Intersectional Mormon Feminism, Race & The Priesthood Temple Ban

addressing the black elephant in the room

In the time since my baptism, there has always been a black elephant in the room, that is, the topic of the effect of the priesthood-temple ban on people of black African descent. It looks on in silence as I interact with my fellow Church members. Its presence fills me with a fury that is both ignited and quelled by a faith that I love. Last Friday, its eyes began to pierce through the room that had been its haven for so long. By Sunday morning, I had realized that its presence could no longer go unspoken. With the Church’s statement on race and the priesthood came countless blog posts and internet threads. Many detailing the difficult nature of that part of Church history and what it meant as far as the nature of revelation by those we hold to be prophets, seers and revelators. The statement took me back to the conversations I’ve had with members and non-members alike about the 1978 revelation, the effects the priesthood-temple ban had on members of black African descent and the times I was told by white people that white people just weren’t ready for change. This topic is about black people and yet various commentators have directed the conversation to a conversation about white people or co-opt the prevailing attitudes and rhetoric towards black people to the oppression faced by women and those who are members of the LGBTQIA community. I have no doubt of the inequalities that exist for both women and members of the LGBTQIA community. At the same time,  these oppressions are not interchangeable and only serve to ignore intersectionality within sexism, homophobia and transphobia. In talking about LGBTQIA rights and equality for women, where are the discussions on Cece McDonald and the higher rates of violence towards queer and transgender people of color or the intersection of class and race  in terms of marriage equality? Where is the uproar for Renisha McBride, how women of color are disproportionately affected by domestic violence or how minority women are paid less than white women? Yet there is an urgency to appropriate the struggles of black people within the Church and ignore the fact that this topic is not about white people.

In future discussions about the statement on race and the priesthood, my hope is that two things occur. First, recognizing the significance of the comments by General Authorities about race and interracial marriage, this statement and the 1978 revelation itself. For over 100 years it was taught that there was something inherently wrong with people of black African descent. So much so that it disqualified us from sharing the same eternal blessings as everyone else in the Church. Both the 1978 revelation and this statement are a reconceptualization of long standing notions of black identities within the Church; something that people of black African descent have known all along: that we are people. We are not cursed. We were not less valiant in the pre-mortal life. We praise the same God as other members within the Church. Our creator made us this way. And it took over a century to be recognized as capable, spiritual beings. It was a difficult period for us as a people. Yet many of us stayed because we found strength through a creator who loved us more than we could ever begin to imagine despite the insistence by man that we were not worthy of basking in all of God’s glory. In a gospel that teaches that in the face of adversity and oppression, that we must learn to forgive. Here we stand at the precipice, shouting that we are here and we have always been here.

But why isn’t anyone listening? 

My other hope is we discuss the definition of racism and separate ourselves from the idea that racism is an individual problem opposed to an institutional one. Racism is not a few hurtful words, it is a type of oppression rooted in power, privilege and prejudice. The combination of the three provide the basis for the belief that a particular race is superior. While people of color can certainly be prejudiced and discriminatory against white people, they have not had the same institutional power that has historically been held by white people. With racism comes the term white supremacy, any action or belief established to perpetuate ‘white’ as the standard while subsequently erasing people, beliefs and cultures that deviate from it. The reason why what President Young’s comments (as well as those made by President George Q. Cannon and Elder Bruce R. McConkie, among others) on race and interracial marriage were indicative of white supremacy and indeed racist is because their comments served to uphold white as the standard of purity and righteousness while subjugating the existence of black bodies as ‘cursed’ and unworthy of complete salvation. The scriptures do not specify that the ‘seed of Cain’ were marked with a curse of ‘black African skin’ yet people of black African descent were the only ones singled out for being unable to hold the priesthood and participate in all temple ordinances. I’m troubled by the idea that racism or white supremacy no longer exists, particularly in the Church as an institution or its culture. It’s difficult to look at a directory of the General Authorities and Auxiliaries without wondering why there are so few people of color or going to a temple and seeing a portrait of the savior surrounded by all white angels, without wondering how deeply rooted this ‘othering’ rhetoric of black people and people of color was and is.

We as a collective body are only at the very beginning of addressing the black elephant in the room and I hope subsequent discussions on race focus on its presence.


36 thoughts on “addressing the black elephant in the room

  1. Carrie Ann says:

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I have been guilty of comparing racism and sexism, but I can see why that is false. Your post was wonderful and I can’t wait to read more. Thank you, again.

  2. Noelle Perner says:

    When I read this post, as a white woman, I want to fist-bump and be like “yeah, that’s right. All those other racist white people in the church.” And on its heels I know it’s not outside me. It’s the air that I breathe, and I am part of this problem. And all I know to do right now is to keep listening. Thank you for talking.

  3. I’m glad we live in a time in which these issues are being confronted and that you are able to honestly express your thoughts and feelings about something that has been so hurtful to you. I admire your faith. Immensely! Thank you for helping us understand.

  4. Stan Zielinski says:

    Mormons seem to be suffering a collective amnesia about their past, which is convenient.
    Too little, too late.
    As long as Mormon scriptures are based upon a racist 19th Century narrative, used to justify slavery and genocide against Native civilizations, any explanation, excuse or apology is completely irrelevant.
    If you don’t think these scriptures are objectively racist, you’re not objective, you’re a racist.
    “…the Lord shall curse the land with much heat…and there was a blackness came upon all the children of Canaan, that they were despised among all people.” (Moses 7:8)

    “And Enoch also beheld …the sons of Adam; and they were a mixture of all the seed of Adam save it were the seed of Cain, for the seed of Cain were black, and had not a place among them.” (Moses 7:22)

    “Now this king of Egypt was a descendant from the loins of Ham, and was a partaker of the blood of the Canaanites by birth. From this descent sprang all the Egyptians, and thus the blood of the Canaanites was preserved in the land. The land of Egypt being first discovered by a woman, who was the daughter of Ham, and the daughter of Egyptus, which in the Chaldean signifies Egypt, which signifies that which is forbidden. When this woman discovered the land it was under water, who afterward settled her sons in it; and thus, from Ham sprang that race which preserved the curse in the land…” (Pearl of Great Price, Abraham 1:21-24, 26c)

    “…he [God] said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou was chosen before thou wast born…And they who keep their first estate shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate…” (Abraham 3:23, 26)

    Joseph Fielding Smith (10th Mormon president/prophet) elaborates:

    “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…There were no neutrals in the war in heaven. All took sides with either Christ or with Satan. Every man had his agency there, and men receive rewards here based upon their actions there…The Negro, evidently, is receiving the reward he merits” (Doctrines of Salvation published 1954,1:61,65,66)

    “…after they had dwindled in unbelief they became a dark, and loathsome, and a filthy people, full of idleness and all manner of abominations.” (I Nephi 12:23)

    “…Behold, they had hardened their hearts against him…wherefore, as they were white, and exceeding 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. And thus saith the Lord God: I will cause that they shall be loathsome unto thy people, save they shall repent of their sins.” (2 Nephi 5:21-22)

    “And the skins of the Lamanites(4) were dark…which was a curse upon them because of their transgression against their brethren…therefore they were cursed; and the Lord God set a mark upon them. And this was done that their seed might be distinguished from the seed of their brethren, that thereby the Lord God might preserve his people…” (Alma 3:6,8)

    “And then shall they [Lamanites] rejoice…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 delightsome people” (2 Nephi 30:6, 1830, 1920, and 1977 editions)

    The Book of Mormon (the most correct book(5) in all the earth, according to the Mormon Church) was officially altered in 1981. 2 Nephi 30:6 now reads, “a pure and delightsome people”. (The other above referenced verses remain the same.) The word “pure” in 2 Nephi 30:6 is also found in the 1840 edition. Regardless, “pure” is not in the original edition, and it does not agree with 2 Nephi 5:21-22 which is about the same subject, and the word “white” is used.

  5. Dorothy says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I’m glad I found your blog; I have a lot of catching up to do.

    I can’t help but think that people must be connecting the dots soon. The world was racist then, and so was the church. The world is racist now, and…?

    Of course, it’s easy for me to sit here and say that the church is racist. I am the church, I’m part of it, and even independently of that I am racist too. I haven’t put in the time and energy to examine my unconscious biases. And there are too many stories I haven’t yet heard and too many lessons I haven’t yet learned. So church racism…it’s on me. And I’m sorry for that.

    Regardless, I hope that we will soon see far more black GAs, that we will see black angels, that all church members will see you, and yes, that discussions on race focus on its presence instead of suggesting it’s gone.

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  7. Thanks for this, so much.

    A few weeks ago, my first week in a new ward, the Sunday School lesson talked about continuing revelation, and we spent some time talking about Official Declaration 2. It was so hugely uncomfortable. Everyone in the room was white. I think people were stumbling over their desire to be sensitive while also distancing themselves from the slightest suggestion that the church ever did anything wrong. The value I see in this statement (if it gets wider publicity) is that members will get over that hurdle a little bit. And so I really appreciate you merging the two truths of the matter — that this statement DOES make a positive difference, but that it is NOT the end of the question or the certificate of clean health in terms of race relations and attitudes in the church.

    You also surprised me by pointing out something I have noticed but never really thought through: the exclusive whiteness of angels surrounding Christ. Man oh man. We’re subtly drowning in white privilege.

  8. Jami B says:

    Thank you for your words and your willingness to share them. I’m so glad you are here in this church, that you stay even when it hurts. We all need your voice.

  9. closer2fine says:

    Wonderful read. I wish I could chat with you. I am always curious how black mormons deal with the racist church comments, teachings, and even doctrines, within the mormon church. Im also very curious as to whether or not most mainstream members are aware of this new release. I haven’t seen much buzz among mormons.

  10. Jessica Renae says:

    This is a beautifully written post. I have definitely compared racism to sexism in careless ways, and I’m grateful to you for awakening me to my error and privilege, and allowing me to better understand how deeply rooted racism is within the church. I’ve been apt to focus on gender equality and lgbtq rights as the new battles, and look to racism as one already won, but we have have a long road ahead of us and much to learn from the road behind us. I’ve been saddened by the lack of women in church paintings– especially of Heavenly Mother, but I have rarely thought of how rare it is to see blacks depicted in gospel art and how tragically underrepresented the pain caused from racism has been and is. Thank you for your passion and perspective.

  11. nat kelly says:

    I used to be in a ward that was composed of probably 80% Africans or African Americans. I adored the ward, and used to be ecstatic that it was a living example of how members of the church could overcome our racist past and work together, because I thought we were living in a wonderful utopia where there was no racism in the ward.

    A few years later, I met up with one of my former seminary students, a young African American man. I was horrified to learn of all the things going on in that ward that I had been totally blind to. Racism was hurting so many people, including so many of the youth that I worked with, and I never even saw it, because I didn’t have to, because I’m white.

    It has taught me that I need to do a better job of keeping my eyes and ears open to learn about the experiences of others. I hope you will continue writing about these things so I can continue to learn.

  12. ... says:

    “we must learn to forgive”, yet what does your post do but stir things back up. The issue has been resolved. Blacks of African heritage have the Priesthood. Move forward or out of the Church like some people did. President McConkie recognized the error of his ways and said so… but it isn’t good enough apparently.

    Nat Kelly was in a ward that was 80% black yet racism was hurting so many people. What? What was the supposed racism? In such a ward blacks would be in positions of power. Blacks would be filling the bulk of the callings; yet, even in her utopian ward the white minority was still keeping the black man down.

    In Africa there is lots of racism between the tribes. Let us not forget that blacks should each other into slavery… but no one is suing those tribes.

    Slavery was a huge mistake especially in light of the economic drag caused by the current generations of blacks. Black culture may be great and relevant in entertainment, but it is irrelevant in the economy. Unless blacks produce more programmers, scientists, etc… blacks will always be at the bottom of the economic scale. Reversing this problem is a community issue.

    When 75% of black males in Chicago drop out of HIgh School does 30% black male unemployment surprise you? Does black poverty surprise you? No. Blacks like their white counterparts are given a free public education. In Chicago many of these students receive breakfast, lunch and a snack all while their parent receives food stamps (SNAP). Until Blacks embrace education, community standards, and family values, the negro problem will be with us for many more generations. This is a huge waste of Human Capital.

    • David says:

      You said, “Slavery was a huge mistake especially in light of the economic drag caused by the current generations of blacks.” My jaw dropped when I read that. Slavery was a huge mistake for so many reasons, but the “economic drag caused by the current generations of blacks” isn’t “especially” one of them. The harms done by slavery and institutional racism are generational, and you’re still calling this the “negro problem”? No, sir! This is the problem of racism.

      The church never repudiated those racist 19th Century theories until now. Every person who reads The Book of Mormon or The Pearl of Great Price sees that those theories somehow made it into scripture. Until those things are expunged, the church hasn’t gone far enough. With the current statement, the church didn’t even admit there should never have been a priesthood-temple ban for blacks. All they’ve said is that those racist mythologies are not the reason for it. They certainly haven’t apologized.

      Oppression causes multi-generational damage. Slavery did, and the damage continues. The priesthood-temple ban has also, and the damage continues. Every person steeped in this church and its scriptures was fed on the “dark skin bad, white skin good” myths from the church’s standard works of scripture. Do you honestly think those things don’t taint our minds? They do. Those teachings cause divisions within the church, and bring shame upon the church.

      You’ve come here telling black members of the church how they ought to feel, and how they ought to forgive. The fact is, every prophet, seer, and revelator from Joseph Smith, Jr. to Thomas S. Monson allowed the members to go on believing that God curses people with dark skin, and that the African race is descended from Cain. None of them ever publicly rejected those ideas until now, knowing that many members must have believed those ideas because they are in the Scriptures.

      The church has inculcated racism in many people, and you are proof of this fact.

      • ... says:

        Do you feel uncomfortable using the term Negro? It so, is the use of Caucasian racist?

        Blacks are not unique in their slavery experience. Many others groups have experienced it and are still experiencing it. At this very moment there are millions enslaved in Pakistan, India, China, and many parts of Africa. Those in slavery should be the focus rather than those who haven’t experienced it in many generations… but it is about the money in the US. (Why not sue the black tribes who sold other blacks into slavery.) However, given that Latinos are the largest minority and are gaining in political power, the window has closed for Blacks to cash in on their ancestors. Many family lines have experienced slavery but there is no attempt at class action lawsuits or cries for monies. I have no connection to the white slaves (e.g. indentured servants) in my family line. It was their experience.

        Aren’t you asking that I should feel ashamed for slavery? I too can have my opinion on how someone/groups should feel, but that person(s) makes up their own decision. It is a shame that so much energy is focused on the negative instead of moving forward,

        Isn’t there a power component to racism? It has been said Blacks/Neo-Nubians/Negroes cannot be racist as they do not have power. Beyond the scope of Mormonism, what power does the LDS Church have? Also, LDS membership is voluntary. If Blacks feel unwanted they can leave and find refuge within another Church. Please explain how the current state of the Church is racist?

        The negro problem in the US is a huge waste of human capital. There may be a black person who had the potential to cure cancer but due to their not obtaining an education that potential was never realized. Let’s focus on the education of blacks, on reinstilling community values, and the recreation of the black family being a mother and a father. Until blacks embrace education/values/family they will be fighting for the scraps from the table of their white Democratic masters who are today’s plantation owners.

  13. crazywomancreek says:

    Thank you, Janan. Our UU church has started hosting monthly TED talk lunches. Last month we watched a talk on “faith and doubt” and our minister invited us to engage in an open dialogue about our faith. 2 minutes in we were all talking politics. So she redirected the conversation to faith. 2 minutes later we were back to our safe, comfortable, mutually agreed on politics. The minister asked us to examine why UU’s do that? I think my answer is similar to being asked to focus on black Mormons experience without equating it to LGBTQ or women’s issues – like water seeking lower ground, I look for the place *I* am comfortable, the context that places my experience at the center. What will disabuse me of that? Lifting it up with a loving, critical eye and practice, practice, practice.

  14. Very Nice, Sistah! I’ve always believed, if there’s an Elephant in the room, to introduce it! It’s taking up space and air anyway. You introduced it quite Nicely. While it’s true we all sometimes focus just on our own issues, the church is OURS. That means my problems are sometimes going to be your problems and if I’m in tune, your problems are sometimes going to be mine. The greatest thing Lucifer can do is to divide the Lord’s children. Ignoring our individual struggles pulls us apart. Until we see the world as others live it as well as how we live it there will always be a since of “us against them” instead of let me fortify you by standing with you, not behind or in front of.. Knowledge is power.

  15. So well put. Thank you for speaking up. It’s an uncomfortable topic for me because it’s one that I’m so ignorant of and posts like yours bring that into sharp relief. You’ve done a great job of elaborating on and explaining and defining some things very well (such as, why discrimination/prejudice =/= racism). Please keep talking; you are being listened to and heard.

  16. Daniel Lewis says:

    Thank you for speaking out. As a white male I can never relate to the experience of black people of faith in the Church. And, though I can understand the injustice, I have limited power to agitate for change because my clear majority status gives me little authority on the issue.

    Although this change in the official policy is dramatic, it is not nearly enough and I can only hope that the wave of new understanding rising in the rank and file members will carry us all into a future that doesn’t need to think about equality.

  17. WhyNot says:

    Janan, this post is a carry over from the FMH website which has closed further comments. FMH suggested we could continue discussing on in your website. WN below stands for WhyNot, and LS means LaShawn.

    LS: God does not author confusion. Man is all over confusion, when he lives in his prideful self, however. With all of the imperfection we’re about to study in the Old Testament in 2014, I find it extremely odd for anyone to need to believe that God chooses to intervene and CREATE divisions between people, curse them, or deny them, just to make a point…. we’re good at that already.

    WN: People don’t “need to believe that God chooses to intervene” and do what you said they do, but objective minded people might admit that such a thing is a possibility even if they don’t think it is very probable. After all, Jesus said: “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household” (Matthew 10: 34-36). Jesus said this after saying this: “These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter you not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10: 5,6). Of course we must give these words positive interpretations, rather than negative, or we will become agnostics or atheists like so many do who criticize the Church.

    LS: Satan, however… he’s all about that…. just mingling, mingling, mingling along. Be careful when attributing divinity to obvious “natural man” stuff.

    WN: It is true that Satan is all around. But, thankfully, so is the Holy Ghost.

    LS: To be clear – God established “I am no respecter of persons” as the principle… man via the position of Prophets has and has not acted in harmony with those principles. Why? Agency.

    WN: God is no respecter of persons because all people will ultimately receive all that the Father has if they keep his commandments and endure to the end.

    LS: God is not going to tell people to discriminate based on color or lineage but He isn’t going to prevent it either.

    WN: But it is possible that God will direct or allow certain discriminations: “These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter you not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10: 5,6). Of course we must give these words positive interpretations, rather than negative, or we will become agnostics or atheists like so many do who criticize the Church.

    LS: We are sent here to “prove him now herewith” if we will do all things he has commanded us – and what are the greatest commandments? Love God and love your neighbor as yourself. Repeatedly. Ad nauseum.

    WN: Amen.

    LS: If you are trying to say that God allowed suffering, then there is no disagreement here. He does allow suffering to refine His people in the “refiner’s fire.” By no means, however, does that excuse the person creating the suffering.

    WN: Amen.

    LS: This is what is sounds like you are trying to do – excuse the person and institutions using their agency to create suffering. They are responsible for those actions just as much as the folks suffering are responsible for how they choose to suffer and forgive.

    WN: No. I’m trying to give people a choice–an optional possibility to consider apart from the critical one becoming ever more popular. The ever more popular criticism is that Brigham Young and other Church leaders instituted or excused the priesthood ban because they were racists. People should be given the option of choosing another possibility–that BY and other Church leaders were no more racist (and perhaps less so) than Moses, Peter, or even Christ himself who ordered his apostles not to take the gospel or the priesthood to either the gentiles or the Samaritans while he lived on Earth.

    LS: God allowed black people – in this instance of the LDS church – to suffer for over 100 years in His restored Church on the earth and in America.

    WN: Not all suffered. There are some who drop out of Church activity precisely because they don’t want responsibility. But, yes, many did suffer, and our hearts go out to them. They will be rewarded at least a hundred fold for their sacrifices. Our hearts also go out to the gentiles and Samaritans who also were denied the gospel and the priesthood for a time. But “God moves in mysterious ways, his wonders to perform.”

    LS: At the same time. And it continues today.

    WN: Yes, and it is heartbreaking, especially to those of us who have family loved ones of African descent. My (adopted) relatives who are 100% of African descent include two grandchildren and fourteen nieces and nephews.

    LS: The idea that “(a) Perhaps, during their respective times, gentiles of Bible times and black African people in our day had been enslaved and/or oppressed for so long, they needed time to heal and progress in an atmosphere of freedom before being given priesthood responsibilities.” Just, no. How about no?

    WN: “We have had puzzling things. We had the matter of the priesthood being withheld from a part of the human family. That seemed so inconsistent with the rest of human life and humanity and the doctrines and tolerance. We couldn’t figure that out. That’s gone now, but why was it there? I’m not sure, but I do know this: it had the effect of keeping us out of [most of Africa] until we were ready and mature enough, and they were ready and mature enough. Looking back it is easy to see things that you don’t see looking forward” (Boyd K. Packer, “Lessons from Gospel Experiences,” new mission presidents’ seminar, 25 June 2008, disc 4, track 12, 0:00–0:54).

    LS: Do you enjoy the holes you are shooting in your feet? This backhanded sucker punch combination you’re delivering defies basic logic. You can’t HEAL while you’re being enslaved and oppressed. You can be refined if you have an eternal perspective, sure, but you can’t heal until you are free.

    WN: You misunderstood. One sub-possibility of the “combination possibility” to explain why the priesthood was not immediately given to black people of African descent after the abolition of slavery is that they needed time to heal and progress to the point where they could carry out priesthood responsibilities while trying to find or retain employment and care for their families and/or have others accept their leadership without relentless persecution and possible lynching. If true, this would be one reason why black Pacific Islanders and Australian aborigines were given the priesthood along with white people—they had not been broken and enslaved as were black people from Africa.

    LS: Unless you believe that slavery is of God and in the Bible (maybe you’re one who does – you aren’t alone.)

    WN: Slavery certainly is not of God. It is of Satan. Satan’s plan which he fought for in the pre-mortal existence would make slaves of us all.

    LS: Most slave oWNers believed this. But i guess you didn’t oWN slaves so you are responsible for feelings about slavery, though you may still hold those beliefs…. enjoy your dissonance)

    WN: I abhor slavery in all forms.

    LS: there’s no way that I can see how this piece about healing while enslaved and oppressed makes sense. It’s like you’re a benevolent abuser “this is gonna hurt me more than it hurts you… this is for your oWN good. I have no choice.” really???? The idea that you can do anything but SURVIVE in this “enslaved in an atmosphere of freedom” thing you’ve got going on… is also dizzying because your definition and understanding of freedom has got to be warped. Freedom was not the atmosphere for black people. Slavery in a nation that fought for freedom (to oWN slaves) from England was the atmosphere. This is like saying people were healing while being force-fed a diet of bread crumbs and sitting at a buffet table for Thanksgiving while the other persons seated are getting seconds. What part of whose history do you believe you are recalling?

    WN: I hope I cleared up your misunderstanding. Again, I was talking about the time AFTER slavery was abolished in the U.S.

    LS: Freedom has been for white people while they enslaved black people

    WN: Also black people were free (or were supposed to be free) after slavery was abolished.

    LS: and, in Utah, used black people for tithing. T I T H I N G.

    WN: Tithing is paid to the Church. It is true that some of the converts from the South brought their slaves with them to Utah. Slaves paid to the Church as tithing would be paid for their work and set free.

    LS: Do you believe that the Lord restored white supremacy via His church in America? Because that’s what goes along with racism in the Church.

    WN: No, this is the doctrine restored: “(Christ) inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile” (2 Nephi 26:33).

    LS: Pontificating about an issue as you’re doing, shows that you’re mostly committed to protecting the comfort that your truth gives you instead of dismantling the complexity of fallible leadership with eyes to see and ears to hear.

    WN: I believe that people should have the opportunity to make an informed choice between two main points of view: (1) Fallible leaders instituted the priesthood ban because of racism, or (2) the priesthood ban may possibly have been directed or allowed by God because of the same or similar reasons (or combination of reasons) why God directed or allowed the priesthood to be withheld from non-Levites and the bans of the gospel and the priesthood from gentiles and Samaritans until after the resurrection of Christ. Even Christ himself only dealt with the House of Israel while he lived on the Earth and said so. People want to know what’s wrong with giving people a choice.

    LS: This is very telling of the work that lies before us.

    WN: The work that should lie before us is to help God in his work and glory which is to “bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”

    LS: To be sure, people can and will still be racist in a true and living Church…

    WN: But they are called upon to repent of their racism and always remember that “(Christ) inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile” (2 Nephi 26:33).

    LS: defending and supporting them in their racism, as an institution, however, is neither truth nor life. And THAT is the black elephant in the room.

    WN: Neither faithful member of the Church nor the institution itself will ever defend or support racism today. Also, they won’t defend or support those who cry that the leaders have sinned. “Cursed are all those that shall lift up the heel against mine anointed, saith the Lord, and cry they have sinned when they have not sinned before me, saith the Lord ” (D&C 121:39).

    Finally, as I said before: Whichever possibility is accepted to explain the priesthood ban, everyone should accept and embrace people of all races with love, kindness, compassion, and understanding and try to eliminate racism wherever it is found and try to help make up for the disadvantages of those whose ancestors suffered under slavery and those who today suffer racist intolerance, prejudice, and persecution.

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  19. Susiebjoe says:

    May I say that this is awesome and you, my dear, articulate this truth beautifully. Please God may we as a people work through our blind ignorance of the sorrow our acceptance of such doctrine caused our beautiful brown brothers and sisters

  20. V.Kerr says:

    Just today I learned that blacks were not able to marry in the temple. This has pained me so deeply. It has been a super emotional day as I contemplate whether or not I can belong to a church that has been filled with racism and inequalities. I don’t know what to do. Thank you for sharing your story.

  21. Ruby says:

    I have asked the same questions and struggled for answers to these ideas. I belong to a church that wouldn’t allow my son to hold the priesthood only 35 years ago. I think it’s time we do move forward but we cannot brush this under the rug, racism is very real within the walls of our churches.

  22. WhyNot says:

    People keep asking for the reason or reasons why the priesthood was withheld for a time from black people of African descent. They could also ask why the priesthood was never withheld from other black people (e.g. Pacific Islanders or Australian aborigines) or why the priesthood was never withheld from white people.

    The reason why the priesthood was not withheld from other black people might have had something to do with slavery (see below). It turns out that the priesthood WAS withheld for a certain times from white people (e.g. non-Levites and gentiles).

    Here is a list of possible reasons people why the priesthood, and even the gospel itself, were withheld from certain peoples for certain time periods.


    Possibility #1: The priesthood and gospel bans during Bible times and our day were simply a result of racism. For example, the Church’s policy of withholding the priesthood from black people of African descent between the time of Joseph Smith and Pres. Kimball in our day was blatant, inexcusable, full-blown racism for which Brigham Young is largely to blame.

    Possibility #2: “These people were tribal… Tribes were inherently racist and protective of their tribe…. (For example:) Early Mormons were tribal and sought to protect themselves from outside influences… As the world becomes smaller tribal societies and cultures assimilate and we see tribal values for what they were…. Protective means to protect the tribe AND today racist, sexist, homophobic or whatever. Regardless, somehow God is always made in the image of the tribe….and remade…” (D. L.)

    Possibility #3: “The Mormon people (and God’s chosen people through the ages) are and have always been flawed. (For example:) As people of faith, Mormons have done their best to understand the will of God, as that our history unfolds over time. Prophets hold tremendous responsibility in clarifying the terms of that unfolding, but prophets too are humans who dialogue with God through a veil of human flaws; as Paul said, they too “see through a glass darkly.” The history of the priesthood-temple ban is a reminder of the importance of reflectiveness, thoughtfulness, humility, and self-criticism as people of faith try to understand the will of God.” (J. B.; parenthetical expressions added)

    Possibility #4: As objectionable and hurtful as the thought might be, the bans on the priesthood and the gospel (e.g. the Church’s (temporary) priesthood ban policy) may somehow have been in accordance with God’s will, the reasons for which we do not yet understand. “I know not (why), save the Lord commanded (or dictated or approved) it.” And I will “wait upon the Lord” and “hold to the iron rod” until he reveals the real reason(s) behind that policy, even if it’s not until the next life.

    (Note: From here on the focus is on the Church is our day. However, the same or similar reasons could be given for the priesthood and gospel bans during Bible times.)

    Possibility #5: We don’t know what it is or what they are, but the reason or reasons for the Church’s temporary priesthood ban policy might have been the same or similar to reasons (a) why the priesthood was limited to only the tribe of Levi during Old Testament times, (b) why the priesthood and the gospel itself were temporarily limited only to the House of Israel during the time Christ lived on the earth: Jesus commanded his twelve apostles, “Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not,” (Matt. 10:5), (c) why Christ was sent only to the “House of Israel” and not to the gentiles and Samaritans too: “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 15: 24), and (d) why the Lord waited so long over the centuries from the Great Apostasy until 1830 to restore his Church and its priesthood. Caution: If anyone uses these examples to excuse or justify discriminating against black people or people of any other race or culture, that person is breaking one of the Ten Commandments: “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain” (Exodus 20:7), and “except they repent, they shall perish” (Luke 13:3).

    Possibility #6: The policy was in accordance with God’s will, that he dictated, directed, inspired, or allowed the priesthood ban for a combination of reasons. The Church has declared that several of the reasons given in the past are wrong (e.g. blacks were neutral or less valiant in the pre-mortal life), but what about a combination of reasons? A combination of reasons might include these possibilities:

    (a) Perhaps during their respective times, the Lord needed some worthy people to sacrifice, to teach by precept and example, to show the world that it is possible to remain true and faithful to the teachings of Christ even if denied certain blessings (e.g. the priesthood) or other benefits. God has promised that those who sacrifice (including their loved ones to the third and fourth generation and more) will be rewarded a hundred fold and more. Probably many of the non-Levite, gentile, Samaritan, Canaanite, and black people of African descent who did not receive the priesthood in this life had volunteered in the pre-mortal life to teach and be a good example to the others when they came to earth. Others might have said it didn’t matter to them; that all they wanted was to be with their friends or tentative family whenever and wherever they went. By the way, having various races of various colors would be part of God’s plan to beautify and give variety to the face of the earth. Other examples: different types and colors of animal and plant life.

    (b) Perhaps some believed there would be compensating blessings to be received if they were not given the priesthood analogous to compensating blessings which come to those who are denied the blessings of sight, hearing, or mobility. For example, one man said he would never have produced the great books he had written if he had not been wheel-chair bound.

    (c) Perhaps some believed the pain they would suffer because of not having the priesthood could be analogous to the pains a mother suffers before her baby is born. But the pain and the sacrifice are worth it in the end, including, it is claimed, a stronger bond with the baby.

    (d) Perhaps some believed the pain they would suffer because of not receiving the priesthood could be analogous to some women remaining childless for years before giving birth to a baby. Reasons for this delay or denial can be theorized and speculated, but only God knows the real reason or reasons.

    (e) Perhaps some believed the blessings of not receiving the priesthood for a time might be analogous to not being healed from sickness and accidents for a time.. Why are some people healed immediately, and others are required to wait for healing, some even until the next life? Again, reasons for these delays or denials can be theorized and speculated, but only God, in his wisdom, knows the real reason or reasons. Whatever the reason or reasons might be, the ultimate rewards for those who endured to the end and the rewards for their families will have been worth it, including rewards of a hundred fold (or greater) for the sacrifices they made.

    (f) Perhaps some people preferred not to receive the priesthood because they were not confident they would want to magnify their callings in the priesthood, especially because of conflicting interests and demands on their time they would experience on earth.

    (g) Perhaps some preferred not to receive the priesthood because they thought they might “exercise unrighteous dominion” if they received the priesthood because “…it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion” (D&C 121:39).

    (h) Perhaps, during their respective times, gentiles of Bible times and black African people in our day had been subjugated and enslaved mentally, emotionally, and physically for so long that they needed time to learn and heal in an atmosphere of freedom before being given priesthood responsibilities. Perhaps this is a reason why black people from the Pacific Islands and aborigines of Australia could always receive the priesthood—they had not been downtrodden, broken, and brutalized by slavery. The fact that Pacific Islanders and aborigines of Australia could always receive the priesthood and the ending of the story of the Canaanite woman in the Bible are further proof that having a black skin is not a curse. Black is beautiful. The dark skin of the Lamanites was probably due to intermarriage with native American oriental people whose ancestors crossed over the Bering Strait. What some people might call a curse is a blessing to other people. For example, one extremely handsome man said that his good looks were “a curse” to him. He made this comment after he had been divorced several times.

    (i) Since the gospel was to be taken to the whole world, that included the southern United States which, at the time of the Restoration of the gospel, was extremely prejudiced against black people from Africa, treating them like beasts of burden. Two Mormon missionaries who tried to preach the gospel to people in the South were murdered. Perhaps the Lord chose (or let his prophet, Brigham Young choose) to compromise in order to convert a sufficient number of Southerners to accelerate the transition from systemic, blind prejudice to acceptance of black people. This compromise would have permitted black people be baptized and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost but not give them the priesthood until the time was right according to the Lord’s timetable.

    (j) Perhaps, during their respective times, non-Levites of the Old Testament, gentiles. Canaanites, and Samaritans of the New Testament, and white people of our day, as a whole, were not ready to have other races or cultures receive the priesthood. In other words, perhaps, during their respective times, many in these groups would have rejected, rebelled, and fought against the church of God, even lynching, burning, destroying. At least they would refuse to accept or sustain non-Levite, gentile, Samaritan, Canaanite, or black African priesthood leaders. Again, it is possible that, after coming out of the soul-destroying effects of slavery, black people needed time to heal and mature before they received the priesthood. Time to mature might have been even more important for white people who needed time to repent and mature before black people of African descent received the priesthood and were given priesthood teaching and leadership responsibilities over white congregations.

    We should be grateful we have the teachings and example of Jesus Christ and his true prophets, both ancient and modern, to guide us in making our choices, including which one(s) above. For example, some will fall back on scriptures such as, “I know not, save the Lord commanded me” (Moses 5: 6). “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord” (Isaiah 55:8).
    Whatever choice is made, everyone should embrace people of all races with love, kindness, compassion, and understanding and try to eliminate racism wherever it is found and try to help make up for the disadvantages of those whose ancestors suffered under slavery and those who suffer racist intolerance, prejudice, and persecution.

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