This week the Mormon Church made the biggest changes to their scriptures in over 30 years. The most significant changes are occurring in the Mormon scripture book called Doctrines and Covenants. Two hot button issues, polygamy and racial priesthood bans, in Mormon history are shown in a different light with the new update. The issue of polygamy has been a source of great misunderstanding and misinformation that the Church has had to continual correct the public on. Much of the misunderstanding stems from current polygamy news headlines about churches not associated with the Mormon church but are linked nonetheless. The official LDS website had no news item on the new scriptural changes yet but Oregon Public Broadcasting made these observations about them by interviewing Mormon author and former Bishop Terryl Givens:
“Givens says Joseph Smith himself ordained black members of the church to the priesthood. But after Smith’s death, beginning in the late 1840s, Brigham Young apparently charted a new direction in terms, and began what became known as “the ban,” under which people of African-American ancestry were not permitted to hold the priesthood or to participate in temple ordinances. “That was a policy that remained in place until 1978. It’s really the albatross around the neck of the church, and it was for many, many years,” says Givens, co-author of The God who Weeps: How Mormonism Makes Sense of Life.
“I think that this new introduction to the revelation ending the priesthood ban is a major step forward in many ways because it acknowledges that the practice may have originated — it seems to me, this is how I’m reading it anyhow — as a matter of error or cultural and historical conditioning rather than as the will of God,” he says. “And that’s a fairly significant statement for the Church to make.”The changes also deal with polygamy. A new introduction included in Doctrine and Covenants, Givens says, declares that “monogamy is God’s standard for marriage unless he declares otherwise.” “I think that one could read that almost as an inversion of many Mormon’s historical understanding of plural marriage,” Givens says.Givens says he believes these additions to Mormon scripture show signs of a more modern Mormon Church.
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3/12 Post-script: Interestingly, the media has not picked up on this story this week which only confirms their interest in reporting on polygamy issues when it is salacious and rarely when it is setting the record straight which only perpetuates stereotypes.
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