So, I was going to write this week's column about religion -- the Mormon religion. But I decided not to because, really, who wants to be subjected to 600 words of churchy stuff from a dolt?
I was going to take note of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints finally making clear that its controversial, never-resolved, 126-year prohibition on blacks of African descent being ordained to the priesthood was the product of -- drumroll, please -- racism. Specifically, the bigotry of pioneer prophet Brigham Young -- he of the namesake city, the many statues in public places and the "American Moses" nickname.
I thought I'd write about my hope that very few of my fellow Mormons would find this fact of history to be surprising. After all, Prophet Young said many awful and detestable things about blacks, which unfortunately reflected quite-common beliefs among white Americans during the 19th century -- beliefs that persist in vile pockets of American culture today.
My plan was to note that, as a sinful, poor example but nevertheless church-going Latter-day Saint, I'm thrilled my religion's website featured this coming-out-of-the-closet, so to speak, on the subject of Brother Brigham's non-doctrinal rule against priesthood ordinations for black men, and black women being barred from receiving temple endowments.
I would have pointed out that, ever since childhood, I've always wondered why, and asked the question too many times to remember: What was the justification for the ban?
I intended to argue the answers were always completely unsatisfactory.
Had I gone ahead and written on the subject, I would have mentioned a foreshadowing of this ecclesiastical admission of racism. I'd have quoted from the church's October 2013 General Conference, when President Deter F. Uchtdorf said, "And, to be perfectly frank, there have been times when members or leaders in the Church have simply made mistakes. There may have been things said or done that were not in harmony with our values, principles, or doctrine."
Those words might appear tepid and frustratingly nonspecific to observers outside the faith, I would have explained. But for insiders accustomed to parsing our leadership's Mormonspeak, that statement was a huge deal.
I would have pointed out that he said "leaders." Not "local" leaders. Not "regional" leaders. Just "leaders." It left open the possibility that top church leaders may have been wrong -- that they said or did things "that were not in harmony with our values, principles, or doctrine."
I would have concluded it was a moment that marked increased maturity in our young American-born religion. Now leaders are confident enough to let the history speak for itself.
Still, I would have asked the questions: Why did it take so long for the ban to be reversed? And, why no simple apology for the 150-plus years of grotesque pain and suffering the ban caused?
I definitely would have written that I'm thankful the church's announcement puts to rest all the bizarre and racially demeaning theories that purported to explain the priesthood ban -- theories born of the complete doctrinal vacuum on the subject: the curse on Adam's son Cain, or that blacks had been fence-sitters in the pre-mortal war in heaven.
But then I thought: None of this will matter much to those outside my faith -- people who view us like bugs under glass or mock us for our religious doctrine not lining up with theirs. I decided: Some things never change.
But, I realized, other things do: Like my church's acknowledgement that racial prejudice was the root of the priesthood ban from 1852-1978. This is one Mormon who genuinely appreciates the candor.
That's what I would have written. In case you were wondering.
Email Don at firstname.lastname@example.org.