A couple of weeks ago, I read in The Guardian, Mormon Church Addresses Past Racism. It is about how the leaders of the church explained why it forbade blacks from the clergy for 126 years until 1978. According to the document, “The church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavour 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.” When I read that, I thought, “Good for them!”
But the thought didn’t stay long. For one thing, their explanation isn’t that great. It was all a kind of funny mix-up. You know, like an episode of Three’s Company where that wacky Brigham Young is influenced by the racial divide in the country. Some people say blacks are humans and others say they’re property. Who could say? It was just a silly historical oddity that the Mormons went along with segregation and slavery crowd!
It’s worse than that. Blacks might be able to be clergy now, but women can’t. In the 35 years since the church leaders had a revelation about blacks, God has revealed nothing about women. The ban on women in the clergy has been longer than the ban on blacks. When the Mormon leaders recently explained why the church had been so wrong about black Mormons for so long, BYU writer Margaret Blair Young called it a miracle. So I guess women like her will just have to keep waiting for another miracle that will affect them directly. I doubt seriously that I will be alive when that miracle occurs.
Of course, the active war on the gay community continues in the Mormon Church. As you’ve probably heard, the Utah high court found that the ban against same sex marriage was unconstitutional. The (mostly Mormon) conservatives in Utah have been going crazy. Understandably, the television news has been covering it. That included lots of yucky video of girls kissing girls and boys kissing boys. This caused the Mormon-owned Salt Lake City station KSL-TV to call a ban on showing such footage in their stories. After all, there are Mormons watching! What would they think?!
So 35 years after the Mormons were already extremely late on the whole Civil Rights bandwagon, they finally got around to blaming church father Brigham Young for that whole racist mix-up. I’m not impressed. Like most Churches, the Mormons use their holy writings to justify their continued intolerance. And I suppose that roughly five decades after even the most unreasonable person could justify such bigotry, the church’s mea culpa is welcome. But they have very, very far to go. And again, like most churches, they will constantly be behind the arc of history as it (hopefully) bends toward justice.