Friday, June 12, 2009

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

"While I don't personally believe it was God who instituted that policy in the first place, I most definitely believe God was behind the revelation to end the policy."

In writing the above statement on June 8th in a commemorative post on the Priesthood Revelation, Tom was curious and decided to ask me why I felt that "God wasn't behind the policy in the first place". I asked if he wanted the short version or the long version. He said long, so out of convenience, I'm simply dedicating a whole new post to the subject. I hope it's worth every penny he's paying. :)

There’s a very informative chapter in “David O. Mckay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism” that discusses the policy entitled “Blacks, Civil Rights, and the Priesthood”. It's quite an "eye opener" and it helped me to become more informed about the background concerning the ban. The more informed I was about the history, the easier it was to see that prophets are not infallible and that God doesn't micromanage every aspect of Church administration. (Of course you also see this quite clearly in "Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling".)

Although it’s clear that many of our past Church leaders were a product of their times (ie: somewhat racist) it is also clear that the policy was not really even well known about by the general membership of the Church up through the 1950’s. It’s no surprise that the “why” behind the ban is not very well understood now, because it really wasn’t understood well then. Even some of the Brethren in the middle of the 20th century weren’t aware that Joseph Smith (who was actually quite progressive) ordained several black men to the Priesthood and that the evolution of the ban actually began with Brigham Young.

One thing is sure: Hugh B. Brown, counselor to David O. Mckay in the First Presidency, was definitely in favor of reversing the policy. However he met with some resistance/pressure by other top leaders in the Twelve.

David O. McKay himself said multiple times that it was not a doctrine, but a policy, and that it would eventually be reversed. He started making modifications to the policy that laid the groundwork for the 1978 Revelation by President Kimball. I think President McKay didn’t feel it was quite time to act yet because he wanted unanimity among the brethren, and some of them, including Elder Harold B. Lee, had strong feelings to keep the ban in place. Unanimity was also extremely important to President Kimball as he sought the revelation to end that policy. It’s an insightful read and it definitely gave me a more realistic picture of how everything actually played out.

But how did the ban actually begin, and why? It’s not completely clear, so the official answer is “we don’t know”. However, it's pretty clear that it didn’t begin as a “revelation”. Rather, the policy seems to have begun officially in 1852 with an announcement by Brigham Young. I doubt that God had anything to do with it, but rather I believe He simply honored the agency of Brigham Young who was a product of his times and was reacting to something culturally at the time, believing it to be the right thing to do. Now I'm not throwing Brigham under the bus here. I'm simply recognizing that although he was a prophet who did a lot of amazing things, he was also a flawed human being, as all prophets are. As we know, when the Lord calls a man to be a prophet, he doesn't unmake the man. Brigham, like so many other Christians of the time, believed the "curse of Cain" justified the subordination of black people. And over time, many leaders just assumed that’s the way it was supposed to be and didn’t really understand that the ban hadn't always been in place.

Over time people looked for scriptural justifications for it and began teaching their interpretations and some of those interpretations became accepted by many—not all—as a quasi-official “doctrine”. In my opinion, the folklore that was perpetuated to try to explain the “why” behind the ban became even more offensive and painful than the ban itself. So it’s almost doubly offensive and ridiculous that many still teach these rationales today (such as that blacks were less faithful in the pre-mortal existence), even though that has been repudiated time and again by apostles and prophets. For example, here is Elder Holland’s wonderful denunciation of the folklore surrounding the ban from his 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… [when asked to specify the folklore] Well, some of the folklore that you must be referring to are suggestions that there were decisions made in the pre-mortal councils where someone had not been as decisive in their loyalty to a Gospel plan or the procedures on earth or what was to unfold in mortality, and that therefore that opportunity and mortality was compromised. I really don’t know a lot of the details of those, because fortunately I’ve been able to live in the period where we’re not expressing or teaching them, but I think that’s the one I grew up hearing the most, was that it was something to do with the pre-mortal councils. … But I think that’s the part that must never be taught until anybody knows a lot more than I know. … We just don’t know, in the historical context of the time, why it was practiced. … That’s my principal [concern], is that we don’t perpetuate explanations about things we don’t know. …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."

I’m very grateful to live in a day and age in which wrongs have been corrected, and I especially appreciate quotes such as Elder Holland’s. Unfortunately, some haven’t got the memo. Significantly, President Hinckley spoke out in General Conference in 2006:
“Racial strife still lifts its ugly head. I am advised that even right here among us there is some of this. I cannot understand how it can be. It seemed to me that we all rejoiced in the 1978 revelation given President Kimball. I was there in the temple at the time that that happened. There was no doubt in my mind or in the minds of my associates that what was revealed was the mind and the will of the Lord. Now I am told that racial slurs and denigrating remarks are sometimes heard among us. I remind you that no man who makes disparaging remarks concerning those of another race can consider himself a true disciple of Christ. Nor can he consider himself to be in harmony with the teachings of the Church of Christ. How can any man holding the Melchizedek Priesthood arrogantly assume that he is eligible for the priesthood whereas another who lives a righteous life but whose skin is of a different color is ineligible?” ("The Need For Greater Kindness", April 2006 General Conference.)

There are many other relevant quotes assembled on my post: Endorsing the Call: Repudiate Racist Justifications for the Priesthood Ban. In making sense of all of our past, as well as our present, I also strongly recommend an important FAIR article by Armand L. Mauss: "The LDS Church and the Race Issue: A Study in Misplaced Apologetics". It should be required reading for anyone trying to become informed on the subject.

Now the hard part is that some otherwise informed members of the Church can't quite bring themselves to accept that past prophets could have been “wrong” on this. But we have to be honest with ourselves, and "wrong" is the word Elder Holland himself used. Some say, "Surly God would not have allowed them to get something this big so wrong for so long, right?" Well, in my view that’s a faulty fundamentalist view of prophetic perfection. It's also unrealistic and a bit ignorant of how God works through mortals through time.

Marvin Perkins was recently interviewed by Times and Seasons. At the end of the first of four segments, he said something that resonated with me and struck me as very important and I wish all members would come to understand this:
"Then you have those who are not familiar enough with the scriptures or the Plan of Salvation to understand that all prophets and apostles make mistakes. They mistakenly believe that all prophets are to be perfect in the administration of the things of God and because of this, their testimony of the truthfulness of the Church suffers a major blow and they begin to doubt and struggle. After we show them D&C 1:24-28 …
24 Behold, I am God and have spoken it; these commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding.
25 And inasmuch as they erred it might be made known;
26 And inasmuch as they sought wisdom they might be instructed;
27 And inasmuch as they sinned they might be chastened, that they might repent;
28 And inasmuch as they were humble they might be made strong, and blessed from on high, and receive knowledge from time to time.

… and a list of prophets who’ve made errors from the Old Testament to the Doctrine and Covenants they begin to see that their testimonies were weighted too much on the Brethren who are imperfect and not enough on Christ who is perfect, and His restored gospel. With this realization, the shift is made and they become stronger, more productive Saints, now able to help their brother."

So that's kind of the framework I'm working with concerning the Church and the Restoration. Furthermore, there is so much more of greatness and goodness in the work that these prophets accomplished overall that focusing on their mistakes doesn't really give the true picture. Nevertheless, you can't just ignore the fact that mistakes were made--many of them acknowledged.

For example, after the revelation in 1978 Elder McConkie said: "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 Speeches).

Still though, how do I personally make sense of the evolution of the ban, historically speaking? My personal understanding follows along the same lines as Papa D/Ray, who’s shared some of his thoughts. I’ll quote him now because it’s basically exactly what I currently believe. As always, I reserve the right to change my mind should I be influenced to think differently:
1) Joseph ordained black men to the Priesthood. That is indisputable in any intelligent way.

2) Brigham Young and many of the early Saints were steeped in racism growing up. “The incorrect traditions of our fathers” are hard to shake, especially when they are so commonly shared.

3) The single most fundamental prejudice of the time was inter-racial marriage – even without the possibility of it being eternal.

4) Brigham seems to have supported the ordination of those few black men who received the Priesthood.

5) When a black Priesthood holder appeared to be about to marry a white woman in the temple, Brigham (and most members) couldn’t take it. It was too much for them to consider it as a legitimate possibility. Brigham, particularly, was irate and vowed it wouldn’t happen.

6) They constructed a quasi-scriptural justification (based on the common and widespread Protestant beliefs of their upbringing and the current time) to put a ban in place, and a few people spoke of hearing Joseph make statements that would support it – his previous actions in ordaining black men notwithstanding. (BY never claimed direct, personal revelation on the subject; rather, he said, “The Lord has spoken” – and used the scriptural justifications.) NOTE: I’m NOT saying this was done intentionally, knowing that it wasn’t inspired. I’m saying I think they never considered seeking revelation, since it seemed obvious and apparent to them given the assumptions of their upbringing.

7) Other apostles over the years tweaked and added to the original justification, bringing, for example, the uniquely Mormon concept of the pre-existence into it by claiming black people had been less valiant in the pre-existence and, therefore, were unworthy of the Priesthood in this life.

8 ) The membership, by and large, bought into the justifications – even as some of the apostles and members never did. In many people’s eyes, it became “doctrine”; for those like Pres. McKay who recognized it didn’t originate through revelation, it was viewed merely as “policy”. Those who saw it as doctrine outnumbered those who saw it as policy.

9) By the 1940’s and 1950’s, many people’s attitudes in the country had started to change, and Pres. McKay thought it might be time to change the policy. He prayed fervently about it, but the Lord told him it wasn’t the proper time yet. Importantly, Pres. McKay never said the Lord told him the ban was “His will” or “correct” or anything like that. He simply said it wasn’t the proper time yet to lift the ban.

10) By the late 1970’s the Church was in a situation where it simply couldn’t grow and produce future leaders in Brazil and other Western Hemisphere countries (and Africa) without ordaining black men to the Priesthood. This reality weighed heavily on the minds of the First Presidency and the 12, as they were well aware of the growth limitations AND potential in those areas and as they were faced with abundant evidence of very faithful black members who didn’t appear to be cursed by God in any reasonable way – much like Paul’s dilemma with circumcision among the Gentiles of his missions. It also reinforced the beliefs of the “younger generation” who were not predisposed to accept the folklore and more disposed to see it as Pres. McKay had seen it – and as Pres. Kimball saw it.

My own speculation:

A) The decision had been made without seeking direct, personal revelation, so the Lord waited until (practical) unanimity could be reached before stopping the policy. (Kind of like the people of Limhi needing to suffer more than the people of Alma before each group was delivered from their respective captors.)

B) Those who had been the most steeped in hardcore racism (not just the justifications for the ban) had to die before the ban was lifted – much like the people of Israel who built the golden calf needing to pass away before the group could enter the Promised Land. (Hence, my use of the Jacob 5 allegory – pruning the bitter fruit according to the strength of the roots.)

C) Elder McConkie gets a bad rap, even unthinkingly by me sometimes when I’m not careful with my wording. He wasn’t racist in one important way – in that he didn’t dislike or disapprove of black people in general; he simply was a forceful proponent of the folklore. I know that is splitting hairs to a degree, but I believe he was being “loyal” to the leadership, especially since his father-in-law was a Prophet and someone he revered – a great influence in his life. Perhaps he never fully “repented” (meaning simply “changed fully”), since he never removed the folklore from Mormon Doctrine, but he was able to rejoice in the revelation – since he really wasn’t a hardcore racist at heart. That left only Mark E. Peterson as the champion of the ban and its fundamental racism, and he was only six years from passing away by 1978. (I’ll equate him with the fact that handful of adults at the time of the golden calf were allowed to enter the Promised Land. It’s a stretch, but it’ll do – since the actual balance in 1978 would have been 14-1 in the FP and the 12 when you put McConkie in the approving category.)

Ray called that the concise version. :) He then goes on to summarize the following ideas: 1) God works with prophets in their own limitations all throughout history; 2) the Restoration is a process not an event; 3) that the Dispensation of the Fullness of Times refers to the condition at the end of the dispensation--that the Jacob 5 concept of pruning will be accomplished fully only at the end. ("There will be “bitter fruit” in the Church even after the Restoration – fruit that could be pruned only according to the strength of the root. I don’t think that bitter fruit has been purged completely yet").

Personally, I'm at peace with that understanding. Furthermore, our "labor in the vineyard" is a part of something much grander than some local pruning here and some pruning there. I'm just grateful to be a part of the whole process!


R. Gary said...

If you believe God was behind the 1978 revelation canonized as Official Declaration—2, I believe you will enjoy Ronald K. Esplin's 1979 BYU Studies article, "Brigham Young and Priesthood Denial to the Blacks: An Alternate View" (it begins halfway down the page).  Esplin has been director of the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Church History at Brigham Young University and is currently executive director of the Church's Joseph Smith Papers project.

Clean Cut said...

R. Gary, I have no doubt that Brigham Young assumed/felt that the matter was beyond his personal control and divinely determined. I would never assign any malicious intent to Brigham Young. As Ray said, it would have seemed obvious and reasonable for them to assume this given the assumptions of their upbringing. I'm sure he thought it was God's will. But that was then.

Living today, I don't make those same assumptions. Of course hindsight is always 20/20, but I have already named several apostles and prophets who agree with me.

The most candid way of putting this is that that is not the kind of God I worship. It's understandable and even forgivable that Brigham Young would over apply the perceived curse of Cain--yet I still believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam's (or anyone else's') transgressions.

Let me quote my friend Ray once more: "When I am faced with two viable options, even in the face of a lack of spiritual confirmation, I *always* side with the one that appears to be in line with the preponderance of scriptural evidence and harms the fewest people. In my opinion, the ban as a result of human weakness and prejudice fits those criteria *far* better than seeing it as God’s will.

"I tend to accept the words of current prophets over the words of former prophets. I also have read enough of modern and ancient scripture to understand that God has allowed prophets and apostles to make horrible mistakes all throughout time. He sometimes steps in and announces an ideal in very clear ways, but even then He steps back and lets His prophets and other leaders live it or reject it. Therefore, the ban has no fundamental impact on my testimony - my spiritual witness of BY and JT and WW and all other prophets who upheld the ban - even as I believe is was not God’s will."

I really like Esplin's point--that Brigham Young taught as strongly as anyone about the importance of living prophets and continuous revelation. That's why I prefer (and assume you will too) to dwell more on the more current jubilation and very powerful experience lived by President Kimball and others, and understanding how things are today rather than faultfinding, criticizing, or judging the past through our modern lenses.

I felt that Armand L. Mauss' candid article (from 2003) was a perfect way to approach this all--I provided the link above. But it was heartening to read in the link you provided that Brigham Young personally believed that the day would come when Blacks would have the priesthood. It shows he was optimistic and hopeful, despite his "limited understanding" and limited "light and knowledge", as Elder McConkie put it. I think that's great.

JT said...

R. Gary,

I don't know, I can applaud the effort to have an alternate view, but unfortunately, as I remember, Ron really doesn't give much by way of evidence for his hypothesis. I think there's a reason that his thesis has remained pretty much unchanged and unelaborated since 1979. On the other hand, recent work by people like Connell O'Donnovan and others shed incrased light on the possibility that the "ban" originated with Brigham Young.

Michael said...

It's sort of like the same that is happening now with gays and the Restored Gospel. Everyone is making up theories to justify why they don't belong in the Church but no one is seeking revelation on where they fit in the larger Plan of Salvation. History repeated.

R. Gary said...


Clean Cut said, "I have already named several apostles and prophets who agree with me."

David O. McKay said the ban was "not something which originated with man" (Home Memories of President David O. McKay, p.227).

An official 1969 Church statement says: "From the beginning of this dispensation, Joseph Smith and all succeeding presidents of the Church have taught that [Blacks] were not yet to receive the priesthood, for reasons which we believe are known to God, but which He has not made fully known to man" (as quoted in Sheri L. Dew, Go Forward with Faith, pp.295-296).

Elder Holland, in his PBS interview, was talking about those reasons—known to God, but not revealed to man—"the explanations," as he called them. He was not talking about the previous ban itself.

The same is true of Elder McConkie, as you've quoted him.

Which latter-day apostle said "the evolution of the ban actually began with Brigham Young"?

Which latter-day apostle said the ban was instituted and perpetuated "as a result of human weakness and prejudice"?

Which latter-day apostle said the ban "was not God’s will"?

Which latter-day apostle said it was not God who "Instituted the Priesthood Ban"?

The question that matters the most to me was asked, as quoted in your post, by President Hinckley: "How can any man holding the Melchizedek Priesthood arrogantly assume that he is eligible for the priesthood whereas another who lives a righteous life but whose skin is of a different color is ineligible?"

It was a Pharisee named Gamaliel who counseled moderation when criticizing the Apostles, "lest haply ye be found even to fight against God" (Acts 5:39).

Clean Cut said...

R. Gary, for the most part I think you've misread me and missed the spirit of the post. However, you make an appropriate distinction. Being "wrong" happened in trying to give human reasons to the ban. As Elder Oaks said in an interview with the Associated Press:

"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" (Elder Dallin H. Oaks)

You will never hear me be critical of ANYONE who chooses to believe that the Priesthood ban was inspired by God. There's nothing "wrong" with having that faith. All I'm saying here is that knowing what I know, that just doesn't jive with me.

Quoting those pre-1978 sources simply tells me that people believed that the reasons for the ban were known to God, but that He had simply not made those reasons fully known to man. That's historically accurate. And had I been alive before 1978, that probably would have been my faith then as well, given the huge lack of information at the time.

But given the data now available, the conclusion I've personally come to (and there's also nothing "wrong" with it) is that the ban was something God allowed to happen, rather than something He caused to happen.

Clean Cut said...

Quite frankly, I think we can agree that it was the folklore that was even more insulting than the ban. And that's what we should be united in eliminating--racist justifications for the ban.

Nearly 30 years of civil rights and understanding and exposure and racial progress was extremely important in letting go of the justifications. But the fact that some hold onto those justifications (30 years after the revelation) when they are clearly "wrong" is evidence that there is still "pruning" that needs to be done. That's really where we should focus our energies.

R. Gary said...

So I take it we also agree that no apostle said "the evolution of the ban actually began with Brigham Young" and no apostle said the ban was instituted and perpetuated "as a result of human weakness and prejudice" and no apostle said the ban "was not God’s will" and no apostle said it was not God who "Instituted the Priesthood Ban."

Because other than that, I see nothing "wrong" with most of your post.

Clean Cut said...

Thanks for stopping by R. Gary. But if you don't like the post, you can simply leave and never come back.

I'd appreciate it if you not threadjack this post like you did the other one. God bless.

Ben said...

Clean Cut: I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed your post; well done.

It is posts like these that make me believe in the bright new generation in the Church.

ed said...

Why do you call it "folklore" when it was taught by leaders in their official capacity? For example, see the first presidency statement here:

It sounds like you're blaming the common "folk" for just believing what they were taught. It wasn't "folklore," it was doctrine.

Also, if you believe the ban was a mistake, I'm curious how you reconcile that with the belief that the living prophets will never lead the church astray.

Anonymous said...

Clean Cut,

I agree with your analysis. It is very similar, if not the same, as the way I view things. I would simply add that, according to his son, Bruce R. McConkie recommended to President Kimball that the ban be lifted, when President Kimball asked McConkie' opinion.

I personally put the prior practice in the same category as the practice, for a period of time, of restricting prayers in Sacrament meeting to male priesthood, or the practice of denying women married to unendowed men the privilege of receiving their own endowment (but not vice versa), the practice of not baptizing slaves without the consent of their masters, the practice of not baptizing Muslims in places where it might result in their injury or death. I think those were and are culturally bound practices, made with the best judgment of the Brethren, seeking God's inspiration.

I also agree with Elder Holland (and Oaks) that it was wrong to make the practice something more than it was, by presenting elaborate reasons other than necessity (or simply that the Brethren felt it was the right thing to do at the time) for the practice.

I think most of the Brethren are on board as far as disavowing the pre-existence behavior as a rationale for the practice; I do not know that there is unanimity about disavowing the curse of Cain or Ham, although those theories are no longer taught in updated correlated materials.

In the meantime, R. Gary, whom I respect, may continue to believe in some or all of the previously offered rationale for the practice, and those of us who do not accept some or all of the rationale, may believe something along the lines you have expressed.


Clean Cut said...

Thanks to both Ben and DavidH. I appreciate your comments.

Ed and Micheal, I've typed up a long response to both of you, but I'll probably have to post each separately because of their length. Thanks.

Clean Cut said...

Ed, I use “folklore” to mean the justifications that were believed by some to be doctrine, but which were actually not doctrine. Once the policy in place people looked for and found scriptural justifications for it. Even my dad thought it was “doctrine” up until I persuaded him to read “David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism”. More than anything, people who continue to believe the ban was actual doctrine, as opposed to mere policy, are just ignorant. There was enough of ignorance (most quite unintentionally)—even among leaders of the Church—leading up to the 1978 revelation. So it baffles me that people (in general, not you specifically) will continue to stick their heads in the sand rather than face up to the truth.

President David O. McKay, in 1954, said:

"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".

I’m very glad you asked the question about how I reconcile my view concerning the priesthood ban with “the belief that the living prophets will never lead the church astray.” Just to be clear, for any reading this and aren’t familiar with the context of that quote, Wilford Woodruff made a huge change in the Church in ending the practice of polygamy. A lot of people questioned him and whether he was a true prophet, because plural marriages had been such a huge part of their faith and their teaching as well as their lives. And now they’re just expected to do an about face? Those who followed the prophet made the necessary adjustments, while many broke off and became “fundamentalists” who continue to practice polygamy to this day.

President Woodruff’s actual quote is as follows: “The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty.”

So yes, he stated that the Lord would not allow His prophet to lead the Church astray—that it wasn’t part of the program. I agree with the statement. However, I’m not sure why or how some people can take that quote and then try to make the logical jump to believe that therefore somehow prophets cannot and never will make mistakes. That’s not what Wilford Woodruff was saying nor do I think that he would have intended people believe in prophetic infallibility. Just re-read the passages in the Doctrine and Covenants that Marvin Perkins quoted in the original post—straight from the Standard Works. As Armand Mauss stated in that article I recommended above: “Prophets are not perfect and don't claim to be; nor do they always act as prophets in what they say and do. People in all ages, including those who become prophets, grow up without questioning much that is assumed by everyone else in their respective cultures, unless some experience motivates them to seek revelation on a given matter.”

Clean Cut said...

Such was the case in 1978. But there is a system of checks and balances in place and I’m fully confident that the Lord would not ever let the Church fall apart. Even though he can intervene whenever he wants to, he normally allows his purposes to come to pass through the work of imperfect mortals.

That’s why I believe he allowed the policy to continue until the conditions were right to have His will confirmed to his servants. Many mortals have had to gradually let go of biases. This has always been the case. Whether slave holders George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, or even the great Emancipator Abraham Lincoln. God did not force them to change their views. And this also includes his servants, the prophets. Even Harold B. Lee had strong biases, and he was the prophet right before President Kimball! (Just read the chapter on “Blacks, Civil Rights, and the Priesthood” I referred to in my post).

So I don’t believe the Lord forces anything onto us. He’s much more wise and patient than that.

Now I've never actually heard prophetic infallibility taught--ever. Yet some people believe in it. I’m not quite sure why there is a gap between what is actually taught and what some people actually believe. But some people who base their faith in the false belief that prophets will never make mistakes are themselves mistaken, and I fear for them, and that they will reach a faith crisis some day because their faith is not grounded properly.

I just think it is much more wise to place your faith in God and His eternal truth and doctrine, rather than men. I’m not saying that prophets, as men, can’t speak for God. But even Joseph Smith said, “a prophet is only a prophet when acting as such”. There are times the prophet speaks for God and times when even he is entitled to his own biases and opinions.

Allow me to borrow the words of Marvin Perkins to share my own perspective: “The Lord’s plan is not set up for us to gain a perfect knowledge of all things from His leaders, but through His spirit. We can only look to perfection to receive perfection.” The spirit will always be a personal key.

Clean Cut said...

Now some people, such as Michael above, question whether or not the prophets could be wrong on the issue of homosexuality today. But there is a big difference in eternal truth as you look at all the prophets and all of scripture and moral doctrine on the one hand, and policy on the other. So while policy towards gays in the Church has actually changed in the past, and perhaps will even change again in the future, the doctrine isn’t going to change.

So while our hearts go out to our gay brothers and sisters, and we can love them and be sympathetic to them and cry with them, God’s truth, as made known consistently through all prophets and all scripture, is still God’s truth. His Plan of Salvation has been made known to the prophets over time, including the paramount importance of fathers and mothers together in the family unit.

Marvin Perkins actually addressed this as well in that Times and Seasons interview after being asked what he’s learned from his own experience with the Priesthood ban in dealing with other “grievance groups” who wish the Church to yield to their demands. I appreciated his response, part of which included both women and also gays:

“The women have a valid claim and deserve to have the claims heard and discussed. The end result may not include any changes in the way we administer the ordinances of the gospel, but there are many changes in thought and behavior that can improve their quality of life within the Church. We could learn a great deal about what gays suffer and how we can help them in their struggles. They deserve to have their concerns heard as we work together with them in search of solutions, without compromising on eternal principles.”

So while of course we need to be very wise and careful not to say more than we know or to think we speak for God where God has actually not quite spoken, we cannot compromise on what we do know God actually has made clear.

Compromising on policies in regards to homosexuals is not the same thing as compromising on eternal doctrine. Policy can and does change. And we could be wrong on some of that, as we have been in the past, as our understanding of how to administer the doctrine increases. But the doctrine itself is fixed; fixed in eternal truth.

I understand that many of our gay brothers and sisters hope and wish the doctrine would change, but I don’t think it's going to happen. Our policies and attitudes toward them have surly changed over time, and for the better. But the actual doctrine itself will most likely not change.

I know that’s a tough pill to swallow for those who do believe in the Church and yet feel inclined to love someone of the same gender. Many of them can only now imagine that an eternity in heaven couldn’t be heaven if they are not able to share it with those love those whom they love now. So while I can be sympathetic to them, I have to simply leave it to God and trust in Heavenly Fathers will.

In the mean time, I will do my part to be tactful and careful not to inject any personal assumptions into God’s mind and will for his children. But I do believe God loves all of His children, He has also been clear on a standard of morality and commandments involving His eternal plan for those children.

Michael said...

Thanks for such a well thought out and insightful response. I may not agree with all of it but it does show a very kind and thoughtful understanding of the issue of reconciling homosexuality and the Restored Gospel.

Jared said...

I have three points to make:

1. I believe the Lord's apostles and prophets are guided my the hand of the Lord. By this I mean that the Lord's will gets done in His church even with the fallibility of His servants.

2. Since the 1978 revelation church leaders are not going to speak about this topic the same way they did prior to the revelation. It's a new day.

3. It really isn't an important subject now. The only reason it is on the minds of church members, and of course, this is my opinion, they are not settled in their view of what a prophet is, and so this subject isn't really about the priesthood, its more about prophets,infallibility, trust, and testimony.

I think the best way to understand prophets is to obtain a testimony of the Book of Mormon by the power of the Holy Ghost as we're taught by the Lord in Moroni 10:4-5.

This is a much bigger and important topic that seldom gets attention in the Bloggernacle.

When church members acquire a testimony by the power of the HG the subject of the ban on the priesthood just isn't troubling, and this is true for all the challenging aspects of church history.

Now some might read this and feel offended. I sure hope not, that isn't what I want to do, but I think this truth will be understood by those who think and ponder on it.

Clean Cut said...

I've heard some people say, in reference to why it took so long to end the priesthood ban, that the timing just wasn't right. I can agree with that in the sense that the timing wasn't right because of human weaknesses and prejudices. The Lord wasn't going to force His will upon them. We don't always do His will, but His will eventually gets done. The people may not have been ready, but I do believe the Lord's desires for His children had always been the same.

The good news is that even through their prejudices and biases, the Lord's prophets (including Brigham Young) had promised that the day would eventually come when the priesthood would be extended to all worthy males, regardless of race. Those promises were finally fulfilled on June 8th 1978. I quote from OFFICIAL DECLARATION—2):

"Aware of the promises made by the prophets and presidents of the Church who have preceded us that at some time, in God’s eternal plan, all of our brethren who are worthy may receive the priesthood, and witnessing the faithfulness of those from whom the priesthood has been withheld, we have pleaded long and earnestly in behalf of these, our faithful brethren, spending many hours in the Upper Room of the Temple supplicating the Lord for divine guidance.

"He has heard our prayers, and by revelation has confirmed that the long-promised day has come when every faithful, worthy man in the Church may receive the holy priesthood, with power to exercise its divine authority, and enjoy with his loved ones every blessing that flows therefrom, including the blessings of the temple. Accordingly, all worthy male members of the Church may be ordained to the priesthood without regard for race or color."

With the old prejudices and biases of the past largely gone, the Lord had "now made known his will for the blessing of all his children throughout the earth". ((OFFICIAL DECLARATION—2, italics mine).

I like Jonathan Stapley's analogy of "new wine of the Restoration" being placed in "old bottles of sectarianism and racism". When the timing was finally right (again, in regards to the human aspect and not God's desires for his children, which I do not believe changed) the Lord was able to confirm His will.

Of the 1978 revelation, Stapley wrote: "The Lord our God stretched forth his mighty arm and shattered the old bottles of sectarianism and racism. The new wine of the Restoration then poured forth, as intended, upon every nation kindred tongue and people."

ed said...

Thanks for the response.

So, if I understand you right, you are saying you believe that the priesthood ban was a "mistake," but it wasn't such a serious mistake to constitute "leading the church astray."

That's hard for me to understand. In your view, what would it take to constitute "leading the church astray?" This is a pretty major issue, not just some marginal thing.

Also, when I used the word "doctrine," I just meant "official teaching." If it came out in a first presidency statement that was never contradicted, and was generally taught and believed otherwise, then I think it must by definition doctrine.

(That's the standard definition. If you mean something else, maybe you should consider clarifying or using a different word. And maybe I should, too, since I realize the word is often used in a confusing fashion in mormonism. See the definition at

Clean Cut said...

Yeah, Ed, there are apparently different ways to use the word "doctrine"--either simply as a "teaching" or as a "truth". Some of those justifications were taught as "doctrine", but they were not actually based in "truth".

There's also a difference in eternal unchanging truth or "doctrine" and "policy" with is the administration of doctrine as we understand it and which can and does change from time to time. In this respect, the exclusionary policy was only a policy (not unchanging doctrine), and it was understood as changeable and it did indeed change.

I think you're accurate that I'm drawing a distinction between mistakes and policy on the one hand, and God's doctrine which will always prevail and which a prophet will not be allowed to ruin the Church over.

Practices can be local and temporary and right and even wrong. In this case, I do personally believe the ban was an error that did not necessarily need to happen. Fortunately, because of the sacred principle of revelation and divine authority, the Lord was able to finally confirm His will and steer the Church in the right direction before it ruined the Church in the modern context. Remember, though, the historical and social context, and that it became a bigger and bigger deal gradually over time (both within and without of the Church) as society itself changed. The revelation came when the conditions were right.

Clean Cut said...

One clarification: When I said that practices/policies can be both right and wrong, I meant according to or depending on the time.

Over time, as this became a bigger and bigger issue, we see that there wasn't unanimity among the apostles and prophets on this issue. No unanimity means that apostles and prophets disagreed on this issue. Disagreement on this issue means that it is not "obvious" that the ban was God’s will, given by direct revelation.

Perhaps it is not obvious that it was not God’s will, but it is not obvious that is was. Disagreement also means that I am not siding against the apostles and prophets in my belief. It simply means I am disagreeing with some and agreeing with others.

In "Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball", compiled before the 1978 revelation, President Kimball himself said: "The doctrine or policy has not varied in my memory. I know it could. I know the Lord could change his policy and release the ban and forgive the possible error which brought about the deprivation. If the time comes, that he will do, I am sure. These smart members who would force the issue, and there are many of them, cheapen the issue and certainly bring into contempt the sacred principle of revelation and divine authority."

This statement is telling in several ways. I think it's safe to say that President Kimball, like most people at the time, had assumed it was the Lord's policy, and not man's, just like his predecessors. "I know the Lord could change his policy". They truly believed that God had reasons for it, even though they didn't have a clue why it was in place. There was, after all, a huge lack of information, even among the Bretheren, about the initiation of the ban/policy. (You definitely sense this while reading "David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism").

However, in this same sentence President Kimball also seems to acknowledge that the ban could have been a "possible error" in the first place--an error that would have to be forgiven since it had truly brought about a massive deprivation. If President Kimball himself felt that this was a possible historical possibility, then that's saying something. I think he was on to something.

I acknowledge my belief in "the sacred principle of revelation and divine authority" which truly brought about the long awaited day in 1978. In some ways, I wish I could have been alive then so that I could have rejoiced with all the other Saints who were in such a tough position in trying to understand and reconcile the scriptures and their feelings about God and His love for all His children on the one hand, and then the policy of exclusion on the other hand.

That would have been tough to live with, however, given my current friends, feelings, and knowledge on the subject. So in another sense I'm kind of glad I wasn't around. However, I do not doubt that God was behind that whole process that led to President Kimball's real revelation and the announcement of the Lord's actual "will" (see Official Declaration 2) . I don't think the Lord changed his mind. I don't think the Lord ever changed his feelings towards his black children. It makes much more sense to me to place the whole affair into the realm of His imperfect servants in the context of those historical times, and what made sense to them at that time, rather than to simply say that it was God's desire to deprive His faithful black children of not only the priesthood but temple blessings. All the data as well as my own personal experience leads me to conclude the former.

I simply feel the time was right (by 1978 with President Kimball as prophet and the other members of the 12) that the Lord's will was actually and finally able to be made known. The conditions had to be right. I believe our Father himself could have wept for joy in 1978, just as he possible could have wept out of sorrow during all those preceding years.

Clean Cut said...

Ed, I suppose I could be more specific about what would constitute "leading the Church astray", and it was given by Wilford Woodruff himself in the sermon excerpts in OFFICIAL DECLARATION—1.

If the Lord had not been working with him, as the prophet, and had he not received the revelation (known as the Manifesto) to stop the practice of polygamy, he himself talked about the vision of what would have happened to the Church. Just read the excerpts.

Clean Cut said...

All in all, my faith is that because of revelation, we can't get too far messed up before the Lord turns us around and sets us straight.

Matt W. said...

Well said CC. We need to find an excuse to hang out.

Christopher said...

Thanks for your thoughts, Clean Cut. I admire both your own thoughtful approach to the issue(s), and your patient and thoughtful responses to many comments on this thread that take a different view than your own.

Clean Cut said...

Thanks Matt. I feel the same way!

Christopher, thank you. I really appreciate that.

Tom said...

My impressions before reading preceding comments -

1. I was under the impression that Joseph ordained some African Americans to the Priesthood, but then stopped (declining to ordain more), presumably due to a divine directive, not because he was racist.

2. Unanimity is, as I understand it, required for the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve to make a change of that magnitude. So waiting for unanimity is perhaps one good reason it took so long to get rid of the ban.

3. I appreciate the views you express and I think you've thought through this very soundly. Perhaps as you have time you could reference some facts more clearly.

Tim Malone said...

Gutsy tackling of a still hot button issue for so many within and without the church. If I ever address this issue and express my opinion, I'm coming back here to re-read your essay and the many thoughtful comments. Thanks.

Clean Cut said...

Thanks Tim. I appreciate the "gutsy" acknowledgment. :)

Tom, I think the problem you'll run into with the assumption that Joseph Smith actually received divine directive in regards to the Priesthood ban is that there is no credible evidence of this.

You're right to acknowledge the ordination of several black men to the Priesthood. And Joseph was very much progressive in regards to racial issues for his time. In fact, that was one of the major causes of turbulence between the Latter-day Saints and their slave holding neighbors in Missouri. Joseph never did an about face during his lifetime in regards to race.

Many, many years after the fact (1879), Zebedee Coltrin claimed that in 1834 Joseph Smith received a revelation that blacks were not to be ordained to the priesthood, but his statement simply is not credible, nor contemporary. In fact, his claim was challenged by apostle Joseph F. Smith. Moreover, his memory was also untrustworthy because Coltrin himself ordained Elijah Abel a Seventy in 1836. (Elijah Abel was the biracial former slave whom Joseph Smith himself had previously ordained an Elder).

All the evidence leads to Brigham Young.

Tom said...

The question for me is - can we corroborate that Joseph himself ever declined to ordain an African American to the Priesthood on the basis of race?

The Coltrin story is interesting. However, I don't see a problem with ordaining Abel a Seventy when he had already been given the Priesthood by Joseph.

In general, though, I'm HIGHLY skeptical of recollections given 40 years later (there are a lot of classic anti-Mormon arguments that rely on statements made MUCH later than the alleged events), but it does merit some investigation.

Clean Cut said...

Good question and good observation, Tom. As to the question, can we corroborate that Joseph himself ever declined to ordain an African American to the Priesthood on the basis of race? Is there any evidence of this?

I'm aware of none.

I think it's safe to say that most historians will agree that the policy began AFTER Joseph's death.

Gregory Prince (co-author of "David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism") remarked in an interview after his book was published: “That ban came after Joseph Smith’s death. It was during the administration of Brigham Young, and the reasons for it and the exact timing still remain rather fuzzy. What’s clear is that it was not a discrete revelation. It was a policy that was instituted probably in response, probably in response to something going on in the local environment. I’m not sure on that. But that became accepted as doctrine, the longer it remained in effect. So, by the time you got into the 20th century, everyone just assumed this was based on revelation, that it was doctrinal, and it wouldn’t change.”

My post speculates on some of the evidence we do have about the possibility that inter-racial marriage might have been that cause, since that really seemed to be the issue of concern, not the priesthood itself. It just might have been too much for Brigham Young and some of those early Saints (who felt that the "seeds" of the races shouldn't mix) to condone a marriage, and especially the idea of a sealing, between a black man and a white women.

Probably as a response to an inter-racial marriage(s) (at least two have been documented), and hoping to prevent the possibility of more, Brigham Young formulated the ban; again, most assuredly believing personally that it was the Lord's will, but quite suspect and even "racist", from our perspective and time.

Again, the details are not quite clear. It's still a "fuzzy" picture.

Clean Cut said...

About the Zebedee Coltrin account, it's interesting to note that in those days you had to "re-certify" periodically to the office of a seventy.

Keep that in mind as I quote from Margaret Young (who by the way co-wrote with Darius Gray an FANTASTIC trilogy about the story of early black pioneers/Latter-day Saints called "Standing on the Promises". Margaret (a BYU professor) and Darius (former president of the Genesis Group) have also produced a new DVD entitled Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons.

“Let me just contextualize the time also. Brigham Young has died 2 years ago. This is 1879, and Brigham died in 1877. So why is Elijah petitioning again? He’s already been told no. Why are they listening again? Why don’t they say, ‘Well, didn’t Brigham Young already answer that?’ It becomes a really important question, and a really important meeting. First of all, Elijah Abel’s wife is dying, and he wants the sealing ordinances, so he understands what is implied by the church doctrine of eternal sealing, and he wants to be sealed to his wife. But secondly, he thinks that with Brigham Young gone, you can approach the new church president, and ask. Indeed, they don’t summarily say, ‘I thought you already got that answer.’

"They go back, and revisit, and say ‘What did Joseph Smith say about this? That’s when Zebedee Coltrin provides a pretty old memory, and he gets a couple things wrong in that memory, and then you have Joseph F Smith countering it. That’s when his patriarchal blessing is read. They pull that out of the records, and there are Father Smith’s words, ‘Thou hast been ordained an elder and shall be protected against the powers of the adversary.’ So in 1879, there are big questions about this policy."

Clean Cut said...

It was in 1973 that Lester Bush wrote an article in "Dialogue: Journal for Mormon Thought" entitled “Mormonism’s Negro Doctrine: an Historical Overview.”

Connell O’Donovan (linked to in the third comment above) states that it was “extremely controversial at the time. This article proved, without being strident, that there never was a “revelation” to ban the priesthood and it had merely been a policy that leaders had followed for decades without any justification whatsoever. Many today consider the article THE pivotal academic support for ending the ban. Bush’s solid, undeniable research could not be refuted by the church and it lay bare the antiquated policy.”

Clean Cut said...

One quote from Lester Bush's well researched article:

"Through three decades of discourses, Brigham Young never attributed the policy of priesthood denial to Joseph Smith, nor did he cite the Prophet's translation of the book of Abraham in support of this doctrine. Neither, of course, had he invoked Joseph Smith on the slavery issue. Nor had any other Church leader cited the Prophet in defense of slavery or priesthood denial. It is perhaps not surprising then that shortly after the departure of President Young's authoritative voice, questions arose as to what Joseph Smith had taught concerning the Negro."

Clean Cut said...

Thus it seems that as each new Church President faced the issue anew for themselves, they simply reverted back to the policy of their predecessor until it became so entrenched that it was believed to be a doctrine. During the Civil Rights movement, great pressure was put on the Church to end this policy, but the general belief was that it was the Lord's policy--doctrinal--and that they couldn't simply change it (even though a change became more and more desirable) except through revelation. The Lord had to speak.

Yes, unanimity was extremely important for a change of that magnitude, even if the policy had been a "possible error", (President Kimball's quote), because for so long people had felt that it was God who had a reason for it. I've already quoted President Kimball on how he felt about the sacred principle of revelation and divine authority, and that the answer had to come in the Lord's way, through the Lord's anointed.

President Kimball--the ordained "prophet, seer, and revelator" took this to the Lord and he became very concerned and even relentless in seeking out the Lord's will on the matter. His watershed experience is well documented in the candid biography, written by his son Edward Kimball: Lengthen Your Stride: The Presidency of Spencer W. Kimball.

Leonard J. Arrington, former Church historian, describes the final experience in the Holy Temple:

"On June 1, 1978, at a regular temple meeting of the general authorities, Kimball asked the members of the First Presidency and the Twelve to stay for a private conference. In a spirit of fasting and prayer, they formed a prayer circle. Kimball opened by saying he felt impressed to pray to the Lord and asked their permission to be “mouth.” He went to the altar. Those in attendance said that as he began his earnest prayer, they suddenly realized it was not Kimball’s prayer, but the Lord speaking through him. A revelation was being declared. Kimball himself realized that the words were not his but the Lord’s. During that prayer some of the Twelve – at least two have said so publicly – were transported into a celestial atmosphere, saw a divine presence and the figures of former president of the church (portraits of whom were hanging on the walls around them) smiling to indicate their approval and sanction. Others acknowledged the voice of the Lord coming, as with the prophet Elijah, “through the still, small voice.” The voice of the Spirit followed their earnest search for wisdom and understanding.

"At the end of the heavenly manifestation Kimball, weeping for joy, confronted the quorum members, many of them also sobbing, and asked if they sustained this heavenly instruction. Embracing, all nodded vigorously and jubilantly their sanction. There had been a startling and commanding revelation from God-an ineffable experience." (Leonard J. Arrington, "Adventures of a Church Historian", Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1998), 176-177.)

LAGO said...

Well mi hermano, I finally have the means to leave my comment on here. I enjoyed this post. It is a topic that kinda tugs at the strings of compassion that we feel with regards to the issue of race today. Mainly I just wanted to make mention of my observation while reading the post and all the comments. I've always felt like the gospel is very logical in my mind. There doesn't have to be a definitive and final say on everything that has ever taken place in the Church. But I enjoyed this post because it rings true to my logical side. I enjoyed the witness of the spirit as I read comments that were written in the spirit of compassion and humility, and found it interesting that the same feeling could go away so quickly with comments that focused solely on discrediting what you said. I always enjoy reading your post because I always make that same observation...very interesting

Tom said...

Hey, CC-

Awesome quotation from Arrington, and thanks for the clarification on the other issues I raised. It's incredible how in a church led by revelation that tradition can rise to the level of "assumed revelation" without any documentation to support it. Amazing.

I wonder what Arrington's connection was to the Univ. of Illinois. I didn't know we had our own printing press. I'm sure our library must still have the book. I'll have to check it out.

Thanks again!

Mormon Heretic said...

Tom and Clean Cut,

I did a few posts on the priesthood ban and Early Black Mormons that I think you'd be interested in.

The first gives some more history regarding Joseph Smith. It seems to me he was ordaining black members right up to his death, and Joseph T Ball was a black man named branch president in Boston after Joseph's death.

Clean Cut said...

Excellent, MH. Thanks for providing those links. You've put a lot of work into some very thorough and well done posts! I'm still anxious to get that DVD...

Blasto said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Blasto said...

I deleted my previous comment and edited a typo. Here is what I meant to say:

Fantastic post and also great comments from everyone involved. I most appreciate the tone and respect used when questioning or when disagreements are raised. It seems everyone involved is looking for an answer that resonates with them rather than a soap box to push their point of view. I wish more debates could be more like this.

I would also like to point out that the churches current web-page states the scriptural precedent for similar practices, the past practice (generalized as mentioned), and the current practice. It does not, however, declare that the "ban" came from God via revelation or that this was right.

This practice, though tragic, is a fascinating topic. As has been said before, the gospel is perfect, but the church and its members (prophets included) are clearly not. For me personally, this acknowledgment of flaws only strengthens my testimony. Keep up the good work.

Blasto said...

*churches in my previous post should be church's*

(ugh, posting without mistakes is harder that it looks...)

Clean Cut said...

Thanks Blasto--I totally agree with you. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post!

Malcolm said...

The G.A'as would do well to follow this scripture:D&C 32:4: “And they shall give heed to that which is written and pretend to no other revelation; and they shall pray always that I may unfold the same to their understanding”

What has been written on this subject

D&C 36:4: “And now this calling and commandment give I unto you concerning all men-that as many as shall come before my servants embracing this calling and commandment, shall be ordained and sent forth to peach the Everlasting Gospel among the nations-crying repentance........

God is not a partial God
2 Nephi 26:33: “For none of these iniquities come of the Lord; for He doeth that which is good among the children of men; and He doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and He inviteth them all to come unto Him and partake of His goodness; and He denieth none that come unto Him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and He remembereth the Heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.”

If someone is worthy enough to be baptised by the same criteria they are worthy enough to be ordained to the Priesthood. There are no exclusion orders in the revelations of this dispensation except against those who persecute the saints. In fact it is not in the character of God to be partial or a respecter of persons:

D&C 1:35: “And again, verily I say unto you, O inhabitants of the earth: I the Lord am willing to make these things known unto all flesh; for I am no respecter of persons.......”

Acts 10:34-35: “Then Peter opened [his] mouth, and said, ‘of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with Him.’”

A Priesthood and Temple ban is only promised to those who persecute the anointed leaders and saints of the church:

D&C 121:16, 19, 21: “Cursed are all those that shall lift up the heel against mine anointed, saith the Lord, and cry they have sinned when they have not sinned before me, saith the Lord God, but have done that which was meet in mine eyes, and which I commanded them........Wo unto them because they have offended my little ones they shall be severed from the ordinances of mine house....They shall not have right to the priesthood, not their posterity after them from generation to generation.”

This curse is to continue until the third and fourth generation “so long as they repent not, and hate me.” (D&C 124:49) Again the curse can be removed through a change of behaviour.

Malcolm said...


The Key is Righteousness and Repentance

Any curse that is given by the Lord comes about because of wickedness. The same curse can be removed through righteousness:

1 Nephi 17:3: Behold, the Lord esteemeth all flesh in one; he that is righteous is favored of God.

Alma 17:15: “Thus they were a very indolent people, many of whom did worship idols and the curse of God had fallen upon them because of the traditions of their fathers; notwithstanding the promises of the Lord were extended unto them on the conditions of repentance.”

2 Nephi 5:20-22: “Wherefore, the word of the Lord was fulfilled which He spake unto me, saying that: ‘Inasmuch as they will not hearken unto thy words they shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord. And behold, they were cut off from His presence. And He had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity... I will cause that they shall be loathsome unto thy people, save they shall repent of their iniquities.”

Alma 3:14: “Thus the word of God is fulfilled, for these are the words which He said to Nephi: Behold, the Lamanites have I cursed, and I will set a mark on them that they and their seed may be separated from thee and thy seed, from this time henceforth and forever, except they repent of their wickedness and turn to me that I may have mercy upon them.”

Again the key is “except they repent of their wickedness”. As soon as repentance is found the curse is removed: Concerning the Lamanites who had inherited the curse through their parents Alma recorded:

Alma 23:18: “And they began to be a very industrious people; yea, and they were friendly with the Nephites; therefore, they did open a correspondence with them, and the curse of God did no more follow them.”

There are periods in the Book of Mormon when the Lamanites through repentance were more righteous than the Nephites and magnified the Priesthood they were given as in the example of Samuel the Lamanite and the People of Ammon.

Malcolm said...


Concerning the Priesthood Ban in the Book of Abraham

The only scriptural precedent used by those who justify the priesthood ban on black people is recorded in Abraham.

In the early days of the history of the earth the Order of the Priesthood was Patriarchal and therefore handed down from father to son by those families who were righteous. (See D&C 84:14-15).

The ancestors of Pharaoh had been banned from the blessings of the Gospel due to unrighteousness and this had continued down to him. Pharaoh and his people were still blighted by the false practise of idolatry in the time of Abraham and so the curse of not having the priesthood and therefore the Gospel ordinances was continued:

Abraham 1:27: “Now Pharaoh, being of that lineage by which he could not have the right of priesthood, notwithstanding the Pharaohs would fain claim if from Noah through Ham, therefore my father was led away by their idolatry.”

The idolatry practised by Pharaoh and his people in the land of the Chaldeans influenced Terah the father of Abraham to false worship:

Abraham 1:5-6: “My fathers, having turned from their righteousness and from the Holy commandments which the Lord their God had given unto them, unto the worshiping of the gods of the heathen utterly refused to hearken to my voice. For their hearts were set to do evil and were wholly turned to the god of Elkenah.......and the god of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt.”

Abraham could not receive the priesthood from his father because of his unrighteousness, but had to go to the righteous Melchezidek.

Some confusion arises from verse 26 which states that “Pharaoh being a righteous man established his kingdom and judged his people wisely and justly all his days”

Pharaoh was only righteous in the sense that he treated his people wisely and justly, nevertheless the scriptures testify that he was still steeped in false worship which led the people to do abominable things. (See Abraham 1 v 8-12)

The priesthood or Gospel ban placed upon Pharaoh and his people only continued because of their idolatry. If they had repented and returned to the covenant of the Gospel they would have received all the blessings the Gospel including the Priesthood. Any ban on the priesthood is always self imposed through unrighteousness. As soon as repentance is found the ban is removed.

On the basis of these scriptures there is absolutely no justification for a blanket ban on the priesthood on individuals who have accepted and embraced the everlasting covenant of the Gospel. There is no scriptural or doctrinal justification whatsoever.

D&C 32:4: “And they shall give heed to that which is written and pretend to no other revelation; and they shall pray always that I may unfold the same to their understanding”

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much! This helped me a lot! I was really struggling with this, but what you are saying really makes sense. I had not yet considered many of your ideas. I appreciate it!

Clean Cut said...

A Lesson from the Priesthood Ban: Pruning Our Modern Trees

Anonymous said...

I came across this commentary by Bruce H. Porter today, thought it applicable to this post, and that you might enjoy reading it - see Cain.

Papa D said...

Hey, CC, I saw this post again earlier today and realized I never commented - maybe because I felt I'd said enough without commenting. LOL

Anyway, I am teaching one of the youth Sunday School classes tomorrow, and, in putting some finishing touches on the lesson a thought struck me that I am sure was inspired by re-reading this post - so I thought I would share it with you. Here is it:

When the children of Israel complained to the Lord about the manna He was providing and asked for meat, He gave it to them - in such abundance that they gorged themselves, became sick and, in some cases, died. Obviously, He didn't want to give it to them, since He knew it would not be good for them, but He did it anyway since they insisted on getting things their way. In other words, **they chose their own poison over the arrangement He had made with the Prophet of their deliverance.**

Here's the kicker:

They thought they were totally in the right - that they understood the mind of God and their own needs - so they weren't willing to accept what Moses put in place for them. As a result, they got their own request - and they wandered in the wilderness until the adults who had rejected God's plan died off and the the rising generation was able to lead them into the Promised Land.

It's worth considering with regard to this post, although I promise not to introduce the topic of the tihs post in the lesson tomorrow. (That might be one way to never get invited to teach youth SS again - lol - and, in reality, I enjoy teaching enough to avoid that result.) The kids, however, will get the substance of this comment - minus the specific focus of this post.

Thanks for writing this post, and for it being the inspiration behind an insight I hadn't put into specific words previously.

Unknown said...

Do you believe God was the behind the priesthood ban--forbidding 11 of the 12 tribes of Israel from holding the Aaronic priesthood. Just curious...because this wasn't the first 'ban'.

Mr. H. said...

Really an excellent post, with excellent comments and a nice dialog with mutual respect, unlike other places.

I don't know if you will read this or not, but I can think of a couple of other examples that I don't think was mentioned. One is that Moses claimed it was his power that caused the water to flow from the rock, so he was denied entry into the Promised Land.

Another is that Peter was shown in a dream that the gospel should be taken to the Gentiles. Now think about that. It was a Jewish prejudice really, that the dream was to overcome. Otherwise, there might never have been a Paul. Do you think that is a correct example?

Brad said...

Really an excellent post, with excellent comments and a nice dialog with mutual respect, unlike other places.

I don't know if you will read this or not, but I can think of a couple of other examples that I don't think was mentioned. One is that Moses claimed it was his power that caused the water to flow from the rock, so he was denied entry into the Promised Land.

Another is that Peter was shown in a dream that the gospel should be taken to the Gentiles. Now think about that. It was a Jewish prejudice really, that the dream was to overcome. Otherwise, there might never have been a Paul. Do you think that is a correct example?

Clean Cut said...

I highly recommend Margaret Blair Young's 3 part series: "All God's Critters: Some Thoughts on the Priesthood Restriction and Differing Opinions"
Part one is here
Part two is here
Part three is here

In part two she writes:

"For me, it is an impossible paradox to have a God who is no respecter of persons, who told Peter “What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common” (Acts 11:9) but who—in what we call “the fullness of times”—would withhold the richest blessings of His Church from one group. (It is completely different to exclude one group from full gospel blessings than it is to assign one group—such as the Levites—to function as priests to the others.) We claim to have the “same organization as existed in the primitive church.” We claim to be the restored Church of Jesus Christ, as His Church was described in the New Testament. Thus, though missionaries in New Testament times did not initially preach to the Gentiles, that was changed as Christianity spread beyond its first center and the mandate was given: “Go ye into all the world” (Mark 16:15). There is, in fact, a rich history of early Christianity in Africa..."

"...As to the idea that the priesthood restriction was part of God’s way of following a particular schedule for spreading the gospel—I can’t see it. Not the God whose gospel is founded on charity. It is hard for me to imagine that “Go ye into all the world” included a proviso of exclusivity or restriction. Was the gospel restored in its fullness and then divvied out to the various nations, giving some only slivers and others the whole, glorious shebang? That is a mind-boggling concept. If indeed God has a timetable for when certain of His children will hear His word, we mortals are very capable of conducting wars and erecting bamboo or iron curtains to assist in the schedule. There is no need to deny gospel blessings to righteous people in order to accommodate an agenda of who comes first and who finishes last. (Apparently, the Chinese will run the last leg of the race anyway.) I believe that the repercussions of such a denial—the possibility for false doctrine to flourish and for generations to not only be denied but defamed—is inconsistent with godliness, especially when we consider that Joseph Smith restored not the Church of Moses, but of Jesus Christ. In fact, such a scenario sounds like the divisions described in IV Nephi, when the people who had been of one mind and one heart returned to their old traditions, polished their pride, and began to be divided once again into classes. These are the symptoms of forgetting Christ. As I interpret the scriptures, this is not the kind of program God would implement to prevent the gospel from reaching Africa until the perfect time in the latter days—and such a thought becomes ironic when we realize that Africa was first proselytized in the 1st Century A.D., the missionary effort led by Mark the Evangelist (author of the Book of Mark in the New Testament)."

Anonymous said...

Great post. Thanks for sending me the link. I didn't read all the comments b/c I'm about to leave work for the day and just wanted to add something that maybe an old-timer or anyone else might know.

What about all the Italians, Spanish, a large population of the Irish (think Colin Farrell and not Conan O'Brian) and others who had ancestors that were black? I'm sure they were still given the priesthood. So how was that determined? Was just any amount of black ancestry or a majority or was it if they looked black?

It would be interesting to read or learn of any cases where it was disputed.

Clean Cut said...

Hi Rob, did I send you a link? (I did check out your blog, by the way, and appreciated your dream about the iron rod and letting go when you got to the church, only to realize that's not where the iron rod led to--great insight there).

Anyway, in large part because it was such a difficult mess to try to figure out who had "African blood" in Brazil (when the Church was trying to build a temple there) the Bretheren really began to consider the ramifications of the policy. They had held firm through all the civil rights protests during the 60's but changed it in the late 70's (after the protests had died down) really because of the challenge you bring up.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I should have said posted a link in your reply to my comment on your "Why The Priesthood Ban Matters" post.

I had been pretty stagnant in my effort to grow closer to God in the past few years. Then as I have been trying to improve and follow Christ recently, cool things have been happening such as that dream.

Clean Cut said...

Clean Cut said...

Long Overdue Update:

I was wrong about doctrine being "fixed" and unchanging. And my views have evolved on homosexuality and marriage equality since writing this post years ago. Doctrine can and does change. (See "This Is My Doctrine: The Development of Mormon Theology" by BYU professor Charles Harrell)

The fact that there is hope for change is a beautiful thing (even though we must face the painful possibility that we were wrong.)

Clean Cut said...

Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form.

Since that day in 1978, the Church has looked to the future, as membership among Africans, African Americans and others of African descent has continued to grow rapidly. While Church records for individual members do not indicate an individual’s race or ethnicity, the number of Church members of African descent is now in the hundreds of thousands.

The Church proclaims that redemption through Jesus Christ is available to the entire human family on the conditions God has prescribed. It affirms that God is “no respecter of persons” and emphatically declares that anyone who is righteous—regardless of race—is favored of Him. The teachings of the Church in relation to God’s children are epitomized by a verse in the second book of Nephi: “[The Lord] denieth none that cometh unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; . . . all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.”