Three Mormon Myths About Blacks and the Priesthood

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February is black history month. Many white members of The Church will say “who cares?” or “good for them!” or even “aren’t they over that yet?” and move on about their daily tasks. That’s unwise. With the presidential election in full swing, our faith and our history of race relations has come under the spotlight of public scrutiny and the intensity will continue to grow. As that happens, I am hopeful that we as members are educated to move the discussion forward instead of saying things that are harmful to the Church and hurtful to many of our members.

The United States has a long history of difficult race relations. My home teacher served in the Air Force in the South, and was shocked when he found it unlawful to share a cab off base with his black friend. They couldn’t go into the same restaurants or get their hair cut at the same barbershops. This was in the days of segregated restrooms and water fountains. Most of us, as members, have never had state laws dictating where we are allowed to go and with whom we are allowed to congregate. People can’t tell by looking at you if you are Mormon.

Many of us live in areas that are not racially integrated, so we have never had to examine our long-held beliefs and traditions. Just to give a hint of my thoughts on this–having one or two non-white members of your ward doesn’t really allow you to claim you have a lot of experience in race relations. The reality is that most Mormons live in the Western United States, which has a much lower concentration of blacks. In those those states where LDS are 5% or more of the population, the percentage of blacks does not reach the national average. (Source: US Census data)

USA          12.6%
Idaho        0.6%
Wyoming   0.8%
Utah          1.1%
Arizona      4.1%
Nevada      8.1%

Even in California, which has a large population of Church members, the percentage of blacks is only 6.2%, still below the national average. If one factors in how many blacks actually attend Church with you, it highlights the reality that you probably don’t frequently interact with black Americans. This translates into never needing to examine your traditions and beliefs. Even if you don’t have a racist bone in your body and you love all people as children of God, you may still not realize that some things you say are hurtful or simply untrue.

Here is a list of three myths that are often repeated, and simply must stop.

Myth #1: Blacks couldn’t have the priesthood because they had the curse or mark of Cain

This belief was commonly held by many Protestant denominations in early American history. It was often used as a justification for slavery and reached its peak about the time of the Civil War. Many people who joined the LDS Church brought this teaching into the Church with them. Most Protestants later changed their talking points on this to say the children of Cain were wiped out during Noah’s flood, so the cursing came though the flood through Ham. Therefore, the more modern phrasing of this belief is the so-called “curse of Ham.” But the curse of Cain continued to be taught in the then geographically isolated LDS Church.

While the scriptures do talk about a mark being put on Cain, there is no scriptural explanation of what that mark may be or how it relates to the priesthood. One member of my high priest quorum suggested the mark is likely to be male pattern baldness.

There is a scripture in the Book of Moses talking about the children of Canaan being black (Moses 7:8), but there is no given connection between Cain and Canaan. Just because a name sounds similar, doesn’t make it the same.

Even in the Book of Abraham, the priesthood restrictions were not put on “blacks”, but on the lineage of the Egyptian Pharaoh. This was at the time of Abraham, long before Jesus Christ. If you were alive at that time, it is likely you would have been restricted from that priesthood as well.

Myth #2: Blacks were neutral or less valiant in the pre-existence

This terrible teaching was repudiated by none other than Brigham Young himself. Unfortunately, it continued to be perpetuated by many members throughout our history, and even ended up in books authored by Joseph Fielding Smith.

In an interview, apostle Jeffery R. Holland said the following: “One clear-cut position is that the folklore must never be perpetuated. … I have to concede to my earlier colleagues. … They, I’m sure, in their own way, were doing the best they knew to give shape to [the policy], to give context for it, to give even history to it. All I can say is however well intended the explanations were, I think almost all of them were inadequate and/or wrong.” (Source: http://www.pbs.org/mormons/interviews/holland.html#1)

For those who are troubled by the fact that explanations given historically are now being repudiated, we have to look at the words of Bruce R. McConkie, who was originally a proponent of those theories. He said, “Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or President George Q. Cannon or whomsoever has said in days past that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world.

“We get our truth and our light line upon line and precept upon precept. We have now had added a new flood of intelligence and light on this particular subject, and it erases all the darkness and all the views and all the thoughts of the past. They don’t matter any more.” (Source: http://speeches.byu.edu/reader/reader.php?id=11017)

Myth #3: The best example to explain blacks not having the priesthood comes from the Levites. The Levites were able to hold the priesthood, while others were not. This shows how God restricts people of certain lineages from receiving the priesthood just like he did with blacks.

While it may be true that Levites could hold the priesthood while others could not, it has little to do with this issue. The ancient practice where only one group is able to exercise the priesthood and work in the temple has little in common with modern times when everyone is able to hold the priesthood except for one group. Repeating this claim as an explanation doesn’t provide adequate support for the argument, and the claim completely falls apart when we recognize that Joseph Smith, Parley P. Pratt, William Smith, and Orson Hyde all ordained blacks to the priesthood in the 1830s and 1840s. The explanation is not helpful and can be hurtful.

So why couldn’t blacks have the priesthood? Gordon B. Hinckley stated, “I don’t know what the reason was. But I know that we’ve rectified whatever may have appeared to be wrong at the time.”(Source: http://www.abc.net.au/compass/intervs/hinckley.htm)

Men are slow to change in their beliefs. Even in the New Testament, Peter had to be lifted beyond his prejudice to sit and eat with the Gentiles. I hope we all take the time to familiarize ourselves with this topic and not perpetuate the hurtful and harmful myths that have been repeated for so long.

It is worth an hour or two of our time to read several articles on Mormonism and race, so we can help those around us. It will help us relating to African-Americans who join the Church. It will help us in teaching our children in such a way that they won’t make hurtful assumptions. It will help us in keeping our children from falling away as they learn about this past practice. Finally, it will help us in explaining our beliefs to those outside of our faith. It is not only simply worth our time to learn about black history, it is essential.

Important articles on this topic:

Black LDS History Timeline. This has been updated recently. If there is more that should be added, please let us know.

http://www.blacklds.org/history

A study in Misplaced Apologetics

http://www.blacklds.org/mauss

LAMANITES, THE SEED OF CAIN, AND POLYGAMY, part of a larger book review and well worth the read.

http://www.blacklds.org/Reynolds

Blacks and the Priesthood

http://en.fairmormon.org/Mormonism_and_racial_issues/Blacks_and_the_priesthood

Origin of the priesthood ban

http://en.fairmormon.org/Mormonism_and_racial_issues/Blacks_and_the_priesthood/Origin_of_the_priesthood_ban

Understanding pre-1978 statements

http://en.fairmormon.org/Mormonism_and_racial_issues/Blacks_and_the_priesthood/Understanding_pre-1978_statements

Racism

http://mormonvoices.org/19/racism

Note: This article is republished from the FAIR Journal

70 thoughts on “Three Mormon Myths About Blacks and the Priesthood

  1. RFB

    Jonathan Decker authored a similar article on Meridian, and I found it, too, to be very helpful in dispelling old notions about this now discredited practice. To be blunt, the problem was that leaders over the years had prejudices they picked up from the society around them and they perpetuated things that should not have been continued. Given the persecution during the Church’s first century, it is also understandable why there would be a resistance to change. Eventually, the Lord prepared His apostles and prophets to accept what arguably was really His doctrine all along.

  2. Pingback: Blacks and the Priesthood Myths | africanamericanhistoryatbyu

  3. ukfollower

    I have to agree with lifelongguy. Please help the members of the church in turmoil over this matter and explain and apologise. ‘I don’t know’ is simply not good enough.

  4. mchampneys

    A better analogy than the Levites would be that Gentiles were barred from becoming members of the Church after Christ’s death. It was not until Peter received a revelation that the Gospel should go to the Gentiles that this was reversed.

    The difficulty of integrating Gentiles into what was perceived as a Jewish faith is well documented in the New Testament. It is similar to the difficulty some white Mormons had with the 1978 revelation that gave blacks the priesthood.

    The only explanation for these situations is that the members and the leadership of the Church simply were not righteous enough as a whole on this particular point until the appointed time. Attitudes had to change and prejudices had to be purged before they could receive the blessings that came from integrating these different groups.

  5. SGardner

    An apology was given. This was not the only statement Pres. Hinkley gave. I am a historian, and a Mormon. I have done extensive research on this topic. This was NEVER church doctorine. In Nauvoo, there were several blacks the held the priesthood and were fully endowed. We even had a 70! As late as 1939, there were blacks being ordained to the priesthood in certain areas. It became a church policy after that. Not Doctorine. This is my opinion, but it was not the Apostles the Lord was waiting on- but us. Enough of US had to change our hearts, and stop being racist, then the revelation repealing the policy came throuh. The leaders of the church obey the Lord. The Lord does what we as members ask him to do. What the desires of our hearts are. Dont push this off on church leadership- we as a membership are the ones driving the boat. Pay attention to your heart- just as sustain and raise our arm to the square to support leaders- we vote in every policy the church has- every prayer is counted by the Lord.

  6. sjfn

    Often the Lord gives us direction that he never explains but we can see the reason for it later. Several years ago I was watching a newscast covering the arson of several “black” churches (that’s the way the news referred to them) in the south within a short period of time. I realized that we don’t have “black” churches, but we would have if the blacks had held the priesthood during the time that blacks had separate entrances, bathrooms, restrictions on associating with whites, etc. If a black man had held the priesthood at that time, he would have only been allowed, by local customs, to officiate over a black congregation. We, too, would have had “black” churches and “white” churches. Would we have had to have separate entrances at the temples, could we have served together equally there?
    I believe it was necessary for the Lord to preserve the unity of his people by preventing things that would have separated them. Only after the civil rights legislation was passed and fully implemented, and all people could interact equally, could the Lord move forward in blessing all his people equally.
    “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

  7. mchampneys

    In defense of the Church’s track record with regard to race, the vast majority of the early members of the Church were sympathetic to the abolition movement. That is one of the reasons the Missourians, who were primarily southerners, wanted to drive the Mormons out.

    Furthermore, the Church has always had integrated congregations, even in times when such things were nearly unheard of, and blacks were never denied general membership in the Church.

    It is also important to keep in mind that Mormon doctrine has always taught that no one will be denied the blessings of ordinances and priesthood in the eternities. Through the work to redeem the dead, God ensures that everyone will have a fair opportunity for exaltation regardless of the circumstances of their earth life, or the color of their skin.

  8. lifelongguy

    Yes, I know how the story goes. My trite responses for what they may be worth:

    @ mchampneys – too bad the black’s in the church had to pay for the unrighteousness of the white members and leaders. IMHO, the one true church should have had more leadership on this issue. Sometimes, it seems we are all to able to acknowledge weakness in our leaders, (i.e. your assertion of them not being righteous enough), but we rarely can simplify that concept to the simple statement of “we made a mistake”.

    @ SGardner – Can you link me to the apology issued? I am not sure I have seen that and with great sincerity I would like to read it. To your credit, you call it racism and not doctrine and that is what I believe too. But when the media asserts that it was racism, the apologists don’t like to give any credibility to that word. In fact, if it were NOT doctrinal as this article and others suggest, then could it be anything other than racism? As mchampneys suggested, if the members and leaders were not righteous enough to receive the true doctrine here, then it must be that the failings of men were at play, which screams racism. Let’s call a spade a spade here – and you do. Thank you!

    @ sjfn – I find your argument a bit weak. Again, I go back to the idea that God’s one true church with a prophet at it’s helm should not have played such a passive and following role on the issue of race while allowing such hurtful things to be said, doctrinal or not, by it’s leaders for years and decades. Listen, we sing songs of praise about following the prophet, and we sustain the 15, not just the president, as prophets and seers and revelators yet their direction was flawed, faulty, and racist for years and years and decades. And that’s what this boils down to, IMHO. It’s really hard to say those men and those leaders were so wrong for so long when that would, (and does), only erode confidence in our leaders today. We readily admit that our leaders are men and thus fallible… just not right now – not until they have passed on and we can judge them in hindsight.

    Finally, @ mchampneys – I think one of the most striking issues in the race problem the church faces today is that it’s early days were markedly sympathetic to civil rights issue, starting with Joseph Smith, which flies in the face of so much disturbing preaching from prophets to come. It’s part of the reason the race issue smacks of such nonsense in retrospect. And I hear you on the non-segregated congregations issue except it rings of a cop-out answer when viewed in parallel with the nonsense from folks like Mark Peterson who claimed the blacks would be servants to the whites in their celestial glory. Even when the doctrine claimed to offer the blessings of the eternities, the prophets and seers of days not-so-long-gone had to put them in their place. For that we should be ashamed as a church.

    It’s just a mess. A sad sad mess. And yes, the LDS church was no worse than most in this regard, but then again and much to the contrary of our exceptionalism we love to self-imagine, they were
    no better either.

  9. manaen

    My interest in why some people have been excluded from holding the priesthood ban is very personal. My ancestors mostly were British and northern European so my people likely were excluded from the priesthood until Joseph Smith’s time. This would include the brief time between Peter’s vision of the taking it into all the world (Acts 10) and when the apostasy had caused the loss of the priesthood before the remaining form of Christianity reached my ancestors. (The possible exception would be if they were part of the lost tribes mentioned in 2 Nephi 29:12-13).

    Mark went to Africa and established the Church there — whose remnant is the Coptic Church – which means black people probably had the priesthood back then when my people did not. I’ve wondered why my people were placed where they would not have the priesthood until the Restoration nearly two millennia later.

  10. playerpage

    I think that most of the LDS problem with race is a problem understanding and explaining our own history. Because, as Scott Gordon originally pointed out, some of the most unique myths (those falling under and growing out of section 2) were originally repudiated all the way back with Brigham Young. If leaders who were his own peers–and spreading from there–simply REMEMBERED and taught and spread that history the legacy for the LDS Church on race might have been, well, at least measurably different.

    I do not know why Mr. Gordon did not give a source for that repudiation, but it can be found in a footnote to the chapter “Blacks In The Early Church” of the excellent biography “Joseph Smith, The First Mormon” by Donna Hill. (http://www.amazon.com/Joseph-Smith-Mormon-Donna-Hill/dp/156085118X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1330451813&sr=1-1) Brigham Young strongly condemns the idea of “non-valiant” spirits, saying he learned it was wrong straight from The Prophet. Hill’s source is a Woodruff journal, and this is the kind of thing I mean.

    Her book was written a year before the 1978 revelation, but somehow subsequent (post-1939, as SGardner points out) leaders missed Brigham’s talk, and let their own Section #1 prejudices influence them. And so they made their really, really unthinking, wrong statements Like Mark E. Petersen’s. Or another I read from an elder (non-Apostle) speaking at BYU in the fifties who thought–well, I don’t want to repeat it. But it was ridiculous and said more about him than anything else.

    But to me, all the wild speculation and other comments that just portray an ignorance of revelation and a sheltered existence, are a testimony of the Truth of the Gospel, rather than its expose’. Again, in the light of history. It seems to me, that the speculation on this subject ONLY occurred in the minds of men other than The Prophet. (Not “prophets,” “The Prophet.”)

    Bruce R. McConkie was famously “taken behind the barn” for his most incendiary and unsupported comments in the original edition on “Mormon Doctrine” by the First Presidency, and changed them for the second edition (which hasn’t stopped Anti’s getting their hands on it), and in a lesser known (at least to me until I researched it) account, David O. McKay entered his Presidency with many of the preconceived notions of a typical Utah Mormon of his time, but by near the end of his life, in 1964, he was ready to approve a repeal of the “no-blacks” practice himself because he was convinced it was simply bad policy and had never been the Lord’s doctrine. However, he was unable to gain unity from the Twelve Apostles (I think there was one holdout) at the time. (http://eugeneengland.org/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/2000_e_001.pdf)

    That any leader, no matter how prejudiced, would come around to the policy of “we are all worthy in the sight of Our Father” once they become the mouthpiece of God on the earth says a great deal to me.

    I am more inclined to be in agreement with those who think that it was more the fault of the general membership of the Church, even from the Apostles on down, that change took so long. I mean, think about how difficult it is just to get us all to read the Ensign from month to month on SIMPLE issues?

  11. serendipity1350

    This may or may not be grounded in doctrine of the church, but I recall hearing years ago that the descendants of Cain would not get the priesthood until the descendants of Abel did. So, when the priesthood was given to all worthy male members in the 1970’s, I remember thinking how wonderful it was. And that somewhere in the eternal progression of things, Abel’s off spring, spiritual ones, that is, had gone on in their own eternal progression, and now had been given the priesthood. And that meant that all of Cain’s descendants would now be allowed to receive the priesthood as well.

  12. mmc

    I recently started dating a man who happens to be black. I invited him to church but he responded by saying that my church was racist, he even told me about the the priesthood restriction. As I tried to explain to him what I knew I started getting a little frustrated because I never had really thought about it but I finished by saying that the gospel and the teachings are perfect but we as human beings are not and that I really did not have an explanantion for it. Does anyone on here know of any good books written by black members of the church on this topic?

  13. Pen1954

    It’s really too bad that we as members of the Restored Gosple could not receive enough light within us in order to change our hearts and to allow others who were different – that is – as long as you were White Anglo-Saxon and especially from the British Isles into the fold. I am sure, or I hope – not all members were this way but the majority ruled upon this idea and it prevaled. Even if Joseph Smith and others gave the Priestood to certain Black individuals most could not see it within their hearts to change so they later came up with a non-doctrinal concept to make themselves feel better for their decision. With hindsight, it just goes to show you we all need change and none of us are perfect. Change is hard and we all need to contine to change in order to become like our Savior. We as Gentiles have to remember that for a very long time we were not only cursed from not having the Priestood ourselves, for only the tribe of Levi had that blessing but we as Gentiles were removed from the blessings of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob due to the choices that our forefathers made. Upon that, we were held back from the blessings of the true God and were set in darkness until what Christ had fullfulled change that for all people. The light of Christ allowed all mankind to be grafted into the Olive branch and the blessings of Abraham, Isaac and Israel would be extended to all if they were worthy. Even the Book of Mormon explains this concept. Even if you may have been cursed or heldback – if you repent, and come unto the Christ you shall be forgiven and blessed. Being cursed does not extend to one group of people. We only curse or hold ourselves back when we refuse to repent. The Savior would not have told his Apostles, before he asended into heaven, to go out into the world and baptise in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost but don’t go to these group of people! We are now living in the age of the Gentiles and all worthy people can receive the blessings. The Lord is no respector to persons and can only extend these blessings to all when we act and strive to do his will.

  14. sarahmcontact

    I did not bother finishing this article because the grammatical errors were too distracting. It is “Black History month”, and the term “Blacks” should always be capitalized when referring to a group of people.

  15. andrewsph2

    One thing that helps me to have a better perspective on topics such as this, is to focus on harboring a forgiving, loving, attitude towards others. I have full confidence that regarding any racially offensive statements that any previous LDS church leaders may have said, that they have fully repented of such either before or after they passed on, and that we should also be fully forgiving of them. Knowing what I know of these past leaders, they all lead very decent, exemplary lives, and we have to be careful not to take things out of perspective by focusing on the bad while ignoring the good, which good is so much more predominant. I am sensitive to that, as I am one who tends to focus on my own weaknesses and mistakes and too often not on all the good in my life, and so I wouldn’t want others to have that kind of focus on me that way as well. We also have to be careful not to judge those who lived in a different time, by trying to place their past statements in a modern context. The mindsets were different back then, and it’s all too easy to condemn them as “racist” or even a “bad person” by assuming that we would have done things differently had we been in their shoes. As Bruce McConkie said, their knowledge and understanding was limited, and we have to understand that none of us are perfect, and it is actually reassuring to me that our leaders are not perfect, as it helps me realize that their may be hope for me as well, imperfect as I am. We also have to trust the Lord and realize that we won’t have answers to alot of things in this life. We can speculate, but we can’t know for sure why He chose to hold off as long as He did, on extending priesthood blessing to all men, regardless of racial background. However, knowing that all will be right in the eternities, makes a HUGE difference for me, and so having trust and faith in the Lord, as well as a forgiving and loving attitude towards others, makes all the difference in the world. It pains me to see that this attitude is gravely lacking in most of the internet comments I find on many websites, particularly amongst those who are “anti” anything, be it Mormonism, religion, or whatever.

  16. brettogden

    This article tells us three things that were NOT the reason for Blacks being denied the priesthood and temple ordinance work. But, it fails to tell us why such a policy DID exist from the mid-19th century through 1978. It is also disingenuous to claim that it was never more than a policy. It was believed by the general membership to be doctrine until Pres. McKay revealed it as nothing more than a policy… a declaration that was surprising to even the Q12.

    And finally, if the best explanation we have is that “the members weren’t ready” than what are we to think of the current policy prohibiting monogamous gays from holding the priesthood, getting married, and enjoying the blessings of the temple? Applying the logic espoused by many on this post, those of us who are in favor of full equality for homosexuals are actually ahead of the curve. Rather than being accused of apostasy, we should be praised for readying ourselves for what the Lord may be anxiously waiting to reveal.

  17. chazman43

    I never cease to be amazed at how self righteous and judgmental we can be. How far must you have strayed from the path to be calling the leaders of the church into question over what was clearly the Lord’s commandment. We don’t know why the Lord chose to do it this way. We don’t owe anyone an apology for anything the Lord did. This is the one true church and the true and living gospel. Be a part of it, or don’t, but don’t presume to second guess the leaders of the church because you are too insecure with your own prejudices to deal with it. In my experience, those that are most oppressive in their desire to “right a wrong” are those that feel the most guilt concerning the subject. It was the Lord’s decision, the leaders of the church were righteous men. There were many righteous men who were of African descent who were not allowed to hold the priesthood (it was men of African descent, not just “black” men). We don’t know why the Lord chose to do things this way, and that’s more than good enough.

  18. chazman43

    To brettodgen…being of African descent is not a sin…being a practicing homosexual most certainly is.

  19. eric

    Thanks to the article’s author for the attempt at addressing this difficult topic fairly and honestly. At the same time, I don’t think that the Church stands any chance of really getting past this issue unless and until it, as an institution, can bring itself to apologize. One poster above indicated that an apology was issued. I am not aware of any genuine apology. Blaming the members (“the members weren’t ready”) is not an apology. Censuring McConkie is not an apology, that’s just correlation.

    The fact is the Church, as an institution, actively promoted and/or abetted racism for approximately 130 years. David O. McKay’s compassionate and loving disposition is well documented, so it is not surprising that he would have been inclined to erase the “policy” and/or “doctrine”, but by heaven he should have done it then (especially if it was, as he put it, just a “policy” and not a “doctrine”)! Joseph and Brigham didn’t wait for a consensus from the 12. Brigham as Prophet preached doctrine on multiple occasions (specifically, aspects of the Adam-God doctrine) when at least one of his own contemporaries in the 12 was preaching against the doctrine at the same time. So, I believe Pres. McKay could well have asserted himself sufficiently to proceed without consensus on a topic of this importance.

    If a real apology has ever been issued by the Church, then the Church membership at large should be well aware of it. I am a lifelong active member and leader and am not aware of any apology.

    In my humble opinion, unless and until the Church can learn to truly apologize for this instead of rationalize and/or speculate, it will continue to (1) define the Church (especially to outsiders), and (2) be a “stumbling block” to many, both inside and outside the Church. Apologizing will not entirely eliminate, justify or rectify the troubling past (and that will continue to be a stumbling block to many), but the current approach of institutional whitewashing and rationalizing is much more damaging to the Church than any fallout that might result from offering a meaningful and sincere apology.

    Anyone seriously interested in the topic should read Lester Bush’s 1973 article in Dialogue entitled “Mormonism’s Negro Doctrine: An Historical Overview” (https://www.dialoguejournal.com/2012/mormonisms-negro-doctrine-an-historical-overview/). Some additional historical tidbits on the issue have come to light since the article in 1973 but by and large Lester Bush details the historical origins of the doctrine and, albeit tenuously, largely avoids casting judgment against personalities that were of course products of their own time. It is my understanding that it later came to light that Pres. Kimball had read and apparently studied this article prior to the 1978 declaration.

  20. Mike Parker

    chazman43:

    How far must you have strayed from the path to be calling the leaders of the church into question over what was clearly the Lord’s commandment.

    If the priesthood ban was “clearly the Lord’s commandment,” would you please tell me where I can find the revelation commanding it?

  21. Pen1954

    It’s very easy to throw the blame of this topic on to the Lord when there is no basis for it. It is the people who hold themselves back not God for extending blessings to all people including the Blacks. Joseph Smith proved this and tried to teach this but the people were not ready to allow them to have it. The Lord can not extend his blessings upon everyone until the hearts and minds are united and they were not united at that time. It would be like the mindset of the Jews not wanting to extend blessings of the Gosple to the Gentiles during their time. People have to learn how to show love and concern for all people even people they don’t understand or feel comfortable with.

  22. brettogden

    chazman43:
    [quote]I never cease to be amazed at how self righteous and judgmental we can be. How far must you have strayed from the path to be calling the leaders of the church into question over what was clearly the Lord’s commandment.[/quote]

    You are making a baseless assumption that it was “clearly the Lord’s commandment”. The FAIR author who wrote this article doesn’t even appear willing to follow you down that path.

    Men (even leaders of the Church) have agency and sometimes they exercise it in ways that the Lord may not approve of. If they had the Lord’s approval then please, share it. There are extensive records and diaries from that period of church history and I’ve never seen anything come to light which would indicate the Lord’s approval of such racism.

    Truth need not hide from inquiry. If this was truly a commandment from the Lord then their is no reason to shy away from trying to gain greater understanding regarding its implementation and termination.

    [quote]To brettodgen…being of African descent is not a sin…being a practicing homosexual most certainly is.[/quote]

    According to Brigham Young and others, being of African descent was an indicator of sin in the preexistence.

    You’ll note that I referred to monogamous homosexuals. They are only sinning because church leaders have declared it to be a sin and because our society won’t permit them to get married. As with the prohibitions against those of African descent, prohibitions against committed homosexual relationships are policy decisions and have not been presented to the church as revelation nor doctrine.

    So again… extending the logic espoused on this page, it is well within reason to suggest that the Lord could be waiting for His people (the members) to be ready so that he can reverse said policy’s discrimination against homosexuals.

  23. PBradley

    This issue would be easily resolved with a little candor by the Brethren about the process of revelation and allowing for some criticism of the attitudes of early white Church members.

    When the Lord first instructed his Apostles to begin preaching the gospel, he told them to not go into any city of the Samaritans (Matt 10:5). Clearly, if Samaritans had become followers of Christ in the nascent Church that He was establishing at the time, there would have been huge ructions amongst the Jewish converts who had the same distaste for Samaritans as whites had for African Americans in the 1800s.

    Hence, understanding that it was essential that the Church be firmly established before the gospel was preached to all the world, the Lord, by revelation, instructed his Apostles to avoid preaching to the Samaritans for the moment. And the reason – simply that the Jews of the time were racists.

    Move forward to the 1800s and a similar problem existed. Many early white Church members held severely racist attitudes towards African Americans. Can one imagine what the reaction would have been amongst these white members if they were forced to sit alongside black converts, let alone receive the Sacrament from them or be counselled by a black bishop?

    So, in my opinion, for similar reasons as in the First Century, the Lord, by revelation, instructed his prophets to withold the priesthood from those of African descent. But it wasn’t because they were the ones who were unworthy or not valiant. Rather, it was simply because the white Church members of the time were unworthy.

    Once the Church was on a firm footing and racist attitudes among white folk had largely diminished, there came the opportunity for the priesthood to be made available to all people regardless of their race.

    If only we could say this publicly. If only the Brethren could go a little further and indicate that early Church members were simply not worthy in their attitudes towards blacks. That way, there would not be the need to get into any discussion about whether this was a practice or a doctrine of the Church that needed to be revised.

  24. Logophile

    lifelongguy wrote,

    Rather than all the apologetics surrounding this issues, how about a simple apology? Would mean so much more.

    I am not so sure. Vicarious apologies often come across as mere posturing or preening.

    A few questions are in order:

    1. What exactly was the offense that requires an apology?

    2. Who is responsible for issuing the apology?

    3. Who is owed the apology? In other words, who was harmed?

    4. What else might be required?

  25. himismipi madea

    I have been a member for almost 17 years and I have heard every excuse known to man as to why my kin folk were unable to hold the priesthood. I have heard some new ones today. Honestly, I think I will continue to pray for a miracle of healing when it comes to this subject.

  26. slingshotdave

    To playerpage:

    You posted:

    “Bruce R. McConkie was famously “taken behind the barn” for his most incendiary and unsupported comments in the original edition on “Mormon Doctrine” by the First Presidency, and changed them for the second edition”

    If you are referring specifically to Elder McConkie’s comments about blacks and the Priesthood in “Mormon Doctrine”, your statement is simply false.

    Just last year while visiting my father in Alpine, Utah, I had the opportunity to compare the 1958 version of Mormon Doctrine with the second edition which appeared in 1966. There are no changes to the comments regarding blacks and the Priesthood. It stands in the second edition exactly as it did in the first.

    Also, a complete account of the rebukes and revision process is contained in “The Story of Bruce R. McConkie” (pgs. 182-193) written by his son, Joseph Fielding McConkie. Elder McConkie was not rebuked by the 1st Presidency for Doctrinal errors, but rather, for taking an authoritative tone when he was only a 70. Spencer W. Kimball was the Apostle assigned to mentor him, and all of the approximately 50 changes suggested by him were a matter of “tone”. Most changes were deletions or softening of material that condemned marginal practices (birth control, card playing, etc.) by church members and comments that denounced many Catholic and Protestant practices. The story that Elder McConkie revised his comments about blacks and the Priesthood in the 2nd edition is a myth.

  27. Mike Parker

    slingshotdave:

    While your statement concerning differences between the 1st (1958) and 2nd (1966) editions of the ‘Mormon Doctrine’ entry for “Negroes” is technically correct, there are significant differences between those two and the revised 2nd edition which appeared after the 1978 priesthood revelation. The earlier editions teach that blacks were less valiant in the premortal existence; the revised article is almost a complete rewrite and takes a remarkably different approach to the subject. (I own both editions and would be happy to post a scanned copy of the articles.)

    Also, Elder McConkie identified the Roman Catholic Church as the great and abominable church of Nephi’s vision in 1st edition, this among other significant changes in the 2nd edition. Joseph Fielding McConkie’s apologetic for his father downplays some of the serious concerns the brethren had about his book. See the chapter devoted to it in Greg Prince’s biography ‘David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism.’

  28. Mike Parker

    Also, I recommend Dennis C. Davis’ 1971 typescript ‘McConkie’s “Mormon Doctrine”: Changes in Parallel Columns’. Its 97 pages detail every change between the 1st and 2nd edition; the are a great deal more than 50 of them, and they go far beyond issues of “tone”.

  29. playerpage

    To Slingshotdave and Mike Parker:

    It was this more serious change (the SECOND 2nd edition, as it were) to which I was referring. I’m sorry I wasn’t more clear but my piece was pretty long already. I knew the Brethren–particularly that scrapper Kimble–just wanted McConkie to sit down and be quiet for a while after “Mormon Doctrine” was released, and I have always called that book the most unfortunately titled tome in the LDS Library. Thank you, Mike, for your clarifications.

    brettogden, I believe you may be kidding yourself if you ever expect the Church to change its stance on homosexuality based upon the history of the Africans and the Priesthood.

    First of all, the “sin and/or not valiant” myth was something Brigham Young specifically spoke out AGAINST (I provided the source above). I would be interested in your source for his speculation.

    But even so, it deals with supposed behavior in the pre-earth realm. First Estate. Settled stuff. The Lord’s commandments for His children in their Second Estate are established and clear and Universal across the board. (Even pre-1978 everyone had to follow the same commandments.) The idea that something that used to be a sin suddenly won’t be for the Lord is a long shot, indeed.

  30. brettogden

    To Playerpage:

    Well, apparently what Brigham Young taught didn’t stick… it seemed to be ignored by later prophets/seers/revelators.

    Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 1, p. 65
    There were no neutrals in the war in heaven. All took sides either with Christ or with Satan. Every man had his agency there, and men receive rewards here based upon their actions there, just as they will receive rewards hereafter for deeds done in the body. The Negro, evidently, is receiving the reward he merits.

    Even so, my point was not about first-estate actions (which apparently weren’t “settled stuff” lest they wouldn’t have still been “cursed” during their mortal probation). My point was that this article suggests that the Lord can have His chosen leaders here on Earth impose a policy or doctrine which is not necessarily what He wants but must be temporarily implemented while the saints mature enough to handle His will.

    Under that theory, homosexuality could be a similar case. The Lord has His appointed set restrictions in place against homosexuals until we overcome prejudices enough to allow homosexuals full access to the blessings of the gospel… consistent with their nature.

    And I know, you’ll argue that homosexual activity being sin is doctrinal but I contend that we don’t have a clear revelation. The “most correct book on Earth” has nothing to say about homosexuality. The book of commandments for our dispensation is also silent on the subject. Ditto on the four gospels. We no longer follow Old Testament law so that is not applicable. We’re left with just the words of an apostle from whom we cherry-pick doctrine. (Don’t believe me? Well, we certainly don’t follow his counsel to keep women silent in church.)

    Believe what you want about homosexuality. But my prejudices are dropped and I will pray for the day that we truly welcome our gay brothers and lesbian sisters with open arms and full fellowship. Including the blessings of temple ordinances which were similarly denied to Blacks for well over a century.

  31. mcerisano

    I certainly hope there are very few people who are waiting for the church to grant the blessings of the temple to homosexuals.

    More to the topic…the rescinding of the priesthood ban has little similarity to the issue of homosexuality and the desire of homosexuals for acceptance and validation in the eyes of the church.

    Homosexuality by definition in the doctrine of the LDS church is deviant and sinful. It, if permitted, would destroy the pattern of the family established by the Father. This concept (that of family) is so central to the plan of salvation that there is no possibility of change.

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  33. 1paul

    “Once I said unto another, “In thine eye there is a mote; If thou art a friend, a brother, Hold and let me pull it out.” But I could not see it fairly, For my sight was very dim. When I came to search more clearly, In mine eye there was a beam….” (Hymn #273 3rd verse). This day I have learned that I was wrong all these years about the Blacks and the wrongs I have felt. Please forgive as I have found a “Beam”. 1paul

  34. Pen1954

    To get back to the main point, I find it amazing that people are still giving the same excuss that the “Lord” by way of Revelation, instructed his Prophets to withold the priestood from African decent? Where do they find this hidden information? In the Journals of Discourses? Unfortunately, books like this have caused more grief and concern for the church and even helped to expedited offshoots, including Mormon Doctrine because of misunderstandings of the gosple. This is where trouble begins. Statememts unfounded by leaders speaking not by way of personal revelation but by personal opinion taking it in as gosple truth. When does one know when a Prophet speaks by revelation or by his own personal opinion? My mission president use to call the discourses the tool of the devil just because people twisted the words and meaning around. Words either said or unsaid and by which many have fallen by the wayside into apostasy because their gosple foundation could not support it. So I have never read any revelation that would deny priestood rights just because of being African decent? I believe it was much more of a consensus, a group vote amongest the quorm of elders and a protocol here in Utah because most people didn’t want them to have it or the church in general as a whole were not ready for them to receive it. Regardless of what Joseph Smith and others had done, many of the leaders refused to believe that Joseph Smith gave the priestood to Blacks and later came up with their own interpretations of why they should not receive it. The problem that I have is why the authorities never got up in general conference and told members to stop supporting such ideas that were not founded, other than they actually believed it? Was it simply just because of their African decent and color of skin? How about other people with dark skin color such as from the isles of the sea, could they be held to the same standards? Oh but they were, because Priesident David O. McKay tried several times to allow a good member in one of the isles to receive the priestood but the quorm refused to allow it to happen due to their protocol. No matter what Brigham Young or others may have said African people could not have been from the seed of Cain because Cain’s posterity died in the flood and only 8 rightous people were saved by water. Was it later because of what Ham & his son Canaan did to Noah? Did Noah curse Ham’s posterity for all eternity from ever having the priestood? That concept does not follow with what Joseph Smith taught – Man is responsible for their own sins and not for Adams transgression. In the Book of Mormon the Lamanites became cursed due to the errors and choices they made but that curse was always lifted for all men – when they repented and came unto Christ. From the time of Noah to Abraham would mean that we all were eventually cursed because only one person was chosen and that was Abraham and his offspring. Most of the Ham’s, Japheth’s and even much of Shem’s population became one of our forefathers who chose to go after other strange gods and refused to harken to a prophet of God. Only Abraham’s offspring would be the chosen and covenant seed due to the fact that eventually most of everyone else fell by the wayside into idolatry and lost the meaning of the True God. Yes even people from the British Isles were Pagans at one time until they were taught Christanity. If there is one lesson we can take from this is that we have all errored and have come short of the glory of God. One thing we all need to continue to work on in the church is learning how to show love and respect for one another. This is the only way we can get past this because I don’t feel that the church anyway soon will ever come out with an offical apology. I feel that we still have much room for improvemet because there are still people in the church who do not feel welcome. The apology that is needed will have to come from within and and a firmer understanding of how blindsighted we all are. This should put a lasting effect upon all of us and and how we truly treat one another.

  35. nevilleman22

    In the book, “mirical of forgiveness”, an account given from David W. Patten talking about his experience talking with Cain. He describes Cain with the same attributes as bigfoot. I know that people here may not believe in bigfoot, but it does sound alot like it.

  36. playerpage

    But that wouldn’t be doctrine bcspace, so much as an explanation. An explanation as given by someone trying their best, but in the words of Mr. Gordon, ending up hurting more than helping. Doctrine only comes from the pulpit or from the Standard Works. The common confusion goes a long way toward illustrating why many of these myths continue to survive, and even thrive.

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  38. brettogden

    mcerisano,

    You wrote: “I certainly hope there are very few people who are waiting for the church to grant the blessings of the temple to homosexuals.”

    Is that really the Christlike attitude we should have?

    I think I understand what you are saying and I agree that the most commonly held belief within the church is that homosexual activity is a sin. It’s also a clear policy documented in the CHI and repeated in conference sessions as well as church manuals. Though my agreement ends when you postulate that it would “destroy the pattern of the family”. Heterosexual couples will continue giving birth to homosexual offspring regardless of our level of acceptance.

    The similarity between the plight of Mormon homosexuals and pre-1978 Blacks is that today homosexuals are being prevented from enjoying the full blessings of the gospel due to a policy that could very well be changed by the Lord at some future time.

    You seem to think that can’t happen though it is clearly the theory behind the article at the top of this page. I contend that a good number of the 19th and early 20th century Brethren leading the church would have said the same thing about Blacks and the Priesthood/Temple.

    I see nothing in our doctrines to suggest the implausibility of a change in policy with respect to homosexuals – even to the point of temple sealings. Can you cite something to shore up your position that the Lord can never change church policies and practices with respect to homosexuals?

    Is it not a bit arrogant to suggest that the Lord omnipotent must be done guiding us in this matter? Especially considering that, to the best of my knowledge, He has never voiced to us any specific commands with respect to homosexuals?

  39. bryce

    @ brettogden:

    If you are truly a Latter-day Saint, then you are in need of repentance. If you are not: then be ye rebuked, satan!

    Your view’s are distorted and harmful to others, but most of all to yourself. Homosexuality is a sin; always has been and always will be. In addition, it is extremely disrespectful to those of African decent to compare their situation here with that of homosexuals.

    To counter some of your points:

    May I ask, if God is simply waiting for us to be more open to homosexuals, why would he have utterly destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah in the Old Testament? If he was waiting for the people back then to be open to homosexuality, do you contend that it was fair for Him to destroy those cities and its sexually deviant inhabitants? Is God not the same today, yesterday and forever? You brettogden, do not understand the scriptures and have let Satan tempt your mind into a warped sense of right and wrong.

    You said: “…And I know, you’ll argue that homosexual activity being sin is doctrinal but I contend that we don’t have a clear revelation.”

    Are you serious? Read “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” Read by President Gordon B. Hinckley from the pulpit in 1995 at a General Conference meeting; this is revelation, common sense, and good reason.

    No one is born gay. Some have stronger inclination then others, but it is our choice as to whether or not we give-in to temptation. Once an individual starts down a path of sin, the temptation and inclination towards it becomes stronger and stronger until the sad soul self-identifies with it.

    You also said: “We no longer follow Old Testament law so that is not applicable” – in reference to laws against homosexuality… In this case as well as the former, you misunderstand or have been led astray.

    Christ fulfilled the law. He did not destroy it. Take adultery for example: In the Old Testament, a man committed adultery by sleeping with a woman other than his wife. For Christ, a man commits adultery by simply thinking lustfully after another woman. You, brettogden can not use the “old-testament-no-longer-applies” argument here.

    Seriously, if you feel like your a homosexual… get some help and pray. God has given us all trials, but none of them are beyond that which we can bear if we have faith.

  40. sometallchick

    One very important missing piece of the puzzle is that in 1913, Wilson RE-SEGREGATED Blacks. Prior to that, Blacks and Whites were pretty intermingled, but because Wilson was a racist and Progressive, he took it upon himself to push for it, nationwide. THAT is why in the early 1900’s, it’s as if there is a missing link in the race issue – President Wilson.

  41. sometallchick

    Also, as far as Homosexuality – it IS contrary to Church principles. In case you missed the last GC, the prophet clearly stated that we ought to love the sinner, but recognize that is IS a lifestyle choice.

    The church supported Prop 8 in California. Plus, are we suddenly progressive in nature? Is the term “between one man and one woman” lost on everyone because it is now popular to consider what has historically been the antithesis of Godlike principles?

    Being civil is one thing and being kind is necessary in all exchanges, but it is quite another to state that a man SHOULD hold the holy priesthood, in which specific questions even regarding the word of wisdom are asked, should suddenly change to include men as partners, and if they are married in a state, then should they adopt, and if so, what is the longterm impact of that on the church so as not to hurt his feelings against all the precepts God has ever stated in the ancient and modern church.

    C’mon, we are in the world, not of it. In everyday life, be kind to everyone, love everyone, but acknowledge that those who engage in homosexuality, those who have concubines, those who engage in porn, child porn, beastiality, etc………… are not living Godly principles and should not hold the priesthood. In recent years, in the sociopolitical realm, there has been a push for the legalization of the Man-Child concubine as a feasible thing – that minors should be allowed to live with older men as partners if they see fit – look up NAMBLA and their involvement in creating policy – it’s a very slippery slope. .

  42. mcerisano

    @brettogden you said “Is that really the Christlike attitude we should have?”

    I dont see in my remarks the un-christlike attitude you identify. I have encountered this rebuttal before when people didn’t like what was said. However, it was not my intention to step on toes if that is how it was received.

    Though my agreement ends when you postulate that it would “destroy the pattern of the family”. Heterosexual couples will continue giving birth to homosexual offspring regardless of our level of acceptance.

    Heterosexual parents will continue to give birth to all kinds of sinful and even deviant offspring. This doesnt pave the way for tolerance when it comes to sin. Our children will suffer from all kinds of weakness and temptation in this life, that doesnt provide a reasonable argument for sanctioning sinful or deviant behavior. The message of the gospel is to turn from the world and seek guidance and forgiveness by the grace of God. To change our weak and sinful natures to be more Christ-like…not hope that God will relax or alter the rules so I dont have to change.

    I see nothing in our doctrines to suggest the implausibility of a change in policy with respect to homosexuals – even to the point of temple sealings.

    The pattern of the family is clearly demonstrated in the temple ceremony where each man and woman is placed by proxy in the stead of adam and eve. There is no room for a modification of this pattern to include homosexuality. To believe so, no matter how earnest or sincere the intent, is simply foolish.

    Can you cite something to shore up your position that the Lord can never change church policies and practices with respect to homosexuals?

    The temple ceremony (and all the creation accounts) is more than enough evidence that the pattern of the family does not and will never include same sex sealings.

    We have more than enough information given to us on the correct pattern of the family to reasonably deduce that homosexuality will never receive divine approval no matter how ‘prepared’ society is for the concept.

  43. brettogden

    @ Bryce

    Thanks for the call to repentance. Much appreciated.

    To counter your points:

    1. Joseph Smith taught that Sodom & Gomorrah were destroyed for rejecting the Lord’s messengers, not for homosexuality.

    2. The Family Proclamation is not revelation. It has never been presented as such. Further, in Oct 2010 GC, Pres Packer called it a revelation in his spoken comments but then corrected himself in the published version of his talk redacting the term revelation and instead calling it a “guide”. Additionally, the Family Proclamation does not exclude the possibility of future committed homosexual unions.

    3. President Hinkley and other church leaders have clearly stated that we do not have a position on the cause of homosexuality. They have recognized that it is not a choice nor is it caused by sin.

    4. Leviticus is the Old Testament book that condemns homosexuality. The church doesn’t even attempt to follow all of the counsel/commands given in Leviticus. Where does the Lord tell us that we can cherry-pick from the Old Testament.

    5. I agree with you on Christ teaching a higher moral law than what we have in the Old Testament. So, what did Christ teach us about homosexuality in the New Testament, D&C, or Book of Mormon? Hmmm… He doesn’t make any mention of homosexuality in any of those books.

    6. So your assumption here is that anyone not willing to bind the Lord’s hands in what He can choose to reveal about homosexuals, must therefore be a homosexual? Well, you are wrong.

  44. brettogden

    mcerisano,

    Is there room in the temple ceremony for the sealing of two unrelated adult males to each other?

    There was for quite a while under Joseph Smith and Brigham Young.

    Your argument all lies on the understanding the comes from our current light and knowledge. That wisdom can be increased as it was with reference to the Blacks and the Priesthood.

    It is arrogant and myopic to unilaterally decide that the Lord may no longer reveal anything with respect to homosexuality especially when you are unable to even identify what He has revealed to date.

    The point of the article at the top of this page is the church principles can change. Church principles with respect to homosexuality can change. And if, as has been postulated with Blacks and the Priesthood, the problem is lack of readiness with the members – then we need to take a close look at our attitudes with respect to homosexuality.

  45. mcerisano

    brettogden

    I think it is not a little naive to assume that because the historical record of the church or canonized scripture is silent on a particular issue that compliance or agreement can be implied.

    In my opinion, homosexuality was so deviant and unexpected in Joseph Smith’s and even Jesus’ day that very little was said or preached concerning the subject. Hence the need for modern revelation to establish policy and practice for the never static social milieu.

    Arrogance and myopia aside, the pattern of the family has been well established since the beginning. I dont postulate that there will be no more revelation on the topic of homosexuality…I believe all that has been revealed and wait anxiously for additional light and knowledge. I am quite confident that subsequent revelation on the family will not provide for relationships that are inherently sinful and based on deviant sexual practices whether homo or hetero-sexual.

    From the Family Proclamation:

    We declare that God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force.

    This simple statement considered on its own merits is very problematic for two committed gay men. Certainly this is not the only problem with the concept of the church solemnizing homosexual marriages. Sex is not solely intended for procreation, but its use has been clearly delineated by the examples and statements of prophets and apostles since Adam.

    As I said before, this life is the time to turn away from the world not to embrace worldliness. Waiting and hoping for a a fundamental change in the doctrine of the family so that one doesnt have to change their carnal nature is the ultimate in rationalization. No matter how sincere and well intended the rationalization may be, it will not yield the same results as applying the Atonement of Jesus Christ to a sin-bound soul.

  46. brettogden

    mcerisano,

    I wasn’t suggesting that the silence implies compliance or agreement. Just that it has left the canon open for future guidance.

    You correctly noted the need for further revelation in these regards. And I agree that we need that revelation and, as members of the church, we need to open ourselves up and be ready for those revelations. Maybe that is the reason that we have lacked any meaningful revelation on homosexuality thus far.

    Gay men are going to have a tough time multiplying and replenishing the earth regardless of whether we accept or condemn their relationships. It is against their very nature and the Brethren have acknowledged that in counseling them to not view marriage (to a woman) as a cure.

    Given that, I think we ought to extend our compassion and pray for the day that rather than requiring celibacy, the Lord opens the way for homosexual relationships to be recognized and even eternal.

    You didn’t respond to my question about sealings. The sealing ordinance as implemented by Joseph Smith was not strictly about male-female marriage. Unrelated adult men were sealed to each other to create eternal bonds.

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