Race and the Priesthood as Posted on LDS.org

mormonadfamilyphotoThis is not my own work, but the news is so worthy to note that I figured that I should re-post it along with all the references to boot. The following is a statement by the LDS Church regarding its history of racism and reconciliation. You may find the  link to the original article at the following link:

Race and the Priesthood

In theology and practice, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints embraces the universal human family. Latter-day Saint scripture and teachings affirm that God loves all of His children and makes salvation available to all. God created the many diverse races and ethnicities and esteems them all equally. As the Book of Mormon puts it, “all are alike unto God.”1

The structure and organization of the Church encourage racial integration. Latter-day Saints attend Church services according to the geographical boundaries of their local ward, or congregation.  By definition, this means that the racial, economic, and demographic composition of Mormon congregations generally mirrors that of the wider local community.2  The Church’s lay ministry also tends to facilitate integration: a black bishop may preside over a mostly white congregation; a Hispanic woman may be paired with an Asian woman to visit the homes of a racially diverse membership. Church members of different races and ethnicities regularly minister in one another’s homes and serve alongside one another as teachers, as youth leaders, and in myriad other assignments in their local congregations. Such practices make The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints a thoroughly integrated faith.

Despite this modern reality, for much of its history—from the mid-1800s until 1978—the Church did not ordain men of black African descent to its priesthood or allow black men or women to participate in temple endowment or sealing ordinances.

The Church was established in 1830, during an era of great racial division in the United States. At the time, many people of African descent lived in slavery, and racial distinctions and prejudice were not just common but customary among white Americans. Those realities, though unfamiliar and disturbing today, influenced all aspects of people’s lives, including their religion. Many Christian churches of that era, for instance, were segregated along racial lines. From the beginnings of the Church, people of every race and ethnicity could be baptized and received as members. Toward the end of his life, Church founder Joseph Smith openly opposed slavery. There has never been a Churchwide policy of segregated congregations.3

During the first two decades of the Church’s existence, a few black men were ordained to the priesthood. One of these men, Elijah Abel, also participated in temple ceremonies in Kirtland, Ohio, and was later baptized as proxy for deceased relatives in Nauvoo, Illinois. There is no evidence that any black men were denied the priesthood during Joseph Smith’s lifetime.

In 1852, President Brigham Young publicly announced that men of black African descent could no longer be ordained to the priesthood, though thereafter blacks continued to join the Church through baptism and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. Following the death of Brigham Young, subsequent Church presidents restricted blacks from receiving the temple endowment or being married in the temple. Over time, Church leaders and members advanced many theories to explain the priesthood and temple restrictions. None of these explanations is accepted today as the official doctrine of the Church.

The Church in an American Racial Culture

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was restored amidst a highly contentious racial culture in which whites were afforded great privilege. In 1790, the U.S. Congress limited citizenship to “free white person[s].”4 Over the next half century, issues of race divided the country—while slave labor was legal in the more agrarian South, it was eventually banned in the more urbanized North. Even so, racial discrimination was widespread in the North as well as the South, and many states implemented laws banning interracial marriage.5 In 1857, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that blacks possessed “no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”6 A generation after the Civil War (1861–65) led to the end of slavery in the United States, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that “separate but equal” facilities for blacks and whites were constitutional, a decision that legalized a host of public color barriers until the Court reversed itself in 1954.7

In 1850, the U.S. Congress created Utah Territory, and the U.S. president appointed Brigham Young to the position of territorial governor. Southerners who had converted to the Church and migrated to Utah with their slaves raised the question of slavery’s legal status in the territory. In two speeches delivered before the Utah territorial legislature in January and February 1852, Brigham Young announced a policy restricting men of black African descent from priesthood ordination. At the same time, President Young said that at some future day, black Church members would “have [all] the privilege and more” enjoyed by other members.8

The justifications for this 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.9 According to one view, which had been promulgated in the United States from at least the 1730s, blacks descended from the same lineage as the biblical Cain, who slew his brother Abel.10 Those who accepted this view believed that God’s “curse” on Cain was the mark of a dark skin. Black servitude was sometimes viewed as a second curse placed upon Noah’s grandson Canaan as a result of Ham’s indiscretion toward his father.11 Although slavery was not a significant factor in Utah’s economy and was soon abolished, the restriction on priesthood ordinations remained.

Removing the Restriction

Even after 1852, at least two black Mormons continued to hold the priesthood. When one of these men, Elijah Abel, petitioned to receive his temple endowment in 1879, his request was denied. Jane Manning James, a faithful black member who crossed the plains and lived in Salt Lake City until her death in 1908, similarly asked to enter the temple; she was allowed to perform baptisms for the dead for her ancestors but was not allowed to participate in other ordinances.12 The curse of Cain was often put forward as justification for the priesthood and temple restrictions. Around the turn of the century, another explanation gained currency: blacks were said to have been less than fully valiant in the premortal battle against Lucifer and, as a consequence, were restricted from priesthood and temple blessings.13

By the late 1940s and 1950s, racial integration was becoming more common in American life. Church President David O. McKay emphasized that the restriction extended only to men of black African descent. The Church had always allowed Pacific Islanders to hold the priesthood, and President McKay clarified that black Fijians and Australian Aborigines could also be ordained to the priesthood and instituted missionary work among them. In South Africa, President McKay reversed a prior policy that required prospective priesthood holders to trace their lineage out of Africa.14

Nevertheless, given the long history of withholding the priesthood from men of black African descent, Church leaders believed that a revelation from God was needed to alter the policy, and they made ongoing efforts to understand what should be done. After praying for guidance, President McKay did not feel impressed to lift the ban.15

As the Church grew worldwide, its overarching mission to “go ye therefore, and teach all nations”16 seemed increasingly incompatible with the priesthood and temple restrictions. The Book of Mormon declared that the gospel message of salvation should go forth to “every nation, kindred, tongue, and people.”17 While there were no limits on whom the Lord invited to “partake of his goodness” through baptism,18 the priesthood and temple restrictions created significant barriers, a point made increasingly evident as the Church spread in international locations with diverse and mixed racial heritages.

Brazil in particular presented many challenges. Unlike the United States and South Africa where legal and de facto racism led to deeply segregated societies, Brazil prided itself on its open, integrated, and mixed racial heritage. In 1975, the Church announced that a temple would be built in São Paulo, Brazil. As the temple construction proceeded, Church authorities encountered faithful black and mixed-ancestry Mormons who had contributed financially and in other ways to the building of the São Paulo temple, a sanctuary they realized they would not be allowed to enter once it was completed. Their sacrifices, as well as the conversions of thousands of Nigerians and Ghanaians in the 1960s and early 1970s, moved Church leaders.19

Church leaders pondered promises made by prophets such as Brigham Young that black members would one day receive priesthood and temple blessings. In June 1978, after “spending many hours in the Upper Room of the [Salt Lake] Temple supplicating the Lord for divine guidance,” Church President Spencer W. Kimball, his counselors in the First Presidency, and members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles received a revelation. “He has heard our prayers, and by revelation has confirmed that the long-promised day has come,” the First Presidency announced on June 8. The First Presidency stated that they were “aware of the promises made by the prophets and presidents of the Church who have preceded us” that “all of our brethren who are worthy may receive the priesthood.”20 The revelation rescinded the restriction on priesthood ordination. It also extended the blessings of the temple to all worthy Latter-day Saints, men and women. The First Presidency statement regarding the revelation was canonized in the Doctrine and Covenants as Official Declaration 2.

This “revelation on the priesthood,” as it is commonly known in the Church, was a landmark revelation and a historic event. Those who were present at the time described it in reverent terms. Gordon B. Hinckley, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, remembered it this way: “There was a hallowed and sanctified atmosphere in the room. For me, it felt as if a conduit opened between the heavenly throne and the kneeling, pleading prophet of God who was joined by his Brethren. . . . Every man in that circle, by the power of the Holy Ghost, knew the same thing. . . . Not one of us who was present on that occasion was ever quite the same after that. Nor has the Church been quite the same.”21

Reaction worldwide was overwhelmingly positive among Church members of all races. Many Latter-day Saints wept for joy at the news. Some reported feeling a collective weight lifted from their shoulders. The Church began priesthood ordinations for men of African descent immediately, and black men and women entered temples throughout the world. Soon after the revelation, Elder Bruce R. McConkie, an apostle, spoke of new “light and knowledge” that had erased previously “limited understanding.”22

The Church Today

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 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.23

Since that day in 1978, the Church has looked to the future, as membership among Africans, African Americans and others of African descent has continued to grow rapidly. While Church records for individual members do not indicate an individual’s race or ethnicity, the number of Church members of African descent is now in the hundreds of thousands.

The Church proclaims that redemption through Jesus Christ is available to the entire human family on the conditions God has prescribed. It affirms that God is “no respecter of persons”24 and emphatically declares that anyone who is righteous—regardless of race—is favored of Him. The teachings of the Church in relation to God’s children are epitomized by a verse in the second book of Nephi: “[The Lord] denieth none that cometh unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; . . . all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.”25

Related Gospel Topics

Resources

  1. 2 Nephi 26:33. See also Acts 10:34-3517:26Romans 2:1110:12Galatians 3:28.
  2. To facilitate involvement of Church members who do not speak the dominant language of the area in which they live, some congregations are organized among speakers of the same language (such as Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, or Tongan). In such cases, members can choose which congregation to attend.
  3. At some periods of time, reflecting local customs and laws, there were instances of segregated congregations in areas such as South Africa and the U.S. South.
  4. “An Act to Establish an Uniform Rule of Naturalization,” 1st Congress, 2nd Sess., Chap. 3 (1790).
  5. Elise Lemire, “Miscegenation”: Making Race in America (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002); Peggy Pascoe, What Comes Naturally: Miscegenation Law and the Making of Race in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009). Utah outlawed miscegenation between 1888 and 1963. See Patrick Mason, “The Prohibition of Interracial Marriage in Utah, 1888–1963,” Utah Historical Quarterly76, no. 2 (Spring 2008): 108–131.
  6. Don E. Fehrenbacher, The Dred Scott Case: Its Significance in American Law and Politics (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978), 347.
  7. Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896); Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954).
  8. Brigham Young, Speeches Before the Utah Territorial Legislature, Jan. 23 and Feb. 5, 1852, George D. Watt Papers, Church History Library, Salt Lake City, transcribed from Pitman shorthand by LaJean Purcell Carruth; “To the Saints,” Deseret News,April 3, 1852, 42.
  9. In the same session of the territorial legislature in which Brigham Young announced the priesthood ordination policy, the territorial legislature legalized black “servitude.” Brigham Young and the legislators perceived “servitude” to be a more humane alternative to slavery. Christopher B. Rich Jr., “The True Policy for Utah: Servitude, Slavery, and ‘An Act in Relation to Service,’” Utah Historical Quarterly 80, no.1 (Winter 2012): 54–74.
  10. David M. Goldenberg, The Curse of Ham: Race and Slavery in Early Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003), 178–182, 360n20; Colin Kidd, The Forging of Races: Race and Scripture in the Protestant Atlantic World, 1600–2000 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006).
  11. Stephen R. Haynes, Noah’s Curse: The Biblical Justification of American Slavery(New York: Oxford University Press, 2002).
  12. Margaret Blair Young, “‘The Lord’s Blessing Was with Us’: Jane Elizabeth Manning James, 1822–1908,” in Richard E. Turley Jr. and Brittany A. Chapman, eds., Women of Faith in the Latter Days, Volume Two, 1821–1845 (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2012), 120–135.
  13. Apostle Joseph Fielding Smith, for example, wrote in 1907 that the belief was “quite general” among Mormons that “the Negro race has been cursed for taking a neutral position in that great contest.” Yet this belief, he admitted, “is not the official position of the Church, [and is] merely the opinion of men.” Joseph Fielding Smith to Alfred M. Nelson, Jan. 31, 1907, Church History Library, Salt Lake City.
  14. Edward L. Kimball, “Spencer W. Kimball and the Revelation on Priesthood,” BYU Studies 47, no. 2 (Spring 2008), 18-20; Marjorie Newton, Southern Cross Saints: The Mormons in Australia (Laie: Hawaii: The Institute for Polynesian Studies, Brigham Young University-Hawaii, 1991), 209-210. Even before this time, President George Albert Smith concluded that the priesthood ban did not apply to Filipino Negritos. Kimball, “Spencer W. Kimball and the Revelation on the Priesthood,” 18-19.

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  15. Kimball, “Spencer W. Kimball and the Revelation on Priesthood,” 21-22.
  16. Matthew 28:19.
  17. Mosiah 15:281 Nephi 19:17.
  18. 2 Nephi 26:23, 28.
  19. Mark L. Grover, “Mormonism in Brazil: Religion and Dependency in Latin America,” (PhD Dissertation, Indiana University, 1985), 276-278. For a personal account of events in Brazil, see Helvecio Martins with Mark Grover, The Autobiography of Elder Helvecio Martins (Salt Lake City: Aspen Books, 1994), 64-68. For the conversions of Africans, see E. Dale LeBaron, ed., “All Are Alike unto God”: Fascinating Conversion Stories of African Saints (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1990); Pioneers in Africa: An Inspiring Story of Those Who Paved the Way (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Broadcasting, 2003).
  20. Official Declaration 2.
  21. Gordon B. Hinckley, “Priesthood Restoration,” Ensign, Oct. 1988, 70, available at ensign.lds.org. The impressions of others who were in the room have been compiled in Kimball, “Spencer W. Kimball and the Revelation on Priesthood,” 54–59.
  22. Bruce R. McConkie, “All Are Alike unto God” (CES Religious Educator’s Symposium, Aug. 18, 1978); available at speeches.byu.edu.
  23. Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Need for Greater Kindness,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2006, 58–61.
  24. Acts 10:34.
  25. 2 Nephi 26:33.

The Church acknowledges the contribution of historians and scholars to the historical context set forth in this article, whose contribution is used with their permission.

The Truth about Sexual Orientation

Born That Way

We are all brothers and sisters. We lived with God before we were born. With us to this life came certain temperaments and tendencies that lead us to make certain choices to behave in peculiar ways. We were born with dispositions towards certain behavior and tendencies that influence our choices. As pre-mortal children of our Father in Heaven, we are related one to another, family.

Within any family arise conflicts and passions that may obscure the true way things should be. We were born to experience temptations and hardships, not to sail smoothly on placid waters. The plan of God is that through the things we suffer, we learn to become like He is and overcome the world. What does the world teach us about ourselves?

It teaches us that we cannot help our lives. We do not have control over our lives because of what happened to us. We are in as much control over our lives as we will allow ourselves to be. I am not Gay, Transgender, Bisexual, or Lesbian, but I have the Holy Spirit who allows me to empathize with others.

Read the following excerpt from the Book of Mormon:

“…Fools mock, but they shall mourn; and my grace is sufficient for the meek, that they shall take no advantage of your weakness;

“And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

 “Behold, I will show unto the Gentiles their weakness, and I will show unto them that faith, hope and charity bringeth unto me—the fountain of all righteousness

“And I, Moroni, having heard these words, was comforted, and said: O Lord, thy righteous will be done, for I know that thou workest unto the children of men according to their faith…” Ether 12.

Ponder what these verses place in your minds, and keep it in your hearts as we explore Gender and Righteousness.

Sexuality and Gender Definitions can be found HERE.

Homosexuality And The Church

God does not hate people who have same gender attraction. He created them. The desires that lead us to want to procreate come from divine origin. We are given these desires to help keep the commandment to procreate. The purpose for those desires is for starting families and enjoying our spouses, not to gratify our desires. We can direct our desires for the commandments of God or give into our predilections because doing so is much easier. The commandment from God still stands.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day states regarding sexual relations bellow that,

download (2)“[t]his principle applies to all of God’s children, for He has declared that all sexual relations outside of marriage are unacceptable. Everyone has temptations, but one of the purposes of mortality is to learn to overcome them. President David O. McKay beautifully defined spirituality as “the consciousness of victory over self” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1969, 8).

“These temptations, which are uninvited, may be powerful, but they are never so strong as to deprive us of our freedom of choice.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks continues, “All of us have some feelings we did not choose, but the gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us that we still have the power to resist and reform our feelings (as needed) and to assure that they do not lead us to entertain inappropriate thoughts or to engage in sinful behavior” (“Same-Gender Attraction,”Ensign, Oct. 1995, 9). Improper thoughts diminish if you replace them immediately with uplifting, constructive thoughts.”

The sexual desires still come from heaven, but the function of or direction of the behavior comes from the individual circumstance here on earth. God planted the desires within us to enjoy sexuality, which is sacred in nature, but He expects us to hold that procreative power within the bond of legal marriage, and between Man and Woman. It is the order of heaven and the plan for the salvation of the human family.

Same gender attraction makes it difficult for those who suffer from it to reconcile faith and physical desire. Same gender attraction is not a behavior anymore that heterosexual attraction is a behavior. After a certain age, the body starts to produce hormones that lead people to act on the inclination for sex. Any type of sex will feel pleasurable if conducted properly to stimulate the nerves. Two heterosexual males could easily provide stimulation that will produce a physical reaction–and still not have any attraction for one another.

The brain is very impressionable. Positive experience towards homosexuality could produce homosexual desires within heterosexual people. Bisexual people may be the result of environmental influences that promote lifestyles out of normal society. Homosexual and heterosexual roles defined in society help to contribute to behaviors. If acceptance of homosexual relationships continues to increase, the following generation may identify more with Bisexual identities rather than strict male and female roles.

God has decreed that a man shall have a wife. This means that homosexual sex and premarital heterosexual sex are incorrect and cannot be disputed religiously for Christians. God specifically mention homosexual behavior in the Bible in the Book of Leviticus 20:13 speaking to Moses to instruct both the priest and the people and it is made clear throughout the Bible that God supports heterosexual relationships.

People who do not adhere to the law of chastity in The Church of Jesus Christ will be dealt with on an individual basis, but the outcome is to stop the behavior or be removed from the association of the church. Personal desires for sexual gratification must be placed aside for brothers and sisters with same gender attraction to remain active participants. The church condemns all sin the same–including sexual sins between unmarried heterosexual people. The church only sustains marriage between men and women as stated in The Family: A Proclamation to the World first published in 1995.

Gender And The Church

God had declared that men in mortality were men spiritually. In other words, before any of us were born, our spirits were male or female. Any attempted to re-assign gender will only end in the disappointment of those that discover the therapy that one must constantly receive to support such an unnatural process will end by a lack of hormone treatment or death. Gender reassignment is unnatural because artificial means must be employed to support the cosmetic needs of determined individuals.

It has been argued that a male brain could possibly be in a female body due to fetal absorption during pregnancy of fraternal twins. Such a rarity may be in the realm of some possibility being that a biological occurrence called a Chimera does occur.

Chimeras are people born with multiple DNA types that can occur in the blood or organs from one part of the body than another–such as the heart organ being a different DNA sequence than the lungs for example.

In the article of mine entitled Identifying Psychological Disorders and Substance Abuse, I was informed by a reader of the existence of chimeras. The research is documented but does not suggest that a man or woman biologically can be trapped in the other’s body. This reader, Deborah Sexton, wrote an article relating to it entitled Choice Or Genetics-The Human Condition. In it, she suggests that chimera-ism may be the cause of some of the orientations away from normal gender preferences. As stated before that view may or may not prove possible. Fair warning; her article supports same-gender marriage being that within her Temple, she is Jewish, such ordinances are allowed.

What does the church teach about such things? The leaders warn us not to be easily led by the theories of scientist that change as new pieces of evidence are revealed. We are all born with susceptibilities towards certain feelings.

“… Beware the argument that because a person has strong drives toward a particular act, he has no power of choice and therefore no responsibility for his actions. This contention runs counter to the most fundamental premises of the gospel of Jesus Christ…”

Christians, especially Latter-day Saints have a duty to understand all these things so that we may be able to have empathy.

Gender Roles

Living opposite gender roles as constituted by society also has stressful psychological effects on people’s of faith. If a person has mutilated the sex organs to resemble the opposite sex, he or she must live with the consequence when he or she discovers his or her divine potential. Upon discovering this potential, the person must then adjust to how to fulfill it with the self-imposed physical handicap.

Pure Love of Christ

Ether 12:26-29 with additional insight:

“And when I had said this, the Lord spake unto me, saying: Fools mock,” the people who have tendencies that lead them to homosexual or transgender lifestyles. “but they shall mourn” that persecute the child of God who has these tendencies; “and my grace is sufficient for the meek, that they shall take no advantage of your weakness” those that have transgender or homosexual tendencies;

“And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness” like homosexuality and transgender tendencies “that they may be humble” not confused. I gave you those tendencies; “and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things,” these tendencies, “become strong unto them” that they will not fall to them but keep the commandments.

“Behold, I will show unto the Gentiles” and repentant children with these tendencies “their weakness, and I will show unto them that faith, hope and charity bringeth unto me—the fountain of all righteousness,” control and mastery of all tendencies and weaknesses.

“And I, Moroni,” and any person dealing with the psychological tendencies toward homosexual or transgender issues, “having heard these words, was comforted,” and can be comforted, “and said” and can say: “O Lord, thy righteous will be done, for I know that thou workest unto the children of men according to their faith”Gordon_B__Hinckley

The late President Gordon Bitner Hinckley related, “In [our] quest for self-mastery, remember the importance of living righteously in private as well as in public.”

He urged: “Our behavior in public must be above reproach. Our behavior in private is even more important. It must clear the standard set by the Lord. We cannot indulge in sin, let alone try to cover our sins” (“Personal Worthiness to Exercise the Priesthood,” Ensign, May 2002, 52).

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