The Delbert Stapley / George Romney / Negro Letter, and Modern Applications

A friend just forwarded to me this letter written by LDS Apostle Delbert Stapley to then Michigan Governor George Romney dealing with Negroes, race, the LDS Church, Joseph Smith, civil rights, etc.

I know that Delbert Stapley was a very good man — so I’m not interested in piling on (now that we all have the benefit of hindsight). My questions are the following:

  • Do you find it interesting that so much importance was placed on exact obedience to the teachings of Joseph Smith by Apostle Stapley? It seems like today we’re much more willing to discount a past teaching from Joseph Smith if it doesn’t meet our modern social standards — but check out how serious he was about following Joseph’s teachings to the letter — even teaching that death follows those who dare deviate from Joseph’s teachings.
  • I also find it interesting that he quotes Joseph Fielding Smith’s book almost as if it were scripture (as we used to do with Bruce R.’s Mormon Doctrine). Again — it seems like we have come so far since then. Nowadays — if it’s not in the scriptures, or a very fundamental Mormon/Christian doctrine — we are much more liberated to believe as we wish. The church really has come a LONG way in this regard, I feel
  • George Romney is one of my new Mormon heroes, I think. That man was clearly ahead of his time, and courageous. I wonder if he ever caught heat from the brethren for his progressive stances.
  • Most importantly — if the church can be so incredibly wrong about a social/political/doctrinal teaching as they were regarding blacks/race/segregation, etc…..what modern church teachings are we perpetuating that we will look back in 50 years and also feel embarrassed by? Or are those days behind us?

This PDF is offered courtesy of the Boston Globe.



50 comments for “The Delbert Stapley / George Romney / Negro Letter, and Modern Applications

  1. FooboyX
    January 11, 2008 at 4:32 pm

    I am consistently amazed by the language from this period that illustrates the dehumanized view of African-Americans, which was reinforced in 1964 (just as it was in 1864, and 1764, etc.) by popular biblical interpretations. This reminds me of Mark E. Peterson’s talk on segregation and how despite having greater light and truth there was still a practice, and underlying desire, to treat black people as “other” i.e. they were less than human in the sense that they did not deserve the same treatment as me, a god-fearing human.

    That said, I have new found respect for people like George Romney who saw through the rheotoric and cultural obfuscations to the heart of Christ’s message and were able to embrace tolerance and compassion.

  2. Doc
    January 11, 2008 at 5:09 pm

    What do you mean you wonder if he ever caught heat? Elder Stapley was an apostle, clearly the letter IS heat. Romney clearly was a great Christian and Mormon. Clearly he saw clearly through the spirit what that meant.

    The church is a work in progress, I am sure everyone who has an issue they don’t like thinks it will be one everyone will be embarrassed by it in fifty years. Would that we were all that wise and prescient. As long as God’s hand is behind it, I think I’ll just go along for the ride. I am sure the wheat will separate from the chaff.

    OTOH, have you ever wondered how many of life’s lessons and God’s purposes were better understood 50 years ago than now? Now that the entire culture has changed being self congratulatory is easy, but what about changes that are made for the worse? What do we understand today that may be lost in 50 years? This razor can cut both ways.

  3. January 11, 2008 at 5:26 pm

    That last point is a really good one, Doc. In what ways are we damaging the church today with changes?

  4. John Nilsson
    January 11, 2008 at 5:38 pm

    I’m sure some folks think the Church is “un-damageable”.

    My fear with Church change is losing a sense of community. If we don’t have a common conversation, what is the community based on?

  5. January 11, 2008 at 6:52 pm

    That fact that George Romney was willing to stand up for what was right, even though his church was campaigning for what was wrong, is the reason the “Mormon question” would not have hurt him in his presidential bid. America was ready for a Mormon president in 1968 and it’s still ready now, if only it had the right Mormon candidate and the right campaign.

  6. Zane Chartrand
    January 11, 2008 at 6:57 pm

    I have read the letter and the referencea in the History of the Church and also Teachings of Joseph Smith and to me the difference between our teachings today and the teachings from Joseph Smith are similar to the differences between the Law of Moses and the higher law that Jesus Christ introduced when he was on the earth.

    Doc – I don’t think that we have to worry about what they will think of us in fifty years becaue the Second coming is going to happen before that (just my opinion).

  7. January 11, 2008 at 7:34 pm

    It would be interesting to read Romney’s reply that the handwriting indicates was written 3 months later. It is interesting that only Elder Stapley’s letter is out in the public arena.

    It’s also interesting that Stapley wrote the letter personally, specifically discounting it’s theological import. The passages he suggests that Geo. Romney certainly don’t indicate to me any support for Stapley’s reticence to support civil rights–racial intermarriage yes, but certainly no de-humanizing rhetoric. His historical reference relies on only part of Joseph Smith’s plan to abolish slavery. Stapley notes that Joseph Smith suggested repatriating slaves to Africa (which was done by the US in establishing Liberia) but forgets to mention that Smith suggested Texas as another alternative. The letter suggests to me a much bigger story than we’re getting from the Globe.

  8. January 11, 2008 at 7:39 pm

    My thoughts about this letter:

    1. Thank goodness Elder Stapley made it clear that he was not speaking officially for the Church, and that he recognized Romney’s right to his own political views.
    2. The view of God through the lens of the Old Testament as being a God who causes the deaths of those who favored civil rights is certainly not a view that I share, and I do not feel that is the controlling paradigm for our current Apostles.
    3. I like to think that Elder Stapley would wholeheartedly embrace Elder McConkie’s words in 1979 at a CES conference when he asked them all to forget everything he’d ever said on that subject prior to the 1978 revelation, acknowledging that he had been speaking with limited understanding.

  9. Carlos
    January 11, 2008 at 7:49 pm

    I agree that Romney caught some heat due to this letter. A member of the twelve telling you that your beliefs are contrary to THE prophet Joseph Smith? that’s talking a lot of heat.

    This letter shows the world why our church owes a public apology or at least a ‘Statement of Regret’ á là Mountain Meadows, to African americans, due to the language used and really just the argument of this letter. And that’s after considering that he does say that these are just his own personal thoughts.

    But aren’t there some modern parallels here?

    For example the thoughts of many in the church that illegals should be sent home asap, like Romney jnr; maybe the Government can sell some ‘land to pay for their repatriation’ ?????

    And generally the non-Christian attitudes towards both foreigners and gays and the sinner and especially the repented sinner in the church, and the divorced (especially men who are always blamed for the breakdown) and..and…and…..

    No wonder others consider us a cult.

  10. January 11, 2008 at 8:34 pm

    Maybe it’s just my view, but I thought Elder Stapley was quite moderate in his letter. He made it clear that he was writing as a personal friend and not as an apostle, and he stated several times that he had nothing personal against blacks. His main concern seemed to be regarding the use of force to establish civil rights if it meant going against the wishes of the American people. His tone was certainly more restrained than that of some of his colleagues.

    I believe he passed away in 1978. Does anybody know if it was before or after the priesthood revelation? I think there was one member of the Twelve who did not vote on approving the revelation, but that it was due to illness. It may be that Elder Stapley was too ill to participate and passed away shortly thereafter.

    I haven’t heard any teachings being publicly proclaimed lately that would cause us embarrassment, though some might take issue with the way teachings are expressed (such as Elder Bednar’s parable of the pickle). I suppose it depends on whether individuals are inclined to be embarrassed by teachings or policies simply because they are unpopular with the world (I am not, though I tend to be circumspect when discussing prickly issues such as same-sex marriage). Most of the embarrassment I have experienced is due to popular folklore or “member teachings”.

    • Damon Burro
      April 5, 2016 at 12:18 am

      Ha ha ha ha!!!

  11. Carlos
    January 12, 2008 at 1:00 am

    Terry, Elder Stapley “had nothing against blacks”…????

    C’mon, you need to read it again; and check these sentences:

    1) What happened to 3 presidents who supported the Negro cause -yea right it was their fault that they where shot?

    2) His Arizona ‘friend’ who championed Negro causes, then off course he drowned because of it -what a curse. His friend ‘promoted all the privileges, social opportunities, and participation enjoyed by Whites’ shouldn’t the “Negro” have that anyway because we are all free and human? Wasn’t it only a priesthood ban? And what God punished him by this terrible drowning? right!

    3) “transport them back to Africa from whence they came”! really, why didn’t Stapley go back to England from ‘whence he came’?

    4) “Smith…influence on me because they accord with my own understandings regarding the Negro” ie send them back to Africa?

    5) “I cannot…accept the idea of public accommodations; ..taking from ‘the Whites’ their wishes to satisfy the Negro” how racists is that?

    6) “recognizing the Negro in his place”, .. right? segregated? socially not free?

    7) ‘for whatever contribution he can make to the society of men”? Isn’t the “Negro” men too?

    8) “People..happier when placed in environment of …racial instincts..”??? wtf that mean if not a racists comment?

    9) “Mormonism and the Negro”…wtf? why not Mormonism and the French? ..and the Dutch???

    10) “I agree the Negro is entitled to considerations…but not full social benefits?? how racists!!

    11) “nor inter-marriage privileges with the Whites”….wtf?? again, how racists!!

    12) “..Whites be forced to accept “them” into restricted White areas”…yea, like the fricking mormon church?

    13) “Bill of Rights is vicious legislation” nough said. He just another racists remark!

    14) “Certainy I am not for exploiting racial or religious prejudices” seems good, but off course he matches up what racial prejudices does to what religious prejudices does but forgets that one cannot change ones race but can change ones religion, ie that religion is about choice but race is not.

    15) “Principle–religious or otherwise– cannot be abrogated for political expediency”..right, lets not make the ‘Negro’ free and equal because the ‘Principal’ is that he is inferior??

    16) I’m not against Negro people because I employ some! really, wtf, how is that non-racists?

    17) Recognize ‘their’ status and then provide for them…. how fricking racists is that! This only goes for prisoners, drug addicts???? and blacks off course? -wtf!

    18) Lord will not permit His purposes to be frustrated by man” what fricking purposes, be racists towards one group of people? is that the Lords purpose?

    19) ‘This letter is for your personal use only” yeap, fricking right it is!!; we don’t want the world to find out just how much of a racists ( ) you are. How much you use scripture and the Lords name to justify some racists thoughts and ways..And of course show the world how the church would act if there was a mormon in the white house…(go invade Iran, hey, we need missionaries there etc)

    I’ve written to much now but I just can’t understand how people can read this and not see the racism in it? and not see why it is that the church NEEDS to apologize for all the racists talks and attitudes of the past, and that’s not only the ban, but talks like Peterson’s one, things that Brigham Young said and many more.

  12. Eric Boysen
    January 12, 2008 at 2:25 pm

    OK, JFK & Abe Lincoln, but which other president is he refering too? Mckinley? Garfield? My Civil War to WWII history is a bit weak, I guess, but I cannot recall anything that either of them did in particular that would make them subject to the wrath of a white supremacist god. Any other candidates?

  13. Joe R
    January 12, 2008 at 2:47 pm

    I know it has been hinted at in other comments, but my intial thought while reading the letter is that it reminds me of comments by some of our current Apostles regarding homosexuality. Specifically, it reminded me of the last “public issue” report on that was posted of an interview with Elder Oaks and Elder Wickman. Also of note is the current push by Church leadership to make political decisions they believe will protect their current acceptance of marriage and family.

  14. Zane C.
    January 12, 2008 at 6:00 pm

    Every man is entitled to his own opinion. I think Joseph’s thoughts on abolition are highly instructive and intuitive. How would the transition from slavery to integration have progressed if slave holders were first allowed to be converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ, and then they in turn lifted their slaves out of slavery and into the light of the gospel and education through acts of love instead of an act of congress?

    I find the following excerpts from Joseph’s statement illuminating: “This must be a tender point, and one which should call forth the candid reflections of all men…before they…let loose upon the world a community of people, who might, peradventure, overrun our country, and violate the most sacred principles of human society, chastity and virtue.”

    Especially illuminating when considered in light of historical activism (atagonists, protagonists and agitators). Think of the effect of Louis Farrakhan, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, et al; hip hop, gangster rap, and the unprecedented percentage of single parent families, unwed mothers (teenage and otherwise), welfare, unemployment, criminal and gang activity, convicted felons, and the social dependency of large segments within the black community in America today.

    In the era you refer to, the need to allow the Church to grow and the priesthood to be given to male members without regard to potential restrictions–whether through mixed blood lines or otherwise– must have been a real concern.

    While mixed marriages can and have worked, even today, marriage is hard enough between members of the same religious, ethnic, cultural and social classes without the potential added complications of the cultural stresses and strains in mixed marriages on spouse, parents and children from the often relentless and unmitigated attacks by black and white bigots and racists.

    It should at least gives one pause.

  15. John Nilsson
    January 12, 2008 at 7:36 pm

    What is a “mixed marriage”? I’m half-Swedish and half-Celtic. My wife is pure English stock. My Scottish and Irish ancestors fought her English ancestors. My Swedish ancestors (as Vikings), raped and pillaged Britain. Does my marriage qualify as a mixed marriage? Or is this “mixed” concept based on looks?

  16. TJM
    January 12, 2008 at 7:39 pm

    In response to:
    “Nowadays — if it’s not in the scriptures, or a very fundamental Mormon/Christian doctrine — we are much more liberated to believe as we wish. The church really has come a LONG way in this regard, I feel”

    The liberty of today is pointed at the wrong doctrine. The modern leaders (of this time) make much more sense for the church. It’s the doctrine of the founders and early leaders that members should be liberated to choose against. Much of the doctrine of old is nothing more than babbled nonsense.

    In response to:
    “Most importantly — if the church can be so incredibly wrong about a social/political/doctrinal teaching as they were regarding blacks/race/segregation, etc…..what modern church teachings are we perpetuating that we will look back in 50 years and also feel embarrassed by? Or are those days behind us?”

    The position on homosexuals will be an embarrassment in 50 years. This is almost exclusively a biological phenomena. People are born with their orientation, they don’t choose it.

    • May 30, 2011 at 7:36 am

      This may be getting a bit off topic, but All the scriptures are very clear about homosexuality as sin.
      ·         That all or most homosexuals are born that way is a liberal lie, sold freely by the adversary. Studies of adopted twins and convicted pedophiles demonstrate easily that nurture, not nature is the culprit. Something like 75% of same sex pedophiles where molested themselves. People may have some spectrum tendencies – granted; gay predators seek them out and exploit them. Some so damaged individuals then reject their innate sexuality and some of them in turn repeat the cycle perpetuating and growing the perverse population.
      ·         I and I hope the Church won’t be embarrassed for protecting the children and teens any day soon nor in 50 years to come.

      • Mark
        June 17, 2011 at 10:25 pm

        75% of same sex pedophiles were molested themselves…..
        Gee, a pedophile being molested himself?! That DOESN’T MAKE ANY SENSE AT ALL! It MUST be because he’s GAY!
        What a crock.
        Also, what do twins have to do with the argument? Especially since twins DO have a higher rate of both being gay than other siblings. Your bigotry is astounding, and an embarrassment to the Mormon community, Steven Marquis.

  17. Jeff Spector
    January 14, 2008 at 9:29 am

    Everything must be judged in the context of its time and place. You can’t arbitrarily place today’s values and thinking on yesterday’s idea. No matter what we think of it. Romney is a hero for both resisting the pressure put on him by an Apostle and rejecting those ideas which Stapley personally espoused. You can’t help but be a little disgusted with the letter based on the fact that this was a guy who was part of the top leadership of the church and we all know he was not alone in this thinking.

    Nevertheless, this was commonly held belief for the time. We’d like to think that our leaders were more in tune and prgressive than the rest of society, but it is clear they were not. The church itself was, in some ways (not this one) more progressive than society in terms of welfare and some other thinking, but not race.

    “The position on homosexuals will be an embarrassment in 50 years. This is almost exclusively a biological phenomena. People are born with their orientation, they don’t choose it.”

    This comment is as unfounded as those that say that biology is not a factor. And whether TJM is right about the embarrassment is yet to be seen. I would think no, but who knows how far society will go in this area.

    I have always marveled at the fact that 100 years ago, morals seemed much higher than today. But, yet, everyone feared and hated those that weren’t exactly like them, ethinically, socially, racially, religiously, etc. I thinkthat 50 years from now, people will look back at this day and see a latter-day Sodom and Gomorrah.

  18. January 14, 2008 at 10:21 am

    Now, don’t think I am against the negro people. I am down with the negro people. They are my home-lads. I am a regular Whigro.

  19. TJM
    January 15, 2008 at 6:54 pm

    In response to:
    This comment is as unfounded as those that say that biology is not a factor.

    Not so unfounded… Try some simple introspection to test the point.

    Could you as a heterosexual male mentally will it upon yourself to be physically, emotionally, chemically and romantically attracted to another male?

    I assert that this is no more possible than willing yourself to grow wings and fly. Why? Because we are born with certain innate characteristics that cannot be changed.

    So how/why do we expect homosexuals to do the impossible?

  20. Jeff Spector
    January 15, 2008 at 8:28 pm

    “Could you as a heterosexual male mentally will it upon yourself to be physically, emotionally, chemically and romantically attracted to another male?”

    Yes, I suppose I could choose that. I can choose a number of different paths.

    But if you read what I said, You could figure out that I said Biology cannot be ruled out nor can it be the exclusive reason.

  21. TJM
    January 21, 2008 at 5:14 pm

    In recognition of MLKJ day this was on my mind:

    I wonder why God waited so long to reveal his position regarding blacks to the prophet of his truest church? Especially where many of his previous church leaders (including prophets) were inspired with such offensive and racist views?

    Isn’t it interesting that God revealed his views to Abe Lincoln, Martin L. King Jr., George Romney, and a large portion of secular society (among many others), far before he revealed to his prophet Spencer W. Kimball?

  22. hawkgrrrl
    January 21, 2008 at 8:01 pm

    TJM, I’ll bite. I have two views on why it took so long for Declaration 2, both of which could be totally wrong, but they get me to sleep at night: 1) to reveal it 10 years earlier would have clearly looked like “me too” politically-motivated change, 2) the church is essentially a “geriocracy” as Larry King put it. Churches led through the lenses of younger leadership are more prone to change (plus those that don’t require the heavens to open, just a majority vote). Frankly, my dad still can’t stomach the idea of a woman being a leader of anything other than a household, and his views on the races are sprinkled with all the above-mentioned folklore (races shouldn’t mix, sons of Ham), so if he were at the helm of the church, I expect he would have a hard time receiving a revelation that he is not ready to hear.

    God is perfect; man is not, and if revelation has to be both sent and received, the weaknesses of humans could certainly get in the way. I’m trying not to be critical of church leaders by saying that, just realistic. I’m sure I probably suffer from the lack of wisdom of the younger generation – an overconfidence in my own opinions and a willingness to throw out the wisdom of ages. The upside is that at least in our church, at age 39 I can still claim to be part of the “younger” generation.

  23. immutable
    January 21, 2008 at 8:42 pm

    Not only was the church racist, but it also is not truthful about the past.

    From an Ensign article of September 2000 by GA Alexander Morrison:

    “Unfortunately, racism—the abhorrent and morally destructive theory that claims superiority of one person over another by reason of race, color, ethnicity, or cultural background—remains one of the abiding sins of societies the world over. The cause of much of the strife and conflict in the world, racism is an offense against God and a tool in the devil’s hands. In common with other Christians, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints regret the actions and statements of individuals who have been insensitive to the pain suffered by the victims of racism and ask God’s forgiveness for those guilty of this grievous sin. The sin of racism will be eliminated only when every human being treats all others with the dignity and respect each deserves as a beloved child of our Heavenly Father. How grateful I am that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has from its beginnings stood strongly against racism in any of its malignant manifestations.”

    Let’s see how truthful this statement is?

    Joseph Fielding Smith, 10th LDS President
    “Not only was Cain called upon to suffer, but because of his wickedness he became the father of an inferior race.”
    (The Way to Perfection, pages 101-102.)

    Wilford Woodruff, 4th President of the Church

    “And if any man mingle his seed with the seed of Cain the only way he could get rid of it or have Salvation would be to come forward and have his head cut off and spill his blood upon the ground- it would also take the life of his children.”
    (Wilford Woodruff Journal)

    “Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so.” (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Volume 10, page 110.)

    John Taylor, President of the Church

    “And after the flood we are told that the curse that had been pronounced upon Cain was continued through Ham’s wife, as he had married a wife of that seed. And why did it pass through the flood? because it was necessary that the devil should have a representation upon the earth as well as God;…” Journal of Discourses, Vol. 22, page 304

    Again let’s look at what the official church magazine states about it’s past with racism.

    “How grateful I am that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has from its beginnings stood strongly against racism in any of its malignant manifestations.”

    The audacity to lie without compunction.

  24. TJM
    January 21, 2008 at 8:53 pm


    Thanks for your thoughts, I can respect that. There is no “barbed hook” here. 🙂

  25. hawkgrrrl
    January 21, 2008 at 10:36 pm

    TJM – I had one other thought I forgot to mention in my above post. So #3 is that until 1978, there was no real impetus for the declaration in practical terms based on where church members lived. What I mean by that is that the missionary effort in Brazil (the first major area with a large population of black converts) hadn’t yet gotten to the point that individual branches simply couldn’t be led and “staffed” without repealing the ban. And it’s also important to remember that the policy was not that blacks couldn’t be baptized or take the sacrament or even be eventually saved, just not hold the priesthood, which creates a dearth of leadership in certain geographic areas. Around 1978 is when it became problematic for the church to provide leadership in these areas. I still think the other 2 things I mentioned are relevant, but this third one seems like an obvious factor to me.

  26. hawkgrrrl
    January 21, 2008 at 10:42 pm

    immutable – none of the quotations are from any source of official church doctrine, though. Which is why I feel that leaders have expressed opinions I clearly consider racist in my 2008 wisdom of hindsight and enlightenment. But there is no recorded revelation indicating that the ban should be created in the first place, only that it was to be lifted in 1978. Frankly, Paul said some things I hope were his own personal opinions, too, or that I misunderstand. We shall see.

  27. immutable
    January 21, 2008 at 11:03 pm


    Yes, this is no longer official church doctrine. Of course the members don’t hear this stuff from the pulpit like the members did during the time it was spoken.

    However, the racist doctrine of the church is still alive and well in the BOM and the BOA.

  28. immutable
    January 21, 2008 at 11:15 pm

    Also, let’s look at what Brigham Young said: “Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so.”

    Brigham Young was clearly leading the members astray by saying, “Shall I tell you the law of God…” There are cases in church history where members acted on this so called “law of God”. Too me this is not only racism but it is clearly advocating murder and the most fiendish vile hatred.

    No Brigham wasn’t perfect, he was as far from it as one could be. Anybody defending such heinous practices and beliefs is just as guilty as he was.

  29. hawkgrrrl
    January 21, 2008 at 11:36 pm

    immutable – The assumption that the BOM is racist because it refers to Nephites being “white and delightsome” and Lamanites as having placed a mark on themselves is a case of people seeking confirming evidence. If you believe the church is racist, you will find evidence. If you don’t, you will find evidence. If you believe God exists, you will find evidence, and if you don’t, you’ll find evidence He doesn’t.

    There are other possible interpretations than skin color to explain what the BOM says – e.g. city-dwellers vs. rural/agrarian society (i.e. Lamanites were rednecks while Nephites didn’t have a tan). While some early church leaders interpreted it in one way, that doesn’t mean it says that and is not subject to a different interpretation. In any case, the Lamanites were more righteous in part of the BOM, if you recall, so the record is least ambivalent on any correlation with righteousness.

    And the priesthood ban has never been proven to be official church doctrine, although church leaders clearly felt it required revelation to change it. It was clearly a policy, but in a church with revelation, policy does not equal doctrine. Quote the chapter and verse if you can where the “doctrine” was “revealed” (Journal of Discourses isn’t official church doctrine, BTW). If not, let’s agree to agree where we can and disagree on this one point.

  30. Jeff Spector
    January 22, 2008 at 7:26 am

    In today’s modern society, it seems that the word “racist” is used to describe any words which are considered as against any other race, but mainly Africian-Americas. It is a convenient word because once declared, it defines those words regardless of the timeframe, general prevailing attitudes, or tone. It is applied whether they are hate provoked or come from an ignorant or misinformed position. And it is applied whether it comes from a member of the KKK or a television commentator who tells a hideously bad, stupid joke.

    I have no idea whether Brigham Young hated blacks, whether Delbert Stapley hated Blacks. I don’t think that their comments, now considered to be vile and inappropriate, were done in that spirit.

    People can have opinions that we don’t agree with, that might represent ideas that we find objectionable. but you can’t just label every type of speech “racist” without really knowing the intent behind it.

    The past and the present is replete with societies that do not beleive in the mixing of races, tribes and even various factions of the same religion, does that make them all racist?

    I think the term racist has to be accompanyed by the word “hate.” If the hate is not there, then I cannot accept the term racist. it’s way too easy to apply to any situation, regardless of the intent.

  31. immutable
    January 22, 2008 at 7:57 pm


    Advocating the murder of black people is not racist to you? That is the worst kind of racism. To use the weak excuse that we don’t know the intent is ludicrous.

    Calling another race inferior is blatant racism. To dehumanize others makes it easier mal-treat them or kill them.

    • Steve Marquis
      May 30, 2011 at 8:10 am

      ·         You err in asserting that BYoung  or W Woodruft argued for murder. It was only clear about their opinion that only by sacrificing their lives (voluntarily) and stopping the racial “contamination” would there “sin” be absolved.  This is a touchy point as we want to believe that everything the leaders say is inspired and clearly this is not. I can only say that it took a vision to an unsuspecting Peter to reverse his hard held racism. Why didn’t BY and others have a similar course changing experience is the really good question to explore.

  32. hawkgrrrl
    January 22, 2008 at 8:14 pm

    Main Entry: rac·ism
    Pronunciation: \ˈrā-ˌsi-zəm also -ˌshi-\
    Function: noun
    Date: 1933
    1 : a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race
    2 : racial prejudice or discrimination

    To immutable’s point, the comments were racist by a dictionary definition.

    To Jeff’s point, the word “racist” originated in 1933.


  33. Jeff Spector
    January 22, 2008 at 10:24 pm


    “Advocating the murder of black people is not racist to you? That is the worst kind of racism. To use the weak excuse that we don’t know the intent is ludicrous.”

    Did a church leader really advocate the murder of black people? If so, who and when? Do you have a direct quote on that?

    Hawkgrrl: I would suspect that definition 2 was added much later than 1933. Probably in the 1960s.

  34. immutable
    January 23, 2008 at 7:30 pm


    Read my posts above and you’ll see. But, I’m sure you’ll rationalize those quotes because of the cog-dis.

  35. WestBerkeleyFlats
    January 24, 2008 at 5:36 pm

    Hawkgrrl wrote:

    And the priesthood ban has never been proven to be official church doctrine, although church leaders clearly felt it required revelation to change it. It was clearly a policy, but in a church with revelation, policy does not equal doctrine.

    In 1949, the First Presidency issued a public statement on race that began:

    “The attitude of the Church with reference to Negroes remains as it has always stood. It is not a matter of the declaration of a policy but of direct commandment from the Lord, on which is founded the doctrine of the Church from the days of its organization, to the effect that Negroes may become members of the Church but that they are not entitled to the priesthood at the present time.”

    The ban was obviously doctrine in 1949, as stated by its leaders.

  36. called2serve
    October 21, 2009 at 11:44 am

    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is not racist. Maybe the members and even a few of our leaders were back then, but not the Church and certainly not Heavenly Father.

    This sounds like a smear campaign against a good family oriented church in retaliation for the whole proposition 8 thing in California. I think that the enemies of the Mormon church are trying to equate those important civil rights issues to the current gay rights issue, suggesting that some point in the future we (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) will be sorry we opposed “gay rights”, just like we are now embarrassed by a few of the racist comments made by a few of our previous church leaders.

    The difference is that the current issue of gay marriage is nothing to do with racism or people’s personal opinions, but everything to do with the core doctrine of the LDS church, and for most other churches and Christianity as well.

    • October 6, 2012 at 6:43 pm

      Yes you will too be sorry, I tell you this God creates souls for us that are first both and known to be uni-sexed Only when love has grown do this soul split into two individuals which we call soul mates. If you do not allow ‘love’ to developed natural and persecute them, then you do the devils deed. Yes, some gays get cure but that is because of this soul mate split. It is awful that you judge what god creates and at any time you persecute and shun them. To make out like you know God’s plan is heresy. And if any church say’s otherwise then they are the ones that are afflicted with hating others called bigotry.

  37. alice
    October 21, 2009 at 12:01 pm

    If there’s a clear pattern such as was established in the 60s with respect to Blacks, reaffirmed in the 80s limiting the rights women could call upon and continuing today toward gay Americans it takes more energy to rationalize why White males are a special class who will not share powers and protections than it does to correct the situation.

  38. Douglas Hunter
    October 21, 2009 at 12:45 pm

    “just like we are now embarrassed by a few of the racist comments made by a few of our previous church leaders.”

    I think its more than that. It seems to me that the case can be made from the documents we have that some church leaders consistently argued against civil rights from within what we can recognize as white supremacist ideology that they synthesized with Mormon theology. Granted in many cases it was a kinder gentler white supremacist ideology. So its more than about being embarrassed its about the structure of their thought, and how their ideology may have influenced their views of doctrine and theology. at least that’s how I se it. And there is value in such an analysis for any member because it does raise important theological issues, even if its an uncomfortable thing to do.

  39. Thomas
    October 21, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    “…because it does raise important theological issues, even if its an uncomfortable thing to do.”

    Exactly. The institution of the Church managed to be on the wrong side of perhaps the single most critical issue of American civilization. It was a failure similar in nature, if not in degree, to the failure of the German churches to fulfill their moral responsibilities at their own critical moment in the 1930s and ’40s. One “important theological issue” this raises is the question of how much we ought to expect from a church guided by revelation.

  40. Bob Crockett
    June 2, 2011 at 2:59 pm

    Elder Stapley’s views (and how he saw Joseph Smith’s), remarkably, were almost identical to Abraham Lincoln’s, even though Lincoln today is regarded the great equalizer.  He was a big proponent of transportation and colonization, although Lincoln couldn’t quite bring himself to require forced transportation of the blacks.  
    See Eric Foner, The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln etc.

    It is hard to measure racisim from today.  Growing up I heard WWII veterans vigorously defend the internment of Japanese citizens of the U.S.   The most liberal U.S. Supreme Court justice, William Douglas, signed onto the internment decision.  Yet, today, that decision is widely considered a tragedy.

    The U.S. Supreme Court issued the Dred Scott decision before the Civil War, basically dehumanizing the black.  Yet, at the time, a large bloc of Americans considered in the right decision.

    • Damon Burro
      April 5, 2016 at 12:21 am

      Except, Stapley lived 100 years later 😛

  41. Anonymous
    March 26, 2012 at 9:12 pm

    If all Christians would just remember that Christ taught us to love our neighbors and reserved judgement to himself and the father. We have no business twisting his works or the bible in order to justify our inate prejudices and hatreds.

  42. Gary Anderson
    July 10, 2013 at 3:49 pm

    Does anybody know who the three presidents are that Stapley talks about. I am assuming MAYBE Lincolnd and Kennedy are two, but if that is true, who is the third? Johnson? He was still president when this letter was written.

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