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Has the Mormon Church Truly Left Its Race Problems Behind? PDF Print E-mail
Written by admin   
Thursday, 01 December 2011 11:54

By Max Perry Muelle

 

This history is a long one, stretching back to the inception of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) in the 1830s. Joseph Smith Jr., the founder of Mormonism, ran for president in 1844 as a moderate abolitionist; ordained a black man, Elijah Abel; and offered to adopt one young black convert, Jane Manning James, as his spiritual daughter. Yet earlier in his life, Smith wrote anti-abolitionist screeds replete with racist sentiment typical of Christian pro-slavery apologists of antebellum America. In one 1836 letter to missionaries in the South, Smith excoriated northern abolitionists as the instigators of discord among southern slaves who, he argued, were generally happy

Other figures early in the Church’s history illustrated such prejudices as well. The Mormon Prophet Brigham Young stated in 1852, “Any man having one drop of the seed of [Cain] … in him cannot hold the priesthood.” Up until the mid-twentieth-century, some prophets perpetuated the idea that blacks were spiritually inferior, the permanently cursed descendants of Ham and Cain (a myth once popular in many American churches). In 1931, Church President Joseph Fielding Smith, the great-nephew of Joseph Smith Jr., wrote a widely distributed treatise—still available on Kindle—asserting that blacks were “fence-sitters” during a pre-mortal battle between God and Lucifer. When they were sent to Earth, according to Fielding Smith, blacks were marked with darkened skin as a permanent reminder of their perfidy. Until 1978, black men were forbidden from holding the Mormon priesthood, a sacred status that almost every Mormon male attains, and black couples could not marry in Mormon temples, a revered ceremony that Mormons believe unites the family for eternity.

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