While reading the title of this post, people will say, “Well duh, of course it was wrong—you don’t need to write a post about it!” It might be obvious to some, and even more obvious after the Church published a web page disavowing all racism. Let’s get their exact words in here: “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”.
So after I read that statement, I came away thinking that because the ban was racist—it was wrong. But people on the interwebs will quickly point out that never in the article did it mention that the ban was wrong. To that I can not disagree, sort of. Yes it is true, nowhere does it say the ban was wrong—it only says that racism is wrong, in any form. So some will continue to defend the ban as if it was from God himself. Why would they do that you ask? Because in their minds, I imagine, the Prophets can do no harm or lead the Church astray and therefore, it was God’s command or His fault that white people were privileged, better, not cursed, white, and delightsome. Yes we love our leaders that much, we will throw a racist god under the bus first before our leaders. This thinking, I believe, comes from Wilford Woodruff: “The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray”. (Official Declaration 1)
What I wanted to do is clearly show why the ban was not of God and why it does not agree with our teachings. If you do not agree that the ban itself was racist, then you should probably stop reading and maybe investigate for yourself what racism is all about.
The ban was wrong because it is against our Articles of Faith.
Learning about the Articles of Faith is one of the first things we do as children. In fact, as primary children we were asked to memorize all thirteen of them. Most likely you had to recite one in Sacrament meeting when you turned twelve and graduated from the primary. Without question, the Articles of Faith are recognized as core doctrine of the church.
We only have to read to #2 to find this gem! “We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression”. What does Adam have to do with the ban? Nothing. What this Article of Faith says is that you are responsible for you. You cannot be blamed for what Adam did or your father, or your mother, or a certain dude named Cain. What does Cain have to do with it? Well according to some of our leaders… well most all of them between Brigham Young to Spencer W. Kimball—the priesthood ban was in place because of a certain curse that was put on Mr. Cain. They taught that this curse was black skin and therefore they could not hold the priesthood. See how that is opposite of what are Article Faith #2 states? Are we ready to move on or should I add some racist quotes from Brigham Young to solidify my point? Ok… you asked for it:
“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.)
“You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, un-comely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild, and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind. The first man that committed the odious crime of killing one of his brethren will be cursed the longest of any one of the children of Adam. Cain slew his brother. Cain might have been killed, and that would have put a termination to that line of human beings. This was not to be, and the Lord put a mark upon him, which is the flat nose and black skin. Trace mankind down to after the flood, and then another curse is pronounced upon the same race – that they should be the “servant of servants;” and they will be, until that curse is removed; and the Abolitionists cannot help it, nor in the least alter that decree. How long is that race to endure the dreadful curse that is upon them? That curse will remain upon them, [p.291] and they never can hold the Priesthood or share in it until all the other descendants of Adam have received the promises and enjoyed the blessings of the Priesthood and the keys thereof. Until the last ones of the residue of Adam’s children are brought up to that favourable position, the children of Cain cannot receive the first ordinances of the Priesthood. They were the first that were cursed, and they will be the last from whom the curse will be removed. When the residue of the family of Adam come up and receive their blessings, then the curse will be removed from the seed of Cain, and they will receive blessings in like proportion” (Journal of Discourses 7:290-291, October 9, 1859)
Clear teachings of the curse of Cain are tied to the African race in these quotes from the Prophet. Don’t worry, there is a lot more where that came from.
The ban was wrong because it is against our teaching in the scriptures.
“… 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 Gentile” (2 Nephi 26:33)
Did you read a black and white in there? Yeah… so did I. This same scripture is used in the Church’s Official Declaration #2, “The Book of Mormon teaches that “all are alike unto God,” including “black and white, bond and free, male and female” (2 Nephi 26:33)
I know, I know, there are racist scriptures in our canon. See: 2 Nephi 5:21, 2 Nephi 30:6, Alma 3:6, 3 Nephi 2:15, Jacob 3:5,8-9: 5, Moses 7:22. You can read about racism in our scriptures in this great post from my brother Mike called “White and Delightsome: Racism in the Book of Mormon“.
The ban was wrong because Joseph Smith gave the priesthood to Elijah Ables, a black man.
According to official statements from the Church and historians, Joseph Smith gave the priesthood to Elijah Ables, a black man. So if we want to say the ban was from God we would have to assume that He allowed it with Joseph, then disallowed with Brigham, then re-allowed it with Spencer W. Kimball. Yeah… that makes perfect sense after all he does “work in mysterious ways”!
The ban was wrong because it was racist.
If you don’t think the ban was racist, well you should have stopped reading at the very start! How did you make it all the way down here? The ban started with Brigham Young and it was based on race and therefore, was racist. I don’t need to put in more racist quotes from our leaders in here do I? Ok good. Now that the Church has published the “Race and Priesthood” page we can clearly see that racism is bad “in any form” and since the ban was racist, the ban was wrong.
Even after ALL of this evidence, some people will still point to God as the cause of the ban. They will point to President McKay praying about the ban and coming away with this answer:
“I’ve inquired of the Lord repeatedly. The last time I did it was late last night. I was told, with no discussion, not to bring the subject up with the Lord again; that the time will come, but it will not be my time, and to leave the subject alone.” –David O. McKay
[SOURCE: Gregory A. Prince and Wm. Robert Wright, David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2005), 183.] *Thanks John for this reference.
Why would God supposedly give this answer if the ban was wrong? What is the point of Prophet if he can’t get the revelation needed before… let’s say the civil right movement? All good questions. Maybe President McKay didn’t do the leg work needed beforehand? After all he didn’t have the Lester Bush article that Spencer W. Kimball had to study. Maybe, just maybe, Prophets can be human, make errors, and yes—even lead the church astray. That will be the subject of my next post.