Comments about ‘Race, folklore and Mormon doctrine’

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Published: Wednesday, Feb. 29 2012 2:00 p.m. MST

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A voice of Reason
Salt Lake City, UT

People know the truth, they know that this isn't about our claim to be the true church being negated by making 'wrong choices'. Because I and others have outlined the possibility of alternative explanations- such as "God isn't imperfect, but people were. God gave the people the best thing they could handle" and so on. Critics might not like the answers they are hearing- but the fact remains that such answers can rationally explain the possibility of the Church not having done anything wrong and still being God's true church on the Earth today.

Point is, when you have possibility, yet you still fight the church- all you've done is expose an unwillingness to listen. These explanations have been available since long before today. And those who would still argue these things post hoc are only saying worse things about themselves in doing so. One can only preach ignorance and lies, or the truth. So far, all I've read from critics sure aint the truth.

God wouldn't have restricted anything unless it was helping everyone in that time, as my first comment outlined more clearly. If one can't accept the possibility of that, then the truth clearly isn't what one is out for.

Salt Lake City, UT

I love this quote by former Arizona Senator Karen Johnson. It seems applicable to the present topic:

"It's important to understand that the LDS Church does not claim infallibility for its church leaders. There is no Pope. Its leaders, including the Church President, are mortal men subject to mortal weakness and error. Many LDS Church members, however, have the mistaken belief that every word uttered by a church leader comes straight from God. This infantile attitude excuses church members from having to think for themselves and figure things out."

It also can result in the perpetuation of false doctrine from generation to generation.

No wonder official church scripture admonishes members to "study it out in your mind," and emphasizes that "by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know [or verify, if you will] the truth of all things."

Danbury, CT

Bott reminds me of Skousen, who also veered off topic and talked endlessly about things that weren't "core". He had a large following as well in his day (still does). We love to try to explain our beliefs in a way that makes sense and the fact is we often just don't know why certain things are. It would be better to just say that to our friends and children so when they are confronted with new information, they don't take the folklore as doctrine and have a crisis of faith.

I told my son years ago when he recounted something from a Seminary teacher that I found "off topic" that there are only a small number of core things in our doctrine that really matter: existence of God, He is our Father and Christ is our Savior, plus faith, repentence, etc. The rest is fun to speculate on but we really don't know. It's important to study and learn all we can both inside and outside the church. Keep a balance in what you study and an open mind.

This is why I like the mission field outside the Western US: people are more exposed to others not of our belief and have lots of different ideas and focus more on topics like Faith and Charity ("core"). I'm appalled by the bloggers here who talk about non core beliefs (eg. folklore, Conservatism as the only true way) as dogma.

Springville, UT

Professor Bott and others should not try to explain or rationalize the blacks and the priesthood issue. All the rationalizations are based on fiction, including the Cain and Abel link. It is utter nonsense and violates the core principle of the Second Article of Faith. It was never a divine doctrine. Instead, Mormons should say that they did have a wrong-headed policy and they regret it, but modern Church leaders fixed it and they welcome people of all races. End of story.

Kaufman, TX

I had the missionary visits while stationed in Hawaii with the Air Force. When the subject of the priesthood came up the missionaries told me the "descendants of Cain" story to explain the exclusion of Blacks. I was a student at Weber State when the revelation was announced on a Friday. It was commonly referred to by many LDS students as "Black Friday". This reference went on for several years. Now the church is saying this is just folklore and real reason is unknown but to church leaders and God. Sounds like an attempt to, pardon the expression, "whitewash" history.


No Later-day Saint today should ever try to analyse why the blacks were not allowed to receive the Priesthood before 1978 revelation.

Our Creator is the only one who knows.

If I was black, and I sincerely thought it was necessary to know the answer to the above question, I would have to get down on my knees and ask why blacks were denied access to the Priesthood sans 1978.

No mortal could answer for God. Quit trying.

Danbury, CT


I was at BYU as a student in June 1978. We were all extremely excited and happy with the news of Blacks receiving the Priesthood. I thought it was long overdue. I agree with Pres. Hinckley that you cannot be a racist and be a disciple of Christ.

Some members are a bit like the early Jewish Christians who had a hard time with the idea that there were more members of other ethnic backgrounds. Peter had the vision which taught him that "God is no respecter of persons".

I urge my fellow LDS to keep that concept in mind and ditch the folklore as Elder Holland requests.

Dammam, Saudi Arabia

At one point I asked an institute teacher about the ban. There was a theory that I had heard. The response was that in the late 60's a general authority made a similar statement to explain the ban. The first presidency pulled him aside and told him that he was teaching false doctrine. So I stopped the explanation.

And the stuff about the seed of Cain. Men will be punished for their own sins and not for Adam's transgression (a reference to the 2nd Article of Faith in case you haven't heard it). We are only accountable for what we do. Not for anything that our ancestors may have done.

Somewhere in Time, UT

Dear Tek in Saudi Arabia:

You are making the assumption that the ban was a punishment to blacks and that they were being "punished" for some sort of original sin. There is no reason to believe that. They did not have the priesthood for whatever reason God had. There is no reason to believe it was a punishment. There could be any number of reasons for it including the possibility that the Church members just weren't ready for it yet. It could have had to do with the political environment at the time the Church was struggling to survive and get established.

All we know is that it wasn't the right time. Why it wasn't the right time, we have no idea. We can speculate all we want to, but there's no reason to assume it was a punishment.

Leo Femedlers
El Paso, TX

I find the discussion between Peter and the Lord quite intriguing when Peter was asked to take the Lord's gospel to the "Gentiles". Peter was taught in vision that the "unclean" items on the table spread before him was clean. And although Peter initially balked at partaking of the food, he was taught that he was not to question the Lord's direction and specifically not to call something unclean that had been made holy by the Lord.

During Peter's ministry (remember the miracles--walking on water, seeing the Lord reattach a man's ear that Peter had cut off, etc) he walked by the Lord's side,was given keys by his Master, and was taught by Him. The gospel at that time was not to go to the Gentiles. But shortly after the Death and Resurrection Peter was asked to do something differently. Peter exercised faith--and knowledge I believe, and was willing to follow the Lord's counsel even though it was virtually opposite of what he had experienced up to that point.

Blacks and the Priesthood are no different. In His infinite wisdom, the Lord allows individuals, people, and nations to receive the added blessings of His gospel. If we believe that the men sustained as Prophets, Seers, & Revelators are who we sustain them to be then we, like Peter, have the opportunity to exercise our faith when the Lord sees fit to reveal more to men on earth.


Actually, the LDS church did allow many blacks to hold the priesthood prior to the revelation - in Brazil. The population was (and is) so mixed racially in that large nation that many, many worthy male members that would have been called "black" in the United States were given priesthood authority. The church opened the first temple in Brazil just a few months after the revelation making it clear that God was fine with blacks having the priesthood. Prior to that temple opening it was very clear that the church was growing through its racially mixed membership there - with most of the membership considered "black" by American standards.

I think it is a very good and wise thing for any group to study their own history - the entire history. If we ignore history we are doomed to repeat our mistakes.

Fern RL

As a matter of reporting the history I lived through: In the 1960's there was a lot of turmoil due to 'racism.' To this day, the whole meaning of the word 'racism' escapes me. Some people have said that even to believe that there ARE different races among humans is a racist attitude. I have long been interested in genealogy and family heritages, also in genetic heredity. Perhaps I am a racist. But do I hate anyone? I sincerely try not to give anyone the false impression that I judge anyone harshly either individually or collectively. That is my disclaimer, now on to my history:

I was in Jr. High and High School during the 1960's. I was also a Mormon all my life. I knew of the priesthood and temple attendance ban for blacks along with all the folklore explanations of "Why?" I also heard that there was a prophecy that blacks would one day be given the priesthood. Also, that the prophet, David O. MacKay, had very dear friends who were black, and would have loved to open the priesthood to them if he had the slightest inclination that that was what God wanted him to do.

I was elated when the announcement came in 1978, but I was aware that not everyone felt the same way, even though I didn't know anyone personally that left the church at that time.

Years later I moved to Layton, and eventually became a close friend and visiting teacher in a family with some "Ethiopian" heritage. I was privileged to hear how David O. MacKay was a close friend of their family and had even kissed the sister on the cheek.

I also have a cousin who married a very lovable black woman, and they have two lovely daughters. I admire every black person I have come to know. I think there is a little humor in the fact that, since pigmentation is usually a dominant characteristic, my cousin's children look a lot more like their mother than like their Danish ancestors, for example.

I know that prophets are not necessarily inspired 100% of the time. I have been reading in the Old Testament about temples, notably 2 Samuel chapter 7 where King David decides he wants to build a temple, a house of the Lord. The prophet Nathan says, in effect: "Sounds good to me, go ahead and do it." Then Nathan prays, has a revelation on the matter, and is forced to tell King David, "No, you can't have that honor, but your son Solomon will be allowed to do it."

I feel The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is doing the right thing in condemning racism, and hope I am not really racist just because I see color. I certainly mean no harm in it.

Rexburg, ID

Heaven help us if we define any organization based on opinions expressed by its members! If a statement does not have the official stamp of the organization, it is not logical to take it as representing that organization. It should be taken for what it is, a personal opinion.

Thinkin\' Man
Rexburg, ID

If the church's policy before 1978 was racist, then so is the Old & New Testament policy that excluded anyone but men of the tribe of Aaron from holding the priesthood. Same diff.

ute alumni
Tengoku, UT

poor lds liberal and lfavre:
both of you and others that have such negative feelings towards anything LDS would be wise to focus your energy on other things and keep your stress levels in check. It is very obvious that your continued remarks come from a negative perspective. Don't worry, be happy.

LDS Liberal
Farmington, UT

The Articles of Faith - #2:
We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam's transgression.


anyone else's descendants for that matter.

Professor Bott needs to read th Articles of Faith.

Cedar Hills, UT

To Cats - you, also, are making assumptions that may not be correct. You say "all we know is that is wasn't the right time." How do you know that? How do you know it wasn't the result of mistakes by Brigham Young and later leaders? Joseph Smith ordained at least one, and possibly more, black people to the priesthood. For all we know, it was the right time, but was delayed because of wrong thinking.

Such a thought doesn't bother me at all. I believe we're here to figure a lot of stuff out, individually and collectively, per God's plan. That includes even the very top religious people.

If it shatters members' testimonies to conceive that leaders make mistakes that get corrected with time, thought, human enlightenment, and hard-won revelation, that's a pretty shallow testimony indeed.

Irony Guy
Bountiful, Utah

My testimony remains unshattered. I still wonder, however, what to think when I hear that earlier leaders spoke "with limited understanding." When I was a kid, the blacks-and-priesthood thing bothered me a lot, especially when I heard not just whispers and "folklore" but outright across the pulpit teachings from General Authorities about this issue--teachings that I am now told were "inadequate" or even "wrong." No one dared say a word against those teachings because those who did got the boot. What's a poor member to do?

West Jordan, UT


"Professor Bott and others should not try to explain or rationalize the blacks and the priesthood issue. All the rationalizations are based on fiction, including the Cain and Abel link"..."Mormons should say that they did have a wrong-headed policy and they regret it, but modern Church leaders fixed it and they welcome people of all races...."

Aaaahh the richness of irony!

Alpine, UT

There is a general misunderstanding that God commanded that African-Americans not have the priesthood. I see nothing in church history that speaks to this point. Joseph Smith ordained African-Americans to the priesthood. As far as I can tell, that practice stopped with Brigham Young. Why? No one knows. That does not mean God commanded the practice stop. Was there racism in the Church? Of course there was. Racism and prejudice were everywhere, and they still are. People, regardless of religion or position, are not immune to it. Look at some of the infamous Supreme Court rulings for example, at the incorrect prejudices that existed in some of the most educated minds of the time. It seems to me that people are ascribing today's values to the 1800s. It was a very different world, thank goodness.

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