Brother Jake: Mormons are not Racist

May 1, 2013

brother jakeI enjoyed my experiment with Mormonism and sexism so much that I decided to do the same with Mormonism and racism.

The results were remarkably similar.

One thing making this video got me thinking about was the light of Christ. In LDS scripture, the light of Christ is characterized not only as the force that animates all living things, but as the “the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world.”[i] Mormon teaches that the Spirit of Christ allows all men to know good from evil.[ii]

What this sounds like to me is a conscience. If that’s the case, then I assume it is also the source of our personal moral compass and our most deeply held, intrinsic moral convictions. And, according to the Bible Dictionary, it is also what leads us to the true and living Church of Christ on the earth.

Now all of that is fine and dandy up to a certain point. But what happens when the doctrine or policy or whatever-you-want-to-call-it of this true and living Church seem to clash with the force that led someone to it in the first place? What happens when prophetic teachings and the light of Christ start playing dueling banjos in my brain? What happens when aspects of the Church pit someone against their own conscience? To me, that’s where the theological rubber meets the road.

There are many whose response is “Easy. Follow the Prophet.” And in many ways, I admire their ability to table a troubling idea in favor of the larger belief. The issue I have with that answer, though, is that it presupposes that the initial conclusion you were led to by the light of Christ—i.e. the Church is true and therefore the Prophet is the mouthpiece of God—is correct. However, if a source of information and the intrinsic force that led you to believe that source was correct are at odds with each other, how can you be sure you were headed in the right direction to begin with? If one truth leads to another and then they come in conflict, how can you have any reference point to determine which one trumps the other?

But maybe I’m taking an overly narrow view here. Maybe the purpose of a Prophet isn’t necessarily having someone that gets it all right but just having someone in charge. And the blessings of following the Prophet are some sort of obedience bonus rather than an effect of him pointing us in the exact “right” direction all the time. So if we nod our heads and say “Amen” and put aside the needling apprehension, God gives us the obedience bump in our spiritual stats. It makes sense, in a way.

I have to ask, though: if that’s the case, what’s the lesson God’s trying to teach us? Does He value conformity over adherence to moral convictions? How does that empower us to become like Him?

I dunno. I’m just some guy with a laptop.


[i] D&C 93:2

[ii] Moroni 7:16-19

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39 Responses to Brother Jake: Mormons are not Racist

  1. J. Madson on May 1, 2013 at 1:48 PM

    It wasn’t just about priesthood. I think we ignore this at the expense of black women. They were barred from the temple as well.

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  2. katie88 on May 1, 2013 at 2:06 PM

    Love it! Thank you!

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  3. Rod on May 1, 2013 at 4:02 PM

    Funny.

    At what point is a group no longer considered racist for previously held doctrine/policy/belief/law. (i.e. are Americans still racist for previously held beliefs on slavery?)

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  4. Jon on May 1, 2013 at 4:16 PM

    Rod: There are two teeny-tiny differences here. First, the Mormon church claims to be led by a perfect being. Second, they never apologized for their discrimination.

    If I claim that God told me to hit women, but then I eventually claim that God me to stop hitting women without explaining why or apologizing to women, wouldn’t it be fair to still think I was sexist?

    Admitting it was wrong and apologizing would go a long ways to mending things.

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  5. brjones on May 1, 2013 at 4:29 PM

    To build on Jon’s comment, it’s also noteworthy that mormons still consider the early brethren who not only instigated the policy, but who were avowed and virulent racists, to be prophets, seers and revelators. It’s difficult for the church or any member to credibly argue they shouldn’t be held to any perceived racist views of past leaders, when they still consider them prophets. Unfortunately you have to dance with the one that brought you. If you want to call brigham young and his ilk prophets, then you get to claim all the nasty baggage that comes along with them. And no, making self serving attempts to disavow policies or doctrines that are unpopular with contemporary society without actually disclaiming the individual doesn’t get you there. I’m not going to invoke Godwin’s Law here, but you get the point.

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  6. Rod on May 1, 2013 at 6:37 PM

    Thanks for the quick responses Jon and brjones

    Jon, I agree the Mormon church believes it is led by a perfect being. This begs the question though, what does being “led” mean to Latter-day Saints? Honestly, I’m not trying to parse words here.

    Also, your example deals with an individual over a short period of time (though it does bring up some interesting questions). I’m interested in large groups over a long (generations) time. I am interested in what type of apology you think is appropriate, too.

    brjones, it seem that you are arguing that the modern church cannot separate its views, or at least its perceived views, from those of past leaders because these leaders are considered “prophets, seers, and revelators.” Can you elaborate more on this? Why can’t the separation be made?

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  7. Douglas on May 1, 2013 at 7:54 PM

    Bro. Jake: I’d have considered your YouTube video to be humourous and mildly satirical if you’d interspersed the occasional “Dumb dumb dumb dumb dumb!” as did Stone and Parker in “South Park”. As it was, the video was trite, pointless, annoying, and about thrice the length it needed to be. Better luck next time.
    “Racism”, like beauty, or hatred, or loyalty, is fairly much an “eye of the beholder” thing anyway. If you arrogantly presume to dictate what HF would and would NOT do, then a PH ban would indeed seem racist. However, for those that disparage Mormonism, either because they don’t believe in ANY God anymore or they claim to “choose Jesus instead of Joseph”, they ought to be glad we didn’t pick on “them poor, helpless, little ol’ darkies theah” prior to 1978.
    Were some LDS leaders “racist” by today’s standards? I’ll concede the argument that they were, if transcriptions of their speeches or their writings (not always subject to the highest editorial standards, BTW) are representative. Does that matter? I don’t think so. We pick our leaders from the male half of the “hew-mon” race, thereby already starting with a tremendous handicap. Even “Dishonest Abe” would be considered a virulent racist by today’s standards. He had no mind to free the slaves in the USA, his primary objective was to preserve the Union (by aggression against the several states that had peacefully declared secession). He’d have free all slaves, or none of them, or free some and keep others in that “peculiar institution”, whatever it took to preserve the Union. Considering that Washington DC was bordering a Confederate state and surrounded by a slaverly-legal “border” state (kept in the Union NOT voluntarily but by arresting its legislature in Annapolis and stationing an artillery battery to train fire on downtown Baltimore, hence “Federal Hill”), Lincoln probably did exactly what he had to do.
    Are some LDS folk “racist” today? Well, by Andrew S’s (hardly the most reliable judge of character, but that’s just my opinion) declaration, I’m one of them. I would, of course, deny same, and not merely for my mixed-race stepchild (whom I love dearly),but simply for life’s experience that it’s idiotic to deny oneself the companion of others based on their skin color or perceived ethnic origin. But would I deny that there’s racism in the Church? Well, if it wasn’t an issue, would dear President Hinckley, not long before he passed on, feel a needed to denounce it?
    As for explanations, the musings of some (lack of valiancy in the pre-mortal existence, which I never bought into) are irrelevant. As Bruce R. McConkie himself declared, “forget what I have said or anyone else has said on the subject. We operated with less light and knowledge. We now have the word of the Living Prophet”. The “Word” then was never WHY, merely WHAT. It has been for almost 35 years “no longer an issue”. Do we need to “apologize”? For WHAT? For carrying out the will of the Lord? The only thing I can possibly see a need to apologize for is excuses that members (against even-then counsel) used to be bigots. And that’s not for the Church as an organization, but for its members, whom surely, were it not of the Lord, have brought it to ruin already.

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  8. Mormon Heretic on May 1, 2013 at 10:07 PM

    “trite, pointless, annoying, and about thrice the length it needed to be.”

    That pretty much describes all of your comments Douglas.

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  9. shenpa warrior on May 1, 2013 at 10:25 PM

    “about thrice the length it needed to be” – HAHAHA! Good one Douglas. Were you referring to Jake’s video and your comment? If so, that was funny.

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  10. brjones23 on May 1, 2013 at 11:40 PM

    Rod, I’m actually not arguing that the separation can’t be made. I think it’s possible that a contemporary member may abhor and personally reject any racist sentiments or policies of past leaders. However, there are a couple of problems with taking this position. First of all, if one starts picking and choosing which edicts/revelations/teachings of past prophets he or she believes are actually prophetic, then eventually the entire prophetic mantle is watered down to the point of being worthless. And ultimately, this reflects on modern leaders who claim to have such mantle. The fact is, brigham young and his contemporaries said numerous things under the explicit guise of divine revelation, which the church and its members now disavow. At the very least, if this doesn’t demonstrate that brigham young was mistaken about being a prophet, it unquestionably demonstrates that he didn’t know when he was receiving revelation, which again, creates a legitimate question as to when a member should trust any leader claiming to be a prophet.

    Secondly, there is the question of perception. In the past few decades, it has become increasingly important to the church to be perceived as being within the norm in many ways. Far from the early days of priding itself on being a “peculiar people,” the modern church is very PR savvy and strives to be seen as not straying too far from the societal norm. In this vein, the church has tried to distance itself from things like the racist policies and opinions of its past leaders. The fact is, early church leaders were unquestionably and unapologetically racist. Whether the policy on blacks being banned from the temple eminated from human racist sentiments or was revealed by god is unknown at this point. Regardless, it was a racist policy, by definition. Because most current members are likely not racist, they are offended by the charge that they belong to a racist church, or even that the church has an overtly racist past. Unfortunately, these same people revere brigham young. They sing songs about him. They attend schools named after him. They consider him to be one of the lord’s chosen vessels. They don’t consider him a fallen prophet. One of two things must be true: either 1) god revealed racist sentiments and policies to early church leaders like brigham young, or 2) brigham young was a vicious racist by nature and by his own proclivities, and proclaimed and instigated policies and doctrines against the mind and will of god. The only way members of the church can avoid one of these two conclusions is to stop revering brigham young and other past leaders like him. Any member of the church who chooses not to disavow him or past leaders with similar views is going to have a difficult time making any argument that claims of racism within the church are unfair or unwarranted.

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  11. hawkgrrrl on May 2, 2013 at 12:25 AM

    Of course, bear in mind that the term “racism” originated in 1936, although it existed in French as early as 1865. The sentiment certainly existed. Other branches of Mormonism also did not prohibit blacks from the priesthood as did the Brighamites.

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  12. Roger on May 2, 2013 at 3:28 PM

    I think that Jake has creatively demonstrated the horns of the dilemma for intellectually honest members with a spirit of inquiry. Yes, Douglas, President Lincoln is on record with some terribly racist comments, particularly according to the records of his 1858 debates in the southern regions of Illinois. But any serious student of Lincoln would have to agree that his views progressed and evolved to where in his last public speech he advocated suffrage for black Union veterans (thereby animating John Wilkes Booth to perform his evil deed). But Lincoln claimed no prophetic mantle–he is not on record as having ever declared Jesus divine, let alone to being His oracle..

    Believing Latter-day Saints have to somehow come to grips with John Taylor declaring that the curse of Cain continued through the children of Ham “so that the Devil should have representation upon the earth” with everything else we have been taught about the Gospel’s salvific message for all humankind. I suppose we can follow Bruce McConkie’s counsel to ignore all that was said before; while I am at it I will also disavow and disregard all of the asinine rationalizations I have had to listen to about God’s commands for genocide throughout the land of Canaan throughout the OT. And where does it stop?

    I realize that I am probably going longer than Douglas feels appropriate but these aren’t issues dealt with in sound-bytes and slogans.

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  13. Bro. Jake on May 2, 2013 at 4:44 PM

    I agree, Roger–IMO, the dilemma with the priesthood ban orbits around the conflicting ideas of accepting the Prophetic role as literal, living mouthpiece of God (e.g. the Prophet will never lead us astray) and reconciling some of the obviously unjust policies they enacted. To me, there’s just too much cognitive dissonance to say on one hand “They’re only human” and on the other “we shouldn’t apologize because they were just doing God’s will.”

    But all of the convoluted, unintelligible backpedaling from the priesthood ban aside, I think we’re missing the racist elephant in the room–the Nephite/Lamanite story. Do we really think these racist ideas just sprung out of a vacuum? As much as we try and disavow ourselves of the priesthood ban (it was 35 whole years ago, after all), the main plotline of our central book of scripture is about how “them poor, helpless, little ol’ darkies theah” (Douglas’s words) were dark because they were bad and loathsome and idolatrous and should be avoided. Racism in Mormonism isn’t the result of a policy that rippled into the theology–it’s the other way around.

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  14. brjones on May 2, 2013 at 4:46 PM

    Don’t forget lazy.

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  15. hawkgrrrl on May 2, 2013 at 7:57 PM

    Brigham Young was Methodist before he joined Mormonism. Cain doctrine came to Mormonism via protestant converts. Methodists finally issued an official apology for their racist practices in 2000. Those racist roots run deep.

    We need to be far more suspicious than we are prone to be whenever a doctrine is put forward that creates inequality between people based on the circumstances of their birth. Racism and sexism are just two things, but elitist practices surrounding our leadership are also problematic: nepotism, “believing blood,” who was approved to practice polygamy, loyalty tests, second anointings, pioneer ancestry, those who are endowed, those who’ve been in a president role, those who’ve served a mission, those who are married, those with large families.

    All of these things can stand in as a proxy for actual merit at times in our church. It’s simply wrong to privilege an elite subset of people like this. Privileging an elite subset ostracizes the non-elites and takes away their hope and belief and it stunts the development of the elites who are confident they’ve already arrived.

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  16. Brian on May 2, 2013 at 8:06 PM

    Bro Jake:

    Loved it. As a 19 year old who was instructed by his mission president to lie as to why I was knocking on a black person’s door in Brazil, I love nothing more than to see this policy get the treatment it deserves. Would love to hear your take on Jane Elizabeth Manning James and her infamous “servitor” temple sealing.

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  17. Roger on May 2, 2013 at 10:42 PM

    Jake–

    Interestingly, Mormon Interpreter published an article last week entitled “Letter to a Doubter” from a fireside presented by Terryl Givens: http://www.mormoninterpreter.com/letter-to-a-doubter/. Therein, Givens attempts to find a a coherent means to reconcile belief in prophetic leadership with discredited or controversial pronouncements on BOM geography, Adam-God and the priesthood ban. Specifically,he cites Spencer Kimball as having early misgivings about the ban and his public repudiation of the Adam-God “notions” in a priesthood session of GC. Half of the reviewers raved over the insights; the other half raked him over and anyone else whose doubts make the exercise of faith a challenge.

    Brian–

    Stories about missionaries being directed to lie just chill my blood. Jane Elizabeth Manning is featured in the newly arrived BYU Alumni magazine as a famous character in Mormondom. Of course, no mention is made of the denials of blessings Church leadership made to her persistent requests to be allowed an endowment. The fact that it is whitewashed tells us plenty. I vividly recall President Kimball’s talk on Adam-God. There wasn’t a lot of question after that. Yet nobody changed the name of the big school in Provo.

    Jake–

    The passages in the BOM explaining skin pigment are horribly offensive. How does one deal with it? I can only suppose that Nephi, Mormon and Moroni had little training in the field. The later accounts of Samuel the Lamanite, the Anti-Nephi Lehites and the Stripling Warriors certainly defy the stereotype.

    Or it is all just madness ……..

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  18. Hedgehog on May 3, 2013 at 1:10 AM

    #13 Jake: “I think we’re missing the racist elephant in the room–the Nephite/Lamanite story.”
    #17 Roger: “The passages in the BOM explaining skin pigment are horribly offensive. How does one deal with it? I can only suppose that Nephi, Mormon and Moroni had little training in the field. The later accounts of Samuel the Lamanite, the Anti-Nephi Lehites and the Stripling Warriors certainly defy the stereotype.”

    That was one of the refreshing things about Pres Uchtdorf’s CES address, his presentation of it as human susceptibility to stereotype etc. I think we can go further with this, and learn whole different lessons from the Nephite/Lamanite story than those we’ve been taught in seminary/institute on the subject. Earlier leaders were certainly looking at it through their own lens and prejudice.

    #15 hawkgrrrl: “Racism and sexism are just two things, but elitist practices surrounding our leadership are also problematic: nepotism, “believing blood,” who was approved to practice polygamy, loyalty tests, second anointings, pioneer ancestry, those who are endowed, those who’ve been in a president role, those who’ve served a mission, those who are married, those with large families.”

    Absolutely.

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  19. UnderCover Brother on May 3, 2013 at 6:58 AM

    #13 Jake: ‘Racism in Mormonism isn’t the result of a policy that rippled into the theology–it’s the other way around.’

    Very well said, Jake. Very well said.

    I think the Book of Mormon is the source of the problem. From this Book we learn that the dark skin came about because of unbelief. From unbelief the dark skinned ones also became loathsome, filthy, full of idleness and all manner of abominations. We learn that the ones with dark skin were cursed and dwelt in tents. The ones with dark skins loved murder and would drink the blood of beasts. Due to the hardness of their hearts they become like unto flint so the Lord God caused a skin of blackness to come on them. And to make sure they were not enticing to those who were white and exceedingly fair and delightsome, the Lord commanded the white skinned ones to not mingle their seed with the black skinned ones henceforth and forever else the curse shall also be on his seed.

    But we need not worry about those with skins of blackness. For the curse will be taken from them and their skin will become white like the white skinned ones. In fact, Elder Spencer W. Kimball testified of this in the Conference Report he gave in 1960. He said:

    ‘The day of the Lamanites is nigh. For years they have been growing delightsome, and they are now becoming white and delightsome, as they were promised … In this picture of the twenty Lamanite missionaries, fifteen of the twenty were as light as Anglos; five were darker but equally delightsome. The children in the home placement program in Utah are often lighter than their brothers and sisters in the hogans on the reservation.

    ‘At one meeting a father and mother and their sixteen-year-old daughter were present, the little member girl—sixteen—sitting between the dark father and mother, and it was evident she was several shades lighter than her parents—on the same reservation, in the same hogan, subject to the same sun and wind and weather. There was the doctor in a Utah city who for two years had had an Indian boy in his home who stated that he was some shades lighter than the younger brother just coming into the program from the reservation. These young members of the Church are changing to whiteness and to delightsomeness. One white elder jokingly said that he and his companion were donating blood regularly to the hospital in the hope that the process might be accelerated.’

    Try teaching the above as the basis for Lesson 12 of the Book of Mormon: Gospel Doctrine class. Would be interesting to watch the members faces.

    It all points back to the Book of Mormon. If you want to attack the racism, you have to attack the Book of Mormon as this is the source. But as we believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God and the Keystone of our religion, there is no way that the Church is going there. Attack the Keystone and everything collapses.

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  20. Bro. Jake on May 3, 2013 at 10:22 AM

    You’re right, Hedgehog–there are encouraging signs of the Church backing away from the racist elements of its past and its Keystone, and (like Roger said) there are some, albeit small, rays of light from the BoM allow for that. However, piggybacking on UnderCover Brother, I think there is only so much you can do when the “dark skin=bad” idea is right there in black and white (pun kind of intended) in the Book of Mormon.

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  21. Roger on May 3, 2013 at 7:29 PM

    Jake et al—

    Maybe we can try this on for size. Somehow, some much smarter and certainly better people than I have gotten past all of these stumbling blocks. Can we look at these passages in the BOM that contain such virulent racist commentary as the kind of propaganda that warring societies engage in to denigrate their military foes? For instance, the US and allies certainly depicted the soldiers of Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany in almost subhuman terms. Clay vessels such as Nephi, Mormon and Moroni may have felt much the same way toward their adversaries and the sentiments approximate how Jews and Judaizers within early Christendom expressed themselves toward the Gentiles. A fair amount of the Epistles feature some tough commentary by Paul on these views. Could not these passages merit the same type of treatment particularly in light of the scriptures that push the ideas of equality in God’s eyes and the paramount importance to preach and save all nations.

    Or am I just grasping at straws as I hurl myself along the High Road to Apostasy??

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  22. brjones on May 3, 2013 at 11:22 PM

    Roger, I think this might be a plausible explanation if the problems were confined to the book. Unfortunately we’re also talking about generation after generation of prophets who spewed equally venomous bile, not to mention the importance of the lamanite conversion narrative to the early church. If you write off mormon racism as simply historical racism between different peoples, you are left to wonder how those church leaders arrived at their racist conclusions. I think the real elephant in the room is the big picture implication of what the racism among early church leaders really amounts to. Either god is (or at one time was) a hateful bigot, or early (and not so early) mormon leaders were so out of touch with god’s true will, and of such low character, that one can question the validity of the prophetic mantle in the church in its entirety. I’m genuinely curious to know how a believing member squares this issue.

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  23. Hedgehog on May 4, 2013 at 12:39 AM

    Roger, Jake, Bro Jones,
    We’ve been told over and over that it is written for our day. And the overall picture is one of what happens when the competing groups are hateful and intolerant and want only to destroy the other: a picture of genocide basically. The part of the story that should be held up for emulation is the 200 years following the visit of Christ, where there were no ‘..ites’, no poor etc., and where they were all one.
    I’d see the comments on skin colour as character trait as so much Nephite hubris. It’s telling that Christ had to tell Nephi to write down the words of Samuel the Lamanite prophet. The Nephites finished up being far worse than the Lamanites. So for me, the overall picture is precisely the reverse of that which earlier leaders saw. I think they were blinded by their prejudice.

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  24. UnderCover Brother on May 4, 2013 at 6:05 AM

    Hedgehog et al,

    ‘We’ve been told over and over that it is written for our day.’

    The question I have is, whose day? I’m sure we agree that what may have been considered acceptable in Brother Joseph’s time is certainly not considered acceptable now. I am also sure a non-member black person reading the scriptures as I described earlier would be justified in feeling it was very offensive and racist. Does anyone disagree?

    The other thought I had is that had Brother Joseph received the plates today, it is probable he would not use the same terminology while translating due to the potential backlash.

    ‘I think they were blinded by their prejudice.’

    As the ‘offensive’ words are still in the Book of Mormon, doesn’t the blindness continue today? As the heading for OD2 states:

    ‘Church records offer no clear insights into the origins of this practice.’

    This means that, even today, they cannot see there may be a link between the ‘offensive’ words in the Book of Mormon and the fact these words are unacceptably offensive and racist, and the corresponding racist theology preached over the pulpit by the leaders. Therefore the blindness remains. So I would change the sentence to: ‘I think they (the leaders) were and continue to be blinded by their prejudice.’

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  25. Mandy on May 4, 2013 at 8:09 AM

    Hedgehog, I think you make a fantastic point that actually makes a lot of sense. If the BOM is for us, then it makes sense to consider that the Nephites, who started out good but eventually became worse than the Lamanites are a warning to us. We see the obvious later steps of the pride cycle – costly apparel, treating the poor badly, pride in opportuinites for learning, etc. But what planted the seed of pride? Maybe it started by equating a different skin color (factor of birth) with wickedness (factor of choice). Who knows if it was ever justifiable (i. e., did their skin really turn dark because of wickedness like the account says? I personally find this hard to believe.), but clearly after a point, it was not an accurate indicator of virtue and yet they continued to use it. If this is what the BOM is trying to warn us against, then there are many issues that could apply in the modern-day church. Hawkgrrrl mentions a bunch that I think are spot on. The culture of elitism, of esteeming ourselves above our brethren and sisters. It’s pervasive. Need to go back to the BOM and do some more research on how we avoid and eliminate this way of thinking.

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  26. FireTag on May 4, 2013 at 10:01 AM

    I think the racism of the Book of Mormon is less a problem for the BofM than for a widely-held view in the entire Judeo-Christian and Islamic communities that prophets can rise so far above their cultural limitations that human failings are purged from the recordings of those prophets’ experiences with the Divine.

    Jewish prophets in the centuries BC were clearly racist. They were clearly racist toward Europeans, North Africans, people from Asia Minor, and certainly would have been racist toward Asians, Australians, Polynesians, Native Americans, and Martians. We see that racism in the OT writings, so of course we should expect to see it in the BofM. The racism didn’t even have to be based on skin color or considerations of barbarism, if you notice. The Egyptians were demeaned for idol-worship, for example, but they were a pretty high culture, and their skin color wasn’t any different than the Jews.

    Racism is a scourge of pretty much all cultures in the 21st century. I never did figure out why New Yorkers of multiple races were prejudiced about my Aunt Leodina from Puerto Rico, and I couldn’t tell who was slaughtering whom in Rwanda a few years ago, but they certainly could. I see no surprise that prophets in the 19th century screwed the message of God up.

    I should be more embarrassed by the sloppy modern scholarship that confuses the ancient prophets’ racism toward Native Americans with modern (or 19th Century) racism toward African Americans. At least you’d like it to be the people the ancients actually insulted who were the ones to take offense. :D

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  27. UnderCover Brother on May 4, 2013 at 11:23 AM

    Mandy,

    ‘Maybe it started by equating a different skin color (factor of birth) with wickedness (factor of choice).’

    I truly hear where you are going. Unfortunately this does not seem to be supported in the scriptures. The prophet Jacob is very clear in Jacob 3: 5 & 8:

    ‘Behold, the Lamanites your brethren, whom ye hate because of their filthiness and the cursing which hath come upon their skins, are more righteous than you…’

    ‘O my brethren, I fear that unless ye shall repent of your sins that their skins will be whiter than yours, when ye shall be brought with them before the throne of God.’

    This was written around 60 years after they left Jerusalem.

    The Prophet Nephi himself wrote (2 Nephi 5:21):

    ‘And he had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, that they had become like unto a flint; wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them.’

    This was written around 40 years after they left Jerusalem. In other words, the ‘curse’ was implemented in their lifetime and the prophets were living witnesses to the implementation of the Lord’s ‘curse’ to members of their own family, else why else would they write it if it did not come to pass?
    Also, Elder Kimball at the time also believed in the ‘curse’ and preached of it in his 1960 Conference Report.

    So –

    ‘Who knows if it was ever justifiable (i. e., did their skin really turn dark because of wickedness like the account says?)’

    According to the scriptures, yes. Their skin really did turn dark because of wickedness. I also personally find it hard to believe. So should it be left as is or should it be challenged for what it truly is?

    ‘The culture of elitism, of esteeming ourselves above our brethren and sisters. It’s pervasive. Need to go back to the BOM and do some more research on how we avoid and eliminate this way of thinking.’

    If we can’t (or won’t) tackle the blatant elephant in the room sitting in front of us and blocking our view how are we to tackle the culture of elitism which is much more subtle?

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  28. Brian on May 4, 2013 at 1:41 PM

    Not only was the skin dark because of wickedness but Kimball declared in the 60s that he was a witness (special, no doubt) that indeed Lamanites were becoming lighter-skinned as they were accepting the gospel. Don’t see that quoted much any more.

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  29. Mandy on May 4, 2013 at 1:53 PM

    Undercover brother, I see your point, but so many scriptures are metaphorical, I’m wondering if there’s some of that in those verses you quoted. I guess I just don’t believe dark skin is really a curse, regardless of what the scriptures say. It’s one of those things that I can’t take too literally. And anything said by prophets/apostles pre-1978 is speculative/questionable at best to me because they later said themselves to forget it, that they were all wrong. So that’s why I still question this point, at least it being a curse.

    “If we can’t (or won’t) tackle the blatant elephant in the room sitting in front of us and blocking our view how are we to tackle the culture of elitism which is much more subtle?”

    I’m sorry, I may have missed something, but I honestly don’t know what you’re talking about. If there’s an elephant hiding somewhere in this particular post and we’re not discussing it, it’s perhaps not blatant to everyone. If you point it out, maybe we can talk about how to handle it. I just don’t know what you’re referring to right now.

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  30. Undercover Brother on May 4, 2013 at 2:22 PM

    Mandy,

    Apologies. I was referring to Bro. Jake’s comment #13 re ‘elephant in the room’. Hope that makes more sense.

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  31. Mandy on May 4, 2013 at 2:27 PM

    Ahh, gotcha. It’s definitely problematic. My solution is not to take it literally. That’s the best I’ve got at the moment, though.

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  32. brjones on May 4, 2013 at 9:49 PM

    Mandy, the church leaders who preached racism and instituted the policy never said anything akin to “forget it, we were all wrong.” Regardless of the literal or metaphorical nature of the book of mormon teachings, there is no question about those men’s teachings. This seems problematic to me. Even if you feel like you’ve sorted out the doctrinal dilemma for yourself, you still have to account for what these prophets believed and revealed and taught.

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  33. Undercover Brother on May 5, 2013 at 12:37 AM

    brjones,

    I agree. It is problematic for all of us, because like Mandy the members are left to sort out the doctrinal dilemma for themselves. I know that it is not meet that we should be commanded in all things but where doctrinal guidance is now needed after years of clear teaching on this subject all we hear now is silence. And I think that is telling.

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  34. Mandy on May 8, 2013 at 12:49 PM

    brjones, I am referring to the following statement made by Bruce R. McConkie in 1978: “Forget everything I have said, or what … Brigham Young … or whomsoever has said … that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world” (Bruce R. McConkie, “New Revelation on Priesthood,” Priesthood (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1981), 126-137; republication of original address of Bruce R. McConkie, “All Are Alike Unto God,” address at CES Religious Educators Symposium, 18 August 1978). He was an apostle at the time and one of the ones who earlier had what I feel were repugnant theories about why blacks couldn’t have the priesthood, so I stand by my earlier statement that church leaders said “Forget it, we were all wrong.” I guess that could just be my interpretation of that statement, but I really don’t see another way to interpret it. Feel free to disagree. But that’s where I’m coming from.

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  35. Roger on May 8, 2013 at 4:15 PM

    Mandy–

    As I said in #12, we can take Bruce McConkie at his word and disregard ALL that was said before, not just Brigham Young and McConkie himself, but Joseph Fielding Smith, Melvin J. Ballard, Mark E. Peterson. In fact, All Are Alike Unto God, should trump Nephi, Jacob (of the BOM) and Abraham . . . .

    Just a shame that it took until 1978—-

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  36. Mandy on May 8, 2013 at 6:20 PM

    That’s basically what I’m doing, Roger. It is a shame it took till 1978, but I do think it trumps everything before, no matter who said it. I believe prophets are human and make mistakes, and that’s how I account for this doctrinally. They just got it wrong – for a distressingly long time. That kind of thing used to trouble me a lot. But at some point I realized it just means I need to rely directly on the spirit, rather than fallible individuals. The real reason I can dismiss everything that came before is not because BRM said to; it’s because I have gotten my own personal confirmation that all are alike into God. That’s good enough for me. I acknowledge it may not be for everyone.

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  37. Roger on May 8, 2013 at 6:31 PM

    Mandy—

    Maybe the Church has changed in my 30 years in the borderlands, but were one to express such views in my experience, one could expect some serious censure. Granted, we should belong and participate to renew our covenants and to strengthen our families, but my recollection of the LDS experience is that it was highly (almost excruciatingly) interactive. Solitary communing with the spirit didn’t seem to be the order of the day. But I digress . . .

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  38. brjones on May 9, 2013 at 2:52 AM

    Mandy and Roger, I apologize for being argumentative. I think your positions on this position are personally reasonable, but I also think they leave some gaping questions. To say prophets are fallable human beings is one thing, but I think dismissing the pervasive racism of past leaders who explicitly claimed such teachings were revealed of god is entirely another.

    Brigham young stated on many occasions that his racist teachings were given to him as a prophet. If they were god’s revealed word, then the church has an obvious problem of revelatory consistency, and either the brethren today are mistaken about god’s will, or god is a reformed racist. If it was not god’s word, then I think you have a bigger problem than human fallibility. If, as the church now seems to maintain, those teachings were merely the opinions of the men who gave them, then brigham young was either not a prophet at all, or he was a prophet who was clueless as to when he was receiving revelation from god. For an indivudual who claims to be god’s sole mouthpiece for the entire earth, this seems to me to be a fairly significant deficiency. Perhaps worse, though, is what that says about brigham young as a person. This is a man who advocated the murder of those who married outside their race. If he didn’t receive that principle from god, that means he thought it up himself. I have a difficult time understanding the adulation of a man who, absent god’s commands, advocated the atrocious teachings this man produced. Divine revelation, it would seem to me, is the only possible defense of such hateful doctrines. If god wasn’t the source, doesn’t that necessarily say something about the character of the human being from whose mind they did come? My ultimate question would be, where does the standard “by their fruits ye shall know them” begin and where does it end? At least as relates to early mormon leaders, it seems to be very selectively applied.

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  39. Roger on May 9, 2013 at 9:55 AM

    Bro Jones–
    I don’t view you as argumentative. Your conclusions have great merit. I can’t speak for Ms. Mandy but, as I said earlier, I’m grasping at straws. I’ve taken the same approach that you have; viewing the leadership as no more or less inspired (or benighted) than their political or religious contemporaries. But when taking into account their outlandish/outrageous claims to inspiration and to holding The Keys, one shakes one’s head in sad disbelief.

    One sees one’s heritage, one’s emotional investment—all slipping away like sand in one’s hand.

    The memory of a spiritual witness fades ….

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