Race and The Priesthood

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

Post by SilentDawning » 10 Dec 2013, 20:41

Ray -- how do you reconcile the legendary statement that a prophet will never lead us astray, with the repudiation of the priesthood ban? Does not the repudiation provide implicit admission that a prophet institutionalized policy that was a mistake, and therefore, led the people astray?
Ray Degraw wrote:
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.
There was an article in the Desert news that interpreted the statement to mean the church repudiated the "theories about why blacks could not hold the priesthood" -- not the actual policy itself. Do you read that in the staement? So, is the repudiation of the theories as to why the policy was in place, or of the policy itself?

Curious how everyone else reads it. If it's the former, it's not much of an apology in my view, albeit a step in the right direction.
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DarkJedi
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Re: Race and The Priesthood

Post by DarkJedi » 10 Dec 2013, 20:52

I don't see it as an apology, SD. Perhaps an acknowledgement of one of the mistakes Pres. Uchtdorf referred to in his October conference address, but just an acknowledgement, not an apology. It is a positive step, though.
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VikingCompass

Re: Race and The Priesthood

Post by VikingCompass » 10 Dec 2013, 22:00

I'll admit there's a small part of my head that says, "Brigham, meet bus. Bus, meet Brigham".

But in all reality the Church is admitting the truth--there is no basis, at all, in doctrine for the exclusion of blacks from the priesthood. It appears to be good old fashioned 19th century racism that became culturally institutionalized. Bummer. To me it also shows that as people become more enlightened so does the church. Heavens, in ten years who knows! Gender may be a defining characteristic but...

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Re: Race and The Priesthood

Post by Curt Sunshine » 10 Dec 2013, 22:30

SD, I interpret the "never lead the Church astray" as a firm belief held by the leader who had the unenviable task of telling everyone who had been involved in polygamy that the previous statements of its critical nature forever had been wrong. It was a plea for understanding and for people not to leave. It was partially successful.

More simply, I believe it was wrong.

I also don't see "Race and the Priesthood" as an apology, but I don't see it as the format for an apology. It is a historical explanation in the Gospel Topics section of the Church's instructional materials (meant as instruction) - and I think it's masterful for that setting. I would love to have it mentioned in General Conference, even if it's only a reference accompanying a re-statement of Pres. Hinckley's condemnation of racist words and actions - but I think an apology would be much more appropriate in that type of setting than in this one. An apology would be out of place in a manual, and that essentially is what the Gospel Topics section is.
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SilentDawning
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Re: Race and The Priesthood

Post by SilentDawning » 11 Dec 2013, 06:01

Guess I'm disappointed then.
"It doesn't have to be about the Church (church) all the time!" -- SD

"The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself."

A man asked Jesus "do all roads lead to you?" Jesus responds,”most roads don’t lead anywhere, but I will travel any road to find you.” Adapted from The Shack, William Young

startpoor
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Re: Race and The Priesthood

Post by startpoor » 11 Dec 2013, 07:57

Just wanted to add my satisfaction to the list of those who have already done so. I am so glad the church put this piece on their site. This came out, like a day after I talked w/ my brother on the phone, who was trying to "rescue" my wayward testimony. He believes in the curse of Cain. I had no idea he believed that. I have since had many talks w/ people about the priesthood ban, and to my surprise, even some liberal minded people said they didn't know why the ban was lifted when it was. Well, we have the statement, we now know, let's move on.
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Sheldon
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Re: Race and The Priesthood

Post by Sheldon » 11 Dec 2013, 10:43

How do you all interpret the following letter from the FP, written in our life time (well, most of us old guys anyway). This letter clearly states that it originated with God, and ALL prophets (JS included) have taught it.
15 December 1968,

To General Authorities, Regional Representatives of the Twelve, Stake Presidents, Mission Presidents, and Bishops.
Dear Brethren:

In view of confusion that has arisen, it was decided at a meeting of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve to restate the position of the Church with regard to the Negro both in society and in the Church.

A word of explanation concerning the position of the Church.

From the beginning of this dispensation, Joseph Smith and all succeeding presidents of the Church have taught that Negroes, while spirit children of a common Father, and the progeny of our earthly parents Adam and Eve, were not yet to receive the priesthood, for reasons which we believe are known to God, but which He has not made fully known to man.

Our living prophet, President David O. McKay, has said, 'The seeming discrimination by the Church toward the Negro is not something which originated with man; but goes back into the beginning with God. . . . 'Revelation assures us that this plan antedates man's mortal existence, extending back to man's pre-existent state.' President McKay has also said, 'Sometime in God's eternal plan, the Negro will be given the right to hold the priesthood.'

Faithfully your brethren,

The First Presidency
Hugh B. Brown
N. Eldon Tanner

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SilentDawning
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Re: Race and The Priesthood

Post by SilentDawning » 11 Dec 2013, 11:20

I second Sheldon's motion.

Here is the crux of the article in my view.
Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form.
They are clearly disavowing the THEORIES about why blacks could not have the priesthood. That is clear. But what does this statement mean?
Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form.
To me, the words "ALL racism" and "IN ANY FORM" include revelation and policy from "inspired" leaders (even prophets) that restricts priviledges of one racial group, and not all the others. In other words, one could argue they are repudiating the revelations or inspiration and leadership of Brigham Young, prophet, seer and revelator on this issue. In fact, current set of leaders are not only repudiating this portion of Brigham Young's inspired leadership, they are repudiating this portion of the leadership of subsequent prophets (like David O. McKay) who perpetuated the racist policies.

This to me, means that one prophet or set of church policy-makers, can overturn the revelation of past prophets. This throws into question the reliability of any so-called revelation from a church leader. It also throws into question whether church leaders, even at the highest levels, are as inspired as the general membership seems to believe. If a past prophet can make a mistake on an issue this big, then how can we trust current revelation that appears to defy conscience, logic, or analysis, or any purported guidance for that matter?

Again, I say that if one accepts the implications I've expressed here, it increases the chances that certain people will stay active in the church, because no longer are prophets and senior leaders on pedestals. These leaders no longer have to live up to larger-than-life expectations. They are men who make statements of belief rather than absolute revelation. the individual must make up his mind about whether to follow.

Current members who viewed any statement from a prophet, any church policy for that matter as revelation or inspired, or deserving unquestioning obedience may well feel disillusioned due to these implications.
"It doesn't have to be about the Church (church) all the time!" -- SD

"The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself."

A man asked Jesus "do all roads lead to you?" Jesus responds,”most roads don’t lead anywhere, but I will travel any road to find you.” Adapted from The Shack, William Young

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mackay11
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Re: Race and The Priesthood

Post by mackay11 » 11 Dec 2013, 11:55

Alex wrote:
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 read that letter exchange a few days before the apology came out. The combination of the two is like a pair of sledge-hammers to the head. One is covered in cotton wool, but still causes my brain to hurt.

The brethren preached something as revealed doctrine that clearly is not. This isn't just a case of them being fallible in the case of yelling at the kids or something. This is an example of the church being led astray for nearly 100 years.

I can't get over this at the moment. A knife has been put in and it keeps on twisting.

This article had a lot of detailed background on Dr Nelson and picks out the key highlights (lowlights?) of the letter exchange:
http://thoughtsonthingsandstuff.com/?p=295

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mom3
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Re: Race and The Priesthood

Post by mom3 » 11 Dec 2013, 12:08

Silent Dawning -One thing I have learned from my faith transition is, no one can make you believe anything. You choose it. Whether you choose it before you have evidence or after is personal, but we all choose it. Yes a statement of this nature makes the idea of prophetic fallibility larger than before. However, we see it that way, because our view point has already begun to look for it. For the traditional practicing member it's not likely to change their view on prophetic revelation. They will take it at face value and move on. I would encourage us not to view traditional practicors as stupid or unintelligent if they don't see it the same way. All of us have areas of our lives where we don't analyze deeply. I don't spend hours wondering where the eggs I buy at the store come from, but I have friends that do, and are sincere in their concern. For me, I need the eggs, I look to see they are not cracked and in my budget. That's all the time I give it. I believe likewise with this Race and Priesthood statement.

Addressing Sheldon's question - The first thing I thought of when I read the old release - was Thoreau.
A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. When a man adheres blindly to thoughts or opinions he has vocalized in the past, purely for the sake of seeming true to his principles, Emerson argues that he violates his nature. A man must be willing, every day, to open his conciousness to his intuition, whether or not what it tells him is in conflict with prior conclusions he had come to.


Based on that idea, I think we do ourselves a disservice by bringing up someone else's past continually. I have just finished reading a great book called Have a little Faith. In the book 2 religious leaders are presented. One of those leaders is a reformed drug user, convict, thief, and murdered. His congregation is filled with hard luck souls, down and out, homeless and despairing. One of his common sermons regards letting go of the past.
In the book of Acts, we read that Paul - after his conversion - people distrusted him because he used to persecute the church, but now he praised it. Is this the same guy? Can't be...It's amazing how folks can't see you, 'cause they want to keep you in the past. Some of our greatest problems in ministering to people is that they knew us back before we came to the Lord.
Through out scripture the story is the same. The Lamanites were the bad guys, even when they were good. The Samaritans, likewise were despised as a lesser people by God's chosen Jews. Peter and Paul took a lifetime to overcome their divide on Jews and Gentiles - even after Peter has a personal revelation from God telling him that God decides who is clean and unclean.

For me - I want to let go of the past. Not just forget it, but forgive it. Yes, I see them as fallible, but so are the rest of the leaders. So it doesn't bother me. What I can do, and what nudges me, is how can I use the lesson forward, how can I help heal once inflicted souls and spare future ones. That's my take away.
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