“FAIR Conversations,” Episode 16: Max Mueller, on blacks and the priesthood

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The most recent public discussion on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and race was spurred by the comments of a BYU religious education professor which were published in the Washington Post. Professor Randy Bott related justifications for the ban which included ideas about the curse of Cain, and the restriction being a means of divine protection. An official response from the LDS Church quickly appeared online at mormonnewsroom.org. It read, in part:

The positions attributed to BYU professor Randy Bott in a recent Washington Post article absolutely do not represent the teachings and doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints….The Church’s position is clear—we believe all people are God’s children and are equal in His eyes and in the Church. We do not tolerate racism in any form…We condemn racism, including any and all past racism by individuals both inside and outside the Church.

Max Mueller, a Ph.D. candidate in religious history at Harvard University, wrote a response for Slate which stated:

For many Mormons, reading Bott’s words was like unearthing a theological dinosaur long thought extinct but suddenly rediscovered in the corner of an obscure BYU office. His positions seem radically out of place in a modern church with an international membership that includes probably some 500,000 Mormons of African descent. The church’s expensive and ubiquitous “I’m a Mormon” public relations campaign has been carefully and deliberately multiethnic; Mormon leaders want the world to view the religion as the diverse global community it has become. Unfortunately, Bott’s beliefs, though arcane, represent a strain of Mormonism that has persisted well past the 1978 revelation.

Mueller, also the associate editor of a forthcoming online journal called “Religion & Politics,” joins host Blair Hodges for the latest episode of FAIR Conversations.

The views expressed by Mr. Mueller here or elsewhere do not necessarily represent the views of FAIR or of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Questions or comments about this episode can be sent to [email protected]. Or, join the conversation in the comments here. 

Runtime: 89:51

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Apologies for the occasional sound pops in this episode, production was a bit rushed. See also the FAIR Blog posts by Mike Parker and Scott Gordon which also include links to other discussions on this subject.



5 thoughts on ““FAIR Conversations,” Episode 16: Max Mueller, on blacks and the priesthood

  1. Pingback: 10 March 2012 | MormonVoices

  2. Pingback: Max Mueller on Blacks and the Priesthood | Blacklds.org

  3. Nan

    I have been listening for several months now and have heard so many wonderful things. I told my husband back in November that I had finally found “my people.” This is the first time I’ve commented . . . mostly because I couldn’t figure out a way to contact Mr. Mueller directly. I was deeply touched regarding the section in which he spoke about Jane Manning. Many years ago I wrote a program for the young women in my ward in Houston. One of our YW happened to be African American–her parents were very active in the Church, and had been since before the ban. The program was a representation of a woman from scriptural/Church history for each of the values. For Individual Worth I chose Jane Manning, using mostly her own words for the monologue. The young sister in our ward played her beautifully; she later performed her piece at a Genesis meeting held in Houston. I’ve never lived in another ward where the play would work, but I keep hoping. Later that year my husband worked with her brother at the temple and asked him if he had ever found it strange, attending a very racially diverse high school but having mostly white LDS friends. This remarkable young RM just laughed and said “My culture is the (insert ward name) Ward!” My husband and I both understood something that day that even our missions in the multicultural Sydney and Brazil couldn’t teach us. For believing LDS, our first culture IS the culture of the Church . . . and all the baggage that comes with that. Thanks a million, Mr. Mueller for taking the time and effort to understand us.

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