Q: How bout that Brigham Young? He was quite a character. Ever read his stuff? Its a good read if you are into racism and polygamy.
A: Yes, Brigham Young did say a lot of interesting things, although much of what he said is often taken out of context (not just the context of his own remarks but also out of the context of his time), his opinions are often taken as church doctrine, and sometimes people attribute things to him that it’s doubtful he ever said In the LDS Church we don’t see our leaders as infallible, we see them as human beings who made mistakes just as everyone but Christ has made mistakes, but nevertheless were called by God to do certain things.
Regarding blacks in the LDS Church, I don’t have a quick answer for this topic although there’s a good talk here by a black member of our church on the subject – http://www.fairlds.org/FAIR_Conferences/2002_Dispelling_the_Black_Myth.html.
I also looked up the book Mormonism and the Negro (which I had never heard of before) and it appears to have been written in the 60’s by a member of the church in the who was putting forth his own opinions. I don’t know of any doctrinal basis for what he was saying nor have I ever heard anything like that taught in the LDS Church.
What I do know is that in 1978 when blacks were granted the same privileges as every other race in the LDS Church some authorities in the church repudiated statements they had made in the past with regards to blacks and admitted they were wrong. It would appear that many members of the church, including some high-up leaders, in the absence of any concrete answer for why blacks weren’t allowed to hold the priesthood in our church, publicly speculated upon the reasons why, which led to some of the statements enemies of the LDS Church commonly latch onto.
The way I look at it is to say sure, some things said by church leaders were racist in any reasonably sense of the word. In 1978 God spoke to the prophet and in effect said “Blacks are just like anybody else and should have all the same privileges in the church,” and that’s it. I think the reaction of the vast majority of members of our church in 1978 was one of joy and relief.
Are there some members who still don’t get it? I’m sure there are, although I’ve never met any. I’ve been in this church for 33 years and have attended it in California, Utah, Brazil, and many other parts of the United States. During that time I’ve never encountered anything the least bit racist in any member of the church nor have I ever heard anything taught by the church that is anything but completely against racism. My brother who is a Mormon is married to a girl of another race. I have a nephew who is black and was adopted by Mormon parents. If there’s racism in the church today it only exists in a member here and there who is probably old and mentally stuck in 1965.
Q: Seems like some prewssure from the NAACP may have prompted that “revelation from God” about the Blacks
Albert B. Fritz, NAACP branch president, said at a civil rights meeting Friday night that his organization promised not to picket the 133rd Semi-Annual General Conference of the Church on Temple Square. He added, however, that the NAACP will picket Temple Square, next Saturday if the Church does not present an ‘acceptable’ statement on civil rights before that day.” Deseret News, Oct. 5, 1963.
A: I don’t think the church cared very much what the NAACP thought. After all, we’re talking about people who were forced to flee the United States to preserve their lives because the governor of Missouri had created a law that said it was not a crime for people to kill Mormons. After being killed and driven from one home to another until they finally had to come out to the empty wilderness of Utah do you think they’d change church policy because of being picketed?
The truth is that the leaders of the church had been praying and asking God for quite some time about the ban on blacks holding the priesthood and the answer they kept getting was “not yet”. Removing the ban wasn’t something that was done begrudgingly, it was something most leaders and members of the church were anxiously waiting and praying for, but it wasn’t something the leaders of the church were willing to change without getting the go-ahead from God himself.