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Brigham Young’s Eternal Predicament

by Sharon Lindbloom
9 June 2020

On June 1st (2020) the prophet/president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Russell M. Nelson, posted remarks on his social media page(s) that addressed racism and its atrocities. Many Latter-day Saints noted that President Nelson’s words calmed them, brought them comfort, and gave them feelings of peace.

I’m fairly certain that the LDS church’s second prophet/president Brigham Young would have the opposite reaction if he could listen from the spirit world as Mormonism affirms. And here’s why.

As President Nelson decried racism in his remarks and encouraged all people to build bridges of understanding, work together for peace, and employ mutual respect, he also said,

“The Creator of us all calls on each of us to abandon attitudes of prejudice against any group of God’s children. Any of us who has prejudice toward another race needs to repent!”

It’s no secret that Brigham Young harbored deep attitudes of prejudice against people belonging to the black race. The LDS church has confirmed as much in its 2013 essay on Race and the [LDS] Priesthood. After noting that Brigham Young instituted a priesthood ban against black men in 1852, the essay states:

“The justifications for this [priesthood] restriction echoed the widespread ideas about racial inferiority that had been used to argue for the legalization of black ‘servitude’ in the Territory of Utah.”

Likewise, the LDS church’s recently-released second volume of its history notes,

“…many white Saints wrongly viewed black people as inferior, believing that black skin was the result of God’s curse on the biblical figures Cain and Ham. Some had even begun to teach the false idea that black skin was evidence of a person’s unrighteous actions in the premortal life. Brigham Young shared some of these views…” (Saints: No Unhallowed Hand, 71)

Brigham Young certainly held ideas about racial inferiority. On one occasion he said,

“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.” (October 9, 1859, Journal of Discourses 7:290-291)

Both Christianity and the LDS church affirm that Brigham Young’s personal prejudice toward the black race did not come from God (this is distinct from the Mormon priesthood ban, which the LDS church claims did originate with God). Brigham Young’s belief that blacks were “uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits” was his own reprehensible racial prejudice against a group of God’s children. The recent remarks made by the living prophet of the LDS church indicate that Brigham Young’s racism made him guilty of sin, for which repentance was required.

Yet there’s no reason to think that Brigham Young ever did repent. The fact is that his racist ideas about the inferiority of those of the black race continued to be reflected in the teachings of many church leaders and members that followed Brigham Young’s tenure as the prophet. It wasn’t until the 2013 essay that the LDS church clearly took a stand against these ideas and called them what they are:

“Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects unrighteous actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form.”

It appears that Brigham Young’s sin of “prejudice toward another race” went with him to the grave. Therefore, President Nelson’s remarks about the necessity of repenting for such prejudice would not bring comfort to Brigham Young, but angst.

Mormonism teaches that repentance must be accomplished in mortality; it’s not able to be achieved after death. Furthermore, unrepented sin makes one spiritually unclean, and no unclean thing can dwell with God through eternity. Jay E. Jensen, a General Authority of the church, explained it this way:

“Another prerequisite or condition to repentance is to know that no unclean thing can dwell with God (see 1 Ne[phi] 10:21; 1 Ne[phi] 15:34; Alma 7:21; Alma 40:26; and Hel[aman] 8:25). You can hide sins from your bishop, you can hide them from your parents and friends, but if you continue and die with unresolved sins, you are unclean and no unclean thing can dwell with God. There are no exceptions.” (“The Message: Do You Know How to Repent?” New Era, November 1999, 7)

In Mormonism, repentance is a complicated process; forgiveness is “not granted merely for the asking.” A Mormon must work for it; he or she cannot hope to receive forgiveness for past sins unless and until a life of complete obedience has been demonstrated by perfectly “keep(ing) the commandments continually” (D&C 25:15). As past prophet/president Spencer W. Kimball taught,

“Your Heavenly Father has promised forgiveness upon total repentance and meeting all the requirements, but that forgiveness is not granted merely for the asking. There must be works—many works—and an all-out, total surrender, with a great humility and ‘a broken heart and a contrite spirit.’ It depends upon you whether or not you are forgiven, and when. It could be weeks, it could be years, it could be centuries before that happy day when you have the positive assurance that the Lord has forgiven you. That depends on your humility, your sincerity, your works, your attitudes.” (The Miracle of Forgiveness, 324-325)

Current LDS apostle Neil L. Andersen echoes the same doctrine:

“How do you recognize this precious voice when it is telling you that you are being forgiven? First of all, believe that the voice is real and believe that as you forsake your sins, come unto Christ, keep His commandments, and desire to do good, that voice will grow within you… As you truly forsake your sins, not looking back upon them, but going forward in righteousness, you will feel His approval and the forgiveness of your sins.” (The Divine Gift of Forgiveness (2019), 257-258)

If we are to believe LDS scripture and the teachings of Mormon leaders, because of his unrepented sin of racism, Brigham Young “can in no wise inherit the kingdom of God” (Alma 9:12). There are no exceptions. But in fact, it’s even worse than that. This is what LDS scripture has to say about Brigham Young’s predicament:

“For behold, if ye have procrastinated the day of your repentance even until death, behold, ye have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth seal you his; therefore, the Spirit of the Lord hath withdrawn from you, and hath no place in you, and the devil hath all power over you; and this is the final state of the wicked.” (Alma 34:35)

For his lack of repentance in mortality, Brigham Young, a great prophet of the LDS Restoration, has been sealed to the devil. This is his final (eternal) state. Brigham Young has fallen victim to Mormonism’s impossible gospel (that is, Mormonism’s system of requirements for receiving forgiveness of sin and achieving eternal exaltation that are, in reality, impossible to fulfill).

If even Brigham Young could not repent and live well enough to achieve Mormonism’s celestial kingdom, where does that leave everyone else? Try as you might, Latter-day Saint, you will never successfully do all that Mormonism says is required of you to find favor with God.

But there is an alternative Gospel, an entirely possible Gospel, that is available to everyone. According to God’s word, everything God requires from us is provided for us by and through Christ. The Bible recognizes that human beings cannot be “good enough” to meet God’s high standard. Therefore, God in His mercy has provided a proxy: Christ’s holiness, perfection, and righteousness make us acceptable to the Father when we trust in Christ alone. When we recognize the depth of our sinfulness and cry out to God for mercy, He forgives our sins and no longer holds anything against us – the past, the present, or the future. He covers us with the perfect righteousness of Christ.

In contrast to Mormonism’s impossible gospel that requires the achievement of perfect personal righteousness demonstrated by a life of perfect obedience in mortality, the biblical Gospel — the gift of “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe” (Romans 3:21-22) — is a beautiful Gospel. An eminently possible Gospel that removes angst and fear from all who have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

To see Sharon’s other news articles, click here.

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