How do you explain that for a time Blacks were not allowed to hold the Priesthood to a person who is investigating the Church and is sincerely looking for answers? In my humble opinion, the answer that has sometimes been given that it is something that happened in history and we need to just move on only causes more confusion and hurt.
The problem with answering such a question is that we have no revealed, authoritative answers to give. Honestly explaining to the investigators that our prophets taught and acted in this manner until one received a specific revelation to do otherwise is not dodging the question. On the contrary, it’s the only authoritative answer we have to give. That’s how it used to be, but it’s not how it is today. If that agitates people, I’m afraid there is not much we can do about that.
For further information, you might suggest the investigators read the recent essay published by the Church on its web site:
Remember that it is the Spirit that converts. If an investigator feels the Spirit, he will know truth, even if he doesn’t understand everything. None of us knows everything; that is why we cling to the Spirit and the truths we learn from it. Once we have that, such questions are not threatening, even if we can’t answer them.
Here is one last thought. Consider Hugh Nibley’s parable of the plow boy:
A young man once long ago claimed he had found a large diamond in his field as he was ploughing. He put the stone on display to the public free of charge, and everyone took sides. A psychologist showed, by citing some famous case studies, that the young man was suffering from a well-known form of delusion. An historian showed that other men have also claimed to have found diamonds in fields and have been deceived. A geologist proved that there were no diamonds in the area but only quartz: The young man had been fooled by a quartz. When asked to inspect the stone itself, the geologist declined with a weary, tolerant smile, and a kindly shake of the head. An English professor showed that the young man in describing his stone used the very same language that others had used in describing uncut diamonds: He was, therefore, simply speaking the common language of his time. A sociologist showed that only three out of 177 florists’ assistants in four major cities believed the stone was genuine. A clergyman wrote a book to show that it was not the young man but someone else who had found the stone.
Finally an indigent jeweler … pointed out that since the stone was still available for examination the answer to the question of whether it was a diamond or not had absolutely nothing to do with who found it, or whether the finder was honest or sane, or who believed him, or whether he would know a diamond from a brick, or whether diamonds had ever been found in fields, or whether people had ever been fooled by quartz or glass, but was to be answered simply and solely by putting the stone to certain well-known tests for diamonds.
Experts on diamonds were called in. Some of them declared it genuine. The others made nervous jokes about it and declared that they could not very well jeopardize their dignity and reputations by appearing to take the thing too seriously. To hide the bad impression thus made, someone came out with the theory that the stone was really a synthetic diamond, very skillfully made, but a fake just the same. The objection to this is that the production of a good synthetic diamond, for the farm boy, would have been an even more remarkable feat than the finding of a real one. (Lehi in the Desert and The World of the Jaredites, Bookcraft, 1952, pp. 136–37.)