Patrick Q. Mason is chair of Mormon studies and associate professor of North American religion at Claremont Graduate University. He is the author of The Mormon Menace: Violence and Anti-Mormonism in the Postbellum South.
For scholars on race in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, nothing in a recent official article on race and the priesthood was new. The forthright treatment of the subject, however, including repudiating myths that had been used to legitimate the ban on black men from the priesthood until 1978, was a matter of rejoicing for many longtime advocates of racial equality within Mormonism. The heroes of this story, however, are the black members of the LDS Church who refused to leave despite being afforded second-class status.
Nearly 50 years ago, Bob Dylan romped through a century of American warfare in his song “With God on Our Side.” From killing Indians to developing nuclear weapons, in Dylan’s view Americans acted with the hubris of knowing they had divine approval. After all, “You never ask questions / When God’s on your side.” Dylan’s verses didn’t mention the Revolutionary War, but they just as well could have.
The 19th-century Mormon kingdom emphasized the common good. Later came a shift toward personal morality as the mark of saintliness.