The Latter-Day Saints and Race

The Latter-Day Saints and Race August 18, 2012

The Anxious Bench’s John Turner has a New York Times editorial this weekend titled “Why Race Is Still a Problem for Mormons.” (Turner is the author of a new biography from Harvard University Press titled Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet.) In the Times piece, Turner calls on Mormons to confront directly their church’s historic policies with regard to race, including their ban on men of African descent from the priesthood, which was not formally lifted until 1978. Turner says that most Protestant denominations have

gradually apologized for their past racism. In contrast, while Mormon leaders generically criticize past and present racism, they carefully avoid any specific criticism of past presidents and apostles, careful not to disrupt traditional reverence for the church’s prophets.       

To an extent, this strategy has worked… [but] a fuller confrontation with the past would serve the church’s interests. Journalists frequently ask prominent Mormons like Mr. Romney and Ms. Love about the priesthood ban. African-Americans, both members and prospective converts, find the history distinctly unsettling. Statements by prior church presidents and apostles provide fodder for those Latter-day Saints — if small in number — who adhere to racist notions.       

The church could begin leaving those problems behind if its leaders explained that their predecessors had confused their own racist views with God’s will and that the priesthood ban resulted from human error and limitations rather than a divine curse.

You can read the rest here.


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