Blacks and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Blacks and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

From the end of the nineteenth century until 1978, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints did not allow black men of African descent to be ordained to the priesthood or allow black men or women of African descent to participate in temple ordinances such as the Endowment and sealing that the church teaches are necessary for the highest degree of salvation. In the early church, at least two black people were ordained during Joseph Smith's lifetime, but they were not permitted by later presidents of the church to participate in temple ordinances.

Official regulations regarding blacks and the priesthood in the church date to Brigham Young, who succeeded Smith as president of the church. Nevertheless, blacks could be baptized, and many black people joined the LDS Church prior to 1978. Church leaders taught that the priesthood ban did not justify other forms of discrimination against blacks. ["Some members of the Church would justify their own un-Christian discrimination against blacks because of that rule with respect to the priesthood, but while this restriction has been imposed by the Lord, it is not for us to add burdens upon the shoulders of our black brethren.": Spencer W. Kimball, "Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball", p.237, emphasis in original.] In 1978, church leaders ceased the racial restriction policy after declaring that they had received a revelation instructing them to do so. The church officially opposes racial discrimination and racism. [Gordon B. Hinckley, [,5232,23-1-602-20,00.html "The Need for Greater Kindness"] , 2006-04-01.]

In 1997, there were approximately 500,000 black members of the church (about 5% of the total membership), mostly in Africa, Brazil and the Caribbean. [ [] quoting "Deseret News 1999-2000 Church Almanac". Deseret News: Salt Lake City, UT (1998); pg. 119. "A rough estimate would place the number of Church members with African roots at year-end 1997 at half a million, with about 100,000 each in Africa and the Caribbean, and another 300,000 in Brazil." ] Since then, the black membership has grown substantially, especially in West Africa, where two temples have been built. [ The Church Continues to Grow in Africa] ]

Blacks and the church before 1847

In the beginning, the church had little need of a policy toward blacks because it membership was concentrated in northern states in the United States; however, missionary work in the slave state of Missouri soon brought the issue to the front line. The mission to Missouri opened in 1831 with William W. Phelps as president. The citizens of Missouri suspected that the mere presence of non-slave blacks would incite rebellion, and so the Missouri State Legislature enacted laws regarding colored immigration to the state. To help members understand the laws, Phelps published an article in a church newspaper instructing black Latter Day Saints who might wish to immigrate to Missouri. [ [ "Free People of Color"] , "Evening and Morning Star", vol. 2, no. 14, pp. 218–219 (July 1833).]

None of Joseph Smith's statements ever mentioned blacks in the context of a right to hold or not to hold the priesthood of the church. [ [ Bush & Mauss 1984: 54-65] ] However, LDS scripture teaches that the gospel shall be taught to "all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people."(lds|D&C|dc|42|58) The elders of the church were commanded that "every man which will embrace it with singleness of heart may be ordained and sent forth."(lds|D&C|dc|36|7) There was no exclusion in LDS scripture based on race. There was also a prophecy that the 144,000 spoken of in the Book of Revelation that would be sealed were high priests "ordained out of every nation, kindred, tongue, and people."(lds|D&C|dc|77|11) The Pearl of Great Price taught that Abraham's seed was to bear the "Priesthood unto all nations."(lds|Abraham|abr|2|9)

Elijah Abel

Although Joseph Smith never made any comments about blacks and the priesthood, he was aware of the ordination of at least one black man to the office of elder. Elijah Abel was ordained on March 3, 1836 by Zebedee Coltrin. [Minutes of the Seventies Journal, Hazen Aldrich, entry for 20 December 1836. LDS Church Archives as cited by Alma Allred in, "The Traditions of Their Fathers, Myth versus Reality in LDS Scriptural Writings" in Newell G. Bringhurst and Darron T. Smith (eds.) (2006). Black and Mormon (Urbana: University of Illinois Press).] Six months later, he was ordained to the office of seventy and was called to serve in the Third Quorum of the Seventy. Abel served his first mission for the church to New York and Upper Canada. In 1836, he moved from Kirtland to Nauvoo, Illinois, where he participated in the temple ordinance of baptism for the dead. In 1843, a traveling high council visited Cincinnati, where Abel lived, but refused to recognize Abel for the sake of public appearance and called him to his second mission to the "colored population" of Cincinnati. [ [ Bush & Mauss 1984: 130] ]

Abel rejoined the Latter-day Saints in Utah Territory in 1853. By then, Brigham Young had formalized church's policies against blacks. Abel petitioned Young for his and his wife's temple endowment and sealing, but he was denied; however, no attempt was made to remove his priesthood or drop him from the Third Quorum of the Seventy. He remained active in the Quorum until his death. John Taylor, Young's successor to the church presidency, also denied Abel's petitions, but called him to serve his third mission to Ohio and Canada.

Green Flake

Born in 1829 Green Flake, the slave of James Madison Flake, a convert to the LDS Church, is baptized at the age of 16 on April 7, 1844 by John Brown. He accompanied the Flake family to Nauvoo, Illinois. Green remains a slave but is a faithful member of the church throughout his life. From family diaries and the memory of a grandson, it is believed that was Green who drove the carriage and team that brought President Brigham Young into the Salt Lake Valley.

Brigham Young freed Flake in 1854. Flake died a faithful member of The Church. [ [] ]

Walker Lewis

Walker Lewis was another free black man who held the Mormon priesthood prior to the death of Joseph Smith. A prominent radical abolitionist, Episcopalian, and Most Worshipful Grand Master of Freemasonry from Lowell and Boston, Massachusetts, Lewis became a Latter Day Saint about 1842. In the summer of 1843, he was ordained an elder in the Melchizedek priesthood. His son, Enoch Lovejoy Lewis, also joined the Latter Day Saints about the same time, and Quaker poet John Greenleaf Whittier heard young Enoch preaching in Lowell just after the death of Joseph Smith in July or August 1844. Enoch led Young to instigate the ban against black men holding Mormon priesthood when Enoch L. Lewis married a white Mormon woman, Mary Matilda Webster, in Cambridge, Massachusetts on September 18, 1846. On December 3, 1847, Young told the Quorom of the Twelve at Winter Quarters that "if they [Enoch and Matilda] were far away from the Gentiles they wod. [would] all be killed - when they mingle seed it is death to all." (Quorum of the Twelve Minutes, December 3, 1847, pp. 6-7, LDS Archives.)

Racial restriction policy under Brigham Young

Young's adoption of the ban

The first statement by Young about a priesthood ban in the LDS Church was made on February 13, 1849. The statement — which refers to the Curse of Cain as the reason for the policy — was given in response to the question, "What chance is there for the redemption of the Negro?" Young responded, "The Lord had cursed Cain's seed with blackness and prohibited them the Priesthood." [ Bush & Mauss 1984: 70] ]

Young never cited Joseph Smith for the source of pronouncements but stated them in his own authority as a prophet. In 1852, while addressing the Utah Territorial Legislature, Young stated, "Any man having one drop of the seed of [Cain] ... in him cannot hold the Priesthood and if no other Prophet ever spoke it before I will say it now in the name of Jesus Christ I know it is true and others know it." [ Bush & Mauss 1984: 70] ]

William McCary incident

Some researchers have suggested that the actions of William McCary in Winter Quarters, Nebraska led to Brigham Young's decision to adopt the priesthood ban in the LDS Church. McCary was a half-African American convert who, after his baptism and ordination to the priesthood, began to claim to be a prophet and the possessor of other supernatural gifts.Larry G. Murphy, J. Gordon Melton, and Gary L. Ward (1993). "Encyclopedia of African American Religions" (New York: Garland Publishing) pp. 471–472.] He was excommunicated for apostasy in March 1847 and expelled from Winter Quarters.Newell G. Bringhurst (1981). "Saints, Slaves, and Blacks: The Changing Place of Black People within Mormonism" (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press).] After his excommunication, McCary began attracting Latter Day Saint followers and instituted plural marriage among his group, and he had himself sealed to several white wives.Larry G. Murphy, J. Gordon Melton, and Gary L. Ward (1993). "Encyclopedia of African American Religions" (New York: Garland Publishing) pp. 471–472.] Newell G. Bringhurst (1981). "Saints, Slaves, and Blacks: The Changing Place of Black People within Mormonism" (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press).]

McCary’s behavior angered many of the Latter Day Saints in Winter Quarters. Researchers have stated that his marriages to his white wives “played an important role in pushing the Mormon leadership into an anti-Black position”Larry G. Murphy, J. Gordon Melton, and Gary L. Ward (1993). "Encyclopedia of African American Religions" (New York: Garland Publishing) pp. 471–472.] and may have prompted Young to institute the priesthood and temple ban on black people. [Connell O’Donovan, [ "The Mormon Priesthood Ban & Elder Q. Walker Lewis: 'An example for his more whiter brethren to follow'] , "John Whitmer Historical Association Journal", 2006.] A statement from Young to McCary in March 1847 suggested that race had nothing to do with priesthood eligibility ["Its nothing to do with the blood for [from] one blood has God made all flesh, we have to repent [to] regain what we av lost — we av one of the best Elders an African in Lowell [referring to Walker Lewis ] .”: Brigham Young Papers, March 26, 1847, LDS Church Archives, Salt Lake City, Utah.] and the earliest known statement about the priesthood restriction from any Mormon leader (including the implication that skin color might be relevant) was made by Apostle Parley P. Pratt a month after McCary was expelled from Winter Quarters. Speaking of McCary, Pratt stated that he “was a black man with the blood of Ham in him which linege was cursed as regards the priesthood". [General Minutes, April 25, 1847, LDS Church Archives, Salt Lake City, Utah.]

Young's personal views of Africans

When asked “if the spirits of Negroes were neutral in Heaven,” Young responded, “No, they were not, there were no neutral [spirits] in Heaven at the time of the rebellion, all took sides …. All spirits are pure that came from the presence of God.” [Journal History, 25 December 1869, citing Wilford Woodruff’s journal. See also] Prior to learning about Enoch Lewis's marriage to a woman of European descent (December 1847) and subsequently enacting a ban on Negroes in the priesthood, he considered Walker Lewis "one of the best Elders." [Brigham Young Papers, March 26, 1847, LDS Church Archives, Salt Lake City, Utah]

On another occasion, Young said, “You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild, and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind …. Cain slew his brother. Cain might have been killed, and that would have put a termination to that line of human beings. This was not to be, and the Lord put a mark upon him, which is the flat nose and black skin. Trace mankind down to after the flood, and then another curse is pronounced upon the same race—that they should be the ‘servant of servants’; and they will be, until that curse is removed; and the Abolitionists cannot help it, nor in the least alter that decree.” ["Journal of Discourses", 7:290.]


lavery in Mormon scripture

LDS scripture has various views on slavery. The Old Testament has stories of slavery, and gives rules and regulations on how to treat slaves. The New Testament tells slaves not to revolt against their masters. It was a commonly held belief in the South that the Bible permitted slavery. However, the Doctrine and Covenants condemns slavery, teaching “it is not right that any man should be in bondage one to another.” (lds|D&C|dc|101|80) The Book of Mormon heralds righteous kings who did not allow slavery, (lds|Mosiah|mosiah|29|40) and righteous men who fought against slavery (lds|Alma|alma|48|11). The Book of Mormon also describes an ideal society that lived around AD 34-200, in which it teaches the people “had all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift” (lds|4 Nephi|4_ne|4|3). The Pearl of Great Price describes a similar society, in which “they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them” (lds|Moses|moses|7|18). Mormons believed they too, were commanded by the Lord to ”be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine” (lds|D&C|dc|38|27). For a short time, Mormons lived in a society with no divisions under the United Order.

tatements from church leaders

Joseph Smith issued a number of statements stating the church's position regarding slavery and the abolitionist movement. Concerning American slavery, Smith said "it makes my blood boil within me to reflect upon the injustice, cruelty, and oppression of the rulers of the people," [Joseph Smith (B. H. Roberts ed.), "History of the Church" [ 4:544] ] but preached the importance of upholding the law of the land,lds|Articles of Faith|a_of_f|1|12] which included the institution of slavery. Instead, he proposed a gradual end to slavery by the year 1850 by buying slaves from their slave holders. He argued that blacks should then be given equal employment opportunities as whites.Joseph Smith [ Views of U.S. Government] February 7, 1844] He believed that given equal chances as whites, blacks would be like whites. [ [ "History of the Church", 5:217–218] ] In his personal journal, he wrote that the slaves owned by Mormons should be brought "into a free country and set ... free—Educate them and give them equal rights." [Compilation on the Negro in Mormonism, p.40] Later in his life, living in Illinois and running for the presidency of the United States, Smith wrote a political platform containing a plan to abolish slavery.

During a sermon criticizing the federal government, Young said, "If the Government of the United States, in Congress assembled, had the right to pass an anti-polygamy bill, they had also the right to pass a law that slaves should not be abused as they have been; they had also a right to make a law that negroes should be used like human beings, and not worse than dumb brutes. For their abuse of that race, the whites will be cursed, unless they repent.""Journal of Discourses" 10:104–111.]

In 1851, Apostle Orson Hyde summarized the position of the church:

blockquote|We feel it to be our duty to define our position in relation to the subject of slavery. There are several in the Valley of the Salt Lake from the Southern States, who have their slaves with them. There is no law in Utah to authorize slavery, neither any to prohibit it. If the slave is disposed to leave his master, no power exists there, either legal or moral, that will prevent him. But if the slave chooses to remain with his master, none are allowed to interfere between the master and the slave. All the slaves that are there appear to be perfectly contented and satisfied.

When a man in the Southern states embraces our faith, the Church says to him, if your slaves wish to remain with you, and to go with you, put them not away; but if they choose to leave you, or are not satisfied to remain with you, it is for you to sell them, or let them go free, as your own conscience may direct you. The Church, on this point, assumes not the responsibility to direct. The laws of the land recognize slavery, we do not wish to oppose the laws of the country. If there is sin in selling a slave, let the individual who sells him bear that sin, and not the Church. ["Millennial Star", February 15, 1851. Quoted in [] ]

Utah sanctions slavery while Young is governor

The Great Compromise of 1850, allowed California into the Union as a free state while permitting Utah and New Mexico territories the option of deciding the issue by "popular sovereignty". In 1852, while Brigham Young was governor, the Utah Territorial Legislature officially sanctioned slavery in Utah Territory. Many historians state that the Utah Territory was a theocracy in 1852 (when territory leaders sanctioned slavery) because the territory was led by church prophet and president Brigham Young, and because territory policies were determined by church leaders. [cite book| page=241
title=America's Religions: From Their Origins to the Twenty-first Century
Peter W.|last=Williams
publisher=University of Illinois Press
] [cite book|page=137
title=History of Salt Lake City
first=Edward William|last=Tullidge|authorlink=Edward Tullidge
publisher=Star printing company
] [cite book|page=437
title=Unto a Good Land: A History of the American People By David Edwin Harrell
first=David Edwin|last=Harrell
publisher=Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing
] [cite book
title=Columbus and Columbia
publisher=Historical Publishing company
] [cite book
title=Shapers of the Great Debate on the Civil War: A Biographical Dictionary
last=Monroe|first= Dan
publisher=Greenwood Press
] The Utah slavery law stipulated that slaves would be freed if their masters had sex with them; attempted to take them from the territory against their will; or neglected to feed, clothe, or provide shelter to them. In addition, the law stipulated that slaves must receive schooling. [ [ Bush & Mauss 1984: 69] ]

In 1860, the census showed that 29 of the 59 blacks in Utah Territory were slaves. When the American Civil War broke out in 1861, Utah sided with the Union, and slavery ended in 1862 when the United States Congress abolished slavery in the Utah Territory.

Racial restriction policy

Under the racial restrictions that lasted from the presidency of Brigham Young until 1978, persons with any black African ancestry could not hold the priesthood in the LDS Church and could not participate in some temple ordinances, such as the Endowment and celestial marriage. Blacks were permitted to be members of the church, and participate in other temple ordinances, such as baptism for the dead. In her autobiography, Jane Elizabeth Manning James says she "had the privilege of going into the temple and being baptized for some of my dead." [ [ Life History of Jane Elizabeth Manning James] as transcribed by Elizabeth J.D. Round]

Priesthood denied

The priesthood restriction was particularly limiting, because the LDS Church has a lay priesthood and all worthy male members may receive the priesthood. Young men are generally admitted to the Aaronic priesthood at age 12, and it is a significant rite of passage. Adult males can receive the Melchizedek priesthood at the age of 18. Holders of the priesthood officiate at church meetings, perform blessings of healing, and manage church affairs. Excluding blacks from the priesthood meant that blacks could not hold significant church leadership roles or participate in certain spiritual events.

Don Harwell, a black LDS Church member, said, "I remember being in a Sacrament meeting, pre-1978, and the sacrament was being passed and there was special care taken by this person that not only did I not officiate, but I didn't touch the sacrament tray. They made sure that I could take the sacrament, but that I did not touch the tray and it was passed around me. That was awfully hard, considering that often those who were officiating were young men in their early teens, and they had that priesthood. I valued that priesthood, but it wasn't available." [ [ Rosemary Winters, "Black Mormons Struggle for Acceptance in the Church", "Salt Lake Tribune", November 4, 2004] ]

Temple marriages denied

Most blacks were not permitted to participate in ordinances performed in the LDS Church temples, such as the endowment ritual and temple marriages and family sealings. Denying them the opportunity to participate in these ordinances meant that they could not enjoy the full privileges enjoyed by other Latter-day Saints.

Mormons believe that marriages that are sealed in a celestial marriage would bind the family together forever, whereas those that are not sealed were terminated upon death. President David McKay taught that the blacks need not worry and blacks "who receive the testimony of the Restored Gospel may have their family ties protected and other blessings made secure, for in the justice of the Lord they will possess all the blessings to which they are entitled in the eternal plan of Salvation and Exaltation." [Mormonism and the Negro, pp. 23]

Once blacks were allowed to have a celestial marriage, their ancestors would also be allowed to have a temple marriage. Brigham Young taught that "When the ordinances are carried out in the temples that will be erected, [children] will be sealed to their [parents] , and those who have slept, clear up to Father Adam. This will have to be done...until we shall form a perfect chain from Father Adam down to the closing up scene." [ [ Chapter 41: Temple Ordinances] , Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 299]

Entrance to the highest heaven

A celestial marriage was not required to get into the celestial kingdom, but was required to obtain a fullness of glory within the celestial kingdom. [Church leader Bruce McConkie wrote "Baptism is the gate to the celestial kingdom; celestial marriage is the gate to an exaltation in the highest heaven within the celestial world."(Mormon Doctrine, 1966, p 118)] The Doctrine and Covenants reads "In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees; And in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage] ; And if he does not, he cannot obtain it."(lds|D&C|dc|131|1-3) The righteous who do not have a celestial marriage would still make it into heaven, and live eternally with God, but they would be "appointed angels in heaven, which angels are ministering servants."(lds|D&C|dc|132|16)

Some interpreted this to mean blacks would be treated as unmarried whites, being confined to only ever live in God's presence as a ministering servant. In 1954, Apostle Mark E. Petersen told BYU students: "If that Negro is faithful all his days, he can and will enter the celestial kingdom. He will go there as a servant, but he will get a celestial resurrection." [Address at Convention of Teachers of Religion, BYU, Utah, August 27, 1954.] An unknown speaker at General Conference similarly taught: " [t] he Negro is an unfortunate man. He has been given a black skin. But that is as nothing compared with that greater handicap that he is not permitted to receive the Priesthood and the ordinances of the temple, necessary to prepare men and women to enter into and enjoy a fullness of glory in the celestial kingdom." [Speaker?, "Conference Report", April 1939, p. 58.]

Several leaders, including Joseph Smith, [In regards to blacks, Joseph Smith taught that "They have souls, and are subjects of salvation." " [ Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith] ", selected by Joseph Fielding Smith, (Salt Lake City: "Deseret Book Company", 1976), 269. ISBN 087579243X] Brigham Young, [Brigham Young said "when all the rest of the children have received their blessings in the Holy Priesthood, then that curse will be removed from the seed of Cain, and they will then come up and possess the Priesthood, and receive all the blessings which we are now entitled to." quoted by the First Presidency, August 17, 1949.] Wilford Woodruff, [Wilford Woodruff said "The day will come when all that race will be redeemed and possess all the blessings which we now have" quoted by the [ First Presidency on August 17, 1949] .] George Albert Smith, [George Albert Smith reiterated what was said by both Brigham Young and Wilford Woodruff in a statement by the [ First Presidency on August 17, 1949] ] David O. McKay, [David McKay taught "Sometime in God’s eternal plan, the Negro will be given the right to hold the Priesthood. In the meantime, those of that race who receive the testimony of the Restored Gospel may have their family ties protected and other blessings made secure, for in the justice of the Lord they will possess all the blessings to which they are entitled in the eternal plan of Salvation and Exaltation."(Mormonism and the Negro, pp. 23)] Joseph Fielding Smith, [In reference to blacks, Apostle Joseph Fielding Smith taught: "Every soul coming into this world came here with the promise that through obedience he would receive the blessings of salvation. No person was foreordained or appointed to sin or to perform a mission of evil. No person is ever predestined to salvation or damnation. Every person has free agency." (Joseph Fielding Smith Jr., "Doctrines of Salvation", Vol.1, p. 61)] Harold B. Lee, [In 1972, Harold B. Lee said "It's only a matter of time before the black achieves full status in the Church. We must believe in the justice of God. The black will achieve full status, we're just waiting for that time."(Kimball, Lengthen Your Stride, working draft chapter 20, page 22; citing Goates, Harold B. Lee, 506, quoting UPI interview published November 16, 1972.)] and Spencer W. Kimball, [lds|Official Declaration|od|2] taught that blacks would eventually be able to receive a fullness of glory in the celestial kingdom.

When the priesthood ban was discussed in 1978, Elder Bruce McConkie argued for its change using the Mormon scripture and the Articles of Faith. The Third Article states that "all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel."(lds|Articles of Faith|a_of_f|1|3) From the Book of Mormon he quoted "And even unto the great and last day, when all people, and all kindreds, and all nations and tongues shall stand before God, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil— If they be good, to the resurrection of everlasting life; and if they be evil, to the resurrection of damnation.(lds|3 Nephi|3_ne|26|4-5) The Book of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price states that Abraham's seed "shall all the families of the earth be blessed, even with the blessings of the Gospel, which are the blessings of salvation, even of life eternal."(lds|Abraham|abr|2|11) According to his son, Joseph F. McConkie, these scriptures played a great part in changing the policy. [ [ Hallelujah! The 25th Anniversary of the Revelation of Priesthood] ]

Policy applied to Africans and mullatos but not Polynesians

The racial restriction policy was applied to black Africans, persons of black African descent, and any one with mixed race that included any black African ancestry. The policy was not applied to Native Americans, Hispanics, or Polynesians.

tatements on duration of policy

Brigham Young said in 1854: "When all the other children of Adam have had the privilege of receiving the Priesthood, and of coming into the kingdom of God, and of being redeemed from the four quarters of the earth, and have received their resurrection from the dead, then it will be time enough to remove the curse from Cain and his posterity. He deprived his brother of the privilege of pursuing his journey through life, and of extending his kingdom by multiplying upon the earth; and because he did this, he is the last to share the joys of the kingdom of God". [Journal of Discourses, vol. 2, p. 143] And in 1859 he said "How long is that race to endure the dreadful curse that is upon them? That curse will remain upon them, and they never can hold the Priesthood or share in it until all the other descendants of Adam have received the promises and enjoyed the blessings of the Priesthood and the keys thereof. Until the last ones of the residue of Adam's children are brought up to that favourable position, the children of Cain cannot receive the first ordinances of the Priesthood. They were the first that were cursed, and they will be the last from whom the curse will be removed". [Journal of Discourses, vol. 7, pp. 290-291] He also prophesied: "Children are now born who will live until every son of Adam will have the privilege of receiving the principles of eternal life." [Young, Brigham. Journal of Discourses: sourcetext|source=Journal of Discourses/Volume 8|book=Character of God and Christ, etc. pg. 116] At another time, he stated "That the time will come when they will have the privilege of all we have the privilege of and more." [ Brigham Young, Speech given in Joint Session of the Utah Legislature, February 5, 1952, in Fred Collier, The Teachings of President Brigham Young. Salt Lake City, Collier's Publishing, 1987, 43]

Joseph Fielding Smith wrote in 1935 "Not only was Cain called upon to suffer, but because of his wickedness he became the father of an inferior race. A curse was placed upon him and that curse has been continued through his lineage and must do so while time endures". In his book he made clear that the contents were his opinion. [Way to Perfection, 1935, p. 101] In 1963, while discussing when the ban would be lifted, he told a reporter that "Such a change can come about only through divine revelation, and no one can predict when a divine revelation will occur." [Look (American magazine), Oct. 22, 1963, p.79] LDS author John Lewis Lund wrote in 1967 "Brigham Young revealed that the negro will not receive the Priesthood until a great while after the second coming of Jesus Christ, whose coming will usher in a millennium of peace". [The Church and the Negro: A Discussion of Mormons, Negroes, and the Priesthood, 1967, p. 45]

When the policy was reversed in 1978, church president Kimball referred to it as "the long-promised day". Critics say that lifting the restriction before the resurrection is contrary to Young's 1854 and 1859 statements, [ [ Jerald and Sandra Tanner - "Curse of Cain"] ] while church apologists say that Brigham Young's statements meant that Africans could receive the priesthood after all other "races" were eligible to receive it, not all other individuals.

Reasons given for ban

"Curse of Cain"

Some members of the church used the curse of Cain to justify the racial restriction policy. In the book of Genesis, [lds|Genesis|gen|4|9|15] God puts a mark on Cain after he kills his brother Abel. Church leader Bruce R. McConkie wrote in his 1966 edition of "Mormon Doctrine":

Of the two-thirds who followed Christ, however, some were more valiant than others ....Those who were less valiant in pre-existence and who thereby had certain spiritual restrictions imposed upon them during mortality are known to us as the negroes. Such spirits are sent to earth through the lineage of Cain, the mark put upon him for his rebellion against God and his murder of Abel being a black skin (Moses 5:16-41; 12:22). Noah's son Ham married Egyptus, a descendant of Cain, thus preserving the negro lineage through the flood (Abraham 1:20-27). Negroes in this life are denied the priesthood; under no circumstances can they hold this delegation of authority from the Almighty. (Abra. 1:20-27.) The gospel message of salvation is not carried affirmatively to them (Moses 7:8, 12, 22), although sometimes negroes search out the truth, join the Church, and become by righteous living heirs of the celestial kingdom of heaven. President Brigham Young and others have taught that in the future eternity worthy and qualified negroes will receive the priesthood and every gospel blessing available to any man.The present status of the negro rests purely and simply on the foundation of pre-existence. Along with all races and peoples he is receiving here what he merits as a result of the long pre-mortal probation in the presence of the Lord....The negroes are not equal with other races where the receipt of certain spiritual blessings are concerned, particularly the priesthood and the temple blessings that flow therefrom, but this inequality is not of man's origin. It is the Lord's doing. [cite book
title=Mormon Doctrine

Pearl of Great Price used to justify racial restrictions

The Church leadership began using the newly canonized Pearl of Great Price has the following verse:

Pharaoh, being a righteous man, established his kingdom and judged his people wisely and justly all his days, seeking earnestly to imitate that order 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 blessing of the earth, and with the blessing of wisdom, "but cursed him as pertaining the priesthood". Now, Pharaoh being of that lineage by which he could not have the right of the priesthood, notwithstanding the Pharaohs would fain claim it from Noah, through Ham, therefore my father was led away by their idolatry. (sourcetext|source=Pearl of Great Price|version=|book=Abraham|chapter=1|verse=26|range=-27, emphasis added)

Black spirits were less valiant in pre-existence

One of the justifications that some Latter-day Saints used for the discriminatory policy was that black individual's pre-existence spirits were not as virtuous as white pre-existence spirits. For example, Apostle Joseph Fielding Smith wrote: "According to the doctrine of the church, the negro because of some condition of unfaithfulness in the spirit — or pre-existence, was not valiant and hence was not denied the mortal probation, but was denied the blessing of the priesthood." [Letter to J. Henderson, April 10, 1963). cite web
title=Letter from Joseph Fielding Smith to J. Henderson

Smith also reasoned that during the war in Heaven, some spirits would logically have been less valiant in following the Savior than others, therefore the priesthood was restricted from the least valiant. [Smith, Joseph Fielding, Way to Perfection, 1950, p.46] However, Smith made clear that the book was his own personal opinion. Of the doctrine of the church, Smith said "The Mormon Church does not believe, nor does it teach, that the Negro is an inferior being. Mentally, and physically, the Negro is capable of great achievement, as great and in some cases greater than the potentiality of the white race. He can become a lawyer, a doctor, a scientist, and he can achieve great heights." [(Deseret News, Church Section, June 14, 1962)]

Blacks represented Satan

In 1881, church president John Taylor said "And after the flood we are told that the curse that had been pronounced upon Cain was continued through Ham's wife, as he had married a wife of that seed. And why did it pass through the flood? Because it was necessary that the devil should have a representation upon the earth as well as God; and that man should be a free agent to act for himself, and that all men might have the opportunity of receiving or rejecting the truth, and be governed by it or not according to their wishes and abide the result; and that those who would be able to maintain correct principles under all circumstances, might be able to associate with the Gods in the eternal worlds." (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 22 page 304).

Black journalist and church member Darius Aidan Gray, in 2007, commented "I think the most damning statement came from one of the presidents of the church, the third president of the church, John Taylor. Basically, he said that the reason that blacks had been allowed to come through the flood, the flood of Noah, was so that Satan would have representation upon the earth, that black folks were here to represent Satan and to have a balance against white folks, who were here to represent Jesus Christ, the savior. How do you damn a people more than to say that their existence upon the earth is to represent Satan?" [ [ PBS Frontline TV show transcript] ] [ [ PBS Frontline TV show video] ]

LDS scholar W. John Walsh disagrees. He reads the quote as saying the devil must have a representation so that all men, including blacks, may have ability to choose to receive or reject the truth, not that blacks were that representation. [Walsh, W. John [ Blacks Are Not Satan's Representatives] ]

Reasons not known

David O. McKay said: "From the beginning of this dispensation, Joseph Smith and all succeeding presidents of the church have taught that negroes, while spirit children of a common Father, and the progeny of our earthly parents Adam and Eve, were not yet to receive the priesthood, for reasons which we believe are known to God, but which He has not made fully known to man." [Bringhurst 1981: 223]

An error

Although not refuting his belief that the policy came from the Lord, Apostle Spencer W. Kimball acknowledged in 1963 that it could have been brought about through an error on man's part. In 1963, he said, "The doctrine or policy has not varied in my memory. I know it could. I know the Lord could change his policy and release the ban and forgive the possible error which brought about the deprivation." [cite book
title=The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball
first=Edward L.

Origin of racial policy shifted from Young to Smith

Under John Taylor's presidency, there was confusion regarding the origin of the racial policy. Abel was living, breathing proof that an African American was ordained to the Priesthood in the days of Joseph Smith. His son, Enoch Abel, had also been conferred the Priesthood. [ [ Elijah Abel | ] ] Joseph F. Smith began telling the story that way, reporting that Abel's Priesthood had been declared null and void by the Joseph Smith himself, though this seems to conflict with Joseph F. Smith's teachings that the Priesthood could not be removed from any man without removing that man from the church. [ Bush & Mauss 1984: 76-86] ] From this point on Joseph Smith was easily and repeatedly referred to as the author of many statements, which had actually been made by Brigham Young, on the subject of Priesthood restriction. [ Bush & Mauss 1984: 76-86] ]

Exceptions to racial restriction policy

Several black men received the priesthood after the racial restriction policy was put in place, including Elijah Abel's son Enoch Abel, who was ordained an elder on 1900-11-10. Enoch's son and Elijah Abel's grandson — who was also named Elijah Abel — received the Aaronic priesthood and was ordained to the office of priest on 1934-07-05. The younger Elijah Abel also received the Melchizedek priesthood and was ordained to the office of elder on 1935-09-29.Newell G. Bringhurst, "The 'Missouri Thesis' Revisisted: Early Mormonism, Slavery, and the Status of Black People" in Newell G. Bringhurst and Darron T. Smith (eds.) (2006). "Black and Mormon" (Urbana: University of Illinois Press) pp. 13–33 at p. 30.] One commentator has pointed out that these incidents illustrate the "ambiguities, contradictions, and paradoxes" of the issue during the twentieth century.Newell G. Bringhurst, "The 'Missouri Thesis' Revisisted: Early Mormonism, Slavery, and the Status of Black People" in Newell G. Bringhurst and Darron T. Smith (eds.) (2006). "Black and Mormon" (Urbana: University of Illinois Press) pp. 13–33 at p. 30.]

The "Negro Question" Declaration of 1949

In 1949, the First Presidency under the direction of George Albert Smith made a declaration which included the statement that the priesthood restriction was divinely commanded and not a matter of church policy. [ cite book
title=Mormon America
first=Richard and Joan|last=Ostling
] It stated:

The attitude of the Church with reference to the Negroes remains as it has always stood. It is not a matter of the declaration of a policy but of direct commandment from the Lord, on which is founded the doctrine of the Church from the days of its organization, to the effect that Negroes may become members of the Church but that they are not entitled to the Priesthood at the present time. The prophets of the Lord have made several statements as to the operation of the principle. President Brigham Young said: "Why are so many of the inhabitants of the earth cursed with a skin of blackness? It comes in consequence of their fathers rejecting the power of the holy priesthood, and the law of God. They will go down to death. And when all the rest of the children have received their blessings in the holy priesthood, then that curse will be removed from the seed of Cain, and they will then come up and possess the priesthood, and receive all the blessings which we now are entitled to."
The declaration goes on to state that the conditions in which people are born are affected by their conduct in a premortal existence, although the details of the principle are said not to be known. It then says that the privilege of mortal existence is so great that spirits were willing to come to earth even though they would not be able to possess the priesthood. It concludes by stating, "Under this principle there is no injustice whatsoever involved in this deprivation as to the holding of the priesthood by the Negroes." [First Presidency [ Letter of the First Presidency] August 17, 1949]

Teachings that light skin color indicates righteousness

Darkness associated with sinful behavior

Darkness is often associated with sinful behavior in Mormon scripture. The New Testament teaches "if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness."(lds|Matt|matt|6|23) The Book of Mormon prophecies that the Nephites "after they had dwindled in unbelief they became a dark, and loathsome, and a filthy people, full of idleness and all manner of abominations."(lds|1 Nephi|1_ne|12|23) LDS apologist John Tvedtnes argues that this darkness is a spiritual darkness. [cite web
title=The Charge of "Racism" in the Book of Mormon
first=John A.
authorlink=John A. Tvedtnes

In the Juvenile Instructor, an early LDS magazine, darkness was associated with skin color: "From this it is very clear that the mark which was set upon the descendants of Cain was a skin of blackness, and there can be no doubt that this was the mark that Cain himself received; in fact, it has been noticed in our day that men who have lost the spirit of the Lord, and from whom his blessings have been withdrawn have turned dark to such an extent as to excite the comments of all who have known them". [Juvenile Instructor, vol. 26, p. 635]

cales of darkness shall fall from the Indians

The Book of Mormon states that the Native Americans will be preached the gospel, and that "they shall be restored unto the knowledge of their fathers, and also to the knowledge of Jesus Christ, which was had among their fathers. And then shall they rejoice; for they shall know that it is a blessing unto them from the hand of God; and their scales of darkness shall begin to fall from their eyes; and many generations shall not pass away among them, save they shall be a pure and a delightsome people."(lds|2 Nephi|2_ne|30|5-6] ) Prior to 1981, most translations had "a white and delightsome people".

Dan Vogel has written:cite book | author=Dan Vogel | title=Indian Origins and the Book of Mormon: Religious Solutions from Columbus to Joseph Smith | publisher=Signature Books | date=1986 | page=66 | url=] cquote|The Book of Mormon is not explicit about how the metamorphosis from white to dark or dark to white takes place, but the Lamanites' curse came only after they had "dwindled in unbelief" (1 Ne. 12:23; Morm. 5:15). While a few instantly turned white (3 Ne. 2:15), the Book of Mormon explains that latter-day Indian converts will become white within a few generations (2 Ne. 30:6). Although there were stories circulating about a few eighteenth-century Indians turning white, Joseph Smith evidently believed that the change in the Indian's skin color would result from a gradual and natural process.

In 1960, LDS Apostle (and future church president) Spencer W. Kimball said:

I saw a striking contrast in the progress of the Indian people today.... For years they have been growing delightsome, and they are now becoming white and delightsome, as they were promised. In this picture of the twenty Lamanite missionaries, fifteen of the twenty were as light as Anglos, five were darker but equally delightsome The children in the home placement program in Utah are often lighter than their brothers and sisters in the hogans on the reservation. At one meeting a father and mother and their sixteen-year-old daughter were present, the little member girl--sixteen--sitting between the dark father and mother, and it was evident she was several shades lighter than her parents--on the same reservation, in the same hogan, subject to the same sun and wind and weather....These young members of the Church are changing to whiteness and to delightsomeness. One white elder jokingly said that he and his companion were donating blood regularly to the hospital in the hope that the process might be accelerated. [General Conference Report, October, 1960. Improvement Era, December 1960, pp. 922-923.]

President Hinckley made a similar observation about the people of Central America: "They have been touched by the power of the Holy Spirit. The scales of darkness have slowly but surely fallen from their eyes. Now, among their numbers are strong men who serve as stake and mission presidents, as bishops of wards, and as patriarchs to their people." [ [ Giving Ourselves to the Service of the Lord] ]

Racial restriction policy modifications 1951-1977

In 1954, Church President David O. McKay taught: “There is not now, and there never has been a doctrine in this church that the negroes are under a divine curse. There is no doctrine in the church of any kind pertaining to the negro. "We believe" that we have a scriptural precedent for withholding the priesthood from the negro. It is a practice, not a doctrine, and the practice someday will be changed. And that’s all there is to it.’ [Sterling M. McMurrin affidavit, March 6, 1979. See "David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism" by Greg Prince and William Robert Wright. Quoted by [ Genesis Group] ]
Mark E. Petersen (an apostle) addressed the issue of race and Priesthood in his address to a 1954 Convention of Teachers of Religion at the College Level at Brigham Young University. He said:

The reason that one would lose his blessings by marrying a negro is due to the restriction placed upon them. 'No person having the least particle of negro blood can hold the priesthood' (Brigham Young). It does not matter if they are one-sixth negro or one-hundred and sixth, the curse of no Priesthood is the same. If an individual who is entitled to the priesthood marries a negro, the Lord has decreed that only spirits who are not eligible for the priesthood will come to that marriage as children. To intermarry with a negro is to forfeit a 'nation of priesthood holders'.... [ [ Racism in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) ] ]

Petersen held that male descendants of a mixed-marriage could not become a Mormon priest, even if they had a lone ancestor with African blood dating back many generations. [ Mormon racism in perspective ] ] However, he did hold out hope for African Americans, in that a black person baptized into the Mormon faith and who accepted Joseph Smith as a Prophet of God could attain the highest form of salvation known to Mormons, the Celestial Kingdom. [ Mormon racism in perspective ] ] Petersen said, "If that negro is faithful all his days, he can and will enter the Celestial Kingdom. He will go there as a servant, but he will get celestial glory." [ Mormon racism in perspective ] ]

Apostle Harold B. Lee blocks policy change in 1969

In 1969 church apostle Harold B. Lee blocked the LDS Church from rescinding the racial restriction policy. Church leaders voted to rescind the policy at a meeting in 1969. Lee was absent from the meeting due to travels. When Lee returned he called for a re-vote, arguing that the policy could not be changed without a revelation. [Quinn, Michael D. "The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power" Salt Lake City: 1994 Signature Books Page 14 ]

Church president statement in 1972

Harold B. Lee, president of the church, stated in 1972: “For those who don't believe in modern revelation there is no adequate explanation. Those who do understand revelation stand by and wait until the Lord speaks...It's only a matter of time before the black achieves full status in the Church. We must believe in the justice of God. The black will achieve full status, we’re just waiting for that time.” [Kimball, Lengthen Your Stride, working draft chapter 20, page 22; citing Goates, Harold B. Lee, 506, quoting UPI interview published November 16, 1972.]

Civil Rights movement

A 1969 letter from the First Presidency read "we believe the Negro, as well as those of other races, should have his full Constitutional privileges as a member of society."cite web|url = |title = Curse of Cain? Racism in the Mormon Church Part Three |accessdate = 2008-06-30] The Doctrine and Covenants taught "Be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine."(lds|D&C|dc|38|27) Another scripture chastises a group of Mormons, saying they were "not united according to the union required by the law of the celestial kingdom; And Zion cannot be built up unless it is by the principles of the law of the celestial kingdom; otherwise I cannot receive her unto myself."(lds|D&C|dc|105|4-5) A 1971 Ensign used this scripture to condemn "ethnic groups in the Church who consider themselves superior to some other group." It talked about the problem with unity coming from the growing diversity in the church, but commented "yet out of this diversity must come unity, oneness, and love." [cite magazine
title=Unity in Diversity
date=August 1971

However, civil right groups were putting pressure on the church to end the ban, to which the church responded "It has no bearing upon matters of civil rights. In no case or degree does it deny to the Negro his full privileges as a citizen of the nation." While most churches did not ordain blacks to the priesthood, the Mormon church was more conspicuous because its universal lay priesthood for all non-black men. [ The LDS Church and the Race Issue: A Study in Misplaced Apologetics] ]

Church expressed support for the Civil Rights movement

In 1958, Joseph Fielding Smith published Answers to Gospel Questions which stated "No church or other organization is more insistent than The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, that the negroes should receive all the rights and privileges that can possibly be given to any other in the true sense of equality as declared in the Declaration of Independence." He continues to say they should not be barred from any type of employment or education, and should be free "to make their lives as happy as it is possible without interference from white men, labor unions or from any other source." [ LDS Black History Timeline] ] In the 1963 General Conference, Hugh B. Brown stated: "it is a moral evil for any person or group of persons to deny any human being the rights to gainful employment, to full educational opportunity, and to every privilege of citizenship". He continued: "We call upon all men everywhere, both within and outside the church, to commit themselves to the establishment of full civil equality for all of God's children. Anything less than this defeats our high ideal of the brotherhood of man."

ports boycotts of BYU

African-American athletes protested against LDS policies by boycotting several sporting events with Brigham Young University (BYU). In 1968, after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, black members of the UTEP track team approached their coach and expressed their desire not to compete against Brigham Young University (BYU) in an upcoming meet. When the coach disregarded the athletes' complaint, the athletes boycotted the meet. [ cite web
title=UTEP athletes boycott BYU
] In 1969 14 members of the University of Wyoming football team were removed from the team for planning to protest the policies of the LDS church. [cite web
title=Wyoming students boycott BYU

Church prohibits black children from being Boy Scout leaders

Since the early part of the 20th century, each LDS ward has organized its own Boy Scouting troop. Although never denied participation in scouting, a policy called for the deacon quorum president (a prieshood office held by 12 and 13 year old boys) to be the troop leader, excluding black children from that role. The NAACP filed a federal lawsuit in 1974 challenging this racist practice, and soon thereafter the LDS church reversed its policy. [ Exclusionary Practices & Policies of theBoy Scouts of America] [cite book
title=All Abraham's Children: Changing Mormon Conceptions of Race and Lineage
first= Armand L. |last=Mauss
publisher=University of Illinois Press
] Today, even non-Mormons can be leaders of an LDS Boy Scout troop.

Racial attitudes of Mormons during Civil Rights movement

During the 1960s and 1970s, Mormons in the West were close to the national averages in racial attitudes. [Mauss, Armand [ The LDS Church and the Race Issue: A Study in Misplaced Apologetics] 2003] In 1966, Armand Mauss surveyed Mormons on racial attitudes and discriminatory practices. He found that "Mormons resembled the rather "moderate" denominations (such as Presbyterian, Congregational, Episcopalian), rather than the "fundamentalists" or the sects."Armand L. Mauss, "Mormonism and Secular Attitudes toward Negroes," Pacific Sociological Review 9 (Fall 1966)] Negative racial attitudes within Mormonism varied inversely with education, occupation, community size of origin, and youth, reflecting the national trend. Urban Mormons with a more orthodox view of Mormonism tended to be more tolerant.

pencer W. Kimball denounces racism

Spencer W. Kimball, LDS apostle and future president of the church taught against racism. In 1972, he said: "Intolerance by Church members is despicable. A special problem exists with respect to blacks because they may not now [1972] receive the priesthood. Some members of the Church would justify their own un-Christian discrimination against blacks because of that rule with respect to the priesthood, but while this restriction has been imposed by the Lord, it is not for us to add burdens upon the shoulders of our black brethren. They who have received Christ in faith through authoritative baptism are heirs to the celestial kingdom along with men of all other races. And those who remain faithful to the end may expect that God may finally grant them all blessings they have merited through their righteousness. Such matters are in the Lord's hands. It is for us to extend our love to all." [The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p.237, emphasis in original]

Racial restriction policy ended in 1978

LDS church president Spencer W. Kimball (president 1973 - 1985) took general conference on the road, holding area and regional conferences all over the world. He also announced many new temples to be built both in the United States and abroad, including one at temple in São Paulo, Brazil. The problem of determining priesthood eligibility in Brazil was thought to be nearly impossible due to the mixing of the races in that country. When the temple was announced, church leaders realized the difficultly of restricting persons with African descent from attending the temple in Brazil. [Mark L. Grover, "The Mormon Priesthood Revelation and the São Paulo Brazil Temple", ' 23"':39–53 (Spring 1990).]

Bruce R. McConkie had published in his "Mormon Doctrine" that African Americans would not receive the priesthood until the millennium. Finally, on June 8, 1978, the First Presidency released to the press an official declaration, now a part of the standard works of the church, which contained the following statement:

He has heard our prayers, and "by revelation" has confirmed that the long-promised day has come when every faithful, worthy man in the church may receive the Holy Priesthood, with power to exercise its divine authority, and enjoy with his loved ones every blessing that follows there from, including the blessings of the temple. Accordingly, all worthy male members of the church may be ordained to the priesthood without regard for race or color. Priesthood leaders are instructed to follow the policy of carefully interviewing all candidates for ordination to either the Aaronic or the Melchizedek Priesthood to insure that they meet the established standards for worthiness. [ [ Official Declaration 2] , emphasis added.]

According to first-person accounts, after much discussion among the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles on this matter, they engaged the Lord in prayer. According to the writing of one of those present, "It was during this prayer that the revelation came. The Spirit of the Lord rested upon us all; we felt something akin to what happened on the day of Pentecost and at the Kirtland Temple. From the midst of eternity, the voice of God, conveyed by the power of the Spirit, spoke to his prophet. The message was that the time had now come to offer the fullness of the everlasting gospel, including celestial marriage, and the priesthood, and the blessings of the temple, to all men, without reference to race or color, solely on the basis of personal worthiness. And we all heard the same voice, received the same message, and became personal witnesses that the word received was the mind and will and voice of the Lord." ["Priesthood", pp. 127-128, Deseret Book Co., 1981.] Immediately after the receipt of this new revelation, an official announcement of the revelation was prepared, and sent out to all of the various leaders of the Church. It was then read to, approved by and accepted as the word and will of the Lord, by a General Conference of the Church in October 1978. Succeeding editions of the Doctrine and Covenants were printed with this announcement canonized and entitled "Official Declaration—2".

Gordon B. Hinckley (a participant in the meetings to reverse the ban), in a churchwide fireside said, "Not one of us who was present on that occasion was ever quite the same after that. Nor has the Church been quite the same. All of us knew that the time had come for a change and that the decision had come from the heavens. The answer was clear. There was perfect unity among us in our experience and in our understanding." [ [ Priesthood Restoration] , an edited version of a talk given 15 May 1988 at the Churchwide fireside commemorating the 159th anniversary of the restoration of the priesthood.]

Later in 1978, McConkie said: [Bruce R. McConkie, 1978 (All Are Alike Unto God, A SYMPOSIUM ON THE BOOK OF MORMON, The Second Annual Church Educational System Religious Educator’s Symposium, August 17-19, 1978]

There are statements in our literature by the early brethren which we have interpreted to mean that the Negroes would not receive the priesthood in mortality. I have said the same things, and people write me letters and say, “You said such and such, and how is it now that we do such and such?” And all I can say to that is that it is time disbelieving people repented and got in line and believed in a living, modern prophet. Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or President George Q. Cannon or whomsoever has said in days past that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world.... We get our truth and our light line upon line and precept upon precept. We have now had added a new flood of intelligence and light on this particular subject, and it erases all the darkness and all the views and all the thoughts of the past. They don’t matter any more.... It doesn’t make a particle of difference what anybody ever said about the Negro matter before the first day of June of this year.

Critics question motivation of policy reversal

Church critics claim that the church's 1978 reversal of the racial restriction policy was not divinely inspired as the church claimed, but simply a matter of political convenience. [cite book
title=The Changing World of Mormonism
first=Jerald and Sandra| last=Tanner
publisher=Moody Press
] Critics point out that this reversal of policy occurred as the LDS church began to expand outside the United States into countries such as Brazil that have ethnically mixed populations, and that the policy reversal was announced just a few months before the church opened its new temple in São Paulo, Brazil. [cite book
title=Mormon America
last=Ostling|first=Richard and Joan|date=1999
publisher=Harper Collins
] Church critic Richard Abanes claims that one of the church's motivations for reversing the policy was to increase the wealth of the church, by collecting tithes from the additional black church members. [cite book
title=Abuse Your Illusions: The Disinformation Guide to Media Mirages
publisher=The Disinformation Company

Critics claim that 1978 revelation undermines prophets

Critics of the LDS church point out that the 1978 revelation undermines the church's claim that its presidents are prophets of God and that their proclamations are God's word. [cite web
title=Mormon Research Ministry
] [cite book
title=One Nation Under Gods: A History of the Mormon Church
publisher=Four Walls Eight Windows
] Critics cite statements by LDS president Joseph Fielding Smith that "He [Cain] become the father of an inferior race." (The Way of Perfection, p. 101), which is now contradicted by modern church leaders. This however ignores the fact that some of Joseph Fielding Smith's writings were speculative. The Church does not hold that everything every apostle ever utters is true. As Bruce R. McConkie stated "It doesn't make a particle of difference what anybody ever said about the Negro matter before the first day of June 1978. It is a new day and a new arrangement, and the Lord has now given the revelation that sheds light out into the world on this subject. As to any slivers of light or any particles of darkness of the past, we forget about them. We now do what meridian Israel did when the Lord said the gospel should go to the Gentiles. We forget all the statements that limited the gospel to the house of Israel, and we start going to the Gentiles." [cite web|url = |title = Personal Testimony of Revelation on Priesthood |accessdate = 2008-06-30] In addition, the Church has always taught that revelation from God through its prophets is a continual process and that "the living prophet is more important [than] a dead prophet". [cite web|url=|title=Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet|year=1980|first=Ezra Taft|last=Benson]

Interracial marriages


During a sermon criticizing the federal government, Church president Brigham Young said "If the White man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain (those with dark skin), the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so."

Since interracial marriages were illegal at the time, LDS scholar W. John Walsh theorized that Brigham Young was referring to extra-marital sexual relationships, and more specifically rape. In 1863 a rapist of a black woman was rarely prosecuted if ever, and most biracial children came from white men raping black women. Some people taught it was an acceptable way for white men to satisfy their physical urgings. Walsh theorizes that it was this practice Young was condemning. [Walsh, W. John, [ Interracial Marriage a Sin?] ]

LDS Apostle Mark E. Peterson said in 1954: "I think I have read enough to give you an idea of what the Negro is after. He is not just seeking the opportunity of sitting down in a cafe where white people eat. He isn't just trying to ride on the same streetcar or the same Pullman car with white people. It isn't that he just desires to go to the same theater as the white people. From this, and other interviews I have read, it appears that the Negro seeks absorption with the white race. He will not be satisfied until he achieves it by intermarriage. That is his objective and we must face it." [Race Problems - As They Affect The Church, Convention of Teachers of Religion on the College Level, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, August 27, 1954]

In a 1965 address to BYU students, President Kimball told BYU students: "Now, the brethren feel that it is not the wisest thing to cross racial lines in dating and marrying. There is no condemnation. We have had some of our fine young people who have crossed the lines. We hope they will be very happy, but experience of the brethren through a hundred years has proved to us that marriage is a very difficult thing under any circumstances and the difficulty increases in interrace marriages.""Interracial Marriage Discouraged", Church News, June 17, 1978, p. 2.]


In the June 17, 1978 issue that announced the policy reversal, the Church News, a church owned, but privately operated newspaper, printed an article in entitled "Interracial marriage discouraged", using teachings from the 1960s. There was no written church policy on interracial marriages, which had been permitted since before the 1978 reversal. In 1978, church spokesman Don LeFevre said "So there is no ban on interracial marriage. If a black partner contemplating marriage is worthy of going to the Temple, nobody's going to stop him... if he's ready to go to the Temple, obviously he may go with the blessings of the church." [Don LeFevre, Salt Lake Tribune, 14 June 1978]

On the LDS Church website, Dr. Robert Millet writes: " [T] he Church Handbook of Instructions... is the guide for all Church leaders on doctrine and practice. There is, in fact, no mention whatsoever in this handbook concerning interracial marriages. In addition, having served as a Church leader for almost 30 years, I can also certify that I have never received official verbal instructions condemning marriages between black and white members." [Robert L. Millet, [ "Church Response to Jon Krakauer's Under the Banner of Heaven,"] 27 June 2003]

Modern LDS Church: 1985 to present

Since the Revelation on the Priesthood in 1978, the church has made no distinctions in policy for blacks, but it remains an issue for many black members of the church. Alvin Jackson, a black Bishop, puts his focus on "moving forward rather than looking back." [Page Johnson [ Alvin B. Jackson, Jr—The Bishop is Always In] Meridian Magazine] In an interview with "Mormon Century", Jason Smith expresses his viewpoint that the membership of the church was not ready for blacks to have the Priesthood at the time of the Restoration, because of prejudice and slavery. He draws analogies to the Bible where only the Israelites have the gospel. [Ken Kuykendall, [ Past racial issues and the Church today] Mormon Century] Officially the church also uses Biblical history to justify the prior ban:

::Ever since biblical times, the Lord has designated through His prophets who could receive the priesthood and other blessings of the gospel. Among the tribes of Israel, for example, only men of the tribe of Levi were given the priesthood and allowed to officiate in certain ordinances. Likewise, during the Savior’s earthly ministry, gospel blessings were restricted to the Jews. Only after a revelation to the Apostle Peter were the gospel and priesthood extended to others (see Acts 10:1–33; 14:23; 15:6–8). [ [ LDS Gospel Topics: Priesthood Ordination before 1978] ]

The church opposes racism among its membership. It is currently working to reach out to blacks, and has several predominantly black wards inside the United States. [Wilcox, Lauren, [ The Saints Go Marching In] Washington Post May 13, 2007] They teach that all are welcome to come unto Christ, and speak against those who harbor ill feelings towards another race. Gordon B. Hinckley, the President of the LDS church, stated:

In the July 1992 edition of the New Era, the church published a MormonAd promoting racial equality in the church. The photo contained several youth of a variety of ethic backgrounds with the words "Family Photo" in large print. Underneath the picture are the words "God created the races—but not racism. We are all children of the same Father. Violence and hatred have no place in His family. (See Acts 10:34.)" [cite magazine
publisher=New Era
title=Family Photo
date=July 1992

Attitude of Earl Ofari Hutchinson towards LDS church's pre-1978 racial restriction

African-American journalist Earl Ofari Hutchinson calls the LDS church's pre-1978 racial restriction policy "blatant racial bigotry". [cite web
title="Sharpton Takes on Romney and the Mormons" in AterNet

Examples of racism from "Mormon America"

Journalists Richard and Joan Ostling have pointed out steps the LDS church has taken to hide details of the discriminatory practices of the past. cite book
title=Mormon America
last=Ostling|first=Richard and Joan|date=1999
publisher=Harper Collins
] The Ostlings cite the example of a textbook published by the Church Educational System on the subject of Church History, that has no mention of the racial restriction policy, and only 10 words devoted to the 1978 revelation. And they give an example of LDS missionaries in New Jersey who, when distributing children's books in predominantly black neighborhoods, removed pages from the books that mentioned the "curse of dark skin".

African-American church member Darron Smith said "You have to be honest about the representation of history, and most Mormons have tried to put it on a spoon and sprinkle sugar on it." What progress has been made, Smith calls "rhetorical progress. Blacks were treated as cursed . . . and they are left to bear the burden of that view themselves." [ [ Washington Post, "The Saints Go Marching In", May 13, 2007, by Lauren Wilcox] ]

Instances of discrimination after 1978 revelation

LDS historian Wayne J. Embry interviewed several black LDS church members in 1987 and reported "All of the interviewees reported incidents of aloofness on the part of white members, a reluctance or a refusal to shake hands with them or sit by them, and racist comments made to them." Embry further reported that one black church member "was amazingly persistent in attending Mormon services for three years when, by her report, no one would speak to her." Embry reports that "she [the same black church member] had to write directly to the president of the LDS Church to find out how to be baptized" because none of her fellow church members would tell her. [ cite book
title=Black and Mormon
publisher=University of Illinois Press

Black LDS church member Darron Smith wrote in 2003: "Even though the priesthood ban was repealed in 1978, the discourse that constructs what blackness means is still very much intact today. Under the direction of President Spencer W. Kimball, the First Presidency and the Twelve removed the policy that denied blacks the priesthood but did very little to disrupt the multiple discourses that had fostered the policy in the first place. Hence there are Church members today who continue to summon and teach at every level of Church education the racial discourse that blacks are descendants of Cain, that they merited lesser earthly privilege because they were "fence-sitters" in the War in Heaven, and that, science and climatic factors aside, there is a link between skin color and righteousness" [Citation
last = Smith
first = Darron
title = The Persistence of Racialized Discourse in Mormonism| journal = Sunstone
date=March 2003
year = 2003

Journalist and church member Peggy Fletcher Stack in 2007 wrote "Today, many black Mormons report subtle differences in the way they are treated, as if they are not full members but a separate group. A few even have been called 'the n-word' at church and in the hallowed halls of the temple. They look in vain at photos of Mormon general authorities, hoping to see their own faces reflected there. ["New film and revived group help many feel at home in their church" by Peggy Fletcher Stack, The Salt Lake Tribune, July 6, 2007]

White church member Eugene England, a professor at Brigham Young University, wrote in 1998:

This is a good time to remind ourselves that most Mormons are still in denial about the ban, unwilling to talk in Church settings about it, and that some Mormons still believe that Blacks were cursed by descent from Cain through Ham. Even more believe that Blacks, as well as other non-white people, come color-coded into the world, their lineage and even their class a direct indication of failures in a previous life.... I check occasionally in classes at BYU and find that still, twenty years after the revelation, a majority of bright, well-educated Mormon students say they believe that Blacks are descendants of Cain and Ham and thereby cursed and that skin color is an indication of righteousness in the pre-mortal life. They tell me these ideas came from their parents or Seminary and Sunday School teachers, and they have never questioned them. They seem largely untroubled by the implicit contradiction to basic gospel teachings. [Citation
last = England
first = Eugene | journal = Sunstone
pages=54–58|date=June 1998
year = 1998
title =

Church leadership acknowledgement

As recently as 2006, President Hinckley acknowledged that some of the members of the church were racist. He reprimanded them, saying:

Church asked to repudiate past racist declarations

In 1995, black church member A. David Jackson asked church leaders to issue a declaration repudiating past doctrines that treated blacks as inferior. In particular, Jackson asked the church to disavow the 1949 "Negro Question" declaration from the church Presidency which stated "The attitude of the church with reference to negroes ... is not a matter of the declaration of a policy but of direct commandment from the Lord ... to the effect that negroes .. are not entitled to the priesthood...".cite book
title=Mormon America
first=Richard and Joan|last=Ostling
publisher=Harper Collins

Other black church members think giving an apology would be a "detriment" to church work and a catalyst to further racial misunderstanding. African-American church member Bryan E. Powell says "There is no pleasure in old news, and this news is old." Gladys Newkirk agrees, stating "I've never experienced any problems in this church. I don't need an apology. . . . We're the result of an apology." [cite news
publisher=Washington Post
title=Black Mormons Resist Apology Talk
] The large majority of black Mormons say they are willing to look beyond the racist teachings and cleave to the church in part because of its powerful, detailed teachings on life after death.

The church leadership declined to issue a repudiation, and so in 1997 Jackson, aided by other church members including Armand Mauss, sent a second request to church leaders, which stated that white Mormons felt that the 1978 revelation resolved everything, but that black Mormons react differently when they learn the details. He said that many black Mormons become discouraged and leave the church or become inactive. "When they find out about this, they exit..... You end up with the passive African Americans in the church". [cite book
title=Mormon America
first=Richard and Joan|last=Ostling
publisher=Harper Collins

Hinckley, then church president, told the Los Angeles Times "The 1978 declaration speaks for itself ... I don't see anything further that we need to do". Church leadership did not issue a repudiation.

Oaks gives his reasoning for not commenting on reasons given for the ban: "It's not the pattern of the Lord to give reasons. We can put reasons to commandments. When we do we're on our own. Some people put reasons to [the ban] and they turned out to be spectacularly wrong. There is a lesson in that.... The lesson I've drawn from that, I decided a long time ago that I had faith in the command and I had no faith in the reasons that had been suggested for it... I'm referring to reasons given by general authorities and reasons elaborated upon [those reasons] by others. The whole set of reasons seemed to me to be unnecessary risk taking... Let's [not] make the mistake that's been made in the past, here and in other areas, trying to put reasons to revelation. The reasons turn out to be man-made to a great extent. The revelations are what we sustain as the will of the Lord and that's where safety lies." [Dallin H. Oaks, Interview with Associated Press, in "Daily Herald", Provo, Utah, 5 June 1988]

Humanitarian aid in Africa

The church has been involved in several humanitarian aid projects in Africa. On January 27, 1985, members across the world joined together in a fast for "the victims of famine and other causes resulting in hunger and privation among people of Africa." They also donated the money that would have been used for food during the fast to help those victims, regardless of church membership. [Kimball, Spencer, Romney, Marion, Hinckley, Gordon, [,4383 "Letters of the First Presidency"] January 11, 1985] Together with other organizations such as UNICEF and the American Red Cross, the church is working towards eradicating measles. Since 1999, there has been a 60 percent drop in deaths from measles in Africa. [ [ Church Works to Eradicate Measles in Africa] ] Due to their efforts, the American Red Cross bestowed the First Presidency with the organization's highest financial support honor, the American Red Cross Circle of Humanitarians award. [ [ American Red Cross Recognizes Church for Support of Measles Initiative in Africa] ] The church has also been involved in humanitarian aid in Africa by sending food boxes, [ [ Food Boxes Rushed to Ease Starvation in Africa] ] digging wells to provide clean water, [ [ Clean Water Projects] ] distributing wheelchairs, [ [ Wheelchair Distribution] ] fighting AIDS, [ [ The church Responds to HIV/AIDS] World AIDS Day Interview With Robert C. Oaks] providing Neonatal Resuscitation Training, [ [ church Works to Save Infants Through Neonatal Resuscitation Training] ] and setting up employment resources service centers. [ [ Employment Resource Service Centers] ]

Black membership

Unlike most Christian denominations in America, [Lawson, Cathrine [ The Most Segregated Hour in America: Protesting Segregation in the Church] ] the LDS church has never segregated their congregations based on race. The church has never kept official records on the race of its membership, so exact numbers are unknown. Blacks have been members of Mormon congregations since its foundation, but before 1978 its black membership was small. It has since grown, and in 1997, there were approximately 500,000 black members of the church (about 5% of the total membership), mostly in Africa, Brazil and the Caribbean. [ [] quoting "Deseret News 1999-2000 Church Almanac". Deseret News: Salt Lake City, UT (1998); pg. 119.] Black membership has continued to grow substantially, especially in West Africa, where two temples have been built.

Notable early black church members

Jane Manning James had been born free and worked as a housekeeper in Joseph Smith's home. [Jerel Harris and Brian Passey [ The History of Black Pioneers: Slaves, Free Blacks Among the First Utah Settlers] ] When she requested the temple ordinances, John Taylor took her petition to the Quorum of the Twelve, but her request was denied. When Wilford Woodruff became president of the church, he compromised and allowed Jane to be sealed to the family of Joseph Smith as a servant. This was unsatisfying to Jane as it did not include the saving ordinance of the endowment, and she repeated her petitions. She died in 1908. President Joseph F. Smith honored her by speaking at her funeral.Embry 1994: 40-41.]

Other notable early black LDS church members included Green Flake, the slave of John Flake, a convert to the church and from whom he got his name. He was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the age of 16 in the Mississippi River, but remained a slave. Samuel D. Chambers was another early African American pioneer. He was baptized secretly at the age of thirteen when he was still a slave in Mississippi. He was unable to join the main body of the church and lost track of them until after the Civil War. He was thirty-eight when he had saved enough money to immigrate to Utah with his wife and son.

Expansion in West Africa

The church began receiving letters from West Africa requesting information about the church in the 1940s. As the church began sending back literature, two LDS bookstores were formed. Because the Africans could not receive the priesthood, leaders hesitated sending missionaries.Lebaron, E. Dale, [ Church Pioneers in Africa] "LDS Living" November 2001] In 1960, David O. McKay sent Glen G. Fisher on a fact-finding mission to Africa, where he found thousands of people waiting for him. [LaMar Williams, interview by E. Dale LeBaron in Salt Lake City, February 12, 1988.] McKay decided to send missionaries, but the Nigerian government refused to issue the necessary visas. [Lebaron [ African Converts Without Baptism: A Unique and Inspiring Chapter in Church History] Marriott Center devotional address November 3 1998] Five months after the 1978 revelation, the first missionaries arrived in Nigeria. Anthony Obinna was one of the first to be baptized. [Larry Morris [ Obinna Brothers to the First Presidency] "LDS Living" April 2007] Within one year there were more than 1,700 members in 35 branches in West Africa. [Mabey and Allred, "Brother to Brother", p. vii]

Wynetta Willis Martin

In 1970, Wynetta Willis Martin gained the distinction of being the first African-American member of the faculty at Brigham Young University. After being baptized she joined the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. She accepted it as her personal mission to prove to the world that there were in fact African-American Mormons and that the Mormons were not racist. She toured with the choir for two years before accepting her appointment on the faculty at BYU. She was employed in the training of nurses and tried to help them become more culturally aware. [Martin, 1972."] About the racial restriction policy, she said: "These two things: baptism and the Holy Ghost are the only requirements, contrary to popular belief, for entering the Celestial Kingdom and being with God for eternity if one is worthy. Therefore, the Priesthood covenants of the Temple which we are not allowed at this point are not really so crucial as popular belief dictates. [Martin 1972: 56, emphasis her own.]

Genesis Group

On October 19, 1971, the Genesis Group was established as an auxiliary unit to the church. Its purpose was to serve the needs of black members, including activating members and welcoming converts. It meets on the first Sunday of each month in Utah. Don Harwell is the current president. [ [ Genesis Group ] ] When asked about racism in the church, he said "Now, is the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints racist? No, never has been. But some of those people within the church have those tendencies. You have to separate the two." [ [ Rosemary Winters, "Black Mormons Struggle for Acceptance in the Church", "Salt Lake Tribune", November 4, 2004] ]

Joseph Freeman

Soon after the 1978 revelation, Joseph Freeman became the first African American to receive the church's priesthood."Salt Lake Tribune", 1978-06-24.] Freeman was also the first black member to receive church temple ordinances. [,9171,948228,00.html "Mormonism Enters a New Era"] , "Time", 1978-08-07.] On 1978-06-23, Freeman was sealed to his wife and five children in the Salt Lake Temple by apostle Thomas S. Monson, and thereby became the first black person to undergo this ordinance in the LDS Church.

Helvécio Martins

Helvécio Martins was the first and only person of African descent to be called as a general authority of the church. Martins was born in Brazil to parents descended from African slaves. He had found success in his professional life but felt unfulfilled with the religious life he was pursuing. The missionaries visited his home in 1972 while he was going through a difficult spiritual crisis. The missionaries visited his home late one night and were worried about how to teach an African since the church had not yet reversed its policy. Indeed, Martins' first question upon inviting the missionaries into his home concerned the church's attitude toward race. The spiritual experiences that the Martins family had while investigating the church superseded their concerns for the racial policy of priesthood restriction, and they were baptized. They experienced much resistance from members of their extended family and former church friends, but eventually found peace with them. Martins served in his ward as a sunday school teacher. He was not troubled by the priesthood restriction, but others were. Often, members of the ward would ask him how he could remain a member of the church without the priesthood. It was never an issue for him. He had resolved the issue in his own mind and never expected to receive the priesthood.

When the announcement came, he describes his reaction and that of his wife as unbelieving. It was something for which they had not dared to hope. Martins then served as a member of a stake presidency, as a bishop, a mission president, and finally as a seventy. His son was one of the first three Africans to serve a full-time mission for the church in nearly 100 years. [Martins & Grover, 1994.]

Growth in black membership

In recent years, the church has reaped the benefits of removing the ban [cite news
title=LDS Church follows members to inner cities
publisher=The Denver Post
] by experiencing rapid growth in predominately black communities while other mainstream sects have been losing members.cite news
title=Black saints in a White church; Mormon Church grows in urban areas despite racist reputation
publisher=Baltimore Afro-American
first=H. Allen
] In the last 20 years, the church has been well received among middle-class African-Americans, and African American membership grew from minuscule before 1978 to an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 in 2005.cite news
title=Mormon past steeped in racism: Some black members want church to denounce racist doctrines
publisher=Chicago Tribune
] A 2007 study by the Pew Research Center found that 3% of American Mormons were black. [cite web
title=Race by Religious Tradition
publisher=Pew Research Center
] A 1998 survey by a Mormon and amateur sociologist, James W. Lucas, found that about 20 percent of Mormons in New York City were black. [cite news
url =
title=For Mormons in Harlem, Bigger Space Beckons
publisher=New York Times
] Melvyn Hammarberg explained the growth: "There is a kind of changing face of the LDS Church because of its continuing commitment to work in the inner cities." [cite news
title=Mormons gain in inner cities
publisher=Philadelphia Inquirer
] Sociology and Religious Studies Professor Armand Mauss says African Americans are particularly attracted by the focus on promoting healthy families. However, these numbers still only represent a fraction of total church membership in the United States, suggesting that African Americans remain comparatively hesitant to join, partly because of the church's past.cite news
title=Colorblind Faith
publisher=Chicago Reporter
] Still, Don Harwell, president of the Genesis Group, sees it as a sign that "People are getting past the stereotypes put on the church." The revelation also helped pave the way for the church's exponential growth in areas like Africa and the Caribbean. The church has been more successful among blacks outside the United States than inside, partly because there is less awareness of this past historic discrimination. [cite news
title=Mormonism spreading around the world
publisher=The Washington Post
] In 2005, the church had some 120,000 members in West Africa, [ Pres. Hinckley dedicates the Aba Nigeria Temple] ] and two temples, the Aba Nigeria Temple and the Accra Ghana Temple.

Blacks in church leadership

The church has never kept official records on the race of its membership, so exact numbers are unknown. The members of the two highest governing bodies, the First Presidency and The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, have never been black. There have been several black members of the Quorums of the Seventy; [For example, [ Elder Joseph Sitati] , [ Elder Christopher Chukwurah] , [ Elder Kapumba Kola] and [ more] .] however, as of 2008, only Brazilian Helvécio Martins (a member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy from 1990 to 1995) has served as a General Authority. There has never been a black member of the general presidencies of the Relief Society, Young Women, Primary, Young Men, or Sunday School. The first African member of the Relief Society general board [cite news
title=Pair reflect LDS Nigerians' faith
publisher=Deseret News
first=Carrie A.
] was chosen in 2003, and she shared her testimony at the general meeting of the Relief Society in September 2003. [cite news
title=Testimonies: "Choose That Good Part"
date=November 2003

Mauss commented "As far as leadership is concerned, the role of the various minorities in Mormonism as a whole is not yet very great, but it is growing, and it is crucial in parts of the world outside the U.S."Approximately 5% of church members have African ancestry (mostly in congregations in Africa, South America, and the Caribbean).

Notable black Mormons

*Thurl Bailey - former professional basketball player in the NBA, whose career spanned from 1983 to 1999 with the Utah Jazz and the Minnesota Timberwolves. [ [ Thurl Bailey Fireside ] ]
*Burgess Owens was a safety who played ten seasons in the National Football League for the New York Jets and the Oakland Raiders. [ [ k] ]
*Eldridge Cleaver - an author and a prominent American civil rights leader who began as a dominant member of the Black Panther Party. [ [ Latter-day Saint (Mormon) character in "Panther" (1997) (Eldridge Cleaver, Latter-day Saint) ] ]
*Sam Warren - founding member of R&B group, "The Drifters". [ [ A Drifter with Direction] ]
*Julia Mavimbela - black South African woman's leader and founder of the National Council of African Women. [ [ Julia Mavimbela] ]
*Abe Mills - band member in Jericho Road, an LDS music group
*Robert Foster - first black student body president of Brigham Young University, an LDS school. [ [ Learning to Lead ] ]
*Alex Boyé - actor and musician. [ [ About Alex Boyé | ] ]
*Mark Smith - British pianist [ [ Mark "Fingermix" Smith ] ]
*Kenneth Andam – ran Olympic track and field for Ghana in 2000 Olympic [ [ Famous Mormon Olympians (1912-2000) ] ]
*Leonard Myles-Mills – ran Olympic track and field for Ghana in 2000 and 2004 [ [ "Mormon News", 23 Sept 2000] ]
*Darius Gray - Gray was a counselor in the presidency of the LDS Church's Genesis Group when it was formed in 1971. [ [ "The Genesis Group: History of Genesis"] ,, accessed 2008-04-21.]

Gladys Knight

Gladys Knight created and now directs the LDS choir Saints Unified Voices. [ [ SUV Choir ] ] SUV has released a Grammy Award-winning CD entitled "One Voice", and occasionally performs at LDS stake firesides. Knight said:

ee also

*Blacks and the Latter Day Saint movement
*Joseph Freeman
*Criticism of Mormonism


Primary sources

*cite paper
author = Cherry, Alan Gerald
title = Oral History Interview with Mary Lucille Bankhead
version =
publisher = LDS Afto-American Oral History Project, Charles Redd Center for Western Studies, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah
url =
format =
accessdate =

*cite paper
author = Cherry, Alan Gerald
title = Oral History Interview with Gilmore H. Chapel
version =
publisher = LDS Afto-American Oral History Project, Charles Redd Center for Western Studies, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah
url =
format =
accessdate =

*cite paper
author = Cherry, Alan Gerald
title = Oral History Interview with Cleolivia Lyons
version =
publisher = LDS Afto-American Oral History Project, Charles Redd Center for Western Studies, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah
url =
format =
accessdate =

*cite book
last = Cherry
first = Alan Gerald
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = It's You and Me, Lord!
publisher = Trilogy Arts Publications
location = Provo, Utah
url =
doi =
id =

*cite book
last = Martin
first = Wynetta Willis
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Black Mormon Tells Her Story
publisher = Hawks Publications
location = Salt Lake City, Utah
url =
doi =
id =

*cite book
last = Martins
first = Helvecio
authorlink =
coauthors = Mark Grover
title = The Autobiography of Elder Helvecio Martins
publisher = Aspen Books
location = Salt Lake City, Utah
url =
doi =
id =

*cite journal
last = Phelps
first = Willian W.
authorlink = William W. Phelps
coauthors =
title = Free People of Color
journal = Evening and Morning Star
volume = 2
issue = 14
pages = 109
publisher = W. W. Phelps & Co.
date=July 1833
url =
doi =
id =
accessdate = 2006-07-15

author-link=Brigham Young
title=Speech by Gov. Young in Joint Session of the Legeslature [sic]
date=February 5 1852
place=Brigham Young Addresses, Ms d 1234, Box 48, folder 3, LDS Church Historical Department, Salt Lake City, Utah

econdary sources

first=James B.
title=Would-Be Saints: West Africa before the 1978 Priesthood Revelation
journal=Journal of Mormon History
*cite book
last = Bringhurst
first = Newel G.
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Saints, Slaves, and Blacks: The Changing Place of Black People Within Mormonism (Contributions to the Study of Religion, No. 4)
publisher = Greenwood Press
location = Westport, Connecticut
url =
doi =
id = ISBN 0-313-22752-7

first=Newel G.
title=Charles B. Thompson and The Issues of Slavery and Race
journal=Journal of Mormon History
*cite book
last = Bush
first = Lester E. Jr
authorlink =
coauthors = Armand L. Mauss, eds.
title = Neither White Nor Black: Mormon Scholars Confront the Race Issue in a Universal Church
publisher = Signature Books
location = Salt Lake City, Utah
url =
doi =
id = ISBN 0-941214-22-2

*cite book
last = Embry
first = Jessie
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Black Saints in a White Church
publisher = Signature Books
location = Salt Lake City, Utah
url =
doi =
id = 1-56085-044-2

*cite paper
author = Hawkins, Chester L.
title = Report on Elijah Abel and his Priesthood
version =
publisher = Unpublished Manuscript, Special Collections, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah
url =
format =
accessdate =

* O'Donovan, Connell, [ "The Mormon Priesthood Ban and Elder Q. Walker Lewis"] , "John Whitmer Historical Association Journal" (Independence, Missouri, 2006), pp. 47-99.
*"Black Mormons and the Priesthood Ban" by Darrick T. Evenson (SKU 4935190)
*"Setting the Record Straight: Blacks and the Mormon Priesthood" by Marcus Helvécio T. A. Martins (SKU 4995993)
*cite book
title=Black and Mormon
publisher=University of Illinois Press

*cite book
title=The Changing World of Mormonism
first=Jerald and Sandra| last=Tanner| authorlink=Jerald and Sandra Tanner
publisher=Moody Press

*cite book
title=The Curse of Cain
first=Jerald and Sandra| last=Tanner| authorlink=Jerald and Sandra Tanner

*cite book
title=Mormon America
last=Ostling|first=Richard and Joan|authorlink=Richard and Joan Ostling|date=1999
publisher=Harper Collins

*cite book
title=One Nation Under Gods: A History of the Mormon Church
first=Richard|last=Abanes|authorlink=Richard Abanes
publisher=Four Walls Eight Windows


External links

* [] Haitian LDS converts share perspective on race & religion
* [ The Genesis Group] - LDS fellowship group organized for black members and those interested in the church
* []
* [ A Work in Progress: The Latter-day Saint Struggle with Blacks and the Priesthood]
* [ Mormonism is a new ethnicity]

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