Many of the LDS Church doctrinal positions that were somewhat canonized by the President Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie, and kept alive by Joseph Fielding McConkie, were overtly anti-science and, in some cases, downright racist. But is all that beginning to change? But is change coming too slowly?
Thanks to Prof. Randy Bott, popular religion instructor at Brigham Young University, we now know that the priesthood ban had nothing to do with the curse of Cain (or Ham if you prefer). Now the Church leaders have added a heading to “Official Declaration -2” in the Doctrine and Covenants which reads:
Book of Mormon teaches that ‘all are alike unto God.’ including ‘black and white, bond and free, male and female’ (2 Nephi 26:33). Throughout the history of the Church, people of every race and ethnicity in many countries have been baptized and have lived as faithful members of the Church. During Joseph Smith’s lifetime, a few black male members of the Church were ordained to the priesthood. Early in its history, Church leaders stopped conferring the priesthood on black males of African descent. Church records offer no clear insights into the origins of this practice. Church leaders believed that a revelation from God was needed to alter this practice and prayerfully sought guidance. The revelation came to Church President Spencer W. Kimball and was affirmed to other Church leaders in the Salt Lake Temple on June 1, 1978. The revelation removed all restrictions with regards to race that once applied to the priesthood.
For years, many Mormon seemed to blame God for the discrimination by making statements like “We don’t know why we were commanded not to give the priesthood to blacks.” With the above statement (“Church records offer no clear insights into the origins of the practice.”), Church leaders seem to be laying the foundation for placing blame where it truly belongs.
Some members feel that the statement does not go far enough. They want the blame laid at the feet of early Church officials, and they want the contemporary leaders to make an official apology for the Church’s past racism. The recent highly-regarded biography of Brigham Young lays blame for the priesthood ban squarely on BY’s (and his era’s) prejudices. Many members also want to know, given the assumption that our leaders are very human, how are we to now tell the difference between prophetic guidance and human frailities?
In a less hearded change, the Church’s Bible Dictionary has been updated. One of the changes involves “no-death-before-the-fall.” This doctrine has kept many conservative Mormons from taking evolution seriously.
Entry on the “Fall of Adam and Eve” (previously “Fall of Adam”):
- Old: “There was no sin, no death, and no children among any of the earthly creations.”
- New: “Before the Fall, there was no sin, no death, and no children.”
Entry on “Death:”
- Old: “Latter-day revelation teaches that there was no death on this earth for any forms of life before the fall of Adam.”
- New: “Latter-day revelation teaches that there was no death on this earth before the Fall of Adam.”
So the new dictionary leaves open the possibility of death before the Fall for non-human forms of life. Probably not enough of a change to comfort all Mormon evolutionists, but still a change.
Several professors at Brigham Young University have made a strong case for dismissing the OT story of the Noachian Flood as being a metaphor or myth. Which lays the groundwork for a less literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis and other parts of the OT.
Let’s face it, some of the church’s quasi-doctrine needs to be updated. But is it going to happen fast enough to keep questioning youth and progressive Mormons in the Church? One good thing, the recent changes and “clarifications” are rightly moving the LDS Church further away from conservative Christian groups.