So You Think You Can Write LDS Newsroom Press Releases

A recent Washington Post article  tackles the issue of race and the LDS church in light of the likelihood of Mitt Romney challenging Barack Obama, the United State’s first black president, in this November’s election. In the article, popular BYU religion professor Randy Bott attributes the priesthood/temple ban to ‘God’s discrimination’ and states other opinions the Church is not willing to claim.  We’ve been covering the issue of race recently here in the Twelve Lunches corner of the internet.  I’ve also been interested that in the past 5 years or so, most circulated church positions and clarification of doctrine seem to come from the anonymous “Newsroom” rather than attributed or pronounced via revelation.  As could be expected, there was a Newsroom response to this unsettling article as well.

There’s a little known LDS tradition that on Leap Day, ordinary members of the church can write fantasy press releases for the LDS newsroom.    Here are some of the ones we’ve collected from among our friends and neighbors for Leap Day 2012 (you can read the real press release here):

Our first submission:

The historical restriction of LDS priesthood to blacks, including any policies and doctrines relating thereto, have never been tied to any revelation by any LDS prophet that has been accepted by the church. The only LDS scripture contained in the Book of Abraham that might be relevant can be interpreted in numerous valid ways, some of them in a way that does not support the restriction. The church does not accept interpretations of this scripture that endorse the restriction or that support racism. The only revelation we have concerning this matter occurred in 1978 when God revealed to us that the restriction should end. The church rejoiced when this revelation was received and has tried to end any lingering racism among its members since that day. The restriction itself may have been instituted by God or by human prejudice–we don’t know and we can’t say. If by God, we have no adequate rationale for such restriction, do not understand it and we repudiate any and all reasons proferred in the past, present or future, whether by LDS church authority or otherwise. What we can say is that we are sorry for the pain and suffering this historic restriction has caused, and continues to cause, to so many people, both Mormon and non-Mormon. We call upon our members and all peoples of the earth to end racism in our lives.

This one is a bit more short and to the point:

None of us know what the hell we’re talking about. Thanks for coming out.

I like the zen vibe of this one:

Racism is among the worst remnants of humanity’s tribally divided efforts to lift itself beyond its evolutionary origins. Professor Bott’s misguided efforts resemble the racist teachings of former leaders of the Church. We hope that he had the best of intents in responding to the questions he was asked. Nonetheless, his efforts to justify the unjustifiable stand as a witness that we have not yet succeeded in eradicating the pernicious effects of past racism within our own community. For that, we apologize and commit to redouble our efforts to teach and foster a spiritual home for all persons of all descents and heritages.

Here’s another tactic- pull out something that NO ONE wants to be reminded of:

Sealing Jane Manning James as a servant to Joseph Smith was an atrocious mutation of the temple sealing power. For this, we are truly sorry.

Here’s a more professorial take:

We acknowledge that latter-day prophets are products of the socio-political environments during which they lived. Thus, some church leaders in the past have made racist statements upon which church policies were based. We wish now to publicly disavow those statements and the resulting policies.

We apologize for the harm these statements may have caused and continue to cause and pledge to work diligently to eradicate racist statements and teachings from all church curriculum.

The positions attributed to BYU professor Randy Bott in a recent Washington Post article absolutely do not represent the teachings and doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. BYU faculty members do not speak for the Church. It is unfortunate that the Church was not given a chance to respond to what others said.

This one strives for clarity:
The Church’s position is clear—we believe all people are God’s children and are equal in His eyes and in the Church. We do not tolerate racism in any form.

For most of the Church’s history, there was a restriction on the priesthood for male members of African descent. This was seen as the official position of the Church, and several of the leaders of this church, including President Brigham Young, endorsed this view. While the Church lifted this restriction years ago, it has not fully explained the rationale for this change.

While there is no clear explanation for how this policy started or why it was perpetuated, it is clear that the policy was wrong. We are sorry for the pain and suffering it has caused, and for the divisive and ugly speculation that resulted from this restriction. While the Lord’s work moves forward, it often moves through imperfect people trapped by prejudice and hate.

We condemn racism, including any and all past racism by individuals both inside and outside the Church.

One of the best we saw was this one:

“We were wrong.  We’re sorry.”

Speaking of sorry, some of our respondents felt some pity for Randy Bott along side total disgust at what he’s been teaching in his missionary prep classes lo these many years.  But one cut it to the quick:

So he’s been saying this sort of thing for years, probably decades, in his classes, in his books, maybe even at Education Week… and he only gets smacked down when his views finally hit the Washington Post? I think that shows you where the church is coming from on this — they don’t care about rooting out actual racism that continues to fester in the church, even at church-owned BYU by BYU professors teaching thousands of missionaries every single year about to head out to preach the gospel. But say the same thing in a prominent newspaper read by significant numbers of non-Mormons, and you get called out by the PR department. If the church cared about actually resolving this issue, they wouldn’t issue a press release to non-members, they would issue prophetic counsel to the body itself. That they haven’t speaks volumes.

Post your Leap Day fantasy Newsroom Press Release in the comments below.