Friday, April 17, 2009

Endorsing the Call: Repudiate Racist Justifications for the Priesthood Ban

"At the very least, there should be no effort to perpetuate those efforts to explain why [the ban] existed."--Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

In Repudiating Racist Justifications Once and For All, respected LDS blogger "Papa D"/Ray, writes:

"Elder Holland's statements 'at the very least' and 'the least that we can do' imply quite strongly that there is more we can do. I believe that the 'more we can do' includes opening our hearts, minds, homes and church worship to ALL, regardless of race or ethnicity - or religious ideology or any other segregating factor. I think we need to be "no respecters of persons".

I want to give a loud AMEN to that.

Also, at the very least, we can share the following quotes (as Ray has done) with our fellow Latter-day Saints so that common racist justifications for the priesthood ban will never again be perpetuated as truth.

From last year's PBS documentary -

Elder Marlin K. Jensen:

Q. What is that folklore that troubles people?

A. “The essential idea is that somehow in the life before this life, through some conduct on the part of black people, they were less worthy and had to spend some probationary time waiting then for the priesthood to be given to them. I think it’s that idea that somehow they came here with some inherent disability, spiritually speaking, and that bothers them. It would bother me, too. And I don’t think it’s true. I think those were theories that were advanced, but I don’t think there’s any scriptural or doctrinal justification for them.”

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland:
“We don’t pretend that something wasn’t taught or practice wasn’t pursued for whatever reason. But I think we can be unequivocal and we can be declarative in our current literature, in books that we reproduce, in teachings that go forward, whatever, that from this time forward, from 1978 forward, we can make sure that nothing of that is declared. That may be where we still need to make sure that we’re absolutely dutiful, that we put [a] careful eye of scrutiny on anything from earlier writings and teachings, just [to] make sure that that’s not perpetuated in the present. That’s the least, I think, of our current responsibilities on that topic. …”

Full text of the issue from that documentary:

Elder Bruce R. McConkie:
"Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or President George Q. Cannon or whomsoever has said in days past 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.

We get our truth and our light line upon line and precept upon precept. We have now had added a new flood of intelligence and light on this particular subject, and it erases all the darkness and all the views and all the thoughts of the past. They don’t matter any more."
(”All Are Alike unto God” - BYU devotional - August 18, 1978)

Elder Dallin H. Oaks (in the PBS interview):
"I can’t remember any time in my life when I felt greater joy and relief than when I learned that the priesthood was going to be available to all worthy males, whatever their ancestry. I had been troubled by this subject through college and my graduate school, at the University of Chicago where I went to law school. I had many black acquaintances when I lived in Chicago, the years ’54 through ’71. I had many times that my heart ached for that, and it ached for my Church, which I knew to be true and yet blessings of that Church were not available to a significant segment of our Heavenly Father’s children. And I didn’t understand why; I couldn’t identify with any of the explanations that were given. Yet I sustained the action; I was confident that in the time of the Lord I would know more about it, so I went along on faith."

Interview with Associated Press, in Daily Herald, Provo, Utah, 5 June 1988:
"Some people put reasons to [the ban] and they turned out to be spectacularly wrong. There is a lesson in that…. The lesson I’ve drawn from that, I decided a long time ago that I had faith in the command and I had no faith in the reasons that had been suggested for it.

…I’m referring to reasons given by general authorities and reasons elaborated upon [those reasons] by others. The whole set of reasons seemed to me to be unnecessary risk taking.

…Let’s [not] make the mistake that’s been made in the past, here and in other areas, trying to put reasons to revelation. The reasons turn out to be man-made to a great extent".

More from Elder Holland in the PBS interview:
"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".

President David O. McKay in 1954:
"There is not now, and there never has been a doctrine in this church that the negroes are under a divine curse. There is no doctrine in the church of any kind pertaining to the negro. We believe that we have a scriptural precedent for withholding the priesthood from the negro. It is a practice, not a doctrine, and the practice someday will be changed. And that’s all there is to it".
--“David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism” (I recommend the book)


R. Gary said...

CC, in your discussion of this, I just hope we don't forget that our premortal choices do affect our mortal lives.

R. Gary said...

CC, regarding David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism, the book's authors left out some key information about Bruce R. McConkie and his (as you call it) "infamous" book. They thereby created a very misleading section in the McKay biography which they titled "The Controversy over Mormon Doctrine." I just thought you ought to know that.

Papa D said...

CC, thanks for the citation.

SmallAxe said...

CC, in your discussion of this, I just hope we don't forget that our premortal choices do affect our mortal lives. And that we can't pin point exactly how this is the case.

Clean Cut said...

R. Gary, I read that exact comment on Ray's blog and I'll just ditto what Ray said.

As for the book "Mormon Doctrine", it's hardly on topic for this post. But I did read your post and I thought it was fair enough. You bring out some good points. Surly it was no small feat for McConkie to do what he did. For sure, he was an impressive and able student of the gospel.

However, it's not the number of corrections that bothers me, but the offensive and flat out wrong statements (see, for example, Marion G. Romney's report to David O. McKay), let alone the fact it's called "Mormon Doctrine". Presumptuous indeed. But I appreciate that on this you and I have proven that it's quite a stereotype that all Mormons think a like. :)

Hopefully, you can at least agree with the heart of this post.

R. Gary said...

Yes, I accept what the living apostles and prophets teach. And yes, foreordination is still a part of Latter-day Saint doctrine.

Throughout his ministry as an apostle, Bruce R. McConkie was often asked to comment on doctrinal questions during meetings of the First Presidency and Twelve, as reported by Ezra Taft Benson, who also said McConkie had provided the entire Church with an example of gospel scholarship. Among his fellow apostles, who continue to quote from McConkie's Mormon Doctrine in general conference, the book is not "infamous."

Unknown said...

R. Gary, do you mind me asking why you seem to be making such a big deal about foreordination in conjunction with this post?

R. Gary said...

It seems to me that certain LDS bloggers, whether intentionally or not, are implying that we should no longer teach or even believe the doctrine of foreordination. And, as I've indicated, I don't believe that is what the apostles and prophets are saying.

Years ago, I served a 27-month LDS mission in Germany. My "making such a big deal about foreordination" is part of my response to the challenge given to all Christians in all ages by the German Protestant Reformer Martin Luther (1483–1546) who said:

"Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefield besides is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point." (Weimar Ausgabe Briefwechsel 3, 81f.)

I'm just saying, "Hey guys, don't throw the baby out with the bath water."

Clean Cut said...

I still really have no idea how you could take this as an implication to "no longer believe or teach in the doctrine of foreordination". I'm fully aware of what the scriptures do and do not say on the matter, and I believe the scriptures. But that was the furthest thing on my mind when mentioning this topic.

I suppose that means the good news is you can rest assured I'm not throwing the baby out with the bath water. Still, I'm not quite sure one can read into Alma 13 anymore than what is clearly stated in the passages.

I'm aware that Ray has added a comment that pertains to foreordination. I'd like to quote him here:

"My only concern with fore-ordination is the way it is used to justify the way we do things - not necessarily what God would do if He forced His will upon us. It's fine and dandy to say that God fore-ordained ONLY those who actually have been called, but that would deprive those of true agency AND it would dictate that no human mistakes could be made in any way that might impact the fore-ordained.

"Don't get me wrong; I believe in fore-ordination. I just don't believe in fore-ordination to the extent that it really does become pre-destination - and especially when it is used like it was pre-1978 as a justification to keep black men and women from holding the Priesthood and attending the temple. It's precisely that type of thinking that led to the justifications Elder McConkie said were devised from limited light and knowledge - and that our current apostles and prophets are telling us to not endorse now.

"When I read the current statements, it is clear to me that fore-ordination CANNOT be used to justify the Priesthood ban. Period."

Michael said...

I wonder if we are making the exact same mistake with our stance on homosexuality as we did on the blacks. Will someone be repeating Elder McConkie's famous statement in 10 years about all the ways we try to justify the unknowns about being gay.

Tom said...

Michael - not sure what you're getting at. Care to elaborate?

Clean Cut said...

See Why I Don't Believe That God Instituted The Priesthood Ban