Friday, March 2, 2012

A prayerful heart and a clarity of mind

Apologies for the double post in the last 24 hours, but I just feel like something quick needs to be said about this.  For those who have caught wind of or actually read this Washington Post article, containing racist statements made by BYU religion professor Randy Bott, I advise you to please take a prayerful step back before making rash judgments and condemning this great man.

When Bott himself told us of this experience Wednesday morning in mission prep class, he claimed that his words in the article were a misquote and a gross misrepresentation of his actual views on African Americans and their delay in receiving the Priesthood. my immediate reaction was to side with him 100%.  Perhaps I was partial to him because he is truly the most incredible educator I have ever met, for in my mind at that moment his words convinced me that certainly every accusation against him must have been false. 

I have since researched further into the situation, heard countless of harsh, accusing (though admittedly well-argued) opinions, read it from the flipside of the coin, and i have to be honest here:

my opinion has not changed

I certainly agree that he made a grave mistake in not consulting with church leaders before releasing statements of such a heavy matter, but I still feel that the reporter took much of what he said out of context and used it as an opportunity, as have so many others, to paint Latter-Day Saints in a negative light.

Again, maybe I'm biased, and I know that I would not be alone in saying this, but this man has literally changed my life.  Without his help, I would never have had the courage to become a proactive force for good in the life of my close friend who chose to get baptized.  I attribute everything I learned to help in that situation to him and the Spirit of Heavenly Father.  Because of this, I have an extreme moral dilemma in believing that somebody so in tune with the Spirit and blessed with the ability to change lives because of it would even have opinions quite as extreme and controversial as what appeared in the Washington Post.  Even if he does actually hold a basic opinion of what was written, Brother Bott is no stranger to the Spotlight, and I also have a hard time believing that he would be so careless as to say something that he knew would bring these ramifications upon himself and the image of the church.   

I do not personally believe that Bott meant for his statements or opinions, whatever they may actually be, to be passed off as an official church stance.  But as it is so easy for the world to view any statement made by a member of the church as doctrine, he definitely should have thought before saying anything.  I will agree with some of you there. But I think this comes down to is that his mistake was not in what he said, but that he said anything at all. Everyone is entitled to their opinions, as I am now sharing mine with you on this blog. But if opinions fall into the wrong hands, they can destroy lives and reputations and have an effect above and beyond what was ever intended. We've all speculated on the issue of why African Americans went so long on the Priesthood, and some of us arrive on personal explanations as to why this might be, as Bott has. I believe that Bott has an opinion on the subject, but he knows just as well as the rest of us that nobody knows for sure and never will in this life, and this is where the reporter must take the responsibility for misrepresenting what he said.

What we have now is a great man who I'm certain is deeply humiliated by a situation that got out of control.  I feel that if the article was actually accurate, he would have no shame in saying so and would fully accept the consequences, which he's having to suffer anyway.  But instead, he is asking us to think hard and prayerfully about whether or not we truly believe that he would say something like that, and I for one do not. 

However, I'm willing to for a moment play devil's advocate and consider the fact that everything I think and have said above may be false.  But in that case, it is our responsibility as Christlike members of the Church to understand that...

everybody. makes. mistakes.

...Maybe it's just my pathological need to see the good in everybody (which I won't apologize for) that makes me view this whole issue as a momentary lapse in judgment made by a wonderful man that he would like to just put in the past.  It could have been anybody.  It could have been you. 

Let us have compassion for this man, respect at how he has managed to keep a positive attitude, recognition of his undeniable ability to prepare young men and women for the mission field and drastically change lives, and hope for the future that this will all blow over, 

My two cents.

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