units, black temple workers officiating in black temples.

In other words, racism can still exist in the church and all the really–you can basically approach the question as ok, blacks are still inferior but they can still have the priesthood now.  Those two things could have been compatible with each other.  So when I look at someone like David O. McKay, vigorously opposed Civil Rights legislation, and not just on the grounds of sort of constitutional technicalities, but opposed Civil Rights legislation because he was uncomfortable with integration, and because he was uncomfortable with what he would have described as race-mixing.

So if somebody like that is asking me, can the blacks have the priesthood? If essentially what he’s asking me is can we finally give this inferior race some priesthood here?  My answer is going to be stop asking, it’s not going to happen when you’re in charge–exactly the answer that he got.

Marguerite, “Well, and I would also add to that we’ve been told as LDS people that God has a really interesting way of hiding the mysteries of the universe.  He doesn’t tell us anything if we just ask.  He will give us everything if we just ask. But it’s not just asking.  Oliver Cowdery learned that.  What are you supposed to do?  You’re supposed to study it out in your own mind, you’re supposed to come up with an answer, and then you ask God if your answer is right.  So we know from historical events and conversations and statements that McKay made and others made, that McKay was taking a question to the Lord, but do you know what that question was?”

Dan, “Yeah, he wasn’t framing it right.”

Marguerite continues, “Do you know how it was framed?  The fact is, he was bringing a question to the Lord, but it very may not have been, ‘I have decided now is the right time.  Do you concur?’ It might have been something else.”

Brad, “Yeah, and it goes to this larger question of the relationship between the ban and the racist teachings. Because what ends up happening, the longer the ban persists, the more it becomes a sort of millstone around our neck.  It becomes an embarrassment, something to be boycotted, and a big problem and everyone is trying to deal with it and try to figure out what to do about it. People are digging their heels in to explain it and to rationalize it, and the effect of all of this pressure is that this pressure locks all of this racist sentiment in the Church to the ban.  And the longer the ban persists, the more the ban gets tied to the racist sentiment, and the racist teachings, and the racist idea about the differences between people of African descent, and people without African lineage.

And so the effect can then be that when God tells the church, and we don’t know what he said.  We don’t have the revelation, right?  Official Declaration 2 is the language that church leaders use to announce to the church that a revelation has been received. It’s not the language of any revelation.  We don’t know what the revelation was other than that the substance of it was, all worthy male members.  And so what happens is that all of this waiting, persistent waiting, this embarrassing sort of how long it’s taking, and all of the racist teachings and rationalizations lead to a moment when God can say, every worthy male member, and that alone can stand as a repudiation of all the racist nonsense.

Marguerite, “And that’s how Bruce R. McConkie interpreted it when he in his ’78 in his devotional address said forget everything that everybody’s ever said cause they didn’t have the light that we now have.  Not that He gave us everything they gave him, that the presidency got.  As you said, we didn’t get the actual revelation.  We got the announcement, but Bruce R. McConkie specifically said, forget anything we’ve ever said about this explaining it.  Anything, it all came without the knowledge, with lesser light, lesser knowledge. It was wrong.  He acknowledged that. People still kept their pet theories.”

Dan, “Right.  But it hasn’t come from a General Conference pulpit yet.  I think it needs to come from a First Presidency member in General Conference to really have the true effect, so we’ll hope for that.  Gina, you had pre-circulated a few things to share.  There was an opening for one of them, a little bit in some of Marguerite’s talk about becoming one fold and stuff, and you kind of posed the question, is color-blindness the next problem we face within the church?  In other words, can we go so far in overcoming racism, that I’m assuming what you mean by that is some negative consequences of color-blindness as well, or cultural blindness, or mixing everybody together.  Is that what you were getting at?”

Gina, “Yeah, I think what I mean by that is there is a culture.  I think Marguerite flags the kind of concern that there is with particular ethnic groups, allowing to flower in the Church.  There may have been some kind of conflict.  Correct me if I’m wrong, they might have grown up with some peculiarities within a particular culture.

What I’m suggesting is that a white ward has a particular culture, and often we have a situation in New Zealand where there’s been historical tension around the disbanding of Samoan language units, where minority Samoan groups are sort of like asked to attend wards, and kind of the idea, and I think I’ve heard it before, actually I heard it directly from some general authorities in a leadership meeting once was that they were concerned about cultural particularities that seemed to be a pattern in Samoan culture which don’t adhere correctly to good Latter-day Saint behavior.  The question is, we’re going to disregard those kind of cultural behaviors, but what about the cultural behaviors that exist in all white wards?”

Dan, “Awesome.”

Gina continues, “There needs to be some kind of conversation, some self-reflexitivity.  What do we do?  You know the fact that we have to have this conversation about residual kind of racist dispositions in the Church indicates that it’s allowed to kind of flower, it’s allowed to continue and how do you kind of put the brakes on that? That’s where there’s that systemic inequality.

The center of the Church can kind of happily sort of disband non-English speaking wards, kind of ethnic units all over the place, but the same doesn’t apply to white wards where they say actually you’ve got a problem being a white ward, a largely white ward. What we need to do is kind of split you up and you go to Mexican wards, you go to Samoan wards because there’s some kind of problem with the way you’re behaving.  That’s the difference.  That’s the power inequality.  That’s why I think when we talk about racism we need to talk about power relations, and who gets to say what.  Who’d conversation is this about racism?  Is this a conversation about white folk about racism, their own racism, or is this a conversation that black and brown folk can have and transmit that into white spaces where it rearranges white spaces, where it brings some thoughtfulness and concern about their fundamental Christianity.

I’d like to see systemically that kind of pathways being created so that conversation can take place and those challenges can take place.  I don’t think we’re going to move on until it does, until something happens.”

Marguerite, “I would add to that Gina that I actually have seen what you say you’re not seeing in New Zealand.  I’ve seen that happen here, maybe not in a systemic way, but certainly in a unit by unit treatment.  I am now in Utah County. I moved here from the east coast.  I was in a stake in Maryland, and before that I was in my singles’ ward in Virginia, so three different stakes from there to come out to here, and I’ve noticed that the Church is different in Utah. Not that the gospel is different, not that the gospel is different, the scriptures are the same.  The Handbook of Instruction is the same.  The manuals are the same, but the Church is different.  There are people who do things the way that they’ve always been done since pioneer times without even checking to see if that’s actually the way things are supposed to be done.

I’ve noticed in branches in the mission field; my husband is from Hayward, Wisconsin, which is predominantly white, but where the Church is not very strong.  His little branch up there that we visit when we’re on vacation has so little leadership that every time we’re there, we’re filling in.  I mean I’m there on vacation, and I’m conducting music in Sacrament Meeting because the conductor, the chorister is now playing piano. The chorister is playing the piano because the ward accompanist is conducting Sacrament meeting because all three members of the bishopric are not there that day, and there is no Sunday School because it’s too small. They only meet for two hours, and the Elder’s Quorum president is gone, so he’s the highest ranking priesthood holder in the ward and he plays the piano.

Guess what?  In that ward, things are not like they are in Utah County.  They are cultural things that are built in that I think as the Church spreads out, they are getting that.  They are having that conversation whether they want it or not, because new people are saying, ‘show me where it says in the Handbook of Instruction that it has to be only this way, or you can’t do this.  There are some things that are just not addressed.

There are some things that are in the Handbook of Instruction that are not necessarily tied to doctrine.  They are not doctrinal mandates.  Culture has seeped in, and I’ve seen a few of those things change over the years.  One of them that came in was there was an announcement several years ago, maybe one of you guys can help me with memory, I don’t know exactly when, that said, the only music that can be performed in Sacrament Meeting were the hymns in the actual hymnbook.

Now that almost immediately was softened to include the children’s song book, but then that was it.  For years, it was just what was in the hymnbook, even though prior to that, there hadn’t been that kind of restriction.  It was sort of a cultural response to some people maybe not liking the music that was showing up. Now though, that’s not in there.  That’s not in the Handbook of Instruction ‘the only music that you can sing in Sacrament Meeting is in the hymnbook or children’s song book.

Gina, “It shouldn’t be.”

Marguerite , “Right.  No, but that was sort of a cultural, new people doing things and the old guard not liking that new-fangled music and putting the brakes on it, but after a few years, people realized that really wasn’t the way to go and you need to just soften.  I think some of the softening is happening in the calling of much younger general authorities, and calling of authorities who are not all white males from Utah.  Not even all American.  It’s not going to be fast, but there will be people having those conversations now who are not part of the crossed the plains with Brigham Young descendants.  They will have a different cultural experience and will know that this song is not apostate just because it’s not in the hymnbook. They will have this experience.  I’ve seen that on micro-levels outside of Utah.  I’ve heard of those discussions in Utah. The Genesis Group, we start that. We start our fireside every month with a rousing, very much, southern black gospel song.  Something that is not in the hymnbook, something that is old time gospel music, foot stomping, hand clapping, holler if you want to, and then someone will make a joke.  ‘See the roof didn’t cave in.’

Dan, “Yep, I was there a couple of months ago, and it was ‘He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.’  That was a lot of fun.

Marguerite, “There you go.  I could have met you.  I was there that time!”

Dan chuckles, “Shoot!  Yeah, it was the night Darius spoke and then that missionary that had that powerful night.  Hey, yeah again, in the interest of time, I want to steer a little bit more.  I think this is an important piece.  Gina, again from your list, you asked the question that I think a lot of us talk about, but let’s give it voice here again.  Is the reluctance of the Church to respond in a more robust way, this worry that it’s going to undermine the members’ faith in prophetic revelation?  Do you want to start us on that conversation?  Do you guys kind of agree that this is—let’s at least air this one out for a couple of minutes.”

Brad, “Well, it’s something that I’ve encountered already in an interesting form which is that I’ve encountered a number of people who have responded to my call for contrition and disavowal.  By saying like basically like well I can see why that’s needed here, but it just feels to me like you’re trying to set the stage for calling for the same thing on gay rights and women’s issues.   In other words—“

Marguerite, “Slippery slope argument?”

Brad, “Well, they see the undermining—and they’re not entirely wrong you know.  We’re not going to be—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 that’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?  They didn’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.  I mean we constantly say that we don’t believe in that, but we kind of do.  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.”

Dan, “Gina do you have anything to add on to that?  Thanks Brad.”

Gina, “Yeah, I agree, and I think it’s kind of going down that rabbit hole.  It’s kind of shoving/pushing dominos over.  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?  We need to kind of—I suppose it comes back to the question what is the role of the prophet and once we’ve kind of determined that—is the prophet’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 prophet’s responsibility, and I think kind of theologically we’d have to agree that a prophet’s responsibility is pointing to Christ, and that everything else can kind of go by the wayside.  ‘Well, that’s his opinion.’ I speak as somebody from New Zealand, it would have been nice if someone—this is an American problem, this whole race issue, and rather than it being sort of washed up onto the tide, we’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.  And so they look like, we want to build a temple, how can we do that because we can’t find any person in Brazil that doesn’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.  Now if they said everything that was the mind and will of God, they’d be God.”

Dan, “Hmmm, interesting.”

Gina continues, “So 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.  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.  Some things can be disregarded just as kind of opinion.”

Dan, “Awesome.”

Marguerite, “I would add that there’s always the trouble, and this is where you are when you’re LDS you are supposed what—follow the prophet.  Did you learn the song?  [Sings] Follow the prophet.  Follow the prophet…’ [Gina interrupts.]

Marguerite continues, “We learned it out whole life so that’s one of the reasons that there’s an issue here because there are times when—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.  It is rare, we do not have a spoken revelation on this race issue, or some prophet speaking at General Conference.  We’ve never had it, and we’re going to need one probably to fix it all but there is several little sub-issues here.  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 they’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.  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 won’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.  Then you have to reconcile to yourself what to do with it. I mean I don’t want people to listen to this podcast and say that Dan and his panel of crazies are saying ‘don’t ever listen to the prophet because it’s really just his opinion.’ That’s not my opinion.

I’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.  Like if they’re speaking from the pulpit at General Conference, maybe you should listen.  But when they’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.  You could shovel it out in the dust bin and it wouldn’t make a difference to your immortal status, you know, your obedience or lack thereof, your willfulness or lack thereof.  I think that is something we need to come to grips with.

I think there are people who—I have a problem with people who won’t move forward unless there’s an apology for what happened in the past.  Maybe that’s because I understand repentance, or I understand the idea of forgiveness and these things as related only to yourself. If you’ve wronged me, you’ve wronged me, and that’s on you.  If I refuse to forgive you and move forward, that’s on me. So I want to be sure to tell people that look, you need to develop a relationship with Jesus Christ.  You need to develop a relationship with God.  You need to learn the doctrine, and the doctrine is inclusive.  It is loving, and the end of 2 Nephi 26 absolutely says that God denies none—what’s the exact quote? It says he denieth none.”

Dan, “He inviteth all.”

Marguerite continues, “He denieth none!  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.  There’s nothing more clear than that, and yet we haven’t gotten it right yet.  We haven’t gotten it right yet.  We’re working towards it, now we get to keep working towards it and having these conversations to tell us guys, if it’s not one of those all are alike things, if you’re treating people differently, that’s contradictory to what we’ve already been told.  Don’t ask for a prophet to give you new revelation.  You’ve already got revelation.  How about you read it, and understand it, and then we don’t have to worry about making God tell us something else when he’s already told us, ‘hello. Why aren’t you listening?’”

Dan, “Right.  I thought of that verse too, and it’s sort of speaking to what you were talking about Gina.  This is the role of a prophet.  That verse kind of has that ideal, that calling you to Christ’s deep teaching stuff, a lot different than whatever it was that stuff that started the ban.   You know what I mean?  I think there’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 towards—

Brad interrupts, “Dan can I say something in response?”

Dan, “Yeah, sure.”

Brad, “I think that when the conversation focuses on apology on the need or lack of need for an apology, I think it’s actually a real distraction,

Marguerite, “Yes it is.”

Brad continues, “because there’s something more important than apologizing.  Because you can apologize for the effects of something.  You can apologize that something hurt somebody without actually acknowledging that it was wrong.  An apology isn’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.  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.”

Dan, “For sure.”

Brad, “This 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.  It seems obvious to me, you cannot get past this while at the same time refusing—we’re making it worse for ourselves because now we’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 you’ve gone astray, to lift you out of the mire of sin, we have to acknowledge it.  We have to at least be willing to say, regardless of whether there’s an apology to somebody, we have to be willing to say, you know what, it was racist and it was wrong.”

Dan, “And then you’ve added in some language, we need to repudiate it, disavow it, you know, that’s a lot different than apologize for how it’s harmed.  Yeah, and that’s clearly what your blog post points to.”

Brad, “Apology, no apology, it’s about contrition.  You cannot have the full power of Christ in your life without a broken heart and a contrite spirit.”

Marguerite, “I would ask though, I don’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.  How does an institution?  An institution has no soul.  It is merely the collection of everybody in it.  I think that we don’t want to set up on a path where—I mean I want to acknowledge all the individuals to that introspection that Dan was talking about to that kind of individual repentance.  If you get there, you’re done.  You can be done.  Does the institution itself have to say something?  Can an institution repent the way that you’re talking about?”

Brad, “I think it can I think it has to.”

Dan, “I do too, yeah.”

Gina, “Yeah me too.”

Brad continues, “I think on the one hand we’re called to repent.”

Marguerite interrupts, “Yes, but that’s individuals, that’s people. That’s the individuals in the Church.”

Brad continues, “Churches and nations and people, entire peoples are called to repentance.”

Marguerite, “But that’s the individuals, that’s individuals who are called to repentance.”

Dan, “No, I, I….”

Brad, “No.”

Marguerite, “How can an institution be condemned or saved?  It’s the people.  The church exists to save the individuals, and that’s why it exists.”

Brad, “The Church doesn’t exist for individuals, it exists to build Zion.  It exists to achieve potential as—“

Marguerite, “Yeah but what Zion?”

Brad continues, “As an institution.”

Marguerite, “What Zion?  But that’s just it.  The Church like the Sabbath—man was not invented for the Sabbath, Sabbath was invented for man.  And that’s the same thing as the Church.  Man was not invented for the church.  The church was instituted for man that we may learn and grow and get back to Heavenly Father.  So as an institution—”

Brad interrupts, “We don’t just do it as individuals, we do it as a society.  We depend on each other.  We are sealed together as a community. Zion.  The end result is not an individual association with God, it’s a kingdom.”

Marguerite, “No but its each individual has to be the part of that.”

Brad, “Right, I’m not saying—“

Dan, “It’s a both Marguerite.  I think you’re playing up the individual piece of it.  But I do think there’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.  Reject those structures.”

Marguerite, “I 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 people’s belief in those erroneous teachings then cuts them off from God.  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 don’t need anybody here to come and apologize to me.”

Brad, “I’m not asking anybody to apologize.”

Gina, “I want an apology.”

Dan, “All right!  Go Gina.”

Marguerite, ”I’m sorry Gina!”

Brad, “What I want though is I want us to acknowledge if we’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 wasn’t racist.”

Marguerite, “I agree, although I have not yet, I haven’t heard the Church’s statements are not saying there was nothing wrong with it, they just say we can’t explain where it came from.”

Brad, “They’re refusing to say that there was something wrong with it though.”

Marguerite, “Ummm, I guess I have to look at that. The current press release doesn’t really address that one way or another.  They acknowledge the existence of the ban, they say for a time it existed and they can’t explain why it existed.  It ended in ’78 and then they go—“

Brad, “Completely passing on the question of there being anything wrong with it.”

Dan, “It’s missing for sure.”

Marguerite, “Yeah, that’s what it is.  They’re passing on that.  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.”

Brad, “President Hinckley stated there was nothing wrong with it several years ago.  So it is something that does need—“

Marguerite, “What raised that?  What were his exact words?  Do you have that in front of you, because I actually read that just yesterday.  He didn’t say, ‘Oh, there was nothing wrong with it, what he did was—“

Brad, “He said it wasn’t wrong.”

Marguerite, “Is that was the quote was?  Because I don’t remember the ‘it was not wrong.’  I remember him deftly avoiding a couple of those questions that led directly to that and what he really said was it’s now over with and the revelation came and there was some language about, what was it?  I don’t have it in front of me anymore but I just read it the other day.  He did not say, ‘it was not wrong’, what he said was ‘this is over.  We don’t have the source of that policy was, but it is now gone, and why can’t we move past this?’  He left with the same kind of language he did in the Larry King interview.  You know why are we focusing on this when that’s past history.  Let’s focus and move forward.”

Brad, “Yeah, I’m just assuming we’re reading different things.”

Dan, “Could be, yeah, yeah.”

Brad, “He probably got asked about it quite often.”

Marguerite, “Oh I’m sure he did, but by the time he was on Larry King, you saw it.  He was expert at, he didn’t defend it, he didn’t condemn it.  He said it was, it existed, we don’t know what the source was.  It ended in ’78 and let’s talk about something else.  That’s kind of been the script for several years for ya know…”

Dan, “New script coming, please.  Let’s hope.”

Marguerite, “I don’t disagree that the conversation needs to happen, I just wanted to make sure that—I don’t want anybody’s focus, I don’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 “I’m sorry”.  There are black people who joined the church when the ban existed and that kind of faith I don’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.  And that to me is tremendous faith in truths of the doctrine that isn’t tied to what other people think, what other people say.  I don’t want to ever deny someone the ability to walk that path.”

Brad, “No, I agree, and I don’t think that-that’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.”

Marguerite, “Well, and I would just add too that there’s a lot of other stumbling blocks to that conversation that people don’t have a good understanding of discrimination, they don’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.  Because they will say there was no racism because there was no animosity.  “

Brad, “Right.”

Marguerite , “What 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.  If they have that, then people can start to do the light bulb will go off.  Oh my gosh!  That was discrimination, then that was racist.  We need to have that other conversation first.  We need to educate people as to ‘look guys this is discrimination.’ 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, we’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.”

Dan, “Very good, thank you.  Hey guys we got to wrap this up. Brad and Marguerite, I don’t know if those can serve as final statements from you guys, I’ll get you one more chance to add anything that’s on your heart, but Gina, I’d love to send it back your direction for what haven’t you said that you want to say? I know there’s a lot of things on your list here, we’re obviously not going to get to those.  If you had a closing monologue or an impassioned plea or just a summation, I’d love to just throw it to you.”

Gina, “Gosh, I’d like to go back to Brad’s point about the need for an apology.  If we think about in the Mormon context, in the doctrinal context of what an apology means, an apology is a change of heart.  It’s doing something differently, and I think that by all means the institution can do something differently.  But what it requires is being able to kind of integrate the experience of the margins into the discourse of the center, so that our theology starts actually looking like our church.  And that’s the biggest problem, that I think that we face is that on one level we can crack open the scriptures and then on another level we’re dealing with this something that doesn’t actually reflect what we understand about our theology from the scriptures.  So, I would just like to see more self-reflexiveness in white spaces about the effect that white culture and white privilege and white advantages if not having to think about these issues has on minority folk, black and brown folk.  Until that happens, we can kind of work on dispositions and ask people to love people more, but until there’s systemic change and a reorientation and instability in our cultural spaces, I’m not sure that we’re going to move forward.  We’re just going to circle around the same old problem.”

Dan, “Terrific, thank you.  Anything else?”

Gina, “Nope.”

Dan, “Thank you Gina for being on.  We’re going to have you back.”

Gina, “Thanks.”

Dan, “Brad, any last thing you didn’t get out?”

Brad, “I would say that even if on a strictly individual level, racism is a problem in the church, and it is a problem in the church, because If you’re unwilling to accept that the ban was wrong, then what you’re doing is accepting a view of the universe in which it is ok to discriminate on the basis of race, even in these vital, vital things: temple access, temple covenants, sealings, sealing of families together.  It’s ok to withhold those blessings, to exclude people on the basis of race.  So the unwillingness, the inability to view the ban as wrong is a stumbling block to overcoming the sin of racism for the individual and the unwillingness of the leaders of the church to acknowledge the wrongness of the ban, therefore becomes a stumbling block for individual church members, in their own quest to overcome the sin of racism.  It still exists, the residual racism that still exists as an after-effect, and simply is a byproduct of our own cultural embeddedness.”

Dan, “Right.”

Brad, “Racism is a sin, it is a sin that has stained us in the past, it continues to stain us in the present, and full acknowledgement of all the wrongness of all the racism and all of its forms is the only possible path to removing the sin from—to unstaining our garments.”

Dan, “Cool, thank you.  Powerful.  Marguerite, anything left?”

Marguerite, “There is so much more, I don’t know how to add to this except that we started at the beginning by saying what you’re hearing here are the thoughts and feelings of people, all of whom are currently active members of the LDS Church.  This does not come from a position of trying to tear down, but from a position of reflecting on our own perspectives, from our own places within the church, and certainly offering our own opinions on what currently exists, the pains and problems, and how we can move forward to a day when we truly will be of one fold and one shepherd.  So I just want to make sure the listeners understand, we are not trying to rip down and tear apart, but to make sure if you’ve got this goal in mind, there are steps that have to be taken, and those steps are not always easy ones.

They’re not even always clear ones.  If we can at least be dedicated to moving in the right direction, this was a step in the right direction.  We need more steps, but that that’s the goal.  The goal is so that we truly can be of one fold and one shepherd with one heart to guide us.”

Gina, “Amen.”

Dan, “Preach it.”

Brad, “Amen.”

Dan, “Thank you Marguerite.  Thanks all of you for being on here.  What did you call yourselves Marguerite?  Marguerite called you the band of crazies, Dan and the band of crazies.”  [chuckling]

Gina laughs, “Speak for yourself!”

Marguerite, “That’s right!  No, No, I said I don’t want to be known as a crazy.”

Dan, “I know, I know.”

Marguerite, “Dan and his band of crazies are you know trying to tell people, don’t listen to the prophet and that…I said don’t.”

Dan, “Yeah, I know, I got you.  I was just playing with it. I’ll just make it Dan and the people he’s crazy about, so how’s that?  I like it.”

Marguerite, “There you go, I like it.  Now can we have a closing song? I’m just kidding.”

Dan sings, “This little land of mine…. [stops singing]  Oh, that would be wonderful.  Thank you you guys for being on, and Brad, it’s 1:25 in the morning where you are so we appreciate that. We got started late because of Joanna’s schedule, and then we ended up not having Joanna on.  Yep, so anyone, so ”

Marguerite, “Well tell her the exciting conversation she missed.”

Dan, “She’ll be listening to it. We’ll have her join in with the blog conversation.  I just really appreciated this, and there’s just that one little thread that you could kind of tell I was trying to get to, and I really appreciated the open-hearted way we kind of used the word sin, we talked about repentance, and I don’t know, there was somewhere along the line in my journey where getting caught up short in an area of my life just quit being so devastating to me, and it was more like feedback, like God sitting there going, Yup, you screwed up here.  But I no longer feel condemnation from God.  I’m not really that messed—I’m not really that trouble when I’ve been wrong, so I’d just really love us to defang sin from evil, you know what I mean?  Of the need for repentance as something that is a deficiency in us.  This is what life was about was to learn and to grow and to own it for ourselves.”

Marguerite, “Don’t you remember, they say in the scriptures specifically God gives unto men weaknesses so that we can use Him to make them strengths.”

Dan, “Exactly”

Marguerite, “But I just wanted to add, just relevant to what you just said, living here in Utah County it surprises me, well maybe surprise isn’t’ the right word, but let me just finish the thought first that Utah County is the Prozac capital of the planet, and it is now the plastic surgery capital of the planet.

I think that a lot of the reason for that is exactly this problem that Dan is raising which is an inability to accept wrongness or imperfections in ourselves.  But I don’t know if it’s necessarily within our relationship to God.  It might simply be in our relationship to each other.  I haven’t quite gotten to the bottom of that yet. I don’t know why I’m looking at all these women.  I sat in a restaurant listening to three women talk about all the plastic surgery procedures they’ve had.  ‘Oh darling, my doctor could take care of that thing around your eye.’  And you know, I was flummoxed really, but I think that a lot of that might relate to the idea that you’re now raising, or not now raising, but the idea that sometimes people have difficulty looking at themselves in the mirror and spotting the flaws, either because they are trying to hide them from God, or other people or themselves, and they can’t deal with imperfection.  I’m quite imperfect, and I don’t mind acknowledging that at all to all of you and everyone listening.”

Dan, “And with God, it’s just like, oh man, it’s so normal, and yeah, you need to acknowledge it, you need to repudiate it, disavow those actions, but it’s not us as much as its just—I don’t know it’s feedback. And feedback is loving.  To have the mirror shown to you is a loving act.  If we can just defang that, and so that’s why I kind of was pushing all along, you know a moment, here.  We don’t love the moment here with Dr. Bott’s comments, we don’t love it, but boy we can sure use it, and I hope we will do those deep self-reflections, all of us, and don’t make it a condemning yourself act.  Make it a changing yourself act, because that’s what repentance is all about.  You’re already forgiven.  There’s no begging for forgiveness.  You’re forgiven before you hit your knees.  You’re forgiven that your heart turns towards God, so just make it about turning and opening your eyes and seeing the mirror.  Anyway that’s kind of my last bit.”

Brad, “You know the best part about the Book of Mormon is Dan?”

Dan, “What?”

Brad, “It’s almost counter-intuitive, but it’s like a center piece of Book of Mormon theology.  It’s when King Benjamin says, tells his listeners the secret of life, the secret of happiness.  Remember?  He says, just remember your nothingness and always retain in remembrance your nothingness before God, and his long-suffering toward you unworthy creatures.  And if you remember that always, You’ll always rejoice.”

Dan, “Shall we close with that?  That will be our closing devotional.”

Marguerite, “Yes, you can go ahead and edit it and take care of everything else on the editing floor, right?”

Dan chuckels, “Oh, wonderful.  Thanks you guys.  I’ll let you know when this posts, and we invite you guys to come to the blog and interact with people, and folks out there who are listening, please come and tell us what we missed.  I mean I know how much we missed cause I’m staring at so many notes that we didn’t get to.  So let’s have this conversation and take advantage of this moment even though we didn’t choose this moment to be in front of us.  Let’s use it for all the good things that might come out of it.  Thank you again.  Please visit Mormon Matters.org and goodnight to my great guests.  Thank you crazies!”

[group thanks him back.]

Dan, “Good night.  Cue the music!”

16 comments on “Confronting Racism-Part 2

  1. Racism is a cultural meme that fits perfectly with the allegory of the olive tree. It’s not so much that the bad fruit is pulled off the branch, but that the good fruit overtakes it. We can see that in the last 50 years, in the case of racism good fruit has overtaken some, but not all, of the bad. Strength in the gospel can make the good fruit grow faster to speed up this process.

  2. Bradley, I love that anology. It’s something I hadn’t thought of, but I think it fits perfectly. Thanks!

  3. There are several things wrong with this panel discussion.
    1. Their definition of racism, as I have pointed out before does not square with the dictionary.
    2. Brad Kramer especially goes on to say that anyone who does not say or think that the ban was wrong is racist and therefore needs to repent. This is something that has not been disseminated from the leadership of the church.
    3. That we do not need to listen to what a prophet says if he is talking say to a legislature, but seemingly only if he is talking from a pulpit. Sort of throwing Brigham Young under the bus, and in effect, calling him a liar, although they really sidestepped that.
    4. telling us that David O. Mackay did not phrase his question correctly when he asked the Lord about the ban.

    Those people are talking about a prophet that they only know from books and articles. It would be helpful if they would read “David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism” by Gregory A. Prince and William Robert Wright.

    I grew up while president McKay was President of the Church. He was one of the most loved prophets of all time and deeply spiritual. He would rise at five o’clock in the morning to meditate and to receive inspiration. He told the General Authorities in a Temple meeting in 1956 that “impressions come as clearly as if he were to hear a voice, and those impressions are right.”

    The panel seems to be saying that prophets can only receive revelation in one way, the way that Oliver Cowdery was told in the Doctrine and Covenants. That is the only way. There is not indication that the matter of taking the Gospel Message to the Gentiles had been discussed or prayed about, or even thought about when Peter received his vision/revelation.
    There is no scripture that leads tells us that a question has “to be framed right” before the Lord will answer our prayers.
    And then, there is a bit of character assassination on David O. Mckay, suggesting that he was to racist to be able to receive any other answer than the one he reported. There is anecdotal evidence that President McKay fervently prayed about this subject on more than one occasion.
    As far as being too this or that to receive anything from the Lord contrary to our most sublime paradigms, I will reference King Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel, Chapter 4.

    Of course this issue will not go away as long as well meaning but misguided people keep shaking the racism tree and trying to counsel the prophet of the church. I trust in the prophets to be the conduit of the Lord’s will for His church much morethan I do someone who has never been one.


  4. 1) We’ve already discussed the dictionary definition, and it does match.

    2) I disagree that all knowledge comes from church leaders. It certainly didn’t come from church leaders in 1820. We all need to use our knowledge and the spirit to learn. We are not automatans, though many in the church seem to think we should be.

    3) Over-reaction.

    4) Speculation, but I think it is interesting speculation. They did read the McKay biography, that’s why they said what they did.

  5. 1. Disagree – Read them again. Dictionary – “a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to rule others.” and “hatred or intolerance of another race or other races.”

    Panel – Anything that differentiates based upon race.

    There is a very marked difference between the two.

    2. I didn’t say that all knowledge comes from church leaders. I am saying that no one on that panel has the authority from God to (a.) say that the ban was not from God and (b.) to say that anyone who does not agree that the ban was evil is a racist and needs to repent.
    3. I agree that the panel is overreacting.
    4. The whole discussion was speculation. Again, I thing Marguerite Driessen had some of the best insights. But the characterization of David O. McKay is off the mark. McKay did not “vigorously oppose(d) Civil Rights legislation.” He was mostly mute publicly on the subject. He did express private reservations about some aspects of the proposed legislation, yet he supported President Hugh B. Brown’s inclusion of a civil rights statement in a General Conference Address in 1963. This statement was later elevated to an official stance of the church. When the Civil Rights Bill was passed in 1064, President McKay felt that some of it was wrong, but not all. It is also a mischaracterization of David O. McKay to portray him as one who felt the Negro was inferior. President McKay’s viewpoint was that the ban had originated from God by revelation and that it was policy, not a doctrine.


  6. Glenn, here we go again. I don’t think we can resolve our differences. Regarding #1:

    Marguerite, “Well, and I would just add too that there’s a lot of other stumbling blocks to that conversation that people don’t have a good understanding of discrimination, they don’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. Because they will say there was no racism because there was no animosity.“

    and from part 1:

    Kramer, “It doesn’t matter where it came from. It doesn’t matter if it came from people who thought that black people were superior.”

    Driessen, “Right. It’s differential treatment.”

    Kramer, “It’s racism. It discriminates on the basis of race. It excludes on the basis of race. It is functionally racist. Its consequences and its effects are racist. It is racism. No matter what motivates it.”

    You can say all you want that “We don’t know unless God tells us directly.” However, it is functionally racist. Only whites are in a position to lead the church, whether God imposed or man imposed–at this point I’m not going to argue the source, because we obviously disagree. Functionally, blacks weren’t good enough/blessed by God/we don’t know–pick your reason here, “we don’t know” is good enough for me on this point–but if the hierarchy is only open to whites, blacks are therefore inferior to serve. That meets the definition of “one’s own race is superior and has the right to rule others”. Certainly we can agree that early church leaders who blamed the ban on Ham or Cain and that blacks were destined to serve, or were fence-sitters in the pre-existence meets the definition that whites are superior because whites weren’t fence sitters or destined to serve.

    Go ahead and offer your rebuttal, but that’s where I stand.

    no one on that panel has the authority from God to (a.) say that the ban was not from God

    Agreed. Nobody is claiming authority from God for their opinion either.

    and (b.) to say that anyone who does not agree that the ban was evil is a racist and needs to repent.

    Nobody said anybody who does not agree is evil. They said that such people do not understand racism–there is a difference. (Brad called it “humbly offensive” in Part 1) Now the church said “We do not tolerate racism in any form.”

    The panel discussed repenting, but didn’t refer to anyone specifically as evil, but rather than racism is evil. So, in other words, I’m not calling you evil, just as I am not calling an alcoholic evil. However racism and alcoholism are evil, and a person who is racist or an alcoholic should repent. It’s a subtlety there, and from your response, it seems your acting emotionally/irrationally. 😉

    “Love the sinner but hate the sin.”

  7. 3) your response seems to be an over-reaction, and an emotional response. “Sort of throwing Brigham Young under the bus, and in effect, calling him a liar”

    Nobody called him a liar. That’s YOUR emotional response.

    4) I think you should read the McKay book again. Prince shows that McKay was uncomfortable with black people, closed the Hotel Utah and the Deseret Gym to them and a few other things. This is not in line with civil rights. Yes, he begrudgingly approved Brown’s statement, but that was a reaction to being boycotted by the NAACP. I would call McKay’s capitulation a bit of duress, rather than motivated in the same way that Brown was. Certainly you can agree that Brown was more progressive on the issue than McKay?

  8. MH, I did not say that the panel was calling Brigham Young a liar. I said that they were “in effect” calling him a liar because in his speech to the Utah Legislature on Feb 5 or 6 of 1852, he said this: ” Now then in the kingdom of God on the earth, a man who has has the Affrican blood in him cannot hold one jot nor tittle of preisthood; Why? because they are the true eternal principals the Lord Almighty has ordained, and who can help it, men cannot. the angels cannot, and all the powers of earth and hell cannot take it off, but thus saith the Eternal I am, what I am, I take it off at my pleasure, and not one partical of power can that posterity of Cain have, until the time comes the says he will have it taken away. That time will come when they will have the privilege of all we have the privelege of and more.”

    If the ban was not implemented at the behest of God but by Brigham Young on his own, then was he telling the truth in that statement?

    As I said, the panel rather sidestepped that issue by stating that “I’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. Like if they’re speaking from the pulpit at General Conference, maybe you should listen. But when they’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.”

    President Young gave everyone a huge clue there. I know of no scripture or pronouncement by any prophet that a prophets words have to be spoken from a pulpit or some similar venue to make it “official.” The clue is whether Brigham Young or any other prophet is claiming to be speaking the mind and will of the Lord. So either Brigham Young was speaking the mind and will of the Lord in that quote, or maybe he was misquoted, or he was ……..

    That is where our disagreement lies. I do not believe that Brigham Young was a liar. There is the possibility that he was misquoted. However, without some further light and knowledge, that is the situation with which we are left. And that is why I feel that only a revelation can clarify that for us.

    It is not a lack of empathy on my part. I am just trying to deal with the facts as I understand them in this matter. Until we have such a revelation, we are left with the fact that Brigham Young at least, and possibly Joseph Smith, plus all subsequent prophets since that time have declared the ban to be of the Lord. Even Spencer W. Kimball, as late as 1972. None of that has changed.

    As far as David O. Mckay, I agree that he was not an advocate of civil rights legislation, because he felt it went to far. I disagreed with the characterization that President McKay “vigorously opposed” civil rights legislation. The book does point out that President McKay was surrounded by a cadre that opposed civil rights legislation, but that he was more inclined to keep quiet on the subject. It was the “vigorously opposed” part of the statement where Brad is trying to characterize President McKay as too racist, believing that the Negro was basically inferior, to be able to sincerely take that question to the Lord. That really is an uninformed judgement and ignores the stories of President McKay’s fervent prayers and the manner in which he received his inspiration.

    Of course President McKay was totally unaware of President Brown’s viewpoints on civil rights when Brown was called into the first presidency, right? (That’s a “grin” statement.)


  9. Glenn, that quote of Brigham Young is absolutely dictionary definition racism, and makes God a racist. I’m surprised to see you supporting it. I agree with Margarite, that Young was speaking as a man, not a prophet. Are you saying this is a revelation that should be canonized in the D&C? When Joseph Smith said there were men on the moon, was he speaking as a prophet or a man?

  10. If you say that it makes God a racist, that is your take. You can define God as a murderer also using man’s definitions and applying them to the scriptures.

    As to that speech, Brigham Young said “but thus saith the Eternal I am, what I am, I take it off at my pleasure” which sounds very much like a direct quote to me and pretty much as if he were speaking as a prophet to me. He certainly did not equivocate.

    The only question then, was he lying, or was he telling it like he heard it?

    I am sure that you can do better than a third hand source for a statement from Joseph Smith when he was speaking as a man. Whether Joseph actually said that is open to debate, and if so, was he joking or serious. Either way, Joseph is not quoted as saying “thus saith the Eternal I am, what I am, the moon is inhabited……”


  11. The only question then, was he lying, or was he telling it like he heard it?

    No, the question isn’t binary like you make it. It can also be asked: did Brigham think he was inspired, but in reality he wasn’t?

    As for “doing better”, I’m getting tired of arguing the point. I think I’ll write a new post on prophetic infallibility. In the mean time Glenn, perhaps you’d like to read one of my oldest posts on infallibility, http://www.mormonheretic.org/2008/02/12/similarites-between-papal-infallibility-and-mormon-prophetic-infallibility/

  12. Glenn, so …

    until the time comes the says he will have it taken away. That time will come when they will have the privilege of all we have the privelege of and more.”

    and your point is?

  13. MH, I have read your blog on infallibility. You did not make a good point on when God “turns a 180” since the practice of polygamy was instituted by revelation and the practice, not doctrine of plural marriage, was suspended, by revelation, until God sees fit to command it again. (Hopefully not in this dispensation.) There is no 180 on the priesthood ban either. Even Brigham Young said that the Negro would gain all privileges and blessings at some point in time. It came a little sooner than some would have thought, but it came via revelation.

    I am inclined to give great weight to the pronouncement of a prophet when he says “thus saith the Lord” or “thus saith the Eternal I am.” Such prophets are declaring that the words are not theirs, but from the Lord.

    I know you are getting tired of arguing the point, but thus far you have given me no scriptural refutation or refutation by any other prophets. That is what I have been asking that you provide.

    (Stephen M, that is my point.)


  14. Glenn,

    I’m debating whether to continue this or not. I guess I can quote Brigham Young in 1847 concerning cursed race and the ban. I’ve previously discussed Warner McCary and his meeting with eight of the Apostles in a 4 hour meeting on March 26, 1847. During that meeting, McCary (who was already an Elder in the Melchizedek Priesthood)asked why he was cursed with black skin. Connell O’ Donovan has related the meeting as recorded in Wilford Woodruff’s journal,

    “why [h]av[e] I the stain now” referring to the Mormon doctrine of dark skin being a curse from God for unrighteous behavior.

    However, three times during this meeting, Young emphasized to McCary that one’s skin color or body was irrelevant to spiritual worthiness. After McCary informed the council that some people referred to him as Adam and “some Old Nigger,” and he wanted to know what the difference was, Young interestingly replied, “your body is not what is your mission.”

    Still not having fully developed the “curse of Cain” doctrine prohibiting blacks from holding priesthood or participating in temple rituals, Young then told McCary about the faithful black Elder, Q. Walker Lewis, back in Lowell, Massachusetts: “Its nothing to do with the blood for [from] one blood has God made all flesh, we have to repent [to] regain what we [h]av[e] lost – we [h]av[e] one of the best Elders an African in Lowell.”

    This “African in Lowell” refers to Walker Lewis, who was also an Elder in the Melchizedek Priesthood, with whom Brigham was intimately acquainted on his mission to Boston just prior to Joseph Smith’s death. (Lewis joined the church in 1843, and was ordained by Parley P. Pratt.)

    Now, during this meeting, McCary (who claimed to be part-Indian and married to Quincy Illinois Stake president Daniel Stanton’s daughter) started claiming to be the ancient apostle Thomas, and claimed that his wife was the missing rib of Adam–with McCary being Adam.

    McCary subsequently started unauthorized polygamy with white women, prompting Parley P. Pratt on April 25 to warn against those who “want to follow this Black man who has got the blood of Ham in him which linege was cursed as regards [to] the Priesthood.”

    Could this revelation you speak of really be the revelation that McCary was engaging in scandalous polygamy? Also in 1847, black Mormon Joseph Ball was rumored to be engaging in polygamy with white women with William Smith’s encouragement (the prophet’s brother). William Smith was excommunicated in the fall of 1847 for unauthorized polygamy.

    So this revelation that Brigham Young speaks of seems to be the revelation that black men were indeed scandalously promiscuous. By the end of the year 1847, all temples were cut off from blacks (including “righteous” Elijah Abel and Walker Lewis), and no further priesthood ordinations for blacks were permitted as a matter of policy (according to David O. McKay, who denied that the ban was doctrinally based.)

    So Glenn, if this 1852 statement by Brigham Young is to be taken authoritatively, (1) why hasn’t it been canonized in the D&C? and (2) Why is it in sharp contrast to his March 1847 statement that “Its nothing to do with the blood for [from] one blood has God made all flesh, we have to repent [to] regain what we [h]av[e] lost – we [h]av[e] one of the best Elders an African in Lowell.”??? (3) If we are to believe David O. McKay, then the matter was “policy” not “doctrine” based. How do you reconcile Young’s “thus saith the Eternal I am” with McKay’s position?

  15. “If we are to believe David O. McKay, then the matter was “policy” not “doctrine” based. How do you reconcile Young’s “thus saith the Eternal I am” with McKay’s position?”

    All revelations are not canonized in the D&C, as you well know.

    This revelation of which I speak was tied specifically to the priesthood ban. That was what Brigham Young was saying specifically. It was not about blacks being scandalously promiscuous. Brigham said nothing about that. It was not a doctrine, but a policy, much the same as the policy that limited the priesthood to the tribe of Levi, a lineage based exclusion, and much the same as the policy that Jesus declared in Matthew 1O:5-7
    “5 These twelve Jesus asent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not:
    6 But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
    7 And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

    The policy on the priesthood was changed when Christ established his church during his ministry. The policy on preaching the gospel was changed by the revelation Peter received in Acts, Chapter 10.

    Now consider this morsel. A Canaanite woman came seeking help from Jesus to cleanse her daughter of an evil spirit. At first Jesus would not even talk to her.

    Matthew 15:
    22 And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.
    23 But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us.
    24 But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
    25 Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me.
    26 But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs.
    27 And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.
    28 Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.”

    Although this is not talking about preaching the gospel per se, Jesus himself was going to ignore the woman’s anguished requests, because she was not of the people to whom He had been sent. But Jesus made an exception in her case because of her faith.

    If the policy was from God, no apology is needed. President Monson would be in the uncomfortable position of apologizing for God.

    If the ban was man made, then that fact should be acknowledged and an apology made.

    I am going to state again for the record. I do not know of myself if the ban was implemented on God’s instructions, nor do I know that it wasn’t. There is documentary evidence with statements by several apostles of the church that it was from God. There is only one person on this earth at any one time authorized to speak for the church. It is up to the prophet to clarify matters if he so desires. The only way that he can do so is to get the information from God, since Joesph Smith and Brigham Young are long dead. God is the only one who can answer for God. To make any kind of righteous judgement requires that we know for sure whether the ban was instituted by God or man.

    Jesus has given us a bit of help in that area. Nephi 14:
    1 And now it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words he turned again to the multitude, and did open his mouth unto them again, saying: Verily, verily, I say unto you, Judge not, that ye be not judged.
    2. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

    I’ll let you have the last word on this.


  16. Here’s something from my personal journal, which came as an inspiration just before the announcement of blacks receiving the priesthood. As you can tell, it was not written for others to read, but written in a way for me to preserve it for myself.



    What is the priesthood?

    The priesthood is the power-light-peace-love-joy-comfort-gentleness-generosity-graciousness of the Savior – the power of His Holy Spirit, which emanates from Him and fills the immensity of space (D&C 88-12). It is the power of creation (D&C 88: 7-10) – the power-light of the Savior that gives life and light to all things and that which enables his humble followers to receive and retain light. It is the power to heal, bless, and create. It is his goodness. His goodness is not restricted to males of “white lineage,” but He invites all to partake of His goodness; and He denieth none that come unto Him, black and white, bond and free, male and female (2nd Ne. 26:33).

    Who are those cursed as pertaining to the priesthood?

    It is commonly supposed that those who are “cursed as pertaining to the priesthood” are those born into the “black lineage.” Throughout history, the “children of Israel” have supposed the “Aaronic symbolism” (including the formal framework of the priesthood) in the gospel to be the totality of that which was intended by the Lord, or the “whole” of the gospel message. The formal framework of the priesthood was designed to teach those who do not have a Melchizedek level of perception. For the most part, the children of Israel have not perceived or “seen” the “real” message or blessing in the Aaronic symbols (laws, ordinances, brazen serpent, Urim and Thummum, etc.). There has been very little awareness of the possibility that the restriction of blacks (negroes) receiving the ordination of the priesthood is Aaronically symbolic of a higher Melchizedek principle. It is commonly supposed that those who have a black skin (negroes) are those who cannot “hold the ‘priesthood’.”

    Actually, the “black skin” that prevents one from “holding the priesthood” is a black skin of darkness – the veil of darkness which covers the “hearts” of the “wicked” wherein there is great difficulty in perceiving the power-light-peace-love-joy-comfort-gentleness-generosity-graciousness of the Savior. This skin of blackness, veil of darkness, comes in degrees – to whatever degree we set our hearts upon the things of this world and aspire to the honors of men, undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion over the souls of the children of men – and to that degree we have no priesthood.

    A person may receive a formal ordination to the priesthood and yet not “receive the priesthood.” One may have a form of godliness but not the power. There are many called to the priesthood by formal ordination but most are walking in darkness and hence perceive not the light of the priesthood (D&C 95:6). The Savior is the light which shines in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not (D&C 6:21).
    The power of the priesthood is the gift of His Holy Spirit (D&C 88:4-13) and is veiled from us to whatever degree we fail to break through the darkness. The veil of darkness is whatever prevents a person from receiving the Spirit of the Lord (example: being impatient, pushy, argumentative, frustrated, obnoxious, proud, violent, tired, sleepy, in a hurry, depressed, discouraged, angry, etc.). As a person finds what his own veil of darkness is, he can then go to the Savior for help in repenting of each item of darkness. In this manner, one may penetrate the skin of blackness, veil of darkness, and become “white” and delightsome (2Ne. 30:6) in the power of the priesthood (viz., the power of persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, love unfeigned, kindness, and pure knowledge (D&C 121:41-42).

    Best wishes,

    Tim Curtis

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: