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RYAN - Can you respond to the accuracy of this quote:
"Negroes in this life are denied the Priesthood; under no circumstances can they hold this delegation of authority from the Almighty. (Book of Abraham 1:20-27.) The gospel message of salvation is not carried affirmatively to them…Negroes are not equal with other races where the receipt of certain spiritual blessings are concerned, particularly the priesthood and the temple blessings that flow there from, but this inequality is not of man’s origin. It is the Lord’s doing, is based on his eternal laws of justice, and grows out of the lack of Spiritual valiance of those concerned in their first estate." (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 1966, pages 527-528)
JOEL - First of all a little about the book, Mormon Doctrine. This was Elder Bruce R. McConkie's best effort to provide Latter-day Saints with a gospel compendium to help them to instruct each other in the doctrine of the kingdom. Not he nor anyone else ever claimed it was perfect. In fact he admitted to some mistakes that appeared in the first edition and made corrections for subsequent editions. It was his best explaination of the doctrine of Christ as he understood it. As Bruce R. McConkie states at the beginning of his book:
"For the work itself, I assume sole and full responsibility."
He does not implicate the Church at all in his work. Most all church members are aware of all this, but still like to use it because of its comprehensive handling of most all gospel subjects. The church reminds us that it is Elder McConkie's understanding of the Gospel and therefore may contain opinions that do not exactly reflect the official position of the Church; especially on things where the church has no position.
Having said that, most of what is contained in that statement was true at the time he said it. Blacks were denied the priesthood and temple blessings in this life in 1966. Obviously that is no longer true. Notice the three elipses (...) between "them" and "Negroes"? Within those dots McConkie also said, that if baptized they could still become "righteous living heirs of the Celestial kingdom" and he reminds us that Brigham Young and other past prophets have told us that in the future "worthy and qualified negroes will receive the priesthood and every gospel blessing available to any man". Which of course is exactly what happened in 1978 with Official Declaration-2.
The part that is most definately not official church doctrine is where he suggests that the withholding of the priesthood was because of some lack of spiritual valiance in "their first estate". This was entirely his own opinion most likely based on scriptures that tell us that there were nobel and great spirits in the premortal life who were pre ordained to be leaders in Christ's kingdom on earth.
"Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones;
And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born." (Abraham 3:23-24)
McConkie makes an assumption that if there were nobel and great spirits there could also have been some who were not so nobel and great and uses this concept to explain why the blacks were not allowed the priesthood in this life.
This idea may have also come from something Elder Orson Pratt Pratt once said, discussing the conditions that existed in the premortal world that finally led to the War in Heaven:
"Among the two-thirds who remained, it is highly probable that there were many who were not valiant in the war, but whose sins were of such a nature that they could be forgiven through faith in the future sufferings of the Only Begotten of the Father. and through their sincere repentance and reformation.
If all the two-thirds who kept their first estate were equally valiant in the war, and equally faithful, why should some of them be called and chosen in their spiritual state to hold responsible stations and offices in this world, while others were not? If there were none of those spirits who sinned, why were the Apostles, when they existed in their previous state, chosen to be blessed "with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ?" All these passages seem to convey an idea, that there were callings, choosings, ordinances, promises, predestinations, elections, and appointments, made before the world began." (Orson Pratt, "The Pre-existence of Man," The Seer 1 (April 1853): 54-56)
But notice he prefaced his statement with "it is highly probable". From the Book of Abraham on pre-earth spirits:
"These two facts do exist, that there are two spirits, one being more intelligent than the other; there shall be another more intelligent than they; I am the Lord thy God, I am more intelligent than they all." (Abr. 3:19.)
Our pre-mortal spirits were just as different there as people are here. However, while it might be true that there were varying degree of valiance among the spirits in the pre-mortal life, there is no indication from the scriptures that this was the reason for blacks not receiving the priesthood for a time in this life.
In a more recent edition of Mormon Doctrine, following the 1978 Church priesthood revelation statement, Elder McConkie completely rewrote the section on the blacks where he included this statement:
"This new revelation is one of the signs of the times. It opens the door to the spread of the gospel among all people before the Second Coming in fulfilment of many scriptural promises. It has been received with joy and rejoicing throughout the Church and is one of the evidences of the divinity of the Lord's great latter-day work."
Even though there is scriptural support for it (Abraham 1:23-26), we don't know exactly why God denied the priesthood to the blacks for a time. Elsewhere I have offered some possible explanations. See this link
Updated statement from the Church on Race and the Priesthood (2013)