Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Response to Salt Lake Tribune Article Concerning LDS Race Relations

Today, the Salt Lake Tribune released an article about race relations and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This is not surprising, given that the revelation on priesthood came 39 years ago. But rather than just reporting what happened on the day of the revelation, the history of blacks in the Church, or problems about the ban itself, the article gave a list of things that would improve race relations in the Church. They are as follows:

  • Cast a black Adam and Eve (or an interracial couple) in the film shown to faithful members in LDS temples.
  • Use more African-American faces in church art and manuals and display more artwork depicting Christ as he would appear: as a Middle Eastern Jewish man.
  • Pick more blacks for highly visible leadership positions — if not an apostle, at least in the general authority Seventy or in the general auxiliary presidencies.
  • Repudiate and apologize for the faith's past priesthood/temple ban on blacks, which the church lifted in 1978.
  • Show the documentary film "Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons" to every all-male priesthood quorum, women's Relief Society class and Young Men and Young Women groups.
  • Quote from the church's Gospel Topics essay "Race and the Priesthood" regularly at LDS General Conference and translate it into all the languages that the church uses to communicate with its global membership.
  • Direct that the essay be read from the pulpit in every Mormon congregation and mission in the world.
  • Have the Book of Mormon scripture found in 2 Nephi 26:33 — "All are alike unto God" — be a yearlong Young Women or Primary theme and make it part of the curriculum to talk about the sin of racism.
  • Bring more blacks to LDS Church-owned Brigham Young University as students and faculty, while providing sensitivity training for all students about racial issues and interactions with people of color.
  • Teach children about the heroic black Mormon lives, such as LDS pioneers Jane Manning James and Elijah Abel.
  • Invite the choir from the Genesis Group — a longtime Utah-based support organization for black Mormons and their families — to sing at General Conference.
  • Use the Genesis Group to assist in improving relationships with the African-American community.
  • Give the Genesis Group greater authority to exist in all states and to visit wards and assist lay bishoprics in how to avoid and overcome racism in their congregations.
  • Create a church-sponsored Mormon and black website akin to the one found at mormonandgay.org.
  • Treat the members of the Genesis Group's presidency as an auxiliary, seating them on the stand with other high-ranking authorities during General Conference — and invite at least one of them to speak during the sessions.
  • Provide training on racial issues for newly called mission presidents.
  • Include a mandatory class at Missionary Training Centers that teach the "Race and the Priesthood" essay so missionaries are better prepared when they go out to preach.
Alex Boye, one of the most famous Black Mormons

I shared this article on Facebook and was asked about my thoughts on the particulars of what was said, so I agreed to do so. First, before getting to the suggestions, it needs to be remembered that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, according to its members (of which I am one), is run by divine revelation and certain changes can only come by revelation. In particular, this relates to general authorities and auxiliary leaders. It does not matter what the color of skin the person has, what matters is that they are the type of person the Lord wants in the leadership of his church. So that sort of change would require a divine revelation, and there is no guarantee such a revelation will occur. Nor should we advocate that one should occur. If it happens, good. If not, the Church will be no more true or less true.

As far as the third suggestion, to repudiate and apologize for the ban, that would only be necessary if the Church admitted that the ban was wrong. Since the Church has not said in the 39 years since the ban that the policy was wrong, it is unclear how Church leaders feel about it. As of now, there is no evidence that the policy was inspired of God (and I personally believe it was not), but absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. This too may require a revelation in order to occur. But, if it was revealed that the policy was wrong, then an apology would be in order. While some non-black members will say that an apology would be meaningless, I would remind them that they were not the ones who suffered under the policy for so many years and still suffer today. It would matter to us, so they will simply have to get over it.

Most of the other suggestions would not require revelation, just Church authorization. Casting an Adam and Eve who were non-white or mixed raced Adam and Eve would be good, as it would be a visual reminder that we do not know what the couple looked like. Pictures of Jesus that depict him as a first century Jew are more than appropriate since Jesus clearly was not European. 

The Church topics essays, of which many Church members are ignorant, should definitely all be read; how that should happen is open for debate. A website is unnecessary, the essay on this issue provides plenty of material in its footnotes that a person can research if they are interested. Since the Genesis Group is run by the Church, they can work on the suggestions together.

I am unaware what training mission presidents receive, but I am sure their awareness of this issue is sufficient that they would tell missionaries to present the Gospel Topics essay to investigators. Missionaries should definitely be taught about the Gospel Topics essays as part of their training since many of the questions they will encounter from investigators are represented in those essays.

When it comes to the priesthood issue, there is only an issue if a person believes that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has unique priesthood authority. If they do not, their restriction on blacks was sad but irrelevant because white members also did not have priesthood. If the Church does have priesthood, then we need to trust those with priesthood keys as we have covenanted to do. 


6 comments:

  1. Tarik, I greatly appreciate your comments and the contribution you make to the church and its members, both black and white. I would like to ask your advice on the subject of race and the church. I am the mother of four grown children, none of whom are active in the church. We are actually a very culturally diversified family. My ex-husband was an Arab from the Middle East. My oldest son married a girl from Vietnam, the next son married a girl from Brazil, and the youngest married an African-American. There have never been any problems regarding racial or cultural differences in our family.

    I know sooner or later the issue of blacks and the priesthood is going to come up and I dread the day. The issue has been a problem for my own children as well and I'm sure it would be a big problem for my black daughter-in-law. How can I reasonably explain the issue of blacks in the priesthood to my black daughter-in-law? What can I say that is not making excuses or apologies but is straightforward, honest and open? Please give me some of your thoughts of what I could express to her as well as my other children as to why blacks were banned from the priesthood for so many years? I respect your ideas and greatly admire you. Please help me know the best way to explain it to my black daughter-in-law or any other black person who questions our history.

    I personally would like to see more black members of the church sitting in our congregations. Help me understand so that I can have the right words to say. I hope in the future to have the opportunity to share the gospel with my black friends.

    Thank you very much. You are one of my shining stars!

    Diana


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    1. Diana, have you studied the gospel topics essay? I am not black, but I found the essay well balanced and informative. https://www.lds.org/topics/race-and-the-priesthood?lang=eng

      I apologize if you've already seen this. I am new to Brother LaCour's blog.

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    2. Thank you very much for the link. I've read it before but haven't studied it intently. It is good to know the current official church doctrine on the subject. I am hoping that Tarik, as a male, black Mormon, can give me some insight on what words to say that can reach out and touch a heart, words that can resonate from from one who has been there himself. I have such great admiration and respect for my black brothers and sisters.

      Tarik is exceptionally gifted in his ability to express his thoughts and ideas. I need the black perspective only he can offer. I hope he is deliberating on this and can provide me with his unique understanding of the issues in a way nobody else can.

      It's true, I am an English teacher but my thought processes and verbal acumen pale in comparison. When I am confronted with conflict or controversy, my mind goes blank and my tongue is tied.

      Thank you in advance Tarik and take your time. I value your input and hope to meet you and Eliza in the future!

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    3. I have found the Book Last Laborer by Keith Hamilton to be a valuable read.

      My own feeling is that like the law of Moses "it was a consequence of our unrighteousness" , and that the Lord permitted it until we as a group were minimally ready.

      There is an interview on the Mormon Chanel.

      https://www.mormonchannel.org/listen/series/why-i-believe-audio/last-laborer-keith-hamilton-episode-40

      A review
      https://byustudies.byu.edu/content/last-laborer-thoughts-and-reflections-black-mormon

      he book itself
      https://www.amazon.com/Laborer-Thoughts-Reflections-Black-Mormon/dp/0984495800
      The Gladwell Podacast
      revisionisthistory.com/episodes/01-the-lady-vanishes

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  2. Tarik, I appreciate your post. Those who are struggling with this issue might want to read "Religion of a Different Color." It gives a good sociological look at the issues church leaders were facing in the middle of the 19th century. You've probably read it, but it might be of interest to others.

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  3. Paul Reeve is a good friend of mine. I have his book and I highly recommend it.

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