finally, someone tells it like it is with Romney
There’s a good NYTimes article up today talking about Lawrence O’Donnell’s comments on Romney’s religion. O’Donnell finally came out and said what those of us in Outer Blogness have been thinking all along, “Why hasn’t anyone mentioned that Romney’s religion was officially racist until 1978 (and is still unofficially racist in theology but not in practice)?)” and “Romney is no JFK; his speech was all about pandering to the religious right while alienating religious minorities.” O’Donnell is being attacked for telling the truth. Add to that Romney’s claim that he felt Huckabee was attacking his religion when he asked a legitimate question (Is it true Mormons believe Jesus and Lucifer are brothers?) and I have to think that all of this is a sad commentary on the media today. Neither Huckabee nor O’Donnell have done anything wrong and neither should be apologizing.
If the media was doing its job, it would be asking these questions:
-What does Mitt think the role of women should be in America today? Does he support the official position of his religion that, if at all possible, women should stay home and take care of kids?
-What is Mitt’s position on converting the entire world to Mormonism, which, if I’m not mistaken, is still part of the three-fold mission of Mormonism?
-What’s Mitt’s position on the racist doctrine and theology taught by former LDS leaders and also enshrined in their scripture?
-Isn’t Mitt’s allegiance first and foremost to his religion, a religion he promised to support at the risk of severe penalties (he was endowed before 1990)?
The media isn’t doing its job and now it is criticizing those who dare do it. Pathetic!
Manaean posted this over on Atlantic Monthly:
from a speech given two months after the revelation on the priesthood in 1978 by Bruce R. McConkie, an LDS Apostle when he gave it and who had earlier written some of the apologetics favoring the ban:
“We have revelations that tell us that the gospel is to go to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people before the Second Coming of the Son of Man. And we have revelations which recite that when the Lord comes he will find those who speak every tongue and are members of every nation and kindred, who will be kings and priests, who will live and reign on earth with him a thousand years. That means, as you know, that people from all nations will have the blessings of the house of the Lord before the Second Coming.
“We have read these passages and their associated passages for many years. We have seen what the words say and have said to ourselves, â€œYes, it says that, but we must read out of it the taking of the gospel and the blessings of the temple to the Negro people, because they are denied certain things.â€ There are statements in our literature by the early Brethren which we have interpreted to mean that the Negroes would not receive the priesthood in mortality. I have said the same things, and people write me letters and say, â€œYou said such and such, and how is it now that we do such and such?â€ And all I can say to that is that it is time disbelieving people repented and got in line and believed in a living, modern prophet. Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or President George Q. Cannon or whomsoever has said in days past that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world.
“We get our truth and our light line upon line and precept upon precept. We have now had added a new flood of intelligence and light on this particular subject, and it erases all the darkness and all the views and all the thoughts of the past. They donâ€™t matter any more.
“It doesnâ€™t make a particle of difference what anybody ever said about the Negro matter before the first day of June of this year, 1978. It is a new day and a new arrangement, and the Lord has now given the revelation that sheds light out into the world on this subject. As to any slivers of light or any particles of darkness of the past, we forget about them. We now do what meridian Israel did when the Lord said the gospel should go to the Gentiles. We forget all the statements that limited the gospel to the house of Israel, and we start going to the Gentiles.”
(complete text available from BYU’s site here:
And incidentally, Joseph Smith was an abolitionist (as were most early saints -which got them in hot water with their pro-slavery neighbors in Missouri). He also ordained a black person to the Priesthood personally. The Mark of Cain business and ban came later with Brigham Young.
I’ve heard of or read the sermons that were preached justifying the exclusion of dark-skinned peoples. I do not think they are supported by the Book of Mormon or other Mormon scripture. True, you have the account of a “curse of blackness” upon the Lamanites linked to wickedness. But what do we make of later accounts of Lamanite righteousness surpassing that of the “white” Nephites? What of Lamoni, the 1000 Lamanite sons, the prophet Samuel?
If Joseph was trying to write a racist tract in the Book of Mormon, it seems to me that he failed miserably.
From where I’m sitting, it seems like the Church pretty-much has already renounced its racist past.
Even Brigham Young was hardly as racist as most of his generation were. His dealings with the local Indians were almost enough to make him some sort of native American patron saint in comparison to just about every other figure in frontier America at the time. There’s a reason the local Indians were seriously willing to side with the Mormons against Johnston’s Army.
Actually, the LDS Church’s racist holdout on the Priesthood ban well into the latter part of the 20th century is about the only thing in its past of racial ideals that I’m ashamed of.
I tend to agree, Exmo. I just wish two things– that the irrationality of Huckabee and other Christians were discussed in the same vein, and that a person who is openly atheistic, or even agnostic, had a legitimate shot at winning the election. Where I live, the most prominent attribute of candidates show on their list of qualifications is the church they attend. Sigh.
O’Donnell is being attacked for being a rabid bigoted moron.
I don’t care if someone wants to bring up all the points exmo listed above. I don’t even care if they ask Romney about them. In fact, I’d probably be almost as interested as anyone to see him answer them…
But O’Donnell acted like an imbecile. He doesn’t deserve a medal. He deserves a good slap upside the head. If I were an atheist I’d be heartily embarrassed right now.
Here is one of the best things I’ve read about the Romney speech: http://www.hnn.us/articles/45478.html. The author points out the historical reasons for the separation of church & state, and some ways that Mormonism helped contribute to it — ways that I would say benefited both church and state.
And I agree that ODonnell’s method of making his point came across badly. It would have been more effective if he’d been more rational, less emotional. I mean, what have things come to when I find Pat Buchanan to be a voice of reason?! 😉
Smith wasn’t strictly an abolitionist. He advocated gradually buying the freedom of the slaves using federal funds. He actually denounced the immediate abolition of slavery serving the interests of the professional clergy of the northern states.
Though LDS church policy is no longer racist as far as I know, there has never been an official repudiation of the racist doctrines of the past. As far as the LDS canon is concerned, the racist policies of the past are perfectly justified. Nor has there ever been an official apology for the church’s racist past. It seems like the church leadership wants to pretend that it didn’t happen because to officially repudiate past racism would contradict the doctrine of prophetic infallibility.
In any case, I’m ambivalent regarding questioning candidate’s religious views. On the one hand, religion shouldn’t be important in the political sphere. On the other hand, if you really believe something absurd, then the voter should know about that so they can balance that into their choice.
“slavery as serving the interests”
The part about excluding black people isn’t in the Book of Mormon, it’s in the Pearl of Great Price. Read Abraham, chapter 1, starting around verse 21. It explains that Pharaoh was of the lineage of Ham, “that race which preserved the curse in the land” (The Book of Moses explains that the “curse” is the “mark of Cain”), and goes on to explain that for this reason Pharaoh couldn’t hold the priesthood. Abraham 1:27 begins:
They really should decanonize the PoGP. The story of the “translation” of the Book of Abraham is bad enough — the actual content is worse…
A couple thoughts…
Seth, O’Donnell is a nominal Catholic, not an atheist. He doesn’t speak for atheists. I don’t recall him saying, “Hi, I’m the president of American Atheists and whatever I say is a reflection on them.” In another interview a few days after this incident he admitted to being a nominal Catholic and was skewered over that too. (http://hughhewitt.townhall.com/talkradio/transcripts/Transcript.aspx?ContentGuid=cb634a31-a45d-47fd-b285-d181b269d10c)
As for O’Donnell railing rabidly, so what? I’d love to see more politicians and newspeople get upset over things. Admittedly it doesn’t come across all that well as it seems like it’s more his emotions speaking than reason, but he still didn’t say anything absurd, he just tried to hold Romney accountable for supporting a racist organization. Strom Thurmond had to deal with this his whole life, why shouldn’t Mitt Romney?
Also, Seth, the McConkie quote is one of my favorites as it illustrates just how hokey “revelation” is. We’ve hashed this out a number of times already, but when I read McConkie’s quote about him and all the other prophets before him being wrong on the race issue what it says to me is, “Revelation doesn’t exist. If it did, we would get truth the first time around and not have to wait 140+ years to get things right.” If the General Authority blowhards were actually receiving something akin to revelation, don’t you think they would stick by their “truth” because it is truth and will never change? McConkie is basically admitting it’s all made up!
Mike, you’re right, Pat Buchanan seemed reasonable in that clip, which is, well, scary!
Jonathan… Armand Mauss has made an argument concerning the racist theology of Mormonism that basically says the theology never formally existed, it was just the “personal” beliefs of a few prophets (http://www.fairlds.org/FAIR_Conferences/2003_LDS_Church_and_the_Race_Issue.html). I know Armand personally and I really like him. He’s a brilliant guy and very nice. But this is one of his most poorly argued pieces of writing I’ve ever read. I don’t bring this up as any form of refutation of what you’re saying but just to illustrate the current apologetic thinking on this issue. I absolutely agree that Mormonism is still racist in belief and theology but not in practice. I was told all about the blacks in the pre-existence idea on my mission and even taught it (even though I thought it was ridiculous at the time and was glad the policy had changed). That doesn’t make it official, but it’s the only excuse that justifies the 100+ years of racist policy.
This really is a great issue for critics as it forces a couple of very unflattering choices for apologists:
1) god didn’t reveal the truth to his servants on earth (including Abraham, Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, etc.) and may have even lied to them, or
2) god’s servants misinterpreted the “truth” for over 100 years and were a bunch of bigots, or
3) there is no god and these guys are just a bunch of conservative (in the “unaccepting of change” sense) bigots
I’m open to a fourth option, but I don’t see one.
Why exactly is a person’s religion germane to how they will be President? Can anyone seriously argue that Mitt Romney will pursue racist policies simply because his church was ‘officially racist’ thirty years ago? JFK was elected President years before Catholicism ‘apologized’ for the Crusades and the persecution of Jews.
To all those who worry that Romney will use his presidency to impose Mormonism on the world, what is your evidence? Without evidence, you’re making baseless accusations.
I’m more concerned with his views on immigration, foreign policy, defense, education, etc. If I support or oppose Romney, it will be on that basis. To me, those issues are way more important than religious historical trivia.
4) Revelation is what God says. No where in any of the four canonical works does it say that those of African descent cannot hold the Priesthood. Interpretation of those revelations is theology. A flawed interpretation does not invalidate revelation. And when God reveals something contrary to the theology, the revelation wins out.
The trick is to determine what is revelation and what is theology. In order to qualify as revelation in the Mormon church, I believe that the membership has to vote on it and accept it. The membership voted on the 1978 priesthood declaration; it therefore has the force of revelation. Because of the murky history of the priesthood ban, it had the ultimate effect of eliminating all ambiguities regarding it.
Does anyone know if the FLDS still believes in the Priesthood ban, or is there a fundamental wing of the fundamentalists that still believes in it (i.e. the *FFLDS*)?
Did you read my comment #8?
I read it, but if a person who had never read any of the four standard works was to read them without the background that we have (e.g. 19th century interpretations of what the mark or curse of Cain was), would they have understood those verses to mean that those of African descent could not hold the Priesthood? I doubt it.
Abraham 1:26, 27
Sorry. I didn’t see Africa mentioned anywhere in there. (Although I did see Egypt!) And nothing about black skin. If Joseph Smith wrote both the Book of Mormon and the Book of Moses, why would he say that the Lamanites received skins of blackness, but only say that ‘blackness came on the Canaanites’? The former is explicit, but iin the latter, you are assuming that the verse uses ‘blackness’ to describe skin color, an assumption that is not necessarily warranted. In the same Chapter, verse 22, it says that Enoch saw a vision of the Sons of Adam, except “the seed of Cain, for the seed of Cain were black”. I can’t just insert the word “skinned” after black. And without that word, any meaning we ascribe to ‘black’ takes it out of the realm of revelation and into the world of theology.
I’m not saying that you are quoting the scriptures out of context or distorting their meaning. However, the scriptures you quoted do not, standing alone, say that anyone with African descent was not allowed to have the Priesthood. That takes something more and that something more is theology.
dpc — this looks pretty explicit to me, especially considering that it corresponds precisely with the LDS church’s very real priesthood ban up to the late 70’s. If it looks ambiguous to you, then so be it. I’m not going to go into apologist/debating mode to insist that this says what it says.
I think that if it seems like a record purporting to be thousands of years old appears to us now to give a particular meaning, there must not be any other explanation. I’m sure the 5 chapters of Abraham are exhaustive as to the issues we’re discussing.
Mauss spoke at a fireside I attended once. For the curious, he offered to share some things after the fireside was over that he didn’t want to share over the pulpit. I and others stayed, and he shared the theory that you mention. It comforted me a little then, but it doesn’t address the idea that prophets acting in their office aren’t supposed to lead their people astray. Nice try on Mauss’ part, but it doesn’t add up to me.
Personally, I see our current policies in Israel as an example of religious beliefs imposed on the public by the government. Then there is our policy regarding stem cell research. I also suspect that a lot of our foot dragging on climate change is rooted in religion. Those are a few reasons why a person’s religious beliefs do matter when selecting a president.
I don’t disagree that there is a religious element to government policy, but none of the examples you gave are the result of any one president’s particular religious affiliation.
“I see our current policies in Israel as an example of religious beliefs imposed on the public by the government.”
I think it’s the other way around; it’s an example of religious belief imposed on the government by the public.
Actually, stem cell research elicited the first veto of George W. Bush’s presidency. President Bush is therefore single-handedly responsible for the lack of federal funding for stem cell research. I suppose I can’t prove that his choice was religiously motivated, but it would stretch credulity to say that it wasn’t motivated by the religious beliefs of his supporters.
I think itâ€™s the other way around; itâ€™s an example of religious belief imposed on the government by the public.
Granted, but let me put it this way, our policy in Israel is an example of the government and the public not protecting the separation of church and state. Leaving aside the question of how he’d get elected, we would be in a better situation if our president refused to set policy in Israel in deference to religious interests. So a candidate’s relationship to religion is important in deciding who should be the next president.
Sounds more to me like the verses are just telling it like it was in those days. People were the way people usually are. In those unenlightened days, if you looked different, people didn’t like you.
Chanson, I’m not really seeing it either.
And I still maintain that the 19th and 20th century sermons on this topic simply aren’t warranted by the plain text of the scripture.
It doesn’t matter if the sermons and policies were warranted by scripture or not. The whole point of Mormonism is that it’s supposed to be a true and living church led by a living prophet, no? What does that mean?
If “living prophet” is just an inspired man who is interpreting the scriptures based on his conscience, intuition, and what he feels is the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, then it is exactly what every other church (reasonably) claims.
Otherwise, the Church has to remain accountable for what its prophetic leaders say and do and teach, because a living prophet’s words should trump a dead one’s words, no?
I think appeal to scripture as an attempt to undermine modern teachings in Mormonism is slippery and disingenuous.
The PoGP mentions a “race” which (1) had a “curse of blackness” (2) lived in Africa, and (3) was denied the priesthood.
In theory one could argue that that race isn’t necessarily black people. But that would mean that there’s another race that was also denied the priesthood. That doesn’t eliminate the fact that the PoGP confirms that God may deny people the priesthood based on race, it compounds it. Does this other race have the right of the priesthood today? Or are they still awaiting their revelation?
On a personal note, this exchange demonstrates why I avoid debating apologetics. I’m not impressed with your ability to look at a passage that is quite specific and say “that could mean anything.” If you can read those verses and tell me that the PoGP says nothing conclusive on this subject, then we don’t agree on standards of evidence, hence there is no point in further debate.
As far as the “living prophet” thing goes, when does that change?
For example, if Gordon B. Hinckley were to pass on tomorrow, would the next prophet have to get up and reaffirm everything he said? At what point is a prophet no longer included as a “living prophet”. I’ve heard Ezra Taft Benson and Spencer W. Kimball both included in this category – and I was alive during both of their presidencies.
Joe said at the time & place what fit.
He was a chemeleon.
Once a LDS leader says something (racist, other)…
can YOU unring a bell? how about the other wacky doctrines / teachings? have those gone away? No, they don’t, they’re just behind the (memory & culture) curtain. LDS are taught to closely & immediately buy into what leaders preach/say/example… Has that gone away? NO.
Im SICK of ppl apologizing for & whitewashing the past.
You know, there’s another possibility. God simply might not have wanted blacks to have the Priesthood during that time. I remember reading about prophet David O. McKay, a very kind and forward-thinking man in many ways. He once mentioned that he had been praying and praying to the Lord for an answer – specifically asking if the ban could be lifted. And he said the Lord would not answer him on the subject. According to him, it apparently wasn’t time yet.
Another thing to consider.
If blacks had been allowed the Priesthood, it is entirely possible that we’d still be having trouble today trying to stamp out female circumcision as a “Priesthood ordinance” in parts of Africa. Allowing the Priesthood on the African continent might well have set the plight of women back decades.
That may be off-base, but it might serve us well to consider that, like Hamlet’s Horatio, “there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
Seth R. — I’m not sure who you’re responding to. For me, there are ways of explaining the PoGP passages. For example, this is definitely covered by the blanket statements in the McConkie speech you posted. Also, I’ve heard Mormons say that J.S. never meant the PoGP stuff to be canonized — he was interested in Egyptology and tried his hand at it, with uncertain results.
What this means for modern Mormonism or Romney in particular is up for grabs. All I’m arguing is that the statement by both Seth R. and dpc (that there is no basis for the priesthood ban in the Mormon standard works) is false. Nothing more.
Seth – I’m having a hard time understanding the link you’re drawing about blacks and the priesthood and female circumcision.
As far as I know, that was never part of LDS/mormon doctrine (am I wrong about this)? I may have many issues with the treatment of women in the LDS faith – but that (thank goodness) was never part of my understanding.
LDS doctrine doesn’t change with the local culture when it enters. Specifically by adding or adopting customs or rituals as a part of the gospel?
Are you suggesting that it would have (adopted local spiritual customs as a part of the gospel for that region)? That’s like suggesting LDS follow the “Fish on Friday” rules in very Catholic communities. Or allowing Buddhist altars within LDS buildings.
Please explain what you’re referring to – I’m confused.
Given that Mitt Romney keeps talking about the faith of his fathers, which is a curious position for somebody who told French people for two years to forsake the faith of their fathers, it is a fair question to ask him about his attitudes about his fathers’ faith.
Notice, nobody is attacking Senator Reid because he has demonstrated his independence. Mitt Romney has as well. Unfortunately among many other former positions, he has been flip flopping on his ethical independence.
Frank Rich has Mitt Romney’s number. He is not a leader. He is a follower.
With respect to contemporary racism, our children are still being taught that racial intermarriage is wrong. Children of color are still being told in primary and seminary that Brigham Young was right to threaten interracial couples with homicide.
Of course, the perpetrators don’t speak for the Brethren (although Russell Nelson still preached against intermarriage as late as 1995), the racist agitators can still invoke the prestige of Mormon prophets because there has never been an explicit renunciation of the fence sitter doctrine.
The reason is, of course, that Mormons have to protect the image of the prophetic office. The problem is when we share the Brethrens’ sensibilities, it comes at the cost of the children who are getting spiritually and psychologically assaulted in our chapels every week.
It is unfortunate that so many Mormons are only too ready to avert their eyes from the suffering of so many of our neighbors and children caused by our co-religionists to sustain the powerful.
“LDS doctrine doesnâ€™t change with the local culture when it enters. Specifically by adding or adopting customs or rituals as a part of the gospel?”
Actually, until as recently as the 1960s, it did. There was a reason there was a big push for “correlation” from Salt Lake City. Each local congregation was starting to develop its own personal idiosyncracies and pet doctrines. “Correlation” was a move to end that problem.
I think it’s entirely possible if you had introduced the idea of “Priesthood” into place like Africa or Korea at that time, you might have gotten some rather ugly results.
In the end, it’s all speculation. I’m not interested in really trying to argue this position. I’m just pointing out possibilities.
And it could be a possibility that God isn’t half as hung up on stuff like equality as 21st century Americans are.
dpc… If revelation requires a vote, that means revelation is democratic. Since when are god’s laws and policies negotiable?
Seth (comment 25)… That’s a very capricious god. I thought god was unchanging?
Also, Seth, I generally find your comments insightful, but I have to admit to a certain level of disgust when I read something like, “if blacks had been allowed the priesthood at that time…” awful things would have happened, etc. Quick reminder here: blacks are homo sapiens, they are not a lesser species. Joseph Smith had the “priesthood” and he used it to seduce other men’s wives and young girls! It may not be female genital mutilation, but it’s almost a toss up in my book. So, your statement comes across as racist and bigoted – that some how blacks can’t handle the priesthood. Wow!
As for whether Romney’s religion will influence his politics… Let’s remember he’s the one who keeps insisting on telling everyone he is a person of faith and he believes in Jebus. If he didn’t bring it up and if he had actually said his religious views are irrelevant, I’d drop it. But he’s the fracker who brought it up. So, I say skewer him with it!
(On a side note, I’d just like everyone to know that I have MORE priesthood than Gordon Hinckley. If you don’t believe me, disprove it.)
I think that God gives us the choice as to whether to be bound by his revelation. Call it heresy, but I get the feeling that God is less dictatorial then we make him out to be. Humans are like teenagers. We’ve been given autonomy and God tries to give us guidance, but we mostly ignore him. We may talk about God’s law and policies, but the punishment for not following them is less happiness. If we obey, we get to borrow His Porsche to go to prom. If we disobey, we have to catch a ride in the backseat of our friend’s 15-year old Buick Lesabre.
The rewards approach to ethics is deeply problematic. It is not hard to do good in exchange for a reward. In fact, that kind of behavior merely requires self-interest. Ethics would be superfluous.
I wouldn’t call it a rewards approach; rather, I think it would be better labeled consequentialist ethics. In my example, the end result is the same (attendance at the prom), but the path is different (the car rides). In the same way, we all go to heaven, but the ride is better for the obedient person. We should be good not because you will get something better than someone else. You should be good because your life becomes a lot less complicated. The teachings of the church aren’t perfect, but they do help you avoid a lot of pitfalls.
The problem is that the consequences are in the next life, which may or may not be real.
The stoic approach admits that doing right sometimes requires one to embrace suffering. That seems to be an inherently more ethical approach to right and wrong. More importantly, stoic ethics induces ethical behavior without relying on supernaturalism.
“If blacks had been allowed the Priesthood, it is entirely possible that weâ€™d still be having trouble today trying to stamp out female circumcision as a â€œPriesthood ordinanceâ€ in parts of Africa. Allowing the Priesthood on the African continent might well have set the plight of women back decades.”
Millions of Arabs also practice female circumcision–in fact, I’d say just as many as black Africans. While there were no proselyting attempts in Arab countries (because those countries wouldn’t allow it)there was also no priesthood ban if an individual Arab happened to join the church. If there had been a big missionary effort in Arab countries, no priesthood ban would have been imposed. By this logic, Seth, there should have been a priesthood ban on those of Arab descent until they stopped female circumcision. If you have to this far afield to find a “possibility” of a bad outcome to blacks holding the priesthood, then maybe what you’re trying defend is really, in fact, indefensible. And defending the priesthood ban by saying that lifting it might have “set back the plight of women” strikes me as, at the least, disingenous.
Look, I already said I had no interest in defending the position. I’m throwing out possibilities. If you don’t agree with them, fine. I’m not even sure I agree with them. But it pays to try and approach these problems with an open mind to the possibilities.