Why did the LDS Church withhold the priesthood from Black Men until 1978?

Why did the LDS Church withhold the Priesthood from black men until 1978?
By Appreciable Goodfaithpoet

I was sitting in church last Sunday next to one of my Black brothers. He mentioned that he had a discussion recently with some of our Friends of other Faiths about the blacks not being able to receive the priesthood until 1978. He asked for my thoughts (Which I offer here in an expanded version) on this subject and so I explained to him my belief that it was the Lord, Jesus Christ who directed that the priesthood not be given to black men up until 1978. It was also the Lord who, in 1978 directed the Church, through his Prophet, to allow every worthy Male to hold the priesthood. The reason I believe that the Lord directed the Church to withhold the priesthood from black men until 1978 is the very same reason that the whole world did not have the priesthood for around 1,200 years (From somewhere around 500 AD to the early 1800s, - as Mormons believe). The wickedness of the world was the reason that the priesthood has been withheld at any time during the history of this world. I believe that it was not the wickedness or righteousness of black men, but the wickedness of the world in which they lived that caused the need to withhold the priesthood for a time.

Our Father in Heaven wants all of his children to know the fullness of his gospel, for all worthy males to hold the priesthood, and for all of his children to have access to temples. Our Father in Heaven does not change, he is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The followers of God, however, change in their commitment level and willingness to follow Gods commandments. For this reason God must change the way that he interacts with his children. In the hopeless situation at the time of Noah the way our Heavenly Father chose to act was to Save only Noah and his extended family and destroy all of the other wicked people by the flood. After the death of Jesus and his Apostles the Authority to act in the name of God was taken from the earth because of wickedness.

The Book of Mormon contains an Allegory from a prophet named Zenos in which the restoration of the Gospel in the Latter days is described in the following terms, "And as they begin to grow ye shall clear away the branches which bring forth bitter fruit, according to the strength of the good and the size thereof; and ye shall not clear away the bad thereof all at once, lest the roots thereof should be too strong for the graft, and the graft thereof shall perish, and I lose the trees of my vineyard." As I contemplate the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, it seems to me that those who led the church always wanted to give the priesthood to our black brothers sooner than the "strength of the good" would have justified it. As I understand it, the prophet Joseph Smith authorized a sealing to be performed for a black man in the early days of the Church. When he was the mayor of Nauvoo Joseph Smith gave one of his own horses to a Black man who had recieve a fine from the city. This black mand was a "freeman" who was trying to purchase the freedom of his son and without the gift of the prophet's horse he would not have been able to afford both the fine and the price of his son.

The sympathies of the prophets from Joseph Smith to Spencer W. Kimball seem to have been with their black brothers as when Spencer W. Kimball said, "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."

In the history of Israel we see that when Moses came down from the top of Mount Sinai the children of Israel had made bad choices and turned to Idolatry. Because of the wickedness of the people, the Lord only allowed the people to have only the lesser priesthood (Withholding the higher priesthood) and only allowed a small portion of the people (Those in the tribe of Levi) to hold the priesthood. In a similar way the United States of America allowed Slavery at the time of the Prophet Joseph Smith. This Christian Nation may have felt justified to some degree in holding slaves because of the words of the Apostle Paul in the New Testament regarding the Slavery that occurred in his day, "Whoever is a slave must make the best of it, giving respect to his master so that outsiders don't blame God and our teaching for his behavior. Slaves with Christian masters all the more so - Their masters are really their beloved brothers."

It is interesting to note that there were two slaves who came (as slaves) to the west with the Mormon Pioneers. These two slaves, a Brother and Sister, had been presented as wedding gifts to one of the families who came west. These slaves were treated like a beloved Brother and Sister by their Mormon Christian masters. One of these slaves was driving the wagon of Brigham Young when Brigham Young said to him, "This is the right place, drive on." These two Slaves were amoung a very small number of Black People in Utah for a long time. These two slaves eventually gained their freedom and were members of the LDS Church all of their lives and died firm in the faith of the restored gospel. In Paul's day and in the days of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young “the good” did not yet have enough strength to abolish the evil of slavery. Even after Abraham Lincoln had signed the emancipation proclamation there were still virtual slave situations and only after the efforts of Martin Luther King Jr. and others did Slavery truly begin to end without the violence and murder that accompanied earlier efforts to stop it completely.

Once the world had conquered the evil and wickedness that existed in the form of Slavery, the “good” was sufficiently strong to overcome the “bad” and our Heavenly Father was able to reveal through the Prophet Spencer W. Kimball that the time had come for all Worthy Males to be able to receive the priesthood. In the early days of the Church the Prophet Joseph Smith and the Saints were persecuted very badly and if they had come out and pushed at that time to abolish slavery and emancipate every slave in the United States of America, the persecution would have multiplied tenfold. In my opinion, the Lord had to wait, to "clear away" the evil of slavery, only then did his church have sufficient strength to provided the "good" of the priesthood to every worthy male. Through the wisdom of the Lord the tree has been preserved and now the priesthood is available to every worthy man who has ever lived upon this earth. The ordinances of the temple are also available for all of the children of God in any age, through the work that is done in the temples, for and in behalf of those who have passed on. God's wisdom is truly over all the earth and his purposes will roll on until all his words are fulfilled.


Fleeting_Thoughts said...

I enjoyed your analysis. I think you may be correct on those points. I find it interesting that for some reason Mormons decided to keep track of everything any of their leaders said. I wonder what Pastors were saying during the time of slavery in the south? Too bad nobody thought to write down their sermons.

Anonymous said...

The truth about the mormon prejudices.and thier flase book the book of Mormon.The book of Mormon contains a lot of mimicking translations from the 16th century KJV.Many of the false messages heresys that Joseph Smith suposedly said he spoke against. Was put into the book of Mormons.Obtaining the same ignorance that the people of that time were oppressed under.In 2 Nephi 5:21 claimed to be copied from documents of the time of 588 and 570 BC. which claims a lie saying.and he had caused a cursing to come upon them,yea even a sore cursing,because of their iniquity.That they had become like unto a flint,wherefor as they were white and exceedingly fair and delightsome,that they may not be enticing unto my people.the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them.22) and thus sayth the Lord God.I will cause that they shall be loathsome unto thy people.Save they shall repent of their iniquities.- Jospeh smith as he claimed he translated this from golden plates frmo an angel.bears in thought of the times of the 1800s and their prejudicies.
In the Torah known as the old testament.Numbers 12:- Now Miriam and Arron had spoken against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married;for he had married an Ethiopian woman.-9) so the anger of the Lord was aroused against them...
Song of Solomon 1:5 I am dark,but comely...6) don't stare at me because I am swarthy,(dark skinned)because the sun has gazed upon me.
God designed dark skinned people .because of their place in climate to bear the sun. Every shape and difffernce of the beauty of their faces serves a purpose.
The Mormons claimed that black s were cursed by God.and made an excuse to claim thier book to be true and said a mesaage from God was given and said God lifted the curse.
They are both lies.

Fleeting_Thoughts said...

You need to read the ten points and visit blacklds.org and you might benefit from visiting Jeff Lindsey on the subject.

Bottomline, we don't know why the policy was in place. Some have speculated (as you mention) that black people were cursed (which you also infer was a popular thought process during the 19th century - the Mormons never held segregated congregations like other Christian churches, nor did Mormons believe in a segregated heaven. In fact, Mormons were kicked out of Missouri in part because people knew they were against slavery! All the Mormons, black and white, met together for meetings, and such has been the case since the founding of the Church in 1830.)

There is no one I know that thinks being "black" is a curse. Mormon folklore which you quote says, the "mark" was interpreted to mean a dark skin (that wasn't bad as it protected Cain from being killed “least any finding him should kill him” Genesis 4:15) and the "curse" was separation from the priesthood (which in Mormon thought would be bad). Interestingly enough, Mormons believe everyone can be separated from the priesthood due to unrighteousness - regardless of skin color: “That the [priesthood] may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.” (Doctrine and Covenants 121:37)

Because some Mormon folklore relates the mark or curse to separation from the priesthood, you can imagine with what relief and rejoicing the revelation declared on June 8, 1978 extending the priesthood to all worthy males was received by Mormons worldwide. I celebrate the day myself.

In the end, I don't think anyone can really define "white". A Vera Cruz friend of mine has the nickname "white boy" in his family because he happens to be the whitest in his family. Skin color is relative, spirituality may not be. Mormons believe in a God that recommends people for glory not by the color of their skin, but by the goodness in their hearts. How does your god judge?

As a prophetess theresa lockwood, I thought you would believe that god will communicate with people? I celebrate June 8, 1978 with the Mormons, and I recognize the 1960s and the ordaining of blacks to Protestant clergies, the 1970s and 1980s when many official christian church policies were changed and I recognize 1995 when the Southern Baptist Convention officially renounced its "racist roots". All of those are progressive steps forward. When did your church give up on bias against another group?

The Bible and the Book of Mormon explain so many ways to be a better, kinder, and humbler person. What books would you recommend instead of those?