The political irrelevance of anti-Mormonism

Political anti-Mormonism was a real force in late nineteenth-century America.  Commentators across the country denounced Mormonism as “the octopus of our political life” and as being distinctly “un-American.”  Every level of the federal government weighed in.  The Supreme Court ruled against Mormon polygamy in the Reynolds v. U.S. decision in 1879, and Congress passed anti-polygamy legislation in 1862, 1874, 1882, and 1887, all of which was accompanied with strident anti-Mormon sentiment.  Anti-Mormonism also captivated the White House, as every president from Rutherford B. Hayes to Grover Cleveland made specific denunciations of Mormons and Mormonism, often in their annual addresses to Congress.  In his annual address in 1881, Chester Arthur noted that the expansion of Mormonism “imposes upon Congress and the Executive the duty of arraying against this barbarous system all the power which under the Constitution and the law they can wield for its destruction.”  That is what political anti-Mormonism looks like.

Unlike the late nineteenth century, anti-Mormonism—or for that matter, Mormonism—is not a relevant political category in national politics anymore, and especially not in this year’s presidential campaign.  This is not to say that Mormonism is irrelevant in politics.  Certainly it matters, especially on the state and local level in various places around the country.  Furthermore, Mormonism, and its omnipresent anti-Mormon shadow, remains a relevant cultural category; indeed, there is no doubt that we are in the midst of a periodic peak in national and even global interest in what Mormonism is, who Mormons are, and what it all means in the modern world.

But right now no serious person wants to play the anti-Mormon card as part of any substantive political discussion.  There have been multiple attempts to do so—people putting their toe in the water to test it—but it hasn’t gained traction.  A few evangelicals (most famously Robert Jeffress) played the anti-Mormon card in the primary, but ultimately it was a halfhearted attempt, since it soon became apparent that there would be no viable evangelical candidate for them to support.  Once Romney beat out his two final (Catholic) challengers, then evangelicals (including Jeffress) got into line, and since then we’ve hardly heard a whisper of anti-Mormonism from that corner.

This is not to say that conservative evangelicals all of a sudden warmed up to Mormonism, or even to Romney.  But since Jerry Falwell organized the Moral Majority in the late 1970s, politically inclined evangelicals have demonstrated a pragmatic willingness to check their theology at the door and support the person they see as the candidate who embraces their values if not their faith.  Politics is the realm of Machiavelli, not Jesus, and so political evangelicals have learned that the enemy of their enemy is their friend.  And it seems clear that Republican-voting evangelicals dislike Barack Obama more than they dislike Mormons.

I must admit being a bit surprised that we haven’t heard more political anti-Mormonism from the left, especially from secular liberals.  But here too I think their relative silence is not because of any particular affection for Mormons or Mormonism, but rather some tested anti-Mormonism as a political category and it didn’t stick.  We all saw the Lawrence O’Donnell clip, which was about as explicit as it gets, but there was immediate blowback, and it is remembered more as an example of yellow journalism than an insightful bit of political analysis.  Last summer Obama advisor David Axelrod made it clear that anyone portraying Romney as “weird”—which many saw as code language for Mormon—would be fired.  Some of this code language was resurrected this spring, when Axelrod said that they would go after what he called Romney’s “penchant for secrecy.”  He thought this would play well with voters, who would wonder, “Who is this guy?  What does he stand for?  What does he believe?  What do we know about him?”  There’s a whiff of anti-Mormonism from this line of attack, since polls have regularly shown that the general public feels like they don’t really understand who Mormons are and what they believe, and that they think that Mormons are secretive (which doesn’t play well in an age of supposed transparency).

However, the Obama campaign seems content (and intent) on portraying Romney as the fat cat, the CEO, the job outsourcer, the tax-dodger, the Medicare-destroyer, the out-of-touch member and servant of the 1%.  I believe they would resort to anti-Mormonism, explicit or implicit, if it would help them—I just think their calculation after floating a few trial balloons is that it won’t.  In short, anti-Mormonism is irrelevant as a political category in 2012.  (I’m not alone in feeling this way; columnist Doyle McManus has made a similar point.)

A counterargument could be mounted based on a recent Gallup poll reporting that 18% of Americans “wouldn’t vote for a well-qualified presidential candidate in their political party who is Mormon,” a figure that is essentially unchanged from the time of George Romney.  1 in 5 voters is not an insignificant number, but I must admit being somewhat dubious about how important the number is, or at least what it really tells us.  First of all, negativity toward a Mormon candidate is significantly affected by party affiliation:  it “increases from 10 percent among Republicans to 18 percent among Independents to 24 percent among Democrats.”  I suspect that for many of those polled, a question in June 2012 about a generic Mormon candidate in their minds turned into a referendum on Mitt Romney.  Furthermore, the widespread assumption that a Mormon politician will probably be a conservative means that it’s only natural that Democrats would be less likely to vote for one.

No doubt there may be an actual anti-Mormon bias among at least some voters, but I would argue that the 18% number actually represents primarily an anti-Romney sentiment on the one hand and an anti-religion sentiment on the other.  Both of these might play into a general antipathy toward a Mormon candidate, but neither necessarily reveals anti-Mormonism proper to be a salient political category.

With any luck, we’ll make it through the next 11 weeks with it staying that way.

  • Lorren Vissor

    I’d just like to address your opening paragraph. The LDS church today is a far cry from what was practiced as Mormonism in the 19th century. The original Mormon theology was preserved in the FLDS faith. This original faith involved brides as young as 14 years of age. The government has been very steadfast in their opposition to such systems. 21st century Mormonism is a far cry from their origins.

    Count me as one that continues to agree with Rutherford B. Hayes, Grover Cleveland and Chester Arthur. In its original form, Mormonism deserved the political pressure applied by our government. I believe most Americans would join the condemnation of this belief system in light of the recent happenings in Colorado City.

    • Patrick Mason

      Lorren, I don’t completely disagree, but I do have a couple minor historical quibbles with your claims. First, underage marriages are much more a feature of 20th- and 21st-c. critiques of Mormonism than they ever were in the 19th c. There were plenty of good reasons for people to oppose Mormonism in the 19th c. — many of which have dissipated today, as different issues spark moral outrage, popular resentment, and political opposition. Also, it’s hard to claim that “the government,” on a federal, state, or local level, has been steadfastly opposed to underage marriages, as law enforcement has often looked the other way as such unions have happened across the United States among various segments of the population; this was particularly true on the 19th-c. frontier. Furthermore, such underage marriages were very rare exceptions for Mormons, though of course they did occur. But your point that 21st-c. Mormonism is very different than 19th-c. Mormonism, and that that helps explain the changing dynamics of political opposition to the religion, is absolutely true.

      In short, my basic point was more descriptive and analytical than normative. Whether or not someone _should_ be opposed to Mormonism is a value-laden question, not an objective one.

      • Lorren Vissor

        I personally find that the Pew study done in 2007 and a subsequent study completed this year using the same methodology shed more light on the subject. These surveys show a shift in voter’s likelyhood to vote for a Mormon candidate among Evanglicals but seem to bear out your claim that Romney’s candidacy has elevated anti-Mormon sentiment on the left. The numbers change significantly when the question is phased using the word “likely”. These numbers paint a bleak picture for Romney’s candidacy.

        Percentages saying they would be less likely to vote for a Mormon candidate for President
        Pew sample 2007 ANES sample 2012
        Whole sample 26.1 (1.8) 34.8 (2.7)
        Evangelical Christians 36.8 (3.1) 33.6 (5.1)
        Christians, not evangelical 20.9 (2.7) 27.1 (2.0)
        Non-religious 21.2 (5.1) 40.9 (7.2)
        Conservatives 29.6 (2.9) 31.6 (4.4)
        Moderates 21.5 (3.0) 31.7 (5.1)
        Liberals 27.6 (3.8) 42.7 (5.1)

        There’s little doubt that Mitt’s candidacy has polarized the American attituded toward Mormonism but your assumption that , “18% number actually represents primarily an anti-Romney sentiment on the one hand and an anti-religion sentiment on the other” is a bit of whishful thinking. All political categories saw a rise in negativity to Mormonism. (Conservatives +2%, Moderates +10%, Liberals +15%). I suggest there’s more than Mitt’s candidacy behind the recent sway in America’s attitude toward Mormonism and the Mormon factor will have a much bigger impact on the election than you assume. (See The Mormon Dilemma: Cause and Consequences of Anti-Mormonism in the 2012 Elections by David T. Smith)

    • Brother French

      Lorren

      It is a real stretch from my point of view to say that the FLDS has preserved the original Mormon theology. For instance, plural marriage. Let me explain what that original theology concerning plural marriage was:

      Plural marriage goes back to Old Testament times, when Abraham, Jacob, David and Moses were allowed by God to have more than one wife that God might raise up a people unto himself. The doctrine that made it ok then is the same doctrine that made it ok for a short time when The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was first founded and we were being established as a people to take the everlasting gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue and people (Rev 14:6-7). That doctrine is laid out in the Book of Mormon. Jacob 2:27-30 reads as follows:

      27 Wherefore, my brethren, hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none;
      28 For I, the Lord God, delight in the chastity of women. And whoredoms are an abomination before me; thus saith the Lord of Hosts.
      29 Wherefore, this people shall keep my commandments, saith the Lord of Hosts, or cursed be the land for their sakes.
      30 For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things.

      As you can see, verse 30 explains that under certain circumstances the Lord has commanded plural marriage and gives his reason for doing so.

      Futhermore, as soon as the Lord had accomplish his purpose of raising up a people to take his everlasting gospel unto every nation, kindred, tongue and people he gave the revelation to his prophet Wilford Woodruff to stop performing such marriages (Rev. 14:6-7) . Mormon critics say it was because of Utah wanting statehood, but Wilford Woodruff’s Manifesto remarks make it very clear that was not the case. In addition, it is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that is taking the gospel to all the world and not the FLDS church.

  • http://not-atamelion.blogspot.com Michael H.

    What is particularly fascinating is that the same poll question (“Would you vote for a Mormon presidential candidate of your own party?”) was asked of people around Romney’s bid in 2007. Then, unlike now, there was no significant partisan difference in opposition to a Mormon candidate; both liberals and conservatives hovered around 20% opposition.

    However, there was one thing that, I believe, changed that: those polls were conducted (and Romney dropped from the race) before the LDS Church came out hard for California’s Proposition 8 in 2008. Given that public sentiment is warming to gay marriage and it has become a liberal cause célèbre, Mormonism’s explicit opposition to it seems to have marked Mormons as “anti-gay” and therefore politically undesirable.

  • Don Harryman

    My opposition to Romney is because he is a haughty elitist and a staggering liar, not because he is a Mormon. I think Mormonism is hate filled, man made nonsense, but I would vote for Harry Reid because he is an honest man (who is dead right about Mitt’s non payment of taxes–the reason why he wants to keep them hidden) and because he believed correctly that Prop 8 was a huge mistake, and that gay people are entitled to equal protection under the law. In short, Harry Reid, in spite of his Mormonism, actually believes in the Constitution. Mitt believes in his wealth and privilege, and little else.

    • Brother French

      Don
      From your post I take it that you may be a gay rights activist. So I have some facts, thoughts and questions for your consideration if you are not an atheist.

      The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not consider same-sex attraction to be a sin! Period, end of story. On the other hand, sexual transgressions are sinful no matter who commits them. Therefore, I do have a question or two for those who think that God should play favorites, and not hold ALL people to the same moral standards.

      There are tens of millions of heterosexuals who for one reason or another never have a chance to marry. My question is – doesn’t God expect those poor people to remain chaste and morally clean all the days of their lives? That prompts two more questions. Wouldn’t God be a prejudiced and discriminatory God if he excused those with same sex attractions from keeping those same commandments? And, last of all, if you are Christian, how does our being true to the spreading of the gospel of Jesus Christ make us hate filled?

      • Don Harryman

        Your ‘facts’ are nothing more than the current PR position of the so called Mormon Church which is meant only to burnish the Church’s PR position just in time for Mitt Romney’s presidential bid. The long list of dead gay young people who killed themselves because of the Mormon Church’s treatment of them is testament to the brutal, unChristian and vile way in which the Mormon Church treats gay people, so I suggest you take your PR nonsense and sell it to someone who doesn’t know better. In the meantime, I have no interest in engaging your theological positions, because I am not a member of your so called Church and I simply don’t care what you believe. What I care about is equal protection under the law promised by the US Constitution. You are free to believe whatever nonsense you choose to, but please leave my equal protection under the law alone. Prop 8, like other campaigns before it was paid for by Mormons and based on a pack of lies and gross fear mongering in order to strip homosexuals of equal protection under the law. Your so called Church has no more to do with anything taught by Jesus than British Petroleum does.

        • Brother French

          There has been no change in our doctrine or position that everyone should keep the commandments, and that there is no sin as long as we resist the various temptations that come our way as we go through life. In fact, that is exactly what Christ did. What you call our PR is simply the Church expressing what all Christians have always taught and believed from the very beginning.

          Also, I can’t remember the exact percentages, but I think all total the Mormon vote accounted for only 2% of the California vote supporting Prop 8. Why isn’t the Gay rights movement singling out African Americans who accounted for a much larger percentage? The answer is they see Mormons as an easier target, and that is all there is to it.

          In addition, I noticed that you make it seem like there have been more gay suicides within our church membership as compared to other segments of our country and Christianity as a whole. I would be interested in any well documented studies involving large segments of the Christian population which show this to be true.

      • Judy Harrow

        Here’s the question I want answered, and not just by Mormons. If your religion requires a ritually-consecrated exclusive and lifelong commitment between two people, how is it fair to deny two people the option to make such a commitment?

        The “we’re not picking on gays. We think it’s sinful for any unmarried person to have sex” position seems pretty disingenuous when you don’t allow some people to marry those they love.

        • Brother French

          It is not a matter of fairness. It is a matter of whether or not we should keep God’s commandments. And, God leaves it up to us in that regard which is fair.

        • Brother French

          To Judy
          I might add that every time we as a people choose to break God’s commandments the nation and society in general suffers. For instance, look at what people exercising their individual choice to take drugs has collectively done to hurt themselves, their families, our communities and our nation.

    • Brother French

      Are you Harry Reid’s source relative to Mitt Romney not paying his taxes?

  • Hello_World

    I personally believe the “Mormon” ethics card will be played after Romney wins the nomination for the Republican ticket. I think this would be seen as an easy win for the Democrats if they down play the religion card at this time and then use it when it counts.

    • Brother French

      I don’t think that unjustly attacking the Mormon religion is an easy win for Democrats. I think it is a turn off. Too many people now know and admire their Mormon friends and neighbors, and such an attack would also be seen as unconstitutional by those who love this country.

  • LBK

    At this point in the political process, there are a lot of either undecided or “soft” votes. A soft vote is one who is for a particular candidate but whose opinion can change. This election cycle is different, a lot of people have already made up their minds and a lot of states are firmly committed to one candidate.

    So, both campaigns are now focused on the key states and the key groups they hope to still influence. Sometimes what appears tobe strange happens. Right now Romney is running an ad that is a lie, Every major fact checker has agreed. That lie is that one of Obama’s recent acts was to get rid ot the work requirement for welfare. Why would he run it? It is generally agreed it is aimed at working class whites who think welfare is a scam for Blacks to do nothing and get paid. These are people do not read Politifact or Fact Check. Obama is cutting in this group with his attacks on Romneys business practices, tax avoidance, shipping jobs overseas, etc. Simply put, they are betting the lie will get a lot more votes than it loses.

    People have generally made up their mind about Mormonism. An attack by Oama would probably cost votes. But their are attacks on the Church in left of center media. The most recent is the “Lying for Jesus” claim, A Church Doctrine that supposedly allows Mormons to lie. Just google the topic “lying for Jesus” and see the articles. It is not effective because the MSM and TV have not picked it up.

    • Brother French

      Lying about Mormons would not be very effective even if MSM and TV did pick up on doing so. Too many people now know and admire their Mormon neighbors and friends for that to be effective.

      Also, it’s amazing to me how atheist, non-members, anti-Mormons and ex-communicated Mormons incorporate their own misinterpretations of our doctrines and teachings into their hearts and then because of pride attack the Church.

  • Joel Cannon

    I think that this is a lot of misinformation about the Mormon Church that creates a negative bias towards Mormons. Much of it has been politically motivated to sway voters, and the church’s support for prop 8 further polarized the situation. American’s today are less educated and more easily swayed by simple soundbites. They are not willing to take the time to learn about and understand such a detailed and complicated issue. They are more likely to know who won the latest American Idol than who won the presidential primary – yet alone their platform, resume or biography – and least of all their religious background.

  • Ray

    I doubt anti-Mormonism will play much of a role in the final campaign. After all, there is so much more about Mitt to go after. I think many conservatives still have doubts about his conservative credentials and rightly so. He was never a conservative until he decided to run for president. Plus, he has failed utterly to connect with blacks, Hispanics and other people of color as well as the more vulnerable in our society. And before we get all puffed up with righteous indignation about something that might or might not happen, remember two things: Romney has been attacking Obama since at least 2007, and he has not once to my knowledge put a damper on the crazies in their most extreme anti-Obama rants. Even McCain did that.

    • Brother French

      Mormons are not going to connect with blacks until blacks know that Mormons always have always been with them and not against them For instance, Mormons have never have been, and never will be racists. This is why I say that:

      1. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has never forbidden blacks from joining the Church, or forced them into separate congregations.

      2. In 1833 Joseph Smith received a revelation from Jesus Christ that said “Therefore it is not right that one man should be in bondage to another.” See Doctrine and Covenants Section 101:79

      3. In 1838 the Mormons were expelled from the slave state of Missouri under threat of extermination (Executive Order 44 issued by Gov. Boggs). You might ask why did Boggs issue this order? Well in this case one of the main reasons was that the anti-Mormons were complaining that the Mormons had invited “free negroes and mulattos” to join them in Missouri. That complaint sounds like those people were of the same mindset as the KKK doesn’t it?

      4. Then, in 1844 Joseph Smith ran for President with a plan to free all slaves by 1850. His plan was for the federal government to purchase them, and set them free. He was murdered four months later. That sounds something like what happened to Martin Luther King.

      5. Like so many Mormons, I also had three ancestors who died as a result of that persecution, and other family members who almost lost their lives as well. So you see, Mormons have always been the black man’s friend.

      6. To all of these things I would add my testimony that during my 45 years as an adult in the Church (1967 to present) I have never seen anything but brotherly love extended to our African American members and black visitors in any of the various ward congregations I have lived in. And, I have moved around a lot.

      7. Furthermore, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that every man, woman, and child on this earth is literally a child of God. That means we are all brothers and sisters, and any black person who has ever met with our missionaries or attended our church services can testify to you that they were treated with brotherly Love and kindness.

      8. Now, our detractors will tell you that the Church did not ordain those of black African decent to the ministry from 1830′s until 1978. That is basically correct. The Lord revealed to Joseph Smith that he should refrain from doing so. Then, in June of 1978 God gave a revelation to the Prophet Spencer W. Kimball that the time had finally come when all worthy men in the Church should be given the Priesthood. So, the question arises, why did the Lord wait so long to give that revelation?

      9. First, let me say that the Lord has never given his reasons for this delay. However, it is my “personal opinion” that if blacks had been called and ordained to the Priesthood, and later become leaders within the Church, then every Mormon both black and white would have been lynched or shot instead of being forced to leave the state of Missouri under threat of extermination.

      Not only that, but we have sent our missionaries throughout the United States and around the globe from the very beginning of the Church to the present day. With that in mind, note that by 1860 the KKK came into existence with a vengeance. Now imagine the persecution, beatings, lynching’s, etc., that they would have carried out against mixed Mormon congregations led by black priesthood holders prior to the Civil Rights movement. So you see, our not ordaining blacks of African descent prior to 1978 had absolutely nothing to do with Mormons being racists. In fact, according to my way of thinking, it was exactly the opposite.

      10. The persecution of our Church and its members took on a new form when the main body of our Church membership moved beyond the reach of the rapists and the hate filled murderers of the 1800′s. Since that time, we have mainly been persecuted by anti-Mormon publications which are built upon misinformation, out of context quotes and private interpretations of our doctrines by non-members, atheists, excommunicated members and former members who have left the Church after being sucked into the circle of hate.

      Just read the postings in this thread and you will get an idea of what I am talking about. Notice how we Mormons are only posting to defend our faith while others attack us. That’s when you will start to understand what’s really going on in the media today.

      11. Last of all, the detractors of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will point to past views and opinions which were expressed by leaders of our Church as to why the Lord didn’t want us to ordain those of black African descent. Of course, the truth is they didn’t really know, because the Lord had never revealed his reasons.

      The Apostle Bruce R. McConkie was present in June of 1978 when the Lord finally gave the revelation instructing the Church to ordain all worthy men to the Priesthood. The revelation was received by the Prophet Spencer W. Kimball, and confirmed by revelation to all of the Apostles at the same time by the power of the Holy Ghost. Elder McConkie of the Twelve later wrote the following:

      “Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or President George Q. Cannon or whosoever 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 1978. It is a new day and a new arrangement, and the Lord has now given the revelation that sheds light out into the world on this subject. As to any slivers of light or any particles of darkness of the past, we forget about them. We now do what meridian Israel did when the Lord said the gospel should go to the gentiles. We forget all the statements that limited the gospel to the house of Israel, and we start going to the gentiles.”

      In other words, the gospel was at one time only preached to the Jews. Then, after the crucifixion of Christ, the time came when Peter received the revelation that it was time for it to be preached to the gentiles. That’s the way it was with us. At first we were instructed not to ordain those of Black African descent, but on the first day of June 1978 the Lord said the time for doing so had arrived. That revelation was received 34 years ago, and we have been ordaining all worthy male members to the Priesthood ever since.

      • Fred Kratz

        Brother French- Wasn’t it the belief in the “curse on Cain” that was responsible for those with dark skin to be though of as lower in status? That was the impression I had after reading from the edited journals of Wilford Woodruff. It’s amazing to me that a verse or two in Biblical scripture could be the root cause of such feelings toward other humans which was one of the excuses used by the early slave traders to subjugate their fellow humans. Then I remind myself that these men, were only operating with limited knowledge and were certainly zealots in their held beliefs. Thank goodness that the world of science has given humanity better information. The Human Genographic project and all other such studies quickly lay waste to such absurd notions.

        • Brother French

          I think the impression you got wasn’t the intention of the speaker. I base that upon the fact that Wilford Woodruff and all of the other latter-day prophets have always taught that God loves all of his children regardless of their status in life. In fact, it has been their teaching that God is more concerned for the meek and lowly than anyone else. Of course, you know that.

          Also, I wouldn’t give science as much credit as you do. I would credit the Lord for clearing things up for people both in and out of the Church as explained by Bruce R. McConkie in my post above.

          • Fred Kratz

            As you wrote, they did teach that God loves all of his children. The point I was making wasn’t that God doesn’t love them, but rather that the “curse of Cain” which they believed, caused people to think they were somehow of lower status. Right? I could offer you some fairly telling quotes from Brigham Young if you’re interested.

            That being written, science gets all the credit in my humble opinion which shows human kind that we all have our beginnings on the African Continent and that skin color is but an adaptive variation. Ugo Perego, of BYU would no doubt agree. How could ignorant church leaders know this. Again, they were operating with limited information.

      • Patrick Mason

        I’m not quite sure how my post turned into a discussion of the priesthood ban — but as usual, this “discussion” has produced far more heat than light. Can’t we all be a bit more civil and a bit more generous, even (or especially) when we feel that the person on the other side of the argument is dead wrong? I would refer you to recent discussions on the Juvenile Instructor blog, which have been dealing with some really tough issues (including race), but in a far more enlightening manner.

        I’ll only interject to correct one important point — there is no substantive record of Joseph Smith ever receiving a revelation to prohibit blacks from holding the priesthood. Indeed, the only records we have on the subject reveal that he was well aware of the priesthood being given to a number of African American men, a practice he did not repudiate before his death. Reputable historians, both LDS and non-LDS, now agree that the ban began under Brigham Young. Of course that doesn’t change the long-term impact, but it’s an important historical point to get straight.

        • Brother French

          Patrick

          I have a question. Wasn’t the number of ordinations only two or three, and do you know how many years before Joseph Smith’s murder that the last of those ordinations took place?

          • Patrick Mason

            Brother French,
            For a full answer, I would recommend you to the scholarship of Lester Bush, Armand Mauss, and Newell Bringhurst, for starters.
            But quickly, the numbers of African Americans ordained to the priesthood in the early LDS Church was limited, but it is an undeniable fact. The examples include:
            Elijah Abel was baptized in 1832, ordained to the priesthood by Joseph Smith in 1836 and then ordained a Seventy the same year, then recertified in 1841. I don’t have ironclad sources in front of me, but I have reports that Elijah Abel’s son was ordained to the priesthood in 1900 and his grandson was ordained an elder in 1935.
            Walker Lewis was baptized by Parley Pratt in 1844 and ordained to the priesthood by William Smith.
            Joseph Ball was baptized in 1832, and was a branch president in Boston in 1844-1845.
            There were many other African Americans who were baptized into the Church but never received the priesthood.

    • Brother French

      Sorry I posted this part of my comment above:
      “Just read the postings in this thread and you will get an idea of what I am talking about. Notice how we Mormons are only posting to defend our faith while others attack us. That’s when you will start to understand what’s really going on in the media today.”

      Actually I shouldn’t have said this because this thread has kept their anti-mormon comments at a very low level so far (I had posted it on another thread that had many anti-Mormon comments and I forgot to cut it out when I posted it here).


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