Divine Revelation

by Luke Muehlhauser on October 25, 2010 in Christian Theology

In episode 7 of Atheist Talk, Grant Steves responds to the claims of divine revelation:

In the late 1960s, the head of the Mormon church suddenly had a revelation which said that African-Americans could now be equals within the church…

What happened to the [transcendent source of this revelation] before that time? Did he not think that way, or did he not think human beings were capable of understanding this concept until that point?

Or was it because civil rights was in the air, and the government had passed civil rights legislation, and maybe [the Mormon church] needed to get on the bandwagon?

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

D'Gisraeli October 25, 2010 at 1:30 pm

Reminds me of the old yet none the least most cited Jewish orthodox argument (except the analogies which are an attempt to cover the absence of thought), the Kuzari. Which on face sounds like a very powerful argument and it shard and known by every orthodox Jew.

It goes something like this.
A public revelation cannot be faked (unlike all other religions).
600,000 men have witnessed the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai (public revelation).
It has passed from generation to generation (Every Jew living today heard the story from his grandfather & him from his grandfather. A father would never lie to his son).
The Jewish faith cannot be wrong, therefor its correct.

(There is no tight logical formulation of this argument, so don’t ask for one).
This is the modern argument: http://www.dovidgottlieb.com/comments/Kuzari_Principle_Intro.htm

by the way Luke, please return the old them. It was more useful & my nick & email appeared automatically.


Reginald Selkirk October 25, 2010 at 2:32 pm

600,000 men have witnessed the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai

400 billion people witness me proclaiming myself God.
400 billion people can’t be wrong.
Since I’m God, you can trust that I’m telling the truth about this.


Erp October 25, 2010 at 7:25 pm

Not the late 1960s, it was June 1978 and probably from a combination of reasons such as expanding missionary efforts into countries such as Brazil where the majority of the population had some African slave ancestry (the first LDS temple in Brazil opened in October 1978), and general internal pressure.

The Mormons were getting isolated there was increasing pressure on the Boy Scouts to ban discrimination by race (LDS run troops required senior patrol leaders to be priesthood holders and Blacks could not be priesthood holders though the requirement on being a priesthood holder was lifted in 1974), universities were not scheduling athletic events with Brigham Young University (Stanford from 1969 until 1979 other schools joined later) or permitting their players to protest quietly [e.g., wearing black armbands] when competing (San Jose State in 1969) and of course unpermitted protests at competitions.


mojo.rhythm October 25, 2010 at 11:01 pm

Thought you folks might enjoy this: infuriated father tears abortion protesters a new one.


mojo.rhythm October 25, 2010 at 11:04 pm

Comes with video included ;) ^^^


Chakolate October 25, 2010 at 11:08 pm

Why? Why? Why? is everyone so enamored of iTunes? Some of us don’t want it on our computers, and some of us who are willing to download it find that our elderly OSs aren’t supported.

Please, find an additional outlet for your podcasts. Please?


lukeprog October 26, 2010 at 12:14 am


Just FYI, I don’t like iTunes. My podcasts are all available in two other sources outside iTunes.


Chakolate October 26, 2010 at 1:57 pm

Okay, now I feel dumb (not a new feeling). I failed to realize you were quoting someone else. Sorry!


Reklaw October 28, 2010 at 3:26 pm

Grant Steves’ objection might be taken more seriously had he gotten the date right. The Mormon church was pressured greatly in the 1960s, but it had cooled by the late 70s.

For the latest (and in my opinion, best) treatment of the priesthood ban lift, see Edward L. Kimball, “Spencer W. Kimball and the Revelation on the Priesthood,” BYU Studies 47:2 (2008). Ed Kimball is President Kimball’s son and biographer as well as a former law professor at BYU.

For an important article that possibly influenced President Kimball’s thinking, see Lester E. Bush, Jr., “Mormonism’s Negro Doctrine: An Historical Overview,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 8:1 (Spring 1973).


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