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Nadra Kareem Nittle

Should Mormon Church Apologize for Ban on Blacks?

By August 20, 2012

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Until 34 years ago, African Americans were forbidden to serve as priests in the Church of Latter Day Saints. Before 1978, blacks were largely treated as second-class citizens in the Mormon Church. That's because Brigham Young, leader of the church after founder Joseph Smith, believed that blacks were cursed. "Any man having one drop of the seed of Cane in him cannot hold the priesthood," Young stated in 1852. Not only did some Mormons implicate blacks in Cain's murder of brother Abel, others believe blacks sided with Satan when he rebelled against God. Due to these beliefs, blacks were forbidden from serving as priests in the church, which meant they couldn't participate in ceremonies that Mormons believe help followers get into heaven.

The Mormon Church reversed its stance on African Americans in 1978, pointing out that "all worthy male members of the Church may be ordained to the priesthood without regard for race or color." However, the church never apologized for excluding blacks in the past, a move that George Washington University Professor John G. Turner argues in a New York Times opinion piece that the church should make.

Turner says that Mormon leaders could explain that "their predecessors had confused their own racist views with God's will and that the priesthood ban resulted from human error and limitations rather than a divine curse." He says an apology would change the perceptions that the Mormon Church is racist and make people of color feel more comfortable with the church. An apology, however, would mean the current leadership of the church would be forced to publicly challenge the insight of previous leaders. While that would mark a huge controversy for the church, Turner says, "the abiding love and veneration most Latter-day Saints have for their leaders would readily survive a fuller reckoning with their human frailties and flaws. The Mormon people need not believe they have perfect prophets, either past or present."

Mormons may be able to forgive early leaders for their racist views, but it's doubtful African Americans would suddenly flock to the Church of Latter Day Saints if the leadership apologized for past racism. This isn't to say that Mormons should not apologize, but they should do so knowing that the past will not be forgotten.


August 21, 2012 at 10:01 am
(1) rubie says:

Even though Mormons say this is ther earlier beliefs. It is still part of the book of Mormon. It was never taken out, if the information I researched is accurate. But if they did change the book of Mormon and reprinted it, (which I doubt), He should address it and apoligize to African Americans for the prejudice that doctrine spewed. President Obama, was grilled about the statements of Reveren Wright, and forced to disassociate himself with him and the church. Why should this man, who is running to be President of all of the United States of American address this issue that disbarage over 12% of the population of the country he will represent, If elected. Why shoud he be exempt?

August 21, 2012 at 11:16 am
(2) Reinhold Schlieper says:

Seems to be something to keep in mind for the next election, no? Certainly, a candidate with such an ideological background needs to be very clear about where he stands.

August 21, 2012 at 3:27 pm
(3) czero says:

“Some Mormons implicate blacks in Cain’s murder of brother Abel, others believe blacks sided with Satan when he rebelled against God. Due to these beliefs, blacks were forbidden as serving as priests in the church, which meant they couldn’t participate in ceremonies that Mormons believe help followers get into heaven.”

Well there you have it, ladies and gentlemen. Real world discrimination based on the belief in a supernatural one. An apology is long overdue, but since this organization bases it’s moral compass on supernatural revelation, then who is to say that additional racist doctrines will not be “revealed” later on down the road?

August 23, 2012 at 4:32 am
(4) lowyat says:

I am truly grateful to the holder of this site who has shared this enormous article at at
this place.

August 23, 2012 at 10:01 pm
(5) Christopher Nicholson says:

rubie, the information you researched was not accurate. The Book of Mormon refers to a curse and a mark of dark skin placed upon the Lamanites in America. This has nothing at all to do with people of African descent and was never used as a justification for the priesthood ban. Interestingly, in recent years more Mormons have come to interpret the black skin in the book as being metaphorical, which makes more sense in context anyway.

August 28, 2012 at 10:56 am
(6) Elphaba says:

Being raised in the LDS church I can state that the early church via B. Young identified Blacks as the desendents of Cain and the black skin was the sign of their curse. I was an active member at the time of the “revelation” that blacks could be admitted to the priesthood and it was pretty much viewed as a political decision to keep the church from being sued for discrimination. Making “revelations” for political reasons has long been a church tactic – ie the decision to outlaw poligamy. If that was a true prophecy, why did the church issue a new prophesy after it became apparent that church leadership was still participating in the prasctice.

The original Book of Mormon stated that dark skin was a curse and by becoming “pure” those with black skin would become “white and delightsome”. That particular poassage has been changed in subsequent printings after the political decision to admit black to the priesthood. Prophets up to the time of the revelation preached the idea that the darker the skin, the darker the soul of the individual and that only by accepting the Church would those so inflicted become white.

If you really want to have some fun, get a copy of the BoM dated in the 1800′s and compare that copy to a current one. It’s amazing the number of changes that have happened over the years to a document that was claimed to be divinely inspired and therefore perfect.

December 27, 2012 at 7:32 pm
(7) Michael J. Fisher says:

“Itís amazing the number of changes that have happened over the years…”
Please tell me how many of those changes were doctrinal and how many were simply typographical.
I once read that there had been thousands of changes to the book of mormon then I realised that very many of them were related to punctuation ie full stops, commas, etc.!

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