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The Bulwark March Blog Review

Oh say, what is truth? ‘Tis the fairest gem
That the riches of worlds can produce,
And priceless the value of truth will be when
The proud monarch’s costliest diadem
Is counted but dross and refuse.
Yes, say, what is truth? ‘Tis the brightest prize
To which mortals or Gods can aspire;
Go search in the depths where it glittering lies
Or ascend in pursuit to the loftiest skies. ‘Tis an aim for the noblest desire.
The sceptre may fall from the despot’s grasp
When with winds of stern justice he copes,
But the pillar of truth will endure to the last,
And its firm-rooted bulwarks outstand the rude blast,
And the wreck of the fell tyrant’s hopes.
Then say, what is truth? ‘Tis the last and the first,
For the limits of time it steps o’er.
Though the heavens depart and the earth’s fountains burst,
Truth, the sum of existence, will weather the worst,
Eternal, unchanged, evermore.

—John Jaques

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The John Adams Center addresses the intersection of “faith, philosophy and public affairs.” Increasingly the discussion of these matters is taking place on the internet. While much valuable information and serious argumentation appear online, we also see a profusion of questionable claims and weak reasoning that often go uncontested. The John Adams Center has resolved to do what it can to raise the level of discussion on blogs and other internet sites that deal with our issues, beginning with those sites of special interest to Latter-day Saints (Mormons). Though keenly aware of our own fallibility, we intend to stand as a “firm-rooted bulwark” of rigorous thinking open to revealed truths, providing an evaluative overview of relevant internet activity, recommending serious and sound contributions (“fairest gems”) and fairly but frankly calling attention to what seems to us defective (“dross and refuse”). Along the way we may amuse ourselves and others from time to time, deliberately or not. Below you will find a review of such internet discussion.

OUR MS. BROOKS has had another busy and productive month. As part of a notable conference at Columbia University on “Mormonism and American Politics” (Feb. 3-4), she gave an interesting, informative, and insightful talk on LDS participation in the Proposition 8 campaign in California. She was there and was clearly an alert observer. She provides a useful account of the way LDS money and LDS wards were mobilized to make what appears to have been a decisive difference in this critical campaign. To be sure, she seems less proud of the LDS contribution than I am, but that is to be expected.

Most interesting is the way she frames her analysis. She is struck by how the Prop 8 campaign tapped into an LDS sense of difference and vulnerability, one that she sees as rooted in the LDS experience with polygamy. This sense expressed itself in California in 2008 by what she sees as a disparity between the public and private rhetoric of pro-Prop 8 members, an “undergrounding” and “double-coding” by which LDS concealed their deepest motives from the public. Now, in one sense, this is unsurprising and hardly objectionable. That is, LDS have their own deep theological reasons that dispose them to favor the norm of heterosexual marriage, in addition to good social and moral reasons that they share with other social conservatives. Naturally, Mormons would appeal to these deep theological reasons when communicating with each other and use more widely available reasons when addressing a more general audience. But Brooks sees this as a failure to embrace a fully transparent and public standard of “communicative reason” (I suppose she is invoking the German political theorist Jurgen Habermas here), which she sees as essential to the ethic of modern democracy. She wishes LDS did not have any deeper reasons among themselves which they did not share transparently with a wider, secular and liberal public. She wishes, in a word, that LDS were less distinctive than they are (she sees our commitment to eternal marriage as an anchor of “LDS theocracy” – presumably not a good thing), and she imagines that liberal democracy would be healthier if no groups in society were defined by any beliefs not validated by public opinion at large, or rather, by some ideal notion of properly “rational” public discourse.

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We disagree on both religious and political grounds: LDS ought to be proudly free to hold unpopular beliefs, including beliefs that have not been pre-approved to conform to the secular reason of Habermas or John Rawls, and, in fact, the American polity is better off for the existence of strong communities that resist dissolution into a homogenized and secularized mass opinion. That said, we think Ms. Brooks is right that some opportunities for “robust civil exchange” are missed when members retreat excessively from the public square and insulate themselves from the challenge of reasonable persuasion We owe it to ourselves and to our fellow citizens to do the hard work of translating our peculiar religious views into language we share with potential friends and allies in the political and moral realms. This is what such leaders as Elder Dallin H. Oaks and Elder Quentin L. Cook have been urging us to do, and they have provided excellent reasons and evidence that deserve everyone’s attention — including Joanna Brooks’.

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More generally, the Columbia conference seems to have been very fair, reasonable, and full of insight. We have not been able to locate transcripts, but Ms. Brooks’ and others’ presentations are available at youtube.com. A good place to start is with this nice summary of the conference by Max Perry Mueller.

Speaking of marriage, Brooks wonders whether the LDS Church’s statement that it has always had the view that marriage is between a man and a woman poses a problem when we consider polygamy. But, unless I am mistaken, all LDS marriages in the period of plural marriage indeed involved a man and a woman. We have no interest in reviving any argument in favor of polygamy. In fact, we are partial to the beautiful ideal of monogamy; but it has to be noticed that the other arrangement has not been uncommon throughout human history (in the Old Testament, for example), no doubt because (speaking now not religiously but anthropologically) it is one way of addressing a vital and permanent social interest in binding parents to the interests of their children. The same cannot be said for the fantasy of “same-sex marriage,” a pure experiment in the further liberation of sexual desires and their severing from our deep common interest in the nurturing and education of the next generation. To Brooks’ credit, she does faithfully report key arguments in the dissenting opinion in the Prop 8 case – but only after quoting “Laura Compton, founder of Mormons for Marriage, a pro-marriage equality group” as evidence of the positive reception of the opinion by “progressive Mormons,” as if that were a group in any way commensurate with those regular Latter-day Saints who firmly support traditional marriage.

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Randy Bott and ‘Persistent Racism’

Moving her focus from California to BYU, Brooks argues that Randy Bott’s recent “racist apologetics” are proof of persistent racism among LDS Church members. In an interview with the Washington Post, BYU Professor Randy Bott says that “God has always been discriminatory” when it comes to whom He grants the priesthood and argues that blacks were not ready for the priesthood before 1978. Brooks goes on to connect Bott’s comment to previous statements from Church leaders (Bruce R. McConkie et al) to show that such racist speculation is all-too-common among the Church’s leadership. To her credit, Brooks does recognize that McConkie immediately backed off his comments following the 1978 revelation and told church membership to forget all previous speculations he and others made with limited knowledge. She remains upset, however, that Mormon Doctrine (revised or otherwise) stayed on the shelves for so many years and that the Church didn’t address the issue in a more straightforward manner. In other words, she wants more hand-wringing. It’s not enough to say one was wrong. She wants a more thorough cleansing. Meanwhile, Joseph Walker at the Deseret News provides a kinder and ultimately more comprehensive perspective on the the subject and reminds us that Elder Jeffrey R. Holland (2006) has been as clear and as authoritative as can be in instructing Latter-day Saints that we do not know why the ban was instituted and that we should cease indulging our conjectures on the matter.

Professor Bott’s public speculations were a huge blunder, if not a disaster, and Ms Brooks is right to criticize them. If he needed to say anything, he might have stopped after the minimal statement, “God has always been discriminatory,” which could be understood as reminding us that the priesthood and other divine blessings are just that and not rights to be demanded on our own terms. The rest of his argument, besides flouting clear and direct counsel from Elder Holland and other Church authorities that we abandon all such speculations, simply makes all kinds of very dubious assumptions. If we must presume to plumb the mind of God, why not try the plausible hypothesis that it was not the blacks but the whites who were not ready for a wider participation in the priesthood? But mostly: why give Joanna Brooks and other critics of the Church grounds for repeating the argument they are so eager to keep alive, namely, that racist attitudes continue to permeate LDS culture? Such has not been our experience — certainly not at BYU, or in the Church more generally.

Moments after Brooks posted her plea for greater openness, the Church gave this statement condemning all forms of racism:

Some have attempted to explain the reason for this restriction but these attempts should be viewed as speculation and opinion, not doctrine. The Church is not bound by speculation or opinions given with limited understanding.

We condemn racism, including any and all past racism by individuals both inside and outside the Church.”

We can only wonder whether Brooks is satisfied with this straight-forward, though altogether unsurprising, repudiation.

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Baptisms of the Dead and the Unique Access to Heaven

The topic of LDS baptisms for the dead has been in the news as of late. Best-selling author Elie Wiesel called upon Mitt Romney to ask the LDS Church to stop baptizing Jews by proxy. This is a complex and sensitive issue, and we appreciate the efforts of Michael Otterson to explain the doctrine to a larger audience. Likewise, Joseph Walker’s thoughtful article on the subject includes a telling remark by Washington Post On Faith panelist and blogger Brad Hirschfield:

To the extent that such rituals indicate that people who lived and died as Jews still require repair of their souls or spiritual status, there is going to be hurt. That any group clings to doctrines that trumpet their own spiritual superiority or unique access to heaven, to me, is problematic as well, but that is hardly a unique feature of the LDS.”

This remark reveals, I think, the heart of the problem: what some Jews, among others, find offensive is not only the specific ritual of baptism for the dead, but, more fundamentally, the belief it reveals in a “unique access to heaven.” We LDS should avoid being hurtful and make every effort to respect and to learn from other faiths and from other philosophies, but we can hardly compromise our belief in the efficacy of saving ordinances.

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Reasoning About Faith

Following up on our discussion last month with James Faulconer, we should point out his excellent post on Faith and Reason at Patheos, which should help thoughtful Latter-day Saints think about their faith and engage in serious conversations with others who share different perspectives. We quote him at length:

“Ideological atheists are unlikely to consider the possibility that they could be wrong, no matter how many examples of rational religious thinkers we show them. So we can ignore them until they are ready to engage in genuine conversation, which requires that each side acknowledge at least some possibility that the other side is right.

That means, of course, that if we engage atheists (or those of other faiths) in genuine dialogue, then we too must be open to the possibility that those with whom we disagree are right. We don’t have to agree, either in the beginning or the end, but we cannot take another person seriously if we believe that his or her belief is simply impossible. We would have to think the person at least slightly mad—which is what ideological atheists think of religious people. We ought not to imitate that ideology.

In the absence of genuine dialogue, we can only ignore the ideological atheist. But what about the religious person who shares the atheist’s understanding of faith as belief without evidence? One hears that more and more often among believers, though the earlier list of religious thinkers, including Al-Ghazali and Pascal, who might come closest to being fideists, would not agree to that understanding of faith. Fideism is a dangerous idea.”

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Our own Daniel Peterson, recalling an argument from the late Stanley Kimball, makes a valuable point: Naïve views of LDS history tend to assume that Church leaders were virtually perfect and infallible, and are thus vulnerable to subversive critiques by enemies of the Church. A little learning can indeed be a dangerous thing. But learn a little more, and the firm foundations of our faith come back into focus, more clearly than ever. I would cite as an example Richard Bushman’s marvelous biography of the prophet Joseph, Rough Stone Rolling. This magisterial work discusses many issues that faithful members may find troubling, including some that the author does not himself know exactly how to resolve. But, still, the overall impression left by the remarkable tale he tells of the prophet’s life is unmistakably one of Joseph’s sincerity, authenticity and greatness. Another, more compact and still more powerful example: consider this video in which Elder Holland uses powerful historical evidence to testify of the Book of Mormon and of the Joseph’s true calling as a prophet.

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And here is Brother Peterson again, this time dismissing the all-too-common assumption among LDS dissidents and detractors that plain, faithful Mormons are sheltered and inexperienced, unlike the presumably more worldly-wise “liberal” and “progressive” ones who would like to show them the way.

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Along the same lines, the great scholar of LDS thought and culture, Terryl Givens of the University of Richmond, offers an insightful perspective on the meaning of the Romney candidacy against the background of an earlier implicit settlement between Mormons and their American neighbors, a tacit agreement in which Mormons were accepted as good and normal people, but their beliefs were politely bracketed:

“But as presidential nominations near, Romney’s candidacy threatens this compromise, because what a Mormon presidential candidate actually believes seems far too important to table. And when Mormon theology enters the public discussion, the words Charles Dickens wrote in 1851 strike many as still apt: ‘What the Mormons do, seems to be excellent; what they say, is mostly nonsense.’

“But this is only true because in acquiescing to the compromise, Mormons have largely left others to frame the theological discussion. In opting to emphasize Mormon culture over Mormon theology, Mormons have too often left the media and ministers free to select the most esoteric and idiosyncratic for ridicule. So jibes about Kolob and magic underwear usurp serious engagement, much as public knowledge about the Amish is confined to a two-dimensional caricature involving a horse and buggy. But members of a faith community should recognize themselves in any fair depiction…”

Brother Givens then goes on to distill the essentials of LDS teaching into five main points, beginning with this: 1. God is a personal entity, having a heart that beats in sympathy with human hearts, feeling our joy and sorrowing over our pain.

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Mitt Romney and the Impending Theocracy

New York Times columnist Timothy Egan doesn’t mind letting facts get in the way of his statements about Mormonism. And the most recent Republican debate offered him another opportunity to fire off a few lazy rounds at the horrible specter of “Theocracy.” Writing about Romney and Santorum (See: Theocracy and its Discontents), Egan seems to argue that both candidates are suspect because they connect with people who are real believers in something beyond the Lockean religion of toleration. Although he discloses his view that Romney seems “blandly secular” compared to Santorum, we are, as it were, urged not to forget about Egan’s take on the Mormon past. Surely, he seems to say, Romney can’t be an altogether proper American given his Mormon faith. For Egan, Mormonism, like the religion of the Puritans (his other target), stands against “reason”, and stands for one and one thing only:

“Then let’s look west, beyond the Wasatch Mountains in the 19th century, where Brigham Young built a Mormon empire in which church rule and civil law were one and the same — the press, a military brigade and the courts all controlled by the Seer and Revelator of a homegrown religion.”

And Further:

“The Mormons, for all the cheery optimism of their present state, were birthed in brutal theocracy, first in Nauvoo, Ill., and later in the State of Deseret, as their settlement in present-day Utah was called. The Constitution, separating church from state, press from government, had no place in either stronghold. And it took a threat to march the United States Army out to the rogue settlement around the Great Salt Lake to persuade Mormon leaders that their control did not extend beyond matters of the soul.”

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Perhaps brutal theocracy is the natural parent of cheery optimism. Or maybe there’s more to the story, which is our only point.

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Gary Lawrence’s praise of the Constitution over at Meridian Magazine is welcome and refreshing, but we wonder whether the language of the “sacred” is the most useful for this important task. “Anything the Lord establishes is, by definition, sacred,” Lawrence argues, “and He Himself established the Constitution as detailed in D&C 101: “And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose…”

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To be sure, it is essential, as James Madison already recognized in Federalist 49, that a people come to venerate or revere their Constitution, and thus to see it as something more than a useful charter that can be changed whenever it seems convenient. Still, to hold it as sacred risks distracting us from the important, and perhaps even urgent task of understanding as best we can the wisdom of those wise men whom the Lord raised up. Such an understanding will better equip us to counter the arguments of those who hold “Progress” to be sacred.

 

Comments (17)

  1. Mark Brown

    March 6, 2012 at 11:40 am

    Although this might seem like an insignificant quibble, I am going to make it anyway.

    Why is Randy Bott “Professor Bott”, but Joanna Brooks is just Brooks, or Joanna? She also holds the title of professor.

  2. Kaimi

    March 6, 2012 at 1:27 pm

    “Brooks does recognize that McConkie immediately backed off his comments following the 1978 revelation and told church membership to forget all previous speculations he and others made with limited knowledge.”

    Err, you mean that Elder McConkie published his speculations in one of the most widely printed LDS books of all time, and then delivered his limited retraction in a single BYU talk, which was never distributed or made broadly available to church membership?

    (And then Elder Holland followed up 20 years later, in an interview with a journalist — which was also not distributed in conference, in the Ensign, or in other normal channels to reach church membership as a whole.)

  3. Quickmere Graham

    March 6, 2012 at 1:52 pm

    The Church’s position on the racist folklore, etc. has never been repudiated specifically in any official (that is, church sponsored or published) capacity. Elder McConkie addressed a segment of church instructors, in a devotional setting that was not by express direction of the First Presidency. Elder Holland addressed an interviewer for a PBS documentary. The most recent statement was published without the name of a church leader. Most members of the church do not follow the goings-on of the LDS Newsroom. We sustain our leaders as prophets, seers, and revelators. We do not sustain the LDS Newsroom as a prophet, seer, or revelator. We need our sustained leaders to sustain our members by making direct and official clarification on this matter. I hope that happens soon.

    (By the way, your continued obsessive coverage of Brooks is starting to border on creepy, to be frank.)

  4. Quickmere Graham

    March 6, 2012 at 1:54 pm

    PS- Why are you addressing her, a college professor, as “Ms. Brooks,” while calling Mr. Bott “Professor”?

  5. Tomorrow’s folklore | Times & Seasons

    March 6, 2012 at 2:32 pm

    [...] ruminations to Newsweek are particularly striking when juxtaposed with his recent comments supporting the church newsroom’s response to l’affaire Bott: “we do not know why the ban was instituted and that we should cease indulging our [...]

  6. [...] LDS Bloggers and Columnists: Winners. As noted above, the quick and critical online response on Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and media sites contributed to a general perception of this as an opportunity to tie up loose ends from the 1978 revelation rather than as evidence of pervasive racism within the LDS Church. Good work, team. It should also be noted that Daniel Peterson, a BYU faculty member, publicly posted sharp criticism of the comment attributed to Professor Bott just 13 hours after the Washington Post story broke. If other faculty members feel likewise, they had better let their voice be heard, either individually or through a more detailed official statement. [Update: BYU faculty member Ralph Hancock has posted his criticism of Bott’s remarks here. [...]

  7. admin

    March 7, 2012 at 3:32 am

    Mark and Quikmere: The fact that Joanna Brooks is referred to as “Brooks” or “Ms. Brooks” or “Sister Brooks” is not an attempt to degrade her or downplay her credentials. Joanna Brooks is a public figure known through her columns and public appearances as “Joanna Brooks.” It’s as simple as that. You’ll notice that Professors Terryl Givens and Richard Bushman, whom (Prof.) Hancock praises, are also simply referred to by their first and last names.

    Kaimi, I can’t tell if your problem is with Brooks’ write-up or with Hancock’s review. The first quotation you cite is a summary of her column. But, I gather that you still disagree with Hancock’s take on the matter and that you would fall in the “more hand-wringing, please” crowd. I’m not sure what more you would have liked McConkie to do, but it’s apparent that his saying that he was wrong, fully-embracing the 1978 revelation and revising Mormon Doctrine are not sufficient. Regardless of whether he met whatever standard of thorough repudiation any of us might have in our minds, I believe it is clear he knew he was wrong, acknowledged this publicly and made serious efforts to correct his mistakes. In future writings and addresses, he embraces the letter and spirit of the revelation. This seems like an honest and even admirable effort. I only hope I would be this humble in similar circumstances.

    Brandon Dabling
    JAC Managing Editor

  8. Kaimi

    March 7, 2012 at 11:44 am

    Brandon,

    I believe I’m quibbling with Professor Hancock’s take (though Professor Brooks may have made the same mistake).

    I would say it’s a matter of basic effectiveness in disseminating information. If wrong information has repeatedly been in the front page headlines for years, it’s not going to be effectively countered by a one-time correction that’s printed on page C-27.

  9. admin

    March 8, 2012 at 2:49 am

    Kaimi,

    I don’t know the newspaper page equivalent of a televised BYU address (which is then printed as part of a book on the priesthood from Deseret Book), but surely it’s better than C-27. That sounds more like the spot for something an apostle says on a long elevator ride in the Church Office Building.

    As far as your effectiveness argument goes, I still don’t understand the heart of what you’re saying. From your comment: “Elder McConkie published his speculations in one of the most widely printed LDS books of all time, and then delivered his limited retraction in a single BYU talk…” You are solely focusing on Mormon Doctrine, which he later revised. You argue that it was one of the most widely printed LDS books of all time, and this is true; but this is largely because of the 2nd edition. It is difficult to find a first edition copy today as evidenced by the fact that 11 used copies are now going for anywhere from $175 (not a very good copy)-$1,000 on Amazon. Sure, there might be speculations about the ancestry of black people that are not firmly rooted in scripture that remain in the 2nd edition, but I think this is different from being racist. In fact, he emphasizes that all races come from the same family. It sure isn’t mean-spirited, and it doesn’t imply that blacks have any less dignity than members of other races. My argument here is that revising a book and then selling it for 30+ years is a pretty effective way to correct the misinformation of the previous edition.

    Even more, I think the official declaration on the priesthood from the First Presidency, which was later printed in the LDS canon, has done more to shape the thinking of Church members than anything Elder McConkie ever said, and I think McConkie probably realized this at the time. I think the authoritative nature of the declaration is evidenced by the fact that many members have no idea what McConkie said on the matter and those who do know about his statements also know that he made a retraction. So, if we’re talking about the Church effectively disseminating information, it seems to have succeeded. But if this is about the gratification of repeatedly holding Elder McConkie “accountable” for something he said, I can see how one might not be satisfied.

    Also, it’s worth pointing out that McConkie did not control the distribution of his BYU talk or whether it was reprinted in the Ensign. It seems unfair to criticize him on this point. We can only speculate about why he didn’t give such a full-throated and straight-forward denunciation of his comments during General Conference and the conversations that informed that decision. But I think it’s worth considering what he did talk about during the GC at which the declaration on the priesthood was read. His topic was revelation and the blessing of having prophets who can “pierce the fogs and darkness of our planet.” Rejoicing in this “long-promised day” when all would receive the priesthood, McConkie says this about the priesthood revelation:

    “We cannot speak of revelation without bearing testimony of the great and wondrous outpouring of divine knowledge that came to President Spencer W. Kimball setting forth that the priesthood and all of the blessings and obligations of the gospel should now be offered to those of all nations, races, and colors.
    Truly, the Holy Ghost is a revelator. He speaks and his voice is the voice of the Lord. He is Christ’s minister, his agent, his representative. He says what the Lord Jesus would say if he were personally present.”
    This seems like one better than a denunciation of prior comments. He is rejoicing in the long-promised day he once said would never come. And he is doing it while teaching the members of the Church about revelation.

    —Brandon

  10. Dave

    March 8, 2012 at 10:59 am

    I enjoy Professor Hancock’s comments on various posts and he obviously has some interesting things to say. But his obsession with criticizing Joanna Brooks is undermining his credibility. Note the first sentence in his comments on his otherwise very helpful critique of the Bott affair: “Moving her focus from California to BYU, Brooks argues that Randy Bott’s recent ‘racist apologetics’ are proof of persistent racism among LDS Church members.”

    No, Professor Brooks did *not* claim that Bott’s remarks are “proof of persistent racism among LDS Church members” in the Religion Dispatches article which the sentence links to. In that article, she does note that “racist rationale for the priesthood ban” is more prevalent among older Mormons (which seems like an accurate statement of fact) and that those ideas “persist and circulate, generally unquestioned and unchallenged” among those older members, but that does not constitute a claim or charge of “proof of persistent racism among LDS Church members” in general, as Hancock states.

    Read the whole article. Brooks (1) quotes an unnamed BYU faculty member stating that Botts does not speak for BYU or the Church; (2) quotes Elder McConkie’s 1986 statement disavowing as now superceded all previous justifications for the priesthood ban; and (3) quotes President Hinckley’s 2006 statement forcefully denouncing racism in any manifestation. So she bends over backwards to fairly and accurately quote LDS speakers who distance themselves from Bott’s statements and portray the Church as fighting against racist views. A fair summary of Brooks’ position in the article is that racist views do appear to be a problem for some older Latter-day Saints, but that LDS leaders have (from time to time) clearly spoken against both racist views and, in particular, against discredited justifications for the priesthood ban.

    Note the claim in President Hinckley’s statement: “Now I am told that racial slurs and denigrating remarks are sometimes heard among us.” He is tactfully admitting that racial slurs and denigrating remarks are a problem for some Mormons — the very claim Hancock takes Brooks to task for! So Brooks, when you actually read what she says, ends up sounding like President Hinckley. Hancock ends up looking like he is unfairly mischaracterizing Brooks’ argument. I hope Professor Hancock proceeds more carefully in future posts.

  11. admin

    March 8, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    Dave,

    I believe older members of the Church fall into the category of “LDS Church members,” so even if Brooks’ column was exactly as you say, Hancock would still appear to be correct. But, let’s look at the first line from Brooks’ column: “Racist apologetics by a popular Brigham Young University religion professor are sparking controversy, as election-year scrutiny sheds a revealing light on the persistence of racist belief among LDS Church members.”

    This seems to be exactly what Hancock is attributing to Brooks. Later, she does go on to say that racism persists among Church members and especially older ones, but this still supports Hancock’s fair paraphrasing of the column. So, what’s the problem again?

    — Brandon

  12. Dave

    March 8, 2012 at 6:17 pm

    The problem is that Professor Hancock gave a misleading summary of Brooks’ article, suggesting she was doing a “gotcha” piece, using Bott’s remarks as leverage to criticize the Church because some of its members retain what most consider to be racist views. In fact, she placed the Church is a reasonable light and accurately quoted LDS speakers arguing for reform and improvement, sharing their hope of eliminating those views among the membership. You can certainly disagree with her views without misrepresenting her or her argument. If you think Brooks was being unfairly critical of the Church in the piece, you don’t read enough — there’s plenty of that out there, and it seems misguided to go after someone who is publishing balanced and even sympathetic discussion of LDS issues.

  13. Marc

    March 8, 2012 at 9:07 pm

    I think Kaimi’s point is the REVISED edition of Mormon Doctrine which was published after the 1978 revelation continued to perpetuate racist folklore, such as blacks being the seed of Cain.

  14. Laura

    March 8, 2012 at 10:20 pm

    Marc- If that’s all Kaimi is talking about then Brandon already recognized and dealt with that concern.

    Dave-Deal with the fact that you were presented a quote verbatim that Brooks used to lead off a story that directly says that Bott’s comment shows a persistent racism in the Church and yet you continue to claim that Hancock somehow misquoted her.

  15. Dave

    March 8, 2012 at 11:46 pm

    Laura: deal with the fact that Brooks’ comments are closer to President Hinckley’s perspective (both acknowledged the problem and hope it can be solved) than are Hancock’s (who seems intent, at least in this instance, on turning friends into adversaries). We already have plenty of adversaries — I don’t see why someone of Professor Hancock’s abilities seems intent on using them to create more by painting Brooks as an adversary.

    I look at the interfaith and outreach activities of Professor Millet with Evangelicals and Professor Peterson with Islamic groups as a better approach. It’s worth emulating. Perhaps John Adams is not the best model — he quarrelled with most of his colleagues and maintained a twenty-year feud with Jefferson.

  16. admin

    March 9, 2012 at 2:04 am

    Marc, thanks for jumping in. Kaimi would have to tell you whether that’s what he meant, but I did already reference the issue you bring out. While I find scriptural problems with McConkie’s speculations on the origins of the black race, I don’t think they’re racist (at least not in the sense of the word today) and McConkie didn’t seem to think this origin meant that blacks had any different standing before God or before their fellow men. The truth is we don’t know the origins of the races. The scriptures talk about a mark being put on individuals (or a blackness coming over the children of Canaan) and their seed. Could McConkie be right? Possibly. This doesn’t change the status of blacks in any way or vilify them for whatever their ancestors did. Do the scriptures show that he is right on this speculation? Not in the slightest. Could Terryl Givens be right that the curse placed on the Lamanites was probably more of a perceived curse (one of which the Nephites convinced themselves) than an actual one? While this might be more acceptable to our ears, the answer still remains that this is only a possibility that is not firmly-rooted in scripture. Does any of this change the status of blacks, Native Americans or anyone else? Not even close.

    — Brandon

  17. Brad Kramer

    March 9, 2012 at 10:52 am

    We _do_ know the origins of “the races.” McConkie was dead wrong. And the post 1978 eds of Mormon Doctrine are still teaming with racist nonsense.

The comments are now closed.