What I Want From General Conference

March 30, 2006

I cannot predict what will come up in Conference, but I can tell you what I will attend hoping to hear.  I am hoping to hear something from the Brethren about the importance of participating in national elections because I cannot see the point.  I am hoping to hear something about the morality of attacking Iraq which was no threat to us nor to its neighbors.  I am hoping for some guidance on the topics of US national sovereignty and illegal immigration.  I would like to be reassured that there is no secret Gadianton Band running things in Washington, D.C.  I am hoping to hear a strong denunciation of abortion and the sin of voting the pro-choice position.  I would like to have the Church position cleared up on the philosophy behind so-called “victimless crimes.”  I want to hear a reaffirmation of the Church committment to the Constitution and warnings about current threats to it.  I would like to hear Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie quoted as authority on doctrine and the scriptures, or at least something reassuring me that our leaders still believe the same things they did when those men were alive.  I would like to hear another denunciation of those who are proud because of their money or learning and set themselves above the prophets.  I would like to hear it reaffirmed that it is official Church doctrine that there really was a Lehi colony in ancient America and that the Book of Mormon is not merely an “inspired” fiction of purely 19th century origins.  I would also like it cleared up whether the priesthood ban on blacks holding the priesthood before 1978 was God-made or man-made.  And I don’t think it will happen, but I wish The Family: A Proclamation to the World would be added to our standard works with a sustaining vote of the Church membership in General Conference.

Bottom line:  I would like to receive assurance that I am attending a Mormon religious meeting, and not just another traditional Christian meeting.  I just hate it when I receive in General Conference only what I could have heard in any Protestant church before I joined the Church.  I like my religion hard-core.  That is why I became a Mormon.  That is why I knew it was true.  All the Jesus-loves-me-this-I-know-for-the-Bible-tells-me-so stuff I can get anywhere.  I go to General Conference for the truth that goes beyond that.


Blacks and the Priesthood – With Sources

March 30, 2006

A friend wrote to me this morning asking me about blacks the the priesthood, questions that came up in a Sunday School class that he taught last Sunday. Here is my response:

A lot of nonsense and “personal opinion” was taught before the change in 1978, some of it by apostles who did not have authority to speak for the Church on the matter. This was in the days before priesthood correlation and the Church Correlation Committee that now screens all of our Conference talks, manuals, missionary lessons, and other doctrinal material for false doctrine. As a result of the doctrinal confusion that existed before the Church got its act together with correlation, not everything that was taught was actually true. The Church has “officially” said very little about this except that before 1978 blacks could not hold the priesthood and now they can. Among those who discuss doctrine on the Internet, there is a considerable divide between those who feel as I do that the priesthood ban was from God, and those who feel that God never ordered such a ban in the first place and that it was something that bigoted and racially prejudiced Presidents of the Church did on their own.

Elder McConkie told a group of CES educators at BYU shortly after the ban was lifted in 1978, “forget everything I or anyone has ever said on the matter, and just get with the current program,” or words to that effect. Of course, no one paid any attention to him, and it is still a hotly debated subject online, one that the leaders of the Church have not seen fit to get involved in.

The fact is, there doesn’t appear to be any recorded revelation establishing the ban in the first place. And the revelation to lift the ban was never recorded either. It was just referred to by the Church PR people when they made their official announcements.

For myself, and I am not alone in this view but neither is it universally accepted, the ban was from God because the priesthood did it, and Latter-day Saints believe that the priesthood is the authority to act for God in administering his Church. Further, priesthood leaders including the Prophet and the Twelve are called by prophecy and revelation as explained in the Articles of Faith which is part of our standard works in the Pearl of Great Price. However, those who just want to point to the priesthood ban as a “mistake” or “error” committed by imperfect and fallible mortals serving as Presidents of the Church and the Twelve make a good argument too. And there has been nothing “official” from the Church to refute their view. The fact is, the priesthood ban was not ever based on a recorded and published revelation. And Joseph Smith did ordain a small number of black men who continued in the priesthood throughout their lives. The ban appears to have been first implemented by Brigham Young who was a known white racist based upon many of his remarks.

Here are some sources that you can study on the matter, but I caution you that some of these sources are not “official” Church sources. And I find it hard to believe that they are not influenced by personal bias and in some cases even a hidden agenda. So take their information with a grain of salt. The FAIR website has published quite a lot of material on the discussion, but there is no certainty that all of them are faithful either, and some of them may be deliberately over emphasizing some things and under emphasizing others that are relevant to the discussion. So keep all this in mind when you study these websites. I personally have a testimony that Brigham Young was a true prophet of God, and the Lord would never have let him lead the Church astray as he surely did if he implemented the priesthood ban without being commanded by God to do so. Many of the less faithful on the Internet feel that I am actually supporting the false position of “infallibility” for our Prophets even though I claim that I am not.

With a very large grain of salt, I recommend you study further at:

FAIR on Blacks and the Priesthood – This an “apologetics” website run by FAIR (the Foundation of Apologetics Information and Research), an organization that presumes to defend the Church position. However, they have a very limited view of what the Church position is, and reject many of the teachings of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Joseph Fielding Smith, and Bruce R. McConkie as not “official Church doctrine.”

BlackLDS.org – This is a website maintained by FAIR (the Foundation of Apologetics Information and Research). It is entirely devoted to the topic of blacks and the priesthood.

Wikipedia: Blacks and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – I am not familiar with this article although it probably contains links to other sources of information. Some of those sources might be anti-Mormon because of the nature of Wikipedia.

Jeff Lindsay’s LDS FAQ – This guy is a straight arrow, a true believer, in my opinion. He supports and is not critical of the Brethren.

Black History and Latter-day Saints from About.com – This website includes links to other resources. It looks like it is primarily a “faithful” site with links to other sites that will be supportive of the Church.

The Genesis Group – This is the website of the Genesis Group which is actually an organized auxiliary led by a presidency called and set apart by the priesthood. In that sense, it is an official Church website.

All Are Alike Unto God – This is a famous talk given by Bruce R. McConkie while he was one of the Twelve. It is often used by anti-Mormons to prove that the Church once taught false doctrine on the topic of blacks and the priesthood. Those who cite this article the most often do not believe that the priesthood ban was from God and not man.

McConkie on Blacks and the Priesthood – Here is an excerpt from DOCTRINES OF THE RESTORATION with a compilation of the teachings of Bruce R. McConkie. It includes his testimony of the revelation that lifted the priesthood ban on blacks holding the priesthood.

Bottom line: Blacks may have been descended from Cain, and that may be why they could not hold the priesthood until 1978, but that is not official Church doctrine nor was it ever official Church doctrine. And nothing has been revealed by God to indicate whether or not these spirits were less valiant in the war in heaven. A lot of nonsense has been taught with the truth, and figuring out which is which is quite difficult because the Church has made very few official statements on the matter.

Perhaps the most enlightening thing published by the Church is the Official Declaration itself which is part of our Doctrine and Covenants. It reads:

OFFICIAL DECLARATION—2

To Whom It May Concern:

On September 30, 1978, at the 148th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the following was presented by President N. Eldon Tanner, First Counselor in the First Presidency of the Church:

In early June of this year, the First Presidency announced that a revelation had been received by President Spencer W. Kimball extending priesthood and temple blessings to all worthy male members of the Church. President Kimball has asked that I advise the conference that after he had received this revelation, which came to him after extended meditation and prayer in the sacred rooms of the holy temple, he presented it to his counselors, who accepted it and approved it. It was then presented to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who unanimously approved it, and was subsequently presented to all other General Authorities, who likewise approved it unanimously.

President Kimball has asked that I now read this letter:

June 8, 1978
To all general and local priesthood officers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints throughout the world:

Dear Brethren:

As we have witnessed the expansion of the work of the Lord over the earth, we have been grateful that people of many nations have responded to the message of the restored gospel, and have joined the Church in ever-increasing numbers. This, in turn, has inspired us with a desire to extend to every worthy member of the Church all of the privileges and blessings which the gospel affords.

Aware of the promises made by the prophets and presidents of the Church who have preceded us that at some time, in God’s eternal plan, all of our brethren who are worthy may receive the priesthood, and witnessing the faithfulness of those from whom the priesthood has been withheld, we have pleaded long and earnestly in behalf of these, our faithful brethren, spending many hours in the Upper Room of the Temple supplicating the Lord for divine guidance.

He has heard our prayers, and by revelation has confirmed that the long-promised day has come when every faithful, worthy man in the Church may receive the holy priesthood, with power to exercise its divine authority, and enjoy with his loved ones every blessing that flows therefrom, including the blessings of the temple. Accordingly, all worthy male members of the Church may be ordained to the priesthood without regard for race or color. Priesthood leaders are instructed to follow the policy of carefully interviewing all candidates for ordination to either the Aaronic or the Melchizedek Priesthood to insure that they meet the established standards for worthiness.

We declare with soberness that the Lord has now made known his will for the blessing of all his children throughout the earth who will hearken to the voice of his authorized servants, and prepare themselves to receive every blessing of the gospel.

Sincerely yours,

SPENCER W. KIMBALL
N. ELDON TANNER
MARION G. ROMNEY

The First Presidency

Recognizing Spencer W. Kimball as the prophet, seer, and revelator, and president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it is proposed that we as a constituent assembly accept this revelation as the word and will of the Lord. All in favor please signify by raising your right hand. Any opposed by the same sign.

The vote to sustain the foregoing motion was unanimous in the affirmative.

Salt Lake City, Utah, September 30, 1978.


Can we be loyal to the Lord and critical of the Brethren?

March 17, 2006

In this month First Presidency Message our Prophet, Gordon B. Hinckley, asks us to be loyal to the Church. He clearly believes and is teaching here that this is the Savior’s true church, and we cannot be loyal to the Savior while being disloyal to the Church or the prophets who the Lord has chosen to lead it in our day. I would like to add my testimony to his. This is a true teaching. If we want to please the Savior, if we are loyal to Him, then we will love and follow those whom he has chosen to lead the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints today. We are traitors to the Church and to the Savior whose priesthood it possesses if we do not support and sustain the Brethren. Specifically, this is what President Hinckley said:

Be Loyal to the Church”Be loyal to the Church. I have a testimony of the truth of this Church. So do you. . . . Nearly everyone here can stand upon his feet and say, ‘I know that God lives and that Jesus is the Christ and that this is Their work.’ . . . Never do anything which would speak of disloyalty in any sense. Uphold [the Church], sustain her, pray for her, work for her, move her forward. . . . The future of the work . . . lies with you. We need loyal and faithful Latter-day Saints. . . .

“Be loyal to the faith. Be loyal to God. Be loyal to Jesus Christ. Be loyal to the Church of Jesus Christ, and in so doing, you will be loyal to yourselves” (meeting, Kingston, Jamaica, May 15, 2002).

“Be loyal to this Church, my brothers and sisters. . . . I want to give you my testimony that the General Authorities of this Church will never lead you in paths that will take you down. They will lead you in a trail that leads upward if you will follow in faith and faithfulness” (regional conference, Salt Lake City, Utah, May 5, 2002).

Why are there so many online saints who bellyache and moan about the Brethren and the way they run the Church? Do those who possess this spirit of criticism even know what loyalty is? Do they treat their friends this way? How about their closest loved ones? Of course the prophets are not infallible, but they have been chosen by the Lord to lead the Church today. That means they have been asked by Jesus Christ to lead us ourselves if we are members of this Church.

We made a covenant with the Savior when we were baptized. We promised Him that we would keep his commandments so that he could bless us with the companionship of the Holy Ghost. We renew that promise every time we take the Sacrament. Are we going to turn around and break that promise by being unrighteously critical of our prophet-leaders in our daily conversation and on the Internet? Aren’t we commanded to love one another? Isn’t that one of the most important commandments the Lord has given? And isn’t that what we have promised to do when we promise to keep his commandments? And if we are to love our friends and family, shouldn’t we love our Church leaders too? How can we be continually picking away at their faults and supposed sins, and honestly say that we love them? This spirit of criticism that is so prevalent among some online saints is not from above. It is from below. It is from the devil. The Holy Ghost doesn’t inspire us to possess such a spirit of criticism.

I think that we have a big problem in our popular culture here in the USA. We are forgetting what the word “loyalty” means. How can we be loyal to our friends or to our Church leaders when we stab them in the back? And isn’t that what we are doing when we run them down in front of others? Would we do this if they were present? Or do we only do this when we think they aren’t listening? How do we like it when our friends and loved ones bad mouth us behind our backs? That is not being loyal. That is being a traitor to our friends, to those we love, or those we are supposed to love.

Loyalty is all about loving one another. We cannot love one another if we are not loyal to them. We don’t have to approve of everything they do, but we need to defend them and speak well of them. If we fail to do this, if we are disloyal, then we are very unloving indeed. We are lacking charity. And I don’t know anyone who thinks that is OK, not even the most doubting and dissident member of the Church.

We all need to learn better what loyalty is, and how important loyalty is when we love someone. We cannot say that we love the Savior and be disloyal to his Church and those whom he has chosen to lead us. We need to stop being critical of the Brethren. We need to repent. If we don’t, the Savior is going to be unhappy with us even though he loves us. He will feel that we have let him down.

I have a testimony of this. When we are disloyal to the Brethren, we are disloyal to our Savior. We ought to be ashamed of such behavior when we are guilty of it.