Evidences and Reconciliations 6/09/08

John Nilsson Mormon 53 Comments

For none of these iniquities come of the Lord; for he doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.
2 Nephi 26:33

These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not:  But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

Matthew 10: 5-6

Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:
Acts 10:34

[A]ny man having one drop of the seed of [Cain] … in him cannot hold the priesthood and if no other Prophet ever spake it before I will say it now in the name of Jesus Christ….

Brigham Young, quoted in Diary of Wilford Woodruff, January 16,1852

The limitation of priesthood responsibilities to men is a tribute to the incomparable place of women in the plan of salvation.
Boyd Packer, “A Tribute to Women”, Ensign, July 1989

Discuss, my friends:

Comments

comments

Comments 53

  1. hmmmm…..that quote by Boyd P. sounds like Orwellian doublethink to me.

    Brigham Young was incorrect accordingto the Missouri Thesis…which I adhere to.

    In terms of the NT, all I can say is speculate that it was not the right time…but that is just speculation and I do not really know.

  2. John, you’re Mormonism’s Peter Abelard. As you probably know, Abelard was one of originators of the university system who taught at the University of Paris in the early 12th century. He was also one of the great theorists of modern logic. In Sic et Non (“Yes and No”), he placed contradictory quotations from the scriptures and church fathers side-by-side, illustrating that you can use “appeals to authority” either to justify or reject any given position.

    Although this demonstrated to Medieval thinkers that appeals to authority prove nothing, when Mormons argue today they still routinely appeal to authority to “prove” their positions. If your goal is to get Mormons to stop that, I commend you with the Hosannah shout!

    In the meantime, while we wait for folks to accept logic and reject appeals to authority, I’m not sure what more we can say about your quotes except that they express contradictory ideas about whether God is universal or tribal.

  3. Wow….I didn’t think it was possible for someone to “adhere” to the Missouri Thesis anymore. When you get a chance, pick up any scholarship from the last thirty years; it’s pretty enlightening.

  4. “The limitation of priesthood responsibilities to men is a tribute to the incomparable place of women in the plan of salvation.”

    Baby factories ? Sorry, couldn’t resist.

  5. Ben….

    I adhere to the explanations that were given by Darius Gray and Margaret Young on John Dehlin’s podcast interview with them. If that is not the Missouri Thesis then I have mistakenly called it such.

    Newel Bringhurst wrote “Missouri Thesis revisited” in 2004…which further explains the idea…but I would say that my take is further revised and updated.

    Looking at the history…I find it more logical that BY got it wrong through hearsay bigotry due to the fact that the “ban” started in 1852…though we do not have the complete picture.

    However the “smartarse Ben”, who seems to be unfamiliar with common English….also seems to prefer to arrogantly scoff rather than enquire.

  6. The first three aren’t necessarily incompatible; the fourth simply is wrong – based on every statement of the prophets and apostles since 1978, particularly BRM’s repudiation; the final one is hard to understand, to say the least.

  7. I’ve learned never to read a scripture in isolation. To do so leads to incomplete doctrine. I think of doctinre on three levels: 1. True doctrine 2. False doctrine 3. Incomplete doctrine. Of the three, incomplete doctrine is the most challenging, as a general rule.

    There is opposition in all things, which means there are multiple sides to every doctrine. When a prophet is addressing one side of a doctrine there is always a companion scripture that addresses the other side and creates harmony. When two or more scripture are read then understanding is created, and truth becomes visible.

    For example, John N. listed 2 Nephi 26:33, Matt 10:5-6, and Acts 10:34. At first they appear to be contradictory until a harmonizing scripture is read. In this case I like the following scripture:

    Behold, the Lord esteemeth all flesh in one; he that is righteous is favored of God. But behold, this people had rejected every word of God, and they were ripe in iniquity; and the fulness of the wrath of God was upon them; and the Lord did curse the land against them, and bless it unto our fathers; yea, he did curse it against them unto their destruction, and he did bless it unto our fathers unto their obtaining power over it. 1 Nephi 17:35

    As for Brigham Young’s statement about the blood of Cain, I don’t consider this false doctrine. Incomplete doctrine is a better explanation. The Lord hasn’t revealed all there is to know about the whys and wherefores of blacks and the priesthood. But to rush to judgment on a prophet and say he was mislead, a fool, or something worse is wrong headed.

    As for Elder Packard’s statement. I will need to read the whole talk. I don’t understand what is being said.

  8. “As for Brigham Young’s statement about the blood of Cain, I don’t consider this false doctrine.”

    Jared, Bruce R. McConkie’s statement I have quoted in other locations identifies it as incorrect – spoken with limited light and understanding. He said to FORGET all the justifications used prior to the revelation in 1978 – and he included Brigham Young by name. That was his word – FORGET.

  9. “The Lord hasn’t revealed all there is to know about the whys and wherefores of blacks and the priesthood. But to rush to judgment on a prophet and say he was mislead, a fool, or something worse is wrong headed.”

    O RLY ?

    What about when he also said stuff like this :

    “For their abuse of [the Black African] race, the whites will be cursed, unless they repent.” (Journal of Discourses, Vol.10, p.110)

    “Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so. The nations of the earth have transgressed every law that God has given, they have changed the ordinances and broken every covenant made with the fathers, and they are like a hungry man that dreameth that he eateth, and he awaketh and behold he is empty.” (Prophet Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, v. 10, p. 110)

  10. “The Lord hasn’t revealed all there is to know about the whys and wherefores of blacks and the priesthood.”

    Could it be that we have rendered God forehead-slappingly speechless with our ignorance and bigotry?

  11. #11 – Who cares, in this context. He was raised in a bigoted time and environment; he was wrong; what he said should be forgotten. It’s really not complicated to me.

    Having said that, I believe I understand more fully, due to my experiences in the past, what it means for the Lord to weep for the hardness of the hearts of His children. Why can’t we allow that image to help change us and let go of what caused it in the first place?

  12. Stephen: I’m afraid we just suffer from a misunderstood term. The classic definition for the “Missouri Thesis” is Joseph changing his mind on allowing blacks to hold the priesthood after the encounter with Missourians. Darius and Margaret definitely do not hold this view, and Bringhurst is openly confronting it in his article. If you agree with them, then I agree with you as well. I apologize for my “smartarse” tone.

    I’m glad we “adhere” to similar principles on this. 😉

  13. Ray–

    “#13 – Who cares, in this context. He was raised in a bigoted time and environment; he was wrong; what he said should be forgotten.”

    I agree with you. Why does this issue keep coming up? Too many mormons think that prophets are supposed to be infallible. There is a prominant view in the church today that ANYTHING a prophet says is virtually infallible. And when a prophet says, “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ …”, their pronouncement is CERTAINLY infallible. So when faced with a horrible quote from Brigham Young, people tend to think that what he said must have been the inspired word of God, but “we just don’t understand it fully” or “it was right at the time, but not now”.

    BRM may have addressed this years ago. For those of us who weren’t around for his remarks, a modern reminder would be good. The Church is sooooo bad at apologizing for things, though. It is as if they think that it will ruin the church to ever admit fault in any way. Pres. Hinckley’s comments in the priesthood session of conference a couple of years ago seemed well intentioned but could have done as much harm as good. He basically said that anyone who thinks that the priesthood shouldn’t be given to blacks is arrogant and not a disciple of Christ. He effectively labeled Brigham Young and all of his successors down to Spencer W. Kimball as ‘arrogant’ and not true followers of Christ–all while making it look like the church had a clear, consistent position on the issue. Who did he think he was fooling?

    Your take on it is probably acceptable to most people–“He was wrong, he was influenced by the thinking of his time, forget about it, its in the past”. Less acceptable are the responses that we normally get from the church: 1) acting like it never happened, 2) “We don’t know why God did this”, 3) “It was right then, but not now”, 4) “We have an incomplete understanding of the doctrine”, 5) “The Lord hasn’t revealed all there is to know about this”, 6) “We shouldn’t rush to say that the prophet was misled”, etc.

  14. “Less acceptable are the responses that we normally get **from the church**:”

    1) acting like it never happened,

    Not getting this from the Church.

    2) “We don’t know why God did this”,

    Perfectly reasonable response, since it was speculation that got us in trouble in the first place. (Also, not getting this regarding the ban from the the Church.)

    3) “It was right then, but not now”,

    Not getting this from the Church regarding the ban.

    4) “We have an incomplete understanding of the doctrine”,

    Perfectly acceptable response, but not getting it from the Church regarding the ban. The “doctrine” (the justifications) have been and continue to be repudiated in very clear terms.

    5) “The Lord hasn’t revealed all there is to know about this”,

    Perhaps the best response of all.

    6) “We shouldn’t rush to say that the prophet was misled”, etc.

    Again, very reasonable, in general. If we reach that conclusion carefully, without rushing, we reach that conclusion. Actually, that is the way the reflection on the ban has developed “from the Church” – through slow and careful contemplation.

    Regarding Pres. Hinckley’s words regarding racism, they in no way HAVE to be interpreted to mean they applied to people prior to the ban. In fact, it’s very hard to parse his words and reach that conclusion. He was speaking in the hear and now; **NOTHING he said was spoken in the past tense.** To claim that he “labeled previous Prophets as “arrogant” and “not true followers of Christ” is a GARGANTUAN linguistic leap – and something he **obviously** didn’t believe.

  15. “5) “The Lord hasn’t revealed all there is to know about this”,

    Perhaps the best response of all. ”

    Maybe this sounds good if you are a lawyer for the church. If you are someone who finds the old practice to be offensive, this isn’t a very good response at all. A simple, ‘it was wrong’ works so much better.

    “In fact, it’s very hard to parse his words and reach that conclusion.”

    The quote is: “How can any man holding the Melchizedek Priesthood arrogantly assume that he is eligible for the priesthood whereas another who lives a righteous life but whose skin is of a different color is ineligible?” I think that you have do serious parsing to assume that this applies only to a certain time period. When does this apply? Is it only applicable to when he said it onward? Where do you get the idea that it only applies to a certain time frame?

  16. #17 Ray, your point #1, I think I disagree. I think the church does try to put forth the idea that it didn’t really happen. At least, the Sheldon F. Child quotes in the newspaper article last week, and Alexander B. Morrison’s General Conference talk in 2000 in which he said there has NEVER been RACISM in the church, seem like, the church taking that position. And, I’m not going to accept the old line about them speaking as men, and offering personal opinion, in both cases they were speaking as authorized representatives of the church.

    Your point #3 & 2, in an interview with on Australian TV, President Hinckley seemed to make those points exactly:

    COMPASS:: So in retrospect was the Church wrong in that [denying blacks the priesthood]?

    HINCKLEY: No I don’t think it was wrong. It, things, various things happened in different periods. There’s a reason for them.

    COMPASS: What was the reason for that?

    HINCKLEY: I don’t know what the reason was.

    He said it wasn’t wrong in that period of time, and that there was a reason for it, but that he doesn’t know what the reason was.

    That sounds surprisingly like, “It was right then, but not now” and “We don’t know why God did this.”

    Furthermore, in his 60 Minutes interview he didn’t repudiate it, said simply that the leaders at that time interpreted it that way, and when pressed by Wallace, he brushed it off without answering and wanted to change the subject.

    So, it seems to me that the Church is doing exactly these things. And, it is very confusing to understand why they would do that.

  17. Ben Says…Stephen: I’m afraid we just suffer from a misunderstood term. The classic definition for the “Missouri Thesis” is Joseph changing his mind on allowing blacks to hold the priesthood after the encounter with Missourians. Darius and Margaret definitely do not hold this view, and Bringhurst is openly confronting it in his article. If you agree with them, then I agree with you as well. I apologize for my “smartarse” tone.

    I’m glad we “adhere” to similar principles on this.

    Ben…you are a bigger and kinder man then myself. Thank you for enlightening me and clarifying my confusion and ignorance.

  18. Arthur – There are a couple of ways to look at the rationale for the ban:

    Hinckley’s assumption – the priesthood is given to specific groups at specific times (e.g. originally was Levites only, later expanded). That’s the view I’ve also heard Gladys Knight express. I’m assuming that was Hinckley’s assumption based on his statements. Many share this view.

    Products of their time – Most of us on this site (including me) seem to be more in the “those guys living in unenlightened times were racists” camp, and it’s usually because there are racist statements out there (folklore, we call it) made by various leaders because they were trying to explain to themselves and others why there was this restriction on the priesthood. They borrowed this racist rhetoric from the (segregationalist) protestant churches (Curse of Cain/Sons of Ham) to explain it.

    Under Hinckley’s assumption, the ban itself would not be grounds for apology. I’d personally like to hear at least an apology for the racist statements those (now dead) leaders made. If you’re in the “products of their time” camp, you would see the ban itself as an extention of racist sentiment worthy of an apology. Based on JS’s practices, there’s a case to be made there.

  19. #8 Ray, regarding Bruce R. McConkie’s statement to “just forget it”, isn’t that only another appeal to authority? Why is that appeal to authority any more valid than one from 10 years before.

    And retouching on GBH’s “I don’t know” statements. I find them very hard to believe. He was a member of the Twelve when they had extensive discussions about the blacks and the priesthood thing in 1978, both individually with President Kimball, and as a group. I think he knew a lot more than he let on. I have to admit, that seeing President Hinckley be untruthful has done more to shake my testimony than just about anything else I can find.

    He was there with N. Eldon Tanner, Mark E. Petersen, Bruce R. McConkie, etc. He was a church employee and knew the First Presidency that wrote those awful statements in the 1940’s and 1951 stating that it was in fact “doctrine” and it was directly from God.

    President Hinckley knew Joseph Fielding Smith personally, has to have known that President Smith thought “Darkies are wonderful people”. He served with Mark E. Petersen and had to know that to deny the priesthood to the black was no more than he deserved, (because of his own lack of valiance in the pre-existence) and that it was possible even in 1954 for blacks to get to the Celestial Kingdom “as servants.”

    In short, President Hinckley, a brilliant man, had to know the REAL reason. The real reason is inescapable. Our church leaders were RACISTS.

    So, admit it, and move on. Trying to gloss over it with half truths, is simply a dumb idea, and beneath a brilliant man like President Hinckley. But, it is hard to square “racist” with “inspired prophet who receives direct revelation from God.” I think the fear is that if we admit to our past, we will be admitting our church is false. President Hinckley has drawn the line in the sand many times with statements such as “It’s all true, or its’ all a complete fraud.”

    But, this idea that our previous leaders were simply wrong does bring up a very logical question: Is our current ban on women holding the priesthood or on allowing practicing homosexuals to be members equally inspired? I think that is the significance of the BKP quote above. Sure seems similar to me. And, statements by leaders, who have said that engaging in homosexual acts are an “abomination” sound strikingly similar to some of Brigham Young’s statements about blacks.

    I think that we as a church should carefully re-examine these things, and see if they will withstand inspection. I suspect we might find lots of things that won’t stand up. And, if we do, admit it and go forward. I don’t think it will be proving our church false, I think it will prove our church courageous.

  20. #21
    I can assume that they were uninspired racists who were products of their time.

    Does it logically follow then that our current leaders are uninspired sexists and homophobes who are similarly products of their time?

    If all these prophets (except possibly Joseph Smith) are all products of their time (and in fact 1978 was VERY LATE to come to the Civil Rights table) then I’m not sure what good they are doing us. They are teaching us yesterday’s stuff, rather than tomorrow’s stuff.

    I just don’t get it.

  21. Arthur – “Does it logically follow then that our current leaders are uninspired sexists and homophobes who are similarly products of their time? . . . They are teaching us yesterday’s stuff, rather than tomorrow’s stuff.” Perhaps they are products of their time on these topics, and hopefully it has occurred to you that perhaps we are products of our time as well. I would not go so far as to say they are “uninspired” across all topics. Plus, we see ourselves as being so enlightened on these topics, we don’t seem to be wanting counsel on them. Frankly, my parents have said things I consider as being racist, but BTW I still learned tons from them – just not on that topic. That doesn’t invalidate everything they have ever said or done. Was it right? No. Does it get me off the hook on the “honor thy parents” stuff? No.

    Also, just because you and I think the “products of their time” theory is a more accurate assumption, there are many who believe Hinckley’s assumption is the more accurate. Who’s to say they are not right? And speaking of “products of our time”–people of the older generation don’t believe in apologizing for everything, such as things that other people said, like we do today. We love apologies, the more the better. To me it seems like a byproduct of being a gerontocracy. Hinckley spoke and acted according to his assumption, not according to yours or mine.

  22. Ok, hawkgrrl, I’m a product of my time. I get that. I still love President Hinckley, despite that fact that some of these things disappoint me (perhaps similar to your comments about your parents).

    And, in looking back at your post, I thought you said uninspired, but you said they lived in unenightened times.

    But, I thought their function was to enlighten us.

    Again, it seems like we are constantly having to play believe both sides of an argument. They don’t bring enlightenment on these key issues of our time, because they are products of an unenightened era. Because they don’t bring enlightenment on these key issues, we should look to them for enlightenment on other issues, and, it seems, we should look to them for enlightenment on settled matters, i.e. matters that don’t require enlightenment.

    These were the burning questions of the time, 1950’s & 60’s Brown v Board of Education, Integration of Little Rock Schools, Integration of Ole Miss, Montgomery Bus Boycott, MLK March to Selma, Murder of MLK, etc. We sure could have used enlightened leadership and direction from God’s spokesman. But we didn’t get it.

    So, the question seems to be then, what enlightened leadership are we not getting now?

  23. Arthur –
    “it seems like we are constantly having to play believe both sides of an argument” That’s a foregone conclusion when dealing with human beings, and believe me, church leaders are human beings, as are we.

    “These were the burning questions of the time, 1950’s & 60’s Brown v Board of Education, et al.” Race was a burning issue of the 50s and 60s, but prior to that it was not a burning social issue, and many many racist statements were made prior to that. BY was long dead by then, and he said many of the worst ones. The term “racist” wasn’t even coined in BY’s lifetime.

    “They don’t bring enlightenment on these key issues of our time, because they are products of an unenightened era.” This is an interesting conundrum. Should we have young leaders, who are PC like us and up on the trends of our day, with whom we can relate, or should we revere and learn from our elders, even though they hale from less enlightened times? We expect our leaders to completely transcend their times (as proof they are prophets or so they can tell us the future?), and I can see evidence that they have far more maturity and personal experience than most of us have; therefore, they have counsel to offer that is valuable. “it seems, we should look to them for enlightenment on settled matters, i.e. matters that don’t require enlightenment.” That those matters don’t require enlightenment or are settled is a matter of opinion; the test of life remains essentially the same, regardless of the era into which one is born. Theoretically, all counsel from the prophets is to help us become more righteous.

    My own opinion is that I prefer for the church to focus on matters related to our salvation, living the commandments and so forth. Obviously, for someone who is homosexual, that is a problem, and I am concerned about that issue. I’m not bucking to get priesthood callings, and not having it hasn’t held me back in any meaningful way, so I fail to see that as a key issue. I prefer the church not make a stand on global warming, for example. In these cases (race, sexual equality, homosexuality) what I hear is a gradual softening of language and a focus on valuing individuals as the years go by. But, I don’t need to be commanded in all things either.

  24. #24 — “And speaking of “products of our time”–people of the older generation don’t believe in apologizing for everything, such as things that other people said, like we do today. We love apologies, the more the better.”

    I think we do over-apologize for things that were done before we were born. I don’t think that its critical that the church apologizes. I do think that it would be helpful if the church acknowledged that it was wrong. It doesn’t have to be “I’m sorry on behalf of the church for …”, just a simple “some of the policies regarding race that were set in place in the 1850s were influenced by the times and were wrong”. As has been discussed, however, I’m not sure that the leadership of the church actually believes that the policies were wrong. The official story seems to be that they were right at the time, but not now. (See Hinckley quote in #19 above, ‘I don’t think it was wrong’).

    #25,26 — “We sure could have used enlightened leadership and direction from God’s spokesman. But we didn’t get it.”

    It would be a testimony builder if the leadership of the church had a track record of being ‘ahead of their time’. Joseph Smith might have been ahead of his time on race issues, but any good that he did in this area was reversed by Brigham Young. Sticking with polygamy until the government made it very painful didn’t really seem like the church was ‘ahead of its time’, either. Perhaps the best positive example of being ‘ahead of the times’ is the Word of Wisdom, but even this is a mixed bag. Smoking is definitely a bad thing. Coffee, tea, and alcohol in moderation really aren’t bad for you and many studies have shown some health benefits to each. (I know, I know — its not all about physical health, its about spiritual health or just blindly obeying).

  25. *sigh*

    We simply expect different things from our prophets. If I reject our modern prophets because they were spectacularly wrong on certain things, while being incredibly inspired on others, then there have been no legitimate prophets in the history of the world. If that is our standard, God has never spoken to mankind – and, by extension, there might as well not be a God. That’s not hyperbole; if prophets have to be infallible, even on “important stuff”, there ain’t no such thing as prophets.

    To the specific question, and this is CRITICAL –

    The central messages from the 1978 revelation appear to have been twofold.

    1) ALL worthy male members now were entitled to the priesthood.
    2) God wanted His prophets and apostles to stop speculating about things that had not been revealed. McConkie’s statement at BYU was instructive for that very reason. He said, essentially, that the problem arose from prophets talking about things with only a limited light and understanding. That leads directly now to “I don’t know” when an apostle or prophet has not received personal revelation concerning something.

    I probably should follow that advice more often, but I don’t speak for the Church. Apostles and Prophets do. (Look at Elder Benson vs. Pres. Benson. The difference is striking.) Hence, they have been MUCH more reticent to give personal opinions lately when asked about things where there has been no direct revelation.

    If we criticize BY and BRM for their incorrect speculation, then criticize Pres. Hinckley and current leaders for their unwillingness to speculate, we have created an un-winnable situation. They are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

    “I don’t know” is a reasonable answer, ESPECIALLY if the question dealt with the reason for the ban itself, not just the justifications for it. I **believe** it was not God’s will and was, instead, the result of the bigotry of the time – but I can’t say I KNOW that bigotry was the reason for the ban. I can only say that I believe I know that the **justifications** for it were the result of bigotry. There is a difference, and it’s not a trivial one.

  26. #28 – “We simply expect different things from our prophets. If I reject our modern prophets because they were spectacularly wrong on certain things, while being incredibly inspired on others, then there have been no legitimate prophets in the history of the world.”

    Its not being ‘spectacularly wrong’ that is the problem. It is being ‘spectacularly wrong’ and then not admitting that you were ever wrong. And not only were you not wrong, what you did was actually God’s will at the time–but now He wants something different, but we don’t know why.

    “If we criticize BY and BRM for their incorrect speculation, then criticize Pres. Hinckley and current leaders for their unwillingness to speculate, we have created an un-winnable situation. They are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.”

    Ray–just a piece of personal advice–you use the ‘damned if they do and damned if they don’t’ thing too frequently and in cases where it doesn’t apply at all. BY’s ‘speculation’ resulted in over a hundred years of policy that was stated as official doctrine on a number of occasions. The problem, though, is not being wrong on the ‘speculation’, the problem is not admitting that you were wrong on your ‘speculation’. There’s no un-winnable situation here–just admit that it was speculation and that it was wrong. The church doesn’t seem willing to do that though (again, see Hinckley in #19 saying that it wasn’t ever wrong).

  27. Bill, the Church has admitted that the speculations were wrong – multiple times. Again, Pres. Hinckley’s statement was about the ban itself – NOT the speculations about it.

    Think about it:

    If you believe there has not been a direct revelation concerning why the ban was instituted, offering any opinion about it constitutes speculation. As strongly as I feel about it, I understand that my promptings and experiences don’t constitute God’s word for the entire Church and world. Frankly, and this is important, I’m not in position to ascertain if the root is strong enough for that kind of pruning yet – assuming I’m right, and that’s an assumption. I certainly hope and think it is, but I can’t say that with certainty. Given how that allegory is how I’ve come to understand the ban, I can’t demand any statement from the leadership stronger than what already are incredibly strong statements.

    Short of a straightforward statement of, “The ban was not God’s will and was the result **solely** of human racism,” I just don’t see how the Church could be any clearer than it has been. I am willing to grant them the benefit of the doubt and not accuse them of lying when they say, “I don’t know” – that, absent direct revelation on the “why”, all they can do is repudiate the justifications and condemn residual racism in the Church. They have done that clearly.

    So, it appears to me that many people want our leaders to go beyond what probably has been revealed directly and state their opinions, while castigating former leaders for stating their opinions as doctrine. The extremes mentioned constantly are BRM and GBH, and yet BOTH get bashed – one for making clear claims and the other for not doing so.

    This really is a case of “damned if they do; damned if they don’t”, imo.

  28. There is an interesting post on “Keepapitchinin” about the concept of Mother in Heaven that is relevant to the general discussion of speculation. I certainly don’t want to turn this thread into a discussion of the concept of Mother in Heaven, but I think it might be worth reading that post and the subsequent comments. #34 is particularly relevant to this post.

    http://www.keepapitchinin.org/?p=54

  29. Arthur – In all its glory, Elder Holland’s rebuttal on the folklore associated with the priesthood ban:

    “One clear-cut position is that the folklore must never be perpetuated. … I have to concede to my earlier colleagues. … They, I’m sure, in their own way, were doing the best they knew to give shape to [the policy], to give context for it, to give even history to it. All I can say is however well intended the explanations were, I think almost all of them were inadequate and/or wrong. …

    “It probably would have been advantageous to say nothing, to say we just don’t know, and, [as] with many religious matters, whatever was being done was done on the basis of faith at that time. But some explanations were given and had been given for a lot of years. … At the very least, there should be no effort to perpetuate those efforts to explain why that doctrine existed. I think, to the extent that I know anything about it, as one of the newer and younger ones to come along, … we simply do not know why that practice, that policy, that doctrine was in place.

    “Some of the folklore [includes]. . . suggestions that there were decisions made in the pre-mortal councils where someone had not been as decisive in their loyalty to a Gospel plan or the procedures on earth or what was to unfold in mortality, and that therefore that opportunity and mortality was compromised. I really don’t know a lot of the details of those, because fortunately I’ve been able to live in the period where we’re not expressing or teaching them, but I think that’s the one I grew up hearing the most, was that it was something to do with the pre-mortal councils. … But I think that’s the part that must never be taught until anybody knows a lot more than I know. … We just don’t know, in the historical context of the time, why it was practiced. … That’s my principal [concern], is that we don’t perpetuate explanations about things we don’t know. …

    “We don’t pretend that something wasn’t taught or practice wasn’t pursued for whatever reason. But I think we can be unequivocal and we can be declarative in our current literature, in books that we reproduce, in teachings that go forward, whatever, that from this time forward, from 1978 forward, we can make sure that nothing of that is declared. That may be where we still need to make sure that we’re absolutely dutiful, that we put [a] careful eye of scrutiny on anything from earlier writings and teachings, just [to] make sure that that’s not perpetuated in the present. That’s the least, I think, of our current responsibilities on that topic. …”

  30. #30–“Bill, the Church has admitted that the speculations were wrong – multiple times. Again, Pres. Hinckley’s statement was about the ban itself – NOT the speculations about it.”

    Maybe its my fault for not being more clear. I’ve considered the ‘ban itself’ to be part of the speculation. I don’t think it had anything to do with revelation and I don’t know that the church has anything to document that there ever was any revelation that started the ‘ban’. The church continues to say that the ban was not wrong. This issue will largely ‘go away’ when the church just says that the ban was wrong. Maybe we’ll have to wait a while for that.

    Lets say I join some fictional social club and I find out that it had a racist past. A lot of people and organizations were racist in the past, so it really doesn’t bother me, as long as: 1) the organization is not racist now, and 2) the organization has denounced its past racism. The church fails on item #2. If my fictional social club said that ‘we aren’t racists now, but we weren’t really wrong to be racist in the past’, this would be offensive to most people.

  31. Bill – you are applying your assumption to the church, and the church doesn’t agree. “The church continues to say that the ban was not wrong.” They say they don’t understand it, not that it wasn’t wrong. They have said they can’t find that it was a revealed doctrine, just a practice. “This issue will largely ‘go away’ when the church just says that the ban was wrong. Maybe we’ll have to wait a while for that.” I’m not sure the issue will go away in that scenario. The church has reason to believe that the “ban” was not due to racism. You clearly disagree. To say it was due to racism when that is not known is to speculate. The difference between our church and the protestant churches that apologized for their racist practices is that our church claims ongoing revelation; protestant churches do not. The church is not stating the ban was racist because they don’t know if it was. You can’t expect them to operate under your assumption just because you can’t see the possibility of any other explanation.

  32. Last night I prepared an extensive response, including some comments about “speculation” from Apostle Mark E. Petersen. His comments were essentially that there was no speculation as to the FACT that God had placed a curse on the Negro, but that it would be unwise to speculate on the lifting of the curse. He said this in the presence of the prophet, and made a specific question posed to the prophet, the prophet didn’t object, and Petersen continued his racist remarks.

    Last night I had not read Delbert Stapley’s “personal opinion” letter written on “Council of the Twelve” letterhead.

    Notwithstanding Joseph’s ordination of a few black men (and also some women) to the priesthood, I had not yet encountered his written statements about blacks, slavery, etc.

    I found many, many other highly racist statements made by church leaders.

    The evidence is overwhelming that the church leadership was highly racist.

    Again, the church leaders don’t say the ban was wrong. As pointed out before:

    COMPASS:: So in retrospect was the Church wrong in that [denying blacks the priesthood]?

    HINCKLEY: No I don’t think it was wrong. It, things, various things happened in different periods. There’s a reason for them.

    COMPASS: What was the reason for that?

    HINCKLEY: I don’t know what the reason was.

    So, the Prophet said the ban wasn’t wrong. Even Apostle Holland’s PBS interview says that the previous leaders who tried to give an explanation to the ban were wrong for speculating, he’s still not saying the ban itself was wrong.

    Holland on PBS: “All I can say is however well intended the explanations were, I think almost all of them were inadequate and/or wrong. …”

    So, where does that leave us. We had a ban that to any objective modern analysis looks like a racist ban. We have historical evidence that church leaders were racists and taught that the ban was church doctrine, directly commanded by God, and testified to as such by prophets and apostles in their official capacities as representatives of God and of the Church. We have modern prophets and apostles who don’t say the ban was in any way wrong, but that we just don’t know why there was a ban. These modern apostles who refuse to say that the ban itself was wrong, say that any of the explanations given for the ban were “inadequate and/or wrong”. How do these modern apostles, who refuse to say the ban was wrong, know that the explanations given by prophets and apostles were wrong?

    Didn’t President Benson say that the President doesn’t have to speak in terms of “Thus Saith the Lord . . . ” for the teachings of the Prophet to be binding? And further, why, if modern apostles, who refuse to say the ban was wrong, state that previous apostles and prophets explanations were wrong, are not those modern apostles engaging in EXACTLY the same “speculation” that they accuse their predecessors of doing?

    What is it that makes these modern guys right that the previous explanations were incorrect? Among the arguments presented is the argument that “There was no recorded revelation received that explained the ban” so therefore anything they said was just speculation. (This seems clearly to be the opposite of President Benson’s teaching, above, but we can let that go for the moment.) If there has not similarly been a recorded revelation received that explained that the previous explanation was wrong, then why is the current position any better than the previous one? If, as some apologists would have us believe, we have to have received recorded revelations for it to be doctrine.

    But, this is an effort in futility. I came here seeking truth. Starting with just before I first came to Mormon Matters, I have done very much research in the last couple of weeks. I can honestly say that the standards of reason that many early church leaders said we should apply to our church, tell me clearly that all is not well in Zion.

    I don’t know where to go from here, but I don’t think that I can find truth with you folks. I seriously hope each of you can find truth. I won’t attempt to tell you what that truth is, because obviously, as I have maintained from the very beginning, I am confused. What is disconcerting to me, is that church doctrine seems to be confusing me more, not clearing things up.

    I wish you well.

  33. Arthur Davis–“but I don’t think that I can find truth with you folks.”

    Despite the fact that I think that Ray and hawkgrrrl are pushing hopelessly indefensible positions, you should be aware that you can learn something from these people–even if it isn’t on this particular subject. I’ve learned from both of them and value their opinions, even though their views are often very different from mine.

  34. Bill – Thx for the props. In this case, I think you could substitute the names of some of the racist church leaders for Ray’s and my names and also be correct.

    Arthur – I’m just trying to clarify why (IMO) the church hasn’t officially said that the ban was racist. I am of the opinion that they believe the ban existed because the body of priesthood holders is always limited. While they have a point upheld by scriptural precedent, my personal opinion is that the ban was indeed racist in its origin (as you have concluded). Was the ban a material impediment to anyone’s salvation? That’s probably a more important question. I’d have to answer a qualified yes.

  35. Arthur, we are obviously talking past each other, as I have said over and over and over and over that I believe the ban and the subsequent justifications were not what God would have wanted in the ideal and were due to the racism of the time. Let me try one more comment, then I will stop:

    There is a HUGE difference between something not being God’s ideal and something being “wrong” – in the sense that it “should” have been done differently. Let me use my own life as an example, first.

    There are things I do that are not according to God’s ideal. In a vacuum, they are – each and every one – “wrong”. There also are things that my wife does that, in isolation, are “wrong”. ***I flat out refuse, however, to insist that she change those things now – and I refuse to nag her and publicly say that she “should” be able to stop right this instant.*** As long as she (and I) is sincere in her heart and is trying to change, I accept FULLY her current ability to live the best she knows how – **despite those areas where she still falls short of her own and God’s ideal.** She is who she is, and I love her dearly and unconditionally. I don’t apologize for her in public; that would be judgmental and even more “wrong” than her weaknesses are in and of themselves.

    **Why do we assume that the early Church (meaning its living and breathing members, NOT the impersonal organizational entity), had to have been able to have our current racial understanding and acceptance – and why do we feel the need to apologize for them? Merciful heavens, they sacrificed and suffered in ways that I’m sure would have destroyed me. Just because they couldn’t rise above their racism, why should we condemn them? Why should we insist that God should have MADE them do what they couldn’t do – be who they couldn’t be – and why do we assume God isn’t crying over our own inabilities to live His law even while allowing us to stumble in our own weakness?

    I believe, personally, that God allowed the ban to exist and continue as long as it did specifically because He is so gracious and merciful and loving toward His children. I desperately want Him to treat me that way, so I strive to allow Him to have treated racist but otherwise wonderful people the same way. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” I can’t express how much I desire to obtain mercy, and if all that requires is that I quit demanding others be who they aren’t ready to be – in this case, to quit demanding current leaders claim to know what they simply don’t know – then that is something I am willing to do.

    Do I think the ban **originated** from God – that God revealed it to the Church? NO. Do I think God allowed it to happen without forcing revelation that the Church probably couldn’t have handled? Yes. Do I believe that inter-racial temple marriage would have caused schisms in a church soon to be torn by the practice then cessation of polygamy – perhaps destroying it in its relative infancy? Perhaps, and I lean toward, Yes. I believe the ban was the product of racism, but I’m not sure it was “wrong” – in that I’m not sure it could have been different, given the composition of the membership and the time in which they lived. Just as a start, to avoid the ban, someone else other than Brigham Young would have had to have been the prophet, and I’m not sure the Church would have survived without The Lion of the Lord at its helm during those years. The more I study the more I believe that, even with his flaws and speculation and strong- and sometimes narrow-minded opinions, he literally saved the Church during those hellish years.

    The point is, I don’t know if it was “wrong” in that sense. I just don’t know. So I have no problem when the leaders say they don’t know.

  36. #39 Ray, I sincerely hope you don’t really believe this statement that you made:

    “I believe, personally, that God allowed the ban to exist and continue as long as it did specifically because He is so gracious and merciful and loving toward His children.”

    Which of his children was God merciful and loving to: the white ones? Because it sure doesn’t appear he was merciful and loving toward his black ones.

    I’m glad you can find a way to believe that racist discrimination was not wrong. I simply cannot. Perhaps that means I am a product of my time, I don’t know. I would have a very hard time worshiping the God you describe.

    In a church that teaches about God being the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, and all of the other folklore or doctrine or policy that we must Heed the Call of the Prophet, Listen to the Prophet. We teach our children in primary to sing Follow the Prophet, he knows the way. We create a culture whereby we insist everyone follow the prophet, but then when they screw up we claim that the prophet isn’t infallible, and even then, aren’t able to actually call anything a prophet did a mistake.

    We teach that you must follow the prophet, but then when we later don’t like what the prophet taught, we say, oh, that was never doctrine, even if 10 prophets and all of their counselors and all of the apostles of the time said it was doctrine, it really wasn’t. And, of course we know that now, because we have the true doctrine, you see, we know the doctrine is true now because the prophet says it is, and so do his counselors and the Twelve.

    If the former prophets and apostles can’t make true doctrine, then why can the current ones?

  37. The term “doctrine” as applied by the church pre-supposes that there was an originating revelation (e.g. most unique doctrines have correlating revelations in D&C). There is no recorded revelation announcing the ban. Just a bunch of racist explanations of why the ban was in place. The term “doctrine” according to the dictionary just means “teachings.” So, the ban was doctrine according to the dictionary, but not according to the Mormon use of the term.

  38. As I said, Arthur, we are talking past each other. Most of what you say in #40 is in response to what I have NEVER said and totally ignores the overall point I made. Even the first quote is addressed in a way that ignores and misconstrues most of what I said in my own comment.

    I defined “wrong” in a very specific way – one that is a legitimate dictionary definition and is used in other areas regularly. I also said over and over and over again that I personally see the ban as “wrong” in the sense of being out of harmony with what would constitute the ideal. I simply said that I can see how the ban might have been unavoidable – and if it was unavoidable, I’m not sure it was “wrong” in the more narrow sense.

    If you are going to critique what I say, at least critique what I actually say – not what others have said but I personally have repudiated multiple times. Please.

  39. One more comment, since it is SO egregious:

    “I would have a very hard time worshiping the God you describe.” Here is what I described:

    The God I described wants us to love each other unconditionally, but He doesn’t step in and force us to do what He wants us to do. (Do you want that?) He teaches correct principles then weeps when we don’t live them, but He doesn’t demand that we do what we can’t do. (Do you want that?) He doesn’t condemn us for our weaknesses (Do you want that?), but He also doesn’t condemn those we hurt through our stupidity. (You obviously don’t want that, based on your comment.) He is merciful and patient and gracious and generous – and just, as He also withholds blessings that would be ours if we would repent and become who He wants us to become. (Do you want that?)

    If you can’t worship that God, if you want a God who wields a hammer and a sword and forces things on us that we aren’t ready to bear (who makes us do the ideally “right” thing all the time), then we really are at the end of this discussion. That’s a God I can’t worship – and it’s a God I explicitly rejected at one stage in my eternal progression.

  40. #41
    This is an old, tired unbelieveable argument.

    What then does it mean when the Prophet says in conference that it what the President of the Church says is “scripture” even if the Prophet didn’t say, “Thus saith the Lord . . .”

    And, again why should we ever act on anything any of them say, if none of it is doctrine?

    We teach that these people are “Special Witnesses” that the prophet Speaks for God.

    And, in the specific case we are talking about, The First Presidency actually put in writing, signed by all three, that it WAS doctrine. If they were wrong, and it wasn’t doctrine, why should ever listen to them in ANYTHING, if even when they tell us it is doctrine, it really isn’t? How’s a guy supposed to know. I thought the God’s Prophet of the One True Church should at least know what is doctrine.

    Even Elder Holland referred to it as doctrine. “we simply do not know why that practice, that policy, that doctrine was in place.”

    We have to do back flips and mental gymnastics to claim it wasn’t doctrine, because otherwise it means that somebody has to have TAUGHT FALSE DOCTRINE.

    “So, the ban was doctrine according to the dictionary, but not according to the Mormon use of the term.” Well, Holland, McConkie, McKay, Clark, G.A. Smith, Petersen, etc. were all Mormons, and they used the term. So, clearly it was MORMON DOCTRINE. (It was even in a book by the same name.) Let’s do more mental and linquistic gymnastics, parse some words, split some hairs, etc. That is the way the leaders teach, after all, isn’t it? Or no, do they teach in broad clear doctrines and principles. And, when they tell us that these are broad clear doctrines and principles, our instruction is to doubt them. No, our instruction is to follow them.

    It was doctrine both by dictionary and Mormon use of the term. You and I both know it. So does Elder Sheldon F. Child, who said it wasn’t, and so does Elder Holland, GBH, etc.

  41. #43
    Ray, I guess I want too much. I want a merciful God that is interested in protecting his black children, too. I want a God, who would call a prophet and actually whisper in his ear, “Hey, Brigham, your job is to show love, not hate.” And, I suspect that if God Almighty told a righteous man that, he could at least find a way to be neutral, and not spew vile racist statements.

    It seems likely that God didn’t give him that instruction. It also seems he didn’t give him the instruction that BY claims to be the “law of God in regard to the African race”. And, it seems that all of the succeeding prophets confirmed that Brigham Young received this instruction as a commandment of God, when obviously God didn’t really confirm that to them at all.

    Again, the point comes down to, how am I supposed to believe the prophet? We are also told that “in the mouth of two or three witnesses” we will find truth. Prophets and apostles use this all the time, and say that perhaps Heber J. Grant taught something, later Marion G. Romney verified it, then Thomas S. Monson verified it a third time, so we know it MUST be true.

    Well, how about when 11 prophets in a row witness to it, and all of their counselors witness to it, and at least a score of Apostles witness to it, and we have 30 or so witnesses to it. All prophets and apostles? Is it true then? Not in this case.

    And, I apologize if you feel I misquoted you.

  42. Arthur, I can understand and appreciate that concern completely. I have helped raise a black “foster” son; I am bothered deeply by racism – and by the practical effect of the ban on so many people I know – and undoubtedly would have known without it. I wish desperately that it had not been instituted – that Brigham could have risen above himself.

    I wish David could have done so, and Solomon, and Samson, and Judas (who gets a very raw deal in our treatment of him, imho), and Joseph, and Oliver, and Martin, and Sydney Rigdon, and McConkie, and Peterson, and Oaks, and Nelson, and Packer – and I, and my wife, and my best friends, and my kids, and my current priesthood leaders (every one of them), and my father, and my siblings, ad infinitum.

    Fwiw, I badly WANT the past to be different, but I also believe there is NO fundamental difference **theologically** between the priesthood ban (many were kept from the blessings of the priesthood [including the temple] in this life) and the general “gospel ban” suffered by the VAST majority of people who have been born into this mortal sphere. As gently as I can say this, if the fact that God didn’t force prophets to make the Church and the Priesthood available to all during our day means that He is not a loving and merciful God, then He simply isn’t a loving and merciful God – since those blessings have been denied to billions and billions of people throughout the history of the world simply because of the circumstances of their birth. If he **could** have “done the right thing despite what He has to work with” in our era, then He could have done so in any era. Your issue, I believe, is much more fundamental than the priesthood ban and the claims of Mormonism generally; I believe it deals more broadly with the very existence of God as we conceive of Him.

  43. I know I’ll just be beating my own dead horse again when I say this, but the reason prophets of the church supported this “doctrine” up until 1978 was because ….

    They were not prophets, they were regular dudes !

    I feel your pain Arthur, I was once in your shoes. Keep researching and studying, eventually you will reach a point where you no longer have to do “back flips and mental gymnastics” to keep your cogdis from taking over. >:)

  44. Post
    Author

    Arthur,

    When Mormons say “doctrine” we don’t mean “it was taught,” we mean “God’s own personal opinion”. 🙂

    So when leaders say the ban wasn’t doctrinal, they are sticking up for God, by insisting He is not racist.

    And you raise perfectly valid concerns about acting on the words of prophets, given what we know about their historical, and contemporary, fallibility.

  45. #46 Ray – “Your issue, I believe, is much more fundamental than the priesthood ban and the claims of Mormonism generally; I believe it deals more broadly with the very existence of God as we conceive of Him.”

    Yes, ok, I’ll accept that. We can use those terms. We can say I am searching for God or we can say I am searching for truth.

    My question comes down to this: How can I know when to “follow the prophet” when that prophet is declaring God’s will?

    The church has given me these tools:

    In the mouth of two or three witnesses you will find truth.

    Ezra Taft Benson’s comment that the prophet doesn’t have to say “Thus saith the Lord” for it to be scripture.

    Are these two things really true? Well, let’s see . . .

    11 prophets and several apostles and more have claimed and affirmed it as doctrine that blacks are essentially unworthy of the priesthood according to God’s divine plan – ok, so we’ve got 10 times as many witnesses as we probably need to find truth, they are prophets and apostles, bearing testimony of it. It must be true.

    President Young and other First Presidencies ACTUALLY say it IS doctrine and the Law of God, and the Will of God, a commandment of God, etc. Must therefore be true.

    All of these folks tell us the doctrinal and scriptural underpinnings of the Doctrine, sometimes going into great detail with scriptures from The Bible, the Book of Mormon, Book of Abraham, etc. so we can clearly understand it.

    Prophet number 12 declares this practice is ended, without ever explaining why the ban was necessary, but also without disputing what he and the other 10 prophets had taught for the last 140 years about the unworthiness of the individual spirits in the black bodies.

    Apostles and prophets later declare that nobody ever really knew why this ban was in place, but they don’t repudiate the ban as wrong. They claim that the explanations were wrong, but offer no evidence, no doctrine, no scriptural underpinnings of any kind to support this view.

    We as members are now expected to accept this new version, that nobody ever really knew why we had the ban and the modern prophet tells us the ban wasn’t wrong. This new version that nobody alive now, nor ever in history knew why the ban was implemented, is given to us with no supporting documentation, doctrine, scriptural underpinnings, etc. so it would seem that we are to accept this in blind faith.

    The prophet who tells us that the ban wasn’t wrong, is the same prophet who repeatedly makes clear, unambiguous doctrinal and policy statements such as “The church is either true or it’s a complete fraud, there is no middle ground” and other very similar clear statements. That would seem to mean that when that same Prophet, who spoke in clear unambiguous, non-parsed, ways said that the ban wasn’t wrong, then it was indeed God’s will.

    If the ban was God’s will (or at least not wrong) and nobody ever really knew why we did the ban, then that would seem to indicate that we should blindly follow the statements of the prophet who declares God’s will, even if he himself doesn’t know why it is God’s will. It also seems like the church leaders were blindly following, since we now know that they never really knew why they were doing it.

    This seems entirely counter to teachings of our early leaders, namely:

    President Joseph F. Smith said, “We talk of obedience, but do we require any man or woman to ignorantly obey the counsels that are given? Do the First Presidency require it? No, never.” (Journal of Discources (JD) 16:248)

    Apostle Charles W. Penrose, who would later serve as counselor to President Smith, declared: “President Wilford Woodruff is a man of wisdom and experience, and we respect him, but we do not believe his personal views or utterances are revelations from God; and when ‘Thus saith the Lord’, comes from him, the saints investigate it: they do not shut their eyes and take it down like a pill.” (Millennial Star 54:191)

    Brigham Young said:
    “I do not wish any Latter-day Saint in this world, nor in heaven, to be satisfied with anything I do, unless the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ, the spirit of revelation, makes them satisfied…Suppose that the people were heedless, that they manifested no concern with regard to the things of the kingdom of God, but threw the whole burden upon the leaders of the people, saying, ‘If the brethren who take charge of matters are satisfied, we are,’ this is not pleasing in the sight of the Lord.” (JD 3:45)

    So, again, I am utterly confused.

    We are told to be critical, but we are also told to follow blindly.

  46. Arthur Davis,

    In the 1950s, the LDS Church did away with the Priesthood ban for a few days. The quorum had put it to a vote and decided it was just a policy and there was no reason to stick with it. Then some missing members of the quorum (if I’m getting my history correct) including the president returned from a trip and over turned the vote on the grounds that this was something that had gone back too far and was too deeply ingrained into the Church and could only be changed by a revelation from God.

    In the 1960s the President of the Church, David O. McKay, sought this revelation for the sake of over turning the priesthood ban, but never felt he had received the revelation so he felt he could not over turn it.

    Then Spencer Kimball in 1978, as you know, brought both quorums into the temple and insisted they would seek revelation on over turning the ban. A revelation was received by the whole group, apparently including for some an open vision of past presidents giving their consent.

    All of this is my memory version of Leonard Arrington’s “Adventures of a Church Historian.”

    What I’m trying to say is “you are not alone.” The presidents of the Church have all gone through the very thinking you did and felt confusion over it just like you do. They have considered it possibly a policy, they have considered the possiblity it was a mistake, they have considered the possibility it was a revelation from God that required God’s command to change. So I’m afraid I have no real answers for you other than maybe a little bit of logic that helped me personally. Individual results may vary.

    Logically, it seems like there are three possiblities, two believing, one unbelieving:

    1. The priesthood ban was a revelation from God: If this is the case, then it was meant to be until 1978
    2. The priesthood ban was not a revelation from God but merely a cultural policy. If this is the case, then the Church was overly conservative in the 1950s and didn’t need a revelation but only required one due to being overly sensitive on the issue.
    3. The Church is not led by revelation from God. If this is the case, then #2 is true minus the part about them being prophets. But it’s still just a church trying it’s misguided darndest to follow “God’s will” when in fact God does not speak or doesn’t exist.

    I’m afraid I find none of the above offensive or even worrisome, but I can understand why others might particularly if they haven’t thought to lay it out like I just did.

    Well, let me clarify. I mean I do find it worrisome if God doesn’t exists, but I still see #3 as non-prejudice, just a sincere misguided attempt to communicate with a non-existent being who can’t actually answer because he doesn’t exist. But I hardly blame the people involved in that case. Belief in God is a very natural thing for many people and, if God doesn’t exist, would necessarily fall into the “natural” and “evolution” category for many. So we go waayy too far to blame the LDS leaders for acting out their nature of wanting to be sure over turning it was from God. Indeed, we might even say we Americans were deeply intolerant or prejudice towards them at the time.

    I could say more here, but would probably have to email it to you.

    So I have to agree with Ray that this is not an issue of prejudice or even “right and wrong” but whether or not there is God and if He is of a nature where He cares enough and has the ability to call prophets and talk to us directly. It is also an issue of how we understand God as talking vs. letting us work things out for ourselves.

    I know none of this really helps, but thought I’d at least point you to that book. If there is one thing this history definitely disproves, it’s the idea that the leaders of the Church themselves believe they have a phone line to God that allows them to ask any question and get any answer. I think it’s unfortunate that so many members believe like this when the leaders teach otherwise. I do recommend Adventures of a Church Historian, by the way, as it gives a very human view of the Church leaders, but from a believing point of view. And it has a whole chapter dedicated to the the removal of the Priesthood ban by the Church Historian.

  47. One more point that is not understood by many:

    All those prophets and apostles in a row DIDN’T teach that the ban was based from revelation and God’s will. I have a slightly unique historical vantage point when it comes to the working of the global leadership for someone who does not have a direct line to any of them. As I’ve said elsewhere, my mother was a secretary working for Claire Middlemiss, Pres. McKay’s personal secretary for decades. One thing I learned from her is instructive for this discussion.

    There was not unanimity on MANY things during her time at the Church Headquarters, and it was obvious to her that there really never had been such unanimity on many things. The FP and Q12 are comprised of very intelligent, professional, opinionated, strong-willed individuals with radically different experiences in life. The practice in those quorums is to present a united front on ALL issues of policy and doctrine. That means that, in most cases, the status quo remains UNTIL everyone agrees that it should be changed – which often is not a short process. There really is a STRONG belief in the equality of the calling – from the Pres. of the Q12 to the most recently ordained apostle.

    The central issues over time are:

    1) There have been individual apostles who have not respected this rule – who have spoken out on their own on questions where no unanimity existed. (BRM was the most obvious example, particularly with “Mormon Doctrine” – which the other brethren asked him not to publish under that title, since they knew members would assume what he wrote really was official Church doctrine.). This was true especially in the earlier years of the Church, but that tendency has been blunted in more recent decades.

    2) With this policy, those who accepted and believed the current understanding were free to express their beliefs, while those who did NOT accept and believe it were only able to express their beliefs in private – generally within their own quorum(s). Therefore, in the case of the ban, the only public explanations the general membership heard were those supporting the ban as revealed. Those who did not support it as revealed almost never said so in public. When you search through the historical records (like Arrington’s writings and Middlemiss’s notes), this is obvious.

    The take-away:

    From the earliest implementation of the ban, there have been dissenting voices among the global leadership – those who thought it was not based on revelation – those who thought it could be reversed without revelation – and that included Prophets, not just apostles. Frankly, even with the issues it has caused, I prefer this approach to the other alternative – competing apostles and theories. (I might be wrong, Arthur, but I believe you also want unanimity – but you want it to reflect your own view of what that unanimity should say. Iow, you want God to tell the collective group explicitly what they should teach and preach and do and organize – or allow the President to be able to function independent of a quorum.)

    Frankly, I think that we have moved away largely from the time of the charismatic, independent Prophet who told the Twelve how it was (as was necessary in Joseph’s time and continued with Brigham in many ways) to the solidification of the Priesthood Quorum as the governing unit of the Church. I think that is the better option, but it means that change happens more slowly than under an individual leader who can act completely autonomously. That’s the “safety valve” trade-off for the ability to shift doctrine and practice quickly, and it’s a safety valve I accept and appreciate.

    It’s really easy to assume a simple answer; it’s much harder to view as much of the entire picture as is possible and craft a much more nuanced perspective. I believe that God inspired many of the apostles to question the ban and even try to find a way to have it reversed, but I also believe He didn’t allow it to be reversed until the presiding quorums were ready to accept it unanimously.

    It’s as if He said, “You made your bed; now sleep in it. You established it and supported it; I’ll dismantle it as soon as all of you are on board and will accept the change.”

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