Church issues Race & Priesthood statement rejecting theories for past ban on Blacks in priesthood


prisonchaplain
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I found a link to this at Real Clear Religion. It appears to be a very recent statement from the Church, and more or less blames Brigham Young's pronouncement that Blacks could not receive the priesthood on the prevalent cultural realities of his era.

https://www.lds.org/topics/race-and-the-priesthood?lang=eng

The Real Clear Politics article indicated that this statement is being well-received--a "Christmas Present" to LDS of all ethnicities.

Mormon church traces black priesthood ban to Brigham Young | The Salt Lake Tribune

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I believe a lot of people knew it was racism, but didn't want to believe the church culture was capable of it, so it became a defensive faux pas to mention the subject. When I broached the subject with some sensitive members, they get upset quickly, but what surprised me is that when I broached the subject with people within the church who have a quiet confidence, they agreed with me that it was institutionalized racism and somewhat ridiculous to believe it was God's will.

Thank you for the links!

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People sure are reading what they want to in this essay. The statement does point out the cultural milieu in which the ban arose; but what it does not say is precisely what our critics and the race-baiters most dearly want it to say (and what the media is falsely implying that it does say): that Brigham Young was wrong, and that the policy was not part of God's plan for the Church. Indeed, the document specifically points out that " After praying for guidance, President McKay did not feel impressed to lift the ban."

It's great that more people will be reading about the background of the policy from a far, far more authoritative source than previously. On the other hand: for those who have been paying attention, there's really nothing new here. Yeah, there's a clear-cut statement that the ban didn't exist until the Young administration--but we had this discussion back when the header to OD-2 was changed in the new edition of the scriptures earlier this year. Yeah, the statement repudiates the justification for the policy--but the Church has been doing that (albeit not always so loudly) since Elder McConkie's "forget everything" sermon back in 1978.

As for the policy itself: it remains unrepudiated. If anything, the inclusion of the tidbit re President McKay bolsters it.

Edited by Just_A_Guy
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I read the statement before I read the newspaper article. Admittedly, this is not an issue I've paid much attention to over the years. My outside eyes took the church's statement to mean that the ban was very much in fitting with the times. That implication did come across to me as an explanation for a policy that seems so wrong to us.

JAG is correct that there was no apology, and no suggestion that God's will for the church was in any way thwarted. Nevertheless, leadership appears to be wanting to explain in the best way possible something that to modern thinking seems so wrong. Perhaps this statement is not so much a change in content as an admission that even many members find this aspect of church history to be difficult to understand. What is offered is that culture may well have helped form what God needed to do in this circumstance.

Perhaps there is a parallel with Jesus' explanation of why Moses allowed easy divorce. He said it was not God's best for his people, but rather what God allowed due to the hardness of their hearts. Could it be that the hardness of American hearts in the early to mid-19th century necessitated a ban on blacks in the priesthood? It's not my role to analyze that--but it is what the statement appears to me to imply.

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The Church proclaims that redemption through Jesus Christ is available to the entire human family on the conditions God has prescribed. It affirms that God is “no respecter of persons”24 and emphatically declares that anyone who is righteous—regardless of race—is favored of Him. The teachings of the Church in relation to God’s children are epitomized by a verse in the second book of Nephi: “[The Lord] denieth none that cometh unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; . . . all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.”25

Or Brigham young,

In the preisthood I will tell you what it will do. Where the children of God to mingle there seed with the seed of Cain it would not only bring the curse of being deprived of the power of the preisthood upon themselves but they entail it upon their children after them, and they cannot get rid of it. If a man in an ungaurded moment should commit such a transgression, if he would walk up and say cut off my head, and kill man woman and child it would do a great deal towards atoneing for the sin. .. It is a great blessing to the seed of Adam to have the seed of Cain for servants. ...Let this Church which is called the kingdom of God on the earth; we will sommons the first presidency, the twelve, the high counsel, the Bishopric, and all the elders of Israel, suppose we summons them to apear here, and here declare that it is right to mingle our seed, with the black race of Cain, that they shall come in with with us and be pertakers with us of all the blessings God has given to us. On that very day, and hour we should do so, the priesthood is taken from this Church and kingdom and God leaves us to our fate. The moment we consent to mingle with the seed of Cain the Church must go to destruction..." (Brigham Young, February 5 1852)

and many other quotes including other presidents such as john taylor.

Racism could be one reason. But who knows who was really right.

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Yeah, PC, I don't rule out a Samuel-esque scenario where God offers the people something, they insist on having it their way instead, and so God tells the prophet "fine, give 'em what they want".

I think the danger (and, frankly, the unspoken agenda for much of this brouhaha) is when we give way to the notion that "no, the prophet just led the Church astray--and if the old prophet led us wrong about this, then the current prophet is leading us wrong about whatever else I want him to be wrong about".

Edited by Just_A_Guy
Correct spelling error
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...is when we give way to the notion that "no, the prophet just led the Church astray--and if the old prophet led us wrong about this, then the current prophet is leading us wrong about whatever else I want him to be wrong about".

This is exactly the issue here.

And this is the issue that should be addressed as MANY are losing Faith in God because of these things. I think this would be a beneficial discussion to many people that are struggling. There are SO many things that have changed.

Its nice to just state what you did. But it would do more for those struggling if we stated WHY we shouldn't give in to that notion that "so and so got this wrong, hence others could also be wrong".

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Or Brigham young,

and many other quotes including other presidents such as john taylor.

Racism could be one reason. But who knows who was really right.

The later statements and the scriptures are right.

We believe in revelation and we believe in the scriptures. It's simple.

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One thing to keep in mind, is Brigham (and others) made various speculative statements outside of their offices. Brigham said a lot of things as Governor, addressing secular audiences, not as prophet.

ElectOfGod, do you know the source of your quote?

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The attitude of the Church with reference to Negroes remains as it has always stood. It is not a matter of the declaration of a policy but of direct commandment from the Lord, on which is founded the doctrine of the Church from the days of its organization, to the effect that Negroes may become members of the Church but that they are not entitled to the priesthood at the present time.

—First Presidency statement, August 17, 1949

Loudmouth, its partially quoted in the official statement.

number 8.

Brigham Young, Speeches Before the Utah Territorial Legislature, Jan. 23 and Feb. 5, 1852, George D. Watt Papers, Church History Library, Salt Lake City, transcribed from Pitman shorthand by LaJean Purcell Carruth; “To the Saints,” Deseret News, April 3, 1852, 42.

It summarized parts of it here,

In 1850, the U.S. Congress created Utah Territory, and the U.S. president appointed Brigham Young to the position of territorial governor. Southerners who had converted to the Church and migrated to Utah with their slaves raised the question of slavery’s legal status in the territory. In two speeches delivered before the Utah territorial legislature in January and February 1852, Brigham Young announced a policy restricting men of black African descent from priesthood ordination. At the same time, President Young said that at some future day, black Church members would “have [all] the privilege and more” enjoyed by other members.8

Mormonism and racial issues/Blacks and the priesthood/Policy or doctrine - FairMormon

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Speeches

It doesn’t make a particle of difference what anybody ever said about the Negro matter before the first day of June of this year, 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.
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I dunno, Skippy. Even within the Church, it seems quite a few people are bound and determined to remember the darkness, and get as much mileage out of it as possible.

"We don't know" means we don't know. Too often, McConkie's statement is presented as a sort of "unless you agree with my narrative--shut up."

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Yeah, PC, I don't rule out a Samuel-esque scenario where God offers the people something, they insist on having it their way instead, and so God tells the prophet "fine, give 'em what they want".

I think this has been the case in several of the Church's recent statements/ policies. Doesn't mean that Samuel or in this case- the Church leadership are not inspired, just shows the direction the masses of the membership are inclined to lean.

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Rick, I took that quote to mean that Brigham Young may have been led to give the masses what they want, much as Samuel was led to appoint a king, though God said it would not be best to have one. You seem to imply that it is some of the more recent statements that may be God allowing the masses what they want. Am I reading you wrong?

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Honestly, PC, speaking in general about various Church policies--I think there are some relatively recent Church policies that are more a function of God's placating his stubborn, disobedient children rather than a reflection of His own mind and will for the Church.

But I don't think the ending of the priesthood ban was one of them.

Edited by Just_A_Guy
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The part of the statement about Brazil is interesting to me, my dad was a missionary there pre 1978 and I was there post 1978. Africans, natives, and Europeans have been mixing there since the days of Columbus, so imagine the difficulty in defining the term black.

As a side note, I met a man named Helvecio Martins who did volunteer manual labor on the Sao Paulo temple knowing full well he was disqualified to enter. He had a short but prophetic conversation with Spencer W Kimbal at the groundbreaking. In addition to this he was promised the priesthood in his patriarchal blessing.

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Hidden

Do you think the church will change it's stance on homosexuality when it is no longer socially acceptable to discriminate against gays?

They abandoned polygamy due to pressure from the government.

They abandoned the racism when they realized is was no longer popular (although 20 years too late).

Why not change the stance on homosexuality when it becomes more popular?

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I think the larger message we should get out of all of this is that it's important that we all cultivate a personal relationship with the Holy Ghost in order to direct and guide us. All of us have a tendency of being products of the worldly culture and teachings around us, even prophets (yes, I take prophetical non-infallibility seriously). However, we are called to not be "of the world." A relationship with the Holy Ghost helps us to make decisions on a higher level than worldly influences, but sometimes the best way we can learn is by trying what we think is right and seeing the consequences of our actions.

Thus, I think approaching this new article as an exercise in determining whether or not past prophets and leaders were "wrong" is the wrong way to go. Instead I like to look at these events as slow but sure steps on our long journey to the state of perfection that a Zion state of affairs would require of us as a Church, both regarding the priesthood ban and our individual reactions and feelings about it. Our Church continues to grow and gain more gospel knowledge as it is revealed to us, and I see this new section on race and the priesthood as a step in a positive direction rather than something to be used for ideological scorekeeping.

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important that we all cultivate a personal relationship with the Holy Ghost

Nobody will disagree with that. However, according to the story my father told, his MTC group was addressed by an Apostle regarding the priesthood. They were ordered not to ordain any black people in Brazil.

That was the policy, as we know. So what was the doctrine?

“The seeming discrimination by the Church toward the Negro is not something which originated with man; but goes back into the beginning with God" - David O. Mckay 1969

That "sounds" more doctrinal than than a matter of policy. If we assume (as I do) that this is the Church of Jesus Christ, and not the church of men, the only conclusion is that at a minimum Jesus Christ allowed racism to exist in His name and be facilitated by His priesthood. The other option would be to assume BOTH the withdraw and restoration of priesthood was done by revelation.

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Here is some doctrine to add to the discussion:

D&C 1:24-28

24 Behold, I am God and have spoken it; these commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding.

25 And inasmuch as they erred it might be made known;

26 And inasmuch as they sought wisdom they might be instructed;

27 And inasmuch as they sinned they might be chastened, that they might repent;

28 And inasmuch as they were humble they might be made strong, and blessed from on high, and receive knowledge from time to time.

"But Skippy... they DID pray about it... and it didn't get cleared up until 1978!"

Perhaps it took the entire First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve to finally have their hearts changed on this issue before the revelation could come?

Consider this: Brigham Young can't (shouldn't have) been able to facilitate the change to prevent the priesthood from going to certain people WITHOUT the entire First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve being in favor of it.

We don't have the documentation from any such meeting or policy change, but to allow it to happen without question means that these two governing quorums of the Church allowed this to occur.

Yes, President David O. McKay prayed on it and got a "not now" response. That was one person. Perhaps it was because the Lord knew the hearts of the rest of the quorum members and "not now" wasn't about the people the policy affected, but about the support of the entire quorum?

I admit, that this is speculation that just happens to fit the course of events.

Just something to consider.

Edited by skippy740
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I'm only about 11 minutes in to this, but here is a radio interview with Margaret Blair Young and Marvin Perkins about this announcement:

Revisiting Blacks and the Priesthood | RadioWest

Hmmm... certainly got interesting and controversial in the last 10 minutes of this one.

Edited by skippy740
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If we assume (as I do) that this is the Church of Jesus Christ, and not the church of men, the only conclusion is that at a minimum Jesus Christ allowed racism to exist in His name and be facilitated by His priesthood. The other option would be to assume BOTH the withdraw and restoration of priesthood was done by revelation.

I am reluctant to make conclusions about the will of God, as His ways are not our ways and His ways will rarely make sense to our mortal perspective. Regardless, this the Church of Christ but is managed and led here on Earth by human beings. Sometimes God allows us to be imperfect in order for us to grow and progress. I personally don't know whether the priesthood ban was divinely inspired or a product of the environment of 19th Century American religious trends, but neither outcome would sway my testimony of the prophet either way. I'd be fine with the ban being by revelation or with the ban being uninspired to begin with (and hence allowed in order to have some effect on the Church that would otherwise be impossible). What's far more important to me is that we have greater knowledge revealed to us and we should act on it and help the Church progress to growth and, eventually, a Zion state of mind and community. This now includes directly opposing racism in all its many shapes and forms.

EDIT: See that quote in my signature? I think it's relevant here and I totally believe it.

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