Racism and the Mormons: A case of Brian’s lost shoe?

IMG_2185Yes, I know The Life of Brian is irreverent!  But there’s nothing quite like a jolly good satire to make some pretty clever statements on love, life and the universe.  The more conservative among us might read TLOB as a mockery of the sacrosanct, but I don’t see it that way – obviously.  It’s a very intelligent critique of how daft we are.  How seemingly incapable we are of understanding the difference between spiritual transcendence and hot emotional surges; between saving doctrines and institutional policy; between God and the religious elite; between a Zion community governed by Christ and a racially homogenous right-wing middle-class community where the only difference between us is the square footage of our houses and the make and model of our cars.

So here is poor Brian, who in some mindless pursuit by the masses through the streets of Jerusalem, accidentally drops his shoe.  Thinking better of returning to pick it up, the chasing devotees discover it lying in the sand and it suddenly takes on a life of its own.

I intend to demonstrate, liberally using the most esteemed works of Bush (1973) and White & White (1980) and Monty Python (1979) that the church’s historical racial statements are much akin to Brian’s lost shoe.  Mormonism’s racist ‘doctrine’ is akin to a single sandal – constructed with the materials of the day, reflecting the fashion of the time, lying unclaimed in the dust – missing its pair.  It was then picked up by the rearguard and was transformed through equivocation, lies, deceit, bad science, poor theology,  and a jolly good dose of political context into a defining feature of our religious life.   That we still need debate the origins of this horrific and violent ‘doctrine’ is indicative of how extremely silly we religious folk can be.    I’m not at all suggesting that there is no revelation and no prophecy and that certain people are not capable of interpreting the mind and will of God.  I’m suggesting that we are in for some disappointment when we cling to nonsense notions which suggest that religious leaders are incapable of messing things up.  Yes, yes – I know – Joseph said that the Lord won’t permit the prophet to lead the church astray, but he didn’t say that the church’s lack of understanding of the scriptures, the gospel, the atonement and Zion wouldn’t cause themselves to go astray!


So here’s a potted history for those of you who want a summary.  I’m hoping that it will make its way to the LDS Newsroom where the corporation will be able to finally answer those ‘we don’t know’ questions that appeared in the 29 February press release!  But then, if they haven’t read the many, many fine treatments from intellectuals on this subject over the years they are rather unlikely to listen to a brown girl from New Zealand.

The Joseph Smith Period

(Liberally lifted from:  Bush, L (1975) Mormonism’s Negro Doctrine:  An Historical Overview. In Dialogue:  A Journal of Mormon Thought.  Spring 1973.

1831:  WW Phelps opens mission in Missouri and includes  ‘Negroes’ among those who might be recipients of the message.

1832:  Black man, Elijah Abel baptized.


1832:  Allegations launched at the church that they were ‘tampering with slaves’ and inciting insurrection – this is a legal violation of Missouri law.

1833:  Phelps’ article in Evening and Morning Star misinterpreted by angry Missourians as in invitation to blacks to immigrate to the state to become Mormon.

1833:  Phelps’ retracts statement and publishes an article stating the opposite.  I.e.  Don’t come to Missouri if you are black and don’t become a Mormon if you are black.

1833:  Phelps’ attempts to set Missiourian minds at ease leads nowhere and the Star press is destroyed by mobs.


1833:  Joseph’s revelation,  “it is not right that any man should be in bondage to another.”

1834:  Church worried about slave insurrection and warns members against inciting such.

1835:  The church’s official position on slavery.  Avoids a political debate about the morality of slavery but endorses government as arbiters of such debates.  Reiterates that it is not lawful to “interfere with bond-servants”  or to preach and baptize them without the permission of their masters.  Proselytizing to blacks therefore restricted.

1836:  Elijah Abel ordained an elder.

1836:  National debate on abolitionism – Joseph Smith objects to abolitionism.  Five reasons:

1) America would be overrun by blacks and this will threaten to violate chastity and virtue of nice white ladies.

2) Pious men in the South loved it – and they should know.

3) North and South should keep out of each other’s business.

4) Sons of Ham (blacks) cursed by Jehovah to be servants.

5) Biblical precedent for slavery

Smith’s and Cowdery’s arguments and theories mirror those held more generally.  Their thinking a reflection of the time including 4 & 5 courtesy  of Jerome and St Augustine (around 300-400AD ish).

1836:  Elijah Abel a licensed elder.

1836:  Elijah Abel ordained a seventy.

1840:  First Presidency proclaims universality of Mormonism – a religion for all.

1842:  JS agrees with John C. Bennett, non-Mormon abolitionist, on “Universal liberty, to every soul of man”, and on the injustices experienced by abolitionists.  JS comes out to church in letters as  ‘anti-slavery’ but denies he is an abolitionist.

1842:  JS writes in his journal that slaves should be “set free…and give them equal rights.”

1844:  JS dies

1844:  Orson Pratt comes up with the,  ‘some spirits not valiant in the pre-existence and were cursed as black’ theory.

Joseph Smith Summary



Believed in the curse of Ham

Allows ordination of black man

Brigham Young

1845:  Publishes an anti-abolitionist statement on the basis of ‘The curse theory’.

1849:  Earliest record of a church decision to deny the priesthood to Negroes.

1852:  “Any man having one drop of the seed of Cain… in him cannot hold the priesthood and if no other Prophet ever spake it before I will say it now in the name of Jesus Christ I know it is true and others know it.

1852:  Signs an act as Utah governor legalizing both Negro and Indian slavery with provisions of ‘humane’ treatment.

1854:  “When all the other children of Adam have the privilege of receiving the Priesthood and of coming into the Kingdom of God, and of being redeemed from the four quarters of the earth,  and have received their resurrection from the dead, then it will be time enough to remove the curse from Cain and his posterity”.

1859:  Declares -  “The Lord put a mark upon Cain, which is the flat nose and the black skin…they should be the “servant of servants.”

1859:  Blacks characterized as:  “uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable in their habits, wild, and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of intelligence that is bestowed upon mankind”.

1863:  Reiterates the ‘curse can’t be removed’ ‘doctrine’

After the civil war:  “…when all the rest of the children have received their blessings in the holy priesthood, then that curse will be removed from the seed of Cain, and they will come up and possess the priesthood.”

Brigham Young Summary



Believes in the curse of Ham

Declares that blacks can’t have priesthood because of curse

Doesn’t believe blacks have a right to temple ordinances

The problem of Elijah Abel


1879: Story goes around the church that JS said blacks could have the priesthood.

John Taylor goes to Zebedee Coltrin for clarification.

Coltrin says, ‘No, JS told me negroes have no right to PH and as President of Seventy I dropped Abel from quorum of seventy’.

Joseph F Smith disagrees and affirms Abel not dropped.  Abel confirms Coltrin had ordained him as a seventy.

Abel petitions John Taylor unsuccessfully to be able to go to the temple.  JT sends Abel on a mission.  He dies 1 year in.

WW gets petitions from Jane James (a black woman) to receive temple ordinances.  Petition taken to QOT and JFS argues that JS had ordained Abel so perhaps OK.  George Q Cannon disagrees.  WW eventually allows her to go to the temple under ‘special circumstances’.

GQC says:  Joseph told me, ‘ The seed of Cain could not receive the PH’, but WW says,  ‘I was an apostle under him for 5 years and never heard him say this’.

GQC denies right of white woman previously married to a black man to be sealed to her 2nd white husband.

GQC denies priesthood to a white man married to a black woman.

Lorenzo Snow never attributes “Negro doctrine” to Joseph Smith.

1885:  BH Roberts sparks the ‘Egyptus myth’ in the Contributor.

1900:  GQC using the ‘Egyptus’ myth in several First Presidency addresses.

1902 Joseph F. Smith affirms:  Elijah Abel ordained a seventy and received a patriarchal blessing in days of JS.

1907:  First Presidency declares:  “No one known to have in his veins negro blood, (it matters no how remote a degree) can either have the priesthood in any degree the blessings of the Temple of God no matter how otherwise worthy he may be.”

1908:   After 30 years of saying ‘Yes, Abel was ordained to PH’, JFS  suddenly announces (without references)  that Abel’s ordination had been declared null and void by the Prophet himself.

JFS alleges that  WW refused temple ordinances to Abel – but WW didn’t become president until 5 years after Abel died!

1912:  First Presidency use GQC’s claim that JS taught that the PH was denied to blacks.

POGP justification becomes embedded in explanations as to why no PH for blacks.

1931:  Joseph Fielding Smith provides a theoretical foundation for policies based on history and POGP theory.

1947:  First Presidency letter, “The rule of the church as heretofore followed has been set forth by the early Church leaders.  You will find a discussion thereof in Brother Joseph Fielding Smith’s book, ‘The Way to Perfection, ‘chapter 16”.  This book includes the quote (in speaking of Joseph Smith)  “We all know it was due to his teachings that the Negro today is barred from the Priesthood.”

A quote from the above book states:  “Not only was Cain called upon to suffer, but because of his wickedness – he became the father of an inferior race.”

Dropping the Doctrine

Lifted liberally from:  White, O. & White D. (1980) Abandoning an Unpopular Policy:  An Analysis of the Decision Granting the Mormon Priesthood to Blacks. Sociological Analysis, 3:231-245.


1951:  First Presidency declares priesthood denial to be doctrine – not policy.

1954:  Mark E Petersen in a BYU address:  “Is there reason then why the type of birth we receive in this life is not a reflection of our worthiness or lack of it in the pre-existent life?…can we account in any other of way for the birth of some of the children of God in darkest Africa, or in flood-ridden China, or among the starving hordes of India, while some of the rest of us are born here in the United States? We cannot escape the conclusion that because of   performance in our pre-existence some of us are born as Chinese, some as Japanese, some as Indians, some as Negroes, some as Americans, some as Latter-day Saints. These are rewards and punishments, fully in harmony with His established policy in dealing with sinners and saints, rewarding all according to their deeds.

1958:  According to a leading Apostle the saints were finding their church “guilty of a great injustice in the flood of correspondence from all parts of the church”.

1958:  Mormon Doctrine by Bruce R. McConkie published reiterating ‘the curse mythology as doctrine’.   “Negroes in this life are denied the priesthood; under no circumstances can they hold this delegation of authority from the almighty. The gospel message of salvation is not carried affirmatively to them… “Negroes are not equal with other races where the receipt of certain spiritual blessings are concerned…” (Mormon Doctrine, 1958, p. 477)

1958:  McConkie – “Certainly the caste systems in communist countries and in India, for instance, are man made and are not based on true principles. “However, in a broad sense, caste systems have their root and origin in the gospel itself, and when they operate according to the divine decree, the resultant restrictions and segregation are right and proper and have the approval of the lord. To illustrate: Cain, Ham, and the whole Negro race have been cursed with a black skin, the mark of Cain, so they can be identified as a caste apart, a people with whom the other descendants of Adam should not intermarry.”
(Mormon Doctrine, 1958, pp. 107-108)

1963:  Hugh B Brown sympathetic to Civil Rights movement.

1963:   Nigerian government deny missionary visas.

1964:  Church charged with violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act over Boys Scouts programme which required patrol leaders to be priesthood holders.  This meant black scouts could not be patrol leaders.

1965:  NAACP urges foreign governments to deny visas to Mormon missionaries for promulgating a doctrine of black inferiority.

Late 60’s:  Standford sever ties with BYU.

Public relations issues ensue, sparking aggressive PR campaigns.

Brazilians converts – many with black ancestry want to go to the temple.

Outspoken critics of the ban,  John Fitzgerald, Bryon Marchant, and C.D. McBride are excommunicated.

Genesis Group formed.

1978:  Priesthood made available to “All Worthy Males” under Spencer W. Kimball.

1978:  Bruce R. McConkie – “And all I can say to that is 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.”

2012:  BYU Professor Randy Bott reiterates the Negro Curse Theory to the Washington Post as a justification for the priesthood ban.

2012:  The church issues as a news release the following statement:  “For a time in the Church there was a restriction on the priesthood for male members of African descent.  It is not known precisely why, how, or when this restriction began in the Church but what is clear is that it ended decades ago. Some have attempted to explain the reason for this restriction but these attempts should be viewed as speculation and opinion, not doctrine. The Church is not bound by speculation or opinions given with limited understanding.”

And so, after an exhausting but not necessarily exhaustive treatment of the history of the Mormon priesthood ban we are left with a number of reasonable conclusions that we could make.  But I prefer to defer to Monty Python who very aptly described what happens when we mere mortals don’t quite get Jesus’ message and instead end up slightly fuddled (x1 curse word in here – apologies).  In the end perhaps we need to be extraordinarily careful that we don’t just allow ourselves to be lead by the nose, its not good for us and its not good for our leaders either.

If you want to listen to some talking heads featuring moi (and haven’t already) you can catch the Mormon Matters Podcast discussion about it as well!


Digesting the Dehlin Drama: Thoughts in the wake
Anguished Musings on a Frayed Testimony
On Despising Mormon Polygamy
The Temple View Saga: A Podcast
  • JohnnyS

    Hey Kiwi,

    Another great post. My take on all of this is that the church leaders perpetrated a great injustice on an entire ethnic group solely because of racism. I pride myself on being (relatively) objective in my approach to texts. I understand that there are many different views on any subject, but I can say unequivocally that when I read the statements on the matter by the apostles, Bruce R. McConkie included, I can only see their statements as nothing but a most insidious form of racism disturbingly couched in Christian rhetoric. I cannot for one instant believe that a loving Heavenly Father or the Savior would have been in favor of denying an entire ethnic group the priesthood. And BTW, it was NOT doctrine, but policy. There is no recorded revelation by Joseph Smith on the matter and, in fact, if Joseph Smith actually ordained African American men to the priesthood, it seems pretty damn clear to me that he thought that to be an approved practice. Polygamy, of course, is another matter for another time, but I don’t believe for one second that it has divine origins either. What the church needs to do is acknowledge fully its racist past, apologize as profusely as possible, and then get on with the business of doing the best it can to determine Heavenly Father’s will towards all of his children, including, btw, his gay children. And, not to co-opt this thread, but there is at least anecdotal evidence that Joseph Smith did refer to women as priestesses in a few places and that those references were later expurgated. I’d love to see another thread on women and the priesthood and I’d love to hear others’ thoughts about the issues kiwimormon raises.


    • http://vozesmormons.com.br/ Marcello Jun

      Letter from the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, on August 17th, 1949:

      “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 prophets of the Lord have made several statements as to the operation of the principle. President Brigham Young said: ‘Why are so many of the inhabitants of the earth cursed with a skin of blackness? It comes in consequence of their fathers rejecting the power of the holy priesthood, and the law of God. They will go down to death. And when all the rest of the children have received their blessings in the holy priesthood, then that curse will be removed from the seed of Cain, and they will then come up and possess the priesthood, and receive all the blessings which we now are entitled to.’

      President Wilford Woodruff made the following statement: ‘The day will come when all that race will be redeemed and possess all the blessings which we now have.’

      The position of the Church regarding the Negro may be understood when another doctrine of the Church is kept in mind, namely, that the conduct of spirits in the premortal existence has some determining effect upon the conditions and circumstances under which these spirits take on mortality and that while the details of this principle have not been made known, the mortality is a privilege that is given to those who maintain their first estate; and that the worth of the privilege is so great that spirits are willing to come to earth and take on bodies no matter what the handicap may be as to the kind of bodies they are to secure; and that among the handicaps, failure of the right to enjoy in mortality the blessings of the priesthood is a handicap which spirits are willing to assume in order that they might come to earth. Under this principle there is no injustice whatsoever involved in this deprivation as to the holding of the priesthood by the Negroes.”

      The First Presidency

      • http://kiwimormon.wordpress.com kiwimormon

        I’d have to agree with you here – it seems to be pretty clear that it was indeed a doctrine and great pains were made to position it as such – particularly in the early to mid 20th century. So how does a policy become a doctrine become a thing we won’t do anymore become a mistake?

      • JohnnyS

        HI Marcello,

        Thanks for your awesome researching skills. However, this declaration is from 1949 and, although it mentions that denying the priesthood to “Negroes” is a doctrine, not a policy, it still does not explain why Joseph Smith ordained several of them to the priesthood. Kiwi’s post points to the fact that there seems to be a disagreement even among apostles about what happened and when and, if it really is doctrine/a matter of revelation, I would think the waters concerning it would be less muddy. And still, it is a racist ideology. If it weren’t, why would the church condemn Professor Bott’s statements which, if I’m recalling accurately, essentially parrot the statement you’ve helpfully provided us here. Also, again, if I’m recalling correctly, I believe the church’s recent statement on the matter says: “it is not known precisely why, how, or when this restriction began in the church.” If the how, why and when isn’t known, if its origins cannot be traced, then I don’t quite know how it’s doctrine. No-one asks questions about the Word of Wisdom’s origin; it’s very clear, its in the D&C and we have a good deal of historical context surrounding it. The murky origins of the priesthood “doctrine,” as well as the church’s admission of that murkiness, makes such a doctrine all the more specious. So if Bott’s statements are no longer doctrine, does that mean all of the church’s statements on spirits being less valiant in the pre-existence is also not doctrine anymore? If it’s not doctrine any more, how could it ever have been considered doctrine in the first place? Will the church ever admit it made such a mistake? Just wondering.


    • http://kiwimormon.wordpress.com kiwimormon

      Here you have hit the hammer on the head with the most important question we face today! Women and the priesthood! There is soooo much I could say about this – but we feminists don’t want to end up like Margaret Toscano so we tread this line very carefully. It destabilizes our existing power structures so its considered extraordinarily threatening -considering – as was the case with blacks and the priesthood – there’s actually no scriptural justification for it!

      • http://vozesmormons.com.br/ Marcello Jun

        Indeed. There’s actually scriptural justification *for* including women in the Priesthood. In the New Testament we have the Apostle Junia, the Deaconess Phoebe, and the Seventy Priscilla (Romans 16), as well as Prophetesses (Acts 18), Evangelists Euodia and Syntyche (Phillipians 4), and House Leaders (equivalent of later Pastors) Apphia (Philemon 1), Chloe (1 Corinthians 1), Nympha (Colossians 4), and Lydia (Acts 16).

        Now, there is one other equality question plaguing the Church, even more dramatically than the (reprehensible) disenfranchisement of women: gays and lesbians.

  • http://vozesmormons.com.br/ Marcello Jun

    Brian: I’m not the Messiah! Will you please listen? I am not the Messiah, do you understand? Honestly!

    Girl: Only the true Messiah denies His divinity.

    Brian: What? Well, what sort of chance does that give me? All right! I am the Messiah!

    Followers: He is! He is the Messiah!

    • http://kiwimormon.wordpress.com kiwimormon

      Soooo funny!!!!!!

  • Amber B

    This is definitely a frustrating topic. I imagine sorting out the best way to deal with this so that least harm is done to current and future church leaders and member is tough. After all, even when a verse of scripture has just indicated that some generally holy person is not perfect and has sinned, I have seen the fits thrown by people in Sunday School classes when that imperfection is acknowledged (even in the rather liberal ward in which I currently live). For me, I find it refreshing when even the supposed best and purest can acknowledge faults and try to move forward. It makes me feel a little less crappy about my own imperfections. But…If the church flat out admits that the church in the past or (gasp! horror!) some of its prophets have been imperfect or human, the membership will certainly reel. And the press, other religions, etc will quickly grab onto soundbites that they will use to prove we are still racist and horrible.

    Now that I’ve shown my understanding of and compassion for reasons the church might want to tread carefully…

    The fact is, anyone (including a prophet) will have personal biases that will shape how they understand the word of God. The extent to which this happens will vary. But God doesn’t have a delusion that any one of us is perfect, so I’m choosing not to have that delusion either. How refreshing it would be to have leaders admit that:
    1. Personal biases (which surely were shaped by the times in which they lived) impacted the way leaders saw and handled issues.
    2. Prophets and other leaders are not speaking for God with every word they say. Unfortunately, unlike the pope, we don’t have a way to indicate (or a habit of stating) when the prophet is speaking ex cathedra, as it were. So, yes, prophets and leaders have said things they felt were true that simple were not.
    3. Brother Brigham had some incredible qualities and was, overall, the right man to be prophet in his time (as is true with all prophets and leaders), but the man also had a whole list of thoughts and beliefs that were truly wrong and mad.

    Of course, having seen people leave the church because they discovered their bishop wasn’t infallible and might make choices that weren’t perfect, I can only imagine the scads of people who’d flee the church if this happened. (I’m going to pretend that the reason they pander to that lot instead of what appears to be the lot in which those of us commenting reside is that they trust we are truly awesome and strong enough to hang on in spite of it. Though I just cringed as I typed that.)

    Do I believe the Gospel is true? Yes. And I have stuck with it even as it has kept me from the thing I want most in this life. As it has earned me scorn and has caused me troubles.

    Do I believe the prophet is called of God to lead this church? Sure do. I even believe that the prophets really do act with best intentions.

    Do I believe that prophets and other leaders at every level are imperfect and human like the rest of us? Yep. And I wish that the membership in general could survive admitting that reality. Much as I’ve heard it suggested that the delay in lifting the ban on giving the priesthood to *all* worthy male members had in some part to do with the membership of the church in general being in a place where they were (if I may speak indelicately) too racist and closed-minded (as a product of their times) to accept and allow such a thing (which would have led either to persecution of black brothern or to a mass exodus by members who loved the racist policy), I wonder if not admitting to the imperfections of prophets is similarly held back.

    I also have to agree with those who say that, if this were actually a decision based in solid revelation rather than in the supposings of leaders, we *would* be able to say when and how it came about. It may have been treated as doctrine, taught as doctrine, claimed to be rooted in doctrine, but it is clearly not in line with how Christ taught. So you’ll excuse me if I label it an unfortunate and shameful policy brought out and propogated by those whose minds and hearts carried filters supplied by the times in which they lived.

    And I’m going to keep hoping that, someday, our leaders feel inspired to admit to imperfections. And that our membership survives the blow and, like me, finds hope and strength in that. If Nephi, as an example, can admit that he has sinned and is wretched but can be the man called as a prophet and leader of his people, surely there is hope that I (with my imperfections and sins and fears and failings and shortcomings) can spread light and magnify my calling. And that, to me, is powerful!

    (Good thing you’ve got a blog so I can write long replies instead of having to have a blog of my own…Sorry I’m always so long-winded!)

  • Michael

    I think the comment above that if blacks can hold the priesthood and enjoy the same fellowship of non blacks then what about the more or less valiant in the pre-existence doctrine?

    I am not sure if this is even a doctrine. The church appears to be a thick jungle of doctrine when compared to many churches, though at the same time theologically weak. “Doctrine” appears it seems over time and it seems official but may not be. One that bothers me is that the Ensign is scripture. There is a process the church follows that cannonises scripture. I don’t recall any conference in which members accepeted current and future Ensigns as new sections of the D&C. Yet if one contradicts the Ensign as scripture in priesthood class, one might as well be an apostate.

    The Bible is quite clear that the gospel is open to everyone, Paul struggled against those who insisted his converts become circumcised and keep Kosher as well as accept Christ. This of course makes Christ’s sacrifice insufficient to ensure salvation. The blacks and the priesthood thing and the other extra scriptural practices of the church on how one obtains salvation should allow one to see why other Christians don’t see Mormons as sharing Christianity.

  • bidlet

    Really interesting comments from everyone, all with bits that I have thought about many a time. One of the things that I lament is that leaders and teachers often don’t know the doctrine that they say they believe in, or are teaching about. How hard is it to say you don’t know and ask others, or go off and do some research? Enough of the hacked incorrect party line that has almost culminated in a chinese whisper like situation. In others words mormon myths being constantly perpetuated rather than true doctrine being discussed and taught.
    And on the topic of leaders not acknowledging mistakes …. boy, don’t get me started! We are a church that has embedded in our doctrine the principal of repentance and forgiveness, but that seems to only be a doctrine for the masses not those in leadership positions (ie men!). I wonder how many hurt feelings and members dropping out of activity would have been averted by a humble heart felt apology and admisssion of a mistake being made? Please note note: this is not man bashing, so to all you good guys this is not about you.
    Can’t wait for the blog on polygamy, one of the biggest mistakes this church has ever made!

  • Jeff

    I’m late to this topic and it has been really interesting. I listened to the podcast and it was fascinating. Great to hear thoughtful people grappling with this thorny subject.

    The African American lady on the podcast (whose name escapes me I’m sorry) welcomed the church’s quick response to the offending WaPo Op Ed from the BYU Prof on the subject of blacks and the priesthood. I was too young to remember life in the church when the ban was in place and was in my teens when it was lifted. I remember feeling relieved that such an embarrasing practice was now gone. In discussing the ban with people with a beef about it mostly people outside the church and hostile to the church, I don’t ever recall using the ‘not valiant in the pre-existence’ line rather I said that I didn’t know why it was in place and I was pleased when it was lifted and that one day we would know the full story.

    Thank you for doing the timeline of the ban – some of which I knew and some I didn’t. It is apparent that the ‘mark of Cain’ argument was prevelent amongst many 19th century churches in the US so Brigham Young’s public pronouncements were not too far outside the mainstream – back then! I think subsequence prophets left it in place almost to not rock the boat whilst leaders of other churches moved sooner to change their position and no longer adhere to this line. It is easy to overlook the fact that most of the prominent churches in the US today that were around in the mid 19th century did believe and teach about the inferiority of blacks. In the early 20th century the church was small and still under significant attack post polygamy. It took decades before the US Senate would seat Reed Smoot from Utah because he’d been polygamous. The church has a real paranoia about doctrinal consistency and I suspect that as the ban became increasingly indefensible that prophets in the middle part of the 20th century just put the issue in the too hard basket. Kudos to Pres Kimball for making it the subject of lengthy prayer and contemplation to feel that it ought to be lifted.

    The same instinct that kept the church from admitting that local members in Cedar City, UT engaged in a cover up of the Mountain Meadows Massacre for so long is at play in not currenly admitting that the ban on black temple blessings/priesthood may not have been a good idea. Give it time. The church is far more open about the MMM now because enough time has gone by – it has reached out to the descendants of the victims and built a memorial etc, actions unthinkable 30 years ago. The press statement shows that the church is prepared to now say that arguments used by its prominent leaders to defend the ban on blacks in the past are not correct. In another 20 years we are likely to see further concessions on this subject just as happened with the MMM.

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  • Felicia Slutsky

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  • Raymond McIntyre

    I note with interest that the RLDS / Community of Christ continued to ordain Negros to the Priesthood. Although, even there, there were fraught discussions and much hidden racism.

  • http://christian-truths2.blogspot.com/ Kiwi Christian

    “I have never yet preached a sermon and sent it out to the Children of men, that they may not call scripture!” Bringham Young, Journal of Discourses, Volume 13, page 95. “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.” Journal of Discourses, Volume 10, page 110.

  • http://christian-truths2.blogspot.com/ Kiwi Christian

    ” . . . 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 a upon a the earth as well as God;…. ” Journal of Discourses, Volume 22, page 304.