The Mormon Faith & Black Folks
Question #1

Q. Is the Mormon Faith racist?

A. No! THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS, commonly known as the Mormon Church or the LDS Church, or The Mormon Faith, has never taught that one race is superior to another, but that the spirits of all human beings are the literal sons and daughters of God. The First Presidency and Apostles of the LDS Church have strived for many years to preach against racism. Here are a few statements about racism from Church authorities:

Brigham Young (1860):

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

President Brigham Young (1863):

“Men will be called to judgment for the way they have treated the Negro.” (The Mormon Hierarchy 1:762)

President Joseph Fielding Smith (1962):

“The Latter-day Saints, so commonly called ‘Mormons’, have no animosity toward the Negro. Neither have they described him as belonging to an ‘INFERIOR’ race.” (Deseret News, Church Section, June 14, 1962, p.3)

President Joseph Fielding Smith (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 and in some cases greater than the potentiality of the white race.” (Look magazine, Oct. 22, 1963, p.79)

President Hugh B. Brown (1968):

“At a time when radicals of right or left would inflame race against race, avoid those who preach the evil doctrines of racism.” (Hugh B. Brown: His Life and Thought, pp.259-60)

President Spencer W. Kimball (1972):

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

Joint Statement of The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (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 Church Global Media Guide)

The New Era Magazine (official Church publication for youth):

“At baptism we covenant to ‘mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort.’ It is altogether appropriate that we should work to conquer all the unfair things that exist in this imperfect, unfair world: racism, illiteracy, poverty, disease, and all the rest.” (New Era, Jul 1989, Q&A sections)

Elder John K. Carmack (1993):

“We do not believe that any nation, 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: Principles, Practices, Obstacles, Limits, p.3)

Elder Neal A. Maxwell (1995):

“God’s second commandment, love thy neighbor, clearly leaves no room for racism.” (Ensign, May 1995, p.66)

Elder Alexander Morrison (1998):

“There is no place for racism in the Church. We abhor it.” (Salt Lake Tribune, June 6, 1998)

Some Members of the Church in the 19th century and early 20th century held moderate racist beliefs; as did the vast great majority of white people at that time. During the 19th and early 20th centuries the popular philosophies of men declared that white folks were superior to black folks, and that black folks were inherently or naturally inferior to white folks.  But this philosophy was never sanctioned by the Church.

Some active Mormons today may have racist beliefs, but not many. Those that do usually hide them from others; including most white Members of the Church.  Some converts in the Church, most notably from the South of the United States, or white converts from the white upper-classes of Brazil or from white South Africans, sometimes bring their prejudices with them. But this is something that Church officials preach against.  The vast great majority of active, church going, Latter-day Saints are not in any way, shape, or form, racist.

Elder Helvecio Martins, an Afro-Brazilian, and  a former Bishop,  and a General Authority (high official) in the LDS Church from 1990 to 1995, has written:

“Let me offer my testimony that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a racial democracy and could in no way be considered anything else. I have never, in any way, had any obstacle placed in my way by Church authorities due to any sense of racial order. The Lord testifies against racism in at least two placed in the Doctrine and Covenants when he declares, ‘I am no respecter of persons’ (D&C 1:35; see also D&C 38:16).

And The Book of Mormon unequivocally lets the followers of the Lord know that ‘he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female...all are alike unto God.” (2 Nephi 26:33).

“This is the word of God and this is His Church. What qualifies a person for blessings and privileges of God color of skin, size of bank account, or titles and degrees, but faithfulness to the principles, covenants, and laws of the Kingdom. Because the glory of God is intelligence and light of truth’s Kingdom is not, those who dwell in the light of truth will be influenced by those principles. Unfortunately, those members of the Church who engage in racist thought and actions distance themselves from the light and truth of the Gospel. It have suffered from the consequences of their conduct. But I know that people are free to choose between good and evil, and the existence of a racist individual who is a member of the Church in no way makes the Church a racist institution.” (The Autobiography of Elder Helvecio Martins, pp.104-5)

Darius Gray, the African-American President of the Genesis Group, an official LDS fraternal organization for black Latter-day Saints, was asked by a television station in 1998 if racism existed in the Church. He answered:

“There is racism in the world. There is racism in the United States. Sadly, I think there is resurgence in racism [in the U.S. and the rest of the world]. Is there racism in the Church? Yes, because we are a cross-section of the United States, of the people here. Now, is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints racist? No, never has been. But some of those people within the Church have those tendencies. You have to separate the two.” (Utah’s African-American Voices, Darius Gray Interview, p.2)

Please feel free to e-mail Darrick Evenson

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