This official LDS statement below – still unseen by too many LDS members (probably because it is embarrassingly inadequate to read in Sacrament) is, in my opinion, one of the most awful, fudged-up, dishonest and insulting excuses for an explanation, that any hierarchy could cobble together trying to salvage some threads of their left-over dignity.

I never thought I would reach the day when I (with my own eyes) would read such incredulous drivel. I have not found such a shifty and deviously deceitful statement than woven in this shameful and altogether absurd justification for prejudice. They talk as if they were commenting on SOME OTHER CHURCH… almost like a commentary on something that happened, of which they had no hand in? Such, in your face dishonesty and arrogance. Basically they have dumped a massive doctrine and have said in effect: “it never really was a doctrine…. it was all a terrible mistake.” The sheer hypocrisy and denial in the face of their many scriptures, talks, articles, books, etc., (not to mention the suffering of those in the past who were restricted from both holding the Priesthood and being sealed to their loved ones in the temple), shows their utter contempt and distain for the intelligence and memory of ex members as well as faithful LDS alike.

Below is the statement with my own response or reaction in Green type. I have, at the base also (for your convenience) printed out the entire Official Statement. For a more thorough response – also go to: http://mormonthink.com/essays-race-priesthood.htm

Please bear in mind that many – like me, have been in and around the LDS scene ALL their lives and can remember all its fundamental teachings. On the other hand, those who may have only been members for just the last few years will not have heard the doctrine of the ‘cursed Negro’ like we did. It is still on record as a doctrine, both in current LDS scripture and GA quotations.

Official Church Statement with my reaction, or response in Green type: 

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.” (Yes, but it also contains the basis of the DOCTRINE, (not merely a policy or rule) which has denied the priesthood to the Blacks for so long. Presumably therefore, you will immediately (1) reprint the Book of Mormon and the Pearl of Great Price and (2) presently ban within the church all related scriptural verses, because they still contain the theology of race hatred, originating from Joseph Smith and perpetuated for over one and a half centuries through the entire succession of prophets till 1978)

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. (This admission… for it is an admission or excuse, places your Church exactly where it should be – just an organization run by men who have had no better idea of the Will and Mind of God than the rest of us, yet you have ALWAYS CLAIMED ‘The prophet will never lead the people astray’ and that they – the prophets of our generation, were and are the mouth-piece of God, who should have received divine guidance on the depravity of racism – plus slavery, from the God who had appointed these prophets? Apparently not. Far from being specially guided by living prophets, your Church is just like any other – totally man-made and subject to all levels of corruption and misguidance. Perhaps if its originator Joseph Smith and his successor Brigham Young, as well as all the other prophets had received the very power they claimed, then they would have not been so corrupted by earthly stain and personal prejudice. God would have done His job and set a fresh and inspiring example of love and equality. You have been banging on for years that this is what prophets are for! Apparently, they are an utter failure. 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 Church-wide policy of segregated congregations. (I won’t mention separate gender classes at church and segregation of men and women in the temple… I used to get so fed-up with male priesthood classes and wanted so much to attend Relief Society)

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 evidence that any black men were denied the priesthood during Joseph Smith’s lifetime. (Smith established the DOCTRINE of the curse of Cain as a scriptural tenet and teaching within Mormonism; the black skin was a punishment for the disobedience of their ancestors that would be perpetuated through that blood line. In addition, this racial degeneracy concept promoted the general idea of the pre-earth struggle of some spirits, which were not so valiant and became ‘cursed’ with a black skin when born here on Earth… thus, tending to also endorse the impression of ‘deserving’ poverty, deprivation, servitude, etc. A rather uncompassionate, nasty and dangerous posture, but one nonetheless, I have encountered many times over decades in Mormonism).

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 (when you say “Church leaders” you mean prophets… or is that a bit blunt?) and members (no, members only really promulgate what they hear the leaders say… don’t blame them) advanced many theories (Theories? Please don’t make us laugh… it was never a ‘theory.’ We, who have been around the LDS culture for many decades, know full well the whole basis for the ban of the priesthood upon Blacks. It was NEVER a theory. We heard the doctrine clearly taught in Ensign articles, conference addresses, books and sacrament talks. It was a solid, well understood teaching, which you are now dumping) to explain the priesthood and temple restrictions. None of these explanations is accepted today as the official doctrine of the Church. (So here we have it at last – an ADMISSION that DOCTRINES can be changed or (as in this case) scrapped. But hang on a minute… what about the thousands of times I’ve heard apostles and prophets down the years telling me (often whilst quoting their scriptures from the pulpit) that God is an eternal UNCHANGING Being and his DOCTRINES NEVER CHANGE. They kept telling us: “Policies change and rules change, but DOCTRINES never change – these are ABSOLUTE.” If that previous sentence: None of these explanations is accepted today as the official doctrine of the Church.’ is also trying to say, that it never was a DOCTRINE, then that is a lie. It was. We all knew it was).

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.

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 above paragraphs seem to infer that Brigham Young felt ‘obliged’ to sustain the law, thus somewhat exonerating his reluctant compliance. Goodness me, there’s a first… Brigham Young upholding the law? That’s right; we members were all taught to obey, honour and sustain the law. (12th Articles of faith) yet, if you look deeper into Mormon history, noticed that it was the Church leaders (apostles and prophets) which did not give a damn about constitutional law, except where they could benefit. We had Brigham Young publically railing against the US government and foretelling its downfall (as well as the entire world) There were oaths of vengeance in the temple against their enemies… and the US government was their major enemy. We had ‘public’ compliance, in order to get statehood and avoid financial penalties, with the rejection of polygamy at the Manifesto, yet the ‘private’ and deliberate violation of this law continued for a decade afterwards by none other than the law abiding apostles and prophets. Even John Taylor went into hiding and was on the run from the law, due to his polygamous activities. Prophets have always believed in honouring and sustaining the law, but only when it suited them, when it doesn’t, they lie and simulate civil obedience. Joseph, for instance, established a bank, printed money and married people – all illegally – just because it suited him. Their political manipulations have been immoral. (See Frank J Cannon’s book: ‘Under the prophet in Utah.’)

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. (So really, prophets are of no real use to us – they just ‘echo’ whatever cultural norms exist at their time, no matter how bad)  According to one view, (you mean ‘your’ view… you see you will not admit it) 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 (this is what you have ALWAYS believed… not just ‘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. (look, I now it makes you appear somehow detached, and therefore a little more smug, but you really should say ‘YOUR’ view, not just anyone’s view… you, as a Church, TAUGHT this view. We have dozens of statements to prove it. Here’s just two of many:

“… Those who were less valiant in pre-existence and who thereby had certain spiritual restrictions imposed upon them during mortality are known to us as the negroes. Such spirits are sent to earth through the lineage of Cain, the mark put upon him for his rebellion against God and his murder of Abel being a black skin…The present status of the negro rests purely and simply on the foundation of pre-existence”existence” (Mormon Doctrine, p.527, 1966 ed).

In 1949, the First Presidency under the direction of George Albert Smith made a declaration which included the statement that the priesthood restriction was divinely commanded and not a matter of church policy. It stated:

“The attitude of the Church with reference to the 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.”

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 (not ‘often’… ALWAYS!) put forward as justification for the priesthood and temple restrictions. Around the turn of the century, another explanation gained currency: (Don’t keep talking as if some other organization did these bad things… even if others did! YOU, the Church totally advocated, believed and spread all these ideas, and made up these rules of restriction). 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 (you see you keep doing it… talking as if it was someone else who committed these racist dogmas. It’s a fundamental dishonesty and arrogance, which compels you to NOT OWN your own sins and FULLY confess them. You draw near to God with your mouth and expect the membership to remain worthy and in a repentant state, but you – you yourselves, are hopelessly abysmal at setting that example. Start talking and start acting as you wish others to act and be FULLY honest with this issue. I’m delighted you can see where you have sinned, but you refuse to take culpability and responsibility by issuing a statement which here PROJECTS the blame for this particular theology onto society… you say that past leaders just got dragged along by it, but your theology has been saturated with this DOCTRINE through your own scriptures and precepts from the very beginning… what better admission of failure could there be than this?)  

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. (you mean, you actually believed God was behind all this madness?)

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. (Yes, and as Jim Whitefield reminded us in his excellent 5 volumes of ‘The Mormon Delusion,’ Brigham Young said the priesthood would never be given to the Black man until after ALL of Adam’s posterity had first received it… there are nations in this Earth which have never heard of – let alone received, the priesthood. So, strictly speaking 1978 was way too early to give the Blacks the Priesthood?) Brigham Young, 9 October 1859. JD 7:290-91). 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. (sorry to interrupt again… are you getting this dear reader?… the paragraph above and below, is saying GOD actually revealed it was time to lift the ban. It was GOD, they say, who INSTALLED IT – so only He could lift it. In other words, GOD had previously APPROVED of the racial hatred and segregation, which later in this statement they say was merely a mistake… I’m a bit confused? If it was YOU who had actually made the mistake, then you are giving us a paradox to deal with? Because you are also saying God led you into it, then God led you out of it? So He completely messed up too? If I were you; I’d leave God out of it… it is making you look more and more ridiculous).

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.” (Making out that God actually spoke to you – which he didn’t is only making things harder. It does not help your cause to say in one breath: We got it all wrong, it was Brigham’s fault, he was prejudiced, but he was only following the cultural norms of his day and then somehow it got stuck in the Church for a hundred and fifty years, but now we completely disavow the entire concept” and then say in another breath you’ve actually heard from God, who has told you that the time has come to lift the ban! How utterly stupid. Incidentally, to disavow something, is to deny knowledge of, or association with).

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 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. (so, you do admit that all the prophets from Smith in 1820, to Kimball in 1978, got the whole thing wrong about this DOCTRINE? That all these prophets have, in effect, and quite literally, led the people astray? Something you’ve boasted could NEVER happen. So, once again, will you ban all internal use of current scriptures and reprint new ones with this racial hatred removed?… you might as well get rid of section 132 too – people might not notice with all the uproar of other bits missing?

Seriously, you don’t need ex-mormons and apostates to condemn, repudiate and deride past prophets, it seems that’s your job now. You seem to care nothing for their reputation, as long as yours remains intact… until one day – sometime in the future, other prophets will say how YOU got things wrong and dump YOU into oblivion. Creating and sustaining racial hatred as divine absolutes, worked well for you – when it was culturally acceptable. Now it seems God is embarrassed and you are embarrassed, but it is so hard for you to admit you got the ABSOLUTES totally wrong. That’s why you squirm about with words and employ PR companies to retain some semblance of credibility, when actually, it’s all gone. This Race and Priesthood statement demonstrates an absence of real integrity and honesty. It demonstrates derision for past leaders, plus an arrogant contempt toward the present faithful. It would appear these days, that the ‘good name’ of the Church has vanished.

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. (more tithing)

The Church proclaims that redemption through Jesus Christ is available to the entire human family on the conditions God has prescribed.(you mean YOUR ‘conditions’ – those you have prescribed…. You want us to now trust YOU?) It affirms that God is “no respecter of persons” and emphatically declares that anyone who is righteous—regardless of race—is favoured 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.”

Official Church Statement:

Race and the Priesthood 

“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.”1

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.2 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.3

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.”4

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].”5 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.6 In 1857, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that blacks possessed “no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”7 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 1954.8 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.9

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.10 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.11 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.12 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.13 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.14

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.15

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.16

As the Church grew worldwide, its overarching mission to “go ye therefore, and teach all nations”17 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.”18 While there were no limits on whom the Lord invited to “partake of his goodness” through baptism,19 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.20

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.”21 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.”22

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.”23

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.24

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”25 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.”26

https://www.lds.org/topics/race-and-the-priesthood?lang=eng

Resources

  1. 2 Nephi 26:33. See also Acts 10:34-35; 17:26; Romans 2:11; 10:12; Galatians 3:28.
  2. To facilitate involvement of Church members who do not speak the dominant language of the area in which they live, some congregations are organized among speakers of the same language (such as Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, or Tongan). In such cases, members can choose which congregation to attend.
  3. At some periods of time, reflecting local customs and laws, there were instances of segregated congregations in areas such as South Africa and the U.S. South.
  4. Historian’s Office General Church Minutes, Mar. 26, 1847, Church History Library, Salt Lake City, spelling and punctuation modernized.
  5. “An Act to Establish an Uniform Rule of Naturalization,” 1st Congress, 2nd, Chap. 3 (1790).
  6. Elise Lemire, “Miscegenation”: Making Race in America (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002); Peggy Pascoe, What Comes Naturally: Miscegenation Law and the Making of Race in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009). Utah outlawed miscegenation between 1888 and 1963. See Patrick Mason, “The Prohibition of Interracial Marriage in Utah, 1888–1963,” Utah Historical Quarterly 76, no. 2 (Spring 2008): 108–131.
  7. Don E. Fehrenbacher, The Dred Scott Case: Its Significance in American Law and Politics (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978), 347.
  8. Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896); Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954); Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967).
  9. Brigham Young, Speeches Before the Utah Territorial Legislature, Jan. 23 and 5, 1852, George D. Watt Papers, Church History Library, Salt Lake City, transcribed from Pitman shorthand by LaJean Purcell Carruth; “To the Saints,” Deseret News, April 3, 1852, 42.
  10. In the same session of the territorial legislature in which Brigham Young announced the priesthood ordination policy, the territorial legislature legalized black “servitude.” Brigham Young and the legislators perceived “servitude” to be a more humane alternative to slavery. Christopher B. Rich Jr., “The True Policy for Utah: Servitude, Slavery, and ‘An Act in Relation to Service,’” Utah Historical Quarterly 80, no.1 (Winter 2012): 54–74.
  11. David M. Goldenberg, The Curse of Ham: Race and Slavery in Early Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003), 178–182, 360n20; Colin Kidd, The Forging of Races: Race and Scripture in the Protestant Atlantic World, 1600–2000 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006).
  12. Stephen R. Haynes, Noah’s Curse: The Biblical Justification of American Slavery (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002).
  13. Margaret Blair Young, “‘The Lord’s Blessing Was with Us’: Jane Elizabeth Manning James, 1822–1908,” in Richard E. Turley Jr. and Brittany A. Chapman, eds., Women of Faith in the Latter Days, Volume Two, 1821–1845 (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2012), 120–135.
  14. Apostle Joseph Fielding Smith, for example, wrote in 1907 that the belief was “quite general” among Mormons that “the Negro race has been cursed for taking a neutral position in that great contest.” Yet this belief, he admitted, “is not the official position of the Church, [and is] merely the opinion of men.” Joseph Fielding Smith to Alfred M. Nelson, Jan. 31, 1907, Church History Library, Salt Lake City.
  15. Edward L. Kimball, “Spencer W. Kimball and the Revelation on Priesthood,” BYU Studies 47, no. 2 (Spring 2008), 18-20; Marjorie Newton, Southern Cross Saints: The Mormons in Australia (Laie: Hawaii: The Institute for Polynesian Studies, Brigham Young University-Hawaii, 1991), 209-210. Even before this time, President George Albert Smith concluded that the priesthood ban did not apply to Filipino Negritos. Kimball, “Spencer W. Kimball and the Revelation on the Priesthood,” 18-19.
  16. Kimball, “Spencer W. Kimball and the Revelation on Priesthood,” 21-22.
  17. Matthew 28:19.
  18. Mosiah 15:28; 1 Nephi 19:17.
  19. 2 Nephi 26:23, 28.
  20. Mark L. Grover, “Mormonism in Brazil: Religion and Dependency in Latin America,” (PhD Dissertation, Indiana University, 1985), 276-278. For a personal account of events in Brazil, see Helvecio Martins with Mark Grover, The Autobiography of Elder Helvecio Martins (Salt Lake City: Aspen Books, 1994), 64-68. For the conversions of Africans, see E. Dale LeBaron, ed., “All Are Alike unto God”: Fascinating Conversion Stories of African Saints (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1990); Pioneers in Africa: An Inspiring Story of Those Who Paved the Way (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Broadcasting, 2003).
  21. Official Declaration 2.
  22. Gordon B. Hinckley, “Priesthood Restoration,” Ensign, 1988, 70, available at ensign.lds.org. The impressions of others who were in the room have been compiled in Kimball, “Spencer W. Kimball and the Revelation on Priesthood,” 54–59.
  23. Bruce R. McConkie, “All Are Alike unto God” (CES Religious Educator’s Symposium, Aug. 18, 1978); available at byu.edu.
  24. Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Need for Greater Kindness,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2006, 58–61.
  25. Acts 10:34.
  26. 2 Nephi 26:33
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