Revelation Today, Misunderstanding Tomorrow

Free your mind and the rest will follow
Be color blind, don’t be so shallow… FREE YOUR MIND!

-Free Your Mind by En Vogue

This post was inspired by reading an article posted by a Facebook friend from LDS.org. As I am unsure if my comments on that particular wall will be saved from deletion, I expound upon my thoughts here. I would urge you to read the link below before continuing so we start on the same footing.

Race and the Priesthood

I won’t give it much room in this post for a few reasons but I must mention polygamy. At the time it was pronounced as the only way to enter the Celestial Kingdom, but after many years of criticism, and actions taken against them, Official Declaration I was revealed by Wilford Woodruff.  Perhaps the best evidence for the driving force for this ‘revelation’ is found in the text of the Declaration itself:

Inasmuch as laws have been enacted by Congress forbidding plural marriages, which laws have been pronounced constitutional by the court of last resort, I hereby declare my intention to submit to those laws, and to use my influence with the members of the Church over which I preside to have them do likewise.

     -Wilford Woodruff, Official Declaration I, 1890

Spencer W. Kimball and his Quorum revealed what we know now as Official Declaration II in 1978. Although this was a good turning point in church history ultimately this declaration was ‘revealed’ after many years of social and political pressure. (Brown v. Board of Education – 1954, Rosa Parks – 1955, Little Rock Nine – 1957, ‘I Have A Dream’ – 1963, Civil Rights Act of 1964 – 1964, Loving v. Virginia – 1967, and many more)

Understanding the above sequences of events lends credence to the idea that the revelations may have been more socio-politically motivated than divinely revealed. Also, even though the Church is currently fighting against the ‘invasion’ of homosexuality and the fight for equality, one day in the future there may be a revision of beliefs, perhaps Official Declaration III; the teachings of the today’s leaders about the sin of homosexual behavior and the like may be taught as only being the ‘words of man’ and no longer the ‘inspired word of god’.

The words of each president of the church during their time as ‘prophet, seer, and revelator’ are considered true and everlasting, insights into the world of the Lord, and divinely inspired teachings. Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and latter prophets taught of the literal curse on the African race citing the stories in Book of Mormon, and were used as the basis for decades of discrimination by the Church.

I can understand that the teachings of a leader could go against the societal norm and cause controversy, but it seems more likely that a divine message from an all-knowing deity would/should be given before the society had already made the change. If, say, David O. McKay or George A. Smith had made the Official Declaration about African Americans before the Civil Rights Movement this argument would be very different, or perhaps if Joseph Smith or Brigham Young had used their power as ‘prophet, seer, and revelator’ when founding the church on the correct terms there would have been no controversy.

The ability to change the teaching of someone who is considered a ‘prophet, seer, and revelator’ from ‘divinely inspired’ to simply the ‘words of a man’ severely weakens the argument that those teachings were divinely inspired at all. In addition, how are we to be advised to follow some of the teachings of that person but to disregard others? Also, how are we to have confidence that the teachings of the current leaders will persist as ‘revelation’ into our future society.

With this post I am not arguing that the LDS church or its membership is secretly racist or that this change is somehow bad. I wish to make public the startling problem the Church now faces. It is great that the church and its members have come forward and admitted that the teachings and position they held concerning those of African lineage was wrong, but the fact remains that the teachings were based on the Book of Mormon.

The article I linked to above is a very good read and actually mentions some of the less glamorous parts of the history of the Church and also the progress that has been made by it and its members. I am glad that not only the good parts are presented but I must say it doesn’t speak the whole truth about the darker side (pun intended).

Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form.

While the article states “…the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse…” The Book of Mormon is quite clear in describing who, when, and why the ‘curse’ was placed on some humans. 2 Nephi 5:21 states that the black skin was a cursing placed upon them for their iniquity by God. I can’t think of any way it can be explained that this was not a “sign of divine disfavor.”

Continuing the sentence quoted above from the article “…or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else.” Once more the Book of Mormon is in conflict with the article; 3 Nephi 2:15 says the cursing could be taken off and they could become like the Nephites again. How better to say one race of people (who are described as ‘cursed, with a skin of blackness’) is inferior to another than to say that they could become like the other (who are described as “…white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome”).

One extra quote from the same paragraph that I will point out but then pass over. “…the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past…,” “…that mixed-race marriages are a sin.”

In contradiction to the article the Aaronic Priesthood Manual clearly states “We recommend that people marry those who are of the same racial background…” It doesn’t specifically state that interracial marriage is a sin or forbidden but it is clearly not approved of; I wonder when the new issue of the manual will be released to correct this problem.

With this post I would like to urge rationality to those who follow the words of the prophet. The prophets of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are seen as a direct link to the Almighty, they ‘speak boldly and clearly’, and ‘make known God’s will and true character’. It should be concerning that anything they teach as doctrine could some day be considered wrong and interpreted so differently. How are we to know which words of the prophet are to be taken as the divine teachings of eternal doctrine and which will become simply the earthly words of a man. LDS.org has this disturbing sentence, “We can always trust the living prophets. Their teachings reflect the will of the Lord…” What about the past prophets? Their teachings were considered the ‘will of the Lord’ but if it conflicts with the living prophet is it no longer trusted? This would logically say that the will of the Lord changed, but D&C 1:38 says “my word shall not pass away.”

The Book of Mormon is presented as a literal historical account of the civilizations that inhabited the America’s and are the ancestors of the Native American civilizations. If the story of the ‘curse’ is to be taken as an allegory or a figurative account, why not any other account in the Book of Mormon (or the Bible even)? How long until the teachings on homosexuality become the uninspired ramblings of a simple man who just happened to be speaking as the ‘prophet, seer, and revelator’? How long until the ban on giving the priesthood to women is lifted as it was with black males? I myself have seen the wavering and interpretation after interpretation of the Word of Wisdom, how long until it is interpreted out of existence?

I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth…

     -Joseph Smith

Even though it has been held to be the most correct book and belief system on Earth, the Saints and their Book of Mormon are well versed in change. Among roughly 3000 changes in the Book of Mormon alone the largest and most recent must be pointed out. The original Introduction to the Book of Mormon, the necessary parts only (emphasis added):

After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are the principal ancestors of the American Indians.

a record of God’s dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the Americas

And the Introduction after the 2004 and 2013 edits, respectively:

After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are among the ancestors of the American Indians.

a record of God’s dealings with ancient inhabitants of the Americas

These two changes signify another monumental change in the teachings of the Church. Before the edits, the church taught that the Lamanites were the ancestors of the American Indians, the Native population of the Americas. The ‘curse’ explained their skin color but with recent advances in science the DNA couldn’t explain their origin. The Church was faced with the facts that there exists zero geographical, archeaological, anthropological, or genetic evidence in support of the Book of Mormon and its claim of the ancestry of the Native American populations. Analogous to the changes with polygamy and race issues in light of social pressure the teachings about the ancestry of the Native Americans has been adjusted.

I do not wish to turn the church back to its racist roots and I by no means think that this is their largest problem. I simply want the contradiction to be noted and more importantly admitted. The Book of Mormon is clear on its teachings about the ‘curse’ and the ancestry of the Native Americans; if the Church and membership are going to not follow these parts then what else can be given up until the meaning behind having and studying the Book of Mormon is trivial? Why hold the Book in such high regard if its basic teachings can be thrown to the wayside so completely? If you choose not to believe the curse part is true then why not the part about Jesus visiting the America’s; why not the part about the Hebrews making it to the same landing spot in the new world in three separate boats with but one small window; why not the part about being in the America’s all together?

This post will very easily be taken as a hate-filled, Mormon-bashing, atheist rant but please understand that I only bring these topics up as a matter of honesty and integrity. It is possible, however unlikely, that some of you reading this did not know about some of the problems or contradictions that exist in the church, and I hope that as you have now been advised that they exist you will do some simple work to investigate my claims. There is no dishonor or disgrace in investigation; wouldn’t it be more intellectually honest to be able to say that you have scrutinized the problems instead of denying that the problems exist? If, however, you are one of those who knew of these changes and the sequences of events that led to them and see no dilemma, I wonder if you know of the term cognitive dissonance?

I think it was Matt Dillahunty who said (probably better and in fewer words), in my life I strive to believe as many true things and reject as many false things as I am able. I will live my life to that standard as I hope all humans would. Thank you for reading, I end this post with two things; first, a poll meant for fun, second, some immortal lyrics.

 

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About MDarks

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Posted on December 8, 2013, in Book of Mormon, Contradictions of Biblical Proportions, Mormon-isms and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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