Hi, I am new on these forums and posting in general. If anyone could help me with my dilemma with the Church I would truly appreciate it. Here's my story (the shorter version): I love OSC's fiction. When I read the Alvin Maker series it really touched me and I found it deeply spiritual, along with Lost Boys. I am sure this happens a lot, but after digesting those books for a month or two, they lead my fiancee and me right to our local ward. We really loved it. We started meeting with the missionaries, of course, who were very close to our own age, and enjoyed each lesson. We could really feel the enrichment it added to our lives, and my husband and I really felt blessed as we moved along toward baptism. I would like to point out that we were COLLEGE students at this time, but we still accepted the whole no drinking AND the whole tithing thing (which were both very foreign to us) without blinking. We were quite ready to be devoted, and we were happy. Right before our baptism is where the problem comes in. We had our pre-baptism interview with some big guy who had to come from Savannah, and he asked us a bunch of questions. When he asked whether we believed the Church had always been run a prophet, or something similar, I pointed out that I wasn't sure because I heard they didn't allow blacks in till, like, the 50's. Well, he said, it actually wasn't till the late 60's. And I said, Oh. Well there you go. And then to our horror, he proceed to inform us that the mark of Cain was actually black skin, and that thus blacks have been cursed by God for centuries. I was shocked. I felt my mouth turn metallic, my heart pound, my face blush red. My eyes glazed over so I couldn't see well. I am from the South and I see racism from good 'ol boys and friend's of friends quite often, but it literally broke my heart to suddenly be hearing it in a place where I felt I had found truth and enlightenment. To say the least, we immediately stood, thanked the man politely for coming all the way from Savannah, and left.
Sorry for such a long story, but I really feel torn. We haven't been back to the church since, and we feel a hole where it is missing from our lives. Most bafflingly, no one at the Church seemed to want to talk about it. I tried to go back to the authority, because I know OSC has stated he believes in some measure of abortion, to which the church is resolutely opposed, so I thought he might have articulated his thoughts on this confusing subject - and he is quite good at explaining a complex situation - but I have searched ALL over the net to no avail. My question is - is this truly the default position of the Church? Are there members who think the whole "mark of Cain is black skin" thing is WRONG? How can they live with this and still be members. For me I think the Church is double guilty by perpetuating this excuse for their own racism: not only are they blaming their sin on God, but creating a new generation of racist apologists, from people who want to believe in the Church so much they become willing to convince themselves that this sin is righteous. I am not trying to be accusatory, that is just the only conclusion I can come to, logically in my mind. Believe me I have tried not to. I would really appreciate hearing what anyone could offer on this topic! I def. need some help...
[ November 13, 2006, 11:00 PM: Message edited by: Orson Scott Card ]
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The "mark of Cain" theory is almost exclusively seen today as false doctrine. In the pre-70's Church, there was indeed a practice of not ordaining blacks to the Priesthood, which led to much speculation as to why. That, coupled with some statements by Brigham Young (whose personal views were no doubt influenced heavily by the racist views of his day) has led to speculation that blacks were cursed by the mark of Cain. That speculation was de-bunked by the more modern revelation opening up the Priesthood to all worthy male members of the Church, with the most prominent proponent of the theory, Bruce R. McConkie admitted he was dead wrong. However, there are some Mormons who unfortunately seem to be stuck in the 60s, and still hold that view. In my opinion, this "doctrine," which never was official in the first place, has been thoroughly repudiated by the Lord's more modern representatives, but that doesn't stop some Mormons from holding those opinions.
I hope this has been useful. Feel free to ask any more questions (and other, more eloquent LDS on this board may pitch in with their observations.)
p.s. Geoff Card, who posts on this board as "Puppy" and "A Rat Named Dog," has answered this question much better than I can in a previous thread, but I am hopelessly lost when it comes to using the Hatrack Search feature, so I can't find his post.
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I am one of those who believes that it has NOT been debunked. The revelation to ordain all worthy men to the Priesthood mentions nothing of the doctrinal reasons. Although I do believe that there are doctrinal reasons that have been debunked - mere speculation not supported by Scripture or prophetic announcments - the "mark of cain" reasoning is not one of them.
p.s. an example of a debunked doctrine is the "sitting on a fence in the post-mortal world" theory.
I would like to refer you to BlackLDS.org which addresses these issues. There are quite a few black members of the church and seeing the issue from their perspective is always beneficial IMHO. Let me know if you have additional questions.
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By the way, I forgot to mention that the fellow who told you the whole "blacks are cursed" is completely mistaken and is probably just perpetuating a myth he heard when he was younger. Fortunately, the Lord allows mistaken people to be members of his church and doesn't strike us down for every incorrect or impure thought we have. He even uses men and women to be his servants and allows them to make their own decisions and mistakes.
Blacks have always been allowed to be members of the church since the beginning and there were even a few black men that held the priesthood, ordained by Joseph Smith. I think the main reason why the individual from Savannah told you a myth is because he hasn't really spent any time researching it. Follow the links on blacklds.org and you will find that there has been a lot of scholarly work done on the subject which should put to rest your fears that the church holds a racist doctrine.
Thank you for responses! These are very very good to hear Our missionaries, who we abso. love BTW, were baffled and frustrated when this came up. I think they really didnt know what to say, and I dont believe they could really contridict thier "boss" so to speak. Thank you, agian.
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I also want to add that I researched the whole issue alot, and I didnt have a problem accepting that the leaders held racist views in the past, or even that the church originally embraced them to an extent. Of course I'm not thrilled by it, but ANY church, doctorine or belief that you embrace is going to have mistakes in its past. And this being America, with her infamously divise racial history, you would be hard pressed to find any historical figure you could admire if you held them exclusively to today's standards on race. So as far as the past I can come to terms with that, I was just wounded that people seemed to take it as fact still today! And when I tried to talk to another member of our congregation about the issue I got the same line, so I was very frustrated. I wonder why the information on the truth, that the idea is not doctorine, is not more accessible.
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quote:Originally posted by Brian J. Hill: p.s. Geoff Card, who posts on this board as "Puppy" and "A Rat Named Dog," has answered this question much better than I can in a previous thread, but I am hopelessly lost when it comes to using the Hatrack Search feature, so I can't find his post.
I looked back into some of Geoff's posts to look for the comment you mentioned, Brian. Take a look here
He's "A Rat Named Dog", about half way down the page.
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quote:Originally posted by DDDaysh: It still seems to beg the question of "prophet" though. Would prophets not have been led by God to see through it right from the beginning?
As a member, I reconcile my belief that every prophet of the church since Joseph Smith has been divinely inspired with the fact that God loves all His children equally, regardless of colour this way:
During the time that the priesthood was withheld from black members, racism was so prominent that to allow them to have the priesthood could easilt have been a decision that tore the church apart.
Long story short, We don't know why this happened, but A) We believe that any commandment by a current prophet supercedes a contradictory commandment by a previous prophet (That why we have modern revelation, natch.) and B) We know from more current revelation that there should be equality in the kingdom of God on Earth (aka, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, if you ask the right person)
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Corinne, first of all welcome to Hatrack! Second, I am very sorry for the unfortunate experience you described. I hope you've looked at the link I posted above because Geoff Card expressed the issue very eloquently and honestly.
Like he said, sadly there are many opinions within the church on this and many other matters. It becomes particularly frustrating when individual members do not share those opinions, which creates a fertile ground for friction and arguments.
I am a convert to the church and where I didn't have any specific doubts or reservations about being baptized, my parents, especially my mother, did. She went through several sets of missionaries before deciding to join the church. Most importantly though, I know for a fact that she would not have been baptized then or perhaps at all if her pre-baptismal interview was with a different man. The church leader that spoke to her before her baptism helped solidify her decision and resolve unanswered issues. To make the long story short, I believe if she had had an experience similar to yours, she too would have walked away, at least initially.
That said, why should it be different from man to man, from person to person, from prophet to prophet, or from generation to generation for that matter? DDDaysh brought up a point many people consider when discussions like this are brought up. Spencer W. Kimball issued the official declaration "extending priesthood and temple blessings to all worthy male members of the Church" in 1978. Does it mean that all prophets before him were misled? In my opinion, that is not at all the case.
I believe that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was restored by God Himself and that the prophets who have led the Church since its beginning were men called by God. I also believe that certain prophets lived and certain revelations were given at specific times according to the Lord's time-table. Moses was the prophet for his time, for his people. Just because his predecessors did not receive the Stone Tables doesn't mean there was something wrong with them. And as we all know, even then the people weren't ready for the Law inscribed upon them, so it had to be substituted by the 10 Commandments. It just wasn't the right time, or the right place. Elijah, Isaiah, Abraham, Lehi, Alma and others all received different revelations for their times and for their people. All according to God's plan.
As for the particular matter of racism that you bring up, I hope you know that not everybody in the Church feels that way. Old habbits are tough to break, and unfortunately some geographic locations can be more predisposed to such opinions than others. I agree with Hank, time wasn't right for this revelation until 1978. The comforting thing is that it did come and millions of lives are blessed because of it. When all is said and done though, we are all children of our Heavenly Father, all equal in His eyes.
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The whole "mark of Cain" thing is actually a Southern "Christian" doctrine that was invented to excuse the mistreatment of black slaves. It is older than the Mormon Church. It is not now and never was a doctrine of the LDS Church.
It was, however, picked up by some Latter-day Saints as a "folk doctrine" adopted to explain the Church's policy of denying the priesthood to black male members (and priesthood blessings, such as the temple rites, to any black Saints). After all, for the church to have a racial policy like that must have SOME doctrinal justification, right? So they seized on the inventions of slaveholders in order to explain a church policy.
However, the policy of the church has a very different history and has nothing at all to do with doctrine - it has to do with survival of the Church during the slavery era in the slave state of Missouri. When Mormons moved there in large numbers, they were mostly converts from New England and other northern areas, where slavery was not practiced; almost none of the Saints owned slaves and some were quite vocal in saying that they detested the practice. The locals thus had reason to fear that a huge influx of these Yankees 'abolitionists' would quite possibly turn Missouri from a slave state to a free state - and in the 1830s, them was fightin' words.
To cut a long story short, during the persecutions of the Mormons in Missouri, a Mormon newspaper editor took it upon himself (or so it seems) to announce that while blacks could be church members, they couldn't hold the priesthood. So those Mormons who had been preaching to blacks weren't really subverting the slave state's laws.
In short, it was a desperate measure to try to remove one of the ostensible reasons for persecuting Mormons.
Didn't do much good ... but the policy stuck.
HOWEVER: It did not come from revelation, and it was not originally from Joseph Smith, though he allowed it to stand for the same reason that it had been instituted in the first place: There was no prospect of the church surviving in the South as long as blacks had equal standing.
Keep in mind, however, that Joseph Smith did not apparently regard this as doctrine. He ordained at least one black man to the priesthood during his lifetime, and there is no event in his life, no statement he made, that can be remotely construed as justifying a doctrinal differentiation between blacks and whites in the Church.
Others have gone through the whole progress of race relations and the church's racial policy in great detail. But the quick overview is that once the policy was in place, it seemed that people regarded it as needing a revelation to overturn it, though it had not been established by revelation and was not rooted in any doctrine. There were always members of the highest reaches of the Church who felt that for one reason or another, it was better just to leave the policy alone. However, it was stretched. As black-skinned Polynesians joined the church, the policy was ruled (at the urging of some of the Twelve) to restrict only blacks of African descent - i.e., it had nothing to do with color, only a certain ancestry. This was taken by some as confirmation of the Cain story - but no such doctrine was stated. What really seemed to be going on was that many of the Brethren longed to remove this burden from the black Saints and from the Church as a whole. Even before the Civil Rights movement in the U.S. got into full swing after Brown vs. Board of Education, David O. McKay was stretching the boundaries and earnestly praying for permission to remove the policy. Details of this make fascinating reading, but the fact is that there were delays until America as a whole changed so much that any change in Church policy would be perceived by the members as a capitulation to "the world," which meant even MORE delay.
Meanwhile, more and more African-Americans were joining the Church, despite the fact that this restrictive policy sorely tried their faith, and the behavior of some racist members of the Church even more sorely tried their patience.
Finally, in late 1977 President Spencer W. Kimball received what he had long been praying for - permission to change the policy. Even then, he spent months speaking to the Twelve until he had their unanimous consent, and then even more time was spent speaking to the Seventy. Only in summer 1978 was the unanimity he sought achieved, and then the public statement was made that the policy had been changed by revelation from the Lord.
Unfortunately, this did not erase all the folk doctrines that had sprung up throughout the Church. Even though the Church DID make definitive statements denying some of the more colorful ideas - that blacks were somehow "less valiant" in the preexistence, for instance - it has not been able to get rid of these false doctrines. But false they are. they did not originate with the Mormon Church, but they persisted with us because of that longstanding policy.
When the revelation came in 1978, it was received by almost all Saints with rejoicing - white and black. A few, however - and rather larger numbers in the South, i'm afraid - went away and never came back. Those were the ones who had embraced Mormonism because of its racial policy, rather than in spite of it. And even now, members of the Church are occasionally plagued and tried by those who just won't let go of these false doctrines and continue to teach them as if they were true.
They are not true. They are not Mormon doctrine. Period. The bishop who said those things to you did not know what he was talking about. he had heard these "doctrines" but had never bothered to find out if they were official. he certainly had no business telling them to anyone, least of all in a baptismal interview, and I hesitate to speculate on the motives of a man I do not know personally. But he had no authority to introduce such a subject and I'm so very sorry he did such a thing. I know dozens of bishops who would never dream of such a thing - it's tragic that you should encounter one who didn't understand either Church doctrine or the responsibilities of a bishop.
The irony is that once the Church's policy was revoked in 1978, we became far MORE racially integrated than most churches in America. That's because our divisions are geographical, period. So if you live in a ward's boundaries, then you go to that ward's meetings and hold callings in that ward, whatever your race.
At first there were some real problems in making the transition. i personally witnessed some of the patronizing attitude ("We have to bring 'them' along carefully until 'they' are ready for real callings and responsibilities") but that attitude soon faded. To help the transition, there was an experiment with "inner city" branches of the church where black saints could hold positions of authority and responsibility - and those branches worked, providing training and experience. However, they also maintained a division - mostly-white congregations vs. mostly-black ones - and after they had accomplished their purpose they were disbanded. Now we had fully-trained and experienced black members back in the regular wards and stakes, and at least where we live, we have made great progress in overcoming the barriers of the past; there is no distinction, in terms of official callings, between white saints and black ones, though of course the surrounding culture and old prejudices continue to exert an occasionally pernicious influence.
As a result, in Greensboro, at least, we are one of the MOST integrated churches in the city. Most of the other churches are almost entirely white or almost entirely black, keeping to the old traditions. Everybody talks about how "they" are welcome (whites in black churches, blacks in white churches), but by and large the segregation of the races continues on Sunday (with the obvious exception of Quakers and Unitarians, and a handful of others).
But in Mormon churches, we are forbidden to discriminate in any way. It is a grave matter for someone to mistreat or persecute someone because of race (or any other reason), and African-American Saints are the largest single group providing us with new converts in the South.
So I ask that you see this bishop's remarks as a throwback to an earlier, more ignorant time; that you recognize that his words do not reflect the doctrines of the church now or ever; and that in most places I know of in the U.S., we are putting the racial discrimination that once was the rule in American society behind us - and doing as good a job of it as almost anyone, and better than most. I hope you'll become part of that effort, rather than being put off by our occasional local failures.
P.S. This is all we're going to say on this topic here on Hatrack. This is not a place for discussing Mormon doctrine. I responded here because this was a sincere inquiry and deserved a full and accurate answer, which I have provided. If you have further questions, please write to me via the CONTACT button at the top of the Hatrack screen, and I'll steer you to the best sources on this subject. Meanwhile, this thread is closed.