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Did Pres. McKay Support Evolution?

President McKay was an educator before he was called to be an apostle and future church president.  Was he more open to evolution than other LDS leaders?  Ben Spackman will answer that question.

Ben:  When people bring up Mormon Doctrine, or Man, His Origin and Destiny, I tend to point to President McKay because President McKay on several occasions was very friendly to evolution….Then in 1965, in general conference, David O. McKay quotes him on that point. Now he doesn’t read him at all, but he says, “Here’s a scientist I’ve been reading who talks about a man’s conscience.” So, if you follow that thread, if you get below the tip of that iceberg, that’s a very pro-evolution interpretation of Genesis. David O. McKay clearly doesn’t think that Genesis in any way prohibits evolution. … There was an article that was published in the official Church magazine by a BYU (I think) botany professor, someone who dealt with DNA and other things….This article as it was printed in the Church magazine, has a little black box at the front that says, “This article was read and approved by the editor of the magazine.” If you flip back to the front, the editor is President David O. McKay. Now we have data from his son who was on one of the church committees or something. This article got taken to President McKay by his son to say, “We’re going to run this. Do you want to read it first?” He read the whole thing word for word and said, “This is fantastic work. Run it. I want this box in front.” The box also said, “It is not presented as a position of church doctrine.” So, David O. McKay was very comfortable saying, “Here’s evolution. We’re going to put this in the Church magazine. We’re going to respond to these questions. We’re going to address Genesis. I don’t want to impose it on people as some kind of official doctrine, because it’s not.” But, he was certainly enthusiastic about it.

Check out our conversation….

 

Pres. McKay may have been the prophet most supportive of evolution.
Pres. McKay may have been the prophet most supportive of evolution.

Check out our previous conversations with Ben!

246: Misreading Genesis

245: Does the Bible Supports a Flat Earth?

244: Did Man Evolve From Apes?

243: Did Joseph Fielding Smith Win the Evolution Battle?

242: Evolution & Bible: Irreconcilable Differences?

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Almost Famous: 1969 Black Ordination Nixed by Lee

Despite several attempts to end the ban in the 1960s, Hugh B. Brown made one final attempt in 1969 and almost succeeded.  However, the attempt was nixed by Harold B. Lee. Dr. Matt Harris will give us more information on this, and I think you will hear some really amazing stuff in this next episode.

Matt:  Anyway, the McKay sons and Brown, when Taggart’s thesis comes out, they will use Taggart’s research and say, “Look.  This is just a policy.  This is a policy, it is not a doctrine.  So, if it is just a policy, President McKay, then we can overturn this.”  President McKay agrees to ordain a black man named Monroe Fleming, a loyal member at the Hotel Utah.  This is in September of 1969.

GT:  Wow.

Matt:  Yes, yes.  So, he agrees to ordain Monroe Fleming to the priesthood.  It is interesting, the document that I have that talks about this.  It just says Monroe Fleming.  It doesn’t say all persons of African ancestry.  But you can only imagine that if you allow Monroe Fleming the priesthood, based upon his worthiness of course, then that means that other worthy black members of the church can now hold the priesthood.  That’s how I interpret that.

[McKay] agrees to do it, and when Harold B. Lee and Joseph Fielding Smith, mostly Harold B. Lee, because Joseph Fielding Smith is now in his 90s, and his health is getting the best of him.  But when Harold B. Lee finds out about it, he puts an end to it and says, “This is not something that we can do, and if we do it, it has to have buy-in from the Quorum of the Twelve, the full quorum.”

So, President McKay, and I’m going to paraphrase, he says, “I’m too old to fight him.  I’m not going to do it.  We will let President Lee worry about this problem.”  That’s what he says, this “problem.”

We will also talk briefly about some of the BYU protests where other teams were protesting the church’s stance with blacks and the priesthood and temple ban.

Matt:  President Brown wants to lift the ban to get the athletic protests off their back.  In November of ’69 he tells Kenneth Pitzer the Stanford President.  He calls him up.  He said, “This is Hugh Brown of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I just want you to know, we are going to lift the ban.”

GT:  He calls the Stanford University president.

Matt:  Yes, he calls the Stanford president and tells him we are going to lift the ban, and even writes him a letter.

GT:  The reason why is because Stanford had just cancelled some sort of a series.

Matt:  Correct.

GT:  Was it football or basketball?  Do you remember?

Matt:  Basketball, I think it was basketball.  It was that fall, they cancelled their contract with BYU basketball.

Lee strongly rejected attempts for black ordination
Lee strongly rejected attempts for black ordination

Check out our other conversations with Matt, like Brown’s previous attempts to end the ban.  Check out our conversation….

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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!