Last evening there was a fireside in the Tabernacle, on Temple Square, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the announcement of the revelation extending the priesthood to all worthy males. This was a joyous time for most people in attendance. Many there remember that day 30 years ago, as do I. Many remember the feelings of joy that the will of the Lord had been revealed to those we sustain as prophets, seers, and revelators.
There was a different type of joy that was felt by some non-members outside Temple Square yesterday evening, as well. You see, there was a small contingent of protesters outside Temple Square, joyfully wielding what they view as a club with which to bludgeon the faithful. In television coverage from KSL-TV, at about 1:45 into the clip, you can see Aaron Shafovaloff walking across North Temple street waving a sign and cheerfully calling out “Hope you guys hear an apology tonight.”
While Shafovaloff wasn’t the only protester in attendance (the Salt Lake Tribune reports there were about ten), I find his theatrics consistent with past behavior; my personal experience with him is that he isn’t interested in civil rights, he is only interested in tearing down. It is significant that the website referenced on Shafovaloff’s placard (SeedOfCain.com) redirects to Mormonism Research Ministry, a professional anti-Mormon website. A further click on the site leads to an article written by Shafovaloff entitled “Shame, Shame, Shame: Thirty Years Later And Still No Apology or Explicit Renunciation.” This is an article directed at tearing down the faith of others rather than preaching whatever Shafovaloff views as the Word of God. He isn’t inviting people to Christ; he is criticizing others who have already accepted such an invitation with which he disagrees.
It is also interesting that we don’t see Shafovaloff (and fellow born-again Christian Tim Oliver who also apparently lays claim to the SeedOfCain.com site) talking about the racist past of Christianity as a whole. It is easy to point at the perceived mote in another’s eye while ignoring the beam in your own, yet pathological anti-Mormons (such as Shafovaloff and Oliver) seem content to do just that. Perhaps they just don’t feel the need to accept the actions of their religious ancestors, yet are gleeful to insist that the LDS must accept the actions of theirs. They are loathe to admit that it was evangelical Christians who were the most vocal in defending the “curse of Cain” theories in support of slavery, it was their Christian brothers who donned white sheets to welcome their newly emancipated neighbors, and it was their theological compatriots who praised God while shutting the church-house doors to those of different colors.
For a scholarly review of such Christian behavior, read When Slavery Was Called Freedom: Evangelicalism, Proslavery, and the Causes of the Civil War by John Patrick Daly (Lexington, Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky, 2002) or Noah’s Curse: The Biblical Justification of American Slavery by Stephen R. Haynes (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002). You quickly find out that the “Curse of Cain” was not a vestige of Mormon doctrine, as critics pretend, but an inheritance of antebellum Protestantism.
Was such teachings and behavior wrong? Yes, it was. Does the fact that the larger universe of Christianity practiced institutional racism for generations somehow justify what we may now view as racist behavior within the LDS Church? Of course not. But it does draw into question the hypocrisy of those who cast stones from within their own glass houses.
Shafovaloff and his ilk also don’t seem to see a need to protest against any other religious organization except the LDS. Are there not other organizations that they accept as fellow Christians who routinely exhibit the continued cankers of racism? The critics are silent on such present-day racism, preferring to focus on events thirty years in the LDS past rather than present-day Christianity. The hypocrisy is glaring.
Would critics be happier if the Church issued an “institutional apology” in some form or another? Doubtful. You see, these critics cherry-pick statements by past and present General Authorities and confer canonical status to those statements in an effort denigrate the Church. Yet when those same General Authorities make statements that disavow what was done before the lifting of the ban or when those same General Authorities make statements that condemn racism in the strongest terms possible, the critics minimize those statements and say that more is somehow needed. In other words, they use a double-standard in how they choose to use the words of latter-day apostles and prophets.
The sign that Shafovaloff carried as he marched through the crowds last night said “Integrity requires an apology.” Perhaps Shafovaloff would like to demonstrate his integrity by apologizing for his continued misrepresentation of LDS theology and history.