Beliefs Culture Jana Riess: Flunking Sainthood Opinion

African American Mormon convert: LDS Church needs to “make amends” for past racism

Over a year ago, the LDS Church issued a Gospel Topics statement about race that should have laid to rest the folk doctrines that had once propped up its racist priesthood ban. That statement put the blame for the ban on “widespread ideas about racial inferiority” that characterized 19th-century America, affirming that God is “no respecter of persons” or of race.

Unfortunately, the statement has not yet been incorporated into the Church’s curriculum, and earlier racial views still prevail among some Latter-day Saints. Today, guest blogger and Relief Society President Bryndis Roberts calls on the Church to stop hiding its Gospel Topics statement under a bushel, and use it to take a bolder stand to rectify the racist sins of the past. — JKR

 

BWR face at weddingA guest post by Bryndis Roberts

Before joining the Church in January 2008, I struggled mightily with the fact that, before 1978, there was a ban on men of African descent having the priesthood and a ban on all persons of African descent participating in temple ordinances. In practical terms, this ban meant that all of the people who looked like me were relegated to a second-class form of Church membership.

From the first time I learned of the priesthood/temple ban, I knew without a doubt that no part of the policy was from God. That knowledge made it possible for me to join the Church despite the ban’s previous existence and the many hurtful statements Church leaders and members had made to justify it. Consequently, when the Church issued the Race and the Priesthood essay on December 13, 2013, as part of its series on Gospel Topics, that essay simply confirmed what I already knew – that racism was the only reason for the ban.

Almost every religion has some history of racism. However, the history and sanctioned Church-wide practice of racism in the LDS Church lasted way too long. Moreover, the effort put into justifying that history and practice left investigators and members of African descent feeling doubly wounded.

I have heard so many accounts about those wounds. Here are a few of them:

  • In 1977, an African American woman was ready to join the Church. When she learned of the priesthood/temple ban, she did not join.
  • In 1997, a white teacher told a young African American man that the reason for the ban was that “Blacks were less valiant in the premortal realm.” The pain from that statement ultimately resulted in him becoming inactive.
  • In 2007, an African American woman was investigating the Church. She was repeatedly informed that the priesthood/temple ban had come from God and that her faith simply needed to be strong enough to accept that fact.
  • In 2014, an African American woman was told that the Race and the Priesthood essay did not mean that the Church had been wrong; instead, God had simply changed his mind about the “worthiness” of people of African descent.

As an African American, these stories fill me with a combination of anger and sadness. When I think about how my brothers and sisters of color were denied the opportunity for blessings and exaltation simply because of their ethnic heritage, I feel the same emotions I experienced when, as a little girl, I was told I could not sit in the “whites only” waiting room, or drink from the “whites only” fountain, or use the “whites only” bathroom.

In fact, my emotions about the Church are even stronger, because the Church’s exclusionary practices affected the eternal life of my brothers and sisters of African descent.

I commend the Church for issuing the Race and the Priesthood essay, but I do not believe it has done nearly enough to rid itself of the stain of exclusionary practices of the past. Here is what I wish the Church would do:

  • Issue the Race and the Priesthood essay as a letter from the First Presidency, an Official Declaration, or a proclamation.
  • Have that official document translated into all the languages that the Church uses to communicate with its worldwide membership.
  • Read it at General Conference and make it clear that neither the ban nor the justifications for the ban came from God.
  • Direct that it be read from the pulpit in every ward, branch, “cluster” (see here), and mission in the world.
  • Incorporate it into all levels of the Church’s curriculum and teachings.

By doing these things, I believe the Church will begin to make amends for the racism that permeated Mormon life in the past and the racist remnants that continue to haunt us in the present. Preaching the truth about racism out loud, from the pulpit — repeatedly if necessary — will hasten the day when there are no distinctions in the Church because of race.

About the author

Jana Riess

Senior columnist Jana Riess is the author of many books, including "The Prayer Wheel" (Random House/Convergent, 2018) and "The Next Mormons: How Millennials Are Changing the LDS Church" (Oxford University Press, 2019). She has a PhD in American religious history from Columbia University.

107 Comments

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  • A very well written article.

    And this statement says it all: “From the first time I learned of the priesthood/temple ban, I knew without a doubt that no part of the policy was from God.”

    Precisely.

    And that quickly leads to the fact that Mormon “prophets” have never been prophets at all. Their views and edicts have been and are no more significant than anyone’s.

  • Tornogal, thank you for the feedback, but I disagree with your final point. Your position is an extreme one: you appear to be saying that if someone is to receive inspiration or guidance as a prophet of God, that person cannot also be subject to human mistakes. The Bible is full of examples of people who were called as prophets but were fallible in other respects (Noah getting drunk and cursing his son, Jonah being angry when God did not destroy Nineveh, etc.).

    Being wrong and being the prophet are not mutually exclusive in scripture.

  • I appreciate the post and the sentiments, and would love to see the suggested actions take place. One thing I continue to struggle with is whether or not the ban came from God. Bryndis puts forth her belief that the ban was not of God, and her belief that the essay “confirmed what I already knew – that racism was the only reason for the ban.”

    However, I can’t find such words in the essay, as much as I wish they were there. The essay seems to hint at the ban originating with Brigham Young, but there is no denial that it came from God.

    Again, I share the belief that the ban didn’t come from God, but that is not yet backed up by either the essay or the words of the apostles and prophets, unless I am missing something.

    Bryndis’ suggestion 3 does cover it though: “Read it at General Conference and make it clear that neither the ban nor the justifications for the ban came from God.”

    Please DO make it clear, because right now, at least to me, it is not as clear as it could and should be.

  • Dear rc,
    Thank you for your comment. I agree that the language in the essay is not as clear and unequivocal on the issue of the origin of the ban as it should be. I added my third suggestion/wish to encourage Church leaders to state – openly and unequivocally — that the ban did NOT come from God.
    Bryndis

  • Bryndis, I agree.

    Church leaders need to vocally and publicly set the record straight. It is not enough to put it in writing–though that should be done too. When it is only in writing people remain ignorant and misinformed, false beliefs persist.

    Beginning in primary we teach our children to admit mistakes and to make restitution which entails telling the one you’ve wronged that you are sorry.
    When we know better we do better. Granted, those who put this practice in place are long gone. We can’t ask Brigham Young or others to explain their actions. But some of those who supported the practice are still with us and many of those who grew up feeling second class are still with us.

    The problem is for too long we’ve allowed that the belief that the prophet is “infallible” ie. “the prophet will never lead the church astray.” But no mortal man can attain imperfection or infallibility. Instead, people become great leaders because they are humble, meek and can readily admit mistakes. They personally, individually reach out to those rejected by society or religious adherents. They listen to understand, to meet each individual at their level. They shun hero status. Maybe our leaders (some) possess those qualities and do those things. I don’t know them personally. But we no matter what level we are, we should practice what we preach: admit mistakes, offer restitution (in this case a clear public statement and apology to those who’ve been hurt). And stop teaching “the prophet will never (ie is incapable of) leading the church astray.

  • “African American Mormon convert: LDS Church needs to “make amends” for past racism.”

    Why? God told ’em it was fine. He told the southern Baptists it was fine. He told the pre-schism Methodists and Presbyterians it was fine.

  • I think Brydis Roberts is exactly right but while there is a significant number of African American saints who were relegated to second class status in the church prior to 1978, one half of the members — ALL of the women — are still discriminated against today with no indication at all that we will see that change soon.

  • Bryndis, I am married in the temple to a woman of partial African ancestry. Would not have been allowed just 20 years before our marriage. I get what the cost would have been to me personally under the old policy and to my wife and children and extended family. However, my wife and I have never felt the need to be in the business of judging the motives or reasons behind what the prophets did on this. There are larger things going on in God’s plan than the little parts we are permitted to see. Sure we want answers: Why did Israel seem to get special gospel treatment compared to other nations and races, anciently? Why was the priesthood largely confined to those of the tribe of Levi anciently? Why have many of God’s children not had the gospel taught to them at all in life? Why has the gospel gone first to nations like America rather than God’s children of races found in China, India, or Arab states? Why does Africa get the gospel now while those in China for the most part do not? Why are races and nations and tribes and families offered baptism and temples and priesthood at different times by God?

    Racism by prophets? Racism by God who chose a white American boy instead of a black Nigerian girl as a prophet? Nobody can honestly say they really know. Sure, one can speculate about who was or was not valiant in pre-mortal life, but it does not help. It may be that the most valiant are placed in poor and struggling nations and races because they are strong enough to handle it. We don’t know.

    What we do know is that in the Doctrine and Covenants Jesus Christ states the first shall be last and the last shall be first. It will all be evened out in the end. The Jews were first in the past and it appears they may be last to get the restored gospel now. Leave it alone. Trust God to do the fairness math correctly. Do not presume or judge the motives of prophets. The prophet Peter was not prepared to take the gospel to the nations of the world. He had a revelation/dream in which God directed him to take the gospel to the Gentiles. He was a very good man and obeyed. No doubt he may have had some racist feelings originally, but by revelation that changed. We don’t need to be demanding an apology from Peter or Christ for how the gospel was only taken to Israel first, for whatever reason(s). The Church has better things to do than worry about guessing the motives of past prophets. If Monson did exactly as you demand how would we know that he was not just making a mistake and that past prophets did not have it right–just because we would like it better? We trust that the prophets rarely get it wrong and when they do God will resolve the matter in God’s own due time. We must now take the gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people–every race, everywhere and we are running out of time. We need to get our heads in the mission now, and not worry about what speculating on what was in a leader’s head 150 years ago and demanding apologies for it. My wife and I ARE sealed in the temple NOW regardless of what might have been the situation 40 years ago. We have prophets now. We have an urgent work to do now. We would do well to listen to the counsel of the prophets now instead of counseling them and feeling hurt and unforgiving about what some prophet may or may not have got right in the past.

  • Great article. I would love to see mormon church address these points. I am extremely embarrassed that my church has the racial history and addressing it would certainly help heal the hearts of many.

  • “Do not presume or judge the motives of prophets.”

    While they are sodomizing 12 year old girls on the altar of the temple, with sister wives looking on, it’s all good, because, you know, he’s the prophet, and he CAN’T lead the church astray, GOD SAID SO. (I speak of Warren Jeffs, FLDS “prophet”).

    This is why so much hurt, abuse, and trouble still plagues — and will continue to foster abuse and evil — in every religious institution — EVERY ONE OF THEM — that insist on mindless, thoughtless obedience to leadership. EVERY ONE.

  • Aren’t black women a part of that group who is discriminated against? Sexism is something black women experience as well.

  • “We have an urgent work to do now.”

    Yes, we do! Why we need — more than ever in the history of the world — to redress wrongs, make them right, so the Church can stop hemorrhaging members, and missionaries can stop having to tap dance around difficult topics. Do I sound bitter at your commentary T&L? It’s because I am. This dismissive attitude of yours is a HINDERANCE to the work, and proof that we have a long way to go to make progress.

  • Great article. I agree completely. I wish so much that the church would speak openly about things people have questions about, both historically and in the present. Wouldn’t that make things so much easier?

    Thanks to Bryndis and Jana for this.

  • i agree, Jana. That argument is a slippery slope fallacy. The fact that some early Mormons — and perhaps some current Mormons — were racists reflects their culture and not their inspiration. This, I think, is true even for prophets.

  • T&L,

    I mean no disrespect. I am a current member with all the ticket-punching credentials needed for serious advancement into the hierarchy of the church. My wife and I will be resigning soon. What I see in your comment is what I see so often in my criminal defense practice: the phenomenon of confirmation bias. In other words, a person begins with a conclusion and contorts the analysis or ignores contrary facts to fit the conclusion. Cops do this frequently. Hence, members start with the premise that the church is true and then attempt to explain difficulties such as race and priesthood in a manner that is faith-promoting.

    This leads members then to doing a number of things, such as 1) making facts irrelevant by saying something like “this has nothing to do with my salvation”. In other words, “I don’t care that Joseph Smith bedded a 14 year old, lied to his wife, his friends, the members at large, and the public in general about his polygamous and polyandrous activities, it’s not important to my salvation.” 2) I also see members offer increasingly ridiculous explanations such as saying that when the Book of Mormon mentions horses, it’s really referring to tapirs. Or that the facsimiles in the Pearl of Great Price are completely and utterly mistranslated according to every reputable Egyptologist on the planet, the response is essentially that “well that may be true now but research is ongoing and I’m sure Joseph will be vindicated at some point”. And then there’s 3) simply ignoring the issue altogether.

    I could not live with the cognitive dissonance of maintaining belief in the church in what to me is overwhelming evidence of something other. I chose to take the red pill. And the longer I’m out of the church, the more clarity I have.

  • I totally agree with Jana on this point. The whole process of church leadership is a training and educational one as leaders learn to seek and follow divine inspiration. As part of that process, leaders some times make decisions that another church leader or the Lord would have decided differently. But that’s between the leader and his superiors, or the prophet and the Lord.

    If God told Moses to tell you to let his people go, you better do it. And when God tells Moses to make water come out of the rock so you can drink it, just drink the water and be grateful. Don’t worry if Moses does it wrong (even though he did do it wrong). The Lord will take care of that (and he did).

  • “…being wrong and being a prophet are not mutually exclusive…”

    I agree that’s the ideal, but it is not the reality. I won’t trot out the tired quotes from LDS prophets, themselves, claiming infallibility…easy enough to find them. Then there’s the mantra that going against the prophet, refusing a calling, etc. is going against God. Finally, there’s that business about LDS prophets feeling they are above apologizing for mistakes.

    So it seems to me that LDS prophets claim a line of infallibility directly from God. They only admit to mistakes when there’s no other option. Even then, they neither own the mistakes nor apologize.

  • I have a question for the wonderful Sister Bryndis. I agree with all of the suggestions on making amends, but one that is not on your list that is on mine is an apology for the hurt this caused. Do you feel that is not in order?

  • I agree with you 100%, and add one more suggestion — to proclaim this apology to those outside of the Church as well. The idea that an organization could spend a century slandering and defaming blacks both in and out of the Church as “cursed” or “less valiantly” and then simply say, “Oops,” is absurd. If you created reasons why blacks were less worthy of God’s blessings and then later discover that those reasons were wrong, then you need to apologize. It’s just that simple. It’s not enough to say, “Okay, I will stop defaming you now. We good?”

    No, we are NOT good. As a black convert, the very FIRST question that my friends and family ask is “How could you join that racist Church?” They don’t ask about whether Joseph really found golden plates or about the restoration of the Gospel. Quite frankly, they don’t have any knowledge about those things.

    All they know is that Mormons can’t have caffeine and that we’re racist. And they are wrong about one of those things. It’s time for the Church to make them wrong about BOTH.

  • Brigham Young was a hard-core racist. I feel the Latter Day Saints; priesthood and church is not “true” as long as they hold Brigham Young up on a pedestal. Holding Brigham Young in high esteem is like, holding Adolf Hitler in high esteem.

    Brigham Young, much like Adolf Hitler, was evil.

    Google:
    Brigham Young’s Speech on Slavery, Blacks, and the Priesthood

    Skeptical the church Latter Day Saints could ever be “true” because it is built on a rotten foundation of racism. Even its founder Joseph Smith that is hailed a prophet, was a racist.

    “Had I anything to do with the negro, I would confine them by strict law to their own species, and put them on a national equalization.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 270)

    …the curse is not yet taken off from the sons of Canaan, neither will it be until it is affected by as great a power as caused it to come…” (History of the Church, vol. 2, p. 438)

  • Bryndis – great article and suggestions for helping in this area. As a [once] devout member of the church who grew up post-1978, I never reconciled the PH ban on blacks. I’ve heard a number of theories raised up about why it was in place, but none of them made sense to me and I never tried to justify it, because I felt that it wasn’t defensible.

    I like your list of suggestions. I would also hope that the other essays recently released would similarly be discussed at GC and over the pulpit of every chapel in the church. In order to remain relevant, the church needs a reboot into an organization that allows the words “we’re sorry” and is more transparent and honest with its history.

    As for me, I’m now moving on with my life away from Mormonism because of the literally unbelievable history (for me at least) and the efforts made to dismiss and suppress access to that history. Although this decision has caused some relationship losses (which apparently were contingent upon my active membership), my conscience is so clear which makes me really happy. That said, I wish the best of luck to my brothers and sisters still in the church who are working to reform it and make the general membership more accepting of a wider range of perspectives.

  • Right on the money! Also, any changes for the better are made grudgingly, as sparingly as possible, and only when law or public backlash leave no other option.

    Even *before* the priesthood ban was lifted, why weren’t at least some of the prophets courageous enough to speak out against injustice?

    Even before women and LGBT members wanted to be treated with more dignity and respect, were none of the prophets man enough to stand up for them?

    Even now, as the prophets talk about these matters and make minimal concessions, are they not just enough to have a minority or (*gasp*) woman in the first presidency or Q12?

    A public apology would only be the first baby step toward making this right. You’d think that at least *one* of these wise and prescient prophets of God, the ruler of the universe, would have the guts to say “I’m sorry” and actually fix things without being forced to.

  • I stand in defense of Brigham Young and the church leadership at the time…..as to whether this restriction came from the Lord or not…..please consider….

    1. When Brigham Young announced the restriction in 1853, he had the unanimous support of his counselors and the 12 apostles….they were united. The Lord said….:D&C 1:38 …”whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.” Subsequent Presidents were part of that, John Taylor, Lorenzo Snow, Wilford Woodruff.

    2. Each Church President and apostle all continued to sustain the restriction until 1978.

    3. Every time when asked about it, each church President said it will be lifted when the Lord tells us, that it would take a revelation to change it…….an odd thing to say if it was only policy from a bygone era.

    4. The restriction was not new, it was consistent with ancient times.
    Abraham 1:27 “ Now, Pharaoh being of that lineage by which he could not have the right of Priesthood, notwithstanding the Pharaohs would fain claim it from Noah, through Ham…”
    Moses 7:22 “ And Enoch also beheld the residue of the people which were the sons of Adam; and they were a mixture of all the seed of Adam save it was the seed of Cain, for the seed of Cain were black, and had not place among them.”
    Genesis 24:2-3 “ And Abraham said unto his eldest servant of his house, that ruled over all that he had, Put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh: v3” And I will make thee swear by the LORD, the God of heaven, and the God of the earth, that thou shalt not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell:”

    5. In the December 2013 article, the church disavowed the theories and speculation surrounding the restriction and more importantly they disavowed any negative notion regarding worthiness or valiancy. I did not see the church disavowing the restriction.

    The real question here for members of the LDS Church: Do we accept, sustain and follow the prophets. It’s a challenge and an argument since Moses lead the 12 tribes out of Egypt.

  • I disagree with what your interpretation.

    We are told the leaders of the Church will never lead the people astray.

    The racism illustrates with absolute certainty this is not the case.

    Leaders can give good advice, but they can also give very bad advice. That is why one must not accept just on their say so their opinions of issues involving culture lag. They very well could be mistaken about ordaining women and LGBT issues.

    The inescapable conclusion is one must think for oneself, not simply obey as we have been told over and over again.

  • Great article and very good comments by Bryndis. It’s always great to hear the perspective of LDS people of colour, particularly when they ruminate about the troubling issues of racism within Mormonism. I’m here to tell Bryndis that I was raised in the old racist church, and that that past racism and its enduring remnants are one of the main things that drove me from the church after 59 years of membership. The LDS church just will not own up to the problem. They may be successful in hiding it from others, but I know better.

    I cannot make peace or come to terms with how Mormons, firstly, had a hard, fast, “eternal and everlasting” doctrine indicating that people of African descent were lesser people, “cursed as to the priesthood,” and secondly, how today’s so-called conversion “successes” are totally dependent Mormons’ conversion success in Africa. Missionary work has stalled and even reversed itself in all developed parts of the world, particularly in Europe where there is a strong downward slide, where missions are only consolidating and closing.

    I was most disheartened when I served with the US government in an African country between 2005 and 2008, a country that boasts a large LDS population, and found that the church clearly lies to them about the past racism. I challenged the local mission president over it. He told me that it would just be too “inconvenient” for the church to tell its African members about the past ban on Blacks in the church. Because they were dealing with nations bereft of the Internet and other basic information resources, they were able to successfully perpetuate the lie.

    The Mormons continue the double-speak at home, too, now denying that withholding the priesthood from Blacks was ever a doctrine, saying instead that it was “folk belief.” They now say, “We don’t really know why we did that.” Anyone like me who was raised in the midst of it knows why because were constantly taught in priesthood and seemingly every Sunday school lesson about the doctrine and why the Lord imposed it. And how no matter what the pressure from the US government or the NAACP, it would never change. Ever. Ever-ever. The church ratcheted up this teaching as the pressure grew greater and greater. But when their tax-free status was finally threatened, the eternal and everlasting doctrine changed overnight.

    Now the LDS church even disavows their very own Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon still says in 2 Nephi 5:21, for instance, “Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them.” Two verses later it is called a “curse.” But then an LDS authority wil speak out of the other side of the mouth and say, “Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects actions in a pre-mortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form.” So, which is it? Blackness is a curse? Says so in the BoM. Or do you condemn all racism? The only way to change this is to–yet again–make a correction to the text of the BoM, that “most correct book on the earth.”

    The LDS church still has a deep-running issue with racism that will likely never completely disappear, certainly not in Utah.

  • I was thinking exactly what Steve Lowther said above, “We are told the leaders of the Church will never lead the people astray. The racism illustrates with absolute certainty this is not the case.”
    Then in last conference we hear, “We will not, we CAN NOT lead you astray.”

    Well for me, I will listen to the church leaders, but I will put my faith in Christ and use the gift of the holy ghost.

    And the “apology” discussion got me thinking. When I first was married my wife and I actually got our wires mixed up for a while on “sorry” being the same as an apology. I would come home from work and say I had a hard day. She would say, “I am sorry” and I would reply, “it isn’t your fault.” She would respond back, “I didn’t say it was!” I would be willing to hear (more than Pres Uchtdorf saying in general terms that some people may have been hurt) the church officially saying, “we are sorry that this happened.” I think (just like a few folks posting here) that they may feel that the ban is correct and of God and only the justifications were wrong. That reminds me of the movie, “Children of a lesser God.” I am almost tearing up here at work knowing that wonderful people like Sister Bryndis has to read this once again and I am sure it hurts. Secondly I think church leaders want more than anything for this to just go away and they don’t want to say much as they fear the more they say, the more they are keeping the topic alive. I think this post show the way to put this to bed.

  • All of these controversies reflect their human origins. It shows that no person has privileged access to a divine being, no matter what status they claim as prophets or holy men. Starting from the premise that everything humans say and write originates in the minds of humans makes sense of all the racism, “prophetic” misstatements, doctrinal reversals, scriptural inconsistencies, sexism, lies and hurtful teachings found in Mormonism and all the other religions.

    On the other hand, if we accept responsibility for our “divine” expressions that turned out to be perfectly human and wrong, then we also get to accept credit for all the productive, constructive, genius stuff too. We created vaccines. We produced Shakespeare’s plays and Mozart’s music. We figured out air travel and how to put a human on the moon.

    The best part is yet to come. By taking responsibility, we can improve our mutual future. We can clean up the environment. We can learn to live peacefully together. We can continue to innovate and make a better standard of living for humans and our animal cohabitants and other life forms. Maybe we’ll see colonies on Mars, upload consciousness into digital life, resurrect mammoths and dodo birds, and who knows what else.

    But if we continue to blame the bad on God and credit him for our own efforts and vilify people who don’t believe the same way we do, we give away our power to make positive differences just as surely as we fail to stand up to our mistakes.

  • Jana, I agree that prophets can be wrong, but in this case they have been so very very wrong for such a long long time in such a huge, essential matter. I cannot believe that God would allow his true prophets to deny so many of his children such essential blessings for so long. Hence the conclusion must be they were not true prophets.

  • Bryndis Roberts, please know that the struggle with the ban is just as real for many Caucasian members as it is for you. We know the ban was not of the Lord, as there is nothing in the Scriptures to support it. We know that all were equally perfect when we came here to Earth.

    “Every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning; and God having redeemed man from the fall, men became again, in their infant state, innocent before God.” – D&C 93: 38

    The idea that we came to Earth in any way imperfect is a doctrinal untruth. We came to Earth as perfect beings, saved from the Fall by Grace until we reach an age of accountability and at that point must chose for ourselves God’s Grace or the darkness and sin. We were ALL created equal by God, regardless of our skin color, our sexual origination, where we were born, and how or to who(m) we were born or conceived. All are equal in the eyes of God and separated by man first then later by sin.

    Everyone called of God was called for a reason, in spite of their flaws. Brigham Young was not called to oppress the “blacks” he was called to lead the Saints to Utah. He was as imperfect as Moses. Sadly, bigotry was too rampant in the Church leadership until Spencer W. Kimball. Had the ban not been lifted, I wouldn’t hold the priesthood. Why not? Because I know that EVERYONE came from Africa, thus the ban, in my mind, should have been universal, regardless of skin color. In this sense, Young was right – none of us are really worthy of the Office of the Priesthood. Yet through the grace of God, all male may hold this office and everyone – male and female – may use its power.

    The Church may be too proud to admit mistakes, but I am not. On behalf of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, of which I am a member, I apologize for the ban on “black” members imposed falsely by Brigham Young and the evils that were said of “blacks” by leaders excusing this unholy practice.

  • HarryStamper: “In the December 2013 article, the church disavowed the theories and speculation surrounding the restriction and more importantly they disavowed any negative notion regarding worthiness or valiancy. I did not see the church disavowing the restriction.”

    This is the problem. Some of the “theories and speculation” of the reasons for the ban came from prophets and apostles themselves, and they certainly did not qualify their stance as such. How is an individual to discern the difference between doctrine and “theories and speculation” as taught by prophets, seers, and revelators? If each individual has to find out for himself/herself, would there not be many different interpretations? In that case, then what is the role of a prophet if he cannot clarify properly?

    Until the church openly and explicitly apologizes for the ban (with endorsement from GAs), the antiquated doctrinal basis will remain. I acknowledge your right to your own belief on this matter, but I do not respect it. The “revelation” banning the PH and temple ordinances to blacks was not of God, but was rooted in racist theories of the past. Let’s wipe this slate clean and move forward… it’s already several decades overdue.

  • Wow. “Serious advancement,” huh? You must be pretty special.

    It’s funny how some people think that confirmation bias only applies to other people. I’m a convert – joined the church at a mature age after resisting for many years. If confirmation bias applied to me, it would have applied all the more strongly to my former beliefs. Oh and I’m a practicing attorney too, since you mention your professional background.

    You seem to think that no one could reasonably confront the facts (or arguments) you mention while maintaining faith. You’re wrong. And when you say, “the longer I’m out of the church, the more clarity I have,” that sure sounds like confirmation bias to me.

    (What you should get out of this is that attacking opposing views on the grounds that they represent confirmation bias is weak, since everyone can be subject to it, and a version of the ad hominem fallacy. They shoulda taught you this in law school.)

  • Oh dear. Happily, our church doesn’t insist on mindless, thoughtless obedience to leadership. Try not to overuse the caps-lock key, OK? It makes you sound unhinged.

  • In 1954, Church President David O. McKay taught: “There is not now, and there never has been a doctrine in this church that the negroes are under a divine curse. There is no doctrine in the church of any kind pertaining to the negro. We believe that we have a scriptural precedent for withholding the priesthood from the negro. It is a practice, not a doctrine, and the practice someday will be changed. And that’s all there is to it.”

    (The use of the term “negro” sounds strange to our ears today, but it was in common use at the time of these quotations and did not imply any racial prejudice or animus.)

    In 1958, Joseph Fielding Smith published Answers to Gospel Questions which stated “No church or other organization is more insistent than The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, that the negroes should receive all the rights and privileges that can possibly be given to any other in the true sense of equality as declared in the Declaration of Independence.” He continues to say they should not be barred from any type of employment or education, and should be free “to make their lives as happy as it is possible without interference from white men, labor unions or from any other source.”

    Hugh B. Brown read the following statement in 1963, on behalf of the Church:

    “During recent months, both in Salt Lake City and across the nation, considerable interest has been expressed on the matter of civil rights. We would like it to be known that there is in this Church no doctrine, belief, or practice, that is intended to deny the enjoyment of full civil rights by any person regardless of race, color, or creed.

    “We say again, as we have said many times before, that we believe that all men are the children of the same God, and that it is a moral evil for any person or group of persons to deny any human being the right to gainful employment, to full education opportunity, and to every privilege of citizenship, just as it is a moral evil to deny him the right to worship according to the dictates of his own conscience. … We call upon all men, everywhere, both within and outside the Church, to commit themselves to the establishment of full civil equality for all of God’s children.”

    In December, 1969, the First Presidency issued a statement which said in part that “we believe the Negro, as well as those of other races, should have full Constitutional privileges as a member of society, and we hope that members of the Church everywhere will do their part as citizens to see that these rights are held inviolate.” [First Presidency statement, 15 Dec. 1969, “by Hugh B. Brown, N. Eldon Tanner” (Church News, 10 Jan. 1970, p. 12).

    Hope that helps.

  • You feel that Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, other principal figures in American history likewise should not be held up in high esteem because of their views on race and status as slaveholders. OK, at least you’re consistent. Even Abraham Lincoln was a racist, so you will surely insist that he not be held in high esteem. That’s your view and I fully understand it.

    Myself, I think that we can consider and judge views of historical figures, with which we strongly disagree, in their temporal and cultural context without having to disregard their other work, accomplishments and ideals. This seems fair to me.

  • By the way, that quotation attributed to Joseph Smith is mis-cited. When you read the full context, Joseph was arguing against the idea of inherent racial inferiority.

  • It’s odd that you would say to Jana “I disagree with your interpretation” when hers and yours are indistinguishable.

  • You’ve also heard declarations in General Conference of prophetic/apostolic fallibility, haven’t you? Is there a reason you don’t mention those? I assume you want to be fair.

    Assuming you are well aware of those declarations, how do you think that the declarations of fallibility can be harmonized with assurances that the church or the people aren’t led astray? That’s a question, asked to give you an opportunity to amplify your views.

  • Right. It was a man-made doctrine. It was contrary to their own scriptures and even their own past practice. The kindest thing that can be said is that it was consistent with very prevalent views of the time. There are statements from LDS prophets even saying that the practice was not a doctrine and would be changed. Then there was a direct revelation telling them that the practice must change, which it then did.

    It is possible to look back on religion in general, not just Mormonism, and see it coexisting with cultural assumptions and beliefs that we do not accept today. But it is also possible to look back on Christian religion, including Mormonism, and see how its adherents are led to greater empathy and insight. This is true of civil society as well; all nations and people can find objectionable beliefs and practices in their history. The fact that they acknowledge them as such now (where that is true – it isn’t true everywhere) is itself proof that the culture contained the germ of positive, beneficial ideas that would flourish over time.

    This is called perspective. It’s worth trying if you would like.

  • I see this as the devout believer’s response, but the fact is when people are speaking for “God” (and the segregation in Mormon history was sanctioned as “God-given” mandates), then one would question what else those people got wrong? What other things have those “prophets” said was “God’s” revelation that they got wrong? The racism issue extends far beyond the words of LDS leadership from the 1830s to 1978- the Book of Mormon itself is one of the most racist books I’ve ever read (especially the 1830 version which has been seriously edited but can still be found online and in reprint). Mormons aren’t alone in facing these issues, but it takes away the “exclusive” channel to deity that Mormons tell themselves and others that they have through their priesthood. Even though Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians and many others had racist policies in the past, each of them moved on and even collectively apologized for the racist doctrines in some cases more than 100 years ago. The real slippery slope is for the LDS leadership themselves which is why they won’t apologize for these doctrines and actions (sealing blacks as “servants” to whites in the temple). Once one admits fault with previous doctrine and policy, all of the other doctrines and policies can come under scrutinize which is what the current leadership fears the most hence the attempts to forbid members from reading MormonThink’s website or the CES Letter which are legitimate sites full of questions about Mormonism’s past that LDS leaders and scholars have done a terrible job at trying to answer for a long time.

  • ? Thinking for oneself is the exact opposite of LDS doctrine.

    “When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done. When they propose a plan- it is God’s Plan. When they point the way, there is no other which is safe. When they give directions, it should mark the end of controversy, God works in no other way. To think otherwise, without immediate repentance, may cost on e his faith, may destroy his testimony, and leave him a stranger to the kingdom of God.”

    “When the Prophet speaks the debate is over.”

    – Apostle N. Eldon Tanner, Ensign, Aug. 1979, pp. 2-3.
    – Ward Teachers Message, Deseret News, Church Section p. 5, May 26, 1945

  • Due to the long entrenchment of this particular church policy, the wheels of change turned very slowly in overturning this unfortunate chapter in Church History. However, interestingly, there were significant efforts being made many years previous to 1978 to do just that, but a failure to have the unanimous consent of the 1st Presidency and Quorum of 12 prevented the change at a time when it would have been more in step with the timing of the civil rights movement. Fortunately, President Kimball made seeking revelation on this topic a high priority when he became the prophet. Here’s the most comprehensive background that I am aware of on the history of how the change finally came about. https://ojs.lib.byu.edu/spc/index.php/BYUStudies/article/viewFile/7325/6974

  • But we have more than 50 leaders who have said it came from God. A few such examples:
    “The Church has no intention of changing its doctrine on the Negro. Throughout the history of the original Christian church, the Negro never held the priesthood. There’s really nothing we can do to change this. It’s a law of God.
    N. Eldon Tanner, Seattle Magazine, December 1967, page 60

    “The Lord segregated the people both as to blood and place of residence. At least in the cases of the Lamanites and the Negro we have the definite word of the Lord Himself that he placed a dark skin upon them as a curse ‑‑ as a punishment and as a sign to all others. He forbade intermarriage with them under threat of extension of the curse. And He certainly segregated the descendants of Cain when He cursed the Negro as to the Priesthood, and drew an absolute line. You may even say He dropped an Iron curtain there.”
    Mark E. Petersen

    “In a broad general sense, caste systems have their origin in the gospel itself, and when they operate according to the divine decree, the resultant restrictions and segregation are right and proper and have the approval of the lord. To illustrate: Cain, Ham, and the whole negro race have been cursed with a black skin, the mark of Cain, so they can be identified as a caste apart, a people with whom the other descendants of Adam should not intermarry.”
    Bruce R. McConkie

    “It is not the authorities of the Church who have placed a restriction on him [the black man] regarding the holding of the Priesthood. It was not the Prophet Joseph Smith…. It was the Lord!”

    Joseph Fielding Smith

  • Well, “Fanny,” it is typical of you to present one quotation and pretend that it contains everything that could be said on the subject. Here is Pres. James Faust in September 1998 – do you get any different sense from it?

    As a means of coming to truth, people in the Church are encouraged by their leaders to think and find out for themselves. They are encouraged to ponder, to search, to evaluate, and thereby to come to such knowledge of the truth as their own consciences, assisted by the Spirit of God, lead them to discover.

    Brigham Young said: “I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security. … Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not” (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe [1941], 135). In this manner no one need be deceived.

    Searching and inquiring are a means of coming to a knowledge of all truth, whether that truth be spiritual, scientific, or moral. The restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ and all that it means to us came about because of the inquiring after truth of the 14-year-old Joseph Smith, guided by the passage, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5).

    ***

    Much, much more could be presented along the same lines – but what do you care? Fairness isn’t your thing, right?

  • In 1954, Church President David O. McKay taught: “There is not now, and there never has been a doctrine in this church that the negroes are under a divine curse. There is no doctrine in the church of any kind pertaining to the negro. We believe that we have a scriptural precedent for withholding the priesthood from the negro. It is a practice, not a doctrine, and the practice someday will be changed. And that’s all there is to it.”

    (The use of the term “negro” sounds strange to our ears today, but it was in common use at the time of these quotations and did not imply any racial prejudice or animus.)

    In 1958, Joseph Fielding Smith published Answers to Gospel Questions which stated “No church or other organization is more insistent than The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, that the negroes should receive all the rights and privileges that can possibly be given to any other in the true sense of equality as declared in the Declaration of Independence.” He continues to say they should not be barred from any type of employment or education, and should be free “to make their lives as happy as it is possible without interference from white men, labor unions or from any other source.”

    Hugh B. Brown read the following statement in 1963, on behalf of the Church:

    “During recent months, both in Salt Lake City and across the nation, considerable interest has been expressed on the matter of civil rights. We would like it to be known that there is in this Church no doctrine, belief, or practice, that is intended to deny the enjoyment of full civil rights by any person regardless of race, color, or creed.

    “We say again, as we have said many times before, that we believe that all men are the children of the same God, and that it is a moral evil for any person or group of persons to deny any human being the right to gainful employment, to full education opportunity, and to every privilege of citizenship, just as it is a moral evil to deny him the right to worship according to the dictates of his own conscience. … We call upon all men, everywhere, both within and outside the Church, to commit themselves to the establishment of full civil equality for all of God’s children.”

    In December, 1969, the First Presidency issued a statement which said in part that “we believe the Negro, as well as those of other races, should have full Constitutional privileges as a member of society, and we hope that members of the Church everywhere will do their part as citizens to see that these rights are held inviolate.” [First Presidency statement, 15 Dec. 1969, “by Hugh B. Brown, N. Eldon Tanner” (Church News, 10 Jan. 1970, p. 12).

    Hope that helps.

  • I’ve often found this statement a valuable reminder when dealing with the some times slow pace of perfecting the Saints.

    “There has been a great difficulty in getting anything into the heads of this generation. It has been like splitting hemlock knots with a corn-dodger [a piece of corn bread] for a wedge, and a pumpkin for a beetle [a wooden mallet]. Even the Saints are slow to understand.

    “I have tried for a number of years to get the minds of the Saints prepared to receive the things of God; but we frequently see some of them, after suffering all they have for the work of God, will fly to pieces like glass as soon as anything comes that is contrary to their traditions: they cannot stand the fire at all. How many will be able to abide a celestial law, and go through and receive their exaltation, I am unable to say, as many are called, but few are chosen [see D&C 121:40].”7

    I think with Margaret Blair Young that the revelation was delayed in part so we would have the memory of it to harrow us up to do better. I look forward to the Blessings brought about by the Movie Heart of Africa’ that she is working on.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/welcometable/heart-of-africa/

    Also this is a wonderful set of essays
    https://history.lds.org/article/personal-essay-on-race-and-the-priesthood?lang=eng

  • Exactly. The grassroots level of Mormonism (at least in areas where Mormonism is a minority religion) has done this profusely. The hierarchy however has yet to emerge out of their bubble to publicly denounce the practice and doctrine.

  • Perhaps you misunderstand Tornogal. The statement, “And that quickly leads to the fact that Mormon ‘prophets’ at all” may not be an assertion that because they were wrong with respect to blacks in the priesthood they are wrong on all things. He/she may just be saying that this is a particular instance of a general truth; viz., that those claimed by the LDS church to be prophets are in fact false prophets.

  • From editor: In the past I have had to edit comments because of extreme length, and this one, which originally clocked in at 9,577 words, is more than ten times longer than Bryndis’s original post. There is certainly great historical value in having all of these quotes in one place, but the comments section is not that place. I have retained the first few quotations to provide the flavor of your argument without stalling the rest of the discussion. I encourage you to put the quotes on a well-indexed website (which I would be happy to link to here; just send me a message about it). — Ed.

    A portion of the original remarks from Fanny Alger:

    Please note that the question was over whether it was given by God or not which is why I limited the quotes offered to that question. However, if you just want to compare quotes on anything to do with attitudes on race:
    Until the last ones of the residue of Adam’s children are brought up to that favourable position, the children of Cain [blacks] cannot receive the first ordinances of the Priesthood. They were the first that were cursed, and they will be the last from whom the curse will be removed. When the residue of the family of Adam come up and receive their blessings, then the curse will be removed from the seed of Cain, and they will receive blessings in like proportion.
    Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 7:290
    Brigham Young
    You must not think, from what I say, that I am opposed to slavery. No! The negro is damned, and is to serve his master till God chooses to remove the curse of Ham.
    Brigham Young, New York Herald, May 4, 1855
    Brigham Young
    You may inquire of the intelligent of the world whether they can tell why the aborigines of this country are dark, loathsome, ignorant, and sunken into the depths of degradation …When the Lord has a people, he makes covenants with them and gives unto them promises: then, if they transgress his law, change his ordinances, and break his covenants he has made with them, he will put a mark upon them, as in the case of the Lamanites and other portions of the house of Israel; but by‑and‑by they will become a white and delightsome people.
    Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 7:336
    Brigham Young
    I should never fight one moment about it [slavery], for the cause of human improvement is not in the least advanced by the dreadful war [the Civil War] which now convulses our unhappy country.
    Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 10:49
    Brigham Young
    Trace mankind down to after the flood, and then another curse is pronounced upon the same race ‑ that they should be the “servant of servants;” and they will be, until that curse is removed; and the Abolitionists cannot help it, nor in the least alter that decree.
    Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 7:290

  • What an odd mix of quotes. Letter to the editor, really? I notice you did not answer my question about fairness.

  • Bryndis – I appreciate your position on the matter. I find it very reasonable. I also like the fact that you articulate exactly what you are looking for to begin the healing process and agree that it could be helpful on many levels for the church to recognize the fallibility of people and to reinforce that it is up to individuals to determine what is God’s will for us. Many people who advocate for “amends” aren’t so specific and it leaves open the question of what exactly they want.

    I too would welcome such language as well as an addition to the curriculum that points out the wrongs, but that also advocates for more inclusion and recognizes the positive impact that different races and cultures have had on the church.

  • BYU-TV also made a wonderful production called “Pioneers of Africa” detailing the African members of the Church in Nigeria and Ghana who essentially gained testimonies of the Church and Gospel prior to being formally baptized members of the church. Due to the strength of their convictions, they organized the Church in those countries and taught church doctrine many years before the Church was formally organized there. Admirably and amazingly, 1000s of members from these countries remained faithful to the church despite their awareness of the Priesthood ban. Once the ban was lifted, many 1000s were baptized and received the Priesthood, in what was a time of great celebration. I should note that among the members of the church in Southern California where I lived at the time and was a new convert, the news of the lifting of the ban was greeted with both great enthusiasm and relief.

  • Unfortunately the author like many others has misinterpreted the LDS article on race on the priesthood. By no means does it state or mean that the ban didn’t come from God but from racism. Multiple prophets had the opportunity to lift the ban and specifically chose not to. The LDS church hasn’t apologized because it does not believe it did anything wrong. Even the anti-Mormons would agree on that part.

    If the LDS church gave women the priesthood in the future would that mean they had been sexists all along?

    And another issue from this article is misleading language. Racism is a word that has many definitions. The most basic definition is differentiating people by their genetic race. For example, black NBA players are better on average than white NBA players would be a racist statement (even though its true). A second definition of racism is a hatred toward another race because of the color of their skin. Often a group is accused of being racist by the 1st definition (which everyone is), but it is insinuated that they are a racist of the 2nd definition.

  • “In fact, my emotions about the Church are even stronger, because the Church’s exclusionary practices affected the eternal life of my brothers and sisters of African descent.”

    No, it didn’t. They can and will have all their ordinances done vicariously just like everyone else who didn’t have the opportunity.

  • Exactly. Point 5 is spot on. The LDS church has never disavowed the restriction. It has only clarified some of the reasoning for the ban.

  • Hmm. I like some of the quotes above. I see people arguing about their meanings and so forth. How many of you are willing to argue about the meanings of words spoken today that are nearly verbatim, but on a different issue? Think about that one.

    perfectingasaint.wordpress.com

  • At what point do we, as members of the Church, exercise copious amounts of forgiveness? True and lasting inner peace comes only through our willingness to forgive others their trespasses. That peace will never be known, however, by those who insist on harboring ill-will or anger over past practices. My challenge to all who feel harmed today by practices of the past- get on your knees, acknowledge your own sins and misdeeds before God, and call upon the atonement of Jesus Christ that He might carry your burden for you so you can get on with a joyful life.

    But that’s just me.

  • “The attitude of the Church with reference to Negroes remains as it has always stood. It is not a matter of the declaration of a policy but of direct commandment from the Lord, on which is founded the doctrine of the Church from the days of its organization, to the effect that Negroes may become members of the Church but that they are not entitled to the priesthood at the present time.”
    Aug. 17, 1949
    George Albert Smith
    source:FairMormon

  • Right, they talk out of both sides of their mouth but they emphasize much more the idea that the Prophet will not lead the church astray–ie unquestioning obedience–rather than that leaders are fallible like everybody else.
    So, we have local leaders who shut off their brains and do whatever the higher ups (stake and higher) tell them to do, even if it involves using political and factually incorrect material to teach during the Sunday meeting block.

    How do you harmonize the two?

  • I wasn’t asking for help and don’t need any, but thanks for the sentiment.
    Most of the examples you give refer to secular civil rights. The McKay quote only repeats the 1954 state of affairs and says some day it will change.
    Now, I’d be impressed if the McKay quote had said “At present, deny minorities the priesthood, the right to marry whomever they please, and eligibility for higher church offices. We recognize that denial of priesthood to minorities denies them equal access to God’s presence in the afterlife. We recognize that a minority has never held a seat in the first presidency nor the Q12. For all these things we are deeply and sincerely sorry. We admit our mistakes and intend to make up for them. The ban on minorities holding the priesthood is revoked and, in future, every first presidency, Q12, and higher church office will have minority representation.”

  • Unfortunately, the white members of the first presidency and Q12 neither feel harmed nor angered by the LDS church’s poor treatment of minorities. In truth, the prophets should be on their knees repenting, asking forgiveness for their actions and then fixing the problems.

  • So you guarantee that *all* these individuals denied their rights in life will be baptized by proxy and not a single one will be missed? You guarantee all these individuals will enter the highest celestial level and live in God’s presence without exception? That’s a tall order.

  • Mormons like to sling around stuff they half learned in missionary school like “logical fallacy”, “confirmation bias”, and “ad hominem”. FYI, these are not powerful incantations for winning arguments. They mostly just sound pretentious. Even if you’re a lawyer.

  • “The LDS church still has a deep-running issue with racism that will likely never completely disappear, certainly not in Utah.”

    Judging by some of the positions being made here, I sadly have to agree with you. I’m no longer an active and believing member, but even the peak of my membership, I never could bring myself to justify something that was so obviously unjustified.

  • Great post Dave. I hope that the church leadership eventually gets the strength to publicly stand with you and make the same statement.

  • You asked why priesthood leaders didn’t speak out against injustice. I showed that they did. If you didn’t want help, it’s odd that you asked the question. There was obviously a widespread belief in U.S. History, not at all limited to the Mormon church, that racial differences reflected a natural caste system. Religious leaders of all stripes, and civil leaders too, including some we revere to this day, expressed sentiments that today are properly regarded as abhorrent. It is still possible and even commendable to ask how we should regard such sentiments when expressed by men who are thought or believed to be prophets. The answer, of course, is that no one should imagine that a prophetic mantle is proof against error or regrettable cultural influence. Biblical prophets weren’t, so I don’t expect latter- day prophets to have been. But as the references I provided illustrate, Church leaders were sensitive to the contradictions between liberal civil values and Jim Crow, and between a de facto caste system and principles recognized, albeit inconsistently, since the Founding. We know they were sensitive to those things because they said so. As they struggled with issues and contradictions similar to those in American institutions generally, they had to decide what in their practices should be discarded, and the priesthood issue was front and center. To their credit, they began to say that what some had regarded as a timeless rule was merely a policy … and they began to anticipate its demise. The good news from an ecclesiastical perspective is that they made the issue a matter of prayer and received clear guidance. The Church and its leaders then embraced the revelation and continue to do so to this day.

    I hope this helps you regard these matters less self- righteously. It’s easy to condemn men and women of the past for not being as wonderful as we imagine ourselves to be today. It’s harder to think of where future generations might imagine we went wrong.

  • TTSIMW: ‘You seem to think that no one could reasonably confront the facts (or arguments) you mention while maintaining faith. You’re wrong.’

    The key here is “reason”. The apologetic theories that try to resolve the problematic events of church history defy logic and reason. They redefine words (“translation”, “horse”, “steel”, “elephant”, “wheat”, “Lamanite”, etc.) and dismiss unfavorable testimony of individuals yet accept favorable testimony of the same individuals (most notably the three witnesses, but there are many more). Golden plates are somehow transported thousands of miles from one “Hill Cumorah” to a second “Hill Cumorah” – when there is not a single instance of such a concept in the BoM or during Joseph Smith’s time. And this is only the tip of the iceberg. If you consider these explanations to be more reasonable and logical than the obvious conclusion that certain things aren’t “true”, then you have a very different interpretation of logic and reason than I do. That is the definition of “confirmation bias” and is something that I had to deal with myself for several years before I finally stopped running and faced the facts.

    TTSIMW: ‘And when you say, “the longer I’m out of the church, the more clarity I have,” that sure sounds like confirmation bias to me.’

    It’s difficult to follow how you come to this conclusion. Danny was merely stating his own experience – which happens to be one that I share. I can’t believe how much my mind has opened after leaving the LDS worldview which was riddled with so many inconsistencies. I’ve learned so much more and have never felt more free in so many regards since leaving.

  • I don’t know of anyone who has a problem with another person making a mistake in their personal lives (prophet or otherwise). But what good is a prophet who gets doctrine wrong? Aren’t prophets supposed to clarify and provide guidance from God or risk being removed from their place?

  • @TTSIMW
    Seems you’re so eager to fire off yet another long-winded reply, you don’t bother reading. My question was specific to injustice around the priesthood ban, and you glossed over women, LGBT, and the pale male constitution of the LDS upper echelons, and the lack of apologies.

  • If you do a bit of research, none of the Church leaders from Joseph Smith on claimed infallibility. The Doctrine and Covenants is full of rebukes to Joseph Smith. Brigham Young admitted mistakes. It goes on down through the years.

  • Having come from a variety of faith backgrounds and settling on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I’ve found much more openness and encouragement to think for myself here than in the other churches I attended. I’d like quotes by Church leaders from 1979 on when that is repeated again and again. Apostle Tanner may have made a mistake with that quote.

  • I really like how you include mostly archaic quotes. I wonder what the Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, etc. Were saying about African Americans during those years. To only quote Mormons is race baiting.

    Most of these quotes prove what other commenters deny: Church leaders are not infallible.

  • You certainly have the right to leave, but you must admit that confirmation bias can go the other way too. If you or I want to find reasons to leave wide can come up with many, but I have had enough experience in the Church that I cannot deny its veracity. Each of your reasons for leaving the Church are standard anti-Mormon fare and have reasonable explainations. I do not believe Joseph Smith “bedded” a 14 years old girl. You do not have enough information to prove that he did or didn’t. Neither do I.

  • You can’t be serious. Like I said, the quotes are plentiful, and some are given elsewhere in these very comments.

  • @Lewis
    Encouraged to think for yourself? You gotta be kidding me. You mean like John Dehlin and Kate Kelly?

  • Sadly, the article is written in a way that makes it easy to misinterpret. It requires some reading between the lines. It doesn’t say the ban came from God (which is telling), but it doesn’t say it didn’t. But why include a section which talks about the racial climate at the time the ban was instituted if it came from God? That part of the essay seems to be suggesting (without actually saying it) that it was a product of the times and not inspired by God. Unfortunately the essay stops just short of saying it–clearly by design, so that members who prefer to believe it came from God can believe that, and those who prefer to believe it didn’t can believe that.

  • @Lewis
    Not surprising the quotes are from LDS leaders, since the topic is how LDS leaders need to apologize and make amends for past and present racist policies.

  • @Lewis
    “had enough experience in the Church that I cannot deny its veracity.”

    Then you haven’t had enough experience.

  • Old Guy, John Dehlin and Kate Kelly were and are encouraged to think for themselves. As they thought their way to beliefs and advocacy that are inconsistent with the core doctrines of the Church, the rest of us were encouraged to think for ourselves about that. Hope that clears it up for you. You are encouraged to think for yourself too. My advice is, try it sometime. Instead of, you know, whatever it is you’re doing now.

  • DJ, it is a waste of words to ask “Fanny Alger” to be reasonable, fair or even polite. That’s not his or her purpose.

  • @ trytosee:

    “Religious leaders of all stripes, and civil leaders too, including some we revere to this day, expressed sentiments that today are properly regarded as abhorrent. It is still possible and even commendable to ask how we should regard such sentiments when expressed by men who are thought or believed to be prophets.”

    All you have to do is substitute “gay” for “race” in the appropriate way, and you have just completely underlined and emphasized the errors of the religious right.Thank you for supporting the gay civil rights struggle with such a cogent response.

  • @TTSIMW
    So your position is that, on the whole, the current atmosphere in the LDS church encourages members to think for themselves? Maybe so, from your perspective, but there are many, many current and former members who find the atmosphere deceptive, dogmatic, petty, out of touch, and dictatorial. If the LDS church were as accepting and open as you suggest, there would be no need for blogs like Jana’s, John’s, and Kate’s. Also, you might want to cool it with the high-handed attitude. Based on what I’ve seen in your posts, you ain’t the sharpest tool in the shed.

  • I know, right? Especially in a case like this, where the abuses are so egregious and blatantly obvious.

  • I used the essay on race as a 1st Sunday lesson for my priesthood group after reading of others doing so. The brethren in my class received it enthusiastically and we’re grateful to get a copy of this ‘hidden under a bushel’ pearl. I encourage all who have a teaching calling with discretion to select a subject to do this. I have read of others teaching the essays being accused by members of the class as teaching false doctrine. We, as the body of the church need to educate and help our fellow members through this until the time comes when essay subjects are quoted in General Conderence.

  • In rereading the Church essay these are the only 2 statements referring to the ban as a policy.
    ” In two speeches delivered before the Utah territorial legislature in January and February 1852, Brigham Young announced a policy restricting men of black African descent from priesthood ordination. ”

    “Over time, Church leaders and members advanced many theories to explain the priesthood and temple restrictions. None of these explanations is accepted today as the official doctrine of the Church.”

    I don’t think LDS leaders are saying it was a mistake at all.

    Curiously, some of the citations accompanying the article do not work. For example, #23, Bruce R. McConkie “All Are Alike Unto God” 1978 brings up a 1979 talk by Howard W. Hunter. What gives?

  • This racial outlook that Blacks were inferior came from early Judiaism! Where it was believed that Noah put a curse of slavery on Ham and his posterity. Mormonism only added to the position the Jews took and Mormonism is a faction of Judiasm.

  • Unfortunately members of the church were victims of the culture of the time, we sought to cover up our position with man made doctrines. We made a mistake, and we need to own it. Banning blacks from the priesthood was mistake that should never had happened, it was never of God. Humility will serve us well… and we will be seeing the Church accepting this publicly more forthrightly in the near future.

  • A few more indications the Priesthood restriction came from the Lord:

    Speaking about church members mistreating blacks because of the priesthood ban, in 1972 President Kimball said, (President Kimball received the 1978 revelation changing the policy)…
    The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p.237
    “but while this restriction has been imposed by the Lord, it is not for us to add burdens upon the shoulders of our black brethren.”

    Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, Vol.2, p.185
    “but it is not the authorities of the Church who have placed a restriction on him regarding the holding of the priesthood. It was not the Prophet Joseph Smith nor Brigham Young. It was the Lord!”

    Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol.1, BLACKS
    “When questioned about the Church and blacks, Church officials stated that removal of the priesthood restriction would require revelation from God—not policy changes by men.”

    Not policy changes by men…..implying the original policy came from the Lord.

  • The lord told me to tell you to send me $1 million in small unmarked bills. The proof? He told me to tell you it was true.

    If the priesthood ban was wrong in 1978, it was wrong in 1928 and 1828.

  • No, you won’t. People who speak for god speak for god because they speak for god. They will never say “god changed his mind” because god’s word is eternal. That’s what they tell us here.

    Some day, when the son of a president of the church says that he’s gay, his father will have a revelation. You can bet on it.

  • Excellent post.

    As the wise and loving Darius Gray once said: “We cannot go back and change our history but we should be able to look at it honestly and learn the lessons it offers….We find it appropriate to remember those wrongs [committed against the Latter-day Saints in Missouri and Illinois] but wince when asked to look inward. Brothers and Sisters THAT is inconsistent. As Christians *we are to embrace all truth not just the convenient truth.* Whether the injustices done at Mountain Meadows or the insensitivities shown persons of color *the issue isn’t about finding fault but about learning to be better.* As I understand the task, that can come through open and honest examination done in a Christ centered way.”

    http://latterdayspence.blogspot.com/2014/11/we-are-to-embrace-all-truth-not-just.html

  • Michael Tweedy, I am a member and I vote to sustain our leaders. This places the burden with me as much as it does with them. I said “yes” thus I become accountable for my in actions when they do evil.

  • It sounds as if “out” is where you need to be. And “resigning”? It sounds more like quitting the Elks Club, where, perhaps, you might find more solace, given the convivial libations.

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