The Mormon Faith & Black Folks
Question #25

Q. Does racism exist among Mormons?

A. Sadly, yes. However, most do not see it as a major problem, but any racism or prejudice by those calling themselves “Latter-day Saints” can be very hurtful. One can find hypocrites in any church or religion, and the LDS Church is no exception. But, generally speaking, white Latter-day Saints have been relatively free from feelings of racial superiority, or racial prejudice.

In 1924 David O. McKay (9th President of the Church) wrote an article called “Persons and Principles”. He wrote:

“In the month of August, 1897, among the passengers aboard the S.S. Belgenland, sailing from Philadelphia to Liverpool, was a group of Colored people known as ‘The Fiske Jubilee Singers’. Just as the vessel was leaving the harbor, some of the white passengers [none of them Mormons] made insulting remarks about the Negroes. Undoubtedly the taunts reached the ears of some of the singers, and wounded their feelings; but they neither showed resentment nor deigned to reply.

However, at a concert given about a week later, one of the sopranos sand most beautifully and impressively a solo that seemed to contain a sufficient answer as well as a gentile rebuke to those who in rudeness had given offence. I do not remember the son; but the chorus was something like this:

‘If you want to know a Christian,

Just watch his acts and walks.

If you want to know a Christian,

Just listen how he talks.’

That simple rhyme expressed the true philosophy of practical religion. Of what value are the lofty principles of Christianity if they are not introduced into our daily lives? What good does it do, for example, to preach universal Brotherhood, and then to step from the pulpit to the street and rail against and denounce any who should be included in this Brotherhood? Race, creed, color, position, training–all contribute to the difficulty of making practical the universal charity taught by Christ, and which pseudo-‘Christians’ profess to believe; but such profession without the practice only emphasizes the hypocrisy lurking in the heart of the pretender. It is not easy, I know, but the true Christian is he who exemplifies in his ‘acts’, his ‘walks’, and his ‘talks’ that which is tongue says he believes.

On the other hand, no principle of church should be condemned because of the inability of its adherents, either through weakness or disinclination to exemplify the principles or the teaching of the Church in their lives. Truth is eternal; actions of men are transitory. Sincere seekers of truth must ever learn to distinguish between ‘principles’ and  ‘persons’.****It is well for all of us to remember that the Gospel Net gathers-in the weak as well as the strong, the small as well as the great, the vacillating as well as the stalwart character; that the manifestations of the principles of truth vary in the lives of these many and diversified types, but that the principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ are as eternal and true as God the Father from Whom they emanate, and  that man will progress and be happy only as he conforms his life to them.

Though we caution investigators to anchor his faith to principle and not to men, yet we admonish

Members of the Church everywhere and at all times to ‘Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.’” (Millennial Star, Jan 31, 1924, pp.72-4)

On May 6th, 1945, Harold B. Lee (Apostle and later the 11th President of the Church) gave and address over the radio in Salt Lake City called “Youth of a Noble Birthright”. He addressed it to young Latter-day Saints. During his address he said:

“We have heard much during the last twenty years about so-called master races. The feeling of superiority in the minds of the leaders of these self-acclaimed superior groups who have campaigned for world domination has plunged the world in a might and terrible world conflict. The mystery of their fancied superiority has now been very largely exposed by the force of arms of the opposing nations they sought to conquer. The arrogance assumed by these master races, so-called, has engendered the most bitter race prejudice in the world’s history.

***

How many races are there? Most scientists have divided humanity into five groups: the white, the black, the brown, the yellow, and the red races. Others have grouped the brown, yellow and red races as ‘sub-groups’ of a single race. The Scriptures have taught us that God, our Heavenly Father, is the ‘Father of the spirits of all men’ and that when we pass from this life our spirits ‘whether they be good or evil, are taken home to God who gave us life.’ (Ecclesiastes 12:7, Alma 40:11).

Thus, by the teachings of the Scriptures, all mankind are made one great family. Furthermore, we are given to understand that all who live in mortality, if they would perfect their genealogical research, could trace their ancestry back to Adam and Eve, out first earthly parents in the Garden of Eden, through Noah and his family.

***

All are equal in that they are the spirit children of God, and also equal in their right of free agency, as well as in the fact that all are made innocent of previous wrongs committed as they enter this world through the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord has told us that ‘Every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning; and God having redeemed man from the fall, man became again, in their infant state, innocent before God.’ (D&C 93:38). Who knows but that many of those with seeming inequalities in this life, if they do everything possible with their limited opportunities, may not receive greater blessings that some of those rewarded by having been born to a noble lineage and to superior social and spiritual opportunities who fail to live up to their greater privileges.” (Compilation on the Negro in Mormonism, pp.243-4)

In 1946 Reuben Clark (Apostle) wrote:

“Now, you should hate nobody; you should give to every man and every woman, no matter what the color of his or her skin, full civil rights.” (Improvement Era 49:492)

In 1948 the Apostles of the Church expressed a strong desire to revoke the Priesthood ban, and grant Hamitic males the Priesthood. They expressed this desire to George Albert Smith, the 8th President of the Church, and the grandson of Hyrum Smith, the brother of the Prophet Joseph Smith who was killed with him in Carthage, Illinois, in 1844. President Smith went into the most sacred room in the Church, the Holy of Holies in the Salt Lake Temple, and asked the LORD if the Negro could have the Priesthood. He later came out and declared that the reply he received was “it wasn’t yet the time.” (Compilation on the Negro, p.254). The Apostles were gravely disappointed, but they knew that this was the Will of the LORD, and they accepted it as such.

In 1949, Spencer W. Kimball (then an Apostle and later the 12th President of the Church) spoke at a Regional Conference; which included all the Stake Presidents in a particular Region (a Stake President in the LDS Church roughly corresponds to a Bishop in the Roman Catholic Church). In that speech he said:

“And take this message back to your people in the stakes, that they leave off their racial prejudice. Racial prejudice is of the devil. Racial prejudice is of ignorance. There is no place for it in the gospel of Jesus Christ.” (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p.237)

*The Church is Introduced to Black Africa Starting in the late 1940s, and continuing until 1978, a number of black Africans in Africa began to hear about the Mormon Faith. Some of these were the results of a small denomination called The Church of Jesus Christ (Bickertonite). This is a small group of Protestants who accepted the first vision of Joseph Smith and The Book of Mormon, but who did not accept the Mormon Church itself. They came about as followers of a man named Bickerton; who was a disciple of Sidney Rigdon; who was at one time a Counselor to the Prophet Joseph Smith. They started missions in some West African countries.  They distributed numerous copies of The Book of Mormon, or pamphlets about Joseph Smith. Some of these were read, and led those who read them sometimes to this small church, but others to the LDS Church.

In the late 1950s a Nigerian man named Anthony Obinna was a Seeker of Truth; studying the various churches and religions that had come to Nigeria seeking converts. Instead of simply abiding in the religion of his family, or choosing one he fancied, he chose to go to God in prayer. Brother Obinna asked God of which of all the religions were true, and Nigeria had almost all of them. That night he had a dream:

“One night I was sleeping and a tall man came to me¼and took me to one of the most beautiful buildings and showed me all the rooms. At the end he showed himself in the crucified form. Then in 1970 I found this book to read. It was the September, 1958, Reader’s Digest. There was an article entitled, ‘The March of the Mormons’ with a picture of the Salt Lake Temple. It was exactly the same building I had seen in my dreams.” ( The Church in Black Africa, p.84)

Brother Obinnna wrote to the Church and asked them to send missionaries. The Church had sent representatives to Nigeria in 1960, but a negative article in The Nigerian Outlook in 1965 (called “Evil Saints”) and the Biafran war in 1966 prevented further contact. Independent black preachers who had found copies of The Book of Mormon or pamphlets about Joseph Smith or articles about the Church had formed independent “Mormon” congregations; even calling themselves “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Inc.”. So did Anthony Obinna.

By September 1978, Br. Obinna grew tired of waiting, and wrote to Salt Lake City. The Church wrote back and told him about the 1978 revelation. Brother Obinna wrote back and said:

“We are happy for the many hours in the upper room of the temple you spent supplicating the Lord to bring us into the fold. We than our Heavenly Father for hearing your prayers and ours and by revelation has confirmed the long promised day¼We than you for extending the Priesthood which has been long withheld from us and to prepare us to receive every blessing of the gospel.” (Black Africa, p.85)

Not all these independent black African preachers were to accept the 1978 revelation. Many or most of them had never heard of it before. Some were shocked by it, and immediately changed the name of their congregations and gave up using the name ‘Mormon’ and The Book of Mormon. Yet, others humbly thanks the Brethren and praised God.

Yet, in the 1960s, these congregations acted totally independent of the Church in Salt Lake City.

*President Kimball condemns Members justifying their racism because of the Priesthood ban In 1972 President Spencer W. Kimball said:

“A special problem exists with respect to blacks because they may not now receive the Priesthood. Some Members of the Church would justify their own un-Christian discrimination against blacks because of that rule with respect to the Priesthood, but while this restriction has been imposed by the Lord, it is not for us to add burdens upon the shoulders of our black brethren. They who have received Christ in faith through authoritative baptism are heirs to the Celestial Kingdom along with men of other races.” (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p.237)

In his book Faith Precedes the Miracle, President Kimball wrote:

“What a monster prejudice is! It means prejudging. How many of us are guilty of it? Often we think ourselves free of its destructive force, but we need only to test ourselves.” (Faith Precedes the Miracle, p.295)

*George Romney And Time Magazine

In 1962 George Romney, the President of American Motors in Detroit, Michigan, and a Mormon,  ran as a candidate for the governorship of that state. The political rivals of Romney knew that if they revealed the Church doctrine about the Priesthood ban, it would prevent black voters from voting for him, and may cause him to lose the election. They supplied information to Time magazine, the largest news magazine in the United States, and Time came out with an article called “The Mormon Issue” on March 2nd, 1962. The article said that ‘Negroes’ couldn’t be priests in the Mormon Church because of the “Curse of Cain doctrine” (p.46). No mention was made in the article of the anti-slavery activities of Church leaders (like Joseph Smith), nor that LDS scriptures also portrayed Hamites as “blessed with wisdom” and the authors of civilization.

The article in Time introduced millions of Americans, including African-Americans, to the Curse of Cain doctrine. This contributed to the writing of other articles about the Church and the Priesthood ban; some of which were grossly exaggerated; stating that Mormons believed that blacks followed Lucifer, or were his children, were ‘inferior’ to white people, or didn’t allow black people in the Church, they ‘didn’t have souls’ or believed they had ‘inferior souls’, etc.

Joseph Fielding Smith, at that time acting President of the Church, commented on this media campaign  via the Church News:

“The ignorance on the part of writers who do not belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in relation to the view of the ‘Mormons’ on the status religiously or otherwise of the Negro is inexcusable. There is no doubt that in the campaign of George Romney enemies will play up the Negro question to the very limit.

***

Moreover, according to the faith and knowledge of the elders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who are so frequently called ‘Mormons’, the Church can do more for the Negro than any other church on the face of the earth.

What other church can baptize them by divine authority and confirm them and give them the gift the Holy Ghost? What other church can promise them with assurance that they can , if they are faithful and true before the Lord, enter into the Celestial Kingdom? Not one of them! For other churches do not know anything about the Celestial Kingdom.

***

Therefore if a Negro joins the Church through the waters of baptism and is confirmed by the laying on of hands and then he remains faithful and true to the teachings of the Church and in keeping the commandments the Lord has given, he will come forth in the first resurrection and will enter the Celestial Kingdom of God.

What other church can make a better promise? Moreover we know whereof we speak, for the gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored with all its powers and divine authority.

The Negro who accepts the doctrines of the Church and is baptized by an authorized minister of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is entitled to salvation in the Celestial Kingdom, or the highest heaven spoken of by Paul.

It is true that the work of the ministry is given to other peoples and why should the so-called Christian denominations complain? How many Negroes have been placed as ministers over white congregations in the so-called Christian denominations?

It appears that a great deal of noise has been made over a problem that does not really exist, or is not peculiar to the Latter-day Saints! (Church News, July 14, 1962)

Church Prophets have always taught that Hamites were only denied the Priesthood in mortality; in this life, and that if they were faithful and worthy they would receive the Priesthood in the next life, and be rewarded accordingly and become heirs of the highest degree of glory in the  Celestial Kingdom; which is Eternal Life.

George Romney won the election and became governor of the State of Michigan. He became well-known for his pro-civil rights views and legislation.

*The 1963 Civil-Rights Statement

During the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, the Church issued two statements regarding civil-rights. The first was by Hugh B. Brown; a member of The First Presidency (the highest presiding authority) of the Church. This was issued in 1963:

“We would like it to be known that there is in this Church no doctrine, belief, or practice this is intended to deny the enjoyment of full civil rights by any person regardless of race, color, or creed.

We say again, as we have said many times before, that we believe that all men are the children of the same God and that it is a moral evil for any person or group of persons to deny any human being the right to gainful employment, to full educational opportunity, and to every privilege of citizenship, just as it is a moral evil to deny him the right to worship according to the dictates of his own conscience.

We have consistently and persistently upheld the constitution of the United States, and as far as we are concerned this means upholding the constitutional rights of every citizen of the United States.

We call upon all men everywhere both within and outside the Church, to commit themselves to the establishment of full civil equality for all of God’s children. Anything less than this defeats our high ideal of the brotherhood of men. (Church News, Oct. 12, 1963)

This became known as ‘The October 1963 Civil-Rights Statement’.

In 1964 Joseph Fielding Smith, then President of the Church, wrote an article that he copied and gave to all Church employees. It read:

“No church or other organization is more insistent than The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, that the Negroes should receive all the rights and privileges that can possibly be given to any other in the true sense of equality as declared in the Declaration of Independence. They should be equal to life, liberty, and the pursuit to happiness.’ They should be equal in the matter of education. They should not be barred from obtaining knowledge and becoming proficient in any field of science, art, or mechanical occupation. They should be free to choose any kind of employment, to go into business in any field they may choose and to make their lives as happy as it is possible without interference from white men, labor unions, or from any other source. In their defense of these privileges the members of the Church will stand. In the matter of religion they also may choose any faith that they please. The Church does not bar them from membership and we have members of the Negro race in the Church. If a Negro is baptized and remains true and loyal he will enter the Celestial Kingdom, but it is not the authorities of the Church who have placed a restriction on him regarding the holding of the Priesthood. It was not the Prophet Joseph Smith nor Brigham Young. It was the LORD! If a Negro desires to join the Church we will give him all the encouragement that we can, but we cannot promise him that he will receive the Priesthood.” (The Mormon Establishment, p.230-1)

*1965 Time Article: “Black Saints of Nigeria”

On 18 June, 1965, Time magazine again came out with an article on the thousands of black Africans who had become converted to The Book of Mormon via various black preachers who had discovered the book or who claimed to have received visions about the Church from angels or even Jesus Himself. They titled the article “The Black Saints of Nigeria”. It said in part:

“Pending a new revelation, possible at any time, Mormons are committed to a certain degree of segregation: Negroes cannot be admitted to the church’s priesthood. For this reason, Mormon missionaries have never tried very hard to make converts in black Africa. Yet Mormons also believe that Negroes may be admitted to the priesthood in heaven. This apparently is good enough for 7,000 Ibibio, Ibo, and Efik tribesmen in eastern Nigeria, who have gone ahead and organized their own branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” (Time, June 18, 1965, p.56)

The year 1965 was a very turbulent year for the United States. People began to protest the war in Vietnam, but, more importantly, the civil-rights movement then was in full-swing. Civil-rights marchers were in the news daily. Some of them were killed or beaten in the South of the U.S. by white racists. The subject of ‘racism’ was everywhere; in books, in film, on television, in the news, on university campuses, and elsewhere. The 1965 article by Time continued to keep the Priesthood~ban as a controversial issue with many.

*Official LDS Church Positions On The Negro Race

The Church published an article in December 1965, by the prominent Mormon professor, Dr. Lowell L. Bennion, called Religion and Social Responsibility:

“It is my belief that white men are not superior to men of other races. On the whole, in the United States, white men have had the advantage of education and of political and economic power; but fundamentally all men are essentially alike in both their physical and spiritual inheritance–born of the same God and of the same earth. What a reflection on a ‘Christian’ nation that civil rights must be debated and legislated! If we had faith in Christ, we would be anxiously and voluntarily engaged in seeing that Hawaiians, Indians, Negroes, Orientals, and every other ethnic group of people in our midst had equal opportunity for education, culture, employment, and housing as we who are Caucasian. If we believed in the ethical monotheism of the prophets and the Fatherhood of God and in the teachings of Jesus, legislation in this area would be as superfluous as painting the lily white. Men are social beings. Brotherly love is the most basic law of the Gospel and of life. No matter what else we have, nor what position we hold in the Gospel and Church of Christ, if we have not love, ‘it profiteth us nothing’. ‘But this shall men know that ye are my disciples, that ye have love one for another.’ To learn and practice love and justice among men should be our deepest concern as we commit and recommit ourselves to the love of God through Christ Jesus.” (The Instructor, Oct. 1965, p.391)

Also in 1965, the Church published an article by the noted Mormon scientist Frank S. Salisbury titled Genetics and Some Gospel Concepts. He wrote:

“The Gospel teaches that God was, before the creation of the temporal earth, Father of a great many spirits of all degrees of intelligence and valiance; spirits having an almost infinite variety of capabilities (Abraham 3:18-19, 22-24). The laws of inheritance provide a mechanism for producing great variety (mutations and the recombinations of existing genes) and at the same time for passing certain general groups of physical and mental properties from one generation to another. If spirits of similar but varying capabilities were to be united through an eternal family relationship, the laws of inheritance would surely provide a reasonable way of carrying this out.

We are told, for example, of the special abilities given to the descendants of Cain. They were blessed with certain blessings of the earth and with blessings of wisdom (Moses 5:36-37, 45-46; Abraham 1:26). Yet they were cursed as pertaining to the Priesthood and in other ways. Some of these blessings, such as their wisdom (intelligence), musical abilities, and dexterity in working brass and iron might be genetically controlled. But much would be learned and not inherited, and the curse pertaining to the Priesthood was a decree of God and not a genetic phenomenon.” (The Instructor, Nov. 1965, p.435)

*NAACP Pressures Church

The Church had said, over and over and over and over again, year after year, the blacks were not ‘inferior’, and that their civil-rights should be granted and protected. However, in July of 1965, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) called upon foreign embassies to refuse visas to Mormon missionaries:

“The proposed resolution was offered by the Salt Lake City and Ogden branches of the NAACP. It also urged that embassies in South America, Asia, and Africa ‘refuse to grant visas to missionaries and representatives of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ...until such time as the doctrine of non-white inferiority is changed and rescinded by that church and a positive policy of support of civil rights is taken by the same church.’” (Salt Lake Tribune, July 2, 1965)

What does the Hebrew Priesthood have to do with the ‘civil rights’ of American citizens?

How could the Church believe in “non-white inferiority” when they ordained red men, yellow men, brown men, and black men (Fijians, Dravidians,  Melanesians, Negritoes, and  Aborigines) to the Priesthood,  and didn’t ordain white men (along with African blacks) who were of Hamitic lineage?

Evil Saints: The Nigerian Situation

In the mid-1950s several black African ministers, in Ghana and Nigeria, had heard about the Church, and requested information. They were sent information, and from it they began to create their own independent branches of the Church. In 1959 the Church sent Elder Lamar Williams to Ghana and Nigeria; to give them more information and to answer questions. In 1963 a Nigerian student in California had heard about this, and started to ask questions about the ‘Mormon Church’. He asked around and discovered that the LDS Church did not ordain black men of African descent to its Priesthood.  He then wrote an article for The Nigerian Outlook titled “Evil Saints”:

“Their God is not our God. I do not believe in a God whose adherents preach the superiority of one race over the other. And this is what the Mormons preach.” (The Nigerian Outlook, March 5, 1963)

The government officials of Nigeria read this article, and decided to revoke all visas from Mormons to enter Nigeria. Nigerians could become Mormons, but no foreign (i.e. “White”)  Mormons could enter Nigeria. The Church had plans to build churches, schools, and small hospitals for the Nigerian Saints, but this was prevented by the government of Nigeria; because of the article (Compilation on the Negro in Mormonism, pp.365-6).

Those hospitals could have been very beneficial to the Nigerian Saints; since all of them were members of Biafran tribes. In 1966 the Biafrans tried to declare independence from Nigeria and form their own country: Biafra. This stated a civil war which the Nigerian government won. Hundreds of thousands of Biafrans died from disease and starvation; because they had  no hospitals or medicines or supplies. Most who died were small children.

In 1965 Time magazine did a large article called “Black Saints”; about the Nigerian Mormons. Naturally, the article also mentioned the Priesthood ban; that black Africans could not hold the Priesthood. Millions of people read this article; including millions of African-Americans, and it inspired them to begin protests against the Church, and to conclude that the Church denied blacks the Priesthood because it was ‘racist’ and taught white-supremacy. It also began rumors within the African-American Community that the ‘Mormons’ were ‘racists’, ‘hated black folks’, etc. These beliefs persist to this day in the Black Community.

The LDS Church has two General Conferences each year; held in Salt Lake City, Utah. This is when the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speak before thousands of gathered Saints; in the Mormon Tabernacle and now in the massive LDS Conference Center. It is during the ‘talks’ (sermons) during these Conferences that the Apostles and Prophets of the Church relay to the Saints the mind and will of the LORD for the Church.

One reporter asked President Hugh B. Brown (2nd Counselor in The First Presidency) if the Mormon Church was ever going to grant Negroes the Priesthood. Brown replied:

“The specific question to which you refer, having to do with the giving of the Priesthood to the Negro, is one which must be resolved by the spirit of revelation, and I am convinced that will come in the own due time of the Lord¼.We, of course, must not attempt to regulate His time-piece by ours, and though we become impatient at His reticence, we must continue to believe that He is all-powerful, all-wise, and is the Father of all mankind.” (Mormons and Negroes, p.61)

On April 10th, 1966, President Hugh B. Brown of The First Presidency gave a talk during Conference which included the following:

“The gospel of Jesus Christ teaches the universality of God’s concern for men, and that obedience is a universal and fundamental law of progress, both temporal and spiritual. The aristocracy of righteousness is the only aristocracy that God recognizes. This leaves no room for self-righteous expressions in words or actions of being ‘holier than thou’. There is a real unity in the human race, and all men have a right to equal consideration as human beings, regardless of their race, creed or color.

For any church, country, nation, or other group to believe that it is the only people in whom God is interested in or that it has special merit because of color, race, or belief, that they are inherently superior and loved by God, without regard to the lives they live, is not only a great fallacy but is a continuing barrier to peace. This is demoralizing, whether it is the exploded and presumptuous myth of Aryan race of supermen or disguised in more subtle forms. Let us steadfastly avoid such demoralizing arrogance.

The most important problem facing us in working out a long-range program for peace is a tolerant and sympathetic understanding between races and creeds. As [Mormon poet] Thomas Bracken wrote:

O God, that men would see a little clearer,

Or judge less harshly where they cannot see!

O God, that men would draw a little nearer

To one another! They’d be nearer Thee...’

It is regrettable that very few people in the world are free from the idea that they and their people and race are superior.” (Improvement Era, June, 1966)

Some believe that Mormons thought themselves superior, and didn’t allow people of color to into the Church or it’s Priesthood.

But that wasn’t true!

The Church included all races and colors. The Church, from the very beginning, ordained not only white men, but red men, yellow men, brown men, and yes, black men (who were not Hamites) to it’s Priesthood. But it did not ordain black Hamites; nor white-skinned Hamites (save for Elijah Abel and his descendants and Walker Lewis). This was not a result of them saying, ‘Gosh, let’s not ordain Hamitic people!’ It was the result of a Revelation of the LORD; and, whether they liked it or not, they had to obey His decrees.

*George Romney’s Presidential Race

George Romney had been such a popular governor in Michigan (among both blacks and whites) that he decided to run for the Republican nomination in the 1968 U.S. Presidential race. Naturally, the Priesthood ban came up again. During an early campaign speech, during the question-and-answer period, a black Michigan State University sociology professor name Dr. Anna Grant approached and said:

“Mormons are taught the kind of anthropological untruths that would make them believe Negroes are inferior¼.I must confess that I don’t feel too comfortable about the fact that the Mormon position has not changed¼and that you feel that the Church does not preach a racist doctrine. I know you cannot change Mormonism but I just wonder how you can be as comfortable in your beliefs as you indicated?” (Salt Lake Tribune, May 4, 1967)

Governor Romney quickly responded:

“It’s not true that my faith preaches a racist doctrine. Now it is true that a Negro cannot hold the Priesthood in my Church. I have been raised from childhood with a firm belief that the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States are divinely inspired documents, and as a result of my back ground I have fought in my private life and in my public life to eliminate social injustice and racial discrimination.” (Salt Lake Tribune, May 4, 1967)

Also that day a reporter for LIFE magazine asked Romney if the Church would change its policy on not ordaining Negroes. Romney replied:

“A lot of people don’t understand this. If my Church was a church where you could get the bishops together and discuss this, then maybe I could do something about it, undertake to politic in some manner. But my Church just isn’t that kind of church.” (LIFE magazine, May 5, 1967)

Romney was correct that the Priesthood ban was not a ‘racist’ doctrine. It wasn’t built upon a notion of ‘Negro inferiority’. The Book of Abraham and The Book of Moses do not portray Negroes as inferior, but rather “blessed with wisdom” but “cursed as pertaining to the Priesthood”.  The Priesthood was not a ‘civil right’ of all Americans, and thus was not in any way a form of civil-discrimination. It was a form of Divine-discrimination; which the LORD has a right and history of doing.

Regardless of his exemplary history on civil-rights as governor of Michigan, Romney lost his bid for the Republican nomination. The winner was Richard M. Nixon; who also won the 1968 and 1972 U.S. Presidential races. Nixon later resigned in 1974 due to the ‘Watergate’ and other scandals within his administration.

*Anti-BYU Protests

In 1969 certain radical militant groups in the U.S. began campaigns against the Church; calling it “racist” and “evil” and “worse than the KKK”, etc., because of the Priesthood ban. Some decided to protest the Church via its university: Brigham Young University (BYU).  Here are just a few incidents:

April 1968: Eight black athletes at the University of Texas- El Paso refused to attend a track-and-field event at BYU because “the Mormons believe that the blacks are inferior and that we are the disciples of the devil.” (Arizona Daily Star, April 14th, 1968)

December 1968: The black athletes of San Jose State University, in California, voted to turn-in their scholarships because of SJSU revoked the scholarships of seven black football players who refused to play against BYU because of the “racist philosophy of the Mormon Church”. (Salt Lake Tribune, Dec. 3, 1968)

October 1969: The student senate at the University of Arizona voted to ask the University to break all times with BYU because of its “racial discrimination”. (Salt Lake Tribune, Oct. 25th, 1969)

November 1969: Stanford University announced no new athletic competitions with BYU because of “racial discrimination by the Mormon Church.” (Salt Lake Tribune, Nov. 13th, 1969)

November, 1969: 250 students at Arizona State University, mostly black, marched in a protest against BYU chanting “Down with BYU” and “Get rid of the racists!” (Salt Lake Tribune, Nov. 30th, 1969)

During this time a few civil rights organizations, like the NAACP, were threatening lawsuits, and asking the U.S. government to revoke the Church’s tax-exempt status (given to all religions and churches in the U.S.), and to revoke Brigham Young University’s academic licenses, and prevent Mormon students from receiving Federal grants.

*The Black Panthers Attack LDS Institute of Religion

During this time too certain militant black organizations, like the Black Panthers, and certain radical interracial organizations, like the Weathermen Underground, were making threats against the Church; to invade Utah, or to carry-out terrorist activities against the Church and its university, BYU, unless the Church ended its ‘racist teachings and policies’.

In Seattle, in the State of Washington, during this time, the University of Washington was trying to decide whether or not to continue athletic events and academic exchanges with Brigham Young University. The Board of Trustees of the University of Washington decided to have a public meeting, and they invited Dr. John Lund, a teacher at the LDS Institute of Religion, next to the University, to give the ‘Mormon’ side of things.

Institutes of Religion are LDS Church buildings next to most colleges and universities in the U.S. and Canada which have large numbers of LDS students. Institutes are manned by Institute Instructors; who teach religion classes to LDS students (or whoever wants them) as a means to offset the secular Humanism often advanced by American and Canadian university and college courses. At the front entrance of every Institute of Religion is a large sign or plaque saying, “The Institute of Religion of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”.

Dr. Lund of the Seattle Institute of Religion was invited by the Board of Trustees to give the ‘Mormon side’ of the controversy; the only fair thing to do before they voted whether or not to sanction BYU. Brother Lund arrived and saw that the meeting was in an auditorium filled with about 2500 students and other onlookers; about half of them black. When he was introduced, he was booed, hissed at, and even threatened by some of the crowd. When he was invited to respond, or give the ‘Mormon’ response to claims that BYU and the Church was discriminatory and racist, Dr. Lund started to speak. At that point one of the Trustees, a black man, stood up and said, over and over again, “Why are we even listening to this man? Why are we even listening to this man? We must be insane to want  to listen to this man!” The other Trustees would ask the man to sit down and give Dr. Lund a chance to speak. He would sit down. But every time Dr. Lund tried to speak, the man would stand up again and say, “Why are we even listening to this man? Why are we even listening to this man? We must be crazy to listen to this man? We must be fools to want to listen to this man!” The black trustee was noticeably   agitated as he spoke.

After about 15  minutes of trying to give a reply, which he was invited to do by the Trustees, but not being able to (because of the constant and unrelenting interruptions by one of the Trustees), Dr. Lund decided to give it one more try.  When he did the black Trustee  (for about the 80th time) arose from his seat and shouted, “Why are we even listening to this man? We must be fools! We must be crazy to want to listen to this man! We must be insane!” At that point Dr. Lund said, “Well, you must be fools, so I’m leaving!” As he walked out of the auditorium he was spit at and threatened again; along with more booing and hissing.

The next day a major newspaper in Seattle reported in headlines: “Mormon Teacher Calls Black UW Trustee ‘Fool”. This enraged many members of the black community of Seattle, who believed that Dr. Lund had come to the meeting merely to insult the black Trustee. No mention was made in the article how the black Trustee had not allowed Dr. Lund to speak.

At that point the Seattle Chapter of the Black Panther Party decided to take action. They loaded up three cars loads full of their members, took along bats, clubs, tire-irons, and chains, and headed for the LDS Institute of Religion where Dr. Lund taught. At that time there were 3 or 4 Instructors and about a dozen or so students at the Institute. Dr. Lund saw the cars drive up. He immediately notified the Institute Director, Jeffery Holland (now an Apostle). Br. Holland called President Harold B. Lee, then President of the Church, who told Holland to evacuate the Institute.

Br. Holland told Br. Lund to hold the Panthers at the front door, so that the teachers and students could escape out the back. Br. Lund raced to the front doors; to hold them for as long as possible. The men got out of their cars, with their weapons, and headed for the front doors. Then Br. Lund offered a prayer to God; hoping for a miracle. Just then one of the Panthers said, “Hey, we got the wrong place! This ain’t the Mormon Church! This says here that this is ‘The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’!” Thinking they had the wrong church, the Panthers quickly pilled back into their cars and drove away.

*The 1969 Official Statement of The First Presidency on the Position of Blacks and Civil-Rights

The First Presidency of the Church had, up until then, issued three separate statements regarding its position on civil rights and black people. It repeatedly said that it was for the civil rights of all Americans, and that the Church did NOT teach that black people were inferior, but that the Church believed that black males could not now have the Priesthood, but someday would. However, because of the growing protests, the Church felt it needed to issue yet another statement. It did so on December 15th, 1969:

“To: General Authorities, Regional Representatives of the Twelve, Stake Presidents, and Bishops.

Dear Brethren,

“In view of confusion that has arisen, it was decided at a meeting of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve to restate the position of the Church in regard to the Negro both in society and in the Church.

First, we may say that we know something of the sufferings of those who are discriminated against in a denial of their civil rights and Constitutional privileges. Our early history as a church is a tragic story of persecution and oppression. Our people repeatedly were denied the protection of the law. They were driven and plundered , robbed and murdered by mobs, who in many instances were aided and abetted by those sworn to uphold the law. We as a people have experienced the bitter fruits of civil discrimination and mob violence.

We believe that the Constitution of the United States was divinely inspired, that it was produced by ‘wise men’ whom God raised up for this ‘very purpose,’ and that the principles embodied in the Constitution are so fundamental and important that, if possible, they should be extended ‘for the rights and protection’ of all mankind.

In revelations received by the first prophet of the Church in this dispensation, Joseph Smith (1805-1844), the Lord made it clear that it is ‘not right that any man should be in bondage to another.’ These were spoken prior to the Civil War. From these and other revelations have sprung the Church’s deep and historic concern with man’s free agency and our commitment to the sacred principles of the Constitution.

It follows, therefore, that we believe the Negro, as well as those of other races, should have full Constitutional privileges as a member of society, and we hope that members of the Church everywhere will do their part as citizens to see that these rights are held inviolate. Each citizen must have equal opportunities and protection under the law with reference to civil rights.

However, matters of faith, conscience, and theology are not with the purview of civil law. The first amendment to the Constitution specifically provides that ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.’

The position of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints affecting those of the Negro race who choose to join the Church falls wholly within the category of religion. It has no bearing on matters of civil rights. In no case or degree does it deny to the Negro his full privileges as a citizen of the nation.

This position has no relevancy whatever to those who do not wish to join the Church. Those individuals, we suppose, do not believe in the divine origin and nature of the Church, nor that we have the priesthood of God. Therefore, if they feel we have no [true] priesthood, they should have no concern with any aspect of our theology on priesthood so long as that theology does not deny any man his Constitutional privileges.

A word of explanation concerning the position of the Church:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints owes its origin, its existence, and its hope for the future to the principles of continuous revelation. ‘We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.’

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.               

Our living prophet, President David O. McKay, has said, ‘The seeming discrimination by the Church toward the Negro is not something which originated with man; but goes back into the beginning with God....Revelation assures us that this plan antedates man’s mortal existence extending back to man’s pre-existent state.’

President McKay has also said, ‘Sometime in God’s eternal plan, the Negro will be given the right to hold the Priesthood.’

Until God reveals His will in this matter, to him whom we sustain as Prophet, we are bound by that same will. Priesthood, when it is conferred on any man, comes as a blessing from God, not of men.

We feel nothing but love, compassion, and the deepest appreciation for the rich talents, endowments, and the earnest strivings of our Negro brothers and sisters. We are eager to share with men of all races the blessings of the Gospel. We have no racially segregated congregations.

Were we the leaders of an enterprise created by ourselves and operated only according to earthly wisdom, it would be a simple thing to act according to popular will. But we believe that this work is directed by God and that the conferring of the priesthood must await His revelation. To do otherwise would be to deny the very premise on which the Church is established. We recognize that those who do not accept the principle of modern revelation may oppose our point of view. We repeat that such would not wish for member ship in the Church, and therefore the question of priesthood should hold no interest for them. Without prejudice they should grant us the privilege afforded under the Constitution to exercise our chosen form of religion just as we must grant all others the same privilege. They must recognize that the question of bestowing or withholding priesthood in the Church is a matter of religion and not a matter of Constitutional privilege.

We extend the hand of friendship to men everywhere and the hand of fellowship to all who wish to join the Church and partake of the many rewarding opportunities to be found therein.

We join with those throughout the world who pray that all the blessings of the Gospel of Jesus Christ may in the due time of the Lord become available to men of faith everywhere. Until that time comes we must trust in God, in His wisdom and in His tender mercy.

Meanwhile we must strive to emulate His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, whose new commandment it was that we should love one another. In developing that love and concern for one another, while awaiting revelations yet to come, let us hope that with respect to these religious differences, we may gain reinforcement for understanding and appreciation for such differences. They challenge our common similarities, as children of one Father, to enlarge the outreachings of our divine souls. Faithfully your brethren,

THE FIRST PRESIDENCY”

(Statement of The First Presidency on the Position of the Church on Blacks and Civil Rights, Dec. 15, 1969)

The statement of The First Presidency basically said the following:

1. The Priesthood is a religious privilege; not a civil right. It has nothing to do with the civil-rights of a citizen of the United States.

2. If the Church is false, and has a false priesthood, one which cannot benefit anyone (blacks included), then why pressure the Church to give blacks a false priesthood?  If it is a false Priesthood, then they should not desire to have it, and should not try to pressure the Church to have a false priesthood conferred upon them. If the Church is true, then its Priesthood is true. And if both are true, then it is run by Divine Revelation, and if this is true, then the Priesthood ban is true as well. And if the Priesthood ban is true, then people shouldn’t protest against it; because it is from God and not man.

3. Blacks (and white-skinned Hamites) will eventually get the Priesthood, and all the divine blessings that accompany it, but it isn’t up to us to grant it, but it’s up to God to tell the Living Prophet that the time has come to grant it. We can’t force the LORD to make a decision,  but we must wait for His revelation; in His own due time.

After 1969 further protests against the Church were to take place. However, by about 1975, external pressures from militant and civil-rights groups had pretty much abated.

*Eldridge Cleaver: From Black Panther to Black Mormon

It is somewhat ironic, that one of the leading enemies of the Church at that time, Eldridge Cleaver, the Minister of Information of the Black Panther Party, would one day join the Church. The Black Panther Party was formed in the early 1960s by Huey Newton and his friend Eldridge Cleaver; two young black men who grew up in Oakland, California.

Oakland was a city in California founded by white Southerners. Although California was a free state, the blacks of Oakland were greatly restricted as to their rights; as opposed to other California cities. In Oakland the white folks lived in the hills overlooking the San Francisco Bay; while the black folks lived in ghettos below next to the Bay. The white folks were doctors, lawyers, businessmen, policemen, and merchants. The black folks were maids who cleaned the homes of the white folks in the hills, or who had other menial jobs in town. Huey Newton grew up in this environment, and Eldridge Cleaver moved into it as a young man from the South.

West Oakland was next to Berkeley, California; the home of the University of California; one of the most Liberal universities in the United States. This also attracted many Radicals to it; including War-protestors, and radical Feminists and black Nationalists. All of the radical activists in the United States looked to Berkeley, California, for direction and inspiration.

During the early and mid-1960s Berkeley was the home of many organizations which opposed the Vietnam war. During the 1960s and early 1970s, Berkeley became the place of many violent protests against the war, and many peaceful marches for civil rights. But, more often than not, the protests were violent.

Some of these organizations were radical, and espoused Marxist doctrines and the overthrow of the  American government. As young black men, Newton and Cleaver would walk from the ghetto of West Oakland into the diverse, colorful, and eclectic university town of Berkeley, and listen to these radical students. Newton and Cleaver later decided to form a militant organization for black youth called the Black Panther Party; which would combine Black Nationalism with Marxism. This was there response to the discrimination and injustices they saw and experienced while growing up in Oakland.

The Salt Lake Tribune reported on May 2, 1998:

“FORMER BLACK PANTHER ELDRIDGE CLEAVER DIES.

“Pomona, Calif.–Eldridge Cleaver, the fiery Black Panther leader and literary voice of the Black Power movement who later renounced his past and became a Republican, died Friday. He was 62.

***At times a convict, political candidate, environmentalist and author, Cleaver was a major figure in the turbulent civil-rights era of the 1960s.

He was one of the original Black Panthers, formed in 1966 in Oakland by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seal.

His prison-written essays on race, love and revolutionary violence, published in the book Soul on Ice [an international bestseller], became the philosophical foundation of the Black Power movement. Cleaver ran unsuccessfully for president in 1968 on the Peace and Freedom Party ticket. Following his campaign, he was ousted from the Black Panthers because of a bitter and public dispute with Newton [who later died in a drug deal gone bad–he was selling drugs to Oakland’s black youth]. He fled the country after a shootout with police in 1968. After returning to the United States in 1975, Cleaver denounced the Black Panthers and embraced anti-communism.

***

A six-year spiritual journey led Cleaver to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints....He was baptized a Mormon in 1983. Although he later became less active in the Church, he remained a supporter.” (Salt Lake City Tribune, May 2, 1998)

The writings of Eldridge Cleaver became the manifesto for the black militants and the white radicals during the 1960s. His first book, Soul on Ice, became an international bestseller, and the ‘manifesto’ for radical left-wing groups all over the U.S. and across the world. He wrote it while in prison in California.

He became an acclaimed figure internationally, and a hero and celebrity among black militants, white radicals, and Communist and Socialist governments throughout the world. 

After his release from prison he returned to Oakland, and soon became involved in a shoot-out between several Black Panthers and several Oakland Police officers. He was changed with attempted murder of a police officer. Instead of going back to jail, he fled the country. He was invited to Cuba, Algeria, and other Communist and Socialist countries; who accepted him with open arms as a hero and a freedom fighter against the ‘oppressive and white-racist Capitalist American government’. These governments treated Cleaver like a visiting Marxist hero, and they wined and dined him wherever he went.

However, once Cleaver had visited Communist countries, he discovered that there were not ‘workers’ paradises’ as Socialist propaganda claimed, but in fact more closely resembled slave-labor camps.  Over the next several years of visiting these countries, he became disillusioned with Communism altogether. Soon afterwards he claimed to be gazing at the moon, and seeing the facing of Marx, Engles, Mao Tse-Tung, Castro, and his other Communist heroes appear on the moon and then fade-away. He lost faith in them all. He also became repentant of his sins and the crimes he had committed and justified as a Black Panther. All his idols were gone, and he had a ‘born-again’ experience by accepting Jesus as his personal Savior.

In his trips in Africa he saw that the black Africans, although very poor, much poorer than African-Americans, had very little problems with drugs, or violence. He saw that they had strong families. He knew that Socialism wasn’t the answer to the problems of underprivileged African-Americans. He discovered that the solution wasn’t more social programs, but rather a return to the traditional family unit, and a faith and belief in God, the Ten Commandments, and the Afterlife. He wrote a book about his conversion from Black Nationalist Marxism to Evangelical Christianity called Soul on Fire; which major New York and secular publishers rejected, and we sold only in Christian bookstores.

After becoming a born-again Christian, and returning to the United States, he was ‘wined and dined’ by all the big televangelists. But in their ministries he saw Christianity marketed and ‘sold’  in ways  that made him sick. Rejecting multi-million dollar offers from the televangelists to start his own television ministry, he decided instead to create a Christian ministry for black prisoners. Instead of becoming rich and famous, he instead  decided to work where there was the greatest need; young black African-American males in prison. His overriding concern with improving the lot of his own people made him reject personal fame and fortune.

Somewhat like Joseph Smith Jr., he began to study the various Christian denominations, and even those some call ‘cults’. He studied all of them; in search of what he believed was pure Christianity. He studied all the Pentecostal sects, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Unification church, etc. Instead of just being satisfied with any church, or the one his father pastored, he went on a quest for true Christianity. He became a Seeker of Truth. Finally , after years of searching and prayer, he settling on the LDS Church; the very organization which he and his organization vilified and threatened with terrorism  in the late 1960s.

After joining the Church he again became vilified; by the televangelists for joining a “cult”, and by his former associates; like Huey Newton, who called him an “Uncle Tom” and a “Traitor”. Newton was later killed in a drug-deal gone bad; while he was selling drugs to the black youth of Oakland, California. Today, among most Radicals and some Liberals, Newton is considered a hero, and Cleaver a traitor.

Yet, Eldridge Cleaver did not care what the World thought of him, but what the LORD thought of him. He knew he had found the True Church, and that was enough for him.

*Alex Haley: Friend Of The Mormons

Other prominent black folks would eventually join the Church, or at least become friends of the Church; like Alex Haley, the acclaimed author of Roots and The Autobiography of Malcolm X.  Mr. Haley gave the commencement address at Brigham Young University on several occasions, and was a frequent visitor and friend of the Church’s Family History Department; the largest collection of genealogical information in the world. Millions of people visit and use its facilities each year to search their own roots. He was given an honorary doctorate degree by Brigham Young University in 1973.

*LDS Church: Negroes Are Not Inferior!

The LDS Church has said, repeatedly, over and over and over again that it did not believe or teach that black folks were ‘inferior’:

Joseph Fielding Smith (Apostle, 10th President of the Church, and grandnephew of Joseph Smith Jr.) 1962:

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

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 emphases added)

Nevertheless, because of the Priesthood ban, many people declared that the ‘Mormon Church’ was ‘racist,’‘prejudiced against black people’, ‘hated black folks’, ‘taught that black people were inferior’, ‘was worse than the KKK,’  etc. It seemed that no matter what the Church said, these exaggerations and false reports would continue; especially within the African-American Community. But black folks should have known, better than any other people, that you don’t judge a people before you find out all the facts. To do so is to pre-judge them. All racism and discrimination if based upon pre-judgment or prejudice.

*LDS Church: All Must Repent of Racist Beliefs

LDS Church leaders have also continued to admonish Members of the Church to work for the civil rights of all people everywhere, and to repent of their racism; if they had any to repent of. Mormons are supposed to believe in The Book of Mormon, which says:

“Wherefore, a commandment I give unto you, which is the word of God, that ye revile no more against them because of the darkness of their skins; neither shall ye revile against them because of their filthiness; but ye shall remember your own filthiness, and remember that their filthiness came because of their fathers.

O my brethren, I fear that unless ye shall repent of your sins that their skins will be whiter than yours, when ye shall be brought with them before the throne of God.” (Jacob 3:9-8)

Racism exists in the LDS Church not because of LDS teachings, but in spite of it. The Church also teaches that we must be morally clean, but some Members ignore this. It teaches we should not drink alcohol or use tobacco. But some Members ignore this. It teaches that we should be faithful to our wives and husbands, and not commit adultery or abuse them, but some Members ignore this. It teaches that homosexuality is a sin, but some Members ignore this. It teaches that we should be chaste, and not have sexual relations before marriage, but some Members ignore this. It teaches that we should be totally honest in our business practices and in all our affairs with God and our fellow man, but some Members ignore this. It teaches that we should not abort children in the womb unless a woman’s life is in danger, but some Members ignore this.

It teaches that we should treat all men and women the same, no matter their race, social status, education, ability, or nationality, but some Members ignore this.

Although racism exists everywhere, including in the LDS Church, black Members and converts will find that the vast great majority of white Latter-day Saints will treat them with respect, and will treat them as brothers and sisters in the LORD.

Mormons have a saying: “The Church is a hospital for sinners, and not a rest home for Saints!” This means that we are all striving, and we all have sins and weaknesses. Latter-day Saints are not commanded to give ‘an eye for an eye’, but ‘to return good for evil’. If a person insults us, prejudges us, or offends us, we are supposed to turn the other cheek, and show them love; in the hopes that our actions will inspired them to repent and turn from their evil.

*The LDS Afro-American Oral History Project

During the mid-1980s Alan Cherry, a black Latter-day Saint, traveled around the country interviewing other black Mormons as part of a study of black saints in the Church called the LDS African-American Oral History Project. The interviews were recorded on cassette tapes, and many of them were published in a book. Cherry also did a number of surveys during his interviews; which were also published. In response to the question “Have you ever experienced outright prejudice from white Members?” the response was:

Very often  4%

Sometimes  13.1%

Very Seldom  21.2%

Never  43.9%

(Black Saints in a White Church, p.145)

Cherry asked other questions. He asked if white Mormons accepted black Mormons in their wards (congregations), and here are some typical replies:

Linda Williams

“I see no discrimination with blacks and the whites in the Church. I pretty much believe that we all believe we are brothers and sisters.” ( p.128)

Donald L. Harwell

“Most [white] Latter-day Saints do not care about race. [But] there are always that 10 percent. Once in awhile you can feel it.” (Black Saints, p.142)

Delphrine Young

“[Being around] a white Latter-day Saint is just like going around your brothers and sisters....They are not bigoted people....Every time they see you, you are Brother Young....They do not have any racial prejudice. At least I have not met a prejudiced Latter-day Saint yet. ( p.145)

Benjamin Washington

“There is no color as far as I am concerned....All the ones that I have come into contact with treat you just as they are your brothers and sisters....They are just wonderful people.” ( p.145)

Jerry Willis (former AME minister)

“From Utah, to California, to here [St. Louis], I’ve had no problems, ill feelings, or discrimination that I can identify with....I felt day one that I belonged.”  ( p.145)

Virginia Johnson (who for many years considered the Mormon Church ‘racist’)

“I just feel natural there [at Church]. I feel like I have been there forever.” ( p.145)

Of course, if some black converts felt there was a lot of discrimination and prejudice in the Church, they would not have remained in it, and would not have been part of this study. Yet, for many active black Mormons, how they overcame the shock of the Priesthood ban and Curse of Cain doctrine is similar to the story of Bryan Powell of Suitland, Maryland. When he first heard of the Priesthood ban, Brother Powell questioned whether the Church could be of God, but he accepted an invitation from the missionaries to pray and ask God about it instead of relying upon his own powers of reason. Powell accepted, and later said:

“I miraculously got a personal revelation that the Prophet Joseph Smith was indeed a prophet of God and this Church true. It defied all my logical reasoning. And from my personal experience, I’ve been able to advance in the Priesthood. I’ve been able to share the blessings of the Temple for me and my family and I’ve seen a change in our lives that goes beyond my own understanding; and I owe it to the gospel of Jesus Christ.” (Deseret News Archives, May 24, 1998)

Another such story was that of William T. Johnson. He knew nothing of Mormons until he read a newspaper in 1978 about the Revelation which granted the Priesthood to blacks and other Hamites. The story upset him. He thought it was a great insult to black people to grant them a Priesthood which they had been restricted from. He thought it racist. He couldn’t understand why any black person would want to become a Mormon.  Yet, several years later, after reading The Book of Mormon and receiving a confirmation from the Holy Spirit that it was true, he was baptized into the Church and became a faithful Mormon. (Oral History 7, in Black Saints in a White Church).

*The Story of Alan Cherry

Alan Cherry was born and raised in New York City. In 1966 he joined the U.S. Air Force, and was stationed in Abilene, Texas. He beheld the segregation of Abilene, and the immorality of many soldiers around him. The Vietnam War was raging. Life itself seemed useless and vain. He began to read the Bible and study philosophy. He became a Seeker of Truth. He prayed to God to known ‘absolute Truth’. Soon afterwards he came across a pamphlet by Mormon Apostle Mark E. Peterson: Which Church is Right? Cherry read the pamphlet. Soon after that he came across a Reader’s Digest article on the Mormons; which included a mention that Negroes could not hold the Priesthood. Although shaken, he continued to pray, and soon felt that the Church was true. He contacted the Church in Abilene and requested the missionaries. As soon as they came he told them:

“I already know the doctrine of Negroes and the Priesthood.” (Black Saints, p.51)

Cherry was baptized on 9 May 1968, at age 22. He enrolled at Brigham Young University once he completed his Air Force enlistment in 1969. He later started an acting career.  From 1968 to 1978 he remained in the Church; often working with white Mormon performers. In 1970 he wrote It’s You and Me, Lord!; his experiences as a black Mormon. He remarked about the Priesthood~ban thusly:

“I guess when it all comes out in the end the important thing in God’s Kingdom will not be who leads us there, but simply who gets there.” (It’s You and Me, Lord!, p.38)

Following the 1978 Revelation, he was ordained an Elder, and soon after that accepted a call to serve as a missionary in the California Oakland Mission.

In 1985 he was asked by Jessie L. Embry, of BYU, to conduct interviews nationwide for the LDS African-American Oral History Project. One of the black Mormons he interviewed was Janice Barkum of Gulfport, Mississippi; whom he later married in the Salt Lake City Temple.


Please feel free to e-mail Darrick Evenson

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