Monday, July 25, 2011

The Priesthood Ban: Endlessly Picking At The Scabs Of LDS Church History Does Not Provide "Context", But Precludes Healing

You can almost set your watch by it. Once again, the ban against blacks holding the Priesthood in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints prior to 1978 has become a subject of discussion on the LDS Bloggernacle. In No Death Before The Fall, R. Gary takes issue with a couple of posts where he believes the authors accuse a dozen Church presidents of wrongful conduct regarding the pre-1978 priesthood restriction.

The posts in question were both published on July 22nd, 2011 at By Common Consent. In the first one, "All God’s Critters: Some Thoughts on the Priesthood Restriction and Differing Opinions", Margaret Smith addresses two contrasting personal revelations obtained by black Latter-day Saints regarding the ban. While Keith Hamilton, the author of Eleventh Hour Laborer, said that “I…know unequivocally that the priesthood and temple restrictions formerly faced by blacks in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were the Lord’s doing. How do I know it? By personal revelation…”, another black Mormon, Darius Gray, said that he knew by personal revelation that the restriction was not imposed by God but allowed by Him, and when it became too much of a burden, it was undone by revelation given to President Spencer W. Kimball.

Actually, there's no real difference between the two personal revelations, because in both cases, it was the Lord's doing. The only difference is in personal perspective -- why the Lord did not provide a revelation to Church leaders much earlier. But Margaret Smith seems to lean towards Gray's version.

In the other post, "Teaching the Priesthood Restriction", J. Stapley primarily relates his experience in teaching the priesthood restriction and Official Declaration 2. Stapley notes that much of the discussion was based on Edward Kimball’s “Spencer W. Kimball and the Revelation on Priesthood,” BYU Studies 47, no. 2 (2008): 5-85, which he highly recommends. Stapley reiterates that the current scholarship at this time suggests that the restriction arose in response to marriages between white women and black men around 1847. In Utah in 1852, Brigham Young detailed his support of the priesthood restriction and slavery, although he also thought slavery was destructive and not right. I found nothing particularly controversial about this post.

One would think that when President Spencer W. Kimball proclaimed the end of the Priesthood ban by canonized revelation in 1978, that members of the Church would be elated over this news. Most were, but we still have anklebiters who want to second-guess the Brethren and demand that they humble themselves to the dust and grovel in apologia. In response to R. Gary's post, Kevin provided an explanation of why they can't let the past go; here's an excerpt:

For me the burden falls equally on those of us who were church members before 1978, not just our leaders, for not taking the scriptures at face value, as Elder McConkie pointed out in his remarkable talk in 1978.

The problem would seem to be that you are attaching motives of fault finding to J and Margaret, when in fact they both are just trying to help us understand some context so that such things do not get perpetuated in the church that we all love.

Context? Just what "context" is necessary? When the President of the LDS Church issues a revelation, it settles the matter. Period. Case closed. You can choose not to abide by it, but if you question the validity of it, your very faith is in doubt. This does not suggest that the President of the LDS Church is inerrant, but that he is authoritative.

Endlessly picking at the scabs of Church history does not provide "context", but instead precludes healing by perpetuating doubt and sowing division. Why can't these people just simply accept the fact that in 1978, the Lord decided it was time to end the ban and communicated that desire to His servants? We should rejoice in the fact that the Lord finally chose to act, rather than complain about how long it took. Rest assured that if President Monson was to issue an apology tomorrow, the anklebiters would not be satisfied; they'd demand black quotas on the Quorum of the Twelve.

Maybe we're frustrated that the Lord took 140 years to formally overturn the Priesthood ban, but we must remember that although to us, mortality may seem like an eternity, to the Lord, mortality is merely a pit stop on the highway to eternity.

No comments: