Saying some things: Race and the Priesthood

Those who know me have heard me open my mouth about some things already.  I have been writing some stuff on this blog that upsets people.  I am not super courageous, and pretty much every time I write something on here, I get some pushback that hurts me.  But that’s just too bad for me, because I need to just suck it up and be brave 🙂 . And if people say things back to me, it is important for me to listen to those things and try to understand and learn from what others think and feel.

There is much misunderstanding between people.  Language is so imperfect, and experiences are so different.  And sometimes we won’t fully understand, but that is where love has to come in and cover it all, and pride has to go away.

For several months now, I am feeling over and over that it is important to speak what I see as true, particularly when it is speaking truth to what I see as tyranny (paraphrasing Jordan Peterson there).  So I have to gather my courage.  I just have to try to be sure that what I am saying is OK with the Lord for me to say.  And I try to always do that.

So, some of this is about me, because in my soul I have some things I want to say, and none of us know how long we have to say things.  And the reason I want to say some things at this point is because when we see things that are just wrong, that are harmful, we need to be brave and open our mouths.

I have also talked about so many things which are so beautiful to me!  But I have learned to my sorrow that some things that are beautiful to me, when the Lord shows me truth, are distressing and seem awful to others.  It is true that many things that are true are ugly.   But truth itself is not.

Being a member of the Mormon Church for most of my life, I was taught to spread good things that I believe.  Mormons believe in missionary work.  They believe that when you learn truth, you have an obligation to share that truth.  I have said a lot of stuff in my life that was what I understood as truth at the time that I now see differently.  We all see truth a bit differently, even people within the same religion.  That’s ok.  And we all evolve and grow in our understandings.  When we don’t do that, that is what I believe is the definition of being damned – being stopped in our progression.

When we are super sure we have the truth, and are not willing to listen to others, we have surely damned ourselves.  I believe that is what it means to be hard hearted.  We may end up being those who stone the prophets without even realizing it, those who shoot the arrows at Samuel on the wall.

We are often sure we wouldn’t ever do that.  We either are sure what we know is right, so we see no reason to listen to some stranger on the wall; or else what that stranger on the wall is saying doesn’t feel good to us.  It upsets us.

And anyway, that’s not our Prophet on the wall.  That guy on the wall is clearly ignorant, or crazy, or angry, or disgruntled, or uninspired, or not speaking soft words, or a tare, or maybe even apostate.  That guy on the wall is dangerous to listen to.  Maybe that guy has already said stuff we don’t think is true, so we aren’t going to listen to any more.  We have been warned about guys on walls, or guys who write blogs or certain books, or guys who might possibly say anything that we deem to not be exactly in line with those we have already designated as ones through which truth will come.

And also, if we listen to those guys on the wall, it could be very dangerous for us.  We might be deceived.  We might believe what they say.  We might then be identified with them, and called the same bad things as them, and be punished as them.  So it is scary.  And so we cut ourselves off from so much truth we could get by listening to others.

The thing is, everyone has truth to impart.  We can learn from everyone.  Almost every group has their own view that is valuable for us to know and try to understand.  And we will never know that part of the truth unless we listen with an open heart.  We walk a razor’s edge here in life.  We have to learn to discern.  We have to learn to choose.  We have to learn through looking at and considering various and opposing ideas, and hard and even ugly things.  If we always shield ourselves from everything, we will stunt our own growth.

In my life it has been a very thin thread upon which much growth in my life rests.  I can see many threads I almost missed that have been of vital importance to my whole existence.  I shudder to think how many I may have missed entirely.  I do believe that if we desire to progress we will get other chances, at least at some point in the eternities, but maybe not in this eternal round.  Why wait?  I am sure the Pharisees wanted truth, but they thought they had it, and so they missed Jesus.

It is always a razor’s edge.   Some truth seems beautiful to us.  Some does not, although to me it always has ended up to be good to know even ugly truth.   I do not believe it is OK to cover up even ugly truth.

Yes, we have to forgive.   And we have to apologize.   And we have to try to understand.  And until we understand, we can still express sorrow for having caused hurt.  I have had people who didn’t remember hurting me, but who still apologized because they did not want to have hurt me, and their apology still healed me.  But it is good to try to give people what they need to heal, if you can.

I realize that it is very good to let some things go, particularly things between individuals; forgive and be done with them.  But if people cannot heal, or cannot be kept safe, or cannot progress because they are on a train to destruction, then it is probably not good to keep the things causing that hidden and covered up.

The Savior forgave and atoned for those who crucified Him before they even did it.  But the truth of what happened still got told.  How could we learn if we didn’t even know about it?  We can tell about and learn about truth without even blaming people.  But I believe we still need to know about it to learn not to repeat or perpetuate it, and to know how to repair the damage of bad things.

I believe this quote: “If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation.  If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed.” J. Reuben Clark

Now, if anyone has still hung in there through that whole thing, which was really a preface to this and future posts, here is what I want to talk about today:

The issue of Race and the Priesthood and the Church.  Here is the Church’s essay on Race and the Priesthood.

Since I am a white woman, I am going to mostly let the brothers and sisters of African descent in the Church talk about it (in links below).  But I do have a tiny bit of my own experiences, since I had to try to reconcile it in my mind as a convert, and since I have children of African descent.

When I joined the Church, and for most of my time as a member, I had the mistaken idea that if Joseph Smith had the first vision and if the Book of Mormon was true, that it was all true.  I very much conflated the Church with the Gospel.  The Lord showed me that that is a false way of looking at it.

So, because of what I thought, I had a very hard time with black people not being allowed to have the Priesthood nor Temple blessings.  I didn’t know how to reconcile it with what I believed, which was:

2 Nephi 26:33 For none of these iniquities come of the Lord; for he doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.

There were a couple books I read that helped me deal with my cognitive dissonance over this issue, because even though I was totally overjoyed with the June 1, 1978 change, I still struggled with the fact that it had ever been denied.  Those books were:

A Soul So Rebellious by Mary Sturlaugson Eyre

All Are Alike Unto God by E. Dale Lebaron

I read them a long time ago, so can’t remember lots of what was in them, but they did help me.  Still, it was not quite enough, and so mostly I didn’t think a lot about it.   I was super thankful that the change had happened way before we adopted our children, though.

It took me decades to realize I didn’t have to reconcile it; I could just realize that things went wrong, and that didn’t negate other truth.

One thing I have heard several times over the past week or so is people of African descent in the Church saying that they can’t be the only ones standing up, there have to be white people standing up, too.  And it can’t just be going to their black friends after an “incident” and saying how sorry they are.  White people need to be standing up in the moment.  Speak the truth in the moment.  Point out hurtful things in the moment.  Have your black brothers’ and sisters’ backs in the moment when they need it, even if they aren’t in the room, or even in your ward.  Correct erroneous ideas.

I totally failed at that in one particular instance quite a few years ago.  We had just moved into a new ward, and on our very first Sunday in Gospel Doctrine class the teacher actually told a terribly racist joke during his lesson!  I was totally stunned and horrified.  I had black children.  But I sat there and said nothing.  I could have even done it in a kind, gentle way, but I didn’t.  It was totally out of fear, fear of offending, fear because we didn’t know anyone in the ward yet, fear of not saying the right thing.  I really regret not saying something.  I didn’t stand up for my own children in that moment.

I am sure I have failed at other times, but that is the time I remember.  In trying not to fail now, I am saying something about this, but mostly letting the people it affects most talk about it.  I have shared many of the things I have listened to from Sistas in Zion and others on my Facebook page.  It is dismaying that I know almost no one listens to what I have posted.  Maybe it is because they don’t have time to listen to them, but I do wish people would realize that this is important if you are LDS.  Very important.  These are your brothers and sisters.  Listen to how to help them.  Don’t just ignore them because it is me posting that stuff 🙂 .

A little while ago a fake apology for the Priesthood ban that was supposedly from the Church was posted.  It looked like it did actually come from The First Presidency, and many people believed it.  Many Mormons and others were overjoyed to read this apology, because they thought it was true.  When it was found out that it was a fake, it hurt many, many people.  It hurt some of my personal friends who are black.  That made me very sad.

Here is one of the videos I posted where those feelings are expressed.  I am posting it here because I hope many people will listen to it, so they can help with this issue, but mainly the broader issue, which causes great pain to many.  In this, she talks a lot about the broader issue, and not just the fake apology issue:

(There have been many articles in the media about all of that incident that you can look up, if you had not heard about it.)

Yesterday the Church did a celebration for the 40th anniversary of the June 1, 1978 change.  I was able to watch most of it on the live stream.  I really loved the music and the stories.  If you missed it, you can watch it here.

This is a pretty good article about the Priesthood ban and the history of it.

Today was the Wander No More: 40 years after the LDS Priesthood & Temple Restoration conference.  I have been able to watch some of it on live streaming.  I have really enjoyed it.  Here is the keynote address, which I really liked.  You’ll probably have to turn it way up and listen closely to hear it well, but it is worth it:

 

I have put these links hoping that everyone in the LDS Church will become familiar with these issues and struggles for many members – so that people can be understood, and so that people can have each other’s backs.

There are things to be fixed.  All is not well in Zion.  We have been warned about even saying that.   2 Nephi 28:21 And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.

Maybe if we can realize and understand the problems, we can help to fix them.  I think it starts by hearing truth wherever it may come from, and trying to understand each other.  And then love.

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