Monday, October 24, 2011

Why The Priesthood Ban Matters


I highly recommend Margaret Blair Young's 3 part series at By Common Consent:
"All God's Critters:  Some Thoughts on the Priesthood Restriction and Differing Opinions"

In part two she writes:

"But why should the origin of the ban matter at all, given that the LDS Church was part of a racist nation and that most religions in the 19th Century had some racialist policies? Isn’t all that history merely a sad footnote in the LDS story which was resolved in 1978?
I would say that it is a mere footnote. The central tenet of our faith is the atonement, and nothing else compares in significance. But that footnote does matter because it still affects us, our missionary efforts, and the retention of converts. The folklore which undergirded the philosophy has lingered. As recently as 2009, an African missionary in the Congo had his Anglo companion ask Elder Holland, who was dedicating the country of Cameroon, if it was true that blacks had been “less valiant” than others in the pre-existence. Elder Holland denounced the idea with characteristic boldness, and said that everyone on Earth was valiant in the pre-mortal world—or they wouldn’t be here. Other families of African lineage, or parents of adopted black children, have also felt the sting of the folklore, and continue to deal with a view which casts them as cursed. There are still Mormons who believe such things, which leads them to unthinkingly denigrate people of color (many colors), and to behave in a way which President Hinckley called antithetical to being “a true disciple of Christ” (April Conference 2006). That’s why it matters."

Part one is here
Part two is here
Part three is here

10 comments:

Clean Cut said...

I also highly recommend J. Stapley's: Teaching the Priesthood Restriction

ji said...

The folklore does still linger -- I heard it taught just last month in my Sunday School class -- we are far from the center place, but our teacher just moved from there -- he read from Doctrines of Salvation about how some persons kept their first estate but they were still less valiant and unfit for exaltation, but they can earn a lesser glory after this earth life -- and they are commonly sent to the poorer less productive parts of the earth at birth. I tried to correct the error, but the folklore still lingers.

We need to teach correct principles. But in my mind, we do not need to apologize for the past or over-study the past or rationalize the past. So yes, the priesthood ban matters, and for some it matters too much. At least, this is how I see it. Maybe they are called to that work.

Papa D said...

It is specifically because of the lingering folklore that I talk and write about the ban still.

Elder McConkie said to forget EVERYTHING that was said to justify the ban after it was lifted. He said we (Mormons, generally, and - I believe - apostles, specifically) spoke with "limited light and knowledge" when promulgating the folklore.

I wish everyone understood and accepted his statement.

Muerte said...

Dang, Clean Cut! You have a great blog here! I came upon it as I was Google searching the President Kimball quote about never having attended in a boring sacrament meeting.

I love your blog title and this post about the Priesthood "ban" is very well written. Loved the references and the language. It's especially meaningful to me because it's coming from an Islander*.

*From Oregon.

goingtozion said...

I would say that it isn't a mere foot note. It is an important principle. The principle is that leaders in the church are not perfect and that everything they say isn't always God's will or command. Many times, prophets and apostles will say things that are their own opinion and they are wrong.

So this is an important principle for members to understand so that they seek out the Spirit in all things that they are taught instead of the commonly held teaching that if you do whatever the prophet says you'll be okay.

It is hard to judge others for their times and what they did. So looking at the bigger picture is important and seeing what we can learn and help us grow closer to God.

Clean Cut said...

ji, I'm glad you did your best to correct the error. Too often people stay silent and let bad comments go unchallenged.

Ray/Papa D--ditto. I personally attribute the same "forget everything" quote to even those quotes stating that the ban was God's will, since ALL of those quotes also came before 1978.

Muerte--thanks for the props. Where in Oregon are you from?

goingtozion--that's a great point. As a historian, I know that there is much we can (and must) learn from the past. And indeed the principle that you stated (and with which I agree 100%) is an important principle. Some of our LDS "culture" needs to be reformed in order to get that point across.

Sethbag said...

This isn't just folklore though, and it's intellectually dishonest to couch it as such. Calling it "folklore" makes it sound like you'd only hear these teachings from the ward cranky old geazer, when in fact these teachings were coming from the top - from Apostles and church Presidents.

The 1949 statement of the First Presidency reiterates it explicitly.

http://bycommonconsent.com/2004/04/21/a-statement-from-the-first-presidency/

It is clear that the doctrine and understanding of the church was that blacks were unable to receive the priesthood because of their conduct in the pre-existence.

That the church has backtracked on this now does not mean that back in those days this was merely "folklore". This was church doctrine, taught, practiced, and reiterated numerous times over many decades.

Clean Cut said...

Seth, I've dealt with the semantics a bit before here and here, but ultimately the semantics don't matter to me because either way, WE WERE WRONG. Wrong about the justifications for it and wrong to deny blacks the priesthood--period.

Sethbag said...

I agree with you there. The Prophets, Seers, and Revelators didn't actually know what they were talking about when they said what they said. And it was wrong to deny the priesthood to blacks.

But folklore? This isn't folklore, folks.

Clean Cut said...

folk·lore/ˈfōkˌlôr/
Noun:
The traditional beliefs, customs, and stories of a community, passed through the generations by word of mouth.
A body of popular myth and beliefs relating to a particular place, activity, or group of people.