In this episode, Darius Gray provides a partial chronology concerning Blacks and the LDS priesthood. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was established in 1830, at which time, its first president and prophet, Joseph Smith ordained all men unto the priesthood. The only qualification is that they embrace the teachings of the Savior Jesus Christ and the promised restoration in preparation for the Second Coming of Christ. After the death of Joseph Smith at the hands of a mob, it would be three years before Brigham Young was officially named as the next president, leader and prophet of the church.
In 1847, President Brigham Young began the practice of withholding the priesthood only from men of Black African descent. It would be another two years before any official statement was made. Even though there was never any clear explanation as to why there was a change in course from what the prophet of the restoration had begun, the practice was continued on through the years with a number of exceptions. Enoch Abel, the son of Elijah Abel who was a Black man and ordained to this priesthood by Joseph Smith himself, was ordained to the priesthood in 1900. Then in 1934, his son, Elijah, was also ordained to the priesthood. There was much speculation as to why the priesthood was withheld from Blacks, in addition to attempts by church leadership to squash the ever growing possible reasons. However, in light the absence of the originating justification and the inequality of man at the time, the created folklore permeated the LDS church.
The practice even managed to survive through the Civil Rights Movement, and then in 1978, then President Spencer W. Kimball announced a revelation which ended the priesthood ban. At that time, many of African descent came into the church from all over the world. It was genuinely assumed that the problem was now officially over. However, again in light of the lack of explanation as to why the change in course, as well as the addressing of prior teaching, the majority of the members of the church continued, and continue to teach those things which the mere occurrence of the change contradicts.
This has created an incredible stumbling block for people of all races in and outside of the LDS church. Missionaries and members don’t know how to answer the questions had by critics or investigators, and those who think they do unintentionally reinforce the discriminatory reputation the church is labeled with. Many who see the blessings of the gospel or who would see them, can’t or won’t allow themselves to “look” because of the inability to receive adequate answers to past teachings and current scriptural passages.
This episode is an audio version of segment 4 of the Blacks in the Scriptures DVD Series . The complete DVD can be purchased at the FAIR Bookstore here. This presentation has been provided courtesy of Blacks in the Scriptures. The opinions expressed in this podcast do not necessarily represent the official views of FAIR or of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.