Positive Black History in the Church

Mormon Hereticblacks, history, LDS, Mormon, Priesthood, race, racism 82 Comments

Much has been made of the LDS Church’s unflattering history regarding the priesthood ban.  But there are some positive stories.  I’d like to address some things that happened prior and during the ban that are more positive in nature to the church.

I’ve found that shorter posts get read more, so I’ll try to keep this brief.  I want to highlight some of the good things that happened originally, but if you want a more neutral view, check out my post on the Priesthood Ban, as well as the Special Features on the new DVD, Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons.  I highly recommend the DVD, though the video and audio are not always as professional as we’d like.  I think it’s messages about race are honest, telling both positive and negative aspects of race relations within the LDS church.  It even interviews non-LDS leaders, such as Cecil Murray of the AME Church, and Martin Luther King, Jr.  Margaret Young, faculty member at BYU is one of the producers.  First let’s talk about some black members who held the priesthood in the early days of the church.

  • “Black Pete” was baptizing as early as 1830 or 1831.
  • Joseph T Ball – was baptized in the summer of 1832 by either Brigham Young or his brother Joseph Young who served a mission to Boston. Ball later went on mission with Wilford Woodruff, in New England, New Jersey. In 1837, Wilford Woodruff records in his journal that Ball was an Elder.  Ball was the Boston Branch president from October 1844 to March 1845 – the largest LDS congregation outside of the Nauvoo area. He was ordained a High Priest by William Smith (the first African American HP) and was sent to Nauvoo by Parley P. Pratt in the spring of 1845 to work on the temple.
  • Elijah Abel – became the third known black convert to the LDS church, being baptized in 1832. He received the priesthood in 1836, and served 3 missions to Ohio, NY, and Canada. He helped build the Kirtland, Nauvoo, and Salt Lake Temples, received his washing and anointing in the Kirtland Temple
  • Walker Lewis – joined the LDS church in the summer of 1843. He was probably baptized by Parley P Pratt in the fall of 1843. He was ordained and Elder by William Smith, Joseph’s younger brother. Lewis has a very interesting history. He was the son of slaves, and sued for his own freedom. His case is cited as the case which liberated slaves in 1783 in Massachusetts. Winning the court case resulted is his family being able to purchase property. He voted, was educated, and became upper class of black Massachusetts society. In 1826 he helped found Massachusetts General Colored Association which was the first civil rights abolitionist group in the world.
  • In June 1844 Joseph Smith was killed. At this time, Joseph was running for president, and advocated abolishing slavery by 1850. Such a stance was quite unpopular in slave state Missouri. It is important to remember that Joseph prophesied in 1832 about the Civil War. Slavery and race relations were hot topics during this time period, and Joseph’s abolitionist views were probably just as responsible for his assassination, as his religious views.
  • Enoch Abel, Elijah’s son received the priesthood, and was ordained an elder on Nov 27, 1900.
  • Elijah Abel, Enoch Abel’s son, received the priesthood, and was ordained a priest in 1934.  In 1935, he was ordained an Elder.

So it’s not all bad news.  I have to wonder if Al Sharpton was aware that the first Civil Rights organization was founded by a black Mormon.  Would he have made that quip about Mitt Romney?

Comments 82

  1. I really should *not* address this post, because my comment is not in a good spirit at all, but somehow I feel like I’ve heard this all before. “I can’t be racist; I have 17 black friends (obviously, I care so much that I keep count!)”

    I’m going to now redirect ill will to Al Sharpton, who I believe is a professional political joke.

    …but seriously, to say something constructive, I don’t think the way to show positive stories about race is to simply pick out 6 people over the history of the church who happened to get ahead (and when getting ahead involves merely receiving the priesthood for some…). I think positive stories are like in your timeline post when people started realizing, regardless of if the priesthood ban was doctrine or policy, legitimate or folklore, that there was something amiss. For example, the parts in the timeline relating to David O Mckay, or the idea that Elijah Abel asked again after Brigham Young’s death (because the issue wasn’t set in stone).

  2. MH:

    When you say the first civil rights org. was started by a Mormon, are you referring to Bridget Madsen, the former slave of a Mormon? If not, I somehow missed this rather significant jot of Mormon history. Please do enlighten.

  3. Andrew,

    Your points are well taken. I know that the church has a deservedly bad reputation for the priesthood ban, but I guess I wanted to point out that I believe that some of these early events seem to indicate that the church was on a good trajectory regarding race relations. If Joseph hadn’t been killed in 1844, I think history would have been re-written, and the church would probably have much more to “brag” about. His anti-slavery stance is something that few church members know about, and I think that is unfortunate. Few others know that Joseph Ball was a Branch President in Boston in 1844–a time when slavery was still legal in the US. Mormons were quite liberal for this time period.

    It would have been interesting to see how Joseph reacted regarding the inter-racial marriages of Enoch Lewis and William McCary. I personally believe he would have handled it much differently than Brigham Young. (More info is found on my blog–I didn’t list it here because I wanted to talk about “positive” things.) Even Brigham Young, who instituted the ban, said prior to the ban on Mar 26,1847, “its nothing to do with the blood, for of one blood has God made all flesh. We have to repent [and] regain what we [h]av[e] lost. We [h]av[e] one of the best Elders–an African in Lowell [i.e. Walker Lewis].” Of course, he said some quite dubious things after this.

    Russell, as it says above, “In 1826 he [Walker Lewis] helped found Massachusetts General Colored Association which was the first civil rights abolitionist group in the world.” Biddy Smith Mason, slave of Mormon Robert Smith, sued for her freedom in California. I’m not aware of Bridget Madsen–could you enlighten me?

  4. You could mention Jane Elizabeth Manning James, faithful servant to the Smiths for years who made the trek to SL from Nauvoo. But if you mentioned that in fairness you’d have to mention that she was sealed to Smiths for eternity as servitor (servant). Although even that and the other temple ordinances she received were revoked by the first presidency in 1895 because of her blood lines. Those ordinances were reinstated in 1902, however.

    Her treatment and seemingly pathetic eternal calling kind ruin the warm fuzzies about her faith and persistence.

    Good luck, MH, with the positive spin on this story.

  5. Oh you were right. It was just a hasty read on my part. Bridget ‘Biddy’ Mason was the person I was referring to. And it should be noted that she became the richest woman in California at one point.

    But yes, carry on.

  6. Holden, I’m hoping to enlist you in the positive spin… 🙂 We are all enlisted till the conflict is o’er, Happy are we!

    But kidding aside, I think it is important to point out the flattering points of church history as well as the unflattering points, in the interest of fairness and objectivity. I’m curious why the church doesn’t try to emphasize this… Is it merely a can of worms?

  7. I don’t know if this has anything to do with what anyone is looking for but I go for doctine and I found an interesting article written by a Renee Olson, http://www.blacklds.org/black_myth and these are my comments on that article.

    “Brothers and sisters, black skin isn’t a curse. The curse of Cain was eternal separation from God. The curse was never being allowed back in the Father’s presence. The curse was knowing that he (Cain) had listened to the wrong voice and failed his mortal mission. That was the curse, not the skin. The dark skin was given as a protection.”

    Well taken. The black skin was a protection. “And I the Lord said unto him: Whosoever slayeth thee, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And I the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.” (Moses 5: 40). But their skin originally was the color of skin Adam and Eve had when they were created in the Garden of Eden. This was the image of God. Making any change to that image would be to move away from that image of God that was originally there. In the whole dialogue God seems to place the mark on Cain – not his children. Why did his children have to be involved? (Like 2nd article of faith – hint hint.) I don’t know. But it did and God did it. So that’s where that stands.

    Concerning the Lamanites, it was revealed to Nephi that: “Wherefore, the word of the Lord was fulfilled which he spake unto me, saying that: Inasmuch as they will not hearken unto thy words they shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord. And behold, they were cut off from his presence.” (2 Nephi 5:20). The curse for them was also that they were cut off from the presence of the Lord but, in addition, it was made clear that the skin color change was to be taken as a curse. “he had caused the cursing to come upon them,…because of their iniquity,…wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them.” (2 Nephi 5:21). We call that color red but the Nephites called it black – different description or maybe, indeed, a different color, but the same divine action – for the Lamanites it’s called a ‘curse‘, for Cain it‘s called a ‘mark‘. The curse/mark that was placed upon them moved them away from the image of God. Why this happened to the next generations may not be known but care should be taken in calling it a blessing. And maybe you have taken that care. As far as Margaret Young’s poem goes – nice poem, but whatever. On this subject I would say her understanding far exceeded Brigham’s understanding. I believe it would help a lot if we would all get it settled in our minds that the curses of God are very different from the curses of witches, mythological gods, and bad fairies.

    “…I’d really like to know is if one drop of black blood makes you African American, does one drop of white blood make me white European? I have good reason to ask…I’m over 35% white!”

    “And cursed shall be the seed of him that mixeth with their seed; for they shall be cursed even with the same cursing. And the Lord spake it, and it was done.” (2 Nephi 5:23)

    Never mind the percentages. If the seed gets mixed, then it has been mixed. Nobody is worried about the seed (blood) of the whites. According to the scriptures it’s the seed of Cain that’s of concern. Why it had to be a generation thing is any ones guess.

    “In their book Mormon America, the Ostlings quotes Brigham Young as characterizing descendants of Cain as “black, uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind.””.

    “And because of their cursing which was upon them they did become an idle people, full of mischief and subtlety, and did seek in the wilderness for beasts of prey.” (2 Nephi 5:24)

    President Young seems to be insensitive to the point that just because a people can become like that, every individual in that group has the agency (the term ‘free agency’ is not used in the holy scriptures (In her article she uses that term.)) to pull himself out of that level and that very many of that group have done just that. It would have been good for him to acknowledge the fact that there is a way to be filthy that is worse than a darkened skin. And that is the filthiness of a darkened heart. “But, wo, wo, unto you that are not pure in heart, that are filthy this day before God;…” (Jacob 3:3) and “Behold, the Lamanites your brethren, whom ye hate because of their filthiness and the cursing which hath come upon their skins, are more righteous than you; for they have not forgotten the commandment of the Lord, which was given unto our father—that they should have save it were one wife, and concubines they should have none, and there should not be whoredoms committed among them.”. (Jacob 3:5)

    “Oh, and speaking of intermarriage? 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.”

    If Brigham Young really said that he didn’t bother to give any scriptural reference to support it so I believe for a statement of that magnitude he would have been inspired to verify it with his testimony of it’s divinity. Furthermore, as quoted above, “And cursed shall be the seed of him that mixeth with their seed; for they shall be cursed even with the same cursing. And the Lord spake it, and it was done.” (2 Nephi 5:23). There is nothing said here about the death penalty. The dark skin of Cain did not even put his descendents out of the Church. I disregard his statement. It was beneath him and his divine calling.

    “I’d like to think that in the pre-existence, when told I had the opportunity to come to Earth, I chose this skin color just like I’m told I chose my parents (although I’m not so sure about that one). My father and I agree that we’ve become rather partial to our black skin and certainly hope we take it with us to the next life.”

    Sorry, that won’t happen. That’s not the nature of the resurrection: “Yea, this bringeth about the restoration of those things of which has been spoken by the mouths of the prophets. The soul shall be restored to the body, and the body to the soul; yea, and every limb and joint shall be restored to its body; yea, even a hair of the head shall not be lost; but all things shall be restored to their proper and perfect frame. “ (Alma 40:22,23)
    Any changes made to man, by God, for any reason, has to be undone to enable him to restore the ‘perfect frame’ that was once there. The way you describe it, if a person is born blind then he will be restored unto blindness in the eternities. Your perfect frame, that was once there, is not black skin. It is white skin. The same goes for red and yellow skin and whatever other colors there are. Oh, and I forgot about flat noses and slanted eyes. I don’t see either of these coming out of the Garden of Eden and this is the roots of our genetics at it‘s purest (“very good“ – Moses 2:31).

    I even wonder what resurrected white is. In the temple in one of the films it is depicted as pure shining white and it clashes with their coal black eyes. I think it’s horrid. I call it monster white and hope like crazy that resurrected white is not monster white. Whatever the resurrection turns out it comes with a guarantee. We will all love it with all of our hearts. And that is true even if it is monster white. Any change from the Edenic human body is a mutation of nature or a mark set upon certain peoples by God for some reason. A resurrection is a restoration to a perfect and original state. The original and perfect state of you and your father is not black. It is white. You are white people who have had a mark placed upon you by God, which, if it hasn’t been removed before then, will be removed in the resurrection. And that’s all there is to that. You have my condolences if you were looking forward to something else.

  8. Rich,

    That’s a great link–thanks for sharing.

    I don’t really want to turn this into a doctrinal discussion, as I think that has already been endlessly debated here and elsewhere, and few people change their minds in the end anyway. I’m more curious why Joseph Ball, Elijah Abel, Jane Manning James, and Joseph’s anti-slavery position aren’t well-known in the church. Does anybody have an idea on this?

  9. I supposed I bristled at the thought of an article on positive moments of blacks in church history because it seemed like the church was somehow getting credit for these moments. Actually, if the emphasis is put on the members themselves the entire though process changes. In my view the faith shown by black members throughout our history is because of their faith in the savior and the goodness of gospel itself, but in spite of the church and not because of it.

    Focusing on the members themselves, there are remarkable story to be sure. (That is as positive as Holden Caulfield ever gets.)

  10. There are two ways in which Church history can challenge the faith of members.

    In a few cases the material itself is damaging (e.g., Joseph Smith’s clandestine appropriation of married women). However, in the majority of cases, the historical facts themselves are not so damaging, but the fact that we have knowingly been spoon fed historical myth by Church leaders can be a crushing blow to faith. Examples of this are the First Vision time line, the mechanics of producing the Book of Mormon and the origins of the Book of Abraham.

    In a way, the Church has painted itself into a corner. After all these years, it can’t come clean on its history or it will hemorrhage membership, even though the facts themselves are not too scary. As always, it’s the cover-up, not the crime, that gets you in trouble.

    In this sense the ordination of Blacks in the 1830s can never be positive. The fact that Joseph Smith was not as racist as Brigham Young and his successors raises more disturbing questions than it answers.

  11. Points well taken, MoHoHawaii and Holden. But don’t you find it ironic that a church who supposedly whitewashes everything, doesn’t bring these black pioneer stories forward and whitewash them as well? If the church is in such a conspiratorial coverup of its history, why doesn’t it try to put its best foot forward regarding Elijah Abel, for example? Why are these black pioneers ignored?

    Jane Manning James literally walked from Buffalo, NY to Nauvoo, IL. Why isn’t this put forward as an example of someone showing great faith? Isn’t this the sort of story that we find in all the correlated manuals, yet is a glaring omission?

  12. 6. MH – Can of worms? Definitely. Whether or not it should be brought up is a different discussion, but with everything the Church is facing these days it would be yet another headache. That said, if it were to come up as a legitimate issue, I don’t think the Church would do well to smother it. I just don’t see it as such a pressing matter right now.

  13. I find it oddly interesting that at the time Pres. Bringham Young was preaching hate against Blacks in SLC, the “other” LDS back in Nauvoo was allowing priesthood.

  14. Re 3:

    And if Abraham Lincoln hadn’t been killed, the Reconstruction would have been rewritten as well. The fact, though, is that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a Brighamite, and not a Josephite, denomination. And while this distinction does refer to a different set of facts (e.g., succession crisis AFTER Joseph Smith’s death), it is still the facts that we have to deal with. The church that flourished and has flourished has not been the “very liberal” kind.

    but really, this isn’t what bothers me. The history is the history. I live every day with the fact that I live in a country where my ancestors were ENSLAVED. But that’s just history. Really, what stinks is…where are we now? We are now at a place where comments like number 7 thrive. Yeah, we can say they are folklore or whatever, but we live in a world where people have the folklore to run with this and it’s not being actively squashed out.

    I mean, good enough point, MH, for avoiding a doctrinal discussion, but isn’t that exactly the church answer to these things?

    I don’t even know.

  15. The Pope once asked for forgiveness for the past sins of Catholicism. We should now be forgiving for the past sins of Mormonism, with or without the church asking. We need to let this go. It is apparent enough why. There was no good reason why, and it certainly was not because of revelation. It was because of ignorance and ill feelings towards another race. That said, now lets forgive and move on. The people that instituted this thing are long dead. My word people. Let’s move on. Anybody with intelligence and a good amount of real church history knows why. Now lets let go of it.

  16. “Those that don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it”

    Just something for all you folks who feel like this is not relevant now and should be forgotten…

  17. J. Ro,

    I’m going to disagree with you. If the church decided it wanted to promote some of these black pioneers, I think they could produce something similar in quality to “How Rare a Possession”, “Legacy”, or some of the other well-done films. We all know that Legacy doesn’t open up the can of worms of the seer stone. polygamy, or a host of other issues. I don’t see why they couldn’t tell a great story of Elijah Abel’s missions, and his faithfulness all the way to the Salt Lake Valley.


    I’d love to hear more background on the RLDS and blacks. I know that William Smith (Joseph’s brother), Joseph Ball, and I think Walker Lewis joined the RLDS church, but I don’t have much information. I’d love it if John Hamer would stop by and enlighten us on the RLDS positions.


    I agree that Rich is off base on his position. I believe he is new to the bloggernacle, and isn’t as well exposed to the uncomfortable church issues as some others here are. I must say that the link he provided talked about how the mark of Cain was “protection.” I wanted to call “mythology” on that, but I discovered the real author, Renee Olson, who I believe is black, put forth that proposition. I probably should have spoken up, but didn’t quite feel confident to contradict a semi-official black LDS website. I’d encourage Rich to check out my Priesthood Ban post to get more up to speed on this issue, as there is still much myth that needs to be cleared away as Andrew said.

    Andrew, I didn’t quite understand your last comment. I’m not trying to dodge the doctrinal portion, and we can go there if you want. To state my position briefly, I am *very* confident that the ban was not God given, and that Brigham Young is the author of the ban. I’ve already hashed it out on my blog, and don’t really have a desire to do it again, but we can go there if anyone really thinks it is fruitful. I think Aboz is tired of it too.

    Yes, the church before Joseph’s death was very liberal (race, polygamy, revelation, etc), so it is quite evident to me that Brigham chose a more conservative path because it seems that the liberal pieces of the church were just too volatile for the time period. Even if you look at the RLDS, they also chose a substantially more conservative path in regards to polygamy (they banned it). I can’t speak to the race issue, because I’m not well enough informed of the RLDS position. The Strangite church kept the liberal pieces and their prophet ended up dead too, and has less than 10,000 members today. So, for a matter of survival, some of the liberal pieces had to be jettisoned–I just wish it had been polygamy instead of blacks holding the priesthood. (I have to say the RLDS position seems more correct.)

    But to try to steer the topic back, why don’t more lay members know basic, faithful details about black pioneers. Even though Sidney Rigdon, Oliver Cowdery, Emma Smith, and others left, we certainly know about them. Is it up to us to give a sacrament talk on Green Flake, Jane Manning James, and others instead of the traditional pioneer stories around July 24?

  18. Re 18: When we dodge the doctrinal portion, then we never confront it (whatever it is). Which makes Rich’s position just as valid as anyone else’s. Because we haven’t confronted what is doctrine, what is folklore, and what is just culture, everything can be all at once. Nothing is challenged.

    that is why we can’t just forgive as Aboz asks in 16. Because yes, we know what *you* think. But we also know what *Rich* thinks. But while we might disagree with one or the other, we can’t know for sure which is official, because there is no official position. Why not? Because the church officially will not confront this…so who’s to say who’s more correct? You or Rich? Or anyone else?

    The reason hashing it out on a blog is not fruitful is because we are a peanut gallery. This cannot be resolved by the gallery.

    but it’s clear to me that I’m really not addressing what you wanted to talk about, so I apologize.

    Why don’t lay members know basic, faithful details about black pioneers? I guess this would be like asking why don’t lay Americans know basic details about black Americans? It’s not the most relevant or applicable history for most and there really isn’t a way to make it more relevant (attempts to do so would instead reek of some kind of political correctness ploy or something like that).

  19. I said before that I go for doctrine. I don’t think that really describes me. What I go for in religious discussions is for truth. Doctrines can change with the wind direction. Doctrines are only as good as principles that underlie them. What I go for are the principles of truth.

    Let me introduce myself a little, at least as far as this subject goes. I came into the church when I was eight years old in 1958. My family was totally inactive for two years and then super active ever since. This happened in the corn fields of southern Minnesota. We attended a branch in the basement of a building thirty miles away. None of us knew anything about the Church except that we were members of it. I remember pacing the living room memorizing the name of the Church and how to close prayers.

    I’ve learned a lot about the Church since then but until I read what you guys were saying about the ban of the priesthood on blacks I had no idea there was any question about the validity of it at all. I’ll have to admit that I was somewhat shocked – maybe quite shocked.

    One thing I’ve started to learn is “that man bshould not …trust in the arm of flesh— “ (D&C 1:19). When you start doing that you will end up being disappointed.

    “There are two ways in which Church history can challenge the faith of members.”

    MoHoHawaii, there may be only one way and that might be to weaken the members themselves. When the Joseph Smith Sr. family lost Alvin that was a very traumatic experience for them. They loved him very much. And yet, look at verse 6 of section 137 of the Doctrine and Covenants. After seeing Alvin in the celestial kingdom Joseph says that he , “… marveled how it was that he had obtained an inheritance in that kingdom, seeing that he had departed this life before the Lord had set his hand to gather Israel the second time, and had not been baptized for the remission of sins.” My first reaction was “JOSEPH, where did you think ye would go?” Joseph had all ready received section 76 about the degrees of glory and they were all ready building temples. I was dismayed. I had it in my mind that he was an all knowing, all understanding prophet that had gained an immediate understanding of the information that he had received by revelation. I don’t think that way anymore. He had to do his scripture study also. So when I first read about Jane Elizabeth Manning James’ servitude sealing to Joseph Smith that Holden mentioned I wasn’t particularly surprised. I think I sense a bit of Sidney Rigdon’s influence. And yes, Holden, I suppose growth in the gospel might well come in spite of the membership sometimes.

    When you consider the history of the blacks in the Church, Mountain Medows, the Martin and Willie handcart companies, etc. it can be easy to feel bitterness if your trust is in the wrong things.

    MH, I don’t know why these people aren’t mentioned more in the Church. I feel a little cheated to first be learning all this stuff about the ban now when I should have learned it decades ago. But that’s the way it goes sometimes. I think you said once that you write as Mormon Heretic because you didn’t want say some of the things you say in a Church setting? If that’s true and you live in Mormon Land that might be wise. I’m the opposite, though. I say this stuff in a Church setting anyway and am quick to start a war. As a result people can be kind of wary of me. I was once asked if I ever considered that I was on the road to apostasy. I don’t think I am.

    “I don’t think the way to show positive stories about race is to simply pick out 6 people over the history of the church who happened to get ahead (and when getting ahead involves merely receiving the priesthood for some).”

    Yes, Andrew, that could be kind of pathetic but from my very recent perspective six people is a start.

    “I mean, good enough point, MH, for avoiding a doctrinal discussion, but isn’t that exactly the church answer to these things? I don’t even know.”

    Andrew? You’re trying to deal with these problems by avoiding doctrine? You want to resolve these problems by avoiding the truth? Now when I say ‘truth’ I don’t mean the confirmation of the reality of historical events. I think we have enough of that. I mean the truths that underlay true religion. I mean the truths upon which Gods are created. It is very possible that the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints have at times made unfortunate decisions because they didn’t understand these truths. In fact, it is very possible that all members of that church have at times made unfortunate decisions because they didn’t understand truth. I’m one of them. Except for me most of my unfortunate decisions were made in the light of truth.

    I accept the four Standard Works of the afore mentioned Church as Holy Scripture. They can be a help in acquiring understanding. Now just because it is one thing to read a verse and quite another to interpret it correctly, that does not alleviate our responsibility to do so. I am not nearly as concerned what the doctrines of the Church are as I am about how I feel when I find out what they are. If I don’t feel right about it when I hear it then I start digging in and making ripples. On the subject of the blacks I think I’ve found out that I felt all right about a doctrine of the Church that didn’t even exist. And more than that, if it did exist, maybe I shouldn’t have felt good about it. But it appears that I did feel good about it. Now that’s thought provoking, isn’t it? I didn’t say this way was without hazards but I am saying that members of the Church are responsible to take that way and realize that if anything goes wrong it’s all the member’s fault. The gift of the Holy Ghost is not a toy.

    MH. There are no “uncomfortable church issues” that are going to bother me much. I’m pretty quick to say the Church is wrong, but I’ll never say that it’s not the Lord’s Church.
    I’ll never say that the Church leaders, at any level, are not the Lord’s anointed.

  20. re 20:

    No, I’m not trying to deal with these problems by avoiding doctrine and I’m not resolving these problems by avoiding the truth. What I am avoiding is those brands that people label as “truth” which really are counterfeit items. Those brands that only imitate and pose as truth but are legitimate.

    Obviously, we have a big problem with religion, true or not, when we can’t even discover what the truths that underlay it are or if there are even such truths. Instead, we have history, we have speculation, we have folklore masquerading as doctrine, doctrine masquerading as folklore, and enough interpretations of it all to obscure the certainty of any of it. And yet some people will say that they have light of the truth. Really, that’s interesting.

  21. “that is why we can’t just forgive as Aboz asks in 16. Because yes, we know what *you* think. But we also know what *Rich* thinks. But while we might disagree with one or the other, we can’t know for sure which is official, because there is no official position. Why not? Because the church officially will not confront this…so who’s to say who’s more correct? You or Rich? Or anyone else?”

    Why should the Church confront this? Do you seriously think that in the state of things as they are now that they would confront this?
    I tire of DAMU types wanting the Church to do this that or the other. The church isn’t going to do anything that it thinks is bad PR, and why should it? You should know that well enough now. There is no doctrine. there is only historical evidence and good logical conclusion from those evidences. You cant base what the church *should* do off what you think it should do. It will only do what *it* views as being in its own interest, and obviously what you want it to do is *not* what it is going to do, or it would have already done it.

  22. re 22:

    You’re right Aboz. If the church never confronts this, then they continue to have no culpability. They don’t have to be responsible for the rampant cultural excesses and deficiencies of members (that is actually created and sponsored by the church’s non-intervention). So nothing will happen, as you point out. People will still continue to spew whatever they think as gospel truth (but then again, that will happen no matter what). The problem is that there is no actual gospel truth to override whatever people spew (and it’s not expedient for the church to establish gospel truth in this area). So we don’t know. Anyone’s speculation can be taken however far they want to go.

    …I guess that this was all my misunderstanding. I had failed to remember that the church is, after all, an organization. Regardless of the monopoly it tries to take on Truth, that’s really just PR buzz that I shouldn’t have fallen trap to. What’s more important is whatever the organization can do to thrive and grow. I understand. And in the end, these kinds of things will become truth or righteousness over whatever anyone else perceives as right or true.

  23. Aboz,

    “Why should the Church confront this?”

    Because the church shouldn’t continue to play a party in racism, and I think it’s pretty safe to say that racism is *the* biggest reason for the priesthood ban. While the church

    Do you seriously think that in the state of things as they are now that they would confront this?

    What state are you referring to? Things were much tougher in 1838 when you had 1/3 of the apostles, the 3 witnesses, and much of the First Presidency exe’d. In 1844, there was a succession crisis after Joseph’s death. In the quest for statehood, the church chose to get rid of slavery. I think dealing with the priesthood ban can be dealt with, and the church can still not only survive, but thrive. I think the brethren are no dumber than past leaders, and can come up with a way to confront the issue of church history. But for whatever reason, it’s not on the radar of the brethren. I don’t know that bloggernacle discussions are going to put it there either, but perhaps people today can act like Sterling McMurrin and Lester Bush to make things better.

    Now, to confront the doctrine, as that seems to be more interesting to everyone else…. Every justification for the priesthood ban is myth, IMO. Things like “black skin is protection” are myth. “The priesthood ban was inspired by God” is myth. “Black people will turn white in the resurrection” is a myth.

    Ok, now you’re going to understand why I am a heretic, because I am going to directly refute scripture. “I the Lord set a mark upon Cain” (Moses 5: 40). I don’t believe the Lord said this directly to Moses,, Adam, or anybody else, nor do I believe that he zapped Cain with black skin. Perhaps it was a mole, a boil, a wart, leprosy, a scar, or a host of other possible marks. I believe that people tried to attempt to explain Cain’s boil, wart…., and decided it must have been a curse from God, because they had no other way to explain it. We all fall into the same thing–you can’t explain something, God must have had something to do with it.

    I think God is much more complex than any of us (especially me) have any idea. We wonder why he saves the passengers on one plane, while letting another plane crash. It must be because somebody on the first plane was more righteous, or some other noble purpose. I think God actually likes us to ask these questions, and he doesn’t necessarily care that we come up with the wrong answer–we’re still learning. It’s kind of like teaching kids to ride a bike. We allow them to fall, because they learn how to ride without falling. The problem with God is that sometimes when we fall, we die, and that’s just too hard for humans to comprehend that God would allow something so disastrous–we certainly wouldn’t act the same way if we were God.

    I’ll attack other myths when I have time–my comment is long enough now.

  24. Let me make this simple point:

    When it comes to the justifications that were used to explain the priesthood ban, “The Church” already has “confronted this”. From McConkie’s original statement at BYU in 1978 to Pres. Hinckley’s ringing and explicit and harsh condemnation of racism in the modern church, “The Church” has confronted this. It’s happened, and the only position left that is tenable in any way is, “Well, they haven’t confronted it enough.”

    I understand that feeling, but I have a hard time with it, since “enough” is a floating, dodging, weaving, incredibly subjective target. The President of the Church stood up in a General Conference session and literally blasted anyone who spouts racist statements and justifications as “unworthy of the Priesthood he holds”. What more can “The Church” do than that? I’m looking forward to having a black apostle, but we already have 70’s and Stake Presidents and Bishops who wouldn’t have been able to hold the Priesthood before 1978. Not nearly enough, I agree, but “The Church” is doing what it can within the leadership development pattern it always has used.

    That’s my specific question: “What more can The Church do?” I’m sure there are good suggestions, but constantly reiterating what they already have said because some people don’t think they’ve said it “enough” . . . I’d rather read the other suggestions than just read denials that, “The Church won’t confront this.”

  25. Re #26, ”

    What more can the Church do?

    It’s not unreasonable to think of three things the Church should do to put this to rest:

    1) Apologize. None of the “confronting” has included even the smallest element of remorse or acceptance of responsibility for past racism.

    2) Include the treatment of Black women in the discussion. The past racial policy/doctrine was not just about who could hold the Priesthood. Black women were excluded from temple ordinances. Focusing on denial of Priesthood is a kind of whitewashing of the extent of the unequal treatment.

    3) Affirm interracial marriage. A big part of the racial policy of the Church was to stigmatize and persecute interracial couples. An statement in support of family diversity would go a long way towards undoing the damage of the past. My understanding is that some of Church manuals still advise against interracial dating.

    This isn’t a radical agenda. An apology for past transgressions would hardly break the bank.

  26. Pingback: What can repair the church’s race relations? | Main Street Plaza

  27. Remember the “six steps of repentance”? (Feel sorry for sinning, confess, ask for forgiveness, make restitution/rectify problems, forsake the sin, receive forgiveness.) Although the church’s leaders probably feel regret for past racism, are trying to rectify problems, and are attempting to end (forsake) the teaching of racist doctrines, as an institution the Church is currently incapable of confessing it did wrong or of asking for forgiveness. Its repentance therefore remains incomplete.

  28. kuri, I think the Church technically has confessed the ban was wrong (based on the most recent statements by apostles and prophets that have said, essentially, “That’s how they thought back then.”), but I agree it hasn’t asked for forgiveness. I like that wording much better than “issue an apology” – since it has a religious foundation to it, and I see it as more “personal”.

  29. I don’t think the Church has admitted the ban itself was wrong. It has repudiated the “seed of Cain/not valiant in the pre-existence” explanation for the ban, but the ban itself? I don’t think so. I think as things now stand, the Church’s (mostly implicit) position is 1) the common explanation for the ban was wrong, but 2) we don’t know why the ban existed, although 3) we’re sure glad it’s over. As long as the Church holds onto number 2), reasonable people can see it as not doing “enough.”

  30. MHH,

    While I agree that you have 3 excellent suggestions, and would welcome them, organizations don’t act the same way individuals do. Perhaps Andrew can speak to this, since it appears he is well trained on organizational behavior.

    I don’t know if you’ve heard or read Armaund Mauss. John Dehlin did an interview with him before he retired the Mormon Stories Podcast, and Mauss basically says it is unrealistic to expect organizations to make apologies. I can’t remember the reasoning–I’ll have to listen to it again–maybe I’ll consider a post on it.

    As for 2 and 3, I think those are excellent suggestions. In the Special Features on the Nobody Knows DVD, they interview an inter-racial couple. The wife is black and has done some acting for church videos (and commercials, I believe). She talked about how frustrating it was when producers would ask her to bring her husband. When he showed up and was white, they hemmed and hawed about using him, and would always make excuses for not using him. It would be great to have some talks on this subject and make it clear that there is nothing wrong with it, but you are right–many church leaders discourage inter-racial relationships.

    I remember back to being a child and hearing my parents (and local leaders) talk about how they weren’t opposed to inter-racial marriage per se, but talked about how they didn’t want “that to happen to the children.” As I kid, I never really understood what “that” was, though it is obviously prejudice. I feel like I am much more accepting of inter-racial marriage. In a conversation with my wife a few years ago, she asked how I would feel if our daughter married a black man, and I said as long as he has good character, I’d be fine with it. I was disappointed to hear my wife utter the same phrase. Of course, we ended up in a fight.

    I remember a video series on MSNBC a while back which discussed interracial families, and said that the kids never feel fully one ethnicity or another. They highlighted several families, not just white-black. It seems like one family would alternate a puerto-rican birthday with a vietnamese birthday. The kids said others didn’t think of them as either fully Puerto Rican, or Vietnamese. So, while the church could certainly improve on this area, certainly society still has problems with it as well.

    I probably should have included Jane Manning James in the discussion. In the video, she is heavily emphasized, and her temple ban is just as wrong as the priesthood ban.

  31. When I think of inter-racial marriage, I think of something that is true but not necessary to teach.

    By that, I mean that it is true that inter-racial (and inter-cultural) couples face issues in society that intra-racial (and intra-cultural) marriages do not – that, all other things equal, inter-racial marriages actually are harder than intra-racial marriages. However, I don’t think that should be mentioned or taught, and I think it should be dropped completely as an example wherever marriage is discussed in the Church.

    It’s ironic that this issue would bolster that concept, but that’s my immediate thought.

  32. Ray,

    Would you be opposed to having an inter-racial couple on the cover of the Ensign? I doubt it, but according to the woman on the DVD, it was too scandalous for the church’s image. The church needs to let go of this discomfort. Their actions would surely speak louder than their words, and I think would be a great way to get the point across without mentioning a single word.

  33. I don’t see how preaching against interracial families from the pulpit is anything other than prejudice. It goes beyond insensitive, although it is that as well (think of a mixed-race child listening in the congregation). Honestly, I see a fair amount of racism in current LDS culture, despite the changes of 1978.

  34. #36 – I agree.

    #37 – Fwiw, personally, I have NEVER heard anyone preach against inter-racial marriage from the pulpit – certainly not in the past decade. I’m sure it happens somewhere still, but I’ve never heard it. It shouldn’t happen anywhere, and if it does it should be addressed with the Bishop (or the Stake President, if it is the Bishop doing the preaching).

  35. Here’s the quote kuri is referring to (so you don’t have to search all around like I did.)

    Compare the … following statement by President Spencer W. Kimball. Have a young man read it.

    “We recommend that people marry those who are of the same racial background generally, and of somewhat the same economic and social and educational background (some of those are not an absolute necessity, but preferred), and above all, the same religious background, without question” (“Marriage and Divorce,” in 1976 Devotional Speeches of the Year [Provo: Brigham Young University Press, 1977], p. 144).


    • Why is it important for a couple to have a similar economic, educational, and cultural background?

    I don’t think this is bad advice, but I am curious what others think. I think that inter-racial relationships are perfectly fine, but that doesn’t mean I think everyone should go out and look for a partner of another race. I’m not sure I see anything sinister here. Pres Kimball did say it was a “recommendation…generally”. It’s nothing like what Brigham Young said. Does anyone have a problem with the economic, educational, or cultural backgrounds being similar?

  36. re 39:

    but kuri, Ray already addressed this in his point 35. Inter-cultural/inter-racial marriages are “harder” because of the different cultural backgrounds, but this shouldn’t be mentioned or taught.

  37. MH,
    As someone married to a person of a “race” different from my own, I find the implication that my marriage was somehow inadvisable to be highly offensive. Furthermore, my children are “bi-racial.” Who, exactly, are they supposed to marry if they follow the Church’s advice?

    It was in last year’s Aaronic Priesthood manual. That means that the Church thinks it should be taught. Depending only on who his teacher was, it may have been taught to my son last year. What is he supposed to think when he hears something like that? That his parents’ marriage was some sort of mistake? That he is a mistake?

  38. kuri, I addressed that exact quote in my comment. The factual information in the manual technically is correct. Inter-racial and inter-cultural marriages actually are more difficult, all else equal. Even so, I don’t think it should be taught – so I hope that 31-year-old statement will be dropped from the manual when it is revised.

    Btw, EVERYTHING else in the lesson says that any two people who are committed to each other fully can be successful – and that is said explicitly in at least two of the other quotes. Therefore, the lesson itself highlights that ALL differences can be overcome. That’s the lesson I hope your son would take away from it.

  39. re 42

    I know that it is still in the A PH manual, but I mean, we already know where Ray stands on it. I don’t want to put words in his mouth, but it’s not so much a preaching against interracial marriages as it is saying, “don’t make things harder on yourself” (but then again, I think that position is cowardly…if you let these “intercultural difficulties” get in the way of sharing your life with someone you love…)

  40. kuri,

    Would you recommend most couples should be composed of a PhD and a high school drop out? Should we all strive for such a diversity of education?

    On the other hand, is there anything wrong with a PhD marrying a high school drop out? Certainly not–if it works for them, great! Should the high school drop out be looked down upon? Absolutely not.

  41. It’s cool, kuri.

    I understand how emotional this topic is for you, and I really do hope the discussion would highlight for your son that your own marriage is strong – and he can be just as strong as you and your spouse are.

  42. MH,
    What troubles me is that Church is the only place my children have encountered the idea that race matters as anything beyond a sometimes interesting but essentially trivial characteristic. It’s the only place they’ve heard bizarre racial theories from adults who are supposed to be guiding them.

  43. Re #48,

    It’s the only place they’ve heard bizarre racial theories from adults who are supposed to be guiding them.

    Exactly. You have only to look at comment #7 to see this. What are we to make of teachings like this:

    Your perfect frame, that was once there, is not black skin. It is white skin.

    The admonition against interracial marriages is really a statement against interracial families. Think of the children! is coded language that expresses an internalized discomfort or prejudice. It’s the same logic that’s used elsewhere by the Church to persecute other nontraditional families (like mine, for example).

    The Church needs to drop all racial language from its curriculum and to affirm racial diversity in a public forum like General Conference. The fact that the Ensign wouldn’t print a photograph of a biracial couple is very telling.

    By the way, could the advice in the Aaronic Priesthood manual also be construed as applying to interracial adoption?

  44. My sister-in-law during prop 8 refused to take down her pro-prop 8 sign when my gay son was coming with us for the day. She refused and said “He is who NEEDS to see it.”

    During our heated discussion (about love ironically) I mentioned to her that if she believed everything the prophets have ever said her son (married to a wonderful black woman), according to Brigham Young, needs to be shot on the spot. In a sinister future moment (I have many) I may share with her the AP manual quote. Thanks for sharing.

  45. MoHoHawaii,

    I don’t recall any problems with inter-racial adoption. We have several families in my ward with adopted kids of another race, and my wife has talked about wanting to adopt a Chinese baby, because she really wants another girl, and has heard that China has more girls needing adoption than boys. The church (Pres Kimball specifically) even endorsed the Indian Placement Program (now defunct), so I’d be surprised to hear any GA’s in the last 40 years who looked down on inter-racial adoptions.

  46. MoHoHawaii,
    When racism is paternalistic (as I think it tends to be where it exists in the Church today) rather than hateful, interracial adoption (of “minority” children by “white” parents) is often seen as a good thing, a way to “elevate” those without the good fortune of being born to white parents.

  47. Looking back over my comment #49, I realize I was harsher than intended. (Please accept my apology.)

    I didn’t really think the Church would officially stigmatize children whose race did not match that of their adoptive parents. I was just engaging in a thought experiment. If race, as the Aaronic Priesthood manual suggests, is a trait with deeper significance than eye color or hair color or height, and if this difference is of sufficient concern to cause the Brethren to caution against marrying a person of a another race, then why would it be advisable for a parent to attempt a relationship with an adoptive child who might possess this same mark of (irreconcilable) difference?

    This, of course, is absurd. Parental love is not governed by external societal approval and neither is the deep bond formed by the union of spouses. Two people are committed to building a life together in fidelity and love should be celebrated, not condemned.

    That was my point.

  48. ““Black people will turn white in the resurrection” is a myth.”

    For those of you who have read in the Book of Mormon we know of part of a race of whites who God “cursed” with a dark skin (Boy, the God of the Book of Mormon is really a racist, isn’t he? I mean, really, calling dark skin a curse!) because of transgression. Towards the end the Book of Mormon some of them are released from the curse because of righteousness and they become white again. (I wonder if God apologized.) This quite clearly demonstrates that there is no such thing as a red person, a yellow person, a black person or any other color other than white. I this case white people were cursed with a skin of darkness and this was later reversed.

    When Joseph Smith was involved in the first vision, I assume he would have said something if one of the two personages he saw was something other than white. Jesus was born into a white race. That’s because the Hebrews, at least, through the scriptures, can trace their lineage back to the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve were created in the image of God and were told to multiply after their own kind. Their kind was white skin because they were created in the image of God. Sorry, that’s just the way it works. It was genetic. To get another color of skin takes a major intervention. The very same God who engineered that intervention in the Book of Mormon also engineered it with Cain. In Genesis it is called a ‘mark’ as it is in the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon tells us much more about the ‘mark’.

    The mark was a curse. The curse was a dark skin. All this was brought about by transgression. The people who were cursed with a skin of blackness would be loathsome to people with white skin until the people with dark skin repented. (not turned white.) All
    this to prevent intermarriage and the resulting belief in incorrect traditions. (Alma 3:6, 2Nephi 5:21-22, Alma3:8)

    No, MH. The mark set on Cain was not wart, mole, or any other thing. In both cases, as I’ve stated before, why this had to be a generation thing since the children had nothing to do with it is beyond me. The biggest problem you people have is a whole race of people that came out of nowhere!

    By the way, MH, show your wife Alma 3:8.

    “And this was done that their seed might be distinguished from the seed of their brethren, that thereby the Lord God might preserve his people, that they might not amix and believe in incorrect btraditions which would prove their destruction.”

    The caution is that they might not mix and, as a result, believe in incorrect traditions. The caution is not that they mix and become a different color. If he (the intended son in law) has correct traditions, there shouldn’t be a problem.

    In closing, sometimes it comes across to me that you people just want to rebel? A search for true principles is the only way to get to the bottom of problems like this.

  49. Rich, I thought long and hard about how to word this, because I don’t like to react emotionally to anything. All I can say, is please re-read Elder McConkie’s statement following the lifting of the ban and Pres. Hinckley’s recent statement about racism in the Church. Your comment is the very definition of racism, particularly since there are perfectly reasonable readings of the verses you cite that do not require a racist interpretation – that can be read symbolically and not literally, IF one doesn’t go in assuming a literal meaning. In fact, 2 Nephi 26:33 says,

    For none of these iniquities come of the Lord; for he doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.

    Finally, you said:

    “In closing, sometimes it comes across to me that you people just want to rebel?”

    Frankly, that is one of the most sweeping, judgmental comments I have read EVER on this site. There is a WIDE range of perspective here, and to lump everyone together as “want(ing)to rebel” simply leaves me shaking my head in wonder.

    You really ought to consider that the person who just told you that is seen by everyone here as a very “faithful” member – and someone who writes regularly about avoiding hyperbole. I don’t believe in hyperbole, so please realize how serious I am when I tell you how condescending and incorrect you are in making such a blanket statement.

    If you want to label anything as “rebellion”:

    I will rebel against pre-1978 statements; you can rebel against post-1978 statements. That is my and your choice to make.

    Also, if you care, I wrote this when I first started my personal blog:

    Reflections from a Mixed-Race Family

  50. Ray. You will have to point to the racist statement(s) I made. Most of what I said dealt with the Lamanites. God literally did that. Whatever His reasons were He actually did that. He didn’t hate them and He didn’t want us to hate them. I have no problem with what you showed in 2Nephi but God, literally did not want his people marrying them until they had corrected what He saw as wrong.

    “O then ye unbelieving, turn ye unto the Lord; cry mightily unto the Father in the name of Jesus, that perhaps ye may be found spotless, pure, fair, and white, having been cleansed by the blood of the Lamb, at that great and last day.” (Mor. 9:6)

    Why did Moroni use the word ‘white’? I believe even after more than a thousand years the righteous Nephites still hurt because of the mark placed on the Lamanites. Nobody knew more about love for their brothers than they did. Of course God wants them to come back to Him but that does not change what He did and why He did it.

    Again, show me precisely where my racist talk is. Oh, and MH is right. I don’t know much about this blogging stuff. You will have to show me where these statements from Bother Mckonkie and President Hinckley are. If you can, I will read them.

    And I now believe you people are really sincere even though I still don’t comprehend your approach.

  51. Rich,

    Read it again–it says a “mark” was placed on Cain–it does not say black skin. The curse is separation from God. Besides, if men are to be punished by their own sins, should anyone be cursed by Cain’s transgression? If so, you’ve got some explaining to do, because you’ve just contradicted an Article of Faith. You’re also contradicting Brigham Young, who said, “its nothing to do with the blood, for of one blood has God made all flesh. We have to repent [and] regain what we [h]av[e] lost. We [h]av[e] one of the best Elders–an African in Lowell [i.e. Walker Lewis].”

    Do you think it’s possible that Nephi and Alma were racists, just as many of our past leaders have been? (I’m not asking you to agree with me–just asking “is it possible?”) I’ve already stated on this site and my own that I think that Joshua was racist for destroying the Canaanites. It is quite evident to me that Jonah was a racist as well–he wanted Nineveh destroyed, yet God did not. I know that sounds heretical, but don’t you think it’s possible that they learn line upon line, just as we do?

    I would hope we have progressed to understand that some things that are in the scriptures shouldn’t just be blindly followed because they are there. I would hope we would learn to be more Christlike, and less racist.

    Here’s a few instance where I think you will agree with me that scripture is wrong. “God hardened Pharoah’s heart”, “God is a spirit”, “Women should be silent in church.” Should we go back to the death penalty for sabbath breaking, adultery, and not honoring our parents? Did the Inquisitors and Crusaders have correct moral judgments?

    Why did Jesus pick the Samaritan as a good example? He was making a point about racism. Why did Nephi say the Lamanites were more righteous? Because they were, and he was also making a point about race. Skin color has nothing to do with righteousness, and you are spouting false doctrine if you think that black skin is a curse.

    And please be more tactful. Just because someone disagrees without doesn’t mean they want to rebel. You are assigning motives to me, and you’ve never met me. Please be more respectful in your disagreements, (and read Ray’s post for help on respectful disagreement.)

  52. Rich,

    Bruce R McConkie said in 1978 at http://speeches.byu.edu/reader/reader.php?id=11017

    There are statements in our literature by the early brethren which we have interpreted to mean that the Negroes would not receive the priesthood in mortality. I have said the same things, and people write me letters and say, “You said such and such, and how is it now that we do such and such?” And all I can say to that is that it is time disbelieving people repented and got in line and believed in a living, modern prophet. Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or President George Q. Cannon or whomsoever has said in days past that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world…. We get our truth and our light line upon line and precept upon precept. We have now had added a new flood of intelligence and light on this particular subject, and it erases all the darkness and all the views and all the thoughts of the past. They don’t matter any more…. It doesn’t make a particle of difference what anybody ever said about the Negro matter before the first day of June of this year.

  53. Pres Hinckley said on Apr 1 2006, Priesthood session at http://lds.org/conference/talk/display/0,5232,23-1-602-20,00.html

    I have wondered why there is so much hatred in the world. We are involved in terrible wars with lives lost and many crippling wounds. Coming closer to home, there is so much of jealousy, pride, arrogance, and carping criticism; fathers who rise in anger over small, inconsequential things and make wives weep and children fear.

    Racial strife still lifts its ugly head. I am advised that even right here among us there is some of this. I cannot understand how it can be. It seemed to me that we all rejoiced in the 1978 revelation given President Kimball. I was there in the temple at the time that that happened. There was no doubt in my mind or in the minds of my associates that what was revealed was the mind and the will of the Lord.

    Now I am told that racial slurs and denigrating remarks are sometimes heard among us. I remind you that no man who makes disparaging remarks concerning those of another race can consider himself a true disciple of Christ. Nor can he consider himself to be in harmony with the teachings of the Church of Christ. How can any man holding the Melchizedek Priesthood arrogantly assume that he is eligible for the priesthood whereas another who lives a righteous life but whose skin is of a different color is ineligible?

    Throughout my service as a member of the First Presidency, I have recognized and spoken a number of times on the diversity we see in our society. It is all about us, and we must make an effort to accommodate that diversity.

    Let us all recognize that each of us is a son or daughter of our Father in Heaven, who loves all of His children.

    Brethren, there is no basis for racial hatred among the priesthood of this Church. If any within the sound of my voice is inclined to indulge in this, then let him go before the Lord and ask for forgiveness and be no more involved in such.

  54. Rich, it’s late. I need to step away from the computer, but . . .

    There was a post last month about the Priesthood ban that can be found at the following link. I would suggest you read the entire thread to get a good feel for how everyone here feels about the history of race in the Church – since pretty much everyone made at least one comment or more. 🙂


    Jen asked me on that thread to find quotes from recent leaders about the ban and about racism in the Church. The quotes and links begin in comment #50 and continue through comment #56. They include Marlin Jensen, Jeffrey R. Holland, Bruce R. McConkie, Dallin H. Oaks, and David O. McKay. Pres. McKay’s quote in #56 is especially interesting, as it was given in 1954.

    MH quoted and linked Pres. Hinckley’s talk, so I won’t do that again here.

    Also, comment #65 included a link to something I wrote over on Times and Seasons as a comment on the same basic topic. It is a detailed explanation of how I view the ban and why, focused on an experience I had as a member of a Stake Missionary Presidency in southern Alabama years ago. You might want to read that comment, as well – and perhaps the entire thread (although there are 173 comments).

  55. Rich,

    You said, “You will have to point to the racist statement(s) I made.”

    Well, here:

    “Adam and Eve were created in the image of God and were told to multiply after their own kind. Their kind was white skin because they were created in the image of God.”

    There are many, many ways one could define being made “in God’s image.” One could, for example, argue that it means Adam and Eve were self-aware beings, or that they had moral agency, or simply that they were human, with all that entails. Yet the one criterion you choose as meaning “in God’s image” is the amount of melanin they had in their skin? That’s not just racist, it’s absurd.

  56. and Rich, “their kind”? – Wow!

    My next “big” birthday will be when I turn 50, and anyone younger than I should cringe when they hear that phrase. It probably is accepted generally as the single most racist way to talk about others outside of explicit racial slurs. If you are over 50, or you were unaware of that, simply realize it is so.

    Also, the implication of the statement Kuri quoted is that others who have non-white skin are a different “kind” than children of God – and that’s the most vile concept I’ve encountered in my entire life. It smacks of being a subtle way of stating the belief that Africans are descended from monkeys while Caucasians are children of God, and I actually heard that in the Deep South about 20 years ago from some people. It’s wrong; it’s reprehensible; it has no place here on this forum.

    If that’s not what you meant, again, realize it’s what those words mean to nearly everyone who reads them.

  57. And thus saith the Lord God: I will cause that they shall be loathsome unto thy people, save they shall repent of their iniquities. (2Nephi 5:22)

    Thus the word of God is fulfilled, for these are the words which he said to Nephi: Behold, the Lamanites have I cursed, and I will set a mark on them that they and their seed may be separated from thee and thy seed, from this time henceforth and forever, except they repent of their wickedness and turn to me that I may have mercy upon them.
    And again: I will set a mark upon him that mingleth his seed with thy brethren, that they may be cursed also. (Alma 3:14-15)

    First of all, I wanted to use God’s own words. The mark came from Him. It was a curse. Secondly, Brigham Young – “its nothing to do with the blood”. Well, President Young, for once I couldn’t agree with you more. Now if you will excuse me I need to talk to MH. MH. How could it possibly have anything to do with the blood? The blood was pure – straight from Adam and Eve – the image of God – the whole works. Now when I say that Cain did something very awful and God put a ‘mark’ on him and I use the Book of Mormon to define what that ‘mark’ did. I’m not trying to create a race of black people so God can take the priesthood away from them. I’m trying to explain the origin of the black race. Now that they are there, should the priesthood be withheld from them? I don’t know. I thought for many years that I did. The only thing I do know is that from the time Brigham Young instituted it till the time that it was lifted, the answer is, of course, yes it should be withheld from them. Why? Because the Lord’s anointed said so. Right or wrong that is the way it needed to be. And when the Lord’s anointed make strong comments about the worthiness of a priesthood holder to hold the priesthood then you need to watch your step. If you get in trouble with them, you will probably have to get yourself out. Don’t expect God to come along and save you.

    As far as the origin of the black race or any other colored race – if you can’t see the white person underneath the colored exterior then you just can’t see!! Kuri and Ray, this goes for you too. White is the image of God. “O then ye unbelieving, turn ye unto the Lord; cry mightily unto the Father in the name of Jesus, that perhaps ye may be found spotless, pure, fair, and white, having been cleansed by the blood of the Lamb, at that great and last day.” (Mor.9:6) The Atonement makes you spotless and pure, the resurrection makes you fair and white. In other word, the Redemption restores the image of God. God never created a colored race. He caused changes in white people to produce a different colored skin. The change was always temporary and it was never for the purpose of creating another race. It’s purpose was to segregate and bring about repentance. When the repentance was accomplished, God would eventually bring about a reunion.

    Nephi wrote what was “pleasing to God” (2Nephi 5:32). He could do that because he was in tune with God. One of your big problems is that you have to tie the names of Church leaders to the two ‘r’ words (racist and racism). When David felt guilty about what he did to Saul, he didn’t feel that way because he was sparkling example of goodness. Whether the account says so or not, it was God who made him feel that way. Saul was the Lord’s anointed and he was even trying to kill David! No I don’t think the leaders are racist. (in the scriptures or out) Two things: You need to stop that and you need to find other ways to deal with those particular frustrations.

    I don’t blindly follow anything. I trust no one on the face of the earth. “man should not…trust in the arm of flesh— “ (D&C 1:19). All mortality is the arm of flesh unless it speaks “in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world.” (D&C 1:20) If I don’t feel like something is true when I hear it or read it then I, simply, shelve it – I don’t care who says it.

    ““God hardened Pharaoh’s heart”, “God is a spirit”, “Women should be silent in church.” Should we go back to the death penalty for Sabbath breaking, adultery, and not honoring our parents?

    How many times was I troubled with that because it didn’t sound write but yet I believed it anyway? Thanks Joseph. The part about the death penalty. God commanded the death penalty for those three crimes. How can you ask a question like that? Some day God will put us back there whether we want it or not. If you don’t like it when it happens then I would say that your duration in the Millennium will be short. Just a guess.

    “you are spouting false doctrine if you think that black skin is a curse.”

    Read 2Nephi 5:20-25 and when you do don’t assign any of Nephi’s words (verses 21 and 24) as racist. If you do as I say then you will have some good information. If you don’t then you will have twisted refuse.

    Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; (Ex. 20:5)

    Interesting isn’t it. According to the 2nd article of faith, God really can’t punish the children for things their fathers did unless, of course, there’s something about the children that’s not right – whatever in the world that might be. You know in the D&C, verses 71-79 it describes the terrestrial inhabitants. Basically they wouldn’t go along with the ways of the telestial because they were so bad and unruly in their ways that they were unpleasant to be with and whatever any other reasons they had not to want to be with them. On the other hand the celestial created a whole host of other problems. It took courage and undying allegiance to be with them. Not to mention a lot of time and assets. In fact, when you consider the Terrestrial Kingdom, what you have is a whole kingdom of fence sitters – billions of them. And from our vantage point we can see the whole thing coming before it even happens. What made me mention all this?

    I will be more respectful in the future.

  58. Rich, you completely ignored everything that our modern prophets have said about this (and went WAY beyond what ANY modern prophet has said, which makes me wonder if you are a member of the CoJCoLDS. Either way, you are deeply racist – and I will leave it to Pres. Hinckley’s words to categorize your words properly. Your fourth paragraph, especially, is one of the most repulsive, nonsensical, non-scientifically defensible pieces of drivel I have ever read on this subject.

    Personally, I will not engage you further, as I have no desire whatsoever to grant your racist bile any semblance of credibility. It simply isn’t worth the effort if you are going to ignore the modern prophets and what I actually quoted from the Book of Mormon. I am done with this conversation.

  59. Rich, I think it’s pretty despicable that you think that God is a racist. Any future comments promoting racism will be deleted.

    Let me remind you of a few quotes that you have conveniently ignored. Bruce R McConkie, “We have now had added a new flood of intelligence and light on this particular subject, and it erases all the darkness and all the views and all the thoughts of the past. They don’t matter any more…. It doesn’t make a particle of difference what anybody ever said about the Negro matter before the first day of June of this year. This includes Nephi and Alma, who wrote well before 1978.

    Pres Hinckley, “Now I am told that racial slurs and denigrating remarks are sometimes heard among us. I remind you that no man who makes disparaging remarks concerning those of another race can consider himself a true disciple of Christ. Nor can he consider himself to be in harmony with the teachings of the Church of Christ.” Pres Hinckley’s remarks put you in serious condemnation, and you are in great need of repentance. You are obviously not a true disciple of Christ.

  60. Hi folks, sorry I missed this before. The history of the RLDS position on race is quite different from the history of the LDS position. Joseph Smith’s legacy on race was ambiguous. Newell Bringhurst’s 2006 JWHA presidential address discussed how different successors emphasized different aspects of Joseph Smith’s policies. (See Newell G. Bringhurst, “Joseph Smith’s Ambiguous Legacy: Gender, Race, and Ethnicity as Dynamics for Schism within Mormonism after 1844,” published in the JWHA Journal, vol. 27 [2007], 1-47.)

    As MH points out in the main blog entry, Joseph Smith ordained some black men to the priesthood. He also campaigned for the U.S. presidency in 1844 on a platform that included an abolitionist plank. However, he also revealed new scripture (the Book of Abraham) which canonized the popular American racist belief that black people were descendents of Cain. Different Mormon successor churches built upon different portions of this legacy. Brigham Young, who was a committed racist, as judged by the standards of his own day, emphasized the racist aspects of Joseph’s legacy and set the LDS Church on the course it took through until 1978.

    Meanwhile, the RLDS Church was busily reorganizing in the Midwestern United States during the period of the Civil War. Joseph Smith III received a revelation in 1865, which stated:

    “Hearken! Ye elders of my church… It is my will that my will that my gospel shall be preached to all nations in every land, and that men of every tongue shall minister before me; Therefore it is expedient in me that you ordain priests unto me, of every race who receive the teachings of my law, and become heirs according to the promise…Be ye content, I the Lord have spoken it.” (D&C 117:1a, b-c, 4b [RLDS])

    Therefore the RLDS Church received a commandment to ordain men of all races to the priesthood more than a century before the LDS Church received the same. (Although, in keeping with Joseph III’s pragmatic nature, the 1865 revelation cautioned, “Be not hasty in ordaining men of the Negro race to offices in my church…” 117:4a.) So the path was cautious and perhaps slower and less zealous in its commitment to civil rights than liberal members of the Community of Christ today would have liked.

    Today, of course, the Community of Christ has an apostle who was born in Zambia, Bunda C. Chibwe: http://www.cofchrist.org/bio/current/Chibwe-Bunda.asp.

  61. I should also mention that RLDS / Community of Christ had African American Seventies serving in predominantly Caucasian stakes nearly 4 decades ago.

    And who would know anything about Mesoamerica and think that Nephi or Alma thought Lamanites were African in the first place?

  62. I have to admit, it was a good try. Many have tried to understand the priesthood ban and i don’t think it will ever as long as people try to find good in evil.

    I suppose Hitler done some good thing for the Jews before the Holocaust also. There are many the even say that the Mormons were good, kind and gentle slave owners. I suppose none of them had a whip. I find that ironic too.

    If what you say is true, why isn’t there one drop of evidence in Temple Square?

    Why isn’t there one picture of a black person in Temple Square?

    I have been there about 10 times thinking that one day it might change. All the church history that exists and is showcased in Temple Square, there isn’t one wall or one corner with one black person. I am sure there are about 1000 paintings, murals, and photos but there isn’t a painting, mural, or photo of one black person. The day the church become more diverse will be the day I believe that the LDS church is sincere. For some reason I get the impression that heaven won’t have any black people.

  63. Joey, I understand your sentiments and I agree that the church could do more to promote blacks. I will mention that the “This is the Place Monument” has inscribed the names of some of the early black saints who entered with Brigham Young. Green Flake is the name of one–the other names escape me.

    I’m sure you and Hitler also share some common traits.

  64. “The day the church become more diverse will be the day I believe that the LDS church is sincere.”

    Then I guess it’s time to start believing.

    Sorry, but the last sentence of #69 is ignorant, at best. It really isn’t worth trying to address.

  65. #66 & #67.

    I have long held the belief that, the Priesthood ban was initiated not due to race, but as protection from the reaction of racism, if accounts are correct, Walker Lewis married a number of white women, this obviously caused a great deal of issues for the early Church. By way of protection the Priesthood ban was initiated in the 1850’s. again this is not a race issue or a Walker Lewis issue, but a result of embedded racism, ignorance and immaturity of a culture across the Americas. The Church simply would not have survived or at least been significantly crippled by the consequences.

    on this basis I can understand God authorising a ban, other churches used other methods to enforce segregation and glass ceilings.

    my comment is how did the RLDS in 1864 providing the priesthood to all males regardless of race, affect the church with the race issues surrounding the Americas, did they notice a lack of support form membership did some leave, did others simply disaffect, is the fact that the membership of CofC only 250,000 a result of this policy?

  66. MrQ&A

    I think you’ve made a mistake–perhaps you were referring to someone else other than Walker Lewis–I don’t think Walker was involved in any form of polygamy. His son did marry 1 white woman, but not Walker (at least in my studies.)

    I’ve heard this argument before, but I just don’t believe it. This makes discrimination a form of protection, and that is just a repugnant, racist position. It’s almost like putting someone in jail “for their own protection.” This is not a reasonable form of protection–especially for 140 years because it takes away so many rights and privileges. Would you like to be protected in jail for the rest of your life?

    Perhaps John or someone from the CoC can answer more correctly than me. The RLDS church was founded around 1860. By 1864, the Civil War was almost over, and Lincoln had declared the Emancipation Proclamation, so I can’t image a mass exodus of RLDS church members as a result of this revelation. I think a reasonable case could be made that Joseph III saw the writing on the wall that blacks would be free. By late 1864, the Union troops were making great progress in the war. It’s too bad Brigham didn’t see the writing on the wall.

  67. MH – I do agree that it is a strong possibility that I am mistaken with the Walker Lewis comment, I wrote from memory but I will look it up I think it was a Sunstone article. I thought it was Walker but it might be William something.

    Regarding my point about protection, this was not protection for the Black man, although that might have been a result, but protection for the Church and its growth within a unarguably racist country. I am more comfortable with this idea than I am others because Christ must lead the Church, and his ways are higher, please don’t get me wrong by way of this form of protect if I was born in the 1900’s I would be 78 before receiving the priesthood, I hope that I would have endured this type of prejudice, although I doubt it.

    As I suggested I would be looking for some type of comparison, did the CoC cope well, what issues arose perhaps at the early stage but more in the 1950’s when culture by that time had changed, and was no more a threat to the survival of the LDS Church? I too wish we as a Church could have been a leading force for change, however none but JS ever seemed to present anything radical and charismatic as abolition.

  68. If the church could endure the trials of polygamy, I don’t think blacks holding the priesthood in 1840 or 1850 would have been the end for the church. That line of reasoning is really grasping at straws, IMO. I plan a post shortly on the polygamy raids, which you may find interesting. The govt really went after the church regarding polygamy, and pretty much brought the church to its knees by confiscating property and throwing polygamists in jail. No such persecution would have happened for either the RLDS or the LDS regarding black priesthood holders, so I’m rather confident the church could have survived just dandy as it did when the above black men were ordained. Certainly these men didn’t cause a huge rift in the church and cause members to leave. If anything, the church left these men, and it had absolutely nothing to do with the church’s survival. People who give this defense give way too much credit that the black issue was an important issue. Most members then and now weren’t even aware of the issue. You might want to read my post on the priesthood ban. David O McKay was an apostle for 15 years (1906-1921) before he learned of the priesthood ban. It was a non-issue between about 1860-1921, so I do not find the argument compelling at all that black priesthood holders would have spelled doom for the church, or that members would have left the church in droves.

  69. I look forward to reading your post on the polygamy raids.

    I agree that the argument isn’t the most compelling, however I’m holding onto this unrealistic view because I belive that God must have played some part for some reason.

    I would disagree with the threat of Polygamy, it had the “peculiar effect” of defining the early Utah saints, strengthening their resolve to build the Kingdom of God and be a peculiar people.

    It is difficult to find historical evidence of persecution of those looking equal civil rights during the 1850’s because segregation was so embedded. And every worthy male receiving the Priesthood and full Temple access would have been interpreted as equal rights. even though the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated for considering suffrage. “To kill a Mocking Bird” emphasises the institutional racism, even from the hero of the tail Atticus Finch. additionally news of a state that offers such rights to the priesthood could have lead to a exodus to Utah.

    Finally the David O’McKay experience does not demonstrate a non-issue, it highlights the segregation of the mid-west and the all is well in my area mentality.

  70. You must be BLACK, from the remarks you made! If you know the church & it’s teachings how could you ever deny it? We are all brothers & sisters in the eyes of GOD. Why do you think we are here? We need to learn to love one another, red, yellow, black or white. He loves no one more, he loves us all the same. He weeps for the siners, his lost children. We should do the same. I truly believe that is the way he will judge us.

  71. I’m a son of a white woman and a black man, many of the GA’s racist teachings are directed at my parents and by default left me feeling even more of a minority.

    “We need to learn to love one another, red, yellow, black or white. He loves no one more, he loves us all the same. He weeps for the siners, his lost children. We should do the same. ” AMEN and AMEN

    But if God could intercede and reform Saul – Paul, provided life changing experiences to Martin Luther, William Wilberforce, and others then how could the Lords Anointed be so blind, I agree many GA’s were racist but I feel it was part of Gods plan or the health of the church.

  72. In Elder Joseph W. Sitati recent talk in GC – “Blessings of the Gospel Available to All”

    I was left feeling that the Race Issue will not be repaired fully with this type of approach.

    It felt to me as a position of justification and denial. To have the first African GA in near 15 years, talk at his first GC about how God has often denied privileges to certain groups of people through out the dispensations, felt very patronising.

    Even for me someone who supports that theory that God restricted Blacks from the full fellowship in the Church for it’s own good.

    It just felt like if an African tells us the Church was not racist then all is well in Zion.

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