Sunday, June 5, 1988, The Provo Daily Herald, Provo, Utah, page 21
Apostles talk about reasons for lifting ban
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – Here is a partial transcript of an Associated Press interview with Elders Neal A. Maxwell and Dallin H. Oaks of the Mormon Church’s Council of the Twelve Apostles regarding the faith’s policy banning blacks from its priesthood, and the reasons the ban was lifted 10 years ago:
[TN: Bolding in original]
AP: Was the ban on ordaining blacks to the priesthood a matter of policy or doctrine?
MAXWELL: Well, I don’t know. It certainly was church policy and, obviously, with some considerable commentary from early church leaders about it. It’s difficult for me to go beyond that.
OAKS: I don’t know that it’s possible to distinguish between policy and doctrine in a church that believes in continuing revelation and sustains its leader as a prophet…. I’m not sure I could justify the difference in doctrine and policy in the fact that before 1978 a person could not hold the priesthood and after 1978 they could hold the priesthood.
AP: Did you feel differently about the issue before the revelation was given?
OAKS: I decided a long time ago, 1961 or 2, that there’s no way to talk about it in terms of doctrine, or policy, practice, procedure. All of those words just led you to reaffirm your prejudice, whichever it was. The only fair, just way to think about it is to reaffirm your faith in the prophet, and he says you don’t do it now, so you don’t do it now. And if he says tomorrow that you do it, then you do it.
MAXWELL: Mine was similar, with the sense of expectation that the direction would some [TN: sic] from heaven at some time…. As we went to the upper room, we sang a song. I regard myself as a pretty good reader of what is going on (but) I had no inkling of what was going on. And as we knelt down to pray, the spirit told me what it was going to be… and after that prayer, President Kimball began the description. I began to weep.
AP: It appears that prior to 1978, there was a lack of unanimity among the brethren regarding the origin and efficacy of the policy. We understand 10 of the Council of the Twelve voted in 1969 to lift the ban as an administrative procedure, but the plan was overturned by Harold B. Lee.
MAXWELL: These are things about which I wouldn’t have any knowledge.
OAKS: That’s a new one to me, too.
AP: To follow up, just for the sake of argument, in your deliberations on any issue, is unanimity required for a decision?
MAXWELL: The scripture does lay a requirement of unanimity upon us, and I think that is adhered to, not in a nitpicky way, but it is substantial.
AP: Does a policy such as this, the priesthood prohibition, require a revelation to change, or can it be done through discourse among the brethren?
MAXWELL: I think anything as major and significant as this would have required the spiritual endorsement and sanction that was obviously there.
AP: As much as any doctrine the church has espoused, or controversy the church has been embroiled in, this one seems to stand out. Church members seemed to have less to go on to get a grasp of the issue. Can you address why this was the case, and what can be learned from it?
OAKS: If you read the scriptures with this question in mind, ‘Why did the Lord command this or why did he command that,’ you find that in less than one in a hundred commands was any reason given. It’s not the pattern of the Lord to give reasons. We can put reason to revelation. We can put reason to commandments. When we do we’re on our own. Some people put reasons to the one we’re talking about here, and they turned out to be spectacularly wrong. There is a lesson in that. The lesson I’ve drawn from that, I decided a long time ago that I had faith in the command and I had no faith in the reasons that had been suggested for it. I decided that 25 years ago, so it was very easy for me when it changed.
AP: Are you referring to reasons given even by general authorities?
OAKS: Sure, I’m referring to reasons given by general authorities and reasons elaborated upon that reason by others. The whole set of reasons seemed to me to be unnecessary risk taking. My experience with this was to say, I don’t know whether this is commanded in the Pearl of Great Price. I’m not positive about that commandment in relation to this. I put my faith on the president of the Church whom I sustain as the prophet. When he tells me that this is what the church does, then I’ll go with that…. Let’s don’t make the mistake that’s been made in the past, here and in other areas, trying to put reasons to revelation. The reasons turn out to be man-made to a great extent. The revelations are what we will sustain as the will of the Lord and that’s where safety lies.
AP: Do you think President Kimball had a better understanding of the reasons?
OAKS: I don’t personally. I talked to him about it. He asked me what I thought were the reasons. He talked to dozens of people, maybe hundreds of people. He talked to me about why, why do we have this. I said, ‘I don’t know, president.’ [TN: end of article]