026: Blacks and the LDS Priesthood–An Interview with Darius Gray and Margaret Young

April 12, 2006
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Recently, Brigham Young University invited Darius Gray–one of the founders of the LDS Genesis Group, and a black Mormon for over 30 years–to deliver a presentation entitled, “Blacks and the LDS Priesthood.”

In this podcast, Darius re-delivers this presentation, along with Margaret Young. Darius and Margaret are co-authors of a trilogy dealing with black Mormon history entitled: Standing on the Promises.

2 of the links mentioned in the podcast are:

Finally–Darius, Margaret, and Richard Dutcher are collaborating on a documentary about blacks and the Mormon church…and are seeking donations for anyone interested in supporting.  To contact them about a donation, please email Margaret Young directly at: margaret_young@byu.edu

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32 Responses to 026: Blacks and the LDS Priesthood–An Interview with Darius Gray and Margaret Young

  1. ebb
    April 13, 2006 at 11:58 am

    This is one be pondered and listen to more than once.

  2. ebb
    April 13, 2006 at 12:02 pm

    This is one to be pondered and listened to more than once. (I think this is closer to being grammatically correct.)

  3. Lyman Wight
    April 14, 2006 at 7:36 am

    John,

    As always, extremely well executed. I have to admit that this is an area I am not as well versed in as I should be, so I found this podcast, as well as the one with Darron Smith to be extremely enlightening on the blacks and the priesthood issue.

    The thing that stands out to me, is that if the priesthood ban was just ‘folklore’ that crept into the church and became policy, why did it take a revelation to reverse it? Also, to me, Hinkley’s comments at conference were very disappointing. It’s very heartwarming to say, “don’t be racist”, but until the leadership specifically denounces the widespread beliefs behind the doctrine, or policy, they are implicitly endorsing it.

    Hinkley did a soft shoe, when he needed to make a statement. He needed to come out and say there was no basis for the policy beyond simple racism of the 1800′s. Blacks are not cursed. God loves all his children equally, and always has.

    Being more explicit like this would have done two things which would be beneficial to the church and its leadership, in my opinion:

    1. First, it would have put the issue to bed in a definitive way. Without specifically denouncing the ‘curse of Cain’ teachings, this teaching will persist, particularly in predominantly white areas (Utah) where members have little, or no, daily contact with people of color.

    2. It would have given Hinkley the opportunity to point out the fallibility of the leadership. They are men, and as such, make mistakes. Sometimes serious mistakes. Brigham said horrible things about black people, as did many other leaders. The members are told that the prophet will never lead them astray. They believe this whole-heartedly and give the prophet and apostles demi-god status.

    As John pointed out, the perception of the lay members and the information superhighway are on a dangerous collision course. A belief that the leadership is infallible in ecclesiastical matters and knowledge of the documented history of the church are strongly at odds with each other, and I would argue, mutually exclusive.

    End of the day, great podcast. As always, very insightful and thought-provoking John.

  4. Wade Palmer
    April 14, 2006 at 10:55 am

    Excellent podcast. I really appreciated the insight that these two guests brought to the table.
    I agree wholeheatedly with their comments.
    They brought a wider approach to what was said by Darron Smith.
    Good job John Dehlin. Thank you for bringing us this information.
    I also enjoyed Darron Smith’s podcast. I happen to know Darron personally and have had many talks with him about the racism in the church issue. We have been friends for about a decade.

    God brings about His eternal purposes despite the weaknesses of men. Prophets of God are still prophets despite their personal weaknesses… Peter lacked the faith to keep himself above water, the apostle Judas betrayed Christ, King David had a man killed in order to marry a woman he had no business marrying, after freeing the Isrealite slaves Moses himself owned slaves, Aaron his “1st counselor” helped the Isrealites build idols, etc. etc. Brigham Young and others may have had racist ideals but where still chosen of God for a specific purpose at a specific time. Racism wasn’t unique to the church. I believe God tolerates us while we mature as a church and people. The Isrealites wandered for 40 years largly so that the pagan ideals of the those that first left Eygpt would die out and/or change. God restored the gospel to the earth as soon as He possibly could, notwithstanding racism in America and in the church. Perhaps we’ve had to “wander” for a while as God gave us the time to grow “line upon line” and realize the mistake that was made relative to blacks and the priesthood.

    Thanks again for the podcast. Keep up the good work. I especially enjoy the “edifying” podcasts such as this one.

  5. jordanandmeg
    April 14, 2006 at 11:31 am

    Yes, wonderful podcast.

    I’m not sure why church leadership bears a responsibility to spell out that they and the church are not perfect. I think this should be obvious considering that they are human and called from lay congregations.

    Having said that, I, too, have been through the disillusioning process – I’ve had to painfully realize that the church is not perfect and seriously rearrange my testimony of why and how things are true. Almost didn’t make it though.

    But I think my struggle had more to do with my maturity and less with church transparency. Of course it’s imperfect. I was silly to ever think otherwise. I think the brethren would agree.

  6. Daniel W
    April 14, 2006 at 11:41 am

    I can’t really add anything to the last four comments but I will say that I agree wholeheartedly to all they’ve said.

    I’m still listening to this podcast but I’m very pleased with it. This has been a tough issue for me since I joined the church. The more I research and learn the truth, the more my doubts are quieted and the more my testimony grows.

    Thanks John, Darius, Margaret and Darron. I feel so edified by the words you’ve spoken on this subject here.

  7. April 14, 2006 at 12:46 pm

    I am in the midst of student consultations, but will take a moment to respond to Lyman Wight’s comments. I love the Native American story about an elder describing two wolves inside him, one despairing and one hopeful. When asked which wins, the elder said, “It depends on which wolf I feed.” I choose to look at President Hinckley as a temple builder and a messenger of hope. He is always “forward-looking,” as he himself has said. I would not expect a sermon from him to expound on the weaknesses of the leadership, though he has indeed commented on the burden of having so many people put him on a pedastol. I found President Hinckley’s remarks at the Priesthood Session to be remarkable. I believe we will indeed hear more on this subject, and I suspect instruction will come at some point (sooner than many might think) to help the membership discern between folklore and doctrine. It will not come in the framework of criticism, however, but of growth. It will look forward rather than back. That is President Hinckley’s style. I think a quote from Lorenzo Snow is applicable here, and certainly represents what I suspect most GAs believe: “Seventy years ago this Church was organized with six members. We commenced, so to speak, as an infant. We had our prejudices to combat. Our ignorance troubled us in regard to what the Lord intended to do and what He wanted us to do … We advanced to boyhood, and still we undoubtedly made some mistakes, which … generally arise from a …lack of experience. We understand very well, when we reflect back upon our own lives, that we did many foolish things when we were boys … Yet as we advanced, the experience of the past materially assisted us to avoid such mistakes as we had made in our boyhood. It has been so with the Church. Our errors have generally arisen from a lack of comprehending what the Lord required of us to do. But now we are pretty well along to manhood … When we examine ourselves, however, we discover that we are still not doing exactly as we ought to do, notwithstanding all our experience. We discern that there are things which we fail to do that the Lord expects us to perform, some of which He requires us to do in our boyhood. … While we congratulate ourselves in this direction, we certainly ought to feel that we have not yet arrived at perfection. There are many things for us to do yet.” [Lorenzo Snow, 6 April, 1900, Conference Report (Salt Lake City, UT: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1900),

  8. jordanandmeg
    April 14, 2006 at 1:48 pm

    Wonderfully said.

  9. ebb
    April 14, 2006 at 3:49 pm

    I feel too that the real value of studying history comes in how we are going to use the knowledge that it provides us. Hopefully, we are all armed with more insight, more tolerance, more acceptance, but most importantly more love. “Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am.” This spoken by the Master who loved His Father and us.

  10. CRG
    April 14, 2006 at 11:47 pm

    Fantastic podcast. I love John’s work and look forward to the next one. I am thrilled to learn this facinating black history of the church. One of the facts that was revealed, however, was very sad for me to hear. I found out that my great-great-great-great-grandfather who was an honorable church leader in those early days of the church was also a slave owner. That stung! Ouch! In all of the histories that I had heard of this great man, in all of the family reunions that still continue to this day in his legacy and honor, I had never heard that. It goes to show that people remember only those things that we choose to remember and many true yet unpleasant facts are easily forgotten and often unknown.

  11. April 15, 2006 at 11:13 am

    I’m assuming “CRG” is referring to Charles Rich, though there are many other LDS pioneers who held slaves. I wish I could provide more information on Rich. He was not actually from the south, but the records say that at one point he owned six slaves. He was certainly closely associated with some of the Southern slave-owners–particularly those who went to California as “gold missionaries,” such as James Madison Flake (whose slave, Green, was one of the three “colored servants” in the Vanguard pioneer company. Green who has the distinction of being the ONLY Black Mormon pioneer we know of who still has a descendant who is active in the Church.) Green was duly baptized and was referred to later in his life as “the best damn missionary we have in [Idaho].” (We detail Green’s life in books 2 & 3 or our trilogy–_Bound for Canaan_ and _The Last Mile of the Way_.) For more information, I’d look at Ron Coleman’s doctoral dissertation on slavery in Utah. Ron is really the expert on that subject.

  12. Derrick C
    April 15, 2006 at 1:47 pm

    John, great podcast. It was informative and inspiring. I’m a student at BYU right now, and on my way to class the other day I saw a poster with Darius’s picture on it, announcing his speech. I was thrilled only to find that it had already passed. I am so glad I was able to hear the speech, and as a bonus get to hear your insightful viewpoints and questions. I thought both your guests did a great job, and it was nice to not be constrained by time, as speakers in colleges always are. Thanks!

  13. Aaron
    April 15, 2006 at 7:19 pm

    Thank you Margaret, Darius and John.

    I have already made a long comment (more like a novel in the blog world) on the issue of Black Mormons and the Priesthood. If you wish you can find it in the comments about the Darron Smith Story. Apr 3rd, 2006 at 12:23 am

    I think this is a very sad part of our history. I think we as a church are going to have to suffer the pains of growth while getting through this issue. There is suffering in repentance. I think it is naive to think that we are past it. Obviously we are not. Some are still teaching the myths which came out of an ignorant time. Darius spoke of us being of one blood, that we are one family in the covenant of Abraham, we are one family. When my brother cries, I cry with him. When my black brothers and sisters in the church are hurt by the past then I should hurt with them. No one in the church should cry alone. I think it is uncaring to tell the black members to get over it, that it is behind us. If they are still being hurt by this issue then we are not over it. We mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort. That is a beautiful part of the covenant of baptism.

    I found getting the rest of the story very enlightening. Can’t wait for the documentary.

    One thing that I thought of during the podcast was how we waste far too much time building our testimonies on sand instead of rock. That rock being Christ. I belong to The Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter Day Saints. Not the church of short hair, church of marrying young, church of not smoking, church of not drinking alcohol, church of family home evening, church of prophets, etc. I understand that some of those things are important but they are not what I worship. They might be how I worship because that is how the church is organized today. When we build our testimonies on policies of the church we are building on sand. When our testimonies are that prophets are perfect we are on sand. We have seen in history (some in their own personally) that the church changes policy to meet changing needs. When those changes come, or when we learn of a prophet making a mistake, where will our testimony be? Washed away. If we are built on the rock which is Christ we will be where we need to be. Solid ground. We are told to stay with the church and the brethren, but not told to deify or worship them. All of the prophets that we read about in scripture were fallible. They had personal sin. They were also who the Lord chose to be his prophets. I think they are a great testimony to the ability to grow, to repent and change. Some how we have a hard time recognizing the personal shortcomings of our modern prophets. It is too bad, because we could learn a lot from them in that regard. It could help a lot of people plagued by the guilt of being imperfect that they are okay as long as they keep trying. That is one of the greatest things about Joseph Smith that I have learned. He made mistakes, he was chastened by God, but he stuck with it. And in the end God made a great man out of him. What will we let God do with us.

    I think that we have had the false teachings and myths about blacks because we know in our hearts how racist and un-Christlike the practices of the past were. If we are told that they deserved it because they were cursed or not valiant in the premortal existence it makes some of us feel better. Until we think about it and realize how those teachings are completely opposite of Christ. When we build our testimonies on false teachings or on misunderstandings we are building on sand.

    Or testimonies should be built on true doctrine. That is why this topic is so important.

    I think the church has not addressed this topic completely because they are still gathering the history on the subject to try and understand what really happened. The work of Darius, Margaret and many others are going to aid in this process. I think the church will deal properly with this matter when they are prepared to do so. In the mean time they will continue to invite people to come unto Christ, which is their mission.

  14. Maturin
    April 21, 2006 at 3:43 pm

    OK. I’m going to be just a little bit critical, here. Everyone has been so supportive and positive, I feel guilty raising any concern or question. But first, let me say that I enjoyed the podcast as I have all of them, John. Keep it up. You and I are very different from the perspective of faith, but I feel we share in utmost respect for the stories people have, whatever they may be, and honoring their feelings and perspectives, and accepting them as valid, even if they don’t agree with ours.

    To Darius and Margaret, I applaud your commitment and determination…and I admire your faith and that it has provoked you to constructive action. Wouldn’t it be great if there were more of that in the world?

    Lest I mislead, after almost 50 years of devotion to Mormonism, I am now a total non-believer…and very much at peace with that…so I certainly have my own “life lens” through which I perceive things. I grew up and live in Maryland (part of the “mission field” to my Utah friends)…coincidentally, not all that far from where Elijah Abel was baptized. I remember well the attitudes and feelings of the 60s and 70s…both in and out of the church. Outside of the church, with friends and classmates, I was quite liberal for the times. But inside of the church, there was no question among my church friends, my family, and everyone else I remember in the branch (later, a ward), that blacks were the seed of Cain, and that as such they carried a curse that prohibited them from having the priesthood. What amazes me now, in hindsight, is that we were all able to make perfect sense out of it all, and never dreamed that it would ever change until the millenium.

    Sorry for rambling…One of my points about the podcast…

    I’m very uncomfortable with the reference to “folklore.” The prohibition of blacks holding the priesthood and its rationale was clearly a teaching and yes, even a doctrine, of the church. To suggest that it was not, I feel, is mincing words. To turn a phrase; If it looks like a doctrine, walks like a doctrine, and “quacks” (sounds like) a doctrine, it’s a doctrine. It was presented, taught, and expounded upon by by very people we revered and respected as prophets, seers, and revelators. We hold these people as the “authorizers” of our doctrines. That it was controversial to some, I have little doubt. That it was uncomfortable to others, I’m sure. But, to refer to it now as “folklore,” I fear, could be misleading to some. How about “traditional teaching,” or “controversial teaching,” or I could even accept “scripturally unfounded teaching” better than “folklore.” I think I understand the intent of using the word, but I feel it let’s the church and it’s leaders off way too easy.

    One other thought…again, I absolutely admire the work and devotion of Darius and Margaret. I just wonder, if they were doing in the pre-1978 church what they are doing now, how would they have been considered? I can say with authority that I would have felt they were “murmering” and being critical of the “brethren.” As a young married devout Mormon in the 70s, I would “know” deep in my soul that to have such feelings and thoughts could only be due to allowing Satan’s influence, and that they had to be ignoring the promptings of the spirit. Judgmental, yes, but it would have been genuine none the less.

    Feelings, attitudes, and efforts in very close parallel are going on today related to gays and the gospel and of women in the priesthood. Some of those espousing such positions are in danger of church action.

    Just a few thoughts with no intention of offense. Keep up the good work and best wishes to all. Thanks, Maturin.

  15. jordanandmeg
    April 21, 2006 at 5:23 pm

    Good and thoughtful points, Maturin. I hope Margaret or Darius responds. I’m interested to see what they’d say.

    As for me, whether the ban was sactioned doctrine or folklore doesn’t make much difference to me. I don’t think God sanctions all of the doctrine/foklore that church leaders impliment.

    And it doesn’t bother me that the whole church may have been dead wrong on this subject, even if they thought they were being led by the spirit.

    The purpose of this church is to expound Christianity, which is, essentially, kindness, forgiveness, repentence, etc. Perfection does not come naturally to any of us (if it did, we wouldn’t need a church).

    D&C 68 says:
    “And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation.”

    The only way for us to tell whether a prophet is speaking by the Holy Ghost or by himself is, of course, by the Spirit. The Spirit should tell us what to believe, not men. I think the brethren, or most of them, would agree.

    Brigham Young said:
    “Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not. This has been my exhortation continually (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 9, p. 150).”

    The church can sanction junk without the ‘go ahead’ from the spirit. It has and will. But no matter. It’s up to me to know God. The church, with all of its imperfections, still has the doctrine of Christ that most agrees with my testimony of the spirit.

    If the church were perfect, people would rely on its perfection for their motivation to attend instead of the life changing message of Christ. Nobody’s life changes because this church is true. Lives change because of Christ.

    People too often build their testimonies on the church’s validity and are rightfully disillusioned. Sandy foundation.

  16. April 22, 2006 at 12:31 pm

    I hope Darius will respond to Maturin’s comments too. (For example, he could tell about how he was treated as he, Ruffin Bridgeforth, and Gene Orr worked with junior apostles to confront and deal with the often tragic ramifications of the priesthood policy–or you could just read the third book in our trilogy to get that account.) It sounds like Maturin is slightly older than I am, but I certainly share the memories of years when various curses were taught as doctrine. I’ve written elsewhere on my early cognitive dissonance with this issue. (You could probably find an essay I wrote about this in a _Dialogue_ journal, but I don’t remember which number). Rather than justify the semantics Darius and I choose to use (except to say that to me, the past teachings do indeed walk and quack like folklore more than like doctrine–notwithstanding who used the word “doctrine” [as in "It has always been the doctrine of this Church that..."] or where), I’m going to get very personal and philosophical.
    Let me respond first to the idea that Darius and I are “let[ting] the Church and its leaders off way too easy.” Though I don’t think the underlying assumption of this metaphor was intentional, the phrase does imply that we somehow have the leaders captive and possess the power to “let them off” or to keep their feet to the fire because of the institutional racism they supported. Here’s where I get personal. I don’t think anyone on this blog but John and Darius knows me, so I will talk somewhat freely about one of my children, a teenaged daughter. I will call her Lucy, though that is not her name. I recently learned that Lucy has engaged repeatedly in behavior which is absolutely opposed to everything I stand for and believe. The discovery was more than upsetting; it floored me. Feeling incapable of talking to her about it without being judgmental and overly harsh, I simply became distant. In the meanwhile, Lucy approached my husband and asked for a priesthood blessing. She said, “I know I have amazing things in my future, and I just feel like Satan is trying to get me. I need help.” She requested that two priesthood holders bless her, and asked that the second one be Darius, whom she loves and respects. (That blessing will be given tomorrow, Sunday.) I remember hearing another of my children criticize Lucy for swearing and being mean, and I remember her answering: “I know I did that, but that was the BAD Lucy. That’s not me. That’s not who I really am.” I realize that one of the biggest temptations we have in this life is to bind someone to a label like “sinner” or “adulterer” or “thief” or “racist.” As we do this, we refuse to let them become better people (in our minds, at least). We capriciously reduce them to categories. Or, as the philosopher Immanuel Levinas would say, we “reduce the other to the same”–making others simply reflections of our own agendas or theories, our own visions, the stereotypes we have adopted, extensions of ourselves and our world view.
    Tomorrow, Bruce and Darius will join together in blessing “the good Lucy.” I know both men very well and know their weaknesses, just as they know mine. A huge part of my commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ, as framed in this Church, is my witness of the way men and women are able to become more than we might imagine they [we] could be.
    When I married Bruce, he was a nervous, new professor convinced that no woman could possibly love him because he was so “romantically unappealing.” He had spent his life in books, had even read encyclopedias during recess. A life beyond the comfort of textual analysis–a life of intimacy and children–seemed pretty scary to him. I remember when he blessed our first child. He was SO nervous, and he got some of the wording wrong. When he was called into a bishopric, he felt overwhelmed. When he was called into a stake presidency, he was in shock. How could he, this meek professor,this socially awkward person, possibly be the man God was calling him to be? From the time of that calling, some seven years ago, I have witnessed his growth. It has been like watching him learn to move clouds aside and open the sky. I have been astounded by his blessings, not just because I know he participates in revelation when he gives a blessing, but because it’s HIM, this man I live and sleep with and who still has flaws. And Darius, who is also not perfect, understands the priesthood through miraculous avenues. The idea of these two good men uniting their faith and love on behalf of my daughter speaks to me of mercy and possibility, and reminds me that I need to likewise be merciful and to believe in possibility and growth.
    Tomorrow I will go to church, where I will greet my bishop–a man who in his past has broken a good many of the commandments. I wish I didn’t know that about him, not just because it’s none of my business, but because it is now irrelevant. He is NOT the man he was. He has become a new creature in Christ. In Sunday School, I will teach a group of fifteen-year-old boys, who are my son’s friends and frequently in my home. They have broken my windows, wrecked two of my chairs, messed up a room I took hours to organize, and otherwise brought chaos into my life. But I will not be looking at them as window breakers, etc. I am called beyond such reductive thinking. I must see them as future disciples of Christ who I have been assigned to teach and prepare and to love. All of this undergirds my testimony that God sees us as works in progress. He does not bind us to our sins with barbed cords (he took those on himself for our sakes), but serves as our advocate. For me, the gospel boils down to charity. If I am truly a believer, I must allow others–even nations and institutions and religions–to evolve. Yes, there must be “truth and reconciliation,” but not a static image we resurrect whenever we encounter someone or something we have, in our own minds, shrunk to its worst manifestations and unremittingly linked to its most shameful moments. I will not be the one to interview Brigham Young at the judgment seat. And Gordon B. Hinckley is not Brigham Young. This young church is not the Church it was in 1830, or 1850, or the 1950′s, or 1978–and anyone who presumes that because it has changed, it can’t be true, doesn’t recognize the foundational idea of eternal progression. It is far too easy to pit one general authority’s words against another’s. It’s also a waste of time. Why would we engage in such a contrived debate when we have so many other, far more important things to do? For Christ’s sake (literally), we have the hungry to feed and the naked to clothe. Why would we focus on who we have been rather than on who we are becoming and what good we can do NOW? We are still growing, as a religion and as people. My own faith is dynamic. It has highs and lows. I willingly let go of any idea when I recognize it as one of the “childish things” which must be “put away.” (Obviously, that includes any suggestion that God color codes his children.) I will continue to be an activist in race issues within the LDS Church, and I suspect that some will indeed perceive me as a heretic. Doesn’t matter; they will not be interviewing me at the judgment seat. But I will also stay within this faith and strive to work beyond my own weaknesses into a more godly version of myself–becoming “the good Margaret.” I suspect that Darius and I know the incendiary statements of past Church leaders better than the bloggers on this comment board, simply because we have spent years researching. But we stand together in faith that functions not despite the past, but beyond it and into eternal realms we have yet to even imagine. Eternity, not the list of others’ sins or the evidence of their blindness, must be our context. I hold no man or woman, no boy or girl, a captive of his/her sins. I believe in the atonement of Jesus Christ. I believe that His grace is sufficient for all of us. My mission is to learn to love more fully and forgive more freely. I believe Darius shares that mission. We fall short all the time. But we fully believe that there is “a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-bound soul.” And we know for certain that all are invited to partake.

  17. Christopher King
    April 22, 2006 at 2:27 pm

    I just can’t get past this: What good is a Church whose leaders promote false teachings? (From where I stand, if the curse of Cain is just folklore, it’s going to be mighty difficult to tell doctrine from folklore on other issues.) I could believe in a Church who’s leaders, on occasion, transgress the doctrines they teach (repentance is accessible to all), but what good is a Church that teaches philosophies of men mingled with Scriptures? What is the point of restoring the one true and living Church if it’s going to teach some truth and some lies? The nice thing about God talking to prophets is that you should really be able to trust what they say, but apparently, even after you find the true church and receive a confirmation from the Holy Ghost, you still have to test the doctrines one by one… to make sure. I suggest we pick sides. Let’s get behind God’s prophets 100% or let’s say the system is broken. I don’t believe this was meant to be a democracy. My guess: the system is broken, but that’s not because it used to claim blacks were cursed, or that polygamy was necessary to achieve the highest degree of the Celestial kingdom. It’s because activists and political pressure can change its teachings.

  18. Maturin
    April 22, 2006 at 5:55 pm

    Margaret, thank you for sharing further insight and feelings. I wish your daughter well in her journey as I do for you and your husband. Professionally and personally I can relate somewhat to your situation and am happy that you are pursuing a path that may bring greater hope and peace to your family.

    You are correct that I was not suggesting that you and Darius personally were holding the leaders feet to the fire, but rather it is the issue itself that does that. As you have seen for years, the contradiction between the essence of the gospel and the church’s practice and beliefs related to blacks is so striking that it should demand attention and resolution without any advocacy other than reason. Fortunately for many, you and Darius and others have stepped forward and helped it along.

    My issue with the word “folklore” is really more semantics than substance, but in the interest of understanding (not argument), let me explain just a bit further. I just feel that such a word can provide too much of an excuse, suggesting that these teachings were somehow OK. They are certainly understandable, given the circumstances of the times, but it has never been OK to hold that some humans are less than others. The early leaders who taught such things were wrong, and it was wrong for the church to hold onto those teachings. And as good people everywhere do when they see their error, they apologize, make amends, and take actions to heal the wounds their error may have caused. It is clear that many in authority are doing much of this, and I really don’t have a hard time accepting that if the early leaders and authors of such offensive things were here today, they would do the same. In spite of my unbelief, I think the church leaders through the ages were good people doing what they felt was right. I am very pleased that there is a growing recognition of the erroneous teachings of the past and that measures have and are being taken. What does this mean for the church, however?

    We certainly must allow people to change and grow. One of the greatest attributes of humanity, I believe, is being able to see each other in terms of one’s capacity for good and not holding one captive by one’s foibles or shortcomings. This is true for people. It is true for many institutions, too. But attributing such a thing to the LDS church is a difficult thing. Suggesting that the church is fallible is a severe shift from its position today and throughout history.

    Perhaps this is where a different kind of “folklore” comes into play. How often have we been taught and still are taught such things as: the church is perfect, even if the people in it are not…God will not allow a prophet in this dispensation to lead the church astray…follow the prophet; even if he is wrong, you will be blessed for your obedience? Given how I was raised and what I was taught by parents, teachers, advisors, and leaders throughout my church experience, I can’t help but ask a similar question to those of the previous poster, “How is it that those proclaiming special access to and authority to speak for God did not see the error of our beliefs regarding blacks when so many others outside of the church did?”

    Personally, I think it’s healthy for an institution to cast itself as a “learner.” As the presiding officer in a fairly large institution myself, I have seen great benefit in admitting error, making corrections, redirecting our course, and even apologizing. I think it would be great if it did, but the church has never described itself that way. Perhaps this will change, too.

    I hope you sense my agreement with and support for so much of what you are doing. We are in different places in regards to faith, but I feel kinship in our hope and work for positive change to make the world a better place for all.

  19. April 24, 2006 at 6:49 pm

    Maturin, you are clearly a thoughtful and respectful person. Thank you for this response. I agree with most of what you say. And I do have more to say on issues you raise, but since it involves the documentary and some of the footage we’re not ready to talk about yet, I’d prefer that you e-mail me at Margaret_Young@byu.edu . As for Christopher King’s response, I am hoping that my husband will offer his thoughts. He and I have talked about the issues both Maturin and Chris King raise, and I find his insights compelling. (I personally do not believe that an LDS prophet is so far elevated above other mortals that he will never lead the people astray–at least I don’t believe it in the sense which I think many Mormons do. Imperfection MUST be part of the mix.)

  20. April 27, 2006 at 12:31 pm

    This is a wonderful and informative podcast. I just now was able to listen to it and enjoyed it very much. Kudos to Margaret and Darius for you wonderful work.

  21. April 27, 2006 at 12:34 pm

    Thanks J., and to all of you for the kind feedback.

  22. April 27, 2006 at 10:28 pm

    This is my very first Blog!

    I have been listening to this and past podcasts of yours for the last week and can’t express how moved I am. To know that there is this resource and community on the web is so exciting (I’m pretty knew to podcasts too).

    It is particularly strange to view my church through so many eyes. Obviously my experience is based on myself and the people around me here in Wisconsin, but I’ve been so amazed by how many people are struggling with their faith. My heart goes out to them and I am so excited at what this podcast may be doing to help them gain a better understanding.

    I don’t wish to be naive, but in this and other podcasts that deal with struggles some have with the church, there is much emphasis on members that have offended (or broken trust) or issues with church history. I don’t understand how people can lose their faith over this. Even if church leaders of the past or present have behaved poorly, or mistakes have been made this doesn’t change the fact that the Book of Mormon is true (I love this book so much) and therefore Joseph was a prophet. It may sound simple but to me it is very powerful. Shouldn’t that sustain a person until answers can be found or offenses mended?

    I am so inspired by many of the stories I’ve heard here and in particular this one with Darius and Margaret. Wow! I consider myself pretty well read on gospel topics but it’s amazing how much there is yet to learn. For me though, it’s the power of your guests experience that has really impressed and changed me in listening to your interviews. Thank you so much for doing this and a thank you to all your guests. I’ve been recommending this podcast to everyone.

    I too, cannot wait for the documentary!

  23. Ann
    April 28, 2006 at 10:45 pm

    this doesn’t change the fact that the Book of Mormon is true (I love this book so much) and therefore Joseph was a prophet.

    This is not a fact. It is an opinion. It may be a firmly held opinion, one that you believe is well supported by the evidence, but it is an opinion nonetheless.

    Ms. Young, thank you for your eloquent comment of 4/22.

  24. April 30, 2006 at 6:39 am

    Ann, my apologies for being sloppy in my choice of words. “Fact” is one of those emotionally charged words like “evolution”. In addition, I would submit that it belongs to a scientific approach. In science (and I speak as a biologist by training) a “fact” represents a hypothesis or theory that is accepted as correct because it has failed to be disproved. That is not what I meant.

    “Truth” is the word I should have used. This is a word that can be used in the context of religion and faith. Perhaps some think that by using such words as “truth” means to discount others beliefs and close ones mind to other possibilities. This is not what I mean either. I mean that I accept that there are some things that are universally true (true wether we want them to be or not). That the Book of Mormon is the inspired word of God is a “truth”, and is a truth I have come to know through no small effort and experience.

    I understand and embrace that in this world of ours you may have your “truths” as well and I suppose we can respect each others truths, ignore them or go to war over them – it’s the time honored tradition of religion.

    I thank you for offering an alternative to my poorly chosen use of the word “fact” above, but “opinion” is not what I meant either (even the generous “firmly held opinion”). I meant “truth”.

  25. May 1, 2006 at 7:34 am

    I just wanted to weigh in here and point out the history behind the Blacks and the Priesthood document linked in the main page here.

    In 1997, Richley Crapo, Mel Tungate and myself were all subscribed to an e-mail list named Scripture-L. The B&P topic came up for discussion and I spearheaded an effort to come up with the most comprehensive chronology possible for all relevant milestones. Mel posted a rough outline that was little more than a brief summary of the Mauss & Bush chronology in the appendix of _Neither White Nor Black_. From what Mel posted, I added the majority of the content and went through a couple of editing iterations with Richley who requested some minor changes. The result was then posted to Scripture-L and ended up being incorporated into content for LDS Seminar, which was an online Gospel Doctrine lesson material aid for teachers, the original of which is still online at:

    http://ldsgospeldoctrine.net/ldss/ldssemv1n43.txt

    A cleaner version with additional historical material is available at:

    http://www.ldsgospeldoctrine.net/kn/dc/od-2.pdf

    The text original has been edited and posted online by others. Mel Tungate edited it a little bit and placed a personal copyright on it and incorrectly identified Richley as the principle contributor, even though his piece is clearly derived from the Scripture-L/LDSS post, Richley used Mel’s HTML version and edited that a little bit. Others have used it as source as well.

  26. Amy
    May 7, 2006 at 11:33 pm

    I am so grateful to have found this podcast. I have been asking this question since I was 12 years old and I am going to be 50 next year!!!!! I have had debates, arguments, shouting matches (not the most effective mode of communication) , and just plain cried many tears over this issue. Even as a young girl, the whole “fence sitter, seed of Cain” just seemed a smoke screen for racism. I left the church for 25 years and this issue was a large part of the reason that I left, when I returned with my family that is an interracial family, my husband is Black and my kids are mixed, I was not sure what to expect. I am ashamed to tell you that I have searched and studied, and searched for a reason that the priesthood was denied and I have never been able to find and answer. Today I know why. I am listening to Darron Smith as I am writing this response to your Podcast. My kids and husband have asked me and I have given them my own theory, which had nothing to do with any of the “folklore” that the Church had put out there.

    To learn that this awful prohibition on Black men was largely motivated by political, monetary, and racist motives is so heartbreaking to me. I would have felt better if the reason had been that the prophets of old really did believe those things. I believe the bottom line was that Utah came into the Nation as a Slave State and the Church had to make a stand on the status of the Black Family of that time in order to attract the money of the South to it. As was stated, the Saints were bankrupt after being displaced and building both of the temples, and the survival of Utah depended on that status. How sad, Brother Brigham was certainly an interesting character, and I would not dare to say that he was not a prophet of God. He was a man however, and as a man he had failings and he was not shy admitting them, I guess we can see that he didn’t share in Joseph’s kindness toward all men.

    I do think that the Church is coming to a place of reckoning, this conference was a remarkable example of a call to accountability. President Hinckley’s talk in the Priesthood session was the call of a loving Prophet to his people to repent and to turn away from such evil thoughts and speaking. The conference was full of admonishes to turn from wrath and to return to Christian love, to love all, not just those that think like us, or vote like us. We are to emulate Christ, and I believe with all of my heart that Christ loves the Church. Ephesians says that he “…loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it….That he might present it to himself…holy and without blemish” I really believe that He is getting the Church ready for Himself. Look at the changes in the church, we are a worldwide church now. I live near Palmyra and believe me when I tell you Palmyra NY is nowhere, and look where this gospel is today, from the small beginnings in that small grove of trees on Stafford Road.

    Again, thank you for teaching me the TRUTH now I can teach my husband the real reason why the priesthood was withheld, before he gets baptised!

  27. June 12, 2006 at 9:27 pm

    Wow! What a great presentation. I learned more from this podcast about the issues with Blacks holding the preisthood than in 15 years of church membership. I still do not understand however, was it ever a “doctrine” that blacks not be given the preisthood? And if it wasn’t why was the 1978 revelation needed?

  28. June 12, 2006 at 9:58 pm

    Brian,

    You really ought to read “David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism”.

    I think that will help you see things much clearer.

    If you ask me, it was never doctrine. If you ask a GA, they will tell you they don’t know.

    Why was a revelation needed? If you ask me, it’s so the people would believe/follow. If you ask a GA, it’s because God wanted to give a revelation.
    :)

  29. June 13, 2006 at 12:40 am

    Thanks John, I will add that book to my ever growing list of Church materials to read. And thanks for your insights and efforts here!

  30. GiveCreditWhereDue
    July 3, 2012 at 12:42 am

    It astounds me that there is such a wide assumption that Prophets are perfect. That they recieve revelation moment by moment. That they are on a one-on-one basis with the Lord. That they can ask the Lord specific questions face to face. Why then would there be a statement by Joseph saying, as Truman Madsen points out, “Always go with the majority of the twelve!” There is obviously room for doubt and personal opinion amongst the Apostles – consequently allowing room for error. It appears to me that Faith is the key principle of earth life. The Bible is replete with this teaching. If it were so easy to know the truth, what is Faith? If the Lord placed at the head of the Church, an infallable Prophet who made no mistakes in judgement, Faith is taken away. We have a personal avenue for revelation from the Lord. We Latter Day Saints are simply too babied and the phase, “I know” is perhaps used too much.

    If a Prophet makes a mistake, I believe it will all work out in the end. If we should follow a Prophet who made a bad decision, it would be accounted unto us for righteousness. We place too much emphasis on this life. It is but a fleeting moment, sadly often filled with pain we wish we could avoid. If we could see into the future, I think we will all be saying, “What was I so worried about? That was just a speck in time.”

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