Talk:Blacks and Mormonism/Archive Dsicrimination

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Racial Exclusion or Racial Discrimination?

Why the usage of the word "exclusion" rather than "discrimination?" It seems to me that the term "discrimination" is most accurate per the popular lexicon.

Sorry don't have much time to edit today - however, I don't think either term has merit. The policy was only the tribe of Ephriam and Levi have claim to the priesthood. Not Maoris and Blacks cannot, and other cultures such as Tongans can only have the Aaronic, or that at descendants of a certain least two individuals cannot hold the priesthood until 1908 because of sins they committed. Thoughts? -Visorstuff 20:47, 26 July 2005 (UTC)

BTW...the original statement and topic were mine. I forgot to sign. --Timothy 21:51, 26 July 2005 (UTC)

The idea that the priesthood was only limited to descendants of Ephriam and Levi is, I'm pretty sure, untrue. While it's true that some Maoris were denied the priesthood, as were Melanesians (until 1955), that was simply because of the dark skin of many Maoris, and especially Melanesians. But the church allowed Jews to hold the priesthood (Judah) and Native Americans (whom I believe most patriarchs, then and now, assign the tribe of Manassah). I've also heard rare cases of people being assigned tribes like Naphtali, Benjamin, Gad, or Asher. There was a trend some time ago, from what I understand, where Irish people tended to be assigned the tribe of Dan. But nobody prevented any of these people from having the priesthood. The exclusion was limited to blacks, or people like the Melanesians who were incorrectly thought to have a genetic connection to blacks. COGDEN 04:13, July 27, 2005 (UTC)
I'm sorry if this sounded like I said it was limited ONLY to those two tribes - that was not my intent. My intent is that according to revelation, it is the responsibility of those two tribes to hold the priesthood and share the gospel to others. To the other tribes it is a privilege, rather than a responsibility. Others could hold it, but by church policy, it was to be given only by revelation. There were a number of cases where family lines were prohibted from holding the priesthood that were white, and south pacific islanders traditionally were allowed to hold only the Aaronic priesthood, as were many in South America and other developing countries. Interestingly enough, most in Japan are also placed in Manasseh, and historically held only the aaronic priesthood, until HJG administration. My point is that unless you were Ephriam or Levi, you didn't have any right or claim to hold the priesthood. -Visorstuff 17:52, 27 July 2005 (UTC)

Even if we could parse out the exactness of "who could" or "who couldn't" in some logical, meaningful, consistent way, we'd still be left with a policy that discriminated upon racial lines. If you prefer calling it lineage, we'd still arrive at the same place. In modern English lexicon, that is called discrimination. If we were talking about any other organization, such as a business or a private golf course or a University, we'd call this "discrimination." There's no reason to not call it discrimination here. This is a public encyclopedia; the commonly-used term to describe these actions of exclusion is discrimination. I propose we change all instances of the word "exclusion" to "discrimination." --Timothy 05:12, 27 July 2005 (UTC)

Oops. I didn't see the conversation below. I read and revise my comments there. --Timothy 02:33, 9 August 2005 (UTC)

"exclusion" versus "discrimination"

Discrimination implys that the LDS church discriminated against blacks in all teachings, which it did not. The exclusion of blacks from the priesthood, while a discriminatory act, does not mean wholesale discrimination against blacks, but rather a prohibition of holding of one point of doctrine. It may be seen as discrimination by some (just as many feel women are discriminated against because the don't hold the priesthood) but that is not a proper term. Saying that the church discriminates against blacks would denote that the church turned away blacks and made it a point to exclude tehm. However, discriminate is a POV word. Exclusion is a bad word as well. WE need to find something better. How about Prohibitive? it is just as strong of a word, and is more desciptive I've made the change. -Visorstuff 21:41, 8 August 2005 (UTC)

This sort of discussion reminds me of a short story I read once by Richard Brautigan. The narrator talks about how his wife had run out to buy some ice cream when a phone call came with the news that her father had died. She comes back from her errand, cheerful and ready to dish out the ice cream. The husband struggles to find words with which to give her the bad news, but "Always at the end of the words somebody is dead." It's sort of similar with the "Negro doctrine." You can call it exclusion or discrimination or prohibition, but always at the end of the words there's the fact that church policy discriminated on the basis of race. No matter what words you choose, that's the reality that will inevitably come through to anyone who isn't an apologist for the church.
Personally, I think "discrimination" is a better word than "exclusion." "Exclusion" is actually a worse practice, although some people seem to think "discrimination" carries worse connotations. Consider the difference between saying that a restaurant "discriminated" against blacks and saying that it "excluded" blacks. The word "discriminated" could imply a range of behaviors, some worse than others. "Excluded," on the other hand, seems to mean that blacks weren't allowed in the restaurant at all. Similarly, saying that the LDS church "excluded" blacks sounds like blacks weren't allowed to join the church at all. (Incidentally, this incorrect impression is fairly common among non-Mormons who don't know much about the church and its history.)
There's also another, somewhat less obvious, linguistic reason why "exclusion" is a poor word choice. In many religions, the "priesthood" is seen as an association of people, like a social club or fraternity. In Mormonism, however, it is seen as a "thing" (specifically, a set of "keys") that people can acquire. In religions like Catholicism, where the priesthood is an association of people, the underlying metaphor for the priesthood is the metaphor of a container. People can "enter" or "leave" it and can be "excluded." In Mormonism, however, people "receive" the priesthood, it is "given" to them, they "hold" it, can "lose" it, etc. Under the terms of this metaphor, the person who receives the priesthood is the "container," and the priesthood is the "thing contained," rather than the other way around, so "exclusion" doesn't really make sense.
As for "prohibitive," it sounds strange to me, but maybe that's just because I haven't heard it before.
--Sheldon Rampton 00:40, 9 August 2005 (UTC)
Visorstuff, it appears that we need to work on coming to some agreement regarding the usage of the terms "exclusionary," "prohibitive," and "discrimination." Your use of the term "prohibitive" in place of "discriminatory" feels apologetic to me, and is not NPOV.
To your point of partial inclusion of blacks in the Church. Black people, for example, were allowed to ride the bus in the South, they just weren't allowed to sit in certain seats. I think if you did a poll of Black people, they'd almost universally agree that this is racial discrimination, even though they were only partially prohibited from riding the bus.
In popular culture and terminology, we use the term "discrimination" to describe the treatment of blacks (or other races, or women, or gays, or white men, etc.) in this manner. I've seen nothing in your argument that justifies the creation of new terminology to describe a common experience, using common terminology. I'm changing it back. --Timothy 02:44, 9 August 2005 (UTC)
I think I agree with Sheldon Rampton and Timothy that discrimination is a more accurate term than exclusion. The church views priesthood more as a mark or a force than as a container. However, I do see Visorstuff's point that discrimination is a loaded term that implies prejudice, which was not always present, especially in the 70's, when the church was essentially saying, "We know the policy has no solid basis in doctrine, but we can't change the policy without a revelation." Prohibitive doesn't seem quite accurate to me, either, because the church didn't often actively prevent people from getting the priesthood--they just refused to actively grant it to them.
Thus, there are drawbacks for each of the three terms. Given the choice, however, I think I'm leaning toward exclusion, because from the point of view of blacks who could never fully participate in the church as priesthood holders, and who could never attend the temple, it must have been, effectively, an exclusion from full church participation. I think that the concept of priesthood does have at least some connotations of a container. COGDEN 03:15, August 9, 2005 (UTC)

Well great - we are back to an undecided majority. Timothy - please do not think I'm an apologist that is not my point on the wiki. Once a consesus is made, I'll abide by it. But we are not there yet. Discrimination is a loaded word (see Loaded words). Period. We need to find something better. Exclusion, in my opinion is not the answer, as I stated before. In my nearly three years on the Wiki (two as a registered user)- I've found that there are better words to use than discrimination, but we obviously haven't found it. Sheldon - I understand what you are saying, and can agree to some point - I'd say that some Church members discriminated against blacks, but not the organization - becuase of the denotation of the word. Timothy, since you are set on keeping the word, how about suggesting an alternative heading until we can be creative enough to come up with a new word? -Visorstuff 17:23, 9 August 2005 (UTC)

Why is the word discrimination such a problem for you to use? Just use it, it's the appropriate word. It's pretty cut and dry. The organization practiced discrimation against Blacks. Smith wanted to confine Black people to their own species. Brigham Young believed that Blacks were not qualified to be in any governmental capacity, or be given any spritual blessings, other church prophets and presidents stated that they believed that Black people were of a lower status than whites. That's as close to discrimination as you will get. Do not use a new word, and it does look to me like you are covering up for the Mormon apologists. --208.254.174.148 02:08, 31 August 2005 (UTC)
To the contrary, it was precisely the organization that discriminated against blacks. It is undoubtedly true that "some Church members" discriminated as well (as was also the case with "some Southerners" or "some people in Boston"), but the topic of this article is the church's policy toward blacks, which was clearly the behavior of the organization. The organization's behavior - withholding its priesthood from blacks - is racial discrimination by the very definition of the word "discrimination." As for saying that this is a "loaded word," we're back again to Richard Brautigan-land. Saying "your father died" is also language that stings, but there aren't any good euphemisms for it that will take the sting away. Similarly, the reason that discrimination seems to you like a "loaded word" is that the very action it describes is morally abhorrent.
I second that --208.254.174.148 02:08, 31 August 2005 (UTC)
I'm curious to know if any of the people participating in this discussion are blacks themselves. If not, I propose that we settle this by asking a few black Wikipedians which term they find most appropriate. --Sheldon Rampton 17:47, 9 August 2005 (UTC)

Discrimination is the appropriate word. Even though I am Black, it doesn't really mean anything. Switch places, if the LDS was a Black organization practicing these things against whites, the white people would recognize this as discrimination. These kind of word-play situations really insult the intelligence of people. --208.254.174.148 02:08, 31 August 2005 (UTC)

Excellent idea - unfortunately, I've never asked the race of other editors, so I don't know either way. I also think asking someone at Genesis would be a good idea - as they would have both viewpoints. Since Timothy knows them well, perhaps he can ask? Incidentally, Wikipedia discourages using Loaded words - even if that's what it is. There are better words that are not as emotional in many instances. We should look for one of them. That said, if discrimination is the word we have to use, then so be it. But know I'm not in favor of it. -Visorstuff 18:16, 9 August 2005 (UTC)

Is "discrimination" a loaded word, or is the act it describes, as Sheldon alluded to, morally abhorrent, and therefore, uncomfortable? The word that we use in this culture to describe the acts of the LDS Church relative to Blacks is discrimination. We use this word consistently in every other setting, whether business, the arts, education and yes, even religion. --Timothy 19:05, 9 August 2005 (UTC)
Is discrimination used in any other context. I do believe that the word is in Wikipedia. and it being in the website has it's own article. The description in the article matches the activities of the Church. Let's stop trying to coddle the Mormon side here and just cut to the chase. --208.254.174.148 02:08, 31 August 2005 (UTC)
Timothy, as Wikipedians it is not our purpose to decide if something is "morally abhorrent" or not, or uncomfortable or not (I would argue that some Latter-day Saints do not see the above policy as uncomfortable, but as part of an important shared history - not to be shyed away from, but embraced for the "benefit" of living revelation) but our purpose is, rather, to give a balanced view of various topcics as an encyclopedia does, using proper wording. "Discrimination" has been on the list of Loaded words to be avoided on wikipedia for a long, long time. Other page discussions have decided to remove the word altogether from articles, and to used more descriptive terms. Yes, we may consistently use the word outside of wikipedia, but we are encouraged to find better alternatives on the Wiki. I think Sheldon is on to something in asking someone who can discuss this better than we can - can you reach out to your Genesis contacts, or should I (I'd rather you did, as I'm accused in the above of having a pre-set POV)? -Visorstuff 19:22, 9 August 2005 (UTC)


IT is our position to describe accurately how events occured to the best of our ability. I would like to know, what other articles about organizations would you Visorstuff agree deserve the mention of being discriminatory? The Nazis? The KKK? WHen Texaco refused to hire black and mexican jelly beans and got sued, were they practicing a form of racial discrimination? The word IS used in this website. SO we just need to be consistent.--208.254.174.148 02:08, 31 August 2005 (UTC)


I think we have to decide, on a case-by-case basis, whether or not to use loaded words like discrimination. If there is no other word that is accurate, I think we have no choice but to use it. The kind of word we really need is something that means racial discrimination in its original sense—to create a distinction based on race, but which hasn't yet built up all kinds of secondary meanings like the word terrorist. I've tried a thesaurus or two, to no avail. Another alternative is, we can just use something wordy, like "denial of the priesthood to blacks" or "ban on the ordination of blacks". COGDEN 20:14, August 10, 2005 (UTC)
Case by case, based on the Wikipedia article on discrimination. We can all agree the use of the word is appopriate for this article, if our sentiments against offending white people's comfort zone is not considered. That comfort zone, you know, the fear of guilt, has to be put to the side, and let the truth just be what it is.--208.254.174.148 02:08, 31 August 2005 (UTC)
Again, one reason why I haven't suggested other words. But there has to be one that is better somewhere. I do think we should take Sheldon's suggestion and let that guide how we move it. Timothy, any response? -Visorstuff 20:55, 10 August 2005 (UTC)
Well I disagree, and the burden of proof is on you, as the word and how it is used, effectively and accurately describes the practice. Mormon activities mirrored the discriminatory practices of the rest of White america. There is no reason to exclude the word in the Mormon situations anymore than from other white instututions (public, private, governmental, etc) --Zaphnathpaaneah 02:12, 31 August 2005 (UTC)

Visorstuff noted that "discrimination" has been on the list of loaded words for a long time, but here's what that list says specifically about "discrimination":

Discrimination which means "to sort between," but which has now become so associated with prejudice and bias based on race, sex, sexuality, class, age, etc. that the word's original sense has become almost unusable (although it persists in some health care fields, in which one may speak of a "difficulty with object discrimination" i.e. telling between objects).
The word has long been used in the field of economics, as well: price discrimination, which actually is generally a good thing from a purely economic point of view. But the word discrimination makes it sound to modern ears like something really evil. COGDEN 01:44, August 11, 2005 (UTC)

Of course it would be a "loaded" use to call something "discrimination" in contexts that imply racial discrimination where racial discrimination did not actually occur, but Mormonism's "Negro doctrine" is a context in which racial discrimination did occur, so the use of the term in this context is entirely appropriate. The term "Nazi" is also a highly loaded term. For example, it would be loaded language if I were to say, "George W. Bush is a Nazi." However, it is not loaded language to say, "Adolf Hitler was a Nazi." The unavoidable fact here is that the LDS church did discriminate against blacks based on race. It's as clear-cut a case of racial discrimination as separate drinking fountains in Alabama or Negroes having to ride in the back of the bus in Mississippi. --Sheldon Rampton 23:49, 10 August 2005 (UTC)

Sheldon, excellent. --208.254.174.148 02:08, 31 August 2005 (UTC)
Sheldon, I think you're discriminating against me because I'm LDS. J/K - LOL. I still think there is a more descriptive word. However, let's let Timothy reach out to his Genesis friends and move from there. I'm in no hurry to change the current version, but think there is a better word to use in the heading. Let's see what he comes back with before making any type of final decision... -Visorstuff 00:06, 11 August 2005 (UTC)
We should use discrimination. Consider this Visor, you are LDS and white, and my experience has shown me that white people can be extraordinarily defensive against others criticizing them. Mormons in my experience are extremely evasive in facing criticizm especially of a racial nature. When a critique or event is raised, all too often a Mormon person will tell me that it didn't happen that way, it's very dishonest in my opinion. IN addition, we know of so many comments by Mormon leaders (who are far more credible about Mormon issues than you or I) that can be easily posted here that refutes your friendly position. For example, the arguments made in favor of the Missouri Extermination Order being in response to Mormon interference with slavery is refuted BY Brigham Young. Now what fascinates me is that no Mormon I have spoken to has disavowed Brigham Young, and believe that he was a legitimate leader of the Church. Yet, there is this excuse that Brigham Young was the racist guy that started all of the discrimination, and not Joseph Smith. As it was stated before, the Pearl of Great Price has enough racist content not previously in existence in any relgious context (except Hinduism) that causes the human race to go backwards. I do not see how spinning the meanings of words will cause any reader in here to be anything more than irritated and offended. If we are going to debate current Mormon apologists about the racism, just do what I do. Use the words of those more qualified and higher up the Mormon chain. The Mormon presidents, and apostles and propehts. They refute all of these denials, emptally more so than I or my anonymous friends have. --208.254.174.148 02:08, 31 August 2005 (UTC)
Right now there are two headings that use some conjugation of the word "discriminate": (1) "Adoption of a discriminatory practice" and (2) "The Church changes its practice of racial discrimination." I think the first headline should be retained in its current form, because the content it describes goes beyond the priesthood ban and encompasses a number of highly racially charged statements made by top church leaders in the 1800s. It is therefore referring to "discriminatory practice" regardless of whether or not you think the priesthood ban in and of itself deserves that term. However, I think the second headline could possibly be replaced with something such as "Lifting of the priesthood ban" instead of "The Church changes its practice of racial discrimination."
Incidentally, I think there's an aspect of the history of the Negro doctrine that isn't mentioned yet in this article but which would be worth adding. As I recall, Lester E. Bush mentioned in his historical overview for Dialogue magazine that some of the anti-Mormon hostility when they settled in Missouri had to do with the fact that Missourians were slaveholders and Mormons were northerners who tended to be abolitionists. It's been years since I've read Bush's article, but as I recall, the real persecutions began after Mormon newspaper, The Times and Seasons, published an editorial that spoke favorably of the abolition of slavery. The persecution then prompted an effort by the church to distance itself from abolitionist sentiments, and they published a second article in which they declared that not only were they against freeing slaves, but they had a policy of not baptizing blacks into the church at all. This of course is different from the later priesthood ban, but if I remember Bush's article correctly, the implication is that the church's policy of racial discrimination began as an attempt to defend itself, for pragmatic reasons, against attacks by southern slaveholders. If so, Mormon racial discrimination can be seen is a reflection of the larger racist trends in American society. This doesn't necessarily excuse it, but it helps explain it. --Sheldon Rampton 00:43, 11 August 2005 (UTC)
Exactly. The anonymous writers in here were trying to get to that point. Even Brigham Young had denied that they were trying to free slaves in the 1852 address. I believe that the anti-slavery position of the Mormon members had nothing to do with them being Mormon, but that they were previously just believers against slavery. Now, that being known, its more of a travesty that the Mormon church, out of sheer profit and opportunism, abandoned their ethics of that position. What is so silly is that during this debate in here, visor (or someone else) kept placing the comment into the article that the Curse of Cain ideology was introduced by Mormon converts from other denominations. But the same user obviously omitted the fact that the anti-slavery position was introduced by people who had those sentiments BEFORE converting to Mormonism. Joseph Smith did not change the hearts and minds of slave holders with his Mormon theology, that's for sure, and misrepresenting the cause of the Extermination Order is only done to plant that false idea into the minds of the reader. This kind of thing cannot be allowed in here. --208.254.174.148 02:08, 31 August 2005 (UTC)
If I remember correctly, I don't think it was a policy of not baptizing blacks, but a policy of not baptizing slaves, without permission of their master. They wanted to assure Missourians that the church was not going to interfere with the master-slave relationship. COGDEN 01:44, August 11, 2005 (UTC)
And that comment you just posted was from Brigham Youngs own words, he was responding to the notion that in Missouri the Mormons were trying to free the Blacks and do the very things that some in here say caused the Missouri Extermination Order. If Brigham Young says it was not so, how can an LDS person in here contradict Young? Brigham Young was there! --208.254.174.148 02:08, 31 August 2005 (UTC)