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*Impact of Protests on Apostles (Part 7 of 7)

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Matt:  President Kimball said in 1975. Let me get this right. If I don’t lift the ban, my successor won’t do it, nor will my successor’s successor. Of course, he’s talking about Benson and Mark Petersen. So that was President Kimball, saying very clearly if I don’t do this, they won’t. Harold Lee was just intractable. He refused to lift the ban and Joseph Fielding Smith, too. It’s interesting how people evolve because Elder Kimball, I don’t want to give you the sense that he’s a racial progressive. One of the things that his son talks about is my father shared some of the same prejudicial views towards black people that other people of his generation did. Clearly, that’s easy to believe if you realize that we’re all products of our environment, right?  But what’s unique about Kimball is not that he had prejudicial views, it’s how he evolved and that he saw that it was the right thing to do to further the advance of the church. That’s why I admire him so much is that he knew that there were obstacles. David O. McKay had the same obstacles, different personalities in the Twelve, but the same obstacles. I think I can make a strong argument that President McKay might have lifted the ban in the 1950s had it not been for some of the hardliners there. What’s different between President McKay and President Kimball, is that Kimball recognize that it was worth fighting for, it was worth going to bat for. I don’t want to say that McKay didn’t think it wasn’t worth it. But Kimball spent a lot of time nurturing relationships with the personalities that he had to work with the most, which is McConkie. I’m not sure about Petersen, how much of the one on one, but I do know with Elder McConkie, he spent extensive time with him working him through these issues. We talked about how McConkie gone to Brazil several times in the weeks and days leading up to the revelation. So when they went to the temple in June of 1978, it wasn’t like the manuals, say, “Oh, I just had a revelation one day.”  No, this is something they knew they we’re going to change when they got there. I’m not trying to take away from their revelatory experience and the inspiration of it all. But there’s no doubt in my mind that President Kimball knew the ban was going to go that day and I’m quite certain that the others knew that it was going to go, too. It was just a matter of being unified and probably feeling that last-minute inspiration that they felt they needed to have.

What are your thoughts on Matt’s research on the ban?

Dr. Matt Harris describes how Pres Kimball got the apostles on board with the 1978 revelation.  This is the group of apostles from 1969 that did not overturn the ban under President McKay when many of the protests took place.

Don’t miss our other conversations with Dr. Harris!

352: BYU Law School Almost Lost Accreditation

351: Civil Rights Investigation at BYU

350: Sports Protests Against BYU

349: Race & Religious Minorities at BYU

348: How Brazil Influenced Official Declaration 2

347: Did Nixon & Carter Pressure BYU Over Race?

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Sports Protests Against BYU (Part 4 of 7)

In the late 1960s & early 1970s, there were many protests by colleges over the racial ban on priesthood in the LDS Church.  Some schools, such as Stanford, refused to play BYU in athletic competitions over the issue.  In our next conversation with Dr. Matt Harris, we’ll find out that these protests were much more widespread than I knew!  We’ll also find out how Church leaders reacted to these protests.

Matt:  The first protest at UTEP,[1] the track team against BYU and then the said Civil Rights site visit that’s going to come in May of 68, a month later. So Wilkinson is just like freaking out.  He’s absolutely panicking. I should say that they’ve already started talk to build this beautiful new basketball arena that will eventually be called the Marriott Center. So, now they’re worried about this. They’re getting pushback from the Western Athletic Conference that they’re going to get kicked out of the conference, because they don’t recruit black kids. Wilkinson’s response was, “Look at our manuals.  We welcome all minorities. They just didn’t want to come here because it’s their choice.”

Matt:  I can tell you categorically that there were well over 100 protests from different universities.

GT:  Wow. I didn’t know it was that big.

Matt:  Yeah, me neither. We think of the big ones, football and basketball. They were protesting BYU band events, wrestling, you name it.

GT:  Wow.

Matt:  The reason why I know this is because I’ve seen some documents in Wilkinson’s papers and he drafts this lengthy memo cataloging all of the protests.

GT:  Really?

Matt:  Yeah, dozens and dozens and dozens. I was blown away. Some schools I never even heard of before. They just didn’t get the protest, or the publicity. So anyway, the ones that were the most salient, one would be the UTEP one because it’s the first one.  It sort of kick starts everything. I’d say the second one would be in October of 1969 with the Wyoming 14.

Matt:  Here’s the biggest point, I think, in this story is the Wyoming 14 we’re not just protesting the few blacks at BYU or racial discrimination at BYU, they made it abundantly clear they were protesting the Mormon Church’s views on race. This is much different than UTEP and San Jose and some others that were just really focused mostly on BYU and racism there. The Wyoming people are focusing more than just BYU, but the Mormon Church’s policies. So I think that’s a fundamental point.  Of all the protests going on, Wyoming, they were very laser focused on the church, not BYU. Ernest Wilkinson is probably the best person to quote on this. He said, “They’re the ones that gave us the most fits because of that.”

The other one, so this is October of 69. The Western Athletic Conference is scheduled to vote in November and the word on the street that they’re going to kick BYU out. Even the University of Utah has sent Wilkinson–the president of the U is a Latter-day Saint. So he’s an orthodox member of the church and he tells Wilkinson, “Yeah, the U is going to vote to kick you guys out.”

[1] UTEP stands for University of Texas at El Paso.  Previously the school was known as Texas Western, and was the first school to start 5 black basketball players.  They won the NCAA basketball championship in 1966 by beating heavily favored Kentucky, a team of all-white players.

Check out our conversation…

There were more than 100 protests against BYU & the LDS Church over racial policies in the 1960s & 1970s.

Don’t miss our other conversations with Dr. Harris.

349: Race & Religious Minorities at BYU

348: How Brazil Influenced Official Declaration 2

347: Did Nixon & Carter Pressure BYU Over Race?

 

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Race & Religious Minorites at BYU (Part 3 of 7)

Over the years, BYU is known as being predominantly white, and overwhelmingly Mormon.  How do black and non-LDS students fare at BYU?  In our next conversation with Dr. Matt Harris, we’ll talk about how well BYU administrators have tried to attract both racial and religious minorities.

Matt:  I know some black students who have gone there and they fit in really well and been happy and some have just been miserable. Some have said the racism was nothing to write home about, it was okay. Others, oh my gosh, I’ve never been around as racist an institution as BYU.

Racism, of course, is defined in different ways, right? It’s not just calling somebody a racial slur, which I don’t think happened. But it’s using shards of the old Mormon racial doctrine. For example, a black BYU student came home to her dorm room one day, and her white roommate looked at her just stared at her as she walked through the door, and the black girl said, “What are you staring at?”

The white girl responded, “I just wonder what you’ll look like in the resurrection when you’re white like me. I wonder if I’ll recognize you.”

I mean, those are micro-aggressions that are just intensely painful.

GT: It does seem like Muslim kids seem to fit in well at BYU. I know some Muslims that have worked at BYU. I know Mohammed Elewonibi made it in the NFL.

Matt: Yeah, I remember him.

GT: He was a big lineman for BYU.

Matt: Was he LDS?

GT: No, he was Muslim.

Matt: Muslim. Okay. Yeah.

GT: Islam, they don’t have the Word of Wisdom, but they don’t drink.

Matt: They have the health code.

GT: BYU can be actually very attractive to Islamic athletes.

What are your thoughts about racial and religious minorities at BYU?  Check out our conversation….

Hinckley Alumni Center at BYU