The Atlantic magazine and Mormon attitudes on race

The Atlantic Magazine wrote a pretty bad article about the Church.  It is called “When Mormons Aspired to be a White and Delightsome People.”  

To be clear, this is not even close to some of the worst stuff you can read in the media these days about the Church.  Some articles have false statements in nearly every paragraph, and this article does not.  But I would like, nevertheless, to make a few important points.

The first and most important is that the article makes this claim:

Until a few decades ago, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints taught that they “shall be a white and a delightsome people,” a phrase taken from the Book of Mormon.

I looked at on-line sources and actually consulted with several respected LDS scholars.  I could find no evidence that the Church taught this.  Ever.

To be fair, there are multiple quotations from Church leaders on race that are unfortunate.  Don’t bother coming back to me with these quotations because I am aware of virtually all of them.  I am not going to defend such things.  I also am aware that there were cultural legends about Cain and many, many other problematic statements by individual latter-day Saints over the years.  It is of course possible that some individual teacher told you or someone you know something very unfortunate about race just this Sunday.  That is not relevant to my point.

My point is very narrow:  the Church never taught that members “shall be a white and a delightsome people.”  Unless you have a Church manual from 1934 showing that this phrase was taught as official doctrine, then my point remains valid.  (And I am willing to be corrected if you have such a manual).

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LDS Perspectives #54: Joseph Smith’s Bible Translation: Part 1 with Dr. Ken Alford

The JST in the D&C
with Dr. Ken Alford

LDS Perspectives Podcast is now one year old!

To celebrate, LDS Perspectives is holding a special first anniversary double episode on Joseph Smith’s translation of the Bible.

In this first anniversary episode, Dr. Kenneth (Ken) Alford reviews the historical background of the Joseph Smith’s Bible Translation and important ways we see the Bible translation influence the Doctrine and Covenants.

Ken Alford studied the Joseph’s Bible translation extensively as an undergraduate at BYU in the 1970s. Ken now teaches at BYU in the Department of Church History and Doctrine. But for the intervening decades, Ken was a member of the United States Army, including assignments as Strategic Leadership department chair at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C., associate professor of computer science at the United States Military Academy at West Point, and serving on the Army Secretariat staff at the Pentagon. This varied background provides Ken context for the way Joseph’s evolving understanding of the Bible text matured.

Though the LDS Church did not retain Joseph’s Bible translation after the evacuation of Nauvoo, it is clear that the Bible translation was an active part of Joseph’s early theological development and instruction of Church members in what are now sections of the Doctrine and Covenants. New insights from recently discovered documents expand our appreciation of the interaction between the Bible and the Doctrine and Covenants. Ken cites Brigham Young’s 1844 comments, suggesting that had Joseph ever been able to publish the Bible translation, it would have evolved beyond what we have today.

Taunalyn Rutherford of LDS Perspectives not only interviews Dr Alford, but adds perspective from her experience with the Church in India.

Next week’s podcast will be the second anniversary episode, as Laura Harris Hales interviews Dr. Thomas Wayment about new research that sheds light on how Joseph went about translating the Bible.

President Kimball on disciplinary councils

President Spencer W. Kimball, counseling priesthood leaders, said:

“We are concerned that too many times the interviewing leader in his personal sympathies for the transgressor, and in his love perhaps for the family of the transgressor, is inclined to waive the discipline which that transgressor demands.


“Too often a transgressor is forgiven and all penalties waived when that person should have been disfellowshipped or excommunicated. Too often a sinner is disfellowshipped when he or she should have been excommunicated. …


“Do you remember what was said by the prophet Alma? ‘Now,’ he said, ‘repentance could not come unto men except there were a punishment.’ [Alma 42:16.]


“Ponder on that for a moment. Have you realized that? There can be no forgiveness without real and total repentance, and there can be no repentance without punishment. This is as eternal as is the soul. …


“Please remember these things when somebody comes before you who has broken the laws of God.


“It is so easy to let our sympathies carry us out of proportion; and when a man has committed sin, he must suffer. It’s an absolute requirement—not by the bishop—but it’s a requirement by nature and by the very part of a man.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1975, p. 116; or Ensign, May 1975, p. 78.)


LDS Perspectives #53: Tabernacle Camps with Daniel Smith

Tabernacle Camps
with Daniel Smith

Audio file:

Daniel Smith is creator of the YouTube channel “Messages of Christ.” Smith’s channel has been viewed over 1 million times.

Smith has a particular interest in ancient tabernacles and their artifacts, including building replicas of the tabernacles and making authentic tabernacle clothing.

Smith recounts how and why he creates tabernacle cloth (using a Lego machine) to create the tabernacle breastplate, what exactly happened in the tabernacle in biblical times, and why it’s important for members of the church to understand these things today.

Sometimes, Smith explains, the best way to understand something is to experience it.

Tabernacle camps are popping up — typically in Youth Conferences — in stakes all over the United States. There’s even one coming to BYU in the coming months, which will be used to teach students about the ancient biblical context of the tabernacles.