(NNPA)—The Mormon Church condemned racism in the church after a Brigham Young University professor said Blacks aren’t ready for priesthood.

Church officials issued a statement Feb. 29 repudiating comments published in the Washington Post from BYU religion professor Randy Bott saying Bott’s comments “do not represent the teachings and doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. BYU faculty members do not speak for the Church. It is unfortunate that the Church was not given a chance to respond to what others said.”

“The Church’s position is clear—we believe all people are God’s children and are equal in His eyes and in the Church. We do not tolerate racism in any form,” the church said.

In the article about the Black role in the church of Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, Bott told the Post that Blacks are not ready for Mormon priesthood. He compared bestowing priesthood to Blacks to giving car keys to a child. Witholding ordination is done out of protection to Blacks. “What is discrimination?” Bott asks. “I think that (it) is keeping something from somebody that would be a benefit for them, right? But what if it wouldn’t have been a benefit to them?”

He went on to explain that priests who abuse their power are sent to the lowest rungs of hell and not giving Blacks priesthood is protecting them from that.

“You couldn’t fall off the top of the ladder, because you weren’t on the top of the ladder,” he continued. “So, in reality the Blacks not having the priesthood was the greatest blessing God could give them.”

The Mormon Church quickly distanced itself from Bott’s quotes.

The church’s condemnation of Bott’s remarks echoed statements by Black Mormons about the status of Blacks in the church, which was founded in the U.S. in the 19th century. Brigham Young, the successor to founder Joseph Young, however, endorsed slavery in Utah during the church’s early days in the 19th century.

Don Harwell, president of Genesis group for African-American Mormons, said he was hurt by Bott’s remarks. “How do people come up with this stuff?” Harwell commented to ABC 4 in Salt Lake City. “I get confused and a little discouraged that people still think this way.”

While the church never barred Black membership, an intense debate about the role of Blacks in church hierarchy was not resolved until 1978 when Church President Spencer W. Kimball announced that God has “heard our prayers, and by revelation has confirmed that the long-promised day has come” in which “all worthy male members of the Church may be ordained to the priesthood without regard for race or color.”

(Reprinted from the Afro American.)

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