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A Discussion About Religion – LDS Church Essays

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New Religion Column in The Morgan County News

For some time I have been considering publishing a religion section in The Morgan County News.  I am glad to say that this is the first in a series of articles on religion.

By way of context on me, I am the publisher of The Morgan County News.  I have been a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints my whole life.  I served in a bishopric, and worked for the LDS Church as Sr. Vice President of FamilySearch for 12 years.  FamilySearch is the LDS Church organization in charge of family history, genealogy, temple ordinance systems, policies, and support.  I have traveled all over the world in my role for FamilySearch and have seen the inner workings of the Church.  I have personally worked with about half of the current Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and many of the Seventy. 

About a year ago I came across the Gospel topic essays on LDS.org.  These were approved by the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the First Presidency and were published on LDS.org.  I have found, however, that few individuals have read them or are even aware of them.  The recent discussion about the Church’s approach to families with gay members and the positions stated on both sides of the issues made me consider what the role of members is with regards to asking questions and receiving personal revelation on these topics.  I have seen many decisions made at the Church, and the vigorous discussion over each significant decision that is made.  I have not seen this type of vigorous discussion among members.  I have seen discomfort expressed by some in even having the conversations at all.  The fact that this discussion is hard makes it important and worth having.  The discussions online, and in other mediums, occasionally simply descended into individuals stating dogma instead of first seeking to understand and then be understood.

I thought that publishing these essays, asking a few questions that I have, encouraging each of you to share your thoughts and questions would be a good exercise to engage in as a community on relevant topics that effect Utah, its culture, and individuals who live here whether members of the LDS Church or not.

Below is the introduction to the essays and the essay on Race and the Priesthood.  I decided to publish the Race and the Priesthood essay first, because I thought there were many parallels between things that were said about this topic in the past and what is being said today about families with gay family members. Growing up I was taught as truth many of the things the Church disavows in the essay.  This essay  made me ponder on how I came to be taught the incorrect doctrine. It is instructive to look at the historical context of what was taught, how it was communicated, and the process by which a change occurred.  It is also worth considering how each of us deal with the reaction to a change in policy or doctrine and how these changes effect our relationship and understanding of the Church.

Here are a few questions that I have considered.  I would love to hear your thoughts and any questions that you have.  We will publish some of these thoughts in the newspaper and continue the dialog in future weeks.  You can either send me your thoughts at don@morgannews.com, or place your comments online in the article at morgannews.com. Feel free to share this with family members and friends and engage in the discussion with them.

What is the appropriate level of public and private debate on doctrinal topics?

How does the acknowledgement of past bias in Church leadership in the essay affect the way we accept counsel from Church leadership today? 

How does the restriction of black members from the priesthood in the past, and the Church’s statement in the essay about the historical context of the decision, affect your view of the current topic of gay members and the Church’s revised policy towards them and their families?


Introduction to the Gospel Topic Essays from LDS.org

In the early 1830s, when The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was less than three years old, the Lord invited members of the Church to seek wisdom by study and by the exercise of faith:

“And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith” (D&C 88:118).

This is more than a simple exhortation to learn about the gospel. It is an invitation from the Lord to recognize that not all sources of knowledge are equally reliable. Seeking “out of the best books” does not mean seeking only one set of opinions, but it does require us to distinguish between reliable sources and unreliable sources.

Recognizing that today so much information about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can be obtained from questionable and often inaccurate sources, officials of the Church began in 2013 to publish straightforward, in-depth essays on a number of topics. The purpose of these essays, which have been approved by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, has been to gather accurate information from many different sources and publications and place it in the Gospel Topics section of LDS.org, where the material can more easily be accessed and studied by Church members and other interested parties.

The Church places great emphasis on knowledge and on the importance of being well informed about Church history, doctrine, and practices. Ongoing historical research, revisions of the Church’s curriculum, and the use of new technologies allowing a more systematic and thorough study of scriptures have all been pursued by the Church to that end. We again encourage members to study the Gospel Topics essays cited in the links to the right as they “seek learning, even by study and also by faith.”

Link to this information on lds.org: https://www.lds.org/topics/essays?lang=eng


Race and the Priesthood Essay from LDS.org

In theology and practice, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints embraces the universal human family. Latter-day Saint scripture and teachings affirm that God loves all of His children and makes salvation available to all. God created the many diverse races and ethnicities and esteems them all equally. As the Book of Mormon puts it, “all are alike unto God.”

The structure and organization of the Church encourage racial integration. Latter-day Saints attend Church services according to the geographical boundaries of their local ward, or congregation. By definition, this means that the racial, economic, and demographic composition of Mormon congregations generally mirrors that of the wider local community. The Church’s lay ministry also tends to facilitate integration: a black bishop may preside over a mostly white congregation; a Hispanic woman may be paired with an Asian woman to visit the homes of a racially diverse membership. Church members of different races and ethnicities regularly minister in one another’s homes and serve alongside one another as teachers, as youth leaders, and in myriad other assignments in their local congregations. Such practices make The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints a thoroughly integrated faith.

Despite this modern reality, for much of its history—from the mid-1800s until 1978—the Church did not ordain men of black African descent to its priesthood or allow black men or women to participate in temple endowment or sealing ordinances.

The Church was established in 1830, during an era of great racial division in the United States. At the time, many people of African descent lived in slavery, and racial distinctions and prejudice were not just common but customary among white Americans. Those realities, though unfamiliar and disturbing today, influenced all aspects of people’s lives, including their religion. Many Christian churches of that era, for instance, were segregated along racial lines. From the beginnings of the Church, people of every race and ethnicity could be baptized and received as members. Toward the end of his life, Church founder Joseph Smith openly opposed slavery. There has never been a Churchwide policy of segregated congregations.

During the first two decades of the Church’s existence, a few black men were ordained to the priesthood. One of these men, Elijah Abel, also participated in temple ceremonies in Kirtland, Ohio, and was later baptized as proxy for deceased relatives in Nauvoo, Illinois. There is no reliable evidence that any black men were denied the priesthood during Joseph Smith’s lifetime. In a private Church council three years after Joseph Smith’s death, Brigham Young praised Q. Walker Lewis, a black man who had been ordained to the priesthood, saying, “We have one of the best Elders, an African.”

In 1852, President Brigham Young publicly announced that men of black African descent could no longer be ordained to the priesthood, though thereafter blacks continued to join the Church through baptism and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. Following the death of Brigham Young, subsequent Church presidents restricted blacks from receiving the temple endowment or being married in the temple. Over time, Church leaders and members advanced many theories to explain the priesthood and temple restrictions. None of these explanations is accepted today as the official doctrine of the Church.

The Church in an American Racial Culture

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was restored amidst a highly contentious racial culture in which whites were afforded great privilege. In 1790, the U.S. Congress limited citizenship to “free white person[s].” Over the next half century, issues of race divided the country—while slave labor was legal in the more agrarian South, it was eventually banned in the more urbanized North. Even so, racial discrimination was widespread in the North as well as the South, and many states implemented laws banning interracial marriage. In 1857, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that blacks possessed “no rights which the white man was bound to respect.” A generation after the Civil War (1861–65) led to the end of slavery in the United States, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that “separate but equal” facilities for blacks and whites were constitutional, a decision that legalized a host of public color barriers until the Court reversed itself in 1954. Not until 1967 did the Court strike down laws forbidding interracial marriage.

In 1850, the U.S. Congress created Utah Territory, and the U.S. president appointed Brigham Young to the position of territorial governor. Southerners who had converted to the Church and migrated to Utah with their slaves raised the question of slavery’s legal status in the territory. In two speeches delivered before the Utah territorial legislature in January and February 1852, Brigham Young announced a policy restricting men of black African descent from priesthood ordination. At the same time, President Young said that at some future day, black Church members would “have [all] the privilege and more” enjoyed by other members.

The justifications for this restriction echoed the widespread ideas about racial inferiority that had been used to argue for the legalization of black “servitude” in the Territory of Utah. According to one view, which had been promulgated in the United States from at least the 1730s, blacks descended from the same lineage as the biblical Cain, who slew his brother Abel. Those who accepted this view believed that God’s “curse” on Cain was the mark of a dark skin. Black servitude was sometimes viewed as a second curse placed upon Noah’s grandson Canaan as a result of Ham’s indiscretion toward his father.  Although slavery was not a significant factor in Utah’s economy and was soon abolished, the restriction on priesthood ordinations remained.

Removing the Restriction

Even after 1852, at least two black Mormons continued to hold the priesthood. When one of these men, Elijah Abel, petitioned to receive his temple endowment in 1879, his request was denied. Jane Manning James, a faithful black member who crossed the plains and lived in Salt Lake City until her death in 1908, similarly asked to enter the temple; she was allowed to perform baptisms for the dead for her ancestors but was not allowed to participate in other ordinances. The curse of Cain was often put forward as justification for the priesthood and temple restrictions. Around the turn of the century, another explanation gained currency: blacks were said to have been less than fully valiant in the premortal battle against Lucifer and, as a consequence, were restricted from priesthood and temple blessings.

By the late 1940s and 1950s, racial integration was becoming more common in American life. Church President David O. McKay emphasized that the restriction extended only to men of black African descent. The Church had always allowed Pacific Islanders to hold the priesthood, and President McKay clarified that black Fijians and Australian Aborigines could also be ordained to the priesthood and instituted missionary work among them. In South Africa, President McKay reversed a prior policy that required prospective priesthood holders to trace their lineage out of Africa.

Nevertheless, given the long history of withholding the priesthood from men of black African descent, Church leaders believed that a revelation from God was needed to alter the policy, and they made ongoing efforts to understand what should be done. After praying for guidance, President McKay did not feel impressed to lift the ban.

As the Church grew worldwide, its overarching mission to “go ye therefore, and teach all nations” seemed increasingly incompatible with the priesthood and temple restrictions. The Book of Mormon declared that the gospel message of salvation should go forth to “every nation, kindred, tongue, and people.” While there were no limits on whom the Lord invited to “partake of his goodness” through baptism, the priesthood and temple restrictions created significant barriers, a point made increasingly evident as the Church spread in international locations with diverse and mixed racial heritages.

Brazil in particular presented many challenges. Unlike the United States and South Africa where legal and de facto racism led to deeply segregated societies, Brazil prided itself on its open, integrated, and mixed racial heritage. In 1975, the Church announced that a temple would be built in São Paulo, Brazil. As the temple construction proceeded, Church authorities encountered faithful black and mixed-ancestry Mormons who had contributed financially and in other ways to the building of the São Paulo temple, a sanctuary they realized they would not be allowed to enter once it was completed. Their sacrifices, as well as the conversions of thousands of Nigerians and Ghanaians in the 1960s and early 1970s, moved Church leaders.

Church leaders pondered promises made by prophets such as Brigham Young that black members would one day receive priesthood and temple blessings. In June 1978, after “spending many hours in the Upper Room of the [Salt Lake] Temple supplicating the Lord for divine guidance,” Church President Spencer W. Kimball, his counselors in the First Presidency, and members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles received a revelation. “He has heard our prayers, and by revelation has confirmed that the long-promised day has come,” the First Presidency announced on June 8. The First Presidency stated that they were “aware of the promises made by the prophets and presidents of the Church who have preceded us” that “all of our brethren who are worthy may receive the priesthood.” The revelation rescinded the restriction on priesthood ordination. It also extended the blessings of the temple to all worthy Latter-day Saints, men and women. The First Presidency statement regarding the revelation was canonized in the Doctrine and Covenants as Official Declaration 2.

This “revelation on the priesthood,” as it is commonly known in the Church, was a landmark revelation and a historic event. Those who were present at the time described it in reverent terms. Gordon B. Hinckley, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, remembered it this way: “There was a hallowed and sanctified atmosphere in the room. For me, it felt as if a conduit opened between the heavenly throne and the kneeling, pleading prophet of God who was joined by his Brethren. … Every man in that circle, by the power of the Holy Ghost, knew the same thing. … Not one of us who was present on that occasion was ever quite the same after that. Nor has the Church been quite the same.”

Reaction worldwide was overwhelmingly positive among Church members of all races. Many Latter-day Saints wept for joy at the news. Some reported feeling a collective weight lifted from their shoulders. The Church began priesthood ordinations for men of African descent immediately, and black men and women entered temples throughout the world. Soon after the revelation, Elder Bruce R. McConkie, an apostle, spoke of new “light and knowledge” that had erased previously “limited understanding.”

The Church Today

Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects unrighteous actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form.

Since that day in 1978, the Church has looked to the future, as membership among Africans, African Americans and others of African descent has continued to grow rapidly. While Church records for individual members do not indicate an individual’s race or ethnicity, the number of Church members of African descent is now in the hundreds of thousands.

The Church proclaims that redemption through Jesus Christ is available to the entire human family on the conditions God has prescribed. It affirms that God is “no respecter of persons” and emphatically declares that anyone who is righteous—regardless of race—is favored of Him. The teachings of the Church in relation to God’s children are epitomized by a verse in the second book of Nephi: “[The Lord] denieth none that cometh unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; … all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.”

For full footnotes and other information view the article on LDS.org at:

http://www.lds.org/topics/race-and-the-priesthood

28 COMMENTS

  1. I don’t care what you wear to church- and I think that a man wenairg a colored shirt wouldn’t be looked at the same as a woman in slacks. I believe there was a talk about the uniform of the priesthood’ which did specifically say that to participate in priesthood ordinances you should be wenairg a white shirt. Personally I don’t think Heavenly Father cares- but I know in several wards we’ve been in the ym haven’t been allowed to bless or pass the sacrament without white shirts. I have a friend who was specifically called out by a stake president in sacrament meeting after passing the sacrament in a light green shirt (in a singles ward). I know that when my husband was in the YM presidency the bishop stated that the presidency needed to wear white shirts to set an example to the boys. I don’t get the importance and I agree it’s more tradition than anything else. I don’t think it’s disrespectful personally- but I know most church leadership disagrees. Personally I prefer my husband wear his dark blue shirt because it’s a much better color for him then white. It depends on the ward and his current calling if he’ll do it though. I think it’s an expectation BECAUSE of the tradition. I don’t believe any of it is relevant to Heavenly Father. He sees our hearts- not our clothing. If those around us are distracted because we’re wenairg nice slacks instead of a skirt then Heavenly Father sees their hearts as well. 😉

  2. If the Church leaders can proclaim something as gospel in the 1940s, only to later disavow those teachings as ‘theories’ of racist men. Then who is to say that in 60 years the Church will not do exactly the same thing in regards to the homophobia of the current leaders?

  3. I really appreciate the thoughtful way Don Anderson presented this essay. I truly hope it can lead to healthy and open discussion about our evolving self image as a church. We are not the same as we were 25 years ago and we must allow each other to accept that change in our own way. Meanwhile, open and honest discussion, in my experience, always leads to deeper understanding and ultimately, love.

    Can’t wait to see the next article.

      • Karl,

        How would you feel if the church advised against mixed race marriages in the current Aaronic Priesthood manual? Sarah Mc covered it below, but here’s the quote: “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…”

        Here’s the link to the manual on lds.org, again — provided by Sarah Mc below: https://www.lds.org/manual/aaronic-priesthood-manual-3/lesson-31-choosing-an-eternal-companion?lang=eng

        That sounds to me like it is being discouraged, and it’s a quote from Spencer W. Kimball from 1977, but is from a manual from ’95, and as you can see it is currently published on lds.org.

    • While members of the LDS Church share a wide range of views (as do members of all Churches), I have not heard any leader in the Church discourage mixed-race marriages since the change that allowed all men to hold the priesthood in 1978. While I have not personal experience with mixed race marriages, I have not heard anyone who is in a mixed marriage in the Church express that they have felt anything but support from members.

      • Thanks Don… I haven’t been to church for quite some time (let alone Aaronic Priesthood) but as Sarah Mc pointed out below, Aaronic Priesthood manual 3 lesson 31 includes a quote from SWK encouraging young men to marry individuals of similar racial backgrounds.

        That is a current lesson, published and available online here at lds.org: https://www.lds.org/manual/aaronic-priesthood-manual-3/lesson-31-choosing-an-eternal-companion?lang=eng

        I would venture to say that if you attended Aaronic Priesthood on the day of manual 3, lesson 31 that this quote from President Kimball would likely be shared and those young men would be encouraged to seek companions of the same racial background. Even it it isn’t delivered in class, it is still in the manual — but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it removed in the not-too-distant future 🙂

    • “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).

      This is in the current Aaronic Priesthood manual. (https://www.lds.org/manual/aaronic-priesthood-manual-3/lesson-31-choosing-an-eternal-companion?lang=eng)

      They do not prohibit but they discourage.

      • Thanks Sarah, this is what I was thinking of. I haven’t been to church regularly for some time (and it has been a long time since Aaronic Priesthood) but I do remember being told that dark skin was the mark of Cain for being wicked, and there being sort of a rule of thumb about marring within the same race.

        Interesting that this encouragement is included in a manual well after the ’78 change.

  4. The question of how the past bias in Church leadership in the essay affect the way we accept counsel from Church leadership today is a great question, it hit me hard about 5 years ago. It took several years of pondering and study but eventually I realized the institution I held in the highest esteem was not truthful. To make a long story short, I no longer believe the truth claims of the church.

    On this specific topic I am glad to see the church being more honest. I just think it is sad it took a decade and extreme social pressure before the corporation referred to as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints changed. I suppose the God I would like to believe in would have been the first to recognize and change this great injustice.

    The current issue of baptism of children of gay parents has a similar tone. The exposure of such an inconsistent requirement to join, that specifically targets those in our society who are likely the least accepted in our communities caused a public outcry across the nation. After this outcry, the policy was slightly modified. This policy seems completely inconsistent with their own doctrine and articles of faith. This recent policy just reinforces my belief that the church is morally bankrupt.

  5. The moment I heard about this so-called priesthood “revelation”, which went against everything taught by earlier “prophets”, I knew the LDS church was a lie. I never went back.

    Truth is eternal. If we have it, then there should be no chances. If we don’t have it, we can do as we please. Whatever. The church caves in on any tough doctrine. Give it time; it’ll cave on gays and start marrying them in the temple, provided they pay 10%.

    I’ve been a happy exmo for many contented years.

  6. So two different First Presidency’s in conflict with other on a massive issue that had a huge affect on people lives for generations?

    In 1949 the First Presidency insists it IS a matter of Doctrine. Today the First Presidency states that it never was a matter of Doctrine and it was only ever really the racist culture within which those leaders lived (influencing them).

    So how do we resolve this? How do we have any confidence in anything the leaders say if the Prophets of God can’t agree and are directly opposed to each other in official states as to what is and what is not doctrine?

    So on this recent ‘No baptisms for the children of Gay parents’ is that Doctrine or just Leaders acting as men of their time (considering their ages)?

    How about women and the Priesthood, is that men acting in accordance with their time?

    Do people realise that moments like this totally undermine any confidence or claim in inspired leadership.

  7. We have a 1949 statement signed by the First Presidency explaining the priesthood ban. How does an anonymous topic published, we assume with approval, supersede and official announcement from the Prophet and his counselors?

    • The Deseret News ran an article confirming that the essays were approved by the First Presidency. Also on LDS.org, the official site of the LDS Church, it says the following about the essays: “The purpose of these essays, which have been approved by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, has been to gather accurate information from many different sources and publications and place it in the Gospel Topics section of LDS.org, where the material can more easily be accessed and studied by Church members and other interested parties.” You can see the text here:
      https://www.lds.org/topics/essays?lang=eng

    • Although is would be convenient to think they didn’t consider it doctrine in 1949, it simply was…. I suppose the gospel does change?

      • The “gospel”, if you put aside the man made up (brigham) rituals and ceremonies, is simple and does not change. Love yourself. Love your neighbor. treat others as you want to be treated. That’s all it is. It isn’t something that changes every time Bruce R Gets his panties in a wad. Who really cares if it is approved by some guy that is in the first presidency? Is he better than you of just more indoctrinated? The church is a great control vehicle. You can see it in some of these posts.

  8. “August 17, 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 First Presidency”

    So was it a theory or commandment?

    • David O. McKay considered it a policy and not a doctrine. So can policies be commandments? I would hesitate to call them that.

  9. You will notice that the essays on LDS.org are pretty well hidden.
    You will also notice that Monson & Co don’t have the XXXX to SIGN them.
    Brigham and his crew did not suffer from that problem when they drafted statements of
    belief and doctrine.

  10. The LDS essay says it now disavows racist curse “theories” but those so-called theories come directly from prophets and scriptures.

    “Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects unrighteous actions in a pre-mortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form. … None of these explanations is accepted today as the official doctrine of the Church.”

    Great! However, the scriptures still teach us otherwise. The Book of Mormon explains that the dark skin of Native Americans (Lamanites) was the a sign of divine disfavor and curse, that mixed-race marriages between the Nephites and Lamanites were a sin, and that Lamanites were inferior in every way to the white Nephites.

    2 Nephi 5:21-24
    21 – And he had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, that they had become like unto a flint; 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.
    22 – And thus saith the Lord God: I will cause that they shall be loathsome unto thy people, save they shall repent of their iniquities.
    23 – 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.
    24 – 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.

    The Book of Moses says that God put a “mark” upon Cain to make him identifiable. Later prophets clarified that this black skin was a sign of divine disfavor or curse, that mixed-race marriages are a sin, and that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in every way to anyone else.

    Moses 5:40
    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.

    Journal of Discourses Vol 7, p.290 (Brigham Young)
    You see some classes of the human family that are 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. The first man that committed the odious crime of killing one of his brethren will be cursed the longest of anyone of the children of Adam. Cain slew his brother. Cain might have been killed, and that would have put a termination to that line of human beings. This was not to be, and the Lord put a mark upon him, which is the flat nose and black skin. Trace mankind down to after the flood, and then another curse is pronounced upon the same race—that they should be the “servant of servants;” and they will be, until that curse is removed; and the Abolitionists cannot help it, nor in the least alter that decree. How long is that race to endure the dreadful curse that is upon them? That curse will remain upon them, and they never can hold the Priesthood or share in it until all the other descendants of Adam have received the promises and enjoyed the blessings of the Priesthood and the keys thereof.

    Journal of Discourses Vol 10, p.110 (Brigham Young)
    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. The nations of the earth have transgressed every law that God has given, they have changed the ordinances and broken every covenant made with the fathers, and they are like a hungry man that dreameth that he eateth, and he awaketh and behold he is empty.

    The Book of Abraham also explains that black skin was a sign of divine disfavor or curse, that mixed-race marriages are a sin, and that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in every way to anyone else. Prophets that were called of God clarified that the Curse of Ham is a continuation of the Curse of Cain, and justifies the Church’s pro-slavery doctrine.

    Abraham 1:21
    “When this woman discovered the land it was under water, who afterward settled her sons in it; and thus, from Ham, sprang that race which preserved the curse in the land.”

    Journal of Discourses, Vol 2, p.184 (Brigham Young)
    “Formerly the rumor was that “they were going to tamper with the slaves,” when we had never thought of such a thing. The seed of Ham, which is the seed of Cain descending through Ham, will, according to the curse put upon him, serve his brethren, and be a “servant of servants” to his fellow creatures, until God removes the curse; and no power can hinder it. These are my views upon slavery. I will here say a little more upon this point. The conduct of the whites towards the slaves will, in many cases, send both slave and master to hell. This statement comprises much in a few words. The blacks should be used like servants, and not like brutes, but they must serve. It is their privilege to live so as to enjoy many of the blessings which attend obedience to the first principles of the Gospel, though they are not entitled to the Priesthood.”

    Will the church also eliminate these passages from our scriptures and teachings because they are now disavowed?

    Thank you for your courage in addressing these issues.

    • It’s a good question. My take away is that the Church is indicating that the decision had more to do with the climate at the time in the United States. It seems that the implication is that many of the things that were taught as theories were not doctrinal and that the issue was more about the society at the time than doctrine. The essay mentions in more than one place that a black individual held the priesthood in the very early days of the Church.

      • I like how the church now describes these as theories, and I think that is a fair assessment. There are several instances in our history, like the Journal of Discourses, that are rich with fascinating discussions and debates where leaders appear to be going back and further theorizing about the will and nature of God. It must have been a very exciting time to be alive as all of these ideas were being pontificated and prayed about to develop church doctrine. However, there are many quotes, from church leaders and lds scripture, where it is clear that this idea regarding blacks and priesthood was at least understood back then as doctrine. Just like you, I was taught many things as truth as a youth, that the church now disavows in these recent essays. While I can understand that it may be uncomfortable for some, I am happy that the church is flexible and humble enough to admit when past beliefs of doctrine are now viewed as theories from well meaning, earnest individuals who were trying to understand the will of God and implement it. After all, it’s only natural that one would draw on the common beliefs of their era as a starting point when trying to discern the will of God. You have to start somewhere!

        • Good point, you can be sure that when the prophets and apostle were preaching this, it wasn’t couched in terms of it being a “theory”

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