New Article: “Shame, Shame, Shame: Thirty Years Later And Still No Apology or Explicit Renunciation”

Mormon apologist Blake Ostler once said, “I personally believe that [Brigham Young’s] theology was a disaster for the most part” (>>). We have multiple reasons to concur with Blake (more than he would agree with), as Mormonism has spent much of its post-Brigham history picking up the pieces from the catastrophic mess of theology he left behind. The 1916 First Presidency statement on divine investiture and Elohim/Jehovah identities was largely driven by an effort to repair Brigham Young’s damaging Adam-God teaching. Contrary to the notion that it died with Brigham, it had carried well on into the 20th century. Some Mormons today are deeply embarrassed over Young’s teaching that Jesus was physically conceived by a natural union between Mary and the Father (who, for Brigham, of course, was Adam). Many Mormons have tragically settled for an “I don’t know” answer to the question of whether sexual intercourse was involved in the conception of Christ. Along with Adam-God, Brigham’s teaching that God still progresses in knowledge and power was condemned as a deadly, damning heresy by apostle Bruce McConkie. Then there’s individual blood atonement, men living on the Sun, participation in polygamy being absolutely necessary for Celestial exaltation, and on, and on. Many Mormons quietly write off Brigham Young as a crazy old uncle who has said very stupid, very irresponsible, very embarrassing, very damaging things. The problem is that he happened to say most of these things from the Tabernacle pulpit in a position of influential leadership and self-claimed prophetic authority. Mormons today try to laugh it off. Stephen Robinson even suggested that Adam-God might have been a joke. But at the end of the day Christians aren’t laughing. We have a higher standard for prophets than Mormonism allows. For us, becoming a Mormon would mean drastically lowering the bar for men who claim to be God’s living spokesmen on earth.

Thirty years ago, Mormonism attempted to reverse yet another one of Brigham’s embarrassing doctrines, the ban on blacks from holding the Mormon priesthood…

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12 Responses to New Article: “Shame, Shame, Shame: Thirty Years Later And Still No Apology or Explicit Renunciation”

  1. David says:

    Just down from this thread you will see one entitled The Mormon Belief Continuum. It does not touch on the various beliefs among informed Mormons but the same title could cover that too. There is a wide spectrum of belief over at the New Cool Thang where Blake and other informed Mormons post. Personally, I do not see how people can have such differing views on such huge theological matters and still be considered (or consider themselves) part of the same religion. I submit that this continuum of belief is due in large part to the “what-the-prophets-say-today variety” of theology that exists in Mormonism. Where present prophetic pronouncement does not touch on an issue, one must look to scripture (what is that exactly – even Mormons disagree on that) and past pronouncements of previous prophets (if those are not considered scripture on the level with the BoM).

    This gives rise to all sorts of explanations and theological stances. Aaron the link you gave (in the thread Abominable Creed) about the atheological nature of Mormonism spells it out for people who are not so familiar with Mormon theology (or the lack thereof). There is no over-arching hermeneutic or creeds so one is left to wonder (the articles of faith might count but there is not much there). Every doctrine becomes a matter of authority and the priesthood ban on blacks shows this.

    In my opinion, the LDS church semi-officially (if such a thing exists) committed prophetic suicide. Awhile back, I phoned the PR department of the LDS church about this issue and it sent me a paper that discussed the issue. It was unimpressive to say the least and it essentially concluded that no one (including the church) knows for sure. The PR department could not even pin down the date of the ban. There is no way for the LDS church to come out clean on this one. Either the ban was based on the curse of Cain, neutrality in the pre-existence, or bigotry.

    continued

  2. David says:

    How can an entity (Christ’s church) have no explanation for denying a significant portion of the population an ordinance/office that has ramifications on one’s eternal destiny? If the reinstitution of the priesthood is such a big deal, such a great thing (as I have heard from Mormons), then why is this part (the ban) so vague? Of all the times that the utterances of a seer could be useful, it would be here.

    Furthermore, a Mormon could say that he/she knew why the ban existed (essentially pick one of the three options listed above) and who in Mormondom could say, “No you are wrong”? The church does not even seem to have a stance about lacking a stance, at least not enough to say formally, “no one knows for sure”.

    The how’s and the why’s for the LDS church denying the priesthood to black males is of serious consequence. It raises troubling issues as to whom or what is actually running the show in Salt Lake. It is a case study in Mormon theology and epistemology. To me this issue is far more interesting for the troubling theological issues it raises verses its sensational nature.

    continued

  3. David says:

    The back-pedaling that is done with this embarrassing issue makes the problem worse. If the curse of Cain or neutrality in the pre-existence rationales are called conjecture or folklore by the higher ups (when many in the church felt it was gospel) what is a rank-and-file Mormon to feel regarding other weighty beliefs (like the nature of God) that may one day be called “folklore”? The way a rank-and-file Mormon came to his/her ideas regarding the position of blacks in this world is the same way he/she came to know about other issues. If messages given by GA’s can be dismissed as non-doctrine (like the rationale for the priesthood ban or Adam God), or even heresy, then why should we trust anything the GA’s say (even if the GA calls it doctrine/scripture)? Why can’t we throw out whatever we want, as there is no official way of determining what is doctrine? If intellectual Mormons can have a internet battle that goes 224 posts deep, and that battle is over something as seemingly simple as a thread entitled Yes, God the Father does have a Father (over at http://www.newcoolthang.com/index.php/2006/05/the-father-has-a-father/253/#comments), then the conclusion that Mormonism is a bankrupt religion is not so far fetched.

    This quote was given in the context of eternal progression and regression but it holds true for other theological disasters including authority and the priesthood ban:

    I think I get now why so many Christian[s] regard Mormons as not merely heretic[s] but also
    lunatics – Blake Ostler

  4. eric017 says:

    I agree with David. For all the talk of how wonderful ‘continuing revelation’ is and how blessed the LDS feel they are to have it, much of it is hollow in my opinion. The leadership in SLC hasn’t given anything reall new in 30 years, and I’ve been told by someone close to me (in a stake presidency) that blacks were given the priesthood only after a considerable internal struggle within the higher-ups. It was only after realizing that the ban was preventing more baptisms than the threat of people leaving the church if the ban was lifted (i.e. bigots within the church who held to curse of Cain). People did leave the LDS church because the ban was lifted, but I think lifting the ban did the church more good in the long run.

    There are so many issues that the LDS church hasn’t officially addressed honestly including those mentioned above. Mormons complain that non-LDS don’t go to LDS for understanding Mormonism. The problem is that it is hard to get a strait answer. Depending on the specific question, the position of the Mormon on thier belief continuum, and the knowledge of the person, answers really do seem to vary. To me it shows a clear lack of leadership on the part of ‘God’s voice here on earth’. There is what seems to be a blatent unwillingness to officially discuss any unsavory aspect to the doctrine or history.

    It seems as though the leaders and the membership want people (dissatisfied Mormons and non-Mormons) to simply believe what the leaders say on face value (i.e. believe the prophet because he is the prophet). There is absolutely no place for even asking questions whether explainations are right or not. When the current explaination contradicts what the past explaination was, we are expected to smile, forget it and move on. Many of us cannot do this, because it seems extremely disingenuous and dishonest.

  5. falcon says:

    I went out and read some of the comments from the link David posted just to get a sense of the discussion. When it comes to the topic at hand here, I can’t even bring myself to give a measured, well thought out, reasoned, intellectual answer/position. My reaction is “These people are just plain goofy!” Sorry it’s the best I can do. The rank and file must be totally ignorant of the quality of “revelation” and of clearly articulated doctrinal positions by the “living prophet” of their religion. They just go along fat, happy and ignorant giving their blah, blah, blah canned testimonies with a smiley face attatched to it. (forgive me, I’m considering deleting that comment. This stuff really exasperates me. I want so badly for our Mormon friends to see what’s going on) This is the deal, once a person accepts as true that Joseph Smith had visions and revelations from God, everything else is immaterial. It’ one of those “the light is on but nobody is home” kind of deals. Generally these are nice, decent people, clueless about their religion, but nice and decent. Unfortunately, nice and decent won’t get someone into the Kingdom of God. That’s the real tragedy here. The hook that keeps them in the program is the fear that if they leave they’ll spend eternity in outer darkness. If they could get past that control tactic, they could in deed be free. Real security and peace of mind comes by knowing that faith in the finished work of Jesus on the Cross is all that is necessary for salvation. We are then transformed by God’s Spirit through the process of sanctification. Simply put, we are saved through faith in Jesus, justification; we are transformed by the power of the Spirit, sanctification; and we will reside with God for eternity, glorification. It’s all about our relationship with Jesus. No denomination, group or sect has control over our eternal destiny. It’s each person answering God’s call one-on-one. God guarantees our eternal destiny through faith in His Son.

  6. David says:

    I thought you guys might appreciate this. It can be found at:

    http://www.deseretnews.com/article/1,5143,700232679,00.html?pg=2

    “How would he respond to those who continue to wonder why the priesthood ban was ever part of LDS practice? Elder Child said he would tell them, “we’re all Heavenly Father’s children; let’s put this behind us and just go forward.”

    Let’s not Mr. Child :)

  7. In healthy relationships, normal people understand that to put something so huge “behind” them there has to be some significant apologies and reconciliation and confession and repentance.

    The Church preaches repentance, but it hypocritically thinks of itself as exempt.

  8. Berean says:

    I read the link that David posted. The account given by the Mormon who refused to acknowledge what was written in “Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith” (TPJS) reminds me of a meeting I had with some missionaries a short time ago.

    The two young missionaries announced they were bringing a special guest over. This “special guest” arrived. He was a 74 year-old man who sat down with the rest of us at my kitchen table and announced to me that he had seen Jesus Christ physically and literally in 2006. I thought he might be suffering from a mental disability so I just listened for a little bit and asked him a few questions about it and then moved on. The conversation progressed and he pushed for me to pray about the BOM which I told him that I wouldn’t and gave the reasons why. The talk continued and I told him that the God of the Bible is a spirit (John 4:24; Col 1:15) unlike the Mormon god who is an exalted man. He denied that the LDS Church teaches that. I almost laughed when he said that and reached over to pull out the TPJS on the bookshelf to read the King Follet Discourse to him. He became angry and stood up and announced that he didn’t want to hear it and that they were leaving.

    I looked over at the young missionary and said, “Mike, doesn’t your church teach that God is an exalted man?” He lowered his head and whispered, “Yes, God is an exalted man.” I thanked him for being honest with his answer and then they stormed out.

    I found this puzzling and intellectualy dishonest on the elderly man’s part. On “testimony Sunday” the ward members go to the front and announce to the members that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God and pledge their allegiance to him while they weep saying it. Why would they react this way to hearing the prophets words read to them from a book that they have themselves and it’s a known teaching of the church? Why the embarrassment? Is the TPJS no longer valid and should be disregarded like others the LDS Church doesn’t like anymore?

  9. mobaby says:

    I think the racist doctrines of Brigham Young and others in the LDS religion are a great source of embarassment for Mormons. These beliefs were no more “folklore” than their belief in the Golden Plates, Divine visitations on Joseph Smith, and the Book of Mormon. Perhaps someday all these things will be thought of as “folklore” in the LDS religion – as they should be. The way I view it, God had somewhat protected people of color from this particular deceptive religion for many many years. Black folks can be thankful they missed the chance of getting caught up in polygamy and other folly. I know there were a few converts who had held to the belief they were rebellious in the pre-exsistence (another bit of folklore)and were cursed – but that was a hard sell – “come be discriminated against and enjoy our condescending fellowship. But no celestial glory for you.” Ummm thanks, but no.

  10. Lyle says:

    “Shame, Shame, Shame: One Hundred Sixty Years Later and Still No Apology or Explicit Renunciation”

    Huh? Well, I’m still looking for apologies from the descendants of the “Christians” who persecuted and murdered Mormons in Ohio, Missouri, Illinois, and elsewhere. Founder Joseph Smith was murdered in cold blood by these savages.

    Driven from their homes and unable to find any peace, thousands of members of THE Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints trekked across the plains to find peace from these “Christians” here in the West.

    Sorry Aaron, Brother Bill, and all your cohorts in the “MRMan” Church, I don’t feel your brand of “Christian” love outside Temple Square today, nor on the evening news, nor do I find it on your MRMan website. Your cut ‘n paste scholarship can make some fun entertainment, but that’s about all.

  11. eric017 says:

    Berean wrote:

    Is the TPJS no longer valid and should be disregarded like others the LDS Church doesn’t like anymore?

    Like so many issues, I think the answer lies in that it depends on who you talk too. IMO, the LDS church is really between a rock and a hard place. On one hand, most Mormons hold the view that the LDS church is the same as the NT and is the truest form of Christianity. They also teach that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever – that Mormonism is an everlasting unchanging true Gospel. On the other hand, it has a built-in mechanism for ability to change in ‘continuing revelation’ and the promise that the ‘prophet cannot lead the church astray’. It has almost a 180 year history of changing doctrine every so often, which leads people to leave the church claiming apostasy of the leadership (i.e. RLDS, FLDS, etc.). I think that for the most part, the church would like people to not focus on things like TPJS. Unfortunately (for the church), as seen by the comments from the link David posted the internet poses a daunting challenge to the church. Now, millions of Mormons and non-Mormons alike can see documents that the church has tried to relegate to obscurity. We can see the inconsistencies within Smith’s theology between writing the BOM and his death. We can see the inconsistency between Young’s Mormonism and SLC today. We can see the inconsistencies between the LDS church and the Christian body of Christ. The fact that these topics are even being discussed in internet forums to me is a clear sign of lack of leadership in SLC. But, while I think the leadership doesn’t seem to know what to do, is a clear sign that it may only be a matter of time. As Christians we need to stand firm in our faith, and in love keep the pressure on by bringing up these inconsistencies and ask hard questions. My daily prayer is that God will lead Mormons to a true relationship with Christ. Who knows how long it will take, but with God anything is possible.

  12. Michael P says:

    A couple thoughts:

    First, Lyle: I apologize for those Christians’ actions. There are many, many examples of Christians acting outside of love. But do you want yoru faith to be judged by the Mormons who do act “Mormonly” all the time? Isn’t it your faith who says it is important to look at what you actually believe? OK, so look at what we believe, and not what some of our fold do. Applying the standard both ways, now, that’s all.

    All– one of the best excuses for BY and many of his nuttier comments is that since they are all recorded in the JoD, and since the JoD is not an accuarate transmission of what was spoken, we’re not even sure if he even said them. But still, the JoD hold some very important and worthwile thoughts, even if there are errors about what was said and who said them.

    Call me crazy (and some of you might anyway), if a book of recorded sermons and documents in Christianity were to be found to be fraudulent, we would run away from that document as fast as we possibly could, and be very upfront in saying you can’t trust it.

    So it is with Mormonism, that they cna’t bring themselves to that. They only say there are errors, but its still a good book. They have found strength in ambiguity, if nothing else.

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