I may choose to ignore people who comment anonymously. I choose never to be anonymous online myself. I have little tolerance for this behavior.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

So Who Was Wallace Turner?

Today's New York Times includes a combination article/obituary entitled, "Wallace Turner, West Coast Times Writer, Dies at 89." Written by Dennis Hevesi it contains the following curious statement:
As a Times reporter in the 1960s, Mr. Turner delved into the inner workings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including its policy at the time of forbidding the ordination of blacks to its priesthood. The policy was changed in 1978 after Spencer W. Kimball, the president of the church at the time, said he had a revelation that “all worthy men” could be ordained.
There had been significant pressure within the church to change the policy, largely to support its international missionary efforts. Still, in the view of Gene Roberts, who covered the civil rights movement for The Times, “Wally probably did more than any single person to change the Mormon policy on race.”
I like reading such things. I'm always interested to find out about people who've been so influential concerning Mormondom, especially when I've never heard of them or their book.

Perhaps this is arrogance on my part but very little was written about the Church at this time enabling those of us interested and active to be aware of everything going on. This has long since ceased to be the case and I no longer consider myself fluent on everything in Mormondom.

I faithfully read at least two newspapers a day since I was about fourteen and had my first letter to the editor published when I was about 17. In fact, I was 16 in 1978 when the policy on race was changed. This is old enough to remember what was happening and mature enough to grasp the significance.

I would be very surprised if anyone cognizant of that time period, or fluent on the era, thinks Mr. Turner played any part at all. I prefer to base my beliefs on what I remember happening and accounts of people who were directly involved at the time.

When the change occurred the reactions were first astonishment and then delight. We all knew it would be changed at some point. It was not a question of "if" but "when." We were all delighted it happened in our lifetime. I remember the news coverage expressing astonishment and I remember them specifically saying that it occurred during a time when little to no pressure from outside was being exerted on the Church. Basically, all those people had given up.

Yes, I also remember opposition to the change. For example, I remember a full page of one of the newspapers being commissioned by people who wanted it reversed urging us all to help change the policy. Things like this existed but they didn't really have any effect.

I don't remember one significant effort to reverse it. Opposition was sporadic and weak.

Nobody has to take my word for it. Nobody has to take anybody's word for anything. Anyone can go back and look at news coverage of the time, talk to people who were there etc. They aren't going to find any significant demonstration, protests or anything. The change occurred overnight and experienced near universal support amongst Mormondom.

This all supports my contention that if Mormons really thought blacks were inferior the change wouldn't have gone down so easily.

Or, you can listen to people like Wallace Turner and Gene Roberts whoever they are, or were.

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