For those of you who are up to date on all the Mormon issues, you may have heard that the church recently updated its website to include information on Race and the Priesthood.
Amongst fringe members and the Ex-Mormon community, this has caused quite a stir. There were a number of theories taught in Sunday School classrooms as to why black people were not allowed the priesthood until 1978. (1978! I have talked to people who were directly affected by this ban, not to mention many others who recall their embarrassment at having to explain this policy to black would-be converts.) The most popular theory was that black people alive during this period were unworthy because of things they had done in the pre-mortal existence. However, it seems this theory was unofficial and actually denounced by church leaders in the early 1900’s.
I talk often about how the church can essentially side-step responsibility for what is taught in classrooms due to the fact all lessons are done by members with no official training. This is a good example of that. Teachers within the church have been churning out these explanations for years, and these ideas had practically become gospel. This page denounces those teachings again and essentially blames the racist culture at the time for the ban, but due to the fact hardly any mainstream members are aware of the page, the non-official explanations may still hang around for some time.
The church has released more pages relating to issues with its history, for example, about polygamy and the translation of the Book of Mormon. (The latter one is particularly interesting as it clearly states Joseph Smith translated the BOM using a seer stone and a hat.) The fact the church is choosing to be honest about certain issues makes my life a lot easier, even if every admission comes with a large side serving of apologetics. At least now when I mention that the BoM was translated out of a hat, my Mormon acquaintances can’t just claim it’s all anti-Mormon lies.
I recently saw a meme similar to this on Facebook saying, “You learned about Mormons in class today? Please tell me more about my own religion.” Let’s see how long that smug face lasts when they read the new webpages…