Comments about ‘Race, folklore and Mormon doctrine’

Return to article »

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

  • Oldest first
  • Newest first
  • Most recommended
Salt Lake City, UT

" They did not have the priesthood for whatever reason God had."

Or man had... the church noted it has no answer as to why it was in place. Probably because the old reasons were rejected and there's no way they can justify that God wanted segregation that'd be acceptable to the general public. They're floating in a position where they want to condemn racism, but want to ignore their own racist policies' history because they don't want to condemn their early leaders. This issue is not going to go away as long as they keep trying to have it both ways. Huntsman has condemned the priesthood ban as wrong, perhaps Romney will be forced to do the same.

West Jordan, UT

Maybe someone posting here can answer this:

Prior to 1978, the LDS Church did not allow blacks of African descent to hold the priesthood. At the same time, however, it did allow Latinos, Polynesians, Maoris, and Australian Aborigines to hold the priesthood, some of whom had very dark skin.

From this, it would seem that the ban wasn't based on skin color, but on lineage.

Was there prejudice based solely on the African lineage? I ask that because it seems the Church certainly embraced other cultures where dark skin was prevalent, but not the African culture.

Salem, UT

This position was shared openly in my daughters SS class less than a month ago- when I complained it was politely brushed off and was "no big deal" and we wonder why things get perpetuated and we wonder why some people leave- luckely my daughter told me and we had a nice long talk and looked up recent positions of the Church on such things so she could see for herself what we believe- but as she pointed out most of the other kids in the class just let it slide and we will wonder 15 years from now why these myths keep pushing along


@Canyontreker, the old saw that women "have" the priesthood, but don't "hold" the priesthood is semantic gaming.

The day I can baptize the investigators I teach and bless my own children is the day you can come talk to me about it.

Midway, UT

As a faithful convert to the church, I want to emphatically state that Professor Bott's comments do not represent my views on race and priesthood restriction. They are reprehensible and I don't understand how such blatant perpetuation of false doctrine can be taken out of context as he claims. God is no respecter of persons and we ought not be either. I wholeheartedly believe that at some point the church will officially apologize for that misguided policy (not doctrine as clarified by President David O. McKay)perpetuated by imperfect men struggling to make sense of the world in which they lived. Certainly we have come close with some comments by general authorities but in order to move on it is necessary for the church itself (not just one apostle or general authority) to completely reject the basis for the policy as set forth mistakenly by past church leaders and admit that prejudice was the likely impetus for the change to what was in the beginning a very inclusive church. That's just PR 101 folks. There is no need for a revelation to repent of past errors.

Pleasant Grove, UT

I have read many apologetic and speculative answers over the years regarding why the full blessings were withheld until 1978. The only authentic answer was that we just didn't know. I also understand that those that were in attendance in the Temple when Pres. Kimball shared the revelation said it was one of the most spiritual experiences they had ever witnessed. Elder McConkie was there--thus his comment that all previous explanations were null and void. He knew that despite all of his great knowledge and intellect, One Greater was still in charge. We can all try to explain those beliefs away with history, etc, but we just have to trust in a Loving Father. Thank you for your insightful article.

Dee J
Portland, OR

@ slpa1: you ask "Was there prejudice based solely on the African lineage?" Excellent question. It would seem to me the answer to that question is "yes," and would correspond to the practice of slavery. To my knowledge, only blacks of African descent were subjected to slavery in America post 1776, and one of the great questions of the early 19th century was related to the humanity/equality of blacks of African descent (as opposed to other ethnicities on your list). Consider the statements and attitudes of some of our greatest statesmen of the day, including Abraham Lincoln, towards blacks of African descent, and it's evident that the attitude that African blacks were somehow an inferior race was prevalent even among abolitionists, as ridiculous and repugnant as these attitudes are today.

Joseph Smith was a strident abolitionist. One of the reasons for the problems of the early LDS Church in Missouri was the impact that its growing abolitionist voting block was perceived to have in Missouri, where a significant portion of the population wanted slavery expanded into the state. Somewhat ironic, given the subsequent position on blacks and the priesthood.

Springville, UT

Some of the comments given so far are much closer to folklore and reflect a lack of understanding than the original premise for blacks not holding the priesthood that we as members of the Church adhered to and supported for over 130 years.

I'm concerned with the fluid support given to our modern-day prophets. First they're right and we raise our hands to sustain them. Then a few years later, we discredit them--calling their firm pronouncements as folklore. What's next, plural marriage?

It's easy to say all of the prophets from President Brigham Young to President Harold B. Lee lacked understanding (and hence, inspiration). 99% of the Christian world agrees. But such comments trounce the idea/belief that the prophet speaks for the Lord and we're to follow him.

It certainly doesn't inspire confidence to anyone looking in from the outside. Instead, those comments raise the question as to whether a prophet's word is inspired and reliable.

Dee J
Portland, OR

Frankly, I'm very tired of the press fixating its dead-horse beatings on abandoned LDS Church practices and policies. I wonder how many BYU professors/Church lay leaders/institute teachers, etc. the author attempted to sucker in before he got Professor Bott to take the bait?

Here are some feature articles I'd love to read (but don't really expect to see anytime soon):

- Given the ongoing controversy of the cost, extent, abuse and administration of our national welfare system, an extensive discussion of the LDS Church's welfare system, how it works, why it works, and how it preserves the dignity and confidentiality of its participants.

- Given our dire fiscal situation and increasing national debt, how the LDS Church counsels its members regarding debt, living within our means, and emergency preparedness.

- Given the inherent challenges of maintaining a quick-response disaster relief program at a national level (FEMA), how the LDS Church has been able to mobilize members and resources as first responders to natural disasters, and how partnering with such organizations could be a successful policy option for federal and state governments in the future.

I'm sure we could come up with more, but I'm not holding my breath.

Buena Vista, VA

To LDS liberal and Tekekaromatagi: The 2nd article of faith doesn't really apply. No one said blacks were "punished" for their own sins even if that is what it seems like. The situation is more like the Lamanites who dwindled in unbelief because of their lineage, but it wasn't their fault. And all blessings will be restored to them eventually. Or of the scriptures such as Numbers 14:18 "The Lord is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation." Not that the 3rd and 4th generation were guilty; just that they were born into an unbelieving lineage so they did not receive gospel blessings. But it will be made up to them.

To Steve1: Please don't confuse blacks with African Americans. Millions of blacks have never been to America. The priesthood ban applied to those in Africa and elsewhere, not just the US.

To everyone: There does seem to be precedent for certain races not receiving the priesthood. Only the Levites had it in BC times (not even the rest of Israel), only the Jews as a whole until after the resurrection. AND, read Abraham 1:26-27, where Pharaoh cannot have the priesthood because of his lineage. That is quite clear. Joseph Fielding Smith cited this in his book The Way to Perfection. I'm not saying this is or should be the reason, just that it might be related, and I wonder why no one else has brought it up.

USS Enterprise, UT

Lets look at this from a different perspective.

We know that the children of Israel have received blessings and promises based on familial lineage. We all accept that, and fully believe in it.

How much harder is it to believe that the decendants of Cain, or some other ancient person could have the denial of blessings based on famial lineage?

If everything has an opposite, doesn't that mean that where a familial line can be blessed, another familial line can be cursed?

A voice of Reason
Salt Lake City, UT


I agree that no one can completely fulfill this void of questions, except for God. This is true. However in seeking after good things and so on- I do not believe it is wrong to examine some of the principles involved.

The main points in my previous comments were that no one can justify complaints while the possibility exists of such reasons. If God could have been acting justly, then no complaints have validity.

But as to whether the possible 'reasons' are worth examining, I offer this-

Some facts which we do know:

God is perfect and perfectly just and perfectly moral.
Our government isn't perfect. God's is.
In the end, God's inevitable plan is that all worthy males can obtain the priesthood.
God is an unchanging God.

These are all true. If God and His laws are unchanging, then the policy change was not a result of God's laws being changed, or God 'changing His mind', but because of changes in us. We learn line upon line, precept upon precept. Whatever reasons God saw in the world that He caused us not to practice something, and then later to practice something- those are known by Him and not by me. I don't know if it was to not condemn others unjustly, cause one or all groups weren't ready, or anything else. All I know is that criticisms stating that our 'believing we have the perfect truth' isn't possible because 'we changed from wrong to right' on this issue are invalidated. Why? Because the possibility of scenarios where this change was just and morally right- and because we are an imperfect people who can't adequately address the decisions of a perfect being. If all of us were perfect, there wouldn't be anything disputable in the first place.

Newport Beach, CA

It's too convenient to call what a prophet says "folklore," when what he said is no longer convenient. The answer is made that prophets aren't infallible, and sometimes "speak as men," but whether one is doing so at a particular moment is never clear at the time. And people who decide he is "speaking as a man" on a subject, before the Church institution comes to that conclusion, typically get hammered by the Mormon faithful. It's dangerous to make a premature diagnosis of "folklore."

This is why Mitt Romney will get absolutely hammered on the race issue if/when he is the Republican nominee for President. An ordinary decent American would have been expected, by 1978, to make some public objection to the indefensible policy. But other Christians have no idea just how harshly the Mormon tradition judges apostasy, and how easily it expands that "apostasy" label to cover even relatively small disagreements with the conventional wisdom about non-essential doctrines.

I mean, Howard Dean left his church over a dispute about a municipal bike path. Many Americans take their religion similarly casually, and will not likely understand what would motivate someone like Mitt Romney to go along with the unjust pre-1978 priesthood and temple policy without making so much as a peep. They just don't understand that peeping costs Mormons a lot more than it costs the average casual American Christian.

Huntsville, UT


It's very easy to outline the possible motives of a "god" who thinks exactly like you do.

Huntsville, UT

eastcoastcoug says:

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.


I agree with Pres. Hinckley that you cannot be a bigot and be a disciple of Christ.

fixed that for you

Bill in Nebraska
Maryville, MO

I really enjoy that people can't accept WE DON'T KNOW. The reasons for the ban is because that is what was directed by the Lord to his chosen mouthpiece. It was upheld by each succeeding mouthpiece until President Kimball received the revelation to end the ban and to give the priesthood to all worthy males. That should be the end of the story right there.

I have my own speculation which allows ME to accept the ban as it was. I do remember that President Kimball stated that all preceeding presidents of the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-Day Saints wrestled with the same question. They never got the answer he did. Why, we don't know. Why was it instituted, we don't know. Why was it stopped, we don't know. In the end the answer is that it was stopped, the LDS Church has moved forward and so should we.

Atlanta, Fayetteville, GA

You are spot on!

Lehi, UT

As a convert, I came into the church at the height of the ban. And through the years, I have read many takes, interpretations, positions in articles and books on the subject. I believe the issue still represents a thorn in the side of the Church, especially now with Romney in the race for the White House (no pun intended). It's even more problematic for the Church to recant its position especially when the origin of the blacks issue cannot be ascertained. However,I personally have taken a more open-minded and prayerful approach about the whole thing and notably the accusation that the Church is discrminatory in its practices. Like most loyal and faithful members, I would rebut that with the understanding - based on the doctrine that only through Jesus Christ will everyone, inlcuding those who did not know about Jesus Christ, has a chance to be saved - that the LDS Church is the only church that has that reality as its mission, goal and objective made real and possible through temple ordinances and baptisms/work for the dead. The Church's mission therefore involves the salvation of ALL of mankind - not just some, hence not discriminatory. In such an inclusive and all-embracing reach of the restored gospel, I have gained great comfort in its truthfulness and marvel. Righteousness - not color - is the Lord's basic requirement for his kingdom.

Cedar City, UT

I was raised a Protestant. I reject the idea that from the 19th century Protestants the 1830 Church borrowed its policy not allowing blacks to hold the priesthood.

Furthermore, the Church has the most profound and complete records on earth. I reject the idea that we don't know how, who, when the policy against blacks came from. Nonsense!

There are very technical ways to justify anything you've done. Leaders and members of the Church taught that the descendents of Cain, meaning African Blacks, are not to hold the Priesthood.

There are very technical ways to deny anything you've done. Now leaders and members of the Church are proclaining that policy of 148 years was just folklore and without merit or source.

As an active, committed convert of 36 years I hope the Church authorities will clarify not only the reasoning behind the policy (whether it be race or revealed truth), but why it was rescinded.

I was raised in a Protestant home where we were taught all forms of racism were wrong. The racial prohibition the Church had in 1976 was a real hurdle for me in deciding to be baptized. I knew the Restored Gospel was true and accepted the missionary's and members explanations of the Seed of Cain. In 1978 I was relieved when the Revelation came. Now, 34 years after that I hear General Authorities denying there was a purpose or reason for the prohibition?

This isn't the Catholic Church or a Protestant Church or any other church. This is THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST. We know from whence our doctrine cometh. So tell the truth, or as much as you and the records show!

Salt Lake City, UT

This article reminds me of the need we all have to differentiate between what constitutes official doctrine and what is policy and what is tradition.

FAIRLDS states that only those things contained in the Standard Works and those statements sustained in general conferrence by Common Consent (the priesthood declaration and the banning of polygamy) are OFFICIAL doctrine. They go on to quote Harold B. Lee and Joseph Fielding Smith stating the same thing. They stated that if they said anything contrary to the scriptures, that the scriptures were to be obyed and their own words were to be ignored. The prophets have also stated that if any man, no matter their position in the Church, says something that is not outlined in scripture, it is only an OPINION.

Esquire was right saying that "Non-doctrinal ideas creep into practice and then become de facto 'doctrine'." This is what I believe happened. It's like the story of lab monkies who were sprayed with a hose when one of them tried to climb a certain ladder. The monkies began to enforce a ladder ban and beat up any monkey trying to climb the ladder. One by one, the monkies were replaced with other monkies who were never squirted and they were beaten up for trying to climb the ladder. Eventually all of the monkies were gradually replaced and the group still enforced the ban eventhough they had no reason why. This seens to be the case with the priesthood ban.

The current Church POLICY opposing CIVIL same-sex marriage is not based on doctrine. Scripture forbids LDS from using their religious beliefs as an excuse to infringe upon the rights and liberties of others (1 Cor. 10:29, D&C 134:4). Eventually, the Church will drop its opposition once it faces what the scriptures say and realizes that keeping that policy harms the Church. Look what the Church did regarding illegal immigration.

The bottom line is that unless a statement comes from the scriptures, it's just an opinion.

to comment

DeseretNews.com encourages a civil dialogue among its readers. We welcome your thoughtful comments.
About comments