for those catching up, on Sunday night Brad Wilcox gave a Youth Fireside to the Stakes in Alpine Utah. It was available via zoom and subsequently posted to their YouTube page. It has since been removed after parts of it began to go viral. Currently, the actual footage is only available on Mormon Stories’ youtube channel (sigh, of course, side-eye). So if you’d like to see it yourself it’s available there broken up into many smaller pieces (I’m guessing to avoid copyright claims?). The portion I want to address is section #6 “P is for Priesthood.” This is the one I’ve watched in full.
The edited 38-second portion of this that originally went viral is included where he says:
“How come the blacks didn’t get the priesthood until 1978? whats up with that Bro. Wilcox? What Brigham Young was a jerk? Members of the church were prejudiced?” Maybe we’re asking the wrong question. Maybe instead of saying ‘why did the blacks have to wait until 1978?’ maybe what we should be asking is ‘why did the whites and the other races have to wait until 1829? One thousand eight hundred twenty-nine years they waited.
Now, knowing the video was selectively edited I went to the source to see the context. He continues:
And why did the gentiles have to wait until after the Jews? And why did everybody in the house of Israel, except the tribe of Levi, have to wait until …. when you look like it like that — instead of trying to feel like you have to figure out GOd’s timeline, you can just be grateful down to our socks that the blacks received the priesthood in 1978.
Okay, so YES he used very poor phraseology (the blacks, what about the whites?) — beyond that, it was a racist framing of the issue. He was using the “what about the whites” question to show it was in a list of questions that don’t matter — meaning he was precisely saying that the question “why didn’t the blacks receive the priesthood until 1978” didn’t matter because the only thing that matters is the Lord’s timing. That is racist framing. It matters to nearly every black LDS member I know and ignores the very real and diligent scholarship that’s been done on the issue. Later that night he issued an apology on his Facebook page for “a serious mistake last night, and I am truly sorry. The illustration I attempted to use about the timing of the revelation on the priesthood for Black members was wrong. I’ve reviewed what I said and I recognize that what I hoped to express about trusting God’s timing did NOT come through as I intended.” It was a racist framing of the issue, but not in the least because of how he thinks it was.
Would he be surprised to realize that although his framing is offensive, so too is his justification for the ban (also completely skipping the issue that Joseph DID ordain black men to the priesthood, and 1978 was a restoration of the original practice)? He is either 1 – ignorant of current scholarship and the mounting evidence of the racist justifications of the practice or 2 – is aware of it and his pride rejects it out of hand?? Is it possible he isn’t aware of it? because I will send him a copy of Paul Reeve’s book for free.
In this #6 clip he also talks about how his children used to “play church” and that is what all of the other religions do because they have no real authority. “Play Church.” I would wonder what the NAACP or other leaders we try to do interfaith work with would feel about this clip?
He also addresses the “women and the priesthood” issue by telling stupid stories and ultimately justifying it via pedistalization: “have *you* wondered why women can just *waltz* right into the temple without needing priesthood ordination?” Why no, in my 40 years I’ve never heard the genius idea that women are somehow specialer and more angelic and nearer to heaven and not awful dirt of the earth men who need all of these priesthood keys to open curtains for us or some other nonsense. (He also closes the fireside by threatening the youth with LOSING EVERYTHING if they leave. EVERYTHING!!)
I have many issues with *just* this 6 minute clip, let alone the rest of the fireside.
I guess what I am here to say is this: I have been around online Mormonism for ten years. The whole talk was condescending and demeaning to people who have real, valid questions about the Church and who are trying to stay. The closing remarks were manipulative using fear and shame to get people to stay. People should stay in the church because they feel the love of God here — not because their leaders scare them into submission with the threat of losing EVERYTHING.
I am post-faith crisis active member of the church that sometimes believes and sometimes hopes to believe. I have watched friends end up leaving the church over the main issues of 1 – historical and social questions and 2 – belonging; often these are combined because those who have questions feel like they don’t belong!
Somehow Brad Wilcox was able to dismiss and diminish nearly every serious valid issue questioners wrestle with, create an atmosphere that those with questions are whiny little shallow kids, and simultaneously be as offensive as possible to Black people, all members of other religions, women, etc. Sooooo was he trying to push people out the door? Because if I could describe the fireside in one word I would say “sneering”? The PR machine already has the wheels turning on the apology on the “poor words” he chose – and not the fact that he was a condescending jerk who demeaned… everyone… but people like him?
This is the best that the Church Educational System has to offer us. As far as I know he’s the most successful CES member of the EFY speaking circuit, is he not? He is so lauded within its walls he’s been promoted to YM General Counselor. He specifically was giving this fireside to *help youth STAY in the Church.* The youth of the church are today’s investigators. And all of the youth and young adults (and adults) on the edges? Having questions? Wanting to be taken seriously? And wanting to stay? This is the best that CES has to offer.
In the words of Nate Oman, “Wilcox is a great example of what’s wrong with the BYU religion department. A “professor” of scripture with a degree in instructional design. A lifetime of unearned cultural authority on theological and historical matters. It’s a bad system.”
And it’s a damn shame.