A few weeks ago, the Mormon church unveiled a new page on their official site. On this page, the church addresses one of the biggest skeletons in it's closet: How race affected Priesthood. For those of you not familiar, in 1978, Church officials declared that ALL worthy men should get the Priesthood-not just the white ones. This was a change, because for the previous 100 years or so, black members were not allowed.
A bit of history-in the early days of the Church, and up until Joseph Smith's death, every worthy man was given the Priesthood-regardless of race. That all changed with Brigham Young. He subscribed to the "mark of Cain" school of thought which basically said people with dark skin have inherited the shame of Cain (God punished him with dark skin for killing his brother). This was upheld until 1978 when it was declared null and void.
The wording of the page is odd. Yes, it spells out what was formerly church doctrine. But it begins those sentences with "According to one view, which had been promulgated in the United States from at least the 1730s, blacks descended from the same lineage as the biblical Cain, who slew his brother Abel". And "Those who accepted this view believed that God’s “curse” on Cain was the mark of a dark skin." This is interesting, because the wording makes it seem like there were just a few members who believed it. Instead of what it really was: An offical pronouncement from the Church from the mouth of it's current prophet, and held up as WHAT GOD WANTED.
Also, nowhere in this page full of history, jargon, and more history, is there an apology. No saying sorry for the pain the ban caused. No real repentance. While there is a small nod to the socio-political climate of the times, nowhere does it say "The prophet in 1978 got a different answer, because the times were changing." I think it's interesting that the Church has always been about a step behind current social norms. And by social, I mean mainstream upper-middle class white norms. Because that is what the Church leadership is made up of.
Which is odd, because the church boasts that it is in like 98% of the world. So why is the leadership so...traditional. Here is what the current General Authorities look like. Like I said, mostly white, mostly upper-class. One of the problems I have with the church is how Ameriocentric it is, while it proclaims to be a global organisation. It seems that that the Church makes Gods of their culture. All you'd have to do is spend an hour in Provo to see that!
This new "honesty" from the Church brings up some interesting questions.
1) If the church was wrong about the issue of race-for 100 years-what else are they wrong about?
2) If they are wrong about something else, how long will it take for them to make it right?
3) How will lessons and cirruclum change with this admission? Instead of being something glossed over, will there be whole lessons on mistakes of prophets?
It really seems this pronouncement was more PR than revelation.
A parallel people can't help but draw is the Ordain Women movement. The church is saying a lot of similar stuff to women that was said to African Americans in the 50s. (I am not equating the two, I am saying they are similar). So here I sit, wondering if, in 50 years, if members will look back in shock about how backwards it was not to give women the Priesthood. Hopefully the PR webpage will be written by a woman Bishop, and she will offer a genuine apology for all of the years of pain, suffering, and sexism.