Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Harm of the Seed of Cain Doctrine & Why It Hasn't Been Repudiated

I just listened to a Mormonstories.org podcast titled "Episode: 256-258: Dustin Jones and the Lingering Legacy of the LDS Negro Doctrine, May 31, 2011 By John Dehlin.

The reason members don’t want to talk about the racists teachings in Mormonism, as Dustin talks about in part 2 of the podcast, is because then they will suffer cognitive dissonance and an "amygdala hijacking" when they contemplate the thought that their leaders – who are supposed to be inspired by God – perpetuated racists doctrines and policies for over a hundred years. Another reason is that if the LDS member begins to admit that maybe the leaders were wrong in teaching the doctrine that blacks are the seed of Cain, then maybe they are wrong about other things. This was actually the first "domino" that fell over for me personally which I discuss in my short exit story out of the church that I titled, Dear Bishop, I'm Leaving the Fold.

Once that first domino fell, and other dominos naturally began to fall over by chance, soon my curiosity about what else could the church be wrong about was ignited. Before I knew it the domino’s started falling down one after another until it knocked down the Mormon House of Cards.

I have seen most of the the pro-LDS DVD, "Blacks in the Scriptures," and have consumed as much material about the DVD as possible on the web for free. The authors of the DVD are attempting to completely re-interpret racist Mormon scripture, and they provide a long list of quotes (listed below) from church leaders admitting they're fallible. As Dustin in the interview above points out, the Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet is still taught today. Compare the Fourteen Fundamentals to this list of “the Brethren” admitting they are fallible men who make mistakes even when speaking officially:

“I make no claim of infallibility” ~ Spencer W. Kimball, Improvement Era, June 1970, p. 93

“We make no claim of infallibility or perfection in the prophets, seers, and revelators.” ~ James E. Faust, Ensign, November 1989, p. 11

“The First Presidency cannot claim, individually or collectively, infallibility.” ~ George Q. Cannon Gospel Truth: Discourses and Writings of President George Q. Cannon, 1957, 1:206

“We respect and venerate” (the prophet), but “we do not believe that his personal views or utterances are revelations from God.” ~ Elder Charles W. Penrose, Millennial Star, 54:191

“Even the President of the Church has not always spoken under the direction of the Holy Ghost.” ~ Elder J. Reuben Clark, quoted in Faithful History: Essays on Writing Mormon History, p. 82

“…if He (God) should suffer him (Joseph Smith) to lead the people astray, it would be because they ought to be led astray…it would be because they deserved it…” ~ Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 4:297-298

“The First Presidency have of right a great influence over this people; and if we should get out of the way and lead this people to destruction, what a pity it would be! How can you know whether we lead you correctly, or not? Can you know by any other power than that of the Holy Ghost? I have uniformly exhorted the people to obtain this living witness each for themselves; then no man on earth can lead them astray.” ~ Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 6:100

“I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation…Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not.” ~ Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 14:205

“Individual members are encouraged to independently strive to receive their own spiritual confirmation of the truthfulness of Church doctrine. Moreover, the Church exhorts all people to approach the gospel not only intellectually but with the intellect and the spirit, a process in which reason and faith work together.” ~ Official Church web site www.LDS.org

“The Lord uses imperfect people…He often allows their errors to stand uncorrected. He may have a purpose in doing so, such as to teach us that religious truth comes forth “line upon line, precept upon precept” in a process of sifting and winnowing similar to the one I know so well in science.” ~ Henry Eyring, Reflections of a Scientist, p. 47

“There are exceptions to some rules. For example, we believe the commandment is not violated by killing pursuant to a lawful order in an armed conflict. But don’t ask me to give an opinion on your exception. I only teach general rules. Whether an exception applies to you is your responsibility. You must work that out individually between you and the Lord.” ~ Elder Dallin H. Oaks, Ensign, June 2006, p. 16

“I teach the people correct principles, and they govern themselves.” ~ Joseph Smith, Journal of Discourses, 10: 57-58

“We are all liable to error; are subject, more or less, to the errors incident to the human family. We would be pleased to get along without these errors, and many may think that a man in my standing ought to be perfect; no such thing.” ~ Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 10:212

“Sometimes traditions, customs, social practices, and personal preferences of individual Church members may, through repeated or common usage be misconstrued as Church procedures or policies. Occasionally, such traditions, customs and practices may even be regarded by some as eternal principles.” ~ Elder Ronald Poelman, 1984 General Conference

“Forget everything I have said, or what…Brigham Young…or whomsoever has said… that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world.” ~ Elder Bruce R. McConkie, CES Conference, August 1978

“We set up assumptions, based on our best knowledge, but can go no further. We should remember that when inspired writers deal with historical incidents they relate that which they have seen or that which may have been told them, unless indeed the past is opened to them by revelation.” ~ Elder John A. Widtsoe, Evidences and Reconciliations, p. 127

“I have tried for a number of years to get the minds of the Saints prepared to receive the things of God; but we frequently see some of them, after suffering all they have for the work of God, will fly to pieces like glass as soon as anything comes that is contrary to their traditions.” ~ Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 331

Source of list: http://blacksinthescriptures.com/doctrine/statements-by-leaders/ (June, 2011).

I applaud what the authors of Blacks in the Scripture are trying to accomplish, but I also find it strange that they would be part of a church that would have racist doctrines bound in scripture and taught by prophets as if it were "the word of the Lord." There is also the fact that the LDS prophets and apostles gave offical statements about blacks, that they are the seed of Cain and their skin color is best understood by the pre-existent doctrine.

After reading the list above that Mormon prophets are fallible, anyone with common sense I would think would then ask themselves, “why blindly follow the Mormon prophet today when past LDS prophets have been wrong about so simple a moral issue as racism. How can I know that any advice or command an LDS leader gives today isn’t on par with the racist advice and commands of yesterday?”

Mormon doctrine currently teaches that the American Indians are Jews with cursed dark skin, which is clearly false. The Mormon Church is finally beginning to change this core tenant of the faith, a belief I was raised on. The new Doubleday printing of the Book of Mormon recently had the wording in the introduction changed from "principal ancestors" to "among the ancestors" of the Native Americans. Of course, this only changes the teaching that Native Americans are all decedents of Lamanites (Jews). Now it seems that the LDS church is trying to change attitudes about skin curses, which again is the doctrine I was raised on. In the article, Changes To LDS Scripture Headings & Footnotes (February 7, 2011), author Marvin Perkins of Blacks in the Scriptures lists scriptural headings in the Book of Mormon that have been altered to sound less racist.

This is a positive change I endorse, but the problem is that these changes do not change the text of the Book of Mormon, such as 2 Nephi 5:21-23 which is just one example. For more examples of racism in the Book of Mormon see here. These changes in the Book of Mormon headings are troublesome for it is just another example of the LDS church trying to change public perceptions without changing core teachings. Take for example the abolishment of the "practice" of polygamy in 1890 yet today a Mormon male can be "sealed" to more than one wife in the temple. The penal oaths of pantomiming one's own death were removed from the temple ritual in 1990 but one still swears a similar oath in the temple today. These changes prove that Mormonism is willing to adapt to reality only when push comes to shove. With this track record in mind why on earth would anyone follow the directions of an LDS leader when obviously they are only fallible humans and the historical evidence indicates that any current teaching from the Mormon leaders taught today could, and most probably will, change some time in the near future if outside influences apply enough pressure.

Update: after this blog post was published, in 2013 an Ensign article titled Race and the Priesthood, was published on lds.org that basically blames the priesthood ban on Brigham Young, and finally repudiated the seed of Cain dogma by stating: "Today, the [Mormon] Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form."

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