79-80: How Can We Truly Confront Racism within Mormon Thought and Culture?

March 9, 2012
By

A recent Washington Post article that discussed the origins and history of Mormonism’s racialized teachings and policies has caused quite a stir, launching important conversations. The article’s most controversial element was the inclusion of comments from BYU religion professor Randy Bott in which he denied that the former LDS ban on black persons holding the priesthood or participating in temple ordinances was racist, as God’s actions were for their benefit. They weren’t ready. Through these restrictions, God was acting as a loving parent, keeping them from having to live at a higher level than they were capable of doing. Church reaction was swift–a news release the next day completely distancing the Church’s position from the justification attempts of Professor Bott, and stating unequivocally that no one knows the reasons for the ban and the church does not sanction any attempts at explaining or justifying it.

Many see the Church’s reaction as a step in the right direction. But is it enough, as it still falls short of disavowing the ban? It does not admit it was a mistake all along. Many claim that to repudiate the ban would come at too high a cost, undermining prophetic authority and calling into question how seriously Latter-day Saints should hold other teachings or policies. Others claim that it’s essential if we are ever going to truly root out racism and racialized thinking in the Church and truly develop mature attitudes toward God and how God works in the world and through prophets. Their sense is that the Church could indeed shift its rhetoric about the nature of the prophetic call to emphasize it as a calling to exhort us to believe in Christ and place our trust in God and eternal principles. They believe that church leaders could still be honored as prophets and apostles even were they to be more open about the difficulties involved in hearing God’s call through the din of culture and inherited, unexamined ideas, allowing that mistakes have and can always be made in these more temporal areas.

Mormon Mattes host Dan Wotherspoon and panelists Marguerite Driessen, Gina Colvin, and Brad Kramer discuss all of these ideas and more. None find the present moment of controversy as pleasant (no one really “likes” having less attractive parts of one’s tradition held up for scrutiny, even ridicule), but all still welcome the chance these developments have given for renewed discussion–and hopefully deep soul-searching and self-examination. Are they seeing this go on? What are the stumblingblocks to this process? What do they see as important elements in paving a way ahead for true repentance and change?

We invite you to listen and share your ideas! This is a vital conversation. We’d love your voice to be involved.

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77 Responses to 79-80: How Can We Truly Confront Racism within Mormon Thought and Culture?

  1. March 9, 2012 at 9:54 pm

    Dan – this podcast was amazing.  Thank you for bringing together a thoughtful group of people and moderating an excellent discussion.

    Keep up the good work!

  2. Anonymous
    March 10, 2012 at 9:38 am

     Africa for the Africans,Asia for the Asians,white countries for EVERYBODY!

    Everybody says there is this RACE problem. Everybody says this RACE problem will be solved when the third world pours into EVERY white country and ONLY into white countries.

    The Netherlands and Belgium are just as crowded as Japan or Taiwan, but nobody says Japan or Taiwan will solve this RACE problem by bringing in millions of third worlders and quote assimilating unquote with them.

    Everybody says the final solution to this RACE problem is for EVERY white country and ONLY white countries to “assimilate,” i.e., intermarry, with all those non-whites.

    What if I said there was this RACE problem and this RACE problem would be solved only if hundreds of millions of non-blacks were brought into EVERY black country and ONLY into black countries?

    How long would it take anyone to realize I’m not talking about a RACE problem. I am talking about the final solution to the BLACK problem?

    And how long would it take any sane black man to notice this and what kind of psycho black man wouldn’t object to this?

    But if I tell that obvious truth about the ongoing program of genocide against my race, the white race, liberals and respectable conservatives agree I am a naziwhowantstokillsixmillionjews.

    They say they are anti-racist. What they are is anti-white.

    Anti-racist is a code word for anti-white.

  3. RJ
    March 10, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    A couple things reoccurred to me while listening to this podcast. One, how frustrating it is to hear the statement, “no one knows how the ban was introduced”. It’s like Bill Orielly saying no one knows what causes the ocean tides. Uh…you mean to say you really don’t care to know the reason because it doesn’t appear to support your cause at the moment. Right?

    Truly, the primary reason they won’t own up to the wrongness of the ban is because they fear they will damage the faith of that segment of membership that can not bear the idea that our leaders are capable of big mistakes. By coddling and protecting the testimonies and spiritual wellfare of those individuals over and above the testimonies and spiritual wellfare of black individuals, who continue to be confronted with the “folk doctrines” and the lasting theological implications of he ban,  they continue to show their priorities and preferences. The effects of the ban are still functionally in place. Institutional  racism in the LDS church still exists.

    • March 10, 2012 at 8:28 pm

       I agree entirely RJ!  Yes, by privileging an account of systemic racism that only benefits the fragile faith and sensibilities of white folk is deeply problematic.  This mythology of the perfection of the prophets is simply riven with contradictions, inconsistencies and nonsenses and I’m inclined to think that we won’t mature as a church until the members can recenter their relationship with Christ over their devotion to a prophet.  I’m also inclined to think that the prophet’s and apostles wouldn’t  mind either! 

      • Anonymous
        March 20, 2012 at 10:49 pm

         We may just have to agree to disagree. You say “recenter their relationship with Christ over their devotion to a prophet” and yet I think the scriptures are quite clear that we our devotion is in fact proven the opposite.  For example, Numbers 17 offers an extraordinary example. If you want only to follow prophets that can explain everything and philosophy and spelled to a T then you deny faith, require only proof, and will…well, insist on priesthood (or one thing) should come by common consent (not revelation or a prophet’s discretion, whatever is the case) to your detriment. The people in Numbers were burned, but if not that, cut-off any number of other ways.  I agree with you only on one point – that when members assume more than this they create strife, hardship, and mythologies that are divisive. Church leaders may offer more guidance, but they may also be limited to offer more guidance…and the members work out the rest on their own.

    • Dan Wotherspoon
      March 10, 2012 at 11:52 pm

      I agree with you about worry about undermining faith in prophetic leadership is “a” primary reason, just not “the” primary reason. At this moment, my guess is that at least some of the key brethren are not yet convinced about the wrongness of the ban, that the policy wasn’t really a doctrine, that even though there is no evidence of an original “revelation” that started the practice, God truly wouldn’t have let leaders screw up to this degree. Under this scenario, it isn’t “church members” who aren’t ready but these leaders themselves. It’s hard to face up to the fact that determining God’s will is always a fight, and that even when you’re righteous and wanting to do well, you can still mess up in major ways. Until these holdouts step into a spiritual place where they can really open themselves to this huge a question that will require a lot of soul searching and new attitude towards past and present leaders and their own leadership, I’m not sure we’ll see a full repudiation. In some ways thinking what I’m thinking here opens me to more empathy for them, but I’m also praying like crazy for this kind of examination to happen. As Gina says, making peace with what prophetic leadership is and is not is huge if we are to ever mature as a church. And if there’s this kind of work to be done at the top, may it please be underway!

      • March 12, 2012 at 6:05 pm

        I know this will sound cynical, but I find it to largely be true. The idea that “progress happens one funeral at a time” just really resonates with me. Ignoring the presence of the internet, I’d imagine that the church leadership would just act at they did during Joseph F Smith/Heber J Grant’s presidencies. If it hasn’t happened already, cut back heavily on the practice in question (Adam-God, women giving blessings, baptisms for health, etc.), then once most of the people who knew the way of the past have died, then make a strong stand in an opposing position and ignore that the opposing policy/doctrine ever occurred before. 

        I would assume that we’d need to wait until the leadership that grew up with the temple ban have died before we’ll get strong statements from leadership about it (such as an apology). But in the day and age of the internet, it seems unlikely that ignoring things is a viable option. I know that I pray for the leaders of the church every day, and much of my prayers for them are so that they can be open to whatever God wants them to do, even and especially if it runs counter to everything they understand. 

        As to what it will take for the church to reorient their views of what prophetic leadership entails, I think there is heavy responsibility on us to help our brothers and sisters to get to that point. I try to make comments which walk the fine line of still being faith promoting, but also call into question the idea that our leaders can never make mistakes. I largely try to use quotes from the leadership to do this (plus given the mindset we’re hoping to change, they will always trust a quote from a President or Apostle over whatever I have to say). 

        • Carmen Lopez
          March 14, 2012 at 5:46 am

          Yes, I can see that apology:

          “We apologize, for Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Parley P Pratt, Orson Hyde, WW Phelps, John Taylor, Joseph F. Smith,  et al + etc. etc etc, they were wrong.  Forgive us if we omitted anybody, it was unintentional, we are not perfect; we can make mistakes also.”

      • RJ
        March 14, 2012 at 9:48 pm

        Dan, I think you at right about the other reasons leadership has not owned up to the wrongness of the ban. However, I still think the other reasons are very closely related. In my mind, to the extent that any of them are not convinced that the ban was wrong to begin with, is invariably linked to the notion that to accept otherwise would be detrimental to their own faith and not just the faith of the membership. I do feel empathy.

        • Dan Wotherspoon
          March 15, 2012 at 3:31 pm

          I think we are on the same page, RJ. As I wrote above, “Until these holdouts step into a spiritual place where they can really open themselves to this huge a question that will require a lot of soul searching and new attitude towards past and present leaders and their own leadership, I’m not sure we’ll see a full repudiation.” Their own faith was definitely in my mind. It does seem to me, however, that they should be able to handle this. If I’m not largely mistaken in thinking about my own spiritual experiences and ways of working to know God’s will as being very much like the processes they go through, they should be able to handle at least the inexactness of the science.
          Almost to me it seems what would be more problematic is for them to have to think that it was messed up so badly that actual highly detrimental policies were enacted out of the confusions/wrongness. It’s one thing to get a mixed up signal when you’re considering a minor question, another when your decision will affect a ton of folks! I’m wondering if this is a bigger hurdle to face, as it might be more “detrimental to their own faith” to think God would allow THAT! Hard to face that past leaders (and their own leadership) could make mistakes with such high stakes. I can see (and like you, empathize with) that truly being a difficult mountain for them to climb. All of this speculation, of course!

    • Carmen Lopez
      March 14, 2012 at 5:17 am

      “The effects of the ban are still functionally in place. Institutional racism in the LDS church still exists.” Well, well.  I have never in my entire life as a member have seen or felt racism in the church at any level (leadership or otherwise) and I come from a place where there are, and there were members, of all shades of colors, since Latin America is the real melting pot.  No one can really tell what mixture is in their blood.  Even before and after 1978 was there, ever, that kind of feeling in the units I’ve been a part of, including here in the US and I have been here for 15 years.   I have heard more about racism in the church in the last weeks that in 30 odd years as a member.

       Now we are even questioning the veracity of scripture, including the BoM.  Why don’t just leave the church now, people are already starting to opine that because prophets are human beings and can make mistakes, therefore they cannot be trusted.  Good luck finding a perfect human being.  God doesn’t have any choice, prophets are human therefore imperfect and he still chose and chooses them.  The only perfect one on earth was Jesus.

      I see people going down a very slippery road.  Everybody is entitled to their opinion on whatever subjects but for me I’d rather ask God and get my answer from the source itself and not from people’s opinions, which can be and are biased.  FYI, I have read as much as the next man about the subject and the history.

      It’s so easy to criticize the leaders and tear them apart and make conjectures such as – ” the primary reason they won’t own up to the wrongness of the ban is because they fear they will damage the faith of that segment of membership that can not bear the idea that our leaders are capable of big mistakes” – The people who can own up are all dead and gone.  Nobody can really get in their head now, can they. Only they know what happened or why.  And, please give us a break and do not insult people’s intelligence.  So you think we are so dumb and stupid and ignorant that we are going to lose our faith over this, so the GA’s need to protect our testimonies over the testimony of our black brothers and sisters.  Give us common members some credit.  Maybe some will, there are all kinds of people in the Lord’s vineyard, but those are the fewm the rest of us know why we are in the church.

      Let’s not be so quick to critizice the leaders when you are not in their shoes and do not have a personal knowledge of what they did or not regarding the subject.  Prophets like David O. McKay was one of those who prayed continually about this and never received a conclusive answer by his own admission, and I suppose others did as well, that we don’t know of.  Good men who loved the members and wanted to know what was up with that.

      I have great respect for the General Authorities.  I don’t know any of them personally.  I have read biographies of them and have always been very impressed by the kind of men they are.  If we believe God is at the head of this church, then we believe that he has chosen these men and that they are good men, godly men,  They are not perfect, and we know that, but they have a mantle given to them.  I absolutely believe they kneel down and pray and ask the Lord for His guidance in all things pertaining to the church and they way to minister to all of us.  If we doubt they are called by the Lord, then we need to pray and make surethey are, if not then leave.

      • RJ
        March 14, 2012 at 9:08 pm

        Carmen,
        first of all, I understand your defensiveness in responding to charges that church
        leaders are in anyway racist. I understand how in the eyes of common members
        (as you put it) reading anything negative in reference to men that you consider
        apostles and prophets is, to say the least, disturbing. The term
        “racist” is a loaded word and easily misunderstood, as was discussed
        very clearly in this podcast. When I say that institutional racism still exists
        in the church, I am saying that only in the exact context that I am describing. 

        Personally,
        I am very willing to give “common members” credit to be able to hear
        hard things and hold on to their faith. However, sadly I have also seen very many
        who do not, once confronted with difficult truths about the church.  I have no doubt that our church leadership has
        been and is now willing to hide or obscure information that is true but
        potentially harmful to LDS faith. That is a certifiable fact. I truly believe
        that in this case they have done so to shield one group over another and that
        is very sad to me. Efforts
        to root out harmful and false doctrine or “folk doctrine” (as the PR
        dept put it) surrounding the temple/priesthood ban for black people have been extremely
        weak or nonexistent. The reason for this is understandable, but inexcusable. Yes
        you can find people who persevere and thrive despite of it, but it has also had
        terrible impact on countless people, and that must be honored.  I reject the notion that “the people who
        can own up are all dead and gone”. Very far from it.

         
         

      • Dan Wotherspoon
        March 15, 2012 at 3:44 pm

        I’m sorry we are coming across as such dangerous characters, Carmen. As you can guess, I don’t see our conversation in the same light as you do. On this and most Mormon Matters episodes, panel members are all committed, active Latter-day Saints. As part of our faith journey’s, we have gained perspectives that allow us to feel truly part of the church even as we serve not only with our hearts but also our minds. B.H. Roberts called for “thoughtful disciples who will not be content with merely repeating some of its truths, but will develop its truths; and enlarge it by that development. . . . [Who] will yet take profounder and broader views of the great doctrines committed to the Church; and departing from mere repetition, will cast them in new formulas; cooperating in the works of the spirit, until they help to give to the truths received a more forceful expression, and carry it beyond the earlier and cruder stages of its development.” We’re in the church. We love it. We hope nothing but the best for it. We’re committed to doing our share to build up the kingdom. We don’t target any audience or try to influence people who are not already alerted to issues, but we are here as a small corner in Zion, united in heart with church members and doing our best to offer a constructive approach to difficult issues for those interested in pursuing them.

      • Anonymous
        March 20, 2012 at 11:09 pm

         I largely agree. To me these arguments describe a political posturing process by a bunch of men taking polls, determining risk of reward like any business, institution, or government body – an nothing I’ve ever experienced in all my callings and inner-circle discussions lends merit to this. In fact, as a consultant to the Church on matters of my expertise I have been utterly shocked at how little they rely on anything other than a spiritual guidance in the matter. 

        This is what I find disturbing and misguided about this method of public discussion, discontent, planning, or strategizing. It can create eddies of non-pragmatic, loosely doctrinal, intellectual dishonesty…and never change a thing, never even hit the issue worth resolving – which in this case is knowing the mind of the Lord, let alone the mind of the prophets involved in the timing of blacks receiving the priesthood…which is left mysterious and unproven…but instead moving forward to calls of action, apology, etc.

        Why apologize if you don’t know the why’s, unless you fear man, seek to placate to popularity…which are all at the expense of fearing and serving God.  Very poor logic.

    • Anonymous
      March 20, 2012 at 10:37 pm

      I agree LDS individuals and institutions will continually have room to improve. Ranging from prophets to newcomers, there’s no shortage of finger-pointing to be done if one wants to focus on shortcomings. 

      However I find little or no merit to the underlying accusation that blacks were withheld priesthood because of racism. And to “insist” on denouncing or apologizing when we don’t know the whys and hows is polite to man and offensive to God.  “Counsel not your God.” “Lean not unto thine own understanding.” “Fear God more than man.”

      I think its disingenuous for people who weren’t there, don’t have access to Joseph or other leaders thoughts, conversations, prayers, study, and supplications to suggest (a) what’s wrong or (b) what apology is required.  I would have preferred to here only thoughtful “blessings counted” (I loved the sister who commented about “by waiting just 10 years…avoided the pitfalls of segregated church-houses”) and less about “calls to action”…even “insistences on apologies or actions”.

      It actually frustrates me to have to defend (however well-meaning) “idle gossip”, “intellectual dishonesty”, “flawed authoritative commentaries” to non-members or fellow members. And I think this group is guilty of some of this. Why?

      Because, the idea that we democratically know better than leaders, or God, is flawed.  The idea we can talk and talk and talk our way into Church-wide improvements on subjects that require revelation seems an Achille’s hill. How tiresome it is to find popular consent rampant in business, institutions, governments…and now continually more in world religions.  I’m not sure this panel doesn’t cross the line. 

      It is one of the hallmarks of the LDS faith, and I’d say true religion – quite different from many religions who teach “precepts of men, mingled with scripture… but who deny ultimate authority”, to paraphrase Christ’s words to Joseph Smith – that revelations are given without spelling out why always.  Religious instruction that comes from a source that chooses rarely to explain Himself so that followers (do-ers) alone enjoy the fruits of obedience.

      Belief that God’s prophet, whether on our time table or not, in flowery words or not, simply receive and then share (or institutionalize) what they receive is enough. Belief that God’s messengers are NOT allowed to deceive or misguide a dispensation, is also quite profound enough for all.

      I desire no apology whatsoever from God or His prophets. I want only to know that He is at the helm. And I have that.  And though I will work as hard and as often as necessary to love all my brothers and sisters (regardless of color) and to secure any rights and privileges without bias, I respect that God reserves His right to express his favor anyway he pleases – even at the displeasure of governments, institutions, or groups.  I can’t see why LDS members everywhere would feel differently.

  4. March 10, 2012 at 8:12 pm

    I’m really enjoying the podcast. I’m currently about 2/3 of the way through the 2nd half and I thought I’d just take a moment to comment on the idea that an institution or church can repent. I realize that 3/4 of the panel agreed with me, but I thought I’d put forward what I consider to be the best evidence for convincing someone that they (churches, institutions, etc.) can repent. 

    We’re all aware of the “only true and living church” idea and what the common interpretation is of that verse. This interpretation has always bugged me (and in fact prompted me to write up this post on how the church is softening the message of the “true and living church” http://geoffsn.blogspot.com/2011/06/only-true-and-living-church.html ). Let’s look at the text itself:

    “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased, speaking unto the church collectively and not individually—For I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance”

    So first we see that the Lord says that the church in 1831 was the ‘only’ church with which He was well-pleased (not that it was the only true church), and more importantly, He specifies that He means that he is pleased with the church as an institution and not with the individual members which make up the church. Now what is it that pleases or displeases the Lord? He answers that after the hyphen, He is displeased with sin. Notice the Lord separates the church from the individuals in the church. Now if the Lord can be pleased or displeased with the individuals based upon sin, and He uses the same language speaking of the church as an institution, one could easily deduce that it is possible for the Lord to be displeased with the church as an institution, which would imply some institutional sin. 

    Our Mormon doctrine is full of opportunities for the Atonement to be extended to many ontological entities than just individual persons. D&C 88:25 the earth has a soul and it “transgresseth not the law,” and will be saved via Jesus. Joseph taught on many occasions that animals have souls and will also be resurrected. I see no reason to think that an institution can’t also repent. As was pointed out by the panel on the show, nations, cities, etc. have been called to repentance. It wasn’t just for individual sins, but often for sins which were part of the institutions themselves (say such as a policy of the institution which was not “pleasing” to the Lord). Anyway, back to the podcast! ;)

    • March 10, 2012 at 9:18 pm

       I love it!  Has the church ever said sorry, aside from Mountain Meadows?  (Was that an apology?)

      • March 10, 2012 at 9:44 pm

        Regarding Mountain Meadows, Eyring was careful to place responsibility on local leaders and used the words “profound regret” which historian Will Bagley and some Baker-Fancher party descendents did not see as an apology. I can see their point, especially in light of the following statement from Hinckley in 1999 at the dedication of the new monument: “That which we have done here must never be construed as an acknowledgment on the part of the church of any complicity in the occurrences of that fateful and tragic day.”  Beyond that, the church even admits Eyring’s words were not an apology here:  http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2007-09-11-938047941_x.htm

        • March 11, 2012 at 7:03 am

           What a shame!  I wonder why not?

          • March 11, 2012 at 7:27 am

            My guess is because it undermines their authority to acknowledge such things.

      • Jlouise413
        March 12, 2012 at 2:50 am

        Good question. . . is there any precedent for the Church acknowledging institutional wrongdoing and/or apologizing for it?

        • March 12, 2012 at 3:45 am

          I think there is heaps of precedent – but I’m personally unaware of any situation where a doctrine has been formally and thoroughly repudiated.  Which brings the Catholic Church to mind who absolutely declare the infallibility of church doctrine and papal authority.  They also declare themselves to be the ‘One True Church’ – I’m thinking just off the bat that perhaps we have our own papal  tradition of the One True Church domination and need to model ourselves on the Catholic tradition in order to compete?  Just a thought!

  5. March 10, 2012 at 8:36 pm

    I love it!  Has the church ever said sorry, aside from Mountain Meadows?  (Was that an apology?) 

  6. March 10, 2012 at 10:18 pm

    Brad said the following near the end of episode 80: 

    “If you’re unwilling to accept that the ban was wrong then what you’re doing is accepting a view of the universe in which it is okay to discriminate on the basis of race even in these vital vital things…temple access, temple covenants, sealing, sealings of families together.  It’s okay to withhold those blessings, to exclude people on the basis of race and so the unwillingness, the inability to view the ban as wrong is a stumbling block to overcoming the sin of racism for the individual and the unwillingness of the leaders of the church to acknowledge the wrongness of the ban therefore becomes a stumbling block for individual church members in their own quest to overcome the sin of racism that still exists, the residual racism that still exists as an after effect and simply that is a byproduct of our own cultural embeddedness.  Racism is a sin, it’s a sin that has stained us in the past, that continues to stain us in the present and full acknowledgement of all the wrongness of all the racism in all of its forms is the only possible path to removing this sin from…to unstaining our garments.”

    While I fully agree with Brad’s statement, there are other issues regarding racism that are even more problematic.  In fact, I would say that racism is even more deeply embedded in Mormonism than what was discussed on this podcast.  Consider the following passages from The Book of Mormon and The Pearl of Great Price:

    “wherefore, as they were white and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them.” (2 Nephi 5:21)

    “there was a blackness came upon all the children of Canaan, that they were despised among all people.”
    (Moses 7:8)

    “they were a mixture of all the seed of Adam save it was the seed of Cain, for the seed of Cain were black, and had not place among them .” (Moses 7:22)

    “from Ham, sprang that race which preserved the curse in the land.” (Abraham 1:24)

    “Now the first government of Egypt was established by Pharaoh, the eldest son of Egyptus, the daughter of Ham, . . . Noah, his father, who blessed him with the blessings of the earth, . . . but cursed him as pertaining
    to the Priesthood.  Now, Pharaoh being of the lineage by which he could not have the right of Priesthood.” (Abraham 1:26-27)

    In light of these passages, does it really come as a huge surprise that racism continues to be alive and well in Mormonism?  I find it hard to believe that even the most sincere apology and/or acknowledgement that the ban was wrong will eliminate racism within Mormonism as long as things like this are considered the word of God.

    • Dan Wotherspoon
      March 10, 2012 at 11:38 pm

      Hi Wes,

      I think I mentioned in the early going that we’re definitely planning to do a podcast that will explore at least the Book of Mormon race passages. If we don’t extend the discussion there to deal with racism in scripture overall, I’ll make sure we do that soonish. In my mind, if one can buy into a few key concepts about the nature of scripture, scripture can come alive in new ways that I think a lot of Mormons could embrace, and within that new set of lenses passages like these need not be understood in the same way they are now. We can still be instructed by them, they can still be “for our good,” they simply will no longer automatically be taken as God’s will/word.

      Should get that BofM racism one recorded in about three weeks…

      Dan

      • March 10, 2012 at 11:53 pm

        Hi Dan,

        I look forward to any future podcasts dealing with the issue of racism within Mormonism.
        Wes

      • Blair Hodges
        March 11, 2012 at 8:56 pm

        Brant Gardner would be a good one on that, as would Marvin Perkins. Who are your guests? 

      • Kelli_abq
        March 15, 2012 at 5:27 am

        The genesis group put out a nice series of lectures in which Marvin Perkins addresses the Book of Mormon passages and presents what I feel is an inspired perspective. I believe the DVD set is called Blacks in the Priesthood.
        I am looking forward to the related podcast you mentioned, Dan, because, while the DVDs are great and seem to issue a call to conscientious members to spread the word, i doubt that they made it to very many (or more importantly, to the right) LDS homes. I anticipate your upcoming discussion will help this issue evolve in a very productive and inspiring way.
        And thank you for the great podcasts.

        • Dan Wotherspoon
          March 15, 2012 at 3:59 pm

          Hope not to disappoint any of you on this! Not sure I may not have overpromised, especially for those who are looking for detailed analyses on particular passages. That isn’t the kind of podcast I have in mind, though I’m willing to look at the sources and people some of you have mentioned. For me, there’s a ton of racism in our scriptures. I can’t imagine beginning from any other premise. The question that’s most interesting for me, then, is how can we view scripture positively and as vitally important when there are such things as racist prophets. 

          There are ways of looking at various passages from “within the story,” imagining ourselves in their shoes, ideas that they were raised with, the cultural forces all around them, and perhaps cutting them a bit more slack than we would should they be saying similar things today. But although I’m willing to go down that road some, that’s too much the terrain of apologists who often work with the idea that radical rethinking isn’t necessary, that stories and scriptures can be stretched in certain ways that can preserve pretty much intact all the old expectations about them.

          For me, we need something far more radical: how we can approach the flawed nature of all scripture. For me the far more important discussions are “what scripture is and isn’t”; “what prophets are and aren’t”; “when are we bringing unrealistic expectations to scripture and prophetic utterance?”; etc. I think we can talk through things like this, we’ll be going a long way toward peace (though never complacency! we must always call scripture, others, and especially ourselves on manifest weaknesses) concerning scripture. That’s at least the type of episode I’m currently planning to put together.

  7. Jreedwill
    March 10, 2012 at 11:27 pm

    This was a great podcast becuase it definitely caused me to self-reflect on my attitude towards this issue. Unfortunately, I am one of the members who was always trying to figure out a way to justify the Ban, and the reason being, is becuase I am not very well versed in the racsim of the early church. I had heard of Joseph Smith giving the preisthood to a black man before he passed which always caused me to wonder where this came from. I didn’t realize that Brigham Young had bias towards race.

    So it was definitely helpful for me to realize that this came from personal imperfection of church leaders. I liked what Gina said about how our theology needs to match up with our church, and I think that has been the age old struggle of Religion in general. Practicing what we preach. I had never viewed the Ban in that light before.

    Additionally, I haven’t seen the source, but I have heard that Joseph Smith sealed two men together. Could the issue of gay marriage possibly be a repeat of the Preisthood and Temple Ban?

    • March 11, 2012 at 7:06 am

      Hi Jreedwill!  Thanks for your honesty.  I’ve had similar thoughts myself.  If the church could be so emphatic about it at one point in the church’s history then dismiss it the next, how much faith can we have in their condemnation of women getting the priesthood, or same gender marriage?

  8. Anonymous
    March 10, 2012 at 11:39 pm

    I wonder why the issue of so-called racism is brought up so often. I believe its part of the anti-white propaganda effort to de-construct white society and re-build based upon a multi-racial basis. Only the continued existence of the white race prevent the creation of this brave new world.

    Every group and every person is subject to the de-construction effort.  Mormon’s have fewer tools to defend themselves against this onslaught by the inherent nature of mormonism.  They are taught to believe the irrational and in so doing remove the ability of critical thought.   I know, I was one for decades.

    The US Founders never would have imagined an American elite so corrupt that they would dissolve the people and import a new one. But how about the WHITES? There future?

    How is this not genocide:
    White countries are being flooded by non-whites. We are told to be TOLERANT. We are forced to integrate.

  9. Jlouise413
    March 12, 2012 at 2:46 am

    I remember that, growing up in the 80s and 90s, the “Priesthood ban” troubled me, and I was quick to reason that it not only meant limited leadership opportunities for black men, it also meant black men and women could not take out their endowments or be sealed to their spouses and children, ordinances requisite for eternal life and celestial glory. I appreciate Brad’s highlighting this point. I found myself wondering: if one is not allowed the right to participate in these ordinances in this life, what would be the point of church membership?
     
    The only explanation for the “ban” that ever came close to abating my discomfort came from my mother. She suggested that perhaps the “ban” had existed because the white membership, with its lack of moral and social progressiveness at that time, would not have accepted black members having full membership rights. “It’s because the whites were not ready for it, and NOT because blacks were not ready for or worthy of it,” she would say. While this didn’t fully satisfy me, I found appealing the notion that the reason for the “ban” was imperfect white members, and not black members.
     
    I’ve heard others suggest similar theories, speculating that allowing full black membership earlier than 1978 would have been so disruptive to an unprogressive, white body of membership that the church would not have been able to continue growing (particularly in its earlier days). In other words, God knew the only way to grow the church was to, at least for a time, keep blacks out. Again, this explanation did not assign any blame to blacks, but it satisfied me much less because it suggested that God was willing to punish His black children for the sinful attitudes of His white children with the greater good of the church (continued, long-term growth) in mind.
     
     As I’ve gotten older, and also as I’ve listened to conversations such as this week’s podcast, I’ve come to realize the only explanation I can accept is that this policy was simply wrong and the byproduct of imperfect church leaders exercising influence based on their personal attitudes and prejudices, and not based on doctrine. I hope the church will continue to move closer to taking responsibility and making amends.

  10. Jlouise413
    March 12, 2012 at 2:51 am

    BTW — thanks — great podcast!

  11. March 12, 2012 at 9:21 am

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  12. Anonymous
    March 12, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    Awesome episode.

    I had never considered the argument that perhaps God was waiting for the white membership to be ready for the ban to be lifted to avoid creating large rifts in congregations. That’s a somewhat compelling argument. I guess I would argue that if God is so bold as to command the practice of polygamy in His church (at the expense of losing many faithful members who refused to accept it), He can just as well command the membership to stop being racist before the rest of the world gets a clue. He’s not a respecter of persons, right? Why allow the seeds of racism to be planted at all? The early members of the church sacrificed the lives of their babies crossing the plains for God. Would they not have been willing to shed racist traditions of thought if the He commanded it?

    I would have enjoyed hearing a brief summary of the origins of the ban, some of the mysteries surrounding it. Did it originate with Joseph Smith? Did it exist in all splinter groups after the succession crisis? Did any official statements exist in regards to it? How did the policy compare to other racist policies that existed in other organizations within the same historical context? Any existing podcast episodes out there that delve into more detail about that?

    • March 12, 2012 at 5:43 pm

       There is one on Mormon Stories with Darius Grey.  There is also an excellent article recently re-published by Dialogue by Lester Bush called ‘Mormonisms negro doctrine, an historical overview’.  Its long but useful and will answer many of your questions.   The question of whether it came from God as a protection for black folk from white racism is a contentious one and one I’m not inclined to agree with, but then I’m comfortable with the idea that prophets are fallible and products of their time. 

      Dustin Jones’ is also a very moving podcast on Mormon Stories is indicative of the pain caused by the ban.

      • Anonymous
        March 12, 2012 at 6:18 pm

        Thanks!

  13. March 12, 2012 at 5:20 pm

    Just started this, excellent comments. Two questions. 

    1) I agree Brad’s formulation of “temple ban” rather than “priesthood ban” is accurate and rhetorically useful. Regarding black women, however, weren’t there issues about women and temples in general? As I recall, women could not go to the temple without the permission of their husbands until relatively recently. Could a black woman married to a white man go through the temple? 2) Whenever I hear about the Genesis group I am impressed by its ability to serve a particular population in such need. I am especially moved by the model of communication between the highest leadership and members harmed by Church policies. 

    My question is this: Could the Genesis model be used for other groups? What contributed to the success of the Genesis group? Has that window forever closed? O could we have specialized groups to address the needs of sexual minorities, women, and even intellectuals? It would not need to be organized quite the same, but I am inspired by the idea of an “Exodus group” with a first presidency of a feminist, homosexual and intellectual that meets weekly with apostles to discuss how the Church can better serve these groups in the Church. 

    • March 12, 2012 at 5:49 pm

      I had some similar thoughts. You articulated them much better than I could.

      I also loved how the Genesis group worked in Southern Spiritual numbers into their worship services. None of you have any idea how long I’ve wanted better music (and very often those very Southern Spiritual numbers) in meetings. I wish the church could start to be more flexible on some of those fronts. 

    • Dan Wotherspoon
      March 12, 2012 at 6:02 pm

      Exodus might be somewhat accurate in terms of the outflow of many members of the groups you’re calling to be represented, and I know you picked it as the second book of the Hebrew Bible after Genesis, but I can’t think it’s very aspirational!

    • March 12, 2012 at 9:39 pm

       I’m going to put a wee spanner in the works here and suggest that the formation of the Genesis group is a wonderful example of religious hegemony.  Practically it offers a space for ‘safely’ worshiping and identifying with folks who have similar stories to one’s  own and I honour that. 

      However, there is no link to the  Genesis Group on LDS.org, they have never been formally introduced to the membership of the church, black members are not officially invited to join the Genesis Group upon joining the church, they don’t have the regular ear of the First Presidency, they weren’t consulted with respect to the recent statement responding to the Randy Bott furor,  and there are no references to  them in the General Handbook of Instructions.   So who are they, and what is their function?  Is this simply a gesture of goodwill to black folk who can stomach joining the church with all of its equivocating on matters of race?  Or is this a concerted effort by the church to deeply interrogate the question of racism both historical and contemporary?  I’m inclined to go with the former.

      Whether or not ‘The Holy SLC’ will ever get around to being curious to hear the stories of those who sit at the margins and begin to take instruction from them remains to be seen, but  I think what you propose is a great model – theoretically!  

      • Carmen Lopez
        March 13, 2012 at 1:30 pm

        “Stomach joining the church? As far as I know this is the church of Christ so why would they have to stomach joining the true church? That’s just an awful choice of words and their implication is unfair at the least.  Genesis Group is not an official church group, just like Farms or any other, they are just groups form by church members who organized the groups in accordance with their interests, and your sarcasm is completely out of line and disrespectful  “The Holy SLC”.  Those men in SLC are the best men on earth or the Lord would not have chosen them, and as far as know the church’s website does not provide links to independent groups websites like FARMS or genesis.

        • March 13, 2012 at 4:58 pm

          I agree it would be a terrible choice of words if you didn’t have to think a great deal about your worth in a church where its prophets and apostles  had preached some pretty vile things about your race, which (in the case of Randy Bott – a BYU professor) continue to have some unofficial currency.   I think we might be burying our heads in the sand if we can’t acknowledge that for some black folk  joining our church might be deeply, deeply problematic.

          The Genesis Group was established under the direction of the First Presidency and is an official unit of the church.  Farms is an apologetics think tank and has no ecclesiastical  functions.

          The Holy SLC is an affectionate play on words from the ‘Holy See’ -  its the LDS Vatican with its own Curia- no offense intended.  And while there is most certainly an  outstanding spiritual calibre among the General Authorities of the church, I think even they might be embarrassed to be referred to as the ‘Best Men on Earth’.

          My flippant choice of words has obviously caused some offense – my apologies.  

        • Dan Wotherspoon
          March 13, 2012 at 6:00 pm

          Appreciate Gina’s response. One quick note in response to Carmen’s last line: During the early dustups over the DNA not supporting traditional interpretations of today’s “Lamanites” as descending from Middle Eastern peoples (with the science showing them of Asian descent), the church’s newsroom linked to several articles and perspectives published in FARMS (and if I recall correctly, an even less official apologetic site). So while I agree that they don’t super directly engage or say that these other groups do “official” thinking/writing for the church, I get a strong sense that they are actually often quite glad they are there for those who want to look more deeply into particular areas that church leaders, given their ecclesiastical calls, simply can’t go deep.

        • Dan Wotherspoon
          March 13, 2012 at 6:00 pm

          Appreciate Gina’s response. One quick note in response to Carmen’s last line: During the early dustups over the DNA not supporting traditional interpretations of today’s “Lamanites” as descending from Middle Eastern peoples (with the science showing them of Asian descent), the church’s newsroom linked to several articles and perspectives published in FARMS (and if I recall correctly, an even less official apologetic site). So while I agree that they don’t super directly engage or say that these other groups do “official” thinking/writing for the church, I get a strong sense that they are actually often quite glad they are there for those who want to look more deeply into particular areas that church leaders, given their ecclesiastical calls, simply can’t go deep.

  14. Anim
    March 12, 2012 at 6:03 pm

    I agree with hoost. If the church could sucessfully institute something as radical as polygamy, then racially mixed congreations shouldn’t have been a problem.

    The part of the podcast that discussed the priesthood ban as protecting black people from hateful reactions from whites, or as preventing the church from splitting into white and black congregations (separate but equal) seemed like a concession that maybe the ban itself as well as the timing of the retraction were inspired after all.

    I also do not quite understand how we could possibly have all Hispanic wards (based on ethnicity, not language) in Arizona. In the LDS church we cannot choose our congregations. We attend assigned units based on our home address. Gerrymander the ward boundaries to achieve the desired diversity -problem solved.

  15. Paula
    March 12, 2012 at 6:15 pm

    Brilliant podcast!  IMHO, in not explicitly acknowledging the wrongness of the priesthood/temple ban,  the institutional church is not following the very exemplar its own teachings have expounded as the only way to take full advantage of the atonement.  This is the gap that causes leadership credibility problems for me, more so than an honest admission that we got it very wrong in the past.

  16. Wade
    March 13, 2012 at 4:38 am

    Dan,
    How are you able to put together dream-team after dream-team of panelists?  Love love love these podcasts!

    • Dan Wotherspoon
      March 13, 2012 at 6:03 pm

      Thanks, Wade! I totally think the same thing quite often. Feeling incredibly blessed to know or find ways to connect with these amazing people and facilitate their voices having an extra way to be heard.

  17. Monk
    March 13, 2012 at 6:45 am

    I am very thankful that the church members are beginning to have a meaningful dialogue on this topic.  But I fear that some of the language may tend to polarize the issue more than it needs to be.  For an example I find the use of “racism” as the only term use to describe any differential treatment of individuals of different races to be such an overstatement of what is happening as to discredit the entire point being made.  This is the same as when those in the church often use the term pornography to describe immodest dress and R rated movies.  While I agree that threatening individuals differently based their race is absolutely wrong, to refer to minor infraction with the same term that describes the most vile acts allows those who act in a racist manner without any racist intent to discount their own actions.  Just as the youth who views R rated moves can discount the counsel of those who refer to it as pornography. 
    For an example if I have never dated a person from a race other than my own, to an outside observer I may appear racist because I seem to be making selections based on race.  And, if they called me racist for not dating persons from another race I would discount their accusations because I do not think that race that was a significant factor in my choices of who choose to date, and I know racists and I  know that I am not one, just as I know what pornography is and when I see an R rated move I know that it is not pornography. 
    If we begin calling everyone who may appear to us to be treating individuals differently based on their race a racist we will end the dialogue before it ever begins.  If we can not find a way to properly distinguish  between the different acts which,  by the definition used in the podcast, can all be called racism, I fear that there will be no real dialogue with those who treat those of other races differently out of ignorance or other benign factors.

    Another question is all “racism” wrong.  Does the fact that as a missionary I generally avoided proselytizing in white neighborhoods make me a “racist.”  Again, the definition set up in the podcast would make the restorative or “social justice” measures referred to in the podcast as being “racist” because they would have us treat individuals differently based primarily on their race.  

    Look, I know people (both black and white) who are racially ignorant, racially biased, racially intolerant, racially bigoted and even those who think those that think anyone not of their own race sub-human.  But, to call them all thing same thing is simply inaccurate and seems to be used more to get some shock value or to demean the poor ignorant Utah man telling racial jokes than to have a meaningful dialogue on the subject. 

    • Maggie
      March 13, 2012 at 8:30 pm

      Monk, your comment made me think of a little song called, “everyone’s a little bit racist”, from Avenue Q?

      I may be off base here but the point is not to label people as racists but to identify racism within the community, within the church and within ourselves. And then, seek out ways to rectify it. I don’t think that the panelist meant to vilify anyone by pointing out racism. Personally, I appreciated their frankness.  

    • Dan Wotherspoon
      March 15, 2012 at 4:23 pm

      I hear you, Monk. I get how it can seem like using the same label for different levels of sin/weakness/evil can in some ways seem like it is a sure way to shut down certain conversations before they really can begin. I don’t know if it’s a good response to your concerns, but let me at least share my own journey to where I’m more comfortable with using even such a loaded term like “racist/racism” when talking about good people.

      I remember being very startled when I first began to hear spiritual people I really admire talk about their own racism–using that term. “What?” I’d say inside my head! “No, you’re not.” I was bringing all of my “but doesn’t intent matter?” or “surely your racism doesn’t really live up to the evil of the Klan, etc., so why use the term?” kinds of ideas into those encounters. Over the years, however, I’ve grown more and more to see how using the starkest terms can be very helpful. When Nephi laments “O wretched man that I am,” we ourselves don’t really think he’s wretched, but we are able to honor his desires to be truly free of his sins and weaknesses, so we begin to “get” why he’d say such things about himself. He and the kind of people I’m talking about above are living at a higher level of spiritual sensitivity, and what feels more minor as a flaw to us feels painful to them and they want to rid themselves of that pain. One good thing, though, about being so extra sensitive to the Spirit, is that even though they may own up to “racist” or “wretched,” my sense is they don’t use those terms (and the things they’ve noticed about themselves they want to overcome) as sticks to beat themselves up with. They get that repentance is joyful. It’s not about shame, not about groveling, not about regret. It’s about change and growth. They feel properly awful (Step 1 in the “repentance process”) and want to cease being burdened by their weaknesses, but they know that they are growing and moving in the right direction. Again, my own spirituality is not anywhere near the level of these people, but I’m “getting” them more and more and why they don’t shy away from applying even the most startling terms to their sins. “Racist.” “Evil.” “Hard-hearted.” “Ungrateful.” Those are all over their writings and prayer language. I take a lot of instruction and inspiration from that.

  18. Tim
    March 13, 2012 at 6:31 pm

    Glad to see that just about everything stated in this video was affirmed by this discussion

  19. Anonymous
    March 13, 2012 at 10:47 pm

    Dan – I just
    caught your key note address at the regional conference in Houston. Great job!!
    This podcast is a little puzzling to me though, and I hope you can help me
    understand it. There seems to be a bit of cognitive dissonance from the LDS
    faithful. It was only a few weeks ago I heard a massive outcry among the LDS
    community when the Pastor from Texas called Mormonism a cult. The frustration
    was apparent in even the most liberal online communities, even to the point
    that one felt as if they were ready to see this guy’s head on a platter. So,
    when you talk about the issue of race and don’t have the same outcry and
    indignation against Brigham Young it seems (in my mind) to have a detrimental
    impact on credibility. I see a similar behavior when it comes to Joseph Smith.
    I think we all expressed a devout anger and unimaginable fury toward Brian
    David Mitchell with regard to his actions in the taking and sexual abuse of
    Elizabeth Smart, but I fail to see the same outcry when we learn of Joseph’s
    propositioning young girls for marriage by promising her and her family
    celestial glory, or proclaiming the consequence of death from an angel with
    drawn sword. To say that two of these men are faithful enough that we would name
    schools in their honor and write hymns of praise to them, but the other two are
    reprobates, seems to me to be a great example of Orwellian double think. Does
    the racial behavior and inappropriate relationships really invoke the frustrations
    that the LDS community claims that it does, or are these just platitudes given
    in an effort to make the church more politically correct? If it’s truly the
    former please help me understand how it is that Brigham and Joseph get a pass
    here? I know I’m on the outside looking, but I really would like to understand
    the psychology. Love what you do, and thanks in advance.
     

    • SteveS
      March 14, 2012 at 5:26 pm

      HuskySouth: I can’t speak for Dan or the others, but I suspect that Brigham and Joseph get somewhat more of a pass because their actions are “water under the bridge”, so to speak. What they said and did took place two centuries ago, and no one living today has been directly affected by these men in their lifetimes. Sure, their actions and words continue to affect/afflict individuals and the institution of the LDS Church, and I don’t want to sound like I’m condoning or being apologetic of their actions, but perhaps we can’t whip ourselves into a fervor over something that happened so long ago? Somewhat akin to the younger generations not really understanding the effects of WWI or WWII on the collective and individual psyche: no matter how much we teach about the history of those wars, a young person today simply cannot fully understand what it felt like to live through those wars, and when the young don’t show up to celebrate Memorial Day or V-Day, or whatever, it’s probably due to this same inability to reach that emotional core that prevents many in our church from getting upset by the actions of leaders from 150 years ago or more.

      • Anonymous
        March 16, 2012 at 12:48 am

         Thanks Steve. I appreciate your feedback. It does better help me understand the thought process.

  20. SteveS
    March 14, 2012 at 5:53 pm

    I was struck personally by the comments Brad and Marguerite made about racism being discrimination on the basis of race, and having nothing to do with the existence or non-existence of malice. Like Brad, I have seen non-malicious racist attitudes from many, many young people in the LDS church growing up, often in the form of jokes or rationales for placing responsibility for societal ills on minority populations. I have also seen this sort of non-malicious attitude focused toward women and homosexuals, and even intellectuals, esp. those who stand up to lay claim to their basic human rights in ways that challenge the discriminatory status quos of our time. Statements like “It’s not racist because I have tons of minority friends, and they make the same jokes”, or “It’s not sexist because I have respect for women [who stay in their place and don't rock the boat]“, or “I don’t hate gay people, I just abhore what they DO”, or “I love the sinner [gay person], but hate the sin”, or “It’s not racist if it’s true” are all discriminatory remarks, even if they come from a position of sincerity and non-malice.

    That’s why, as the panel so aptly put it in the podcast, simply ceasing the racist discriminatory action (priesthood/temple ban) doesn’t end racist attitudes within the Church without a repudiation AND apology. Without the formal apology and institutional repentance, individuals seeking to support the institution will perpetuate the racist attitudes of past leaders, make tortuous rationale for the previous existence of racist doctrines, and thus successive generations of LDS will continue to hold on to destructive and hurtful ideas. With an apology in hand, local church leaders could finally implement a “zero-tolerance” policy for racist teachings and conjecture in congregational meetings, proclaiming that the Church has disavowed itself of those teachings, and apologized that they were ever taught and adhered to. Racists wishing to hold on to their discriminatory attitudes would finally stand in clear opposition to Church policy and doctrine, rather than in the grey area that now exists between the racist past and a current policy of acceptance.

    • March 15, 2012 at 11:24 pm

      Steve, I agree that the area of unwittingly racist comments or actions is something we all need to talk about more–as Mormons, as Americans, as human beings, since this is hardly a uniquely Mormon problem (though it does have particular Mormon expressions).  In the sociological literature, these are often referred to as “racial microaggressions,” defined as “subtle insults (verbal, nonverbal, and/or visual directed toward people of color, often automatically or unconsciously” (Solorzano and Yosso, 2005).  Think of moments like these:

      -You’re walking down the street and a young man of color in baggy clothes is walking the other direction.  You move to not walk near him.
      -You’re in an elevator and you (consciously or unconsciously) pull your bag closer to your chest when a young man of color comes in.
      -You see a woman of color with a child that is phenotypically different than her, and you assume she’s the nanny.

      Moments like these are reminders that when it comes to racism (if we’re defining racism as racial discrimination), we’re all perpetrators (though racial microaggressions can be particularly toxic coming from white folks like me, just by virtue of the privileges we already enjoy).  When we realize that racism is a universal sin, that we’ve all been racist, and fallen short of the glory of God (to paraphrase Paul), then we can hopefully begin to get over the knee-jerk reaction of defensiveness whenever racism is mentioned and begin to work towards actually addressing the problem.

      That said, I don’t believe the “we’re all racist” card can be used as a defense for white folks to just keep on engaging in racist behaviors (“hey, people of color do it too!”).  One of the reasons white folks like me need to hear the stories of people of color and their experiences with racial microaggressions is because I don’t think we can ever realize enough the racial battle fatigue our brothers and sisters of color have to deal with every. single. day.

  21. Gail F. Bartholomew
    March 16, 2012 at 6:24 am

    Marguerite,
    I could be wrong, but when you reference the speech given to the Utah legislature it seems to imply that all the statements given by him and other church authorities concerning “the African race” are easily dismissed as done so when they were not speaking as a prophet.  When I read many of the quotes by brother Brigham, J Rubin Clark, and Mark E. Peterson, David O. McKay and others it seems to me that many of these occasions these men believed they were speaking as prophets.  Brother Brigham prefaced some of  his statements with things like “let me tell you the will of God concering the African race.” When President McKay was part of the first presidency he and the rest of the first presidency signed a letter to saints in California saying free social intercourse between the races should never be encouraged.  J Rubin Clark as a member of the first presidency spoke to the young women of the church during a young women’s conference telling them to be wary of black men because it is their desire to become white thought interracial marriage. More than once Elder Peterson spoke to BYU about the evils of interracial marriage even once after the bane was lifted. It seems to me to be fare more complicated to discern whether what a GA says is coming from God or not than you seem to imply during the pod cast. If you understand that sometimes prophets say thing they believe are from God  when they clearly are not. I believe this gives us a far higher degree of responsibility when listening to the Lord’s anointed.  It seems that we are never safe to just take their words for granted even when they are speaking over the pulpit. 

  22. March 19, 2012 at 3:51 pm

    I think if God were here on earth, he would want us to know ALL the truth.. There are many none-faith promoting events in the history of the church, but they would not appear as dangerous if the church itselfe would classify them as mistakes. When I meet another person, and that person makes a few mistakes, but is honest about it, I find it so easy to forgive.. but if another person makes mistakes, but ignores them, or doesn’t admit them, it feels wrong.

    The right way, from my view, would be to be very honest about mistakes, wrong teachings and false practises, or, if these really are true revelations from God, to explain the WHY. In days of dirct revelation, this should be a easy thing.. And looking at God himselfe, or the prophets in the scriptures, I believe that they would be more than willing to have us understand true principels.

    In the end, to go such a honest and critical way, will be way more faithpromoting than anything else.. simply because it’s sincere. And if today, the prophet would come and say “the ban” was a false teaching, it would not at all take away my faith, simply because I know that the church was not restored in one day by perfect beings, but step by step by imperfect beings…

  23. Jlouise413
    March 19, 2012 at 5:13 pm

    The paradox here (for me) is that, if the church were to publicly address the ban and classify it as a mistake, it would, in fact, enormouslystrengthen my faith 1) in God, and 2) in the church.
     
    It would strengthen my faith in God because it would reaffirm to me that He is no respecter of persons, and while His children may be permitted to make mistakes in this life, that does not mean those mistakes are “sanctioned” by Him. I can accept that a perfect God may have allowed these things to happen as a consequence of the free agency He’s given us. I have a harder time accepting that a perfect God would have directed such actions.
     
    It would strengthen my faith in the church because it would demonstrate that the church is capable of accepting and publicly acknowledging it’s imperfections. At the individual level, aren’t we all taught that this is admirable? Furthermore, it would give me hope for progress is other areas where unfair treatment or injustices have occurred/continue to occur (such as those surrounding women).
     
    All in all, a statement of apology regarding the ban would help me to see the church as a living and breathing entity, one that is progressive and committed to transparency and self-evaluation. Such an organization sounds very appealing to me.
     

    • March 19, 2012 at 6:37 pm

      Yes, and I believe every member that has a firm testimony would feel this way about it. The current way leaves too many questionmarks, questionmarks that seem more destruvtive then the issues itselfe. When I think of the Saviour, I see him as a loving God that wants us to understand, to know and to make positive out of our mistakes, may they be personal or institutional. I believe the church as a whole would benefit if it would go this way of openness. If God were here right now, I am sure he would love to give us these answers, and would not withhold them.

      What I find very interesting, is that today there are many companys that have changed their minds towards mistakes. Years ago, and still today in many places, they have the opinion “if you make mistakes, you get fired”.. But many have come to the conclusion that mistakes are a chance, a chance to grow, to make it better.. Some greate inventions were “mistakes”, such as porcelein, penicilin, and many other things such as the discovery of america. I think there has to be a change of mind towards these things.

  24. Lee
    March 20, 2012 at 6:27 am

    Keep challenging and changing the church until you get a church that suits you. Forget Polygamy, Mountain Meadows, the ban on the Blacks receiving the priesthood. Allow the gays to marry in the temple and do what the hell you like, why not have elections so that you can choose the prophet you want. Debate, Intelectually, reasona and argue until it all falls in to place for you. So long as nothing in life makes you feel uncomfortable everything will be alright. Alternativly you could joint another church which suits you better… why not?  Lee from England.

    • March 21, 2012 at 9:00 am

      Hey Lee,

      I can’t talk for others, but to me it’s not at all about changing any doctrine of the church ( especially because the ones we are talking about have already been changed anyways ).. I love the church and it’s teachings. To me it’s just about not keeping things back that just belong to our church and churchhistory.

      Sooner or later people will come accross certain things, and the best way to look at these things and still say “so what, the church is still true and I still love it with all my heart”..  is if the answers come openly, direct and totaly honest from the church itselfe, and not from antimormons or the internet.

      The idea of keeping some things back might be ment with good intentions…. But a tree that grows up with storms will become stronger roots, and the same is here. When people have the idea that everthing is 100 %  perfect, they will easily get shaken when realizing it’s not so.

      Considering the church as my best friend, I want to know everything about “him”, including not so dood things.. This is the foundation of trust, and of truely being able to decide for one side.

  25. Ganesh
    March 20, 2012 at 10:38 pm

    One of the challenges of Racism is that it doesn’t exist in
    isolation. Racism is often a result and a justification for political and
    economic strategy and disparity. It is a very powerful tool.

    While the freedoms afforded in the United States made the
    restoration possible, the church exists in an American context and there is a
    huge societal pressure to be Americans first and Latter Day Saints second. The
    church walks a fine line between what is right and what is UNAMERICAN.

    Remember that the early church left the United States with
    persecution of such un-American ideas like polygamy and anti-slavery. By the
    time they rejoined, the slavery issue had been largely resolved but they had to
    give up polygamy. The remnants of Slavery were the new American ideology that
    Blacks were second class citizens, providing a useful supply of cheap labor.
    Racism kept this economic system in place for a long time. Of course now that
    Blacks don’t automatically fill this economic requirement, we have assigned our
    cheap labor needs to our next group of second class citizens – those from south
    of the border or some other foreign land.

    Likewise we use racism to vilify other groups and justify
    why we can continue to invade their countries and take their resources. Thirty
    years ago, Russia was the enemy. Racism underpinned the Cold War and now that
    it is ended – Russia are our greatest capitalist comrades. Our new justification
    for war is supported by our next object of Racism – the Arab World, the Middle
    East and Islam. We will pursue them relentlessly until they will trade their
    natural resources for our materialism.

    President Hinckley can in 2006 make the statement “no man who makes
    disparaging remarks concerning those of another race can consider himself a
    true disciple of Christ” – But I wonder if in our present political climate if  he had specified how we talk about and act
    towards Mexicans or Muslims, whether half the audience would have walked out of General Conference.

    It is easier to di-sect the behavior of the past and the
    remnants today and call it racism. It is a much more difficult thing to speak
    out about present day racism and how we use it to justify our behavior because
    we have strongly labeled that UNAMERICAN.

  26. UnderCover Brother
    March 21, 2012 at 11:52 am

    Hi Dan,

    Great podcast. Thanks. Here are some of my thoughts on this. I also posted this
    on Wheat and Tares as I think there’s some overlap.

    The Lord himself stated in D&C 132:8 – ‘Behold, mine
    house is a house of order, saith the Lord God, and not a house of confusion.’
    The fact we have members confused about what is doctrine and what is
    opinion/speculation such as this subject should be deeply concerning. Prof Bott’s
    comments were doctrinal in the past, but considered speculation now.  But how could any of us know that?

    The more I listened to this podcast, the more I feel that we
    are trying to address the symptoms rather that looking at the actual cause
    itself.
    I’ve been reading ‘Understanding the Book of Mormon’, by Grant Hardy (a great read,
    BTW). In it, he mentions the discussion between Lehi and Sariah (I think this
    is the only time that Sariah speaks) when their sons travel back to Jerusalem
    to get the plates (1 Nephi 5: 1-9).

    In those verses, she complains 3 times to him saying. ‘Behold…’.

    Lehi responds 3 times, ‘But behold…’.

    And at the end of these verses, Sariah responds, ‘Now I
    know…’ with 3 items.

    The question Grant asks is why would Nephi add this in. He
    (Nephi) obviously wasn’t there when this discussion took place. It obviously breaks
    up the narrative (no discussion between Lehi and Nephi as to why he killed
    Laban, where Nephi got the sword from and who on earth is this guy, Zoram).

    In the book (page 21) Grant asks these questions: ‘How do people come to accept
    the words of the prophets as the word of the Lord? What is faith founded upon?
    How is prophetic credibility established? Is there a way to convince his
    brothers – and modern readers, for that matter -
    to accept his spiritual authority?’
    So why was prophetic credibility a problem? Well, we know that false prophets
    was a ‘critical issue’ in biblical times and the Old Testament is full of
    verses that cover this (Jer 28:9, 15, Deut 18:20,
    22, 13:5, Ezekiel 14:9, Jer 23:21). Deuteronomy and Jeremiah are full of scriptures
    about how to test the credibility of prophets. I think these questions get to
    the heart of the matter and Lehi and Sariah’s discussion really help clarify
    this.

    Notice in 1 Nephi 5 how Nephi positions these verses with
    Sariah changing from verse 2,

    ‘Behold thou hast led us forth from the land of our
    inheritance, and my sons are no more, and we perish in the wilderness’
    to verse 8 where she says,

    ‘Now I know of a surety that the Lord hath commanded my
    husband to flee into the wilderness; yea, and I also know of a surety that the
    Lord hath protected my sons, and delivered them out of the hands of Laban, and
    given them power whereby they could accomplish the thing which the Lord hath
    commanded them.’
    In essence, Sariah moved from saying it was Lehi speaking as a man – ‘you led
    us out’ (opinion and speculation) to the Lord commanded him, The Lord protected
    and the Lord gave them power to accomplish it (Doctrine).
    So (as mentioned in the New Oxford Annotated Bible for Deut 18:20-23 footnotes
    - page 280), 2 things have to happen in order for prophetic credibility to be
    established:
    1) The prophet should speak exclusively on behalf of God and report
    only God’s words (as covered in 1 Nephi 3:5).
    2) The second makes the fulfillment of a prophet’s oracle the measure of its
    truth… (as covered in 1 Nephi 5:8) Agreed that a false prophet can say
    something that comes true, but you get the idea.
    So the reason why Nephi add these verses was to establish the prophetic
    credibility of Lehi for the Nephites and for us – the modern readers.

    So can we use that same test today? Can we establish prophetic credibility now?

    I think the scriptures are clear -
    Deut 18:22 – ‘When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing
    follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken,
    but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of
    him’.
    Jer 28:9 – ‘The prophet which prophesieth of peace, when the word of the
    prophet shall come to pass, then shall the prophet be known, that the Lord hath
    truly sent him’
    Jer 23:16 – ‘Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the
    prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of
    their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the Lord’

    As I have lightly applied the test, I believe that the core issue now is
    prophetic credibility. The more we see the shifting of the Doctrines of the
    Church to mere speculation or ‘we don’t know’, the
    more I see the weakening of prophetic credibility and the erosion of spiritual
    authority. A great example is the current 1st Presidency message by President
    Uchtdorf, who asks ‘Why do we need Prophets?’
    That is a great question, but some better questions are, ‘How do we accept the
    words of the prophets as the word of the Lord?’ ‘How can you and I know so that
    we are no longer confused?’ These are never asked today, yet it makes perfect
    sense that the Lord would provide a way to
    make sure we are not confused or easily led astray.

    We desperately need prophets today, and like in biblical
    times, the Lord has established a test so that we can know for ourselves.
    But do we really want to run this test against our current Prophets and
    Apostles? Do we as individuals and as a Church really want to go there?

    Let me add in closing: I have no problem whatsoever with
    Thomas S. Monson saying he is the
    President of the Church or with the previous ones saying they were Presidents
    of the Church (excluding Brother Joseph). I think the problem is that the
    second you say you are a ‘Prophet of the Lord, a Seer and a Revelator’, a
    member of the Lord’s Church (or any follower of the Lord throughout time)
    should have the right to be able to use the prophetic credibility test against you.
    We can then know for ourselves whether you speak as a man or woman or on behalf
    of the Lord. This was established by the Lord in both The Bible and The Book of
    Mormon and it makes perfect sense. The Prophet has to prove they are who they
    say they are; else all they say is just opinion and speculation. And there is
    no problem with that. As long as it is clear to all.

    • UnderCover Brother
      March 21, 2012 at 11:53 am

       Sorry about the formatting. Will fix next time.

  27. March 30, 2012 at 12:06 am

    Dan,
    I’m coming late to the discussion since I just listened to the podcast. Nice job but I do have a couple of comments.
    First undoubtedly the sentiment in the podcast was that racism is bad, real bad and sinful. Then the definition of “Racism” given in the discussion being “the differential treatment of people based upon race”, regardless of “intent”.  With a definition like that – affirmative action is certainly racist. Therefore if we use an inflamatory word like “racist” it must have some connection to intent.
    Secondly, with regard to the church, there are only two positions to be taken. either God was racist or the church leaders were racist based upon the given definition. You can extend that to other things too. If the definition of sexism is the differential treatment of individuals based on gender, regardless of intent, then we must say that either God or our leaders are sexist.
    I can not defend the church in the way blacks were treated, but I do think that we must be careful in throwing out the term racist every time there is not equality between individuals with different shades of skin.

  28. March 31, 2012 at 6:04 pm

    All throughout the Bible and Book of Mormon, the Lord “cursed” people with generational curses. We are so quick to pull the “race” card on this and yet sometimes don’t try to understand that perhaps it was not about that at all. I don’t know any better than anyone else why these faithful members were denied the blessings at the time. However, I do believe in the Gospel and in the Prophets and I trust that it was, for whatever reason, something that God had put into place and something that He lifted according to His own knowledge. My oldest son is half black. His father joined the church a few years ago. My husband is Tongan (so he is dark skinned) and therefore all my children are mixed. We can continually bring up these matters and debate them, but the reality is either you trust, have faith and have a testimony, or the Adversary will continue to lead you down this path of controversy and questioning to try to derail you from the things that really matter and that is what the Gospel seeks to bring us to: A full remission of our sins through the Atonement of Jesus Christ…that atonement applies to everyone.

  29. Dan Wotherspoon
    April 1, 2012 at 11:06 pm

    Interesting findings about awareness of and agreement with (or lack of agreement with) at least one of the folk doctrines used to speculate about the ban: 

    http://www.deseretnews.com/article/765564520/Survey-clarifies-Mormons-beliefs-about-race.html?pg=2

    • April 4, 2012 at 12:50 am

      On one level, those numbers seem heartening–on another, I wonder how much unconscious doublespeak might be inherent in them.  That is, a person can say they don’t agree with those folk teachings when asked about them in a survey 
      (because in your heart they don’t feel right, and you know saying yes would look bad), and still in another setting (surrounded by believing Mormons) hold that they were likely inspired, because they were taught by prophets, and that they are simply “difficult” things we need to put on the shelf.

  30. Xyz
    April 2, 2012 at 10:56 pm

    Elitism is a much greater problem than racism. And that doctrine will be very difficult to change. Near impossible.

  31. Mormon Heretic
    May 3, 2012 at 12:15 am

    If anyone is interested in a transcript, I just posted one at 
    http://www.mormonheretic.org/2012/05/02/confronting-racism-with-the-church/

    • Dan Wotherspoon
      May 3, 2012 at 7:02 am

      Really? Wow! We just did one ourselves for excerpting for the next Sunstone magazine. Oh well! On the other hand, if you are ever going to do one again, please alert me! Perhaps we can avoid duplicating efforts?

      Thanks for doing all this work!
      Dan

    • Dan Wotherspoon
      May 3, 2012 at 7:06 am

      Wait. Just clicked link and saw that you only have Part 1 complete. Stop! Write me through mormonmatters at gmail dot come with your contact info, and I can send you the rest! (Will be out of Internet reach most of today, though, so my response will need to come tonight.)

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