The cat is out of the bag, thanks to comments by a Brigham Young University religion professor, Randy Bott, in the Feb. 28 Washington Post. Bott rehashed a position once taken by early LDS Church leaders that blacks were barred from holding the priesthood because they were cursed with the seed of Cain.

Seizing the moment, Matthew L. Harris, professor of history at Colorado State University at Pueblo, pounced on the church with an op-ed in The Salt Lake Tribune on March 7, claiming that the church was now attempting to “sweep its racial history under a rug” (“Why is LDS Church denying past doctrine?” Opinion, March 10).

Harris contends that the divine-curse theory meets Mormon purity tests for doctrinal qualification as recorded by early church leaders and that Bott’s view was merely reflecting a once-commonplace doctrine. This predicament, Harris argues, places the LDS Church in a PR pickle. He presumes to know the answer to the faith’s quandary by offering this advice: “LDS leaders would be well-served to acknowledge this doctrine, apologize for it and move on.”

In other words, Harris accuses the current LDS leadership of covering up the significance of the divine-curse “doctrine” before the priesthood ban was lifted in 1978 by downgrading it to mere speculation. This may seem like splitting hairs to a casual observer, but the differential significance is not lost on the astute Mormon.

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