Racism in the LDS church
Statements about race in the Book of Mormon
Theological foundation for racism in the LDS church:
According to sociologist Amand L. Mauss, a president of the Mormon
History Association, the church's racist beliefs originated within
protestant denominations from which many Mormons converted. He said in 1998: "Every
major Protestant denomination in history has taught that blacks are descendants
of Cain and Ham." 1
Cain is described in the book of Genesis of the Hebrew Scriptures (a.k.a.
Old Testament) as a son of Adam. Cain was jealous of his brother Abel, because
God had rejected Cain's offering, while accepting Abel's. In Genesis 4:8, he
is described as having "attacked his brother Abel, and killed him."
||Ham is described in Genesis 9 as a son of Noah who had seen his father
naked. Ham himself was not punished. But Ham's son, Canaan, was cursed.
Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers. He also said,
'Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem! May Canaan be the slave of Shem. May
God extend the territory of Japheth; may Japeth live in the tents of Shem and
may Canaan be his slave'."
This became known as the "Curse of Ham."
Most Christians found it
convenient prior to the 19th century to assume that the Curse of Ham was
to continue to all of Ham's African descendents. This justified human slavery.
It may seem unethical, immoral, and irrational to let the perpetrator go unpunished while cursing the son of the perpetrator and further cursing all of his descendents. However this concept of scapegoating -- of transferring punishment from a sinful person to innocent persons is a theme that runs throughout the Bible from Genesis to Revelation.
Protestant denominations in the early 19th century interpreted the Bible
as implying that the black race was formed from Cain and Abel's descendents. The
Curse of Ham was used extensively prior to the Civil War to justify
slavery as a biblically condoned, recognized and
regulated practice. The abolition movement caused a great deal of distress among
many Christians because they had to finally reject slavery as profoundly immoral -- a
practice which the Bible accepted as a normal aspect of the culture of the
Middle East. They had to
wrap their minds around the fact that the Bible taught something that was
apparently against the will of God. Beliefs of the inferiority of blacks died
a slow death among the leading denominations: Baptists, Methodists,
However, the LDS church was an exception. The Pearl of Great Price
is one of four source texts that are accepted by Mormons as divinely inspired
and authoritative scripture --the "Standard
Works." The Pearl had specifically prohibited the
ordination of anyone who was black or who had even one distant black ancestor.
Its teachings could not be easily altered.
Another inspired scripture, according to the LDS, is
the Book of Mormon. It discusses the Lamanite race among Native Amerricans,
and how they received dark skins and a degenerate status as punishment:
2 Nephi 5:21-23:
"And he had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore
cursing, because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their
hearts against him, that they had become like unto a flint; wherefore, as
they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not
be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to
come upon them."
"And thus saith the Lord God: I will cause that they shall be loathsome unto thy
people, save they shall repent of their iniquities."
"And cursed shall be the seed of him that mixeth with their seed; for they shall
be cursed even with the same cursing. And the Lord spake it, and it was done."
"And because of their cursing which was upon them they did become an idle people,
full of mischief and subtlety, and did seek in the wilderness for beasts of
In 2 Nephi 30:6, the the Book of Mormon as originally translated (or
written; opinions differ) by Joseph Smith said that if Lamanites accepted the true gospel,
"...their scales of darkness shall begin to fall from their
eyes; and many generations shall not pass away among them, save they shall
be a white and a delightsome people."
After 1981, the term "white and delightsome" was changed to read "pure"
-- an unusual action for a book considered to be inspired by God in its
original version. 2
3 Nephi 2:15 reads:
"And their curse was taken from them, and their
skin became white like unto the Nephites." 2
Statements in the Book of Mormon which are non
Notwithstanding the Book of Mormon's references to blackness as a curse, it does contain
some passages in 2 and 3 Nephi implying that persons of all races may
2 Nephi 26:24: "He doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the
world; for he loveth the world, even that he layeth down his own life
that he may draw all men unto him. Wherefore, he commandeth none
that they shall not partake of his salvation." 3
2 Nephi 26:33: "For none of these iniquities come of the Lord; for
he doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he doeth
nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he inviteth them
all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none
that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female;
and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and
3 Nephi 27:14 & 15: "And my Father sent me that I might
be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon
the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been
lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand
before me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether
they be evilAnd for this cause have I been lifted up;
therefore, according to the power of the Father I will draw all men
unto me, that they may be judged according to their works."
Even though the Book of Mormon teaches that African Americans are inferior
and loathsome, -- uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild,
and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is
generally bestowed upon mankind according to Mark E. Peterson
-- it does state that they may eventually be saved. However, even in Heaven,
LDS theology said that they will be servants to others.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
Bill Broadway, "Black Mormons Resist Apology Talk," Washington
Post, 1998-MAY-30, Page B09. See: http://www.lds-mormon.com/lds_race.shtml
Bill McKeever & Eric Johnson, "White and Delightsome or Pure and
Delightsome? - A Look at 2 Nephi 30:6," at:
"The Book of Mormon," 2 Ne 26:24, at: http://scriptures.lds.org/
"The Book of Mormon," 2 Ne 27:15, at: http://scriptures.lds.org/
Copyright © 1997 to 2012 by Ontario Consultants on
Originally written: 2002-AUG-12
Latest update: 2012-MAR-11
Author: B.A. Robinson