Huntsman on Mormon Priesthood Ban

I discovered this ABC News interview about the LDS Priesthood ban with John Huntsman recently.  I was pleased to see that Huntsman said exactly what I think Mitt Romney should say in regards to this issue.

HUNTSMAN: I think it was wrong, plain and simple. I think it was wrong. I think it was something that divided people, divided friends and maybe even divided families. I believe they — they saw the errors of their way and they made a policy change. And I think they’re much better because of it.

It’s interesting to see that Huntsman wasn’t disciplined for saying it was wrong and the LDS church in no way has suffered because he chose to clarify the issue like this.  In what way would Mitt Romney harm the church by saying the same thing? Huntsman still describes himself as a Mormon and has family ties that run deep within the Mormon leadership.  In some ways, as the former governor of Utah his personal ties to Mormon culture are deeper than Romney’s.

39 thoughts on “Huntsman on Mormon Priesthood Ban

  1. Interesting news find.

    I just want to clarify your position in one particular. Here you say “Huntsman said exactly what Mitt Romney should say.” In your other post about Romney, it seemed that you wanted more. Specifically, that you want him to say it was wrong (as Huntsman did) and also to apologize:

    “Mitt Romney needs…to own his own part in it. He needs to apologize. He needs to say it was wrong.

    I hope to get an apology out of Romney.

    I’m not asking Romney to apologize for the formation of the policy. I’m asking him to apologize for his part in carrying it out.

    I’m not trying to split hairs, but I don’t hear Huntsman apologizing. Thus, I still wonder if you would have been fully satisfied with Romney if he had made the same statement.

  2. You’re right. Good catch. I think it would be appropriate for Romney to apologize. In addition I think he should say it was wrong. If those are separate then I’d at least settle for the latter.

    Huntsman was 18 when the ban was lifted so he probably didn’t in anyway enforce the ban in anyway.

  3. For sure in here Huntsman is expressing his own personal opinions on that issue, ant that’s ok. Every mormon has the right to have his or her own personal opinion regarding anything either doctrine, culture or practices of the LDS church. The fact that one disagree with whatever the church teaches or practices does not mean we are not in good standing or advocating against what we think is not right. Most people do not agree in the way God run this world, still most are believers. In an intelligent society, there is room for disagreement in a frame of respect for other people’s points of view.

  4. According to what I read a few weeks ago (and I’m unable to find it now), the number of black members of the church in the U.S. prior to 1978 was minuscule, on the order of 300 or so. (Consider this an unverified number.) Regardless of what the actual number was, it was definitely small, and it is certainly possible that Romney did nothing to “enforce” the ban, although the record shows that Romney did have church-related dealings with plenty of nonwhites. And if there is evidence that Romney mistreated blacks in any way as part of his church duties (or under any circumstance), that it will be uncovered by the media or his political opponents. To date there is nothing.

    I also think it’s inappropriate to criticize a presidential candidate for not taking a particular doctrinal position, which is what Tim is doing here. Romney, in his 2007 church/state speech, clearly indicated what his relationship with the Church would be if he were elected, and as a voter I’m satisfied with that.

    (For the record, as I’ve indicated elsewhere, I’m not a supporter of Romney for president, and I believe the ban was rooted in 19th-century prejudices that were influential for way too long into the 20th century. I just think it’s unfair to be laying that on Romney, especially considering the fact that support for civil rights was a big deal in the Romney family, and there’s nothing in the record to suggest that Mitt Romney held a contrary view.)

  5. Good comment, Charles. However, you said, “most [people] are believers.” “Believe God exists,” or “believe in God as followers of Jesus?”

    Hi BrianJ. Do you believe Huntsman is correct? Do you believe Romney & all LDS leaders and members should say what Huntsman did? (Puttin’ you on the spot! :-))

  6. Wasn’t Romney a Bishop and or Stake President during this time? Seems he would have to have bought into the ban to do so.

  7. Tim: Thanks for the answer. If I can probe a little more—in what way(s) do you think Romney enforced the ban?

    Cal: Yes and no. If we just take Huntsman’s overall point then I’d say he’s correct.

    I wouldn’t want to be held to his statement as something official, however, because if we parse it out then I see problems with it. For example, when he says “plain and simple.” Clearly this issue is not plain and simple—as numerous discussions about it attest (today, in the ’60s, etc.). To say it was “wrong” is easy, but to define what about it was wrong is not. Likewise, I’m not comfortable with his statement that “they saw the errors of their way.” Who are “they”? Most narratives of this change suggest that some Apostles/Qof12 had been hoping for this change all along—or at least for a long time—and others were holdouts. Does Huntsman include those who advocated for change as part of the “they” and if so then what was their error? (The same question applies to general membership of the Church.)

    I also do not think that other Church members should exactly echo his statement because when he says, “And I think they’re much better because of it,” it sounds to me like he means “those Mormons”; i.e., that he is distancing himself from the Church. “We are…” would be better wording.

    Lastly, no, I do not think that the highest of Church leadership should make this statement. It is far too brief to adequately and definitively address the issue at that level—it’s length and detail are appropriate to the level of authority and involvement that Huntsman (and 99% of Church members) had/have in the ban. But an official declarative statement from the Church leadership (i.e., First Pres and Qof12) should address more; e.g.; the concerns I raised two paragraphs before. Also, somewhat contrary to what Tim says, I believe that it is at this level (and in most cases, only at this level) that an apology has any meaning. Again, if something like this was used only as the abstract/excerpt to capture the essence of the Church’s statement, then I would agree.

  8. BrianJ, as I’ve stated earlier, I can’t name any specific instances that Mitt Romney might have been in the position to say “sorry wrong skin color”.

    But as a missionary he for sure was put in situations where he was asked to carry out baptisms and confirmations. His choices about who to teach and who not to teach would have been influenced by this policy. He was not a bishop until 1981 but he was probably in the bishopric or on the high council before then. Again we don’t know exactly the situations he encountered in those roles but nonetheless, he was in a sufficient leadership position to be influencing the promotion of the policy.

    The point of this post was mostly to illustrate that the sky did not fall (as some have predicted) because a Mormon presidential candidate had the courage and integrity to saw that the policy was wrong.

    Romney’s role in the civil rights movement should, if anything, inspire him to follow Huntsman’s lead. You don’t take part in a movement like that for political cover. You take part in a movement like that because you wish for your words and actions to match its political and cultural ideals.

  9. Thanks Tim. I wasn’t trying to call you out or anything, just trying to gauge your concern. I don’t know anything about Romney’s church service pre-bishop—or, as Eric suggests, just how much contact he had with black church members. Mostly I just wondered what level of “sorry wrong skin color” you were concerned about. Obviously, I knew that would include such things as temple recommends or priesthood ordinations (something at the bishop’s level and higher only), but could even include things that an elders or even deacons quorum president might enforce: e.g., hometeaching assignments, passing the sacrament, etc.

    (Just a small note: I highly doubt that the ban had any influence on his decisions of who to teach as a missionary. He served in godless France during the Vietnam war—he probably taught whoever didn’t slam the door on a fancifully-minded American. Of course, I’m just guessing.)

    I also wasn’t trying to detract from the point of the post. Rather, seeing that your post is one of high satisfaction—praise even—for Huntsman’s words, I thought it important to clarify the differences you see between him and Romney.

  10. A Brian pointed out, I think there is a difference between apologizing for the ban and saying it was wrong. While I would have a problem with Romney apologizing, I don’t have a problem with him saying it was wrong. Apostles such as Bruce R. McConkie have admitted they were wrong on this IMHO Apology is a different matter in this context and should properly come from the church, not a particular member who may be pandering to get elected.

  11. I guess I don’t live in this strange Christian world where someone says their actions were wrong but deliberately don’t apologize for them.

  12. Apologies properly come from those committing the wrong. Romney would not be apologizing for the ban, which he was not responsible for, only for his following the policies of church leadership. I don’t think he can honestly apologize for following church leadership. You are not asking Romney to apologize for the specific acts of racism that he committed, you are asking him to apologize for being a Mormon.

    A Good bible believer can believe that the sacking of Jericho or other acts of biblical genocide were wrong at some level, but it would not be proper for them to apologize for following the Bible.

  13. Though Bruce R. McConkie may have admitted he was wrong, he never admitted the ban was wrong. The LDS church is always happy for individuals to take the arrows and throw themselves under the bus for the sake of the organization.

  14. Tim: Should I say that the priesthood ban was wrong? Should I apologize for it? (I was born in 1974.)

    Should Darius Gray say that the priesthood ban was wrong? Should he apologize for it? (He was born in the ’40s, I think, and joined the Church in the ’60s.)

    Lastly, are you demanding that Romney apologize for his actions, or apologize for the ban? I think there is a miscommunication between you and Jared C (and me, others) resting on this distinction.

    (Note: I fear that this comment will come across as combative and that is not the tone I intend.)

  15. Though Bruce R. McConkie may have admitted he was wrong, he never admitted the ban was wrong.

    Exactly. Hence, it is not appropriate for a faithful Mormon to apologize for following the misguided leaders. . . because under the doctrine of the church it was his duty to do so.

  16. “Though Bruce R. McConkie may have admitted he was wrong, he never admitted the ban was wrong.”

    That’s a distinction that has long bothered me too. It’s another example of the concerns that an official Church response must address that I mentioned in my reply to Cal at 10:16am.

  17. Brian, I think Romney should say the ban was wrong AND I think he should apologize for any actions he took in discriminating against people in his religious practice based on his adherence to the ban.

    I doubt he could in any way meaningfully apologize on behalf of the church as a whole.

    I don’t think you should apologize for the ban and I think Darius Gray is owed an apology (if he’s a black member of the church).

  18. How about Romney and Huntsman, don’t they deserve an apology from the church for having to put up with all of these questions during their presidential campaigns?

  19. Jared C said:

    Hence, it is not appropriate for a faithful Mormon to apologize for following the misguided leaders. . . because under the doctrine of the church it was his duty to do so.

    I’m not convinced that’s the case. For anything I have a concern about, I have an obligation to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Blind obedience certainly isn’t a doctrine I believe in.

    Jared C said:

    You are not asking Romney to apologize for the specific acts of racism that he committed, you are asking him to apologize for being a Mormon.

    That’s the way I’m interpreting Tim’s comments as well. Maybe I’m missing something, because I don’t really think that’s what he intends to say.

  20. Tim —

    Just so that I can help Romney with the wording for stuff that predated his being a bishop, can you show me links to where HW Bush apologized for the Irish campaign, and whatever part he played in the massacre at the Siege of Wexford? Or as long as we are talking about bad things religions do. Why not the incredibly long list Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum need to address?

    I think it is reasonable to hold Mitt Romney responsible for things he personally did or personally supported. But the Mormon church has a far better record than the churches of most modern presidents, Richard Nixon exempted. And those leaders haven’t been asked to defend everything from their churches, to pick an example Jimmy Carter didn’t resign from the SBC over the woman’s ordination issue until 2000, he never apologized for it as president.

  21. Tim,
    Per my comment on the previous post on this subject, I’m hardly an LDS apologist, and even I think you’re barrel scrapping on this subject. Whether Romney becomes the Republican nominee or not, it’s time to move on.
    Huntsman is widely known in Mormondom as very heterodox and not with the program (definitely not a GA wannabe). While I agree with his statement, I wouldn’t expect the same from Romney. They’re two very different people.
    His loyalty to Mormondom aside, Romney is a far better national politician than Huntsman. Both are certainly smart enough to be president. But Huntsman is on a fool’s errand of running as a moderate in a 2012 Republican presidential primary. Romney clearly wants to be president and has a shot. I can only speculate that Huntsman is using a bogus insincere presidential run to establish a brand for himself for business purposes? It’s either that or he’s dumber the he appears.
    Your speculative comment on Romney’s church service during the time of the ban demonstrates utter ignorance of local LDS governance and callings. FWIW, having served an LDS mission in the South of France at the time the ban was lifted (a decade after Romney served in northern France), I found your speculation on Romney’s missionary service amusing. Expecting an apology from Romney for his non-role in the priesthood ban is ludicrous.
    If you don’t like Romney, and he’s the nominee, vote for Obama. Again, it’s time to move on.

  22. What I find fascinating in this Huntsman quote is his use of the pronoun, “they”. Most Mormons who see themselves and the church as one and are highly invested in it, like Romney, would have used the pronoun, “we” even if they were saying the exact same thing. I don’t think he sees himself as particularly Mormon.

  23. Thanks, Brian, for your extensive answer.
    Thanks, Steve EM, for your insight.
    I’m in New Hampshire and I know of 3 evangelicals—me, my wife, and my stepson—who are voting for Romney next Tuesday!

  24. dadsprimalscream said, “I don’t think he [Huntsman] sees himself as particularly Mormon.”

    Either that, or he’s vying for votes.

  25. Steve, for what it’s worth, I plan on voting for Romney. I think this issue is a liability for his campaign and he should control it before it controls him.

    Huntsman, I believe is running for the future.

  26. Have you seen this, Tim?

    Makes me wonder if someone from the Huntsman campaign hasn’t been paying attention to your video and posts.

    EDIT: Okay, so that’s probably not a real Huntsman campaign video, in spite of the tag at the end. But it does show that other people are latching onto the line of argument of calling Mitt out on the racism thing.

  27. BFF: Thanks for the edit. I was wondering about that myself—it seems impossible that Huntsman would make an ad like that.

  28. Interesting Jack.

    Also, a number of videos by “supporters” have been popping up. The most controversial was one attacking Huntsman for adopting babies from China and India. These videos have all carried the NH4 tag in the user name.

    Despite the many Mormon defenses I’ve heard I don’t think Romney will be given the time to deliver a nuanced view or fully explain the LDS leadership structure. When this starts to hit the mainstream media, he better be prepared with something short and direct. In my opinion, “It was wrong, I’m sorry” will be the only thing that makes it go away.

  29. Pingback: Huntsman’s dirty secret | Is the End soon?

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