Reading various blogs, I've learned that a lot of times it is the history that causes people to leave. For others, it's the inconsistency between the Bible and the Book of Mormon. I read a blog where the writer said that she did not like what Mormonism was turning her into: She did not like that she felt that she was above others because of her beliefs and lifestyle.
While everyone has their reasons, there are beginnings to the stories behind those reasons. The beginning for me was fateful conversation with a sister from the (now defunct) Beltsville Ward.
I've always made an effort to go to church every Sunday. Even those Sundays when I was out of town. One weekend I decided to visit my family in Greenbelt. That Sunday morning, my brother was kind enough to give me a ride to church while on his way to work, and told me that I will need to find a ride home. So I asked a sweet elderly sister who I knew for about a year from the time I spent visiting Beltsville (out of respect to her, I will not share her name). She sweetly obliged and said that she would meet me in the lobby after services.
During our ride home she begins talking about the church's history, and how black people could not have the priesthood for some time, something that she said had bothered her (which I admire). She then tells me what a beautiful day it was in June 1978 when revelation was received to remove the ban, and how everyone wept and rejoiced.
My response was, "Cool," but my head was spinning. I was taught that God was a god of love. I learned it during my upbringing in Catholicism, in the Baptist Church my paternal grandparents attends, as well as during my short stint in The A.M.E. Zion Church. So if God is a god of love, why would he exclude certain things from his children over their skin color?
The question bothered me throughout the day, so I decided that I would look into the priesthood ban when I returned to work the following day.
What I found shocked me.
Through my online research I found the following quotes from Brigham Young's racist rhetoric:
"any man having one drop of the seed of [Cain] ... in him cannot hold the priesthood and if no other Prophet ever spake it before I will say it now in the name of Jesus Christ I know it is true and others know it."
"The Lord had cursed Cain's seed with blackness and prohibited them the Priesthood."
"You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild, and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind . . . Cain slew his brother. Cain might have been killed, and that would have put a termination to that line of human beings. This was not to be, and the Lord put a mark upon him, which is the flat nose and black skin," (Journal of Discourses, vol. 7, p. 290).
"Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so," (Journal of Discourses, vol. 10, p. 110).
I stopped reading and researching after discovering these quotes, because I wanted to remain in blissful ignorance when it came to the church. I did not want to find out that a church that I had given up so much to join was not true. Especially when I used to get in fights with one of my brothers about why I decided to join it.
But what I had found continued to bother me. Being taught to believe Brigham Young was an early day prophet, I wondered where was God to chastise him for teaching such hate and ugliness? Where was God to tell Young that he loved all of his children no matter their ethnic background?
It took me back to a time where I would tell people that I met about the church during my bus rides home from work. One guy that I rode the bus with told me, "Brigham Young was racist, and Joseph Smith was an adulterer and pedophile." I naively defended both Smith and Young, thinking them to be real prophets of God saying, "There is no way. They were men of God. God would not condone such behavior from them."
Imagine how stupid I felt after finding out what I did. I came to the conclusion that either the church was not true; it was just founded by racist leaders. Or the church is true, and God was a racist and just decided in June 1978 to lift the ban after persuasion from his prophet and apostles.
What made matters worse was when I was on YouTube, I saw the following videos under the "Recommended" tab:
Donny & Marie Osmond On Why Blacks Can't Hold Priesthood In Mormon Church
A Message For Black Mormons
In the first video, Donny and Marie are asked by Barbara Walters about black people not being allowed to become priests. Donny says that "the church has more to offer to blacks than any other church."
Okay, more to offer with the exception of: The Priesthood, being sealed to their families and exaltation. When they get to the "kingdoms" they'll be beneath everyone else. Sounds sickeningly symbolic. I know that this was back in the 1970's, but I'm just stating an opinion.
Donny also says that "blacks cannot hold the priesthood (at this time) and that's how the Lord wants it."
So God told him this himself?
The second video shows a man (his name was not provided) who is reading pages from Mormon Doctrine, and mentions that church leaders today pretend to not know why the priesthood ban took place. Then he asked how black Mormons were able to find God through a church that once taught such things. That also had me thinking.
I had feelings of confusion and dismay. Unsure of whether to talk to my roommates (who describe themselves as "Hardcore Utah Mormons") or my home teacher about this issue, or to keep silent. Or if I should leave the church or stay and turn a blind eye to my concerns.
I then decided that I would try reading the essays. I remember they were written and made available through the LDS website because my friend shared one of them on Facebook. I was hoping to find an answer, an explanation on the history of the priesthood (even though I already found it). I wanted, NEEDED this church to be true. The essays were my last resort.
After reading the essays (mainly Race and the Priesthood, and Plural Marriage), I noticed that the church had no real answers. They just give you a history of what happened, and where they stand on that issue today. I noticed that there was a lot of cherry-picking involved, and information kept hidden.
The essay acknowledged that Brigham Young said that black people could not (no longer) be ordained to the priesthood, but the essay fails to explain WHY.
The essay acknowledged that past church leaders proposed many theories on the priesthood ban, which the church does not agree with today, but fails to mention what those theories were. Also, it sounds as though they are throwing the early-day prophets/apostles/leaders under the bus.
Near the ending of the essay, the church said they don't believe that interracial relationships are a sin. But if they felt the need to mention that bit, they must know what Brigham Young said about the punishment being death on the spot for "any of God's chosen people who chose to mix with the seed of Cain."
If you compare the former three notes from the essay with the quotes by Young above, you'll see how the church tries to hides their "little flecks of history."
That and the essay just sounded like the church was saying, "The curse of Cain Doctrine was never true, our leaders from that time were just a little racist. But that's okay see, because EVERYONE was racist during that time. No apology will be given for the 150 years of what blacks had endured because they have the priesthood and all of the blessings NOW. We did them a favor! (Well, actually, we did ourselves a favor. We had a c(3) non-profit status to protect! So in doing them a favor, we did ourselves a big favor as well!) We encourage you to forgive our past leaders. We love our negroes."
I know that racism, racial discrimination and segregation was commonplace during the time of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. I also know that there were many churches that did not integrate until around the Civil Rights Movement. But for a church that claims to be God's only church on the face of the planet, the only church that Jesus Christ himself leads, I expected much more.
The church always talks about setting a good example. Well, the early leaders of the church should have set an example and integrated and allowed the blessings to everyone no matter their racial background. A Mormon sect, The Church of Jesus Christ (also known as The Bickertonite Church) had integrated and allowed men of all races to hold the priesthood since it was founded in 1862. They even had an African American serve as an apostle from 1910-1955,a time where rights for black people were scarce. They took a strong stand for human rights, something that "God's only church" did not.
Interesting how "God's only true church" did not take a stand during the civil rights movement, or set an example like its splinter group had.
Another thing that did not help matters for me was that the church leaders (and others) act like they don't know why the priesthood was banned. I watched a video where Spencer W. Kimball said something like, "I don't know why black people cannot have the priesthood, but God knows."
Then you have these two videos. One is of the late church president, Gordon B. Hinckley, being asked about why it took so long for the priesthood ban to be lifted. The other is a video of a member of a fundamentalist Mormon sect, *The Righteous Branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (or the Peterson Group) being asked about the Curse of Cain doctrine (among other things). Please watch both videos and compare the two.
Gordon B. Hinckley
Interview with Mormon Fundamentalist. *For this video, you don't have to watch it the whole way through, you can just watch it up to 2:55.
Do you see the difference here?
You have Gordon B. Hinckley, a Prophet who claims to be Joseph Smith's Successor, who allegedly communes with God continually, who was a general authority from 1958 up until his death.
So when asked why it took so long for the church to get past it's racism, Hinckley just dodges the question and says, "I don't know" and tries to justify it by saying, "We have it now" and talking about how the church is doing work in Brazil and Africa.
Now for someone who was a General Authority during and after the "ban," and someone who was an Apostle during the time when "revelation" was received to lift the ban, you would think if there were anyone who had an answer he would. But he pretends to not know.
Now the interviewee of the Fundamentalist Mormon group does not dodge the question at all. He just answers them and says that the Curse of Cain Doctrine was something that Brigham Young had taught, and is something that the group adheres to.
In trying to understand the LDS church's logic, I figured that there will never be an apology or real explanation from them. To apologize would be to admit that they were wrong, and members will then wonder what else they were wrong about (questions I've noticed that ex Mormons had asked), and cause them to question how "true" this church is. Keeping up their perfect façade will bring in and keep membership.
In conclusion, I find it funny that when some members (noticed that I said "some," I will not broad paint brush every Mormon member) are confronted with issues such as this, they are quick to say, "That's just Anti-Mormon literature!" But how can The Journal of Discourses, Mormon Doctrine, The Way to Perfection and Mormonism and the Negro be Anti-Mormon literature WHEN THOSE BOOKS CAME FROM MORMONS?!
Like another blog poster openly wondered, I wonder what the leaders will say twenty years from now when things change. Years ago, racist things were preached about black people being the seed of Cain, inferior, etc. President David O' McKay preached for members to date and marry people of their own racial background, class, education, etc.
Then after the Priesthood Ban was "lifted" you have church leaders acting like they don't know why the ban took place, but claims that only God knows. Even Mitt Romney dodged Tim Russert's question as to why it had taken so long for the church to be "inclusive."
Then there is the church claiming that they don't believe that interracial marriages are a terrible thing.
And there is this line from Alexander B. Morrison, published in Ensign Magazine:
"How grateful I am that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has from its beginnings stood strongly against racism in any of its malignant manifestations." (Ensign, Sept 2000, p 16)
Obvious lies here.
So when things change twenty years from now, will the leaders then throw the leaders of the church now under the bus? Will they deny what the leaders are teaching now? Will they hide more "history" (among the many other things they hide)?
What new wool will the leaders then try to pull over their members' eyes?
- Journal of Discourses - Brigham Young
- Mormon Doctrine - I recommend the First or Second Edition. The Third Edition is just a whitewashed edition to be more politically correct now that the "ban" is lifted.
- Mormonism and the Negro - John J. Stewart
- The Way to Perfection - Joseph Fielding Smith
- Gordon B. Hinckley downplaying Brigham Young's Words
- Mormon Secrets 2: What They Don't Say About Race
If there is anything book or video that you think that I should add, please let me know in a comment.