The Times-News from Twin Falls, Idaho on June 9, 1988 · 15
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The Times-News from Twin Falls, Idaho · 15

Twin Falls, Idaho
Issue Date:
Thursday, June 9, 1988
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Mormons try shedding racial past Washington blacks enjoy new freedom WASHINGTON (AP) - Cleeretta Smiley says she's "free at last" in the Mormon Church's new Washington Second Ward, but her 25-year-old Sunday School teacher son wishes the church had more appeal for other young blacks. jfhe Smiley s are part of a small central city congregation in a church trying to shed a past of racial exclusion. The year-old ward boundaries cover mdst of urban Washington D.C., whjch is 70 percent black. A decade after the Utah-based . Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints began admitting blacks to priesthood offices held by every active male member older than 11, Washington's only urban ward is mostly white and struggling to convert and keep black members. Ward leaders could think of only two black families who attend church as a family unit. The 400-member congregation is about 40 percent black. MosJ members are singles or couples ancLjpiany don't stay in the ward long. At Crecent Sunday service with 100 people, only abou one-fourth were blac$. , Bt church officials say some of the blac members, particularly more-recent immigrants, are faithful mem-bersj and they are having a subtle impaction traditional Mormon services. A former Nigerian legislator, Rufus Olufcba, teaches in his native, "agenda" robes and headdress to a mostly white priesthood class. The less&s are out of the church manual, but plumba adds unique phraseology and Experience to Mormon doctrine. Ms. Smiley, the ward's public com- V SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Here, is a partial transcript of an Associated Press interview with Elders Neal A. Maxwell and Dallin H. Oaks of the Morihon Church's Council of the Twelve Apostles regarding the faith's policy banning blacks from its priesthood and the reasons the ban was lifted 10 years ago: JOSEPH FREEMAN Mormons ordain first black Was the ban on ordaining black" s to the priesthood a matter of policy or doctrine? . ; MAXWELL: Well, I don't know. It certainly was church policy and, obviously, with some considerable commentary from early church leaders about it. It's difficult for me to go beyond that. OAKS: I don't know that it's possible tp distinguish between policy and doctrme in a church that believes in continuing revelation and sustains its leader as a prophet.... I'm not sure I could justify the difference in doctrine and policy in the fact that before 1978 a person could not hold the priesthood and Rafter 1978 they could hold the priesthood. AP: Did you feel differently about the issue before the revelation was given? OAKS: I decided a long time ago, 1961; or 2, that there's no way to talk ( about it in terms of doctrine, or policy, practice, procedure. All of those words just jled you to reaffirm your preju-dice'whichever it was. The only fair, just jway to think about it is to reaf-firmour faith in the prophet, and he says-ypu don't do it now, so you don't do i$ ,how. And if he says tomorrow that you do do it, then you do it. MAXWELL: Mine was similar, with FOR A NEW SUMMER LOOK Come In Today i New Location f 736 Addison Avenue East m PYTftfl Call Lynn Ricks and Jane Canfield for Your rjrjointmeTin New I V. : J; """""'i- - I IMJJJM aim r w-v i-J APLaserphoto Pam Bryant holds class In Washington D.C. Mormon Church munications director and an unofficial spokeswoman for Washington's black Mormons, has heard the Rev. Martin Luther King quoted in church, along with Mormon leaders. "What this church has given me is such a high level of freedom. I'm free, I'm free at last in that ward," she said, consciously echoing King's words. Mrs. Smiley, whose husband left her and won custody of two of their four children when she joined the church three years before the priesthood was opened to blacks, said she was ' involved in 1988 with other 'Washington-area black Mormons in setting up a regional Genesis Group to strengthen black members. But the group collapsed when its leader left the church last year. For years, Mrs. Smiley and other black Mormons had been trying to get policy occasions church the sense of expectation that the direction would some from heaven at some time.... As we went to the upper room, we sang a song. I regard myself as a pretty good reader of what is going on (but) I had no inkling of what was going on. And as we knelt down to pray, the spirit told me what it was going to be ... and after that prayer, President Kimball began the description. I began to weep. AP: It appears that prior to 1978, there was a lack of unanimity among the brethren regarding the origin and efficacy of the policy. We understand 10 of the Council of the Twelve voted in 1969 to lift the ban as an administrative procedure, but the plan was overturned by Harold B. Lee. MAXWELL: These are things about which I wouldn't have any knowledge. OAKS: That's a new one to me, too. AP: To follow up, just for the sake of argument, in your ',, deliberations on any issue, is unanimity required for a decision? MAXWELL: The scripture does lay a requirement of unanimity upon us, and I think that is adhered to, not in a nitpicky way, but it is substantial. AP: Does a policy such as this, the priesthood prohibition, require a revelation to change, or can it be done through discourse among the brethren? MAXWELL: I think anything as major and significant as this would have required the spiritual endorse- ' , h , I ,, , , .-; ' , ' v-r- - ' - """J)U'-WUI i"!wiim i'iiiiiMWMWwwwiWWawwtBii,.M -r-rmi m "-'I 1 ' I III. Ii .ii.nh.u L..I .IT, ww ,,,,1 mmimsj. , " .: ?.",.;- ' - 'm"rmmmMmmmmmim iftw,ii,J-tMmTri)(tniW).i:trt))Wt , t1) J p i:J!!!!'Wri'm'J,7 "to"" "" Till mi) i in 'wnin -n-nm.i) ,! ii Ni.iwj.uuu t ; ; . ; ' j ' r , ' . " "i Vmrnm" ' , ' i mi i AhBWI- kmrnrmmmm ' ilrpi - fet- - fe ; , r- fZZ ir- . F':;.;ir""T!! ' 3t MU1 M4H!;;!'!!U!.-lu;; ai 13 1 . 540000 1 500 SQ. FT. ( Each Floor) Prime location for small business. Excellent for office space: Attourneys-Accountants, financial or speciality. Will remodel to suit tenant. Prime location on 2nd Street West, Downtown Twin Falls. Earl Faulkner: 733-1 506 a regular ward for the inner city. Over the objections of Mormon preservationists, the church several years ago sold a stately downtown chapel and divided up the city like a wagonwheel, scattering the few black members to suburban wards.. . Although the church's gleaming temple is a major suburban landmark, the city's Mormons have no chapel. On Sundays, the church leases part of the National Press Club, turning the modern downtown facility into a not-so-typical Mormon wardhouse, with bishops conferences in a 13th floor lounge overlooking the city, Sun-- day School classes in rooms named after famous journalists and sacrament services in a hall where the nation's newsmakers address the Washington press. Beverley Campbell, Washington- ment and sanction that was obviously there. AP: As much as any doctrine the ; church has espoused, or controversy the church has been embroiled in, this one seems to stand out. Church members seemed to have less to go on to get a grasp of the issue. Can you address why this was the case, and what can be learned from it? OAKS: If you read the scriptures with this question in mind, Why did the Lord command this or why did he command that,' you find that in less than one in a hundred commands was any reason given. It's not the pattern of the Lord to give reasons. We can ! GET YOUR CAR READY FOR VACATION, TOO! are stuck by the side of the road. And bring it to Transmission City where I our ?1 vears nf exrwienrfi assurs unu nf the finest service and rerjair. our 21 years of experience assure I Brinq In This Ad and Get Our. Included band and Linkage Adjustment, rnier ana U m AN SKI ISS iOW C ITV 363 2nd Ave. rriri a i"r rt i 'VU 'tf "iii i ano yuyi AH TRUST Locations m ith Tuuin Fa He armee irrm Pwortnn'eN Dhnno 7'5A.Rft7fl DOWNTOWN TWIN per month Street Level based church spokeswoman, acknowledged the church faces a challenge in attracting black Americans. "The gospel is ever true and ever the same. It does not change," she said. "And yet, the people of other cultures must feel a spiritual and emotional binding with the spiritual message. That is sometimes missing." She said the church earlier avoided having a city ward because it didn't want the appearance of segregating church members. But in a church which now prides itself in attracting all races and nationalities, there aren't enough active black members to raise the issue of segregation. Mrs. Smiley's son, Robert, said the church has little appeal to inner-city blacks, who still view it as a white, racist institution. "The church has the basic principles," he said, "but it has to change with the times." A graduate in industrial technology, he said one of his major complaints about the church is the dullness of its music. - At a recent service, the congregation sang several traditional, slow Mormon hymns a sharp contrast to the lively gospel music of Washington's predominantly black Protestant churches. Smiley, who lives with his mother, also said there is a tendency among some white Mormons to view all ' blacks as potential basketball players for the church's athletic program. A member of the bishopric, Mark Sykes, said he knew of no incidents of racial prejudice among Mormons in the area but pointed to some other problems. Church members assigned to make regular monthly visits to members' homes have been mugged in tough inner-city neighborhoods, he said. , Ward leaders try hard to make black members more active in the congregation and to make them leaders. comment put reason to revelation. We can put reasons to commandments. When we do we're on our own. Some people put reasons to the one we're talking about here, and they turned out to be spectacularly wrong. There is a lesson in that. The lesson I've drawn from that, I decided a long time ago that I had faith in the command and I had no faith in the reasons that had been suggested for it. I decided that 25 years ago, so it was very easy for me . when it was changed. AP: Are you referring to reasons given even by general authorities? 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