Were the reasons behind the priesthood ban on blacks based on "theory"?

Compiled by Eric Johnson

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In addition, here are some quotes in response to an article on www.lds.org titled “Race and the Priesthood.” Is it really true that the ban was based on nothing more than “theory” and that second Mormon President Brigham Young is really to blame? Are other leaders who enforced the ban less culpable? We’ll let these quotes from general authorities and others in Mormonism speak for themselves:

Joseph Smith
“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” (Joseph Smith, History of the Church 5:217-218).
2nd President Brigham Young
“The seed of Ham, which is the seed of Cain descending through Ham, will, according to the curse put upon him, serve his brethren, and be a ‘servant of servants’ to his fellow creatures, until God removes the curse; and no power can hinder it” (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 279; Journal of Discourses 2:184. Also cited by 10th President Joseph Fielding Smith, The Way to Perfection, pp. 109-110.)

Mormon Founder Joseph Smith: “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” (Joseph Smith, History of the Church 5:217-218).

2nd President Brigham Young: “The seed of Ham, which is the seed of Cain descending through Ham, will, according to the curse put upon him, serve his brethren, and be a ‘servant of servants’ to his fellow creatures, until God removes the curse; and no power can hinder it” (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 279; Journal of Discourses 2:184. Also cited by 10th President Joseph Fielding Smith, The Way to Perfection, pp. 109-110.)

“Now then, in the kingdom of God on the earth, a man who has the African blood in him cannot hold one jot nor tittle of Priesthood; Why? Because they are the true eternal principals the Lord Almighty has ordained, and who can help it − men cannot, the angels cannot, and all the powers of Earth and Hell cannot take it off, but thus saith the Eternal, ‘I am, what I am, I take it off at My pleasure’, and not one particle of power can that posterity of Cain have, until the time comes the [Lord] says He will have it taken away. That time will come, when they will have the privilege of all we have the privilege of, and more. In the Kingdom of God on the Earth the Africans cannot hold one particle of power in Government” (The Teachings of President Brigham Young: Vol. 3 1852-1854, Fred C. Collier, ed., p. 43. Speech given to the Joint Session of the Legislature in Salt Lake City, on Thursday, February 5, 1852. Brackets in original).

“But let me tell you further. Let my seed mingle with the seed of Cain, [and] that brings the curse upon me, and upon my generations, [after me – should we do this] we will reap the same rewards with Cain” (The Teachings of President Brigham Young: Vol. 3 1852-1854, Fred C. Collier, ed., p. 44. Speech given to the Joint Session of the Legislature in Salt Lake City, on Thursday, February 5, 1852. Brackets in original).

“You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild, and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind. The first man that committed the odious crime of killing one of his brethren will be cursed the longest of any one of the children of Adam. Cain slew his brother. Cain might have been killed, and that would have put a termination to that line of human beings. This was not to be, and the Lord put a mark upon him, which is the flat nose and black skin. Trace mankind down to after the flood, and then another curse is pronounced upon the same race—that they should be the ‘servant of servants;’ and they will be, until that curse is removed; and the Abolitionists cannot help it, nor in the least alter that decree. 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. 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” (Brigham Young, October 9, 1859, Journal of Discourses 7:290-291).

“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” (Brigham Young, March 8, 1863, Journal of Discourses 10:110. See also John Lewis Lund’s The Church and the Negro, 1967, p. 54).

“Why are so many of the inhabitants of the earth cursed with a sin of blackness? It comes in consequence of their fathers rejecting the power of the Holy Priesthood, and the law of God. 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, and receive all the blessings which we now are entitled to. The volition of the creature is free; this is a law of their existence, and the Lord cannot violate his own law; were he to do that, he would cease to be God” (Brigham Young, August 19, 1866, Journal of Discourses 11:272).

“In ancient days old Israel was the chosen people in whom the Lord delighted, and whom he blessed and did so much for. Yet they transgressed every law that he gave them, changed every ordinance that he delivered to them, broke every covenant made with the fathers, and turned away entirely from his holy commandments, and the Lord cursed them. Cain was cursed for this, with this black skin that there is so much said about. Do you think that we could make laws to change the color of the skin of Cain’s descendants? If we can, we can change the leopard’s spots; but we cannot do this, neither can we change their blood” (Brigham Young, April 9, 1871, Journal of Discourses 14:86-87).

3rd President John Taylor

“The descendants of Ham, besides a black skin which has ever been a curse that has followed an apostate of the holy priesthood, as well as a black heart, have been servants to both Shem and Jepheth, and the abolitionists are trying to make void the curse of God, but it will require more power than man possesses to counteract the decrees of eternal wisdom.” (John Taylor, Times and Seasons, April 1, 1845, 6:857).

“And after the flood we are told that the curse that had been pronounced upon Cain was continued through Ham’s wife, as he had married a wife of that seed. And why did it pass through the flood? Because it was necessary that the devil should have a representation upon the earth as well as God” (John Taylor, August 28th, 1881, Journal of Discourses 22:304. See also Latter-day Prophets Speak: Selections from the Sermons and Writings of Church Presidents, p. 157, Daniel H. Ludlow, ed.).

“Why is it, in fact, that we should have a devil? Why did not the Lord kill him long ago? Because he could not do without him. He needed the devil and a great many of those who do his bidding just to keep men straight, that we may learn to place our dependence upon God, and trust in Him, and to observe his laws and keep his commandments. When he destroyed the inhabitants of the antediluvian world, he suffered a descendant of Cain to come through the flood in order that he might be properly represented upon the earth” (John Taylor, October 29, 1882, Journal of Discourses 23:336).

4th President Wilford Woodruff

“The Lord said I will not kill Cane But I will put a mark upon him and it is seen in the [face?] of every Negro on the Earth And it is the decree of God that that mark shall remain upon the seed of Cane & the Curse [remain] untill all the seed of Abel should be re[deem?]ed and Cane will not receive the priesthood untill or salvation untill all the seed of Abel are Redeemed. Any man having one drop of the seed of Cane in him Cannot hold the priesthood & if no other Prophet ever spake it Before I will say it now in the name of Jesus Christ. I know it is true & they know it. The Negro cannot hold one particle of Government But the day will Come when all the seed of Cane will be Redeemed & have all the Blessings we have now & a great deal more. But the seed of Abel will be ahead of the seed of Cane to all Eternity. Let me consent to day to mingle my seed with the seed of Cane. It would Bring the same curse upon me And it would upon any man. And if any man mingles his seed with the seed of Cane the ownly way he Could get rid of it or have salvation would be to Come forward & have his head Cut off & spill his Blood upon the ground. It would also take [require] the life of his Children” (Waiting for World’s End: The Diaries of Wilford Woodruff, Susan Staker, ed., p. 300. Wilford Woodruff recounting Brigham Young’s remarks on February 7, 1852. Brackets, spelling, and punctuation in original).

“Lorenzo Young asked if the Spirits of Negroes were Nutral in Heaven. He said someone said Joseph Smith said they were. Presidet Young said No they were not. There was No Nutral spirits in Heaven at the time of the Rebelion. All took sides. he said if any one said that He Herd the Prophet Joseph Say that the spirits of the Blacks were Nutral in Heaven He would not Believe them for He herd Joseph Say to the Contrary” (Waiting for World’s End: The Diaries of Wilford Woodruff, Susan Staker, ed., p. 300. Wilford Woodruff recounting Brigham Young’s remarks on December 25, 1869. Spelling and punctuation in original).

10th President Joseph Fielding Smith

“This doctrine did not originate with President Brigham Young but was taught by the Prophet Joseph Smith. At a meeting of the general authorities of the Church, held August 22, 1895, the question of the status of the negro in relation to the Priesthood was asked and the minutes of that meeting say: ‘President George Q. Cannon remarked that the Prophet taught this doctrine: That the seed of Cain could not receive the Priesthood nor act in any of the offices of the Priesthood until the seed of Abel should come forward and take precedence over Cain’s offspring” (Joseph Fielding Smith, The Way to Perfection, p. 110. See also Milton R. Hunter’s Pearl of Great Price Commentary, 1948, pp. 141-142).

“It is true that the negro race is barred from holding the Priesthood, and this has always been the case. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught this doctrine, and it was made known to him, although we know of no such statement in any revelation in the Doctrine and Covenants, Book of Mormon, or the Bible. However, in the Pearl of Great Price, we find the following statement written by Abraham: ‘Now this first government of Egypt was established by Pharaoh, the eldest son of Egyptus, the daughter of Ham, and it was after the manner of the government of Ham, which was patriarchal. Pharaoh, being a righteous man, established his kingdom and judged his people wisely and justly all his days, seeking earnestly to imitate that order established by the fathers in the first generations, in the days of the first patriarchal reign, even in the reign of Adam, and also of Noah, his father, who blessed him with the blessings of the earth, and with the blessings of wisdom, but cursed him as pertaining to the Priesthood.’ Pearl of Great Price, Abraham 1:25-26” (Joseph Fielding Smith, “The Negro and the Priesthood,” Improvement Era, April 1924, p. 565).

“There is a reason why one man is born black and with other disadvantages, while another is born white with great advantages. The reason is that we once had an estate before we came here, and were obedient; more or less, to the laws that were given us there. Those who were faithful in all things there received greater blessings here, and those who were not faithful received less” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation 1:61. Italics in original).

“NO NEUTRALS IN HEAVEN. There were no neutrals in the war in heaven. All took sides either with Christ or with Satan. Every man had his agency there, and men receive rewards here based upon their actions there, just as they will receive rewards hereafter for deeds done in the body. The Negro, evidently, is receiving the reward he merits” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation 1:65-66. Italics in original).

“If Abraham, Joseph, and Moses had married Negro wives their descendants would have been denied the priesthood according to the word of the Lord to Abraham. (Abraham 1:21-27.) Had such a thing happened the Lord would not have called Israel as a chosen people, neither would he have chosen the Prophet Joseph Smith and given him the keys of authority for the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times, as he was a descendant of Joseph and of Abraham” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions 1:169).

“‘Was Cain cursed with a black skin?’ Technically the black skin was not the curse, but the mark of the curse. The scriptures do not say that Cain was made black, but we read that his descendants were. We may well suppose that Cain was also black and that this was the mark the Lord placed upon him” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions 2:175).

“Kindly see chapters 15 and 16, in The Way to Perfection, for further light in relation to the reason why the Negro cannot receive the priesthood. In brief, it is as follows: Because of transgression in the first estate which deprives him in this second estate. Since Cain slew his brother Abel in order to obtain all the rights of priesthood to descend through his lineage, the Lord decreed that the children of Cain should not have the privilege of bearing the priesthood until Abel had posterity who could have the priesthood and that will have to be in the far distant future. When this is accomplished on some other world, then the restrictions will be removed from the children of Cain who have been true in this ‘second’ estate” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions 2:188).

“The Latter-day Saints, so commonly called ‘Mormons,’ have no animosity towards the Negro, Neither have they described him as belonging to an ‘inferior race’” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions 4:170).

“That the negro race, for instance, have been placed under restrictions because of their attitude in the world of spirits, few will doubt. It cannot be looked upon as just that they should be deprived of the power of the Priesthood without it being a punishment for some act, or acts, performed before they were born. Yet, like all other spirits who come into this world, they come innocent before God so far as mortal existence is concerned, and here, under certain restrictions, they may work out their second estate. If they prove faithful in this estate, without doubt, our Eternal Father, who is just and true, will reward them accordingly and there will be in store for them some blessings of exaltation” (Joseph Fielding Smith, The Way To Perfection, p. 43).

“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 fulness of the blessings of the Gospel. These are the descendants of Cain. Moreover, they have been made to feel their inferiority and have been separated from the rest of mankind from the beginning” (Joseph Fielding Smith, The Way to Perfection, p. 101).

“In the spirit of sympathy, mercy and faith, we will also hope that blessings may eventually be given to our negro brethren, for they are our brethren-children of God-notwithstanding their black covering emblematical of eternal darkness” (Joseph Fielding Smith, The Way to Perfection, p. 102).

“President Brigham Young, answering a question put to him By Elder Lorenzo D. Young in a meeting held December 25, 1869, in Salt Lake City, said that Joseph Smith had declared that the Negroes were not neutral in heaven, for all the spirits took sides, but ‘the posterity of Cain are black because he (Cain) committed murder. He killed Abel and God set a mark upon his posterity’” (Joseph Fielding Smith, The Way to Perfection, p. 105).

11th President Harold B. Lee

“Some are heralding the fact that there was one of colored blood, Elijah Abel, who was ordained a Seventy in the early days. They go to the Church chronology and find the date of this ordination, and hold that up as saying that we departed from what was started way back, but they forget that also in Church history is another interesting observation. President Joseph F. Smith is quoted in a statement under date of August 26, 1908, when he referred to Elijah Abel who was ordained a Seventy in the days of the Prophet and to whom was issued a Seventy’s certificate. This ordination, when found out, was declared null and void by the Prophet himself and so likewise by the next three presidents who succeeded the Prophet Joseph. Somehow because of a little lapse, or a little failure to do research properly, some people reach a conclusion that they had wanted to reach and to make it appear as though something had been done way back from which we had departed and which now ought to be set in order. The Prophet Joseph Smith said, ‘That person who rises up to condemn the Church, saying that the Church is out of the way while he himself is righteous, then know surely that the man is on the road to apostasy, and unless he will repent he will apostatize as surely as God lives’” (Harold B. Lee, “Doing the Right Things for the Right Reasons.” April 19, 1961, BYU Speeches of the Year, 1961, p. 7).

“There is no truth more plainly taught in the Gospel than that our condition in the next world will depend upon the kind of lives we live here. ‘All that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.’ (John 5:28-29.) Is it not just as reasonable to suppose that the conditions in which we now live have been determined by the kind of lives we lived in the pre-existent world of spirits? That the apostles understood this principle is indicated by their question to the Master when the man who was blind from his birth was healed of his blindness, ‘Master, who did sin, this man or his parents that he was born blind?’ (John 9:2.) Now perhaps you will have a partial answer to some of your questions as to why, if God is a just Father, that some of his children are born of an enlightened race and in a time when the Gospel is upon the earth, while others are born of a heathen parentage in a benighted, backward country; and still others are born to parents who have the mark of a black skin with which the seed of Cain were cursed and whose descendants were to be denied the rights of the priesthood of God” (Harold B. Lee, Decisions for Successful Living, pp. 164-165).

“To impress the grave consequences and the seriousness of intermarriage as between those of different races and particularly with reference to intermarriage with the seed of Cain, President Brigham Young made this remark in an address before the legislature: ‘… that mark shall remain upon the seed of Cain until the seed of Abel shall be redeemed, and Cain shall not receive the priesthood until the time of that redemption. Any man having one drop of the seed of Cain in him cannot receive the priesthood… .’ (Wilford Woodruff, page 351.) Surely no one of you who is an heir to a body of more favored lineage would knowingly intermarry with a race that would condemn your posterity to penalties that have been placed upon the seed of Cain by the judgments of God. It might not be amiss likewise to urge upon you the most serious consideration of any question of your possible intermarriage with individuals of any other race than your own. No one of you with safety can defy the laws of heredity and the centuries of training that have developed strong racial characteristics and tendencies among the distinctive peoples of the earth and then expect to find a happy, congenial family relationship from such a union. The wisdom of experience fully demonstrates the importance of your marrying those of your own race and those with a similar background of customs and manners” (Harold B. Lee, Decisions for Successful Living, p. 168. Ellipses in original).

“Surely no one of you who is an heir to a body of more favored lineage would knowingly intermarry with a race that would condemn your posterity to penalties that have been placed upon the seed of Cain by the judgments of God” (President Harold B. Lee, Decisions for Successful Living, p. 168).

13th President Ezra Taft Benson

“The arm of flesh may not approve nor understand why God has not bestowed the priesthood on women or the seed of Cain, but God’s ways are not man’s ways” (Ezra Taft Benson, Conference Reports, October 1967, p. 34).

First Presidency

“The attitude of the Church with reference to the Negroes remains as it has always stood. It is not a matter of the declaration of a policy but of direct commandment from the Lord, on which is founded the doctrine of the Church from the days of its organization, to the effect that Negroes may become members of the Church but that they are not entitled to the Priesthood at the present time. The prophets of the Lord have made several statements as to the operation of the principle. President Brigham Young said, ‘Why are so many of the inhabitants of the earth cursed with a skin of blackness? It comes in consequence of their father’s rejecting the power of the Holy Priesthood, and the law of God.’ 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 receive all the blessings we are entitled to’” (Official statement of the First Presidency to BYU President Ernest L. Wilkinson, dated August 17, 1951, quoted in John Lewis Lund, The Church and the Negro, p. 89).

“The position of the Church regarding the Negro may be understood when another doctrine of the Church is kept in mind; namely, that the conduct of spirits in the pre-mortal existence has some determining effect upon the conditions and circumstances under which these spirits take on mortality, and that while the details of the principle have not been made known, the principle itself indicates that the coming to this earth and taking on mortality is a privilege that is given to those who maintain their first estate; and that the worth of the principle is so great that spirits are willing to come to earth and take on bodies no matter what the handicap may be as to the kind of bodies they are to secure; and that among the handicaps, failure of the right to enjoy in mortality the blessings of the priesthood, is a handicap which spirits are willing to assume in order that they might come to earth. Under this principle there is no injustice whatsoever involved in this deprivation as to the holding of the Priesthood by Negroes” (Official statement of the First Presidency to BYU President Ernest L. Wilkinson, dated August 17, 1951, quoted in Hyrum L. Andrus, Doctrinal Commentary on the Pearl of Great Price, 1967, pp. 406- 407).

“The following is a talk given by President Alvin R. Dyer at the missionary conference in Oslo, March 18, 1961. It is recommended that each missionary read this message several times in order to get a better understanding of the Restored Gospel. …Why is it that you are white and not colored? Have you ever asked yourself that question? Who had anything to do with your being born into the Church and not born a Chinese or a Hindu, or a Negro? Is God such an unjust person that He would make you white andfree and make a Negro cursed under the cursing of Cain that he should not hold the Priesthood of God? Who do think decided, and what is the reason behind it? …There were three divisions of mankind in the pre-existence, and when you are born into this life, you are born into one of these three divisions of people. There is an imposed judgment placed upon everyone who leaves the Spirit World just the same as there will be when they leave this life and go into one of three places. When they left the Spirit World, they had already been judged by what they had done in the Spirit World and in their previous life. From what judgment is determined how they shall be born in this life? When you understand that, you know that God is not unjust to cause a righteous spirit to be born as a cursed member of the black race or to be cursed as one of the other people who have been cursed. Everything is in order. The procreation of man is orderly and in accordance with the plan of life and salvation. …I suppose, and you often may have heard missionaries say it, or have asked the question, why is a negro a negro? And you have heard this answer. Well, they must have been neutral in the pre-existence or they must have straddled the issue. That is the most common saying, they were neither hot nor cold so the Lord made them Negroes. This is, of course, not true. The reason that spirits are born into Negro bodies is because those spirits rejected the priesthood of God in the Pre-existence. This is the reason why you have Negroes on the earth. …All of this is according to a well worked-out plan, that these millions and billions of spirits awaiting birth in the pre-existence would be born through a channel or race of people. Consequently, the cursed were to be born through Ham. …In the eyes of a Jew, everyone who is not a Jew is a Gentile. But correctly speaking, the Gentiles are the descendants of Japheth. The chosen people are the descendants of Shem. Through these lineages the spirits that compare with their station are born in this life. This is why you have colored people, why you have dark people and why you have white people” (Alvin R. Dyer, “For What Purpose?” March 18, 1961. From Typed Manuscript at LDS Archives. Ellipses mine).

Apostles

“When the curse of the Almighty comes upon a people, it certainly is the work of generations to remove it. When Cain brought a curse upon his own head, and that of his household, his after generations bore the same curse. The curse that came upon Canaan, the son of Ham, has extended to a great portion of the human race, and has continued to the present day. For the last hundred years, philanthropists, who were ignorant of the order of God—of the irrevocable decrees of the Almighty—have exerted themselves vigorously to thwart the purposes of the Almighty, in trying to remove the curse of servitude from the descendants of Canaan; but their endeavors are vain and useless; it is labor lost, and answers no end, only so far as it serves to multiply the difficulties and perplexities which are arising in this generation, to bring about the great destruction of corruption and wickedness from the earth; in this way it all indirectly serves a purpose.” (George A. Smith, September 23, 1855, Journal of Discourses 3:29).

“Part of the curse upon Canaan was ‘a blackness,’ similar to that which had been placed upon ‘the seed of Cain.’ The curse also deprived the Canaanites of the Priesthood; though they were blessed ‘with the blessings of the earth and with the blessings of wisdom’” (Orson F. Whitney, Saturday Night Thoughts, pp. 119-120).

“Why is it in this Church we do not grant the priesthood to the Negroes? It is alleged that the Prophet Joseph said—and I have no reason to dispute it—that it is because of some act committed by them before they came into this life. It is alleged that they were neutral, standing neither for Christ nor the devil. But, I am convinced it is because of some things they did before they came into this life that they have been denied the privilege. The races of today are very largely reaping the consequences of a previous life” (Sermons and Missionary Service of Melvin J. Ballard, p. 248).

“Just as Brother George F. Richards has indicated that our poor benighted negro brethren are suffering the consequence of their sowing at some other time and place, so as certainly shall we hereafter reap what we are sowing here and now” (Melvin J. Ballard, Conference Reports, April 1939, p. 69).

“The principles that the Prophet Joseph taught are the doctrines that we must abide in, or we shall be overthrown. …It was manifest to him that the seed of Cain would not come in remembrance before the Lord for their final redemption, until the seed of Abel the righteous should all have their opportunity” (Franklin D. Richards, October 5, 1896, Collected Discourses 5:220. Ellipses mine).

“The negro is an unfortunate man. He has been given a black skin. But that is as nothing compared with that greater handicap that he is not permitted to receive the Priesthood and the ordinances of the temple, necessary to prepare men and women to enter into and enjoy a fulness of glory in the celestial kingdom. What is the reason for this condition, we ask, and I find it to my satisfaction to think that as spirit children of our Eternal Father they were not valiant in the fight. We are told that Michael and his angels fought, and we understand that we stood with Christ our Lord, on the platform, ‘Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.’I cannot conceive our Father consigning his children to a condition such as that of the negro race, if they had been valiant in the spirit world in that war in heaven. Neither could they have been a part of those who rebelled and were cast down, for the latter had not the privilege of tabernacling in the flesh. Somewhere along the line were these spirits, indifferent perhaps, and possibly neutral in the war. We have no definite knowledge concerning this. (George F. Richards, Conference Reports, April 1939, pp. 58-59).

“The Negro race have been forbidden the priesthood, and the higher temple blessings, presumably because of their not having been valiant while in the spirit. It does not pay to be anything but valiant” (George F. Richards, Conference Reports, October 1947, p. 57).

“We cannot escape the conclusion that because of performance in the pre-existence some of us are born as Chinese, some as Japanese, some as Indians, some as Negroes, some as Americans, some as Latter-day Saints. These are rewards and punishments, fully in harmony with His established policy in dealing with sinners and saints, rewarding all according to their deeds” (Mark E. Petersen, “Race Problems – as they affect the church,” August 27, 1954, p. 11).

“When He placed the mark upon Cain, He engaged in segregation. When he told Enoch not to preach the gospel to the descendants of Cain who were black, the Lord engaged in segregation. When He cursed the descendants of Cain as to the Priesthood, He engaged in segregation” (Mark E. Petersen, “Race Problems – as they affect the church,” August 27, 1954, p. 15).

“The Lord segregated the people both as to blood and place of residence. At least in the case of the Lamanites and the Negroes we have the definite word of the Lord Himself that he placed a dark skin upon them as a curse – as a punishment and as a sign to all others. He forbade intermarriage with them under the threat of extension of the curse. (2 Nephi 5:21) And He certainly segregated the Negro as to the Priesthood, and drew an absolute line. You may even say He dropped an Iron curtain there. The Negro was cursed as to the Priesthood, and therefore, was cursed as to the blessings of the Priesthood. Certainly God made a segregation there” (Mark E. Petersen, “Race Problems – as they affect the church,” August 27, 1954, p. 16).

“In spite of all he did in the pre-existent life, the Lord is willing, if the Negro accepts the gospel with real, sincere faith, and is really converted, to give him the blessings of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost. If that Negro is faithful all his days, he can and will enter the celestial kingdom. He will go there as a servant, but he will get a celestial resurrection. He will get a place in the celestial glory. He will not go then with even the honorable men of the earth to the terrestrial glory, nor with the ones spoken of as being without law” (Mark E. Petersen, “Race Problems – as they affect the church,” August 27, 1954, p. 17).

“If I were to marry a Negro woman and have children by her, my children would all be cursed as to the priesthood. Do I want my children cursed as to the priesthood? If there is one drop of Negro blood in my children, as I read to you, they receive the curse. There isn’t any argument, therefore, as to inter-marriage with the Negro, is there?…Now we are generous with the Negro. We are willing that the Negro have the highest kind of education. I would be willing to let every Negro drive a Cadillac if they could afford it. I would be willing that they have all the advantages they can get out of life in the world. But let them enjoy these things among themselves. I think the Lord segregated the Negro and who is man to change that segregation? It reminds me of the scripture on marriage, ‘what God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.’ Only here we have the reverse of the thing— What God hath separated, let not man bring together again” (Mark E. Petersen, “Race Problems as They Affect the Church,” August 27, 1954, p. 21).

“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” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 1966, p. 109).

“There are statements in our literature by the early Brethren that 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?’ All I can say 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 whoever 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” (Sermons and Writings of Bruce R. McConkie, pp. 164-165. From his address “All Are Alike unto God,” given at a Book of Mormon Symposium for Seminary and Institute teachers, Brigham Young University, August 18, 1978).

“It doesn’t make a particle of difference what anybody ever said about the Negro matter before the first day of June 1978. It is a new day and a new arrangement, and the Lord has now given the revelation that sheds light out into the world on this subject. As to any slivers of light or any particles of darkness of the past, we forget about them” (Sermons and Writings of Bruce R. McConkie, p. 165).

“One clear-cut position is that the folklore must never be perpetuated. … I have to concede to my earlier colleagues. … They, I’m sure, in their own way, were doing the best they knew to give shape to [the policy], to give context for it, to give even history to it. All I can say is however well intended the explanations were, I think almost all of them were inadequate and/or wrong. … It probably would have been advantageous to say nothing, to say we just don’t know, and, [as] with many religious matters, whatever was being done was done on the basis of faith at that time. But some explanations were given and had been given for a lot of years. … At the very least, there should be no effort to perpetuate those efforts to explain why that doctrine existed. I think, to the extent that I know anything about it, as one of the newer and younger ones to come along, … we simply do not know why that practice, that policy, that doctrine was in place. Well, some of the folklore that you must be referring to are suggestions that there were decisions made in the pre-mortal councils where someone had not been as decisive in their loyalty to a Gospel plan or the procedures on earth or what was to unfold in mortality, and that therefore that opportunity and mortality was compromised. I really don’t know a lot of the details of those, because fortunately I’ve been able to live in the period where we’re not expressing or teaching them, but I think that’s the one I grew up hearing the most, was that it was something to do with the pre-mortal councils. … But I think that’s the part that must never be taught until anybody knows a lot more than I know. … We just don’t know, in the historical context of the time, why it was practiced. … That’s my principal [concern], is that we don’t perpetuate explanations about things we don’t know. …We don’t pretend that something wasn’t taught or practice wasn’t pursued for whatever reason. But I think we can be unequivocal and we can be declarative in our current literature, in books that we reproduce, in teachings that go forward, whatever, that from this time forward, from 1978 forward, we can make sure that nothing of that is declared. That may be where we still need to make sure that we’re absolutely dutiful, that we put [a] careful eye of scrutiny on anything from earlier writings and teachings, just [to] make sure that that’s not perpetuated in the present. That’s the least, I think, of our current responsibilities on that topic” (Interview with Jeffrey Holland, http://www.pbs.org/mormons/interviews/holland.html. Retrieved December 4, 2009. Brackets and ellipses in original).

Seventies

“Since the Lord appeared unto Cain and conversed with him many times before Cain killed Abel, Cain must have held the Priesthood. God said unto Cain, ‘For from this time forth thou shalt be the father of his [Satan’s] lies; thou shalt be called Perdition;’ and the Lord cursed Cain with severe cursings. One of these cursings was a mark placed upon Cain, which mark would be carried by his posterity throughout all generations. According to the teachings of the Pearl of Great Price, this mark was a black skin” (Milton R. Hunter, Pearl of Great Price Commentary, 1948, p. 140-141. Brackets in original).

“When you think about it [the Priesthood ban], that’s just what it is — folklore. It’s never really been official doctrine. I know there have been some misconceptions and some statements made by people in the past, but as Elder (Bruce R.) McConkie said, we’ve received new and additional light and knowledge through revelation, and even the folklore is obsolete now because of the fact that we have the revelation” (Sheldon F. Child, “LDS Marking 30 Year Milestone,” Deseret News, June 7, 2008. Brackets mine).

Other Sources

“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” (John Lewis Lund, The Church and the Negro, 1967, p. 47).

“It would be well to point out that he exact time for the Negroes to be given the Priesthood after the millennium is not known. It is only known that this will not happen until after the thousand years of Christ’s reign on earth” (John Lewis Lund, The Church and the Negro, 1967, p. 48).

“Let Negroes marry Negroes and let whites marry white and let every other race to the same. There will be Negroes, whites, and all those races in the Celestial Kingdom if each will follow the commandments of God. All can be assured, however, that no one who rebels against the order of heaven will ever be allowed to live there” (John Lewis Lund, The Church and the Negro, 1967, p. 54).

“Certainly there are few on the earth today who could claim a pure lineage unspotted by interracial marriage. However, this does change the fact that it is still against the commandments of God. In regard to intermarriage with the Negro, all must be similarly warned. God does not approve! Brigham Young admonished, ‘Be careful, O, ye mothers in Israel, and do not teach your daughters in future, as many of them have been taught, to marry out of Israel. Woe to you who do it; you will lose your crowns as sure as God lives. Be careful!’” (John Lewis Lund, The Church and the Negro, 1967, p. 55; citing Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 196).

“When people rebel against God’s commandments, either during their pre-earth life or while in mortality, they are given a dark skin so that those who are of the chosen seed will not inter-marry with them” (John Lewis Lund, The Church and the Negro, 1967, p. 102).

“Question: Were Negroes neutral in the great war in heaven (Rev.12:7) and therefore denied the Priesthood during mortality?

Answer: No. There were no neutrals in the war in heaven. An individual was either on the side of Christ or the side of Lucifer. John reveals that one-third of the ‘stars of heaven’ or children of God followed Satan and were cast out of heaven. (Rev. 12:4.) The Negroes were not neutral; they were sufficiently valiant to be promised the Priesthood, if worthy, after their mortal existence” (John Lewis Lund, The Church and the Negro, 1967, p. 103).

“The Negroes will receive the Priesthood in the next life if they prove worthy during their mortal existence” John Lewis Lund, The Church and the Negro, 1967, p. 109).

“There are two stipulations that will have to be met before the Negroes will be allowed to possess the Priesthood, even if they are worthy. (This is similar to a boy who is worthy at age eleven to hold the Priesthood but does not receive it until age twelve.) First, all of Adam’s children will have to resurrect and secondly, the seed of Abel must first have an opportunity to possess the Priesthood. These events will not occur until sometime after the end of the millennium. It will be unwise to say that Negroes will receive the Priesthood during their mortal existence” (John Lewis Lund, The Church and the Negro, 1967, p. 109-110).

“Interracial marriage with the Negro is forbidden. Those who are allowed to have the Priethood during their mortal life should not intermarry with those who are not allowed to have it. Marriage between the two would result in children coming to that marriage who would not be entitled to the Priesthood” (John Lewis Lund, The Church and the Negro, 1967, p. 110).

“The former decree of God concerning the Negro has been reaffirmed in modern times. According to George Q. Cannon, the Prophet Joseph Smith taught the following doctrine: ‘That the seed of Cain could not receive the Priesthood nor act in any of the offices of the Priesthood until the seed of Abel should come forward and take precedence over Cain’s off-spring.’ Other reports confirm the fact that Joseph Smith taught that the Negro cannot yet receive the priesthood” (Hyrum L. Andrus, Doctrinal Commentary on the Pearl of Great Price, 1967, p. 402).

“The fact that descendants of Cain are presently denied the right to hold the priesthood is not based wholly upon the actions of their fathers. Deeper reasons go back into the pre-earth life, to the appointments that were made in sending spirits into the world to obtain bodies among the several families of the earth. Here one must understand the great doctrinal points taught in the Pearl of Great Price concerning the placement of man on earth. The problem must be viewed in light of the demands of eternal truth and justice, not merely in light of an immediate issue, for man is an eternal entity and God deals with him accordingly” (Hyrum L. Andrus, Doctrinal Commentary on the Pearl of Great Price, 1967, p. 404).

“From a statement of the First Presidency to President Ernest L. Wilkinson of the Brigham Young University, the position of the Church may also be ascertained. On that occasion, they wrote: The attitude of the Church with reference to Negroes remains as it has always stood. It is not a matter of the declaration of policy but of direct commandment from the Lord, on which is founded the doctrine of the Church from the days of its organization, to the effect that Negroes may become members of the Church but that they are not entitled to the Priesthood at the present time… .The position of the Church regarding the Negro may be understood when another doctrine of the Church is kept in mind; namely, that the conduct of spirits in the pre-mortal existence has some determining effect upon the conditions and circumstances under which these spirits take on mortality, and that while the details of the principle have not been made known, the principle itself indicates that the coming to this earth and taking on mortality is a privilege that is given to those who maintain their first estate; and that the worth of the principle is so great that spirits are willing to come to earth and take on bodies no matter what the handicap may be as to the kind of bodies they are to secure; and that among the handicaps, failure of the right to enjoy in mortality the blessings of the priesthood, is a handicap which spirits are willing to assume in order that they might come to earth. Under this principle there is no injustice whatsoever involved in this deprivation as to the holding of the Priesthood by Negroes” (Hyrum L. Andrus, Doctrinal Commentary on the Pearl of Great Price, 1967, pp. 406-407. Ellipses in original).

“When fully developed the Pearl of Great Price argument went as follows: Cain became black after murdering his brother Abel; among his descendants were a people of Canaan who warred on their neighbors, and were also identified as black. Ham, Noah’s son, married Egyptus, a descendant of this Cain-Canaan lineage; Cain’s descendants had been denied the priesthood, and thus Ham’s descendants were also denied the priesthood; this was confirmed in the case of Pharaoh, a descendant of Ham and Egyptus, and of the Canaanites, and who was denied the priesthood; the modern Negro was of this Cain-Ham lineage, and therefore was not eligible for the priesthood” (Lester E. Bush, jr., “Mormonism’s Negro Doctrine: An Historical Overview,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol.8, No.1, p. 35).

“The Book of Mormon is notable for what would appear as a unique invention, the cursing of half of Lehi’s family and their descendants, and the marking of the cursed group with a dark skin that produced a social isolation between them and their relatives who did not have the curse. But in Moses we see the same thing happening to Cain and his descendants (Moses 5:25; 40-41; 7:22). These passages go far beyond the information available in Genesis, particularly concerning the effect of the skin color upon Cain’s descendants (Genesis 4:11, 15)” (Noel B. Reynolds, “The Brass Plates Version of Genesis,” John M. Lundquist and Stephen D. Ricks, eds., By Study and Also by Faith: Essays in Honor of Hugh W. Nibley on the Occasion of His Eightieth Birthday, 27 March 1990, 2:155-156).

“The history of the policy of priesthood denial can, of course, be traced back to the middle of the last century. Most Mormons have assumed that it is even older, much older, having been applied against the ancient Egyptian pharaohs. In this article I shall not be concerned with the full sweep of this history, on which a considerable body of scholarly literature already exists, but rather with the final stage, or ‘decline and fall,’ starting around the end of World War II. The first stirrings of this final stage might be seen in the 1947 exchange of letters between Professor Lowry Nelson, a distinguished Mormon sociologist, and the First Presidency of the Church. The latter’s remarks to Nelson, who questioned the validity of church policy on race, are important because they were the first official (though not public) church utterance on the race subject for a long time. Following the traditional rationale, the Presidency explained the policy on blacks in terms of differential merit in the premortal life; stated that the priesthood ban was official church policy from the days of Joseph Smith onward; and raised, with great misgivings, the specter of racial intermarriage. Two years later, the First Presidency issued its first general and public statement on the priesthood policy. This letter went beyond the earlier private one in its theological rationale, and included references to the black skin as indicating ancestry from Cain. It elaborated further upon the notion of differential merit in the preexistence, and held out the prospect that the ban on blacks could be removed after everyone else had had a chance at the priesthood. Apparently based upon The Way to Perfection, the 1931 distillation by Joseph Fielding Smith of the cumulative racial lore since Brigham Young, this well-known letter expressed the position held, with rare exception and certainly without embarrassment, by Mormon leaders until very recent times. The durability of that position, however, was to prove more apparent than real” (Armand Mauss, “The Facing of the Pharaohs’ Curse: The Doctrine and Fall of the Priesthood Ban Against Blacks in the Mormon Church,” Lester Bush & Armand Mauss eds., Neither White Nor Black, pp. 149-150).

“The prohibition was not put in place by God, but it was removed by God” (Darius Gray, president of Genesis, a group of black LDS, “Black Mormons say life is better since 1966,” Deseret News, May 25, 2003).

“This folklore is not part of and never was taught as doctrine by the church” (LDS spokesman Mark Tuttle, “Mormon and Black: Grappling with a racist past,” Salt Lake Tribune, June 7, 2008).

“‘I don’t mind defending my faith to my black friends and family,’ Smith says, ‘but I do mind having to defend my race to my fellow Mormons’” (Tamu Smith, “Mormon and Black,” Salt Lake Tribune, June 7, 2008).

“‘We don’t know why the Lord did this? Bulls—-. It’s called racism” (Darron Smith, “Mormon and Black,” Salt Lake Tribune, June 7, 2008. Regarding the Priesthood Ban).

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