Wow, this is a really long post, and I didn’t cover everything, but what I did cover is quite considerable.I hope to hear some comments. I decided to update this post on 9/16 with some of Greg Prince’s insights into this topic. These updates are highlighted in orange. UPDATE: Mar 10, 2009. Black Pete and William McCary were erroneously referred to as the same people.I made revisions to correct this inaccuracy, and this is shown in purple. I have also added some new information from Connell O’Donovan, who is one of the premier experts on this subject.
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.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.
Few people know that there were at least 5 black members of the LDS church who received the priesthood as early as 1836. I will outline these 5 members below, in this short timeline.
- 1836 – Mar 3. Elijah Abel was ordained an elder by probably by Joseph Smith Jr, or his father Joseph Smith, Sr.Elijah was baptized in 1832. He is referenced on census records as both a negro, and a mulatto.He was bi-racial.In Dec 1836, Elijah is ordained a Seventy by Zebedee Coltrin.
- 1844 – Walker Lewis was ordained an Elder by William Smith, Joseph’s brother, in Lowell, Massachusetts.
- 1844 – Joseph Smith is killed.
- 1846 – Oct. William McCary, was ordained an Elder by Apostle Orson Hyde. He was known as the “black prophet.”William was later excommunicated in 1847 for seducing a number of Mormon, white women into unauthorized polygamy.
- 1847 Brigham Young then declares that black people are not eligible for certain temple ordinances.
- Nov 27, 1900.Enoch Abel, Elijah’s son received the priesthood, and is ordained an elder.
- 1934Elijah’s grandson, also with the name Elijah Abel, receives the priesthood, and is ordained a priest.In 1935, he is ordained an Elder.
As part of our previous analysis of the Joshua situation, I claimed that personal bias can affect revelation.I would briefly submit here that slavery, William McCary’s actions, and slaveholding apostles greatly affected early church leaders’ opinions regarding priesthood eligibility for black members, and in turn, limited their inspiration on the subjects of slavery, and the priesthood ban.
For those who would like additional information on this topic, there are three podcasts from Mormon Stories which explore the priesthood ban in great detail.An interview with Darius Gray and Margaret Young is the best historical perspective.Secondly, Darron Smith gives great insights into the slavery issue.Finally, an interview with Greg Prince gives some wonderful insights into David O McKay’s struggles with the priesthood ban.I highly recommend all of these resources.
I just listened to the Darius Gray and Margaret Young, most of the Darron Smith interviews, and the Greg Prince interview.I have transcribed many of the quotes from those interviews here, and I would like to go into more detail into the priesthood ban.I will specifically quote from both of them.Before we get started, I would like to give a little background on these “experts.”
Darius joined the church in the 1960’s.He attended BYU, and worked as a reporter for KSL television in Salt Lake City.In 1971, he was asked by junior apostles Gordon B Hinckley, Thomas S Monson, and Boyd K Packer to lead a group to help fellowship black members of the LDS church, called The Genesis Group.He is an active member, and has spoken on this topic at BYU, Salt Lake Community College (which I attended), and various other forums.Along with Margaret Young, he co-wrote a trilogy of historical fiction books called “Standing on the Promises” detailing early black members of the church.He also was involved in the production of a documentary entitled “Nobody Knows:The Untold Story of Black Mormons,” which I previously blogged about.
Margaret Young is a part-time teacher of English at BYU, institute teacher, and Sunday School teacher in her ward.She is an active, life-long member of the church from Utah County.A picture of the two of them can be found here.
Darron Smith is a former teacher at BYU, and has taught at the University of Utah, Utah Valley State College (now UVU).He is active in the LDS church, and has been outspoken about the issue of the priesthood ban, and has called on the LDS church to formally apologize for its racist past.His contract was not renewed at BYU, and he believes it is because of his controversial stance on the race issue within the LDS church.He has gone on to teach at other institutions.
Greg Prince wrote the book “David O McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism” published by University of Utah Press.You can get it at bookstores or internet bookstores.He spent 10 years researching the life of David O McKay, covering about 40,000 documents, including many of McKay’s diares.He is active in the church, and on the board of Dialogue, a publication on LDS issues.
I would like to outline a little more detailed history of early black church members. There was quite a bit of openness by Joseph Smith to black members of the church.I would also like to show some of the events that influenced early LDS thought into the priesthood ban.Finally, I’d like to talk about how we should handle racist quotes from prophets, and how to be able to reconcile how a prophet can be racist, and still a prophet.I feel this relates well to our previous discussion on Joshua.As we can see from the information to follow, our modern day prophets have had some poor opinions of blacks, and have even referred to them as agents of Satan.
In relation to Joshua, it does not take a great leap of imagination to see that if Joshua held similar beliefs about the Canaanites, these opinions could explain why it was so easy for him to wipe out several sinful nations.These 6 nations were obviously quite depraved, and I can see why he felt it might have been necessary to wipe them out.
Here’s a somewhat longer timeline, though I am certainly not covering all the important issues. I invite all to listen to the podcasts when you have about 9 hours to get through them all. Certainly, I am not covering all of the early black church members, so this should not be considered an exhaustive list.
The first date in this longer chronology is 1830 or 1831. Black Pete joined the church, and was baptizing people. Joseph T Ball was the second convert in the summer of 1832, and went on to become the Boston Branch president in 1844. See this post for more details on these 2 men, as well as others.
Elijah Abel became the second known black convert to the LDS church in 1832.He received the priesthood in 1836, and served 3 missions to Ohio, NY, and Canada.He helped build the Kirtland, Nauvoo, and Salt Lake Temples, received his washing and anointing in the Kirtland Temple, but was denied the endowment by Brigham Young.He left Nauvoo before the endowment was received in Nauvoo.Margaret Young speculates that Elijah would have received the endowment if he was in Nauvoo while Smith was alive.However, he was on a mission at this time.
In the 1830’s, Jane Manning James joins the church in Buffalo, NY, and then walks the entire distance from there to Nauvoo.She received poor reception by Nauvoo saints (“with much rebuff”), but Joseph was very welcoming and hospitable.He offered to adopt her as a child into the Smith household.She declined because she didn’t understand the implications.If she had accepted, it is likely that she would have received temple ordinances as part of the Smith family.Brigham Young and other church leaders declined to let her receive temple ordinances, but she was sealed posthumously to Joseph as a servant.Her temple work was completed shortly after the revelation in 1978.
In 1839, Elijah is told to limit his preaching to non-white people, due to racial tensions.One of the reasons why there was so much persecution in Missouri was because of the Mormon position on slavery.Darron Smith adds some insights into this time period. “African-Americans, blacks, have always been central to Mormonism since its earliest days, particularly when blacks [did he mean LDS here?] were expelled from Jackson County, Missouri.The whole expulsion from Jackson County, Missouri had to do with a newspaper article written by W.W. Phelps in the Times and Seasons in 1844.Phelps was so excited about all these Mormons congregating in Jackson county, Missouri, that he wrote this article entitled ‘Free People of Color’, where he talked about how the church would grow, and that the Laplander would join, and the hot pot would join, and that all these different nationalities and races and so on, would all come into Jackson County, Missouri.
That newspaper article obviously got into the wrong hands. It got into the hands of Missourians.As you know, Missourians at that time were a slaveholding state.So, the last thing the Missourians wanted to hear was the Mormons trying to incite black folks to come into a slave state, with the understanding that an insurrection might ensue.As a result of that, Mormons were expelled from Jackson County, Missouri.
Nobody knows that.A lot of people don’t even know that story.Leonard Arrington in his book about Mormons has written extensively about that.My very, very good friend and colleague, Newel Bringhurst has written about it.Armaund Mauss has written about it.Several other noted LDS scholars have written about this particular history.”
At this point of the interview, John Dehlin interjected that to be fair, there were other economic, social, and religious issues as well, but the slavery issue was a central issue during this time period.Darron agreed. “I don’t want to say that [slavery] was the only issue, but that was one of the main issues that drove the mobs to be formed in Missouri.In fact, it was so problematic that Phelps wrote an Extra [the next day], to retract what he said.The following day, he got word that Missourians had formed, and were conspiring to expel them.A secret manifesto went around which called on Missourians who were against Mormons to basically take action against Mormons for this particular article.So Phelps, responded by [issuing] this Extra, which was too late by then.A lot of people don’t understand that [slavery] is central to history of Mormonism, is the experience of blacks.”
In 1844, a slave by the name of Green Flake was baptized in Mississippi River by John Brown.(James Madison Flake was owner Green’s owner, and was given Green as a wedding present by James’ father.Green was age 10 at the time.)Brigham Young released Green from slavery in 1854.Green was the person to whom Brigham was speaking when Brigham said his famous quote, “This is the Place”.The actual quote was, “This is the right place.Move on.”
Also in 1844, Walker Lewis was ordained an Elder by William Smith, Joseph’s brother, in Lowell, Massachusetts.
In June 1844 Joseph Smith was killed.At this time, Joseph was running for president, and advocated abolishing slavery by 1850.Such a stance was quite unpopular in slave state Missouri.It is important to remember that Joseph prophesied in 1832 about the Civil War.Slavery and race relations were hot topics during this time period, and Joseph’s abolitionist views were probably just as responsible for his assassination, as his religious views.
Darius Gray said, “Brother Joseph wanted to free the slaves by selling public lands, and taking those proceeds and compensating the slave owners so that they wouldn’t be hurt financially.He was very pragmatic.He realized that there was a great deal of money tied up that supposed property; the lives of beings [known] as slaves.But he was very active in trying to put forth a plan that would be workable.”
In Nov 1844, the apostle (and future church president) Wilford Woodruff visited Lowell, MA. Darius Gray says that Woodruff, “observed that a colored brother [presumably Walker Lewis], who was an elder was present, and there was no remark made about the existence of a black elder being contrary to the doctrines or practices of the church.“
1844-45. Lowell, MA was visited by apostles Ezra T Benson, and Brigham Young.Neither mentioned any problem with a black man holding the priesthood.
April 1845. Orson Hyde refers to negroes as the “cursed lineage of Canaan” and speculates that the curse they bore was for their actions in the pre-existence.This is the earliest known reference by a church leader to a curse happening from actions in the pre-existence.
Margaret Young goes into detail here.“The church had imported from all over the world, but all of the protestant sects especially, the whole idea that blacks were the products of Cain, and that the curse of Canaan via Noah came on the blacks. That was something that had been used to justify slavery from the 15th century.So it is just absolutely ubiquitous, all over the place.People were using that.
But in the Articles of Faith we are told that we are not responsible for Adam’s transgression, that each man is responsible for his own, and you have to extrapolate from that, then, is the black man responsible for Cain’s transgression, or Ham’s transgression, for whatever is implied by seeing his father’s nakedness?The answer has to come back that, no, not if we do believe that every man is responsible for his own sins.
So, then, why could there be any cause for priesthood restriction?In this very speculative idea, given by Orson Hyde, and later echoed by other leaders, but always speculatively.Nobody was saying “thus saith the Lord”.Then comes in the institutional memory, and before too long, we had people saying, ‘well the church has always said that.My understanding is because of what they did in the pre-existence.’But in fact, we only have speculation trying to marry that idea, to justify the priesthood restriction based on something that doesn’t fit into our articles of faith— that blacks are being punished for sins that somebody else committed.
Darius Gray added, “But then we also have the issue that if blacks had been less valiant and had rooted for Satan in that battle that took place, then we would not be here, with physical, tangible bodies.We’re told that the great danger of the conflict required that everyone take a stand, therefore there could be no neutrals, and there could be no fence-sitters, and the fact that blacks are here with physical, tangible bodies, is a clear indication that we are on the side of the father and of the Savior.So the fence-sitter argument doesn’t fit, it does not stand the test.”
John Dehlin noted that the curse of Cain, or the curse of Ham is not an original Mormon doctrine, but rather a protestant doctrine brought into the Mormon church by early church converts.However, the curse stemming from the pre-existence, is a uniquely Mormon idea, because the concept of pre-existence is uniquely Mormon.
Darron, “People need to understand this. These ideas didn’t just spring up from Mormonism.Mormonism has its own particular way of looking at it, i.e. the curse of Cain metaphor.But the Curse of Ham myth, wherein Ham saw his father Noah’s nakedness, that’s the prevailing Judeo-Christian belief that was not only incorporated by Mormonism, but went one step further, with the whole invocation of Cain as being cursed with dark skin for murdering his brother Abel, and so on.That particular idea is unique to Mormonism.”
October 1846 William McCary, was ordained by Apostle Orson Hyde.He was known the “black prophet.”William was later excommunicated in 1847 for seducing a number of Mormon, white women into unauthorized polygamy.
In 1847 Brigham Young then declares that black people are not eligible for certain temple ordinances.Darius Gray says, “That might possibly be that Brigham was reacting to the William McCary ‘Black Pete‘ situation.” (Darius incorrectly believed Black Pete and William McCary were the same person. They are not.)
Darius added, “so while Brigham Young declared there is a restriction on temple ordinances, there is not a restriction on priesthood that year, in 1847.”
On Mar 26,1847, Brigham Young made a statement that he was aware of Walker Lewis, and aware that Walker held the priesthood. Young claimed on this date that there is no race-based ban. The statement is “its nothing to do with the blood, for of one blood has God made all flesh. We have to repent [and] regain what we [h]av[e] lost. We [h]av[e] one of the best Elders–an African in Lowell [i.e. Walker Lewis].” By December 1847, he’s completely changed his mind. Now he calls for Enoch and Matilda Lewis and their mixed-race child to be killed for breaking “the law of God.”
Margaret Young adds, “Prior to this, when people are talking about ‘curse of Cain, curse of Canaan’, it is not used as justification for this is why we’re not going to allow blacks to hold the priesthood, it is being used to justify why blacks have it so hard, or in some cases,A lot of protestant ministers are trying to keep the Civil War from happening, are saying ‘this is God’s design, and these are the curses that support the way things ought to be.So, it’s not a question of priesthood, it’s a question of social status.”
Greg Prince, “That ban came after Joseph Smith’s death.It was during the administration of Brigham Young, and the reasons for it and the exact timing still remain rather fuzzy.What’s clear is that it was not a discrete revelation.It was a policy that was instituted probably in response, probably in response to something going on in the local environment.I’m not sure on that.
But that became accepted as doctrine, the longer it remained in effect. So, by the time you got into the 20th century, everyone just assumed this was based on revelation, that it was doctrinal, and it wouldn’t change.”
This begs the question “What’s changed, what has happened?”
Darius, “The William McCary episode is probably the main event leading to the priesthood restriction.Darius Gray summarizes, “While talking about this event, Brigham said, ‘it is nothing to do with the blood, for of one blood has God made all flesh.We have one of the finest elder’s, an African in Lowell, MA.’ In all likelihood he was referring to Walker Lewis.So even during this period of time, we have William McCary excommunicated, and there is the sensitivity about McCary’s seducing a number of white sisters, still, Brigham says it has nothing to do with blood, for of one blood hath God made all flesh.”
According to Connell O’Donovan, “The catalyst for the priesthood and temple bans was a culmination of McCary’s marriage in 1846 to the daughter of Nauvoo stake president, Daniel Stanton, and then his sexual “sealings” to several other LDS women at Winter Quarters and other LDS camps in 1847, PLUS Enoch Lewis’ 1846 marriage to a white LDS woman, Mary Matilda Webster in Boston, and their having a mixed-race child in 1847. Brigham Young threatened to have the Lewis family killed in December 1847 for breaking the “law of God”. At that point, Young formulated the ban.”
Feb 1849 brings about the first statement about priesthood restriction.Brigham Young said, “Because Cain cut off the lives of Abel, the Lord cursed Canaan’s seed, and prohibited them from the priesthood.”
Darius answers, “As we’re moving closer and closer to the Civil War, tensions are mounting throughout the nation on the topic of slavery, and of course, on the topic of race.Now we have the saints who had been in upper NY state, and then they were in Ohio, and then from Ohio they went to Missouri, and from Missouri, they were run out and into Illinois.From Nauvoo, we came west.But at each of those stages, the saints were spending money moving, they were spending money building new dwellings, they were spending money building new temples:the Kirtland Temple, and then the Nauvoo Temple.By the time the saints got to the Salt Lake Valley, we were poor as could be.We had shot our wad.
But there were seeds that had been planted by early Mormon missionaries, who had gone into the southern states, who had been teaching the gospel there, and in 1850, 12 Mormon slave owners, who possessed between 60 and 70 black slaves, came into the Deseret Territory, and one of those slave owners was the apostle Charles C Rich.We have something else that took place in that time period.The Territorial Legislature passed the law legalizing slavery in Utah, and that’s something that many don’t know.It was called ‘an act in relation to service’, but it gave legal recognition to slaveholding in the territory of Deseret.”
Darron Smith adds to this by saying, “If you want to look at who instigated [the priesthood ban], you will have to look at Brigham Young, because in 1852, or 1854, I can’t remember the date, declared this in Fillmore, Utah, the capital of Utah used to be Fillmore, declared it when speaking to the state legislature.Back then, the separation of church and state was not even a question.He said, and I’ll paraphrase it, ‘no one spake it before me, and I’ll say it now, blacks cannot hold the priesthood.’He goes on to say why, he explains that blacks were cursed, and that they were less than less, and this, that and the other.So he made himself the author of that, which demonstrated beautifully to me, the confusion over it.
I mean if Brigham Young is going to say, ‘if no one has spake it before me, I’ll say it now that blacks can’t hold the priesthood.’To me it is a little bit compelling, that the church didn’t have a policy, and didn’t have any kind of written, expressed dictum, on what to do with their black members of the church.So, with Brigham Young, he made himself the author of that.So certainly, it was Brigham Young.
Also, when the saints came, west, and settled in the Utah Basin, Brigham Young enacted what’s called ‘an act in relationship to service’, which was basically a document that authorized African slavery, and native American slavery in the Utah Territory.One of the things that the federal government was trying to do was to contain slavery to the South.So, the saints came out west, and started slavery— the only territory west of the Mississippi to have slavery.We have a really, really checkered past.
Was this law to have slavery legalized in Utah a pragmatic decision on the part of Mormon leaders?
Margaret, “[this law] was against the advice of John Burnhisle, who was an emissary to Washington, DC, and was part of the California Compromise.”
Darius, “California came into the union as a free state.Utah and New Mexico was given the option of being a free territory, or slave, and New Mexico chose free, and Utah chose slave, and I think it might be because of an accommodation being made to those southern saints— the Mississippi saints who came into the valley.”
1853 Elijah Abel is not allowed to receive his endowment by Brigham Young.
1861-1865. Civil War begins, and ends with the abolition of slavery.It is interesting to note that Abraham Lincoln would have kept slavery if it would have meant keeping the union together.But since the Union was torn apart by war, slavery was outlawed.
1877 Brigham Young died.
1879.A meeting informally ‘canonizes’ the priesthood ban.In the meeting Zebedee Coltrin says that Joseph Smith announces the ban in 1834, but this is contradicted by several items in the above time line.Apostle (and future president) Joseph F Smith challenges Coltrin’s claims, showing 2 certificates showing that Elijah had been re-ordained to the office of the Seventy.Darius, “In those days, you had to be re-certified periodically.Joseph F Smith sought out and found those 2 re-certifications, and presented them to counter what Brother Zebedee Coltrin was saying, so we have conflicting accounts in 1879.”
Margaret, “Let me just contextualize the time also.Brigham Young has died 2 years ago.This is 1879, and Brigham died in 1877.So why is Elijah petitioning again?He’s already been told no.Why are they listening again?Why don’t they say, ‘Well, didn’t Brigham Young already answer that?’It becomes a really important question, and a really important meeting.First of all, Elijah Abel’s wife is dying, and he wants the sealing ordinances, so he understands what is implied by the church doctrine of eternal sealing, and he wants to be sealed to his wife.But secondly, he thinks that with Brigham Young gone, you can approach the new church president, and ask.Indeed, they don’t summarily say, ‘I thought you already got that answer.’
They go back, and revisit, and say ‘What did Joseph Smith say about this?That’s when Zebedee Coltrin provides a pretty old memory, and he gets a couple things wrong in that memory, and then you have Joseph F Smith countering it.That’s when his patriarchal blessing is read.They pull that out of the records, and there are Father Smith’s words, ‘Thou hast been ordained an elder and shall be protected against the powers of the adversary.’So in 1879, there are big questions about this policy.
Darius, “Brother Coltrin’s memory is shown to be unreliable again.His claimed date of 1834 for Joseph Smith announcing the alleged ban, isn’t possible, since Coltrin himself ordained Abel a Seventy two years later than that in 1836.”
Margaret, “This information is taken to Elijah Abel, and he’s also told that Zebedee Coltrin has said, ‘I washed and anointed Elijah Abel in the temple, and never had a worse feeling in my life, and I swore that I would never do so again, unless I were commanded to by a prophet.’Elijah is told that, and he said that Zebedee did not wash and anoint me, but he did ordain me a Seventy.”
In 1880, Elijah is again denied the endowment by the Quorum of the 12.In 1883 Elijah is still on record as a Seventy.In 1895, Joseph F Smith claims Elijah Abel was ordained a High Priest.
1884 Elijah goes on his 3rd mission for the church, returns home, and dies in Dec 25, 1884.Two days later, Jane James asks for her endowment, and is denied.
1900, Nov 27.Enoch Abel, Elijah’s son received the priesthood, and is ordained an elder.
1921.President McKay becomes aware of the priesthood ban for the first time.
Greg Prince, “David O McKay was called to be an apostle in 1906.He recorded that the first time he became aware that a policy even existed, was on a trip around the world which was in 1921.So he’d been an apostle for 15 years, and didn’t even know that there was a policy.If he didn’t know, you can imagine what the level of knowledge was in the general church membership.
Prince continues, “When he was going around the world in 1921 on the request of President Grant, he encountered a couple in Hawaii.I believe the wife was Hawaiian, and the husband was African-American.That’s when he first became aware of the policy.He wrote President Grant, asking if it might be changed, and was told by Grant by return letter that no, there was nothing he could do about it.So, he basically accepted the status quo, and just lived with it until he became church president.”
1934Elijah’s grandson, also with the name Elijah Abel, receives the priesthood, and is ordained a priest.
1935 Elijah Abel (grandson) is ordained an Elder.
1951.David O Mckay becomes president of the church.According to Prince, “Shortly after he became church president, in response to the plea of the president of the South African mission, he became the first general authority to visit that mission.That happened in 1954, and the main reason that he wanted to visit it, was that mission president had just been tied up in knots because of this policy, and because of an addendum of that policy that came in the late 1940’s.The mission president was told that no male [white or black] was to be ordained to the priesthood until all of his ancestral lines could be traced back to Europe.
That was almost an impossible task, so they wound up with a situation that they had very few local men who were able to be ordained to the priesthood.As a result, the church was crippled.He went down there specifically to look at that policy.He changed it on the spot in a conference of the missionaries.He got up and announced that as of that point, that policy would no longer hold.Unless there was firm evidence to the contrary, the male members would be assumed not to have black blood, and could be ordained without further documentation.When he got back from that trip, apparently that was the first time that he began to question the policy himself.There is no indication from any of his records of any questioning prior to then.So it probably was a result of what happened on that trip, and his consciousness being raised by his being on the ground in South Africa, and seeing what the effect of the policy had been.”
1954.President McKay changes the policy regarding South African members of the church.He also has an important conversation with Sterling McMurrin, a University of Utah professor, and former Education Secretary in the John F Kennedy administration.
Margaret talked about a situation regarding a conversation between Sterling McMurrin and David O McKay, which happened in March 1954.Many church members felt the church policy banning priesthood to blacks was church doctrine, but McKay affirmed that it was merely church policy, not doctrine.”In Sunday School, they started talking about the priesthood policy was a doctrine of the church, and I said I don’t believe it’s a doctrine.I believe it’s a policy.Pres McKay replied, ‘I’m glad you said that, because I believe that’s what I believe as well.”Greg Prince details this conversation in much more detail in his book about David O McKay.Prince goes further and quotes President McKay as saying, ‘It is a policy, and there will be a time when the policy will change.’
1950’s or 1960’s.Greg Prince relates the following story.”On at least more than one occasion, he [McKay] more than stretched the rule, because there was a young man, and 11 year old in Cincinnati, who’s mother was from Barbados, and clearly had African ancestry.The bishop, feeling that this was such an outstanding young man, prevailed upon the stake president to write a letter to the First Presidency to see if anything could be done, because he was shortly going to turn 12.
To the stake president’s surprise, the letter that came back from the First Presidency said, ‘Ordain the young man.’Not understanding what this really meant, the stake presidentwrote a 2nd letter and gave him greater detail than he had in the 1st letter, saying ‘I don’t think you understood the first time.’A second letter came back from the First Presidency, and it said, ‘Ordain the young man.’He was ordained.
1963, Oct.NAACP plans to protest the LDS church position on blacks.Greg gives us some more details.“In 1963, the Salt Lake chapter of the NAACP was very upset at the church’s backward stance on Civil Rights, and in an effort to try to get them to change, they threatened to picket General Conference.This came to the attention of Sterling McMurrin, and he brought it to the attention of Hugh Brown of the First Presidency, who brought it to the attention of Pres McKay.Pres McKay was not about to concede anything to the NAACP, but he at least agreed that Hugh Brown could read a statement in General Conference in 1963 to try to defuse the situation.He would not let him make it, however, as an officialFirst Presidency statement.It was just to be a statement that he would read without making it official.
What Pres McKay didn’t know was that Brown went to Sterling McMurrin and asked him to write the statement, which McMurrin did.That at least defused the situation an ironically, that unofficial statement, two years later, was republished by the church and now labeled the official statement.It was progressive because it was written by McMurrin at the request of Brown.Both of those men were progressive on that subject.Because it was written by them, it had a much more moderate tone than it would have had it been written by Pres McKay.”
1968.Sterling McMurrin writes a letter to David O McKay’s four sons, detailing the conversation he had with Pres McKay concerning the priesthood ban being policy, not doctrine.
Greg, “In 1968, in order that this [conversation] be preserved, he [McMurrin] wrote it down and sent it to Llewelyn McKay, one of David’s sons, and sent it also to his other e sons.Llewelyn took the letter to his father and read it to him, and his father said, ‘yes, that’s exactly what I said.’So we don’t just have to take Sterling’s word for it.”
“[The letter] first came to the forefront when Steven Taggart, a graduate student, got wind of this, found out that there was such a letter, went to Sterling and asked for permission to include it in his paper and Sterling referred him to Llewelyn McKay, who allowed him to do it.”
Greg, “In the late months of his life, the McMurrin letter to Llewelyn McKay ignited a firestorm.Up until the time that letter became public, even President McKay’s counselor’s had no idea that Pres McKay had that conversation with McMurrin in 1954.Once that became known, and once Pres McKay affirmed the accuracy of that account— the account saying that ‘it is a policy, and the time will come when the policy will change.’Then you had 2 groups that formed around President McKay, who was in poor health, and was not really in command of the situation.On the one hand, you had Hugh Brown, who felt that if it was indeed a policy, and it was the first time he had been made aware of that nomenclature, that it would just take and administrative action to change it.
On the other hand, you had Alvin Dyer, who was an extra counselor in the First Presidency, and Harold B Lee, who was the Acting President of the Quorum of the 12, and later became church president, both of whom feared that because it was called a policy, that in fact it could be changed administratively.So Brown on the one hand tried to change it.Dyer and Lee on the other hand tried to block him from changing it.Ultimately, they prevailed and were able to neutralize Brown’s initiative.
The tragedy caused a great deal of hurt feelings amongst these men, and it was all for naught because neither side understood, that even though he had called it a policy, Pres McKay would not have changed it unless there had been a revelation to that effect.So you had this enormous flurry of activity and division between these men, going all the way up to the top.It was all superfluous, because it wouldn’t have resolved it and changed it, no matter what they had tried.”
John Dehlin, “There’s a passage or two I read in Michael Quinn’s book ‘Extensions of Power’, where he tells a story that basically gives the impression that Harold B Lee’s out of town, David O McKay’s is ailing, not really actively at the helm of the church.Hugh B Brown leads a discussion of this topic in the late 1960’s, rallies the quorum to agree that the ban on priesthood blacks should be lifted, but then with a black hat, Harold B Lee swoops into town, catches wind of the vote, and kills it before it’s allowed to take effect.Is there anything you’ve read that validates that?Is that just totally pulled out of the sky?”
Greg, “I’m not sure how valid that account is.I think in it’s essence, there may be some validity to it, because in the McKay diaries, there are some journal entries from Alvin Dyer, that he gave to Claire Middlemiss [McKay’s secretary], and she included them in the McKay record, where Dyer says that Brown had tried to change it, but didn’t give any details.So of that much, I’m pretty confident.But since I wasn’t confident of the others, I didn’t put those details into the book.It’s possible that there is more out there, than I was able to gather.”
1969, Hugh B Brown proposed that the church’s policy be reversed.This policy was approved by the First Presidency, and the Quorum of the 12.President McKay was out due to illness, and Harold B. Lee was out travelling on church business when the vote was taken.A re-vote took place, and the measure to extend the priesthood to blacks was defeated.
Greg, “Hugh Brown never really understood where President McKay was on this.He assumed that if he pushed, that it might happen.Whereas, Pres McKay always said that it would take a revelation to do it, even though he called it a policy, he meant that it was only a policy that could be changed if the Lord said ‘Change it.'”
1970, Jan 18.Pres McKay dies.
1971.The Genesis Group is created to specifically fellowship Black members of the church, under the direction of Joseph Fielding Smith.
1973. Lester Bush wrote an article in a magazine called Dialogue: Journal for Mormon Thought. The article was titled, “Mormonism’s Negro Doctrine: an Historical Overview.” O’Donovan states that it was “Extremely controversial at the time. this article proved, without being strident, that there never was a “revelation” to ban the priesthood and it had merely been a policy that leaders had followed for decades without any justification whatsoever. Many today consider the article THE pivotal academic support for ending the ban. Bush’s solid, undeniable research could not be refuted by the church and it lay bare the antiquated policy.”
1978.Spencer Kimball announces that the priesthood will be extended to all worthy male members.
Ok, so that’s a rough timeline, and I think it really emphasizes many of the social and political things that were going on in this time period.I think it illustrates well, the many issues the prophets and apostles faced during this time.I just found this website with a chronology on blacks and the priesthood ban at http://www.blacklds.org/history which references LDS and other churches policies regarding blacks. There is another interesting timeline at http://www.xtimeline.com/timeline/Chronology-Pertaining-to-Blacks-and-the-LDS-Priesthood
I’d like to address some of the folklore regarding blacks that happened inside the church, and some of it is still happening today.
Pres John Taylor stated on 2 occasions that blacks were representatives of Satan.Let me quote Darius Gray directly here.“Now you can’t get much worse than that to say that blacks are here so that there can be a balance in all things, and that we are here to represent Satan.Is it doctrinal?No.Will the brethren today support that statement?No.But it was made by the president of the church.So is that doctrine, or is that folklore?That’s folklore.”
Now some church members might be quite uncomfortable with the knowledge that a prophet of God would make such a pronouncement.
Margaret has a great quote on prophetic infallibility.Incidentally, I’ve already blogged on this topic earlier.“We don’t believe in the infallibility of prophets.We think that Brigham Young did some remarkable things in leading the Mormons on that great, historic migration, but he was blind in certain aspects.There is just no question about it.I used the word ‘evolution’ before when talking about Joseph Smith.I see us as a church evolving, consistent with what Joseph Smith talked about in the King Follett discourse, when he talked about, you climb up a ladder in your knowledge.We certainly refer to it in the temple, as we get better.We learn things.We grow from our infancy into our boyhood.We grow from our boyhood (or girlhood) into manhood and womanhood.I’m now 50, and you’d think that I would have figured out a whole lot of stuff, and I still am absolutely flummoxed by situations.
I fully acknowledge that I have a whole lot to learn about many, many areas.This area is one that I have taken a lot of time to find things out about.Other areas, I’m not prepared to talk about.Brigham Young was marvelous in so much of what he did.But the statements that he made, did start a disastrous chain effect.The marvelous thing is that we are a church that believes in continuing revelation.”
She goes on, “I’ve had to pinch my nose, when I read some of the terrible things that have been said by past leaders of the church, understanding the damage that they have done, and the damage that they continue to do, because they are very much with us.We are in the internet age.With the click of a mouse, you can bring up what Brigham Young said on inter-racial marriage.You can bring up what he said about blacks being eternally destined for servitude.They are ugly, ugly statements.
Apostle J.Reuben Clark has said, “They [general authorities] sometimes have spoke out of turn.You will recall, that the prophet Joseph declared that a prophet is not always a prophetâ€¦.Even the president of the church himself, may not always be moved upon by the Holy Ghost when he addresses the people.This has happened about matters of doctrine, usually of a highly speculative character, where subsequent presidents of the church, and the people themselves, have felt that in declaring the doctrine, the announcer was not moved upon by the Holy Ghost.”
Margaret Young agrees with Clark. “What you see with Joseph Smith is evolution.You see him in the earlier years making statements about the seed of Cain and statements that are reflective of the protestant ideas of the time.But you see him really growing and I personally think that we grow in our acceptance of other nations and peoples as we become acquainted with them.We know for a fact that Joseph Smith had a deep friendship with Elijah Abel, that he had a tender relationship with Jane Manning James, that there were other African-Americans in Nauvoo, and that they knew and loved Joseph Smith, and I suspect that he knew and loved them.
Slavery was repugnant to him. We haven’t gone over all the things that he did.But as mayor, a man was charged with whipping his slave, and Joseph Smith came down very hard on it, [and] the whole idea of anyone being in bondage.When someone asked Joseph Smith, what if this person wants to come to Nauvoo, but he wants to bring 50 slaves with him.The answer was ‘Tell him â€“ Free his slaves, educate them, and then come and join us in Nauvoo.’
So I see a great evolution in Joseph Smith, and that to me is the promising thing for all of us.The more he becomes acquainted with African-Americans within the city, and sees how they embrace the faith, and how they love him, his heart opens up.”
We probably wouldn’t say that he obtained full enlightenment on this because he was very much opposed to inter-racial marriage, and said that they should keep to their own species, and that’s pretty late in his life. Michael Quinn, one of the very knowledgeable church historians talked about Joseph Smith being absolutely radical for his time, in his view, on race.”
Darius, “You can bring up the statements made by, I call them the Orson twins:Orson Hyde and Orson Pratt.This isn’t a question of the glossing over or making pretty, the hideous statements of the past.There were racist statements made.That’s a fact, and I know that.Yet I realize that these were men, and they were fallible, just as you and I are fallible today.Yet, I have a testimony.I am a Latter-Day Saint.I am a religious person here speaking to you.I have a testimony of the truthfulness of this restored gospel.I know that God has to use we, imperfect people to bring about his purposes.So, if imperfect people were called, who had attitudes that were not Christian, it does not demean their calling from God.Brigham Young was a prophet of God. Did he have racial attitudes?Absolutely.
I have to separate the two.Otherwise, I would have been offended by some ward member 30 years ago, 40 years ago, and never had the experiences of being in the gospel these last 41 years. So, I have to make that separation.They were imperfect, not to gloss over it, but recognizing their humanity, and that I too am imperfect.”
It is important that all church members help get rid of racist folklore.Darron Smith related an experience on his mission (in Kalamazoo, MI) regarding racist folklore.“I didn’t know what to believe.I was being to be Mr. Obedient.I was trying to get them an answer that was adequate, and at the time, I thought that was adequate an adequate answer to give.So at that moment, that’s when I began to say, ‘there’s something wrong with this.There’s something really wrong with this’.And I cannot tell you how many missionaries I have spoken to over the years who continually spew this kind of racist folklore. It’s not just missionaries, but well-meaning, and not so well-meaning members of the church, who continue to talk and talk about blacks as if we were cursed, or less than, or inferior, and continually invoke these old racist assumptions by Joseph Fielding Smith, and Brigham Young, and then get pissed off at someone like me, or someone like you, John, when you say, ‘that’s inappropriate.’These men are racist.They have problems.They are products of their time.
[Some will] look at it [and say], ‘no, they’re not racist.They’re men of God,’ as if they are somehow immune from the ills of society.So, that’s been probably one of the most problematic experiences in this endeavor that I have been engaged in, is being absolutely flabbergasted at the blind obedience that many members of the church have, even if it’s racist blind obedience, and failing to think for themselves, and saying ‘what a minute, racism has always been a systemic and persistent, structural anomaly in US society.Why would the church be any different?I know we have such a high regard for our church.I understand that.I’ve been a member long enough to know that.But also, I’ve been a member long enough to know that it’s been always that way, particularly when you are looking as social issues.I think that’s the case for a lot of churches.But for our church, unfortunately, we persisted in this longer than most churches did.”
It is important to remember that there are both good stories, and bad stories of racism within the church.Darron adds, “There’s some schizophrenia with Mormons as well.If you look at the roots of Mormonism, Mormonism started in the Northeast, New York, Palmyra region.So you’ve got primarily an abolitionist spirit in that area during Joseph Smith’s time.You’ve got a lot of Mormons from the Northeast, and from the Midwest, who have very strong abolitionist leanings.So the church was always being constructed in the mid 1800’s to late 1800’s, as an abolitionist movement.That is an adjective that Joseph Smith and others vehemently deny.
But yet, you see some schizophrenia in the way in which the prophet even dealt with the issue.On the one hand, the prophet was very, very sympathetic towards black folks.On the other hand, he believed in the mythology that blacks were cursed.”
Darron gives an example of Joseph’s love and Christianity towards a black man. “There was a slave who had run away to a free state, and he was trying to buy his family’s freedom, and he had a horse.The prophet knew he was breaking the law, if you want to call that breaking the law.Nevertheless, for the story’s sake, the prophet purchased his horse from him, and told him to go back and claim his family.This is not hearsay, by the way.I want your listeners to understand it.This is all documented in church history.This is not like I’m making this up.This is all documented.That particular story can be found in an old journal, called The Woman’s Journal.The Relief Society back then kept notes, wrote, and published things…”
“What [this story] does is it actually complexifies Joseph Smith.Even out of the words of Jane Manning James, Elijah Abel, they had high regard for Joseph Smith.Jane Manning James was considered one of Joseph’s family members, even in her own words.There was a lot of respect and admiration for the prophet, Joseph Smith.Most of that changed during Brigham Young’s administration.”
Regarding racism in general, both white and black people need to help get rid of it.“We’re all complicit in it.We want to excuse these experiences, and erase them, and Pollyanna our past, and not really deal with the things that vex us even today as members of the church.So, rather than address these issues of race, and really confront these issues honestly, and forthrightly, we pretend that they don’t exist, or stonewall, or create verbal gymnastics to get around the issue, which continually make Mormons look suspect in the eyes of those who otherwise, may even consider the church an option as a theological and religious option.So we really do shoot ourselves in the foot.
One of the things that I told one high ranking member of the church about this issues is that not coming clean with this issue really puts black people in a really bad situation, because black people then have to defend a racist policy.Blacks have to bear the burdens of white racist sentiment.It’s just that simple, because white people can walk away and say, the church is still true, and this has nothing to do with the church being true, or anybody being false prophets.
It has to do with integrity.It has to do with the very thing that the church teaches us as members of the church:to reconcile.Ask for forgiveness.Atone for our past.We teach that on any given Sunday, on any given week.We’re teaching our families the importance of forgiveness, the importance of atonement.Then we refuse to atone.That’s a bad example.I think it’s an awful example.”
It is important to acknowledge the past, and not hide from it.Darius said, “We need to heal.We need to be able to acknowledge, as they did in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa.We need to acknowledge the realities of the past.We need to speak openly to the current reality and sensitivity and bigotry, and we need to be able to heal, and move forward as true brothers and sisters.”
John Dehlin, “Once I started reading that there were minutes of these discussions where the brethren were deciding all these issues, it really blew open my conception of how decisions might get made.I naively have always that when an important decision needed to be made from the church, the prophet goes up to the Holy of Holies, he prays, a light comes down from above, and he gets out his pen and pencil, and writes down what the new policy or instruction is.But when I read a little more about the history, I see that they way that things are dealt with are very real, and make a lot more sense to me.If you can, talk a little more about that an LDS person hearing that even this topic was debated, and that there were various issues, what do you come away with how decisions are made and how different parties or personalities play in these types of important decisions for the church?”
Greg, “Different decisions are made differently.That’s not a way of sidestepping the issue, it’s just stating the reality, and that is, you have the personality of the president, and how he may approach a topic, and then you may have the topic.In some cases, it will be a matter of open discussion between the First Presidency and the Quorum of the 12.In other cases, it may be very private.In the case of the Provo and Ogden temples, President McKay made that decision without ever taking it to the Quorum of the 12.They found out about it after the fact.”
He goes on, “There were other cases where such as this where it became a matter of open discussion with divergent opinions, and on that particular one, the sentiment of the Quorum of the 12 carried the day.So, it depends on who it is at the time, and it depends on what the issue is.Now the example that you gave, of the president retiring to the temple, alone, is exactly what happened with Spencer Kimball went over to the temple, and ultimately got the revelation that changed the policy of blacks and priesthood and ordination.So it can go either way, depending on the person, and depending on the issue.”
John, “As a coping mechanism, I agree that a decision can come straight to the prophet.But I hold open the possibility that God sometimes needs the apostles to be on board, not just intellectually, but emotionally and spiritually as well, and that it’s possible that the Lord can even allow things to wait until he feels like the apostles are all of one heart and one mind.”
Some people will ask, Why did it take a revelation to change the policy?Greg answers this question, “The basic policy remained intact, because he felt, as did President Kimball, that it would take a revelation to change it, and in fact, it did take a revelation to change it.The first time that President McKay nibbled at the policy was in 1954 when he went down to South Africa, and changed the rules for genealogical research.
The impact worldwide was not great at all, but it was a major effect on the South African mission.Subsequently, on occasion, he would do other things that though they didn’t change the policy, indicated that he was certainly willing to stretch it.Fro instance on occasion, there would be a proposed marriage and the issue would be raised that one of the couple apparently had African blood.On those occasions, he would err on the side of leniency, and say that he was prepared to defend that decision before the Savior and let the marriage go through.
Greg continues, No, he [McKay] did not change the policy, and it took another 8 years after his death for the policy to change.We have to believe that he was preparing the gournd that later proved fertile for President Kimball, so that revelation could take place.”
John Dehlin, “How do you come out on the issue of revelation, and how revelation works through prophets, and specifically, what revelation looked like and how it worked for Pres McKay?”
Greg, “The over-riding conclusion in this and other areas, when you look at Pres McKay’s administration is that revelation is process, not an event.True, there may be events involved in it, but this is a long haul.There’s a lot of work involved.There’s a lot of questioning, and research, a lot of sweat equity.So you have to take it in over the long haul and say that it really is a process that is punctuated occasionally by events.In the case of blacks and priesthood, for Pres McKay, this was an intensely personal issue.
He didn’t solicit much in the way of input from outsiders, and in fact, he rebuffed repeated attempts from those outside the church, from those outside the hierarchy, and occasionally even from inside the hierarchy, who tried to force his hand on the issue.This is in sharp distinction to other areas such as the development of the international church, where he welcomed, and readily appropriated suggestions from throughout the world to advance internationally.So you can’t just draw a single model that would govern the way revelation occurs in the church.It is like a multi-faceted gemstone.What you see depends on the vantage point that you’re observing it, and the mode of revelation that may come into play on a particular subject is going to a combination of what the subject is, what the timing is, and quite importantly, what the nature of the president of the church is.
The same thing is applicable on an individual level.As you face dilemmas in your own life, and you’re seeking inspiration to try to guide you, it’s not likely that there’s going to be a single discrete event that’s going to give you the answer.Yes, it can happen, but generally it doesn’t.And this is why I think it’s so important to look at the administration of Pres McKay, because we have so much detail that we can look at and understand it, and apply that to the individual’s lives, because I think that the rules are the same.So that’s the take home lesson on this.If you understand what happened in the Mckay years, you can understand what happening in the church today, because the process is the same, and you can apply that to your own life.”
I look forward to your comments.
“When Joseph ran for US President, he advocated the complete elimination of slavery as we have discussed repeatedly. Brigham’s advocacy of slavery in Utah is not following closely the teachings of Joseph. I will disagree with you here. Perhaps you have a different definition of “closely.””
You know, I am getting really frustrated here. I feel like you are selectively ignoring a lot of important information and are intentionally trying to not understand me. I will give it one more try, and I hope this time you will try harder to understand. First, I understand and acknowledge that Joseph ran for president on an anti-slavery platform. That was his ultimate desire, I believe, to see slavery abolished peaceably. Second, Brigham did not advocate slavery. Let me say that again, Brigham did not advocate slavery. Brigham advocated freedom for slaves as they desired. He would’ve liked to see slavery abolished peaceably as well. Unfortunately, that did not happen, and so long as it didn’t happen, Joseph taught that it wasn’t for the church to interfere with the issue. So did Brigham. Joseph did not make it a requirement for people to free their slaves in order to join or fellowship in the church. Neither did Brigham. Yes, I remember the quote you gave where Joseph said to tell those who wanted to join the Saints in Nauvoo to free their slaves first. But, once again, that was not a mandated requirement. That was counsel. Brigham pretty much said the same things. You may want to deny that because it is convenient to your argument, but those are facts.
Some quotes by Brigham Young: “Human flesh to be dealt in as property is not consistent or compatible with the true principles of government. My own feelings are, that no property can or should be recognized as existing in slaves, whether Indian or African.” (Neither White Nor Black, pp.67-8)
“I am as much opposed to the principle of slavery as any man in the present acceptation or usage of the term. It is abused. I am opposed to abusing that which God decreed, to take a blessing and made a curse of it. It is a great blessing to the seed of Adam to have the seed of Cain as servants, but those they serve should use them with all the heart and feeling, as they would use their own children and their compassion should reach over them and round about them, and treat them as kindly, and with that human feeling necessary to be shown to mortal beings of the human species.” (Governor Brigham Young’s Speech before the Joint Session of the Legislature, Feb. 5, 1852, LDS Church Historian’s Office, p.5)
“Your Horace Greeley interview shows how Brigham was trying to walk a tightrope of being a Free State, yet allowing slavery. It is apparent to me that Horace saw through this faÃ§ade.”
Are you sure about that, because Horace Greeley said of the interview that Brigham “spoke readily, not always with grammatical accuracy, but with no appearance of hesitation or reserve, and with no apparent desire to conceal anything.” So much for Greeley seeing through Brigham’s facade.
“What mentally competent person would choose to remain a slave/servant? None. It is only mentally incompetent people who are incapable of taking care of themselves who would choose such an option.”
Why is it so hard to believe that people would choose to be servants? You can look up the history if you’d like. There were people who actually chose servitude because it was their best option. Poverty was their other option. In addition, there were people who chose servitude because, as history shows, many white men and women came to love their black nannies more than they loved their own white mothers. Often, slaves became attached to those they served and when given a choice to leave, they opted to stay. Those times were different than today. Conditions were much harsher. We weren’t a welfare nanny state then and so when you were on your own, you were REALLY on your own.
“Joseph gave real jobs to people who were down and out— Brigham should have done the same.”
Who says he didn’t? You are very hard on Brigham in this issue and seem to be very resentful. It seems you don’t want to give him the benefit of the doubt.
“Why do you keep saying that I am looking at the Curse of Cain as a punishment?”
Because when you quote the 2nd Article of Faith, you are saying that if the curse indeed continued on with Cain’s children (and I know you don’t believe that it did), that would be God punishing Cain’s children for something Cain did. This is the premise (at least in part) for you not accepting that the curse lasted beyond Cain, because you are looking only at the idea that if the curse did continue with Cain’s descendants then that would, in your mind, be going completely against the 2nd Article of Faith. That would mean you are looking at it strictly as a punishment. You’re not looking at the fact that the Lord tests us in this life, and that although we may go through difficult trials, it is not because God is punishing us, but because he is testing us and trying to make us better. And sometimes what may seem to be punishment may actually be a protection, but you seem to be averse to that possibility as well.
“I have usually considered the Adam and Eve story as literal, but your conclusions of it are making me question how literal we should be taking it. With all your questions about the whole Adam and Eve story, I question many conclusions, such as women being cursed with a painful childbirth. I think that is folklore. For us to attribute God as the author of this makes God sound capricious like Zues, sending curses down on mankind for upsetting God.”
So you don’t think God punishes his children for their disobedience? If not, then you must be reading different scriptures and belong to a different Mormon church. Of course God punishes us for disobedience just as mortal parents punish their mortal children for disobedience. If he didn’t, then I suppose he wouldn’t have cursed Cain. I suppose he also wouldn’t have sent a flood to cleanse the earth from the wicked. I suppose also that we needn’t worry about those threats of being cast into hell either. God punishments are not borne of capriciousness any more than a parent’s punishments are capricious. It is the justice of God which calls for punishment, and it is precisely because God loves us that he chastens us.
“This seems to be a naÃ¯ve view of God— I don’t think he gets angry, and throws lightning bolts and curses down at mankind just willy-nilly. However, I do believe that man has interpreted God to do such strange things.”
So then I guess we just have to start ignoring a whole lot of scripture which might depict God as punishing his children. So where do we stop and end with the deletion of scripture? Whenever we come across something we don’t like and think sounds incompatible with our understanding of God? Sounds like a prophet-making venture to me.
“I know Moses tells us God is a jealous God, but I don’t really believe that either.”
Jealous may not be the best translation. Jealousy is a selfish emotion. The footnote says ‘possessing sensitive and deep feelings.’ That does not necessarily translate to jealousy even though jealousy can also contain sensitive and deep feelings.
“Your 2nd link (the lightplanet link) I completely disagree with. They do show biblical precedent, but I do not believe that God is the author of denying an entire ethnic group from salvation.”
Who said that these people were denied salvation? It only says that they were not permitted into the congregation. Do we not teach that salvation is also made available to those who do not have a knowledge of the gospel or who are unable to obtain the necessary ordinances of salvation in this life? Tell me again why we do work for the dead?
“These commands given to Moses are Moses’ best attempts to understand God, and they were wrong. God did not institute these bans, man did.”
Will you also say the same of Lehi and Abraham? In 2 Nephi 1:18, Lehi is apparently under the impression that curses carry on for many generations. Then Abraham, in Abraham 1:24 said, “When this woman discovered the land it was under water, who afterward settled her sons in it; and thus, from Ham, sprang that race which preserved the curse in the land.” I guess this was just Abraham’s best, though obviously mistaken, attempt to understand God. Tell me, just how many uninspired ignoramouses have we had as prophets, because it seems that nearly all of them have bought into the whole cursings by God thing.
The following are quotes from Darrick Evenson in his book, which is not copyrighted, and can be found here . I find his insight to be very interesting and informative. I also think his arguments are strong and well supported. I hate to borrow so heavily, but there was just so much good information that I had a hard time deciding how best to utilize it. I cut a lot and there’s still a whole lot more. I wasn’t really sure how to use all of the quotes, but in a last-ditch effort to make my case, I am including it all, and unfortunately it’s sort of random. If it does no good then nothing, short of a miracle, will make a difference.
The Priesthood ban was an official policy of the Church which was based upon the Curse of Cain doctrine. They went hand-in-hand. If there was no Curse of Cain doctrine then there would have been no Priesthood ban policy. But both the policy and the doctrine originated with the Prophets of the Church, and if the policy and doctrine were a “mistake” then at any given time the leadership of the Church can put forth “mistakes” as official policy and doctrine. In that case, no Member could be sure if the Church’s current policies and doctrines are from the LORD or not.
Until the Church itself officially calls the Priesthood ban policy and/or the Curse of Cain doctrine a “mistake” the Members have no right to do so. A Member of the Church can say “I don’t believe this was true doctrine” but they cannot speak for the Church. They cannot say to others, “The Curse of Cain was a false doctrine or mistaken notion!” They cannot say, “The Priesthood ban was a mistake”. They can say, “I personally believe that….” How the Church responds to such personal declarations is only known fully to those who make them.
The official position of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that the Priesthood ban and the Curse of Cain were from the LORD, and until The First Presidency says otherwise that shall continue to be the official position of the Church regardless of what Members think, wish, hope, or say. Members speak only for themselves; not for the Church. Only The First Presidency can speak for the Church, and they have yet to issue a repudiation of the Curse of Cain legacy.
Regarding the subject of the Priesthood ban, President Greorge A. Smith asked the Lord in 1948 and the answer was “not yet”. The following is a report by Richard Jackson, a Church architech who worked in an office near that of President David O. McKay in 1970. Br. Jackson reported:
“I rmemeber one day that President McKay came into the office. We could see that he was very much distressed. He said, ‘I’ve had it! I’m not going to do it again!’ Somebody said, ‘What?’ He said, ‘Well, I’m badgered constantly about giving the priesthood to the Negro. I’ve inquired of the Lord repeatedly. That last time I did it was late last night. I was told, with no discussion, not to bring the subject up with the Lord again; that the time will come, but it will not be my time, and to leave the subject alone.’ We were all, of course, a little dumb-struck. I don’t think it has ever been written that that happened….I’ve never told anybody about that. I can still see him coming in with a bit of a distraught appearance, which was unusual for President McKay. He always appeared as if he had everything under control.” (David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism, 2005, p. 104)
“A special problem exists with respect to blacks because they may not now 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 though authoritative baptism are heirs to the Celestial Kingdom along with men of other races.” (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p.237 emphases added)
“Blacks and the Priesthood: I am not sure that there will be a change, although there could be. We are under the dictates of our Heavenly Father, and this is not my policy or the Church’s policy. It is the policy of the Lord who has established it, and I know of no change, although we are subject to revelations of the Lord in case he should ever wish to make a change.” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p.449 emphases added)
“The things of God cannot be understood by the spirit of men. It is impossible to always measure and weigh all spiritual things by man’s yardstick or scales.
Admittedly, our direct and positive information is limited. I have wished the Lord had given us a little more clarity in the matter. But for me, it is enough. The prophets for 133 years of the existence of the Church have maintained the position of the prophet of the Restoration that the Negro could not hold the priesthood nor have the temple ordinances which are preparatory for exaltation.
I know the Lord could change his policy and release the ban and forgive the possible ‘error’ which brought about the deprivation. If the time comes, that He will do, I am sure. These ‘smart’ Members who would force the issue, and there are many of them, cheapen the issue and certainly bring into contempt the sacred principle of revelation and divine authority.” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, pp.448-9)
Notice that President Kimball maintains that the policy was from the Lord, but that he is willing to say that it could possibly be an error on man’s part. This is my position. I believe it is possible that there was an error, but I am not going to go there unless or until it is revealed through the prophets that such is the case.
The Church does not teach that only Hamites were cursed. The Israelites, the Ephraimites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Nephites, all these white-skinned peoples were cursed by God as well! One of the Revelations of the LORD to Joseph Smith, The Book of Abraham, declares that black folks were “blessed with wisdom” (Abr. 1:26).
Mormon writer John J. Steward wrote:
“If we as members of the Church are going to pick and choose among the Prophet’s teachings, and say ‘this one is of God, we can accept it, but this one is of man, we will reject that,’ then we are undermining the whole structure of our faith, and for our own personal sake we cannot afford to do that.” (Mormonism and the Negro, p.19)
No. In mortality, the children (descendants) often pay for the sins of the fathers (ancestors). But in the eternities, in the Afterlife, a son or descendant cannot pay for the sins of his father or ancestors. Yet in this life, in mortality, sons and descendants paying for the sins of their fathers and ancestors is a fact which cannot be denied. Moses wrote:
“The LORD is long-suffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.” (Numbers 14:18)
In Hebrew “fathers” is a term meaning “ancestors”, and “children” is a term meaning “descendants”. The Ancient Egyptians kept the Ancient Israelites in slavery for about 450 years. In return, the Decree of God says that the descendants (children) of the Ancient Egyptians (fathers) must be kept in slavery for 450 years by the descendants (children) of the Ancient Israelites (fathers).
What goes around comes around!
Black Africans are the “children” (descendants) of the Ancient Egyptians, and were kept in slavery by the Jews and Anglo-Saxons (the descendants or ‘children’ of the Ancient Israelites) for 450 years in the Americas.
Whatever a nation, kindred, tongue or people do unto the Covenant People, the Law of God decrees that it shall be done unto them in return; either immediately, or done to their descendants. If good is done, then good is returned. If evil is done, then evil is returned. The LORD said to Abraham, the father of Isaac, the father of Jacob (Israel):
“I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: and bless them that bless thee, and curse them that curseth thee; and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1-3)
The children of Israel entered Egypt when there was a famine in Canaan, and when Joseph, one of the sons of Jacob (Israel) who was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, became Viceroy of Egypt. But there came a Pharaoh who ‘knew not Joseph’, and the Egyptians enslaved the Israelites. Centuries later Moses, the adopted prince of a new Pharaoh, led Israel from its captivity. But because the Egyptians enslaved the Israelites, the LORD decreed that the descendants of the Egyptians should return to the land of their origin habitation, and become the slaves of wicked men. The prophet Ezekiel wrote:
“And I will bring again the captivity of Egypt, and will cause them to return into the land of Pathros, into the land of their habitation; and they shall be there a base kingdom.
It shall be the basest of the kingdoms; neither shall it exalt itself any more above the nations: for I will diminish them, that they shall no more rule over the nations.” (Ezekiel 29:14-15)
The Land of Pathros is Nubia; the original land occupied by the Cushites. Egypt became overrun with Copts (the white-skinned descendants of Greek, Syrian, and Persian immigrants) and ruddy-skinned Arabs. The original black and brown-skinned Egyptians were forced to return to Nubia, and from there to the wilds of West, East, Central, and South Africa where the LORD would ‘diminish’ them; so they would not rule over other nations (races, peoples) again. He diminished them by dividing them into thousands of small contending tribes; which constantly were at odds with one another. All attempts at uniting these tribes failed; like when Shaka Zulu tried to create an empire over all Negro peoples. He failed.
The LORD told His Prophet Ezekiel that wicked men would come in ships and enslave the children of Egypt, and disperse them through many nations:
“And they shall know that I am the LORD, when I have set a fire in Egypt, and when all her helpers shall be destroyed.
In that day shall messengers go forth from me in ships to make the careless Ethiopians afraid, and great pain shall come upon them, as in the day of Egypt; for, lo, it cometh!
And I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations, and disperse them among the countries; and they shall know that I am the LORD.” (Ezekiel 30:8-9, 23, 26)
In the Hebrew, the term ‘Ethiopian’ is ‘Cushi’ (pronounced ‘Khooshee’), and means a “Cushite”; a descendant of Cush, the son of Ham. The name ‘Ethiopian’ is Greek, and doesn’t mean a person from Ethiopia, but rather a ‘black person’. In Greek, Aethiop means “Burnt-blackened face”. The term ‘Ethiopia’ means the ‘land of the men with blackened faces’, or ‘Land of the Black People’.
As the LORD said, the children (descendants) of the Egyptians returned to their original habitation, and were diminished, became a base (weak) kingdom, and messengers came in ships and caused them to be frightened, and gave them pain “as in the day of Egypt” (i.e. ‘slavery’), and scattered them among the nations. The Egyptians were first sent back to Pathos (Nubia), and from there scattered among the native African tribes, and from there men came in ships, to make them afraid, and afflict them with the pain of slavery, and they were further scattered to the Americas and the Middle-East, and from there eventually to Europe and Asia. The once great, noble, wise, superior Egyptians, became diminished; because they became proud, arrogant, worshiped pagan gods, and enslaved the Covenant People.
You may not like this truth, but God’s Word is Truth; whether we like it or not. And it remains His Eternal Truth; whether we accept it or not.
Children pay for the sins of their fathers, or parents, every day in mortality. We see it with ‘crack-babies’ who are born addicted, to mothers who use drugs or alcohol during pregnancy, when fathers abuse their children, etc. Yes, in mortality, in this world, children often pay for the sins of their fathers, but not in the Eternal Worlds.
Apparently, even after the death of Joseph Smith, some in the church were not aware that there was a policy which allowed black men to hold the priesthood. Is it possible that Joseph Smith actually did initiate the ban? An Elder William Appleby was traveling in Batavia, New York, and wrote in 1847:
“At this place I found a colored brother by the name of Lewis, a barber and an Elder in the Church, ordained by William Smith. This Lewis I am also informed has a son who is married to a white girl, and both are member of the Church there. Now, dear Brother, I wish to know if this is the order of God or tolerated, to ordain Negroes to the Priesthood and allow amalgamation. If it is, I desire to know it, as I have yet to learn it.” (Journal History, June 2, 1847)
Erastus Snow (Apostle) said (1856):
“Cain might have been the head of this Priesthood, under his father, but instead of exercising his birthright on the principles of righteousness, and in accord with the powers of heaven, he was befogged and understood not his true position; and his offering was not accepted. When Cain found that his offering was not accepted, and his brother Abel’s was accepted, Satan tempted him…he became possessed with the spirit of murder. Cain lost his privilege [to the birthright to the Priesthood]…and the blessing fell to one more worthy, and the rights of the Priesthood passed to the next [surviving] son of Adam, which according to the Bible record was Seth, who magnified the Priesthood, which was sealed upon him by his father [Adam]; and from him [Seth] it descended upon the righteous of his posterity. There are many instances, from that time forward, of which the Scriptures speak of this birthright continuing among the descendants of Seth, until it came to Noah and his sons, of which sons Shem [his firstborn] received the blessings pertaining to the Priesthood. Abraham came through Shem, and the Savior came through this lineage; and through this blessing of Noah upon Shem, the Priesthood continued through his seed; while the offspring of Ham inherited a curse, and it was because, as a revelation teaches, some of the blood of Cain became mingled with that of Ham’s family, and hence they inherited the curse.” (J.D. 21:370)
Cain, being the firstborn of Adam and Eve, had the Right of the Firstborn. With this birthright, the Prophets and the Savior Himself were to be born of his lineage. Yet, because he offered a sacrifice to God in a state of unworthiness, it was rejected and the Right of the Firstborn went to the next oldest brother; Abel. This caused Cain to be jealous of his younger brother, and Cain killed Abel; thinking that by killing him the Right of the Firstborn would revert back to him. For this crime, God put a curse upon Cain; a denial of the birthright to the Priesthood. This meant that instead of the Cainites receiving the Priesthood first, they would receive it last among the descendants of Adam.
The first shall be last, and the last shall be first. The Cainites were to receive the Priesthood first because Cain had the birthright to it, but because of his sins, they would receive it last; after Abel was resurrected, had descendants, and these descendants received it first. Cain murdered Abel in order to get back what he had lost through an unrighteous offering. Two wrongs don’t make a right in any situation.
It would be against the Justice of God for Cain and his descendants to first receive the Priesthood after Abel was killed. God decreed that the descendants of Abel would have to receive if before the descendants of Cain did.
Many of you will recall how the birthright of Esau (the firstborn of Isaac) was given instead to Jacobâ€“who was called Israel). Esau lost his birthright to Jacob (Israel). Instead of the Edomites (descendants of Esau who was nicknamed ‘Edom’) becoming the Chosen People, the Israelites (descendants of Jacobâ€“later renamed ‘Israel’) became the Chosen People.
In like manner, Cain lost his birthright to Abel. Instead of the Cainites receiving the Priesthood first (the Right of the Firstborn), they were to receive it last (not until Abel’s descendants received it first). The first shall be last, and the last shall be first.
2. God did not wish Cain to be killed for his deed, so He placed a “mark” upon Cain. There were two reasons for this. First, God wanted to protect Cain and his descendants from other descendants of Adam (the Sethites) who wished to avenge the blood of Abel. Also, God wanted to keep the Cainites (the descendants of Cain) and the Sethites (the other descendants of Adamâ€“through his third-born son Seth) separate until the Curse of Cain was revoked. The mark upon the Cainites was a black-skin. This would distinguish the Cainites from the Sethites. It would both protect the Cainites, and prevent intermarriage between them; since intermarriage would cause the Sethites to inherit the curse (denial of the Priesthood). The Sethites were a ruddy-complexioned people; like Adam and Eve. The very name “Adam” in Hebrew means “ruddy-complexion”(i.e. to have the ability to blush, or to appear reddish in color).
3. Just before the flood both the Cainites and the Sethites became wicked, and God decided to destroy the descendants of Adam; leaving only Noah and his family alive (with the animals aboad the Ark). Ham, one of the sons of Adam, and a Sethite (like his father Noah) violated God’s command and married a Cainite woman named Egyptus. After the flood was over, the descendants of Ham and Egyptus inherited the Curse of Cain (now called the Curse of Egyptus). This meant they could not have the Priesthood until Abel’s descendants first were offered it. The sons of Ham and Egyptus were Canaan, Mizraim, Cush, and Phut; all of them settled in what is now Egypt and Sudan, except for Canaan who settled in Palestine.
The descendants of Canaan (Canaanites) settled in the land of Palestine (Israel). Mizraim settled in Egypt (named after Egyptus), and Cush and Put settled in what was called Nubia (now Sudan and Southern Egypt). Thus, the Ancient Egyptians and Nubians were Hamites; descendants of Ham. They were also Cainites; descendants of Cain, because Ham’s wife, Egyptus, was a Cainite woman. According to The Book of Abraham, a revelation to Joseph Smith, the Hamites were “blessed with wisdom” (Abraham 1:26). This explains why they had the intelligence to invent civilization (writing, medicine, farming, blacksmithing, musical instruments, city-building, etc.) while the others descendants of Adam (the Sethites) were still living very primitively in caves and tents.
4. The Hamites (descendants of Cain via Ham and Egyptus) were blessed with wisdom, but cursed as pertaining to the Priesthood. Yet, they were also promised that one day they too would be given the Priesthood; after Abel had descendants, and his descendants were first offered the Priesthood. The general feeling was that this would take place sometime during or after the Millennium; since Abel would have to be resurrected from the dead, have children, and his descendants get the Priesthood. However, this was based upon two assumptions. First, it was assumed that Abel didn’t have any children when he was killed by Cain. Second, it was assumed that Abel needed to be resurrected on this earth, and have descendants on this earth. LDS doctrine teaches that those who are most righteous in keeping God’s Laws will be resurrected and go to another world and have children!
There is evidence that the Prophet Joseph Smith believed that Abel and his posterity would receive the Priesthood on another world, and not this one. George F. Gibbs reported in the year 1900:
“President Cannon remarked on this subject, as, he said, he had on a prior occasion when this subject was under consideration, that he had understood that the Prophet Joseph had said during his lifetime that there would be a great wrong perpetrated if the seed of Cain were allowed to have the Priesthood before Abel should have posterity to receive it, and this curse therefore was to remain upon the seed of Cain until the time should come that Abel would have posterity. He understood that that time could not come until Abel should beget spirits in the eternal worlds and those spirits obtain tabernacles; if it were otherwise the slayer would have advantage over the slain.” (Compilation on the Negro in Mormonism, p.188-9)
Latter-day Saints are promised that if they are sealed in the Temple, and remain in a state of worthiness until their deaths, they shall have the privilege of begetting children in the Eternal Worlds. Mormons have assumed that Abel would have to come back to this world and beget children, but it seems that Joseph Smith believed that was not so, but that Abel would be resurrected on an Eternal World, and have posterity there.
Many people do not realize that before 1978 the Church not only banned black Negroes males from the Priesthood, but also banned all Hamites, whatever their skin-color, from the Priesthood and the Temples. Patriarch Eldred G. Smith remarked in 1964:
“I had a young lady who was blond and no sign or indications visibly of the Negro line at all, but yet she was deprived of the Temple…. We have these conditions by the thousands in the United States today and are getting more of them.” (Patriarchal Blessings, Jan. 17, 1964, p.8) At the same time this statement was made, in 1964, the Church was allowing black-skinned men to hold the Priesthood, and black-skinned people into Mormon Temples. Melanesians (especially Fijians) resemble black Africans (Negroes) very much. They have black skin, large nostrils, thick lips, and black kinky hair. It is often difficult to tell a Fijian from a black African; unless of course if you are a Fijian or a black African. But Fijians, like all Melanesians, were never denied the Priesthood nor Temple-worship; because they are not Hamites. However, even if a man or woman had blond straight hair, blue eyes, and small nostrils, and thin lips, if they had Hamitic ancestors within a certain number of generations, they were denied the Priesthood and banned from the Higher Ordinances of the Mormon Temples.
Wallace Turner, the New York Times journalist, and a non-Mormon, wrote in 1966:
“The most serious problem facing the LDS Church today is the Negro question….A man can have skin as black as a moonless nightâ€“and he can be a full-fledged member of the Mormon Priesthood. But he can have blue eyes, white skin and blond curly hair and have an African Negro in his ancestry and find himself rejected by the Mormons as an applicant for the Priesthood….” (The Mormon Establishment, pp.218-19)
A black-skinned Dravidian (from India) or a black-skinned Fijian (from Fiji), or a black-skinned Aborigine (from Australia) or a black-skinned Negrito from the Philipines were never the descendants of Ham, and could always hold the Priesthood. But a white-skinned Berber or Bedouin, or a man with blond hair and blue eyes, if he is Hamitic (if he had a Hamitic ancestor within 4 generations), could not hold the Priesthood. This is not a matter of race or color, but in matter of lineage (ancestry or bloodline).
But the LDS Church teaches that other lineages have been cursed (and blessed) as well. This applies to the Jews as well; and also to the Ephraimites (whom the majority of white Mormons claim descent). All these lineages (bloodlines) have been both cursed and blessed, but in different ways.
Of all the tribes of Israel, only one could hold the Priesthood under the Law of Moses. That tribe was the Tribe of Levi (the Levites). Only they could be Priests. Only they could officiate in the Temple. Popular Mormon writer and storyteller Cleon Skousen explains why the Levites were chosen to be His Priests anciently:
“The Lord’s preferred way is to have a kingdom of priests not a tribe of priests. The Lord would like to have every worthy person enjoy priesthood privileges, but when a whole nation rejects the responsibilities of Priesthood service as Israel had done, the Lord’s only alternative was to build a firm core of responsible leadership in whatever group seemed most likely to carry the load. In a time of crisis it had met the test. This occurred when Moses had stood at the gates of the camp right after the ugly incident of worshipping the golden calf and had cried out, ‘Who is on the Lord’s side? let him come unto me.’ The scripture says: ‘And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him.’ Not another single tribe stepped forward. Now the Levites received their reward for that act of courageous commitment.” (The Third Thousand Years, p.367)
Brother Skousen was referring to when Moses came down from visiting the LORD on Mount Sinai. He had brought the Israelites out of Egypt. They were no longer slaves of the Egyptians (who were Hamites), but their life in the desert was more difficult than in Egypt, and they didn’t know what was going to become of them. An Israelite name Korah was a leader of a rebellion against Moses. They forced Aaron, Moses’ older brother, to make a golden calf; hoping the Egyptians would believe it was the God who had performed the miracles. They stripped naked and danced and probably performed fertility rituals they had learned from the Egyptians. The LORD told Moses what was happening. Moses came down and broke the original tablets which held the commandments. He told the Israelites they had sinned against the LORD. He asked them whose side they were on: the LORD’s side or the rebels of Korah. This broke the Israelites into three camps:
The Rebels of Korah
The Other Tribes
The Levites immediately and without hesitation came to the side of Moses (who was also a Levite). They and the other Israelites destroyed Korah and his rebels.
Was the LORD discriminating against the other nations and races by choosing one nation (Israel) to be His Chosen People? Was He discriminating against the other Tribes of Israel by only granting one of them, the Levites, the Priesthood?
Yes! He has that right! He chose Abraham (a Syrian) because of his faithfulness. He made covenants (contracts) with him that through his posterity (descendants) certain divine privileges would come. He made certain covenants with Isaac, the son of Abraham, and with Jacob (Israel), the son of Isaac. Because the Levites were more valiant in the war against the rebels of Korah (who sought to overthrow Moses), they alone were given the divine privilege of holding the Priesthood of God; from the days of Moses until the time of Jesus (a period of at least 1300 years). Only the Levites, of all the Tribes of Israel, of all the Semitic tribes, of all the nations, kindreds, tongues, and peoples on earth, could hold the Priesthood of God, and officiate in His Temple.
Other nations had their own temples, and their own priesthoods. But none of these were temples of Jehovah. None of them were His priesthoods. He had only one. None of them were divinely authorized by Him. The Samaritans had their own temple and their own priesthood, but it was not recognized by the LORD. It was not his priesthood, but an imitation. It has not true power or authority from Him.
The LORD chose Abraham over other men; because of his lineage, but mostly because of his faithfulness. He chose Isaac, and Jacob over other men. He chose Israel over other peoples. He chose Levi over other tribes. This is what discrimination is; to choose one thing over others. The LORD has that right; just as He has the right to destroy entire nations if He sees fit. He has that right. We don’t.
He chose one tribe, and one tribe only, to hold His Priesthood: the Levites. Yet, God warned them that if they offered their sacrifices in a state of unworthiness, He would curse them:
“AND now, O ye Priests, this commandment is for you. If ye will not hear, and if you will not lay it to heart, to give glory unto my name, saith the LORD of hosts, I will even send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings: yea, I have cursed them already, because ye do not lay it to heart.” (Malachi 2:1-2)
The LDS Church teaches and has taught that God alternatively curses and blesses all nations; according to how they adhere to or reject the Law of God and His Prophets.
Brigham Young, the 2nd President of the Church, once said:
“Negroes should be treated like human beings, and not worse than dumb brutes. For their abuse of that race, the whites shall be cursed, unless they repent.” (J.D. 10:111)
Only God knows if indeed the whites have repented of their mistreatment of black people, and only He knows if a curse shall be imposed upon white people for this sin and what it shall be; if indeed whites have not repented sufficiently in order to revoke the curse of God upon them.
Some feel that the astronomical rise in skin cancer (which affects only white-skinned people) may be God’s retribution upon them for their self-pride and exploitation of darker races. But, of course, this too is only supposition, and certainly not LDS doctrine.
The fact remains is that in mortality the children often inherit the “sins of the fathers”. We see this all the time; with crack-babies, to children of abusive fathers, to entire nations who suffer for the mistakes of their patriarchs. In the eternities, the son does not pay for the sins of the father, but in mortality, they often do.
The LORD commanded Moses to free the Israelites from the bondage of the Egyptians. Moses obeyed, and the LORD, through Moses, sends various scourges and curses upon the Egyptians in order to force them to free the Israelite slaves. This included the killing of all the firstborn males of Egypt; none of who had been personally responsible for enslaving the Hebrews.
But that didn’t matter. Because in mortality the children are liable for the sins of their parents.
Moses, with the help of the LORD, eventually freed the Israelites, and he took them across the desert of Sinai toward the Promised Land. Moses climbed Mount Sinai to converse with the LORD, and to receive from Him the commandments. But while Moses was on the mount the Israelites rebelled, and they became exceedingly wicked. They made themselves a golden calf, after the image of the Egyptian god Apis, and worshiped it. They became so wicked and rebellious that the LORD decided to utterly destroy them. Moses wrote:
“And the LORD said unto me, Arise, get thee down quickly from hence; for thy people which thou hast brought forth out of Egypt have corrupted themselves; they are quickly turned aside out of the way which I commanded them; they have made them a molten image.
13 Furthermore the LORD spake unto me, saying, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiff-necked people:
14 Let me alone, that I may destroy them, and blot out their name from under heaven: and I will make thee a nation mightier and greater than they.” (Deuteronomy 9:12-14)
The LORD had told Moses that He was going to utterly destroy Israel; leaving only Moses behind, and making of him a great nation via his descendants. Moses could have left it at that; watching all the Israelites, except his own children, perish at the hand of God. And God would be justified in doing so; since He has the right of life or death over His creatures.
But Moses decided to make a supplication to the LORD; to plead with Him to not destroy the Israelites. Moses wrote:
“And I fell down before the LORD, as at the first, forty days and forty nights: I did neither eat bread nor drink water, because of all which ye sinned, in doing wickedly in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger.
25 Thus I fell down before the LORD forty days and forty nights, as I fell down at the first; because the LORD had said he would destroy you.
26 I prayed before therefore unto the LORD, and said, O Lord GOD, destroy not thy people and thine inheritance, which thou hast redeemed through thy greatness, which thou hast brought forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand.” (Deuteronomy 9:18, 25-26)
Because of this supplication from His Prophet Moses, the LORD did not destroy Israel; as He said He would do.
The petitions of the Prophets are powerful! The Prophets of the LORD are men that He listens to.
The Mulattoes of Brazil had shown great or exceeding faith. They were willing to submit their wills to the Will of God; whatever that brought. They were willing to sacrifice to help build the Temple; even if they could not worship in it! They showed the same kind of exceeding faith as the Canaanite woman who recognized Jesus as the Messiah. That’s how much faith they had. And the LORD rewards faith.
The exceeding faith of these people of Brazil caused the Prophets and Apostles of the Church to plead mightily before the LORD, and to petition and supplicate Him to lift or revoke the Priesthood ban. Night after night President Kimball and others prayed and supplicated the LORD in the Holy of Holies in the Salt Lake City Temple; like Moses supplicated the LORD night after night, day after day, on Mount Sinai. They fervently pleaded and petitioned the LORD to revoke the Priesthood ban.
And, after many such nights, the LORD revoked it.
It’s just that simple.
The Priesthood ban may have been revoked because Abel was raised with Jesus at His Resurrection, and went to another world and had children which all gained the Priesthood.
It could have been a response to the petitions of the Prophet and Apostles of the Church; based upon the exceeding faith of the Brazilian Saints.
It may have even been both.
Of course, the LORD is all knowing. He sees the end from the beginning. He works in mysterious ways. He arranged all the coincidences and circumstances that led to the President of the Church petitioning Him to remove the ban. He was working this all along. We just didn’t know it at the time.
Brigham Young spoke to the Saints in Salt Lake City in 1852, and said of Cain:
“The Lord put a mark on him; and there are some in his children in this room. When all the other children of Adam have had a 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 head, then it will be time enough to remove the curse from Cain and his posterity.” (Journal of Discourses 2:143)
These and other like statements led many to believe that the Hamites would not receive the Priesthood until after the final resurrection; the resurrection of the unjust at the end of the Millennium. Some ask how could Negroes be granted the Priesthood before that time. The answer is simple. The supplications of the Prophets can sometimes alter the Decrees of the LORD; if, of course, the LORD agrees. The LORD decreed to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. He made no exceptions for Lot and his family. The prophet Abraham pleaded with the LORD to spare Lot (his nephew) and his family. The LORD agreed. The LORD has all power, but acts of exceeding faith, either on the part of His Prophets or His people, can alter His divine decrees. When the Canaanite woman approached Jesus to heal her daughter He ignored her; until she showed Him exceeding faith; at which point He accepted her and healed her daughter. The LORD listens to His Prophets, and to those who show Him sincere faith of an exceeding nature.
*Ephraimites: The Ten Lost Tribes of Israel
White Mormons believe that their ancestors, the Anglo-Saxon peoples of Northern Europe, were the descendants (at least in part) of the Lost Tribes of Israel.
About 800 years before Jesus, the 10 northern tribes of Israel (led by the tribe of Ephraim) broke away from the 2 southern tribes (led by Judah). The 10 northern tribes became known as “Israel” or simply “Ephraim”; while the two southern tribes took the name of “Judah” and became known as the “Jews”.
The Ephraimites broke their covenants with the LORD, and in punishment he let the Assyrians (now Iraq) invade the Northern Kingdom of Israel and take the Ephraimites back as slaves. Brigham Young said:
“In ancient days old Israel was the chosen people in whom the Lord delighted, and whom he blessed and did so much for. Yet they transgressed every law that he gave them, changed every ordinance that he delivered to them, broke every covenant made with the fathers, and turned away entirely from His holy commandments, and the Lord cursed them.” (Journal of Discourses 14:86)
The Prophet Isaiah called the Ephraimites “drunkards” (Isa. 28:1), and the Prophet Hosea claimed they had “committed whoredom” (Hosea 8:9) and “tell lies” (Hosea 12:1). Because of these things the Lord cursed them, and allowed them to become the slaves of the Assyrians. The LORD said of Ephraim:
“It shall also be carried unto Assyria for a present to King Jareb [of Assyria]: Ephraim shall receive shame, and Israel shall be ashamed of his own counsel.” (Hosea 10:6)
About one hundred years later the Southern Kingdom of Judah also was cursed, and as punishment the LORD allowed Nebuchadezzar, the King of Babylon, to come in and take the Jews into captivity. The Book of Mormon begins with Lehi, a Prophet, telling the people of Judah to repent of their sins, or they will be overthrown and led away as slaves to the Babylonians. Not hearing him, Lehi and his family are warned to flee Jerusalem, and are finally led across the ocean to the New World.
The Ephraimites became the slaves of the Assyrians. But some years later they were let free, but they weren’t allowed to return to Palestine. Instead, they traveled north, across the Caucasus Mountains, into Khazaristan (the land between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea north of the Caucasus Mountains and below Russia). After that, they become lost as a people. They became known as the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel.
Nobody knows for sure what happened to them. But some believe that they were the ancient Saka; who entered Europe and intermingled with the native Germanic tribes there. Some believe that the Saxons (Sak-sons) were the Saka or Sakai; the son of Isaac (I-sak), the son of Jacob (Israel). Thus, if this theory is true, the Anglo-Saxons would be an intermingling of a German tribe (Anglos) and the Ephraimites (Saxons, or sons of Isaac).
In 1813 Andrew Jensen (then the Church Historian) declared:
“We are of Israel; there is no doubt of it, and we will find that when our genealogy is revealed in detail it will lead us back from America to England, from England to Scandinavia and Germany, and from there to the country lying between the Caspian and Black Sea, that part of Asia where the Ten Tribes were lost….” (Conference Reports, April 1913, pp.80-81)
The great majority of white Mormons in those days, as well as today, are Anglo-Saxons. During their Patriarchal Blessings (when a Patriarch tells them their lineage and informs them of their futures should they remain faithful) most white Mormons are told they are of the lineage of Ephraim or Manesseh; two of the Lost Tribes of Israel.
Joseph Fielding Smith (grandnephew of Joseph Smith, Apostle, and 10th President of the Church) wrote in 1970:
“President [Brigham] Young declares that Joseph Smith was a pure Ephraimite. This is true. Joseph Smith Sr., father of the Prophet, received the birthright in Israel which he inherited through his fathers back to Ephraim and Joseph and Jacob to Abraham.” (Doctrines of Salvation 3:253)
*Evil Men In All Lineages
Thus, we have the fathers:
Levi=liar and mass-murderer
Judah=incest (had a child with his daughter-in-law)
Ephraim=liar and drunkard
Yet, from these wicked fathers we get the following:
Cain=the noble Egyptians who were blessed with wisdom.
Levi=The Priesthood of God under the Law of Moses.
Judah=The Jews and Jesus Christ the Savior of Men.
Ephraim=The first white Mormons.
The Bible tells us that all of these lineages were cursed, and blessed, by God; but in different ways.
There are murderers, liars, adulterers, rapists, in all lineages. We are all descended from such men. Yet, God blessed those lineages as well. Hamites are descended from Cain, but from Adam as well. They are just as much Sethites as they are Cainites. They are descended from Ham, whom The Book of Moses (LDS Scripture) says “walked with God”(i.e. was a righteous man). They are the descendants of the first Pharaoh, who is called “a righteous man” in The Book of Abraham. There are good and bad men in all lineages.
In the days of the Prophet Joseph Smith, several men tried to take control of the Church from him. These men were white men who had the Priesthood. But the LORD said:
“Cursed are all those that shall lift up the heel against mine anointed, saith the Lord, an cry they have sinned when they have not sinned before me, saith the Lord, but have done that which was meet in mine eyes, and which I commanded them.
They shall not have right to the Priesthood, nor their posterity after them from generation to generation.” (Doctrine & Covenants 121: 16,21)
The Curse of Cain was removed from his posterity in 1978. But, according to the LORD, the posterity of those white men who lifted up their heels against His Servant Joseph will not have a right to the Priesthood “from generation to generation”.
There is no doctrine in the Church, nor any theory in the Church, nor in the Revelations to the Church, that the children of a wicked man inherit his wickedness, but it is a doctrine of the Church that the children will suffer for the sins of their fathers. The Bible is full of this. God sent horrible plagues upon the Egyptians because Pharaoh, one man, hardened his heart. God sent a curse of servitude upon the Canaanites because of the actions of Ham! In mortality children often pay for the sins of their fathers, but not in the Eternal Worlds were all shall receive a just reward or punishment for their own actins in mortality.
The LORD only wants to bless His children, but sometimes He must reprimand us. He curses us for the same reason that loving parents correct their own children when they are doing wrong. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Hebrews:
“And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:
6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.
7 If ye endure chastening, God dealing with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?
8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then ye are bastards, and not sons.
9 Futhermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence; shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?
10 For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.
11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them that are. (Hebrews 12:5-11)
It seems that when I pasted my comment into the comment field, the layout was messed up so some of my paragraphs got stuck together. I tried to fix them, but apparently I missed some. There are paragraphs that are stuck together that may not necessarily go together, so keep that in mind. Also, mingled in with the quotes, I added some of my own commentary which can be distinguished because it is not italicized.
Wow! Talk about saving up information. You wrote over 9,100 words, and it came up to 18 pages in a word processor. I really appreciate your tenacity, but I think you’ll agree with me on one thing: we do not see eye to eye on this issue, and probably won’t.
Just because I disagree with your conclusions doesn’t mean I am selectively ignoring information, but I am rejecting many of your conclusions. I am sure this is frustrating. I know you think I am hard-headed, and you’re probably right. But you are also pretty hard-headed too.
Let me first give you some credit. The first link does seem to show that Brigham Young was more sympathetic to slaves than many of the quotes I have referenced. I think those are valuable additions to the dialogue, and it helps bring a more whole picture of Brigham Young on this issue.
Having said that, my problems with Brigham are more concerned with his greater acceptance of slavery than Joseph. I do not believe that Joseph would have supported “An Act in Relation to Service,” nor do I believe Joseph would have supported a priesthood ban simply because of McCary. Many LDS historians (such as Richard Bushman) have noted that Brigham had a much less forgiving personality than Joseph had. Joseph frequently put trust in many people who later became his enemies. While this may be a personality fault of Joseph, he was definitely much more merciful than Brigham ever was, and was much quicker to forgive. Brigham, on the other hand, was probably a better judge of character, didn’t put his trust on untrustworthy followers, and was much less forgiving and merciful.
I just don’t know how one can look at Elijah Abel, Walker Lewis, and William McCary, and say that the priesthood ban was not primarily influenced by McCary’s actions. You cannot find a single quote referencing a priesthood ban that dates before McCary, because no quotes exist. Darius Gray has not been able to find them, so if you can find one, you may have a thesis for a master’s project, or can write a best selling LDS book on the subject.
All references to the Curse of Cain relating to the priesthood ban date from after McCary episode, and serve primarily as justification for why God “wanted” the priesthood ban, and why slavery was ok. (Certainly, the Curse of Cain was used long before 1847 to justify slavery.) The Curse of Cain was a speculation to justify the priesthood ban after William McCary. Prove me wrong here. If you re-read my original post, you will see that Orson Hyde was the author of this speculation, and even uses the word “speculation” when he references the Curse of Cain possibly being a reason for the priesthood ban, and speculating that blacks were not valiant in the pre-earth life.
As for slavery being a good thing, let me quote President John Taylor, who refused to be a slave to God. “I was not born a slave! I cannot, will not be a slave. I would not be slave to God! I’d be His servant, friend, His son. I’d go at His behest; but would not be His slave. I’d rather be extinct than be a slave. His friend I feel I am, and He is mine:–a slave! The manacles would pierce my very bones–the clanking chains would grate upon my soul–a poor, lost, servile, crawling wretch to lick the dust and fawn and smile upon the thing who gave the lash! . . . But stop! I’m God’s free man: I will not, cannot be a slave! Living, I’ll be free here, or free in life above–free with the Gods, for they are free. [B. H. Roberts, The Life of John Taylor, Bookcraft, 1963, p. 424]”
Slavery certainly doesn’t sound ideal— Pres Taylor would rather be EXTINCT. Why would anyone, black or white, choose slavery? President Taylor certainly shoots down the idea of being a slave to God. If slavery to God can’t be condoned, why can slavery to man? (I’ll give credit to Brigham for trying to turn slavery into servitude, but the fact is that he did not outright ban slavery.)
I don’t think Curse of Cain was a punishment to Cain’s descendants. I disagree with your logic ascribing this as my position.
Now, let me comment on the lightplanet reference from your friend who quotes from Deuteronomy. Who said that these people were denied salvation? It only says that they were not permitted into the congregation.
So, by this logic, none of us need to be baptized–we just need to be baptized after we are dead? Come on, you’re taking this argument to an unhealthy extreme. By this logic, I guess we should all just eat, drink, and be merry, because someone else will be baptized for us.
Furthermore, why are castrated mens’ children to be denied an opportunity to join the congregation to the 10th generation? Why does a child 10 generations from a castrated man (assuming he had children before castration) need to wait for baptism for the dead to be redeemed?
God doesn’t always punish man for disobedience, and bad things aren’t always equal to punishment. If he did, then why do some wicked people prosper? I will remind you of the Jews question to Jesus. Paraphrasing, Who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Neither, but that the grace of God will be manifest. Regarding crack babies, God is not cursing the babies. The parents are cursing the babies by their alcohol or drug addiction. Do not ascribe this to God. Is it fair? Absolutely not. But who said life was fair? It is a terrible injustice that these children have to live in such unfair circumstances. We can only have faith that God will correct this terrible injustice in the next life, or perform miracles in this life for these poor children born to these terrible circumstances.
Frequently men figured that bad things that happened to men were always the result of sin, especially in the Old and New Testaments. Job is another example of this. Obviously this is faulty reasoning. Bad things happen to good people as well as bad people. Just because something bad happens, doesn’t necessarily mean that God is punishing people, despite man’s attempts to try to insinuate that bad things= God’s punishment. Slavery or the priesthood ban was not a direct result of God cursing Ham or Cain’s transgressions. It is folklore to keep preaching this. I think you are going down a “dangerous” road to conclude that God was punishing Cain and Ham’s descendants because of something that Cain and Ham did.
If bad things = punishment, then there were plenty of Romans and Jews who were sure Jesus must have been a vile sinner. After all, God did not intervene on Christ’s behalf, and therefore, Christ was really being punished by God for his blasphemy to claim to be the literal son of God. If God was punishing Christ, (to use your words) I think you “just have to start ignoring a whole lot of scripture”. After all, Christ was sure disobedient to the Pharisees and Sadducees. Certainly a just God would take care of this vile Sabbath Breaker, and Pretender that many call the Messiah, and justly put him to death on the cross. To use your words, “where do we stop and end with the deletion of scripture? Whenever we come across something we don’t like and think sounds incompatible with our understanding of God? Sounds like a prophet-making venture to me.”
I didn’t particularly like your sarcasm here. How does it sound when it is directed back at you? The following comment wasn’t particularly pleasant either. “how many uninspired ignoramouses have we had as prophets, because it seems that nearly all of them have bought into the whole cursings by God thing.” Well, you’ve already listed a few, and I guess I can add some more, but I probably would be a little more tactful, and not refer to them as ‘ignoramouses’. I know you’re frustrated, but I’m not the one losing my cool here.
This brings up an interesting aside, regarding scriptural interpretation. I know we’ve talked about this before, but I think we should revisit it. I found this at Religious Tolerance. It seems there are 2 ways to interpret scripture:
1. Conservative Christians tend to believe that the Bible is inspired by God, inerrant and infallible. Religious conservatives believe that much of the apparent immorality in the Hebrew Scriptures’ hard passages are human misunderstanding because Jehovah is both a God of love and of justice. God, as a wholly just being, must sometimes punish rebellious individuals and groups for their sins in ways that we find difficult to understand.
2. Liberal Christians tend to regard the Bible as a series of somewhat imperfect documents, which individual authors (and later forgers) used to introduce and promote their own competing religious beliefs. Liberals feel that some “hard passages” and other Biblical passages reflect an earlier, lower standard of morality and should be ignored. They are dangerous to the religious belief, spirituality and ethics of today’s readers. These passages include verses which condone and regulate slavery, which advocate discrimination against women, which promote religious hatred and intolerance, describe the killing of innocent people, genocide, etc.
Now, I understand that both of us are probably in the middle. Neither one of us believe that the Bible is inerrant. (We believe the Bible is the word of God as far as it is translated correctly.) I believe both of us don’t want to write off Moses, the Exodus, Noah, or the Flood as a complete myth (as some liberals do) either. However, you seem to tend to gravitate toward the conservative side of interpretation, while I gravitate toward the liberal side. I think it is repulsive to use the Bible to bludgeon people. I think the Crusaders and Jihadists are evil, and I abhor the fact that they try to use God as a weapon. I think you agree with me here, but you tend to have a real hard time criticizing past prophets for un-christian-like behavior, and feel that my modern ethics shouldn’t be applied to past generations. Obviously, this is where we disagree.
Quoting your friend,
Until the Church itself officially calls the Priesthood ban policy and/or the Curse of Cain doctrine a “mistake” the Members have no right to do so. A Member of the Church can say “I don’t believe this was true doctrine” but they cannot speak for the Church. They cannot say to others, “The Curse of Cain was a false doctrine or mistaken notion!” They cannot say, “The Priesthood ban was a mistake”. They can say, “I personally believe thatâ€¦.”
Ok, if it will make you feel better, go back and put “I personally believe thatâ€¦” in front of every single sentence I have ever written. I personally believe that if I did that, it would sound really stupid. I personally believe that it would sound really monotonous. I personally believe that I have always referred to myself as “mormon heretic,” not “official church spokesman.” I personally believe that it is silly to include “I personally believe that” in every sentence I write. I personally believe that.
Ok, I’ll stop now, but I hope you see my point. The church is constantly bombarded with labels of censorship, and I don’t think it is helpful to keep silencing people, as your quote seems to imply. Please look at other examples: the Jews tried to silence Christ, the Catholics tried to silence Galileo and Luther, America tried to silence the Joseph Smith and the Mormons, and now you are trying to silence me. I think the world is a much better place because of people like Christ, Galileo, Luther, Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Elijah Abel, Rosa Parks, Cesar Chavez, Susan B Anthony, and even much less famous people like me (and you).
I never want to see ethnic cleansing like has happened in Serbia, Myanmar, China, or Darfur. I want to speak out against racial/ethnic hatred. While I don’t see the US falling into such a catastrophe, there are situations like Waco and the FLDS raids that cause concern. There is a prophecy that the constitution will hang by a thread, and as we saw in the USSR and East Germany and even France of 1814, some revolutions can come with amazing speed. In those cases, democracy resulted, but we can see tyranny happening just as quickly in places like Castro’s Cuba, Saddam’s Iraq, Ayatollah’s Iran, Chavez’s Venezuela, and Putin’s Russia, and it is important to confront ugly racism, and not write it off as Godly. Justifying racism as God-inspired puts us closer to the incomprehensible ethnic cleansing that happened not that long ago in Serbia, Vietnam, and in Darfur. I would champion the polar opposite view of those ugly events.
the Decree of God says that the descendants (children) of the Ancient Egyptians (fathers) must be kept in slavery for 450 years by the descendants (children) of the Ancient Israelites (fathers).
What goes around comes around!
No, it doesn’t have to come around— he is describing the Law of Moses. In the Law of Moses, it was an eye for an eye. But Christ tells us to forgive 70 times 7. Did your author forget about the atonement?
Is it possible that Joseph Smith actually did initiate the ban?
I have already refuted this. Why do you keep bringing it up? It is false. Joseph did not initiate a ban, and as the author says, “ Apparently, even after the death of Joseph Smith, some in the church were not aware that there was a policy which allowed black men to hold the priesthood.” The reason the church members (he should have said Apostles, because they are the functioning leadership here) weren’t aware of this, is because no policy existed. I defy you to prove to me a priesthood ban was instituted by Joseph. From the evidence we have, it seems highly improbable, if not impossible, that Joseph instituted a ban. It seems highly likely Brigham instituted it because of William McCary. It’s one thing for the rank and file church members not to know policy, but the only reasonable explanation that Brigham (de facto leader after Joseph’s death) consented to both Walker Lewis and William McCary’s ordinations (which both occurred after Joseph’s death) is that there was no policy banning the priesthood, and there certainly is no evidence of a revelation banning the priesthood in the D&C or any other document. Do you disagree? When considering the evidence of Elijah Abel, Walker Lewis, and William McCary’s ordinations, do you really think Joseph instituted a ban?
Mormon writer John J. Steward wrote:
“If we as members of the Church are going to pick and choose among the Prophet’s teachings, and say ‘this one is of God, we can accept it, but this one is of man, we will reject that,’ then we are undermining the whole structure of our faith, and for our own personal sake we cannot afford to do that.” (Mormonism and the Negro, p.19)
I think McConkie or another apostle (perhaps Mark Peterson) wrote the pamphlet “Mormonism and the Negro” not Seward. Regardless, I do understand the idea of undermining the structure of faith, but I think it undermines our faith more to say God inspired racism. I am going to say that I’m willing to undermine some faith, if it promotes a more Christ-like view of how races are to get along with one another. I personally believe that Christ-like love is the more important concept here, not worrying about an old prophet’s tarnished reputation for the sake of trying to keep alive an incorrect view of God’s racism. If I have to choose between Christ’s teachings and Brigham Young’s teachings, I am going to choose Christ every time, and I suspect God will approve of that choice. I don’t think that is undermining faith nearly as much as it is promoting faith in Christ, and being a true disciple.
Once again you’ll accuse me of impersonating a prophet, but I did start it off with “I personally believe that,” so don’t get too huffy here. It is inconsistent with Christian principles to say that God inspired racism. Your Erastus Snow speech is just not something I can endorse. If you feel it is God-inspired, I will tell you that I feel that this is a place where he spoke on a highly speculative matter, and (as J Reuben Clark says in our oft-quoted conference talk), Elder Snow spoke out of turn.
Regarding the following quote, it is also out of turn. (Oops, I didn’t say “I personally believe thatâ€¦)
But the LDS Church teaches that other lineages have been cursed (and blessed) as well. This applies to the Jews as well; and also to the Ephraimites (whom the majority of white Mormons claim descent). All these lineages (bloodlines) have been both cursed and blessed, but in different ways.
God blesses or curses us (not our children) based on our personal righteousness, or lack of personal righteousness.
My post is long enough. I don’t feel the need to refute every little point here. Let me suffice to say that I think I have poked enough holes in this that I will disagree with Mr Seward.
Let’s take a break. Tara, I thank you for your hard research. I know it has taken you a lot of time— it has taken up too much of my time as well. I hope it has been rewarding for you, and I hope you haven’t been too frustrated with me. I have enjoyed this discussion, and hope that I was instrumental in helping both of us gain a better understanding of this issue, regardless of the fact that we obviously still disagree.
I still have a testimony of the prophet, Thomas S. Monson, and of Christ. I count you as a friend. May God bless you and your family.
“I am sure this is frustrating. I know you think I am hard-headed, and you’re probably right. But you are also pretty hard-headed too.”
Yes, we’re both pretty hard-headed, and yes, it is unlikely that we will ever see eye to eye on this one. This issue does need a rest, but I want to clear up a few things before I completely put it to bed.
“While this may be a personality fault of Joseph, he was definitely much more merciful than Brigham ever was, and was much quicker to forgive. Brigham, on the other hand, was probably a better judge of character, didn’t put his trust on untrustworthy followers, and was much less forgiving and merciful.”
What does forgiveness and mercifulness have to do with slavery? Do you, for some reason, believe that Brigham was holding a grudge against an entire race of people and was advocating slavery for them because he wasn’t forgiving enough?
“I just don’t know how one can look at Elijah Abel, Walker Lewis, and William McCary, and say that the priesthood ban was not primarily influenced by McCary’s actions. You cannot find a single quote referencing a priesthood ban that dates before McCary, because no quotes exist.”
I see no solid evidence that William McCary was the influencing factor behind the ban. I believe his actions may have precipitated the discussion coming into the forefront, but that doesn’t mean the ban didn’t already exist as a matter of course, as I’ve given quotes which suggest that it may have been common knowledge and practice. Yes, there were rare exceptions to this, just as you will find rare exceptions with regard to the priesthood in the Bible. I see no problem with these exceptions, but I don’t believe that these rare exceptions mean that there was no ban during Joseph’s time. My question is, if there was no ban on the priesthood, why weren’t there more black men ordained?
“All references to the Curse of Cain relating to the priesthood ban date from after William McCary episode, and serve primarily as justification for why God “wanted” the priesthood ban, and why slavery was ok.”
There were references to the Curse of Cain from Joseph himself, as I’ve outlined previously, which would’ve obviously come before the McCary episode. I suppose if Joseph was trying to mislead the public in his letter to make them believe that the church was anti-abolitionish and believed in the Curse of Cain, he should’ve done a better job educating church members to the contrary.
“As for slavery being a good thing, let me quote President John Taylor, who refused to be a slave to God. I was not born a slave! I cannot, will not be a slave. I would not be slave to God! I’d be His servant, friend, His son. …”
Again, this is where the difference between forced slavery and servitude come in.
“Slavery certainly doesn’t sound ideal— Pres Taylor would rather be EXTINCT. Why would anyone, black or white, choose slavery?”
I don’t know who would choose this. I certainly wouldn’t.
“I don’t think Curse of Cain was a punishment to Cain’s descendants.”
Once again, I never said that this was your position. Please try to follow me this time because I am getting really frustrated on this point. What I said, or tried to say, was that anyone who says that the Curse of Cain was pronounced not only upon Cain, but upon his descendants as well, is, in your opinion, saying that God is punishing Cain’s descendants for the actions of Cain, which would be going against the teaching that men are punished for their own sins and not the sins of others. This is where I believe you are saying that such a sentence would never be inflicted by God because that goes against God’s nature, as you understand it to be. In this, you do not see how the curse, if extended to the descendants of Cain and Ham, could be anything but punishment from a “capricious” God, or the possibility that this is the sort of justice that is demanded by God’s law.
“So, by this logic, none of us need to be baptizedâ€“we just need to be baptized after we are dead? Come on, you’re taking this argument to an unhealthy extreme. By this logic, I guess we should all just eat, drink, and be merry, because someone else will be baptized for us.”
Purposely delaying baptism until death would not be a wise option. Those who have the opportunity but refuse it in this life will not qualify to receive it in the next. Those who were not able to receive baptism in life, for whatever reason, but would have if they had the opportunity, will qualify to receive it in the next. Come on, I know you know this stuff. It’s 101. Why are you making this so difficult?
“Furthermore, why are castrated mens’ children to be denied an opportunity to join the congregation to the 10th generation? Why does a child 10 generations from a castrated man (assuming he had children before castration) need to wait for baptism for the dead to be redeemed?”
I only claim to believe in and follow God’s law, not to be able to accurately ascribe his reasonings to it. It wouldn’t matter if I tried anyway because you would likely condemn any reasons I could come up with.
“God doesn’t always punish man for disobedience, and bad things aren’t always equal to punishment. If he did, then why do some wicked people prosper?”
I agree that men are not always punished immediately, but I do believe that they often get what they deserve, even if it’s later on in their lives, or even if it isn’t on display for us all to see. Certainly, they will be punished, even if it is in the next life. Anyway, we certainly can’t follow their lives and know all the details to be able to say they haven’t been punished. We don’t know their own private sufferings. We don’t know how much different their lives would be if they weren’t disobedient. In any event, I have faith that the Lord deals with them in the way that is best for them.
“Regarding crack babies, God is not cursing the babies. The parents are cursing the babies by their alcohol or drug addiction.”
I agree that God doesn’t curse crack babies. It is most certainly the parents doing, but it is the children who suffer for the sins of their parents.
“Frequently men figured that bad things that happened to men were always the result of sin, especially in the Old and New Testaments. Job is another example of this. Obviously this is faulty reasoning. Bad things happen to good people as well as bad people.”
I understand this and I agree. I believe wholeheartedly that the bad things that happen to people are generally man’s own doing. Even with curses, it is man who carries them out. I believe that when God decrees a curse, he isn’t always the one carrying it out (except of course, with examples such as the destroying angel which destroyed the firstborn male Egyptians, many or most of whom may have been completely innocent). It is man who generally carries out the curse, but I believe that God allows them to be carried out. He has the ability to stay the curses, but he doesn’t until it is time for the curse to be removed.
“Just because something bad happens, doesn’t necessarily mean that God is punishing people, despite man’s attempts to try to insinuate that bad things= God’s punishment.”
I agree. But the bad things probably happen because we’ve put ourselves in a position to no longer merit God’s protection, or, as in the case of Job, the Lord allows us to be tested. Truth be told though, I believe that complacency or the “easiness of the way” is probably the greatest test we will face in this life. Look at the scriptures, particularly the Book of Mormon, and how the people became righteous during times of trial, but no sooner than they began to prosper, they became prideful and complacent. When things are easy, we become less dependent on the Lord, or so we think. But as soon as things get tough, what do we do? We go to the Lord. What should we have been doing all along? Going to the Lord.
“Slavery or the priesthood ban was not a direct result of God cursing Ham or Cain’s transgressions. It is folklore to keep preaching this. I think you are going down a ‘dangerous’ road to conclude that God was punishing Cain and Ham’s descendants because of something that Cain and Ham did.”
That’s not me saying it. That’s scripture and church doctrine, at least until it is denounced as undoctrinal.
“If bad things = punishment, then there were plenty of Romans and Jews who were sure Jesus must have been a vile sinner. After all, God did not intervene on Christ’s behalf, and therefore, Christ was really being punished by God for his blasphemy to claim to be the literal son of God. If God was punishing Christ, (to use your words) I think you just have to start ignoring a whole lot of scripture.”
Here you are drawing conclusions which do not accurately reflect my beliefs and one would have to strain my words to extract such meaning. I never insinuated in the slightest that when bad things happen to people, it must mean they are being punished. Bad things happen to good people. My point was to show that God most certainly metes out punishment to people for unrepentant disobedience, whether in this life or the next. What your original comments reflect, which prompted me to say you have to start ignoring scriptures, are that God doesn’t punish people because if he did, he would be capricious, like one of the Greek Gods. The scriptures are replete with examples of God punishing the disobedient.
“I didn’t particularly like your sarcasm here. How does it sound when it is directed back at you? The following comment wasn’t particularly pleasant either. how many uninspired ignoramouses have we had as prophets, because it seems that nearly all of them have bought into the whole cursings by God thing.”
Well I’m so sorry you didn’t appreciate my rhetoric, but this is what it seems that you are saying to me, though certainly I am exaggerating. Honestly though, I didn’t lose my cool with this one. Purely rhetoric.
“I think you agree with me here, but you tend to have a real hard time criticizing past prophets for un-christian-like behavior, and feel that my modern ethics shouldn’t be applied to past generations. Obviously, this is where we disagree.”
I agree. But, even though things may not make sense to us in these modern times, I strongly believe that these prophets, though certainly not perfect, followed the Lord and didn’t misinterpret the Lord by making up cruel and unusual punishments and commandments, though they were certainly living in different times where a different approach was needed.
“Justifying racism as God-inspired puts us closer to the incomprehensible ethnic cleansing that happened not that long ago in Serbia, Vietnam, and in Darfur. I would champion the polar opposite view of those ugly events.”
I don’t endorse racism, and I wouldn’t endorse it unless a racial policy were revealed through the leaders of the church and I were to receive confirmation of such a policy. Does that mean I would consider the objects of the racist policy any less children of God than me? No. Does that mean I would treat those people in anything but a Christlike manner? No. The racist policies of the church did not endorse the idea of ethnic cleansing. It didn’t endorse the abuse of slaves. It didn’t even endorse the forced slavery found throughout the U.S. Not even Brigham Young endorsed slavery. But he and Joseph both taught that the church would not interfere in the slave issue. There’s a huge difference in endorsing a peaceful racial policy and engaging in ethnic cleansing. Please don’t equate the two.
“No, it doesn’t have to come around— he is describing the Law of Moses. In the Law of Moses, it was an eye for an eye. But Christ tells us to forgive 70 times 7. Did your author forget about the atonement?”
Yes. WE must forgive 70 times 7. We must forgive all men, but the Lord will forgive whom he will forgive (D&C 64:10).
Is it possible that Joseph Smith actually did initiate the ban?
“I have already refuted this.”
You have not definitively refuted it, and if we are to believe that Joseph wasn’t lying in the letter he wrote (of which I quoted a good portion of in a previous comment), then there is evidence that he believed there was a ban. I know you don’t believe the letter is credible evidence of Joseph’s true feelings, but I just find that a convenient dismissal.
Ok, I finally understand what you mean about Curse of Cain being a punishment. Sorry I’m so slow. I guess it was really hard for me to get, because it is so against my position.
Do you, for some reason, believe that Brigham was holding a grudge against an entire race of people and was advocating slavery for them because he wasn’t forgiving enough?
Yes. Since nearly every man except for notable exceptions of Christ, Ghandi, and Buddha do not fully embrace others of different ethnic/racial backgrounds, I do not view Joseph, Brigham, you or me as exempt from racism. I think that Brigham’s attitudes were greatly influential in the priesthood ban, especially in light of William McCary and the slavery issue.
You did not directly answer this question: When considering the evidence of Elijah Abel, Walker Lewis, and William McCary’s ordinations, do you really think Joseph instituted a ban? It seems you are implying that yes, Joseph instituted a ban, and these 3 men were exceptions to the ban. I realize that you are entitled to your opinion, but I will vigorously disagree with you.
I think the evidence is highly against Joseph instituting a ban. Are you saying the evidence is highly advocating a ban by Joseph, and Brigham and others didn’t know about it until William McCary? If so, how did they suddenly come to remember Joseph’s ban after Joseph’s death? Joseph obviously couldn’t have approved these exceptions of Walker Lewis and William McCary. Only Brigham could have approved these exceptions.
Why didn’t more blacks join the church, you ask? Well, I don’t think that Joseph went out of his way to proselytize blacks. If they found out about the church, fine, Joseph wasn’t going to deny them baptism or the priesthood, but he certainly didn’t actively send missionaries to blacks. That is why early blacks are even more of a minority in the early church than they are today.
I believe Joseph’s references to the Curse of Cain have more to do with slavery than a priesthood ban. As mentioned before, plenty of denominations talked about the Curse of Cain referencing slavery. I don’t view this as a “convenient dismissal”, especially in light of Elijah, Walker, and McCary. Joseph did not formally or informally institute a ban. If he did, how come Brigham didn’t know about the ban, or enforce the ban until McCary? These notable exceptions are extremely important to the issue, and you are the one who seems to be quite dismissive of these 3 men.
“Purposely delaying baptism until death would not be a wise option.” That is exactly my point. It would be better for blacks to join the church, and be sealed in the temple, in this life, not the next. Baptism for the dead should only be an option for those without knowledge of the church, and it shouldn’t be up to Moses, or Brigham, or anyone else to deny church or priesthood blessings because of racist or ethnic views. Unfortunately, Brigham delayed priesthood blessings for about 150 years for blacks, and I don’t believe these blessings should have been delayed. That’s 101 stuff.
I know you believe in Christ. I was illustrating how poor the logic was that bad things = God’s punishment.
The more I think about this “exception” argument, the more I find MAJOR problems with it.
1. There is no documentary evidence that Joseph ever uttered it. Now Joseph was often quoted. I will remind you that the King Follett sermon was never written by Joseph. The copies we have today exist because of about 6 or 7 note-takers at the funeral of Brother Follett. Whenever Joseph spoke in church settings, there was almost always a note-taker to record his words. Both apostles and lay members wrote or made notes of just about everything Joseph uttered regarding spiritual matters.
I will also note that the first polygamy references are in D&C 132. “Although the revelation was recorded in 1843, it is evident from the historical records that the doctrines and principles involved in this revelation had been known by the Prophet since 1831.” [quoted from section heading]
Based on these 2 examples (I’m sure I could find numerous others), I would say that it is about 99.9% probable that if Joseph had made an actual reference to the priesthood ban, it would have been recorded by someone. Speculation implying that Joseph endorsed a priesthood ban is not at all consistent with the facts we have, and I find such speculation to be extremely wishful thinking by those who want to put forth the idea that a ban was endorsed by Joseph. People who do this must contradict President Joseph F Smith, who refuted this idea in 1879.
2. Let’s revisit the already discredited idea that Joseph supported a priesthood ban. There is Zebedee Coltrin’s 40 year old bad memory, but that was disproved by Joseph F Smith in 1879. Let me re-quote from above.
“1879. A meeting informally ‘canonizes’ the priesthood ban. In the meeting Zebedee Coltrin says that Joseph Smith announces the ban in 1834, but this is contradicted by several items in the above time line. ” [Let me re-list these contradictions.]
A. “In Dec 1836, Elijah is ordained a Seventy by Zebedee Coltrin.”
B. November “1844 – Walker Lewis was ordained an Elder by William Smith, Joseph’s brother, in Lowell, Massachusetts.”
C. “1846 – Oct. William McCary, was ordained an Elder by Apostle Orson Hyde”
“Apostle (and future president) Joseph F Smith challenges Coltrin’s claims, showing 2 certificates showing that Elijah had been re-ordained to the office of the Seventy. Darius, “In those days, you had to be re-certified periodically. Joseph F Smith sought out and found those 2 re-certifications, and presented them to counter what Brother Zebedee Coltrin was saying, so we have conflicting accounts in 1879.”
This clearly illustrates that there was no ban in 1834, 1836, Nov 1844, or Oct 1846.
3. Joseph died in June 1844. To date, there is nothing implying a ban spoken by Joseph.
4. November “1844 – Walker Lewis was ordained an Elder by William Smith, Joseph’s brother, in Lowell, Massachusetts.” There is no ban in 1844.
5. April 1845. Orson Hyde refers to negroes as the “cursed lineage of Canaan” and speculates that the curse they bore was for their actions in the pre-existence. This is the earliest known reference by a church leader to a curse happening from actions in the pre-existence.
6. October 1846 – Oct. William McCary, was ordained an Elder by Apostle Orson Hyde. He was known as the “black prophet.” William was later excommunicated in 1847 for seducing a number of Mormon, white women into unauthorized polygamy. There is no ban in 1847, but the beginnings of a ban seem to happen at this time.
Do you find it ironic that the first 2 people to put forth this idea of a priesthood ban, or that the blacks were less-valiant in the pre-existence, were Orson Hyde (who ordained William McCary) and Zebedee Coltrin (who ordained Elijah Abel)? How do you explain this irony?
7. 1847 Brigham Young then declares that black people are not eligible for certain temple ordinances. This is the first recorded instance of any sort of restrictions on blacks, and as mentioned above, it was not ‘canonized’ until 1879.
8. In 1852 “An Act in Relation to Service” officially becomes law. Brigham Young alludes that there has been no official ban spoken by Joseph, or any other leader when he says, ‘if no one spake it before me, and I’ll say it now, blacks cannot hold the priesthood.’
Now, if you want to call Enoch Abel (1900) or Elijah’s grandson (1934), or the un-named boy in Cincinnati (under the McKay administration) as exceptions to the priesthood ban, I will agree with you. But for anyone to imply that Elijah, Walker, or William McCary as exceptions to a non-existent rule is just not supported by known facts. The priesthood ban did not happen until after 1847 with William McCary; it was strengthened in 1852 when Brigham said ‘if no one spake it before me, and I’ll say it now, blacks cannot hold the priesthood’; and it was ‘canonized’ in 1879 after the death of Brigham Young (who died in 1877).
Elijah Abel, Walker Lewis, and William McCary were not exceptions at the time, they were the rule, and their ordinations should not be dismissed as exceptions. True exceptions are Enoch Abel, and Elijah’s grandson in 1934.
Once again, how do you justify a ban endorsed by Joseph based on historical facts? You can only base a ban on speculation, and this speculation seems highly improbable based on the timeline I have presented again.
“Baptism for the dead should only be an option for those without knowledge of the church, and it shouldn’t be up to Moses, or Brigham, or anyone else to deny church or priesthood blessings because of racist or ethnic views.”
You are right. It shouldn’t be left up to Moses or Brigham or anyone else to deny church or priesthood blessings because of racist or ethnic views. But that is not what we are debating. We are debating whether the ban was inspired, and if it was, it wouldn’t be Brigham making the decision, it would be God making the decision, and that is a decision he has every right to make.
I understand that the letter Joseph wrote did not specifically spell out the ban on the priesthood, but it does speak to the curse pronounced upon Canaan of which the PofGP clearly indicates included being cursed as to the priesthood.
“You did not directly answer this question: When considering the evidence of Elijah Abel, Walker Lewis, and William McCary’s ordinations, do you really think Joseph instituted a ban?”
I did not directly answer this question because I don’t KNOW. I lean towards believing that he did, regardless of the fact that there were some exceptions to the rule. There were exceptions to the rule with regard to the priesthood which can be found in the scriptures as well. The fact that there were a few exceptions made during Joseph’s time is not a clear indication to me that there was no ban.
I understand that in Brigham’s quote, ‘if no one spake it before me, and I’ll say it now, blacks cannot hold the priesthood,’ you interpret that to mean that it hadn’t been taught by anyone else up to that point. The way I look at is that Brigham may have meant that it either hadn’t been taught widely or even publicly up to that point, or perhaps there were some who were unaware of it having been taught. Like I said previously, the William McCary episode may have precipitated the policy being taught more openly or more widely.
Here is a historical summary of all of those who testified that Joseph Smith taught the ban, which includes more people than just the discredited Zebedee Coltrin.
Those who publicly and privately testified that Joseph Smith taught them that Negroes were not entitled to the Priesthood were as follows:
1. Brigham Young (Apostle and 2nd President of the Church)
2. John Taylor (Apostle and 3rd President of the Church)
3. George Q. Cannon (Apostle and Counselor in The First Presidency)
4. Abraham O. Smoot (Apostle)
5. Caleb A. Shreeve Sr. (Patriarch)
6. Zebedee Coltrin (President of the Seventy)
Those who do not wish to believe that Joseph Smith originated the Curse of Cain doctrine and Priesthood-ban point out that three of the above men (the last three) were Southern whites who converted to the Church, and that they may have “invented” their stories as a way to prevent equality for black men in the Church. They point out that Zebedee Coltrin’s memory was flawed, since Coltrin once said that he ordained Elijah Abel but Joseph Smith revoked that ordination; which is not true. While it is true the Zebedee Coltrin made statements which don’t accord with the facts, there are at least three Apostles who testified that Joseph Smith told them that the “Negro had no right to the Priesthood”, and that Joseph Smith was quite upset when he said this, and seemed terribly disappointed. Two of those Apostles (Brigham Young and John Taylor) became the 2nd and 3rd Presidents of the Church.
All of these brethren testified that the Prophet Joseph Smith taught them the Curse of Cain doctrine and authorized the Priesthood-ban. In the Minutes of the August 22nd, 1895, meeting of The First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“President George Q. Cannon remarked that the Prophet taught this doctrine: That the seed of Cain could not receive the Priesthood nor act in any of the offices of the Priesthood until the seed of Abel should come forward and take precedence over Cain’s offering.”(The Perfection of Man, pp.110-111)
Zebedee Coltrin, who knew Joseph Smith personally, later wrote that in the year 1834 he and another Mormon had an argument over whether to ordain Negroes to the Priesthood. They went to Joseph Smith:
“Brother Joseph kind of dropped his head and rested it on his hand for a minute, and then said, ‘Brother Zebedee is right, for the Spirit of the Lord saith the Negro has no right to the Priesthood.’ He made no reference to Scripture at all, but such was his decision. I don’t recollect ever having any conversation with him afterwards on this subject. But I’v heard him say in public that no person having the least particle of Negro blood can hold the Priesthood.”(Mormons and the Negro 2:10)
There exists no sermon or written statement from the Prophet Joseph Smith which mentions the Curse of Cain nor the Priesthood ban. Some Members of the Church use these facts to declare that it was Brigham Young, and not Joseph Smith, who originated them.
Yet, all of the elements of the Curse of Cain doctrine can be found in the revelations and writings of Joseph Smith:
1. “Cain rose up against Abel, his brother, and slew him.”(Moses 5:32)
2. “And I the Lord set a mark upon Cain…”(Moses 5:40)
3. “The seed of Cain were black.”(Moses 7:22)
4. “A blackness came upon all the children of Canaan.” (Moses 7:8)
5. “Egypt being first discovered by a woman, who was the daughter of Ham, and the daughter of Egyptus.”(Abraham 1:23)
6. “Pharaoh, the eldest son of Egyptus, the daughter of Ham.”(Abraham 1:25)
7. “How this king of Egypt was a descendant from the loins of Ham, and was a partaker of the Canaanites by birth” (Abraham 1:21)
8. “And the blood of the Canaanites was preserved in the land” (Abraham 1:22)
9. “And…from Ham, sprang the race which preserved the curse in the land.”(Abraham 1:24)
10. Pharoah, the son of Egyptus, who was the daughter of Ham and Egyptus (the Cainite woman) was of the lineage (bloodline), which was “Blessed with wisdom” but “Cursed as pertaining to the Priesthood”(Abraham 1:26)
11. In a debate with Nauvoo Mayor John C. Bennett, over who had the greatest complaint against the white mans treatment, the Amerind (Indian) or the African (Negro) Joseph Smith said that “The Indians have a great cause to complain of the treatment of the whites, than the Negroes or sons of Cain.”(History of the Church 4:501)
12. In 1831 Joseph Smith identified Negroes as “the posterity of Canaan”(History of the Church 4:445-6)
Many white Mormons are embarrassed by the Curse of Cain doctrine and the Priesthood ban. They do not want to be thought of as “racists” and, since the World calls both the doctrine and the ban “racist” they accept it as such. So, they seek ways to disassociate themselves from it: calling it “personal opinion” and not revelation, or denying it ever happened at all. However, the facts speak otherwise. All the Presidents of the Church from Brigham Young to Spencer W. Kimball declared that the Curse of Cain and Priesthood ban were from the LORD. All statements from The First Presidency during this time period said the same thing. That remains the official position of the Church until The First Presidency publicly repudiates it, and to the date of the publication of this book The First Presidency has not repudiated the Curse of Cain doctrine nor the legitimacy of the Priesthood ban policy which was based upon the Curse of Cain doctrine. The circumstantial evidence points to the Prophet Joseph Smith, and not Brigham Young, as the probable originator of both the doctrine and the policy. –Darrick Evenson
Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. I had 2 major tests this week, and my priorities were elsewhere. But here’s my response.
If you go back and read your second paragraph, you seem to be implying that God was the author of a racist policy. I said, “it shouldn’t be up to Moses, or Brigham, or anyone else to deny church or priesthood blessings because of racist or ethnic views.”
You replied, “it would be God making the decision, and that is a decision he has every right to make.” While I don’t think you intended to imply God is racist, I find it hard to come to a different conclusion if you choose to say that God inspired the priesthood ban.
I know you don’t KNOW, but I am asking for your educated opinion regarding these 3 black men. I just don’t understand how you can say Elijah is an exception to policy which wasn’t laid out until the mid 1840’s. I will say that Darrick Evenson’s response is somewhat persuasive in laying out the scriptures, but let me outline some of the weaknesses in his arguments.
First, while his scripture chain is somewhat impressive, the first 9 verses do not overtly refer to a priesthood ban and the blacks. The 10th scripture is overt, and combined with the previous 9 can be considered some convincing circumstantial evidence to scripturally support a ban.
I would like to talk more about this 10th verse, from the Book of Abraham. According to John Gee (2000), who wrote, “A Guide to the Joseph Smith Papyri”, FARMS ISBN 0-934893-54-3, Joseph says he translated the Book of Abraham in 1835. The Book of Abraham wasn’t actually released to the public until 1842.
Well, if we are to believe Darrick Evenson’s convincing scripture chain, then why on earth would Joseph have contradicted scripture 1 year later by ordaining Elijah Abel? Why would Brigham Young approve Walker Lewis in 1844, and William McCary in 1846. It would seem that Mr Evenson had a better grasp of the scriptures than either Joseph or Brigham. Do you see any problems with this?
While I will agree that Mr Evenson’s chain by itself looks nice, it only tells part of the story. It does not bother to address Elijah, Walker, or McCary. For this reason, I find his explanation lacking.
Quoting Evenson, ‘Many white Mormons are embarrassed by the Curse of Cain doctrine and the Priesthood ban. They do not want to be thought of as “racists”…’ White Mormons should be embarrassed. I completely agree with him. Is he proud to be associated with a racist doctrine? I am not, and I don’t think you are proud of the fact, but are willing to accept the label in defense of Brigham Young. Correct me if I’m wrong here.
‘… and, since the World calls both the doctrine and the ban “racist” they accept it as such. So, they seek ways to disassociate themselves from it: calling it “personal opinion” and not revelation, or denying it ever happened at all. However, the facts speak otherwise. As I mentioned before, he is ignoring some of these facts, and fails to acknowledge Joseph’s supposed hypocrisy for ordaining Elijah so soon after translating the Book of Abraham. Are you and he so quick to call Joseph and Brigham hypocrites? I am not. That is why I choose to disagree with Darrick Evenson’s conclusions here, despite the fact that his scripture chain is somewhat appealing.
“The circumstantial evidence points to the Prophet Joseph Smith, and not Brigham Young, as the probable originator of both the doctrine and the policy.” I respectfully disagree. Perhaps he is willing to call Joseph and Brigham either hypocrites, or they are completely ignorant for not knowing the scriptures as well as Evenson does, but I beg to differ here. Perhaps he should better address Elijah and others before coming to these conclusions.
Now I know you have said I think poorly of Brigham. Perhaps you can look at my new post on George Washington to see a better picture of how I feel about people in history.
I just found another link from Darrick Evenson. I don’t think that he made the comment about circumstantial evidence pointing to Joseph– I think that is your opinion. I noticed that he gives a much more thorough history of the priesthood ban at this site.
It seems pretty well balanced, even though he does mention that he left the church in 1996. I do like the site because it has some images of Elijah Abel, Walker Lewis, and Black Pete. The site believes that Black Pete and William McCary were the same person. This is not true. The Elijah Abel photo seems accurate, but the other photos haven’t been authenticated, and are likely false (based on a VERY reliable source of mine.)
It says there is a DVD called “The Untold Story of Black Mormons” on sale at Deseret Book, but I have been unable to confirm that, because the website seems to be down at the moment. I am looking for a copy.
So you think I’m lying? Would you like to officially affirm that you believe I am lying before I go and prove you wrong? I copied and pasted what you see in italics. I can provide you with a direct link if you don’t believe me. I won’t waste my time otherwise, although I gave you a main link to all the Darrick Evenson information I used on October 24.
Sorry Tara. That was my clumsy attempt to say “I can’t find your quote.” I looked at the Q38 link, and my link. The website is quite large, and I didn’t go back to Oct 24 to look for the link you were referencing. I know you have interspersed commentary with quotes before, so I was just (clumsily) asking for clarification.
I do find it curious that you are using someone who has left the church to support your arguments. Evenson does seem to have put quite a bit of research into this. I think he and I mostly agree on the historical facts, but disagree on a few conclusions. Also, I did not see where he referenced McKay referring to the ban as policy, so I think he is not aware of that piece of info. Otherwise, he seems quite thorough.
I wasn’t aware that he had left the church, but I am curious to know if he left before or after the book. Anyway, I’m not sure that it matters whether or not he left the church, so long as his information is credible. It seems that it is as I’ve checked many of the quotes and they are legitimate.
Perhaps Darrick finds the reference to the ban being policy and not doctrine ultimately irrelevant as to the question of inspiration, as I do.
On the website, it says he left the church in 1996. Amazon.com
says he wrote this book in 2002. He refers to himself as “A converted anti-Mormon.” His website says he became a Daheshist in 2005.
“Darrick Evenson, a former Mormon missionary and apologist (“defender of the Faith”). I wrote Black Mormons & The Priesthood-ban and this website as a way to “defend” the Church from claims it was “racist”.
In 1996, I resigned from the Mormon Church, based upon many things. In 2005, I became a Daheshist. You can read my article “Why I Left the Mormon Church” at:
I have kept The Black Mormon Homepage online for two reasons:
*To tell the “truth” about black Mormon history that is not slanted, not pro-Mormon and not anti-Mormon, but simply “truthful”.
*To counter the Mormon Church’s on-going “Curse of Cain Cover-Up”.
I would agree that he finds the question of policy/doctrine as irrelevant, but for completely different reasons than you. For an anti-mormon, he seems relatively unbiased, and certainly different than most.
I’ve been wondering how to get a copy of the DVD. I came across this post at By Common Consent, written by Margaret Young, who was one of the producers of the movie, “Nobody Knows: the Untold Story of Black Mormons”.
Nobody Knows–and So What?
By: Margaret Blair Young
Yes, it’s true. We have released Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons. We aren’t in full distribution yet, but anyone can get a copy through me.
I think it’s a good and helpful documentary, but as one who believes in the principle of faith, I don’t think it’s essential. For any who have been troubled by race issues in the Church, we hope the documentary will be a balm. And it presents good information. But we certainly don’t present it as THE solution to questions which ultimately are between the seeker and God.
I think it’s a good thing to understand controversial issues and to be able to talk intelligently about them. If, however, our seeking is done in a spirit of anger or vindictivness (“You see? They’ve been lying all along–just like I thought!), then new information can be merely venom.
Some have suggested we show the documentary at the MTC. My response? Not on my watch. Missionaries are overwhelmed enough, thanks. There might be times and places AFTER they’ve hit up against some hard issues when our work could be of service, but it doesn’t belong in the MTC.
(Where would you draw the line? Should we also have films about polygamy, the MMM, and Adam-God?)
Sometimes we have to take a leap of faith and then choose to keep our commitment, renewing what led us to faith in the first place. If we stop at every difficult juncture, question every turn, or halt at every bit of disquieting information, we will be perpetually tempted to get angry because nobody warned us of (issue XYZ) earlier. Same thing with marriage. As the spouse reveals all sorts of flaws, we can choose either to love deeper or to say, “Well, you should have told me–and by the way, I’m outa here.”
I also believe missionaries need to trust their investigators. Their faith can stretch. We will NOT have all of the answers in this life. (How well do we REALLY understand the atonement?)
So, recognizing these limitations, I’m happy to make this announcement. Our baby has arrived. We think it’s adorable. And worth watching.
I’m at BYU. Margaret_Young at BYU.edu . Just e-mail me, or go to the documentary website (www.untoldstoryofblackmormons dot com)and push the “info” button. That mail comes directly to me.
So, if you want a copy, email Margaret!
And if you want to participate in their thread, go to http://www.bycommonconsent.com/2009/02/nobody-knows-and-so-what
The purchase option is at the bottom of the home page.
They now have PayPal set up on the main website. It’s $20 for the DVD and $5 for shipping and handling.
Just so it’s clear, Margaret Young is a professor at BYU and Darius Gray is the original founder of the Genesis Group for Black Mormons. They are wonderful people, and I admire and respect Darius, especially, more than I can express.
Thanks Ray! I used the link at the bottom, and I hope to review this film again as soon as I get a copy.
My personal opinion:
The ban was inspired.
The lifting of the ban was insprired.
The theories to explain the ban? Dunno and don’t care.
Pedro, glad you cared enough to stop by and comment. I’m not sure if you read the entire post and comments, but hope you found it educational.
Several of the comments above reference Derrick Evenson, who maintains a website dealing with Blacks and the Priesthood at Angelfire. While some of the information is accurate, some of the information is not–for example, Black Pete and William McCary are listed as the same person, when they are in fact 2 different people.
I just want to state a disclaimer here, that information on that site should not be deemed
reliable. I am posting corrections on this post to correct past inaccurate information, and strive to be as accurate as I can.
Papa D has some nice modern day quotes about the priesthood ban.
[…] 4. was priesthood ban inspired […]
John Dehlin has brought his podcast out of retirement. Much of the audio is what I have transcribed above (but not all) from his interview with Darius Gray and Margaret Young . For an interesting screencast, check out some slides and audio at http://mormonstories.org/blacksandtheldspriesthood/
The website says “(requires a PC and Microsoft Internet Explorer to view)”, but I was able to view it with Firefox.
Clean Cut adds a little more to this topic. Check it out.
There was an interesting discussion on Academic Freedom at Mormon Matters. Around Comment 50, Margaret Young stepped in and the conversation turned more towards race. There were some really interesting quotes from Abraham Lincoln, especially around comments 71-100, and 112.
So, Tara, I’m interested if you think the more recent turn towards academic freedom is a good or bad thing. Perhaps you could answer over there? Also, have you seen Margaret Young’s DVD?
I’m not going to have a chance to check it out today. I’m taking the kids to the pool in a little while and, on the topic of race, I’m going to try to go to a fireside tonight at our stake center where Marvin Perkins will be speaking. I’m also not sure if I want to get into another discussion on the issue anyway. Not sure what is meant specifically by turning towards academic freedom as it relates to the church. I may check it out and see what’s going on but I doubt I will join in.
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[…] find out President McKay’s thoughts on the topic as well. In a previous post, I discussed McKay’s conversation with Sterling McMurrin where McKay agreed with McMurrin that the ban was not doctrinal, but merely policy. Yet, McKay […]
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Just in time for MLK Day is an awesome post from Paul Reeve! He finally discovered the man who ordained Elijah Abel to the priesthood! http://www.keepapitchinin.org/2019/01/18/guest-post-newly-discovered-document-provides-dramatic-details-about-elijah-able-and-the-priesthood/
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