The Church and the Civil Rights Movement

Of course, the revelation He gives to the Brethren in the Salt Lake Temple on June 1, 1978 has absolutely nothing to do with the IRS potentially revoking BYU’s tax-exempt statusStanford and other universities boycotting BYU athleticswe can’t figure out who’s black or not in Brazil (São Paulo Temple dedicated/opened just a few months after revelation), and that Post-Civil Rights societal trends were against the Church’s racism. I would think Christ’s one true Church would have led the Civil Rights movement; not be the last major church on the planet in 1978 to adopt it.


CES Letter, Page 65-66

The God of the Bible and of the Book of Mormon is a practical God.  He holds the destiny of armies in His hands (D&C 117:6), but he also renders unto Caesar the things that are Caesars (Matthew 22:21; D&C 63:26). The timing of the withdrawl of the priesthood ban is no surprise.

The CES Letter fails to acknowledge the positive relationship being developed between the Church and the African-American community in the 1970s.  Moreover, it refuses to acknowledge the positive work of faithful Latter-day Saints to promote civil rights legislation in Utah (James E. Faust, Adam Duncan, Frank E. Moss, Sherman Lloyd,). 

The CES Letter ignores the role African Latter-day Saint communities played in prompting Church leaders to revisit their racial assumptions. LaMar S. Williams, an early missionary to Nigeria in 1961, left the country convinced that the priesthood restriction was no longer viable. Additionally, The CES Letter seems uninterested in the role that Brazilian Latter-day Saints played in pushing Church leaders to realize the limitations that the restriction placed on Church expansion.

The CES Letter is incorrect in his assessment of Church leadership’s adoption of civil rights platforms. In October 1963 Hugh B. Brown declared his public support for civil rights legislation, “call[ing] 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.” In 1969, the First Presidency reiterated its support for such legislation.

The CES Letter is in error when it claims that the “LDS Church is the last major Church on the planet to adopt it.”  In 2000, sociologist Michael Emerson demonstrated that 90% of church-going African Americans “attend predominantly black congregations, at least 95 percent of white Americans—and probably higher—attend predominantly white churches” (Divided by Faith, 16).

The CES Letter reflects some ignorance of how the priesthood was regulated in the Old Testament: “Christ’s true Church should have been the one leading the Civil Rights movement, not be the last major Church on the planet in 1978 to adopt it.” Jesus Christ acknowledged the importance of lineage telling the Twelve Apostles:  “Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:5-6; see also 15:24). Christ invited all to come and receive the blessings of the Gospel, but He first sent missionaries to the lost sheep of Israel.

Under the Law of Moses, only males from the tribe of Levi were permitted to hold the priesthood and officiate in temple priesthood ordinances. Limitations on priesthood ordinations have a long religious history.


 Additional Resources:

FAIRMORMON: Mormonism and Racial Issues

“Race and Priesthood” LDS.org Essay

A Black Man in Zion: Reflections on Race in the Restored Gospel (2006 FAIR Conference) by Marcus Martins

Revelations in the Summer of 1978: A Personal Essay on Race and the Priesthood

Black Latter-day Saints: A Faith-FULL History (2003 FAIR Conference) by Margaret Blair Young

Blacks and the Priesthood by Marvin Perkins

Blacks in the Bible (2005 FAIR Conference) by Darius Gray

Dispelling the Black Myth (2002 FAIR Conference) by Renee Olson

Empathetic Imagination: Reading between the Lines in Standing on the Promises (2004 FAIR Conference) by Margaret Blair Young and Darius Gray

How to Reach African-Americans (2005 FAIR Conference) by Marvin Perkins

International Perspectives of a Black Member in a “White” Church (2004 FAIR Conference) by Alex Boye

No Johnny-Come-Lately: The 182-Year-Long BLACK Mormon Moment (2012 FAIR Conference) by Darius Gray

The Charge of “Racism” in the Book of Mormon (2003 FAIR Conference) by John A. Tvedtnes

The LDS Church and the Race Issue: A Study in Misplaced Apologetics by Armand Mauss

Tract Misrepresents LDS Stance Regarding Blacks: A review of The Mormon Negro: Blessed or Cursed by Mark Jasinski

What Does the Book of Mormon Mean by “Skin of Blackness”? by Brant Gardner

History of Blacks and the LDS Church, ,

Africa and the Welcome Table — Margaret Young, ,

Brigham Young and Racism — Russel Stevenson Podcast, ,

Mormon FAIR-Cast 79: Does Mitt Romney belong to a “racist religion”?, ,

Elijah Able, The First Black Mormon Priesthood Holder — Fair Mormon Podcast, ,

Blacks and the Priesthood- Interview with Max Mueller- Fair Mormon Podcast, ,

Articles of Faith 13: Russell Stevenson FairMormon Conference Follow Up – Coming to Grips With Brigham Young and Race, Russell Stevenson, 0:26:24

Articles of Faith 16: Margaret Blair Young – The Heart of Africa and The Welcome Table, Margaret Blair Young, 0:39:38

Best of Fair 5: A Black Man in Zion: Reflections on Race in the Restored Gospel, Marcus H. Martins, 0:48:45

FAIR Conversations, Episode 16: Max Mueller, on blacks and the priesthood, Max Mueller, 1:29:51

FairMormon Frameworks 6: Russell Stevenson and “Elijah Ables”, Russell Stevenson, 0:49:22

Mormon FAIR-Cast 42: From Panthers to Priesthood, Ed & Wanda Willis, 1:23:13

Mormon FAIR-Cast 79: Does Mitt Romney belong to a “racist religion”?, Scott Gordon, 0:18:36

Mormon FAIR-Cast 128: Blacks in the Bible, Darius Gray, 0:47:01

Mormon FAIR-Cast 129: Skin Color & Curses, Marvin Perkins, 0:45:47

Mormon FAIR-Cast 130: Equality and Priesthood, Marvin Perkins, 0:27:34

Mormon FAIR-Cast 131: Blacks and the LDS Priesthood, Darius Gray, 0:35:59

Mormon FAIR-Cast 185: Race and the Priesthood, Russell Stevenson, 1:07:40

RiseUp Podcast – From Baptist Preacher to Mormon Teacher, the story of Wain Myers, Wain Myers, 0:36:00

RiseUp Podcast – Having conversations about the history of Blacks and the LDS Church, Russell Stevenson, 0:17:11

Articles of Faith 16: Margaret Blair Young – The Heart of Africa and The Welcome Table, Margaret Blair Young, 0:39:38

pt 1, Dispelling the Black Myth

pt 2, Dispelling the Black Myth

pt 3, Dispelling the Black Myth

pt 4, Dispelling the Black Myth

pt 1, Black Latter-day Saints: A Faith-FULL History

pt 2, Black Latter-day Saints: A Faith-FULL History

pt 3, Black Latter-day Saints: A Faith-FULL History

pt 4, Black Latter-day Saints: A Faith-FULL History

pt 1, On being a Black Man in Zion, 2006 FAIR Conference

pt 2, On being a Black Man in Zion, 2006 FAIR Conference

pt 3, On being a Black Man in Zion, 2006 FAIR Conference

pt 4, On being a Black Man in Zion, 2006 FAIR Conference

Pt 1 Reaching the Black Saints

pt 2 Reaching the Black Saints

pt 3 Reaching the Black Saints

pt 4 Reaching the Black Saints

pt 5 Reaching the Black Saints

LDS Church and the Race Issue: Study in Misplaced Apologetic

2LDS Church and the Race Issue Study in Misplaced Apologetic

3LDS Church and the Race Issue Study in Misplaced Apologetic

The Charge of Racism in The Book of Mormon by John Tvedtnes

Blacks in the Scriptures Blacks and the LDS Priesthood

Mormon Doctrine on Blacks, Race and Priesthood Restriction Explained

Blacks in the Scriptures: Skin Color & Curses

Exciting Announcement From Blacks In The Scriptures

Blacks in the Scriptures: Equality & Priesthood

Blacks in the Scriptures: Blacks in the Bible

Blacks and the Scriptures: Blacks and the LDS Priesthood

Alex Boye- An International Perspective of a Black Member in a “White” Church

A Black Man in Zion by Marcus Martins

pt 1, The Charge of Racism in The Book of Mormon