We have covered Cain and “blackness,” probably more than it deserves. In this post, I will run through a quick and dirty discussion of Ham and “blackness.” This explanation has, hands down, no contest, dominated racial exegesis in European Biblical scholarship until the last 50+ years. While there is more–much more–to the Noachian story, if this blog post can help form even one well-framed discussion point for a Gospel Doctrine teacher, it is worth the time. The Gospel Doctrine Manual does not so much as mention Ham’s existence (like, anywhere). Since Ham is both in Genesis and Abraham (next week’s lesson), it’s best to be prepared.
Lesson 5 on Cain and Abel is coming up, and the proverbial elephant in the room endures: what of the Curse of Cain?
Mormons live in a new era when it comes to racial exegesis. Grandfather’s talking points about “the negro,” Cain and Ham aren’t en vogue. “We now know,” we tell ourselves, with a breath of relief, “that African people aren’t descended from Cain.” That early Mormon leaders accepted the Cain-African theory as Gospel Truth (TM) is a matter of a fairly well-established history that needs no belaboring here (for a sound overview of Mormon use of the theory, see here and here). Continue reading
For the Mormon Sunday School teachers out there, this one is for you. This is a follow-up to an earlier post: Mythbusters: Official Declaration #2 edition.
Today, I taught the lesson on Official Declaration #2. For most of us, it is over. Whether with grace or clumsiness or perhaps #facepalm moment (or three), we’ve taught the lesson on Official Declaration #2.
Since it deals with one of the great lines of exclusion drawn in human societies in the modern (and arguably, pre-modern age), it was a heavy load. That it took place within a community and faith system that many of us cherish, the anxiety and pain is particularly stark. Can we broach it, particularly as people of European descent? We do not know what it’s like to live in black skin. All the stories of Missouri persecutions–as searing and sympathetic as they are–will not stand up to any comparison with the black experience in America.
On March 8, Russell Stevenson, along with Blacks in the Scriptures and Northstar, sponsored a special event devoted to discussing how the LGBT/SSA/transgender and African-American communities have endeavored to uphold their faith in the face of systemic marginalization. Participants included Nick Gregory, an active transgender Latter-day Saint, Rod Olson, an active gay Mormon living in Los Angeles, and Marvin Perkins, an African-American Latter-day Saint man and producer of Blacks in the Scriptures. You will also hear stunning musical performances from Catherine Papworth, Rashida Jordan, and Cherie Call.
The story of white Mormon racism gives me heartburn. It makes me sad, tragically so. And tragedies are only possible when there’s something–something big–to lose. As Rabbi Abraham Heschel observed, though “few are guilty…all are responsible.” Deflection and projection will not do. To paraphrase the haunting language of poet Jeremy Loveday, “the culture of violence [though I would say, “racism”] touches us all. And by dismissing perpetrators as monsters, it allows us not to analyze our own actions.” It is the simple and sincere question asked of Jesus: “What lack [we] yet?” Jesus did not coddle the inquirer but directed him to give up the things he valued the most in order to follow him. The young man walked away glumly; he never had considered the kind of sacrifice that Jesus’ kingdom required. Continue reading
To use Official Declaration #2 to show class members how the Lord continues to guide his Church through revelation.
Since this material draws from documents in a forthcoming volume, most citations will not be included
It’s a topic that’s gaining steam in the press these days: is it appropriate for women to mobilize a public demonstration to show their discontent with current gender discourse? Margaret Young has weighed in, suggesting that the proper way to address this is through personal conversations with leaders in power. Tristan Call has kindly responded, arguing that she has failed to take into account the role of social movements and protest.
For my book, Black Mormon: The Story of Elijah Ables, click here
Official Declaration #2 is often cast–in its most generous light–as the Church’s efforts to usher in a new era of racial pluralism and globalization. President Kimball had long dreamed of “when all the world will be converted,” and this was merely the next step. It speaks to what I call the dispensational interpretation of Official Declaration #2. Because Peter received a vision to “take the gospel to the Gentiles,” we assume that Official Declaration #2 was merely another incarnation of that. The interpretation has become almost axiomatic. Continue reading