One of the best misunderstandings ever happened today. I was asked by a leader to help out at a "gospel discussion" after church for expatriates (expatriates are foreigners living in China - we can have gospel discussions with them but not with Chinese citizens, a rule we strictly follow). This discussion was going to be held at a popular jazz bar and night club associated with a fellow member and friend. An unusual venue, but I was able to go and agreed to help. I asked my wife if she'd come along and she graciously did. We went there straight after church, expecting to find a small gathering, perhaps two or three people in a side room or something who might want to ask about church history or something. What we found was a packed venue with dozens of people listening to Tia Fuller (yes, the Tia Fuller, saxophonist with Beyoncé's band) at the mic, sharing her story to an enthusiastic crowd apparently right after performing.

I still didn't get what was happening and wondered if this venue could possibly be meant for a religious event. It took me a while to realize that this wasn't a "gospel discussion," is was a celebration of gospel music in honor of Black History Month. And yes, it was a religious event: it was "church" the way church should be done, according to some of the performers. There were awesome musicians, mostly African-Americans now living in Shanghai, with some from other parts of the world as well. Loud, lively, fun gospel music. We sat in the smoking section with a couple of friends from the US Consulate that played a role in supporting this major event, possibly the first major gathering of gospel musicians in Shanghai, the owner of the club told me (if I understood correctly). Not every misunderstanding turns out to be this enjoyable, except for the smoke.

May all your future misunderstandings have rhythm.

By the way, having been made a little more aware of Black History Month and in light of the painful history of race issues in the Church, let me turn your attention to some useful materials that help deal with the real issues involving blacks and the priesthood. One of the most straightforward and clear things I've read on the issue is Scott Gordon's "Three Mormon Myths About Blacks and the Priesthood." I'll need to update my own writings on the topic as I further absorb and ponder the insights he brings and those offered by the other resources he links to, including Interesting stuff that may challenge your old assumptions but give you a better view of what has happened and what great blessings have finally been opened up for all.

As you read and ponder, there's an important word to keep your mind open to as a possibility associated with this issue: mistake, as in the human kind. Maybe Mistake. Or even MISTAKE. Yes, they happen, even in the Church. It's what you get, unfortunately, when you let us mortals do things, even good mortals trying to do good things. It's possible that serious mistakes can be made that can demand patience from us until they are rectified. Are you prepared for that? (Me, I prefer perfection from everyone else but me, but I guess I'm something of an idealist.) May we all be more understanding regarding the pains and mistakes of the past, and do all we can to avoid racism and other forms of bigotry today. (OK, perhaps not all racism: the excessively good treatment I get in China as a result of being white is something that the natural man in me is not quite ready to part with. I can't imagine how difficult life would be if I were on the receiving end of completely opposite treatment, facing animosity and harshness because of my skin color.)

Let me know your thoughts about the specific points Scott Gordon makes, and the points raised in the links he provides. I'm not interested, though, in the usual diatribes about how awful Mormons are for the long-gone limitations on the priesthood in the past, whatever the reasons were for that temporary policy. We've heard that a million times (well, 968,346 times, according to Google's Insult Counter Widget for Mormanity, which is plenty for now).
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