A Question, Part 1 of 2

Put on your speculation hat—or, if it works better for you, peer into your hat—and see what you come up with on the following question:
Where would the church be today if we hadn’t extended the priesthood to all males 30 years ago?
(Part 2 of this exercise will come next week, so please hold off on the obvious until then.)

Comments

comments

37 comments for “A Question, Part 1 of 2

  1. Dan
    July 14, 2008 at 2:24 pm

    Hmmm, I don’t think the church would have gotten as big as it is now. Many Americans would just simply not consider it, but not really criticize it. Around the world, well, you get into problems in Africa. It was probably due to the amount of Africans that joined the church that church leaders finally realized the mistake of banning blacks from the priesthood.

    We would not have done as well in Latin America as we have. And Europe? I don’t think it would have affected the church at all.

  2. hawkgrrrl
    July 14, 2008 at 2:30 pm

    Brazil was the most pressing issue at the time (insufficient leadership available that met the criteria), and the church is big there. Also, who knows what race anyone is anymore? Everyone’s part everything (exaggerating, but we’ll get there in a few generations). If we had DNA tests run, we’d find no one is as purely one race as they think.

  3. Joe
    July 14, 2008 at 6:53 pm

    The big problem wasn’t just Brazil, but all the members clearly of black ancestry who were baptized. I knew one when on my mission who was baptized in the late 60s and had been ordained a high priest BEFORE 1977.

    I do think it would have caused serious problems in the US when the church tried to obtain zoning for temples.

  4. Matt Thurston
    July 14, 2008 at 7:04 pm

    “Where would the church be today if we hadn’t extended the priesthood to all males 30 years ago?”

    Honestly, I think we’d be a punch line at the end of a joke or put down. For example, if someone said something racist, or excluded someone because of their skin color, the response would be something like, “Dude, you don’t have to get all Mormon on me.” Black comedians, especially the political ones (i.e. Chris Rock) would have a field day.

    Members would likely squirm in embarrassment around fellow Black friends and colleagues, if they remain members at all. Many wonderful Black men and women I know would not be members of the church today, to say nothing of their wonderful offspring. The pressure would be intense, and falling back on the bromides of McConkie, Petersen, Fielding Smith, and Young to “explain” the ban would be tiresome and demoralizing. Mormon missionaries would tire of knocking on black persons doors, only to have to turn around and walk away. In fact, they’d probably be heckled, or worse.

    This is why LDS Gay Marriage is inevitable.

    Civilization marches on, whether the Mormons are ready or not. We are not the Amish. We are not the FLDS. We are not the Moonies. We are not some kooky little sect, totally apart from the world, that holds onto its bizarre doctrines (i.e. prohibition of electricity/phones/etc, or polygamy) despite the march of civilization and enlightenment.

    Since renouncing Polygamy (at least for now) in the early 1900s, the LDS have steered a course that allows us to be both “in” and “out” of the world. We maintain a healthy distance, or “optimum tension” between us and the world, but we will never let the distance between the church and the world grow to wide. Armand Mauss details this phenomenon convincingly in The Angel and The Beehive, the ongoing process of assimilation and retrenchment.

    The fate of most religious movements is fairly predictable. Depends on the religion, but religions to one degree or another will modify their posture and selectively adopt certain traits from the surrounding culture that will make it more accpetable to the host society, or die after the first generation. Mauss says:

    “If survival is the first task of the movement, the natural and inevitable response of the host society is either to domesticate the movement or to destroy it. In seeking to domesticate or assimilate it, the society will apply various kinds of social control pressures selectively in an effort to force the movement to abandon at least its most unique and threatening features. To the extent that the society succeeds in the domestication effort, the result will be the eventual assimilation of the movement. Failing to achieve sufficient domestication, the host society will eventually resort to the only alternative: persecution and repression.”

    With the Blacks/PH issue, the “healthy distance” or “optimum tension” was becoming very strained by 1978. Today, the tension would be unbearable. We waited until after most of the Civil Rights battles had been fought and won before joining civilization. We realized that extending equal rights to Blacks was not the end of the world. There was not some sinsiter motive that had to do with Communism (Benson), or defiling the white race by mixing seed (Petersen).

    So yes, some of the quotes of GA’s today will make us squirm in the future the same way the “backward” quotes of Mark E. Petersen, Ezra Taft Benson, and Bruce R. McConkie make us squirm today. And those quotes will be written off as “people speaking with limited light and knowledge.”

    It’s all so predictable. Mauss’s book is the Rosetta Stone. Unless the Church steers a new course, one where we truly (not just “kind of”) become a peculiar people, totally apart from the world, (like the Amish, the FLDS, and other Gay Marriage is inevitable.

  5. John Nilsson
    July 14, 2008 at 7:07 pm

    Where would the Church be today if the 1978 revelation hadn’t happened?

    Two words: Colorado City.

  6. no-man
    July 14, 2008 at 7:44 pm

    What Matt said, only shorter: the church would have no respect, which would severely limit its ability to grow except among racists.

  7. hawkgrrrl
    July 14, 2008 at 7:57 pm

    Even the Amish have made some concessions in progress (a little easier since they don’t claim revelation or really a religious reason for rejecting technology–it was more of a social choice). They use cell phones (in the barn, not house) and they will ride in cars (not drive). They also shop at the large outdoor malls that are springing up all over.

  8. Matt Thurston
    July 14, 2008 at 8:11 pm

    Sorry for the length.

    And I just realized I didn’t “hold off on the obvious until then”. Sorry about that too.

  9. GlasFam4Ever
    July 14, 2008 at 10:56 pm

    I can agree with Matt on everything, but I cannot see the church ever allowing LDS Gay Marriage. It would be a serious backing away from fundamental doctrine, unlike the policy on the priesthood ban. Given the popularity of diversity and inclusion (which is a good thing depending on how it’s done) our church would have a seriously hard time, I think, in moving the work forward or being a force for good.

    Just one flawed mortals opinion.

    Mr. GF4E

  10. July 15, 2008 at 12:08 am

    Re #4 (Matt Thurston)

    Matt,

    What a great comment! Between this and your other incredibly sensible and compassionate remarks, I may be developing a serious man crush. 🙂

    I just ordered The Angel and The Beehive online.

  11. Cicero
    July 15, 2008 at 12:41 am

    I don’t find this speculation interesting, since obviously God knows what will happen in the future and directs His prophet’s accordingly.

    Some important thoughts though, since it’s pretty obvious where this is going.

    1: Might I point out that the ban on Africans holding the Priesthood (remember that it did not apply to Black Pacific Islanders) always included the idea that it was temporary and would someday be repealed. (Even if most people assumed that wouldn’t happen until the Millennium).

    No such similar thing exists for homosexuality.

    2: Black people find it insulting that their experience is continually compared to the experience of gays. (The only exceptions I have ever met to this are Black politicians) You might be surprised to learn that Blacks tend to be among those most opposed to same-sex marriage. Might I point out a few reasons why they are not the same:

    Race is an issue of heritage, culture, and birth. Homosexuality is based around actions, and therefor choices- it is not a culture passed down from your ancestors.

    Race, especially for Blacks, is shown by your skin color and appearance- therefor you cannot avoid dealing with people’s prejudices. This is decidedly not the case for homosexuals.

    For the above reasons I find attempts to compare race issues with homosexual issues to be a stretched analogy that gives false conclusions.

  12. July 15, 2008 at 7:20 am

    #4:
    What you say about comedians is right on target, Matt. I’ve already seen gay and gay-friendly comedians make jokes about “going all Mormon on” someone, making specific reference to past electro-shock “therapy” programs within the LDS church.

  13. WMP
    July 15, 2008 at 7:56 am

    Matt —

    I’m sorry, but I find your reasoning unpersuasive.

    I have no idea where the Church would be today if not for the 1978 revelation on the Priesthood. But the notion that the 1978 revelation = “capitulating to social trends,” ergo the church will likewise “capitulate” to the legalization of gay marriage makes little sense. (It also, of course, rests on the presumption that the 1978 revelation was not a revelation at all — that it was a choice made by the “Church” — and that the Church is therefore similarly free to make a choice, independent of God’s revealed will, regarding the legitimization of gay marriage.)

    As other posters have noted, it is clear that many, many church leaders viewed the priesthood ban as a temporary measure. Many stated that the ban would be lifted at some point in time, and the Church as an organization made it clear that, in the end, none of the Lord’s blessings would be denied the faithful as a result of the ban. I defy you to identify a single comparable statement by ANY church leader with regard to the Church’s “exclusion” of gay marriage. (Moreoever, to say that preisthood denial based race reached “optimum tension” in 1978 ignores history. In anything, the “tension” had significantly slackened by 1978, by which point the civil rights movement had largely run its course.)

    Marriage between man and woman is a foundational tenant of Mormon doctrine. The Church’s position on this issue, as expressed in the Declaration (a document that, notably, pre-dated the gay marriage movement by several years) could not be more clear. Alteration of this doctrine would require FAR more than a simple declaration along the lines of “every worthy male member…” I am not suggesting that it CAN’T happen, but I take issue with the claim that it WILL happen just because the Church has made changes in the past that appeared to have brought it “more in line” with popular opinion. The test has nothing to do with popular opinion; it has to do with whether the practice comports with God’s revealed will — Mauss’s “Rosetta Stone” notwithstanding.

    (I should note that I am grateful for the 1978 revelation, and I am grateful that my children have the opportunity to live, play, learn, and worship with such a beautiful and diverse group of people. I also don’t want this post to be construed as an attack on homosexuals or even those who advocate in favor of SSM. I simply want to point out my disagreement with the asserted inevitability of the Church’s acceptance of gay marriage.)

  14. Imperfection
    July 15, 2008 at 7:58 am

    Accepting blacks as full and equal members of society has been difficult for many members. The same struggle will have to be played out for gays as well. Even if you don’t ‘like’ them, you must accept that they are part of your world without always treating them as if they needed ‘fixing’. This will be the next challenge the church faces to avoid being a footnote.

  15. John Nilsson
    July 15, 2008 at 8:14 am

    WMP,

    The Church has no authority to decide on the legitimacy of different forms of marriage, particularly for those outside the faith. That is a political decision. The Church has never won a major political battle like this (witness how our opposition to anti-polygamy legislation turned out).

    To get back to Chris’s original post, WMP, the very conditional statements Church leaders made about an end to the priesthood ban were all post 1950s, when civil rights was on the national agenda. These statements about blacks receiving the priesthood eventually were certainly never uttered by Brigham Young or John Taylor, for instance, but by David O McKay and Hugh Brown, sensitive individuals who were disturbed by the consequences of the teaching that blacks were less worthy members of the human race.

    The same softening has already begun in the Church with regard to the acceptance of biological origins for homosexuality. Or do you not see any changes here at all? They’re pretty obvious to me.

  16. WMP
    July 15, 2008 at 8:31 am

    John,

    I can appreciate that gay marriage — insofar as “marriage” is a construct of the state — is a legal and not exclusively religious matter. I also am well aware that the Church may be fighting a losing battle in CA (although this certainly does not mean it is an unworthy fight). But CA’s decision will have no impact on the Church’s decision whether to “recognize” gay marriage for the Church’s own purposes (which is what I believe is the issue being discussed here).

    I also have seen a change in tone regarding homosexuals in the Church. I think there is a growing realization that homosexuality (as a preference) may not be entirely a “choice.” I think more of us are more aware of how painfully difficult an issue this is for so many. But I have not perceived any change regarding the condemnation of the conduct associated with homosexuality. Do others disagree?

  17. Cicero
    July 15, 2008 at 9:50 am

    #14 Except gays do need “fixing”. By the way, how does that make them any different from all the rest of us mortals who also need “fixing”.

    #15 Are you sure? As I seem to recall Brigham Young during his discussion about the curse of Cain arguing that the descendants Cain would not receive the Priesthood until the gospel had gone to all the righteous descendants of Seth (Abel figured in this too somehow). The implications being very strong that descendants of Cain would not receive the Priesthood until the Millennium under the rule of the Ancient of Days. While not predictive of the 1978 revelation, this does mean that Brigham Young saw the priesthood ban as temporary- at least in an eternal sense.

    On the other hand, sexual actions between those of the same sex has been repeatedly identified as something that damns you to Hell unless you repent. They are very different in the historical treatment by the Church. After all, you didn’t get excommunicated for being Black.

  18. July 15, 2008 at 9:54 am

    I don’t know enough about laws to say, but could the church have faced any legal sanctions by now if it was still denying the priesthood, entry in the temple, etc. to blacks. Wouldn’t the ACLU have had our arses on toast by now, without the 1978 revelation? Or is it still possible for a private organization to be that racially discriminatory?

  19. Imperfection
    July 15, 2008 at 10:50 am

    #17 Yes we all need to be fixed. Perhaps if we stop treating each other as broken we can live together with better understanding.

    I would also like to see appeals to scripture and prophet pronouncements taken out of public discourse. You may see them as coming directly from god, but society as a whole has no way to verify the authenticity of such appeals. We are adults and can deal with each other as such. (this is not directed at Cicero, just a general thought)

  20. July 15, 2008 at 12:24 pm

    I think the comments so far on this thread have understated the consequences to the Church had its racial policies not changed. Institutional racism is no longer tolerated in our society. I can imagine a scenario where the Church would have lost everying– its standing in society, its university, the majority of its membership, its status as a tax-exempt organization, etc. Something close to total destruction. It’s not so different from Wilford Woodruff’s vision of what would have happened if polygamy had not been discontinued.

    The thing I find surprising is the attitude among many of us that the Church did no wrong in perpetuating grotesque racial injustice over the years. The hard liners claim the unequal treatment was fully justified as the will of the Almighty. The moderates talk about “outdated policies.” Just about no one says, “We as a church have sinned. We admit this error and apologize for the injustice and cruelty that we as a church perpetrated throughout many years of our history. We know that we harmed the lives of many people with our racist doctrines and ask for their forgiveness.”

    Anyway, I think there’s a bit of denial going on about exactly how bad it would have been for the Church if the 1978 change had not occurred.

  21. WMP
    July 15, 2008 at 1:09 pm

    MoHoHawaii,

    It is sometimes all too tempting to employ hyperbole when speculating about what could have been.

    I, for one, don’t deny the possibility that the ban may have been the result of human misunderstanding, misconception, racisism, etc. Nonetheless, my understanding of the history is that the Church — whatever its institutional “opinion” of the ban — did not feel at liberty to change the doctrine/policy absent clear guidance from the Lord; and there is evidence that this guidance was expressly sought on many occasions. This, to me, suggests at least the possibility that the policy may have been based on something more than simple prejudice. To the extent the exclusion really was the “will of the Almight” (an option you appear to dismiss), I have no grounds to object to it — as distasteful as it may strike me.

  22. Matt Thurston
    July 15, 2008 at 1:34 pm

    MoHoHawaii is correct. This idea that “many church leaders viewed the priesthood ban as a temporary measure” is a gross revision of history. These “temporary ban” ideas weren’t even on the radar screen until the 60s, at best, and even then they were uttered by one or two GA’s at best — and very carefully, softly at that. Why? Because the majority of the GA’s — and loudest, I would add — were still of the opposite opinion. So any these ideas of a “temporary ban” were largely drowned out by a chorus of opinions from the other side.

    Furthermore, we love to retroactively call the ban a “policy” or “practice” as opposed to “doctrine” or “theology.” Again, this is largely revisionist history. The “practice-not-doctrine” rhetoric crept in at the very end, and is now trumpted loudly today. These kind of quotes can be found, but they are “after the fact,” largely post-1978.

    All of this is well-documented. No need to trot out demoralizing quotes of LDS leaders from presidents Young down to JFS to prove it.

    WMP (#13) said, “Moreoever, to say that preisthood denial based race reached “optimum tension” in 1978 ignores history. In anything, the “tension” had significantly slackened by 1978, by which point the civil rights movement had largely run its course.”

    No, you mistake the National “tension” with the Mormon “tension”. The tension around the country was certainly at its height during the Civil Rights movements of the 50s and 60s. There were still big numbers of people on both sides of the issue. (Same as today with the Gay Rights issue.)

    But by the late 70s, the Civil Rights war was O-V-E-R, and the “racial equality” camp were the clear victors. So on a national level, the tension certainly subsided, but at the Mormon level it was ratcheted up several notches. Why? Because our racist policy still reflected the separatist side of the losers. Though the 60s was “tense” for the Church, Society hadn’t yet decided, our PH policy therefore was still “safe.” But by 1978, our policy was just embarrassing. It was like we were still flying the Confederate flag after the Civil War; we were still playing Betamax when VHS was the worldwide standard. As such, I think the tension within the Church was at its height, and would have grown worse the longer we waited.

    This was probably the biggest factor that rattled my testimony. In my mind, racial equality is clearly divine, clearly god-like. I get that human beings are not divine, that we are prejudiced, that we hurt each other. But if God really does have “one true church” and one true “prophet” on this earth, and considering the importance of racial equality between all of God’s children, I would have expected His Church and His Prophet to be leading the charge, setting the example. I would have expected a revelation that lifted the PH ban to preceed the Civil Rights movement. I would have expected us to welcome Blacks into our midst before it was fashionable and safe to do so. That is what I expected based on my reading of the scriptures. That is how my boyhood prophet heroes acted. So to wait until the very end to set it right, to make amends… it feels cowardly. It’s like, “Gee, thanks for showing up, but we already did all the tough work.”

  23. Matt Thurston
    July 15, 2008 at 1:52 pm

    Not picking on WMP (#13), but let me respond to this as well:“I have no idea where the Church would be today if not for the 1978 revelation on the Priesthood. But the notion that the 1978 revelation = “capitulating to social trends,” ergo the church will likewise “capitulate” to the legalization of gay marriage makes little sense. (It also, of course, rests on the presumption that the 1978 revelation was not a revelation at all — that it was a choice made by the “Church” — and that the Church is therefore similarly free to make a choice, independent of God’s revealed will, regarding the legitimization of gay marriage.)”

    “Capitulating to social trends” is a harsh way to describe it, but there is way too much evidence throughout church history to not suggest that Society plays a strong role in Doctrine, Revelation, etc. We need not make this an either/or thing. I think there is plenty of room within the LDS definition of “revelation” to allow for the influence of Society. We don’t live in a vacuum. We accept truth from whence it comes. We share the world with other children of God. They too receive “revelation” and guidance from Heavenly Father. All of this is backed up by the statements of prophets since Joseph Smith. And prophets since Smith have described revelation as more of a line-upon-line process rather than a bolt-out-of-the-blue or face-to-face process. Even prophets see through a glass darkly. And we/they sometimes learn by trial and error.

    If you can’t see this, you are giving Prophets too much credit, and Society not enough credit. Or you are not reading LDS History written by any number of believing Mormon scholars. Society played a role in the endowment ceremony, the Word of Wisdom, the end of Polygamy, the original PH Ban, the end of the PH Ban, the Food Storage craze of the 70s, and on and on. But that doesn’t mean Revelation didn’t play a role as well. They work hand in hand.

  24. Cicero
    July 15, 2008 at 2:01 pm

    I would also like to see appeals to scripture and prophet pronouncements taken out of public discourse. You may see them as coming directly from god, but society as a whole has no way to verify the authenticity of such appeals. We are adults and can deal with each other as such.

    I really don’t care what society thinks about the scriptures and the prophets. You can depend on the wisdom of man if you wish; I will continue to use the scriptures and the prophets in my public statements. Whatcha gonna do about it? Besides calling me childish that is.

    These “temporary ban” ideas weren’t even on the radar screen until the 60s, at best, and even then they were uttered by one or two GA’s at best — and very carefully, softly at that. Why? Because the majority of the GA’s — and loudest, I would add — were still of the opposite opinion.

    During David O. McKay’s presidency the apostles met to discuss and vote on the issue of the Priesthood ban. Of the 14 apostles present (President McKay was too ill to participate at the time) 13 voted in favor of repealing the Priesthood ban. Harold B. Lee was the only apostle to vote in favor of keeping the ban- and his reasoning was that such a significant change should not be made when the Prophet was too ill to give his guidance. That does not sound to me like a majority of Apostles supported the ban. Bruce R. McConkie of course later supported the priesthood ban, and was quite loud about it, but I think you are mistaking loudness for numbers.

  25. WMP
    July 15, 2008 at 2:13 pm

    Matt,

    We can quibble about characterizations of the past, but I certainly agree with your point that the Church accepts light and truth wherever it is found. I also accept quite easily the idea that prophets are not perfect, that sometimes they get things wrong, and that they — like us — are expected to learn through experience. I don’t accept, however, that this means the Church will some day embrace gay marriage. Racial equality and the right for gays to marry simply are not analogous principles — legally or doctrinally.

    I still have not seen any citation to any comment by any Church leader which would even remotely suggest the “inevitable” shift in this doctrine. What am I missing?

  26. Imperfection
    July 15, 2008 at 2:24 pm

    24: You are missing the point, and nobody is calling you childish. In dealing with issues such as racism and homosexuality in society as a whole we can beat each other over the head with our own version of ‘god said..’ or we can deal with each other using common human principles of honesty and respect. The ban on the priesthood made it difficult for members of the church to do the later. We are falling into a similar situation with gays.

    Until we can put or own beliefs aside and deal with people of differing beliefs civilly church members will be marginalized in society.

  27. July 15, 2008 at 2:33 pm

    Re #21, (WMP)

    I’m not sure it’s hyperbolic to say that the Church would be in ruins today if its racial policy hadn’t changed. Can you name a single institution of any kind in America today that is officially racist in its policies?

    (And, yes, my personal belief is that the prior racist doctrine was never justified. I hope we can respectfully agree to disagree on this point.)

  28. WMP
    July 15, 2008 at 2:38 pm

    MoHoHawaii,

    From what I can tell (it may be shocking, but this is my first set of comments) respectful disagreement is the life blood of this site. 🙂

  29. July 15, 2008 at 2:40 pm

    I really don’t care what society thinks about the scriptures and the prophets. You can depend on the wisdom of man if you wish; I will continue to use the scriptures and the prophets in my public statements. Whatcha gonna do about it? Besides calling me childish that is.

    Cicero, chill. The point he was making is that amongst people of faith there is some weight to quoting scripture, but how do you find common ground with the rest? The understanding that I’ve always had of Mormonism is that we believe in the right for every person to be free to worship according to the dictates of their own conscience… so if we can’t agree on moralities that are common to us all, then we shouldn’t be making them enforced moralities (i.e. laws) If you outlaw one kind of peaceful lifestyle because it doesn’t fit one group’s specific moralities, that opens the door for other lifestyles (like, say, limited-access temple rituals for the dead) to be outlawed because other groups see that as outside their own specific morality.

    However, I kind of have to agree with Cicero in his earlier comment. Blacks/priesthood is not comparable to the gay issue, as long as its seen as being about actions rather than blood and heritage. Even though recently the church published a new pamphlet that kind of concedes that homosexuality may be biological for some people, the sin is clarified as not being gay, but living an active gay lifestyle. I’m not sure if that means only remaining celibate, or if that means not even having a celibate romantic relationship, but the point is that its still about the actions and choices of how to respond to being gay. The pamphlet also says that gay people who are faithful, although admittedly may be miserable in this life, will be granted the full glory (become straight) in the next life. Also, people with same-sex attraction are not restricted from any church privileges including temple recommends.

    That differs from the priesthood ban because technically, a gay person can have all the promises of the gospel if they only “make the right choices”. Thus, there is far less impetus for compassion than seeing thousands of Africans pining for preisthood blessings, or thousands of Brazilians laboring to build temples they could never attend.

  30. hawkgrrrl
    July 15, 2008 at 4:09 pm

    WMP – “From what I can tell (it may be shocking, but this is my first set of comments) respectful disagreement is the life blood of this site.” I respectfully disagree. Just kidding!

  31. July 15, 2008 at 5:42 pm

    My comments above were largely paraphrased from a post I had been working on today for SunstoneBlog, which, if interested, can be accessed by clicking on my name.

  32. Benjamin O
    July 16, 2008 at 7:43 am

    Clay (29),
    this is a very vital point, and one that cannot be overstated. At the same time, however, it is also important to remember the importance of making sure that we remember that the church’s recent statements about homosexuality are somewhat different that previous attitudes.

    That is, in years past, the church did not make the distinction between the behavior and the attraction. Frankly, I’m not sure that they have done so gladly, but doctrinally, I find this fascinating. From a purely intellectual theology, the implications are rather intriguing. It suggests to me that the church saying something like, ‘we recognize that you have a genetic predisposition for this sin, but, like those who are predisposed to be alcoholic, we are demanding that you overcome this weakness in the best fashion that you can’. And, like the alcoholic who does not drink, it extends to full church fellowship to the homosexual who remains celibate [or decides that they desire to marry an opposite-sex partner in full disclosure].

    Imagine the difference between this and the attitude that would have been taken in centuries past, where the mere idea of someone being attracted to the same sex would have gotten them killed or at least run out of town in almost any society. While I personally believe that homosexuality is a sin, I don’t believe that it is good to be intolerant of someone because of it. Dare I say that D&C 64:9-10 probably applies here? That if we cannot ‘forgive’ those who are different from us for just the fact that they are different, then we stand in greater condemnation than any sin that they may have because of that difference.

    So while my wife and I are very happily married, I really get upset by those who are quick to condemn people for the fact of their attractions. I also get upset by those who are quick to condemn the church for not endorsing SSM. It is under no obligation to do so, and hopefully never will be. Should it ever be required to do so, then I think we will have lost a very valuable set of freedoms in this world.

    Where would the church be if it had not changed its stance on priesthood for Black males? That’s hard to know, and as Aslan said, “No one is given to know ‘What If?'” (I’m paraphrasing, obviously). There’s a lot of wisdom in that. I suspect, however, that if not in 1978, then in 1980, or 1982. We know now that the revelation was to come, and it was mostly a matter of timing.

    Likewise, I suspect if Joseph Smith hadn’t prayed when did about which church to join, then perhaps it would have been a different young man. In 1820, or 1830. The church was to come forth in the early 1800s. God was going to bring it about, and it was only a matter of when, I think. What could have happened? We don’t know, and probably never will.

  33. Ray
    July 16, 2008 at 8:25 am

    Well said, Benjamin.

  34. July 16, 2008 at 11:25 am

    Christopher:

    Here’s what just struck me, reading your post for the second time: Official Declaration #2 (extended the priesthood to all worthy males) was probably as critical for the Church’s continued growth and success in 1978 as was Official Declaration #1 (ending, or starting the end of, the practice of polygamy) in 1890.

    In 1890, the Church had about 180,000 members in 32 stakes, mostly along the Rocky Mountains, and it only had 12 missions throughout the world. Without OD#1, the Church may well have ceased to exist as a recognizable entity due to Federal prosecution of Church leaders and seizure of Church properties.

    In 1978, the Church had over 4 million members in 990 stakes, with 166 missions worldwide, and had been growing very strongly (3-7%/year) for 25 years. From what I can see, the Church’s growth didn’t suddenly increase after OD#2 — it continued at pretty much the same range of rates until 1992, when it slowed down to consistently under 4%/year (and has been less than 3%/year since 2000). So it’s hard to argue that the Church would somehow have gone away or settled into a small niche without OD#2. The lack of OD#2 would have had minimal impact on the Church’s explosive growth throughout Latin America — with the possible exception of Brazil, though the Church was already turning something of a blind eye to the blacks/priesthood issue there. Likewise, there would have been little impact on the Church’s growth in Japan and the Philippines. So I suspect the Church would probably have at least doubled in size (to 8 million) by 2008 even with the priesthood ban in effect.

    However, without OD#2, I believe the Church would have increasingly become a pariah in the Anglosphere (US, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand) and especially in the media. If you think the media’s treatment and portrayals of the Church are bad now, imagine what they would be like were the priesthood ban still in effect in the year 2008. We would be lumped in with white supremacists and their ilk, and the Church would have little moral authority or influence — and likely little membership growth and most likely significant membership loss — within these countries.

    Likewise, the Church’s extensive and diverse humanitarian efforts would likewise be hindered by people refusing to accept aid from what would be perceived as a racist organization. What’s more, many foreign countries that frankly couldn’t care less about blacks and racism would nevertheless use the Church’s policy as a pretext to deny official status, missionary visas, and so on. And, of course, Evangelical Christians would have a very large club with which to beat us.

    In short, I think the Church would have become increasingly a Latin American/Filipino church, with its Anglosphere membership base shrinking and with little growth (or no presence at all) in most other countries. And that doesn’t begin to cover the negative impact on such areas as the hiring of LDS college graduates by corporations, the presence of Latter-day Saints in government, and academic engagement in Mormon studies. ..bruce..

  35. July 16, 2008 at 5:20 pm

    This has been a fantastic conversation, exceeding my hopes. The only thing I wish for was more analysis of the actual legal ramifications for the church if the priesthood ban had remained in effect through today. Other than that, I don’t have anything else to add on this part 1 that hasn’t already been said. I tend to agree that the consequences for the church could have been quite severe if we hadn’t lifted the priesthood ban.

    I did go ahead and program part 2 of this question to appear Monday the 21st, even though the dam holding back the gay marriage topic was already breached in this thread. Personally, I will be on vacation through the 24th, and when I return I will post my own answer to part 2 as a comment. (I already pre-posted my answer over on Matt Thurston’s Sunstone blog entry that he referenced above, a preliminary version of which he pre-posted here on Mormon Matters as comment on this thread. Hey, what’s the church’s policy on blog incest?).

  36. John Nilsson
    July 16, 2008 at 6:00 pm

    “In short, I think the Church would have become increasingly a Latin American/Filipino church, with its Anglosphere membership base shrinking and with little growth (or no presence at all) in most other countries. And that doesn’t begin to cover the negative impact on such areas as the hiring of LDS college graduates by corporations, the presence of Latter-day Saints in government, and academic engagement in Mormon studies. ..bruce..”

    I don’t mean to be snotty, but it seems like this describes the LDS Church today. Have you taken a look at the First Quorum of the Seventy lately? Growth in West Africa is the only thing you would need to add to your statement above to make it reflect today’s church.

  37. July 19, 2008 at 6:16 pm

    (John Nilsson) I don’t mean to be snotty, but it seems like this describes the LDS Church today. . . . Growth in West Africa is the only thing you would need to add to your statement above to make it reflect today’s church.

    Not snotty, but not at all accurate, either. As I noted, the worldwide Church membership in 1978 was about 4 million members; I would guess that roughly 75% of that — or 3 million — was within the ‘Anglosphere’. The US membership alone as of 2006 is 5.7 million; if you add in Canada (175k), the UK (180k), Australia (116k) and New Zealand (97k), that brings the Anglosphere membership up to 6 million, or double what is was 30 years ago. And that’s still the largest single component of Church membership; Latin America (including Mexico, Central America, and South America) adds up to about 4.5 million members; about 5 million if you throw in the Philippines as well. Africa (as of 2006) only accounts for another 255,000, so that’s not a factor in any case.

    What I was describing (go back and read my post) is a situation where the Anglosphere membership stagnates or even declines from 1978 figures — where we would still have 4 to 5 million in Latin America + the Philippines today, but 3 million or less in the Anglosphere. That’s a far different situation from what we have today, particularly when you include the ‘social pariah’ issues I brought up. ..bruce..

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