President Oaks and the Priesthood Restriction

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Roy
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President Oaks and the Priesthood Restriction

Post by Roy » 12 Jun 2018, 14:41

Recently President Oaks gave some remarks at the "Be One" celebration. Pres. Oaks had given an interview on this same topic in 1988 and in 2007. I am interested in a comparison of his remarks 30 years apart.
“‘If you read the scriptures with this question in mind, “Why did the Lord command this or why did he command that,” you find that in less than one in a hundred commands was any reason given. It’s not the pattern of the Lord to give reasons. We [mortals] can put reasons to revelation. We can put reasons to commandments. When we do, we’re on our own. Some people put reasons to the one we’re talking about here, and they turned out to be spectacularly wrong. There is a lesson in that. … I decided a long time ago that I had faith in the command and I had no faith in the reasons that had been suggested for it.’

“When asked if [he] was even referring to reasons given by General Authorities, [he] replied:

“‘I’m referring to reasons given by general authorities and reasons elaborated upon … by others. The whole set of reasons seemed to me to be unnecessary risk taking. … My experience with this was to say, I don’t know whether this is commanded in the Pearl of Great Price. I’m not positive about that commandment in relation to this. I put my faith on the president of the Church whom I sustain as the prophet. When he tells me that this is what the church does, then I’ll go with that…. Let’s don’t make the mistake that’s been made in the past, here and in other areas, trying to put reasons to revelation. The reasons turn out to be man-made to a great extent. The revelations are what we sustain as the will of the Lord and that’s where safety lies’ [“Apostles Talk about Reasons for Lifting Ban,”
Daily Herald,
Provo, Utah, June 5, 1988, 21 (AP)]” (Dallin H. Oaks,
Life’s Lessons Learned
[2011], 68–69).
Elder Oaks calls the restriction a revelation and a commandment. Elder Oaks had faith in the commanded/revealed restriction but not in any of the explanations then put forward. The revelation is the will of the Lord - where safety lies.
I had many times that my heart ached for that, and it ached for my Church, which I knew to be true and yet blessings of that Church were not available to a significant segment of our Heavenly Father’s children. And I didn’t understand why; I couldn’t identify with any of the explanations that were given. Yet I sustained the action; I was confident that in the time of the Lord I would know more about it, so I went along on faith.[Elder Oaks "The Mormons" 2007

Elder Oaks could not identify with the explanations given at that point. He sustained the "action" (meaning priesthood ban). He went on faith that he would know more about it in the "time of the Lord" (which I believe infers that the restriction was part of the Lord's timing)
I observed the pain and frustration experienced by those who suffered these restrictions and those who criticized them and sought for reasons. I studied the reasons then being given and could not feel confirmation of the truth of any of them. As part of my prayerful study, I learned that, in general, the Lord rarely gives reasons for the commandments and directions He gives to His servants. I determined to be loyal to our prophetic leaders and to pray — as promised from the beginning of these restrictions — that the day would come when all would enjoy the blessings of priesthood and temple...[snip]...
Institutionally, the Church reacted swiftly to the revelation on the priesthood.

Ordinations and temple recommends came immediately. The reasons that had been given to try to explain the prior restrictions on members of African ancestry — even those previously voiced by revered Church leaders — were promptly and publicly disavowed. ... [snip]... Others have wanted to look back, concentrating attention on re-examining the past, including seeking reasons for the now-outdated restrictions.

However, most in the Church, including its senior leadership, ...[snip]... have trusted the wisdom and timing of the Lord and accepted the directions of His prophet. [President Oaks "Be One" 2018]
President Oaks could not feel confirmation of the truth of the restriction explanations then put forward. President Oaks infers that the priesthood restriction was a commandment and divine direction. President Oaks infers that the restriction was in place due to "the wisdom and timing of the Lord."

It appears that the thinking of President Oaks has not really evolved much on this subject. It regards to content, there is very little change. One development that I noticed was the President Oaks has taken to calling the Priesthood ban as "restrictions". In the previous interviews President Oaks used an assortment of words to describe the restriction - revelation, command, "the one", this, this subject, that, it, & the action (His interviewers used the term "Priesthood Ban", Elder Oaks never used that term that I can tell). In his 2018 address President Oaks used "the restriction", "his restriction", or "restrictions" 7 times.

I am somewhat disappointed because I had hoped that the Essay on Race and the Priesthood might have added something to President Oaks' thought process on this subject. I had thought that it was apparent that there was no evidence for a revelation that began the priesthood restriction (and that it could have been implemented by BY acting as a man and not as an oracle of God). I had thought that by unequivocally condemning "all racism, past and present, in any form" in the essay, the church might be taking a "read between the lines" approach to floating the idea that the restriction might have been wrong.

If that was the intent of the essay, President Oaks appears not to have received the memo.
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SamBee
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Re: President Oaks and the Priesthood Restriction

Post by SamBee » 12 Jun 2018, 15:29

I know what I'd like to say about the priesthood ban, but it would not be diplomatic. I think it is possibly the worst thing that the church has done in the long term. More so than polygamy. Not just morally. I believe the church would have several times the membership in black Africa now if it weren't for this.

I wish it had never happened in the first place. I hate it especially given the strong Christian faith I have seen from many Africans.

I wish the church had been out there, backing Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks etc instead of having its own color bar.

Although it was lifted in my lifetime I was not a member. I doubt I would have joined back then if I could. I am just glad I joined after this was gone, after the changes to the endowment etc.
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dande48
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Re: President Oaks and the Priesthood Restriction

Post by dande48 » 12 Jun 2018, 15:37

Thanks for posting this comparison Roy.

I am not pleased with the essay on "Race in the Priesthood". It cherrypicks from sources the public does not have access to, and sidelines the sources that are public knowledge. We will never get an admition of guilt or wrongdoing from the Church; that would go too strongly against its core claims. But while we can't hope for "justice", there still is progress.
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Re: President Oaks and the Priesthood Restriction

Post by DarkJedi » 12 Jun 2018, 17:26

dande48 wrote:
12 Jun 2018, 15:37
But while we can't hope for "justice", there still is progress.
Au contraire, I think we are seeing justice in the making. Hear me out before you jump to any conclusion. One meaning of justice is punishment, and this meaning seems to be very often used by religious folks as sort of an antonym to mercy. We all want mercy for ourselves but justice for our enemies, those we feel have wronged us, or those who otherwise "deserve" it. But I'm not sure that's what justice in the scriptures is talking about. Justice also means fairness or fairness in the way people are treated. Using this definition, justice and mercy in the eternal sense are very close to the same thing - it would not be fair for you to get mercy and me to get punishment because we have all sinned and the atonement of Jesus Christ applies to all of us equally. Religious folk also tend to conflate repentance and penance. It appears that the intended meaning of repent or repentance in the NT was change, but translation into multiple languages transformed the word into a word closer to punishment. Jesus freely forgave every single person in the NT who asked him for forgiveness, and many who didn't ask - and punishment was never mentioned. Consider this old gem from Elder Theodore Burton (whole talk here: https://www.lds.org/ensign/1988/08/the- ... e?lang=eng):
Confusion came, however, when the New Testament was translated from Greek into Latin. Here an unfortunate choice was made in translation; the Greek word metaneoeo was translated into the Latin word poenitere. The Latin root poen in that word is the same root found in our English words punish, penance, penitent, and repentance. The beautiful meaning of the Hebrew and Greek words was thus changed in Latin to a meaning that involved hurting, punishing, whipping, cutting, mutilating, disfiguring, starving, or even torturing! It is no small wonder, then, that people have come to fear and dread the word repentance, which they understand to mean repeated or unending punishment.
I think the church has repented, we have changed direction on race and the priesthood. Justice (fairness) plays out every day since the lift of the ban. But what we want is the other meaning of justice and we want penance. That is what I think we can't really hope for - and while I would herald such a thing as much as anyone else, in the end not only do I think we won't get it, but because of the atonement of Christ we don't need it.

(Just to be as extremely clear as I can be: I do believe the priesthood ban was racially motivated and not of God. I see no reason why it continued so long and why it needed a revelation to end it when there was no revelation to begin it. I wholeheartedly believe the church was wrong and that many former leaders were racist. I likewise think the church is wrong on many of it's policies against gays and hope in some future day in my own lifetime I can say the church has repented on that issue as well.)
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Re: President Oaks and the Priesthood Restriction

Post by nibbler » 12 Jun 2018, 18:53

We may or may not have repented but I don't think we learned a thing from the experience. We don't appear to have grow from it.

The month of May in my ward could best be described as the month of leader adulation. It was a tough month to endure the 3 hour block. I've been thinking about some of the messages I've heard and trying to recenter myself in the orthodox believing mindset. I think we as a culture understand that prophet infallibility is not a thing, meaning prophets are capable of sin, but we struggle with the notion of prophetic infallibility, meaning we do believe what the prophet teaches is perfect (without flaw or defect).

I think this explains many things that I've heard over the last month or so. It sounded like people criticizing others for leaving the church because they misplaced their faith by placing it in leaders and further criticizing them for not placing enough faith in leaders. It was enough to make my head spin but I think the idea is that leaders aren't perfect (they need to repent) but their teachings are perfect (correctly convey god's will). Sometimes I think we're talking past each other but it may help people on both sides to be more precise.
I observed the pain and frustration experienced by those who suffered these restrictions and those who criticized them and sought for reasons. I studied the reasons then being given and could not feel confirmation of the truth of any of them. As part of my prayerful study, I learned that, in general, the Lord rarely gives reasons for the commandments and directions He gives to His servants. I determined to be loyal to our prophetic leaders and to pray — as promised from the beginning of these restrictions — that the day would come when all would enjoy the blessings of priesthood and temple.
There's the meme that was floating around when The Force Awakens was still new.
Image
Maybe that's too harsh a judgement to lay at Oaks' feet. In that quote I see that he did pretty much what I'm doing. I'm powerless to change the church, all I can do is hope they eventually get around to doing the right thing, sooner rather than later; to reduce the people that get caught up in needless "pain and frustration" and people that "suffered [the] restrictions." Or I'm free to agitate for change and be completely tuned out as a heathen or what have you.

Oaks suggests that you can question god (but good luck getting an answer) but the elephant in the room is addressing when people reach a point where they begin to question whether a church leader is actually speaking for god.

Oaks appears to be a student of blessings coming from unquestioning obedience. There's precedent for that.
And after many days, an angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam, saying, "Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord?" And Adam said unto him, "I know not, save the Lord commanded me."
That's a tough one to wrestle with. I will point out how the angel gave a reason, meaning god does give reasons for commandments. Others would argue that the reasons only come after establishing a pattern of obedience.

We recently celebrated 40 years of lifting the PH... restriction I guess is the preferred word now. I wonder, in 60 years time will an 80-something year old member of the first presidency (someone that is currently 20-something) say:
I observed the pain and frustration experienced by those who suffered these restrictions placed on homosexual members of the church and those who criticized them and sought for reasons. I studied the reasons then being given and could not feel confirmation of the truth of any of them. I determined to respect the leadership of our prophets and to pray that the day would come when all would enjoy the blessings of priesthood and temple.
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SamBee
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Re: President Oaks and the Priesthood Restriction

Post by SamBee » 13 Jun 2018, 03:21

TBF obedience is sometimes necessary. In a military situation, the commanding officers may have to keep certain information away from low level troops for security reasons. For example, the Nazis never knew that the Allies had cracked the Enigma codes, and this allowed for a large amount of surprises to be pulled on them... if the troops had known, a POW or spy could have reported back to Berlin.

In this case, just no. I look at the history of the USA and there have been so many setbacks about this. The Civil War was not mainly about the rights of African Americans as some claim. When the slaves were freed, they were not really free for practically a century after. I know one of the US presidents - Woodrow Wilson I think - actually reversed black emancipation with his actions. The US military was institutionally racist well past WWII.

It really says something when Jim Jones' People's Temple was more racially integrated than the LDS in the 70s.
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Re: President Oaks and the Priesthood Restriction

Post by dande48 » 13 Jun 2018, 05:40

nibbler wrote:
12 Jun 2018, 18:53
There's the meme that was floating around when The Force Awakens was still new.
Image
It's an interesting meme thought experiment, and I know I've said similar things a few times before, but to me it reads "Morality is doing what I tell you is right. Obedience is doing what someone else tells you is right."
DarkJedi wrote:
12 Jun 2018, 17:26
I think the church has repented, we have changed direction on race and the priesthood. Justice (fairness) plays out every day since the lift of the ban. But what we want is the other meaning of justice and we want penance. That is what I think we can't really hope for - and while I would herald such a thing as much as anyone else, in the end not only do I think we won't get it, but because of the atonement of Christ we don't need it.
Lots of good points, DJ. I guess when I said we won't get "justice", the sort of justice I had hoped for was retroactive. There were a lot of members deeply hurt by early Church policy. Yet the Church still condemns those who didn't follow the "living prophet" of their day. A repentant person is one who admits their past mistakes, is humble enough to recognize they'll still make mistakes, and tries to be better now. On the other hand, if someone justifies their past mistakes, condemns those who called them out on it, and continues to claim they are always right... not to get too political, but that's Trump-brand repentance.

But in the end, I think you are right.
...because of the atonement of Christ we don't need it.
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Re: President Oaks and the Priesthood Restriction

Post by Curt Sunshine » 13 Jun 2018, 17:06

I think we have gotten justice - in the form of an abysmally low conversion and growth rate among African-Americans and understandable scorn for not being able to admit to human error. One traditional definition of justice is "getting what you deserve" - and we have gotten what we deserve.

I loved your explanation, DJ. It was enlightening and educational for me, and I appreciate those moments greatly.
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Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

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Re: President Oaks and the Priesthood Restriction

Post by SamBee » 13 Jun 2018, 17:13

Curt Sunshine wrote:
13 Jun 2018, 17:06
I think we have gotten justice - in the form of an abysmally low conversion and growth rate among African-Americans and understandable scorn for not being able to admit to human error. One traditional definition of justice is "getting what you deserve" - and we have gotten what we deserve.

I loved your explanation, DJ. It was enlightening and educational for me, and I appreciate those moments greatly.
I'm not thinking of Americans but Africa, which is the happy hunting ground of Christian missionaries.

And the Caribbean - how many members do we have there? Not many I'd imagine.
DASH1730 "An Area Authority...[was] asked...who...would go to the Telestial kingdom. His answer: "murderers, adulterers and a lot of surprised Mormons!"'
1ST PRES 1978 "[LDS] believe...there is truth in many religions and philosophies...good and great religious leaders... have raised the spiritual, moral, and ethical awareness of their people. When we speak of The [LDS] as the only true church...it is...authorized to administer the ordinances...by Jesus Christ... we do not mean... it is the only teacher of truth."

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Re: President Oaks and the Priesthood Restriction

Post by Curt Sunshine » 13 Jun 2018, 21:32

African continent membership is growing faster than anywhere else in the world. We now have over 600,000 members there, and the African immigrant population in the Church is growing.

The Carribean numbers are good, but not great. Activity is influenced by the baptize-at-any-cost mentality of the early 80s.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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