[This talk is from the 2003 FairMormon Conference]
Forget everything I have said, or what…Brigham Young…or whomsoever has said…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.1
This statement by Elder McConkie in August of 1978 is an apt characterization of the doctrine and apologetic commentary so pervasive in the Church prior to the revelation on the priesthood earlier that year. That is, it was based on limited understanding. Yet, it is not clear how wide an application Elder McConkie intended for his references to “limited understanding;” for ironically, the doctrinal folklore that many of us thought had been discredited, or at least made moot, through the 1978 revelation continued to appear in Elder McConkie’s own books written well after 1978, and continues to be taught by well-meaning teachers and leaders in the Church to this very day.2 The tragic irony is that the dubious doctrines in question are no longer even relevant, since they were contrived to “explain” a Church policy that was abandoned a quarter century ago.
Indeed, it was apparent to many of us even four decades ago that certain scriptural passages used to explain the denial of priesthood to black members could not legitimately be so interpreted without an a priori narrative.3 Such a narrative was gradually constructed by the searching and inventive minds of early LDS apologists. With allusions to the books of Genesis, Moses, and Abraham, the scenario went something like this : In the pre-existence, certain of the spirits were set aside, in God’s wisdom, to come to Earth through a lineage that was cursed and marked, first by Cain’s fratricide and obeisance to Satan, and then again later by Ham’s lËse majestÈ against his father Noah. We aren’t exactly sure why this lineage was set apart in the pre-existence, but it was probably for reasons that do not reflect well on the premortal valiancy of the partakers of that lineage. Since the beginning, the holy priesthood has been withheld from all who have had any trace of that lineage, and so it shall be until all the rest of Adam’s descendants have received the priesthood, or, for all practical purposes, throughout the mortal existence of humankind. [Read more…] about The LDS Church and the Race Issue: A Study in Misplaced Apologetics