BYU religion prof Bott retiring in June

BYU religion professor Randy Bott instructs students in his Missioanry Preparation class Monday, Dec. 8, 2008. Daily Herald file photo

The popular BYU religion professor who last month ignited a public controversy over the views of the LDS Church in regard to blacks and its priesthood -- drawing a sharp rebuke from the church -- is retiring in June with plans to serve a mission.

Randy Bott's son confirmed to the Herald on Wednesday that Bott was retiring and planned to serve. This has been his father's plan for at least the last year, he said.

In a Washington Post article in February about Mitt Romney's presidential candidacy, Bott was quoted by reporter Jason Horowitz as saying that the denial of the Mormon priesthood to blacks on Earth -- although not in the afterlife -- protected them from the lowest rungs of hell reserved for people who abuse their priesthood powers.

"You couldn't fall off the top of the ladder, because you weren't on the top of the ladder. So, in reality the blacks not having the priesthood was the greatest blessing God could give them."

Bott also said that giving blacks the priesthood would be like giving a small child the car keys.

His remarks sparked an immediate negative reaction across the country, and a formal statement from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints repudiating Bott's statements. The church also expressed disappointment that in writing the article Horowitz had not contacted official church representatives.

"The positions attributed to BYU professor Randy Bott in a recent Washington Post article absolutely do not represent the teachings and doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," the statement said. "BYU faculty members do not speak for the Church. It is unfortunate that the Church was not given a chance to respond to what others said.

"The Church's position is clear -- we believe all people are God's children and are equal in His eyes and in the Church. We do not tolerate racism in any form."

The church has never released anything doctrinal as to why black men could not hold the priesthood before 1978. But past leaders, including Brigham Young, made disparaging remarks about blacks in talks to members and in writings.

In March 2006, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles told PBS's Helen Whitney that most speculation on the subject was simply folklore and should not be perpetuated.

A representative for BYU had no comment about Bott's retirement.