Mormon Apostles Condemn the KKK in Their Editorials in the Deseret News

THE DESERET NEWS was founded shortly after the Mormons first entered Salt Lake Valley in 1847. The Deseret News has always been owned by the Church, and editorials in the News were always written by Mormon Apostles until about the early 1970s.

Here are a few selected statements from Presidents, Apostles, and other Church leaders regarding racism that have appeared over the years:

Joseph Smith (1st President of the Church) said in 1842:

"I have advised (slaveholders) to bring their slaves into a free country and set them free--educate them--and give them equal rights." (Compilation on the Negro in Mormonism, p.40)

He said in 1844:

"They [Negroes] came into the world slaves, mentally and physically. Change their situation with the whites, and they would be like them. They have souls and are subject to salvation. Go to Cincinnati or any city, and find an educated Negro, who rides in his carriage, and you will see a man who has risen by his own mind to his exalted state of respectability." (History of the Church 5:217)

He also said:

"The Declaration of Independence 'holds these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal: that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,' but, at the same time, some two or three millions of people are held as slaves for life, because the spirit in them is covered with a darker skin than ours...The Constitution of the United States of America meant just what it said without reference to color or condition, ad infinitum!" (Messages of The First Presidency 1:191-2)

He said in 1844:

"Break off the shackles of the poor black man and hire him to labor like other human beings." (History of the Church 5:209)

Parley P. Pratt (Apostle) said in 1855:

"I love a man without regard to his country, or where he was brought up, without reference to color or nation. I love a man that loves truth." (Journal of Discourses, 3:182)

Brigham Young (2nd President of the Church) said in 1860:

"Negroes should be treated like human beings, and not worse than dumb brutes [animals]. For their abuse of that race, the whites shall be cursed, unless they repent." (Journal Discourses 10:111)

He said in 1863:

"Men will be called to judgment for the way they have treated the Negro." (Journal of Discourses 10:250)

David O. McKay (9th President of the Church) said in 1935:

"What a different world this would be if men would accumulate wealth, for example, not as an end but as a means of blessing human beings and improving human relations. A Christian conception of the right and value of a human soul, even though his skin be dark, would have prevented the slaughter that at this moment is being perpetuated in Ethiopia [when Fascist Italian troops under Mussolini invaded that country]. (Conference Reports, Oct. 1935, p.101)

He said in 1944:

"America has the great opportunity to lead the world from political intrigue and cheap demogoguery, from national selfishness, from unrighteous usurpation of power, and from unholy aggrandizement. She must prove to the people of the world that she has no selfish ends to serve, no desire for conquest, nor of national or race superiority. When these ideals are established, America can blaze the trail and lead the world to peace." (Teachings of David O. McKay, pp.281-2)

John A. Widtsoe (Apostle) wrote in 1946:

"The 'master race' claims are sheer poppycock, used by characterless men to further their own interests. There has never been a monopoly of mastery in human achievement by any one nation. To claim so is simply to allow the lawless nationalism to run wild.***
The 'master race' doctrine of the late war was an ugly delusion, conceived by the powers of evil, whose prince is Satan, the devil." (Evidences and Reconciliations, pp.3-4)

President McKay said in 1951:

"George Washington Carver [famous African-American scientist] was one of the noblest souls that ever came to earth. He held in close kinship with his Heavenly Father, and rendered a service to his fellowman such as few have ever excelled. For every religious endeavor, for every noble impulse, for every good deed performed in his useful life, George Washington Carver will be rewarded, and so will every other man be he red, white, black, or yellow, for God is no respecter of person." (Home Memories of David O. McKay, p.231)

Joseph Fielding Smith (10th President of the Church) said in 1962:

"The Latter-day Saints, commonly called 'Mormons', have no animosity toward the Negro. Neither have they described him as belonging to an 'INFERIOR' race. (Deseret News June 14, 1962, p.3)

He said in 1963:

The Mormon Church does not believe, nor does it teach, that the Negro is an inferior being. Mentally, and physically, the Negro is capable of great achievement, as great or in some cases greater than the potentiality of the white race." (LOOK magazine, Oct. 22, 1963, p.79)

Bruce R. McConkie (Apostle) wrote in 1966:

"Certainly the Negroes as children of God are entitled to equality before the law and to be treated with all the dignity and respect of any member of the human race. Many of them certainly live according to higher standards of decency and right in this life than do some of their brothers of other races; a situation that will cause judgment to be laid 'to the line, and righteousness to the plummet.' (Isaiah 28:17) in the day of judgment." (Mormon Doctrine, 1966 edition, p.528)

President Spencer W. Kimball (12th President of the Church) said in 1972:

"Racial prejudice is of the devil. Racial prejudice is of ignorance. There is not a place for it in the Gospel of Jesus Christ." (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p.237)

The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles issued this statement in 1986:

"We repudiate efforts to deny any person his or her inalienable dignity and rights on the abhorrent and tragic theory of the superiority of one race over another." (LDS Global Media Guide)

Elder John K. Carmack (Member of the First Quorum of Seventy) wrote in 1993:

"We do not believe that any nations, race, or culture is a lesser breed or inferior in God's eyes. Those who believe in or teach such doctrine have no authority from either the Lord or his authorized servants." (Tolerance, p.3)

Elder Alexander Morrison (Member of the First Quorum of Seventy) said in 1993:

"There is no place for racism in the Church. We abhor it." (Salt Lake Tribune, June 6, 1998)
Mormon Apostles Condemn the KKK in Editorials in the News

Beginning in 1920, thanks to the silent film Birth of a Nation (which glorified the KKK as galant white heroes and demonized blacks as ravenous and ignorant savages), the KKK experienced a resurrection among white Americans. Indeed, the original KKK had been a small secret order of ex-Confederate calvarymen who road around at night terrorizing blacks in the South. The new KKK was a massive political movement which controled state governments and included more than 5 million robed members (the equivalent of 20 million today). They were a powerful political and social force in every state of the Union; except the two "Mormon" states of Utah and Idaho. Why? Historian Larry Gerlach writes:

"Faced with the prospect of the Klan becoming an actuality instead of an apparition, the Deseret News launched a devastating attack upon the secret order. That the News would lead the initial opposition to the establishment of the Klan was as predictable as it was significant. The secular oracle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Deseret News, though its editorials passed on the opinions of the Mormon Church hierarchy on public affairs to the faithful; since Mormons constituted approximately 70 percent of Utahns, the position of the Church of Jesus Christ officials obviously would have an important bearing on the future of the Klan in the state. Given the long-standing opposition of the Mormon Church to the Ku Klux Klan for both secular and sectarian [religious] reasons, it is not surprising that the Deseret News viewed the coming of the Klan to Utah with 'disapprobation and contempt'." (Blazing Crosses, p.24)

"The single greatest obstacke to the development of the Klan in the Beehive State [Utah] was the Mormon Church." (Blazing Crosses, p.36)

Here are just a few quotes from a few anti-KKK editiorials that appeared in the Mormon Millennial Star and Deseret News over the years. During all these decades, editorials in these papers were written by Mormon apostles, and were essentially "official" Church of Jesus Christ statements:

1868: "The Ku Klux Klan, the Loyal League, the Grand Army of the Republic, all secret, oath-bound orders are spreading fear and dismay though North and South....secret orders are not 'new things under the Sun,' though they are called by new names. They have existed at intervals from the earliest ages, and originated with him who tempted Eve to sin [Satan]."
"If that nation will arise and shake off its wickedness and turn unto the Lord like Nineveh of old, He will turn His wrath away from the people, and give them power to search out and destroy these secret combinations, whose schemes and plots and hellish deeds, like an army of white ants, are eating their way into the roots of the national tree." (Millennial Star 31:244,348)

1870s-1890s: During this period the KKK spearheaded anti-Mormon meetings and attacks in the Southern United States. Half a dozen Mormon missionaries and Mormons were killed by Klansmen during this period; with many more being beaten, tarred-and-feathered, assaulted, chased out of town, or threatened with death. (Blazing Crosses, pp.11ff)

1908: The stage verion of Thomas Dixon's bestselling novel The Clansman, which portrayed blacks as ignoratn and ravenous brutes, and glorified the KKK as white heroes, had toured all over the United States. Finally, the tour came to Salt Lake City. The Gentile (non-mormon) newspaper in the city, The Salt Lake Tribune, praised both the play and its message. The Mormon paper, the Deseret News, said that while the play itself was "an excellent production" in technical terms, the Klan was not a heroic organization as the play portrayed, but "rode about the country at night killing or torturing negroes and their sympathizers" in a "reign of terror" and "became a band of idle, dissolute and vicious individuals who entered upon a career of brutality and violence that appalled the country."(Deseret News, Nov. 2, 1908).

1916: The Salt Lake Tribune, Utah's Gentile (non-mormon) and Anti-Mormon newspaper (which almost daily contained anti-Mormon articles) wrote a critique of the silent movie Birth of a Nation; which was a film verion of the play The Clansmen. The Tribune wrote that "Mob violence and outlawry [by blacks] are depicted, followed by spectacular vies of the Ku Klux Klansmen who organized secretly to control the negroes through their superstitious fears. The Klansmen were fearless night-riders and they wore white shrouds. Acts of vengeance were perpetrated [upon blacks] under the cover of darkness, and the pictures show clearly why such extreme measures were necessary for the continuance of law and order." (Salt Lake Tribune, April 2, 1916)

1920: The KKK was "an insult and a menace to orderly government" which would lead "to riot and bloodshed". (Deseret News, 23 Dec., 1920)

1920s: The Salt Lake Tribune accepted KKK advertising and notices. The Deseret News refused to carry any KKK advertisements or notices, and only mentioned the KKK in editorials to condemn it.

1921: "So far as its operations are known--its secrecy, its mummery, its terrorism, its lawlessnewss--it is condemned as inimical to the peace, order, and dignity of the commonwealth. These mountain communities of ours have no place whatever for it in their social scheme of things. It should be spurned and scorned, and any individual presenting himself as authorized or qualified to establish branches, domains, camps, or Klans should be made emphatically to understand that his local endeavors will be worse than wasted, and his objects [goals] are detested, and his [absense] is preferred to his company. The people of Utah have no taste or patience for such criminal nonsense, and there should be all plainness in making that fact known." (Deseret News, July 23, 1921)

1923: At the 1923 Imperial Klanvocation (convention) in Atlanta, Georgia, the Grand Dragon of Wyoming declared to the assembled Klan officers who their Number One "enemy" was:

"In the Realm of Utah and scattered over the West in general, we have another enemy, which is more subtle and far more cunning [than other anti-KKK groups] in carrying its efforsts against this organization [KKK]...the Latter-day Saints Religion!" (Papers Read at the Meetings of Grand Dragons, Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, 1923, pp.112-3)
1924: Thanks to the blockbuster silent film Birth of a Nation, and to the efforts of a Southern Methodist minister named William J. Simmons, the KKK grew to 5 million members and controlled the Democratic Party in the states of Maine, Indiana, and Colorado. The KKK was as powerful in the North and Mid-west as the South; if not more so. Many Baptist and Methodist ministers are also Klan officers. The KKK is strong and active in all states except Utah and Idaho; two states with large Mormon populations. The New York Times takes notice of this, and writes:
"In Utah and Idaho the masked order [KKK] is without any foothold worthy of the name. It is said that there are a few Klan units in isolated spots, but they are negligiable in number and in influence." (New York Times, Oct. 19, 1924)
1926: Thousands of Klansmen hold a gathering and parade in Washington D.C.:

1928: The KKK Women's Auxilary holds its own march in Washington D.C.:

1946: The Deseret News called the KKK "American Storm Troopers" (i.e. after the German SA which got Hitler and the Nazis into power), and that the KKK was "a sad event for America." (July 17, 1946)

1948: The Deseret News called "the Ku Klux Klan plague" contains "the virus which whill sap the liberty and freedom of all Americans." (July 19, 1948)

1960s: The Deseret News referred to the KKK as "Bullies in Bedsheets" and decalred "it is time for the United States of America to stamp out such organized conspiracy and lawlessness." (Jan 1., 1966)

1970s-Today: The KKK started a sharp decline during the mid-1960s when Klansmen killed three civil-rights workers (two of them white) in Mississippi. Most KKK members quit the order or went inactive after this period. Today (2003) the KKK has small sporatic memberships in divergent goups thoughout the U.S., but they serve more as social clubs than vigilante organizations. A few KKK members still receive national attention by occassional acts of anti-black or anti-Jewish terrorism. The KKK is effectively powerless today with relatively few members and supporters.

A Mormon apostle (via an editorial) wrote in 1868, only months after the Ku Klux Klan was formed, that it would prove a "curse" upon America. The Deseret News called upon America to "root out and destroy" the Klan and other such organizations. America didn't listen.

Black Mormons

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