Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Why the LDS church is not true for me. - Ban on Blacks and the priesthood

Have you ever wondered why black men could not hold the priesthood until 1978? I was 7 years old in 1978 when the Official Declaration #2 was released, so I did not know much about it or even remember the huge change in the church. My entire life, I have been a good church going member up until the end of 2008. The ban on blacks holding the priesthood was always one of those weird things from the church’s history that I knew little about.

For the past couple of years, I have researched the history of the church and the ban on blacks holding the priesthood is very troubling to me. My #1 issue with the church is polygamy; the priesthood ban for the blacks is my #2 issue.

Many members will refer to the Book of Abraham as one of the scriptural reasons for the priesthood ban on black men. The Book of Abraham has some significant issues since some of the Egyptian scrolls that Joseph Smith used to “translate” into the Book of Abraham were recovered in 1967 and presented to the church. Modern Egyptologists have had the opportunity to translate the scrolls and they have all agreed that the scrolls have nothing to do with the words written in the Book of Abraham. So, is the Book of Abraham a legitimate reason to place the priesthood ban on the blacks?

Amazingly enough, a black man by the name of Elijah Abel was ordained into the priesthood while Joseph Smith was still the “prophet” of the church. Joseph Smith actually was very accepting of black people into the church. The trouble starts with Bloody Brigham, oh I mean Brigham Young.

After Joseph Smith was killed, Brigham Young did not allow Elijah Abel, who had already been ordained into the priesthood, to receive his endowment in the Nauvoo Temple. The statements that Brigham Young said about black people are just appalling. Here is an example.

"Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so." (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Volume 10, page 110.)

This quote from Brigham Young just sickens me! This was his response when he was asked about interracial marriage. Now I ask you, have you ever witnessed a white man die when he marries a black woman and has mixed race children? There is a family in my neighborhood that is a mixed race family. They are both very faithful members and are doing just fine.

In 1848, after the Mormons came to Utah, Brigham Young released the official declaration that prohibited all black men from holding the priesthood. This also included prohibiting any black members of the church from entering the temples. This is where the problem truly started; Brigham Young was a racist.

Since Brigham Young, various “prophets” and church leaders gave their explanations for the priesthood ban on blacks. One of the explanations that really bothers me is the idea that black people were less valiant in the preexistence and because of this, they were born black. How do you tell a young black boy or girl that they are black because they were not as good in the preexistence as the white boy or girl down the street? How does a person actually control what family or race they are born into?

Here are a couple of other gems from two “prophets” after Brigham Young.

John Taylor, 3rd President of the Church
"And after the flood we are told that the curse that had been pronounced upon Cain was continued through Ham's wife, as he had married a wife of that seed. And why did it pass through the flood? because it was necessary that the devil should have a representation upon the earth as well as God;..." Journal of Discourses, Vol. 22, page 304

Wilford Woodruff, 4th President of the Church
"And if any man mingle his seed with the seed of Cain the only way he could get rid of it or have Salvation would be to come forward and have his head cut off and spill his blood upon the ground- it would also take the life of his children."
(Wilford Woodruff Journal)

Thanks to MormonThink for this great information.

There is so much more I could say, but then this post would even be longer than it already is. The Book of Mormon is a whole other story about people having their skin turned dark because of unrighteousness. The modern leaders of the church should have known better. Regardless of the general view of black people throughout the 1800s and the 1900s, the church and its leaders should have been above all this since they are receiving the inspirations and counsels from God. Today, the church says that everything is good and that we should not focus on the past. The problem is that the history of the church is an embarrassment when issues like this come up. As much as the church wants to whitewash history and make everything look rosy, these problematic issues will not go away.


  1. Bloody Brigham hahahah, yes I think he probably has plenty of blood on his hands so it's a good name for him then.

    I am appalled. I just don't understand how anyone can read these things and remain in the church. Seriously, to have teachings about the colour of your skin meaning that you were a less righteous soul in the previous realm is just mad! I'm mad as hell about it. Let's get madder!

    As I've said before the Mormon church springs from damned lies. Even worse, those lies have been used to oppress many people. Stop the rot!

  2. Brigham Young's sentiments about interracial marriage were shared by many in his day - including many fervent abolitionists, and even Abraham Lincoln himself.

    So I don't see why his views on this should be particularly surprising. Lots of otherwise good and admirable people had views like this.

    And the Book of Mormon is actually a remarkably racially progressive book - if you buy the idea that there actually was a skin difference between Lamanites and Nephites (I don't think that by the Book of Mosiah, there was much skin difference between the two groups). After all, isn't a key part of the narrative where the Lamanites are more righteous than the Nephites and take them to task?

    (Minor note: the "scrolls" of the Book of Abraham were never recovered. What was recovered were a handful of fragments containing some of the facsimiles. The original scrolls, according to eyewitness accounts, were almost 15 feet long end-to-end. What survived the fire in Chicago was only a few paperback novel sized fragments. So no - Egyptologists did not "translate" the entire Book of Abraham - nor does MormonThink claim that they did. You need to get your facts straight here.)

  3. Seth, thank you for replying to my post. After reading your response, I realized that I might not have been as clear in my writing as I intended. Please allow me to clarify some of the thoughts that I was trying to share.

    The main intent of my post was not trying to prove the Book of Abraham true or false. I think we can both agree that this is a very controversial book that has caused doubts about its origins for many people. When I mentioned the scrolls that were recovered in 1967, I did not say that the scrolls were recovered in their entirety. What is left of the scrolls is a much smaller portion than what the scrolls in original condition probably were. What has been recovered and presented to the church has received high amounts of scrutiny by both Mormon and non-Mormon Egyptologists. Throughout my studies of this, I have not found any of these people coming forward to corroborate the story that Joseph Smith wrote.

    There have been many debates about this subject and I am certainly not an expert in this area. There are three websites that have posted extensive information on this subject.
    These websites are:

    The first two are pro-Mormon sites while MormonThink takes a more critical view. For anyone interested, I recommended perusing these sites and coming to your own conclusion about the Book of Abraham and the Egyptian scrolls.

    I can understand the idea that Brigham Young along with other prominent people of the time felt the way that they did about black people. I guess I just expect more from a man being lead by God. If Brigham Young were receiving inspiration from God, it would make more sense to me that he would have known that his view of black people was incorrect. His actions and words lead me to believe that he was just a man trying to do what he thought was right. From today’s perspective, we can now see just how wrong he really was. Was he speaking as a man or a prophet?

    I have witnessed many instances of the church referring to a specific quote of a past prophet to increase the faith of its members. The funny thing is that other people can go to the same reference material from the same prophet and find quotes that are very questionable. Look at some of the material from Mark E. Peterson and Bruce R. McConkie. Both of these modern-day men were considered inspired men of God and yet they had some very disturbing and degrading messages about black people. Were they speaking as apostles when they said those things?

    I have read the Book of Mormon a few times and there are specific instances of Lamanites having their skin turned dark; “the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them” because of unrighteousness (2 Nephi 5:21). Later in the book, there are also instances of the Lamanites having their skin turn white because of righteousness; “their curse was taken from them, and their skin became white like unto the Nephites” (3 Nephi 2:15). This is a very disturbing idea to me that a group of people would receive instant judgment from God based upon whether they were following his commandments or not. I cannot think of any other example of this happening to a group of people. God also comes across as a respecter of persons when he “blesses” the Lamanites with white skin. Why is dark skin bad in the Book of Mormon? I know of many people that are beautiful because they are black.

    I hope that my additional explanations help you to understand some of the difficulties I have with the church and why I posted these thoughts.

  4. One of the surviving pieces of the BoA scrolls contain Fascimile #1, so at least some of the stuff translated by Egyptologists was contained in the BoA.

    Still, if Joseph Smith can't even get the facsimile translation correct, what are the odds that he got the rest right?

  5. I've heard Seth's argument quite a bit: You can't criticise church leaders from that time. They were just as dumb and/or racist as everyone else was.

    Except if you're going to claim that they had a phoneline direct to a supernatural being, you wouldn't expect them to be just as dumb or racist as everyone else. You'd expect that they'd be a good deal smarter and more enlightened. If the prophetic mantle offers no benefit that other people don't have, it looks an awful lot like something imaginary.

  6. That's what I was thinking too Daniel; if he was just speaking of things that were common sentiments at the time, than what is the point of having a modern day prophet who receives revelation? Any guy can say he is a prophet while stating the sentiments of the time.

  7. And let's not forget, that Mr Young's prevention of Blacks receiving the priesthood actually appear to contradict Joseph Smiths, more liberal views on race, that actual lead him to ordain a black man to the Melchizedek Priesthood.

    Mormons had no problem separating themselves from normal society when it came to other things, like polygamy and blood atonement, so it seems out of their character that they would just go with the flow when it came to racial issues.

    And this all comes back to my big problem with the Church... How do you know? These men are supposed to speak for God, supposed to be able to reveal the plan of Salvation, and yet when they say things which are proved wrong, the "Just speaking as a man" argument gets thrown around willy nilly. Either these men are prophets or they are not, and the evidence would seem to indicate that they are not.

    You could use the old "Pray about it" approach, but members of my own family have prayed about the blacks and the priesthood thing, and still believe that OD2 was a mistake, and that the blacks still aren't supposed to have the priesthood, it was merely a device to save the Church from embarrassment.

    I could likely go on for pages and pages, but I think you get my point!

  8. Yeah Daniel, that line of thought works...

    If you're a right-wing Christian fundamentalist.

    The rest of us are like - "who gives a crap?"

    So prophets turn out to be human? Oh the horror! The scriptures must not be true!

  9. Seth, are you really saying "who gives a crap?" about church history? It is almost like you are saying, "That was then, this is now. What happened back then doesn't matter." If that were the case, why does the church place so much emphasis on its history? I find it interesting the way that church members react when embarrassing or uncomfortable items in church history are discussed.

  10. I find it rather interesting that so many of the critics of the LDS Church, aside from being black-and-white fundamentalists, are apparently lacking in basic reading comprehension skills.

  11. Seth, are personal attacks really necessary? I would appreciate that if you plan on leaving additional comments on my blog, keep to the topic of discussion instead of resorting to personal attacks. This is my blog, if you find my posts offensive, don't read it.

  12. Bowie, where on earth did you get the idea that I was saying "don't care about Church history"?

    Few members of the LDS Church care more about LDS history than I do. The members of my ward wish I'd shut up about it.

    But I wasn't even talking about history anyway. What I was responding to was Daniel's theory that being a prophet ought to somehow make you supernaturally immune to being racist, or ignorant of science, or a bad businessman.

    Why does Daniel think that being a prophet should make you immune to these things?

    I remarked that this is part-and-parcel of the fundamentalist mindset - the idea that a prophet should be inerrant. The idea that scriptures should be flawless. The idea that any Church that God approves of would be free of any errors or problems. Religious fundamentalists believe this. When they are confronted with undeniable evidence that this image of perfection is not true, it never seems to occur to them to question their own fundamentalist paradigm, but rather it seems to cause them to conclude that the institution that they had unrealistic expectations of is false.

    People are like this - they'd rather claim to being duped and deceived than admit that the way they think is fundamentally screwed up.

    But there is no reason why the Church needs to be inerrant - even if it is God's Church. What makes you think you have a right to a God who is going to micromanage his prophets to make sure that you get a perfectly packaged McMessage for $1.99, and don't have to use your own brain on a regular basis? What gave Daniel, or anyone else, the impression that you don't have to do any work for your beliefs, but that some prophet is going to do all the legwork for you?

    The expectations seem unrealistic.

    I think people would be far better-served to devote their time to dismantling their own fundamentalist paradigm, rather than wasting time complaining about how Brigham Young was a racist.

    Of course Brigham Young was a racist. Statistically, it was hardly news for his time period. Lots of perfectly good and admirable people of that period would have been horrified at the notion of an interracial marriage - including many top abolitionists. But God works with the materials he has available.

    Not a big deal to me. But apparently something mind-bending to Daniel. This is the trap of the fundamentalist mind. Even when the cease being religious, they still can't kick the fundamentalism.

  13. And go ahead and delete the prior shorter comment if you feel it will clear the air a bit.

  14. Seth, thank you for clarifying your response. You made some very clear points.

  15. By the way, I do realize I'm being too hard on Daniel. I'm probably reading too much into his brief remark here. But this is a pet-peeve issue with me.

    I was personally very pleased to discover a paradigm for Mormonism that did not include black and white fundamentalist thinking, and coming online and finding constant demands that the Church live up to this ideal is obnoxious to me.