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Mormonism and racial issues/Brigham Young/Race mixing punishable by death
19th century Mormons on the subject of race mixing
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- Question: Did Brigham Young say that race mixing was punishable by death?
- Gospel Topics, "Race and the Priesthood"
Question: Did Brigham Young say that race mixing was punishable by death?
Brigham Young said that race mixing was punishable by death
Yes, Brigham Young did makes statements to this effect. One of the most well known is this one from March 8, 1863:
Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so. The nations of the earth have transgressed every law that God has given, they have changed the ordinances and broken every covenant made with the fathers, and they are like a hungry man that dreameth that he eateth, and he awaketh and behold he is empty. 
It was a complex issue. After all, laws against interracial marriage still existed in a number of states until June of 1967—with Utah making interracial marriage legal in 1963—when the Supreme Court finally argued that they were unconstitutional - a hundred years after some of Brigham Young's comments. At the time that the supreme court made interracial marriage legal in all states, 16 states still had laws banning interracial marriage. In 1958, the number was 24.
President Young's views were connected to his views on priesthood and sealings, they were affected by his own cultural upbringing, and they were affected by changes that happened in the late 1840s. Among these was the challenge of black men actually marrying white women in the Church, and the stir this caused among certain groups of Church membership.
While there were a couple of instances where violence actually happened (and several cases of interracial marriage), Brigham Young didn't ever actually try to have someone killed for doing this, and this was typical of Young's over the top rhetoric that he used from time to time at the pulpit.
While there were a couple of instances where violence actually happened (and several cases of interracial marriage), Brigham Young didn't ever actually try to have someone killed for doing this. There were, at the time, interracial marriages in Utah that were already solemnized and others that were solemnized after this statement was made and yet Brigham never ordered such an execution. Was he aware of these marriages? One would assume he that he likely did become aware of at least one during his ~30 -year tenure as Prophet, President of the Church, and Governor of Utah. We may well assume that some of this (although based in racist attitudes that were prevalent in American society and held by Brigham Young) was typical of Young's over the top rhetoric that he used from time to time at the pulpit for effect--showing that often he had more bark than he did bite.
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 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.
The Church proclaims that redemption through Jesus Christ is available to the entire human family on the conditions God has prescribed. It affirms that God is “no respecter of persons”24 and emphatically declares that anyone who is righteous—regardless of race—is favored of Him. The teachings of the Church in relation to God’s children are epitomized by a verse in the second book of Nephi: “[The Lord] denieth none that cometh unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; . . . all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.
Since that day in 1978, the Church has looked to the future, as membership among Africans, African Americans and others of African descent has continued to grow rapidly. While Church records for individual members do not indicate an individual’s race or ethnicity, the number of Church members of African descent is now in the hundreds of thousands.
- Brigham Young, (March 8, 1863.) Journal of Discourses 10:110.