Criticism of Mormonism/Online documents/For my Wife and Children (Letter to my Wife)/Chapter 8

Table of Contents

Response to "For my Wife and Children" ("Letter to my Wife"): Chapter 8 - Blacks and the Church

A FairMormon Analysis of: For my Wife and Children (Letter to my Wife), a work by author: Anonymous
Chart LTMW blacks and the church.png

Response to claims made in "For my Wife and Children" ("Letter to my Wife"): Chapter 8 - Blacks and the Church

Jump to Subtopic:

Response to claim: "For over 150 years the Church has taught and sustained racially prejudiced doctrines; while attributing these teachings to God’s will"

The author(s) of "For my Wife and Children" ("Letter to my Wife") make(s) the following claim:

For over 150 years the Church has taught and sustained racially prejudiced doctrines; while attributing these teachings to God’s will.

Author's sources:
  1. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 10:110.
  2. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 7:290.
  3. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 7:335-338.
  4. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 7:282-291.
  5. George Albert Smith, General Conference, April 1939.
  6. George Albert Smith, Statement by the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints on the Negro Question, August 17, 1949.
  7. Joseph Fielding Smith, The Way to Perfection, 1984, p.43.
  8. Joseph Fielding Smith, The Way to Perfection, 1984, p.101-2
  9. Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 1966, pp.527-528.
  10. Pres. David O. McKay, Hugh B. Brown, N. Eldon Tanner. Letter of the First Presidency Clarifies Church’s Position on the Negro – Dec. 15, 1969. Printed in The Improvement Era, Feb. 1970, p.71

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

Prior to the lifting of the priesthood ban in 1978, a number of Church leaders made statements regarding Blacks that are now considered blatantly racist. For that matter, so did many other public figures within American society during that period of time. We should be forgiving of past prophets who we today would perceive as being "racists," or otherwise unsophisticated when compared to the present day. Lest we judge harshly, we ought to consider that even the Savior himself spoke of "outsiders" using language that we today would consider grossly offensive (Matthew 15:26). We are warned, however, that we will be judged in the same manner in which we judge others (Matthew 7:2, Mark 4:24). If we condemn those of the past for being imperfect or influenced by their culture, what can we expect for ourselves?

Jump to Detail:

Question: Was Brigham Young a racist?

Brigham Young made a number of statements which are now considered blatantly racist

Brigham Young made a number of statements which are now considered blatantly racist. [1]

Why did past prophets make racist statements? God had already revealed to Peter that he should not call anything "common" that God had cleansed (Acts 10:9-16), yet some modern-day prophets thought that blacks were inferior to whites; why is that?

Elder Neil L. Anderson said,

A few question their faith when they find a statement made by a Church leader decades ago that seems incongruent with our doctrine. There is an important principle that governs the doctrine of the Church. The doctrine is taught by all 15 members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. It is not hidden in an obscure paragraph of one talk. True principles are taught frequently and by many. Our doctrine is not difficult to find.

The leaders of the Church are honest but imperfect men. Remember the words of Moroni: “Condemn me not because of mine imperfection, neither my father … ; but rather give thanks unto God that he hath made manifest unto you our imperfections, that ye may learn to be more wise than we have been” (Ether 12:6). [2]

We should be forgiving of past prophets who we today would perceive as being "racists," or otherwise unsophisticated when compared to the present day

We should be forgiving of past prophets who we today would perceive as being "racists," or otherwise unsophisticated when compared to the present day. Lest we judge harshly, we ought to consider that even the Savior himself spoke of "outsiders" using language that we today would consider grossly offensive (Matthew 15:26).

We are warned, however, that we will be judged in the same manner in which we judge others (Matthew 7:2, Mark 4:24). If we condemn those of the past for being imperfect or influenced by their culture, what can we expect for ourselves?

“On the day I arrived, students had seen the segment in which Governor Ross Barnett physically bars James Meredith from registering at Ole Miss. In the ensuing discussion, the teacher asked students why Barnett objected to Meredith’s enrollment. One boy raised his hand and volunteered, ‘Prejudice.’ The teacher nodded and the discussion moved on.

“That simple ‘prejudice’ unsettled me. Four hundred years of racial history reduced to a one-word response? This set me to wondering what would it take before we begin to think historically about such concepts as ‘prejudice,’ racism,’ ‘tolerance,’ fairness,’ and ‘equity.’ At what point do we come to see these abstractions not as transcendent truths soaring above time and place, but as patterns of thought that take root in particular historical moments, develop, grow, and emerge in new forms in successive generations while still bearing traces of their former selves?”

— Sam Wineburg, Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts (Philadeliphia: temple University Press, 2001), 17.

The perception that past prophets were "just like us" is incorrect

In the Church we spend a lot of time "likening the scriptures unto ourselves," to use Nephi's phrase (1 Nephi 19:23).

This approach has the advantage of making the teachings of the scriptures and early Church leaders apply to us, so they become agents of change in our lives, rather than just artifacts to be studied in a detached way.

The disadvantage of this approach, though, is that it can build the perception that past prophets were "just like us" — having all the same assumptions, traditions, and beliefs. But this is not the case at all. Prophets in all dispensations have been "men of their times," who were raised with certain beliefs and interacted all their lives with others who shared those beliefs.

For example, the Old Testament peoples believed the earth was a flat expanse, with the sky a solid dome made out of a shiny, brass-like substance. But this was the way everyone understood things at that time, so we don't begrudge Isaiah and Ezekiel of speaking of the "four corners of the earth" (Isaiah 11:12; Ezekiel 7:2), or Job for thinking the sky was a mirror (Job 37:18), or the Psalmist for thinking the earth stood still while the sun went around it (Psalms 93:1; Psalms 19:4-6).

The same principle holds true when examining the beliefs of earlier prophets about people of different races. Most nineteenth-century Latter-day Saints were raised in a world where all Black people were either slaves or illiterate poor. At the time there was much debate among American Christians in general as to how Blacks fit into God's overall plan as described in the Bible. Many theories abounded, with virtually all of them justifying, in one way or another, slavery or relegation of Blacks to the role of second-class citizens. There was even debate as to whether or not Blacks were human beings with souls that could receive salvation. (In contrast to this general Christian view, Joseph Smith declared rather progressively that yes, Blacks did have souls and could be saved.[3]

Some LDS leaders were wary of the civil rights movement that started in the 1950s, and publicly stated their concerns

This continued into the twentieth century. Some LDS leaders were wary of the civil rights movement that started in the 1950s, and publicly stated their concerns. But there were differences of opinion among the brethren on this. At one end was Elder Ezra Taft Benson, who believed that the American civil rights movement was a front for communism; at the other was President Hugh B. Brown, who felt that the Church should publicly support the civil rights movement.[4]

From our perspective as "enlightened" people of the early twenty-first century, virtually everyone in America up until the last few decades — prophets and other LDS leaders included — held beliefs that we could now consider racist. But that was the culture of the times, and we, like the rest of society, have progressed (line upon line, precept upon precept, see 2 Nephi 28:30) to become better people in this respect, more tolerant, more accepting. Fifty years from now, people will probably look back at our time and say, "How could they have been so bigoted?" Or, "How could they have missed issue X, which seems so clear to us now, in retrospect?"

The key point here is that the Lord works with the people who are available

The key point here is that the Lord works with the people who are available. He does not make them into radicals; he gives them just enough light and understanding to lift the Saints a little and make them more fit for the kingdom. In his mercy, God works with people where they are, and does not wait for them to be perfect before he will deign to speak to them.

Non-LDS Biblical commentators have noted this same tendency is present with Biblical prophets:

Though purified and ennobled by the influence of His Holy Spirit; men each with his own peculiarities of manner and disposition—each with his own education or want of education—each with his own way of looking at things—each influenced differently from another by the different experiences and disciplines of his life. Their inspiration did not involve a suspension of their natural faculties; it did not even make them free from earthly passion; it did not make them into machines—it left them men. Therefore we find their knowledge sometimes no higher than that of their contemporaries.[5]


Response to claim: Brigham Young "went as far as preaching death as a consequence for inter-race marriage"

The author(s) of "For my Wife and Children" ("Letter to my Wife") make(s) the following claim:

Brigham Young "went as far as preaching death as a consequence for inter-race marriage"

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

Jump to Detail:

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. [6]

It was a complex issues (after all, laws against interracial marriage still existed in a number of states until June of 1967 (Utah was not one of them), when the Supreme Court finally argued that they were unconstitutional - a hundred years after some of Brigham Young's comments). 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

Brigham Young didn't ever actually try to have someone killed for doing this, and we 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.


Response to claim: "As a church claiming to be led by Jesus Christ himself, I would expect it to be on the front line fighting for equal rights for all people; instead the Church did nothing. In fact, they actually tried to prevent it"

The author(s) of "For my Wife and Children" ("Letter to my Wife") make(s) the following claim:

As a church claiming to be led by Jesus Christ himself, I would expect it to be on the front line fighting for equal rights for all people; instead the Church did nothing. In fact, they actually tried to prevent it. In January 1964, member of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles, Delbert L. Stapley, wrote to Michigan Governor George Romney. Governor Romney would later campaign to be President of the United States, as did his son, Mitt Romney. In his letter, Elder Stapley urged Governor Romney not to support the Civil Rights Act as it would bring the integration of blacks into society.

Author's sources:
  1. Delbert L. Stapley, Letter to Gov. George Romney, January 23, 1964. https://archive.org/stream/DelbertStapleyLetter/delbert_stapley_Letter#_page/n0/mode/2up

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

Beside the fact that the author presumes to know what Jesus would do, it should be noted that the Church did not "try to prevent it": Elder Stapley himself tried to prevent it "as a personal friend," because he personally opposed desegregation and felt that the writings of Joseph Smith backed up his position. In a portion of Elder Stapley's letter to George Romney that the author has not included, Elder Stapley stated specifically that he was not representing the Church on this request:

After listening to your talk on Civil Rights, I am very much concerned. Several others have expressed the same concern to me. It does not altogether harmonize with my own understandings regarding this subject; therefore, I thought to drop you a note -- not in my official Church position, but as a personal friend. Only President McKay can speak for the Church.

Delbert stapley letter to george romney section 1.png

Response to claim: "Prior to 1978, blacks could only be servants in the Celestial kingdom"

The author(s) of "For my Wife and Children" ("Letter to my Wife") make(s) the following claim:

Prior to 1978, blacks could only be servants in the Celestial kingdom.

Author's sources:
  1. Elder Mark E. Peterson, lecture at BYU, 1954.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

The statement by Mark E. Peterson during a lecture at BYU in 1954 that blacks would enter the Celestial Kingdom as servants was his own idea and was never a doctrine of the Church. Peterson's view that blacks can only serve alongside whites as servants in the Celestial Kingdom has been contradicted by almost every president of the Church since Joseph Smith.

Jump to Detail:

"Approaching Mormon Doctrine," LDS Newsroom (May 2007): "Not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine"

Not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. A single statement made by a single leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, but is not meant to be officially binding for the whole Church. With divine inspiration, the First Presidency (the prophet and his two counselors) and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (the second-highest governing body of the Church) counsel together to establish doctrine that is consistently proclaimed in official Church publications. This doctrine resides in the four “standard works” of scripture (the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price), official declarations and proclamations, and the Articles of Faith. Isolated statements are often taken out of context, leaving their original meaning distorted. —(Click here to continue) [7]


Question: Why did Mark E. Petersen say that blacks would go the the Celestial Kingdom as servants?

Not everything said by a leader of the Church is considered doctrine

Elder Mark E. Petersen said, " If that Negro is faithful all his days, he can and will enter the celestial kingdom. He will go there as a servant, but he will get a celestial resurrection. He will get a place in the celestial glory." Therefore, do Mormons consider God to have an "equal heaven" for all races?

First, of all, not everything said by a leader of the Church is considered doctrine. So just because an apostle says something, does not make it binding doctrine, especially if he was speaking at a Convention of Teachers of Religion, as Elder Petersen did. For more information, please read:

"Approaching Mormon Doctrine", Newsroom, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

We believe revelation is continual, and we do not claim to have all the answers now, nor did we claim to have all the answers in 1952

We believe God will yet reveal many great and important things. For more information, please read:

The 9th Article of Faith

It is important to understand that the term "servant" was not uniquely applied to black people

It is assumed by most, based upon Elder Petersen's statement, that white people would not go to the Celestial Kingdom as servants. However, we must examine DC 132:16:

Therefore, when they are out of the world they neither marry nor are given in marriage; but are appointed angels in heaven, which angels are ministering servants, to minister for those who are worthy of a far more, and an exceeding, and an eternal weight of glory.

As you can see, the Doctrine and Covenants makes no mention that the servants are limited to any race. Blacks and whites will serve alongside each other.

Even Petersen's view that blacks can only serve alongside whites as servants in the Celestial Kingdom has been contradicted by almost every president of the Church since Joseph Smith

It is interesting that critics will take a quote and think it represents Mormon Doctrine no matter how clear it contradicts other statements. We believe in the law of multiple witnesses. One single person expressing his view was never meant to be taken as doctrine. See DC 6:28

Here are some quotes from Mormon leaders that say blacks will be able to receive ALL blessings, including that of the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom

In regards to black people, Joseph Smith taught,

"They have souls, and are subjects of salvation."
—Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected by Joseph Fielding Smith, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1976), 269. ISBN 087579243X

Brigham Young, who clearly believed in the "Curse of Cain," said

"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 are now entitled to."
—quoted by the First Presidency, August 17, 1949.

Wilford Woodruff said,

"The day will come when all that race will be redeemed and possess all the blessings which we now have"
—quoted by the First Presidency on August 17, 1949.

George Albert Smith reiterated what was said by both Brigham Young and Wilford Woodruff in a statement by the First Presidency on August 17, 1949

David McKay taught,

"Sometime in God's eternal plan, the Negro will be given the right to hold the Priesthood. In the meantime, those of that race who receive the testimony of the Restored Gospel may have their family ties protected and other blessings made secure, for in the justice of the Lord they will possess all the blessings to which they are entitled in the eternal plan of Salvation and Exaltation."
—(Mormonism and the Negro, pp. 23)

In reference to black people, Apostle Joseph Fielding Smith taught,

"Every soul coming into this world came here with the promise that through obedience he would receive the blessings of salvation. No person was foreordained or appointed to sin or to perform a mission of evil. No person is ever predestined to salvation or damnation. Every person has free agency."
—Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, Vol.1, p. 61

In 1972, Harold B. Lee said,

"It's only a matter of time before the black achieves full status in the Church. We must believe in the justice of God. The black will achieve full status, we're just waiting for that time."
—Kimball, Lengthen Your Stride, working draft chapter 20, page 22; citing Goates, Harold B. Lee, 506, quoting UPI interview published November 16, 1972.

Finally, Elder Petersen voted to give the priesthood to the blacks in 1978. He was part of the Quorum of The Twelve, who unanimously accepted the revelation extending the priesthood to all blacks. By voting to extend the priesthood to the blacks Elder Petersen's vote also allowed them to receive Celestial Marriage, which was the only thing keeping them from progressing beyond the status of ministering angel.

Official Declaration—2

So regardless of what Elder Petersen's views were in 1952, when Elder Monson eulogized him, he had changed his views and in fact was instrumental in removing the priesthood ban.

Finally, it is a long shot to say because someone is running for president who belongs to a church that is headed by someone who gave a eulogy for someone else almost 30 years ago who 30 years prior to that made a racist comment, that therefore that person holds the same racist views. It is a stretch to say the least.


Question: In the 1950s, did Mormons teach that the only way a black man could get into heaven was as a slave?

The claim is likely based on talk presented by Elder Mark E. Petersen at BYU in the early 1950s. At the time, much of American society believed that blacks were socially and culturally inferior

Television personality Bill Maher said, "...[I]n the [19]50s, the Mormons preached that the only way a black man could get into heaven was as a slave." [8]

While it is unknown to what sources Bill Maher looks for his information about the Church, it is possible that they were influenced by a talk presented by Elder Mark E. Petersen at BYU in the early 1950s. Elder Petersen's comments were made during a very different time from the one in which we now live. At the time, much of American society believed that blacks were socially and culturally inferior, and that the nascent American civil rights movement was a bad idea. The 1978 revelation on the priesthood was almost 25 years in the future.

It has never been a doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ that blacks would enter heaven only as slaves

It is unknown exactly what Maher was using as the source of such a comment, as it has never been a doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ that blacks would enter heaven only as slaves. It is possible, however, that Maher misread and was referring to an address given by Elder Mark E. Petersen at Brigham Young University on 27 August 1954 entitled "Race Problems—As They Affect the Church." Elder Petersen said in this address:

Think of the Negro, cursed as to the priesthood.... This Negro, who, in the pre-existence lived the type of life which justified the lord in sending him to earth in the lineage of Cain with a black skin.... In spite of all he did in the pre-existent life, the Lord is willing, if the Negro accepts the gospel with real, sincere faith, and is really converted, to give him the blessings of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost. If that Negro is faithful all his days, he can and will enter the celestial kingdom. He will go there as a servant, but he will get a celestial resurrection. He will get a place in the celestial glory. He will not go then even with the honorable men of the earth to the Terrestrial glory, nor with the ones spoken of as being without law.[9]

At the time of Elder Petersen's remarks, black members of the Church did not and could not hold the priesthood in this life. The reasons behind this are complex, and still debated.

Despite the restriction on priesthood, Elder Petersen asserted that black members of the Church who were faithful to their covenants would be exalted in the celestial kingdom

However, despite the restriction on priesthood, Elder Petersen asserted that black members of the Church who were faithful to their covenants would be exalted in the celestial kingdom, the highest degree of glory in LDS theology (see D&C 76:50-70). Those who attain to this glory are "the church of the Firstborn," brought forth in the "resurrection of the just," who have "overcome all things." They are "just men made perfect through Jesus the mediator of the new covenant."

It is not clear what he meant by saying a faithful black would have to go "as a servant." Glory within the celestial kingdom is not differentiated, since the "glory of the celestial is one, even as the glory of the sun is one" (D&C 76:96). Only the telestial kingdom has differentiated levels of glory between members in LDS theology, "for as one star differs from another star in glory, even so differs one from another in glory in the telestial world..." (D&C 76:98).

However, many LDS members and leaders have understood D&C 131:1-4 as teaching that there are three "subkingdoms" within the celestial kingdom. As Elder John A. Widtsoe explained this view:

To enter the highest of these degrees in the celestial kingdom is to be exalted in the kingdom of God. Such exaltation comes to those who receive the higher ordinances of the Church, such as the temple endowment, and afterwards are sealed in marriage for time and eternity, whether on earth or in the hereafter.[10]

Under this view, access to the celestial kingdom requires baptism (which black members could receive), while access to the two higher "subdegrees" requires temple ordinances, for which black members were not eligible to receive, in this life, under the pre-1978 policy.

As Elder Joseph Fielding Smith wrote, without reference to black members or the priesthood ban:

...they who are clean in their lives; who are virtuous; who are honorable; but who will not receive this covenant of eternal marriage in the house of God, shall come forth-and they may even enter into the celestial kingdom, but when they enter there they enter as servants-to wait upon those "who are worthy of a far more, and an exceeding, and an eternal weight of glory." (italics added)[11]

The difference, of course, is that it was not that black members would not receive the "covenant of eternal marriage in the house of God," but that they could not because of the priesthood ban. The same is true of any person, of any race, who will not receive the covenant of eternal marriage, for whatever reason. Black members have always had the opportunity to eventually receive that blessing, even if after this life—though at the time of Elder Petersen's talk, the timing of that opportunity was unknown.

Given the policy in place at the time of Elder Petersen's remarks, black members would be eligible for exaltation, though they like others who had not received all the ordinances would assist and help others as "servants"

Thus, given the policy in place at the time of Elder Petersen's remarks, black members would be eligible for exaltation, though they like others who had not received all the ordinances would assist and help others as "servants." This is not slavery, but a partnership between exalted beings. A modification would have required a lifting of the priesthood ban. Elder Petersen appears to be pointing out that black members are candidates for exaltation, even if the priesthood ban was never lifted in this life. (The lifting of the ban was a subject of intense debate at the time.) This eventual exaltation would presumably mean that the priesthood would have been received in the spirit world after this mortal existence. It is clear from other comments in Elder Petersen's talk that he expected this eventuality.

Elder Petersen acknowledged that leaders and members did not have full information on the removal of the priesthood ban

Elder Petersen acknowledged that leaders and members did not have full information on the removal of the priesthood ban, and that those who spoke of the timing of the removal were expressing their own ideas. In 1978, as a result of the revelation on the priesthood, further knowledge was available and the change was welcomed by virtually all members of the Church.

Elder Petersen's comments were, to some degree, a reflection of the cultural beliefs of his time and generation in the U.S.

Elder Petersen's comments were, to some degree, a reflection of the cultural beliefs of his time and generation in the U.S., and were based on his interpretation of the limited light and knowledge he had available. Many of the expressions he used in his speech are objectionable to a twenty-first century audience that has better learned the lessons of racial equality and tolerance.

It is clear from the context of this talk that Elder Petersen did not believe that any group or race would be slaves in heaven. That notion goes against all teachings concerning the nature of the Celestial kingdom. It is a notion that is completely reprehensible to any responsible member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Anyone who believes that there will be slavery in heaven is absolutely mistaken.

Latter-day Saints need feel no responsibility to defend what may, by today's standards, seem to be racist statements attributed to fallible Church leaders in the past

Latter-day Saints need feel no responsibility to defend what may, by today's standards, seem to be racist statements attributed to fallible Church leaders in the past. No mortal man is above error, and there has been only one perfect person in all of human history. Each of us, to one degree or another, reflects the culture in which we are raised. As President Gordon B. Hinckley reminded Church members:

Now I am told that racial slurs and denigrating remarks are sometimes heard among us. I remind you that no man who makes disparaging remarks concerning those of another race can consider himself a true disciple of Christ. Nor can he consider himself to be in harmony with the teachings of the Church of Christ...

Throughout my service as a member of the First Presidency, I have recognized and spoken a number of times on the diversity we see in our society. It is all about us, and we must make an effort to accommodate that diversity.

Let us all recognize that each of us is a son or daughter of our Father in Heaven, who loves all of His children.

Brethren, there is no basis for racial hatred among the priesthood of this Church. If any within the sound of my voice is inclined to indulge in this, then let him go before the Lord and ask for forgiveness and be no more involved in such.[12]

No person will be judged by the fallible ideas or policies of men; "the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel, and he employeth no servant there" (2 Nephi 9:41).


Response to claim: "President Ezra Taft Benson gave a talk in general conference after the passing of the (1964) Civil Rights Act and before the Church changed its stance on the issue....President Benson does not sound like the Lord’s prophet bringing a message of love"

The author(s) of "For my Wife and Children" ("Letter to my Wife") make(s) the following claim:

President Ezra Taft Benson gave a talk in general conference after the passing of the Civil Rights Act and before the Church changed its stance on the issue: “There is no doubt that the so-called civil rights movement as it exists today is used as a Communist program for revolution in America. (President Ezra Taft Benson, Trust Not in the Arm of Flesh, General Conference, October 1967) ... President Benson does not sound like the Lord’s prophet bringing a message of love.

Author's sources:
  1. Ezra Taft Benson, "Trust Not in the Arm of Flesh", General Conference, October 1967.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

Elder Benson was not "the Lord's prophet" when he gave that address: He would not become the President of the Church until November 10, 1985, eighteen years later. In 1967, Ezra Taft Benson was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Elder Benson, in fact, thought a number of things that he considered bad were the result of Communist influence.


Response to claim: "the Church blatantly contradicts itself when disavowing: '…that black skin was a sign of disfavor or curse…'"

The author(s) of "For my Wife and Children" ("Letter to my Wife") make(s) the following claim:

This latest manifesto is shocking for the rejection of teachings by past prophets. Contained in this statement, the Church blatantly contradicts itself when disavowing: “…that black skin was a sign of disfavor or curse…”

“A curse was placed upon him and that curse has been continued through his lineage and must do so while time endures. Millions of souls have come into this world cursed with a black skin and have been denied the privilege of Priesthood and the fullness of the blessing of the Gospel. These are the descendants of Cain.” (President Joseph Fielding Smith)

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

A "disavowal" is not a "contradiction": A "disavowal" is a "a disowning; repudiation; denial." [13] The Church didn't contradict the teachings regarding the priesthood ban that were offered by some Church leaders: It repudiated them. The quote used by the author is taken from Joseph Fielding Smith's 1931 book The Way to Perfection: Short Discourses on Gospel Themes, which was written 39 years before he became President of the Church on January 23, 1970. Such speculation on the reason for the priesthood ban was common during that era, and the concepts expressed in Joseph Fielding Smith's book never constituted binding doctrine upon the Church. The Church has rejected the concept, taught by Joseph Fielding Smith and others, that "black skin was a sign of disfavor or a curse."


Notes

  1. John Dehlin, "Questions and Answers," Mormon Stories Podcast (25 June 2014).; Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson, Mormonism 101. Examining the Religion of the Latter-day Saints (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2000), Chapter 16. ( Index of claims ); Simon Southerton, Losing a Lost Tribe: Native Americans, DNA, and the Mormon Church (Salt Lake City, UT: Signature Books, 2004) 10–11. ( Index of claims ); Watchman Fellowship, The Watchman Expositor (Page 3)
  2. Neil L. Anderson, Trial of Your Faith, Ensign (November 2012)
  3. Joseph Smith, Jr., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected by Joseph Fielding Smith, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1976), 269. off-site
  4. See Gregory A. Prince and Wm. Robert Wright, David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2005), chapter 4. ISBN 0874808227.
  5. James R. Dummelow, A Commentary on the Holy Bible: Complete in one volume, with general articles (New York : Macmillan, 1984 [1904]), cxxxv.
  6. Brigham Young, (March 8, 1863.) Journal of Discourses 10:110.
  7. "Approaching Mormon Doctrine," LDS Newsroom (May 2007)
  8. Bill Maher, Real Time with Bill Maher, HBO, 16 February 2007. {{{1}}}
  9. Mark E. Petersen, "Race Problems—As They Affect The Church," address at Brigham Young University, 27 August 1954. This address is not available at the BYU Speeches web site. The text is (perhaps not surprisingly) available on various anti-Mormon web sites. Its absence from the BYU site would seem to suggest that the Church disavows the concepts taught in this address.
  10. John A. Widtsoe, Evidences and Reconciliations: Aids to Faith in a Modern Day, arranged by G. Homer Durham (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1960), 200–201. GL direct link
  11. Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols., (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954–56), 62.
  12. Gordon B. Hinckley, "The Need for Greater Kindness," Ensign (May 2006), 58–61.
  13. "Disavowal" at dictionary.com