In connection with Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith, the priesthood ban is getting a lot of attention from the media again.
The most recent turn comes from The Washington Post, where reporter Jason Horowitz interviews Darius Gray and other black Latter-day Saints about their experience with and feelings about the ban. Searching for a theological explanation for the ban, Horowitz contacted BYU associate professor Randy Bott. Horowitz paraphrases Bott:
According to Mormon scriptures, the descendants of Cain, who slew his brother Abel, “were black.” One of Cain’s descendants was Egyptus, a woman Mormons believe was the namesake of Egypt. She married Ham, whose descendants were themselves cursed and, in the view of many Mormons, barred from the priesthood by his father, Noah. Bott points to the Mormon holy text, the Book of Abraham, as suggesting that all of the descendents of Ham and Egyptus were thus black and barred from the priesthood.
Professor Bott’s explanation is an example of how doctrinal folklore continues to be taught by well-meaning members of the Church. Ironically, the dubious “folk doctrine” in question is no longer even relevant, since it was created to explain a Church policy that was reversed nearly thirty-four years ago. Continue reading