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Gospel Topics Chapter 10 Harris Part 4

Viewpoint on Mormonism / Bill McKeever
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June 9, 2021 9:47 pm

Gospel Topics Chapter 10 Harris Part 4

Viewpoint on Mormonism / Bill McKeever

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June 9, 2021 9:47 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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Mormonism 101, a book by Mormonism Research Ministries, Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson, has helped many who want to understand what separates Mormonism from the Christian faith.

Mormonism 101 is available at your favorite Christian bookstore or online at 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. So glad you could be with us for 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. We continue looking at chapter 10 of the book, the LDS Gospel Topics Series, a scholarly engagement, a chapter titled Whiteness Theology and the Evolution of Mormon Racial Teachings.

It was written by Matthew L. Harris, who is one of two editors of the book, along with Newell G. Bringhurst. It's discussing the Gospel Topics essay titled Race and the Priesthood, which was published on the official website of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on December 6, 2013. In yesterday's show, we were talking about what Mr. Harris had to say about 10th President Joseph Fielding Smith. Today, we're going to look at what he has to say regarding Joseph Fielding Smith's son-in-law, Bruce R. McConkie. He says on page 252, the Race and Priesthood essay also distorts the work of Apostle Bruce R. McConkie, whose own statements on Black priesthood denial are neither acknowledged nor explained in the Gospel Topics essay.

And I think we should explain what he means by distort. He uses the phrase, all are alike unto God, which of course comes from the Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 26-33. And Bruce McConkie was the one who gave a talk with that verse as the title of his message. So it gives the impression by citing his talk in the Gospel Topics essay that this was a position that Bruce McConkie always held, perhaps?

But we certainly know that isn't true. When you look at his book, Mormon Doctrine, and as Harris notes, this book first came out in 1958. It went through 40 printings, and ultimately was put out to pasture, if you will, in 2010. This was a very influential book, and that book has a lot of harsh things to say about those of African heritage. But what Bruce McConkie said in 1958, and in his second edition about a decade later, there were changes made. And yet, it was called, as we talked about yesterday, Joseph Fielding Smith's book, Doctrines of Salvation. This was called Mormon Doctrine.

So these are written by people who have authoritative status in the Church to be able to say what it is, and yet they still change their minds down the road. Well, what did McConkie say in Mormon Doctrine that Mr. Harris notes? On 253, Harris writes, McConkie asserted in Mormon Doctrine that Cain was the father of the Negroes, and that Cain, Ham, and the whole Negro race have been cursed with the black skin, so they can't be identified as a cast apart to keep blacks and whites from marrying. In another passage, McConkie averted that, quote, Negroes are not equal with other races where the receipt of certain spiritual blessings are concerned, particularly the priesthood and the temple blessings that flow therefrom, end quote. This inequality is not a man's origin, he added, but is the Lord's doing and is based on his eternal laws of justice. Notice McConkie credits the Lord for this doctrine. So a Latter-day Saint really can't use the excuse, well, we don't know why it began, we don't know who put it into place, really, other than perhaps, as the essay admits, Brigham Young.

But McConkie doesn't credit Brigham Young with that. He credits the Lord for bringing about this teaching, and he says, this inequality is not of man's origin, but is the Lord's doing and based on his eternal laws of justice. So the Lord put this in place, and those of African heritage violated what God had put in place. It goes on to say on page 253 that the essay cites the apostle's sermon, All Are Alike Unto God. Now this is getting back to why I think he uses the word distort, in which McConkie explained that church leaders spoke with a limited understanding during the 126-year-old ban.

Now think about the complications with that phrase. We have members in the church basically being punished based on the color of their skin for doing something they can't remember doing in the pre-existence. Now we're being told by Bruce McConkie that these leaders who did that did it with a limited understanding.

Well, doesn't that seem to open that Pandora's box that there could be other topics they might have a limited understanding on? Who's to say that another change couldn't be down the road regarding other things that now are considered doctrine? You can see that this becomes quite complicated, quite confusing, and you could even say even threatening to the so-called authority of these leaders who are claiming to speak on the behalf of God himself.

Unless, of course, God doesn't know what's going on down the road, and he has to change his mind ultimately as well. At the bottom of 253 he writes, More troubling, the essay selective reading of McConkie causes readers to assume incorrectly that he was progressive on racial matters when he was not. In published writings after the All Are Alike on a God sermon, McConkie continued teaching about the hierarchy of lineages and the divine curse. Now, he's going to leave McConkie for a bit, but McConkie comes up again in his chapter on page 265 when he is discussing a teaching that was put forth by the third president of the LDS Church, a man by the name of John Taylor. One of the clearest examples of LDS racial tropes came from John Taylor, the third president of the LDS Church, who taught, quote, that the devil should have a representation upon the earth, end quote, through the lineage of Cain and Ham. Let me stop you there, Eric, because Mr. Harris does not cite exactly what John Taylor said along those lines, so let me read for you what he said. And this is found in the Journal of Discourses, volume 22, page 304, a statement that John Taylor made on August 28, 1881. Taylor said, And after the flood, we are told that the curse that had been pronounced upon Cain was committed through Ham's wife, as he had married a wife of that seed.

And why did it pass through the flood? Because it was necessary that the devil should have a representation upon the earth as well as God. Now, Taylor didn't say that just once.

He said it twice on October 29, 1882, and this can be found in the Journal of Discourses, volume 23, page 336. Taylor said, Why is it, in fact, that we should have a devil? Why did not the Lord kill him long ago?

Because he could not do without him. He needed the devil and a great many of those who do his bidding just to keep men straight, that we may learn to place our dependence upon God and trust in him, and to observe his laws and his commandments. When he destroyed the inhabitants of the antediluvian world, he suffered a descendant of Cain to come through the flood in order that he might be properly represented upon the earth. Now, Harris uses what John Taylor says regarding the lineage of Cain and Ham to bring up what Bruce McConkie wrote in his book Mormon Doctrine. And he writes, Likewise, Bruce R. McConkie linked Negroes with the devil in Mormon Doctrine and promised that God would change their black skin after converting to Mormonism.

Negro bloody insisted would be purged out of a human soul by baptism, facilitated by the receipt of the Holy Ghost and personal righteousness. No less controversial, in 1969, church officials sought a dark-skinned person to represent Satan in the temple ceremony while at the same time invited a white man with Caucasian features to represent Jesus. Now, we should explain that for years the temple endowment ceremony was performed with live actors.

They did not have the benefit of video, of course, in the early years, and that's basically how it's all done now. Even the last bastions of live performances, such as in the Salt Lake Temple and the Manti Temple, after the renovation the Salt Lake Temple is going through right now, and the Manti Temple that's going to begin in October of this year, there will be no more live actors. So what Harris is bringing out, and he gets this from David John Berger's book, The Mystery of Godliness, a history of Mormon temple worship, which came out in 1994. He's citing page 169 if you want to look it up. But this is where he gets this statement that church officials sought a dark-skinned person to represent Satan in the temple ceremony while at the same time invited a white man with Caucasian features to represent Jesus. Eric, let me ask you, do you think a Latter-day Saint going through the endowment ceremony and seeing that could be bothered by what they see?

Or do you think because of what they've been told up until this time it probably really didn't mean much of anything to them? That's a great question we can't answer for every single person, but I believe, as you just said in the second part of that, many would have just accepted that because blacks were accursed with the mark of Cain, and therefore it seems to be a natural progression. On page 254, Harris talks about the Book of Mormon. I've heard a lot of Christians who misunderstand the connection between the Book of Mormon and the seed of Cain doctrine. They're really not the same, but we're talking about two different races. Harris notes on page 254, the Book of Mormon recounts the story of the Lamanites, whom God cursed with a dark skin for their wickedness. This would not be the seed of Cain, those of African heritage. So we need to keep in mind that we're not talking about the same people group.

In vivid detail, the Nephite prophets discuss how their rivals became, quote, a dark, filthy, and loathsome people full of idleness and all manner of abominations, end quote. Harris goes on to say, to maintain racial purity, the Book of Mormon prophets instructed the white and delights of Nephites not to mix seed with the sinful Lamanites, lest they bring the same curse upon their seed. Doesn't that sound very similar to what Mormon apostle Mark E. Peterson said in his speech titled, Race Problems as They Effect the Church?

Yeah, he said this August 27, 1954. If I were to marry a Negro woman and have children by her, my children would all be cursed as to the priesthood. Do I want my children cursed as to the priesthood? If there is one drop of Negro blood in my children, as I read to you, they receive the curse. There isn't any argument, therefore, as to intermarriage with the Negro, is there? Tomorrow, we're going to finish our series on this particular chapter, Whiteness, Theology, and the Evolution of Mormon Racial Teachings.

Thank you for listening. If you would like more information regarding Mormonism Research Ministry, we encourage you to visit our website at, where you can request our free newsletter, Mormonism Researched. We hope you will join us again as we look at another viewpoint on Mormonism. As with most Christian organizations, Mormonism Research Ministry depends on the generous financial support of friends like you. If you like what we do and how we do it, would you consider helping MRM meet its financial obligations? Merely go to our website, At the right, you'll see a donate button. Click there and follow the instructions. MRM is a Christian nonprofit 501c3 organization, and your gifts are tax deductible. Not only that, they are greatly appreciated. Thank you for your support of this ministry.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-06 15:37:53 / 2023-11-06 15:43:08 / 5

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