Never Led Astray

5d046The LDS church has recently  published a new article about its own history with racism and how it affected its Priesthood.  Many have pointed out while this is welcome information it leaves the church in a precarious place concerning its own authority claims.  As this image I saw describes the problem: if Young’s personal racism could so radically define and mislead the church for so long, how can the church’s prophets be trusted?  I don’t think this clarification on race will cause any Mormon to immediately question their faith or their trust in modern-day prophecy. But I don’t think it opens the door in regard to future issues.  Without realizing it I think the LDS church has undermined its own authority.

That I think is clearly illustrated in this RadioWest discussion of the topic.  John Dehlin, a secular Mormon, who has been a leader in many LGBTQ issues immediately uses the full force of the article to question the church’s stance on women’s ordination and same-sex marriage.  Most Mormons will not do this as radically nor immediately as Dehlin, but over time I think this single article might be the cause for the erosion of the strong view many Mormons have of their leaders and the source of their inspiration.

I haven’t heard many faithful Mormons speak on this issue. What do you think, did Brigham Young lead the church astray? If you think the prophet can never lead the church astray on “issues concerning salvation” does that statement say anything meaningfully in light of the Universalists views of the LDS church?

You can hear the audio here

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113 thoughts on “Never Led Astray

  1. Yes, he absolutely led the church astray, and the church needs to repent fully of both its racism AND its idolatrous leader worship.

  2. I can understand how one might see this statement in that light. Many times things that are said can be taken in any number of ways, those who want to find fault in anything will certainly find it. It would be absolutely impossible to fully comprehend the environment that the “mormon” church was embroiled in During Brigham Young’s time. The church members had been chased from one town to the other and then across the United States and into what at the time was Mexico. Unfortunately at the time slavery was still a reality in the United States. I believe that Brigham Young’s stance on the priesthood was not one of racism, but as a tool for the young church to get established and end much of the persecution they had faced. We believe that the Lord continues to reveal truths and revelation to his Prophets today and will continue to do so. The Lord throughout history has provided laws for his children to live by and they are delivered line upon line, precept upon precept. We are not given all knowledge up front, it comes as we progress and become more worthy and able to live the higher laws.

    This is my opinion and does not represent an official stance or statement of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

  3. And jisbell22 demonstrates why the church needs to repent of idolatry. Because we go to all kinds of lengths to excuse and explain away something that was simply sin, because it threatens our narrative of infallible leadership.

    Remember, the priesthood/temple ban was lifted in 1978. This statement was the FIRST EVER official repudiation of the racist teachings used to justify the ban. This was not just Brigham Young’s sin. This is a sin that continues to taint our people to this day.

  4. I interpret the “astray” phrase much more narrowly. I interpret it to mean that the church won’t enter into apostasy to the point where it loses the priesthood. I don’t think OD1 was ever meant to claim infallibility.

    That said, I believe that the church’s position on blacks, and the reasons given by its leaders to justify it, was wrong. While on some level I don’t get the concept of apologizing for what other people have done, I would welcome an unequivocal statement that Brigham Young and others erred. I think it’s implied by the new statement, but may not directly enough for everyone to get the point.

  5. Based on jesbell22′s justification, it is peculiar that the people in God’s one and only true church were seemingly the last one’s prepared for an end to racial segregation. This follows Russel Stevens’ statements in the RadioWest interview. “It was the Mormon people’s fault.”

    In my experience when people are in the wrong, it’s up to their leaders to lead them out of folly, rather than for the leaders to wait for the people to say they are ready to be done with their sin. This ultimately puts the blame on God.

  6. No, I don’t think so at all.

    Mainly because the majority of the Mormons who hold such absolutist views about the LDS Church and its leaders:

    A. Don’t listen to Dehlin or Radio West; and

    B. Don’t read the LDS Newsroom either

    I doubt most of them will even notice a change was made.

  7. Eric said

    While on some level I don’t get the concept of apologizing for what other people have done

    I think this is a shell game. It was the institutional church that instituted the priesthood ban. Yes, individuals made those decisions, but they did so in the name of the institution. Brigham Young is no longer around but the institution still is. It was the institution that did harm, therefore it is the institution’s responsibility to practice Christianity and seek repentance and forgiveness. Yes, individuals will need to make those decisions but they will do so in the name of the institution (not themselves).

    Does this change your mind Eric?

  8. Based on jesbell22′s justification, it is peculiar that the people in God’s one and only true church were seemingly the last one’s prepared for an end to racial segregation.

    ZING.

  9. “While on some level I don’t get the concept of apologizing for what other people have done…”

    I think that has merit but, corporate responsibility and guilt is threaded throughout the Bible.

  10. I’m not what you would call an orthodox Mormon, but I am very active in my local ward and still can find legit connections with Jesus in my participation. So, I’m heavily invested in Mormonism and the LDS Church – for one reason or another.

    My view is frankly, that the Church needs to re-evaluate its narrative concerning prophets. There is a truck load of diversity in the Bible/BoM and especially from the life of JS – that could inform a healthy and sustainable view. The “never lead the Church astray” nonsense is actually a sort of proof text anyway- Woodruff using it in specific relation to the issue of polygamy – now used for every other pronouncement that any other president of Church makes.

    I could see a gradual emphasis on priesthood keys -and most of all God’s grace – that would allow us to have a more realistic view of our leaders. Mormonism would live on.

  11. Jack, I never saw a shred of evidence anywhere that Brigham Young ever had a revelation, or ever claimed to have one on this issue.

    And Gundeck, this thing about “corporate responsibility” is a little too convenient coming from a bunch of religions that have no “corporation” and nowhere that the buck actually stops.

    I don’t think the rest of Christendom has apologized for this stuff any better or any earlier than the LDS Church has. It’s just they don’t have an office building in Salt Lake to mail a complaint to.

    The whole thing about “late to the party?”

    Please. The Evangelical world in large portion was never at the party to begin with. They kind of just ducked their heads, let some congregations apologize, and some slink away without comment. Many of them STILL haven’t apologized for their behavior. And the LDS Church (which was largely better behaved than many of them historically) was left holding the hot-potato by sheer virtue of having an actual mailing address.

    If you want to talk about nailing jello to the wall?

    Try getting some accountability out of the disorganized mass of moving targets otherwise loosely labeled Evangelicalism. Now THAT is nailing jello to a wall.

  12. Seth ~ The FP in the 1940s claimed in a letter to Lowry Nelson that the whole “blacks were less valiant in the pre-existence” thing was a revelation, not a theory. It’s discussed here:

    http://mormondiscussions.com/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=22842

    As for evangelicals and race and corporate apologies: Bob Jones University issued an apology for its racist past. I mean, stop and think about that. God’s one true church is getting beat by BJU on the repent-and-apologize front. Oi bavoi.

  13. Seth,

    I understand this is a difficult time for apologetics.

    So the Bible does not teach corporate responsibility and the need to confess? Repentance is an evangelical grace a gift of the living God.

    “For years we have left unattended in our midst the vestiges of racism, and the reality of its raw presence within corners of our denomination. We have been comfortable to let our brothers and sisters of races other than Caucasian quietly acquiesce to our unwillingness to make changes on their behalf, in contrast to Christ’s laying down His life for us. We repent of our offenses against our brothers and sisters in Christ. Both as individuals and together as a church, we are compelled by the Gospel to repent of racism in our own hearts and in our actions, and we are compelled to commit ourselves to wrestle against it personally and publicly. We repent of our sins of omission and commission in this area. We confess that we do not have the strength to overcome the power of racism and that we need Christ to be our Rock in this struggle. We confess that we do not know how to be the New Community of God’s People, and we confess our inadequacy to reflect the Gospel as it will be expressed in its fullness in Heaven. Yet, notwithstanding our inadequacies, we commit to seeking the leading and empowering of the Holy Spirit, believing in the sufficiency of His sanctifying power to transform us, and we commit ourselves to follow that leading as we, in cooperation with other branches of Christ’s universal Church, pledge ourselves to ministry among every nation, tribe, people and language, both in North America, and in all other regions of the world.”

    excerpt from PCA Pastoral Letter Against Racism

    “We therefore confess our covenantal involvement in these national sins. As a people, both we and our fathers have failed to keep the commandments, the statutes, and the laws our God has commanded. We therefore publicly repent of our pride, our complacency, and our complicity. Furthermore, we seek the forgiveness of our brothers and sisters for the reticence of our hearts, which has constrained us from acting swiftly in this matter.

    As a people, we pledge to work hard, in a manner consistent with the Gospel imperatives, for the encouragement of racial reconciliation, the establishment of urban and minority congregations, and the enhancement of existing ministries of mercy in our cities, among the poor, and across all social, racial, and economic boundaries, to the glory of God. Amen.”

    Excerpt from Overture 20 Nashville Presbytery adopted by the 30th General Assembly

  14. And, just in case any atheists (or thinking about it) are reading this and sniggering about my “slam” on Evangelicals, you can stop right now.

    You guys are ten times worse in the accountability department.

    At least the Evangelicals have groups they belong to and core ideals and holy texts they can be held to.

    Atheists have none of that. They assert nothing, stand for nothing, believe nothing, answer for nothing.

    The atheist solution to the shared burden of human guilt has been basically to pack up, leave society, throw everyone else under the bus on the way out, and then stand on the sidelines with an air of wide-eyed innocence, proclaiming “what? It wasn’t me – must have been those guys over there.”

    So instead of hundreds of Evangelical churches all standing round the smashed cookie jar saying “I dunno!” “It wasn’t me!” “Maybe Janie did it.”, we have hundreds of thousands of individuals doing the exact same thing.

    At least Evangelicals can be held accountable for some things. Atheists can’t be held accountable for anything.

  15. Gundeck, I’ll say right now that I’m happy about these changes. And it makes it EASIER for LDS apologists, not harder. We’ve basically been saying a lot of the stuff that was in that LDS press release for well over a decade now. The reaction over at FAIR right now is one of rejoicing and gratitude for finally being validated in what we’ve been saying by the Church itself.

    And I’m all for corporate confessions of guilt. In fact, I don’t think the LDS press release goes far enough – because it still allows room for members to think that the ban was God’s will, which I reject.

    But there are places I will take this advice from.

    And the Evangelical world is not one of those places. They’ve got their own housekeeping to do before they can start moving to their “Plan B” of “now it’s time to try and debunk Brigham Young as a prophet.”

  16. It’s not Brigham Young it your canon of scripture that plainly teach the error, popular in the 19th century when these documents were written, that the curses of Cain and Ham were are related to dark skin. Your kidding yourself if you think this is a Brigham Young issue.

  17. No Gundeck.

    The Pearl of Great Price does not teach anything about racism whatsoever. Even the Book of Mormon is more “racist” than the Pearl of Great Price is. And even the Book of Mormon doesn’t teach these things.

    No more than the Bible teaches that women are inferior to men. Which is to say – it doesn’t.

  18. I just got done reading the exact passages in the Book of Moses you are alluding to with my kids this week Gundeck. I’m willing to confidently state this is without merit.

  19. Did I say racism?

    I’m sorry I think I meant to say that your canon teaches that the curses of Cain and Ham were are related to dark skin by saying things like “the seed of Cain were black…” “there was a blackness came upon all the children of Canaan…” Understandably this was a popular theory in the 19th century when it was written.

  20. Of course not content with popular error Joseph extended these same type of skin darkening curses to the Laminates.

  21. Seth I’m glad to hear you don’t think the article went far enough. But I’m also perplexed to see you condemning the religious diversity caused by Protestantism when Mormonism is the fruit of that diversity.

    I also think you’re doing a bit of your own selective judgment by condemning all Protestants for the racist actions of some while ignoring the redemptive acts of others.

  22. Which could be taken as either skin color or spiritual state. I read it as the children suffered for the prejudices and sins of their fathers. That happens all the time in the real world, and I appreciate the Book of Moses for highlighting it.

    But there is nothing in this which can be construed as demanding a limitation on Priesthood service. Priesthood isn’t even mentioned. Neither is there any mention of how long the curse was in effect. Nor is it even certain what the curse entailed or how it is to be seen today (other than entering into secret oaths to commit murder, I suppose).

    In short, this was pure speculative reading of scripture. Adding to scripture on matters on which it never spoke.

    As to why this was popular with 19th century people – that would be because of Protestant clergy who first preached this doctrine and popularized it in order to justify first slavery, and then segregation. Mormon figures borrowed from these clergymen in an attempt to justify Brigham Young’s ban.

    It is nothing more than a case of bad apologetics. Apologetics which have worn out their welcome.

    But let’s not forget where the lion’s share of the blame for these arguments lies.

  23. I think Seth’s perspective on troublesome passages is and will be the norm for the vast majority of Mormons. . . just ignore it, it doesn’t mean what others have tried to make it mean. (Which is the stance we all take on Noah’s curse on Ham).

  24. There is also a passage in the Book of Moses about some spirits in the pre-earth life being “noble and great ones.” Which I have also heard used to try and claim the Book of Moses is racist.

    There is nothing racist in saying that some people are better than others. Some are. Martin Luther King Jr. is a better person than Adolf Hitler. I won’t apologize for saying that he is. There is nothing in the Book of Moses about whole classes of people being better than others, and I’ve already demonstrated that there is no scriptural foundation for calling skin color a mark of anything in particular today.

    But that said….

    Being a “noble and great one” in the pre-existence didn’t really signify much.

    After all, Lucifer, Son of the Morning himself was one of the “noble and great ones.”

    Fat lot of good that did him.

  25. Which I would care about Gundeck, if Joseph Smith was the author of the Book of Moses.

    He wasn’t.

    But quotes please.

  26. Seth, I have no idea why you keep on referencing Brigham Young. I didn’t say anything about him in my first comment, and Tim’s OP isn’t overtly focused on him.

    The new race & priesthood article says that previous leaders offered “theories” on the reasons for the ban. The fact is that past leaders didn’t see those reasons as “theories.” They saw them as revelation. And Brigham Young was far from the only church leader to offer a reason for the ban.

  27. The same verse in Nephi we have been talking about for 2 days, 2 Nephi 5:21

    But Seth you think this is about a priesthood ban? Honestly? You are smarter than that. Nobody cares about a priesthood ban. I mean not really, its been over for decades.

    The priesthood ban was only a symptom of your canon of scripture and the 19th century culture it came out of. You can say the priesthood ban is over or you can say everybody in the pre-existence was valiant, nobody cares, really.

    There will be debates about it because it is easy on you. Its what you want. You get to play at being indignant calling evangelicals hypocrites. Trying to tie everybody down in debates about this or that not being official theology/doctrine/policy, when was Brigham speaking as a prophet or was Brigham alive when George Albert Smith said it was a revelation that blacks are not entitled to the full blessings of the Gospel. Go with it.

    Nobody cares about that, really. Because all of that is only a symptom of the real issue.

    “the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them.”

    That’s what people care really care about passages like that.

  28. LDS prophets have been undermining their own authority since at least 1890. Very few LDS members ended up caring then. I’m sure just as few will care now.

  29. Gundeck, if there is ignoring going on here, it is you ignoring everything I’ve said about the scriptures in question.

  30. Actually Jack, I don’t think Brigham Young really did offer a lot of justification for the ban. That would be Joseph F. Smith – who was an enthusiastic student of conservative Baptist explanation of Biblical scripture. McConkie was a student of his. A lot of our problems actually came from this temporary period of mimicking the Southern Baptist worldview.

  31. Seth I apologize, I didn’t communicate clearly. I wasn’t being antagonistic by saying you would ignore those passages. I just meant that when it comes to race — these are passages that Mormons will simply ignore.

  32. I agree with Christian J. using the “prophet will never lead the church astray” principle in this context is bad proof texting. From a broad historical perspective, the priesthood ban is a small error to live down.

    Any Evangelical that wants to use evidence of racism as evidence that the LDS religion is not inspired has a mountain of history showing that traditional Christianity has hardly ever prevented racism, and is often used to fuel it. It is a sad truism that whatever spiritual power traditional Christianity has, it did not prevent slavery, genocide, economic oppression, systemic injustice, perpetrated by Christians for centuries. Given the phenomenal errors in moral judgment perpetrated by the “priesthood of all believers” regarding racial and ethnic bias, the LDS priesthood ban appears downright innocuous.

    While I was a Mormon, the institutional racism of Christianity was the clearest sign of apostasy. The “inerrant” scriptures and “infallible” priesthood leaders of the Christian world had a very active place in perpetuating the worst forms of injustice. The blame either has to fall on the Word of God which contains no unequivocal denunciation of these injustices, or the generations of Christian churches that did not hear the voice of the Spirit or chose to ignore it.

  33. Seth,

    I have not ignored your commentary on any of these passages. I simply believe these passages and their use of skin color as a sign or mark of Gods curse positively indicate the 19th century origin of your canon of Scripture.

  34. I see “but Evangelicals did it, and did it worse!” has not ceased to be a favorite argument around here in my absence.

    Allow me to sum up where Evangelicals truly stand on this:

    “The evangelical movement has suffered from the sins of racial prejudice ever since it first emerged from the eighteenth-century Great Awakening. While evangelicals did not invent the sins of racism or ethnocentrism, the slave trade, segregation, discrimination, or racial hate groups, literally millions of white evangelicals have either participated in or sanctioned one or more of these things, distorting their common witness to the gospel. . . . [E]vangelicals are still untangling themselves from this sordid legacy.

    “It is important not to forget the utter enormity of this evil or the extent to which evangelicals condoned it. But it is also important not to forget that evangelicals played a greater role than any other group in taking the gospel to the slaves and treating them as spiritual equals. Paradoxically, while many leading white evangelical ministers owned slaves (Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield), defended slavery (Charles Hodge and James Henley Thornwell), and preached to segregated crowds (Charles Finney, D. L. Moody, and Billy Graham), some of these people also pioneered black evangelization, education, and even economic uplift. Many other, more progressive evangelical reformers played a major role in the rise of antislavery agitation. Further, evangelicals have contributed more than most white groups to the development of African American worship, doctrine, and practice. Conversely, African Americans have exerted extensive influence on the worship, doctrine, and practice of white evangelicals.” ~ Douglas A. Sweeney, [i]The American Evangelical Story: A History of the Movement [/i](Grand Rapids, Mich.: BakerAcademic, 2005), 108-9.

    IMO, portions of one’s movement being integral to opposing racism and slavery followed by most of one’s movement repenting of it’s past racism is, in fact, better than most of one’s leaders contributing to racism and slavery and then refusing to acknowledge the sin and repent.

    But that’s just me.

  35. My point has nothing to do with comparing the relative racism or repentance of Mormons and Evangelicals. Tim questions whether racism among church leaders reflects badly on their claims of infallible authority. I think that this is similar to the question of whether centuries of racism reflect badly on Evangelical Christian claims of Biblical inerrancy.

  36. Tim questions whether racism among church leaders reflects badly on their claims of infallible authority

    Which of course wasn’t the point of the original post, but we’re off in the weeds barbecuing straw men, mission accomplished!

    In logical terms, when LDS leaders of the past say “X is doctrine and revelation” and then later leaders say, “No X is not true, and those doctrines and revelations are just theories” their authority is (or should be) in question.

    And, I fail to see how the Prophet, Seer, and Revelator taking his cues from the Southern Baptists helps anything. Doesn’t that mean that if you want the real source of LDS teachings, go join your local First Baptist Church and you can hear what the LDS Prophets will say, only 10-20 years earlier? Or is the President of the Southern Baptist Convention in possession of such satanic kung-fu that LDS Prophets are absolved from resisting their siren calls to set LDS teachings?

  37. Tim: To go back a ways in the conversation, just to be clear, what I’ve said is that I don’t get the concept of apologizing for someone else’s actions, not that I necessarily opposed an apology. And I still don’t get it. Granted, I’m probably relying on a narrow definition of what an apology is. I’d support a statement of the kind that Gundek provided from the Presbyterians. I don’t consider it an apology, but others might characterize it that way.

    In any case, I think we’d agree that whether a statement of some sort indicating regret for past actions is called an apology or not, such a statement without accompanying actions seeking to remedy the wrong is meaningless. That’s where the focus should be.

    More soon on the rest of the conversation.

  38. “If you think the prophet can never lead the church astray on “issues concerning salvation” does that statement say anything meaningfully in light of the Universalists views of the LDS church”

    Tim, please clarify the question for me. In a strange way, the universalist soteriology of Mormonism has been part of the problem. As in, God will save most everyone, but not all at once – and that’s why it was once seen as ok to restrict certain people now. Its a large part of how JS viewed the relationship between Jews(or Lamanites) and gentiles in the plan of God anyway.

    I’ll say again that the Mormon rhetoric concerning the role of a prophet is the real problem. There are other scripturally legit paths to take, that would see the movement surviving. (and possibly thriving)

  39. I’ll say again that the Mormon rhetoric concerning the role of a prophet is the real problem. There are other scripturally legit paths to take, that would see the movement surviving. (and possibly thriving)

    Yes, and in fact Jack laid out a really, really viable alternative here a couple years ago.

    The top LDS leaders have lost pretty much all spiritual authority over me. It’s not that they teach dubious things here and there and make mistakes–they’re human and that’s to be expected. It’s that they do it while refusing to frankly acknowledge their limitations and perpetuating a culture of strict obedience to their words, as if they were God Himself that makes it impossible for me to trust them.

    There’s been a lot of heartache and sorrow for me to get to this point. But this past General Conference was the end of whatever strands of faith I was holding onto regarding them. Part of it was Oaks’ and Christofferson’s disastrous talks. But part of it, frankly, was Uchtdorf’s talk that was supposedly “so revolutionary.” I’m sorry, but vague admissions of unspecified leaders making unidentified mistakes isn’t anywhere near enough. I wish them well, I hope they figure their shiz out, but they’ve completely lost me.

  40. “If you think the prophet can never lead the church astray on “issues concerning salvation” does that statement say anything meaningfully in light of the Universalists views of the LDS church”

    Tim, please clarify the question for me

    I perhaps should have left that sentence out. I was trying to preempt a standard response to “Can the prophet lead the church astray?” Quite often, I’ll hear the reply “not in matters of salvation.” But to me this is almost a meaningless statement in the context of LDS views of salvation. Because Mormonism teaches a quasi-universalism almost everyone will be saved. So in essence the LDS prophet could teach almost anything and it wouldn’t be heretical or unorthodox because it wouldn’t affect people’s salvation.

  41. Tim said:

    Without realizing it I think the LDS church has undermined its own authority.

    I disagree. By being honest about its history, the Church has only enhanced its authority. Any authority based on a false belief of prophetic infallibility could not be sustained in any case.

    Jisbell22 said:

    I believe that Brigham Young’s stance on the priesthood was not one of racism, but as a tool for the young church to get established and end much of the persecution they had faced.

    Ugh. Huh? If that were the case, Young would have ended polygamy. I think it’s sad to see a member of the church continue to justify unjustifiable behavior.

    Tim said:

    … it is peculiar that the people in God’s one and only true church were seemingly the last ones prepared for an end to racial segregation.

    It’s more than peculiar, it’s an embarrassment.

    Ms. Jack said:

    The FP in the 1940s claimed in a letter to Lowry Nelson that the whole “blacks were less valiant in the pre-existence” thing was a revelation, not a theory.

    Since when have private letters been a means of promulgating church doctrine? I’m not about to defend the letter; it was in error. In any case, it provides no evidence that an anti-black revelation was ever received, and that was the point that Seth was correctly making.

    Jared C said:

    While I was a Mormon, the institutional racism of Christianity was the clearest sign of apostasy.

    That’s the first time I’ve ever heard that position. Nothing personal here, but in this instance I can’t say that I believe you.

    As to my own thoughts on the new statement, I agree with Tim that the statement is a good step forward. Does more need to be said? I don’t know. To me, the statement clearly implies that the policy was human in origin. If there’s room for members of the Church to say it was God’s will, as Seth stated, it’s a very tiny room. The essay rejected all past explanation for the policy and clearly stated: “Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form.” I have a hard time reading anything into that other than criticism of Brigham Young and those who perpetuated the policy.

    Again, though, even if that statement were stronger, making explicit what already is implicit, it would mean nothing without corresponding action. On that count, I think the Church has done a pretty good (not perfect) job: Implementation of the priesthood revelation came about immediately. Church leaders have repeatedly made clear that there is no excuse for racist behavior. Church leaders have also taken a progressive position on immigration reform, and in so doing have countered another type of racism. While I can’t say the church has been purged of racism, neither do I think we’re behind the rest of society as we were in the 1970s. Progress clearly has been made.

    Even so, there’s more that can be done. For starters, I’d hope that future teaching manuals about the scriptures explicitly state that passages in the Book of Mormon and elsewhere should not be used to perpetuate racist views. While (admittedly as a white guy) I see little in the Church that perpetuates racism today, I do think there are some broader issues that have an indirect effect on racial concerns. In general, I think we need to start acting more like the worldwide church we claim to be rather than a Utah-based church. I also think that classism remains a concern and can have many of the same effects as racism.

  42. Your point makes sense to me now, Tim. And I hear your frustration. However –

    On the one hand, we have the quasi univeralist position – which is spelled out pretty well via proxy work for the dead. (everyone will get their chance) On the other hand, there is also an urgency in Mormon teaching concerning the ordinances of salvation. Restricting a whole category of people (based on lineage or skin pigmentation no less) to wait! in this life on those saving ordinances obviously fits in the category you and others call – “matters of salvation”. Of course, I’m not saying this to as much as those who have perpetrated this outlandish idea.

    Katie, Jack’s post is pretty much the exact blue print of what I would do.

  43. Just in case someone is wondering why I mention saving ordinances and not the priesthood specifically: The greater crime for me has been that men could not receive temple ordinances without the priesthood – which means no temple marriage – which effected black women as well – because of the warnings against interracial marriage etc. etc.

  44. Tim questions whether racism among church leaders reflects badly on their claims of infallible authority.

    Which of course wasn’t the point of the original post, but we’re off in the weeds barbecuing straw men, mission accomplished!

    In logical terms, when LDS leaders of the past say “X is doctrine and revelation” and then later leaders say, “No X is not true, and those doctrines and revelations are just theories” their authority is (or should be) in question.

    That argument is a straw man. It imports a proof-texted, distorted view of the authority of priesthood leaders. In the LDS view, the authority of LDS Church leaders comes from God, it is lost immediately when they institute their own agenda. (See D&C 121.) Thus it’s a straw man to conclude that LDS should question their leaders authority because they make mistakes or lead them down the wrong path by claiming revelation when their decision was not inspired. At root, the authority of the church and its leaders has nothing to do with them not making any mistakes. Joseph Smith admittedly made all kinds of mistakes, some of which he justified by claims to revelation. Most thinking Mormons see the Church justifiably as a “rough stone rolling”. Mistakes and imperfections are part of the territory and do not undermine the keys they hold.

  45. While I was a Mormon, the institutional racism of Christianity was the clearest sign of apostasy.
    That’s the first time I’ve ever heard that position. Nothing personal here, but in this instance I can’t say that I believe you.

    You can believe it or not. I haven’t written about it because I don’t spend much time here advocating against Christianity. But its the truth. The fact that the enormity of the evil caused by racism were wholeheartedly endorsed by Christian churches was pretty clear indication to me as a boy that they were not led by Jesus himself and were in dire need of continuing revelation. Christian complicity in genocidal racism was a massive indication that the Spirit was not dwelling in the leadership.

  46. Jared, I’m just curious – to which genocidal racist account from Christian history are you referring to? (thre’s a wide variety) Conquistadores?

  47. Joseph Smith admittedly made all kinds of mistakes, some of which he justified by claims to revelation. Most thinking Mormons see the Church justifiably as a “rough stone rolling”. Mistakes and imperfections are part of the territory and do not undermine the keys they hold.

    This is a much healthier interpretation, but it is absolutely not what the institution says about itself.

  48. Jared C said:

    But its the truth. The fact that the enormity of the evil caused by racism were wholeheartedly endorsed by Christian churches was pretty clear indication to me as a boy that they were not led by Jesus himself and were in dire need of continuing revelation.

    I’m sorry. I misinterpreted you. You were stating what you believed, and I have no reason to doubt your word. I thought you were saying that the LDS church taught that racism was the biggest sign of the apostasy, and that’s what I found hard to believe in light of the Church’s history.

    Actually, I find your statement quite interesting. I doubt if any of my kids, despite growing up in a home where we talked about prejudice and such things, gave much of a thought to racism at all.

  49. Christian complicity in genocidal racism was a massive indication that the Spirit was not dwelling in the leadership.

    No argument there.

  50. Christian J said

    I could see a gradual emphasis on priesthood keys -and most of all God’s grace – that would allow us to have a more realistic view of our leaders. Mormonism would live on

    I agree that this is the survival path the LDS church will take. The claim to authorative and exclusive priesthood is empty without all the other truth claims, but it’s largely inoffensive and can be easily overlooked. There are plenty of orthodox Protestant Restorationists churches that still live on with this same sort of claim.

  51. @Eric, right, I was not taught that in church. It was my own position developed after spending a lot of time coming to grips with the holocaust and slavery as a kid.

    @Christian J.– I am not talking about any particular event.

  52. Katie,

    My grandpa used to say “It’s your church as much as anybody else’s, don’t let anyone push you around.” The beauty of Mormonism is the primacy of the Spirit, whoever God put’s in charge of anything has no more authority over you than the Spirit itself. This idea was the antidote to much of my cynicism.

  53. I agree with the idea of institutional responsibility and guilt incidentally. But I think it has to go further than a lot of us conceptualize it. We often think of it in terms of leadership apologizing, or the LDS Newsroom putting out an appropriate press release. But is it really limited to just the General Authorities and Church Office Building?

    The LDS Church is basically run by the lay membership. What of their responsibility? I think a Brigham Young quote (one of the first guys people consider throwing under the bus on this issue) is very relevant to such discussion.

    “Why do you not open the windows of heaven and get revelation for yourself? and not go whining around and saying, ‘do you not think that you may be mistaken? Can a Prophet or an Apostle be mistaken?’ Do not ask me any such question, for I will acknowledge that all the time, but I do not acknowledge that I designedly lead this people astray one hair’s breadth from the truth, and I do not knowingly do a wrong, though I may commit many wrongs, and so may you. But I overlook your weaknesses, and I know by experience that the Saints lift their hearts to God that I may be led right. If I am thus borne off by your prayers and faith, with my own, and suffered to lead you wrong, it proves that your faith is vain. Do not worry.”

    —A Series of Instructions and Remarks by President Brigham Young at a Special Council, Tabernacle, March 22, 1858 (Salt Lake City, 1858), pamphlet in Frederick Kesler Collection, J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah.

    This brings up an interesting possibility – perhaps the racial discrimination and ban was as much the fault of the lay membership as anyone. God didn’t allow the children of Israel into the Promised Land for forty years – Moses included – because of unrighteousness. Is it not possible that God withheld on this issue as well because of the sins of his people?

    I remember that prophet David O. McKay actually tried to ask God whether the ban should be lifted. He reported that the response was negative. I kind of wondered why that was when I first read about it.

    It occurred to me that he was given this answer simply because not enough of the membership were asking for it. The people had not indicated that they wanted to change at that point. Furthermore, I suspect McKay would not have had enough support in the Quorum of the Twelve to unilaterally make the change. So God withheld. Which brings up this well-known scripture passage:

    36 That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.

    37 That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.

    D&C 121:36-37

    It’s important to keep in mind as Mormons, and as a Church, that the right to revelation and guidance from the Lord is not simply a given. It is something that we can lose, and I think it is something that we have lost before. It also emphasizes that the responsibility for reform in the LDS Church lies not only with Thomas S. Monson. It lies with all the members. And if they do not desire for change and petition heaven for it, God cannot be simply assumed to be ready to provide it.

  54. Despite some concerns, I didn’t have serious problems with Oaks’ talk either. But, Seth, that was a cheap shot and an unjustified insult. I’m restraining myself from saying more.

  55. Very well Eric. Perhaps I’ve just been spending too much time getting yelled at by gay marriage supporters in the last month and took it out here.

  56. To sum up Seth’s point “it was the membership’s fault”, which severely calls into question the role of modern-day prophets at its core. But this is a common tactic of organizations run like the LDS church. It’s like rule #1 out of the “when things go wrong” playbook.

    I think the ideas of individual inspiration and membership petition might be found in this or that quote, but it’s simply not the reality of the LDS culture or organizational structure. The authorities that be do not take kindly to “steadying the ark”. It’s also not at all accurate to say the church is led my lay leaders. Yes, locally ,but not at all in doctrine or policy decisions.

  57. Seth, I can understand frustration in deading with gay-marriage backers, many of whom are narrow-minded and intolerant.

    Even so, your gratuitous insult was more than a bit ironic in light of your earlier post (which did an excellent job of bringing up some ideas I hadn’t thought about before) suggesting that some of the responsibility for receiving revelation rests with the general membership. Perhaps, just perhaps, especially in light of the fact that the very few verses of scripture we have on LGBTQ issues are maddeningly subject to multiple intepretations, it’s people like Katie who are hearing revelations that the leadership isn’t ready to hear.

    Tim said:

    I think the ideas of individual inspiration and membership petition might be found in this or that quote, but it’s simply not the reality of the LDS culture or organizational structure.

    You’re right. But it is part of LDS doctrine. I’d say that the fact culture doesn’t line up with doctrine is related to the idolatry Katie has spoken about. At its core, Mormonism is one of the most radical versions of Christianity in existence, but many in the Church don’t seem to realize that.

  58. And Tim, your comment illustrates exactly what was angering me so much about your comments and Gundeck’s.

    Neither of you are being honest or genuine in engaging this topic. Neither of you were here to discuss the race issue from the word go. All the race issue was was a tool for you to try and advance your narrative of discrediting LDS claims of revelation.

    I said years ago to Aaron Shaff in response to a video of him pompously strutting around Temple Square during a celebration where a lot of black members were attending calling out “I hope you guys get an apology.”

    I stated then that I didn’t really believe Aaron cared whether the LDS Church apologized or not. Because Aaron’s goal was, and always has been to wipe the LDS Church off the map. Racism was merely a convenient club for him to do that. And quite frankly, any club would have done fine for Aaron as long as it was available.

    I told Aaron at that time that I didn’t believe his sincerity for this reason, and I predicted that the very moment the LDS Church did issue an apology, Aaron would only give it the briefest of head-nods before immediately moving to phase 2 of his game plan for wiping out the LDS Church:

    Discredit LDS claims of prophetic authority.

    Which appears to be exactly what you and Gundeck are doing in this thread Tim.

    If you want to discuss LDS racism, celebrate the progress the church has made thus far, and express concern and criticism of the ways in which their latest press release doesn’t go far enough (and I personally think it definitely does not go far enough), then wonderful.

    If this is just a pretext however for trying to push your own personal agenda of trying to discredit LDS prophetic authority (as you just revealed) or discrediting the divine nature of LDS scripture (as Gundeck revealed earlier)…

    Then all I can say is that I thought you were better than Aaron, and I’m very, VERY disappointed in being proven wrong.

  59. Eric, I don’t think sexuality – which is behavior, and race – which is not, are analogous at all.

    There is no functional difference between a black man and a white man.

    There is a massive functional difference between a heterosexual union and homosexual union.

    But… gay marriage always utterly derails any discussion it is brought up in. So I’m not going to say any more on the subject here.

  60. Because Aaron’s goal was, and always has been to wipe the LDS Church off the map. Racism was merely a convenient club for him to do that. And quite frankly, any club would have done fine for Aaron as long as it was available.

    As a member of an aggressively missionary Church, you are hardly in a position to cry foul.

  61. Oh, I think there is a world of difference between what the missionaries do and what Aaron does.

    Night – and – day.

  62. Besides, I never claimed there weren’t Aaron Shaff’s in the LDS Church in the first place. They’re in every religion.

    I just didn’t consider Tim one of them.

  63. Oh, I think there is a world of difference between what the missionaries do and what Aaron does.

    Okay then, what’s the difference and why does it matter?

  64. I don’t know what God thinks. But what I think is that there is a world of difference between standing primarily FOR something, and standing primarily AGAINST something.

  65. But what I think is that there is a world of difference between standing primarily FOR something, and standing primarily AGAINST something.

    What difference? Be specific.

  66. Standing for the Restored Gospel, with the implicit message that other churches got it wrong in important ways is a lot different than devoting a ministry to debunking Catholicism or Evangelicalism or Islam.

  67. How are the differences significant? That’s my question. Wearing a yellow shirt is diametrically opposed to wearing a purple shirt, in terms of the color wheel, but you’ve got to have some other principle in play for the difference to matter.

    If [Insert Name of Religion] is an insiduous and possibly damnable heresy, what’s wrong with opposing it by any righteous means?

  68. Because if all you have in your toolkit is opposition, your opposition will ultimately amount to very little.

    For example, I’ve encountered several religious people who were so wrapped up in debunking the other religion that they ultimately ended up convincing people that both religions were wrong, who went on to become atheist.

    If you don’t have anything positive to offer in alternative to what you oppose, then I have no use for your argument.

  69. Oh, unrelated point of order:

    Jack, I was mistaken in remarking that Brigham Young didn’t offer a lot of justification for the ban. There are statements out there indicating that he did.

  70. I’m still only hearing a pragmatic objection, and that makes no sense to me, bcause you don’t want Aaron Schaff to be effective. And you’re certainly not in the market to be argued away from Mormonism anyway. So you should be tickled that his tactics are ineffective, but instead you are still offended about his tactics, which means somewhere you’ve got a moral objection that you’re not articulating.

  71. I don’t believe in destruction absent from creation.

    I think creation ought to be the focus, with destruction merely incidental to the creative process. That is a moral value judgment.

  72. And don’t think for a moment that Aaron’s tactics are ineffective. Evangelical anti-Mormon ministries like his have been incredibly effective in the creation of ex-Mormon atheists and agnostics.

  73. I don’t believe in destruction absent from creation.

    I think creation ought to be the focus, with destruction merely incidental to the creative process. That is a moral value judgment.

    Okay, but unless you back it up with something, it’s just your arbitrary moral judment. That’s like me saying “I don’t believe in yelllow shirts; I think shirts ought to be purple.” It is technically a moral judgment, but without something to back it up, for all intents and purposes I’m really just saying that yellow shirts don’t please me, morally.

    So unless you’ve got more, you may be making a moral judgment, but you’re making an arbitrary one, and I’m not sure why anybody else (including God, who is the one that missionaries should really be trying to please anyway) should care one way or another.

    And don’t think for a moment that Aaron’s tactics are ineffective. Evangelical anti-Mormon ministries like his have been incredibly effective in the creation of ex-Mormon atheists and agnostics.

    I’m still at a loss as to why it matters, from a Mormon perspective, whether Aaron converts Mormons to away to Evangelical Protestantism or deconverts them to atheism.

  74. I find atheism a lot more objectionable than Evangelicalism. But that’s completely a thread derailment.

  75. But again, objectionable in what way? Aesthetically? From the point of view of Heavenly Father’s work and glory to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man, isn’t it six of one, half a dozen of the other?

  76. Seth, I think Tim is a nice guy who has a genuine interest to dialogue with Mormons, but I’ve never been had any illusions about his main objective in (co) creating this site. The difference between him and Aaron is simply approach, nothing more. Aaron may grate your nerves because he’s aggressive and sometimes obnoxious, but the end goal is the same. (my .02)

  77. Seth, I think Tim is a nice guy who has a genuine interest to dialogue with Mormons, but I’ve never been had any illusions about his main objective in (co) creating this site.

    I also don’t think he’s ever been dishonest about his goal, either.

  78. My grandpa used to say “It’s your church as much as anybody else’s, don’t let anyone push you around.” The beauty of Mormonism is the primacy of the Spirit, whoever God put’s in charge of anything has no more authority over you than the Spirit itself. This idea was the antidote to much of my cynicism.

    That’s why I said the leadership lost their spiritual authority over me. You grant people authority over you, at least in this context, and I no longer give them influence over my spiritual journey. They just don’t have enough credibility for me. It sucks to say that, I wish it weren’t true, but it’s just the way it is for me anymore.

  79. My grandpa used to say “It’s your church as much as anybody else’s, don’t let anyone push you around.” The beauty of Mormonism is the primacy of the Spirit, whoever God put’s in charge of anything has no more authority over you than the Spirit itself.

    Unless they disfellowship or excommunicate you. Or deny you a temple recommend.

  80. Another unrelated point of order:

    Tim, for the record, I think it was much MORE the top leadership’s fault than it was the membership’s fault as far as the ban goes. It’s overstating to say that the membership is equivalent with top level authority in the LDS Church. I just wanted to correct and clarify that.

  81. Seth said

    And Tim, your comment illustrates exactly what was angering me so much about your comments and Gundeck’s.

    Neither of you are being honest or genuine in engaging this topic. Neither of you were here to discuss the race issue from the word go. All the race issue was was a tool for you to try and advance your narrative of discrediting LDS claims of revelation.

    Seth, I’ll direct you to the image in the OP. This wasn’t intended to be a discussion about race. It was intended to be a discussion about authority claims. My first reaction to the article was by no means “Great, now on to Phase 2! Destroy the Prophet.” But I noticed that just as soon as the article came out that the authority discussion popped up immediately (as evidenced in the Radio West episode). I thought this topic was far more interesting and ultimately far more important for Mormonism than the race issue and that’s why I brought it up.

    I don’t even feel bad for not being all that interested in the topic of race. It’s a VERY natural thing to want to move on to the deeper and more worldview-shaping topics.That’s exactly what I was doing when I wrote the post.

  82. Tim, for the record, I think it was much MORE the top leadership’s fault than it was the membership’s fault as far as the ban goes. It’s overstating to say that the membership is equivalent with top level authority in the LDS Church. I just wanted to correct and clarify that.

    Thanks for that clarification. I was just going to speak to that issue. I agree to a certain degree. People and nations have the leaders they deserve. (I think that’s the central theme of “War & Peace”). I hope and pray that Mormons do more “testing of the Holy Spirit” in terms of their past and present leaders. I think in large part the Church’s heresies are caused by the membership assuming that once the prophet speaks the thinking has been done. I pray for a lot more seeking after the things of God and a lot less seeking after justifications on behalf of the prophets.

  83. I don’t even feel bad for not being all that interested in the topic of race. It’s a VERY natural thing to want to move on to the deeper and more worldview-shaping topics.

    If you are starting from radically different basic premises, there’s no way you can have a meaningful discussion about things like race that are shaped by those premises. I agree one hundred percent that the deeper differences behind the argument are much, much more interesting, more likely to get to the heart of the matter, and more likely to change peopele’s minds in a meaningful way anyway.

  84. (re: Aaron Shaff)

    I don’t know what God thinks. But what I think is that there is a world of difference between standing primarily FOR something, and standing primarily AGAINST something.

    In defense of Aaron who I know is reading but not responding. He’s not simply interested in the destruction of the LDS church. He’s as emotionally committed to people finding new life in Jesus as anyone I know. If Aaron wants to see the wholesale destruction of the LDS church it’s only because he views it as an obstacle to people worshiping Jesus in spirit and truth. Regardless of what you think of his perceptions of Mormonism or his tactics I think you would agree that’s a noble goal. It’s my hope that you want the same exact thing for everyone.

    To be sure, there are bigoted Anti-Mormons who don’t care about the eternal destiny of Mormons (I could name names); Aaron is not one of them.

  85. That’s why I put in the word “primarily.” I’m familiar enough with the work of several anti-Mormons to know that they also stand FOR things.

    It just isn’t really the highlight and dominant focus of what they do.

  86. So you should be tickled that his tactics are ineffective, but instead you are still offended about his tactics, which means somewhere you’ve got a moral objection that you’re not articulating.

    In LDS terms, I think the distinction Seth is trying to make is the one between Nephi and Laman. You can call that aesthetic or moral, but there is a very clear difference in outlook.

    In terms of Lehi’s vision, relating to the tree of life, many Evangelicals are happy to take the place in the great and spacious building, they don’t care much for those who wind up in the mists of darkness.

    Evangelicals make a lot of rain by speaking from their heads toward Mormons, using clever arguments to debunk a belief in the supernatural world that Mormons believe underpins reality. This attitude was always odious to me, considering how vulnerable they are to the same sorts of attacks. I saw it as a fundamental flaw in their approach to religion, an anti-social resistance to the “evil” they see in all people. I have attempted to relate to those who use such tactics over the years– many are obviously well-meaning and sincere–but I haven’t changed my view on the effectiveness of the techniques. They don’t seem to have much to do with Jesus.

    I think’s Seth’s point about atheism is important as well. The tools of intellectual deconstruction are very sharp nowadays, but they are best left for careful surgery, not public discourse. I have yet to see those who happily use them get away without leaving scars on their souls and those of others.

  87. They don’t seem to have much to do with Jesus.

    What about the way Jesus talked to the Pharisees? Are we talking about the Jesus of the gospels or the vague, blurry impression of Jesus you have formed in your mind and are going to obstinately stick to no matter what anyone else says?

  88. Seth,

    To be completely honest, I was actually interested in what Eric would have to say about corporate responsibility, a communities confession, and moral responsibility for the past. This is a topic I am interested in because its relationship to my study of the book of Jonah . Your rant about coming from a religion with no corporation changed my focus. I should have let it go but you make it so easy.

    I honestly can care less about any apologies from Salt Lake, the your priesthood ban bores me only slightly less than polygamy, I don’t think you will ever find me crying racist, and I will be the last person demanding anything from your leaders.

    As a reader of antebellum theology though you canon reads like a anachronistic textbook and if you see that as an agenda discrediting to the divine nature of LDS scripture, sorry about that.

  89. Interesting idea. Is there a problem worshiping the Jesus of the Gospels?

    Of just the Gospels? I suppose that’s a distorted image of Jesus as well.

  90. Where do you get an undistorted image of Jesus? (My guess is that I could not get an undistorted image if he was standing before me in the flesh, No?)

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