A Mormon reader writes:
The LDS are now, on the whole surprisingly non-racist. I have many devout white LDS friends who have adopted African American children. And black/white married couples are much more common among LDS Church members under the age of 50 than one might imagine--given Brigham Young's racist theology and its continuation in the LDS Church until '78.
By the way, the change in '78 came about because LDS missionaries had been so successful in South and Central America. The LDS Church was building temples in those countries for use by all of the new members there, and then the Church leadership realized that because most converts had some African ancestry, they would be barred from those Temples because they couldn't be ordained Priests. So common sense (rather than "Divine revelation") mandated the theological change. Otherwise there would have been sparkling new, multi-million dollar LDS Temples south of the boarder standing virtually empty.
When I joined the LDS Church as an 18 year old in 1977, I was deeply disturbed by the racist theology. What eased my mind was finding out that the majority of LDS Church members I knew in my home-state of Virginia were incredibly embarrassed by the racist doctrine. I remember the announced doctrinal change was announced on a Friday. On Saturday the members of my Ward (congregation) were enthusiastically volunteering to go door to door with the LDS missionaries in the predominately black neighborhoods throughout Norfolk and Virginia Beach, Va. Everyone I knew was ecstatic over the change in the theology. When I attended Brigham Young University from 1979 until 1982, there were black LDS students present and more than a few interracial married couples on campus. The white LDS members seemed to WANT to reach out to blacks outside the church.
At the moment the LDS Church is experiencing the greatest growth in Latin America and Africa countries. In fact, as of 2005 the majority of LDS Church members worldwide are now NON-WHITE and non-American.
In the meantime, I left the LDS Church and am now a Reform Mormon. This new Mormon denomination returns to the non-racist, liberal later doctrines of Mormon founder, Joseph Smith. His later theology was refreshingly liberal, rational and non-Christian.
As for the reader whose LDS roommate rejected carbon dating and believed that the earth was only 6000 years old: this is a new development among the LDS and is the result, I think, of the LDS Church joining forces with Fundamentalist and Evangelicals of the Religious Right (since the early 1980s). This fellowship with the Religious Right is also why so many of your LDS readers insist that they are Christians. Before the 1980s, LDS members actually rejected the label "Christian," opting for the more Biblical label of "Saint."
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