CC – Race and the Priesthood

On this episode, we take a clean cut look at one largely controversial topic in Mormon history. Until 1978, no person having any black lineage could hold the priesthood, which denied them access to the highest kingdom of celestial heaven. Any black person that made it to heaven before the priesthood ban was lifted, was merely elevated to level of eternal servant (slave) of the white and delightsome men that make their own planets in the highest level of celestial heaven. What could have caused such a monumental shift in Mormon doctrine about blacks not having the priesthood? Turns out, the story is much more complicated than it first appears.

Show links:


Twitter @NakedMormonism



Outro music Jason Comeau

Show Artwork


Ishmael Brown of Angry Black Rant Podcast:

Racist Mormon Quotes:

Race and the Priesthood official LDS essay:

MormonThink article refuting LDS essay:

Church Minutes about Jane Manning:

Letter from a Doubter:

October 1978 General Conference:

Darius Gray on Deseret News 2014:

Darius Gray 2014 affirmation conference lecture:

Official press release of ban lift:

LeGrand Richards Interview w/audio:

Transcription of interview clip:

****WALTERS: ****On this revelation, of the priesthood to the Negro, I’ve heard all kinds of stories: I’ve heard that Christ appeared to the Apostles. I’ve heard that Joseph Smith appeared; and then I heard another story that Spencer Kimball had had a concern about this for some time and simply shared it with the apostles, and they decided that this was the right time to move in that direction. Now are any of those stories true, or are they all…

RICHARDS: Well, the last one is pretty true, and I might tell you what provoked it in a way. Down in Brazil, there is so much Negro blood in the population there that it’s hard to get leaders that don’t have Negro blood in them. We just built a temple down there. It’s going to be dedicated in October. All those people with Negro blood in them have been raising the money to build that temple. And then, if we don’t change, then they can’t even use it. So Brother Kimball worried about it, and he prayed a lot about it.

He asked each one of us of the Twelve if we would pray – and we did – that the Lord would give him the inspiration to know what the will of the Lord was. And then he invited each one of us in his office – individually, because you know when you are in a group, you can’t always express everything that’s in your heart. You’re part of the group, you see – so he interviewed each one of us, personally, to see how we felt about it, and he asked us to pray about it. And then he asked each one of us to hand in all the references we had, for, or against that proposal. See, he was thinking favorably toward giving the colored people the priesthood.

Then we had a meeting where we meet every week in the temple, and we discussed it as a group together, and then we prayed about it in our prayer circle, and then we held another prayer circle after the close of that meeting, and he (President Kimball) lead in the prayer; praying that the Lord would give us the inspiration that we needed to do the thing that would be pleasing to Him and for the blessing of His children. And then the next Thursday – we meet every Thursday – the Presidency came with this little document written out to make the announcement – to see how we’d feel about it – and present it in written form. Well, some of the members of the Twelve suggested a few changes in the announcement, and then in our meeting there we all voted in favor of it – the Twelve and the Presidency. One member of the Twelve, Mark Petersen, was down in South America, but Brother Benson, our President, had arranged to know where he could be reached by phone, and right while we were in that meeting in the temple, Brother Kimball talked with Brother Petersen, and read him this article, and he (Petersen) approved of it.

Welcome to this Clean Cut episode of the Naked Mormonism Podcast, the serial Mormon history podcast. My name is Bryce Blankenagel, today is May 5th 2016, and thank you for joining me. Today's episode is very special in that we're taking on one big topic in Mormon history with a clean cut approach, today we'll be talking about race and the priesthood.

It's well known among most Mormon circles that any African-American member of the chruch couldn't have the priesthood until 1978, and it's thought by most that this was a tenant of Mormonism from its inception. Fortunately, there is much more nuance to the subject that deserves a much deeper dive to really understand, and that's what we're going to be focusing on today.

Let's start off with discussing where this religious tenant came from, and why it's important that blacks couldn't have the priesthood. Let me just say right at the onset, I apologize in advance if the term black, or black people is offensive in any way, because I don't mean it to be, I'll merely be using it for ease of conversation. Also, another important thing to understand is the type of people we'll be talking about today. The people in Mormon history that are responsible for blacks not getting the priesthood were quite racist, and those racist beliefs shine through in sometimes uncouth or abraisive ways, but I refuse to censor anything these men have said, because we need to hear the terminology they used, and understand the historical context that made those terms okay. Most of the quotes we read today have offensive language or slurs toward African-Americans, but that was just typical conversation for most of these people. So this is your official trigger warning, this episode is clean cut, so there won't be any vitriolic or offensive language from me, as is the nature of the Clean Cut episodes of this show, however there will be some racist language used in quotes given by men that are long dead. If you're sensitive to those words, then this episode probably isn't for you. With that out of the way, let's get started.

It's important to understand the origination of racism in the Mormon church, and the scriptural justifications that were used to keep black people subservient, or some kind of lower class in the church. It's understood that rightousness and skin color are directly related in the Book of Mormon, and this is the idea that serves as the seed for our studies today.

This is taken from the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon, starting with 2 Nephi 30:5-6:

"And the Gospel of Jesus Christ shall be declared among them; wherefore, they shall be restored unto the knowledge of their fathers, and also to the knowledge of Jesus Christ, which was had among their fathers.

And then shall they rejoice; for they shall know that it is a blessing unto them from the hand of God; and their scales of darkness shall begin to fall from their eyes; and many generations shall not pass away among them, save they shall be a white and a delightsome people.

And it shall come to pass that the Jews which are scattered also shall begin to believe in Christ; and they shall begin to gather in upon the face of the land; and as many as shall believe in Christ shall also become a delightsome people."

This is the basis for the Mormon belief that rightousness and skin color go hand in hand. While we understand this to be quite ridiculous nowadays, it was a sincerely held religious belief in the time of the Book of Mormon.

This is from the same book 2 Nephi 5:21

"And he caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, and they had become like unto a flint; wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people[,] the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them."

This is pretty solid evidence provided in the Book of Mormon that skin color is associated with righteousness and standing in the Lord God's eyes. This passage explicitly says that anybody with black skin is not righteous, and therefore deserving of a skin of blackness, becoming like unto a flint, so that they might not be enticing unto my people. This implies that anybody with black skin should be unattractive to any righteous person with white skin, so their seed doesn't intermingle. We're just getting started, so if any of this racism turned your stomach, you're in for quite a ride today.

The implication of being cursed with a dark skin for being sinful should go the other way, meaning that if a person with black skin becomes righteous, their skin should turn white. With our understanding of modern genetics and melanin, we know this to be absurd, but this is one central belief in the Book of Mormon. This is from 3 Nephi 2:15:

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

These are all passages out of the Book of Mormon, which claims to be the most correct book on earth, revealed to Joseph Smith by the Lord God. The thing is, this book is central to Mormonism, and this is one of the core teachings of it. Not only that, but we can see how this teaching pervaded the early church. In the next quote we'll read, it was in relation to an early missionary trip to proselyte to the Lamanites in Missouri. This was recounted by William Wines Phelps to Brigham Young, quoting Joseph Smith. The context of the quote is something necessary to understand before reading the quote. Joseph Smith had told this missionary force to go to the land on the borders with the Lamanites, meaning Missouri at the time, and preach to them for the purpose of converting them to Mormonism. This was done in late 1830, and eventually elicited a trip to Missouri by Joseph himself the next year, during which he revealed the location of Zion to be Independence, Missouri. This is the quote from Joseph Smith, recounted by his good friend, and fellow brother in the church, W. W. Phelps. It is a revelation where Joseph is speaking as the mouthpiece of God.

"It is my will, that in time, ye should take unto you wives of the Lamanites and Nephites, that their posterity, may become white, delightsome, and just".

This revelation is a double whammy, because it was commanding elder missionaries that were already married, to marry Native American women, so that their children could become white and delightsome. Polygamy and racism, a two-fer offensive revelation from God, given through the mouth of his one true prophet, Joseph Smith.

What fascinates me so much is the fact that this belief never went away, but rather was built upon by generations of LDS church leaders. Even Joseph himself built on these teachings, which resulted in passages in the Pearl of Great Price which were seemingly even more racist. For anybody that is unaware, the Book of Mormon was the first book canonized into Mormon holy scripture. The second book was the Book of Commandments, which later became the Doctrine and Covenants, and the third book is the Pearl of Great Price, which was compiled about 7 years after Joseph Smith's death, but was taken from various sources of Joseph's work and revelations.

This is from the book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price, the third book of Mormon canon.

Moses 7:8

"There was a blackness came upon all the children of Canaan, that they were despised among all people"

Moses 7:22

"And... they were a mixture of all the seed of Adam save it was the seed of Cain, for the seed of Cain were black, and had not place among them"

These are solid passages that describe the seed of Cain being cursed with black skin, so they would be despised among all people, but the Pearl of Great Price digs in even deeper when we get into the Book of Abraham, which was translated from Egyptian funerary texts that the church purchased in the mid 1830's

Abraham 1:25-27

"Now the first government of Egypt was established by Pharaoh, the eldest son of Egyptus, the daughter of Ham, ... Noah, his father, who blessed him with the blessings of the earth,... but cursed him as pertaining to the priesthood.

Now Pharaoh being of the lineage by which he could not have the right of Priesthood, . . ."

And that is where we get to the scriptural foundation for anybody being of the seed of Cain, not being allowed to have the priesthood. That is the primary scripture the priesthood ban stems from. But when a person says that blacks couldn't have the priesthood, the implications were much deeper than just not being able to pass the sacrement in church, or lay their hands on people to give them a priesthood blessing. Not being allowed the priesthood was just the bottleneck point that was used to relegate black people to being second class members in the church. The basic restriction was that they couldn't have the priesthood, which was the crux of their limitation to salvation.

When I say salvation, I mean the ability to ascend to the celestial kingdom to live with god after death. When a faithful, priesthood holding man dies in the church, he performs the various signs and tokens to enter into the celestial kingdom, where he can call his various wives through the vail to live with him in the celestial kingdom, but the man is only able to do so if he's a faithful member of the church, and holds all the necessary keys of the priesthood. To reiterate, only men with the priesthood, and their wives are allowed into the highest level of heaven in the Mormon church. So not allowing blacks to have the priesthood was the checkpoint they couldn't pass, forcing them to spend eternity in lesser kingdoms of heaven. The argument can be made that once they die and ascend as a righteous person, their skin will change from black like a flint to white and delightsome, allowing them to attain the priesthood, but this requires a fair amount of posthumous temple work to be done to give them the priesthood, and thus, their righteous works on earth are somehow less valuable than their white and delightsome counterpart's works. Not to mention that there is no way of testing such a claim that posthumous exaltation could even work.

The most fascinating thing about this priesthood ban being part of Mormon canon, is the fact that it was never enforced until Brigham Young became president of the church in 1844. Remarkably, Joseph Smith didn't seem to mind black people having the priesthood in his lifetime, which is something we'll discuss momentarily. Before that, we need to talk about the inherent racism of Joseph Smith's time, because I don't think there is any way of understanding this topic without understanding what frontier life was like in the American 1830's.

It's well known that slavery has been a contentious point in American history since it was used to create and sustain the agriculture based economy of the south. Owning other people as property was a disagreement at the heart of a lot of Mormon persecution in its early days, especially in Missouri.

The vast majority of Mormon in the early days of the church were from Northern, non-slave states like New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, etc., so most early Mormons were either opposed to slavery, or didn't fall strongly on one side or the other regarding slavery. This became an issue when the Mormons started to flock to Missouri, which was the northern-most slave state in the union, not to mention, the center for Mormon rapture. The majority of Missouri citizens wanted to own slaves, or did own them while hundreds of Mormons were moving into Independence, Jackson County, Missouri.

Now, a small number of Mormons moving in was nothing more than a nuisance to the Missourians, but it started becoming a problem when there were enough Mormons moving in to actually sway voting and public policy. This became an existential threat to the Missourian farming communities that relied on slave labor for their economy to continue. If there were enough Mormons to make up a majority and vote the right of owning slaves out of law, the entire economy of Missouri could realistically collapse, which caused a lot of hatred and anger against the Mormons. This hatred was manifest in a couple of small scuttles, resulting in the loss of life of both Missourians, and Mormons alike, which further fueled the Mormon persecution complex. Add in the fact that the Mormons were proselyting to the slaves, encouraging them to come to church, or teaching them how to read the Book of Mormon, and the Mormons really became a thorn in the paw of the Missourians that wanted to keep their slaves ignorant and subservient to their will.

Joseph was no different than the majority of anti-slavery believing Mormons, making him somewhat progressive in his ideas about black people being equals. That's a sentiment that can't be lost in our discussion today, Joseph was relatively progressive and tolerant for his time, much moreso than Brigham Young, which we'll get to soon.

Back to what I mentioned earlier, the priesthood ban didn't come into place until Brigham Young took over as President and Prophet of the LDS church. Given the nature of the Book of Mormon, Joseph was much more inclusive than many of his followers. Joseph was trying to include Native Americans and African Americans into his church, not exclude them like Brigham Young did. Joseph even ordained a black man with the priesthood and called him to be an Elder of the church, and a general authority as a member of the quorum of the 70.

This man was named Elijah Abel, and he had a very remarkable past in the church, as did his children. Elijah joined the church in 1832, and was ordained as an elder, probably by Joseph Smith, on March 3, 1836, and was ordained into the third quorum of the seventies in 1839. He was born in 1808 a slave in Maryland, but escaped to Canada on the underground railroad, presumably in the late 1820's. Once a member of the quorum of the seventies, Joseph called him to be a mortician in Nauvoo in 1839 or 1840. Elijah Abel was seen as an equal member of the church, and a priesthood holder until his death in Utah in 1884. What's even more remarkable is the legacy he left behind. His son, Enoch, and his grandson Elijah were all members of the Utah LDS church under Brigham Young, and were all worthy priesthood holders, and in leadership roles in the church, during the time that black people supposedly couldn't have the priesthood.

What we do need to point out is the fact that Elijah and his family were the exception to the rule though, and they probably only got a pass because they were very light-skinned black people. Some people weren't even aware that Elijah was black until told by somebody else. That's how they were the exception that proved the rule. There were VERY few other black people in the early church that were given the priesthood, and thus allowed into the temple and given access to the celestial kingdom. Given Elijah's history with Joseph Smith, he was a friend, and I believe that allowed him to be seen as more equal than any other black person that joined the church after him. Unfortunately, there are many more unpleasant examples, once Brigham Young took over, that seem to embody the less-than subtle racism that pervades the history of the LDS church.

Once Brigham took over as president, he made this proclamation around 1853:

"Any man having one drop of the seed of [Cain] … in him cannot hold the priesthood and if no other Prophet ever spake it before[,] I will say it now in the name of Jesus Christ I know it is true and others know it."

And from this point on, any black person trying to get into the celestial kingdom was completely stonewalled, with the exception of Elijah Abel's son and grandson, and one or two others. This became a real problem when we look at somebody like Jane Elizabeth Manning. Jane Manning was a shining example of what a faithful and exemplary member of the church should be. She was born a free black woman and converted to Mormonism in the early 1840's at the age of 14. She made the 800 mile walk with some of her family to live in Nauvoo. The story is recounted that she walked until her shoes fell off, and continued walking with bare feet through snow and over bodies of water. When Jane Manning arrived in Nauvoo, she was offered a room in the Nauvoo mansion by Emma, who took her in and taught her homemaking. During Jane's time in the Nauvoo mansion, she and Emma became very close, and Jane even later recalled that Emma offered to adopt her while Jane lived there.

Jane Manning married another black Mormon living in Nauvoo at the time, and eventually made the pilgrimmage to Utah after Joseph's death, and unfortunately outlived her husband. This is where we begin to see the real world impact of the ban on blacks having access to salvation. Jane was a very faithful and good member of the church throughout all her days. She even donated a substantial amount of her personal funds for the construction of the Salt Lake City temple, she was no Jack Mormon, or in this case, Jane Mormon.

Jane's marriage to a black man made it so she was unable to get into the celestial kingdom, of course, because he couldn't receive the priesthood, and go through the temple to receive his endowments to enter the celestial kingdom in order to call her up. Since Emma had asked if Jane wanted to be adopted before Jane went to Utah, Jane asked then president of the church, Wilford Woodruff, if she could be sealed to the Smiths in order to enter the celestial kingdom. Woodruff agreed with a caveat or two.... Due to her cursed black skin, Jane couldn't enter the temple to have the sealing ordinance performed, remember, this is the temple that she had donated a substantial amount of her own money to help fund the building costs, so the ordinance was done by proxy. Joseph F. Smith stood in for Joseph Smith, and a woman named Bathsheba Smith stood in for Jane, and the sealing ordinance was done. Normally when ordinances are done by proxy, it's because the person they are performing the ordinance for is dead, thus baptisms for the dead, but Jane Manning was still alive when this happened. She was just required to sit outside the temple while a white woman stood in for her during the sealing process, just because Jane was black. What kind of message did that send to her? She was considered the equivalent of dead spiritually, because she carried the curse of Cain.

The biggest smack in the face was hidden in the details of the ordinance though. Not only was she unable to be sealed to her own husband to get into the celestial kingdom, not only was she not able to attend the ordinance as herself on behalf of herself, even though she had contributed to the construction of the temple, but when she was sealed to Joseph and Emma, she wasn't sealed as a spiritual daughter or sister like all the other spiritual adoptions were, but rather their servant. She was sealed for time and all eternity to Joseph and Emma as their eternal slave, just because she had black skin. When she understood the implications and details of her sealing ceremony that she wasn't able to attend, she was understandably frustrated, and appealed to the presidency to seal her as an equal to Joseph and Emma, but she was denied, and died without gaining full access to the celestial glory that should have awaited her upon death.

This is a very real example of the harsh implications of racism in the early church. Unfortunately, it wasn't an issue relegated to just the early church, but rather was a core tenant of their belief structure until 1978, more than 120 years after Brigham Young officially instated the priesthood ban on black people. These problems that Jane Manning dealt with have been represented throughout Mormon history for over a century, and Jane is by far not a singular occurence. The priesthood ban affected countless families marked with the curse of Cain for what seems like incomprehensible reasons, but that's what we're going to try to get to the bottom of today.

What was the logical justification for keeping anybody marked with the curse of Cain as a second class member? We understand the scriptural basis for it, both from the Book of Mormon, as well as many passages in the Pearl of Great Price, but as with any controversial doctrine, there will always be apologetic answers for why black people couldn't have the priesthood. This is a quote from Orson Hyde, taken from meeting minutes when he made a speech to the High Priests quorum in Nauvoo in April of 1845. While he was never a prophet or president, he served as a member of the quorum of the twelve apostles under Brigham Young, and Joseph Smith, and was a very faithful man in the church for his entire life, taking many wives, and holding many leadership callings in the organization of the church.

"These spirits were not considered bad enough to be cast down to hell, and never have bodies; neither were they considered worthy of an honourable body on this earth…Now, it would seem cruel to force pure celestial spirits into the world through the lineage of Canaan that had been cursed. This would be ill appropriate, putting the precious and vile together. But those spirits in heaven that rather lent an influence to the devil, thinking he had a little the best right to govern, but did not take a very active part any way were required to come into the world and take bodies in the accursed lineage of Canaan; and hence the negro or African race."

This is a quote from Joseph Fielding Smith, great nephew of the revered Joseph Smith, speaking in the capacity of prophet of the church in his Doctrines of Salvation vols. 1.

"There is a reason why one man is born black and with other disadvantages, while another is born white with great advantages. The reason is that we once had an estate before we came here, and were obedient, more or less, to the laws that were given us there. Those who were faithful in all things there received greater blessings here, and those who were not faithful received less."

The colloquial phrase I've heard black people reffered to, in the church, is "fence-sitters". The idea behind this is the claim that there was a huge schism in heaven when Satan defected and took a third of the hosts of heaven with him, these were the third that were inherently evil. The rest of us decided to come to earth and receive bodies, but there were some of us who weren't sure if they wanted to go with Satan or Jesus, to which we refer to as fence-sitters. These people were given the curse of the black skin, because, according to Joseph Fielding Smith, they were less faithful and therefore received lesser hand dealt.

Hopefully you're hanging in there with me, because we've only begun to scratch the surface here. One thing worth pointing out, most of the quotes I'm taking are from prophets and presidents of the church, and it can be argued that they were just racist, and didn't really reflect the true will of God. Luckily, we have another quote from another prophet addressing that very concern.

Wilford Woodruff, the same prophet that denied giving Jane Manning access to the celestial kingdom said this in the Doctrine and Covenants Official Declaration 1.

"The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty."

This man was speaking in the capacity of the prophet of God, as the Lord's own mouthpiece, and he said if he, or any other prophet, leads the members astray, they will be removed from their position of power, a statement which was canonized as official Mormon doctrine. There's simply no argument to be made claiming that the priesthood ban was from racist men, and not from god.

For the sake of studying this topic, let's grant that. Let's grant the Official Declaration 1, and say that if any prophet ever lead the church astray from God's will, they were cut off, or removed from their office. That means all Mormon doctrine comes from divine providence and intervention. If we're talking about the divine will of the divine god, why was the priesthood ban put in place to devastate generations of black Mormons, only to be lifted at some arbitrary time later? What could possibly have changed God's mind on this highly controversial point of Mormon doctrine? For the answers to those questions, it requires looking further ahead of the timeline than Brigham Young, or Wilford Woodruff's time as president and prophet of the church. Which we'll discuss momentarily.

But it all comes down to one major question, was the priesthood ban considered doctrine, and thus the divine will of God? If it was true doctrine, then it implies that the ban was passed down from god to the leaders of the church to be instated for some holy purpose. But if it wasn't true doctrine, it means that the ban was merely put in place by racist men, and continued to be perpetuated by racist men for generations, which had nothing to do with god's true will, and thus these men should have been removed before they made these mistakes. If the LDS church is indeed the true church, then any doctrine would be irrefutable truth, and the prophets couldn't pass anything down as doctrine unless it were truth, as stated by Wilford Woodruff earlier. He explicitly states that if any prophet leads the church astray with false doctrine, then he'll be removed from his office as President of the Church. So was the priesthood ban considered doctrine?

On July 17, 1947, the church presidency wrote a letter to a Dr. Lowry Nelson that seems to describe exactly what we're looking for.

"From the days of the Prophet Joseph Smith even until now, it has been the doctrine of the Church, never questioned by Church leaders, that the Negroes are not entitled to the full blessings of the Gospel."

Well, there it said explicitly that the Negroes are not supposed to have the priesthood as a matter of doctrine, because they are not entitled to the full blessings of the Gospel. It's a bit hard to argue that this was not considered doctrine according to this letter, written by the presidency of the church. But, they dig in even deeper with a public statement released only two years later on August 17, 1949.

"The attitude of the Church with reference to Negroes remains as it has always stood. It is not a matter of the declaration of a policy but of direct commandment from the Lord, on which is founded the doctrine of the Church from the days of its organization, to the effect that Negroes may become members of the Church but that they are not entitled to the priesthood at the present time."

Thiat was a public statement made by the church presidency explicitly telling us that the priesthood ban wasn't a matter of policy, but of DIRECT COMMANDMENT FROM THE LORD, ON WHICH WAS FOUNDED THE DOCTRINE OF THE CHURCH. There is simply no foot to stand on when a person claims that blacks not getting the priesthood wasn't actually doctrine of the church. If this is the one true church following the true tenants of the one true god, then God is a very racist individual, even though he was the one who made these people with black skin in the first place.

So let's really get into this, since Brigham Young made the decree in 1852 that no person bearing the Mark of Cain can have the priesthood until all others have received their blessings, racism has pervaded the ranks of Mormon leadership. It's amazing to me that the founding prophet of the church, Joseph Smith, could be relatively tolerant and progressive for his day when it came to racism, and yet the vast majority of church leadership has been rather intolerant and conservative in their thoughts on racism. Let me provide a few examples, in chronological order as best as I could tell.

Brigham Young "Journal of Discourses"

"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" Vols 7 page 290-291

"You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild, and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind... The Lord put a mark upon Cain, which is the flat nose and black skin. Trace mankind down to after the flood, and then another curse is pronounced upon the same race—that they should be the servant of servants; and they will be, until that curse is removed;"

John Tayler "Journal of Discourses" Vols 22 page 304

"After the flood we are told that the curse that had been pronounced upon Cain was continued through Hams' 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 representative upon the earth as well as God."

Many people aren't aware of this, but Utah was a slave territory during it's early settlement. While there is no evidence to suggest that Brigham Young himself owned any slaves, this is an interview for a newspaper article that was conducted by Horace Greeley for the NY Tribune on Aug 20, 1859. It's in question/answer format:

"Q: What is the position of your church with respect to slavery?

A: We consider it of divine institution, and not to be abolished until the curse pronounced on Ham shall have been removed from his descendants.

Q: Are any slaves now held in this territory?

A: There are.

Q: Do your territorial laws uphold slavery?

A: Those laws are printed—you can read for yourself. If slaves are brought here by those who owned them in the states, we do not favor their escape from the service of those owners."

John Taylor "Journal of Discourses" vols. 5 page 120

"This Greeley (the reporter that conducted the 1859 Brigham Young interview) is one of their popular characters in the east, and one that supports the stealing of niggers and the underground railroad...I speak of him, because he is one of the prominent newspaper editors in the Eastern country, and he is a poor, miserable curse"

To clarify, Utah was a territory until it gained statehood in 1896. Upon the granting of statehood to California in the comprimise of 1850, California was declared a free state, while the territories of New Mexico and Utah were given sovreignty to decide whether or not they would have slaves granted by a majority vote. Slavery was alive and well in Utah until being abolished in 1863. There were 3 black slave members of the first wagon train to settle Utah in 1847, and these slaves were sent ahead to essentially pave the way for their masters that would cross the plains soon after them. These men were named Oscar Crosby, Hark Lay, and Green Flake.

Green Flake was the most interesting one of the bunch for the simple fact that he was given to the church as tithing. His master died in 1850, and the widow of his master gave Green Flake to Brigham Young as tithing. After 2 years of slavery to Brigham Young and the church, Flake was given his freedom. That's something hidden deep in the annals of Utah history, the fact that a black slave was given to the church as a tithing debt.

During censuses before 1860, hundreds of black and Native American slaves were listed in the Utah territory, leaving a permanent black mark on Utah's history, pardon the pun. Then we move into the 19th century with a quote from B.H. Roberts.

B.H. Roberts "The Seventy's Course in Theology"

"That the negro is markedly inferior to the Caucasian is proved both craniologically and by six thousand years of planet-wide experimentation."

Melvin J. Ballard

"Of the thousands of children born today, a certain proportion of them went to the Hottentots of the south seas, thousands went to Negro mothers, thousand to beautiful white Latter-day Saint Mothers."

Bruce R. McConkie "Mormon Doctrine" pages 107-108

"... in a broad general sense, caste systems have their origin in the gospel itself, and when they operate according to the divine decree, the resultant restrictions and segregation are right and proper and have the approval of the lord. To illustrate: Cain, Ham, and the whole negro race have been cursed with a black skin, the mark of Cain, so they can be identified as a caste apart, a people with whom the other descendants of Adam should not intermarry."

Joseph Fielding Smith "Doctrines of Salvation" pages 65-66

"There were no neutrals in the war in heaven. All took sides either with Christ or with Satan. Every man had his agency there, and men receive rewards here based upon their actions there, just as they will receive rewards hereafter for deeds done in the body. The Negro, evidently, is receiving the reward he merits."

"The church and the Negro" page 42

"It is the Mormon belief that in our pre-mortal state there were a large number of individuals who, due to some act or behavior of their own in the pre-existence, forfeited the right to hold the priesthood during their mortal lives,... The Negro is thus denied the Priesthood because of his own behavior in the pre-existence."

Bruce R. McConkie "Mormon Doctrine" 1954

"Negroes in this life are denied the priesthood; under no circumstances can they hold this delegation of authority from the Almighty. The gospel message of salvation is not carried affirmatively to them... Negroes are not equal with other races where the receipt of certain spiritual blessings are concerned..."

"The Juvenile Instructor" vols. 26 A church magazine

"Last in order stands the Negro race, the lowest in intelligence and the most barbarous of all the children of men."..."It is very clear that the mark which was set upon the descendants of Cain was a skin of blackness... It has been noticed in our day that men who have lost the spirit of the Lord, and from whom His blessings have been withdrawn, have turned dark to such an extent as to excite the comments of all who have known them."

Now we move on to a few quotes from a very important person in 1978. Mark E. Peterson was a member of the quorum of the twelve apostles during this time we're discussing. He was known to be one of the more racist of the brethren, and thus the vote to allow blacks the priesthood was held when he was in another country. We'll discuss that soon, but just keep in mind this Mark E. Peterson guy for a while.

Mark E. Petersen "Race Problems—As they Affect the Church 1954

"Think of the Negreo, cursed as to the priesthood... This negro, who, in the pre-existence lived the type of life which justified the Lord in sending him to the earth in their lineage of Cain with a black skin, and possibly being born in darkest Africa—if that negro is willing when he hears the gospel to accept it, he may have many of the blessings of the gospel. In spite of all he did in the pre-existent life, the Lord is willing, if the Negro accepts the gospel with real, sincere faith, and is really converted, to give him the blessings of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost. If that Negro is faithful all his days, he can and will enter the celestial kingdom. He will go there as a servant, but he will get celestial glory."

Mark E. Petersen "Race Problems" 1954

No person having the least particle of Negro blood can hold the priesthood. It does not matter if they are one-sixth Negro or one-hundred and sixth, the curse of no Priesthood is the same. If an individual who is entitled to the Priesthood marries a Negro, the Lord has decreed that only spirits who are not eligible for the Priesthood will come to that marriage as children. To intermarry with a Negro is to forfeit a Nation of Priesthood holders."

Mark E. Petersen "Race Problems" 1954

"The discussion on civil rights, especially over the last 20 years has drawn some very sharp lines. It has blinded the thinking of some of our own people, I believe. They have allowed their political affiliations to color their thinking to some extent, and then, of course, they have been persuaded by some of the arguments that have been put forth... We who teach in the Church certainly must have our feet on the ground and not be led astray by the philosophies of men on this subject... I think I have read enough to give you an idea of what the negro is after. He is not just seeking the opportunity of sitting down in a cafe where white people eat. He isn't just trying to ride on the same streetcar or the same Pullman car with white people. It isn't that he just desires to go to the same theater as the white people. From this, and other interviews I have read, it appears that the negro seeks absorbtion with the white race. He will not be satisfied until he achieves it by intermarriage. That is his objective and we must face it. We must not allow our feelings to carry us away, nor must we feel so sorry for negroes that we will open our arms and embrace them with everything we have. Remember the little statement that we used to say about sin, 'First we pity, then endure, then embrace.'... Now let's talk about segregation again for a few moments. Was segregation a wrong principle? When the Lord chose the nations to which the spirits were to come, determining that some would be Japanese and some would be Chineses and some Negroes and some Americans, He engaged in an act of segregation... When he told Enoch not to preach the gospel to the descendants of Cain who were black, the Lord engaged in segregation. When He cursed the descendatns of Cain as to the Priesthood, He engaged in segregation... Who placed the Negroes originally in darkest Africa? Was it some man, or was it God? And when he placed them there, He segregated them.. The Lord segregated the people both as to blood and place of residence. At least in the cases of the Lamanites and the Negro we have the definite word of the Lord Himself that he placed a dark skin upon them as a curse—as a punishment and as a sign to all others. He forbade intermarriage with them under threat of extension of the curse. And He certainly segregated the descendants of Cain when He cursed the Negro as to the Priesthood, and drew an absolute line. You may even say He dropped an Iron curtain there... Now we are generous with the Negro. We are willing that the Negro have the highest education. I would be willing to let every Negro drive a cadillac if they could afford it. I would be willing that they have all the advantages they can get out of life in the world. But let them enjoy these things among themselves. I think the Lord segregated the Negro and who is man to change that segregation? It reminds me of the scripture on marriage, 'what God hath joined together, let not man put asunder'. Only here we have the reverse of the thing—what God hath separated, let not man bring together again."

Spencer W. Kimball "Improvement Era" December 1960 Pages 922-923

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

There seems to be a lot we can take away from these various quotes. We can see from the inception of Utah Mormonism under Joseph Smith that racism has been a central tenant and doctrine of Mormonism. There were even a few quotes stating that the priesthood ban will always be in place, and will never be removed, spoken from the mouths of prophets that should have been removed from their office if they ever lead the church and its members astray. Trust me, this was by no means cherry picking quotes out of context or something. If you want to lose your faith in humanity, do a google search for racist Mormon quotes, and you can spend hours reading all the literature available for it. I know that I just read a lot of quotes in a row, but that was kind of the point. A person can argue that racism may have been a church doctrine, but the people weren't necessarily racist. But when you have this many quotes that I picked out of hundreds of others just as offensive, that argument tends to fall apart. There is simply no shortage of racist quotes from Mormon church leaders, and I can't stress that point enough. Not only was racism a doctrine of the church, but it was defended by racist men, using racist arguments and logic to defend it. There were soooo many quotes that didn't make the cut, but were extremely xenophobic and racist, and I encourage anybody wanting to know more about this to simply look it up. There is no shortage of racism in Mormon history. The argument can't even be made that maybe some leaders felt that way, but it wasn't church policy... These were racist doctrines put in place by racist white men... end of story...

The one main question that sits in my mind concerning all this information covered so far is, what would change the church's hard stance on racism? What was it that incited such a polar shift in the paradigm of racism that plagued the church for over a century?

We know that the vast majority of revelations given by the church were done in a time of a specific need. If we look back to the countless revelations given by Joseph Smith about tithing and the members giving their possessions to the church, we see that these revelations were given during a time that the church was bleeding money and nearly bankrupt. If we look at the Word of Wisdom revelation, it was given only after Emma Smith, Joseph's wife, complained about having to clean up the spitoons in the School of the Elders. Such is the nature of a revelation driven church like Mormonism, so what created the necessity for the church to finally give the priesthood to black people, or anybody marked with the seed of Cain?

While we can never know the inner workings of church leadership, nor can we truly assign motives to such revelations, maybe there is something hidden in the social and political pressures that forced the leadership to come up with such a revelation, allowing blacks to have the priesthood.

That last quote we read from Spencer W. Kimball was from 1960, during the largest time of social unrest regarding racism. The Black Panthers were only half a decade away from being organized when that last quote was issued.

This is an excerpt from a December 15, 1969 9 years after our last quote, and only 3 years after the Black Panthers were organized. It was a First Presidency statement issued to general authorities, Regional Representatives of the Twelve Apostles, Stake Presidents, Mission Presidents, and Bishops:

"From the beginning of this dispensation, Joseph Smith and all succeeding presidents of the Church have taught that Negroes, while spirit children of a common Father, and the progeny of our earthly parents Adam and Eve, were not yet to receive the priesthood, for reasons which we believe are known to God but which He has not made fully known to man."

Did you notice the shift there? Every single quote we've read up to this point was issued in 1960 or ealier, and all of them used some form of scriptural or doctrinal basis to explain the preisthood ban. This was the first official Church statement that claimed anything along the lines of the ban being God's idea and us not knowing why. Given everything we've discussed up to this point, it seems hard to believe that they just forgot all the justifications that had been used and canonized up to this point that seemed to justify the priesthood ban. Well, we know that the political group the Black Panthers had risen to social prominence by the time this 1969 release was issued, and racial segregation was a hot-button topic for anybody engaging in politics, and the church was no different. This is the beginning of the turn. This statement marked the beginning of the end of the priesthood ban for anybody marked with the seed of Cain, so let's see how it progressed from there.

David O. Mckay is one of the lesser discussed prophets in the church, but he was an integral part in drawing a line between African blacks, and any other races of people that had the mark of Cain. He said explicitly before his death in 1970 that the Priesthood ban only includes those of African descent, whereas any pacific Islanders, Australian Aboriginees, or Fijians could hold the priesthood. He also decreed that any man of South African descent didn't need to prove his lineage in order to attain the priesthood, I suppose because South Africans often aren't as dark and loathesome as other more central Africans. We're really beginning to see the hardline against blacks holding the priesthood soften as racial tensions were mounting in America and elsewhere.

After David O. Mckay drew these lines relegating the priesthood ban to anybody of black African descent in the very late 1960's the biggest problem arose for the church. In 1975, the leadership of the church announced that it would build a temple in Sao Paulo, Brazil. This created problems, because temples are constructed for the those local members of the church, but the vast majority of the locals around this announced temple plot were marked as descendants of Cain. That meant if the Church built the temple in Brazil with the Priesthood ban in place, nobody would be able to work in, or attend it, because they were all banned by this antiquated doctrine. This wasn't the only problem, because when a temple is announced in any given area, the church encourages the members in that area to become temple worthy, a necessary tenant of which is paying tithing. This forces many members to get temple recommends, which requires them to be full tithe payers, which creates a groundswell of funding wherever the temple is being constructed. Well, if the vast majority of members in the Sao Paulo area couldn't attend the temple, they probably weren't going to renew their temple recommends, meaning the church would be short on funding for the construction of said Brazilian temple. This was a double whammy of unfortunate outcomes of the priesthood ban that largely affected the construction of this temple. Not wanting their temple to go bankrupt, and wanting people to actually attend the temple ceremonies were two very large pressures that were mounting to help push the church to lift the ban on blacks with the priesthood.

Then, we get to the BYU Sports department. The only way to describe BYU is the apple of the eye of the Church. The Church holds BYU up as its premier educational facility, and a large source of income, and no department holds quite so much reverence as BYU Sports. As racial tensions were mounting on a national scale, and legal segregation was being called out after being made offically illegal in Brown v. Board of Education Topeka in 1954, twenty years earlier, BYU Sports teams ran into some problems.

This is an excerpt from an article written in 2005 on titled "Racial issues heat up; BYU accused of racism, blacks get priesthood in '70's"

"In a Sports Illustrated article, author Alexander Wolff described the athletic atmosphere of the 1960's and 1970's as one in which, although open to the idea of integrated schools, many people saw allowing blacks on their football teams as "mess[ing] with the sacraments."

"Trailblazers at major universities all over the South endured on-field cheap shots, racial slurs from fans, and hate mail and abusive phone calls in their dorms," the article states.

On the West Coast, however, the Western Athletic Conference was caught in its own racial war and BYU was not immune to topics of racial debate and protests by opposing teams within the conference.

Although many students at BYU didn't see what the big deal was, web and game-program coordinator for BYU athletics Ralph Zobell said several universities picketed and protested against the universtiy because of its perceived racism.

Fourteen Universtiy of Wyoming football players in 1969 [later called the "Black 14"] wanted to wear armbands protesting alleged racial policies at BYU. Because of a policy set in place by coach Lloyd Eaton that prohibited players from protesting, the football players were suspended.

Zobell, who was a student at Wyoming at the time, said although most students were curious, some members of the university's Black Student Union demonstrated at church buildings.

"They picketed the church institute of religion... I remember going to priesthood meeting and having to cross a picket line, and they video taped me as I went into church."

Negative feelings toward the church and BYU were the impetus behind the church sending to Wyoming, then-BYU spokesman Heber Wolsey, to dispel myths about the church.

Wolsey said explaining, that there were black people in the church was a great help to him when trying to allay heightened emotions. When they asked what black person would be a member of the LDS church, Wolsey called up Darius Gray, a member of the LDS church and an employee of KSL-TV in SLC.

After explaining the heightened situation at Wyoming, Gray agreed to immediately fly to Wyoming and assist Wolsey in lectures and discussions.

"He was a tremendous asset to the church in saying why he was a member," Wolsey said.

Throughout the 70's, Wolsey traveled throughout the country speaking at several colleges and communities that were concerned about church policies.

The University of Arizona in October of 1970 sent a six-member "fact-finding committee" to determine if BYU was racist after they said "rhetoric had escalated too far" with regards to racism and the Western Athletic Conference.

The Daily Universe reported that the school's committee determined BYU was not racist, but was an "isolated institution whose members simply do not relate to or understand black people."

The findings were presented on Arizona's campus the same week. Still, when BYU football players showed up at UoA's stadium a week later, they were met by 75 picketers demonstrating against racism at BYU...

Stanford and San Jose State University both refused to play BYU in any sport because of what they called racism at BYU."

Given that article, which will be linked in the show notes, we can really begin to see the pressures mounting against the church and their stance on blacks with the priesthood, and the inherent racism implied. Not only were they building a temple that nobody could use, but BYU sports teams were being met with picket lines because of the ban. That group that came to be later known as the Black 14 being suspended just goes to show that it wasn't the sports departments of the schools that were boycotting BYU, but rather the very players themselves. And when these 14 young black men refused to play against BYU, the sports department of their school suspended them for their protest. A lot of higher ups wanted this to go away, but the people at the bottom line were organizing these grass-roots protests, with the real fear of punishment or suspension from the sports team. How did the church answer this, with a speaking tour of a token black guy named Darius Gray.

Let's talk about this man that Wolsey recruited to be the token black man spokesperson that was able to make the public speaking circuit to justify the race ban. Darius Gray had joined the church a mere 8 years before he was recruited to make these speaches at various universitites to try and simmer down the racial tensions. He was met with picket lines and protesters at many of the schools he went to, even though he was the church's answer to these racial pressures and protests that were mounting. I found an article from the Deseret News covering a 2014 interview with Darius, and I'll read a small excerpt from it in a minute. The most remarkable thing about the article is when Darius recounts his arrival to SLC. He said he walked around downtown SLC for hours seeing the sights, and familiarizing himself with the town. He was met with horror filled gazes at his mere existence, and this is 1965, so that makes sense. But the most amazing part about this is when he saw another black couple in a car stopped at a stop sign. He was so excited to see another black person that he ran up to the car and tapped on the window. This is how he recounts it.

"It was June, but the car had air conditioning. The woman rolled down her window part way. "Excuse me," Gray said. "I'm new here in town. I've been walking around for hours, and you're the first black people I've seen. It's so good to see you."

The man and woman looked at each other, then the woman turned back to Gray. She said, "We're just passing through."

How could this not be a red flag? I mean put yourself there, you arrive in a strange new world that is SLC, as a new convert to the church. You walk around for hours getting the most offensive looks, and when you finally see another black couple, they tell you that they basically have nothing to do with Utah, and they're just passing through. The article goes on to talk about Gray not being paid for the first job he worked, and basically having to sue the owner of the company to get back pay, but all those hardships would soon change. After a few years, he was picked up by a man named Arch Madsen, the owner of KSL at the time. I'll let Darius tell the rest, which comes from the same Deseret News article.

"I gathered enough information to suspect the priesthood restriction was likely of man and not of God, but it was a moving target. Some would say a revelation is coming (that would give black men the priesthood). Others said it wouldn't come until after the Second Coming. Others said it wouldn't be until the end of the Millennial period.

No one had a firm grasp on it." In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Gray was moving in elevated circles in Salt Lake City. KSL president Arch Madsen offered Gray a job as a cub reporter in 1966, became a mentor and later asked Gray to commit to return to BYU and finish a degree. Madsen also sent Gray and his wife as stand-ins to dinners and other events around town. Soon, the Grays were rubbing elbows with civic leaders and LDS Church leaders.

"Arch opened the world for me," Gray said. "I am and will be grateful."

Now we can start seeing the chips being moved into place on the board. The church needed a black man they could put on a pedestal that would give public lectures on how the church isn't racist, and Gray was unwittingly being groomed for the job. Soon after his time as a reporter he was picked up by Wolsey, and ponied around on the speaking circuit to reduce racist views against the Mormon church. Now, I couldn't find any of his speeches, probably due to lack of hard digging, because I'm sure they exist, however, I was able to find a public speech he gave at the Affirmation Conference in 2014. I'll play a small clip from it, and leave a link to the entire 27 minute monologue in the show notes. It's really worth checking out. from 0:00 – 1:34

He goes on to read from the Race and the Priesthood letter, which we'll read soon, and is able to justify his belief that God didn't command the priesthood ban, but rather allowed it. The crux of his argument stems from a paper he wrote titled "Not a curse, but a calling" wherein he claims that the Mormon church was basically at the forefront of racial equality, and the ban was merely a test for black believers. He claims that the lord can make an opportunity out of horrible circumstances, and draws equivocation between Joseph being sold into Egyptian slavery, and all the good that came from it. The guy is very sincere, but I think he misses the point from the very opening statement of the lecture that we just listened to. Up to the 1968 statement from the church that claimed they didn't know where the ban came from, every single church leader justified the priesthood ban with scripture, and emphatically declared it as church doctrine. I don't know if he's ignorant of these previous quotes, or he is just able to set them aside, and not consider the gravity of them, I just don't know. I don't know how he can square this circle, but I would strongly recommend watching his lecture to see exactly how he does it. He may be an elderly man, but his mind is still quite flexible to twist itself into such knots. He reflects back to the 2013 Race and the Priesthood document the church released, and I think that could be a source of the problem. Like I said earlier, we'll read it in its entirety to finish out the episode. For now, let's discuss how the church got from Darius Gray on the speaking circuit, to actually lifting the ban on blacks having the priesthood, because we are missing some crucial pieces to the puzzle that help explain a lot.

So, the church had problems. Sports teams were boycotting BYU until the ban was lifted. Add in the fact that the Sao Paulo temple was in the middle of construction during these protests and boycotts, and the church was really starting to feel the heat of social pressures against their racism.

The final pressure that was mounting in the mid 1970's that finally pushed the church over the edge was an existential threat to their pocket-book. The church has functioned as a 501(c)(3) tax exempt religious institution since 501(c)(3) status was adopted into the tax code in 1954. This basically makes all of their income non-taxable, and saves the church billions of dollars in taxes per year. In 1976, two years before the LDS church lifted their racist ban on blacks having the priesthood, Bob Jones University was sued by the IRS for their own racism, and had their tax-exempt status revoked retroactively to 1970 because they did not allow blacks to join their educational institute. This cost Bob Jones University millions of dollars in back taxes, and served as a canary in the coal mine for the LDS church. If the Mormon church came onto the radar of the IRS for their own discrimination while protests were happening against their own BYU sports teams, it could cost the church millions, possibly billions of dollars, and even worse, be a huge public relations problem while in the national spotlight. Once the church's funding was in jeapordy, they reacted pretty quickly, and finally in 1978, the church released its revelation, lifting the ban on blacks having the priesthood.

The statement that lifted the ban was quite short, and we'll read it here in a second, but first we have to understand how it came about.

While Gordon B. Hinkley, then a member of the quorum of the twelve apostles, recounts receiving this revelation as a wonderful, spiritual experience, the reality of it is much less remarkable.

This is how Hinkley remembered it:

"There was a hallowed and sanctified atmosphere in the room. For me, it felt as if a conduit opened between the heavenly throne and the kneeling, pleading prophet of God who was joined by his Brethren. . . . Every man in that circle, by the power of the Holy Ghost, knew the same thing. . . . Not one of us who was present on that occasion was ever quite the same after that. Nor has the Church been quite the same."

While this does sound like the way revelation from God should be given, and it's quite an awe-inspiring recounting of the events, it may have a problem when we look for other sources. Let's find another quote from somebody that enlightens us to the actual situation a little better.

A man named Wesley Walters interviewed then apostle LeGrand Richards as to how he remembers the situation happening. I copied the text of the interview into the notes here, but then I found out that it was recorded on cassette. With a quick google search I was able to find the actual audio of the exchange between Richards and Wesley. The quality isn't great, and it's about 4 minutes long, so I'll clarify after playing it for you. I found the audio on, and there will be a link to it in the show notes. This is starting at minute 4:20 in the interview. start at 4:20 end at 8:20

Just to recount what happened in that interview, Wesley asked Apostle LeGrand Richards about the details surrounding the social pressure to lift the ban, and the first line in Richards' explanation began with talking about the temple being built in Sao Paulo, Brazil, that was to be dedicated the following month after this interview. After talking about the temple not having any attendants, Richards told Wesley that Spencer W. Kimball, then president of the church, called each apostle in individually to council with about the soon-to-be revelation. We usually understand the quorum of the twelve to be this one unified voice lead by the spirit of god, but there must have been a lot of disagreements, given the line Richards said about, when you're in a group you can't always express your thoughts. After president Kimball talked with each apostle directly behind closed doors, and while the most racist of the bunch Mark E. Peterson was out of town, the presidency brought the statement forward about allowing blacks to have the priesthood, and the whole quorum voted on it unanimously, except for Peterson, who was in another country. According to Richards, Kimball talked with Peterson on the phone about the revelation, and it was said that Peterson approved, with no details whatsoever. If only would could have heard that phone conversation between President Kimball and the ultimate racist Apostle Peterson....

After all was said and done, the statement was tidied up and sent to the press for publication. This is the entirety of the revelation as it first appeared in the Deseret News, June 9, 1978:

"June 8, 1978
To all general and local priesthood officers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints throughout the world:
Dear Brethren:

As we have witnessed the expansion of the work of the Lord over the earth, we have been grateful that people of many nations have responded to the message of the restored gospel, and have joined the Church in ever-increasing numbers. This, in turn, has inspired us with a desire to extend to every worthy member of the Church all of the privileges and blessings which the gospel affords.
Aware of the promises made by the prophets and presidents of the Church who have preceded us that at some time, in God's eternal plan, all of our brethren who are worthy may receive the priesthood, and witnessing the faithfulness of those from whom the priesthood has been withheld, we have pleaded long and earnestly in behalf of these, our faithful brethren, spending many hours in the Upper Room of the Temple supplicating the Lord for divine guidance.
He has heard our prayers, and by revelation has confirmed that the long-promised day has come when every faithful, worthy man in the Church may receive the holy priesthood, with power to exercise its divine authority, and enjoy with his loved ones every blessing that flows there from, including the blessings of the temple. Accordingly, all worthy male members of the Church may be ordained to the priesthood without regard for race or color. Priesthood leaders are instructed to follow the policy of carefully interviewing all candidates for ordination to either the Aaronic or the Melchizedek Priesthood to ensure that they meet the established standards for worthiness.
We declare with soberness that the Lord has now made known his will for the blessing of all his children throughout the earth who will hearken to the voice of his authorized servants, and prepare themselves to receive every blessing of the gospel.

Sincerely yours,


The First Presidency"

And yes, that Marion G. Romney is 2012 presidential hopeful, Willard Mitt Romney's uncle. That's how close to today this history is. One of the people that was a runner up for president of the united states is the nephew a member of the first presidency when this revelation came along and black's could finally get the priesthood. We aren't talking 5 or 6 generations ago like this show usually deals with, or would be expected with an abolishment of racist church doctrine, this revelation happened in many listeners of this show's lifetime. My parents were about to go on their missions when the church finally relinquished this xenophobia and racism. I know there are at least some people listening to my voice that were members of the church when this monumental shift happened. That's one generation ago that the church finally stopped being systematically racist after 150 years of racism being a central point of their official doctrine, backed up and substantiated by canonized scripture.

This revelation was read out to all congregations, as well as during the general conference, and unfortunately, some of the members of the church didn't share the same progressive ideals as their leadership. Personally, I was under the impression that a person opposed the vote in general conference, and I believe I've even asserted that in other episodes, but in going back and watching the actual conference video, I couldn't see anybody that was opposed to the motion. That's not to say that there wasn't a lot of opposition from racist members of the church. Many congregations experienced backlash from members, and even a small exodus of believers that couldn't accept the new revelation. Yes, there were people that were racist enough that they left the church when the church began giving blacks the priesthood. I couldn't find any hard numbers on this, but some online speculation asserts that as many as a few thousand members stopped attending church because of this shift in racist doctrine.

Once the dust settled, black people began joining the church at unprecedented levels. Those levels were only slightly higher than before the ban was lifted, but they were still unprecedented. New missions were opened up in areas that were off limits before, and missionaries were finally encouraged to proselyte to black people, instead of discouraged.

Fast forward one generation to 2013, and the church finally released an answer to these controversial racial questions in their essay titled "Race and the Priesthood". We're going to read it in just a second, but we can't ignore the sphere this essay evolved out of.

With the advent of the internet, these huge issues are beginning to come to light. Without the internet, finding the research necessary for this episode probably would have taken months, possibly years, but I was able to access all this information and compile it all in a two week period. The Mormon religion is no longer able to hide behind the line claiming that they used to not give blacks the priesthood, but that was changed thanks to divine revelation, and now all the children of god can bask in the wonderful blessings that the church has to offer. Thanks to the internet and the vast amount of information on these topics, we are able to zoom out and view the doctrinal racism of the Mormon church for the entire 180+ years of its existence.

Thanks to the pressure that the internet has been putting on the Mormon church, they've been forced to own up to some of the uglier skeletons in their closet. Too many people were asking too hard of questions, and the church could no longer ignore those hard questions, or try to wave them away as anti-Mormon. The pressure from the internet spurred the church into releasing a series of essay about challenging things in Mormon doctrine. We even read their essays on polygamy in some early episodes of this show, and these essays are considered official church releases, and constitute the official stance of the church on the given topic. This is the essay from LDS.ORG, the church's own official website, and we're going to read it in its entirety right now. It's relatively short, shorter than one of the quotes we read today, but it is absolutely PACKED with information that requires a lot of knowledge to understand the totality of. I'll be reading it and adding in my commentary and analysis of it as we go. Today's episode has covered a lot of information that is necessary to know, in order to understand this essay, and I'll be referring back to those snippets of information periodically. I need to say right at the onset, most of what I'll be refuting this with, I took from the article that deconstructs the essay, so I'll be relying on it heavily while reading it, while adding in my own analysis.

Read "Race and the Priesthood"

So, what can we learn from everything today? I like to finish episodes up by drawing a big circle around everything we've discussed, but we've covered a lot today. I think the main point worth discussing is the driver of change. What is it that drives change? A lot of historians argue the validity of the "Great Man" theory, asserting that history is often driven by the actions of a great man like Napoleon, or Alexander the Great, or Temujin Chinggis Kahn, or something. The flipside of that argument falls into the category of tides and forces, asserting that it wasn't the great men that have made history, but rather history that made these great men. I find a lot of validity to both arguments. Let's face it, you don't have a Hitler without the First World War and the Versailles Treaty. The environment that nurtured the National Socialist German Workers' party into existence that allowed Hitler to rise to power, never would have gained any traction without all the pressure that Germany was under from the Versailles Treaty. The environment existed, and a man with a little charisma, and some very hardline ideas was able to step into a power vacuum, and become the most notorious and villianous conqueror of the 20th century. There's a bit of a give and take with these two competing theoris of historical analysis. The tides and forces created a situation where a great man could step in and rise to power.

Does this example map to the monumental shift in Mormon doctrine we've been discussing today? Many people claim that one of the greatest prophets was Spencer W. Kimball, at least you hear that name much more frequently than Howard W. Hunter, or Lorenzo Snow. With the change in history of blacks getting the priesthood, it can be argued that it was driven by a great man, namely Spencer W. Kimball. His name was signed on the revelation, he was the prophet of the church at the time, he basically spearheaded the revelation that would lift the ban, Spencer W. Kimball was arguably a great man.

But let's consider the flipside of that for a minute, and look at the tides and forces model of this point in Mormon history. We discussed the pressures that the church was under when they brought this revelation out. We know that BYU sports teams were in jeapordy, and the new Brazil temple wouldn't have any attendents if the ban stayed in place. The final straw that broke the racist's back was a threat to the church's tax exemptions. Considering all of these forces that were in play, the church had to make a change, and in my opinion, I think Spencer W. Kimball was the man that stepped into that power vacuum, and is treated today as a great man for the things he did at such a crucial time in American history.

And that's the point of bringing to light ALL OF the history surrounding the priesthood ban. We can't just look at it in a vacuum, and think that this revelation was given through the prophet by god descending from the clouds, like Hinkley made it sound. It's important to understand the reality that lead up to the revelation being given.

The big point that this whole episode has been about surrounds one very challenging question. Given everything we know about racism and politics in the church during the 1970's does this sound like a church run by an almighty god, or does it look more like something men would be running? I mean, really, what would we expect it to look like if an almighty god, that is no respecter of persons, that made us all equal, were actually running the show?

Now this is an unanswerable question, but it's still fun to speculate on. Personally, and this is just speculation, so let me make that clear, I would assert that God never would have created the need for this revelation to come down in the first place. He would have seen how much trouble a ban on the priesthood would cause the church, once legal segregation was criminalized, so it would make sense that God never would have had the ban in the first place. Why would god create those struggles for his Prophet, apostles, and members to deal with? How could a timeless god not see the writing on the wall? Or know what 150 years in the future would hold? I think that, if god were indeed running the church, it would have been all inclusive from the beginning, come hell or high water, persecution or not, but that's only if it were lead by the almighty god that created us all equal.

Instead, we see the church holding on to antiquated ideals until the brink where the very existence of the church is threatened by legal ramifications, and then, and only then, did they come forward with a revelation that fixed the problem and relieved these social and political pressures. In my opinion, that sounds much more like a church lead by old guys that don't feel the negative effects of their church doctrine until it threatens their pocket book, and only after that final threat was in place, did they actually react. But that says nothing about the pain and frustration that the priesthood ban caused up to that point. It says nothing about the black families that lived and died, knowing that they couldn't get into heaven because of the color of their skin. These old white guys never felt the sorrow and anger of the racism their church incited and embodied. They were never kept out of the boys club just because the color of their skin, so why would these old duffers change? They didn't feel the negative effects of the priesthood ban until it threatened their pocket-book. This shift in church doctrine was very clearly, in my opinion, a political and public relations move.

It's odd how politics can change church doctrine. For example, Joseph was somewhat progressive for his time, but now we can understand just how racist he was. The most remarkable thing about Joseph's racism is that it changed due to political pressures as well.

In 1844, the year Joseph died in the Carthage gunfight, he was also running for president of the United States. Up to this point, the church had been proselyting to slaves in Missouri, which caused a lot of problems with the slave owners in Missouri, but Joseph needed to distance himself from that past, in order to not offend slave owning voters he was pandering to. This is a statement Joseph Smith made that was later canonized as revelation into scripture in the Book of Covenants 134:12, much like the 1978 revelation would be 134 years later.

"We believe it just to preach the gospel to the nations of the earth, and warn the righteous to save themselves from the corruption of the world; but we do not believe it right to interfere with bond-servants, neither preach the gospel to, nor baptize them contrary to the will and wish of their masters, nor to meddle with or influence them in the least to cause them to be dissatisfied with their situations in this life, thereby jeopardizing the lives of men; such interference we believe to be unlawful and unjust, and dangerous to the peace of every government allowing human beings to be held in servitude."

This statement from Joseph Smith was obviously a political move to gain votes. There's simply no way of claiming that it wasn't.

So what conclusions, if any, can we draw from this? The church is fallible, lead by fallible human beings, that create policy and doctrine based on their own beliefs. From the inception of the church with Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, down to the 2013 essay on race and the priesthood, and forever moving forward, the church has been, and always will be subject to the leadership of antiquated old white guys that are so disconnected from reality, that they don't feel the everyday struggles that their members go through every single day. It's only when the leadership's most important concern is threatened, that they actually move or change a sincerely held religious belief or doctrine.

And please don't think that the irony is lost when it came to the recent stance the Mormon church took on families with same-sex parents. This all spawned from a leaked document that mentioned gay parents not being able to be sealed in the temple, and when it was publicized, the church came out with an official statement claiming that not only can gay parents not be sealed in the temple, but their children can't be considered true members of the church until they are 18 and can decide for themselves.

Is there really no lesson to draw from history on this more modern mormon topic? Can we not draw some line of equivocation between gays not being allowed to do temple ordinances now, and blacks not being able to before the 1978 revelation? The church is doing the same thing with excising these gay members, or relegating them to some kind of sub-category of member. They can't be sealed in the temple to each other and their children. They can't hold leadership positions in the church. Gays can't get married in the temple, and they can't even be considered full members until they deny their own human sexual nature, and try to live with somebody of the opposite sex, everyday battling their Same-Sex-Attraction, which goes completely contrary to their nature.

Why didn't the church just ask black people to stop being black, because they're asserting the same is possible with gays. The only difference is a person can hide their sexuality from the outside world, and unless you're Michael Jackson, black people can't hide the color of their skin.

How much longer must we try to conform to the church before we realize that it should conform to us? How many more families must be torn apart by the church, before the people in those families say I don't need this church anymore?

Let me close on a final and depressing note here. The church asserts that it was never racist, or anything that was racist in its past, is not espoused by the leadership today, but let's just examine that claim. The leadership of the church is supposed to be representative of the members. Out of the Quorum of the twelve apostles, no black man has ever served as a member. No black man has ever been part of the presidency of the church, and even today, only two men of more than 100 general authorities are black. Out of the thousands of men that have served in church leadership roles, only a miniscule percent have ever been black. Sure, you can find a couple of examples today of a black bishop, patriarch, stake president, or something to that effect, but the numbers simply don't lie. Racism is still a very strong part of Mormonism today, and until they bring substantially more black men in to be more representative of their believers, this racism will always be there.

And please, don't think it stops there, because black men have only recently become accepted as full members of the church, capable of holding leadership positions. The church argued that black men couldn't hold the priesthood or leadership positions because that was doctrine for so long, but they are cutting out 50 percent of their representation due to doctrine. It's about a 50/50 split of men and women that are members of this church, and no woman has ever held a single leadership position above relief society president before! Why, you may ask. Because it's church doctrine that the men run the church, and the women make the babies. That is embraced church doctrine, and has been since the beginning. If you want to discuss a maligned group of members of the church, let's get the conversation rolling about women getting the priesthood again.

The whole Kate Kelly and Ordain women thing had a lot of press for a while, but there was never enough pressure for the church to respond in any sort of meaningful way. They excommunicated her, and they think the problem has been dealt with. Women have been oppressed in this church since day 1, and it's just taken as doctrine that can never be overridden. How many times did I say woman this whole episode before now? About 6 from what I can tell. Those were talking about the black woman, Jane Manning, who was sealed to Joseph and Emma as their slave for eternity, and the woman, Bathsheba Smith, that stood in for her during said sealing ordinance. The only other time I mentioned the word woman before two paragraphs ago was the man and woman that Darius Gray ran up to in the car, and the woman rolled down her window to tell him that they were just passing through. It's not my fault that women had no place in today's episode, it's just the nature of a male centric religion that we've talked about since the beginning of this podcast a year and a half ago. Women have been banned from leadership and the priesthood since the beginning, and it's a doctrine of the church that they be treated that way. Well, so was the priesthood ban, but it changed. In my eyes, the church will continue to be xenophobic, racist, and misogynistic until a gay trans-gender black woman is the prophet.... You may scoff at that, and it may sound utterly ridiculous, but that is the only ultimatum that would make me sit back and say, well, maybe this church has changed to be more progressive and accepting. Until then, the Mormon church, and every Mormon carries those negative labels with them, whether wittingly or not. Even the black woman on the cover of this month's issue of the church's monthly magazine, the Ensign, is a pathetic facade, and a misplaced attempt to express how racist and sexist the church isn't. Those little tokens of progressivism are paper thin, and aren't matched by the church's other public policies and agendas. We can see right through you!

But they can change, and that's one silver lining with having a church run by modern revelation, and new revelation trumping old revelation. The church can make a major shift in doctrine, and just point to the sky and say "we were told to do it by him". But, given everything we've discussed this far, the church is a giant, and doesn't have to move until provoked. That provocation needs to come from somewhere, and the trouble is, I don't know where. There's no simple solution to this until thousands of women, black, trans-gender, and gay people walk out of the church. Nothing will happen until membership numbers begin to drop off. The church won't embrace the 21st century until their tax exempt status is threatened again for being sexist and homophobic. How long does this have to take?! The energy is there, and people are mad. People see their loved ones being cut off from the church everyday, and the groundswell is happening, it just needs to be pointed in the right direction. The only question is, will the members of the church settle for one small revelation that allows gays to be sealed to each other, or will these disenfranchized people stand up once and for all, and march until major reform upends the very structure of the Mormon church.

The leadership of the LDS church has a decision to make. They can take the change into stride, and get ahead of the curve by making these major reforms right now, or they can continue to hold on till the last thread snaps, and the largest exodus of members brings the walls of this city state crumbling down upon itself. I can't wait for the latter. . .

Ismael interview quotes:

Brigham Young "Journal of Discourses" vols. 7 page 291

"Trace mankind down to after the flood, and then another curse is pronounced upon the same race—that they should be the servant of servants; and they will be until that cuse is removed; and the Abolitionists cannot help it, nor in the least alter that decree."

"The Juvenile Instructor" vols. 26 A church magazine

"Last in order stands the Negro race, the lowest in intelligence and the most barbarous of all the children of men."..."It is very clear that the mark which was set upon the descendants of Cain was a skin of blackness... It has been noticed in our day that men who have lost the spirit of the Lord, and from whom His blessings have been withdrawn, have turned dark to such an extent as to excite the comments of all who have known them."

Brigham Young "Journal of Discourses" Vols 7 page 290-291

"You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild, and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind... The Lord put a mark upon Cain, which is the flat nose and black skin. Trace mankind down to after the flood, and then another curse is pronounced upon the same race—that they should be the servant of servants; and they will be, until that curse is removed;"

This is a quote from Joseph Fielding Smith, great nephew of the revered Joseph Smith, speaking in the capacity of prophet of the church in his Doctrines of Salvation vols. 1.

"There is a reason why one man is born black and with other disadvantages, while another is born white with great advantages. The reason is that we once had an estate before we came here, and were obedient, more or less, to the laws that were given us there. Those who were faithful in all things there received greater blessings here, and those who were not faithful received less."

Brigham Young "Journal of Discourses"

"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."

Bruce R. McConkie "Mormon Doctrine" 1958 page 83

"However, in a broad general sense, caste systems have their root and origin in the gospel itself, and when they operate according to the divine decree, the resultant restrictions and segregation are right and proper and have the approval of the Lord. To illustrate: Cain, Ham, and the whole Negro race have been cursed with a black skin, the mark of Cain, so they can be identified as a caste apart, a people with whom the other descendants of Adam should not intermarry."

John Taylor "Journal of Discourses" vols. 5 page 120

"This Greeley (the reporter that conducted the 1859 Brigham Young interview) is one of their popular characters in the east, and one that supports the stealing of niggers and the underground railroad...I speak of him, because he is one of the prominent newspaper editors in the Eastern country, and he is a poor, miserable curse"

Darius Gray – black spokesman for the church during the school protests against BYU

"I gathered enough information to suspect the priesthood restriction was likely of man and not of God, but it was a moving target. Some would say a revelation is coming (that would give black men the priesthood). Others said it wouldn't come until after the Second Coming. Others said it wouldn't be until the end of the Millennial period.

No one had a firm grasp on it." In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Gray was moving in elevated circles in Salt Lake City. KSL president Arch Madsen offered Gray a job as a cub reporter in 1966, became a mentor and later asked Gray to commit to return to BYU and finish a degree. Madsen also sent Gray and his wife as stand-ins to dinners and other events around town. Soon, the Grays were rubbing elbows with civic leaders and LDS Church leaders.

"Arch opened the world for me," Gray said. "I am and will be grateful."

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