Chronology Pertaining to Blacks and the LDS Priesthood

BLACK MORMONS & THE PRIESTHOOD~BAN: Frequently Asked Questions

This article answers the the following questions: Dear Inquirer,

 The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly known as 'The Mormon Church', or The LDS Church, has never taught that black folks are 'inferior' in any way, shape, or form to people of other races. In fact, a book of Mormon scripture called The Book of Abraham, says that the Hamites (black Africans) were "blessed with wisdom" from God along with being "cursed as pertaining to the Priesthood".(Abraham 1:26). The Prophet Joseph Smith, the prophet-founder of the Church, was a great advocate for the rights of black folks, and that at a time when it was very unpopular to have his views. He rejected the notion of the then widely accepted belief that Negroes were 'naturally inferior' to whites. He said that blacks in his day seemed ignorant only because they were kept so by the white man, and change the situation (educate blacks) and blacks would be the equal to the white man.

 The Prophet Joseph Smith's attitude toward black folks can be summed up in an incident that occurred while he was Mayor of Nauvoo; a Mormon city in Illinois on the banks of the Mississippi River, in 1842; many years before slavery had ended in America. A woman named Mary Frost Adams tells us what happened:

"While he was acting as mayor of the city, a colored man named Anthony was arrested for selling liquor on Sunday, contrary to law. He pleaded that the reason he had done so was that he might raise the money to purchase the freedom of a dear child held as a slave in a Southern State. He had been able to purchase the liberty of himself and his wife and now wished to bring his little child to their new home. Joseph said, 'I am sorry, Anthony, but the law must be observed, and we will have to impose a fine.'
The next day Brother Joseph presented Anthony with a fine horse, directing him to sell it, and use the money obtained for the purchase of the child." (Young Women's Journal, p.538)
The horse was Joseph's prized white stallion, and was worth about $500; a huge sum at the time. With the money from the sale, Anthony was able to purchase his child out of slavery.

 The Prophet Joseph Smith tirelessly advocated the rights of black folks; in a time where it wasn't popular to do so; not even in the Northern States of the U.S. where slavery was illegal. As Mayor of Nauvoo, Illinois, a white man (a non-Mormon) had whipped a black man terribly for stealing some of his goods. The black man's name was Chism. Joseph asked Chism if he had stolen the good, and Chism replied he had. He charged Chism a small fine, and had the white man arrested for whipping Chism! This OUTRAGED white men all over the state, and in the neighboring state of Missouri, which was pro-slavery. Not long afterwards, Joseph Smith was again arrested on trumpted-up charges, and soon assassinated, along with his brother Hyrum, in a jail in Carthage, Illinois.

 The Prophet Joseph Smith was a great advocate for the black people! He died because he not only wanted to end slavery, but he wanted blacks educated and given equal rights. For this cause, and others, he was hated.

 This article was written by The Elijah Abel Society of Black Latter-day Saints; an independent organization of Black Mormons who wish to educate other Mormons, and the general public, about Black Mormon history and heritage. This is not an official statement from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. If you would like an official response from the LDS Church, then please write a letter to the address below:

 Public Affairs
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
50 North East Temple St.
Salt Lake City, UT 84150

 (If you live outside of the U.S., make sure to add "U.S.A." at the bottom of the address)

 Also if you live in the United States, you can call LDS Church Offices toll-free at 1-800-453-3860; anytime between 11a.m.. to 6p.m. Eastern Time, 8a.m. to 3p.m. Pacific Time, 9a.m. to 4p.m. Mountain Time, or 10a.m. to 5p.m. Central time. Call that number, wait for the recording, then dail "O", and ask for "Public Affairs". Tell them you are black, and that you are asking about the Church's teachings regarding people of black African lineage ("leen-edge"=bloodline).

What we offer here in this article, and in the artilcles linked below, are our own sincere opinions as Mormons, and should not be thought of as an official statement from the LDS Church.

 The Missionaries of the Church are (mainly) young men and women who have been called to serve from 18 months to 24 months, at their own expense of that of their families, to teach people the Message of the Restoration and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They have not been trained to answer questions regarding the Church's past doctrines concerning people of black African descent. For this reason the below article and information is provided as a resource for them to give to investigators, new converts, and other inquirers who have questions in this area. This article is not copyrighted. It's duplication and distribution in any form by any one is encouraged.

 Frequently Asked Questions

 Q. Are Mormons Racists?

 A. For the vast great majority of them: No!
We cannot say that some white Mormons aren't racists (at least moderately so), but what we can say is that the overwhelming vast great majority of active Church Members are not in any way, shape, or form "racist".

 Perhaps 40 to 50 years ago, when most white Americans were moderate racists (as was Abraham Lincoln), one could say that most white Mormons were "racists". This is because, until the last decade, most Mormons were white and most were Americans. Thus Mormons tended to reflect the racial attitudes of the majority of other white Americans; which was, decades ago, a moderate racist one. Most white Americans didn't hate black folks, but they did believe they were superior; because this is what they were taught. This is what American universities taught until perhaps the 1950s. There were no Mormons who were radical racists; like members of the Ku Klux Klan. In fact, in the 1920s, when the Klan had 5 million members in the United States (the equivalent of 15 million members today), the LDS Church was extremely anti-Klan, and the KKK considered the LDS Church to be it's "greatest enemy".

 Over the last few decades the attitudes of most white Mormons, as most white Americans, has changed. Today, especially for white Latter-day Saints under the age of 50, any racist beliefs are simply not tolerated. If any white Member of the Church today is racist (and some do of course exist) they keep this hidden from others (except of course from the ones they are discriminating against).

 The Church also brings in hundreds of thousands of converts each and every year from all over the world. Some of them are whites who come from cultures which still teach and promote racist views. Although the Church has made declarations condemning racism and such views, some of these Members ignore such admonitions and cling to the views they were taught as children. When they express such views they are lovingly counseled to repent of them. Sometimes they do. Sometimes they don't. If they are found promoting such views in church, they may face disciplinary action. Most often, these people keep these views to themselves, and express them only when a black person is around them, and other white Members of the Church are not.

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

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

"I have advised (slaveholders) to bring their slaves into a free country and set them free--educate them--and give them equal rights." (Compilation on the Negro in Mormonism, p.40)
He said in 1844:
"They [Negroes] came into the world slaves, mentally and physically. Change their situation with the whites, and they would be like them. They have souls and are subject to salvation. Go to Cincinnati or any city, and find an educated Negro, who rides in his carriage, and you will see a man who has risen by his own mind to his exalted state of respectability." (History of the Church 5:217)
He also said:
"The Declaration of Independence 'holds these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal: that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.', but, at the same time, some two or three millions of people are held as slaves for life, because the spirit in them is covered with a darker skin than ours...The Constitution of the United States of America meant just what it said without reference to color or condition, ad infinitum!" (Messages of The First Presidency 1:191-2)
He said in 1844:
"Break off the shackles of the poor black man and hire him to labor like other human beings." (History of the Church 5:209)
Parley P. Pratt (Apostle) said in 1855:
"I love a man without regard to his country, or where he was brought up, without reference to color or nation. I love a man that loves truth." (Journal of Discourses, 3:182)
Brigham Young (2nd President of the Church) said in 1860: "Negroes should be treated like human beings, and not worse than dumb brutes [animals]. For their abuse of that race, the whites shall be cursed, unless they repent." (Journal Discourses 10:111) He said in 1863:
"Men will be called to judgment for the way they have treated the Negro." (Journal of Discourses 10:250)
David O. McKay (9th President of the Church) said in 1935:
"What a different world this would be if men would accumulate wealth, for example, not as an end but as a means of blessing human beings and improving human relations. A Christian conception of the right and value of a human soul, even though his skin be dark, would have prevented the slaughter that at this moment is being perpetuated in Ethiopia [when Fascist Italian troops under Mussolini invaded that country]. (Conference Reports, Oct. 1935, p.101)
He said in 1944:
"America has the great opportunity to lead the world from political intrigue and cheap demogoguery, from national selfishness, from unrighteous usurpation of power, and from unholy aggrandizement. She must prove to the people of the world that she has no selfish ends to serve, no desire for conquest, nor of national or race superiority. When these ideals are established, America can blaze the trail and lead the world to peace." (Teachings of David O. McKay, pp.281-2)
John A. Widstoe (Apostle) wrote in 1946:
"The 'master race' claims are sheer poppycock, used by characterless men to further their own interestes. There has never been a monopoly of mastery in human achievement by any one nation. To claim so is simpy to allow the lawless nationalism to run wild.***
The 'master race' doctrine of the late war was an ugly delusion, conceived by the powers of evil, whose prince is Satan, the devil." (Evidences and Reconciliations, pp.3-4)
President McKay said in 1951:
"George Washington Carver [famous African-American scientist] was one of the noblest souls that ever came to earth. He held in close kinship with his Heavenly Father, and rendered a service to his fellowman such as few have ever excelled. For every religious endeavor, for every noble impulse, for every good deed performed in his useful life, George Washington Carver will be rewarded, and so will every other man be he red, white, black, or yellow, for God is no respecter of person." (Home Memories of David O. McKay, p.231)
Joseph Fielding Smith (10th President of the Church) said in 1962:
"The Latter-day Saints, commonly called 'Mormons', have no animosity toward the Negro. Neither have they described him as belonging to an 'INFERIOR' race. (Deseret News June 14, 1962, p.3)
He said in 1963:
The Mormon Church does not believe, nor does it teach, that the Negro is an inferior being. Mentally, and physically, the Negro is capable of great achievement, as great or in some cases greater than the potentiality of the white race." (LOOK magazine, Oct. 22, 1963, p.79)
Bruce R. McConkie (Apostle) wrote in 1966:
"Certainly the Negroes as children of God are entitled to equality before the law and to be treated with all the dignity and respect of any member of the human race. Many of them certainly live according to higher standards of decency and right in this life than do some of their brothers of other races; a situation that will cause judgment to be laid 'to the line, and righteousness to the plummet.' (Isa. 28:17) in the day of judgment." (Mormon Doctrine, 1966 edition, p.528)
President Spencer W. Kimball (12th President of the Church) said in 1972:
"Racial prejudice is of the devil. Racial prejudice is of ignorance. There is not a place for it in the Gospel of Jesus Christ." (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p.237)
The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles issued this statement in 1986:
"We repudiate efforts to deny any person his or her inalienable dignity and rights on the abhorrent and tragic theory of the superiority of one race over another." (LDS Global Media Guide)
Elder John K. Carmack (Member of the First Quorum of Seventy) wrote in 1993:
"We do not believe that any nations, race, or culture is a lesser breed or inferior in God's eyes. Those who believe in or teach such doctrine have no authority from either the Lord or his authorized servants." (Tolerance, p.3)
Elder Alexander Morrison (Member of the First Quorum of Seventy) said in 1993:
"There is no place for racism in the Church. We abhor it." (Salt Lake Tribune, June 6, 1998)
Q. Why couldn't black men hold the Priesthood in the Mormon Church before 1978?

 A. Some black men did hold the Mormon Priesthood before 1978! But except in the case of Elijah Abel and his descendants, all men of Hamitic lineage (bloodline) were forbidden to hold the LDS Priesthood before 1978. However, black-skinned men of non-Hamitic lineages, like the Dravidians of India, the Aborigines of Australia, the Melansians of Fiji and Melanesia, and the Negritoes of the Philipines and Indonesia, all had a right to the Priesthood, and those who were worthy Members of the Church held it before 1978. Also, white-skinned Hamites could not hold the Priesthood or partake of the higher ordinances of Mormon Temples until 1978.

 The Priesthood~Ban

 The Priesthood-ban, as it is called, wasn't really a question of skin-color but of lineage or bloodline. Anyone having one drop of Hamitic lineage was denied the Priesthood (if he was male--only men can hold the Mormon Priesthood), and whether male or female denied the higher ordinances of Mormon Temples. That changed via a Revelation from the LORD in 1978. Since that time, men of Hamitic lineage have received the Priesthood, and all Hamites can receive all the ordinances, blessings, and offices in the Church that anyone else can.

 The Priesthood-ban was based upon several verses in a book of Mormon Scripture called The Book of Abraham, which is in a volume of scripture known as The Pearl of Great Price; which, along with the Bible, The Book of Mormon, and The Doctrine & Covenants, is one of the four Standard Works of the LDS Church. The Prophet Joseph Smith claimed to have divinely translated The Book of Abraham from some ancient Egyptian papyrus he came accross in the late 1830s. The papyrus came from Thebes, and included some Egyptian funeral texts. Joseph Smith studied these, and received the revelation we know call The Book of Abraham. In the first chapter of that small book Abraham writes that Pharoah, the king of Egypt, was "a righteous man", but could not hold the Priesthood because he was a descendants of Ham, and the Hamitic lineage or bloodline was "blessed with wisdom" but "cursed as pertaining to the Priesthood" (Abraham 1:26). In another revelation of Joseph Smith, called The Book of Moses, also in The Pearl of Great Price, it says that the Cainites, the descendants of Cain, the son of Adam, were "black" (Moses 7:22).

 From the time of Brigham Young onward, Mormon Church Presidents (whom Mormons believe to be Prophets, Seers, and Revelators of the LORD) have interpreted these verses as Negroes being of the Cainite/Hamitic bloodline, and would not be allowed to hold the Priesthood until the Abelites first had the opportunity. A brief explanation of the Curse of Cain and a brief overview of it's history in the LDS Church is as follows:

  1. Cain, the eldest son of Adam, had the birthright to the Holy Priesthood. He and his descendants (the Cainites) had the right to receive it first. But Cain offerred a sacrifice to the LORD in a state of unworthiness, or wickedness. The LORD did not accept this offerring, but rejected it. Because Abel's offerring was made in a state of worthiness, or righteousness, the LORD accepted Abel's offering, and Cain lost his birthright to Abel; his younger brother.



  3. Cain, being jealous and angry, decided to kill Abel; mistakenly thinking that the birthright to the Priesthood would revert back to him. After this was done, the LORD cursed Cain; made him a wandering upon the earth, and put a 'mark' upon him so that anyone recognizing him would not kill him. The 'mark' of Cain was a black skin. This was not the curse, but actually a mark of protection from the LORD. The ground would not yield fruit for him. He was to wander the earth. This is known as "The Curse of Cain".



  5. Instead of Cains descendants receiving the birthright first, they would receive it last. The first shall be last, and the last shall be first. The Cainites would be banned from receiving the Priesthood until Abel was resurrected, had children, and all of Abel's children received it first. Then the curse would be removed from the descendants of Cain, and they would receive the Priesthood and all the blessings thereof.



  7. The Sethites (the descendants of Seth--the third son of Adam and Eve) and the Cainites (the descendants of Cain) were not allowed to intermarry. However, this did happen. The result was corruption, and the LORD decided to destroy the Adamites in a great flood. He chose Noah to save himself, his wife, and his sons, and their wives; along with two of every kind of useful animal in the Ark. According to Mormon teachings, the wife of Ham was Egyptus: a Cainite woman. Thus, the Cainite bloodline, or lineage, continued through the Flood. The descendants of Ham and his Cainite wife Egyptus were Mizraim, Cush, Put, and Canaan. The descendants of Mizraim, Cush, and Put settled in North Africa. Mizraim is the Hebrew name for "Egypt". Cush is the Hebrew name for Nubia (now Sudan), and Put is thought to have settled in what is now the Ethiopia region. Joseph Smith believed that Negroes were "the sons of Cain" (i.e. the descendants of Cain), and most Mormon Presidents and Apostles have had the same belief. That would mean that black Africans are Cainites (descendants of Cain through Egyptus, the wife of Ham), and Sethites (the descendants of Noah via Ham) as well as Hamites (the descendants of Ham). The Canaanites did not settle in North African, but in the land of Canaan; which is now called Israel, or Palestine.



  9. Elijah Abel, a black man of African descent, and his male descendants, have always had the Holy Priesthood. This is explained because Elijah Abel was of such great faith, that the LORD made an exception in his case and with his descendants. There is a similar situation in the Bible in The Book of Ruth. Because the Moabites (a white-skinned people who were the descendants of Lot, the nephew of Abraham) did not give food or water to the Israelites when they came out of Egypt into the desert, the LORD cursed them; proclaiming that a Moabite would not enter the Congregation of the LORD until the 10th generation. However, Ruth, a 1st generation Moabitess, showed such great faith that the LORD made an exception, and she became an Israelite. Jesus Himself was a descendant of Ruth and Obed. The descendants of Elijah Abel are all white; because Abel's sons and daughters married white Mormons back in the late 19th century.



  11. Hamites, of whatever skin-color, could not hold the Priesthood or partake of the Higher Ordinances of Mormon Temples; which include Endowments and Sealings. However, they could enter Mormon Temples to be baptized for the dead. They could be Members of the Church. But they could not serve as missionaries. From the 1840s to the early 1960s the Church never had more than 1000 black Members of African descent. However, in the mid-1960s some black Africans started to receive visions in which Jesus or an angel told them about the Church. Some of these black Africans began to find information about the Church, and to preach and form entire congregations, and sometimes theirown denominations with tens of thousands of black Africans as members. They called themselves 'Mormons' and 'Latter-day Saints'. The Church tried to encourage these people, but the men were not ordained to the Priesthood.



  13. In the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s the Church received much negative media attention because of the Priesthood-ban. The Church issued strong statements condemning racism, and encouraging its Members to stand for the civil-rights of all Americans; but they also declared that the Priesthood-ban was of the LORD, that it had nothing to do with the 'civil-rights' of Americans, and that only the LORD, the Author of the ban, could lift it.



  15. In 1978, the Church was building a Temple in Sao Paulo, Brasil. At that time there were tens of thousands of Mulatto Mormons in Brasil; people with both white and black ancestry. These people had great faith, and sacrificed much to build the Temple in Sao Paulo; the largest city in Brazil. Many of these people knew that they would be allowed in the Temple, but could not partake of the most important ordinances in them. Yet, they still sacrificed to build it. Seeing the exceeding faith of these Mulatto Saints, the General Authorities of the Chuch, who are called "The Brethren", prayed for months that the Priesthood-ban be finally lifted. On June 1st, 1978, in the Holy of Holies in the Salt Lake Temple, the LORD communicated to President Spencer W. Kimball, and He lifted the Priesthood-ban from off the Hamitic lineage. The vast great majority of Mormons were overjoyed at the news. Only a few weeks later, the first black men of African lineage since Elijah Abel and his descendants were ordained to the Priesthood, and they and their families soon thereafter received the Higher Ordinances of the Temple.
This Priesthood-ban has been refered to by Mormons as:
  1. The Curse of Cain (the son of Adam)
  2. The Curse of Egyptus (the wife of Ham)
  3. The Curse of Pharoah (the righteous son of Ham and Egyptus and king of Egypt)
  4. The Priesthood-ban (i.e. Hamites being 'banned' from the Priesthood until 1978)
Some Members of the Church, both black and white, don't believe that the Curse of Cain was of God. They believe it was a misinterpretation by the Apostles and Presidents of the Church, and that it never should have happened. Others believe that the Church 'never really taught' this doctrine, but that it was merely the opinion of some of the Members, or perhaps a few of the Apostles. Yet, a close examination of all the historical data reveals that the Priesthood-ban was based solely upon the Curse of Cain Doctrine, and that it was always presented by Church leaders as a "doctrine of the Church" from the very beginning. At no time was it ever put forth as mere opinion or speculation. Some in the Church believe that the Curse of Cain Doctrine was an invention of Brigham Young, the 2nd President of the Church, and not the Prophet Joseph Smith. Yet, the evidence shows that it probably originated with Joseph Smith. He was the translator of The Book of Abraham; where it says that Pharoah was of Hamitic lineage, which lineage was "blessed with wisdom" but "cursed as pertaining to the Priesthood" (Abraham 1:26). Also, in a debate he had with John C. Bennett, the first Mayor of Nauvoo, on who had the greater cause of complaint against the white man, Indians (native Americans) or Negroes, the Prophet said "that the Indians have greater cause to complain of the treatment of the whites, than the Negroes or sons of Cain." (History of the Church 4:501)

 Mormons who accept the Curse of Cain Doctrine, and the resulting Priesthood-ban, as from the LORD also believe that both are now irrelevant; since the Priesthood-ban was lifted in 1978 by the LORD's revelation to President Spencer W. Kimball. But they also believe that the past shouldn't be forgotten; just understood. Since 1978, worthy black males in the Church have been ordained to the Priesthood. One of them, Helvecio Martins of Brazil, who joined the Church before black men could be ordained to the Priesthood, became a General Authority in the Church in 1990. He became a Member of the 2nd Quorum of Seventy; which is the 5th highest quorum in the Church.

 Q. But isn't the Curse of Cain doctrine 'racist' and the Priesthood-ban a form of discrimination?

 Under the dictionary definition of 'racism' the Curse of Cain doctrine is not 'racist'. It did not declare that people of Hamitic lineage were 'inferior' to people of other races or lineages. Indeed, it actually said that the Cainites were the founders of the first cities, and the first to work in brass and use musical instruments. These are not the actions of an 'inferior' people. The Curse of Cain Doctrine declared that the ancient Egyptians, who were 'blessed with wisdom' but 'cursed as pertaining to the Priesthood' were really the first to develope math, science, and architechure. Surely, these are not signs of 'inferiority'. If anything, the Curse of Cain Doctrine presents the descendants of Cain as SUPERIOR to other races and lineages; at least anciently. Yet, the Bible contains many prophecies, like in Ezekiel 29, that the LORD would scatter the Egyptians among the inhabitants of Pathos (black Africa), and would divide them, and would make of them, in the latter days, slaves of other nations. Some blacks, including many Africans and African-Americans who are not Mormons, see these Biblical prophecies as being fulfilled. Others see these things are totally unrelated, and see any suggestion that they are of Cainite or Hamitic lineage as 'racist' in itself.

 The Priesthood-ban was a form of discrimination! To 'discriminate' means to choose one thing over others. The LORD chose Israel, among all nations, to be His people. His chose one tribe of 13 Israelite tribes, the Levites, to be His Priests anciently. Many people don't realize that in ancient times, only the Levites, or the descendants of Levi, the son of Israel, could be Priests. All other tribes were banned from Priesthood service; including the tribe of Judah, from which came Jesus. This is definitely discrimination, but it was discrimination from the LORD. He has a right to discriminate as He sees fit. We do not. If the Priesthood-ban was from the LORD, then it was His discrimination. We are not to discriminate, but the LORD can discriminate as He sees fit. He very often has.

 Q. Isn't believing that black folks are or were cursed by God a 'racist' belief?

 No. That is not how 'racism' is defined. God alternatively blesses and curses all nations according to how they adhere or reject His Laws and Prophets. The Bible records many curses upon various peoples, for example:

  1. The LORD curses all women to bear children in great suffering because the Serpent (Satan) deceived Eve.
  2. The LORD curses all men to earn their bread by the sweat of their brow because Adam partook of the forbidden fruit.
  3. The LORD curses the Egyptians with plagues because Pharoah refused to let the Israelites go out of Egypt.
  4. The LORD curses the Moabites and Ammonites because they did not provide food and water to the Israelites in the desert wilderness.
  5. The LORD promises to curse the ISRAELITES, His own chosen people, if they do not adhere to His commandments.
The LORD has a history of blessing and cursing nations and lineages according to how they obey or disobey His laws, and according to how they adhere to or ignore His prophets. These blessings and cursings have absolutely nothing to do with racism! 

Black Mormons & The Priesthood~Ban (continued)