Mormonism Erases the Past


Andrew Sullivan offers this quote from Bruce McConkie, one of the members of the Mormon church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles at the time that the church suddenly decided, after a century of teaching white supremacy, that blacks were no longer cursed and could now become priests. He said this shortly after that change of policy:

There are statements in our literature by the early brethren which we have interpreted to mean that the Negroes would not receive the priesthood in mortality. I have said the same things, and people write me letters and say, “You said such and such, and how is it now that we do such and such?” And all I can say to that is that it is time disbelieving people repented and got in line and believed in a living, modern prophet.

Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or President George Q. Cannon or whomsoever has said in days past that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world…. We get our truth and our light line upon line and precept upon precept. We have now had added a new flood of intelligence and light on this particular subject, and it erases all the darkness and all the views and all the thoughts of the past. They don’t matter any more…. It doesn’t make a particle of difference what anybody ever said about the Negro matter before the first day of June of this year.

Well that’s certainly convenient, but it’s hardly rational. It glides right over some difficult questions that I doubt he wants to attempt to answer. This wasn’t simply a matter of a wrong interpretation of some obscure verse in the Book of Mormon, this was official church doctrine, handed down by those who claimed to have a direct line to god in receiving these commands. So did the eternally unchanging God, the fountain from which all virtue flows, change his mind? Was he a white supremacist for all of human history until 1978? Or were all those previous church leaders, whose claim to be prophets who spoke the word of god rests on exactly the same basis as the ones who announced the change, just wrong? Or dishonest? Whichever answer you give causes some serious problems for your faith, or at least it would if you would deal with the question honestly.

Comments

  1. matty1 says

    OT but I think you might appreciate this. Apparently Obama can control the weather and is sending Hurricane Sandy to affect the election.

    The internet, it’s like a series of tubes filled with crazy.

  2. says

    @Larry – Indeed. “God has spoken to me, and told me that today, health care mandates are the tool of Satan. Nevermind what I said yesterday, or what I will say tomorrow. We are at war with Eastasia. We have ALWAYS been at war with Eastasia.”

  3. machintelligence says

    When are the Mormons releasing a new edition of The Book of Mormon and recalling all of the previous incorrect books?

  4. says

    @machintelligence #6 – “When are the Mormons releasing a new edition of The Book of Mormon and recalling all of the previous incorrect books?”

    You ask jokingly, but it has happened: there have been at least four revisions since Joseph Smith “translated with God’s direct help” the “most perfect book ever written.”

  5. ottod says

    It’s religion 2.0, backwards compatible, and may be the reason that all the orthodox groups make fun of them and kick sand in their faces. Don’t you think those guys with the rocket ship hats say to themselves, “Wow! I wish we’d thought of that!”

  6. steve oberski says

    And then there is Joseph Smith’s translation of the Egyptian Scrolls in 1841, claimed by him to be the “Book of Abraham”. Smith was apparently unaware that Jean-François Champollion had made the complete decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphs by the 1820s and in the early 1900s Smith’s translation was refuted.

    As an amusing aside, the Mormon church position was modified after this to claim that the translation was “inspired” and did not have to conform to the actual text of the documents.

  7. Rodney Nelson says

    Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or President George Q. Cannon or whomsoever has said in days past that is contrary to the present revelation.

    Here is what Brigham Young said about Blacks:

    If there never was a prophet, or apostle of Jesus Christ spoke it before, I tell you, this people that are commonly called negroes are the children of old Cain. I know they are, I know that they cannot bear rule in the preisthood, for the curse on them was to remain upon them, until the resedue of the posterity of Michal and his wife receive the blessings, the seed of Cain would have received had they not been cursed; and hold the keys of the preisthood, until the times of the restitution shall come, and the curse be wiped off from the earth, and from michals seed. Then Cain’s seed will be had in rememberance, and the time come when that curse should be wiped off.

    Now then in the kingdom of God on the earth, a man who has has the Affrican blood in him cannot hold one jot nor tittle of preisthood; Why? because they are the true eternal principals the Lord Almighty has ordained [misspellings in original]

  8. says

    Mormons don’t suffer from that ‘eternal and unchanging god’ problem to begin with. They don’t claim that, from what I understand. God is a lot more like a regular joe and he changes his mind a lot. This kinda ties into the thing where other regular joes can also become gods later on with enough hard work.

    The church still teaches racist things of course.

  9. says

    “So did the eternally unchanging God, the fountain from which all virtue flows, change his mind?”

    No! God is consistent, perfect and perfectly consistent! The problem is all those other voices in people’s heads keep getting in the way.

  10. Michael Heath says

    Mormon holy dogma still contains the same racist passages these racists previously used to promote and justify bigotry. In addition their temple rituals still has Mormon bigots dressing all in white, with other white themes also pervasive, where white is meant to connotate godliness and purity while black is the opposite. Mormons by attribute are bigots, which is one reason why they fit in so well politically with other conservative Christians.

  11. says

    I’m waiting for a religion to catch on to the possibilities inherent in a system like the Kindle’s remote update features. The first truly information age religion will have a holy text that can have constant revisions.

    No need for “new interpretations” or “new revelations”, just point your browser at the v3.64c readme and read the patch notes!

  12. jimvj says

    Mormon trivia:
    Joseph Smith was married to a woman and her daughter (by another man)!
    As was Brigham Young!

  13. unemployedphilosopher says

    @ Zinc Avenger, #14,

    Terry Pratchett already did that joke in Monstrous Regiment. The Nugganitic ‘holy book’ was a binder that was automatically updated with new Abominations, like the color blue. And jigsaw puzzles.

  14. stapletron says

    This is the same type of excuse I grew up with as a Jehovah’s Witness. They were wrong often enough to coin the phrase “the light gets brighter.” Which was always trotted out when revisions were made. Never, as with Mr McConkie, was there a need to apologize, or admit any wrong.

  15. shouldbeworking says

    Thanks to post 2, I’m now ready to mark a set of labs where the creative writing is surpassed only by the sophisticated reasoning in the link.

  16. jakc says

    Sure Mormon theology is wrong, but then so is every other religion. At least they have a mechanism for making changes. And, for many of the so-called fundamentalist LDS, allowing African Americans into the priesthood has been as much a breaking point as polygamy.
    As for the lateness of the date, that’s what happens when you let a bunch of old white men run your church. What I find amusing is Sullivan’s outrage over the racist history of the Mormon church – Sullivan still admires Ronald Reagan. Those of you old enough to remember the 1980 election, will remember that Ronald Reagan went to Philadelphia, Mississippi and spoke of his support for “state’s rights”. What was that except a coded appeal to racism? That was a presidential candidate, not trying to avoid talking about the racism of his church in the past like Romney today, but an appeal to racism in his presidential campaign. I don’t know that the Mormon church really has a worse history of racism than many other Christian churches

  17. Akira MacKenzie says

    Oh you silly atheists! Don’t you know anything about theology? God is omnipotent! Why should He let a little thing like logic (which is corrupted and flawed, by the way) get in the way? He could not only make a rock so heavy He can’t lift it, but He’d still be able to lift it! The same can be said for God’s morality which is both objective and absolute. This is true even after He’s changed them!

    ;)

  18. mikeymeitbual says

    #15:

    Smith was also married to the wife of a woman who was already legally married. The woman’s husband was a man by the name of Orson Hyde.

  19. grumpyoldfart says

    …were all those previous church leaders, whose claim to be prophets who spoke the word of god rests on exactly the same basis as the ones who announced the change, just wrong? Or dishonest? Whichever answer you give causes some serious problems for your faith

    I thought that faith was specifically designed to help religious people believe contradictory things at the same time – or to flip flop from one explanation to the other as the need arises.

  20. Ichthyic says

    it is time disbelieving people repented and got in line

    why, that doesn’t reek of authoritarianism at all.

    no siree.

  21. Ichthyic says

    What I find amusing is Sullivan’s outrage over the racist history of the Mormon church – Sullivan still admires Ronald Reagan.

    That’s one of the things that always bugged me about Sullivan:

    …outrage over the racism of the Mormon Church, nothing but angst over the sexism and homophobia of the Catholic Church.

    Last I checked he still labels himself Catholic.

    It’s like watching mental gymnastics, Olympic version.

    It feels kinda like when you see women defend voting for Mittens.

  22. yaque says

    mikeymeitbual says:

    Smith was also married to the wife of a woman who was already legally married. The woman’s husband was a man by the name of Orson Hyde.

    Hur, hur, snort.
    So they were for marriage equality before they were agin’ it?
    /relurk

  23. says

    “That’s one of the things that always bugged me about Sullivan:

    …outrage over the racism of the Mormon Church, nothing but angst over the sexism and homophobia of the Catholic Church.”

    It’s tough to pin down Sullivan’s political philosophy; however, considering that he’s a married gay guy who is against women having the level of autonomy that he and his husband have, his obvious inability to recognize/address the cognitive dissonance of being a Roman Cath-O-Lick and an out gay man AND his support of the Pauls, parasite and filth, I guess I’d call him a “Liberservative”. Apparently “liberservancy”, for some of its adherents, includes liberty from telling the truth or making any sense.

  24. matty1 says

    Andrew Sullivan is essentially a ‘new’ Tory in the David Cameron mode, complete with seeing ssm as a conservative step. He looks odd in America because he is advocating a political stance that doesn’t fit in your current landscape but he is far from unique.

  25. says

    I think this episode encapsulates the difference between changing one’s mind based on improved evidence, reflection & analysis and changing one’s tune for the sake of expediency and public relations.

    I also think it’s clear where the Mormon Church stands with reference to the contrast I have just set up.

  26. says

    “Andrew Sullivan is essentially a ‘new’ Tory in the David Cameron mode, complete with seeing ssm as a conservative step. He looks odd in America because he is advocating a political stance that doesn’t fit in your current landscape but he is far from unique.”

    Oh, you mean he’s, like, an LCR but with nice granite countertops and a suite of Electrolux kitchen appliances?

    What’s odd is that he’s only “enlightened” in those areas where he doesn’t like the mainstream reactionary views. Oh, wait, I’m sorry–that’s typical libertarianism.

  27. lawngnome says

    As a former LDS member, I was quite surprised(at the time, not at all now) to learn that there were black men who received the priesthood prior to 1978.

    Elijah_Abel

    No idea how the LDS leadership explains it away.

    So happy to leave all that nonsense in the past.

  28. Michael Heath says

    democommie writes:

    It’s tough to pin down Sullivan’s political philosophy; however, considering that he’s a married gay guy who is against women having the level of autonomy that he and his husband have, his obvious inability to recognize/address the cognitive dissonance of being a Roman Cath-O-Lick and an out gay man AND his support of the Pauls, parasite and filth, I guess I’d call him a “Liberservative”. Apparently “liberservancy”, for some of its adherents, includes liberty from telling the truth or making any sense.

    You’re having a tough time pinning down his philosophy because you’re misrepresenting his positions that you note here. I read him daily and have no problem understanding his perspective and find he distinguishes himself by applying his principles consistently.

    Specifically, I’ve never encountered him arguing women shouldn’t have equal autonomy. He doesn’t deny the dissonance of being Catholic and a married ‘out’ gay, but instead is constantly arguing the moral reaction by the church is to embrace families headed by gays. He remains faithful to Catholicism in spite of his disdain for the hierarchy by pointing out the differences between the hierarchy and faithful Catholics. He also doesn’t participate in many rituals of the church because of his differences with the hierarchy. e.g.,. I don’t think he takes communion.

    His position on the Pauls is extremely similar to Ed’s, he’s never supported their winning political office but instead think they beneficially force Republicans to confront inconvenient facts and arguments they’d prefer avoiding. He ridicules libertarianism while he self-identifies as a conservative, though it’s a conservatism more reflective of Barack Obama and in no way the type practiced by say, George W. Bush, Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, or John McCain. In fact he supported Barack Obama in 2004 and is even more strident in his support of Obama in 2012.

    That’s every premise you used here, all untrue as best as I can concern as a daily reader, which I’ve been for at least eight years now, probably more like nine or ten.

  29. Michael Heath says

    matty1 writes:

    Andrew Sullivan is essentially a ‘new’ Tory in the David Cameron mode, complete with seeing ssm as a conservative step. He looks odd in America because he is advocating a political stance that doesn’t fit in your current landscape but he is far from unique.

    Sullivan is a great exemplar of the now extinct moderate Republican. In his case he self-identifies as a conservative who argues that American conservatism has mutated into a different life form. I know of no better critic of American conservatism than Sullivan. I don’t think I could name a close second, perhaps Chris Mooney via his books on Republican antipathy towards science and how they think.

    I disagree with Sullivan that American conservatism no longer is because we can predict conservatism would evolve to what it is now here in the U.S.. But he has an argument because they have abandoned many of the premises which used to define conservatism, premises which reasonable liberals do not find abhorrent (e.g., prudent application of progressive initiatives in a manner that sufficiently weighs past policies which worked) . While I’m an ex-Republican who has always self-identified as a non-conservative moderate, I share many of his positions and see no inconsistencies in his ideology. He evolves, that’s a credit to him and why he shares no attributes with today’s American conservatives who as authoritarians, are incapable of evolving.

    One place you’d think we’d both agree is a balanced approach to balancing the budget, with more spending cuts than tax increases as he advocates (similar to Bowles-Simpson proposal). But on this matter I’m about as liberal as you can get. The only item I think we should cut is defense where I favor heavy increases in taxes and spending. The latter on items which will promote growth and making America more competitive in the global marketplace.

  30. says

    “That’s every premise you used here, all untrue as best as I can concern as a daily reader, which I’ve been for at least eight years now, probably more like nine or ten.”

    Michael Heath:

    I will never convince you that Ronald Reagan was a souless piece of shit, but that certainly doesn’t preclude my (and millions of others) thinking that way.

    Andrew Sullivan is a smart guy, so are Matt Drudge and so was Andrew Breitart. Each of those three is an opportunist and, imo, a hypocrite.

    Is the writing here: http://www.villagevoice.com/2001-06-19/news/the-real-andrew-sullivan-scandal/

    all “untrue”, as well?

    This link (http://www.theatlantic.com/daily-dish/archive/2008/03/what-i-got-wrong-about-iraq/218707/) to a piece in 2008 about how he was wrong about supporting the 2003 invasion of Iraq pretty clearly lays out the reasons why I dislike and distrust him. He was better educated, more widely read and (supposedly) better qualified to make decisions about who, what and why we were doing what we were doing in 2003 in the middle east. His and Christopher Hitchens support of Buschco’s war was reprerehensible. I’ve disliked both him and Hitchens for their previous stance and their failure to be able to say, “I was fucking wrong and I no longer deserve your trust.”. Make of that what you will. Sullivan is an asshole.

  31. Michael Heath says

    democommie writes:

    Andrew Sullivan is a smart guy, so are Matt Drudge and so was Andrew Breitart. Each of those three is an opportunist and, imo, a hypocrite

    I am unable to put Mr. Sullivan in the same category as Drudge and Breitart. Certainly these two fit the mold of opportunist, but again as a daily reader of Sullivan, his arguments stand-up as well as any I observe on the ‘net. And because he puts so many arguments out there, his credence comes not merely from the defensibility of his argument but the large volume of arguments he had to defend. Which he does admirably and with an extremely consistent application of principle.

    democommie, your Village Voice piece is eleven years old and an obvious hack job. With no effort to provide a fully contextual rendering of him. It’s also similar to claiming that Barack Obama is what he was in the slacker portion of his years in college and not what he’s done or how he’s changed since then.

    For example, this piece points out he’s anti-abortion rights, and yet no one I observed did a better job of providing a mainstream forum for women to explain why they needed access to late-term abortions; this was immediately after the George Tiller assassination. His delving into these experiences also had him better appreciating and supporting abortion rights. I.e., his abortion stance is nuanced and has evolved over the years from once was defectively abstract to a position more in line with the realities of pregnancy. In other words he’s grown up where you’re taking his immature positions from his youth long ago and keeping them pinned on him in spite of the fact he’s matured as have his positions.

    In addition Mr. Sullivan has pointed out since then he was fucked-up as a youth precisely because of how fucked-up society is when it comes to gay people. I suggest grading him on where he is now and not on his youth. Especially on items where he’s become repentant.

    Re his position on Iraq. It was a principled position based on false premises that fooled many people, including Colin Powell. I too supported the Iraq War based on those same premises though Sullivan didn’t influence my position because I wasn’t a regular reader of his at that point. Instead Mr. Powell’s speech at the U.N. along with then Senator Hillary Clinton’s support and arguments were the key to my support.

    People can be wrong without being evil or immoral. On this issue a careful reading, I read six or seven books on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, has me concluding that the failure in Iraq wasn’t so much the strategy of invading, but instead the execution of that strategy. I.e., trusting President Bush to run a war and the failure to have a coherent plan after the initial invasion, where the Iraqis were ready to work with us in rebuilding their country yet Bush had pulled that responsibility from the State Dept. where it belonged over to Defense where they didn’t even do any sufficient planning.

    democommie writes:

    This link (http://andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com/2011/12/ron-paul-for-the-gop-nomination.html)

    is to one of his columns that appears to contradict your comment.

    As I already pointed out, I’m a daily reader of Mr. Sullivans and have been since at least 2004. Sullivan has continually wrote about his support for Barack Obama in 2012. Anyone who doesn’t know this is simply incapable of defining him. In this case he’s promoting Paul as a winner of the GOP nomination, without wavering in his support for the re-election of President Obama after supporting Obama in 2008.

    This particular blog post has also been regularly used to misconstrue what he argued in total and in that specific blog post. I will quote part this very post which makes his point clear:

    Let me immediately say I do not support many of his nuttier policy proposals. I am not a doctrinaire libertarian. Paul’s campaign for greater oversight of the Fed is great, but abolition of it is utopian and dangerous. A veto of anything but an immediately balanced budget would tip the US and the world into a serious downturn (a process to get there in one or two terms makes much more sense). Cutting taxes as he wants to is also fiscally irresponsible without spending cuts first. He adds deductions to the tax code rather than abolish them. His energy policy would intensify our reliance on carbon, not decrease it. He has no policy for the uninsured. There are times when he is rightly described as a crank. He has had associations in the past that are creepy when not downright ugly.

    But all this is why a conservative like me is for Obama.

    democommie, as I wrote earlier, I do not in any way see Mr. Sullivan as you’ve described him, where your premises seem to be from long ago and then exaggerated or, recent and taken out of context. I suggest reading him now and then weighing in.

  32. Michael Heath says

    decommie, a couple of other observations about Andrew Sullivan:

    I know of no other non-partisan who so effectively promotes liberalism in relation to current events. Which is probably why the predominant demographic of Sullivan’s readership at his blog are liberals. He’s also outstanding at either making liberal arguments himself, or presenting the best liberal arguments out there. All in a way that causes non-liberals to consider those arguments; unless they’re right wing authoritarians since by definition they can’t be reached where no one is a more relentless critic of RWAs and the religious right.

    To claim that because Sullivan is a libertarian because he promoted Ron Paul over the other Republican candidates to be the GOP nominee, forces one to then concede they were wrong and that he must be either a moderate or a liberal because he’s always promoted Barack Obama for president in ’12. I don’t make that conclusion based on these two premises because I don’t argue that one can define another’s political ideology merely by who they support for president. For many you can but not for non-partisan independent thinkers.

    I not only found Sullivan’s point about the Paul nomination compelling, his prediction has turned out to be half-true (the other half is unknowable). His point was that any of the other Republican nominees winning the nomination would have resulted in a piss-poor debate during the post-primary part of the presidential election season; that has been true. Romney depends solely on lies which Sullivan relentlessly reports, noting he’s a bigger liar than even Sarah Palin – where Sullivan distinguished himself from all other journalists by correctly reporting the unprecedented degree of her mendacity, until Mitt the presidential candidate came long. Where Sullivan is continuously noting that Romney’s entire argument is based on false premises where his character is nowhere to be found. His advocacy for Paul was to have a productive debate about ideas, where he was confident there was no way Paul could beat Obama.

    I know of no blogger more effective in getting people to confront the damage conservative Christians have done to this country along with today’s conservative movement. So when I read your description of him, that person is nowhere to be found in what I’ve been reading for 8+ years where the sheer volume, consistency, and quality of his arguments puts him a rare league which is no way related to Drudge or Breitbart.

    I suggest reading him daily for a month and then re-consider your conclusion about Mr. Sullivan.

  33. dingojack says

    mikeymeitbual – “Smith was also married to the wife of a woman who was already legally married.”

    Wow! The Morons – I mean Mormons – had same-sex marriage that early. (I guess it was a ‘Elijah Abel’ kinda thing).

    Shame the rest of the country didn’t follow suit.

    :) Dingo
    —–
    I see that yaque (#26) beat me to it, but it was worth a second shot.

  34. says

    Michael Heath:

    I’m sure that you have perfectly valid reasons for liking what Mr. Sullivan does. I disagree with your logic. I’ve read Sullivan’s column from time to time, over the years, and not found his writing to be anything I needed to read in order to form my opinions about the various scumbags that parasitically infest our two major political parties–or, for that matter, the Pauls, who are filth.

    He was wrong to support the invasion of Iraq–no qualifiers on that one.

    “Re his position on Iraq. It was a principled position based on false premises that fooled many people, including Colin Powell.”

    It was NOT principled. He says so himself. It was based on hubris, jingoism, laziness and prejudice. Sullivan is a PROFESSIONAL student in a large sense. He spends most of his time sifting through various conflicting accounts and arriving at what he considers to be the truth. In the case of the war on Iraq, Sullivan had access to and the time to consider a LOT of information. I knew Bush was a fucking liar, as well as Cheyney and his neoclown cabal who were ginning up the rage to goad the US public into going along with their plan. Sullivan either ignored or discounted that, a major oversight—at the very least. I don’t agree, btw, that Colin Powell was fooled. I believe that he was better informed, by far, than most people and knew what the intelligence community and their PNAC handlers were up to. His decision to go to the UN with improperly vetted documents was one for which we may never know the true motivational factors but his desire to retain his position within government was almost certainly one of them.

    Sullivan was wrong to attack other gays for their lifestyles–again, no qualifiers.

    Being intelligent and acting like a moron and an asshole is worse, imo, than BEING an asshole and a moron.

    Many, many people, including pols, “journalists” and pundits do and say really, Really, REALLY fucked up shit–all while being better educated and having access to far better and more extensive information than you or I (well, me for sure). When they are wrong it is important that they trumpet that fact with as much zeal and volume as they did their original mistaken theories. That most of them do not is not a bug in their eyes, it’s a desirable feature that keeps their readers reading and the monies flowing to them or, in the case of the pols, helps to get them re-elected. I tend to tune out people I know to be liars and dissemblers.

    I would love to spend more time on this but I need to go to the VA clinic and get some x-rays done so the docs can try to figure out what’s wrong with my legs. Considering that the war is winding down and the politicians will, once again, be able to dis the veterans when their political usefulness expires, I better get as much as I can out of the system before they cut me and millions of others loose.

    Cheers.

Leave a Reply