Monday, May 25, 2015

How to deal with hard questions like why didn't all races formerly receive the priesthood?

Today our seminary lesson was about the celebrated day that all races were allowed to receive priesthood and temple blessings. And how to deal with hard questions like "Why were they denied for so long?"

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf -- count how many times he said that questions are a GOOD thing. 
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf
“My dear young friends, we are a question-asking people because we know that inquiry leads to truth. …Inquiry is the birthplace of testimony. Some might feel embarrassed or unworthy because they have searching questions regarding the gospel, but they needn’t feel that way. Asking questions isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s a precursor of growth.
“God commands us to seek answers to our questions (see James 1:5–6) and asks only that we seek ‘with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ’ (Moroni 10:4). When we do so, the truth of all things can be manifested to us ‘by the power of the Holy Ghost’ (Moroni 10:5). Fear not; ask questions. Be curious, but doubt not! Always hold fast to faith and to the light you have already received” (“The Reflection in the Water” [Church Educational System devotional, Nov. 1, 2009],

Elder and Sister Bednar express how to deal with doubts or questions. 
Click here for the Bednar video. (The question is answered from 1:06:05 to 1:10:56.)

Elder Helvécio Martins shares his faith-filled story of joining the LDS Church before being able to receive priesthood and temple blessings. This story made me cry. 
“On a clear April night in 1972 … Helvécio Martins contemplated hisfamily’s search for truth. He and his wife, Rudá, had investigated many religions, but none seemed to fill their spiritual void. ‘I conversed with God that night, asking for help,’ he says” (“Elder Helvécio Martins of the Seventy,” Ensign, May 1990, 106).

A few days later missionaries came to their home in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Elder Martins recalled, “The moment those two young men stepped into our apartment, all of my gloom and spiritual discomfort immediately disappeared and was replaced by a calm and serenity which I now know came from the influence of the Holy Spirit” (with Mark Grover, The Autobiography of Elder Helvécio Martins [1994], 43).
As Helvécio and Rudá, who are of African descent, conversed with the missionaries, Helvécio asked about the role of black people in the Church. The Martins learned that at that time, Church policy restricted black males of African descent from being ordained to the priesthood. This led them to ask the missionaries further questions.
The Martins family was baptized on July 2, 1972, and served faithfully in the Church. When their oldest son, Marcus, received his patriarchal blessing, it promised that he would preach the gospel. Although the priesthood restriction at that time prevented Marcus from serving a full-time mission, his parents opened a missionary savings account. In 1975 the Church announced that a temple would be built in São Paulo, Brazil. To help with the fundraising, Sister Martins sold her jewelry. Brother Martins faithfully served as a member of the publicity committee for the temple. The Martins family made these sacrifices even though they believed they would not have the opportunity to receive priesthood ordinances in the temple.
Why do you think the Martins family was willing to be baptized and serve faithfully in the Church, even though they were affected by the priesthood restriction at that time? Here is what Brother Martins said: 
“We had found the truth, and nothing would stop us from living it. … When the Spirit tells you the gospel is true, how can you deny it?” (in “Elder Helvécio Martins of the Seventy,” 106).
How can the Martins family serve as an example for you and me when we have questions? 
I think the Martins' story is a perfect example of moving forward with faith, holding onto things they did know, even though they had unanswered questions about things they didn't understand. We will all have those moments. Will we move forward with faith and hold onto things we do know, trusting that God will eventually answer all our questions, even if it's in the next life? 

Here is Brother Martins' response when he discovered that President Kimball, LDS prophet at the time, announced that people of all races and color could now receive full blessings of priesthood and temple: 

“I could not contain my emotions. Rudá and I went into our bedroom, knelt down, and prayed. We wept as we thanked our Father in Heaven for an event we had only dreamed about. The day had actually arrived, and in ourmortal lives” (Autobiography, 69–70). The Martins family was sealed in the temple. Their son Marcus was the first Church member of African descent to serve a mission after the revelation to end the priesthood restriction. Helvécio Martins became a local priesthood leader and eventually was called to serve as a member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy.

Ahmad Corbitt explains how the LDS Church is one of the most racially unifying organizations in the history of the world.

Elder M. Russell Ballard explained that although the authority of the priesthood is conferred upon men, all of Heavenly Father’s children—male and female—can receive the blessings of the priesthood:

“In our Heavenly Father’s great priesthood-endowed plan, men have the unique responsibility to administer the priesthood, but they are not the priesthood. Men and women have different but equally valued roles. Just as a woman cannot conceive a child without a man, so a man cannot fully exercise the power of the priesthood to establish an eternal family without a woman. In other words, in the eternal perspective, both the procreative power and the priesthood power are shared by husband and wife. And as husband and wife, a man and a woman should strive to follow our Heavenly Father. The Christian virtues of love, humility, and patience should be their focus as they seek the blessings of the priesthood in their lives and for their family. It is crucial for us to understand that Heavenly Father has provided a way for all of His sons and His daughters to have access to the blessings of and be strengthened by the power of the priesthood” (“This Is My Work and Glory,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2013, 19).

In this 2013 addition to the introduction of Official Declaration 2 we learn that we don't know why certain races were restricted from the priesthood. 
“The Book of Mormon teaches that ‘all are alike unto God,’ including ‘black and white, bond and free, male and female’ (2 Nephi 26:33). Throughout the history of the Church, people of every race and ethnicity in many countries have been baptized and have lived as faithful members of the Church. During Joseph Smith’s lifetime, a few black male members of the Church were ordained to the priesthood. Early in its history, Church leaders stopped conferring the priesthood on black males of African descent. Church records offer no clear insights into the origins of this practice.” (Introduction to Official Declaration 2, in the Doctrine and Covenants)

Elder Dallin H. Oaks explained why we should avoid attaching man-made reasons to God's revelations.  

“If you read the scriptures with this question in mind, “Why did the Lord command this or why did he command that,” you find that in less than one in a hundred commands was any reason given. It’s not the pattern of the Lord to give reasons. We [mortals] can put reasons to revelation. We can put reasons to commandments. When we do, we’re on our own. Some people put reasons to the one we’re talking about here, and they turned out to be spectacularly wrong. There is a lesson in that. … I decided a long time ago that I had faith in the command and I had no faith in the reasons that had been suggested for it"[“Apostles Talk about Reasons for Lifting Ban,” Daily Herald,Provo, Utah, June 5, 1988, 21 (AP)]” (Dallin H. Oaks, Life’s Lessons Learned [2011], 68–69).

Elder Paul V. Johnson of the Seventy said that teachers should admit that we don't know all the answers. 
“It is not unhealthy for a student to see that the teacher doesn’t know the answer to everything but does know the answer to the core questions and has a strong testimony. When the angel asked Nephi if he knew the condescension of God, Nephi responded, ‘I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things’ (1 Nephi 11:17). Even if we don’t know the answer to a specific question, we can remind our students of the things we do know.

Here is a video about a man in Africa who waited and finally received the news that all races and colors could receive priesthood and temple blessings. 

Want to learn more about race and the priesthood? 

  • Click here for Ahmad Corbitt's personal essay on the LDS history site.  
  • Click here for my thoughts about women and the priesthood, and an analogy of dealing with unanswered questions like deciding how close to hold the pebble to the eye. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Here is a recently released essay on "Race and the Priesthood" on the Church website. It covers some of the surface-level historical information about this controversial topic.