Friday, June 1, 2007

Racism--Water Under the Bridge?

Okay, yet another blog post arising from the furious debate raging on my last post. Is the church, today, actually racist? Or, more importantly, am I comfortable with my religion in the context of racial equality?

No.

A more ardent defender of the organization might rightly point out that Brigham Young, John Taylor, Mark Peterson, Joseph Fielding Smith and other bigots are all dead and gone; that we now give the priesthood to blacks; and that Hinkley as told us not to be racists; so the issue is over.

Those things are progress. Definitely. But progress does not equal arrival! Here's what bothers me, for those who care.

1. The Book of Mormon is racist.

Lamanites are given dark skin as a curse for their iniquity. I've heard desperate apologetics attempt to explain this away, but the purpose was to make them less enticing to white Nephites, so this is clearly a visual characteristic. Plus when the Amlicites mark their skin with red paint at one point (Alma 3) it is discussed as a parallel to the dark Lamanites. This comes up many places in the Book of Mormon. In other words, a skin-darkening literally occured, and it is a tainting, a bad thing. The solution: embrace a metaphorical approach to the Book of Mormon. Vestiges of 19th century thinking can be disregarded, just as the violence and misogyny are usually ignored in the Bible.

2. Selling books with racist teachings is racist.

Books written prior to 1978 (and possibly later) referring to blacks as less valiant in the pre-existence are still available through Deseret Books. Solution: stop selling them or switch to new revised editions.

3. Allowing racist doctrines to continue to circulate is racist.

I don't remember much of my life before 1978, being so young and all. I grew up attending church every week. In the 1980's, I learned all about how blacks were fence-sitters in the pre-existence. I'm sure it wasn't in any correlated material, but I learned it just the same. I do not remember (nor do I know of today), any correlated material that proactively dismissed the old doctrines. Solution: actively teach that blacks and whites have always been equal.

4. Portraying God as a racist is racist.

Ultimately, the 1978 decision was a great step, but one taken somewhat begrudgingly, by all appearances. I realize that the Q15 have said that they felt inspired to take this self-evident step--I'm sure that if there is a God that inspires anything, God would have agreed with this decision. However, the doctrine of Presidential Infallibility meant that the leaders couldn't, in 1978, say that the ban had been wrong per se, just that it was over. So we are encouraged to believe that God really didn't want the church organization to be an ensign to the world on such an important moral issue, but to merely be a follower. And a begrudging-looking follower, at that. Solution: admit that prior to 1978, blacks really should have held the priesthood, black families should have been sealed, and a black women should not have been sealed as an eternal servant to Joseph Smith.

See, it's not so hard to get this right.

Listening to Darron Smith's podcasts on MormonStories really opened my eyes to the modern experience of a black person in the modern church. There's room to improve, for sure.

61 Comments:

Blogger Sister Mary Lisa said...

Once again, I agree with you here, Uj. I will check out the podcasts from Darron Smith...

I remember my mom reading to us a book called "A Soul So Rebellious" (written by a black woman) in the car on a trip to Utah one summer. It was very touching, and was the first I'd heard of the blacks not being allowed to have the priesthood. I remember being a kid and thinking, "Wow, that's strange God would do that to the black people."

And yeah, the church has never apologized to blacks for the policy it enforced. It's no different than if my dad beat me with a belt for years whenever he wanted, but then one day he decided not to anymore, yet he never once apologized for the beatings, he simply explained it as "It was my right to do so. I preside over this family and what I say goes. Now I choose not to beat you anymore. Why doesn't that make you happy??"

June 1, 2007 at 1:04 PM  
Blogger Shadow Spawn said...

Oh boy. Well, here goes nothing.

1. The Book of Mormon is racist.

Besides the lamanite curse are there other examples of racism in the BoM? Doesn't the BoM say somewhere something to the effect that God is no respecter of persons and invites all, Black, White, Male, Female, Bond, Free, etc?

I look at the lamanite curse this way. We read other example in the Bible where God desired to seperate people from each other. He used language barriers in the Tower of Babel, he set a MARK on Cain, he commanded the Israelites not to intermingle with their pagan neighbors.

Now if God changes the skin color of a people in order to seperate them from another people does that make God a racist? You can't take the actuall writings i.e. loathsome, dark, idle, etc at face value and think that Mormons believe the same thing. You have to take it in context to who was writing it at the time. I think it was Mormon himself who gives us that description. But imagine if you could find the writings of some lamanite from a similar time period. What would he say? Would he describe his people's skin as dark and loathsome? He'd probably say that the Nephites became a pale, white, pasty, and weak people while his people became a dark and beautiful nation of fierce warriors. It's all from the point of view of the author. It doesn't mean that official Mormon doctrine is that native Americans are a dark and loathsome people.

Your solution of developing a metaphorical approach to the BoM sounds good. It might even be the easy way out. But, it defeats the whole purpose of the book. If you can just pick and choose the things in the scriptures that just sound too outrageous to believe and assign them as myths or metaphors, then instead of a ship at anchor in a storm the Gospel and scriptures have now become a flag in the wind, blowing whichever way the wind of the day wants to take it. How could anyone take the BoM as another Testament of Jesus Christ if you have taken a metaphorical approach to it?

Books written prior to 1978 (and possibly later) referring to blacks as less valiant in the pre-existence are still available through Deseret Books.

I'm not saying I don't believe you, cause I'm really interested. Which books are these? I'd like to look into them. If this is true than I agree with you, the books should be revised if they are being put forth as DOCTRINE. I don't think DESERET BOOKS is owned by the church, so that decision would have to come from somewhere else. Are these books available at BEEHIVE? I think BEEHIVE is owned by the Church. I'm a bit in the dark here.

In the 1980's, I learned all about how blacks were fence-sitters in the pre-existence. I'm sure it wasn't in any correlated material, but I learned it just the same. I do not remember (nor do I know of today), any correlated material that proactively dismissed the old doctrines.

I am pretty sure you are right here. I have heard the same thing, and I agree that it is BS. I wish I could remember who and where, but I recently heard a talk where a GA stated that this is false doctrine. There were no fence sitters in the war in heaven. You had to choose a side. That said, I see the need for a GA to clarify this once in a while as I heard recently, but I don't see the need to produce correlated material that actively dismisses old "doctrine" that was never official doctrine in the first place. I wouldn't mind if they did, but the fact they haven't does not point to racism by the bretheren.

And yeah, the church has never apologized to blacks for the policy it enforced.

The Church's position I believe is that when the time was right God revealed to the bretheren that all worthy males should be able to hold the priesthood. If that's the official position, then to apologize would be in essence saying that God screwed up, and that God needs to apologize. See why that's never going to happen?

Ok that's as far as I can go at this point. Hands are cramping up.

June 2, 2007 at 2:50 AM  
Blogger Robert said...

Racism: I only know one person who is a member and an ardent racist. He was openly disregarded by his own brother, though. I don't see the racism. Was it ever there? Perhaps, but I wasn't witness to it. Do the scriptures suggest the Lord chooses some people over others? There's really no denying that, but he chose them and expected something from them. With regard to the priesthood, it had always been something held only by a small group of men within the general population of believers until recently. It was not common for every Jewish male to hold the priesthood, for instance.

In the end, this topic doesn't interest me much. I have no experience with the racism of the church. I go to church with a plenty of blacks and several Hispanics. I don't see any Protestant churches on Broad Street that fit that same mold. The only ones that do are fairly free-wheeling, non-denominational churches that have what most would call a fairly vanilla doctrine (i.e., not a lot of depth, just something most people would agree on but not really helpful in every day life). That is one of the ironies of this whole racism issue. Most churches on the East Coast, certainly in the South, have almost homogeneous congregations, while the LDS Churches are based strictly on geography. There's no separation based on social standing or race. You might have a bishop who drives a bread truck, an electrician and plumber for his counselors, and the nursery leader might be a doctor. That, to me, is one of the beauties of the church. It is very open to all people, and you generally can't look at someone in a given calling and know anything about their outside profession.

June 3, 2007 at 8:48 PM  
Blogger Sister Mary Lisa said...

I have never in all my 35 years in the church had a bishop who was minority, or who wasn't a white-collar worker. Ever. Same with stake presidents.

I think racism and other problems like sexism, homophobia, and so on, are topics that "don't interest [people] much" but they should, because when one group in society is being treated with inequality, society suffers.

But it's easy to forget that when you enjoy life as a the non-female, non-gay, and/or non-black person. I've been just as guilty of forgetting or not being bothered by certain injustices that happen.

I think people have a tendency to not be worried overmuch about wrongs that don't directly affect or hurt them personally.

June 3, 2007 at 10:11 PM  
Blogger Robert said...

Well, SML, you may just need to see the church in other parts of the world. My stake president IS a bread truck driver. He followed a used car salesman. The high counselor serving us right now is a mechanic. I know there is at least one black bishop or branch president in the stake here because I see him at training meetings.

June 4, 2007 at 5:50 AM  
Blogger Robert said...

Oh, and when I was in Mississippi cleaning up after Katrina hit, I met a bishop over there who was a farmer. I can't list all the professions of the bishops and branch presidents I've known, simply because I have no real reason to know what they all do or did. I just know that a lot of the few I have met are not "white collar" and I've certainly met at least one who is not white.

June 4, 2007 at 5:54 AM  
Blogger Ujlapana said...

SS:

1. Besides the lamanite curse are there other examples of racism in the BoM?

Does it need more? The protagonists are white and delightsome, the antagonists are dark and loathsome. It's a major theme--comes up repeatedly. As you point out, Lamanites are not banned to hell by virtue of their skin--I don't think slave-owners thought their slaves were necessarily going to hell, either. But they were still racist.

You suggest that Nephi and Mormon were racists and colored their writings with that attitude. Wouldn't that make the scriptures just another compilation of the "philosophies of men?" If the Book of Mormon says Lamanites (not to be confused with Native Americans, as you have just done--there's no necessary relationship there according to apologists...) are loathsome in their skin color, that's a teaching of Mormonism--that's what canon means. Hinkley may have a different opinion, but he's just one man, right? Like Brigham Young.

If God wanted to change skin color...interesting concept. I would expect a just God to do so as a reward (to be earned, you might say ;-)), not as a punishment. Then, anyone could earn the reward. We would see it happening on a regular basis too, rather than appearing so conveniently as a creation myth, of sorts. Really righteous people could turn purple, allowing them to recognize one another and avoid the normal flesh-colored folks.

Of course, Spence Kimball did believe that this was how it worked. He spoke of Native Americans turning lighter as they accepted the gospel. Do you believe that that happens?

I think you paint with a very broad brush on the issue of metaphors. Do you believe that the Creation of the Earth took 7 days? In Genesis it says "days," not periods or Kolob days, so any deviation from a 24-hour period is a metaphorical interpretation. We identify metaphors in the scriptures all the time--that's what it means to apply it to yourself, ultimately. Religion isn't about what's "out there" as much as about what's "in here."

Which books are these?

I haven't read everything on the shelves, but I know that Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce McConkie (and some combination of those names perhaps, like Joseph Fielding McConkie?) wrote some fairly offensive stuff which still is sold. It's hard to keep track of the church's significant business empire, but I think Deseret is church-owned. It bought BookCraft in 1999, which was also LDS-owned. The church probably owns Beehive Clothing, but I don't think it owns the book stores which bear that name. I'm not on the inside though--I'd defer to an expert. Glad we agree, at least.

I recently heard a talk where a GA stated that this is false doctrine.

That's good. But how do I know that wasn't just his opinion? You can't put too much weight into what one GA says. The fence-sitting was just as validly supported! But if it starts showing up in manuals and such, you can start to believe it's doctrine (for now). Every youth SS manual has a lesson on the PoS which discusses the War in Heaven, etc. It would require a one-paragraph addition to correct this. Church leaders have to know that this still gets taught incorrectly. They choose not to do anything about it--I don't know why.

If that's the official position, then to apologize would be in essence saying that God screwed up, and that God needs to apologize. See why that's never going to happen?

Yes--we agree on this point (an apology not coming). But let's cut to the chase here--to apologize is not to say God screwed up, it's to say that the leaders screwed up. Unfortunately, those are not completely separable to Mormons--if the leaders (collectively) say it, God has said it. You see, church leaders could easily say "God was right all along but we were way off." McConkie almost said as much, in fact.

I think the geographic nature of the church does help with integrating communities. I don't know how other churches really stack up relative to us--some clearly are fairly segregated, but that's true of some wards, too (by nature of location). And the geographic divisions do get gerrymandered--when I lived in a WI city, I had to drive past the "inner-city" ward-house to get to the "suburban" ward-house on the other side of town (a largely white congregation, as you would expect). But I think on the whole it's an anti-racist approach. So there's promise (although many minority congregations have white's stuck in the head positions from other wards--I know this first-hand).

And to address this side-conversation on leadership credentials:

None of us have any real data. My personal experience has been similar to SML's (SP's: 2 Fortune-500 CEO's, another CEO, too young to remember the others; BP's: CEO's, professors, other executives.) If you want somebody to run your church well, "hire" someone who runs a company well. But save all of this for another conversation.

June 4, 2007 at 9:50 AM  
Blogger Robert said...

Uj,

I find it interesting that you suggest "any deviation from a 24-hour period is a metaphorical interpretation" when that measure of a day was not yet used at Moses's time. A day in his reckoning might have meant only the hours of light, which varies based on location on the Earth and time of year. Whatever the case, you defnitely are demonstrating the typical view of Bible critics in the modern era when you assume the language in scripture must be interpreted in the modern usage of terminology.

As for the "none of us has any real data" comment, what exactly is your meaning? I was providing examples of real people who were blue collar (or in the case of what you might call a farmer, possibly no collar or "redneck") who held positions of authority. My previous branch president to the current one is a salesman in the agriculture business. Not exactly blue collar, but far from upper management. I do know that our branch here has had a mechanic as a branch president, along with a school teacher, a government employee, and I think a researcher (not sure he was branch president). The current one was an attorney when he received his calling, but now he runs an online business from his home. My branch president when I joined was a professor. The bishops of my two wards out west were a psychiatrist and a teacher.

In the case of minority branches or wards, there is often a branch president or bishop called in the beginning to lend experience to a new congregation, but over time that person is generally replaced from within the ward. I'd have to ask my brother-in-law who serves in a Spanish speaking branch that is not his home ward, but I think his branch president is Hispanic. I think he was only assigned there because there are not many priesthood holders in the branch right now. (yes, I realize that comment opens the door to the previous thread, but that's not what I'm getting at; I just wanted to explain why he is assigned there).

June 4, 2007 at 11:36 AM  
Blogger Shadow Spawn said...

Does it need more? The protagonists are white and delightsome, the antagonists are dark and loathsome.

You suggest that Nephi and Mormon were racists and colored their writings with that attitude.


Mormon describes that the Lamanites were a dark, loathsome, and idle people. But, I don't think he points out that they were that way because of their skin color. By the description of the Nephites towards the end of the BoM you could add those adjetives just as easily. Even if There is racism in Mormon's comments, that doesn't automatically make it official Church doctrine that people with darker skin are loathsome and idle. I don't think this example holds much water in the way of accusing today's Church of racism

Lamanites (not to be confused with Native Americans, as you have just done--there's no necessary relationship there according to apologists

I don't care much for apologists. I believe there is a direct relationship. that's not to say that every single tribe can trace its lineage back to Laman. But, there is alot of archaelogical evidence of Egyption influence in the ancient Americas.

If God wanted to change skin color...interesting concept. I would expect a just God to do so as a reward (to be earned, you might say ;-)), not as a punishment.

I would expect a just God to do it as neither reward or punishment. Was the changing of the Lamanite skin a punishment or just a method to seperate the two groups. Obviously from reading the BoM the changing of skin color didn't make the Lamanites physically inferior. The BoM describes them as very fierce warriors. I like to take hard boiled eggs to work. After I boil my eggs I mark a black X on them with a sharpie and put them back in the fridge next to the uncooked eggs. That doesn't mean I have rewarded or punished any of the eggs. I have just marked one group to distinguish them.

Of course, Spence Kimball did believe that this was how it worked. He spoke of Native Americans turning lighter as they accepted the gospel. Do you believe that that happens?

I don't know. But, I don't think believing it does makes one a racist. The Lamanites were marked with a dark skin to distinguish them from the followers of God. Just hypothetically for arguments sake assume that this is true. If God marked someone to distinguish them from followers of God, and the day came where they actually became followers of God it isn't that illogical or outrageous to believe that the mark distinguishing them would fade. I think someone can accept this in a fair way without being a racist.

It would require a one-paragraph addition to correct this. Church leaders have to know that this still gets taught incorrectly. They choose not to do anything about it--I don't know why.

I think the manuals focus in teaching correct doctrine rather than bringing up some false doctrines just to say "this is false" They could probably print a ten volume set just on incorrect doctrines, thoughts, and folk lore tales that have permeated into the teachings over the years. I will have to look into it, but I bet you can pull up a Gospel Essentials manual and read about the War in Heaven and it will tell you in so many words that the ones who sided with the right, recieve bodies and come to earth. If people want to theorize and philosophise (sp) I think there's room for that in the Church but in the right context. I really like Skousen for example, but I realize much of this is his own theories. I sometimes bring Skousen up when teaching Gospel Doctrine classes, but I am sure to point out that I'm quoting Skousen and this is not official Church doctrine, just something to think about. I don't think you can call the Church racist if some of its members have espoused personal theories on the existence of different races. I think it shows a strength in the Church that it allows members to write their own books and publish their theories. I believe God wants us thinking and pondering.

I really don't think the Church owns Deseret or Beehive. I asked around a little and have gotten the answer the Church does not. But, I'm still not positive.

You see, church leaders could easily say "God was right all along but we were way off.

They probably don't do this because they know the can o' worms it would open. I can just hear the antis now. " How could prophets of God be so off?...blah blah blah"

One last thing. I'd like to point out that there are now minorities serving in as GAs aren't there? I'm pretty sure I've seen an asian looking guy there, and a hispanic. Just saying.

June 4, 2007 at 2:30 PM  
Blogger Ujlapana said...

Robert:

A day in his reckoning might have meant only the hours of light, which varies based on location on the Earth and time of year.

True, day is not such a set-in-stone term. The Bible defines it as an evening and a morning. Find a Talmudic scholar who will say that this could literally (not metaphorically) mean something more than 24 hours, and I will concede the point.

As for the "none of us has any real data" comment, what exactly is your meaning?

The question at hand, as I see it, is, "Do bishops represent the average male demographic of their wards?" You seem to suggest they do. I would suggest they are at a higher socio-economic position. But neither of us has a sufficiently large or random sample. So we have "anecdotal" data, but that doesn't answer the question. Unless you know of a census of bishops, I don't think that we have data sufficient to answer this question. If your point is merely that bishops aren't always wealthy professionals, you have provided sufficient data. But nobody said otherwise, so in that case you're jousting windmills.

SS:
Mormon describes that the Lamanites were a dark, loathsome, and idle people. But, I don't think he points out that they were that way because of their skin color.

Hmmmm. Let's try this experiment. Here is your argument, likened unto ourselves:

Black people are stupid and usually turn out to be violent criminals or welfare queens. But it's not because of their skin color.

Right, so were you completely comfortable with that? I sure hope not.

Now let's pretend that someone mutually admirable said that, such as Abraham Lincoln. If you were collecting a book of sayings by Lincoln, would you include that phrase? Only if you agreed with it or liked it. After all, you can't include everything he said--so your editting must be influenced by your own biases. So if Mormon was a racist, and the modern church decides to keep his book just like he wrote it, well....

After I boil my eggs I mark a black X on them with a sharpie and put them back in the fridge next to the uncooked eggs. That doesn't mean I have rewarded or punished any of the eggs.

Neither of your groups of eggs has done anything wrong. Let's say that your friend comes by with a machine that detects eggs that are starting to go bad. But instead of throwing it them away, you mark them with a black X. After your friend leaves, let's say your kid takes your marker and X's a few more. When your wife grabs some eggs with black marks on them to make an omlete, do you blurt out, "Wait, find some unmarked ones," or do you think to yourself, "Well, maybe that's a good X?"

In the Lamanites case, bad people got X'ed. Now anyone with an X is associated with bad people. (After all, according to both the 4 Ne story and Spencer Kimball, good people don't have X's anymore!)

I don't know. But, I don't think believing it does makes one a racist.

Then I recommend you test this. Find a non-Mormon, non-white friend and say, "Leaders of my church believe that if Native Americans get baptized and are obedient to the rules of Mormonism, they will turn white. Black people have no such recourse. What do you think of that? Wouldn't you like to turn white?" Heck, you can try it at a predominantly non-white chat board, if you know of one. If you take that route, let me come and warm myself by the flames.

Like the sexism issue, most people are fish in the ocean trying to discover water. Think about this, man! If the X isn't a punishment, fine--but is the X part of the egg? No! The true egg color is white! Black skin, latino skin--not the true skin color. Do you sense how that teaching might make you feel if you weren't white?

I think the manuals focus in teaching correct doctrine rather than bringing up some false doctrines just to say "this is false"

Here's the line (any COB folks reading this, feel free to use it without attribution):

Although we know very little about the nature of the heavenly council during which the decision was made, we do know that everyone who has received, or who every will receive, a body made a full and equal commitment to the Savior's plan.

Is that correct doctrine? Did I bring up false doctrines? See, that wasn't so difficult. You just have to want to do it!

I did pull up Gospel Principles and some other manuals. The statements are neutral, as I suspected. This allows plentiful room for interpretation, given that real life isn't black and white, and God is just. With those two postulates, we must struggle with why some people are born into difficult circumstances, while others are born LDS. Well, surely the decision making process wasn't a yes/no ballot in people's minds, right? Don't we all weight the pros and cons of major decisions? Would pre-earth life have been different? So some people would have been slower to decide...that would have been bad...so a tough birth is justice. Viola--the plight of sub-Saharan Africa is explained!

I really don't think the Church owns Deseret

According to Wikipedia they do. Not infallible, but usually correct in my experience.

They probably don't do this because they know the can o' worms it would open. I can just hear the antis now. " How could prophets of God be so off?...blah blah blah"

It takes a lot of humility to admit a mistake. I completely understand where the leaders are coming from.

I'd like to point out that there are now minorities serving in as GAs aren't there?

Yes, there are. The church is progressing. It's not at all representative of the membership, which is less than 50% American, but it's still progress. Hey, it was only a decade or two ago that some 14 of the Q15 could be connected to each other or and/or previous GA's! (Michael Quinn detailed a lot of this.) Now at least there's a German. I'll take whatever progress I can get.

June 4, 2007 at 8:38 PM  
Blogger Robert said...

Uj,

My response regarding bishops was directed to SML, who said

I have never in all my 35 years in the church had a bishop who was minority, or who wasn't a white-collar worker. Ever. Same with stake presidents.

So, while no one said "always", she did say "never" which is the opposite of always. I was explaining that I have seen more than one or two that do not fit that bill, and never did I suppose anything to the effect that bishops represent something relative to demographic percentages. Your point was completely unrelated to what she or I said.

June 5, 2007 at 6:14 AM  
Blogger Sister Mary Lisa said...

I wasn't stating a "never" for the entire church, Robert. I was stating that in my personal experience over the last 35 years, I've never had a bishop OR a stake president who wasn't a white collar worker. I've also never seen a bishop in my stake who wasn't either. Ever.

And that includes my year in Austria and my year in Provo. So I've seen other areas too.

June 5, 2007 at 7:39 AM  
Blogger Robert said...

My response was still to your specific statement, that while you have never experienced it, it does happen. In Austria, I would be somewhat surprised to find many minorities, let alone minorities in the church. Perhaps it is different than when I visited there about 25 years ago. As for Provo, you're talking about a place that is 70-90% Mormon, and probably 80% caucasian, so I wouldn't expect to see that there. My point was simply to say: out here in the "mission field" as we're often called, we have plenty who don't fit those two specifics. And my response never commented on statistics, which is why I said that Uj's comment had nothing to do with my comment. To make a comparison: my comments that referred to the talk he quoted have more relevance to that discussion than his comments about statistics do to my comment. That is to say, I took something he referred to and commented on it. He took something I didn't say or even suggest and made a blanket statement about it that was completely unrelated.

June 5, 2007 at 10:02 AM  
Blogger Ujlapana said...

Robert, you seem to be getting kind of agitated! Let's look at this conversation more carefully.

1. SML makes a specific statement about her personal experience in the church.

2. You make a specific statement about your personal experience in the church which is contrary to hers (fine so far), but then say that perhaps her experience has not been broad enough ("you may just need to see the church in other parts of the world.") That's a general statement, suggesting that SML has not adequately sampled church leadership.

You see what you did there? You took a personal observation by SML and implied an inductive intent, namely, that SML was saying that all bishops/SP's are wealthy, white men.

Otherwise your statement was irrelevant. I assumed you weren't making an irrelevant statement, and I gave you credit for using inductive logic to make a statement about the diversity of church leadership.

If you weren't making an induction about the church, I gave you too much credit, as it would appear that you were making an unrelated statement to SML's.

If you were, then we are all discussing our beliefs about the church on the whole, as evidenced by our personal experiences (induction). So the data is insufficient.

Here's an illustration:

SML: I have a blue vase.
Robert: Perhaps you haven't seen enough vases? I have a red vase.

See that? SML didn't say all vases were blue, but you imply that she is doing that. My response: none of us have seen enough vases.

If all you wanted to say was that you had a red vase, and everything's hunky-dory, you wouldn't have added, "Perhaps you just haven't seen enough vases." (or, in real life, "you may just need to see the church in other parts of the world.")

In subsequent posts you have continued to demonstrate your inductive approach by trying to "explain" why SML may not have seen diverse leadership. There's nothing to explain unless you believe her statement could be construed to be reflective of the church on the whole. That's induction, which you are accusing her of.

You're busted on this one, Robert. You can't accuse SML of an induction error, then act like you weren't doing the same thing in response, without me calling you on it.

June 5, 2007 at 12:04 PM  
Blogger Sister Mary Lisa said...

I have lived in "the Mission Field" most of my life too, Robert. In case you missed that.

Love the X'd eggs argument, Uj.

Again, it's very very difficult for white people (I'm guessing the four of us are all white here?) who've never lived life with the subtleties of racism hanging over us constantly, with references being made all the time that have negative connotations and ramifications to one's psyche. We just can't get that until we've been there. And we won't be able to, since we're in a society that's been shaped by the majority we all belong to which has kept racism thriving.

The only way to possibly get close to understanding is reading, reading, and more reading about the experiences of Blacks or any of those people who actually HAVE been there. But it won't be easy reading. It may cause some discomfort, and may feel pointless too, considering your life is going just fine as is. But it's not pointless.

June 5, 2007 at 1:03 PM  
Blogger Robert said...

The more appropriate comparison you could make to what I was trying to say would be like this:

SML: I have never seen a red vase.
Robert: Here are several examples of red vases. Perhaps you just haven't look around enough.
You: The statistics regarding vases in insufficient to determine anything about how many blue and red vases there are in the world.

See, I was explaining to her in my statement that in other parts of the world, she might see bishops who are not white, perhaps not white collar, and possibly not both. I gave examples in my experience to show there are indeed "red vases" when she said she had never experienced any. I was not suggesting anything general about the church's demographic make up, nor its leadership's statistical breakdown. I was simply stating that I have (in my limited experience in the church) seen what she said she has not. My remark after that was simply to say that "where you have lived, you may not have seen it, but I have seen it elsewhere." Your comments about general statistics were unrelated. I was not making a statement suggesting she was wrong in her experience, but that her experience did not mean such things did not happen. I was not trying to say anything more than that. That is why I had no idea what you meant by "we have insufficient data" because I was comparing her experience to my own. Nothing more.

I am not agitated at the moment. I did find it somewhat odd that you accused me of making irrelevant statements in the previous thread and then seem to have done so yourself here. I did get irritated when you seemed to suggest I am in some way sympathetic to rapists, or that I think rape victims should feel guilty for having been raped. You haven't suggested you were in any way wrong or apologetic to say those things. It's fine that you don't. You are your own person. You just seem to have a very different way of coming at things than I do at times. For instance, my comments you deemed unrelated in the previous thread were in direct response to something you quoted. They gave alternate meanings to what you were quoting instead of the very limiting meaning you gave them by your follow up. That, to me, is continuing the dialogue when I make my comments, just as it was continuing the dialogue for you to quote that talk in response to SS's question. I don't think of those type of comments as irrelevant.

Interesting sidebar: I mentioned that thread to my wife, and she remembered the title of that talk, even though she read it over four years ago when we were first starting to consider marriage. Her bishop at the time suggested she read it because of her own struggle with past abuse. The talk had such a powerful, positive effect on her that she still remembered it when I brought it up. She even remembered the specific passage you cited about victims playing a role in their own abuse, because she said that part really spoke to her. She had played a part in allowing her abusers to amplify their abuse of her. Interesting how things can seem terrible in a clinical, removed view but to someone reading it that it was meant for, it can be quite comforting and helpful. And for clarity's sake: she and I discussed this after the exchange you and I had about it. I just found it interesting that she remembered the talk so clearly years after having read it.

June 5, 2007 at 1:09 PM  
Blogger Robert said...

SML,

I remember reading Black Like Me in eighth grade. The author's name escapes me at this moment, but the subject of the book was quite powerful in a way. The author put on makeup to appear black to others, and he tried to immerse himself in the experience of a black person in the South for a period of time (I want to say it was a year). He had experiences much like you might expect. He was discriminated against by whites, and maybe even some blacks, simply because he was "black". Terrible, indeed, that someone could me mistreated because of the color of their skin.

But I disagree that we cannot know what it feels like to be mistreated because of our race. My wife is from Utah, and when she first moved here, we had our first child on the way. Because of some misunderstandings with insurance, we had no coverage for the pregnancy. We heard about "pregnancy coverage" from Medicaid, though it is called something else. I did not think we would qualify, but I was told to apply anyway by our doctor's office. I called the local office of DFACS, which handles Medicaid and Welfare. I also talked to the state offices. We were told we should come in and apply. The first woman we talked to was very respectful, generally nice, and somewhat helpful. I asked her a lot questions because my income situation was difficult to describe without a paragraph on each question. She told me simply to write it all down. She took her lunch just about the time we were finished. She was replaced by a black woman. Before we turned in our form, a black man came in and she was very nice to him, so there was no reason to expect anything different from this woman. She took one look at my first form and started barking orders at me, "You got to fill this out" to which I explained "I am not applying for welfare or food stamps. That form relates to food stamps." She then looked on the next page and continued to snap off similar comments or questions to each and every response. By the end, she was all but accusing me of trying to cheat when she said, "Well, you gon' have to have a interview." I told her I would be glad to be interviewed, as I felt I could more appropriately respond to those questions by talking to someone than by writing it on paper. She was openly hostile towards me and my wife. Why is that, do you think? Simple: she was a racist. My wife was almost in tears when we left, and was utterly shocked. She said, "Why was she acting like that?" I explained it to her, understanding it all too well, "Because we were white." She did not believe me at first. But I pointed out how nice the woman had been to the man who came in just before us. So, yes, I have experienced racism first hand. That's just one example. I could probably list more if I tried, having grown up around Atlanta. I am not a racist. I know the standard follow up to that comment is to say "I have numerous black friends." or "I have a lot of friends who are not white." While that is true, it does not mean I am not racist. It simply means I have a diverse group of friends and/or associates. I am not racist, though, because I do not look at a person and assume something about them simply because of the color of their skin. If someone treats me or someone I care about poorly, I may tend to have a lower opinion of that person, but it has nothing to do with "prejudice." I have judged them after having seen their actions, and thus it is not prejudice. It has to do with the individual, and has nothing to do with their race. People who spend much time with me know I have as much trouble with "rednecks" or "hicks" as I do with blacks over their general behavior, but even then it always relates to a specific person's actions or behavior, not a general statement about someone's race.

And one last note, SML: you seem to be a generally well spoken, kind hearted person. I have no issue with you, and certainly not because of your lack of experience of some particular type of bishop. I just wanted you to know that it isn't always that way. My apologies for anything I said that is offensive.

June 5, 2007 at 1:32 PM  
Blogger Sister Mary Lisa said...

Robert, it's entirely possible that lady behind the counter at the welfare office was the exact same pissed each time she found out a form wasn't filled out completely, regardless of color of applicant.

It may have had zero to do with your skin.

And that guy in line in front of you may have been her cousin.

Thanks for saying I'm "generally" well spoken and kindhearted. Are you using the word "generally" because once or twice I've sworn here?? ;)

June 5, 2007 at 1:52 PM  
Blogger Robert said...

SML,

I say "generally" because I tend to talk that way. I would be saying a lot if I suggested you offended me because I work in an office where swearing is used to pass the time (I'm in the trucking business, after all). As for the woman who was "pissed the form was filled out incorrectly", my point of explaining how helpful the first woman was apparently failed to make it clear: I filled every item out exactly the way she told me to, and as it said to. The man who came in just before was not her cousin based on the conversation they had. You don't have to trust me on that, but I do remember enough of how they talked that it was clear he was just there to pick up a check or go over something and she was being courteous to him. But I filled out the form exactly the way the first woman told me and exactly the way it said to. She started biting my head off from the moment I handed it to her, and really her eyes burning through me as I walked up didn't help.

You obviously don't have to take my word for it. I have definitely dealt with it, though. I drove an Asian classmate of mine to school for two years. One day, he said something I knew was completely false. When I pointed it out, he decided to tell me at that moment, "Well, I lie to you all the time. You're just average Joe American. I don't see any reason to be honest with you." When I asked if the only people he was honest with were Asian, he acknowledged I was right.

My main point is to let you know that racism is not something only whites exhibit, nor is it something only minorities suffer from.

June 5, 2007 at 6:16 PM  
Blogger Shadow Spawn said...

My main point is to let you know that racism is not something only whites exhibit, nor is it something only minorities suffer from.

So true. When I graduated from highschool my parents were not making much money so I applied for a Pell Grant from the government to go to college. I was rejected because my personal savings had too much money in it. The reason was because I had worked a summer job every summer from the time I was fourteen, and had saved a good amount of money for my mission. The representative told me it would have been better if I hadn't worked a summer job. Meanwhile my half latino / lamanite girlfriend got a grant from the government for college even though her father made a considerable amount of money. But she got the money just because she qualified as a minority. Meanwhile I get punished for working, when I could have just spent my summers swimming and playing Nintendo.

UJ- I'm not ignoring your comments, but I don't have time to respond at the moment.

June 5, 2007 at 7:58 PM  
Blogger Sister Mary Lisa said...

Um, SS. Don't you know that having "Lamanite" or minority ancestry qualifies people for grants due to the inequality (racism) people have suffered in our country? That's not a racist practice AGAINST you like calling someone loathsome for being darker-skinned is.

June 6, 2007 at 12:23 PM  
Blogger Ujlapana said...

I think the reverse racism experiences are valuable for all of us. Whether intended or not, SS and Robert felt that sick, disquieting feeling of being a victim of discrimination. Now they (or anyone who expereinces similar role reversal) can sympathize better with women and the priesthood or blacks and Mormonism.
(Not that all women or blacks are bothered of course, but we must ask ourselves what we accomplish by discriminating against others at all.)

If even one black or woman is offended, shouldn't we think about what's happeneing? Those feelings are part of our "fruits" too.). Particularly given that women and blacks suffer these feelings on a much more regular level--followed in stores, questioned because of affirmative action, etc. And given (as I mentioned in my last post) that God would never think to get caught up in generalizing God's children.

June 6, 2007 at 12:55 PM  
Blogger Shadow Spawn said...

Not saying I was discriminated against, just pointing out that here was a minority recieving money based on her RACE alone. It didn't matter that her family's situation was better than mine financially, she got the money just for having a slightly tan look to her skin. Isn't that racism too? It might be positive for her, but she was still being singled out and distinguished based on the color of her skin.

It's like job quotas. I work for the government and when there is hiring going on the first people to get hired are minorities and females. Isn't it a bit racist to have to put your race on a job application? Even if it means an advantage for you? What business is it of anyone's what race you are? Shouldn't they be looking at the most qualified applicants regardless of their race? Yet, many times the more qualified people don't even get interviewed because the agency wants to make sure they are "diversified" This is a ridiculous policy and dangerous where national security is involved as it is in this case.

It's hypocrisy. What's that saying? The road to Hell is paved with good intentions. In an attempt to be equal opportunity employers they have effectively shut out qualified workers based on the color of their skin. The first they look at on the applications is which race you checked in the box. That too is racism. And I don't care for the term "reverse discrimination" discrimination is the same whether you are white black, male, female, or whatever.

June 6, 2007 at 2:16 PM  
Blogger Shadow Spawn said...

One more thing.

We whites carry around a guilt complex because of what happened in the past. In attempting to make up for those wrongs we have not done any favors for the minorities.

By granting them jobs based on their race we are still being racist. Instead of hiring them because they are qualified we are only looking at the color of their skin, which in the end is a diservice to them.

By giving them welfare money out of guilt from the past we enable them to continue a destuctive cradle to grave lifesytle that continues from generation to generation.

It's the same destruction a parent does to a child by never forcing the child to do anything on their own so thay may learn and grow and become strong. We coddle them and tell them that they arent' capable of doing anything on their own or achieving anything on their own. The child grows up unable to care for himself or contribute to society.

June 6, 2007 at 2:25 PM  
Blogger Sister Mary Lisa said...

Oh my gawd, SS. Shaking my head. I wonder if you realize how very racist you sound? It may not be intended, but it's there.

Affirmative action was started because all over our country companies were blatantly refusing to hire minority or female employees, even if they were the most qualified. And those employers felt completely justified/entitled to do so.

The system as it works now might seem unfair to you, but at least you still have a chance to be hired, a very GOOD chance, in fact, even with Affirmative Action in place. Back in the day (and that was recent. RECENT.) blacks, women, Hispanics, etc. were not hired, simply because of their race or sex. They weren't even considered. Thankfully we have laws now against that, but it still happens, I can assure you.

Once the required Affirmative Action requirements are fulfilled in the government agencies you work in or around, I bet you're a helluva lot more likely to be hired than say a black person, or a woman. Am I right?

And have you seen their applications, these people you say get hired automatically? I absolutely despise when I hear people whisper that such and such woman got hired just to be the token woman on the job. Or that she slept her way to the top. Or that the black guy who was just hired is only there because the company wanted to avoid being audited by Affirmative Action regulators. Jeebus, that makes me mad.

June 6, 2007 at 3:11 PM  
Blogger Shadow Spawn said...

I'm sorry if I sound racist, let me assure you that I am not. I actually know a black guy who considers affirmative action an insult to his intelligence and capabilities.

Personally I would not want people saying about me that I was hired or achieved the position I'm at just because of the color of my skin.

I realize that something had to be done to allow equal opportunities for women and minorities, but when you make requirements for employers that are strictly based on gender and race then you can't stop what you described as the whispering about their achievments.

What would be a better system would be to place some kind of system where the employer would have to justify not hiring somebody who is qualified. So, let's say in my business the agency hires a white guy previously working at Taco Bell, but doesn't hire the black guy former Navy SEAL. If there was a legal system in place (without affirmative action) where the X Navy SEAL could take his case, and prove that he's qualified for the job and was obviously discriminated against, then it would be better than setting pre-determined numbers of minorities or women the company is forced to hire. At least you would know the people being hired are being hired based on their ability rather than just their race.

I just don't think Affirmative Action is the best way to achieve equal opportunity. I think it is using racism to solve racism. Racism + Racism = Racism. I don't think this makes me a racist.

Look at the indian reservations in this country and tell me that we have done right by them by handing them life (if that's what you want to call it) on a platter. At least the blacks, latinos and asians have had to adapt and assimilate into society to survive. You see much much much more individual successes with blacks, latinos, and asians than you do from the Native Americans on the reservations. Perhaps in our attempt to be kind we have done the cruelest thing of all.

I hope for Brigham Young's prophecy of the Lamanites some day blooming like a rose in the desert. I have an adopted uncle who is full-blooded Navajo.

June 6, 2007 at 4:33 PM  
Blogger Sister Mary Lisa said...

Oh. My.

I don't know where to begin.

June 6, 2007 at 5:50 PM  
Blogger Robert said...

SML,

While what he said may sound racist to you, you can actually read a lot of that being written by black scholars. For instance, Herman Cain (former CEO of Godfather pizza) wrote a book called They Think You're Stupid in which he explains how Democrats have sold blacks a bill of goods regarding the need for welfare and affirmative action.

Interesting fact: did you know more minorities worked in top level management in America BEFORE Affirmative Action than presently?

The problem with Affirmative Action is exactly what SS has outlined: it is racism in action. Welfare was also a generally terrible thing in the way it was enacted. I disagree somewhat with SS that blacks have been forced to assimilate. Those that have (just like those Native Americans that have) tend to do quite well in society, which is the case with anyone who assimilates into society (Irish, German, Indian, whatever). There are definitely large numbers of blacks that have been severely harmed by welfare, and even by affirmative action. It degrades their achievements because statements like the one SML referred to tend to automatically follow them around. It is terrible, but that is why affirmative action today is terrible. It may have served a purpose, but the ideas SS put forth make a lot more sense. In general, just eliminating it is what a lot of intellectual blacks seem to prefer. Honestly, answer this question for yourself: how does looking at a person's race as a reason to give them a job differ from looking at their race as a reason not to give it to them? You are still examining them based on race. That is why I hate political correctness because it is anything but correct. It does not help ease racial tension, but instead demands racial acknowledgement (thereby encouraging people to notice race).

Two of the couples my wife and I most like to spend time with who are members are mixed couples. The men are black and the women are white. In talking to one of the husbands not so long ago, he had a lot to say about the problems that stem from blacks and Democrats having such close ties over the last four decades. The other husband just this weekend was talking to me about how much it bothers him that the NBA has been degraded by "thug" culture. Are they racist? No, they are simply willing to talk intelligently about things that bother them because it brings down the image of blacks in general.

In the words of one of my black truck drivers, "Jesse Jackson ain' no friend o' mine." He can't stand a lot of what he sees in the younger generation in his community. It's interesting to talk to people who grew up in the early 40's and 50's, both black and white, about the differences in the black culture. A lot of the criminal culture that has emerged within the black culture ties directly to when welfare came into being in the form LBJ enacted. A lot of the parts of black cultural stereotypes came out of that, in fact: divorce increased, more pregnancies out of wedlock, poverty increased, and in many areas education has suffered as well.

Now, before you say, "Robert, you're a racist, too," think about what SS and I are saying. We are not making racist statements. We are pointing out flaws stemming from a racist system. The very thing that offends you, SML, is a direct reflection on what affirmative action does to minorities and women.

Oh, and I agree with SS: the terms "reverse racism" or "reverse discrimination" are poor. It is simply racism or discrimination. To call it "reverse" would suggest the person who is being discriminated against may have been guilty of it themselves. It also promotes the idea of cyclicality in racism. I would rather see racism die, disappear, and otherwise cease to be. One of the first steps to that is educating everyone, and the second is to quit observing race as a reason for anything.

June 6, 2007 at 6:07 PM  
Blogger Sister Mary Lisa said...

What would be a better system would be to place some kind of system where the employer would have to justify not hiring somebody who is qualified.

I agree fully.

Especially when you apply this to the church:

What would be a better system would be to place some kind of system where the church would have to justify not giving leadership positions to somebody who is qualified, just because she's a woman.

June 6, 2007 at 9:31 PM  
Blogger Robert said...

SML,

But what if a woman is not qualified fully, simply because she is a woman? Does that make it sexist, just because it is true? Just posing a thought regarding your statement.

June 6, 2007 at 9:48 PM  
Blogger Sister Mary Lisa said...

Hi Robert ~

"But what if a woman is not qualified fully, simply because she is a woman? Does that make it sexist, just because it is true?"

But what if a black person is not qualified fully, simply because he is a black man? Does that make it racist, just because it is true?

June 6, 2007 at 10:15 PM  
Blogger Shadow Spawn said...

As far as church positions go I don't think you can apply the same "equal opportunity" standards. When a calling is supposedly inspired of God then it doesn't make sense to simply look to diversify your callings.

And qualifications...

Who is qualfied in their calling really? How many bishops have you known who felt worthy, qualified, and prepared to do the job at the time of their calling? Almost every bishop I've ever seen newly put in has described in their first talk to the ward their feelings of being inadequate for the job. I've talked to people called as Stake missionaries who were terrified, or sunday school teachers who felt the same.

I'd be a little suspicious of anyone's motives if they were to go to the upper leadership to complain that they were the most qualified to be bishop and felt wronged they weren't called. Would you want that person as your bishop? Or would you want someone as your bishop who was called merely based on his race? No me.

I have served in a bishopric and sat in the meetings when the need for certain callings has come up. The last thing looked at or discussed is someone's particular qualifications for a certain calling. Someone who is a school teacher in real life may be called as ward clerk. Someone who is an accountant may be called as a teacher. You'd think it would work the other way around. But, my personal opinion is the Lord desires us to serve and learn through our callings. If he didn't then we would have a paid clergy and paid sunday school teachers. That way every sunday school lesson would be great, and every Sacrament meeting would be a fantastic sermon. But, the purpose of callings isn't just to serve the ward, but mostly to give the person in the calling the opportunity to learn and grow. My personal opinion.

June 7, 2007 at 1:15 AM  
Blogger Robert said...

SS,

That's not just your opinion. It's the opinion of most believing members I've ever known that callings are more about helping the person serving in them than about the people being served. The thing you said about feeling unworthy goes right along with something my mother-in-law told me when we were waiting to hear what calling I was to receive after a branch conference. We had been out of town because of a wedding, and the branch presidency got released and a new branch president called with a counselor who was at the time my Young Men's counselor (I was Young Men's President). There was a vacancy at Elder's Quorum President, and I thought "So I guess that will be my calling" (I had three messages from branch or stake leaders on my voicemail when I got home, so I knew they were looking for me) and I also started to think "I guess I could handle that calling." But when I said that to my mother-in-law, she basically said if you ever feel ready for a calling, you probably won't be getting that one. I didn't realize at first there was no first counselor called in our branch presidency (we'd had one and then none in the previous branch presidency), so everyone but me seemed to know that would be my calling, and they were right. I certainly didn't feel ready for that calling, having only been a member a couple of years, but here I am. Callings, in my experience, have never centered on "qualifications". They certainly have never seemed to be about quotas, either, and I've even found they don't just come because there is an obvious vacancy and an obvious replacement. I stayed Young Men's President for six months while First Counselor because there was simply no one ready to be Young Men's President. There were men available for the calling, but it was not their time yet. I think that experience helped my wife and I learn a lot about waiting for the Lord's time. Now she's Primary President and just got assigned to teach seminary here in the fall. She accepted the assignment without any way of knowing she would be released, even though the coordinator for the area feels sure she will be (and said that in a way to suggest we needed to make sure she was as a branch presidency). Instead, she is preparing herself to serve in both capacities. When I served in both callings, she asked me almost every week "So, are you going to be released as Young Men's President now?" Now she never asks me about her own release as Primary President. So maybe my extra calling was to prepare her for hers, but I don't know that.

SML,

Your turn of the point to race was well put.

June 7, 2007 at 5:18 AM  
Blogger Sister Mary Lisa said...

Hi SS ~

"I'd be a little suspicious of anyone's motives if they were to go to the upper leadership to complain that they were the most qualified to be bishop and felt wronged they weren't called. Would you want that person as your bishop?"

It's not that women are complaining that they feel most qualified and feel wronged that they aren't being called as bishop. It's that women aren't being considered "qualified" AT ALL, simply because they are women. Sexist, and not cool.

"Or would you want someone as your bishop who was called merely based on his race? Not me."

Or would I want someone as my bishop who was called merely based on his sex? Not me.

June 7, 2007 at 6:25 AM  
Blogger Sister Mary Lisa said...

To explain my thoughts further, it'd be different for me if bishops/priesthood leaders were called because they have something they've earned that qualifies them. For instance, I wouldn't complain or begrudge the fact that I can't be a surgeon, because I've never learned the skills and gained the highly specific knowledge required to be a surgeon.

Yet it's just as you say, SS ~ nobody who gets the priesthood leadership callings are "qualified" or have to have some specialized training to become such. Priesthood being given to 12 year old boys suggests that that doesn't require any specialized training either.

Therefore, it's an even harder slap in the face to be told that as a woman I'm not eligible for such a thing, simply because I have a uterus.

June 7, 2007 at 11:54 AM  
Blogger Sister Mary Lisa said...

OK. Back to the topic of racism. What to do when your church decides to keep in its publications racist items? What do you do?

June 7, 2007 at 4:43 PM  
Blogger Shadow Spawn said...

To explain my thoughts further, it'd be different for me if bishops/priesthood leaders were called because they have something they've earned that qualifies them.

D&C 4:5

And faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God, qualify him for the work.

The Lord's expectations of qualifications are different than what we mortals consider qualifications. That's one of the big hang ups early people had with Joseph Smith. Why in the world would God appear to an insignificant, unlearned, obscure farm boy? Why didn't he appear to the Pope with such an important message?

One of the things I love about this chuch is the fact that ordinary people accomplish great things within the church because of the way it's been set up. There are no prerequisites or qualifications to teach a class or give a talk to the congregation. An ordinary run of the mill father can pronounce blessings upon his own children. No need to hire or consult a priest. And yet look at the continuing growth and strength of the Church despite a bunch of ordinary unqualified people filling positions like missionaries and bishops.

Ok back to racism like SLM wants.

However, the doctrine of Presidential Infallibility meant that the leaders couldn't, in 1978, say that the ban had been wrong per se, just that it was over.

I've never heard it taught that the president of the Church is infallible.

So we are encouraged to believe that God really didn't want the church organization to be an ensign to the world on such an important moral issue, but to merely be a follower. And a begrudging-looking follower, at that.

This makes me think of the story of the Brother of Jared. If you will all recall he was commanded of the Lord to build ships for crossing the ocean to the promised land. I have always found it interesting that there was no plan in place per se to provide light for them while crossing the ocean.

Then one day it occured to the brother of Jared that they were going to be in the dark during their journey because of the design of the ships. But, the Lord didn't step in and solve everything for him, until the brother of Jared came to the Lord with the problem. I wonder....had the brother of Jared never asked, and just assumed that since the Lord didn't say anything about light, if the original Jaredites would have made their journey in the dark?

I think the blacks and the priesthood deal falls under the same kind of explanation. The blacks were worthy for the priesthood all along and the Lord knew it. But, he was testing the Church. How long before they stopped assuming based on the old-fashioned beliefs of a more bigoted society, and started to question a policy that was never officially the Lord's policy to begin with? Could it be possible that like the brother of Jared, if Brigham Young would have just asked the Lord in the first place he would have recieved a revelation that would have astounded him? Keep in mind that the majority of revelations recorded in the D&C were recieved after Joseph went to the Lord with a question or request.

I want to point out that I do not condemn the early leaders for their opinions. I wonder how any of us would have been with our prejudices if we'd been raised under the same societal conditions. Remember this was all going on even before the Civil War. And even then the abolitionists didn't recognize the "negro" as equal to them. They just recognized that slavery was wrong. It has taken years and years for attitudes to change, and for man to become more enlightened on the topic of race. We are fortunate to live in a time where we aren't fettered as a society by racism to the degree that our forefathers were.

June 7, 2007 at 6:28 PM  
Blogger Sister Mary Lisa said...

SS ~

An ordinary run of the mill father can pronounce blessings upon his own children.

Reading this makes me want to cry. Or sucker-punch the man who set it up this way.

June 7, 2007 at 7:44 PM  
Blogger Sister Mary Lisa said...

How long before they stopped assuming based on the old-fashioned beliefs of a more bigoted society, and started to question a policy that was never officially the Lord's policy to begin with?

It was too taught that this was the Lord's policy.

June 7, 2007 at 7:46 PM  
Blogger Robert said...

tlSS,

I think your idea of the blacks and priesthood is truly a beautiful idea. I really like how you examined it. Here's another.

The priesthood, anciently, was only held by the Levites, who gave up the right of owning land as part of receiving that right. In other words: the priesthood has always been limited in who held it to a large degree. As time has gone on, more and more have received the priesthood. I do not assume that anyone who was not allowed to hold the priesthood anciently will suffer eternally for it, but instead they will have the opportunity to receive it and be in the same standing with any who received it, according to their faithfulness. So much of these discussions center on the temporal state of things. We are eternal beings. What we have in this dispensation, others have not had, but then we do not have some things they have had. We each came to our time for a reason, and our advantages and disadvantages do not make us any better or worse than anyone else in eternity.

June 7, 2007 at 8:14 PM  
Blogger Ujlapana said...

The sign of a high level of moral reasoning is the ability to project yourself with equal satisfaction into the role of any party involved in an ethical dilemma, and to do so consistently. Keep that in mind as you wax poetic about the nature of the priesthood while at the same time getting frustrated about the times you have felt discriminated against for something beyond your control. Remember that horrible feeling in your gut of being wronged? Now ask yourself, why do I think it's such a great thing when I'm on the other side? Would God really sanction a system which discriminated?

Robert and SS, you both had an interesting discussion on how one of the great purposes of callings in the church is to bless the life of the person fulfilling it. Please reconcile that with your previous assertions that the priesthood offices are only to bless others. You see, if Bishop, HCman, SP, EQP, Seventy, MP, WM Leader, SS President, PresBish, Apostle, President, and their councilors. are all available to men, whereas the only equivalent female roles are RSP, SRSP, and GRSP, who's getting blessed by the priesthood here? I see lots more roles for men, don't you?

SS, have you tried my experiment yet?

June 7, 2007 at 10:22 PM  
Blogger Ujlapana said...

SS, here's the break-down in your Jared analogy--and it's an important one.

Jared realized the problem before any harm was done. No one was ever inconvenienced or harmed.

With racism, BY, JT, WW, LS....HJG failed to do the same. There were real victims suffering from discrimination before 1978. And the church maintains vestiges of that era.

I do not expect church leaders to be generations ahead of themselves--just at the forefront of their generation. That would not include receiving slaves as tithing, for example. Nor would it include waiting until 1978 to wake up to racial equality. It wouldn't include discriminating against women today, or homosexuals, either. The Word of Wisdom is an example of how it ought to be done, at least with regards to smoking and drinking. I think the church should challenge us to live a more moral, exemplary life, but discriminating against others is not part of that!

Robert:
Yes, the Levite traditions were also an example of discrimination. The ability to truly view all of humanity as equal is a relatively novel accomplishment (if we can say we have "accomplished" it yet).

June 7, 2007 at 10:32 PM  
Blogger Robert said...

Uj,

You see many more callings for men than women, but within each unit there are many callings for women that would seem to more than compensate for the positions of priesthood leadership. I see where you're coming from, but women are not denied the blessings of serving in a calling, so the argument doesn't really hold up. Women are also not denied the blessings of their husband serving in a calling, either. When a branch president or bishop is called, there are definitely blessings that come along with that to a family.

In the transactions I undergo, I do not disciminate against anyone to thereby reverse the role and see their pain. Any time I have seen something in my business, for instance, that seems unfair, I tend to examine it hard before I allow it to happen. My company has absorbed many charges against drivers by companies they hauled loads for because we could see the driver was not at fault and the customer was dishonest. We chose not to charge the driver, and in most cases absorb the expense, because that is what was right, not necessarily easy or "cost effective". That's an example in my professional life, but it seems that it is in our professional lives that dishonesty seems to be more expected/desired/required. I do not like dishonesty, so I do not abide it where I have any control over the situation. I have found it a very liberating way to exist, and it has really built our company's reputation in a business filled with dishonesty.

In my church life, I do not see any present discrimination, either. I cannot really speak to how the church was before 1978 because I wasn't in it, and I don't know what was taught. I understand where you're coming from, but that doesn't mean I agree. Most churches in the world have a background of discrimination in some form. In point of fact, to use one dictionary meaning of the word, discrimination is not per se wrong. It can mean simply to distinguish between things. A person who believes in Christ is distinguished from someone who does not, and therefore you may discriminate between them. It may sound like splitting hairs on meaning, or arguing semantics, but let me clarify myself. Religion of any kind calls for discrimination in some form. There is an expectation that only believers are deemed to be a part of a given church or faith. In that way, there is discrimination because non-believers are not part. Yes, the next question I'm sure you ask is, "But these blacks were believers." and "Women are believers." Again, if they are faithful, I do not believe they will have their blessings withheld in eternity.

What I'm getting at is that by being a part of any faith, you leave someone else out. The closest to complete acceptance might be Bahai, but then by complete acceptance they are excluding each individual religion's claim of truth by its claim of general acceptance of all faiths. It just comes back to "Is the Book of Mormon true, is the Bible true, is the church true?" If they are not true, then following them is living a lie. Attending it, accepting callings in it, or in any way supporting it is perpetuating a great and terrible lie. If, instead, it is true, then we should accept it, follow it, and support it. I do the latter, because I know the truth of it.

June 8, 2007 at 6:01 AM  
Blogger Sister Mary Lisa said...

Robert, good for you that you can follow your religion in comfort and happiness.

Not so good for all women, though. And not so good for people who are American Indian who get to read the Book of Mormon daily (if they are following the prophet) and thereby being subjected to racist doctrine about their ancestors being a dark, loathsome, and idle people. And not so good for blacks, pre-1978 and post-1978 (if they have residual issues with pre-'78, because they are expected to just swallow it in faith)...

I'm happy that you're happy, however.

June 8, 2007 at 8:26 AM  
Blogger Ujlapana said...

Robert,

there are many callings for women that would seem to more than compensate for the positions of priesthood leadership.

Such as? YWP and YMP cancel each other out. That leaves Primary. Seriously, do you suggest that that presents the kind of challenge (and growth opportunities) that most male-exclusive callings do? I hear lots of people say they are scared to by RSP, EQP, WML, BP, etc. I have never heard someone say they were afraid to be nursery leader. Come on.

Religion of any kind calls for discrimination in some form.

No, it doesn't. It just doesn't. You're equivocating here, as you already admit. All people are different, so we can easily "discriminate" between those differences. That's different than "discrimination" in the sense of acting against someone based on a group that they are a member of (which is what we've been discussing the whole time). So, yes, religion is one more thing that people don't share in common, but it doesn't require discrimination.

You have proceeded to demonstrate how well people can use religion to discriminate in a poor way. By painting our religion, beliefs by millions of its adherents, and non-belief by billions of its non-adherents with broad, absolute, brush-strokes, you are clearly showing the limitations of our human minds. You can't (and don't) speak for Mormonism. Even the President doesn't do that. Mormonism is as unique as each Mormon. Same for any other religion. Why? Because people are unique.

God can see it. God has to be able to see it, or God's not a parent.

People overlook it. That's why discrimination is never of God, no matter how many times it is ascribed to God. (What else would you expect people to ascribe it to?)

What I'm getting at is that by being a part of any faith, you leave someone else out.

Just to clarify, by being you, you leave everyone else out. Religious affiliation is something you share in common with some people. Personal beliefs, although highly overlapping within religious communities, are completely unique. Even you and SS don't seem to agree on everything.

June 8, 2007 at 10:41 AM  
Blogger Robert said...

Uj,

I know people who would rather be relief society president than nursery leader, actually. And that calling is not a small one, nor is Primary President. Primary President is one of the most important callings in a branch. There are also Stake level callings for the auxiliaries, and general presidencies as well. Those are definitely places that allow women to grow. To diminish the importance of a teacher or an auxiliary presidency shows a great deal of prejudice on your part, quite frankly. It shows you think less of those callings, even though they are very important to the development of the future generations of the church.

My point about discrimination is that by being part of a group, you are automatically leaving someone else out who is not affiliated. As for the blacks who are members, they are not discriminated against now. Women are not "discriminated against" in my opinion. That is how you both see it, I understand, but we're not going to agree on that, so far as I see. That was a lot of what I was trying to get across with the last part of my last post.

SML,

I don't read the Book of Mormon and think "Wow, Native Americans must be evil to be related to these Lamanites!" That's like reading the Bible and thinking "Wow, Jesus must be pretty bad if he's descended from Solomon and David." I don't associate ancestry with being inclined to evil. Again, that is bigotry, racism, stereotyping... things I just don't do. I know of no culture in human history that does not have some measure of error in its background. Many have horrible histories, and yet today are considered quite advanced in some way or another (look at Japan and Germany, for example).

Well, I have to run. I may not be reading much this weekend.

June 8, 2007 at 12:10 PM  
Blogger Sister Mary Lisa said...

Robert,

I don't read the Book of Mormon and think "Wow, Native Americans must be evil to be related to these Lamanites!"

If the Book of Mormon comes from God Himself (and is the "most correct book on earth"), then apparently God is perfectly comfortable with racism. Which is the very thing, in my opinion, that causes so many people to feel okay with obvious sexist, racist, or prejudicial teachings/behaviors that runs rampant in our church today.

And I wonder if you were a woman, a gay man, a black person, or a "Lamanite," if you'd feel the church was so very perfect and correct in all its policies, teachings, beliefs, and methods as you seem to be now. You seem like a very caring, thoughtful, and fair-minded individual. If you grew up with the very real feelings that the church's sexist and racist policies and teachings create, you'd be a very formidable spokesperson for truth, justice, and the American way.

Have a fun weekend, my friend.

June 8, 2007 at 2:17 PM  
Blogger Shadow Spawn said...

SS, here's the break-down in your Jared analogy--and it's an important one.

Jared realized the problem before any harm was done. No one was ever inconvenienced or harmed.


Why did God wait to call Moses to free the Israelites? Imagine the countless people who suffered and were inconvenienced before God finally got around to calling Moses.

Well, one would have to ask, if the Lord was ok with blacks holding the priesthood why didn't he just come out and reveal it to one of the prophets? I think I already made my point about how the earlier prophets were raised under different social expectations than our day, and it took one leader to finally realize that something just didn't seem right and went to the Lord with it.

But why did the Lord wait? Why not just hand over a revelation? My belief is the Lord uses this method to gauge our readiness. Kind of like trying to feed meat to a new-born. How do you think the earlier church as a whole was prepared for such a thing? Especially in a time when blacks were living as slaves in this country. When a prophet finally came to the Lord with the question was a sign to the Lord that the Church was ready for this principle to be revealed. That way the baby didn't choke on the meat.

As far as your comment about how you expect the leaders of the Church to be at least in the forefront of their generation on such important moral issues - Let's look at President Kimball's generation.

President Kimball was born in 1895...he was 83 years old when he proclaimed to the Church that all worthy male members could hold the priesthood. When Spencer W. Kimball was born, the Civil War was only thirty years past. He was 73 years old at the height of the black civil liberties movement when Martin Luther King Jr. was assasinated in 1968.

That being said, I wonder if you could take a look at other men born in 1895 and measure the degree of racism and prejudice in their beliefs, just how Spencer Kimball would compare with others of his generation. Something tells me you could probably put him right there in the forefront of his generation, just as you said you'd expect.

June 8, 2007 at 4:00 PM  
Blogger Robert said...

SML,

I'm not entirely sure what you meant by your comments about "if you grew up with...". And I really mean I don't follow you, not that I am assuming you have some negative meaning behind it. Feel free to enlighten me.

As for my ability as a public speaker, I suppose you'd have to ask the people who've heard me give speeches. I'm trained in the art of public speaking, and I think I do a fair job at it, but I may be wrong to think so. I've been giving speeches to large audiences since I was fourteen, though, so I'm at least practiced.

Would I feel things were fair if I were a woman, black, or homosexual? That's definitely a loaded question because the answer I should say (to defend my position) would be "Of course." Without some background on my upbringing as a woman, black, or homosexual, it would be hard to really evaluate how I would think. If I were brought up in the same way as my wife - in a loving family environment that encouraged me to truly understand what I believe and not simply accept it - then I would very likely be absolutely fine with how the church works as a woman, a black, or a homosexual.

Honestly, though, to answer this question properly, I might run the risk of offending you, and I have no need or desire to do that.

SS,

Excellent point about President Kimball's forward thinking. Compare that thinking to the Catholic Church and how it has chosen to respond to some of its problems, and you might see how much more progressive the LDS leadership is. Compare it to how the US Government is evaluating problems like illegal immigration, a broken system that makes it necessary to have imported labor thanks to welfare, a social security system that is completely doomed to failure under its current guidelines.... and then decide how progressive the church welfare system is. The perpetual education fund is another example of how much more wisely funds could be used to better people rather than simply feed them forever. "Give a man to fish, and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he'll eat for the rest of his life." (The sign by my dispatcher's desk changes that to "Teach a man to fish and he'll sit on a boat and drink beer all day"). Those programs seem awfully progressive, and amazingly the perpetual education fund primarily benefits minorities. Go figure.

June 8, 2007 at 6:32 PM  
Blogger Shadow Spawn said...

Robert, since you brought up welfare:

I was just preparing my lesson for tomorrow and ran across this quote from President Kimball that rings SOOOO TRUE! Especially today!

Let us follow the order of the Church in this regard and insure that all who recieve give of themselves in return. May we be on guard against accepting worldly substitutes for the plan to care for his poor in this, the Lord's own way.

The Lord's way builds individual self-esteem and develops and heals the dignity of the individual, whereas the world's way depresses the individual's view of himself and causes deep resentment.

June 9, 2007 at 12:22 PM  
Blogger Sister Mary Lisa said...

Robert, I only meant that you are a good speaker, and well spoken. I was imagining how well you'd argue the points here alongside me, had you actually been a woman who felt the sexism that is so prevalent in the church's patriarchal system, or had you been a gay man in the church, or a black person coming to terms with how your grandfather was treated pre-1978, I imagine your viewpoint would be formidable and strong FOR the wrongness of such treatment/policies. That's all.

:)

June 9, 2007 at 2:49 PM  
Blogger Shadow Spawn said...

Luke....come to the dark side Luke. Together we can rule the universe. = )

June 9, 2007 at 3:19 PM  
Blogger Robert said...

SML,

See when you said "spokesman for truth, justice, and the American way" it seemed to contradict the thing you said before. Honestly, I really didn't assume you were suggesting the church is against those things. Now I understand. I am sorry you feel that way, though. I see a lot of love and compassion in the church and its programs, and a lot of encouragement to become better every day.

SS,

That quote is so very true to how government welfare seems to destroy people's self esteem. I think it's terrible and unfortunate. In many ways, it has created a poorer class that is subservient to whoever will make sure they keep welfare. That, to me, is an injustice. How much better spent would those funds be if they were spent helping people educating people in trades and professional jobs. In this modern era where so many jobs are available that allow single parents, the disabled, and otherwise alternative employees to be productive, why do we continue to pour money down the drain of perpetual welfare? Anyway, that's another discussion for another place, I imagine.

June 9, 2007 at 7:48 PM  
Blogger Sister Mary Lisa said...

SS ~

Funny on the Star Wars quote. You made me laugh out loud.

June 10, 2007 at 6:01 PM  
Blogger Sister Mary Lisa said...

Oh, and Robert, I was just teasing with the "truth, justice, and the American way" snippet in my comment.

I really do think it's interesting how very compassionate you are in your writings about discrimination, etc., yet you are a staunch supporter of the patriarchy that exists in the church, and you seem to be bewildered as to how such a thing as priesthood authority could negatively affect any woman, or how racist comments may negatively affect certain members of minority groups.

June 10, 2007 at 6:05 PM  
Blogger Robert said...

SML,

I don't think the patriarchy negatively effects women. I am not bewildered by the possibility that people would think that, but I just don't see that it does in action. It is not consistent with my observations. I hear from these ex-mo and NOM blogs about it, and if I read those with no experience of the church, then I might be more accepting of it. But in the church, seeing it in action out west and here, I do not see the terrible things intimated here.

As for "racist comments" I've never heard anything approaching a racist comment from anyone in leadership from the top down, personally. I haven't even heard the comparisons between Lamanites and Native Americans, though I've seen those comments plenty in things people suggest I read.

I am not bewildered by how racist comments could negatively effect minorities. I do think some groups are pandered to more than others, and I think that contributes to racism (and certainly to stereotyping and prejudice at least). Political correctness goes a long way to perpetuating racial problems, which is was supposedly designed to stop. Racial acknowledgement does not stop racism because it calls for people to pay attention to the very thing they're supposed to be getting past. I also think that ideas such as "reverse discrimination" are ridiculous notions because it is simply "discrimination". I think it is wrong, and I think it is more wrong to suggest it is somehow justified by calling it "reverse discrimination". I have certainly observed how affirmative action has done damage to minorities, and how it has also helped contribute to racism. When a more (not just equally) qualified student gets passed over by someone of color, then the person passed over is likely to harbor feelings of resentment. Is that making the problem better? I have also seen how affirmative action can degrade the value of things, such as an education from a given institution who lets in less qualified students and lowers standards to pass them. If they were qualified, and the standards were never lowered, then why would they need to be let in under special circumstances?

I'm sure a lot of this can come off as offensive, but when you've actually observed these things in action, you might think differently. And to be clear: I am not at all angry at this moment. I am not even fired up. I'm just putting down some ideas. I'm quite happy and calm, so read the thoughts with that tone in mind. One conclusion I would draw in the end though: one reason race is a continuing problem in society is because people talk so much about it as a continuing problem. There are certainly special privileges afforded minorities with the idea being they cannot earn their own way, and those programs are wrong. Entitlement mindset is rampant in today's society, and the more we feed that beast, the worse problems will become.

I really don't see racism in the church, though. I certainly see them in my community where there is a "wrong side of the tracks" but not in my church that has plenty of blacks attending and more than a few members. The only black man who is an elder holds a calling of some importance. The other black man who could be an elder is scared to death of ever becoming one from all I can tell, so he is fairly inactive even though he loves everyone at the church (and everyone loves him). We also have Hispanics attending, and a few of those are members. We even have Native Americans who are members, and one of those holds a stake level calling that is critical whenever hurricane season rolls around (not a small matter here). Even the evangelical churches I've been to seem to be generally one race around here, with a smattering of other races in the congregation but rarely more than a couple or a family.

I guess you can see one thing about me, though, SML: when I am interested in a subject, I can be passionate about it. I tend to be an ardent defender of things I believe in. It's part of my nature. It's probably why I'm variously involved in groups and generally considered a leader in the ones I'm involved in. I focus my energy on helping what matters to me. I still believe one person can make a difference in the world, and I've proved it time and again. That's a bit of an aside, but that's just part of that line of thinking.

I think you are a fair-minded, sweet spirited person who obviously got jilted by the church in your past. You seem to be very generous and caring, and you believe in where you are now. That, to me, is a great thing. I wish there were more people who had such positivity, such goodness, and such understanding. I do think it is unfortunate you are not a member anymore, but I don't think it means you'll be in Outer Darkness. I don't even think it makes you someone I would never speak to again. If I only spoke to members here, I'd have a small group of friends to choose from. I'm a pretty open-minded person. I hope you get that about me.

June 10, 2007 at 8:59 PM  
Blogger Robert said...

On a complete sidebar:

Today I experienced a spiritual guidance from something I read here. I saw a quote from today's priesthood lesson that SS put on. I am not ordinarily one to read my priesthood lesson before hand because I so often do not get to stay in priesthood, and probably because I can tend to be a bit of a slacker. But I felt so much after reading that quote that I *needed* to read that lesson, that I went online (my bookshelf seems to have eaten another book, as I could not find the paperback manual) to read it. This morning in my morning meeting I knew why when, because I had read that lesson, I knew a specific answer to a question asked by another leader. I thought that was a rather interesting circumstance. I'm sure Uj has a rather simple explanation for why my feeling of the Spirit was not what I say it was.

June 10, 2007 at 10:42 PM  
Blogger Sister Mary Lisa said...

Robert,

You know what? I didn't leave the church because I was jilted by it. Are you referring to my husband denying permission to attend the temple? That hurt me deeply, but I stayed in the church for years afterward, a true and faithful believer that somehow that requirement was for my own good and my man really SHOULD be fully in charge of whether or not I participate in any ordinances required for my eternal salvation (as hard as that is to admit now).

I actually googled my way out of the church. (Did you just laugh??)

If only the church had been forthcoming in many of the events in its history that were whitewashed, cleaned up, and then taught to me...

June 10, 2007 at 11:00 PM  
Blogger Sister Mary Lisa said...

This morning in my morning meeting I knew why when, because I had read that lesson, I knew a specific answer to a question asked by another leader.

Do you think that even if you hadn't read that lesson, that you'd have been able to find the answer to his question inevitably? Great that "The Spirit" was able to give you knowledge beforehand, but was it VITAL to some divine purpose for his question to be answered immediately? Would he not have gotten the same answer in his priesthood meeting, had you not had the answer?

June 11, 2007 at 7:39 AM  
Blogger Robert said...

The other leader was a woman, and the person in question was also a woman, and not a member. So yes, it was fairly vital I give her the information in that meeting, since I had no guarantee I could suggest it again at another point. It certainly was valuable, whether or not it was vital (i.e., life or death). The Spirit does not only give us life or death information, though. We can receive promptings about all manner of decisions if we are in tune enough to do so.

As for "googling" yourself out of the church, nope, I didn't laugh. If I listened to half of the arguments against the church I read before joining the church, I would never have joined. But I took each of them to someone with knowledge to determine the veracity of the information, and each time I saw through it. To be clear, I was not going in search of getting that disproved, so it was not a simple response that satisfied me. I spent a year studying it before I would even read the Book of Mormon. I did not come to my decision lightly, nor did I make it without a great deal of prayer. There are certainly a lot of lies about the church out there, though, and plenty of abuses of the truth to go along with them. Sounds a lot like "teachings of men mingled with scripture." Anyway, enjoy life. Be happy with who you are. If you're happier out of the church, go for it. (Note: this is essentially the same thing I said to the other blogger, and it is the way I feel generally towards people who have no desire to be members)

June 11, 2007 at 12:14 PM  
Blogger Sister Mary Lisa said...

Robert, if only more people within the church recognized that most of us don't leave the church due to sin, or to follow Satan. I know of too many people who think that people who leave the church are being wicked, and they think that "wickedness never was happiness" so they can't fathom how someone like me can actually be happy out of the church.

But I'm here to testify that it is (for me) much better. And it's not because my morals or values have diminished or left me.

June 11, 2007 at 2:33 PM  

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