I enjoyed this essay on race and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons). I just wanted to add some thoughts that might clarify one point the author makes. Near the end of the essay, he comments:
LDS leaders have yet to repudiate past teachings which shored up the bans, a lingering problem that makes it possible for various iterations of those teachings to live on in the hearts and minds of some members.
At least in the post on On Being, this comment links to an official church statement, which links to another official church statement:
The Church’s position is clear—we believe all people are God’s children and are equal in His eyes and in the Church. We do not tolerate racism in any form.
For a time in the Church there was a restriction on the priesthood for male members of African descent.It is not known precisely why, how, or when this restriction began in the Church but what is clear is that it ended decades ago. Some have attempted to explain the reason for this restriction but these attempts should be viewed as speculation and opinion, not doctrine. The Church is not bound by speculation or opinions given with limited understanding.
We condemn racism, including any and all past racism by individuals both inside and outside the Church.
While, as the author notes, this may fall short of a full repudiation of the previous ban, this statement does make it clear that none of the previously proposed reasons for the ban are accepted by the church. A famous statement from Elder Bruce R. McConkie, one of the church leaders who speculated most on this issue in the time leading up to the revelation that extended the priesthood to all worthy men, strongly repudiates any of the racist “reasons” he and others gave for the existence of the ban.
Forget everything I have said, or what…Brigham Young…or whomsoever has said…that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world. (Bruce R. McConkie, “New Revelation on Priesthood,” Priesthood (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1981), 126-137. - as quoted on fairmormon.org)
While reading a little bit more about the subject today, I particularly enjoyed a quote I came across (also on FAIR) from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland:
One clear-cut position is that the folklore must never be perpetuated. … I have to concede to my earlier colleagues. … They, I’m sure, in their own way, were doing the best they knew to give shape to [the policy], to give context for it, to give even history to it. All I can say is however well intended the explanations were, I think almost all of them were inadequate and/or wrong. …It probably would have been advantageous to say nothing, to say we just don’t know, and, [as] with many religious matters, whatever was being done was done on the basis of faith at that time. But some explanations were given and had been given for a lot of years. … At the very least, there should be no effort to perpetuate those efforts to explain why that doctrine existed. I think, to the extent that I know anything about it, as one of the newer and younger ones to come along, … we simply do not know why that practice, that policy, that doctrine was in place. (http://www.pbs.org/mormons/interviews/holland.html)
By trying to explain this policy today, Elder Holland (and the other leaders of the church) would run the risk of repeating the mistakes of their predecessors. The only indisputable revelation the church has received on the subject is now canonized: all worthy male members of the church may receive the priesthood. To teach more or less than this without direct instruction from God would betray what members of the church treasure as one of our most significant doctrines - that God speaks to man in all ages and that His wisdom will always be superior to the speculation and ideas we think up on our own. Does that maybe leave an uncomfortable gap in explaining the history of the church? I think so. But I’ll let God patch it if he feels it is necessary - I don’t have to figure out how to explain everything. Not right now anyway, and not by myself. And I don’t expect Elder Holland to do that either.
by W. Paul Reeve, guest contributor
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormonism) has consistently found itself on the wrong side of white. In a recent New York Times article, “Black Mormons and the Politics of Identity,” an embedded video begins with a Times…