Race and The Priesthood

Public forum to discuss questions about Mormon history and doctrine.
Curt Sunshine
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Re: Race and The Priesthood

Post by Curt Sunshine » 10 Dec 2013, 12:50

It's also interesting that one of the greatest prophets of the Book of Mormon was Lamanite.

I know someone who reads the Book of Mormon's central theme as being what happens when self-righteous people marginalize and stereotype others and create unnecessary divisions, including race-based justifications for exclusion. I think he is stretching a bit in calling that THE central theme, but I also think he is spot-on in his interpretation of what happened and the lessons we can learn from it. If we focus as much on "the moral of the story" as we do on isolating verses and creating doctrine from them, I think what can be gained is powerful - and doctrinally transformative. I think one of the biggest scriptural problems we have in the Church is our tendency to proof-text for doctrine without understanding the over-arching themes and stories well enough first.

Race in the Book of Mormon (and the Bible and the Pearl of Great Price) might be one of the best examples of this problem in how we "study" scripture.
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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mom3
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Re: Race and The Priesthood

Post by mom3 » 10 Dec 2013, 13:34

Ray - I would love to discuss your thinking more. I am assuming our ideas are similar. I would love if you get time for you to post a more extensive explanation as you see it. My day is super full today, but if I get time I will try to do the same and see if they are similar. Even if not I would love to have some thoughts on my view point.
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Alex
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Re: Race and The Priesthood

Post by Alex » 10 Dec 2013, 15:13

Ray Degraw wrote:It's exactly what everyone here has been begging to be said - and there isn't any white-washing, justification, obfuscation or soft-pedaling that I can see - none at all. It's hard to imagine it being said any more clearly or strongly on the Church's website.
While I do believe that there is a lot of honesty and openness with the content on lds.org, I do see some "soft-pedaling"....or rather, omissions to the history of this practice. Denial of the priesthood to Blacks is referred to as a "policy" on the website, but in a First Presidency Letter to a member about the issue in 1947 it is referred to as "doctrine." And "doctrines" are referred by the FP in the exchange with the member as "either true or not true." Sept 2013 Ensign even says doctrine comes through divine revelation to prophets.

One can argue that doctrines may change (can they?)....or that they can be true for a time, then change at a later time, I suppose. Maybe it's true unless it isn't? But the FP bore their testimonies of the truthfulness of this one. I can't help it, to me it's a disturbing omission to the topic on the Church's website.

The scanned letters of the exchange were first brought to my attention on another board and the link is below.

http://mormonstories.org/other/Lowry_Ne ... change.pdf
I love that man better who swears a stream as long as my arm, and administering to the poor and dividing his substance, than the long smooth faced hypocrites. I don't want you to think I am very righteous, for I am not very righteous. God judgeth men according to the light he gives them. (Words of Joseph Smith, p. 204 – May 18, 1843)

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Re: Race and The Priesthood

Post by Curt Sunshine » 10 Dec 2013, 15:26

Alex, it is referred to as "policy" and not "doctrine" because David O. McKay said it was policy and not doctrine in 1954 - after the 1947 statement - after (can't believe I'm drawing a blank on the name of the brother) a historian compiled evidence that it didn't start with Joseph Smith or a revelation. That statement by Pres. McKay was one of the necessary steps, I think, to the process of beginning to clear up the former misconceptions and lead to OD2 in 1978 - and it's the genesis for why the current leaders speak of "theories" and "policy" rather than "doctrine".
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: Race and The Priesthood

Post by Alex » 10 Dec 2013, 15:41

Ray, I acknowledged this is an issue that many will see from different perspectives....whether it was doctrine, practice, policy, opinion, etc. I won't argue with your perspective, I like you too much and the premise of this forum to have meaningful discussions.

I will say that when I read the FP referring to the denial of PH using the word "doctrine" multiple times in their correspondence with the member, even that it was taught by JS, and bearing their testimony of its truthfulness, I have trouble with it given the importance of how doctrine has been defined in our faith. If later Church leadership disavow their statement it doesn't make everything OK for me.
I love that man better who swears a stream as long as my arm, and administering to the poor and dividing his substance, than the long smooth faced hypocrites. I don't want you to think I am very righteous, for I am not very righteous. God judgeth men according to the light he gives them. (Words of Joseph Smith, p. 204 – May 18, 1843)

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Re: Race and The Priesthood

Post by Curt Sunshine » 10 Dec 2013, 15:56

If later Church leadership disavow their statement it doesn't make everything OK for me.


I'm not trying to say it makes everything OK for me or that it should make everything OK for anyone else. It doesn't make everything OK for me, either - and it absolutely doesn't make everything OK for those who lost far more than I have over the decades (which is a really, really, really LARGE group of people). I like this new explanation simply because I think it is accurate and honest - and I really like that's it's written from much more of a historian's perspective than from a theologian's perspective.
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: Race and The Priesthood

Post by SamBee » 10 Dec 2013, 16:32

One of the things I like about GBH is that he made some pretty clear and unequivocal denunciations of racism. I think he more or less said it had no place in our church these days, and I agree.
DASH1730 "An Area Authority...[was] asked...who...would go to the Telestial kingdom. His answer: "murderers, adulterers and a lot of surprised Mormons!"'
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Re: Race and The Priesthood

Post by SilentDawning » 10 Dec 2013, 16:49

Ray Degraw wrote:It's repentance in every sense of the word. How can that be anything but a great thing?
First of all, I am glad they said it. It's about time. It shows a degree (note I said 'degree') of humility that has not typified official statements and administrative policies I've heard from the church in the past, and in my own life. (Kindly point out instances of such humilityh, other than Uchdorft in conference last session, I am welcome to hear them).

And I'm glad they used the word "disavow"...from the dictionary:
dis·a·vow [dis-uh-vou]
verb (used with object)
to disclaim knowledge of, connection with, or responsibility for; disown; repudiate: He disavowed the remark that had been attributed to him.
They have in short -- disowned the priesthood ban. There are shades of meaning in this dictionary definition, but I accept the REPUDIATE meaning as it is the closest thing to the church saying "We made a mistake". Plus, there is no way they can claim they never said it. We all know they did. So, disavow seems to mean repudiate.

However, I wish they had've been more direct in saying they made a mistake. They gave a bit of a historical perspective that seems to softly justify the practice as common because of segregated congregations, the context of society's racial tendencies at the time, etcetera. That part bothered me -- If they were going to truly "repudiate" this, they might not have gone into all the latent justification for the practice prior to their disavowment.

If the church was a temporal organization like say, Boy Scouts of America, led by mortals without a divine commission -- that denied priviledges to a certain racial group, then the "historcal context" in this statement might be something that would matter and would justify their past entrenchment of racial discrimmination. But the church claims to have a prophet who speaks the word of God, who will "never lead the people astray", who should be obeyed (many membes believe, without question), etcetera. Because of this claim, and the repetition of these claims in our lessons and culture, I personally hold the church to a higher standard of being right about things -- and to avoid leading people astray like big things like which races can hold the priesthood.

Fact is, the priesthood ban extended racism in the church, denied the blacks blessings in this life other races enjoyed, for decades upon decades. The church has stood up for what is right in the past (they tolerated elders in prison over plural marriage, suffered persecution for their belief from state to state)....if standing up for what is right is part of being a moral person, and if the prophet speaks with the correctness of God, they why did we not give the blacks the priesthood from the beginning? Why in the past did they justify it as "the world wasn't ready for black priesthood holders"?

Because it was a mistake -- that's why. Something to be disavowed or repudiated.
The fact that they have to repudiate to me, calls into question whether any purported revelation from any mortal is actually from God. The same applies to church administrative policy -- just because the men in leadership at the time get it into the handbook, doesn't mean its necessary right or good. Much of it is, but as members, we should claim our rights as adults to look at the things we are asked to do critically, and use our agency accordingly.

It underscores the role of personal conscience in filtering out supposed revelation and commandments, and puts the onus on the individual to REACH THEIR OWN CONCLUSIONS about the truth of any claim they hear at church.

-SD
This doesn't mean past prophets haven't said things that are eternally correct, but this Repudiation does mean that church leaders do make mistakes (even on huge issues that affect millions of people), and that you owe it to yourself, and even your personal character to question deeply held cultural values, church policy, and anything anyone says over the pulpit.

If statements from anyone in the church (leaders at the highest level or not) seems wrong to you, you owe it to yourself to follow your conscience and do the right thing -- elevate your conscience over the statements of leaders, even when they claim its inspiration or even direct revelation.

This is what my time discussing issues here as led me to conclude -- I should elevate my conscience above all other sources of moral guidance, in concert with my own prayers and personal revelation. This statement of disavowal confirms that this is the right thing to do.

So, now I owe the church what we owe to other men when they make mistakes-- forgiveness for the mistakes of past prophets, erroneous statements that prophets will never lead people astray. Also, greater caution in the extent to which we obey the statements of our ecclesiastical leaders.

Last thing -- this statement should, with new perspective, help people have greater confidence in the church. No longer is our testimony dependent on the church living up to its claims of being right, always inspired, never leading us astray.

Now I can lower my standards for what I expect from the church -- to what I would expect from any temporal organization. They have admitted they often make mistakes just like any other organization.
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Curt Sunshine
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Re: Race and The Priesthood

Post by Curt Sunshine » 10 Dec 2013, 17:58

They gave a bit of a historical perspective that seems to softly justify the practice as common because of segregated congregations, the context of society's racial tendencies at the time, etcetera. That part bothered me -- If they were going to truly "repudiate" this, they might not have gone into all the latent justification for the practice prior to their disavowment.


Fwiw, SD, that part was absolutely critical for me, as a history teacher. Yes, it can be read as an excuse, but it was completely accurate and I don't see it as an excuse. It didn't "justify" the ban; it "explained" it. That is a critical distinction.

Including it bolsters the point that we can't let ourselves justify and perpetuate mistakes simply because, "Everyone else is doing it." We need to know that (not quite) "everyone else was doing it" - but that it was wrong, regardless. Leaving out that section wouldn't have made that point, and it's a point that has great importance for me. Not the least of that importance is that it allows me a foundation from which I can explain to people that just because "everyone was doing it" doesn't mean racist statements in our scriptures are the inerrant word of God, either. The repudiation was of ALL racism, and that wording includes the racism in our scriptures - even if many members won't make that connection on their own. I now have that foundation in writing, and it came partly through the historical explanation section, and I appreciate it.
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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Orson
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Re: Race and The Priesthood

Post by Orson » 10 Dec 2013, 19:47

church0333 wrote:Also where was the revelation telling all those leaders who were making up or going along with the idea [that they had it wrong]? Why didn't Jesus take a few minutes during their weekly meetings to correct this false teaching?
Yes, careful consideration of this situation can help us discard some of our false expectations as a church culture. It can be very painful to realize that some of our cherished beliefs and expectations are in fact false, but we grow and become closer to God as we recognize and cling to all truth as we uncover it.

First point is that Jesus probably doesn't have a close enough correspondence with weekly meetings of the top 15 to simply step in and correct this level of detail in our teachings/practice. If that shatters someone's faith then I'm sorry but it sounds like that faith was due for some correction. If leaders can perpetuate false teachings about race then it makes sense to me they can also perpetuate false teachings or conceptions about the process of revelation, and maybe to what extent can we trust scripture.

As it has also been pointed out the statement seems to conflict with verses of scripture that connect skin color to righteousness, that tension may cause some members difficulty. It will be for each to choose - do they hold to their prior ideas of what the scripture says and its reliability - or do they modify their understanding and come to some new equilibrium?

For me it is easy, I don't think the earth has four corners like the bible says so I am open to the idea that it may contain more erroneous ideas.
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