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Racism in the LDS Church - my personal experience

Updated on March 12, 2013

Our Families Attitudes

Shortly after my Mormon mission I fell in love with a Native American who was stationed near my hometown in Germany. We attended the same bilingual ward (congregation) and went to young single adult activities together. Once we started dating my immediate family started to act weird. I could not quite explain it because I was raised to love all people no matter the race. My parents themselves associated with Turks, and other refugees.

My paternal Grandfather was very racist and he made it known to us that he disagreed with Spencer W Kimball's change in LDS Church policy regarding to blacks. It was in 1978 when he "left" Mormonism (unofficially) and proclaimed himself God's prophet on the earth. But we as a family disagreed with him on that matter and avoided discussing this issue with him.

As long as I was only friends with a person from another race my family was okay with that. Which reminds me of something a Mormon friends dad said to me when I befriended an African American as a teenager in Germany. He told me not to start anything serious with him because of his color. How wrong is that?!?!

During a family Christmas dinner two of my sisters made fun of my then boyfriend in German so he could not understand it. I complaint about it openly and decided to leave the party early.

Once things got more serious with us and we announced our wedding plans one of my sisters wouldn't talk to me anymore and other family members sort of avoided us. I felt like they were looking down on us. We planned on getting married in the LDS Salt Lake temple (my mission temple) but for several reasons (i.e. my husbands parents were inactive at that time) it was later decided that we would get married in my husbands home chapel first. (We were sealed in a Mormon temple a year later.)

My dad and step-mother started to gossip about us to local ward members and things got uncomfortable when one of my home teachers took me aside and told me that he liked us and did not care what others said about us.

None of my family made plans to attend our wedding (which was in the US) even though most of my family has traveled to the US before and probably could afford this trip (my oldest brother worked for an airline and would have been able to get discounted tickets for family members).

Just a few days before departure my father pulled me aside and told me of a woman that he knew that divorced her lazy Native American husband and returned to Germany. I cannot believe it came from the same man that preferred to spread rumors around instead of communicating with us.

Many more instances proofed the intolerance and disapproval of our marriage from family and other LDS people. Church leadership used to teach and advise against interracial marriage. You can still find reference to it in current handbooks such as the Aaronic Priesthood Manual 3 page 128 “We recommend that people marry those who are of the same racial background generally, ..."

George P Lee, the first Native American General Authority of the LDS Church, received the same advise. In his autobiography "Silent Courage" on page 267 and 268 he was advised to marry his own kind. Yet on page 278 he was told priesthood interference in this matter (marriage) was inappropriate. He gave up the woman he wanted to marry (an angelo girl) because of the recommendation of his bishop and married a comanche women instead.

Here is what Mormon official have said about interracial marriage in the past:

President Spencer W. Kimball's Counsel on Interracial Marriage

But it goes both ways! My mother-in-law hated and treated me like she was above me. She is a very racist women and once told an Angelo friend that her son would never marry one of her kind. I guess she was wrong.

Life as second class citizen in the Mormon church

Just a few years before the marriage to my Native American husband I felt I was on top of the world within my local Mormon community. I finally was respected and popular after years of being looked down at by Mormons around me because of the size of our family and my fathers occupation (car mechanic and painter, I guess not good enough).

Now that I was a married woman I thought I did it all right. I served an honorable mission and now am married ready to replenish the earth. Boy was I wrong! When it came to callings in the LDS Church I was overlooked for the more prestiges callings and always ended up with the position others did not want to do. I excelled in them and enjoyed many of them but always felt like I wasn't good enough for anything else.

The same was true for my husband. He served an honorable mission where he served as a branch president on the Sioux reservation and excelled in his army enlistment as an infantry soldier with multiple awards. But his callings were only assistant this and assistant that.

For many years I did not realize what really went on. We were treated like second class citizen because of his race.

Interracial Marriage - LDS Teachings

Boyd K Packer said the following to BYU students: We've always counseled in the Church for our Mexican members to marry Mexicans, our Japanese members to marry Japanese, our Caucasians to marry Caucasians, our Polynesian members to marry Polynesians. The counsel has been wise. You may say again, "Well, I know of exceptions." I do, too, and they've been very successful marriages. I know some of them. You might even say, "I can show you local Church leaders or perhaps even general leaders who have married out of their race." I say, "Yes—exceptions." Then I would remind you of that Relief Society woman's near-scriptural statement, "We'd like to follow the rule first, and then we'll take care of the exceptions."

"For every exception we can show you tens and hundreds, and I suppose thousands, who were not happy. Plan, young people, to marry into your own race. This counsel is good, and I hope our branch presidents are listening and paying attention. The counsel is good.

Boyd K. Packer was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when this devotional address was given at Brigham Young University on 14 January 1977.

Mormons do not teach racism now but ...

Mormons do not teach racism officially or so it seems. In fact my family claims to this day that they and the LDS church are in no way racist. But the scriptures, they believe in, are!

Prophets of old and more recent LDS Prophets proclaim their word to be the word of a God. Mormons believe that their prophet is the mouthpiece of the Christian God. So a Mormon could assume the words of Church leaders to be directly from their God whether he lived in 1830, 1975, or 2013. Their prophets only change things up when government or humanity pressures them and then proclaim it to be a revelation. I. e. Polygamy, Blacks receiving all temple blessings and the priesthood.

Native Americans are considered Lamanites (the principal ancestors of the American Indians, according to the Book of Mormon Introduction, 1981 edition

2. Nephi 5:21 "And he had caused the cursing to come upon them (Laminates), 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 an delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them." (1981 edition)

In the Book of Mormon is a scripture that teaches about interracial marriage.

Alma 3:9: ... whosoever did mingle his seed with that of the Lamanites did bring the same curse upon his seed.

So once I married a "cursed Lamanite" I was considered cursed too.

Today Scientist have found through DNA research that Native Americans are of Asian decent not Jewish as Mormons declare.

The truth is that color and race was not determined by any God. National Geographics "Human Family Tree" sheds light on the human race and that we all black or white originate from Africa.

Black people and Mormonism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia 6.5 \ George Patrick Lee

The rise and fall of George Patrick Lee, the first American Indian (Navajo) General The rise and fall of George Patrick Lee, the first American Indian (Navajo) General Authority of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) who was excommunicated in 1989.

The Watchman Expositor: General Authority Excommunicated

... Or maybe they still do and just don't know it. Check out this link.


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    • profile image

      passingtheword 4 years ago

      You can add these

      Prophet Brigham Young

      Cain might have been killed, and that would put a termination to that line of human beings. This was not to be, and the Lord put a mark upon him, which was the flat nose and black skin Journal of Discourses, 13:95

      Oliver Cowdery, co found of the lds church "Let the blacks of the south be free, and our community is overrun with paupers, and a reckless mass of human beings, uncultivated, untaught and unaccustomed to provide for themselves ond Elder, co-founder of the Mormon Church:

      John Taylor, third President and Prophet:

      "After the flood we are told that the curse that had been pronounced upon Cain was continued through Ham's wife, as he had married a wife of that seed. And why did it pass through the flood? Because it was necessary that the devil should have a representation upon the earth as well as God. . . ." (jofd, 23:304; ).

    • k2jade31 profile image

      Kimberly Shelden 4 years ago from Idaho

      I grew up Mormon, and I was taught that black people were evil by my church leadership. They were the result of the fight of Cane and Able. So being the good little rebellious Mormon girl I am.. I grew up and had an African American child who is the light of my life, no one is ever going to tell me that child is evil. It's hateful and foul and I cannot believe they say they stand for Christ... Thank you this article was informative and interesting,

    • exphoebe profile image

      exphoebe 4 years ago

      You are right!

    • profile image

      Richard 4 years ago

      You may be surprised that the church actually still teaches to marry inside your own race. While this quote comes from Spencer W. Kimball, as of 2013, this statement is included in the Aaronic Priesthood Manual (Manual 3, Lesson 31):

      We recommend that people marry those who are of the same racial background generally & of somewhat the same economic & social & educational background (some of those are not an absolute necessity, but preferred), & above all, the same religious background, without question.” (Kimball, "Marriage and Divorce," BYU devotional, 1976, reprinted in "Devotional Speeches of the Year," 1977)