Ep 186 – Lowry Letters: The Follow-up Discussion

Panel Discussion

Posted June 14th, 2015

Glenn, Matt, John, Bob and Tom respond to multiple listener requests for a follow-up discussion to our recent minisode “Lowry Nelson vs. George Albert Smith.” In other words, we talk about the institutionalized racist doctrine of the Mormon Church.







  • Gail_F_Bartholomew

    You mention how the church in practice is so different now from Joe time. Given my limited knowledge I had the same impression. I do have a specific question. A few years ago I attended our local Community of Christ (ward, not sure). I did note a few differences, but only a few. The bishop was a woman and sacrament was passed at the end of sacrament meeting. That was about it. What hit me was how culturally I felt like I was at a salt lake Mormon church. The style of talks, the way the adult Sunday school class discussed the article out of the church magazine. Even it seems like how they interpret the word of wisdom as don’t drink tea, coffee, beer, and tobacco, seem to ignore the rest of the text. I am not trying to be critical of the Missouri Mormon tradition. I also am very impressed with the progressive differences with the salt lake tradition. My question is why is there so much that seems to have evolved in parallel?

    • Gail, I’m not sure which Community of Christ congregation you attended. Your experience is interesting to me because so many Mormons attend one service of Community of Christ and find it culturally foreign. I think the cultural connections are powerful but subtle. For example, most congregations don’t have “talks” — they have one talk which is called a “sermon,” which I find has a somewhat different character from an LDS talk — which nowadays is usually a metatalk on the talk previously given by a General Authority. Likewise, if you came to my congregation this morning, you would have seen me drinking coffee at the podium, because we have coffee and I tend to bring a cup with me on the stand. So, there may be parallel evolutionary trends, but the biggest differing trend is that Community of Christ is bottom-up focused rather than top-down focused, meaning you will find massive variations in individual belief, practice, and culture.

      • Gail_F_Bartholomew

        Thanks this is a very helpful response. I went to a congregation in Albany Oregon. It was about 1 year since I had really attended the salt lake church. I just listened to a few podcasts you had done and maybe an interview done on feminist Mormon housewives of one of your female apostles. My impression likely had more to do with where I was than what really happened.

      • Malachi

        Wow. I am really looking forward to attending a Community of Christ congregation when I get the chance (I’m in Taiwan right now). It sounds super interesting. And come on, free coffee! 😀

  • Jerome

    I enjoy listening to all the infants, but thank God John Hamer is on the podcast, helping preserve factuality in the discussion.

  • mike

    Im half way through. Bob try to keep up. Interesting side note, j. Rueben clark is a on record anti-semite. That comment by lowry may have been a dig at clark.

    • Matt

      Very interesting. A quick google search certainly supports this. it certainly may have been a shot at Clark specifically, but also makes sense that if Clark said anti-semetic things publicly, then other members would adopt or espouse a similar world view.

      It’s amazing the people the Church put on their School. What an embarrassment to be a graduate from the Beigham Young University’s J. Reuben Clark School of Law.

    • Dan

      You’re right I think it was a dig at J. Ruben Clark and his faction. My late Gradmother was a John Birch Society/Barry Goldwater Republican Mormon. I can remember her being pretty anti-Semitic even though she was a super sweet person. It blew my mind when she gave me her take on Martin Luther King. I had never heard anyone say anything bad about him until my grandmother let me know he was a commie, womanizing, Jew-loving, trouble maker who was dead set on ruining the country. (She was proud that Arizona had voted down MLK Day as paid holiday and she had done her part in the campaign.) It kinda shaded every conversation I had with her the rest of my life – and I try not to judge her too harshly, but that was definitely a part of her gospel.

  • cubee

    You guys speculate that in the 1952 article he’s trying to get them to nail down the doctrine, but this comes after the 1949 First Presidency statement: http://en.fairmormon.org/Mormonism_and_racial_issues/Blacks_and_the_priesthood/Statements

  • Matthew A

    Thanks for doing this guys!

  • Tim

    I loved the discussion. I’m just amazed at how much the church has changed. There is no way Lowry Nelson would have avoided excommunication in today’s church.

  • Daved6

    This remains one of the finest examples to rebut the whiners about ark steadiers, in my mind. I don’t know if you know that term, but many LDS today want to shout out the individual voice in the Church because the individual can’t be right when that individual disagrees with the prophet, or rather Church policy, doctrine, or practice.
    Lousy sons of bitches will get their due.
    Oh you guys think you’re getting off without my commentary….yeah right. You guys are dumb–particularly Randy. Just playing, ya whiners akin to those who complain about ark steadiers.
    Here’s my experience. This little rendition is awesome to discuss with LDS folks. Most agree whole-heartedly with all of Lowry’s points, but when it comes down to it, they still think Lowry exceeded his authority, or whatever, trying to instruct the Church. Unbelievably most often, they claim no racism on the part of GA Smith and co.
    Fewf! if that doesn’t demonstrate problem in the Church I don’t know what does. Please oh please, fellow Church-goers, wake up. I suppose it’s true the Church made it through racism, even though we all suffer from the effects now (our pitiable influence among black people shows that) I suppose we’ll make it through gay discrimination too. Some years down the road the members will be playing the same tune they do about racism.

  • Travis Gower

    John — any word on when Newell Bringhurst might have that book published? You made it sound far off in the future. There is definitely a big need for such a book… for me, anyway.

    • Last time I talked to Newell, it wasn’t the project next in the queue, but he’s a prolific workhorse, so I presume it will be published within 2-3 years.

      • Travis Gower

        Looks awesome. Thanks for tracking it down.

  • Eric C

    I just wanted to say how great it is to have John as part of the quorum now. Philosophically I probably align closest with Randy, but I love having someone challenge my beliefs to some degree in an intelligent fashion. Plus his knowledge of history gives you all much-improved credibility. Not that there’s anything wrong with the way it was before.