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Racism in the LDS church

Its resolution

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Pressures on the LDS church during the 1960s and 1970s:

In spite of the ban on ordination for African-Americans, ordination and higher levels in the priesthood were permitted for Australian aboriginal males, Polynesian men, and other non-whites. In Brazil, it was often quite difficult or impossible to determine the racial origin(s) of many church members. The LDS suspected that many men of who were probably of African descent had been already ordained into the priesthoods.

During these decades, there was a groundswell of opinion against racism by many Americans who recognized the centuries of injustice against African-Americans. It was an era of desegregation and agitation for civil rights. The U.S. Internal Revenue Service threatened LDS's tax exempt status because of the church's discrimination against African-Americans. Additional opposition came from sports groups which threatened to cancel events with the LDS' Brigham Young University. Anti-Mormon religious groups promoted boycotts of church businesses and of Utah tourism.

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Anti-racism statement of 1963:

On 1963-OCT-06, Apostle Hugh B. Brown read a statement to the General Conference of the LDS:

"During recent months, both in Salt Lake City and across the nation, considerable interest has been expressed in the position of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on the matter of civil rights. We would like it to be known that there is in this Church no doctrine, belief, or practice that is intended to deny the enjoyment of full civil rights by any person regardless of race, color, or creed.

We say again, as we have said many times before, that we believe that all men are the children of the same God and that it is a moral evil for any person or group of persons to deny any human being the rights to gainful employment, to full educational opportunity, and to every privilege of citizenship, just as it is a moral evil to deny him the right to worship according to the dictates of his own conscience.

We have consistently and persistently upheld the Constitution of the United States, and as far as we are concerned this means upholding the constitutional rights of every citizen of the United States.

We call upon all men everywhere, both within and outside the Church, to commit themselves to the establishment of full civil equality for all of God's children. Anything less than this defeats our high ideal of the brotherhood of man." 2

These are very positive statements concerning the rights of all citizens. However, the church's goal of giving "every privilege of citizenship" to all human beings did not appear to extend to homosexuals. The LDS is strongly opposed to extending one of the most fundamental rights of citizenship to gays and lesbians -- the right to marry the person that they love and to whom they have made a commitment.

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Call to avoid inter-racial friction of 1967:

Ezra Taft Benson expressed concern in 1967 about the source of agitation to eliminate racial segregation and to give African-Americans equal civil rights. He attributed the agitation for change to a communist plot, and urged citizens to not retaliate against Blacks. Writing about the civil rights movement, Benson said:

"The planning, direction, and leadership come from the Communists, and most of those are white men who fully intend to destroy America by spilling Negro blood, rather than their own."

"Next, we must not participate in any so-called "blacklash" activity which might tend to further intensify inter-racial friction. Anti-Negro vigilante action, or mob action, of any kind fits perfectly into the Communist plan. This is one of the best ways to force the decent Negro into cooperating with militant Negro groups. The Communists are just as anxious to spearhead such anti-Negro actions as they are to organize demonstrations that are calculated to irritate white people.

"We must insist that duly authorized legislative investigating committees launch an even more exhaustive study and expose the degree to which secret Communists have penetrated into the civil rights movement. The same needs to be done with militant anti-Negro groups. This is an effective way for the American people of both races to find out who are the false leaders among them." 3

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The revelation, believed to be from God in 1978:

The matter of racism was instantly resolved when church announced a new revelation from God on 1978-JUN-6,.

President N. Eldon Tanner, First Counselor in the First Presidency of the Church, read the following text on 1978-SEP-30, at the 148th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:

"In early June of this year, the First Presidency announced that a revelation had been received by President Spencer W. Kimball extending priesthood and temple blessings to all worthy male members of the Church. President Kimball has asked that I advise the conference that after he had received this revelation, which came to him after extended meditation and prayer in the sacred rooms of the holy temple, he presented it to his counselors, who accepted it and approved it. It was then presented to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who unanimously approved it, and was subsequently presented to all other General Authorities, who likewise approved it unanimously."

"President Kimball has asked that I now read this letter:

"June 8, 1978

To all general and local priesthood officers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints throughout the world:

Dear Brethren:

As we have witnessed the expansion of the work of the Lord over the earth, we have been grateful that people of many nations have responded to the message of the restored gospel, and have joined the Church in ever-increasing numbers. This, in turn, has inspired us with a desire to extend to every worthy member of the Church all of the privileges and blessings which the gospel affords.

Aware of the promises made by the prophets and presidents of the Church who have preceded us that at some time, in God’s eternal plan, all of our brethren who are worthy may receive the priesthood, and witnessing the faithfulness of those from whom the priesthood has been withheld, we have pleaded long and earnestly in behalf of these, our faithful brethren, spending many hours in the Upper Room of the Temple supplicating the Lord for divine guidance.

He has heard our prayers, and by revelation has confirmed that the long-promised day has come when every faithful, worthy man in the Church may receive the holy priesthood, with power to exercise its divine authority, and enjoy with his loved ones every blessing that flows therefrom, including the blessings of the temple. Accordingly, all worthy male members of the Church may be ordained to the priesthood without regard for race or color. Priesthood leaders are instructed to follow the policy of carefully interviewing all candidates for ordination to either the Aaronic or the Melchizedek Priesthood to insure that they meet the established standards for worthiness."

"We declare with soberness that the Lord has now made known his will for the blessing of all his children throughout the earth who will hearken to the voice of his authorized servants, and prepare themselves to receive every blessing of the gospel." 1

(Emphasis ours).

Racism within the church was immediately terminated. Male African-Americans are now regarded as full members of the LDS and are eligible for consideration for ordination. Black women remain excluded, as are all other women. No woman is considered a "worthy member of the Church" worthy to receive "all of the privileges and blessings which the gospel affords."

Excluding women from full participation in the church leadership are a common feature of conservative Christian denominations such as the Roman Catholic Church, the Southern Baptist Convention, and many other fundamentalist and evangelical Protestant denominations.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Official Declaration --2," LDS Scriptures, at: http://scriptures.lds.org/od/2
  2. "LDS Black History Timeline," Black LDS, at: http://www.blacklds.org/mormon/history.html
  3. "Mormon racism in perspective: An example for possible future changes in policy relating to women and gays," at: http://lds-mormon.com/

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Copyright © 1997 to 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2002-AUG-12
Latest update: 2012-MAR-11
Author: B.A. Robinson

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