Mormon Girl Asks: How did the LDS Black priesthood ban impact you?

Forgive me if I change up the format this week at Ask Mormon Girl. Usually, I take questions from the mailbag, but this time, I have a question of my own to ask.  It’s been that kind of week.  In fact, it’s been a hold-your-breath week in the world of Mormonism as the scrutiny of this election year has put Mormonism’s thorniest issues under a spotlight.

Tuesday, a BYU religion professor made national news by presenting as doctrine justifications for the LDS Church’s historic ban on Black ordination.  We gasped aloud, we did, when we saw it there in the Washington Post:  a species of Mormon racist reasoning that many of us grew up hearing in our homes and in our wards and that one can still hear today (especially among older Mormons).

Wednesday, the LDS Newsroom released a public statement disclaiming as doctrine any attempt to justify the Black priesthood ban.

Since then, LDS people have been reading, writing, reflecting, arguing, grappling—some circling the wagons, some embracing with open arms what could be a historic chance to say, “We were wrong. We are sorry.”

That’s where my heart is.  As I wrote here, as a progressive Mormon, I believe it was wrong to withhold priesthood ordination and temple access on the basis of race.  The ban ended in June 1978.  I was six years old.  But I too grew up hearing those old racist teachings about the curse of Cain and Ham, and the fencesitters in the pre-existence, and all the rotten rest of it.  And no one but my gut insides ever said it was wrong, until I attended orientation at Brigham Young University in August 1989, and Professor Eugene England wrote on the blackboard this Book of Mormon scripture:

“2 Nephi 26:33: He decomes none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen, and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.”

I have lived with the shame of Mormon racism all my life.  It has impacted the way I view the world and my personal and professional relationships. It has impacted the way I view the Church I belong to and its members—though not in the simplistic ways some might assume:  it has deepened my sense of responsibility and hunger for change.  It is ugly painful to see people you love, people you believe are capable of better, satiate themselves on thinly reasoned prejudices.  In God’s name.

Compounding the way I’ve experienced this week is the fact that a great deal of my day-job-professional-life has been about race and religion.  I owe a debt of gratitude to scholars, writers, teachers, and colleagues—many of them people of color–who have helped me get myself educated on the history of race, its deadly impacts, and its intransigence as an element of the American imagination.

What did I learn?

First, that race is a fiction, a concept invented in the service of domination (and later reinvented as a point of collective identification by people of color themselves).  Race is made-up.  It is not a legitimate basis for any form of generalization about a group of people, let alone as a basis for the distribution of opportunity.

Second, that racism is deadly harmful not only to those who become its objects but also to those who allegedly profit from its privileges.

In his landmark book Black Reconstruction in America (1935), the great W. E. B. DuBois observed that during reconstruction, to deter them from organizing with their black fellow laborers, white laborers in the south “were compensated in part by a sort of public and psychological wage”:  deference and preference accorded to them in social and civic settings just because they were “white.”

In exchange for this “wage,” what do whites surrender?  Humanity.  Empathy.  Beauty.  Conscience.  Intelligence.  Courage.

I believe that racism—including the historic LDS ban on–-has provided white Mormons with a weak form of spiritual compensation for which we have historically surrendered a measure of our humanity, intelligence, empathy, conscience, beauty, and courage.  I do not think it is an accident that the murky historic origins of the ban may be traced to a moment in history when Mormons ourselves were being alienated and classified as a species of American “other.”  And in exchange for the small compensations of elevating ourselves over Mormons of African descent, what have we surrendered?

I started this conversation yesterday on my Facebook page.  Hungry, eager, and, yes, perhaps, a bit impatient to continue this conversation amongst ourselves, to take stock of the damage done not only to African-Americans but to white Mormons too. What have the wages of whiteness really cost us?

Since then, I’ve heard friends talk about the fear they felt hearing parents and trusted teachers describe a God so vengeful as to “curse” a portion of the human race.  I’ve heard about distrust of LDS teachers and leaders who espoused racist doctrine, and shame—lots of shame—for having believed it.  I’ve heard about friendships and family relationships lost.

“It has instilled and unwittingly sanctioned a spirit of judgmental discrimination and pride,” wrote one friend. “Selflessness, empathy, love, and kindness are difficult to achieve when you are doctrinally justified in a form of prejudice. Elitism is not the way to faith.”

“Withholding the priesthood from blacks was not a punishment of blacks for ancient/pre-existence transgressions, but was, in fact, a punishment for the rest of us for upholding such perverse beliefs,” wrote another.

So this week, at Ask Mormon Girl, I am turning the tables.  I’ve talked.  Now, I’m going to ask a question of you:

How did the Mormon teachings on race you were raised with impact you?  What did you lose as a result of the priesthood ban and the racist teachings some used to justify it?  What might we have to gain from admitting we were wrong?

Your turn, readers.  I’m listening.  May we all listen.

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Filed under ethnicity, race

252 responses to “Mormon Girl Asks: How did the LDS Black priesthood ban impact you?

  1. Abby

    To be honest I was just taught that Africans couldn’t hold the priesthood until 1978. Although I have wondered as a youth and now why would God withhold his priesthood from any body? I never got a good answer. To be honest aren’t we all racist in some way? It may not be about color, but some thing else. As Mormons are we aren’t we racist in the fact that we say that our religion is the only true religion.

    • Blake Stevens

      It would be Politically incorrect to speak the truth and that is why your having trouble getting an honest answer as to why that rule existed!

      • jason porter


        Political correctness aside, I would like to know what truth you refer to. I think this is an appropriate forum for an honest and frank discussion. What is the truth? Can you talk more about your experience gaining this truth, about why the rule existed?

      • Norm Smith

        I never really realized how fortunate I was to have interviewed Lowell L Bennion at age 21 in 1958, when I was investigating and trying to understand this doctrine. Dr. Bennion was the director of the Institute of Religion at the U of Utah. When I asked him about the policy he simply replied that he did not know, could see not justification for it and was actively trying to understand and change this policy. I accepted that we do not know or understand all things. This acceptance of equality of peoples made it easy to serve a mission in S.Chicago where I found racism rampant. I have, of course, heard over the years the various rationales for this policy but was able to consider them as individual opinions only.

    • Ke

      I’m black. I joined the Church in 1975. I always felt the ban was racist, but the question for me as a teenager investigating the Church was whther the Church itself was true. Having grown up in the United States, a country well known for racism (the Constitution, after all, permits slavey and counted slaves as 5/8 person), the fact that people could be imprefect and racist was a given.

      When I received a testimony, though prayer and the Holy Ghost, that the Church was true, I felt obligated to be baptized and live the commandments. I have never looked back. I also received a confirmation that the ban would not last indefinately and that it would not prevent me from receiving blessings in this life. (It ended before I was old enough to go on a mission and before I married.)

      I have never felt that it was from God, but that God did not stop it, because frankly white people were not ready. It was instituted as a practice, because members oculd not accept full equality with blacks. That fact that men who have been called as prophets of God were imperfect and people of their times, does not, for me, mean that they were neither true prophets nor that they did not receive revelations from the Lord. Things changed when people wer ready to accept change. And even today, there are people with problems. Recently, someone put a Confederate Flag on an advertisement for a Church event. I insted that they take it off. They eventually did, but they could not “get it” that it was offensive. I finally had to say that if it got out it would hurt Romeny’s chances. That they understood!
      If people in 2012 can not understand that Confederate flags on a Church-sponsored advertisement might be offensive to some people, just imagine how these same people or their ancesotrs in 1977 were not ready

      • Ke

        I’m black. I joined the Church in 1975. I always felt the ban was racist, but the question for me as a teenager investigating the Church was whether the Church itself was true. Having grown up in the United States, a country well known for racism (the Constitution, after all, permits slavery and counted slaves as 5/8 person), the fact that people could be imperfect and racist was a given.

        When I received a testimony, through prayer and the Holy Ghost, that the Church was true, I felt obligated to be baptized and live the commandments. I have never looked back. I also received a confirmation that the ban would not last indefinately and that it would not prevent me from receiving blessings in this life. (It ended before I was old enough to go on a mission and before I married.)

        I have never felt that it was from God, but that God did not stop it, because frankly, white people were not ready. It was instituted as a practice, because members could not accept full equality with blacks. That fact that men who have been called as prophets of God were imperfect and people of their times, does not, for me, mean that they were neither true prophets nor that they did not receive revelations from the Lord. Things changed when people were ready and willing to accept change. And even today, there are people with problems. Recently, someone put a Confederate Flag on an advertisement for a Church event. I insisted that they take it off. They eventually did, but they could not “get it” that it was offensive. I finally had to say that if it got out it would hurt Romney’s chances as a candidate. That they understood!
        If people in 2012 can not understand that Confederate flags on a Church-sponsored advertisement might be offensive to some people, obviously these same people or their ancestors in 1977 were not ready.

      • Aged Observer

        Thanks for your expression of faith, it’s uplifting.
        I think you’re very astute in your observation… the majority of the church wasn’t ready. Generational effect is very persistent.
        I wonder what other gifts God has waiting for us… when we are ready as a people?

      • Shaun

        Ke, your comment has got to be the best explanation I have ever heard as to why the blacks did not recieve the priesthood until 1978. I was on my mission in South Africa when the revelation on priesthood was announced. What a wonderful day!! The mission home cook was the only black South African member of the church. Now that the “white people of the church” have progressed to a point where we can accept our black brothers and sisters with open arms, the church has found great strength and wonderful (black) leaders in South Africa ..

      • “I have never felt that it was from God, but that God did not stop it, because frankly white people were not ready. It was instituted as a practice, because members could not accept full equality with blacks.”

        Best.reply.ever! Thank you! Thank you!

      • Jen

        Agreed. Well said, thank you!

      • Marjean

        If the Church had insisted on racial equality from the beginning, as I’m sure a God of love would have preferred and was trying to convey to the prophets, the white population would have been ready years sooner.

      • Kara

        What a beautiful testimony this is! I am not black, but have struggled with the priesthood ban for some time, and have always wondered what the perspective of an African-American church member would be. The faith it must have taken to still join the church under such circumstances! Your faith has strengthened my own.

      • A

        My grandfather and I had a conversation a few years before he died about this. I was curious about that time in church history and it bothered me that I hadn’t been given the tools in Sunday School (although I was very young) to understand why God would have such a ban (I had not learned of Cain or anything like that in regards to withholding the priesthood, only that it had happened). He, too, proposed that the ban was largely a mark of the unwillingness of the white people of the church to forsake racism. As far as I understood (I wish I could call him up and ask him), he believed that it was kind of the same deal with the law of consecration–the church doesn’t have the LoC because the people in the church aren’t ready for it because of their selfishness and imperfection, but it IS right and good and it will happen. The fault, then, would lie with the white people of the church not being able to handle selflessly and humbly God’s will for their brothers. I don’t know how that sounds, because I’ve never typed it out before–I hope it sounds how he meant it, with love and confusion and after much pondering. Anyway, I’ve sort of adopted that as a personal belief–that the priesthood ban had nothing to do with the love of God or the ‘readiness’ of black people–just the hang ups of a racially unenlightened white majority. The truth is, of course, doctrinally, that we don’t know. And I think it’s important that we don’t try and make up an answer to the mysteries of the Lord. At the same time, of course, I do think its important to ponder things that don’t sit right with us, and even to theorize, as you and my grandfather have. I think that’s fine and good. And I know God loves all of his children and that He loves sharing his power with them through the priesthood. I think most of us have felt that love through blessings, etc. and I hope that we all know that He wants us to be happy and that happiness comes with understanding and that understanding comes with thought and prayer and time.
        Love, A.

      • Aubree

        Thank you for your testimony. I’ve often felt the same way, that the country just wasn’t ready for it. I felt the spirit that what you said was true. Thanks for your perspective.

      • Carla

        Right, the Mormon church cared so much about the “African-Americans’ ” plight concerning their ban from the priesthood, they actually gave a written, PUBLIC apology, and a REASON for their racist doctrine being set in the first place.

        Well, I take that back. The Mormon church did neither.

        Golly, I supposed the Mormon church isn’t big enough to be honest. The reason was: THEY WERE RACIST. And apparently THEY STILL ARE because the Mormon church keeps making excuses:”. . . the era, time in history, a product of its time. . .”

        Try honesty for once. That might convince African-Americans!

      • DrCole

        Carla, I sense some anger in your reply. I ask that you might consider your post seems to lump everyone in the LDS Church together and since you refer to the church as the “Mormon church”, it seems to me that you are not a member of this church. Maybe you were at one time, but I think it is fair to say that you are not now.
        I find it troubling that you say that the Church was and still is racist. That says that I am a racist since I choose to be a member of the LDS Church and have been in many local leadership roles where I have had my social, spiritual, personal ideals shaped because of my experiences in these roles. I can tell you that every man, woman and child that I have met, served with and served for has had a love of every person. It didn’t matter what color of skin they had. Have I met bigots in my church…of course, but then I have met bigots at the grocery store too. All of the people that are members of the church that have held racist views, just happened to have been the same people that would only go to church for public assistance, such as food or money for bills…that’s if they went to church at all, because they stopped going years ago.
        I myself am part of a family that includes a lot of the colors of the rainbow…Central American, Caribbean, African-American, Ghanaian, Native American, European, etc. To call my church racist, does in fact call me a racist and I dare say that you couldn’t be any farther from the truth.

      • Carla

        I’m closer to the “truth” than you are, in this case. Perhaps you should stop “sensing” anger and realize that it IS anger. I won’t pretend that I’m not angry, and neither will I make an excuse for my anger. And you’re right, I’m not a member of the Mormon/LDS Church (thank God in heaven). And yes, you should find it “troubling” that I—and other African-Americans—believe the LDS church was, is, and probably will remain racist. The banning of African-Americans from the priesthood, prior to 1978, was a sure sign of open racism from Caucasion Mormon members. There’s no other way to explain it, is there? Let’s not kid ourselves. The “banning” applied to African-Americans, not to Caucasions. And so far—since the lifting of the ban—there has been no PUBLIC apology and no legitimate explanation for why the ban was in place from the start. Now you can say that your Church has been “loving” to every person, but that wouldn’t be true. Because if banning was a “loving” act, then every person (every member) should’ve been banned from the priesthood.

        Let me ask you, what guarantees can the LDS Church make to ensure that the “ban” on African-Americans into the priesthood won’t be reinstated again? Surely, if such a spiritual law can be changed at will, then it has the ability of being changed back.

        And congratulations for having the “colors of the rainbow” in your family. And as wonderful as that is, it doesn’t mean there’s an absent of racism in your family.

        Perhaps I’m being a little hard on you. I’m sorry if I am. But even half-truths make a whole lie.

      • Vanessa

        Are you Afrian American Carla, or have you just decided to speak for us?

      • Carla

        I am African-American. And if the Mormon Church would own up to their racism–publically, by admitting their racism–then there wouldn’t be any need for African-Americans to doubt their sincerity.

      • Vanessa

        Well, Carla, I am also black. And I am LDS (Mormon) and have been for many, many years. I grew up in another religious denomination and attended that denomination’s parochial schools from kindergarten through high school graduation — the whole nine yards. I am no stranger to racism, as I grew up in a large American city that was famously highly segregated. (Martin Luther King said it was the most segregated city in America.) There were black neighborhoods and white neighborhoods and never would the twain meet, if you didn’t want a beat down or for someone to burn down your house (which happened occasionally when you ventured/moved into the wrong neighborhood.). When I was a teenager, having ventured into the wrong neighborhood, I was chased by a group of white kids with bats and chains. Given the neighborhood, I’m certain that these boys and I were the same (non-LDS) religion. At the parish church that many of my (white) high school classmates attended, the pastor would say in the homily that they should put more money in the collection plate, because he had “successfully kept the N-words out of the parish school.”

        When I visited an LDS church for the first time, I did not know what to expect. I was very surprised at the warm and friendly greeting that I received. It was quite different from the epithets that would have greeted me had I walked into the white church of my then religious denomination just down the street from that Mormon ward. In fact, I was impressed to see people of different ages and races worshipping together. (It was the only non-segregated church in the area. The Mormon church never had segregated denominations.) The Mormon ward I attended, where most of the members were students or professors at a leading U.S. university, was quite forward leaning, even for several decades ago.

        The Mormon Church is still very communitarian, at its heart. We take care of each other, regardless of what somebody looks like. And programs in the inner city are impressive. Inner city wards have literacy classes and jobs skill training so that everyone can be self-sufficient. When I was a teenager, I couldn’t get a job if one landed on my head. So, the only jobs I could get were through my Mormon home teachers. I would tell them that I needed a job, and they would get me work. Now, as a reasonably successful adult, I try to pay it forward.

        Carla, I have a propostion for you. Why don’t you visit a Mormon ward one Sunday (or Tuesday/Wednesday or Friday evening) ? Talk to some folks and observe. Then, see whether Mormons, in practice, are racist.

        Hit me up after your visit.

      • Carla

        Well Vanessa, ever head of the phrase: “First impressions always last”? I’m not surprised that the LDS Church greeted you “warm and friendly.” That is expected from ANY church, as everyone in any given situation is generally on their best behavior. Rarely does anyone greet a complete stranger meanly. Even a pedophile will treat a child kindly in order to lure the child into trap. Once the child is trapped, then the REAL behavior is shown. Having said that, what did you expect from your first visit to the LDS? Did you expect the members of the LDS to call you the “N-word” in your face? Pity you weren’t able to read their thoughts; otherwise, you would’ve run for the exit doors. Ever heard of the phrase: “Wolves in sheep’s’ clothing”? and the proverbial saying, “Better to trap a bee with honey than with vinegar”? The gist is, people have to be kind in order to achieve a purpose, and to maintain a certain facade. It’s great that the LDS home teachers helped you to find employment. But let’s be honest about things, okay? Just because someone “helps” you, it doesn’t mean that they like you. My sister and her husband were members of an all white church—they were on the praise and worship team there. Everyone in the congregation—the pastor, wife, and his family—were very kind. This white church would feed the children in the city (most of which were black). The church was exuding good “Christian” charity—help the savages/natives kind of thing by showing the love of Jesus. Well, eventually the guise slipped. Helping the poor and downtrodden was a ruse. . .a façade. . .an act. They “looked” the part of love, but they had none. The church’s heart was far from those they’d helped.
        Please, don’t get me wrong. Charities are a good thing, but let’s not deceive ourselves unless we walk in the footsteps of Jonah. Jonah, somewhat grudgingly obeyed God’s command to preach repentance to the people of Nineveh, less God would destroy them for their wickedness. When the people of Nineveh repented after hearing Jonah’s message, God had mercy on the people, and spared them. Jonah actually was “displeased”. Jonah, having done what was right—showing obedient and love for God by doing good—never loved the people of Nineveh. (Jon. 3—4:1)
        Let’s face it, if it weren’t for Mitt Romney running for President of the USA, the LDS wouldn’t even address the banning blacks from the priesthood. For fear that some people will actually dig into the LDS’s past and question their racism, they choose now to so-call “openly address” the banning.
        You can ignore the following questions, but they deserve honest answers:
        1) What was the REAL reason why—if not racism—the LDS doctrine excluded blacks from the priesthood prior to 1978?
        2) Was the banning of blacks from the priesthood a “loving” act?
        3) Why didn’t the LDS church offer a WRITTEN and PUBLIC apology for the banning? (Perhaps the LDS church don’t believe they were wrong for the banning, and therefore believe they don’t have to apologize.)
        4) What guarantees can the LDS Church make to ensure that the “ban” on African-Americans into the priesthood won’t be reinstated again? (If such a doctrine can be changed at will, then it has the ability of being changed back to the way it was prior to 1978).

        These are not difficult questions to answer. Surely such a generous, devout, “loving” Church will give ease to their African-American members by answering such questions.

      • DrCole

        Wow, Carla…I am just amazed at the brazen slaps in the face and claims that anyone and everyone in the LDS faith is racist toward you or people that just happen to have the same color of skin that you do. In your post, since it only addresses your race, all Asian decent, Hispanic decent, or any other decent must be and is racist toward the black race??? Is that what I’m reading? It is hard to carry a legitimate conversation with someone who is so blatantly throwing derogatory and degrading insults around. The notion that an individual that is black must have white people in the LDS Faith racists only when you aren’t looking, because it happened to your family in a different Christian Faith. It just boggles my mind. It really makes me wonder, if you saw me on the street, would you treat me differently because I just happen to be white? I’ve learned over the years that it really doesn’t matter what color our skin is. We all are different and we all have unique experiences. I love to understand what makes people unique internally because of their experiences, not because of the color of their skin. Please help me understand why you see me as a racist, because I don’t see me as one, nor do I feel that the people that I associate with are racists.

      • Carla

        Perhaps a good brazen “slap” is necessary to sober you! And you can point out Asians and other enthic groups for a month of Sundays, and still the questions remain about the LDS Church. I find it rather comical that yousay the LDS Church is loving and not racists, yet you’re unable to answer simple questions. The following quote is well-known (shortened to save space):
        “You see some classes of the human family that are black , uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable¬, sad, low in their habits, wild, and seemingly without blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind… Cain… The Lord put a mark upon him,which is the flat nose and black skin….”LDS Mormon Journal of Discourses,Volume 7, pages 290-291
        Surely such a ”loving”—not racist—Church won’t fear harmless questions being asked and then openly answered:
        1) Was the original ban based on scripture or revelation? Many Mormons have maintained that the priesthood ban was a policy, not established by revelation. If it was only a policy, why did it take a revelation to end it?
        2) If a revelation was received in June of 1978, why isn’t the specifically worded revelation published instead of a statement about a supposed revelation? Declaration 2 is not the revelation.
        3) If Declaration 2 represents a revelation to the church, why wasn’t it numbered with the other sections of the Doctrine and Covenants? The two Declarations at the back of the D&C seem to be policy statements putting an end to practices, but neither contains the words “thus saith the Lord” or repudiates the doctrine behind the practice. If the revelation included a repudiation of past teachings on race and color why isn’t it published?
        Another contradiction is the fact that the revelation was given too early. According to Brigham Young, the priesthood would not be given to the blacks until after the resurrection:
        . . . they [descendents of Cain] never can hold the Priesthood or share in it until all the other descendants of Adam have received the promises (Journal of Discourses, vol. 7, p. 290).
        This was obscured in the 1978 declaration that said “Aware of the promises made by the prophets and presidents of the Church who have preceded us that at some time, in God’s eternal plan, all of our brethren who are worthy may receive the priesthood.” Past leaders had said that blacks would eventually receive the priesthood, but they maintained that it would be after everyone else had had a chance to receive it.
        4) What was the REAL reason why—if not racism—the LDS doctrine excluded blacks from the priesthood prior to 1978?
        5) Was the banning of blacks from the priesthood a “loving” act?
        6) Why didn’t the LDS church offer a WRITTEN and PUBLIC apology for the banning? (Perhaps the LDS church don’t believe they were wrong for the banning, and therefore believe they don’t have to apologize.)
        7) What guarantees can the LDS Church make to ensure that the “ban” on African-Americans into the priesthood won’t be reinstated again? (If such a doctrine can be changed at will, then it has the ability of being changed back to the way it was prior to 1978).
        PS. Until these questions can be answered, don’t bother replying back!

      • DrCole

        Wow, I am just amazed Carla. It is extremely difficult to carry on a conversation with someone that refuses to speak civilly or in a rational manner. Until you are able to, I’m afraid that I, myself will also refuse to answer your questions. Being a school teacher for a behavior unit, I have dealt with a lot of incivility, but I must admit…you have reached my limit. Good Day!

      • Vanessa

        Carla, Dear,

        I wanted to add something else. I’m an American citizen, born and raised in the United States. I am a descdendant of slaves. My ancestors have lived in the part of North America that became the United States for centuries, and in the case of the Native Americans, many centuries.

        I clearly recognize that America’s history is racist. And I acknowledge that racism still exists in the United States. Nevertheless, and despite the fact that many countries’ attitudes toward race I find more acceptable and despite the fact that I enjoy living in other countries, I would never give up my American citizenship.

        As problematic as our history is, it does not lessen my love for my country nor my commitment to the ideals on which it was founded. Yes, it took nearly a century to recognize blacks as people and citizens, and another century after that to implement that, but I love this country. And you only have to live in countries that lack rule of law and basic individual freedoms to understand that. I once spent five hours arguing with a police official that he shouldn’t force a woman, who was unable to read the confession they had written for her, to sign that confession. That alone, despite the many imperfections in our criminal justice system, is testimony to the fact that at least the law recognizes we have rights.

        As Martin Luther King said, the arc of history bends toward righteousness. Problems in U.S. history do not lessen the value of rule of law, freedom of speech, press, and assembly or other universal principles.

      • Carla

        And having said all that about your travels and missions abroad, you fail to give answers as to Why the “ban” on blacks from the priesthood was considered doctrine of the LDS Church in the first place? And why did it take a “Revelation” to lift the ban? And why the LDS Church will not give an official, written, and open apology for their racism? (keeping in mind no# 4 of the 14 Fundamentals). Until I receive answers, I will not step one foot into the LDS Church, and I will persuade as many people to do the same.

      • Vanessa

        Sigh. (You have to ask who owns the problem. We’re happy. You, however, seem angry and frustrated.) I belong to Mensa, and I have to tell you that you are not winning your argument, if that is what you are trying to do. Just go on with your bad self, girl. One more reason why I’ll just stay over here across the ocean.

      • Vanessa

        Actually, I have never heard the phrase “First impressions last.” And logically speaking, I doubt that could really be true. After all, then there would never be any divorces, and there are surely lots of them.

        You are free to believe what you like, but Ihave been a member of the LDS Church for more thn 35 years. I have visited all 50 states and six of the seven continents (I won’t go to Antarctica until next year). I have lived (moved to/worked in) 19 countries on three continents (and no I’m not in the military), and my expereience with the Church has been the same whereever I went.

        Let me share one story from Geneva, Switzerland. The ward I attended there was a melting pot of native Swiss, a couple of Americans, and people from several different countries in Africa, China, the Philippines, and Latin America (Peru, Ecuador, and Brazil). People would say the prayers or bear testimony in the language they felt most comfortable in. One broher said the sacrament prayer in Portuguese. The opening prayer was in Cantonese. There were testimonies in
        Tagalog, French, Spanish, and Portuguese. The various adult Sunday School classes were in different languages, and I chose the one in Spanish, because I speak Spanish (among other languages, but not French). On the first Sunday I attended, one of the sisters I met there, after the meetings, insistedon not just telling me how to get back to the place where I was staying, but riding with me on the buses. That sister from Ecuador walked me to to my door to make sure I did not get lost. She lived on teh otehr side of the city, but went out of her way to do this act of service for me.

        I’ll share another experience. A number of years ago, when I lived in Central Asia, I travelled from the country wher I was living/working to Kazakhstan for a church conference. One of my children came with me, and we stayed for the weekend. At church, the main speakers wre th eMission President and his wife from Moscow, a Russian couple. We didn’t introduce ourselves to them, and , after the meetings, went back to our hotel and then left for the airport to return to the country where we wer living. While waiting for our flight, in walks the Mission President and his wife, who were catching their flight back to Moscow. The siter looks at us and exclaims “свойые люди” (my own people). As we were both LDS, this sister recognized that we belonged to each other like family. The Gospel changes lives and melds hearts.

        My offer stil stands. You should be able to go to and find a ward to visit. Put your theiry into practice, meet real people, and see if Mormons, in practice, are what you think. And hit me up after the visit!

      • Carla

        Well, Vanessa, for all your talk about the LDS “charities” and good deeds abroad, it still doesn’t give answers to the following questions:

        1) What was the REAL reason why—if not racism—the LDS doctrine excluded blacks from the priesthood prior to 1978?

        Keeping in mind, Why, How, When the “restriction” began, I also ask, WHERE can I find the doctrine–where is it written?

        2) Was the banning of blacks from the priesthood a “loving” act?

        3) Why didn’t the LDS church offer a WRITTEN and PUBLIC apology for the banning? (Perhaps the LDS church don’t believe they were wrong for the banning, and therefore believe they don’t have to apologize.)

        However, consider No# 4 of the 14 Fundermentals–“a prophet will not lead the Church astray” (Remember: “Repentance brings forgiveness”)

        4) What guarantees can the LDS Church make to ensure that the “ban” on African-Americans into the priesthood won’t be reinstated again? (If such a doctrine can be changed at will, then it has the ability of being changed back to the way it was prior to 1978).

  2. Growing up, I occasionally heard the “mark of Cain” dogma (but never the fence-sitters one, thank goodness). To be honest, I didn’t think about it much. Like polygamy and all those other uncomfortable things in our past, I intentionally put it out of my mind. Understanding those things isn’t necessary for salvation, I thought.

    Now I see that understanding those things is absolutely necessary. I don’t think blind faith is the least bit conducive (I actually don’t think it’s real faith at all). Coming to understand the racist past of Mormanity (my word for the culture embedded in the religion) has been part of my faith transition. I can now openly acknowledge that church leaders are fallible humans. I have no problem being a “Cafeteria Mormon”, thinking critically about doctrines and dogmas and only believing the ones I like. The priesthood ban and subsequent racism are a part of Mormanity that I have chosen to reject. Imperfect leaders of the past imposed their own prejudices on my religion. They were wrong to do so. Admitting this relieves my discomfort at addressing the topic; the answer is simple and humble.

    I liked how the statement from the church newsroom said that the church condemns all past and present racism by members of the church and non-members of the church. This is the closest I’ve ever heard to an official “we were wrong” statement. Progress?

    • Barbara

      The original Mormon Doctrine (which I fondly call McConkie Doctrine or Mormon Speculation) had some insinuations that were incorrect (such as wondering if Blacks were fencesitters in the war in Heaven and about 1,000 others). Current prophet David O McKay assigned Spencer W Kimball to assist Bruce R McConkie in revising it. Although it is called Mormon Doctrine and Elder McConkie is frequently quoted, even the revised accepted version is not considered scripture nor is it one of the 5 books missionaries are encouraged to read. Amidst all the speculation on why Blacks didn’t have the priesthood for so long we can rest assured that it is not because of any form of unworthiness. (If someone’s patriarchal blessing says that they are of the house of Israel it is literal. If they are ‘adopted’ into the tribe it will say so. and by the way, there were NO fencesitters in the war in Heaven. If we made it to Earth it is because we chose God’s plan and he sent us here with his blessing.).

  3. Steve

    Hi Joanna. I’m about your age. I grew up in the south. My mom went to a segregated school and remembers the day she went to school for the first time with her black neighbors. My high school was 40% black, 50% white, 10% other. While there were very few black members of the church growing up, there was a family who had immigrated from Africa, and then one African-American single mom with two boys, one of whom is a friend. The single mom eventually became our gospel doctrine teacher years later. I also had two black missionary companions – one from French Guyana, the other from Guadeloupe. I give that background simply to say that compared to the average Mormon, growing up I had tons more exposure to black people – and diversity in general.
    Let me respond to your question in two ways. First, had I read the Journal of Discourses prior to attending BYU, I’m not sure I would have gone. Had I read it prior to graduating, I might have pulled a ‘Joanna’ and handed back my diploma. 🙂 The point is that Brigham Young said those things, he preached those things, and as much as Elder Holland wants to use the word ‘folklore’, folklore just doesn’t happen to continue to get printed in many publications (McKonckie & others) and get spoken from the pulpit over 100 years after BY said those things. Folklore is not a current professor at a respected university believing and teaching those things. To be honest, I’m embarrased to be carrying a degree with the name Brigham Young on it. The more I learn about him, the less worthy he sounds to have a major reputable university named after him. That’s my opinion.
    Second… having spoken openly to both of my black mission companions about ‘the ban’, each shared with me that while it’s a struggle to understand and come to terms with, the ban didn’t trump the overal more positive aspects and spiritual experiences they each have had in the church. I applaud them for this. They both taught me that forgiveness doesn’t just apply at an individual level. They were tolerant of an imperfect church, moreso than I have proven to be at this point.
    Lastly, I just wish we would own it. The leaders were wrong, misguided, and yes, they led the general membership astray on this matter. To me, this is the biggest stumbling block – the inablity to hear anyone of authority say: “This is what we used to teach as the reason for the ban. It was wrong. We are not a perfect church. Skin color is not a punishment, it’s not a function of your level of ‘valiantness’ prior to this earthly life. The ban should have never existed in the first place. The only reason it did was due to the wrongness of the leaders.” That would be refreshing. Then we could really move on.

    • Mandy

      That would be more than refreshing! As a member who has struggled with the ban and the reason for it, I’ve asked the question, “Why did this happen?” Only to receive several of the different reasons people have listed here. The most infuriating response I’ve been given is “It’s in the past. Don’t worry about it. We’ve moved on.” I haven’t been active in the church for several years, mainly due to the fact that I get this type of response from many questions I have. I sincerely hope that the leaders will see the necessity of making an official statement like this in the near future.

  4. Steve

    (Joanna – correction to my previous comment. I wrongly attributed Elder Holland to using the word ‘folklore’ in the context of this topic. I had just read another related article was typing from bad memory. Could you please use this corrected post instead):

    Hi Joanna. I’m about your age. I grew up in the south. My mom went to a segregated school and remembers the day she went to school for the first time with her black neighbors. My high school was 40% black, 50% white, 10% other. While there were very few black members of the church growing up, there was a family who had immigrated from Africa, and then one African-American single mom with two boys, one of whom is a friend. The single mom eventually became our gospel doctrine teacher years later. I also had two black missionary companions – one from French Guyana, the other from Guadeloupe. I give that background simply to say that compared to the average Mormon, growing up I had tons more exposure to black people – and diversity in general.
    Let me respond to your question in two ways. First, had I read the Journal of Discourses prior to attending BYU, I’m not sure I would have gone. Had I read it prior to graduating, I might have pulled a ‘Joanna’ and handed back my diploma. 🙂 The point is that Brigham Young said those things, he preached those things, and as much as we sometimes use the word ‘folklore’ to justify the persistence of the belief, folklore just doesn’t happen to continue to get printed in many publications (McKonckie & others) and get spoken from the pulpit over 100 years after BY said those things. Folklore is not a current professor at a respected university believing and teaching those things. To be honest, I’m embarrassed to be carrying a degree with the name Brigham Young on it. The more I learn about him, the less worthy he sounds to have a major reputable university named after him. That’s my opinion.
    Second… having spoken openly to both of my black mission companions about ‘the ban’, each shared with me that while it’s a struggle to understand and come to terms with, the ban didn’t trump the overall more positive aspects and spiritual experiences they each have had in the church. I applaud them for this. They both taught me that forgiveness doesn’t just apply at an individual level. They were tolerant of an imperfect church, more-so than I have proven to be at this point.
    Lastly, I just wish we would own it. The leaders were wrong, misguided, and yes, they led the general membership astray on this matter. To me, this is the biggest stumbling block – the inability to hear anyone of authority say: “This is what we used to teach as the reason for the ban. It was wrong. We are not a perfect church. Skin color is not a punishment, it’s not a function of how valiant you were prior to this earthly life. The ban should have never existed in the first place. The only reason it did was due to the wrongness of the leaders.” That would be refreshing. Then we could really move on.

  5. Kole

    One of the questions that struck me while I was a missionary was this:

    We know the revelation allowing blacks to receive the priesthood was granted in 1978; when was the revelation that banned blacks from the priesthood?

    We were wrong, and truth will survive scrutiny.

    • Jim

      I grew up in Holladay, Utah in the 1950s. At that time, in my ward, the ‘mark of Cain’ theory was the most used when anyone tried to explain the church’s inherent racism. It was usually spoken sotto voce, but it was what we all ‘understood.’ I was raised, though, by progressive parents for whom anything racist was anathema, and who did not agree with church doctrine, even though they remained quiet about it in church. At the time, Holladay was probably close to 95% mormon. I had very little contact with non-whites or non-mormons, but I did have one friend who was Catholic and one who was black. When we were little kids, playing in the fields and by the creek, their race and religion didn’t matter – to me or any of the other kids in the neighborhood. We weren’t aware of the controversies about them swirling in the heads of the adults around us. But as we got older, parents in the neighborhood began forbidding their children from playing with those two friends. It’s the first profound sorrow I remember in my young life. I felt how painful it was for my friends, and I can almost be brought to tears by it even today. By the time I was 13 or 14 I had become quite the rationalist, and I began asking my Sunday School teachers why the church was persisting in a racist doctrine. They, of course, didn’t really know how to answer the question and couldn’t defend it. My questions created awkward moments for all of us. At 18 I drifted away from the church and at 23 I formalized my break with it. As I look back on it now, I know that the painful cruelty imposed on those two innocent friends was the first, and perhaps the primary reason, for my decision to leave the church.

      • Anon

        It’s amazing that so many people can doubt so many things about their religion/belief system, and yet still stay. Congratulations on always questioning what you were taught as truth! Coming from a mormon mom/christian dad family (that ultimately destroyed my family), being exposed to FULL truth of faith of being a Christian and learning of so many spouts of crazy ideas about the mormon faith (note: ideas coming FROM mormons by the way, so I know I’m not mistaken), I know I made the right choice and where I stand today. You simply cannot know everything about mormonism and still be in it. If you can doubt just ONE thing, question why you are in it. Joanna, I think you are insanely crazy with how you live, but to each his own I suppose. Stirring the pot as you are for your religion is hopefully only going to open the eyes of so many who are so greatly deceived.

  6. Mark S

    Joanna, you may want to go back and fix your quote of 2 Nephi. It should read “He denieth NONE that come unto him…”

    When I heard about Pres. Kimball’s revelation in 78, it was with unmitigated joy. I couldn’t imagine anyone not reacting with pleasure that the church had been relieved of this irritating and (to me) indefensible policy. One of the many things that Pres. Kimball did that endeared me to him.

  7. Kimberly

    In 1978 I was sitting in my grand-parent’s living room in Nephi, UT. (I was raised in Texas and Oklahoma, but we spend every summer in Nephi.) When the revelation allowing blacks to hold the priesthood was announced on the late news, it shook my young self. I remember feeling shock, and then outrage that the blessings of the gospel had been withheld from anyone – especially based on the color of their skin. No one could explain ii to my 11-year-old satisfaction. From that moment on, deep in my inner heart, I held a part of my self in reserve. As the years passed, and I learned that church leaders aren’t always inspired in their teaching and decisions and then as the church began to politicize their beliefs, I stood further apart. I stand now, watching and waiting to see what the next years hold. It is hard to turn away from the things one is taught as a youth, but even harder to stand with a church that has not conducted itself with the same integrity it asks of its members. What have I lost? Faith.

    • Shaun

      Kimberly, One thing I am constantly drilling into my deacons (I’m 2nd counsellor in YM) is the difference between Doctrine, Policy, and Tradition. Many times in the church we get these mixed up and the line gets blurry. The way I see it, doctrine comes from God through his prophets, policy is set by well meaning general authorites, and tradition just happens. As far as I can tell (someone correct me if I’m wrong) there is no doctrine stating blacks could not hold the priesthood. I can’t find where Joseph Smith or any later prophet recieved any revelation concerning the matter, until President Kimball. The POLICY was started by Brigham, does that mean he wasn’t a prophet? No, it means he was human, and I believe let his personal feelings effect church policy. Is everything a prophet says the “word of God”, no I don’t believe so, only “when he is moved upon by the Holy Ghost” All the stories about fence sitters or curse of Cain, those are all TRADITION. WE must strive to gain a testimony of doctrine, follow policy, until it changes (many times this starts from the bottom up) and work to distroy harmful traditions.

      • Stephanie

        Love the differentiation here between the three! Excellent. My dad once gave the explanation that being a priesthood holder is a great responsibility and adds a burden to serve, etc. He said that before ’78 blacks in the U.S. had enough of a burden trying to gain equality with whites and that they needed to focus their energy on accomplishing that behemoth. I thought that was a good explanation as well as they did have plenty on their plate focusing on that. Though holding the priesthood is an honor of sorts, people tend to forget that receiving it is basically a contract you are committing to, to serve and lift others. When honored correctly, magnifying one’s priesthood is no easy chore. It’s time consuming in addition to requiring emotional, physical, mental, spiritual investment, among others.

      • Mike R

        For all the responses on this thread, I think I would have to give you and your father the “most benevolent mental gymnastics” award for trying to explain why a clearly unjust rule was imposed on an oppressed group of people. Rather than succumb to cognitive dissonance or the “blame the victims” route as others here have, your family’s approach was to look at God as a condescending, yet thoughtful Being that was willing to wait for society to catch up with where He wants them to be before allowing suffering people to get what they were entitled to all along. Sort of, “God is the same yesterday, today and whenever it is the right time in the future”? I have no dog in the hunt, just observing from the peanut gallery, but bravo for at least constructing a rational for justifying how an apparently kind person can tolerate hate within an organization they love so dearly.

      • Ann

        I’m sure your father had good intentions, but you need to rethink that explanation. How would withholding the priesthood from blacks help them to focus on gaining equality with whites? That sounds completely contradictory to me. Wouldn’t giving the priesthood to them be a better way to help them gain equality? That’s like saying that blacks shouldn’t be given any authority positions at work, etc (during this same time) because that would be too much responsibility for them as they focus on trying to gain equality. There have been so many reasons (excuses) given in this discussion, which state in one way or another, that society “wasn’t ready” for the church to accept blacks into the priesthood. If that were true, then why would polygamy, of all things, be implemented? If the growth of the church depended on social acceptance of it’s practices, polygamy was certainly a more controversial practice, and caused many more problems than would have the race issue.

      • Ke


        The problem with the explanation that, in essence, is the same as Prof. Botts’, that was a blessing for blacks to have the priesthood, because they were fighting to be equal politically. But how does that explain not giving the priesthood to blacks in the Caribbean or Brazil, where that would not have been an issue? Or continuing it long past when most blacks thought the main struggles of the Civil Rights era ended or continuing it past 1978 for those who thought there were still battles to win? Most intesrestingly, given your dad’s eplanation, why have the priesthood on earth when Mormons were being persecuted? Fighting persecution in Missouri, Illinois, etc. would haveoccupied much of their time.

      • CDU8

        Shaun, I have to ask, “If one of the Founding Prophets of the Church, whom we believe received revelation from God, enacted a policy that you view as ‘personal’ in the name of the Church, then I have to wonder what other church policies arrived at through Prophets’ personal views, have at some time stood or maybe stand now as part of Church policy?” Perhaps plural marriage was another one? Perhaps gender inequality through the priesthood another? Where does this line of thinking go? I do not think one can call this ‘Policy’ when it was upheld as part of Church Doctrine, after all the Priesthood was withheld from Blacks by successive Prophets…or did Priesthood holders somewhere step up and ordain a Black person to the Priesthood during that period? If not, why not?

  8. troy

    Thanks for the conversation, Joanna. I served my mission in the Kingston, Jamaica mission and spent 2 years trying to explain the ban. I always referenced 2 Nephi 26:33 to “prove” we weren’t racist, That the ban was something that god wanted and we don’t really know why he did….but it didn’t matter now because every race can have the preisthood. That was the answer I gave and it always felt more like a lie to me than an explanation. I heard other missionaries give their answers, read some other church leaders ideas about the ban, and it still seemed way off to me. Many years later I view my church with different eyes. I am active in my wqrd

    • troy

      Sorry…….baby crawling on me hit the post button. 🙂

      I’m active in my ward but I see the good in the church as well as the bad. I admit that we have been racist in the past and that this racism still carries over into our Lds culture. Not so much in a hateful way as an ignorant and sometimes arrogant way.
      One lesson I learned first hand in my mission is tjat the racism that exists in the world and has existed was not a result of the differences of people but in the exclusion based on those differences. People struggle in third world countries because of the lack of opportunity they have. Opportunities kept from them by other humans of a different caste.
      Have a good Sunday.

  9. Bryan

    The ban has never affected me. I knew about it growing up and I knew that the church was ready for the change in1978 which is why I believe the Lord put in his 2 cents after much pleading from church members. I would never label the church or it’s leaders past or present racist when we cannot trace the source or reason for the ban. Hindsight is always 20 20. I have never seen rasicim in the church . I am sure there are some and they probably felt justified because of the ban which is shameful. I think if white members are having a hard time with the churches statement maybe you should look to the faith of your black brothers and sisters that actually endured the ban faithfully instead of calling inspired leaders racist. How do we know the ban didn’t save the church in early history. Maybe it was a political decision. Who knows and I hope we never know because when the church is up against the world it reminds church members where their testimony comes from and often weeds out those that are rooted in a social testimony from those rooted in faith.

    • Jason

      Bryan, I juxtapose this type of thinking with the wisdom exhibited by Joanna in this article and its easy to see your ideas as intellectual dinosaurs. I hope they are someday as extinct as the great lizards are now.

      • Bryan

        So because I wont label Christs church as racist makes me a dinosaur? Anybody that can label the church as racist based on the present lack of facts is doing as much harm to the LDS culture as the authors of “deep doctrine” that pretend to provide the answers to everything.

      • Jason

        This is long-winded Jason. We just had lesson in Gospel Doctrine (Sunday School) on second Nephi and of course collided with the cursing of the Lamanites with a dark skin. So in affect, the doctrine persists.
        The racist, or at best, ethnocentric elitism, undertones extend beyond those of cursed descent (intended to be a shameful remark, because it is) marked by skin color. Bring up the War in Heaven doctrine and it is all inclusive of peoples living the curse of their prior lack of obedience, willingness to serve, or valor. That guy in Jersey that has never heard of the True Gospel and if offered will reject it anyway, tossing aside the Pearl of Great Price– he’s white, but not of Royal Birth, not part of the Valiant.
        This is confirmed in our Patriarchal Blessings, right? That’s why we have been born at this special time to usher in the Millennium, to be receivers of truth and full blessings of the Priesthood here in mortality and be of the first to come forth in the 1st Resurrection. All these things were not only reiterated in Institute but with all the deeper, meatier, weirder, “for-your-eyes only” (it actually warned of this at the beginning of instructional videos…very odd) doctrine of CES. My instructor went into explicit detail about this including how we maintain the same kind of character here as we did in the pre-existence. THE EXAMPLE OF THIS WAS THE “LAZINESS” OF COLORED PEOPLE ESPECIALLY MEXICANS AND BLACKS. This was in class (1995-96 Northern CA). Muslims, even worse. While he may have been extreme, my Institute instructor did teach correctly the basic principles of the per-existence that the Church cannot deny. They just won’t address that publicly.
        The point is we are an equal-opportunity church, regrettably. It’s not just about ‘race.’ That needs to change even if it means taking away some of the ‘earned’ gifts and blessings heritage members like me enjoy.

    • Jim H

      Bryan, when you say that people whose testimonies are not based on the same things as yours should be “weeded out” that is incredibly shallow and offensive. We send hundreds of thousands of young men out into the world to invite people to join the church while you sit around hoping people will leave if they don’t fit your checklist of acceptable testimonies.

      • Bryan

        Never said “hope” and didn’t provide a checklist either. The facts are when social issues are brought to the forefront many people leave the church when their testimonies are not grounded in Christ, such as prop 8. All I see here in the comments are people totally jumpin to conclusions that the church was racist and therefore wrong. A race issue is not the same as a racist issue. Racism is a product of hate. I don’t believe members past or present and especially leaders are motivated by hate. I wouldn’t belong to a church that was motivated by hate, it wouldn’t be Christs church.

      • Hero

        Jim – Correction. He in no way said members SHOULD be weeded out. He was making an observation about how when the Church has a disagreement with the world on an issue (social, moral, etc) if “often weeds out” those who base their testimony on the cultural or social aspects of Mormonism rather than faith. Thur your ad hominem fallacy of attacking Bryan rather than the point he was trying to make is invalid.

    • Bryan – couldn’t have said better myself my man! Awesome.

    • Ashley

      There can be no racism without racists. There can be no shameful actions without people to commit these actions. At this point, the issue of racism in the Mormon church is about getting away from excuses, being honest about the past and accountable for the present.

  10. Mike R

    A common thread here is a desire for the LDS Church to officially admit its ban on priesthood for males with even of drop of African blood was wrong. The leadership of the Mormon church has always understood (it is the genius or Joseph Smith on down) that to admit any error will cause doubt among the faithful. For progressives, that might seem disquieting, even corrupt, but it is worth losing the few (and you are a VERY few in comparison to the whole movement), than to risk wide scale disillusionment in the ranks. The mother hen that protects her chicks under her wing mentality (right or wrong) will endure in the LDS Church for a long time to come because it works sociologically to grow and retain members.

    BTW, I vividly remember the day Spencer Kimball’s revelation was announced. I had just joined the LDS Church in SoCal as an 18 year old and was at a function where other Mormons were present. I was so excited that a new revelation had been given and was surprised at the complete lack of enthusiasm I encountered when I brought it up. In retrospect, I came to understood it was the subject of the revelation that accounted for their ambivalence.

    • “The leadership of the Mormon church has always understood (it is the genius [of] Joseph Smith on down) that to admit any error will cause doubt among the faithful.”

      There are so many things wrong with this statement. But, all I’ll say here is: at its worst, it is insulting to every member of the church.

      • Mike R

        It was not my intend to insult anybody, but only to offer a sociological explanation to those here who were expecting (some demanding) an apology from their church for the abuses caused by not denouncing the historical practice of priesthood denial to Black men for why it will never come. I also understand, however, that from your prospective it is always harder to see the trees when in the middle of the forest.
        Best wishes,

  11. Alice

    I’m in my mid-30s.
    My best friend became a Mormon in middle school, and we talked about it quite a bit in high school. I heard about the LDS church’s racism against blacks, and she explained what she was being taught about all people of color in her church.
    She explained to me that my mother, who is half-Japanese had been “less valiant” in the pre-existence and that’s why she wasn’t totally white.
    I’ve never forgotten that.

    This may be a “wives tale” among the LDS faithful, but it was widely, widely preached. I have some high school students in my school who still hold to this view (though they only admit it to me in private) and I’ve ceased to be shocked.

    With a past like this, and with an unwillingness to completely repudiate it, there’s no question as to why racism is still so rampant in the LDS church.

    • Meidi

      What a horrible thing for your friend to “learn!” As a faithful LDS woman (early 30s), I was raised in the church as my family traveled all over the world (Army family). I had the chance to meet and learn from wonderful LDS people who were African, Japanese, South Korean, Canadian, Mexican, etc. Perhaps this is why I seldom encountered racism in the church. The only place where I heard old, racist attitudes by an LDS person was, sadly, Utah. We would go to Utah every few years to visit my mother’s family and yes, some of them were racist. Some of them believed the whole “mark of Cain” line, and my dear grandparents were and still are terribly racist! I still love them very much and there are good things about them and good deeds that they have done in their lives, though that doesn’t excuse their racist beliefs or speech. The way I have always dealt with these kinds of problems in the church is to remember the oft quoted line that although the gospel is perfect, the people trying to live it are not. I have been deeply troubled by the former ban on African American men holding the preisthood, and the history of the ban is very mysterious. The truth is that in the begining of the LDS church, black men DID hold the presithood, few though, and the church was also anti-slavery, which is one reason for their persecution by anti-LDS people. I wish that the history of race in the LDS church were better than it is, but I think that the impetus is upon the current members of the church to start making a better history now!

  12. Francesca

    I’m a a convert from Italy and the problem had never touched me until last year, when the mother of one of my daughter’s companions (an Englishwoman of Nigerian origin) stopped talking to me because she had read on the Internet that mormons are ‘racist’. She had read about the ban etc… The worst thing was that, all of sudden, I realized I didn’t have decent answers, apart from all the Mc Conkiesque clutter learnt at Institute. Besides that, I had only heard people in Church saying: “Oh, I was there in 1978 and I cried because the Lord had answered my prayers!”. I felt like I had awaken from a dream: in 15 years I had never enquired this matter. I had never wondered why. I felt so ashamed.
    I started reading and researching and I can’t deny the whole thing has caused me a big crisis. The problem is: culturally, I can accept the Church to have been influenced by American culture (I have a PhD in American literature and I know about this stuff) and scriptural theories about the origin of black people, but it would be so liberating if they said: “Ok, we were wrong about this. We’re sorry”. The Catholic Church has done the same with the Jews. The problem is that this kind of admission would probably put the Church on the dangerous ground of self-questioning, which would throw a shadow on the principle of revelation.
    What I found out in this process is that there was anyone I could ask, because members of the Church simply don’t talk about these things and often ignore Church history. They accept things they are.
    Anyway, I now have my own ideas on this matter and no one can persuade me of the opposite.

    • Meidi

      I appreciate reading your perspective Francesca! I too want the leaders of the church to come out and say that the ban was wrong, perhaps it was because of the unrightousness of the members of the church back then that the ban came to be, I wish I knew. What I do know is that the Lord loves each of his precious children here on earth equally, that He does not love any “race” more than another.

  13. Blair Barton

    I am disappointed that the LDS church that has taught me throughout my life to be honest and to confess and repent when I have made mistakes, refuses to do the same when they are at fault. Jesus was at odds with the hypocrites.

    Why don’t our leaders that are suppose to be men of God have the courage to just admit when they are wrong and clear it all up. When I read what the BYU professor Rany Bott had told the Washington Post, I immediately concurred with his statements because that is the exact same thing that I had been taught for much of my life. He was hung out to dry because the current church leaders are too arrogant to ever admit that they or their fore-bearers had missed the mark. Had one of the modern day church leaders come out and said that the early church leaders were wrong regarding these racist teachings, I think that the Randy Bott’s of the world would stand a better chance at getting it right.

    When I read the PR response from the church stating that this practice was FOLKLORE, and that the church did not know WHY, HOW OR WHEN this belief came about I was shocked. It reminded me of the days when the church boldly lied about not practicing polygamy, even though the very leaders that were denying it were sleeping with their many wives.

    I was taught that the blacks were fence sitters regularly the first 20 years of my life. It was a very open, forthright teaching. It was not FOLKLORE and it was not just Brigham Young that taught it because I was taught that doctrine and I was born in 1958.

    It saddens me to loose my respect for an organization that I once thought so highly of, of an organization that I thought represented truth and right. This is the very organization that taught me not to lie. Isn’t it ironic!

    • DianaofThemyscira

      Blair. . .I totally agree with you.

      I am so extremely very very tired of the Church’s stance of “We just don’t know.” Um. . .you are prophets of God. You say you speak to Him. Well, why don’t you ASK? Why don’t you READ OUR OWN CHURCH history and admit to the members of the Church that we, in fact, DO know?

      Here’s the historical timeline of black lds history:

      1. We do know that Elijah Abel was ordained an Elder by Joseph Smith in March 1836. He was later ordained a Seventy.
      2. We do know that Joseph T. Ball was the Branch President of the Boston Branch from 1844-1845.
      3. We do know that under Brigham Young’s direction, Utah became a slave state in 1852 for about 10 years.
      4. We do know that Elijah Abel’s son was ordained an Elder on November 27, 1900.
      5. We do know that Joseph F. Smith declared Elijah Abel’s son’s priesthood as ‘null and void’ in 1908.
      6. We do know that Elijah Abel the Third (grandson of the original Elijah Abel) was ordained an Elder on September 29, 1935.
      7. We do know that there was never an official revelation that started the ban. Therefore, when any faithful member reads the history and looks to the cause of the ban, it can be intelligently determine that the ban was created by leaders of the Church simply denying the priesthood to males of African descent.

      I attended Genesis ( last night with my family and in the testimony meeting, one of the beautiful African American sisters was testifying of her faith in the Savior and our LDS Church in spite of some many misguided and ignorant comments by members of the Church as she was growing up. She was so funny when she stated, “Um, really? You don’t know? We have the internet now. We can read the history.”

      At any rate, I certainly wish the Brethren would hold the Church to the same high standards of honesty, repentance, and integrity that it holds the individual members.

      The Church cannot repent of this past mistake if it never admits that we DO KNOW how the mistake got made in the first place.

      • Meidi

        Wow, I really did not know much of what you wrote! I am very surprised that this is not more commonly known. What confuses me is that I read once (I wish I had the book to refer to!) that part of the reason that the early church was persecuted was that it was originally anti-slavery, I wonder if that is true or when that changed.

    • Kim

      I grew up in Canada, have been a member for 30 years, attended 7+ years of institute and was never once taught the fence sitters “doctrine”. Maybe the church in certain areas (like Utah) confuses what doctrine really is.

  14. Jon

    The church stance on blacks and the priesthood affected me and my family greatly. My family walked away from adopting what would have been my younger brother, a newborn, healthy, African American baby boy. Because my Father was a full time Seminary teacher, just before the adoption they decided to walk away. This was in 1975. Not adopting this baby is one my family’s biggest regrets. I will always wonder “what if.”
    My Father did not know how to raise two sons, one with the Priesthood and one without, in the same house. So after much prayer, they undid the adoption. He knew all the dogma that Bott discussed and more. Because he was a church employee he knew it would affect his job and he didn’t know how to explain to his son that he couldn’t have the priesthood when his brother did. In his opinion (and obviously mine) the church doctrine on this point was very wrong and had many negative effects. I don’t consider my Dad or Mother or family to be racists but this policy and the dogma that hadn’t been renounced, significantly changed how they would have normally acted. I will never know how it affected my almost-baby brother but I can attest to how it affected me.

    • DianaofThemyscira

      Oh my! As an adoptive mother of my own African American son, my heart breaks for your family’s experience.

      I understand the complexities within our religious culture, and am anguished over the fact that this cultural and religious anguish had to be there in the first place.


  15. As a converted Black member of the Church, I recognize two critical ways in which the Priesthood ban has affected me. There are probably more, but I will focus on two. First of all, being a convert and the only member of my family that is LDS the question that I get asked the most is “How can you be part of such a rascist church? They didn’t even allow Blacks to join until the 1970s.”. Having to constantly answer this question is draining to say the least and it does in fact impact your testimony. However, I don’t know which one is more mentally draining, answering that question from nonmembers or defending yourself and ancestors from the “mark of Cain” or “being less valiant” from members themselves.
    The second issue for me is trying to explain all of this to my 13 year-old, who became a Deacon back in November. It’s very difficult to find the words that justify the ban to him other than “past leaders were wrong”.

    • Meidi

      I really appreciate hearing your perspective Kenneth. I used to know an African American family in my branch in South Korea, our families were very close. The husband and my dad would have long discussions about the church and race, they were both converts and so they were somewhat free of the ridiculous myths of the mark of Cain, etc. The interesting thing to me about this man was that prior to joining the LDS church he was studying to become a Baptist minister! He gave some really great talks and prayers in Sacrament meeting! He was a very powerful priesthood holder and it did me and my siblings good to see his fine example so that later on if we ever heard garbage about black people not being as valiant in the pre-existence we immediately knew that it was not true.

      • M.D.

        Hey Meidi!

        I couldn’t reply to you upthread about the slavery question, but here’s what I know:

        Joseph Smith (like Abraham Lincoln) thought that slavery should be ended and freed slaves repatriated to Africa. In one instance he sold his horse to help a freed man buy back his wife and child, because he did not want the man to break the law by helping them run away.

        Early church members were basically pre-Marxist communists, who owned many thing “in common” and as such, did not own slaves and were ostensibly anti-slavery. In Utah, Brigham Young (and others) pushed for a more capitalistic economic system and Brigham Young owned slaves. Other people will tell you that Utah’s slave laws were “progressive” (the state could remove abused slaves from their owners), but I think that’s awfully generous. Most Northern churches at the time of the founding of the LDS church were explicitly anti-slavery and the LDS church was very progressive at the time on many issues so its very possible early members were anti-slavery.

  16. Bill

    I live in the NW and was asked to substitute teaching seminary on the day the PH ban was discussed. Talk about great timing! I was very pleasently surprised to find that NONE of the Juniors and Seniors in the class had heard the excuses. Less valiant, etc. It may be a reflection of our progressive area of the country but it left me encouraged, something that almost never happens at church. But that is another story…!

  17. Carole

    Joanna, once again you have hit the nail on the head. This is my exact response said in a way I could not have expressed. Being more than a decade older than you, I probably heard the racist teachings even more. Even though I believed the gospel 100%, there was this underlying pain of why, and I don’t get it, and yes shame, but more than anything that–this could not be right. In a way this has been a good thing for the church to have to come to terms with its deeply embedded racism, myths, and the hurts it causes when the church won’t come right out and say–we were wrong.

  18. Sue Noorda

    The Church is true. The Book of Mormon and Bible are the word of God. Joseph Smith is a prophet of the Lord who restored his gospel on this earth today. I can’t begin to express in words the the peace, happiness, and love I experience from reading the scriptures, attending church, and serving in any calling i am called to serve in. Although the gospel of Jesus Christ is perfect, the people in the church are not. If we look for the problems and imperfections, we’re certain to find them. We can spend our time picking the church apart or we can look for the good in it. We can’t possibly know why things are the way they are because we don’t know the mind of God. (Isaiah 55:8-9) I love this gospel and I am so grateful for it in my life. No other church has temples doting the earth. No other church has a Prophet, Apostles, and the Seventy and is organized the same as when Christ was on the earth in the New Testament.. No other church has missionaries going out preaching the gospel and no other church has the power of the Priesthood. The gospel will roll forth and no one or no organization will stop it. It will fill the earth. (Daniel 2:44-45) If anyone wants to persecute me for saying these things, go ahead. I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Christ is my Savior.

    • Mike R

      I am truly glad that your church makes you a happy person…life is short and it is good to want to be content. I wonder if you would have been as happy though if you had been born a person of color in your church? It is nice to have beliefs, but when a destructive theology requires you to lack empathy towards others in order to stay happy within that system, that is the kind of loss other comments here have expressed. I know it is hard to face reality and challenge what you have been taught, but ignorance being bliss is a dangerous and vulnerable way to live one’s life. There are those you can see here who do confront these problems as honestly as they can and yet stay within the LDS Church, so it is possible.

      BTW, you really ought to read more outside your faith tradition on basic subjects like early Christianity. Jesus never organized a church and following his death many different movements formed that had a variety of organizational structures…none of which are replicated within any Mormonisms. Believing in something as hard as you can that is historical untrue does not make it correct.
      All the best,

      • Christ did organize a church…he did go to synagogue once a week,”as was his custom”. I believe the questions are misleading and they favor those who are looking to vilify and not find answers. I have dealt with racism first hand…I have also dealt with people in the church telling me not to come back to church and that I wasn’t going to the celestial kingdom. I am smart enough to know this was ridiculous. I have never found when the ban was instituted….only when it was lifted. I worked through this on my own, without the benefit of a committee to throw more stones. I don’t have that anger toward the church and I know how hard leadership is…..We do not know what really happened…no one seems to know. While I was teaching seminary I worked this through and I found answers that settled my soul….I hope all of you do to. To stand on the sidelines and demand God to answer you is profoundly useless. Ask the family of the guy who steadied the ark if they are mad at God….how about Laban’s family…..Esau’s got a grievance right? How about the whole city God asked to be destroyed? Lot’s wife? seems harsh…..constant slaves coming from Jerusalem….God flooded the whole earth….think anyone was pounding on the side of the ark to get in as the waters rose? Why do you want to throw out the whole church when there is so much good? I couldn’t….so I fasted, prayed, I went to the temple I pondered….I read….I figured it out…and then I thanked those faithful black Saints who saw the same thing I did, the church restored,….racists are racists…whether they are from Lehi Utah or Kemah Texas…the south didn’t need Brigham Young to tell them to be racist…South Africa didn’t need Brigham Young, somehow they managed it all on their own….we are all fallen people….made from the elements of a fallen world…..flawed and stupid sometimes. I am grateful to have the covenants I have….grateful to go to the temple….grateful for scriptures. I spent an entire week working on a lesson about unity…….I could not have done it without the help I had from the spirit. Many prophets prayed to have the ban lifted….not all but many. The work must move forward….it seems when the ban held back the work it was lifted…..and Brazil has 5 temples 2 under construction, 27 missions and over a million members. none of this could have occurred while the ban was in place. I have no answers about this, none that can’t be argued to death. The truth is why didn’t Joseph Smith stand up in Liberty Jail and tell his captors, “you’re right I made it all up,,,,now let me out.” He didn’t do that because it was and is true. He made no money off of restoring the church….no power…just derision, 41 lawsuits and finally death. I am so happy to have spent the lions share of my adulthood with everyone getting the Priesthood….just waiting for someone to work on that no drinking thing.

      • jason porter

        The genesis of the Church in its latter day form is the question of a young boy with a sincere desire to be enlightened of the Truth. The Church’s growth depends upon the conversion of others unsatisfied with the things that should provide comfort, joy, and peace, but fall short. The entrance to membership and full fellowship of the Church requires gaining a testimony of the truthful of the gospel. It is a requirement that an investigator follow after the example of Joseph and the admonishion of Moroni to ask of God the questions and desires of the heart to know truth.
        However after conversion and accepted membership the questions have to stop, or they become a reflection of deminishing faith or weakening testimony- or worse be labled as disguized wolf among the sheep and a danger to others. With regard to flawed, erronious doctrine, perhaps the perpetuation of the grass roots beliefs that dispite opinion are counter to the teachings of Christ. We should be thoughtful and meaningfully question all doctrine and teachings whether read, or heard, from leaders on down to primary teachers or spouses. This is not an unhealthy pursuit, or a straying from one’s beliefs as much as it is continually seeking guidence in one’s personal journey through this life and beyond.
        In this case the policy was dreadfull to exclude a certain of its members the rights and privelages of the priesthood, the Church followed, and continued down, the wrong path. Perhaps this course could have been avoided if more prayerful consideration and questioning of leadership and teachings had occured.

        Along those lines could someone help me with Prop. 8 and which of Christ’s teachings support it? Just Christ’s, no other oppinions, please.

      • Mike R

        @ Donna: Going “to synagogue once a week,’as was his custom'” made Jesus a Jew, not the organizer of a new religious movement…again, do some reading about the history of Christianity beyond what you find in a typical LDS Bookstore.

      • TK

        Dear Mike R,
        In response to your previous comment ‘Jesus never organized a church and following his death many different movements formed that had a variety of organizational structures…none of which are replicated within any Mormonisms’ I would encourage you to learn a little bit more about the LDS Faith and Christianity in general. Christ did indeed form a Church, he had 12 apostles and they were ordained with the Priesthood- to act with the authority of Jesus Christ (to heal the sick, baptize etc) You are correct in stating that there were many who formed a variety of organizations/splinter groups based on the teachings of Jesus Christ after his death and resurrection. This ultimately led to what the LDS church calls the Apostasy in which the vital truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ were lost. These truths were lost because they were altered, and the authority to act in Jesus Christ’s name -the Priesthood-was taken from the earth. The Church and Priesthood that Jesus Christ established on earth during his life was later restored through Joseph Smith in 1830.
        In response to all of the comments on African Americans not holding the priesthood until 1978, I believe it is an unfortunate part of the history of the Church. But to say the Church is racist is wrong. Let’s not forget that the Civil Rights movement took place not many years before Blacks were given the Priesthood. I was born in the 70s and the mere thought of judging someone based on their skin color is foreign to me. So are we as Americans all racist based on the history of our country? How will we ever explain that at one time in the not too distant past, Blacks had to fight for the rights they should have been born with as a human being? Not an easy conversation. Neither is withholding the Priesthood from Blacks. I don’t justify the mistakes of the past,but despite them, I am proud to be an American and proud to be a Mormon.

      • Mike R

        TK, I have a Master’s degree in Religion and have done doctoral work in religious studies/history…I also have a certificate (somewhere packed away) of completion for LDS Institute courses taken. Your response is a cut and paste quality version from an LDS apologetic website and not based on any original research on your part (other than reading LDS sources). I remember many years ago while taking a graduate level course in Biblical Archaeology I took a non-Mormon classmate to hear Dr. Einar C. Erickson speak about the Dead Sea Scrolls. He was working on a graduate degree in archaeology and after the lecture asked me, “is this seriously what Mormons think archaeology is about”? I went on to do a comparison of two the leading books at that time on the Dead Sea Scrolls and found it ironic that we (I was still LDS at the time) thought the “Teacher of righteousness” having 12 disciples was somehow a affirmation of Mormon teachings (as Erickson inferred) when they were a group of celibate men. You can call Mormons a lot of things, but celibate is not one of them! LOL Picking and choosing sources to make a faith claim is not doing good research, it is just justification for your belief system. Again, get outside your comfort zone and go read more on this subject if you truly want to discourse outside your own corner of the world.

    • Jake

      This reply is not meant as persecution, but you (and so many others) should make sure you get your facts straight before making such generalized statements. There are other churches with temples dotting the earth–whether they are called by that name or by cathedrals or synagogues or mosques or whatever else. There are other churches with missionaries. I thank you for your testimony. I don’t mean to be disrespectful or destructively critical, but only to (hopefully) inspire faith-building contemplation when I say that it seemed rehearsed and unoriginal. I have heard the same phrases by so many people that I wonder if they really believe those things or just know that they should believe those things. When a person bears their testimony and doesn’t sound like themself (gramatically, lexically, etc.), it weakens the power of that testimony. I have no doubt that you truly have a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Again, thank you for expressing it. If there is anything I hope you take away from my words, it is this: find out what it is you really believe and why you really believe it and then say it like you really believe it.

  19. heather

    i was born the year the priesthood ban was lifted, but left the church about 21 years later, in large part because of the LDS church attitude towards non-whites, towards women, and towards homosexuality. i clearly remember reading an article from sunstone magazine when i was a teenager about the priesthood ban (don’t remember the name of it, but it talked about leaders of the church being human, fallible, and influenced by their generation and culture). it blew me away and gave me hope. i took it to my mom, who took it to my dad, who called it heresy and sent me to my room. now, as a non-mormon living in provo, i have followed you with interest since hearing you speak on radiowest. and though i don’t intend to return to the LDS faith, my spirit is lifted when i hear so many progressive mormons voice their beliefs.

  20. Tiffny

    This horrible mark on our LDS history reminds me that God will not force revelation on us. He waits for us to ask.

    For decades leaders weren’t bothered by it, even making up justifications to sooth their own minds, so no one of authority asked sincerely until the 70s. And then, only then, did the revelation come. I wonder why it didn’t include a reprimand as we see in other revelations of serious nature? Or maybe that just got edited.
    Let us remember that all churches had segregation/racism issues through this time in the US, especially those near my home in the South, and they have come to terms with them as well. I don’t say this as justification for our own racism, but rather to say that it was a human error, a very common human error, not a divine error. And as much as I believe in the Gospel, I also believe in human stupidity.
    I hope as a church we can forgive our ancestors for their obvious faults and stop trying to justify them and hold them on a pedestal that is not rightfully theirs. I would welcome an apology from the authorities for past leaders never asking the right questions and never coming to terms with their own prejudices.
    And let us go forward with open minds, welcoming all who are seeking the laws and ordinances of the gospel, while putting to rest the absurd traditions of our fathers and mothers along the way.

    • Thank you for this response, Tiffny. I have been coming to understand this exact thing lately. That is, that God will not give us something we do not ask for. God often tells us “ask and ye shall receive, knock and it shall be opened unto you” etc. I have been told that several prophets before Kimball asked about the ban. But I know all decisions made by the twelve have to be unanimous . . . I wonder if it took the whole lot of them being willing to ask/consider it. Perhaps not (McConkie was in the twelve then, after all). I do remember something about McConkie saying that after being present for the revelation, he then knew what “cloven tongues of fire” meant. Reprimand? Maybe, maybe not. All speculation.

      Anyway, I think this same idea applies to women receiving the priesthood. I fully believe that this will happen some day. Why hasn’t it happened? Perhaps because most people don’t consider it. They don’t ask because they don’t see it as a possibility. When asked if the rules restricting the priesthood to men only could change, President Hinckley said “He could change them yes…But there’s no agitation for that. We don’t find it.” In other words, no one is asking for it. Why would God give it to people if they’re not asking for it?

      Sort of rambly, sorry.

    • As it turns out, many of the top leaders were very unhappy with the ban prior to 1978 — and even prior to the 1970s and all of the negative publicity re: BYU-Stanford U, etc. But because there were one or two holdouts in the Quorum of the 12, this noxious policy stayed in place until circumstances (temple & mixed-race leadership in Brazil) — and at least a few leaders’ passage to the Other Side — made change possible.

      • DianaofThemyscira

        You’re right mofembot. . .In 1969 President Hugh B. Brown of the First Presidency (David O. McKay was President until 1970) proposed that the Church’s policy be reversed and that Blacks be given the Priesthood.

        This policy was then approved by the Quorum of Twelve and the First Presidency, but President McKay and Harold B. Lee were absent from the officialvote. (President McKay was disabled due to age and President Lee was traveling on Church business).

        When President Lee returned, he called for another vote and the measure was defeated.

        So. . .the leaders of our Church *did* ask in 1969. . .9 years earlier!!! But, Harold B. Lee voted against the lifting of the ban.

        And so Spencer W. Kimball had to work another 9 years to get all 15 voting Prophets and Apostles on board so they could be unanimous in their decision, and so that they could all feel the Spirit that confirmed their decision and therefore provided the revelation to end the ban in 1978.

        Our very own history proves that receiving this revelation was not as simple as: “Oh, we had to wait until *someone* in charge asked, and then the Lord said, Well, finally you asked! Now the ban shall be lifted.”

        Not so simple.

        The very fact that it wasn’t so simple is the very reason our Church needs to answer to this issue much better then “we just don’t know.”

    • JS

      You hit the nail on the head: APOLOGY. Even the Southern Baptists have formally apologized for their previous support of racism (and slavery). It took over 100 years for them to say “we were wrong and we apologize”, but better late than never. Current LDS leaders lose credibility by denying that it ever existed, that it was ever taught, or that prophets, seers, and revelators “do not know” the origin of the ban.

  21. David

    I can’t believe that I am just finding this blog! I was only two when everything went down with blacks in the priesthood so I can only remember a few instances about the situation. I can’t help but see the similarities with the old racism that dominated the church by with holding the priesthood to a specific set of people, and the prejudices that we have today with homosexuals and their rights. Maybe I’m opening a can of worms here on myself, but I think it is the same. Hatred between races or sexual preference is the same thing, simply hate. I really feel that or fear of homosexuality and granting them human rights that we have always enjoyed, is the “blacks and the priesthood” trial of our time. Christ taught it, and the Beatles reinforced it, “all we need is love”! Maybe you’ve already covered this subject but I haven’t gone through your past blogs, so sorry if this has already been talked about.

    • Mandy

      Thank you for saying this. I was thinking the same thing. I have many gay friends who are members of the church. They pray every day that they can be accepted as they are by the faith that they love. I’m praying with them.

    • Mommyof2

      I would like to start this reply by saying that I am a Mormon, happily married in the Temple to a man whom I love more than anything. But I also struggle with same sex attraction.

      We know that we are not supposed to hate anyone. Christ taught us that. Hate is hate and you are right. However there is a difference in denying Blacks the Priesthood and denying homosexuals marriage rights.

      Being black has never in the scriptures or to my knowledge professed by any general authority as being in and of itself a sin. We know in the Book of Mormon that God used dark skin as a punishment for the people of the time as a result of their own sin. Why was that? I learned a possible answer a few years back. I grew up in a area where white people are the minority and I was subject to a lot of racism but I also made a lot of friends who are Hispanic. One of my friends told me that her father would disown her if she were to ever marry a black man or even a Hispanic man who had darker skin than her. I asked her if that was normal for the area and she said yes. In many cultures even today dark skin is viewed as something that isn’t desirable. If the Nephites and Lamanites were of that same mind set, it makes sense why God would use that as a punishment. And to take it a step further, the knowledge that because of your sin, your children and children’s children would all have dark skin. The thought to someone in that mind set would find such a thing utterly horrifying. We know now that being born with darker skin is NOT in any way shape or form the result of the individual’s sins. It is genetics and can’t be helped. BEING black is NOT a sin.

      Which brings me to homosexuality and why it is different. Homosexuality IS a sin. Never before has God given an ENTIRE population of people the inclinations of same sex attraction as a form a punishment like dark skin was in the Book of Mormon. Neither has God destroyed an entire city simply because the inhabitants were black. Let me once again point out that I do have same gender attraction before anyone assumes I am a complete straight person and I don’t understand. Because I DO understand. We know that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed to set an example of sexual sin. And one of those sexual sins was homosexuality.

      Jude 1:7

      ” Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the evengeance of eternal fire.”

      The footnote for “strange” leads us to homosexuality in the topical guide.

      In Romans 1:26-27:

      “26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:

      27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.”

      So when I first realized I was attracted to women, I struggled. I knew that such things were wrong. And I felt like a sinner. I have later learned that those feelings were not from God. It wasn’t until a Sunday school teacher made the next point that I realized I wasn’t a sinner in this respect.

      He said that weakness and being tempted are NOT sins. Acting upon those feelings IS. I have never nor will I ever act on the inclinations I have.

      Having homosexual feelings IS NOT a sin. Acting on them is.

      There are many reasons why someone could have homosexual feelings. Either it is in their DNA and they are born with it, it could be the result of a hormonal imbalance or by conscious or sub conscious choice. It could be a trial that God has given us, that we must work through to prove ourselves or it could be a temptation of Satan. Whatever the reason, with something that feels so much a part of you, why would God allow such feelings in us if they are so incredibly wrong?

      I struggled with this answer. But I realize now that all of us have feelings are not inline with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. All of us have things we have to overcome in our endeavors to be like Christ. Mine is same sex attraction. I’ve never struggled with drugs, I’ve always had a firm testimony. Those have never been my trials.

      Being black never has nor ever will be a sin. It was once used in the Book of Mormon as the consequence for sin but in and of itself is NOT a sin.

      Acting on homosexual feelings however IS a sin. What is considered a sin doesn’t change. God is the same today and forever. I do not believe it will change either. He is a just God and I don’t see him destroying cities to set an example of sexual sin and turning around and saying it is suddenly ok. Its heartbreaking, believe me I know. I know the feelings feel like they are ingrained in your being. And I want to stress that having those feelings IS NOT a sin. It is the acting upon those feelings that we may have for whatever reason is a sin. We live in a world today where not acting upon feelings we have that feel completely natural to us, is actually wrong. I have gotten a lot of anger from other people with same gender attraction because I myself have chosen not to act on those feelings. They tell me I am denying myself happiness. They tell me that not acting upon those feelings is wrong, that I should just be me. I tell them, I don’t want to be me. I want to be like Jesus Christ and follow his commandments. That requires me to give up a lot of what makes me well, me.

      We do not hate black people and we do not hate homosexuals. This quote by our last prophet made me feel so loved:

      “People inquire about our position on those who consider themselves so-called gays and lesbians. My response is that we love them as sons and daughters of God. They may have certain inclinations which are powerful and which may be difficult to control. Most people have inclinations of one kind or another at various times. If they do not act upon these inclinations, then they can go forward as do all other members of the Church. If they violate the law of chastity and the moral standards of the Church, then they are subject to the discipline of the Church, just as others are.”

      Yes there are plenty of stupid people in the church who very openly hate gays and will even teach that hate in church. The above statement shows that this hate is not in accordance with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I know their words can hurt. For they have hurt me many a time.

      Why did the church ask us to vote to ban gay marriage? If the Church doesn’t hate gays then why can’t gays be married like everyone else?

      The answer for me is this: I simply can not support the act of homosexuality. It has nothing to with with whether or not gay couples should or shouldn’t have the right to be married. Its that the relationship in and of itself is not something I can support because I believe it is a sin. It would be like me voting for anything I disagree with. Gay marriage will pass in all 50 states, maybe not Utah, but maybe it will. I know that my vote against it matters very little. I do not hate people who want to be in a same gender relationship. But I simply can not cast my vote in favor of something I few as wrong.

      I do not believe gays should be discriminated against. I was very happy to see Utah pass laws preventing discrimination in the work place. I am glad gays can openly serve in the military.

      I simply can not vote in favor of homosexual relationships.

      I stress again:
      The difference between the “black ban” and homosexual ban is that being black or dark skinned is NOT a sin. Never in the scriptures or in any church doctrine have I heard that it was a sin. Brigham Young, yes he was prejudiced, did stress that Blacks would have the priesthood one day. And Mcconkie did say some very wrong things of which he was asked to change. And he himself admitted he was wrong and stands by the prophet. But never have I heard that actually BEING black was a sin. The scriptures, ancient prophets and modern day prophets have all said that acting on same sex attraction IS a sin. That is the difference.

      It has taken me a lot to get to this place. And yes my husband does know in case anyone would like to know and yes I am attracted to my husband. To those out there who are struggling with this as well I would simply remind you, those feelings you have do not make you unworthy or a sinner. As long as you do not act on those feelings or even if you have, remember that life is all about learning and growing.

      • SharonGoldstein

        Hebrews 13.8. And round and round we go. “I love the sinner but hate the sin.” Sigh. See my reply to Jake, above.

      • Mommyof2

        Sharon, while yes there is growing research that people can be born gay, not ALL are born gay. Having same gender attraction is not a sin. Acting upon it is. Why would God allow someone to be born gay but deny them being married? The same reason I believe people are born with disabilities, alcoholism or any other trial. Why would God allow a innocent child to be born into an abusive family? Why would God allow children to be born to women who abuse drugs? Why does God allow anything bad to happen to anyone? Because we are here to grow and live God’s laws regardless of how difficult the task. No matter how hard it is, it does not mean we are the exception to the rule. Its heart breaking, believe me I know! But it is possible to find happiness. I in no way expected myself to be single for the rest of my life. I knew that being married in the Temple is part of the process and that required me to marry a man. Through much prayer and fasting I was able to get to the place that I am at now. I am the happiest I have ever been and could ever be in this life with the man I love.

        If this was simply about attraction and love, I don’t believe that acting on homosexuality would be a sin. But there is a reason that God has said such a thing is wrong. God decides what makes a family and he and his prophets and apostles have always said that homosexuality is a sin. What qualifies as a sin never changes unless it gets stricter (The Law of Moses and Christ fulfilling the law i.e Thou shall not kill to Don’t even get angry.)

        You mentioned how unfair it would be for God to make someone gay and then deny them happiness. But how unfair is it to destroy at least two entire cities in part because they were engaging in homosexual interactions and turning around and making it OK today?

        That hardly seems fair to the people in Sodom and Gamorrah.

        God does not hate the sinner. Never once in my post did I say that. But he does hate the sin. And he has always said that it was a sin and he is the same yesterday, today and forever. I feel pretty confident that this will not be changing.

        Being black is NOT a sin. Never once has it been said that being black is a sin. But homosexuality has been said by God, prophets past and present that acting on such feelings is a sin.

        No one knows more than me how heart breaking it is. But I believe with all my heart that God is the head of this church. And he has never once said that homosexuality was ok. God loves everyone but he can’t make everything ok so we can all return to live with him someday. He has set the requirements that we must follow regardless of the challenge, in order to live with him again. The reasons these requirements exist is because we need to choose to return to him. We need to chose to give up things that he has said no to in order to live with him again. We have to prove ourselves. Its hard, its tough and it take constant everyday effort.

        I believe God loves all of us, but that does not mean this life was meant to be easy and free of trials. I believe we are given trials to make us stronger. I believe we are given the chance to prove that we want to follow his commandments more than we want to act on whatever inclinations we have.

      • SharonGoldstein

        We are soooo going to have to agree to disagree on this. I’ve heard these arguments over and over again, and I can’t tell you how much agonizing–and agony–it causes gay people, virtually all of whom (I’m in show business, I know a LOT of gay people) say that they were gay from the time they were old enough to realize what that meant. Your concept of God is way more concrete than mine, so it’s easier for you to say, well, bad things happen to good people and that’s just the way God wants it. For me, it’s not that black-and-white. Being born with a disability, being born with blue eyes, being born gay are more–to my way of thinking–merely the luck of the draw. Again, we’re going to have to agree to disagree.

      • KD

        Hi Mommy of 2.

        I appreciate your thoughts. I’m SSA myself. Completely active, totally worthy, and firm believer in the Gospel.

        I do, though, struggle with specific positions the church has taken in the past. Specifically, in relation to this post, the official church stance on race and the priesthood, on interracial marriage, and other related matters, are what I believe to be demonstrably wrong and contrary to God’s plan.

        I understand the thought that sexual relations with men (in my case) or women (in yours) are sinful. Yet, I really struggle with the strong likelihood that marriage is not an option for me. I believe it’s easier to be bold in your stance on homosexuality and the church while you have a family, while you have a future and a place to belong.

        Marriage to a woman, despite how much I want a family, seems fairly unattainable, and the church has recently stated that it’s not for everyone in our shoes. I admire–and even envy– that you’ve been able to have that blessing in your life. For those of us who don’t, it becomes increasingly difficult to accept that God wants us to lead an isolated, lonely life surrounded by the families–the things we simply can’t have.

        Couple that with the fact that the church has wildly varied on this issue as well–I could have been excommunicated 50 years ago simply for admitted I had these attractions at all–it becomes difficult to justify the black and white nature of it all.

        I had a period of my life that required heavy repentance and even a year of disfellowshipment. I sinned. I have no doubt. But those kinds of sexual transgressions seem worlds apart from a committed, loving relationship between two people, even if they are of the same gender.

        I say this not because I’m trying to justify anything–as I said, I’m an active, worthy member. I say it simply to highlight that the “it’s a sin” mentality isn’t necessarily that simple for many (most?) of us who are SSA and chronically single. And it’s certainly not helpful.

      • The Man Down The Street

        I empathize for you…I have had the opportunity to sit on many stake disciplinary councils. Every time same sex attractions came up, we were all very reflective of the individual love and longtime friendships with the member. It was always hard to hear them talk about their love of the Gospel and there every day struggles. Some of the people with SSA’s had made their mistakes while being married and then lost their spouse and children. Some were afraid to chance marriage and feared never having the opportunity to marry or have children. In many cases, the men that I sat on the council with had known the individual since they in diapers. They loved them so much. It brought tears to their eyes as we would discuss everything. We truly had compassion for their situation. Please don’t fear, many within the church love you and their hearts poor out for you. I know of many that pray for you and others like you, so that your burden will be reduced. You are a child of God and your struggles and your existence serve a purpose to yourself, your friends, family and everyone else. Not everyone understands this purpose yet, but I have faith that most will, long before Christ returns.

      • KD


        Thank you so much for your kind words of encouragement. I often wonder what my future holds, both for me and the church in regards to this issue. But it’s nice to think there are others compassionate and understanding as you are sitting in my chapel when Sundays come.

  22. Glynnwood

    I was a missionary in Finland at the time the ban was lifted. I never questioned the ban, though I have since; but at the time I wept tears of joy for those men who had waited so patiently, and for myself that this burden of “doctrinal” racism was lifted.

    I have seen great changes inside and outside of the Church where civil behavior and humanity are considered. I watched my own father deal with his racism–as I have struggled with my own. Not in defense of Brother Brigham, but perhaps in way of understanding him, I can say that I have known many otherwise good people blinded by the issue of race. As we apologies for them, let us also be kind and forgiving.

    Mormons collectively, and often individually, have a hard time admitting error. Rather than focusing on the fact that the ban was wrong, we can instead focus on the fact that we overcame it. Rather than denouncing Brigham Young–who was a righteous man despite his flaws–I choose to ponder the increadible humility and leadership of Spencer W. Kimball.

  23. Ashley

    I am 25 and grew up in a small town in Texas. Although the ban was before my time, I have ALWAYS had a problem with it. Like you, I came to the conclusion on my own that the ban was a man-made decision removed by God. It was wrong to withhold the priesthood. It was.

    I feel that the racism that any LDS person might practice today (mostly in the US, of course) is a result of spending too much time with only church members. It’s like inbreeding and creates awful ideas! It’s good to be around people who are DIFFERENT, but so often there is instilled in LDS children and youth a fear of the “world” and “worldly” things – I think this really keeps a good deal of LDS members from reaching out and befriending people who are not of our faith. Of course, we’re told to stick up for people and treat others kindly, but that’s very different from actually becoming close friends with people who are different from you. Hanging out with them, at bars and all, with your sprite with grenadine.

    This has especially hit home as now I live in Harlem, New York and though this area is changing a lot (major gentrification), my husband and I spend a good amount of time with our black neighbors, and every other kind of person that lives in this city! And of course we all learn a lot from each other- the point is, though, to reach out, understand, and get to truly know and love EVERYONE. Plenty of people outside of the LDS church have this same problem, of course, of only staying in their comfort zone. People everywhere should allow themselves the vulnerability that comes with trying to be great friends and connect deeply with people that they may feel they have very little in common with. Befriending and loving those who are different front you will force your perspective of the world and of love will to grow more profoundly. The world is so good, we should embrace it! The world is a BEAUTIFUL place and there are so many good people to enjoy it with, LDS or not!

    Of course, this is just my perspective and I hate to make assumptions about such a large group of people (or do? I did study anthropology, after all =). I do think it would be helpful if the church just admitted it was wrong and that it is sorry. That it was a little late to the game, just like much of the western world. How can we expect to progress if we don’t officially recognize our mistakes and learn from them? It’s frustrating because a lot of people might say it doesn’t matter and would be taking a step backward by drawing attention to the ban and subsequent revelation in ’78 to lift it, but the truth is that it DOES matter to a whole lot of people. And those of us who live in areas where black heritage is a huge deal have to deal with this issue, or how to explain it, all the time. So why not officially address it?

  24. Ashley

    Ack! Sorry, so many grammatical errors to a post that was probably already too long. Hopefully anyone who reads this catches my drift!

  25. I joined in 2001, so the ban was long past by then. The primary way it affects me is that we’ve lost many thousands, perhaps millions, of converts we could have had by now, that we now may never reach, due to those old racist policies. In the same way that every convert is a seed planted, a life changed, the pebble that begins the avalanche of the Restored Gospel reaching into a new group of family and friends, we’ve lost not just the individual members we might have had by now, but all their family and friends who might have felt the positive influence of the gospel and tapped into the same strength. It affects us still in so many ways.

    Here in the southern US, in particular, we could have so much more if we reached out more and earlier to our African-American brothers and sisters! There’s so much strength there, and faith to inspire, and so much opportunity to live the teachings, to serve each other in wards rich in diversity. We’re missing a lot. We’re missing the chance to interact with some of the kindest and best people we may ever know. And how tragic that by our past racism we’ve lost people who might otherwise have come into the Kingdom of God. There is a whole lot we have to repent for. The worth of souls is great.

  26. Aged Observer

    How did the ban affect me?
    Although I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s, I attended schools with children from all races. We were in everyone’s homes, often. We played together, went to social events together. When I found out about the ban, my mother tried the “less valiant” thing with me, but it always felt wrong. From then on, I continually tried to erase the thought from my mind every time I interacted with my friends. It was wrong, I knew it was wrong, but it impacted my thinking.
    As an adult, as I’ve studied more about this, I’ve come to realize that God has tried to prepare all of us for the fact that our leaders have made – and will continue to make – mistakes, some large, some not so large. As one who has had some significant leadership opportunities in the church, I’ve made mistakes – I pray to God that I’ll be forgiven of those mistakes. I thank God for sending his Son to atone for my mistakes. I hope I have a heart large enough to forgive others, as well.

    Consider this from the Doctrine and Covenants:
    Section 1

    23 That the fulness of my gospel might be proclaimed by the weak and the simple unto the ends of the world, and before kings and rulers.

    24 Behold, I am God and have spoken it; these commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding.

    25 And inasmuch as they erred it might be made known;

    26 And inasmuch as they sought wisdom they might be instructed;

    27 And inasmuch as they sinned they might be chastened, that they might repent;

    Trying to paraphrase…
    We are all “weak and simple” – including our leaders.
    We will make errors – and those errors should be made known – we have a responsibility to make them known.
    We will sin, and we will be chastened – all of us, including our leaders.

    Was the “ban” a mistake (an error) – yes it was. Our leaders made an error. This was never a part of the doctrine of Christ, it was a terrible practice. Were we, as members of the church, complicit in tolerating this? Yes we were.

    Is it a continuing error not to address it directly? I believe it is.

    Will the leaders of the church make errors in the future? Yes, they will.

    Does the fact that errors are made invalidate a priesthood leader’s calling or position, regardless of the “level”?

    Consider the words of the Lord in section 121:
    34 Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?

    35 Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson—

    36 That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.

    37 That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.

    For me, the additional effect that the ban has had is that I’ve learned a deeper appreciation for the benefit of forgiveness. If I carry anger because of the way that the ban has affected my life, I’m robbing myself of the sweetness of the benefit of Christ’s suffering. My opportunity is to forgive – and seek forgiveness. Does every one of our brothers and sisters need forgiveness? Absolutely, yes, we do.

    Does that mean that I should not actively seek for change in past or current policy or practice within the church that continues to negatively effect my brothers and sisters? Absolutely not. As a disciple of Christ, my obligation is to continue to actively seek correction of those errors. I should make that a practice for my entire life – right alongside striving for a greater understanding of the doctrine of Christ and his suffering and the beauty of his grace.

    • Joanna Brooks

      beautiful. thank you.

    • Jason

      [Wise} Observer,

      Thanks. Your comments were not only honest and candid, and personal, they were inspiring. I’m not sure what leadership positions you held but it would have been nice to have bishop with similar feelings prior to my departure into the wilderness for 10 years.

  27. pensven

    Thanks for your response to the ‘over the top’ BYU religion department instructor. ( A religion department in a school sponsored by a church without a paid clergy?) My husband’s parents, both born about 10 years before the 20th C, grew up with that mismash of rationale. A few weeks after the 1978 announcement, they were in the Manti Temple. When they returned home they were so excited about having been asked to witness the sealing of an African American couple. They exulted about the lovely couple and the wonderful time they had sharing with them. This humble farmer couple fully embraced the changed circumstance.

  28. Ava

    I believe God was always screaming as loud as he could and Pres. Kimball was the first to be willing to hear it. Our prophets are still ‘men.’ (human)

    • DianaofThemyscira

      Well, not exactly, Ava.

      In 1969, Hugh B. Brown, as a member of the First Presidency under David O. McKay, proposed that the Church’s policy be reversed and that Blacks be given the Priesthood.

      This policy was then approved by the Quorum of Twelve and the First Presidency, but President McKay and Harold B. Lee were absent from the official vote. (President McKay was disabled due to age and President Lee was traveling on Church business).

      When President Lee returned, he called for another vote and the measure was defeated.

      So. . .the leaders of our Church *did* ask in 1969. . .9 years earlier!!! But, Harold B. Lee was among the hold outs, and voted against the lifting of the ban.

      So. . . Spencer W. Kimball had to work very very hard the next 9 years to help sway all the 15 Brethren that this was the right direction to go. Finally, in 1978 they were all on board, and were all able to vote to end the ban, and were able to finally feel the spirit and receive the revelation.

  29. Doug

    I look at the church as being an infant when it was established and it keeps growing and maturing. Our most childish act may very well be what is being discussed here. I am thankful for good people and the ability to admit wrong, progress and change, move towards perfection and maturity. I remember the phone call when I was 18, my Grandmother telling me the ban had just been lifted. I was pleased but had never thought about it much up till this time, being less active until I was 17. A year later I was sitting across from an African American man in New York teaching him the gospel and he was soon baptized and ordained to the priesthood. The reality of it then hit me. What a blessing it was to have the ban gone! I could not imagine being a missionary before that time, especially in a place like New York and New Jersey. Thank goodness for President Kimball. He listened and acted when others were quoting unfounded doctrine.

    • M.D.

      You should look into the works of Pierre Chardin, a Catholic who wondered about the different disposition between the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New. He came to the same conclusion about God. While it doesn’t match Mormon conception of God (who had to be perfected to become God) it is an interesting look at man who is asking the hardest questions about the nature of god and who finds an answer remarkably similar to a Mormon one.

  30. Andrea

    I was a kid in NH when the ban was lifted. They had a stake conference and publicly ordained 2 black men. Everyone was so tearful and jubilant at the occasion. My mother openly wept with joy. I remember the emotions. It was like truly pentecostal! I think the majority of people were extremely embarrassed by the ban. When I heard about the curse of Cain or the fence-sitting explanation (Randy Bott was my seminary teacher), it was immediately discarded in my mind as baloney. No kidding.

    Perhaps as an unconscious rebellion, my sisters and I all dated black guys in HS or college (hard to find in Utah). Joanna, did you ever meet Kofi from Ghana with the British accent while you were at BYU? He did stand out. When I was seriously dating Kofi, I invited him to join my family for Easter in Cache Valley. My grandpa once told me, “Nothing turns my stomach like seeing a black man with a white women! I’m not racist, I have black friends.” Ergh. I made sure I sat right in front of my grandpa at church with Kofi’s arm around me. Hehehe. Kofi and my grandpa ended up visiting all afternoon, leaving my grandpa with a lot of respect for him. It was a pleasure to see my racist grandpa come around. A little off point, I know.

    How did it impact me? It undermined countless missionary efforts. I’ve never tried to excuse or explain it.

  31. Kris

    Thank you, Joanna, for writing such a lovely article on the subject of the priesthood ban, and that subject rearing its ugly head again currently.

    Thank God I was raised in California during the 60’s. My parents were typically conservative Mormon parents, but on the subject of race, I learned nothing other than “love everyone” from both my parents AND my ward leaders. For some odd reason, almost all concepts such as “blacks were less valiant in the pre-existence” were known, but not taught. I must have heard this dogma, but it did not permeate our ward society. I attribute this to 1) educated ward members, 2) living in a more urban area (as opposed to small-town Utah), and 3) quite frankly, a more loving and open ward membership than was probably the norm in the 1960’s and 70’s.

    Then, at the impressionable age of 18, my parents and I lived in London in 1978. Our ward had many Jamaican families who had joined the church, and these families were my friends, my second mothers and fathers, and my pseudo-siblings at a time when I was the only child still at home with my parents. On the day that the priesthood ban was lifted, I was high up on the stand, playing the organ. I could view the congregation beautifully as the bishop read the long-awaited letter over the pulpit. I could witness the hands being raised, not just to the square, but high above each person’s head – in full unity and appreciation for the occasion that we were experiencing. There was not a dry eye in the room.

    That there ever was a ban was wrong, but could be chalked up to a different time and a different period of church history that was not so unusual in the United States. The fact that the church does not own up to this fact in this day and age is heresy. It is not of Christ. I still attend every single week, but I do so with my teeth gritting under the weight of such obvious blasphemy, that to this day continues to some degree with race, and to a much larger degree with sexual identity. When one is wrong, you admit it, plain and simple. If this reflects badly on whether or not the church receives revelation from God, then the church just has to live with that. As far as I am concerned, there is only one way to rectify this situation, and it is to confess the sin and come clean – completely. That is what repentance is for.

    • DianaofThemyscira

      Exactly, Kris. I feel the exact same way!

      Teeth gritting every week, and all.

      Our Church needs to repent of this mistake by admitting that we DO KNOW how it got started. The first step to repentance is to acknowledge, and if the Brethren are not willing to do that first step, how can they hold its members to high standards of personal repentance?

  32. CS

    First off let me qualify my next comments with the following. I am in absolute support of the Official Declaration – 2, meaning the 1978 revelation which declared that all men regardless of race should be able to “receive the priesthood.” Now on to some more interesting items…
    From your own blog you point out 1849 was when Brigham Young said blacks should be denied priesthood. Now let’s assume for a minute, in God’s eyes it was completely wrong for this to happen. God felt at that time (1849) his Church should offer the priesthood to everyone regardless of race and lineage. Let us also assume, since you claim to be a Mormon, that we really do have a true and living prophet upon the earth, a Moses if you will. From Brigham Young (exclusive) to Spencer W. Kimball (inclusive) there were a total of 10 different prophets and First Presidencies and numerous other apostles over this 100+ year span.
    If it was wrong in God’s eyes and was a horrible miscarriage of justice then why did God wait over 100+ years to correct the racist, egregious error that his servants and mouthpieces perpetrated? This leaves us with the two conclusions (three actually).
    1- That our chosen Prophet and Apostles over the last 100+ years were not called by God and instead our leaders have handed down a man-made racist dogma to naive Mormons

    2- God tried to tell His chosen servants over the last 100+ years to correct the error but because of pride and racism they were unwilling to communicate His will.

    3- Just as our ways are not His ways (Isaiah 55: 8-9) there really was a purpose behind the restriction (even if we don’t like it and doesn’t fit our own social view etc.) and we just have to accept it on faith and be grateful (as I am) for the revelation extending the priesthood to all males regardless of race and lineage.

    This concept of restriction of certain rights and blessings in Christ’s church is not without precedent. In Acts Chapter 10 we read that Peter received a revelation to take the Gospel to the Gentiles – something which had never been done before. In fact the Gentiles were considered unclean by the Jews yet the leaders of Christ’s church through revelation were commanded to share the Gospel with all. If it was God’s will from the beginning why didn’t Christ himself command Peter to take the Gospel to the Gentiles? Again Isaiah 55: 8-9 illuminates our understanding.

    Lastly, if you believe reasons #1 or #2 above I’d ask you to consider upon this quote by President Wilford Woodruff-

    I say to Israel, the Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as president of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the program. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty.
    ( The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, sel. G. Homer Durham [1946], 212–13.)

    Was President Woodruff wrong too? Restricting certain individuals from the blessings of the Priesthood is no light matter. How many of God’s mouthpieces were wrong in order for your view to be right?

    • Kenneth

      CS – I mean this with no disrespect, but by your logic or understanding, those of us that call into question any practice of the Church are not members of the Church? We are to blindly follow whatever we are told to do? So we shouldn’t think for ourselves? How does all of that argument stand in line with the practice of free agency or does free agency only apply as long as members ideals fall right in line with those of the Church?

      • CS

        You misunderstand me. In no way am I saying we shouldn’t think for ourselves. Nor did I say because you question things you aren’t a member of the Church. It’s because I’m thinking for myself and you are thinking for yourself this discussion is taking place. We are told to seek, ponder and pray. It is a divine admonition. Blind faith is inappropriate. Faith without a sure knowledge however is expected. (Moses 5:5-6, Alma 32:21)

        The facts remain – either we’ve had over a century of racist men we call Prophets and Apostles of Christ whom God didn’t see fit to correct (or were too prideful/racist to be corrected) when it came to offering Priesthood blessings to blacks. You’re welcome to believe that if you like it’s your choice and agency to do so.

        Or as previously stated we don’t always understand God’s ways and His thoughts and plans. The wisdom of the world is foolishness to God. I am personally very glad those of African descent have received the Priesthood. I feel very strongly they should be allowed to hold it.

    • karl

      CS, thank you for putting your thoughts on this. I feel much the same, and emphasise that I don’t know exactly why God does what He does. The question could also be asked in Moses’ day, “why are the Levites the only tribe in Israel to be allowed the priesthood?”
      We modern mortals like to think we have (or should have) all the answers, but the fact that we don’t know should keep us mindful that His ways are not our ways. I am grateful that the priesthood is now available to all worthy male members. Does that make me a sexist now? My understanding doesn’t make me anything b

      • Kenneth

        CS and Karl – I do not argue the fact that I don’t know the mind of God. I am aware that the feebleness of the human mind, which is riddled by outside forces, could never comprehend the intent of our Heavenly Father. As we all try to live a faithful life where we have to trust in Heavenly Father about things that we don’t fully understand, I hope that you can appreciate the difficulty that many Black LDS come face to face with almost on a daily basis as they try to come to grips with or even have a working understanding about this ban. It is a constant struggle even as people, usually in some very bad fashion, try to explain the reasons why such a ban came to be. Perhaps, this will be my lifelong struggle. Maybe, I should just let the past go and move on, but when such a topic keeps coming up again and again, it is quite difficult to do. I too am grateful the the priesthood is now available to all worthy male members. In fact, I will never forget the day that I was in the Tabernacle celebrating the 25th anniversary of the lifting ot the ban. What a joyous day that was!

    • karl

      CS, thank you for putting your thoughts on this. I feel much the same, and emphasise that I don’t know exactly why God does what He does. The question could also be asked in Moses’ day, “why are the Levites the only tribe in Israel to be allowed the priesthood?”
      We modern mortals like to think we have (or should have) all the answers, but the fact that we don’t know should keep us mindful that His ways are not our ways. I am grateful that the priesthood is now available to all worthy male members. Does that make me a sexist now? My understanding doesn’t make me anything but glad that I don’t think that I have all the answers. James 1:5 gives me the hope I need to keep seeking the answers I need for myself.

    • mofembot

      Hmm… what would Wilford Woodruff have thought of Pres. Hunter’s death after less than a year in office? — And this after Pres. Hunter publicly stated that [re: women & priesthood] “At the present time there isn’t an avenue of ever changing. It’s too well-defined by scripture” (Los Angeles Times, Oct 22, 1994). Was his untimely departure due to his somehow having forgotten about modern revelation? Or being apparently unaware of how poorly- or ambiguously-defined women’s relationship is to priesthood in the Bible and in LDS scripture? Or was he misquoted? (FWIW, Pres. Hunter was a close family friend, and I do not raise the question lightly nor out of any kind of personal animosity: he was a very nice man.)

    • SG

      As a non-LDS individual (but someone that almost converted because of almost marrying an LDS man), the problems that you state here are exactly why the issue of the ban is very different from other churches. Many others have said that other churches particularly in the south were very racist.. this is TRUE. The difference is those churches don’t claim that those racists acts came from God in the form of direct revelation to their prophets. The ban and the claim that it was from God was a big reason why I chose not to convert to Mormonism (along with other issues).

  33. I’m a half black-half white convert to the Church and recently discovered your blog through a friend of mine, Janseen of “Everyday Reading.” Obviously joining the Church was the best decision I have made, and it certainly has come with its challenges. The largest challenge has been the Church’s obvious history with race.

    I believe in my heart that that ban was put in place because of Brigham Young’s racism. I’ve done my research and came upon some information that Brigham Young was romantically interested in a young woman who ended up marrying a black man that Joseph Smith had ordained to the priesthood. In my college studies (and nope, did not attend the Y) I’ve learned that racial rules that singled out men had to do with the fear of miscegenation. It’s evident in some of the Jim Crowe laws that overworked to keep black men and black women apart. Of course this is speculation, but I’m almost certain I’m right, as white men in history have placed laws and acted violently for the very fear of white women and black men have a sexual relationship. Of course this ban affected women and children. It truly is a terrible mark on our Church.

    I look forward to the day when the Church addresses the ban as nothing spiritual and a racist mistake of past leaders.

  34. Competitive/Contemplative

    I am not LDS, but I’ve been reading a lot about race and white privilege for my psychology of culture and identity coursework, and I appreciate this dialogue existing! Thank you for keeping the conversation open.

  35. Aaron

    Great question and one I would like to address. I do not know why there was a ban on blacks holding the priesthood. If I based my testimony on logic, I would be a part of no church. Since I base my testimony instead on what I feel to have been witness to questions I asked that directly relate to me, I accept the past ban as something strangely irrational at worst, or basic survival at best. Only God and Joseph Smith know why it was denied early in the 19th century. Other people tried to explain it in the way “men of reason” are wont, exposing themselves as susceptible to racist teachings and beliefs. I think you are correct to point out that it wasn’t necessarily when blacks were ready to receive the Priesthood, but rather when whites were ready to accept blacks with the Priesthood.

    I am fortunate to have been raised by a Mormon father who despised the notion of race, or elitism in an form, eg. ethnocentrism. I grew up mostly in South Texas, so my exposure to racists was negligent until I could be taught true and right principles. I was about 7 when the ban was lifted and I can remember where I was. I can also remember a feeling of peace at the time. Maybe it was colored by my father’s teachings. Maybe it was my spirit being touched by the Holy Spirit. I don’t know. Looking back on that time now I believe God had sufficiently prepared the people to accept blacks as equals in all aspects. I believe this provided an opportunity to elevate mankind and bring man closer to God.

  36. Kay

    Here is the TV show “What would you do?”
    It stage three actors, a daughter and her boyfriend meeting her Father for the first time in Brigham City, Utah (this is where Boyd K. Packer started his career and where I grew up.) Two people agreed with the Father when he rejects his daughter’s black boyfriend. My father did the same, always quoting LDS leaders. 1978 may have ended segregation in the LDS Policy but it did not stop Racism in my home or my home town.

  37. Old Mormon Lady

    One of the things that keeps me faithful is the fact that Mormonism is an evolving religion – slowly, slowly, SLOWWWWWLY evolving, but evolving just the same. Brigham Young was a racist. Racism was rather “admired” in his time. This is a different time and the Church stepped up and removed the ban. There is a mark on the Church but it needs to be put in historical perspective and we need to move on. Keep on movin’ on!

  38. Wayne

    I’m going to go against the grain and point out a few things:

    First, the LDS Church accepted blacks and gave them the Priesthood in its early founding years. At a time when it was nearly impossible for blacks to live freely among whites even in the North, Latter-day Saints accepted blacks into their communities.

    Second, the Latter-day Saints were run out of Missouri in part for doing this. For some reason Latter-day Saints talk about all sorts of reasons for the persecution in Missouri, but it seems clear that one of the biggest issues was Latter-day Saint openness to blacks. Consider that twenty five years later Jackson County was so pro-slavery that the Union evacuated the entire rural population of the County in an effort to crush Confederate resistance:

    Next, after the Latter-day Saints moved to Utah, the Dred Scott decision made it unconstitutional to give safe harbor to blacks who ever had been slaves. This meant the Latter-day Saints had been acting in a manner inconsistent with the Constitution, and provided a possible justification for the persecution in Jackson County and its extension to Nauvoo.

    It is helpful to understand the Latter-day Saint desire for doctrinal jurisprudence: New revelations need to be consistent with old ones. And new understandings need to be consistent with old understandings. So with Dred Scott, the Supreme Court said the Constitution prohibited the sort of safe harbor the Latter-day Saints were allowing. But the Latter-day Saints believed the Constitution was inspired by God, and they had to uphold the law of the land. So that produced a paradox. You can hear Brigham Young working through this in his talks in the Journal of Discourses.

    Note that in these talks Young repeatedly states that eventually the blacks would once again receive all the blessings of the Priesthood, and that the Latter-day Saints would be condemned for any mistreatment of blacks. Then he tries to offer his explanations for why the Lord didn’t prevent the Supreme Court decision, and why it seemed necessary to discourage blacks from joining the Church. And he tries to talk through what it all meant. His explanations may have been flawed, but he made no pretense that they were anything more than his attempts to understand the situation.

    Once the Civil War was over it would have made sense for the Church to have reversed its stance and welcomed blacks into full fellowship immediately. At that point, though, I suppose it was the last thing on most people’s minds. Utah still had the remnants of an occupying army in their home state, and they had begun the multi-decadal process of testing the consitutionality of polygamy–which the Supreme Court overturned. So they had other issues on their minds. And plenty of people remembered the trouble that openness to blacks had caused the church a generation before.

    The polygamy question didn’t really get resolved for another generation after the Supreme Court decision against it–because people were already married by the time Wilford Woodruff issued the Proclamation (note again: the Latter-day Saints had an earlier and more fundamental injunction at the core of their faith that they had to obey the law of the land). Recall also that the Church had all of its assets seized by the Federal Government in 1887. Not a good time to rock the boat by going against all the norms of society again. Note also that during this time the nation saw increased organization of segregated Black Churches, and considerable segregation at church remained the norm everywhere in the nation.

    But despite the social pressure to remain segregated, it was the leaders who were born after the end of polygamy and trained in the 20s and 30s, after polygamy was clearly resolved as a social and cultural question, who eventually put things back on track and re-instated full privileges to the blacks. When you look at the rhythm of their lives, it seems natural that they were the ones who asked the question.

    I am perfectly happy to accept that during the 20th Century some leaders invented rather tenuous explanations for the limits on black priesthood (thanks for nothing, Alvin R. Dyer), but in context many of those were just attempts to figure out the same apparent contradictions that Brigham Young struggled with when confronted with what the Lord appeared to have allowed regarding the Constitution.

    So we see Spencer Kimball looking at this and asking himself the question: What if there was no contradiction at all? Maybe the nation paid the price for falsely wresting the Constitution in the Dred Scott decision; maybe the Civil War was God’s judgment on the nation for doing that. If that’s the case, then doctrinally there’s no reason not to re-instate the original practice, and let blacks have full fellowship.

    (This, by the way, is what my father taught me, growing up Latter-day Saint in the South, in the early 1970s. He showed me the portions of the Journal of Discourses where Brigham Young lays out his understanding of the promises to the blacks, and he told me without question that blacks were going to recieve the priesthood again, and probably pretty soon. His insight was more valid to me than any theories from Alvin R. Dyer, who incidentally ordained my father as a High Priest)

    That was a relatively brave thing to believe from the 1930s through the 1970s, and I imagine that Spencer Kimball thought about it for a long time. The whole question of race and privilege were themes throughout Kimball’s life, particularly in his work with Native Americans.

    Ultimately he received a revelation that confirmed which path to take, and we’re all grateful for it.

    I find it hard to work through things at the pace the prophets have to work through them. They have to look for consistency and patterns across millenia. They have to come up with the right questions to ask. I’m happy to accept that I don’t know how to think that way, though I enjoy trying to.

    And it is also not inaccurate for the Church to say that there was no revelation requiring the priesthood to be withheld from blacks. Instead it evolved from an attempt to understand the behavior of the Supreme Court, and the meaning of the Civil War, and the meaning of the severe persecution in Jackson County, all probably mixed in with lots of other day-to-day experiences that made it hard to maintain full fellowship for blacks. It just seemed like the necessary thing to do given all the evidence at hand. And a lot of the explanations that cropped up afterward were little more than folklore.

    This is something that I think we have a hard time understanding as observers of and even participants in the LDS Church. We want the Church, and the prophets, to make professional, academic, isolated decisions about theoretical principles. What we get instead are personal, practical, integrated insights about experience and history. Even the revelations, which are the more isolated and “pure” things we get from the prophets, are influenced by which questions the prophets choose to take to the Lord, and how well they can comprehend the consistency across revelations over time.

    In the end, the proof is in the pudding: what did the Latter-day Saints do once priesthood was extended to the blacks? Did they resist it? Fight it? Split into factions about it? No. Whether they understood it or not, full priesthood fellowship was always in the Church’s core values, and it was the only fully consistent action possible. In my view that’s why everyone (OK, maybe 99.99%) among the LDS accepted the change so completely and so quickly when the revelation came.

    So how did the LDS ban on black priesthood affect me? It led me to work hard to see the longer-term story. It led me to reject nearly every explanation of the policy that I heard from others. It led me to have a deeper appreciation and respect for both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, and an appreciation for the socially radical aspects of LDS theology. It led me to be wary of interpretations that can’t demonstrate a solid foundation. And it led me to live in a majority black community, where I expect to spend the rest of my life.

    • Jeromy

      Thanks, Wayne, for taking the time to write that interesting and thoughtful post.

    • mike

      If more people would take the time to educate themselves about the church without reading lines taken out of context, there would be less blogs like this one! Thanks for your excellent response, Wayne!

      • Steve

        A very great response, thank you Wayne. Mike, my struggle is this: Should it be expected of the general membership and investigators to do this amount of thorough research and try to understand every bit of historical context possible in order to come to terms with the ban? Let’s say we all did. It doesn’t change the fact that members of the Quorum of 12 still propagated the theories that I and many others just cannot stomach. So if Wayne, an average lay member who happens to have a great and sensible dad, can come this conclusion, why couldn’t McKonkie & others in position of leadership and influence? That’s my struggle…. we were led to believe that the ban was about pre-existence, mark of Cain, etc. If the leaders had stopped these theories from emerging as acceptable explanations, then there would be less blogs like this one.

      • Mike R

        Wayne on this thread…Wayne’s understanding of LDS history represents a perspective at the level of a Sunday school manual not in any way consistent with any modern scholars working in Mormon studies. I won’t dissect it point-by-point, but the idea that Mormons were progressives on race in the 1830s while in Missouri as if they were anything like abolitionists is absurd. The article published in the Evening and Morning Star about “Free Black” Mormons coming to Missouri was quickly amended in a subsequent edition to placate their non-Mormon neighbors…something William Lloyd Garrison would never have done in this organ “The Liberator” published at the same time in Boston. I have even documented a case of a Mormon (Abraham Smoot’s mother and step father) who owned slaves while living in Missouri. There were not enough Black LDS members in early period to gauge one way or another if, as Wayne exaggerates it, “Latter-day Saints accepted blacks into their communities.” Missouri Danite and later Mormon Apostle Charles C. Rich brought slaves with him to San Bernardino, CA in the 1850s. Those are enough examples to give you the idea of what I’m talking about…a little knowledge (very little) can get you into a lot of trouble when it comes to issues like this…

    • Mandy

      Thank you for sharing this explanation. I haven’t heard anything like this in the 24 years I was an active member of the church. And I have asked several people in differing positions of power within the church. If this is the truth, and the elders of the church released an official statement like this, it would ease the spiritual dissonance with which so many members have struggled. Why won’t they do this? Some people say in this blog that any member could find this information. Does every member possess the same amount of education or resources they would need to discover this? Was everyone raised with a father like yours? Does every member have the internet or even access to a library? For some members, the only resource they have is to ask questions of another member in the position of authority. And I think this blog has proved that even most of them don’t know the truth.

      • Wayne

        Mike R:
        I’m glad you feel that my points are accessible to non-specialists. I hope people take ownership of these questions and find their own understanding, rather than looking to experts to give them answers.

        I also broadly accept your counterpoints. Slavery was the law of the land when the Latter-day Saints were in Missouri and Nauvoo. Church members were legally required to treat slaves as property, even in free states. The Latter-day Saints were not active abolitionists and some owned slaves. More broadly in the 1830s abolitionists were a tiny minority in the U.S. at large. And in the national debate about slavery the moral questions had to do with the racial makeup of America, issues around inheritance and the nature of work, and the meaning of money. Very few were concerned about the rights of blacks.

        And yet in the midst of this, in a state that was a political battleground on the slavery question, the Latter-day Saints accepted blacks as members. You can point out that some Latter-day Saints in the 1830s didn’t accept blacks, but that just makes the point stronger: even though some members didn’t like it, the Church still did it.

        I hope Latter-day Saints look back at that time with appreciation and gratitude. And I hope they reflect on its implications for them today.

        On the question of “Why didn’t McConkie and others understand this when my father (or Hugh B. Brown or Spencer Kimball) did?” my simple answer is that they perhaps felt the paradox more deeply, and felt more constrained by the broader context of history. It is also just as valid to assume they understood, but felt white members were not yet ready–as has been suggested earlier in the comments. But I think it is wrong to say McConkie and others were racist. A racist would have felt a deep, visceral opposition to the change; McConkie did not. In the end I’m satisfied that he did not lead the Church astray.

        I hope we can also take this opportunity to reflect on what it means to have prophets among us. Sometimes I think that Latter-day Saints are at risk of outsourcing their spirituality to the prophets, instead of remembering to take ownership of their own understanding of the gospel. Sometimes Latter-day Saints want the prophets to make everything understandable and clear, and complain (a bit) when they don’t. Personally I’d prefer that the prophets were a bit more obscure and challenging than they are; I’d prefer that, at least from time to time, they taught things that seem paradoxical and incomprehensible, as a reminder of the personal responsibility to seek out individual insight, understanding and revelation. The gospel is something to live out, test and try, not just to think or talk about. And it’s not something to outsource.

        This comes to mind for me whenever someone refers to the idea that the prophets will not lead the Church astray. Some seem to see this as a claim of infallibility. I don’t. I think of it instead as a humble recognition by the prophets that they don’t have much power to do anything that conflicts with what the Holy Spirit reveals to members of the Church, or even to ask members to accept something that they are not yet ready to understand. But that’s also a two-edged sword, as the case of Priesthood for the blacks shows.

  39. angie

    I was raised in a very devout mormon family. When I approached my parents and let the know I was in love with a very accomplished and might I add LDS black man, they almost had double nervous breakdowns. They provided me with all kinds of literature from our past and current prophets about why this was a terrible idea. I got all kinds of input (unsolicited) from extended family members and friends letting me know that this would have eternal ramifications. I was being told to pray and get confirmation from the Holy Ghost about this decision. I had done so numerous times and I just finally decided, I feel like I’m meant to be with him, I love him and I’m assuming that is my answer from the spirit. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the answer they all wanted me to get. It literally almost tore my family apart. 22 years later I’m still married to that black guy. He has proven over and over that he has more integrity and courage than anyone I’ve ever known. Thankfully my family embraced him and they have expressed deep remorse and shame over their previous actions. We were very active in the church for most of our married life, having to listen to countless (I do mean countless) stories and so-called doctrinal points regarding black people. Thanks Mckonckie for Mormon Doctrine, which is still toted into gospel doctrine and relief society classes all over the place. We tried to stomach it all, including a home teacher who referred to our black cat as a “little nigger cat.” We had people say things like, “It’s over, it’s all in the past. People need to let go. It doesn’t even affect you.” Unless you’ve lived it, you don’t get it. We are no longer involved and I can honestly say, my quest to find the truth about the priesthood ban, led me to find that I don’t even believe any of it. I researched for years trying to find a way to raise my kids with their heads held high. What I found was no answer and only more questions. LDS doctrine was racist, is still racist and will continue to be because they will never say they screwed up. Are all LDS people racist? Of course not. But to say some of the doctrine isn’t is simply ridiculous. These teachings and perpetuation of myths and speculation have caused my family huge amounts of pain and suffering. I don’t trust Mormons because of all of our experiences – We had one bishop tell us how surprised he was to find out how well spoken and educated my husband was because he looks “like a big ape that just fell out of a tree.” We are the kind of people that can overlook a lot because we realize everyone has a different life experience. People can learn and change and we have tried to bring tolerance to a lot of people. But we got to a point where we didn’t want to fight that battle anymore. Joanna, thanks for having the guts to ask the question.

    • DianaofThemyscira

      Wow, angie. Some of those experiences you had, leave my mouth hanging agape!

      Thank you for sharing your story.

      • Linda Esplin

        Move to northeast Phoenix. Yours would not be the only interracial marriage, and you would be welcomed.

  40. Ashley

    Can you please clarify the comment below? I am not sure what you mean and don’t want to accuse you of taking a “blame blacks for racism” stance. I’m just not sure what this means and wonder if it has some context that would be helpful for myself and other readers who enjoy your blog.

    “(and later reinvented as a point of collective identification by people of color themselves)”

    • Joanna Brooks

      Hi Ashley: Historians of race talk about how the category “black” was invented in the 17th and 18th centuries–as a legal term, primarily, in the service of chattel slavery. Before the idea “black” was invented, as I understand the history, people of African descent brought to America identified by their African ethnic groups (the book on this is _Exchanging our Country Marks_). By the end of the 18th century, history finds African-Americans reclaiming the word “black” from slaveholding interested, claiming it as a point of identity–especially in the organization of black churches–and imbuing it with positive connotations in order to generate respect and pride within the community. It’s a parallel process to the way “queer”–initially a term of abuse–has been reclaimed by gay and lesbian people. That’s my understanding. That’s what I was trying to convey.

  41. Paul

    Having grown up LDS in the 60’s and 70’s in a multi-ethnic city of California I have always assumed that what was taught to me all those years was true LDS doctrine. But I did my best to never judge African Americans for what I believed was something they were a part of in the pre-existence. With the LDS church taking this new stance, I have to really question the role of divine revelation as given to our LDS prophets. Had the question of race not being a hot-button issue of that day, how likely would it have been that President Kimball would have turned to God for answers for this question? It would seem that true prophesy as given by God to his living Prophet for the LDS church and the world is not what it used to be.

  42. Hi Joanna,

    I am not a Mormon. As a matter of fact, I am a born again, spirit-filled, minister who has had more that a few heated discussions with Mormons about this very issue.

    I’m writing to say that I applaud your efforts and to interject that it is not just Mormons or whites who have justified racism through misinterpretation and misapplication of scripture. The majority of Christian churches in America today are segregated — by choice. And hyphenated worship seems to be on the rise rather than the decline.

    I don’t believe, however, that “race is a fiction”. I believe that race and the varied divisions that have risen from or because of it is central to God’s plan for man. Such divisions weaken us and make it impossible for us to approach Him on our own. (See Genesis 11:1-9) Ultimately, I believe that we must approach Him as one new man. (See Ephesians 2:11-17)

    I’d love to hear your thoughts.

    Be Encouraged,
    Michael E. Evans
    Author of — One Nation Under Attack, Understanding the creation of the nations.

  43. The ban seemed increasingly ludicrous the older I got, and the pseudo-explanations — particularly the “fence-sitters in the Preexistence”— became more and more offensive to me, particularly after meeting Alan Cherry as he peddled his book from door to door in Provo and after singing with one of the few black members of the Tabernacle Choir (transplanted to the So. Calif. Mormon Choir).

    I was a missionary in France when the ban was lifted in 1978. It was a great relief and joy, given that we were teaching several black investigators at the time. As awkward as it was having to explain that such a ban had existed, that was far easier than having to try to justify its continuance.

    It is interesting to me that those who cite 2 Nephi 26:33 as support for expanding priesthood (most notably Howard W. Hunter in Feb 1979) still don’t seem to see the part about “and FEMALE” (and indeed, most tellingly Pres. Hunter left that part out of his talk, even after just having quoted the verse).

    I’m glad to have witnessed such a major step forward. I wish I had hope that church leaders will finally figure out the importance of taking that one last major step — preferably during my lifetime (but I’m not holding my breath).

    • Mommywarrior02

      Oh gosh, I honestly hope women never get the priesthood. To bear children is responsibility enough You want to had the responsibilities of holding the Priesthood to that? I will hold the priesthood when men can give birth. And I mean a real man. Not someone who calls himself a man but still has all their lady parts. The scripture itself doesn’t say that everyone shall receive the Priesthood but that everyone can partake of the Lord’s goodness.

  44. Amy Meeker

    I joined the church in 1989 went to BYU 4 mos later as an English major at 19. Blacks being denied the priesthood was my #1 doubt about getting baptized. Women being denied the priesthood was a close 2nd. I’ve never reconciled either issue and wondered how I would. A dear friend gave me this poem and I keep it in my scriptures. It’s simplistic, yes. But over the years, I’ve needed it so much. Blind faith isn’t true faith and I know that. But I’m choosing to trust and hope someday for change. I think the church’s statement denouncing racism this week is a step in the right direction. Here’s my little poem…
    “I know only as much of the world and God as a creature with two eyes must. What I understand I love; what I don’t understand I trust.”

  45. alyn rockwood

    Grew up in Utah. I think I was ten, my Mom was driving us down State Street in SLC. My brother suddenly grabbed me by the shoulder – “Look, a negro!” We gawked. That pretty much summed up my experience and attitude until my mission, when people started asking me pointed questions about it. I had all the McConkie answers — well-rehearsed. I was incensed when a molotov cocktail was thrown on the floor during a BYU-Utah basketball game, because of racism. I was not a racist!
    It wasn’t until I started making black friends that I questioned anything. How could I believe the teaching and see my black friends for the warm, caring people they were. But, don’t be too harsh on the average Mormon kid. I was the stereotypical story. Sure, I needed the push provided thoughtful questioning Mormons, but better was having the direct experience with black friends. Isn’t there a message in there somewhere about gays, feminists, single mothers…?

    PS Not sure if it has been noted in the many comments, but Joseph Smith ordained a number of blacks, some of them came to Utah as original pioneers, and were faithful members even after Brigham asked them not to exercise their priesthood. Brigham was an astute politician in my opinion; he simply acted to avoid greater problems that were prevalent at the time. He did not offer any justifying dogma as far as I remember. That comes naturally from the insecurities of his apologists. Another message here.

  46. PLW

    1. I have had irrational fears around blacks to this day despite rich experiences with friends and co-workers of any minority or color.
    2. I have learned to think harder and check in with spirit more about my race/sex/etc.ism. In part, thanks to the festering of the wounding I got as a white middle-class male, I conclude that the base of all prejudice is fear.
    3. fear, read anywhere about the evils or racism and you read about hatred and moral wrongness, but even in your post, Joanna, the root of racism in fear is not mentioned that I saw. Mormon or not, racism and it’s fear must be admitted in me before faith can cast out my fear.
    4. Joanna, try not to be ashamed. You were a child, I guess, and shame leads to more fear that turns judgementalism inside and out upon the world.
    5. Peace and good faith to us all.

  47. PLW

    Blacks and the priesthood withheld because of fear and loathing…. what about women and the priesthood? Michael Quinn saw the original minutes of the organization of the Relief Society and wrote infamously in the book “Women and the Priesthood” that Joseph Smith said “priesthood” to the sisters there, but it had been crossed out by him or someone later (probably the latter). I doubt that the given reasons for only we men having the priesthood are bad doctrine, just like the anti-black justifications.

  48. DianaofThemyscira

    I grew up in a small eastern college town. In spite of the fact that my hometown had a population of at least 30% African American, my LDS home ward had not one African American the entire time I was being raised there. Not one.

    I was 7 in 1978, and honestly don’t remember anything being told to me about the ban being lifted. It was in the very periphery of my religious life.

    Fast forward to my husband and I adopting our African American son in 2003, and the ban became very relevant. After doing lots of research, this is the first sticking point that we started to have with the general LDS idea of the “infallibility of the Church.” Sure. . .the people are not perfect, but the Church always is. Um. . . people (prophets and apostles) make UP the Church. We can’t separate it so easily.

    We’ve started attending Genesis ( and my son finally feels “not alone at church anymore!”

    My biggest frustration with the recent statement by our Brethren is that it is not honest. I am so very very tired of their washing their hands from any responsibility by constantly stating: “We just don’t know.” That is disingenuous.

    We DO KNOW. All you have to do is read the history, and it becomes very clear that there was NEVER a revelation given by God starting the ban. It was started by Brigham Young, and reinforced by subsequent leaders and prophets. (

    Hugh B. Brown, as a member of the First Presidency under David O. McKay, called for a vote in 1969 to end the ban. 13 members of the Brethren voted to end the ban. But because Harold B. Lee and David O. McKay were absent (due to travel and illness), when they re-voted upon their return, the vote was not unanimous. (

    It took another 9 years of lots of hard work for Spencer W. Kimball to help change the thought process of the Brethren so that they could vote unanimously and be open to feeling the Spirit and announce that finally our LEADERS were ready for the revelation.

    I believe that repentance must come from first acknowledging one’s mistake, and until the Church stops saying “We don’t know,” we as a Church cannot fully repent from this mistake.

  49. Jade

    I am a convert. At age 18 I was baptized a member of the church. Friends who I attended institute with told me about the “mark of Cain” theory. We all thought it was and is ridiculous.

    I think the biggest key to our faith is that the prophet is a man. A good man, a righteous man, a noble man, a kind man, a man who MAY have the closest relationship to God, but a man. A prophet can be wrong by misinterpretation, misunderstanding, being blinded by their own prejudices. Jonah wouldn’t even go to Nineveh, and he was a prophet. This is why you and I can take our cares to the Lord. We can ask about all of these issues. And decide which is the best choice.

  50. Ann

    This is my first visit to Ask Mormon Girl. Wow! The conversation for which I have longed for at least 25 years is in front of me now. Not just with regards to the issue of racism, but all of the other “unspoken” topics of church history, as well as current issues.

    Joanna, I applaud your courage in providing this opportunity for those of us that love the church, but disagree with some of the positions taken, both past and present. For years now, I have struggled with trying to honor my family (especially my pioneer ancestors) my ward and community, and at the same time “be me”, which means questioning that which doesn’t sit well with my conscience.

    For far too long now, individual members and leaders within the church have hushed the questions like the one you ask now, with answers like “we don’t know why that inspiration was given to (whichever prophet was involved) but there was a reason which we may not unerstand in this life.” I believe that the Lord gave us a conscience for the very reason that he does not want us to blindly follow any direction that doesn’t “sit well” with us.

    Very recently, I had a discussion with a friend in which I attempted to cautiously verbalize my opinion that not all “inspiration” given to our prophets came from Heavenly Father; because the God I know would not keep the priesthood from black men, or ask women to share a husband, or encourage his children to spend time and effort in support of something like Prop 8. I was met with just what I had expected, and told that if I “went looking” for reasons to doubt, that I would surely find them, because “that’s the way that Satan works.” In other words, questioning the church equals succombing to the temptation of the devil.

    My husband and I have both held leadership callings within our ward and stake, we have family members serving in missions throughout the world, and we “walk the walk” daily as I inwardly fight with my devotion to a church and culture that is all I have ever known, and that I love dearly; and my desire to speak out, and let my children know that it’s alright for them to ALWAYS use their heads, even when it comes to evaluating prophetic revelation.

    Thank you for a place to feel comfort, and to be among friends whom also love the church, and want to be part of it; but fight that battle with conscience regarding certain issues. This is truly a blessing.

    • DianaofThemyscira

      Hello, Ann!

      Your testimony (and history as a life-long member, having held leadership positions), yet your conscience about truth of our Church’s history, and discomfort with the Church’s Prop 8 position (for example) sound a lot like my struggles!

      You might want to check out . . it’s a very friendly place where people like you and I can discuss our thoughts without getting immediately shot down as a sinner succumbing to Satan’s temptations. . .(har).

      You are most definitely *not* alone.

      aka DianaofThemyscira
      aka wonderwoman1975

    • jason porter

      Thanks for your comments. The interesting thing about ‘the way satan works’ because when you share your experience– when everyone shares their similar experiences, I feel either sentimental or the Spirit. Hearing comments like yours lets me know I am not alone and that my thoughts are not so far astray as to suggest they can only originate from a sinful, doubting heart. The Church is made more real and more true with your and other’s posts of honesty and heartfelt candor.

      You are on the right path, don’t be deterred by cultural misgivings that guide some member’s ‘beliefs’ that are not at all in harmony with the pure love of Christ.

    • Nicole Poulard

      It was like you jumped in my brain and put all my thoughts down. Such a comfort.

  51. Britney

    I don’t think the racism is found in the doctrine, but in how people react to it. Many people created theories of elitism or racism to explain the ban of blacks and the priesthood in their mind. But that doesn’t mean that was God’s reason or purpose. We should never treat others in a condescending manner, no matter the situation. There are ways to abide by whatever circumstances are put upon us and still treat everyone around us with respect and love.
    There were prophets who felt the ban was a problem, but did not yet feel that they could change it–they themselves, not understanding why. In my opinion, those who dismiss the ban as simple racism are just as much in error, in my opinion. Speaking out against the Lord’s anointed leaders is just as spiritually dangerous as pride and racism. The priesthood is a privilege, and who are we to tell God when He can offer it to anyone? The blessings of the gospel were given only to the children of Israel during Christ’s ministry. It was not until later that Peter was told to have the apostles teach the gentiles. And those gentiles who were then converted were worthy and believing people. God has a different view of things that we often struggle to understand–but I do believe He will help us understand even seeming contradictions if we approach Him in the right attitude. But we don’t have any right to tell Him to whom He can give His power and when. We can’t find truth while contradicting any of the basic principles of doctrine–such as God loves all of His children, we are to treat everyone with love, AND that God directs His church through prophets.
    I have grown up around African Americans and Hispanic people all of my life–my best friends among them. I have read and listened to talks from the LDS Genesis Group, etc. I am in no way racist, and there are few things that get me more upset than racism. But I don’t feel the ban was based on racism–even though I can’t give a definite answer on what was the specific reason instead.

    • DianaofThemyscira

      Hi Britney,

      You said: “But I don’t feel the ban was based on racism–even though I can’t give a definite answer on what was the specific reason instead.”

      If you can’t give a definite answer on what was the specific reason instead, you might want to check out the resources about our history:

      It just takes a little reading or listening to podcasts to get a little more educated on our history and the reasons for the ban.


    • Ann

      Hi Britney,
      Just to be clear, I don’t think that any of us (questioning the “revelation” that blacks shouldn’t hold the priesthood,) believe this to be the result of a mistake by God. I, for one, would never question the intent of the Lord. I also don’t feel that my comments are in any way “speaking out against the Lord’s annointed.” I do not now, nor have I ever spoken unkindly of any of the prophets. I do, however, doubt that this ban was, in fact, inspired by God; which would mean that (yes, I’ll just go ahead and say it) personal feelings may have trumped the Spirit, in this case (and perhaps a few others.) The prophets have all been exceptional men and truly great leaders, and I don’t question that most of what we hear at General Conference is the will of God; but these men are, of course, human, and therefore not perfect. I’m acutely aware that this position will not be favored by many members of the church, but I firmly believe that if something feels wrong, it probably is.

      I’m very grateful for the acceptance of blacks, by the Brethren, into the priesthood in 1978. I choose to believe, however, that the Lord always intended their inclusion, and that it an earthly bias prevented this until that time.

  52. Michael S. Budge

    As a young gay Mormon, the teachings on race have helped me see a broader and healthier view on the role prophets play in the church and in my faith. Looking back on how the Church changed their doctrines when it became apparent they were not correct has given me hope that it’s alright for me to be gay.

    Since returning from a mission and coming out of the closet, I’ve rejected the current teachings on homosexuality and am living openly in a same-gender relationship. It’s given me hope my situation is not without acceptance from God.

    As LDS people we have everything to gain by admitting we were wrong. We can include people like my partner and I who believe and want to be accepted in our faith community, but cannot because of current day prejudices.

    • Mandy

      I am hoping for the same things you and your partner hope for. God bless you both. 🙂

      • Jake

        I know that there have been many people who wanted to reply to this, but haven’t for fear of being attacked. But someone needs to bring up this VERY important point: no matter how politically correct it may be to say so, race and sexual orientation are NOT comparable in the context of this discussion. I am not homophobic. I have several gay friends and love them and respect their rights. This is not a discussion of civil rights, but religious policy versus doctrine. The policy banning blacks from the priesthood was not doctrinally based. It is not a sin to be black. Niether is it a sin to be gay. It IS a sin, however, to have homosexual relations (que the attacks). Gay men have every right to hold and exercise the priesthood–as long as they keep the doctrinally-based commandments. It is already alright, as far as the church is concerned, for you, Michael, to be gay. But if you want to receive the full blessings available to you, you have to live the law of chastity, which is very specific and NOT subject to change.

      • SharonGoldstein

        There is more and more physical evidence that people are born gay. In other words, that’s how God made them. I’m not sure how that lines up with ANY religion, including Judaism, that forbids anyone to act on being gay. It’s fine to say that it’s “all right” to be gay, as long as you don’t actually have gay sex or a gay partner, but that condemns the gay person (who, we must keep in mind, had no say in whether s/he was going to be gay–it’s NOT a choice) to a life of solitude, at least as far as having a partner and a family. A Catholic priest or nun has made a choice; a gay person has not. It’s an awfully cruel God who creates someone as gay, and then says, “Oh, by the way, you can never act on it.”

  53. mystic

    My parents were both Mormons but were not practicing by the time I came along. I was raised in several different states before we returned to Utah where I spent the remainder of my upbringing. I can guarantee I was raised around more diversity than a majority of my Utah peers and I don’t remember even hearing about the ban until I was in jr. high. That being said, as I have learned more and reflected on my experiences I realize that I was affected by the teachings my parents had absorbed. Neither of them were directly racist but both, particularly my mother, would make statements that reflected their uneasiness around other races and cultures. I recall my mother telling me about a friend they had in Hawaii. The conversation wasn’t just about how he was such a nice guy and thought of me as his own child and by the way he was black. It was more “our BLACK friend in Hawaii”. It seemed to be the first thing they saw before they saw him as their friend. That disturbed me during this conversation as a child and disturbs me more now as I see it was something they learned from the Mormon culture they were raised in, in which I am now raising my children. It wasn’t just blacks either. In recent years I have heard more statements from my mother about Latinos and Arabs than other races/cultures. I agree with several other comments here that their is fear underlying this, partly a fear of the unknown because there is not currently any clear answer why the doctrine was ever instituted.

    Interestingly, another way it affects me has served to strengthen my testimony. My husband’s father left the LDS church for a church that practices polygamy because he felt that the LDS church never should have distanced themselves from polygamy and the LDS church was on a path to apostasy. He ended up creating his own polygamous church and taught (and it is still their direct doctrine) that the announcement ending the ban was the final step of apostasy for the LDS church. They believe the first step in that apostasy was the Manifesto concerning polygamy given by Wilford Woodruff in 1890. My husband became a convert to the LDS church as a teen and has struggled with both these doctrines and their place in church history. Because we see many of my husband’s siblings still stuck in these dangerous beliefs (and the racism I believe to be, by far, the larger danger) we have studied both issues and their histories extensively and what I have found has only served to strengthen my testimony of the gospel. I put no store in the teachings of “pre mortal fence sitters” or the skin color being a punishment. The conclusion I have come to is that everyone has a responsibility to come to an understanding on these issues themselves. Beyond that we all have a responsibility to not perpetuate these harmful teachings, whether in word or action.

  54. marisuela

    Joanna! I’m horrified at those comments posted under my name! That wasn’t me. My daughter and her friends are home today and I don’t know who did it, but I will get to the bottom if it eventually! Please delete those awful remarks! Where I don’t agree with you on many things, I am certainly not a racist and would be horrified if anyone associated my name with these remarks! Thanks, Mari

  55. Mother of Five

    I think it is best said by Adam when he was asked by the angel, why they offered sacrifices, “I know not save the Lord commanded me” I admit I don’t know all the reasons of why the blacks didn’t have the priesthood. But I do know that the Lord commanded it for some very good reasons. God doesn’t mess up. You can bet there was a reason. I have four adopted Black children. I love black people. I don’t question this though, because I for one don’t need an apology, because I have Faith and know that God wants the best for us and our church. He had a reason.

  56. Andrew Piereder

    I’ve read a couple of “Mormon Girl” posts now. I think it’s disturbing that you attempt to trade on your Mormon heritage for professional notoriety, especially since your frame of reference isn’t Mormonism at all, but post-modernism. How the hell can you understand Mormonism through that lens?

    On the other hand, I’m a Mormon who sees Mormonism through a Mormon perspective. Joseph Smith ordained blacks. Blacks served as missionaries for the church in the 19th century and then suddenly without any ‘doctrinal footprints’, blacks were enjoined from the priesthood.

    The reality that racism was involved is not really arguable. Mormons were creatures of their time just as were Catholics, Protestants and Jews–all just as racist and all using scripture to justify racism and slavery.

    The real story of blacks and the priesthood is not that some Mormons (including some Mormon leaders were racist), but that men and women of conscience, working within the priesthood order of the church, rectified an injustice. Spencer W. Kimball’s contemporaries were reflexive and unconscious racists, but he was not. Why not? Not because he was some sort of liberal-progressive-Mormon hybrid, but because he lived the gospel of Jesus Christ and took seriously the covenants he made as a member of the church. So did millions of other Mormons, so that when Pres. Kimball proposed extending the priesthood to all worthy male members, the many quorums of the church sustained it (something that did not occur when the priesthood was withdrawn from blacks) after a witness of the Spirit.

    This is not a story about racism, but a story of enlightenment. You should know that.

    • Ann

      Hi Andrew,
      I appreciate many of your thoughts here; but would like to ask you a few questions. With all due respect to your position, aren’t all perspectives of members true Mormon perspectives? How does your perspective on Mormonism qualify as more valid than any other member? Hasn’t every one of us, as baptized members of the church, and in my case (and I believe Joanna’s as well) a life-long member of the church, arrived at our current positions through our individual experiences, as Mormons? Surely you aren’t suggesting that a “Mormon perspective” is only such if one has a testimony of each and every aspect of the church.

      Also, haven’t many authors, musicians, etc of our Mormon faith (including some prominent church leaders) used their own association with the church as the foundation of their work, which is then sold at Deseret Book, etc…not as doctrinal material, but as personally inspired expression? Much of which, by the way, I have purchased and fully enjoyed. I see no difference between their works and Joanna’s book, or this blogsite.

      I was thrilled to find this site because my initial impression of it’s nature was that of a non-judgemental forum. I hope that we, as visitors to the site, will all strive to maintain that atmosphere, even as we debate.

  57. Linda Esplin

    I am 54 years old, born and raised in the church in Las Vegas, and well acquainted with the ban on blacks holding the priesthood. I occasionally heard some of the justifications (e.g. the mark of Cain, less valiant), but they were not taught as doctrine. Of more importance to me, one time I asked my mother (who was from a small southern Utah town) what she thought if I were to marry a black man, and she said it would cause me some problems because of social impact of racial prejudices, but she could accept it. This was in the mid 70s, long before interracial marriages were welcomed. That moment of candor made a huge difference to me. I went to a high school when black students were being bused from the other side of town to promote integration, so racial issues were abundant. On a personal level, my black friends were a lot like my white friends, and we all brought our own culture and backgrounds together in a brand new high school. My personal experience trumped the whispered comments I heard at church about why blacks couldn’t hold the priesthood. I figured it was a generational prejudice, and that older people just didn’t understand. I was in college when President Kimball extended the priesthood to all worthy male members, and I was relieved and elated, and I felt that it was long overdue.
    It’s been almost 34 years since then. Today’s problems of raising families and caring for each other can be so intense that I think it’s time to let go of the priesthood ban issue. I’m also a descendant of Mormon polygamists, and of one of the perpetrators of the Mountain Meadows Massacre. I appreciate the difficulties my pioneers ancestors faced, and I cannot judge them for accepting and living polygamy; they did it honorably. I take some satisfaction in knowing that my ancestor with the twitchy trigger finger was eventually found dead in the bottom of a well in Mexico. A suitable, hallowed monument marks the Mountain Meadow where these people were slain, and the perpetrators have long ago gone to receive their just reward.
    We cannot rewrite history, but we can learn from it. Wielding past events as swords is as likely to start wars as to right unjustifiable wrongs. Forgiveness may be a better route.

  58. My experience may be a bit tainted since I am Hispanic, born and raised in South America. My mother is quite a progressive person and she always taught us that the leaders of the Church were human but the doctrines were eternal. The practice of not ordaining blacks always fell into the human practice area and not into the doctrine area for us. I did not experience any racism until I moved to the USA.

    When I approached my in-laws to ask for their daughter’s hand in marriage they had some serious concerns because I was of a “darker race.” I laughed it off and told them that I had no concerns over marrying somebody of a “lighter race.” I told them that it would improve their stock and put some color back in the family. They laughed and it eased the the tension. But they are true-blue BYU graduates who held on to the Cain theory.

    I never took it hard because I know that racism is part of the American culture. And I don’t think LDS Church leaders or members were immune to the prevalent culture. Racism was prevalent in America until the late 1960’s. Why should Mormons be any different?

    I am not ashamed or embarrassed of the Mormon policy before 1978 as I saw it as a cultural practice and not a doctrinal one. I thought it was dorky but since I knew it wasn’t doctrinal I didn’t worry too much about it, I figured it would change eventually. The whole nation went through it at a similar time, I am just happy that that the LDS Church followed suit and now has finally rejected institutional racism.

    For all those members freaking out about Brigham Young or others saying bad things about blacks, I recommend you take it in stride and look at what other religions were saying about blacks at that time. It was cultural, pervasive, and wrong. But also look at what Jesus said about the Gentiles when the woman of Tyre comes to him seeking a blessing. He literally calls them (and her) a dog. It was also cultural. Eventually that thought was replaced by Paul the Apostle and his ministry but it took time to overcome those feelings. Paul didn’t go about apologizing for the way they treated Gentiles in the past, he just said, “the time is here” and moved forward. That’s my attitude also.

  59. KR McCandless

    If, and it could be a big if for some (understandable and sympathetically so), one subscribes to the idea that God is directing His church through His prophet on the earth. In the spirit of full disclosure, I’m one that is comfortable with that idea. I would like to believe that there is some good to be gained by my African American brothers for the delay in their reception of the Priesthood. There are some mysteries that aren’t ours to totally comprehend – I’m also comfortable with that idea so I don’t profess to know what the answer for the delay is. I have other more pressing personal improvement issues to concentrate on admittedly and quite frankly.

    All of those affected by the delay that I’ve known weren’t caught up in the years they weren’t able to bear the Priesthood, but excited about the years they have had the opportunity to use it on behalf of others. Those men, are saints in the truest sense of that word.

  60. Gary

    In 1978, I was overjoyed at the revelation. I was in California preparing for my mission, and didn’t hear or see anyone upset about the revelation. A few years later, I read an in-depth Sunstone booklet on the issue, and two things stuck out: That they tried to find any attribution from Joseph Smith on the matter, and couldn’t, and that almost every prophet in the 20th century went to the Lord, asking if it was time for that blacks to receive the priesthood, and was told not yet. For those who think the Church was pressured to give blacks the priesthood, I say hogwash! The pressure was much, much greater in the civil rights era of the 1950s and ’60s. If it was just for good PR, they would’ve done it then. The timing itself makes me believe it was inspiration, not pressure. As for reasons? I guess we’ll all get a chance to ask that question in the hereafter.

  61. Jennifer

    I remember being about 11 years old and I had occasion to meet the very first black man to be ordained into the priesthood in the LDS church. this was in 1988 so I guess he had been a member for about ten years by then. My only question to him was “Why would you want to belong to a church that, up until very recently, denied you membership based on your race?” He said simply that he knew the church to be true for him. I have always respected his answer although I could nevwr fathom being in his shoes or feeling the way I imagine he did. I grew up Mormon and come from a family where both seta of great-grandparwnta were Mormon.

  62. Dani Lofland

    First: Joanna, I LOVE your truth and just seeking spirit, and your blog. I too have most of the same questions, though they do not lead me to most of the paths your questions take you. However, your questions and the comments people post on your blog are water to my thirsty soul. I have great respect for the Church and it’s leaders and think of myself as a very devout Christian and a very imperfect member among the rest of it’s imperfect members.
    Second: I have been pondering the statement, “It is not known precisely why, how, or when this restriction began..” It is known imprecisely though and I would really like to have heard what the church would say on what they imprecisely know. I am waiting faithfully for that statement and for an official sincere apology to all races for this part of our church history.

  63. Dani Lofland

    make that “…and its leaders…its imperfect members…” My would be Siamese twin was an editor.

    • Dani Lofland

      I had to take a look back with introspection on my comment, and was not at peace with it.

      So I will emphatically say that Racism is inexcusable. It shames all people and the very earth itself.

      And with that comes a feeling just as strong that God is omnipotent.
      Our loving God, Heavenly Father and Creator could only look down upon racism with abhorance and pain.
      If I believe that this is Christs Church then I must also have faith that He is in charge.
      Proverbs 3:5&6,
      Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
      In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

      Please accept my own small apology;
      As a human being and as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I say, I am sorry.

  64. Francesca

    I’ve read all the previous comments and I still don’t see why people would continue to justify the ban saying that the Lord has always put restriction to Priesthood etc.. It is true that the Priesthood was initially given only to the Levites and that the Gospel was preached to Jews before it got to the Gentiles. The problem is that, as far as I know, no restriction we hear about in the Scriptures is based on skin colour; it is always about covenants.
    Another problem, as Joanna and others have pointed out, is the very notion of ‘race’ and ‘black’. Was the ban addressed exclusively to men of African descent? Was it about people who had at least ‘one drop of [African] blood’? Was it simply about people with a darker skin? I know that one of the reasons Pres. Kimball felt compelled to ask was that the Church was growing fast in Brasil and they didn’t know what to do, because, being the people in Brasil extremely ‘mixed-up’, it was very hard to establish who could have the Priesthood and go to the temple and who couldn’t.What Church leaders have said of the ban lately is that it was a ‘pratice’ and not a doctrine. This rejects all of the awful theories some of you have grown up with. It was a practice and there were exceptions: I know for sure that the first branch president of the ward (then a branch) I attend is a man from Panama who has undeniable African origins. He received the Priesthood and was called as branch president in 1968.
    I would also like to recall that it is not only a matter of Priesthood: temple worship was precluded to ‘black’ women as well.
    I think that those who believe this is issue isn’t important anymore-and that we should let go-have never been affected by it, in their personal lives I mean. It is our duty to search for truth, certainly through prayer, but also through study and investigation.
    One last thing: racism isn’t only related to violence and segregation; racism hides behind patronizing attitudes and condescending words.

    • DianaofThemyscira

      I agree, Francesca.

      We know that Elijah Abel, the Third (grandson of the original Elijah Abel who was ordained an Elder by Joseph Smith), was ordained to the office of Elder on September 29, 1935.

      So. . .there couldn’t have been a revelation about this “doctrine” if the Church leaders allowed for this ordination to take place. Did we hear of any revelation from 1935 – 1978 that restricted the Priesthood? No.

      It was most certainly not even a “policy” (otherwise Elijah in 1935 and your African-Panama Branch President in 1968 could not have received the Priesthood), but rather I think a “practice” that many white leaders of our Church collectively and individually (group-think) agreed to not allow the extension of the blessings of the Gospel to all members of the Church.

      It is sad to me that our Brethren continue to say “we don’t know,” when I think the documents we have in the History of the Church do indeed show us that we do indeed know.

      It is sad to me when members continue to insist that God himself would speak through our leaders in un-loving and un-Christlike statements (Brigham Young and Mark E. Peterson come to mind) about restrictions based on “race.”

      And, you’re right about the Priesthood ban not just affecting men. . . it affected women, children and therefore families. Jane Manning James was one of those early black Mormon women pioneers with an amazing story.

      The Genesis Group ( is offering a lecture this Thursday night, March 8: “Jane’s Faith: Jane Manning James, Early Black Pioneer,” lecture by Max P. Mueller, “Men and Women of Faith” lecture series. It is at 7 p.m. in the main floor auditorium of the Church Office Building: 50 E. North Temple Street, Salt Lake City.

  65. This isn’t exactly an answer to the question posed. But here are my thoughts.

    I grew up in Utah county, Utah – transplanted at an early age from the east coast – and was/am a product of that homogenous environment. I still live in Provo, an active member of the LDS church; devoted, committed. When I was about 25-years-old I experienced a time of personal crisis which led me to re-read the Book of Mormon in ernest and to renew my faith. At the time I heard this quote in a sacrament meeting. I don’t recall the source. “To be truly converted to the gospel, one must give up the religion of one’s childhood.”

    Many of us who were raised with the socially accepted attitudes of the centralized LDS community (including broad-sweeping, often subtle racism) have had to or will have to give up that religion in order to be truly converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ. I don’t remember how I felt in 1978 about the issue. But this discussion feels like part of an ongoing conversion to the truth. . .for me and perhaps for many others. What a gift.

    • DianaofThemyscira

      Interesting idea, Melody: “To be truly converted to the gospel, one must give up the religion of one’s childhood.”

      Love that.

      No matter what the Gospel means to each person, we each have to give up those pre-conceived notions of our childhood and work out our faith with God, as intelligent, capable adults.

    • Bruce


      Thanks for the article and the thoughtful comments it has engendered. Here’s some thoughts for consideration that I haven’t seen elsewhere.
      In 2012 -or 1978- we see and judge things, situations, and intent with our frame of reference. Using hindsight doesn’t always shed the true light on what happened in a different time, and when the Church experienced much different circumstances. Consider these:
      In pre-Civil War America slavery was the issue of the day. The Missouri Compromise of 1820 was the heart of division in the country. Amidst all the other problems, the Saints in the Missouri period -most from northern states- found themselves in the eye of the storm; representing a mostly northerner abolitionist “voting block” that many pro-slavery Missourians resented.
      There were some blacks who emigrated with the Saints to Utah. As a practical matter -not necessarily racism- the leaders likely based the policy to disallow ordination of blacks to the Priesthood as a necessary measure to prevent intermarriage of blacks and whites in an isolated western territory Racial intermarriage was a taboo in the 1800’s, to put it mildly. The worldwide expansion of the Church that all the Saints expected would be further hindered by the interracial stigma that would have marked Mormons for the next 100 years.
      The Mexican-American War that ended in 1847, in which the Mormon Battalion participated, resulted in the Treaty of Guadalupe The US government sent surveyors to the west to draw political maps; including territories -not states- that included Utah and Arizona. The leaders of the Church found themselves in a situation where they wanted to assure that the Saints could stay where they had settled. Alternatives to staying in the western territories of the US were considered; including further emigration to Mexico and South America. As the political maps were being drawn in the West after the Treaty of Guadalupe, the Church would have found itself trying to comply with the US government to prevent further exile and another emigration of the Saints. In a time when Mormons had been exiled from Ohio, Missouri, Illinois, why is “racism” the only explanation for what seems to be a policy decision by the church to insulate itself from further opposition from political leaders?
      Later, the Kansas–Nebraska Act of 1854 resulted in further polarization. Again, the Church found itself at political odds with at least half of the rest of the country. Again, the territories in the West -filled with Mormons- found themselves in a battleground for the future direction of the country.
      The Dredd Scott decision in 1857 probably furthered the political desire of the Church to not create a territory where slaves might flee the truly racist Southern states. The decision in the 1850’s to not allow blacks to hold the Priesthood, flee or emigrate from the slave states and perhaps intermarry with white members of the Church does not seem racist to me. Such policies would be completely unacceptable to the rest of the US and much of the world; not just in the 1850’s, but at least until the 1960’s -maybe as late as 1978…
      Yes, I agree that from a 2012 perspective the Church policy to prohibit ordination to the Priesthood is difficult for some to understand or accept. Some will retreat to the easiest “explanation” by simply calling it “racism.” From the perspective of an isolated and persecuted church in the 1800’s and beyond, it doesn’t seem quite simple enough to simply be called “racist.”

  66. I agree– it’s made me feel ashamed and looking for an answer, although it doesn’t change my faith, either. I’ve been impressed that many comments on here express forgiveness towards the church even though it actually affects their race. I have met some of the people who first received the priesthood after the ban was lifted and their stories sound like grateful relief which is kind of amazing to me. I’m sure I would be much more petty in the same position. I think it’s strange that I feel more responsible for the ban (something that was not my personal doing or even during my life time) than our long American history of slavery and awful racism (even as it continues, still). It’s easy to disassociate myself from that as if I would not have been a part of it because I obviously know better, being part of this age.
    I’d like to agree with many of the comments here, believing that the problem was really with the members– that God knew that it would be very difficult for members to accept and he waited until they could live that truth with love and open arms. I think that’s being a bit generous, but I hope it has something to do with that. It doesn’t settle the idea completely, of course.

  67. Mommywarrior02

    I guess I would like to add my insight. I was very fortunate to never once hear any of the “fence-sitter” racist comments growing up. There is a very major problem with people teaching their own ideas without a source to go by. Isn’t that all Priesthood meeting is? Just kidding. When I first learned about the “ban” because I was born after it was put in, I had questions to say the least. I first feel it is wrong at any point to assume that any plot to keep anyone from the blessings of the Priesthood was in anyway a sinister plot by the leaders of the church. We may feel that such a ban was wrong and after 1978 it is. But to speculate the reasons as to its existence prior to that is hard to do because we simply don’t know. What we do know: The prophets are human. Joseph Smith lost the 116 pages and waited 11 years after being commanded to institute polygamy. However, I learned a lot from the 116 pages story that has shaped my testimony of the Prophets. God knows each and everyone of us. So much so that nothing we can do will ever surprise him. He knew a thousand years prior, that the 116 pages would be lost. Because of that he commanded Nephi to basically rewrite everything his father had. Nephi even says in 1 Nephi 9:5 ” Wherefore, the Lord hath commanded me to make these plates for a wise purpose in him, which purpose I know not.” Heavenly Father knew before hand that the 116 pages would go missing and he made up for it thousands of years before that.

    I have a testimony in what Wilford Woodruff said: “I say to Israel, the Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as president of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the program. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so he will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty.” (Discourses of Wilford Woodruff [Bookcraft, 1946], pp. 212–13.)

    This brings me to my next example: When Joseph Smith was translating the Bible, he asked the Lord about how it was ok for some of the Prophets to have multiple wives. Obviously such an idea was taboo for Joseph Smith’s time period. The Lord basically said, “Well I am glad you brought that up, I would like you to start doing that.” Out of fear and plan disobedience, Joseph went 11 years without starting polygamy like the Lord had asked. Until one day he was out walking and was stopped by a angel with a sword that was on fire, who told Joseph if he did not start practicing polygamy, he would be removed from his calling (The only way to remove a prophet from his calling is by death.)

    I believe that God knew Joseph Smith. God is omnipotent. I also believe the Prophets can not lead us astray.I believe that when commanded to start polygamy he knew that Joseph wouldn’t do it. He knew exactly what Joseph needed in order to do it. If the Lord wants something done in his church then he gets it done. It is the Lord’s time and not our time. I believe that God is the head of this church and that the Prophet is his voice on the earth today. If you can’t believe in that then this next connection won’t make sense.

    To say that the Prophets and other church leaders were racist is an assumption but say for example they were. And lets pretend the Lord had been telling them all along to expand the blessing of the Priesthood and they were flat out ignoring it. I believe that if such were the case that the Lord knew this would happen. And so the real question, if you believe that the Lord truly the head of this church, the real question is why would the Lord call a prophet that would knowingly lead the church astray. For me the answer to this question is answered by the Joseph Smith polygamy story. The Lord knew what it would take to get any of those Prophets to lift the “ban.” And if he felt the timing needed to be then and there he would have simply removed said prophet from his office and called one who would do as he had asked.

    But there is one thing that I have always wondered about in regards to the ban. The fact that President Kimball had to pray about it. In order to get the “ban” changed he prayed and prayed a lot. He needed the ok from Heavenly Father. It was then by revelation, given at that time by a Prophet of God that the ban was lifted. Maybe we can assume that the Prophets before ignored the commandments of God but I believe that all revelation is given to us in God’s time and when his people are ready to receive it. I don’t believe God would have allowed such a thing to continue if he didn’t have a reason. He knew exactly when this revelation was meant to be given. He knew that President Kimbal was the one to give it.

    And there is one thing I believe in with all my heart. The Prophet is chosen by God. You can not nor ever will be held accountable for following their words even if they some how managed to sneak by God’s radar and teach a wrong principle.

    Also we know that past Prophet’s teaching are void if a latter prophet says something different. Just like the Jews were given the Law of Moses and Christ later came and gave the higher law. Brigham Young said many things that now a days do not apply because we have been given further revelation. We are given light and knowledge based on our ability to receive it.

    Again, if you can’t have a testimony that the Lord is the head of this church, you will spend your whole life struggling over things like this. I trust in the Lord that he will not allow this church to be lead astray. Though I do not understand why such a ban existed, I trust that the Lord has all the answers and is all knowing. I can ask him about this later 🙂

    • Mommywarrior02

      I also thought of something else. When church leaders say they don’t know why such a ban existed, I believe them. Maybe we aren’t ready to know why God allowed the practice. Maybe we wouldnt be able to understand it. I believe God could have ended the ban sooner, he can be very convincing with his angels and swords but he didn’t. We have to trust that it had a purpose and we maybe arent ready to hear his reasons.

  68. So many ways to go with this, so I’ll go straight to the point with the actual questions asked:

    “How did the Mormon teachings on race you were raised with impact you?”

    I don’t think they made any particular impact on me whatsoever. I was 11-years old when President Kimball received the revelation extending the priesthood to all worthy males, and I rejoiced in it. Though I was young, I had been taught that this would one day happen, and I was thrilled to live in the era in which it did. And a few short months later, I turned twelve and was privileged to receive the Aaronic Priesthood joining the international body of men of all races who had preceded me.

    “What did you lose as a result of the priesthood ban and the racist teachings some used to justify it?”

    I don’t see where anything was lost, and I reject the premise that there was anything to lose in accepting the way things are at any given moment in time under the leadership of the Lord’s anointed prophets and apostles. I could only have lost something if I had rebelled and tarnished my faith that God was in ultimate control.

    While it is established fact that people engaged in speculation in a futile attempt to make sense out of the ban, resulting in theories which I agree could border on “racist teaching,” it is important to note the lack of an official position of the church on the matter other than “we don’t know,” the speculations of highly prominent church officials during this era notwithstanding. Elder Oaks gave perhaps the best statement on the matter years ago when he counseled against speculation about things not explicitly revealed, noting how some people in the past had been “spectacularly wrong.” Getting back to the question, I don’t think I personally lose anything by people having been spectacularly wrong about things which were never defined as formal doctrine to begin with. What I do GAIN from the experience, however, is the wisdom to avoid such personal speculation on my own, and the drive to publicly distinguish between doctrine and speculation when comments are made in church classes where I believe such distinctions must be made. In fact, in the aftermath of this recent episode, I have been astonished at the rampant speculations made my church members as if they never learned a darn thing from the past. They merely want to come up with yet the latest plausible explanation to satisfy what makes sense to them, completely operating outside the realm of actual revelation once again.

    “What might we have to gain from admitting we were wrong?”

    Considering the church’s position on the matter, it would be difficult to fathom a scenario where this could even play out. The fact that several prophets over the years sought divine sanction to rescind the ban, and each in turn until Kimball were not granted to do so, suggests that whatever reasons (which God is not required to provide) existed, they were sufficient that several willing successors to Brigham Young were left to endure its perpetuation under their watch.

    Because of this, one is essentially left with two choices.

    1) Reject the past prophets as imposters.

    or 2) “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”

    I understand the yearning to understand the “whys” of everything. And someday we’ll have answers to everything. In the meantime, I accept that God has reasons for keeping some things closer to His vest than others, and I’ll focus my attentions on my own personal deficiencies rather than attempting to stone the prophets over that which I do not possess the evidence to judge.

  69. Mark R.

    In the fall of 1971, I was a first grader making new friends at an elementary school on the west side of the Salt Lake Valley. I quickly made friends with a boy in my class and his two older brothers. The thing I noticed most about them was that they wore white shoes as as opposed to my red tennis shoes. We played during recess and after school I invited them home for some cookies.

    As my new friends and I tromped through the neighborhood, I became increasingly aware of several neighbors’ stares. I herded my friends into my house, where the promised cookies were devoured. We played for a few minutes, then my friends called their mother so she could pick them up.

    Minutes after my friends left, the phone began to ring off the hook. Ward members were incensed that I had brought two black boys into the ward. “Don’t you know how filthy they are?” cried one Relief Society leader. I was hurt by the event. And I poured my emotions out in prayer. Almost immediately I had the impression that I would see a great change in my lifetime. I am so pleased that it started just a few years later, and that this change is finally being recognized among the most conservative among us. It is truly time to end racism among the LDS faithful.

  70. SharonGoldstein

    All religions go through growing up pains, and the older the religion, the more growing pains they’ll have. I don’t know of a single Lutheran (and I’ve sung in several Lutheran Churches) who still subscribes to Luther’s essay “On the Jews and Their Lies;” indeed the entire church has repudiated it. Jews no longer sacrifice their first-born sons (the origin of the binding of Isaac story); those who are Orthodox enough to follow the custom of “pidyon ha-ben” (redeeming of the son) usually just sacrifice a donation to a charity. And the banning of people of African origin was a growing pain of the Mormon Church.

    The key is honesty. If you are honest about the mistake, or accepting the new information (i.e., there is no such thing, really, as “race” in homo sapiens) and honestly determine to be better in the future, then we can all move into the future with new strength. I LOVE Ke’s post (she’s up toward the top). Bless you, Ke.

  71. Russel

    It’s interesting that this topic has emerged so much in the news. I was born in the Church and my father was a seminary teacher in the late 70’s early 80’s. As books by Elder McConkie and Joseph Fielding Smith were shelf of my home growing up, their explanations were the ones I had heard (but never much discussed outside of my home). I shrugged it off never really satisfied with anything except the argument that there something of a precedent in the New Testament with the issues related to Jew/Gentile relations.

    With this “Mormon moment” I have studied the issue more as I consider it the most troublesome aspect of Mormon history. I’m grateful that by all accounts that I’ve read, Joseph Smith is not at all responsible for the policy or the emerging explanations for its institution. I feel Brigham Young was a racist, just like Lincoln was if you read some of his statements. However, reading helped me feel a lot better about Brigham Young. I also felt liberated when I found McConkie’s statements in his devotional, “All Are Alike Unto God,” that says to disregard everything said in the past.

    As I’ve thought about the fact that racism has even impacted the course of the church and its members, I feel more concerned about the issue of racism than I ever have in the past. Maybe this is the silver lining for me. I will add also that Brother Bott’s unfortunate statements will potentially lead to a significant growth in understanding among members about the fact that all of those old myths surrounding a misguided policy are just that. And hopefully the rising generation will be able to discuss this aspect of our history more accurately and sensitively.

  72. Kevin

    The racism is in the LDS scriptures:
    2 Nephi 5 : 21 And he had caused the acursing 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 centicing unto my people the Lord God did cause a dskin of eblackness to come upon them.

    22 And thus saith the Lord God: I will cause that they shall be aloathsome unto thy people, save they shall repent of their iniquities.

    23 And cursed shall be the seed of him that amixeth with their seed; for they shall be cursed even with the same cursing. And the Lord spake it, and it was done.

    Alma 3: 6 And the skins of the Lamanites were dark, according to the mark which was set upon their fathers, which was a acurse upon them because of their transgression and their rebellion against their brethren, who consisted of Nephi, Jacob, and Joseph, and Sam, who were just and holy men.

    7 And their brethren sought to destroy them, therefore they were cursed; and the Lord God set a amark upon them, yea, upon Laman and Lemuel, and also the sons of Ishmael, and Ishmaelitish women.

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

    9 And it came to pass that whosoever did mingle his seed with that of the Lamanites did bring the same curse upon his seed.

    10 Therefore, whosoever suffered himself to be led away by the Lamanites was called under that head, and there was a mark set upon him.

    3 Nephi 2:14 And it came to pass that those Lamanites who had united with the Nephites were numbered among the Nephites;

    15 And their curse was taken from them, and their skin became white like unto the Nephites;

    Moses 7:22 And Enoch also beheld the residue of the people which were the sons of Adam; and they were a mixture of all the seed of Adam save it was the seed of Cain, for the seed of Cain were black, and had not place among them.

    Abraham 1:21 Now this king of Egypt was a descendant from the aloins of bHam, and was a partaker of the blood of the cCanaanites by birth.

    22 From this descent sprang all the Egyptians, and thus the blood of the aCanaanites was preserved in the land.

    23 The land of aEgypt being first discovered by a woman, who was the daughter of Ham, and the daughter of Egyptus, which in the Chaldean signifies Egypt, which signifies that which is forbidden;

    24 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.

    25 Now the first government of Egypt was established by Pharaoh, the eldest son of Egyptus, the daughter of Ham, and it was after the manner of the government of Ham, which was patriarchal.

    26 Pharaoh, being a righteous man, established his kingdom and judged his people wisely and justly all his days, seeking earnestly to imitate that aorder established by the fathers in the first generations, in the days of the first patriarchal reign, even in the reign of Adam, and also of Noah, his father, who blessed him with the bblessings of the earth, and with the blessings of wisdom, but cursed him as pertaining to the Priesthood.

    If “Official Doctrine” includes the BOM and PGP then dark skin is a curse of god according to official doctrine. The only way around it is ad hoc reasoning which LDS have plenty of.

    • SG

      I was wondering when someone was going to mention this … how can people deny what is in the BOM?

      • Lilly

        I don’t deny it. It’s there. It unsettles me. It even disturbs and provokes me. It seems patently silly (not to mention deeply offensive) that God would “curse” anybody with dark skin. I mean, geez, for one thing, there is nothing inherently unattractive about it.

        My Mormon Mamma, God love her, was reading some of the very scriptures listed above in the 2 Nephi with my sibs and I one morning many years ago, and said, “I have often wondered about this. It gives me pause. I don’t think it could mean dark skin. Dark skin is gorgeous. It must be a metaphorical kind of blackness.”

        This is perhaps some of the ad hoc reasoning to which Kevin refers. Perhaps it is a metaphorical blackness (oh dear, what a fraught metaphor that would be). Any which way one looks at it, it is unfortunate. All I can offer is that those who write the scriptures, inspired though I believe them to be, are also just people, subject to all of the same silliness to which any of the rest of us are.

        The overall effect of my study of LDS scriptures has been, I hope, the making of a more loving, tolerant, decent human being. These passages upset me. But so do various passages in the Bible, Bhagvad Gita, Koran, and other scriptures I have read. People write scripture. People are imperfect. Sometimes woefully so.

  73. Caddis

    I appreciate all the posted comments and expressions of faith. I am an active member of the church. In general, I like being a member of the church. Since release of the new official statement regarding race I have calmed down. The day the statement came out I started typing my feelings. I am posting them here so people can hear how I felt that day.

    I just read a statement from the church pertaining to the priesthood ban that ended in 1978. I feel like venting a bit of steam. This statement was released by the church in response to an interview of a BYU religion professor who spoke to the Washington Post regarding the theology of blacks and the priesthood. The church has lashed out hard at this man, Randy Bott, for parroting teachings of former church prophets. Amazing, that the church can’t seem to acknowledge that its leaders propagated these “doctrines”. They continue to persist because historically, members are under great pressure to follow the prophet and accept his word as God’s words.
    A quote from the Deseret News that day in an article by Joseph Walker caught my attention: “. . . is in line with statements made by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the LDS Church’s Quorum of the Twelve in a March 2006 interview with Helen Whitney of PBS. During the interview, Elder Holland referred to speculations — including those by early church leaders — about the reasons why blacks could not hold the LDS priesthood for a period of time as “folklore” that “must never be perpetuated.”

    Elder Holland was further quoted as saying: “All I can say is, however well-intentioned the explanations were, I think almost all of them were inadequate and/or wrong,” Elder Holland said. “It would have been advantageous to say nothing, to say we just don’t know, and, (as) with many religious matters, whatever was being done was done on the basis of faith at that time … We simply don’t know why that practice, that policy, that doctrine was in place.”
    I feel anger over the whole thing. Why does the church take so long to clarify these things? I could have enjoyed a lot more peace in my life as a Mormon if the church had released such “Official Statements” or Elder Holland’s interview regarding “folklore” earlier, much earlier (say in the 1980s). It is infuriating. It is difficult to live a faith when there are practices or “folklore” beliefs that are not rooted out clearly and repetitively. It is difficult to live a faith with confidence in the face of such unchallenged “folklore” beliefs that go against what you know inside is wrong. We are told just to put it on a shelf and leave it alone. The church seems to only make clear statements when it gets embarrassed in the press. I am happy that the church released this statement. I have been wondering if the leaders were waiting for all the apostles that were present in 1978 to die before releasing such a statement; so future church leaders could plead innocent of direct knowledge by lack of association.

    I have an irritating memory of Pres. Benson getting interviewed and becoming agitated because of the questions he was getting asked. Members of the church have just as many or more questions than the media, yet the media has more access to the church than we. We have to approach our lay ministers for explanations of doctrines that have no rational explanation. It is natural to have questions and I sometimes resent the church for discouraging me from sending them questions. I guess it is hard to label Brigham Young a racist because that would cast doubt on his prophetic call.

    How is the membership supposed to keep track of one or two statements as those cited in the church’s statement or the Deseret news article that quoted Elder Holland? Couldn’t the church make available publicaly all the letters it has read over our pulpits; all Official statements it has released. I sometimes feel like if you miss a meeting where a First Presidency letter gets read you are simply out of luck. It is as if the church feels it is punishing a truant member with less access to information. I think about many of the comments made by previous prophets regarding evolution. When will the church label some of those teachings as folklore?

    Does the church have a policy of silence for 35 years or so before they can dissociate themselves from words of a prophet by labeling it as folklore? If a member had challenged a folklore teaching when it was first presented they would have been labeled as apostate. I feel like some old teachings on evolution have been held over our heads with an implied threat of believe or be damned. There have been gentler, more thoughtful, more recent comments regarding evolution that support LDS belief in obtaining knowledge. Lower forms of life are beautiful too. Line upon line and through small things are great things brought to pass. Or am I wresting the scriptures?

    I guess the last thought I have on the matter is that the church has an honesty and or transparency problem. It can’t or won’t honestly discuss these issues. The general authorities are busy with doing many good things; serving in important ways. I sometimes wonder if they are surprised by the anger members like me can feel toward “them”. Do they condemn me for it? Another question or two: 1) When will the belief that God was once like us and the belief that we can become “Gods” be labeled as folklore. Pres. Hinckley has started us down that road with his 60 Minutes interview. However, I read Elder Holland’s PBS interview and really liked his level of honesty and clarity on the wide range of questions he received. I hope our leaders continue to do those type of interviews. I would like to see such interviews be granted to some type of group that represents members of the LDS church – to address member’s questions. 2) When will the church mention publicaly their average attendance statistics instead of the number of members? I don’t mind hearing how many members we have on the roles but it is not an honest number; not a true representation of how many members there really are. How many really attend, 30 to 40%?

    • Ke

      How many of any religious group is “active”? One-fourth of Americans are Catholic, because they, for the most part, were baptized as babies. I doubt very much that most of them go to mass every Sunday as they are supposed to do. If you count those that show up at Easter, which is the minimum, it is probably somewhere around 10-15%. I’m still on the rolls as Catholic, although that has not been the case for 36 years.

    • Wayne

      It is not too hard to calculate active membership from the church’s published numbers of congregations. LDS wards average around 100 to 150 active members (meaning members over the age of 8 who attend more than once a month) and wards almost never go above 300. If they get larger they are divided. Branches are smaller than wards, but there are far fewer branches than wards.

      The church stated in 2011 that they had 28,660 active wards and branches. Given the rough size of wards, that means there are probably about 4 to 6 million Lattter-day Saints attending church more than once a month, depending on how you estimate the distribution of small versus large wards. The largest feasible number, based on the assumption that most wards have around 250 active members (which is the far upper end of feasibility), would give 7 million active members, or 50% activity. My estimate is that the number is probably something like 40% active, another 15% somewhat active but still strongly identifying with the church, and the remaining 45% not so active, or not involved at all.

      Then again, what does this matter? If you take the lower estimate, then you could say that the LDS have a presence and influence disproportionate to their active size; if you take the higher number then you could say that the LDS have surprisingly high activity rates given how many are new converts.

  74. Peter

    Just an interesting side question.
    My understanding is that Maori converts to your faith have always been able to hold the basic step of the priesthood.
    Is this the case and how does that reflect on the application of the policy in the USA ?
    Have Asian nations had the church prior to the latest revelation or were they “ministered” from the nearest white nation ?

    • M.D.

      Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, Hispanics, Australian Aborigines, East Asians, Asians, Jews, Middle Easterners, North Africans and Europeans were all always allowed to be priesthood holders. It was only Southern Africans and African Americans and only after Brigham Young.

      Personally I think of Brigham Young the way I think of Thomas Jefferson: a horrible, horrible man, but the right man for a nearly impossible job. Both owned slave and both treated women terribly but there’s not many men who could write the constitution or organize a mass exodus on foot to Utah. Why God picked them, we may never know, but hopefully beyond the veil they have been able to see the error of their ways, the way I hope to someday see mine.

  75. Jason

    It’s kind of interesting that the recent comments by a BYU professor about blacks not being ready to hold the priesthood was met with gasps and shock (which rightly they should have been), while the comment made earlier about whites not being ready to accepts blacks as their brothers and sisters is ok and “the best explanation” (Shaun on 3-6). I don’t see how they are any different from a race point of view.

    I’m grateful that Ke was able to see past it and have the conviction that in the long run, she would have every blessing that comes through the Gospel of Jesus Christ and I think that’s the thing to focus on.

    When the church was being restored, Joseph Smith and later Brigham Young received hundreds of revelations as to the organization of the church that were not recorded. So unfortunately we do not know why that restriction was made. We do know that in Old Testament times, the priesthood was restricted to only those of tribe of Levi. None of the other tribes of Israel were allowed to hold the priesthood or officiate in temple ceremonies. That didn’t mean that the blessings that resulted from the priesthood or temple ceremonies were somehow limited to members of the tribe of Levi. Those blessings were still available to everyone. There is no doubt in my mind that blacks who were not able to receive temple ordinances as a result of the restriction will have the opportunity to receive them and every blessing that results from them. Fortunately, that restriction has been lifted so that this is easier to bring about.

    I guess I’m kind of curious about what point is trying to be made by bringing this up. The restriction has been lifted for 33 years. Why continue to nurse old wounds? I can’t help but wonder if some connection is trying to be made between the restrictions that existed with blacks and the LDS Church’s current stance on homosexually.

    I believe the issues are fundamentally different. I know of no official church doctrine that teaches or ever taught a fundamental reason as to why there should have been a restriction on blacks holding the priesthood. There was no doctrine as to why only the tribe of Levi could hold the priesthood, but that was how it was organized.

    There are however only a few doctrines that appear more frequently in the Bible and Book of Mormon than morality and how homosexuality is fundamentally wrong. It leaves no room for interpretation.

    • Jason

      One of the things I have always been confused with, is what the Church means by ‘doctrine,’ and how the membership interprets this term as well. The reason I say this is I think posts have included terms ‘doctrine,’ ‘official doctrine,’ ‘tradition,’ ‘principles’ and ‘policy.’

      In Jason’s comments he one quite common in the Mormon lexicon (I’m Jason too, which I think that there is some irony here about that– and nice to hear from one of my brothers!). I fully agree, and also could find “no official church doctrine that teaches or ever taught a fundamental reason as to why there should have been a restriction on blacks holding the priesthood.”

      The problem I see with is the lack of clarity you mentioned has been a cause of obscure theories, false teachings, lots of ‘unofficial’ doctrine. There are the things we don’t know, either resulting in poor record keeping and the lack of top-down articulation of policy, or they are simply mysteries of the Kingdom. We recognize dogma although we don’t call it that, some of God’s workings we mere mortals are left unable to comprehend, and perhaps rightly so. But then there all the things “we do know,” from the teachings of doctrine gained from scripture and Prophets in example you gave of Levitican priests. You explained this quite well, the dichotomy of having been given both the never-will-know ‘knowns’ along with scripture and Prophet giving known ‘knowns.’ There is actually an effective epistemology in this, to work from studying the known to get a closer understanding of the unknown. However in this case, the gap has done little to enlighten and done more harm.

      Although the extending Priesthood authority to all worthy males remediating the Ban no longer makes us a ‘racist church,’ there remains doctrine regarding race that needs to be addressed. We still have official doctrine on the per-existence and God’s cursing of dark skin in the Old World and the New. I’m still confused how this does not marginalize and perpetuate a distinction of “The Other.” In a sense then, are we not all still waiting for the restoration of ‘white and delightsome skin’ to all worthy members of the Church, lifting the ban on light skin for descendents of the cursed, for the the sins of their Fathers? The question is absurd, but isn’t there doctrine that suggests this will be the case for those entering into the full glory of the Celestial Kingdom with a being restored (pre-curse) to its perfected form? That’s probably a doctrine that could go away, for its inherent racism.The idea of editing and removing offensive and erring scripture I am sure would cause riots.

      The Book of Mormon is the cornerstone of our religion and we should look to it for wisdom and spiritual enlightment as a tool to grow closer to Christ. but not as a History Book. Despite better, empirical understanding of the archaeological record, along with linguistic, biological and ethnological studies, the Church still maintains their truthfulness of the doctrine of aboriginals in the Western World as being Jewish. The ascription of native Americans as Lamanites is racist to explain their heritage, origin, and dark skin. To best represent our people, perhaps we should ponder and pray why any significance is given to its origin and history. This only perpetuates ignoranc and gives a false history and complety the destroys self-
      identity of Native Americans and is racist. Perhaps fix all of it.


      • Jason

        The Book of Mormon teaches:

        The spirit and the body shall be reunited again in its perfect form; both limb and joint shall be restored to its proper frame…and we shall be brought to stand before God, knowing even as we know now, and have a bright recollection of all our guilt. Now, this restoration shall come to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, both the wicked and the righteous; and even there shall not so much as a hair of their heads be lost; but every thing shall be restored to its perfect frame, as it is now, or in the body, and shall be brought and be arraigned before the bar of Christ the Son, and God the Father, and the Holy Spirit, which is one Eternal God, to be judged according to their works… (Alma 11:43-44)

        It teaches that we will be restored to a “perfect form”, but it does not tell us what that perfect form is. Note that there is no mention of race in the above verses (or any other verse that talks about resurrection). I think to automatically assume it is Caucasian is not right. That’s one of those “we don’t know and for right now it really doesn’t matter” questions. There are much more important things to worry about.

        I disagree with your assertion that ascribing the Native Americans as Lamanites is racist. It is nothing more than a genealogical fact. The end of the Book of Mormon records the destruction of the Nephites and continuation of the Lamanites. How is asserting that those survivors are the ancestors of the Native Americans in any way racist?

      • Jason

        “The Book of Mormon teaches” many things. Considering race, cursed and marked people of color, and exaltation The Book of Mormon provides scripture, but as I mentioned before, the Church does not often provide for Official Doctrine to interpret them, especially concerning race. That was my point, that I think you are agreeing with, the unknowns only cause speculation and grass roots beliefs. Historically cherry-picked passages of scripture were used as justification of racist beliefs. The idea that there would be no ‘race’ in the Celestial Kingdom has been a widely-accepted one. If we are truly to be perfected as God and Jesus Christ are and to have the same countenance then we can infer from the following Book of Mormon scripture that everyone wil be restored to an even ‘pre-cursed, marked’ form:

        • Lamanites no longer white, given skin of blackness, 2 Ne. 5:21

        • Lamanites’ skins will be whiter than Nephites’ unless Nephites repent, Jacob 3:8

        • Lamanites’ skin becomes white like Nephites’, 3 Ne. 2:15
        • multitude are white as countenance and garments of Jesus, 3 Ne. 19:25

        • Robe and whole person of Moroni are exceedingly white, JS—H 1:31–32

        Then pair those scriptures with OFFICIAL CHURCH TEACHINGS like:

        “It must be noted that the mark that was set upon Cain was not the same thing as the curse that he received. The mark was to distinguish him as the one who had been cursed by the Lord. It was placed upon Cain so that no one finding him would kill him. A parallel that illustrates the difference between a mark and a curse might be the account of the Lord placing a mark and a curse upon the Lamanites and their posterity (see 2 Nephi 5:20–24; Alma 23:16–18). It should be noted that the curse was based on individual disobedience and that by obedience to God the curse was removed, although the mark may not have been removed immediately. Eventually, however, the mark was also removed from some (see 3 Nephi 2:12–16).”
        –“A Mark Was Placed upon Cain (The Book of Moses)”
        The Pearl of Great Price Student Manual, (2000), 3–27

        There should be no question that from these passages, and without official guidance through them, that some pretty awful racist notions of what a perfected body of one marked and cursed is– White. Which again was my point, that IT’S WRONG.

        I found a post on a thread on a discussion of the Church and The Ban and found many member comments that are best summed up by “Rthyms”:

        March 2, 2012 at 4:49 pm
        Rthoms says:
        “In sunday school we were taught that all righteous people could attain the Celestial Kingdom. Even those with darker skin. Their skin would be changed to white if they made it. Maybe not official doctrine but we were taught that.”

        Curiously, a search on including only the words “race” and “Celestial Kingdom” provides suggestive search alternatives “white whiteness.” I didn’t include the term ‘white’ but the Church’s search engine figured that I was looking for something more delightsome:

        Jason, when you stated “I think to automatically assume it is Caucasian is not right. That’s one of those “we don’t know and for right now it really doesn’t matter” questions.” I agree with some of that. It isn’t right to assume that God, who when we are perfected will take upon us his likeness, originated from the Caucus mountains. But we do know from Joseph Smith’s first vision that God and Jesus indeed are WHITE. So again we are left to draw our own, often racist, conclusions.

        When you stated, “That’s one of those ‘we don’t know and for right now it really doesn’t matter’ questions. There are much more important things to worry about.” You’re right that it doesn’t matter, that it’s not important to us, as White People. Why should it? We are already White and there is not much question as to why that is or what we are going to look like in our perfected form. But as you have read from others here in this forum that are not white, it matters to them to know. It is important for them to ask. It should be important for us to ask, to seek clarification, and to seek remediation and negation of scripture, doctrine, policy, beliefs, and speculation that are racist and false. We know better now.

        As far as superimposing our beliefs that the Book of Mormon is a historical record upon Native Americans completely erases THEIR true identity– the one that originates from THEIR beliefs and traditions. We are stealing and destroying THERE heritage with our misguided “genealogical fact[s]” Consider the thoughts of Son of Lehi that he posted on this thread:

        “As a Native American, I have and continue to experience racist attitudes within the church…It is every gentile responsibility to correct those mistakes or face the consequences. I know Native Americans are still being punished at the hands of the gentiles, although not physically but via racist laws, attitudes, perceptions, etc.. The church is true, even though the people in it are not. The work will go on. I know the descendants of father Lehi, will return and be blessed once again as well as our brothers the Jews.”

        “Genealogical Facts” originating from the Book of Mormon causes nothing but ignorance and perpetuates false, racist views of Native Americans. Every culture has a tradition and belief of how man came to be, or more specifically where their cultural traditions come from. To say that our truth is superior to the ones espoused by others is wrong, when we base the characterization of our truth with an identifier like color, it’s racist. When we strip the cultural identity of others of their uniqueness, it’s wrong. When we disseminate and erase a culture’s history, and disallow tradition cultural and ceremonial practices that harm our beliefs, it’s racism. We do not own the Ancient American Past. The Book of Mormon is not a license to destroy the cosmologies and creation stories of the thousands of unique cultures with historically inaccurate “Genealogical Facts” that are contrary to at least at least 16,000 years known history to anthropologists, and more importantly an eternity for those who occupied the Americas before us.

  76. Erin

    I was probably about 10 years old when I first heard about the ban. It had long past and was never spoken of. The only heard of it because a wonderful and very faithful black man in my ward, made reference to it in a testimony. I asked my mom what he was talking about and she told me about the ban. I was shocked and asked her why, which is when she told me the Cain explanation. It shocked me that Blacks at one point weren’t allowed to hold the priesthood but I also never thought that the answer I received was fundamentally wrong.

    I also had another experience growing up. My grandfather was not a member. My grandmother, his wife, was always faithful and extremely active. I remember the day she was allowed to go to the temple. As the former rule was that spouses of non-members were not allowed to receive their temple endowment.

    To be honest, I didn’t sit there and dissect why the rules used to be that way. All I cared about was that they were changed and that now the people I knew and cared about were able to receive their temple endowments. Even as a teenager, I knew that looking back into the history wouldn’t serve to do me any good. It was the here and now that mattered the most.

    A wise person once told me, “There are things that are NICE to know and then there are things that we NEED to know.” When it comes right down to it, the NEED to know list is actually quite short. Whereas the NICE to know list could grow ad infinitum. People like Ke above know that the NEED to knows are what is important. And just like him, the NICE to knows shouldn’t preclude you from believing and knowing that the gospel is true.

    • Ann

      Hi Erin, For over twenty-five years now, I have tried to just forget about the things that don’t make sense to me, and have never been able to shake the feeling that some unjust things have taken place in our church, through the name of “inspiration from God.” Again, I feel the need to bring up the word “conscience”. If one’s conscience is not at ease, the NICE to knows, become NEED to knows. I believe that it’s morally wrong not to question something of which your conscience is telling you isn’t right, if you are to remain a part of it. We all know that in our church, questioning our leaders is frowned upon. Why is that? Because it makes us appear rebellious. I would have left long ago if I didn’t see so many reasons to stay. I’m not rebellious. I’m trying to make peace with my soul. I have prayed for answers to my conflict, and the answer I have received has been “talk, learn, ask questions.” I know that the Lord doesn’t want me to just accept everything that I am told. We were sent here with the agency to choose every step we take. It’s time that the members that choose not to question, accept those of us that choose and NEED to question in order to progress. I would love for the church to come out and say, “We were wrong about banning blacks from the priesthood” because that is what I NEED to know to satisfy my conscience on this issue. Until then, I will question…no matter how hard I try to just accept it.

      • Erin

        Hi Ann,

        I, in no way, support blind acceptance. I believe we should all study out everything we are taught before we accept it. Especially if it goes against our conscience. I am one of the lucky one’s that doesn’t have a problem reconciling what I am taught in church with my own moral compass.

        I respect your feeling of the nice to knows becoming need to knows. I understand that you feel the need to know certain things in order to feel peace. But my point in saying that was to address all the other reasons why you stay. I don’t want to make too many assumptions about your situation, but I would wager that those reasons are fundamentals. Having doubts in your heart regarding the purpose of the priesthood ban will not keep you out of the celestial kingdom. But doubting that the prophet receives revelation for the church could. The point is to not let those less important things, whatever they may be, trip you up.

        I commend you for staying in the church even though you have doubts. Cause we all do, at one time or another.

  77. Son of Lehi

    As a Native American, I have and continue to experience racist attitudes within the church. I know the Book of Mormon and other scriptures to be the word of god. I know the gentiles are a very blessed people, I see it. This is truly the era of the gentile, not just gentiles who are Mormon but all gentiles and all their denominations. Those blessings come with very clear responsibilities and punishments for not following them. The lord did not issue those warnings lightly, he issued them because he knew that mistakes would be made. It is every gentile responsibility to correct those mistakes or face the consequences. I know Native Americans are still being punished at the hands of the gentiles, although not physically but via racist laws, attitudes, perceptions, etc.. The church is true, even though the people in it are not. The work will go on. I know the descendants of father Lehi, will return and be blessed once again as well as our brothers the Jews. You can justify, reason all you want about this issue and many others. But until you get on your knees and cry to our father in heaven you will never know the truth. Church leaders are only men, they only guide us. It is our responsibility to know with the help of the Holy Ghost whether or not we should follow their counsel. I say this because we still have many issues as Native Americans that clash with ‘so called” Mormon doctrine or policy. There is still a lot of ground that must be covered before we (non-gentiles) can truly be seen as equals among our gentile brothers.

  78. Sally UK

    I grew up Mormon in the UK. I became aware of the priesthood ban as a child and it certainly went hand in hand with racist teaching that I heard in church – the ‘mark of Cain’ ‘lamanites’ etc. It was made clear to us that being black was a punishment for past life sin. I found this disgusting. It was also made very clear to us that the prophet received direct revelation from God. I read the horrific racist comments of Brigham Young and other church leaders and it became very clear to me that a wise and loving God would not choose these bigoted men as his representatives on earth. At the same time I became aware of the church’s sexism and homophobia.
    The ‘repeal’ of the ban struck me as cynical and calculated and not in any way reassuring, I was 14. I left the church shortly after and felt relieved to no longer associate with racists.

  79. Michael Edwards

    You asked how the ban affected me, well it didn’t not in the least. Ask yourself this , was Joseph a prophet, is his message true ? If you can answer yes then don’t worry.
    Who are you to say that it was racism was the reason for the ban ? For all you or I know there could very well have been a reason for it other than racism.

  80. I know someone who is born in the 40ies (I’m from ’88 if you wonder). She still believes that black people are black because the mark of Cain. She’s pretty much racist anyway. Because when I see people I say oh what a beautiful (and adorable) person that is (and I talk about any person her age, size, skin color… etc. doesn’t matter I can find beauty in everyone), sometimes I will also say this about African people (or with African roots) and if she hears me say that she makes an ugly face for a moment and asks me how I can find some one looking like that beautiful that saddens me then.
    I also try to explain to her that I think the black priesthood ban thing was a human mistake (because I believe that’s what it is. Brigham Young – and some others? – who started this I think had racist thoughts and made up some stories because of that… because at the end of the day all church leaders are human beings and will make mistakes like everyone else).
    I also try to explain to her it goes against the second article of faith, because I really believe that Cain was the only person who had the mark of Cain and no one else.

    • SharonGoldstein

      Sigh. And so it goes. I’m so sorry that your acquaintance thinks that way. We are all the Children of God, and would God create someone in a certain way just to make them second-class people? Certainly according to the Hebrew Scriptures, the Mark of Cain is called that because it was put on…Cain. Only Cain. No one else.

      • Jason

        Racism should be condemned, but if you’re going to single out older Mormons for holding onto beliefs such as the mark of Cain, etc. why don’t you single out the myriad of other older people who are not Mormons but still hold onto racist views, particularly in the southern areas of the US.

  81. Dan

    I see the “Black Priesthood Ban” in a different light. I believe it is fulfilling the phrase “The priesthood of God and His Church will never again be taken from the earth.”

    I believe that the majority of members of the Church were racist against Blacks AND that THEY were not ready to have Blacks receive the Priesthood. If Blacks were given the Priesthood during the early days of the restoration, the Church would not have survived. I believe an all knowing and loving God, knew it was not the right time, because His people were not ready, because ‘man’ is imperfect. When it was revealed that Blacks could receive the Priesthood, it was the right time for the Church members.

    In the end, you need to find out what you believe. Joanna, I feel this blog is self serving for you and your “on the fence” feelings about the Mormon faith. Get off the fence. From what I understand, you are no longer a “practicing” Mormon. (You don’t go to Church, you don’t take the Sacrament, etc..) So, I think your name should be “Ex-Mormon Girl.”

    “Brooks is quick to point out that she isn’t trying to present herself as a religious authority.” – if that is the case, you need to dis-associate yourself and blog name from the Mormon church.

    • Actually, Dan. You’re wrong about me. But that’s beside the point. The most important thing is that we keep our eyes on the ball and talk about race in our community. If you listen to the voices of Black LDS people on this thread, you will see that the ban has mattered tremendously to them. We need to talk until all the anger and confusion and hurt is talked out.

      • SharonGoldstein

        And a resounding Amen!

      • Jason

        Dan – you are entitled to your own belief, but I believe it is just as bad as any of the teachings of the mark of Cain, etc.

        I’ve never been a fan of the “just need to talk it out” philosophy. There will never be healing until people choose to move on. It’s a choice – one anyone can make at anytime.

      • Aged Observer

        And Amen.

      • Dani Lofland

        Joanna is a blessing. God is surely smiling down on this lovely woman. She has given us all a true opportunity for real and worthwhile dialog.

  82. Hope Wiltfong

    I joined the church in 1976, and while I did not understand why blacks and women couldn’t hold the priesthood, I accepted it with the assurance from my bishop at the time that I would at some future time. Taking out my endowments in the temple answered most of my questions about women and the priesthood, and just a few weeks after that, President Kimball announced that the priesthood restriction had been lifted. I have been fortunate to know quite a few American and African blacks, and have discussed how they have met and dealt with this — like everything in this mortal life, it’s all temporary, it’s for us to learn from, and it’s all imperfect — otherwise we would not learn what we need to! Please, feel free to discuss this, but let’s focus on the important things – learn to love and serve your neighbor, and move on.

  83. Anonymous

    How did the priesthood ban affect me?

    Having grown up in the South West Corner Canada the priesthood ban did not directly affect me much. I was about 11 years old when the change made and there were only two black families in my whole school so five black children in my neighborhood. Once the ban was lifted I don’t remember anyone hanging on to the principle and it seemed to be a great relief for most people.

    The most personal effect on me was moving out into the work force a worked with a dear old man who was black. He grew up working on the trains and eventually settling down as a bus driver in Vancouver, B.C.. I knew him after he retired and became a janitor where I worked. He had seen much of the world and had definitely been discriminated against in the course of his life but it did not make him bitter. He was a very genuine, caring man with a life full of valuable experiences.

    As I was leaving on a mission he learned of my religious beliefs and it made our relationship awkward. He was nothing but kind and gracious. I studied some of the explanations as to why the ban and hoped to explain them to him but as I studied I didn’t want to give him those explanations.

    If there are any reasons for the priesthood ban they did not seem to matter. I was not concerned about what may or may not have happened in the pre-mortal realm. It seems irrelevant to me. Here was a man, a friend and from all I knew of him a great man.

    The thing I hated above all was that he might see in me any judgment about him based on his race. By affiliating with the church I was not entirely neutral about the question even if I don’t understand the why’s.

    Now do not misunderstand my comments as to imply that I am free of prejudice due to race. Vancouver has become a very multicultural city but there were growing pains. There was the childish taunts of some with different cultures but I have not experienced true out and out hatred until much later in my life.

    I remember a trip I took with a black man, a korean man, and myself a caucasion. A man would not acknowledge the black man, would tolerate the Korean and speak to me openly. Very wierd.

  84. RK

    I’m not a Mormon, but grew up around many who practice your faith. I can’t understand why God, in 1978, would have to reveal to your then prophet and president, that the ban on blacks in the priesthood should be lifted. In the New Testament, God had, 2,000 years before, dealt with the sinful practice of racism (Galatians 3:29). My Mormon friends in the 70’s (of which I had many) believed that blacks were under the mark of Cain (how anyone could take that idea from the Genesis account is impossible for me to apprehend). Doesn’t the fact that you believe God waited until 1978 (well after the American Civil Rights movement) to reveal to the president to lift the ban say something about Mormonism’s credibility? I do believe in the complete credibility of faith in and the gospel of Jesus Christ.

  85. Neal

    Joanna, thanks for asking this question.

    Some of us, expecially if you’re from the South like I am, were keenly aware growing up of the policy on blacks and the priesthood and the various theories and justifications for it. Being from a highly prejudiced family (see The Help – that movie could have been about my white, small-town family!) , discussions on the subject were especially prevelant in my home. In a way it almost strengthened the testimony of some family members that the Church excluded blacks from the highest ordinances. It was a justification of their own deeper prejudices and hate.

    The 1978 revelation came while I was on my mission, and I remember it as a time of rejoicing for me. I knew it was right and was such a relief not to have that “cloud” hanging over the Church anymore. It also gave me a bit of sadistic pleasure that the more prejudiced members of my family would now be eating crow. And crow they did eat!

    I am personally not satisfied with the way our Church has addressed this issue, both publicly and internally as an institution, but I can be patient with the Brethren in their imperfections. However, I think this whole incident is a wake-up call to the leadership that issues like this need to be addressed head-on without political posturing or public white-washing. For a Church that is founded on modern revelation, telling the world that you basically ‘don’t have a clue’ why you denied a particular race of people full status in your Church for over 125 years is simply going to cause problems with credibility. Labeling teachings about the Mark of Cain, etc. as “folklore” is a pathetic dodge when you have a century of Conference addresses, lesson manuals, books, magazines, and so forth that have promulgated said “folklore” to the entire world as something legitimate. Admitting point-blank that you were in error, that human prejudices prevailed during those years, and issuing an apology is, in my mind, the only way to put the issue to bed. However, at this point I don’t expect it.

    I do think this whole issue underscores the need for us to question what we hear from our leaders and, as Brigham Young admonished, to gain our own testimony that it is (or is not) the word of God.

  86. MrsEldridge

    The LDS church is not perfect. No church on this earth can be as long as imperfect human beings are involved in running it. The best we can hope for is to find faith, hope, and truth in this world. To see the beauty and love that the lord has blessed us with. No matter our faith, creed, race, gender, sexual orientation; we are all children of a heavenly father who loves us. He loves every one of us despite our sins or our choices. My hope is that everyone can find a church home that makes them feel safe and loved, no matter what their choice is.

  87. Maegen

    Dan, Joanna doesn’t need me to defend her, but as a Lutheran, I’ve learned buckets more about the LDS church from her site than any other.
    There are times I’ve read her posts and said out loud, “Are you sure you’re a Mormon?” but it’s because they haven’t fit the stereotypes I’ve believed about Mormons and Mormon women in particular. She really does more to lift up your faith than anyone I’ve come across. Joanna, let me know when you want ask Lutheran girl….I’ll tell you all about Grace and our deep reverence for jello and coffee.

    • SharonGoldstein

      Hi, Maegen, AskJewishGirl here. I think adding AskLutheranGirl to the Ask…Girl hub is a great idea. The churches I’ve most enjoyed singing at have been Lutheran (my first church!) and Episcopalian. I’m now at All Saints Episcopal, and their outreach ministry is helping us locate AskMuslimGirl. I’d say Go For It! Anyone else agree? Welcome, Maegen.

  88. NW WisdomSeeker

    Joanna – Thanks for the question and for hosting such an interesting and important forum. Forgive me for not directly answering your question, but rather just sharing a couple of thoughts from the perspective of an active, temple-endowed, returned missionary, married with four kids, current member of a bishopric:

    1. I try hard to reconcile the Church’s priesthood ban (including statements made officially and unofficially by leaders) with my desire to believe and help others believe. I’m not there yet, but I continue to work on it. In the meantime I am focusing my efforts on retaining/strengthening my faith in the things I find most useful in everyday life — charity, service, seeing the face of God in all others, tolerance, humility — and doing what I can to help others in the same path. I don’t believe that the right answer for those, like me, who can’t just live with “the Prophets did it so it must be of the Lord” is “you’re not a real Mormon so why are you still here?” I don’t live with the expectation that all answers will come to me at the time I want them, or even at all. And I find that for myself any way, using my God-given faculties of thought and reason and questioning, in a humble and careful way, are the right way to live. This seems to require a lot of patience with myself, with others and with God. But we were never promised that things would be easy, only that it would be worth it.

    2. The issue of race, and particularly the question about whether we (Mormons or Christians or any other group) believe in a “default” race, continues to befuddle me. Do we believe that Adam and Eve were created “white”? Is God “white”? Is “white” the default, and everything else is explainable by some “cause” (curse, disobedience, etc.)? In the past few years I’ve really wished that the temples would go back to “live” sessions. Committing the temple ceremony to film requires so many decisions at a directorial level — casting, costumes, set design, camera angles, lighting, etc. — that certain issues may be made to seem “fixed” (such as skin color) when maybe they aren’t. One of my best temple experiences in recent years happened in the Salt Lake temple where they continue to have “live” sessions. A very old couple played Adam and Eve with a sense of humor and joy. It made me wonder what would happen if an African couple played Adam and Eve, or a so-called “mixed” couple. Would we reconsider our notions of race, etc?

  89. Mandi

    I was born in 1982 so for me I grew up not really consciously processing the idea of the priesthood being banned from certain people. I actually didn’t remember some of the stuff I was taught growing up until the comments from Professor Bott. I remember hearing about the Mark of Cain but I don’t remember hearing about black people not being as righteous in the pre-existence. I have to say that when I read what Professor Bott said and learned that it was pretty much the consensus of the members it blew me away, that people still held to that idea. I realized I really didn’t know the actual history of the ban and what the leaders had said. My learning and reading of Brigham Young’s statements of black people are going to be known to me as one of the biggest pivotal moments in my life. I had never in my life read or knew of what he said. The instant I read his statement (for myself, no one else) I knew he was NOT a prophet of God. I had always had the belief that prophets were/ are infallible, but that I was taught they were of a higher spiritual level than most people. By him saying things that in the core of my body were so completely wrong I knew that no prophet supposedly inspired of God could say that. I have heard the argument that they were men of their time, but were they not also suppose to be men above this world? My cognitive dissonance with this issue has caused a tremendous upheaval of my faith. I am upset at myself that I never really thought about this issue. You see, my husband was born in 1978 (I think just a few weeks before the ban was lifted). He is black. I know have a son and daughter who are half black half white. When I think of this in terms of my family it rocks me to the core. Racism/prejudice of any kind is not of God. God sees all of his children as equal, men, women, children regardless of where they were born or how they look. I am not sure if this answers any of your questions but this felt good to get down.

    • Jason

      Stallion Cornell wrote some good posts – I suggest you check them out:

      It’s always easier to condemn people when we don’t look at the context they came from. 19th Century America was racist, so it’s no wonder he had those beliefs.

      • Mike R

        Mormons might have been accused in Missouri by some that erroneously assumed they were Abolitionists, but there really were Abolitionists in the 1830s in America. Your statement that all Americans were racists in the 19th Century is simply not true.

  90. Nicole Poulard

    What this has cost me……….. I am married to a black man, who 15 years ago converted to the church before we were married. As of last year he has stopped coming to church for this reason. He had made peace with it in the years prior but he came across some articles written a long time ago by past leaders in the church and a couple by former prophets. The articles are from the 50s-60s era for the most part. I have always struggled with this and have tried to tell myself that it is something that was not ordained of God but was done by prejudice leaders in the church. The fact that so far in all of his research and my own the church has never made an official statement as to why this happened and that it was wrong. No apology. Telling members that it’s in the past is dismissive. I was raised in a family that taught that blacks were cursed from Cain and the pre-existence. I knew that was wrong. I still love my religion I would be able to make peace with this if there was some sort of explanation. Until then I will be going to church with just my kids. This is the short version. I cannot wait to get your book in the mail! I have always felt fairly alone in my beliefs and it’s nice to know that there are others who are conflicted, yet still love the church. I believe you can be both.

  91. Tom Walker

    So long as people persist in demanding that the only explanation for the ban is racism, and that apologies are in order, there will always be discontent and confusion. When we allow for the distinct possibility that God had other reasons completely beyond our comprehension, and let go of our modern propensity to judge and conjure up politically-correct speculation at the expense of the Lord’s past anointed, the more at peace our souls will be. Just because something is difficult and causes anguish, doesn’t mean that the Lord’s hand isn’t somewhere mysteriously to be found in it once the final pages of the book of life are completely opened to us. Trust and faith in God isn’t restricted only to those things we want to hear. In fact, it begins with the very things we do NOT want to hear.

  92. Chris

    I remember when I joined the church at the age of 15 in the fall of 1975. I did not know at first that African Americans males could not hold the priesthood. I said to one of the missionaries giving me the lessons, that I had African American ancestors on my mother’s side and did that mean that my brother could not hold the priesthood. He said God would let the Bishop know, if that was the case. Of course my brother did receive the priesthood. I think it was because we looked white. This action really confused me, because I felt if you were a descendent it didn’t matter how far removed you were you still came from there. I know look at this as hypocrisy. I am also of Jewish decent on my father’s side. So where do I fit in. It was very much talked about and in the papers in the early to late 70’s that the church did not allow black men to hold the priesthood. Revelation my behind, the church succumbed to public pressure as they did when they stopped the practice of polygamy. Makes you wonder what really, is the word of God.

  93. Cole

    I personally was not in the LDS Church until the mid 1990’s after getting baptized in college. I am however the proud uncle of 2 Ghanaian Nieces and 2 African Americans. I listened to my Father-in-law talk about his difficulty of acceptance with the Church’s Priesthood changes in the 70’s and how much he believes these 4 particular grandchildren were for him. The changes in his racial perspectives and realizations in life were very substantial. I think that it is fair to say that many American’s in the 1970’s weren’t ready to receive people of other races as equals. It is also my opinion…granted I wasn’t a member of the LDS Church at the time…that the people of the world, America and the LDS Church were not ready for other races to have the Priesthood as well. Just remember, it’s only my opinion…hopefully we will fully understand why sometime, but we definitely don’t understand why at this time.

  94. I grew up in a considerably conservative “traditional” Mormon household. My dad served his mission in North Carolina. Thankfully, my parents always taught us children “I have no good answer to that question” (referring to the ban on the priesthood to people of color). They simply didn’t know. My parents also expressed that they wish they could understand, but they have faith that the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Church are still and always true. I am grateful for parents who weren’t afraid to say “I don’t know” instead of trying to reference obscure doctrine and hearsay.

  95. D.McEvoy

    Joanna, Thanks for the forum.

    I’m 67, raised LDS in So. Calif. The ban embarrassed and frustrated me. FYI, back then we were taught NOT to try to come up with explanations for it. One can see the wisdom in that in the case at hand.

    A benefit of being 67 is perspective. It’s panoramic. Currently, many call for the Church to admit the ban was wrong. Hmm. So it’s right or wrong, is it? Perhaps not.

    I don’t close my eyes to Brigham Young’s racism or to the idea that leaders can act as mere mortals. However, along with other readers, I suspect that the ban may have been in place for the general good of the Church, its members, and the Black friends/members/onlookers who experienced what we have to call exclusion.

    I have been shocked in this very millennium, to witness in northern Utah, otherwise faithful church members and priesthood leaders make racist remarks–about blacks and other races as well. Although it was done in private settings, I was stunned. It was unthinkable to me that these insulting terms were still around. (I’m tempted to list the remarks I’ve heard but I’ll spare us all.)

    As your readers point out, racism has been a part of American history for more years than not–racism not just against Blacks but against Jews, Native Americans, and others. For a while it was against the Irish. However, looking at history with a 2012 lens warps the truth.

    At the risk of Bott-like speculating, I hold the belief (privately and personally, not to be taught or preached to anyone or to be shared with any journalist) the belief that the Church may not have been ready, our hearts weren’t right. If racial slurs have been made in our midst so recently, can one imagine the kind of treatment blacks might have received, what shameful stories the Church would have to acknowledge, had ill-prepared LDS people shared meeting halls and Temples as mixed congregations?

    Furthermore, if the Church had issued a dictum formalizing the ban, might that have provided fodder for the racists among us to justify and rationalize?

    The Prophets in my lifetime, all mortal, have lead the Church magnificently to where it is today. I find it hard to believe that any one of them could not have lifted the ban if it were time–including President McKay.

    Sometimes we fail to realize the steps others have made, the gains, the growth. At any age it’s wise to look around and realize that we’re “standing on the shoulders of giants.” Instead, some of us believe our lofty views are a result of our being Really, Really Tall.

  96. Personally, my favorite Book of Mormon scripture on race is Jacob 3:9

    “Wherefore, a commandment I give unto you, which is the word of God, that ye revile no more against them because of the darkness of their skins; neither shall ye revile against them because of their filthiness; but ye shall remember your own filthiness, and remember that their filthiness came because of their fathers.”

    I know of no other scripture where the Lord commands his people to stop reviling against another people because of the color of their skin. It is unfortunate that this scripture was not more widely read in the church in earlier years. However, it is also now just as easy for us to sit on our thrones and curse our ancestors for racism. In today’s Church we still have a long ways to go with our understand towards gays. While I do not support the practice as a way to ultimate happiness. I find it appalling when members speak about gays in a demeaning manner.

  97. Mike H.

    When reading about the experiences of Jane Manning James, early Pioneer Black LDS Member, I have trouble saying she was “cursed” in any way, in light of her experiences, including some astounding “spiritual” experiences.

    I also discount Prof. Bott’s explanation that Blacks were somehow being “protected from falling” by not having the Priesthood. The reason is D&C section 84:42. That plainly pronounces woe upon those who don’t come unto the Priesthood.

  98. Not long after Stapley warned George Romney not to mess with the racial order set up by God, these notes from an experience at BYU, 1968:

    A cold night. January or February. I stand with friends outside Brigham Young University’s “Smith Family Living Center.” Students are dancing inside the plate-glass windows. A young black man approaches, looks into the building, moves on.
    I know him, someone claims. He’s LDS. Must be lonely. Can’t hold the priesthood. Can’t marry in the temple. Seed of Cain. Curse of Ham.
    We enter the Family Living Center, join the dancers. His testimony of the true gospel, I think, commits him to a difficult life now; but in the eternities. . . . My mind skids to the warm, firm thighs of the tall girl from Idaho who is holding me as close as I her.

    For more on the “Origins of My Racism,” see

  99. 17&morman

    Well i’m black and morman and by black i mean my skin is brown and i am not a direct descendant from africa. I just recently learned of this ban so i was never really looking for any racism in the church, but when i did start looking i found nothing except…when a fellow student in my sunday school class(white student) causually commented that he had just heard the elders talking about would they date a BLACK girl or not. It made me really uncomfortable, so uncomfortable that i chocked on my cookie, but in fact other than this one time ‘insert unmentionables name’ has been a very pleasant character to be around. Any way i have never let my race rule my life so i wont let another’s racism.

  100. 17&morman

    I know i just typed but i actually went back and read others comments and people are saying they left the church because of the band. What i wont to ask those people are why would you give it up when everyone worked so hard for the right to be there and to be equal(i’m talking about the civil rights movement); and sense your looking at it that way i hope you don’t associate with: Walmart, they sold confederate advertised barbeque sauce. Grady memorial hospital(actually mostly all of the old hospitals), they had segregation. Mostly all of the old diners. The point i’m trying to make here is sure there was once racism in it but peoples ancestors have faught hard to delete it, so i’m gonna it my burger and fry in that “once apon a time” white’s only diner. And it’s not because i dont have dignity it’s because thats what we have been working for so why continue to point out the barriers that once was, why not focus on keeping the barriers away. If you ask me your minds on the wrong concept.

    • Mike R

      I joined the LDS Church in Sept. 1977 just before Spencer Kimball’s revelation and left in late 1993. I am a historian and along the way had researched and rejected the practice of priesthood denial to Black males especially after reading Lester E. Bush, Jr. and Armand L. Mauss’ edited volume “Neither White, Nor Black,” long before I left the movement. We know where and why the priesthood ban started…that isn’t a mystery and it was embarrassing to carry that baggage as long as I did…it has been a great relief to not have it anymore. To your point though I would ask you, why would you want to be part of an organization that historically has been so backwards on the issue of race? And, by the way, continues to be regressive on gender and gay rights? Why work to change a movement that doesn’t want to change when you can easily find other groups that were actually historically progressive in this area? If affirming the worth and dignity of all people is the right thing to do, why stay in a movement that kicks and fights change in that direction? Life is too short to spend it trying to reform a movement that won’t admit it was wrong even when it finally does change and resists any further adjustments that grant equality as long as it can. If you agree with your Church, then stay, be happy, but if it causes you discomfort and pain, by all means leave…there is life beyond Mormonism.

      • DrCole

        I must admit Mike…if I was in a “movement” and the work I was putting toward a “movement” wasn’t going toward the direction that I desired, I too would probably leave that “movement” as well. I must also admit, that I do not believe that someone’s faith in Jesus Christ or faith in any deity could truly be called a “movement.” It is my opinion that we have a religious faith because we believe that we can become better because of that faith in the deity being fully developed in the model. On the contrary, we join a “movement” so that we can make the model better and help mold the model. We also create the model in a “movement.” This allows us to leave a “movement” when it is not becoming the model that we are/were trying to make it become.

        Granted this is all my opinion on how I understand the words “movement” and “religion.” They both deal with creating a life that is better than what we have on our own and they share many similarities. Just remember, they are similar and not identical or interchangeable.

        Take care on your journey Mike R. I hope you find what it is that you are looking for.

      • Mike R

        To clarify…”movement” is a sociological term used to describe new religions, hence, “New Religious Movements” (NRMs) which were formerly called “cults” until that term took on another more pejorative meaning. Scholars, for example, often refer to the earliest followers of Jesus as “the Jesus Movement.” I was using academic terminology, sorry if that was confusing. My journey is ongoing and going fine…much better as a post-Mormon. Thank you and I hope you are happy as well.

      • 17& Mormon

        Ok you say leave if i’m uncomfortable, so let’s start off by saying i’m sound in my faith. But i’m interested in knowing these “proggressive groups” because if it’s one thing i learned is that you can find the bad in anything if your looking for it.

  101. JS

    Hi Joanna, I grew up as a non-Mormon in a part of San Diego with a very low LDS population (can’t say the ward, but suffice it to say there was exactly ONE LDS family in the entire elementary school). However, my best friend through grade school came from that single LDS family.

    In fifth grade, during history lessons, we were shown the film “Brigham Young” as part of our study of settlement of the American West. Somehow the classroom discussion drifted toward the then-current priesthood ban (this was 1967). My friend, who was a direct descendant of BY, told the class that he was taught at church that blacks had the mark of Cain ,and for that reason could not be ordained. He left little doubt that he did not agree with it, but here was the party line position for those who wanted to know why. The guy never had a mean bone in his body, and later went on the captain the basketball team at our high school, with several members of the squad being African-American.

    What struck me as disingenuous was the recent, heavily publicized statement that the “mark of Cain” was never taught by the LDS Church. Nearly everyone who has posted here has reported that it WAS taught to them as children, though by the same token most of the same people here never agreed with it. I know that my friend never would have made up such a preposterous claim, he was simply reporting what he was taught in Primary, without agreeing with it himself.

    I think a more credible (to the rest of the US population) would be to apologize and move on. Denial that something never happened, when there are thousands of credible witnesses who know otherwise, only invites deeper scrutiny and skepticism.

    • JS

      As an addendum, I don’t think our teacher knew that my friend was LDS, nor do I think he was baiting him by showing the film. Our class was an “MGM” (Mentally Gifted Minors, now known in CA as “GATE”) class, and the teacher had been a district enrichment specialist on US History, in particular the settlement of the American West. I think he felt that to understand the settlement of the Intermountain region, you had to know about the Mormon exodus to Utah Territory, and that the film was one of the few audiovisual materials available at that time to teach students about the trek.

  102. Jedermorman

    Let us ask another question.. Is the LDS Church Temple worthy? Question 9 of the temple interview asks, “Are you honest in your dealings with your fellowmen?”. Based on recent events, I suggest the clear answer is NO.

    Randy Bott was most surprised man on earth when the LDS Church denounced him and disclaimed doctrine as a justification of the racial priesthood ban.

    Think about it… Bott is a long time religion professor at BYU teaching missionary preparation and D&C classes. He is author of many LDS books and articles and a favorite professor reported to have taught over 10% of the BYU student body in 2008. Thoughtful truthful people must admit that a religion professor at BYU would have ample opportunities to get such an important point of doctrine cleared up during his long tenure. And we all know what happens when BYU professors get doctrine wrong 🙂 Did I mention he teaches DOCTRINE & covenants classes?

    The blog buzz is not about Bott, its about the apparent shift in LDS policy or doctrine (whatever you want to call it). Heck! That’s proof right there of huge misinformation on the part of the LDS church, if not full on misrepresentation. This certainly gives members lots of leeway during their next temple interview.

    In the early 70’s, I expressed my disbelief in “the priesthood ban” in my missionary interview. I was told I needed to trust the brethren and not myself.
    Now, I have to live with the shame of trusting the wrong people. It still hurts!

  103. Julie

    My parents told me never to date a black guy, so when a black guy asked me out in high school, I said no. I’m sure I made him feel bad, which I regret. I still remember his name. So Orren, I’m sorry. I’m sorry I believed the racist teachings of my parents and my church. You were a good friend.

    • Dr. Cole

      Long before I was a member of the the church, I met a black girl in college that I thought was way cute and fun to hang out with. I wanted to ask her out on a date, but I never did. I didn’t purely because I didn’t know what my parents or grandparents would think. I grew up in a typical small town in America where there wasn’t much of any racial diversity and if there was, everyone spent so much time in the sun working hard on the farms, that you couldn’t really tell. Now that I have an adopted son, several adopted nieces and a nephew all of many different races, I know how my parents and grandparents would have been accepting of my friend from college. I wish that we would have talked more about race when I was growing up. There were certain things that were just “taboo” to talk about when I was growing up. Many in my home town are/were/will be fantastic people, we were just quiet when the topic came to certain things because they hated the feeling of ideas being shoved down their throats. I think a lot of societies are the same way. A vast number of people are genuinely polite, caring, loving, and accepting people…it doesn’t matter what society or religion they are a part of…they want to see others succeed. Unfortunately sometimes we as people don’t stand up for ourselves because we don’t want to step on someone else’s toes.

  104. CDU8

    Polygamy was being practiced by church leaders from 1842. It was openly sanctioned in 1852. The ban on black men of African descent receiving the priesthood was put into practice in 1849. Could there be a connection, after all the two doctrines came into church practice pretty much at the same time? Perhaps the church leaders at that time realized it wouldn’t have been acceptable for black men to have a harem of women in a whitecentric religion? Could that have been what “being ready” to have black men receive the priesthood was really about? Some context: What color are we in the premortal existence again? When I chose one of my parents to be white and the dark brown, was I trying to even the odds?

  105. CDU8

    According to the website Jane Manning James was an African American woman who joined the Church in 1843. After living with Joseph and Emma Smith’s home, Emma extended an offer to her to be sealed to Joseph and Emma as an adopted daughter. At that time Jane declined but later changed her mind. Partitioning the First Presidency several times to be sealed as a daughter to the Smiths as Emma had desired, Jane was eventually sealed to Joseph Smith, not as a daughter but as a servant. In 1894 the First Presidency sealed Jane by proxy to Joseph Smith as “…a Servitor for eternity to the prophet Joseph Smith and in this capacity be connected with his family and obedient to him in all things in the Lord as a faithful Servitor.” (Salt Lake Temple Adoption Record, May 18, 1894, Book A, p. 26).

    This unusual ordinance was conducted during the time of the ban on men of African American descent from holding the priesthood. There is also more Jane, her life and petitions, and sealing to Joseph Smith on

  106. Steve In Millcreek (SIM)

    Mormon history is a subset of American history, especially up through Pres McKay. Understanding the poor treatment of black people is best understood in that larger context. (Extend that further: American history is a part of World history.) Brigham Young and others were products of their time.

    • Mike R

      Yes, it goes without saying that any organization is a product of its time, but as it is today, a period of time does not mean there were only one viewpoint. There were radical abolitionists in the U.S. fighting for the rights of African Americans at the same time Mormons were restricting the meaning of membership for Black LDS members. Which side of history are you more comfortable having your tradition be on? Those on the cutting edge of progressive thought, or those kicking and screaming against humane changes in society? The legacy of the latter way of thinking has meant that even now there are too many White Mormons who harbor ideas about Black priesthood denial that continues to be hurtful to African American LDS members. How will those in the future look back and judge this “time” in the history of your church…that is up to your actions now.

  107. Some great comments here and it’s really enlightened me. Just want to say a few things.

    1. Women are still banned from the priesthood. Does anyone care? I grew up being taught by my seminary teacher that men have the priesthood and women have motherhood…does this still remain the same?

    2. Christopher Hitchens really opened up my eyes. In an interview before his death he described the church as racist and until I had heard him say that, I had never thought it. But it’s true. We have a racist past. I don’t mind saying that now to members or non-members. I was one of those who believed for many years that the church could do no wrong. That our doctrines are always right. Now I simply believe that I am part of the most-correct church.

    3. I remember on my mission discussing this ban with my companion. She was American. I said: “perhaps it was denied to black people because whites weren’t ready.” She didn’t like that and promptly told me it was because they weren’t ready for it. Such an explanation has never been true to me. Black people are not children.

    4. My other question is, how did the church go about implementing this ban? Did they simply look at black men and say no to them? I know in the US, some black people follow the ‘one drop’ theory when it comes to race meaning that even if they only have one drop of black blood in them, they consider themselves black. So if you were light skinned, but called yourself black, did you not have the privilege of holding the priesthood? I’d be interested to know what the church’s definition of race is and where the church stood on mixed-race people.

    5. Did anyone growing up during the ban, of any race, speak out against it? Did people leave the church because of the racism? I wonder what I would have done…

    I’m so glad that we’re openly acknowledging that the church leaders are flawed and in some cases it’s egregious and detrimental to the church and it’s followers. This blog has been cathartic. Thank you for having the guts to take this on.

  108. The idea that an organization that would not have admitted me to full membership for the first two decades of my life could be other than racist astonishes me. Frankly, that the Mormon church has not apologized for this is appalling, and clearly racist.

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