Church’s Dishonesty, Censorship, and Whitewashing Over Its History

2013 Official Declaration Header Update

Other Concerns - Dishonesty

INTRODUCTION

The CES Letter alleges that the church was dishonest when they updated the Offical Declaration #2 in 2013 to say "church records offer no clear insights to the origins of this [priesthood race ban] practice."

CES LETTER CLAIM

2013 OFFICIAL DECLARATION 2 HEADER UPDATE DISHONESTY

OFFENDING TEXT

(Emphasis Added)

Early in its history, Church leaders stopped conferring the priesthood on black males of African descent. Church records offer no clear insights into the origins of this practice.

In sharp contrast to the above statement:

1949 FIRST PRESIDENCY STATEMENT

(Emphasis Added)

August 17, 1949

The attitude of the Church with reference to Negroes remains as it has always stood. It is not a matter of the declaration of a policy but of direct commandment from the Lord, on which is founded the doctrine of the Church from the days of its organization, to the effect that Negroes may become members of the Church but that they are not entitled to the priesthood at the present time. The prophets of the Lord have made several statements as to the operation of the principle. President Brigham Young said: ‘Why are so many of the inhabitants of the earth cursed with a skin of blackness? It comes in consequence of their fathers rejecting the power of the holy priesthood, and the law of God. They will go down to death. And when all the rest of the children have received their blessings in the holy priesthood, then that curse will be removed from the seed of Cain, and they will then come up and possess the priesthood, and receive all the blessings which we now are entitled to.’


CES Letter, Page 113

DEBUNKING REPLY

This heading is perfectly honest... "Origin" means "beginning" and the church still doesn't know the exact origin of the ban. It appears to have started under Brigham Young. When it started is unclear.

The Definition of "Origin"

The CES Letter misinterprets the term "origin" in this context. Merriam Webster defines it as "the point at which something begins its course or existence." The 1949 letter cited in the CES Letter offers an explanation justifying why the restriction continued but doesn't pinpoint when it began. There is no clear record of the exact year the ban was implemented of whether it was the result of a specific revelation. These details remain unknown. Hence, Official Declaration 2 is correct in stating that "Church records offer no clear insights into the origins of this practice."


The Brethren We're Divided Over the Issue

This statement in isolation doesn't accurately convey just how divided the brethren were over the issue of the priesthood ban. The historical record shows there was no clear revelation or consensus on the priesthood ban.  For example, just five year after the aforementioned letter, Church president David O. McKay told Dr. Sterling McMurrin in 1954. "There is no doctrine in this church whatsoever that pertains to the Negroes... it is a practice not a doctrine, and the practice will someday be changed." McKay further stated, "There is no doctrine in this church and there never was doctrine in this church to the effect that the Negroes are under any kind of divine curse."

Additionally, Hugh B. Brown, a member of the First Presidency, told the New York Times in 1963 that "the top leadership of the Mormon church is seriously considering the abandonment of its historic policy of discrimination against the Negroes." (NYT, June 7, 1963). Despite these discussions, the ban was not lifted until 1978, showing the divisions among the church leaders over the years.


Further Context on the Priesthood Ban

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 unrighteous 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.

Brigham Young’s implementation of the restrictions over time were undoubtedly influenced by surrounding cultural norms, a violation of which may have produced significant disdain and additional turmoil for the nineteenth-century Church. This does not excuse racism, but it does provide context for the policy Brigham eventually implemented.

In 1978 through a manifestation to the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, the priesthood ban was removed.

Apostle Bruce R. McConkie, a man responsible for some of the Church’s justifications for a racial ban, denounced his own statements within months of the 1978 revelation. He told an audience at Brigham Young University to “[f]orget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or . . . whomsoever has said in days past that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world.” It was a statement that suggested that prior teachings on race may have lacked “light and knowledge.”

The priesthood and temple restrictions were a trial for both white and black Latter-day Saints. In retrospect, it might seem like it was a needless trial that could have been easily remedied. However, the label of “needless” could be applied to many (most) of the individual trials we each face daily by those who do not possess God’s vision. He had the power to prevent its implementation or to remove it earlier, but He did not.

While the trials associated with the priesthood ban were ultimately removed, dealing with its memory is a trial for many today. We are here to face trials and God ultimately decides what those trials will be, although our individual choices will greatly modify the types and number we encounter. When trials appear that are not a result of our choices, then God is simply testing our faith, which is why we are here on earth.  The Apostle Peter explained: “The trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:7).