Blacks & the Priesthood: Why don’t we talk about Elijah Abel and Green Flake?

Most Mormons believe that President Kimball’s revelation in 1978 was the first time black church members were able to hold the priesthood. However, in 1836, Elijah Abel was ordained an elder, probably by Joseph Smith himself. Elijah helped build the Nauvoo Temple, tried to rescue Joseph from jail, and served several missions for the church. His sons and grandsons also received the priesthood as late as 1934.

Darius Gray makes the case that there have always been a few black members holding the priesthood since Elijah Abel was first ordained. He granted an interview on Mormon Stories podcast that I think many will find interesting. He documents early black church members including Green Flake, and Jane Manning James. To me, these stories are very inspiring.

Also of interest is the role of slavery in the early days of the church. Historian Darron Smith details some of these issues. It is interesting to note that Joseph Smith proposed the abolition of slavery as an issue when he ran for president of the US.

Darius Gray recently presented a film of the history of black mormon called “The Untold Story of Black Mormons” , and a DVD is coming out. I must say that some of the camera and sound work is not as professional as a one would hope, but the message is outstanding. I know the subject of racism is hard for some members to deal with, but I personally find these stories inspiring. Why do you think these facts are not more publicized in the church? Is it just easier to pretend they don’t exist?

The film is really interesting. I learned that Darius and a few other black Mormons were asked in 1971 by Thomas Monson, Gordon B Hinckley, and Boyd K Packer to start a group called the Genesis Groupsupporting new converts of African descent.” President Monson has said the Genesis Group was “one of my most pleasant assignments.”

If you’re interested in some other links, here are a few good ones.




8 comments on “Blacks & the Priesthood: Why don’t we talk about Elijah Abel and Green Flake?

  1. Great minds think alike. I didn’t mention Margaret Young–she helped research and produce the film. She makes some comments at another blog. Check it out at http://www.feministmormonhousewives.org/?p=1655

    I highly recommend this film.

  2. Another topic we really don’t talk about is women holding the priesthood in the first 20 years after the church was formed.

    From: http://www.strangite.org/Women.htm

    “…In 1851, Strang invited women into lesser priesthood roles; in 1853, a substantial number of women were ordained to be teachers; and by 1856, women were lecturing in the School of the Prophets.”

    Former B.Y.U. Professor and historian, D. Michael Quinn, refers to this as well in his book; “Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power”, excerpted and discussed in this article;

  3. I guess I’ll assume the reason this isn’t discussed is because of apathy.

  4. Raechel, you’ve got an interesting post. I haven’t studied this as much as I should. I will say I had a mission president say that Mormons do give the priesthood to women, and he mentioned the temple ceremony, similar to Michael Quinn, as a reference.

    However, this certainly is different than the day-to-day priesthood. It would be interesting to have a woman as a bishop. I have to say at this point, I’m undecided on this issue, but find it intriguing.

  5. […] We have had an interesting discussion in a previous blog post on Joshua’s Unholy War. In this discussion, we have discussed the idea as to whether God commanded Joshua (and Moses) to commit genocide in wiping out the Canaanites in various cities, such as Jericho. I am claiming that the command to extinguish the Canaanites in the Book of Joshua was not inspired. Others disagree. As part of the discussion, we have explored two other topics: the priesthood ban, and Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac. I would like to focus this post on the priesthood ban, and will devote another post to the subject of Abraham.  Incidentally, I blogged about this topic previously. […]

  6. My husband and I are not black, but of different cultures. I rented “Blacks in the Scriptures.” with Darius Grey and we both enjoyed it very much, because he taught us what we did not know before. I think it is not talked about much, because we have not been educated enough about the history, but all of that is changing now. I am happy to know this bit of history. I hope more members will continue to learn and know the truth about Blacks, Indians, Polynesians and so forth at that time. I see more and more resources the church does provide to aid in learning about the history. None of this is a secret or has been held back, it just has not been learned by many until now.

  7. @Mormon Heretic
    well, it’s probably not discussed because it’s part of the Strangite splinter, not the Young branch of the church….

  8. Daver, can you give more info on this? Elijah Abel died in Utah. You must be talking about someone else?

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