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Is the Mormon Church Racist?
Are Blacks Welcomed in the Mormon Church?
Elijah Abel - Third Black Person to Join LDS Church
Some Grounds for Understanding
I served a mission for the LDS (Mormon) Church a number of years ago in Canada. Like many LDS missionaries, one of the questions I found myself consistently answering regarded the policies and attitude of the LDS Church towards black people. Men who were of African descent were not allowed to hold the priesthood, nor were black people allowed to take part in temple ordinances until 1978, at which time LDS Church President Spencer W. Kimball made a long-anticipated policy change which opened those privileges to all worthy members of the Church.
A simple reading of the paragraph above would most likely lead a person to one conclusion: The Mormon Church is racist. As a member of the LDS faith, I can understand the accusation. However, a deeper look and more understanding will reveal to the earnest seeker of truth another side of the story. I'm reminded of a scripture in Isaiah, chapter 55, verses 8-9:
This hub was created for non-members of the LDS Church as an aid in understanding the history of the church in relation to black people and all races in general. The commentary here does not represent any official viewpoint of the church, since I am not in a position to issue anything authoritative. However, I've had over 30 years of membership in the LDS Church, so my insights are based upon lots of experience.
What is racism?
In today's society, it is common to hear charges of "racism" thrown out towards politicians, religious leaders, and even average people whose words are taken out of context. The truth is that we live in a world where a lot of different kinds of people interact. Amid the tensions that exist today in business, popular culture, education, etc., the issue of race seems to complicate things. I remember growing up in the South. One day while I was in high school a black teenager from my school killed his white girlfriend. For a long time after the incident, security at the school was very tight. Racial tension was obviously high. I'm certain the feelings and environment at that school or anywhere else in this world has improved.
Racism is largely defined as a belief that a certain race is superior to another. Said differently, racism could be considered an affinity for one's own culture, upbringing, and way of life above a lifestyle that is not so familiar. When considered in this perspective, it's likely that there are very few people who would not be considered racist. The point here is that the term "racism" or "racist" have become nothing more than pejoratives used to insult or discredit. People who thrive on using those terms would be benefited by taking a closer look.
What is the Priesthood?
As understood by Latter-day Saints (Mormons), the priesthood is the God's authority. It is given to worthy men on this earth to use for performing saving ordinances (baptism, temple ordinances), to receive revelation to direct the church, to give blessings to others, and for other righteous purposes.
Latter-day Saints believe that the priesthood has existed on the earth since the time of Adam and Eve. Because this earth (a telestial world) is in a state in which sin and temptation are so rampant, limitations on who can hold the priesthood have existed during the history of the earth. During one long era in Old Testament times, the Levites (men who descended from Levi) were designated as temple workers.
I recently watched a documentary on the history of blacks in the LDS Church, and I was impressed with the accounts told by Darius Gray, Paul Gill, Ted Whiters, Tamu Smith, and other black members of the church. The documentary is called Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons. Being a white person, it's difficult for me to expound with authority on why the discrimination by the LDS Church against black people was necessary or acceptable. I'm including the trailer for the documentary below.
Nobody Knows Commercial
Who are the Mormons?
Find out about adherents to Mormonism, who they are, what they stand for, and other information.
Nobody Knows Trailer
- Jesus Christ
Jesus Christ is central to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir is one of the famous hallmarks of the LDS Church.