Recently in Gospel Doctrine we discussed Paul’s Epistle to Philemon. Philemon is very short epistle that doesn’t get discussed much. In short, an escaped slave named Onesimus has somehow met up with an imprisoned Paul. Many details are unclear, but Paul sends Onesimus back to his master Philemon with this epistle in hand. The purpose is for Onesimus to return to his master and ask Philemon for forgiveness.

What?

In my mind this raises any number of questions, the simplest of which the teacher raised, “What does God think about slavery?”

A member of the stake high council raised his hand and said, “I am not going to answer your question. I’m going to talk about something else.” He then proceeded to address some other aspect of the lesson and the topic was completely derailed.

I was pretty shocked. It isn’t at all clear that he was doing this to purposely subvert the teacher or avoid the discussion. But that was what happened.

So I wonder, did anyone else see a good discussion of Philemon this year? Were there any wards in the Church where the issue of slavery was discussed? And what does God think of it? He seemed opposed to Israelite slavery, anxious to uphold local laws in the case of Philemon, and wishy washy when Joseph Smith considered the question. Yet we see the institution as an incredible evil. So what is it and why can’t we talk about it?