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Reflections on Ethics 123
Revelation is no way to determine morality

by: John Tyrrell

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Thomas S. Monson, the President of the Mormon Church recently died. Other than presiding over policies ostracizing same-sex church members and their children, he was widely regarded as a largely do-nothing president. But his obituaries made a big thing about him being the last surviving witness to a "great revelation."

And what was this "great revelation"?

Back in 1978, when Monson was the youngest member of the "Quorum of the Twelve Apostles", the then President of the Mormon Church, Spencer S. Kimball, had a revelation from God that "black" men could now join the priesthood - could in future be treated just like men of all other skin colours.


Over a century after Lincoln freed the slaves, the LDS Church finally decided that all men should be treated equally. And it required a revelation from God.

Thirty years after US President Truman integrated the US armed services, the LDS Church finally decided that all men should be treated equally. And it required a revelation from God.

The US Civil Rights act outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin starting in 1964. It took another fourteen years for the LDS Church to decide that all men should be treated equally. And it required a revelation from God.

There are those believers who proclaim loudly that we get our morality from God. To me, this supposed great revelation received by Spencer Kimball constitutes clear evidence that God has no place in determining morality. Whatever the historical reasons for race-based discrimination, by 1978 it was already clear to the overwhelming majority of people in the western world that racial discrimination was immoral. They did not need any god to tell them. By then, it was clear even to many Mormons who did not need this revelation to tell them Church policy was profoundly wrong.

But still it required a revelation from God to make it clear to the President and the Quorum of Twelve Apostles that a policy instituted by their revered and racist* Brigham Young in 1852 was immoral. (By the way - that revelation only made the Church's discriminatory policy wrong from that day forward. It in no way recognized that past discrimination in the period 1852-1978 had been wrong.)

I don't expect in my lifetime to see the revelation which will tell the old white men running the LDS church that women are equal. And it will probably be the third millennium before the revelation granting equality to LBGT individuals arrives.

We can't wait on gods to reveal to Church Presidents, Popes, Apostles, Prophets (or whatever they call their leadership) the difference between right and wrong. We can manage so much better on our own.

And the fact that Thomas S. Monson, was the last surviving witness to that pathetic "great" revelation should be a source of shame, not pride, to the LDS Church. It should not have taken a revelation - and in any event, not as late as 1978.


* It was Smith’s successor, Brigham Young, who adopted the policies that now haunt the church. He described black people as cursed with dark skin as punishment for Cain’s murder of his brother. “Any man having one drop of the seed of Cane in him cannot hold the priesthood,” he declared in 1852. Young deemed black-white intermarriage so sinful that he suggested that a man could atone for it only by having “his head cut off” and spilling “his blood upon the ground.” 

Source: Why Race Is Still a Problem for Mormons by John G Turner, New York Times August 18, 2012


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