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Question: What social and cultural obstacles stood in the way of ending the priesthood ban?
Sometimes critics from other Christian faiths excuse beliefs and behaviors in their denominations' pasts, while suggesting a much higher standard should have been met by a community led by revelation
This criticism seems to ignore dynamics manifest in Biblical times in which inspired leaders such as Moses and Paul accepted slavery as part of the cultural norm and even promoted regulations for it (Exodus 21:20-27; Leviticus 25:44-46; Deuteronomy 23:15-16; Ephesians 6:5-9; Philemon 1:8-12; 1 Timothy 6:1; Titus 2:9). While what these leaders faced is not perfectly parallel to those in modern times, these prophets did not receive more socially progressive revelation than modern readers would have expected. It is clear that sometimes less than ideal practices were permitted and upheld because of the "hardness of [Moses's followers'] hearts [Mark 10:5]."
Biblical history is replete with examples of the difficulty of gaining widespread conformity even after a paradigm-shifting revelation has been received
The New Testament apostles debated over how best to transition from preaching the Gospel only to the Jews to accommodating Gentile converts (Acts 15). Despite numerous miraculous manifestations to motivate them, the Israelites had to wander 40 years (Deuteronomy 8:2) to weed out idolatrous beliefs keeping them from inheriting a promised land. Mormon history also has its examples of this type, including the length of time it took the general membership to come into full compliance with the Word of Wisdom and the Manifesto. If a revelation ending the priesthood ban had been received earlier, the Saints might not have accepted it. (Elder Marion D. Hanks is reported to have said "For me it was never that blacks [were unqualified but that] the rest of us had to be brought to a condition of spiritual maturity...to meet the moment of change with grace and goodness."):203
- For a pre-Civil-Rights-movement Catholic perspective on this issue see the entry on "Philemon" in The Catholic Encyclopedia (1913). off-site and "Moral Aspect of Divine Law" off-site
- Edward L. Kimball, Lengthen Your Stride: The Presidency of Spencer W. Kimball (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2005). ISBN 1590384571 (CD version)