This, I think, is important enough for a post. Lesson 42 on Continuing Revelation highlights Official Declaration #2, the written aftermath of the 1978 revelation. So whether you’re teaching or commenting, you should get informed, because there’s a lot of misinformation and tradition out there.
First, get familiar with the Gospel Topics Essay called Race and the Priesthood. If you’re a teacher, Elder Ballard thinks you ought to know this material “like the back of your hand” and “If you have questions about them, then please ask someone who has studied them and understands them.” Well, below are two.
Russell Stevenson, an LDS graduate student researching Mormonism in Africa who has already authored two books (a biography of Elijah Ables who was ordained by Joseph Smith, and a Global History of Blacks and Mormonism), has his suggestions here. He addresses several “myths” about the priesthood and temple ban, such as that it only affected men, which it didn’t, hence “priesthood AND temple ban.” (See here from BYU’s Religious Studies Center.)
Stevenson’s book on the Global History of Blacks and Mormonism won the Mormon History Assocation Best Book award in 2015, and Reeves’ book won it the following year, so these are quality.Lastly, I have a book chapter coming out on the Cain/Abel story, with a subsection addressing the curse and mark on Cain. Briefly, Cain and Canaan are completely unrelated, but Cain is the ancestor of the Kenites (or better, Cainites), the clan Moses marries in to. The mark was a blessing on Cain to prevent him from being killed (Moses 5:40), and there is no indication at all that it or the curse has to do with skin color. However, common interpretations in America understood it as such, and this seems to be something that Brigham Young inherited in his preaching.
Good background on this and how it played out in recent centuries are
- David M. Goldberg, The Curse of Ham: Race and Slavery in Early Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (Princeton University Press, 2005)
- Stephen Haynes, Noah’s Curse: The Biblical Justification of American Slavery (Oxford Press, 2002)
- David Livingstone, Adam’s Ancestors: Race, Religion, and the Politics of Human Origins (Johns Hopkins Press, 2011) This takes more of a history-of-science-and-interpretation angle.
- Colin Kidd, The Forging of Races: Race and Scripture in the Protestant Atlantic World, 1600-2000 (Cambridge, 2006). I haven’t read this yet, but it’s on my list. “Building upon the insight that races are products of culture rather than biology, Colin Kidd demonstrates that the Bible – the key text in Western culture – has left a vivid imprint on modern racial theories and prejudices. Fixing his attention on the changing relationship between race and theology in the Protestant Atlantic world between 1600 and 2000 Kidd shows that, while the Bible itself is colour-blind, its interpreters have imported racial significance into the scriptures.”
Now, I shift gears a little. I’ve changed the structure of my GoFundMe to have more rewards at the lowest level. Basically, if you donate at the entry level, you get access to one (for $25) or multiple (for $50) of my forthcoming papers. If you’d like to read that article on Cain and Abel, it’s now available to you in return for helping me with my tuition. And those of you who have already donated more than that should be getting an email in the next few days with some articles attached. Thanks for your support.
And yes, Old Testament posts by the dozens are coming 🙂