What A-Bott Black Mormons

Imagine that a loved one comes to you and tells you that they have been deeply hurt by words uttered by another. What do you do? You may speak to the person that hurt them, you may try to comfort them, you may know how they are feeling and share a personal experience with them, and you may hurt because they hurt, or shed tears because seeing them weep causes you to do the same.

As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we are taught that all mankind are sons and daughters of a loving Heavenly Father, therefore we are all brothers and sisters. We are one another’s loved ones; in essence we are a family.

In a recent Washington Post article entitled The Genesis of a church’s stand on race, BYU religion professor Brother Randy L. Bott was attributed to making the following statements:

“God has always been discriminatory” when it comes to whom he grants the authority of the priesthood, says Bott, the BYU theologian. He quotes Mormon scripture that states that the Lord gives to people “all that he seeth fit.” Bott compares blacks with a young child prematurely asking for the keys to her father’s car, and explains that similarly until 1978, the Lord determined that blacks were not yet ready for the priesthood.
Randy L. Bott, BYU Provo 
“What is discrimination?” Bott asks. “I think that is keeping something from somebody that would be a benefit for them, right? But what if it wouldn’t have been a benefit to them?” Bott says that the denial of the priesthood to blacks on Earth — although not in the afterlife — protected them from the lowest rungs of hell reserved for people who abuse their priesthood powers. “You couldn’t fall off the top of the ladder, because you weren’t on the top of the ladder. So, in reality the blacks not having the priesthood was the greatest blessing God could give them.” 
The saying goes “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” How untrue. We felt the sting of these words as did many of God’s other children. Sometimes it may seem as though a particular issue has nothing to do with us and if we don’t relate to the plight of another it can be easy to be apathetic. As Christians we believe in following the Savior’s example by doing as he did; loving one another, bearing each other’s burdens, comforting the weak and lifting each other up, because yes, we are our brother’s keeper.

Family members do not always see eye to eye and the things we choose to do and say can deeply impact and affect our brothers and sisters, as do our responses to their feelings. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints responded to the Washington Post article with Church Statement Regarding ‘Washington Post’ Article on Race and the Church and also issued the following official statement:

The Church and Race: All Are Alike Unto God: The gospel of Jesus Christ is for everyone. The Book of Mormon states, “black and white, bond and free, male and female; … all are alike unto God” (2 Nephi 26:33). This is the Church’s official teaching.

People of all races have always been welcomed and baptized into the Church since its beginning. In fact, by the end of his life in 1844 Joseph Smith, the founding prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, opposed slavery. During this time some black males were ordained to the priesthood. At some point the Church stopped ordaining male members of African descent, although there were a few exceptions. It is not known precisely why, how or when this restriction began in the Church, but it has ended. Church leaders sought divine guidance regarding the issue and more than three decades ago extended the priesthood to all worthy male members. The Church immediately began ordaining members to priesthood offices wherever they attended throughout the world.

The Church unequivocally condemns racism, including any and all past racism by individuals both inside and outside the Church. In 2006, then Church president Gordon B. Hinckley declared that “no man who makes disparaging remarks concerning those of another race can consider himself a true disciple of Christ. Nor can he consider himself to be in harmony with the teachings of the Church. Let us all recognize that each of us is a son or daughter of our Father in Heaven, who loves all of His children.”

Recently, the Church has also made the following statement on this subject: “The origins of priesthood availability are not entirely clear. Some explanations with respect to this matter were made in the absence of direct revelation and references to these explanations are sometimes cited in publications. These previous personal statements do not represent Church doctrine.” 

We highlighted portions of the statement that had especially particular meaning to us. The acknowledgment that prior to 1978, black Saints held the Priesthood and some where even ordained during the “restriction,” brings new life and awareness to the stories of black pioneers such as Elijah Abel and his family. The statement firmly shows the Church’s intolerance of racism, even past racism by members. And it speaks to issues such as those of the statements in the Washington Post article, making it clear that explanations that have been given regarding why blacks were not given full membership in the Church are pure speculation.

We have been asked by many if we are “satisfied” with the Church’s response or if we “buy it?” We can tell you that statements such as those in the Washington Post article and the unsolicited explanations offered to us by Church members and leaders cut to the core. Many times it has been said, “What can you do?” “They’ll never respond.” “They don’t care how black Mormons feel.” A response has been made, “they” do care.  The Church’s statement speaks directly to some of our qualms. We were also asked, “So that’s it, it’s fixed?” Our response is; there is always work to do in God’s kingdom.

We have read and reread these statements and urge all to do the same. Just as the spotlight is shone on the questions about our faith, so should it shine on the much needed responses. So share, tweet, retweet, pin and post, because we think that they are well worth reading, processing, digesting, thinking and praying on. Remember, the family that prays together stays together and we truly feel blessed to be a part of our family in Christ.

Your Sistas in the Gospel,
Sista Beehive & Sista Laurel

57 comments

  1. I couldn’t share this Washington post article on my FB because I was so ashamed by Bott’s words. Thank goodness that not all church members (especially the most important ones) aren’t. If I learned anything from this article it’s that I am justified in my fear that sending my kids to BYU will turn them into prideful jerks (like so many of the rest of them)

  2. That was supposed to say aren’t racist.

  3. Thank you for this! When I read that article it made my blood BOIL! I wanted to hop on the next plan from JFK to UT to get my hands on Brother Bott! I’m glad the church has issued a statement. Hopefully by the time my kids go to BYU there won’t be any of these professors around to fill there minds with such vile poison.

  4. I’ve always heard that it was SOCIETY that wasn’t ready yet for the blacks to hold the priesthood- not that they themselves were not ready.

  5. I graduated from BYU in 1997, and I can guarantee that many of us never listened to such racist poison, and are very independent, tolerant  free thinkers that don’t believe everything we hear…esp if it is from a BYU professor.

  6. I don’t want to even call him “Brother” Bott right now, but due to the designs of a loving Father in Heaven, I must.  What a goofball.  I should feel sorry for him.

  7. Melissa Johnson

    I just love the two of you. Thank you so much for your thoughts on these statements. I look forward to all your posts, but this one I think I’ll read again and again.

  8. Thank you Krista. That is reassuring. I’m glad not everyone takes what BYU professors teach as Gospel Doctrine!

  9. Well said. You two are always a voice of reason amidst the hubbub.

  10. Thanks for this spotlight on the questions about our faith, and yes it is a much needed responses, You said it well sista.. Thanks so much for being a part of my life, I love you…

  11. Amen, Sistas.  I have appreciated the outpouring of condemnation of his words I have witnessed online by members of the LDS Church, and I personally choose to read the condemntation of “all racism” by the Church as including the ban itself – since it clearly was racist. 

    God bless you.  All of us are harmed by such stupidity as Prof. Bott’s words, but some of us are hurt more directly in deeper ways.  Thanks for your response.  It should be a model for all of us.

  12. I was quite pleased with the Church’s recent statement, and I have been mostly displeased with earlier statements I have read on the subject, most especially Bott’s patronizing theories. This was a wonderful expression of both thought and feeling by you, and I thank you both for writing it. You are dedicated and faithful “Saints” in the sense of knowing that the gospel is true even when certain of the Church’s members let you down.

    We all need to follow your lead, because every one of us will be offended at one time or another, in one way or another. And as two women who could easily find many reasons to take offense in this area of church history, your unwillingness to do so is an example to all of us.

    Rock on, Sistahs!

  13. I’ve had a sick feeling ever since this story came out. I was anxious to see what the response would be on this site, and I’m so glad to read it. Thank you for your words of faith which far more exemplify the Savior’s teachings than anything from that original story. I’ve struggled with this whole thing so much because although Brother Bott is the one who wrongly voiced this stuff to the paper, the fact remains that there are many (mostly older but not always) of our members who still think this way. As you said, there is always work to do. I’m so glad for those who stay on to do it, rather than deciding it isn’t worth it. 

    Btw, I was at BYU and took mission prep from Brother Bott about 6 years ago. I did not hear him voice these statements in class, although he did say a few other speculative bits.

  14. You know, I don’t understand everything about why Heavenly Father didn’t let black males have the Priesthood for a long time. Maybe no prophets had prayed about it and therefore didn’t receive the revelation. All I know is that I am so grateful they do now, and that every worthy male, baptized by proper authority, can have the priesthood. I’m sure that there will be a really huge conference held in the celestial kingdom where Heavenly Father explains this one to us! I know that allknowledge will come to us one day and this is something I am actually excited to learn about, because I feel like once we all hear the answer from the Big Man, we’ll go “oh, yeah…that totally makes sense!” It is absolutely the worst when people ask me if all Mormons are “white like me”. Sorry I have blonde hair! But, i love the looks on their faces when I tell them about the church’s world-wide growth, and how we have tagalog, spanish, ASL, samoan, and many many other wards and branches just in San Diego where I live alone. SO GREAT! the church is true.

  15. Is this guy still employed there?! I mean, I know darn well BYU isn’t perfect, but come..really?? THIS GUY?!?! Need-to-go.

  16. When I read the story I was so hoping the journalist butchered the quotes. I seriously couldn’t believe that anyone could say something so dumb. As someone with a comms background, I could also see the lazy attempt at journalism put forth by the writer. Ultimately, he wrote the story he wanted to write and didn’t put the effort into interviewing or researching the sources that would have made his article more credible. 

    Unfortunately, people like Bott give him fodder to do an article like that one. I think the response put out by HQ was great.  and much needed. I also read two really great articles on the priesthood ban at Meridian Magazine (www dot ldsmag dot com). One is by Jonathan Decker called “Race in Mormon History” and the other is by FAIR called “Three Mormon Myths about Blacks and the Priesthood.”They go into more depth about the history and gave me info I’d never heard of. I still don’t get it. I don’t think anyone does, but speculation like Botts is completely out of place. I think, quite frankly, it miraculous that African-Americans do join the church. It takes a lot of chutzbah. 

    Having lived in Africa for several years and witnessing the growth of the Church there, I’m just so glad, thrilled and elated that they are part of the church’s body. They offer a strength that amazes and humbles me and I can’t imagine the Church surviving without the strength they offer. I for one am supremely grateful for the lift of the priesthood ban. Thank God there are those out there, like you two, who find a way past the ugly and bless my lives and the whole body of the church by being a part of it.

  17. Thank you, Sistas! I really wish more white members of the church would realise how condescending and patronising that sort of talk is. Particularly in this day and age, there’s really no excuse for it. If even my grandfather with his racist tendencies can raise someone as beautifully colourblind as my father, how much better should we be in a tradition that embraces the universality of God’s love and the worth of *all* souls.

    Not that I’ve ever, as a mixed-race kid, encountered any prejudice within the church, but I hope that statements like the official one you site are able to help correct some of the unfortunate ignorance of attitude I’ve seen in Sunday School classes. Granted, most people seem genuinely to want to correct themselves when they realise something they’ve said is offensive, but we should lovingly help them to learn what’s appropriate in the first place so they don’t have to shamefacedly ask us after the faux-pas has already happened.

  18. Thank you for this.  You ladies are the best.  We love you, and we love your testimonies.

  19. Thank you for being beautiful daughters of Christ.  I am so sorry for all of the hurtful things that have ever been said or done by bigots.

  20. What a thoughtful, peaceful, beautiful response.  Thank you.

  21. Thank you very much for posting this. I’ve been struggling with a few aspects of Mormon culture for the last year and one if those issues was our racist history. I’ve sat through many Sunday school lessons that gave the runaround answers for the PH ban, but it never sat right. To see the church come out and officially state that the reasons are unknown and not defending the past church as being right in that ban made me feel much better. I’m much more comfortable with someone saying ‘I don’t know’ than with the hogwash about men being unworthy or that they had to suffer because the world wasn’t ready. It bugged me that it was OK for JS to ordain someone with colored skin and then all of a sudden it wasn’t? It never made sense to me.

  22. Thanks for your amazing faith sistas!

  23. Just a thought that I hope adds something to this post – something I didn’t think to add to my first comment (posted as PapaD, my own blog name):

    One thing I’ve learned over the decades is that it’s MUCH easier to recognize and reject the incorrect traditions of THEIR fathers than it is to do the same with the incorrect traditions of OUR fathers.

  24. Thank you for this post.  I really do love reading your blog.  I’m sorry that anyone has ever hurt your feelings, and I’m so impressed with your faith, your testimony, your maturity, and your Christ-like response. 

    I’ve heard people talk (speculatively) about how some Mormons were less than thrilled when the priesthood was extended to all worthy men.  My Mom told me that in her grandparents’ town, which was a very small Utah town, the general response in 1978 was one of relief and gratitude: people were overjoyed that this mistake had been rectified.  I would like to think that this was how most people felt.  I know it’s how I would have. 

    Thank you, again, for writing this!

  25. What a well written, gracious answer.  You sistas rock!  Thank heavens there is such a thing as repentance, and that mistakes can be rectified.  Another one of those unanswerable questions that we’ll get answered for us on the other side!

  26. I apologize for three comments on this post, but I want to let you know that this post was the genesis of a truly profound epiphany for me tonight.  I have written extensively over at BCC in their threads dealing with this general issue, and as I sat down to write my weekly New Year’s Resolution post tonight about the Atonement of Jesus Christ, something struck me hard – and I attribute it largely to having read your post. 

    I hope you don’t mind, but I want to share the url with you – since your words were the spark that lit my own night tonight. 

    “The Atonement of Jesus Christ: Powerful Enough to Cover All, Including Those Who Believe(d) Racist Falsehoods”

    http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com/2012/03/atonement-of-jesus-christ-powerful.html

  27.  God didn’t ban Black men from the Priesthood. Man did. There was never a revelation against black people. There was a request that black missionaries (Elijah Abel) not teach the Gospel to enslaved blacks (because of all of the talk of agency and freedom), but that was it.

    No policy from God banning Black men from the Priesthood. Policy = man. Revelation to end policy = God.

  28. I found this by way of my wife, this is well done! You ladies have spoken with love and understanding, you have lifted my spirit! Thanks for taking the time to write this article. 
    Your brother in the Gospel!

  29. Weak sauce!!! If this page is about your point of view bring the ghetto & hood version of how you really feel. Disapointed in you two………  

  30. If I could only respond as charitably, as graciously, as you have when someone hurts me … Thank you, sisters.

  31. love you sisters.  thank you for your love of our savior, our father in heaven and his children.  you are amazing examples.

  32. I really think that blacks stopped receiving the priesthood because the WHITE people couldn’t handle it. Blacks have been a core part of the church from the beginning – look at Elijah Abel and Jane Manning! Who could be more worthy to receive the full blessings of the Gospel?

    Hopefully this incident will help each of us learn to be more loving and tolerant. 

  33. yeah I think he has tenure, so he thinks he can say whatever he wants. I hate that some teachers at BYU use their tenure to be lazy or horribly opinionated.

  34. As the husband of an African American woman, with three sons here in Utah, I’m glad for the ’78 change and for this week’s statement. (I’m also thankful I didn’t live in the days of BY, because “death on the spot” does not sound fun).

    Still, there are two aspects that are still bothersome:

    In 1949 the First Presidency specifically said the ban was not policy, but “direct commandment from God”. So, were they right? Or was the First Presidency in error? If they were wrong, what other things declared as commandment / doctrine have been in error?

    Secondly, what is the authority of this week’s statement? Exactly how binding is it? It was a press release, we know that. Is there something more substantial behind it? Will it be added to the D&C?

  35. That’s not fair to say racism is bad and then turn around to criticize the hundreds of thousands of BYU graduates. I really hope you don’t think everyone that goes there is a jerk…

  36. nowhere does is ever say that heavenly father didnt let black males have the priesthood. which is why many people believe the practice was more social and aligned with the racially volatile country the church was restored in.

  37. According to all the statements given by the apostles and prophets over the last 30 years and all the scholarship since then, that 1949 statement was wrong. Period.  ALL attempts to justify it before 1978 are out-dated and should be discarded, according to multiple statements from the very top since OD2.

    Currently, all press release statements are approved through Michael Otterman, the Church’s spokesperson – and they are approved from the top before they are published.  It’s not “scripture” or apostolic pronouncement, but it’s as close as it gets.  I’d like apostolic rejection, and I hope we get it next month, but this is “official” in every way that counts.

  38. Thanks for your beautiful and inspiring post. The Church is so much bigger and better than the horrifying nonsense attributed to Bott and others, and a big part of why the Church is so good is the devotion of you Sistahs.

  39. “We were also asked, “So that’s it, it’s fixed?” Our response is; there is always work to do in God’s kingdom.”
    Thank you for this comment.  It is both open-ended and hopefully and that is how I currently feel about the future of the Church on this issue.

  40. Kristin Batchelor27

    I recently posted about this topic and in response a friend sent me your blog. I really appreciate your thoughts and the fact that you’re willing to react with more than just the hurt that must have been felt over so much time. I look forward to following your blog.

  41. I loved that you covered this issue. I think it is so sad that these kinds of questions are brought up. We are to love one another and it doesn’t say anything about who we are, what we are, what race, or color we are; just love one another. I love you both for sharing this post; it was awesome. My  in laws were missionaries in Nigeria and then had a lot to do with the formation of the Genesis group in the valley. He was a man who loved all and so are we.

  42. Is that really a good reason for withholding those blessings from faithful black members? I mean, we were practicing polygamy and trying to live the united order at the time—it’s not like we were really pandering to social expectations.

  43. It’s interesting because our Church is not the first (nor will it be the last) that has had to deal with racism as part of its heritage. I think the very best thing we can do as members is to move forward in progress. We can teach about the past and the mistakes people made and move forward.

    The Church has done a marvelous job of moving forward. Of course, though, our history is a little bit more out than some other faiths so despite progression there has always been some historic racism following close on our heels .

    I am so grateful the Church took the time to address this the way they did. Clearly Bott is incorrect and I’m sure has been humbled by the Church’s statement. As he should be!

    I would love to see the Church come out with a statement that recognizes the ban as a mistake of man, which is totally was. I have such a strong testimony that the ban was an absolute mistake that BY implemented because of his own personal beliefs. I think in time that may happen. Either way, it’s nice to see the Church taking steps (small and late as they are) to correct this!

  44. You are loved! But Not because someone tells you that you are. And if you are saved, its not because someone says you are; but because you have given your life to Jesus Christ….  as a convert to the church, a white convert  in the usa, about 22 years ago, I have just gone always gone along, living on faith.  Recently, I became interested in the whole polyamy thing and why it is such an issue… Heavenly Father led me to a book written by one of Brigham Young’s plural wives. I realized that this book was not written with very much objectional spirit because she was biased, but SHE HAD LIVED it, and knew the early saints, was a wife of THE PROPHET, so yes! I wanted to know more.  After reading the book, I have studied lds church history in archives and church books, etc and found SO MUCH that the church covered up. any way in my research, I found church documents, revelations showing Brigham actually PREACHED, AS REVELATION, (SPEAKING AS PROPHET) that should the seed of Adam mix with the seed of Cain, they would be put to death on the spot.( Hello, Cain was the son of Adam?) anyway this is in the Brigham Young Journal of discourses.  I do not know that he was any more racist than other men of his time and cullture, but AS A PROPHET OF GOD he sure was not acting in a loving way, which Jesus Christ teaches us to do. and this revelation is false, anyway.  another is, “The only men who become gods, even the sons of God are those who enter into polygamy… Now if any of you will deny the plurality of wives, and continue to do so, I promise that you will be damned.”  Journal of Discourses 11: 269 .   these *revelations* in addition to d&c 132 sound more like guilt and fear inducing threats from a dictator than guidance from a loving, kind Heavenly Father.

  45. I am grateful for the statements put out by the church in response to this professors statement. I have printed the Church statements made and given them to all the missionaries serving here in our area of Australia with hope that when others ask about the church’s stand on race they will be armed with this statement of truth. I have a copy now folded up in my scriptures and one in my purse. I have read and researched and tried to become confident in answering others questions but  I am grateful that the statements made by the Church leave us with more to share as the work moves forward. Thank you for this post.

  46. My thoughts exactly!! I’ve been hurt deeply by other priesthood leader actions and comments by others, but it’s all about forgiving and forgetting and doing what we can to learn. I am so humbled by seeing others forgive on such pivotal issues. “There is always work to do in God’s kingdom.” Nice to meet you, sistas!

  47. I want to be strong like you ladies.  I am grateful for your faithfulness in adversity, and I love your response that there is always work to do in God’s kingdom.  It is such a strong response.  It acknowledges the hurtful circumstances, but also expresses confidence that things will get better and a pledge to stay engaged and be part of it.  I want to be a worker with you Sistas!

  48. Prof. Bott’s last day of teaching at BYU will be Wed, 11 April.

  49. Honestly Professor Bott’s comments and opinions do not reflect what I have hear the Prophet say.  I follow the Prophet, He knows the way :)

  50. Thanks for your loving response to a ridiculous attempt at reading God’s mind. I agree with Tasha. If anybody was not “ready” for black members to enjoy the full blessings of the priesthood it was we white members. Unfortunately we were a part of the age that we lived in. Too bad we could not have risen above it and lived the higher law of fellowship and acceptance fully.

  51. I am suspicious of a church that conveniently receives revelations. When most of the world major Christian religions had already eradicated racist doctrines, the Mormons held steadfast until 1978. I was in 7th grade folks! The Book of Mormon consistently changes to address edicts that church leaders now claim no knowledge of the origins. Come on, black Mormons what did they use to buy you in? Were you all so desperate for salvation that you signed up for whatever Christian religion that came along. I remember being in Haiti in 1988, visiting my family. Two Mormon missionaries were making their rounds. When they came upon my aunt’s house, I was ready to engage them in some serious apologetics for which they had no answers. With so much riding for the Mormon Church now, do not be surprise if more “revelations” conveniently occur or more historically amnesia takes place.

  52. “Conveniently” is an interesting term that you use.  However, we believe that God still speaks to His people today.  We believe that God speaks His will to those leaders who have been called and set apart from the world, this individual being the Prophet.  If you believed that God was the same yesterday, today and forever don’t you think that He would still speak?  Revelation still flows freely as the dews from Heaven.  As time goes on and the world changes as well as society, more instruction is needed for ALL individuals on Earth.  God doesn’t just want to save members of the LDS Faith.  He wants to save ALL of His children.   The Lord works according to His own timetable.  You’re right, other churches did eradicate racist doctrines, we did too, when the Lord spoke it.   As for the Book of Mormon, I testify to you that it is the word of God.  It was recorded over a timespan of many years and the Lord spoke according to conditions.  As for your comment about things that church leaders can find no “origin of”, I believe that is where faith comes into play.  If God told you everything life would be easy right?  Perhaps the Priesthood was denied for a while until the time was right, to test the faith of members, to see if their loyalty was to God instead of listening to the world who said that God was a racist.  Revelation is a real thing.  You can receive personal revelation in your life too that will change from day to day because your life is never constant. 

  53.  If you do nothing else, do not state that God didn’t like Black men, not true, we are all  made in the image of our heavenly father.

  54. I happened upon your website/blog via LDS Living and am so excited by what I read and saw. I didn’t know such a forum existed and, although I am not black, as a LDS I am so encouraged and inspired by the faith of my brothers and sisters in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and know that your testimony  is for all who love the Lord and his children no matter what color we are.

  55. We feel blessed to get to share our thoughts and testimonies with ALL of our brothers and sisters regardless of their color, where they’re from or how they got there. We’re glad you found us!

  56. Mr Bott’s comments are embarrassing.  And wrong.  I think the Church has made some mistakes, and when the Church moved West our leaders made some serious mistakes as men.  Some of those are being corrected, slowly.  It doesn’t mean the Church isn’t true.  God calls men, but men make mistakes.  And then they conjure up reasons to support the mistakes.  We’re moving in the right direction, some of our leaders, including Joseph Fielding Smith (named in the Washington Post article) had some wrong opinions.  He was still the president of the church.  I look at it this way.  We sustain the head of our Church on prophet, seer, and revelator, and as president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I don’t know that the Lord is involved in every decision made, or that every word spoken is inspired.  I think that most of what the president of the Church does, he does as president of the Church, and not as prophet, seer, or revelator.  In administering the church, some leaders made mistakes on who could hold the priesthood.  I think the revelation in 1978 cleared that error up.  Mr Bott made the mistake of taking something wrong, and making up arguments to support something he didn’t understand.  I would rather have said that he didn’t know.  He and his kind are dangerous.  I appreciate your website. 

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