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Once in 1969

I learn something new everyday. LDS church leaders voted in 1969 to rescind the exaltation exclusion (a.k.a. the priesthood ban). Harold B. Lee came back into town and convinced everyone that it required a real revelation to change.

The real story is that almost all of the top leaders didn’t see the exaltation exclusion as divinely inspired (at least not until Lee showed up). They thought a vote was enough to change the practice. They must have thought it a simple policy.

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30 Years and Still Waiting

So it’s been exactly 30 years since Official Declaration 2 allowed people of African descent full access to Mormon heaven, but still no official apology for or repudiation of this racist doctrine preached by its early leaders. It still teaches that the faithful should obey the words of the prophets. Ergo, the LDS church teaches a racist religion and is a racist church. This is not really open to interpretation; this is a well-established fact. You either accept it, or you don’t.

That’s not saying anything about individual Mormons, however.

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To George with Love

In 1964, Elder Delbert Stapley of the Quorum of the Twelve wrote a letter to Governor George Romney, father of Mitt Romney, to express concerns about the Governor’s position on the Civil Rights movement of that era. I just read the letter written on official Council of the Twelve letterhead and… Wow!

Just wow!

Elder Stapley felt Governor Romney was too “liberal” on the issue of civil rights for black Americans and not in harmony with the teachings of Joseph Smith. His letter contains brazen threats of divine retribution:

When I reflect upon the Prophet’s statements and remember what happened to three of our nation’s presidents who were very active in the Negro cause, I am sobered by their demise. They went contrary to the teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith—unwittingly, no doubt, but nevertheless, the prophecy of Joseph Smith, “… those who are determined to pursue a course, which shows opposition, and a feverish restlessness against the decrees of the Lord, will learn, when perhaps it is too late for their own good, that God can do His own work, without the aid of those who are not dictated by His counsel,” has and will continue to be fulfilled.

In this respect, let me give you a personal experience. A friend of mine in Arizona—not a Church member—a great champion of the colored race—came to me after my call into the Twelve, and acknowledged President McKay to be a Prophet of God. He wanted me to ask President McKay to inquire of the Lord to see if the Lord would not lift the curse from the colored race and give them the privileges of the Priesthood; therefore, it was the Lord’s responsibility—not man’s—to change His decision. This friend of mine met a very tragic end by drowning. He was a most enthusiastic advocate of the colored cause and went about promoting for them all the privileges, social opportunities, and participation enjoyed by the Whites.

He then tells Governor Romney that the “Negro” must be kept in their place:

It is not right to force any class or race of people upon those of a different social order or race classification. People are happier when placed in the environment and association of like interests, racial instincts, habits, and natural groupings.…

I fully agree the Negro is entitled to considerations, also stated above, but not full social benefits nor inter-marriage privileges with the Whites, nor should the Whites be forced to accept them into restricted White areas.

The following statement needs no further comment:

Now, don’t think I am against the Negro people, because I have several in my employ.

All of this would be less disturbing—and less damning for Mormonism—if Elder Stapley was just one religious bigot, one bad apple in a barrel, except he wasn’t alone. Elder Stapley was well justified by statements of the LDS church and Joseph Smith. He referenced the following passage drawing special attention to the last sentence:

Elder Hyde inquired the situation of the negro. I replied, they came into the world slaves, mentally and physically. Change their situation with the whites, and they would be like them. They have souls, and are subjects of salvation. Go into Cincinnati or any city, and find an educated negro, who rides in his carriage, and you will see a man who has risen by the powers of his own mind to his exalted state of respectability. The slaves in Washington are more refined than many in high places, and the black boys will take the shine off many of those they brush and wait on.

Elder Hyde remarked, “Put them on the level, and they will rise above me.” I replied, if I raised you to be my equal, and then attempted to oppress you, would you not be indignant and try to rise above me, as did Oliver Cowdery, Peter Whitmer, and many others, who said I was a fallen Prophet, and they were capable of leading the people, although I never attempted to oppress them, but had always been lifting them up? Had I anything to do with the negro, I would confine them by strict law to their own species, and put them on a national equalization. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, “Status of the Negro”, pp. 269–70, emphasis added)

He also notes Joseph Smith’s views on slavery (worth reading in full) with emphasis on this paragraph:

Trace the history of the world from this notable event down to this day, and you will find the fulfillment of this singular prophecy. What could have been the design of the Almighty in this singular occurrence is not for me to say; but I can say, the curse is not yet taken off from the sons of Canaan, neither will be until it is affected by as great a power as caused it to come; and the people who interfere the least with the purposes of God in this matter, will come under the least condemnation before Him; and those who are determined to pursue a course, which shows an opposition, and a feverish restlessness against the decrees of the Lord, will learn, when perhaps it is too late for their own good, that God can do His own work, without the aid of those who are not dictated by His counsel. (History of the Church, Volume II, “The Prophet’s Views on Abolition”)

I hadn’t taken the time to look up some of Joseph Smith’s views on the subject until today. I have lost some respect for him. I thought Brigham Young was the true racist culprit, but God’s alleged first prophet of the Dispensation of the Fullness of Times was just as blind to his own racism as was the second prophet.

Elder Stapley encloses a copy of Mormonism and the Negro which says:

Briefly, the LDS policy on Negroes is this: Negroes and others with Negroid blood can become members of the Church, and through righteous works receive patriarchal blessings, enter the temple to perform baptisms for the dead, become heirs to the Celestial kingdom and otherwise partake of many blessings afforded worthy members of the Church, but they cannot be ordained to the Priesthood, nor are they eligible for marriage in an LDS temple; Negroes and Non-Negroes should not intermarry.

Thankfully I can say that I don’t recognize this racist church. This isn’t the Mormon church that I grew up in. It was quite rare when I was a child to meet a black Mormon (and continues to be, Gladys Knight notwithstanding), but I never heard anything so blatantly bigoted in church. I’m happy that the Mormon people have changed their stripes. They deserve kudos for that.

There is just one thing that still bothers me: there has never been an official repudiation and condemnation of the bigoted doctrines of the past. The LDS church, in effect, proclaims that those bigoted teachings regarding people of African descent were according to God’s will. They may protest that they don’t understand, but the doctrines were taught by God’s Prophet and are therefore beyond mortal reproach. They are forced to conclude that these teachings came from a God of love and justice.

Until there is an official condemnation of its racist past, bigotry will taint the heart of Mormonism.

(via Trapped by the Mormons)

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Overheard at Home

My daughters were deciding who got to play with which one of two dolls that they got for Christmas. The two dolls are identical except for their complexion.

Oldest daughter: No, I want the light-skinned one. I think she’s prettier.


I swear that I’m not teaching her to be racist. I blame the TV.

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White and Delightsome

I think I know a lot about the ignored history of the LDS church, but something new always comes along to prove my ignorance.

The summary provided at the beginning of Doctrine and Covenants 132 says “Although the revelation was recorded in 1843, it is evident from the historical records that the doctrines and principles involved in this revelation had been known by the Prophet since 1831.” This revelation is a commandment to practice polygamy although modern LDS interpretation no longer recognizes the “New and Everlasting Covenant” as referring to polygamy. I was always mildly curious about what documents this referred to and why the LDS church avoided going into greater detail. Now I know.

I recently learned that Joseph Smith received a revelation in 1831 advising Elders of the church that they would marry Lamanite and Nephite (i.e. American Indian) women. The reason the Lord laid this plan was so that the Indian race would become white again. For those who don’t know, Mormons historically taught that the American Indians—who had once been white-skinned—had been cursed by God for their ancestors’ wickedness. Their darker skins were a sign of this curse. Intermarriage with white men was apparently God’s way of lifting his curse on the Lamanites. As W. W. Phelps recorded Joseph Smith’s revelation from memory (as late as 1861):

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.

It is thought that this revelation foreshadowed polygamy because many of those present when Joseph Smith received the revelation were already married. When W. W. Phelps asked how already married men could marry Lamanite women, he reports that Joseph said:

In the same manner that Abraham took Hagar and Keturah; and Jacob took Rachel, Bilhah and Zilpah; by revelation—the saints of the Lord are always directed by revelation.

The manuscript was suppressed for years by the LDS church who held it in their vaults away from the eyes of historians.

I guess it goes to show that a) Joseph Smith obviously wasn’t racist since he was an early advocate of racial intermarriage (and sometime sufferer of jungle fever) and b) there’s always new stuff to learn about those crazy early Mormons.

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