Church news release on race

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curt
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Church news release on race

Post by curt » 25 Mar 2012, 11:13

I came across this news release recently and was somewhat flabbergasted, although I should not be. It is an official news release from the church on race. It makes the audacious claim that the current elders of the SLC church do not know why black males were denied the priesthood, just that in 1978 the then-current elders, and of course, the prophet, prayed about it and were told to start giving it to them. This is a present-day example of how, throughout its history, the church has tried to whitewash that history, often successfully, such that the unsuspecting are none the wiser. The Tanners got blasted for pointing this out in the Changing World of Mormonism, but they were so right. Mormons of yesteryear wouldn't even recognize the church today. I just can't understand how a church that is true could be in such denial about its history. It defies logic.

http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/race-church

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Re: Church news release on race

Post by Curt Sunshine » 25 Mar 2012, 13:07

Frankly, I see the statement very differently, curt - and I think your general view is coloring your reaction significantly. I'm going to pull out my parser's pen and explain why.

Here is the full text of the statement, with my comments in parentheses and bolded just to make them easier to see:

The gospel of Jesus Christ is for everyone. The Book of Mormon states, “black and white, bond and free, male and female; … all are alike unto God” (2 Nephi 26:33). This is the Church’s official teaching.

(That's a really good introduction for a statement on race.)

People of all races have always been welcomed and baptized into the Church since its beginning. In fact, by the end of his life in 1844 Joseph Smith, the founding prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, opposed slavery. During this time some black males were ordained to the priesthood.

(This is completely accurate, and it says explicitly that the ban did NOT start with Joseph Smith. That's important to have in writing.)

At some point the Church stopped ordaining male members of African descent, although there were a few exceptions.

(An official statement that there were exceptions to the ban!! I've never seen that admission EVER in official writings in my lifetime. That's a wonderful sentence!)

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

(That sentence is 100% accurate. I am quite positive it was due to the racism of the early leaders, and I think I know what inspired it, but I can't be totally sure, since there simply are NO authoritative writings about it's "precise" origin - the why, how or when. Frankly, however, I think it is impressive that the Church would state unequivocally that it doesn't know why, how or when the ban began. That also is a huge step in the right direction, imo.)

Church leaders sought divine guidance regarding the issue and more than three decades ago extended the priesthood to all worthy male members. The Church immediately began ordaining members to priesthood offices wherever they attended throughout the world.

(This also is 100% accurate, and, for a short press release that doesn't have to include lots of notes about the process that led up to OD2, it does a good job of summarizing the result.)

The Church unequivocally condemns racism, including any and all past racism by individuals both inside and outside the Church.

( :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap: That statement alone makes this statement amazing, imo. The operative word is "including", which means it's not "just" individual racism that the Church now condemns. It's ALL racism that the Church now condemns. I know it's not as explicit as saying, "The ban was racist, and we condemn it," but the ban actually was racist by any reasonable definition, so this statement does, in reality, condemn it as worded. :D :clap: :D :clap: )

In 2006, then Church president Gordon B. Hinckley declared that “no man who makes disparaging remarks concerning those of another race can consider himself a true disciple of Christ. Nor can he consider himself to be in harmony with the teachings of the Church. Let us all recognize that each of us is a son or daughter of our Father in Heaven, who loves all of His children.”

(This is a perfect way to sum up the current church stance on anyone who expresses racism verbally.)

Recently, the Church has also made the following statement on this subject:

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

(Again, the first sentence is 100% accurate, as worded, and this additional statement clearly says all the justifications from our past were made without revelation - which means, implicitly, that they were not of God and that the Church now rejects them. That's straightforward and wonderful to read.)

Obviously, it doesn't read exactly as you would like it to read, curt - but it's about the farthest thing from white-washing the Church has issued regarding the ban.
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.

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Re: Church news release on race

Post by Heber13 » 25 Mar 2012, 15:10

It's not a bad statement by the church, but it might be a little more honest if it stated the practice of denying blacks started after Joseph Smith and with Brigham Young, although there isn't any doctrinal reason why it began. That is a bit more honest, as Brigham should take responsibility for it.

If that is not accurate, then tell us who is. I'm sure they know when it started and who should take responsibility for it.

I don't think they go far enough to just say "We don't know why it started but the good news is it no longer applies so lets just move forward."
Luke: "Why didn't you tell me? You told me Vader betrayed and murdered my father."
Obi-Wan: "Your father... was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true... from a certain point of view."
Luke: "A certain point of view?"
Obi-Wan: "Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to...depend greatly on our point of view."

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Re: Church news release on race

Post by Curt Sunshine » 25 Mar 2012, 15:40

Actually, Heber nobody knows precisely when it started - which is one of the reasons, to me, it is so easy to reject it as proper. In a church that stresses record-keeping and recorded revelation, nothing like that exists for the ban.

We can give a very general time range for when it started, both in practice and as a commonly accepted belief (somewhere between the 1850's and the end of the 19th Century), but all that says is that we don't know "precisely" when it started - just as the statement says. We have no clue whatsoever "precisely" how it started - other than the general, "Brigham Young stopped ordaining black men, claimed it was according to the scriptures and, with a few exceptions, it simply stopped happening." Again, I'm pretty sure I know why it happened (the early leaders couldn't stomach mixed-race sealings once that became a real possibility), but that isn't so clear that I would bet my life on it.

Sure, the statement could have added a lot more detail - but, again, it is a press release that is meant to give a really condensed summary of our history and focus on the issue now. Frankly, with that intent, I think it goes way beyond what it had to say to fulfill that mission and actually represents a much better condemnation of our past than I would have thought such a press release would. When parsed for only what it actually says, it literally condemns the ban without having to say so explicitly.

Look, I'm not defending the press release as a great historical document (and I understand some people want it to be even more explicit in its condemnation of the ban itself) - but, as a press release, I think it's quite amazing.
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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Re: Church news release on race

Post by wayfarer » 25 Mar 2012, 16:10

Ray, you're a great defender, and I agree with you 80% on this issue. The press release is a solid step in the right direction.

Yes, it condemns past racism on the part of individuals past and present, but the ban went beyond individuals to the entire church leadership. If it wasn't doctrine, then it was institutional racism, and that should be acknowledged as such. How much more would it take to recognize that this was unfortunate, and on behalf of the church, the leadership makes formal apology for the practice. This is a little token, but could go a long way.

The second area of concern, while not easy to remedy, is to admit that it was taught as doctrine. there are numerous statements indicating that the ban was god's will and doctrine. I realize, though, that to admit that it was taught as doctrine, formally, but is not really doctrine, is to address the idea that the statement "The prophet will never lead you astray" is false. In this case, multiple prophets declared the false-doctrine of the ban as doctrine, required racist practice, and that by any definition is leading the members astray.

So, yes, I rejoice in this positive step. I think a formal apology is in order, and that would certainly break news. HOwever, I don't think the church will ever recind the 14F in this context, but it should.
Last edited by wayfarer on 25 Mar 2012, 22:23, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Church news release on race

Post by Roy » 25 Mar 2012, 16:27

I think the statement is positive.

I think that there were many previous explanations for the priesthood ban that dovetail so nicely with pre-mortal valiance or rights associated with lineage (12 tribes) or "believing blood."

I think it is hard to disentangle these previous explanations from those doctrines without doing damage to the doctrines themselves.

Recently for priesthood the lesson was on a GC talk given by a woman. Anyway, said twice in the talk about how we were the elect in the premortal realm to be born into LDS homes. Afterwards I talked to the teacher (that is super knowledgeable in LDS apologetics). I told him that I had thought that the church was quietly distancing itself from this type of thinking and that it had been a long time since I had heard it in an official setting. His response was that he didn't think that the church was distancing itself from these doctrines. It was a good conversation and I think in the end we could both agree on some of the excesses of some of these doctrines that the church has discouraged (inferiority of other races/peoples, excessive pride, and the internet story about Nephi and others bowing down at the feet of the youth of today.)

But the conversation was also instructive in how reluctant this man was to consider the implications of our changing practical applications upon the theoretical doctrines:

Does lineage matter? There are both answers for and against this in the scriptures. What about Patriachal Blessings? What does the lineage mean in there? Is it relevant to my life?

Let's say for a moment that lineage does matter and that some lineages are more favored than others...how are these placements determined? I think the former common wisdom was that these placements where made based upon premortal performance and many former church authorities (including JS) seemed to teach this. And that the doctrine of God not being a respecter of persons meant that the ONLY differentiator was personal effort/performance.

So in summary, I think the fundamental issues go much deeper than racism to a more basic level of how much (or little) do we really understand the whole plan of salvation and how it works and the processes that it uses. Similar to the challenges of a former Prophet (Joseph F. Smith?) saying that if we believe in evolution, then we deny the Fall and the Atonement - I believe that if the church were to make a statement about evolution today it would be much more in the "We do not know the exact processes that God used/uses to create the world as we know it" category.

In the past we as a people and our leaders seemed to declare very emphatically that we knew stuff. We still seem bent on declaring that we know certain things (Jesus = Christ, JS = Prophet, Church = True) but overall we seem much more comfortable saying that we are not totally sure how it all fits together. This transition can be a difficult one both for individuals and as a people.
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Re: Church news release on race

Post by SilentDawning » 25 Mar 2012, 19:18

Yes, I see it as a positive thing. However, I do have some issues with the larger issue. A Church which claims to have all truth that knows very little about the reasons for or causes of most socially objectionable policies (gay isses, blacks and the priesthood, where God came from) sometimes makes me question whether we're really God's chosen Church on earth or just an organization which has been successful of gaining commitment from its members.
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Brian Johnston
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Re: Church news release on race

Post by Brian Johnston » 26 Mar 2012, 07:50

I have personally spent a lot of time studying the history of this issue. It was one that bothered me a lot.

The Church news statement is correct in that they do not know how the ban started. The available history of this is very unclear. There isn't a single dividing line where an officially published policy or doctrinal statement made the change. It sort of crept into the church over a number of years after Joseph died, while Brigham Young took control of the LDS denomination of Mormonism after the schism in Nauvoo.

So while I agree it is accurate to say that, it is also a little on the sly to claim they don't know how or when exactly it started, it did start and was preached openly by the time the saints were established in Utah. Nobody knows exactly how or when it started (because it didn't happen with a single revelation or announcement), but it is VERY clear how and when it was maintained as a belief among the saints...

We were a little slow on the change to abandon it too. That is disappointing.

Accurate statement? Yes. Do I wish they would say more, most especially a direct and blunt repudiation of the ideas and all the supporting attempted explanations of the past? YES YES YES!
"It's strange to be here. The mystery never leaves you alone." -John O'Donohue, Anam Cara, speaking of experiencing life.

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Re: Church news release on race

Post by Heber13 » 26 Mar 2012, 09:20

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

There are times when people have differing opinions, and so to get a ruling answer on whether to ordain certain people or not, it is escalated to higher authorities. And it is clear it was supported as a policy from the highest levels of the church, that priesthood was not extended to some people because of race. And the "previous personal statements" were made by authorized priesthood leaders (BY, BRM, JFS, etc). Perhaps the explanation of why the ban was in place was not understood, but they still haven't addressed why the ban was upheld and perpetuated by those with Priesthood keys.

If this statement above is true, that this policy was supported by the highest levels of the church for over a hundred years "in the absence of direct revelation" then the reality is that there are some things, and certain times, when they are admitting the church is not guided by revelation or true doctrine.

That does not mean the church is NEVER guided by revelation, but it is an admission that sometimes it is not.

Now, how do we know that the statements in this press release represent Church doctrine? How do we know if other matters, such as women and the priesthood, or homosexual marriage, or Word of Wisdom requirements are also doctrine, and not just "personal statements that do not represent Church doctrine"?

I am not attacking the church on this. I am just following the logical train of thought, and asking questions that I think are fair to ask our church in light of the fact that when we have the facts about our history, we are less certain about things than perhaps we'd like to be.
Luke: "Why didn't you tell me? You told me Vader betrayed and murdered my father."
Obi-Wan: "Your father... was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true... from a certain point of view."
Luke: "A certain point of view?"
Obi-Wan: "Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to...depend greatly on our point of view."

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Re: Church news release on race

Post by Brian Johnston » 26 Mar 2012, 10:40

This is actually a pretty straight-shooting, very informative podcast that covers this subject:
http://www.fairblog.org/2012/03/09/fair ... riesthood/

The guest is a PhD non-Mormon, Mormon Studies scholar who specializes in this era of history, and apparently is even making presentations about topics like this at Church HQ and other places. I don't normally pay much attention to FAIR (really not my style), but if they keep producing materials like this, I might become a new fan. There's a lot of solid information in this podcast.

I met the interviewer (Blair Hodges) a couple times here in my local area. That's why the interview popped out at me when I saw his name attached.
"It's strange to be here. The mystery never leaves you alone." -John O'Donohue, Anam Cara, speaking of experiencing life.

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