Juvenile Instructor » Guest Post: Professor Bott, Elijah Abel, and a Plea from the Past
 


Guest Post: Professor Bott, Elijah Abel, and a Plea from the Past

By: Paul Reeve - March 01, 2012

Paul Reeve is an associate professor in history at the University of Utah.  He is the author of the award winning Making Space on the Western Frontier: Mormons, Miners, and Southern Paiutes (2007), co-editor with Ardis Parshall of Mormonism: A Historical Encyclopedia  (2010), and co-editor with Michael Van Wagenen of Between Pulpit and Pew: The Supernatural World in Mormon History and Folklore (2011). He is the co-editor with Jared T. of H-Mormon, an H-Net group set to launch in the next few weeks. His current book, Religion of a Different Color explores the racialization of Mormons and is under contract with Oxford University Press. Please join us in giving Paul a warm welcome!

There have already been a number of excellent responses to Professor Bott’s racist remarks to the Washington Post.  I write not in an effort to dog pile on Professor Bott, but in the hope of honoring what I believe was the intent of an unknown writer of an important document in Mormon racial history, Elijah Abel’s obituary (Deseret News, vol. 33, no. 50 (31 December 1884), 800).  Certainly the Juvenile Instructor crowd will be familiar with Elijah Abel as one of at least two black men ordained to the lay Mormon priesthood in the first two decades of Mormonism.  The LDS Newsroom’s two responses yesterday to the Bott controversy both indicate that the Newsroom does not know the origins of the race based priesthood ban in Mormonism. There are aspects of the development of that ban that are knowable, however.  I see Abel’s appeal in 1879 for temple blessings as one important event in solidifying a racial policy.  There are others.  I resist drawing a firm line in the sand at a specific given year, simply because history is rarely so clear.  Rather I see a doctrine and policies developing over the course of the 19th century in fits and starts and in response to various people and events.  I offer the following excerpt from my forthcoming book, Religion of a Different Color (Oxford University Press), as a lens into one moment in that development:

Elijah Abel, as a black priesthood holder, marked an important transition taking place within Mormonism in real and personal ways.  Abel and his descendants were the exceptions that proved the rule, a rule that hardened in response to Abel himself.  LDS Church President Joseph F. Smith in 1908 recalled that Abel appealed to Brigham Young “for the privilege of receiving his [temple] endowments and to have his wife and children sealed to him, a privilege President Young could not grant.”  If Smith’s memory is accurate, that appeal does not survive in Young’s correspondence, but may have taken place in person, thereby leaving no paper trail.  In 1879, two years following Young’s death, a request to Young’s successor, John Taylor, does enter the historical record.   By that date Abel was the only known black priesthood holder in Mormonism and he desired to receive his full temple blessings.  In Kirtland, Ohio he received his washing and anointing, a temple ceremony designed to ritually wash the initiate clean from the sins and cares of the world.  It was the only part of the temple ritual introduced in the 1830s and Abel participated.  Abel was not at Nauvoo when the Saints received their “endowments” and he was not “sealed” to his wife and children, both ordinances which Joseph Smith, Jr., presented in the 1840s.  In 1879, Abel desired those higher ordinances for himself, especially because Mormon leaders taught that temple rituals were necessary for exaltation in the highest level of heaven.

Abel’s request, however, prompted an investigation into the status of blacks in Mormonism and marks an important moment in the ongoing development of Mormonism’s temple and priesthood bans.  It is an internal inquest that in itself demonstrates the lack of a firm and universally understood policy as late as 1879.  If a priesthood ban was unambiguously in place, why did Abel still hold the priesthood?  If a race based temple ban was standard, why the need for a top level inquest carried out under the direction of the Church’s top official, John Taylor, then leading Mormonism as President of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles?  While it is true that LDS officials were not actively ordaining black men to the priesthood, it is also true that in spite of Young’s forceful statements on the curses of Cain and Ham, even the highest officers in Mormonism were unsure on how to proceed in the case of Elijah Abel’s desire to participate in the crowning rituals available to Mormons and to realize his faith’s most sublime blessings.

It was in the investigation that ensued that the construction of false memories began a slow process of replacing verifiable evidence.  Two Mormons, Zebedee Coltrin and Abraham Smoot claimed to recall Joseph Smith, Jr., teaching that black men could not hold the priesthood.  Smoot’s recollections were intertwined with his efforts as a missionary in the South and the general Church policy against converting slaves without their master’s permission.  Coltrin’s memory was simply wrong.  He said Smith instituted a ban in 1834 and suggested that Abel’s ordination was a mistake and that he was dropped from his priesthood position as a Seventy when “the Prophet Joseph learned of his lineage.”  Abel was consistently counted as “mulatto” in the federal census, a designation that according to the law in most states, and according to social practice within and without Mormonism, equaled black.  His identity was never in doubt.  Coltrin himself ordained Abel a Seventy in 1836, two years after he claimed Smith implemented a ban.  In further refutation of Cotrin’s claims, Joseph F. Smith, then an Apostle, reported that Abel produced a certificate as to his status as a Seventy dated 1841 and another certificate given to him after his arrival in the Great Basin in 1853, again affirming his priesthood.  Abel himself told Smith that it was Coltrin who ordained him a Seventy and asserted that “the Prophet Joseph told him he was entitled to the priesthood.”

With such incontrovertible evidence, LDS leaders allowed Abel’s priesthood to stand.  He was not, however, allowed to receive his temple blessings.  He became the living exception to the priesthood ban even as he was used to formulate a temple prohibition.  Following Taylor’s high level investigation, Abel served a third mission for the Church, wore himself out in the service of his God, returned to Salt Lake City physically spent, and died within two weeks.  His obituary, published in the Deseret News was more a substantiation of his status as a faithful priesthood holder than it was a typical eulogy.  It noted that he was “ordained an Elder as appears by certificate dated March 3rd, 1836” and that he was “subsequently ordained a Seventy, as appears by certificate dated April 4, 1841.”  That latter certificate was actually a renewal of his status as a Seventy, an office initially bestowed in December 1836, less than a year after he was ordained an Elder, and reconfirmed twice thereafter.  Following his death, Abel’s obituary served as a third witness to his status as a black priesthood holder in Mormonism, a celebration of his race and his priesthood rank in the face of a shrinking space for black Mormons within their chosen faith.  Abel’s obituary reads as if its unknown writer were speaking to the ages, challenging not only those of Abel’s day, but future Mormons to dare to refute his priesthood and his devotion to Mormonism.  The obituary writer seems desperately self-aware of the transition then taking place within the faith, hoping beyond hope that the very pages of the newspaper that carried news of Abel’s death to Mormon homes throughout the Great Basin might create a wall, a bulwark against the pressing racism that was then threatening to erase everything that Abel represented.

Sadly, it was a barrier too thin to hold back the crush of a nation bent upon reestablishing white supremacy in the wake of black liberty and a faith too tightly wedded to those same ideas.  The challenge of Abel’s obituary went unheeded.  In 1908, Joseph F. Smith, by then Church President, the same man who defended Abel’s priesthood in 1879 when he cited Abel’s ordination certificates as empirical evidence substantiating the validity of that priesthood, inexplicably reversed himself and falsely reported to Mormon leaders that Abel’s priesthood at some point had been declared  “null and void by the Prophet himself.”  It was a move that placed a final brick in the wall of a race based priesthood policy and dishonored Abel’s commitment to the gospel in the process.  Abel’s obituary noted that he passed of “old age and debility, consequent upon exposure while laboring in the ministry in Ohio” and concluded that “He died in full faith of the Gospel.”  In Joseph F. Smith’s moment of historical forgetfulness, however, race trumped righteousness and rendered Abel’s blackness an insurmountable obstacle, a condition that “full faith” could not overcome.

Professor Bott’s recent comments to the Washington Post again dishonor Abel’s legacy.  If even one black Mormon was eligible for the priesthood before 1978, then all blacks were.  In Elijah Abel all of the hokey rationalizations and false justifications for a race based temple and priesthood ban fall by the wayside.  If even one black Mormon was eligible for the priesthood before 1978, then all blacks were.  Abel was not in need of white paternalism in 1883 when he served a third mission for Mormonism at the age of 75 and he certainly does not deserve it in 2012.  I recommend Elijah Abel’s obituary to Mormons everywhere as a bulwark against an historical forgetfulness that continues to threaten to erase everything that Abel represented.  He was black and Mormon and filled with the Priesthood of almighty God, all facts that John Taylor’s investigation could not refute.  Let us today honor what I believe is an entreaty across time and space, a plea from the unknown writer of Abel’s obituary to Mormons everywhere to never forget his priesthood, his race, and his devotion to Mormonism.

Share and enjoy:


70 Comments

  1. Paul, nicely done.

    Two questions: What about Elijah’s descendants? If I understand the history correctly, both his son and grandson were also ordained to the priesthood. How do you place them in the historic record of the priesthood ban?

    Comment by EmJen — March 1, 2012 @ 9:13 pm

  2. “He was black and Mormon and filled with the Priesthood of almighty God…”

    I love this.

    Thanks, Paul.

    Comment by Mark Brown — March 1, 2012 @ 9:21 pm

  3. If even one black Mormon was eligible for the priesthood before 1978, then all blacks were. In Elijah Abel all of the hokey rationalizations and false justifications for a race based temple and priesthood ban fall by the wayside.

    Amen! Thank you for a beautiful post.

    Comment by Tracy M — March 1, 2012 @ 9:24 pm

  4. Holy moly, this post is awesome. It would be great to get all these recent posts on race together and pamphleteer them.

    Bloggernacle FTW over the last 3 days.

    Comment by Jacob — March 1, 2012 @ 9:29 pm

  5. This is the best thing that’s been written during this whole week! Bravo, Paul.

    In addition to shouting Elijah Abel’s legacy and putting the lie to the paternalistic assumptions of Bott (representing so many others), this explication needs to serve as a caution to the whole Bloggernacle: It is the ‘nacle’s longstanding conclusion that the priesthood restriction is based on little or nothing more than Brigham Young’s racism. Paul conclusively demonstrates, in even this short piece of his argument, that historical truth is not that neatly defined, that the questions and debates and uncertainties that eventually coalesced into the restriction took place over time, with contributions from many, and are not solely traceable to Brigham Young’s attitudes and fiat. Don’t make him a scapegoat as if he were all guilty and the rest of 19th and 20th century Mormondom were all innocent. The tidy conclusion that “It was all Brigham’s doing!” doesn’t hold much water.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — March 1, 2012 @ 9:53 pm

  6. Abel was not in need of white paternalism in 1883 when he served a third mission for Mormonism at the age of 75 and he certainly does not deserve it in 2012.

    This is an absolutely fantastic post, Paul, thank you.

    Comment by Jared T — March 1, 2012 @ 9:54 pm

  7. Not only brilliant, but also very moving. Thanks for reminding me that I do love Mormonism.

    Comment by SC Taysom — March 1, 2012 @ 10:04 pm

  8. EmJen, Good questions. You’ll note that I refer to

    Abel and his descendants

    as

    the exceptions that proved the rule

    .

    That is a too simplistic answer, however, to what I think is a more complex problem. I haven’t looked into the circumstances surrounding the ordinations of his son and grandson, the latter ordained an Elder in 1935. I don’t know what is knowable about those events. (Quincy Newell is researching lived religion and race or Max Mueller). Did his children and grandchildren pass as white? I assume the ordinations were decisions made on a local level. Were those responsible even aware of anything out of the ordinary in their status within Mormonism? There are a lot of unanswered questions which highlight a need for deeper research into race and the first few decades of the 20th century, a neglected era. Margaret might know more details or Newell Bringhurst who writes briefly about Abel’s descendants in Black and Mormon. What I can say is that Abel’s descendants highlight the impossibility of enforcing a “one drop” rule in priesthood ordination and temple attendance. There are enough questions coming into headquarters regarding percentage of “negro blood” that it is evident leaders were forced to grapple with the issue and like the state of Virginia they adopted a “one drop” rule by the early 20th century. It was an impossible standard both in US court cases (see Ariel Gross’s fabulous book, What Blood Wont Tell: A History of Race on Trial in America) and in a priesthood/temple ban.

    Comment by Paul Reeve — March 1, 2012 @ 10:15 pm

  9. Excellent article. It has been apparent for some time that there never was a “justification” for the practice of withholding the priesthood and temple blessings from black members. As a human institution, the church was and remains subject to imperfections, including vulnerability to racism and other sins. I think the church’s ability to stand up against opposition actually worked against leaders as they sought to support their predecessors. They may have assumed earlier leaders had received guidance they never got; at least there is no record they ever received it. Some remembrances were demonstrably false. Certainly attempts to retrofit the practice into doctrine was clutching at straws. Since no revelation ever directed the practice, President Kimball’s revelation did not refute any previous direction from God. Unlike plural marriage, no suspension of previous commandments was involved. The injustice to black members arose when leaders decided. on their own, to accept the views of society at the time, and perhaps to be willfully blind to the need for redress.

    Comment by Ron Barker — March 1, 2012 @ 10:44 pm

  10. And there’s still much more to tell about Elijah Abel’s life. When he moved to Cincinnati in 1843, Cincinnati was reeling from one of the worst race riots in American history, and Abel moved within a few blocks of the action. Yet he managed to live in a white neighborhood, far removed from the ghettos of black textile workers on the East end of town. He lived there for the next ten years. As a carpenter and a mulatto, he was almost certainly respected as a community leader. He was well-enough established that Henry Nissonger (an apostle in William Smith’s movement) would live move in with him–with William Smith following shortly thereafter in 1849/1850. Further, since Cincinnati was the connecting link for the Underground Railroad network, Abel may well have been a participant in abolitionist activities.

    Some of this is documented but much needs some deep digging in the Cincinnati local archives. Elijah Abel represents more than Mormonism’s most famous black elder; he represents the Mormon character’s capacity for sticking with it even in adverse circumstances.

    Comment by Russell S. — March 1, 2012 @ 10:51 pm

  11. Thanks, Paul, this is fantastic.

    Comment by David G. — March 1, 2012 @ 10:53 pm

  12. Thanks all for your very kind comments. I thought I was going to be comment #2 when I sat down to respond to EmJen, was interrupted for dinner, typed some more, then prayers and scriptures, typed some more, then laundry duty, then clicked “add my comment” and found my response to EmJen was #8. Didn’t mean to act as if I hadn’t noticed the other comments. You are all very nice. Taysom, I was also moved when I sat down to write about Abel’s obituary. I saw it in a different light and the words just flowed. I hope I captured the writer’s intent.

    Comment by Paul Reeve — March 1, 2012 @ 10:58 pm

  13. Beautiful words Paul, thank you!

    Also, is it odd to anybody else that the obituary did not mention his race? His status as a part of a very small minority seems like a noteworthy fact to mention. But I don’t know. Thoughts?

    Comment by Tod Robbins — March 1, 2012 @ 11:21 pm

  14. Thank you, Paul. I look forward to using the obituary in my classes now.

    Comment by Rachel — March 1, 2012 @ 11:26 pm

  15. Thank you for this post. I had a thought while reading this. Do you think that the Ensign would print a story on Elijah Abel? That seems like it might be a good way for members to become more familiar with the history surrounding the ban.

    Comment by mapman — March 1, 2012 @ 11:43 pm

  16. 15. You made me wonder if Elijah Abel is ever mentioned in the Ensign, and I found this note about his grave monument from 2003: http://www.lds.org/ensign/2003/01/news-of-the-church?lang=eng

    Comment by EmJen — March 1, 2012 @ 11:56 pm

  17. In fact, I searched LDS.org for “Elijah Abel” and found that one mention. “Jane Manning James” had two results.

    Comment by EmJen — March 2, 2012 @ 12:03 am

  18. Tod, I read the lack of mention of Abel’s race as an indication that it was an understood fact. No need to mention what everyone knows.

    EmJen, did you notice there is no mention of Abel’s priesthood in the ensign piece, even though the monument that was dedicated has it etched in granite. It completely avoids what is so significant about Abel in the first place. The DesNews report of the monument did mention his priesthood. With the press releases yesterday the Newsroom at least is on record as acknowledging that some black males were ordained to the priesthood.

    Comment by Paul Reeve — March 2, 2012 @ 12:10 am

  19. “Abel’s obituary reads as if its unknown writer were speaking to the ages, challenging not only those of Abel’s day, but future Mormons to dare to refute his priesthood and his devotion to Mormonism.”

    Masterful, as usual. Thanks for not piling it on, but putting it beautifully.

    Comment by Andrea R-M — March 2, 2012 @ 12:13 am

  20. My reading tonight was Samuel Eliot Morison’s “History as a Literary Art” (1946). I recognize Paul’s as the writing Morison was calling for, for bits like the line Andrea picks out.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — March 2, 2012 @ 12:28 am

  21. Well stated. Thanks for sharing.

    Comment by Katie Blakesley — March 2, 2012 @ 12:37 am

  22. Paul, I’m sure your words ring as both insightful and moving, and that many Church members today would willing, enthusiastically second them. I can’t help wondering, though, what the reaction to them would’ve been in, say, the mid-1960s. I understand it’s a risky undertaking to attempt to second-guess the past and especially past attitudes and beliefs. Still, I wonder in what and how many ways President Kimball’s 1978 revelation opened the way to more than priesthood ordination.

    Comment by Gary Bergera — March 2, 2012 @ 1:11 am

  23. Beautiful. Thank you.

    Comment by janiecej — March 2, 2012 @ 2:13 am

  24. Wonderful post, thanks so much for it. JFS’s “null and void” statement is heartbreaking…can you give more details on the context of that quote?

    Comment by Kyle M — March 2, 2012 @ 2:14 am

  25. Well done, Paul. Thanks.

    Comment by WVS — March 2, 2012 @ 2:37 am

  26. Epic. Now go finish that book because I can assure you that we are all even more excited for the finished product.

    Comment by Ben P — March 2, 2012 @ 3:54 am

  27. In case anyone else was interested, here are the images of Elijah Abel’s monument:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:ElijahAbelGraveFront.jpg
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:ElijahAbelGraveBack.jpg

    Comment by EmJen — March 2, 2012 @ 9:56 am

  28. Thanks for this post (and the ones on Keepapitchinin recently). At the risk of being obnoxious, do you have a projected timeline for publication? Clearly our appetites have been whetted.

    Comment by Craig M. — March 2, 2012 @ 10:36 am

  29. #22, Gary, You make a very good point. I think the reaction would be very different in the 1960s. We were digging in our heals back then, rather than searching for forgiveness and crawling towards repentance.

    Comment by Paul Reeve — March 2, 2012 @ 10:57 am

  30. #24, Kyle M: It is a council meeting in Aug 1908. The leaders are dealing with a letter from the mission president in South Africa. He wants to know what to do “where people tainted with negro blood embrace the Gospel.” And whether to preach to the Zulus, as one Zulu leader had joined and wanted missionaries to preach to others. Joseph F. Smith then rehearses his reconstructed memory of Elijah Abel and refers back to the decisions of Young, Taylor, and Woodruff in denying both Abel and Jane M. James temple blessings. He is making his decision, in other words, based upon accumulating precedent.

    #28, Craig M., The manuscript is due to the press this fall. I’m making every effort to hit that deadline. I should note that the book is about much more than blacks. There is a chapter on the ways in which Mormons were conflated with Indians, with Asians, and how they were constructed as a “foreign” menace on American soil.

    Comment by Paul Reeve — March 2, 2012 @ 11:07 am

  31. Interesting that it’s a question among mission leaders as late as 1908. My great grandfather was a mission president in Brooklyn around the same time…I haven’t looked through his papers, but I wonder how/if he dealt with it. I know he preached at The Apollo Theater in Harlem…

    Comment by Kyle M — March 2, 2012 @ 11:59 am

  32. Thank you for this extremely thoughtful and provocative reading of Elijah Abel and his place in both LDS and race history.

    As the biographer of black Elder Q. Walker Lewis (1798-1856) and a researcher of the history of “the ban” for over 30 years, I wish to note that several other black men held LDS priesthood before December 1847, when Brigham Young began instigating the priesthood and temple ban.

    Joseph T. Ball, an Afro-Jamaican Mormon, was ordained a High Priest (probably by William Smith, Joseph’s youngest brother) before 1845. He was also sent to Nauvoo in 1845 by Parley P. Pratt to receive his endowments in the Nauvoo temple, but apostatized and became a Strangite before doing so.

    Black Pete of Kirtland also likely held the priesthood, as he did baptize others into the Mormon faith.

    Elder Lewis’s son, Enoch Lovejoy Lewis, held priesthood and preached with Apostle Orson Hyde in Boston in memoriam of Joseph Smith’s death. (Quaker poet John Greenleaf Whittier left a beautiful and moving account of this event.) His marriage to a white LDS woman in 1846 and the birth of their inter-racial child was one of the major catalyst’s in Young’s decision to instigate the ban.

    Warner “William” McCary, an ex-slave from Mississippi who pretended to be an Afro-Indian named Okah Tubbee, married Lucy Stanton, daughter of Zarahemla Stake President Daniel Stanton (and a devotee of Black Pete back in Kirtland), in Nauvoo in early 1846. Orson Hyde married the couple and ordained McCary an Elder. The McCarys then went to Winter Quarters where McCary started his own polygamous church, being sealed to several white LDS women in a sexualized sealing ceremony. This was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. Upon hearing of Enoch Lovejoy Lewis’s interracial marriage and witnessing McCary’s founding of his own church, Young instigated the priesthood and temple ban.

    Also of note is that Elijah Abel also apostatized from Brighamite Mormonism for some time. While living in Cincinnati OH in the late 1840, he joined William Smith’s LDS Church, based in Covington KY (just across the river from Cincinnati). One of William’s apostles, Henry Nisonger, and his family even lived for a time with Elijah Abel and his family. And they hid William Smith when it was discovered by the press that William too was practicing a form of polygamy. Eventually Elijah Abel did return to mainstream Mormonism and finally moved to Utah in the mid-1850s.

    Given that most of the black Elders had sexual relationships with white women (which Young found to be an abomination) and all of them eventually apostatized, Young likely felt Blacks (and men especially) were not worthy.

    There are also a multitude of other instances in which people of African descent received the priesthood and/or were allowed to participate in temple ceremonies. The case of Harriet Elnora Birchard Church is the most fascinating. She was a slave from Tennessee who married her white master and they had ten children. They converted to Mormonism (in the 1870s I believe) and moved to Utah. Half of her children were allowed to hold priesthood and participate in temple ceremonies. The other half were officially denied this, because of her status as a former African-American slave. However, she herself, was allowed to enter the Salt Lake temple to be endowed and sealed to her husband on April 8, 1903 – the only ex-slave ever known to have been allowed into an LDS temple.

    While much is now known about this topic and many important questions have been answered, there is still much to learn. Certainly, reflective of the human condition, the history of it is messy, vibrant, contradictory, and compelling.

    Comment by Connell O'Donovan — March 2, 2012 @ 12:41 pm

  33. Correction – I do not know that Abel “joined” William’s church. I should have said he “affiliated with” it instead.

    Connell

    Comment by Connell O'Donovan — March 2, 2012 @ 12:43 pm

  34. Paul, thank you for this. I join in anticipation for your upcoming book – it sounds like a needed contribution to the larger narrative of race and the Church.

    Comment by Ardis S. — March 2, 2012 @ 1:24 pm

  35. Beautiful. Thank you.

    Comment by Rachel Hunt Steenblik — March 2, 2012 @ 3:10 pm

  36. “Let us today honor what I believe is an entreaty across time and space, a plea from the unknown writer of Abel’s obituary to Mormons everywhere to never forget his priesthood, his race, and his devotion to Mormonism.”

    Beautiful. Thank you.

    PS: The “inexplicably reversed himself” is haunting.

    Comment by Clean Cut — March 2, 2012 @ 4:40 pm

  37. Excellent and moving! Thank you. Now I want to pay a visit to Abel’s gravesite. (Thanks for the photos, Jen.)

    Reading this post made me realize something surprising — and especially pertinent, especially given all the discussion about how to handle the delicate subject of fallibility in Church leaders. It occured to me that those who staunchly relied on Joseph Smith’s so-called reversal, his supposed declaration that Abel’s priesthood was “null and void,” are asserting a position that is, well, reliant on a modern prophet having been wrong. In other words, aren’t Coltrin (and later Joseph F. Smith) asserting that Joseph Smith must have been wrong in initially ordaining Abel? So, the next time someone asks me how it’s possible for me to believe that so many Latter-day prophets could possibly have just been wrong about the ban, I am tempted to respond that a large part of the codifying of the ban was premised on an assuption that the original Latter-day Prophet was wrong.

    An ironic twist, I think.

    Comment by Hunter — March 2, 2012 @ 5:03 pm

  38. Oh, one more thing: Paul, does any of your research give you insight as to why the ban becomes characterized as a “priesthood ban,” when it clearly was also a temple/sacramental ban (as demonstrated by Jane Manning’s case)?

    Comment by Hunter — March 2, 2012 @ 5:05 pm

  39. #31 Kyle M., Yes it would be interesting to see if it cropped up there. With no handbook of instruction, it keeps popping up and prompting inquiries. There is so much will still don’t know, like how racial issues played out among the ungathered branches and wards and in missions. At what point does “Go ye into all the world,” devolve to “except to blacks, unless they really, really insist.”

    #32, Connell, I know your work. I admire especially the painstaking research that you did on Q. Walker Lewis, to rescue him from obscurity. Thank you. I wish there were some additional scraps of evidence for his visit to Utah. As for others with the priesthood I am opting to for a cautious “at least two” only because the evidence for some of the rest is not as conclusive. The Harriet Church case is further evidence of inconsistencies and exceptions. Are there documented reasons why she was allowed her endowment and sealing? It highlights again how difficult policing a ban could be, especially if the leaders attempted to apply the “one drop” rule.

    #37, Hunter, that is an interesting twist that I hadn’t considered before.

    #38, Hunter, I haven’t really tried to track that specifically, but I think that it likely stems from a couple of things: it is first articulated by PPPratt in 1847 as a priesthood issue, and then BY fully develops and lays out his rationale for it as a priesthood ban. In application, however, its corollary was a temple ban that was enforced against Abel and, as you note, Jane Manning James and others. It was more complicated than a priesthood issue but was truncated and remembered as only about priesthood. And then when leaders started using the book of Abraham to shore up the ban, it was again tied to the priesthood.

    Comment by Paul Reeve — March 3, 2012 @ 12:15 am

  40. [...] 9:13 pm: Juvenile Instructor Guest Paul Reeve discusses Elijah Abel’s experiences in response to Bott’s comments. [added 3 Mar 2012 o1:03 [...]

    Pingback by The Bott Gaffe: A Chronology [Updated] | Times & Seasons — March 3, 2012 @ 1:03 am

  41. As an Afro-Caribbean woman, I have been very much interested in the many blog discussions concerning the Bott-gaffe or the Bott-gate.
    So I would like to thank Paul for the wealth of information he provided concerning Elijah Abel.

    I was wondering if we should not review all these contradictions in the Church’s position concerning Elijah Abel with some additional light from the Scriptures: I mean 2 Nephi 26.

    Generally we quote the last verse (2 Nephi 26: 33)
    How about reading the whole thing? Could we not read from verses 23-24?

    23 For behold, my beloved brethren, I say unto you that the Lord God worketh not in darkness.

    24 He doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world; for he loveth the world, even that he layeth down his own life that he may draw call men unto him. Wherefore, he commandeth none that they shall not partake of his salvation.
    And before reaching verse 33 which is the climax of Nephi’s demonstration, should not we read verses 28 and 29?
    28 Behold, hath the Lord commanded any that they should not partake of his goodness? Behold I say unto you, Nay; but all men are privileged the one like unto the other, and none are forbidden.

    29 He commandeth that there shall be no priestcrafts; for, behold, priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion.

    Interestingly enough, we have here, in a very close proximity “all men are privileged” “none are forbidden” and the word

    priestcrafts

    .
    Paul Reeve said:

    In 1908, Joseph F. Smith, by then Church President, the same man who defended Abel’s priesthood in 1879 when he cited Abel’s ordination certificates as empirical evidence substantiating the validity of that priesthood, inexplicably reversed himself and falsely reported to Mormon leaders that Abel’s priesthood at some point had been declared “null and void by the Prophet himself.”

    Joseph F. Smith probably thought he was working in the interest of the Church and even serving God.

    What about verse 30?
    Wherefore, if they should have charity they would not suffer the laborer in Zion to perish.

    And the very beginning of verse 33 has probably much to tell us:
    33 For none of these iniquities come of the Lord; for he doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men;

    I do not want to emit a personal judgment but I guess all of us should go back to the scriptures and especially 2 Nephi26: 23-33.
    Is it likely that our Heavenly father, and his Son Jesus-Christ both of them being the very source of any justice might approve such a gross injustice like the one which was done to Elijah Abel and to the entire African (or black) race?

    Comment by Lucienne Jeanne — March 3, 2012 @ 9:16 am

  42. Fabulous Paul! Thank you.

    Comment by Reb — March 3, 2012 @ 10:02 am

  43. #41, Lucienne, Thank you! and Amen. When I read the statements and decisions on race from the past, I too wonder why no one was opening their scriptures to 2 Nephi 26. Someone really needs to do a historical study of that chapter, see how and if it was quoted in the past and mark its transition over time. Why is it that only after 1978 do we champion it? The simple answer is because our racial doctrine and policies violated it before 1978, but I’d like to verify that. In tracing the bans over time, if the brethren were relying on scriptures they were relying upon Genesis and the curses of Cain and Ham and upon the book of Abraham, not 2 Nephi 26. On their misreading of Abraham I highly recommend Alma Allred’s chapter, “The Traditions of Their Fathers: Myth versus Reality in LDS Scriptural Writings,” in Black and Mormon edited by Newell G. Bringhurst and Darron T. Smith.

    You might also be interested in my guest posts at Keepapitchinin (here and here) a few weeks back

    Comment by Paul Reeve — March 3, 2012 @ 1:14 pm

  44. I’ll be teaching Gospel Doctrine #10, “He Inviteth All to Come Unto Him,” which draws from 2 Nephi 26-30, in two weeks (we have stake conference this weekend which throws everything back). While the manual presents these chapters in an almost totally historical context of “this is what happened among the Neptties and led to their downfall,” the lesson purpose and the general instruction to “liken these things unto ourselves” makes this an ideal opening to discuss these very matters, even the specific illustration of this week, even for the most straightlaced stick-to-the-manual ward. Even the suggested attention activity speaks of illusions that lead the Saints away “from the pure truth of God,” a perfect introductory concept.

    Lucienne, thanks for your comment. You can count on these ideas being a prominent part of my lesson preparation over the next two weeks.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — March 3, 2012 @ 2:12 pm

  45. Paul, I find the preface of Bringhurst’s Saints, Slaves, and Blacks interesting on this point, since he explains that he had to revise his research in the wake of the 1978 revelation to recover the universalist ideas that had co-existed with anti-black racism since earliest Mormonism. It might be worth revisiting his book or contacting him for his thoughts on the reception history of 2 Nephi 26.

    http://www.juvenileinstructor.org/universalism-mormon-history-and-the-1978-revelation/

    Comment by David G. — March 3, 2012 @ 3:30 pm

  46. Paul,

    Thank you for the links to your posts at Keepapitchinin.

    These posts explain the 19th century context which caused a racially “integrated” church to turn into a church elevating folklore or prejudice to a “God’s word” status.

    Of course, explanation is not justification.

    It can only show us how easy it is to wander away from the strait gate, and the narrow way, “which leadeth unto life”.

    And once again, thank you.

    Comment by Lucienne Jeanne — March 3, 2012 @ 4:37 pm

  47. [...] Declaration 2Shawn: Repudiating Racism: A BlackRFB: Repudiating Racism: A BlackLucienne Jeanne: Guest Post: Professor Bott,David G.: Guest Post: Professor Bott,Ardis E. Parshall: Guest Post: Professor Bott,Hajj Idries: [...]

    Pingback by Juvenile Instructor » JI Resources on Blacks and the Priesthood — March 4, 2012 @ 3:05 pm

  48. Paul,
    Well written and definitely comprehensive. However, along with all the comments, “Beautiful,” “Epic,” “Fabulous,” “best ever written on the subject”, etc., I would like to add mine “Narrow.” Although the Elijah Abel obituary info is significant in verifying that at least one black man held the priesthood early on and served the church faithfully that does not override the doctrine of continuous revelation. Because all details are not always known, sometimes even to the brethren, as to why the Lord directs his work a certain way does not presuppose it has faltered in its direction. I find no conflict in comparing the principles of God’s love and universal availability of salvation found in 2 Nephi 26 and the withholding of priesthood for those of African descent until 1978. Elder Joseph Sitati seems to find no problem with it either,

    “Christ came only to the Jews and not until the end of his mission did he commission the apostles to go to all the world. Different communities are invited to participate in the plan of salvation at different times. What is important is that the salvation to which they are invited is the same. It doesn’t matter that the Jews were the first, if you like, and the Africans are the last.”

    See Elder Sitati’s 9 minute conference address given in 2009. I would vote for broader thinking on this subject. May we be careful to not draw hasty of sweeping conclusions based on lack of information. The anti’s and media do that enough for us.

    Comment by Robert Canaan — March 4, 2012 @ 4:56 pm

  49. Robert, speaking of narrow, your response amounts to little more than a dubious appeal to authority. As do other responses that continue to uphold the ban as just.

    Responses like yours demonstrate that the two statements issued last week will only get us so far.

    Comment by Jared T — March 4, 2012 @ 5:06 pm

  50. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a call for broader thinking issued by a narrower mind.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — March 4, 2012 @ 5:10 pm

  51. “Responses like yours demonstrate that the two statements issued last week will only get us so far.” I am just curious, who is the “us” and where are you trying to “get?”

    Comment by Robert Canaan — March 4, 2012 @ 6:09 pm

  52. Us includes you and the get is to get past the racist elements in our shared institutional past.

    The newly released statements say “The Church unequivocally condemns racism, including any and all past racism by individuals both inside and outside the Church.”

    I read that as including the racist statements of people that were used to justify a ban which was racially discriminatory. And it includes the racism inherent in comments like yours that seek to uphold the ban as justified before the Lord.

    Comment by Jared T — March 4, 2012 @ 6:24 pm

  53. “… comments like yours that seek to uphold the ban as justified before the Lord” without offering one iota of reasoning or evidence, beyond the wresting of words of one man. Elder Sitati is not embittered by history; he knows that a just God provides for the salvation of all, even those who were invited late to the table. His statements don’t justify the resistance of those who prevented the invitation from being issued earlier, or those who would lock the door on them now.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — March 4, 2012 @ 6:46 pm

  54. You’re right. The racist elements are there for all to see who are looking for them. Thanks for sharing your eye-opening insights.

    Comment by Robert Canaan — March 4, 2012 @ 7:03 pm

  55. Your lack of concern for racism is pathetic, particularly when juxtaposed with the Church’s recent statements condemning it. Good bye, Robert Canaan.

    Comment by Jared T — March 4, 2012 @ 7:08 pm

  56. Has it occurred to anyone here that maybe the reason Brigham Young would not allow Elijah Abel to receive his temple endowments had more to do with the content of the man’s character than the color of his skin? Maybe the prophet who interviewed the man actually had some God-given inspiration regarding the man’s worthiness? Is that even remotely possible?

    Comment by Mike Reed — March 4, 2012 @ 7:08 pm

  57. Mike, I think that the deep association between temple endowment and evangelism would suggest that if Able was fit for a missionary service, he would have been fit for the temple.

    Comment by J. Stapley — March 4, 2012 @ 7:11 pm

  58. Wow, now there’s a convincing argument, if ever I heard one. No way a prophet could receive inspiration regarding a man’s temple-worthiness. The only possible explanation for denying Abel a temple recommend is racism. Sheesh.

    Comment by Mike Reed — March 4, 2012 @ 7:17 pm

  59. You don’t read well, do you Reed? Paul outlines pretty well what is known about Elijah Abel’s case and what’s at issue is clearly his race not his worthiness. This is a historical blog. You come here and disrespect a well researched and well thought out piece of writing and ignore Stapley’s well reasoned response based on nothing more than some figment of your imagination? Contribute constructively to the historical conversation taking place or take your groundless theories elsewhere, this is your and everyone else’s only warning.

    Comment by Jared T — March 4, 2012 @ 7:28 pm

  60. #45, David G., Thanks for reminding me of your earlier post on universalism and Bringhurst. I’ve used some of his sources on the subject. I agree, he does a good job of tracing universalist ideas over time. I should definitely talk to him about 2 Nephi 26:33. I thought it would make an interesting article to do an analysis of GC addresses over time, or some such study. It is my impression that we (myself included) like to quote verse 33 now that we are post ’78. One of the Newsroom’s statements the other day used “All are Alike” in its subtitle, and I recall a book with that title about missionary work in Africa post ’78.

    I’m just curious if and how it was quoted and used pre ’78. Certainly the universalist sentiment diminished by the early 20th century (but doesn’t disappear altogether, like you mention; it coexists with the hardening ban). One conclusion of the 1908 meeting werein Joseph F. Smith changes his earlier position on Abel, was:

    it was understood that our Elders should not take the initiative in proselyting among the negro people, but if negroes or people tainted with negro blood apply for baptism themselves they might be admitted to Church membership in the understanding that nothing further can be done for them.

    Comment by Paul Reeve — March 4, 2012 @ 8:44 pm

  61. Wonderful, Paul. Thank you.

    Comment by Christopher — March 4, 2012 @ 9:06 pm

  62. Paul, thank you so much for this amazing article. Dave and I were a ward with you in SLC and always found your perspective to be open, thoughtful, well-researched and fascinating. This is no exception. While no longer practicing Mormons, we still very much love, and are proud of, our church “people” and heritage. You’re voice in the church is so appreciated. Best to your family.

    Comment by Karin Thomas — March 5, 2012 @ 8:56 am

  63. #62, Karin, it it great to hear from you. Thanks for your kind remarks. We still have “Karin’s Veggie Chile Recipe” (yum) and still laugh about Dave’s Ammon “skit” for the primary program. Please tell Dave hi. God bless.

    Comment by Paul Reeve — March 5, 2012 @ 11:18 am

  64. Paul,

    I appreciate the articulate words and research, but the subsequent discussions that proceed leave so much to be desired. Forgotten in all the discussion is the only thing that separates Mormonism from the rest of religious claims – modern revelation. Mormon history is littered with over-rationalizing doctrines with limited understanding as Dr. Bott has proven to still exist among us. We all seem to want an answer from history that only seems to expose our own limited understanding. Is it not sufficient to accept Bruce R McConkie’s apologetic appeal in context of the ’78 revelation, when he says “Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or President George Q. Cannon or whomsoever has said in days past that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world.” It is unfortunate that despite Joseph Smith’s seemingly progressive ideas on race, subsequent prophets did not follow. Although, does it not seem that bringing those admittedly incorrect views back to the table over and over again, only denies the effectiveness of modern revelation? For those that believe such I don’t think it should. I certainly hope that my own personal revelations keep me progressing forward and that I’m not dragged over the coals for my incorrect views of the past. I’d love to ramble even more, but I’d love some of your thoughts.

    Comment by Sean Y — March 6, 2012 @ 4:49 am

  65. So, what are you saying, Sean? You’re complaining that we keep talking about the racist views of the past instead of just leaving it alone? By continuing to discuss past racism, we’re denying the ’78 revelation? Seriously? If this subject is good enough for the Church to discuss in their last two official statements, without fearing Sean Y’s condemnation for not revering the ’78 revelation, then who are you to say otherwise about conversations about the history of racism and the priesthood ban at a historical blog? This is not a forum for you to self-servingly accuse people of denying modern revelation, so drop that and participate constructively or take it elsewhere.

    Comment by Jared T — March 6, 2012 @ 7:24 am

  66. Jared,

    The church’s statement made it very clear that they didn’t have an answer for how, why or when the ban was implemented. Just like Bruce R McConkie before, they also made an admission that speculations about such were simply wrong. A lesson that Dr Bott certainly didn’t learn (the impetus for the church’s statement in the first place).

    The history that Paul has exposed about Elijah Abel is both interesting and important, my point of discussion really had nothing to do with that as much as it did with the speculations that continues to ensue. I fail to see where I “self-servingly accuse people of denying modern revelation”. It is true that this particular post does not contain the vapid posts on how vile a racist Brigham Young or the church has been, as do most posts chronicled on the subject. My appeal was specific to Paul, as I saw him as a well researched source for a discussion about modern revelation and its effectiveness to help people move beyond the past. It appears to me that the success of the church in Brazil and Africa has proven that out.

    The reality is this, whether the ban came from racism or from inspiration, the Lord allowed it to continue until a revelation changed such. It is not the continuation to discuss past racism that is denying the revelation, it is the continuation of beliefs that racist speculations of the past were not proven false by the revelation. In other words, Dr Bott is who I would call into question for his belief of modern revelation. Did the revelation not prove to him that blacks were not fence sitters in the pre-existence? Did the revelation not prove to him that blacks did not bear the mark of Cain? Did it not prove to him that blacks have always been every bit as capable of honoring the priesthood as any other race?

    I would like to think that if Brigham Young had received the same revelation that Spencer W Kimball received that he would have disavowed all his previous statements just as Bruce R McConkie did. Would it make any sense for us at that point to continue to call Brigham Young a racist as so many still believe McConkie to be because of his racist speculations prior to the ’78 revelation?

    Comment by Sean Y — March 7, 2012 @ 2:13 am

  67. Sean, thank you for clarifying. I’m glad to see that I misinterpreted your previous comment. That said, I still disagree with your underlying premise.

    “It is not the continuation to discuss past racism that is denying the revelation, it is the continuation of beliefs that racist speculations of the past were not proven false by the revelation.”

    If you’re saying here that the ’78 revelation was sufficient in itself to dispel the folklore, I disagree. Where in the Official Declaration does that happen? If you’re referring to McConkie’s statement in conjunction with OD2, I still disagree. We like to give McConkie a lot of credit for his “forget everything” statement, and it’s a remarkable statement, but I don’t think it’s nearly as descriptive as we like to think.

    What was it that McConkie was calling on people to forget? All the folklore? Hardly. The first part of his talk is a lengthy justification of the ban. Then, the key paragraphs are these (emphasis mine):

    We have read these passages and their associated passages for many years. We have seen what the words say and have said to ourselves, “Yes, it says that, but we must read out of it the taking of the gospel and the blessings of the temple to the Negro people, because they are denied certain things.” There are statements in our literature by the early Brethren which we have interpreted to mean that the Negroes would not receive the priesthood in mortality. I have said the same things, and people write me letters and say, “You said such and such, and how is it now that we do such and such?” And all I can say to that is that it is time disbelieving people repented and got in line and believed in a living, modern prophet. Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or President George Q. Cannon or whomsoever has said in days past that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world…It doesn’t make a particle of difference what anybody ever said about the Negro matter before the first day of June of this year, 1978. It is a new day and a new arrangement, and the Lord has now given the revelation that sheds light out into the world on this subject. As to any slivers of light or any particles of darkness of the past, we forget about them. We now do what meridian Israel did when the Lord said the gospel should go to the Gentiles. We forget all the statements that limited the gospel to the house of Israel, and we start going to the Gentiles.

    What is he saying to forget? The idea that blacks will not receive the priesthood in mortality. The idea that blacks should not receive the priesthood. He is not telling his listeners to forget the idea that blacks are descended from Ham or Cain or that they were less valiant in the premortal life.

    Indeed, if McConkie was moving away from all of these racist ideas, he forgot to take them out of later editions of Mormon Doctrine. From the 1975 printing to the 1997 printing, McConkie took out the section under “Negroes” that referenced the “less valiant” theory. Unfortunately, under “Races of Men” (1997) it still stated,

    Racial degeneration, resulting in differences in appearance and spiritual aptitude, has arisen since the fall. We know the circumstances under which the posterity of Cain (and later Ham) were born with the characteristics of the black race…we know only the general principle that all these changes from the physical and spiritual perfections of our common parents [Adam and Eve] have been brought about by departure from the gospel truths…The race and nation in which men are born in this world is a direct result of their pre-existent life.

    Under “Caste System” (again, all this is from the 1997 printing) it says,

    In a broad sense, caste systems have their root and origin in the gospel itself, and when they operate according to the divine decree, the resultant restrictions and segregation are right and proper and have the approval of the Lord. To illustrate, Cain, Ham, and the whole negro race have been cursed with a black skin, the mark of Cain, so they can be identified as a caste apart, a people with whom the other descendants of Adam should not intermarry…Deity in his infinite wisdom, to carry out his inscrutable purposes, has a caste system of his own, a system of segregation of races adn peoples. The justice of such a system is self evident when life is considered in its true eternal perspective. It is only by a knowledge of pre-existence that it can be known why some persons are born in one race or caste and some in another.

    Which sounds an awful lot like Bott’s expressions about Godly “discrimination.”

    Under “Negroes” (1997) it also says “See CAIN, HAM, PRE-EXISTENCE, PRIESTHOOD, RACES OF MEN.” So, it still links “Negroes” with Can and Ham. Under “Cain” the entry reads,

    The Lord placed on Cain a mark of a dark skin, and he became the ancestor of the black race. (Moses 5; Gen. 4; Teachings, p. 169.)

    Under “Ham” it reads,

    See CAIN, EGYPTUS, NEGROES, PRE-EXISTENCE, PRIESTHOOD…Ham was cursed, apparently for marrying into the forbidden lineage, and the effects of the curse passed to his son, Canaan. (Gen. 9:25.) Ham’s descendants include the Negroes, who originally were barred from holding the prieesthood but have been able to do so since June, 1978.

    So, no, I would disagree pretty strongly that the ’78 Official Declaration or McConkie’s statement close the book on the racist folklore and I would disagree with you that continued belief in such nonsense constitutes failure to believe in modern revelation (I suppose I’d be defending Bott and McConkie from your charge on this point). Your posture places the burden on the Botts of the world (and unknowingly, McConkie, etc.), saying their continued belief in the folklore is a result of their own failure to understand revelation. In reality, it has been the inability of official statements to provide sufficient finality and clarity on the issue. The last two statements are important and get us closer, but I think sufficient room remains for members to continue to feel justified in their belief in the folklore.

    Comment by Jared T — March 7, 2012 @ 3:58 am

  68. #66, Sean Y, thanks for the clarification. I think Jared’s answer in #67 is accurate. I might just add a couple of points that illustrate why private repudiations of public false doctrines don’t work. Orson Hyde started the fence sitter/neutral in the pre-existence idea in 1845 in a publication. Brigham Young rejected it in 1869 in a private school of the prophets meeting. Woodruff recorded it in his journal for 25 Dec 1869:

    “I attended the school of the prophets. Many Questions were asked. President Young answered them. Lorenzo Young asked if the Spirits of Negroes were Neutral in Heaven. He said someone said Joseph Smith said they were. President Young said No they were not. There was No Neutral spirits in Heaven at the time of the Rebellion. All took sides. He said if any one said that He Herd the Prophet Joseph Say that the spirits of the Blacks were Neutral in Heaven He would not Believe them for He herd Joseph Say to the Contrary. All spirits are pure that Come from the presence of God. The posterity of Cane are Black Because He Commit Murder. He killed Abel & God set a Mark upon his posterity But the spirits are pure that Enter their tabernacles & there will be a Chance for the redemption of all the Children of Adam except the Sons of perdition.”

    Later, in 1907, Joseph Fielding Smith, while working in the office of Church Recorder and Historian, fielded a question from a local leader regarding the false teaching. Fielding Smith wrote:

    There is nothing in our standard works, nor any authoritative statement to the effect that one third of the hosts of heaven remained neutral in the great conflict and that the colored races are of that neutral class. The statement has been put forth at various times until ^the belief^ it has become quite general that the Negro race has been cursed for taking a neutral position in that great contest. But this is not the official position of the Church, merely the opinion of men.

    These were two private rejections of the idea, but as Jared points out above, McConkie nonetheless perpetuated it in Mormon Doctrine, a book, by its very title seems to carry the authority of “doctrine” into the minds of those who use it. Even though it is now out of print, it still sits on the shelves of a significant number of Saints, who may still pull it off the shelf and refer to it when questions arise. In my personal experience this past week, the average Latter-day Saint who is not plugged into the Bloggernacle and who doesn’t pay close attention to these issues, does not even know that the Church issued two statements via the Newsroom. As a result, I wonder if the Professor Bott’s of the Church will go on in their self-assured ideas about race.

    Comment by Paul Reeve — March 7, 2012 @ 7:51 pm

  69. #67, Jared,
    After making my latest post I dug up my copy of Mormon Doctrine and actually found most of what you found. It really is unfortunate that McConkie did not go a step further in disavowing those ideas from his book. Personally I’ve always taken most everything in that book with a grain of salt ever since my first year in seminary when my instructor used it to show that playing cards were evil even when playing go fish. That is besides the point, however.

    I do think that maybe it is a stretch for me to claim that the revelation implies that blacks are not descendants of Ham. They very well could be, but it seems that more recent scholarship dispels that (http://www.fairblog.org/2012/02/28/dispelling-the-myth-of-the-curse-of-cain/). Any other articles along those lines would be a great share.

    I do not think it is a stretch, however, to believe that the revelation absolves blacks from being fence sitters or unprepared to receive the priesthood. In reality, I would hope that prior to the revelation people would not have believed such things. It is true that the Lord discriminates with respect to the priesthood (and still does in the case of women), but that does not mean he does so because of inferiority. Why do we not see Dr Bott making arguments about women being fence sitters or the Gentiles during Christ’s time or the whole of Israel that were not from Levi?

    Just curious, from your personal point of view, what statement from the church would you think sufficient to put the folklore to rest?

    #68, Paul,
    Thank you for more insight. Personally, I have a difficult time with the concept of the pre-existence determining our position in this life. Not to say that it doesn’t, but how do we make that judgment? If I determine that because I was born into an LDS home that somehow I was more valiant than another, would it not make as much sense to believe that maybe I was less valiant and that being born into an LDS home only gives me greater knowledge to rebel against?

    Additionally, I would love more understanding on dispelling the ideas of the mark of Cain if you have anything. Thanks.

    Comment by Sean Y — March 8, 2012 @ 1:20 am

  70. Sean,

    I think it’s pretty significant that this stuff was left in. There are definitely changes between the ’75 printing (19th) and the ’97 (39th) printing, but the items indicated persist. I think it indicates that McConkie himself didn’t understand that the 1978 Revelation had anything to say about either the Ham/Cain connection or the premortal life theory since both are retained in his book. And if he, who was there for the revelation didn’t find any compelling reason to make those changes when there were other changes made, then I think that speaks volumes. That said, I don’t deny that people may read these statements optimistically, but I think that there is some overreaching in doing so.

    “Why do we not see Dr Bott making arguments about women being fence sitters or the Gentiles during Christ’s time or the whole of Israel that were not from Levi?”

    Well, I think there are proposed explanations about the Gentiles during Christ’s time. I’m sure I read some in Talmage and likely McConkie’s Messiah series, etc. And in terms of women and the priesthood, there indeed is folklore. That folklore needn’t be about fence sitters. The reports I’ve read in the last week or so indicate that it was not unheard of for him to speak in a misogynist vein, which would be in line with the type of folklore that exists concerning women and the priesthood.

    What do I think would suffice? I’ll have to save that for a future post, but thanks for asking.

    Comment by Jared T — March 8, 2012 @ 1:52 am