How Wide the Divide? Historicity and the Priesthood Ban

By June 20, 2008

(Before commenting on this post I would ask that you read the entire post. The point of this essay is to promote civil discussion and dialogue. Extreme polemics and ad hominem attacks are not helpful for any discussion. Be careful how you use and define labels. The following comments are offered in the spirit of understanding-I hope that our readers will participate in the same spirit. Please think before you write.)The copious debates that have followed David’s post regarding a BYU program that perpetuates some of the myths regarding African Americans and the priesthood have proved that the Bloggernacle and members of the church in general still have divided feelings about the ban, its origins, and its perpetuation. I agree wholeheartedly that the folklore around the ban must cease, but I am much more interested in the reason why such views continue to exist despite all the historical scholarship that forcefully places the origin of the ban during Brigham Young’s presidency. Why do people feel obligated to defend such obviously racist folklore revolving around premortal valiance or dalliance? I think the answer can be found in the Mormon conceptualization of historicity. I utilize the idea of historicity to describe the ways in which people understand how history progresses over time. In my mind, conceptions of historicity, when considering the flow of history from a religious point of view, vary along an axis between those that believe God directs every effort of man and those who hold no belief at all in a higher being.

By no means is this continuum of historical perception restricted to Mormons; in fact, most Mormons probably inhabit the more believing end of the spectrum, but would lag behind many born again Christians. Nevertheless, I find the heterogeneity of Mormon views about the extent of God’s role in the world and throughout the ebb and flow of historical time fascinating-particularly when perceptions of polarized beliefs catalyze such obvious hostility. Terryl Givens has theorized that paradox is at the heart of much of the Mormon experience, and I thought it might be interesting to explore the kinds of paradoxical Mormon understandings that might undergird arguments over historical questions like the Priesthood ban and that create labels such as liberal or conservative.

Givens has spent much of his scholarly career positing that the truly radical and possibly dangerous potential of Mormon theology lies in the way that we collapse the distance between God and man. For those who followed or continue to follow Joseph Smith, a variety of factors from the creation of Zion, the emergence of new revelation, the building of temples, the translation of the Book of Mormon, and the telling and retelling of the foundation stories of Restoration all serve as evidences of an interventionist God.. Yet Mormons also believe in a God that lets bad things happen to good people and who allows people to act in very despicable ways in order to guarantee their agency. This paradox exists fairly comfortably under the radar of mainstream Mormonism until moments when hagiography comes into conflict with the historical record. When such contradictions seem to emerge, such as in the case of the priesthood ban, differing sentiments of historicity tend to polarize the discussion.

For example, when historians point out the seemingly racist decision made by Brigham Young to deny African Americans access to the priesthood and leadership in the church, some find such a characterization antithetical to their personal conception of an interventionist God. “God couldn’t possibly allow a racist prophet to create a racist policy and allow subsequent leaders of the church to perpetuate such a racist policy.” Thus, over time church leaders developed various justifications for the priesthood ban that allowed them to maintain their conception of an activist God who intervenes in the lives of those in his church. Even though current church policy has pulled the rug from under these folklorical explanations without replacing them, people still stand up to protect their former prophets and leaders because these men stand as embodied reminders of the way God intervenes in the world.

On the other hand, historians and other scholars, with training in critical thinking, are often trained to see the entire scope of human experience-both good and bad. Historical studies make them aware of all of the horrible incidents of violence, injustice, and greed in the world. Knowledge of such human depravity and horror makes them much more cynically aware of the necessity for a theodicy-a philosophical explanation for the existence of evil in the world). They realize that the concept of agency offers one possible theodicy for the terrible things that sometimes happen around us. They are much more willing to consign the blame for the Holocaust on evil men than on the will of God. For those that think this way, the idea of a god that would permit such obvious racial inequality as manifested in the Priesthood Ban does not mesh with their conception of a perfect and just Creator. They want to assure their African American brothers and sisters that God is no respecter of persons, and that all men are equal before His face. They also have little patience for anti-historical justifications for the ban.

For the sake of understanding, I am presenting caricatures of two strains of Mormon thought. I think at their most profound, the positions are both much more nuanced than I am portraying and there are many people that inhabit the middle ground of this debate. Those that frame the ban as a creation of racist agency within an intensely racist era have the added advantage of historical data demonstrating that rhetoric for the ban began in the presidency of Brigham Young. They also have irrefutable evidence that Elijah Abel received the priesthood with the approbation of the Prophet Joseph Smith. On the other hand, doctrinal explanations like Pre-mortal weakness and the curse of Cain have been refuted by current church leaders and the official explanation of “we don’t know” leaves the historical side with a viable explanation while the other side has lost its authoritarian justifications-though the church has never refuted the ban or those that instituted it..

This post isn’t meant to start another debate about the racist versus divine origins of the priesthood ban. I am just trying to show the humanity involved in each side of the debate. I understand and sympathize with those that want to protect the leaders of the church, but I also truly respect those who push for a apology repudiation as an institutional assurance that God loves all of his children. Both groups operate in a revelatory vacuum as the Lord has decided to leave us to our own devices on this question in our current historical moment. I hope that by understanding that one side isn’t out to refute the church or the existence of God, while the other is striving to protect their conception of an interventionist Heavenly Father that both sides can work together to build the church and a more equitable world.


Comments

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed this post, Joel. I think you hit on a very important point, specifically when connected to deeply important topics: the need to understand and acknowledge the sincerity and humanity on both sides of a dialogue.

    Here’s hoping we follow what you suggest here.

    Comment by Ben — June 20, 2008 @ 1:41 pm

  2. I would change one word in this very thoughtful post. I don’t think those of us who have chosen to make the issue personally important are seeking an apology. I’m not. Darius Gray is not. Armand Mauss is not. We would like to see a repudiation of past teachings so that speculations such as what KBYU broadcast last Sunday do not continue. I think Jeffrey Holland has been the most forthright in identifying damaging folklore and stating that it must not continue. I see his words as a fine beginning. Apologies are rather fleeting. A repudiation, repeated from the pulpit and reinforced in the lesson manuals, would actually help us move on.

    Comment by Margaret Young — June 20, 2008 @ 1:45 pm

  3. Great post, Joel. And a most excellent title, all things considered.

    Comment by Randy B. — June 20, 2008 @ 1:57 pm

  4. Great post, Joel. I agree that understanding the positions is a major step toward bridging this divide. I like how you conceptualize the divide in terms of how we determine God’s interventions in history. In their examination of ways that black Mormons narrate the ban, Kendall and Daryl White argue that it’s an issue of integrating religious and racial identities, which speaks to the issue from a different angle.

    Oh, and I agree with Margaret.

    Comment by David G. — June 20, 2008 @ 2:03 pm

  5. I agree with everybody else: great post. It is indeed interesting to contemplate just how far a church president must go before the Lord would “remove him from his place” as Wilford Woodruff said. What is the definition of leading the church “astray?” One of my friends who I have argued about this with just can’t see God allowing Brigham Young to deny thousands of blacks (potentially millions, over the years) the blessings of holding the priesthood and attending the temple because of racism, when God would rather have had all of his children in full fellowship. All Mormons admit that prophets aren’t perfect, but the priesthood ban really is a very good test case for determining just how far each member is willing to allow that prophetic fallibility to go. I think it is useful to cast this specific issue as just one instance of the more general question of how interventionist we view God as being.

    I wholeheartedly agree that we need to stay civil in the debate, because 1) there are very good and very well-intentioned and smart people on both sides, and 2) as has been reiterated ad nauseam: we don’t really know much about its origins. But at the same time, let’s ask everyone involved to refrain from spreading folklore/unhistorical assertions as fact.

    Comment by austin s — June 20, 2008 @ 2:27 pm

  6. Joel, Loved it. I think this way of thinking and talking about the priesthood ban is useful because it distances us from the knock-down-drag-out fight of specifics by using a theoretical framework and applying it to a wider notion of Mormon History in general.

    As Kristine recently told a few of us this past week, theoretical discussions are much needed in Mormon Studies as they provide a less “threatening” platform and oftentimes allow application to a variety of related themes–building up from a new foundation viewpoint.

    A+++++ I say.

    Comment by Heidi — June 20, 2008 @ 2:28 pm

  7. Even though current church policy has pulled the rug from under these folklorical explanations without replacing them, people still stand up to protect their former prophets and leaders because these men stand as embodied reminders of the way God intervenes in the world.

    I’m not clear to which “folklorical explanations” you refer. Your reference to current church policy suggests you mean the discredited “not valiant in the war in heaven” teachings. On the other hand, your reference to an activist God suggests you mean belief in a God who directs the affairs of men in even the broadest terms is not Mormon (not current church policy, had the rug pulled out from under it).

    Including references to both ideas in a single sentence suggests that believers in an activist God — specifically me, because I’m the one who brought that up in the prior discussions — use that belief to cling to the discredited “not valiant” bunk. Nothing could be more wrong.

    I don’t believe you understand the position of people like me at all, but I think another attempt to explain myself isn’t wanted here as tending to “start another debate.” I won’t debate it. I only want to register my continuing dismay at not having made myself clear. I thought I was a better writer than that.

    Comment by Ardis Parshall — June 20, 2008 @ 2:46 pm

  8. I liked your description of both sides, Joel. Do the Mormons who primarily see God as interventionist believe that God will a remove prophet from office who leads the people astray? If so, does that mean they think racism is not a serious enough sin to warrant removal from office? Do the Mormons who look at things more critically believe God intervenes over the long run, after this life is over, but not very much in the present, because he values the agency of humans? If so, do they see God as someone who allows racism in this life but who makes sure that everyone is treated equally in the end?

    Comment by Sterling — June 20, 2008 @ 2:46 pm

  9. Ardis, I don’t think Joel was meaning to pigeonhole anyone. He specifically notes that this either/or is more realistically fraught with nuances and a wide spectrum of differing interpretations. I think he was just trying to clearly define two possible (and I think rather common) ideas that surprisingly can exist simultaneously within a single religion even though their boiled-down concepts are antithetical.

    I can see how you would be worried about this potential simplification of priesthood ban “camps,” but I don’t think Joel meant to offend or entrap since he does allow for “nuances.” I think everyone here can agree that there can be as many varied understandings of this idea as there are people thinking about it.

    It’s actually a little liberating (though sometimes still frustrating) to have this freedom of speculation in Mormonism. Since we don’t necessarily have a systematized theology, it’s like Terryl once said: “Every member a theologan.” I think we just have to try and figure out how to discuss our individually arrived-at truths with calm, compassion, and understanding. It’s just really quite hard sometimes though–religion is so naturally passionate. (*sorry if this has been a threadjack. please continue*)

    Comment by Heidi — June 20, 2008 @ 2:56 pm

  10. RE 7

    I for one would like to have you enter the discussion Ardis. You have a way of stating your position that is not offensive to those who feel differently than you. Others are not a tactful and may get banned for saying essentially the same thing.

    RE 2

    I have always had a hard time understanding the justification for demanding an apology from any individual or group of people for events that took place in the distant past. IE My dad can apologize for my actions because he had some influence on my conduct but I have no need to apologize for his conduct because I had no influence of his actions.

    Comment by Lem's Thoughts — June 20, 2008 @ 3:06 pm

  11. I agree with Heidi. Joel’s not trying to offend anyone (I don’t think he’s capable of doing that). He acknowledged in the initial post that he was presenting caricatures of the two poles, and that people fall anywhere between them.

    Comment by David G. — June 20, 2008 @ 3:15 pm

  12. What does God removing a prophet look like? In that prophets are only “released” at death, has it happened already? (was JS’s martyrdom really a removal? what about Lee’s short tenure in office?) How would we know? Would He do it before the said prophet led the church astray (a preemptive strike) or after a prophet led the church astray, to make sure the followers knew of the mistake and then could connect the removal to the mistake? If we follow the reasoning of an interventionist God along these lines the questions and potential answers start to get a bit absurd to me.

    I guess that is why I’m much more comfortable with a God who lets human agency take its course (He even lets the unrighteous exercise of that agency serve as a trial of our patience and of our faith (see Mosiah 23: 21-22) something the racial policy has done for many a Latter-day Saint or investigator–causing some to question, “can I really stick with/join a Church with such a racist past that claims to be God’s living organ?” Isn’t that where the trial of faith comes in? God frequently speaks to our hearts and witnesses to our souls, but rarely, if ever does he rectify the paradoxes. How much faith would it require if it was a tidy neat package with no loose ends or ambiguities or paradoxes?) For me it’s much easier to embrace the paradox, and in the process let it stretch the bounds of my faith in a God to whom we are all alike, black and white, male and female, bond and free, heathen, Jew and Gentile.

    Comment by Paul Reeve — June 20, 2008 @ 3:22 pm

  13. Margaret,

    I stand corrected. I will change the word in the post.

    Ardis,

    I wasn’t trying to debunk the idea of an activist God. I was actually trying to show that the conception of an activist God sits side by side with the conception of a God that lets bad things occur in Mormonism. I know it does in my own mind. I am just trying to show that the two concepts sometimes create tensions, and that the tensions surface around issues like the priesthood ban. I also wasn’t thinking of your comments in particular. Like I said in the post, and like David pointed out, I admitted that my models were a caricature of two extremes along a continuum. I think that your beliefs offer one way of reconciling the tension that I am describing.

    Thanks David, Heidi, Sterling, Austin, Ben, Randy, and even Lem;

    I appreciate your thoughts, suggestions, and questions. I hope we have started an important discussion.

    Comment by Joel — June 20, 2008 @ 3:45 pm

  14. Minor (but marginally relevant) threadjack:
    At the Priesthood Commemoration on June 8th, which the Church sponsored, many of us found Alex Boye’s soulful rendition of “How Great Thou Art” to be the highlight of the evening. I just had lunch with a friend who told me that in the re-broadcast on KBYU, that particular song was deleted. Can anyone verify? If you saw the re-broadcast, did you hear Alex’s rendition? He also sang “I Know that my Redeemer Lives,” which stayed in.

    There are clearly some cultural implications in this, if indeed the Church opted to nuke Alex’s music. If it’s true, I’ll try to make a relevant comment on this thread.

    Comment by Margaret Young — June 20, 2008 @ 3:46 pm

  15. Wow, I hope that’s not true.

    Comment by David G. — June 20, 2008 @ 4:00 pm

  16. This is the link for the priesthood commemoration re-broadcast:
    http://www.byub.org/phc/player/byub.asp

    “How Great Thou Art” is not included. “I Know That My Redeemer Lives” is. Many good thoughts in this fireside, particularly from Cathy Stokes.

    I have decided not to comment further on this omission. I’ll look forward to further responses to Joel’s excellent post–and I do hope to comment in a relevant way as others participate.

    Comment by Margaret Young — June 20, 2008 @ 4:01 pm

  17. Ardis has pointed out the danger we all face in discussions of this type. We are not easily given to nuanced debate, but rather tend to leap to the poles at the first hint of controversy. Using “interventionist God” as a discussion point is only one thread in this complex tapestry. We could easily use many other issues to frame the discussion over the PH ban. We are not all Republicans or Democrats, liberals or conservatives, intellectuals or know-nothing Luddites. We all exist in different places in between the poles, but it seems to me as a non-academic observer that when we are faced with paradigm threatening facts, we tend to look for those fixed positions to reorient ourselves, and often act in direct contradiction or tangential to our true selves.

    But Joel, this is an important topic. We all do understand historiography differently. Case in point, I have really enjoyed RSR by Richard Bushman, but one of my adult sons picked up the book, asked about it, and said, “Is it published by Deseret Book”? Not a question I would have thought he would ask.

    We don’t like unsure footing, and this debate only highlights the paradox of our cultural and theological understandings.

    Comment by kevinf — June 20, 2008 @ 4:12 pm

  18. “How Great Thou Art” is one of the few hymns in our book with the warning that the copyright belongs to someone other than the church and that “making copies without written permission of the copyright owner is prohibited” instead of the default position of “may be copied for incidental, noncommercial church or home use.”

    I’d bet a dozen doughnuts that there is a copyright restriction on the broadcast performance of that hymn, and that the omission is nothing more sinister than not [yet?] having taken care of legal permissions and royalty payments.

    Now if we only had a Mormon blogging lawyer to offer an expert’s opinion …

    Comment by Ardis Parshall — June 20, 2008 @ 4:18 pm

  19. Ardis, only one opinion?

    Comment by kevinf — June 20, 2008 @ 4:19 pm

  20. To what extent does a repudiation of the priesthood ban amount to the Church admitting a mistake?

    Comment by Steve Evans — June 20, 2008 @ 4:20 pm

  21. Steve, to some extent, we have already had repudiation of the rationale for the ban, perhaps not in General Conference, unless you count Pres. Hinckley’s comments about racism in October 2006.

    But since there seems to be no official position on the beginnings of the ban, it seems more problematic to repudiate it in total. I suspect a repudiation will happen someday, but it may have to simmer for a while more. To admit it is a mistake says that the Church has come to some sort of determination as to the origins.

    -Non-lawyers unexpert opinion

    Comment by kevinf — June 20, 2008 @ 4:41 pm

  22. Nuts. One of the reasons I taped the commemoration was to rip How Great to an mp3.

    Comment by BHodges — June 20, 2008 @ 4:50 pm

  23. ps- I think Ardis is probably right in the copyright thing.

    Comment by BHodges — June 20, 2008 @ 4:51 pm

  24. I don’t know if it was a copyright issue or not. I don’t know if the choice to have the combined choirs sing only hymns from the hymnbook rather than even one traditional spiritual might have had to do with copyright as well. But these are very small matters when compared with the real issues we face as a Church–not just that racist teachings persist, but that many people of color stay away from the Mormons because of our reputation, and that once they learn about what past leaders have said about them (always generously provided by their anti-Mormon friends), they leave. No Church leader’s reputation–in the past or the present–is worth the price of even one soul thinking that his or her name is not safe in our house, and therefore deciding not to enter.

    Comment by Margaret Young — June 20, 2008 @ 6:24 pm

  25. I’m glad someone’s being a little less polemical about the issue if only because I think there are people genuinely mystified and a little wounded by the collective ire of the LDS progressives.

    In response to David’s rather nauseous post [pun intended playfully] I had an interaction with a CES gentleman whom I know to have a good heart.
    It was immediately apparent to him that this was a question of loyalty to God via the prophet versus loyalty to progressive secularism. I do not agree with his characterization of the problem, but I think framing it as a question of an intervening God is not really true to that side of the divide. From actually listening to people similar to the CES group described in the nauseous post, my best understanding is that they believe in a religion in which the prophetic voice is counterposed to the world’s voice. They feel that their loyalty to the prophetic voice outweighs the current emphasis of the world on the equality of humanity. Deflecting it to Brigham Young or Joseph Fielding Smith does nothing to minimize the tension between a prophet’s voice and the voice of “reason” or equality. Incidentally, because this pernicious lore has been engrafted onto preexistence, one of the rich and fascinating doctrinal distinctions we enjoy as Latter-day Saints, we run the risk of also threatening people’s perceptions of themselves as already blessed and superior on the basis of a premortal stay with God.

    Until we can offer them a persuasive solution that involves explicit reverence for prophets, I think we’ll have a hard time convincing traditionalist Latter-day Saints to give up old lore that situates them in the winning side of an antemortal battle.

    So, kudos for attempting a sympathetic frame, but what about crafting a solution that can span the chasm?

    Incidentally, this may mean waiting for President Monson or someone similar to reiterate Elder Holland’s comments in a more private settting than a PBS documentary. Is there something else we can do short of it?

    ———————
    I hope it’s clear that I believe that God is a God of all people and do not support the racist folklore. I am also sympathetic with the vexation of people asked to exchange their view of prophethood on the basis of a complex evolution in social views regarding race equality. As much as I am revolted by their racism, I try to understand where they’re coming from.

    Comment by smb — June 20, 2008 @ 9:06 pm

  26. The version of the event I saw on byu.tv was only a half-hour; I was hoping to see Alex sing since i had heard good things, but I don’t recall seeing him at all. I know the program was longer than 30 minutes, so I was very disappointed by the byu.tv broadcast.

    Comment by Kevin Barney — June 20, 2008 @ 9:15 pm

  27. Yes, it would seem that God often leaves us to our own devices. That troubled the historians of ancient Israel more than the Israelite prophets, but both struggled with it. The events we dispute over in our era don’t really compare with the events they struggled to comprehend. But would it be fair to say that LDS historians and prophets are doing a better job of explaining things than those of the Israelites?

    Joel, the focus on the extent of God’s intervention in the world does put a useful perspective on the whole question. Great post.

    Comment by Dave — June 21, 2008 @ 12:55 am

  28. I?d bet a dozen doughnuts that there is a copyright restriction on the broadcast performance of that hymn, and that the omission is nothing more sinister than not [yet?] having taken care of legal permissions and royalty payments.

    Now if we only had a Mormon blogging lawyer to offer an expert?s opinion ?

    I’m not a lawyer, but I do serve regularly as an expert witness in intellectual property lawsuits (involving information technology), and I suspect you’re dead on. Broadcast IP issues are among the trickiest; you don’t want to infringe and then get hit after the fact with a demand for royalties, particularly if your broadcast is going out to (potentially) millions of homes via satellite.

    So, no, there’s no reason to look for some deep significance that “How Great Thou Art” was cut from the rebroadcast other than, as Ardis noted (good catch, btw!), copyright and royalty issues. ..bruce..

    Comment by bfwebster — June 21, 2008 @ 9:50 am

  29. “Now we see through a glass, darkly.”

    The explanations have been repudiated; I hope that continues actively. Since I can think of multiple reasons from multiple perspectives for the implementation, “I don’t know” seems like all that can be said with authority.

    Sometimes, the greatest of these really is charity.

    Comment by Ray — June 21, 2008 @ 10:28 am

  30. Ray–I wish the explanations had been repudiated, but they have not. I know you count Elder McConkie’s statement as a repudiation, but if you look at the entire statement and its framing, and then if you look at what he KEPT in _Mormon Doctrine_ in 1979 when he added details about the priesthood revelation (see “races of men” and “caste system”), it’s clear that he still believed some awful stuff–and that he himself hadn’t “forgotten” what he or George Q. Cannon “or whomsoever”. had said. Elder McConkie’s statement in 1978 had strong limitations. I’ve quoted it myself, but I always feel somewhat guilty when I do, because I recognize that it’s not everything I might suggest it is.

    There are those among the hierarchy who would themselves like a very clear statement repudiating the idea of the curse of Cain/Canaan, and of any kind of pre-mortal “judgment” which showed God’s disapproval through race. I believe the day will come when such a statement will be made.

    Comment by Margaret Young — June 21, 2008 @ 11:55 am

  31. On the issue of copyright, I’m not convinced that is the answer. Doesn’t the tabernacle choir sing pieces all the time which are not in the hymnal and which are broadcast? Although I am not certain, I would be astonished if the choir has never sung How Great Thou Art in a broadcast.

    Joel, I appreciate this, and I think the way you have framed the discussion is more or less correct. If I may, I’d like to offer a couple of suggestions.

    First, I thikn we need to ask the right question. It is not a matter of finding out how the ban started. We know how it started; those who placed restrictions on early black members have told us in their own words why they did it, and the record is clear enough, at least to me. The real question is: Why did it continue? Why didn’t God correct it, or how could our leaders have been so out of touch? Or were they? Those are the really interesting questions, but we never get to them, because we still haven’t faced up to the way the ban started. Whenever we start along that line of inquiry, someone can be relied upon to say that we don’t really know, and besides, everything has changed now, and for heaven’s sake, can’t we just be happy and move on? The reason the questions don’t go away is because we continue to try to avoid them.

    I have a great deal of sympathy with the idea advanced here by several commenters that we need to be loyal to one another and to our leaders, and to not create stumbling blocks for one another. However, we need to be aware that when we avoid the hard questions, we are creating stumbling blocks for members and investigators of African descent.

    Comment by Mark IV — June 21, 2008 @ 3:39 pm

  32. Just in case it isn’t clear from my previous comment, I think it is a perfectly legitimate position to say that God must have been involved someway in the ban. But the starting point for that discussion isn’t the origin of the ban. Once we acknowledge the overt racism which our leaders enunciated in plain English as the origin of the ban, then we can get to the question of why God allowed it to be perpetuated.

    Comment by Mark IV — June 21, 2008 @ 3:46 pm

  33. I agree with Margaret–there has not been a repudiation of prior teachings on the ban–with one exception. The revelation itself was a repudiation of Brigham Young’s teaching, reiterated in the 1949 First Presidency statement, that the ban would not be lifted until everyone else was given the priesthood, which many people interpreted to mean the millennium. See http://www.signaturebookslibrary.org/neither/neitherappx.htm (“And when all the rest of the children have received their blessings in the holy priesthood, then that curse will be removed from the seed of Cain, and they will then come up and possess the priesthood, and receive all the blessings which we now are entitled to.”)

    As I have stated elsewhere, I think some of the 12 or FP still subscribe to some of the teachings underlying the past practice–curse of Cain, tie to premortality, etc…. I think that many do not. I do not think there will be any repudiation or reconfirmation of those prior teachings until there is unanimity among the Brethren (just as that is what it took for the practive to be changed in 1978 through a revelation that all of them received after lots of spade work by President Kimball).

    I do not expect such a repudiation until the passing of most of the generation that spent much of their lives defending the ban. In the meantime, I am grateful that the Church no longer officially or explicitly backs any of those prior teachings or doctrines, and that I and others can fell free to reject them without engangering our church standing.

    Comment by DavidH — June 23, 2008 @ 6:04 pm

  34. Spot on, David.

    Comment by Margaret Young — June 23, 2008 @ 6:45 pm

  35. […] hermeneutical strategies for bringing together revealed and scholarly understandings. (See also: Joel’s post from Friday.) The Gold Plates’ putative chemical composition provides an example of revealed-subsequently […]

    Pingback by Juvenile Instructor » Adjusting the Chemistry of the Gold Plates — June 25, 2008 @ 7:32 am

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