(This article originally appeared in The Salt Lake City Messenger, Issue No. 41, December 1979)
"From the days of the Prophet Joseph even until now, it has been the doctrine of the Church, never questioned by any of the Church leaders, that the Negroes are not entitled to the full blessings of the Gospel." (Letter from the First Presidency, quoted in Mormonism and the Negro, by John J. Stewart and William E. Berrett, pp.46-47)
Bruce R. McConkie, who now serves as an Apostle in the Mormon Church, wrote the following in a book published in 1958:
Negroes in this life are denied the priesthood; under no circumstances can they hold this delegation of authority from the Almighty. The gospel message of salvation is not carried affirmatively to them...
"Negroes are not equal with other races where the receipt of certain spiritual blessings are concerned..." (Mormon Doctrine, 1958, page 477)
In the July 1978 issue of the Salt Lake City Messenger we pointed out that in the past Mormon leaders have taught that the doctrine could not be changed. President Brigham Young, for instance, emphatically affirmed that blacks could not hold the Priesthood until AFTER the resurrection:
"Cain slew his brother... and the Lord put a mark upon him, which is the flat nose and black skin.. ..How long is that race to endure the dreadful curse that is upon them? That curse will remain upon them, and they never can hold the Priesthood or share in it until all the other descendants of Adam have received the promises and enjoyed the blessings of the Priesthood and the keys thereof. Until the last ones of the residue of Adam's children are brought up to that favourable position, the children of Cain cannot receive the first ordinances of the Priesthood." (Journal of Discourses, Vol.7, pp. 290-291)
"When all the other children of Adam have had the privilege of receiving the Priesthood, and of coming into the kingdom of God, and of being redeemed from the four quarters of the earth, and have received their resurrection from the dead, then it will be time enough to remove the curse from Cain and his posterity... he is the last to share the joys of the kingdom of God." (Ibid., Vol. 2, page 143)
The First Presidency of the Church reaffirmed Brigham Young's teaching in 1949 (see Mormonism and the Negro, Part 2, p. 16), and in 1967, N. Eldon Tanner, was quoted as saying:
"'The church has no intention of changing its doctrine on the Negro,' N. Eldon Tanner, counselor to the First President told SEATTLE during his recent visit here. 'Throughout the history of the original Christian church, the Negro never held the priesthood. There's really nothing we can do to change this. It's a law of God.'" (Seattle Magazine, December 1967, p. 60)
The Mormon apologist John L. Lund wrote the following:
"Brigham Young revealed that the Negroes will not receive the Priesthood until a great while after the second advent of Jesus Christ,.. our present prophets are in complete agreement with Brigham Young and other past leaders on the question of the Negro and the Priesthood....
"Social pressure and even government sanctions cannot be expected to bring forth a new revelation... all the social pressure in the world will not change what the Lord has decreed to be....
"The prophets have declared that there are at least two major stipulations that have to be met before the Negroes will be allowed to possess the Priesthood. The first requirement relates to time. The Negroes will not be allowed to hold the Priesthood during mortality, in fact, not until after the resurrection of all of Adam's children. The other stipulation requires that Abel's seed receive the first opportunity of having the Priesthood... Negroes must first pass through mortality before they may possess the Priesthood ('they will go down to death'). Reference is also made to the condition that the Negroes will have to wait until after the resurrection of all of Adam's children before receiving the Priesthood... the last of Adam's children will not be resurrected until the end of the millennium. Therefore, the Negroes will not receive the Priesthood until after that time... this will not happen until after the thousand years of Christ's reign on earth....
"The second major stipulation that needs to be met.. is the requirement that Abel's seed receive the opportunity of holding the Priesthood first." (The Church and the Negro, 1967, pp. 45-48)
Because Church leaders stressed for over a hundred years that blacks would never be able to hold the Priesthood DURING MORTALITY, the Mormon people were surprised when they learned of the death of the anti-black doctrine. They were aware of the fact that the change tended to undermine the concept that they were led by a "living prophet" who could not yield to the pressures of the world. Even though most Mormons claim they are happy with the doctrinal change regarding blacks, there is evidence that the "revelation" came as a real shock. A class at Brigham Young University which conducted a "random telephone survey" of Utah County residents found that 79 percent of those interviewed did not expect a change at this time. Furthermore, many people compared the news to an announcement of some kind of disaster or death:
"Some 45 percent of those who heard of the doctrine from personal sources expressed doubt that the news was true. This compares with only 25 percent of those who learned from media sources. Sixty-two percent of the former group expressed shock, compared with 52 percent of the latter....
"Those surveyed appeared surprised by the announcement, Haroldsen said. Thirty-nine percent said they did not think 'it would ever happen'--that the priesthood would ever be given to blacks.
"Another 40 percent expected it years in the future, after Christ's return, during the Millennium, or 'not in my lifetime.'...
"In trying to explain how they reacted to the news, 14 persons compared its impact with that of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Another 13 compared it to the news of the death of an LDS Church president. Eight compared it to a natural disaster, especially the Teton dam break.
"Others compared the news with the death of a family member or friend, with a declaration of war, or other major political event." (The Daily Universe, June 22, 1978)
The Mormon people apparently realized the deep doctrinal implications this change involved, and therefore they associated it with death or disaster. IF THEY WERE REALLY PLEASED WITH THE CHANGE, WHY DID THEY NOT RELATE IT WITH A HAPPY EVENT LIKE MARRIAGE, THE BIRTH OF A CHILD OR THE END OF A WAR? We feel that this survey unwittingly reveals what Church members really thought of the change.
The reader will remember that when the public began to find out the real truth about Watergate, President Nixon's press secretary Ron Ziegler said that statements which had previously been made were now "inoperative." What he really meant, of course, was that the past denials were untrue. Like the early statements concerning Watergate, the pronouncements and revelations that Mormon leaders used to support the anti-black doctrine have now become "inoperative." Although he did not use this word, the Apostle Bruce R. McConkie recently conceded that the old teachings concerning blacks were given "without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world":
"I would like to say something about the new revelation relative to our taking the priesthood to those of all nations and races.... There are statements in our literature by the early brethren which we have interpreted to mean that the Negroes would not receive the priesthood in mortality. I have said the same things, and people write me letters and say, 'You said such and such, and how is it now that we do such and such? And all I can say to that is that it is time disbelieving people repented and got in line and believed in a living, modern prophet. Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or President George Q. Cannon or whomsoever has said in days past that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world.
"We get our truth and our light line upon line and precept upon precept. We have now had added a new flood of intelligence and light on this particular subject, and it erases all the darkness and all the views and all the thoughts of the past. They don't matter any more.
"It doesn't make a particle of difference what anybody ever said about the Negro matter before the first day of June of this year (1978). It is a new day and a new arrangement, and the Lord has now given the revelation that sheds light into the world on this subject. As to any slivers of light or any particles of darkness of the past, we forget about them." ("All Are Alike Unto God," by Apostle Bruce R. McConkie of the Council of the Twelve, pp. 1-2)
Because of the new revelation concerning blacks, Bruce R. McConkie has had to make a number of changes in his "best seller", Mormon Doctrine. This is not the first time that Apostle McConkie has been forced to revise his book. The original 1958 edition was suppressed because it contained anti-Catholic material (see The Case Against Mormonism, Vol. 1, pages 8-9). When a new edition appeared in 1966, Apostle McConkie wrote that "experience has shown the wisdom of making some changes, clarifications, and additions." At any rate, when the "25th Printing" of Apostle McConkie's book appeared in 1979, the majority of the anti-black material was deleted or changed. For instance, the section on "NEGROES" (pp. 526-28 of the new printing) was completely rewritten and no longer contains McConkie's statement that "Negroes are not equal with other races where the receipt of certain spiritual blessings are concerned..." Nor does it contain McConkie's long explanation of how blacks were "less valiant" in the pre-existence and therefore had "spiritual restrictions imposed upon them during mortality..." In another section, RACES OF MEN, McConkie originally wrote:
"We know the circumstances under which the posterity of Cain (and later of Ham) were cursed with what we call negroid racial characteristics." (Mormon Doctrine, 1958, page 554)
This has been softened to read:
"We know the circumstances under which the posterity of Cain (and later of Ham) were born with the characteristics of the black race." (Mormon Doctrine, 1979, page 616)
In the 1958 edition, page 314, Apostle McConkie had written that "Negroes are thus descendants of Ham, who himself also was cursed, apparently for marrying into the forbidden lineage." This was shortened to: "Ham was cursed, apparently for marrying into the forbidden lineage,..." (1979 printing, page 343)
On page 102 of the 1958 printing, Apostle MeConkie wrote the following:
"As a result of his rebellion, Cain was cursed with a dark skin; he became the father of the Negroes, and those spirits who are not worthy to receive the priesthood are born through his lineage. He became the first mortal to be cursed as a son of perdition."
In the 1979 printing of McConkie's book, page 109, this has been changed to read:
"As a result of his rebellion, Cain was cursed and told that 'the earth' would not thereafter yield him its abundance as previously. In addition he became the first mortal to be cursed as a son of perdition."
The reader will notice that Apostle McConkie has changed the statement so that it no longer reads that "Negroes' are cursed with a black skin. In the 1979 printing McConkie does go on to talk of the "dark skin", but he calls it a "mark" rather than a "curse": "The Lord placed on Cain a mark of a dark skin, and he became the ancestor of the black race."
Although we believe that Apostle McConkie has the right to change his own writings, we feel that these changes tend to undermine his claim to have "all of the keys of the kingdom of God on earth." (Mormon Doctrine, 1979 printing, page 45). In any case, we feel that McConkie's book may have to undergo even more revision. Although he apparently tried to remove all material unfavorable to blacks, he seems to have missed the following in his section entitled, CASTE SYSTEM:
"However, in a broad general sense, caste systems have their root and origin in the gospel itself, and when they operate according to the divine decree, the resultant restrictions and segregation are right and proper and have the approval of the Lord. To illustrate; Cain, Ham, and the whole negro race have been cursed with a black skin, the mark of Cain, so they can be identified as a caste apart, a people with whom the other descendants of Adam should not intermarry." (Mormon Doctrine, 1979, page 114)
In The July 1978 issue of the Salt Lake City Messenger we observed: "One thing that should be noted about the new revelation is that the Church has failed to produce a copy of it. All we have is a statement by the First Presidency which says a revelation was received." We went on to say that we "seriously doubt that President Kimball will put forth a written revelation on the bestowal of priesthood on blacks. We doubt in fact, that any such document exists. What probably happened was that the leaders of the Church finally realized that they could no longer retain the anti-black doctrine without doing irreparable damage to the Church. Under these circumstances they were impressed with the fact that the doctrine had to be changed and this impression was referred to as a revelation from God. In a letter to the Editor of the Salt Lake Tribune, June 24, 1978, Eugene Wagner observed '...was this change of doctrine really a revelation from the Lord, or did the church leaders act on their own? Why don't they publish that revelation and let the Lord speak in his own words? All we saw was a statement of the First Presidency, and that is not how a revelation looks.
'When God speaks the revelation starts with the words: "Thus sayeth the Lord...' It seems when the Lord decides to change a doctrine of such great importance he will talk himself to the people of his church. If such a revelation cannot be presented to the members it is obvious that the first presidency acted on its own, most likely under fear of public pressure to avoid problems of serious consequences and to maintain peace and popularity with the world.'"
At the 148th Semiannual Conference of the Mormon Church, members of the church were asked to "accept this revelation as the word and will of the Lord," but the only document presented to the people was the letter of the First Presidency, dated June 8, 1978 (see The Ensign, Nov. 1978, p. 16).
On June 2, 1979 the Church Section of the Deseret News announced that "The statement of the First Presidency telling of the revelation extending the priesthood to 'all worthy male members of the Church' released June 9, 1978, will also he added to the Doctrine and Covenants." The reader will notice that it is only the "statement.. telling of the revelation" that will be added to the Doctrine and Covenants.
Some Mormons have put forth the rumor that the power of God was manifested as on the day of Pentecost when President Kimball gave the "revelation." Kimball himself seems to be trying to dispel this idea. The following statement about the "revelation" appeared in Time on August 7, 1978, p. 55: "In other renditions it came complete with a visitation from Joseph Smith... In an interview, his first since the announcement, Kimball described it much more matter of factly to Time staff writer Richard Ostling: 'I spent a good deal of time in the temple alone, praying for guidance, and there was a gradual and general development of the whole program, in connection with the Apostles.'"
For some time after the anti-black doctrine was changed, Mormon leaders were reluctant to inform their own people of the details surrounding the giving of the "revelation." Finally, six months after the event, the Church News staff asked President Kimball if he would "care to share with the readers of the church news any more of the circumstances under which that was given?" President Kimball's answer is very revealing. He makes no reference to a voice or any written revelation. In fact, his statement gives the impression that it was only a feeling or an assurance that he received:
"President:...It went on for some time as I was searching for this, because I wanted to be sure. We held a meeting of the Council of the Twelve in the temple on the regular day. We considered this very seriously and thoughtfully and prayerfully.
"'I asked the Twelve not to go home when the time came. I said, 'now would you be willing to remain in the temple with us?' And they were. I offered the final prayer and I told the Lord if it wasn't right, if He didn't want this change to come in the Church that I would he true to it all the rest of my life, and I'd fight the world against it if that's what He wanted.
"We had this special prayer circle, then I knew that the time had come. I had a great deal to fight, of course, myself largely, because I had grown up with this thought that Negroes should not have the priesthood and I was prepared to go all the rest of my life till my death and fight for it and defend it as it was. But this revelation and assurance came to me so clearly that there was no question about it." (Deseret News, Church Section, January 6, 1979, page 19)
In his speech, "All Are Alike Unto God," pages 2-3, Apostle Bruce . McConkie told how the "revelation" was received. His description indicates that there was no spoken or written revelation--only a very good "feeling":
"The result was that President Kimball knew, and each one of us knew, independent of any other person, by direct and personal revelation to us, that the time had now come to extend the gospel and all its blessings...to those of every nation,...including the black race....it was a revelation of such tremendous significance and import; one which would reverse the whole direction of the Church,...The Lord could have sent messengers from the other side to deliver it, but he did not. He gave the revelation by the power of the Holy Ghost. Latter-day Saints have a complex: many of them desire to magnify and build upon what has occurred, and they delight to think of miraculous things. And maybe some of them would like to believe that the Lord himself was there, or that the Prophet Joseph Smith came to deliver the revelation...which was one of the possibilities. Well, these things did not happen. The stories that go around to the contrary are not factual or realistic or true,...I cannot describe in words what happened; I can only say that it happened and that it can be known and understood only by the feeling that can come into the heart of man. You cannot describe a testimony to someone."
Because of the circumstances under which the revelation on blacks came, many people have referred to it as "a revelation of convenience." We may never know all the details which led President Kimball to seek this revelation, but it is obvious that it was the result of pressure from many sources. In the July 1978 issue of the Messenger we pointed out that the Church was faced with an almost impossible situation in Brazil where so many of its members had black ancestry. Since that time we have learned from a source within the Church that Church leaders were very concerned that they were going to lose their tax exempt status on property they own in the United States. In the months just prior to the revelation, Church leaders were carefully watching developments in a case in Wisconsin in which an organization was about to lose its tax exempt status because of racial discrimination. The Church leaders finally became convinced that the tide was turning against them and that they would lose their tax exempt status in Wisconsin and eventually throughout the United States because of their doctrine of discrimination against blacks. This was probably only one of many factors which entered into the decision to admit blacks into the priesthood, but it may very well have been the "straw that broke the camel's back."
(This article originally appeared in The Salt Lake City Messenger, Issue No. 39, July 1978)
Bruce R. McConkie, who now serves as an Apostle in the Mormon Church, made these remarks concerning blacks in his book Mormon Doctrine:
"Negroes in this life are denied the Priesthood; under no circumstances can they hold this delegation of authority from the Almighty. (Abra. 1:20-27.) The gospel message of salvation is not carried affirmatively to them... negroes are not equal with other races where the receipt of certain spiritual blessings are concerned, particularly the priesthood and the temple blessings that flow therefrom, but this inequality is not of man's origin. It is the Lord's doing, is based an his eternal laws of justice, and grows out of the lack of Spiritual valiance of those concerned in their first estate." (Mormon Doctrine, 1966, pp. 527-528)
"However, in a broad general sense, caste systems have their root and origin in the gospel itself, and when they operate according to the divine decree, the resultant restrictions and segregation are right and proper and have the approval of the Lord. To illustrate: Cain, Ham, and the whole negro race have been cursed with a black skin, the mark of Cain, so they can be identified as a caste apart, a people with whom the other descendants of Adam should not intermarry." (Ibid., p. 114)
Because of these teachings the Los Angeles Times for August 27, 1967 referred to the Mormon Church as "one of the few uncracked fortresses of discrimination." For eleven more years the Latter-day Saints continued to cling to a policy of discrimination. Church leaders claimed that the doctrine could only be changed by revelation from God. Finally, on June 9,1978 the Mormon Church's Deseret News carried a startling announcement by the First Presidency which said that a new revelation had been given and that blacks would be allowed to hold the priesthood:
"...we have pleaded long and earnestly in behalf of these, our faithful brethren, spending many hours in the upper room of the Temple supplicating the Lord for divine guidance.
"He has heard our prayers, and by revelation has confirmed that the long-promised day has come when every faithful, worthy man in the church may receive the holy priesthood, with power to exercise its divine authority, and enjoy with his loved ones every blessing that flows therefrom, including the blessings of the temple. Accordingly, all worthy male members of the church may be ordained to the priesthood without regard for race or color." (Deseret News, June 9, 1978, page 1A)
Since we have probably printed more material critical of the Mormon anti-black doctrine than any other publisher, the new revelation comes as a great victory and a vindication of our work. We printed our first criticism of this doctrine in 1959. This was certainly not a popular cause to espouse in those days. (In fact, at one time a Mormon threatened to punch Sandra in the nose over the issue.) In November 1965 we published a Messenger which showed that a black man named Elijah Abel held the priesthood: in the early Mormon Church and that his descendants, who now pass as "whites," are still being ordained to the priesthood. This was an absolute contradiction to the doctrine taught by the Mormon leaders. Apostle Mark E. Petersen said that "If there is one drop of Negro blood in my children, as I have read to you, they receive the curse." (Race Problems--As They Affect The Church, page 7) The Church was never able to refute the serious accusation about Abel's descendants holding the priesthood, and this undoubtedly destroyed many Mormon's faith in the doctrine concerning blacks. For more information an this matter see Mormonism--Shadow or Reality? pages 267-272.
In 1967 the original papyrus from which Joseph Smith "translated" the Book of Abraham was rediscovered. Immediately after the papyrus came to light we began publishing material which showed that Joseph Smith was completely mistaken in his purported translation. The papyrus was in reality a copy of the Egyptian Book of Breathings, a pagan text that had absolutely nothing to do with Abraham or his religion. Since the Book of Abraham was the real source of the Church's teaching that blacks could not hold the priesthood, we called upon the Mormon leaders to "repudiate the Book of Abraham and renounce the anti-Negro doctrine contained in its pages." (Salt Lake City Messenger, March, 1966) For a complete treatment of the subject see Mormonism--Shadow or Reality? pp. 294-369.
The translation of the papyrus by noted Egyptologists caused many of the intellectual Mormons to lose faith in Joseph Smith's work and consequently the Church's anti-black doctrine began to be more openly criticized by members of the Church. Some were even excommunicated because of their opposition to the Church's position.
Those of us who have criticized the Mormon Church for its racial teachings have been ridiculed for attempting to change the doctrine. Mormon apologist Armand L. Mauss wrote: "My plea, then to the civil rights organizations and to all the critics of the Mormon Church is: get off our backs! ... agitation aver the 'Negro issue' by non-Mormon groups, or even by Mormon liberals, is likely simply to increase the resistance to change." (Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Winter 1967, pp. 38-39)
John L. Lund said that "Those who believe that the Church 'gave in' on the polygamy issue and subsequently should give in on the Negro question are not only misinformed about Church History, but are apparently unaware of Church doctrine.... Therefore, those who hope that pressure will bring about a revelation need to take a closer look at Mormon history and the order of heaven. (The Church and the Negro, 1967, pp. 104-5)
On page 109 of the same book, Mr. Lund emphasized that "Those who would try to pressure the Prophet to give the Negroes the Priesthood do not understand the plan of God nor the order of heaven. Revelation is the expressed will of God to man. Revelation is not man's will expressed to God. All the social, political, and governmental pressure in the world is not going to change what God has decreed to be."
When Stewart Udall, a noted Mormon, came out against the Church's anti-black doctrine, Paul C. Richards responded: "The Church is either true or it isn't. If it changes its stand on the strength of the 'great stream of modern religious and social thought,' it will be proven untrue. If that happens, the more serious members would do well to join the Cub Scouts. It's cheaper and there is less work and less criticism....
"If the Church is true it will hold to its beliefs in spite of its members. If it is false, more power to the easy-way-out philosophers who claim to know the 'imperious truths of the contemporary world." (Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Autumn 1967, page 6)
In the Salt Lake City Messenger for March 1970, we commented: "The Lord plainly reveals to us, as he did to Peter many years ago, that 'GOD IS NO RESPECTER OF PERSONS' (Acts 10:34). To accept the anti-Negro doctrine is to deny the spirit of revelation. If we allow others to do our thinking on this vital issue it could lead to violence or bloodshed. Be cause we felt that it was not right to put our trust in man, we separated our selves from the Mormon Church."
As early as 1963 we printed a sheet entitled, "WILL THERE BE A REVELATION REGARDING THE NEGRO?" At the bottom of this sheet we predicted: "If the pressure continues to increase on the Negro question the leaders of the Mormon Church will probably have another revelation which will allow the Negro to hold the priesthood." In Mormonism--Shadow or Reality? pp. 291-292, we pointed out:
"If the Mormon Church should decide to change its policy and allow Negroes to hold the priesthood, it will not be the first time that Mormon doctrine has been revised to fit a changing world.
"Twenty-five years before the Mormon Church gave up the practice of polygamy they were declaring that no such change could be made ln the Millennial Star, Oct. 28, 1865, the following appeared: 'We have shown that in requiring the relinquishment of polygamy, they ask the renunciation of the ENTIRE FAITH of this people....
'There is no half way house. THE CHILDISH BABBLE ABOUT ANOTHER REVELATION IS ONLY AN EVIDENCE HOW HALF INFORMED MEN CAN TALK.'
"As the pressure increased against polygamy, Wilford Woodruff issue the Manifesto (now claimed to be a revelation) which suspended the practice of polygamy."
We feel that the Mormon Church's change on the doctrine concerning blacks is a very good move because it will undoubtedly help blacks obtain equality in Utah and will probably prevent much bloodshed and trouble. Nevertheless, we must point out that Brigham Young and other leaders have been misrepresented in order to make the change palatable to the Mormon people. For instance, the Church's Deseret News would have us believe that the change was a fulfillment of a prophecy uttered by Brigham Young, the second President of the Church:
"The announcement Friday fulfilled statements made by most LDS Church presidents since Joseph Smith that blacks would one day obtain the full blessings of the church, including the priesthood.
"Speaking against slavery, Brigham Young once told the Utah Legislature, '...the the [sic] day will come when all that race (Blacks) will be redeemed and possess all the blessings which we now have.'" Deseret News, June 10, 1978, p. 1A)
While it is true that Brigham Young believed that blacks would eventually receive the priesthood, he made it clear that this was not to happen until AFTER the resurrection. The context of the speech which the Deseret News cites reveals that Brigham Young believed it would be a sin for the Church to give blacks the priesthood before the "last of the posterity of Able" had received it. He went on to say that if the Church gave "all the blessings of God" to the blacks prematurely, the priesthood would be taken away and the Church would go to destruction. This address is preserved in the Church Historical Department. Michael Marquardt has provided a typed copy which retains the spelling errors of the original. We extract the following from Brigham Young's speech:
"What is that mark? you will see it on the countenance of every African you ever did see upon the face of the earth,...the Lord told Cain that he should not receive the blessings of the preisthood nor his seed, until the last of the posterity of Able had received the preisthood, until the redemtion of the earth. If there never was a prophet, or apostle of Jesus Christ spoke it before, I tell you, this people that are commonly called negroes are the children of old Cain.... they cannot bear rule in the preisthood, for the curse on them was to remain upon them, until the resedue of the posterity of Michal and his wife receive the blessings,... until the times of the restitution shall come,... Then Cain's seed will be had in remembrance, and the time come when that curse should be wiped off....
"I am as much oposed to the principle of slavery as any man in the present acceptation or usage of the term, it is abused. I am opposed to abuseing that which God has decreed, to take a blessing, and make a curse of it. It is a great blessing to the seed of Adam to have the seed of Cain for servants,...Let this Church which is called the kingdom of God on the earth; we will sommons the first presidency, the twelve, the high counsel, the Bishoprick, and all the elders of Isreal, suppose we summons them to apear here, and here declare that it is right to mingle our seed, with theblack race of Cain, that they shall came in with with us and be pertakers with us of all the blessings God has given to us. On that very day, and hour we should do so, the preisthood is taken from this Church and kingdom and God leaves us to our fate. The moment we consent to mingle with the seed of Cain the Church must go to desstruction,-- we should receive the curse which has been placed upon the seed of Cain, and never more be numbered with the children of Adam who are heirs to the priesthood untill that curse be removed." (Brigham Young Addresses, Ms d 1234, Box 48, folder 3, dated Feb. 5, 1852, located in the LDS Church Historical Dept.)
The Mormon people are now faced with a serious dilemma; if they really believe Brigham Young was a prophet, then it follows from his statement that the Church has lost the priesthood, been put under "the curse" and is going to destruction! In spite of Brigham Young's emphatic warning against giving blacks "all the blessings God has given us," the present leaders have announced that blacks will now receive "all of the privileges and blessings which the gospel affords." (Deseret News, June 9,1978)
After the First Presidency made their statement, many people became confused over the Church's position on interracial marriage. It soon became apparent, however, that the Church's ban on marriage to blacks had been lifted. Joseph Freeman, the first black man ordained to the priesthood after the change, indicated that he wanted to be sealed in the Temple to his wife who was not of African descent. Church spokesman Don LeFevre said that such a marriage would be possible and that although the Church did not encourage interracial marriage, there was no longer a ban on whites marrying blacks:
"That is entirely possible, said Mr. LeFevre....'So there is no ban on interracial marriage.
"'If a black partner contemplating marriage is worthy of going to the Temple, nobody's going to stop him--if he's marrying a white, an Oriental...if he's ready to go to the Temple, obviously he may go with the blessings of the church."' (Salt Lake Tribune, June 14, 1978)
On June 24, 1978 the Tribune announced that "Joseph Freeman, 26, the first black man to gain the priesthood in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Friday went in the Salt Lake Temple with his wife and 5 sons for sacred ordinances...Thomas S. Monson, member of the church's Quorum of Twelve Apostles, conducted the marriage and sealing ceremonies [sic]."
In allowing temple marriages between blacks and whites, the Church is completely disregarding what President Brigham Young referred to as "the law of God":
"Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot, This will always be so." (Journal of Discourses, Vol.10, page 110)
The reader will notice that Brigham Young said that this "Law of God" could never be changed. In 1967 the Mormon writer John L. Lund made these comments about Brigham Young's statement:
"Brigham Young made a very strong statement on this matter when he said, '...Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the CHOSEN SEED mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so.' God has commanded Israel not to intermarry. To go against this commandment of God would be to sin. Those who willfully sin with their eyes open to this wrong will not be surprised to find that they will be separated from the presence of God in the world to come. This is spiritual death.... It does not matter if they are one-sixth Negro or one-one hundred and sixth, the curse of no Priesthood is still the same.... To intermarry with a Negro is to forfeit a 'Nation of Priesthood holders."' (The Church and the Negro, 1967, pp. 54-55)
The Church Section of the Deseret News for June 17, 1978 says that "Former presidents of the Church have spoken of the day when the blessings of the priesthood would come to the blacks." A quotation from a sermon by Brigham Young which appeared in the Journal of Discourses, Vol.7, is cited, but when we go to the original book we find that it has been taken out of context, In this sermon Brigham Young plainly taught that blacks could not receive the priesthood until all of Adam's other children receive it:
"Cain slew his brother....and the Lord put a mark upon him, which is the flat nose and black skin....How long is that race to endure the dreadful curse that is upon them? That curse will remain upon them, and they never can hold the Priesthood or share in it until all the other descendants of Adam have received the promises and enjoyed the blessings of the Priesthood and the keys thereof. Until the last ones of the residue of Adam's children are brought up to that favorable position, the children of Cain cannot receive the first ordinances of the Priesthood. They were the first that were cursed, and they will be the last from whom the curse will be removed, When the residue of the family of Adam come up and receive their blessings, then the curse will be removed from the seed of Cain, and they will receive blessings in like proportion." (Journal of Discourses, Vol.7, pp. 290-291)
Brigham Young also taught this doctrine in other published sermons:
"When all the other children of Adam have had the privilege of receiving the Priesthood, and of coming into the kingdom of God, and of being redeemed from the four quarters of the earth, and have received their resurrection from the dead, then it will be time enough to remove the curse from Cain and his posterity....he is the last to share the joys of the kingdom of God." (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 2, page 143)
"And when all the rest of the children have received their blessings in the Holy Priesthood, then that curse will be removed from the seed of Cain, and they will then come up and possess the priesthood, and receive all the blessings which we now are entitled to." (Ibid., Vol. II, page 272)
In 1949 the First Presidency of the Mormon Church issued a statement in which they cited Brigham Young's teaching that blacks cannot receive the priesthood until after the resurrection:
"The prophets of the Lord have made several statements...President Brigham Young said: '...They will go down to death. And when all the rest of the children have received their blessings in the holy priesthood, then that curse will be removed from the seed of Cain, and they will then come up and possess the priesthood,...'" (Statement by the First Presidency, as cited in Mormonism and the Negro, by John J. Stewart and William E. Berrett, 1960, Part 2, page 16)
Joseph Fielding Smith, who served as the tenth President of the Mormon Church in the early 1970's, taught that blacks would never hold the priesthood as long as "time endures":
"Not only was Cain called upon to suffer, but because of his wickedness he became the father of an inferior race. A curse was placed upon him and that curse has been continued through his lineage and must do so while time endures. Millions of souls have come into this world cursed with a black skin and have been denied the privilege of Priesthood and the fullness of the blessings of the Gospel....they have been made to feel their inferiority and have been separated from the rest of mankind from the beginning." (The Way To Perfection, 1935, page 101)
In his book Answers To Gospel Questions, Vol. 2, p.188, Joseph Fielding Smith said that the bestowal of priesthood on blacks was "in the far distant future," and in a meeting held in Barratt Hall on October 11, 1958, he commented that "the Lord will, in due time, remove the restrictions. Not in this world but the time will come,..." (Mormonism--Shadow or Reality? p. 586)
N. Eldon Tanner, a member of the First Presidency who finally signed the statement granting blacks the Priesthood, was completely opposed to the idea in 1967:
"'The church has no intention of changing its doctrine on the Negro,' N. Eldon Tanner, counselor to the First President told SEATTLE during his recent visit here. 'Throughout the history of the original Christian church, the Negro never held the priesthood. There's really nothing we can do to change this. It's a law of God.'" (Seattle Magazine, December 1967, p, 60)
Mormon writer John L. Lund claimed that if the President of the Mormon Church gave a revelation that blacks were to hold the priesthood, members of the Church would accept it, but he emphasized that such a revelation would not be forthcoming because the "present prophets are in complete agreement with Brigham Young and other past leaders on the question of the Negro and the Priesthood":
"Brigham Young revealed that the Negroes will not receive the Priesthood until a great while after the second advent of Jesus Christ whose coming will usher in a millennium of peace.
"In view of what President Young and others have said, it would be foolish indeed to give anyone the false idea that a new revelation is immediately forthcoming on the issue of the Negroes receiving the Priesthood....our present prophets are in complete agreement with Brigham Young and other past leaders on the question of the Negro and the Priesthood. President Mc Kay was asked by a news reporter at the dedication of the Oakland Temple, 'When will the Negroes receive the Priesthood?' He responded to the question over a national television network saying, 'Not in my lifetime, young man, nor yours.'...
"Social pressure and even government sanctions cannot be expected to bring forth a new revelation. This point is mentioned because there are groups in the Church, as well as out, who feel that pressure on the Prophet will cause a revelation to come forth. It would be wise to emphasize that all the social pressure in the world will not change what the Lord has decreed to be. Let those who would presume to pressure the Prophet be reminded that it is God that inspires prophets, not social pressure....It is not the responsibility nor the stewardship of any person on earth to dictate to the Lord or the Lord's servants when a revelation should be given....
"The prophets have declared that there are at least two major stipulations that have to be met before the Negroes will be allowed to possess the Priesthood. The first requirement relates to time. The Negroes will not be allowed to hold the Priesthood during mortality, in fact, not until after the resurrection of all of Adam's children. The other stipulation requires that Abel's seed receive the first opportunity of having the Priesthood....Negroes must first pass through mortality before they may possess the Priesthood ('they will go down to death'). Reference is also made to the condition that the Negroes will have to wait until after the resurrection of all of Adam's children before receiving the Priesthood....the last of Adam s children will not be resurrected until the end of the millennium. Therefore, the Negroes will not receive the Priesthood until after that time.... this will not happen until after the thousand years of Christ's reign on earth....
"The second major stipulation that needs to be met...is the requirement that Abel's seed receive the opportunity of holding the Priesthood first....
"The obvious question is, 'When will Abel's seed be redeemed?' It will first of all be necessary that Abel marry, and then be resurrected, and ultimately exalted in the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom so that he can have a continuation of his seed. It will then be necessary for Abel to create an earth for his spirit children to come to and experience mortality. These children will have to be 'redeemed' or resurrected. After the resurrection or redemption of Abel's seed, Cain's descendants, the Negroes, will then be allowed to possess the Priesthood." (The Church and the Negro, 1967, pp. 45-49)
On pages 109-110 of the same book, John L. Lund reiterates: "First, all of Adam's children will have to resurrect and secondly, the seed of Abel must have an opportunity to possess the Priesthood. These events will not occur until sometime after the end of the millennium.
As late as 1974 Apostle Bruce R. McConkie questioned the spirituality of Church members who believed it was time for a new revelation on the blacks. In a conference message delivered Oct. 4, 1974, Apostle McConkie said:
"Am I valiant in the testimony of Jesus if my chief interest and concern in life is laying up in store the treasures of the earth, rather than the building up of the kingdom?...
"Am I valiant if I am deeply concerned about the Church's stand on who can or who cannot receive the priesthood and think it is time for a new revelation on this doctrine?...
"Am I valiant if I engage in gambling, play cards, go to pornographic movies,..." (The Ensign, November 1974, page 35)
Writing in the New York Times, June 11, 1978, Mario S DePillis observed: "For Mormonism's anti-black policy a revelation was the only way out, and many students of Mormonism were puzzled only at the lateness of the hour." As far back as 1963, Donald Ira French, Jr., wrote a letter in which he remarked: "Sir: As an elder in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it has long seemed incredible to me that a church with so much forward vision in social welfare and higher education can be so backward in its outlook on a segment of the human race that is also supposed to be among our brothers...
"The revelation that the church is talking about with respect to the Negro and the priesthood should have been sought 50 years ago--not now when we are forced into looking for one. Even if a revelation should come now, we have compromised our position because it looks as if we have been forced into seeking it, which will be true." (Time, Nov. l, 1963)
That the Mormon Church was forced into the revelation is obvious to anyone who seriously examines the evidence. In the books Mormonism--Shadow or Reality? and Mormons and Negroes we show that there has been a great deal of pressure exerted against the Church. For instance, athletic teams from the Church's Brigham Young University have been the target of very serious protests.
In 1974 the Mormon doctrine of discrimination against blacks brought the Boy Scouts into a serious confrontation with the NAACP. The Boy Scouts of America do not discriminate because of religion or race, but Mormon-sponsored troops did have a policy of discrimination. On July 18, 1974, the Salt Lake Tribune reported: "A 12-year-old boy scout has been denied a senior patrol leadership in his troop because he is black, Don L. Cope, black ombudsman for the state, said Wednesday....
"The ombudsman said Mormon 'troop policy is that in order for a scout to become a patrol leader, he must be a deacon's quorum president in the LDS Church. Since the boy cannot hold the priesthood, he cannot become a patrol leader.'"
The Mormon leaders apparently realized that they could never prevail in this matter and a compromise was worked out:
"Shortly before Boy Scout officials were to appear in Federal Court Friday morning on charges of discrimination, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a policy change which will allow black youths to be senior patrol leaders, a position formerly reserved for white LDS youths in troops sponsored by the church....
"An LDS Church spokesman said Friday under the 'guidelines set forth in the statement, a young man other than president of the deacons quorum could (now) become the senior patrol leader if he is better qualified.'" (Salt Lake Tribune, August 3, 1974)
Mormon President Spencer W. Kimball "had been subpoenaed to testify" in the suit (Ibid., Oct. 23), but on Nov. 7, 1974 the Tribune reported:"A suit claiming discrimination against blacks by the Boy Scouts of America was dismissed Wednesday in federal court...all parties to the suit..signed an agreement stating the alleged discrimination 'has been discontinued.'"
Since 1976 the Mormon Church has been repeatedly embarrassed by one of its own members who became alienated over the anti-black doctrine and decided to take matters into his own hands. On April 3, 1976 the Salt Lake Tribune reported:
"PORTLAND, Ore.--A member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ordained a black into the priesthood Friday, saying he did so in an attempt to force a revision in Mormon doctrine about the Negro race.
"Douglas A. Wallace,...first baptized Larry Lester,...in the swimming pool of a motel in northeast Portland. He then ordained Lester to the office of priest in the Aaronic Priesthood of the LDS Church....
"The rites were preceded by a news conference at which Wallace said he has long been bothered by the Mormon Church's bias against blacks and he feels the time has come to challenge it. He said often all that is required to change a policy is for someone to break out of tradition....
"The president of the Portland-Oregon Mission of the church, Robert Seamons, said of Wallace's actions:
"'He is using the priesthood in an unrighteous manner and his action will have no validity because the president of the church has said that blacks are not to hold the priesthood.'
"Wallace said he hopes there are no recriminations against him for his action, such as excommunication."
On April 13,1976 the Salt Lake Tribune revealed that "Douglas A. Wallace was excommunicated from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Sunday for ordaining a black man into the church's priesthood."
After a confrontation with Church personnel at an April conference session, Mr. Wallace was ejected from the Tabernacle. Later he was served with "a court order barring him from attending conference." (Ibid., Oct 4, 1976) Although we did not agree with some of Mr, Wallace's ideas on religion, we did not consider him to be dangerous and we were rather surprised to notice the close surveillance the police kept him under when he walked along the public sidewalk outside of Temple Square. We were rather startled to see such a thing in Salt Lake City.
The Mormon leaders' fear of the threat Mr Wallace presented to the Church seems to have led to a tragic incident where a policeman was accidentally shot and permanently paralyzed. This occurred about the time of the Church's conference held in April, 1977. On April 5, 1977 the Salt Lake Tribune reported:
"Mormon dissident Douglas A. Wallace charged Monday that a Salt Lake City police officer, shot early Sunday was keeping surveillance on him in a nearby residence.
"Acting Police Chief Edgar A. Bryan Jr. denied it.
"He said his men were not keeping surveillance on Mr. Wallace, a excommunicated member of the Church...but he would not say what the stakeout's purpose was.
"Officer David W. Olson remained in critical condition Monday at St. Mark's Hospital, where personnel said he suffered a severed spinal cord from a single shot in the neck. The policeman was shot accidentally by his partner,... Wallace was staying at the home of a friend, Dr. John W. Fitzgerald, 2177 Carriage Ln. (4600 South).
"He was in Salt Lake City to try to make an appearance at the LDS World Conference last weekend. Attorneys for the church, however, obtained a temporary restraining order...which prevented the dissident from visiting Temple Square.
"'I have not committed any crime, and I don't intend to commit any crime. I hove been raised in the Mormon faith and I am a man of peace...This is not Russia; this is not Nazi Germany; there is no reason why I should be under surveillance of the police,' Mr. Wallace said."
The following day the Salt Lake Tribune related: "Ex-Mormon Douglas Wallace, who claims the wounding of an undercover police officer was done while police held surveillance on him, Tuesday afternoon said he will subpoena various high ranking police and sheriff's deputies to establish the fact....
"Mr. Wallace said also, 'It is clear from the evidence that we have uncovered that I was under surveillance. The police department's denial of that simply compounds the wrong. Is this going to be Salt Lake's sequel to the Watergate scandal?'" (Salt Lake Tribune, April 6, 1977)
With Mr. Wallace and his attorney pressing them hard, the police were finally forced to admit the truth about the matter:
"Salt Lake City police officers admitted Thursday that the accidental wounding of an undercover officer occurred during surveillance of Mormon dissident Douglas A. Wallace....
"Reports released Thursday by both the county sheriff's office and the county attorney show that six officers were on stakeout around the John W. Fitzgerald home...where Mr. Wallace was staying.
"The lawmen were paired up in three police vehicles and two of those were parked close together in opposite directions..." (Salt Lake Tribune, April 8, 1977)
Those who know Mr. Wallace find it strange that there should have be so many policemen on the surveillance crew watching him at 4:20 a.m. A subsequent story in the newspaper reported that the "lawmen...had been on duty for 16 straight hours, Chief Willoughby said." (Ibid., April 15, 1977)
At any rate, Wallace claimed the Mormon Church was behind the whole affair: "Ex-Mormon Douglas Wallace Friday renewed his assertion that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was behind April police surveillance of Mr. Wallace that led to the accidental shooting of a Salt Lake City police officer." (Ibid., Sept. 17, 1977) Finally, David Olson the disabled police officer, took exception to a press release issued by the Church. In a letter to the Editor of the Salt Lake Tribune, Jan, 18, 1978, Mr. Olson made a direct attack on the President of the Church:
"I would also like to thank Spencer W. Kimball for his incorrect press release concerning the police involvement combined with the LDS church's efforts to restrict Douglas A. Wallace from the temple grounds, specifically the Tabernacle, on April 3, 1977.
"His denial of these actions is wrong. Any man who can take such actions and still call himself a prophet deserves more than I to be confined t this wheelchair."
Douglas Wallace filed lawsuits amounting to millions of dollars against the Mormon Church, and although he has not been able to prevail against the Church in the courts, the publicity surrounding the suits has caused the Church no end of trouble. We feel that his actions and the embarrassment they have caused the Church have played a part in bringing about the decision to have a new "revelation."
Another Mormon who has put a great deal of pressure on the Church is Byron Marchant. Mr. Marchant took a very strong stand against racism in the Church. The Dallas Morning News for Oct. 20, 1977 reported:
"SALT LAKE CITY (AP)--The man who cast the first vote in modern history against a leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been excommunicated and fired as church janitor.
"Byron Marchant, 35, of Salt Lake, is the second opponent of the church policy withholding the priesthood from blacks to be excommunicated in the last two years."
When Mr. Marchant tried to distribute literature at Temple Square at the next conference he was arrested:
"Byron Marchant, excommunicated members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was arrested Sunday at 1:45 p.m. at Temple Square of charges of trespassing,....Marchant was requested to leave the church grounds after he offered literature to people waiting in line for admission to the 2 p.m. session of general conference, Mr. Gibbs said. J. Earl Jones, director of security for the Mormon church reportedly advised Mr. Marchant he was on private property and asked him to leave. When Mr. Marchant refused, Mr. Gibbs said police officers were contacted and Mr. Marchant was placed under arrest at approximately 1:45 p.m." (Salt Lake Tribune, April, 3, 1978)
Mr. Marchant published a sheet in which he called for demonstrations against the Church's policy:
"Next October Conference (1978) I will join all interested in a march on Temple Square in Salt Lake City. In the event that the Mormon Church decides to ordain worthy Afro-Americans to the priesthood this demonstration will be a sort of celebration. A demonstration of support. In the meantime, every person and/or group concerned about Utah Racism is encouraged to speak out and attend the October protest."
Mr. Marchant's threat of a demonstration at the next conference may have caused Mormon leaders to think more seriously about having a new revelation. The general authorities seem to have a real fear of demonstrations around Temple Square. Although Mr. Marchant is probably a peaceful man, the issue concerning blacks in the Mormon Church was so explosive that the slightest incident could have touched off a riot where innocent people could have been injured. We think that the Church was wise to change its policy before the demonstration.
However this may be, when the Mormon Church yielded Mr. Marchant dropped a civil suit: "Following Friday's announcement that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will allow blacks to receive the priesthood, Byron Marchant, longtime advocate of such a policy, dropped a civil suit filed against Church President Spencer W. Kimball Wednesday.
"Marchant was suing President Kimball for not appearing as a witness in a case currently pending against Marchant....Marchant was suing the Mormon Church president for $100 for not appearing after being subpoenaed to testify in the case. Marchant's subpoena was quashed Thursday." (Salt Lake Tribune, June 10, 1978)
Another article in the same issue of the Tribune observed that "The last three years have also seen repeated attempts by church dissidents to subpoena Mormon leaders into court proceedings, with the central issue often related to the church's belief about blacks."
Besides all the problems the Church was having with dissidents, it was faced with an impossible situation in Brazil. Even the Church's own Deseret News admitted that "A major problem the church has faced with its policy regarding blacks was in Brazil, where the church is building a temple. Many people there are miied [mixed?] racially, and it is often impossible to determine whether church members have black ancestry." (Deseret News, June 10, 1978)
Mormon leaders have been aware of this problem for some time. Lester Bush, Jr., gave this revealing information in an article published in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Spring 1973, p. 41:
"The decision to deny the priesthood to anyone with Negro ancestry ('no matter how remote'), had resolved the theoretical problem of priesthood eligibility, but did not help with the practical problem of identifying the 'blood of Cain' in those not already known to have Negro ancestry....
"The growth of the international Church was clearly bringing new problems. Brazil was particularly difficult. Later that year J. Ruben Clark, First Counselor to George Albert Smith, reported that the Church was entering 'into a situation in doing missionary work...where it is very difficult if not impossible to tell who has negro blood and who has not. He said that if we are baptizing Brazilians, we are almost certainly baptizing people of negro blood, and that if the Priesthood is conferred upon them, which it no doubt is, we are facing a very serious problem.'"
In a letter published in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Autumn, 1967, p. 8, Gary Lobb observed: "My studies currently in Brazil,... have led me to conclude that most Brazilians who are not second or third generation descendants of German, Italian, Polish, or Japanese immigrants, are probably descendants of Negroes. This is especially true among the lower and lower-middle classes which make up a large portion of L.D.S. membership in this land....In some of the branches of the Church which my wife and I have attended here in Brazil, there appear to be priesthood bearers who possess the essential characteristics of the Negroid races."
The hypocrisy of the situation in South America was pointed out in 1966 by Wallace Turner: "A different thing is going on in South America where Mormon missionaries are pushing ahead full throttle. There the former careful selection to keep out 'white Negroes' has been allowed to slide a little....
"'There is no question but that in Brazil they have been ordaining priests who are part Negro,' said one careful observer." (The Mormon Establishment, 1966, page 261)
With the opening of the new temple in Brazil the situation would have turned into a real nightmare. Actually, the Mormon Church has the same problem in the United States. Patriarch Eldred G. Smith remarked,"I had a young lady who was blond, a[n]d no sign or indications visibly of the Negro line at all, but yet she was deprived of going to the Temple...We have these conditions by the thousands in the United States today and are getting more of them. If they have any blood of the Negro at all in their line, in their veins at all, they are not entitled to the blessings of the Priesthood,... No limit as to how far back so far as I know." (Patriarchal Blessings, Institute of Religion, January 17, 1964, page 8)
Time Magazine for June 30, 1958, p. 47, pointed out Dr. Robert P. Stuckert researched the "conclusion that of 135 million Americans classified as white in 1950, about 28 million (21%) had some African ancestry. The Church's stress on genealogical research placed many members of the Church in a very embarrassing position. Many members of the Church discovered they had black ancestors and attempted to cover it up. Some however, faced the issue and yielded up all rights to the priesthood. The Deseret News Church Section for July 11, 1970, told of an interesting case:
"Mr. and Mrs. John Lono Pea are an amazing couple....he was set apart as genealogy secretary.
"'I found out through my family telling me and in genealogy work that a grandparent was an offspring of one of the Negroes who mirated to Hawaii in 1820, through the slave trade.
"'I have a sure testimony that what the Lord has said regarding the priesthood is true. I sent my genealogy to the First Presidency so there would be no chance of my getting the priesthood through any means except when the Lord wills it.
"'I don't want to offend God by trying to have it because someone through the goodness of their heart, wants me to have it....'"
Unless there is another man in Hawaii with the name "John L. Pea there is reason to believe that Mr. Pea was mistakenly ordained to the priesthood and performed baptisms and other ordinances before his ancestry was discovered. The following is from a Council meeting held Oct.29,1936:
"Letter read from President W. Francis Bailey of the Hawaiian Mission stating that Brother William Pakale, a priest, and Brother John L.Pea, who have recently been discovered to be one-eighth negro, have heretofore officiated in performing some baptisms and other ordinances. President Bailey asks for a ruling as to what should be done in such cases.
"After some discussion of the matter, Elder Stephen L. Richards moved that the matter be referred to Elder George Albert Smith, who will attend the approaching Oaho Stake Conference, with instructions that in the event he should find that a considerable number of people are involved, we assuming the authority was given to those brethren to officiate in these ordinances, that ratification of their acts be authorized. In the event he should discover that there are only one or two affected, and that the matter can be readily taken care of, it may be advisable to have re-baptism performed.
"Motion seconded by Brother Ballard and unanimously approved." (Council Minutes, Oct. 29, 1936, Bennion papers, typed copy; also cited by Lester Bush in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Spring 1973, p. 141)
O. Kendall White, Jr., made these interesting observations six year before the revelation was given: "Since they believe in 'continuing revelation,' Mormons have a mechanism that enables them to reverse previous positions without repudiating the past. This is illustrated in the resolution of the conflict over polygamy. Mormons never disavowed their belief in polygamy, but they discontinued the practice on the grounds that it conflicted with another belief involving support for 'the law of the land'. That the church will invoke such a mechanism to resolve the racial issue is not too unlikely.
"However, this approach has a serious drawback. It is the tendency not to acknowledge the errors of the past. While revelation could be used to legitimate a new racial policy and to redefine Mormon relations with black people, Mormons might still be unwilling to condemn the racism involved in their history. They might be inclined to argue that Mormons in earlier periods were under a different mandate than the one binding them. This obviously implies that the church is never wrong. Thus, change may come through the notion of continuing revelation, but the racist aspects a Mormon history will not necessarily be condemned." (The Journal of Religious Thought, Autumn-Winter, 1973, pp. 57-58)
It would appear that the Church leaders have done exactly what Mr. White warned against--i.e., they have used revelation as a means of sidestepping the real issues involved. Mario S. DePillis pointed out that "the revelation leaves unsolved other racist implications of the Book of Mormon and the Pearl of Great Price--scriptures that are both cornerstones and contradictions." (New York Times, June 11, 1978)
One issue that the Mormon leaders now seem to be dodging is that concerning skin color. From the beginning Mormon theology has taught that a black skin is a sign of God's displeasure: "We will first inquire into the results of the approbation or displeasure of God upon a people, starting with the belief that a black skin is a mark of the curse of heaven placed upon some portions of mankind." (Juvenile Instructor, Vol. 3, p. 157)
The Book of Mormon is filled with the teaching that people with dark skins are cursed:
"...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." (Book of Mormon, page 61, verse 21)
"And the skins of the Lamanites were dark, according to the mark which was set upon their fathers, which was a curse upon them because at their transgression..." (Ibid., p. 201, v. 6)
On page 468, verse 15, of the Book of Mormon the following statement is made concerning the Indians: " ...for this people shall be scattered, and shall become a dark, a filthy, and a loathsome people, beyond the description of that which ever hath been amongst us,..."
The Book of Mormon, however, predicts that the Indians will repent of their sins and become white: "...and many generations shall not pass away among them, save they shall be a white and delightsome people." (Book of Mormon, page 102, verse 6)
Spencer W. Kimball, who gave the new revelation which allows blacks to hold the priesthood, seems to be a real believer in the teaching that God makes righteous people become "white and delightsome":
"I saw a striking contrast in the progress of the Indian people today as against that of only fifteen years ago....they are fast becoming a white and delightsome people....they are now becoming white and delightsome, as they were promised. In this picture of the twenty Lamanite missionaries, fifteen of the twenty were as light as Anglos;...The children in the home placement program in Utah are often lighter than their brothers and sisters in the hogans on the reservation....There was the doctor in a Utah city who for two years had had an Indian boy in his home who stated that he was some shades lighter than the younger brother just coming into the program from the reservation. These young members of the Church are changing to whiteness and to delightsomeness. One white elder jokingly said that he and his companion were donating blood regularly to the hospital in the hope that the process might be accelerated....today the dark clouds are dissipating." (Improvement Era, December 1960, pp. 922-923)
It is interesting to note that while Spencer W. Kimball believes that the Indians are to become "white and delightsome," he has suppressed Joseph Smith's 1831 revelation on polygamy which commanded the Mormons to marry the Indians to make them white. We published this revelation in full in the book Mormonism Like Watergate? in 1974. The most important verse of this revelation reads as follows:
"4. Verily, I say unto you, that the wisdom of man, in his fallen state, knoweth not the purposes and the privileges of my holy priesthood, but ye shall know when ye receive a fulness by reason of the anointing: For it is my will, that in time, ye should take unto you wives of the Lamanites and Nephites, that their posterity may become white, delightsome and just, for even now their females are more virtuous than the gentiles."
We seriously doubt that President Kimball will ever allow this revelation to be canonized in the Doctrine and Covenants since he feels that the Indians are being made "white and delightsome" through the power of God and has in the past discouraged intermarriage with the Indians. The Church Section of the Deseret News for June 17, 1978 gave this information:
"In an address to seminary and institute teachers at Brigham Young University on June 27, 1958, President Kimball, then a member of the Council of the Twelve, said:
"'...there is one thing that I must mention, and that is interracial marriages. When I said you must teach your young people to overcome their prejudices and accept the Indians, I did not mean that you would encourage intermarriage.'"
Although the Mormon Church is now opening the door to temple marriages between blacks and whites, President Kimball is probably not too enthused about the matter. An endorsement of Joseph Smith's 1831 revelation encouraging intermarriage with Indians could now lead white members to seek marriages with blacks. Since blacks are no longer cursed as to the priesthood, the revelation might just as logically be interpreted that Mormons should "take unto you wives" of the Ethiopians or Nigerians "that their posterity may become white, delightsome and just,..."
For more documentation and verification of the 1831 revelation on polygamy see our book Mormonism Like Watergate? pp. 6-14.
Another matter which the new revelation allowing blacks to hold the priesthood does not resolve is the teaching concerning pre-existence. In the past Mormon leaders have stressed that blacks were cursed as to the priesthood because of "unfaithfulness in the spirit--or pre-existence" (see Mormonism--Shadow or Reality? pp. 263-264). Should a faithful Mormon continue to believe that blacks were unrighteous in a pre-existent state? The Mormon leaders are silent concerning this matter. It will be especially interesting to see how Church leaders explain this matter to blacks in the Church. Monroe Fleming, far instance, was converted to the Church over 25 years ago. President Joseph Fielding Smith explained to him why he could not hold the priesthood, but since the new "revelation" he is being encouraged to be ordained. Now, was Mr. Fleming really unfaithful in a pre-existent state or did the Church leaders just make a mistake in the past when they said he could not hold the priesthood? Church leaders should explain if they believe black babies born after the new "revelation" were inferior spirits in a pre-existent state. Now that they have abandoned the idea that blacks cannot hold the priesthood, they should explain if they are giving up some of their teachings on the pre-existence. They should also explain whether they are repudiating the Book of Mormon teaching that a dark skin is given by God as a "curse."
By giving a "revelation" on the matter without explaining its implications, the Mormon leaders are leaving their people in a dense doctrinal fog. They should take a lesson from the situation that has developed since the Church gave up polygamy. Instead of actually repudiating the doctrine, President Woodruff said he received a revelation and issued the Manifesto which was supposed to put a stop to the practice. The Church retained Joseph Smith's 1843 revelation on polygamy in the Doctrine and Covenants Section 132. Church leaders continued to teach that polygamy was a righteous doctrine, but since it was against the law, it should not actually be practiced. Because of their reluctance to come to gaps with the real issue and repudiate the doctrine, the Mormon leaders left their people in confused state. Many Mormons have reasoned that since the Church teaches plural marriage will be practiced in heaven, they should practice it on earth. Therefore, in disregard to the Church's Manifesto, thousands of people in Utah are living in polygamy today. The Church excommunicates those who are caught living in the practice, but since it retains the revelation on plural marriage in the Doctrine and Covenants, the number of dissidents continues to grow.
Now, if the Church continues to hide behind a purported revelation on the blacks and fails to come to grips with its racist doctrines, thousands of people are going to continue believing these doctrines and the Church will be plagued with racism for many years to come. In 1960, Sterling McMurrin predicted: "...I really believe, if I don't die in the very near future, I will live to see the time when this doctrine is dissolved. I don't mean repudiated. The Mormon Church is like the Catholic Church, it doesn't repudiate doctrine that at one time or another were held to be revelation or absolute truth. They didn't repudiate the doctrine of Polygamy. I use the word dissolve, and I imagine by some technique they will dissolve the doctrine on the Negro, rather than repudiate it. " (Mormonism--Shadow or Reality? page 287)
Dr. McMurrin's prediction seems to be coming true. The Mormon Church now appears to be in the process of trying to dissolve the doctrine through new "revelation." This is the very thing which we warned against in our book Mormonism--Shadow or Reality? p. 293:
"The honest solution to the problem facing the Mormon leaders is not to have another 'revelation', but to repudiate the doctrine. They should admit that Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and other Mormon leaders taught doctrines that cannot be accepted as coming from God.
"The reader will remember that Brigham Young, the second President of the Mormon Church, said that slavery was a 'DIVINE INSTITUTION,' and that the Civil War could not free the slaves (See Journal of Discourses, Vol.10, p. 250); however, the Civil War did free the slaves, and Brigham Young was wrong....
"Brigham Young said that if a person who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the Negro the penalty is 'DEATH ON THE SPOT'. (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 10, page 110) Obviously, the Mormons do not believe this statement by Brigham Young or they would be putting many people to death. Brigham Young called this the 'LAW OF GOD' and said that 'THIS WILL ALWAYS BE SO.' Now, if Brigham Young was wrong about this, what assurance have we that he was right when he said that the Negro could not hold the Priesthood? Why should we disregard this teaching, which Brigham Young called the 'LAW OF GOD,' and yet hold to his teaching that the Negro can not have the Priesthood?"
Instead of continuing to cling to Joseph Smith's Book of Abraham, the Mormon leaders should come to grips with the matter and acknowledge that it is a false translation of the Egyptian Book of Breathings. To come forth with a new "revelation" only compounds the problem.
One thing that should be noted about the new "revelation" is that the Church has failed to produce a copy of it. All we have is a statement by the First Presidency that says a revelation was received. Joseph Smith printed many of his revelations in the Doctrine and Covenant and other Church publications, and the Apostle Orson Pratt mocked the Catholics for not adding revelations to the canon: "...strange to say, none of their revelations are permitted to enter the sacred canon... Here, indeed, is a strange inconsistency! Even the Catholic church herself, evidently places no confidence in the popes and bishops,...if she did, she would have canonized their revelations along with the rest of the revelations of the New Testament....We can but conclude that it is all an imposition..,"(Orson Pratt's Works, "The Bible Alone An Insufficient Guide," p. 39)
It appears that the Mormon Church does not intend to canonize or even make public the new revelation on the blacks. The Salt Lake Tribune for June 13, 1978 reported: "Kimball refused to discuss the revelation that changed the church's 148-year-old policy against ordination of blacks, saying it was 'a personal thing.'...
"Kimball said the revelation came at this tine because conditions and and people have changed.
"'It's a different world than it was 20 or 25 years ago. The world is ready for it,' he said."
We seriously doubt that President Kimball will put forth a written revelation on the bestowal of priesthood on blacks. We doubt, in fact, that any such document exists. What probably happened was that the leaders of the Church finally realized that they could no longer retain the anti-black doctrine without doing irreparable damage to the Church. Under these circumstances they were impressed with the fact that this doctrine had to be changed and this impression was referred to as a revelation from God. In a letter to the Editor of the Salt Lake Tribune, June 24, 1978 Eugene Wagner observed: "...was this change of doctrine really a revelation from the Lord, or did the church leaders act on their own? Why don't they publish that revelation and let the Lord speak in his own words? All we saw was a statement of the First Presidency, and that is not how a revelation looks.
"When God speaks the revelation starts with the words: 'Thus sayeth the Lord...' It seems when the Lord decides to change a doctrine of such great importance he will talk himself to the people of his church. If such a revelation cannot be presented to the members it is obvious that the first presidency acted on its own, most likely under fear of public pressure to avoid problems of serious consequences and to maintain peace and popularity with the world."
In Mormonism--Shadow or Reality? p. 281, we included an account of an interview Michael Marquardt had with a member at the Genesis Group. According to Mr. Marquardt's notes, "June 24, 1971 was the first time that the First Presidency and Twelve have prayed in this Temple about whether Black members of the Church should hold the Priesthood. The First Presidency and Twelve were not in agreement on the question. But they did agree that the Genesis Group should be formed."
We will probably never know whether the First Presidency and Twelve reached a unanimous decision in June, 1978, but it is logical to believe that the majority had came to believe that the doctrine had to be changed.
Be this as it may, we feel that it is wrong to attribute such a revelation to God. It makes it appear that God has been a real racist for thousands of years, and that the Mormon leaders by "pleading long and earnestly in behalf of these, our faithful brethren, spending many hours in the upper room of the Temple" have finally persuaded God to give blacks the priesthood. The truth of the matter, however, is that "God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him." (Acts 10: 34-35) It is the Mormon leaders who have kept blacks under a curse. They have continually and stubbornly opposed the advancement of black people, threatening and excommunicating those who differed with them on the matter. Finally, when their backs are to the wall, the Mormon leaders are forced to change their position. We would think that at this time they would fall down before God and acknowledge their wrong doing, but instead they proudly stand up as heroes and proclaim that because of their "pleading long and earnestly" on behalf of the blacks, God has changed the doctrine and decided to give them the priesthood. To claim a "revelation" at this point seems almost like mockery to God. Less than four years ago Apostle McConkie was claiming that it was unspiritual people who were "deeply concerned about the Church's stand on who can or who cannot receive the priesthood and think it is time for a new revelation..." Now members of the First Presidency admit that they have been "pleading long and earnestly" concerning the question. Dr. Hugh Nibley once claimed that "of all churches in the world" only the Mormon Church "has not found it necessary to readjust any part of its doctrine in the last hundred years." (No Ma'am, That's Not History, page 46) The new revelation on the blacks is just another evidence of how Dr. Nibley has misrepresented the situation.
Sterling McMurrin made some interesting observations ten years ago:
"He expressed belief the time would come when 'the Mormon people for the most part will have to abandon their crude superstitions about Negroes because their children forced them to.'
"But he said there will be those who will remember 'with sadness and moral embarrassment the day when their Church could have done great things to hasten the achievement, but failed.'" (Ogden Standard-Examiner, June 22, 1968)
The reader will remember that President Brigham Young once said that if the blacks were given all the blessings of the Gospel, the priesthood would be taken from the Church and it would go to destruction. Our research leads us to believe that the Mormon Church never had any priesthood to lose. Even David Whitmer, one of the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon, seems to have had some real reservations about the "priesthood":
"This matter of 'priesthood,' since the days of Sydney Rigdon, has been the great hobby and stumbling-block of the Latter Day Saints....Authority is the word we used for the first two years in the church--until Sydney Rigdon's days in Ohio. This matter of the two orders of priesthood in the Church of Christ, and lineal priesthood of the old law being in the church, all originated in the mind of Sydney Rigdon." (An Address To All Believers in Christ, Richmond, Missouri, 1887, page 64)
The question might well be asked, "If what David Whitmer says is true, how can Section 27 and other sections of the Doctrine and Covenants be accounted for?" Actually, these revelations have been changed from the way they originally read when they were first printed. David Whitmer charged; "You have changed the revelations from the way they were first given...to support the error of high priests. You have changed the revelations to support the error of a President of the high priesthood, high counselors, etc." (Ibid., p. 49)
In Mormonism--Shadow or Reality? Pp. 19, 22-25, we show through photographs of the first printing of Joseph Smith's revelations that Whitmer was right when he charged that serious changes were made concerning priesthood, and on pages 177-182 we demonstrate that the Mormon idea of "priesthood" is unscriptural. The Bible teaches that the old order of priesthood was fulfilled and that Christ Himself is our High Priest. It indicates that Jesus has "an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them." (Hebrews 7:24-25)
The Bible also indicates that all Christians (not just men) are a "royal priesthood" (1 Peter 2:9) In 1 Peter 2:5 we read that "Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ." The priesthood of the Old Testament has been fulfilled and now "as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name (John 1:12)
Some people believe that the Mormon Church is not sincere in opening the priesthood to blacks. We feel however, that even though the Mormon leaders have failed to face some important issues, they have made a major concession which will gradually weaken racism throughout the Church.
We feel that one of the important reasons the Church decided to confer the priesthood on blacks was that the anti-black doctrine was hurting missionary work. With the change in this policy, we anticipate that the Church will make many more converts. On the other hand, many members of the Church have become disillusioned because of the Church's handling of the racial issue, and the new "revelation" has tended to confirm in their minds that the Lord had nothing to do with the whole matter. For those Christians working with Mormons, this may really prove to be an opening for effective witnessing.
For those who are interested in the subject of the anti-black doctrine we highly recommend our book Mormonism--Shadow or Reality? In this book we have devoted over 100 pages to the doctrine and Joseph Smith's false translation of the Book of Abraham. In addition to this, on pages 582-85 we have printed the "Excerpts From The Weekly Council Meetings Of The Quorum Of The Twelve Apostles, Dealing With The Rights Of Negroes In The Church, 1849-1940." This important document throws a great deal of light on why the Church was finally forced to have a new "revelation."