Poll: Origins of the Priesthood Ban

By November 27, 2007


*If you vote “other”, please specify in a comment what your other explanation is. Also, if you are concerned about expressing personal views that might be interpreted as too critical of the LDS Church, feel free to post anonymously.

Article filed under Miscellaneous


  1. Forgive me if I’m wrong, but didn’t the leaders of the church pray multiple times prior to 1978 asking God when the right time to lift the ban would be?
    They were told from God, “not yet”. Therefore the ban could not be attributed to racism or a mistake by church leaders.
    The ban on black men holding the priesthood was the will of God; for what reason, or for what purpose has not been fully revealed yet.
    Anyway, I vote it was a revelation from God to Joseph Smith, although the origins are mirky.

    Comment by Craig — November 27, 2007 @ 5:10 pm

  2. I haven’t voted, but as observation, I think there are a number of people who believe that it was a mistake that wasn’t well-intentioned, but also that it wasn’t unforgivable. I havn’t heard of anybody promoting the Joseph started it view, or it least it has been a very long time.

    Craig, I think that a lot of people who don’t believe that the ban was inspired view those answers as an indictment on the leadership. If you look at how Kimball spent years trying to get people to a consensus (I know that Prince disagrees with that evaluation) and got them to accept the principle before the revelation was delivered, it is easy to see that there were individuals that might have been recalcitrant against any change in McKay’s day.

    If I am not mistaken, I remember reading recently (perhaps around MHA) that Darius Grey received sanction from the Church hierarchy to voice his opinion that it was a mistake.

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 27, 2007 @ 5:43 pm

  3. J.: When I attended FAIR in 2005, Darius Gray spoke and mentioned that as well.

    Comment by David Grua — November 27, 2007 @ 5:50 pm

  4. J: I was present at one lecture of Darius Grey, and he made it very clear that although the Church does not officially sanction his view, they have given him permission to give share it with others (as you said). However, they told him that he could only share it with the preface of “Now, this is not officially sanctioned by the Church, but…” He reported that when he presented his idea to them, all they said was “Very Interesting.”

    Comment by Ben — November 27, 2007 @ 5:53 pm

  5. So, Spencer W. Kimball brow beat his fellow servants untill they all agreed with him regarding the priesthood ban?
    Remember there were many non-white men holding the priesthood before 1978.
    I guess Pres. Kimball really had it out for those blacks for some mysterious reason.
    I’ll be blunt: in my opinion, the ban was God’s will. Politically correct explinations or trying to fit this uncomfortable fact into a neat little box wont work for me. Nor will I charge the inspired leadership of the church with blind racism. No guilt trips, no apologies, it was what it was and only God knows why.
    One day we will know the reason why there was this ban. Untill then all we can do is offer our own opinions. I doubt this thread will get us any closer to the truth.

    Comment by Craig — November 27, 2007 @ 6:15 pm

  6. Hm, that is a pretty inflammatory comment, Craig. Are you familiar with the major historical treatments of topic? Do you have any reason in particular for asserting that Joseph recieved inspiration for such a ban?

    I just recently read Elijah Able’s patriarchal blessing given to him by Joseph Smith Sr. He was one of the men of African decent who received the priesthood and went through the Kirtland Temple. It was very moving.

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 27, 2007 @ 6:26 pm

  7. Well, yes I do know of Bro. Able. A fine faithful man I’m sure.
    I almost voted the ban was a revelation to Brigham Young, because I was aware of the Bro. Able story. So, perhaps the ban was implemented after JS had confirmed Bro. Able. I’m not sure.
    Sorry to be “inflammatory”, but I get pretty defensive when I hear the ban is simply attributed to racism. I think it’s way more complex than that.

    Comment by Craig — November 27, 2007 @ 6:36 pm

  8. Craig,

    I would say that saying that it was a well-intentioned mistake, or a mistake of bad intentions, is hardly a politically correct explanation. Admitting a racist heritage does not take away the inspired leadership of men like Brigham Young or his successors.

    As to Pres. Kimball browbeating his fellow servants into compliance, you should at least recognize that even revelations or canonization of scripture require the unanimous assent of the entire Quorum of 12 and First Presidency. The phrase “only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned” springs to mind from D&C 121.

    I won’t discount the role of revelation completely, but everything I have read shows no record of any revelation to Joseph Smith during his lifetime, or to Brigham Young. Joseph Smith did on a couple of occasions make contradictory statements, but his actions speak most loudly, which is that he sanctioned the ordination of Elijah Abel and others during his lifetime.

    Stapley, where can I find a copy of Elijah Abel’s patriarchal blessing? I would love to read that.

    Comment by kevinf — November 27, 2007 @ 6:39 pm

  9. OK, so it appears that you are basing your perspective not on the historical record, but on your beliefs about our system. that is fine. Some might disagree with that, but I think I can understand why you might take such a position. I would simply recommend that before becoming too defensive, it might be worth considering the various possibilities and evidences.

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 27, 2007 @ 6:44 pm

  10. Craig,

    In light of your more recent comment that came in while I was furiously typing mine, I feel that I need to soften the strident tone somewhat. Like JS, I thought I detected a somewhat inflammatory voice in your comment.

    Much as it pains me to admit it, I was taught some pretty racist doctrines by my parents (goodly parents) precisely because so much around the Priesthood ban is unknown. To their credit, their actions later in life showed me that they understood that they were mistaken, and lived to a different standard.

    It’s too much to go into here, but Pres. Benson taught once of the “Samuel Principle”, meaning that somtimes when the people get a wrong idea in their heads, the Lord will let them suffer the consequences, ie Samuel giving Israel Saul as a King, replacing the rule of judges. The lost 116 pages of the BoM manuscript is another example. Without question, a fabricated facade of doctrine was built up to fill the void of official revelation concerning the Priesthood ban, by some very respected and beloved, faithful individuals, and later by the church as a whole. It is one possible explanation that works for me. I think we all learned a lot about equality and that God is no respecter of persons in those years of the 60’s and 70’s. It was a hard lesson that I hope we have truly internalized.

    Comment by kevinf — November 27, 2007 @ 6:48 pm

  11. Well, I will also give my opinion just to counter-balance Craig’s comment. Although I agree with him, opinions are opinions; nevertheless, it is good to know the effect that the event is having on the minds of the members of the Church.

    I believe it is a racist doctrine that is inexcusable, even given the racist culture of 19th-century America; most likely instituted by Brigham Young.

    I believe it is a sin, for which Brigham Young will have to respond to, inasmuch as he was responsible for it and among other sins he may have committed; just like all of us will have to respond to any sin for which we remain unrepentant.

    I believe it is a disgrace the Church has been vague about the issue, leading some to think the ban was ever inspired. I believe this type of reasoning (believing that the ban was inspired) is reflective of passive racism which still lingers among the members of the Church.

    I believe as a Church, we still have a long way to go before we truly eradicate racism, sources, and justifications thereof.

    Comment by Manuel — November 27, 2007 @ 7:09 pm

  12. Thanks everyone for your votes and comments. Craig, my intentions in posting this poll were not aimed at “get[ting] us any closer to the truth.” I am more interested in observing how the readers of this blog situate the Priesthood Ban (culturally, theologically, etc.), and how that in turn reveals their understandings of the nature of a prophet, of revelation, and of Deity.

    Manuel, thanks for sharing your thoughts. You raise an interesting point in suggesting that the Church’s vagueness regarding the issue has resulted in lingering racism among members of the Church today. If you haven’t already, I would suggest reading Armand Mauss’s All Abraham’s Children.

    On an administrative note, I just want to remind commenters to be careful of their tone. I am aware that this is a sensitive issue, and that it can bring to surface deeply-felt feelings and frustrations. The administrators will not allow this blog to turn into a platform for aggressive criticisms of church leaders, other commenters, or anyone else.

    Comment by Christopher — November 27, 2007 @ 7:51 pm

  13. I appreciate the tone of the responses to my inflamed commets, especially kevinf, the ?Samuel Principle?, makes some sense to me.
    We all agree that the origins of the ban are opaque; we know this and we, as a church, have struggled with this fact for decades.
    For me however, I would submit that the ban was the will of God because it took numerous attempts by the living oracles of God united in prayer to finally receive a revelation ending the ban.
    I believe, for example, if the Brethren united in prayer before 1978 to ask God his will concerning the ban they would have either received a stupor of thought, or a distinct impression that the time to lift the ban was not yet.
    From the Old Testement we see that the denial of the priesthood to certain groups is not without precedent. These priesthood restrictions are usually not based on race but lineage.
    We can all share our ideas about this topic until this thread fizzles out and in the end we will be right back where we started from because the answer has not yet been revealed.
    To be intellectually honest those on the opposite side of this dicussion would have to say that the church is sexist because we don’t have female priesthood holders. We are hopeless bigots for our refusal to wed homosexuals. I think some among us have indeed said this.
    I assure you all, the origins and reasons for the priesthood ban have a far more profound and substantial motive than simple frontier yokelism.
    Bumkin seer and revelator just doesn’t sound right to me.
    As my last comment on this topic I’m going to go on the record and state that I will not charge the early or recent church leaders with cruel blind racism, D&C 121:16 comes to mind.
    The former priesthood ban had a deeper more spiritually significant purpose than any of us can comprehend at this stage of the action.
    Good night.

    Comment by Craig — November 27, 2007 @ 8:29 pm

  14. I abstained from voting because I think my opinion would fall somewhere in between the fourth and the sixth categories. I have a hard time thinking that just about any form of racism could be classified as “well-intentioned”–it seems like a contradiction in terms. (I can see what you’re getting at though–I’m not trying to be argumentative, just precise.)I do think, however, that it is understandable that a nineteenth-century individual would have racist views, given the historical context they were raised in. (Still, abolitionists sprang from the same time period.) But since I think moral judgment requires some sort of super-human ability to weigh the influence of environment on a person’s views, I’m also uncomfortable with calling it “inexusable.” I am comfortable with the idea that it was a historical mistake, one that was subsequently assumed to have been revealed, the way Bush and Mauss have outlined it. Still, I try to remain open to other angles or ideas, and simply be comfortable with ambiguity, while sincerely trying to elminate anything like passive racism I might have (in the past or currently) unknowingly harbor.

    Comment by stan — November 27, 2007 @ 8:34 pm

  15. I assure you all, the origins and reasons for the priesthood ban have a far more profound and substantial motive than simple frontier yokelism.

    How can you assure us of this if you admit that “the origins of the ban are opaque”?

    It is my observation that individuals who hold to the revelatory origins theory regarding the ban do so not because admitting racism on the part of past Church leaders forces us to rethink our notions of race, but rather because it challenges more fundamental issues of Mormonism, forcing us to rethink our understanding of the nature of a prophet and the nature of God.

    Comment by Christopher — November 27, 2007 @ 8:37 pm

  16. Just to clarify, Stan, it should be remembered that many abolitionists and northerners were racist. Just because they were opposed to slavery does not mean that they did not see the world through racist lenses.

    Comment by David Grua — November 27, 2007 @ 8:42 pm

  17. good point David.

    Comment by Stan — November 27, 2007 @ 8:46 pm

  18. kevinf and David pretty much sum up my view. To add a couple of points:

    Prophets throughout time have created justifications for cultural practices that we now see as not necessarily God’s will – but simply reflections of the culture at the time. Paul’s endorsement of slavery/servitude comes to mind, as does his silent, long-haired women in church teaching. To believe that God would not allow a prophet to institute something that wasn’t His actual will – and even to assert that He would have stopped it sooner had it not been His will – is not consistent with the totality of our scriptural canon, imo.

    The consensus appears, to me, to be that Joseph Smith had no problem ordaining Black men – and even that Brigham Young and other leaders during his tenure didn’t mind. What apparently kicked up the anthill was the prospect of inter-racial sealings – something we might see as a natural result, but that they simply hadn’t contemplated fully. Inter-racial marriage was abhorred by the VAST majority of citizens across the country at that time (and even 100 years later), so it is not surprising that BY reacted by banning the ordination of Black men – as the only objective way to eliminate inter-racial marriages. I see it as a modern example of Moses’ destruction of the original law and the implementation instead of the Ten Commandments and the Law of Moses – not God’s will, but a substitute standard the people could accept at the time – that eventually (hundreds of years in that case) was rescinded by a later leader (Jesus in that case).

    Interestingly, to my knowledge, Brigham never claimed the ban was based on any specific revelation. Rather, he and those of his time constructed elaborate justifications that were consistent with the social and religious justifications of their Christian upbringing – including the mark of Cain. Eventually, other uniquely Mormon justifications arose (like the less-valiant pre-existent spirits concept) as further justification.

    Imo, the Lord allowed the ban because that’s what He does – grits His teeth and weeps while His children (even the inspired prophets) screw up and reject His full will and hurt each other. He waited until the Church was sufficiently humbled and able to accept the cessation of the ban without rupturing (like when polygamy ended), then finally said, essentially, “You’ve paid enough.” (I also think of the pruning of the olive tree described in Jacob 5 when I think of things like this, but that’s another post entirely.)

    Comment by Ray — November 27, 2007 @ 10:31 pm

  19. I had to go back and check what I had written. I was right; I didn’t write anything substantial. I suspect that Ray was refering to J. as someone that, with Kevin, summed up Ray’s view.

    Comment by David Grua — November 27, 2007 @ 10:47 pm

  20. Craig,

    With regards to your comment:
    ?To be intellectually honest those on the opposite side of this dicussion would have to say that the church is sexist because we don?t have female priesthood holders. We are hopeless bigots for our refusal to wed homosexuals.?

    I know commenting on these issues can create threadjacks of endless ramifications, but let me say something brief about both homosexuality and priesthood for women.

    A. By condoning homosexual marriage, the Church would be required to condone the naturally resulting sexual activity between two men. Sexual activity between two men is a sin. Therefore, saying that we are bigots for our refusal to wed homosexuals is saying that we are bigots for refusing other sinful activity, such as allowing murderers to remain members of the Church.

    B. Women cannot hold the priesthood today; nevertheless, every worthy woman in the Church can partake of every priesthood ordinance necessary to receive their exaltation just like any worthy male can.

    These two examples are not analogous with the priesthood ban because the ban deprived worthy members of the Church (no sinful activity involved) from partaking of those very ordinances necessary for their exaltation. Therefore, with all due respect, I think your ?intellectually honest? examples are flawed.

    With respect to your statement:
    ?I assure you all, the origins and reasons for the priesthood ban have a far more profound and substantial motive than simple frontier yokelism.?
    I don?t believe you can assure anyone of this particular point.

    With respect to your statement:
    ?Bumkin seer and revelator just doesn?t sound right to me.?
    I think I know what you are trying to say, but I will refer to Christopher?s statement to explain you why that peculiar view of Church leaders is not necessary.
    He said:
    ?I am more interested in observing how the readers of this blog situate the Priesthood Ban (culturally, theologically, etc.), and how that in turn reveals their understandings of the nature of a prophet, of revelation, and of Deity.?

    Therefore, my opinion can be better explained in terms of the understanding of the nature of a prophet. And MY understanding is that notwithstanding a man may be a prophet; he is not a God, he is not immaculate, he is not sinless, he is not infallible, he is not perfect, he is a human being, his decisions may not always be inspired. This holds true if you analyze many of the prophets in the scriptures. Even Nephi said his father Lehi murmured against God. Jonah was angry that the people of Nineveh actually hearkened to his words and repented, for he wanted them to be destroyed!

    This understanding allows for the personality, nationality, education, social and cultural background of a prophet to take part in his decision making process, and in the way he decides to lead the Church. This understanding can also be applied to prophets of the Old Testament and at least provide some explanation of sorts for many of the unusual events described in that text, including why some lineages were excluded from some ordinances. I am not saying this is doctrine, rather, I am saying this is MY understanding: not everything a prophet says, does, or decides is necessarily inspired by God.

    Now, I believe God is extremely merciful, and the above doesn?t mean that God will ?smite? or ?strike with lightning? a prophet that makes a decision based on his cultural background, or any other of his attributes whether good or bad. This is where I see fit to use the familiar slogan ?line upon line, precept upon precept.? God knows we are not perfect, and it may be taking some time, but I firmly believe He is perfecting His Church for His purpose; sometimes, I believe, at the rate that we allow Him to do so. Ultimately, it is us that need to take action, since it is about our salvation.

    So, no ?bumpkin,? seer and revelator; rather ?Human being, prophet, seer and revelator.?

    With regards to your comment:
    I will not charge the early or recent church leaders with cruel blind racism

    I will simply post the following quote:
    “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, Journal of Discourses, volume 10, page 110.

    Well… once again, I guess it is all a matter of opinion…

    Comment by Manuel — November 27, 2007 @ 10:52 pm

  21. I’ve recently, from reading an article from Dialogue which Justin provided on a different thread, come to think of the priesthood ban as something not instituted in Mormonism at all, but as a hold over from the apostate religious teachings of the the time that took (quite) some time to excise from the Church.

    Comment by Matt W. — November 27, 2007 @ 11:26 pm

  22. #19 – No, David, I was referring to your “just because they were opposed to slavery does not mean that they did not see the world through racist lenses” in comment #16. I just extrapolated that to prophets who didn’t believe in exclusion from the Church but still held racist views. Sorry I didn’t make that clear and caused you to waste time trying to figure it out. *grin*

    Comment by Ray — November 28, 2007 @ 12:07 am

  23. Ok, Ray, that makes sense. I was just making sure that I wasn’t getting the credit for someone else’s comment.

    Comment by David Grua — November 28, 2007 @ 12:30 am

  24. Here’s one thing I don’t understand. Many people seem to think that the ban was very troubling while it existed, but now that it’s gone it’s no longer an issue. But church leaders have never said that the ban was wrong or a mistake, and in fact they have taught the opposite. For example, Elder Holland (?) in the PBS documentary testified that the ban ended “at the right time.”

    So, in 1977 the church claimed that the Lord wanted blacks treated unequally in 1977. That was troubling in 1977. In 2007 the church continues to claim that the Lord wanted blacks treated unequally in 1977. Why isn’t it still just as troubling? The theological position hasn’t changed at all, as far as I can see.

    Comment by kodos — November 28, 2007 @ 3:34 am

  25. I chose other because I vacillate between 4 and 6. Even though I think Brigham Young was completely sincere, I have a hard time calling it well-intentioned. Mine would be this:

    It was a racist doctrine that is excusable given the racist culture of 19th-century America.

    Didn’t Brigham Young also say at one point that it was a temporary ban that would be lifted? I seem to remember that but I can’t find the source.

    Comment by JKC — November 28, 2007 @ 9:25 am

  26. Actually JKC, BY said the exact opposite- that the Negro would never have the priesthood in this life, and he declared it in the name of the Lord.

    Like JKC, I voted for #4 but could have just as well voted for #6 or other. I do have a hard time with the well-intentioned language as well.

    We are thankfully rid of this kind of racist doctrine in the 2007 Church, but we will never be rid of its effects until more is said by Church leaders to absolutely separate ourselves from that doctrine. The rhetoric surrounding it as the “long-promised day” lends too much legitimacy to it as having formerly been correct, but the Lord revealing something new to us. I disagree with that POV completely.

    Comment by AHLDuke — November 28, 2007 @ 9:36 am

  27. AHLDuke,

    I know that Brigham Young often did say that people of color would not receive the priesthood. But I thought he had also said at least once that the ban was not permanent. You may be right that he never said that, and honestly, I don’t really care beyond mild curiosity, but the existence of a contradictory statement doesn’t settle it for me because it’s not like Brigham Young was always consistent in doctrinal matters.

    You mention that Brigham Young said “that the Negro would never have the priesthood in this life” (my emphasis). Did he say that the priesthood would be extended in the resurrection or something like that?

    Comment by JKC — November 28, 2007 @ 10:45 am

  28. Wot Stapley said. I agree with everyone who says “between four and six.” Not well-intentioned, not inexcusable.

    Comment by Ann — November 28, 2007 @ 11:14 am

  29. Has there not always been some level of priesthood ban? Even today? And it is only a question of where that level should be.

    So in a vague, wishy-washy, piously nonsensical way I have the following feelings which are probably wrong:

    I assume he leaders of our church are prophets.
    I assume they were doing what they felt was right.
    I assume they felt good about it.
    I assume this can be called revelation at some level.

    And…..that’s about it. That may be a lot of assumptions, but that is my take.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — November 28, 2007 @ 11:39 am

  30. Kodos,

    To answer your questions from post #24,

    Speaking for myself, I feel the theological position has actually changed; although, in my opinion not nearly enough.

    I have hope this will continue to change, but it is critical that we (the newer generations) do our part. It is critical that we teach each other and our children true Christian principles, such as loving one another and helping each other reach our full potential regardless of such vain things like physical appearance.

    “For behold, this is my work and my glory?to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” Moses 1:39

    I still feel the issue is very troubling today and in many ways continues to be a source of and a justification for division, passive racist attitudes, sadness, questioning, embarrassment, and so forth.

    Even more troubling is that to this point, 63% of people have voted that the ban was somehow “well-intentioned,” although few have stated that they don’t completely agree with the language.

    Comment by Manuel — November 28, 2007 @ 11:49 am

  31. I voted other. I don’t really know the answer, but I tend to look at the priesthood as being given to a select group (the Levites) in the Old Testament, and during the Restoration another select group of “chosen” people–i.e. non-black LDS. Later this group was expanded somewhat. Women are still excluded, as well as non-members of the Mormon church. Many would say that it is the Lord’s prerogative to select a limited group of people to hold the priesthood.

    Comment by BiV — November 28, 2007 @ 11:59 am

  32. Manuel, that reading of the 63% is a low blow that doesn’t begin to address the difficulty posed by the wording of the choices. “Well-intentioned” is elastic enough to cover all kinds of interpretations, and although I voted for #6 and abhor racism of any kind, I can understand completely how many people could vote for #4 and believe they are labeling it as a racist practice.

    If you take off the critic’s hat for a moment and try to read the stats from a more liberal viewpoint, it is very easy to conclude that 93% of the commenters did NOT label the ban as revelation, but rather as the product of racism. Frankly, that’s the way I read the results – and I am quite proud of that result. Sure, it probably doesn’t represent the result you would get from a Church-wide poll, but I bet that result would be closer to “93% think it was not revelation” than “63% think it in some way was a good thing” – which is how your comment could be read. I hope that’s not what you meant, but it could be read that way.

    Comment by Ray — November 28, 2007 @ 12:06 pm

  33. I meant to say 85-93%, since we don’t have all of the reasons for those who voted “other.”

    Comment by Ray — November 28, 2007 @ 12:07 pm

  34. The problem I have with the expanding select group is that Joseph Smith did ordain African-Americans to the priesthood. That would mean that between Joseph Smith and Brigham young, the expansion of the priesthood was reversed.

    As for the well-intentioned stuff, I don’t think that Brigham Young thought he was doing the wrong thing, so by definition it must have been well-intentioned.

    Comment by Jacob M — November 28, 2007 @ 12:12 pm

  35. That would be Brigham Young, not Brigham young. Which reminds me of a dating-age joke, but this is not the time. 🙂

    Comment by Jacob M — November 28, 2007 @ 12:15 pm

  36. I interpreted “well-intentioned” in the more liberal sense that no one intended to be wrong, and in many ways did reflect the prevailing cultural and religious norms of the day. My parents were “well-intentioned” in the things that they taught me as a child before the ban was lifted, and even though I recognize it’s basis as racist, I also know that my folks were products of their time as well. “Well-intentioned” does not exclude a benign sort of racism through ignorance, but at least preserves the dignity of saying that they later understood better and did better. I doubt very much if BY is still racist in any form.

    Comment by kevinf — November 28, 2007 @ 12:16 pm

  37. Yeah Ray, I see your point. I come from an engineering backgroung for my interpretation of the poll. So take that into account for my statements. When I see numbers, I don’t tend to speculate that they actually have other value than what they represent (unless it is a variable of course). I agree the interpretation of the poll needs be more flexible than that.

    I also agree the wording of the options polarized quite a bit the poll, although people could have chosen “other.”

    And Jacob I see your point too. I guess the connotations given to the term “well-intentioned” can vary from person to person. I usually base my view on statements made by Brigham Young himself, which are very strong and in my opinion full of hatred (by today’s standards anyway). I have a tremendously hard time reconciling his tone with the connotations I associate to the term “well-intentioned.”

    Comment by Manuel — November 28, 2007 @ 12:30 pm

  38. Manuel, I can understand that completely.

    Comment by Ray — November 28, 2007 @ 12:37 pm

  39. I see what you mean Manuel. And it was my personal feeling on what was meant by well-intentioned that made me vote for it over the racist one. I like to think that our prophets try their best to do what’s right, no matter what the culture says. (See polygamy as an example of that.) But, obviously, they don’t always rise completely out of the times in which they live.

    Comment by Jacob M — November 28, 2007 @ 1:14 pm

  40. I have a tremendously hard time reconciling his tone with the connotations I associate to the term ?well-intentioned.?

    Exactly what I was trying so say.

    Ray is right that a technical reading of well-intentioned does not eliminate racism, but to not explicitly call it racist seems dishonest.

    Comment by JKC — November 28, 2007 @ 2:11 pm

  41. I interpreted ?well-intentioned? in the more liberal sense that no one intended to be wrong, and in many ways did reflect the prevailing cultural and religious norms of the day.

    That’s exactly the way it was intended. I’m glad others read it that way.

    As a disclaimer, the wording of each choice is not mine, but rather reflects the six most common answers given in a recent discussion on this topic among 40-50 BYU students. I expected that the bloggernacle crowd would be slightly more liberal overall in their take on this issue, and consequently offered a choice of “other” for those whose ideas were not accurately summarized in one of the six answer choices.

    Comment by Christopher — November 28, 2007 @ 2:22 pm

  42. http://ndbf.net/011.htm

    “On the contrary, Brigham Young personally believed that the day would come when the Blacks would have the priesthood. For example, the significant 1852 statement quoted above continued with a promise of future blessings:

    Men cannot [remove the curse], angels cannot … but thus saith the Eternal I am, what I am, I take it off at my pleasure, and not one partical of power can that posterity of Cain have, until the time comes…. That time will come when they will have the privilege of all we have the privilege of and more.

    The question, then, was when, not if. Brigham Young believed that the then-current priesthood denial came from God, and from that “given” and the reasons for it as far as he understood them, he attempted to deduce a timetable for change. Never, however, did he claim divine confirmation of the timetable as he did for the practice itself, though he frequently expressed his opinion that such a change was a long way off.

    Comment by An Alternate View — November 28, 2007 @ 3:35 pm

  43. An Alternate View: Thanks for bringing Esplin into the discussion. Although he does not provide, in my view, compelling evidence that the ban started with JS, he raises intriguing plausibilities that should be considered. Esplin is too good of a scholar (even if he is an unapologetic BYophile) to be dismissed.

    Comment by David Grua — November 28, 2007 @ 3:43 pm

  44. IF I am not msitaken, Young had proposed that all the descendants of Abel needed to get the priesthood first. I think everyone that is familiar with the current data don’t deny that the priesthood ban started in Nauvoo, which Esplin appeared to think was so telling. The reality is that the Nauvoo Temple is really the start of things.

    The other major hang-up I have with Esplin’s analysis is that we could just as easily swap in Adam-God and it would be the exact same thing.

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 28, 2007 @ 5:00 pm

  45. So, I went back and read through Connell O’Donovan’s paper. For those interested, here is the updated version of his paper. Here is the version that was published.

    There is a lot of really good material building up to 1847; but, I must have projected my observation that no black people went through the Nauvoo temple and the well attested priesthood participation up to that point with the events a year later. The Nauvoo temple being the locus of import, is not as well attested as I was thinking.

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 28, 2007 @ 6:10 pm

  46. J.: Thanks for the links.

    Comment by David Grua — November 28, 2007 @ 6:15 pm

  47. J.,

    Esplin continues:

    Brigham Young saw one essential precondition to Blacks’ receiving the priesthood, a precondition that logically flowed from his understanding of the reason for the curse. Since he understood the curse to have been related to Cain and his posterity’s seeking ascendancy over Abel and his posterity, who held the birthright, it seemed clear to him that Cain’s descendants could not have the priesthood until after the descendants of Abel received priesthood responsibility and had their birthright assured. His oft-used style of exaggeration to make a point led him on occasion to suggest that none of the sons of Cain could have the priesthood until all of the sons of Abel received it?something that he and his audience, as well as we, understood to be hyperbole, for at no time will all the sons of Abel accept priesthood blessings and responsibilities. But the main thrust of his comments was always the same: Abel and his posterity must be assured their birthright before Cain’s posterity could receive the priesthood. Although Brigham Young did not know when that would be, he did suggest it might be associated with the millennium (one side or another of that Great Event) and that its happening would be a sign the end times were near. Who of us has the wisdom to say that in 130+ years the condition that President Young talked about has not been fulfilled sufficiently to bless the Blacks and the Church with this change? His own teachings suggest that President Young would not demur in embracing it.

    But perhaps this misses the point. For what Brigham Young taught as strongly as any other President in our history is the importance of living prophets and continuous revelation and of their superiority over “dead texts.” What he claimed to know by revelation was that the Blacks could not have priesthood “except at his [the Lord’s] pleasure”, which pleasure the Lord would reveal to a prophet long after his own day. Reminiscing about the 1849 statement of President Young to the Twelve, Apostle Lorenzo Snow rembered feeling thankful “that there was no statement that a Negro should never hold the Priesthood and that there would never be a day of redemption for him”, and he recognized that “there would always be a man at the head of the Church that would have the keys and who could and would give us the light as he would get the mind of the Lord.” [11] For Brigham Young, as for Lorenzo Snow, it was a matter of considerable importance and the Lord would not ignore it. But until the Lord again intervened, President Young was certain that the position of the Church, his position, was the only proper one: Blacks were denied the priesthood not by personal whim or historical accident, but by heavenly decree, and until God’s purposes had been fulfilled no earthly power could change it.

    J. says “The other major hang-up I have with Esplin’s analysis is that we could just as easily swap in Adam-God and it would be the exact same thing.”

    How so? Because you believe it was likely rooted in Nauvoo and the Temple?

    Contrast Esplin’s demonstration that the Priesthood ban was an already familiar, established doctrine to those to whom President Young spoke with the confused reactions of the Brethren to his introduction of Adam-God, which was a new, confusing idea to them.

    Esplin again:

    A statement Brigham Young made to the Quorum of the Twelve in February 1849 has assumed an unwarranted importance in the historical evidence on the question. Some have seen it as the earliest clear-cut documentation of a policy of priesthood denial to the Blacks; it is not. Nor is it correct to represent the statement as an official declaration of some kind while ignoring its real implications: it clearly points to an earlier settled policy or doctrine. It was not a pronouncement or decision. It was not a result of debate or lengthy discussion at that time. In 1849 President Young merely responded to a question with an offhand recital of understood fact. There is reason to believe that Apostle Lorenzo Snow, who asked the question, knew of the policy but that he did not know the doctrinal reasons for it.

    Comment by An Alternate View — November 28, 2007 @ 6:32 pm

  48. I find interesting that Mr. Esplin does not make one single mention of Elijah Abel on his document.

    He argues that not all of Joseph Smith’s teachings were recorded, implying that such type of teaching (priesthood ban) would be considered a “mystery of God” and therefore not recorded; nevertheless, that the 12 would have access to such teachings by means of meetings. Interestingly, he gives some emphasis to a time frame from 1843 to 1842, which would result in a very contradictory dichotomy of Joseph Smith’s purported teachings and his very public actions in this very period of time.

    I have to agree with David that no compelling evidence is ever presented by Mr. Esplin.

    The events, that seemed carefully omitted from his rather vague paragraphs trying to link the ban to Joseph Smith, are the following:

    1842, Joseph Smith Jr writes about the issue of slavery:
    “I have just been perusing your correspondence with Doctor Dyer, on the subject of American slavery, and the students of the Quincy Mission Institute, and it makes my blood boil within me to reflect upon the injustice, cruelty, and oppression of the rulers of the people. When will these things cease to be, and the Constitution and the laws again bear rule? I fear for my beloved country mob violence, injustice and cruelty appear to be the darling attributes of Missouri, and no man taketh it to heart! O tempora! O mores! What think you should be done?” (History of the Church, 4:544)

    “At five went to Mr. Sollars’ with Elders Hyde and Richards. Elder Hyde inquired the situation of the negro. I replied, they came into the world slaves mentally and physically. Change their situation with the whites, and they would be like them. They have souls, and are subjects of salvation. Go into Cincinnati or any city, and find an educated negro, who rides in his carriage, and you will see a man who has risen by the powers of his own mind to his exalted state of respectability. The slaves in Washington are more refined than many in high places, and the black boys will take the shine of many of those they brush and wait on.

    “Elder Hyde remarked, ‘Put them on the level, and they will rise above me.’ (History of the Church, 5:217-218)

    In 1844, Joseph Smith Jr. launches his presidential campaign on an anti-slavery platform.
    That same year Smith is assassinated. The evidence seems to pile up that during his lifetime, he did not teach nor practice such doctrine or policy. It is only after his death, when he can no longer discuss the subject that these claims begin to appear.

    I do like nevertheless the very Masonic language of this following line referring to Brigham Young:

    “He saw himself as the master-builder?not the architect?of the Kingdom and of Zion.”

    Very well put. Thinking of the architectural plans of Zion the doctrines of the Church, I would have to say that it is when BY made his own additions to these architectural plans that we run into problems. It seems to me that for the most part, those additions to the architectural plan have now been removed from the master plans and relegated to an obscure corner in the house of the Master Architect.

    Comment by Manuel — November 28, 2007 @ 6:48 pm

  49. Alternate View, I respond to you and your quoting of Esplin as follows:

    There is much better evidence than Lorenzo Snow for general 1847 knowledge of a ban. As I mentioned before, I tend to think that 1846 is the year. That Brigham Young was exercising hyperbole in his claim is controverted by the historical record. See, for example, a similar teaching to a small private group in his Office Journal (Dec. 7, 1860).

    As a friend elsewhere observed, Esplin appears to be making the following points:

    1) BY didn’t do anything he didn’t learn from JS, perhaps in exclusive or secretive settings.
    2) the 1847 statement seems to reflect an assumed, or well-established practice.
    3) Joseph taught Brigham everything he needed regarding the temple included the principle of lineages.

    I would respond to these as follows:

    1) This is a most problematic assertion, and one that isn?t supportable.
    2) If the 1846 temple ban was in force (as it appears to have been) then 1847 doesn?t seem so odd.
    3) Lineages were taught well before the ban was in force.

    There was significant priesthood participation by individuals of African decent pre-martyrdom. I concede that Adam-God was not uniformly received as was the priesthood ban (perhaps this was do to antecedent teachings on race and or other cultural predispositions – or perhaps not). Still the arguments that Brigham did what Joseph told him to do and that there were secret teachings not on the record and the fact that Brigham claimed it was the Lord’s will all equally apply to Adam-God.

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 28, 2007 @ 6:55 pm

  50. hm… I meant to type a time frame from 1843 to 1844

    Comment by Manuel — November 28, 2007 @ 6:55 pm

  51. Manuel,

    As an alternative, might the fact that Joseph Smith clearly taught the equality of races, as the quotes you provide demonstrate, be considered evidence that the priesthood ban did in fact come by revelation? Because if it had been left to the direction of his own wisdom, Joseph would not have, and in historical fact did not, withhold the priesthood from blacks?

    If, indeed, Joesph did establish the Priesthood ban then it seems it would have had to have been by revelation and not by racism. No? Because Joseph was not a racist.

    And Esplin does argue effectively that Brigham Young believed that the priesthood ban was instituted through revelation, that only God could lift it, and that at some far distant date it would in fact be lifted.

    If we take President Young’s insistence that it was established by God as sincere, then doesn’t that suggest that Joseph might have instituted it? Otherwise would seem to require an attribution of disingenuity to Brigham Young that runs contrary to the regard in which most of us hold the Prophet.

    Comment by An Alternate View — November 28, 2007 @ 7:08 pm

  52. Otherwise would seem to require an attribution of disingenuity to Brigham Young that runs contrary to the regard in which most of us hold the Prophet.

    I don’t understand how you arrived here.

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 28, 2007 @ 7:11 pm

  53. I mean, if the ban was based in racism instead of revelation then, at some level, don’t we have to consider President Young’s claim that it was established by God, and that only He could remove it, as somewhat disingenuous, if not outrightly so?

    Comment by An Alternate View — November 28, 2007 @ 7:22 pm

  54. An Alternative View,

    I do understand your point. I do see how I can assume that Brigham Young’s insistance that it was established by God was sincere (I don’t, but I can do it hypothetically). Then, I can actually make sense of your alternative view.

    Nevertheless, like J. mentioned, I do not see fit to assume that BY didn?t do anything he didn?t learn from JS. And the elaborate construction that Mr Esplin gives for this assumption still does not seem in my mind to fill the gap that one has to jump to end in that particular conclusion.

    Then, as I mentioned before, his strong racist remarks… I think this is what my human nature makes me lean towards: how perfectly fit the ban seems for his personal preconceived notions of blacks. But indeed I see where the alternative view can actually develop. And Mr Esplin’s work is admirable.

    Comment by Manuel — November 28, 2007 @ 7:32 pm

  55. AAV (#53) This is a great test case for prophetic fallibility. I don’t think most of the people that claim the ban was a mistake believe Brigham was being disingenuous. More pointedly, do you believe the same applies to Adam-God?

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 28, 2007 @ 7:53 pm

  56. Manuel: While Joseph did seem very anti-slavery, I’m not sure that is completely equal to priesthood ordination. He could have held the “separate but equal” stance that many mid-20th century leaders had.

    Not to say that I am in support of Joseph starting it, I’m just bringing up the idea.

    Comment by Ben — November 28, 2007 @ 7:55 pm

  57. Possibly Ben. I usually just rely on the Elijah Abel instance to support in my mind his equality in terms of priesthood too.

    On a more general note, I also think of the prophecy about Joseph Smith’s reputation when I think of the priesthood ban being linked to him. I have somehow decided in my mind this link to the priesthood ban is another unjust stain over his name. This is all my very personal view and speculations.

    Comment by Manuel — November 28, 2007 @ 8:03 pm

  58. This might be of interest to those commenting on this thread. It is a Mormon Stories podcast with Darius Gray and Margaret Young discussing the subject of this post.

    It’s quite long, but well-worth listening to.

    Comment by Christopher — November 28, 2007 @ 8:44 pm

  59. J. (#55)
    Perhaps one can view the priesthood ban as a “test case” for prophetic fallibility. (I am somewhat uncomfortable with the connotations of the term “Test Case” which seems to carry with it the unfortunate veneer of an agenda.)

    Of course the prophets are fallible. But there lies greater danger in an overemphasis, inadvertent or otherwise, on that fallibility than in its underemphasis. The entire purpose and value of having prophets at all is ultimately undermined if we can readily attribute any doctrine that we find distasteful (or inconvenient) to fallibility.

    I submit that President Young’s fallibility is indeed demonstrated by the history of the priesthood ban, but that, contrary to the predominant notion expressed by most in this forum, the fallibility lies not in the ban itself, but in the prophet’s understanding of the reasons for the ban and the conditions upon which that ban would be lifted. In other words, fallibility is demonstrated not by the ban, but by President Young’s assertion that it would not be lifted until all of the sons of Able had received the priesthood and birthright (in his view, not until the millennium).

    To answer your question, I suggest that the apparent similarities between Adam God and the Priesthood Ban are largely superficial and, to a degree, manufactured to justify rejecting the revelatory roots of the ban.

    First, as already discussed, the priesthood policy appears to have been well established, uncontroversial, and widely accepted, though the justification thereof misunderstood. By contrast, Adam God was new, controversial, and disputed by a number of contemporary authorities.

    More importantly, the priesthood ban was upheld by subsequent Presidents of the Church who approached the Lord asking if it could be lifted and received a negative response, thus ratifying Brigham Young’s assertion that it was established by revelation and that it could only be removed by revelation.

    When President Kimball lifted the priesthood ban in 1978 it validated Brigham Young’s assertion that the ban was revealed and could only be repealed by revelation. If it did demonstrate fallibility, it was the fallibility of President Young’s timetable and conditions, not the origin of the policy itself.

    The Adam God doctrine, contrariwise, was a ephemeral mishmash of statements, mired in obscure semantics and a complex, widely misunderstood soteriology, and was repudiated by subsequent prophets relatively soon, and repeatedly, after Brigham Young had passed away.

    So, to revise my earlier assertion, as I see it, to say that the priesthood ban was a mistake and established not by revelation but by racism, one must ascribe a level of disinginuity to Brigham Young, his contemporary servants in the vineyard, and his successors, that is simply not required to reject Adam God.

    (Let me clarify that I am extremely grateful that the ban was lifted. I do not understand the reasons why it was ever instituted, other than it appears to have been by revelation, and for that reason I trust that the Lord did so for a wise purpose.)

    I have enjoyed this exchange a great deal, but unfortunately, other responsibilities require me to withdraw from further participation.

    I hope that I have at least presented a reasonable Alternate View. The Church is true. God bless you all.


    PS Manuel. I don’t believe we know each other. Your reference to eagles means nothing to me. However, I want to thank you for your gentlemanly discussion and your willingness to consider my viewpoint and to engage me as an honest, intelligent, equal instead of demonizing my often unpopular view. May God bless you for it.

    Comment by An Alternate View — November 29, 2007 @ 1:38 pm

  60. The Adam God doctrine, contrariwise, was a ephemeral mishmash of statements, mired in obscure semantics and a complex, widely misunderstood soteriology, and was repudiated by subsequent prophets relatively soon, and repeatedly, after Brigham Young had passed away.

    This is incorrect.

    Comment by Christopher — November 29, 2007 @ 2:07 pm

  61. Perhaps “Repudiated” is too strong of a word. “Minimized and eventually repudiated” would probably have been better. Oh well!


    Comment by An Alternate View — November 29, 2007 @ 2:29 pm

  62. AAV, I appreciate your willingness to engage on this topic. Obviously, folk can disagree in their analyses of both the Priesthood Ban and Adam-God. I can sympathize with those who believe the ban had to be based in revelation because of their views of the Church and its structure. Personally, I believe that Brigham had the rights and keys to govern the Church regardless of whether the Priesthood ban was a giant mistake. I also don’t see any greater requirement for insincerity on his part between the priesthood ban and Adam-God. As to Adam-God, I think that the documentary evidence is not as presented in you comment #59, but again, thanks for your perspective.

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 29, 2007 @ 2:39 pm

  63. I got this citation recently, and although I am extremely skeptical of it, I am wondering if anyone else has heard this before?

    “The Prophet Joseph Smith was commanded by God to withdraw the priesthood from Elijah Able [sic], and revoke the ordination. There is no exception. The continued church’s policy over the years is an evident fact that Presidents Young, Taylor, Woodruff and Snow, as well as Heber C. Kimball, William Clayton, and other leaders of the time, all knew of this excluding doctrine and continued to abide by it. Although there is no official Church record as to the revocation, Elijah Able affirmed the fact to father, Thomas A. Shreeve, when both were living in the Salt Lake 10th Ward, during 1872-1877.

    At the time, Bro. Able told young Thomas, who baptized Able’s grandchildren, that the Prophet Joseph “came to him with tears in his eyes one day, and told him [Abel] that he had been commanded by the Lord to withdraw the holy priesthood from him.

    Patriarch Shreeve testified many times before his death in 1931 of the facts in the case, and of his close relationship with Brother Able. As of this date there are still living three members of the Shreeve family, who know of the facts to which their father testified Elijah Able told him.

    —Caleb A. Shreeve, Sr., The Salt Lake Tribune, “Forum,” 26 Oct. 1970

    Comment by Bret — November 29, 2007 @ 2:51 pm

  64. Printed on the SLT about 126 years after JS died taken from a memory recorded at least 30 years after Joseph Smith died of course. Possibly during the apex of the racist LDS regime, when leaders were slave owners and when folklore stories of a tall, dark skinned hairy man identified as Cain were circulated among the members.


    In the 27th of November of 1900 Enoch Abel, son of Elijah Abel, is ordained an Elder

    In the 5th of July 1934 Elijah Abel, grandson of Elijah Abel, is ordained a priest and on the 29th of September of 1935, he is ordained an Elder.

    Comment by Manuel — November 29, 2007 @ 3:17 pm

  65. Bret, Elijah was on Church Records as a Seventy well into the Utah period. He served a mission from Utah and his son was ordained a priest.

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 29, 2007 @ 3:21 pm

  66. The lineage of Elijah Abel seems to have escaped the priesthood ban. Elijah Abel was denied his endowments twice though, once by BY and once by the 12.

    Comment by Manuel — November 29, 2007 @ 3:21 pm

  67. Here are comments I made on this subject back in 2002. Since that time, Michael Homer has persuaded me that Joseph Smith implemented the ban along with the endowment due to the influence of Masonry.

    Note too that Tom Alexander recently characterized my remarks on Foster’s cheap shot at my former collaborator as an ad hominem attack. Of course, the mere fact that I do something lets Mormon historians brand it as evil, but note that I explicitly warned Foster before the session that if he insulted Hal’s memory, I would show no mercy.

    As Peter “opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons.” God is not a racist, no matter which big shots would like to pretend She is.

    Comments on Papers by Newell Bringhurst and Craig Foster


    On a gray Saturday morning this past September 28, some 200 people attended a historic dedication at the Salt Lake City Cemetery. They gathered to honor Utah pioneers Elijah and Mary Ann Abel and replace their crumbling marble headstone. The new monument celebrating Elijah Abel?s lifelong dedication to Mormonism as the ?first African American to be ordained to the priesthood? in the LDS Church.

    Ironically, it took retired Missouri high school history teacher to put together the volunteer effort of the Missouri Mormon Frontier Foundation and the Genesis Group of Utah that funded the new marker. Bill Curtis has had a long fascination with black history and found the Abels? story intriguing, especially after locating the couple?s grave. Determined to provide a more appropriate headstone, Curtis tracked down eight descendants and enlisted their support.

    The Deseret News reported that Apostle M. Russell Ballard conducted the ceremony. ?We don’t know all the reasons why the Lord does what he does. . . . It’s difficult to know why all things happen,” Elder Ballard said. “I’m perfectly content to believe the Lord is in control.?

    I?m skeptical. Having grown up in the Mormon Church when institutional racism was codified in its doctrine and mythology, I believe the Lord had nothing to do with this evil folk tradition. It was the invention of an inveterate bigot, Brigham Young, and it was maintained by provincial, narrow, ancient white men who should have known better. The policy stands as an indictment of their claims to speak for God. The continuing refusal of LDS authorities to accept responsibility and ask forgiveness for the pain they inflicted on generations of members casts doubt on their claims to any sort of spiritual authority.

    NOTES , 22 NOVEMBER 2004:

    Craig L. Foster?s paper, ?Myth Vs. Reality in the Burt Murder and Harvey Lynching,? contained this quote:

    According to Coleman on page 199 of his dissertation [Ronald Gerald Coleman, ] ?A History of Blacks in Utah, 1825-1910,? (University of Utah: PhD dissertation, 1980)], ?in 1866 a black man named Tom Colbourn was found with his throat cut for allegedly being involved with white women.? However, this account is somewhat questionable as the source was Harold Schindler?s colorful, but problematic in terms of historical accuracy, Orrin Porter Rockwell: Man of God, Son of Thunder (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1966), p. 341-342.

    I warned Foster that I thought this was a cheap shot and completely out of line. When he read it in his paper anyway, I commented: ?Harold Schindler was a conscientious and meticulously accurate historian. I worked with Harold Schindler. I knew Harold Schindler. And Craig, you are no Harold Schindler.?

    Comment by Will Bagley — November 29, 2007 @ 4:08 pm

  68. Ouch!

    Comment by Randy B. — November 29, 2007 @ 4:32 pm

  69. Yawn. What a pity that Bagley has discovered the Bloggernacle. I suppose we’ll all have to put up with scornful condemnation on most threads now, from someone whose credentials to speak as a Mormon are nil.

    Bagley, if you could leave out the venom, your comments might actually be read with interest. Try it. We’d like it.

    Comment by Kermit — November 29, 2007 @ 5:08 pm

  70. Will, I think that there are some who paint Brigham as an unqualified Bigot. I think the documentary evidence is enough to condemn him, along with very many of the 19th centuries great leaders of bigotry. Still, I think that his perspectives on people of African decent aren’t as rabid as some characterizations might suggest. The recently published Office Journal has a number of excerpts that in some cases reinforce the perception of racism but also some that temper the more extreme characterizations.

    I have been encouraged that there are some in the Church hierarchy that have wished to formally controvert racist folk beliefs and perhaps even apologize for their effects. I know a great many of stalwart Latter-day Saints who believe through significant empiricism that despite the faults of any individual, the Church retains a great depth of spiritual authority and mandate.

    Comment by J. Stapley — November 29, 2007 @ 5:16 pm

  71. But the venom is what makes his writing so entertaining! Would you willfully handicap the man?

    Comment by Bret — November 29, 2007 @ 5:18 pm

  72. Interesting, until it becomes tedious. Venom dominates any thread, drowning out all productive conversation.

    Give Bagley a ticket to the DAMU where he belongs.

    Comment by Kermit — November 29, 2007 @ 5:40 pm

  73. Here are comments I made on this subject back in 2002. Since that time, Michael Homer has persuaded me that Joseph Smith implemented the ban along with the endowment due to the influence of Masonry.

    With regards to Masonry:

    Free Masonry, at least the Scottish Rite (that JS and BY were part of) does not discriminates against blacks. The policy for Masons is that the prospects must believe in a Supreme Being and be free.

    Freedom is critical for prospects due to the duties that belonging to said organization brings upon them. It is not possible for a man who is subject to the will of another man to truly adhere to the admonitions of Freemasonry.

    Blacks have never been rejected by Freemasonry per say, but obviously, due to the racist nature of American Culture in the 18th and 19th centuries, not even the Lodges escaped leaders that were inclined to practice this disgraceful attitude towards our fellow men of African descent.

    Comment by Manuel — November 29, 2007 @ 8:33 pm

  74. What difference would it make if Joseph had instituted the ban? Was Joseph infallible? Could Joseph not have made a mistake?

    Why is tracing the ban back to Joseph so important to some? Is it an effort to lend validity to it?

    Comment by Ann — December 1, 2007 @ 7:26 pm

  75. Ann: this is a great point. It is interesting to me how much more comfortable the idea that it was a mistake is for people to accept if it crept in after Joseph Smith with Brigham Young. I imagine it has something to do with Joseph’s role as founder and as the unparalleled revelator for the Church. But it also seems to be historically supportable with evidence, such as Blacks who were ordained during Joseph’s life and the lack of any recorded revelation or policy. But a lack of records does not rule out the possibility completely. Though I find myself wanting to believe that it began with Brigham Young, I am still not completely convinced that it did not start with Joseph. Ron Esplin has a pretty strong argument, and I’m still a little troubled by certain passages in the Book of Abraham and in the JST. I’m leaning toward Brigham origins, but am ultimately undecided–uncomfortably comfortable with the ambiguity for now.

    Comment by Stan — December 3, 2007 @ 1:39 am

  76. After studying the scriptures very carefully, I find absolutely zero evidence to support any curse that has been suggested by earlier brethren and unfortunately taught as doctrine, as well as the premortal status of some of our brothers and sisters. It is doctrine that we are here because we ALL kept our first estate.

    It is also my understanding that Joseph did ordain at least one black man to the priesthood, maybe another, but apparently this was not the time yet…

    I am of the opinion that since this entire church could not even begin it’s restoration until this free country was established, then it is very easy for me to accept that for the blacks to need to wait a bit longer, was simply necessary, to protect them and the church.

    I cannot see that it would have been possible for the church to have moved forward IF the Lord had given the priesthood to the blacks. First of all, they did NOT even have their freedom…

    Even today, a person cannot join the church as a new member if they are in prison or even on parole, as they cannot exercise their individual agency.

    Consider the dynamics of this situation IF the slave of a white man then joined the Mormon Church and was then given the Priesthood of God?


    Now, could this be a possible reason that the Lord saw fit in His wisdom to protect His Kingdom and His Children from the awful consequences of this situation… until a quite enough time came about where the blacks could freely enjoy fully ALL of the blessings without fear of man, that are a part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    I prefer this reasoning over curses, which men bring upon themselves according to commandments and law. And not skin color, etc… particularly of an entire race of people throughout generations… really?

    Comment by Kathryn — December 4, 2007 @ 7:20 pm

  77. I remember reading a quote the other day (from Woodruff’s journal if I recall correctly) that attributed Bro. Brigham as saying something like this when he officially announced the restriction “if no other prophet has said blacks couldn’t hold the priesthood, I am telling it to you now”–or something like that. Does anyone know the exact reference? My point is that when I read that it seemed like even Brigham realized no one had actually said this prior to himself and that it couldn’t actually be attributed directly to Joseph. Any thoughts on this?

    Oh, and Craig (if you are still around), you’re not living in PA are you?

    Comment by Mike — December 4, 2007 @ 7:32 pm

  78. Yes Mike.

    It happened five years after Joseph Smith’s death on January 16th, 1849. Wilford Woodruff asked Brigham Young if men who are not completely black but have a partial African heritage were also banned from the Priesthood as were men of full African heritage. The quote is Brigham Young’s response to that question:

    “Any man having one drop of the seed of Cain in him cannot hold the Priesthood, and if no other Prophet ever spake it before I will say it now in the name of Jesus Christ.” (Wilford Woodruff, Deseret News Press, 1909, p.351)

    So you bring a good point. It seems as if Brigham Young hadn’t heard such teaching from any other prophet.

    Thanks for bringing this up.

    Comment by Manuel — December 4, 2007 @ 8:37 pm

  79. Kathryn, I don’t remember having heard this argument brought up in scholarly circles. I encountered it flipping through the “Setting The Record Straight” book on Blacks and the priesthood, but it doesn’t seem to be a very strong theory to me (the same goes for most of that book as well). From the Missouri period the Church had spoken out about not interfering with slaves or preaching the gospel to them without their master’s permission. So, no black slaves would have recieved the priesthood anyway. In that case, why take the privilege away from non-slave blacks? The idea just doesn’t hold water for me.

    As far as not giving the priesthood to blacks to protect them and the Church, or the idea that the Church wasn’t ready, that’s hard speculation at best. Newell Bringhurst presented on this in MHA this year. He talked about how the RLDS Church did not have such a ban. I’d have to refer back with Bringhurst, but I remember him talking about proselyting and blacks enjoying a greater standing and fellowship in the RLDS Church than in the LDS Church. Granted, times had changed by 1860 when JS III decided to take charge, but I’m suspect of the idea that the Church wasn’t ready or that it would have been a huge problem.

    I cannot see that it would have been possible for the church to have moved forward IF the Lord had given the priesthood to the blacks. First of all, they did NOT even have their freedom?

    This doesn’t take into account that not all blacks were slaves. As stated above, non-slaves wouldn’t have been subject to the “awful consequences of this situtation”, so why restrict them as well? Etc…

    Comment by Jared — December 4, 2007 @ 9:18 pm

  80. […] categories and narratives that whites use to explain the Priesthood ban? An admittedly unscientific poll was conducted a few weeks ago at the Juvenile Instructor, and the majority of ‘nacle voters […]

    Pingback by Times & Seasons » Narrating the Priesthood Ban and Constructing Selves — December 19, 2007 @ 12:51 pm

  81. […] & Seasons » Narrating the Priesthood Ban and Constructing Selves: Poll: Origins of theKent Larsen: Buenas noticias para losKent Larsen: Buenas noticias para losbfwebster: From the Center […]

    Pingback by Juvenile Instructor » Narrating the Priesthood Ban and Constructing Selves — December 19, 2007 @ 12:54 pm

  82. […] earlier posts on the priesthood ban or on this film, see here, here, here, and here. […]

    Pingback by Juvenile Instructor » “I Was Told That It Was True, and It Was a Marvelous Day” — March 9, 2008 @ 1:27 am

  83. There are very clear revelations in the Second Book of Commandments on this matter.


    Comment by Richard Holmes — September 29, 2008 @ 9:02 pm

  84. Richard,

    This is a very interesting fundamentalist book of scripture. It would be interesting for you to provide us with some more information about how this book was put together, and something about the group of which you are a part.

    Comment by Joel — September 30, 2008 @ 7:03 am

  85. […] Poll: The Origins of the Priesthood Ban […]

    Pingback by Juvenile Instructor » Teaching About the Priesthood Ban and Official Declaration 2 in Sunday School — December 7, 2009 @ 8:19 pm


Recent Comments

Matt W. on Mary Frances Sturlaugson, First: “Thank you for this. Mary Eyer is a hero of mine.”

J Stuart on Mary Frances Sturlaugson, First: “I love this so much. That last paragraph hit me really hard.”

David G. on Mary Frances Sturlaugson, First: “Thanks, J!”

Jeff T on Mary Frances Sturlaugson, First: “Nicely done. Thanks, J!”

Amy T on Mary Frances Sturlaugson, First: “Matt W posted about Mary Sturlaugson Eyer back in 2007 (it took a while to find because I didn’t remember which blog it was) and…”

Andrea R-M on Mary Frances Sturlaugson, First: “Thanks, Jessica. I remember that my parents had Mary Sturlaugson's book in our home in Illinois, sometime in the early 1980s, and I think…”