Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Study of the LDS Church - 5.3 Racial Discrimination

Although the LDS church has become a faith that reaches out to all and attempts to grow its membership to all peoples worldwide, it has not always had such a welcoming spirit. In fact, there are parts of its history that are downright bigoted and embarrassing for the current members who do not feel the way some of the earlier members did. However, it is part of their history that many of the members are unaware of or at least misled about and I feel it is worth discussing.

Let me reiterate something I noted in the opening paragraph…I am not calling any current member of the LDS church racist, bigots, or hateful. In fact, all members that I have met have been very welcoming to all people they have encountered and do not seem to carry any grudges, although I’m sure there are some, just as there are in all walks of life.

Now, with that disclaimer out of the way, let’s look at the founding of the church and how it represented racial dissention.

The LDS church teaches that when Cain killed Abel that the curse put upon him noted in the Bible (And the LORD set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him. – Genesis 4:15) was that his skin turned dark. The LDS church also teaches that those who have made wise choices in the premortal life arrive in this life at a better stage than those who have not made as wise decisions. All who arrive here obviously sided with Jesus rather than Lucifer in the first major conflict. From there the most obedient premortal spirit children arrive on earth as members of Mormon families. The lesser obedient spirit children arrive as white apostates, and even lesser spirit children arrive as dark-skinned peoples who are apostate (I’m not sure what the explanation is of arriving as a black member of an LDS family, as it has not been possible to do so until very recently). This is evidenced by 2 Nephi 5:21, which states, “And he had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, that they had become like unto a flint; wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them.”

Brigham Young was quoted in the Journal of Disclosures as saying, “You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild, and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind….That curse will remain upon them, and they never can hold the Priesthood or share in it until all the other descendants of Adam have received the promises and enjoyed the blessings of the Priesthood and the keys thereof.” (JOD 7:290-291).

In several places in the Book of Mormon, you can see (or could in the original texts) the reflection of good things represented by the word “white.” Here are some examples:

  • And it came to pass that the Spirit said unto me: Look! And I looked and beheld a tree; and it was like unto the tree which my father had seen; and the beauty thereof was far beyond, yea, exceeding of all beauty; and the whiteness thereof did exceed the whiteness of the driven snow. (1 Nephi 11:8)
  • And it came to pass that I looked and beheld the great city of Jerusalem, and also other cities. And I beheld the city of Nazareth; and in the city of Nazareth I beheld a virgin, and she was exceedingly fair and white. (1 Nephi 11:13)

    Both of the above examples can be found in the current edition of the Book of Mormon. However, the original 1840 copy showed one statement that the later editions were modified to hide. The original Second Book of Nephi, page 117, states, “and many generations shall not pass away among them save they shall be a white and delightsome people.” However, in the current edition, the word “white” has been changed to “pure.” I’m not sure why the change was made here and not elsewhere, but it seems that there was pressure to change a statement that originally expressed a very exclusive view of the founding members (or at least that of Joseph Smith who translated the book).

    Even other Mormon sources, although not considered doctrine, have been altered to change an exclusive membership to make the church more politically correct. In the book Mormon Doctrine by Bruce McConkie, the original 1966 edition had the following statement:

    “Those who were less valiant in pre-existence…are known to us as the negroes. Such spirits sent to earth through the lineage of Cain, the mark put upon him for his rebellion against God and his murder of Abel being a black skin…” (p. 527)

    However, the 1986 edition has been altered but still supports this belief on page 616, “The race and nation in which men are born in this world is a direct results of their pre-existent life.”

    It also seems that Prophet Brigham Young did not feel that the Civil War would free the slaves in the American South, as he prophesied in 1863, “Will the present struggle free the slave? No….Treat the slaves kindly and let them live, for Ham must be the servant of servants until the curse is removed. Can you destroy the decrees of the Almighty? You cannot.” (Journal of Disclosures, vol. 10, p. 250).

    It seems, however, in 1978 that LDS Prophet Spencer W. Kimball received a new revelation regarding the African American race:

    “He has heard our prayers, and by revelation has confirmed that the long-promised day has come when every faithful, worthy man in the Church may receive the holy Priesthood….Accordingly, all worthy male members of the Church may be ordained to the Priesthood without regard for race or color.” (Doctrine and Covenants, Declaration 2).

    Members of all races, nationalities, and ethnicities, therefore, are all welcome to join the Priesthood of the LDS church.

    I will not deny that there is much of our country’s history that is embarrassing and not indicative of my personal beliefs. However, history is history and cannot be ignored. The same is true of the LDS church.

    I find it interesting that the mark of Cain is believed to be a curse of dark skin, as taught by people who lived during a time when racial tensions were high and white supremacy was not out of the ordinary in this country. No where in the Bible will you find one color of skin exalted over another. In fact, you find many people intermarrying with other tribes and races with no curse of punishment falling upon them (Joseph married an Egyptian, Moses married a woman from a tribe believed to be of black skin, and there are multiple others). The God of the Bible only seemed to be concerned about other tribes when they would influence the Israelites towards other religious beliefs, not based on ethnicity or skin color.

    It is also interesting to note that in 2 Nephi 11:13 (above) that the virgin Mary was described as “exceedingly fair and white” when no one in that area of the world at that time looked as described. The Hebrew people were (and are) Middle Eastern and carry the dark skin and hair traits as other people of that region.

    I also find it interesting that it was in 1978, at the end of the highest of racial tensions and at the height of the movement for equal civil rights that the LDS prophet felt that God was also inspired to remove His discriminatory mandate from the earth and allow all worthy men to join the Priesthood. However, that causes problems in itself.

    You see, Brigham Young had noted in the Journal of Disclosures 7:290-291 (as seen above) that the curse would not be removed until all other descendants of Adam had received the Priesthood. So for this prophecy and/or mandate to be fulfilled, it seems that all (white) mankind who have to be members in good standing with the LDS church. That did not happen in 1978, so either God changed His mind, or the Prophet was not correct.

    If God changed His mind, how can He be an all-knowing, all-powerful unchanging God? He cannot. If Brigham Young was wrong, he does not meet the Biblical requirements for a prophet, which requires that the prophecies NEVER be wrong. That’s right…one incorrect prophecy and you are no longer considered a legitimate prophet. Either situation opens up an uncomfortable conversation with LDS members.
  1. Is it true that the mark of Cain in the Bible is taught by the LDS church to represent dark skin? Let's look at Genesis 4:15. Does it indicated that the curse was a darkening of the skin?
  2. Are you aware that God allowed many interracial marriages within the Hebrew peoples during Old Testament days? Does this support the elitist views that one race is superior to another?
  3. Are you aware that the LDS church once did not allow members of the African American race to be members of the Priesthood?
  4. Why was this change necessary? Could it have been influenced by the political environment of those times or by the successes that were occurring in countries/areas of darker-skinned people?
  5. Didn’t Brigham Young note that all members of Adam’s race must accept the Priesthood before the descendants of Cain could? Have all members of the white race been inducted into the Priesthood of the LDS church?
  6. If Brigham Young’s prophecies (concerning the Priesthood as well as the freeing of the slaves by the Civil War) were incorrect, can he truly be called a Prophet of God?
  7. Did you know prophets of the Bible were required to be correct 100% of the time? Has this standard for being a prophet changed?

Study of the LDS Church - 6.1 The Gold Plates


Ed Overy said...

Why does everyone always target LDS teachings. I do not see them attack other churches when they do not agree with their teachings. But they go out of their way of LDS teachings. It like they are threatened by it somehow.

Kaye said...

Thank you for joining us here at Silencing the Stones. I welcome your comments.

To respond to this one...

I am guessing by your comment that you are a member of the LDS church (yes, just an assumption). At the least you are at least sensitive to their church in a way that makes you feel like people are targeting the LDS church.

I personally chose this topic because of personal experiences that led me to investigate the church's teachings and alert others as to these teachings and how deceiving I feel they can be. For me, it was purely based on personal experience. I'm sure that if I ever have personal encounters with other faiths that differ from my own and have similar issues with their beliefs, I would feel so inspired to address those beliefs in a similar manner.

Honestly, I can't see that the LDS church is attacked more than other non-Christian faiths. I can, in fact, point you to several websites that challenge various tenets of many religions and belief systems. You are probably feeling this hit home because of a personal connection that you have. If you are a member, it is understandable that you would feel "targeted" more than if you heard info about another person's religion. I too get defensive when people question my beliefs sometimes and feel attacked although I can observe that I am not the only one that feels this way or is addressed this way.

I do not feel that I have targeted or attacked the LDS faith per se. I feel that I have provided a comprohensive look at the faith--both its history, its previous teachings, and its current teachings. If I have in any way done an injustice to this method that I tried to follow, please point out specific examples of how and I will address those. However, as it is, I feel that nothing I have provided is attacking, but rather defending what I believe in contrast to what the LDS church teaches.

Please, feel free to use this as an open-ended conversation. I welcome your further comments.