June 12, 2008

Loving Day

Forty-one years ago today, the Supreme Court unanimously handed down the "Loving Decision." Mildred and Richard Perry Loving had been charged under Virginia's "Racial Integrity Act," banning interracial marriages. The Loving v. Virginia ruling declared such laws unconstitutional.

A decade later, the Mormon church finally got around to lifting its own ban on ordaining black men of African descent. Nevertheless, it took at least another decade (if even then) for the church to muffle its quasi-official imprecations of interracial marriages (never codified, but "frowned upon").

In The Path of Dreams, these lingering prejudices contribute to the long estrangement between Elly's mother and grandfather. As her Aunt June explains,

The proclamation about blacks and the priesthood had just come out and not everybody was comfortable with the fact of a racially-integrated church. Scratch the surface of any Utah ward and you'll find a redneck or two.

Don't ask me to explain, comprehend, or defend it. As David Knowlton writes, the whole thing "deserves to go into the dustbin of LDS teaching," much like the ugly relationship between the Southern Baptist Convention and slavery. As June says, "People change. That's what's important."

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