A quest for spiritual knowledge

by Rusty Lindquist on January 25, 2011 · 43 comments

Lehi’s landmark vision of the Tree of Life is one of the most well known revelations from the Book of Mormon.  It’s a beautiful depiction of life, and embodies numerous eternal principles with profound depth.  One of which is the importance of pursuing spiritual knowledge.

The Tree of Life, a synopsis:

Since many of my readers are new to the Book of Mormon, here’s a brief synopsis of Lehi’s vision of the Tree of Life.

In it, the prophet Lehi finds himself in a “dark and dreary wilderness”.  He travels for a time, and upon praying for assistance, beholds a large and spacious field, on the other side of which, stands a tree, whose fruit was exceedingly white, sweet beyond all other fruit, and caused his soul to be filled with exceedingly great joy.

Compelled to share this joy, he looks up to find his family, and notices the rest of his surroundings.

He sees a river of water, and next to it, a rod of iron with a “strait and narrow path” leading along the bank of the river, so as to protect one who held onto it from falling prey to the current and being swept away.

This path led through the great and spacious field, wherein “numerous concourses of people” were pressing forward, that they might obtain the path, which led to the tree. But in the field, there arose a mist of darkness, so that those who would not cling to the rod of iron, would lose their way, some drowning in the depths of the river, and others becoming lost along forbidden paths.

He spoke also of a great and spacious building on the other side of the river, which seemed, as it were, to float in the air, and in which there were many people who were pointing their fingers at, and mocking those who were partaking of the fruit. There were many who partook of the fruit of the tree, and feeling ashamed, left in search of the building, and were lost. After a time, the building, which lacked a foundation, fell to the earth, causing the destruction of all who were within.

The tree of Life, an interpretation:

Upon hearing his father speak of his vision of the Tree of Life, Nephi, a soon-to-be prophet, sought the Lord for understanding. He too was then given the same vision, but in expanded form, complete with interpretation of its symbolic meaning.

To Nephi it was revealed that the Tree of Life, and the fruit thereon was representative of the Love of God, which fills the soul with joy. The Rod of Iron was the word of god, the great and spacious field was the world, and the great and spacious building was the pride of the world.

The pursuit of spiritual knowledge

Amongst the many lessons taught in this vision, one of those that stands strongest for me is that of the rod of iron. Often within the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints (the Mormons), the phrase “hold to the rod” has become cliché. It has sort of come to represent the vague notion of righteous living, our need to “choose the right”.

But while these too are good, the specific, inspired translation of that symbol, as revealed to the prophet Nephi, is that the rod of iron, that thing to which we are to “cling” is specifically… the “word of God”. And cling to it we must.

There’s nothing casual about the word cling. It is defined as “to hold tightly, to grasp or embrace, to cleave”. It is an active word that depicts active behavior.

It’s no mystery where we can FIND the word of God. It is to be had in abundance, in the scriptures, in inspired teachings by the prophets today as well as in times past. And it is to be had by direct revelation to you, as an individual, according to your faith and effort.

In the chapter preceding Nephi’s vision of interpretation, he comments:

“And it came to pass after I, Nephi, having heard all the words of my father… was desirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is the gift of God unto all those who diligently seek him, as well in times of old as in the time that he should manifest himself unto the children of men. For he is the same yesterday, today, and forever… For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them by the power of the Holy Ghost…” (1 Nephi 10:17-19)

Here Nephi communicates the primary ingredient for receiving revelation: diligent seeking. This is how we cling to the word of God. By diligently seeking it. We must become singularly focused on obtaining, understanding, and internalizing the word of God.

We are told through modern revelation to do “all things with an eye single to the glory of God” (D&C 82:19). And what is the Glory of God? “The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.” (D&C 93:36).

The prophet Joseph said “No man can be saved in ignorance”. We must therefore reflect upon the urgency with which we search the scriptures, seek divine revelation, and work to obtain the word of God. For this is how we cling to the iron rod, this is how we obtain the fruit of the tree… the Love of God, this is how we plunge through the mists of darkness (confusion of the world and the adversary).

Only by clinging to the word of God can we obtain the tree. As the angel told Nephi of the Great and Spacious building “behold the wisdom of the world”. Great was the fall thereof, for it was founded upon the pride of men. But our foundations must be built upon the solid ground of true doctrine, entrenched in the fertile soul of divine revelation, from which eternal lives may grow.

So cling to the rod, and begin your own quest for spiritual knowledge, that the fruit of the tree, or the love of God, will be yours.

Rusty

{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Meridith Arnold October 20, 2009 at 7:48 PM

It is good to cleave to the “written word of God” otherwise we might end up with the “written word of men”. Like this one below:

“You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild, and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind. …the Lord put a mark upon him, which is the flat nose and black skin. Trace mankind down to after the flood, and then another curse is pronounced upon the same race — that they should be the ‘servant of servants;’ and they will be, until that curse is removed; and the Abolitionists cannot help it, nor in the least alter that decree”
–Brigham Young JOD v. 7 p. 290

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2 Rusty Lindquist October 20, 2009 at 11:47 PM

Meridith,

Thank you for stopping by. As you can see, I don’t mind people posting comments such as yours on my blog, and even if you may not be sincere, others who encounter this quote may be. And while I’m sad to see such an important topic as was the feature of this post waylayed, this too is important, and deserves a good answer.

You are referencing a quote made by Brigham Young, in which he talks about blacks as being cursed, and in a derogative way refer to it as the “written word of men” rather than the “written word of god”. It’s true situational irony though, because this demonstrates a lack of understanding of scripture (the topic of the post and the lead-in to your comment).

The “written word of god” IS in fact the “written word of men”, since God calls men to be his prophets.

Additionally, the men he calls to be his prophets are not perfect. This statement seems obvious, since we know that there was only one perfect person to come to earth – the Savior Jesus Christ. But by virtue of this one simple fact, it is accepted that prophets too will err. One must accept this if they have a true understanding and belief in the bible. Consider Moses, or Noah, as some of the most obvious examples.

So one possible explanation to this comment is that perhaps he was in error.

We do not judge inspired men in the bible for thinking the world was flat, when clearly today we know better. We don’t hold it against Isaiah and Ezekiel about speaking of the earth (they thinking it was flat) as having “four corners” (Isaiah 11:12, Ezekiel 7:2). Nor the psalmist for thinking the earth stood still and the sun moved around it (Psalms 19:4-6).

Rather, the Lord calls men to be his prophets as they are, without requiring them to be perfect (else he would have no prophets). And each prophet himself is subject to the limited knowledge and understanding and prejudices of his day.

As Non-LDS Biblical commentators have noted about this same tendency with Biblical prophets:

“Though purified and ennobled by the influence of His Holy Spirit; men each with his own peculiarities of manner and disposition—each with his own education or want of education—each with his own way of looking at things—each influenced differently from another by the different experiences and disciplines of his life. Their inspiration did not involve a suspension of their natural faculties; it did not even make them free from earthly passion; it did not make them into machines—it left them men. Therefore we find their knowledge sometimes no higher than that of their contemporaries.[3]

We should be forgiving of past prophets who we today would perceive as being “racists,” or otherwise unsophisticated when compared to the present day. Lest we judge harshly, we ought to consider that even the Savior himself spoke of “outsiders” using language that we today would consider grossly offensive (Matthew 15:26).”

– James R. Dummelow, A Commentary on the Holy Bible: Complete in one volume, with general articles (New York : Macmillan, 1984 [1904]), cxxxv.

The Lord calls prophets who are uniquely suited to lift the people of their day, yet one step further in righteousness, progressing line upon line, precept upon precept.

But let’s not be so quick to dismiss his statement as error. It’s clear you consider this to be a radically racist comment, but how many instances are there in the Bible where a prophet speaks negatively and categorically about one particular type of people, their (nearly ubiquitous) unrighteousness, and comments that they are cursed. Brigham Young was certainly not the first prophet to do so. Even the Savior are they cursed for all time, or during the time of that prophet?

And when he says that the abolitionists cannot help it – he means that they cannot change God’s time. There is a time and a season for all things, and the strivings of man cannot affect His divine schedule.

I will not judge whether he was in error or not. The Savior Himself warned that we will be judged in the same manner in which we judge others (Matthew 7:2, Mark 4:24), so I urge you too to be careful. And if you do choose to pass judgement, be mindful that nothing he did was out of the ordinary for other prophets of ancient times.

Rusty

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3 Margaret October 21, 2009 at 8:51 AM

Rusty, as always, your answer is inspired. And welcome back!

I have studied this subject in depth over the past 16 years. I am an LDS convert, and we have 3 daughters, 2 of which are adopted and Korean. Our oldest daughter is married to a Black Southern Baptist. Over the past 16+ years, I have truly grown to love him.

The story of Blacks and Mormons is long and complicated. In the earliest days of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, there actually were a few Blacks who held the Priesthood. Elijah Abel is the most well known. He was even a missionary. Starting with Brigham Young it became a “policy” to withhold the priesthood from Blacks. There was no known revelation, but it was a policy.

As Rusty said, Prophets are not perfect. There is no doubt in my mind that ALL of the Latter-Day Prophets have been inspired men that God chose to lead His Church. It is unclear what led to the policy regarding Blacks and the Priesthood, but it was such a strong policy that it took a revelation in 1978 to reverse it.

For those who would like to know more, and to hear what Black Mormons have to say on the subject, please see http://www.blacksinthescriptures.com/ They have made a couple of videos that are very helpful in understanding this subject.

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4 Cindy S. October 22, 2009 at 9:15 AM

The “Curse of Cain” doctrine taught by your prophet, Brigham Young, and the practice of polygamy and polyandry promoted by Joseph Smith are more than just their own personal imperfections with morality. Not only did the practice them, they taught others to do likewise. No one can expect sinlessness from a prophet as you say, “Jesus was the only perfect”, but teaching others to practice the same error when dealing with these matters of the heart is dangerously wrong. How can a prophet be inspired and teach such things regarding morality?

I think there was also an issue with Elijah Abel being denied access to the temple ceremonies.

From Rusty: Cindy,

If that is the case, then I assume you dismiss the Bible, since polygamy was taught and practiced biblically. Try doing a Google search for “polygamy in the bible” and see what you get. You call it immoral , but there have been times past where it was not immoral, but inspired by God and practiced by his servants. It’s a law that has a time and a place, like many others. To suggest one who lived it, having been commanded to do so, is immoral, is to suggest you are in a better position to judge moral right and wrong then the Lord himself. If not, why then would it be so prevalently practiced in the bible? Because there is a time and a season for all things. And it is not for us to judge when those seasons are, or how appropriate they are.

Rusty

Update: I’ve now covered this scriptural precedence in detail here.

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5 Tommy Hagen October 24, 2009 at 1:29 PM

Who Wrote the Book of Mormon?

Craig Criddle presents the findings from the infamous Stanford University Wordprint analysis combined with research from a plethora of evidence (old and new) from established Rigdon-Spaulding Theory Scholars like Art Vanick, Wayne Cowdrey, Dale Broadhurst, Tom Donofrio and others.

http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/2326926

From Rusty: Tommy

Are you serious? That’s one of the most poorly conducted “research” projects there were. It’s more valuable as a study in the social phenomenon of a self-fulfilling prophecy (you do exactly what you set about to do), and assimilation bias (the irrational tendency to interpret information in a way that confirms ones preconceptions).

There are so many attacks on this particular research project, it’s not worth the time of delving into them here. But you can read them yourself here, here, and here.

Rusty

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6 Rodney Harrison October 25, 2009 at 1:41 PM

Lehi’s landmark vision from the Book of Mormon was actually plagiarized–from Joseph Smith’s own father!

Joseph Smith’s mother, on whom Mormon historians rely extensively for information about the early years of Joseph Smith and the early days of the establishment of the LDS church, wrote the following about a dream that Joseph Smith, Sr. had in 1811–nine years before the earliest date asserted for the First Vision, sixteen years before Joseph Smith is said to have received the gold plates from an angel, and eighteen years before the Book of Mormon was published:

In 1811, we moved from Royalton, Vermont, to the town of Lebanon, New Hampshire. Soon after arriving here, my husband received another very singular vision, which I will relate:

“I thought,” said he, “I was traveling in an open, desolate field, which appeared to be very barren. As I was thus traveling, the thought suddenly came into my mind that I had better stop and reflect upon what I was doing, before I went any further. So I asked myself, ‘What motive can I have in traveling here, and what place can this be?’ My guide, who was by my side, as before, said, ‘This is the desolate world; but travel on.’ The road was so broad and barren that I wondered why I should travel in it; for, said I to myself, ‘Broad is the road, and wide is the gate that leads to death, and many there be that walk therein; but narrow is the way, and straight is the gate that leads to everlasting’ life, and few there be that go in thereat.’

Traveling a short distance farther, I came to a narrow path. This path I entered, and, when I had traveled a little way in it, I beheld a beautiful stream of water, which ran from the east to the west. Of this stream I could see neither the source nor yet the termination; but as far as my eyes could extend I could see a rope running along the bank of it, about as high as a man could reach, and beyond me was a low, but very pleasant valley, in which stood a tree such as I had never seen before. It was exceedingly handsome, insomuch that I looked upon it with wonder and admiration. Its beautiful branches spread themselves somewhat like an umbrella, and it bore a kind of fruit, in shape much like a chestnut bur, and as white as snow, or, if possible whiter. I gazed upon the same with considerable interest, and as I was doing so the burs or shells commenced opening and shedding their particles, or the fruit which they contained, which was of dazzling whiteness. I drew near and began to eat of it, and I found it delicious beyond description. As I was eating, I said in my heart, ‘I can not eat this alone, I must bring my wife and children, that they may partake with me.’ Accordingly, I went and brought my family, which consisted of a wife and seven children, and we all commenced eating, and praising God for this blessing. We were exceedingly happy, insomuch that our joy could not easily be expressed.

While thus engaged, I beheld a spacious building standing opposite the valley which we were in, and it appeared to reach to the very heavens. It was full of doors and windows, and they were filled with people, who were very finely dressed. When these people observed us in the low valley, under the tree, they pointed the finger of scorn at us, and treated us with all manner of disrespect and contempt. But their contumely we utterly disregarded.

I presently turned to my guide, and inquired of him the meaning of the fruit that was so delicious. He told me it was the pure love of God, shed abroad in the hearts of all those who love him, and keep his commandments. He then commanded me to go and bring the rest of my children. I told him that we were all there. ‘No,’ he replied, ‘look yonder, you have two more, and you must bring them also.’ Upon raising my eyes, I saw two small children, standing some distance off. I immediately went to them, and brought them to the tree; upon which they commenced eating with the rest, and we all rejoiced together. The more we ate, the more we seemed to desire, until we even got down upon our knees, and scooped it up, eating it by double handfuls.

After feasting in this manner a short time, I asked my guide what was the meaning of the spacious building which I saw. He replied, ‘It is Babylon, it is Babylon, and it must fall. The people in the doors and windows are the inhabitants thereof, who scorn and despise the Saints of God because of their humility.’

I soon awoke, clapping my hands together for joy.”

From Rusty: Rodney

I guess I’m having a hard time figuring out your line of thinking. How many instances are there in the Bible where the same thing is stated more than once, by different people, even over vastly different periods of time? If the Lord gives a revelation, you’re suggesting that he better not do it again, to anyone else, because that’s plagiarism? I think it likely, even well evidenced in scripture, that the Lord repeats himself to multiple people in different times, to make sure a point is learned that may have been forgotten, misunderstood, or undervalued.

Case in point, here’s a Mayan tablet representing the tree of life. And here is a Sumerian tablet of the tree of life as well. You think Joseph new of all these? Or his dad? They didn’t have the internet back then, so somehow I doubt it.

In short, what the Lord has said/revealed once, he is clearly capable of revealing again… that’s hardly plagiarism.

Rusty

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7 Persimmon October 26, 2009 at 9:17 AM

Wow, that went off the rails pretty fast. 🙂 One post, new topic.

I’m about to go off for awhile, so please bear with me. While I’ve thought much on this topic, I haven’t as yet tried to summarize things into one digestible post.

The topic of blacks and the priesthood, curses and marks, and so on has been a dominating theme for the past year or so of my life. In large part because I was not comfortable with the way the subject was handled last year when I was teaching seminary. I presume the way the subject was handled has not changed a lot over the years: the teachers are left to teach, and because of the short preparation time involved in seminary, nearly always come to an incomplete conclusion full of “we don’t know” when presenting to the kids. But I was so uncomfortable that I had to spend more time researching. I decided that I could not teach that topic to my class.

As background, I should state that I’d been taught the Cain>Noah’s Pee Pee>Ham>Lamanite line of thought while on my mission – by a recently returned missionary. While it made some logical sense (at last!), it didn’t make spiritual sense. I rejected that teaching because it didn’t feel authentic. But I didn’t know what the truth was, either. And yes, I lost a couple of investigators on my mission because I didn’t know.

Anyway, back to my pursuit. I started with the material someone else quoted from blacksinthescriptures.com. It’s good material, but it only scratches the surface of the topic. Rather than painting a complete picture, it served to open me up even more to the idea that things were not what I had been taught. It also gave some good starting points for scriptural research – because that’s what I wanted, a real and truthful SCRIPTURE BASED explanation. I spent the bulk of my time in the Book of Mormon – reason being that the references in the Bible and Pearl of Great Price are simply not complete enough. In short order there comes a reliance on the interpretations of man – and I’d had quite enough of that.

To cut it somewhat shorter, here’s what I’ve learned:

1. I’m convinced that the priesthood should not have been limited in the way it was. The cause of it was probably simple racism. There’s deeper explanations and history here, but they boil down to racism and apathy. White people could have changed this course of events, but had no stake in doing so.

2. The cursing line of thinking of Cain>Noah/Ham>Lamanite is flawed. That’s made very clear by deep investigation of the Book of Mormon. That teaching was inherited from other churches and lent greater legitimacy by flawed reasoning tied to the Book of Mormon. Some of our church leaders (Bruce McConkie, Orson Pratt, for example), taught this flawed reasoning. Elder McConkie came around to abandoning it – though I have no idea whether he found a more correct explanation, he was at least willing to admit he was incorrect.

3. The “racist quotes” demonstrated by the first post in this thread are more often than not misleading and/or taken from their original context. They simply cannot be trusted as a foundation of fact. Are some of them in context? Absolutely. But my own research into them has found that more often than not, they are not what they are presented to be.

4. The keys to the question lie in the teachings of Nephi. He’s the one who brings up the topic (2 Nephi 5). He reiterates several times over the next couple dozen chapters the equality of all flesh before God. He makes certain that we understand that the gospel, all of it, is for all men everywhere. And then he closes his treatment of the topic by stating that the “curse” is still in place (2 Nephi 30:6) – but he uses entirely different language than “skin of blackness” to explain it. So the curse and the mark are still in place, but the reference to physical skin color has been replaced by “scales of darkness shall begin to fall from their eyes”. Now whatever the curse and mark is, it certainly has not a thing to do with skin color – this time it references eyes as opposed to skin.

Honestly, this was the hardest thing for me to get around. I’d been taught, basically, that Nephites = white, Lamanites = black – good guys vs. bad guys. But that isn’t really the case at all. The comings and goings of the peoples in the Book of Mormon show that even if it were once the case that the mark was a literal skin of blackness…well, it just didn’t matter to God, because the meaning of the term “Nephite” and the makeup of the Nephites skin color is jumbled beyond belief by the time we make it to the middle of Alma. In short, the Nephites weren’t white, even if they somehow started that way (which I do not believe).

Let me treat that line of thinking for a second. IF the skin color thing is literally taken, here’s what you’ll find:

The original Nephite/Lamanite split undergoes a change in the Book of Omni. Now, nobody ever got much from Omni, but I sure have. At the end of Omni we learn that 1) Mosiah takes his people and leaves the main body of Nephites, who are now wicked like the Lamanites, and 2) the method of record keeping changes (no longer bloodline).

Over time, the new “Mosiah/Benjamin Nephites” come to meet up with the people at Zarahemla. They make one body, and Mosiah is appointed their king. They are taught the gospel as well as Nephite tradition. In short, this group of people is now “The Nephites”, and the old Nephites are now Lamanites. So when did their skin color change? At what point, when Mosiah was packing up and leaving town, did the Nephites realize they were screwed and were turning black? 😛

What of Alma, who upon being converted by the teaching of Abinadi, goes out into the countryside teaching and baptizing from the land around him? Did he take care only to teach whitey? No. He taught anyone who would listen, and he happened to be surrounded by Lamanite settlements. Eventually, they make it back to join the “new” Nephites. At what point was their skin made white?

Same thing with the people of Ammon. No wonder the people they left were so upset and pursued them…and speaking of those people, they were awesomely righteous. They were a model of Nephite society, a Zion-like people. When did they get their new oxy-clean white skin tones?

And the Lamanites that were converted through the teaching of the sons of Mosiah…when did they turn white? How did the remaining Lamanites feel about that?

Now, I’ve made the point in jest – but the thought that God goes around changing people from white to dark to white to dark depending on their religious purity is preposterous. It doesn’t happen in our day that way. Doesn’t it also then follow that “skin of darkness”, or any other Biblical language, could be a metaphor as opposed to a literal?

We don’t have anywhere else in the scriptures that I’ve found that teaches 1) what the curse is, 2) what the mark is, and 3) gives sufficient time to the subject to sort fact from error. It is the only book of scripture we have that gives us a full and complete pattern to apply elsewhere. As such, it should be valued as a source of good rather than held up as a source of error.

Yes, I’m still confused by Genesis 9 and Abraham 1, among others. I still wonder why things have unfolded as they have. But I know this: the Book of Mormon does not teach anything that should have led to the priesthood being withheld. And again, it gives a pattern to apply elsewhere – I can say confidently that when we know more about what happened with Noah/Ham and Canaan that the real answer will be much more spiritually satisfying than what we have now. I’m grateful to have figured that out for me, and be able to teach a more correct interpretation of that whole topic to my family and friends.

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8 Margaret October 26, 2009 at 11:55 AM

Persimmon, the only thing that I might add is that Darius Gray, in the video “Blacks in the Scriptures” gives numerous examples of descendants of Ham holding the priesthood and responsible positions in the Bible. There is no withholding of the priesthood mentioned anywhere due to race or skin color.

As for the critics, I know that Joseph Smith is a true Prophet, as is Thomas S Monson today. And I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God and a true record. I find it unfortunate that so many work so hard to discredit them, and I believe the time will come that they will have to answer for their behavior.

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9 Persimmon October 26, 2009 at 12:44 PM

Margaret – unfortunately the topic is simply too large to cover all the bases. You are correct, there are numerous examples of Ham’s line and the priesthood. That’s actually part of what makes the writings in Genesis and Abraham more difficult to interpret.

A friend of mine is of the opinion and has told me many times over that the relatively brief history of the priesthood exclusion will fade in importance over time – basically that seeing things as we do, heavily slanted toward our own day and age, we are frustrated by the inequality it represents. Will we feel the same 500 years from now? Or will this time be looked upon for differently, as a time when questions of race affected even the most sacred of things?

I don’t really know. I can say that this revised outlook gives me much more sympathy toward those who have endured the lack of priesthood, or suffered doubt in testimony because of it. Some of these same types of feelings and questions were doubtless presented and endured during the short time of the apostles after the death of Christ. Peter had to have the lessons of teaching the Gentiles reinforced several times during his lifetime, despite having had a vision concerning who was to receive the gospel. His own mortal experience got in the way and had to be unlearned.

This is one of those topics where I wish I could just break out my scriptures and teach anyone who is reading face to face. The opportunity to share, teach by the spirit and be edified together has a certain magic to it that a simple essay can’t convey.

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10 Margaret October 26, 2009 at 3:40 PM

You have obviously studied this much more deeply than I have. I really appreciate your insights and your wisdom. I think that there are many things that we don’t fully understand, and/or can’t fully explain, that we will one day know and the conflict will be gone.

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11 Matt Gorman October 26, 2009 at 5:03 PM

The following First Presidency statement on the Negro Question on August 17, 1949 helps end the confusion on the “We don’t know why question”. Simply stated “it was a direct commandment from the Lord”.

“The attitude of the Church with reference to Negroes remains as it has always stood. It is not a matter of the declaration of a policy but of direct commandment from the Lord, on which is founded the doctrine of the Church from the days of its organization, to the effect that Negroes may become members of the Church but that they are not entitled to the priesthood at the present time. The prophets of the Lord have made several statements as to the operation of the principle. President Brigham Young said: “Why are so many of the inhabitants of the earth cursed with a skin of blackness? It comes in consequence of their fathers rejecting the power of the holy priesthood, and the law of God. They will go down to death. And when all the rest of the children have received their blessings in the holy priesthood, then that curse will be removed from the seed of Cain, and they will then come up and possess the priesthood, and receive all the blessings which we now are entitled to.”

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12 Persimmon October 26, 2009 at 8:27 PM

Matt – as counterpoint to that, I’ll share a portion of the McConkie quote that is often referenced on the subject, this particularly regarding the 1978 declaration:

“We have revelations that tell us that the gospel is to go to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people before the second coming of the Son of Man. And we have revelations which recite that when the Lord comes he will find those who speak every tongue and are members of every nation and kindred, who will be kings and priests, who will live and reign on earth with him a thousand years. That means, as you know, that people from all nations will have the blessings of the house of the Lord before the Second Coming.

“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.

“We get our truth and our light line upon line and precept upon precept. We have now had added a new flood of intelligence and light on this particular subject, and it erases all the darkness and all the views and all the thoughts of the past. They don’t matter
any more.

“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.”

It reads very strongly to me that Elder McConkie is saying first, that modern revelation trumps past revelation, and that second, the interpretation he aligned himself with was doctrinally flawed. He is admitting that he was in error.

Topics such as these are a strong reminder of the need for a truly deep and independent relationship with God. It serves as a personal litmus test for times when even an authoritative voice in the church is wrong.

The trouble, of course, is that those living from say, 1850 to 1978 were likely to accept that incorrect interpretation because of where it originated. I don’t have much to say on that topic – I’ve admittedly not worried myself over that portion of the debate, as my only real interest lies in what the more correct interpretation is, rather than the historical mistakes made along the way. I understand if not everyone feels the same way. To use the example of Peter I brought up earlier, he had to be “re-issued” teachings related to the conversion of the Gentiles because of his personal struggles in accepting the teaching. He was the leader of the church, in a station similar to our current President.

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13 Rusty Lindquist October 26, 2009 at 11:17 PM

Thank you to all who have so adequately addressed the topic. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading every word. I’ve really learned a great deal. I particularly appreciate the last comment and quote from Persimmon, regarding new revelation superseding old revelation. There’s scriptural precedence for that as well. Moses’ law wasn’t incorrect, it was what was right for his time. But when Christ came, he brought with him additional light and knowledge which allowed the people to move beyond the revelations and commandments of the past.

Additionally, since there were a few comments before we got back to the topic of blacks and the priesthood, I’ve gone back up and added my own comments just below them, so as not to confuse the flow.

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14 Matt Gormon October 27, 2009 at 12:14 AM

The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty. (Sixty-first Semiannual General Conference of the Church, Monday, October 6, 1890, Salt Lake City, Utah. Reported in Deseret Evening News, October 11, 1890, p. 2.)

The whole problem with pulling “line upon line” out of one’s hat as a justification for priesthood exclusion (or drawing analogies to NT Apostles wanting to limit the Gospel to certain classes of people) is that the LINE in question had already been, well, UPON the other line.

Didn’t Mormonism already cross that bridge? Doesn’t Mormonism’s being a “restoration” of Christianity mean that it restored it in its fullness, rather than some rudimentary version of it that hadn’t quite gotten around to recognizing the universality of God’s blessings for all his children, including the Negro? Line Upon Line doesn’t mean you periodically subtract a line, and then add it again. Does it?

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15 Persimmon October 27, 2009 at 8:21 AM

Matt – a few questions come to mind. But before I get to those, know that I’m not trying to pick a fight with you…your post really does make me ask some questions.

1. The opening line in that rather famous quote states that the Lord will never permit me (Wilford Woodruff, in the case of the quote) or any other man who stands as President to lead you (presumably the body of the church) astray (from the “oracles of God” and from “their duty”). So first we need to figure out what is intended by oracles of God and our duties regarding them, and second, we need to phrase this in light of our current question.

I’m not going to attempt that today. 😀

Putting that aside…off the top of my head, I can think of several instances in which Joseph “led the church astray”. The failed banking endeavor. The Zion’s Camp trip. Both of those would be seen by many (especially outside the church and among the more disgruntled members) as failed and fruitless exercises, and surely there were many who fell away and felt led astray as a result of Zion’s Camp. Heck, Moses wasn’t exactly revered for what he did among his own people – some of this depends on the point of view of the person determining what “led astray” means. Does the practice of restricting blacks from the priesthood lead you astray?

In my limited view, I say yes, it probably does qualify as leading astray. Certainly if I were a dark skinned member, I’d be having some issues. As I’ve said before, I’m not sure how we held up that practice for so long – I’m not exactly a scriptural Rhodes scholar, and I figured it out. It took real application of scripture skills, and a lot of pleading with God, but I came to a more correct answer. But I also understand that with everything I have been shown, my view is still a limited one: I know what the more correct interpretation is, and I know it came from God, but I don’t pretend that my understanding or presentation are perfect…just better than what it was. I don’t pretend to be a prophet, but IN THIS ONE THING, if I were to somehow come upon Brigham and have opportunity to speak with him, I would feel confident in the Lord sustaining me to teach him a better course.

2. I don’t find any particular solace in line upon line as a defense for priesthood exclusions – in fact, it disturbs me that we bought into it for so long. But I didn’t live back then. I don’t see things from their point of view, and I don’t have generations of people teaching me that blacks are lesser/not worthy.

Keep in mind that this interpretation of scripture was something inherited…it was around well before the creation of the LDS church. Any time you bring in members from other faiths, there is going to be inheriting of ideas as well. That, again, has tie back to the bible and New Testament days…integrating the people without integrating their existing belief systems is pretty well impossible. Paul worked and worked at it (to ultimate failure), but he lacked much of what we have now. Even simple letter delivery took weeks to months. The early days of the LDS church suffered much of the same – the postal system was one of the better forms of communication, but it was both slow and unreliable. And in many ways, there were “better things to worry over” than this topic. Staying alive and finding a safe haven to practice religion at all comes to mind. But as long as we’re looking at this topic and applying this test to the LDS church, it really has to be applied to almost all Christian factions of the time – because they pretty well all held to the same or similar teachings, even if they didn’t have a “priesthood” to restrict. Blacks started their own congregations because of such things in all primarily white Christian denominations. If you belong to another denomination, the chances are quite heavy that this was, at one point, part of the curriculum.

Culturally, those in the slave trade “needed” an explanation to justify their doings. Genesis 9 coupled with some flawed math gave that to them. In counterpoint, a careful reading of the book of Philemon shows Paul encouraging Philemon to not just treat his returned slave (Onesimus) well, but to free him. Paul’s lesson regarding slavery didn’t get applied the way it should have, and a mean and low interpretation of Genesis found sway in essentially all the churches of power of the day.

Incidentally, a restoration doesn’t mean the church got everything right. It means that the things necessary for salvation were put in place. Those things were sufficient even for blacks – not perfect, just sufficient. And yes, that means that periodically we mess something up and have to start over, or learn something better. Jacob’s allegory of the olive tree makes clear that even after the restoration is complete, there will still be wickedness that needs to be removed as we grow strong enough to bear it (Jacob 5:65). The church is an imperfect group of imperfect people. Stuff is gonna happen. At the local level I see the stop/reload/restart thing happen all the time – the line that we just learned gets lost pretty frequently. At the upper levels of the church, it happens remarkably infrequently.

So yes, line upon line means you subtract a line when you messed it up. In this case, the Lord didn’t mess it up – the doctrine was there, in its correct form. But you can’t stack a following line of truth on an imperfect previous line…eventually that pursuit will fall. It doesn’t mean everything stacked was wrong, either. We remove the offending line, reload, restack, start over.

3. Something that gets lost at times in discussion of these things is the import that God places on unity…particularly in leadership. There were rumblings prior to 1978. But unity regarding the topic among the 12+Presidency was not achieved until that point. That discussion would most certainly lead us down a different road, but I felt it was worth mentioning. Perhaps unification (or the lack of it) “trumps” some of these other things somehow?

Another thought on my part: I think that God works in much quieter and less obtrusive ways than many of us would like to believe.

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16 Persimmon October 27, 2009 at 10:45 AM

Okay, I lied. Maybe I’ll touch on it a little. Found this while nosing around for methods to define oracle:

http://cgg.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Library.sr/CT/ra/k/260/Oracles-of-God.htm

Not a bad little writeup.

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17 Matt G. October 27, 2009 at 11:11 PM

Rusty, I looked up polygamy and polyandry in the Bible and didn’t find any other prophet teaching the practices. Could you show me where the prophets were teaching these as God’s inspired word?

From Rusty:

Terrific question. I answer this in detail in a dedicated post “Is there scriptural precedence for polygamy in the Bible?“.

“Prophets aren’t perfect,” we’re told. “They’re human like the rest of us,” we’re told. But, in Mormonism, there appears to be no standard that a prophet SHOULD be held to. Only, that they get a pass on their violations of commandments they committed, whatever moral collapses we see in his history, and whatever of their prophecies didn’t come to pass, because of the nebulous defense that prophets aren’t perfect.

From Rusty:

I guess I don’t follow your reasoning. I assume you admit that only one person was perfect… the Lord. If you do, then you are admitting that prophets will err, but then suggesting that errors among Mormon prophets should somehow be inexcusable? The logic doesn’t follow.

You also refer here to polygamy being a “moral collapse”, but if you’ll kindly see the above link, I clearly rebut this notion by offering numerous biblical incidents teaching the same, even by the Lord. So I daresay if the Lord has shown to condone it, far be it from us to call it immoral. Ill suited for our specific time… yes.

You’re also making the assumption that there is this vast accumulation of mistakes, when there isn’t.

What did Jesus say about false prophets? “You shall know them by their fruits…. A good tree cannot bare evil fruit.” On Jesus’ basis, should their false prophecies and character flaws be ignored because their only human? I would not presume to take Jesus’ words so lightly! I would not presume to take God lightly in His view of those who “speak a word in [His] name, which [He] hath not commanded him to speak…if the thing follow not, nor come to pass…”

From Rusty:
Again, you speak with conviction, which I can respect, but make statements that don’t follow scripture.

For instance, the notion of false prophets, how we shall know them by their fruits. Again, the logic doesn’t follow regarding a perfect prophet… one doesn’t exist, nor never has. But their mistakes are not “evil fruit”, they’re mistakes.

It’s widely viewed that Moses was one of the greatest prophets of all time. Yet he was disobedient in the wilderness, and for such God declared that the entire generation that had left Egypt (including Moses) would pass away in the wilderness before a new generation could enter Canaan.

Based on your logic above, Moses’ “evil fruit” would indicate he was a false prophet. But I daresay I don’t think you’d make that statement, which means you either don’t truly believe what you just said, don’t fully understand what you just said, or hoped I wouldn’t catch it. Either way, again, the logic doesn’t follow, and the scriptures suggest the opposite.

And, which true prophets of God were known for getting prophecies wrong, or Did Christ’s Apostles make mistakes in teachings about the specifics of doctrinal issues in any of the epistles? Were they erroneous about any OT history? Do we ever read where an Apostle say’s, “Oops,” and back-tracks on something they wrote to the Churches or to an individual? Not…even…once.

From Rusty:

Help me understand which prophecy you’re referring to that “we” got wrong? If you’re talking about polygamy, how it was practiced, and then revoked, again you’ll need to read the post… there’s more than ample scriptural support, which you must have over looked before making such a statement.

Additionally, and speaking outside of just Polygamy, to have a practice changed, or revoked, does not mean that the original practice or teaching was somehow flawed, or wrong, or spoken by a corrupt, false prophet. It means the time for that has passed. Consider the Law of Moses. Consider the Lords instruction to his apostles to teach the gospel only to the Israelites. But then later instructs them to teach to all the world. Consider even the Passover, and how the Lord changed it… was it “flawed” before? You suggest there is “not… even.. one” instance of such things happening in the bible, but rather, examples of a commandment being made at one time, and then being different at another time are innumerable.

Prophets AREN’T like all of us, or Christ would not have singled out the false ones to warn us about in Matt. 7:15-20, and God would not have insisted on prophetic inerrancy in Deut. 18:20. It is God’s desire for His word-perfect message to go out to His people inerrantly, and it is the responsibility of His faithful, hand picked “mouthpiece” (prophet) to deliver that message precisely as received from God. It is ridiculous to think that Almighty God would be incapable of sending prophetic messages to His people, that they would have to struggle with understanding because of their education, cultural influences, predisposition, languages, nuances, or idioms, or a lack of precise word choices to communicate new ideas.

From Rusty:

One part of this I agree with… prophets aren’t like us. They are called and chosen of God. And when they speak as a prophet, for God and for the church, they are inerrant.

You’re assuming Joseph Smith was errant in polygamy, based on your false disposition that it is immoral, which I’ve adequately addressed by now. But neither Joseph, nor any subsequent Latter-day prophet has ever spoken as the prophet in error or led the church astray. You won’t find a single instance. Not… even… one.

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18 Rusty Lindquist October 29, 2009 at 12:26 AM

Thanks for commenting. Because there are so many various elements to your comment to which I’d like to add a thought, I’m simply adding my comments to each of yours above.

Rusty

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19 Roger October 31, 2009 at 11:41 AM

Rusty, there is and remains so much overwhelming evidence of many errant teaching that were carried out by Joseph Smith and subsequent Latter-day prophets.

You must be living in a tank and using the Fair LDS website as your only compass to spew out such misinformation. These kind of statements are exactly why LDS members are leaving the church in masses. Much deception has occurred within the LDS umbrella for too long.

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20 Rusty Lindquist November 2, 2009 at 6:08 PM

Roger,

I’m sorry you’re so embittered. I’d be happy to clear up any misperceptions you may have. Since such vague statements are valueless (not to mention untrue), I’d be happy to help you clear them up. But, unfortunately, you’ll need to be specific, otherwise the lack of such specifics only serves to discredit the statement overall as simple bias.

P.S. LDS Members are not only NOT leaving in masses, but rather our numbers continue to grow at a dramatic pace as people encounter the Book of Mormon, learn of Joseph Smith, and pray about their truthfulness.

You can attempt to point to people who have turned away as evidence, but that would be circumstantial and anecdotal, and is a factor for which no religion is immune. Unfortunately for all faiths, there are those who find their way, then fall away. Sometimes change can be very difficult to sustain, particularly change that is demanding.

Regardless, I’m anxious to help.
Sincerely,
Rusty

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21 Roger November 2, 2009 at 9:43 PM

I’m not embittered, Rusty. Just happy to get out the truth.

The Lord said I will not kill Cane But I will put a mark upon him and it is seen in the [face?] of every Negro on the Earth And it is the decree of God that that mark shall remain upon the seed of Cane & the Curse untill all the seed of Abel should be re[deem?]ed and Cane will not receive the priesthood until or salvation until all the seed of Abel are Redeemed. Any man having one drop of the seed of Cane in him Cannot hold the priesthood & if no other Prophet ever spake it Before I will say it now in the name of Jesus Christ. I know it is true & they know it. The Negro cannot hold one particle of Government But the day will Come when all the seed of Cane will be Redeemed & have all the Blessings we have now & a great deal more. But the seed of Abel will be ahead of the seed of Cane to all Eternity. (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 4, p. 97

It is one thing to deny priesthood authority to black males, but withholding, on the basis of race, temple endowment and sealing blessings during this lifetime to men, women and children –i.e., the fullness of being a Mormon, is indefensible. What was withheld on a racial basis wasn’t just priesthood, but all the mortal tokens of exaltation. With no public claim of a revelatory basis of any kind and no scriptural support. And remember that the ban affected temple work on BOTH sides of the veil. Names of African people (meaning of African descent) were set in a separate pile and NOT done prior to 1978.

There is no doubt that you are trying to cultivate in our minds that it was a culturally conditioned policy, and from your point of view just an unfortunate mistake. You are protecting the long term ministry of the Church and spinning Brigham Young, John Taylor, Joseph Fielding Smith, BRM, Mark E. Peterson or whoever, on their own with their own racist statements. In this case, it is more important for you to protect the Church as an institution than it is to try to protect the policy itself or the leading brethren who articulated that policy.

Taking into account the fact that Joseph Smith himself ordained a black male, Elijah Abel, into the priesthood, I wonder why a revelation was needed to do it again in 1978? Brigham Young laid down protocol in disallowing the priesthood to black people. Did he receive a revelation to do so?

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22 Rusty Lindquist November 3, 2009 at 9:28 PM

As he said, “… but the day will come when all the seed of Cane will be redeemed & have all the blessings we now have and a great deal more.”

I appreciate your speaking passionately, but there’s nothing new here that hasn’t already been addressed. There are plenty of instances in the bible as well where whole nations were “cursed” and withheld from the gospel and all it’s ordinances carte blanche.

I’ve also already addressed and provided reference to biblical instance where blessings or commandments were given, then revoked, then given again. There’s nothing strange about this.

I’d have loved for it to have been differently, but far be it from my right to judge such things, just as it be not my right to judge why the Savior would tell his disciples to preach and take the gospel only to the Israelites. Such matters are best left to the Lord, and I’ll submit myself to Him and not question him.

Else I shall be numbered among those of which Lehi spoke in his vision of the Tree of Life, “And after they had tasted of the fruit they were ashamed, because of those that were scoffing at them; and they fell away into forbidden paths and were lost” (1 Nephi 8:28). The adversary provides innumerable ways to cloud the minds of the children of men from the real truth, such that even those who have once partaken of the fruit, find reason to depart and are lost, and are then left unto themselves “…to kick against the pricks, to persecute the saints, and to fight against God” (D&C 121:38).

No indeed. Count me among the believers, and I will defend his word forever.

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23 Persimmon November 3, 2009 at 9:37 PM

Roger –

I’ll speak to at least one thing you’ve touched on. That being that your third paragraph.

>>It is one thing to deny priesthood authority to black males, but withholding, on the basis of race, temple endowment and sealing blessings during this lifetime to men, women and children –i.e., the fullness of being a Mormon, is indefensible. What was withheld on a racial basis wasn’t just priesthood, but all the mortal tokens of exaltation. With no public claim of a revelatory basis of any kind and no scriptural support. And remember that the ban affected temple work on BOTH sides of the veil.<<

You are absolutely correct. My own study of this subject has led me to many of the same conclusions you outline here. However, the beauty of belief in temple ordinances in the first place is that such things can be righted, where slights only pertaining to mortality cannot be addressed. There can never be reparations made to slaves in the United States that will have meaning, because those who served as slaves are long since deceased. I feel tremendous sympathy toward church members who could not partake in these ordinances, because they should not have been excluded. But in this case, those wrongs can, over course of time, be righted. The reparations can and will be meaningful – at least in an eternal scope.

As to the balance of your post, I’ve examined everything you have mentioned in coming to my conclusions. I’m also sure there’s things I’ve not seen. If you are sincerely interested in my doctrinal explanation of where we went wrong, I’d be happy to email you something separate from this discussion. It would be quite lengthy, and would take some time to put together. It would also be centered almost entirely in the teachings from the Book of Mormon, which I think is appropriate, given the history of the topic.

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24 Rusty Lindquist November 3, 2009 at 9:41 PM

Well, I for one would be incredibly interested. I don’t want to unnecessarily burden you, but I’m always looking to educate myself further, particularly on topics that so often present stumbling blocks to people investigating the church. I also appreciate the work you’ve invested, and would love for that value to be passed on (as time permits ;-).

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25 Terrance Smith November 4, 2009 at 5:21 PM

Persimmon, have you seen this one. Wow! You Mormon’s really had it in for us didn’t you. And to go ahead and say that “It is the Lord’s doing”…….Your forefathers were even worse then the white man that enslaved our fathers. May God withhold from them what they gloried in doing to my race!

Apostle Bruce R. McConkie
“Negroes in this life are denied the Priesthood; under no circumstances can they hold this delegation of authority from the Almighty. (Abra. 1:20-27.) The gospel message of salvation is not carried affirmatively to them… 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 there from, but this inequality is not of man’s origin. It is the Lord’s doing, is based on his eternal laws of justice, and grows out of the lack of Spiritual valiance of those concerned in their first estate.” (Mormon Doctrine, 1966, pp. 527-528)

If your prophets believed that the concept of treating all men equally was true, then why would the true church be the very last church to change their policy to allow blacks to have the priesthood smd temple blessings? Should not the one, true church be on the forefront of delivering the gospel to all races. “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” Matt 28:19)

The Mormon church is suppose to be God’s one true church led by prophets that communicate with God about important doctrinal matters. How could every prophet since Brigham Young be so wrong about something so important? Why would this not be challenged by any of the prophets since Brigham, if they were indeed prophets?

Man, you have a lot of explaining to do. And all we hear are a bunch of lies like “We don’t know why”. Hell, I know why, your teachers were a bunch of evil men. Plain and simple.

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26 Persimmon November 4, 2009 at 7:18 PM

Terrance – if you’ll go back and read the rest of my comments in this thread, I think I’ve adequately covered the things you’ve expressed as they pertain to my own views. Certainly the McConkie quote has already had the counterpoint of his own correction. And yes, I’ve seen many times the one you’ve quoted.

I, personally, have no explaining to do. I’ve examined the scriptures, received guidance, and come to a different conclusion than the one published in Mormon Doctrine. I explain anyway, to the best of my ability. But I have no desire to take part in name calling or general pronouncements in a topic so complex.

As to the assertion that these teachers were a bunch of evil men…I find that judgment squarely out of line. Yes, they may have been wrong on this topic – the mixture of fact and fiction in this topic is fascinating. But the great measure of their lives has been lived in the service of others. It’s easy to line things up in favor of your point of view and call them “evil men. Plain and simple”, but the reality of their work and existence is much more complicated than that.

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27 Marvin November 4, 2009 at 10:47 PM

I received an email that this conversation was going on and was invited to add a comment or two. I have to say that I am very impressed with articulation of points raised by Terrance Smith and the eloquence of the responses by Persimmon.

Terrance, I’m an African American Latter-day Saint and have been for over 21 years. This very issue almost kept me from enjoying the multitude of blessings that come from being in the Lord’s true church. What makes the church true are the oracles, ordinances, temples, principles and newly revealed scripture, all built upon the foundation of the Bible and the promises made therein of the restoration before the Second Coming. These things were established by God Himself. What makes many doubt that it is what we claim it to be, is the faults of men.

I’d invite you to view the Blacks in the Scriptures DVD series that we produced just two years ago to deal head on with the many unanswered questions. I’d be happy to send you a set of the series if you go to the site and send us your mailing address from the site contact page. What you’ll see is that newly revealed scripture in perfect harmony with the Old and New Testament. The Lord giving His will to the modern-day prophets regarding all men. As you know, they didn’t obey the Lord in this regard. But the interesting thing is that this newly revealed word came from the Lord to them, even those truths that would convict their earlier behavior. Here’s a passage from that newly revealed scripture where the Lord states clearly that He knows they will err and sin:

D&C 1:24-28
24 Behold, I am God and have spoken it; these commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding.
25 And inasmuch as they erred it might be made known;
26 And inasmuch as they sought wisdom they might be instructed;
27 And inasmuch as they sinned they might be chastened, that they might repent;
28 And inasmuch as they were humble they might be made strong, and blessed from on high, and receive knowledge from time to time.

If you do write for the DVD set, I’ll also send you a short list, one page, of prophets from the Old and New Testaments who made errors and sinned as well. And some of them are just as bad and even worse then the atrocities you’ve pointed out.

Thanks again for your comments. It’s great for the Latter-day Saints to see this as others see it. The dose of reality is a wake up call.

Marvin

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28 Terrance Smith November 4, 2009 at 11:27 PM

Complicated? Bullxxxx! If my man Obama ended the hunger in Ethiopia, cured the Aids epidemic in Africa, and preached Christ as Savior from the oval office, but then withheld a Mormon from being the white house chaplain, there’s no doupt in my mind that you all would be calling him an evil man. No way around it, what your leaders did was hateful and then using God to justify it all. Pure evil, more so cus they perverted the holy scripture to back up their hateful hearts.

When I wrote “you have some explaining to do” what I really meant was your church people. “We don’t know why” -that reason they said makes me even more sick – like their right arm is still trying not to admit their hatefulness. It’s like their still trying to cover up the robber from the police.

It’s only complicated cause your making it complicated. Me on the other side of the fence ain’t sucking on all the propaganda and confusion that the church’s left arm is scattering out to you folks.

Marvin, haven’t seen it but I bet your DVD set is spin city stuff. Lets get back to the basics that any common man can see through. No wishy washy confusing crap. How about just modern day prophets teaching hate as religious doctrine.

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29 Marvin November 4, 2009 at 11:55 PM

Terrance,

You seem to be either purposely missing the boat, or maybe you’re reading too fast. Let’s try this again. You are right about most of what you’re saying. And you’ve obviously never seen any of my work or live presentations. No spin, just truth delivered without excuse, but in a scriptural and constructive manner. Our DVDs even take you through the Bible helping viewers to identify many of the Blacks in the Bible, even those who held priesthood then, and most importantly showing you how to identify the Blacks in the family line of the Savior Jesus Christ Himself. So there is value here if you’ll have it.

It’s your choice. You can be like those who simply “looked” at the brass serpent held up by Moses, or not. the truth will remain constant either way. Write me direct and we’ll send you a set free. marvin@blacksinthescriptures.com

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30 ryan November 5, 2009 at 1:12 AM

Four points, and they won’t be as eloquently stated as if from persimmon:

First, I don’t see the hatred in the church the way Terrence describes it. True, I am shocked to hear some of the comments my own family makes that I consider racist comments. I believe America in general has progressed leaps and bounds from 60 years ago. The culture back then certainly was a racist culture. Even though many church members lived during this time period, they have changed their attitude or have quieted their opinion. And for the last 30 years any worthy male may hold the priesthood.

Second, 30 years ago was so recent it seems like we were the last church to offer the priesthood to blacks. But when it happened, the mormon church was one of the first churches to have black bishops presiding over predominantly white congregations. Because our congregations are based upon geography rather than choice, we did not segregate like many churches of other faiths seemed to do in the 50s, 60s and 70s.

Thirdly, the priesthood of God is essentially an organization of service. It’s not a question about who holds it, but who has access to the blessings. Back in the days of Moses, the 12 tribes had access to priesthood blessings (essentially, the receiving of ordinances), but members of the priesthood order were only males born to the Levite tribe. If you were born in the tribe of Judah, you could not be ordained. But the point of the priesthood is to serve–and those who were born of Judah had access to the ordinances, they just didn’t perform the ordinances themselves.

Fourth, (and sorry, Rusty, if I open up a can of worms here) the same example can be used with gender. All church members have access to the priesthood but it is still given to only worthy males 18 years or older (Melchizedek Priesthood). So women are not yet allowed to hold the priesthood. But they do have convenient access to all the blessings the priesthood offers (fathers, home teachers, local clergy). The argument is the same, but I’d much rather argue about a current topic than to gripe about why the church didn’t change its stance 50 years ago instead of 30 years ago. The point is it changed. Now its wonderful that racism is no longer an issue. So lets not make it an issue now.

In conclusion, we get all bent out of shape because our society is about power, control, and authority. But the priesthood is not focused on any of those things. I am a priesthood holder, but I do not need to hold the priesthood to be saved. My prayers are answered no matter whether I hold the priesthood. Christ atoned for the sins of all people. And any person of any culture, nationality, or race may embrace the gospel and be saved, by getting baptized by someone commissioned of Jesus Christ Himself.

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31 Terrance Smith November 5, 2009 at 8:52 AM

Marvin, from now on I’m going to call you “Venus” – Venus Fly Trap, cause you make it look good and pretty all over on the outside. And Ryan, we just ain’t talking about the priesthood, but if you are the one “true church” your church also withheld us from temple stuff. So your priesthood story about the Levite and all is all talk and walk. Frankly, your modern day prophets wrote and taught for over a 160 years that my people were the scum of the earth. It’s all over and over in their writings. Are you so blind that you can’t see this at face value?

Marvin, if you want to see some sinners, I round them up from the street I live on. Aren’t all men sinners? So forget sending your Bible paper. But if you can show me a modern day prophet of God who’s heart is filled with racism and preaching that hatred from the pulpit, I’ll call him a man that’s never known the love of God. There still folks out there today teaching this hatred from the pulpit! Your past prophets and teachers that taught this are all cut from the same cloth.

Your all looking for reasons to white wash all this in your minds. But your all washing your dirty face using the same dirty rag.

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32 Margaret November 5, 2009 at 10:16 AM

Terrance, reading all that you have written just makes me sad. I know that racism is still alive and well in America, but less so than in years past. I have a Black son-in-law (Baptist) who expresses many of the same opinions that you have. He’s a good man and I love him. He has had so many bad experiences that he does not trust what LDS Church members have to say. Your anger is very evident. Unless you can overcome that anger, you will never trust anyone who doesn’t share your views.

I have met Marvin. He loves all people and loves our Savior. He has overcome the anger and hatred with truth, light and love. You would do well to put anger aside and open your heart to at least try to understand what he is trying to explain to you.

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33 Rusty Lindquist November 5, 2009 at 11:19 AM

Persimmon, as usual, I appreciate your eloquent, thoughtful, and substantive expressions.

Particularly the perspective that if we are to weigh men at all, which we must beware of, we must weigh men by the balance of their lives, not by selected deeds. Such a measurement is not only grotesquely inadequate, but lines us up for similar judgement from our Father: “For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again” (Matthew 7:2).

Terrance, it strikes me that you might want to take note of this, for the hatred which you accuse others of, is strikingly evident in your own words.

Marvin, it’s an honor to have you visit, and participate with such timliness. Your insights are profound, and your offer to send Terrance a free series of “Blacks in the scriptures” evidence of your empathy and sincerity. I’ve appreciated both your testimony and your insight.

Ryan, wow, what great perspective. That what really matters is that all have access to the blessings of the priesthood. The reminder that for a time int he bible only the Levite tribes could hold the priesthood is important. Saying the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints must be false because at one time it withheld priesthood from the blacks, would be akin to saying the bible is wrong because for a time it withheld the priesthood from others as well.

As you said, the priesthood is not about power, control and authority, but access to the blessings of God which can only be obtained by proper authority.

Terrance, I’m sorry that you feel so hurt. I understand why you do. Still, I’d encourage you to speak with the same love and respect with which those here are speaking to you. Currently, it stands in stark contrast, which usually hurts more than helps.

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34 Terrance Smith November 5, 2009 at 4:19 PM

Rusty – who ever you are. I find it really twisted that your telling me to settle down when your it is own guy, Brigham Young , who wrote this about me:

“You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild, and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind.”

Yes, I’m angry but mine is a righteous anger, not hatred. I’m angry at all your leaders and all of you church people that still stand behind these teachers of hate. And Rusty, it’s belittling to see how you try to twist my anger into meaning that I am hateful by the things I written. I’ve never called anyone of you like the things I been called by your prophets.

Margeret woman, I do trust people. Just not maybe your kind. If you been telling that same angry story to your son in law, about how he needs to let it all go and stuff, I’m telling you that he can see right through you. I’ve also had bad experiences, some of them I can adjust to, like the police taking out their hatred on my brothers. But yours is even worse cause you all proclaim it was done in the name of God. Like the religious arm of the KKK. Where they were only burning my kind on the stake to rid us from this physical world, you were denying the riches of God’s kingdom to us in both this physical world and the spiritual ones – sealings and endowments – as well. Double the killing!!!!

What the crap does these two things mean? First one below church said they never been racist. Second one church got us going into the kingdom but still as a servant!

From an Ensign article of September 2000 by GA Alexander Morrison

“How grateful I am that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has from its beginnings stood strongly against racism in any of its malignant manifestations.”

“If that Negro is faithful all his days, he can and will enter the Celestial Kingdom. He will go there as a servant, but he will get celestial glory.”

Never been racist..Crap! And who we going to serve? No doubt it is you Mormon’s that are up there high in the kingdom. Man, what comfort, I’m going to go to heaven but still going to be a slave to the white man!

Get away from me all you false people and hand shakers of the men who hated the black man for the color if his skin!

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35 Margaret November 5, 2009 at 4:58 PM

Terrance, I have no idea where you are getting your information. I can’t deny the past. It happened, and there are many regrets. Speaking about today, I assure you that ALL worthy members are eligible for ALL privileges and blessings. I serve in the Temple, and I see members of ALL races attending and serving there. There are truly NO differences of status in the Temple. I love seeing Blacks in the Temple, and if I could, I’d hug them all. I would happily live in a ward with a Black, Asian, Polynesian, or Hispanic Bishop or Stake President. Most members feel the same. If they don’t they will have to answer for it.

I can’t make you accept me, or even tolerate me. If you hate me, so be it, but if you ever decide you want to open up, just come back here and let us know. You will be welcome! And you won’t be a slave, but I hope you would want to serve others.

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36 Margaret November 5, 2009 at 7:15 PM

One more thing. I think you misunderstand what it means to be a servant in the celestial kingdom. Serving is a privilege. Remember when King Benjamin said “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings, ye are in the service of your God”. Christ considered himself a servant. To be Christ-like is to be a servant. I hope I will be one.

God Bless you. May you find peace and joy.

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37 Terrance Smith November 5, 2009 at 10:17 PM

Now youes crafty girl twisting my words. I never said I didn’t want to serve. I’ll wash any persons feet including yours woman. But I will do it through my desire of serving the Lord, not because some so called modern day prophet said I was gonna cuz my skin is black.

“He will go there as a servant, but he will get celestial glory.”

The keyword your man used was “But” he didn’t use the word “and”. And when your man, Mark Peterson, said all of it in 1954, he said it a whole speech that didn’t speak well of the black man. Read this what he also said.

“The discussion on civil rights, especially over the last 20 years, has drawn some very sharp lines. It has blinded the thinking of some of our own people, I believe. They have allowed their political ffiliations to color their thinking to some extent, and then, of course, they have been persuaded by some of the arguments that have been put forth…. We who teach in the Church certainly must have our feet on the ground and not be led astray by the philosophies of men on this subject… “I think I have read enough to give you an idea of what the negro is after. He is not just seeking the opportunity of sitting down in a cafe where white people eat. He isn’t just trying to
ride on the same streetcar or the same Pullman car with white people. It isn’t that he just desires to go to the same theater as the white people. From this, and other interviews I have read, it appears that the negro seeks absorbtion with the white race. He will not be satisfied until he achieves it by intermarriage. That is his objective and we must face it. We must not allow our feeling to carry us away, nor must we feel so sorry for negroes that we will open our arms and embrace them with everything we have. Remember the little statement that we used to say about sin, ‘First we pity, then endure, then embrace.’…

So I really don’t give him the any credence to believe he was saying something nice about us with regarding serventhood in the celestial kingdom. There’s no doubt he was talking about bondage.

Secondly, please quit trying to belittle me like I’m wildly coming up with this information. Maybe you should do some study woman!

Lastly, quit turning my anger into saying that may hate you. That’s word play and your trying to make me look like some ugly hearted freak. Why don’t you focus on your own peoples hatred and the stuff they said and did to my race in their religious doctrine. Your still holding hands with these folks and then you have the nerve to call me a hateful black man. How are you any different than your fathers?

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38 Terrance Smith November 5, 2009 at 11:47 PM

Here is link out to full speech. Just so you don’t think I’m making this stuff up. Mark Peterson was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. You judge for yourself. This is a safe link, no hateful stuff, just the text alone by itself.

http://www.mormonismi.net/mep1954/

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39 Margaret November 6, 2009 at 9:29 AM

I am aware of most of these quotes you have mentioned. They are wrong, and were given in a different time when attitudes were very different from what they are now. It wasn’t just Mormons that made statements like those, but that still doesn’t justify it.

Gratefully, those attitudes have changed in most of us. Some do hang on to the attitudes and injustices of the past. We are handing you an olive branch here. We regret the past and are in no way trying to say it didn’t happen. We want you to understand that we are sorry, and hope you will forgive all those injustices to your race and other races, too, and start to build a friendship. I know from experience, that if you can’t forgive, it will eat you up inside. You will never find peace.

God Bless You!

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40 Rusty Lindquist November 6, 2009 at 11:49 AM

Terrance, Last night I lay in bed considering this thread and your messages. It struck me that when you said to me “who are you”, I realized you were right. Who am I to try to understand you. I realized that I am incapable of really understanding your indignation.

What I do know are two things. The first of which is what has been covered extensively already… that it is naive to summarily dismiss Mormonism because of this instance. Not only was this a situation unspecific to Mormonism, but if you subscribe to that logic you’d likewise be required to summarily dismiss the whole of the bible, even the whole of Christendom. I’m sure the children of Israel were full of rigteous indignation against Moses, for whose transgression they’d all have to perish in the wilderness. But, it didn’t make Moses a false prophet, and it doesn’t make the bible less true. Justified indignation, yes. But it would be a slippery slope to derive such a conclusion. The Bible is the word of God, this much I know. With the same surety that I know the Book of Mormon is the Word of God, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints is the Lord’s true church. And the the prophets and apostles who lead us, mortal as they are, and as were those of old, are men of God and have led the church to the best of their abilities, as did Moses.

The other thing I know is that this thread, as it is now, has reached a point of diminishing returns. I can’t possibly conceive of any more that we can say to you on this topic. You are upset about it, to depths which I’m incapable of understanding. I can’t blame you for that. I do think it’s unhealthy to let the injustices of the past so strongly control the attitudes of the present. But as you said, who am I?

So from now on comments on this thread will be moderated. If they are constructive and add to the general benefit of the discussion, they shall be allowed for the discussion of the principle. But if they are simply attacks, they shall not be allowed.

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41 Terrance Smith November 6, 2009 at 5:01 PM

So Moses was angry and struck the rock so the story goes. That isn’t closely parallel to your modern day prophets standing on the Rock and saying “Thus the Lord has commanded, the negro is cursed.” Rusty man, your willing to offer up Moses and the Bible so you can still hold hands with the negro haters.

I thought you suppose to be the “True Church” and “A Beacon of Light” and holder of the “Restored Gospel” and all that. Suppose to be a cut above all the others. I don’t know why you even want to say you were just like all the other folks at that time. He!!, the other folks ain’t claiming no such “we the chosen church” things.

You right, you will never know all what my kind has hadden to forgive. And I don’t really think I need forgiveness schooling from either one of youes. I know what it does to one heart when he don’t forgive. So you think that Smith dude was a martyr huh? Well, I’d like to dig up some of my granddaddies relatives and show you the missing fingers and toes from when their masters punished them or the and fractures left in their bones from their masters whippings. So quit trying to be my Shepard. Heck, I’m the one trying to hold out the olive branch to you people so you can see the truth.

One thing I know for sure, If the King of Kings comes a knocking on your door, you better naught be out dining and dancing with those lying thieves. Who’s ever you think they are!

That’s my final warning to you.

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42 Brandon Lott April 19, 2012 at 7:52 AM

I am so happy to see the Book of Mormon being a topic of discussion. I love the Book and all that it teaches. My favorite part about reading it is i learn something different every time i read. If anyone would like a free copy of the book please Check out this link.
Thank You Brandon

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43 Benjamin September 20, 2012 at 1:02 PM

I love how more and more people are reading about the Book of Mormon and the LDS Church. I love the gospel topics that are talked about and shared with others. Find out more about the Book of Mormon here.

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