Misunderstanding Racism

By: Mormon Heretic
April 16, 2012

With Randy Bott’s comments in the Washington Post a few weeks ago, the subject of the Priesthood Ban has become a hot topic of late.  Jeff Spector feels that racism is the wrong word to describe the Priesthood Ban.  He says, “To me, there is a difference between been a racist and being prejudiced.”  I think the problem comes down to one of definitions.

Dan Wotherspoon of Mormon Matters recently interviewed Brad Kramer, Marguerite Dreissen, and Gina Colvin about the priesthood ban, and discussed why racism seems to be misunderstood.  Brad is a Ph.D. Candidate at the University of Michigan in socio-cultural anthropology, and permablogger at By Common Consent.  Marguerite is an Adjunct Professor at BYU in Law and Communications.  Gina Colvin is a professor at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand.  They were part of a fascinating panel discussion on this topic, and I wanted to highlight the points relative to Jeff’s recent post.  Here is a transcript of part of their discussion.

Brad Kramer - By Common Consent blogger

Brad Kramer, “I’m seeing is a tendency to treat racism as a problem but not a super, super bad problem.  Like a more sort of “let’s put things in perspective folks.”  Yeah, it’s bad, but it’s not that bad.  And this is something that—I grew up in Utah.  I’m a white male, grew up in Utah, one of the things that I have come to realize in retrospect is that there’s a lot of racism in Utah, but it’s a racism of a peculiar flavor.

It’s not a sort of deeply entrenched white supremacy racism like you might encounter in residual forms in the American south.  It’s a racism that manifests itself in part by trivializing racism as a problem, so I encountered it most often in the form of a persistent willingness of my LDS friends, mainly my male LDS friends to be totally comfortable making really offensive racist jokes really casually.  These would be the kinds of friends that would never use the f-word in a joke because they were Mormon, and they probably wouldn’t, they probably knew at some level that historical forms of racism and segregation and certainly slavery were really bad things.  Using the n-word in a joke, if there weren’t any black folks around to hear it and have their feelings super hurt by it, using the n-word as a punch line was not really that big a deal.

So it got me thinking that if you on the one hand try to say that we don’t like racism. Racism is bad, and we believe in equality and this and this and that, but were not really gonna say anything bad about the fact that we had this policy of excluding black  folks from savings ordinances for most of our history.  We’re just going to sort of not comment on that.  That actually reflects and reinforces a culture that says that racism is bad, but it’s not that bad.”

Marguerite Driessen, Adjunct Professor at BYU

Marguerite Driessen, ”Let me interject as someone that currently lives in Utah County.  I have definitely encountered the attitudes that Brad is talking about, but really it goes a different step which is that there are a lot of people here who don’t just trivialize racism, they clearly do not recognize it.  They act in these ways that are discriminatory, that clearly evince racial stereotypes or racial prejudices, and yet have a total inability to acknowledge that that is racist.  A dear friend of mine in an employment situation had the bosses absolutely treating her differentially based on race, and here’s what they did.

They said, ‘Oh yeah, we’re going to give you an executive parking place like all the other executives, but you can’t have one up at the front because we’re in this upscale area, and of course our neighbors saw that we’d given a black girl a position of this kind of authority, that would be terrible, so your parking place is going to be in the back by the dumpster.’

And they’re thinking ‘we’re not racists, of course not.  We’re simply acknowledging the racism that exists inside the community, and trying to protect you.  You’re going to be hired to have this title, but we’re not going to print you business cards because heaven forbid if that got out and people see that we had given a black girl a position of such authority then there will be racist backlash against you’, and these people do not understand that treating her differently because she was black IS racial discrimination.

I scratch my head because this is not you know 1950, this was happening in 2006, you know.  These are things that were happening recently from people who don’t even recognize it.  I scratch my head thinking, don’t they have a TV?  Haven’t they heard of the civil rights era?  Don’t they understand that discrimination is treating people differently based on race.  And there are people here in Utah County who I think don’t.  They think it’s not racism or discrimination unless it comes from a position of race hatred.”

Dan Wotherspoon, “Good.  Good.”

Kramer, “That is so absolutely spot on.  That’s one of these underlying factors that I’ve seen this response is that when I’ve been trying to make the case that the ban was racist, it turns out that people who are unwilling to see the ban as racist, are people who think that racism is a solely mental phenomenon.  Racism is only carrying mean-spirited attitudes toward black folks or towards minorities.  Therefore I say the ban is racist, and they say ‘how do you know?  You don’t even  know where it came from?”

Dan Wotherspoon, Host of Mormon Matters

Dan, “Or why?”

[Dreissen laughs.]

Kramer, “It doesn’t matter where it came from.  It doesn’t matter if it came from people who thought that black people were superior.”

Driessen, “Right.  It’s differential treatment.”

Kramer, “It’s racism.  It discriminates on the basis of race.  It excludes on the basis of race. It is functionally racist.  Its consequences and its effects are racist.  It is racism.  No matter what motivates it.”

Dreissen, “Right.”

Kramer, “The story that you described there to me it, you couldn’t script a better microcosm of the problem, which is that in the Mormon corridor, in Mormon Utah where you have this long history and this really horrible skeleton in the closet, to say racism is bad at the same time that you’re not willing to acknowledge that a deeply and transparently racist practice was racist, you’re just going to breed a culture in which people who  think that racism is wrong are simply incapable of recognizing the racist behaviors all around them.”

Brad, “Yeah, and I think that going back to this question of thoughts versus larger systems and power structures and sociological structures and things like that, you know, it’s really easy to treat racism as a problem that exists in the minds and the hearts and minds of people, and only there.  Because if you do that, you don’t have to worry about changing how things actually operate, how things actually work.  So you can say, I’m not going to let you park here because you’re black, and that would cause problems, and it’s not in my interest to let a black person have this parking spot.  So because you’re black you don’t get to park here.  But I’m not a racist.  This isn’t racism because I like you, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with black people myself, so it’s not racism.  In other words, we don’t have to change anything that we do, and the most extreme version of this—you see this dichotomy break down with people saying, hey we’re repudiating all the folklore, we’re repudiating the racist doctrine, we’re repudiating the racist sentiments and ideas and mythologies and all these things, all the teachings we’ve  repudiated.  We don’t need to repudiate the ban because we don’t know where it came from.”

[Driessen laughs.]

Kramer, “The logical extension of all that is to say, if the ban were still in place, and the 1978 revelation had only repudiated all the racists teachings, and therefore we have got rid of all the doctrinal folklore but the ban was still in place, that we wouldn’t have a racism problem in the church.  Because even though we’re excluding blacks—

Driessen interrupts, “Yes, it would, yes they would.”

Brad continues, “I know but that’s a sort of logical outcome of thinking in these terms.  You can imagine for yourself a church in which it’s somehow—that the ban still exists and that’s somehow not racism.  Of course it’s racism.”

Dreissen, “It’s not that it’s not racism because you don’t acknowledge that it was.  There’s a difference between you know saying ‘oh yea it was, and I’m guilty and just leaving it to be and do what it says, but I would also add that it says to that Brad that there is a chicken and egg issue here: in that sure there was no big revelation pronouncing the ban and the reason.  However, people made up reasons because there was a ban.  If in 1978 all that had happened was that the church had specifically repudiated the 3 say most popular theories or all of the then known theories, if that had happened, they simply would have invented other ones.  It was not that it would exist in a vacuum.  They would have come up with other reasons why the black people were singled out for this treatment.  They created them, because there was a policy and they needed some way to explain the policy, and if you actually get into Mormon doctrine, get into the scriptures, get into the core beliefs of the church, everything they came up with to explain the ban is contradicted in the basic core doctrines.  Just go into the Articles of Faith.  Every reason they came up with is repudiated in the Articles of Faith.  They were reaching, they were grasping at straws to explain the inexplicable in any other terms and if we got rid of those as you side, maybe there would have been a half day, that day in ’78,  but then the very next day, they would have come up with something else because the ban still existed.“

Dr. Gina Colvin, University of Canterbury, New Zealand

Gina Colvin, “I think one of the questions here though is who are we talking about when we say ‘they’?  Because I think the elephant in the room is the ‘they’ happen to be a succession of presidents of the Church, and so the elephant in the room is, yes they could have come up with it, and they do so in the positions of president and a prophet, but how much or that is revelation and are we to understand that kind of equivocation around the priesthood ban to be coming from God?  How are we supposed to understand the relationship with kind of prophetic instruction and revelation and something that just feels theologically out of step?”

Dreissen, “Well, and it wasn’t just the prophets of the Church, however.  I mean there were certainly things that Brigham Young said, but a lot of his most racially derogatory, racially-tinged comments were not spoken from a pulpit at General Conference.  They were spoken by him as the Governor of Utah or in some political meeting having to do with getting Utah’s statehood, which was coming up around the same era of time when Brigham Young was not just the chief, the CEO of the Church, but the head of the government as well.  He wore multiple hats, and spoke in that context in multiple ways, and a lot of the other things they arose after his time.

The ideas were promulgated by people, religious professors, and religious scholars.  Bruce R. McConkie was never the prophet of the church, and yet a lot of the theorizing can be laid at his door.  So when I say ‘they’, I really do not mean just the prophets of the church, I mean people in the church who either came up with or accepted for themselves the truths of these various tracts of folklore to explain the policy that was then in place.”

Gina, “But there’s still presidents of the Church who legitimated it.  They gave it some kind of credibility.”

Marguerite, “Well, they gave it credibility in so much as they didn’t change it. They certainly didn’t repudiate them, and they didn’t change them even if they never spoke these words themselves from the pulpit.  They had power to repudiate them, they had the power to make the change, and chose not to.”

Brad, “And there’s something that we have to come to terms with, I think is the underlying sentiment of my post, which is that once we commit ourselves to he proposition that racism is a sin, we have to come to terms with the fact that the worst sin in our history is not something Brigham Young said, it’s not something that Joseph Fielding Smith said, or Bruce R. McConkie said, or Alvin Dyer said.  The worst sin in our history if racism is a sin is THE BAN: the actual practice of excluding black folks from access to temple ordinances, covenants and sealings. Everything else is extraneous to it.”

[Group agrees.]

Gina, “Then it becomes systemic.”

Dreissen, “It’s not extraneous, ancillary to.  They are certainly playing around out there, but we have to go back to defining racism, and that’s where the problem is.  You saw it in the Washington Post article.  How did Randy Bott describe racial discrimination?  Do you remember what he said? He said simply denying people something that is a benefit to them.  He missed the point altogether.

Discrimination based on race is not simply denying someone a benefit.  It’s treating people differently because of race, and he did not define it that way, which then prevents the question that Brad just framed from ever being asked, or the assertion inherent therein, and from ever being asserted or discussed which is if we define racism is some really silly way, then of course we don’t have anything to worry about.  You know?  What do you care?  Denying someone a benefit?  People get denied benefits all the time, yada, yada, yada.

That to me was the part of the article that shocked me the most, because quite frankly I’ve heard all the theories.  I’ve heard all the folklore.  That’s not the problem.  The problem is here is someone who says discrimination is simply denying someone something that would be a benefit to them, and that’s not what discrimination is.  It’s differential treatment based on some characteristic based on some characteristic.   That is discrimination based on that characteristic.”

Brad, “And how often do folks who discriminate?  Do people who participate in patterns of discrimination rationalize discrimination on the grounds somehow they are doing something nice for the people on behalf of the people they’re discriminating against.  It doesn’t matter if you think it’s nice. It doesn’t matter if you think you’re blessing them in the process.  It’s discrimination.”

Marguerite, “Right, you’re treating them differently.”

Dan, “Good.  And that’s a way to kind of defang it right?  It depersonalizes it, it takes a lot of the emotion out of it, right?  I at least see an opening there Brad if that can simply be communicated really well that you know—Does it make it easier to deal with?”

I think this is a good place to end the quote.  Do you think that the panel properly defines racism?

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92 Responses to Misunderstanding Racism

  1. hawkgrrrl on April 16, 2012 at 2:23 AM

    Great recap. For people like me who can’t abide listening to podcasts, I really enjoy your transcripts!

    It’s a fascinating point. As a non-Utah native, I was surprised at some of the comments I’ve heard in Utah. I’ve met real hateful racists, and what I heard there wasn’t like that, but was it racist? Yes. Was it self-justifying (or as is pointed out, justification of a racist policy or system) combined with total lack of awareness of people of other races? Yes. And people in the church who don’t have much exposure to non-LDS thinking or other races (sounds like Utah County to me) probably have a case of overconfidence in their statements about race. I was shocked by how freely white students at BYU, and I mean really really white students, would use black urban vernacular to sound cool (if that was their objective it failed parlously). To an outsider like me, it made me really uncomfortable.

    Interestingly, I think a lot of these same justifications are being used to explain why Mormons are not sexist. Maybe it’s time to just admit that Mormons are sexist so we can learn from it rather than coming up with these lame excuses:
    - WE’re not sexist, just responding to a sexist world.
    - We LOVE women, especially the right kind of women who make the choices we like.
    - Women are separate but equal.
    - They have a different role than men, and that role is the most important thing of all.
    - They are leaders in their own right. Certainly never over a man or anyone but other women and children, but still leaders.

    Anyone else hearing the hollow ring there? Yet I don’t think most of our lay people are sexist. This (and racism) seem to be generational holdouts, with the added flavor of having to justify the positions of the past. If we could disavow the past, we could move on.

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  2. Jeff Spector on April 16, 2012 at 6:50 AM

    One of the points I failed to make in my post that covered this subject is that I have great disdain for overused pejoratives like racist, sexist and liberal. Because they are over-used in my opinion, they lose the impact and it lessens the value of the word itself and usually cheapens the discussion surrounding the real problem. And while I clearly do not put liberal in the same category since it is reserved for the ridiculous circus we call politics and is not in itself a destructive trait except for those on the far right, I’ll exclude it from the rest of my comment.

    In my less over-educated mind, I see someone who is a genuine racist as someone who has cultivated that trait over a period of time, starting with basic prejudice and working their way up to an active, self-justified (I like Hawks’s term here) position of hatred of some other group merely for being different. this hatred may or may not take on an active role in their lives or it may just be thoughts and words only.

    If I apply it to sexist, I would say that a man is not inherently a sexist for the sole reason of wishing his wife to stay home and raise their children. Now, if it becomes a demand and against the wife’s own plans, then it, for me becomes a different story.

    Just as I do not accept the idea that the LDS Church is a sexist organization, but might have some sexist men and women for that matter, within it and even in it’s leadership.

    Another point I’d make, is there seems to be an implication here that one cannot have an intelligent discussion on this topic without being a PH.d or a College Professor.

    Are these people, with the exception of Dreissen, just trying to be well-intentioned cool uber-white liberals as Hawk suggests of white BYU students?

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  3. SilverRain on April 16, 2012 at 8:09 AM

    I don’t disagree with the OP. But there are two problems with the reality you describe.

    First, there is a denotation of the word “racism.” All you describe is inarguably that. Any differential treatment based on race is racism.

    However, there is a lot of connotative baggage with the term that makes it less useful a word in cases of well-intentioned or merely ignorant racism. “Racist” means “full of hate” when it is used as a label. And many people LOVE to use it as a label, whether or not it is actually true that the labeled person is full of hate.

    Throwing around the word “racist” when it doesn’t reflect a reality of hatred weakens it, and ironically exhibits similar prejudices and hate-filled behavior as those who are full-blown racists. Just because you condemn people on external attributes other than skin color doesn’t make you any better than a racist.

    Secondly, when you frequently attach the label to things that are done out of ignorance rather than hatred, you 1) aren’t left with any better term for those who really are full of hatred, and 2) alienate the person you are labeling. If they are truly ignorant and not hate-filled, you just gave them reason to be more defensive and more hate-filled, and therefore are contributing to the creation of an ACTUAL full-bodied racist.

    So, while it is true that ignorant racism IS racism, it isn’t very useful to use it as a label. It’s much more effective to return with a soft answer rather than a label, something like “I’m sure you don’t realize this, but what you just did/said was inappropriate discrimination based on race.”

    That is what changes hearts.

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  4. SilverRain on April 16, 2012 at 8:10 AM

    And, just to clarify, the “you” above is the general you, not aimed at the OP. :)

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  5. Paul on April 16, 2012 at 9:01 AM

    I have no quibble with the OP. But my dictionary (Osford American Dictionary)defines racism slightly differently. Rather than excluding one because of race, it says racism is:

    1. Belief in the superiority of a particular race; 2. Antagonism between people of different races; 3. the theory that human abilities are determined by race.

    In today’s world, as the OP and SilverRain suggest, racism is such an emotion-tinged word that the definition has likely crept beyond what my dictionary says, to include any hint of prejudice or discrimination based on race. (In fact, Jeff & SR seem to suggest there must also be motivation of hate, not just ignorance.) And I fully acknowledge that the flipside of the first definition is the assumption that one race is inferior, just as many of the justifications for the priesthood bans did.

    I remember in 1974 when I was a junior in High School, I had perhaps my first black friend. She was troubled at my church’s exclusion of blacks from the priesthood and wondered why we were so discriminatory. I countered (assuming a very negative connotation for discrimination) that it was not meant to be discriminatory (wanting to believe the best about my church). A teacher who was listening to our exchange pointed out that it certainly was discriminatory because it discriminated based on race. She pointed out that she made no judgement on the correctness of the discrimination, but there was no doubt that there was discrimination.

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  6. Paul on April 16, 2012 at 9:01 AM

    Er, that would be the Oxford American Dictionary…

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  7. ji on April 16, 2012 at 9:10 AM

    From no. 1: “If we could disavow the past, we could move on.”

    We can move on, if we want to.

    There is so much of good in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — so much.

    Thanks for no. 3.

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  8. Jeff Spector on April 16, 2012 at 9:39 AM


    There must be a benefit to some who don’t want to move on.

    What I also find fascinating is these members of the Church could easily recognize the difference between people who seem prejudiced against Mormons based largely on lack of knowledge and exposure to real Mormons and die hard Anti-Mormons.

    And there has been a lack of willingness to call people Anti-Mormon that does not happen with the “R” word.

    There is a parallel here.

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  9. Andrew S. on April 16, 2012 at 1:21 PM

    And there has been a lack of willingness to call people Anti-Mormon that does not happen with the “R” word.

    Oh really?

    …but to talk about the topic more broadly, I think one thing that should be discussed is institutional -isms. e.g., institutional sexism, institutional racism, etc., The institutional aspect to these -isms are why someone doesn’t have to personally have hatred or consciously believe in biological differences/inferiorities/superiorities of various races.

    If we only look at the latter, then we miss a great deal of many -isms. Because the former is like a lens on our social camera — it skews EVERY photo that we take, unless we take efforts to consciously correct for the lens distortion.

    To put it in a different way, I think that the term “racism” (noun) and the term “racist” (noun) are different. You can have racism without racists, but as long as people think racism is something only perpetuated by racists, then they’ll do whatever they can to make racists a *different class of people* than *they* are…so they can say, “Whew! I’m safe. Not a racist, so I don’t have to worry about racism.”

    P.S., I love the transcriptions. I don’t often have time to listen to podcasts, but it’s a lot easier for me to read them…

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  10. Mormon Heretic on April 16, 2012 at 1:32 PM

    Andrew and Hawk, I’m glad you enjoy the transcripts. I do like listening to the podcasts, but sometimes I like to quote someone exactly, so I like both. It’s also nice to see other people use the transcripts, as FireTag did on the recent endowment/veil post.

    Jeff, if I understand you correctly, you seem to prefer to use the word “racist” for those who have race hatred, and “prejudiced” for those who (for lack of a better term) are “benevolent racists”, or those who may behave clumsily toward blacks but have no ill intent. Is that correct? In the story that Marguerite told, would you prefer that parking by the dumpster was a form of prejudice rather than racism?

    Silverrain and Paul. I agree with the term racism to describe the priesthood ban. For those that object to the term “racism” to describe the ban, I think they view the word in emotional terms, and in terms of race hatred, but as Paul demonstrated, that is not necessarily part of the definition. I think that is why there is a misunderstanding between blacks and whites on the issue of racism in general (whether we’re talking Trayvon Martin, or this topic, or some other topic.) Blacks use the term racist as being treated differently, but many whites use the term as if it has to be KKK involvement for it to be truly racism. Is there a way to bridge the gap in definitions?

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  11. Jeff Spector on April 16, 2012 at 2:15 PM


    ““prejudiced” for those who (for lack of a better term) are “benevolent racists”, or those who may behave clumsily toward blacks but have no ill intent. Is that correct?”

    Are you seriously going to insult my intelligence that much? I realize I am not a college professor or have a Ph.d, but come on. Is that what I meant?

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  12. Andrew S. on April 16, 2012 at 2:23 PM


    What just happened here?

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  13. Paul on April 16, 2012 at 2:29 PM

    MH, I think it’s hard in today’s world to assign any kind of emotion-neutral state to racism / racist. Given that, it seems a stretch to expect LDS not to be defensive against the claim of a racist policy.

    That said, looking at the sterile definition of racism as making a judgement or taking action based solely on race, it would be hard to make any other claim about the ban than that it was racist.

    I don’t know how to bridge that gap; it seems that there are an awful lot of opinion makers who have for years contributed to an incendiary view of racism. I think your characterization of who views what as racism is different from mine. I live in a midwestern city that has practiced the politics of racism for four decades. Those cries come from both sides of the racial divide. This is far from just an LDS discussion.

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  14. Mormon Heretic on April 16, 2012 at 2:45 PM

    Jeff, I don’t know what you meant, that is why I asked. If I mischaracterized your intent, then please correct my mischaracterization. As Paul said, try to make it emotion-neutral. (That was my intent.)

    Let’s talk about price discrimination in economics. I remember the first time I heard that, it didn’t make sense to me. BUt as it was explained, in economics, we price discriminate all the time. We charge children less for movie tickets. We have senior citizen discounts. Sometimes we charge for kids, but let parents in free. So, price discrimination in this sense isn’t evil, and most of us agree with it. Discrimination can be morally neutral in economics, but when it goes into the realm of race relations, it becomes emotionally-tinged.

    So Jeff, I meant no disrespect. Please tell me how I could phrase your position better.

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  15. Jeff Spector on April 16, 2012 at 2:55 PM

    It’s very simple, “Benevolent” implies something good about it. I never said nor would I say that prejudice is good. It is just born of different circumstances than what I think racism is about.

    I realize ‘racism’ is an emotional charged word, overused and overpronounced at every possible opportunity.

    That said, I am not going to comment any further.

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  16. Andrew S. on April 16, 2012 at 3:12 PM

    Even though you’re not going to comment any further, I would say that “benevolent” doesn’t necessarily imply something good about something else, just that something is well-meant — which I think is what MH was going for.

    Now, to totally snark everything up, I would say it’s like the use of the word “benign.” Just because that word sometimes implies favorability, doesn’t mean that a “benign tumor” means the same thing.

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  17. SilverRain on April 16, 2012 at 3:16 PM

    MH #10—I think it’s a matter of priorities. Is your priority to “bridge the gap” in definitions? Or is it to ameliorate racism?

    Labeling and semantics have one main purpose, and that is to establish boundaries. But if you truly want to abolish racism, boundaries are the last thing you need.

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  18. Mormon Heretic on April 16, 2012 at 3:27 PM

    I think we’ve arrived at the crux of the problem, and it completely involves definitions. If racism isn’t the proper, sterile word that should be used in regards to the priesthood ban, then we have to come up with another less emotionally-charged word. So far, nobody has been able to do that. I’d be happy to use the word if someone would tell me what word to use.

    That being said, racism is the closest definition that we should use. Nobody denies that slavery was wrong. Americans are not defensive when we talk of slavery. Slavery was wrong, pure and simple, but for whatever reason, we can blame slaveholders for being racist because “they” did it, but when we refer to the church “we” don’t like to admit that it was wrong, because we’re only separated from 1978 by 30+ years, whereas, slaveholders are all dead and gone since it was abolished 150 years ago. I think we should be able to understand racism as a sterile word, rather than an emotionally-charged word. That’s what I’m aiming for.

    I think that the panelists summed it up well. If we can keep racism in the mind (by saying it only applies to people who hate blacks), then we don’t need to change our behavior and dismantle the institutional racism that whites benefit from (such as having a black woman park by the dumpster to appease white sensibilities.)

    We can forgive dead prophets/apostles like Moses, Paul, and Nephi for murder because they are far-removed in time from us. But when we refer to lifting a ban in 1978, it’s just too close to home to have a safe distance to admit that it wrong.

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  19. lucy on April 16, 2012 at 3:34 PM

    “Do you think that the panel properly defines racism?”


    #1 “I was shocked by how freely white students at BYU, and I mean really really white students…”

    wait, how white? pasty? or vanilla?

    Political correctness is reaching higher and higher levels of absurdity in our society.
    Emnity is real, but it is obfuscated by the ever thickening haze of arbitrary -isms and specious definitions.

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  20. Mormon Heretic on April 16, 2012 at 3:50 PM

    Lucy, that begs the question. What is the proper definition of racism (since the panel got it wrong)?

    I’d hate to use a specious definition, so let’s hear yours.

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  21. ji on April 16, 2012 at 3:50 PM

    If we’re looking for a term to describe whatever it is we’re talking about, instead of or in addition to “racist” or “wrong”, how about “historical” or “unfortunate” or “misunderstood”? We don’t have to come to one single definition, after all — let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind (Romans ch. 14). I’m more comfortable with these latter three than the first two, because the first two requires me to impute motive to people who are long-dead.

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  22. Will on April 16, 2012 at 3:51 PM


    This racist commentary is a bunch of BS and needs to stop. I am not saying there aren’t racists in this country; I am saying it is no longer a problem. So stop it. Stop trying to make it an issue. For hell sake, the most powerful man in the world is black. Those that oppose him (which includes me) do so because he is a socialist, not a black man. Most people that see things the way I do would take Herman Cain as president any day over the incompetent man we have in office; and, are strong supporters of Clearance Thomas. All told, stop the racist BS and get to real issues. Like the tax and spend policies of this president that are bankrupting this country.

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  23. Frank Pellett on April 16, 2012 at 3:51 PM

    I’m trying to work out how best to say this without seeming like a discriminatory racist, but do we have things where we are discriminatory that are acceptable, at least to some? For example, hiring quotas for minorities are discriminatory, but some find them acceptable because they are an effort to compensate for other discriminatory issues. I’ve never understood the use of racial differences to try and combat economic ills.

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  24. Andrew S on April 16, 2012 at 4:08 PM


    I agree. Those that oppose Obama do so because he is a Muslim, atheist, radical black Christian separatist Kenyan, non-American trying to destroy the country with socialism.

    Not because he’s black.

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  25. hawkgrrrl on April 16, 2012 at 4:17 PM

    I think you can oppose Obama because of his record or because he’s a democrat or because of his political ideologies without being racist. Of course some would say white guilt (a form of benevolent racism) contributed to his being elected. I’ll leave it to the sociologists to decide.

    Institutional racism exists; we inherit a racist (and sexist) system. Only when we acknowledge it, disavow it, and work to counter it does it die. That’s been tough in the church because leaders have been quoted justifying it and calling it God’s will, so it means they were wrong to disavow it. I’m not worried about that, but many are.

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  26. Stephen M (Ethesis) on April 16, 2012 at 6:39 PM

    This is a really interesting approach to the topic, though I worry it proves too much.

    The very first comment in the thread pretty much makes that case.

    On the other hand, something like this needs to be in the Ensign and needs to be the subject of a Sunday School lesson. If I make someone park in the back and hide their business cards and position …

    Thank you for sharing this.

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  27. Stephen M (Ethesis) on April 16, 2012 at 6:48 PM

    Wow, the comments are really good. Seriously good. You can tell I responded, started my comment this morning and hit publish over dinner.

    Thank you for a conversation that has been really good.

    As an aside, the local talk show hosts mock the “birthers” and Mark Davis has taken the position that anyone who does not disavow them is not fit to run for office. He is from Fort Worth (though he has substituted for Rush L).

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  28. Stephen M (Ethesis) on April 16, 2012 at 6:53 PM

    BTW, does anyone know anyone who thInks our president is Moslem?

    My dad went from an Obama supporter to that belief only when he started to suffer from dementia right before his death. I tend to associate the belief with dementia …

    That said, back to the topic. I am wondering if any of the people in the podcast have seen this essay or might have any comments?

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  29. Bob on April 16, 2012 at 7:31 PM

    I am not long dead. Thomas Monson is not long dead. BCP is not long dead.
    #22: Will,
    “I am saying it is no longer a problem”.
    Will__ racism is still a problem, a big one.

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  30. Douglas on April 16, 2012 at 7:50 PM

    1) Even IF Obama is a Muslim, it no more disqualifies him from the Presidency anymore than Mitt being LDS, except if you’re a “Christian” that uses ones faith to justify bigotry.
    2) Any offspring of an American citizen, regardless of location of birth, should be considered a “natural-born” citizen, more so than the child of a foreign woman who waddles across the border heavily pregnant and drops the kid on US soil. Were I a member of Congress I’d introduce legislation to correct both defects.
    3) Obama’s prevarication on the birther issue is further proof of his dishonesty. However, wasn’t his past as a Chicago alderman evidence enough?

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  31. Bonnie on April 16, 2012 at 9:05 PM

    I do think definitions matter, so I don’t think the discussion is a waste of time; I just think taking care of the business of life probably matters more (a WHOLE. DAY. of GARDENING … sigh bliss).

    I don’t think anyone believes that a benign form of discrimination is the ideal, but it’s certainly better than hate-racism. We move in increments. I’m a whole lot more comfortable with being patronized than being attacked.

    The key is, as SilverRain pointed out, that each form requires a different response, and that’s the reason, IMO, that we need a definition. Pragmatically, we need to know how to respond to keep racism and sexism moving toward a better ideal of openness.

    The issue isn’t who is right, but how to live together. So how do you work with the particular forms of racism/sexism that confront you?

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  32. Stephen M (Ethesis) on April 16, 2012 at 10:08 PM

    Bonnie, that is well said.

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  33. hawkgrrrl on April 17, 2012 at 12:28 AM

    There was a fascinating article on this topic in Newsweek this week. 70% of whites believe that blacks will have an equal chance at getting a job they are qualified, but only 25% of blacks agreed that they would. 78% of blacks felt that Obama’s remarks about the Travyon Martin shooting were appropriate, but only 28% of whites did. 60% of blacks think racism is a big problem in America today, but only 19% of whites agree.

    Interestingly the article makes another valid point: race is just a way to shorthand and prejudge another person. Most people are of mixed ethnicity, and even if they appear to be one thing they are often another. Americans should know this better than just about any nation. We are all Americans, whatever else our ancestors have been.

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  34. Will on April 17, 2012 at 6:19 AM


    Again, the most powerful man in the world is black via the voting process, so your argument is tired and weak.

    As for Obama, he is totally, absolutely incompotent. For hell sake, he hasn’t created a budget since taking office. If that doesn’t define irresponsibility, I don’t know what does.

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  35. UnderCover Brother on April 17, 2012 at 6:32 AM

    Thanks for doing this.
    It is a shame that Jeff is no longer participating in this discussion. On March 26th, we discussed his term ‘Prejudice’. I felt he was trying to substitute the word ‘Racism’ with the word ‘Prejudice’ and I disagreed with that. I asked Jeff:
    “# 84 Jeff:
    So you’re saying that it’s racism if overt and prejudice if covert? Racism is racism, isn’t it? Or do you mean if covert it’s racial prejudice? Is that what you mean or am I missing something?”
    I would still like a response to my question.

    A real life example of how institutionally ignorant of these matters we can be. Many years ago, a senior manager and I were interviewing people for a role in the company I worked for. I was young at the time and promoted to a managerial position, so this person would be working for me. A woman in her twenties came in and the interview went well. During the interview, she mentioned she had a young son. Being a young father myself and as this was a full-time role, I innocently asked, ‘If you got this job, who will look after your son’?
    After the interview, the senior manager quickly pulled me aside and told me in no uncertain terms never to ask such a question again or it will my last interview. He said I was being sexist. I told him I wasn’t – I was genuinely concerned for her son if she was to be out of the home full time. No – he told me. I never asked that question when the same aged fathers sat in front of me. I discriminated based on gender.

    The key was that it never occurred to me that I was being sexist, until my senior manager highlighted to me that I was. And once I recognized it, I made sure I changed my behavior.
    That’s why we need to continue calling it out for what it is – racism. And if the term is emotive for any one – we should not apologize. It is what it is. The panel did not get it wrong.
    And any dilution of this term to ‘prejudice’, ‘unfortunate’ or ‘misunderstood’ allows the Institution to abdicate their responsibility. It must continue to be recognized for what it is so behavior can change.

    BTW – she got the job.

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  36. Douglas on April 17, 2012 at 7:01 AM

    Hawkgrrl wrote:
    “race is just a way to shorthand and prejudge another person. Most people are of mixed ethnicity, and even if they appear to be one thing they are often another”
    The issue of “race” tends to be self-defined, and is probably more cultural than genetic. For most, though, the laws of probability and genetic selection factor out the “honky in the woodpile” six generations back. I would agree that GENERALLY genetics are not a predictor of behavior (else blame Heavenly Father for a cursed gene pool). Behavior patterns amongst generalised groups can be observed, even if they aren’t reliable enough to be even ‘reasonable suspicion’ that a cop could use, let alone admissible evidence in a court of law.
    But please skip the feel-goodism. Race “exists”, whether we like it or not. Hopefully those of us imbued with the Gospel don’t let it get in the way of the One who laid down His life, and took it up again, to save ALL who will come to Him.

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  37. John Mansfield on April 17, 2012 at 7:51 AM

    Stephen M, try a commentary in Forbes by Asma Gull Hasan, “My Muslim President Obama.”

    “I know President Obama is not Muslim, but I am tempted nevertheless to think that he is, as are most Muslims I know. In a very unscientific oral poll, ranging from family members to Muslim acquaintances, many of us feel, just as African-Americans did for the non-black but culturally leaning African-American President Bill Clinton, that we have our first American Muslim president in Barack Hussein Obama.

    “I know it’s odd to say this. At first, I thought I was the only Muslim engaging in this folly, and I am reluctant to express it lest right-wing zealots try to use ‘Muslim’ as a smear and cite my theory as proof of an Islamic traitor in the White House or some such nonsense. But, since Election Day, I have been part of more and more conversations with Muslims in which it was either offhandedly agreed that Obama is Muslim or enthusiastically blurted out. In commenting on our new president, ‘I have to support my fellow Muslim brother,’ would slip out of my mouth before I had a chance to think twice.”

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  38. hawkgrrrl on April 17, 2012 at 7:58 AM

    Douglas – don’t accuse me of feel-goodism. I was quoting from Newsweek as I said. But it is a valid point. When Irish people immigrated, Americans said terrible things about them. When Italians immigrated, same thing. Until immigrants melt in the melting pot, they are often prejudged. But it can be harder to identify Irish vs. Italians at this point due to intermarriage. It’s easier to tell for some races.

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  39. Bob on April 17, 2012 at 8:31 AM

    #34: Will,
    “The 2012 United States federal budget is the United States federal budget to fund government operations for the fiscal year 2012, which is October 2011–September 2012. The original spending request was issued by President Barack Obama in February 2011″
    I believe obama has always submitted a yearly Budget.
    Obama is half Black and Half White__which half do you only see?

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  40. Cowboy on April 17, 2012 at 10:51 AM

    Yes, this is about definitions, but the problem with defining “racism” in the context of discussion, is that we are specifically trying to define the nature of the racism in the Priesthood ban. Taking a completely denotative interpretation, making no quality judgements about the ethics of the Priesthood ban, we’ll call it racism because it discriminated on the basis of race. Fine we agree. Still, what implications does that hold? Was it a good thing, a bad thing, or neutral? The problem in answering this is that the Church leadership has chosen to invoke the “God is a mystery” card as a way of pushing the matter aside. We are told that everything that was ever taught about race from Church leaders, is now off limits and “non-binding”. We have only the ban itself. There is no real accountability for the past, other than trying to sweep Church leaders under the same rug all of America’s racist forebearers.

    Institutionally this is all a problem because the Church must struggle with dismissing the more particularly hurtful racist “folklore”, while retaining the position that the ban was God’s will. Still, with no official position, speculation is the most natural result of this duct-tape pipe work. Internally the Church can have some influence upon it’s more loyal adherents, to defend the Church as non-racist, by a simply appealing to authority. They issue the charge, to not talk about the matter or think about it, and the more loyal follow. That however does not work well for the broader public, who must then rationalize the racism according to their own world-view(s). The prevailing outcome is that most people see it as racist. Church defenders who must straddle their faith with their participation in the broader and less insulated discourse have resolved to try and contexualize Mormon racism in the broader racist landscape of American society. Hence the argument “Brigham Young was a product of his time”. Even more bizarre is the argument that early Mormons were at least better racists because they took an anti-slavery position in Missouri, and that by implication is somehow evidence that Prophets are led by God. Never mind their misunderstandings and scriptural basis for racism.

    In sum, this is not a dialogue that can bridge the gap of understanding and promote “change”, as some of the commenters are suggesting, because frankly, a necessary party to the conversation refuses to participate. Of course I mean the Mormon General Authorities, preferrably someone who could actually speak for the Church and be held accountable.

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  41. SilverRain on April 17, 2012 at 3:57 PM

    Of course, since the General Authorities weren’t there when the ban was begun, perhaps they are not the “necessary parties” that one should find missing.

    I sense a seance coming on.

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  42. cowboy on April 17, 2012 at 5:53 PM

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with expecting a little accountability from Church leaders who are so vocal about “agency and accountability” in their sermonizing.

    I suppose that one could argue that perhaps God hasn’t kept our current leaders in the loop on this matter. But that sort of begs the question as to whether they are in the loop at all.

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  43. Bob on April 17, 2012 at 6:12 PM

    The Ban started everyday until it stopped.

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  44. Stephen Marsh on April 17, 2012 at 7:05 PM

    John Mansfield — thanks, that was interesting.

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  45. Will on April 17, 2012 at 8:31 PM


    It has now been 1,085 days since a DEMOCRAT controlled Senate passed a budget. The president is responsible to make this happen, especially when he is the leader of the party. Not passing a budget is total absolute incompetence. How the hell can you run any organization without a budget? Democrats are not doing the job. They are afraid to present a budget because they don’t want to answer for the trillions and trillions in debt they are incurring.

    If Romney is smart, which he is, he will run ads 24-7 about the dismal state of the economy, the poor energy policy by the Obama administration that results in high gas prices, and the Trillions in debt created by this president. If he does this he will be our next president. All Obama and his pendants can do is attach the Mormon Church (which they have already done) and play the race card on P-MSNBC and on blogs like this one because they know if Americans know the truth about the Obama record, he will lose.

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  46. Bob on April 17, 2012 at 8:50 PM

    #45: Will,
    Well, at least we won’t have long to wait to see who does not get to be president because of the Budget.

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  47. mh on April 17, 2012 at 9:24 PM

    will, this post is not about the budget or politics. please quit sidetracking the discussion.

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  48. Douglas on April 17, 2012 at 9:27 PM

    Hawk, “Eye-Rish” and “Eye-Talians”…that’s not race-mixing, that’s penultimate genetic turbidity. Throw some Polish and Jew in as well. Makes for interesting appearances AND hilarious accents!! Didn’t U grow up near Philly? Doesn’t it seem that “Gawd” made it so all the “whitey” factions would waste energy fighting each other, else they’d gang up on the blacks and Puerto Ricans?
    Nothing like the East Coast for ethnic diversity. Also great culinary variety provided your GI system can hack it.

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  49. Will on April 17, 2012 at 9:37 PM


    It is totally political and that is my point. Again, the reality is the most powerful man in the world is black. There is not a problem with racism in the United States if the most powerful man in the world was elected by the US population.

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  50. MH on April 17, 2012 at 9:51 PM

    Will, stay on topic. Talking about the budget is not on topic. Politics don’t need to be injected into every conversation. If you want to talk about Obama’s race, then that is fair game. But don’t talk about whether you think his budgetary policies are right or wrong. That is WAYYY off topic.

    I know you can’t stand to talk about anything that doesn’t involve politics. Frankly, that is why I have purposely quit talking about politics, because of you and Dan and Jon. I’m sick of hearing you 3 blather on endlessly about politics and getting no where. Go to Politico if you want to talk about politics. Keep your politics away from here.

    This post is about race and the priesthood ban. Obama has nothing to do with the Mormon priesthood ban, so stay on topic. If you’ve got nothing substantive to add (and it’s obvious that you don’t), then go somewhere else where people want to debate Obama’s budget. This isn’t the place. If you’ve got something to add about racism and the priesthood ban, then please add something helpful. To date, you’re just threadjacking.

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  51. MH on April 17, 2012 at 10:00 PM

    Cowboy in 40, I have to agree with you. The problem with the speculation is that the leadership is not giving direction here. The ban is really unfortunate. In the Strangite and RLDS branches of Mormonism, there has never been a ban. That’s not to take them off the hook, because racism certainly has existed in their churches as well, but they benefit from the fact that they don’t have a century of explaining to do, and the CoC has both gender mixing in the Q12, as well as a black apostle. Those things can happen when they’ve had blacks coming up through the ranks since they organized in 1860. There didn’t have to be a ban at all.

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  52. MH on April 17, 2012 at 10:10 PM

    Silverrain, I went back and read your comment #3 again. I think you make an excellent point. Would it be preferable to refer to the Priesthood ban as “inappropriate discrimination based on race” or “ignorant racism”? Would that take the sting out so that people don’t confuse this sort of racism with hateful racism?

    As the panelists said, Utah racism isn’t race hate, but rather ignorant racism.

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  53. Bob on April 18, 2012 at 4:26 AM

    #3,52: Siveerrain, MH,
    I guess you would call ‘Katrina’ just simple ignorant racism?
    Maybe. Maybe it was just people who didn’t care/or thnk ( no hate) one way or the other what happened to Blacks.

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  54. SilverRain on April 18, 2012 at 4:39 AM

    To be honest, I don’t much care about the ban. Why worry about a dead rabid raccoon when you have a live one chewing at your ankle socks?

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  55. hawkgrrrl on April 18, 2012 at 5:45 AM

    If we think we have no race bias, here’s a site that will probably dispel that notion: https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/demo/

    (Also biased against age, obesity, etc.)

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  56. mh on April 18, 2012 at 7:38 AM

    because randy bott proved that the rabid raccoon isn’t dead. it’s still chewing at our ankles, and still won’t die after 34 years. it’s still a problem, despite those who think it’s dead. it’s still not dead, and won’t be until (as cowboy said) a general authority takes accountability and says what they still refuse to say: the ban was at best ignorant racism.

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  57. SilverRain on April 18, 2012 at 8:28 AM

    Really? Randy Bott is keeping worthy males from having the priesthood?

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  58. mh on April 18, 2012 at 9:02 AM

    come on silverrain. randy bott said blacks were blessed in not having the priesthood ‘from the lowest rungs of hell.’ they couldn’t fall off the ladder because they weren’t on the ladder. blacks were like a child prevented from driving because they weren’t mature enough to hold the priesthood.

    did you really forget what bott said? do you think the raccoon of priesthood racism is dead just because of the 1978 revelation?

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  59. SilverRain on April 18, 2012 at 12:48 PM

    I’m saying

    1) there is no point in appealing to the General Authorities to change Professor Bott’s mind
    2) I feel my efforts are better bent towards dealing with actual, present racism, rather than beating the dead horse of the past, and
    3) this overtired mantra creates an “enlightened us” vs. “barbaric them” mentality, a boundary. And that boundary allows people in the “enlightened us” category to ignore their own bigotry (and we all have some) by distracting themselves to the racial bigotry of others.

    I am much more concerned with changing my heart and trying to positively influence the people around me than I am with making others say exactly what I tell them to say so I can feel superior.

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  60. Cowboy on April 18, 2012 at 2:05 PM

    “1) there is no point in appealing to the General Authorities to change Professor Bott’s mind”

    This is exactly the kind of accountability dodge that I am referring to. Mr. Bott is the unfortunate victim in this whole issue. His “racist” comments were based of the old rhetoric of his theology. Yes, the Church has evolved past this “folklore”, but the genesis of Professor Bott’s position(s) was teachings from key leaders in the early Mormon leadership. Professor Bott’s real “sin” in this whole episode was a failure to evolve ideolically at the same pace and along the same course as the modern Church. Now, if Church leaders had provided some sort of explanation, other than “just don’t perpetuate it” as per Elder Holland, then perhaps Bott would be a little more personally culpable. But as it stands, he is a religious educator, who could only naturally be theologically curious about things. In the absence of modern discussion on the matter, he simply drew from the well, the only well, that Church leaders drilled and occasionally drank from for almost 100 years.

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  61. Paul on April 18, 2012 at 2:21 PM

    #60 Cowboy, I couldn’t disagree more. If Brother Bott were not a religion teacher at the church’s university, I’d agree with you (maybe). But Elder McConkie’s “forget everything” talk was given at BYU. And he was an apostle. If anyone should know what he said, it ought to be someone in Bott’s position. Bott’s continuing to perpetuate the myths of the past was his own error, plain and simple.

    His own error was compounded by his immediate “file leaders” in the religion department who also MUST have been aware of teaching from Elder McConkie, Elder Holland and President Hinckley. I mean, if I know about them (and I live very far from the “center”), then someone employed by the institution should know them.

    I agree with SR — calling for church leaders to change Brother Bott’s position is not a reasonable proposition.

    Would it be nice to have more clarity? I suppose it would. But absent that clarity what choice do I have personally? To do as SR suggests, and focus on myself.

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  62. Mormon Heretic on April 18, 2012 at 2:44 PM

    Paul, I agree with Cowboy completely. By passing the buck and not stating it unequivocally, they throw Bott under the bus as a scapegoat so they don’t have to deal with the issue.

    McConkie is an interesting wildcard on this topic. While he is oft-quoted for “forget everything”, he never repudiated the folklore in his own book, Mormon Doctrine, and he had opportunities to correct the folklore but didn’t, even in the 1979 edition!!!

    In reading the Kimball biography, it was McConkie that gave SWK the opinion that there was no scriptural basis for the ban, and Kimball thanked McConkie for that. Yet the “not valiant in Heaven” remains in the 1979 book…. a real head scratcher. So Bott appealing to the Book of Abraham was a fallacy that perhaps Bott can take on his own head, but the church just said “we don’t know why, how, or when it began”. Excuse me? In 1973, Lester Bush said it began with Brigham Young in 1847. Ron Esplin says it was 1843 with Joseph Smith. So while they don’t agree exactly, we’ve narrowed it down to a 5 year period, and we at least know the decade.

    How or why it began? Well, I’ll give that to the church that the reasons aren’t well understood or explained. But I will give me personal explanation on the how and why. I think the activities of Warner McCary trying to seduce white women into polygamy had a LOT to do with the ban. The church has long discouraged inter-racial marriage, and I don’t think it’s a stretch to see that the GA’s for over a century have worried about mixing of races. IMO, the temple and priesthood ban was an attempt to thwart inter-racial marriage. So that’s “why” the ban happened, IMO. “How” it happened was a reaction to McCary. (There are other factors, but I think McCary is the straw the broke the camel’s back.) It’s clear to me that Joseph Smith was against inter-racial marriage as well, but Joseph was dead by the time of the McCary problem, so he simply didn’t live long enough to have to worry about the problem of McCary.

    There will be more Randy Bott’s out there in the future if the church isn’t more forthcoming on this topic.

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  63. Bob on April 18, 2012 at 3:31 PM

    The statment “Forget everything I ever said…”. was a non-denial type statement. What were we to forget? Only that that was contary to what was said in the Revelation to lift the Ban.

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  64. Paul on April 18, 2012 at 3:32 PM

    MH, I don’t doubt that there will be more Botts out there no matter what the church does.

    As I said, it would be great if there were more clarity. But there are a lot of things about which it would be nice if there were more clarity.

    Very interesting comment about the 1979 edition of MD. I wonder if his speech was before or after that printing went to press. You’re right, though — he should have corrected his own book, for sure. (That said, the church did not every publish his book.)

    In search of an unequivocal statement, I am personally in a quandry. We do have record of at least one prophet (President McKay) taking this matter to the Lord and being told not to make the change, though he eagerly sought as many ways to avoid it for as many people as possible. I choose not to speculate about why he received that answer when he did and why President Kimball received his answer when he did. Those things are part of what I do not know.

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  65. Bob on April 18, 2012 at 4:22 PM

    #64: Paul,
    Do you (anyone) know the date(s) of McKay’s Prays on the Ban? I could not find it/them.

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  66. Cowboy on April 18, 2012 at 4:24 PM

    “I choose not to speculate about why he received that answer when he did and why President Kimball received his answer when he did. Those things are part of what I do not know.”

    We can always resort to “God is a mystery”, and try to leave it at that. Still, the reason the issues persist is because a mysterious God isn’t all that satisfying. This is particularly problematic for a Church claiming modern revelation. To say that “God is a mystery” implies that not all the windows of heaven are open. Still, if we had alway’s operated on the position that the ban was one of those mysteries, perhaps the issue wouldn’t be so large. History however ever suggests that the mystery behind God’s alleged intentions for the ban were at least lost on Brigham Young – BRM. That ought to be the real mystery.

    Regarding BRM’s “forget everything…” comment, I have alway’s understood that he was specifically referring to his comment that the ban would not be lifted before the Millenium. He was sort of caught in a contradiction, so he dug himself out the only way he could by saying:

    “There are statements in our literature by the early Brethren that we have interpreted to mean that the Negroes would not receive the priesthood in mortality. I have said the same things, and people write me letters and say, “You said such and such, and how is it now that we do such and such?” All I can say is that it is time disbelieving people repented and got in line and believed in a living, modern prophet. Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or George Q. Cannon or whoever has said in days past 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.

    It doesn’t make a particle of difference what anybody ever said about the Negro matter before the first day of June 1978. It is a new day and a new arrangement, and the Lord has now given the revelation that sheds light out into the world on this subject. As to any slivers of light or any particles of darkness of the past, we forget about them. We now do what meridian Israel did when the Lord said the gospel should go to the Gentiles. We forget all the statements that limited the gospel to the house of Israel, and we start going to the Gentiles.”


    (I know Wikipedia doesn’t pass scholarly muster, but the quote is fairly comprehensive and succinct)

    I particularly enjoy the part where he criticizes the “unbelievers” for noting the blatant contradiction in what he and others said, and what actually came to pass. Why should Prophets be accountable for their prophecies, right??

    Anyway, given the context I don’t think we can use the BRM quote to suggest that McConkie was stating that the origins of the ban were then wrong, just the implication that it would never be lifted.

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  67. Mormon Heretic on April 18, 2012 at 5:47 PM

    Silverrain in 59, regarding your point #1 (and in answer to Paul’s comment, I think the church could eliminate the Randy Bott’s by a more authoritative statement. I think it would be a good PR move to avoid sudden scandals like Bott. However, the leadership seems to prefer putting out the fire, rather than preventing it from starting. Seems like misplaced priorities, IMO.

    Regarding #2) I think Bott’s comments indicate that racist thinking is still a problem. Are you referring to eliminating hateful racism, or ignorant racism. Both need to go, though hateful is obviously worse.

    #3, I don’t understand this boundary you refer to. I don’t think I’m necessarily “englightened us”, and the Brethren are “barbaric them.” Maybe I misunderstood what you meant.

    As we have been

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  68. Mormon Heretic on April 18, 2012 at 6:03 PM

    Paul, the “forget everything” speech was given Aug 18, 1978, just 2 months after lifting the ban. In the same panel discussion, Brad Kramer gives an interesting scenario for why McKay didn’t received a “no” answer to rescinding the priesthood ban. Perhaps I will have to transcribe that part of the interview as well. In answer to Bob, I don’t believe we have any exact dates for when McKay prayed. The Prince biography states that McKay stated to someone that he prayed multiple times, and was told to quit asking. Since he died in 1970, it had to have occurred in the 1960′s or sooner.

    I mostly agree with Cowboy’s comment 66. Pres Kimball has some interesting positions regarding the ban–he didn’t like the pressure from outside groups (NAACP among others), or from inside the church either. He felt that we should be loyal to the brethren. BUt I can’t help but feel that if the saints aren’t “agitating” for change (to use Hinckley’s term regarding female priesthood), there would be little incentive for the prophet to ask.

    Still, the prophets don’t know all the mysteries. Paul saw through a glass darkly. Adam didn’t know why he should offer sacrifice until told by an angel. If the prophet saw everything, he wouldn’t need faith, so God still leaves some things to faith.

    But on the priesthood ban, I think there’s enough knowledge out there to be more forthcoming than “we don’t know how, why or when it happened.”

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  69. Bob on April 18, 2012 at 6:22 PM

    #68: MH,
    My real question is any contactions between David O. McKay’s thinking and that of Frawn Bodie as she was writing: “Thaddeus Stevens, Scourge of the South (1959) by Frawn M. Brodie?

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  70. mh on April 18, 2012 at 6:55 PM

    bob, I don’t understand your reference.

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  71. Bob on April 18, 2012 at 10:34 PM

    70: MH,
    Frawn McKay Bodie was the niece Of David O. McKay. The closest thing to a daughter he had. She wrote ” No Man Knows My History”.
    Her second Book was Thaddeus Stevens, Scourge of the South (1959.

    “In this biography of the chief architect of Reconstruction after the Civil War, Fawn Brodie seeks to explain the basis for his actions, the nature of his economic radicalism, and the emotional forces that resulted in his becoming one of the most controversial figures in American history”. She describes his roles as father of the Fourteenth Amendment and prosecutor in the impeachment trial of Andrew Johnson, his relations with Lincoln, and his battles for black suffrage and schooling. (Amazon)

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  72. UnderCover Brother on April 19, 2012 at 4:33 AM

    MH, Paul:

    Sorry for the long response, but as a additional note to Elder McConkie’s ‘forget everything’ comments, I think it’s worth also considering what President Marion G. Romney said on June 9 1978:

    “Brethren… I have a confession to make. I knew President Kimball was searching for an answer and whenever we discussed the question, I told him, ‘If you get an answer I will support you with all my strength,’ but I did not expect him to get an answer. If the decision had been left to me, I would have felt that we’ve always had that policy and we would stick to it no matter the opposition. I resisted change in my feelings but I came to accept it slowly. I have now changed my position 180 degrees. I am not just a supporter of this decision, I am an advocate.”

    President Romney also said a few weeks after the event,

    “The idea of change was new to me. I had gone eighty years defending the Church position. I am a Romney, you see, and a stubborn man. I was personally slow to accept change. I prayed hard that the Lord would give the president the right answer, but I did not presume to urge that the answer be yes or no. I was most interested that he be sure. And from the experience we had in the temple I was sure he had the answer.”

    I don’t think Elder McConkie’s ‘forget everything’ talk was anything to do with the underpinning folklore for the ban. It was, as President Romney also stated, about ‘… the problem of permitting blacks to receive the priesthood.’ It was about the timing.

    To me, it also shows what President Kimball was up against with his counselors and the Twelve. They were ‘… all reared in an America where prejudice towards non-whites was the norm’ and where ‘… most believed that blacks should not hold the priesthood, because they had been less valiant…’ in pre-mortal life. President Kimball had to strip himself of all racial prejudice and disentangle himself from all the Church entrenched folklore behind the ban before he could truly know what the Lord’s will was.
    Once the stripping and disentangling was complete, he knew and he ‘got’ it. But this did not mean that the other 14 passed through the same ‘stripping and disentangling’ process President Kimball had to, or passed through the process to the same degree. To them it was, as President Romney said, ‘… the problem of permitting blacks to receive the priesthood.’
    This could also be why previous prophets received a, ‘Not yet’ response from the Lord. I believe Brad referred to this in the podcast.

    I believe the Church today is now feeling the effects of others not going through the above process at the time; with BRM not updating Mormon Doctrine after the June 78 event and with Prof Bott’s comments last month. And the effects will continue until all pass through that painful process and know that, ‘… he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, … all are alike unto God’.

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  73. Bob on April 19, 2012 at 7:29 AM

    #72:UnderCover Brother,
    I have upset many bloggers, over the years, by saying we still not have any Black Mormons__only Black members. They deny it is stated this way, but it is to my ears.

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  74. Will on April 19, 2012 at 8:09 AM


    What a stupid comment.

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  75. Bob on April 19, 2012 at 8:58 AM

    If you scan through the OP and comments, you will see I am the only one who used the term ‘Black Mormon’. In fact, Black member is not even used__only ‘Blacks’.

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  76. Bob on April 19, 2012 at 9:18 AM

    #74: Will,
    “Black people have been members of Mormon congregations since its foundation, but before 1978 its black membership was small. It has since grown, and in 1997, there were approximately 500,000 black members of the church (about 5% of the total membership), mostly in Africa, Brazil and the Caribbean.[1] Black membership has continued to grow substantially, especially in West Africa, where two temples have been built.[2] In the United States, 3% of members are black

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  77. UnderCover Brother on April 19, 2012 at 10:00 AM

    #73: Bob.
    I think I know where you are going, but I would really like to have you elaborate on your comment.

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  78. Bob on April 19, 2012 at 11:12 AM

    From Opening Post: “They act in these ways that are discriminatory, that clearly evince racial stereotypes or racial prejudices, and yet have a total inability to acknowledge that that is racist”.
    To me, That’s what this Post is about. I see it when Blacks are given a second layer name__’Black Member’ and not ‘Black Mormon’. Black Mormon is usually used by “Black Mormons”.
    You can go into many Cultues that have no name/idea of ‘wrist’. They know forearm and hand, but you can talk to them all day and they will understand your idea of a ‘wrist’.

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  79. Bob on April 19, 2012 at 11:14 AM

    __NOT Understand__

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  80. Peter Ventura on April 19, 2012 at 12:26 PM

    Just a thought: If anyone of us (males) was alive at the time of Christ most, if not all, of us (around here) would not get the priesthood. Nope. Not of the tribes of Israel and not Levite. And we wouldn’t even hear of the gospel. It was not for us at the time. I am not offended by that. Ohhh? was Christ racist? No it was just not time . . . (mystery can be defined as something we just don’t know all the facts about, or hasn’t been revealed yet #68, #66)
    All worthy males can receive the priesthood now. No one should be offended by the fact that prior to 1978 they couldn’t receive the priesthood . . . wasn’t time yet. If you are worthy, you can receive it now, get over it.
    Racism as a word is thrown around way too much. Some groups feel THEY are the only ones that can appropriately use the word (oh, wait that would be racist . . . one race setting itself above another . . .).
    We in the USA are polarized by the word, over use it, don’t understand it. Anywhere else in the world, differences in the races are recognized (rightly or wrongly). As most of the Europeans do not like and speak degradingly of the gypsies. The Northern Europeans dislike the Southern Europeans. The northerners in any of the European countries disdain the southerners in their country. There is a caste system in India. Arab Muslims are more favored than other Muslims (Indonesian or any other). Not saying it is right, just saying it is human nature.
    In other posts, some have wrapped themselves with the scriptures to state that, “if it isn’t in the scriptures . . . it is not the gospel” (grooming standards, any standards really that they bristle at, for example). But then the converse should be true, if it is there (supposed racism by the prophets and Christ), then is it a correct principle?
    It is a mystery.

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  81. UnderCover Brother on April 19, 2012 at 12:51 PM

    Do you mean that there’s still some entanglement with the folklore, yet they don’t know they’re entangled? Hence terms like ‘black members’ is discriminatory in and of itself. For example, we don’t use the term ‘white members’. We would say, ‘French members or ‘Scandinavian members’. We would recognize members by their location, not by their racial heritage. We are all members. And you’re saying the Church is unable to recognize that?
    If so, I understand. As I stated earlier, I think this will continue. Only when we recognize that we are still entangled with the entrenched folklore that stops us from progressing closer to what God intends for us and when we choose to make the necessary changes will there be a course correction. It is the same pattern for us as individuals as it is for the Church as a whole.

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  82. Peter Ventura on April 19, 2012 at 1:44 PM

    Designations occur in other cultures and we either don’t know about it (us) or the culture uses it and it is NOT discriminatory for them, just descriptive (cojito . . . lame one, ciegito . . . blind one, chaparito . . short one, negrito . . black . . . no offense intended and none taken in that culture). Description does not connote discrimination necessarily.

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  83. Mormon Heretic on April 19, 2012 at 2:29 PM

    Peter, if you oppose the word “Racism” for it’s emotional appeal, then please give me another non-emotional word to use to describe the problem of blacks not holding the priesthood prior to 1978. Also please tell me why the RLDS and Strangite churches did not have a priesthood ban EVER, and why it is acceptable to have the ban in the LDS Church.

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  84. Peter Ventura on April 19, 2012 at 3:42 PM

    I don’t see that it was a “problem” as you state it. It just wasn’t time. Thinking of the parable of the Laborers in the vineyard that Elder Holland so eloquently elaborated on in conference, one could ask the same question of why the man didn’t ask all the laborers to come work at the beginning of the day? Was it a problem? I don’t know and don’t care really. The point of his example and the parable is that they were asked eventually and they received all the blessings that the early workers had albeit they worried all the day long until they were asked. Who knows why the RLDS or the Strangites didn’t have a ban. They probably got it wrong as they did other things (see their history).
    From your question I wonder if any answer would please you. I’m sorry.

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  85. Bob on April 19, 2012 at 3:59 PM

    #82:Peter Ventura,
    “Description does not connote discrimination necessarily”.
    In many ways it does. But this is just the way the Human mind works. It puts things in groups. It doesn’t mean it’s bad, but sometimes are incorrect, misleading, or even hardful to our judging things. Blacks can be one, the poor and be another. People who want to do me harm is a ‘good’ discrimination we might want to have.

    I don’t want to carry the ‘Black member’ too far. It is not a 100% thing. But there are ‘Mormons’ who see other ‘Mormons’ as some kind of ‘member’of the Church. (Such as our ‘members’ living in the Mission Field).

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  86. Mormon Heretic on April 19, 2012 at 6:01 PM

    Well, Peter, you illustrate the point of the panelists well, in that you are creating another definition for discrimination. You say that “Description does not connote discrimination necessarily”. However, within the context of the priesthood ban, discrimination is VERY evident. So if you’re going to change the definition, then yes, nothing you say is going to sway me.

    The problem is that blacks were denied temple blessings. No Black Mormon could be sealed to his/her eternal mate. Elijah Abel wanted to be sealed to his wife. Jane Manning James asked to be sealed to Walker Lewis. Both were denied, as was every Black member until 1978. If we can’t agree that this is discrimination, then the temple blessing simply don’t matter. Are you wiling to assert that your sealing to your wife (assuming you are sealed to her) just has no eternal significance?

    My point in bringing up the other churches was this fallacious argument that “it wasn’t time”. There are some who make the argument that the church would have been destroyed if they had allowed blacks to hold the priesthood. That is simply false. The Strangite, Bickertonite, and RLDS churches all date to the 1840-1860 time frame, and are all still in existence today. These churches all believe in the Book of Mormon, and much of the D&C we agree with. Yet the D&C contains no restriction on blacks. But oddly, OD2 rescinds a non-existent restriction.

    If you want to play the “God is a Mystery” card, I’m sure that works for you. But it didn’t work for Bott, it doesn’t work for me, and it doesn’t work for a lot of people, Mormon or not. I don’t think that God wanted Black Mormons denied the priesthood ever.

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  87. Peter Ventura on April 19, 2012 at 10:16 PM


    The problem is that blacks were denied temple blessings. No Black Mormon could be sealed to his/her eternal mate. Elijah Abel wanted to be sealed to his wife. Jane Manning James asked to be sealed to Walker Lewis. Both were denied, as was every Black member until 1978.



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  88. MH on April 19, 2012 at 11:17 PM

    Peter, getting a little hot under the collar? No need for ALL CAPS.


    Well, maybe you should do some research on this. At BlackLDS.org is a wonderful quote from Jane Manning James. When she asked President Taylor to be sealed, she asked poignantly, “Is there no blessing for me?” See http://www.blackpast.org/?q=aaw/james-jane-elizabeth-manning-1813-1908 So do some research before you make a blatantly IGNORANT assertion that “I DON’T SEE ANY QUOTES FROM THOSE FOLKS BELLY ACHING ABOUT THEIR BEING WRONGED (DENIED?)” Perhaps I will make a new post so you can see how wrong you are.


    Ok, so earthly ordinances don’t matter at all. Nobody should be baptized in this life because it will be done for them in the next life. Nobody needs the endowment, sealing, or any other silly earthly ordinance. Is that what you really think? Well, I’m glad to know that so I can eat, drink, and be merry and someone in the future will be baptized for me and I’ll be A-ok in the next life. Baptism for the dead and Temple work means I don’t have to do anything in this life. Hmmmm. Do you see anything faulty with this logic?


    You’re right, it’s silly. I didn’t make that statement. Who are you attributing that to?

    Yes, let’s do some genealogy. Would you be surprised that is one of my hobbies (in addition to church history)?


    I don’t speak for Brother Bott, and I’m surprised to hear that you thought I did. Did you notice my revulsion for what he said in comment 58? I’ve studied this issue quite a bit, and I think I’m WAY more informed on the topic that you are. Perhaps you could study the issue so you don’t make so many uninformed statements.

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  89. cowboy on April 19, 2012 at 11:39 PM

    Welcome to Wheat and Tares Peter. Have you come to gather the bundles?

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  90. UnderCover Brother on April 20, 2012 at 2:55 AM

    #87: Peter,

    You raised some interesting concerns. Some thoughts:


    MH responded re: Jane Manning James (I really felt for her). It is also worth looking at what was going on in the years prior to 1978. I saw ‘black men’ feel the Spirit, join the Church and serve in very limited callings. But they could not bless or pass the sacrament. They could not name their children with a blessing or bless them if they were sick. They could not serve in Priesthood callings. They could not receive their Temple endowments. They could not be sealed to their families. But they watched the ‘white men’ do those things and get those things. They had to ask the ‘white men’ to bless the black man’s children if they were sick, ask them to baptize their black children and ask them to confirm them members of the Church. This is, in effect, the emasculation of black men due to race.

    So the reason you won’t see the quotes is simply because many of that generation of black men simply left the Church and in effect took their children and their descendants with them. Black General Authorities – where are they? Only now are we seeing the local black leadership starting to trickle through. Only since 1978 are we seeing membership growth among black Mormons. You don’t think that matters?

    BTW – have you looked up Darron Smith?


    Your comment reminded me of a recent discussion I heard between 2 YSA sisters in a Relief Society lesson. The teacher stated that if you remained single and worthy in this life, you will receive the blessings of getting married and having children in the next. One sister immediately texted the other in the room with the words, ‘Shoot me now!’ The teacher then wondered why the 2 sisters were laughing in the room when they weren’t sitting near each other.

    To those YSA sisters, it matters. To the black members of this Church, it matters. To Jane Manning James, it mattered. Like the teacher, just because you can’t hear or see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there.

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  91. Peter Ventura on April 20, 2012 at 5:27 PM

    Looks like I got back a few droppings (88) in addition to the wheat and tares.

    Will respond later. All the bluster for perceived past wrongs seems like “thou complainest too much”. Does the problem exist now? Seems like someone has invented a “straw man” to kick around and champion where none is needed.

    We can disagree MH (88) but tone your disagreeable rhetoric back a bit.

    As for understanding what the black members went through etc. I was a branch president of a majority black branch in South Georgia for 6 1/2 years. Mostly black for most of those years. Best job with the best people in the Church. Long and great discussions but none like this. Yup, we had all the books, quotes. No one was upset at all just asked questions.

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  92. [...] The Concept of Race, in the Gospel I expect to hear much more about the priesthood ban the LDS church imposed on black Africans as the US presidential election gets closer.  And I’d expect LDS blogs to begin either defending the ban, attempting to explain it away, or talking about how the church needs to formally apologize for being racist and move on — [This recent one from Wheat & Tares comes to mind] [...]

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