BYU responds to religion professor’s comments on race

Brad Wilcox, second counselor in the Young Men General Presidency and BYU religion professor, teaches a Book of Mormon class during Fall Semester 2021. Wilcox faced backlash on social media after making comments about race at a multi-stake fireside in Alpine on Feb. 6, prompting a response from the university. (Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)

BYU responded on Tuesday to comments made by Brother Brad Wilcox, second counselor in the Young Men General Presidency and BYU religion professor, about race and the priesthood.

Brother Wilcox faced backlash on social media after he spoke at a multi-stake fireside in Alpine on Feb. 6. He was referring to questions people ask about the previous priesthood ban on Black members of the Church. Brother Wilcox released an apology on Feb. 7 on Facebook which was later shared by Church News.

“My dear friends, I made a serious mistake last night, and I am truly sorry,” Wilcox wrote on Facebook. “The illustration I attempted to use about the timing of the revelation on the priesthood for Black members was wrong.”

He said what he hoped to express about trusting God’s timing did not come through as he intended. “To those I offended, especially my dear Black friends, I offer my sincere apologies, and ask for your forgiveness. I am committed to do better.”

BYU posted a statement on Feb. 8 on Twitter about the incident:

“We are deeply concerned with the words recently used by Dr. Brad Wilcox. We appreciate his sincere apology & believe he is committed to learn from this experience. BYU remains committed to upholding President Nelson’s charge to root out racism in our institutions.”

The statement continued in a second tweet: “We are carrying out the guiding principles outlined by President Worthen in evaluating and implementing the recommendations provided by the Committee on Race, Equity and Belonging, including the creation of a new Office of Belonging.”

The controversy came from Brother Wilcox’s comparison of Black people waiting to receive the priesthood to white people and other groups having to wait throughout history. “I don’t mean to oversimplify a complex issue, but I sure think we make it a little harder than it needs to be,” Brother Wilcox said at the fireside.

“Maybe we’re asking the wrong question,” he said. “Maybe instead of saying ‘why did the Blacks have to wait until 1978,’ maybe what we should be asking is ‘Why did the whites, and other races, have to wait until 1829’ — one thousand, eight hundred, twenty-nine years they waited.”

He further gave examples of Gentiles having to wait to receive the priesthood until after the Jews and how everybody in the house of Israel except the tribe of Levi also had to wait to receive the priesthood.

Some social media users connected to BYU responded to Brother Wilcox’s fireside comments with disappointment. @SoelbergGrace tweeted, “If you begin with ‘the blacks,’ your argument is immediately invalid. If you can’t even acknowledge my humanity you don’t get to speak on my experience.”

@Kid_melodie tweeted, “His comments go against antiracist recent comments by President Worthen & President Nelson (if the antiracist claims were performative-they can/should be used for accountability). @BYU Stop ignoring the needs & presence of Black students. Racism cannot & should not be acceptable!”

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