Poignant Bumper Sticker Memes

By | April 15, 2014

I enjoyed general conference earlier this month, and in fact wrote a good deal about it and the goings-on by other groups at conference time. One of those groups is Ordain Women, which sponsored an event designed to heighten awareness of those who would like to see women be ordained to the priesthood.

That event occurred on Saturday afternoon, shortly before the start of the general priesthood meeting. (It is this meeting into which members of Ordain Women and their supporters sought admission, as a symbol of their desire to be ordained.) It is not insignificant that the first speaker at that meeting was apostle Dallin H. Oaks, who delivered an address entitled The Keys and Authority of the Priesthood.

Among many great points made in that address, Elder Oaks stated the following:

The divine nature of the limitations put upon the exercise of priesthood keys explains an essential contrast between decisions on matters of Church administration and decisions affecting the priesthood. The First Presidency and the Council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, who preside over the Church, are empowered to make many decisions affecting Church policies and procedures—matters such as the location of Church buildings and the ages for missionary service. But even though these presiding authorities hold and exercise all of the keys delegated to men in this dispensation, they are not free to alter the divinely decreed pattern that only men will hold offices in the priesthood.

This seemed to fully shut the door to those who would like to see the Brethren extend priesthood ordination to women. Pro-ordination bloggers sought for ways around the statement, often straining at gnats and swallowing camels (to paraphrase an old adage).

It is not my desire to address each and every one of those bloggers. Indeed, I’m happy to allow them, for the most part, to try to parse words which seem rather clear, especially when coming from a person such as Elder Oaks who is historically precise and accurate in his choice of words.

The thing that amused me, however, was that bloggers weren’t the only ones attempting the parsing. At least one person decided that the best way to make their point was with a graphic that ostensibly compared the 1967 words of N. Eldon Tanner and the 2014 words of Dallin H. Oaks.


It was this graphic that drew my attention and curiosity. I thought that the use of both quotes was worth investigating.

President Tanner’s Quote

According to the graphic, this is what President Tanner said:

“The church has no intention of changing its doctrine on the Negro. Throughout the history of the original Christian church, the Negro never held the Priesthood. There’s really nothing we can do to change this. It’s a law of God.”

The genesis of this quote is interesting. The graphic makes it appear that the quote was delivered by President Tanner in general conference, as the image shown is from a general conference address.

If you search for the quote on the Internet, you quickly find out that it wasn’t from a general conference address. In fact, you never find the original quote at all. Instead, you find references to the quote, primarily in anti-Mormon sources.

The oldest source I was able to find was in the Salt Lake City Messenger, published by Jerald and Sandra Tanner. It appeared in the July 1978 issue and later in the December 1979 issue. Here’s the quote as it appeared in the July 1978 issue:

N. Eldon Tanner, a member of the First Presidency who finally signed the statement granting blacks the Priesthood, was completely opposed to the idea in 1967:

The church has no intention of changing its doctrine on the Negro,” N. Eldon Tanner, counselor to the First President told Seattle during his recent visit here. “Throughout the history of the original Christian church, the Negro never held the priesthood. There’s really nothing we can do to change this. It’s a law of God.” (Seattle Magazine, December 1967, p, 60)

The bold type was in the quote as used by the Tanners. (In their usage it was actually bold and italic.) Note that the Tanners do provide a source for the quote: an article in a regional magazine from Seattle. It also gives the impression that the quote was given to “Seattle,” meaning the city. (In other online sources, the quote was supposedly made to a stake conference in Seattle.)

With so much confusion, I went back and requested a copy of the original Seattle Magazine article from which the quote was pulled, as I wanted to check the context of the quote. (The Seattle Public Library was very helpful in this regard.) Here’s the original quote, in context, from an article entitled “The Swarming Mormons” (Seattle Magazine, December, 1967, pg. 54-71):

The exclusion of Negroes from the priestly orders, and therefore, according to Mormon doctrine, from advancement in the afterlife, is based on a passage in The Pearl of Great Price, a sacred Mormon scripture, which states that Negroes, as sons of Ham, are “cursed … as pertaining to the priesthood.” Most Mormons are content to let it go at that. “The subject of the Negro,” says Dr. F. Arthur Kay, president of the Seattle Stake, “simply never comes up.” For a growing body of dissenters, though, this doctrine has become the main symbol of the church’s social backwardness—and a potential threat to the presidential hopes of George Romney.

“The crux of the matter,” writes Samuel Taylor in Dialogue, “is not that the Negro has been denied the priesthood, but that the entire national ferment during the past decade concerning the equality of man has been ignored.”

Adds Dr. Sterling Stott, who is director of pupil personnel services for Seattle Public Schools and who left the Mormon Church to become a Unitarian: “The church’s leaders have simply withdrawn from the problems of contemporary society. They’re fiddling while the country burns.”

Even such harsh criticism has done nothing to budge Mormon officials from their adamant position. “The church has no intention of changing its doctrine on the Negro,” N. Eldon Tanner, counselor to the First President, told Seattle during his recent visit here. “Throughout the history of the original Christian church, the Negro never held the priesthood. There’s really nothing we can do to change this. It’s a law of God.”

There were lots of things factually wrong in the Seattle Magazine article, which should be evident simply from this excerpt. I won’t go into all those things here. (All right, maybe just one: That reference to “First President” is made throughout the article. At the time of the interview, President Tanner was second counselor in the First Presidency, with David O. McKay as President. If a reporter cannot get that simple fact right, how could one expect him to get the nuances of Church belief correct?)

Errors aside, President Tanner was correct in his statement: There was nothing “we” (the Church leaders) could do to make the change. However, it goes without saying that God can do whatever God wants.

The way the quote was used in the graphic, however, was definitely incorrect. President Tanner was not speaking at general conference or a stake conference. The quote was copied and slightly altered from an online anti-Mormon source.

(As an aside, I find it significant that a dozen years later when the First Presidency announced the revelation extending the priesthood to all men, President Tanner was first counselor in that First Presidency and he was the one who read the announcement of the revelation in October General Conference.)

Elder Oak’s Quote

According to the graphic, this is what Elder Oaks said:

“They [women] are not free to alter the divinely decreed pattern that only men will hold offices in the priesthood.”

I won’t repeat Elder Oak’s quote here, as I already included it earlier in this post. If you compare the quotes, however, you’ll see that the author of the graphic was incorrect in his or her usage of the quote. The antecedent of “they” isn’t “women.” It is the “First Presidency and the Council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve.” In other words, the quote isn’t about a limitation on women, but a limitation on the Brethren who those women sustain as prophets, seers, and revelators.

This concept—that those at the very “top” of the Church—are limited in what they can do in relation to the Church is a foreign concept to many. That is why Elder Oaks went to great lengths to make the point clear in his address.

Does the misuse of Elder Oaks’ quote by the graphic’s author matter? To the majority of those viewing it, it probably doesn’t. But it does call into question whether the author understands the larger point that Elder Oaks was trying to make.

Concluding Thoughts

I found the graphic funny, if not terribly enlightened. It makes a point in a ham-fisted manner, forcing a quote given to a reporter into juxtaposition against a quote given in general conference. We have no way of knowing if the reporter for Seattle Magazine got the wording of President Tanner correct 47 years ago, but we do know that the graphic’s author got the wording of Elder Oaks incorrect and misunderstood Elder Oaks’ statement.

Even so, is the point that is made by the graphic correct? Can the Church make a change concerning ordaining women because it made a change over a generation ago about ordaining blacks? According to some who reported on the graphic, such a change may be still possible. Here’s how The Atlantic summarized and used the graphic:

The Church kept away video cameras from OW’s ticket ask on Saturday. But within a day, a force more powerful than TV news—mighty social media—had already spread a poignant message. It’s simple, and it comes in the form of a meme: side-by-side quotes from LDS Church leaders 47 years apart. The gist? Never say never.

Again, the graphic was funny. But it also compared two things that weren’t equal. (A second-hand quote through a reporter to a first-hand quote from general conference.) It pulled a quote from anti-Mormon sources without checking against the original. It entirely missed the point being made by either person.

For a reporter to say that such efforts constitute a “poignant message” seems to miss so much of reality. No doubt the graphic will keep making the rounds. After all, bumper stickers are always funnier and easier to repeat than actually understanding what is going on. But poignant? I don’t think I would have used that word, and I’m not sure that a reporter would use it if she understood where its pieces came from and how they were mashed up.

I just figured that people would want to know where the information in the graphic really came from.

63 thoughts on “Poignant Bumper Sticker Memes

  1. Pingback: Poignant Bumper Sticker Memes | FairMormon Blog

  2. Kyle

    2 Peter 3:16 talks about people “wresting” the scriptures to their own destruction. We know that General Conference is modern day scripture, so if the people who are twisting the words of the prophets don’t watch their thoughts their words and their deeds they will wind up destroying themselves.

  3. Jeff Drake

    Actually, the Church never really “made a change… about ordaining blacks”; it made a change about ordained those believed to be of Canaanite descent. Hundreds, perhaps even thousands of blacks were ordained before 1978. (We’ll probably never know the exact number because the Church has never kept track of its members’ races.) Conversely, many whites were denied Priesthood ordination because they were believed to be of Canaanite descent. Not only is the Tanner quote wrong, but even the interpretation of the Tanner quote isn’t quite right!

    Great post, though. Thank you!

  4. Devery Anderson

    The Tanner quote was probably not the best one to use. I think a letter form the First Presidency, however, holds a little more weight. The 1949 letter on blacks said some things that were clearly wrong. Today, we parade the former ban on blacks and the priesthood as a “policy,” not a doctrine, and we disavow the whole idea about curses, blacks being descendants of Cain, etc. The letter is also factually incorrect by saying that the doctrine about blacks was the same as it always had been. Blacks, what few that were members of the church, held the priesthood in Joseph Smith’s day. The letter is reproduced below:

    August 17, 1949

    The attitude of the Church with reference to Negroes remains as it has always stood. It is not a matter of the declaration of a policy but of direct commandment from the Lord, on which is founded the doctrine of the Church from the days of its organization, to the effect that Negroes may become members of the Church but that they are not entitled to the priesthood at the present time. The prophets of the Lord have made several statements as to the operation of the principle. President Brigham Young said: “Why are so many of the inhabitants of the earth cursed with a skin of blackness? It comes in consequence of their fathers rejecting the power of the holy priesthood, and the law of God. They will go down to death. And when all the rest of the children have received their blessings in the holy priesthood, then that curse will be removed from the seed of Cain, and they will then come up and possess the priesthood, and receive all the blessings which we now are entitled to.”

    President Wilford Woodruff made the following statement: “The day will come when all that race will be redeemed and possess all the blessings which we now have.”

    The position of the Church regarding the Negro may be understood when another doctrine of the Church is kept in mind, namely, that the conduct of spirits in the premortal existence has some determining effect upon the conditions and circumstances under which these spirits take on mortality and that while the details of this principle have not been made known, the mortality is a privilege that is given to those who maintain their first estate; and that the worth of the privilege is so great that spirits are willing to come to earth and take on bodies no matter what the handicap may be as to the kind of bodies they are to secure; and that among the handicaps, failure of the right to enjoy in mortality the blessings of the priesthood is a handicap which spirits are willing to assume in order that they might come to earth. Under this principle there is no injustice whatsoever involved in this deprivation as to the holding of the priesthood by the Negroes.

    The First Presidency”

    1. Christopher Nicholson

      Still, for whatever it’s worth, that statement does say “at the present time”. It’s not saying that blacks would never get the priesthood, but rather that the church leaders in and of themselves did not have authority to give it to them. And for whatever it’s worth, the historical supplement to the old book “Mormonism and the Negro” by John J. Stewart contains a longer version of the statement. I’ve been trying to figure out whether these other paragraphs were originally part of the statement and why no other sources include them (though snippets of them are quoted in “Mormon America” by non-Mormons Joan and Richard Ostling) but here they are:

      “Why the Negro was denied the Priesthood from the days of Adam to our day is not known. The few known facts about our pre-earth life and our entrance into mortality must be taken into account in any attempt at an explanation.

      1. Not all intelligences reached the same degree of attainment in the pre-earth life. ‘And the Lord said unto me: These two facts do exist, that there are two spirits, one being more intelligent than the other; there shall be another more intelligent than they; I am the Lord thy God, I am more intelligent than they all. The Lord thy God sent his angel to deliver thee from the hands of the priest of Elkenah. I dwell in the midst of them all; I now, therefore, have come down unto thee to deliver unto thee the works which my hands have made, wherein my wisdom excelleth them all, for I rule in the heavens above and in the earth beneath, in all wisdom and prudence, over all the intelligences thou hast seen.

      ‘Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones; and God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born… And we will prove them herewith to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them; and they who keep their first estate shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate; and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads forever and ever.’

      2. Man will be punished for his own sins and not for Adam’s transgression. (2nd Article of Faith.) If this is carried further, it would imply that the Negro is punished or alloted to a certain position on this earth, not because of Cain’s transgression, but came to earth through the loins of Cain because of his failure to achieve other stature in the spirit world.

      3. All spirits are born innocent into this world. ‘Every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning; and God having redeemed man from the fall, men became again, in their infant state, innocent before God.’

      4. The Negro was a follower of Jehovah in the pre-earth life. (There were no neutrals.)”

      To me, these additional paragraphs make clear that the reasoning for the priesthood ban was indeed speculation and not doctrine (although I think this is already intimated in the traditionally quoted paragraphs by the phrase “may be understood”). It says quite clearly that the reason “is not known”. Of course, the factual error of the ban’s duration in history remains, and the inclusion of all this speculation in a First Presidency statement was probably very unwise (and rectified in the 1969 statement), but I thought it was interesting and sheds some further light on the document.

  5. Ed Mauss

    I’d argue that this statement in your blog post is inaccurate: “President Tanner was correct in his statement: There was nothing ‘we’ (the Church leaders) could do to make the change. ”

    The fact is, the change came about because President Kimball — unlike his predecessors — petitioned the Lord for confirmation that the Church should lift the ban, which was indeed based on policy (created by men who were simply products of their generation).

    There was no doctrinal basis for the ban, which is why the quotes of Tanner and Oaks are an apple and an orange. It’s also why President Kimball was wise to be proactive in changing the ill-conceived policy on the priesthood ban. There was indeed something he could do — and he did it.

    1. Allen Post author

      Those leaders could not make the change on their own initiative. If they were able to do so, it would not have required a revelation. They implored the Lord, over years, for a change that had been promised throughout all of Church history. When the Lord was ready–according to whatever criteria the Lord uses–the revelation was given and the leaders could proceed.

    2. Terri

      You are incorrect, sir.
      President Wilford Woodruff also asked the Lord about lifting the ban, and he was told that it would happen when God wanted it to happen, and to stop asking the Lord about it.

      1. Michael

        President Kimball wasn’t the first president to petition the Lord to lift the ban. Many of the brethren (McKay, Woodruff, Benson to name a few) prayed many times asking the Lord to lift the ban (President Benson said he prayed daily for the chance to lift the ban). And each time they prayed they received the answer that it wasn’t time. Kimball was just the one who finally received the answer that it was time to lift the ban.

        1. Guy

          President Kimball was the one who prayed day after day. President Benson secceded President Kimball.

      2. Christopher Nicholson

        Do you have a source for this? I thought Heber J. Grant was the first prophet to say explicitly that the ban could only be lifted by revelation, and that David O. McKay was the first to earnestly seek for one. But I could be wrong.

    3. Derek Thornton

      You do not know that it was only as simple as just asking. You also don’t know about the thoughts and prayers of his predecessors.

    4. C adams

      I agree that President Kimball had wonderful insight and a great desire that ALL WORTHY men be able to receive the Priesthood but I believe that the notion that the policy was ‘ill-conceived’ is inaccurate. Let’s not forget that it was Brigham Young that established the initial restriction and (most likely) through careful thought and collaboration with the Lord. As it has been recently discovered and released by the Church on their own website, it appears that the decision to exclude black men from the priesthood was made primarily to avoid additional persecution from an already hostile government and nation in regards to the attitude towards negroes of THAT day. In the end, over a hundred years later, President Kimball and others felt it was time to approach the Lord and He revealed that it was now time to extend the blessings of the greater Priesthood to ALL the world. I remember that day and it was truly remarkable. In conclusion, throughout our entire history, do not forget that NOTHING happens on this earth without being preapproved by our Heavenly Father.

  6. Clean Cut

    As Devery mentioned, the message of the meme still holds true. We were wrong about race and the priesthood and finally the leaders felt good about seeking out and learning God’s actual will on the matter. Likewise, we may or may not be wrong on women and the priesthood (I certainly have my opinion), but Ordain Women aren’t asking the leaders to change it, they’re asking the leaders to ask GOD about it. That revelation from God has not been sought out and won’t be sought out as long as we assume we already know God’s will. And we know what assuming can do…

    1. Allen Post author

      Actually, what OW is asking is a late addition to their mission. The phrase “We sincerely ask our leaders to take this matter to the Lord in prayer” was added to their mission statement sometime between February 3, 2014, and March 20, 2014. It did not exist (that I can find) anywhere on their website before that time.

      And, speaking of assumptions, to assert that “revelation from God has not been sought out” assumes that the leaders haven’t prayed about it our sought God’s will. If you insist on comparing apples or oranges (as Ed Mauss stated), for decades people assumed that the leadership had not sought the Lord’s intervention regarding blacks and the priesthood. To assume the leaders are not seeking the Lord’s direction in the matter of ordaining women is to presume either sexism or obliviousness on the part of the leaders. I see no evidence they are either sexist or oblivious; others may.

  7. Robyn

    When Dallin H. Oaks said “They are not free to alter the divinely decreed pattern…” he was not saying that “women” aren’t free to alter it. He was referring to the First Presidency, , Council of the First Presidency, and Quorum of the Twelve. Here is the direct quote:

    “The First Presidency and the Council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, who preside over the Church, are empowered to make many decisions affecting Church policies and procedures—matters such as the location of Church buildings and the ages for missionary service. But even though these presiding authorities hold and exercise all of the keys delegated to men in this dispensation, they are not free to alter the divinely decreed pattern that only men will hold offices in the priesthood.”

    The reason they (the presiding authorities) aren’t free to change who holds the priesthood is because only God holds that authority.

  8. Martin Wyatt

    Elder Oaks refers to a “divinely decreed pattern”. Any thoughts on where to find that decree? Scriptures provide plenty of cultural history, but not the same as divine decree.

  9. LloydAbbott

    Though I would prefer to be explicit and systematic like Elder Oaks, I organize my world and communicate using metaphor, simile, and analogy.

    For me the clearest illustration of the process of men & women in mortality becoming one in eternity is found in Jim Henson’s movie, “The Dark Crystal.”

    In a series of sketches – feminine urRu (Mystics) become one with masculine Skeksis and together they become imposing and radiant Godlike urSkek.

    Functionally, the dichotomy of male/priesthood wielder & female/nurturer is resolved when they become urSkek.

    Practically, however, without the influence of a feminine nurturer the masculine wielder is solidly on the endangered species list.

    Without the nurturer urRu, the wielder Skeksis himself is incapable of managing his competitive and aggressive nature, which is absolutely essential for functioning urSkek.

    Without the tempering influence of urRu, Skeksis are destructive and have neither the desire nor the nature to qualify for joining with urRu as urSkek and live in an eternal family setting.

    In a July 19, 1946 letter from Elder Joseph Fielding Smith to the General Relief Society Presidency, the practice of urRu giving blessings was put on hold indefinitely. But why?

    Because there was a growing sense among urRu in the Church that since they themselves could give blessings, Skeksis were becoming an annoyance they could do without or at least have little to do with.

    Thus, for the sake of God’s eternal purpose to successfully meld urRu & Skeksis in development of urSkek , He instructed his appointed and anointed agents to withdraw the formal blessing authority of urRu except when they were performing Temple ordinances.

  10. KM

    Another important difference between women and the priesthood and Blacks and the priesthood is one a friend of mine who studies Black Mormon history pointed out: women have never been denied the priesthood throughout the history of the modern Church. Their roles have been different, but they’ve always been able to receive priesthood blessings and administer in the temple and receive the temple endowment and hold callings. Blacks were denied priesthood and temple blessings. It’s not a true parallel. And so we have to ask ourselves not why women don’t have priesthood authority (Elder Oaks made it clear that they do), but why it’s different. This is a more productive question.

  11. Chandler

    I think this whole discussion is somewhat disingenuous.

    If you define “sexism” as “descrimination based on sex”, as most people do, and especially if you believe that the priesthood and the callings you can only have as a priesthood holder are good things, then you believe that there is sexism in the church. You can debate whether it’s God that’s sexist or if it’s just the institutional church. You can debate whether sexism is a good thing and/or appropriate for the church. You can debate whether there is anything we can or should do to change it. But to deny it altogether is outright rediculous. If there are two people worthy to recieve the priesthood, otherwise identical except for the fact that one is male and one is female, and that based on this difference one cannot hold a position of authority that the other could potentially hold, then this is sexism. I understand that that’s a loaded word, and you may not like it, but at the very least you have to admit that people who think it fits have a point.

    1. Elder Nathaniel R. Robinson

      Discrimination is the practice of unfairly treating a person or group of people differently from other people or groups of people. We believe that is God who says women cannot hold the priesthood, and god does not discriminate. “Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34).
      Also Dallin H. Oaks said, in the talk mention above:” In the eyes of God, whether in the Church or in the family, women and men are equal, with different responsibilities.”
      So it is not sexism. If God gave women the priesthood, that would mean women will have more responsibilities than men. I was talking about this in my Sunday school class the other day. If women were given the priesthood, men wouldn’t do anything, and let the women do everything. Do they really want to become the servants again? The priesthood, requires you to be a servant. The priesthood is service, and if you do not serve, you are not using the priesthood.

    2. Joe

      I think the main problem with this whole argument, and with your statement, is when you reference callings and believe they’re “good things”. You, and the whole movement, are looking at callings and positions of leadership as things to be looked up to. In reality they’re not. They’re opportunities to serve. God doesn’t call those who are qualified, which should say something. Your whole argument relies on the idea that the only difference between men and women is just that, ones male ones female. Which also means you don’t believe that the divine callings and responsibilities that women have are to be valued. Also, you’re using worldly ideals to define a divine situation. The world says this is sexist, so what? What does God say?

    3. Spencer

      As has been said, discrimination is the practice of unfairly treating a person or group of people differently from another (person or group). Those who suggest that anything that is based on gender is sexist and must change would do well to consider public bathrooms. Oh the tyranny imposed on us by society! You mean that a woman who is considered in every way equal to man cannot enter the men’s restroom?
      Or, recognizing that this is considered to be fair, it is not sexist. So, how do we determine whether the order of the priesthood is fair? Should we ask the world for its opinion? The question has been raised, but 100% by those who look upon this situation with eyes of the world.

  12. Julie

    Thank you so much for this post and for pointing out the erroneous ways splinter groups, who are sowing seeds of apostasy, are doing to twist the issue to fit in line with what they want. When, in actuality, shouldn’t the measure of true and humble disciples be ones that fit their will in line with the Savior and His doctrine? 🙂

  13. Pingback: About that Elder Tanner / Elder Oaks Meme

  14. Christopher

    Alan your reading of Elder Oak’s talk is very simplistic. You seem to gloss over his extensive discussion over woman having priesthood authority. And you ruin yourself when you agree with the conclusion that the brethren may not be able to do anything, but God can do anything He wants. This is precisely the same wording Elder Oaks used precisely to leave open the possibility of future female ordination while closing the possibility of present female ordination. Elder Oaks’ talk in fact lays out the entire doctrinal foundation necessary to accommodate future female ordination in the church. But perhaps you are simply a victim of confirmation bias. Those with ears to hear, let them hear.

    1. Allen Post author

      Christopher, my post wasn’t about Elder Oaks’ address. It was about how Elder Oaks’ talk was used by someone who created a graphic that was mocking in tone.

      I’m sorry if you thought I meant something more than what was offered.

    2. Tiffany

      Christopher, your comment is quite ironic, seeing as how you have clearly demonstrated the definition of confirmation bias by saying that, “This is precisely the same wording Elder Oaks used precisely to leave open the possibility of future female ordination while closing the possibility of present female ordination. Elder Oaks’ talk in fact lays out the entire doctrinal foundation necessary to accommodate future female ordination in the church.”

      Whether your point about female ordination is valid or not is irrelevant. You may very well be correct in your assessment of Elder Oaks’ talk, but to call Allen out on confirmation bias simply because you read into his message something that you didn’t want to hear is doing the exact thing that you are calling him out for. Instead of coming down harshly onto people who you don’t see as agreeing with you (“Those with ears to hear, let them hear.” — As if Allen, or anyone, cannot hear correctly the messages of God because they do not agree with you?), perhaps you should do as Allen did and write out your thoughts in a nice, well-researched blog post to back up your stance. Raining on someone else’s parade with irrelevant comebacks will not encourage others to take you, or the points you make, seriously.

  15. Graham Barney

    The meme is putting words in Elder Oaks’ mouth. That “[women]” is the meme creator intentionally twisting his words. The full sentence says “Twelve, who preside over the Church, are empowered to make many decisions affecting Church policies and procedures—matters such as the location of Church buildings and the ages for missionary service. But even though these presiding authorities hold and exercise all of the keys delegated to men in this dispensation, they are not free to alter the divinely decreed pattern that only men will hold offices in the priesthood.” The meme goes way beyond taking it out of context. The meme creator goes so far as to inject false context into the quote. If you have to go that far to construe his words to seem bigoted, you really must be stretching here.

  16. Dissenter

    It always amazes me to see Mormons chase their tales trying to defend and justify the obvious racism, sexism and history of discrimination that makes up Mormon church history. This meme was not meant to be funny, it was meant to quickly and efficiently draw a parallel between the churches current stance on women’s rights and the churches 50 year old view on blacks. Regardless of the word games and mental gymnastics you all like to go through to cloud the issues, the simple fact is that 50 years ago black people, because they were born a different color than others, were refused the power of your god. Clear cut Racism. In 1964 the Civil Rights Act passed, but it wasn’t until 1978 that your god woke up and realized Racism is bad and that it was ok for black men to have his power. Today women, because they were born a different sex, are refused the power of your god. Clear cut Sexism. Women received the right to vote in 1920 (with much opposition from the Mormon church), so the clock is ticking, when will your god wake up and realize that sexism is wrong?

    1. Allen Post author

      Dissenter, just one thing you might want to mull over: In Mormon thought, “priesthood” isn’t synonymous with “power.” I know that such a concept is inconceivable to those who look at things through a secular paradigm, but nobody–whether they have been ordained to the priesthood or not–is “refused the power of [our] god.”

      Besides, it appears from your choice of words (being a “dissenter” and referring to “your” god) that you don’t believe in Mormonism anyway. So why would it be advantageous to you whether men, women, blacks, or whites received something that you view as of no value and having no merit?

      1. Dissenter

        And let the word games and mental gymnastics ensue. So the “priesthood” is not synonymous with “power.” Even though it is defined as “the power and authority of god”? So I should have phrased it, “… women are refused the priesthood (which is the power and authority of your god).”? And what does this add to the conversation other than to obviously mask and obscure the real issues?

        And do I have to be a practicing believing member of your religion to have a valid opinion on the matter? Excuse me for not wanting any organization whether religious, political or social to marginalize and oppress women. The Mormon church’s priesthood may hold no value for me, but it certainly holds value for the women of the Mormon church. More importantly women are denied leadership positions in the Mormon church and this is justified because they do not hold the “power and authority of god.”

        Please explain to me the logic behind refusing women the right be a bishop or stake president? Are they not capable? What is it exactly about being male that makes men uniquely capable of doing the job correctly? Perhaps the reason there is no clear concise answer is because the members of the Mormon church do not really believe women are incapable. They just would rather continue a tradition that marginalizes and oppresses women rather than admit that their church has and Should change its doctrines to match reality (i.e. Polygamy, blacks and priesthood, etc).

        1. Allen Post author

          I see. Even though you believe the priesthood has no efficacy, you want to stand in solidarity with those who do believe it and feel they are marginalized by not being able to be ordained to it. That seems rather odd to me; it would be akin to saying “I see no value in Hogwarts Wizardry, but if someone wants to believe in a fairy tale and receive a certification as a wizard, I’m going to agitate on their behalf.” Very odd, indeed.

          You are willing to support the beliefs of the women as to what they deserve (even though you consider it of no real value) simply because they want it and they want it now. You are not willing to support the beliefs of actual priesthood holders who (as you say) have the “power and authority of God,” even when official reasons are proffered. (See my link to Elder Oaks’ address in the post.)

          Taking such a position seems, to me, both intolerant and sexist. You don’t tolerate the beliefs of others (that’s the intolerant part) and you assume that when competing claims are presented, you feel a female claim is superior to a male claim, simply by virtue of it coming from a female (that’s the sexist part).

          You do raise an interesting question, though: what is the logic behind refusing women the right to be a bishop or stake president? Forget for a moment that there is no such “right,” even for men*, I don’t believe that women are incapable. (Individuals, perhaps, but not women as a group.) I do believe, however, that God establishes things according to whatever “order” furthers His work. The “logic” is God’s, not mine or, for that matter, anyone else’s in the Church. So far, in this dispensation, that has meant that priesthood ordination is granted only to men. Could that change? Sure. Will it change? I don’t know, but I trust God.


          * One exception: The sons of Aaron, according to scripture, have a right to the office of bishop. Even then, the bestowal of that right must be approved by the president of the Church. No such exception exists for the office of stake president. I know of no “sons of Aaron” that have been identified within the entire history of the Church, so it is effectively safe to say that “nobody has a right to either office.”

          1. Jacob Irony

            Allen, dissenter may not agree with our religion but his beefs are spot on. You can mince the issue all you like chasing semantics and justifying history but the fact is there is inequality in our church and it does parallel other issues (blacks and the priesthood). You ought to at least concede that.
            Taking the real life issue and comparing it to a mythical land like hogwarts is just deluding the issue. This is a real life organization with systematic inequality, and this inequality has real life consequences.

          2. Dissenter

            For some reason I am not surprised that you compare women’s rights to believing in Harry Potter. Whether or not the Mormon church is true does not change whether or not a woman has the right to be treated equally.

            The Mormon church does not treat men and women equally. The Mormon church marginalizes women by denying them the right to hold leadership positions. The Mormon church excludes women from participating in priesthood ordinances such as blessing a newborn child. The Mormon church denies women the right to give blessings of health. Women never handle the churches finances. Women cannot baptize, women cannot pass the sacrament, women cannot conduct a sacrament meeting. Not in a fairytale land, but here in the real world. You see it happen every week.

            What is the churches justification for this?

            I understand that the church began in a time when sexism was the norm, but we have come a long way. It is way past time for the Mormon church to stop clinging to its sexist past and embrace the progression that society has made.

            Why is it so wrong to petition the church leadership to change? They have changed before on major issues. To be honest, I expect the Mormon church will eventually give women the priesthood. They will probably eventually accept homosexuality and perform gay marriages in the temple. It is just frustrating that it will do so a half century after it should.

            Also, an asterisk about whether or not anyone has the “right” to the priesthood? This is what I mean by word games.

          3. Allen Post author

            Jacob, I didn’t compare “real life issues” to Hogwarts. I compared to Hogwart’s Dissenter’s support of women wanting to receive the priesthood. Dissenter is the one who thinks the priesthood has no efficacy. Dissenter is the one who believes there is no “Mormon god.” (If there is no God, then of what value is the priesthood? In Dissenter’s eyes, absolutely none.)

            Yet, Dissenter is happy to argue that something he/she thinks is of no value should be given to women simply because the women want it. I’m not questioning women getting the priesthood. As I said in an earlier comment, it could change, and I trust God in that department. I’m questioning the position (Dissenter’s position) of saying that women should be given something of no value.

    2. Heather

      Sorry. I just can’t let one of your statements slide. The church actually supported the suffrage movement and The Utah territory allowed women to vote before the US ever granted women that right.

      1. Dissenter

        Good, I am glad I got a few people thinking and checking history! You are correct, Utah territory was the second territory to allow women the right to vote. As Utah.gov’s website on women’s suffrage in Utah states, “Brigham Young and others realized that giving Utah women the vote would not mean the end of polygamy, but it could change the predominant national image of Utah women as downtrodden and oppressed and could help to stem a tide of antipolygamy legislation by Congress. With no dissenting votes, the territorial legislature passed an act giving the vote (but not the right to hold office) to women on 10 February 1869.” So noble and generous of the Mormon church to bring women’s suffrage to Utah territory, “…the vote came to Utah women in 1870 without any effort on their part.” How did Congress react? Edmunds-Tucker antipolygamy act in 1887, which again removed women’s right to vote in Utah territory and made the practice of polygamy illegal. And finally after the Mormon church received the revelation in 1890 (just a coincidence on the timing I’m sure) that they were to no longer practice polygamy, then women’s suffrage was written into the constitution of Utah state in 1895. When I said, the Mormon church opposed women’s suffrage I was referring to characters such as Brigham H. Roberts, member of the church’s First Council of Seventy who argued against suffrage for women. So does the history lesson make it clearer how the brethren do change when enough political and social pressure are mounted on them? Is it right that women cannot give their children blessings of health? That they cannot baptize them? That they cannot be a bishop and preside over a coed congregation? That they are only ever given dominion over other women?

        1. Allen Post author


          You are obviously not interested in discussing, but in chastising and pontificating. You can go elsewhere and do that. You are banned from making comments on my blog.

    3. RMM

      Dissenter: Women received the right to vote in 1920 (with much opposition from the Mormon church)

      That is a ridiculously false statement. That’s so incorrect that it’s laughable.

      You have no idea what you’re talking about, Dissenter.

      1. Jacob irony

        You know why I find frustrating? That the leadership and a lot I the membership is acting like this request is impossible or inappropriate to even request. I would love it if instead of justifying the position and implying there is nothin that can be done the brethren would make a statement like “we will hold a special fast and seeks revelation on this topic”. It’s a living church with the ability I make radical changes. Why act like this issue is set in stone?

        1. Jacob irony

          And the precedent is SOOOO clear. The church has and can change it’s position radically even on positions it has made very firm statements on.

  17. James

    I don’t see anything wrong with the quote. The author of this blog has no clue where the creator of the meme got the quote from, yet he keeps asserting that it was extracted from an “anti-mormon” source. Many anti-mormon sources are actually just a compilation of quotes from old prophets or apostles and are, in fact, correct. Most people won’t do the research to understand this concept, however simple it is.

    Bottom line is President Tanner did say this. Oaks also said the quote text. It’s a power struggle and a yearning to cling to the past. Women will receive the priesthood in time. And then all of these nutty people (many are people that I love) will be eating crow. Actually, they’ll claim it was a revelation from God and it just wasn’t their time before. Well, there were female prophets and priestesses in the Bible. Women perform priesthood ordinances in the temple. So…yeah, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t have it outside of the temple walls as well. No excuses.

    1. Allen Post author

      James, just a small correction: President Tanner *probably* said it; we only have the reporter’s word to go on. And Oaks didn’t say what the graphic creator says he said. (Refer, again, to my comment about the antecedent of “they” not referring to “women,” as the quote says it does.)

      You say I have “no clue where the creator of the meme got the quote,” yet you seem content in your conclusion that “it’s a power struggle and a yearning to cling to the past.” I happened to provide more evidence for where the creator got the quote than you did for the assertion concerning power struggles and yearnings.

  18. Will Roberts

    This article made me laugh so much. Sure, you showed that the graphic is misleading, but you still have this racist, misogynistic, homophobic church and god to defend. Give ’em a few more years when the lawsuits and social pressure catch up and suddenly the prophet will have a revelation and you can all pretend that none of the discrimination ever happened.

  19. NW

    I am at least satisfied knowing the LDS church has the capacity to change the stances it has held for a long time. As man kind progresses, so must our governing laws and naturally, Religion must follow. What is relevant today will not always be so relevant in our future. Race back then, gender equality now…I am sure you see where I am going with this.

    What is the point of speaking out about the religion you believe in or questioning another persons belief if you know it will not have any consequence on the outcome? There is none. It will change when we are ready for it.

    1. Dissenter

      Believe it or not but for change to happen, individual peoples opinions have to change. I’d rather not wait around until everyone magically becomes “ready” spontaneously. Speaking out is how people know that these issues exist. Most members of the Mormon church think women getting the priesthood is “silly” and that is a Problem. Until more people voice their opinion that is not going to change on its own. Sorry I do not believe any of our words are so meaningless.

  20. Nick Boyer

    The details of the matter were factually corrected in the blog but the substance of the meme was not argued against. It feels like you’re straining at the gnat, here. Because you’re research might have caused someone to question the validity of Tanner’s actual quote and the “they” being the brethren and not the women in Oaks’ quote,
    you said “Errors aside, President Tanner was correct in his statement: There was nothing ‘we’ (the Church leaders) could do to make the change. However, it goes without saying that God can do whatever God wants.”

    Which is what both leaders were saying. I don’t think any believing Mormon could argue that idea that God reveals new things that can change policy. So, the meme was saying basically that there could be a change even if the leaders currently now say that their hands are tied due to God’s unwillingness to reveal.

    In other words, your post stripped away some lazy person’s meme making skills but did nothing to argue against the point the meme was making which was leaders today say things that leaders tomorrow may change.

    1. Allen Post author

      Nick, it was not my desire or intent to argue against the “substance of the meme.” Anti-Mormons often use the N. Eldon Tanner quote for various purposes. In my blog post I pointed out that whoever created the graphic pulled the quote not from the original, but from anti-Mormon sources.

      Consider that for a moment: the quote came from anti-Mormon sources. In other words, the creator of the graphic felt enough trust in the source where he or she read the quote that he or she accepted it, without reservation, and made the graphic less than 12 hours after Elder Oaks’ address in priesthood meeting. Had the creator’s purpose been to provide an insight into how revelation occurs in the Church, would they have been so quick to accept, as authoritative, a quote from a source they should have intrinsically questioned? At a very minimum they should have done some “fact checking” to make sure that a source diametrically opposed to the efforts of the Church was “getting it right.” But they didn’t; the timeline doesn’t allow them to have done so.

      Now, combine that with the fact that they misrepresented what Elder Oaks said (by getting the antecedent to “they” incorrect) and one can reasonably question whether their purpose in creating the graphic was to help people understand how things happen (or could happen) in the Church.

      That is what I was looking at, not at arguing against the meme. I find the graphic funny (as I said) and a bit unfortunate because of the things they got wrong and their willingness to accept, at face value, cherry-picked quotes that—at least in the minds of the anti-Mormons sources who wield them—put the Church in a bad light.


      (Important note: I’m not saying that the creator of the graphic is an anti-Mormon. There is not enough information provided to make such a determination. I am saying, however, that they accepted uncritically information provided through anti-Mormon sources. The sources we choose to trust says a lot, doesn’t it?)

  21. Adam

    Allen, great post. I loved your analysis, and I enjoy reading the comments of these “crazies” (my term) who hate the church yet still care so much that they can’t leave it alone. Joseph Smith got that right. I guess some people just take the truth to be a hard thing as the scriptures say.

    Jacob Irony, your request that the leadership of the church hold a special fast and then announce the result is odd – almost like something straight out of Hogwarts. How would this work? Would this include the Twelve and the First Presidency (the Seventy also)? Would they all fast and then hold a press conference saying, “nope, nothing yet, but Holland had a little feeling in his shoulder. Maybe something will come next month. We’ll try again?” Is there any precedence for the church announcing such things? How about being patient? I seem to remember Joseph Smith asking multiple times to let Martin Harris see some pages of the Book of Mormon manuscript. It didn’t turn out well.

    And how do you know that they haven’t prayed and fasted about this? It’s very presumptuous, at least to me, to assume that they haven’t. It seems like Elder Oaks has, and he gave a talk on it. Yet it isn’t good enough. You are already asking for them to try again “hold a special fast” until you get the answer you want. Does God have a say in this?

    To those who think that gay marriages will be performed in the temple, I’ll just say that it will be an interesting day in the history of Christianity when a sin is blessed across the altar of the temple. This isn’t a change in policy, like some think in comparing same sex marriage to granting the priesthood to all worthy men (Blacks were always told that the day would come whether in this life or next that all the blessings of the gospel would be available — see quotes above). Homosexuality has been a sin from the beginning, and I suspect it will remain one until the end.

    Finally, Allen makes a great point: Why do those who oppose the church and its policies so much care about something that has no value to them? If God is dead or doesn’t direct this church, then why all the angst? Maybe you believe more than you’ll admit?

    1. Allen Post author

      Thanks, Adam. I, too, find it fascinating that those who don’t believe the Church would agitate on behalf of granting something that they don’t believe in. Even if you don’t like the “Hogwarts” analogy, it strikes me as akin to a Russian (let’s say) agitating for a more open immigration policy in the US. The Russian doesn’t believe in the US, but wants to let more people into that country? Hmmmm…. What’s wrong with that picture? And why wouldn’t it strike the Russian as odd?

      (Note to those who have a hard time getting analogies: I picked a “Russian” because they are typically diametrically opposed to the US government. I could just as easily have picked Cubans or Venezuelans. I picked someone “diametrically opposed” because it was more illustrative than picking a Brit, an Aussie, or a Scandinavian.)

  22. Bill Fox

    The official position of the LDS Church in 1967 was given to missionaries like this. It is not the negro’s time yet. I am sure that President Tanner would not have gotten that far off the reservation even in private conversations. Just like the time while our Savior was walking the earth was not the time for the gentiles to hear the gospel, it was not the Negro’s time. I met a negro member of the South London Ward in 1968 and that is sure the way he understood it. In fact Jesus said he was only sent to the House of Israel. Why because it was not their time. That stance is a whole lot different than the stance of females ever holding the priesthood. The Church stance is pretty emphatic. Also I’d say the Temple Ceremony is about as official as one can get and with very little listening one can only draw the conclusion that the current official stance of the Church will never change. BTW, I loved Elder Oaks’ talk

  23. Captain

    I don’t have a huge problem with the idea of women holding priesthood. I don’t have a problem with the idea of the church’s policy changing based on the revelations of God, I don’t have a problem with people who sincerely desire to know the reasoning behind the will of God. I don’t have a problem with asking leaders of the church to ask the Lord questions. Concerning this issue, however, there are two things I have a problem with.

    1) There is nothing wrong with requesting the leaders of the church to inquire about this issue. However, the issue I have is not letting it go. When God gives an answer, take it and let it be. It was this insistence that the Lord (or the leaders of the church) have given the “wrong” answer that led to the first 116 pages of the Book of Mormon being lost. Again, nothing wrong with inquiring with the Lord on policy changes in the church. It’s another thing, however, to claim that you sustain the leaders of the church as prophets, seers, and revelators and then act as though they received the wrong answer. It’s one or the other.

    2) I have major issues with the idea that in order for women to be equal in the church (or in modern society at all), they need to do what men do (in this case, hold priesthood authority). This is not what the church teaches, this is not what the Lord believes, and frankly, such thoughts are destructive and devalue the value of womanhood. The church teaches (as was pointed out in General Conference) that men and women are inherently different, but that does not detract from their value or worth. I have issue with the idea that women need power and authority to be valued and appreciated. Women are equal to men in value and eternal worth without having to be exactly them. The church places great emphasis on helping women young and old understand the love God has for them and the special blessings they have been given as His daughters. Saying that women need the priesthood to be valuable in the church is inherently misogynistic.

    The Gospel is true.

    1. Braden

      This is an excellent explanation of some of the same thoughts I have had on this subject. Thank you, Captain.

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