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

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Picnics And More

Usually it is clear what prompts news articles about Mormons, but sometimes they just seem to pop up out of nowhere. Mark Oppenheimer's New York Times article, "At Picnic for Black Mormons, No Sign of Church’s Biased Past" seems to be one of these. 

The Genesis Group is a social organization set up for black Mormons. The author describes a visit to one of the group's activities:
A tall man wearing rainbow suspenders told me he likes the Genesis Group even though he is white and has no children. “They’re just friendly,” said the man, Wayne Richardson. “So I come to help. I help set up the food.” He said that when he was a missionary in Alabama in 1975, he was not allowed to baptize a black maid.
“They would not allow it,” Mr. Richardson said. “She wanted to learn the church teachings, and we were told not to. We were there to work with the rich whites.” Mr. Richardson could not remember who had forbidden him to baptize the woman, but he said the message had been clear.
Richardson doesn't say who wouldn't allow it but I'm inclined to guess it was local leaders rather than a Mission President. Black males were not allowed to hold the priesthood at that time. I'm appalled that this got interpreted as not being allowed to baptize black people. This action would fall under "corruption" in my opinion.


The articles establishes that Darius A. Gray joined the Church in 1964 so that interpretation of the rules obviously didn't extend everywhere.


I bristle at the author's use of the term "biased." I know this is a near universal assumption based on the ban but I question it's accuracy. Mormons have always claimed, officially, that we never really knew the reason for the ban. People speculated, of course. People assumed, of course.


The ban was eliminated overnight and the change had near universal acceptance amongst Mormon membership. If Mormons thought blacks were inferior, the change couldn't have gone down so easily.
Max Perry Mueller, who is writing a dissertation at Harvard on African-Americans and the Mormon church, and who attended the Genesis Group picnic last year, says that the church has “made a very sincere effort” to welcome blacks, but that so far few American-born blacks have joined the church. Mr. Mueller also said that “the idea that Mormons” were until recently “exceptionally exclusionary or racist is probably unfair.” While no other large, predominantly white church barred blacks from the clergy in the 1970s, none was particularly integrated or had notable black leaders, either.

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