Forgotten Articles on Mormonism’s Temple and Priesthood Restriction

By October 9, 2018


I’ve recently begun reading every academic or quasi-academic article on the history of the LDS Church’s research restriction as a part of my work on the Century of Black Mormons Project and my own research on the history of Mormonism and race. I’m learning a lot about the ways that the restriction has been framed, how white academics wrote about the history of Black people in Mormonism, and am formulating bigger research questions on secularism, modernity, and authority. More on those topics another day, or in my dissertation.

As I’ve read more than 200 secondary sources now, I wanted to share  articles, books, and book chapters that I don’t think receive enough attention. Please share your favorite articles are in the comments. Please also be sure to check out the Century of Black Mormons website to read more about the lives of individual Latter-day Saints of African descent.

Shipps, Jan. “Second Class Saints.” Colorado Quarterly 11 (Autumn 1962): 183-190.

  • One of the most important scholars of Mormonism shared her thoughts on the ways in which race operated within Mormonism, including the ways in which it shaped postwar Mormonism and politics. It’s short, accessible, and bearing the marks of Shipps’ elegant style.

Nelson, Lowry.  “Mormons and the Negro.” The Nation 174, 24 May 1952, 488.

  • Nelson famously communicated with the LDS First Presidency about missionary work in Cuba and the racial restriction in the late 1940s and 1950s. This is a thoughtful, brief article that helps the reader understand where liberal academic Latter-day Saints were before the “classic” civil rights movement.

McNamara, Mary Lou. “Secularization or Sacralization: The Change in LDS Church Policy on Blacks.” In Marie Heaton Cornwall, Tim B. Heaton, and Lawrence A. Young, eds. Contemporary Mormonism, 310-325. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994.

  • This is one of the few religious studies approaches to the racial restriction that has appeared in a peer-reviewed publication. In a lot of ways, this article was ahead of its time, thinking about secularization and Mormonism before the secularism studies turn.

Newell, Quincy D. “The Autobiography and Interview of Jane Elizabeth Manning James.” Journal of Africana Religions 1, no. 2 (2013): 251-91. 

  • Newell’s guide is especially helpful for those who are first finding “Sister James” in Mormon history. Look for Newell’s book from OUP next spring!

Reiter, Tonya. “Black Saviors on Mount Zion: Proxy Baptisms and Latter-day Saints of African Descent.” Journal of Mormon History 43, no. 4 (October 2017): 100-123.

  • This is a relatively recent article, and won an MHA award, but I don’t think that enough people have read Reiter’s work. Her exploration of the first Black Mormons to perform baptisms for the dead is worth considering in light of the fortieth anniversary of the ending of Mormonism’s racial restriction.

Stevenson, Russell W. “’We Have Prophetesses’: Mormonism in Ghana, 1964-1979.” Journal of Mormon History 41, no. 3 (July 2015): 221-257.

Talmage, Jeremy and Clinton D. Christensen. “Black, White, or Brown? Racial Perceptions and the Priesthood Policy in Latin America.” Journal of Mormon History 44, no. 1 (January 2018): 119-145.

Scholars have only begun to scratch the surface of international Mormon history. Importantly, Stevenson, Talmage and Christensen examine the history of race in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints outside of the United States.

LeBaron, E. Dale. All Are Alike unto God: Fascinating Conversion Stories of African Saints. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1990.

  • This is a book, but importantly it records the life stories of African Latter-day Saints. I think it’s interesting how little the Restriction factored into their conversion stories.

Article filed under Miscellaneous


  1. Thanks for putting this together, J.

    Comment by Steve Fleming — October 9, 2018 @ 10:58 am

  2. For some reason the biographies of the two Graves are replaced by repetitions of the one on Freeman. Can you get the right articles inserted for the Graves couple?

    Comment by Armand Mauss — October 9, 2018 @ 9:23 pm

  3. Also – Do you have THOMAS FRANKLIN TANNER? Black musician born 5 May 1855 in Platte City, MO. Married Ellen Susannah Hathaway in SLC in 1877. Died ca. 1905 in southern Idaho. You can find him in the LDS Family History Records with the id. K2MS-HZZ . His bride was my wife’s great-great aunt, who actually ran off with Tom Tanner, apparently to escape an earlier marriage, according to family lore. Check it out.

    Comment by Armand Mauss — October 9, 2018 @ 9:41 pm

  4. Armand,
    We did not have Thomas Franklin Tanner on our research list. I have now added him to our research queue (which puts us at 259 people). Do you know where he was baptized? In Missouri or SLC? Thank you for the tip. And I got ahead of myself on the Graves and did not think anyone would find them before we had their bios and pages loaded to the website. That is why when you click the link it goes to a Bankhead bio. The pages for the Graves are still under construction; we will fix the link when the bios are loaded to the site.

    Comment by Paul Reeve — October 10, 2018 @ 10:29 am

  5. Paul:
    I might have given you a bum steer here. Tom Tanner’s info. in Family Search shows only vicarious ordinances (including baptism) in the 1980s and 1990s, so I don’t know if he was, after all, ever baptized in mortality. My wife’s family lore describes him as a renegade member who was well known in Utah and Idaho as a musician of some kind. He died in Farnum, Fremont County, Idaho on March 5, 1910, and was buried in nearby Chester, ID, a few days later. There should be some more solid information about him in the archives of the popular press in Utah and Idaho, if anyone on your team wants to look for it — maybe especially surrounding his 1877 marriage in SLC to a white girl named Hathaway.

    Comment by Armand Mauss — October 10, 2018 @ 12:17 pm

  6. Armand,
    We’ve learned that many of the people in our database had posthumous baptisms performed for them because no one knew that they were baptized in life. We will include Tom on our research list and if we turn up a baptism for him we will let you know. Thanks for the tip!

    Comment by Paul Reeve — October 10, 2018 @ 1:17 pm


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