How Could The Church Not Know?

A commenter on this site asked how is it that the LDS Church, which has a well-regarded habit of detailing its every move and decision, not know how the policy about Blacks not being able to hold the Priesthood was started or came about? As the commenter states, “The peculiar assertion that the Mormon Church itself does not know the details of its very own race-based policy of restricting the Blacks from holding the Priesthood is tremendously embarrassing for all Mormons and exceptionally degrading for anyone who actually believes it.”

I might say it’s curious, rather than tremendously embarrassing. I would say unrighteous behavior is degrading, and if in this matter there has ever been any unrighteous behavior on the part of Church officials or members then yes, that is degrading. I would not say the same thing about anyone who believes the statements of the Church with regards to the policy of Blacks and the Priesthood, rescinded in 1978, since whether or not such statements accurately represent the truth or not is, as yet, not objectively verifiable.

Regardless, it’s a reasonable question. How could the Church not know how this started? It seems members of the Church took copious notes on everything, but not this, something that has affected so many members and potential members and is of such importance?

To start with, two items:

1. Copious notes. While it is impressive how many notes and records there are of the early Church and many of the decisions made with regard to it, these notes are by no means comprehensive. One could easily say more has been left out than has been included. It seems to me to expect that every single decision, no matter how important, should have been recorded, is unrealistic given the circumstances in which the early members of the Church operated. It seems no stretch to me to see that such a decision could have come about without there being a record of the same.

2. Importance. While matters of race are a large issue today, they were different in the mid to late 1800s. Slavery was an issue–ordaining Blacks to the Priesthood somewhat less so. It is easy to judge those who came before us based on the standards of our time and place rather than theirs. What seems important to us today may not have seemed as important in their day. The idea that Blacks were inferior, separate, or different, while offensive and very wrong to us today, was the common sense of the time, and one held even by Abraham Lincoln.

Understanding that the recording of Church doctrine, events, decisions, etc. was not anywhere close to comprehensive, and that Blacks holding the Priesthood would likely have been no big thing, may help us to understand why there is no known record as to how exactly the ban on Blacks holding the Priesthood was started.

In my research, I have come across a website that purports to have some details on the matter, but I cannot vouch for its authenticity, not having researched all its sources. If accurate, it is quite interesting. “The Long-Promised Day”

How could the LDS Church not know how the ban on Blacks holding the Priesthood started? Could the Church not know, and yet there be no nefarious intent, no attempt at a cover-up? The question should not be so much whether it is probable or not, but whether it is possible or not. If it is possible, then one must accept at least the possibility that the Church has operated with the best of intentions. To assume the worst with a lack of proof is to want the Church to be in the wrong, and why would anyone want that?

I would invite anyone interested in studying the subject further to read:


  1. Why are we, as Americans, still referring to slavery as a racial institution? Slavery had nothing to do with race. Anyone who refers to slavery as “a black thing” is committing telescopic philanthropy; crusading for black slaves, but not for the white. At least half the slaves in Colonial and U.S. history were white, but more likely it was two-thirds. For too long, we’ve downplayed, ignored, and minimized these historical facts. This aberration of academia by blue-blooded progressive republicans, and black race hustlers, who were usually descendants of Saxons, is nothing more than the elite class’s attempt to hide their skeletons, by making it “racist” to address and discuss slavery in contextual, more accurate terms.

    For anyone reading this, who does not know what I’m talking about, search the internet for a free pdx of “They Were White And They Were Slaves” by Michael Hoffman. It’s not a long book, maybe less than 60 pages if you count reading material alone. It may be difficult to read, if you’ve never examined the history of slavery with your own eyes. It’s a little graphic at times, but not unnecessarily. Anyone who pretends that we’ve had a black haulocost in America probably has no awareness of its history.

  2. Ok, I made an error. Blacks aren’t descendants of Saxons. But it was merely typographical. It’s important to include Black slavemasters in this, because 1.4 percent of free whites owned slaves, whereas upwards of 27 percent of free blacks owned slaves. The first registered slave owner in Virginia was black. The first slaves to set foot in Colonial American soil were, in fact, white. Anytimesomeone tries to resurrect the idea that Mormons are somehowan extension of Southern White racism, this discussion must be had.

  3. Joshua,
    I normally appreciate your take and points most of the time. I have to say, I disagree with you on the importance. Slavery was largely associated with Blacks and was a very hot topic especially toward the end of Joseph Smith’s life. I believe he prophesied the Civil War over the growing contentions over slavery among other issues between the North and South to punish that region for their treatment of God’s people. Elijah Abel among a few other black men were ordained into the Priesthood. Elijah Abel held the Melchizedek Priesthood and received Temple ordinances. This was during Joseph Smith’s Presidency. I find it hard to believe that a revelation from God on a topic that denied saving ordinances to an entire Continent’s decedents would not make it into Wilford Woodruff’s journals, or at least into others’ journals, not to mention be on official Church record. You need to address the Governor’s address Brigham Young gave during Utah Territorial Legislature. To my understanding, this is the first official statement made on the subject, and though it was not during General Conference, Brigham Young spares no expense in overstating the fact that he is speaking in the Name of Jesus Christ and as prophet. It’s here that we find out why the ban was put into place, because the Blacks FROM Africa were decedents of Cain and shared his curse. It’s also here that we find out what would happen to you if you did the unthinkable and married a Black descending from Africa (lose the Priesthood and Exaltation, among other things). Finally, it’s here we find out that the Blacks WILL be able to have the blessing of the Temple and Priesthood, etc.–as, Race and the Priesthood, points out; but fails to mention this next part–but that this day will not be until the end of the Christ’s Millennial reign.

    The Church now openly rejects the notion that the Blacks share Cain’s curse and other ideas that surfaced trying to account for the Church’s policies against Blacks (like them being less valiant, fence sitters, in the Pre-Mortal Life). You’d think that the Cain’s Curse thing was just a folly of man, Brigham Young, and other Prophets would be told from God that this was not the case, but you’d be wrong. Multiple prophets (I mean Presidents of the Church, not just Apostles or other leaders, the Prophet, Seer, Revelator, and Mouthpiece of God at the time; even in the 20th Century) taught this as Doctrine from the pulpit and was found in Official Church teachings. Multiple leaders of the Church taught the Less Valiant theory as if it was Doctrine. It was not until long after even the opening the Gospel to the Blacks that the Church came out and said these Doctrines were not true. So, to re-cap, there is no known official declaration of any Official Revelation restricting the Blacks from the Gospel. Instead what we have is an Official Statement made by Brigham Young during a Territorial Legislature meeting in which he falsely Reveals that the Blacks descend from Cain and that they share his curse, declares a false teaching–of those who marry Blacks will lose their Exaltation–as doctrine, and falsely prophesies that Blacks will not receive the Priesthood and Gospel entirety until the Millennium (which is reiterated by other Prophets as well). The Church even today will not refer to the practice as a Revelation from God, but rather a policy which we only know needed a Revelation to end. Oh, and they never officially address all the false teaching, Revelation, and Prophecy by Brigham Young.

    Last point, a quick one I swear! The Revelation that Blacks could hold the Priesthood came when the Church was being strained over the matter, just like the end of Polygamy, the adoption of the Word of Wisdom, etc.

    I really do appreciate your points and thoughts. If you noticed, I never once claim the Church is not true. I’m only pointing out what I’ve found that does not align with the Church’s Teachings. I look forward to your response, Joshua; or anyone, really.

    Some References:

    Brigham Young’s Governor’s Address. Official Response to Blacks and the Priesthood.

    Many points laid out on this matter, mostly in quotes with source listed.

    There are many others, but I don’t want to put them all here. If you really want to follow the trail like I have then I know you’ll find most of the ones I’ve not listed here.

  4. It’s really quite simple and by no means a mistake, nor was it a show of racism. When the Lord restored His Church through the Prophet Joseph Smith everything was restored to exactly how it should have been before the apostasy. ThatThat

  5. Included the mark on the skin and not being allowed to hold the Priesthood which was done by God not Joseph Smith or the Mormon Church. You can read all about why God gave the mark to blacks and why He commanded them to not hold the Priesthood in your Bible, I encourage you to read the story of Cain and Abel, you’ll find the answer there. It’s kind of interesting because this topic of controversy, now becomes a positive testimonial of the accuracy of how He restored His Church and most importantly that the Priesthood once again was here on the earth after being taken away for so long. Praise God for that, and the fact that once again through the proper channels man once again had the power to act on earth in God’s name. The Priesthood shall not be taken lightly and with it comes great responsibility. Through revelation in 1978 the Lord gave back that which He had taken away, not anybody else. See folks Satin has a way to twist things in hopes that you will never open the Book of Mormon with an open mind and ask Him in earnest prayer if it is true. I promise you that if you read the Book of Mormon and ask Him, (ask HIM in prayer NOT mankind, not any members of the church, don’t ask your neighbor, nor your mother, brother, lover etc. Man will always fail you. I promise that if you read and ask, you will receive an answer from Him.

    • Eric, come on man, I’m sure you’re a big boy and know it’s not okay to assume. I’m a member of the Church, served a full, honorable mission and have read the BoM multiple times, but I have to wonder (not assume, mind you) if you have with real intent for searching on this subject. From the BoM and modern day revelation we learn that the black skin was a sign of the curse, which was a removal of God’s spirit, the dark skin was not the curse. Research whether or not the Anti-Nephi-Lehites’ skin was turned white when the curse was lifted from them. Specifically in regards to African Blacks being descendents of Cain, follow the link below and read the following official Church statement on the subject (which you would have already known had you been a responsible contributor to this discussion and read the posts just previous to yours)

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