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Did Pres. McKay Try to Rescind Ban in 1955?

We’re continuing our conversation with Dr. Matt Harris.  In our next episode, we’ll talk about the temple and priesthood ban in the 1950s.  Did you know that McKay considered lifting the ban as early as 1955?

Matt:  It’s not surprising that when McKay came back from South Africa and convenes this committee with Elders [Adam] Bennion and Kimball, I’m not sure who else is on the committee, but I know it’s those two.  They ask Lowell Bennion to do some research for them, and he produces a position paper, and he says there is no scriptural justification for any of this stuff.  So, Elder Bennion writes his report to President McKay and tells him that there is no scriptural justification for the priesthood ban.  This is 1954 I should say.

So, President McKay contemplates lifting the ban, but he recognizes that it will cause hardship among the saints in the South.  Keep in mind this is still segregated America.  So, if he lifts this ban, it is going to create hardships among Latter-day Saints in the South.  Also, there are some folks in the Quorum of Twelve who wouldn’t support the lifting of the ban:  Joseph Fielding Smith would be one of them.

We will talk about a pretty significant change from a doctrine in 1949 to a policy in 1955.

This is interesting because President McKay, as a counselor to George Albert Smith had signed that 1949 First Presidency statement that you referenced a minute ago….

GT:  Right.

Matt:  …as a counselor.

GT:  Now let’s talk about that ’49 statement.

Matt:  Yes, we can.  So, as the church president, he signed that statement, and we can go into detail in a minute, but that statement makes it pretty clear that this is the doctrine of the church.

GT:  And it uses the word “doctrine.”

Matt:  It uses the word doctrine.

GT:  That is an important word.

Matt:  Right.  J. Reuben Clark writes the statement, and President McKay signs off on it. George Albert Smith is feeble by this point, and he is going to die a couple of years later, but anyway, President McKay, even though he signs that ’49 statement, now he is the church president and he feels the weight of this policy on his own.

President McKay considered lifting the ban in 1955 but was worried about reaction in the South.
President McKay considered lifting the ban in 1955 but was worried about reaction in the South.

 

Check out our conversation…..  Don’t forget to check out parts 1 (about Brazil & South Africa) and 2 (the one-drop rule) of this conversation!

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Before 1978: LDS Policies for Bi-racial Families in Brazil & South Africa

I’d like to introduce Dr. Matt Harris in our next conversation.  He has done a lot of Mormon history work and he’s not very well-known, but I think he will be, especially after he finishes his upcoming books.  We will talk about some of these books that he has published, as well as his future books.  We’re also going to talk about the history of the ban.  With the 40th anniversary of the removal of the ban coming up here in just a few weeks, this will be a very timely interview.  Dr. Matt Harris has some really interesting insights and it is going to reveal some really cool, historical information.  It’s one of my favorite interviews yet.  Now, let’s ask a little bit about how he is going to talk about Brazil.  What did the church do with missionaries there?

Matt:  In Brazil, they were kind of trendsetters, if you will.  They did what are called lineage lessons.  The mission president instructed the missionaries, and the mission president I should say got approval from Salt Lake to do this lineage lesson.  But it really was just mostly practiced in Brazil, rather than other places with African populations.  But anyway, these lineage lessons stipulated that if missionaries were out proselytizing and they came across somebody who had African ancestry, who had a parent that they felt would be a prime candidate for the restriction.  They were supposed to come to the door, knock on the door, recognize that they were under the ban and they would just say, “Can you tell us we’re in the neighborhood; we are trying to find this general store or other church. Can you tell us where it is?”

If they weren’t sure if this couple had African ancestry, then they would come in and ask questions about their genealogy, trying to determine through discussion if they had African roots.  Sometimes they would even ask to look at their photo album.  They were discrete about it.  They weren’t going to tell people this is what we are looking for, but this shows you how difficult the burden was in determining the bloodline.  J. Reuben Clark recognized this as early as 1938 and expressed skepticism that the church could confer the priesthood on Brazilians without violating this policy.

There were similar issues in South Africa.  What happened there?

Dr. Matt Harris talks about how LDS Church dealt with racial issues in Brazil & South Africa before the 1978 revelation.
Dr. Matt Harris talks about how LDS Church dealt with racial issues in Brazil & South Africa before the 1978 revelation.

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Check out our conversation…..

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How are the Valley of Lemuel and Mount Sinai Related?

In our previous conversation with George Potter we discussed his search for the real Mount Sinai! It turns out that led to a very striking claim. George was also looking for the Valley of Lemuel mentioned in the Book of Mormon.  Could it be that Lehi’s family has a connection to Mount Sinai?

George:  If you remember, Nephi when he had his vision of what his father had dreamed, he was taken by an angel to an exceedingly high mountain, which is the same wording that is used about Mount Sinai.  It’s an exceedingly high mountain.  So, it is very interesting.

GT interrupts:  You’re trying…

George continues:  Maybe by the spirit Nephi was taken to Mount Sinai.

GT:  Wow.

George:  Ok, because it’s 20 miles apart.  He went to an exceedingly high mountain that he hadn’t seen before.  There he received a revelation.  It’s a temple.  Mount Sinai is dedicated temple for the children of Israel.  It is probably still to this day a dedicated temple.  It might have been desecrated by us, {chuckles} but it was a temple.  Where else would Nephi have been taken by an angel?  Just some old mountain somewhere when there’s a temple 20 miles away.

GT:  So, you think Nephi went to Mount Sinai?

George:  I don’t know that but why not?  It makes sense that he went to Mount Sinai.

GT:  That’s cool.

We will talk about the possibilities of Lehi’s family’s possible connection to Mount Sinai, and we will talk further about George’s travels to the Waters of Moses.  Check out our conversation…..

Did Nephi visit Mount Sinai?  Is this near the Valley of Lemuel?