Mormonism’s Doctrinal Race Problem
Over at Main Street Plaza, we are having an interesting discussion. The post “Why are we leaving the church in droves?” is months old, but the discussion has rebooted thanks to a new (believing) commenter to MSP, “jason”
Beyond “jason’s” absolute butchering of English conventions for grammar, spelling, capitalization, and punctuation, jason’s comments highlighted the problems with defining a Mormon orthodoxy.
The question seems simple. What do Mormons believe? If we ask about any particular issue, members should be able to agree in general on what the “official” church position is.
The problem is…we can’t.
Jack wrote about the elusiveness of Mormon doctrine in Denial is a river in Utah. I have reluctantly come to admit that cultural Mormon doesn’t because there is no stable foundation for it. But in fact, it seems that Mormon orthodoxy doesn’t exist for the exact same reason.
Jack really summarizes the problem well: for any alleged Mormon doctrine, you will find 1) Mormons who insist that the alleged doctrine is anti-Mormon lies, 2) Mormons who insist that the doctrine as stated lacks historical or theological nuance, and finally 3) Mormons who insist that the doctrine is current Mormon truth.
Let’s explore with jason’s example.
I won’t start with jason’s first message to the thread, but even from his first comment, you could glimpse his “logic” — if you disagree with him, you have been corrupted by the liberal gay. If you leave the church, it is because you are corrupted by the liberal gay. I am not making this up.
In his rants about the corrupting influence of the liberal gay agenda, another commenter asked him to find even one quote from Jesus about homosexuality. After pulling scriptures that were not from Jesus, I called him out on the fact that he was not pulling quotations from Jesus. He responded that the prophets speak for Jesus, of course.
I thought I’d have fun with this line of logic:
In other words, you openly admit that Jesus DIDN’T say these things. Someone else said them (allegedly) for him. Gotcha.
I guess the real question would be when prophets speak as prophets and when prophets speak merely as men. Or, what do you think about black people?
OK, I feel bad for being a flippant troll, but I thought this would be a good point for Jason to think about the nature of continuing prophecy…maybe old prophets say things that aren’t exactly doctrinal. Maybe they speak with limited understanding. Maybe they see through a glass, darkly.
Nope! Here’s how Jason responded.
Andrew S– what do i think of black people? I love them, im from louisiana half my friends are black, my niece and my nephew are mixed and i dont see black. I know what your getting to.. and yes i do believe the mark of cain and the lamanites in the scriptures recieved dark skin. I in NO way believe blacks are evil i just believe their ancestor was cain and ham i believe it was through the flood, yes i do believe that it has something to do with remaining nutral in the pre-existence during the war in heaven.
…Now, I just want to say something. I have been accused occasionally of being anti-Mormon. I think these allegations are unfair. I don’t try to make the church look bad by bringing up “folklore” and passing it off as Mormon beliefs. I don’t even count actual old teachings of the church as legitimate Mormon beliefs.
But I cannot help it if a member, in 2011, touts racially-charged folklore beliefs as if it were gospel.
…but I gave Jason benefit of the doubt. Maybe I was misinterpreting him. After all, one comment…that’s not enough to establish a pattern.
so, will righteous black people be white in the afterlife?
yes i believe the mark of cain will be removed and glorified people will be a glorious white beyond description. I also believe in dna upgrade which when cells upgrade they take on more light and light is not a dark color.
To his credit, I think “glorious white” or “light” is different than white…but still.
I literally cannot help this.
And I thought, in a later comment, that maybe he would see WHY this was offensive. He begins:
andrew– I do see it buddy and ill be strait..If i were black id be hurt, pist, betrayed, unloved by heavely father…
But why would he feel hurt? Pissed? Betrayed? Unloved?
…and id feel lower then other people who werent nutruel. I know i would feel like crap and id have an enternal struggle wether to join and agree or to flip them the bird and deny their gospel. Just because someone is of color they can leave this earth the most rightous saint to ever live and leave this earth after christ. Dont let satan get you down and whisper into your ears things that depress you and give you hatred towards the church. i look at it in a different way, get pissed at satan. i try and do so good that satan wouldnt hold a candle to me. I almost look at it as a competition he will never win against me cause he lost he’s in hell and me and you got our bodies and PASSED our first estate.
I literally cannot help this.
To be fair, he doesn’t think blacks are inferior (even for the neutrality). He sees no connection between saying blacks were neutral (and thus not “great in heaven“), the skin color, priesthood limitations, and black “inferiority.” And yet he is certain about the neutrality and the curse.
Why does this happen? Haven’t modern leaders spoken out against these folklore doctrines and past doctrines? (Seth was really adamant about showing that even past leaders had conflicting points.)
Well, here’s the problem. The way that modern leaders renounce previous church doctrines gives members like jason leeway to believe whatever they want to. From his own mouth:
…i have to disagree with you on the whole folk doctrine concept. If we start to believe what a lot of the founder of our church have said as folk doctrine then the church would not be true cause we would have no foundation, not saying that the seed of cain is a big issue cause its not, but we can also see in the book of mormon that even the lamanites had their skins darkened by God when they became rebillious and broke off from the nephites, this was not only opinion but taught as doctrine and you can find it in the book of mormon its scripture. My opinion is its the opposite way around I tend to believe it was only changed at the time because of the emense preasure on the church during the civil rights movement. This may make me more of a “ultra mormon” or an early mormon type, i totaly disagree with “modern mormonism” moving to the left i believe and know it is a sign of the times and that there is a weeding out taking place in the church right now. The lord is getting his people ready for his comming.
In other words; it’s not that previous leaders spoke with limited understanding, but that current leaders are “moving to the left.” But there’s more to this thought process…it’s not a haphazardly decided theology.
jason spells it later on:
Andrew– yes God does reveal new things to his current prophets but in no way will it ever nigate the doctrine of previous prophets it may add to it or give a bigger picture of what happend but doctrine is doctrine and does not change. It may have things added to it but if Tell brigham young something is true and he tells the people its true, then how would it give any current prophet the right to go back and say that prophet was wrong. Ive never heard a prophet say that anyway they just kinda try and avoid the converstion entirely.
In the past, I theorized that the reason current authorities roll out new doctrine in the way they do (it’s generally in a muted way that doesn’t cleanly address and unequivocally denounce previously doctrinal statements) is precisely so they may not alienate and disturb the members who believe in older doctrine. This way, people who want to see new revelation rejoice with the new revelation, but people who are comfortable with the old doctrine can still insist that the old doctrine is doctrinal. Both sides may be right, and may point to whatever quotes they want.
jason wants to believe that a current prophet cannot defy a previous one…and of course, he can respond to numerous interviews and articles by saying that the prophet or general authority didn’t contradict the previous prophets…at best, they avoided the conversation.
But what if one prophet does go against another? Suppose that this situation is possible. Who wins out? For jason, the story is intriguing:
i was just trying to make the point that one prophets doctrine can not negate anothers doctrine. Doctrine should never change that was the whole reasn joseph looked for a church to join cause the doctrine was always changing and He knew that his God would have one doctrine that worked for everybody. I believe were in the last days im a big last days buff! And i believe there is about to be a weeding out in the church and im just a person who trys not to put my trust in the arms of flesh but to question first. I believe it was one of the founding fathers who said “question, question even the existence of a god for if there be a god he shall surely make himself known unto you”. I guess the point im trying to make with that in these last days i have no clue who will be amongst those weeded out. We could even have some leaders weeded out. idk?? So lately i find myself sticking to the doctrine i have always know to be true. i do sustain the current prophet and believes he talks for God but i also know that ive found a few contradictions in interviews given so i have to rely more on my personal revelation and what ive learned since a young boy to be true cause the spirit had testified it to me. hope that makes sense??
This may have been the most fascinating comment ever. It maybe deserves a part 2 post dedicated just to it.