Mormon Race Issues: Not Just Your Great-Granddad’s Problem

By: Andrew S
March 1, 2012

I don’t pretend to speak for every black Mormon (or black ex/post/former/disaffected Mormon), but just speaking for myself, I can say that I basically couldn’t care less about most of Mormonism’s past teachings and treatments of black folks. Maybe I’m just desensitized to the fact that most of history — LDS or not — was a really unfortunate (read: crappy) time and place to be black, but hearing the random Brigham Young quotation about black people doesn’t phase me.

Similarly, when some people talk to me, they express wonderment and amazement that I (or my parents) would be a member of a church that had racist “policies” (or whatever the fashionable term is for it) up until 1978. That’s the 20th century! How can I as a black man live with such backwards policy, and what others deem a disrespectfully tepid avoidance to come to terms with said policy?

Don’t care.

Maybe it’s a shibboleth of the greater “millennial” generation, something that transcends race. Maybe it’s a symptom of our disconnection to heritage, our dissociation to history, our disdain to homage.

Still don’t care.

But just as when I talk to people about race issues outside of Mormonism, such as when issues of equity, equality, affirmative action, oppression and privilege arise, I have to point out to people that we shouldn’t delude ourselves into thinking that all of the offense happened in the past and now, we are a bastion of enlightened, liberal thinking. No, race issues are not just our great-granddad’s issues. Race issues are now.

I sometimes like to relay a personal story from church…To put into context, it happened when I was either a deacon or teacher, so the year must have been somewhere between 2001 and 2004 (if my math is correct :D). There was an older speaker who would periodically bear testimony of the success of the church in Africa and his happiness for all the African saints who were hearing the gospel. Sometimes, he would say things that sounded kinda funny, but I didn’t really think much of it…after all, a lot of people said funny things during fast and testimony meetings. (I don’t know if this is how all wards with non-negligible Native American populations work, but there were some people who definitely ran with the idea of being literal Lamanite descendants.)

Well, on one particular day, he and I ran into each other in the hallway. My brother and I had a pretty good reputation for being smart, well-behaved guys in the ward, so it wasn’t uncommon for others in the ward to compliment us to our parents or to us. This was just like that, at first.

And so when we ran into each other in the hall, he talked about how glad he was to see such smart, well-behaved kids. I thanked him for his comments in that awkward way you do when you realize that someone is seriously congratulating you for something that shouldn’t be all that amazing. (What? Mainstream, articulate black guy? I mean, that’s a storybook, man.) But before I could squirm out of the conversation, he continued: he was sure that in the next life, I’d become white just as the Lord has promised.

*Cue record scratch*

Since my parents definitely did raise me to be well-mannered and polite, I thanked him for his comment and went on my way. And even then, I wasn’t entirely too outraged or shocked…after all, I (and many other people) experience these kinds of “micro-aggressions” every day. At some point, you (if you’re a minority who experiences these things all the time) inwardly shake your head (and, as far as I can tell, the twitter hashtag #smh seems to be overwhelmingly used by black people…coincidence?) and perhaps have a weird humor about it, or at the worst, pity for the other person. You realize that all of the anger you could be experiencing would be better saved for another day.

(Coincidentally, this makes the story pretty interesting to tell to other people. Many non-minority people will want to feel vicariously outraged for me, and then comes the implied question from before: how can I as a black man live with this? I think “outrage” is something you need a certain level of privilege to express.)

Honestly, I view the story I just told as a lighthearted, non-serious way to break the ice of the fact that when we talk about race issues in the church, we’re not just talking about things from the 1800s or things from before 1978. We are talking about things that — for whatever reason — have stowed away on the vehicle that is Mormonism to as far as 2004.

Randy Bott

And so, when I hear about things like Brigham Young University religion professor Dr. Randy Bott’s comments on race and Mormonism (they are on the 3rd page of the article), and even when I read the socially appropriate level of conspicuously outraged responses and the diligently researched and reasoned rebuttals from thoughtful people, it seems something like deja vu.

From Dr. Bott (in case you get pay-walled):

“God has always been discriminatory” when it comes to whom he grants the authority of the priesthood, says Bott, the BYU theologian. He quotes Mormon scripture that states that the Lord gives to people “all that he seeth fit.” Bott compares blacks with a young child prematurely asking for the keys to her father’s car, and explains that similarly until 1978, the Lord determined that blacks were not yet ready for the priesthood.

“What is discrimination?” Bott asks. “I think that is keeping something from somebody that would be a benefit for them, right? But what if it wouldn’t have been a benefit to them?” Bott says that the denial of the priesthood to blacks on Earth — although not in the afterlife — protected them from the lowest rungs of hell reserved for people who abuse their priesthood powers. “You couldn’t fall off the top of the ladder, because you weren’t on the top of the ladder. So, in reality the blacks not having the priesthood was the greatest blessing God could give them.”

As I linked above, I think that a lot of Mormons do want to dissociate from Bott’s thinking. There are (albeit rumored) planned protests from BYU students. The FAIR blog posts a longer apologetic response. Members are sure to call it what it is: folklore doctrine. And to point out that it’s wrong.

But What’s the End Goal?

Every time someone expresses a comment like this (especially in a public space), everyone else predictably tries to distance him or herself from said comment in one way or another. The church has issued its official statement via the LDS Newsroom. Relevant part:

For a time in the Church there was a restriction on the priesthood for male members of African descent.  It is not known precisely why, how, or when this restriction began in the Church but what is clear is that it ended decades ago. Some have attempted to explain the reason for this restriction but these attempts should be viewed as speculation and opinion, not doctrine. The Church is not bound by speculation or opinions given with limited understanding.

But what is the end goal for any and all Mormons? What do we hope to accomplish from this?

Do we want confirmation that the church now is not full of Randy Botts, that he is just an anomaly? Do we want comfort that the church’s reasons then weren’t what Randy Bott says they are, that he’s just accumulating and churning folk doctrine or that he’s outdated? (But then, a question might be: how do people fall out of date with new understandings?)

Do we want a repudiation? And what would that look like? Are we, as Brad from By Common Consent writes, “paying a price for our unwillingness to publicly confess our sin, which we instead hide under a cloak of un-Christian folklore and false-doctrine and proud insistence that it wasn’t our fault, it was really God’s“?

Is the Newsroom article a forceful enough repudiation to convince both members and non-members of what the actual Mormon position is? (Brad and others seem to think not).

How much of a repudiation would require the church committing to explanations that it claims not to have? (In other words, if, even on February 29th, 2012, it is not known precisely why, how, or when these policies came to be, then can we satisfactorily repudiate any and all speculative answers about it or unbind ourselves from the speculation or opinions that will fill any official void?)

Why is it that it seems like some people haven’t “gotten the memo”? Is there a memo to be gotten about race?

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85 Responses to Mormon Race Issues: Not Just Your Great-Granddad’s Problem

  1. Stephen M (Ethesis) on March 1, 2012 at 6:02 AM

    we shouldn’t delude ourselves into thinking that all of the offense happened in the past and now, we are a bastion of enlightened, liberal thinking. No, race issues are not just our great-granddad’s issues. Race issues are now.

    That is important to recognize. If affirmative action programs within companies did not make for better profitability … but they do, which tells me that race still matters.

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  2. Stephen M (Ethesis) on March 1, 2012 at 6:18 AM

    I think “outrage” is something you need a certain level of privilege to express.

    I’ll have to think more on that, but you have made some excellent points.

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  3. Howard on March 1, 2012 at 6:20 AM

    It’s unfortunate racism is viewed separately from prejudice. In the next life I’m sure you’ll; be white…be heterosexual…be married…be whole. It is an exclusive church not an inclusive one and has been since it’s inception.

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  4. Howard on March 1, 2012 at 6:29 AM

    On second thought perhaps that should read; and has been since succession.

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  5. Andrew S on March 1, 2012 at 7:10 AM

    re 1,

    Stephen

    Basically, color blindness won’t work at this point because we still have a lot of baggage embedded at a societal level. This is kinda the same thing with the church and the priesthood ban: distancing ourselves from any and all “speculative” or “folk doctrinal” explanations for why the policy existed won’t work because we still have a lot of baggage embedded at a theological level.

    re 2,

    perhaps it’s a sad state, and it’s not supposed to be that way, but I would still stick with that assertion.

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  6. Andrew S on March 1, 2012 at 7:10 AM

    re 3, 4:

    Howard,

    So, the question, Howard, is whether you think each of these things can change and whether you think each of these things will change? It seems that now, a lot of people are ok with saying, “In the next life, you’ll be white” is absolutely unfounded, never was doctrinal, etc., But these same people are probably the same ones who will say that the church’s position on homosexuality is a totally different thing…the church’s position on marriage is a totally different thing. Etc.,

    So, when you say, “It is an exclusive church,” do you also think it *should* be one?

    To address what you said in 4: “and has been since succession.” Do you think that succession can get us out of this (and what does “getting out of this” look like?). Some people have suggested that we just need to get a few new generations in the leadership for change to happen…

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  7. Mike S on March 1, 2012 at 8:09 AM

    To me, the underlying issue is bigger than the racism that existed in the Church (and in the general society around the Church) in the United States. The biggest issue is: What do we actually believe?

    All of the things said by Bott were NOT just merely HIS OWN “opinion”, but they were parroting things said by prior apostles and prophets. All of them.

    But then the Church’s response is The Church is not bound by speculation or opinions given with limited understanding. This implies that prophets and apostles who taught these things as doctrine were actually merely “speculating” or giving their “opinions”. It also implies that the apostles and prophets were speaking with “limited understanding”. So, who has “full understanding”? If not the prophet and apostles of the LDS Church, who actually has authority to speak for God?

    So, while the recent press release from the Church is an attempt to down-play the racist comments of Bott, it actually raises a much bigger issue, undermining the whole premise of prophets and apostles and whether they speak “God’s words” or merely their own speculations and opinions.

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  8. Andrew S on March 1, 2012 at 8:23 AM

    re 7,

    Mike,

    Well stated. If the church issues as great a repudiation as some people would like, then that puts Mormons in a huge gray zone. At least THEORETICALLY, we know that prophets aren’t infallible…that they are men, they don’t always speak for God etc.,

    The question exactly is: *when* do they speak for God? How can we know?

    The current response allows for the possibly (however distasteful) of, “Maybe this policy used to be right, but now it’s not.” That’s not a possibility a lot of people want to consider.

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  9. Howard on March 1, 2012 at 8:50 AM

    Andrew S,
    I know these things can change because they are changing in the secular world. No I don’t think the current succession method will get us out of it, seniority succession biases church change to a very slow pace ironically lagging the enlightenment of the secular world. So the question is will the church be left behind again or are the brethren now on their knees seeking revelation? I would love to think they are but I sure wouldn’t bet on it. On the other hand their growing retention problem might motivate them to do it indirectly. As I mentioned on Brad’s BCC thread God apparently used social exclusion to protect the relaunch of the gospel so exclusion was apparently there from the beginning and since the gospel seeks to evolve humankind to a higher spiritual place it will probably always be behavioral and/or belief exclusive. But the commandment to love one another in practice speaks against many degrees of social exclusion because it takes a very big and a very open heart to actually love those you have little contact with or disagree with or are prejudice against. Love embraces not excludes.

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  10. Bob on March 1, 2012 at 9:00 AM

    #6 Andrew,
    “…what does “getting out of this” look like?”.
    It looks like Biology. There is no black or white race, only a Human race.
    As long as Church leaders, Church members, Church bloggers, don’t accept this, the race debate will go on.
    Also, there is no such thing as a “Generation”. People are born everyday. The Church GA leadership has contained ages 22-100. How can you wait for a new “Generation” of Church GAs to come along and change things?

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  11. Jeff Spector on March 1, 2012 at 9:24 AM

    I find this interesting on a few different levels.

    One is simply that Bott now claims that he was misquoted. funny, don’t they all say that?

    Second, I can also rationalize a scenario where he was actually trying to explain how a reason could have been created, used an example that was, at the very least, poorly crafted and then had it all misconstrued by the reporter.

    We’ve all, at one time or another, faced trying to explain Mormon doctrine to a non-member and just having them not get it.

    So, I don’t realty know Bott or what is in his heart, so I can only judge his words. If we really believed what he was quoted as saying, it’s a problem. If he offered a clumsy explanation or was misquoted, then I feel sorry from him.

    Christians traditionally are among the most racist people on the planet. Especially against the Jews. But, also the Muslims, Native Americans, Africans, etc…..

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  12. UnderCover Brother on March 1, 2012 at 9:35 AM

    #7 Mike S.
    I think you have hit the nail on the head. What do we actually believe? All we have been told is what we don’t know (‘It is not known precisely why, how, or when this restriction began in the Church…’), and then it is left to the members to fill in the vacuum. The vacuum is then filled in by the likes of Professor Bott (who, in essence, quoted the Brethren).
    So, if what was then doctrine and policy is now folklore, what is now doctrine and policy that may become folklore in the future?
    “As speculation is, doctrine once was. As doctrine is, speculation may become”. Is this what we now believe?

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  13. Jeff Spector on March 1, 2012 at 10:05 AM

    I am at a loss for wonder what more repudiation do you need?

    - You have the actual revelation itself which changed the doctrine/policy or whatever it was.
    - You have Elder McConkie stating that he and every other prophet/apostle were wrong
    - You have President Hinckley stating that racism in any form is wrong
    - You have Elder Holland saying that any speculation about the ban is folklore including any speculation from anyone.
    - You have no provable evidence about how the whole ban came about other than some 1800 racist talk from BY and others what was pretty typical for the time.

    The fact that we still have some Neanderthals in the Church who don’t let it go is not an indicator of the whole Church overall, but the lack of enlightenment on the part of a few.

    Not letting this go is frankly, an insult to those members of color who have embraced the gospel in spite of the past.

    The white guys really have no right to harbor any ill will, IMO.

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  14. Paolo on March 1, 2012 at 10:22 AM

    Andrew, you do have a good heart! I agree that you cannot easily look at policies of the past through our lens of the 21st century and decry it. What is actually the scariest part to me is the quote from the church herself, “It is not known precisely why, how, or when this restriction began in the Church…” Does any one else wonder about other “doctrines” or practices or policies in the church that no-one in SLC has a clue about? For a church that claims revelation and the only true church speaking for God, this is pretty amazing.

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  15. Andrew S on March 1, 2012 at 10:32 AM

    re 10,

    Bob,

    But isn’t the issue that society as a whole socially constructs categories separate from biology. It’s not like if you go *outside* of the church that people feel that “black” and “white” are unintelligible concepts…

    As far as generations…generations are defined with respect to shared life experiences…those life experiences differ by the age one experienced them. So everyone who was alive for 9/11 will have certain experiences because of that…but depending on if you were 10 or 40, you’ll probably have different experiences.

    Where generations come into play is about demographic statistics. Yeah, you can point out the range of 22 to 100…but we’d have to look at where the pluralities are…that’s going to change over time.

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  16. Andrew S on March 1, 2012 at 10:46 AM

    re 11,

    Jeff,

    Yeah, definitely, it’s not an uncommon thing for the media to misquote someone, so ultimately, this can’t be about Bott as he actually is (because the media portrayal may be different), but rather than about the fact that the *idea* of someone like how the media portrayed Bott still seems plausible. In other words, even if Bott was misquoted, it still seems plausible that someone could actually believe what he was quoted as saying.

    re 13,

    I’m kinda at the same loss. It seems like we’re stuck in a rut…and no matter how much gets said over time, everyone is still stuck in the same places of the rut.

    I would think the issues are in two bullet points you mentioned:

    - You have Elder Holland saying that any speculation about the ban is folklore including any speculation from anyone.

    - You have no provable evidence about how the whole ban came about other than some 1800 racist talk from BY and others what was pretty typical for the time.

    We can’t get past the ban because there is no *closure* for it. Any attempt to try to tie up the loose ends is folklore/speculation…we can’t even conclude that the ban was just something that came from 1800 racist talk from BY and others that was typical at the time — precisely because any speculation about the ban is folklore!

    As a result, we’re going to continue to have people who try to fill in the explanatory gap to come up with some framework to understand it.

    The fact that we still have some Neanderthals in the Church who don’t let it go is not an indicator of the whole Church overall, but the lack of enlightenment on the part of a few.

    But is it enlightened “us” vs. neanderthal “them”?

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  17. Bob on March 1, 2012 at 10:55 AM

    #15: Andrew,
    “society as a whole socially constructs categories”. My point exactly: Biology show in FACT_ there are no races. If you want to do away with “society as a whole socially constructs categories “, you must accept Biology as true, and those constructs as false.
    “Generations” (as are “Decades”) are also a false set of cateogories that must be set aside to see things correctly.

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  18. Jeff Spector on March 1, 2012 at 10:58 AM

    Andrew S.,

    “In other words, even if Bott was misquoted, it still seems plausible that someone could actually believe what he was quoted as saying.”

    Yes exactly, that is what made it so bad. chances are, those folks already believed it or, in the worse case, think that all Mormons believe it.

    “…precisely because any speculation about the ban is folklore!”

    Let’s not get too weird about this! If there is a genuine attempt, like the Lester Bush article to understand where the ban came from, it is not speculation in and of itself. But might result, as most historical investigation does, speculation in the analysis of the evidence. And I don’t think this is what Elder Holland was getting at.

    “But is it enlightened “us” vs. neanderthal “them”?”

    I still think so.

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  19. UnderCover Brother on March 1, 2012 at 11:13 AM

    #13 Jeff,
    I’m not sure who you were addressing, so –
    I would like to be able to provide a response when I am asked why the ban was instituted in the first place.
    Seeing that this is a world-wide church (I do not live in the U.S) and we seem to have the answers to life’s problems, can anyone point me to a General Conference address where it is explained why the ban was instituted in the first place (from a current doctrinal perspective, not was is now speculation/folklore)?
    I’m sure you understand that I cannot respond with the, ‘President Hinckley/Elder McConkie stating that he and every other prophet/apostle were wrong’ and ‘racism is wrong’ kind of statement.
    I believe that until this is addressed at a General Conference level, active ‘members of color’ cannot let this go because they are the ones left to explain the past. There is a ‘narrative gap’ that must be filled.

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  20. Douglas on March 1, 2012 at 11:19 AM

    (Jeff) – them pigs are flying again! Excellent! Truly, if there’s something ELSE the Church could do to put racism behind it, what is it?
    It would have difficult to find racially integrated Churches in the USA prior to the 1970s. Remember Jimmy Carter’s 1976 campaign and his disaffiliation with his Baptist congregation over their refusal to admit blacks? The LDS were hardly dinosaurs on the race issue. IMO, the reason for restricting the PH had more to do with softening the hard hearts of the predominantly white members rather than any shortcomings of blacks themselves. Once missionary success was happening amongst blacks throughout the world, the leaders seemed to get that it was high time to lift the ban. The then Prophet, Spencer W Kimball, had worked tirelessly on behalf of native Americans and had dealt with racism against them.
    Look, we gone in some 58 years from Mark E Peterson “letting” the “Negro” drive a Cadillac to considering the race thing as fairly much yesterday’s news. Those that bring it up do so with no other intent than to mud-sling.

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  21. Cowboy on March 1, 2012 at 11:22 AM

    We have repudiations on some of the “folklore”, but not the doctrine/policy/whatever. Until we have some clarification as to why God supposedly had such a policy, expect these speculations. In other words, I agree that the Church is not bound by speculation, but I am just waiting for some kind of evidence that they are bound by Prophecy.

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  22. dpc on March 1, 2012 at 11:31 AM

    I think it’s unfortunate that so many people dwell on the Mormon church’s past practices regarding race and don’t seem to bat one eye at the fact that America’s religious organizations are some of the most racially-segregated social groups around. Why doesn’t anyone worry about a current issue like that?

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  23. dpc on March 1, 2012 at 11:34 AM

    Mike S said:

    “So, while the recent press release from the Church is an attempt to down-play the racist comments of Bott, it actually raises a much bigger issue, undermining the whole premise of prophets and apostles and whether they speak “God’s words” or merely their own speculations and opinions.”

    This, my friends, is what in the world of logical fallacies is called a false dichotomy.

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  24. Remlap on March 1, 2012 at 11:35 AM

    Somehow I can see these same types of conversations happening in 10-20 years when the church receives a “revelation” that changes the “policy” about Gays in the church.

    You will have the actual revelation itself which will change the doctrine/policy or whatever it was.

    - You will have Elder _________ state that he and every other prophet/apostle were wrong

    - You will have President ___________ state that prejudice in any form is wrong

    - You will have Elder _________ saying that any speculation about the ban is folklore including any speculation from anyone.

    - You have no provable evidence about how the whole ban came about other than some 1900-2012 racist talks from BKP and others what was pretty typical for the time.

    And everyone will congratulate themselves on what a great church they belong to.

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  25. Howard on March 1, 2012 at 11:35 AM

    Wow in just 58 years? Amazing! How long do you think it would have taken without revelation?

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  26. Andrew S on March 1, 2012 at 11:59 AM

    re 17,

    Bob,

    The problem is biology alone doesn’t give us conclusions. We have to interpret biological (or any other scientific) data, and as soon as we start doing that, we do so through the filters of the social constructs we have been raised in.

    So, races are socially constructed hodge podges of various visible and less-than-visible traits. The issue isn’t whether there is a biological foundation to something like, say, “skin color” (because there *is*), but whether our grouping of these different phenotypic traits is useful or legitimate.

    Let’s put this to another issue: is sex a real thing according to biology? How about gender? How would we separate the biology from our social constructs? Where do our social constructs OR biological understandings come from?

    re 18,

    Jeff,

    Let’s not get too weird about this! If there is a genuine attempt, like the Lester Bush article to understand where the ban came from, it is not speculation in and of itself. But might result, as most historical investigation does, speculation in the analysis of the evidence. And I don’t think this is what Elder Holland was getting at.

    I’m not trying to get weird about it. I’m saying that such an attempt — even a genuine one — is really easily classified as speculation. I mean, suppose Bott believed his explanation (or suppose there is someone who really believes that explanation). That is still a genuine attempt to understand where the ban came from.

    What Elder Holland’s comments is allows for a plausible deniability. Anything can be speculation, and since the church officially claims not to know, in fact, *every* explanation is speculation unless and until the church ever comes out and says conclusively otherwise.

    It’s just that I guess more members would like Lester Bush’s explanation than they do Randy Bott’s.

    This actually doesn’t highlight greater enlightenment really…we’re still ignorant about it.

    re 20,

    Douglas,

    IMO, the reason for restricting the PH had more to do with softening the hard hearts of the predominantly white members rather than any shortcomings of blacks themselves. Once missionary success was happening amongst blacks throughout the world, the leaders seemed to get that it was high time to lift the ban.

    Does your “IMO” signify that you recognize that this is still speculation?

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  27. dpc on March 1, 2012 at 12:09 PM

    @Andrew S

    Race is based on bone structure and not skin color. That’s why stuff always say that they do not discriminate based on race, color, national origin, etc. For example, people from India are considered ‘Caucasian’ And physical anthropologists might not like you insinuating that their field is useless and illegitimate…

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  28. Bob on March 1, 2012 at 12:21 PM

    #26: Andrew’
    “The problem is biology alone doesn’t give us conclusions”. Of course it does. It can stand on it’s own with conclusions: The earth is not 6,000 years old (a conclusion). There are no races (a conclusion). There are boys and girls (a Conclusion).

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  29. KT on March 1, 2012 at 12:28 PM

    #7 – I wish I could’ve liked that 20 times! That is such a current relevant issue surrounding the Church!

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  30. Jeff Spector on March 1, 2012 at 12:37 PM

    uncovered,

    “I would like to be able to provide a response when I am asked why the ban was instituted in the first place.”

    Yes, we’d all like that. Perhaps you should check out the Lester Bush article on the Dialogue website. Perhaps that might help you.

    But, the fact remains that the real reason has not been determined/uncovered/revealed/confessed or any number of other terms you might use.

    “active ‘members of color’ cannot let this go because they are the ones left to explain the past.”

    I don’t think this is where the problem lies. The members of color that I know do not pay it much mind at this point. It appears that more liberal white members of the Church are more unsettled about it still.

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  31. Jeff Spector on March 1, 2012 at 12:41 PM

    Andrew,

    “I’m not trying to get weird about it. I’m saying that such an attempt — even a genuine one — is really easily classified as speculation.”

    We seem to get to this place where “well, what can we really know for sure anyway” with regard to any issue.

    At some point, you have to put it to rest on what we do know.

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  32. Jeff Spector on March 1, 2012 at 12:42 PM

    Remlap,

    “- You have no provable evidence about how the whole ban came about other than some 1900-2012 racist talks from BKP and others what was pretty typical for the time.

    And everyone will congratulate themselves on what a great church they belong to.”

    And your point is?

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  33. Andrew S on March 1, 2012 at 12:53 PM

    re 22,

    dpc,

    I think that goes to show at least one point: We are blind to our own current lens, so whereas we look at horror at what was done in the past (when it slips up to the present), we are blind to what we’re doing in the present.

    re 23,

    just so everyone can discuss, why not mention some other alternatives? Maybe the issue is not that people think other alternatives don’t exist, but that they are less compelling than those.

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  34. Stephen M (Ethesis) on March 1, 2012 at 12:57 PM

    Race, as used in Scott’s Ivanhoe is useful. Beta blockers, whether you should get them depends on ethnic group history and such. Sickle cell anemia is another example.

    But none of those are “race” as the public sees them.

    From my perspective you can measure institutional affects. Some companies have affirmative action programs, some do not. If there are no lingering effects, such programs will reduce productivity. The opposit happens. That is statistical proof that there is still enough racism remaining that it has measurable impact.

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  35. Andrew S on March 1, 2012 at 1:04 PM

    re 27,

    dpc,

    I don’t think that addresses the spirit of what I was saying. So, you now have shifted to a different trait to measure, that we will say corresponds to “race.”

    I’m sure that all sorts of scientists don’t want their field to be viewed as useless or illegitimate. But that’s precisely why we need to investigate what the philosophy behind said science is — what is the scope of its usefulness and legitimacy?

    re 28,

    Bob,

    “There are races.” (A conclusion asserted by physical anthropology, as dpc was just mentioning).

    So, from where does your “there are no races” and “there are boys and girls” come? You’re taking a different interpretation of essentially the same facts on the ground.

    re 31,

    Jeff,

    We seem to get to this place where “well, what can we really know for sure anyway” with regard to any issue.

    Right. It’s like saying, “God works in mysterious ways” (if you’re theologically conservative) or saying, “Well, that’s just a metaphor” (if you’re theologically liberal.) It’s not satisfying to the people who ask questions either way.

    At some point, you have to put it to rest on what we do know.

    In which case, as what happens with most issues of this sort, we’ll come to different answers because different people “know” different things.

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  36. UnderCover Brother on March 1, 2012 at 1:30 PM

    #30 Jeff,
    Among other things, I have read ‘Neither Black Nor White’, which I found very interesting. I think it also a bit sad that I have to be referred to Dialogue to find answers. The answers should be found in the Church. Isn’t that the point?
    BTW – the many ‘members of color’ I know, are very much unsettled by the Church’s lack of clarity on the reason for the ban, because they are left to fill in the narrative gap left by the Church. They very much pay attention to it.
    Do you really think that ‘members of color’ are not interested on Prof Bott’s comments and how the Church responded to this ‘doctrine’ they had to live through 30 odd years ago?
    Really?

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  37. Bob on March 1, 2012 at 1:49 PM

    #35: Andrew,
    “Bob, Where do you get your information”?
    I have a degree in Anthropology, and studied under some of the greatest physical anthropologists from Columbia and U.of Chicago. There is no way to tell were “white” begins, and “Black” ends.

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  38. Jeff Spector on March 1, 2012 at 2:02 PM

    Uncovered,

    “Do you really think that ‘members of color’ are not interested on Prof Bott’s comments and how the Church responded to this ‘doctrine’ they had to live through 30 odd years ago?
    Really?”

    I spoke about the ones I know and have known. I cannot speak for all of them. but I do know that the members that keep bringing it up and making it an issue are white.

    I suspect those of color have had to resolve the issue for themselves the day they decided to join the church or shortly thereafter. or why would they have joined in the first place.

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  39. FireTag on March 1, 2012 at 2:37 PM

    The RLDS/CofChrist guy is a little confused as to whether Howard was talking about the succession of Brigham Young or the succession of the southern states. :D

    Joseph Smith ordained African Americans, so he didn’t see any thing he brought forth during his life as posing a theological barrier.

    I am assuming that the BofM, either as a historical document or as a 19th Century documents written in the voice of an ancient refugee from Jerusalem, would OF COURSE sound racist. Ancient Jews were racist. That would include not only Lehi and Nephi, but also Isaiah and Jeremiah. In fact, much of the New Testament concerns arguments between Paul and other Apostles over the racial animosities between Jews and those nasty Italians and Greeks!

    There is, in fact, not a whole lot of evidence that any Christian religion ever got too far ahead of its cultural biases. All of we Christians do a poor job of listening to Christ, it seems.

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  40. FireTag on March 1, 2012 at 2:58 PM

    Andrew, in regard to your comment to Douglas:

    I think we do have scriptural evidence that the Restoration generally thinks priesthood gets withdrawn/withheld because of the sins of the people — like being unwilling to accept priesthood ministry — rather than any sins on the part of the ones who would otherwise be called to the priesthood.

    The CofChrist went through the same argument in respect to the revelation authorizing ordaining women. Before hand, we argued whether women could be called. Either God had always wanted them called or there was some eternal reason why they should never be called. In retrospect, we realized that it wasn’t because women had never been called; as a body we had simply been blind to the calls because of OUR limitations, not theirs. Now, we are going through the same argument about gays.

    Joanna Brooks put it best in a Religion Dispatches post I saw on Real Clear Religion this morning. The Mormon church screwed up.

    I guess we need to recall that there are D&C provisions in place because prophets CAN screw up.

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  41. Remlap on March 1, 2012 at 3:37 PM

    Jeff,

    My point is that the church did not lift the ban on priesthood because it was the right thing to do. It was done because it became politically expedient to do so. In another 10-20 years the church will reverse its policy on Gays not because it is the right thing to do but because there will be outside political and financial pressures to do so.

    And let’s not kid ourselves, the Church’s past prejudicial policies against Blacks were not about the priesthood. Black women were not allowed to take out their endowments before 1978.

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  42. Douglas on March 1, 2012 at 5:03 PM

    Remlap – wrong. Jane Manwaring, a member lady of color, took out her endowments in 1875 in the Endowment House. The ceremony was presided over by Brigham Young.
    Your misguided and inappropriate attempt to equate the struggle of blacks in America and in the Church (a condition our Heavenly Father saw fit to bestow upon them) to gain respects with the pathetic cries of radical homosexuals to force THEIR sordid lifestyle upon those that don’t want their company or influence is repugnant, Sir.

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  43. Remlap on March 1, 2012 at 5:43 PM

    Douglas,

    I stand corrected. One Black sister got her endowments 1875 by Brigham Young. Of course this is the same Brigham Young that stated:

    “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.” (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Volume 10, page 110.)

    Nothing to see here folks…move along.

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  44. hawkgrrrl on March 1, 2012 at 6:21 PM

    “I think “outrage” is something you need a certain level of privilege to express.” Wow – that’s a great comment, one that with be sticking in my brain for a while.

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  45. hawkgrrrl on March 1, 2012 at 6:24 PM

    Mike S #7 – that’s one reason that it was so alarming to have the false doctrine of the 14 Fundamentals preached multiple times in a recent GC without any repudiation. So why is infallibility not universally and uniformly rebuked and called out whenever it is preached? Clearly someone in Salt Lake thinks the benefit of allowing false belief in prophetic infallibility outweighs the benefit of clarity.

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  46. Jared on March 1, 2012 at 7:32 PM

    After all is said and done, the Lord is responsible for what the church that bears his name does. I find it hard to believe that the apostles and prophets prior to 1978 practiced a policy that was contrary to the Lord’s will, that somehow they were out of touch with the head of the church.

    The ban isn’t the central issue—in my opinion. The central issue is understanding how the Lord works with His fallible prophets to accomplish His will. I believe the Lord is very close to His prophets. He isn’t an absentee Deity. I don’t see any reason to conclude the Lord’s will is ultimately frustrated because of fallible prophets. That would be equivalent to the tail wagging the dog.

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  47. Bob on March 1, 2012 at 8:38 PM

    #46: Jared,
    I am not sure the Church teaches it’s Prophets can be fallible when acting as Prophets(?)
    Yes, they can be fallible when they act as men while they carry the mantle of prophet.
    I see the problem is Mormonism is built around race, kinship, and gender. It will have a hard time backing away from any of this thinking.

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  48. Andrew S on March 1, 2012 at 8:40 PM

    re 34,

    Stephen,

    Such a good comment. Wanted to say that in addition to liking.

    re 37,

    Bob

    Rather convenient credentials to have here. Why, then, I wonder, are there still people here who are going to distinguish races by bone structure, for example?

    re 38,

    Jeff,

    Not to be totally contrary, but it’s entire possible for someone to “resolve the issue for himself” by concluding something like, “Well, this is a racist world, so why not a racist church as well?”

    Again, outrage is for the privileged which would really square well with your observation that it’s liberal white people getting upset.

    re 40,

    FireTag,

    I think that, much like Joanna Brooks, many liberal members of the church have basically come to that conclusion. But with the church’s conclusions about that being what they are, that’s just as much speculatory as anything else.

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  49. Mormon Heretic on March 1, 2012 at 8:49 PM

    Douglas or Remlap,

    Do you mean Jane Manning James (not Jane Manwaring)? As I understand it, she wanted to get sealed to her husband, or perhaps Elijah Abel, but was repeatedly denied. Finally, after Brigham Young died, but Jane still living, a proxy ceremony was provided on her behalf to seal her as a servant to Joseph Smith. She was told to quit asking for the sealing ordinance and to be satisfied with this compromise.

    I am not aware of any female black members receiving any endowment prior to 1978. The only black church member (that I am aware of) to receive the endowment was Elijah Abel in Kirtland–and in fact the endowment that Elijah received was what we would call a “washing and anointing” today. Elijah did not receive the full Nauvoo endowment because the temple wasn’t completed at Joseph’s death, and Brigham Young denied permission to Abel. From what I can tell, Brigham Young denied endowments to all black church members. So, if there is evidence of a Jane Manwaring receiving the endowment under Brigham Young, I would like to know more. This is a pet research topic of mine, so I’m very curious if you have any evidence to back up this assertion.

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  50. Howard on March 1, 2012 at 9:13 PM

    …to force THEIR sordid lifestyle… Douglas what do you mean by force?

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  51. Rigel Hawthorne on March 1, 2012 at 9:20 PM

    “protected them from the lowest rungs of hell reserved for people who abuse their priesthood powers. “You couldn’t fall off the top of the ladder, because you weren’t on the top of the ladder”

    What an asinine statement. Can anyone here not come up with a list of non-black priesthood holders who have filled those ‘lowest rungs of hell’ (if there is even such a thing in Mormon theology) by their actions?

    If the church had only stayed with the example set by JS in ordaining black priesthood holders and offering sealings to all worthy individuals. One can only imagine what opportunities we as a church body have missed not having followed his prophetic leadership.

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  52. Jared on March 1, 2012 at 9:29 PM

    This comment is for those who believe the Lord gave us the scripture to reason from.

    I haven’t spend a great deal of time on the issue of the priesthood ban but here are a few ideas based on the scripture that help me cut through the fog:

    1. Who is the head of the church?

    For believing members there can only be one answer—Jesus Christ (3 Nephi 27:8).

    2. Does the Lord inspire and lead His chosen prophets?

    The scripture answer this question in the affirmative. (1 Nephi 22:2, Amos 3:7).

    3. Can a prophet of the Lord err—be fallible?

    The scriptures give clear understanding they can, and have. (D&C 1:24-28).

    4. Will the Lord permit a fallible prophet to frustrate His will?

    No.

    The works, and the designs, and the purposes of God cannot be frustrated, neither can they come to naught. D&C 3:1

    5. Has the Lord intervened when a prophet erred on an important doctrinal matter because of the culture they lived in?

    Yes, Peter was taught by the Lord in a dream/vision to take the gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 10:9-16). This was contrary to Jewish culture, and the Saviors own teachings when He was with His disciples (Matt 10:5-6). He told them not to go to the Gentiles, but now the Lord was sending the gospel to all men. The Lord intervened at this time because it was His will that the Gentiles receive the gospel.

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  53. Douglas on March 1, 2012 at 9:57 PM

    MH – Thanks for the clarification. Janes Manning James would be correct, however, I managed to also look up a 1979 Ensign article linked from the Wikipedia article.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jane_Elizabeth_Manning_James

    http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=2354fccf2b7db010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=fbcc615b01a6b010VgnVCM1000004d82620a____&hideNav=1

    It mentions her temple work as being done “recently” prior to the publication (1979), so this can’t be the woman that I was thinking of having her endowment presided over by BY in 1875. I’ll have to do further research, I’ve got my LDS African-American sisters confused (no, they don’t all look alike…).

    My involvement with blacks and LDS has to do with a Nigerian medical student that I baptized in Italy in 1980. He’s brought a proverbial legion into the Church since then.

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  54. FireTag on March 1, 2012 at 11:54 PM

    Jared 46:

    Key word in your comment is “ultimately”; He seems to permit mankind to do a lot of harm prior to ultimately. The D&C itself contains provisions for the removal of a prophet, and it’s hard to see why those provisions would be there if it was impossible that they might ever be needed.

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  55. hawkgrrrl on March 2, 2012 at 12:02 AM

    From a great post at BCC on this topic today: “Correlation has managed to lower the boom on heterodoxy, but it has also caused a bull market in false ideas and false doctrines which are able to cloak themselves in orthodoxy.”

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  56. [...] tried writing a post about it and race at Wheat & Tares, but I’ve been (and I suspected this would happen) burnt out from the discussion. Honestly, [...]

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  57. UnderCover Brother on March 2, 2012 at 1:31 AM

    #30 Jeff,
    ‘The members of color that I know do not pay it much mind at this point’.
    OK – let’s see. Imagine this scenario. It’s Feb 2012 and you are in the Gospel Doctrine class. Its Lesson 7: ‘I Know in Whom I Have Trusted’. The lesson discusses 2 Nephi 5, where ‘the Nephites live “after the manner of happiness,” and the Lamanites are cursed for their wickedness’. And what is the curse the Lamanites have received? The Lord God caused a skin of blackness to come upon them. The seed of him who mixes with the seed of the Lamanites is cursed. They become an idle people, full of mischief and subtlety (sound familiar?).
    Imagine being a ‘member of color’ and sitting through that lesson. Even better: Imagine being a ‘member of color’, teaching lesson 7 and being asked about this particular point.
    Do you still hold to the opinion that ‘members of color’ that you know ‘do not pay it much mind at this point’?

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  58. hawkgrrrl on March 2, 2012 at 1:52 AM

    “what is the curse the Lamanites have received?” One ironic interpretation is that they became rednecks. They got suntanned from being in an agrarian outdoorsy society rather than living in commerce-oriented cities like the Nephites. Now who’s filthy and loathesome, rednecks?

    However, most gospel doctrine teachers I know wouldn’t touch those verses with a ten foot pole. Or if they did, they’d feign ignorance of what it might mean. Hmmm. That sounds a lot like this whole topic.

    Someone made a great analogy on the BCC thread about how we tell YM not to think about porn but to fill that mental stage with good things instead. This kind of folklore is like porn, but we haven’t given anyone anything good to replace it with. So, it keeps creeping back onto that empty stage, filling the void.

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  59. Bob on March 2, 2012 at 2:14 AM

    #58:hawkgrrrl,
    Just suntanned?! Silly. 19thC Utah Mormons were mostly an agrarian outdoorsy society__ but still as white as those living in Salt Lake City.
    If Nephites had cities, still most of it population would be agrarian outdoorsy to support their cities.

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  60. Bob on March 2, 2012 at 2:27 AM

    #48: Andrew,
    I have never heard of special bones for blacks that whites don’t have.
    At some point, it’s even hard to see deficient between male and female bones.

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  61. Andrew S on March 2, 2012 at 6:37 AM

    re 60,

    *facepalm*

    leave it to me to botch up questions concerning philosophy of science and the cultural situatedness therein and get caught up in a devil’s advocate discussion about race realism vs. race as a social construct.

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  62. John Mansfield on March 2, 2012 at 7:11 AM

    Bob, what bones does a horse have that a human doesn’t have?

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  63. Bob on March 2, 2012 at 7:21 AM

    #62: John,
    I believe they have the same bones.

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  64. Bob on March 2, 2012 at 7:43 AM

    In an article in the Journal of Counseling and Development,12 researchers argued that the term “race” is basically so meaningless that it should be discarded.

    More recently, those working on mapping the human genome announced “that they had put together a draft of the entire sequence of the human genome, and the researchers had unanimously declared, there is only one race—the human race.”13

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  65. John Mansfield on March 2, 2012 at 8:08 AM

    So, when Andrew S. writes “I don’t pretend to speak for every black Mormon,” this is so not only for the obvious reasons, but also because otherwise he would be pretending to speak for a fictitous subset of humanity?

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  66. Jared on March 2, 2012 at 8:12 AM

    #54 FireTag–

    I agree.

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  67. John Mansfield on March 2, 2012 at 8:12 AM

    Writing that last one, I was struck by the parallel to Andrew S.’s story about the man who thought so much of him that he was sure Andrew S. would be white in heaven. Now Andrew S. doesn’t have to wait for heaven; he can be a non-racial human here in mortality.

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  68. Andrew S on March 2, 2012 at 8:16 AM

    re 65,

    John,

    Well, to be fair, already at play are the differences between social constructs and non-constructed things. So, it would be easy to say that when I or anyone speaks of “black people,” then I’m talking about a social construct. (It’s up to the individual to determine whether they believe social constructs are all fictitious…)

    Bob’s contention waaay back when is that if we would just follow the science, then we would discard social constructs. But I think this ignores the fact that science itself isn’t exactly immune to the socially constructed mesh in which it is conducted.

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  69. Bob on March 2, 2012 at 8:47 AM

    #68: Andrew,
    The only
    “social construct” I am saying to “discard”__is racism.
    Yes, old science did a lot to create this construct mess. But now is making efforts to discard it.
    OR, one may wish to keep the social construct to show how God blesses or curses babies to somehow prove a point.

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  70. ji on March 2, 2012 at 9:13 AM

    Andrew S — I appreciate your original posting — very well-written and meaningful to me…

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  71. Andrew S on March 2, 2012 at 11:47 AM

    re 69,

    Bob,

    What I’m saying, however, is that “old science” isn’t really cleanly separable from “new science.” It’s far less separable than races are ;)

    As we become more aware of intersex, transgender, etc., people, I wonder if one day we’ll realize that gender and/or sex itself is muchly a construct, for which “old science” has done a lot to create.

    re 70,

    ji,

    thanks!

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  72. mh on March 2, 2012 at 4:11 PM

    bob, the use of race as a category in medical studies is one important distinction. blacks have more deaths due to heart attacks and SIDS, have higher incidence of hemophilia, and lower rates of skin cancer.

    now, the case can be made that heart attack deaths could be a surrogate for poor income, and may not be related to race per se, but rather access to good health care. on the other hand, hemophilia seems to have a genetic trait, and the pigment of skin may have a protective effect in regards to skin cancer. so race isn’t completely irrelevant in medicine.

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  73. Bob on March 2, 2012 at 4:33 PM

    #72: mh,
    It is fine to make Blacks a study group and it should be done. The same can be said of overweight people. But we do not say overweight people are their own race. We do not have laws against overweight person. We generally don’t kill people because they are overweight!
    There is no black race, no fat race, no short race, no old race.
    (Disclaimer: I am white, overweight, and old).

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  74. Andrew S on March 2, 2012 at 4:53 PM

    How could you make blacks a study group if there is no such thing as a black race? Or, to put it in another way, if “black race” is meaningless, why would we see *any* biologically-based correlations (after controlling for social factors like income, education, environment)?

    I think you miss the comparison point with overweightness and obesity. Just because race is one kind of classification system people have come up with doesn’t mean that it’s the only kind. So, people still classify people into different “groups” based on weight.

    And so many people *do* say that overweight people are their own “classification” of people. Obese people are their own “classification” of people.

    And heck, there is stigma against particular weight levels. If you’re over certain weights, you will be discriminated against (for ex: airplane seats).

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  75. Bob on March 2, 2012 at 4:59 PM

    #71: Andrew, The problem in separating race and Mormonism is that that they are a well crafted Dove-Joint. It’s not an easy separation without each part being damaged.
    How do you separate Mormon ideas of race from revelation and not damage it? How do you separate race from the BoM without damaging it?

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  76. mh on March 2, 2012 at 6:44 PM

    bob, the point is that there could be some genetic predisposition for people of a certain race for/against certain diseases. some people misuse the ‘jewish race.’ jews are a subgroup of caucasians, and have been shown to have a higher incidence of a certain neurological disorder (the name escapes me.)

    it is true that something like 98% of our genes are the same, but those 2% could hold the key to treatments for certain diseases. as such, medical studies always keep track of race. (hispanic is an ethnic group, and can be classified as either black or white.)

    whether you want to call blacks a group or a race sounds like semantics. but from a medical point of view, the genetic races are broken into black, white, asian, native american/pacific islander, and astraloid (apparently a black group indigenous to australia, but with a different genetic makeup than black. obviously the australoid race is not a social construct, as few people have even heard of this race.)
    I will note that the church did allow non-african blacks to hold the priesthood prior to 1978. apparently it was black africans that were cursed from holding the priesthood, not astraloids. there does seem to be some odd justifications for denying africans the priesthood.

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  77. [...] discussions on race has been interesting, but I’d already resolved the issue for myself, much like Andrew S talked about in his recent post.  To me, it was basically just institutionalism of the racism [...]

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  78. Bob on March 2, 2012 at 8:29 PM

    #76: mh,
    When you are hanging from a tree because you are black__is not “semantics”.
    You want to see racism as some kind of Petri dish. Something good for medical studies or whatever.
    In our socisl world, race has gone far beyond this.
    After 400 years, you are no longer an african black, but an American black.

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  79. Andrew S on March 2, 2012 at 9:05 PM

    re 75,

    Bob,

    I’m not a prophet, so I don’t know. If only we had some of those guys around.

    (OK, that was a cheap shot.)

    What I would seriously say though is that Mormons really need to come to grips with the fact that prophets aren’t infallible. They can make mistakes. The problem isn’t that that damages the BoM itself, or the church itself, necessarily, but that when we realize that even strongly stated things from past leaders can be incorrect, it becomes even more difficult to determine what is truly revealed from God.

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  80. Douglas on March 2, 2012 at 9:30 PM

    If my screwy recall of the black sister that was allegedly endowed by BY is any indicator (I’m following a lead but need further inquiry, so bear with me please), then one problem is that we suffer from rather crappy documentation. It’s a problem rampant in my profession (Environmental Engineering). BY did blow long and hard on many talking points but rarely if ever felt a need to pull out the PowerPoint slides. No, he and his success would say, “Thus Saith the Lord, love it or lump it.” After enough time, the context gets lost and with it our understanding of the doctrine.
    Certainly BY’s attitudes on race wouldn’t fly today. However, if anything he was somewhat liberal for his time. Even his statement about “mixing with the seed of Cain” being “worthy of death” isn’t taken today as he likely meant it. Interracial marriage wasn’t legal anywhere in 1863, in fact, there were some severe “anti-miscegenation” laws on the books. However, that didn’t stop white slaveholders from sexually abusing their female charges. Whether a slave or a “free” domestic, black girls were powerless to what was tantamount to rape. Certainly rape has always been a capital offense in the Lord’s eyes, especially of women of a race with few, if any rights

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  81. Howard on March 2, 2012 at 10:01 PM

    Andrew S wrote: …Mormons really need to come to grips with the fact that prophets aren’t infallible. They can make mistakes. This is true but I think part of the problem is what was inspiration in Joseph’s day passes for revelation today.

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  82. MH on March 3, 2012 at 12:11 AM

    Bob, I’m a bit perplexed by your response. It seems you are not following the conversation very well. Are you trying to be a curmudgeon, or did you really misunderstand my comment to think I condone lynching blacks? I have no idea why that thought entered into your head.

    Douglas, I take issue with your statement that “Interracial marriage wasn’t legal anywhere in 1863.” (You are correct that slaveowners impregnated slaves to have more slave offspring–a reprehensible practice. These weren’t marriages, rather they were adultery or rape. Some of the slave women that were impregnated by white slavemasters may have “willingly” participated in these sexual relationships in order to receive better treatment. Often white slaveowners did treat these slave mothers with more favoritism than other slaves, though they didn’t hesitate to sell the offspring.) Census records indicate that “mulattos” were known to exist, so sexual relationships between whites and blacks are more prevalent than your comment indicates.

    Apparently interracial marriage was legal in Massachusetts in 1847. Connell O’Donovan has documented an interracial marriage of Enoch Lovejoy Lewis marriage to a white LDS woman Mary Matilda Webster in Boston in 1846. They had a mixed-race child in 1847. When this was pointed out to Brigham Young, he threatened to have the Lewis family killed in December 1847 for breaking the “law of God”.

    Warner “William” McCary was the other “troublemaker” that helped convince Brigham Young to formulate the ban. McCary was also ordained an elder and later also married a white Mormon woman (after not divorcing his previous black wife.) Additionally, he tried to seduce white Mormon women into unauthorized polygamy as the saints were beginning to travel west to Utah. Between these 2 situations, Young felt compelled to prevent any other inter-racial marriages. As you mentioned, interracial marriage was a social taboo, but while it probably was against the law in the south, it appears to me that it wasn’t against the law in Massachusetts. You can read more of Connell’s comments on my blog at http://www.mormonheretic.org/2009/03/09/early-black-mormons/

    (Incidentally, Connell just recently retired as a history professor from a college in California.) Now, I don’t expect these facts are common knowledge, but I think it helps with understanding why Brigham Young formulated the ban on black priesthood members.

    I don’t like the ban. I don’t condone it, and I wish it had never happened. (The RLDS church never had a ban, but they didn’t actively seek black converst either.) I believe that the McCary and Lewis situations help explain the ban much better than the church’s statement that “we don’t know why, when, or how it came about.”

    To be fair, Ron Esplin believes that Joseph Smith may have started the ban in 1843 in Nauvoo. Lester Bush says the ban didn’t start until Brigham Young in 1847. My money says that Bush is right and Esplin is wrong. But scholars are still debating the start of the ban, though I think most side with Bush.

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  83. Bob on March 3, 2012 at 8:49 AM

    #82 mh,
    No, I don’t think you codone lyching blacks.(I am sorry if you read it that way).
    What I said was to a black man hanging from a tree, race or racism is not a matter of “semantics”. Nor was it to the millions of others who died of those words.
    IMO, The Church has two major race issues going on at this time, with Blacks over Bott, and with Jews over Baptism. The Church is not handing either too well.

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  84. [...] repudiate it and apologize for reals, and not just pick a scapegoat. And put a stop to stuff like this: But before I could squirm out of the conversation, he continued: he was sure that in the next [...]

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  85. Lee Baker on October 21, 2013 at 8:39 PM

    Blacks Ridiculed again by the Mormon Church
    By Lee B. Baker, Former Mormon Bishop

    For several years now, every Tuesday evening I have had the great privilege of addressing the Christian and Mormon listeners of Worship FM 101.7 in Monrovia, the capital City of Liberia, West Africa.

    I have come to know several of the station managers and a number of the more frequent callers to the weekly program. Through their comments, questions and photographs, I have been genuinely moved to see the application of their unyielding faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

    Over the past few months the question of racist teachings in the Book of Mormon and from the past Leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been on the minds of the Liberian converts to Mormonism and the many true Christians who struggle to understand how such a Church can be growing in Africa.

    I believe the answer is relatively simple; it has been the perfect merging of a sincere lack of knowledge on the part of the Mormon converts and a disturbing lack of accountability on the part of the Mormon leaders. A near total lack of knowledge across Africa specific to some of the more explicit teachings found within the Mormon Scriptures, principally that Black Skin is a representation of wickedness and even less information concerning the racism and bigotry openly and officially taught by the early Leadership of the Mormon Church. This combined with the current Church Leadership’s inability to clearly and specifically reject its own racist teachings both in print and from its past Senior Leadership, has left the Black Race with only a short irresponsible and offensively juvenile Official Statement that claims the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints knows very little about its own race-based policy that had lasted for well over 100 years:

    “It is not known precisely why, how or when this restriction began in the Church, but it has ended.”

    Maintaining a detailed and comprehensive history of every aspect and teaching of the Church has been both one of the hallmarks and one of the downfalls of Mormon Church. Within the relatively young Church, authoritative documentation, however corrupt it may have been, has never been in short supply. Each of the Senior Leaders of the Mormon Church has had several official biographers as well as an army of Church authorized historians to record for the faithful Mormon all facets of the History of the Church. In fact, one of my first of many “Callings” in the Mormon Church was that of a Ward (Congregational) Historian, long before I became a Bishop.

    The peculiar assertion that the Mormon Church itself does not know the details of its very own race-based policy of restricting the Blacks from holding the Priesthood is tremendously embarrassing for all Mormons and exceptionally degrading for anyone who actually believes it.

    As a former local leader of the Mormon Church, I have repeatedly assured the African members of the Mormon Church that the documents and “Scriptures” I have read to them over the air are both Authorized and Official for the time period they are relevant to. I clearly state the current position of total acceptance of all Races by the Church, but I must highlight the fact that the Book of Mormon still carries it’s obviously racist message that dark skin was a curse and Jesus was white. I have said many times on-air that like the Mormon Missionaries, I too believe that every African should have a copy of the Book of Mormon, if only to learn the truly racist teaching of the Mormons.

    I have and will continue to teach the African Nations from the authentic Mormon Scriptures and the Church History documents, which I had purchased from the Mormon Church to know my past responsibilities as a Mormon Bishop. The official records of the Mormon Church include many jokes and sermons given within the Official Semi-Annual General Conference of the faithful Mormons, using the “N-word”, Darky and Sambo. Additionally, these Church published books record nearly 100 graphic sermons and lessons that clearly teach the principle, practice and policy that Black Skin was, is and will remain forever the Curse of Cain.

    Only in the recent past has the “Complete History” of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints come to the attention of its own membership, much less to the under developed regions of the world. As this information is discovered, an ever increasing number of members of the Mormon Church have come into a personal crisis of faith, most notably Elder Hans Mattsson of Sweden, a General Authority of the Mormon Church who has gone public with his doubts and questions.

    Not unique to Africa, has been the Mormon Church’s training of young Missionaries to strictly avoid any discussion of several of the more embarrassing, yet true, teachings of the 183 year old Church. Chief among these subjects has been Polygamy and Blacks and the Priesthood.

    With the smooth talent of a skilled politician, the Mormon Church has ended its Official Statement with the following hypocritical and deceitful, but technically accurate quote:

    “The origins of priesthood availability are not entirely clear. Some explanations with respect to this matter were made in the absence of direct revelation and references to these explanations are sometimes cited in publications. These previous personal statements do not represent Church doctrine.”

    As a former Mormon Bishop and member of the Mormon Church for over 32 years, let me be of some help with the translation of this very carefully crafted message. The two key noteworthy phrases are: “in the absence of direct revelation” and “These previous personal statements do not represent Church doctrine.”

    I will address the most obvious first, clearly the “previous statements” from the Church and its Leadership “do not” represent the Church doctrine today. The policy was reversed in 1978 and there is no question as to the policy today. The hypocritical deception is that between 1845 and 1978 those “statements” did, very much “DID” not “DO” represent past Church doctrine. Yet, I do give full credit to the clever Mormon authors and editors for their most skillful use of the English language.

    And finally, the most revealing and enlightening statement from the Mormon Church is: “in the absence of direct revelation”. So then, it is incredibly true and accurate that without any mockery or sarcasm; The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had for nearly 100 years, restricted a significant portion of the human race, millions and millions from God’s intended blessings of Eternal Marriage, Salvation and even Godhood, without knowing why they did it, all without “direct revelation”?

    This Official Statement of religious shame and embarrassment comes from the Headquarters of a Church that claims to be guided in all things by “direct revelation”. How then, did such an exclusive doctrine based on prejudice, bigotry and racism become so accepted, so authoritative, so convincing and so commanding for so long, without “direct revelation”?

    As a former Bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I give testimony that what they have stated is true, in that, they are racist and do not hide the History of the Church from its members or the public, this, their Official Statement on Race and the Church demonstrates that fact.

    I believe that the truly wicked teachings as well as the repulsive history of the Mormon Church concerning Polygamy, Polyandry, Blood Atonement, and Blacks and the Priesthood is available for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.

    It is my prayer that all Mormons and non-Mormons will come to know the true history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That every man, woman and young adult on the earth today will find the time to read the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price from cover to cover to see the deception they hold, and then… read the Word of God with the eyes of a child, and follow the true Jesus, the true Christ found only in the Bible.

    Sincerely,

    Lee B. Baker
    Former Mormon Bishop

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