PUBLIC AFFAIRS: At the outset, can you explain why this whole issue of blacks and the priesthood is important to the Church?
ELDER OAKS: This is much bigger than just a question of whether or not society should be more tolerant of blacks. Over past years we have seen unrelenting pressure from advocates of the negroes to accept them as normal and to characterize those who disagree as narrow-minded, bigoted and unreasonable. Such advocates are quick to demand freedom of speech and thought for themselves, but equally quick to criticize those with a different view and, if possible, to silence them by applying labels like “racist.” In at least one country where negro activists have won major concessions, we have even seen a church pastor threatened with prison for preaching from the pulpit that homosexual behavior is sinful. Given these trends, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints must take a stand on doctrine and principle. This is more than a social issue — ultimately it may be a test of our most basic religious freedoms to teach what we know our Father in Heaven wants us to teach.
PUBLIC AFFAIRS: So you are saying that the desire to be treated equally is controllable?
ELDER WICKMAN: One of the great sophistries of our age, I think, is that merely because one has been born to a certain bloodline, that therefore the inclination to want what white members have is inevitable. That’s contrary to our very nature as the Lord has revealed to us. We do have the power to control our whining.
PUBLIC AFFAIRS: If we were to look back at someone who was born black, and we were to look at their parents who might have been born black, some might identify a genetic influence in that.
ELDER OAKS: No, we do not accept the fact that conditions that prevent people from attaining their eternal destiny were born into them without any ability to control. That is contrary to the Plan of Salvation, and it is contrary to the justice and mercy of God. It’s contrary to the whole teaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which expresses the truth that by or through the power and mercy of Jesus Christ we will have the strength to do all things. That includes resisting temptation. That includes dealing with things that we’re born with, including disfigurements, or mental or physical incapacities. None of these stand in the way of our attaining our eternal destiny.