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Radio Free Mormon: 123: Mormon Racism Revival

The Mormon world was recently rocked when it was discovered a brand new church manual contains racist teachings from a former prophet.

Special guests Bill Reel and Jonathan Streeter join RFM to discuss the controversy.

This is one for the record books!



35 thoughts on “Radio Free Mormon: 123: Mormon Racism Revival”

    1. Thanks for sharing that, AM!

      I have to admit it is very hard to visualize how, with so many levels of scrutiny and review, anything could be published in a church manual without it being intentional.

      I will add that my stake president just sent out a blanket email to all members in the area that there was an error included in the printed manual and that the digital manual is the one that should be followed.

      I think this speaks well of my stake president.

  1. RFM,

    Thanks again for an amazing episode. I am an avid loyal fan of the amazing material you always produce and recently a monthly paying one. I can actually say you have become my weekly church. I look forward to your podcasts more than I ever did church. Your show has been what I needed to put some of the peaces together.

    Anyway this episode was great I have been keeping up on this story so I thought I would see all the angles and effects these events detail. But you and Bill were able to pull out additional consequences I had not realized.

    Please never stop. I recommend your podcast several times a week on reddit as I make comments to help people with their questions.

    1. Thanks for the kind words, Matt!

      I appreciate your listenership and your recommendations.

      I will resist the temptation to bring up the subject of tithing now that I am your “weekly church.”



  2. Thanks RFM, Bill, and Jonathan for the deep dive into this topic; I appreciate the work that goes into this weekly podcast. Thanks also for allowing us to post our comments on the topic here. Here’s a few of my thoughts:

    I really wish the Church leaders would be more transparent and take responsibility when things like this happen. It seems like the Church leaders run everything by their lawyers and public relations team, and they are told to say as little as possible to appease the critics and to never apologize. Would it be so bad to say that you’re sorry? I think a sincere apology can go a long way to healing hearts.

    It would be really refreshing to see an apology from the First Presidency along the lines of the following:

    “We’re sorry, we made a mistake in this year’s gospel manual. The curriculum department included old doctrine in the manual that we no longer espouse. We did not have the proper review system in place to catch this, for which we take full responsibility and apologize for any hurt this may have caused. The quotation in the printed version no longer reflect the views of the Church. We will be taking extra steps to help avoid this type of error in the future.”

    That’s not too hard, and it only took a few minutes to write. If Church leaders are reading this, please feel free to use this in future situations you find yourself in.

    1. Great thoughts!

      I agree with you a simple clarification would have been all that was needed.

      It is amazing how the one admirable thing most Americans remember about President Truman is his slogan, “The Buck Stops Here!”

      And yet how so few actually “apply the principle in their personal lives.”


  3. Thanks guys for also showing how the Church cherry picks specific sections of quotes from past prophets. In my opinion, this is deceptive and should not be done. If the Church leaders or curriculum department don’t feel comfortable using the whole quote or sharing the context in which the quote was given, then they should not include it at all. Hopefully, they’ll be more careful in the future. To be honest, they should probably not even attempt to talk about race.

    1. I agree it is intentionally deceptive of the church to use quotes of past leaders in such a way as to make them sound like they are saying something they are not.

      In the podcast, I mentioned the 2020 Manual properly uses ellipses. But that is not completely correct.

      The proper use of ellipses is not only to mark the place where words have been omitted, but also to not change the meaning of what remains.

      1. Yes, the misuse of ellipses in this case completely obfuscated the overall thesis and specific original quote fro JFS. very insightful, RFM.

  4. If you are going to disavow the “doctrine” of fence sitting in the preexistence and its relationship to skin color then you also must disavow the doctrine that this generation is a chosen generation and was held in reserve due to their valor in the preexistence to prepare the world for the second coming. This doctrine in the Book of Abraham is just another way to say that you are better than others based on action in the preexistence and were and when you were born (racism at its foundation). You can’t disavow one without disavowing the other.

    1. I agree with you, OTWO!

      The great thing about believing in a premortal existence is that it explains our living situations here on this earth.

      Of course, the terrible thing about believing in a premortal existence is that it explains our living situations here on this earth.

      One coin.

      Two sides.

  5. Well..I would not burn the written manual. A simple errata and or sticker to be placed atop the offending text would suffice. No need to burn them either. I gather none of you has any experience in publishing…

    1. I think you are right about this. I tried to squeeze a similar comment into the discussion when I said that just destroying the manual sends things down the memory hole, but the better way to handle it is to take responsibility for it in an open and transparent way, letting the reader know what was there originally and disavowing it plainly and publicly.

      I appreciate the insights you are able to give from your familiarity with publishing.

      1. I’m glad you can take a joke. From a distance, honestly, it would appear that panels over your pod, Larsen’s and even to some degree Dehlin’s are full of experts in just about any discipline in mortal AND immortal life. One of my conversion points was the thrift bias of the 19th Century Mormons. You only need to change what’s needed. Another one was the fact that whether historically truth or not, The Mormon Church had a large degree of canon material as opposed to a garden variety, Calvinistic Church. It is sad that BOTH members and authorities are falling fast to become one of those, real fast. It is not an issue of a few but of many… the whole culture.

  6. I left this comment on Mormon Discussions podcast for this episode, but it apparently doesn’t show up here: My 2 cents:

    In response to RFM Episode 123 on Racism, I understand that the Church is doing everything (well, obviously not everything) to try to distance itself from the EXPLANATIONS FOR THE PRIESTHOOD AND TEMPLE BAN OF PEOPLE WITH BLACK SKIN. However, the Church has not, and apparently cannot, disavow the fact that they believed, and still believe, that the BAN ITSELF was FROM GOD. That fact was confirmed most recently by Pres. Oaks at the Celebration of the 50-year anniversary of the lifting of the ban in 2018 . He said he never received a confirmation of the truthfulness of the reasons given the ban. But he then said that we don’t always know the reasons for all of God’s commandments. We just have to follow his commandments and try not to impute reasons for some of those commandments. The ban was one such commandment.
    Where was the original revelation? I’m not aware of any. But even more troubling, where was the ongoing revelation/inspiration of any of the other Apostles and Prophets up until the Church was essentially shamed and forced to lift the ban by the “revelation” of Kimball in 1978? Nowhere. The reveleation doesn’t exist.

    Isn’t the fact we still view the ban as a commandment the worst kind of continuing racism?
    They can never run from this fact until and unless they categorically disavow and apologize for the ban as wrong and admit that it was never a commandment of God. That will never happen.

    1. You are right.

      It is like saying God was a racist from 1852 to 1978, but He eventually got over it.

      Something to celebrate at a Be One commemoration, indeed!

  7. I would love for this discussion to be taken even further with specifically 2 points being recognized. #1 – as was mentioned briefly the psychological impact and damage the church’s stance has and has had, not only on our people of color, but on the white members who never believed in the church’s standing on this issue in the 1st place. I was born and raised in the church, in the San Francisco Bay Area. I remember being labeled a bigot at a very early age due to the fact that I was a Mormon. I did not understand why I was accused of such a horrible characteristic. After asking questions, attending early morning seminary and reading the Book of Mormon, to my horror, I finally understood why some individuals assumed I was a bigot. I spent my entire adolescence having to explain (sometimes in very public settings) why I personally was NOT a bigot, that I did not understand this area of my religion, and I personally did not agree with it. The same held true with polygamy, but that is a different story for another time. It is difficult to express the level of betrayal, confusion and even anger I feel when I think about why/how the church put myself and countless others in this position in the first place. Thank heaven there has been “clarification” on this issue. But, why did it have to be an issue in the first place? Why was the priesthood and temple attendance denied to members of color in the first place? #2 – I am very relieved this attitude by the church has been “adjusted”, but they are basically having to rewrite the Book of Mormon to do so.

    1. I had a few experiences, too, where I was decried for being a bigot just because I was a Mormon.

      I certainly didn’t feel like a bigot. It was God’s priesthood and God could give it to whomever he wanted.

      Which meant God could withhold it from whomever he wanted.

      Even if the criterion for withholding looked a lot like racism.

      Who was I to question God?

      I think one of my biggest beefs against the LDS Church was that it taught me to be a bigot.

  8. I’m no TBM (not a Mormon at all actually) but I’m going to echo what another poster above said. I think the simplest and most reasonable explanation here is that the section was overlooked in review. I also have a bit of publishing process experience and this is unfortunately a very easy mistake to make – especially when the publications are lengthy.

    That said, I think the issue of blacks and the priesthood/premortal life, etc. is one worthy of discussion. But I think it’s inaccurate and uncharitable to say the LDS church intended for this to remain in there. Neither of your guests could give reasonable argument for why the LDS church would want to somehow subversively include it.

    Last remark – and it’s a criticism coming from a place of loyal opposition – I think Reel and (in this case) Streeter work best as “color commentators” to your more logical, laid out critiques. Your thoughtful and relatively unemotional analysis is where I think your podcast shines bright amongst the other Mormon-based podcasts out there. A few friends and I discuss this about your work all the time.

    It seems to us that your occasional cohosts focus overmuch on what they “feel” or think is “right” and emotionally assign motives to the LDS church without giving developed arguments as to why. It often seems like they think that they will compel the listener to agree with their points based on their intensity of protest. I think prolonged commentary by these guys weighs down the quality of your podcast. I know I’ve skipped over some when your cohosts go on too long. So like football announcers, let the analytics man reign with occasional color commentary. Just my two cents and nothing more.

    1. Thanks for your thoughtful comments, Adam.

      You may be right about the inclusion of the material in the manual; maybe it was completely a mistake.

      It is hard to be sure because the process is not transparent.

      We found out from Elder Stephenson when he addressed the NAACP luncheon that the material had been included two years ago.

      In other words, it wasn’t included at the last minute in some sort of rush job. This seems to me to militate against the simple mistake theory.

      But it is still possible.

      Thanks for listening!


  9. Wonderful Podcast! As one who had a wonderful “Lamanite” sister in my teens..I love her!! Remembering how my father said “she is getting lighter”,her family was wonderful but were so worried about her not knowing …really knowing her true origins, history…and wonderful customs.

    Seems like every time the church takes a step forward, they take three steps back. We are all one and the same under the sun of this planet. I can’t believe that I believed. So much hurt.

    1. This type of attitude was prevalent in the LDS church I was baptized into back in the late 1970s.

      I never saw dark skins becoming lighter, and was never really around any such “Lamanites,” but I definitely believed it when the leaders of the church said it was happening.

      I mean, why would they lie?

  10. I just read in “Secret Chamber” book, that just a few weeks after the ban on black people holding the priesthood was lifted, the federal government passed a law taking away tax exempt status from any organization that discriminated based on race. Amazing coincidence how that revelation occurred just in time!

    1. Also funny how polygamy “just happened” to be suspended after the federal government seized all of the church’s assets, too.

  11. Off topic but not sure where to send suggestions for podcast topics. I’ve been reading “Studies of the Book of Mormon” by B.H. Roberts and find the events surrounding his research to be incredibly interesting. Both his views regarding the Book of Mormon and the responses he got from fellow GAs left me amazed. Would be great to get your take on the topic!

    1. I agree that would be a great subject!

      I have only a passing familiarity with the story of B.H. Roberts.

      Back in the 1980s when this material was leaking out, it was common to hear the argument that B.H. Roberts NEVER lost his testimony of the Book of Mormon.

      But in retrospect, I think it pretty clear he did.

  12. To fully renounce racism they must denounce the BOM. The cursed dark skin is an integral part of the plot of the story Never mind that actual people of Middle eastern origins have brown skin IRL.

  13. RFM, great show. When I was a missionary in the deep south in 1970s a Mormon church building was used as a school so that their kids would be segregated from the blacks. Thos was viewed as a necessity by most members there. On another note I just noticed a black mission president with a white wife from Utah were called to serve in England. It is beyond me how a black person could embrace the Mormon church but to each his own.

  14. Good point about the quote modification RFM.

    I also agree with Bill that the LDS church is leaving things so every group can have what they want. I’ve seen this first hand in LDS FB groups, which helped me wake up to the problems in the LDS church, as if this is God’s church, which it’s not, we would be united in the faith.

    In my honest opinion LDSites don’t love the BoM or what it teaches, but only love the idea of the BoM. This is a summary of many interactions I’ve personal had with people while sharing BoM verses.

    I do believe that Black/White Skin is a Hebrew Idiom, and I recently put together this resource page showing that. Including verses from the BoM states that the Nephites could not tell the difference between the Lamanites and Nephites by looking at them.

  15. Unpopular opinion, but the “skin of blackness” should never be taken as a literal statement as both the Bible and Book of Mormon have countless statements meant to be taken as allegories and, as the Nephites were living the Law of Moses, the forbidding of intermingling was implemented because that was part of the LoM.

    However, after Christ appeared to the people there, the whole “skin” issue is never again brought up. Almost as if Christ having fulfilled the Law of Moses removed the entire thing.

    1. No opinions are “unpopular” here at RFM, Dave!

      I agree with you that there are instances in the BOM where similar descriptions are clearly metaphorical.

      It does seem here, though, that the “skin of blackness” is meant to be understood literally.

      If it occurred only the once, that would be one thing. But it seems to be a theme woven throughout the BOM that the Lamanites become dark because of their wickedness, and become white again later on through repentance.

      I suppose if after all is said and done, you are right, then it seems that the prophets of God have misunderstood the BOM on this issue for quite a number of decades.

      Thanks for listening!


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