BYU Students Plan Protest after Uproar over Professor’s Remarks

After an uproar this week over allegedly-racist remarks made by popular BYU religion professor Randy Bott, a coalition of BYU students known as the Provo Peace Forum are planning ways to protest. The students are careful to emphasize that they are not protesting Professor Bott or his comments directly, but rather that their goal is to assist generally in “eliminating racism from the modern Mormon narrative.”

On Friday, from 10:30 AM to 12:30 PM, they plan to distribute fliers on BYU’s campus that contain the statement given in italics at the end of this article. The group is also seeking to organize a student forum to discuss racism in historical and current Mormon thought and ways in which Latter-day Saints can help eliminate it from modern LDS thought. The proposal of a discussion forum has been met with some approval by various BYU professors.

However, the idea of even this tepid form of protest was met with mixed reactions by students I spoke to, with many feeling that this would simply bring more attention to a controversial issue that they feel is reflecting poorly upon the university and the Church. A few other vocal students, however, felt that this reaction is not as bold as it should be.

With the probability that Mitt Romney will be the GOP nominee, it is likely that the issue of racism in Mormon thought, past or present, will continue to be brought up by major media outlets.

Provo Peace Forum statement: As the rising generation of LDS youth, we firmly declare our love for all. We believe the passages of our holy scripture that declare us all equal before God regardless of gender, race or economic and social status. We anchor ourselves in the known and oft cited fact that the founder of our faith, Joseph Smith, was free and open to all races and creeds with the blessings that poured from his revelations.

Furthermore, we recognize the need to be completely forthright about the history of our faith which, we openly concede, is blemished in the way all human narratives are. Perhaps more than any generation before us, we want to engage in open dialogue regarding the history of our faith, both with audiences within and without the faith. We are excited that this dialogue is starting to take place both on intimate and national levels and would like to encourage all to be dutiful in their research and withhold conclusions on the international faith prematurely.

Let it be known that we students who have come together to write this, yearn to practice a pluralistic and inclusive Mormonism, which, we believe, is at the core of its very dictates.

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15 Comments on “BYU Students Plan Protest after Uproar over Professor’s Remarks”

  1. Michelle
    March 1, 2012 at 2:56 pm #

    This is so crazy! Why can’t LDS people just admit that we have been taught this for years!? I grew up hearing all the time from every part of church that blacks were “unworthy”, furthermore we had also learned in church and seminary that all people will be white in the celestial kingdom. The church is trying to back peddle and it is sad that Brother Bott is being thrown under the bus. Everyone I know including the bishop is out raged that the church won’t stand up for it’s past beliefs regardless of what they have been. Sadly, this is only a political move. It’s all because of the presidential race that includes a mormon and a black. For students protesting, dig into church history, and you will see what the church is about, and like all churches it is a messy, and disgracing mess at times!

    • Olivia Talley
      March 1, 2012 at 4:55 pm #

      There is no such thing as corrupt religion, just corrupt people. There aren’t any flaws in this church. You can take from it what you will, but the church nor the Lord are racist. We as humans are obviously not ready to learn why the priesthood was only granted to whites for a time. And you’re right, you should dig into church history, because in fact dark skin was established as a protection for Cain and his family. The Lord loves everyone the same. “The worth of every soul is great in the sight of God”

      • James
        March 2, 2012 at 7:46 pm #

        What a crock! The church is full of errors. In addition to being racist here’s something equally stupid and funnier that Brigham Young once said:

        “Nearly all the great discoveries of men in the last half century have, in one way or another, either directly or indirectly, contributed to prove Joseph Smith to be a Prophet.

        As far back as 1837, I know that he said the moon was inhabited by men and women the same as this earth, and that they lived to a greater age than we do – that they live generally to near the age of a 1000 years.

        He described the men as averaging near six feet in height, and dressing quite uniformly in something near the Quaker style.

        In my Patriarchal blessing, given by the father of Joseph the Prophet, in Kirtland, 1837, I was told that I should preach the gospel before I was 21 years of age; that I should preach the gospel to the inhabitants upon the islands of the sea, and – to the inhabitants of the moon, even the planet you can now behold with your eyes.

        The first two promises have been fulfilled, and the latter may be verified.

        From the verification of two promises we may reasonably expect the third to be fulfilled also.”

  2. March 1, 2012 at 3:11 pm #

    If it’s true that “Blacks were unworthy”, then why did Joseph Smith ordain at least one Black man? Why did women give priesthood blessings to other women out of modesty because they used to lay hands on the actual part of the body that required healing? This was later switched to the placement of hands on the head so men could do it and this was taken from women. Why did these changes occur? They are-what-they-are and we’re here now and we’ve made covenants and we’ll figure it out in time. As a woman, I want BIG ANSWERS, but as a child of God, I know I have to wait and be faithful before I get them. Be faithful. Be patient, Be obedient. Sometimes I want to be stabby, but that doesn’t work for me. :)

    • mworley88
      March 2, 2012 at 9:49 am #

      God doesn’t tell us all things, so we have faith. 3 Nephi 26:11

  3. Jason M
    March 2, 2012 at 9:25 am #

    LDS members should really read these quotes before spouting off on all the reasons for the ban:
    Church apostle Dallin H. Oaks said: “It’s not the pattern of the Lord to give reasons. We can put reasons to commandments. When we do we’re on our own. Some people put reasons to [the ban] 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’m referring to reasons given by general authorities and reasons elaborated upon [those reasons] by others. The whole set of reasons seemed to me to be unnecessary risk taking… Let’s [not] make the mistake that’s been made in the past, here and in other areas, trying to put reasons to revelation. The reasons turn out to be man-made to a great extent. The revelations are what we sustain as the will of the Lord and that’s where safety lies.”

    church member Eugene England, a professor at Brigham Young University, wrote in 1998:

    This is a good time to remind ourselves that most Mormons are still in denial about the ban, unwilling to talk in Church settings about it, and that some Mormons still believe that Blacks were cursed by descent from Cain through Ham. Even more believe that Blacks, as well as other non-white people, come color-coded into the world, their lineage and even their class a direct indication of failures in a previous life…. I check occasionally in classes at BYU and find that still, twenty years after the revelation, a majority of bright, well-educated Mormon students say they believe that Blacks are descendants of Cain and Ham and thereby cursed and that skin color is an indication of righteousness in the pre-mortal life. They tell me these ideas came from their parents or Seminary and Sunday School teachers, and they have never questioned them. They seem largely untroubled by the implicit contradiction to basic gospel teachings.

    in 1978, McConkie said:

    There are statements in our literature by the early brethren which we have interpreted to mean that the Negroes would not receive the priesthood in mortality. I have said the same things, and people write me letters and say, “You said such and such, and how is it now that we do such and such?” And all I can say to that is that it is time disbelieving people repented and got in line and believed in a living, modern prophet. Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or President George Q. Cannon or whomsoever has said in days past that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world…. We get our truth and our light line upon line and precept upon precept. We have now had added a new flood of intelligence and light on this particular subject, and it erases all the darkness and all the views and all the thoughts of the past. They don’t matter any more…. It doesn’t make a particle of difference what anybody ever said about the Negro matter before the first day of June of this year.

    • Bill McGee
      March 2, 2012 at 9:45 pm #

      So how do you explain this August 17, 1949 “Official Statement of The First Presidency” which says the ban was a commandment, and reinforces the idea that ineligibility for the Priesthood here was the result of pre mortal decisions:


      The First Presidency Statement on The Negro Question

      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.


      What the Church is saying now about the history and rationale of this is in glaring contradiction to this official statement. IMO, there needs to be a formal retraction, an admission of error, and a heartfelt apology. And an acknowledgement that sometimes the Prophet can lead us astray.

      • Kathryn
        March 4, 2012 at 7:56 pm #

        I don’t see a ‘glaring contradiction’. In the above statement he said”they are not entitled to the priesthood at the present time..” Now,”The day will come when all that race will be redeemed and possess all the blessings which we now have.” Apparently at least part of this statement has come true. Obviously that present time is over. It is now a different time. It’s good to know that even prophets don’t always understand why the Lord has said things should be done in a certain way. Their speculation as to the ‘why’ may be no more valid than my speculation. We all learn ‘line upon line.’ I’m thankful for the opportunity to learn and grow and not just have to memorize the ‘right’ answers.

        • Bill McGee
          March 5, 2012 at 2:38 am #

          The official statement in 1949 says it was a commandment. The current statement says they have no idea when or why we believed this. The Church can’t have it both ways.

          The best thing to do is admit we were wrong. That the reason Blacks were barred from the Priesthood was racism, and we’re sorry. And sometimes, like in 1949, our leaders make mistakes.

          You can try to twist these two statements to mean something else, but that would be dishonest. One or the other is simply not true. Either option has serious ramifications.

  4. March 2, 2012 at 9:08 pm #

    There are too many people in the church that have these up tight lives. You need not be this way and what is worse you put it on others, no caffeine, can’t watch TV on sunday, etc. The best part of this church is that we are given free agency, to each his own. Why is it that the few ‘outspoken’ need to push their uptightness on those that understand that truth of the doctrine? Let each person make their own choice, you are protesting a professor, he does not claim to be the Prophet or in the Twelve, he was asked a question from a national newspaper and gave his answer. I don’t want to hear your protest and neither do the majority of the students at BYU. Grow up and live the spirit of the law, not the letter of the law.

    • Bill McGee
      March 3, 2012 at 8:11 am #

      How ironic that you consider the protesters to have uptight lives, when Mormons are categorically considered to be among the most uptight people in the country. We worry about whether our caffeine is hot or cold, whether a movie is rated PG-13 or R (and is it because of sex or violence), whether women wear one or two pairs of earrings, what exactly constitutes observing the Sabbath, whether we tithe on our gross or our net income, whether you can go on a date the day before your 16th birthday, and on and on.

      Meanwhile, you insist that the rest of the world simply give us a pass when a highly regarded Church employee publicly spouts outrageously racist comments that many members agree with! Statements that were repeated from the pulpit for decades by Prophets and Apostles, and even reinforced in official “thus saith the Lord” First Presidency statements. They should ignore us when we use tithing dollars combined with money extorted from members to fight laws guaranteeing basic rights (marriage) to people (the gay community) we don’t like, or when a General Authority is the keynote speaker every year at the Evergreen conference in Salt Lake which advocates that homosexuality is a disease that can be cured, or when we relegate women to second-class status and bar them from participating in any sort of meaningful decision making in a Church that controls virtually every aspect of their spiritual and social and family lives.

      Uptight?? Give me a break.


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