In practice, rather a lot of LDS “doctrine” is and has been enforced on the level of “policy,” not “revelation.”
For the most part, the worst of historically inane or otherwise troubling Mormon pop “doctrines” we find now abandoned, had never been canonized or even officially cleared for teaching. But in several notable cases, some now embarrassingly obsolete doctrinal issues found in their day a great deal of official sanction. Typically, as overtly wrong as these may have seemed even to most Mormons, these had for generations never been noted as terribly troubling dogma apparently just because Mormons are trained not to ask questions of themselves, let alone their leadership. Mormons are systematically bred and recruited into the religion because of their unusually keen desire to sublimate their individual inspiration and join the excitement and fellowship of a formal lifestyle program. Mormonism is increasingly a body of the sincerely faithful who are most happy, even eager, to surrender their individuality in favor of the safety of an authoritative external structure that tells them how to run their lives and promises them Eternal Glory if they obey the cultural mandates of the group. They are instinctively averse to making waves that might disturb the intellectual or spiritual gene pool. So on many doctrinal puzzles, Mormons patiently wait for the “Lord” to reveal the answer through His “chosen” leadership.
I take that back. Mormons are trained to ask one question: How can I ignore this seemingly asinine claim the church is making, and support the current Brethren in spite of any paradoxical, ironic, or contradictory departures from rational thought, the canon, or teachings from previous Brethren? This burden of faith is put upon the individual, rank-and-file member, and if the reigning Brethren seem unwilling or unable to satisfy any logical and theological dilemmas the fault lies with the individual, never the church leadership.
But the truth is, LDS leadership has self-groomed and self-recruited and selected itself proudly from the ranks of the humble, uneducated, unremarkable, unaccomplished, and yes, let’s admit it together proudly, the unintelligent for generations. The argument mitigating this selection proposes that they are however, humble and chosen, even if not overtly inspired, and God can reveal to them anything they need to know anyway. The argument is not without merit, but LDS canon proclaims “The Glory of God is Intelligence,” and that man can indeed understand the nature of God and man’s relationship to Him. Mormon canon, as recorded by Joseph Smith himself promises that we can reason with God as one man reasoneth with another. And yet, Mormonism perpetuates itself via a leadership that revels in its own mediocrity, and celebrates its deliberately cultured ignorance via a systematic litany of excuses and apologies–a soothing, anti-intellectual, populist philosophy, that embraces and promotes the inherent “spiritual” superiority of a leadership perpetually lacking in sophisticated mental processes.
The possession of no apparent personal charisma or talent, the lack of any clear ambition, and a simple character devoid of any noteworthy intellect, has been hailed and embraced in LDS orthodoxy as the ultimate leadership profile since Joseph Smith was slaughtered in his prime with a belly full of wine, his pen firing off revelations and curses from God, while double-wielding two blazing guns in righteous defense. Today, being humble and unremarkable is Mormonism’s supreme virtue. Even the former milktoasty Quaker, Brigham Young, had a drive and personal charisma that has never seen its like in the church since his passing.
Joseph Smith, contrary to the contemporary remaking of his character, was not just a humble farm boy. He was a highly intelligent and charismatic savant who recruited and attracted the best and brightest from similar stock to build his church. He was loud and brash and revolutionary and outspoken. Brigham Young had an entirely different style but he had many of the same qualities. Today however, the Mormon church is less concerned with gathering the best and brightest than with conserving its energy and resources for the more productive recruitment of a core demographic most likely to buy the “program.”
It must be conceded that while the best and brightest may be most fit for God’s work, but they also occasionally become rivals and dissidents. Mormons with good cause retain a rooted disdain for, and fear of, turncoats and possible “ites,” the likes of whom did them serious damage in the early days. Mormonism however, needs to get over Sidney Rigdon and company and move on. This safe and self-protecting approach has created a church-wide downward personality spiral in which God is increasingly given a less and less charismatic, less young, and far less eager and revolutionary core of potential priesthood candidates for leadership positions. That has its negative side. Unremarkable old farts build a church appealing mainly to other unremarkable old farts who tend to be capable of ministering only to the wants and needs of unremarkable farts, old and young alike.
As personality and intellectual qualities became de-emphasized to the point of burlesque in Mormon culture, Mormon callings became almost entirely based upon who fits the precast mold, who stands out the least as a human being and who makes the most compliant “Mormon,” who will reproduce more compliant “Mormons” like himself. Even when Mormonism selects the educated and accomplished, it selects those accomplished and educated along the IBM business model, or the quiet academic administrator, banker, insurance actuary or accountant, rather than any outstandingly brilliant artist, writer, performer, speaker, philosopher, religious professor or anyone who brings with them to the calling a trace of personal, individual genius and inspiration. The artistic and creative classes in all honesty, are a frighteningly loud, witty, cynical, independent, often sarcastic, incomprehensibly opinionated and outspoken subculture of humanity that Mormons are taught to openly shun and frequently belittle.
The original apostles, after choosing two candidates to replace Judas from their mere one-hundred and fifty-strong body of general followers, cast lots between these two, giving the Lord at least some small opportunity through Divinely manipulating a random element of chance, to give His direct input into the selection. (Acts 1: 15-23: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Acts%201&version=NIV) Not so today. Today, the Lord can send His teaching angels to all the charismatic, spiritual prodigy farm kids toddling the woods of upstate New York as He sees fit, but none of them are going to be president of His church today. Today, that claim would only get them either permanently banned from baptism or excommunicated. You don’t apply, “run” or campaign for prophet. There are no human politics involved.
Today, a ponderous system of seniority eventually decrees who will lead the LDS church, and the only input God has into it is a vague “Providential” order to the otherwise random dates of call. He also is touted as having the habit killing off screw-ups or otherwise, all the guys in the line ahead of the One he wants. The church is forced to assume that rather than directly call Joseph Smith wherever he happens to be, today God predestines Joseph Smith to be born in Heber City Utah, and has his bishop call him to be a high priest at just the right time to be called by his stake president to an office like bishop, that attracts the area presidency to call him to be the next stake president or mission president which puts his name on a list of potential area presidents and then the apostles pull his name up to become a seventy, which puts him in line to join the Council of the Twelve when somebody dies and everyone moves up a peg, and so forth into the First Presidency. Finally, perhaps, if you survive with the longest period of seniority remaining above all the other apostles, and the current president dies, God is then allowed to seat you in the president’s chair.
Mormon leadership, not surprisingly, claims the Lord would never go outside this current Mormon system of ascendancy. The Lord would only talk to the Mormon Prophet. Mormonism doesn’t need bottom-up input at all. It’s all coming directly from the top-down. It doesn’t need outside advice. God gives all the advice inside and directly. But wouldn’t calling a man outside the system be just the test of modern LDS leadership Christ would be likely to throw at them? Isn’t that exactly what Jesus did when he preached to the elders of the temple? Didn’t Saul of Tarsus show up in Jerusalem with a direct calling from Christ, only to find himself kicked out into the boonies of Gentile Ville because the “Brethren” didn’t trust him?
Paul was a colorful character. An outsider. Way way outside. Yet, he ended up writing most of what we now call “orthodox” Christianity. That’s because he had the unique talent and drive to do so, and take the message outside the “valley” and into the “world.” God went and found Saul of Tarsus directly, the professional Christ-killer, and “restored” the Gospel to him in a very personal fashion. But today, the ideal personal profile of a typical LDS “Prophet” would be a farm boy from a turkey ranch in Ephraim, who’s biggest thrill of his 87 years remains that big church league basketball game seventy years ago, in which he made the winning goal, just before he went on his mission to post-war Germany or someplace where he miraculously learned the language in three days and baptized whole villages–as he remembers it anyway. He would return to Utah, set out for the roaring metropolis of Salt Lake City, work as a baggage clerk on the railroad for a year or so, then receive his calling as a bishop, stake president, and after only a few years of adult, real-world experience (if you can call the Utah or Salt Lake Valleys the real world…) he would commence a lifetime of professional Mormonism as a general authority working his way up the higher quorums.
There was tremendous hoopla a few years back for example, when Howard W Hunter made president in June of 1994. Hunter was born in Idaho, made his life and family in California, and toured the world as a dance band leader in his youth. What a wild change that background that was seen to be. But he was 86, not in good health and his calling lasted but ten months. He passed away in March of 1995, and succession fell back to the comfortably inbred “chosen ones” along the Great Wasatch Front.
Today, the One-Fold mission of the church is not so much to bring people to Christ, as it is enculturating the world into the Utah social model. First you prove you can become a Utahn, then you get access to Jesus.
Absent a blazing natural leader hand-picked by God Personally, from all the earthly souls available, the best of the best, full of insight and zeal, present LDS leadership has remained almost entirely dependent upon rationalizing or harmonizing often convoluted and disparate teachings of previous LDS leadership without the input of direct revelation and with limited intellectual tools.
Sometimes even the desperately undiscerning and blindly obedient are confronted with what are obvious, incontrovertible doctrinal errors, policy mistakes or simple, cultural ignorance and stupidity that can’t be studied, pondered, prayed, faithed, and “testimonied” away. Once they have been smelled out however, fumigating these hereditary doctrinal brainfarts that have been stinking up historical Mormonism is a trying act of conscience and unpleasant for all concerned. The fear is always that “fixing” doctrinal errors in particular, damages more of the church than it repairs. First and foremost, confessing to the church membership that they’ve been taught bad doctrine for generations, can only diminish the contention that the “Brethren” are on top of their prophetic game. It poses the question: Ok, now how many other tangental, convoluted folk-doctrines and supporting arguments generated around, or connected to this bogus dogma are now also screwed up. And if this one thing is “wrong,” how much of the “core” doctrine of the church might also be “wrong.” It could become a doctrinal free-for-all, with contention and politicking from top to bottom and bottom to top of the church hierarchy. Joseph Smith won every doctrinal argument with, “That’s all well thought out brethren, but God told me it’s this way….” And that was that. But this level of certainty concerning Mormon policy and doctrine has been rather rare since Joseph’s mishap at Carthage Jail.
Partly due to their present scarcity of genuine “revelation,” the most heinous failure in the mind of LDS leadership would be if the Brethren left any opening for the charge that they made any decision however slight, based upon external pressure or succumbed to outside reasoning, or even that they buckled to the will and combined enlightenment of their own general membership. A perfect case in point is the “blacks and the priesthood policy.”
In 2002, the late LDS president Gordon B Hinckley, as part of his legacy campaign to poke Mormonism’s nose out of the valley and have a little sniff around the world for a change, did an interview on German television. The presenter asked him pointedly why it took so long for the LDS church to allow Negroes to hold the priesthood.
Hinckley’s reply was, “I don’t know.”
In my first examination of Hinckley’s efforts, I beat up “Uncle Gordy” a little bit for going into these situations in a shockingly ignorant and unprepared state. On the other hand however, “I don’t know” is one of the most honest answers ever given by an LDS president to any question of doctrinal controversy in generations.
The quasi-“revelation” that ended the Negro priesthood ban, known as “Official Declaration 2” in the Doctrine and Covenants, http://lds.org/scriptures/dc-testament/od/2?lang=eng exposes a rather functional process in which the Brethren simply got together, did some praying, and eventually came to the same conclusion:
The Church never denied membership based on race (although slaves had to have their master’s permission to be baptized), and several black men were ordained to the priesthood during Joseph Smith’s lifetime. The first known black Latter-day Saint was “Black Pete”, who joined the Church in Kirtland, Ohio, and there is some evidence that he held the LDS priesthood. Other African Americans, including Elijah Abel in 1832, Joseph T. Ball in 1835 or 1836 (who also presided over the Boston Branch from 1844-1845), and Walker Lewis in 1843 (and probably his son, Enoch Lovejoy Lewis), were ordained to the priesthood during Smith’s lifetime. William McCary was ordained in Nauvoo in 1846 by Apostle Orson Hyde. Two of the descendants of Elijah Abel were also ordained Elders, and two other black men, Samuel Chambers and Edward Leggroan, were ordained Deacons.
Early black members in the Church were admitted to the temple in Kirtland, Ohio, where Elijah Abel received the ritual of washing and anointing (see Journal of Zebedee Coltrin). Abel also participated in at least two baptisms for the dead in Nauvoo, Illinois, as did Elder Joseph T. Ball.
There had certainly been no modern revelation from God to bar Negroes from the LDS priesthood. Not even in Joseph Smith’s day, a time when the founding Mormon prophet had nearly daily conversations with God and said so openly. We can only assume that somewhere in the heat of being brutalized and persecuted as “nigger lovers” by packs of southern Christian rednecks like the “Knights of the Golden Circle,” precursor to the KKK, in Missouri and elsewhere, that a very stern influence was quietly put upon Joseph not by God, but by his advisors to knock off all the Negro fraternization because it was going to get them all killed.
Naturally, a lot of early Mormons, like Brigham Young in particular, were well reconciled to the longstanding Christian notion that Negroes were the cursed sons of Cain and marked forever as a servile and inferior race. The Southern Baptist Convention didn’t drop this article of faith until June of 1995 for example.
In the summer of 1833, W. W. Phelps published an article in the church’s newspaper, seeming to invite free black people into the state [Missouri] to become Mormons, and reflecting “in connection with the wonderful events of this age, much is doing towards abolishing slavery, and colonizing the blacks, in Africa.” (“Free People of Color”). Outrage followed Phelps’ comments, (Roberts  1965, p. 378.) and he was forced to reverse his position, which he claimed was “misunderstood”, but this reversal did not end the controversy, and the Mormons were violently expelled from Jackson County, Missouri five months later in December 1833 (Bush & Mauss 1984, p. 55).
Coincidentally, on (December 16, 1833), Joseph Smith, Jr. dictated a passage in the Doctrine and Covenants stating that “it is not right that any man should be in bondage to another.” (Covenant 101:79).
In 1835 , the Church issued an official statement indicating that because the United States government allowed slavery, the Church would not “interfere with bond-servants, neither preach the gospel to, nor baptize them contrary to the will and wish of their masters, nor meddle with or influence them in the least to cause them to be dissatisfied with their situations in this life, thereby jeopardizing the lives of men.” (LDS D&C Covenant 134:12).
While many LDS detractors try to claim that anti-Negro racism is an essential doctrine of LDS theology, and that the basis for this prejudice is found in the uniquely Mormon, Book of Abraham, in the canonical “Pearl of Great Price,” the truth is that Christianity had been condemning Negroes to hell as the irredeemable, inherently damned seed of Cain for some 1820 years before Joseph Smith was ever in a position to give it a thought. Likewise, in Smith’s time, many of the most fundamentalist and adamant progenitors of today’s Christian critics of Mormonism’s “racism,” were eagerly buying and selling Cain’s children, forcing them into a lifetime of starvation and crippling hard labor, raping slave women for sport and breeding them for profit. Even more ironically, while the parents of the German commentator who accused Gordon B Hinckley of “racism” were learning how to spot non-Aryans in the Hitler Youth, and his grandparents were burning Jews in ovens and excusing the Third Reich’s humiliating defeat in 1932 to black Olympic champion Jesse Owens by claiming it was an unfair match between God-created man and a half-evolved ape, Mormonism had by way of comparison, merely interpreted its own available canonical evidence to mean that blacks were to barred from the priesthood, at least in this lifetime.
Yes, there were Christian racial attitudes that carried into Mormonism and sprouted in Utah, nurtured by the lifelong world view of the former WASPS who settled in that big white bunker. These bigoted Christian beliefs were easily reinforced by not being around many Negroes and thus never having to deal with the question for another five score years or so. But never attribute to racism what you can easily attribute to ignorance.
The Mormon canonical evaluation of the curse of Cain breaks down to something like this:
1 Caine was cursed. The curse was primarily having his progeny banned from the priesthood. This comes almost entirely from the books of Moses and Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price:
…Now, Pharaoh being of that lineage by which he could not have the right of the priesthood, notwithstanding the Pharaohs would fain claim it from Noah, through Ham, therefore my father was led away by their idolatry.
Unlike Christians, who’d damned Negroes to eternal slavery and hell, Mormons limited Cain’s curse to losing priesthood entitlement in mortal life, followed by exaltation. Other Christian sects at the time were doubting if Negroes had souls and could be saved at all, or if they were like animals (in most Christian theology) and incapable of salvation.
2 Cain was marked as a sign of protection. Blackness is not a mark of condemnation, it is the opposite, it is a warning from God to any who would persecute the children of Caine. This is found in Genesis:
10 And He said, What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying out to Me from the ground.
11 And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.
12 When you till the ground, it will no longer yield its strength to you. You will be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.
13 And Cain said to Jehovah, My punishment is greater than I can bear.
14 Now You have driven me out this day from the face of the ground, and from Your face I will be hidden; and I will be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.
15 And Jehovah said to him, Therefore whoever kills Cain, vengeance will be taken on him sevenfold. And Jehovah put a mark on Cain, so that anyone who found him would not strike him.
3 Black skin has been assumed to be a prominent feature of Cain’s mark, but more than that, the Negroid genetic features is also the mark. The curse pertains specifically to the genetic offspring of Cain, therefore skin color has nothing to do with the mark or the curse alone, it is a combined package of genetic features that indicates a descendant of Cain. For instance, many American and Eastern Indians have skin as black as many Negroes, but Mormons have always held that native Americans are actually the blessed offspring of the Hebrew immigrant prophet Lehi, and actively recruited to the priesthood. Likewise, East Indians are actually Caucasians and their skin color has never been relevant to priesthood issues.
Mormon culture has in addition, clearly absorbed the Book of Mormon and longstanding Christian tradition that tries to define skin darkness in general as a punishment from God. But the Book of Mormon itself does not actually proscribe priesthood ordination or deny any other blessings on that basis.
Conversely, if the priesthood candidate’s skin were lily-white but had one fractional part of Cain’s DNA, the ban would still be in effect.
Specific, authoritative belief in the inherent inferiority of the Negro in Mormonism seems to originate primarily from Brigham Young, and was expanded upon by John Taylor, his successor, and others:
On another occasion, Young said, “You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild, and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind …. Cain slew his brother. Cain might have been killed, and that would have put a termination to that line of human beings. This was not to be, and the Lord put a mark upon him, which is the flat nose and black skin. Trace mankind down to after the flood, and then another curse is pronounced upon the same race—that they should be the ‘servant of servants’; and they will be, until that curse is removed; and the Abolitionists cannot help it, nor in the least alter that decree.”
Brigham Young said this despite the LDS scripture verses that state people may be cursed unto the 3rd and 4th generation, but if any were to repent and make restitution they would be forgiven and the curse lifted. This is reiterated in D&C 124:50&52 as well as Mosiah 13:13,14 and Deut 5:9,10.
Young and others affirmed that Cain’s offspring were marked as easily spotted, permanent non-Levites, cut out of the line of the patriarchy–which is synonymous with the priesthood in both Old Testament and LDS theology–that would in time produce the Savior of Mankind, Jesus Christ. In short, Jesus would not be the descendant of, nor carry the blood in any small part, of the world’s first murderer—not because the sin would be transmitted downline, but according to many LDS theorists, to deny Cain and his children claim to or participation in the patriarchy or “priesthood” authority and lineage of Jesus Christ, Redeemer and Savior of Mankind, on any level.
But as usual, Brigham Young was making most of his observations about the Negro based upon a pressing period agenda ignored by modern critics:
Some researchers have suggested that the actions of William McCary in Winter Quarters, Nebraska led to Brigham Young’s decision to adopt the priesthood ban in the LDS Church. McCary was a half-African American convert who, after his baptism and ordination to the priesthood, began to claim to be a prophet and the possessor of other supernatural gifts. He was excommunicated for apostasy in March 1847 and expelled from Winter Quarters. After his excommunication, McCary began attracting Latter Day Saint followers and instituted plural marriage among his group, and he had himself sealed to several white wives.
McCary’s behavior angered many of the Latter Day Saints in Winter Quarters. Researchers have stated that his marriages to his white wives “played an important role in pushing the Mormon leadership into an anti-Black position” and may have prompted Young to institute the priesthood and temple ban on black people. A statement from Young to McCary in March 1847 suggested that race had nothing to do with priesthood eligibility and the earliest known statement about the priesthood restriction from any Mormon leader (including the implication that skin color might be relevant) was made by Apostle Parley P. Pratt a month after McCary was expelled from Winter Quarters. Speaking of McCary, Pratt stated that he “was a black man with the blood of Ham in him which lineage was cursed as regards the priesthood”.
After Brigham, the issue of the Negro and the priesthood did not clear up much:
Under John Taylor’s presidency, there was confusion regarding the origin of the racial policy. [Elijah] Abel was living, breathing proof that an African American was ordained to the Priesthood in the days of Joseph Smith. His son, Enoch Abel, had also been conferred the Priesthood. Joseph F. Smith said that Abel’s Priesthood had been declared null and void by Joseph Smith himself, though this seems to conflict with Joseph F. Smith’s teachings that the Priesthood could not be removed from any man without removing that man from the church. From this point on Joseph Smith was repeatedly referred to as the author of many statements, which had actually been made by Brigham Young, on the subject of Priesthood restriction.
And the plot thickens:
One of the justifications that some Latter-day Saints used for the discriminatory policy was that black individual’s pre-existence spirits were not as virtuous as white pre-existence spirits. For example, Apostle Joseph Fielding Smith wrote: “According to the doctrine of the church, the negro because of some condition of unfaithfulness in the spirit — or pre-existence, was not valiant and hence was not denied the mortal probation, but was denied the blessing of the priesthood.”
Smith also reasoned that during the war in Heaven, some spirits would logically have been less valiant in following the Savior than others, therefore the priesthood was restricted from the least valiant. However, Smith made clear that the book was his own personal opinion. Of the doctrine of the church, Smith said “The Mormon Church does not believe, nor does it teach, that the Negro is an inferior being. Mentally, and physically, the Negro is capable of great achievement, as great and in some cases greater than the potentiality of the white race. He can become a lawyer, a doctor, a scientist, and he can achieve great heights.”
Brigham Young however, had already answered this question:
When asked “if the spirits of Negroes were neutral in Heaven,” Young responded, “No, they were not, there were no neutral [spirits] in Heaven at the time of the rebellion, all took sides …. All spirits are pure that came from the presence of God.” Prior to learning about [negro] Enoch Lewis’s marriage to a woman of European descent (December 1847) and subsequently enacting a ban on Negroes in the priesthood, he considered Walker Lewis “one of the best Elders.”
McConkie however, when he went at the question in his allegedly “definitive” encyclopedia of Mormon “doctrine,” ignored Brigham Young, ignored his father-in-law’s disclaimer that his ramblings on the Negro were merely an unsupported personal opinion, and wrote this entry as if it were pulled straight out of the Mormon canon:
Of the two-thirds who followed Christ, however, some were more valiant than others… Those who were less valiant in pre-existence and who thereby had certain spiritual restrictions imposed upon them during mortality are known to us as the negroes. Such spirits are sent to earth through the lineage of Cain, the mark put upon him for his rebellion against God and his murder of Abel being a black skin (Moses 5:16-41; 12:22). Noah’s son Ham married Egyptus, a descendant of Cain, thus preserving the negro lineage through the flood (Abraham 1:20-27). Negroes in this life are denied the priesthood; under no circumstances can they hold this delegation of authority from the Almighty. (Abra. 1:20-27.) The gospel message of salvation is not carried affirmatively to them (Moses 7:8, 12, 22), although sometimes negroes search out the truth, join the Church, and become by righteous living heirs of the celestial kingdom of heaven. President Brigham Young and others have taught that in the future eternity worthy and qualified negroes will receive the priesthood and every gospel blessing available to any man. The present status of the negro rests purely and simply on the foundation of pre-existence. Along with all races and peoples he is receiving here what he merits as a result of the long pre-mortal probation in the presence of the Lord….The negroes are not equal with other races where the receipt of certain spiritual blessings are concerned, particularly the priesthood and the temple blessings that flow therefrom, but this inequality is not of man’s origin. It is the Lord’s doing.
But Bruce R McConkie not only ignored Brigham Young in favor of his father-in-law’s unauthoritative theories about Negro pre-mortal cowardice, he also ignored a prophet he had a personal problem with, David O McKay, who’d called the first edition of his Mormon Doctrine an embarrassingly errant hack job and tried to ban it:
In 1954, Church President David O. McKay taught: “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.’
But then again, McKay was in turn openly disavowing the assertions of preceding church president George Albert Smith, who had strongly expressed rather opposite ideas about the issue, only a few years before McKay got the bully pulpit of Mormonism. In 1949, George Albert Smith’s First Presidency made a declaration that included the statement that the priesthood restriction was divinely commanded and not a matter of church policy. It declared:
The attitude of the Church with reference to the Negroes remains as it has always stood. It is not a matter of the declaration of a policy but of direct commandment from the Lord, on which is founded the doctrine of the Church from the days of its organization, to the effect that Negroes may become members of the Church but that they are not entitled to the Priesthood at the present time. The prophets of the Lord have made several statements as to the operation of the principle. President Brigham Young said: “Why are so many of the inhabitants of the earth cursed with a skin of blackness? It comes in consequence of their fathers rejecting the power of the holy priesthood, and the law of God. They will go down to death. And when all the rest of the children have received their blessings in the holy priesthood, then that curse will be removed from the seed of Cain, and they will then come up and possess the priesthood, and receive all the blessings which we now are entitled to.”
George Albert Smith’s declaration on the status of the Negro in Mormonism goes on to state that the conditions in which people are born are affected by their conduct in a pre-mortal existence, although the details of the principle are said not to be known. It then says that the privilege of mortal existence is so great that spirits were willing to come to earth even though they would not be able to possess the priesthood. It concludes by stating, “Under this principle there is no injustice whatsoever involved in this deprivation as to the holding of the priesthood by the Negroes.”
The one common load of totally human-originated BS in all these justifications for the denial of the Negro the priesthood, is the claim that the “less valiant” spirits in the war in heaven got to be Negroes. This is simply a device to alleviate any implied “original sin” element connected to Cain’s curse. It’s hard LDS doctrine that all men are born pure and sinless and guilty of nothing. Mormons teach that all mankind can not only be “saved” but all of mankind are exaltable children of God. This is the central theme of Joseph Smith’s restored “Gospel.” Therefore, to also preach that any otherwise qualified candidate for priesthood ordination should be denied this authority simply because of patriarchal lineage—in other words, race—screamed errency from the day it was first openly declared. Church leadership from Brigham Young on down desperately scrambled through the years to invent better and better sophistry to make it sound “fair.”
The contention that some of God’s spiritual children screwed up just a little bit before being shipped into a womb was, as I keep saying, pulled right out of somebody’s would-be prophetic arse. And in this case, it was not Brigham Young’s prophetic arse, even inasmuch as his was certainly an ample one and a prolific generator of early Mormon prophetic vapors. It’s probably down to John Taylor, as well as the corresponding notion that blacks could only be servants in the Celestial Kingdom that began to develop along with this system of excuses.
What would have been consistent with LDS doctrine–just for laughs–would be to say that egroes are spirits who are guaranteed a place in the Celestial Kingdom, like those spirits who, “volunteer” as it is popularly supposed, to be sent to infirm human bodies that die in birth or before the age of accountability, or those born with physical and mental handicaps. These doomed and imperfect human bodies it has long been maintained, were always occupied by the most pure and valiant spirits who have already earned their entry into the Celestial Kingdom. They serve their sentence in mortality as a technical requirement for Eternal Glory, just marking time without being expected to fight or labor or prove themselves. It’s the pre-mortal slackers, screwups and layabouts, who actually need the learning opportunity that mortal priesthood service and responsibility offers them. That theory you could rationalize with Mormon canon and other doctrine.
But it never would have occurred to LDS leadership that not having to go home teaching and still eventually get received into Paradise might actually be a blessing.
The difference between me and a Brigham Young or a John Taylor I suppose, is that I am well aware that as logical as that just sounded, and as convenient as it is to be able to rationally explain away the Negro-priesthood problem, unlike many of these early LDS leaders, I am always well aware of when I am blowing smoke out of my arse. And I don’t have a title that would presume to authorize me to transubstantiate methane into scripture.
And then again, at the root of it all you have those darned Bible verses hanging you up even without all the Mormonism. Mormonism in truth only mitigated Cain’s curse and explained how his posterity made it through the Great Flood. The curse itself in basic Christianity went all the way back to the Beginning, to Genesis.
Apostle Harold B. Lee blocks policy change
In 1969 church apostle Harold B. Lee blocked the LDS Church from rescinding the racial restriction policy. Church leaders voted to rescind the policy at a meeting in 1969. Lee was absent from the meeting due to travels. When Lee returned he called for a re-vote, arguing that the policy could not be changed without a revelation.
Church president statement in 1972
Harold B. Lee, president of the church, stated in 1972: “For those who don’t believe in modern revelation there is no adequate explanation. Those who do understand revelation stand by and wait until the Lord speaks…It’s only a matter of time before the black achieves full status in the Church. We must believe in the justice of God. The black will achieve full status, we’re just waiting for that time.”
I personally tend to look at Harold B Lee as just being something of a prick about the whole issue here. But he has a point. Sometimes God’s lack of open communication puts the entire collected body of LDS general authorities, as clearly shown here, sitting around the conference table, trying not to complain or contend, waiting for God to solve their problem for them. You can’t blame Harold B Lee for demanding that somebody pony up a genuine revelation or shut the hell up about it. I empathize with Lee’s demand for a tangible vision, a visitation, a good old Joseph Smith-type revelation from God. Those had long been in short supply. And Harold B Lee was quite correct in believing that without God directly clarifying the issue, even if none of them really knew why the ban was still being enforced, it was a tradition clearly in the canon and they were bound by it:
Ban as an unknowable mystery
David O. McKay said: “From the beginning of this dispensation, Joseph Smith [actually, there is no reliable evidence that Joseph Smith ever taught this doctrine, and in fact Smith ordained several negroes to the priesthood personally] and all succeeding presidents of the church have taught that negroes, while spirit children of a common Father, and the progeny of our earthly parents Adam and Eve, 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.”
Attribution to human error
Although not refuting his belief that the policy came from the Lord, apostle Spencer W. Kimball acknowledged in 1963 that it could have been brought about through an error on man’s part. In 1963, he 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.”
Spencer W. Kimball became LDS church president in 1973, when Harold B Lee was taken out of his place suddenly by a God whom we might imagine was responding to Lee’s demand for a “revelation” by sending him a very direct message about standing in the way of repealing the priesthood Negro ban. Kimball took general conference on the road, holding area and regional conferences all over the world. He announced many new temples to be built, many of them “McTemples,” downsized facilities that could do all the work at half the price and double the availability around the world of temple ordinances. This included a temple in São Paulo, Brazil. There, church leaders realized the impossibility of determining bloodlines in an incredibly mixed-race environment for the first time.
On June 8, 1978, the First Presidency issued an official declaration, now a part of the standard works of the church, which contained the following statement:
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 follows there from, 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. Priesthood leaders are instructed to follow the policy of carefully interviewing all candidates for ordination to either the Aaronic or the Melchizedek Priesthood to insure that they meet the established standards for worthiness.
In 1978 Bruce R. McConkie had some backpedalling to do:
There are statements in our literature by the early brethren which we have interpreted to mean that the Negroes would not receive the priesthood in mortality. I have said the same things, and people write me letters and say, “You said such and such, and how is it now that we do such and such?” And all I can say to that is that it is time disbelieving people repented and got in line and believed in a living, modern prophet. 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…. It doesn’t make a particle of difference what anybody ever said about the Negro matter before the first day of June of this year.
You might have thought that old Bruce R would have argued against changing this priesthood eligibility policy, given his support for his father-in-law’s various doctrinal theories, and McConkie’s strong affection for established canon. On the contrary, in the final debates he argued strongly in favor of dropping the restrictions on worthy Negro males:
When the priesthood ban was discussed in 1978, apostle Bruce McConkie argued for its change using the Mormon scripture and the Articles of Faith. The Third Article states that “all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.”(Articles of Faith 1:3) From the Book of Mormon he quoted “And even unto the great and last day, when all people, and all kindreds, and all nations and tongues shall stand before God, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil— If they be good, to the resurrection of everlasting life; and if they be evil, to the resurrection of damnation. (3 Nephi 26:4-5) The Book of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price states that Abraham‘s seed “shall all the families of the earth be blessed, even with the blessings of the Gospel, which are the blessings of salvation, even of life eternal.” (Abraham 2:11) According to his son, Joseph F. McConkie, these scriptures played a great part in changing the policy.
In 1881, church president John Taylor said “And after the flood we are told that the curse that had been pronounced upon Cain was continued through Ham’s wife, as he had married a wife of that seed. And why did it pass through the flood? Because it was necessary that the devil should have a representation upon the earth as well as God; and that man should be a free agent to act for himself, and that all men might have the opportunity of receiving or rejecting the truth, and be governed by it or not according to their wishes and abide the result; and that those who would be able to maintain correct principles under all circumstances, might be able to associate with the Gods in the eternal worlds.” (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 22 page 304).
While nobody picked up and ran with Taylor’s “Negro-as-Satan’s-agents” allusion as a serious doctrinal contention, Taylor’s administration was the first to propose (against the late Brother Brigham’s objections) that Negroes spiritually had it coming for being “less valiant” as pre-mortal crusaders. That stuck. And far loonier things have been said or at lest recorded and attributed to noted authorities. Some of these linger on in Mormonism at least conceptually. All of them sting of residual Calvinism.
Apostle Mark E. Petersen gave a speech on this subject: “God has commanded Israel not to intermarry. To go against this commandment of God would be in sin. Those who willfully sin with their eyes open to this wrong will not be surprised to find that they will be separated from the presence of God in the world to come. This is spiritual death…. The reason that one would lose his blessings by marrying a Negro is due to the restriction placed upon them. ‘No person having the least particle of Negro blood can hold the Priesthood.’ (He’s quoting Brigham Young here.) It does not matter if they are one-sixth Negro or one-hundred and sixth, the curse of no Priesthood is the same. If an individual who is entitled to the Priesthood marries a Negro, the Lord has decreed that only spirits who are not eligible for the Priesthood will come to that marriage as children. To intermarry with a Negro is to forfeit a ‘Nation of Priesthood holders.'” Source: Race Problems — As They Affect The Church, Address by Mark E. Petersen at the Convention of Teachers of Religion on the College Level, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, August 27, 1954.
Again we hear from Apostle Mark E. Petersen: “The discussion on civil rights, especially over the last 20 years, has drawn some very sharp lines. It has blinded the thinking of some of our own people, I believe. They have allowed their political affiliations to color their thinking to some extent, and then, of course, they have been persuaded by some of the arguments that have been put forth…. We who teach in the Church certainly must have our feet on the ground and not to be led astray by the philosophies of men on this subject…. “I think I have read enough to give you an idea of what the negro is after. He is not just seeking the opportunity of sitting down in a cafe where white people eat. He isn’t just trying to ride on the same streetcar or the same Pullman car with white people. It isn’t that he just desires to go the same theater as the white people. From this, and other interviews I have read, it appears that the negro seeks absorption with the white race. He will not be satisfied until he achieves it by intermarriage. That is his objective and we must face it. We must not allow our feelings to carry us away, nor must we feel so sorry for negroes that we will open our arms and embrace them with everything we have. Remember the little statement that we used to say about sin, ‘First we pity, then endure, then embrace.’…. “Now let’s talk about segregation again for a few moments. Was segregation a wrong principle? when the Lord chose the nations to which the spirits were to come, determining that some would be Japanese and some would be Chinese and some Negroes and some Americans, He engaged in an act of segregation…. When he told Enoch not preach the gospel to the descendants of Cain who were black, the Lord engaged in segregation. When He cursed the descendants of Cain as to the Priesthood, He engaged in segregation…. “Who placed the Negroes originally in darkest Africa? Was it some man, or was it God? And when He placed them there, He segregated them…. “The Lord segregated the people both as to blood and place of residence. At least in the cases of the Lamanites and the Negro we have the definite word of the Lord Himself that he placed a dark skin upon them as a curse — as a punishment and as a sign to all others. He forbade intermarriage with them under threat of extension of the curse. And He certainly segregated the descendants of Cain when He cursed the Negro as to the Priesthood, and drew an absolute line. You may even say He dropped an Iron curtain there…. “Now we are generous with the negro. We are willing that the Negro have the highest education. I would be willing to let every Negro drive a Cadillac if they could afford it. I would be willing that they have all the advantages they can get out of life in the world. But let them enjoy these things among themselves. I think the Lord segregated the Negro and who is man to change that segregation? It reminds me of the scripture on marriage, ‘what God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.’ Only here we have the reverse of the thing — what God hath separated, let not man bring together again.” Source: Race Problems — As They Affect The Church, Address by Mark E. Petersen at the Convention of Teachers of Religion on the College Level, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah,August 27, 1954.
The following is a quote from the then Mr. Kimball (Spencer W.), speaking at the General Conference meeting, October, 1960. “I saw a striking contrast in the progress of the Indian people today…. The day of the Lamanites is nigh. For years they have been growing delightsome, and they are now becoming white and delightsome, as they were promised. In this picture of the twenty Lamanite missionaries, fifteen of the twenty were as light as Anglos, five were darker but equally delightsome The children in the home placement program in Utah are often lighter than their brothers and sisters in the hogans on the reservation. “At one meeting a father and mother and their sixteen-year-old daughter were present, the little member girl–sixteen–sitting between the dark father and mother, and it was evident she was several shades lighter than her parents–on the same reservation, in the same hogan, subject to the same sun and wind and weather….These young members of the Church are changing to whiteness and to delightsomeness. One white elder jokingly said that he and his companion were donating blood regularly to the hospital in the hope that the process might be accelerated.” Improvement Era, December 1960, pp. 922-923.
“Of the thousands of children born today, a certain proportion of them went to the Hottentots of the south seas, thousands went to Negro mothers, thousands to beautiful white Latter-day Saint Mothers.”-Melvin J. Ballard
The Juvenile Instructor (a Church magazine): “Last in order stands the Negro race, the lowest in intelligence and the most barbarous of all the children of men.”
Also, the LDS children’s Juvenile Instructor suggests that the Polynesians also were cursed with dark skin: “We are asked if the natives of New Zealand and of the Samoan society and Sandwich Islands are descendants of the Nephites (white people) or of the Lamanites (American Indians)….It is plain from the history of the Book of Mormon that this dark skin has been brought upon them by transgression. Whether this transgression occurred before they left this (American) continent or afterwards is not clear.” (The Juvenile Instructor, vol. 30, p. 129.)
And ironically, while Mark E Peterson and apostolic friends are dropping racial bombshells:
In 1958, Joseph Fielding Smith published Answers to Gospel Questions which stated “No church or other organization is more insistent than The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, that the negroes should receive all the rights and privileges that can possibly be given to any other in the true sense of equality as declared in the Declaration of Independence.” He continues to say they should not be barred from any type of employment or education, and should be free “to make their lives as happy as it is possible without interference from white men, labor unions or from any other source.” In the 1963 General Conference, Hugh B. Brown stated: “it is a moral evil for any person or group of persons to deny any human being the rights to gainful employment, to full educational opportunity, and to every privilege of citizenship”. He continued: “We call upon all men everywhere, both within and outside the church, to commit themselves to the establishment of full civil equality for all of God’s children. Anything less than this defeats our high ideal of the brotherhood of man.”
It’s easy for the ignorant and self-interested to paint Mormonism with the Lefty’s favorite tar brush of common racism. In fact, since the Civil Rights Movement set upon the mission of bringing down the LDS church, it is even held that Mormons are close friends with the KKK, the favorite bugaboo of the “enlightened” Left. These slanders, when repeated widely, naturally become the assumptions of rational, fair-minded people as well. Frankly, Mormonism has given even the most forgiving investigator cause for suspicion. But Mormonism and its attitude toward the Negro, isn’t really a Right-Left, racist/colorblind debate in the usual Christian American sense:
Many of the members of the anti-Mormon mob that murder the first President of the Church, Joseph Smith, are members of a secret racist society called the “Knights of the Golden Circle.” After the Civil War the organization is outlawed. A few members of the Knights of the Golden Circle found a new organization called the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.—1844
Soon after its formation, an LDS apostle writes that the KKK will prove a “curse” upon America.—1868
The KKK holds anti-Mormon meetings and, in the south, kills and in some cases tortures Mormon missionaries.—1870s-1890s
(See Blazing Crosses, pp.11ff)
J. Golden Kimball receives a telegram indicating that the Ku Klux Klan again plans to torture Mormon missionaries in the South if they don’t leave immediately.—1891
When a nation-wide tour of the stage version of “The Clansman,” a story that insults blacks and glorifies the KKK as white heroes, arrives in Utah, the anti-Mormon “Salt Lake Tribune” praises the production. The Church-owned “Deseret News,” however, while recognizing that the play is well done in technical terms, states that the Klan is not to be praised, for it “rode about the country at night killing or torturing negroes and their sympathizers…[and] became a band of idle, dissolute and vicious individuals who entered upon a career of brutality and violence that appalled the country.”—1908
(See Deseret News, Nov. 2, 1908)
The Church owned “Deseret News” calls the KKK “an insult and a menace to orderly government” that would lead “to riot and bloodshed.”—1920s
(See Deseret News, 23 Dec., 1920)
The “Salt Lake Tribute” [the official organ of Christian anti-Mormon reformers] accepts KKK advertising and notices, but the “Deseret News” refuses and only writes of the KKK to condemn it in editorials.—1920s
“So far as its operations are known–its secrecy, its mummery, its terrorism, its lawlessness–it is condemned…These mountain communities of ours have no place whatever for it in their social scheme of things…[he who tries to establish it among us] should be made emphatically to understand that his local endeavors will be worse than wasted, and his objects [goals] are detested, and his [absence] is preferred to his company. The people of Utah have no taste or patience for such criminal nonsense…”—1921
(See Deseret News, July 23, 1921)
Because of the Church’s condemnation of the KKK, the KKK “Grand Wizard” of Wyoming considers the Church it’s “greatest enemy.” “In the Realm of Utah and scattered over the West in general, we have another enemy, which is more subtle and far more cunning [than other anti-KKK groups] in carrying its efforts against this organization…the Latter-day Saint Religion!”—1923
(See Papers Read at the Meetings of Grand Dragons, Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, 1923, pp.112-3)
The Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret News are fascinatingly blatant records of Mormon-v-anti-Mormon, meaning Christian populations of the State of Utah:
1908: The stage version of Thomas Dixon’s bestselling novel The Clansman, which portrayed blacks as ignorant and ravenous brutes, and glorified the KKK as white heroes, had toured all over the United States. Finally, the tour came to Salt Lake City. The Gentile (non-mormon) newspaper in the city, The Salt Lake Tribune, praised both the play and its message. The Mormon paper, the Deseret News, said that while the play itself was “an excellent production” in technical terms, the Klan was not a heroic organization as the play portrayed, but “rode about the country at night killing or torturing negroes and their sympathizers” in a “reign of terror” and “became a band of idle, dissolute and vicious individuals who entered upon a career of brutality and violence that appalled the country.”(Deseret News, Nov. 2, 1908).
1916: The Salt Lake Tribune, Utah’s Gentile (non-mormon) and Anti-Mormon newspaper (which almost daily contained anti-Mormon articles) wrote a critique of the silent movie Birth of a Nation; which was a film version of the play The Clansmen. The Tribune wrote that “Mob violence and outlawry [by blacks] are depicted, followed by spectacular vies of the Ku Klux Klansmen who organized secretly to control the negroes through their superstitious fears. The Klansmen were fearless night-riders and they wore white shrouds. Acts of vengeance were perpetrated [upon blacks] under the cover of darkness, and the pictures show clearly why such extreme measures were necessary for the continuance of law and order.” (Salt Lake Tribune, April 2, 1916)
1920: The KKK was “an insult and a menace to orderly government” which would lead “to riot and bloodshed”. (Deseret News, 23 Dec., 1920)
And still, decades later, at the height of the Civil Rights Movement, following the confused LDS pattern of mutually exclusive statements on the Negro issue, at the same time you had David O McKay, Joseph Fielding Smith, and Hugh B Brown embracing the Civil Rights Movement, on the other hand, you had Cleon Skousen and his apostolic pal ET Benson at some other pulpit calling the Civil Rights Movement an arm of Communist Aggression:
My grandfather [ET Benson] saw the U.S. civil rights movement, in larger conspiratorial context, as a leading element in a vast, ominous and active Communist plot designed to “overthrow established government” through “widespread anarchy,” the sparking of “a nation-wide civil war” and the assassination of “anti-Communist leaders of both races.”
He warned Americans: “It is happening here! . . . THE COMMUNIST PROGRAM FOR REVOLUTION IN AMERICAN HAS BEEN IN PROGRESS FOR MANY YEARS AND IS FAR ADVANCED.”
This Moscow-orchestrated plan, he declared from his General Conference pulpit, was being implemented on American soil “[u]sing unidentified Communist agents and non-Communist sympathizers in key positions in government, in communications media and in mass organizations such as labor unions and civil rights groups [which] demand more and more government power as the solution to all civil rights problems. Total government is the objective of Communism. Without calling it by name, [they] build Communism piece by piece through mass pressures for Presidential decrees, court orders and legislation which appear to be aimed at improving civil rights and other social reforms.”
Ezra Taft Benson saw the American South as the initial battleground in Communist efforts to establish a foothold before spreading northward. These attempts, he warned, were designed for “splitting away the ‘Black Belt,’ those Southern states in which the Negro held a majority, and calling them a Negro Soviet Republic.” He warned Americans to be on guard for African-Americans who had “migrated to the Northern states,” where they had likewise “applied this same strategy to the so-called ‘ghetto’ areas in the North.”
He reassured White patriots, however, that even “[i]f Communism comes to America . . . the Negro represents only 10 percent of the population. In any all-out race war which might be triggered, there isn’t a chance in the world that Communist-led Negro guerilla units could permanently hold on to the power centers of government, even if they could capture them in the first place.”
Well, that was then and this is now. Except the LDS church has never authoritatively justified, apologized for, or retracted the many boldly racist theories and observations its leadership at least in singular cases has made over the generations. Was it racism in the dictionary sense? Yes, in many cases it was, but not because of the priesthood restriction itself so much, as Mormon leadership’s clearly human and bigoted attempts to rationalize this vaguely canonical restriction by inventing supplemental folk-doctrine and applying faulty and biased “scientific” or “empirical” evidence to prove the Negro race deserving of the ban. They did this, because otherwise, the knew either they or God would look petty and unfair.
The curse of Cain is however, still stuck solid in the Christian canon. Christians interpreted the curse to be a black skin and being a perpetual slave. It’s clarified to mean only a restriction from the priesthood in Mormon canon. But you’re stuck with a scriptural curse on Cain and his descendants either way. If none of the Mormon canon existed you’d still have an accursed Cain. God’s curse was indeed Biblically argued as justification for institutionalizing American slavery–but not by Joseph Smith or the Mormons. That was Christian America who did that. Until they killed him for it, Ol’ Joe Smith was in fact running for US president on an Abolitionist platform.
As the LDS church leadership later evolved, rising out of the battleground of an American Constitutional struggle over slavery, they began inventing theological justifications for their own canonical interpretations of the Negro curse. Large factions of the congregation and leadership had always found the Negro priesthood ban embarrassing and difficult to rationalize with foundational Mormon theology. Reacting to these growing, enlightened objections, LDS leadership at times proposed justifications that were just plain ignorant, bigoted and arrogant, and then pounded their points home more and more fervently to silence the rising protests.
Institutional racism is defined as any time you have an organized system that believes in a fundamental genetic and intellectual inferiority of any given race. Mormonism, like most of Christianity, from its highest leaders down, either in whole or in part, for many generations fell into that category relative to their floppy positions on the Negro. You can’t argue otherwise.
My own pragmatic explanation of lifting the Mormon priesthood ban on the Negro would be that in modern times the genetic markers are so compromised that there are no pure lines on any side of the question today, anywhere, anyway. A more obvious proposal, and one I as an unschooled ignoramus find embarrassingly absent in official LDS apologies, is that Christ was born two-thousand years ago and therefore, since we’re well past that phase of the Atonement, been there, done that–the whole point of excluding Cain’s line from Christ’s priesthood order, and/or keeping Christ’s line pure of Cain’s dirty deeds for whatever reason, was resolved with the birth of the promised Messiah. Even the Gentiles became the chosen people at that point. But that’s just me sensibly preserving my “testimony” by trying to make sense of Mormonism. That burden is upon me, for some reason, and it shouldn’t be.
For those of us who know a little bit of history, a dismissive, “We’re beyond that now,” from Mormon leadership, as Uncle Gordy would often say when waving off these sort of confused doctrinal reversals, isn’t very satisfying. It’s mostly insulting. And so we try to do the work of patching up the “Gospel” the Brethren should be doing for us, by ourselves.
I confess. You’re correct out there brothers and sisters. I can hear you grumbling about me to yourselves. I shouldn’t be the one taking up the assignment of this sort of doctrinal analysis. It’s not my calling to tie up all the loose and frayed ends, define and harmonize all the seemingly random bits of the Mormon “Gospel” floating around the church.
It’s just that nature abhors a vacuum.