The New Introduction to Official Declaration Two: It’s just not that satisfying…

I once belonged to a ward where the personality of said ward was defined by a long standing rift between two women, then in their 80’s, who had, decades before, determined that they couldn’t stand the sight of each other.  I shall henceforth refer to one of the women as Sister Stick (who was my particular friend) and Sister Zimmer (who was not).

“Look at her, just look at her, Lady high and mighty!’ came the barely hushed objection of Sister Stick as we piled into the Relief Society room one morning.  To any comment offered by Sister Stick I noticed Sister Zimmer roll her eyes in derision and intolerance.  It was this situation that disabused me of any notion that all women grow more tolerant and gracious with age.  If I hadn’t found the situation so amusing, I would have been appalled.

This row was so long and convoluted that no number of (albeit biased) explanations from Sister Stick clarified the reason for this state of affairs.  I hadn’t yet found Sister Zimmer to be all that objectionable.  She was aloof and a bit grim, but she seemed tolerable.

And then one grey winter’s morning in Sunday School we began talking about the  priesthood.  The Gospel Doctrine teacher was Filipino, and the majority of the class were either Pacific Islanders or Māori.  I can’t recall the exact context giving rise to her outburst but I was suddenly blindsided by Sister Zimmer’s Youngian discourse on divine apartheid.  Stabbing her arthritic fingers at the POGP she declared emphatically a doctrine so laden with racism it left me breathless.  I looked about me as my brown brothers and sisters drank in this diatribe  with heads bending further forward, eyes staring down and bodies still with shock.  I was outraged, and before my mouth could be stopped, my husband and I tag teamed a full and comprehensive deconstruction of her argument.  I didn’t care about keeping the peace, and inviting the spirit with my silent consent of her horrifying lack of human ethics. We salvaged what parts we could from the scriptures to counter her increasingly dogged insistence on God’s racial partiality.   In the end she dramatically packed up her Sunday school equipment and shuffled out of the class in a display of huff and displeasure while I watched  thinking to myself, ‘Look at her, just look at her, Lady High and Mighty!!’

The point is that we were both spiritually diminished by a doctrine/custom/tradition that has over decades now privileged church governance above divine sovereignty.  A record of authoritative utterances and policies that have exhibited a tenacious loyalty toward flawed human beings /church leaders before complete devotion to a perfectly loving, perfectly omnipotent divine parent.

So excuse me if I don’t leap up and down with absolute delight at the OD2 introduction.   I think it’s a wonderful step in the right direction and had I had this introduction before me during my debate with Sister Zimmer I would have been grateful.  But one thing bothers me still.

“Church records offer no clear insights into the origins of this practice.”

Come on now!  Seriously?  I love that the church has condemned racism but I can’t abide any organisation that hides behind its racist/sexist/colonial past with declarations of “Gee whizz, now how the heck did that happen?” bewilderment.

It’s doesn’t take a calculation of nuclear physics to see that the origins of this practice circle around one common denominator.  It simply comes down to the explicit, overt and blatant racism of the church’s historical leadership and their tendency to conflate their social common sense with some kind of  ‘divine knowing’.  While today we aren’t encumbered by our historical policy of racism there is another Mormon cultural habit which is just as menacing. There seems to be  an incomprehensible  preference for preserving the mythology of an inerrant leadership.

To be honest I think it’s a bloke thing; A male flaw; A primal, tribal allegiance to the leader of the pack.  I asked my husband how it was that he so willingly gave up his power to the church patriarchy over God’s sovereign will as expressed in the scriptures.   Don’t get me wrong, he’s a good man, but he’s a product of the institution.  His most sensible response was his admission that it came down to a very male need to belong, to be a member of the team.   I appreciate that as a mother of 6 boys.  I can see this preference for a hierarchy working among my own sons, and I value the sense of order it constructs.  But as a mother I am duty bound to change this order, to move things around, to demand ultimate allegiance to me as the alpha female, lest their social arrangements morph into a tyranny (which I have observed happening on several occasions, one of the most dramatic involving an enforced silence as to the perpetrator of an arson attempt in one of the boys’ bedrooms).

So thanks to LDS Inc. for the new edition of the scriptures – it’s a wonderful step in a positive direction (for me at least, but probably not for Sister Zimmer) and it bodes well.  But as an instructive for our future ecclesiastical and doctrinal arrangements, I have but one warning, “The Vatican”.

 

 

 

 

 

  • Dirk

    Wow, I hadn’t even realized the intro to OD2 had be changed. Nice to hear, and like you said, in a good direction. (Curiosity.. your post says March 2, and I’m replying on March 1. Yay I’m time traveling.) Anyhow, I just got done reading a post by someone else here where a quote is mentioned on how BY had cited the validity of a good African American brother who was an elder as evidence that we are all of one blood and need not divide according to color, in reference to a mixed-race man crying discrimination because he got kicked out (for using polygamy as an excuse to sow his oats as he pleased). Point being, the above comment was in 1847, very non-racist. Then in 1852 comes BY’s announcement of the blood of cain etc etc, negroes can’t have the priesthood, etc, racist stuff. A lot more information is coming out about how this practice began, but what is indeed missing is what changed between 1847 to 1852. Before 1852 there was no ban. Hopefully it will be unearthed as to what caused the change. One thing is for sure, though, and that is all members of the church, leadership included, have been quite fallible throughout the existance of the church. I personally believe it is vital to a positive testimony to know that mistakes can and have been made by members, leaders, and well-meaning people when it comes to the administration of God’s kingdom on earth.

    • Gina Colvin

      That’s cause I’m in New Zealand and we are a day ahead!! I couldn’t agree more – I feel more positive about declarations of human weakness than those of infallibility – but I’m aware that there are those who struggle with the notion that the church/leaders etc. might not be the perfect incarnation of God and Jesus!

      • Darren

        If anyone struggles on the fallibility of church leaders, ust ask the curch leaders if they are infallible. Make it direct: ‘bishop, are you infallible” and go from there. The answer should be consistantly in the negative.

        • LMA

          Right. I’ve heard it said that the Catholic church is the one that believes its leaders are infallible but treats them as though they’re not, while the Mormon church believes that its leaders aren’t infallible but treats them as though they are.

          • Gina Colvin

            Hehe! Well said!

          • Skittle

            Actually, the Catholic Church does not teach that its leaders are infallible. It teaches that there are a very few circumstances in which the Holy Spirit will prevent the Pope or the bishops from official teaching something that is wrong (by heartattack, if necessary), but that doesn’t actually make the people involved infallible.

            I had thought that Mormonism had a similar, although less well-defined, belief about leaders such as Brigham Young, but maybe I misunderstood that?

    • Me2

      There are at east two things that happened between Brigham Young’s statement in 1847 to that brother who was practicing polygamy without permission and 1852. One church leader, whose name I forget, travelled to Massachusetts to meet with members there. The leadership in Massachusets were two black men, father and son, who were both married to white women. The visiting leader wrote to Brigham Young and said “are we now sanctioning inter-racial marriage.” (There hadn’t been a prohibition. ) Then the brother of Brigham Young’s 1847 statement, went completely off the rails and told people he was the prophet. And the women he was marrying without permission were white. It seems this was all too much for 1850s sensibilities (and unfortunately, too much for even mid-20th century American sensisbilities). So, Brigham Young imposed a type of “church segregation.” His views were no different from other Americans of the time on race, which, of course, were all wrong.

  • Larrin

    I don’t think they should be allowed to say we don’t know why it happened if there are First Presidency statements about it: http://en.fairmormon.org/Mormonism_and_racial_issues/Blacks_and_the_priesthood/Statements

    • Darren

      I still do not understand that statement by the First Presidency. I cannot see it as a declarative of God telling Brigham young that blacs cannot receive the priesthood since their fathers (black ancestors) rejected the priesthood. If so, why did Joseph Smith give the priesthood to blacks? If Joseph Smith was not as divinely enlightened as Brigham Young, than why not? Also, when did all the earth (‘the rest of the children’)get the priesthood before the priesthood ban upon blacks was lifted? I fully aknowledge tha tthe First Presidency may speak on behalf of the church and declare what they believe, but of all the times they have, this is the one which consistantly confounds me.

    • Gina Colvin

      Thanks Larrin!

    • LMA

      “Should be allowed?” Really? I think the statement regarding OD2 is made with full awareness of the confusion of statements and historical precedents. For example, one of the statements quoting the First Presidency reflects unawareness that Joseph Smith ordained African Americans. There was a point in time when it became no longer possible to do so — and that is what the introduction to OD2 says is unclear. When did that change, and who changed it. Unless you know exactly how that happened, you should keep your ideas of what people should be “allowed” to do to yourself. In the broadest terms, what happened is that the Brethren absorbed views and values from external (non-Mormon) culture in the United States, in which supposed biblical and theological justifications for segregation abounded. Those arguments were even used by non-Mormon Christians to justify slavery, a trap into which the Church of Jesus Christ 0f Latter-day Saints never fell. And, as the quoted statements note, LDS congregations were never segregated – a fact which, again, distinguished those congregations from those of other Christian denominations. But the post-Joseph Smith era discrimination regarding the priesthood never had a sound scriptural or theological basis. That’s why Elder McConkie could say, after the revelation in 1978, that “[w]e spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world.” I hope this answers your question about what the leaders of the Church today should be allowed to do.

  • David M. Morris

    Larrin: Reading carefully it is not saying that they didn’t know why it was but that

    “Church records offer no clear insights into the origins of this practice.”

    Gina: interesting thoughts about why males have or need to have the priesthood. Perhaps males have to be proved they can handle such things and alpha mothers/wives have somehow already passed. Wish I could detail more in public but can’t.

    • Gina Colvin

      But I think church records are really clear. I think perhaps what they should have said is, ‘We can’t figure out why our past leaders were racists?’

      • JohnH

        What do you say to the Levites being the only ones that could hold the Aaronic/Levitical priesthood? Or to Jesus specifically and intentionally not preaching to gentiles? Or to Israel being “chosen” in the first place? Or to the multiple genocides that God either commanded or committed? Or Noah cursing Ham and Canaan in Genesis and Pearl of Great Price?

        Is the priesthood ban really so contrary to how God has acted repeatedly elsewhere?

        Which isn’t to say that past leaders weren’t also racist.

        • Gina Colvin

          I think that the LDS constitution of the priesthood looks quite different to ancient priesthood practices. Prophets were both men and women who were usually entrusted with a specific task usually involving the immediate redemption of Israel from some imminent threat. The work of the priests usually involved work on the tabernacle or temple. These days priesthood is more tied up with authority and power than it ever was. Priesthood was about the performance of sacred rites – rather than social control. It seems like apples and pears to me. I suppose there is a justification in thinking about the exclusive rights of the levitical priesthood belonging to a certain lineage but they are different from prophetic/apostolic rights that were largely charismatic and involved authorities and power and large movements of people. Mormons have mixed these things up I think.

          • JohnH

            What church are you going to where priests, teachers, and deacons have authority or power? The Aaronic priesthood is completely centered around the performance of sacred rites and also in caring for the physical needs of the members. Admittedly the Bishop being the presiding high priest as well as the head of the Aaronic priesthood does complicate that picture some, except when we look at the presiding Bishopric where being presiding High Priest and Bishop are not tied together as they are in Wards. It is very much the same as that of priests of the levitical order.

            The work of the Elder is also primarily tied to the work in the temple and the work in the home, performing sacred rites and caring for the need of their own personal family by way of sacred rites, which is hardly social control.

            The role of a High Priest is something different, and it in the Bible and Book of Mormon is never tied with the performance of sacred rites but instead with leading the church. The role of women in terms of prophetesses (and other similar roles) has not yet been revealed, and I am not sure speculating on the subject is helpful. Regardless, according to Abraham it is this high priesthood which was denied the son of Ham (while the Aaronic priesthood was only ever given to levites, previously).

  • Joseph Heywood

    Well said, Gina. I have to think that one of the attractive qualities about Brigham Young was his willingness to be upsetting. He seems to have been pretty abrasive in his honesty. One example is when he welcomed Thomas B. Marsh back into the fold. He had Marsh speak, who said something to the effect that he would never leave the Church again. Brigham followed, saying something to the effect that Thomas was an idiot to say something like that, because even he (Brigham) had to pray consistently for the faith to remain loyal to God’s church. My point is, though roundabout, that I find myself disagreeing with a particular viewpoint (e.g., a person who thinks works are anything but a sacred, imperfect offering) or at least unsure what God really intends for his children (e.g., women and the priesthood [I lean towards the idea that men aren't ready for that revelation, in the style of Israel and Moses and the lower law]). Sometimes I disagree with methodology of raising these issues, as I think they turn the focus to a petty issue that results in further disregard to a real spiritual question (e.g., pants and purple ties), but I am grateful for a true discussion, while also remembering that the difficult law of obedience (to God and the guidance of His Spirit) is the first law. If only personal revelation didn’t take some effort…

    There is the thought, of course, that women can’t have the priesthood because they were less valiant in the pre-existence. Maybe white women will get it eventually, but other races? Those were less valiant for sure…

    False and disgusting doctrinal ideas aside, thanks for being “the voice of one crying in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord.” It’s probably difficult to be a Nazarene.

    • Darren

      Women do have the priesthood and do administer it witin the temple. as to quarrel over who’s better, I think that’s suilly. A good fried of mine said it’s like giving a boy two quarters and his sister a fifty cent piece and watch them argue as to who has more money. In the end they both (male and female) need each other to get the highest of blessings from the Most High God through the Son of the Most High God.

    • Gina Colvin

      Mwah Joseph Heywood! You crack me up!

  • Melody

    This is brilliant. And bold. And true. Thanks.

    • Gina Colvin

      Cheers Melody!

  • http://rationalfaiths.com Michael

    Perfectly said. I am going to send this to my brother who blogged about the same thing. We have good documentation of when the racist idea was first uttered out of Mormon lips; thank you Parley P. Pratt.

    I have asked a faithful Catholic friend if the Catholic Church “lost face” when they apologized for the Crusades and for the way they treated Jews. He looked at me a bit confused and said, “No. All institutions make mistakes.”

    • Darren

      Could you cite the Pratt racism?

    • Gina Colvin

      Nice! I wish we could be so forthright. On the other hand – some people in the church might really struggle with that! Its a hard one.

  • noel

    Why doesn’t the lds church just admit BY got it wrong and was influenced by racial attitudes of his time. Smith had Elijah, Abel a black person appointed to the lds priesthood. Be like the Southern Baptists after years of discrimination have apologised to black people over their attitudes.

    • Darren

      What’s your source that Brigham Young was motivated by racism?

    • Gina Colvin

      Good question! It wouldn’t hurt really would it?

    • DougH

      Perhaps because the Church doesn’t know if Brigham Young “got it wrong,” insofar as the actual ban is concerned – don’t confuse God’s command and the theology we come up with to explain it. A good example is, in my opinion, plural marriage. God mandated plural marriage for at least the Church leadership, and we went on to create a theology turning polygamy into a positive good instead of a necessary evil, superior to monogamy, that was (also in my opinion) WAY overstating the case at best. Then polygamy was banned, and we’re left with all this theology and no practice to base it on.

      It’s possible that something similar happened with Blacks and the priesthood – that God instituted the ban, and Brigham Young’s understanding of the theology behind the ban was completely wrong, filtered through the racist beliefs he shared with most everyone else at the time.

      Either way, as I understand it, we have no records of when the ban was actually instituted, no idea if it was by revelation and Brigham Young misunderstanding the reason for it, or Brigham Young making his own policy based on his racist beliefs. Basically, “don’t know” means “don’t know.”

      • Gina Colvin

        Interesting thought Doug. But the First Presidency statements on Blacks and the Priesthood seem pretty categorical to me. They were very clear about the reason for the ban. I also think that the emphasis now on the statement ‘all are alike unto God’ make it reasonably clear that there is no doctrine of divine apartheid in Mormon theology. So I don’t think its a case of there being a doctrine without a practice.

  • http://mahonristewart.blogspot.com/ Mahonri Stewart

    You had me until you said, “It’s a bloke thing.” Uhm, wow, that kind of reverse sexism doesn’t help your argument at all. I’ve known just as many blindly obedient women as men, and some of the harshest criticism I’ve received for some of my more progressive views have come from women. That kind of rhetoric is not helping anyone. Viewing the world with kind of lens is just re-enforcing stereotypes and not helping the broader and more valuable cause you are advocating.

    • Gina Colvin

      Maybe you have a point Mahonri – but note that I put ‘perhaps’ – and its done with a huge wink. Having said that though if we can’t talk about males how do we unpack patriarchies? White folk in New Zealand used to say that Maori were being reverse racists when Maori started taking their power back and interrogating the colonisers! I could be off about the reason for the lock down on our tribal church patriarchy but its worth considering don’t you think? Or do you have another explanation?

      • Mahonri_Stewart

        Didn’t see a wink there, Gina, and it didn’t come as very tongue in cheek, if that was your intent.

        And I’m fine with unpacking patriarchy, by the way. I’ve been ill at ease with the sexism in the Church for a long time. But I’ve read statistics actually have shown that there are more Mormon men than Mormon women who would be okay with women having the priesthood, so that data works against your assumptions here.

        But I do cringe whenever I see the oppressed using the same tools as the oppressor (like gender stereotypes). If it was wrong for one group, then doesn’t the tool cut both ways? We all do it, of course, but there must be a better way that we’re not employing.

  • Darren

    Gina et al;

    I’m glad you set Sister Zimmer straight on what seems to be an obvious false doctrine she preached in church. I would have cringed myself over this pronouncement in class. As Gospel Doctrine teacher, I would have had it corrected forthwith either by members in attendence or by myself. Complments for your husband as well.

    ““Church records offer no clear insights into the origins of this practice.”

    Come on now! Seriously? I love that the church has condemned racism but I can’t abide any organisation that hides behind its racist/sexist/colonial past with declarations of “Gee whizz, now how the heck did that happen?” bewilderment.”

    Here’s the full account of the new and improved introduction regarding the Official Declaration 2:

    “Church records offer no clear insights into the origins of this practice. Church leaders believed that a revelation from God was needed to alter this practice and prayerfully sought guidance. The revelation came to Church President Spencer W. Kimball and was affirmed to other Church leaders in the Salt Lake Temple on June 1, 1978. The revelation removed all restrictions with regard to race that once applied to the priesthood.”

    I’d like to emphasize first and foremost that it was determined by the church leadership that a revelation from God was needed to clarify the church’s position regarding blacks and the priesthood. If they were to receive the priesthood, than god would say so. If it was wrong that they should be banned from the priesthood, than God would say so. Either way the matter would have been cleared up. But what if God said nothing? That would place action in limbo. That’s where I see the Church as having been post Joseph Smith’s death.

    We know that the practice of the priesthood ban began officially under Brigham Young. how or why exactly is not known. To this end I very much agree with what the new introduction says. There is no record of a divine revelation to Brigham young for or against a preisthood ban. What I can gather is that there began to be confusion as to whether or not Joseph Smith rescinded the priesthood from blacks. To my knowledge, there is absolutely no record which says he did nor even supported any such thing. And for those who tend to use the Pearl of Great Price’s doctrines to justify the priesthood ban, I like to point out this simple fact. Why would the one who interpreted divine revelation which gave the world the Book of Moses and the Book of Abraham (whose books contain truly fascinating and powerful doctrines whch teach the eternal nature of God and man) never expressed the impression that blacks were to not have the priesthood?

    Were there racist origins in the priesthood ban? I really do think so. Without racism, I do not see the priesthood ever having ocurred. But I’d liek to place this in the best (most accurate) light I know how. Who was racist? I do not think Brigham Young was racist (yes, Im familiar with his useage of words which would ebe harlined racism today), nor was he motivated by racism. If he were, he’d stand contrary to Book of Mormon teachings forbidding racism as a means of who receives God’s blessings. Also, I do not thin the LDS Church leadership were racist, particularly since the leadership as a whole definitely were against slavery and clearly declared that blacks had a soul and was as much a child of God as any other human being. And that was socially a very hard position to take back in their day. Was there racism in the LDS populace? I’d say definitely so.

    When the vote came to allow race-based slavery in Utah came, race-based slavery was affirmed. Granted, there were strict rules in place against physical and sexual abuse inflicted upon slaves. Also, standards of decent housing and food were established but nevder the less, race-based slavery existed in Utah and remained so until the Emancipation Proclamation. Slavery soon came to an end after that proclamation was made.

    Following slavery there was definitely a string of racism within the LDS culture. I interviewed a man by the name of Gilespie (I forget his first name) while at BYU and Gillespie spoke about what motivated him to become a civil rights activist in the Provo / Orem area back in the 1950s. He spoke about how communities were set up based on race (blacks in one part and whites in another). He said that even though the LDS church never endorsed such a thing, there were LDS bishops who advocated the “need” to make such divisions. Gilliespie did speak about how much things improved since his time and that is good but I do not think that anyone can say that there was no racism in LDS culture and that the priesthood ban gave at least some some sense of justification for it to exist and be practiced.

    This makes me wonder about he LDS leadership. Despite racism existing, I fail to see this as a driving force to ban the priesthood from being bestowed upon blacks. If it were, was it from God? Ddi God determine that the priesthood shoud be banned from a certain race in order to carry out some other aspect of His gospel spreading? How much of all this was a test from God? Did God allow racism to govern, at least to some degree, LDS culture? If so, how much? There are many more questions in this regard and I think it’s a bit naive to declare affirmatively exactly why the priesthood was banned from blacks. Bruce R. McConkie said it best when he said that all previous statements regarding justification as to why blacks were banned rom the priesthood are to be considered mistaken positions. As he said, “we simply did not know” (or something to that affect).

    An excellent website is Black LDS. there one can click on a timeline regarding blacks and the priesthood which parallels the LDS culture with that of the United States as a whole . I strongly encourage all to read it. I also emphatically encourage all to read the first-hand account of when the revelation was given to lift the priesthood ban. It is perhaps one of the most dramatic events in LDS history regarding divine revelation to prophets, seers, and revelators in order to answer their supplications.

    http://www.blacklds.org/history
    http://www.blacklds.org/declare2#thoughts

    EXCERPT:

    ‘It was during this prayer that the revelation came. The Spirit of the Lord rested mightily upon us all; we felt something akin to what happened on the day of Pentecost and at the dedication of the Kirtland Temple. From the midst of eternity, the voice of God, conveyed by the power of the Spirit, spoke to his prophet. . . . And we all heard the same voice, received the same message, and became personal witnesses that the word received was the mind and will and voice of the Lord.’

    Very powerful!!!

    • Gina Colvin

      Larrin provided this link to some first presidency statements:

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

      • Darren

        Yes, she did and as noted, it confounds me.

      • Darren

        It’s also in my blacklds link.

    • Nick Gotts

      How odd that this “revelation” came in the wake of the Civil Rights movement, and legislation outlawing discrimination on the grounds of race. Rather like the “revelation” that polygamy should no longer be practiced, which came at the point where statehood for Utah depended on banning it. Important “revelations” seem to come at points where they are politically convenient. no doubt in 10 or 20 years there will be a “revelation” in favour of marriage equality.

      • topica

        Favour of marriage equality? I dont think so. The changes to the practice of polygamy has precedent and is consistent with scripture and the change in Priesthood ban was prophecied and is with precedent, too. Me and Darrin think alike. I have studied OD2 et al lately and have come to the same conclusions. The Lord’s prophets have not led the Church astray and they are not racists. If anyone is a racist it is God and I dont argue with God. Question no one has asked is why so many Prophets prayed about the Priesthood ban and God stayed quiet? Careful reading of OD2 and parsing the words makes it obvious to me that the leadership knew and does have documentation regarding the revelations regarding the Priesthood ban, just not the practice. IE plural marriage. Revelation 1931, practice ??? If there wasn’t a revelation to start the ban then a revelation to stop it would not be needed.

        • Gina Colvin

          Well if it helps you to think that you go ahead mate!

  • LaVerl 09

    I have a sign in my counseling office that reads, “It’s not so much what happens to you, but how you react to what happens to you that determines your character.”
    I served a mission in Brazil before the priesthood was allowed to be given to all males and was a personal witness to the faithfulness of those affected who said the Church was still giving them more than any other Church could.
    My hat goes off to that kind of dedication and pray that their example will inspire ALL of us.
    The fallibility of the “natural man” that God has to use to disseminate His Gospel “Good News”, makes it all the more important that we ALL depend on the Spirit to guide us in all we do whether at the top, the middle or the bottom of this most important of God’s work.

  • Collin

    Gina,

    I think it’s odd how you condemn the racism and sexism and then say, “Honestly I think it’s a bloke thing.” Doesn’t that strike you as a tad ironic? Are only men sexist, authoritarian or inclined to think they are flawless?

    Also, isn’t it possible that church leaders do not really know why the doctrine of exclusion came about? I mean it’s easy to point to something as vague as racism, but I think that the brethren are talking about the doctrinal justification for the ban (or lack of justification).

    Another thing I would ask, is this: is it inconceivable that god might have a good reason for discriminating based on race? Weren’t the jews the “chosen” people? Weren’t the Levites the only ones allowed to have the priesthood? Wasn’t it significant that Jesus was a descendant of David and Abraham?

    Also, is it wrong for God to do other things that would be wrong for us, such as killing someone or inflicting pain on someone? If God truly is love, then He may do those things for a wise purpose. (Having said that, I want to make clear that I do not know if the priesthood ban was from God. But I think it’s possible that it was. What gives me doubt is that Joseph Smith ordained black men to the priesthood and allowed them temple privileges.)

    • Gina Colvin

      Hi Collin! I don’t think I said they were sexist or authoritarian (at least not in my post). I run a family of males and have noticed patterns in the way they organise themselves. My boys have been and presently are going to all boys schools – the same patterns there. At church its the same. Mostly these male ways of being are wonderfully healthy and I am again and again impressed with these boy/men traits. But the difference between the church context and my family of boys is that I get to critique and challenge at home, and at school, whereas I don’t at church. If hierarchies begin turning into tyrannies I get to shake it up. If blind loyalty turns into subservience I notice and point it out. All I’m saying is the feminine presence – as more than a domestic adornment fulfills more than the feminist demand for equality. Its my way of calling for the more powerful sex balance where the excesses of one outweighs the excesses of the other.

      Sorry – I’ve been sitting here chewing over the ‘wise purpose’ argument, and have considered the possibilities and alternatives. All I can come up with is, if there is a wise purpose – it better be a bloody good wise purpose!

  • http://www.conservativemormonmom.blogspot.com E B

    I’m LDS. I think that a lot of “outrage” and the like within the membership of the LDS Church would disappear if we all understood that there are three separate though related entities at play here. First is the doctrine: the unchanging and eternal gospel of Jesus Christ embodying all truth and love. Second is the Church which teaches the doctrine, at times changing policies and procedures to best meet that objective. Also note that the Church is administered by humans who err from time to time. Third is Mormon culture which is a byproduct of Mormons living and working and serving in close proximity, and which doesn’t always have much to do with either the gospel or the Church. It is responsible for most of the stereotypes about Mormons that I’ve come across, whether well founded or not. The culture is most pronounced in areas with high concentrations of LDS membership.

  • Lagom

    One thing I find astonishingly unfair about this article and all the responses is the sad, cold fact that the vast majority of Americans during the 19th accepted racism. Yeah, point fingers at Brigham Young or Parley P. Pratt or John Doe all you want, but millions of Americans were simply racist in that era. It’s like yelling at someone for being wet while he/she is playing in the pool. Could it be slightly remotely possible that views in the LDS Church (like almost any other organization) evolve based on a general attitudes amongst the millions of members? Seen from a more global view, it makes me appreciate Joseph Smith all the more for his ease at being totally different.

    • Gina Colvin

      1) Yes! 2) Me too – though I still have to get my head around his being so different he instituted polygamy.

  • Jeff

    Why did you feel the need to drag us Catholics into this? We have enough challenges without being tied to Mormon lunacy.

    • Gina Colvin

      Fair enough Jeff! But you’ve been going longer than us so its quite a good exercise to use the problems in other faith traditions as a cautionary tale. Which isn’t to say that I don’t have the utmost respect for the Catholic church, but I would hate to see the avoidable dramas that the Vatican is facing repeated in my church. BTW – lunacy is to one as sanity is to another. Our lunacy is no more special than any one else’s.

  • noel

    When I was in the LDS church I had a chat with a former missionary to New York. He told me it was back then the practice if they door-knocked on a afro-American house, was to teach them the first discussion and then only come back again and again if they were asked. The attitude towards whites was the revers, arrange there and then to come back again and again. I can see their problem if they baptised a bunch of blacks in a certain black area, they would have difficulty forming a ward as there would be no priesthood leadership.

  • Gabriel Ariciu

    You judge the past church leaders in light of your current understanding and culture. Do not be too quick to judge them, for you do not know them. I found this article to be in poor taste.

  • Rockgod28

    America was racist. Murderously so for over 150 years. Blacks were denied the blessings of priesthood. Why? Good question that Church leaders today don’t know. There is no record that says there was revelation for the ban and neither is there a record for the ban that says it was because of race. It is a fact Brigham Young speculated the reason for the ban was because of the curse of cain. But it was not the origin for the ban. Many church leaders since speculated and tried to reconsile or justify the ban.

    The Official Declaration 2 made all the speculation invalid. Every word or guessed reason for the ban was wrong. It is hard for my generation to understand the deep racism of previous generations. The belief that somehow one race was better than another because of skin color or national origin or ancestory.

    Now all I can do is offer my speculation since there is no reason official or otherwise given. As I said America was racist. Many thought in the past the ban was because of something spiritual issue or the problem was on those who the ban was placed on. What if it was the other way around? What if the test was on the saints? A way to refine the members and live the gospel. The responsibility would be greater on the saints to be kinder, merciful and loving. Not because they were better. In fact just the opposite. Plus there were those people who were murderous in their devotion to inequality.

    This is an issue where we need to be humble. There is no pride. But it would be foolish to ascribe a made up reason for the ban when none was given. Presidents of the Church have gone to the Lord to know His will on the ban and what to do. There was no answer until 1978 to President Kimble and the Official Declaration 2 was issued. The blessings of the Lord have been poured out upon the saints and the world since that time. So do you want a real honest answer that is “I don’t know” or make up an answer that does not exist just because it would sound good like “Brigham Young was racist and instituted the ban because of racism” when that is not true?

    Maybe some day or you could always ask God. I am sure he will answer. :-)

  • http://apurelovestory.com Kristine Rose

    Hi Gina,
    Earlier today I posted a comment responding to the March 15 Mormon Matters podcast about the new version of the LDS scriptures in which you were a lively and thought-provoking participant. I just realized that I conflated impressions from this podcast with impressions from the 4-part podcast series about Lorenzo Snow”s couplet, and I am afraid that I did not accurately represent you in my comments. I apologize!
    Allow me to put in my two-cents’ worth about OD2.
    Along with what I was doing when JFK was shot, the births of my five children, and what I was doing on September 11th, is the indelible memory of hearing the announcment that all worthy males could hold the priesthood. I wanted to run out into the street and shout hallelujah! This was in a housing development in suburban Northern Virginia and, unfortunately, no exulting throngs were on hand to accommodate my desire. However, I had a disconcerting thought that tempered what should have been unabashed elation: I HAD NOT EVEN HAD ENOUGH FAITH TO PRAY FOR BLACK MEN TO RECEIVE THE PRIESTHOOD AND FOR BLACK PEOPLE TO RECEIVE ALL THE BLESSINGS OF THE GOSPEL. I determined I would never again insult my God with tepid, wavering faith that does not, beyond any shadow of a doubt, believe in a God who cherishes all alike–bond and free, white and black, male and female. I do not want my faith, or lack thereof, implicated with whoever or whatever is the reason for the withholding of blessings.


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