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.