Race and the priesthood discussed during Ethics Awareness Week

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Photo by Byron Harward

The Black Student Union organized a panel discussion titled “No Priesthood for the Black Man” during Ethics Awareness Week at UVU Sept. 28. The hour-long discussion took place in the Classroom Building.

The event aimed to promote discussion regarding The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints’ history on black men being barred from receiving the priesthood within the church pre-1978.

The speakers conducting the panel discussion were Matthew Draper, professor of behavioral science, Brett Breton, assistant professor of behavioral science and Adbul Kalumbi, a black UVU student and member of the LDS church.

Draper claimed the LDS church’s stance regarding blacks and the priesthood was an ethical issue in the past and continues to be an ethical issue today within the Mormon Church. Draper also drew comparisons between blacks not being allowed to hold the priesthood pre-1978 to women not being able to hold the priesthood today.

A female student asked Draper during the Q&A of the discussion regarding similarities of black men not having the priesthood to women not being allowed to have the priesthood.

Draper replied by telling a story of the time that he challenged a Mormon colleague to find where in the scriptures that it mentions that women are not allowed to have the priesthood. Draper said that his colleague replied that the scriptures do not say that women are not allowed the priesthood.

Draper’s Mormon colleague said that the Mormon Church is a dynamic and growing religion, and that there could be a possibility that women could have the priesthood in this lifetime.

Kalumbi discussed the justification of black men being restricted from the priesthood until 1978 by saying that the restrictions among Black men and the priesthood are justified through the context of Christian scriptures.

According to an article on the Mormon Church’s official website, their stance on race and the priesthood has changed. The church now denies any support on past theories of racial inferiority among blacks, and the belief that Black skin is a disfavor or curse.

“That’s comforting for some of us; it’s also somewhat troubling because there is no explanation of the past and why certain statements were made in ways that were promulgated to doctrine,” Draper said.

Although the Mormon church has changed their stance on race and the priesthood, the issue still raises concern and debate among members of the LDS church.

“It’s something that I had to overcome when I became a member of the church. I joined the church when I was eighteen and that was a big issue with blacks not having the priesthood in the past early on with my family,” said UVU student Terry Smith.

“It bothers me that black men couldn’t have the priesthood until the late 1970s. I thought that the LDS church would be more inclusive and multicultural. It was really interesting to find out that the church has been mostly white-dominated,” said Michelle Rivas, UVU student and former member of the LDS church.

Owen Elabor, a UVU student from Africa, said that the issue regarding race and the priesthood in church history does not affect his faith.

“Every component of Mormon history is critical to think about, to be thoughtful about, to be educated about, and this is something that is sensitive, so I just think it’s a responsibility in my personal view for every Latter-Day-Saint to be familiar with this topic in particular,” Kalumbi said.

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