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.”
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