Bott, racism, and the role of a church


March 10, 2012 by J. Madson

I’ve made mistakes in my life. There are things I wish I could undo and hurtful things I wish could be unsaid. And heaven knows, I’ve rarely put the kingdom first. I have sinned or missed the mark and others have suffered for it. But I have also experienced grace.

And I’m not talking about mistakes taken away on the cheap, but the redemptive change that can come from recognizing mistakes and asking for forgiveness. And certainly not the way we humans have usually done it: by putting our sins on the back of a scapegoat and getting rid of it and feeling righteous. That may pass for religion, but a god who demands the sacrifice of another isn’t Jehovah; that’s Molech. As I see it, if we substitute others for our mistakes we don’t really believe in grace or even want to change. You would think the first step would be easy. You need to recognize your sinfulness, your complicity, that is to say, hear the cock crow and ask for forgiveness. But the thing is, you have to ask. And you can’t ask to be forgiven until you recognize your sinfulness.

So what does this have to do with Randy Bott?

It seems obvious that if you don’t recognize when you are wrong you cant really change. The more I think about what happened over a week ago, the more I fear that we have been caught up in the fever to scapegoat another victim in an effort to take away our sins. I find Randy Bott’s statements reprehensible but so is the decision of many to scapegoat Randy Bott. We can’t take away our sins by venting all the evil born of sin on one hapless victim. After all, it’s not as if he isn’t a product of the past racism and racist ban the church taught.

The church’s mistakes wont be resolved by scapegoating Bott. Gil Bailie once pointed out this all too human way of trying to cleanse sins through sacrificing others:

“They go to the killing fields, to the place of stoning, to the brow of the hill, to the gas ovens, to the lynching tree, to the show trials, to the sun god’s altar, to the firing squad, to the guillotine, to the headsman’s ax; the litany is almost endless. But the essential locale is always the same. Where does humanity go to take away the sins of the world? It goes to the Cross.”

It seems that a more Christian response would not be to throw another victim up on the cross and call it good. I don’t think the lesson of the cross was: Insert Victim – Shazam! – Out Comes Grace. Sacrificing another can’t solve your problems and it sure as hell shouldn’t ease your guilt. Part of offering an acceptable sacrifice is not being content to put others up on a cross but instead offering your own heart, broken and contrite. You don’t get to substitute someone for yourself. And at a minimum you have to recognize your mistakes and name them. You must offer your own sins regardless of the costs. Statements crafted by committees and reviewed by attorneys are not asking for grace and can’t lead to repentance. They are designed to project an image to the public while avoiding the pain and consequences that might come with an actual apology. I don’t expect the church to solve all the worlds problems, I don’t even expect it to be perfect, but I think in part what it means to follow Jesus is to have the character and dignity to admit you are wrong and ask for forgiveness. For the church to do anything less than this is to reject the atonement and the very Christianity it preaches.

And let’s assume the church undergoes that process and asks for forgiveness, what should the role of a church be moving forward?

I’m not terribly convinced that Jesus wants an organization that has political power or claims authority over other human beings and decides like little gentile kings whose in and whose out and the rules of the game. Whatever his kingdom seems to be, he makes it pretty clear that it’s not patterned after governments and political systems that exercise lordship and rule over people but instead on this radical notion of service and love even if it means you end up being a slave or giving up your life for others (See Mark 10:42-45). Where Jesus wouldn’t exercise authority, surely a church shouldn’t seek to do that in any degree. What this seems to mean is that we have to have the courage to step into that place and drink that cup. Yes, the little cup we drink from every Sunday. It’s not just about you and your issues. Supposedly we are trying to follow him. It seems to me that part of drinking that cup is:

“Simply to be the kind of person who when something begins to swirl, when the melodrama gets set in motion, when accusations are made we can, at the risk of our own reputation, our own standing in the community, our own livelihood whatever it happens to be, can we step into the breach and absorb some of that animosity and break up the little knot that is forming?”

As I see it, the atonement is an invitation to walk on the path with Jesus to Jerusalem even up to the cross if needs be. Jesus does not merely substitute himself for us but wants us to participate intimately in the atonement. The world is littered with unforgiveness and broken relationships. If we are going to have a church, it seems that part of what it should be doing is not seeking power and authority but creatively and actively identifying victims and suffering. The church won’t be able to solve everyone’s suffering but it can at least be present with them in their suffering and help them feel the mercy and grace of the gospel. And we can’t really suffer with those that suffer and teach them of grace, love, and ultimately forgiveness if we don’t believe it ourselves and are instead worried about our pride, vanity, and how we are perceived. You can project an image and try to maintain it but eventually you will be left with nothing but an image. If the church is to be more than an image then it needs to enter the Jesus story and climb up on that cross if needs be, consequences be damned. It may be you have to go through the cross to get the resurrection and perhaps its only there, in that moment, that the breath of life comes.

We are called to bring forgiveness into the world, to suffer with those that suffer and mourn with those who mourn and be an agent in the presence of whom people can begin to feel forgiveness. This includes redeeming Randy Bott and taking his mistakes and errors upon the body of the church. And ultimately this includes admitting our sinfulness, naming it, and asking for grace. And when a group is marginalized no longer creating policies and inventing doctrines that create more suffering and more unforgiveness in the world whether it be black, gays, women, or any other marginalized group.

39 thoughts on “Bott, racism, and the role of a church

  1. seedofjapheth says:

    The mormon church did have some racist doctrines in the past and that was bad however this is not unique for christian church’s. Many non-mormon church’s up until the 1950’s or so believed in “the curse of ham” which was the idea that blacks were descended of ham and were cursed with dark skin. And so the past racism in the mormon church is reprehensible however such racism also has existed in many other types of christian church’s and the christian community as a whole has to deal with the issue of past racism and this issue is not limited to the mormons alone. It is very good though to see that the mormon church and other church’s are doing some soul searching and asking forgiveness from God for past racism.

  2. Th. says:


    Note the difference between established, canonized doctrine and stuff people said.

  3. AV says:

    Brigham Young & other early Church leaders instigated some false doctrines & practices after Joseph died, that were completely contrary to what Joseph Smith taught & what the scriptures & Christ said. Things like denying blacks the Priesthood & the preaching & practice of polygamy, & allowing divorce & remarriage & resealings in the Church, (which Christ clearly taught such remarriage was adultery) & the support for slavery, & teaching that women were subordinate & not entitled to equal positions, power & authority in the Church as men, among many other false doctrines, many of which have since been repented of & set down as wrong.

    The Church has repented on the blacks & Priesthood issue, though they haven’t made a full confession as to why it was ever doctrine & admitting the early leader’s racism. Joseph of course allowed blacks to have the Priesthood.

    The Church has also repented in large part on the practice of polygamy, but still needs confess it was contrary to the scriptures & Joseph’s teachings & it needs to stop teaching it was a righteous thing back then & something that will be lived in the next life. For God is clear that polygamy is in every case an adulterous abomination & whoredom & will never be allowed by a righteous people or in the next life. If the Church ever wants to repent fully from the abusive & prideful false doctrine of polygamy it also need to stop sealing men to multiple living women, which just encourages, supports & rewards evil & men who want to leave their wife & remarry someone else & thus live ‘serial polygamy’.

    For Joseph Smith never believed in or taught or practiced polygamy. He constantly taught monogamy & warned the Saints to never fall for the vile whoredom of polygamy or the rumors & hearsay by even leaders that he preached or practiced it secretly himself, & who said he lied to the whole Church all his life. Joseph told the truth, he never preached or practiced polygamy, but those who fell for such whoredoms & adultery had to justify it by pinning it on Joseph as being from him. Sadly only a few saints back then listened to Joseph’s warnings & teachings against polygamy & thus those few didn’t lose the Spirit & weren’t deceived & led astray by false prophets & false doctrine.

    The Book of Mormon predicted this ‘latter day apostasy’ in the Church & how everyone in the Church would be led astray in these last days, except a few. Even still today, almost everyone in the Church still easily & blindly falls for the hearsay that Joseph Smith lived polygamy, without proving all things for themselves by what they scriptures, especially the BoM says. Thus almost everyone in the Church today is deceived to believe in the whoredom of polygamy & the falsehood that it was a righteous thing at one point & they just blindly accept the rampant adulterous ‘serial polygamy’ happening by those who divorce & remarry all around them today. The Church still preaches & practices serial polygamy after the death or divorce of a wife.

    Though the Church professes, with it’s words, to respect the equality of women, it’s actions reveal the opposite real truth & the Churches disrespect, inequality, abuse & subordination of women. Not to mention how most all church leaders, from the top to the bottom, seem to refuse to do their #1 duty, which is to protect women in the Church from the abuse, adultery & abandonment of their husbands. But sadly instead, the Church usually protects & supports such men in their abuse & adulterous abandonment of their wife & rolls out the red carpet for such men to remarry as many times as they want to abandon a wife & children & marry anew, while women & children are left to suffer. The Church knows better than to allow all this adultery & abuse, for numerous Prophets & Apostles have taught against such things, but unfortunately they don’t practice as they preach.

    The Church has a very long way to go on repenting for their abuse & unrighteous dominion over women. Not only for refusing to protect women from men’s abuse,etc., but they also must repent & come to accept, respect & honor women’s divine equal rights to all positions, power & authority of God in the Church; which power & authority God actually already ordained upon women in the Pre-Existence & thus they usually possess God’s power & authority & right to any & every position in the Church, in far greater degree then most men ever have or do,

    Hopefully the Church, or at least many of it’s members, can awake & repent fully for these things & others, before it’s too late. For very soon Christ & Joseph Smith will return & set things straight again, & put down all men who supported unrighteous dominion & abuse over women in the Church, home or society.

  4. I agree, the Church shouldn’t get involved in politics any more than Christ did/would.

    Professor Randy Bott teaches Church HIstory at BYU. Back in 2008 he was the highest rated professor on (see the Wikipedia article on him). He presently is the most rated professor at BYU (possibly partially because of this whole Washington Post article) and he still has a 4.8/5 rating. We aren’t talking a lightweight here. This man is known for speaking his mind and having evidence to back up his case. Just reading a few of his 300+ reviews and you’ll get a good idea of what kind of guy we’re talking about here. You may judge him to be in error on the blacks and the priesthood issue, but you also probably haven’t read as much Mormon history as he has. I would hope issues like this cause everyone to start digging to find out what Joseph Smith really believed on issues like the blacks and the priesthood, polygamy, Adam-God, etc.

    • AV says:

      I actually believe that Church leaders should be very involved in & outspoken about politics & politicians, just as Joseph Smith & Book of Mormon Prophets were.

      It would help us to judge the righteousness & true character of our local & general Church leaders better if we knew where they stood on the issues & candidates. For we can usually tell a person’s righteousness by their views on politics & which candidates they support. It would make telling true prophets from false prophets alot easier. As it is now, we know very little about the true personal beliefs & behaviors of the G.A.’s & Prophet, we only have what they say during conference to go by or occasional writings & behaviors that are allowed to be made public.

      But we must judge our leaders mostly by their actions & the decisions they make regarding members that they come in contact with. We must discern & determine if our leaders local or general, have true Charity or not, to know if they are true disciples of Christ or not, for that is the greatest test they must pass, if they want to prove worthy of our trust & following.

      Though Bro. Bott is popular with the masses, I wonder if he has studied Church History enough & possesses true Charity so that he realizes that Joseph Smith did not believe in polygamy, nor did he live it. It doesn’t seem that he has. It seems that he probably believes like most do, that Joseph lied his whole life about monogamy being God’s only law of marriage, while secretly running around after teenagers behind his wife’s back, torturing & abusing Emma beyond belief & living completely contrary to what the holy scriptures & Christ teach. Which would be an evil, disgusting, revolting & impossible thing to ever believe a true Prophet of God would do.

      • You make a good point about Church leaders being transparent about there political choices. It would be nice if they would be more open about who they are voting for. So what if they affects the vote of the membership, Oprah certainly wasn’t shy about who she was voting for. She was preaching it from her pulpit. I think the reason why they don’t is because they are afraid it might affect the Church’s 401(c)3 (tax-exempt) status. There are a lot of stipulations you have to abide by to retain that status and not swaying the vote of your congregation may be one of them. Brigham was certainly for using the pulpit to sway the direction the membership voted. He went so far as to say that if the membership were of one heart and one mind, they would all vote as a block. There certainly is power in unified numbers.

        On the topic of plural marriage, I’ve found this article to have the best arguments in its favor:

  5. AV says:

    I don’t understand why keeping our tax-exempt status is more important than leaders doing their duty to teach vital truths & warn the world about right & wrong or warn people of wolves in sheep’s clothing, which can save souls, along with our liberties?

    Since when is it right for leaders to ‘trade for money’ their divine right & obligation & calling to warn others of our awful situation. How does money save the Church in the long run? Wouldn’t having the freedom to cry repentance to the people & give crucial guidance on political matters like Joseph did, be better than all the money in the world? Why does money come before speaking the truth & saving souls?

  6. Tariq says:

    Good points, J. It is important to realize that Professor Bott is not an aberration, but that there are a lot of people in the Church, especially of the older generations (though I am sure some younger folks think that way too) who believe things like that, and the Church, as a whole, has done little before this incident to make them think otherwise. My main concern with the Church about issues of past racism is that the Church will not even admit that racism had anything to do with the priesthood ban. The official position is: “We don’t know why God had a priesthood ban…” Does it ever occur to anyone that God had nothing to do with it? People, not God, came up with the ban and it was because of racism, period. The sooner the Church can come to terms with that reality, the sooner people will stop thinking the way Professor Bott does.

    • J. Madson says:

      Tariq, I agree. We don’t know is just a way to insure racist ideas get perpetuated. Since the ban is racist on its face any defense or prevarication on this issue is racist in my view.

    • AV says:

      I don’t believe that the Church ‘doesn’t know why’ they had the Priesthood ban. They just don’t want to say why. But everyone with the Spirit knows why. For everyone knows when they do wrong, especially G.A.’s. The truth is far too obvious for them to claim ignorance. They know as well as anyone that Joseph Smith gave blacks the Priesthood & that BY refused to do the same because he believed & taught opposite to what Joseph did, not only on issues pertaining to blacks, but on so many other vital issues as well. The Church founded by Joseph was totally different than the one created by BY.

      • …or Joseph Smith taught things in secret that Brigham Young taught openly. Why would Joseph teach things in secret? I’ll answer with his own words.

        “I have tried for a number of years to get the minds of the Saints prepared to receive the things of God; but we frequently see some of them, after suffering all they have for the work of God, will fly to pieces like glass as soon as anything comes that is contrary to their traditions: they cannot stand the fire at all. How many will be able to abide a celestial law, and go through and receive their exaltation, I am unable to say, as many are called, but few are chosen.” (Documentary History of the Church Volume 6, p. 183-185)

        Evidence certainly exists for those with eyes to see.

        ” And [the Lord] said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.”
        (Isaiah 6:9-10)

        What does it mean to have a fat heart or heavy ears?

      • AV says:


        I do not believe Joseph Smith was talking about polygamy or plural marriage when he was vague about things he wanted to teach the Saints but they weren’t ready for them.

        For the Saints proved they were very willing to accept polygamy & live it. BY had no problem getting the majority to follow him after Joseph’s death & many, if not most, members of the time knew or suspected that he was living polygamy, yet they still followed him. Not to mention the fact of how polygamy spread like wildfire among the Saints & that most all of them accepted it & didn’t leave the Church once it was in full swing.

        Most members back then had heard Joseph Smith warn so strongly against polygamy his whole life, yet most members were still willing to easily go along with polygamy anyway. So it couldn’t have been polygamy that Joseph was referring to when he said there were things he wished he could teach the Saints, for that was not hard for the Saints to accept. Most men like the thought of polygamy & come to easily believe in it, even today in the Church, men still easily fall to believe in it & just accept it.

        I believe that Joseph wanted to teach the Saints more about the most powerful & Celestial principle there is, ‘perfect love’, or in other words, ‘unconditional true Christlike love’, especially for our spouse. And how it is the secret to saving & exalting ourselves & spouses & children & marriage & family for eternity.

        Righteous monogamy was what Joseph was trying to get the Saints to learn how to live, but they didn’t want to have to be that true & faithful to their spouse, they wanted whoredoms, like polygamy & divorce & remarriage instead. They did not want to be bound down to just one wife & have to learn how to love & serve her with a true love forever & sometimes women didn’t want to have just their one husband, especially if he wasn’t as righteous as they hoped yet.

        The early Saints had proven unworthy of Zion, because they didn’t have this Christlike love, & like all wicked people they easily fell for polygamy, as most all wicked societies have done throughout history. ‘Righteous monogamy’ is impossible for unrighteous people to handle, desire or live.

        It is the nature of almost all unrighteous men, to have a desire for more than one woman or wife. Satan loves polygamy & how it destroys women & children & the men who live it, & he has tried to get men to desire & live it since the beginning of the world, when he 1st got Adam’s son to start living it.

        Even the Apostles in Christ’s day had a hard time with the high concept of ‘true eternal unconditional love’ for just one wife, just like most of the Apostles in Joseph’s day didn’t want to accept that idea either, they wanted multiple women for themselves.

        When Christ told his disciples that divorce & remarriage, in most cases, was adultery & also that polygamy was adultery by the same token, (for his divorce teaching mean’t the same for polygamy – that it’s adultery to marry someone else as long as your spouse is alive), thus his Apostles wondered if it might be better for men to never marry, if they had to stay with the same one & only woman for their whole life.

        Maintaining lifelong righteous ‘monogamy’ was what Joseph was trying to teach the Saints how to do, but he fought a losing battle, they just wouldn’t listen, nor does hardly anyone today want to have such Christlike unconditional love for their spouse either. Thus most saints still easily choose to fall for the hearsay & teaching of polygamy & that Joseph preached & practiced it, without checking out Joseph’s real & proven & published testimony against it such whoredoms.

      • You stated, “For the Saints proved they were very willing to accept polygamy & live it. BY had no problem getting the majority to follow him after Joseph’s death…” If you mean that the majority that follow him, followed him into polygamy, you’d be wrong. A very small percentage of the church were polygamous even when Brigham made the practice known publicly. However, you will find that the majority of Joseph Smith’s “anointed quorum” became polygamists during the Nauvoo Era. Joseph’s own brother Hyrum had a child with his polygamous wife Mary Fielding in 1838. He was named Joseph Fielding Smith (Senior), most likely named after the prophet Joseph and he went on to become the 6th president of the church. If Joseph was opposed to polygamy, why did he give his own brother a pass on this relationship? Not only did he give him a pass, but he promoted him to co-equal prophet, seer, and revelator on January 19, 1841:

        “And again, verily I say unto you, let my servant William be appointed, ordained, and anointed, as counselor unto my servant Joseph, in the room of my servant Hyrum, that my servant Hyrum may take the office of Priesthood and Patriarch, which was appointed unto him by his father, by blessing and also by right; That from henceforth he shall hold the keys of the patriarchal blessings upon the heads of all my people, That whoever he blesses shall be blessed, and whoever he curses shall be cursed; that whatsoever he shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever he shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. And from this time forth I appoint unto him that he may be a prophet, and a seer, and a revelator unto my church, as well as my servant Joseph;”
        (D&C 124:91-94)

        You might think this is because Hyrum repented of his “abominations”, but Mary Fielding bore Hyrum another child on May 14, 1841. Again, no word of reproof from God through Joseph. It’s hard to miss how often God specifically reproves men in the Doctrine and Covenants for even seemingly minor sins. Why would God only openly rebuke the Saints for minor sins, but not major ones? To think Hyrum was committing whoredoms in God’s eyes and at the very same time being promoted by God to highest office of His Church is an extreme form of cognitive dissonance.

        In the quote I cited, Joseph was talking about more than plural marriage to be sure. There were quite a few new doctrines that he was teaching that weren’t generally being taught by Christendom at the time (for example: modern-day prophecy, the gathering to Zion, God being a evolved man and man’s potential to evolve into a god, temples/garments, and Priesthood lineage/power). Monogamy certainly wasn’t something that the churches of his time were preaching against. In fact, most churches then (and now) strongly preached in favor of monogamy and were staunchly opposed to polygamy. Men may have cheated on their wives in those days just as much as they do today, but this was due to their personal moral weakness more than due to any failing of the churches to teach them to live monogamously. Only foolish men relish the idea of polygamy. An intelligent man realize it puts an unusual amount of strain on his existing marriage to enter into a polygamous relationship and that he risks losing one or both wives when entering into such a relationship. With adultery a man has secrecy on his side (if only for awhile), but in polygamy, the women usually know about the relationship they share with their husband and jealousies naturally arise. To enter into such a relationship without the command of God is foolishness in the extreme.

      • It seems I spoke too soon concerning Hyrum. Hyrum’s first wife Jerusha Barden died in 1837, making his second wife Mary Fielding a non-polygamous wife. However, there is evidence that Hyrum was not only sealed to Mary Fielding, but he was also sealed to Jerusha in Nauvoo on May 29, 1843:

        I can understand if you doubt that this sealing ever happened, since the records are probably not publicly available.

      • AV says:


        I didn’t mean that most followed BY & lived polygamy themselves, (for I know that a minority actually lived it) but they were duped into accepting the practice of polygamy as a righteous thing (because they didn’t have the Spirit) or else they wouldn’t have believed BY was righteous & followed him to Utah or stayed there. The righteous who believed Joseph & knew that polygamy was a vile evil would have been disgusted & horrified at BY’s polygamy & would have never followed him or stayed in Utah once they realized what was being allowed & preached.

        It is only hearsay that Hyrum lived polygamy, just as it is hearsay that Joseph lived it. Both of these men left their testimonies to the world that they did ‘not’ live it. We will be judged by how we believed their published testimonies & scriptures that they left during their lifetimes, NOT by the hearsay of others after their deaths, even if the whole world believes different than their own testimonies. The majority of people have always been able to be duped, only a rare few usually can discern the real truth.

        Mary Fielding proves she did not have the Spirit, for she went along with polygamy & didn’t have the self-worth & self-respect to protect herself & her children from such abuse. Thus if she claimed that Hyrum lived polygamy then her words can’t be taken seriously, nor can any other woman who says she was a polygamous wife of Hyrum, for these women had alot to justify for their own behavior. Remember, BY taught women that lying was ok, as long as it was for what they considered righteousness.

        Yes, polygamy is foolishness, but most men will easily fall for it & believe in it themselves & live it or allow other men that abusive perk, even if they don’t live it themselves.

        I do not believe there is a righteous man today, in or out of the Church, that believes in polygamy. For the Spirit will warn them that polygamy is not right, on so many levels.

        Even today, we see that nearly all men in the Church automatically accept a belief in polygamy, because it appeals to their carnal desires, while knowing full well how abusive it is to women (for men would not want the same done to them, it doesn’t pass Christ’s ‘Golden Rule’ test). (D&C 121 warns us about almost all men’s disposition to immediately abuse women given the chance) Men just accept it without even doing any research on the subject to make sure it came from God, even though every time they read the BoM they read that it is a whoredom, but just dismiss those scriptures because they like the idea of multiple women or wives (thus the rampant porn, affairs & divorce & remarriage is in the Church), if not in this life, they like the idea of it in the hereafter.

        Just look at all the men who are gladly sealed to more than one wife, after the death or divorce of the 1st. Men in this Church like & desire polygamy, if they didn’t they would sincerely & earnestly question it & study & pray about it & God would quickly tell them the real truth about it.

        This whole polygamy thing should be put to rest just over the mere fact (let alone all that Joseph said & other ancient prophets) that ‘Christ’ himself taught that polygamy was adultery, just as any remarriage is to a 2nd living spouse is. Even if the man divorced his 1st wife 1st, Christ said it is adultery to marry someone else. Christ clearly taught that married men can’t marry any other woman, if their wife is still living.

        The members & leaders can’t see this fact today because everyone in the Church, like most in Joseph’s day did, has come to accept divorce & remarriage as not even adultery. They have completely rejected Christ’s teachings on this subject. Which started with BY, for he was the 1st to allow easy & repeated divorce & remarriage. The sacredness of marriage was completely lost back in BY’s days & has is completely lost today also. Today everyone makes a mockery of the marriage covenant. So of course BY’s people nor members & leaders today wouldn’t see polygamy as adultery, cause they all want the perk of divorce & remarriage too.

        You have to be able to accept the teachings of Christ in order to see polygamy correctly.

      • I have a question for you AV. Who were Joseph’s closest friends?

    • AV says:

      Most everyone who Joseph thought were his friends failed him & eventually turned against him. It is said that towards the last few years of his life he could trust very few people, like only Emma, Hyrum, William & a couple others.

      Emma said that she never had confidence in BY & that Joseph lost confidence in him & other apostles in his later years. William Marks said Joseph was just about to excommunicate apostles & others who were living polygamy, but then he quickly died before he was able to do that.

      • What about John Taylor and Willard Richards? Both of them stayed with Joseph in Carthage jail, risking their lives alongside him. You wouldn’t consider such men true friends?

      • I’d like to see your source for the William Marks quote about Joseph wanting to excommunicate the polygamists.

      • AV says:


        Joseph’s true friends did not believe or live contrary to what Joseph taught them & they did not try to destroy the Church that Joseph Smith sacrificed so much to restore. John Taylor started living polygamy long before Joseph’s death & lied to the whole Church about it multiple times. So, no, I don’t believe he was a true friend, he pretended to be righteous just like most of the other apostles did, who secretly desired or lived polygamy, while completely ignoring Joseph’s pleadings & warnings against it.

        For Joseph was disgusted & outraged, as he should be, with men who treated women like John Taylor & Willard Richards did. So I do not believe he would have considered such men as his true friends.

        John Taylor & Willard Richards probably did not believe that the jail incident would end like it did, no matter what they may have said later for the history books, if they had, I believe they wouldn’t have gone along.

        It also appears by multiple accounts that Willard Richards was not liked or trusted by many of Joseph’s close relative’s, his sister, his apostle brothers William & Samuel & Samuel’s daughter, etc. They all suspected WR of having something to do with Samuel’s death.

        There are many other things about these men that would make it highly unlikely that Joseph would trust them as true friends.

        But apparently Willard Richards did record this entry in Joseph’s diary:

        “(Joseph) Gave instruction to try those who were preaching, teaching or practicing the doctrine of plurality of wives or this law – Joseph forbids it, and the practice thereof. No man shall have but one wife.”
        Joseph Smith Diary, Oct. 5,1843, Church Historical Dept.

        Here is William Mark’s quote:

        “I met with Brother Joseph. He said that he wanted to converse with me on the affairs of the Church, and we retired by ourselves. I will give his words verbatim, for they are indelibly stamped upon my mind. He said he had desired for a long time to have a talk with me on the subject of polygamy. He said it eventually would prove the overthrow of the Church, and we should soon be obliged to leave the United States, unless it could be speedily put down He was satisfied that it was a cursed doctrine, and that there must be every exertion made to put it down. He said that he would go before the congregation and proclaim against it, and I must go into the High Council, and he would prefer charges against those in transgression, and I must sever them from the Church, unless they made ample satisfaction. There was much more said, but his was the substance. The mob commenced to gather about Carthage in a few days after, therefore, there was nothing done concerning it.
        After the Prophet’s death, I made mention of this conversation to several, hoping and believing that it would have a good effect; but to my great disappointment, it was soon rumored about that Brother Marks was about to apostatize, and that all that he said about the conversation with the Prophet was a tissue of lies.”
        Pres. William Marks, Nauvoo Stake Pres., RLDS Church History, 2:733.

        Also, Elder Hyrum Smith also warned the Church that polygamists when found out, will be excommunicated:

        “Bro. Richard Hewitt… states to me that some of your Elders say, that a man having certain Priesthood, may have as many wives as he pleases, and that doctrine is taught here; I say unto you that that man teaches false doctrines, or there is no such doctrine taughtm neither is there any such thing practiced here. And any man that is found teaching privately or publicly any such doctrine, is culpable, and will stand a chance to be brought before the High Council, and lose his license and membership also; Therefore, he had better beware what he is about.”
        Hyrum Smith, Times and Seasons 5:474, March 15, 1844.

      • It was pretty common for these men to deny polygamy publicly, before Brigham made the doctrine public.

        John Taylor is quoted as saying in 1850:

        “We are accused here of polygamy, and actions the most indelicate, obscene, and disgusting, such that none but a corrupt and depraved heart could have contrived. These things are too outrageous to admit of belief;”

        At the time he was married to at least two wives:

        Leonora Cannon

        Elizabeth Kaighin

        It’s quite probable that Joseph did try to stop the Church from practicing polygamy. It wasn’t a doctrine meant for the Church and they didn’t need the persecution that comes with attempting to practice it.

  7. Joseph says:

    It is true that scapegoating never really helps to heal, and I do see missed opportunities here, but there is positive in what has happened as well. This is really the first time Church leadership has come out against the whole Cain-Ham-Priesthood ban connection (even if in an indirect manner).

    Hugh Nibley pointed out in both his Abraham books (Abraham in Egypt and One Eternal Round) that Pharoah not having the Priesthood had to do with his failure to obtain it through legitimate sources, not his descent or ancestors. He could have had the Priesthood, he just didn’t. The Book of Abraham never claims that Pharoah was banned from Temple ordinances and the Priesthood. The book simply states that his claims to those things were false.

    But mainstream Mormonism has continued to hold to the “descent from Ham through Egyptus” notion, and simply believed that the previous ban was lifted in 1978. This is the closest I’ve seen to an official statement that those previous beliefs simply weren’t correct.

    Also, there are limits in my view to treating Bott as a victimized scapegoat. He hasn’t been excommunicated, disciplined, ridiculed, or thrown to the wolves. It was simply pointed out that his views, along with any other BYU professor, are not official doctrine of the Church. This is something I doubt will be well understood by a culture unused to a lay clergy having more authority than degreed and tenured professors in a religious society, but it still needed to be pointed out.

    Anyway, I realize it doesn’t heal all wounds, but it does seem to me to be a step in the right direction (even if it is hesitant one). At least now there is something to refer to when gospel doctrine instructor and/or comments try to bring up the Cain-Ham Priesthood ban notion.

    • J. Madson says:

      Or the PR wing of the church at least. It would be nice to have an official statement from the first presidency/president of church in an official setting like conference with an admission of error and apology

      When I say Bott is scapegoated, I dont have a problem with us pointing out his errors and having him accountable for them. I do have a problem with people thinking he is a bad apple or not a product of the church’s past and present racism.

      Similar to when we learned of Abu Ghraib and many tried to pretend this didnt originate higher up the chain of command

      • Joseph says:

        Good points. It would be nice to see an official apology, or last least a proclamation or statement, since many hurtful statements were made in the past in “official” proclamations. McConkie’s repudiations of older beliefs are the strongest we have, but they weren’t really apologies, and they never received the official “stamp” of being a “proclamation.” Also, leaving it to the PR department means that those clinging to racist doctrines can continue to claim, “Oh that’s just what they say to the rest of the world.” Then they will go on to claim they know the real, “secret” knowledge, much as the gnostics of old (or the John Birchers of modern times).

        In terms of Bott, again, I just don’t see him being scape-goated. But I also don’t live in Utah, so I don’t know what is being done or said in those “unofficial” channels. If he is being treated as some kind of aberration, then that is really wrong. The incorrect ideas Bott gave voice to are still, to my knowledge, fairly prevalent among the LDS, and they do come from past Church leaders. I used to believe those things.

        And I don’t see Bott or anyone else holding these notions as particularly terrible people. They have just been misinformed. For that reason alone it would, as you say, be nice to see a more official proclamation. Some would cling to false beliefs, but others would, I think, be willing to be corrected in their thinking.

  8. ConvertedandConfused says:

    In my view, Bott told the truth according to what was taught at the time. I served a mission in the south from ’77-’79. To this day, I am ashamed that I believed, and practiced, the hateful and racially superior “doctrine” taught by my church through the mission. Not only were blacks unable to hold the priesthood, but as ambassadors of Christ, we were to even avoid engaging people of color in religious discussion if at all possible and felt justified in heaping insult and ridicule on them constantly to one another.

    I love to read J Madson. A great thinker in my mind. But, the theory of “blackness” being a description of something other than that of color, takes a lot of intellectual limberness to grasp.

    In my opinion, The Corporation would have to make the same or similar argument before we would ever see a more official proclamation as apology on the matter, rather than the crafted, calculated statement that was issued. Why? I don’t see how a direct, truthful statement wouldn’t shine a white-hot spotlight on the PofGP (specifically Moses 7:8 and Abraham 1:21-27) and the whole notion of prophets not leading the church astray.

    A tough spot, as I see it. Easier if the whole historical “fleck” just went away.

    • Joseph says:


      I agree that the issue is a complex one, and I am still bothered by the use of skin color as a form of punishment in the scriptures. However, it does seem to be that such symbolism was used by ancient peoples to mean things other than just the amount of pigment in a person’s skin. For instance, looking at Egyptian art, the rulers are always represented as light skinned, while servants are portrayed as being very dark. No one in Egypt was a pale-skinned Aryan as far as I know, so there seems to me to be some kind of symbolism going on beyond actual skin color. Also note J.’s points about the Canaanites (close relatives of the Israelites, and perhaps even the same people, with the distinction between the two being a purely Biblical fiction).

      But setting aside speculation, there are some things going on here that don’t require as much intellectual limberness:

      Nothing in the Pearl of Great Price or Book of Mormon ever claims that skin color has anything to do with worthiness to hold the Priesthood, and I am not aware of anything in the Doctrine and Covenants making such claims. Joseph Smith ordained individuals to the Melchizedek Priesthood irrespective of skin color or ancestry, so he clearly saw nothing in the works he translated and revealed that meant any people could not hold the Priesthood. So the ban on holding the Priesthood occurred from Brigham Young to Spencer W. Kimball, and using revelations from Joseph Smith to justify the ban seems to me to be unfounded and ultimately wrong and even dishonest.

      I realize that still leaves us with the fact that the ban did exist during the period of time it did, and it has resulted in Church-wide racism in the faith that I belong to and associate with. Of course, racism extends well beyond those of the LDS faith, and were we the only ones with racist ideas, racism really would not be a very widespread problem.

      The reality is that, regardless of how skin color might be used to signify a particular “curse” in the scriptures, it is never mentioned as Cain’s curse, and it is never mentioned that it precludes anyone from repentance, baptism, the Priesthood, or any other ordinances (2 Nephi 26:33). Joseph Smith seemed to have come to understand that, and why that understanding didn’t remain in the LDS Church is confusing to me. But the Pearl of Great Price does not justify racism unless it is being misused. I don’t care if Mitt Romney gets past this issue and gets elected (in fact, I don’t really agree with Mitt on much, so I hope he loses), but I do look forward to a time when scriptures I believe in are no longer used to justify hateful ideas.

      • AV says:

        Joseph, do you not see that the Church fell into apostasy after the death of Joseph Smith? That the Saints rejected the teachings of Joseph Smith & wanted whoredoms instead?

        BY may have been voted to lead the Church by the deceived Saints, but not by any revelation from God. God gave the members just what they wanted, even if it was to their destruction.

        BY introduced many false doctrines into the Church not just refusing to give blacks the Priesthood, but also things like polygamy, divorce & remarriage, Adam God Theory, blood atonement, the subordination & inequality of women in the Church & home (they weren’t allowed the Priesthood either & still aren’t), etc. etc.

        None of what we see happening today & yesterday will make sense until we come to see & understand the current apostasy in the Church.

        We are responsible to judge & discern if any & all prophets are true or false, for the Lord will let a prophet lead the Church astray, especially when the members allow themselves to be led astray, as they did in Joseph’s day & as the members today will allow themselves to be easily led astray.

        No one then or now wants to have to think for themselves & question everything & everyone & have to judge prophets, for that would mean you actually would have to have the Spirit & be righteous.

        Satan absolutely loves that everyone wants to just blindly follow without question & believe that all is well & that God would never let them be lead astray.

    • Joseph Smith believed that the blacks were both descendants of Cain and Ham.

      “In the evening debated with John C. Bennett and others to show that the Indians have greater cause to complain of the treatment of the whites, than the negroes, or sons of Cain.”
      (DHC Vol. 4, pg. 501;

      “The first Sabbath after our arrival in Jackson county, Brother W. W. Phelps preached to a western audience over the boundary of the United States, wherein were present specimens of all the families of the earth; Shem, Ham and Japheth; several of the Lamanites or Indians—representative of Shem; quite a respectable number of negroes—descendants of Ham; …”
      (DHC Vol. 1, pg. 190;

      It doesn’t take an intellectual leap to figure out how the Church (even during Joseph Smith’s day) came to conclude that the Priesthood was limited to blacks.

      “Now the first government of Egypt was established by Pharaoh, the eldest son of Egyptus, the daughter of Ham, and it was after the manner of the government of Ham, which was patriarchal. Pharaoh, being a righteous man, established his kingdom and judged his people wisely and justly all his days, seeking earnestly to imitate that order established by the fathers in the first generations, in the days of the first patriarchal reign, even in the reign of Adam, and also of Noah, his father, who blessed him with the blessings of the earth, and with the blessings of wisdom, but cursed him as pertaining to the Priesthood. Now, Pharaoh being of that lineage by which he could not have the right of Priesthood, notwithstanding the Pharaohs would fain claim it from Noah, through Ham, therefore my father was led away by their idolatry;”
      (Abraham 1:25-27)

      • Joseph says:

        I do stand corrected in having forgotten the exact words in the Book of Abraham, but I do not back off of my interpretation. The reasons Pharaoh could not have the Priesthood are not given. I don’t believe that it had anything to do with race (especially since race is ultimately a fiction, a very damaging one, but a fiction nevertheless).

        Regardless of who said them, I do not regard the quotes above from Church History as doctrinal. Those were theories.

        Ultimately it is our works that determine whose children we are. Cain’s works were murder and converting life into cash. Nobody has proven better at those things in our time than the Europeans (especially those who have come to the United States).

      • Church history is a theory? That’s a new one… It sounds like a desperate attempt to rewrite history so you don’t have to come to grips with it.

      • Joseph says:

        Yes. What Joseph Smith and Brigham were recorded as saying were theories. I’m not saying it was theoretical that they said it. I’m very aware of LDS history. Joseph Smith was clear that much of what he said in the above settings were in fact theory, and not to be taken as absolute revelation. There are things that have happened and that do happen that are wrong. I don’t know of any perfect people on the earth. There is nothing desperate about what I said.

        Nice job taking my words out of context and twisting them, though. I’m sure you could be a great lawyer. That’s just not something I’m terribly impressed with, however.

    • J. Madson says:

      Here is where I argue that skin color does not apply as to the Cain story and priesthood

      As to the Book of Mormon, race is clearly an issue. But the book of Mormon subverts our notions of white superiority as Samuel the Lamanite eventually makes clear and is endorsed by Jesus himself interrupting the narrative. The “righteous” Nephites are apparently not that righteous after all, and dark skinned Lamanites when converted are more converted, more faithful, and will be the ones spared. Race is much more complex than we make it in the BoM

      • J. Madson says:

        Along those same lines the BoM foretells a day when “white” gentiles are supposed to follow Lamanite remnants. There are apparently things we need to learn from them.

      • ConvertedandConfused says:

        Thank you for the link. I re-read your article and agree 100% that using the Old Testament account, it is the stretch of hateful imaginations that turn “the mark” into blackness of skin.

        It is still the PofGP that confuses me. Was it notJoseph who identified and labeled Olimlah from facsimile #3.

        I hope not to come across as if I am suggesting any answers. I’m really trying to piece my spiritual world back together after hearing an endorsement of war for power and gain from the conference pulpit ten years ago. Before that day everything was comfortably on autopilot.

  9. Janadele says:

    Question for J. Madsen: Are you one and the same as the anti Mormon poster on TribTalk who posts at present as JMadsen ….

  10. ghostcrab says:

    Late commenting, but I think that this is the best thing I have read about the whole Randy Bott incident. Your preaching of forgiveness, mercy, and redemption is much appreciated.

  11. ghostcrab says:

    I think this is the best thing I have read about the whole Randy Bott controversy. I really appreciate your insistence on forgiveness, mercy, and redemption.

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