Blacks Ban

The Church History on Race is More Complex Than the CES Letter Portrays

Joseph Smith permitted the priesthood to at least two black men. Elijah Abel was one of them. Walker Lewis was another.


CES Letter, Page 65

The CES Letter's narrative is very neat and clean here—too neat.  

It avoids Joseph Smith’s struggles with racial thought while oversimplifying Brigham Young’s decision to restrict peoples of African descent from receiving priesthood office or temple ordinances.

In April 1836, Joseph Smith defended slavery but allowed them to hold the priesthood and his 1844 presidential platform sought to free them. In March 1847, Brigham Young wholeheartedly supported African peoples receiving the priesthood, including Walker Lewis, both points that the author leaves out. 

The CES Letter's superficial understanding amounts to a cartoon version of the evolution of Mormonism’s racial thought. Therefore, readers must beware of easily-packaged narratives on matters as complex as race relations.  The author of The CES Letter seeks to contrast Joseph Smith against Brigham Young; however, there is more crossover between the two men than The CES Letter acknowledges. 

Given the importance of race history, The CES Letter does no service to the cause of racial equality by deploying it primarily as a means of attacking the LDS church.


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