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Gospel Topics Chapter 10 Harris Part 2

Viewpoint on Mormonism / Bill McKeever
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June 7, 2021 9:35 pm

Gospel Topics Chapter 10 Harris Part 2

Viewpoint on Mormonism / Bill McKeever

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June 7, 2021 9:35 pm

This week Bill and Eric take a look at the chapter written by Matthew L. Harris titled “Whiteness Theology and the Evolution of Mormon Racial Teachings,” which deal with the Race and the Priesthood essay. This series along with links to the original articles can be found at

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The book Sharing the Good News with Mormons edited by Shawn McDowell and Mormonism Research Ministries Eric Johnson offers practical witnessing strategies by a number of Christian missionaries, scholars, and pastors. Sharing the Good News with Mormons is published by Harvest House and is available at your favorite online bookstore or order it directly from

If you're looking for practical strategies for getting the conversation started, be sure to check out Sharing the Good News with Mormons. Viewpoint on Mormonism, the program that examines the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from a biblical perspective. Viewpoint on Mormonism is sponsored by Mormonism Research Ministry. Since 1979, Mormonism Research Ministry has been dedicated to equipping the body of Christ with answers regarding the Christian faith in a manner that expresses gentleness and respect. And now, your host for today's Viewpoint on Mormonism.

Did culture influence the ban on those of African heritage from holding the priesthood in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? Welcome to this edition of Viewpoint on Mormonism. I'm your host, Bill McKeever, founder and director of Mormonism Research Ministry, and with me today is Eric Johnson, my colleague at MRM. This week we look at chapter 10 in the book The LDS Gospel Topic Series, A Scholarly Engagement. Chapter 10 is titled Whiteness Theology and the Evolution of Mormon Racial Teachings, written by Matthew L. Harris, who happens to be one of the two editors of this book, the other being Newell G. Bringhurst.

I think we should mention again, Eric, why we feel that this is so important. As we've said in past broadcasts, we have always looked at the Gospel Topics essays that were produced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Between the end of 2013 and the end of 2015 has having a lot of importance because the admissions that are made in these essays can be very good tools when talking with our LDS acquaintances. As we've mentioned before, and as the book brings out as well, a lot of the things that these essays admit to were things that many members were led to believe were lies being told by enemies of the church.

And you can imagine the shock many members had when they realized that those things that they thought were lies were now being admitted by the church. So there is a lot of good information in these essays. We have used the word transparency quite a bit in this series. However, a lot of that transparency could have been much more clearer. There were a lot of things that they did not bring out.

We're going to talk about some of those things in today's show. But in yesterday's program, we ended with a paragraph by Mr. Harris, where he talks about how culture influenced the decision to not allow those of African heritage to hold the priesthood. And of course, in Mormonism, the priesthood is a very important doctrine. And those who are of African heritage were not allowed to hold the priesthood up until 1978, when Spencer W. Kimball was president.

The phrase that is used in this paragraph that we cited yesterday says that this essay affirms that the church was restored in 1830 when slavery was legal and racial discrimination permeated American culture. This, in turn, influenced the formation of LDS racial policies wherein Brigham Young implemented the priesthood and temple ban aimed specifically at blacks of African heritage. Now, why should that not concern a member of the LDS church?

We are always being told by members of the church that they have leaders that are guided by the quote unquote Holy Ghost, that they are in tune with what God wants for his people being, of course, members of the LDS church, and that God will never allow the prophet of the church to lead the church astray. So to have the church admit in this essay, which by the way, is an anonymous essay, none of these essays have any names attributed to them. One thing we do know, none of these essays were written by a general authority in the church.

They were written primarily by scholars. But when it admits that the racial discrimination of the day led to Brigham Young banning those of African heritage from holding the priesthood, that should cause a huge question mark. Why is Brigham Young, who Mormons are led to believe is a prophet of God, getting his information from God, being influenced by a horrible cultural norm at that particular time?

Should that happen? I would say it shouldn't, because you take a look at the Old Testament, for instance, Daniel. Let's just take Daniel for an example.

And the culture was saying you need to worship the Emperor, you need to bow down. Daniel and his friends did not. Well, they paid a price, eventually getting thrown into a lion's den, and yet God protected them. But I think if you look through all of the different prophets throughout the Old Testament, they had to deal with this culture.

They did not give in to the wicked kings in the north of Israel or the southern kingdom of Judah. The prophets always stood for what was right. I would hope that if a prophet were living in the body of Brigham Young, that he would have done the right thing.

As it turns out, nobody thinks that he did the right thing. Well, in that paragraph, Mr. Harris also says, most significantly, the essay admits that the ban resulted from human error rather than divine will. If that's true, and I do believe it is, what does that say for that expression we've often heard Latter-day Saints tell us, that God is not going to allow the prophet of the church to lead the church astray? And it actually goes on to say even more than that. It says that if that was to happen, the Lord would take them out.

But think about this, Bill. Brigham Young didn't just teach on the issue of blacks. He taught on other things such as Adam-God, and that God was actually Adam. And he also talked about blood atonement, that it would be okay to kill somebody and have their own blood spill that would atone for their own sins. So these were false teachings, and Mormonism has not believed that for many years, but he did teach these things. And Harris is going to bring that aspect up later on in the chapter, but let's go on on page 248 where it says, He continues specifically, it disavows, quote, I think it's great that the essay does unequivocally condemn all racism past and present in any form. But why was this a part of the earlier years of Mormonism?

Why did it take until 1978 for this to be corrected, if you will? I think that question needs to have a good answer, and I don't think the Gospel Topics essay dealing with race and priesthood effectively addresses that, especially when it talks about David O. McKay at the bottom of page 248. He writes, Why is David O. McKay's name so important here? It's because David O. McKay was known to make the statement, and this is found in a book titled The Church and the Negro on page 91, where David O. McKay is cited as saying, That verse in Abraham is section 1, verse 26. Now, admittedly, this whole doctrine is pretty complicated, and we don't have time to go through all of the verses in the first section of Abraham that would hopefully explain it better.

But let's just cut to the chase and get to what David O. McKay is referring to. He's referring to verse 26, where it talks about Pharaoh, and earlier it establishes that Pharaoh was the eldest son of Egyptus, who was the daughter of Ham. This all goes back to Ham, according to Mormon teaching, and as a result of Pharaoh being the son of Egyptus, it says in verse 26 that he was cursed pertaining to the priesthood. Verse 27 says, Why is it in this essay Abraham 126 is never brought up? David O. McKay's comment regarding Abraham 126 is never brought up.

Don't you think that's a bit important when it comes to this subject? Because that was not only a part of Mormon scripture at the time the ban was in place, it's still a part of Mormon scripture today. So what do Mormon commentators do with this passage if it isn't to give it a completely new interpretation?

Because if you don't give it a new interpretation, it would seem like you're ignoring what it's saying in the first place. But they did include a verse of scripture in this essay, and it was 2 Nephi 26, 33. And as you were describing yesterday, Bill, in talking about that all are alike unto God, that this verse all of a sudden becomes important. But that verse was also in place back before 1978, and it wasn't being referenced until now, because that seems to make it look better for having gotten rid of this discrimination against those with black skin. And it's funny because 2 Nephi 26, 33 is cited at the beginning of the essay, and it's also cited at the end of the essay.

So everything in between is supposed to go either from that passage or to that passage. You're right, Eric, if that passage was always there, why did they ignore it for so many years? Bill, I have one more question here, as far as David O. McKay implementing a policy that limited the ban only to men of black African descent, and then allowed others who had black skin from the islands, the Samoans, the Tongass, and others to be able to hold the priesthood and receive temple blessings. Well, what gave him the right to be able to do that? Did he have a revelation? It doesn't really explain that in the essay, it doesn't explain it here in the book, but I mean here you have this ban against those with black skin, all of a sudden now it's just for those with black skin with African heritage.

How did that come about? I guess that would be their whole explanation to this, and that would probably be in their minds why those other groups were excluded and were allowed to have the priesthood. But it is kind of complicated, there's no doubt about that, and as I mentioned, we're not going to be able to explain clearly just from a couple of verses in the Book of Abraham, which the Book of Abraham, folks, is spurious to begin with. We've already talked about that. No scholar goes along with Joseph Smith's translation of the Egyptian papyri that later became the Book of Abraham. Tomorrow we're going to continue looking at this chapter, Whiteness, Theology, and the Evolution of Mormon Racial Teachings. We hope you will join us again as we look at another viewpoint on Mormonism.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-07 22:14:57 / 2023-11-07 22:19:37 / 5

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