A couple weeks ago, the Church quietly published an article online entitled, “Race and the Priesthood.” This understated introduction did not stop the piece from being littered across my social media feed. Many times, it was shared without comment—a silent plea to just follow the link and read the essay. With the same feeling (although not quite silent), I share a link here and humbly ask, if you have not already done so, that you read the article.
I feel fortunate to be raised in the time that I was. As a millennial, I feel much of society was earnestly trying to repair some of the prejudicial damage done the generations before me. I realize we’re not perfect and we have our own weaknesses, but I still feel we have come a long way from the generations previous in the terms of racism and race-related bigotry.
Reading this Church-published article, however, I wondered, “why now?” and “why not sooner?” Nothing in the piece struck me as news, or even controversial. Perhaps this standpoint is naïve, and maybe my age is showing, but the facts presented seemed like common knowledge. To me, such a piece would have been timely in the 20th century, not over a decade into the 21st. I wonder why we are bringing up such an archaic point now (in my imperfect experience, I have found few that will debate the revelation to extend the Priesthood to all races) when there are so many other timelier concerns that would benefit from an official Church statement. For example, while the article graciously made the point that “all are alike unto God,” it gave no explanation for why women are not extended the same privilege as men. I realize much has been said to this point over the pulpit, but I wouldn’t say no to such a thoughtful study as was given to race and the Priesthood in this article.
Still, truth is beautiful, and truth shone through. One of my favorite parts were these two forthright, and somewhat blunt, sentences:
Over time, Church leaders and members advanced many theories to explain the priesthood and temple restrictions. None of these explanations is accepted today as the official doctrine of the Church.
I love the Church’s recent trend of increased transparency. While we can speculate and justify all we like, some things have no logical explanation. The Lord does not always function in the terms of what’s logical (“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.”) And sometimes certain policies exist because men and women are human and therefore fallible. Like President Uchtdorf mentioned in his General Conference address, “ . . . to be perfectly frank, there have been times when members or leaders in the Church have simply made mistakes.” Not to say that everything regarding race and the Priesthood was a mistake (since we cannot understand the Lord’s means and are not fit to judge how His gospel unfolds), but it’s comforting to see the Church admit when its leadership has stumbled. Even if innocently posed, rumors about the worthiness of members based on the color of their skin are definitely a stumble back.
I cannot explain the timing or catalyst for this article, but I still affirm its truth. I know I have been blessed by worthy Priesthood holders of every race and I am grateful so many are able to serve today. It is comforting to have such a concrete declaration from the Church on what has historically been a painful subject. I look forward to more pieces like this in the future. Like Holland said when fielding questions about the difference in missionary age across genders: “One miracle at a time.”
Did you read the “Race and the Priesthood” article? What are your thoughts? Do you feel like the author left out anything important? What other concerns do you wish the Church would speak out about?