LDS-related seminar touches on racism, myths
FAIR organization addresses charges leveled at church
By Carrie A. Moore
Deseret Morning News
The first of three local LDS-related conferences scheduled this
month began Thursday in Sandy, with speakers touching a broad range of
topics including the faith's former priesthood ban for blacks and a
retrospective on myths surrounding forged documents.
The eighth annual FAIR Conference is convened in the South Towne
Expo Center through Friday, drawing scores of participants interested
in the organization's mission, which is embodied in its title: The
Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research.
The group "is dedicated to standing as a witness of Christ and
his restored church," and addresses charges leveled at the doctrine,
practices and leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints, though it is not affiliated, owned or controlled by the
Marcus Martins, chairman of religious education at BYU-Hawaii,
said he is often approached concerning his feelings on the LDS
Church's priesthood ban on black members, which was rescinded in 1978
by then church President Spencer W. Kimball.
Martins is a native of Rio de Janeiro, and after his conversion
to the LDS Church in 1972 became the first church member of black
African descent to serve as a full-time LDS missionary when the
priesthood ban was lifted.
"In my mind, the priesthood ban and its associated rationales
were never a part of the everlasting gospel," but part of a "mortal
law" that early church leaders felt "was the best approach at the
time," he said.
His father, Elder Helvecio Martins, was the church's first black
general authority, and was promised by President Kimball on two
different occasions in the 1970s that at some point he would enjoy
"all the blessings of the gospel," including the priesthood and LDS
Though he has been subjected to some of the excuses perpetuated
for the priesthood ban, including the idea that blacks were "less
valiant" in pre-earth life or the "seed of Cain" who was cursed by God
in Genesis, Martins maintains that some Latter-day Saints used the
former ban as a "cover" for their own racist views. Such theories were
simply "way off the mark," he said.
"Some of us even today harbor racist feelings. Conversion is a
process . . . and to be converted to the notion that we are truly all
brothers and sisters may take longer for some people than for others."
As Joseph of Egypt was sold into bondage by his brothers in the
Bible, so African Americans were sold into slavery by their spiritual
brothers, he said. "Yet my existence, and the blessings and privileges
I enjoy today, were the result of some of my ancestors being brought
from somewhere in Africa as slaves."
He said he sees no reason for church leaders to apologize for
the former ban, as some have suggested. "I've been telling people this
is the time for activity, not activism." The world is full of people
"unable to let go of the hatred of the past," he said, referencing
religious conflicts in the Middle East.
For those who hang on to past hurts over the ban, he suggested
they simply "be an example of the believers," as Paul taught in the
"The church is governed by revelation. The ban was rescinded in
1978 and not any earlier," though he said there is evidence at least
two church presidents before President Kimball had considered ending
"What falls on us now is to perpetuate whatever is good and
improve it, if possible. We need to teach the lessons of the past
without reopening old wounds."
During a session Thursday morning, former Salt Lake City Police
forensics expert George Throckmorton and former colleague, Steve
Mayfield, addressed several myths that persist some 20 years after
convicted forger Mark Hofmann murdered two people with pipe bombs to
cover his crimes.
Several of Hofmann's forgeries involved phony documents that
questioned the origins of the LDS Church, and speculation ran rampant
at the time that church leaders were trying to purchase them to keep
them from public scrutiny.
"Whenever someone says that, I remind them that matches and
paper shredders have been around for a long time," Mayfield said,
drawing a laugh from the crowd. "If they were so intent on keeping
them from the public, why would they buy and keep them?"
Some also believed that top LDS officials were pushing
investigators to offer Hofmann a plea bargain to spare church
authorities from having to testify at trial. Mayfield said that was
not the case, and Throckmorton said he never had any contact with
President Gordon B. Hinckley, who was then a counselor in the church's
Two other long-standing LDS conferences are also scheduled this
month: the Sunstone Symposium Aug. 9-12 (see accompanying story) and
Education Week at Brigham Young University, Aug. 21-25.