The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints denounced its racist past and comments made by a Brigham Young University professor who said the faith didn't allow black priests to enter the priesthood until 1978 because God didn't think they were ready.
The remarks, published in the Washington Post, stirred up controversy among church officials and students who deemed the comments racist.
In the Feb. 28 article, theologian and professor Randy Bott attempts to explain why the Mormon church originally barred African-Americans from entering the priesthood. In addition, he says the ban "was the greatest blessing God could give them" at the time:
Bott says that the denial of the priesthood to blacks on Earth — although not in the afterlife — protected them from the lowest rungs of hell reserved for people who abuse their priesthood powers.
On Feb. 29, the LDS church issued a statement acknowledging its past and emphasizing that Bott's remarks were his own opinions:
BYU faculty members do not speak for the Church. It is unfortunate that the Church was not given a chance to respond to what others said ... 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.
However, Bott allegedly told one of his classes that he was misquoted in the article, the Deseret News reports.
"He said he just shared the scriptures with the reporter and told them that the church hasn't given an official reason for the priesthood ban," student Katie Cutler told the Deseret News.
Still, Joanna Brooks of Religion Dispatches observes that Bott was certainly not the first to offer a theory based on "Old Testament pretexts."
Additionally, the LDS church has never directly addressed the origins of the ban, but only denounced racism, according to Brooks.
The Mormon church might not condone racism, but moving forward from its tainted past may be easier said than done.
HuffPost blogger and author Samuel Brown offered the following insights:
Until the malevolent nonsense masquerading as historical theology about race is exposed to public view, the Church may prove unable to purify itself entirely of the stain of prior racism. Even as many, hopefully most, Latter-day Saints have moved beyond a racist past they unfortunately shared with most of white America, some holdouts will continue to cause difficulty for the Church and its members...We who value the church can earnestly hope that this debacle will persuade those Latter-day Saints who hold such moth-eaten, malignant beliefs that it is time to abandon them.
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