Why the Curse of Cain remains in the Mormon imaginary
Have any of you read Black and Mormon? The authors explain why even though present-day Church leaders have said “NO, NO, NO!” about the curse of Cain folklore, why Mormons like Jason and even his stake president continue to believe and espouse it. It’s not just racism and/or residual notions held by the uninformed, but has to do with a paradox the Church has created for itself.
If there never was a curse of Cain, then why would there have been a revelation that says black men can now be ordained? What exactly was the reason for them not being ordained? If it was racism of every prophet and every Mormon after Brigham Young up to 1978 (and I say “every Mormon” because the Church collectively did not ordain black men), then why would it take revelation to undo this?
Everyday Mormons like Jason and his stake president fill in the blank with past cultural ideas because modern Church leaders have left a gaping hole. Filling in the hole with worldly explanations like, “Oh, well, America had a Civil Rights Movement” or “We needed priests in our meetinghouses in Brazil” would undermine church leaders’ authority because it would make the revelation seem, well, silly.
What’s interesting is that, agreeing with the worldly reasons for the revelation, Jason sees the current Church as “moving to the left” such that church leaders are being tainted by the world (and Satan) in some fashion. He sees a severing of the Church in the near future, clearly relating the 1978 revelation with current national discourse on homosexuality. Academics would frame Jason’s worldview as resulting from “white heteropatriarchy” (as it concerns a triangulation of the modalities of race, sexuality and gender whereby white heterosexual maleness frames the picture). As we all know, this kind of thinking manifests in the Church in a number of ways. The next “revelatory” juncture looks to be female ordination/same-sex marriage, but who knows if and when and how this would come to pass — or the paradoxes it would engender afterward. (Any guesses?)
The juncture after that would be to take seriously indigenous claims that the founding of America, the US Constitution and the Book of Mormon rest within a colonizing framework. I’m not sure Mormonism could survive that, though…..
See also Andrew’s recent post on “Mormonism’s Doctrinal Race Problem” where one commenter says: “I was taught that the less-valiant spirits in the pre-mortal existence must have run out in 1978, and that is why the blacks were given the priesthood from then on.” Still, any maintenance of the “cure of Cain” folklore would require a kind of eternal one-drop rule, which boggles the mind when considering the mechanics of how multiracial spirits would get “raced.” Since Mormon leaders have historically been against interracial marriage, they probably didn’t think about this, though.