Sunday, March 11, 2012

Up from Racism: The Revelation on the Priesthood

I deeply regret my past racism and have been in recovery for years now as I try to progress in my understanding of life and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

As another "eye-witness to history," I went back to check my missionary history of President Kimball's announcement that the Priesthood ban as to men of Black African descent was lifted. The embarrassing part is that my racism is evident along with erroneous speculations about scripture and doctrine that the LDS Church has since disavowed. Most recently, the Church issued this statement:

The Church’s position is clear—we believe all people are God’s children and are equal in His eyes and in the Church. We do not tolerate racism in any form.
For a time in the Church there was a restriction on the priesthood for male members of African descent. It is not known precisely why, how, or when this restriction began in the Church but what is clear is that it ended decades ago. Some have attempted to explain the reason for this restriction but these attempts should be viewed as speculation and opinion, not doctrine. The Church is not bound by speculation or opinions given with limited understanding.
We condemn racism, including any and all past racism by individuals both inside and outside the Church.
My recent views about race, the priesthood ban, and yes, even politics, are reflected here.

The good news is that at the time of announcement, I accepted the Revelation with joy. And while erroneously speculating on the reasons and previous interpretation of scripture principally the whole "seed of Cain" business that I now face with regret, I was actually right about one thing. I correctly predicted there would be an addition to the canon of scripture even as I failed to understand existing scripture. I made another interesting "prediction" I will discuss at the end.

From my letter home:
Monday, June 12, 1978

Dear Family,

What a day yesterday was! Brasil beats Austria and is qualified for the semifinals. We hear the big news of the new revelation. (I hope It’s not just gossip.)

Sunday morning in Priesthood, Newton came in late, sat down by us and said, “You know about the revelation President Kimball had? The Negroes cans have the priesthood.” We asked how he heard and he said his sister was in Porto Alegre and heard it from the Stake President’s 1st Counselor’s wife who had heard it from 2 elders who had said the news had come by phone. Well, we really didn’t believe it. His sister came to Sunday School and confirmed as much as he said, but we still didn’t believe it. Then Paulo Grahl, Counselor in the Mission Presidency, came also to visit our branch (he is also the seminary director for South Brasil) and he confirmed it saying, “Yes, it’s true.” We believed it then and the shock of it came. I thought, “Now they’ll call me on another mission to Angola.” Oh, well.

It means so much down here. Not because there are lots of Blacks (maybe 50 % of the country) but because 80% of the population and a good number of church members have some lineage of Cain in their blood and therefore could not have the priesthood, could not go through the Temple. A good example is the Bishop’s wife in _____. She doesn’t even look much darker than I am. The Blood of Cain has mixed with the Blood of Israel here in Brasil. The way I see it, the Lord had to prepare Blacks. They had to prepare themselves becoming educated, cultured, self-governing and a free people. The blacks have come achieving greatly in the past years and it looks like the curse was being removed and now is.

(I hope in saying all this that it’s true – the Branch President also heard the news and received permission to ordain any black member from the Stake President yesterday in a meeting.)

We have official word as far as our leaders are concerned. Pres. Bangerter called Pres. Souza and the 1st Presidency sent a telegram to the mission also.

It has such great implications here in Brasil. I’m sure in the U.S. too. And will the Africa missions soon be open???

I’m sure it won’t appease the enemies of the church. They’ll just say “Oh look!! – The Mormons changed under pressure.” Oh well. They had the same thing with Plural Marriage, they just can’t grasp the basic idea of Revelation.

We realize that there will be many people apostatize from the church for this. That’s sad, but it has to be. Separating the sheep from the goats.

It’s just fantastic to think about it all. I realize prejudices exist everywhere. The members here greeted the news with joy. (We have no black members in this branch.) We went and told Irmã ____ (Grandma). (She’s 74 years old) “But I don’t like Blacks!” We sort of laughed. It was funny. At least she’s honest.

It had to come. The gospel is for all the world – when they’re prepared. If the gospel must go to the Gentiles and then to the Jews then that’s the way it must be.

It’s all fantastic news. I know Spencer Kimball is a prophet of God.

Writing this letter it’s still hard to believe. I’d like to hear about the revelation. We thought that it would probably have to be written and accepted as part of The Pearl of Great Price because it’s sort of like an amendment to the constitution. The Books of Abraham and Moses say that Cain’s lineage can’t have the Priesthood.
The interesting prediction that I would be called to a mission in Angola hasn't happened yet. But who knows? I'm not quite ready to retire and still have kids at home but my wife and I have a great desire to serve a mission together - and more than one if life and health permit.

The odd part of that idea flashing in my head is that Angola now has LDS missionaries and the church is growing there. It does not have it's own mission yet, but is part of the Mozambique Maputo Mission. The current President is my friend, and former missionary companion, Loren Spendlove.

Elders Renato Bertani, Loren Spendlove (with Jair Gomes), and Ralph Topham
São Borja Chapel, Rio Grande do Sul, Brasil - June, 1977

And a 2009 video of President Spendlove in Mozambique:

1 comment:

  1. Wow, the threads of inspiration and revelation mixed in with our own bitter fruit and remnants of the apostasy . . .

    In a testimony today (last week was Stake Conference), one of the good men in our ward said that as he has studied Church History he has come to realize forcefully that all of us are human, all of us (including our prophets) have weaknesses, biases and incorrect ideas, all of us will answer for what we've done, all of us need the Atonement because of the reckoning that will be required, and, therefore, all of us need to be less judgmental about other people's weaknesses and focus more diligently on working out our own relationship with God. He said, "Even our prophets aren't perfect in all of the things they say, but the Gospel they teach is of God."

    I thought that was an excellent way to say it, especially since I know it was influenced by the furor caused by Prof. Bott's recent interview.


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