LDS Church releases statement on race

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SALT LAKE CITY -- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released a statement  on a controversial part of its history-- race and the Priesthood.

Church leaders released a new statement disavowing the ban on blacks in the Priesthood. That ban was lifted in 1978.

Historically, church leaders never really gave a comprehensive explanation as to why black men could not receive the Priesthood. It seemed like a taboo topic they wouldn't elaborate on.

Now, members are getting a little bit of insight from a 2,000 word statement posted on the LDS Church website. The statement essentially says the ban was put in place by Brigham Young, the second president of the church, during an era of great racial divide that influenced early teachings of the church.

The statement reads in part:

The gospel of Jesus Christ is for everyone. The Book of Mormon states, “black and white, bond and free, male and female; … all are alike unto God” (2 Nephi 26:33). This is the Church’s official teaching.

People of all races have always been welcomed and baptized into the Church since its beginning. In fact, by the end of his life in 1844 Joseph Smith, the founding prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, opposed slavery. During this time some black males were ordained to the priesthood. At some point the Church stopped ordaining male members of African descent, although there were a few exceptions. It is not known precisely why, how or when this restriction began in the Church, but it has ended. Church leaders sought divine guidance regarding the issue and more than three decades ago extended the priesthood to all worthy male members. The Church immediately began ordaining members to priesthood offices wherever they attended throughout the world.

The Church unequivocally condemns racism, including any and all past racism by individuals both inside and outside the Church. In 2006, then Church president Gordon B. Hinckley declared that “no man who makes disparaging remarks concerning those of another race can consider himself a true disciple of Christ. Nor can he consider himself to be in harmony with the teachings of the Church. Let us all recognize that each of us is a son or daughter of our Father in Heaven, who loves all of His children.”

Recently, the Church has also made the following statement on this subject:

“The origins of priesthood availability are not entirely clear. Some explanations with respect to this matter were made in the absence of direct revelation and references to these explanations are sometimes cited in publications. These previous personal statements do not represent Church doctrine.”

To read more about race and the LDS Church, Click here.

22 comments

  • Bubba

    But wait!!!! He was a ‘prophet of god’…albeit a false prophet…a true prophet doesn’t make mistakes…God is all-knowing and eternal, the triune God doesn’t make mistakes…only false prophets make mistakes… and it only take one false prophesy to make a false prophet

    • Darrin Smith

      So Bubba, let’s hear what you believe in please. I have a hard time with critics who live in the shadows and are afraid to show their face along with their criticism. Obviously you dislike the LDS Church. What are some of your controversial beliefs? Can you post them please so all can see? That would be refreshing!

  • Nell

    A prophet is human and therefore capable of making mistakes. Read your bible. No prophet has been perfect. And to clarify, Brigham Young didn’t make that decision in a revelatory capacity. It was one he did using his own human judgement.

    • Eric Anderson

      How do you tell the difference between “personal judgment” and “revelation”? Does it depend on whether it turns out to be right or not?

      In my observation the difference has more to do with the prevailing public opinion at the moment than anything else.

  • CanuckXMO

    Latter-day Saint (LDS) leaders are apparently ignorant of Mormonism’s history. According to the LDS Church, in Dec. 1830, Joseph Smith, the so-called “prophet of the Restoration” (Mormonism’s founder), wrote that “the seed of Cain were black” in his “translated” Book of Moses (see Moses 7:22 in the church’s Pearl of Great Price volume of scripture).

    Who was Cain? According to the Old Testament, he was one of the sons of Adam and Eve and humanity’s first murderer. For killing his brother Abel, “the Lord” – Mormonism’s unborn Jesus existing as an intelligence-spirit in the LDS “premortal existence” – cursed Cain with a “mark”/dark skin.

    Generations of Mormon “prophets” taught that Negroes were Cain’s “cursed” descendants. For example, LDS apostle Bruce McConkie wrote that “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 [the rest of humanity] should not intermarry.”

    The LDS Church states on its website that Ham was a “Son of Noah”, “cursed”, and “his descendants…were the southern nations: from Cush came the dark-skinned race of eastern Africa and southern Arabia.”

    Mormon Church president Joseph Fielding Smith wrote that “the sons of Cain” were “denied the priesthood; [and] not privileged to receive the covenants of glory in the kingdom of God!” He also stated that Negroes had a “black covering emblematical of eternal darkness.”

    Finally, Mormonism’s “keystone”, the Book of Mormon, states that God “is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and in him there is no variableness neither shadow of changing.” If the BoM is “true”, which the LDS Church has taught since 1830, it’s been impossible for God to flip-flop on the “restored” doctrine of “cursed” blacks lacking in “Spiritual valiance”, quoting LDS apostle McConkie.

    Or, maybe, Mormonism has been a bunch of wacky notions created by the minds of self-deluded Latter-day Saint men.

    • Eric Anderson

      I grew up being taught that blacks were “cursed”. As recently as 1983, in seminary.

      To suggest that none of this was “prophetic” is to suggest that the “prophets” make major policy decisions based on their personal whims and biases. That is essentially the message of today’s announcement.

      Look….it is what it is. I’m an atheist, and don’t have a dog in this fight. Mormons believe. I do not. They are entitled to their beliefs, and I respect them. But this message is not aimed at Mormons, but at the rest of the world….and it’s a pack of nonsense.

      The policy existed because of racism. Period. I happen to believe that the concern was not so much “blacks” as racist, white Mormons who wouldn’t have been able to handle true equality. I think that the Church leadership made the decision to exclude blacks because some of them really believed the nonsense they were saying, while others were simply trying to avoid a policy that would have alienated most potential white converts. By 1978 the policy was clearly counterproductive, and very few racists remained among Church leadership, so they made a political decision. An excellent one, and one which has seen the Church expand by leaps and bounds in sub-Saharan Africa. (It’s predicted that within the next decade there will be more black Mormons than white ones.) Kudos to the Church for doing the right thing, for whatever reason.

      But please……don’t try to dance around it with this “prophet-not prophet” game.

    • Eric Anderson

      I wouldn’t count on that one. Most religions are shrinking as they become more permssive. Mormonism is growing by leaps and bounds precisely BECAUSE it’s strict and exacting. Most people looking for religion are not looking for one that will tell them everything they do is OK. They are looking for guidance and boundaries. For the most part, Mormonism will stick by its guns, and will reap the benefits because of that.

      I don’t get it, but I’m not “most people.”

  • MacGregor

    “Unlike other organizations that can change their policies and even their doctrines, our policies are determined by the truths God has identified as unchangeable.”

    Dallin H. Oaks. “No Other Gods” Oct 2013 Conference.

    Hah!

    • John Croshaw

      The quote you use is not in context, as this statement clearly mentions that the restriction to blacks in the Mormon church was definitely not Gods truth. Are you looking for a gotcha moment? The church changed their policy some 30 years ago. This isn’t exactly new stuff.

  • b. briggs

    im impressed that the lds organization would take such a respectable chance by doing exactly i had been hoping they would do. here is the next step that makes their statement so dangerous, if the word of a profit is no longer the word of god there will be two options for the current members of the flock. 1: no longer cayou keep your blinders on and follow a false profit with the all so important blind faith. 2: if you choose the blind faith option how are you going to tell the difference between devine revelation and one mortals tainted ideals. have some self respect and research your own religions history. read the journal of discorses. not only did j. smith give the presthood to some black men but a select few woman as well. the statement the church released state they didnt know the origins of the presthood policy. B.S. its easly found. why go so far to clarify a giant problem i have with the church and gain some respect back from me just to cloud it up with smoke and mirrors

  • Don C.

    If you think Mormonism is growing by “leaps and bounds”, you need to do a little research. The church is getting pummeled by the Internet. Not by anti-mormon attacks, but by current members becoming educated regarding church history. I was active for over 30 years, and now it’s all falling apart – and I am not alone. When you see the church making these fundamental changes, and wide sweeping (shocking) statements, you have to step back and look at the big picture. They are doing it to survive. My 5 issues are; 1. Joseph Smith and his 14 year old “wives”; 2. Kirkland; 3. JS destroying William Law’s printing press for telling the truth (polygamy) about Joseph Smith, 4. Book of Abraham & Kinderhook, 5. Church finances – and why the church won’t make the financials public. Are they worried about how many members would walk away when they find out how much the GA’s are getting paid? You like this Church Statement? Sit tight, MANY more on the way. Just admit – you’re in a cult, and decades of many reasons, you simply can’t walk away.

    • Barbados

      “Kirkland”??? You dumbass. If you really think it was called Kirkland then you weren’t a member for over 30 years.

      • Don C.

        By the way you judge me, and call names, I believe you ARE LDS. One big reason why I’m done. Enjoy following a church that has lied to you regarding their history.

  • Kent Dorfman

    The Mormon religion changes their teachings too adapt with the growing social change in order to stay accepted and grow.
    Decades from now the LDS will say they have always accepted gays while sweeping the millions spent protesting against them. In my life, take the 80’s,Mormons were 100% prejudice vs every black I knew. In fact they was the most prejudice group I faced growing up. I was personally a neighborhood cast out because I wasn’t LDS. LDS, is the only religion I can think of who constantly lie and change their beliefs and teachings….To keep the perfect lie machine going I guess.
    Bless the good Mormons I do know and love. I’ve seen and dealt with the church on a high level, I’ve been on the inside, if only every Mormon could have seen a tenth of what I’ve witnessed.

    • Tom

      Kent, I am sorry to hear that you had a bad experience in the 80s. I went to high school in Southern Utah in the early 80s. We had one black family move in with a couple of students. I was amazed at how welcomed they were. Not only did I not observe any prejudice, but the opposite was true. I had never seen any students made so welcome. They were very involved and very popular and I found myself feeling some envy. They were great young people who deserved to be treated well. No doubt there was somebody somewhere who had issues but all I saw was genuine kindness and love. Since then I have been in a number of wards around the country where members of African heritage have been in leadership positions. Have not seen what you have.

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